War Standard: Bant Strays

With the release of War of the Spark, there are tons of cards that say “build around me!” It’s a very exciting set for brewers, and one card, in particular, stood out to me more than anything else in Charmed Stray. This simple cat says play as many of me as possible and you will be rewarded with huge lifelinkers. This is a card that was obviously designed for limited, where you can potentially get more than 4 cats in a draft. That didn’t stop me from wanting to see if it had potential in constructed, however.

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The first approach I took to this card was copying it. Cards such as Mirror Image synergize incredibly well with the stray, and functionally increases the number of cats in your deck. So, I looked up every copy effect available in Standard and ended up with a deck with way too many three drops, and a gameplan that folds to a shock. I wasn’t impressed with the deck and shelved it, believing that Charmed Stray didn’t have what it took to be a constructed card.

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I tried to think of other decks, but I still couldn’t get my mind off of the cat. So, I hit up Scryfall set up for all Standard legal cards and looked through 1,764 cards to see what would work well with Charmed Stray. After looking through so many different cards, instead of finding cards that work well with Charmed Stray, I actually discovered a macro archetype that Charmed Stray can slot right into. By having a bunch of tutor effects for your cat, you can also throw in a lot of silver bullets that lets you have game against any kind of deck.

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When I switched the focus from cats onto toolbox, I knew I was on the right track. There are tons of great creatures in Standard right now that are amazing in specific circumstances, and having the ability to tutor them up at any moment is very powerful. With the trifecta of Vivien’s Arkbow, Vannifar, and Finale of Devastation there is enough redundancy in tutors that you can be confident in finding the specific cards you need. Pull out a Kraul Harpooner for their Tempest Djinn, a Remorseful Cleric when they cast Find // Finality and a Deputy of Detention against their Teferi.

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With the deck so focused on silver bullets, why even include Charmed Stray? This is a deck that can potentially struggle against aggro, especially when your cheapest source of lifegain in Knight of Autumn can’t be tutored for reliably until you have 5 mana. Charmed Stray lets you have more board presence in the early turns, and can quickly become a threatening clock once you get 3 on the battlefield. Tutoring out another one also only costs 3 mana, and if you only ever find one at a time it is good sacrifice fodder for Vannifar to go find Fblthp. Mirror Image also gets to work double duty in this deck, functioning as extra copies of your silver bullets, and as even more stray cats.

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I don’t know if Charmed Stray will end up in the final version of this deck, but I do believe that this is the most competitive version of a deck that contains Charmed Stray in it. I am really excited about having a true toolbox deck in Standard again, and I hope that it becomes a tier 1 archetype in the future. For now, I hope you enjoy rescuing all of the stray cats, oozes, and homunculus’ in your deck. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!

Link to Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1881561#paper

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