Tuesday 18 August 2020

Cats .dec

Regal Caracal
I recently did a tribal rumble event to test out a bunch of the many new cards released over the last couple of years (Jumpstart played a large contributing role). I have not had a lot of time playing with these newer tribal cards, if at all, due to the restrictions inherent with tribal stuff and the general low tier of most of the tribes. I even include a goblins list with the tasty Muxus and Snoop which I fully expected to win the whole thing. The winning tribe, as you have likely deduced, was our furry friends the cats and not the little green men.

Cats have gained a whole pile of lords and tribal cards recently from a position of having almost no synergy cards before then. Amonkhet brought the first lord and synergy cards directly for cats. Modern Masters gave us one of the absolute best lords to date for any tribe in King of the Pride and it's terrifying +2 attack buff on a 3 drop. Ikoria brought us a lord with companion we can rely on having. Finally Core 2021 gave us yet another top rate lord giving cats more than enough support to make waves. The unusual thing about cats is that they have one of the deepest pools of aggressive one drops of any tribe. This is normally the point other tribes come unstuck, they have all the synergy empowering cards but nothing cheap to actually empower. Cats now has both the great lords and the low end to benefit from them and in hindsight is no shocker that it managed to win the event despite having a very uninteractive and linear deck. Cats as a tribe has arrived and is a force to be reckoned with.

Kaheera, the Orphanguard

1 Kaheera, the Orphanguard

24 Spells

1 Aether Vial
1 Savannah Lions
1 Loam Lion
1 Steppe Lynx
1 Jungle Lion
1 Sycthe Leopard
1 Sacred Cat
1 Leonin Vanguard

King of the Pride1 Vanguard of Brimaz
1 Bronzehide Lion
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Fleecemane Lion
1 Adorned Pouncer
1 Hero of the Pride
1 Dromoka's Command
1 Selesnya Charm

1 Pride Sovereign
1 King of the Pride
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Feline Sovereign
1 Icon of Ancestry

1 Cubwarden
1 Collected Company
Bronzehide Lion

1 Regal Caracal

16 Lands

1 Horizon Canopy
1 Savannah
1 Windswept Heath
1 Temple Garden
1 Brushland
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Prismatic Vista
1 Mutavault
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Wooded Bastion
2 Forest
3 Plains

Icon of AncestryAether Vial and Collected Company are both brutal in this list as they so frequently represent a potential lord to arrive in combat and devastate the situation. Company was a big part of why the deck isn't just maxing out on playable one drops and trying to abuse the best lords that way. The trade off seems well worth it and adds a healthy bit of depth to the deck. Icon of Ancestry for example looks pretty nice in this deck, it complements the Company and Vial and gives you a nice bit of extra legs. I was impressed with Icon's performance and think this is likely one of the best sort of decks to include it in. Goblins don't need help with the value it offers and can't so easily afford the time to deploy it. Cats on the other hand lack much in the way of value and needs the help to compete against control decks.

Going a little higher in curve is helpful too as it lets you play Cub Warden and Regal Caracal, and even Leonin Warleader if you were so inclined. One drops are a great way to exploit good lords but tokens are great too and there are not so many of those lower down the curve. A couple of beefier cats served this list very well.

Mtenda LionI would have quite liked another combat trick so as to help empower the various heroic triggers. A Blossoming Defence seems best as it protects as well. That being said the heroic cats seemed entirely fine with just a handful of things to trigger them and are not things I would look to cut. Between Hero of the Pride, Collected Company, Aether Vial, the Charm, and the Command getting into combat with this list was pretty scary. All the stats can change significantly at instant speed which made good, safe attacks and blocks against this list tricky to say the least. The Charm and Command are generally excellent in this list being so space efficient. They add a lot to the deck without taking up many slots and thus reducing the effectiveness of the synergy cards. More removal would be nice as well as more combat tricks but not much else does so well overall as these two spells. The trample from the Charm in particular stole a bunch of games and was one of the biggest sources of reach the deck had.

Cuttable cards are hard to find. The curve and ratios all felt right so I would mostly look to do like for like swaps such as a one drop cat for another one drop cat. There are plenty of options you could try out on that front which are pretty comparable to the weaker one drops included such as Mtenda Lion, Glittering Lynx, Wild Nacatl, and potentially even Scythe Tiger! Nacatl is obviously great even without mountains but I was trying to keep in a clean list and couldn't have left the mana base alone and mountain free if I did run it.

Mirri, Weatherlight DuelistThe two drops similarly have reasonable depth. Both Felidar Cub and Longtusk Cub are fine cards I would have been happy running. Without things to trigger heroic these would both have made the list. I also looked at both Lurrus of the Dream Den and Spectral Lynx and only didn't include them on the same "cleanliness" grounds as the Nacatl omission. Lynx remains a strong magic card despite the years of power creep and Lurrus affords a nice big of extra value. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is the only other card I wanted to squeeze in but being a three drop that does nothing till it attacks and offering no synergy or that much in the way of resilience it felt easy to leave out despite being fairly powerful and offering a good degree of reach.

So, there we have it. A new force in the world of tribal. Make cats, empower cats, turn them sideways (or not in the case of your many vigilance dorks) and win! Despite how simple the game plan is I found I had a lot of choices to make and was impressed at the game play offered by this list. As an aside I actually made this deck for a companion rumble event I did prior to the tribal one. Despite dominating the tribal event the cats finished bottom half of the lists in the companion event. You can take that as an indication of how fair tribal decks tend to be or just as an indictment of how foolish companions are!

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