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By: strongsad, Todd Anderson
Feb 01 2010 3:06am
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Hello and welcome back to the Shark Tank! This week we'll be discussing what decks have been tearing up the online metagame, as well as a few new tricks some people have come up with to beat them. Recently, Dark Depths decks with Thopter Foundry have become all the rage. Dark Depths (the card) has spiked in price, as well as all the cards that surround it so well. Even I have put Zoo by the wayside and started battling with 20/20's and Thopter tokens. It all began when Thage (aka Gerry Thompson) won an Online PTQ with the deck last week. Here is the list, for reference:

4 Thoughtseize
4 Muddle the Mixture
3 Thopter Foundry
2 Sword of the Meek
4 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Beseech the Queen
1 Into the Roil
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Doom Blade
4 Chrome Mox
4 Dark Confidant
4 Vampire Hexmage
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Dark Depths
4 Sunken Ruins
3 Tolaria West
1 Academy Ruins
2 Swamp
2 Island
4 River of Tears

1 Thopter Foundry
1 Sword of the Meek
3 Duress
3 Deathmark
3 Extirpate
1 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Chalice of the Void
1 Ghost Quarter

This deck, in all its glory, has been absolutely ravaging people for the last few weeks. I've taken it to a Top 4 appearance at the PTQ in Atlanta last weekend, and won countless packs in Magic Online events. While certain small changes have occurred, this is the "stock" decklist that most people begin with. Changing any one card could greatly affect the outcome of your tournament, since the deck relies on its tutors to find the answers they might have for their problems. Gerry thought of pretty much every deck for his sideboard, except for the mirror (which didn't exist at the time). Consequently, changes must be made to accommodate the existence of a mirror match, now that the deck has become surprisingly popular. While this is most definitely the most powerful deck in Extended, it does have some very key vulnerabilities that you can exploit.

Over the last few weeks, I've mostly abandoned Zoo in the face of countless combo decks. However, I literally forgot that you can just change cards in a Zoo deck to battle particular decks in a given format. Cards like Gaddock Teeg and Baneslayer Angel are pretty worthless right now, but Quasali Pridemage is making a huge comeback. With the aforementioned Dark Depths deck in mind, I set in motion an attempt to build a "format killer" Zoo deck that played Quasali Pridemage as well as Bant Charm in the maindeck.

First of all, when building a Zoo deck, you must first decide what decks you want to beat. If you are expecting a field full of mirror matches, then cards like Ranger of Eos, Bloodbraid Elf, and Baneslayer Angel might be the way you want to go. Punishing Fire combined with Grove of the Burnwillows is also a fine start, since that combination of cards can really punish other aggressive decks. But, when building Zoo from scratch against a metagame that contains approximately 60% combo decks, you really need to have some weapons at your disposal that put a huge beating on the opponent. Lets take a look at some of these weapons, and primarily the ones that you should have in your maindeck.

First up is the absolute trump to the Dark Depths deck, and something people won't really be expecting for a while:

Damping Matrix

This card singlehandedly neuters their entire strategy, shutting down both Vampire Hexmage and Thopter Foundry. If anything, this card buys you enough time to find your other answers to their combo, while doing virtually nothing to hinder your own game plan. To boot, they will usually only have one answer for it, being either Into the Roil or Echoing Truth, but a handy Bant Charm or Negate can easily keep that from resolving. They will likely side out Dark Confidant against you, so their only win condition at that point will be Vampire Hexmage, who pales in comparison to your creature base.

The best creature in your deck:

Qasali Pridemage

Quasali Pridemage was the first creature I looked to in order to improve my Dark Depths matchup. It is also great in a field trying to beat Dark Depths, since it destroys Blood Moon. It also acts as an additional way to combat Faeries, blowing up both Bitterblossom and Umezawa's Jitte, and possibly even Threads of Disloyalty out of the sideboard. He even has the added benefit of winning Tarmogoyf battles, giving you that precious 1-point of exalted. He can also surprise weaker opponents by growing Tarmogoyf by a potential 2 power if you can destroy an artifact or enchantment mid-combat. If you playing Zoo, Quasali Pridemage should find himself with a "4" next to his name on your decklist.

The best utility spell in your deck:

Bant Charm

This is the best removal spell in the format right now, hands down. I've talked about this card in the past as being a solid answer to Dark Depths and the mirror, but can't find any reason for it not to be in the maindeck of any Zoo deck I've built in the last two weeks. Its been strong in testing, getting you out of bad situations against Dark Depths, Thopter Foundry, and even countering removal spells mid-combat. Against Faeries, it can sometimes even win a Counterspell war. If you haven't played with Bant Charm in a Zoo deck yet, I highly recommend it. Just be careful when building your manabase, since having basic Mountains can make for very awkward times. That being said, I don't think having a singleton Mountain is necessarily bad, but it could potentially come back to haunt you if your third mana source is a Mountain.

Another ok sideboard card is:

Celestial Purge

This is one of those cards that you really hate to play, but sometimes it is just a necessary evil. It breaks up both parts of the Dark Depths combo, since Marit Lage is a black creature and Celestial Purge exiles it. Thopter Foundry also happens to be black, which is pretty lucky for you. Additionally, Celestial Purge can remove problematic cards like Blood Moon, Deus of Calamity, and Demigod of Revenge from the game, making it worthwhile in consideration for your sideboard. While it might not be quite up to par for Zoo, it definitely deserves some thought for other decks like Martyr or some UW Thopter.

While plenty of cards are very good against Dark Depths, they have plenty of answers at their disposal. I have learned the hard way that there is no such thing as too much hate for Dark Depths, since they can easily run you over with their disruptive spells, followed by a 20/20 or a ton of Thopter Tokens. I know how the deck works, and I know how people play it, and I know just how good it is. If you aren't prepared to beat this deck, you will lose. With all of this in mind, another thing to remember is that Dark Depths has trouble with beating very aggressive strategies that can also present disruption of their own. Even a single Path to Exile on the back of a Wild Nacatl is enough to put them to bed, since often they will try to combo without protection in order to keep from dying to your early pressure. This forces them into uncomfortable situations in which they can really get blown out, and gives added benefit to playing cards like Kird Ape as opposed to Noble Hierarch.

While creatures like Baneslayer Angel and Ranger of Eos are fine in format defined by aggression and grinding creature battles, they are not good in a format defined by combos. They are just too slow and gum up the rest of your deck's strategy, while adding little of value and costing a bit too much. Cutting these from your deck can buy you valuable slots for cards like Quasali Pridemage and Bant Charm, which shine in a format defined by artifacts. The versatility of these cards, as well as their aggressive nature, make them perfect for a deck like Zoo. Given the tools at your disposal, your maindeck should always be targeted towards the metagame you are trying to beat, and at this point that metagame is based on Thopter Foundry.

If you want cards that are better against a more diverse field, you could take the Tribal Flames approach, much like I talked about two weeks ago. However, with the evolution that Extended takes every other week or so, you could easily find yourself behind the curve and with an outdated deck. I have literally changed major archetypes three times in the last three weeks, because each time I felt like that particular deck was the best at the time. I began with Scapeshift, which punished Zoo decks left and right, but ultimately surrendered to decks packing incredible amounts of disruption. The deck is very resilient to had disruption, but folds to a Blood Moon played under bad circumstances. Additionally, it was very difficult to race aggro decks with Meddling Mage and Negate on backup.

Before the first live PTQ of the season in Atlanta, I decided that I would put my opponent on the defensive, and attack them with a variant of Zoo that used both Ranger of Eos for the aggressive mirrors, as well as Tribal Flames to race combo and deal with the larger monsters like Tarmogoyf and Baneslayer Angel. While this worked out until the finals of that particular tournament, I ended up being destroyed by Dark Depths, which I was totally unprepared for. This was also a version that didn't expect people to be playing Thopter Foundry too much, since the UW version was not popular at the time, and the UB Thopter Depths deck had not really been discovered. I built that deck to beat a metagame full of aggressive decks, as well as having the tools to beat linear combo decks such as Scapeshift. This was done using cards like Meddling Mage (which is still good today), and even Aven Mindcensor.

While some of these cards could still prove useful, they should probably not be played maindeck unless some very strange things occur in the metagame. For one, Scapeshift is seeing less and less play online, which means that cards like Aven Mindcensor are no longer as valuable as they once were. Additionally, everyone expects Meddling Mage, and most people are well-equipped to handle him. Negate is pretty spicy, since it catches a lot of people off guard, and can literally come out of nowhere off a fetchland. This is especially true if they think you are just playing a Tribal Flames version of Zoo, and then you just roll them with Negate. However, this only works as long as people don't know you have it. Online, it is easy to watch replays of games from previous matches, so opponents might be able to pick up on what you played after sideboarding. However, most people are too lazy to watch an entire match on replay, so they might not know you have it since they usually just watch Game 1.

I'm not sure what the best version of Zoo is right now, I do know that it looks pretty close to this:

4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 (Quasali Pridemage)
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Knight of the Reliquary

4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
2 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Bant Charm

4 Arid Mesa
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Stomping Ground
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Steam Vents
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Treetop Village

4 Damping Matrix
4 Meddling Mage
4 Negate
3 Ranger of Eos

If you want to give this deck a try, just know that I've beaten every Dark Depths deck I've played with it thus far. In actuality, I can say that this is the first deck I've built that has a winning percentage against Dark Depths, as well as having solid game against the rest of the field. Damping Matrix combined with an aggressive curve is just very difficult for the Depths players to deal with. Your other disruptive cards give them fits as well, since they only have so many answers. Also, they are probably siding out Dark Confidant, which will usually mean they are drawing less gas against you, and fewer disruptive cards.

If you have any questions about the deck, or the format in general, please feel free to ask in the forums. Thanks for reading!

strong sad on MOL


fair???? by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 03:38
Anonymous's picture

Is it fair to write two articles in the same day hyping damping matrix and then be selling them online in the classified section??? Just wondering... seems kinda like insider trading to me.

That does sound really shady. by Samuel Beckett on MTGO (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 10:36
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That does sound really shady.

Kind of agreed. Btw after by AndreaFonseca at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 04:57
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Kind of agreed. Btw after matrix they can still kill you with dark depts.Its narrow but if u refered a 2/1 as kill condition vs zoo you should at least refer to the 20/20 flyer one.

if the first commenter is by me, myself and i (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 05:03
me, myself and i's picture

if the first commenter is accurate, i would have to agree. Definitely not a kosher move

Isn't this article exactly by StealthBadger at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 06:31
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Isn't this article exactly the same as your one on scg today? I do think damping matrix is decent tech, mind (had been trying spreading seas for lols)..

He did the same thing after by Anonymous at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 09:23
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He did the same thing after his elf article with Cloudstone Curio.

"It's totally unfair that by Fenaris (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 11:03
Fenaris's picture

"It's totally unfair that you're advocating something that you are selling! Totally not cool!!!"

Really? Promoting a good card that you are selling is shady now? Get over it. What's next, PureMTGO can't publish any article advocating a card as good, since they are selling those cards too? Realize how foolish that sounds.

If that is the part that's really bothering you, you can always *not buy from Todd*. Shocker, I know. This 'free market' system we have that doesn't force you to buy from a single vendor! It's a work of genius!

Yet let him pump and dump. by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 12:22
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Yet let him pump and dump. He need the money after what happened at Worlds 2009 in Rome.

There's nothing wrong with by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 11:37
Anonymous's picture

There's nothing wrong with writing about a card or combo and then selling the card later on once the article has created some buzz. That being said, if he had something to do with almost no bots having any Curio's or Matrix's in stock (according to mtgo library), because he bought them all up and is now trying to flip them, that's shady.

buzz was already created on by rainin6 at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 12:34
rainin6's picture

buzz was already created on matrix from an earlier decklist by qazwsxedcrfvtg or w/e his name is - he ran it in his board as did some other people. to merely mention and let us know that its good doesn't seem shady at all. im sure strong sad is at first a player, and doubt that he's doing this for the purpose of selling matrices - but that said, doesn't give a good impression by advocating a card (if you acquired in multiples) and then sell it :/

The card was also talked by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 12:53
Anonymous's picture

The card was also talked about on the mp3 from "Freed from the Real #49 - Worldwake-y eggs and bac-y". But you had to listen to the very end to hear it.

Why is business ethics now by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 12:46
Anonymous's picture

Why is business ethics now the theme of this comment-thread? Obviously the card is useful for stopping the Dark Depths combo and the Thopter Factory combo. It's not as if he's the only one playing Damping Matrix, and it's not like Damping Matrix is worth a ton anyway. It's a good card. The best way I can think of to thank Todd for the info would be to go buy a playset of Matrices from him.

this is by ShardFenix at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 12:59
ShardFenix's picture

this is mtgolibrary is out. They suck anyways. Traders still has 28 Damping Matrix in stock. I highly doubt todd is trying to undercut anyone here since common sense would be to buy out all the copies on the site that his damping matrix links too...

plus the card has sat bewteen .50 and 1 forever...its still not moving.

Damping Matrix is not an by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:01
Anonymous's picture

Damping Matrix is not an effective solution. Many times you'll be staring at a 20/20 indestructible flying creature before you have a chance to cast it. Honestly I would rather have another copy of Echoing Truth or Chain of Vapor. I guess it's harder to horde those two cards and corner the market though...

It's more like . . . by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:04
Anonymous's picture

... it's amazing that you turned in the same article for two sites. I could care less about the prospecting portion - feel free to use your pulpit any way you see fit, and your cachet is nowhere near large enough to really make this an insanely profitable venture.

The reason why, in fact, is that you do stuff like . . . turning in the same article for two different sites. Did you just "Save As..." and work out of the same Word window? We get it - Pridemage is good again. Maybe you can write an article for LSV saying it, too. Bant Charm? Where did I hear about that last? Oh yeah - 11pm Eastern, on SCG. From you.

wow. haters. :( by rainin6 at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:20
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wow. haters. :(

Yeah usually you and I don't by Paul Leicht at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:57
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Yeah usually you and I don't see eye to eye in these comments but said it brother. "Wow. Haters. frown."

thanks Todd by rayjinn at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:26
rayjinn's picture

First of all, i don't really care much for any of the motives when people write an article, and neither should you guys.

What i do care about is the pointers given to people when the writers of these articles take countless hours to test stuff and come up with (or face) the hate cards as they go along.

I for one had not thought of celestial purge or damping matrix.
I could write a nice article about magoshi the waterveil and how it beats hivemind, but hey.. it wasn't my tech in the first place and i didn't hoard them yet :P

Be more considerate, considering the effort Todd has put into this article.

I enjoyed reading this even by Paul Leicht at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 13:59
Paul Leicht's picture

I enjoyed reading this even though I am not a ptq player and never will be again. Damping Matrix? Not a huge surprise. Top 4 in Atlanta is no small accomplishment...Friends and I took a road trip down there just after Mirage and it was a beating even back then. Lots of good players down there.

With regards to posting the by blau at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 15:22
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With regards to posting the same article at two different sites, I can see why people are upset. Since PureMTGO essentially pays people to write these articles, it does seem unfair to the other people who would like to write for PureMTGO and don't get their articles published, to watch as someone just phones in an article and gets paid for it.

I have read both articles and they are remarkably similar to each other, which has me thinking, if you can't write two different articles for two different sites, then don't write for two different sites. I would think the readers of STG feel just as cheated as the readers here. It also made me reflect on this same type of thing that happened, I think like five years ago. There was a writer who was writing for Brainburst (remember that site?) who was also writing for WOTC's site Well not once, but two weeks in a row he handed in the same article to both sites. WOTC promptly fired him as did Brainburst. Both sites stating that, since they paid for the article, technically, they had the rights to publish it. They felt cheated out of their money since they were getting non-exclusive content. I don't know how SCG does writer compensation, but I can see them being a little upset by this article showing up here. I would also think that PureMTGO's editor might have a response to this as well.

The charges of "insider by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 16:55
Anonymous's picture

The charges of "insider trading" are a little silly, the card will only go up in value only if it truly is a critical answer to Dark Depths, not simply because Todd says so. If Todd has done some speculating on Damping Matrix, then he's put his money where his mouth is.

As for duplicate articles, the SCG version looks more like a tournament report on Dark Depths, and doesn't mention Damping Matrix, Pridemage, or Bant Charm anywhere. Were I the editor of either site, I wouldn't feel as though I had paid for exclusive content that had been published elsewhere.

Did you actually read the SCG article? by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 17:52
Anonymous's picture


"An old throwback for me was Qasali Pridemage . . .

Another card that I've really liked but never really been able to find room for in the maindeck was Bant Charm."

"Speaking of hate cards, Damping Matrix is the real deal. "

"Bant Charm is just ridiculous, and I can't really stress how happy I am to have it in the deck."

The content is remarkably similar in both articles. On the bright side, the deck lists provided at least differ . . . by 1 card total in the 75.

Ah, no, I thought it was by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 17:59
Anonymous's picture

Ah, no, I thought it was being compared to "Diving into Dark Depths," I hadn't seen that new article. Well, I suppose it's up to the editors of SCG and Pure to decide what constitutes "exclusive content," then.

Insider trading? You guys are by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 15:49
Anonymous's picture

Insider trading? You guys are idiots.

The decklists are the same, by strongsad at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 18:31
strongsad's picture

The decklists are the same, but I don't think it is duplicating content. I've been playing with this deck a lot, and using it and Dark Depths as my two decks of choice lately. I wrote about Dark Depths last week, and felt like I should write about different answers to it today. On this site, I just talked about different answers and how they can be applied. At scg it was more of a decklist + how to play and why it is good.

I could have just left off the decklist at the end and no one would have said anything....

It's your world. by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 20:19
Anonymous's picture

so feel free to do what you'd like - however, this distinction is kind of hysterical. "On this site, I just talked about different answers, all of which are in the zoo deck . . . on that other site, I talked about how to play the zoo deck, and what answers are good."

It's OK to 'double up' but you really made very similar points in each. I get it, it's a dead period and it's still probably better than a set review - lord knows how much that would suck, both for reader and writer - but it's kind of disingenuous to deny the similarities.

On the whole, the articles are well written though - you're finding your voice, and it's a massive improvement over your starting work. It's worth looking into whether you have enough material to sustain 2 columns, though.

I will not argue that the by strongsad at Mon, 02/01/2010 - 22:21
strongsad's picture

I will not argue that the concepts in each article were similar, but to say the two articles are the same is not true.

deluxeicoff's picture


LANDS - 22

8 Island
4 Plains
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Arid Mesa

4 Hedron Crab

4 Archive Trap
4 Mesmeric Orb
4 Remand
4 Mana Leak
4 Ghostly Prison
4 Path to Exile
4 Ponder
4 Tome Scour
2 Muddle the Mixture

4 Spreading Seas
3 Unsummon
2 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Ivory Mask
4 Ravenous Trap

Ranin6's defense of Todd by Anonymous (not verified) at Tue, 02/02/2010 - 01:16
Anonymous's picture

if u are Gavin from starcity as ur name would seem to suggest I noticed that ur username "rabon" was also in classifieds selling matrixes last night. Did u get a tip from Todd to buy them all up too? Just wondering.

nope im not rabon by rainin6 at Tue, 02/02/2010 - 01:48
rainin6's picture

im rainin6 :) and i want damping matrix too =(

Pithing Needle by Judah (not verified) at Tue, 02/02/2010 - 15:58
Judah's picture

Pithing Needle also shuts down both parts of the combo in Dark Depths -- name either Hexmage or Foundry. And it costs two less mana than Damping Matrix. Just sayin.

The fact is that Dark Depths by strongsad at Tue, 02/02/2010 - 16:24
strongsad's picture

The fact is that Dark Depths has a ton of tutors to find whatever pieces they are missing. By playing Pithing Needle, they can spend their time searching out the other combo, while Damping Matrix forces them to find the answer with their tutor, and THEN find their combo. Usually, they will not have enough time to do this. While Pithing Needle is an ok card, I think that it being vulnerable to Engineered Explosives is relevant, where Damping Matrix is obviously not.

I have also found that with Pithing Needle, if you are planning to cast it on turn 1, you will often name the wrong combo piece, and they will just beat you with the other one.