Woo Brews – Aether Vial and Pack Rat

Here’s something ridiculous to read:

Somewhere in my closet back home I have a completely intact Aether Vial/Chrome Mox/Patriarch’s Bidding Goblin tribal deck that I signed in 2005 and won a Pro Tour Qualifier with in 2008.

I sold off all my valuable cards at some point, and I only have these cards because I thought it would be a good idea to autograph my entire deck as a cocky 15-year-old before my first Grand Prix. Three years later it took me to Pro Tour Hollywood.

I would show you guys a picture here, but the cards are back in Seattle The Pro Tour took me out to Europe, and I’ve been staying out here playing and writing about it.

Yeah, ridiculous. Call it what you want.

I call it Aether Vial.

I won that tournament because I was playing Aether Vial and no one else seemed to be.

Maybe you remember that Shouta Yasooka took 2nd at the PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP with Aether Vial when no one else was playing it? You probably don’t know, but Shouta also placed well at PT Philly—the very first Modern Pro Tour—again with Aether Vial. Again when no one else was playing it.

And here we are. Aether Vial. Doing nothing in Modern.

What on Earth. People, this card is busted. We need to play it.

I mean, sure, we have Merfolk and we have GW Love Bears. These are good decks, but they haven’t broken into the Top 8 of any Modern Grand Prix.

That’s right.

Aether Vial has NO Modern GP Top 8s… NONE.

“But Trav, it’s just not that good in Modern.”

Um… Players Championship??

Yeah, it’s good enough in Modern, people just don’t know it yet. This $20 uncommon is a $20 uncommon for a reason, and that’s only because people haven’t figured out they can play it in Modern yet. That’s right, I’m calling it CHEAP at $20.

Aether Vial is going from mythic to rare.

What Makes Aether Vial So Good

If we curve out with a turn 1 Aether Vial, it has produced TEN EXTRA MANA by turn 5.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10

TEN extra mana. Sol Ring produces ten extra mana by turn 5 and it’s banneranannaanaders.

And then we get to turn 6… 14 mana. One-mana investment. Fourteen mana produced.



Aether Vial.


Choke on this Vial

Aether Vial in Modern

It’s gonna start with this:

Then maybe

Or maybe

Or maybe

Or maybe

Or maybe

It’s a choose-your-own adventure out here. A million ways to break Aether Vial.

Today, I’m choosing Pack Rat.

Pack Rat is Too Good

First thing I’ll say is Pack Rat is too good. The card took a while to catch on but it’s starting to pop up everywhere. Rat tokens are littering Standard and it won’t be long before Modern is the same way.

But what makes Pack Rat so good?

Pack Rat is an EXTREME variance smoother. It offers absurd card selection. There’s no card like it, that just turns random bad draws into “Rat you.” It is SO consistent.

Let’s take an inconsistent card like the basic Swamp.

This card is great to have on turn 1 with a full hand of black spells. But it’s a horrible draw turn 6 with an empty hand. This is an inconsistent card.

And Pack Rat solves it. Swamp is ALWAYS a good draw. Because EVERY draw is Pack Rat.

It’s predictable. We look at their hand, and can just do the math that they’re dead in 4 turns regardless of what we draw. Every draw is awesome. And the game ends right then.

Pack Rat in Modern

The problem in Modern has been, mostly, that people are slow to catch on. It’s not a direct port, and, after all, Pack Rat has the same speed everywhere, but Modern is way faster than Standard. So maybe it’s not good?

I think the truth will be revealed.

Aether Vial’s advantage is that it offers you vast amounts of creature mana—obviously good with cards like Silvergill Adept and Goblin Ringleader that keep cards flowing through your hand.

Like Dark Confidant.

It’s just as good, but not as obviously, with creatures that demand lots of mana for activated abilities like Siege-Gang Commander, Voidmage Prodigy, or Coralhelm Commander.

Like Pack Rat.

Pack Rat, Aether Vial, and Dark Confidant are natural complements. They are a great team.

Since we’re in black, we ought to play the best black cards available: Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Liliana of the Veil. These are going to give us the ability to use spare mana on 1 and 3, as well as clear the coast for Pack Rat. In the late game we can discard unnecessary copies, solving a traditional weakness of discard decks.

At this point the rest of our deck is going to have to be majority up-curve creatures so that we can best take advantage of Aether Vial. Let’s get creative.

I’d like to play some more Rats to buff our Pack Rats, and the pauper all-stars Ravenous Rats and Chittering Rats are awesome. They work great at emptying the opponent’s hand out with our other discard spells.

Ravenous Rats and Chittering Rats can come in during our opponent’s draw step off Aether Vial and Restoration Angel. This way we can keep the opponent off topdecks, solving another conventional problem of discard decks.

To make the most of Vial we need 4-drop creatures to curve into. I like Restoration Angel for the Rat synergy, and because I want to open up access to white sideboard cards, although I think Phyrexian Obliterator would be pretty awesome too.

White has a lot of nice hate creatures, and creatures work well with Aether Vial. Restoration Angel is preparation for games 2 and 3.

This gets us to a main of this:

We haven’t even gotten to the lands yet, and that’s the best part.

Yeah, Swarmyard OP. What the hell. No mana cost? Just tap and regenerate?

Swarmyard adds an absurd protection and grind factor to this deck. It’s hard to kill our Pack Rats and we can trade up or soak up damage through our Mutavault, Ravenous Rats, and Chittering Rats.

Here’s the Vial Pack Rat deck that I recorded videos with, coming this week:


It doesn’t take a number scientist to see that this deck is good. Broken? IDK about that. But consistent and extremely disruptive, sure.

We get to play extra lands and extra discard, and it’s all smoothed by Pack Rat. We have instant speed discard. We have bomb rares and mythics. We have a sick mana base. Wut more u want from me???

Pack Rat Sideboard

A deck like this has tons of options for sideboarding. Afterall, it plays white.

Here is a list of options:

Keep in mind that this deck only has the 9 white sources in the main plus Aether Vial, so creatures are going to be a lot easier to cast. Also keep in mind that this deck has tons of hand disruption, so we’re probably good with or without a sideboard.

Dirt Cheap Dirty Rats

The beautiful thing about Aether Vial is while it is $20 IRL it is only 4 tix Online.


This is a competitive deck. It’s got creature removal, it’s got discard, it’s got draw smoothers in Raven’s Crime and Pack Rat, it’s got mana sinks in Tectonic Edge.

It’s got Aether Vial, and it’s got RATS.

Ravenous Rats you.

Chittering Rats you.

Okiba-Gang Shinobi you.

Chittering Rats you again.

I like this game.


P.S. I wish Chittering Rats made people rage quit, but the reality is Modo Laggins from Bad Internets. I’ve been there before.

Aether Vial for PTQ Season

Modern PTQ season is here and everybody is looking for an edge to take down their PTQ. Win one of these things, and you never know, you might just end up traveling the world.

If you’re looking to get an edge this PTQ season, I recommend Aether Vial… HIGHLY. You could pair it with Pack Rat, like in this article, but there are lots of other options too. Do you.

Peace, love,


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