Duel With Ruel – Tezzerator Versus Zoo: The Tezzerator Perspective

SCG Open Richmond!

Tuesday, February 23rd – In the fifth edition of Duel With Ruel, Antoine battles Manu with a deck that was presumed dead: Tezzerator! Manu slings the Zoo spells, and Antoine analyses the matchup from the Tezzerator perspective. He also shares his innovative Standard deck from Pro Tour: San Diego!

I’ve just got back from Pro Tour: San Diego, where I lost the last round and missed out on Day 2 play.

My Standard deck was really interesting:

Tukatongue Thallid was the best way I found to protect my Jace from Putrid Leech.

The deck loses to Mono Red and Boros, and the matchup against Jund is about 40% if Jund plays Putrid Leech and 50% if it does not (and then it is all about how many Maelstrom Pulses are drawn). Every single other matchup is a slaughter. I went 3/2, beating a Jund deck and losing to two Jund decks, winning against a Runeflare Trap deck and a Jund Ramp deck.

One of my games against the Ramp deck was interesting…

I have the first game under total control. He has 14 cards left in his deck, I have an Archive Trap up and a Font of Mythos in hand. He attacks me, I go down to 10 (cannot I lose anymore), then he taps 8 mana and casts… WARP WORLD! In response, I mill him for 13 cards, and he has only one left in his library, so he is going to die to his two Elvish Visionaries as the Red sorcery will reveal his whole deck. Unless, of course, his final card is his lone Ob Nixilis, The Fallen… and it was! He only had one in his deck, and it happened to be the only card I did not mill! Although I was really choked, I still won the next two games, and the match.

Another interesting game was won on the first turn: one guy cast a Goblin Guide and attacked, revealing the top of his opponent’s library: Damnation! (Not legal in Standard.)

Let’s get down to the usual business. I am sure that you will already have a ton of reports to read, I just wanted to share my decklist, as I think it is very different to the other decks in the format, and 300% more fun to play.

Extended Playtesting : Tezzerator Versus Zoo

This week, I will playtest against Manu, who is fast becoming a Zoo Champion thanks to this column.

After Grand Prix: Auckland, we were wondering which decks to playtest. Elves, Dredge, and Cascade decks (Living End, Hypergenesis) are very good, but there is not much to say about the games. Those decks just win the same way in every matchup. Worst of all, the results in testing are all dependant on how many sideboard cards you have against them.

Take Dredge, for instance; it is the best deck in the format one week out of three (whenever people forget about it) and not so good the rest of the time as people are prepared to it. One of my friends won a PTQ with it last week, and in the final match his opponent boarded in 2 Extirpate, and that’s all. He said that playing Dredge at that PTQ was like playing a videogame with a cheat code.

Last week I was supposed to playtest Tezzerator, which actually seemed to have vanished from the tournament stage. But Olivier and some friends played it at the GP, telling me how good it was. As I have a PTQ in 2 weeks, I would be curious to see how it would do against the most popular and best deck: Zoo.

The best way to figure things out will be to test it in this column, and maybe share my own deck with the readers. As a reminder, Zoo is the deck to beat in Extended. The format may evolve a lot, turning some decks from very efficient to unplayable over the course of a week, but Zoo will always be on top. I’ve already tested it a few times for this column, but Zoo has already beaten all the decks that (in my opinion) were the best/most hyped decks at any given point.

My decklist:

Yes, the maindeck is 61 cards, but sometimes, especially whenever you have a toolbox like you do here, a deck can be better with one more card. (Oli wrote a very interesting article about it a while ago…)

Manuel Bucher decklist:

Maindeck Games (11 wins 13 losses, 46% games won)

On the play: 8 wins, 4 losses
On the draw: 3 wins, 9 losses

As usual, in Extended, winning the die roll is essential. It is really hard to survive a good draw from Zoo on the draw. However, he has a slight advantage because I have many cards which are almost blanks.

First, racing makes no sense at all; once you get the combo, you should win, so there is no need to trade damage. Your goal will be to take as little damage possible, to slow him down, and to stay out of reach of the burn spells as best as you can.

Second, remember that even if there is a Qasali Pridemage on the table, or if your opponent might hold a Bant Charm or an artifact removal spell for the Foundry during the combo, if you have another artifact on the table, you can still sacrifice it to continue the combo until you have no more mana available before the Thopter generator goes into the graveyard. So play your non-imprinted Mox or Explosives whenever you need as many tokens as possible.

Once you have the combo, you do not necessarily need to tap out if you hold a counterspell in hand and have the board under control. If the game is close and you need to make as many tokens as possible, do so.

The Cards:

Engineered Explosives :

– On the play : Cast it for 1 and sac it straight away on turn 3; usually, your opponent will try to avoid Spell Snare and cast one-drops on turn 2, so you need to kill as many of those as possible.
– On the draw: If you have a Mox, you can cast and sac it on turn 2 and kill 2 guys with it. If you do not have a Mox, you will need to play it on the first turn and hope your opponent does not hold a two-drop, or just get rid of it with Path to Exile.

Cryptic Command: The card is mainly a cantrip Fog. You do not want to hold it for too long, just cast it when it can give you a turn of peace.

Path to Exile: The best use would be to keep these for your opponent’s biggest threats, but you have to cast them on early creatures to stay out of the reach of burn spells.

Gifts Ungiven: You can either go for four cards that really destroy your opponent’s board (Wrath of God, Engineered Explosives, Day of Judgment, Path to Exile, for instance) or for the combo itself (Muddle the Mixture, Thopter Foundry, Academy Ruins, and Sword of the Meek).

Mana Leak, Spell Snare: Use these whenever you can.

Tezzeret the Seeker: You have to search for the Sword of the Meek first, as you only have two copies and you do not mind if your opponent destroys it. Next, search for the Thopter Foundry.

Sword or the Meek: Usually, it is better to wait to discard it to a Thirst for Knowledge than hard-casting it.

Ghost Quarter: Do not forget that you can sacrifice it to turn one of your lands into a Plains or an Island, if you need it to Wrath or Cryptic Command.

The Blanks:

Pithing Needle: You can name Qasali Pridemage if you know that your opponent plays it. Otherwise, in the early game, you can name Arid Mesa or Verdant Catacombs (the fetches you do not play yourself), and try to steal the game with a lucky draw. Otherwise, you can still keep it for Thirst for Knowledge.

Crovax, Ascendant Hero: The best use I managed to pull out of it was to imprint it on a Chrome Mox. It is a mulligan.

Aether Spellbomb: You can sometimes get some tempo out of it, but it remains card disadvantage, so if you can afford to do so, I would recommend you cycle it.

Chalice of the Void: I would never have thought that this card would be one of the maindeck blanks. It used to be really good against Zoo, but against a version that has less reliance on the one-drops (with a higher curve), it forbids me casting Path to Exile or Spell Snare on his bigger threats. Of course, it is very good on the play combined with a Mox, but that’s not supposed to happen.

These were actually worse for me than for Manu. This also makes the Trinket Mage easier to play, as they only have one good target to search for: Engineered Explosives.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir: Okay, sometimes it’s an instant speed Nekrataal, but most of the time it is just a Blue card to imprint on a Chrome Mox.

Sideboarded Games (17 wins, 9 losses, 65% games won)

On the play: 8 wins 5 losses
On the draw: 9 wins 4 losses

Sideboard plan:
+ 3 Kitchen Finks
+3 Oblivion Ring
-1 Aether Spellbomb
-1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
-1 Chalice of the Void
-1 Mystical Teachings
-1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero
-1 Pithing Needle

Manu was very unlucky in this series. He was often mana screwed or flooded, so it’s unfair to consider that I actually have such an advantage. I should have a slight edge, maybe 58% (which is already pretty good).

At first, I boarded the Pulse of the Fields, but the Zoo deck hurts itself so much that it will always be on a low life total. I would rather have a card which has an immediate impact on the game, either dealing with his threats or helping me to combo out.

The main difference to game 1 is that attacking and trading damage actually makes sense. As I might have the White Pulse, the Zoo deck will intentionally take more damage from his lands, and as the deck handles creatures quite well, the Kitchen Finks do the job very well. Also, as he sideboarded his removal spells out for Damping Matrix and Thoughtseize, his deck is a little less aggressive, and it struggles in the face of the Persist 3/2.

Manuel boarded in Ancient Grudge. That card does not stop the combo if you have one more artifact on the table, as you can sacrifice it to get the Sword back and continue creating one token per land you control. The good thing with Zoo is that the pilot loses a lot of life all by himself, so even if you combo once, for a mere 4 or 5 tokens, those will be enough to win.

One of the main game decision I had to make was whether or not to sacrifice my Foundry as a response to the Damping Matrix when I do not have the Sword yet. Of course, I would usually sacrifice my useless artifact in response, but it is hard to lose a piece of the combo when you will need to have it complete to win the game. The main questions that you have to answer will be: will the token be part of an aggressive strategy, or do you need it to survive until you have a mass removal? If none of these two conditions apply, you need to keep the Thopter Foundry on the table, and wait for the second piece of the combo and an answer to his annoying artifact.

Oblivion Ring was probably the best card that I had in the sideboarded games. It deals with his threats, and whenever I want to combo, it deals with Damping Matrix. It fits perfectly in the matchup.

The best card to add to this sideboard would probably be Baneslayer Angel, as it would complete the anti-Matrix/beatdown plan. Maybe you can cut the Pulse if you do not expect too many Burn decks, and add Baneslayer instead. A third Engineered Explosives would be very welcome too, as the fourth Path to Exile.

Next week, I’ll write about a Standard matchup. Until then, I hope that you have fun playing Magic!