This is another installment in our series of submissions from the r/spikes subreddit. This is a two-fer; Max Perlmutter played the same 75 in two back-to-back events and learned a lot about how Big Zoo fares in the Modern meta in the Philadelphia area. Enjoy! -Jason
Let’s start out by getting these formalities out of the way. My name is Max Perlmutter.” I got into Magic in September of 2011 at the outset of Innistrad Block thanks to two friends and teachers; my Physics teacher Zach Cullimore a former competitive player/Judge and my English teacher Jeremy Collins a former Comic shop owner. I identify most with the Timmy psychographic yet somehow I found myself living in and loving the world of competitive Magic. I hope through my articles I can share the knowledge I have gained and my love of attacking with [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and [/card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card].
SCG IQ/Boston GPT
Six Feet Under Games
New Holland PA
[deck title= Philadelphia Zoo]
*4 Wild Nacatl
*4 Noble Hierarch
*4 Scavenging Ooze
*4 Qasali Pridemage
*4 Knight of the Reliquary
*1 Thundermaw Hellkite
*4 Lightning Bolt
*4 Path to Exile
*3 Lightning Helix
*2 Chandra Pyromaster
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Arid Mesa
*3 Verdant Catacombs
*1 Marsh Flats
*2 Stomping Ground
*1 Temple Garden
*1 Sacred Foundry
*1 Kessig Wolf Run
*1 Horizon Canopy
*2 Blood Moon
*2 Stony Silence
*2 Ancient Grudge
*2 Grafdiggers Cage
[card]Choke[/card] – Choke is obviously solid against most blue decks in the format can take blue players completely out of the game. I recommend bringing it in against all versions of Twin as well as Control, Delver, UR Fae, U-Tron, Merfolk, and anything else that requires Islands.
[card]Blood Moon[/card] – Blood Moon serves a similar role to Choke and in many matchups I will bring both in together to lock someone out. I like Blood Moon against Control, BGx, real Faeries (UB), both Pod decks, Affinity, Ad Nauseam, Living End, and any deck requiring large amounts of nonbasic land to function.
[card]Stony Silence[/card] – Stony is very strong in both Tron matchups by turning off their cantrips, board wiping ability, and in Mono U’s case win conditions. I also like to bring it in for both Pod decks, Affinity, and Ad Nauseam to completely shut them down.
[card]Ancient Grudge[/card] – Grudge is good for blowing out Affinity and just beefing up your removal against decks like U Tron and RG Tron for their limited number of threats. The card is borderline playable vs. Pod decks but with 4 Qasali Pridemage you don’t really need it.
[card]Batterskull[/card] – Batterskull is great when you need to go big and I like it when you need a resilient threat against decks like Control, Living End, BGx, Melira Pod, RUG Twin, Big Zoo, Merfolk, BW Midrange (not tokens), and decks where a late game bomb crushes them.
[card]Spellskite[/card] – I like using the cute little guy against Splinter Twin, Boggles, Ad Nauseam, and some control and mid range decks depending on how removal heavy and board wipe heavy there are. If Affinity decks are slamming Etched Champion these little guys are solid blockers and can also attempt to steal modular counters if your opponent isn’t thinking.
[card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] – This card slot could go to [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] or [card]Rest in Peace[/card] but I really don’t care enough about [card]Living End[/card] because I know how to fight the creature battle there so well. I like Cage against both Pod decks and if someone has a reanimator deck running around you have solid tech against that. Because Living End exiles creatures from the graveyard before they come back you cannot stop it with this. If Living End becomes a problem for you locally because it is one of our worst matchups I recommend [card]Eidolon of Rhetoric[/card] to stop them casting off of cascade or if they are heavy on creature removal but not Beast Within go for the harder to remove Rule of Law. I only like the Eidolon more because they can Living End it back for you if you deal with their threats.
Round 1 – [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]
Played by Sam Savage.
Before the tournament I decided to not add extra hate for either storm or Ad Nauseam.
Game 1 I kept a hand of 2 [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s 1 [card]Path to Exile[/card], 1 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and 3 lands. While strong, this hand almost bit me in the butt. I drew, resolved a few two drops followed by [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] and [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card], then quickly revealed [card]Lightning Helix[/card] and Lighting Bolt off of Chandra, Pyromaster for the win. My Opponent tried to have a “GOTCHA!” moment against me with Conflagrate targeting my [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] and even tried arguing a with the judge that it had already resolved. Luckily the judge ruled in my favor and I killed his [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card] to let me get in with the bolts off of Chandra.
I brought in Spellskite, Ancient Grudge, Stony Silence and Blood Moon. I boarded out 4 Path to Exile and 4 Scavenging Ooze. This was the first time I had ever played against Ad Nauseam and I found that those cards were mostly dead in the match up nothing fancy about the sideboard plan there.
Game 2, I was able to get a turn 4 Blood Moon on him to lock him out and closed out the game with my turn 1 2/2 Wild Nacatl. 1-0
Round 2 – BW Wescoe Midrange
Played by Zach Dobbin
Game 1 I had the nuts and ran him over with 2 Goyfs and an 8/8 KOTR; no contest. I wish I had more to add here but I will save that for (Spoiler Alert) the Top 8.
Game 2 I mulled to 5 and almost was able to grind it out until he drew 2 [card]Mutavault[/card]s for the win.
Game 3 I went turn 1 [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], turn 2 Qasali Pridemage and start beating with exalted. I ran him out of cards and he only had Mutavault, Swamp and [card]Godless Shrine[/card] in play. I played Blood Moon and got the concession.
4-1 on games 2-0 on matches.
I boarded in 2 Batterskull and 2 Blood Moon and removed Qasali Pridemage Game 2, but I got blown out by Rest In Peace, so I swapped the Pridemage for [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and it all worked out. This match-up is definitely hit or miss. You have to get an aggro hand with burn to end it before they can get online with [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card].
Round 3 – UG Infect
Played by Ben Schaeffer.
Game 1 I kept a greedy 7 of 4 fetches a Plains KOTR and a Chandra. I lucked my way into Path To Exile to kill a [card]Blighted Agent[/card] and then followed it by using Qasali Pridemage to do away with a [card]Wild Defiance[/card]. I dropped Chandra to kill another 1/1 and rode KOTR to victory.
Game 2 he comboed me out quickly; no contest.
Game 3 I landed turn two Spellskite but he almost got me with [card]Pendlehaven[/card] and exalted Blighted Agent. I have two Knights and used one to get [card]Kessig Wold Run[/card] and win the game.
Sideboarding against Infect is very straightforward. I added 2 Spellskite and cut 2 Scavenging Oozes. In this match up I feel it is best to mulligan aggressively for disruption if your 7 isn’t solid, but it’s definitely possible to mulligan your way out of the game, so be cautious.
Round 4 – RG Tron
Played by Michael Hunter.
Mike is a friend of mine who I travel to events with all the time. We decided to draw because that locked us both for Top 8 with 10 points.
Game 1 of the Tron match up you want to be aggro on the play and hope you don’t get blown out.
Games 2-3 you want to bring in disruption like Stony Silence, Blood Moon, and Ancient Grudge. I like to take out 2 Lightning Helix here and the full set of Scavenging Ooze.
Round 5 – UB Faeries
Played by Barrett Goss.
I was paired down against Barrett and with him at 9 points I offered to draw him into Top 8. Barrett is another friend of mine and also my driving and hotel buddy so this was a no brainer because I like seeing my friends succeed.
Game 1 you want to deploy threats with the key thing trying to play multiple 1 drops or a 3 drop on turn 2 or even just bait the spell snare.
Games 2-3 I want to bring in Blood Moons and Batterskull while again taking out the Scavenging Oozes. The reason you do not [card]Choke[/card] Faeries is because good lists only run 4-5 actual Islands and it is, at best, a [card]Stone Rain[/card] in the match-up.
[Editor’s Note] – Boo! We want to see blood! Murder your friends!
Round 6 – Top 8 BW Wescoe Midrange
Played by Zach Dobbin.
Game 1 I stumbled on lands and lost to [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and spot removal.
Game 2 we attritionws the hell out of each other until we hit a top deck war. I endws up staring at 6 spirits but I playws Batterskull and top-decked a Knight to fetch up Kessig Wolf Run and start trampling shortly after.
Game 3 was a true formality. He got a spirit with a [card]Sword Of Fire and Ice[/card] on it and blew past Chandra and me to a victory.
I did not change my Sideboarding plan since my first game 3 against him and I don’t know yet how to view this match-up. I like to think this is a solid match up for me but Zach is a phenomenal player and earned his wins here through and through.
Barrett ended up beating Zach in the Semis before beating Mike in the finals to win 2 byes for Boston and an invite to an SCG Invitational.
Alternate Universes Double Tree Hilton
Round 1 GW Hatebears
I hate this match up and it can come down a lot to who is on the play. I wasn’t. Game 1 I kept what felt like a strong 7 although it was lacking in removal. I saw a turn one [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] into [card]Aether Vial[/card], which was followed by a [card]Leonin Arbiter[/card] to keep me locked out until he could beat down.
Game 2 I kept a hyper aggressive hand, which almost blew up in my face. I ended up drawing 2 fetches with a [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] stuck in my hand staring down 2 [card]Flickerwisp[/card] and an [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card]. I luckily top-decked a Stomping Ground to win the game.
Game 3 was mostly a repeat of game 1 and was no contest, with him winning even through my removal.
This match-up I am not a big fan of. I sideboarded into 2 Blood Moons and 2 Batterskull while removing 2 Chandra and 2 Oozes. I think cutting the Ooze was wrong there and maybe not siding in Batterskull is the stronger play. 0-1. Not starting off strong…
Round 2 RG Tron
Game 1 my opponent was able to resolve multiple [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]s and grind me out quickly.
I boarded in 2 Blood Moon, 2 Stony Silence, and 2 Ancient Grudge. I took out 2 Helix and 4 Scavenging Ooze.
Game 2 I kept a hand of 2 lands, 1 Nacatl, 1 Stony Silence, 2 Ancient Grudge, and 1 Lightning Bolt on the play.
My opponent mulliganed/drew into natural Tron and cast [card]All Is Dust[/card] to clear my board and unlock his artifacts. Each time I stabilized, he would cast another [card]Oblivion Stone[/card] and there was nothing I could do. A play I really liked in this game was when my opponent was tapped out and had Wurmcoil and O-Stone in play while I had 2 ¾ Tarmogoyfs. I had 5 mana open 2 red 2 plains and a Forest and I top-decked Chandra so I saw my lines of play as being either play her and tick up, bringing my opponent down to 1 life and letting them wrath the board and get 2 Wurm tokens after attacking me for 6 or I use her +0 and try to rip Path to Exile off of my deck. I flipped Noble Hierarch instead and lost the game but I still think that play was what gave me the best chance to win.
0-2- Playing for points and prizes.
Round 3 Scapeshift
Game 1 I was able to get on the aggro beat down plan unimpeded with 2 Tarmogoyf. I made a mistake; when I attacked him, he flashed a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] in which I killed before blocks, but only assigned 6 damage instead of 8 to my opponent. I caught it in my opponent’s upkeep and we both got warnings but I was able to untap and bolt him to death so it all worked out.
I boarded in 3 Chokes and 2 Blood Moons and took out 4 Qasali Pridemage and a Lightning Helix.
Game 2 I resolved a turn 3 Blood Moon and while my opponent furiously rushed to combo out, I beat him down with Tarmogoyfs for the win. After the match I corrected his play that he could not combo through Blood Moon.
1-2; on the board!
Round 4 UWR Kiki Control
Game 1 I got on the aggro beatdown plan and flooded my board to kill him ASAP while convincing him I was on Kiki Pod because all I used was 1 Qasali, 1 ‘Goyf and 2 Nobles.
In this match up I really like bringing in 3 Chokes and 2 Blood Moons and 2 Batterskull while cutting 4 Qasali Pridemage and 3 Scavenging Ooze. Game 3 if it gets there I would bring back Pridemages or Ancient Grudge if I get shown a worthy target.
Game 2 I played turn 1 Wild Nacatl, so the cat was out of the bag. My Nacatl ate a bolt but I was able to drop another the following turn. Turn 3 my opponent Snapcasters to bolt my Nacatl and I cast Choke turn 3. I resolved a Batterskull and Knight of the Reliquary and ran to victory unimpeded.
2-2; can I win out?
Round 5 Jund
Game 1 developed into a top-decking war and my opponent challenged me to out-top-deck him. I ripped Nacatl followed by Kessig and crushed him.
I cut 4 Qasali Pridemage and boarded in 2 Batterskull and 2 Blood Moon.
Game 2 he ripped my hand apart and I had no good plays against him.
Game 3 I mulliganed to 3 cards and played the game as a formality.
I consider this match up 40-45% in our favor and is highly dependent on game 1 and seeing sideboard cards game 2.
Round 6 RUG Twin
Game 1 my opponent got starved on land and I beat him down quickly.
This match up I bring in 3 Chokes and 2 Spellskite and remove 2 Chandra 1 Lighting Helix and 2 Scavenging Ooze.
Game 2 He boarded out the combo, but I still brought in Spellskite just to be safe. I resolved an early KOTR and was able to bash face a couple times and get the quick win.
Round 7 UB Tezzerator
Game 1 my opponent lead with [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] into [card]River of Tears[/card] and [card]Bitterblossom[/card] so naturally I assumed Faeries and cracked a Qasali Pridemage to get rid of it. I then overextend into Damnation. Off the top of my deck I ripped 2 Noble Hierarchs and Kessig Wolf Run while my opponent played Ensnaring Bridge. Noble beat down got there.
In this Match up I like Blood Moon, Ancient Grudge, and Batterskull. I took out 4 Scavenging Ooze and 2 Lightning Helix. This game is about the grind but when they have no creatures, those spells just aren’t as good.
Game 2 we got in a staring contest with my 6/7 Goyf vs. his 5/5 [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card]. Eventually, after beating in with Qasali and Goyf, I top decked Kessig Wolf Run to trample over to win. My favorite play this match was easily when he Ghost Quartered my only red source I cast Ancient Grudge on his Citadel so I would still be able to flash it back. The play worked out and I was able to kill an Ensnaring Bridge.
Round 8 UR Vial Faeries Kiki Combo
Game 1 [card]Mistbind Clique[/card], [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] and Mutavault locked me out.
I brought in Choke and Blood Moon and took out Qasali and 1 Ooze but I didn’t see Aether Vial until game 3 so in the future I would take out 4 Ooze and only 1 Qasali or 4 Ooze and a Lightning Helix.
Game 2 I was able to build a big board state and crush him with no resistance.
Game 3 My Blood Moon was countered when I tried to lock him off of blue mana. He ended up stealing my 5/5 Scavenging Ooze and just crushing me.
I really enjoyed the list I played this weekend and although my overall record on the weekend was 7-5-2 I still felt like each match I sat down in I felt confident could be won with Big Zoo. A change I have been mulling over is changing up the number of Chokes and Blood Moons in the sideboard. Splinter Twin and Boggles still feel like my worst matchups and those cards when landed early can shut them out to steal a win. If I were to play a tournament tomorrow it would probably be nearly this same 75 but cutting something like 1 stony silence for a 3rd Blood Moon I don’t think should be out of the question especially when you need to turn off Boggles before they can get going. Another more narrow hate card I like in the Boggles matchup is [card]Back to Nature[/card]. The card is a blowout and it is pretty straightforward how it works but it just feels too narrow to include in my sideboard.
If you are playing this deck and your local meta is centered more strongly in Combo/Control instead of Midrange/Combo, I suggest changing the maindeck Thundermaw Hellkite into a [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] and changing one of the Batterskulls into a second copy. Another way to be stronger in a control-heavy meta is by adding [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] while removing cards like Lightning Helix or even Qasali Pridemage if you do not expect to see a lot of Splinter Twin. I really like [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card] over Chandra for a control-dominated meta and the main play to go for is locking them out of a land or creature and ticking up to use his ultimate. By shooting for Ajani’s ultimate, you put a lot of pressure on them to use their burn spells on him, letting your other creatures squeak through to steal games or you just [card]Armageddon[/card] and get the same results.
I hope this has been interesting to you all and that you enjoyed hearing about a lesser-played archetype in the format but can still pack a punch and take many people by surprise.
If you have any further questions about the deck please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section and I will try to check in and answer whatever I can.