Modern: Which Zoo for You?

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…[card]Wild Nacatl[/card] is banned. Well, not anymore! There were significant changes to the DCI Banned & Restricted list this time around, with [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] getting booted from the format as we welcome back [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]. 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.

[deck title= Gruul Zoo]
[Creatures]
4 Experiment One
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Seal of Fire
2 Vines of Vastwood
3 Searing Blaze
1 Dismember
[/Spells]
[Land]
4 Stomping Ground
4 Arid Mesa
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Forest
4 Mountain
[/Land]
[/deck]

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 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Rakdos Charm[/card], and [card]Jund Charm[/card]. With [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] back on the scene, this deck might be the anti-zoo zoo deck.

[deck title= Fast Zoo]
[Creatures]
2 Experiment One
4 Goblin Guide
4 Kird Ape
4 Loam Lion
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Helix
[/Spells]
[Land]
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Arid Mesa
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Forest
1 Plains
[/Land]
[/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.

[deck title= Medium Zoo]
[Creatures]
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Kird Ape
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Voice of Resurgence
3 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Helix
[/Spells]
[Land]
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Arid Mesa
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Treetop Village
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
[/Land]
[/deck]

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.

[deck title= Big Zoo]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
3 Scavenging ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Helix
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
[/Spells]
[Land]
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Arid Mesa
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Treetop Village
2 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
[/Land]
[/deck]

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 [card]Horizon Canopy[/card] (fetchable with [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]) to draw cards, and [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card], to make your already-big guys run over blockers.

[deck title= Domain Zoo]
[Creatures]
4 Kird Ape
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Dark Confidant
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Geist of Saint Traft
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Tribal Flames
[/Spells]
[Land]
1 Breeding Pool
1 Blood Crypt
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Arid Mesa
2 Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Mountain
1 Plains
[/Land]
[/deck]

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 [card]Tribal Flames[/card] for five and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] flashing it back to deal another five, and I can tell you: it’s pretty scary.

[deck title= Dark Zoo]
[Creatures]
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Kird Ape
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Dark Confidant
3 Scavenging ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Lightning Helix
3 Lingering Souls
[/Spells]
[Land]
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Arid Mesa
2 Marsh Flats
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Swamp
[/Land]
[/deck]

Dark Zoo is likely to be one of the most heavily-played Zoo decks. It gets access to [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Dark Confidant[/card] in the main and cards like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Rakdos Charm[/card] 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 [card]Blood Moon[/card], which can completely shut it down if you haven’t been getting your basic lands into play.

[deck title= Blue Zoo]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
3 Scavenging ooze
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Voice of Resurgence
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Knight of the Reliquary
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
3 Lightning Helix
2 Bant Charm
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
[/Spells]
[Land]
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Arid Mesa
2 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Forest
1 Plains
[/Land]
[/deck]

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 [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]. 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…..

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

I, for one, am ready to sleeve up some [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]s 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

@joshuamilliken

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3 comments on Modern: Which Zoo for You?

  1. Jere says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

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

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