Commander Deck Tech: Re-visiting Rats

Commander decks are a labour of love for many in the Magic community. Been prized above all other decks in many players collections, we often find ourselves repeatedly returning to them for fine tuning and tweaking from time to time. This can be because of new and exciting cards we want to add to our brews, or because we want to ‘bling’ out our decks with foils and collector edition reprints to make them even more personalised. Whatever the reason, I think it’s safe to say that no Commander deck is ever truly finished.

So, it is unsurprising that a few weeks ago I found myself looking at one of my favourite brews, my Marrow-Gnawer Rat deck, and thought to myself “this deck could be better”. Afterall, it had been over a year since I latest touched it. And when I last tweaked it, I was working on somewhat of a budget. So, I decided to boost the deck up a little bit, adding in a few new cards I wanted to try out and taking out the ones that didn’t work out too well. And heck, I thought “why not make a deck tech out of it while I’m at it”, right.

The idea of the deck is to go aggro, making use of Marrow-Gnawer‘s static ability of giving all our rats Fear. The main benefactor of this is our 28 copies of Rat Colony, which thanks to their ability to be pumped up by our other rats, can put our opponents under a lot of early game pressure. Then once Marrow-Gnawer hits the board, we can sacrifice a rat to exponentially grow the rest of our team and deal out even more damage. Nice and simple, but rather effective strategy.

But Rat Colony isn’t the only rat-based threats the deck has at its disposal. Pack Rat is a proverbial army in a can if left unchecked, as is Piper of the Swarm. Piper also has the added benefit of giving our rats Menace, as well as allowing us to steal a creature or two with its second ability. Chittering Witch is and instant board and can also be used to sacrifice our many rat tokens for removal. Speaking of removal, Throat Slitter helps in that regard, while Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni can pinch our opponents’ largest dead creatures for additional value. Ogre Slumlord gives us some protection against wraths, as well as Deathtouch to all our rats. And Ratcatcher grantees we will always have a rat to hand.

The deck also makes use of some decent, non-rat creatures like Ayara, First of Locthwain, who can drain our opponents for quite a bit of life if left unchecked. The same can be said for Crypt Ghast and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and all of these can pad out our life total quite nicely also. Whisper, Blood Liturgist is a repeatable way of recurring some of our more unique threats, while Sidisi, Undead Vizier can tutor up a sliver bullet should we need it.

Next up we have a mainstay of any good tribal deck, the anthem effects. Metallic Mimic and Adaptive Automaton both act as lords for the deck, while Door of Destinies, Vanquisher’s Banner, Coat of Arms, Obelisk of Urd and Eldrazi Monument add additional team wide pump to help pile on the pressure. Just remember that Coat of Arms is a symmetrical effect, so be wary if you find yourself against another tribal deck.

Speaking of artifacts, the deck also has some nifty ones that work a threat. Skullclamp is basically a pay one, draw two with all the X/1’s we are running, while Bontu’s Monument and Herald’s Horn both reduce the cost of our rats while providing additional draining and card advantage respectively. Lightning Greaves protects valuable pieces like Marrow-Gnawer from targeted removal, keeping them around and allowing us to get value out of them straight away. And since we are running a ton to the same card, it makes sense to run Thrumming Stone for the possibility of dumping out all 28 Rat Colony’s in a single turn thanks to Ripple.

Since black doesn’t have the best repeated mana acceleration, the deck also runs a selection of mana rocks to help keep the pace with other more explosive decks. Obviously, no Commander deck would do without a Sol Ring. But we also run Mind Stone to give us additional card draw in the late game, and Charcoal Diamond to help with the more mana intensive black cards.

Next on the menu, some good old fashion removal. First up, we have some targeted kill spells with Hero’s Downfall and Murderous Cut. Cut is a personal favourite of mine thanks to Delve, and Hero’s Downfall is always a good choice for dealing with a Planeswalker that is about to ultimate. When it comes to mass removal, we have access to two great sweepers that leave us pretty much untouched, with Crippling Fear and Kindred Dominance.

The last four non-land cards in the deck are an eclectic bunch, with Gravepurge and Death Denied acting as recursion after a wrath or two, Diabolic Tutor as an additional tutor, and Grave Pact as a balancer for removal. With all the sacrificing we will be doing, we can keep a lot our creature based decks in check.

When it comes to lands, we are running quite a simple package. Aside from our 30 Swamps, we run Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin as land-based hate, with Barren Moor and Desert of the Glorified giving us some cycling should we be land heavy. Ifnir Deadlands is yet another form of removal for the deck, while Westvale Abbey acts as an alternative win condition, thanks to the massive demon on it reverse side.

Commander (1)

Creatures (42)
28 Rat Colony
Pack Rat
Piper of the Swarm
Chittering Witch
Throat Slitter
Ogre Slumlord
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Ayara, First of Locthwain
Whisper, Blood Liturgist
Crypt Ghast
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Metallic Mimic
Adaptive Automaton

Artifacts (13)
Sol Ring
Mind Stone
Charcoal Diamond
Bontu's Monument
Herald's Horn
Lightning Greaves
Thrumming Stone
Door of Destinies
Vanquisher's Banner
Coat of Arms
Obelisk of Urd
Eldrazi Monument

Enchantments (1)
Grave Pact

Instants (4)
Death Denied
Hero's Downfall
Murderous Cut

Sorcery (3)
Diabolic Tutor
Crippling Fear
Kindred Dominance
Lands (36)
30 Swamp
Barren Moor
Desert of the Glorified
Ifnir Deadlands
Ghost Quarter
Field of Ruin
Westvale Abbey

And there you have it, my new and improved Rat Tribal deck for Commander. It’s been a blast revisiting this deck and tweaking it for games on Spell Table with friends. Hopefully I’ll be able to able to play some in person Commander with it in the near future. Fingers crossed for that. But what do you think of the deck? Is it the kind of deck you want to play? Do you have some tweaks you would like to make? Why not let us know about it in the comments below. While you’re there you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.

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