Surprise Cats

Posted in Card Preview on August 7, 2017

By Quinn Murphy

Quinn has been fascinated with Magic ever since Revised Edition. When he is not spending time with his lovely wife and amazing son, he's constantly brewing decks for, playing, and writing about Magic.

A creature type that has not gotten a lot of attention until recently now gets the attention its regal majesty deserves. The ferocity and grace of the Cat gets its full due in Commander (2017 Edition). I've been obsessed with Cats lately, so I couldn't wait to talk about the tribes and introduce some of its newest members in Commander 2017. Along the way we'll look at common themes in the tribe that you can build around in your Commander deck.

Counting Cats

There are 153 Cats in Magic; you have plenty of options. You can get a solid start on your Cat deck just from mining recent sets. There are nineteen Standard-legal Cats, fifteen of which come from Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, and Hour of Devastation.

Cats are paired with all sorts of subtypes as well: Soldiers, Knights, Warriors, Monks, Scouts, Clerics, Rebels, Allies, Vampires, Spirits, Demons, Elementals, Beasts, Zombies, Illusions, Nightstalkers, Snakes, and . . . Monkeys?

Yup.

There are all types of Cats. It's easy to get creative and focus on Cat subthemes. You can build a formidable army of Cat Knights and Soldiers, or focus on the more bestial types for a "wild" Cat deck.

The Color of Cats

Cats come in all colors.

  • Longtusk Cub
  • Rubblebelt Maaka
  • Felidar Sovereign
  • Black Cat
  • Frost Lynx

But when you look across the colors you can see that green and white have the, uh, lion's share of good Cats. Red comes in second, while black and blue make a few noteworthy appearances, but not enough to make a strong tribal push. In building your Cat tribal deck, you'll want to focus on green and white, possibly splashing red for some big Cats and cool effects.

The Nature of Cats

When I build tribal decks, I like to look at the mechanical themes of the tribe. While there will always be outliers and exceptions, there are definitely patterns and recurring themes for any tribe. So, what are the themes we find when we look at Cats as a group?

"Wild" Cats that are more feline tend to be small and aggressively costed ("Small and Deadly") or have higher mana costs with more power ("Big Cats"). More humanoid Cats are usually two to four mana with a tendency toward utility effects such as destroying enchantments or life gain. ("Utili-Cats"). There is a small group of Cats with flash, waiting to pounce ("Ambushers"). Lastly, Cats are good at making more Cats. You can overwhelm opponents and rebuild boards easily.

Small and Deadly

Cats have some of the most famous and influential one-drops in Magic history:

There are equally effective two-mana Cats to back them up:

Starting fast never hurt anyone (okay, maybe your opponents), and these Cats are among the fastest and strongest you can get.

Big Cats

At the other end of the mana curve are large Cats. If our opponents haven't been overwhelmed by our catlike reflexes and speed, it is time for Phantom Nishoba, Savage Firecat, or Uktabi Wildcats to finish them off.

Ambushers

Cats big and small are master hunters. They wait patiently for just the right moment to pounce on their prey. Even if the Cat's victim suspects something is amiss, that knowledge does not save if from the predator's attack.

Similarly, though, you may have seen this first preview card returning from Future Sight, it will still get its prey with its powerful protection ability and new card frame:

Most flash creatures act as combat tricks, but Seht's Tiger is more like counterspell, able to stop a lethal attack or spell targeting you.

Seht's Tiger is just one among several pouncing Cats:

  • Pouncing Cheetah
  • Fleetfoot Panther
  • King Cheetah
  • Qasali Ambusher
  • Whitemane Lion

Seht's Tiger combines well with Whitemane Lion, Fleetfoot Panther, and Felidar Guardian, all of which let you reuse its protection ability after the initial pounce.

Utili-Cats

Utili-Cats provide attacking pressure while also offering defensive capabilities in the form of life gain and removal abilities. These Cats support your more linear attack cards, making sure that your hunt continues unabated.

Our second preview card brings removal and a little dose of mind games:

There are Cat Archers now, too!

First, let's take a moment to appreciate how secretly choosing an opponent is a great mechanic to simulate stalking an opponent. The ability to exile an attacker is sufficient to make opponents second guess their attacks on you.

"Is that thing pointed at me?"

"Could be. Why don't you have your commander attack me and see?"

Stalking Leonin is a silent but effective negotiator at the table, but it is not alone in supporting your Cats.

  • Felidar Cub
  • Prowling Serpopard
  • Leonin Arbiter
  • Watchers of the Dead
  • Enlightened Ascetic
  • Leonin Relic-Warder
  • Leonin Shikari

Utili-Cats don't sacrifice that much offense for their utility usually. A Prowling Serpopard can't be countered, makes it so other creatures can't be counted, and is a 4/3 for 1GG!

Lords of the Jungle

There are a great many legendary Cats for you to use as commanders or to include in your deck.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Kemba, Kha Regent are two of the most aggressive of the legendary Cats, able to generate large amounts of Cats quickly.

Jazal Goldmane and Raksha Golden Cub are harder to cast but can create big attacks to swing the game in your favor quickly.

These legendary warriors are supported the power of the "royal" Cats:

Felidar Sovereign wins the game when you have 40 life. Conveniently, you start a game of Commander with 40 life! Keeping that life total intact is much easier said than done, but still, it's there for you.

Pride Sovereign only needs untapping effects for its Cat-making ability to become abusive. Regal Caracal provides a lord effect by giving +1/+1 and lifelink to all your other Cats—and it provides 7 power across three creatures.

Stalk your Foes

I'm looking forward to putting together my Cat tribal deck once Commander (2017 Edition) is released on August 25. How will you use Cats new and old to stalk your foes?

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