Dirty Rat or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Tech Cards
So far, Journey to Un’Goro expansion looks incredibly fun to play. Of course, I’ve been saying that about nearly every release since Naxx, but oh boy, we never got the meta that looked so different from the previous one (besides Pirate Warrior, thanks Brode). However, if I had to name one best tech card for the current meta, I wouldn’t pick any new card. I also wouldn’t pick the old staples like Big Game Hunter or Mind Control Tech. Instead, I would say one thing: if you play a slower deck, add Dirty Rat and don’t ask any questions.
Okay, you might ask questions and I will try to answer them below. But still, ADD THE CARD!
P.S. The article is partially inspired by the yesterday’s discussion about the card between Savjz and Frodan + thread on /r/CompetitiveHS reddit.
Why Dirty Rat?
The card was already teched in to mess with combo decks (most of the combos have at least one minion as a part of it), or decks holding onto their most valuable minions and waiting for the right moment to play them (like Brann Bronzebeard + Kazakus combo). And as it happens, the current meta is full of such decks and a lot of them get quite a bit of hate online about how uninteractive or hard to counter they are. Here are some examples:
Caverns Below (Quest) Rogue – One of the most consistent Quest decks, you can really complete your Quest on turn 4-5 so often, and with such an early reward it’s hard to lose against any slower deck. But wait, Dirty Rat is one of the best cards against that deck. It’s one of the only decks where you can easily play it in the early game and be happy about it. It doesn’t run any big minions whatsoever. Pretty much everything you pull will be good (maybe besides Violet Teacher, but not every build runs it and even that is not a complete disaster). The best pull, of course, is a card they’re currently bouncing. Imagine them playing a 1-drop, Shadowstepping it, playing it again, then using 2nd Shadowstep and wainting for the final bouncer, which basically puts them at 3/4 and very close to the reward… and now you play Dirty Rat, pull out that minion and kill it. Now, unless they have a second copy, they have to start over or hope to topdeck it. And even if they do – well, you’ve at least delayed it a bit. Pulling out a Bouncer, card draw or Edwin VanCleef are other good outcomes.
Taunt Warrior – It’s a great minion to play IN Taunt Warrior, but at the same time a really solid one to play against them. Did you know that Fire Plume's Heart says “Play” not “Summon”? That’s right, pulling a Taunt with Dirty Rat doesn’t bring them closer to finishing a Quest. While there is a chance to “screw” yourself by pulling a second part of Direhorn Hatchling (the 6/9) or Tar Lord, those situations aren’t that common. Most of the time you’re going to pull out something small to mid sized. But the most important part is that it won’t count for the Quest, which often delays it by a turn or two – that’s significant. Not to mention that pulling out a Stonehill Defender is like winning a jackpot. Not only they won’t get credit for it, but it also won’t Discover them another Taunt. And then pulling out a Dirty Rat might prevent some counter-tricks from the Warrior. Overall, a solid tech in this matchup.
Open the Waygate (Quest/Exodia) Mage – Well, it’s the new uninteractive, “solitaire” deck of the meta. While playing it is fun, historically playing AGAINST such decks was a pretty bad experience. And this time it’s no different. It’s really frustrating when they play 2x Frost Nova, 2x Blizzard, 2x Ice Block and then get even more copies of those cards from outside of their deck. And after you stare at the board for 10 turns in a row of being unable to do anything, they pull out a win out of nowhere. But hey, they run a very specific combo – they play 2x Sorcerer's Apprentice and Archmage Antonidas which are all part of the combo. It might seem that pulling an Archmage Antonidas out is really, really bad. But it’s really just an opportunity in disguise. If you kill it, you win the game. Period. They would have to get some insane random spells to win the game without their combo, especially if you play a slower deck with some healing. Pulling Apprentice might not instantly win you the game, it definitely makes the combo harder.
Any Quest deck with a minion as Quest reward – Some of the Quests have a minion reward. Usually it comes with an insanely powerful effect – like Galvadon which Adapts 5 times or Queen Carnassa which floods the Hunter’s deck with powerful 1-drops. It’s not like they are very popular, but if you happen to face them, Dirty Rat might be your answer. Of course, they can play around it and play the reward immediately after finishing the Quest. But it’s not always that easy. Both Quests take mana to finish, as you have to cast a spell or play some 1-drops. They’re often finished mid-turn, not to mention that the reward is often one of the only minions left in the hand after getting the Quest done. Pulling out a reward onto the board is just game over most of the time. They would play it anyway next turn, but with a really powerful Battlecry. And now Hunter’s game plan is gone, because he topdecks a useless 1-drop every turn and Paladin’s biggest threat is just a 5/5. You can, of course, do the same with Megafin (Shaman’s Quest Reward) and Barnabus the Stomper (Druid’s Quest Reward).
And many more! – Honestly, there are some meta decks against which Dirty Rat is not good. For example, Midrange Hunter. You don’t really want to risk pulling out a Savannah Highmane. Or, I don’t know, a slower Paladin list with Tirion Fordring – that’s a nightmare scenario, because it’s huge AND hard to remove. But at the same time, Dirty Rat is okay-ish to useful in many other matchups. Against Aggro decks, it’s a 2/6 Taunt, which you of course don’t play on turn 2, but you can play it in the mid game quite reliably. Let’s say a Pirate Warrior, on turn 5-6 he’s usually out of minions or holding onto a Leeroy Jenkins, either outcome is good for you (you put a Taunt or put a Taunt AND deal with their finisher). Or let’s say when playing a slower, value game against Elemental deck, pulling out their Servant of Kalimos is great – sure, it’s a 4/5 body, but they don’t get +1 card from it. The card has more uses besides disrupting Quest decks.
Of course, Dirty Rat is not a single card that answers a whole meta. It can still miss. You can face some matchups where it’s bad/useless. But that’s how tech cards work, you can’t make them good in every matchup. And Dirty Rat is at its peak of strength right now, it’s most likely even stronger than it was back in Gadgetzan, where it was already a pretty popular tech. Another thing is that meta might change. I mean, it WILL change definitely, but before determining whether Dirty Rat will be worth to play a month from now, we’ll have to see the way it shifts first. One thing is sure – it’s one of the most powerful cards in the current meta.
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!