Modern: Which Zoo for You?

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For those who don’t know, I play Zoo exclusively in Legacy, and likely would have been playing it exclusively in Modern too if it wasn’t for one small issue…Wild Nacatl is banned. Well, not anymore! There were significant changes to the DCI Banned & Restricted list this time around, with Deathrite Shaman getting booted from the format as we welcome back Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl. This was one of the most exciting B&R list updates for me in a long time, so much so that I wanted to share my thoughts on Modern Zoo’s potential with you.

Gruul Zoo saw quite a bit of play last Modern season, but no one was really able to agree upon the best list for it. I played this version for a while, and even tried black just for sideboard cards like Thoughtseize, Rakdos Charm, and Jund Charm. With Wild Nacatl back on the scene, this deck might be the anti-zoo zoo deck.

With 18 one-drops, it’s pretty obvious why this deck is called Fast Zoo. Fast Zoo will simply try to overload the board to the point where your opponent has to make bad decisions just to stay alive. This version can even kill on turn three, which is pretty impressive for any deck in Modern.

This version of Zoo is kind of in between all aspects of the other Zoo lists: it can be aggressive or controlling, straightforward or tricky. This is usually the style of Zoo list I play, as I like to be able to shift my game plan depending on what I’m playing against.

Big Zoo generally just wants to out-muscle the opposition with big stuff as fast as possible, while still maintaining an aggressive shell. Big Zoo is more able to gain incremental advantages across a longer game with Horizon Canopy (fetchable with Knight of the Reliquary) to draw cards, and Kessig Wolf Run, to make your already-big guys run over blockers.

Domain Zoo is a very all-in deck focused on casting the most efficient creatures and burn regardless of color or cost. I’ve personally been on the receiving end of Tribal Flames for five and Snapcaster Mage flashing it back to deal another five, and I can tell you: it’s pretty scary.

Dark Zoo is likely to be one of the most heavily-played Zoo decks. It gets access to Abrupt Decay and Dark Confidant in the main and cards like Thoughtseize and Rakdos Charm out of the sideboard, helping it combat some of the harder combo matchups. Its primary weakness, as with many decks in Modern, is that it will be especially susceptible to Blood Moon, which can completely shut it down if you haven’t been getting your basic lands into play.

At Pro Tour Philadelphia, the first Modern pro tour, Team Channel Fireball showed up with a Blue Zoo deck that they called Counter Cat. Now, there are several very good cards that they didn’t have access to before like Snapcaster Mage, Geist of Saint Traft, and Voice of Resurgence. The original version of Blue Zoo had several counterspells in the sideboard to combat combo decks. Combo players were surprised when they found a Zoo deck that could easily disrupt their game plan while putting quite a bit of pressure on them.

As for sideboard cards, here are some of the better ones for Zoo…..

Ancient Grudge
Back to Nature
Bojuka Bog
Domri Rade
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Ethersworn Canonist
Gaddock Teeg
Garruk Relentless
Grafdigger’s Cage
Grim Lavamancer
Kitchen Finks
Krosan Grip
Loxodon Smiter
Obstinate Baloth
Pillar of Flame
Qasali Pridemage
Ranger of Eos
Rule of Law
Scavenging Ooze
Searing Blaze
Sejiri Steppe
Sulfur Elemental
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thrun, the Last Troll
Timely Reinforcements
Torpor Orb
Voice of Resurgence
Volcanic Fallout

I, for one, am ready to sleeve up some Wild Nacatls and battle some Modern. How about you?

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them for me and I will try to get back to everyone.

Thanks for reading,

Josh Milliken


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Josh Milliken

Josh Milliken

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Josh Milliken

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Josh Milliken

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  1. Jere

    I was going to ask what you thought of Domri Rade in any of the lists, but noticed you noted him as a side board option… I reall think(and hope)he has a place in Modern, and he has served Kibler well in the past. Here’s to the future!

    1. Josh

      In a world full of 2/3’s and Lightning Bolts it’s really hard to get anything done with Domri, he would be one of the bottom tier of reasonable options ,

  2. erwin

    Modern just too boring, same 5 decks, weak power, format has a long ways to go.

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