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Magic Weekly - Suicide Zoo

Updated on June 9, 2015

Death's Shadow

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The Basics

The deck "Suicide Zoo" has it's roots from a standard deck back in the days of Alara/Zendikar. It was originally designed as a "sligh" deck, one that runs very low converted mana cost creatures and simply rushes the opponent till they're dead. It began as a combo with Death's Shadow, Goblin Bushwacker and Ad Nauseum. You would cast Nauseum to reduce your life total and then next turn you would cast Shadow and Bushwacker with his kicker and swing in for lethal. The deck played very similarly to that of the normal, "Red Deck Wins" or any other "sligh" deck with the main difference being that it also actively tried to reduce it's own life total. This makes for a very interesting deck construction because unlike most, losing life is actually a good thing. With new cards this deck can be converted to a modern deck that can frequently get turn 2 or 3 kills.

The Modern Equivalent

Modern has become the format of "Turn 4 Kills" because of a number of combo decks ranging from decks like Splinter Twin, which creates infinite creatures and swings in for lethal, to Amulet of Vigor, which can potentially create enough mana turns 1 or 2 to cast either Primeval Titan or Hivemind to Infect, which can swing with a single creature for 10 infect turn 2 or 3. There's also decks like Tron, which can power out a Wurmcoil Engine or even Karn Liberated turn 3 and control the board until they can find and cast Emrakul, or Burn which uses a combination of cheap creatures and efficient damage spells to deal 20 damage before the opponent. Although these decks seem great their biggest weakness is often themselves. When they cannot win fast enough they have to struggle through tough top decks in order to find their win-con. Suicide Zoo often faces the same problem, but with the large variety of almost 0 cost cantrips, with the right starting hand a turn 2 kill is easily feasible.

How to choose a Modern Deck

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The Main Deck

As far as the deck goes there are a few pieces that are must-haves.

Creatures:

4 Death's Shadow - The reason we run the deck. He laughs at bolts often being a 5/5 or 8/8 for B and if you can power him out turn 1, it can lead to an easy turn 2 or even 3 win.

4 Monastery Swiftspear - Our Shadows number 5-8, although they are vulnerable to bolt during your opponent's turn, they are often hesitant to block her because a well placed mutagenic growth can turn her from a 1/2 to a 4/5 for only 2 life. Haste is a godsend on her, making her vital to the deck and your success as a whole.

4 Wild Nacatl - Not as strong as our first two creatures, but still a solid turn 1 play often and easily being a 2/2 turn 1 and a 3/3 by turn 2. What she lacks in haste, she makes up for by being a strong threat and can easily mislead your opponent game 1.

4 Street Wraith - Although you will probably never have this guy hit the field, as far as cantrips go he's second only to gitaxian probe in this deck. He helps us dig and lower our life total the first few turns.

Non-Creature Spells:

4 Gitaxian Probe - Our best cantrip. It lets us see our opponents hand, lose some life, draw a card, trigger prowess and allows us to plan our next few plays. It's everything we want out of a cantrip and is vital to the deck as a whole.

4 Mutagenic Growth - The second best pump spell we have. It fuels our graveyard, saves/pumps our guys for extra damage, triggers prowess and doesn't cost mana.

4 Lightning Bolt - This can give us that extra reach when our opponent is low or we have death's shadow out, and it can remove pesky creatures. Though one of our best turn one plays involves bolting yourself to give Death's shadow +3/+3. (It's also rather funny to see the look on your opponent's face when you declare yourself as the target for bolt.)

4 Temur Battle Rage - The bread and butter. This card gives us the reach the deck needs. The game winning play usually involves swinging, pumping one of the creatures with either Become Immense or Mutagenic Growth, then casting Temur Battle Rage on them for leathal. *It's important to remember that prowess triggers before the effect of this card resolves, so if you have a 3 power Swiftspear, she will be strong enough to trigger ferocious on Battle Rage!

3-4 Become Immense - I've seen a lot of lists only running this as a three of, but I personally like it as a 4 of, simply because I'm only ever disappointed to see it if I already have one in hand. Otherwise, this is often our 1 drop +6/+6 because all our other cantrips and free spells fuel it's delve. It is because of our greedy 10-12 fetch land mana base, and upwards of 12-16 cantrips that allows us to cast this reliably.

Lands:

4 Bloodstained Mire, 4 Wooded Foothills and 4 Verdant Catacombs - The catacombs can be substituted with 2 and 2 of off-colored fetches but you want at least 8 fetches with at least 2 of the Jund Colors (Red, Black and Green) because all our spells are of those colors. These lands can be expensive, but they are vital in reducing our life total, fixing colors and getting cards in the graveyard.

2 Blood Crypt, 1-2 Overgrown Tomb, 1 Stomping Ground - The base of the land base. You need lands that can produce the colors needed to cast your spells and lands that hurt you as they enter are even better.

1 Temple Garden, 1 Godless Shrine - These are necessary for your Nacatl to be a 3/3.

1 Mountain, 1 Forest - Not strictly necessary for the deck but may be useful so you have something to grab off of a Path to Exile.

Maybes:

4 Mishra's Bauble - This is our cantrip number 9-12. It's strictly worse than Probe or Wraith but it does fill the yard and trigger prowess. *Remember that you don't draw the card till the following turn though!

3-4 Manamorphose - Unlike Bauble, you draw that turn, but adding mana for one specific phase can hurt you more than it helps. I personally do not like the card, but it is essentially a free spell that draws you a card and triggers prowess.

2-3 Putrid Leech - As far as creatures go, he's rather strong. A 4/4 when you need it for 2 mana is not hard to cast, but can easily disrupt our own flow. Paying life is nice, especially since you can do it even when you don't need the pump. *Remember you can only activate the ability once per turn, but you can activate it at the end of your opponent's turn to simply lose life.

3-4 Steppe Lynx - Some like the Lynx in the deck because it's often a 4/5 if played right, but can just as easily dud out by turns 3 or 4. It's worth considering but I personally don't like it.

2-3 Apostle's Blessing - This card can save your creature when need be, or offer you the protection to get through their creatures. It triggers prowess and can let you lose life. It has potential but simply doesn't offer the same strength as some of the other cards.

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Sideboard

Absolute Must-Haves:

3-4 Thoughtseize - This allows us to tear apart their hand, amazing against combo, removes removal and counterspells from control and can disrupt aggro. It allows us to lose life, see our opponent's hand, and fills the yard, it's everything we want out of a sideboard card.

2-3 Postmortem Lunge - Additional protection for our creatures. It gives the recurred creature haste, and can be cast for phyrexian mana. It can get surprise wins around turn 3 or 4 from a dead or discarded Shadow.

2-3 Phyrexian Unlife - This card is phenomenal. It can all but gurantee the match up against burn, it lets our Shadow get to 14+ power and protects us from most combo wins as they have to reduce our life total to 0 or less before dealing another 10.

Maybes:

2-3 Apostle's Blessing - Great for Control-heavy metas, as it protects our creatures while allowing us to lose life.

2 Shattering Spree - Great for Affinity-heavy metas and arguably better than Ancient Grudge for us.

3-4 Nature's Claim - Giving your opponent 4 life can be bad, but losing to something like Blood Moon or Ensnaring Bridge can be worse.

2-3 Leyline of Sanctity/the Void - Although it's the worst top deck you can get, having it in your opening hand can sometimes just outright win the game.

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Sample Deck and Playing Tips

Here's my list for Suicide Zoo.

I run Putrid leech because he's a bit hardier than steppe lynx and like Shadow can survive a bolt. I haven't tested Bauble yet because I was playing Manamorphose earlier and was disappointed by it. But the deck is a blast to play and your games are almost guranteed to be short.

The best hand you can keep allows you to cast a turn 1 death's shadow and either has battle rage or become immense, but does not require it. Good starting hands usually have 2 fetch lands, allowing you to gurantee your colors, at least 1, 1 converted mana cost creature and a few cantrips.

Tips:

  • The typical kill comes from at least a 5/5 death's shadow pumped with Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage but You can just as easily kill your opponent on a Swiftspear as you can with a Shadow.
  • Prowess triggers every time you cast a non-creature spell. One of the best ways to make the most out of your turn one involves casting Swiftspear first, then using Gitaxian Probe. It's very easy to miss your triggers and can easily be the difference between winning and losing. Even though you do draw, prowess does not trigger when cycling Street Wraith.
  • Don't be afraid to wait to cycle your Wraiths. If you know you cannot draw enough to get to the kill, don't do it. That being said, when you know you're about to lose, go for it anyways.
  • When sideboarding, if you start with a Thoughtseize, make sure you play it first. Even though it feels like it'll slow you down, it's the better play because there is nothing worse than allowing your opponent to play something like a chalice of the void or engineered explosives before you can answer it.

But with everything else in life, practice makes perfect. So have fun and thanks for reading!

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