This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Notions of Horde

Billy headshot

 

It’s time for one of my favorite creature types to be featured here: Cats! My wife has wanted me to build a cat horde for a while and so I made it for her birthday.

Have a list

 

So, Cat Horde is hard. They’re a tribe with little synergy, and what synergy they have is tied to equipment, a card type that is utterly unusable in Horde (barring very specific cards that this horde couldn’t use reliably anyway). So, with that preface, let me tell you that this horde has some of my poorest balance decisions due to some overcompensating and poor planning. It is brutal, it is full of Overrun effects and Anthems that make this horde far more difficult than expected and not in a very interesting way. This horde if very much a work in progress and will receive a lot of tuning, but since the actual changes haven’t occurred yet, I will present the horde as it exists as of this writing. Expect updates as progress occurs, and know that I will be discussing known trouble cards without necessarily offering the replacements right now.

 

Lifegain Synergy

Ajani’s Pridemate, Ajani’s Sunstriker, Arctic Nishoba, Kemba’s Skyguard, Phantom Nishoba, Pride Guardian, Trained Caracal

 

In my quest to find synergies I could use I decided to allow this horde to gain life. This required writing some new rules, and they are as follows: If the horde would gain life, shuffle that many cards from the horde’s graveyard, chosen at random, into the horde’s deck. There are enough cats that care about lifegain that I decided it was worth it for this tribe to write rules for it. There’s really only one payoff card for the lifegain synergy and that’s Ajani’s Pridemate. The best friend of Soul Sisters, this cat gets bigger whenever the horde gains life. Not the most exciting thing, but I needed cats that could do stuff, so I made sure that I could use his ability. Arctic Nishoba is a flat out monster in Horde where Cumulative Upkeep is free, and it only dies to the players killing it, and when it does it restocks the horde. Phantom Nishoba is just a really cool cat. Pride Guardian gets the house rule that is will block the largest power creature it can. That keeps decisions out of the way and makes it as an speed bump for decks with one big creature.

 

Enchantment Synergy

Ajani’s Chosen, Nylea’s Emissary, Circle of Flame, Indestructibility

 

This is another small section with only one payoff card, but know that the anthem effects discussed in later sections make this section a bit larger. Ajani’s Chosen makes cats, and Indestructibility will always attach to the highest power creature the horde controls. That’s pretty everything of rules relevance here. Circle of Flame discourages X/1s from attacking and Nylea’s Emissary is super pretty.

 

Mass Pump Spells

Beastmaster Ascension, Glorious Anthem, Gruul Warchant, Jazal Goldmane, Inspired Courage, Leonine Armorguard, Muraganda Petroglyphs, Roar of the Kha, Stir the Pride

 

So, here’s the biggest problem with this deck, 25% of the non-token spells are mass pump spells, and over half of them provide +2/+2 or better. And one of them is Beastmaster Ascension. Beastmaster Ascension is here because the art contains SO MANY TIGERS! There are five tigers in that art, and possibly another one that is mostly out of frame. A 1-in-4 chance of mass pump is leads to a few too many games that are over before they have begun, especially where Beastmaster Ascension and Gruul War Chant are concerned. War Chant is definitely on the chopping block, probably Ascension too, simply because I may need to cut too many pump spells to compensate for its presence, and Stir The Pride is non-negotiable. Jazal Goldmane’s ability I originally ruled as an attack trigger, but that became way too strong to have every turn, and now it’s a one-shot effect the turn he hits play. Glorious Anthem is doing nothing here but over-compensating for a problem this horde didn’t actually have. It can likely be cut. Inspired Charge can probably go as well.

 

Cool Cats

Blistering Firecat, Crazed Firecat, Jareth, Leonine Titan, Jedit Ojanen, Jedit Ojanen of Efrava, Krosan Vorine, Leonin Arbiter, Lost Leonin, Marisi’s Twinclaws, Mirri the Cursed, Nacatl War-Pride, Oreskos Swiftclaw, Pride of Lions, Purraj of Urborg, Scoria Cat

 

Crazed Firecat is a glorious Coin Flip Card, variable power is grrrrrrrreat in Horde where the horde doesn’t have to spend exorbitant mana costs to gamble and it also adds a bit of suspense and replay value to the horde. Jareth, Leonine Titan is a favorite of mine from before I knew that he probably wasn’t good. But here, the horde doesn’t have to pay his crazy mana costs, although neither of his abilities function. Jedit Ojanen and Jedit Ojanen of Efrava are alternate reality twins of each other, and I have his comic book! I found it in an antique store in California, I believe. Not sure off the top of my head, but it was a sweet find.

 

Krosan Vorine has been a pet card that I couldn’t accept was bad when I was a new player. I mean, it can choose how your opponent blocks! That’s amazing! Alas, not really with these stats. For the Horde, I haven’t decided if I want Provoke to function. My gut says “No.” Provoke requires the player to make too many choices on the horde’s behalf. Leonin Arbiter is an All-Star in Death and Taxes lists in Modern and Legacy. Here it’s a minor annoyance that ought to slow down all those folks with their Demonic Tutors and Rampant Growths. Lost Leonin’s Infect means that it will deal damage as -1/-1 counters and poison counters. In practice it means it can be ignored until the poison is lethal and then it can leave behind a couple -1/-1 counters on whoever blocks it.Marisi’s Twinclaws bring Double Strike which scales well with any power boosting effect. It can go from pseudo 4/4 to full on Boss Monster pretty darn easily.

 

Mirri The Cursed gets the nod over Mirri, Cat Warrior because Forestwalk is a little too swingy for Horde. I’d rather have Flying for evasion than the fickle brutality of Landwalk. Nacatl War-Pride acts as a sort of Plague Wind effect. In Green, and made from Cats. Lots of 3/3 attackers that must be blocked are brutal when the horde has other creatures on board. Oreskos Swiftclaw is here to be a smaller creature to come up as a breather as well as containing flavor text from the Theriad. I love that they wrote out out this story in the flavor text of cards. For reference,  here’s the entirety of the text.

 

Purraj of Urborg requires a little bit of a special rule, though that is simply that it always has the mana to pay for its trigger. This lady has the potential to get huge against black decks especially if there’s more than one at the table. Last, but not least, we have the Scoria Cat. This cat is huge in a deck that has no lands. That makes it easy to control no tapped lands. It’s nice to have a 6/6 that no other deck would ever play.

 

In closing, I am a big fan of cats, and will work toward making this into a more optimal horde with more time and testing. For anyone interested in thematic sleeves, these are not the sleeves my wife’s Cat Horde is wearing, but they are the sleeves on my Cat Tribal deck.

 

Cry havoc, and let slip the cats of war!

 

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