Thursday, July 12, 2012

CCDD 071212—Swarming Rats

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/12/2012 - I intentionally omitted a card from my recent batch of one-drops because it deserves its own post, particularly once we start discussing its variations. One way to keep a one-drop relevant later in the game is allowing it to grow. Scute Mob is a good example but a bit more drastic than what I'm thinking. One of the problems with one-drops is that if you're running any, you want enough to consistently get them early, but it's very easy to get so many that they ruin your late game.

From the original Plague Rats through to Relentless Rats, we've had swarms of virulent pests that grow more deadly in numbers and I think we can use this exact trope to make an excellent one-drop. I'm proposing knocking two mana off this old classic…

In a vacuum, I'm confident that's a fair card. In Magical Christmas Land, you drop two on the second turn, swinging for 3 and then the fourth on turn three (along with, what Bad Moon?), swinging for 12 (or 15), but the best real-world scenario is dropping a second copy on turn two, swinging for two with your t1 rat and following up with more tempo or aggression. Can we break it with other cards? Ranger of Eos fetching two of these could be pretty nice in some WB deck, but I suspect you'd do better to play Swarming Rats with Phantasmal Image and other cheap Clone friends. Wrath of God still ruins your day though, so I'm just not sure these Rats would break any format. Let me know if you see otherwise.

Once I was thinking about multitudes of rats, I couldn't help but wonder about other ways to represent their vast numbers.

One obvious characteristic of an endless horde is that they keep coming back. It doesn't matter how many you kill, there's always more. I added "or other rat" since the prospect of spending your draw every turn just to get an otherwise vanilla 1/1 for 1B seems... terrible. Slap this in a rat tribal deck on the other hand, and your endless supply of rats may just overwhelm your opponent.

If losing your draw step isn't appealing or if the card's unkillability causes every game to play out the same, we can get a very similar flavor without recursion. These rat tokens will climb your opponent's legs just as ravenously, but don't neutralize your deck.

I share this last rat just because it seems like madness that a traditional rat lord doesn't exist:

You could totally staple this ability onto one of the Unending Rats abilities, but I'm pretty fond of how simple it is. All is does is pump your rats?! Try telling Swarm of Rats that's not enough.


  1. Man, it's criminal that the rat lord isn't an actual Rat King.

    1. Oh! Rat King! How about this for the Rat King as lord:

      Rat King (Rare)
      Creature – Rat
      Other Rat creatures you control get +1/+1.
      When Rat King leaves the battlefield, put four 1/1 black Rat creature tokens onto the battlefield.

      It's at the top of the curve, but I think it's a great iteration of Mother Spider from our M13 set. Rats could certainly benefit from this mechanic.

  2. Swarming Rats could continue the trend of trying to give Black some early turn beats. To, I guess, reinvigorate the color. And it's a self contained combo with itself, so I can see it getting made. The lack of a Rat Lord comes from R&D commitment to focusing on only a few creature types in each color endlessly. It could be part of a micro cycle like the M12 Illusions, I suppose. For the record, I would love to see more Rats in Magic.

  3. That first card is best thing here by far.