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Valuable Lessons – Getting Aggressive in Modern

Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. Today, I’m taking a break from my usual Standard musings to talk about the format I’ve been enjoying most lately. Two weeks ago, I was on my way home from doing coverage of Grand Prix Albuquerque when my father had a heart attack. My dad successfully underwent a quadruple bypass at New York Presbyterian Hospital and is recovering well. Needless to say, I spent the last two weeks in the hospital, far away from my PC and my spell-slinging friends. Luckily, my two brothers were also in the hospital, and we decided to play some Magic to pass the time. We put together some wacky Modern decks and played some games one night. Two days later, we were playing Jund, Birthing Pod, and Domain Zoo—my brothers and I are pretty spikey by nature and it doesn’t take very long for our casual gaming to get serious. Anyway, I’ve been really happy with the Domain Zoo list we have and it’s definitely worth sharing.

The Domain Zoo deck seems to perform well against Jund and opposing creature decks, it’s reasonable against Birthing Pod too—the UWR Control decks can be rough at times, but the deck has enough degenerate draws that it can win any matchup. I found the following list while scouring the internet for cool Modern decks:

Andrew Calderon’s Domain Zoo

[deck]Main Deck
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Lingering Souls
1 Might of Alara
3 Path to Exile
4 Tribal Flames
4 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Marsh Flats
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Molten Rain
2 Slaughter Games
3 Stony Silence[/deck]

Andrew’s list is insane as it is. There are a few things that are worth changing in my opinion, but we’ll get to those later. Let’s talk about what makes this deck so exciting.

[draft]Snapcaster Mage
Tribal Flames[/draft]

I used to play Domain Zoo decks in Extended. I always liked the archetype and I’ve been itching to play with it again ever since they printed [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd]. Blasting an opponent for 5 is pretty ridiculous, but doing it twice is legitimately half of the game. Snapcaster Mage combos nicely with all the spells here, it lets us keep our opponent’s board clear when we’re beating with [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Geist of Saint Traft[/ccProd], and it lets us end the game with burn spells when we draw it in the midgame.

[draft]Geist of Saint Traft[/draft]

The most exciting thing we get to do in the new version of Domain Zoo is cast Geist of Saint Traft. It’s hard to grasp just how powerful Geist of Saint Traft is in this deck. It’s not quite what it is in a hexproof strategy, but it’s very easy to clear the way for Geist when playing a deck with this much removal. Additionally, [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd] does a great job protecting our Geist from things like [ccProd]Liliana of the Veil[/ccProd] or other edict effects.

[draft]Deathrite Shaman[/draft] [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] puts in some serious work here. Enabling turn two Geist of Saint Traft is extremely good, but Deathrite is much more than a [ccProd]Birds of Paradise[/ccProd] in this deck. The late game grind that we can accomplish with Deathrite Shaman’s black ability is huge for a deck like this. We have a lot of spells that represent big chunks of damage and it won’t be unusual for an opponent to be at a very low life total before they’re able to stabilize. This means that our late game Deathrite Shamans require removal spells. I’ll happily play a Birds of Paradise that demands a removal spell after the sixth or seventh turn.

[ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd] isn’t Deathrite Shaman, but it’s still really good and the deck should definitely be playing a few copies.

[ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] is pretty big, and, coincidentally, pretty good.

[draft]Lingering Souls[/draft] [ccProd]Lingering Souls[/ccProd] gives the Domain Zoo deck a kind of inevitability that was lacking in previous iterations of the deck. We’re playing all five colors, so we have the luxury of getting to play with the most powerful cards. There isn’t much that comes close to Lingering Souls if we’re looking for raw power. It often gums up the board to buy time while we find a final burn spell, or it forces our opponents to tap a lot of mana on multiple turns while we’re getting aggressive with the rest of our cards.

[draft]Might of Alara[/draft] [ccProd]Might of Alara[/ccProd] really didn’t impress me at all. As a combat trick, it would’ve been exactly the same as Giant Growth in most spots. As a finisher, it seems like a big gamble to play a [ccProd]Tribal Flames[/ccProd] that demands we have a creature in play for it to do anything at all. I topdecked this a few times when any burn spell would’ve killed my brother. I don’t think I’m being results-oriented by cutting this, I just think it’s the worst card in Andrew’s deck.

[draft]Path to Exile[/draft]

Path to Exile is a great removal spell and we’d be crazy not to play four copies after a bit of testing. It works especially nicely with Snapcaster Mage and Geist of Saint Traft. The rest of the burn spells are obvious inclusions. [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] is the best card in Modern, [ccProd]Lightning Helix[/ccProd] is very powerful and helps us recoup some of the damage we take from our very painful mana base.

Speaking of the mana base, there are a few things that seem odd to me about this list. The first problem that jumped out at me was the inclusion of [ccProd]Overgrown Tomb[/ccProd]. We’ve got a pretty ambitious deck in terms of color and one of our best tools at fixing that issue is Deathrite Shaman. We can cast Deathrite Shaman with black or green mana. I feel like we’re losing value by playing that land when we could be playing two different lands where one taps for green and the other for black. Here’s how the deck looks now that I’ve had my way with it.

Jacob Van Lunen’s Domain Zoo

[deck]Main Deck
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Lingering Souls
4 Path to Exile
4 Tribal Flames
4 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Watery Grave
4 Marsh Flats
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
4 Molten Rain
4 Abrupt Decay
2 Tin Street Hooligan
1 Ancient Grudge
4 Voice of Resurgence[/deck]

The sideboard isn’t tight, but I feel like playing a bunch of 4-ofs in the board here is a lot better than it might be in a deck that has more interesting numbers. I’m definitely putting this deck together for my next Modern event and I strongly recommend it to anyone that wants a challenging aggressive strategy that’s capable of winning the game out of nowhere.

I would play Domain Zoo going forward, but there’s another deck that my brothers and I put together that has some of the most degenerate draws of any aggro deck I’ve ever built. It’s essentially the Brozek Boros deck from a few years ago, only we get to play with [ccProd]Boros Charm[/ccProd] and absolutely destroy people with 7-power double strikers as early as the second turn.

[ccDeck]4 Sacred Foundry
2 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Arid Mesa
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Searing Blaze
4 Zektar Shrine Expedition
4 Goblin Guide
4 Plated Geopede
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Boros Charm
1 Shard Volley
4 Rift Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Lightning Bolt[/ccDeck]

It’s more of a combo deck than it is an aggro deck, it’s capable of killing people on turn three with a startling amount of consistency especially if the opponent isn’t interacting with you. Unfortunately, it’s Modern, so everyone is interacting with you at just about every stage of the game. Still, the pure power and amount of aggression that we’re able to access by playing a deck like this is satisfying.

Next week, I’ll have had a less hectic week than the last few, wherein I’ll probably get to play a bunch of Magic and test some new ideas for Standard. I hope you enjoyed looking at the most aggressive decks in Modern with me.

JVL

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