Typal strategies have been a staple in a multitude of formats in MTG for many years. Many players gravitate towards specific typal decks that fit their playstyle. For those who enjoy having access to lots of mana, maybe a deck built around Elves would be up your alley. Want to be more aggressive? Consider playing a red-based Goblins deck instead. There are tons of different Creature types to build around, and many have elite payoffs for doing so.
Unfortunately, not all Creature types are created equal. Building typal decks in competitive Constructed formats often requires using Creature types that are abundant and mainstream. There’s a reason that Humans and Elves decks have been successful throughout much of MTG’s history. While building around a Creature type such as Rats may sound fun, it likely won’t last in a competitive setting…
Well, that is until now. Thanks to Wilds of Eldraine, Rat support has seen a significant boost. In fact, just recently a deck completely centered around the intriguing Creature type made top 32 of a Magic Online Modern Challenge. The deck definitely still has its flaws, but this is a big step in the right direction for a Creature type that otherwise saw limited support for over two decades. Does this deck have what it takes to hang around with the true juggernauts of the Modern format?
Just like with other typal strategies, this Rat deck gets to make use of a couple key Modern staples. The first, and one of the most important, is Cavern of Souls. Cavern of Souls acts as a painless City of Brass when helping to cast Creatures of a specific Creature type. Additionally, Cavern of Souls makes the Creature cast with it uncounterable, which is quite helpful against control decks and Izzet Murktide. This card is a powerful staple for almost any deck built around one Creature type.
Cavern of Souls isn’t the only way this deck has to punish players with lots of Counterspells, though. Aether Vial, arguably the best card in the deck, allows you to put Creature cards in from your hand, so long as the Creature’s mana value matches the number of charge counters on Aether Vial. Each turn cycle, you can choose to put an extra counter on Aether Vial or keep it the same. Similar to Modern Merfolk and Humans strategies, it’s often best to keep Aether Vial at two or three counters, depending on the construction of your hand, as that mana value range is where the bulk of your Creatures lie.
If getting to put Creatures into play for free wasn’t enough to showcase how strong this card is, you can even put them into play at Instant speed! This makes it quite difficult for your opponent to know what to play around, and helps you beat Sorcery speed removal spells and board wipes from the opponent with ease. Rats may not be the most popular typal deck, but it still gets to abuse these two elite cards, nonetheless.
From there, this deck is almost entirely comprised of some of the more powerful Rat Creatures in Modern. In the one-drop slot, Gnawing Vermin may look relatively unassuming, but it still fills its role nicely. One of the most important things Gnawing Vermin does is keep Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in check, thanks to its ability to give an opposing Creature -1/-1 until the end of the turn when it dies. It also can mill two cards when it enters, which helps further enable Unearth.
In the two-drop slot, this deck makes use of Tangled Colony and Pack Rat. Pack Rat has the potential to be quite large and can convert extra Lands or copies of Aether Vial into extra token copies of Pack Rat. Tangled Colony is a solid beater that is difficult to block or kill with damage-based removal profitably, as it will then die into more Rat tokens.
Finally, in the three-drop slot, this deck plays Lord Skitter, Sewer King and Lord Skitter’s Butcher, both of which can create additional Rat tokens. Lord Skitter’s Butcher also works nicely with Unearth, letting you sacrifice a Rat to Scry two and draw a card, then return it for one mana.
The biggest payoff by far for staying on theme is Karumonix, the Rat King. Karumonix is a 3/3 for three mana that, when it enters the battlefield, lets you look at the top five cards of your library and put any number of Rat cards from among them into your hand. This a potentially absurd source of card advantage. Aether Vial can then help you make use of that card advantage in an efficient manner.
This is a big reason that the deck plays Nameless Inversion in the removal slot. Karumonix’s ability to dig for removal is very strong. This card is the clear reason for filling your deck almost entirely with Rats and Lands.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As fun as this deck looks, it still isn’t necessarily one of the stronger decks available in Modern. It’s easy to get outclassed by combo decks or an enormous Murktide Regent. The deck lacks interaction and doesn’t close the door super fast. Still, the deck does have some things going for it. It is quite good against removal and Counterspells. Killing Tangled Colony with damage-based removal isn’t ideal, Karumonix helps you refuel your hand, and Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls can blank opposing Counterspells quite nicely.Swarmyard can also come in handy in this regard, helping to protect your most important cards like Pack Rat and Lord Skitter. Lord Skitter can also help keep your opponent’s graveyard in check, at least slightly. The concern with a deck like this is that, outside of Thoughtseize in the sideboard, this deck really struggles at effectively beating decks like Amulet Titan or Living End that go way over the top.
In this sense, certain matchups can be a bit polarizing for the deck. If you are looking to consistently beat up on many of the tier one decks in Modern, you may want to consider looking elsewhere. This deck looks like a blast to play for players that like underrepresented Creature types, though, and getting to punish control decks by flooding the board with Rat tokens can be quite enjoyable. Definitely give this deck a whirl if you’re looking for something unique to play.