Shared Discovery – Control Zoo by Rob Wagner

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Hi all, did you catch the Modern PTQ Schedule? After many seasons in a row with a focus on London and its surrounding area with token nods elsewhere, this season seems to be spread somewhat around the United Kingdom (2 in the South, 2 in the North, 3 in the non-England countries) with only the South-West having to make an extra-special effort to travel. The Modern format is quite wide open, with only a Pro Tour followed by some bannings, and an assortment of last-minute brews at Worlds. This format is a deck-builder’s dream since everything’s still up for grabs.

A lot of people’s focus has been on Wild Nacatl decks as it seems that if you’re not playing this guy but you are playing beatdown then you’re probably not doing it right. The massive deck constraints potentially imposed by the Grove of the Burnwillows plus Punishing Fire combination mean that any creatures that cost 1-3 mana and have toughness 2 or less, or 4+ mana with toughness 4 or less, are probably a bad idea unless they make up a card’s worth of value immediately. For example Bloodbraid Elf looks to be a strong card but I feel that unless you’re consistently hitting good value cards it isn’t going to be long for this world and the card is only on the edge of playability (4 mana to Lava Spike you doesn’t do it for me).

My own take on Zoo has always been one of it being an aggro-control deck in the context of the format. For Legacy this always meant being fast enough to race the combo decks but having cards such as Grim Lavamancer and Qasali Pridemage to fight other aggressive decks and control decks. I posted 30th place at Grand Prix: Madrid ’10, and boast a 79% Match Win % with Zoo in Legacy so I feel qualified to talk about the deck ;).

My list as it currently stands is:

4 Wild Nacatl
4 ">Tarmogoyf
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Elspeth, Knight Errant

4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
4 Punishing Fire
3 Mana Leak
3 Bant Charm

4 Arid Mesa
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Plains
1 Forest
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Horizon Canopy

2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
2 Gideon Jura
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Mindbreak Trap
2 Negate
3 Relic of Progenitus
1 Rule of Law

Which might look like a mixture of all the other Zoo decks you’ve seen, but it’s the right mixture basically. I’m playing only the good creatures (I also like Noble Hierarch but it dies to Punishing Fire something rotten). I’m not exactly sold on the Kitchen Finks in the board but I want something good vs other Zoo decks and it’s possible that simply a Baneslayer Angel is the card I’m after, since Finks is (broken record time) not great against Punishing Fire. The lack of Noble Hierarch makes this strategy a bit worse against Blood Moon but you can’t just throw in a few basics and expect to beat that card anyway really.

Basically for my $2 on Modern, if you’re not playing Grove-Fire then you are probably playing a very dedicated Combo deck. Either that or you’re almost definitely playing an inferior version of another deck which has the Grove-Fire combo in it. If you’re playing beatdown and you’re not playing Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf then you are also probably playing an inferior deck. In my own testing I will be seeking the best Grove-Fire deck I can find and being pretty ruthless with cards that just aren’t good enough – my days of playing cute cards are long gone. I fear that there isn’t much variety available in Modern, but until they ban Grove-Fire I’ll keep testing and enjoying exploring the format’s potential.

Maybe you’ll bump into me on Cockatrice one time, if so then try to not to spoil the tech I’ll be trying out 😉


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