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Two Life Crew

I like the idea of expendable creatures in Commander. When you put effort into summoning a creature, setting up the perfect Mayael the Anima activation, coughing up 10 mana to windmill Newlamog (Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger), sacrificing Breathstealer, Urborg Panther and Feral Shadow (1998 and before only), it feels bad when that creature has its throat gone for or its Doom Bladed. Conversely, when you put so little effort into putting the creature into play that you don’t even represent it with a card in a sleeve and instead represent it with a number on a die or pile of jelly beans (I eat the dead ones) you feel nothing when they meet an untimely end. I won’t shed a tear for a Saproling token that gave its life because Hamletback Goliath doesn’t have trample for some reason. In fact, I have a tendency to jam cards like Attrition and Perilous Forays into my decks to give my token creatures a little help finding their way into the mass grave that’s reserved for tokens next to the graveyard for my real creatures. When putting creatures into play feels effortless, it’s fun to focus your effort on making it worth it — setting up every Ashnod's Altar activation to punish them with Grave Pact, making a swarm of tokens formidable with Coat of Arms, and a third thing.

Before Kaladesh was out, people weren’t sure if crewing vehicles was going to be effortless or a pain. Now that we know it’s totally worth it, it still wouldn’t hurt to have a crew made up of expendable creatures. Even though by all rights they should join their copter in Valhalla if the vehicle they’re crewing goes down in a blaze of glory but don’t, expendable creatures are still fine vehicle crew members. After all, we can use them for other expendable purposes — there are plenty of things we can trigger besides just vehicle crewing. Who are the most expendable of all of the token creatures? That’s debatable. I’m inclined to say Kobolds of Kher Keep given how hilariously effective Prossh, Skyraider of Kher decks tend to be. I’m also inclined to say Merfolk, but only because I love the idea of a Merfolk funeral — there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. However, a thread on reddit the promises to be a weekly event inspired me to start thinking about a different kind of disposable creature — rats!

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
First of all, I get how ridiculous it is flavor-wise to have a rat or several rats crew a vehicle. I honestly think it’s silly enough to have humans from Innistrad doing it. I mean, sure, it takes 3 years of training and $20,000 in fees and classes for a modern person to learn to fly a helicopter but let’s just drag a Thraben beet farmer in a tri-corner hat and big buckled shoes away from a barn dance or witch burning or whatever and jam them behind the wheel of a Smuggler's Copter and hope for the best, right? No wonder you have to discard a card every time it attacks. Maybe they spent the entire time they were summoning sick in a flight simulator like in Battlefield Earth. There you go, Wizards. Your set’s flavor makes as much sense as Scientology.

But I digress. Once you get over the logistics of imagining how a 10-inch rat is going to see out the cockpit of a giant airship and just embrace the absurdity, you start to see how much fun it’s going to be to swarm the field with rat tokens. Some of them are going to go on foot and hope for an Eldrazi Monument or Coat of Arms to bolster their bite and some of them are going to head into battle in style in a Fleetwheel Cruiser. Either way, they’re going to overperform what you’d expect their flimsy 1/1 bodies to do. Dwarves are the obvious choice to helm crazy future cars and dirigibles and whatnot but 75% isn’t about obvious. So how would I design a deck where rats are in charge of all mass transit?

I like where we ended up here. I like the discard subtheme a lot because when they’re behind, you’re automatically ahead. You should be able to leverage that into staying ahead because . . . cars are fast and . . .  when you’re in control of their hand size you’re not necessarily in control of the board and if you ain’t out of control, you ain’t in control . . .  of the board. Look, I’ll work on that. The point is, making them discard and getting something out of it is rad. If you want to go deeper and jam Megrim and friends in the deck, I’m not sure whether there’s room but you can try.

I made some room by not including the standard non-rat cards. I narrowed my card pool ever so slightly in an attempt to keep myself to 75%. That said, if you’re not winning with this deck, Sadistic Hypnotist, Eerebos, God of the Dead, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, and Magus of the Coffers all belong in here. If you are planning to write a comment below about how Ratcatcher and Ogre Slumlord aren’t rats, shut up, I know. They make rats and considering we need to make rats to have rats, they’re ratty enough for the theme of the deck. Cut them if you want to be a nerd about it, but don’t tell people 75% guy wouldn’t let you run a card with “rat” in its name because that’s all you at that point.

The rats we have are pretty great and if the creature count looks a little small, remember that our artifact section is full of cards that are all ready to be creatures the second a pint-sized creature with the brain the size of a walnut gets behind the wheel of a mach-speed dragster like a flea-infested Chuck Yeager. The vehicles are going to overperform their power and toughness:casting cost ratio because of the “drawback” of having to cough up an extra rat token or two to turn it on. That shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Obelisk of Urd
I included some cards like Obelisk of Urd so we can go wide when we’re not tooling around in blimps. If you want to go all Crispin Glover and pound the ground with a bunch of rat tokens, having them be between 2/2 and 5/5 or even bigger can’t hurt. Marrow-Gnawer will make sure we’re constantly supplied with the little critters and that we can rebuild from board wipes faster than any other player.

If we do get wiped, Patriarch's Bidding and Living End will serve us well. We should be able to mount an offensive very soon. If you’re feeling extra saucy, you can complement the Rise of the Dark Realms with a Liliana Vess if you make some room. The mana curve may be low enough to suffer the loss of a basic, although I naturally advocate losing something from the business end. If you do decide to go land-light remember Lake of the Dead and Cabal Coffers are going to more than pull their weight. Crypt of Agadeem is absent from a lot of Black decklists so I remembered to include it here. As usual, I didn’t go too deep in the “tell you how to live your life” department with the mana base — Everglades, Shizo, Gargoyle Castle — whatever you want to jam is probably fine. We can go a little heavier in colorless utility lands since this is Mono-Black and we have Urborg so go nuts.

What do we think? Is this too cute to be good or will the rat shenanigans see us through? Is tribal too weak for 75%? Is pursuing another tribal deck laziness on my part? (I hope you don’t think so — I really wanted to use Plague of Vermin and Skysovereign and I got to use both!) Leave it in the comments section. Thanks for reading! I’ll be back next week where we’ll hopefully have a glimpse at Commander 2016 to mull over. Until then!

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