Cat Combo in Modern

While I spent an entire article talking about why the Saheeli + Felidar Guardian was no good for Standard shortly before it was banned, the combo is very much alive and well in one of my favorite non-rotating formats, Modern. Today we are going to take a look at a couple of different shells that have successfully leveraged this combo so far.

Four Color Saheeli – Nahiri Midrange

The first deck we are going to take a look at today is not just leveraging one Standard legal planeswalker but two! Let’s take a look at a decklist that had a strong finish at an SCG IQ earlier this year:

On the back of our mana creatures this deck can easily goldfish a turn three kill by curving Birds of Paradise into Saheeli into Felidar Guardian. Past this previously Standard-legal kill, we also find a pair of Restoration Angel and a copy of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in the deck. Not only do Restoration Angel and Kiki combo with each other, but Kiki also combos with Felidar in the same way Restoration Angel does – generating an infinite amount of hasty creatures to attack with.  

The Sun Titan might also seem a bit out of place at the top end, but we can actually generate infinite Sun Titans from an empty board with only a pair of Saheelis in the graveyard. After bringing back one of the three-mana planeswalkers from the ‘yard, we can copy the 6/6 with Saheeli number one. We then use the triggered ability from the copy of Sun Titan to return the second Saheeli from our discard to play. We keep the new Saheeli and create yet another Sun Titan copy, returning the recently deceased Saheeli to play. Rinse and repeat till you have enough Sun Titans to deal lethal damage.

That being said, these combos get interacted with via Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and a variety of other removal in the format. Just having a combo kill is not what makes this deck reasonable. What makes this deck reasonable is the midrange creature gameplan it has when our opponents are trying to be interactive. Cards like Wall of Omens and Coiling Oracle help keep our planeswalkers alive while also providing value when they come into play. These creatures also give our Saheeli something to do when she is not comboing, effectively making her minus 2 ability read “draw a card.”

While this deck list does not leverage the green tutors we are used to finding in Kiki combo decks in Modern such as Eldritch Evolution and Chord of Calling, it can use Nahiri to fetch up our missing combo piece. Nahiri is a very flexible card in a deck like this. Not only can she help find the missing half of our combo finish, but she can filter through excess lands we draw in the late game and act as removal for threats that are pressuring our life total. Having to attack into 0/4 walls to pressure our planeswalker that exiles tapped creatures normally puts our opponent into an awkward position.

We round out our main deck with a few non-creature, non-planeswalker spells that hold the deck together:

While Oath of Nissa is no Ponder, it is definitely a step up from Serum Visions. Not only is the effect from Oath more powerful, but the fact that Oath of Nissa is an enchantment means that we can blink it with Felidar Guardian to dig for whatever answer we are looking for or just the other half of our combo. Path to Exile is just one of the best pieces of removal in Modern and it gives us a good answer to fight decks that are trying to be faster than us or beat through our 0/4 walls. Detention Sphere is a decent catch-all answer that is excellent against Dredge. It also works nicely with Felidar Guardian because we can play out our Sphere early and then blink it later to remove something more threatening.

All in all, the entirety of the main deck felt fairly reasonable. The mana base was more than functional with the supplemental fixing Oath provides and the creature suite was mostly four-ofs with things like Coiling Oracle basically being additional copies of Wall of Omens. That being said, this decklist is from a few months ago and if I were going to play it some more moving forward I would likely adjust the sideboard before doing so.

The biggest omission from the sideboard in my mind is some form of graveyard hate. Dredge is still a very real threat without Golgari Grave-Troll and Gifts Storm has become increasingly popular. The only card in our main deck that cares about our graveyard is Eternal Witness, so I would likely load up on Rest in Peace since this card is an ace against both Storm and Dredge. That being said, I think my sideboard would look something like this:

The thing to keep in mind when sideboarding with this deck is that if we are cutting a good deal of creatures to bring in non-creature spells, we will likely want to trim on copies of Oath of Nissa. The more targets for Oath we remove from our deck, the more likely it is to simply put three cards in the bottom of our library.

If you want to see some gameplay of this beauty in action, check out my stream archive below:

Saheeli Evolution

The second decklist we are going to look at today is a bit more of a “traditional” toolbox creature deck. This list recently finished 5-0 in a Magic Online Modern league:

This deck has a few similar elements to the Saheeli-Nahiri deck I talked about above, but it also has a number of distinctions. To start with the similarities, we find mana creatures present to enable not only mana fixing, but also a turn three goldfish kill. We also find Oath of Nissa present to improve our Felidar Guardians while also adding some consistency to the cards we see each game.

The biggest difference is that because we are playing a Green Tutor in the form of Eldritch Evolution we have a number of fun-of toolbox creatures present to help us out in different situations:

Pia and Kiran Nalaar allow us to apply a ton of pressure when we Eldritch Evolution into them off of a Voice of Resurgence on the third turn of the game. A minimum of eight power across four bodies is nothing to scoff at and puts combo and control decks under a very real clock. Magus of the Moon is something we can Evolution for as early as the second turn off the game following up a mana creature. This can be a good way to steal games against multicolor decks that lack access to Lighting Bolt. Qasali Pridemage is a great general catch-all for troublesome cards while also being a reasonable attacker for two mana.

All three of these cards generate value for us in games that are going long. Thragtusk and Courser of Kruphix also provide some much needed lifegain to make sure we do not die as the game goes on. One important thing to keep in mind when playing this deck is that because fetchlands can give us value, we do not want to be fetching needlessly at our opponent’s end step if we do not need the mana the following turn. With Courser, we can use a fetchland to shuffle a card away from the top of our deck that we are not interested in drawing and with Tireless Tracker every cracked fetch nets us another clue to draw more cards.

The sideboard of this decklist has some truly interesting bullets in it:

Caldera Hellion is an interesting card. While it does clear away some of our own board, it also grows itself larger while doing so. It is a card I like playing with Evolution and it seems powerful against go-wide decks like Zoo and Robots. Godhead of Awe is one that I assume is present for decks like Eldrazi. We will almost always have more creatures than they do, so turning all the creatures into the same stats will tend to benefit us. Stonehorn Dignitary is one I need to get some more games in with to know how I really feel about it. There are a number of games where blanking a combat step or two is all we need to win the game. Alongside Felidar Guardian and Saheeli, we can even stall combat for multiple turns when we need to. This seems like a good tool against decks like Merfolk and even the mirror.

Wrapping Up

While I was a bit skeptical at first of the Saheeli combo in Modern, the more I play with it the more reasonable it feels. The fact that Saheeli can generate value with random creatures we have in play and provide some card selection with her +1 makes her a fairly reasonable Magic card even when we are not comboing. The more I cast Oath of Nissa, the more I like it as well. While it does come with some deck building restrictions to keep its hit percentage high, Oath does not have as strict requirements as something like Collected Company does.

Have you played with the Saheeli Combo at all in Modern? Was it in one of these shells here or something else? Let me know in a comment below.


~Jeff Hoogland

Jeff Hoogland

Jeff Hoogland

I largely play constructed magic formats. Modern is my favorite format followed closely by Standard. I travel to as many large events as possible in the Midwest United States. My current Magic resume includes:
* One SCG Invitational Top 8
* Two SCG Invitational Top 16
* 14 SCG Open series Top 8s
* One GP top 16
Jeff Hoogland

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Published:May 12, 2017


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