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It's Time to Duel

It's Time to Duel

I’m going to be brutally honest for a second here. Once you get over the novelty of “Ooh, kitties!”, Feline Ferocity is a pretty boring deck. That’s not to say that it isn’t fun, but if you’re looking to improve on Arahbo, Roar of the World, it’s about as linear as they get. Unlike Dragons, Wizards, or Vampires, Cats haven’t had nearly the amount of creatures printed to make a truly powerful or synergistic tribal deck. Every Arahbo deck looks the same, as if you just printed a Gatherer search of “Cat” and said “Yep, that’s my deck”. At a paltry 124 printed Cats, the majority of the playable ones already in the pre-con, Arahbo feels much closer to a support player in a deck rather than the Commander.

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith also falls into this trap, but for a different reason. Where Arahbo cares about tribal support, Nazahn cares about equipment. Unfortunately, the Commander Equipment deck has some serious competition for who’s at the helm. Between Nahiri, the Lithomancer, Kemba, Kha Regent, Sram, Senior Edificer, Balan, Wandering Knight, and even Akiri, Line-Slinger, there’s enough cards angling for the Commander slot that Nazahn just gets lost in the fray. While he and his Hammer can do some cute things, I think that he is also best relegated to the support slot.

So where does that leave Feline Ferocity? Fortunately, the deck has one saving grace in a new incarnation of a Weatherlight saga favourite, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist. Mirri does something incredibly powerful, and it’s something that we haven’t seen in a long time: she dictates combat. Not since Dueling Grounds and Silent Arbiter have we seen a card like this, but Mirri is far more impressive. Whenever Mirri attacks each opponent can’t block with more than one creature, and as long as she’s tapped your opponents can’t attack you with more than one creature. Unlike her predecessors which typically forced combat into a 1-on-1 scenario, Mirri allows you to attack with as many creatures as you want. This opens up several possibilities to abuse such a combat gridlock.

First and foremost, since Mirri has to be tapped in order to lock down our opponents, we need ways to tap her. This can be done either through combat or other effects, but more often than not you’re going to be swinging for the fences with her, as you would with most Green/White Commanders. Fortunately, by including Nazahn and several of the equipment-centric cards in the pre-con deck we can make her big enough to survive combat. Equipment such as Hammer of Nazahn, Darksteel Plate, and Godsend make Mirri either indestructible or just a nightmare to block, as do cards like Basilisk Collar and Whispersilk Cloak. Grappling Hook and Hunt Down are particularly potent since you can force an opponent’s creature to block her. This way you can pick the weakest creature they have and pick it off while still having Mirri stay tapped on their turn.

There are also several other ways of tapping Mirri without letting her get in harm’s way. For example, you can use her to crew the majority of vehicles since she has three power, or even use her to cast spells like Chord of Calling or Devout Invocation to build up your board presence. The most powerful card, however, is Glare of Subdual. When used on an opponent’s turn you get to tap down the biggest threat they have pre-combat, forcing them to use a suboptimal creature if they want to actually attack you. Glare of Subdual is especially powerful since you can use smaller creatures, such as tokens from Regal Caracal or Pride Sovereign, to tap down the largest threats on each opponent’s turn, rendering the majority of the table inert while continue to build up your board presence. Another avenue of tapping Mirri are the lands Holdout Settlement and Survivor’s Encampment. Since these lands require tapping a creature to produce coloured mana, we can tap Mirri to cast a spell and leave her tapped to shut off any attackers.

By forcing opponents to only attack with a singular creature, we open up several spells that are powerful in 1v1, but would otherwise see limited play in multiplayer. White excels at picking off attacking creatures, so spells like Devouring Light, Chastise, Condemn, and Blessed Alliance are all extremely potent when there’s only one attacking creature. As well, Entrapment Maneuver gives us 1/1 tokens equal to the attacking creature’s toughness, which in turn gives us plenty of ammunition for Glare of Subdual and even swinging in on our own turn. Avenger en-Dal does a terrific job of supporting this suite by acting as a repeatable Swords to Plowshares, turning excess lands into much needed removal. Finally, Lieutenant Kirtar is a frustrating Commander in his own right, but with enough ways of bringing him back he can also act as repeatable creature kill.

Sometimes we have to make friends, and rather than frustrate our opponents, we have to leave up threats or “rattlesnake” cards to coerce them into not wasting their time attacking us. This is where Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Mystifying Maze, and Ice Floe really shine, as they allow us to completely negate the attack of one creature with each activation. This gives you the ability to tell your opponents “Go ahead and attack me, it won’t do anything” which, barring an Eldrazi Titan like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, will usually shift the target away from you. All of these effects go a long way to effectively Time Walking creature-based decks by making them waste their combat steps, and instead incentivize them to attack each other over you. This gives Mirri more political play and flexibility than nearly every other GW Commander.

However, sometimes there are moments where you have to force a creature to attack. Maybe there’s a creature you really don’t want sticking around and you want it to get eaten by your defenders. Maybe you’ve made a deal with another player to keep an aggressive player off their tail in exchange for protection later on. Maybe you just want to cause a little chaos while you’re safely out of the fray. Bullwhip and Oracle en-Vec can force creatures to attack, with the Oracle having the additional potential to board wipe an opponent that has spread themselves too thin. By activating the Oracle, you can force an opponent to choose how many of their creatures attack this turn. Since attacking you forces them to choose only one creature, Oracle en-Vec destroys each of their chosen creatures that didn’t attack. If they don’t want to lose their creatures, they have to not choose them to attack. These creatures that aren’t chosen to attack are unaffected by Oracle en-Vec, but are stuck sitting around doing nothing. This gives you a lot of options for making allies and enemies.

Finally, we have three cards that are essential for this kind of deck since they play into so many of Mirri’s strengths. Sigarda’s Aid, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and Masako the Humorless all bolster Mirri’s natural abilities and add even more versatility to your deck. Sigarda’s Aid is fairly innocuous but it gets out of hand rather quickly the more equipment we draw. Being able to flash in equipment and automatically equip them to a creature gives you a surprise factor the GW decks typically don’t get. It makes a huge difference when you’re flashing in a Sword of Feast and Famine after Mirri is blocked, or Hammer of Nazahn in response to a Wrath of God. Thalia, Heretic Cathar plays into the theme of keeping your opponents locked down by making sure their creatures and nonbasic lands enter the battlefield tapped. Against a multicolour deck full of fetchlands or hasty token decks like Krenko, Mob Boss and The Locust God this can be a devastating loss of tempo, and may even buy you some friends along with the extra time you get to fight off their swarms. Masako the Humorless is a truly unique card that allows your tapped creatures to block. While most of the time vigilance is just better, here Masako allows Mirri to stay tapped and still play defense. This is especially powerful since we can swing out with our team and still catch whatever gets sent our way on the swingback.

While the other Commanders in Feline Ferocity are fairly straightforward and lackluster, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist has a surprising amount of depth. There are a lot of ways to maximize her abilities, and for a plain GW Commander to have any kind of political applications is relatively unheard of. Mirri is a flexible Commander capable of playing the rattlesnake role, chock full of deterrents to keep you safe and sound, all the while setting up for a big swings with your suite of equipment. So if you pick up the Feline Ferocity pre-con, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is the purrfect direction to take the deck.