An MTG Jellicle Jamboree: Brewing Modern Horizons 3’s Ajani, Nacatl Pariah

Somehow, Chase Carroll made it to 2024 without having a Cat Commander MTG deck. See how that changed with Modern Horizons 3 preview Ajani, Nacatl Pariah!

Ajani, Nacatl Pariah (detail)
Ajani, Nacatl Pariah (detail), illustrated by Ilse Gort

While previews from Modern Horizons 3 have been trickling out over the course of a few weeks, I can’t help but find my mind wandering towards one of the first cards we saw. Move over, tall, dark, and handsome! Say hello to gargantuan, furry, and fluffy.

Ajani, Nacatl Pariah Ajani, Nacatl Avenger

Yes, it is time for us to pay attention to Magic’s favorite anthropomorphic Cat: Ajani. It’s incredibly nice to see this beloved planeswalker join his Gatewatch friends amongst the flipwalkers from Magic Origins. The inclusion of this fellow means that there is a high possibility of other flipwalkers joining the bunch in Modern Horizons 3. But that is just me hoping and speculating.

While playing Commander on stream the other evening, it came up that I was the only one in the pod who did not have a Cat-themed commander deck. As a twentysomething who has two cats, I thought this was a grave error on my part, and I knew that I needed to rectify this as soon as possible. Thankfully, Ajani’s preview appeared what seems like months ago, and he is the perfect Cat commander for me. Not only is he in my favorite color combination, he reminds me of the tiger from Zootopia, who I just know would treat me right. Ajani would treat me right too, so let’s look at my brew!

The Deck

Ajani, Nacatl Pariah
Chase Carroll
Test deck on 05-17-2024
Magic Card Back

The Commander

At first glance, you’d think Ajani is mono-white. However, that is not the case. Color identity and Commander can be weird. While Ajani is mono-white on his front side, Ajani, Nacatl Pariah, he becomes a red and white planeswalker when he transforms into Ajani, Nacatl Avenger. This color identity is made apparent in his border coloration and the split circle next to his card type.

This is exactly what I want to see. While I do enjoy brewing monocolor decks, I find myself feeling very at home and comfortable in Boros. I will note that it is typical of Cat typal decks to be Selesnya, with Arahbo, Roar of the World being the most iconic of them all.

Rin and Seri, Inseparable doesn’t count. I said what I said.

Arahbo, Roar of the World Rin and Seri, Inseparable

I still prefer Ajani as our Cat commander because we really have to work to make it work (pun intended). He gives counters, makes Cat tokens, deals damage, and effectively wipes the battlefield. I knew he’d be just like the tiger from Zootopia: perfect.

The Strategy

Cat typal decks are in a bit of a weird spot. They aren’t exactly known for anything. Elves are known for mana, Goblins are known for damage, and Zombies are known for recursion. What do Cats have? When brewing this deck on stream, the folks in chat initially suggested Equipment. I immediately dismissed this idea because I find it to be incredibly unfortunate that players pigeonhole Boros into such a monotonous and often linear strategy. You have a wide selection of Boros Equipment commanders to choose from. They are a dime a dozen. Leave Ajani out of it.

I wanted a challenge. I wanted to work for it. So for this particular brew, I wanted to focus on the typal synergies of Cats, while leaning into the tokens and counters that Ajani makes. 

The Creatures

The creatures in this deck are pretty straightforward.


The majority of them are a variety of different Cats. Some are vanilla; others have utility whenever they enter the battlefield, make tokens, or simply provide a buff. You have your one-drops such as Garrison Cat, Charmed Stray, and Arcbound Mouser. These serve as early-game bodies. Of course, we have the common lords in Regal Caracal and King of the Pride, as well as the typical token makers in Cubwarden and Leonin Warleader.

Regal Caracal King of the Pride Cubwarden

Moving into our utility Cats, we have Enlightened Ascetic, Leonin Relic-Warder, Lion Sash, Alms Collector, and Oreskos Explorer. These cats serve as artifact and enchantment removal, ramp, card draw, and graveyard hate. Since these abilities aren’t too terribly common in our available colors, we have to think creatively and implement interaction in any way we can.


I wanted to avoid, but ultimately had to include, changelings. Changelings are an unfortunate hallmark of weaker typal synergies. They are there to pad out a very shallow card pool. While there are a handful of red Cats, not all of them are good. To give an example, Savage Firecat gets counters removed from it whenever we tap a land. We had to work with what we had.

Pieces like Metallic Mimic, Adaptive Automaton, and Bloodline Pretender are all essentially the same card but with slight variations. All of them enter the battlefield as the creature type of our choice and give the creature type of our choice +1/+1 counters when they enter the battlefield. While I would’ve preferred them to be Cats, these do ultimately beef up the Cats that we will be casting and the tokens we will eventually be making. As supportive pieces, they lay a strong foundation for us.

Metallic Mimic Bloodline Pretender Irregular Cohort

Irregular Cohort is an example of what I like to call a two-for-one combo. When it enters, it makes a changeling token. Which means it’s a Cat token. This deck is like the musical Cats! Do you think Ajani will sing “Memory“?

Another changeling to note is Taurean Mauler. This is probably one of the most insane changelings to be printed alongside Mirror Entity. This card is phenomenal because it gets bigger and bigger the more spells each opponent casts. Needless to say that will make one huge Cat. Mentioned earlier, Mirror Entity is a phenomenal way to turn our handful of tiny tokens into huge beaters. Typically, when I am in a deck that makes a lot of small tokens, I really enjoy running this card to deal a final killing blow to unsuspecting opponents in the middle of combat.

The Rest

Finally, we have our non-Cat, non-changeling all-stars. Yes, I know this is a weird category, but they really do warrant highlighting on their own. Starting out, we have Mondrak, Glory Dominus. Since one of our main strategies is to make as many tokens as we can, it is necessary to not only run Mondrak, but to run Anointed Procession as well. The more tokens we make, the better. I would like to make it known that this list originally did run Ojer Taq, Deepest Foundation for the same reason. Due to its high mana value, however, it didn’t make the final cut.

Mondrak, Glory Dominus Anointed Procession Iroas, God of Victory

Speaking of Gods, this deck runs two: Iroas, God of Victory and Purphoros, God of the Forge. Iroas serves as protection for our attacking critters with the added bonus of menace. Purphoros, on the other hand, serves to squeeze the life out of our opponents. Since we will be making many tokens, it is important to have enters damage effects. In order to maximize this damage avenue, not only does this deck run Purphoros, but it also runs things like Impact Tremors. While these may seem like cat scratches in the beginning, when our token doublers are out, these cat scratches turn into bullet holes. 

Instants and Sorceries

I find it a little disheartening, dear deckbuilder, to state that this is probably going to be the least exciting section. Why? Because this section is kind of like socks. Socks are not exciting to open on Christmas. It’s not like opening a really cool video game or getting a car, but you need socks. And you really need removal and protection.


When it comes to removal, the section has a lot to offer. Battlefield wipes? Fumigate and Blasphemous Act. Single-target removal? Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, and Generous Gift. Artifact and enchantment removal? Vandalblast and Heliod’s Intervention. If there is anything that Boros is not lacking, it is removal.


It is also not lacking in protection. Pieces like Flawless Maneuver and Unbreakable Formation serve as a cheeky way to give your entire battlefield indestructible in the midst of combat or in response to a battlefield wipe. Then, of course, you have white’s version of a peace-out in the form of Clever Concealment and Teferi’s Protection. Whether it’s your life total, your permanents, or both, phasing stuff out is a no-brainer in these colors.

While it can act as protection, Akroma’s Will is in this deck to serve as the final blow in combat. It is a game-winning spell that absolutely had to be included.

Akroma's Will Comeuppance

Lastly, we have my favorite white spell ever: Comeuppance. I had to fight for my life when it came to this card on stream. My chat was certain that this card was out of place, but I argued otherwise. I believe Comeuppance is one of white’s best spells. It is the ultimate Fog. It protects you and your planeswalkers, redirecting damage depending on the source. I would like to state that I have killed players in games with this spell. I highly recommend you include it, if not in this deck, then another white deck of your choosing. It is wholly worth it.


While, yes, I could talk about the mana rocks in the section, I would like to sidestep that in favor of three out of six utility artifacts within this list. We all know why one would run a Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Talisman of Conviction. But what about the others?

Idol of Oblivion is in this deck for card draw. Whether it’s on Ajani’s enters effect, his 0 loyalty ability, or the other handful of token-generating effects in this deck, there is no shortage of ways to make Cat tokens. While Idol only allows you to draw cards if you’ve made a token that turn, you will almost always have access to a constant source of card draw.

Next up is Vanquisher’s Banner. Much like the Idol, it also serves as a way to draw cards. The key difference is the lord-like buff it gives to the creature type of your choosing.

Idol of Oblivion Vanquisher's Banner The Ozolith

Last is The Ozolith. One of the initial worries around this deck’s strategy was that it is so susceptible to battlefield wipes. You spend so much time making tokens and giving them counters. If they are destroyed, you must rebuild after a major loss, which can be challenging and time-consuming. Not to mention that it could be time you don’t have. The Ozolith is here to help ease that burden. It takes the counters from those destroyed Cats and saves them for later. Imagine putting them on creature Ajani and swinging for lethal commander damage. Personally, I live for it.


This section is my favorite. I think it really ties the deck all together. It strengthens so many of the strategies we started out with in such an exciting way. This section sparks the kind of joy that Marie Kondo spoke about. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Enters Enchantments

Let’s break this section down and start with the enters enchantments. Impact Tremors and Warleader’s Call serve to beef up the damage strategy set out by Purphoros. The more tokens you make, the more damage.

Warleader's Call Felidar Retreat

Speaking of more tokens, Anointed Procession was mentioned earlier alongside Mondrak as a token doubler. Of course, we have to run both. In a similar realm, we have Felidar Retreat. This is one of my favorite white enchantments. The quirky thing about it is that it does exactly what this deck wants to do. It either makes Cat tokens or it puts counters on each creature you control while giving them vigilance until end of turn. Ajani creates Cat tokens and doles out counters, so it is a match made in heaven.

Combat Enchantments

Now let’s move into the realm of combat. Reconnaissance lives in this deck as a way to integrate pseudo-vigilance. I love this enchantment so much, because it shows just how broken old cards were back in the day.

Shared Animosity is one of those enchantments that you really don’t want to see resolve. Once you move to combat, it essentially means game over. I run this card in my The Locust God deck, and it quickly turns my tiny 1/1 tokens into 21/1s. It’s an amazing typal card, and if it’s in your colors, I highly recommend running it.

Shared Animosity Goblin Bombardment

Let’s say combat is over, but your opponents have just a handful of life left. This is where Goblin Bombardment comes in. Simply sacrifice your tokens to this enchantment to deal damage to any target you choose. What I really enjoy about this card is that while it can definitely be used to take your opponent’s life total down, it can also be used as a way to trigger Ajani’s transformation. A Cat has to die somehow; might as well do it yourself.

Card Advantage Enchantments

Lastly, we have card advantage, baybeeeeee! It might seem like overkill, but I’d rather have too many options than too few. There are a total of three card advantage enchantments in this section.

First is Tocasia’s Welcome, an enchantment that draws you a card once each turn whenever one or more creatures with mana of value three or less enters under your control. While the curve of this deck is very low and you will more often than not be hitting this threshold, it should also be noted that it does not say nontoken. This means that your Cat tokens entering the battlefield will trigger this as well.

Next is Valakut Exploration. While this is definitely not a landfall deck, getting an extra card each turn when you play a land can make a big difference, especially in Boros. It should be also noted that this enchantment has the option of dealing damage to each opponent if you choose to not play the card exiled with it. Every bit counts.

Tocasia's Welcome Valakut Exploration Trouble in Pairs

Lastly, we have Trouble in Pairs. This is one of the best white enchantments made within the last five years of Magic. While, yes, it may skip extra turns, that’s not the main focus of this card. It draws you a card whenever your opponent does something twice. If your opponent attacks you with two or more creatures, draws their second card each turn, or casts their second spell each turn, you draw a card. There’s a reason why it’s called Trouble in Pairs. It cares about twos!

“After You”

In the past, I have largely complained about these “after you” white cards. They require you your opponent to do something before you do anything. They’re polite cards. However, this is the one exception to my gripe. It is anything but polite. It has served me well every time I have played it and thought it would find a very good home in this list.

A Jellicle Jamboree

With each passing week, I find myself growing more and more excited for Modern Horizons 3. I don’t know why I expected little of the set, but each new card shown to us has only made me fall in love with the set more and more. While we barely know anything about Modern Horizons 3, I expect it to be one of the best sets of 2024. Whether it’s cheeky references to old cards, the hope of more flip planeswalkers, or enticing Eldrazi, I have already fallen in love with the set and we barely know anything about it.

It is my hope that the preview of Ajani hints at the inclusion of more Cat typal synergies in the set. I would love to be able to come back to this list and expand upon it if that were the case. Whether it’s the main set or the precons to come, I hope you all share the same excitement that I have for the set. Let me know what you hope to see from Modern Horizons 3 and if you will be purchasing any of the precons or are building something from the main set. Happy Jellicle Jamboree-ing, deckbuilders!


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