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The Most Important Card in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan?

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"When you're in love, you want to tell the world."

-Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

I moved came to New York City in May of 1999. I originally planned the trip "just for the summer," knowing that I'd have to travel back to Ohio in July for the US National Championship.

I had qualified for my first Nationals with a Suicide Black deck designed by future WotC R&D members Brian Schneider and Worth Wollpert, but hadn't really thought about what I'd be playing in a couple of months.

Urza's Destiny was the hot new set. It featured a ton of incredible, eventually game-defining, cards, like...

I was working full time - more than full time if you can imagine a New York tech startup around the crest of the first Internet bubble - so I didn't have infinite time to prepare. Could I just play something that I was already good at? Something where my existing skills would be immediately transferable?

Part of me was just a snap-yes; but another part was like "Yawgmoth's Bargain is really powerful," or "How g-d sexy is Rofellos into Plow Under on the third turn?" Even then, many of the most successful Constructed performances were borne on the backs of exploiting new cards from the new set, taking opponents a bit by surprise.

But I read somewhere that Team CMU were high on a seemingly innocuous 2-drop from Urza's Destiny. "I guess I'll swap out Duress for this," I thought. I had my deck!

Suicide Black | Michael Flores


I guess I was a little ahead of the curve. Duress at that point had been in print for less than a year, but it was almost universally played in almost every deck that could tap for Black... Including beatdown decks.

By adding Ravenous Rats I retained some of the discard / disruption aspect of Duress, but gained an additional body, with any body being potentially lethal with Hatred in the mix.

More locally, I wanted a card that would help against Jackal Pup. I had a hairy record against Red Decks over the previous twelve months; but at Regionals I survived to the Top 4 in part via an unintentional draw against a Red Deck. Ravenous Rats was a near-perfect answer to Jackal Pup, not to mention the kind of tier garbage options that some players tried, like Goblin Patrol or Goblin Cadets.

In case you haven't been following closely for twenty-four years... 9th on breakers .

Cavern Harpy
Gravedigger

A year or two later, Ravenous Rats poked its whiskered head up a couple of times. One build was in the nascent Invasion Block format; but probably more important was a deck that performed at Canadian Nationals, giving Gravedigger its one and only moment in the Constructed sun.

It kind of makes sense. Ravenous Rats is a two-for-one. Cavern Harpy was a beatdown killer that made Ravenous Rats look even better. But if you got one or both killed? Gravedigger could get the party started back up. It was a pretty cool attrition machine!

It's probably no surprise that Ravenous Rats hasn't exactly torn up the Constructed tables over the course of the last couple of decades. But Bryan Manolakos has consistently given it a home in his signature br Premodern deck.


In Mano's deck Ravenous Rats is kind of a grindy body, but it's really there for the discard redundancy. Mano uses Ravenous Rats to deplete the opponent's hand alongside Duress, Hypnotic Specter, and Cabal Therapy (and it can, in fact, help flash back Cabal Therapy) to lock the opponent under Lavaborn Muse.

As you can see, Ravenous Rats [version 1.0] did a lot of things. It was an early innovator, performing at its debut Standard tournament as a kind of Jackal Pup foil. When reprinted in Invasion Block, it was all about synergy. Pick me up! Bring me back! Two-for-one! Another two-for-one! Most recently, Ravenous Rats has stood out for its redundancy; one of many, but helping a deck prove more than the sum of its individual parts.

Wasn't this supposed to be an article about the most important card in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan?

How about...

Wait a minute?

Wires crossed?

No cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan? But! Isn't it kind of great that the best deck in Standard is a Red Deck?

... In part because it gives context for what might be the best card in the newest set.

Deep-Cavern Bat

So... What you're saying is... We get arguably an upgraded discard effect? And give Ravenous Rats Bat flying? And LIFELINK!?!

I guess it's late 2023.

Deep-Cavern Bat has broken into a ton of new decks in a short period of time. Not only that, but Deep-Cavern Bat has put together a ton of top finishes... And like Ravenous Rats before it, has found a wide variety of roles to play in the format.

Redundancy


Here is a nice spot for Deep-Cavern Bat... Just one of the guys!

With the exception of Sheoldred, the Apocalypose, every other creature / threat / permanent is more than one thing. Sheoldred is Sheoldred and gets a pass; but whether you've got power and toughness in your corner or you claim to be an enchantment (you're only a creature on weekends and alternate Thursdays), slaxx has you doing double duty.

Virtue of Loyalty is a 2/2 before it's a defensive Crusade effect. Wedding Announcment // Wedding Festivity spits out 1/1s every turn. So does Lord Skitter, Sewer King. In this case, Deep-Cavern Bat is kind of like a more proactive Ambitious Farmhand // Seasoned Cathar... a two-mana 1/1 187... But one that, thanks to flying, can get the party started more quickly.

Slaxx's deck has a nice survival sub-theme. Sheoldred is Sheoldred (obviously), but there is life gain from our Bat in question, but also The Wandering Emperor.

Precision


I kind of love the positioning of Deep-Cavern Bat in this deck.

Squirtle19 is playing a control deck. Tons of card drawing; one-for-ones... Couple of counterspells... Big sweepers, Planeswalker action.

UNLESS it's a sideboard game!

Squirtle19 is configured to take on all comers in Game 1; but against some decks - especially fast decks, early - you might want nothing more than a disruptive 2-drop (to block).

Not for nothing, but against some other control decks, Deep-Cavern Bat might be just what a control deck wants. Think about it: The opposing control deck takes out its early game removal. Now you can Duress them with a flying 1/1. That also races! And can pressure a Planeswalker!

Pretty cool, right? And it's only in your deck if you want it to be, specifically in the matchup.

Evasion


I'm a little surprised to see no Plaza of Heroes in this list... There are a good number of Legends.

One of the most important being Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor. Gix loves attacking creatures, and in particular attacking creatures that can get in. Sheoldred's deathtouch makes her hard to block, obviously; but most of the rest of the squad has just got flying.

Deep-Cavern Bat has that covered... But in malekz's deck, the lifelink has additional context. Everyone knows that Gix wants attackers to get in... But drawing extra cards costs a life. Lifelink anyone?

That's synergy!

Overwhelm


Probably the most perfect place to run your Deep-Cavern Bat is some kind of Esper Legends deck.

Why?

What makes it so much better than a Dimir deck?

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Deep-Cavern Bat comes out a turn before Raffine; and its discard ability can protect your powerful future Legends (Sheoldred in particular). But Raffine + Deep-Cavern Bat is a combo just on the bodies.

+1/+1 with lifelink? Kind of too obvious, right? This is a peanut butter and chocolate moment, and a one-two punch that is sure to continue to perform so long as both cards are legal together.

No wonder Arianne keeps winning these MTGO events.

Watch out Mono-Red!

LOVE

MIKE

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