Dirty Rat is a card that polarized opinion from the start. Perhaps the best statted 2-drop outside of Milhouse Manastorm, this grinning rodent comes with a potentially disastrous catch; when you play him, you’re not only gaining a beefy cheap taunt, but also an unexpected surprise from your opponents’ hand. However, while this might seem to be a crippling downside, in the right deck, it can be a devastatingly powerful tech card to ruin your opponents’ intricate plans. Control decks in particular can utilise it as one more way to disrupt and interrupt the opposing win condition.
I recently hit Legend EU with a Dirty Rat Control Warrior, peaking at top 20. On my climb, I came to appreciate the game-winning (or game-losing) impact that correct or incorrect Dirty Rat usage had. With that in mind, I’ve put together a guide to the situations where you should play Dirty Rat for the maximum level of effectiveness. So how, and more importantly when, should you play Dirty Rat?
- Opponent: Aggro Shaman, Pirate Warrior
- Turns: 1-3
- Condition: Slow hand, fast opposing start, opponent keeps multiple cards
Sometimes, your mulligan-wizarding powers fail you and you’re left with a hand of late-game tools. Meanwhile, your opponent has seemed to get exactly what they wanted; keeping nearly all of the cards in their starting hand. Here, Dirty Rat can be your chance to get back in the game. Normally, a turn 1 or 2 Dirty Rat is a horrible play; the stall of the 2/6 taunt is nothing compared to the risk of pulling down a free Frothing Bezerker or Flamewreathed Faceless.
However, for every crushing defeat, it can also stall you out just enough to stabilize. If you’re willing to accept turning a likely loss into a soul-destroying one some of the time, you can win games you were otherwise near-certain to lose.
The Auctioneer Assassinate
- Opponent: Miracle Rogue
- Turns: 5-6
- Condition: 4 damage removal available
Against Miracle Rogue, Gadgetzan Auctioneer is Control’s worst nightmare. With its endless stream of cheap spells, Rogues need Gadgetzan to cycle through their deck, pushing out damage and threats that their opponent simply can’t handle.
As such, pulling down, then destroying Gadgetzan with Dirty Rat should be one of your primary win-conditions against Miracle Rogue. Without it, they’re stuck with relatively low-value cards, and can run out of steam incredibly fast. Even without taking out the grinning goblin, you can often devalue some of their most potent tools, like Questing Adventurer, Edwin Van Cleef, or Leeroy Jenkins. A good Dirty Rat can almost always cripple a Miracle Rogues best-laid plans.
- Opponent: Aggro Shaman, Pirate Warrior, Miracle Rogue
- Turns: 6+
- Condition: Opponent has few or no cards in hand
Sometimes you just want a 2/6 taunt; particularly when you’re at 5 life and facing an Arcanite Reaper. The good news is that Aggro decks tend to play out their potent minions as fast as possible, so Dirty Rat can often come without any strings attached. While undoubtedly the least flashy way to use the card, it nonetheless can win you a huge number of games just by getting in the way of otherwise lethal damage.
The Forced Overextension
- Opponent: Any
- Turns: 7+
- Condition: 2-6 minions on board, AOE in hand
The problem with AOE is that it’s relatively straightforward to play around. Especially in slower matchups against midrange decks like Dragon Priest, your Flamestrike, Brawl, Dragonfire Potion or Twisting Nether can sit in your hand as your opponent refuses to play more than two or three minions at once. This can force you to waste premium removal on relatively small threats, just to stay alive.
Dirty Rat can provide the answer to this, pulling down an additional card to help win the attrition war. It combos especially well with Brawl, due to the fact that the Rat also has a chance of winning. This provides both a massive board swing and a huge value.
The Sylvanas Shuffle
- Opponent: Any
- Turns: 7+
- Condition: Sylvanas on your board, no good steal targets
Sylvanas is one of those cards that’s incredibly powerful, but niche. Good against small boards of beefy minions, it can just be a vanilla 5/5 depressingly often. However, if your opponent has, say, a single 5/4 to contest it, then a Dirty Rat can be your saving grace, allowing you to pull down a more valuable minion to steal after trading. If that minion happens to be a vital combo piece for your opponent, you can often steal its power to snatch win
The Acolyte Snipe
- Opponent: Control Warrior, Reno Mage
- Turns: 10+
- Condition: Fatigue gameplan, discarded cards to prevent burning recently
Despite the proliferation of late-game value in the form of Jade, Manic Soulcaster, Elise Starseeker and Kazakus, the Fatigue battle is still vital in many matchups. Unfortunately, winning it is incredibly hard. Dirty Rat can help by forcing down a minion with a draw effect, allowing you to proc it, putting you vastly ahead when both players start to run out of cards. As an added bonus, you can often mill the opponents deck if you can force them to overdraw. Acolyte of Pain is the dream here, potentially putting them ahead by 3 cards, but Bloodmage Thalnos or Loot Hoarder is also a plus. It also has the added bonus of diluting and polluting any potential Revives from Kazakus Potions.
The Traitor Doomsayer
- Opponent: Renolock, Reno Mage, Reno Priest
- Turns: 10+
- Condition: Threatening board, no AOE
Sometimes you just can’t deal with the opponents board. Maybe you wasted your AOE, or just didn’t draw it. Or perhaps they ground you out in an epic battle of fatigue. Whatever the reason, you’re staring down a massive board you can’t possibly react to in time.
You have one last saving grace, other than conceding. By pulling down your opponent’s Doomsayer, Dirty Rat can wipe the board at the start of their next turn. It can be unlikely, but sometimes its just the out you need.
- Opponent: Control/Combo
- Turns: Any
- Condition: Varies
Sometimes you just know your opponent is holding something big. Maybe they’ve kept their leftmost card since turn four. Or they played a Thaurrisan they could have played last turn after mousing over a top-deck. Maybe they just play like they’re setting up lethal. Even if it’s just a hunch, sometimes intuition wins out. Taking out a Grommash, Malygos, Kazakus, Leeroy, Jaraxxus, Golden Monkey, or Archmage Antonidas that could otherwise win them the game can be an amazing feeling. Although, it takes an absurd amount of skill at psychological warfare and deduction to do it consistently.
Or failing all that you could always just be lucky…
Dirty Rat is a card that is infuriating and fascinating all at once. The layers of play and counter-play it encourages are deceptively deep, and it’s fast becoming one of my favorite control tools of the expansion.
Except, of course, when it ruins my plans.