Zoo "Retribution is best delivered by claws and rage."
Zoo is meant to be an aggressive build that wins the game on the back of its animals by mid-game. It is not as fast as some decks like infect, Auras, or affinity, but its not as easy to hate out. It also isn't as straight forward as Rdw/burn, because it cares about keeping it's creatures alive for value, rather than just continual damage.
Zoo gets its name because it relies on the best creatures ever printed in magic to get the job done. Ironically, most of zoo's creature choices are animals. Thus the name sticks. As the name in implies, to us, creatures are the name of the game, and the more fast and efficient they are, the better.
If your looking for an aggressive deck that can be incredibly fast and explosive, yet still retain the edge of not being easily hated out, then Zoo is right for you!
Tectonic Edge, Ghost Quarter, Path to Exile, Blood Moon. Welcome to a format where you can be as greedy as you want... but you still need to play basics. You want to play one of each, unless your more green white and a "Bigger Zoo" then you generally play 1-2 of Forests and Plains
Naya fetches! Grab anything you need, grab basics, grab shocks! In Dark Zoo, Blue Zoo, or Tribal, you want to use different fetches... But head to extra info for mana questions.
Shock Lands! With fetches, its called Bolt lands. And yes we like to bolt ourselves to turn on all the creatures we have. You want to know more about the different colors, head to extra info!
The party cat is back! A 3/3 for one mana, She is the leader of the beat down animal gang!
For 2 mana you get a critter that can be anywhere between 2/3 to 5/6. Nothings as big, lives through all the burns, and will trample down most things in its path.
3 damage for one mana. Its removal, its burn, its cheap. Its everything you could ever want in a deck.
Something in the way of your creatures? Not anymore. While it's a downside is giving them tempo, generally the stuff that doesn't die to above, dies to path much later in the game when the tempo doesn't matter.
These are your second best lands. They let you play lands fast and easy. You are rarely past 3 lands anyways.
Not really used much, but always an option. I generally perfer strong hold as it gives haste and doesnt take a ton of mana, but take it as you will.
Manlands, they help against sweepers, and can help push through damage. Usually Gruul Zoo never gets that far in the game, but if your stretching to midrange, check these guys out.
Land Destruction has two uses in this deck. The first is a way to "delay" the late game by resource denial. The second, and most often used, is utility, killing off other lands that might cause a problem like man lands.
A rare land that is useful when you start running out of gas or need an answer, in that it draws.
All of these cards (Roughly grouped by type of creature and mana cost) All find spots on zoo's roster to some extent. A lot of these creatures are pretty weak comparison to some other, some haven't even seen play in a long time, but are shown just so you know they are an option. Again, to stress, these are all options for zoo's army, but some are not going to be a good call depending on the many zoo variations. For good examples of what you think should be used, look at the variations section.
To Zoom in on any Card or see rulings, click on the card.
These are solid bodies if you are looking for extra beaters than those mentioned in the core.
I would classify these guys as "speed" bodies. They all can come out fast and hard, but all have flaws as well. Speed, but at the cost of reliability.
These are repeatable removal, with bodies. They provide reach towards the end game, and clear a path for your bigger creatures to hit in.
The best mana ramp youll be getting in zoo. Noble heirarch allows yous to win tarmogoyf wars and give buffs to hits. Birds can give you red and black, but also gets flying for them cool kessig wolf runnings
This little oddity is a card used in mostly all in Gruul builds. Its basically a free bear. And combos very well with Experiment One and Reckless Bushwacker
All these creatures excel at being a thorn in the side of midrange, tempo, and control decks.
One of the best support cards Zoo has to offer, he can answer a lot of random enchantments and artifacts, provides a body, and even pumps lone attackers.
Graveyard hate and lifegain, all in a beater. It also has the upside of being the ban of snaocasters existance, which dominates in modern.
Knight often finds herself being 5/5 or larger. She is the ultimate stall breaker, can color fix you, mana ramp, and find things like Kessig Wolfrun.
Probably the best 3 drop we have, but the hardest to enable, as it relies hard on our 2 drops and other 3 drops. But it doesnt ever really die and makes everything into a threat.
Really only used in midrange or landfall builds, this thing can life gain and block all day.
Aggressive, its like an anti removal, midrange, and aggro beater. His nickname is King Oero and can easily dominate a board.
More fair in our deck than other decks wishing to abuse him, he is a utility 3 drop that likely brings back a body with him, making him a two for one.
One of the best ways to gain life in zoo, while also being used as a great aggro blocker. Plus they comeback no matter what (sans grave sniping) allowing it to be removal/blocker/sweeper resistant
Both these beaters have a way to dodge removal, which is suprisingly "Must have" if you want a 3 cmc beater.
Semi grave hate, while also building on your teams power. The black relegates her to being only used in some dark zoo lists and some tribal, but she is a beating, her and her goat.
If you want giant beats, not much better than a 4 mana 4/5 trampling rhino who helixs. His coloring means that hes only a tribal option, but its a strong reason to do it.
Hooters here is an insanely good beat stick. But he needs a little build around. Hes not goyf, but a pretty good impression of him. Make sure you feed him with fetches, burn and ghor clans! No knights though.
Some of these feed Goyf, others have various means of effectiveness. Some are better against control, and some against aggro None are as good as lightning bolt, but the deck doesn't focus on removal too highly.
By giving your creatures (actually, everything) indestructibility, this doubles as a hard hitting burn card, and creature protection.
Its at its best vs aggro, but a 6 point lifeswing is never bad. This used to be one of the cores of zoo, but due to other more powerful tools like the commands, has fallen out of favor. Still, it should be on your radar
2 mana 5 damage, 'nuff said. Well, it does mean you need to be 5 colors also.
Often 2 mana for 6+ damage, it can also negate lifegain and save your team, it can also give reach to block flyers and pump a steppe lynx, but these are corner cases.
Much more midrangey, this spell is a swiss army knife in 3 mana. Al modes, kill an artifact, discarding cards, bringing back dudes, or shocking, is relevant at all times.
Kills finks and voice of resurgence dead, which is great since they are some of the biggest threats to the zoo deck.
Kill all the dorks. This is a great choice when there is tokens, delver, and small aggro.
Proactive. You can cast it with free mana, and let it hang out. Feeds goyf.
The best spell against other aggro. Its often paired with searing blood but double red makes it hard to cast.
Feeds goyf pretty much. If you need an extra spell to do so, but its useage is very outdated.
These are other spells that don't fall in the above category but are still worth mentioning.
On par with Lightning Bolt and Path to exile. If you are in black you should highly consider this as part of your removal options.
Paths 5-8 if needed. Better in light white splashed decks. Some decks, like suicide zoo, even like the life lose. With a flexable mana cost, if your white light, this is a good alternative.
You got white mana? AND SHOCKLANDS? Heres more paths. Not always guarantee, especially in a format with abrupt decay,
Makes your 1 mana dudes hit even harder. This is great in a one drop heavy zoo, making your critters manage to still climb over blockers for some damage, and toss this aura back into youre hand
It can be like a green ponder. While less raw game winning value than collected company, if you run 5ish planeswalkers in the deck, this provides insane filtering value
Void removal with a pump? Yes, please. This spell can often be the cause of your opponent going to half their life on turn 2. (turn one nacatl, swing with it on turn 2, causing the opponent to crack shock for a bolt, only to have the bolt voided and take 7 more damage. Opponent is at 10 life.
With above average creatures This is almost always removal + a pump/enchantment kill/Bolt void or burn hate
If you're into black, this is a premiere kill spell card. It takes out a wide range of problem creatures as well as enchantments, artifacts and walkers too!
A source of card advantage and removal rolled into one. Being the only "real" turn 3 walker we can use, he often is a win con against the slower decks.
A more grindy verison of Elspeth. Over a little bit more time, she will be better than Elspeth, since she gives you alot more options, but is a full turn/2 slower to flat out win the game
Super flying aggro! Knight is a bomb who will win the game on her own. She can guard herself, and when the time is right she turns the tables.
Burn and board control. Sometimes being a 4 mana helix is enough. But if the game goes long Ajani will start to grind the game to a halt, allowing you to break a stall.
Basically, a draw engine. It also can poke people and make big threats unable to block. With card advantages and ways to stop chump blockers, you'll win the game quick.
Need blockers? Make 4. Beat control or any combo aggro. The flexabily makes it a great higher curved threat. Pairs great with gavony township.
Instant speed ranger of Eos with all upside. Great for toolboxing, pumping out more aggression, or slipping over counters.
Combos with Knight of the Reliquary by letting you cycle through all you're lands in the deck, and have a huge threat left. It uses extra triggers to tap down blockers, or untap mana dorks for extra mana. Remember Kessig Wolfrun and Senjiri Steppe as great cards to help in the combo
Blood rush can make it cheap burn, or lets you climb over chump blockers. At worst its still a 4/4 creature.
IV. Side Options:
Some of these can be cards from main deck options above. I will also list cards only once here, like Grafdigger's Cage, which nukes graveyard combos, but is primarily a graveyard hate, thus won't also be in combo hate.
V. Other Variations?:
Zoo is one of the most changeable decks you can play. Unlike affinity, or burn, the deck can do minor changes, but also an overall theme change. This is because Zoo has an overall shell or core you can tweak to whatever style you want. Below is "established" variations of Zoo, as in they have had results at one point or another. Some have fallen out of favor, but as cards are banned/unbanned and new cards are printed, these are options to keep in mind.
Zoo! No Nicknames needed!
This is probably the go to zoo. The other variations can be a little gimmicky, this is just true bred zoo. Focusing on your creatures, getting the best of the best, lower end of the curve to stay aggressive, but are big enough to battle in the midgame, with some of the best support creatures and burn spells around. Other versions can rise and dip in useage, this build generally stays the same, adding on better creatures and spells as they are printed.
Big Zoo's whole thing is that it is exactly what it sounds like. Its zoo, just bigger. You don't focus on one drops (other than ramp) and instead go for bigger threats, or what magic players call "haymakers" You become a midrange deck, and lose alot on speed, but you get a lot better control and aggro matchup.
Requirements in deck to be called big zoo:
much higher curve, generally focusing on 3 drops and going as high as 6.
Domain's Zoo will burn you to the ground. It may not be Burn's 40 some burn spells, but Domain Zoo's burn suite is more explosive, putting this deck more midrange in effect, but also more suddenly aggressive when left impeded. Domain zoo, being a 5 color deck, is highly interchangeable, and is at its core, a brutal creature deck. It employs the best creatures the game has ever printed and backs it with substantial burn. Try to use some of the more blatantly powerful cards listed above, but stay away from double color requirements like WW.
Gruul Zoo takes the opposite approach of Tribal Flames, by focusing more on the creature factor of zoo. It forgos the 20/20ish split for more 28-32 creatures. It also (generally, not always) simplifies the mana base to more gruul RG colors to explode off of Burning-Tree Emissary in more of a rush aggro style. Look at the "Speed" cards I listed in creatures for options.
1 drop zoo (No Goyfs)
One drop Zoo is even more rush aggro styled approach. It wants to get the opponent to 0 as fast as possible with its critters, then finish out with some burn reach. Its an attractive alternative to normally sighed zoo as it is a lot cheaper, not needing goyfs, as the green beat stick is actually too slow for the deck. Look at low curve options I listed above. If its fast or stable, you got a good card for it.
Requirements in deck to be called 1 Drop/ Fast Zoo:
Curve lowered to 1/2 drops ONLY
Streamlined for speed over sustainability or long term play
Dark Naya/ Dark Zoo
Dark Zoo dons black and becomes a hybrid Suicide and Sligh Deck. It uses cards like Thoughtsieze as dual protection from removal, as well as combos. It will also play cards like Dark Confidant to dig up more burn to over load the opponent.
This deck blends Zoo's core aggression with tempos counters to make a very aggressive tempo deck. This basically allows it to be the beat down in most situations, but not roll over to wipes or combo.
Requirements in deck to be called Aquarium/Catfish/Blue
Reliable access to Blue
2+ spells that say "Counter" on them in the main deck
Note, this version of Zoo is less of Zoo, more of Tempo, and is classified as a variation of Delver, and will not be featured on this thread. Search Deck Creation Please for a place to talk about it.
*FOR BUDGET DISCUSSIONS
Zoo is a top tier deck, and as with any tier deck, the more the cards are play, the more demand there is, thus the prices go up. While the commons in this deck are dirt cheap (Kird ape is pennies.) Goyf and Fetches alone will likely cost you 500+ dollars, yet these are necessary parts of zoo, as we rely on our mana base in a "Land type matters" deck, and goyf for all around beaterness.
I will take a second out to say this. Goyf is a top demanded card for a reason. So to answer your question before you have it, "no you can't replace goyf." He is the only 2 cmc card printed that can be 5/6 without effort. However, this doesn't mean you can't focus a deck to be faster or more burn oriented, or bigger, and then you dont need goyf. Do not ask what to replace him with, ask how you can make goyf less necessary to the deck.
Land-mana flow chart; or "How I didnt get color screwed."
Alright, I think some people porting from gruul to naya are having some trouble with this. Its pretty easy, but you just need to think a little before cracking, especially since we don't have perfect fetches. Least we're not domain.
1. Open your hand, look at your color spread and how much they cost per turn. For example e1 into nactal/ ape costs G then GR. Then Smiter costs GRW, or alternatively bolt helix costs RRW on turn 3. You have to budget out these money (mana costs) before even cracking your first land. Familiarize yourself with the colors in your hand first, don't be hastey, and when you got a good idea of the color weights in your hand move to step 2.
2. Now, You know whats in your hand. In most cases the important color will be red or green, as those are the colors of our creatures and our burn. White is 3rd. Now you have to, and this is crucial, figure out which you'll be doing more of: red or green? If your hand looks like I'll be playing a nacatl, then ape, then clearing the path with the 3 bolt effects I have in my hand, your answer is red. Go to step 2a. If your saying I need to drop E1, then nacatl ape/lion, then tarmo and keep the pressure up, go to step 2b.
2a. Ok, so you wanna ride 1/2 creatures to victory, seems fine, you have to crack your first land for what ever color you need for the creature (G probably) PLUS R. Then your next land should be W, to cover your bases, PLUS R. That way you can double bolt, still cast any 2 cmc creature, and have helix/boros charm mana represented. Move to step 3.
2b. You want to keep layin down the creatures with burn secondary to that, totally cool. Crack your fetch for what ever color you need for your creature, PLUS what ever color is needed for the next line of play. EX1: If you have nacatl in your hand, and ape/loam, crack the first land to be G / R EX2: If you have ape going first, then your choice between loam lion, goblin guide, or voice of resurgence, your first crack should be for W / R, as thats the heavest color. Your next crack should be to get what ever your next color should be what ever color you DONT have, and what ever is next in your creature line up. In EX1, that would be G PLUS W. In EX2: thats G PLUS W. Go to step 3.
3. 3 lands on. here it matters a lot less. You got the two lands you'll be using for most of the game. Now its up to you. You can have more burn mana represented, grab basics, or finish off your duals. Option 1 is great if your dropping creatures like in 2a, because thats your secondary game. Id probably also get green in that case too because you may have to cast left over critters. Option two is good if you want to ensure the health of your creatures and keep casting them. Keep nacatl big, keep ape happy, keep casting things in your hand if a blood moon happens. I wouldn't do this against a deck where I expect path (hatebears/american control) but I would if I expected nonbasic hate (delver/moon effects). Option 3 is the default. If option 1/2 doesnt really matter, or not up your ally, or you dont know what to do, safest thing is to fetch whatever completes your dual set. Go to helpful tips:
- Tectonic edge and ghost quarter are cards that get played. Mostly in hatebears and in control, as well as 2 color midrange or knight midrange. Maybe you want to hold the 4th land, maybe you dont mind them blowing it up because you can still funtion on 2/3 lands, while they can not. Against hatebears its more annoying, aganist control, dont worry about it. the games going to go late (if it does, that sucks, sorry.) but you'll have 6-7 lands out. it wont matter. Just prioritize having all colors. they will go for your red first, then green, then white in that order, because they want to cut you off from burn, then creatures.
- Hatebears. ALWAYS CRACK YOUR FETCH FIRST. They will have arbitors and mindcensers. Get your mana, doesn't matter if they cut you off turn 3 as much as it does turn 2. Just be aggressive here and dont let them have time to set up their taxes. They will block with their taxers if their life gets low enough.
-Blood Moon. Delver and twin play this. Most mono red decks will have it, from rdw to big red. Even zoo uses it sometimes. In most of those cases it is comepletely ok to fetch a forest before hand. In the case of delver, they BANK on the turn 3 blood moon to stop you. If you crack a forest it screws their game up.
-Imperfect Fetches. Listen, land screw/ color screw happens, don't be hard on yourself. Try to get gruul colors, if you cant get white. Most of your creatures are gruul, so being able to cast them than a helix or path is usually more important.
- ALWAY SAVE MESA. If you're looking at a hand with a fetch land that isnt arid mesa, and one that is... Save arid mesa. There are expections to this rule, like if your following my flow chart above and you have to lead with it, but if you don't, DONT. Remember, all of our fetchs, sans mesa, are a little limp... They can fetch, but they cant perfectly fetch. Arid mesa can. It lets you change your game plan on the fly.
-One land hand. Short suggestion is, DONT DO IT. Yes we have a lot of one drops, casting one per turn, not impressive. If legacy is a 1 cmc format, Modern is a 2 cmc format. 2 is the magic number. Mull. Now, if your own the draw, you have 2 nacatls and have 22 lands in the deck, eh, not ganna stop you, but its still risky. Missing the turn 2 land drop, ok. missing the turn 3 one for a second land, you're probably dead.
-4 land hand. Also, probably shouldn't keep. Its better than a 1 land hand, since 2-3 lands are perfect, but you need to make sure you have full action for turn 1/2. If the opener is 4 lands, e1, nactal, ape, it is keepable, because you can do stuff turn 1-2. If its 4 lands, nacatl, ghorclan, smiter, its not a good hand probably.
Should I side in Blood Moon; or "Are they wise to the Moon Question."
Blood moon is a powerful card, one that probably single handily ends more games than actual you win the game cards like Door to Nothingness. Still, bringing it in is a hard choice for us, because unlike lock, 2 color decks, or red decks, we happen to be effected by it too. Some smaller zoos run it as an Armageddon card, since it "nukes" their lands too. But since you're likely ahead on board at this point, freezing the game at turn 3/4 favors you. Likewise, some bigger zoos running cards like Birds of Paradise and other mana dorks, can not only turn 2 this out, but also create colored mana through those dorks that you can be greedy casting, even with a blood moon out.
So once you decide to use blood moon in the main or side, you need to then do the very very tricky dance of "should I side it in." Blood moon is a double edge sword after all, and you are "nuking all lands" with it. Some decks will even try to side it in against you! Below is a sort of "choose your own adventure" style of thinking that should help you learn if you want to side in blood moon, or side it out.
A) Likely he or she will side in Blood Moon against you because game 1 you cracked greedy? Go to F. If he cracked greedy, or is unlikely to side blood moon in, go to B.
B) Did he crack greedy for all the colors so he could use every spell available and the shock damage helped you win? If so go to F. If he did staved off your aggression and won, go to E. If none of the above, go to C.
C) Did you beat them because of sheer speed beats? Go to F.
E) Side in Blood Moon. Go to game 2 and see G.
F) Don't side in Blood Moon. They likely are siding it in themselves or want to get basics to keep life loss low. Now play game two and see J.
G) Did you pull out Blood Moon? Yes, go to H, No, go to J. If he played blood moon, go to I.
H) Did you win? Yes-J No-K.
I) Side out Blood Moon or keep it out for game 3, the jig is up.
J) Did they go for basics or crack greedy. Greedy-K Basics-I
K) Keep it in or side in Blood Moon For game 3, they arent aware of it/extending into it because they think they have to.
"He plays in a walk in humidor so keep his foils from bending. He once kept an all land hand just to know what it felt like to be mana flooded. He uses power nine for ante. He is the most interesting magic playing in the world." Old man, "I don't always tap basic lands for mana, but when i do, I tap Gurus."
Honestly, Stony Silence would have hurt eggs pretty badly had he drawn it. It just wasn't meant to be. There is a lot of great hate for eggs out there, but Kibler just didn't think it mattered. I tend to agree with him. Even if eggs were hands-down the best deck in the format, it'd still see only fringe play, because people just don't like it. Even the pilots don't like it. I heard the guy apologized t1 for playing the deck.