Welcome to the Jungle: Sideboarding versus Combo Decks

Hello once again!

I hope everyone in the US had a wonderful holiday, and for those of you from everywhere else in the world, I hope you had an amazing Thursday.

I’m back this week with the final installment of my sideboarding series about my Zoo deck. If you all have any ideas of things you would like me to write about next, I would love to hear them in the comments section below or on Twitter here.

Without further ado here is a quick refresher on my deck:

A Quick Refresher

The Deck

[Deck Title=Big Zoo (Azooni) ]
[Creatures]
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Thrun, The last Troll
[/creatures]
[Spells]
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
2 Ajani Vengeant
[/spells]
[Lands]
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Windswept Heath
4 Arid Mesa
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Forest
2 Plains
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Spellskite
3 Blood Moon
2 Choke
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Deflecting Palm
1 Bow of Nylea
2 Batterskull
2 Engineered Explosives
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

Sideboard Breakdown

Blood Moon

Blood Moon is a fantastic card out of the sideboard and is there to give you free wins or stall the game until you can reach a dominant position. This card is a must against all three-or-more-color decks and can even dominate two-color decks.

Choke

If your opponent plays Islands, you play Choke. I don’t think it can be any clearer than that.

Spellskite

I really like Spellskite. It stonewalls aggro early on and can help you win the burn matchup. I like Spellskite especially in game three of the control and Pod matchups to protect your Blood Moons andChokes from their removal.

Engineered Explosives

Board sweepers are really good and Explosives is no different. If they play creatures, you should play Explosives.

Batterskull

Burn, midrange, control: all of these are matchups where Batterskull can shine. It is your most resilient threat (next to Thrun) and when paired with your creatures can be very potent.

Ancient Grudge

Good versus artifacts.

Bow of Nylea

I think this card is the best card in my sideboard. Every ability on the card is good. The graveyard one, although you use it the least, can be very strong. It lets you bottom some strong cards from your graveyard, and with your large amount of fetch lands, you can shuffle and redistribute your used powerful spells back into your deck.

Deflecting Palm

If you expect to get hit with a lot of damage from a single source, play this card. Creatures holding Cranial Plating, Tron’s creatures, Bogles, Ascendancy Combo (choose the creature, and yes, you can choose Caryatid) are great sources for this card to choose. Palm also has bonus points versus Burn, where it basically acts as an extra Lightning Helix.

Birthing Pod, The Neapolitan of Magic

So imagine a tub of ice cream that contains three different flavors, Vanilla (Melira Pod), Chocolate (Angel Pod), and Earl Gray Sriracha (Kiki Pod). Before I go any further I would just like to point out that Melira Pod and Angel Pod are variants of the same style of deck, while Kiki Pod is a beast of its own.

Melira and Angel Pod

[Deck title=Melira Pod]
[creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Voice of Resurgence
3 Noble Hierarch
1 Thragtusk
1 Reveillark
1 Siege Rhino
1 Restoration Angel
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Eternal Witness
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Sin Collector
1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Spellskite
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Viscera Seer
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
[/creatures]
[spells]
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Chord of Calling
4 Birthing Pod
[/spells]
[Lands]
4 Windswept Heath
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Forest
3 Razorverge Thicket
3 Gavony Township
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
1 Plains
1 Swamp
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Lingering Souls
1 Darkblast
4 Thoughtseize
1 Shriekmaw
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Memoricide
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

[Deck title=Angel Pod]
[creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Wall of Roots
3 Voice of Resurgence
3 Kitchen Finks
2 Siege Rhino
2 Noble Hierarch
2 Archangel of Thune
1 Restoration Angel
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Eternal Witness
1 Spellskite
1 Spike Feeder
1 Shriekmaw
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Sin Collector
[/creatures]
[spells]
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Birthing Pod
[/spells]
[lands]
4 Windswept Heath
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Razorverge Thicket
3 Gavony Township
3 Forest
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
1 Plains
[/lands]
[sideboard]
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Sin Collector
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Thoughtseize
2 Choke
2 Fracturing Gust
2 Path to Exile
1 Entomber Exarch
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

While both of these decks contain combo potential, it is rare that they are able to achieve the combo kill against you. Expect both decks to play a much more midrange slugfest rather than them trying to combo you through your disruption. Game one, you need to use your [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card]s to stop every [card]Birthing Pod[/card] that you see and crush them under a large [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] or with [card]Thrun, The last Troll[/card]. I feel the need to mention and remind you all that you should always bolt the bird or hierarch.

Sideboard out: 4 [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] and 2 [card] Lightning Helix[/card]

Sideboard in: 3 [card]Blood Moon[/card], 1 [card]Bow of Nylea[/card], 2 [card]Batterskull[/card]

Similar to the BGx matchups, you just want to fight a really grinding midrange battle and try to out topdeck your opponent. Just try to one for one a lot of initial threats and lock them out with a Blood Moon to try and seal the game.

[Deck Title=Kiki Pod]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Restoration Angel
2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
2 Deceiver Exarch
2 Wall of Roots
2 Voice of Resurgence
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Spellskite
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
[/creatures]
[spells]
2 Chord of Calling
4 Birthing Pod
[/spells]
[lands]
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Copperline Gorge
2 Stomping Ground
2 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Breeding Pool
1 Steam Vents
1 Temple Garden
1 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Gavony Township
[/lands]
[sideboard]
2 Path to Exile
1 Thragtusk
2 Domri Rade
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
2 Negate
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Combust
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

I have some history with this deck and I always tend to be on the losing side of the matchup against some very good opponents. One of my friends, who has helped me become a much better player, has been playing Pod variants since I first met him and I think I have a record of 2-12 in Modern against him. I have also run into this deck in the top four of the two Star CIty Games Premier IQs I have played. The first time I got blown away by a [card]Stonehorn Dignitary[/card] being chained with [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]. The second time, my opponent thumbed lands to the top of my deck in our game three and is now banned by the DCI for four years. This deck, when in the hands of a great player, is truly amazing to witness and can be very hard to defeat.

Sideboard out: 2 [card]Thrun, The last Troll[/card], 2 [card] Ajani Vengeant[/card], 2 [card] Scavenging Ooze[/card]

Sideboard in: 3 [card]Blood Moon[/card], 1 [card]Bow of Nylea[/card], 2 [card]Engineered Explosives[/card]

Try to lock them out as fast as you can. Kill everything you see and try to force through as much damage as you can while holding up a decent amount of disruption. Blood Moon wins the game almost immediately, so try to drop it ASAP—but hold removal in case they can hardcast [card]Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] and win the game.

Let’s Talk Twin

[deck title=Splinter Twin]
[creatures]
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Deceiver Exarch
2 Pestermite
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
[/creatures]
[spells]
4 Serum Visions
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Remand
2 Spell Snare
2 Dig Through Time
1 Izzet Charm
1 Dispel
1 Cryptic Command
1 Electrolyze
1 Flame Slash
4 Splinter Twin
1 Vedalken Shackles
[/spells]
[Lands]
4 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
2 Tectonic Edge
1 Mountain
1 Desolate Lighthouse
1 Stomping Ground
[/lands]
[sideboard]
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Pyroclasm
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Hibernation
1 Echoing Truth
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Spellskite
1 Batterskull
1 Blood Moon
1 Negate
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

Splinter Twin is a fun game where each player can’t really tap out without the other one gaining a large advantage. Try to keep your [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card]s in play or a [card]Path to Exile[/card] in hand to disrupt your opponent’s combo if they go for it. If you can delay them from winning you should be able to win handily as long as you are turning creatures sideways each turn.

Sideboard out: 4 [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], 2 [card]Lightning Helix[/card]

Sideboard in: 2 [card]Choke[/card], 2 [card]Spellskite[/card], 2 [card]Batterskull[/card]

The way I like to play post-sideboard games against Splinter Twin is as if they are more of a control deck. Just bring in your resilient sideboard threat ([card]Batterskull[/card]), your combo breaker([card]Spellskite[/card]), and of course the Island killer ([card]Choke[/card]). All that remains is a game of cat and mouse to let you resolve a way to win the game while still holding back disruption to stop your opponent.

I don’t like [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] in this matchup, even though when it is set to three counters it will stop your opponent from combo killing you—but setting it to three is a hard task while fighting through counter magic, especially [card]Remand[/card].

[Deck Title=RUG(not Temur)TarmoTwin]
[creatures]
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Deceiver Exarch
2 Pestermite
2 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Vendilion Clique
[/creatures]
[spells]
4 Remand
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Serum Visions
2 Izzet Charm
2 Dig Through Time
2 Cryptic Command
2 Gitaxian Probe
1 Electrolyze
3 Splinter Twin
[/spells]
[lands]
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Island
3 Steam Vents
2 Hinterland Harbor
2 Sulfur Falls
1 Breeding Pool
1 Stomping Ground
1 Mountain
1 Forest
[/lands]
[sideboard]
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Dispel
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Negate
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Batterskull
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Ancient Grudge
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

So this matchup is a really fun one (I say that about every matchup I know, I just love this game). When your opponent’s combo plan is their backup plan and you can disrupt it pretty well while outclassing their aggressive creature plan, things start to feel really good.

Sideboard out: 2 [card]Lightning Helix[/card], 1 [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card], 4 [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]

Sideboard in: 3 [card]Blood Moon[/card], 2 [card]Choke[/card], 2 [card]Spellskite[/card]

The goal here is just to lock them out from playing their big threats and then kill them with one of yours.

Scapeshift

[deck title=Scapeshift]
[creatures]
4 sakura tribe elder
2 snapcaster mage
[/creatures]
[spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Cryptic Command
4 Scapeshift
4 Remand
4 Search for Tomorrow
3 Dig Through Time
2 Izzet Charm
2 Pyroclasm
2 Electrolyze
[/spells]
[lands]
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Stomping Ground
4 Steam Vents
3 Breeding Pool
3 Island
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
2 Forest
2 Mountain
1 Flooded Grove
[/lands]
[sideboard]
2 Krosan Grip
2 Negate
1 Swan Song
1 Batterskull
3 Obstinate Baloth
2 Inferno Titan
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Ancient Grudge
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

The [card]Scapeshift[/card] matchup should be treated in the first game as if it is a control deck because, well, it is. Deploying a lot of threats in the early game and racing should be your game plan and [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card] can help slow them down enough to win game one.

Sideboard out: 4 [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card], 2 [card]Lightning Helix[/card]

Sideboard in: 3 [card]Blood Moon[/card], 2 [card]Choke[/card], 1 [card]Bow of Nylea[/card]

In post-sideboard games you should expect all the heavy hitters to come crash the party and provide a very strong backup plan to fight your creatures. As usual, an early [card]Blood Moon[/card] basically seals the game in your favor and your powerhouse creatures should be able to keep your opponent on their back foot long enough to let you seal the game.

This article ended up longer than expected so I will be writing a fifth part where I will cover matchups against Storm, Ad Nauseam, Living End, and because of the added space, I will throw in the Jeskai Ascendancy Combo. I hope this article and my others have been helpful and informative for you all. Thanks for reading and check back soon for my final piece in this series.

About the Author
I am a full time student at Hampshire College and a Modern format specialist. I have been playing Big Zoo since the unbanning of Wild Nacatl. I hope you enjoy my writing and through it I can help us all improve and people and players in the Magic community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.