Linear Primers: Suicide Zoo, Part 2

temur battle rage

Hi all,

Last week I introduced you to a list that was brought to the Modern scene by MTGO user _matsugan. The take I have been playing is more like the user SUM0364’s version, with one less [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] and one maindeck [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c]. The sideboard has 2 [c]Faith’s Shield[/c] in place of the 2 [c]Pact of Negation[/c] to protect your creatures even on the turn where you aren’t winning and for utility against Burn.

My success with the deck includes a number of 8-man queue wins as well as 3-1 and 4-0 daily finishes. I handily won the requisite 15 qualifying points for the Magic Online Championship Series in as many events.

As promised, today I will analyze some of the match-ups and present sideboarding strategies. First, let me remind you of the list.

[d title=”Suicide Zoo (Modern)”]
4 Marsh Flats
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Arid Mesa
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Windswept Heath
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
1 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb

4 Death’s Shadow
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Steppe Lynx
2 Monastery Swiftspear
1 Hooting Mandrills
4 Street Wraith

Other Spells
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Temur Battle Rage
4 Become Immense

4 Thoughtseize
4 Nourishing Shoal
3 Hooting Mandrills
2 Faith’s Shield
2 Ancient Grudge [/d]

The top six decks listed on Goldfish are:
1) U/R Twin
2) Burn
3) Grixis Delver
4) Junk
5) Abzan Company
6) Jund

I’m going to call some audibles here and include other pervasive matchups:
7) Affinity
8) Bloom Titan
9) Tron Variants

Let me present to you my history with these matchups, how you should sideboard, match notes, and what I think the matchup percentage would be in a larger sample than my games. I want to add here that all of my records are in ranked play, whether in 2-man queues, 8-man queues, or daily events. There are no tournament practice room or friendly matches here. I’ve even ignored Player Run Events results, even though I have a result in the money there.

Vs. Twin

My record: 4-0 (3-0 versus Izzet Twin, 1-0 versus Tarmo Twin)

Sideboarding: [c]Become Immense[/c] is a liability when the opponent is likely to bring in [c]Vapor Snag[/c] and additional counters such as [c]Negate[/c] and [c]Dispel[/c]. In their place, we want [c]Thoughtseize[/c]. One [c]Ancient Grudge[/c] is likely a good choice too.

Notes: They are a turn four combo deck, and we are a turn three combo deck. I have never had any trouble against any Twin variant, and with it being the number one cashing deck, I am more than happy to play Suicide Zoo. They may tap down one creature with [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c], but they still often need to block the other, at which point you pump and remove their combo piece.
They will side in [c]Vedalken Shackles[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c]. To prevent them from gaining control of your creatures, [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] is a beauty. There is nothing you can do about [c]Blood Moon[/c], but if they tap out turn three to play it, you usually win with free spells and [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c].

Match Verdict: Highly favorable, 80-20 or better.

Vs. Burn

My record: 2-2

Sideboarding: We have to bring in [c]Faith’s Shield[/c], [c]Nourishing Shoal[/c]s, and extra copies of [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c]. [c]Thoughtseize[/c] targets are often better discarded than cast, so we end up with -1 [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c], -2 [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c], -4 [c]Steppe Lynx[/c], -4 [c]Street Wraith[/c] for +4 [c]Nourishing Shoal[/c], +3 [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c], +2 [c]Faith’s Shield[/c] and +2 [c]Thoughtseize[/c]. We can afford to go less wide here because there often are no blockers, and we can eliminate some of the value from [c]Searing Blaze[/c].

Notes: This is the worst matchup. In this small sample, I think that I’ve stolen two match wins away on the back of [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] alone, but this is unreliable in the long term. [c]Nourishing Shoal[/c] and [c]Faith’s Shield[/c] are good at what they do: giving us one extra turn. Your opponent may have [c]Path to Exile[/c] and [c]Deflecting Palm[/c] for the loss.

Match Verdict: Highly unfavorable, 20-80. This means that Suicide Zoo is best when you can advance and finish in the money with X-2, but Burn isn’t prevalent enough to avoid entering 8-mans and dailies altogether with Suicide Zoo. (Sidenote: RIP Modern Premier Events!)

Grixis Delver

My record: 3-1

Sideboarding: This is the toughest match to sideboard. Again, [c]Become Immense[/c] has to go out because of all the instant-speed removal. We want to go wide and protect ourselves from removal, so I go -4 [c]Become Immense[/c], -4 [c]Street Wraith[/c] for +3 [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c], +2 [c]Faith’s Shield[/c] and +3 [c]Thoughtseize[/c].

Notes: [c]Murderous Cut[/c], [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c], [c]Terminate[/c], and [c]Vapor Snag[/c] are some of our least favorite cards besides [c]Path to Exile[/c]. [c]Slaughter Pact[/c], if they play it, is our least favorite card. [c]Young Pyromancer[/c] provides blockers for days. A flipped Delver is unblockable. The match looks grim, but the opponent will be doing himself a lot of damage, and he has to tap out fairly aggressively to apply pressure. This strain usually creates a window for you to get some creatures to attack, and one of them will be able to finish the opponent off.

Match Verdict: Although I am sitting at 75%, I imagine in a larger sample the match is closer to even or die roll dependent.


My record: 4-3

Sideboarding: +3 [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c], +2 [c]Faith’s Shield[/c], +2 [c]Thoughtseize[/c], -3 [c]Become Immense[/c], -4 [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c]. The growths are less applicable here when removal does not damage. [c]Faith’s Shield[/c] evades [c]Lingering Souls[/c] tokens and “counters” [c]Abrupt Decay[/c] and [c]Path to Exile[/c].

Notes: Their game depends on having [c]Thoughtseize[/c] into [c]Abrupt Decay[/c] or [c]Path to Exile[/c] into [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c]. Any game this doesn’t happen is one that I am extremely favored. If they can untap with Lily, and I have no creatures, then I can write it off as a loss. I like my odds in any game where they open with creatures, as mine are just bigger and better, especially when a [c]Become Immense[/c] shrinks down the opposing [c]Tarmogoyf[/c].

Match Verdict: In two back to back matches I lost to Abzan Junk after repeatedly taking mulligans and flooding thereafter. Unlike the Burn matchup, variance has misrepresented the Abzan matchup to be even when really I believe it to be 70-30 or better in favor of Suicide Zoo.

Abzan Company

My record: 2-1

Sideboarding: [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c], [c]Ancient Grudge[/c], and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] come in for [c]Become Immense[/c] and [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c].

Notes: If possible, bolt the bird.

Trample makes all the difference in this matchup. Remember that any creature and land combination equaling five likely means that [c]Chord of Calling[/c] can get [c]Spellskite[/c] at instant speed. They have [c]Kitchen Finks[/c] which are annoying, but as long as they do not go infinite, any life total is subject to a double striking [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] attack for up to 38 (it’s my record high).

Match Verdict: Abzan Company is, as they say, all the rage, and the deck is still in its infancy. Its build and play will improve over time, but right now, I think that in a larger sample of games the percentage would fall between 55-45 and where it is now.

Vs. Jund

My record: 2-1

Sideboarding: Cuts and sideboard choices are more difficult here than against Abzan because of [c]Lightning Bolt[/c]. We can no longer cut [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] with ease. -3 [c]Become Immense[/c], -4 [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], +3 [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c], +3 [c]Thoughtseize[/c].

Notes: This match is slightly more difficult for me than the Abzan match, but at the same time, we aren’t concerned with some of the benefits of playing Jund over Junk. Namely, [c]Dark Confidant[/c] is not great against us. Their life total is lowered, and their mana is so constrained in the early game anyway that it is difficult to make use of the removal, cheap and efficient though it may be. Fortunately, [c]Siege Rhino[/c], [c]Lingering Souls[/c], and [c]Path To Exile[/c] are not used here.

Match Verdict: I would give a few more percentage points to Jund over Junk. 65-35 Suicide Zoo.

Vs. Affinity

My record: 1-2

Sideboarding: We want trample and [c]Ancient Grudge[/c], so [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] can come out for them.

Notes: What a tough match for Suicide Zoo. Affinity goes wide right away, and its [c]Galvanic Blast[/c] are so much stronger than [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] in other matches. Aside from the hate from blockers and removal, they have a very significant clock. [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c] is our key card, and all hope rests on him.

Match Verdict: After more games in ranked play I may come up with a better solution in the sideboard. [c]Apostle’s Blessing[/c], for example, may prove better than [c]Faith’s Shield[/c] in an overall metagame. Still, as is, I think the matchup is between my 33% and 40-60 in Affinity’s favor. Their sideboard bombs are way better than ours: [c]Blood Moon[/c], [c]Spellskite[/c], and, most notably, [c]Chalice of the Void[/c].

Vs. Bloom Titan

My record: 0-3 sad times.

Sideboarding: +4 [c]Thoughtseize[/c] for [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], and [c]Ancient Grudge[/c]s for [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c].

Notes: This is a race. The opponent is fast and can interact with you, and you cannot do much to interact with him. He plays our least favorite cards: [c]Pact of Negation[/c] and [c]Slaughter Pact[/c], and he can randomly win as fast as we can.

Match Verdict: I have spoken with some Bloom Titan players about the matchup, and they say that they must have an incredible opening hand to win the games. In real life, I suppose this is easy for Bloom Titan, but even online, I have a complete losing record. In multiple games here, I’ve gotten stuck with opening hands that had an unplayable [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] or [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c] that gave them time they needed to win. I think in a larger sample, my record would come up to a good 40-60, maybe even better.

I will add a note here saying that I hate Bloom Titan. I know I have no room to complain since I’m on a turn 3 combo-aggro deck, but they’re on the combo attack plan with an alternate route and some interactive spells. So I will complain. [c]Summer Bloom[/c] needs to go.

Vs. Tron

My record: 3-1 versus Gruul Tron, 1-0 vs. Azorius Tron, 1-0 versus [c]Open the Vaults[/c] Tron, and 1-0 vs. Mono Blue Tron

Sideboarding: [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] and [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] are likely cuts for [c]Thoughtseize[/c] and, when applicable, [c]Ancient Grudge[/c]

Notes: These are easy. They take a long time to develop, and we win in a short time. I had to highlight this match because all the various forms are picking up in popularity online, and this is a good reason to play Suicide Zoo.

Match Verdict: I can’t believe I lost a match to Gruul Tron. It is an incredibly favorable match, and variance really didn’t work out for me in the opening hands and early development. I had to win before [c]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/c] was dropped, and I didn’t. At a 6-1 match record, I genuinely believe that for every six match wins against an opposing Tron build, I would lose only once or less.


This concludes my write-up on my favorite deck in Modern at the moment. I just can’t believe how well Wizards knocked it out of the park with the Ferocious and Delve mechanics. Who would ever have guessed that Ferocious would have more application in constructed than limited?

Were there any matches that you were interested in that I missed? Otherwise, do you have any questions about how to play the deck, particularly in certain match-ups? If so, let me know in the comments below!