Friday, October 14, 2016

Price of Progress: Bushwhacker Zoo

(The Price of Progress series is designed to help you buy a deck to start playing modern while keeping your eye on improvements as you get further into the format. When I make the decks, budget is the number one goal. You won’t ever have to buy a card over $5 that doesn’t make the final list of the improved deck. I want people to play and enjoy Modern as much as I do, and hopefully by working on these budget decks, more players will be able to come to the table.)

Welcome back, faithful readers. Today we are once again going to delve into the world of Budget Modern. Last time we talked about a $500 Jund list, but today’s offering is quite a bit cheaper. Today we are going to explore the world of making a bunch of dudes and turning them sideways. Bushwhacker Zoo has been a deck that has existed for a long time, but with the printing of Reckless Bushwhacker in Oath of the Gatewatch, the deck has gotten a lot more potent. The total price for the deck is under $200 and will allow you to get started playing right away. Once you are financially able, you will be able to add to the deck and convert it to Naya Burn. It is possible that you could play Small Zoo with this starting point as well, but it is pricey (Hello, Tarmogoyf). I am going to cover upgrading to Burn today.

The Deck

This is a two color deck that could have easily been a three color deck. Keeping the price under $200 necessitated that I cut white (taking Wild Nacatl with it). After some testing with this deck, I found that the two color mana base is very easy to deal with and will make a fairly consistent playing experience. The deck simply aims to go wide and overwhelm your opponents on turns 3 and 4 to try to close out the game quickly.

Card Choices

Reckless Bushwhacker
Goblin Bushwhacker
These two One Dollar All-Stars (trademark pending) are the engine that make this budget deck go. With the ability to go wide in a big hurry, these two can give you 10 or 12 extra power one board in a single turn. Often one of these guys is enough to close out a game on turn 3 or 4, but having eight in your deck is no small advantage. Don’t play either of these cards on curve, hold them out for critical mass and swing in with the whole Zoo.

Burning-Tree Emissary
If the Bushwhackers are the engine, Burning-Tree Emissary is the gas that makes it go. A 2/2 body that replaces the mana spent to cast it (or in some cases filters your mana), Burning-Tree can push you over the edge a turn early.  The red and green mana that is produced by BTE’s enter the battlefield effect can be used to cast another Burning-Tree, Blood Rush a Ghor-Clan Rampager, cast Atarka’s Command, or (best of all) cast Reckless Bushwhacker for it’s Surge cost. This will be one of your favorite cards to see in your opening hand.

Experiment One
Kird Ape
Foundry Street Denizen
These three cards are your beaters. Playing these guys on curve is the the way to establish a board presence and set yourself up for a big swing on turn 3 or 4. Each one has a little added benefit. Experiment One is an underestimated card. It can get to a 3/3 with relative ease, (Remember, turn one Experiment, turn two Dryad Militant THEN Kird Ape. That’s untapping with seven power on turn 3.) giving you an intimidating board going into the pivotal turns of the game. Kird Ape is a turn two 2/3, and while it lacks haste, that kind of body can put a hurting on someone if they don’t have an immediate answer. And Foundry Street Denizen is the gift that keeps on giving. He is a living Fireball, ready to deal out 5 or 6 damage in a single, explosive turn. These three guys, while being nothing special on their own, are a potent three-man tag team that will really put a hurting on slower decks.  

Dryad Militant
When I had to cut White out of the deck, I was very sad to see Wild Nacatl go, but then I remembered this Return to Ravnica-era beater. A 2/1 for one is a good deal in any situation, but a 2/1 that exiles instants and sorceries is fantastic. You are never going to be using your graveyard, so Dryad Militant can help against Tarmogoyf decks, Snapcaster decks, and Dredge. This is one of the first cards that you will cut when you start to upgrade, but while it lasts I think you will get a ton of mileage out of this $0.50 card.

Ghor-Clan Rampager
You will likely never find yourself in a situation where you have this 4/4 Beast on the battlefield. This card is in the deck to serve as a glorified combat trick. The +4/+4 and trample that is given to a 5/3 Experiment One can save him from a Bolt as well as help you get through for lethal. As a two of in the deck, you won’t see this creature as often as the others, but once you use the ability in combat, you will see just how powerful this Beast truly is.

Lightning Bolt
I don’t think I need to explain what Bolt is doing in this deck. You play Red, this is modern. Play four Lightning Bolts.

Atarka’s Command
Atarka’s Command has developed into quite an all-star during my testing of this deck. Usually, you are going to use the three damage and +1/+1 modes of this card, but all four modes can have a place in the game. Stopping life gain can put you over the edge, and playing an extra land can give you one more creature that your opponent didn’t account for when calculating blocks. This card is hovering right around the $5 mark with it’s recent rotation, but go ahead and pick it up. Whether you decide to build Burn or Zoo, you will likely use all four of these in either build.

Devastating Summons
I like to have some one ofs that make people stop and take notice. “You are playing that?” Turning your extra lands into dudes AND casting a spell to set up Surge? What more could you ask for? This topdeck will absolutely win you some games that you thought were unwinnable as you were flooding out.

Another way of getting in some extra damage, Rancor is a persistent threat that opponents have to catch in your hand to get rid of. Usually you will want to leave green open so you can replay this after combat again.

This deck isn’t to intense on the mana requirements. You only play two colors and VERY rarely will you be required to produce two of the same color (the only exceptions are RR to kick Goblin Bushwhacker and RR for Eidolon of the Great Revel and Molten Rain out of the sideboard). Generally speaking, this the area where you should look into improving first. Adding fetches can help you get even more consistent and can expedite your transition from RG to Naya.

Upgrading to Burn
The cheaper of the two options, Burn is still a very powerful tier one deck. As you try to get into Burn, you will notice the deck changing over to a more spell-centric deck from a creature-centric one. You will already have a fair number of pieces for Burn, but adding each subsequent piece will make the deck run more and more smoothly. I have laid the cards out in the order that I believe you should upgrade in, however, you may find that this order doesn’t work for you. Improve it as you see fit to help you conquer your local LGS.

Goblin Guide
I think that Goblin Guide is the first important piece to moving into Burn. This hasty 2/2 will allow you to get in 2-4 points of damage before your opponent has much of a chance to do anything (especially on the play). These guys are sitting around $35 dollars at the moment, so they are pricey (and always available for reprint) but by getting them first, you can stay in two colors while still improving the deck.

Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
These Khans of Tarkir fetches are still on the lower end of the price spectrum (between $13-$16 apiece). When you feel like you are ready to expand to three colors, these are the first pieces that you are going to want. Unfortunately for your wallet, they are both going to be a 4 of in the deck. It is vitally important to be able to fetch red in Burn so that is the focus. After you pick these up, you will immediately need to pick up...

Sacred Foundry
You probably will continue playing the Budget+Goblin Guide version of the deck while you upgrade the land base. The switch over from Bushwhacker Zoo is a pretty stark transition. So while you collect the lands and spells it is probably best to stay with the above version, subbing Guides for Dryad Militants. Once you pick up three Sacred Foundries, it will be time to change your focus over to the creature and spell bases of the deck.

Wild Nacatl
Naya opens up a world for this 3/3 cat to thrive. Having played Burn for a bit, I know that there are a lot of divided opinions on this card, but the dedicated Burn players that I know definitely advocate having this card in your Burn 75. It is still relatively cheap (around $2) and should be easy enough to acquire. After getting Nacatls, I don’t think that the order matters very much. You are going to need all of the cards, but you are going to implement them all at once, so pick them up at your leisure.

Monastery Swiftspear
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Grim Lavamancer
You probably already have two Eidolons from the sideboard of the original list, so picking up the other two will not be too expensive. Swiftspear was an uncommon from a recent set, so there are no shortage of them in the world. Grim Lavamancer has been sitting around $6 for about a year now. You probably only need one or two of these guys, depending on the list.

Lava Spike
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
These Red spells are vital to Burn’s game plan. Blazes are about $1 apiece, Rift Bolts are about $2.50, and Lava Spikes are going for about $3.50. You might be able to pick them up all at once, if your LGS is large enough. Aim to spend under $30 to pick up all twelve of these, if you can swing it.

Boros Charm
Lightning Helix
The final touches to the starting 60, these red and white spells should be picked up for around $30 for all eight. You will probably only play one or two Helix in the mainboard, but picking up all 4 will help you fill out the sideboard as well. Once you have them, you can make the switch over to playing Burn while you work on the sideboard.

Path to Exile
Deflecting Palm
Destructive Revelry
Here is your sideboard suite. Paths are growing in expense but are always a threat to be reprinted. Buy them when you are able, and don’t worry about the reprints. Reprint fears will paralyze you and keep you from playing the deck. Deflecting Palm, Destructive Revelry, and Skullcrack are available for under a dollar apiece having been in standard within the past three to four years.

I think the starting point of this deck is very good. Modern is a fast format, and this deck can race a lot of decks that don’t pack a ton of removal. Going wide is an underutilized strategy that can get you a long way (with a proper amount of practice). As I have said, Burn is not my favorite deck, but I know a ton of players that love it. Once you have upgraded, you will have access to a tournament staple. Burn is capable of taking down any event, from FNM to a PPTQ. Learn all the lines, watch replays of great players, read primers. A ton of players much smarter than me can teach you how to play the deck to maximize your success. Just get out there and keep grinding!

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