Betrayers of Kamigawa: Rats’ Nest Review (Part 2 of 2)
You might have noticed, but Jimi has been out of commission on the site for a wee while now, a result of her recent back surgery which has left her unable to comfortably sit in seat for any length of time. With extraordinary determination, however, she’s been making some equally extraordinary progress, and although it took us a few days to do it, she managed to grab a deck and join me at the table for a match. Meeting my Nezumi at the table was Jimi’s army of Oni and Ogres, the denizens of Dark Devotion.
Jimi’s on the play for our opener, and leads with a Mountain while I follow with a Swamp. Next turn she plays a Mountain into a Hearth Kami, happy to see me simply play a land and pass.
Now turn 3, she gets the game’s first blood with a swing from the Kami, leaving me at 18. Back to me, I attain creature parity through a Nezumi Ronin. Back to Jimi, she attacks in for another 2 before dropping her big bomb, Yukora, the Prisoner. Needing to blunt the incoming damage to stall for time, I Befoul the Kami and pass.
That does nothing to trouble Yukora, of course, and Jimi turns him sideways to slash me to 11. She then plays a Frost Ogre and ends her turn. I’ve got another Befoul in hand and use it to take out her latest addition, then attack with my Ronin for 3. Back to Jimi, she pummels me with Yukora for another 5, then uses Swallowing Plague on the Ronin for 4, going up to 21 life in the process. Desperate, my only play is Three Tragedies on her hand, emptying it.
Now turn 7, Jimi piuts me on the brink with another Yukora attack. I play a Throat Slitter and pass. When Yukora comes calling next turn, I chump with the Slitter. Jimi then adds a Takenuma Bleeder. Drawing no answer, I fold.
I open with a Swamp to kick off our next game, while Jimi finds one of her own and turns it into a Bile Urchin. I next play a Skullsnatcher, while Jimi again draws first blood with a 1-point attack from the Urchin. Next turn, I fire back for 2 with my Nezumi, then pass. Jimi counters for another point of damage, then adds a Villainous Ogre.
Now turn 4, I Befoul Jimi’s only Mountain, hoping to stall her out. I then attack for another 2, seeing her down to 16. For her part, she returns fire for 4 with both creatures, then plays a Hearth Kami. My next turn is a blank, though I at least manage a Swamp. Jimi looks to kill the Skullmulcher with a Swallowing Plague, so I sacrifice it to summon the Patron of the Nezumi.
The Patron is an immediate game-changer. Now turn 6, I attack in with it on for 6, and Jimi chumps with the Bile Urchin, popping it after blocking to ping me for 1 (and losing 1 herself from the Patron). I then play a Numai Outcast and Nezumi Cutthroat. Jimi sends un the Ogre for another 3 to put me at 10, then ends her turn. Back to me, I attack with the team for 9. She chumps the Patron with her Kami, losing another point from the Patron to land at 10 herself. For her part, she sends in the Ogre once more for another 3, then adds a Frost Ogre.
Now turn 8, I fire in for 8 with the Patron and Cutthroat, then use ninjutsu to replace the Cutthroat with an Okiba-Gang Shinobi to force Jimi to empty her hand. I then replay the Cutthroat for insurance. Down to 1 life, she draws and scoops.
Jimi and I trade land drops for the first turn of our final game, then I break the streak by actually playing something- a Nezumi Cutthroat. Jimi’s right behind with a turn-3 Takenuma Bleeder, and I then raise her a Nezumi Ronin.
Now turn 4, Jimi swings in for 3 with the Bleeder, losing a life in the process as she controls no Demons. She then trots out a Bloodthirsty Ogre. Back to me, I finally get to live the dream and deploy Umezawa’s Jitte, equipping it to the Cutthroat. I attack in for 5 with both Nezumi, and Jimi opts to accept the trade for the Cutthroat and Bloodthirsty Ogre. The power of the Jitte is now apparent as I add two counters to the artifact itself, and they are available for use whether the Jitte is equipped or not.
Next turn, Jimi counterattacks for 3 with the Bleeder, going down to 15 and putting me at 14. I attack right back with my Ronin for 3. Jimi’s surprise that I din’t equip the Jitte first proves short-lived, as I then play the Nezumi Graverobber. I then tap to use its exiling ability to remove the only card in Jimi’s graveyard from the game, which triggers the flip right into Nighteyes the Desecrator. The Rats are firing on all cylinders!
Jimi’s turn 6 is a blank and she declines to attack, so I equip the Jitte to the Ronin and go in for 3. This leaves Jimi at 9, and puts two more counters on the Jitte. Next turn she solves the Jitte with a Hearth Kami, but not before I’m able to use it to both kill her Bleeder and gain 2 life. It’s a loss, but it served its purpose. I go for the kill with a 7-point swing against a defenseless Jimi, then bust up her hand with Three Tragedies. For good measure, I then add a Skullsnatcher and pass. Jimi can’t solve my board with what she’s got left and scoops.
Thoughts & Analysis
The play of Rats’ Nest felt very much like Ninjutsu, in that despite the presence of the ninjutsu mechanic it actually came up a lot less often then we’d expected. Just as with its mono-Blue counterpart, the strength of the deck, then, is in its ability to win when the Ninja are a marginal contributor. And just as with Ninjutsu, we found the deck more than capable of doing so.
Whereas the Blue version of Ninjas.dec was more focused on evasion and unblockability, this one seemed much more focused on raw, naked aggression. I had no problem fielding a steady stream of threats most of the time, and the removal and disruption gave the deck a more commanding presence. In fairness, some of the efficacy of Rats’ Nest was hindered by the fact that Dark Devotion has a heavy Block component, limiting the range of my removal. I should note that this was not a coincidence- Jimi’s no dummy, and the challenger is allowed to select the deck to challenge (so long as it hasn’t already been used as a challenger). Had Yukora, the Prisoner been Red in Game One, it might have ended very differently.
On the whole, the ninjutsu mechanic worked for both decks that it was in. Rats’ Nest probably stands alone outside of it a little better than Ninjutsu, if only because so much of the latter is tied up in helping the Ninja get through. And, you know, the Jitte. Although the Jitte has pushed this deck into the $20-30 level and somewhat painful to acquire for many, it’s a solid deck and the chance to play with a Jitte made paying the pricetag quite a bit easier to bear. I wasn’t actively playing when Kamigawa was in circulation, but I can definitely see the enduring appeal based on just this match.
Hits: Solid aggro shell surrounding the Ninja core lets the deck race to a finish even if ninjutsu isn’t extensively employed; decks rares are superb choices that do much to enhance the deck’s playability; Umezawa’s Jitte is an amazing card that was a blast to play
Misses: Deck’s weakness to Black limits its effectiveness, though it can be brutal against non-Black opponents
OVERALL SCORE: 4.30/5.00
Get well soon, Jimi!
Rats are an awesome tribe, hopefully they get more love in the future.