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• Field Lane or Shadow Lane?
• Breaking Runes
• How to play with Zoo…
As an aggressive deck, you may be out of cards in hand very fast, that’s why I recommend playing a high amount of Prophecy cards (at least 15), so you can gain tempo and card advantage when the game lasts and your opponents attacks you, getting between 1 and 2 prophecy’s per game is huge since your opponent will already have a hard time to deal with your early board. Prophecies hit within the first two runes are most of the time giving you the win if you didn’t have a bad start.
3 Murkwater Butcher: 3/2 for 1 on turn 1 is huge, it can deal 6 or 9 damage or make a good trade in most of cases. 3/2 for 3 is average but can still do the job thanks to the 3 damage. It’s your ESL Flame Imp.
3 Daring Cutpurse: This card talks for itself, 2/2 for 2, boosts himself every time you damage your opponent, prophecy on top of that so it’s not as dead as a simple 2/2 in the late game.
3 Fighter’s Guild Recruit: 1/2 Lethal Prophecy for 2. It’s more a card to control the board or protect your big creatures than an aggro card, but taking into account the power of the card and the prophecy text, it had to be played in almost all green decks. Getting this as a prophecy is a game changer.
2 or 3 Murkwater Witch: Another controlish card for an aggro deck, this one helps you to deal with early opponent creatures and to take favorable trades, I do not like to play 3 but 2 may be a must have.
3 Blacksap Protector: 3/3 Guard Prophecy for 3. A great aggressive card that has an average body but the Guard helps so much to protect bigger creatures or to outrace other aggressive decks, a must play in most of the green decks.
3 Dune Smuggler: 3/1 for 3 with the ability to move and boost allied creatures. Now this is a game winning card in aggro. This card allows you to bypass the threat your opponent puts in a lane and boosts the creatures you move so that you can attack even harder that what you could have done. Basically you are almost negating what your opponent was planning to do against your aggression and you hit even stronger. The body is not that bad for a 3 costed card and the effect may also be used to do other good trades if you do not have creatures in the lane where your opponent starts to get dangerous. Reading your plays is really difficult for an opponent if you have this card in your deck, it’s probably one of the best tempo cards in the game.
3 House Kinsman: 3/3 for 3, 3 damage for aggro, 3 heal for more sustain. This does everything at the time, a body, some extra damage and some heal, what else?
3 Nimble Ally: 3/3 for 3 and 4/4 Lethal most of the times. A 3/3 for 3 isn’t bad, a 4/4 with Lethal for 3 is probably the biggest body in the game for a 3 costed card, you are getting huge with this as long as you play way more green cards than your second color. It’ll often trade for a bigger creature or make some multiple trades for you, without counting the damage it may deal to your opponent. I definitely would play 6 of these if I could.
3 Deshan Avenger: 3/3 for 4 may not seem to be a really good body, but getting another 3/3 when it dies is definitely something you should consider. This card sustainability makes it very difficult to deal with it, especially when it is in Shadow Lane where the second Avenger will spawn covered, so you can easily make good trades or deal at least 6 damage with it. Another form of card advantage in a deck that has no draw engine and burns its cards quickly enough.
3 Moonlight Werebat: 4/3 for 4 is meh. Drain makes every attack two times stronger if you face another aggressive deck and you have to race. Prophecy makes it game changing. Your opponent can basically break one of your runes and see himself facing a 4/3 making a good trade for you or making a 8 damage sweep in your favor as you’ll heal for almost an entire rune. This is one of the best Prophecy cards in the game.
3 Cliff Racer: 4/4 Charge for 5. The body is not good, but it’s like a Lightning Bolt that can make multiple trades or attack your opponent more than once. The turn 5 Soulrest Marshall into Cliff Racer is very often a game winner since you get 8 damage on board from which 4 are dealt directly, so if your opponent cannot deal with any of those during his turn it’s 12 health less for him. Definitely one of the more underrated cards in this game. It’s also really good when you have to defend and kill something during your own turn.
3 Soulrest Marshall: 4/4 Play a free 5 or less costed card this turn. A nerf you said? This is what makes mid/late game so huge for Zoo. You are simple putting one or two big threats on the board in one turn if you are ahead, and since you wanna be the aggro, you’ll very often be ahead. The nerf truly doesn’t feel as once in the Zoo since you do not play any green 6+ cost card except Tazkad, and I may have done no Soulrest into Tazkad since I play this deck. Soulrest Marshall into Cliff Racer stays strong enough to win you games by itself. Play 3 of those and do not even bother to put less!
This basis costs 4800 gems fully crafted but you get like half the cards through History mode and upgrades, so you may need less than 3000 gems for a solid 35-36 cards basis.
Ungolim the Listener: 2/1 for 1 is pretty casual. But 3/3 Lethal Draw a Card for 1 is the best value you can get in this game. You’ll not draw them often, but it may be worth playing Ungolim for the few times his minions will make some crazy value for you.
Tazkad the Packmaster: 6/6 Charge Breakthrough that revives as a 4/4 if something unexpected happens. Need a few more damage to end the game? Or to simply kill a big opponent threat, sign him in, this is the bomb that makes Green so huge in aggro.
Yes, you will need to spend more gems for these two cards than the 36 others.
Shadow Shift: A very good tempo card to switch lanes, but I find the two Dune Khajits better than this simply because they do not have bad bodies and have additional immediate effects such as Prophecy or +1/1. The card draw is indeed good but in an aggro deck I would prefer the combination of Tempo/Pressure that the other two are offering.
Dune Stalker: This is not a bad card at all, it’s a 2 costed Prophecy Dune Smuggler without the boost. Helps getting lane switching tempo and better aggression, you may consider playing few of those if you have some spots.
Thieves Guild Recruit: Most players may think that this is a staple. I agree for most decks but not in Aggro. In aggro, you want to get maximum efficiency in term of card Power for its Magicka cost, a 1/2 for two does not put any pressure to your opponent. The card you draw may do it but the longer the game lasts, the less you are going to win it, so it’s all about getting perfect efficiency from your Magicka along with strong creatures, card advantage is here in the form of creature effects such as Deshan Avenger or the high amount of Prophecy cards in the deck. Your board is your main pressure weapon, your opponent may have 10 cards in hand, with his low Magicka early game 7 or 8 from those are going to be useless, where you are going to be able to play 70 or 80% of your hand all the time.
Finish Off: You are an aggro deck, this may be usefull but more in a midrange or control deck, i’d prefer Leaflurker more than this since it has a body. And you do not have many ways to deal few damage to opponent creatures so I’ll just skip it. You are trading with bodies that can also deal damage, not only to kill opponent creatures.
Goblin Skulk: A 2/2 for two that can draw you a 0 costed card which is most likely to be a Murkwater Goblin. If you are a Goblin Fanatic go for it, but I prefer getting some stronger card instead, 2/2’s and 0/1 during your opponent’s turn is way too easy to deal with.
Mournhold Traitor: 4/4 for 2. Deal with it. This is a huge threat, your opponent can lose more than 10 hp from it without seeing it coming if you have
Dune Smuggler or Dune Stalker. The 2/1 guard it summons when it dies may be problematic, that’s why you should consider playing 3
Feasting Vulture: 3/2 for 3 that may become a 5/4. Seems good on paper but tempo to get it is very difficult. You want to SMorc more than you trade, so it may stay dead in your hand for a few turns before you can play it, and a 5/4 on turn 5 or 6 with no other additional effects is not that good.
Giant Bat: 2/2 Drain Charge for 3. Body is really really bad. I know that Drain and Charge are good but would have been a bit more playable as a 2/3.
Baandari Bruiser: 3/2 for 3 that gets +3/0 as Pilfer. Not a good enough card for me, the two Endurance points are making it very easy to deal with.
Murkwater Savage: 2/2 for 3 that gets +1/1 when you play a Green creature. For 2 it was OP, now I have to test it for 3. It may still be good, but not as aggressive. Can probably see play in a more midrange version with Thieves Guild Recruits and such other creatures. It’s not dead but definitely not as game breaking as it was.
Skooma Racketeer: 2/2 for 3 and you give Lethal to a creature. You definitely need to play 1 or 2 of those. The main difference with Finish Off is that this has a body, and gives another of your creatures the ability to kill everything it faces (that has no Ward), I really like how the card can change some board status when your opponent decides to put the Big Guard on. Also do not forget to give your opponent’s 1/1 Lethal to BM kill him with your House Kinsman :^)
Varanis Coursier: 1/3 Guard for 3. It’s definitely a really good card, but as I said for Thieves Guild Recruit, it does not give enough pressure or Tempo early game to play it in Aggro. May be played if you are facing a lot of other aggressive decks with 1 Endurance creatures.
Green Pact Stalker: 3/4 Guard for 4 and +2/2 if there is a wounded enemy creature in the lane. You do not wound opponent creatures too often, you either kill them either ignore them, so it may not be optimal in here.
Hidden Trail: Isn’t 1 shadow lane enough for you? The boost is nice but you rarely have more than 2 or 3 creatures on board, so +3 damage for 4 is not that good and you want to put more threats on the board on turn 3 or 4, this kind of damage is for later in the game where you usually have won or do not have anything on the board. The second shadow lane effect may be usefull in some Metas but I cannot see how right now, just keep the card in mind in case.
Murkwater Shaman: 3/3 for 4 and a Curse at the beginning of each turn. This is some value engine with a bad body that can do great job if it stays more than 1 turn on the board, it’s also a Goblin so it should be played in the Goblin version. However the body does not put enough pressure for me. Make sure to play at least 1 if you play Mournhold Traitor.
Murkwater Skirmisher: 4/4 for 4 is standard. +2/2 on your other Goblins is huge if you are focusing on them. Useless otherwise.
Territorial Viper: 1/1 Charge Lethal for 4 is good but not in aggro in my opinion, may be considered as a one of if a lot of big guards see play.
Thieves’ Den: It’s not a bad card, but again, from itself I do not think that it gives the same pressure another creature may give on turn 4 and you already have some 4 costed cards that you want to play. As you have to pay attention that you do not play a lot of 4+ costed cards, it will probably not make the cut. But if you play Green/White it’s really good with Master of Thieves.
Elder Centaur: 5/4 for 5 that gets Cover whenever it attacks. It may not be a bad card but you already have Soulrest Marshall and
Cliff Racer at 5, but getting infinite cover may be useful if the meta is not full of guards.
Giant Snake: 3/3 for 5 that Shackles the entire opponent lane where it is played. Another hugely underrated card. The tempo sweep is really HUGE with this card, you block an entire lane for one turn, which is more than enough to survive if you are in some kind of bad shape or to take advantage in the racer. And the body is not that bad.
Leaflurker: 4/3 for 5 with a Finish Off effect. More playable than finish off, but again, you do not have enough cards that deal few damage so the killing effect will be less effective in here. You can play one or two if the meta has many big creatures.
Necrom Mastermind: You usually do not have enough Last Guasps to play this, but in the case you can get enough you may play one or two. 5/4 for 5 with a good effect is not bad, even in aggro.
Snowy Sabre Cat: This card may be better in combo than in aggro. It can deal huge damage with weapons, however this needs setup, and you do not have the engine to set it up in here.
Quin’rawl Burglar: You should consider playing 1 or 2 of these in case of a really aggressive meta. If you survive to the early rush it can change the race to you side by dealing every turn more damage and healing you more by the same time. Can win games by itself if not dealt in the first two turns it is played.
Other Green cards I didn’t talk about are the ones that I do not find good enough to be played in an aggro deck, being are way too midrange or control oriented and not following the same goal as the rest of the deck.
Lurking Crocodile: You can consider playing this card if you want more Prophecies in an aggressive meta. It’s not bad and probably better than the Helstrom Footpad if you do not play Murkwater Savage.
Crushing Blow: If you need more raw damage for any reason, do not hesitate to play this. A well rounded card that fits everywhere.
Slaughterfish Spawning: This may see some play if the meta has not a lot of cards dealing 1 damage everywhere. You put threats on each lane that can deal huge damage if not dealt with after a few turns. A good aggro card.
Mundus Stone: Too slow in my opinion, Thieves Den is better since it may boost creatures that are already in play.
Dwarven Armaments: If there are not much guard, a +5/5 boost can be played if you think that you will have undealt creatures on board by turn 6, but it does nothing by itself so be careful if you decide to play it.
Now I think that I’ve gone through the whole Green Zoo basis along with a few cards you may add in.
There are still two cards that I haven’t reviewed in my deck. I decided to go Blue since it gave me a great Prophecy raw damage and a huge tempo card.
Lightning Bolt: 4 Damage, Prophecy for 4. It’s what you need to finish games when you’ve lost the board or to luckily kill your low Health opponent when he tries to do the same with you. Also protects your board without having to trade. A great upgrade for the Crushing Blow I did not find space for.
Wardcrafter: 2/1 Give a Ward for 2. An average body but still two Power, and a huge early game tempo effect. This card gives you free trades. On turn 2 or 3, from an equal board you can get a nearly twice better board and clear you opponent’s. It may seem few but this is the kind of plays that wins games in aggressive decks. You take a huge advantage on the early board then snowball by always putting more threats. And finish with your Charges/Raw damage. Again one of the most underrated cards in the game.
Now that we’ve gone through all the cards in the deck and those composing the Green Zoo basis, I’d like to talk about the different ways to deal with the Murkwater Savage nerf.
In the first case, I would take out the 3 Murkwater Savage to put in 3 Lurking Crocodile, this is the simpliest way to replace them by average 2 drops that are a bit more useful in the late game.
In the second case, I think that I’ll test 3 Mournhold Traitor instead of the Murkwater Savage, and then take out the Giant Snake for a 3rd Murkwater Witch.
In the third case, if you like to live dangerously, you can take out 1 Giant Snake, 1 Dune Stalker and 2 Skooma Racketeer to put in 3 Mournhold Trainer and a 3rd Murkwater Witch. Here you are simply playing more 2 drops so you can make some turn 3 Murkwater Savage followed by a turn 4 2 2-drops plays, since the card stays good even as a 3 drop.
However, to explain how the deck is played, I am going to do it in a single way, it will differ by a little bit only in each version.
Keep Dune Smuggler if you have a strong 2 drop in your hand so you can avoid the threat your opponent is going to put on the same lane.
You are the aggressor, you have to put pressure on the board every single turn and to take it early game, keep that in mind while mulliganing.
A rare case is that I keep Soulrest Marshall against controllish decks such as Mage if I have good low costed cards with it in my starting hand. You have to ensure the big turn 5 pressure against control decks since they will always win the late game.
• Seek out for the solid 2 and 3 drops with the eventuality of having 1 drops.
• When playing second, you can keep strong higher costed cards.
Playing in Field Lane means that you want to take the board, you know that you are going to be stronger and you will make favorable trades, this is the lane where you play early game since you have the stronger creatures. You want to avoid getting your strong creatures damaged (Mournhold Traitor, Murkwater Savage, Daring Cutpurse), so you may use your other minions to protect them from the threats your opponent will put in the Field Lane. In the case he does not play in the same lane as you, think about if you are going to kill him before he does or before the effects of the cards on the other lane become too strong. Usually, few decks can race with you, so if he runs away, just flood the Field Lane and finish him quickly. If the threats on the other lane are too dangerous (for example Fifth Legion Trainer or Bruma Profiteer), simply put a little creature on the Shadow Lane to deal with them.
If the board do not evolve in your favor, then go and play aggressively in the Shadow Lane.
The Shadow Lane is the lane where you are not confident about taking the board, you do not want to trade at all, you just want to face and finish off your opponent by protecting your own creatures the turn they come into play. Use this lane if you are behind or if you want to finish him off.
Playing on both Lanes is always difficult, try to put somehow equal forces on both or to lure your opponent into a Lane when you know that you are going to drop huge things on the other, these kind of plays can be made in the case you know that his deck is playing big guards, so you put some little creatures in a Lane, and when he plays the guard you drop the monsters on the other one.
Against decks that have Lane cleaning (for example turn 8 Dawn’s Wrath in Mage or turn 4 Firestorm in Blue control decks), try to avoid playing everything in the same Lane the turn before the Wrath may happen.
Otherwise, try to max out your threats on a single Lane so that you can have more ways to trade and protect your biggest creatures or the ones you don’t want to get killed.
As you know, this deck plays Dune Smuggler, now it becomes a little more difficult to do the Lane game. If I have a great creature and a Dune Smuggler in hand, I am going to start playing in the Shadow Lane if the Field Lane is empty so I can switch to the Field Lane in the third turn where my Dune Smuggler will clear whatever the opponent puts into play to counter my bigger creature. In the case there are creatures on both Lanes, play the Smuggler where he is going to make the best trade.
Be careful about Skaven Pyromancer while playing on Lanes, try to avoid having many 1 Endurance creatures into play on the same Lane.
• I’m feeling strong and confident -> Field Lane
• I just wanna face -> Shadow Lane
• My opponent is going to clean one of the Lanes->Both Lanes
You are an aggro deck, so you have to break runes quickly anyway. But try to do it in an intelligent way. Try to put the opponent to Rune+1 Health (for example 6, 11, 16, 21, 26) if you do not have more than one additional damage on board. Otherwise break it unless you know he plays some Prophecy that you won’t be able to deal with right now and that may completely ruin the game for you (Breaking a rune against a deck that plays Moonlight Werebat when you do not have anything to deal with it).
Always break runes before you play cards (except when you have Murkwater Savage on attack). If you want to boost some of your creatures (Murkwater Savage), boost them in a way to put your opponent at Rune+1 Health, then play the additional card.
Remember that making your opponent draw cards is not a huge deal if he is not playing aggro too. Since your cards tend to max their value for their Magicka Cost, your opponent is not going to be able to play all his cards in hand. He will have a bit more choice, but the quantity of cards he is going to play on the short term is not going to increase that much if he draws more. He can always draw the low costed cards he didn’t have in hand, but what I mean is that you are more likely to put a higher pressure for the same cost than him.
• Try to get your opponent to Rune+1 Health (6, 11, 16, 21, 26) when you can.
• Be careful about game breaking Prophecies if you do not have anything to deal with.
• Do not be afraid to break runes in all other cases, remember that you are the aggressor.
Let’s say that both players are dancers, dancing together to the same rhythm. They are moving one with another, in a very harmonic dance. Suddenly, one of the players gets behind the other, takes out a knife and stabs him. Now the player who did the stab took the tempo, he is on the upper side, has shown dominance on the game state and dictates at which tempo it’s going to be played.
In fact, when both players are dancing together, it’s like when you are playing the game, trying to understand what the other player is doing, reading his plays and trying to imagine what he is going to do in the few next turns along of what can happen to you. Tempo is defined by the board state, cards in hand, possible draws and outcomes for each player, life totals, Prophecies, in fact everything that matters for the game, and where player’s decisions are going to have an impact. A player who takes the tempo is usually breaking something in this process, he is doing something that was not planned or couldn’t be prevented by the other player, and in fact decides where the game is going, he is the dominant. This does not mean that the tempo cannot change his side anymore, in ESL Prophecy cards become really important right here. Prophecies are the thing that can bring you the Tempo in the game, you can decide of what is going to happen as your opponent cannot really play around all the possible Prophecies at all possible times. Tempo is switching a lot, which makes games more entertaining for the players and may somehow reduce the feeling of fully RNG-inducted games to the players.
Recap: Tempo is the momentum of the game, it defines the game state and takes into account all factors and decisions that can change this game state. It switches a lot between players during an ESL game.
Well, Aggro vs Aggro may be the most difficult matchup to play for me. Usually there are two things you have to take into account:
• How much damage you’ll be able to deal,
• How much damage your opponent will be able to deal.
It’s basically all about the player who is going to win the race. If both players are thinking that they can deal more damage, they are going to face blindly and the one who did his calculation wrong or who had the worst hand is going to lose. Otherwise, there should always be a player attacking and a player defending.
If you think that you do not have more damage than your opponent, then try to disrupt him, take good trades, try to make some card advantage, and, all of this by losing the less health possible. Then once you took over the board and the tempo is yours, you can start aggressing him and hope he won’t be able to come back. Otherwise, just try to face him the most effectively possible and try to make trades difficult for him.
There are also hybrid ways to play this, you can do the race, but disrupt when you think it is necessary. For example, you can put creatures to attack on the first two turns, then defend on the lane where your opponent is attacking for one or two turns to continue attacking afterwards. In this case you are thinking that you are going to disrupt more damage coming from him during the two defending turns than it would have been as offense for you.
Of course, there will always be games where a player is going to curve godly and win because the other one only has an average hand.
Recap: Do a lot of effort to calculate who can deal most damage out of you and your opponent, then adapt your plays to maximize your damage input as well as disrupting your opponent when it’s more effective.
Midrange decks tend to curve well pretty often, they have bigger threats than you, but are usually slower. Try to face them a lot, since they are going to take you over during the midgame (around turn 5/6), so you will need to have a big board or dealt a lot of damage by turn 5 or 6. However, most midrange decks play low costed cards that may prevent you from hurting them that much and they will simply take the game over with their bigger threats. You might want to mulligan aggressively against this type of decks.
Recap: Face a lot, try to take only the best trades.
Control decks try to survive in the early game through cheap value creatures and removals as well as mass removals for later in the game before coming to a point where they just drop bombs every turn and stomp you. As you understand it, do not try to win against a control deck in the late game, face him off as much as you can early on, try to put him below 10 hp as fast as possible so you can win through some Raw damage/Charge creature. Sometimes, your early board will be as huge that it’ll win you the game by turn 5 or 6, some other times the control deck will have the right answers and you are going to die slowly to his always stronger removals and later bombs.
Recap: Mulligan aggressively, face face and face.
There are a few combo decks in ESL, you have to play against those the same way as you play against control, but when you see that a part of the combo is dropped on the board, disrupt it as soon as possible (For example: Wispmother, Crystal Tower Crafter)
Thank you a lot for reading this article, I’d really appreciate your feedback, if some parts are not clear enough or if you want me to go deeper about it. All the parts about Mulliganing, Laning, Tempo, Ways to play can get an article to their own. I also skipped the Mind tricks and Mental game part since I have to get more familiar with it in ESL but I hope to write a lot of other articles in the future about these game mechanics and other decks in general. I know that the read is quite long so I may also try to make some short videos to explain some things I tried to do here.
To the Face and Beyond,