Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius was destined to be my favorite card from Return to Ravnica.

D'awwww....I’d just built my Dragon Pipeline EDH deck with the first Niv as my commander, I love dragons, I’m really coming around to playing U/R…conditions were perfect.

And then came Pack Rat.

See, I love rats. Love love love the little adorable rodents. I’ve had them as pets (RIP, my dear Odin), I’ve worked them into grad school assignments, and I’ve been known to turn into a squeeing little girl when I see their little chittering paws come together. So way back when I learned to play Magic, I made a rat deck. It performed really well up until the past two years or so, when our casual play at home started to get a little more intense, and now my poor rats frequently get…exterminated.

But this, dear readers, this card changes everything.

Pack Rat has established itself as a force to be reckoned with, and has quite possibly cemented itself as my favorite RtR card. (Don’t take it personally, Niv.)

In general, I’m not a fan of tribal decks. I know I know, I’ve mentioned my three dragon decks and now this rat deck and I also have Slivers ♥ but hear me out. Tribal decks are normally a pain in the ass to play against. Because elves, soldier, goblins, humans, or – god forbid – allies, well they can get a little out of hand. But people will always play tribal decks, and they’ll always find a way to piss you off, even with the strangest, most obscure tribes. Hell, I have a friend with a squirrel deck. It’s adorable. It’s a strange little habit though, because the great majority of the time, creature types don’t really matter in Magic. But building a deck around a creature type suddenly makes that relevant and gives you some extra power to draw upon, if you do it right.

In the case of my rats, I basically just tried to cram as many rats as possible into one coherent deck which is, as you can imagine, not the smartest deck-building strategy. So there’s a valid reason why it’s getting stomped on now – it wasn’t built for standard, it was built for fun. (And was also built when I had no clue what I was doing.) And that’s ok, really – I keep plenty of non-standard decks, and this is going to stay one of those. But there’s no reason I can’t spruce things up a bit and give my rats the power they so deserve, right? So I’m going to be reevaluating this deck in the coming week, add in Pack Rat, and hopefully give it a bit more punch.

But what makes Pack Rat a card worth rebuildling for?

mtg_packratTo be clear, I haven’t yet convinced myself that it’s built for standard play, but I’m sure it can easily perform well in a draft setting. There are still a number of answers to Pack Rat at two mana – in the form of Pithing Needle, Detention Sphere, Supreme Verdict, and Mizzium Mortars, just to name a few – but those are all rares; odds of you pulling your Pack Rat and the guy next to you pulling one of those aren’t that great, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them. Cutting out all the rares that are a serious threat (and I counted six) and looking at the rest, you’re worried about Electrickery, Izzet Charm, Golgari Charm, Ultimate Price, and Street Spasm. That’s only five cards that are potential immediate answers, which isn’t too bad.

And that’s also assuming that your opponent realizes how dangerous this card is.

Theoretically, if you pull one of these in a draft, you could mulligan to it each time and still probably come out alright, much to everyone’s surprise (and your delight). If you get this out on turn two and your opponent doesn’t have a piece of removal in their hand, you’ll be making rats until they’re dead…which will probably be quick.

Just think of this: turn 2, you drop this guy. Turn 3, you discard, make another rat, and swing for 2. Turn 4, pitch another card, gain another rat, now swing for 6 with your now 3/3 rats. Turn 5, repeat, you now have 4 4/4s. You’re swinging for 12 on turn 5, which is pretty impressive. Repeat ad nauseum, and you’ve got yourself a win, more than likely. I’ve heard stories of drafts being won by a deck consisting of 38 swamps, Pack Rat, and Volatile Rig. Seriously. That’s bonkers.

But mulling to a card isn’t my style – probably because I have awful luck and I’d end up mulling to two and STILL not finding this guy – and I’m looking for more casual play, not so much drafting. So how can I make this work for me and, more importantly, make it work with some of what I have in my rat deck already?

Marrow-Gnawer card art - Wayne Reynolds

Well it’s not like this card is only useful if you get it early; its late game potential is remarkable. Say you draw this guy on turn 5. Play it, discard, immediately make a rat. Turn 6 – provided you draw a land and have been holding on to cards to discard – you can make two more rats and swing for at least 8. I say at least because my deck is chock full of low cost rats, which will immediately pump up Pack Rat. By the time he gets out on turn 5 or later, it’s entirely possible that he’d be a 5/5; make another rat to pump him up to 6/6…and the cycle continues! Add Marrow-Gnawer to the mix? Shit just got real. Ah, the possibilities…

So I’ve got a few plans already – all of which include Veilborn Ghoul at the moment, and also doing a much-needed trim from 75 to 60 cards – but I’m going to be sitting down with my rat deck and looking at options.

Have some ideas for cards I should consider? I’d love to hear them! Check out my existing deck, Odin’s Wrath, on MTG Vault and drop me a line!