Friday, 27 March 2015

Temur Zoo

Bloodbraid ElfZoo has been a deck in many magic formats for a long time, even before Wild Nacatl and Bloodbraid Elf you could be Tribal Flaming people and making aggressive gold strategies work with a green base and its good mana fixing. Typically Zoo is Naya however it can be done four and five colour, can add black or blue, and now with Tarkir block you can pretty much do any three or more colour Zoo deck so long as it is base green. There were a couple of good blue things pre-Khans but they tended to be tricksier and less robust and so less worth bothering with. The Temur clan is all about beefy things and gives lots of options to a Gru aggro list.

Typically aggro decks have had to employ various strategies in order to compete in the powerful and diverse cube meta. Historically just making a dork each turn with good aggressive stats is one of the easiest things to beat in cube. Removal is good against you, mass removal is killer against you and every two for one they get against you is crippling. Aggro decks had to go under, go over or throw redundancy out the window and play plenty of disruption and removal of their own. By going under I mean playing such a low curve that you can have pretty much closed out the game before Wrath of God can end you. By going over I mean playing lots of burn you can start to aim at the dome when you have got as far as you can with dorks or playing lots of evasive threats. The final option involves playing things like Path to Exile in your zoo deck, Armageddon in your white weenie or even countermagic in your beatdown deck! Slowly this became less necessary as threats became more persistent and more diverse. Being able to play several planeswalkers that are good threats as well as man lands, gods and creatures that need to be killed twice, exiled, dealt with without targeting or dealt with without using damage all stretch control decks too thin. For a while pure curving beatdown decks have been tier one in cube. It seems that now they are leaning less on planeswalkers and dorks that leave things behind after death than ever and just playing fast hard hitting threats. Why pay 3 mana for a 3/2 that comes back as a 2/1 when you can get a 4/4 is now a reasonable question.

Kird Ape
23 Spells

Birds of Paradise
Lightning Bolt
Kird Ape
Experiment One

Lotus Cobra
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Scavenging Ooze
Flinthoof Boar
Fauna Shaman
Coiling Oracle

Savage Knuckleblade
Boggart Ram-Gang
Kessig Wolf RunShardless Agent
Boon Satyr
Domri Rade
Flamewake Phoenix
Courser of Kruphix

Bloodbraid Elf
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Surrak, Caller of the Hunt
Shaman of the Great Hunt

Thundermaw Hellkite

17 Lands

2 Forest
4 Sac lands (3 pain, 1 CitPT)
3 Dauls
3 Shocks
Treetop Village
Raging Ravine
Kessig Wolf Run
Karplusan Forest
Fire-Lit Thicket

Savage Knuckleblade
This is my latest version of Temur Zoo, it performed perfectly for me and looks quite odd at first glance but is actually fairly carefully built. It is built for simplicity and directness, I wanted as many cards as possible to be threats. I wanted high power at low cost and I wanted redundancy. Typically my curves for such decks are flatter, more low powered one drops with more top end game winners but this list was far more bell curvy with a glut of three drops. This meant you are slightly slower off the mark than you could be however it also means you carry on packing punches consistently for longer. The two cascade dorks are huge for the deck, they allow, even encourage you to scrimp on the one drops as you can make so much happen out of nothing. Missing a one and two drop is awful for this kind of deck but a Shardless Agent into Flinthoof Boar is likely to give you the board dominance right away. Threats are good enough now that you can win a game with just one. This deck has built in card advantage and some ramp but everything is still a fairly decent threat for the mana except the Birds of Paradise and the flying is pretty relevant there.

Rattleclaw Mystic
Some cards stand out on the list as odd inclusions for an aggro deck, those being Courser of Kruphix, Fauna Shaman, Coiling Oracle and Rofellos. The latter of those was likely a mistake, it was the last card I added and should probably have been a Gyre Sage or even a Rattleclaw Mystic. The deck needed another two drop and I wanted more ability to power up mana without having a totally useless body. Rofellos is about a weak a body as you can get, cannot attack and provide mana like Lotus Cobra, only offers green mana and situationally so at that. Worst of all he is GG which is something I was trying to avoid in this deck. It made me play Fire-Lit Thicket which I would have preferred not to have. A big part of the decks simplicity is from the mana base and the choice of which cards to play, there is little double green, less double red and no double blue and the doubles all come high up the curve. In addition to this there are relatively few come into play tapped lands, only 3 lands that don't produce green and a good chance of being able to have red and/or green mana on turn one if needed. This level of consistency comes at a bit of a cost, there are lost of powerful and lovely cards you can just ram in and have be great for you when you run good. I highly favour consistency for these kinds of deck, it is the strongest ally of the aggressor and should be used to its full potential. Seventeen lands is quite a lot for a deck with such a low curve as well as some mana dorks however I would go 18 before 16 for the afore mentioned consistency thing. Not only do you have a number of dorks with some ways to usefully dump mana into them you have a high number of spell and man lands that are somewhat mana hungry. I call this a low curve deck which it is in some respects but the average cost is about 3 ( 62/23 to be more precise, which is unnecessary with all the alternate costs and activations... ) which is bordering on the midrange. Assuming you lay a land every turn and have a perfect balance of spells and lands as well as an appropriate curve that offers a good representation of the average cost you are not going to be running out of gas until turn seven at the earliest. This also assumes you are not activating things much on dorks or lands that cost mana and managing to spend all or most of your mana effectively every turn, nor drawing any extra cards from things like Arcane Denial. Overall you are not running out of gas very often, you don't need much in the way of two for ones or persistent dorks, you just want threats that can end the game. Being able to cast two good 2/3 drops is usually more effective than a single, easily dealt with five drop, the card advantage in the deck allows you to shave off the top of the deck and reapply it to the middle. This not only makes you more dangerous entering the late game but it gives you way better options in the mid game.

Domri Rade
Courser or Kruphix is not overly aggressive hence looking a little odd in such a deck however he is still a lot of stats for the mana and does good work on the board. In addition to this he really helps you make those mid to late game lands drops that keep you so threatening, the high number of shuffle effects in the deck as well as the synergy with Domri Rade made him hard to turn down. Domri himself is a little odd in the deck as he is not directly a threat but he works so well with Courser, the high creature count, the many sac lands thinning the lands from the deck as well as providing a valuable removal option that I was otherwise light on. I was pretty happy to run the Domri. Flame Tongue Kavu was likely the next best contender to fill his shoes and so again, Domri a clear winner. Coiling Oracle is even odder than any of the cards discussed and is a little counter intuitive but works really well. Oracle is 100% filler but it does everything you want at every stage of the game. Never costing you a card means it is never dead, being so cheap means you can cast it whenever you have no actual threats or as a way to statistically improve your plays on the next couple of turns. Free cheap bodies are nice to have with Wolf Run and Vengevine. It has the overall effect of thinning the deck and increasing the overall power level, a little like the sac lands do, although it costs mana it is not much and enough of the time ramps you negating this cost. I have had the god draw of Birds into turn two Shardless Agent into Coiling Oracle extra land a couple of times. Having five mana on turn three as well as 3 power and 3 bodies on the board for the cost of two cards is absurd! I have had Oracle ramp my mana on the turn I make him before through Lotus Cobra and hitting a sac land!
Shaman of the Great Hunt
Finally, for the odd choices we have Flamewake Phoenix and Fauna Shaman. Both weasly 2/2 bodies that are more utility than beatdown. Obviously they come as a bit of a pair but also have some suitable synergies throughout the rest of the deck such that they are good. Fauna Shaman is just another cheap body that it fine to cascade into, fine to get in for a few free damage and then get involved in the alpha strike and fine to just help you curve out with as a two drop. Beyond this it can get you card and mana advantage with Flamewake Phoenix and Vengevine if you need it as well as finding you the dorks you most need. Broadly you don't want to be activating it, you would rather it was just a Grizley Bear however when things do look a bit dicey or you need something specific you are very happy with your little Bear having a slot. It is insurance and options and it doesn't cost much at all for that, has good synergy and is easily paid for by the high power level of your pure threats. Likely I would run Tarmogoyf in the place of this card, a tired and tested winner but not a card I can easily rely on with this deck to be big at all early and with all the delve about at present poor old Goyf is finding that he is getting shrunk a lot more than before. Flamewake is least suitable becuase of the RR cost on a three drop, otherwise he is fine in the deck all be it not the most exciting. A little bit more flying in the deck is really helpful but I could happily have played Yasova Dragonclaw in that slot and they are fairly different implying that there is no real need of either.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller
Ancestral Vision and Sarkhan Unbroken both have appeal in the deck however again I favoured consistency over raw power and went without either. Ancestral Vision is one of the loveliest things to cascade into as well as being a fine use of mana early. The problem is you don't want to lose out on tempo to make the Visions when you have that option and so you have cross purpose cards. Additionally off the top late the Visions, as with a lot of decks, is just too slow to really be helpful. Sarkhan Unbroken is silly good but being five mana, not a dork, and not being able to do damage right away he seems not the best choice for this build.

Boon Satyr and Ghor-Clan Rampager are huge in the deck. They are decent threats with the creature type in their own right, both providing ferocious, having decent stats for the price and a flash/trample sweetener. More importantly however they are combat tricks that allow you to scrimp on removal effects and unflinchingly turn your men sideways into all sorts of horrific looking blockers. Shaman of the First Hunt and Surrak, Caller of the Hunt got their first trial in this deck and were both very impressive, great ambassadors for what the deck is trying to do. Surrak was probably better overall as he does more for less mana and more on his own but that is down to the deck, there is no denying that Shaman is the more powerful card overall.

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