Tribal Tuesday Ft. Rats

Ryan Grainger | 20th November 2018

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s Tribal Tuesday!

So last week we looked at the Knight tribe and had a go at brewing a white weenie style of deck for modern! With the success of white weenie at the recent pro tour, I believe this style in modern could potentially be one of the most competitive lists we’ve made here. Now usually we’d continue around the cycle of formats as we did before and move onto legacy, but with legacy being so powerful, and standard having a fairly limited card pool, finding obscure tribal decks that could still perform well is challenging.  We will still cover those formats, but I need a little more brewing time! So we’re returning to Commander/EDH  to try out a tribal build of something you’ve probably seen the odd card come up every now and again, but we’re going to put them all together in one deck, and that is the Rat tribe!

A quick reminder for anyone new to the series, Tribal Tuesday is all about checking out some of the overlooked tribes in magic history and having some fun brewing in different formats. With that out of the way, let’s get onto the Rats!

You’ve probably seen at least one Rat card before, it’s the tribe where there always seems to be one Rat card in a set randomly slotted in and you think ‘oh, a rat’ and move on.  Well, don’t move on so quick, if you add all those random rats into a deck, some pretty fun stuff starts to happen. The first card to have the rat creature type as Plague Rat all the way back in alpha (It seems every tribe we cover has its roots in alpha at this point) and they’re pretty much always black, apart from 3 multi-coloured ones with red as a secondary. Rats typically have either one of two things in common: determining their power and/or toughness based on the number of other rats in play, symbolising rats nature to swarm; and one-shot discard effects usually when they enter the battlefield, symbolising eating things, I think?… 

Plague Rats

So, here’s the brew!

Whilst not a Rat creature himself, our commander is Balthor the Defiled and you’ll see why!

Balthor the Defiled

Ignoring that Balthor is a Lord for Minions (a discontinued creature type since 2014.. possible Tribal Tuesday episode maybe?) he actually has a pretty sweet ability. This deck has the power to throw out a huge amount of creatures in one go, you’ll see how later, and board wipes would ruin that plan. So, being able to bring them all back in one go is a huge swing! Plus, as the exile is part of the cost, we can still send him to the command zone instead to do it again later on! Whilst having an actual Rat as our commander would have been more on flavour, Balthor gives us almost protection from sweepers which made me lean towards him as the commander.

The Main Combo

Commander is a pretty interesting format, having a huge card pool to choose from but only being able to play a single copy of each card, other than basic lands, makes for some interesting and challenging deck building. Turns out, there’s a fun Rat card that likes to break this rule. Relentless Rats!

Relentless Rats

As previously mentioned, a lot of rats share the trait where they get bigger the more rats you have. Relentless Rats gets +1/+1 for each other Relentless Rats on the battlefield, now you may think “It’s commander, you can only run one!” Keep reading, a deck can have any number of Relentless Rats! In total we’re running 30 of these guys meaning potentially we could have 30, 31/31 creatures on the board, that’s bonkers!

You may be thinking two things right now: 1. How does this deck throw out a huge amount of power in one turn? And 2. What’s so good about having 30 3mana creatures? The answer to both of these is a card called Thrumming Stone!

Thrumming Stone

Like me, you’ve probably never heard of the keyword ripple, but it’s the reason we play 30 of the same card. When we cast one Relentless Rat, we look at the top 4 cards of our library and play any card with the same name as Relentless Rat for free! Then, each other Relentless Rat we ripple into causes its own ripple and we go searching again. Quite often this can lead to 10 or more rats coming down in one turn and providing they can survive a turn around the board, that’s most likely the game!

Other Rats/friends of Rats

It wouldn’t be a true Tribal Tuesday if we just had one rat. Marrow-Gnawer was the other contender for the commander of the deck. Playing very similar to my Krenko Goblin deck, it allows you to almost double the amount of rats you have in play, being able to go really wide very quickly and with some synergistic enchantments and artifacts, this can be really beneficial. 


Speaking of going wide with rat tokens, Ogre Slumlord joins the party. Being able to give all Rats deathtouch makes them one of the scariest tribes to block against. No one wants their big green dinosaur to die because it had to block a tiny rat. This allows us to get in with the rats without fear of unfavourable trades. There’s also another upside to the slumlord, if any other creature dies on the board, we get a free 1/1 rat! And in commander games with multiple players, creatures are going to die. 

Ogre Slumlord

It seems Ogres have some sort of affinity to rats. Ratcatcher is another great card for this deck as it allows us to tutor up for a rat on our upkeep each turn. Just played 15 Relentless Rats off of ripple but then fizzled? Tutor up another Relentless Rat and ripple the other 15 out! There are a few other Rats worth tutoring, but it’s primarily for the main combo.


The Support

To support our path to victory we need additional cards to help us get there, sometimes in commander, swinging with 30 rats don’t always win you the game. We run a few blood artist effects meaning we get extra value from our cards hitting the graveyard before we bring them all back with Balthor. We also have a free sacrificing outlet with Ashnod’s Alter to help with this. Still unable to win with damage? Try the alternate win-con of Revel in Riches! If left unchecked, people will be unable to board wipe as you’ll just win on the spot with all the treasure you’ll gain. Being in black, we’ve also got some of the best removals in the game, cards like; murder, go for the throat, Doom Blade and Hero’s downfall are all good ways to stop what our opponents are doing. 

Blood Artist
Ashnod's Altar
Revel in Riches

Card Draw and Tutors

Because Thrumming Stone is a big part of the deck we need ways to find it easier. Cards like Phyrexian Arena and Underworld connections allow us to draw more than 1 card a turn increasing the odds of hitting the sweet artifact. Still, don’t want to rely on drawing the card? Use Demonic/Diaoblic Tutor to go straight to searching for the card. Even Vanquisher’s Banner draws us cards with each rat we play, our hands will never be out of answers.

Phyrexian Arena
Demonic Tutor

As you can see the deck is full of everything that we would need as well as a whole ton of things I didn’t have enough time to mention! So as always check out the decklist and have a look at all the flavour! This deck is such an interesting take on commander, being able to have more than one copy of a card isn’t something everyone gets to do and what better way to do it than with a really interesting tribe! Who doesn’t want to play 30 rats in one turn?! That’s exactly what this deck does!

As always, thanks for taking the time to read, anything I missed? And as always, what tribe should we cover next, got any underloved favourites? Let us know!

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