Thursday, 23 May 2013
With the full block of Return to Ravnica now out the various cards in the cube are settling into place and finding their various homes. This list of zoo has given a home to nine new cards from the block and unsurprisingly is one of the archetypes to benefit most from the recent sets. I built this deck as a test deck as I had made a variety of control decks to play against each other in a little experiment and needed to have a few common agro decks to keep them sensible and allow for other comparisons to be made regarding the control decks. As it turned out this particular zoo list has utterly crushed everything in its path and not yet dropped a match with much more play than the average cube deck gets. This is not just against the control decks but also the other agro decks including a lovely red deck wins list.
It is unmistakeably a zoo deck with many of the mainstays from my lists from a year ago but with a few subtle changes to accommodate the new treats. Previously I have built my zoo decks with a heavy emphasis on green ensuring almost every land in the deck generates green mana and only ever played single colour requirement spells outside of green. This makes the deck significantly more consistent while also allowing you to go all five colours if you so chose. The version I have here however is fairly even split between the Naya colours making the use of a fourth or fifth colour too risky. With all the new cards you don't need to dip into more colours to keep the power level extremely high. Zoo has always been about curving out with incredibly high tempo, value and power dorks with a huge depth of significant threats in the deck and I now feel that can be achieved best in a list similar to this:
Voice of Resergence
Knight of the Reliquary
Ghor Clan Rampager
Bird of Paradise
The first thing to notice about this deck is that it only has two non-creature spells and they are both Charms. Both Selesnya and Boros Charm are two of the most powerful Charms however they have struggled a little to find many good homes until they gelled perfectly into zoo. They give you a vast degree of options and security without significantly reducing the threat count or giving you poor curve draws. Selesnya Charm is better than Path to Exile most of the time as things smaller than five power just get run over by your army, especially if you have a +2/+2 combat trick. The Selesnya Charm is also fine to use as a flash 2/2 should you find yourself without threats to cast making it never bad yet still frequently game winning. The Boros Charm is a touch harder to use and comes into play more at the end of the game. Should you be able to cast it in reply to a Wrath effect it is completely game over but this is somewhat rare. Oddly the most common use is the doublestrike effect which is close to Overrun levels of power in a deck like this with lots of cheap high power dorks. Four damage is also fine as a final bit of reach or a way of taking out planeswalkers. As you are almost always getting huge amounts of presence onto the board and applying pressure the combat trick side of the Charms tends to be more effective than removal so I was fairly happy cutting all other removal from the deck. The Ghor Clan Rampager has been highly impressive in this regard too and is somewhat the Gruul Charm in the deck acting as a second more powerful Selesnya Charm and gives you a reliable amount of combat trickery of which none is ever dead or even below par power level.
Voice of Resurgence is the big new name in town and has been exceptional in this deck. Most of the time you want to trade him or have him killed as the token always seems to be vast and dominates. He greatly adds to the other persistent dorks and man lands making you super safe against mass removal. Boros Reckoner is not as impressive as the Voice but does have what you want from your dorks. He is a big part of why I went so heavily into Naya colours although having lots of two drops with double colour requirements also made this more sensible. On his own I am not sold on him being worth altering a mana base such as not having a Treetop Village, Dark Confidant/Lingering Souls, or a basic land in the deck. I should probably point out that although there is black in my deck it is never needed, only being used for Deathrite Shaman activation and only serves to improve the mana base and other synergies with more sac lands.
Boros Elite was a card I disregarded when first spoiled as I figured it would be a 1/1 more often than not, certainly not on turn two which is when your one drops most reliably get in. Certainly you don't get to swing for three with him on turn two in this deck however every turn there after he seems to have battalion meaning your deck has an awful lot of very high power and toughness one drops. This, as previously mentioned, means you can cut out things like Birds of Paradise and just get to beating face as fast as possible. Boros Elite manages to stay significant for the entire game which even the mighty Goblin Guide fails to do consistently and so this more than makes up for the fact Elite doesn't hit hard on turn two. He has performed very well in other agro decks and is likely going to keep its A cube slot to my surprise. Another one drop that has been impressive, although again not really in the first two turns, is Legion Loyalist. He is a great aid in triggering your battalion and always seems to make combat highly in your favour. Having high powered cheap cards such as Elite and Loyalist, even if not optimal early (assuming you do have some better one drops like Wild Nacatl and Stepp Lynx, which we do), greatly aids your tempo as you can just make even more highly powered stuff in the mid game.
Hellrider really shines in a list like this along with the previously mentioned Loyalist and Elite as there is such a high creature count. 21 is a lot but then if you consider Selesnya Charm can be a dork, two of your lands are dorks, five of them are sac lands and increase your ratio of creature spells in the deck when used, and then you have Bloodbraid getting you a bonus dork and several other dorks replacing themselves upon death you have a deck that feels like it plays 30 dorks. Hellrider is pretty saucy normally but in this list he outdoes Sublime Archangel. He gives you a lot of reach immediately even in a stagnant game and is always a massive tempo swing in your favour.
There are both solid high power cards and more quirky suspect looking ones from Return to Ravnica block in this deck and while all have been good it seems to be the effect of the quirky ones most making this deck so impressive. The Charms and the one drops allow you to come out guns blazing from the word go and cut down on lower power or lower tempo cards you used to need to keep you safe. If you can do a constructed style cube and form a mana base as potent as the one supporting this deck I feel that Zoo knocks red deck wins off the top spot in cube archetypes. In draft however it is too onerous to get the mana base to support you consistently leaving red deck wins or even white weenie as the top dog. Zoo is still always going to be a tier one deck and now has the potential to be the best but with any three or more colour deck it is only ever as good as its mana base.