19, Apr, 24

Tinybones, the Pickpocket Vs. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer: Who's The Real King Of Thieves?

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Article at a Glance

There’s nothing Magic players love more than evaluating cards based on similar cards from the past. Since previews for Outlaws of Thunder Junction began, many have been doing just that, discussing whether Tinybones, the Pickpocket is another Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer for Standard. Or if it has (tiny, skeletal) legs beyond that, even.

Thunder Junction cards are only just making their way into players’ hands now, so the jury is still out on this one. Based on the card’s pre-order prices, however, people have a lot of confidence in Tinybones’ potential playability, in multiple formats. Is this confidence warranted? What homes does the card have in existing decks? And how does it compare to Modern’s mightiest Monkey? Grab your ringside seat and let’s figure it out!

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Tinybones, the Pickpocket Vs. Ragavan: The Main Event

This is it, folks. The clash of the card advantage one-drops. People have been pitting these two cards against each other for weeks, and now it’s time to settle things once and for all. The first, and most important, point of comparison between them is where they ‘draw’ their extra cards from. Ragavan grabs cards from the opponent’s library, while Tinybones can only get cards from their graveyard. This means that Tinybones will let you cast extra cards far less frequently than Ragavan, especially in the early game.

Point to Ragavan, then, and things only get worse for Tinybones when you consider the former’s Treasure generation ability. This is arguably the most powerful aspect of the card, letting you go off immediately or save up for a future turn as you see fit. It also ensures that you get some value out of each Ragavan swing even if you whiff on the exile effect. The floor on a Ragavan attack is two damage and a Treasure, while the floor for Tinybones is a mere 1 damage.

Things aren’t looking good for our bony buddy, but he does have some advantages. Against players with stacked graveyards, he’s much more consistent than Ragavan, and gives you more selection as well. You don’t just have to take the top card, you can take any permanent you like. He also has Deathtouch, which acts as a kind of pseudo-evasion in the mid game. Your opponent probably doesn’t want to throw their three drop in front of your 1/1 Skeleton, after all. Ragavan does have Dash, which is probably more useful overall, but Deathtouch is the better ability in some scenarios.

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Standard Stardom?


Once all the points are tallied up, it’s clear that Tinybones isn’t quite on Ragavan’s level, at least not in most situations. It does have one major advantage, though: it can be played in Standard. This is a vital edge, since the lower power level of Standard makes Tinybones’ shortcomings much more palatable. It’s also a slower, grindier format overall than most eternal formats, which should work in Tinybones’ favor given his penchant for the mid to late game.

But where exactly will he slot in best? The timing almost couldn’t be better for Tinybones, actually, as Standard is largely dominated by Midrange decks at present. Dimir Midrange, Esper Midrange, Golgari Midrange: all great decks, all great homes for the ‘Bones. None of those decks play much in the one drop slot, either, aside from Spyglass Siren in Dimir. This means Tinybones should be easy to fit in, and that he won’t clash with the existing Midrange shells too much.

That’s the beauty of Tinybones, really: he’s a pure value card, not a build around. Any deck that plays black, and has some amount of removal/discard, can run him with some success. He might not be the card you want to draw when Boros Convoke comes a-knocking, but conversely he can actually do some work against that deck if he’s established, given the large number of cheap cards that’ll inevitably end up in its graveyard.

For those who play a lot of Standard, Tinybones is almost certainly a safe investment. While it’s too early to reference any real data, it’s hard to imagine a world where a card with such a solid baseline isn’t successful in the format. Doubly so given its current Midrange leanings.

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Eternal Glory?

So Standard is a shoe-in, that much was expected. What’s more interesting is the question of how Tinybones will perform in older formats. The Moderns, Pioneers, and Historics of the world. There’s much stiffer competition in all of those formats, so Tinybones has a lot to prove before he can join the big boys in the Eternal Saloon.

We’ll start with Pioneer. While the format is currently dominated by Combo decks like Abzan Amalia and pseudo-Combo decks like Rakdos Vampires, there’s a glimmer of hope yet. Mono-Black Discard commands a respectable format share at present, and is a near-ideal home for Tinybones, given that constant discard effects give you a wide suite of cards to replay. In fact, Tinybones is already making some headway in the archetype. Yesterday’s challenge-winning list features a copy of the little guy in the sideboard.

Historic is less welcoming for our tiny friend. At present, Primeval Titan Combo decks and Mono-Red Aggro variants run rampant, creating an environment that’s just too fast for Tinybones to make much of an impact. If a new Rakdos Aggro list emerges it could include him as tech against other Aggro decks, but until then he’s not going down in Historic.

Finally, let’s consider Modern. While it may sound ludicrous, there may actually be a home for Tinybones in the Rakdos Scam decks where Ragavan rules the roost currently. The deck is very discard-heavy, which as we’ve discussed opens up Tinybones’ pool of playables. It’s almost certainly worth trying the deck with some split of Tinybones and Ragavan, since both have their merits at different points in the game. Look at that: we started by pitting them against each other, and now they’re working together. There’s something beautiful about that.

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