This past weekend Pro Tour M15 took place, and while the format was Standard and we undoubtedly will have some new decks to show off, we can't forget our Modern friends, especially when the TCGplayer Modern State Championships took place this past weekend.as well!
...the Modern "friends" being the...Modern...cards, I guess…
Today I want to talk about a deck was shown to me at Grand Prix Boston-Worcester. Michael Stromley came up to me on the Friday before the event, and told me he was a fan of my articles. He thought I would be interested in a little more unconventional of a Zoo brew - a "Big" Zoo, so to speak - so I took a look.
Now I've never been a big fan of Zoo decks, or aggressive decks in general really. I don't really like strategies where I'm topdecking 2/2s and 3/3s and attacking for two damage a turn while my opponent plays cards like Sphinx's Revelations or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. This is an obvious allegory for Standard anyway, but the equivalent in Modern might be me playing Splinter Twin and drawing a combo piece while you draw a Lava Spike
Truth be told, there aren't that many weak decks in Modern, so it's a little more different of a comparison to make, but you can see how drawing a Kird Ape with an otherwise empty board is much less impressive than say drawing a Batterskull or a Birthing Pod.
Nevertheless, Michael told me that the deck had won an Invitational Qualifier and also took second in a grinder at the Grand Prix (or possibly the other way around), so it had a few things going for it. Michael himself went 6-3 with the deck, just barely missing day two. Being that the deck was more my style than a traditional Zoo deck would be, with some hefty four- and five-drops, I decided to give it a go.
Big Zoo vs. Monoblack Discard
Big Zoo vs. Junk Pod
Big Zoo vs. Waste Not
Big Zoo vs. Scapeshift
I was super exciting to see that Waste Not list! I can only hope I can find a successful one in the next few weeks to try out for myself! (And you guys, of course.)
It seemed like our Pod opponent might have boarded out his Pods, but we can't be sure. He might have just not actually drawn them. It's hard to say, because in the same sense it could seem like we boarded out our Knight of the Reliquary, if you get what I mean. Not seeing a card is not indicative of a strategy, but I do think the strategy of boarding out all the Birthing Pods to blank a certain number of our cards does have merit. It did leave us with some stranded cards in our hand, like Ancient Grudge.
Stormbreath Dragon over his older brother, Thundermaw Hellkite, seemed like an odd choice, and aside from Path to Exile, I'm not sure the reason for the choice. It's very rare that we're going to be able to activate this guy's monstrous ability, and Thundermaw Hellkite kills all the Lingering Souls tokens (along with things like Birds of Paradise, Pestermite, and Vendilion Clique) that have been popping up recently, along with being virtually unblockable the turn he comes into play. I think I would probably make this switch the next time I try out the deck, along with possibly even adding a second. The five damage out of nowhere is pretty huge.
As you can see, the most successful Modern decks fight on multiple axes. Birthing Pod can either Pod its creatures into play and go up a chain, cast them normally and become a beatdown deck, or actually combo out and kill us that way. Scapeshift and Splinter Twin can hit us with burn (and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers if applicable) while attacking us with guys like Snapcaster Mage or Vendilion Clique, or they can also simply combo us out. The ability to take on different roles against different decks is a huge benefit in the Modern format and usually the decks that sit at the top of the standings have this capability, even if it only means playing a few copies of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker alongside your Restoration Angels.
Going forward I think I would definitely Remove one Path to Exile. Four was a lot and considering we have other removal, like Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix, I think we could stand to cut on Path (which was dead on certain matchups anyway). Even switching to another Lightning Helix might be better as we can aim that at the dome. There are just so many strategies in Modern that don't rely on creatures, like Scapeshift or Possibility Storm (in the sense that a good player will never give you a chance to target their Memnite). I also wasn't too sold on Boros Charm either, but I concede that I might need more games under my belt to make that determination. There are very few Wrath of God type effects in the format, so the Indestructibility was a little unnecessary for me, and double strike is often the same as just dealing four damage to the opponent. So if we're looking for four more damage, I could definitely see keeping it, but I imagine having a fourth Tarmogoyf would be nice in certain situations, or even a second dragon.
While I didn't have a fantastic run with the deck, I would mostly contribute it (perhaps incorrectly) to my unfamiliarity with this type of deck. Aggro/midrange decks like this that like to attack a lot aren't really my style, and I could definitely use some practice with them. There's also the possibility that I made a lot of correct plays and I simply couldn't compete with the decks that win on a single turn rather than over the course of many. I'm not sure. Either way, I think there is definitely a place for this type of list in Modern, so perhaps this is a good jumping off point.
This Thursday we'll have some more new Standard videos in action, ideally showcasing Garruk, Apex Predator or Nissa, Worldwaker…if I can get my hands on a couple! Thanks for reading and I'll catch ya then!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV