Here is my final two-part Extended article. This is a tournament report for a Magic Online PE as well as the PTQ on April 4th in Birmingham AL (coming next week in Part 2!). I will try to put my matches into detail as best I can with my terrible notes and limited memory of game-states while at the very least giving you a general idea of what’s happening in each game. I’m writing the opening sequence for this article before the PTQ actually starts so here’s hoping I get there!
Recently a friend of mine emailed me saying “I won my local PTQ with Ranger Zoo.” I was intrigued. I had seen Bill Stark’s Naya Zoo list with Ranger of Eos and just brushed it off as a mediocre and slower version of Naya Burn. However this friend of mine whose opinion I greatly respect basically just wrecked an entire PTQ without losing a single match. It was a relatively large event with 129 people so he had to be doing something right. He showed me his original list but I immediately wanted to make some changes as I am prone to do. 4 Ranger of Eos? Awful. 4 Woolly Thoctar? Meh. 2 Gaddock Teeg? Blech. These cards all seemed so slow and poor. Why not just play more burn spells? He wasn’t even playing Sulfuric Vortex!
Over the course of a few days he tried harder and harder to convince me that the numbers he played were correct and cards like Incinerate and Seal of Fire were pretty terrible. After a while I had to agree. I had very little experience with this list and decided to take most of his opinions to heart but I didn’t like it. I mean how good is Ranger of Eos in a Zoo deck anyways? He costs 4 mana only has 2 toughness and often will get countered right? W-r-o-n-g! Ranger of Eos is actually the best card in the deck. The reason to run more than 1 or 2 copies is because he gains you incredible card advantage allowing you to play a few more lands than normal and rewarding you for doing so. Not only that but you get the option to tutor out the more problematic 1-drops for your opponent to deal with. Against Elves you can tutor up a pair of Mogg Fanatics. Against opposing Naya Zoo decks you can tutor up two Wild Nacatl. You also have the silver bullet Figure of Destiny when you have drawn a particularly large amount of mana sources letting you power him up to an 8/8 flying first striking Spirit Warrior Avatar ending the game in just a few hearty swings. With all that being said 4 is probably still an incorrect number due to the casting cost. So I tried running 3 with spectacular results.
After just a few short testing sessions I noted that my mulligan rate dropped something like 20% and my match count went up greatly against the mirror as well as Faeries. Bill Stark has been raving about this deck for over a week now and here is my version with a few more lands:
This list seemed pretty unexciting at first since it is a slower version of the deck’s previous incarnation so I decided to run it in a Magic Online Premier Event after some testing to get a good idea of how some of the matchups would play out. I made up my mind that if I made Top 4 or better then I would run the deck at the Birmingham PTQ on Saturday. Here is what happened in the online tournament:
Round 1 was against BGW Doran. I thought this archetype was dead without a little innovation but he was playing the classic 3 colors. Game 1 he wins the die roll and leads with a fetchland. I play turn 1 Kird Ape and pass. He plays turn 2 Tidehollow Sculler seeing Path to Exile Woolly Thoctar Umezawa’s Jitte and a few lands. He takes the Path to Exile. Next turn I attack for 2 and play a topdecked Wild Nacatl for fear of getting Tempo’ed out by trying to use Jitte effectively against removal. Next turn he plays Dark Confidant but misses his land drop. I decide to attack with both creatures and he double blocks the Kird Ape. I decide it is best to just kill his Sculler to get back the Path to Exile and immediately blow the Path on Confidant to keep him off of an extra card (since he will draw an extra card on his upkeep if I wait) and then play Jitte post combat. Next turn he misses another land drop but plays Birds of Paradise holding 2 mana up. I’m positive he has a removal spell so I just swing with Nacatl. He decides to Smother it which I allow and then play Woolly Thoctar. After another Smother and a Dark Confidant from him I think I’m in trouble. But I topdeck Ranger of Eos at the perfect time fetch up a Mogg Fanatic and Figure of Destiny kill his Confidant with Fanatic and use Figure of Destiny to kill him as an 8/8 monstrosity.
Game 2 is much more complicated. I play a few 1 drops and Ranger of Eos fetching up a few Wild Nacatl. I have a feeling he is sitting on mass removal since he is chump blocking with Birds of Paradise even though is life total is healthy. However on turn 5 or so he plays Doran which leads me to believe he doesn’t have anything and is just a bad player. I play out my entire hand ending my turn with 2 Wild Nacatl Tarmogoyf Ranger of Eos and Kird Ape in play. He uptaps plays Tarmogoyf and Engineered Explosives for 1 then passes the turn. I topdeck Path to Exile but decide to bait him into a bad block as opposed to using it before combat on his Doran or Tarmogoyf. I attack with all of my (presumably dead) 1-drops and Tarmogoyf and he decides to be cute blocking my two Wild Nacatls and taking 8 damage down to 3 life. I held back Ranger of Eos because it would have been awful to walk into the Engineered Explosives. His blocks were pretty bad and cost him the game. On his end step I sent his Tarmogoyf farming and he couldn’t even use Engineered Explosives without making my Tarmogoyf a 5/6 and out of range from dying to Doran. He scoops soon after.
Round 2: I don’t know what my opponent is playing and in game 1 I keep a hand of 3 lands Wild Nacatl Tarmogoyf Gaddock Teeg and Lightning Helix. He wins the die roll and leads with ponder. I know that he is probably playing TEPS and this is a fairly bad matchup for me. However I have one of my Gaddock Teegs in hand and hopefully will be able to race his combo disrupting him for a turn or two with said Gaddock Teeg. The race is on. I drop my Teeg on turn 2 and just attack until he finds an answer. He draws a few cards Remands a Woolly Thoctar then dies a few turns later when he doesn’t find the Electrolyze.
Game 2 was pretty intense. My opener was amazing containing 3 lands Tarmogoyf 2 Ethersworn Canonist and Pyrostatic Pillar. I didn’t think there was any way I could lose. Then my first draw step yielded Wild Nacatl. How lucky. I proceed to play a few dorks two of them being Ethersworn Canonist. During my end step on turn 4 he plays Echoing Truth on a Woolly Thoctar which is interesting because I have two Ethersworn Canonist in play. However I know why he did it when next turn he casts Firespout removing my Wild Nacatl and 2x Canonist. But luckily I’m just amazing at this game and have drawn 3 anti-combo cards. I just drop Tarmogoyf and Pyrostatic Pillar and proceed to smash him. A few turns later with only 3 cards in hand he plays Echoing Truth on my Pillar then untaps and combos into Mind’s Desire for 4 but misses pretty much everything as he had no mana floating and hit 2x Ponder land and Magma Jet. Nice deck.
The next round takes a while to start so I go grab some Moe’s as he knows burritos. Their food is fairly delicious but a bit overpriced. I have plenty of time to eat it before the next round starts.
Round 3: I’m paired against local hero Cedric Phillips playing his weird Astral Slide list sporting such beatings as Seismic Assault as well as Slice and Dice. Game 1 he has the “nut draw” of turn 3 Seismic Assault into “Wrath your side with lands” and continues to Life from the Loam virtually machine gunning my squad for the remainder of the *very short* game. However I do have a bit of useful information and sideboard accordingly. This matchup is always a rough one.
Game 2 is pretty close but I draw 2 Duergar Hedge-mage and an Oblivion Ring to shut down his problem enchantments as well as a Path to Exile to get rid of his Loxodon Hierarch. He casts Wrath of God but I rebuild with Ranger of Eos and eventually finish him off with an 8/8 Figure of Destiny.
Game 3 is tough as he draws pretty well early in the game but I overwhelm him with creatures and he ends up drawing a ton of lands and no way fight back. I am sandbagging a Ranger of Eos and a Tarmogoyf in case he topdecks Wrath but it doesn’t matter as he never draws it or anything else relevant. I just want to point out that if either of his draws had been good in games 2 or 3 it would have been very hard for me to win. However he got a little unlucky and my deck drew well giving me the seemingly “easy” victory. Sometimes going aggro just gets the job done.
Round 4: He wins the die roll (I’m 1/4 on die rolls so far lets see how unlucky I get!) and leads with Wooded Foothills into Stomping Ground then Kird Ape. Mirror match. My opener is decent but contains 4 lands Wild Nacatl Lightning Helix Woolly Thoctar. I draw another land (obv) and play turn 1 Wild Nacatl. In hindsight this is probably a bad play since most Zoo decks still run Seal of Fire which he promptly plays before combat then bashes me with an Ape after killing my Nacatl. After combat he plays another Kird Ape. On my turn I just hold for Helix. On his attack step I helix a Kird Ape then he drops a Tarmogoyf with 1 mana open. I play Woolly Thoctar and pass drawing a Mogg Fanatic. He plays Path to Exile during my end of turn untaps to play Umezawa’s Jitte and equips then swings basically locking me out of the game. I draw…another Mogg Fanatic and we’re on to game 2! My draw was pretty poor as Mogg Fanatic is generally weak in the mirror and drawing too many lands without Ranger of Eos is always awful.
Game 2 I keep an opener of 3 lands Helix Tarmogoyf Thoctar and Ranger of Eos. If I draw a land in the first 3 draw steps I have the game basically locked. I play turn 2 Helix on his turn 1 Wild Nacatl as to not lose my Tarmogoyf to a random burn spell. I play turn 3 Thoctar and turn 4 Ranger of Eos after drawing a land searching up a pair of Wild Nacatl. He can’t keep up with my large monsters and eventually succumbs to a topdecked Umezawa’s Jitte.
Game 3 is mostly the same as game 2 except he mulligans to 5 and doesn’t play a 2nd land for a while. At one point I get a 4-for-1 on his creatures because he quadruple blocked a Tarmogoyf wielding a Jitte with 2 charge counters while I’m holding a removal spell. Post combat I use the rest of the charge counters to mop up his team leaving Tarmogoyf still alive. Awkward.
Round 5 is a bit easier as I’m playing the mirror again. I can’t stress enough just how insane this list is for the mirror match. Ranger of Eos is just incredible and Jitte and Woolly Thoctar go a long way too. Game 1 is pretty easy as he stalls on 2 lands. I play Tarmogoyf Thoctar and Ranger for a few Wild Nacatls. He eventually gets to 3 lands to play his own Woolly Thoctar but I have Path to Exile followed by 2x Wild Nacatl and there is nothing he can do against the onslaught.
Game 2 is similar except he draw a Ranger of Eos as well. However I have the trump in Jitte and he can’t compete. His creatures can’t trade for mine without him losing some serious tempo and he eventually tries to Oblivion Ring my Jitte. But I’m too good for him and have my Duergar Hedge-mage at the ready to blow up the Ring getting back Jitte and punishing him even more. He scoops soon after.
At this point I am 5-0 and haven’t really had a close match yet. My game 3’s have all been pretty sick blowouts and my game losses were to bad draws or my opponent just having superior draws. I haven’t felt in danger of losing a match which is a really great feeling.
In round 6 of the swiss I am the only 5-0 and get paired down against another TEPS opponent. He casts Ponder etc and tries to go for it on turn 4 with a Desire for 5 but having no mana floating. He fails to find another Desire or enough mana producers to combo again (assuming he had another Desire in hand) and concedes as he is dead on board.
In game 2 I side in all my anti-combo hate and draw a lot of it. I play a few creatures like Kird Ape Gaddock Teeg Ethersworn Canonist and even play a Pyrostatic Pillar. He plays Magma Jet on the Canonist Echoing Truth on the Pyrostatic Pillar and tries to combo. However he concedes with 1 card in hand and 8 mana floating I guess forgetting Gaddock Teeg shut his hand down. I don’t know why he did that because he wasn’t dead next turn. It seemed rather hopeless for him anyway.
After a while of waiting on Cedric Phillips to finish his last match before the Top 8 (he’d been the last match playing almost every round since Slide takes so long to win) the Top 8 begins and I’m 1st seed going into the elimination rounds. I get paired up against a 4-2 player but replays are down so I have no idea what he is playing. Thankfully a clan-mate of mine tells me he is playing Elves as he played him earlier in the round (and he also made Top 8 with a nearly identical decklist). This is a fairly bad matchup but I still have a good chance to win.
Quarterfinals: Game 1 begins with me mulliganing a hand with no removal which is just unacceptable against Elves. I mulligan into a 6 card hand with no lands but my 5 card hand is 2 fetchlands Lightning Helix Tarmogoyf and Mogg Fanatic (fist pump). This is basically the best 5 card hand I can ask for. I use Fanatic to aggressively kill his 1st elf after he mulligans to 6. Then I play Tarmogoyf and eventually draw Umezawa’s Jitte. I get a few counters on Jitte and use them to kill a few pointy-eared dorks. After a while he plays Glimpse of Nature and tries to combo out. However I have the removal spells and counters on Jitte necessary to prevent him from going insane and he scoops a turn or two later.
Game 2 is pretty rough for him. My opener is 3 lands Jitte Tarmogoyf Mogg Fanatic and Volcanic Fallout. This is the ideal hand for beating Elves. I eventually draw a Pyrostatic Pillar another Tarmogoyf and eventually lock the game up with Volcanic Fallout even though he has Fecundity. Pyrostatic Pillar makes Fecundity look a bit silly. He tried to use Mycoloth to get back in the game but I had the Path to Exile to remove it before it got annoying sending me into the semifinals.
I know in the next round regardless of who wins I’m playing against Naya Zoo. One is the true mirror match playing Ranger of Eos (my clan-mate) so I assume he will win. He does and we move to battle.
Semifinals: Game 1 is pretty epic but basically boils down to me drawing 2x Ranger of Eos as well as removal and a few Woolly Thoctars. I eventually land a Jitte and he can’t keep up as he is stuck on 3 lands. Zoo mirrors are weird as they usually just include: play some dorks play some removal win.
Game 2 is much of the same except I get Oblivion Ring Path to Exile and Helix for his first 3 creatures as well as sticking Kird Ape Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf. He draws Oblivion Ring of his own but I obviously have my Duergar Hedge-mage to seal the deal. Neither game was close.
Finals: I have to play against Cedric Phillips again. His Astral Slide deck just gives me headaches and I offer the split. He declines simply stating “I never split.” I say “okay fair” and we battle.
Game 1 is fairly uneventful and woefully lopsided. I stall on two lands with Ranger of Eos and Woolly Thoctar in hand. He plays a few Kitchen Finks and Astral Slide and I can’t really keep up. After I draw into a land for Woolly Thoctar he untaps to hardcast Slice and Dice wiping all of my small creatures off the face of the earth.
Game 2 started out awful as I mulliganed into fetchland Nacatl and a few 2 drops. I draw no lands for 3 turns and look to be out of it. However I get to Path to Exile my own creature in response to a Lightning Helix from Ced and draw another land to Duergar Hedge-mage his fresh Astral Slide. After that I drop a few bomby creatures while he proceeds to play Astral Slide #’s 2 3 and 4. Lucky for me that he has no cyclers and I just overwhelm him while sandbagging another Thoctar and Tarmogoyf.
Game 3 is pretty epic. He is at 27 from Loxodon Hierarch and Lightning Helix before I can get a creature in to attack. I use Path to Exile on his elephant and proceed to smash in with my Thoctar while capping the beats with a Tarmogoyf. The following turn I play another Tarmogoyf and Gaddock Teeg while he runs out a pair of Kitchen Finks to pad his life total. I keep bashing with large monsters and he keeps blocking + using Helix to kill Tarmogoyf and Woolly Thoctar. At one point he plays Eternal Witness to get back a cycling land then resolves an Astral Slide. I have the Duergar Hedge-mage but he uses Slide on his Witness before my ability resolves. I then send in all my monsters sending him to 12 life. At my end of turn the Witness comes back into play and gets Lightning Helix and I know exactly where he’s going to point it: Gaddock Teeg. Afterwards he untaps and casts Wrath of God. Thankfully I’ve been holding Ranger of Eos and play it to grab Figure of Destiny and Wild Nacatl. I hope he is out of gas but he isn’t (obvobvobv). After a turn of cycling he draws into Life from the Loam and then draws into a 2nd Wrath of God which virtually seals the deal. I’m at 12 from my lands and he’s sitting pretty around 12-15 life and I have no cards in hand. Awkwardly I draw 2 lands in a row and just concede in the face of inevitability. There’s no way I can compete with the rest of his board without threats or a hand as well as Loam + cycling lands every turn.
At this point it’s about 1:30am and I have to get up at 6 am to go to work. I chat a little with Cedric about the deck. He likes it and thinks it’s a lot better than Saito’s list but mostly just because of Ranger of Eos. He says that normally he has no fear of Zoo as his mass removal effects and life-gaining monsters are generally enough to close out the game let alone drawing Seismic Assault or Astral Slide. However he stated that he definitely feared Sulfuric Vortex which leads me to believe that Vortex should probably be in my sideboard somewhere. I’ll try to work a few into the sideboard before the PTQ on Saturday.
Since I made the finals and only lost to a great player playing a bad matchup (who I had beaten once in the swiss) I figured the deck would be great against a field full of random decks that you see at PTQ’s. I had the edge on the Zoo mirror and a better game-plan against Faeries other than “just get there with Vortex.” A lot of Faerie decks are playing Venser Shaper Savant and Cryptic Command so Vortex is much worse than it was previously. However I can still see why you would want to play it maindeck even though it is horrid in mirror matchups as well as against decks like All-in Red Affinity Bant (sometimes) or Stupid Red Burn. From past experience I can safely say that Zoo is probably the best choice for winning one of the last few PTQ’s in Extended since you have a good Faeries matchup and decent matchups across the board. A lot of decks can’t handle your raw power and this deck can generate a lot of late game advantage to help combat the attrition strategies a lot of people will bring to the table. I cannot stress just how good Ranger of Eos actually is and everyone playing Naya Zoo should run at least 2-3 maindeck. Anyways please come back next week as I finish out my Extended portion of Constructed Criticism. It will be the last portion of Extended hopefully ending in a big blue envelope and tasty drinks on a Hawaiian beach. A boy can dream…