Building a deck is always a unique process. For example, maybe one of your friends sends you this text message.
This doesn’t happen all the time, but I’d be lying if I said it was the first time. Creating new decks is always a fun process, even if it may not turn out to be the most competitive deck. As I saw it, this was my starting point.
When building a deck for someone else, it is important to know what their goals are for the deck. I don’t think I would ever have started a deck with those cards no matter how long the format was legal so I need to make sure the deck list I end up with will be good for the intended person. With that in mind, I asked him the purpose of including Faith's Reward. He basically said it was to counteract wrath effects. Now, I’m not sure that instant is even playable right now in Standard so my objective changed a bit to include building a deck that was resilient to wrath effects and then we can include the additional help of Faith’s Reward in the sideboard if necessary.
The next step was determining the shell these twelve cards would fit into. If we can add the rats to a preexisting strategy, they would be more powerful than on their own. His idea was Junk (Green, Black, and White), but my first idea was to pair the rats with Rakdos cards. Here is an example of what I was thinking.
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Drainpipe Vermin
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Pack Rat
4 Geralfs Messenger
4 Vampire Aristocrat
3 Pillar of Flame
3 Searing Spear
3 Brimstone Volley
4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
2 Rakdos Guildgate
4 Cavern of Souls
By adding the rats, you lower the curve of the Rakdos deck, something other players have done but with different cards. Also, you add a slightly disruptive element to the deck, which is never a bad thing. The resiliency he wanted was there because of normal Rakdos aggressive cards. This list seemed like it met most of the goals. I also liked the synergy of Vampire Aristocrat with Drainpipe Vermin. Pack Rat was on my list of good Standard cards that aren’t seeing play yet, so fitting him in this deck actually seems quite good. I don’t know whether the other rats would be good or not, but they're probably OK.
This did not suit his style though as he wanted to play green and white cards. He let me know this by telling me, “Oh, it needs Growing Ranks too.” With that wrench in my plans, I needed a new direction.
Thinking about Pack Rat in detail had previously led me to a deck that used it as a graveyard enabler. That is one way to make use of the card, but it’s a little slow. My thought process was, what strong cards go with the rat theme that can be discarded for value? Lingering Souls! That’s it. It’s a white card, everyone knows its one of the best cards in multiple formats, and it would be sick to discard it to a Pack Rat! And yes, it plays well with Growing Ranks. Now we have this base to work from.
Once I arrived at these cards together, I knew we were pretty close to cutting the Faith's Reward. If many of my cards make creature tokens, there is no need for an instant that returns creatures from the graveyard to play. I think Pack Rat on its own is great against board sweepers anyway because you don’t ever have to play a threat and you can just grow your army at the end of their turn.
If you get stuck during the deck building process, it’s best to take a break and start again a while later. That’s basically what happened to me at this point. I had a couple breakthrough ideas, then I didn’t know what else to play with these cards. Obviously this is headed in the direction of a tokens deck, but something like Intangible Virtue probably won’t fit because we have actual creatures as well. If Virtue won’t work, we still need a way to make the rats better, preferably by doing more damage.
Then it hit me, we're already running black and white mana, and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad seems like a perfect fit. Even though there are no green cards yet, I knew I also wanted Gavony Township. Since I know there are all three colors of mana, are there any green cards that would help? We need something better to populate with Growing Ranks and it should be cheaply costed. That’s when I came up with Call of the Conclave. It costs two, is an aggressive creature, and fits in synergistically with the deck. Here’s where we are now.
Even once I added Sorin and Call of the Conclave though, I was still stuck trying to flesh out the rest of the deck. That’s when I did some research. Looking to see what other players have in their deck lists can be very helpful even when you are trying to be creative and build your own deck. By looking at other decks I remembered cards like Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and Selesnya Charm, and they both seem good for this deck. Finally, a catch-all removal spell seems necessary so let’s add in some Oblivion Rings.
This process took a couple days, but I had a lot of fun and my friend ended up with a fun but competitive deck using some unique cards. This is the final build.
4 Drainpipe Vermin
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Pack Rat
3 Trostani, Selesnyas Voice
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Call of the Conclave
4 Lingering Souls
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Growing Ranks
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Gavony Township
3 Temple Garden
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Isolated Chapel
In the end, I actually think this deck turned out well. It looks solid but fun at the same time. The mana was tricky and I’m not sure it will ever be great. Needing black mana on turns one and two is tough with the lands we have available. It will be better once Godless Shrine is legal, which can replace Temple Garden. So there you have it. Some Pack Rat fun for your next FNM.
Until Next Time,
Have you Pack Ratted someone in Standard yet?
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P.S. If you have an idea for a deck you want me to build, please submit your ideas below in the comments. Thanks for reading.