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Against the Odds: Cats (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode eighty-seven of Against the Odds. Last week on our Against the Odds poll, we had a bunch of Amonkhet-influenced tribal options for Modern, and while God tribal put up a good fight, in the end it was Cats that came out with a fairly easy victory. As such, this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can claw our way to victory with a deck overflowing with feline threats, cat lords, and even cat planeswalkers! Can Cat tribal actually compete in a format as powerful as Modern? We're about to find out! Let's get to the videos, and then we'll break down the deck. 

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Against the Odds: Modern Cats (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Modern Cats (Games)

The Deck

Building Cat tribal was actually more challenging than I thought it would be. The biggest problem was making sure the deck was actually a tribal deck (which at least to me means it has some number of creature-type matters cards) and not just a deck that happened to have a bunch of Cats in it. The competitive advantage of the tribe is pretty clearly its one-drops, where it is overloaded on competitive and powerful options, along with the fact that Ajani is a Cat, which gives the deck an on-flavor planeswalker. The downside is that it's pretty lacking in lords, and once you get past one-drops, a lot of the other creatures are only okay rather than great. There also isn't anything too tricky that can be done with Cat tribal—it almost has to be a beatdown deck, since most of the creatures in the tribe are vanilla beaters rather than synergistic combo pieces. 

The Lords

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Regal Caracal is—by far—the best of the Cat lords, and while it is super expensive (especially for Modern), it is really powerful, putting seven power and toughness on the battlefield and giving all of our Cats lifelink to help swing aggressive matchups in our favor. The question is whether we can actually live long enough to cast it, but when we do, it should usually be enough to close out the game in short order. After Regal Caracal, the drop-off to the next Cat lord (Adaptive Automaton) is pretty high. While coming down on Turn 3 is nice, unlike some of the better three-mana lords like Merrow Reejerey and Elvish Archdruid, Adaptive Automaton doesn't really have an additional upside (or rather, the upside is being able to choose the creature type). Thankfully, it does come down fairly early and pump all of our Cats to get in additional damage and hopefully help us close out the game before our opponent finds a sweeper or their combo. 

One-Drops

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As I mentioned before, having a ton of good one-drops is the biggest advantage that Cats have. Wild Nacatl was so good it was banned in Modern for a while, and Loam Lion is on par for the Modern format as well. While these are the only two one-drops in our deck, there are some other good options, as well including Steppe Lynx and even Savannah Lions. Basically, these cards help us get the beats started from Turn 1 and hopefully allow us to close out the game quickly, especially when combined with our lords. 

Two-Drops

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For our two-drops, we have Qasali Pridemage and Fleecemane Lion, both of which are three-power attackers with some additional upside. Qasali Pridemage gives us some main-deck artifact and enchantment hate, which can be helpful in some matchups, and the exalted damage essentially comes down with haste and allows us to get in an extra point of damage with whatever one-drop we played on Turn 1. Meanwhile, Fleecemane Lion can technically go monstrous, but five mana is a lot (and it's easy to get blown out by removal in response), so it doesn't happen very often. 

Other Cats

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Brimaz, King of Oreskos is just another (very) above-the-curve creature. A 3/4 body for three mana is pretty solid by itself, and creating a Cat token whenever it attacks and blocks (which it can do twice each turn cycle thanks to vigilance) makes Brimaz, King of Oreskos extremely powerful. 

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Finally, we have our cat-walkers: various flavors of Ajani. Ajani Goldmane works almost like an additional lord, coming down to pump up all of our Cats with the 1 ability. Ajani, Caller of the Pride lets us steal some games by coming down and giving our biggest cat flying and double strike to hit for eight or 10 damage out of nowhere. Finally, Ajani Vengeant gives us a repeatable Lightning Helix and can win the game by blowing up all of our opponent's lands if the game stalls out. 

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As for the non-Cat cards in our main deck, we just have a handful of removal spells in Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile. Lightning Bolt is nice because it can finish the job if our Cats end up three points of damage away from killing our opponent, while Path to Exile has the upside of getting rid of anything our opponent plays, no matter how big. 

The Matchups

Cat tribal falls in a weird place in Modern. In theory, we can beat just about anyone if we have a double Wild Nacatl draw backed by lords and removal. However, generally speaking, we are a bit slower than the fastest aggro decks in the format, a bit too lacking in disruption to fight combo decks, and—even with our lords—a bit too small to keep up with midrange decks playing Tarmogoyf and Thought-Knot Seer. All this is to say that I'm not sure we have any good matchups; instead, we are mostly hoping to get some good draws and trust that those draws will be enough to beat whatever our opponent is doing, whether the matchup is good or not. 

The Odds

All in all, we got in six matches and only managed to win one, putting our match-win percentage as just 16.67%. Oddly, our game-win percentage was more than double our match win percentage, as we won six of our 16 games, good for 37.5% game-win percentage. What this means is that, while we weren't very good at getting two wins in the same match, we were quite good at winning at least one game each match. In fact, discounting a 0-2 loss to Blistering Rage and our 2-0 win over Naya Burn, every other match we played ended with a 1-2 loss. This suggests that, even though the numbers aren't great, the deck was fairly competitive, and perhaps with a bit more luck (or our opponents having fewer copies Anger of the Gods), we could have ended up with another match win or two to improve our numbers. Basically, while we lost a lot of matches, we were competitive in most of them, which counts as the infamous moral victory for Cats, even though the wins don't show up on the scoreboard. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

It's been a while since we've had a second-chance poll to give options that came in second or third in previous Against the Odds polls another chance at glory, so let's have one this week! This leaves us with an interesting mixture of options, with some Amonkhet cards battling against random, old Modern cards. Which of these cards should be featured next week? Let us know by voting!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com. 


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