Other People’s Decks: Logan Isch’s Tribute To Cici

From loss, a tribute rises. Sheldon Menery shares how Logan Isch remembers his cat Cici: through a Magic: The Gathering Commander deck.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den, illustrated by Slawomir Maniak

Many of us in the Commander community are animal lovers.  Friend of the show and Tech Advisor to the Stars Logan Isch is one of those people.  You’ve heard me talk about Logan before.  He’s primarily responsible for getting the Commander RC Discord and Twitch channel up and running in a timely and efficient fashion.  He’s helped countless other content creators with similar things, so much so that he was one of the first Community Contributors of the Week on our show Commander Community

Unfortunately, Logan recently lost his cat Cici to a sudden illness.  He did what many of us would do—made a tribute to his beloved friend.  In this case, it’s a sweet, sweet Commander deck.

Here’s what he had to say about it: 

Not long after my cat suddenly passed away, I had the idea to create a new Commander deck as a tribute. I Initially thought about Nethroi, Apex of Death Cat tribal, but it didn’t feel quite right, since she was a black and white cat. I settled on Lurrus of the Dream-Den and began my list.

Included are a lot of typical mono-white Cats that you might find on a Selesnya list. There really aren’t many black ones to choose from, but I worked with what I had to come up with something that feels very good. With quite a few items at converted mana cost two and lower, I can effectively use Lurrus’s passive ability without taking away from the overall theme.

Using artifacts, I can set up “cat toys” for Lurrus to knock off the table into my graveyard to recast, such as Mishra’s Bauble, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Mind Stone, and Dispeller’s Capsule. There are cat towers and tunnels to play with, like Reliquary Tower, Caves of Koilos, and Rogue’s Passage. On top of that are some flavorful cards outside of the tribe that represent aspects of her life and relationship with me. These are reference to the bond I had with Cici through self-sacrifice, giving, and celebration of life:  Selfless Spirit, Kami of False Hope, Children of Korlis, Bastion of Remembrance, Ashen Rider, Omen of the Dead, Unbreakable Bond. Even a card like Patriarch’s Bidding is an allusion to a “cat dad” beckoning their fur baby to their side. There’s even a bird and a bug to chase around!

Also included are thematic cards featuring two of the most prominent cats in the game, Ajani and Oketra. Some of these include the Ajani planeswalker cards, Ajani’s Welcome, several Oketra cards, and the Gideon Spellbook Worship, where he appears to be offering a dish (of milk?) to his beloved Cat God. Solemnity also works with Nine Lives, both of which are cat-themed, to effectively make me immune to taking damage.

Overall, the deck has been extremely flavorful and fun to play. I believe it’s a fitting tribute to my departed Cici.  I plan to embellish it over time with many foils and many alters.

Logan names all his decks after songs.  The name of this one, Three Little Birds, comes from a Bob Marley and the Wailers song which Logan said he’d sing to Cici—and must just be the kind of hopeful thought that we need in our currently chaotic world. 

Logan has managed to create an intensely thematic deck while maintaining playability.  He’s gone the extra mile by adding layers to the theme, adding the idea of cat toys and card names that are full of meaning.  Commander is, of course, the only format in which a deck like this can exist and be viable.  I’ve already faced it twice on streams and it threatened to get out of hand both times.  It certainly held its own against non-themed decks, which is a mark of its strength. 

Lurrus gives the deck such resiliency because you can repeatedly cast the things that’ll keep you in the game.  Cards like Selfless Spirit or Children of Korlis, which sacrifice themselves for benefit at zero mana cost, are most excellent choices.  The other part of that is Lurrus’s low casting cost means subsequent re-castings aren’t particularly painful. 

One of the things I really like about the deck is that you have to play it.  You can’t just plop down cards and say “I win;” the operator has to continually dig for value, assess the battlefield state, and react accordingly.  Even something that has a strong upside, the Solemnity and Nine Lives combo, bears inherent risk.  It also occurs to me that while we most often see Solemnity as part of a combo piece, such as with Woodfall Primus and a sacrifice outlet, it’s just a good card to play as a foil in the format.  Especially if you’re not putting +1/+1 counters on your creatures, you’ll be shutting down lots of stuff that other players like to do.  And you can slide in some of your own combos anyway, like stuff with cumulative upkeep. 

I’m also a fan that Logan didn’t go down the somewhat familiar Cats plus Equipment line.  Sure, it’s a better line with green in it for cards like Arahbo, Roar of the World and Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, but it would have been an easy devolution via Hammer of Nazahn.  Unfortunately, not going into green meant he couldn’t have the most flavorful Cat ever, Feline Sovereign, but this deck is about the black and white Cici, not Cats in general.

Luminous Broodmoth

When you build a theme deck, you always have to consider how thematic you’re going to make it.  There are a few cards in this one, like Syr Konrad, the Grim and Skullclamp, that don’t have any specific theme-related flavor, but simply make the deck function better.  You might think that Luminous Broodmoth isn’t flavorful; if not, then you’re not likely a cat owner, because they’ll get distracted by nearly anything flitting around.  While we can all appreciate going 100% all-in on a theme, I’m also okay with using a handful of slots for playability.  I’m reasonably sure we can do that without undercutting the theme or its flavor. 

The Ajani planeswalker choices are all strong.  Ajani, Caller of the Pride might be my top pick because give the composition of the deck; it’s not unreasonable to think that using the ultimate (get a number of 2/2 Cat creature tokens equal to your life total) is a possibility.  The deck has and makes enough creatures to protect the planeswalker, even if it hits the battlefield early.  The +1 ability to make a creature larger will only be a deterrent to future attacks. 

The same applies to Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants.  Going from four to seven loyalty doesn’t seem all that difficult, especially when you’re making two creatures bigger.  Although the deck’s lifegain isn’t all that significant (unless Bastion of Remembrance is on the battlefield, in which case it’s definitely big), a few activations of Ajani, Strength of the Pride are all that it takes to be able to use the last ability to wipe out your opponents’ teams and leave the world dominated by Cats.  This will be especially useful after a previous end-step White Sun’s Zenith for a bunch. 

The situations in which the deck will get to and use the ultimate ability of Ajani Steadfast are few and far between.  That one is all about the -2 ability to put +1 counters on the whole team, again useful in the post-White Sun’s Zenith turn. 

Seht's Tiger

My pick for the top Hidden Gem in the deck is Seht’s Tiger.  It’s a card I’ve touted since it came out in Future Sight.  A search of my decks reveals that I’m not currently playing it, a situation I’ll have to rectify with some immediacy.  There are lots of things that the deck will protect you from.  It’s an obvious Fog for a single color, whether someone is Overrunning you (Craterhoofing you?) with an Avenger of Zendikar swarm or flying armada of Dragons. 

Seht’s Tiger will prevent the damage from an X-spell, such as Comet Storm or Hurricane.  Technically, it doesn’t prevent the damage from Comet Storm; instead it makes you an illegal target (thereby countering the spell, or in the case of one with multiple targets or a global spell, just have it do nothing to you), which plays into the follow-up thing it can do: get you out of being hit with a spell or ability aimed at you. 

It doesn’t have to be a real back-breaker like Tendrils of Agony, Final Punishment, or Mind Twist to have value.   A more common use case would be protecting you from all the Blood Artist or Falkenrath Noble triggers coming from a battlefield sweeper.  Obviously, with cards like the last two, you’ll have to pay attention to timing, since the player might be using them as part of a loop of some kind.  At least you can see it coming and flash in appropriately, like in response to them casting the sacrifice outlet.

Angelic Renewal

My second choice for an excellent Hidden Gem is Angelic Renewal.  It’s the kind of card that provides value and is also highly unlikely to get targeted with precious removal.  Sure, if someone is going nuts with Aura Shards, it’ll probably get hit, but there are otherwise going to be much better targets.  It’s an on-battlefield trick, but sometimes that’s okay.  Not everything needs to be a huge surprise.  I also doubt it serves as much of a deterrent outside of targeted creature removal.  If someone needs to cast Wrath of God but lets you keep one creature, that’s probably fine. 

What I like about Angelic Renewal in general is that once you cast it, there it sits.  You don’t need to spend mana in a later turn to have it do its thing.  What I like about it in this deck is the fact that you can Regrow it with Lurrus.  That works out to being a nice combo.  The neat trick is that Angelic Renewal triggers on a creature going to your graveyard, so if someone has stolen your creature, you can still get it back under your own control after a Wrath of God

Alms Collector is both on theme and savage.  It might qualify as a Hidden Gem, since according to EDHRec, it’s only in 3% of decks (although to me, cards have to be from dusty old sets to be considered Hidden Gems; your mileage may vary).  You can flash it in and deny a player that big draw spell, and then set up a deterrent for the same as long as it remains on the battlefield.  Or, if they’re feeling nice, just let you draw when they draw two.  I’d be interested to see a Consecrated Sphinx and Alms Collector standoff. 

Etchings of the Chosen

Etchings of the Chosen is a nice feature card for the deck as well.  The Cats are all larger and one of the pride can go the Selfless Spirit route.  It seems like in many cases, this will be to protect Lurrus, since she’s the one (I checked; Lurrus is canonically female, a mother to other Cats) that will enable you to recast whatever got sacrificed in the first place. 

When I asked Logan if he’d consider any Double Masters or Jumpstart cards that he’d put in, he mentioned a few.  He said Witch of the Moors would fit but didn’t fit very well thematically; the same went for Archangel of ThuneAdaptive Automaton would fit if he were really of a mood to put a reprint in.  The card he’s most thinking about from Double Masters is Expedition Map; he said that if he does, it’ll be hard to resist the lure of Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.  A card not from the new sets he said he’s considering is swapping in Kaya’s Wrath for Hallowed Burial.  Seems legit. 

Logan is one of the truly good people in the Commander community.  We share his sadness on his lost friend and family member, but turning a moment of tragedy into something positive is a great testament to exactly the kind of person he is.  RIP Cici, and we look forward to seeing your spirit at our game tables for a long time to come. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my Signature Decks, the Chromatic Project, and more!