SCG Cincinnati Prep
Last week, I was working on my Zoo deck and took it to a local event for more practice. At the event, I went 3-1, losing only to Mono-Red. I felt the loss was due to poor draws that involved lots of mana or no mana of a color. My last round opponent was a friend and we were discussing my deck. His thought was that I needed to dive into the Boros Reckoner hype and add them to my deck. It’s the best creature in Standard right now, he said, and you need to be playing them in this deck.
That statement stuck with me and I kept mulling it over in my head. Switching to Reckoners had a lot of pros going for it. The one that stuck out the most was the mana cost. Reckoner would be much easier for me to cast. As long as I have three lands, I can cast him. The same cannot be said of Silverblade Paladin. The normal arguments about why Reckoner is so good also apply here. The card does have a high power level and can be difficult to kill.
Depsite all the reasons to include him, I found myself hesitant to replace Silverblade Paladin with Boros Reckoner. The damage output on Silverblade is insane and I thought I would be taking a lot of aggression out of the deck if I made the switch.
When I was discussing the switch with a friend, I started realizing some other powerful reasons to make the switch. Rancor. Can you think about Rancor on a Boros Reckoner for a second? Yes, it is as powerful as it seems. Not only can you have a 5/3 first striker, but it allows you to break through the defenses of your opponent. What about if you pump your Reckoner with Ghor-Clan Rampager? Not only does your opponent take a bunch of trample damage, they also take damage from their creature blocking and dealing damage! Suddenly, it’s seeming like you’re not losing that much damage with the switch. When thought about the interaction between Reckoner and Thragtusk, that finally sold me. Reckoner fights through Thragtusk better than any other ground creature because you just give it first strike.
With those interactions fresh in my mind, I drove quite a ways to a shop last Thursday after work to hand over eighty dollars in order to obtain my playset.
If I was going to play Boros Reckoner, I figured I would try out Domri Rade as well. The interaction between those two cards blows out a lot of the aggressive decks in the format right now. The new green-red planeswalker is definitely not the best ever but he's only a little worse than Liliana of the Veil in this deck. When you draw cards from his plus one ability, he is actually good. I just wish that ability was worded a little bit differently. These were the two primary changes I made to the deck two days before the event. While there are not many changes to the deck, it plays a bit differently. Here’s the list I played.
SCG Cincinnati Report
Round 1: G/W Humans
If I am honest, I won this round easily. My opponent was playing Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha and missed triggers to flip them as well as triggers to make wolf tokens. These mistakes made it much harder for him to win. He did have Fiend Hunters in his deck though and they were very good against me especially because they were usually bigger than their printed stats. Because his creatures were generally smaller than mine, Domri Rade did a lot of work for me.
I almost lost game two because I made the greedy play instead of the safe play. He had a Fiend Hunter that had eaten my Strangleroot Geist paired with a Silverblade Paladin. I had enough power in play to kill him if I got rid of the Fiend Hunter and could then attack with my Strangleroot. At the time, I knew the safer play was to kill the tapped Silverblade but with his one card in hand, I thought he was dead so it didn’t matter. Despite the fact that he was playing all humans and I had not seen any in the previous game, he blew me out with Restoration Angel on the Silverblade Paladin. Once they were paired my team was decimated. I did manage to kill those two creatures and crawl my way back into a win, but I could have made the safe play in the first place.
Round 2: Naya Humans
After the match my opponent told me, “I’m not sure what I could have done in this match, your deck was just faster than mine.” That was basically how the match went. With my aggressive draws against him, I had his back to the wall quickly in both games one and two. There was not much he could do to slow me down. Between Ghor-Clan Rampager pumping, and a coupleBoros Charms, he was dead pretty quickly. Game one I finished him with end of turn Boros Charm, untap Boros Charm. That last eight damage can come off in chunks like that with this deck.
Round 3: Naya Midrange
Game one was all about the Reckoners. I drew three of them and despite my opponent dealing with two of them, he couldn’t defeat the third. He lost a lot of life by killing the first two with a huge [card Bonfire of the Damned]Bonfire[/card]. Game two was a close one, but the combo of pumping with Ghor-Clan Rampager and giving double strike with Boros Charm kills many an unsuspecting opponent.
Round 4: Jund Midrange/Control
Game one was over quickly because I had a one-drop into double one-drop hand. I also had the burn to finish him off even after he used a couple removal spells. Game two was going well, but his bait of Vampire Nighthawk successfully lured me into using my Searing Spear. That allowed him to play Olivia Voldaren and take over the game by stealing my [card Rancor]rancored[/card] Reckoner. Game three was fairly close but I boarded in Oblivion Rings as more removal for his Olivias. That allowed me to kill two of his finishers and mop up afterwards. After the match he told me that he top-decked the Olivia in game two. I felt better because I had no idea he had that in his hand and usually I am able to read my opponents decently well.
Round 5: Caleb Durward with Junk Reanimator
I have much respect for Caleb as a player and writer and I knew I was in for a difficult match. In the first game he mulliganed to five and I went to six. For five and six, our hands did some powerful things. He played double Arbor Elf and I played a couple early aggressive guys. I was able to set up a massive attack where I pitched a Ghor-Clan Rampager and double-striked with Boros Charm to deal him a huge chunk of damage. His blocks left him at two life. He untapped, smiled and cast Angel of Serenity. The three creatures that were going to kill him on my turn suddenly disappeared and it looked like the game was out of my control. I drew my second Boros Charm of the match and almost slammed it on the table. Later I learned that he had topdecked the seventh land to cast the Angel.
Game two I kept a hand you really cannot mulligan but would rather not keep. The hand consisted of no one mana-cost creatures so it was a bit slow. Even with eleven one costs, there will be some games you don’t have one in your opening hand. Because I did not have a fast enough hand, his sequence of Farseek into Trostani, Selesnya's Voice into Thragtusk put the game out of reach quickly. When his life total increased even more, I picked up my cards to try out game three.
Before the game started, I did something that players often forget. I resideboarded. I knew I wanted some Oblivion Rings to deal with the lifegaining machines he added from his sideboard. Also, I thought that bringing in Pillar of Flame on the play might kill his mana creatures and set him too far behind to catch up. Domri Rade isn’t that good in the match because other than mana creatures, my guys are smaller than his.
The last game was a bit frustrating but proves why I only play three Strangleroot Geists. I would have easily won this game if I could have cast them on turns two and three, but instead I had to cast them much later in the game, and by that point I was unable to punch through the last few points of damage. The match was amazingly close and a ton of fun to play. I felt my sideboard decision with the two Pillars was ultimately wrong and I should have left the Searing Spears in the deck.
Round 6: UWR
Game one was a hasty victory. One downfall of winning so fast is that you do not get to see much of your opponent’s deck. I was not even sure what my opponent was playing other than that I had seen some blue, white, and red lands. I think he cast one spell, Azorius Charm, and that was all for game one. I assumed he was playing a midrange or tempo version of URW but with a higher curve than some of the other versions I had played against previously.
Game two showcased the power of Boros Reckoner, but on my opponent’s side of the field. I dealt with the first one by losing a couple cards and the second one was too much for me to handle. In addition he had three or four Azorius Charms and two Restoration Angels. That combination of cards did not allow me much room to actually play the game.
The decider was quite the crazy game as well. With my mulligan to six cards my opening hand contained two shocklands, two one-cost creatures, Flinthoof Boar and a Boros Reckoner. I hope you’re thinking that’s an amazing six card hand because I sure was. The sequence went like this.
Turn one – Me: One cost dude. Him: Land.
Turn two – Me: Boar. Him: Land.
Turn three – Me: I did not draw a third land but did draw another one-cost dude. Play both one-cost dudes. Him: Rolling Temblor
What? Yes that’s right, Rolling… worst Pyroclasm ever… Temblor. I was pretty blown out by it and extremely surprised. The thing is, if I had drawn my third land, I would have played Boros Reckoner so that three mana spell would have proven useless. Honestly I was surprised that he sideboarded it in for this match.
I recovered well the next turn when I drew my third land and the game continued. He played some removal spells and put guys back on top of my deck once or twice, but I found a second Boros Reckoner. That seemed like it would seal the match but he got bold and Bonfired the two Reckoners away. Luckily I drew a third one. With my seven mana in play, I tapped one of it for the Rancor in my hand and attacked. He blocked with Augur of Bolas and then used Izzet Charm to deal the final two points of damage to my creature. This left him at two life and within range of my Boros Charm in hand. I went to tap my mana and kill him only to find out that even with my plethora of lands, I only had one white mana (a Temple Garden) which I had used to cast Rancor for no reason. I thought I would still win on my next turn until he cast a main phase Sphinx's Revelation for three putting him back at five life. On his next turn he played Boros Reckoner, while I drew nothing.
Then the following turn is what really blew my mind. The card he played was not anywhere in my mind as a playable card or one I would even expect from his deck: Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. I was completely taken aback. Why would this card be in his deck? Because he did it allowed him to kill me a turn earlier than he should have. In the end though, I lost the game myself because of my misplay. The game should have been won with a Boros Charm, but instead I have a story to tell about what you can do better while playing.
As far as the deck goes, I think my Zoo list is close to perfect for this metagame. I don’t have any games in against the new Aristocrats deck so my opinion could change based on that information, but I love this deck against any other deck in the room. If you are looking for some quick matches, this is definitely the deck for you. I had more time in between rounds with this deck than any other I’ve played with in quite some time.
When you are playing Magic, what’s the most important thing? I would argue it's mana. From teaching new player frequently, I know that learning what mana is and how to use it can be difficult. Once you start going to tournaments, we start to take mana for granted a bit. It’s obvious you play a land and cast your spells depending on what lands you have in play. Do you ever consider making a different play based on what lands you have though? Here’s an example from my Zoo deck.
There are actually a ton of intricacies to this scenario. If you play Cackler, your Experiment One will grow twice and you will take less damage. The other cards in your hand matter though. For instance, I had Boros Charm in hand so that makes Boar a little better here because I can hold the Charm for protection and not be tapped out. If you knew your opponent had Blind Obedience or Rolling Temblor, you might favor the Boar, but if they only had Supreme Verdict or Mutilate, you might want the Cackler for the extra evolve trigger and the haste on the Boar.
Your mana is a resource that can be used in many ways. It is just one aspect of the game that grants you many choices each turn. Using your mana wisely each turn can lead to getting more out of your spells. Paying attention to the colors you have available to you is extremely important as well. If you only have one green mana, that may change the order of spells you play.
Looking specifically at my play, I lost a match because I tapped my mana wrong. That ended up basically knocking me out of the event. Tapping my mana different was a very small thing, but still I overlooked it. We are all human, but mistakes like that can and should be avoided. To accomplish this, think about what you are playing and pause for a second to look over your lands. Working on things like this can improve your game, even if only a small amount. Every little edge counts.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Zoo Force!
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