Welcome back. I’ve been streaming weekly now for the better part of almost 2 years, and during that time I have been fortunate enough to have a number of high profile guests on the show for your enjoyment. Some of the highlights from memories past are Reid Duke, Willy Edel, Alexander Hayne, and a bunch of other experts in the respective decks that we have been playing. One name has eluded me for some time, which I found strange since we have always had a great time talking and hanging out at events which we both attend. Since I have been looking at different ways to attack the Modern format which I have had success with in the past, I knew that I wanted to explore the Zoo archetype before either adopting it, or giving up on it. I have never been very interested in the one drop heavy versions of this deck, and have always felt more comfortable with the bigger zoo variants. With that in mind, there is nobody in the Magic community with more experience or knowledge about Big Zoo in Modern than recent Playmat kingpin, MTG’s heartthrob Brian Kibler. Brian has been a long time advocate for this archetype, and I happened to luck into a good night for him to join me last week. When I asked him for a list, he directed me to his personal website (no, not www.briankibler.com) and advised me of a couple of changes to make for the stream. Behold the deck in its glory.
NAYA ZOO by Brian Kibler
Brian writes about the deck and his experiences with it in GP Minneapolis on his site. I suggest you read that also, since I could not possibly hope to articulate any better than he did. Here. My initial impressions about this deck were good. The thing that stood out to me the loudest was the consistency of the numbers both in the sideboard and the main deck. I have been playing a lot of Jund and UWR lately, and with the raw draw or card selection that these decks provide, most of my sideboard lists have looked like eclectic lists full of “fun-ofs” many of which have overlapping value in different matches. This deck has almost none of that. This list struck me as a finely tuned blunt object with which to savagely maul a very specific set of the metagame. Naya has access to some of the most powerful and narrow hate cards being played in the game right now, and Brian has selected a great mix of them with the purpose of just straight trumping the opposing game plans, allowing his mass of overpowered and undercosted creatures to just pummel the opponent into the ground. I’m aware that I’m making the deck sound like a glorified stompy deck, but it actually is far more complex than you would think, as there is a huge amount of tricky interaction that your creatures can produce, all the while still beating down the opposing life total. Let’s look at some of them:
4x Scavenging Ooze: The new go to Graveyard card for green decks now that Deathrite Shaman has been put on the pines. This has really impressed me lately, as the graveyard effects can not only stop reanimator/persist shenanigans, but it also can either cramp the style of Snapcaster Mage decks, or simply be a 2 mana Dragon in the fair matches towards the later turns of the game. It is a threat at all stages of the game. I’m happy to be running 4 of them right now in any green deck.
4x Qasali Pridemage: When I last took Big Zoo to a tournament, shortly after PT Born of the Gods, I knew that I wanted some number of these in my deck. At that time I opted for 2, and was really impressed by them. I was really happy with the turn 1 Wild Nacatl into turn 2 Pridemage, swing with my 4/4 Nacatl line more often than not, and the Cat Wizard really showed it’s value in some of the combo matches where my Twin and Storm opponents needed to deal with the card both because it was beating down and providing instant speed disruption to the combos that they were so fervently looking to execute. I had been lamenting the Twin matchup as a Zoo player, but with 4 of these bad boys on my team, it seemed like that match might turn around.
4x Knight of the Reliquary: Brian has said that this creature is THE reason to play a Big Zoo list. The critical mass of fetchlands alone often make this a creature to rival any Tarmogoyf on the table, but the addition of some real utility lands really put the power level of this beatstick over the top. Kessig Wolf Run can turn any of your threats into game enders, and the pair of Horizon Canopy really help to provide some much needed fuel during the late game stalls. After playing out some games on my own, watching Brian’s videos, and now playing with his direction, I have come to a realization; I have been playing this creature entirely wrong. There is an amazingly tense balance that you need to maintain with your Knight of the Reliquary activations and attacks. I am fully convinced that understanding when you need to attack, and when you need to thin or find something specific is the real skill that differentiates your results from 2-2 to 4-0. It is unfortunately something that we did not cover in specific detail on the stream, but maybe if you ask him nicely, Brian might discuss it in the comments.
Here is the stream archive for your review.
Ok, so the results weren’t exactly favorable.
I only punted 2 clicks, but they definitely cost us a game each time. One of the things that Brian did mention of course is that the deck was built to battle a very specific metagame for the GP, and was not designed to handle such format defining all stars as Mono Black Infect or Mono Blue Tron (to be fair, Mono Blue Tron IS an MTGO pillar right now…). The real drawback that I felt the deck had is a lack of card draw or selection. As discussed in one of my previous articles, I absolutely cannot play a deck like this in a large tournament like a Grand Prix, because my play skill with it is not high enough to overcome this natural deficiency in the deck. Let’s also be honest, my tendency to get terrible hands online DOES sometimes transfer to paper, and this deck does not do well when it is down 2 or more cards in the opener.
I have to give a huge heartfelt thank you to Brian for joining me this week, and for all of you that came to watch him play with his deck. I hope that you enjoyed the experience and the format, and that you come back for more.
This week, I have something on tap which I have never attempted before; The first LegitMTG on stream Three Way!! Curious? Scared? Excited? You should be. All three.
Tune in regular time, 930PM EST at www.twitch.tv/legitmtg for this first ever event. I promise that there will be no shortage of shenanigans.
Also, if you haven’t already, I would sincerely appreciate your nominations for the MTGO Community Cup. I’d like to think that I’ve earned a shot to represent you, the community with my efforts to make the professional community more accessible to you, and providing all of us some real one on one education from the deck experts themselves. Not to mention my almost 4 years of podcasting! Please find the nomination form here. Again, I would really relish this honor and opportunity. Thanks for all of your support!
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