I sat there with Meaghan,
Adam and Jon too.
And I thought, "How I wish
I'd draw something to do!"
And I saw her!
The Cat with a Rat!
And she said to me,
"Let's start! Don't just sit there like that!"
"We'll grant them a Rat
Give them hope; a chance
But we have control
Make them dance! Make them dance!"
"I know a great game we could play,"
Said the Cat.
"I have a great trick,"
Said the Cat with a Rat.
"An especially fine plan.
I will make it run.
When a Rat dies
Cats all get plus one!"
The Cat gave a sly smile
What could I say?
Will you be the Cat…
Or the Rat on this day?
- Dr. Breuss
Lynx to Lords
Lords have been around in Magic since the beginning, and players who love tribal themes have been relying on them for just as long. The "lord" lingo started with Lord of Atlantis making your Fish bigger and has stuck right up to the most recent Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign giving Sphinx creatures a mini Fact or Fiction. While I'm sure there are players who use lords to help pump up their creature-themed decks, many of us build the theme deck as a way to use the lords. Balthor the Defiled was just too cool not to demand a Minion deck! And Chicken a la King is truly one of the most elegant lords in the game!
So what makes the Hungry Lynx different from another lord? Most lords give their benefit right away. Whether it is +1/+1 or swampwalk or hexproof or haste or first strike or trample or tapping chickens or whatever else the lord is offering, the benefit is always tangible and offer the benefit right away. The Hungry Lynx, like any Cat I've ever known, doesn't just show up and offer up the love right away. There is some effort involved. You are going to have to kill Rats or set up situations where others will kill Rats for you.
Or perhaps you just want to play with them…
Stats for Cat with a Rat
On the surface, Hungry Lynx seems straightforward. You get a 2/2 for two (when did Cats get as big as Bears?) that can make itself and other Cats you control bigger, but on your end step, you pick an opponent and they get a 1/1 black Rat with deathtouch. However, the Rats don't bother you since your Cats have protection from Rats now. Basic stuff.
Then you go a little deeper. You need to be able to kill the Rats you are giving away to make your Cats bigger. This shouldn't be too difficult since you were already going to have ways to kill opponents' creatures if you wanted to swing in with your Cats for the win. However, even if you are prepared to do that, Hungry Lynx just isn't all that impressive on its own. Your Cats only get the benefit if they are already on the battlefield when the Rat dies. This means to take real advantage of Hungry Lynx, you are going to want a bunch of Cats on the battlefield right away. The more you are willing to overcommit your creatures to the battlefield, the bigger the payoff when the Rat(s) start to die. White Sun's Zenith is going to be your friend.
Unfortunately, the bigger your commitment, the harder the the hit you'll take when the mass removal spell hits. But there is the more subtle interaction with Hungry Lynx—toying with the Rats. Players who have 1/1 deathtouch creatures don't tend to attack with them. Opponents are willing to take one point of damage over giving up a bigger, more valuable creature. Add in the looming threat of your Cats getting bigger, and suddenly even chump blocking seems unpalatable to most opponents.
This means that players with a creature like this tend to use them as defense. A tiny deathtouch creature means that opponents won't swing at you unless they can fly over or do first strike damage, and knowing if they kill the Rat, your Cats get bigger, they'll be even less likely to do that. This means you are offering an opponent a way to discourage others from attacking them. Repeatedly giving the same opponent the Rat every turn alters how others choose to attack, and you can use this politically to win friends and influence opponents (Dale Carnegie would be so proud). If you'd prefer to just slow the game down a little, try spreading the wealth. It will discourage most non-flying creatures from attacking, giving you time to set up your nefarious plans. Now your Cat theme deck is even playing like a cat, toying with your opponents like a cat toying with a rat.
Never has a lord been so tied to the strategic side of multiplayer games! I'm loving this Lynx more and more!
Pharika and Cat with a Rat
So how will your group react to you carefully planting 1/1 deathtouch Rats around the battlefield? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to look at Pharika, God of Affliction. Pharika also tossed 1/1 deathtouch creatures around for opponents to use. Unfortunately, Pharika decks trended toward either exiling its own creatures to give itself the deathtouch creatures, or ensuring they could simply destroy the creatures after they were given. Occasionally they were used to curry political favor since you could make one of these creatures after attackers were declared, giving an ally a 1/1 deathtouch creature to block some particularly big and nasty creature that needed to be taken off the battlefield.
Hungry Lynx forces you to give out Rats and only lets you do it on your end step, so comparing the two creatures has its limits. While the Lynx has limitations, its ability to block the Rats with impunity offers a benefit Pharika does not. My attempts with Pharika tended to result in much slower games with players unwilling to swing at each other since they knew at any time I could wreck their combat math. Most of the time, it meant that if there was going to be any attacking, it was going to be at me, since I was the source of the problem.
This lesson will likely prove true for the Hungry Lynx as well. While you aren't surprising anyone during combat between two opponents, you are making it difficult to attack. Keep that in mind when you are setting things up for kitty to come play.
Missing Links with Hungry Lynx
Cats. Really? You need me to tell you this? You do understand that this is a Cat lord right? There is going to be a whole deck full of Cats to choose from, on top of the Cats that already exist! If you want something funky and old-school that follows the green Cats theme, try Waiting in the Weeds. 1/1 green Cats for everyone, assuming everyone else meets the requirements. Oh, and only your Cats will have protection from Rats.
Rats. A downside to Hungry Lynx is that you are only producing one Rat per turn, and if you want your Cats to get bigger, you'll need to have a way to kill an opponent's Rat repeatedly. Running Rats in your own deck means that a single sac outlet lets you grow your Cats at will! Lab Rats, Pack Rat, Plague of Vermin, and Ogre Slumlord all repeatedly make Rat Tokens, so you won't need a ton of Rat creature cards to make that work. Add in your Ashnod's Altar or Phyrexian Altar and watch the size of your kitties explode, all while giving you more mana for more Cats. If you'd prefer not to have to play black to get this benefit, check out Volrath's Laboratory or Riptide Replicator. While neither are particularly cost-effective, both offer ways to make Rats while keeping you out of black.
Changelings. Woodland Changeling counts as a Cat and a Rat. You can sacrifice it to give your other Cats a +1/+1 counter, or it will get a +1/+1 counter. For truly bizarre results, run Mirror Entity. Spending X mana gives all your creatures a boost on their power and toughness and gives them all creature types, meaning they are all Cats and Rats. Imagine spending just three mana; those 10 Cats you got from Waiting in the Weeds (or White Sun's Zenith if you want to be a little more traditional) just became 3/3 creatures. Sacrifice two of them and your 10 3/3 creatures just became eight 5/5 creatures. That's 30 points of damage turned into 40!
Non-creature changelings offer benefits as well. Shields of Velis Vel can make all your creatures into Cats (and Rats) for the turn, and they can also change your opponents' creatures into Rats too! Your protection from Rats Cats can now easily stop bigger, miserable creatures.
Clones. Copies of Hungry Lynx work especially well. You give out more Rats and get two counters on every Cat for every Rat that dies. A well-timed Clone can make the board way more miserable than your opponents had envisioned.
Rite of Replication (see below as you realize the lunacy).
I know this is a bit of Magical Christmasland, but bear with me for a moment. Cast a kicked Rite of Replication on your Hungry Lynx. You now have six Hungry Lynx. At the end of your turn, your chosen opponents get six Rats. At some point, you kill a Rat. Perhaps you fight it or an opponent is finally willing to attack through them. One Rat gives all your Cats six +1/+1 counters.
If you can come up with a way to kill all six of them, your Cats are getting 36 +1/+1 counters. This scenario required a Hungry Lynx, Rite of Replication, and a way to kill some 1/1 creatures. This doesn't seem too Magical Christmasland to me, but it does seem pretty freaking awesome!
Obviously, multiple Hungry Lynx are a good thing, which bodes well for 60-card casual decks! A Cat theme deck with four Hungry Lynx will produce some insanely large Cats. Large Cats holding Warhammers will be very interesting.