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Cat Fancy


Commander 2017 preview season is upon us and we’re in the thick of it by now. Since you exist in my future, you live in a world where everything is likely spoiled and I exist in a much darker timeline where only the cat deck has been previewed. I know the new rares and mythic rares and they look pretty good but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m not terribly excited about the kittycat deck. Until now, cat tribal was essentially Mono-White Raksha Golden Cub decks while powerful cat spells like Waiting in the Weeds and Jedit Ojanen of Efrava (is any of that even words?) are relegated to inferior, Mirri, Cat Warrior decks. Commander 2017 gives us the opportunity to marry both colors together and gives us access to 3 new Selesnya Legendary cat creatures, any of which could be used as the basis for a fine kittycat tribal deck. However, saying we are going to build cat tribal doesn’t tell the whole story because, by my estimation, there are really three different builds you can pursue with these 3 cat Legends and I want to talk about cards you want to consider for all of the builds. Let’s take a look at each different one.

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

Luckily for us, Mirri isn’t a vampire right now. I’m sure some lore-loving reader (*cough*NERD*cough*) knows when or where or how or why we have a sword-swinging wg Mirri instead of a Vampire kittycat (who was a great card, by the way, and got some Modern Jund play for a hot second, which was hilarious). In addition to being one of my favorite Vanguard cards, Mirri is a member of the crew of the Weatherlight which was my favorite group in the lore. You can have your Bolas and your Beleren, give me my Starke and Volrath and Gerard any day. Mirri is a very interesting commander in this form and she’s pretty unfair, frankly. When Mirri attacks, they’re forced to block with just one creature, which is pretty unfair and when she is tapped on their turn (maybe because you attacked with her) only one creature can attack you each combat. This leads me to believe the build I want to pursue with Mirri is a token-based one. If they can’t block with more than one creature and you can attack with a ton, you have an enormous advantage. If you have enough cats to kill the table, you can do that because they can barely block. Don’t worry about the swing-back because they only get to attack you with one creature if your Mirri survived combat. Even if the whole table decides to attack you, their attacks are very ineffective and you likely have enough tokens to chump block. Having a modified Crawlspace in the Command Zone is very powerful, and Mirri is getting profiled first because she is my favorite of the three.

If you’re pursuing a token build around Mirri, and you should, there are a few cards you need to make sure to run.

Cathars' Crusade — This even has “Cat” in the name. What’s not to love?

Coat of Arms — This is pretty self-explanatory but the more cats you have, the more lethal your cat army becomes. If they can’t block more than one creature, a lot are getting through and with Coat of Arms out, they’re going to be very big.

Eldrazi Monument — The Commander 2015 reprint made this card very affordable and there’s little reason not to make your creatures harder to deal with and larger. Also, Mirri being indestructible means you can swing with abandon since she is much harder to deal with if they kill it by blocking it.

Cathars' Crusade
Coat of Arms
Eldrazi Monument

Waiting in the Weeds — This is not as good as it is in Mono-Green, but making a ton of cat tokens isn’t that easy since they didn’t print a ton of cards that do it and this might be forgotten in the annals of history. You scarcely need reminded to include White Sun's Zenith in your Cat token deck, but it never hurts to be reminded that this card exists.

Raksha Golden Cub — I never want to have a 7-mana creature be my commander unless it’s something Memnarch-caliber. As much as this isn’t a great Commander since it costs so much and excludes Green, this is a great inclusion and tripling the power and toughness of your cat tokens is no joke.

Some notable exclusions that I don’t think work as well in a Mirri deck as they do in a Raksha or Mirri, Cat Warrior (or other Green) cat tribal deck are worth discussing, also.

Waiting in the Weeds
Raksha Golden Cub

Door of Destinies — I think this is a good tribal inclusion most of the time, but you’re not going to trigger it as often. You’re going to be generating a lot of tokens and relying on those to let you go wide as opposed to playing a lot of cat creatures to trigger this. It’s still OK, but I think you can find better cards for this slot.

Caged Sun — This is an expensive inclusion for something that only helps half of your deck out. It’s windmill slammed into Raksha decks, but it’s not great here, I don’t think.

Stoneforge Masterwork — If they can only block one creature, they’re going to block the creature equipped with this if they can, leading to a lot of frustration for you.

Door of Destinies
Caged Sun
Stoneforge Masterwork

A 75% Mirri tribal token deck will have basically every card that makes cat creature tokens (minus Firecat Blitz), token doublers like Anointed Procession (This is in like every deck I make, now, isn’t it great?) Parallel Lives, Doubling Season, etc. Make sure an run enough equipment to reliably switch on Kemba, Kha Regent. A good choice is the new card, Hammer of Nazahn which makes Mirri indestructible which helps her do her job as a Crawlspace after your turn is over. Brimaz, King of Oreskos shines in a build like this, and if you need a finisher, I’d stick with spells like Overrun (sorry, Titanic Ultimatum) although you could make the case for a non-cat like Craterhoof Behemoth or a dirty spell like Triumph of the Hordes. Just end the game. If we had access to Red, we could run cards like Firecat Blitz and Titanic Ultimatum, but Beastmaster Ascension will do in a pinch. Don’t forget to run some solid utility lands like Gavony Township to make sure you get the most out of going wide. Mirri is the most exciting of the three to me so have fun with your build.

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith

This kittycat has no time to chase balls of twine or jump up on the table where you have stacks of Magic cards ready to send to buylists and knock them over, forcing you to re-sort everything and when you tell your wife “Hey, can we do something about Steve (yes, my cat’s name is Steve, no I didn’t name him. I would have named him “Mr Meowgi”) knocking my piles of cards over?” she just says “If you had sent them off to the buylists last week like you were supposed to they wouldn’t have been piled up like that to knock over. Besides, how are we going to try and sell this house if the entire basement is trashed?” which is not the sympathy you were looking for, no, this cat spends all of his time in his blacksmithing shop making weapons for cats to carry into battle. Also, the hammer he uses for blacksmithing makes him indestructible, somehow.

Nazahn is at home equipping the fam for battle; and, luckily, we have a whole lots of kittycats who love to be equipped. Lots of people have Kemba, Kha Regent decks already and you’re getting a boost to your mana and removal capabilities by adding Green, not to mention giving yourself access to a lot of cool cats. What do we need to make sure we don’t forget to include if we build around Nazahn equipment?

Leonin Abunas — Keeping your artifacts around is pretty important. You can’t help a Shatterstorm but you can at least keep them from picking your artifacts off one by one, which means you want to jam this kitty for sure.

Leonin Shikari — Did you play back during this block? Remember making your creatures untargetable by being able to move Lightning Greaves at instant speed? Well you can still do that if you want. You’re running Greaves anyway, why not run the other half of the combo?

Masterwork of Ingenuity — I wanted this card to be good but it basically never got there. This is the deck for this, however. You don’t run this over Mirage Mirror — you run both. This is just way easier to tutor up. Getting a second Sword of War and Peace or copying their Batterskull is clutch.

Leonin Abunas
Leonin Shikari
Masterwork of Ingenuity

Sigarda's Aid — This card hasn’t done anything finance-wise and I’m hoping decks like this are part of the push the card needs. This card is bonkers in this deck and it was so overlooked when it was first printed because it didn’t immediately impact any formats that I’m afraid people forgot about it.

Eldrazi Displacer — There are a ton of creatures to blink in this deck from Stonehewer Giant to Thalia's Lancers (I think this non-cat is worth playing given the high number of Legendary cards you want access to) and this is a good spot for it. You may have to mess with your mana base a bit to make sure you have access to colorless, but it’s worth it.

Sigarda's Aid
Eldrazi Displacer

Stonehewer Giant/Stoneforge Mystic — As long as we’re talking about some of the non-cats we’d run in the deck, these are redundant copies of a card with your commander’s ability and they can get equipment into play, which is very important. Stonehewer specifically is very good at throwing Argentum Armor on a creature out of nowhere, which is bananas.

Auriok Survivors — We’re getting into pretty obscure territory which is good for a 75% deck, I think. This does the kind of stuff we want to be doing in a deck like this.

Stonehewer Giant
Stoneforge Mystic
Auriok Survivors

There aren’t too many “obvious” cards that I think are traps like I maybe did with the Mirri deck, so the only thing I caution is that you avoid going so deep into White that your Green cards are terrible. Your mana base will be a little bit rough if you want enough lands that can produce true colorless to reliably be able to use Eldrazi Displacer (I think Displacer is pretty good in the Mirri deck, also as it lets you tap Mirri or blink their one attacker) so I think a few cards like Mind Stone which can draw you cards (something Selesnya struggles with a bit) and also keep you disaplacin’ will be key. I like Hedron Archive and Dreamstone Hedron in that cycle, also and they might be able to find a spot in the deck.

This particular build will either let you make a few medium-sized creatures or will let you load up one big creature, whichever helps more at the moment. You would want to consider Stoneforge Materwork in this build since you can benefit from your smaller, utility cats like Leonin Shikari staying home while your loaded creature gets through for a ton of damage, possibly using Mirrir and possibly using a card like Whispersilk Cloak.

There is some overlap between a build like this and our Arahbo build that I’m about to reveal but I think this has more flexibility, makes better use of Mirrodin-block Leonin creatures and takes advantage of having a commander that can fetch equipment for you meaning your toolbox is always at your fingertips. The way you play and the way you build can be drastically different between this and Arahbo but they don’t have to be. If you draw and play Arahbo, you can use it to bestow a loaded-up creature with some bonuses and swing solo to really take a bite out of one player. The biggest difference is whether you want your equipment more reliably or whether you’re so sure that you’re serving with one creature that you always want to be able to buff it. Personally, I like the Nazahn build a bit better. On to our last build!

Arabho, Roar of the World

Arahbo doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the typical cat tribal build as it is a bit of a nonbo with a lot of token-generating cards. This can almost end up being a Voltron deck but Arahbo’s ability (the one that caused me to nickname it “Meowloro”) means you’re not forced to have that Voltron creature be your commander if you don’t want to. Since you can move equipment around if a creature dies or if you want to serve with a different monster later, this is a Voltron-esque build with some more flexibility. We won’t necessarily go as deep on equipment as we did with the previous build but some overlap is advisable. Here are some cards I’d make sure you don’t forget to run if you build an Arahbo deck.

Bear Umbra — The deck will be pretty mana-hungry and Bear Umbra is a great way to keep your mana flowing and also keep your creature from eating it to certain removal. This is in green Voltron decks for a reason and it’s a great inclusion here.

Open the Armory — While this is good in Nazahn decks where you want equipment, this is doubly good here because you can grab an aura if you need to, and I advise running a few on top of Bear Umbra. Battle Mastery is a good one, for example, as is Unquestioned Authority. You don’t want to go nuts with Auras but you want to run some good ones and this makes sure you can grab any tool in your toolbox, even an equipment.

Ajani's Chosen — I’m sure you run just about every cat token producer you can in most of these decks, but since you’ll have more enchantments than normal in this build, it’s critical to run Chosen.

Bear Umbra
Open the Armory
Ajani's Chosen

Rishkar's Expertise — This is very good in a deck where you’ll have a creature with a high power and a free spell on top of your super Harmonize is a great bonus. Rishkar's Expertise is a great card that’s good in a lot of decks and it’s one I could expect to see as much play as powerful Green cards like Boundless Realms in the future.

Helm of the Gods — I thought it prudent to mention equipment I would run in this deck but not necessarily Nazahn and this is a great example. It’s not great in a deck where we mainly focus on equipment, but I think we’ll jam some auras in this deck and the more you run, the more you want a card like Helm.

Dueling Grounds — If you’re built around Mirri’s ability, Dueling Grounds is very bad since you can’t attack with multiple creatures and neither can they. However, if you’re only planning to attack with one creature, this is a lot better and it’s another copy of Mirri, which is useful.

Rishkar's Expertise
Helm of the Gods
Dueling Grounds

Shielded by Faith/Felidar Umbra — The ability to switch where your auras go is important if you want to maintain a little flexibility. Since we’re not always loading up Arahbo, we can play spells like this one the first suitable creature then move them later if we summon a bigger, badder creature that we want to be our primary beatstick.

Here are some cards I might not necessarily run in this Arahbo Voltron deck that I might in other Voltron decks.

Sigarda, Host of Herons — I think this is much better in a deck where you don’t have a ton of utility creatures and some people consider it an auto-include in Voltron decks with access to Selesnya colors. I think you’ll have enough cats that an edict won’t blow you out and this card is significantly worse in this deck for not being a cat and for not being as necessary.

Shielded by Faith
Sigarda, Host of Herons

“Enchantress” Cards — While we’ll play some auras, we’re not strictly playing enough that these effects are all that good because of the amount of equipment it makes sense to run. I think Helm of the Gods makes sense because we have lots of ways to tutor for it and if you’re only getting +3/+3 out of it for its small cost, that’s fine. Trying to trigger Enchantress cards will be poor in a hybrid equipment/aura deck, though.

Replenish — I think this is bad in a hybrid build, but I might want to run Open the Vaults instead.

Divine Reckoning — This is another Voltron “staple” that I think is bad here and I don’t want players to include it because they’re building on autopilot. You have too many utility creatures.

Divine Reckoning

This Voltron build lets you choose between loading up a creature like Brimaz with Auras and Equipment and using Arahbo’s passive Command Zone buff to help it serve or loading up Arahbo itself, a card that doesn’t necessarily benefit from being the creature that attacks but which has a high base power and toughness. Whichever you choose, you benefit a lot from having Arahbo in play the turn you want to finish someone off. Don’t be afraid to spread the auras and equipment around a bit to make sure you can attack or defend against multiple players and remember you’re not an Uril, the Miststalker or similar deck and you have more options. You have lots of ways to search for your equipment and some of the creatures that do so are fine choices to load up. Just don’t jam too many non-cats or you’ll find yourself strapping equipment or something like Grand Abolisher and cursing that you can’t use Arahbo’s last ability to double the creature’s power and give it trample. Only run good auras since you’ll want a lot of equipment, so Celestial Mantle is in, Keen Sense is out. Use common sense and make sure you can fully take advantage of your commander’s abilities, otherwise maybe build around a different commander.

That does it for me this week. I’m sure the previews are finishing up today and you wish I’d talked about something other than cats. Fear not — the next few weeks will see me profiling every deck in a similar way to the cat deck. There are lots of different builds you can pursue and with all of the new rares and mythics previewed seeming pretty solid, buying the whole precon ensures you have the cards to start your own cat tribal deck and you can build any of these three ways plus I’m sure a few others. Until next week!

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