Review: 'Commander 2017: Feline Ferocity' (MTG)

Artwork from Arahbo, Roar of the World. Artwork from Arahbo, Roar of the World. WOTC / Jesper Ejsing

Magic: The Gathering has gone tribal with its Commander 2017 preconstructed EDH decks with each of the four decks having their own creature type focused themes -- Cats, Dragons, Vampires, and Wizards.

The Cat deck seems to be the one that most people are kitty....that is....giddy about.  It's simple to see why on the surface.  It's cute, is easy to play, and features high-demand reprints like Mirari's Wake as well as desirable original cards like the new Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist legendary creature.  But how is it beyond the superficial?  We take a look.

The interesting thing about cats is that despite being around since the beginning of the game they really haven't gotten the type of support most tribal creature types have such as soldiers or saprolings.  With the Feline Ferocity Commander 2017 deck, Wizards of the Coast seems to be trying to remedy that by giving cats a cohesive identity.  Largely, they succeed in making cats into the "equipment matters" tribe despite have a number of the creature type having nothing to do at all with equipment cards.

The face of the deck is Arahbo, Roar of the World.  While Arahbo couldn't care less about equipment, he is a very aggressive card that can turn any kitty into a ferocious feline thanks to his Eminence ability.  Usable whether Arahbo is in play or in the command zone, buffing a cat +3/+3 for free is quite nice.  His second ability, which grants trample along with a +X/+X buff equal to the targeted cat's power is also nice if even if it does tie-up your mana sources at a cost of 1WG.

Despite being the iconic legendary of the deck, he might not be the best one to use as a commander, however.  Rather, Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith holds that honor.  In fact, he may be the best equipment-focused commander in the game.  Not only does provide value by tutoring for his own hammer and immediately attaching it (or any other equipment to your hand), he provides board control by tapping down would-be defending creatures.  Nazan falls much better into the equipment matters theme and (post factory build) has amazing synergy with blinking strategies.

As for the Hammer of Nazahn itself, without the Revered Blacksmith tutoring for it, it's not entirely amazing.  A +2/+0 buff is fine and its ability to make its wielder indestructible is very nice indeed, but it is a four casting cost artifact that costs an additional four to equip.  It might be a slightly worse Darksteel Plate (a card, by the way, we suggest adding to this deck after-market).  When paired with Nazahn, however, it's full of wow.

The award for the deck's best equipment (in our opinion) goes hands-down to Bloodforged Battle-Axe.  This thing is just plain bonkers.  It just replicates itself.  And then its replicated versions replicate themselves.  It's like the Magic: The Gathering version of a Tribble!  All you need to do is make sure the equipped creature deals combat damage to a player for it to trigger, which isn't too hard thanks to trample effects and evasion.  And can you imagine this on a double-strike creature?  Outside of the replication, the Bloodforged Battle-Axe is fairly pedestrian as it provides just a +2/+0 bonus -- the same as Hammer of Nazahn -- but it costs 75% less to cast and half as much to equip.

Other original singles of note include the aforementioned Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist (Mirri finally gets the card she deserves after her mildly underwhelming debut all the way back in Exodus) who benefits well from a "go wide" play strategy, the Voltron-centric Balan, Wandering Knight, and ultra adorable rat-killer Hungry Lynx. Traverse the Outlands is also worth a mention as a good mid-game ramp spell that (mana-wise) can really kick your deck into high gear.

Feline Ferocity also includes a number of notable reprints and many of them are worth keeping in the deck long-term.  Including Mirari's Wake (which was mentioned earlier), the land-seeking Sword of the Animist and commander-protecting Lightning Greaves equipment cards, and board wipe Rout are all included.  The deck also has the expected Sol Ring reprint.  Can anyone really have enough Sol Rings?

Finally, Feline Ferocity has an acceptable beginning land base.  Some of the reprints making there appearance here such as manland Stirring Wildwood and the evasion-granting Rogue's Passage are nice enough, cards like fetcher Grassland and tap-land Elfhame Palace are in need of upgrading.  Of course, the Commander standard Command Tower is included.  The new multi-color land Path of Ancestry is also quite nice despite it coming into play tapped.

As for how it plays, Feline Ferocity seems to do fairly well out of the gate.  Cats, for the most part, tend not to be all that expensive to cast.  The same can be said about many of the deck's equipment as most of it costs four mana or less.  Between the four Commander 2017 decks, this one seems to be the best at having an earlier board presence.  The late game, however, is where things can get dicey.  Because the deck can go one of a few ways -- equipment, tall, or wide -- it's at risk of losing steam and faltering.  It seems especially weak against fliers, so the dragon and vampire decks can expect to have a clear late-game advantage over it.

All-in-all, WotC did a fine job assembling Feline Ferocity.  It's set up best to have an equipment focus thanks to Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith and the various equipment cards that are already included in the deck, but can easily be adapted to go big with Arahbo, Roar of the World as the commander.  Players could also choose to go wide using Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist instead.

The Magic: The Gathering Commander 2017 deck Feline Ferocity is available now at retails at $34.99.

If you want to see the Commander 2017 decks in action, check out our highlights video from the recent preview battle royale match we held at a LGS in Las Vegas.

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