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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Dec 18 2018 1:00pm
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Recently we had a little gift given to the Rats Tribe: Burglar Rat, an almost functional copy of Ravenous Rats, came to this world to fill up our mana curve while flooding the table with rats.

Actually Burglar Rat is even better, because it can dodge Leyline of Sanctity while Ravenous Rats can't.

Rats maybe small and innocent looking at first, but don't be fooled, soon Pack Rat may join the party and things start to get bonkers rather quickly!

Just imagine a Burglar Rat piloting a Smuggler's Copter, how possibly could possibly things get more criminal than that ?

The Plan:

The plan is absurdly simple: Disrupt opponent's hand with small rats, use removal spells to get rid of fast threats and take the game over with Pack Rats or maybe Asylum Visitor. The best part: sometimes it actually works.

The Deck:



This is a budget deck, the only expensive card is Mutavault, and even that one is not expensive at all considering the staple cards in Modern. I believe you can build this deck for 11 or 12 tickets in MTGO.

If you want to have a feel of the Modern format maybe this deck is a good place to start. 

That said, I think the deck is a work in progress, I would say 80% of the list have to be what it is, because it is impossible to play Rats without, well... rats. But there are a couple flexible slots and I am not totally sure what they should be yet.

Adding a second color, while throwing the cost up, might help to add some flexible answers, but what I would really like is to find the perfect cards inside the monoblack strategy. Right now I am considering switching both Nezumi Shortfang for two Cast Down. In almost all my matches I felt Nezumi wasn't fast or strong enough to have an impact and I didn't face a lot of legendary creatures.

Card by Card Analysis:

16x Swamp: While this is a monoblack deck, it is not terribly hungry for black mana. The only card with double black cost is Chittering Rats. Usually 16 swamps are enough to provide the black mana you need.

4x Swarmyard: This is one of the coolest reasons to play Rats at all. One of the MVP of the deck for sure. 

4x Mutavault: I feel this is an important card in this deck, it helps to smooth the land drops early, can be regenerated with Swarmyard, can pump Pack Rat and activate Smuggler's Copter

4x Fatal Push: This card is essential to stop early threats and deal with other tribes. Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Death's Shadow, Grim Lavamancer, Inkmoth Nexus and the list goes on and on...

Sadly, the deck doesn't have a lot of ways to enable revolt, that is one of the details I would like to work in to improve the list.

4x Blackmail: I know this is the budget version of Thoughtseize but this card has it's perks. First, it is capable of discarding lands. This can often matter. Also, with the aid of our little rats, it is not a rare thing to have opponent down to three cards by turn three.

4x Ravenous Rats + 4x Burglar Rat: Having total eight of those brings an interesting consistency to the deck. It is not rare at all having opponent out of cards in hand by turn four or five, opening the way for Pack Rat or Asylum Visitor

4x Pack Rat: The best rat, the MVP in the deck, if left unchecked will take most games. 

4x Chittering Rats: Just keep disrupting opponent's hand and adding rats to the table.

4x Throat Slitter: Sometimes this guy is clunky, sometimes it takes over games on its own. Very good against swarm decks, specially with the aid of Swarmyard.

2x Nezumi Shortfang : While this card looks good against Ensnaring Bridge decks, maybe it belongs to the sideboard. In many games I didn't feel it had enough impact. Maybe it is ok as a one of.

2x Smuggler's Copter:  I love this card, not only it helps to smooth our draws, it is a great blocker sometimes and you can also use madness with it. I feel that two are enough in this deck, we already have Pack Rats to makes use of cards in hand and having a hand full of Copters feels clunky sometimes. For flavor reasons you should always assign Burglar Rat to pilot Smuggler's Copter if possible!

4x Asylum Visitor: The budget cousin of Dark Confidant, this card can be awesome in the right shell. With so many discard effects in our deck, opponent usually won't be holding cards in hand to stop its effect. Sometime you can even draw two cards per turn with it if you have Pack Rat in play or simply draw an instant.  Also, 3/1 for two mana is not so bad at all, sometimes a couple of those simply takes the game by attacking.


2x Vendetta: Fast removal against decks like Affinity and Infect. 

2x Disfigure: I added those to get rid of early Dark Confidants but maybe there are better options.

2x Ultimate Price: Right now I think Cast Down would be a better choice in this slot, seems to be more colorless creatures in the format than legendary ones.

4x Duress: Faster disruption against combo decks.

3x Relic of Progenitus + 2x Nihil Spellbomb: As you know having some graveyard hate is always a good idea in Modern.

The Tourney:

Match 1: Modern Budget Rats vs Hardened Scales Affinity.



I open with Swamp pass and opponent starts with Forest + Hardened Scales. I start to poke opponent's hand with a bunch of Burglar Rats while they set it up with Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth NexusThroat Slitter comes in targeting Ravager but Welding Jar saves it. Eventually opponent gets enough +1/+1 counters to poison me to death. DEFEAT!

Game 2:

I start with a mulligan. Hand looks fast with two Blackmails and Fatal Push but not much action besides that.  Opponent plays Steel Overseer and I have to use Fatal Push to kill it. Then opponent plays Arcbound Ravager with Inkmoth Nexus in play again. But this time, luckily for me I topdeck Asylum Visitor and start to draw cards. A combination of Throat Slitter and a timely Fatal Push targeting Inkmoth Nexus ends up taking the game. VICTORY!  

Fatal Push saved my virtual life here!

Game 3:

Looking at my sideboard, I really wish those Ultimate Prices were something else. They can't kill artifact creatures.

Game starts, I keep a slow hand with Pack Rats and Throat Slitter, opponent goes to zero cards in hand pretty quickly with a super fast hand and some help from my discard effects. Opponent has two Arcbound Ravagers and two Arcbound Workers, a timely Fatal Push helps me to clear the path for Throat Slitter. I manage to stabilize the ground with Pack Rat and end up controlling the board with Throat Slitter and Vendetta. VICTORY!

Match 2: Modern Budget Rats vs Simic Infect.


Game 1:

I start with Swamp and pass, opponent casts Glistener Elf and I follow with Burglar Rat, so far going well. Opponent casts Blighted Agent and I have no removal. I try to bluff a Fatal Push leaving an open Swamp but opponent doesn't fall for it and deals eleven infect with one attack. Really short game. DEFEAT.

Game 2:

I side in a couple removal and Duress

I start with Duress and turn 2 Burglar Rat. Opponent manages to cast Noble Hierarch and Necropede, I follow with tons of discard spells removing pump spells from their hand. Next turn, Pendelhaven + Noble Hierarch and Rancor helps opponent to deal 7 infect damage to me. But I topdeck just what I needed: Vendetta. Sadly this is not enough, eventually opponent draws more creatures and finish the job with Inkmoth Nexus. DEFEAT. 

Match 3: Modern Budget Rats vs Izzet Madcap/Emperion.


Game 1:

I start slow with third turn Chittering Rats that sadly for me meets a Censor. Opponent keeps playing lands and waiting for my spells. Next turn I topdeck a Swarmyard that allows me to attack with Mutavault dodging a possible burn spell, but opponent just finds Madcap Experiment and searches for Platinum Emperion. Opponent puts even more pressure with Snapcaster Mage flashing back Madcap Experiment for yet another  Platinum Emperion and one Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I manage to kill one Platinum Emperion with Throat Slitter but that is not enough and opponent eventually wins with the other. DEFEAT.

Game 2:

I side in Duress and Vendetta

This one was frustrating...

I start with Blackmail taking and Island followed by Burglar Rat while opponent Opts. Opponent casts Grim Lavamancer but I manage to Throat Slitter in the following turn. Opponent casts Blood Moon taking the fun out of my Mutavaults and Swarmyards and I repay casting duress for Madcap Experiment. Opponent casts Jace, the Mind Sculptor but I manage to kill it with a couple rats and Smuggler's Copter. The Copter also helps me to find Pack Rat to stabilize the ground after opponent casts Platinum Emperion but I dig and dig and dig and can't find Throat Slitter to kill the lonely Emperion on the other side. I have one Vendetta but not enough life to cast it and live. I had one billion giant rats on my side, I swear I did, but I end up dying to my own Asylum Visitors at some point after opponent cleverly counters their own spell to empty their hand. DEFEAT.

Those Ultimate Prices on sideboard didn't help me at all this time. 

Match 4: Against Izzet Hollow/Phoenix.


Game 1:

Opponent manages to put Arclight Phoenix early on the graveyard with Faithless Looting but doesn't cast three spells for a while, giving me time to build an army of small rats on my side while slowing their draw with Chittering Rats. Fatal Push kills their sole Monastery Swiftspear and rats quickly take over. VICTORY.

Game 2:

We both start slow, I Duress opponent taking one Manamorphose out of two. At some point I have three Fatal Push in hand but I can't target a problematic 10/4 Crackling Drake that quickly takes the game with aid of Phoenix and Swiftspear. DEFEAT.

Game 3: 

I decide to side in all removal and not care about disrupting opponent's initial hand, taking out Blackmail and all but one Duress.

The plan goes well, my sole Duress comes and I am glad to discard Ral, Izzet Viceroy. Opponent has a slow start while I build up my rats. Their Thing In The Ice is ripped from hand with my Burglar Rat, their Arclight Phoenix isn't enough to race my army of rats and I end up taking the game. VICTORY.

Match 5: Against Gruul Valakut/Titan.


Game 1:

Opponent has a bit of a slow start, with turn one Search for Tomorrow but losing the second land drop. I build up with Burglar Rat and Chittering Rats not making their life easier. Two Pack Rats on my fourth turn allows me to go aggro and Sakura-Tribe Elder is not enough to keep them alive. VICTORY.

Game 2:

I sideboard Fatal Pushes out adding Duress and Ultimate Prices taking out Nezumis.

Opponent plays land and pass, I start with Duress for Summoner's Pact. Opponent keeps ramping with Sakura-Tribe Elders and I try to put some pressure with Asylum Visitor and Pack Rat backed up by Swarmyard. Opponent ramps more but a timely Blackmail from my topdeck hits Primeval Titan while Pack Rats quickly take the game. VICTORY!

Rats CAN go aggro sometimes!

Final Result: 3-2! 

Not bad for a budget deck!

I actually played one more league with it and went 4-1, I think this deck is viable and has a chance against most decks in the format. The only change I made was switching both Nezumis for Cast Downs. At this point I am also considering Hero's Downfall, it looks like an amazing option mid to late game. Another card to consider of course is Dismember


I had a lot of fun playing this deck, I wouldn't say it is the easiest deck to play ever but most games felt fast and simple. 

One thing I don't like much is the lack of versatility, this deck doesn't deal very well with non-creature permanents. On the other hand, it can be really good against creature decks. The one match I lost on the second league was against Ensnaring Bridge. Even Nezumi couldn't save me there because opponent also had Leyline of Sanctity in play.

I think it is possible to try more "serious" builds for this deck, with 2 colors and cards like Collected Company (Imagine that on opponent's draw step) or maybe Kolaghan's Command. But part of the appeal for me is the deck's simplicity, there are perks on playing good old Swamps as the main manabase, like not being devastated by Blood Moon.

I recommend trying the deck, it is so easy to build, let me know about any ideas or improvements!

See you next time!