Masters 25 has got me. I admit it—I got hype. I have cast Hype as an equipment and paid the Equip cost. My static abilities are modified by Hype until state-based actions determine they are not.
Relentless Rats has been spoiled at common for Masters 25, and I couldn’t be happier.
When I built my Shadowborn Apostles deck for Commander a while back, the biggest hurdle was the cost of the Apostles themselves. Sure, they’re common, but they’re from an older set, and when you need them, you need 30 or more of them. So I bit the bullet and paid for 40+ Apostles at $2-3 per.
Relentless Rats has the same singleton-dodging ability as the Apostles, and being printed at common in a booster-pack set should help bring their price down a fair bit. Thus, Hype™!
First things first—we need to decide how we’re going to win, and put together a package that supports that strategy. Luckily, Masters 25 has included another reprint that points us in a fine direction.
“But Jesse,” you say, “how does Grenzo help you win? He just puts Rats on the battlefield from your library!”
Let me introduce you to a weird little four-mana enchantment I only know about because I’m a filthy, dirty Slivers player:
Let’s say you’ve got Grenzo, Mana Echoes, and a single Relentless Rat on the battlefield, and the bottom card of your library is also a Relentless Rat. 2 mana gets you that second Rat — which immediately generates 2 more mana off of Mana Echoes. Each Rat adds an exponential amount of Mana Echoes mana to your pool—which you can immediately pour into Grenzo’s ability, to get even more Rats!
If you hit three Relentless Rats in a row in the above scenario—and let’s be honest, we’re gonna be running a lot of Rats, so that’s a modest prediction—you will have paid 2 mana to get four 6/6 Relentless Rats and 7 colourless mana floating, all at instant speed!
Does that sound like a deck? That sounds like a deck!
Alright. Per the articles I linked above, we’re going to grab 38 lands, figure out our game-winning package, then split the remaining cards into five categories—Mana, Draw, Threats, Answers, and Synergy—and find the best fits for those five categories.
You know what that means—Jonny, bring out those sweet subheadings!
(Does he get annoyed when I make references to him like Stephen Colbert used to do for his director, Jimmy? I don’t know, but we’ll find out!)
- Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
- Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- Command Tower
- Ash Barrens
- Dragonskull Summit
- Graven Cairns
- Bojuka Bog
- 16x Swamp
- 15x Mountain
There’s a few notable exclusions here — Cabal Coffers, Valakut the Molten Pinnacle, Swarmyard, and the iconic Evolving Wilds / Terramorphic Expanse duo, as well as almost anything that enters tapped. Let’s take a moment to look at why I’ve left them out.
Cabal Coffers and Valakut are both out because there’s not enough synergy present for either of them — and with 40 cards in our deck being taken up by Relentless Rats (spoiler!), we won’t have room to create any. If your average battlefield after a few turns is 2 Swamps, 2 Mountains, and Coffers or Valakut, they’re not benefiting you at all, and it will be several turns until they do. So they’re out.
Swarmyard is out because frankly, we don’t care enough about any individual Rat to give up access to coloured mana—they are an end, not the means. If our commander was a Rat I’d look at it but currently, it’s not worthwhile.
I have become less and less of a fan of Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse these days, especially in two-colour decks. They’re essentially basic lands that enter tapped, and in most cases, I’d rather just have a basic right away, even if it’s an off-colour. So out they go.
The rest of these are fairly straightforward—they provide mana fixing and enter untapped. Urborg “fixes” your mana by turning it into Swamps for those all-important first few Rats casts, and Bojuka Bog—our only land that enters tapped!—is just an indispensable utility land for hating out opposing graveyard strategies.
HOW WE WIN THE GAME
- Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
- Mana Echoes
- 40x Relentless Rats
- Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- Coat of Arms
Grenzo and Mana Echoes are our engine, and we’re going with 40 copies of Relentless Rats to ensure synergy. (We can tune that down later if we need to.)
Gray Merchant is our primary win condition after Rats beatdowns, playing off of the incredible devotion to black we’re going to have.
You might be curious as to why I’ve chosen the older Coat of Arms over the newer—and arguably better—Vanquisher’s Banner and Door of Destinies. Very simply, we only ever actually cast a single Rat or two, according to our gameplan. So Door of Destinies gets no charge counters, and the Banner never draws us cards. Not worth our limited slots.
Marrow-Gnawer is a common Rat commander, and here is an excellent finisher for us. Giving Menace to our Relentless Rats helps sneak them through blockers, and making an exponential number of new Rat tokens every turn only helps our plan!
We’ve got 17 cards left. Let’s choose carefully!
I’m not a fan of Sol Ring unless you can really abuse it. So we have Braid of Fire, Crypt Ghast, and Ashnod’s Altar, each with the potential to add exponentially more mana to our pool than Sol Ring.
Thrumming Stone is the pièce de résistance I’m bringing over from my Shadowborn Apostles deck. I count it as a mana rock here because it helps us cheat out Rats, but it’s really a second copy of Grenzo. With one cast of a Relentless Rats—I guarantee you we’ll have at least one copy marooned in our hands during any given game—and Thrumming Stone out, we should be able to mathematically ripple out all the Relentless Rats from the top of our deck. Value!
“But Jesse,” you exclaim, “you’re in Black! Why aren’t you running Necropotence?”
Well, the answer is simple—I don’t want a bunch of Relentless Rats to end up in my hand, since our whole gameplan is to Grenzo them out. So Necropotence is a nonbo-ropotence.
Crystal Ball I like because the scry synergizes beautifully with Grenzo, and Scry 2 is big enough to be worth the card slot and activation cost. The rest of the draw effects add one card at a time to our hands, which lets us judge carefully how much we draw and when.
This category has been consumed entirely by Relentless Rats. They were quite hungry.
Four kill effects and three board wipes. I’d like to have more, but this is what we have space for right now. Later on, we can tune up and down the number of Rats and add more or fewer answer cards accordingly.
Notably, each of the board wipes helps us out in different ways—Kindred Dominance by skipping Rats, Living Death by getting all our Rats back from the graveyard, and Toxic Deluge by being incredibly well-costed.
Also, isn’t Imp’s Mischief just great?
- Razaketh the Foulblooded
- Beseech the Queen
With our limited slots left, we’re going to grab a couple of tutors. Razaketh isn’t much help in the early game, but he’s great when it comes to burning out Rats to find several finishers in a row. And Beseech the Queen is a great tutor at CMC < 4 that doesn’t cost as much as Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and the like.
Now that I’ve hyped you up for Masters 25, be sure to come down for our drafts on release weekend!
RATS, THAT’S ALL THE TIME WE HAVE
Also happening at the store—Open Board Game Day on March 10th!
See you there!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every two weeks for a non-zero number of ripple triggers from Thrumming Stone—and also The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!