When I turned twelve, my sister bought me a kitten for my birthday. I named the kitten Princess, and she stayed with me through college and getting my own apartment and moving out of my parents’ house. I’d had her for nearly half my life by the time I joined the Navy. Since I couldn’t take care of her while I was at boot camp, my old college roommate took her in, wanting a companion for her cat.
Fast forward five years. Princess got old and developed bladder problems, and my friend could no longer take care of her. I took her back in, happy to have my furbaby back where she belonged.
A few weeks after I got her back, she died.
My friend and I buried her in a relative’s yard, with the assistance of another friend. In her honor, I decided to write about my cat deck, Kemba.
Kemba was one of my early decks. When I started playing, Scars of Mirrodin was still in circulation, and I pulled her from a pack. She immediately appealed to me, because kittens.
Most Kemba decks go hard with the Voltron—load Kemba up with equipments, make her huge and evasive, and swing out for commander damage. Mine can do that with a few cards, but that’s not the main point. Really I just want to get a bunch of cat tokens, and if I happen to win, all the better.
With that in mind, most of my equipments are low-costed, so they’re easy to play and equip. Most of my creatures are cats, because I like to hit the tribal theme. I actually got a compliment from a friend for how on-theme my deck was, even going so far as to have Grumpy Cat sleeves. (I plan to replace the sleeves soon, either with the StarCity Games kitten sleeves, or with custom sleeves with pictures of Princess from when she was little.) He did give me a hard time for not roaring when Kemba entered the battlefield, and not meowing each time I got a kitten.
So. The deck.
Armory of Iroas
Dragon Throne of Tarkir
Helm of Kaldra
Mask of Avacyn
Mask of Memory
Masterwork of Ingenuity
Ring of Thune
Shield of Kaldra
Shield of the Avatar
Sword of Kaldra
Sword of Vengeance
As mentioned, most of these have low casting cost and, more importantly, low equip cost. People tend to be wary of Kemba, so I expect her to be killed. The lower the equip costs of my equipments, the more of them I can re-equip quickly after re-casting her.
I also went more for utility than power. Sure, Strata Scythe makes her big, as does Sword of Kaldra; but really, who wouldn’t run Kaldra-tron in an equipment deck? I’ve yet to get all three pieces out together, but one of these days it’s going to happen. And of course Argentum Armor is just good removal.
But other than those, I picked utility cards. Flying is pretty good when I can then get in there for commander damage, and of course I’m not going to sneer at an extra kitten each turn. Dragon Throne of Tarkir might seem like a nonbo with most Voltron decks, but if I can get Kemba big at all, it makes her kittens huge. Mask of Avacyn actually has a higher equip cost than I’d prefer to pay, but it can protect Kemba from getting removed in the first place, so it’s worth including in the deck.
Most people wouldn’t have thought to include Skyblinder Staff—but it meets the criteria of being low cost and low equip, and of course if I also have Cobbled Wings or Fleetfeather Sandals it means she can only be blocked by creatures with reach.
Perhaps my favorite is Ring of Thune. Vigilance means I can swing with her and still have her available to block. The upkeeptrigger means Kemba keeps getting bigger. And of course, I can cast it before Kemba ever hits the field, and the one-mana equip cost means it’s extremely easy to re-equip if Kemba gets removed.
Hall of Triumph
Leonin Sun Standard
Obelisk of Urd
Most of these are anthem effects. The only thing better than 2/2 kittens is bigger kittens. White does anthems really well, usually with enchantments; but in a deck that already runs a lot of artifacts, and therefore a lot of things that benefit from artifacts, it made sense to use artifact emblems instead.
Prototype Portal is in there to get me more equipments. Normally I’d copy something like Spidersilk Net—that’s a two mana investment every turn to create and equip. There was one game, however, where I used it to exile Argentum Armor. I only got one copy before the Prototype Portal got removed, which was arguably the correct play on my opponent’s part.
Crovax, Ascendant Hero
Healer of the Pride
Mentor of the Meek
Raksha Golden Cub
Nahiri, the Lithomancer
Several of these interact with artifacts. My favorite combo here is Puresteel Paladin and Leonin Shikari. With those two, I can equip for 0 at instant speed. Instant speed equip means I can equip on my upkeep before Kemba’s ability resolves, giving me more kittens from her trigger. With both cards in play, I can move my equipments around in response to, say, someone trying to target one of my creatures, equipping it with Swiftfoot Boots in response even if I have no mana open.
Others are more anthem effects. Though I don’t really need a full suite of creatures with Kemba as my commander, it helps to have a few extras in case Kemba gets killed too many times for me to re-cast her. Might as well use those creatures to buff my kittens.
As I’ve said, I like my tribal. Jazal of course is just good, and I knew as soon as he was printed that I needed him for the deck. Since my plan is to get as many kittens as possible, if I can make all of them buff each other on the attack, so much the better. And the battlemage can give one creature a small buff—worth running in the deck due to its creature type, but otherwise not very useful.
Swords to Plowshares
Hour of Reckoning
No Commander deck is complete without at least a couple pieces of removal. Hour of Reckoning kills everything except my kittens, and I can then re-cast Kemba and re-equip. Swords and Disenchant give me at least the chance of dealing with threats. And Rogue’s Passage can make Kemba unblockable, letting me get through my opponent’s defenses.
In actual play, Kemba is far too slow to make it a good deck. Typically someone is going to boardwipe before I get enough kittens to be a threat. Even if there isn’t a boardwipe, someone is going to find a way to kill Kemba. The deck is very weak to removal of any sort.
If there isn’t a boardwipe, though, and Kemba doesn’t get killed, hoo boy. With thirty equipments in the deck, I’m going to be drawing more on a regular basis, and get an increasing number of kittens each turn.
And of course, as I stated, the point of the deck isn’t to win; the point is to get a lot of adorable kittens, which the deck does extremely well.
Rest in peace, Princess. You will be missed.