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Scythe Leopard
In this experiment, we go cute tribal.

I couldn’t resist the urge anymore. When Battle for Zendikar was previewed, somewhere in my subconscious, I latched onto Scythe Leopard—maybe, just maybe, we had enough 1-drop Cats to build an aggressive, tribal, Cat deck. Over time, the thought built up, and it’s finally time to let the cats out of the bag.

Looking through the options, it turns out we may have had enough Cats all along, but things like Mtenda Lion and Scarred Puma may not have been among our top choices. Also, as good as Wild Nacatl is, and as much as it fits our theme mechanically, I’ll be sticking with cat cats, not people cats. (And on the topic of anthropomorphic cats, if Wizards of the Coast is listening, I’m a big fan of nacatl, of Panther Warriors, of Mirri, Cat Warrior, and of Purraj of Urborg, but not so much of leonin.) Also, cutting Wild Nacatl and Scarred Puma means we don’t need to play red or Mountains, so we have that going for us for now. (We also won’t be playing with Lynx today, though it could certainly help shore up a singleton Cats deck or help you out if you’re missing a few expensive options.)

Oh yeah, I like cats. I even recently put together a prototype for a board game themed around cats.

And since I’m embedding tweets, talking about board games, and discussing scythes (Scythe Leopard and Scythe Tiger), here’s an otherwise-unrelated board game called Scythe that’s funded for over $1,000,000 on Kickstarter right now. (I backed for it with the coins and board extension.)

Anyway, let’s take a look at the Cats.


Jungle Lion
Jungle Lion Being from Portal, this wasn’t legal in any Constructed format for a long time. Eventually, the Portal sets were added to Vintage and Legacy, but a green Savannah Lions with a downside just wasn’t good enough anymore.

Pouncing Jaguar I feel that this card is just on the line between playable and extremely strong, but paying echo can be pretty rough—you can’t curve out if you have to pay this Cat’s cost twice. That said, that downside may be mitigated when we can still play a strong 1-drop as our turn-two play. And if we hold off on the Jaguar until the second turn, paying 1 mana on turn three and then playing our last couple 1-drops might be just fine.

Scythe Leopard Here’s the Battle for Zendikar addition. This can attack as a 2/2 on turn two just as Pouncing Jaguar can, but it won’t be as strong on turns when we don’t play a land. Fortunately, we’ll have ways of making it even bigger sometimes.

Scythe Tiger This one kind of broke my heart back in Zendikar—I love Cats, and seeing such a bad one was pretty disappointing. I know Magic has to make bad cards, but I wish they used my favorite creature types on the strong ones! Having to sacrifice a land is really bad, but maybe we can make up for that a bit, and maybe having a lot of 1-drops will make it not so bad to drop an excess land on turn three or four.


Steppe Lynx
Steppe Lynx The progenitor of Scythe Leopard, this cute, fuzzy, little guy doesn’t hit hard until we drop a land or two, and then attacking as a 4/5 1-drop can be big game.

Loam Lion This is kind of a color-shifted Kird Ape, in the same way Wall of Omens was a color-shifted Wall of Blossoms. In our G/W deck, this should just be a nice, beefy Cat.

Savannah Lions And here’s the original efficient Cat. Strong enough to be a rare for so long, it eventually became an uncommon with a stronger creature type in the form of Elite Vanguard. Here, we want the Cat back.


Fleecemane Lion
Fleecemane Lion I don’t know if we’ll hit 5 mana in order to activate the monstrosity ability, but Watchwolf was good enough in its day, so there’s no downside on the vanilla test.

Fleetfoot Panther This is our top-end Cat, though it’s not notably bigger than a Steppe Lynx sometimes. However, it’s also good as protection for our other Cats. Of course, protecting a Scythe Tiger or Pouncing Jaguar may be rough, as it means sacrificing another land or paying echo again, but since we have mostly 1-drops, it shouldn’t be too bad.

Tribal and Synergies

I’d be remiss to skip over the tribal element altogether. I kind of just wanted to string a bunch of Cats together, but aggressive decks like this need a bit of reach, and tribal decks need a bit of synergy. In the end, I only included a couple copies of Obelisk of Urd to make the Cats really big. Harsh Mercy and Shared Triumph are worth consideration. I’d be worried Harsh Mercy would act more like a Diabolic Edict in many situations, but it could also serve as a complete blowout. Shared Triumph is a cheaper Glorious Anthem, but it will backfire when our opponents play their Cats . . . Yeah.

Obelisk of Urd
Harsh Mercy
Shared Triumph

So there’s not much in the way of tribal, but we do still have synergies.

Flagstones of Trokair
Flagstones of Trokair This legendary land works quite well with both Scythe Tiger and the landfall Cats. When we play a second copy, since it’s legendary, we’ll have to send one to our graveyard, triggering the ability to find another land. That can let us trigger landfall twice before even sacrificing a fetch land, of which we also have several. The same concept applies when sacrificing the Flagstones with Scythe Tiger—the land will replace itself, meaning both that we won’t be down a land and that we can generate an extra landfall trigger.

Note that Flagstones of Trokair used to work a bit better with landfall: Under the Champions of Kamigawa legend rule, both legendary permanents would be put into our graveyard when we played a second one, letting us trigger landfall an additional time.

Remember with fetch lands, such as our Windswept Heaths, that it’s not always necessary to crack them right away. With Scythe Leopard and Steppe Lynx, in a deck full of low mana costs, we’ll often want to keep uncracked fetch lands as potential combat tricks, only using them to deal extra damage with unblocked attackers, to avoid damage-based removal, and to gain the last bits of mana we’ll need to cast a Fleetfoot Panther or Obelisk of Urd.

So if you love cats, too, if you  . . . never mind. Liking cats is the only reason for this one.

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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