While giving Toxic 1 to your rats is really cool, I’m actually more excited about his enter the battlefield ability, which can draw you a ton of rats. Regardless, we’ll cover two different ways to make a Karumonix Commander deck.
I have a special affinity for rats in Magic because I also have an affinity for them in real life. My wife and I rescue pet rodents in need of homes, including rats! There is a lot of stigma around them, but they actually make great pets.
I won’t go too deep on it here, since this is a Magic article, but suffice it to say they are incredibly intelligent, affectionate animals. I bet even a Phyrexianized rat like Karumonix has his positive qualities. And if you are interested in seeing some of this non-Magic part of my life, my wife recently started Instagram where she covers our rodent rescue activities.
The first approach: Relentless Rats and Rat Colony
When Karumonix was first dropped, I immediately thought of Relentless Rats and Rat Colony. One of the core rules of Commander is you can only run a single copy of any card that is not a basic land. But Relentless Rats and Rat Colony let you ignore this rule!
This is especially good because they both get way better the more of them are in play — though you do have to choose to go with one or the other to maximize their potential. In the end, I chose Relentless Rats because they also increase their toughness, allowing them to dodge more removal, including many sweepers.
Both of these cards work exceptionally well with Karumonix, because when his enter the battlefield ability triggers, you’re likely to draw multiple copies of them — and each copy makes your board substantially better. While poisoning your opponent for the win is certainly possible, it is likely your opponent will die from damage before that happens, as your board continuously snowballs.
Once you’re in on the Rat Colony/Relentless Rats plan, one of the most powerful cards in your deck is Thrumming Stone. This card is utterly useless in 99% of Commander decks, but not this one.
Thrumming Stone gives all of your spells ripple 4, which means when you cast a spell, you get to look at the top four cards of your library and cast all cards with the same name as the first spell cast without paying their mana cost. Because your deck has 50 or so copies of the same card, you’re going to get a lot of free spells.
While playing this sort of deck is fun the first few times, I do find the lack of variance does tend to get old. After all, one of the great things about Commander is the singleton rule, so every game feels very different. That just isn’t the case with Relentless Rats and Rat Colony, which is why I also took a less gimmicky approach to building around Karumonix.
The second approach: rats-matter
This version of the deck has two main themes. The first is, obviously enough, rats-matter. Every creature in the deck is a rat or makes a Rat token, and many of the cards in the deck have effects that make all of your rats better.
Marrow-Gnawer gives all rats Fear and can quickly multiply your board. Ashcoat buffs your rats when it attacks and allows you to get them back from your graveyard. Piper of the Swarm gives rats menace and allows you to Sacrifice rats to steal opposing creatures. These are just a few of the powerful rat payoffs the deck has access to.
The deck’s secondary theme involves enter-the-battlefield abilities. If you can get Karumonix’s ability to trigger multiple times, you’re going to be unbeatable thanks to all those cards.
There also happens to be several other rats that can create problems for your opponent if you can trigger their abilities multiple times. For example, Ravenous Rats and Burglar Rats can force your opponent to discard cards, Ichor Rats can poison your opponent and Chittering Witch can quickly build a rat army.
If you can trigger an EtB ability every single turn, the best option in the deck (even better than Karumonix in the right situation!) is the rather unsuspecting Chittering Rats. It makes your opponent put a card from their hand on top of their library, so you can create a soft lock where your opponent just draws the same card every single turn!
While Black isn’t especially good at blinking or flickering creatures, there is one way to trigger these abilities multiple times using rats with Ninjutsu. These allow you to return an unblocked creature to your hand and put them into play tapped and attacking. You not only get a nice effect from the Ninja, you also get to rebuy an EtB ability.
Beyond that, the deck is largely reliant on colorless cards that blink and flicker. The good news is, there are lots of great ways to do that.
Conjurer’s Closet is the best of the bunch, as it allows you to blink something every turn. This can make it quite the value engine, and creates the aforementioned soft lock with Chittering Rats.
Golden Argosy is a Vehicle that blinks all the creatures that Crew it. One thing to keep in mind is you can tap as many things as you want to Crew it, so it is better than the Closet at triggering the abilities of multiple creatures.
Mimic Vat requires a creature to die, but once it does, you can put a copy of it into play every turn. That can be quite impressive!
I hope you enjoyed this article, and that it made you as excited for Karumonix as I am. That’s all for today, but enjoy the rest of preview season and enjoy building which Phyrexia: All Will Be One Commanders catch your eye.
Jacob has been playing Magic for the better part of 24 years, and he especially loves playing Magic’s Limited formats. He also holds a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma. In 2015, he started his YouTube channel, “Nizzahon Magic,” where he combines his interests with many videos covering Magic’s competitive history. When he’s not playing Magic or making Magic content, he can be found teaching college-level history courses or caring for a menagerie of pets with his wife.