ou know, if I was going to hold a reader challenge, you'd think it would be for a card I could actually spell. But no; no matter how many times I've typed the words "Nacatl War-Pride," I can't do it correctly to save my life. It's "Naclatl," or "Nacalt," or something else entirely. Only my faithful editor Kelly Digges saves me from looking far more foolish than I actually am.
But thankfully, even though I can't spell the card, I can read your submissions. So let's take a look at the hundred or so Nacatl War-Pride
submissions that were resubmitted after the Great Laptop Crash of 2007 to find the winner.
Before I start, though, let's talk about a couple of Nacatl War-Pride misconceptions:
The tokens do not have haste. They are put into play "tapped and attacking," but granting yourself another attack phase will not mean that your tokens are ready to go, since a permanent only loses summoning sickness (as us old-school folks like to call it) once it's started play on your side at the beginning of your turn. Assuming you don't get tricky with something like Emblem of the Warmind or Anger in the graveyard, the tokens are not ready for another go-round, even if you untap them.
The tokens are removed from game at the end of the turn, and thus do not trigger any goes-to-the-graveyard abilities. It's a shame, I know... But if you want them to trigger such abilities, you'll need to sacrifice 'em yourself.
The rules issues knocked out more than a few entries. But there was one problem that destroyed a lot more entries, some of them very cool submissions, and that was these words:
"Before you enter your attack phase, I Terror your Nacatl."
Unfortunately, I'd say a good 60% of the submissions I received (both before and after the Great Laptop Crash of 2007) assumed that you'd get to attack with your Nacatl, at which point all sorts of magical things would happen. And the decks, by and large, kind of fell apart if the Nacatl never got to that Great Attack Phase In The Sky.
I should add that many of you did recognize the danger. Unfortunately, most of you went with two standardized ways of protecting your Nacatl, neither of which was consistent enough for me to feel comfortable with:
"I have Shielding Plax/Avoid Fate/Stonewood Invocation!"
That might fly, if you're lucky, in a duel, but this was a multiplayer challenge—and you have to assume that opponents might gang up on you. Sure, you Avoid Fate once as James Lightning Bolts your Nacatl – which doesn't help when Mara Ichor Slicks it in response. Or you pass the turn and then Fred slams a Damnation during his main phase, shuttling your Nacatl to the graveyard before you can attack.
Plus, again, there's the whole "open mana" issue. If you can afford to wait to have nine mana open in a multiplayer game before you cast your game-winning creature, you're playing with much nicer people than I am.
(Likewise, granting haste with an enchantment like Emblem of the Warmind also gives you the same problems—hmm, you have the mana to play a six-mana creature and a two-mana enchantment in the same turn, and protect your dude? I'm not so sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou....)
"I have Privileged Position!"
That's nice. But unless you also have haste, you're still wide open to Fred's Damnation (or Uthric's Molten Disaster), which can get ugly. Privileged Position is a good card, but it's also expensive and a large signal to experienced players that Something You'll Really Want to Target is About to Come On-Line. As such, it might well not be the panacea you're looking for.
Actually, the interaction between Camouflage and Nacatl War-Pride isn't much weirder than just Camouflage on its own.
Ah, but if you did wrangle your War-Pride into the attack position successfully! Such wondrous things would happen! Just look at all the cool ideas that people have here!
- Patrick T. says that Death Match with Nacatl will cause a lot of havoc, giving your opponents' guys -3/-3 until the end of turn for every token. I tend to agree, even if one Ashcoat Bear from your enemy before you attack can kind of ruin your day. (But hey! Privileged Position, amiright?)
- Wild Emilien liked playing an Ixidron after Nacatl attacks to turn his soon-to-be-sacrificed 3/3s into morphly 2/2s.
- Mark C. thinks that playing Parallel Evolution on a War-Pride token to get more copies of that token that don't die at the end of turn is funny.
- Kory gets mad points for using Dogpile as a finisher. Who uses Dogpile?
- Both Joshua S. and Brian G. independently had the same really crazy idea; attack with Nacatl, use Moment's Peace to ensure that you still have the most dudes on the board, then play Standardize, then play Peer Pressure. Voila! All creatures are the same type, you have more creatures than anyone else on the board, and you now own all of them—all for the cost of a successful attack phase, three spells in hand, and six mana! (All right, perhaps that's a bit much to ask.)
- Waldo enjoys taking a page from Time Spiral Limited and using Herd Gnarr (and, stepping outside the Sealed environs, Ancient Ooze) to create a very large and not-easily-blockable guy.
- Apathy would like to give judges everywhere a heart attack by combining Nacatl War-Pride with Camouflage, then asking how people block.
- Chaz G. wanted a Pollenbright Wings on a Nacatl, which would be pretty darned amusing.
- Dr. Cat wanted a Savage Beating-imprinted Spellbinder on his Nacatl. Whoof! Fun! But remember, the tokens will not be able to attack again without haste!
- Stephen M. says that Confusion in the Ranks combined with a Nacatl War-Pride will give you all of your opponents' creatures. Funny, until your opponent play his own creature to steal your War-Pride... But as usual, Privileged Position to the rescue!
- At least three separate folks suggested Predatory Focus. Yowtch.
- Infinite people liked Strength in Numbers.
There's even a little sub-genre of "the Nacatl gets through!" ideas called "Hi, I'm good with Aggravated Assault to create a large number of attack phases":
- Peter T. fiendishly combines Nacatl War-Pride with Thermopod and Aggravated Assault; just sacrifice the tokens for red mana to get yourself another attack phase! And another! And another! (He also uses Gustcloak Savior to yank the original out of combat, because—as I just mentioned—your token Nacatls won't be able to attack if you don't grant them haste.)
- In a similar vein, Jasper G. uses Mana Echoes and Skyshroud Elf to filter the mana and create infinite attack phases.
- ...and Paul Richard M. finds that Nature's Will and Aggravated Assault is the peanut butter in his chocolate.
But that said, once we start looking at the details of the submissions (and keep in mind, I read all of the pre–Laptop Crash submissions, I just didn't have them on hand when it came time to choose the contest winner), most of them broke down into a couple of clear categories:
"Bedlam!" exclaimed my cat Rina.
"Be nice. After all, he's just a ferret..."
"No not him, that Nacatl," she said.
"Why is he a bedlam?" I asked.
"Did you see that hair? Besides, he can't even avoid a Slaughter Pact."
"Of course! Us normal cats move so fast we're nigh-unseeable and unblockable. He's just a poser. He's, not even faster than lightning! I could take him on any day."
"Thats what you said about that firecat and you came back with a singed tail. Remember?"
"Hey, that doesn't count, he tricked me. Besides, he was also a lot better looking."
"Don't whatever me. You aren't even supposed to be able to talk to me. Shouldn't you be in a mental hospital? I don't think its normal for you humans to be able to communicate with us felines."
"I'm touched, I didn't know you cared."
"I always care about my slaves, now go fetch me some fish and change my litter while I show this ferret what a real cat can do."
–Avi R., in a truly awesome introduction
Nacatl is a Cat that needs some help. In Mirrodin Block, cats were shown to be very good with equipment—not something that strikes me as being particularly logical, since I've owned cats and they never assembled death machines in their spare time, but whatever. And Lightning Greaves is the perfect Nacatl War-Pride enabler: haste and untargetability? What's not to love?
Well, the slowness is an issue. Equipping happens at sorcery speed, meaning that an instant can take your Nacatl straight from the Greaves to the graves. (Ah, the happy words "In response...") But what if you have Leonin Shikari? Now you can equip anything at instant speed, making your Nactatl immune to targeted disruption that doesn't have the words "split second" on it. (Another spell hits the stack? Just re-equip it! It's free!)
I like the Cat approach. Not only is Tribal usually a decent theme in multiplayer, but it also has some resiliency if you never draw the War-Pride or it falls apart. Witness.
Josh C.'s Heroes and Felines
You want to get Nacatl War-Pride into play and protect it from removal so it can do it's thing, right? The first thing that sprang to mind was Steely Resolve, which led me to a tribal deck featuring Cats (seemed better than Warriors). However, I discovered that Raksha Golden Cub, Taj-Nar Swordsmith, and Leonin Shikari were very good cats that made equipment desirable, and pitched the Steely Resolve. This left me with Lightning Greaves (great when you drop Nacatl War-Pride with Leonin Shikari in play) for primary protection, as well as a tool box of equipment at various converted mana costs that you can use via Taj-Nar Swordsmith. Also to protect your War-Pride from removal (targeted or global), Fleetfoot Panther and Whitemane Lion (they also allow re-use of the Swordsmith). Primal Rage helps round out the enhancements to the War-Pride, while Sword of Light and Shadow helps get it back when it's gone.
The curve is a little high, so if your game needs to start faster you may need to add some early acceleration.
It's been a while since my initial submission, and I've tested the deck since then. I may have made a few changes to the original list, but I can say it's done surprisingly well and I'm very happy with the result. At this point I'm tempted to drop Jedit for another Raksha, because Raksha is just that good here. I realize the deck doesn't deal with Counterspells, but I've found in practice that with Lightning Greaves out, the deck has a lot of hasty threats and can afford to lose one or two that way.
–Aaron D. (winner of the last contest)
This little gem of a, um, CAT DECK should be just what you're looking for:
I started by thinking that if I gave the War-Pride haste, I might
outrun Wrath and Damnation and other evil sorcery-speed mass removal.
I also decided that making him untargetable would be essential for the
Swords to Plowshares and Terminate players at my table...
Since they're all cats and equipment is already part of the deal, tossing in Raksha was easy, and adding Jedit, Jareth, and both Mirris was a no-brainer from the Vorthosian standpoint. The only question left is what to do with all those tokens?
Enter Altar of Dementia. With this card you can mount an alpha strike against the guy with the most creatures, stack damage, and then sack all the tokens for three cards each off some other sap's deck. That's not a "backup plan," if that's what you're thinking, it's pure GENIUS! And with Leonin Abunas (ANOTHER CAT!) to protect Altar and Greaves, and Demonic and Enlightened Tutor to get what you're missing, how can you lose??
Yavimaya Hollow regenerates Nacatl, especially after a Deed or a sticky combat, and Swords of Fire and Ice / Light and Shadow both protect Nacatl further, can be tutored for in the right matchup, and provide some card advantage.
How could this go wrong?? Besides decimating one player by attacking
with a hasty untargetable (and potentially double striked... er, double struck) Nacatl and milling another to death with Altar all ON THE SAME TURN, this is a CAT DECK! made of cute, lovable, furry little KITTIES! you know, purr purr, meow meow, and all that.
Like many others, these decks depended heavily on "Getting to the attack phase," but when they did, they found a way to ensure that nothing would stand in the way of the War-Pride onslaught.
A sample is here:
Josh M.'s Pride of the Unblockable
Strangely, many people found the biggest problem with Nacatl War-Pride to be, "What happens if your opponents don't have creatures?" Me? I'm old-fashioned; if I'm in a multiplayer game and nobody has creatures, I'll cheerfully beat down with my overpriced 3/3. I'm not worried.
Plus, it's multiplayer. If I'm really worried about Creatureless Phil over there, I'll attack someone else who has
a lot of creatures and then put all my Nacatl tokens into play attacking Phil—provided, that is, I'm playing under multiplayer rules that allow dividing your attackers between multiple players. If your house rules allow only one defending player per attack, the War-Pride tokens all go that way, but if you can split attacks as desired, the Pride doesn't say who the tokens have to be attacking—heck, it could be anyone who's a valid target, so choose 'em right.
(Also, War-Pride tokens get neatly around any Ghostly Prison-style effects, since they're already attacking, you don't pay the cost. You have to pay for the Pride itself, but the tokens are free, free, free.)
The creature-free field, however, caused many to panic, and so they threw in the Hunted creatures from Ravnica to give their opponents guys for the Nacatl to work with.
But this part always worries me. I do not, as a rule, like handing weapons to my opponents. They frequently find ugly ways to surprise me with them. Sure, those 2/2 Knight tokens are measly now, but one Tromp the Domains later and I'm dead. Hence, unless my whole deck involves immediately punishing my opponents for keeping ahold of the things I have given them, I'm not a fan.
"But isn't Nacatl War-Pride punishment enough, Ferrett?" you ask. And the answer is "no." As mentioned, the War-Pride is too fragile. If I give 'em these tokens and then it gets cacked, I'm not that far ahead. Sure, I have the Hunted creature itself, but usually they outnumber me.
Probably the best version was this:
Devin L. (not that one)'s Messed Up Pickles
The basis of this deck is to give a lot of creatures to a variety of players and swing for the win using multiple Nacatl War-Prides or launch the pickles combo. The deck basically controls the field until you can launch a combo with the Shapeshifters. While this may seem like a messed-up version of Pickles, it utilizes the War-Prides and defensive strategies such as Aspect of Mongoose to defend your critters against the loads of removal in multiplayer format. It should work well against both fast and slow decks because of its versatility as a creature-based control deck. The cards I sense this deck will have problems with are Wrath of God effects, which are very common in multiplayer, so hopefully the Remands will help there. If the Remands aren't enough, perhaps a switch to Cancel would be more appropriate.
Devin L. [Not that Devin L. –T.F.]
As a note, I'd always use a hard counter over Remand in multiplayer. Remand works well when you're trying to buy tempo, which is how a lot of duels work, but it's not so good when the spell's going to wreck you just as hard the next turn. (Or worse, he has eight mana, so he shrugs and plays Wrath again.)
Pride As An Afterthought
There were many who said, "You know what? I can't really break Pride itself, so I'll throw it into a deck that can use it."
Nick A.'s CATS IN DECKS THEY'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE
Nick, I know, I know; it's hard to break someone's pride. But this is an elf deck with Pride, not a War-Pride deck. (And you know it, too—look at your deck name!) Thus, you're out.
Likewise, James has a decent dredge-and-recycle deck with a War-Pride or two in it (though he gets kudos for usage of Bloodbond March):
James's Green-Black Kitty-Cat
"How can I give my Nacatl War-Pride haste without using all that extra mana?"
The classic answers are:
Any of those will do. But style points go to Steven James B., who reminded us that Lovisa Coldeyes
makes Nacatl (and all his tokens) a heck of a lot bigger and speedier, while still allowing you to have a non
-Cat Tribal deck.
Also, if you're speeding up your War-Prides, a Primal Forcemage makes everything better. Just sayin'.
Many, many people liked this idea. Speedy War-Prides bring friends into play, and each of those friends does 3 damage to someone before it hits.
The problem is that Pandemonium hurts you as well, and with all of the flash creatures and/or instant-speed removal around these days, there's a darned fine chance that you'll wind up with no War-Prides at all. And if you have no War-Prides, then you may wind up going under to your own enchantment.
And the Rest
But what else do we have? Well, we have Brian B.'s old-school usage of Academy Rector to get out a Privileged Position in record-speed, with mega-points for using the all-but-forgotten Winding Canyon:
Brian B.'s Privileged Rector
Going in the other direction in terms of "average age of cards used," Jeff C. boldly tries a Time Spiral Block take on the War-Pride. He's using Sprout Swarm to tap his Centaur Omenreaders for a much cheaper Teferi and then an extra-quick-and-cheap War-Pride—creative, no? Veilstone Amulet helps protect the Pride while you draw cards with Think Twice. And he, too, gets the megapointage for saying, "Okay, is that the guy who's blocking my Nacatl? I'll Pongify him before damage goes on the stack."
Jeff C.'s Teferi / Omenreader
Viranga R., who would win the contest hands-down if it was "most awesome name," suggests a Silent Arbiter-and-Dueling Grounds-based deck to make the maximum usage out of Nacatl (only one creature can attack or block, but thankfully, Nacatl brings pals with him), with the reasonably-priced Aspect of Mongoose as a way of protecting the kitty. Megapointage goes to the use of Twilight Drover, which triggers not off of the tokens going to the graveyard at the end of turn (which they don't), but off of them leaving play (which they do).
Viranga R.'s Nacatl Arbiter Deck
John D. actually has a very extensive variant on the "Speedy War-Pride" idea (complete with, you guessed it, Aggravated Assault), but his usage of Natural Affinity is cool. But really, he's just in this section because his entry has the coolest deck name in the whole contest!
John D.'s Execute Order 66
Larsson Y. wins my heart with not a deck, but a way to use one of my favorite cards of all time:
Marton Stromgald has always struck me as a very powerful effect stuck on an absolute wimp of a creature. The fact that you have to send his measly 1/1 self into battle to get that pump pretty much made sure that you'd only get one use out of him. Enter the War-Pride, and now, with careful stacking of the attack triggers, you get an army of n+1 attacking creatures, each of which is 4+n/4+n, where n is the number of creatures defending player controls. Add to this the line about how Nacatl War-Pride must be blocked by exactly one creature if able, and there's a good chance that Marton will actually make it out of the combat step alive—possibly a first in the history of the game.
Fun fact: Way back in 1998, I used to play with Marton Stromgald in my Goblin decks. People hated him. And no, he never survived. So a way to help Marton is awesome.
Ah, but we're approaching the end, and Ray H. has a fun idea:
The biggest problem that I have with Nacatl War-Pride is that it's a creature and as a creature it is very fragile. With that in mind, I think the sneakiest way to get our beloved War-Pride into play and attacking is with Sneak Attack.
"But now it dies at the end of the turn!" you say, so it looks like we need to save our War-Pride—or maybe they're just a bunch of cowards. That's right—Cowardice! Now when your opponents start flinging spells at your War-Pride, they just come running back to your hand. Ah, but what happens when that silly green mage plays Fog? Now your War-Pride is in for a Sneak Attack-induced heart attack...
....Unless we do something a little unnatural. Like Unnatural Selection!
Now for the mere cost of one colorless mana (while Cowardice is in play) we can save the War-Pride! Not only that, but we can use any extra mana we have to bounce our opponent's creatures as well, letting all of those nice little tokens run through.
This deck as one major weak spot: enchantment hate. Now my play group doesn't use a lot of enchantment hate, or even artifact hate for that matter, it's either something silly, something "net-decky," or I have creatures and smash face with them, in my group. Every now and then someone pulls off a combo, but they usually reside in the "net-decky" group. Since the deck I built is Legacy legal, I threw in Sterling Groves in case someone in my play group started main-decking Disenchant.
Now, I'm not a big fan of Heartbeat of Spring (it often gives your opponents a boost that helps them kill you), and Cowardice can work against you as much as it works for you... but the idea is kind of neat. I like that.
However, Bryce K. wins for his usage of a protective card that is so much better than Privileged Position (and an eerily-named deck):
Bryce K.'s Nacatl Nacan'tl Lose
The deck I am presenting here solves all the problems of using Nacatl War Pride. Most important of which is that, if the War Pride actually gets into play, it will almost certainly stay there. This deck also solves the problem of getting into play; the blue mage cannot just sit on a counterspell to stop your Nacatl army before it gets started. Lastly, this deck wins in a fun for multiplayer sort of way: smashing. First though, let me explain why this particular deck is so cool.
The deck I have made here has a great deal of... synergy, if you will. There is obvious synergy between Scryb and Baru; flashy creatures and the Forcemage; Teferi and his "all my creatures are flashy" attitude – including Body Doubling a dead Mystic Snake to counter a spell...; and then all the goodness Nacatl brings to your table: Nacatl puts creatures into play and thus, the "already great in multiplayer" – essence warden becomes awesome. Primal Forcemage says: "you better block all these other cat warriors, cause otherwise they'll kill you." Greater Good gives the tokens an escape from the terrifying "removed from game" area, draws you cards (maybe a lot of cards, depending on the Forcemage and the number of creatures opponents control).
And then there's Dovescape.
Dovescape may as well scream "I WANT TO BE PLAYED WITH NACATL WAR PRIDE." Are you kidding me? This card wins you games. No one can kill Dovescape without a creature's ability, and therefore, no one can kill the War Pride without creature's abilities. Additionally, in a multiplayer game, someone will have to play a spell just to make blockers, and they make themselves an even easier target for your Pride of warriors – while giving you life through Essence Warden. Also, when Dovescape gets into play (it will in multiplayer because most folks won't pack too much counter and often will have to use it for other scary effects like Damnation. Plus, you're packing Teferi.) you are only playing seven total non-creature cards that would be countered so, you needn't worry about your own jank getting countered; also, you can still counter stuff (Mystic Snake) and save your War Pride from Nekrataal type effects (see Plaxmanta).
Plus, Dovescape counters anyone's attempt to stop your second (or third... fourth?) War Pride from hitting the board.
So, there is obvious synergy, but can this deck actually win? Will people just announce "Terror in response" and you'll cry?
Well, you are packing 5 counter spells as well as 4 Dovescapes and 3 Body Doubles, I think that terror is pretty well handled.
Will you just die before doing anything?
You have an average mana cost of 3.5 and with the mana acceleration in this deck, that's no problem. You also gain a lot of life from the Warden and ought to be able to flash in some 4/4s with the Forcemage's help. So, while the early game could be rough, this deck should handle it.
Dovescape? Oh, you had me at "Dove."
All right, it's not a perfect deck—I'm not convinced that you couldn't remove the three Baru to make room for more Teferi (Teferae?), especially since you don't have a way to put a land into play at instant speed. (You can give the original Nacatl trample by laying a land before attacking, but the tokens it creates will have come into play after the land-laying and thus will be trample-free.) So if you want trample, maybe you could just run Kamahl, Fist of Krosa or Brawn for yoks.
But still, this deck probably has the best chance of getting a Nacatl War-Pride down and into the Red Zone before someone cacks it, giving you large guys and a large life total with the Warden. Ironically, it doesn't get around the "What if my opponents don't have creatures?" but that sort of ties into what I'm about to say next.
See, I must admit to disappointment. Dovescape's a neat way of doing this, but I was hoping someone would snap the Nacatl in half. Instead, what I got were a lot of entries that seemed, well....
I don't want a fair card. I want a busted one. And as such, I can only assume that Nacatl is depressingly fair, and thus not the powerhouse it should be.
Or is it? Remember, I lost a laptop with at least a hundred emails on it. Perhaps somewhere in there, something I skimmed a little too quickly, is the way to break Nacatl—an entry that is now nothing more than a random cluster of magnetic particles. Someone knows how to do it. Someone's found some fiendishly clever way around the "I have to attack" clause and has utilized the tokens in the best way possible.
It's vanished. But it's out there somewhere. In fact, the very universe conspired to crash my laptop, because if the truth of Nacatl got out, that one set of cards that turns it into an unbeatable deck was revealed, well... the metagame would never heal in any format. Vintage, Standard, Extended.... All of them would fall.
Maybe it's safer this way.