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Few tribes can boast the acclaim of both cuteability and relatability as Cats. Still, Cats have lacked efficient tribal payoffs like Goblins or Elves, and despite the printing of Regal Caracal lacked enough redundancy for a viable tribal deck. Until Modern Horizons, with its pawmanent mark upon Modern. Adaptive Automaton has long served as the primary tribal payoff for most underrepresented tribes, but Modern Horizons brings with it perhaps the most powerful tribal payoff of any tribe in the Modern era. Aside from the ensuing cat puns, the hisstory of Modern shows that linear decks will always have a place in Magic’s competitive landscape, and a pack of cats make have just enough to leave its mark on Magic’s most popular competitive format. I’ll be going over a version of Cat Tribal, as well as sideboard options and some noticeable exclusions and inclusions. The format will look similar to last week’s Slivers Deck Tech, with more emphasis on the aggressive cards than the combo potential.

The Payoffs

King of the Pride | The primary reason to indulge ourselves in the relatively underpowered Cats in Modern, King of the Pride is one of the more powerful tribal payoffs in Modern. Capitalizing on the aggressive potential requires a wide board, and the vulnerable status of the aptly name King of the Pride encourages us to use his effect to push for lethal.
Adaptive Automaton | We can’t play eight King of the Pride, and while Adaptive Automaton is not an adequate replacement, the redundancy is enough to justify a full playset. While Automaton defaults to Cat in this deck, postboard games can see the naming of other creature types.
Force of Virtue | Noticeably different than the tribal-specific payoffs, Force of Virtue is an additional lord effect stapled onto a potentially free spell. Two copies are the starting count here, as the enchantment is only worth it when using the alternate cast mode. Still, the ability to quickly bury the opponent in swaths of damage lends credibility to at least a few Force of Virtue, and the instant speed nature of many of the decks supporting spells can punish aggressive decks.

The Cats

Wild Nacatl | Starting off the roster of Cats is this formerly banned one drop. No stranger to low to the ground creature decks, Wild Nacatl does a reasonable resemblance of a 3/3, while defaulting to 2/2 due to the budget nature of the deck. With upgrades, Wild Nacatl can consistently hit the board as a 3/3, rivaling most early game threats.
Loam Lion | While not quite the same power as Wild Nacatl, Loam Lion serves as an additional two power Cat on Turn 1. With a mana base designed to find both Forests and Plains, Loam Lion is almost exclusively a 2/3 for one mana.
Leonin Vanguard | While nowhere near the spectacular rate of Wild Nacatl and Loam Lion, Leonin Vanguard serves as an additional two power Cat. While providing incremental life gain is relevant, the primary reason to play Leonin Vanguard over Steppe Lynx or Savannah Lions is due to the easy to meet condition its combat trigger.
ala-184-qasali-ambusherAdorned Pouncer | With the need for powerful payoffs, Adorned Pouncer serves as a satisfactory threat to capitalize on a variety of lords. The double strike portion can quickly race combo opponents and can combine with Giver of Runes to break through midrange board stalls.
Qasali Ambusher | An additional free spell during the opponents turn, Qasali Ambusher serves as an effective threat when racing while stretching the removal count. Four copies are in the initial list, but the final count is flexible.

Supporting Spells

Path to Exile | The default removal spell for White decks, Path to Exile handles most threats effectively, even troublesome ones like Wurmcoil Engine or Arclight Phoenix. Four copies is a must.
Safewright Quest | Serving as a “dual land” that can pitch to Force of Virtue, Safewright Quest also serves as an enabler for Loam Lion and Wild Nacatl. Four copies are critical, as smooth draws and mana are a must for creature decks in Modern.
Flower // Flourish | While not quite the enabler that Safewright Quest is with regards to Wild Nacatl, Flower // Flourish trades the ability to grab nonbasics for a late-game mana sink. While getting to six mana is rare in decks like these, it can come up. One copy makes the list.
Giver of Runes | A new addition to white aggressive decks from Modern Horizons, Giver of Runes creates combo kill potential with Adorned Pouncer and can double as a protective spell for King of the Pride. Three copies are the starting value, but Giver is ultimately a flex slot.

The Sideboard

Shapers’ Sanctuary | As with most tribal decks, a lack of card advantage and vulnerability to removal heavy decks is shared by Cats. Shapers’ Sanctuary is a difficult to remove means of mitigating removal spells. While ultimately a flex slot, a couple of copies are critical in Lightning Bolt heavy metagames.
Collector Ouphe | The newest piece of artifact hate gracing the Modern format, Collector Ouphe earns a spot over Stony Silence due to the importance of creatures in tribal decks. While not a cat, Giver of Runes and Force of Virtue can make the body of Collector Ouphe more relevant.
Damping Sphere | One of the few noncreature pieces of hate, Damping Sphere restricts the ability of Tron and Arclight to progress their game plan while having utility against Amulet Titan.
Gaddock Teeg | An additional disruptive creature, Gaddock Teeg serves as hard disruption against a variety of archetypes, from Azorius Control to Mono-Green Tron. At least two copies are crucial, despite the antisynergistic interaction with Force of Virtue.

Leonin Arbiter | A unique piece of disruption ill-suited for a search-heavy mana base, Leonin Arbiter is a powerful piece of disruption against big mana decks like Valakut or Tron. While vulnerable, the Cat subtype adds additional survivability to the card.
Rest in Peace | The primary graveyard hate for White decks, Rest in Peace allows Cats to invalidate much of Dredge’s game plan while slowing down Tarmogoyf decks.
Scavenging Ooze | The third piece of graveyard hate, Scavenging Ooze serves as a proactive answer to many graveyard strategies, packaged into a large threat against grindier decks.
Selfless Spirit | A resounding theme among Cats’ sideboard options, Selfless Spirit is a fourth protective creature against removal heavy decks but can protect against Anger of the Gods and Supreme Verdict alike.

Additional Options

Qasali Pridemage | Noticeably lacking from the main deck is the ability to answer Chalice of the Void or Ensnaring Bridge, leaving the deck vulnerable to both of these cards. Pridemage serves as a mana intensive answer stapled onto the only creature type that matters — Cat.
Dismember | In metagames involving Humans and Arclight, Dismember gains additional stock as an easy answer to both Thing in the Ice and Mantis Rider.
Knight of Autumn | Similarly to Qasali Pridemage, Knight of Autumn answers problematic permanents like Ensnaring Bridge or Sphere of Safety but trades the Cat subtype for flexibility against Burn.
Brave the Elements | A unique payoff for White decks, Brave the Elements serves a similar role as Giver of Runes, but can only protect for a single turn. The upside to Brave is the ability to give multiple permanents protection, potentially saving an entire board from Anger of the Gods.

Thanks for checking out our Cat Aggro Deck Tech, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments below (now Facebook enabled). You can follow me for more whacky ideas, as well as MCQ prep — both competitive and casual — on Twitter at