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Nishoba Brawler Vs Tarmogyf

A commonly asked question within the Zoo community has been “Which should I play; Nishoba Brawler or Tarmogoyf?” Since the printing of Nishoba Brawler, almost every list found online seemed to have made the switch to the aggressively costed cat warrior, however in recent months the two drops of choice seems to have been more evenly split. As someone who has played Domain Zoo extensively, (and with some success if I do say so myself) I think I am able to shed some light on this question.

Before we can determine which to play, we need to understand the key differences between them. Let me take you through the advantages of each.

Power / Toughness
Nishoba Brawler is very consistently a 5 power creature, particularly in the early game, where as Tarmogoyf can sometimes take a few more turns to get going. This can make or break a faster match up such as creativity where every turn sooner you can kill your opponent drastically increases your odds of beating them. This guaranteed higher power early game is particularly important to enable Stubborn Denial against particular match ups such as Indomitable Creativity.

Tarmogoyf‘s toughness is probably one of the biggest drawing points as it lines up so much better against some of the best cards in modern. It will almost always survive a Lightning Bolt, can often survive a Fury ETB and can event trade with a Fury if needed (not ideal but better than just dying like Nishoba Brawler). Since making the switch to Tarmogoyf I have found the murktide match up gets significantly easier with the swap in two drops. Having your turn 2 brawler get bolted looses so much tempo in the match up, it can be hard to recover.

Another top tier deck at the moment is temur rhinos, this can be a tricky match up for zoo if ill prepared. Two 4/4’s can be very difficult to break through, and even if you do have removal for one of the pesky blockers a brawler will still only trade into the other one. Alternatively a Tarmogoyf can easily get to a 4/5 making them a fantastic at attacking through a 4/4, aswell as a great blocker against the rhinos, buying you the time to look for an Engineered Explosives.

Nishoba Brawler tramples over small blockers, such as mana dorks or ornithopters, this comes in handy against hammer time & Yawgmoth as they seem to have lots of small creatures to throw in the way. On the contrary, this can be less relevant if you have a Scion of Draco in play, redundantly granting trample anyway. If there are lots of small creature decks that can chump block your creatures you may wish to make the switch to the brawler.

Nishoba Brawler Also allows more diverse graveyard hate, such as Rest in Peace, Tarmogyf however would steer you in alternative options to hate out graveyard decks to avoid the ‘nonbo’ of playing 2 mana 0/1s. This could become more relevant depending on the meta, if decks such as Living End and dredge ect are incredibly common then Brawler might be the better choice. Conversly if you are able to effectivly hate these graveyard decks in other ways such as counter-magic (think Stubborn Denial against Living End) then this may not be an issue. Another sideboard card that can cause issues is Hidetsugu Consumes All // Vessel of the All-Consuming which is an incredibly powerful sideboard card against hammer, rhinos, saga tokens just to name a few, unfortunately this is another ‘nonbo’ with Tarmogoyf as the second effect will shrink your Tarmogoyf to little 0/1s,

Blood Moon
As we know one of the biggest weaknesses for Domain Zoo is Blood Moon, shutting off Tribal Flames, Territorial Kavu, Scion of Draco (if in hand) and Nishoba Brawler. Very few creatures in the deck are able to function through a blood moon. Tarmogoyf on the other hand is still a fantastic creature into a Blood Moon. Whilst this still does not negate the power of blood moon, it makes it slightly more manageable. It allows you to keep the pressure on your opponent whilst you are looking for your enchantment hate of choice.


Play brawler if;
You really need the consistent power ASAP (Stubborn Denial or hyper aggro deck)
You REALLY need trample (Scion of Draco negates this somewhat)
You need specific graveyard hate such as Rest in Peace

Play Goyf if;
You want a better UR murktide match up
You want bolt to be less effective against you
You want to improve your matchup against rhinos
You are fed up with loosing to Fury
You want some of your creatures to work through Blood Moon

Overall, I think in most cases I think Tarmogoyf is better suited in most domain zoo lists. There are however specific scenarios where you want the brawler over Tarmogoyf. An example of this would be the hyper aggressive list I have been playing for well over a year now which I call Pump & Dump. This deck aims to use a +5/+5 pump spell on a 5 power creature, then giving it double strike to one shot the opponent on turn 3. Tarmogoyf is not able to reliably be 5 power on turn 3, Nishoba Brawler on the other hand can. Because of this Brawler suits the deck better in my opinion.

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