written by zach poling
Toronto is usually pretty saturated with rogue decks, but this tournament seemed to be the exception. There was nothing but Zoo as far as the eye could see, and although my deck wasn’t necessarily built to play Zoo mirrors for ten rounds, I was able to keep up with the unrelenting torrent of Dridents right up until the end, losing on the bubble in round 9 to pure Zoo.
(Continue reading below.)
Despite my entire testing group being of the mindset that Zoodiac was the only viable deck at the event, I was convinced that I would play against far more True Draco and Draco Zoo decks than I did, and as a result, I did not main deck Dimensional Barrier, which was crucial, as only three of my nine rounds were not against Zoo. I was further put at a disadvantage by my unfamiliarity with basic Zoo combos after the introduction of the link mechanic; I spent a couple hours on the way to Toronto learning standard plays at the last minute. Perhaps if I would have been a bit more prepared, I could have taken the games necessary to push me into the top cut.
My goal when building my deck stayed the same throughout all my preparation and remained strong all throughout the tournament: wipe the board. I main decked Rageki and two Dark Holes, as well as two Kaijus and two Twin Twisters, attempting to wipe away any kind of board my opponents set up, then establish my own basic Zoo combos, simplifying the gamestate as much as possible. I expected many of my opponents to me more prepared for the matchup than I was, so the more resources at both players’ disposal, the more advantages my opponents had. In addition to the aforementioned cards that let me ignorantly disregard complex gamestates my opponents attempted to establish, I also main decked three Ghost Ogre, three Ash Blossom, and, of course, Maxx “C”. I geared my deck to go second as much as possible, but toward the end of the tournament, I concluded that I was going about it slightly wrong.
Going first is a massive advantage for the Zoo deck, and I thought I could increase my chances of winning going second by playing cards to disrupt my opponents’ first turn plays, like hand traps and Kaijus. In rounds seven and eight, I tried something different. Rather than keep my hand traps and Kaijus in going second after winning game one, I instead took them out for the powerful traps in my side deck like Barrier, Magic Deflector, Floodgate Trap Hole, and I chose to leave the Strikes in the main deck. The idea was if the Zoo deck has such an advantage going first, I would attempt to either break most of the board with a board wipe, or play through most of the disruption with extenders like Barrage and Shuffle Reborn, then make a basic Zoo combo to establish board presence and set my own sizable backrow of traps. I essentially wanted to make my opponent play into my board as if I were going first even though I was going second. This punished players who set up large fields on their first turn rather than played more conservatively. Looking back, if I were to change anything about the deck, I would drop most of the hand traps from the main and play more actual traps.
Although Zoo seems to be on its way out, with the forbidden and limited list right around the corner, the lessons I learned at this tournament can be applied to whichever deck I play next format. In particular, it’s important to play to your deck’s strengths. Commit to your ideas about what your deck should be doing. Zoodiac has the luxury of one-card combos, allowing the rest of the non-Zoo cards in the deck to be standalone powerful cards. Rather than playing disruption via hand traps and protection for my boards, I should have played blowout traps in addition to my game-simplifying board wipes. My lack of board protection could be accounted for by making the most conservative plays possible, ending with a Drident and an Ramram whenever possible, backed up by traps. Nothing more. Playing conservatively will likely be important this coming format with cards like Struggling Battle being released, and the potential for powerful mass-removal cards to come off the F&L list, punishing players for committing all their resources to the board and having nothing to fall back on once the gamestate is simplified.
Never stop testing your ideas and learning from your mistakes.