Good Game: Another Trip to the Zoo

Super-secret Tech...
This past weekend, I made the trip up to Phoenix for my last chance to qualify for Honolulu. I didn't Q. A little heartbreaking, a little frustrating, but it was still a fun day of Magic. The deck I ran? Zoo. But, that ended up being something I only decided on a few days before the event. Prior to that, I had been helping some friends test another deck (mostly, by running the field against it, not by piloting it myself). The deck? TEDS. Nope, that's not a typo. The Extended Dragon Storm.

So, why TEDS over TEPS? Mostly, it was a resilience issue. To win with TEPS, you have to be able to generate a high storm count and then be able to play a Tendrils of Agony, which is not always easy. Sometimes, the TEPS deck can get a Mind's Desire off for five or six, and hit blanks. It's not common, but it does happen. Also, cards like Ethersworn Canonist and Gaddock Teeg can neuter a TEPS deck, shutting it down totally. A one blue spell can even kill a TEPS combo. And once TEPS fizzles, it's pretty much all over.

But the same isn't necessarily true for TEDS. There is no fizzling if a Dragonstorm goes off, and with relative newcomer, Hellkite Overlord, even a Dragonstorm for a measly two can be 16 damage. Gaddock Teeg? Forget the sorcery, just play the Dragons. Canonist? Well, she can be a problem. But if you've got a Lotus Bloom suspended and a storage land or two, it may be enough (see the above comment about Dragonstorm for two being enough). Stifle? You still get a Dragon.

Here's the decklist, if you're curious:

TEDSMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
1 Breeding Pool
2 Cascade Bluffs
4 Dreadship Reef
3 Flooded Strand
2 Fungal Reaches
3 Island
1 Mountain
3 Polluted Delta
3 Steam Vents

4 Bogardan Hellkite
2 Hellkite Overlord

2 Coalition Relic
4 Dragon Storm
1 Firespout
3 Gigadrowse
4 Lotus Bloom
2 Magma Jet
4 Peer through Depths
4 Ponder
4 Rite of Flame
4 Seething Song

So what happened? Why didn't I play this deck? I've never really played combo before. I wasn't really into competitive Magic back when combo decks were seriously ran in Standard, and this was my first Extended season. I just didn't have the experience to play it right. I took a few stabs running it in the playtesting, but I always seemed to screw something up, and in situations where the other players would win with it, I lost. So, as the weekend grew near, I accepted that I just wasn't ready to play combo, and I went with something I was familiar with.

Naya ZooMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
2 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

3 Gaddock Teeg
1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Kird Ape
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl

2 Incinerate
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
2 Seal of Fire
4 Sulfuric Vortex
4 Tarfire

I took some ideas from Saito's recent success with the deck in Singapore, but made some variations to cover what I thought would make up more of the field. For instance, replacing the Woolly Thoctars from Saito's list with Sulfuric Vortexes, or replacing Saito's Oblivion Rings with Duergar Hedge-Mages. In the end, I really liked my list, and felt really confidant with it.

Round 1, Faeries

Such a stupid, savage beating.
When I went up to see the pairings, I felt my stomach drop a little. I recognized the player I was getting paired against—he's one of the top players in Tucson. And here I was, hoping for some easier matches to warm up with. I won the die roll, and I got to keep my opening seven, which was nuts. He had to mull to six, and after I opened with a Wild Nacatl on turn one, followed by a second Cat and a Kird Ape on turn two, it seemed pretty clear that it was all over. He didn't have the Engineered Explosives to stymie that start.

Game one: win.

Now, I did kind of screw up my boarding here. As he's Faeries, I figured that the Vortexes weren't going to be too terribly important, so I boarded them out. I also boarded out the Path to Exiles. In came Volcanic Fallouts, the Hedge-Mages,and the Ancient Grudges. After talking with my opponent after the match was over, and also talking with another Faeries player, I came to agree with them that some things (the Vortexes) should stay in while others (possibly Gaddock Teeg, as he only stops one card in their deck) should come out. Of course, this advice was moot by then as the match was over, though it would prove to be helpful later in the event.

Zoo's biggest weakness to Faeries.
I got to open this game with a Wild Nacatl again. He suspended an Ancestral Visions on turn one, and then stole my Cat on turn three with a Threads of Disloyalty. I ended up getting my Cat back with a Hedge-Mage, but my opponent got a Vedalken Shackles down to start stealing my critters and chump blocking with them. Lucky me, I started drawing burn after my opponent stole a Tarmogoyf and would have burned him out of the game but for a timely Umezawa's Jitte. As it was, on my last turn, when I needed to rip a 3 damage burn spell, I only pulled a Tarfire. Dead by my own Goyf...

Game two: loss.

Game three, I didn't come out nearly as quick. It was only a Mogg Fanatic on turn one. But, I did manage to lay in a Tarfire before getting a Goyf who started to beat face. I even drew an Acient Grudge for those meddlesome Shackles. But my opponent didn't bother with the Shackles. He played a Threads on the Goyf. I saw a second Ancient Grudge. But, as I didn't draw my Hedge-Mage and I had boarded out my Paths, that meant I had no answers to my own Goyf.

Game three: loss.

Match Results: 0-1-0

Sort of a typical start for me, it seems. But still, I would much rather win than have to start off with my back to the wall like that.

Round 2, TEPS

He won the die roll, which is always unfortunate as going first is so important in this matchup. I opened with a turn one Nacatl, into a turn two Gaddock Teeg, who got Remanded. On turn three, I dropped both the Teeg and an Isamaru, Hound of Konda. Meanwhile, all he was doing was digging with Ponders and Peer through Depths. On his fourth turn, though, he dug up an Electrolyze. He only had three land, though, so in order to get me, he would have to hit his fourth land, play the Electrolyze, and then still be able to go off. On his next turn, he played a fetch land, cracked it, Electrolyzed Teeg, then played Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, Seething Song, Manamorphose, Mind's Desire. Oh, and he didn't actually have the Desire until he cantripped with the Manamorphose. He flipped the card face-up instead of putting it in his hand. Cute.

Game one: loss.

Apparently, you just can't stop it.
Out came the Path to Exiles and two Vortexes, in came one Ancient Grudge, the three Ethersworn Canonist, and the two Thrill of the Hunts. Why those? How awesome would it be to save a Canonist from an Electrolyze with it, stopping TEPS cold. Besides, the Vortexes are only of limited use. I need to kill by turn four, and in that regard, the Thrill is just about the same amount of damage, but one mana cheaper.

I came out decent, with a turn one Kird Ape, into a turn two Canonist. Sadly, I drew burn for turns two and three, so I was left with deciding whether to Helix him or drop a Vortex. I went with the Vortex, as it would actually be more damage by turn four (sort of; it would be more damage on the upkeep of his turn four). On top of that, he opened with only a land on turn one, and had to discard on turn two because he missed a land drop. He hit his second land, a Cascade Bluffs on turn three. Turn four, I actually drew a Gaddock Teeg. Teeg and Canonist? Seems good. He remanded the Teeg. I even had enough land to play him again, but couldn't because of the Canonist.

But, I asked myself, does it really matter? He would not only have to rip the land, but he would have to have a kill spell for the Canonist, and then still be able to go off on one mana. He ripped a land. He played an Echoing Truth, floating one red mana in the process by tapping all three lands. Then came Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, Seething Song, Manamorphose, Mind's Desire. Cute.

The fun part, he almost fizzled. He didn't hit much of the Desire copies (choosing to wait to see if he got a Remand before resolving the actual card), and when he resolved the actual Desire, I cut him to another one. That one was for fourteen. He hit eleven land, two Seething Songs, and a Lotus Bloom. Using some of his floating mana, he played a Peer from his hand and found the Tendrils. Yah.

Game two: loss.

Match Results: 0-2-0

Well, there was my PTQ. Talk about frustrating, too. I lost to Faeries mostly because I was unfamiliar with that build of it, only playtesting a small amount against it (which was truly an oversight on my part), and then lost to TEPS holding the absolute, stone-cold nuts. I mean, who could beat TEPS with hands like that? But, I had friends in the tournament, and I wasn't going anywhere, so I didn't drop. Besides, if I went 5-0 from there on out, I could win prize...

Round 3, Slide

Not what I wanted to see.
Lucky me, I get paired up against Slide. It just didn't seem like my day. But, I did win the roll and got to keep my opening seven, starting the game with a Nacatl. On turn two, I played a Kird Ape and also burned him with a Tarfire, hoping to set up a large Goyf play. He did Path my Goyf, and then play a Lightning Rift on his next turn, but it wouldn't do much. He just didn't have an answer for my Ape and Cat, and his Rift wasn't getting there.

Game one: win.

For board, I messed up. I knew I wanted to put in the Hedge-Mages, the Ranger of Eos, and the Thrills. But what do I pull out? I ended up yanking the Teegs (mistake) and some of my burn (probably not a big mistake). To win this match, I had to have a board presence, and I could only win with burn if I got a Vortex to stick.

I came out strong here, with Kird Ape on one, a ripped Nacatl on two, and a Vortex on three (practically the nuts against Slide). He dropped an Engineered Explosives for three on his next turn to get rid of my enchantment. Then he dropped a Kitchen Finks, which I didn't have a Path for. Then he played a couple of Lightning Helixes. Oh, and two more Finks. I dealt 21 points of damage to him that game. He ended up winning it at 16 life.

Game two: loss.

I had to mull to five. He groaned over his hand at first, but decided with me at five, that he could keep. I came out slow, with a turn two Gaddock Teeg. The look on his face told me why he groaned over his hand at first—it was full of four-drops. I also managed a turn three Goyf, though he stayed small. Not only did Teeg turn of the two Wraths and the Ajani in his hand, but my opponent got stuck on three land. My opponent did manage to kill Teeg with a Path, though, and he did get down a Loxodon Heirarch before I could kill him. I Pathed it though, and the Goyf would be able to take him down to 1 life. If I were to win this game, I would need to draw some kind of burn, or else he would start dropping four drops all over the place. I ripped a Vortex. Yah.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 1-2-0

On my way...

Round 4, Affinity

He won the die roll, and I had to mull to five. I opened with Isamaru into double Mogg Fanatic (one of them sacrificed itself to kill a lonely Arcbound Worker). Then I played a Vortex, while he started to play big cards, like Myr Enforcer. I played a second Vortex, and was almost able to get there. If my last draw had been a burn spell instead of Kird Ape, I could have burned him out with the double Vortexes.

Game one: loss.

Out came the Teegs and the Vortexes. In came the Ancient Grudges, the Duergar Hedge-Mages, and the Thrills. Enforcers can actually be really good blockers against me, but a Thrill of the Hunt lets me swing in with a Cat without reserve. I opened with a Kird Ape, and more or less got there with that. I ended up drawing both of my Ancient Grudges and one of the Hedge-Mages, so he never really had a creature on the board. When I got him down to single digits, I just burned him out.

Game two: win.

I thought I was screwed this game. My hand was decent, but it didn't have any artifact destruction, just a pair of Helixes. However, he came out slow, playing just a Chromatic Star on turn one, and using the Star to play an Arcbound Ravager on turn two. One of his lands was a Blinkmoth Nexus, too, so he had few artifacts out. I came out with a turn one Nacatl, then killed his Ravager on turn two, after I attacked, with a Mogg Fanatic, playing a second after his dude hit the yard. He held back, not playing the other two Ravagers in his hand because he didn't want to eat his land to try and save them. He played a couple of digging spells (another Star, which he ended up mana burning to use, and a Thoughtcast), but never saw anything to save him, I guess. Again, once he got down to single digits life, I burned him out.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 2-2-0

Round 5, Mirror

Yah for the mirror...I won the roll (good) but had to mull to five (bad). He had a good mix of creatures and burn, and I simply could not keep up with the two extra cards that he had, especially since the five card hand I kept had three land in it, and my first two draws were land.

Game one: loss.

Zoo's biggest weakness to Zoo, too.
Out come the Vortexes and the Teegs, in came the Hedge-Mages to deal with any Oblivion Rings or Jittes he may be running, the Rangers to give me more dudes, and the Thrills to win the Goyf fights. I again had to mull to five. I was quite angry about this, but at least I had a Goyf in my hand, drew a second Goyf on turn two, and drew a Thrill on turn four. Of course, by then, my back was to the wall, and I was trying to stabilize the board. I had already lost one Goyf when I had to block with it, and a post-combat Mogg Fanatic finished it off.

But, when he attacked with his Goyf a second time, I had the Thrill and went for it. He lost his Goyf. Then he Helixed my Goyf. I'm not sure if he forgot that Thrill of the Hunt has flashback, but I cast it again on my Goyf to save it. He hit it with another Lightning Helix. Although I didn't really want to lose my Goyf, trading one Thrill of the Hunt for two Lightning Helixes seemed alright.

From this point on, we started making trades, burn spells were hitting creatures, and the board just about cleared. He hit a Proclamation of Rebirth at the beginning of all this, getting back two creatures, but I took care of them with some good top-decking and then eventually pulled a Ranger of Eos, who fetched me two Cats. Eventually, even all of them died. We both hit mana pockets, but his pocket was bigger than mine, so I got a Mogg Fanatic on the board, then started drawing burn spells, which included two Lightning Helixes, which would keep me alive. The game ended once I got him to 11 life, when I Helixed him at the end of the turn, then hit him with an Incinerate, two Tarfires, and a Seal of Fire on my turn.

Game two: win.

We didn't get far in this one. By the time all the shuffling was done, we had two minutes. But, we both kept seven card hands, so nothing really happened. He opened with a Nacatl on a basic Forest, and I ripped the Fanatic for my first draw. Seems like a good trade to me. I also had a Helix in hand. That game was going down the path of the last game, where it would be a battle of attrition, which we simply didn't have the time to finish.

Game three: draw.

Match Results: 2-2-1

The draw was obviously better than a loss, but it would hurt my chances at getting prize...

It's frustrating, even now, to know that all I was playing for by this point was prize and rating, that the blue envelope was completely and totally out of reach.

Round 6, Gifts Tron

Did not see this one coming.
This deck was one that was popular last season, but really hadn't been doing anything this season, so I hadn't really tested against it at all. He won the roll, and I kept a hand that was slow but had a decent array of burn and two drop creatures. After his turn one was River of Tears, into a Chrome Mox, into a Dimir Signet, I knew I was up against something I did not expect. When he played Gifts Ungiven on turn two, fetching up the Urza lands and a Crucible of Worlds, I knew that a turn two Gaddock Teeg would be good. And it was.

I followed it up with a turn three Goyf and Mogg Fanatic. Sadly, he played a Sundering Titan to blast my land and clog my board (and I didn't have a Path in hand), and then he played a Grim Poppet, which killed Teeg. After that, he had a Spell Burst, and I couldn't resolve a spell. His two giant artifact creatures beat me down.

Game one: loss.

In came the Ancient Grudges, the Duergar Hedge-Mages, and the Volcanic Fallouts (uncounterable burn, baby), out came the Paths and some burn. This time, he mulled to six, and kept a hand that was kind of clunky. My turn one Isamaru into turn two Kird Ape into turn three Vortex ended it pretty quick. Even if he could sweep my board, the Vortex put him on a short clock.

Game two: win.

He kept his seven. I drew a one lander with a Wild Nacatl, two Mogg Fanatics, a Kird Ape, a Fallout, and an Ancient Grudge. I was on the draw, right? Plus, I was sick of mulling at this point. This hand could potentially get there, and if I ripped the second land, it would go nuts. He did nothing turn one. I drew a Hedge-Mage. Shoot. Down came my Nacatl. His turn two, he played a Chalice of the Void for one. Oh my lord.

Unless I drew a land, it was all over. I would lose. I could not beat him. I ripped a Temple Garden. Ancient Grudge, sorcery-style. And I hit him for 3 damage. I drew a third land on my next turn, and my other one-drops came down to play. He played a Gifts, but he didn't have enough board sweepers to make sure he could sweep away my guys. He did have a Smother for my Nacatl, but it didn't matter. He died under a wave of one-drops. Go-go lucky top-deck.

Game three: win.

Match Results: 3-2-1

If I could win my next match, I'd finish in the prize...

Round 7, Faeries

Just unfair against a blue deck.
Faeries again, but this time, I knew how to board. I won the die roll and he mulled to six. I opened with an Ape into a Goyf, which he did not have the Spell Snare for. Then I started holding my burn for his end step. He killed my Ape and, eventually, my Goyf, but I replaced them with a Cat and a Goblin. He couldn't fight them off.

Game one: win.

For boarding, I took the advice from the Faeries players I talked to in the first round. Out came the Teegs, the Goyfs, and two Paths. In came one Grudge, the Hedge-Mages, the Fallouts, and the Rangers. We both kept our opening seven, and I came out with a turn one Wild Nacatl., into a turn two Fanatic. He dropped a Shackles on turn three, and I Grudged it on my turn and missed my third land. He grimaced, thought about it on his next turn, then dropped a second Shackles, leaving one blue open. On my turn, I almost flashbacked the Grudge. One blue open? He had a Snare. So I dropped the Hedge-Mage from my hand instead.

He dropped a third Shackles and was ready for the Ancient Grudge, but I swung out, put him down down to 3 life, sacrificed the Mogg to put him at 2 life, then played Volcanic Fallout to win.

Game two: win.

Match Results: 4-2-1

So, I finished 25th out of 110 players and won six booster packs. Not terrible, but certainly not what I wanted. I won't be able to go to Honolulu after all, but now it's time to look to new horizons. This summer is Standard season (yuck), and I need to train to make sure I can win something, either a PTQ or make top sixteen at a Grand Prix. And if you're wondering, I will not be running the Fish. Like I said, new horizons.


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