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Much Abrew: Modern, but only RATS are Allowed


Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Much Abrew About Nothing! This week, we're heading to Modern to play Rats! Why would you fill your deck with Rats? There are actually some really powerful payoffs for playing an all-Rat deck, like Karumonix, the Rat King, Pack Rat, and even Lord Skitter, Sewer King! Toss in a bunch of random curve-filler Rats, Aether Vial for ramp, Unearth for removal, and even some Rat removal, and we've got a swarming Modern deck. Can Rats compete in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

Much Abrew: Rats

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Discussion

Record-wise, we finished our league 2-3 with the deck, although the matchups for Rats were extremely polarized. We played against Rakdos Scam—the currently most played and arguably best deck in Modern—twice and absolutely crushed it both times. On the other hand, we played against two different four- / five-color money pile decks—the second most played and arguably second-best deck in Modern—and got crushed both times. In between, we played a surprisingly close match against Amulet Titan but ended up dropping it in three games. All this is to say, Rats feels like a deck that has some very good matchups but also some laughably bad ones. 

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As far as our Rats, there are three foundational Rats and then some filler Rats. Karumonix, the Rat King is our most important Rat and the biggest reason to fill a Modern deck with Rats. Its enters-the-battlefield trigger—giving us all the Rats from the top five cards of our deck—is extremely strong and our best way of generating card advantage. Giving our Rats toxic is a nice bonus as well, although poisoning our opponent out of the game is really more of a backup plan than our primary goal. 

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Our second big payoff is also our oldest rat—Pack Rat—which might look like a relic of Standards past but actually holds up shockingly well in 2023. Because our deck is all Rats and Pack Rat grows based on the total number of Rats we control, it often ends up being a 5/5 or more pretty early in the game. It also opens up some very aggressive draws where we Pack Rat on Turn 2, use its ability to make another Pack Rat on Turn 3, dump our hand of Rats to make the Pack Rats massive, and kill our opponent on Turn 4 or 5.

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Our last payoff is Lord Skitter, Sewer King, which technically has an ability that cares about Rats—when a Rat enters the battlefield, we get to exile a card from our opponent's graveyard, which is amazing in some matchups and useless in others. But really, Lord Skitter is in our deck to add a reasonable body to the battlefield and make a 1/1 Rat token each turn in order to grow our Pack Rats or benefit from Karumonix, the Rat King's toxic ability. 

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As for the rest of our Rats, Gnawing Vermin gives us a one-drop that fills our graveyard for Unearth and is pretty good at sniping Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Orcish Bowmasters. Masked Vandal is a cheat-y Rat but is necessary for answering Urza's Saga, The One Ring, and friends. Tangled Colony isn't great in a vacuum, but if we grade it on the Rat curve, a 3/2 for two with upside is actually pretty solid; plus, it's really good against damage-based removal like Fury. Finally, we have Lord Skitter's Butcher. I expected Butcher to be one of the worst Rats in our deck—it's a random new uncommon, after all—but it turns out it's actually one of the best thanks to its flexibility. Making a Rat token helps to power up Pack Rat, sacrificing a random Rat token or Gnawing Vermin to Preordain helps us find our payoffs, and giving our team menace is a surprisingly effective way to close out the game with the help of a couple of big Pack Rats. Outside of Karumonix, the Rat King, Lord Skitter's Butcher was often the Rat we were hoping to draw the most.

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Apart from our Rats, we have a handful of utility spells to support our game plan. Unearth can reanimate anything in our deck since all of our Rats have a mana value of three or less, although it is especially good with Karumonix, the Rat King to generate more card advantage. Since Karumonix is legendary, we can sometimes do a sneaky line where we play one to draw some cards and play a second one to legend rule the first one so we can Unearth the Karumonix in the graveyard, which is a ton of card advantage. Nameless Inversion probably looks like a bad removal spell, and it is on its face. But it's technically a Rat since it's a Shapeshifter tribal instant, so we can find it with Karumonix, the Rat King, which makes it worth a slot in our deck. While both of these cards are solid, our most important utility spell, and perhaps our most important card overall, is Aether Vial.

If you watch our games with the deck, you'll see that there was a massive difference between the games where we drew an Aether Vial early and the games where we didn't. Without Aether Vial, we mostly played a single Rat each turn, which simply isn't enough to keep up with most Modern decks. When we do have Aether Vial, though, the deck is super explosive. We can get multiple Rats on the battlefield each turn, flood the board with threats, and quickly take over the game. By the end of our league, I was starting to think it was correct to mulligan just to find Aether Vial—that's how important it felt to the deck's success. 

Wrap-Up

Overall, Rats felt way more solid than I expected, although as I mentioned before, it felt like the deck had some really horrible and some really great matchups. We do shockingly well against fair-ish midrange decks. Rats are good at generating card advantage, flooding the board, and eventually overwhelming the opponent with a huge swarm of Rats. On the other hand, Rats are a slow-ish aggro deck or an interaction-light midrange deck, which doesn't line up very well with the four- and five-color piles of the format or with combo decks. We aren't really fast enough to win the rat race against cards like The One Ring or Up the Beanstalk and don't really have a way to disrupt combo outside of hoping to win by attacking with Rats. Basically, today's deck felt great for a Rat deck, and it is hilariously good against Rakdos Scam—the literal best deck in Modern at the moment—but I'm not sure just how competitive it is overall. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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