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)”]
Land
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

Creatures
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

Sideboard
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.

Junk

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.

Conclusion

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!

-drinkard

 

Linear Primers: Suicide Zoo, Part 1

become immense

Hi all,

Modern is a format that rewards players for choosing decks that win as quickly and efficiently as possible. The top decks to prepare your 75 cards against are Burn, Affinity, Grixis Delver, Twin, Abzan, Infect, and Bloom Titan. The latter two are most capable of exploding and winning by turn 3. Burn and Affinity are less explosive but more consistent at winning by turn 4. Splinter Twin is a “slower” combo deck that wins on turn 4 or later, but it has means of controlling the opponent until the pieces come together. Delver and Abzan are capable of winning quickly or grinding the opponent out.

Aside from these top lists, Bogles, Collected Company Elves, Merfolk, G/R Tron, and other lists are fairly linear. For purposes of this article series, I am using “linear” to describe decks that have a limited number of decisions to make in the early turns where decision-making is critical. When plays open up, the decisions are likely irrelevant. Of the above list, Tron is likely the least linear, but once you figure out a few nuances, its early turns are very similar.

Background

This month I decided to qualify for MOCS. It will be the first time since I got MTGO two years ago that I have attempted to do it, and at this article’s writing, I am 13/15 the way there. I have earned these points, easily might I add, on the back of a Modern linear strategy: Suicide Zoo. I am profiting while playing in 8-man queues and maintaining a 60% win rate.

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

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

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

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

While the deck is explosive and extremely consistent at turn three kills, it also plays through a lot of disruption. I am undefeated in 3 ranked matches against Twin, and I am highly favored in the Abzan matchup as well. The deck has a surprising ability to go wide for so few creatures because of all the cantrips, and all you need is one opening to end the game.

This deck is more powerful than the sum of its parts. Consider the resources that you use which are unlike any resource pools that any other deck takes advantage of:

  1. Land-drops, particularly from fetch-lands, enabling ferocious and explosive power from [c]Steppe Lynx[/c].
  2. A low life total produces a lethal [c]Death’s Shadow[/c].
  3. Cards in graveyard enable the casting of [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c] and [c]Become Immense[/c].
  4. Non-creature spells power up [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c].

Each of these cogs rotate together very smoothly and powerfully. When you are making your land drops, you are building your graveyard and lowering your life total. Cyclers like [c]Street Wraith[/c] and [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] lower your life total and increase the graveyard resource. Comboing out with [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c] and [c]Become Immense[/c] naturally powers up [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] as well.

Because of the interaction between these resources, it is very inadvisable to make any changes to the deck. Many people are tempted to change the land base or bring in [c]Goblin Guide[/c], but both of these changes create a marginal increase in consistency with a huge collapse in explosiveness. The deck is a brick wall that stands strong but needs all of its components.

The next question that comes to everyone’s mind when they see [c]Become Immense[/c] is “Why not just play Infect?” After all, [c]Become Immense[/c] and a creature deals 70% of the damage needed to kill with Infect and only 33% of the damage needed to kill with regular damage. To answer this, I say that this our opponents’ Modern mana-bases are dealing damage to them, that our creatures have more durable backsides, and we play more creatures than Infect can. I have played with Infect, and I have played with Suicide Zoo, and the latter is the more consistent early killer.

The Game-plan

Turn Zero:
Your opening hand is critical, and what’s more is that there are many question marks in your opening hand. You have twelve cantrips, and when examining your seven, it is impossible to tell what those twelve will become once you’ve kept. You have to mulligan hands without creatures, and if you suspect [c]Thoughtseize[/c] or [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c], even one creature can be suspect. What’s more, [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] and [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c] have varied reliability in the early game. Any hand with 1-2 creatures and 1-2 land is a snap keep. Remember that you can go aggro the old-fashioned way without a combo piece.

Opening plays:
The best fetchlands to play in this deck have the same color configurations of the shocklands that you do not play. Since we do not play [c]Godless Shrine[/c] or [c]Stomping Ground[/c], the fetchlands we have 4 of will fetch any shock in the deck. The design for the rest is to have a balance between the shocks, but the best configuration to have on turn 2 is [c]Temple Garden[/c] and [c]Blood Crypt[/c]. The reason is that often you want [c]Steppe Lynx[/c] on turn one and need access to [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] mana and [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] or [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] mana on turn 2.

[c]Mishra’s Bauble[/c] is the most misunderstood card in the deck. With 13 fetchlands, you can use [c]Mishra’s Bauble[/c] to draw a card and give yourself some security knowing that you are drawing a card you want. Take a look at your own top card before activating a fetchland, and you can decide whether you want to pick it up with [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] or [c]Street Wraith[/c]. If not, wait until after shuffling. Additionally, [c]Mishra’s Bauble[/c] can be activated on your opponent’s upkeep to see what they are drawing and play around it. The card that you draw from this activation will be safe from discard spells.

Aside from bauble, I see many people misplaying the other cantrips. My advice to you for the early game is that if you already know what you are playing that turn, then there is no need to cantrip. Needlessly cycling [c]Street Wraith[/c] and [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] open you up to crippling [c]Thoughtseize[/c]s and [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c]s. I’ve smiled as many opponents target me with discard, placing [c]Street Wraith[/c] in the graveyard, only for me to topdeck [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] and proceed with the beatdown undeterred.

Besides these cantripping mistakes and directions to take your lands, your first two turns are spent widening out your board. A creature has to get through blockers to combo off.

Finish Him!

The combo is [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c] and [c]Become Immense[/c]. Because you are playing a 48 card deck, this is assembled with relative ease. Even without the pair of cards, either one is often enough to deal lethal damage. Many games will be won with [c]Temur Battle Rage[/c] alone on a creature targeted also by [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] or just on a [c]Death’s Shadow[/c].

I do not want to advertise this deck as the turn 3 deck of the format that always accomplishes this feat. I win many games on turns six through as high as thirteen. Unlike other aggro decks, this deck does not fold if the opponent survives past turn 4. Any opening creates a kill, and your opponent will not be making good trades with [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] in the late game.

Conclusion

Before I move on to other decks I will look at matchups playing this deck.I’ll show you my numbers against decks in the metagame and tell you how the games play out. Some of them might not be what you think. After that, I will explain the sideboard and tell you how I side in different matches. Continue to Linear Primers: Suicide Zoo, Part 2.

-drinkard