One Step Ahead – Attacking With Kird Apes in Extended

Buy, Sell and Trade with StarCityGames.com at Grand Prix Los Angeles!
Wednesday, December 24th – When Gerry Thompson decides to attack for two at a Pro Tour event, it’s a sure sign of the coming Apocalypse. Nevertheless, in the Extended portion of Worlds 2008, GerryT sleeved up the Zoo deck in order to take him to Level 6 status. Today, he shares his decklist and sideboarding strategies for the coming PTQ season…

When you see me attacking for two in a Pro Tour, you know something is wrong. Either the format is seriously messed up, or I’ve become desperate. I feel as if Extended is fine (although I dearly miss Sensei’s Divining Top), so that probably leaves the latter.

Last week I chronicled how I decided on my Standard deck for Worlds, but how I found the list I was going to play for Extended was a bit different. With the way that Worlds is set up, you don’t really need to worry about the final format. Depending on how you are doing, you can simply get a deck from someone else who actually worked on the format.

My goal going into Worlds was to make Top 100 so that I could hit Level 6. I needed to go 3-3 or maybe 2-3-1 during the Extended portion, so I chose to play Zoo. Honestly, I had pretty much chosen to play Zoo before I knew that is the record I needed, but it ended up working out.

I started my testing by trying to put Spark Spray in any deck I could think of. Faeries with Spark Spray, Swans with Spark Spray, TEPS with Spark Spray, maybe even Zoo with Spark Spray. I figured that these decks had a little trouble with Elves, and either the Spray would kill a key part of their deck or cycle against matchups where it didn’t do anything.

As my friends were quick to point out, the Spray didn’t do anything that Engineered Explosives wouldn’t do better. Sadly, I cut the Sprays from the Swans deck and added Explosives, and then LSV 6-0ed with it. I had a tight little package, but he secretly added two Condescends in place of two Mana Leaks, which makes zero sense in this format.

The spells are generally cheaper than the permission in this format, which makes a permission-based deck fall behind on tempo quite a bit. It’s kind of the same reason why Remand sees very little play. You don’t get much value from Remanding a Kird Ape or Heritage Druid on turn 2. Likewise, you are rarely going to counter those spells with Condescend.

Mana Leak is great at countering cheap spells, and it helps you survive the early game, which is where you need help. While you might not always outright counter a Glimpse of Nature, making them tap three mana is usually just as good as countering it. They almost certainly can’t combo you that turn.

Luis said he could rather have Condescend against Faeries, but I’m not really sure about that. Mana Leak still seems solid, especially against the Japanese version with a ton of Archmages and such.

A few things about LSV’s Swans deck, as I don‘t think he mentioned this, is that Firespout is much better than Explosives. Against Elves, you can often just tap out for Swans, and because most people have the Predator Dragon as their win condition, they can’t even kill you that turn. They can make a ton of guys off Hivemaster and such, and for that you need a Firespout.

The whole “a resolved Swans of Bryn Argoll means Elves can’t win that turn” amused me when I first realized it.

So anyway, there I was, scribbling down Zoo lists in between draft matches at Worlds. I liked where it was going, as I was kind of building a Rock deck. Some Oblivion Rings main deck to handle random problems like Shackles, Threads, or other guys, and a whole host of Disenchant effects in the board seemed like the way to go. A bunch of answers plus some really sick creatures seemed like a formula I could go 3-3 with.

Here is the list I registered:

LSV said I went 4-2, and so does the Wizards coverage. I actually conceded the last round when I have lethal damage on the stack to Australian National Team member Justin Cheung a.k.a. Juzza. GerryT going 5-1 with a beatdown deck in a Pro Tour? Unbelievable.

The Shadow Guildmages were supposed to be the main deck tech, but it turned out that more people had them than I expected. They are sick against both Elves and Faeries, especially if you can start rebuying Duergar Hedge-Mages or even just protect your guys from Sower or Threads. You can even remove a card in their hand from game every turn with Sculler, but that will probably only come up against Tron or TEPS.

I chastised PV for only running three Confidants, and then ended up doing it myself. How awkward! I even did it in the same way he did. The night before the tournament, I was contemplating my deck and Ethersworn Canonist in general, and realized that he isn’t very good against anything. Elves is ready for the artifact hate, and I was planning on siding out all the artifact men against them anyway, so what good was he? I would rather have something like Confidant that is good against the midrange decks like UB Tron that were popping up. Granted, Teeg would have probably been better, but I hadn’t considered him as of yet.

As always, the miser’s Jitte rears his (sometimes) ugly head. I usually don’t mind drawing one Jitte against any deck in the format, but when you start drawing multiple Jittes, that’s when it gets awkward. I really should have had a third Jitte in the board, but I almost always run too few Jittes instead of too many for some reason. I definitely recommend three at this point.

Don’t play less than four Scullers maindeck in five-color Zoo. That guy is insane. He provides disruption, information, and even if he dies or gets Spell Snared, your Goyf gets huge. Playing stuff like Canonist instead is just insane, as Sculler is good against almost everything.

I played the full amount of Fanatics and tried to play all of the Seal of Fires that I could in order to be better set up for Elves. In the end, I didn’t play against any Elf decks, but I’m sure at something like a PTQ or GP I would have to beat it once or twice to advance, so they should probably stay. Seal and Fanatic are kind of weak, especially when you are the full amount of colors, but they are a necessary evil.

I prefer Seal of Fire to Tarfire, although it is respectable to run a split for maximum Goyf pumpage. I would have Seal sit in play instead of have to keep mana open for Tarfire against decks like Faeries, where your main fear is them connecting with a Jitte. Seal is better because you can play when you have a spare mana, which is extremely relevant in this deck, as you are usually tight on mana.

I wanted my basic to be a Plains, as that will allow you to Oblivion Ring a Blood Moon should be able to fetch it out early. For that reason, I ran a Flooded Strand instead of a Bloodstained Mire, and even had a second one before I ran out of White lands to fetch one too many times.

You can’t really cast anything off a Forest, whereas you can cast Helix and Sculler off the Plains. Mountain doesn’t really help you accomplish anything, as you probably already had Red mana, and don’t usually need a second or third source.

The Plains doesn’t cast Jund Charm, but you should bring in the Forest against decks that you bring in Charms against anyway.

I am known for running an extra land in my control decks but I generally run the accepted amount (or one less!) for beatdown decks. Zoo cannot afford to get flooded. You would rather be “stuck” on two lands every game than have four lands, so you should build your deck according to what you want.

Sure, I have an extra land in the sideboard for when I bring in some higher casting cost stuff (and to help against Blood Moon), but game 1 I want to draw a ton of spells.

Paulo would have you believe that Figure of Destiny is a solid card, but that is only because he runs too many lands. He would also have you believe that Overgrown Tomb sucks, mostly because of his precious Figures, but that means that your Sacred Foundry is nearly useless. You want to be able to fetch opposite lands every game depending on what your opening hand has, so you need the opposites of every dual in your deck.

Leading with Overgrown Tomb might expose your Nacatl to Darkblast (or Spark Spray), but that will allow you to cast every spell in your deck that isn’t Lightning Helix. Sacred Foundry also counts double for Duergar Hedge-Mage.

Stomping Ground plus Godless Shrine used to be the best, but that was before Sculler was printed. Temple Garden and Blood Crypt is fine, but doesn’t cast Gaddock Teeg, which is usually more important to cast early than Lightning Helix.

Overall, it doesn’t matter much. Sometimes you get a hand with Sculler, Stomping Ground, one fetch land, and spells, and that Sculler is a mulligan for a few turns. Sometimes it’s the other way around with a Helix and an Overgrown Tomb, but you just have to make do with you have. It’s much better to have access to Tomb, Foundry, and not be able to cast Helix than to draw the Foundry and not be able to fetch out an opposite land. At that point, you only have access to three colors and will most likely have trouble casting your spells either way.

The sideboard is pretty normal. Duergar Hedge-Mage is the nuts, and I would definitely play more of them. Shattering Spree instead of Ancient Grudge was PV’s idea, as most decks want to Chalice you at two, and if they Chalice you at one, Spree kills that anyway. His reasoning was solid, so I went with it.

If I could do it over, I might run a mix, or just play Grudge instead. Being able to split up your Grudge uses against decks with Shackles or Jitte is preferable to just getting a semi uncounterable one shot. I envisioned killing a Mox, Signet, and Chalice against Tron, but those situations rarely come up, and Grudge would be almost as good in those situations, while always being a house against Faeries.

Finks are the best card in the mirror, behind an active Jitte. Ranger of Eos is tempting, but sometimes you will be too far behind to cast it. Finks is always awesome and almost always castable, so it gets the nod.

Here is what I would play if Grand Prix: LA were tomorrow:

I added a third Guildmage, since it is basically the nuts against two of the top decks, and cut the Confidants for Teegs. Teeg helps you out versus some combo decks (if you happen to run into those ancient relics), forces Tron to have the immediate Smother, and protects you from Explosives.

Confidant, while normally an amazing card, just isn’t very good right now. Faeries can steal it, Zoo can kill it or just kill you, and Elves will probably do some broken things before you get an untap step. On top of all that, there are several decks that are trying to incorporate Night of Souls’ Betrayal into their strategy. I would much rather have Teeg in this environment.

Faeries (Cheon/Nassif Mono Blue, Japanese UB, or GerryT UB)

A very close matchup. Game 1 might be in their favor, especially if they are the Mono Blue Nassif variety, but that is only because you can’t kill any of their permanents unless you draw some Oblivion Rings. Post board becomes very interesting as you have now have four Hedge-Mages to fight them.

If you can get some quick one-drops and a Teeg to protect them from Explosives, or simply get some good value out of your Hedge-Mages, you should be able to pull it out. I’ve been winning more than I’ve been losing on Magic Online in this matchup, and most of it is because of Hedge-Mage.

+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Gaddock Teeg, 1 Forest
– 4 Tribal Flames, 4 Tarmogoyf

Yes, I do side out the two best cards in the deck against Faeries. Depending on their build, Tarmogoyf can be a liability. You can deal with anything else being stolen, as it will be tiny on their side. Either you beat through it, or they give you time to draw an answer. However, when they take your Goyf, you are suddenly on a quick clock. Don’t let this happen to you.

Tribal Flames rarely does anything against the Fae. Post board, you are jockeying for board position, not looking to burn them out. You would much rather keep in the versatile Lightning Helix, which is better against their counter magic, is great should you find yourself in a race, and helps keep their Jitte inactive.

Jitte is mediocre against them as they have plenty of ways to keep you from connecting with it, but you bring them in mainly to keep theirs off the table. They have a lot of control magics, Riptide Laboratory, and some even have Repeal to make moving in on a Jitte a losing proposition. If you do get it active, that’s probably game though.

Zoo mirror

Hedge-Mage is also insane here, as between Sculler, Oblivion Ring, and Jitte, they have plenty of juicy targets. Don’t use the old Red-on-Red mantra and draw first, as you want to be able to take as little damage as possible from your lands. An extra card isn’t worth the loss in tempo. You want to be ahead on the board in order to use Jitte effectively.

(on the play)
+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 4 Kitchen Finks, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Forest
– 2 Gaddock Teeg, 3 Shadow Guildmage, 4 Mogg Fanatic, 2 Seal of Fire

(on the draw)
+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 4 Kitchen Finks, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Forest
– 2 Gaddock Teeg, 3 Shadow Guildmage, 4 Tidehollow Sculler, 2 Mogg Fanatic

Sculler isn’t what you want to be casting turn 2 on the draw, as not only do you most likely have to take five or six damage to cast it, but you won’t be able to block with it on the following turn. This sets you too far behind. Instead, keep in the full amount of Seal of Fires and hope they play a Nacatl on turn 1 that you can kill.

On the play, you can use Sculler more to your advantage. You simply take away what might help them even up the board situation and use that to press your advantage.


Mulligan into hands with removal if at all possible. Jitte is great, but don’t rely solely on it, as they have access to a lot of Viridian Shamans. You want to take out Scullers, since they will most likely get caught in the Shaman crossfire. At least with Jitte, you can get some value out of it by killing a guy or two before it dies.

+ 3 Jund Charm, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Forest
– 4 Tidehollow Sculler, 2 Gaddock Teeg

Oblivion Ring, while slow, can get rid of their sideboarded Jittes or Mycoloth. You really need to kill every single important elf that they play, and O-Ring, while slow, still gets the job done. Teeg blanks their Chords, but that isn’t really relevant to your plan of just killing all of their guys. It is the weakest card in the deck, and therefore gets cut.

Jund Charm is preferable to sorcery speed sweepers such as Pyroclasm or even Goblin Sharpshooter. It is simply more versatile, and can stop them mid combo. You can even board it in against Dredge or Death Cloud, like I did. I figured the matchup was pretty bad and maybe I could use the double Battlegrowth to catch him off guard to kill a Tarmogoyf and make a big threat.

You are favored here, but they can always nut draw you. I played a game today where my opponent played turn 1 Nettle Sentinel, I played Mogg Fanatic, and he killed me because he had Glimpse, two Birchlores, another Nettle Sentinel, and then a Heritage Druid. He had the actual nuts.

LSV Swans

This matchup was 50/50 before we added the main deck Blood Moons to compensate, now it is in the Swans’ favor. Without Blood Moon, the games are always a blowout in one deck’s favor. Very rarely are the games close, with each player jockeying for position. Try to fetch the basic Plains if possible.

The main reason this matchup is so hard is that Zoo is fighting against a clock, so they have to go balls to the wall aggro. That plan runs right into a Firespout or Engineered Explosives most of the time. If Zoo sandbags, they risk getting kolded by a Blood Moon. Resolving a Sculler is a tremendous help, as you know exactly what they are packing, and how you should play.

However, Swans is still somewhat unstable. They are rocking a two-card combo with minimal search, so it is possible that they can just not get there. Tight play is necessary here. Figure out what they likely have and do what you can to play around it. If your only option is hoping they don’t have Firespout and they do, don’t feel bad when that Magic Online box pops up, telling you to gently place your four creatures into your graveyard. Is it just me, or is that thing the most degrading thing ever?

+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 1 Forest, 1 Gaddock Teeg, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte
– 1 Mogg Fanatic, 3 Shadow Guildmage, 4 Seal of Fire

Jittes are pretty bad against a Swans, but it allows your tiny Kird Apes to fight through Blood Moon, and can even kill a Swans if you’ve managed to accumulate enough counters. Hedge-Mage can’t kill Blood Moon (obviously), but you can kill Moxes, Seats if they play them (and this is why they shouldn’t), or some of the sideboard Chalices that I’ve encountered in the MTGO queues. The Mage isn’t the nuts or anything, but it’s better than the stuff you’re cutting.

I’ve tried Boil against Swans and Faeries, but they have too many nonbasics, so it isn’t very consistent. While powerful when you kill three or four of their lands, there are times when it is basically a mulligan, as Stone Rain doesn’t help you win the game.


This deck is seeing a bit of a resurgence after its performance in the team portion of Worlds, but the Japanese simply used it to cover up their real deck, UB Faeries. This deck seems poorly positioned at the moment. It’s bad against Zoo, kind of bad against Faeries (Decree of Justice instead of random Black cards would help), and kind of bad against Elves. In addition to all that, it loses to random stuff like Blood Moon and sometimes artifact removal.

Obviously the deck is capable of winning, but it is definitely not favored against the field.

+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 1 Gaddock Teeg, 1 Umezawa’s Jitte
– 3 Shadow Guildmage, 3 Seal of Fire

The extra Jitte should allow you to not overextend into Damnation or Explosives while still maintaining a solid clock. You don’t want to draw too many though, so I only side up to two. It’s way more important to have a Jitte when you can’t cast your spells (like when you’re under a Blood Moon) rather than when you are simply facing down spot removal.

Obviously the Hedge-Mages are nuts, as is the Teeg. You could board in the Forest, but you want to draw a ton of spells against Tron, so I would rather just stick with 20 lands. I cut some of the one-drops as they are very low impact.

Rashad Red

With ways to remove their big guys and the appropriate basics to get around Blood Moon, this matchup is quite good. Obviously they can nut draw you or you can simply not draw the right answers, but that is a risk you have to take.

+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Forest
– 3 Shadow Guildmage, 4 Lightning Helix

You want to keep in Seals to kill Magus of the Moon and to double up with a turn 2 burn spell to kill one of their fatties. Lightning Helix isn’t always castable, and is rarely good anyway.


While not popular at the moment, the robots could make a comeback as a foil to the Fae/Zoo/Elves metagame. Ben Wienstein won a PTQ with them already, and I expect many PTQers willing to take that as a sign to dust off their Ravagers.

+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Forest
– 4 Tidehollow Sculler, 2 Gaddock Teeg, 1 Shadow Guildmage

The matchup isn’t good, although it could become easy if you wanted it to be. Hedge-Mage and Oblivion Ring can stop their big threats while your burn spells clean up the rest, but they will generally draw more big threats than you have answers. If you fear Affinity, run some amount of Sprees or Grudges.

Jitte is only good when you’re able to destroy all of their sacrifice outlets, but you basically need the potential blowout that Jitte could provide. Barring an active Jitte or a draw that doesn’t contain many of their big cards (Atog, Ravager, or Master), you have an uphill battle ahead of you.

Burn (No Dignity Left)

This matchup is really close the majority of the time, but I think they are slightly favored on average. Mulligan into your lifegain if possible. Don’t be afraid to take three damage on turn 1 as you really need to put a clock on them, but be careful about taking unnecessary damage later on. If they have to burn your guys because you are trying to connect with a Jitte, you are probably winning.

+ 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 4 Kitchen Finks, 2 Umezawa’s Jitte, 1 Forest
– 3 Shadow Guildmage, 2 Gaddock Teeg, 3 Seal of Fire, 3 Mogg Fanatic

You want the full amount of Hedge-Mages and Oblivion Rings, as Sulfuric Vortex is now their best card against you, so make sure you are careful with fetching the appropriate lands.


Obviously how you board against these decks depends on the exact contents of their list, so be observant. Generally, you want to bring in the Finks and Jittes and board out stuff like Seal and Shadow Guildmage. Overall, these Rock decks are going to be about the worst matchups imaginable.

I hope this article was helpful, whether or not you choose to attack this season. I usually don’t like this strategy, but it worked for me when I needed it most, and I don’t have enough faith in Faeries (yet) to be able to have a shot against every deck in the format like Zoo does.