Last updated on May 25, 2023
Marisi, Breaker of the Coil | Illustration by Rudy Siswanto
I seem to have become our resident tribal deck creator. I recently brought vampires and dragons to the internet’s table, so why not continue that theme! This time I have a tribe that finds its origins all the back (errata’ed) in Mirage with Purraj of Urborg: cats!
Cats may not be the most prevalent tribe (that prize goes to humans), but while other tribes have more of less found their niches in certain pieces of the color pie, cats is one of the few that has very viable options in every color. Which means that you can slot them into any deck and they’ll have an impact.
Bringing them together into a single focus can be challenging, but finding enough similar or collaborative abilities to use tends to be fairly straightforward. Especially if you get use a commander or mechanic that affects the whole table.
And I think I found I found a good one. Let’s take a look!
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist | Illustration by Megali Villeneuve
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Healer of the Pride
Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
Keeper of Fables
King of the Pride
Kitt Kanto, Mayhem Diva
Mirri, Cat Warrior
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
Spirit of the Hearth
Make a Stand
Return of the Wildspeaker
White Sun's Zenith
Winds of Abandon
Rally the Ranks
Coat of Arms
Door of Destinies
Icon of Ancestry
Obelisk of Naya
Pillar of Origins
Kessig Wolf Run
Path of Ancestry
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Temple of the False God
This deck uses Marisi, Breaker of the Coil’s group goad ability to force everyone else to duke it out and leave you alone. Get your commander and at least two other creatures out that can swing and then work on protecting your board state!
Marisi, Breaker of the Coil is a 4-cost 5/4 with the ability to lock your opponents out of interaction during combat (and that’s all combat phases, not just yours) and goad their entire board if one of your creatures manage to sneak damage through to them. But all these abilities require it to stay on the battlefield, so protecting Marisi is a priority while maintaining the pressure in combat.
Your creatures have a variety of focuses. The major themes are token generation, anthems, and ways to sneak damage.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Jedit Ojanen of Efrava, Leonin Warleader, and Pride Sovereign are your token generators. Some are based on attacking or blocking, and some are based on other criteria.
Adorned Pouncer, Marisi's Twinclaws, and Mirri, Cat Warrior have built-in evasion abilities.
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist gives every one of your creatures some evasion by making it so opponents can only block with one creature if it’s attacking.
Bronzehide Lion and Fleecemane Lion have ways to get built-in protection. Bronzehide can also grant it to another creature upon death. Spirit of the Hearth gives you, the player, hexproof so that opponents can’t get around the goading with targeted non-combat damage.
Alms Collector and Keeper of Fables give you repeatable card draw since every opponent typically draws a fair amount of cards and the whole purpose of these creatures is to get combat damage through.
Hungry Lynx helps you get something good out even if your opponent’s board is empty by giving them a token that can’t hurt your creatures and grows yours when it dies from being goaded.
Jazal Goldmane, King of the Pride, and Regal Caracal are creature-based anthems for the tribe.
Healer of the Pride giving your cats lifelink works as a lifegiving source to fuel Ajani's Pridemate.
Kitt Kanto, Mayhem Diva gives you a group hug ability to have an opponent’s creature get +2/+2 for the turn and goads it (like if it has haste and came in after your last combat phase).
Leonin Arbiter shuts down tutors and fetch lands unless your opponents pay .
Realmwalker allows you to look at the top card of your library and play the cat creature cards you find with it.
You’re using the companion Kaheera, the Orphanguard because you very easily meet the deckbuilding restriction as a cat tribal deck. It’s also a welcome addition to your anthems which also grants everyone vigilance.
I feel as though any cat tribal deck isn’t complete without the inclusion of Ajani. For this deck, you have the Core Set 2014 variant, Ajani, Caller of the Pride.
This seemed the most appropriate with its evasion granting -3 and mass token creating ultimate. The latter potentially being game-winning given that your life total should stay fairly high with the amount of how much goading you’ll be doing.
For artifacts you have a typical mana rock suite in the Naya () variety with Boros Signet, Selesnya Signet, Gruul Signet, and Obelisk of Naya.
Some extra protection for Marisi comes in the form of Swiftfoot Boots and Whispersilk Cloak, the latter I picked over Lightning Greaves because being unblockable is more important than haste.
You also have extra anthems coming in the form of Coat of Arms, Door of Destinies, Icon of Ancestry, and Vanquisher's Banner.
You get some help casting these creatures with Herald's Horn and Pillar of Origins.
For enchantments, you have repeatable artifact and enchantment hate with Aura Shards, some repeatable card draw from Guardian Project, some extra token generation from Molten Echoes, and more anthems from Beastmaster Ascension, Mirari's Wake, Radiant Destiny, and Rally the Ranks.
Finally, there’s some extra combat assistance from Shared Animosity and Unnatural Growth.
Instants and Sorceries
Your interaction is mostly going to be focused very wide, both in terms of protection/evasion and destruction.
For the protection side of things you’re running Akroma's Will, which can be a combat trick as well, Heroic Intervention, Make a Stand, and Unbreakable Formation. Formation can also be used as a combat trick in the right cases.
For mass destruction you have Blasphemous Act and Winds of Abandon to clear the slate as needed, and Decimate for some more targeted disruptions.
You also have Kindred Summons to bring everyone else in your deck to the party, White Sun's Zenith as a late-game mana sink that can easily fill the board, and Return of the Wildspeaker plus Titanic Ultimatum to make everyone just that much beefier.
The one inclusion that I felt might be an odd choice given that you already have a repeatable goad engine is Disrupt Decorum. I found that there were times in testing when I couldn’t protect my board from an asymmetric board wipe that left me a target because my combat shenanigans may have been a tad annoying and they were given the opportunity to share the love, as it were. While it doesn’t give an immediate relief from attacks, it does give a very “on-brand” solution to problem as you rebuild your board state.
The Mana Base
This deck is a pretty distribution of the Naya colors, so having a lot of dual and a few tri-lands at your disposal is crucial. Like your mana rocks, these includes the Boros, Selesnya, and Gruul variants of the gain lands, and all the appropriate slow lands, bounce lands, Battlebond lands, and shock lands.
Utilities along for the ride include Access Tunnel and Rogue's Passage to grant unblockable, Path of Ancestry and Unclaimed Territory (must-haves for any tribal deck), and Animal Sanctuary since you’re running cats.
Since you want as many creatures as possible sneaking in combat damage you’re also running Slayers' Stronghold, Skarrg, the Rage Pits, and Kessig Wolf Run to grant some cards trample.
Red gets a bit of a short stick in terms of the pip-to-generation ratio. But there are far fewer instances of cards with multiple white or green needs than red, so their sources needed priority.
This cat tribal deck works as a standard battlecruiser. Your main focus is to get a base stance in place with some mana rocks and lands, your commander on the field, and some creatures to attack with. Blocking isn’t as important here given your gameplan.
The early turns are you getting the 2- and 3-drops down and preparing for your commander. I know that it may be tempting to drop some of the cheaper enchantments like Aura Shards or Rally the Ranks, but they should be held onto until you’re better established unless you don’t have any other options. The one exception to this would be Beastmaster Ascension since it requires some lead-up that you can achieve in a couple early turns and can help apply some early pressure. Some of the other players in the pod will ideally be a greater power threat to draw your opponents’ ire.
Once you have Marisi on the battlefield with at least two other creatures (three if you’re not able to give it haste), the plan is to have each of them attack and sneak damage to your opponents. This will goad every creature they control and start the combat cycles going. You shouldn’t have too much worry as long as you’re not up against any aggro or non-creature decks until it’s just you and one opponent left. But you should have a very good board state at that point with several anthems up and available for your cats on the battlefield.
Your ideal first hand is Access Tunnel, Rogue's Passage, Command Tower, Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots, Leonin Arbiter, and Adorned Pouncer. These will get you on the board with two creatures and give them evasion, hoping to draw into more mana rocks and Whispersilk Cloak to further protect Marisi.
The only deck archetypes that I found to be difficult to work against with the goad theme were the ones that prevent combat damage with fog-like effects, like the Shrine decks and the very aggressive haste-based decks because a lot of their creatures weren’t on the battlefield during my combat phase. Focusing on enchantment/artifact destruction (which made it into the final version of the deck) and trading in some mass haste enablers myself are the ways I could see being able to increase a winning ratio.
Combos and Interactions
This isn’t a combo-heavy deck. There’s no infinite mana or recursion shenanigans. The main form of interaction you have are the artifact and enchantment hate as well as the board wipes, of which you’ll use sparingly since you kind of want your opponents to have a board presence.
There’s one combo that will help you in Aura Shards and Qasali Slingers both triggering on the cat creature’s ETB so you get to destroy two artifacts or enchantments each time one comes in.
Your plan of attack is to just at least hit each of your opponents with some level of damage every combat phase with Marisi out. You’ll win by combat damage of some sort, but you’ll be relying on your opponents to take all but one of them out for you. Hopefully the last one standing besides you will have less life since they had to take care of two other opponents while you just sat back and relaxed (for the most part).
All of that said, sealing the deal comes from mass anthems and combat tricks like White Sun's Zenith or Kindred Summons to amass a large board state and clear them out the following turn. Creatures like Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist make dealing with almost anyone 1-on-1 very easy since they’ll be unable to attack you or block with more than one creature as long as you don’t make the mistake of giving Mirri vigilance.
There are several cuts that can be made to the creatures and the lands to bring the price down. The money creatures are Alms Collector at around $15, Brimaz, King of Oreskos at up to $20, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist going for up to $25, and Hungry Lynx, Leonin Warleader, and Qasali Slingers which can all go for up to $10.
I’d caution against removing Mirri and the Slingers since they help with interaction (the Slingers) or work as a big bomb (Mirri). If you were to replace the others you’d be sacrificing some extra token creation or goad targets (Brimaz, Warleader, Lynx) and card draw (Alms).
The money lands are the shock Lands, Battlebond lands, filter lands, slow lands, and Jetmir's Garden (it’s amazing how adding cycling 3 increases the price). Any of these can be traded out for cheaper dual land variants or even an equal ratio of basics.
Marisi’s abilities allow for some other fun to be had. You could go all in on forced combat instead of focusing on cat tribal, making your opponents have to fight each other and using your ability as the only player who can cast spells during the combat step to your advantage.
This would mean the inclusion of cards like:
- Spectacular Showdown
- Life of the Party
- Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer
- Agitator Ant
- Fumiko the Lowblood
- Vengeful Ancestor
- Gahiji, Honored One
- Shiny Impetus
- Rite of the Raging Storm
- Master Warcraft
- Mercy Killing
- Fight to the Death
Vanquisher's Banner | Illustration by Milivoj Ceran
This was one of those decks that just screamed to be made. Marisi was included in the Naya precon as a back-up in Commander 2019, but the abilities didn’t really work very well when partnered with the populate theming that the deck focused on.
This deck isn’t very flashy and doesn’t have a lot of gatecrash creatures to make a large impact (with a few notable exceptions), but I really liked that I was able to create a deck that twisted things up enough to force opponents to take each other out without needing to create a group hug “make sure I finish second” type deck. Not to mention without the treachery sub-mechanics that comes with having Dimir () involved.
What changes would you make with the deck? Do you agree with the best ways to use these beasts? Let us know in the Draftsim Discord or in the comments below.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: