Once upon a time, Zoo reigned supreme. Not just Zoo the way we think about it today—full of Wild Nacatls and Goblin Guides and Reckless Bushwhackers—but back then Zoo looked very different. Sure, most still had the Nacatls and Guide and Steppe Lynxes, but Zoo also came in two distinct versions.
There were the "traditional" Zoo decks in the way we think about them today, but there were also decks known simply as "Big Zoo". For instance, Brian Kibler won Pro Tour Austin with this deck in 2009.
Notice the distinct lack of the super-aggressive one-drops: all Kibler's deck wants is Nacatl because the 3/3 body stays relevant for a longer period of time as his deck goes big.
And did it ever go big. Knight of the Reliquary, Baneslayer Angel and Elspeth, Knight-Errant—all are spells that today are deemed too expensive for the "regular" Zoo decks. But Kibler showed with his victory that not all Zoos are created equal, and you don't have to be the all-in variety to find success.
And that brings us to Big Zoo in 2016.
I found this list looking through recent Magic Online decklists, and it's certainly a pretty awesome one. It's packed full of great value creatures and makes better use of some seldom-used lands than any deck I've seen. Ancient Ziggurat and Pillar of the Paruns are all-stars here, allowing you to flawlessly cast all five colors of creatures in your deck. With that being the case, we get to play all the best value creatures we want—a healthy heaping of aggressive creatures like Mantis Rider and Lightning Angel alongside tempo cards like Tidehollow Sculler, Reflector Mage and Spell Queller, all topped off by resilient threats in Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks. A decent removal suite rounds out the deck, and the sum of its parts is a concoction that can both interact with opponents while also presenting the ability to kill out of nowhere thanks the seven haste creatures and the always groan-inducing Siege Rhino.
While this deck doesn't want to see Anger of the Gods, it's also more resilient against the early sweepers than traditional Zoo decks. It may not have Lightning Bolt, but it has just as much reach as a traditional build, meaning you can start incredibly quickly but you don't have to.
The sideboard fills even more holes. A second-turn Anafenza, the Foremost followed by a third-turn Mantis Rider or Lightning Angel means you're swinging for a full 8 damage on the third turn, with Lightning Bolt-proof creatures even. A smattering of silver bullets in Kataki, War's Wage, Gaddock Teeg, Fulminator Mage and more allow you to swing your matchup against things like Tron or combo decks, all while keeping the aggressive core of the deck intact.
I tested out the Chord of Callings in the sideboard to help find these bullets, but I'm not sold on it. I knew they would be iffy thanks to things like Ancient Ziggurat and Pillar of the Paruns, but with a deck full of mana dorks I figured they were reasonable. If you choose to adopt my sideboard plan, don't feel married to the Chords or other refill cards like Collected Company, a notable exclusion from this deck but one that is necessary considering the mana base and seven 4-drops.
Overall I had a blast casting creatures this week, and if this is your style of deck I'm confident it's competitive enough to do well, at least on the local level. The sideboard can really be tailored to fight specific metagames, and the core of the deck is naturally strong and diverse enough to compete with most decks out there.
Any ideas for creatures we missed, or sideboard plans to improve the build? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter//Twitch