Last updated on November 18, 2021

Kaheera, the Orphanguard - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Kaheera, the Orphanguard | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

I’m a fan of cats. Let’s face it, they’ve won us over thanks to the great publicity the internet has provided them for the past couple of decades. Not that I needed to be sold on them in the first place; they’re just too cute.

Cats in Magic are a fairly underused tribe. They’ve received direct support from the Mirrodin sets and Amonkhet but never quite made it to competitive level. There’s still more than enough pieces to build something competent and fun to play, tough.

I’ve taken the foundation of a Modern Cats deck I built with my brother a couple years ago and converted it to Historic. This list is a fairly simple, tribal-based aggro build with some nice heavy-hitters and tribal synergies to go along with it.

Without any further ado, let’s jump straight into the deck!

The Deck

King of the Pride - Illustration by Jonathan Kuo

King of the Pride | Illustration by Jonathan Kuo

The Strategy

As I said, this is a tribal-themed aggro deck. There are currently human and merfolk tribal builds in the Historic metagame, both of which are 2-color decks that use Collected Company to flood the board with multiple threats. Selesnya Cats is trying to do exactly the same thing here.

The construction is very straightforward; you’re maximizing your hits on Company by cutting down on spells and running as many creatures as possible. This list has 31 creatures, 29 of which can be hit with Company. There are also eight tribal lords, which means that even a main phase Company can have a huge impact on your ability to profitably attack on the same turn.

Let’s have a look at how each card functions in the deck.

Your Companion

Kaheera, the Orphanguard

As far as I’m concerned, Kaheera, the Orphanguard is the best card in the deck. By limiting the list  to mono-cats, you get to put a great tribal lord in your companion slot, which gives you a huge boost.

This build hinges on being able to use the various tribal lords, so guaranteeing having one in every game is really awesome. to the deck sticks to Kaheera’s companion rule for every slot, including the sideboard.

It’s certainly possible that you might want to break the rule to access certain sideboard cards like Skyclave Apparition. Just remember that would mean you lose access to Kaheera in post-sideboard games where you use those cards, though you can always add it to the main deck.

1-Drops

Here you have four copies each of Sacred Cat and Leonin Vanguard.

There aren’t really a lot of options at this point on the curve, but Sacred Cat in particular is very strong. Lifelink is huge in aggro mirrors and having embalm pushes it way over the top, giving you an extra 1-drop in the late game when you need it.

Vanguard starts off small but, given that you’re trying to flood the board as quickly as possible, it’s usually going to be a 1-mana 2/2. The lifegain isn’t nothing either. This spot is taken by Loam Lion in the Modern version of the deck because it’s a very consistent 2/3. Vanguard isn’t as consistent but can still adequately do its job.

2-Drops

Now we’re getting into the meat of the deck, as both of your 2-drops are very powerful. Four copies each of Bronzehide Lion and Adorned Pouncer give you some pretty hefty damage output.

Bronzehide Lion is rarely more than just a Watchwolf, but that’s just fine. Leaving two mana open to protect it is a great option but isn’t guaranteed every turn. The aura it leaves behind is similar: the option is nice but it’s not going to be useful all the time. You mainly care that your 2-drop has three power and isn’t dying to Unholy Heat or something like that.

Pouncer is considerably weaker but double strike is exceptionally powerful with the next category of cards.

The “Lords”

Named for one of the original versions of these cards, Lord of Atlantis, a tribal lord is a creature that buffs all your creatures of the same type. You have two great options for cats in Historic: King of the Pride and Feline Sovereign. You’re playing a full playset of each, of course.

Printed for the “tribal tribal” draft strategy in the original Modern Horizons, The King is basically a Savannah Lions that buffs each cat by the size of a Savannah Lions. This buff is huge and you can make great use of it in this deck.

Imaging curving out Leonin Vanguard on turn 1 into Adorned Pouncer on turn 2. Playing King on turn 3 gives you an attack for ten damage; four with Vanguard and six with Pouncer. That’s some pretty absurd damage output and one that requires an answer from your opponent or they’re just dead.

Sovereign is a great addition to the deck. Not just for being a tribal lord itself, but the ability to destroy artifacts and enchantments en masse is very relevant right now. There are quite a few decks in the format where this ability is extremely powerful, most notably against the “Enchantress” deck that’s currently being played.

You only run a couple of Feline Sovereigns in the Modern version of this deck to keep the lord count high, but the prevalence of artifact- and enchantment-based decks leans toward a full playset. The damage output a lord can provide is normally enough, but this card can be devastating in the right matchup.

Collected Company

Collected Company

Anyone who’s played Magic competitively in the last five years should already be aware of how powerful this card is. But just in case you haven’t seen it, here we go.

Collected Company (or CoCo) is the backbone of several decks across multiple formats. The idea is that if your deck is full of nearly all good creatures that can be hit by it, casting it is rarely bad for you. The ability to get two whole creatures out of your deck for just is an incredible deal, and one that’s definitely worth skewing your deck to make work.

Sometimes it misses and finds you zero or just one creature, but with enough hits in the deck (like the 29 in this one), that doesn’t happen enough times to put you off trying it. It’s also an instant, which lets you cast it on your opponent’s turn to play around counterspells and board sweepers.

You happily play CoCo on your turn as well in this deck given that hitting the tribal lords gives you a better combat phase. CoCo is one of the best cards for creature-based decks (ironic given that it’s an instant) that we’ve ever seen.

The Tech Slots

The tech slots start out with a single copy of Masked Vandal for another enchantment-killer. Being a changeling means it’s still a cat, so it works in the deck very nicely and gives you a more proactive answer to enchantments that doesn’t require attacking. Since Feline Sovereign only destroys one enchantment per turn, you’re not able to keep up with what Enchantress does. Having another answer goes a long way towards helping with that.

Realmwalker is a really interesting card that hasn’t gotten much attention, but it’s perfectly positioned in a deck like this. Having the ability to cast any cat you find on the top of your deck is absurd and it really overperforms.

This card is essentially your draw engine, allowing you to cast multiple spells from your deck in a turn if you’re lucky. Even just one free card is nice enough to want Realmwalker, and there are more copies in the sideboard for control matchups where this effect is much stronger.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den is the best cat ever printed by default. Of course it had to make its way into this list. Your 1- and 2-drops are somewhat expendable so you can’t make full use of Lurrus’ ability in this deck, but it’s still a strong card. A 3/2 lifelink beater that lets you buy back a creature on the turn we cast it is definitely strong.

Any card that has the potential to easily be two bodies for one card is worth a look, and Lurrus is by far one of the best ways to do that. You only have two copies since you don’t have the room for more, plus its ability isn’t always going to be live in the deck so it’s not a big priority.

To round out the creatures you have a pair of Leonin Warleaders. This is one of the better curve-toppers out there and it does an incredibly good Hero of Bladehold impression with the buffs you get from your tribal lords. Because this list is built around CoCo, you can’t run too many Warleader copies (or any other expensive threat), but a couple helps to finish the deck off nicely.

Removal

You also have a couple of removal spells to round out the deck. Two copies of Baffling End, which appears to be the best cheap white removal spell in the format right now, and a cheeky copy of Kabira Takedown, which works reasonably well in this deck and can just be a land if it sucks in the matchup.

Of course these could be a bit stronger, but you don’t have a lot of options available in this format. You’d have On Thin Ice in the Modern version, but nothing that efficient is legal in Historic.

The Land Base

2-color land bases in Historic are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Temple Garden and Branchloft Pathway are the best dual lands you can hope for, always coming in untapped and never disappointing. Overgrown Farmland and Sunpetal Grove are both strong but each have their own downsides.

Farmland will never be untapped on turn 2, but Grove can be. These are split since you need room for basics. You also have one of each of the Forgotten Realms creature lands (Cave of the Frost Dragon and Lair of the Hydra) plus seven basics, skewed heavily in favor of white since most of the deck relies on white mana.

Tips and Interactions

Collected Company - Illustration by Franz Vohwinkel

Collected Company | Illustration by Franz Vohwinkel

This is a pretty simple deck to play. You want to play creatures and turn them sideways. Or, you know, the roughly 10-degree angle that MTGA turns them. There aren’t a lot of weird, tricksy interactions, but there are a few patterns that come to mind.

Here are some things you should remember when piloting this deck:

  • Collected Company is an instant, so you should definitely leverage that to help you fight against control decks. That said, you usually want to cast it on your turn to influence combat. I’ve mentioned this a few times already but it’s worth pointing out again. You could hit a pair of lords to buff your team or the second/third creatures needed to trigger Leonin Vanguard. You should be trying to leave it open, but don’t be afraid to give it a spin if it might make the difference between attacking and not attacking.
  • Rest in Peace interacts pretty badly with your Masked Vandal and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, so make sure to cut the few graveyard-centric cards for them when you sideboard them in.
  • Sacred Cat’s embalm ability is just that: an ability. Even though it feels like you’re flashing back a spell like the disturb creatures in Midnight Hunt, it doesn’t actually count as casting a spell. This can come in handy when you’re fighting against counterspells and need to land a threat. If you have enough mana, the same goes for the eternalize ability on Adorned Pouncer.
  • Lurrus can cast Baffling End or Portable Hole from the graveyard If that happens, not just creatures.
  • Yasharn, Implacable Earth may not be a cat, but it can be boarded in without breaking Kaheera’s companion rule as an elemental. Depending on the metagame, other similar creatures might be good enough for the sideboard like Kinjalli’s Sunwing and Deathgorge Scavenger.
  • Leonin Warleader creates two cat tokens tapped and attacking. They don’t have to be attacking the same target as Warleader itself. If your opponent has a planeswalker that you need to attack, you can choose to have the cat tokens attack it while Warleader goes for the player, or vice versa. Or one token can attack the player while the other attacks their planeswalker. Keep this in mind when making your attacks and spread your damage wisely.
  • Bronzehide Lion’s ability can help you disguise the fact that you have a CoCo to cast. By leaving open four mana with a Lion out, you’re representing the mana to activate Lion twice. This can cause your opponent to make different plays than if you just left four open with nothing to do. If they then tap out to present Lion with a blocker or an answer, that can give you a more favorable window to cast CoCo.

Mulligan Rules

Lurrus of the Dream-Den - Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

Lurrus of the Dream-Den | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

This deck is pretty simple and casual, so there aren’t too many rules on how to mulligan that would be different from other decks. That said, here are three simple rules to help you navigate your mulligans:

  1. You can survive on just three lands so pretty much any hand with two or three lands in it should be a keep.
  2. Collected Company is the best card in the deck, so even a weak hand with a CoCo (say, five lands, CoCo, and a creature) is still very serviceable.
  3. This is a low-curve aggro deck, so treat mulligans like you would when playing a mono red or white weenie deck and you’ll be fine.

Sideboard Guide

Given that the sideboard for this deck is untested, I won’t give you any specific advice on what numbers you should be swapping between the main and side, just some general pointers for each matchup.

As a general rule for every matchup, just remember that you can’t cut too many creatures when bringing in non-creature cards because it messes with Collected Company’s effectiveness. You have 29 hits in the deck and you shouldn’t be drifting below the 25 to 26 mark. Keep that in mind for every matchup.

Izzet Phoenix

Rest in Peace

Izzet Phoenix is a spell-based deck that uses its graveyard a lot, so you want Rest in Peace for this matchup the most. You should also be a little worried about your opponent’s Smoldering Eggs, so you can’t go wrong with some extra removal.

Since you’re bringing in Rest, the Lurrus’ and Masked Vandal are pretty easy cuts. Trimming Leonin Warleaders is a good move as well since more expensive threats aren’t how you’re winning this game.

Izzet Pheonix looks to be one of the best decks in the format so it’s possible you want more hate for it. Consider some copies of Devout Decree for the sideboard and you’ll probably want some if this is a bad matchup.

Jund Food

Another deck that’s traditionally hated seeing Rest in Peace, but the current versions of Jund Food look to be very well set up to fight it. Mayhem Devil still triggers through it and Cauldron Familiar is the main thing you want to hit in the matchup. Your opponent also runs Binding the Old Gods which lets them easily answer Rest. You still want it, but maybe not all three copies.

You definitely want Portable Hole here as it can answer Witch’s Oven and Trail of Crumbs, and Baffling End is great for hitting Mayhem Devils. You should bring in two Rests and the three removal spells and cut your Lurrus’, Masked Vandal, and Kabira Takedown.

You need one more cut which could honestly be a Collected Company since you already cut so many creatures. You also absolutely want to bring in Yasharn, Implacable Earth which is an easy swamp for your two Leonin Warleaders as a 4-drop.

Enchantress

This seems like a really annoying deck to play against. Despite Nine Lives being an awesome cat-themed card, it’s going to be really annoying to play against. It naturally has hexproof so your enchantment hate won’t touch it, but it should be easy enough to attack the other enchantments your opponent plays to slow them down and hit them with nine creatures to get rid of the Nine Lives for an auto-win.

Prioritize attacking their Solemnity so that you can actually hit them and put counters on Nine Lives. In sideboarding, you clearly want your second Masked Vandal and the Portable Hole to attack their cheap enchantments. Baffling End is also decent here as it answers Sythis, Harvest’s Hand and Sanctum Weaver, the two cards their deck is built around the most.

King of the Pride is at its weakest in this matchup since games often won’t be decided by how much damage you deal but instead how many times you can deal damage. Kabira Takedown is also a bit on the weak side since your opponent can remove your creatures pretty easily in games 2 and 3 with the Wrath of Gods that they bring in.

This could definitely be a rough matchup, but you’re naturally set up well against their removal and sweepers. It just hinges on how annoying their enchantment package is for you. And since you can’t touch Nine Lives, a cheeky copy of Cleansing Nova is a good call to get an immediate win if you find yourself struggling in the matchup.

Mono White/Selesnya Humans

This deck looks awfully familiar… why, it’s almost the exact same deck! But with… better cards?

Humans seems to be the strongest tribal deck in the field and they work with a very similar gameplan to this deck except they have a lot more support to draw on. This matchup is essentially a race, one that’s winnable if you kill the right creatures and have enough lifelink-ers (of which you have plenty).

You only really want to bring in Portable Hole and Baffling End for this matchup, and you can probably just trim down on your least effective creatures. Masked Vandal is useless and Feline Sovereign is also a bit weaker since it has no extra abilities beyond being a lord.

Control Decks

It looks like there are a few different flavors of control out there right now, but they’re all broadly the same as far as your gameplan is concerned. You don’t want removal, you don’t want cards that only work if you go wide, and you do want card advantage engines. Unless your opponent has a bunch of artifacts and enchantments, Masked Vandal and Feline Sovereign are easy cuts once again, as are all three of your main deck removal spells.

You want to bring in Prowling Serpopard to hate on their counterspells and Realmwalker to generate some extra cards for yourself. These should all be relatively good matchups depending on your opponent’s removal packages.

At the end of the day, Collected Company is your best card in this matchup and you don’t even have to board it in, so you’re already ahead from game 1.

How to Beat Cats

Let’s be honest; you’re playing this deck because it’s fun, not because it’s a meta-breaking deck. A lot of builds are likely to beat Selesnya Cats on pure card quality alone. This is an aggro deck, so the cards you really hate seeing are Lightning Helix and board sweepers.

I don’t think anyone runs it, but I doubt this deck could ever beat a single Baneslayer Angel with its current configuration. It’s possible that if these cards are more prevalent that you’ll want some protection against them. Gods Willing is a good protection spell and Heroic Intervention is good to fight against sweepers.

Other Builds

There was another build for this deck that I decided against, and that was to go bigger and focus on lifegain. Two of the best cats in Historic that aren’t in this deck are Ajani’s Pridemate and Regal Caracal. Pridemate becomes a legitimate threat if you can pack enough lifegain into the deck.

It’s possible that it already wants to be in this deck but I ultimately decided on Adorned Pouncer instead. Regal Caracal is a cat’s answer to Siege-Gang Commander but it’s not what this deck really wants at a hefty .

If the focus moved away from Collected Company and became less aggressive, you could have a cat-centric midrange deck where you would build towards a board of cats out of just a couple of cards.

Cards That Didn’t Make the Cut

Longtusk Stalker

Longtusk Stalker

Longtusk Stalker looks like a very powerful 1-drop. It attacks as a 2/1 on turn 2 while also buffing the next creature you play.

What I don’t like about it is that it’s green. The mana base is skewed towards white in this deck so that you can play your early creatures more consistently. Having a green 1-drop and a white 1-drop would throw that mana base off balance and make it harder to play either of them.

I could see a version of this deck with a small energy package, especially since Attune with Aether is basically free to play and Longtusk Cub is also a cat.

Leonin Lightscribe

Leonin Lightscribe

Leonin Lightscribe is an awesome card that would fit great in any cats deck. If you had enough instants and sorceries to make it work. Sadly, I don’t think that’s ever likely to happen.

Pride Sovereign

Pride Sovereign

Pride Sovereign certainly looks like a card that should be playable in a deck like this, but it just isn’t very good. Either it’s a rather big vanilla creature for or it’s an extremely slow token generator.

This build would be interested in the tokens part, except for the fact that you’d have to wait two whole turns after playing it before the tokens can even attack. I just don’t think that’s ever going to work out.

Rally the Ranks

Rally the Ranks

Rally the Ranks actually does look very strong. I don’t think it’s good enough to be one of the very few spells you run alongside Collected Company, but it could definitely be good enough in certain builds of this deck. If you were running playsets of Leonin Warleader and Regal Caracal, Rally starts looking very good.

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants & Ajani, Strength of the Pride

Both Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants and Ajani, Strength of the Pride look like powerful planeswalkers that you could use. Strength of the Pride in particular makes tokens of Ajani’s Pridemate, something you could be very interested in if you were focused more on lifegain. In a metagame where you want access to a planeswalker or two, these are definitely strong options.

Wrap Up

Feline Sovereign - Illustration by Dan Scott

Feline Sovereign | Illustration by Dan Scott

I hope you enjoyed this look at something a bit more quirky in nature. I don’t think we’ll be seeing cats at the top tables of a huge tournament any time soon unless we get a bunch of good cat support, but you could give this build a go if you fancy trying out a fun deck that’s a bit different from the norm.

If you do try it and have some fun stories to share, why not leave me a comment? And make sure you’ve got Arena Tutor if you’re testing the deck out on MTGA. It’s powerful, helps you improve your games, and best of all it’s free!

Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

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