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

 

Win More, Lesson One: Start By Winning

Hi all,

I want to share with you all how to win more. Primarily, I suppose I am a Modern writer, but this lesson will help you win more at Magic in general. The concept of “Start By Winning” is a deck-selecting, opening hand-mulliganing, and game-playing philosophy I have adopted since attempting to become a more competitive Magic Online player, and it has really advanced my level of play.

What’s more is that it has boosted my enjoyment of the game immeasurably.

Backstory

The first deck I remember copying was called “Wrath of Titania.” This was before “netdecking” had even gained meaning. There may have been a few Angelfire sites out there with various brews, but otherwise the concept didn’t exist. Instead, I found the list in a Duelist magazine. Does anyone even know what that is anymore?

The deck was beautiful. The opponent was completely controlled by artifacts until I played [c]Wrath of God[/c] and [c]Titania’s Song[/c] in subsequent turns. Sometimes the song would be followed by [c]Armageddon[/c]. This was in Type 2, as Standard was known then.

Basically, this type of deck really appealed to me for many years. A lot of Modern players are really attracted to this strategy: don’t let your opponent do anything until whatever absurd card wins the game for you. Whether it is playing enough hateful white enchantments, discarding enough cards from your opponent’s hand, destroying enough of their lands, or locking them by some other means, you will encounter this behavior in the Tournament Practice room roughly one out of three (if not more) games.

Don't let your opponent do anything.
Don’t let your opponent do anything.

Present Day

Have you ever tried this strategy? How did the games go? If I had my guess, I would say none of the games appeared remotely close. Either:

  1. Your opponent conceded at the first sign of [c]Wrench Mind[/c], [c]Runed Halo[/c], or maindeck [c]Molten Rain[/c].
  2. You succeeded in preventing your opponent from finding any enjoyment from the game.
  3. Your opponent applied pressure and left you likely with very little on the board because they answered your attempts to control them.

Whenever you see a deck that you think is interesting, measure how easy it is to build versus its success in actual tournaments. If it is cheap to make and is not placing in tournaments, then it should no longer be interesting. Still, these decks are rampant in the Tournament Practice room, and apparently this practice is not going well for them. The decks continue to be absent from dailies results.

The problem with the “control everything” strategy, particularly in Modern, is the power level of early plays. A simple early [c]Delver of Secrets[/c], [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c], or in some cases [c]Young Pyromancer[/c] is all the pressure the opponent needs to kill you, even if it takes many turns to do so. Their lands are untapped during your turn, meaning they can interact with the ways that you try to stop them.

The calligraphy of combat is written with strokes of sudden blood.
The calligraphy of combat is written with strokes of sudden blood.

I have been on both sides of the one-drop beatdown. While experimenting with Modern decks such as Bogles, Eggs, Mono-Red Burn, and Ad Nauseam I would often get destroyed by a turn one [c]Delver of Secrets[/c]. At the same time, I was trying to figure out why the lists that were working succeeded. I have tried many times on this site to articulate why certain archetypes like Gruul Beats and Mono-Green Infect performed well at certain times.

Finally I think I’ve figured it out: their fundamental approach is to start the game in a winning position and remain there.

Many Modern decks do not have this design. Decks in Modern aim to assemble specific combinations of cards or to prevent the opponent from winning. Players would do much better to take the upper hand right away. If you don’t start winning until you have [c]Angel’s Grace[/c] and [c]Ad Nauseam[/c], or [c]Slippery Bogle[/c] with two auras on him, or Urza Tron, then you are doing yourself a disservice in a significant percentage of your matches. You are starting the game severely behind your opponent, disadvantaged, and with the hope that your pieces come together. If they don’t, and your deck has a back-up plan, then your deck is most likely diluted.

Instead of crossing fingers and hoping to achieve a winning position by turns 3 and 4, what I’m telling you to do is to play a solid early beater and maintain the winning position. Early beaters include [c]Wild Nacatl[/c], [c]Goblin Guide[/c], [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c], [c]Delver of Secrets[/c], [c]Glistener Elf[/c] and possibly even [c]Steppe Lynx[/c]. With no investment of mana during your turn, you can easily carry these creatures to victory quickly.

Once you have your victory condition and the requisite mana placed in your deck, I find that the best cards to support your win are those that serve either the purpose of protecting the win or speeding up the win. Consider some of these examples:

  • In Infect, [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c] and [c]Giant Growth[/c] deal colossal amounts of damage or protect your creature from [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], or [c]Path to Exile[/c].
  • In Zoo, [c]Boros Charm[/c] protects your creatures from spot removal and mass destruction, or it deals four or more to the dome.
  • [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] is easily supported by any instants and sorceries. Even playing a couple of [c]Lightning Bolt[/c]s targeting your opponent can save Swifty from a [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] your opponent may have!

When your win conditions are beaters, cards like [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] and its kin serve both to protect the win and to win faster.

Nothing quickens the predator's blood like the unfamiliar scents of new hunting grounds and the mewling cries of new prey.
Nothing quickens the predator’s blood like the unfamiliar scents of new hunting grounds and the mewling cries of new prey.

Applying The Philosophy

I’ve shared Infect decks with you before. If you want a [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] deck, literally look at any results page from the past several months, and you can find a few. Lately, though, my weapon of choice has been a JohnnyHotSauce Zooish Burnish… thing. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s pretty darn good.

[d title=”HotSauce ZooBurn (Modern)”]
Land
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Copperline Gorge
2 Mountain
3 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Windswept Heath

Creatures
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
3 Become Immense
4 Boros Charm
3 Gut Shot
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
2 Searing Blood

Sideboard
2 Chained to the Rocks
3 Destructive Revelry
1 Gut Shot
3 Path to Exile
3 Rest in Peace
2 Searing Blaze
1 Searing Blood[/d]

This is by far my favorite deck I’ve ever played on MTGO.

I also happen to be starting out relatively successfully with it. I’ve been in two finals of Player-Run Events, winning the first, and I’ve gone 4-0, 3-1 twice, 2-2, and 0-2 in dailies for an overall 9:6 match record in ticketed events.

Giant double-striker on turn 3, here we come!
Giant double-striker on turn 3, here we come!

I have strayed from the original list in the following ways:

  • JohnnyHotSauce originally played 9 fetches, including 4 [c]Arid Mesa[/c], and 8 shocks. Honestly my mana-base is unacceptable. It hasn’t cost me a game that [c]Windswept Heath[/c] can only fetch shocklands yet, but it has been awfully close. I should play the full 8 shocks and 4 [c]Bloodstained Mire[/c], 4 [c]Wooded Foothills[/c], and 1 [c]Arid Mesa[/c], as it would be functionally identical to his mana-base.
  • I removed the 3 [c]Dismember[/c] from the sideboard in place of [c]Path to Exile[/c]. [c]Dismember[/c] is clearly better overall, but I felt like I had too little to side in against Burn, particularly when on the play. Between [c]Goblin Guide[/c], [c]Gut Shot[/c], and [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c], there are simply too many cards to side out that need good replacements.

Beyond those, I have forced myself to stay true to the original list. It is tiresome to hear reviews of decks after the reviewer has gutted them out of some key cards. I want eventually to test something in place of the [c]Rest in Peace[/c] cards, whether they are [c]Pillar of Flame[/c], [c]Jotun Grunt[/c] or other similar pieces. This change would allow me to get back to the original [c]Dismember[/c].

You serve Phyrexia. Your pieces would better serve Phyrexia elsewhere.
You serve Phyrexia. Your pieces would better serve Phyrexia elsewhere.

This deck is the epitome of start winning and then either protect or speed up the win. An early [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] or [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] can go the distance over the course of many turns, protected by removal, pump spells, and [c]Boros Charm[/c], or you can randomly KO people on turn three (happens a lot!) with [c]Become Immense[/c] and [c]Boros Charm[/c], double striking with a 9/9.

Hopefully you can look forward to seeing me more with the deck. I will write about its match-ups and sideboarding plans in the future, but I really just wanted to use it here to illustrate the effectiveness of the start-by-winning mindset. I hope that you’ll try it out because I know you won’t be disappointed.

-drinkard

Unified Strike 4: Zoo in Legacy and Modern

Hi all,

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done one of these Unified Strike articles, and it’s been even longer since I have felt that I was able to create competitive decks between formats that share so many cards.

Everyone has been sick of the song “Blurred Lines” for a while now, I’m sure. It has long been worn out on the radio, but when it was getting regular play, it didn’t take long to wear on the general public.

Now, the lines between Modern and Legacy are blurred, and the Magic reading, writing, and playing community is getting sick of the cause of the blurriness: [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]. Everyone is writing about banning it, keeping it, playing it, and beating it. Personally, I enjoy the latter, and that’s where we are today.

Two decks are oppressively common on MTGO now because of [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]: Burn and U/R Delver. I genuinely believe that if you create a strategy that is consistently good against these, then you receive a free round or two in a Daily Event. You can also quickly accumulate some packs and profit even in 2-man queues provided that said packs sell for 3 or more tickets.

Looking through Legacy archives and old articles, and theory-crafting in general, I believe that a Zoo variant can crush Delver. It was known to have a good Delver match-up in its day, and the prevalence of other decks kept it at bay in the meantime. Now that Delver is the top-dog in Legacy, Zoo can make a comeback. In addition, Zoo can race Burn in both formats, easily on the play, and its sideboard can equip the player to embarrass Burn.

Chalice of the Void Variants

Zoo has shown promise lately in Modern, albeit in various forms. Most commonly, we find a deck that MTGGoldfish has dubbed “Chalizoo,” seemingly designed by the user Atomic.

[d title=”Atomic Zoo”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
1 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Plains
2 Raging Ravine
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
1 Stirring Wildwood
3 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
2 Fleecemane Lion
4 Kird Ape
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Qasali Pridemage
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Dead & Gone
4 Lightning Helix
2 Pyroclasm
4 Volcanic Fallout

Sideboard
4 Destructive Revelry
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Gaddock Teeg
1 Naya Charm
1 Patrician’s Scorn
1 Rule of Law
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Selesnya Charm[/d]

Note to self: 3 toughness plus Volcanic Fallout

This deck applies insane amounts of pressure while applying extremely effective hate for a lot of decks. [c]Chalice of the Void[/c] effectively shuts down Delver if it resolves, and against Burn, it buys you a lot of time.

[c]Volcanic Fallout[/c] is the best card in the deck by far, and it’s what we’re going to keep in mind with our original creations. First of all, it is an uncounterable way to clear the board of [c]Insectile Aberration[/c] and Elemental tokens with [c]Young Pyromancer[/c]. Secondly, its stops Burn’s most dreaded opener of [c]Goblin Guide[/c] turn 1 and [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] turn 2 ([c]Pyroclasm[/c] is of course great here too). Finally, the reach is significant enough to point out. Zoo is easily built to have creatures that withstand the fallout, and the applied pressure continues.

Now let me be clear here: [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] is a painful card to cut. You nearly have to play against [c]Anger of the Gods[/c] and UWR Control full of [c]Lightning Helix[/c] and [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] a few times to realize it, but it really hurts not to play the guy. You can make arguments for the removal all you want, including the prevalence of hate resulting from [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and other factors, but at the end of the day, it is a budget decision.

That being said, the user powellgol successfully did bring a Chalizoo deck without Tarmogoyfs to a 3-1 finish on November 2. His creature base replaces the 4 [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] with 2 [c]Flinthoof Boar[/c] and 2 [c]Boros Reckoner[/c]. I don’t know whether these two are best, but again, results are results. Interestingly, also, this deck included 1 [c]Overgrown Tomb[/c] in the main in order to play [c]Slaughter Games[/c] in the sideboard. I’m not so sure this deck is weak enough to [c]Scapeshift[/c] to justify this change, but that certainly is the answer if so.

Domain Zoo

Domain Zoo is a pre-existing archetype in Legacy and Modern, and it has more reach than any other aggro deck, period. The most recent Zoo finish is from user echecetmat35 on November 9. Interestingly, his deck runs no [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] but does include [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]. The combination of [c]Tribal Flames[/c] and [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] is sure to finish an opponent off after fighting over resources and board position.

Be warned; losing [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] did not make this deck cheap:

[d title=”Echecetmat35 Domain Zoo”]
Lands
1 Breeding Pool
2 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Watery Grave
4 Windswept Heath

Creatures
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Seeker of the Way
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Lightning Helix
2 Mana Leak
4 Remand
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 Treasure Cruise
4 Tribal Flames

Sideboard
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Forked Bolt
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Molten Rain
2 Path to Exile
2 Slaughter Games
2 Stony Silence[/d]

With very few spells with converted mana cost 1 of its own, this deck very comfortably plays a [c]Chalice of the Void[/c] at one counter, and [c]Seeker of the Way[/c] is a fascinating inclusion as well. There are a lot of strong cards included here that give the deck a lot of resiliency in any metagame; it’s no wonder the user succeeded, and if he continues to play the deck, I think it would easily 4-0 a number of events.

One-Drop Zoo

I wouldn’t give this deck much attention because I think that there are a few poor excuses for not playing [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] in it (that don’t include running [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]), but user dwilliams1990, apparently born ten years after THE D Williams (poker and Magic enthusiast) did make some money with this list:

[d title=One-Drop Zoo]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
2 Forest
2 Mountain
2 Plains
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Experiment One
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape
4 Loam Lion
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile

Sideboard
2 Choke
4 Destructive Revelry
4 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Stony Silence
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/d]

One thing you gotta hand the guy: this deck is certainly the most consistent, and it also is fast.

One should never make the mistake, though, to suggest that one drops necessarily are faster than others. Even if you have three creatures out at the end of turn two instead of curving out with three over the course of another turn, the latter probably allows you to operate above removal and be less susceptible to blowouts.

In addition to the above criticism, I think Modern and Pauper aggro players alike are chronically playing too few land. I may play too many, but especially in a deck with three colors that has specific land requirements for its creatures to be good, I find it hard to believe that less than 22 is the right number.

Alright, now, to my own things. First I’ll share a random brew. There are lots of ‘cats’ in the Zoo archetype, so let’s try this.

[d title=”Drinkard Kitty Zoo”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Mountain
1 Plains
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
2 Fleecemane Lion
4 Loam Lion
2 Qasali Pridemage
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
4 Boros Charm
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Lightning Helix
2 Pyroclasm
4 Volcanic Fallout [/d]

As long as [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] is in play, none of your creatures can be countered, even by your own [c]Chalice of the Void[/c]. This deck should have a very easy time dealing with [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] and company, and the Burn match-up is manageable as well.

Well, that was fun, but if I had to make a choice for the cheapest Zoo deck that transcended the Modern and Legacy formats, it would be the following.

Modern

Here I’m putting together my favorite elements of Zoo in the archetypes above, without [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] for budget reasons.

[d title=”Drinkard Modern Zoo”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
2 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
2 Plains
3 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath

Creatures
4 Kird Ape
2 Hooting Mandrills
4 Loam Lion
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Qasali Pridemage
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
2 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
2 Path to Exile
2 Pyroclasm
4 Volcanic Fallout

Sideboard
1 Bow of Nylea
2 Choke
4 Destructive Revelry
1 Fracturing Gust
4 Kor Firewalker
1 Phyrexian Unlife
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence[/d]

This deck adheres to the [c]Volcanic Fallout[/c]-survival rule in order to compete against Public Enemy #1. I simply have to play [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c] or [c]Become Immense[/c] to take advantage of the graveyard, and without [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c] or trample effects, I believe the former is better. 3 toughness is important for our creatures to survive against our own deck, but 4 toughness is important to survive most opponents’ removal.

Generally, you want to play just enough creatures to apply pressure, and depending on what the opponent is playing, hold back mana and cards to interact and bluff. After you have access to all three colors, fetch Mountains unless you expect [c]Blood Moon[/c].

The sideboard has a lot of high-impact cards that would be redundant at more than 1-of, so I’m keeping them that way. Against Burn, we side out 2 [c]Boros Charm[/c], 2 [c]Hooting Mandrills[/c], and 2 [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] for 4 [c]Kor Firewalker[/c], [c]Bow of Nylea[/c], and [c]Phyrexian Unlife[/c]. Aim for sources of white mana with your fetches in games 2 and 3, and don’t get caught with a Firewalker in hand that you can’t play.

Against Delver, we want to bring in [c]Choke[/c], [c]Rest in Peace[/c], [c]Bow of Nylea[/c], and the 4 [c]Kor Firewalker[/c]. We remove 2 [c]Qasali Pridemage[/c], 2 [c]Boros Charm[/c], 2 [c]Path to Exile[/c], and 1 [c]Kird Ape[/c].

This deck has great match-ups against Delver, Affinity, Pod, Bogles (post-side), and rogue aggro things like Soul Sisters. The match-ups against Burn, BG, and opposing midrange decks are even, and combo matches that don’t care about life-total or specific permanents, like Storm and Ad Nauseam, can be bad. The great thing about this deck is that in its 75 are plenty of pieces of board control and pressure. Even the worst matchup can be won if the opponent stumbles on mana.

The Legacy Port

Again, Delver has spread throughout all formats, so if we build a deck to beat it in Modern, it should work relatively well in Legacy. I have put this through some 2-mans with promising results.

[d title=”Drinkard Legacy Zoo”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
2 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
2 Plains
3 Plateau
2 Savannah
2 Taiga
4 Windswept Heath

Creatures
4 Kird Ape
4 Loam Lion
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Wild Nacatl

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
2 Pyroclasm
4 Volcanic Fallout

Sideboard
3 Kor Firewalker
1 Krosan Grip
3 Pyroblast
3 Red Elemental Blast
3 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Warmth [/d]

Burn is more powerful in Legacy, so we’re going with the more-powerful hate in [c]Warmth[/c]. Combined with [c]Kor Firewalker[/c], we should have that match. My only 2-man against Burn seemed to be a budget deck because it had [c]Vexing Devil[/c], but I won it in an easy 2-0. Now that the deck is propped up on its creatures, having big blockers helps you in the life race.

Elves is an easy match-up if you can get the game to turn 3. [c]Volcanic Fallout[/c] and all your burn spells are golden here.

You have the same strength here as you do against U/r Delver in Modern.

Unfortunately, even though Delver is ruler of the Legacy and Modern roosts, Legacy is still more diverse than Modern. There are a lot of decks that this deck is particularly cold to. You often lose badly to 12-Post, [c]Show and Tell[/c], Reanimator, Ad Nauseam Tendrils, and other fast combo. Your sideboard is geared to handle as much as possible, but there is only so much 15 cards can do in such a format. You do have a lot of hope with these strong matchups and the consistency of an aggro deck, though.

I really love these decks, and it has been a fresh air of interactivity after playing Bogles, Burn, and Infect for a while. It is wonderful not to have matchups that you easily win or miserably lose, but some even matchups and other good ones. I hope you try it out. Either way, good luck, have fun.

-drinkard

One Drop Zoo

199So, it was really hard for me to think about any other deck than Zoo this week. As I said last tuesday, with fechlands getting lower prices (around 14€ as we speak, at least in the case of the non-island searching ones), Zoo might become a good, if not the best, option for people looking for a way to begin playing Modern.

Looking around the interwebs, I found this:

[d title=”Interwebs Zoo (Modern)”]
Land
4 Wooded foothills
4 Windswept Heath
4 Arid Mesa
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Grounds
2 Temple Garden
1 Plains
1 Mountain

Creatures
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 Loam Lion
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Goblin Guide
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

Spells
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile[/d]

This is not the definitive list yet, though. My intention is to make a powerful list that can offer strong performance and explosive gameplay with some removal/reach to help the pilot make the last few points of damage. Path to Exile is the only concession we make to pure removal: that’s because it can remove blockers and just running it will make Twin (not our best matchup) have to be a bit more cautious and try to combo one turn later. The most important caveat though is the price of this list, as there is no way we can build this for less than 200 euros.

Let’s see what we have, how it helps our plan, and how it can stand further budgetising:

loamlion3[c]Wild Nacatl[/c]
[c]Kird Ape[/c]
[c]Loam Lion[/c]

Delver of Secrets does not always flip, but we can trust this trifecta to consistently fulfill their potential to become ultra-efficient threats. Nacatl will most often his the opponent for three by turn 2, and it will trade favourably with [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c], [c]Dark Confidant[/c] and other small creatures. Three points of toughness are very nice in the first turns. [c]Kird Ape[/c] and [c]Loam Lion[/c] are not as impressive, but they keep the favorable trading with lots of important creatures in the format and work great. Out of these only [c]Loam Lion[/c] could potentially be axed in favour of a more consistent RG creature base. Nevertheless, we are going to need white for [c]Path to Exile[/c] and [c]Boros Charm[/c], and we need Plains for Wild Nacatl to be useful, so we might as well play the Lion.

These three, in conclusion, are well worth it and we should run them. Also, they are all really cheap.

[c]Goblin Guide[/c]

This guy here is run in Burn, and that speaks wonders of his efficiency. We might be giving the opponent cards, but this list is definitely not about card advantage, but about not giving the opponent time to play whatever they have in their hands. Remember we also see what they are going to draw: write it down and keep it in mind.

The only problem: 15€ each. It could prove difficult to fit this in the list if we are to keep it under 200€.

SteppeLynx[c]Steppe Lynx[/c]

The initial list runs 12 fetchlands, which makes it easy for us to consistently have this be another Loam Lion. Further budgetising could mean cutting some fetchlands though: Arid Mesa is still 25€ (and, strangely, rising) and a playset of them means half the price limit. Playing only 8 fetchlands would make the Lynx not so much worth it. Also, while Steppe Lynx hits for 4 on turn 2 and 3 sometimes (and is therefore a beast), it can also fall prey to [c]Electrolyze[/c]. Actually, two cats can die to a single electrolyze, which is worrying.

[c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c]

This cannot be countered and pumps creatures big. Combine it with [c]Boros Charm[/c] and we’re looking at a single [c]Wild Nacatl[/c] dealing 14. Magical Christmas land, but still. It can be played as a creature, of course, but pumping is what this card is here for mostly.

I would find it weird not to play this.

635032499323720796[c]Boros Charm[/c]

Three modes, and they are all useful. Protecting all your creatures can be a great answer to [c]Anger of the Gods[/c], this deck’s greatest enemy; four damage to the dome could be all that’s standing between you and winning the game; and double strike can be a blowout in certain situations, such as a creature already pumped by Ghor-Clan Rampager. We love Boros Charm. Also, they are really cheap, so we can play four without making much of a dent in our budget.

[c]Lightning Helix[/c]

An aggro deck such as this one will not generally care much about life totals. We will generally bolt ourselves more than our opponents will though, as we really need those shocklands online ASAP. Therefore, a bit of lifegain attached to a lightning bolt easily makes the cut. Also, not really expensive! My local game store has them for 2.5€ each, so 4 fit in the deck without a problem.

[c]Lightning Bolt[/c]

Are we discussing this? We run red, we need to remove blockers, we might need some reach in turns 4-6 to end the game, we play Lightning Bolt. Actually, the reasoning could very well be ‘We run red, we play Bolt.’

[c]Path to Exile[/c]

Premium removal. This does not double as reach, but it is a lot more solid: it will remove from the game any pesky blocker and let you continue beating face. Or it could remove [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c] when a Twin player hopes to combo on turn 4. Or… so many things. It is always useful to be able to remove enemy creatures from the game. Let’s not forget we could potentially target one of our creatures to pump [c]Steppe Lynx[/c]. It will not generally be what we want to do, but it could mean those two last points of damage.

THE BUDGET

We completely omitted [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], and we actually have a non-budget reason for it: It is too slow for this deck. We genuinely don’t want to play it. Even without it, though, the deck costs around 250€, which is a bit more than what we had originally planned.

[c]Goblin Guide[/c] is the biggest offender in the creatures. The playset is 60€ at least, which is more or less what we need to cut. [c]Experiment One[/c] is a very good option, even though it just can’t hit as fast. The second Evolve trigger, though, will make it bigger than Guide, and it will not have the card advantage drawback. We could make the cut.

12 fetchlands are ideal, but I think ten of them could be enough. We need to crack fetches to give [c]Steppe Lynx[/c] a boost, of course, it’s only they are still a bit expensive. Cutting a couple of [c]Arid Mesa[/c] also brings the deck’s price down to the 200€ we intended on spending.

If we take both routes at the same time, we end up with a pretty manageable price and a respectable deck:

[d title=”One Drop Zoo (Modern)”]
Land
4 Wooded foothills
4 Windswept Heath
2 Arid Mesa
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Grounds
2 Temple Garden
1 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Forest

Creatures
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 Loam Lion
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Experiment One
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

Spells
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile[/d]

Total Price: Around 180€.

I am going to test the deck during the next three weeks at my local game store, facing a varied meta (we are lucky to get a respectable number of players regularly), and I’m going to report back with my findings. I really, really hope I’ll be able to recommend this deck to everyone.

That was all for today. See you next week, and let’s see how much attention you pay to the newest decks out there: What am I going to be talking about? A clue:

Jeskai_Ascendancy

A Bite Out of Modern: Bare Minimum Decks

Hi all,

Last time in this series we took a look at Affinity by zbishop. This user took an oppressively tier 1 strategy and discovered that even stripped of [c]Mox Opal[/c], the robot swarm could function effectively and cash. It should be noted at this point, that for the same budget this player has assembled Burn, but I can’t really know without finding him on MTGO whether he sold his Affinity pieces to do so.

Be that as it may, if any of you bought into zbishop Affinity, or even more cheaply, Drinkard affinity with [c]Ensoul Artifact[/c] instead of [c]Steel Overseer[/c], then you can expect a high payout reward for your patience if and when [c]Mox Opal[/c] is reprinted in a future set (here’s to Modern Masters 2)! The price of the rares without reprints will go up to keep the Affinity price tag at roughly the same level even when [c]Mox Opal[/c] goes down.

Similarly, many users have taken out chunks of expense from archetypes only to discover that the decks could still cash in Daily and Premier events. Take a look with me at some bare minimum Modern builds of [c]Living End[/c] and [c]Ad Nauseum[/c].

Living End

At its core, Living End is a deck that wants to cycle creatures into a cascade spell, which casts [c]Living End[/c] and returns all the cycled creatures. The deck has such a smooth functionality where the draw engine also kills the opponent, and when graveyard hate comes in games two and three, the deck hardcasts [c]Deadshot Minotaur[/c] and [c]Monstrous Carabid[/c]. An additional element of the deck is a recurring [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] for disruption. While it can be satisfying to win the game with your opponent left without permanents (also thanks to [c]Shriekmaw[/c]), user W00llyCerna discovered on September 21 that the deck can win packs even without the 30 ticket rare.

[d title= “Woolly End (Modern)”]
Land
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
4 Copperline Gorge
3 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp

Creatures
4 Architects of Will
4 Avalanche Riders
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Monstrous Carabid
2 Shriekmaw
2 Simian Spriit Guide
4 Street Wraith
3 Valley Rannet

Other Spells
3 Beast Within
3 Demonic Dread
4 Living End
4 Violent Outburst

Sideboard
3 Anger of the Gods
3 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Ingot Chewer
3 Ricochet Trap
3 Slaughter Games
[/d]

Wow, for less than $40, I’m rather impressed. First of all, I wouldn’t change anything about the sideboard except perhaps try to include [c]Faerie Macabre[/c] as an [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c] on Affinity’s side of the table can really spoil your exile plans.

Now with the maindeck, the performance just shows how powerful [c]Living End[/c] is as a card. I feel like W00lly, while deserving of a lot of respect, shot himself in the foot with [c]Architects of Will[/c]. It is a great cycler, and it is very disruptive once you combo, but he is all-in on not getting his graveyard disrupted and has a weaker midrange plan than most decks. Additionally, he probably is playing 1 too many of [c]Living End[/c] itself. Finally, I can’t imagine the deck ever being optimal with less than 4 [c]Beast Within[/c]. If I were playing on the same budget (which, building Living End, I would be), then I would assemble this 75.

[d title= “Drinkard End (Modern)”]
Land
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
1 Temple Garden

Creatures
4 Avalanche Riders
4 Deadshot Minotaur
1 Faerie Macabre
4 Jungle Weaver
4 Monstrous Carabid
2 Pale Recluse
2 Shriekmaw
4 Street Wraith
2 Valley Rannet

Other Spells
4 Beast Within
3 Demonic Dread
3 Living End
4 Violent Outburst

Sideboard
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Faerie Macabre
3 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Living End
4 Slaughter Games
[/d]

The [c]Faerie Macabre[/c] may just be better as more [c]Shriekmaw[/c]. I get what the [c]Ricochet Trap[/c] does, and it’s a common sideboard card, but with the 4th [c]Living End[/c] and [c]Slaughter Games[/c], we should be able to shore up the same match-ups.

Don’t get me wrong; there is an argument for [c]Architects of Will[/c]; the one-mana cycling is very enticing. Nevertheless, we have to look at how the deck performs in a match and not just every individual card in a vacuum.

I love the [c]Gnaw to the Bone[/c] in the face of all the burn that’s out there.

Here we have an example of a deck that is in the opponent’s face on a budget. It’s not a rogue deck, and it’s not a hate deck, so it’s not cheaper because the strategy is suboptimal. Instead, it just has an element missing and can still perform. Again, if [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] sees Standard or Modern Masters 2 play, we’re definitely onto something.

Shamans

What’s this? I thought Shamans already was a budget deck! Well, it is, by many standards. After taking repeated beatings from it in Modern Silverblack, I did some research. Taxideos is an MTGO user who repeatedly got packs for playing Modern Shamans, even after the banning of [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c]. The lists he played averaged around 220 tickets, and Sadpanda91 correctly observed (September 4) that the mana-base could operate on a very tight budget. Here is his list clocking in at less than TWENTY tickets.

[d title=”Sad Shamans (Modern)”]
Land
4 Copperline Gorge
8 Forest
6 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag

Creatures
4 Bosk Banneret
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Fauna Shaman
4 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Rage Forger
1 Skinshifter
4 Wolf-Skull Shaman

Spells
2 Lead the Stampede
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Magma Spray

Sideboard
4 Ancient Grudge
1 Essence Warden
1 Eyes of the Wisent
2 Goblin Ruinblaster
1 Reclamation Sage
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Stigma Lasher
1 Sylvok Replica
[/d]

Wow, boys, give it up! A 30-creature aggro deck with a card advantage engine, some hate, a toolbox, how did he find the room for it all? Besides all that, when was the last time you saw [c]Burning-Tree Shaman[/c] outside of when the term “Gruul” was first invented? I love it against all the Pod and Twin!

I’m way out of my element here because I’ve never played this archetype; all I’ve worked with is the super cheap (yet still barely cheaper than this) mono-Red Shamans list highlighted by bava. Comparing his list with that of Taxideos, I miss [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] and [c]Eternal Witness[/c]. Also I think the [c]Essence Warden[/c] numbers could be bolstered in the sideboard for the burn match-up. But wow, he’s ready for so much in his side! There’s Affinity hate, Tron hate, Bogles hate, Living End and Storm hate, control hate, and burn hate! I guess all that’s left is Aggro, but maybe the reach of [c]Rage Forger[/c] prevents stalemates from getting you down.

Finally, I think the mana-base is perhaps a little too greedy. I want to provide more access to both colors and bolster our creature base and toolbox engine by dropping some basics, 1 [c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c] and [c]Skinshifter[/c] for [c]Karplusan Forest[/c], 1 [c]Essence Warden[/c] maindeck and 1 [c]Eternal Witness[/c].

Things are getting Zooey.

A big lesson to take from the Shamans deck is that Aggro puts some pressure on your opponent to make good mulligan decisions, smart land drops (particularly with shock-lands), and optimally-sequenced plays. If you are going to win on turn 4, playing [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] versus [c]Serum Visions[/c] matters. I’ve talked so much about Burn and how consistently it wins on turn 4 or sooner, but cheap aggro decks can do it too. What’s more, they can do it through [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c].

Green Red beats decks are under-represented in Modern. Players are attracted to Zoo, and for good reason, but the fact is that today’s aggro creatures look like the midrange creatures of yesteryear. For one or two mana, we have access to creatures ranging from 2/2 and a hateful ability to a 4/5 or larger. Here are two decks that take advantage of this fact and the reprinting of [c]Wooded Foothills[/c].

Leatherback Baloth – “Mono Green”

[c]Leatherback Baloth[/c] has gained some traction in recent times. Coupled with [c]Rancor[/c] and [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c], he has awarded many a player with a 3-1 and 4-0 finish for less than $60 over the past few months. He doesn’t have flash, but I’m going to try and give him some here:

[d title=”Green Devotion Aggro (Modern)”]
Land
12 Forest
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Dryad Militant
4 Experiment One
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Leatherback Baloth
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Slaughterhorn
4 Strangleroot Geist
3 Wild Beastmaster

Other Spells
4 Aspect of Hydra
4 Rancor
4 Vines of Vastwood

Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Choke
2 Creeping Corrosion
1 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Obstinate Baloth
2 Raking Canopy
2 Setessan Tactics
1 Thrun, The Last Troll
1 Tin-Street Hooligan[/d]

If you’ve followed up on the mono-green aggro lists, then you probably have seen many things like this. I just add in the [c]Wild Beastmaster[/c] for the occasional combo kill, red for the sideboard and the [c]Kalonian Tusker[/c] upgrade into [c]Flinthoof Boar[/c] (even if the green mana symbols aren’t equal). [c]Wild Beastmaster[/c] hasn’t seen play in a format together with [c]Vines of Vastwood[/c] or [c]Rancor[/c], and goodness, I think it should. For an online metagame, perhaps more life-gain is necessary, and you can feel free to bring in more [c]Nylea’s Disciple[/c] or moving around the [c]Ancient Grudge[/c] and [c]Creeping Corrosion[/c] count to include enchantment hate for [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c]. Finally, you may find it a good idea to remove some two-drops for [c]Elvish Mystic[/c] and the like, to soften the top of the curve.

Or One-Drops

Another consistent beater deck includes a lot of 1-drops that quickly attack for 2-6, even if they die that turn. It could be the Aggro Warrior Hearthstone player in me (forgive me), but I just really like this style of deck and think that it should be played more.

[d title=”R/G Zoo (Modern)”]
Land
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Forest
4 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Experiment One
4 Flinthoof Boar
2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
3 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Goblin Guide
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Kird Ape
3 Spark Elemental

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rancor

Sideboard
1 Arc Trail
2 Choke
2 Destructive Revelry
3 Dragon’s Claw
1 Forked Bolt
2 Raking Canopy
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Tin-Street Hooligan[/d]

This deck is all about immediate board impact. We have 18 creatures with haste, 6 spells ([c]Lightning Bolt[/c] and [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c]) that deal damage directly, 4 [c]Rancor[/c] that act as a 2/x creature with haste, and creatures that add to the damage dealt by [c]Experiment One[/c]. It is better to think of this as a burn deck instead of an aggressive combat-based creature deck. That way, you can see that it is in fact resilient despite its x/1 creatures. Your favorite play will quickly become a turn 1 [c]Experiment One[/c] followed by turn 2 [c]Burning-Tree Emissary[/c] into [c]Hellspark Elemental[/c]; repeat on turn 3 for 14 damage.

We’ve learned a lot about some aggro possibilities in Modern, and if you want to get there on a budget, there are plenty of examples to cite as aggro being a good idea. Just swing big, and don’t get paired against [c]Living End[/c].

-drinkard

Fetchlands, therefore Zoo

woodedfoothills1A friend and I started trying to get into MTG tournaments about two years ago. We hadn’t played Magic since secondary school, and the first attempts were not nice. I tried using a version of Spooky’s Aura Gnarlid deck, which was originally thought for Legacy, but I wanted to adapt to Modern, this being the format I was told was going to be the future.

It didn’t work, partly because I had no idea about deckbuilding and partly because I had no idea about playing Magic. I still don’t, but here we are. And the idea of piling up auras on a creature proved to be a good one mere months later, with Aura Hexproof getting to second place in a Pro Tour piloted by Duke Reid. My friend tried to play Zoo, because he had received some cards as a birthday present that pointed him in that direction.

That didn’t work either, because he was informed he basically had to spend around 300 euros on lands, and he was not going to do that, as it was just crazy to spend more than a couple euros on a card. Little did we know.

Fetchlands have been a huge deterrent for a lot of players to start playing Modern. It’s not only about affording them, but also about people finding a justification for this investment. As time passes, and players get more involved in the game, they start to find big investments not so crazy anymore, as Magic is an activity they devote a lot of time to, and which they enjoy a lot. It starts being worth it.

But it is precisely when one is able to go to big competitions that the game really gets interesting, and some players just don’t make that step, because they cannot grasp the whole thing. Modern needed to make it easier for beginners to try the first dose, and Wizards did so. The Onslaught fetchlands have been reprinted, and everything points at the Zendikar fetchlands getting a reprint to. Opinions vary, but most point at around 15€ as the average price for fetchlands when things stabilise. That’s a lot cheaper than they used to be. Like, a lot.

windsweptheath1And now Zoo is… substantially more attractive.

The big caveat is, of course, Tarmogoyf. There are a lot of discussions about it, with a large number of players suggesting Tarmogoyf is not so great, but with the numbers saying otherwise: it would take a khans-sized reprint to make supply meet demand in a reasonable price point, which in my opinion would be around 40€. It is going to happen, of course, but it may take a long time. After all, it was reprinted (albeit in ridiculously low numbers) last year. In any case, though, Zoo can be a valid strategy without a Tarmogoyf, and can even improve in certain games.

Zoo is also a really fun deck. There are lots of players who enjoy its mixture of beatdown strategy with removal and interaction resources. Also, the possibility of tweaking it into a more agressive, early game version or a mid-range deck makes it a very attractive combination of cards. We, as the metagame experts and all around MTG know-it-alls we are, know Modern has not been nice to Zoo and it is more of a Tier 2 deck, but it is attractive, pretty powerful and is becoming cheaper thanks to the Fetchland reprint. The consequence can only be one:

Zoo is going to be played a lot.

It is going to become similar to Burn or Soul Sisters: a cheap way to enter the format. It is more interactive and its strategy is more flexible, so it will be regarded as a better deck. It has all the elements there. If this was the financial advice section, I’d say ‘buy the Zoo staples’. Luckily for you, I am not advising you finantially and therefore I’ll just say, ‘expect Zoo to be everywhere in no time’.

THE DECKLIST

Decklists are nice. Let’s see what 200€ can do in the current situation ([c]Windswept Heath[/c] and [c]Wooded Foothills[/c] cost around 14€ now)

[d]
LANDS

4 Wooded Foothills
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
2 Windswept Heath
5 forest
3 mountain
1 plains

CREATURES

4 Experiment One
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Loam Lion

SPELLS

4 Rancor
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile

12 Spells
[/d]

Getting 6 fetches would have meant spending around 200 euros not long ago. Now the same amount gets you 6 fetches… and the rest of the deck. Complete with some shocklands, [c]path to exile[/c], [c]lightning bolt[/c] and other modern staples. How’s that for a way to start playing the format?

Threat Evaluation, Part Three: Mountain, Go.

The order of these Threat Evaluation articles is listed by historic power level. Grixis will always be the most powerful combination of colors in Magic in my mind because of how long the game existed before Tarmogoyf. Control Slaver and The Perfect Storm are two format defining decks in the most powerful format: Vintage.

All that aside, what are we up against if we see a Mountain, pass? Burn. You’re up against Burn, and you are 25% done with game one.

For this period in time, the article could end there. [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] has gotten everyone all shook up, and time will tell whether it is just a flash in the pan. In fact, stay tuned for an article about how it shakes up the game, not just the format.

Nevertheless, if we’re being fair, there are lots of other options. As we did in the Swamp, Go article, we will similarly ignore the lists we have already posted.* First, let’s cover the mono-red lists. It is interesting to see once again that there are more mono-red options than mono-blue.

*- I have realized that there are already omissions in previous articles of decks that I have missed. These will be covered in the final article six, and the first five will be edited to include them for easier reference.

Bringer of the Red Dawn

A look at the mono-red decks in Modern.

Burn

Or, how this same effect is reaching critical mass, this is distinguished from Red Deck Wins by fewer creatures and the inclusion of [c]Lava Spike[/c] or any other card that targets the player only.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Spark Elemental[/c]. Other than that, trust me, you’ll know.

Red Deck Wins

Here the player is using burn to remove blockers but still bringing the heat with [c]Goblin Guide[/c], [c]Vexing Devil[/c], and [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c].

Tell-tale signs: [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] is used here and not in Burn. Also, maindeck [c]Molten Rain[/c], [c]Blood Moon[/c] and/or [c]Shrine of Burning Rage[/c] may show up.

Skred Red/Snow Control

This deck is perfect in the right meta, and today’s meta is not it because of all the combo. Any deck trying to beat Skred Red with creatures is going to have a tough time: it has mass removal with [c]Pyroclasm[/c] and [c]Blasphemous Act[/c], the best spot removal with [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] and [c]Skred[/c], and [c]Boros Reckoner[/c]. Dragons will come to clean house at the end of the day.

Tell-tale signs: Unless some Burn player is being cute, [c]Snow-Covered Mountain[/c] without any source of Green mana lets you know what you’re up against.

Goblins

Well, the thing is, this is a pretty consistent turn four aggro deck against a goldfish. Some decks function as goldfish for four turns, so sometimes Goblins gets there. It loses so much in the port from Legacy, though, that it can’t consistently compete.

Tell-tale Signs: [c]Foundry Street Denizen[/c], any spell that puts a 1/1 Goblin token into play are used here and nowhere else.

Red Sun’s Zenith

The decks listed in this category are seen frequently and not mono-red but also do not include blue or black.

Gruul Scapeshift

Omitting the blue element for [c]Primeval Titan[/c], Gruul Scapeshift has the combo kill or a potent beat-down plan with giants and [c]Polukranos, World Eater[/c]. The deck is required to play a significant amount of Mountains for the [c]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/c] kill, so the double green mana costed beaters can be awkward.

Tell-tale signs: If it looks like [c]Scapeshift[/c] but plays [c]Khalni Heart Expedition[/c], [c]Magma Jet[/c], or [c]Explore[/c], don’t breathe a sigh of relief thinking your opponent is screwed off blue.

Zoo

Once again, a deck has cards that include “Mountain” in their text, and this time it’s the once-banned [c]Wild Nacatl[/c]. Now we’re left scratching our heads as to why it was banned. Variants include [c]Tribal Flames[/c] Zoo that splashes blue for [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c] and [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] or little zoo with [c]Loam Lion[/c], [c]Kird Ape[/c], and even maindeck [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c].

Tell-tale signs: Looking at a Naya-colored mana-base, you may be tempted to think you’re up against Kiki Pod, but that deck doesn’t play [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], burn spells, or [c]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/c].

Boros Angel Twin

This midrange combo deck eschews [c]Pestermite[/c] and [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c] for [c]Restoration Angel[/c] and [c]Palace Guard[/c]. Alternatively, some flickering brews combine enter-the-battlefield effects such as [c]Blade Splicer[/c] with [c]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/c] and the angel.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Rugged Prairie[/c] is not played anywhere else. Also a Boros mana-base with any creatures that have a hint of Death and Taxes give the heads-up.

Norin The Wary

Here’s a very rarely seen deck in dailies that is seen quite frequently in the 2-man queues. Part Human aggro, part Soul Sisters, part EDH-level triggers, this deck is all fun, if underpowered.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Champion of the Parish[/c] is a good indicator, and this deck packs the Soul Sisters with red mana sources. [c]Norin the Wary[/c] and [c]Genesis Chamber[/c] are sure bets.

Red Scarab

Like a red scarab, you won’t see these as often, but they do happen and include Mountains.

Gruul Beats

This was a thing before the un-banning of [c]Wild Nacatl[/c]. Some players use [c]Faithless Looting[/c] and [c]Vengevine[/c] with all of the 1-drops, while others combine cards like [c]Burning-Tree Emissary[/c] and [c]Priest of Urabrask[/c] with [c]Myr Superion[/c] or [c]Storm Entity[/c]. These topped out at about $20, which is significantly less than the $1k Zoo decks of today.

Mono Red Storm

Here is a budget storm deck that skimps on sources of blue mana for purely monetary reasons.  Cards like [c]Goblin Electromancer[/c], [c]Desperate Ravings[/c], and the efficient draw package are replaced by [c]Empty the Warrens[/c], [c]Reforge the Soul[/c], and sometimes [c]Young Pyromancer[/c]. Some players run some number of [c]Burning Inquiry[/c], [c]Goblin Lore[/c], and [c]Locket of Yesterdays[/c]. The [c]Pyromancer Ascension[/c] and [c]Past in Flames[/c] engine is still the same.

Tell-tale signs: In the early game, you may see [c]Fungal Reaches[/c], [c]Wild Guess[/c], or a discarded [c]Increasing Vengeance[/c] or [c]Reforge the Soul[/c] without any blue sources. These cards aren’t used anywhere else.

Garga-geddon

The Mountains are essential for the turn 1 [c]Greater Gargadon[/c]. The player builds his resources with the Borderpost cycle while building up for a crippling [c]Restore Balance[/c] from a cascade spell.

Tell-tale signs: It’s easy to see this in the early game with the above mentioned cards. Other suspend spells may see play such as [c]Riftwing Cloudskate[/c].

Dragonstorm

I mean, who can resist? [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c] and [c]Thundermaw Hellkite[/c] are played on their own and quite hard-castable, and there are a host of other dragons that finish the game quite well when combined with [c]Dragonstorm[/c].

Tell-tale signs: A [c]Lotus Bloom[/c] is not used in UR Storm, but it will see play here. Also you may see a [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] combined with what otherwise looks like a storm deck.

Rumbling Crescendo

You can observe that these articles are getting smaller. We have precious few lists that are Green or White without including the other three colors. Fortunately, some of these decks are my favorites, so maybe I can flourish the descriptions up some for you all. In the meantime, here’s a Modern Silverblack brew with Mountains.

[d title=”Modern Silverblack Skred Red”]

Land

20 Snow-Covered Mountain

Creatures

4 Spitemare

4 Stormblood Berserker

4 Vulshok Refugee

Other Spells

2 Into the Maw of Hell

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Molten Rain

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Pyroclasm

4 Pyrohemia

2 Shrine of Burning Rage

4 Skred

Sideboard

4 Aura Barbs

1 Boil

4 Cryoclasm

2 Shrine of Burning Rage

4 Smash to Smithereens[/d]