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Woo Brews – Zoo Brews

Things are happening. Fast. I am writing this on Saturday night. By the time you are reading this, I am going to be on a giant machine transport in the sky headed toward the Spanish Mediterranean Coast. I’ve been looking forward to this moment since spiking Grand Prix Oakland with my brother way back in August.

There is an extra wrinkle in this trip—I decided I wasn’t going to return home until July. I’ve never lived outside of Seattle and I want to see what opportunities there are outside of my home city and country. It’s all possible through Magic. Thank Magic for the flight and invitation, thank Magic for the working experience that can keep me getting paid while I’m travelling. It’s going to be a nuts trip and has me here figuring out how much of my life I can pack in two bags. Things are happening.

Things are happening with the Modern banned restricted announcement too, and I now have had a week to think about it.

[draft]Deathrite shaman[/draft] [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is gone. I am happy. Deathrite was a dominant card that limited deckbuilding options—if you were playing green or black, you probably wanted to play this guy. Don’t play graveyard decks. Play Deathrite.

And people did. Junk, B/G, and Jund en masse. Three kinds of Deathrite. “Diversity.” At the same time, other decks were able to compete—kind of. We had our U/R decks, our U/R/W decks, our Pod decks, our Affinity decks, our Tron decks, our Infect decks, our Twin decks, our Scapeshift decks, and even our Living End decks.

At the top there might have been limited diversity, but on the whole, Modern was a diverse format that offered a lot of options for decks to play. The issue is that diversity of decks to play is not good enough. It gets boring. Humans thrive on change. It drives us nuts. We complain. We love it. We need it. Or we having nothing to get riled up about and we get bored.

So, whether Deathrite leaving promotes a more “diverse” format or not, this banning will not have been a mistake. It can always come off, and [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] can go back on. It depends on when the format needs a shot in the arm again.

[draft]Bitterblossom[/draft]

I really don’t have too much to say about [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. This card was legal along with [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and Faeries was always oppressed by the one-mana 3/3. Faeries was playable, but it was never very good whenever full-powered Zoo was around.

So I expect Faeries to be playable, but not really that good either. This unbanning is a good one because it’s safe, and is a bad one because it’s really not very exciting either.

[draft]Wild Nacatl[/draft]

And then we have the Cat. The Cat is going to be everywhere, and if Deathrite were still around a lot of deck lists would start with:

4 [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] 4 [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] 4 [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] 4 [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]

Yeah, no thanks.

The Cat is good enough on its own. It’s historically proven. It won Pro Tour Austin. It was competitive with [card]Dark Depths[/card] for the top of the metagame. It almost won Josh Utter-Leyton a Pro Tour in Philly—a format where combo decks were way, way, way more oppressive to Zoo than they are now.

So Zoo will be the best deck. The most popular deck. I really believe this. That’s how it has been historically, and I expect history to repeat itself. It’s good, and it’s a good choice. It’s hard to mess up a Zoo list. A bad Zoo list still attacks with a 3/3 on turn 2 with backup. So people will play them.

The real question is what people are going to be doing with [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]. To start, a lot. I expect we are going to see even more “diversity” than Deathrite Shaman brings to the table. We are going to have our fast Zoo, tribal Zoo, big Zoo, homebrew Zoo.

So, I decided I would go over some Zoo Brews. It’s important to know your enemy, and I want to know my enemy intimately for this Pro Tour. I am not playing Zoo. I am playing ____________. But I need to know what makes Zoo good and how to play against it. So, here are some Zoo brews.

Fast RG Zoo

[ccDeck]4 Wild Nacatl
4 Experiment One
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape
4 Burning Tree Emissary
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Searing Blaze
3 Rancor
18 Lands[/ccDeck]

The first Zoo deck I tested against looked something like this. This is a bit like the G/R beats deck that has been doing okay in Modern. It is BLISTERINGLY fast. [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and [card]Goblin Guide[/card] make for some consistently great openers, and this is the first opportunity to play [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] with the Cat.

I expect versions like this to be popular among Zoo lists, and also very good.

Tribal Zoo

[ccDeck]4 Wild Nacatl
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Geist of Saint
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Tribal Flames
2 Boros Charm
22 Land[/ccDeck]

Tribal Flames Zoo has been popular in the past and it will be popular again. Tribal Flames to the face for 5 is a pleasurable play, and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]/[card]Tribal Flames[/card] for 10 gets the juices flowing.

There are a lot of ways to build a deck like this, from the creature base to the spell base. This is just one way to go.

Double Strike Zoo

[ccDeck]4 Wild Nacatl
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape
4 Viashino Slaughtermaster
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Boros Charm
4 Might of Alara
4 Tribal Flames
4 Lightning Bolt
20 Land[/ccDeck]

A hybrid of Tribal Zoo is double strike Zoo. [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] and [card]Might of Alara[/card] make for absurd pump spells on their own, and when combined with either [card]Viashino Slaughtermaster[/card] or [card]Boros Charm[/card] we are looking at a quick 20.

Versions like this will be fringe, but they pack a punch.

Delver Zoo

[ccDeck]4 Delver of Secrets
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
4 Serum Visions
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
3 Mana Leak
3 Remand
2 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
20 Land[/ccDeck]

I was thinking that [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] really nerfed [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] as it is a superior 1-drop creature. But what if we run both? RUG Delver has been picking up steam a little bit, and if we stretch for white shocks we can put together a really nice Delver style deck that takes advantage of Wild Nacatl too. I really like decks like this.

Domri Zoo

[ccDeck]4 Wild Nacatl
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Voice of Resurgence
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Domri Rade
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lighting Helix
4 Path to Exile
20 Land[/ccDeck]

Domri Zoo is going to be an attractive option to some. A Zoo deck like this has the biggest creatures on the block and is also the best at controlling the board with [card]Domri Rade[/card]. [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] is a nice big puncher that can eat Vendilions and Faerie tokens.

Big Blue Zoo

[ccDeck]4 Wild Nacatl
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
4 Mana Leak
4 Lightning Helix
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Tectonic Edge
19 Land[/ccDeck]

And then we have my favorite Zoo deck right now, which is a mix of a “best of Kibler’s favorite cards” with some cards I think are going to be great for the Pro Tour.

This deck is a bit of a control/big Zoo deck that has the fast starts of other Zoo with bigger late game creatures and more interaction than any list.

For big creatures we have ‘Goyfs, Oozes, and Knights.

[draft]Scavenging Ooze[/draft]

Ooze is a very strong Magic card that is good outside of Jund. This deck plays a lot of creature and removal, and an Ooze goes a long way toward stalling out and wrapping up the game against other Zoo lists.

Similarly, we have [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]

Knight of the Reliquary has been liberated from our Deathrite overlord, and is now back to being very, very big. In addition to being the biggest man on the block for fair matchups, I love the utility the card provides. I’ve always thought playing Knight with Tectonic Edge and Bojuka Bog was very strong and now we get to do it again.

The spell base of this deck has me excited. We have our Bolts and our Helices which make for great early game creature removal to extend the game against faster decks and provide nice reach across the table to win faster.

Then we have the [card]Path to Exile[/card] and [card]Mana Leak[/card] nombo, which I have hated on before. Both of these cards seem so good to me though. Path is going to be clutch in [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] mirrors to ensure we have the biggest creature as well as being great against Twin, Affinity, and just about anyone else playing creatures.

[card]Mana Leak[/card] is a card I would strongly consider playing in Zoo for this tournament. It’s okay against other Zoo decks but seems like the best possible card against a mixed range of strategies—Pod, Twin, Nykthos, Tron, and Living End.

[draft]Snapcaster Mage[/draft]

And then we have [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], which really completes a Zoo deck like this. Since all of our spells are instants it allows us to represent a wide range of options. We could kill a creature, we could gain life, we could counter a spell. It makes for a guessing game for the opponents.

Zoo Brews Gauntlet

Now that we know Zoo is the big thing, we know that if our deck can’t beat Zoo, our deck isn’t a deck. We need to test all of our new brews against, at the very least, a fast Zoo and a big Zoo and see what happens. If it can’t hang, it needs to get tossed.

Take this deck for example:

woozoo1

With the banning of Deathrite, I had to test out some new graveyard strategies. Through playing in Magic Online 2-mans I discovered that the deck was extremely potent. I was maneuvering through aggressive blue decks, grinding through control decks, shutting down Affinity decks, and winning through other combo decks. The deck felt like a contender.

Clearly, the next step was to get ahold of a Zoo opponent and play, and that’s what I did. I discovered that this deck was too slow to hang with the Cats. The fast version of Zoo ran me over 6 games in a row, and I knew it was time to hang up the deck and move on.

I don’t see any reason to invest time in a deck that has a very bad Zoo matchup. If the Zoo matchup isn’t great, welcome to most decks—and that’s okay, maybe play Zoo—but if the deck can’t even hang with, forget it.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. We’ve seen it from history and the format is ripe again. The Cats will be out in force. Build with that in mind, and if that means playing [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] yourself, I wouldn’t feel bad about it at all.

[draft]Wild Nacatl[/draft]

Well, that’s it for me this week. Obviously this is an extremely exciting time for me as the life I have been living is getting upended for a bit. No better way to start it than with a Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour.

Next week will be my last article before the tournament, and I expect I am going to put out something special.

<3 Travis

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