She won’t stop staring at me. It’s like she has teamed up with my legendary cat Vader in an attempt to make me do it. Sitting there in my binder, between the oft-played Mirran Crusaders and Hero of Bladehold, she waits purring softly. I flick past her again determined not to give in to her feline wiles.
Vader pounces onto my lap and bats at my chest, demanding attention. He purrs VERY loudly. Idly scratching him behind the right ear I continue my binder trek towards the blue cards. That BUG Walkers list I saw on the SCG coverage last week was pretty sw-OW! Dammit Vader, that hurt! I put the binder down and go to find him some food, assuming that was why he bit my elbow. No sooner does the kibble cascade down to hit the plastic than a bolt of fur and claws streaks through the kitchen entrance, purr sounding more like a V-6 than a V-ader. I return to my brewstation, grabbing an Arizona Iced Tea on the way. For value.
She’s staring back at me again. I guess I put the binder down such that the pages flipped back? Maybe…I guess? Listen Kemba, this just isn’t going to happen. You look good and all, but I can’t help but feel this will end poorly if we go down this road. There’s a reason you’ve never changed pockets in the binder, hun. I resisted playing your cousin Mirri, and I can re-OUCH GOD DAMMIT! I just fed you Vader! Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, the fact that I was operating on a scant three hours sleep. Perhaps I’ve finally gone over the edge. Or maybe, just maybe, I saw a pleading look in the eyes of my trusty if temperamental feline friend. His nose nudged at my arm, signaling that he wanted to wend his way into my lap.
Or maybe he was moving my hand to rest on that pocket, the one containing the Kha Regent?
OK then. I guess we’re playing kitteh.dec this week!
The end of a Standard season is always a fun time for me, and I will almost always play even dumber and less serious decks. There are so many cards leaving the format that I never got a chance to try out, and it seems a shame to let them pass from Standard to eternal binder with nary a thought as to what I could have been missing. Kemba is near the top of the list of cards I have literally never cast, even in Limited. My good friend and fellow deck-brewing mad genius Carlos (@cag5383) has had a successful and dangerous Kemba EDH deck for a long time, but with access to Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, Umezawa’s Jitte and all 5 Swords it’s not hard to see why. My Standard pool is much more narrow and far less powerful.
Vader’s tail was sweeping slowly back and forth across the corner of the same page in my binder. By now convinced that some sort of cat-muse thing was going on here, I was prepared to play whatever was under the oscillating appendage. Puresteel Paladin eh? Well he’s no cat, but maybe he’s a cat lover. He looks like a fellow who’s scooped his share of litter. And really, he’s a natural fit. Kemba likes her toys (minds OUT of the gutter, please and thank you) and ol’ P-Squared infuses them with catnip. Two spells with double-white in the cost does rather suggest we won’t be adding a second colour, but that might change.
The choice of cat toys is fairly straightforward. We want cheap, early drops to get us some value off the Paladin and of course we want Swords. Six Swords seems right, two of each, with a playset of Flayer Husk and Mortarpod thrown in. A couple Sylvok Lifestaffs, a single Nim Deathmantle, Swiftfoot Boots and Darksteel Plate and we have our equipment base. Maybe a Batterskull too, just so I can go big.
Some cards are too good not to play. Dispatch, Oblivion Ring and Mox Opal all have a spot in the deck, much like Vader has his water bowl, collar and kitty bed. To round the deck out, I want more cats. Sure, I could play Mirran Crusader, Invisible Stalker or Geist of Saint Traft. But then Vader would look at me with those big, mournful eyes and silently ask me “Why? Why daddy? Why are you betraying my kind?” I just don’t want that on my conscience. Kemba needs some playmates for the times when her toys have gone missing. Let’s look at our options:
Abuna Acolyte, Ajani’s Sunstriker, Black Cat, Guardian Lions, Healer of the Pride, Kemba’s Legion, Kemba’s Skyguard, Leonin Arbiter, Leonin Relic-Warder, Leonin Skyhunter, Lost Leonin, Pride Guardian, Sanctuary Cat, Silvercoat Lion, Slash Panther, Sunspear Shikari
Well, that’s a shame. The only one I can even come close to playing in this deck is Sunspear Shikari. Arbiter, Relic-Warder and even Lost Leonin can be good in the right deck, but if I want to be playing with the equipment theme then none of those really fit. After all…
Here’s where I ended up just before picking up my son:
[cardDispense Justice[/card] seemed like a good answer to Infect without having to play Melira. I think the deck had enough green sources to play her but with no way to search her out it wouldn’t be likely for me to find her in time. It also gets around Apostle’s Blessing, which is such a blowout when they have it. Gavony Township might be the most powerful card in Standard right now. It’s certainly top 5, especially in a deck that can churn out multiple little guys in a hurry. Putting counters on Germs seems especially fun.
What Else Did I Consider?
Not much else came to mind. I wanted more Mortarpods but couldn’t find any. A single Batterskull felt right as I expected to be drawing a lot of cards. For a while I thought about going blue for Ponder, Invisible Stalker and maybe a Geist but I wanted Gavony instead.
There was only ever going to be one choice. I am a big enough Janet Jackson fan as it is, but the added on-themeness and awesome guitar riffs put this one at the top of my playlist for the night. I give you…Black Cat.
My regular routine was somewhat thrown off by my son asking me to hang out with him before FNM. Family is the only thing in my life that comes before Magic, so there was no way I was turning down the chance. I waved a solemn goodbye to my deck designer as Vader sat majestically at the top of the stairs. He knew. I could tell he knew.
After sitting in Tim Horton’s with Andrew for an hour or so we headed over to Midgard where he attempted to teach me to play League of Legends. That…didn’t go so well. The game apparently has a steeper learning curve than I expected, which was fine, but being given words of gentle encouragement by one’s son is a somewhat humbling experience. Still, I am enjoying the game and one day I might just get a kill. Not holding my breath on that one.
Oh, right, FNM. See, I have kept Vader in the dark all week about my results. He’s tried to discover what happened, even sinking so low as to burrow his wet little feline nose into my bag wherein my notebook lies. Lacking opposable thumbs, he was unable to ascertain the contents. Poor kitty.
Round 1 – Chris Butt with UB Tezz Post
Violating Brad Nelson’s No Walkers with Post rule, Chris was on the receiving end of a rough beating from my furry friends in game one. Turn 1 Flayer Husk was followed by a second one on turn 2, along with a Mox Opal and a pair of Glint Hawks. Kemba was next, and the day was off to a great start. Chris found himself a Trading Post and a couple of Solemn Simulacrums, but cats apparently don’t like trading. I seasoned his face with Gavony™ brand catnip and watched Kemba’s army shred him to ribbons. Score one for the good guys.
Game two was a little more interesting, as we both had slow starts. Well, I did. Although he wasn’t actually casting any spells, Chris had a pair of Inkmoth Nexus in play and had me at 6 poison before I was able to get metalcraft and find a Dispatch. Puresteel Paladin ate a Doom Blade, which kept the other Nexus at bay long enough for me to resolve Batterskull. Said Batterskull was the proud recipient of a pair of Swords, and not much is going to survive that.
Kemba would consequently go all shy on me and not show up in any meaningful way for the rest of the night. That, or she decided to take a short trip…
Record – 1-0
Round 2 – Tyler Beckett with GB Pod
Tyler’s a good dude. His brewing mind works along many of the same lines as mine does, as proven by his exemplary choice of deck here. I played GB Pod for months and absolutely loved it, so I should know all the tricks right? Sure!
Sadly, knowing all the tricks in the world won’t help you when you are facing down a Phyrexian Obliterator, which on the next turn would be copied and then paired with a Wolfir Silverheart. Despite my Dispatch I had no answer to that. Cats fear horrors, apparently. Game 2 was only slightly less painful as I couldn’t get to metalcraft in time for the two Dispatch in my hand to fend off Sheoldred. Oh, the ignominy of being beaten by my own pet deck! Tyler says he didn’t copy my list, which made the defeat hurt less but the ego shrink more. What’s wrong with my list!???!
Record – 1-1
Round 3 – Evan Connors with UW Delver
Feeling very clever at having coined the term “twinja” for the twin mini-ninjas before the round began, I sat down to face Evan who was playing a borrowed deck. Well, he sat down. I tend to not move during FNM. Being in the middle of all the tables makes it easier for me to respond to judge calls if needed.
We all know how hard Delver is to pilot, so I was interested to see how the twinja would handle the deck. Game 1 didn’t tell me much as a second-turn Sunspear Shikari picked up a Sword of Body and Mind and went all the way. With all the Wolves around I’m not surprised that Kemba wouldn’t come out to play; they would have fought like cats and dogs.
Games 2 and 3 were a perfect example of why Delver is so hated. I’ve said for a while that I’d rather play against Delver than Naya (for example), but I guess I had never been on the receiving end of one of these Delver nut draws before. Both games Evan had two flipped Delvers early, without the help of Ponder, while having the Vapor Snags and Gut Shots he needed to keep my board empty. Nothing against the kid, he played very well and made all the right decisions, but getting beaten in that fashion is rage-inducing. Despite going into the event expecting to have a losing record, I had made up my mind to drop and draft. Losing is one thing. Losing to infuriating rewind buttons is quite another.
Record – 1-2
Round 4 – Dawson Gallagher with Grixis Zombies
The draft wasn’t quite ready to fire before round 4 started, so I played a quick match with Dawson and his Grixis Zombies deck. He didn’t get the draws he needed and I had Swords both games, with Kemba making a late appearance in game 3 to make seven cats and allow me to Mortarpod him out. Sunspear Shikari proved really strong in the match, and as he’s a cat I at least got to meow out another opponent before dropping.
Record – 2-2 (1-3 drop)
Winds of Change
The deck is fun to play as-is and can win matches, but I would definitely have dropped the two Sword of Body and Mind, maybe in favour of two more Mortarpod. Being able to drop them a turn faster is a big deal. Essentially this is a Puresteel Paladin deck that is made slightly worse and infinitely more fun with the addition of Kemba and the Shikari. Other options would include black for Vault Skirge and Vault of the Archangel or blue for Stalker, Geist and Moorland Haunt. Going blue allows you to also run Silver-Inlaid Dagger as you have extra Humans.
I’m glad I got to run a Kemba deck AND a Puresteel deck before they both rotated. You still have a couple of weeks to give them a run if you’re intrigued. Vader and his brethren will thank you for it.
Wow, only two more FNMs until rotation! What on earth shall we play? I know Door to Nothingness will be built for the week of the prerelease, which leaves ONE MORE week of Scars-legal madness. I think it will be something controlling with Chancellor of the Annex, because I’ve wanted to play that card since it came out.
Pretty sure I am asking for trouble there, but all of these decks seem like fun. One of the other decks I’m considering (Primal Surge) is still playable post-rotation but without Titans it gets way less powerful. Do your worst, readers! Suggest something!
As for Vader? Well, he’s been reading this over my shoulder. The look of contempt on his face would seem totally incongruous on a cat to anyone who has never met him. He has his imperial pose on, perched on the arm of the couch and slowly sweeping his tail back and forth across my freshly-folded clean laundry. He’s already distinctly unimpressed by the lack of Cats in Return to Ravnica, but maybe that will mean his interests in haunting my decks will subside.