Heathy here with another article, no video this time because I’m not MODO-rich so I can’t afford the deck I’m going to talk about today. There will be a video up soon with Pauper Affinity (soon = when I compete in a tournament which is worth commentating on and/or I don’t lose the videos because I’m a moron). But today I’ll be showcasing a deck which, although I wouldn’t expect to win with it in a PTQ, is certainly a lot of fun whilst maintaining competitivity (yes I know it’s not a real word, but it’s the best I could come up with!)
I played Doran Zoo in the PTQ, which was an awful lot of fun to play but there were three fundamental flaws with it, which to be honest are the same flaws with any Zoo deck, so I pretty much failed in what I had set out to do. These three things are:
1) It died to Blood Moon, especially on Turn 2 playing against Affinity when I was already a game down.
2) The deck can’t do an awful lot about fliers, and with Delver of Secrets and Squadron Hawk being very real in the UK meta, you find yourself yourself in a lot of trouble very quickly if you can’t deal with them. Yes you have spot removal, but I’m pretty sure your opponent will have more Hawks in his/her hand than you have removal in yours. Bant is a particularly bad match up if your opponent is a competent player (and trust me, my Round 4 opponent definitely fits in that category).
3) You just die to non-interactive combos. PIF Storm and Lightning Storm (my Round 6 opponent) are very tough matchups. I thought with Ethersworn Canonist I had that base covered. Did I heck.
To answer this question, we need to look no further than the three things I hate most about Modern right now.
3) Splinter Twin decks
Look more closely at number 2, and you’ll know where I’m going with this. What better way to gain advantage but to establish a better board presence than your opponent, then take away ALL his resources… Ladies and gentlemen, introducing…
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Birds of Paradise
2 Qasali Pridemage
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Path to Exile
4 Boom // Bust
3 Lightning Helix
3 Blood Moon
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
The idea of the deck is to get to four mana as quickly as possible, before cascading from Bloodbraid Elf into something good, such as Armageddon (Boom // Bust). For an explanation as to why this works, I’ve gone and found this information, which can describe it better than I ever could:
“Boom//Bust has a converted mana cost of 2 and 6. Since at least one half has a converted mana cost less than 4, you can cast the split card. And since you’re casting it, you can cast either half, even thought one half might cost more than the spell with cascade. So if you cascade into Boom//Bust, you’ll be able to cast either side.”
Bloodbraid Elf cascade into Armageddon? Sure, that seems perfectly fair. When it comes to absuing the cascade mechanic, it doesn’t come much better than this.
So, a breakdown of the deck:
4 Noble Hierarch, 1 Birds of Paradise
The quickest way to get to 4 mana in this format is to get mana-dorks on Turn 1. Hierarch is absurd and Birds is just a 5th Hierarch. The fact that Hierarch cannot tap for red is almost completely irrelevant, since 75% of your lands can either fetch for red or make red. Exalted is a much bigger bonus than you might think, and is the reason you play a playset of Hierarch over a playset of Birds.
I label this category ‘things which inconvenience your opponent’. Against Affinity? Kill your Cranial Plating. Against aggro? Gain some life, then gain some more life, and I still have this here 2/1. ‘No artifact or enchantment to destroy? I still have Exalted’, says Qasali Pridemage. These are just good utility cards, and are almost always good to cascade into.
4 Tarmogoyf, 4 Knight of the Reliquary
The big guys. The enforcers. The threats that your opponent has to deal with otherwise things will get very ugly for them very quickly. Tarmogoyf doesn’t need any more saying about it other than what’s already been said, and gets better the later the game goes on. Expect to see this with Dismember and Snapcaster Mage in the latest box set From the Vaults: Cards That Should Never Have Been Printed. (Joke shamlessly stolen).
Knight is usually the worst creature in Zoo, but in this deck he’s one of the best, since you’re playing fetch lands and land destruction. Almost always a 4/4 when it comes in, at minimum, and can’t be countered by Spell Snare, one of the best counterspells in the format.
4 mana 3/2 with haste. Not great.
Except it has cascade, and can cascade into every non-land card in the deck, nearly all of which are good.
You know that From the Vaults set I mentioned earlier? Add this one to the pile.
4 Boom // Bust, 3 Blood Moon
This is what the deck is all about. I’ve already covered why Boom //Bust is in the deck, so I’ll talk about Blood Moon.
Have you ever cast a Turn 2 Blood Moon against a deck with a diverse mana base? I’ve been on the victim’s side, as already mentioned, and it’s pretty much game over. Decks this card is good against include; Jund, Bant, Zoo, Control, Tempo, Living End. That’s 6 of the most played decks in the UK right now. It’s not so good against mono-coloured decks and affinity, but that’s what sideboards are for! If you want to know what resolving Blood Moon on turn 2, 3 or 4 is like, watch the end of the famous South Park episode ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’. You are Cartman, your opponent is the ginger one.
Bolt and Helix are two of the best removal spells ever printed, and are very much fair. Dismember is not fair, but you don’t have access to black and it’s not always good to cascade into (I’ve done it twice and both times it’s been irrelevant). Path to Exile is another very good removal spell, but with the amount of mana-denial you are playing, you don’t really want to cast it unless you have to, which is why you only want the emergency one in the deck.
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
She’s the second-best planeswalker ever printed. I was playing with her in Standard before it was cool (turn 3 Elspeth, swing for 8 in the air with Woolly Thoctar?) and I still have a soft spot for her. She’s a one-off in this deck, and the only card you can’t cascade into with Bloodbraid Elf (yeah, I kinda lied earlier, oh well), and you don’t always need her, hence the singleton. But when you DO need her, when the match might look as though it’s slipping away, she swings the momentum firmly back in your direction, hence why she is in the deck.
11 Fetch Lands
When doing breakdowns, I think it’s important to discuss the manabase, hence why I’m including it here. The fetchlands are vital. They help you fix your mana, and they pump your Knight of the Reliquary, and once you have Blood Moon out, they simply become Mountains, which is fine since you don’t really want to be losing any more life.
2 Forest, 1 Plains and 1 Mountain
The basics, which you’ll almost always be searching for. This is one of the very few Zoo variants where you won’t be playing the role of Conley Woods. Fetch out your basics, play Blood Moon, (hopefully) win. You play a singleton Mountain as opposed to a second Plains because Path to Exile is a real card, and sometimes you do need that basic red source. It’s also the only red source of the deck that can’t be Tectonic Edged, and that is relevant.
The best type of lands in the format, and they help stabalize your mana base in the early game. Be warned, if you have Blood Moon out, you will still have to pay 2 in order to put them into play untapped. That’s why there’s only 5 of them.
1 Horizon Canopy, 1 Stirring Wildwood
Horizon Canopy can help you dig for a card when things get desperate, and Stirring Wildwood is a manland that can beat down on occasion. Yes that ability is negated with Blood Moon, but you won’t always get it out, and it can put pressure on your opponent. The fact it has reach means that it makes an excellent blocker, too.
Come in against mono-colored decks, always brought in for Blood Moon or Boom // Bust
Bring these into against control decks. Be careful, however, as you cannot cast Bust or Elspeth when this is in play. Then again, they can’t cast cards like Unburial Rites, Gifts Ungiven and Damnation. I’m pretty sure that small downside is worth it.
Brought in against Affinity. Because having a Vindicate with flashback is funny as hell.
Brought in against Splinter Twin and Affinity.
Bring this in against Splinter Twin (to stop faeries and exarchs going crazy) and Birthing Pod decks (don’t not gain 1 million life, do not deal infinite damage, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect £200). Be warned that Orb does not stop Pod decks completely, but it is a speed bump (but not a massive one, hence why there’s only 1 in the board).
Brought in against aggro. These can change the game in your favour, and is one of the only cards where the lifegain can be truly relevant (also because it comes with a hard to get rid of body).
If you’re going to do well at a PTQ, you have to beat CawBlade, which seems to be the deck of choice for some of the best players in the country right now. This card does that. It’s also very good against Martyr Proc (which, despite having a soft spot for it, I have to say is not a particularly good deck, but people do play it) and can give Bant some serious troubles if their Squadron Hawks and Elspeth Soldiers can’t stay on the battlefield.
I. FRICKIN’. Love this card. Brought in against control decks, it can turn matches on their head. Thrun + Elspeth combo should be one of the most feared mini-combos in Modern right now. I’ve single-handedly won matches against control with Thrun on multiple occasions. The only reason he’s not in the main deck is because he’s not so good against fast decks, but in the grindy matchups, Thrun is your man. For control decks, he truly is a troll.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to join the discussion in the comments below.
Thanks for sharing