The 10 Best Rats in Magic History
Magic players everywhere are excited about the Masters 25 spoilers. Conversation has mostly centered around cards like Imperial Recruiter, Chalice of the Void, Rishadan Port, Eidolon of the Great Revel, or even today's filter lands. And while those cards are all fine and good, none of them compare to this one:
I don't know how to write those chittering noises rats make, but I'm making them now. Rats are awesome, especially when they're relentless. Furthermore, considering the additional spoiling of Nezumi Cutthroat and Ratcatcher, it looks like rats will play a prominent role in Masters 25.
Remember, this is a nostalgia set. And when we think of Magic: The Gathering, we think of rats. Okay, maybe that's just me.
Anyway, today I'd like to celebrate the rats of Magic. In the spirit of Masters 25, let's take a look back through Magic's past and review the ten best rats of all time.
Before we commence, let's start with an appetizer. Or ratetizer, as it were.
The first three aren't technically rats, but they are valued allies of rats everywhere. And although Swarm of Rats really is a rat, the first-ranked rat on the following list does what it does better. Chittering Rats is a Pauper all-star, though unplayable pretty much everywhere else. And Earsplitting Rats deserves recognition for its flavor text alone.
Despite not making the official list, these cards all get honorable mentions for significant contributions to the rat tribe. Good work, team.
Now, onto the list.
#10: Plague Rats
No rats of Magic conversation can truly begin without the OG, Plague Rats. Yes, Plague Rats first appeared in Limited Edition Alpha (Magic's very first set), making it Magic's very first rat. Though terrible on its own, this card can actually be decent in multiples. It also set an important precedent for Magic's rats (they swarm), and it's very clearly a prototype for Relentless Rats.
Of course, the best thing about Plague Rats is its overstuffed text box. Since there was no written rulebook to coincide with Magic's first printing, Wizards of the Coast packed pretty much every detail they could onto cards, including the occasional use of the word "thus."
#9: Typhoid Rats
Typhoid Rats is sick. Literally. And like most rats, Typhoid Rats is way more powerful than it looks. Like any self-respecting rodent, nobody wants to touch it, in this case due to the threat of disease. In Limited, these Rats make for an excellent blocker and even a decent way to chip in some damage.
Typhoid Rats is one of those flexible cards that's appeared in numerous sets. It's even become the shorthand for 1/1s for one with deathtouch, i.e. Sedge Scorpion is the Typhoid Rats of Theros. A Masters 25 reprint of this card would surely be met with great fanfare. By me, anyway.
#8: Hungry Lynx
Though not itself a rat, I thought I'd include Hungry Lynx since it so heavily involves our favorite scurvy pests. I think this card would've been more aptly named "Tom & Jerry," but Hungry Lynx is still pretty good.
This card is, in my opinion, a slam dunk. From a flavor standpoint, it perfectly captures the classic cat versus rat conflict. Plus, it's actually a very powerful play on turn two for Commander. One can use the deathtouch rat as a bargaining tool with other players. And if we've learned anything from this article, it's that everyone loves playing with rats. You're welcome, opponents.
#7: Dirty Wererat
Okay, I'll admit it. This card is mostly just on the list for the name. I mean, imagine calling someone a Dirty Wererat. What an outstanding insult! It even sounds a little Shakespearean.
In terms of gameplay, Dirty Wererat actually isn't terrible. A 2/3 for four mana is clearly not great, but the regenerate ability makes it a pesky blocker. If your opponent has an X/2, they just can't attack. Furthermore, the discard clause fuels the Wererat's threshold ability. And once you achieve the seven card minimum, you've actually got a pretty powerful, difficult-to-deal-with attacker.
Thou Dirty Wererat! See? Willy would be proud.
#6: Rat Colony
I know, another "play as many as you want" rat. But Rat Colony is a house. Not only does it synergize with other copies of itself, it makes up for its lack in toughness boost by getting pumped by all rats you control!
#5: Crypt Rats
Perhaps one of the most potent rats in the history of the game, Crypt Rats sees most of its action in Pauper. Since board sweepers are so rare in the format, it actually fills quite a sought-after niche.
In the grand scheme of rats, Crypt Rats is an interesting one. It doesn't follow the disease-carrying theme of Typhoid Rats or the swarming theme of Plague Rats. Rather, I think the flavor here is that of a family meal. Just look at that artwork. This is very clearly a tight-knit community of rats enjoying a Sunday dinner together. Lovely.
#4: Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
What's better than a ninja? A rat ninja. Just ask Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.
First, her Ninjutsu ability has a number of different applications which add up to a pretty powerful effect. It can help you cast your Ink-Eyes a turn earlier than usual, can help you slip in for a surprise five damage, allows Ink-Eyes to effectively borrow another creature's evasion for a turn, and possibly helps re-trigger the enter the battlefield abilities of the unblocked attacker. Like a healthy swarm of rats, it offers many little things which add up to a lot. And I suppose the reanimation and regenerate abilities aren't bad, either.
#3: Ravenous Rats
Ravenous Rats is the quintessential two-drop rat. And in its singular form, this card's title could also serve as an excellent nickname for a competitive hotdog eater. Just a thought.
Ravenous Rats was a mainstay of the Core Set for a number of years, tallying four total appearances, with three of them coming consecutively. And you know what? If it was up to me, this card would appear in every Core Set, ever. Because there's nothing more essential to the game than two-drop rats that force your opponents to discard a card.
More seriously, I think Ravenous Rats perfectly embodies the value of a "discard one card of your opponent's choice" effect. If a vanilla 2/2 is the classic two-mana creature, then a 1/1 with this ability suggests that forcing an opponent to discard is worth roughly one power and one toughness worth of stats.
Due to the story in his flavor text, Marrow-Gnawer might be perhaps better known as "The Godfather of Rats." Slaying all your enemies in one night is definitely a Michael Corleone kind of thing. Don't ask him about his business.
Anyway, in purely MTG terms, Marrow-Gnawer is the perfect rat commander. In fact, as of the writing of this article, EDHREC.com has 602 Marrow-Gnawer decks indexed on their site. Makes sense. The card is very powerful in a rat tribal shell. Plus, his mechanics feel exactly on theme for a rat lord. And another thing: "All Rats have fear" has got to be one of the greatest text lines in Magic's history.
#1: Pack Rat
Pack Rat may very well be the best rat in Magic. If you played Return to Ravnica Booster Draft, you already know just how powerful the Pack is. If you cast this card on turn two and your opponent didn't have an immediate answer, the game often ended on the spot. That's some unbelievable power for your two-drop.
Pack Rat also made quite the splash during its time in Standard, with the aforementioned Owen Turtenwald leading the charge.
Today, you can draft the Pack in Cube or play it in Commander. I've even seen it played on the fringes of Modern, which shows you the kind of raw power the card possesses. Though mana intensive, it generates unbelievable power all on its own.
An added bonus: if your parents ever walk by when you cast this card, you might get a free chuckle when they say, "You mean the Rat Pack, right?" Sorry, mom and dad. We're talking Magic, not sixties pop culture.
That's the end of our rat power rankings. To all the dirty wererats who made it to the end of this article, thanks for reading. And keep on chittering!
Kyle Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living in upstate New York with his fiancée and their two cats. When he's not writing, you'll find him down at the East Greenbush Flipside store jamming booster drafts. For more of Kyle's work, visit www.kyleamassa.com or follow him on Twitter @mindofkyleam.
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