Almost There: Zombies

Posted in How to Build on July 13, 2018

By Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Paulo has been playing Magic since he was eight years old. At fifteen, he ventured outside of Brazil for his first international tournament, and he's been globetrotting as a professional player ever since.

About a year ago, Zombies suddenly went from a completely casual deck to a tournament powerhouse, culminating in Gerry Thompson's win at Pro Tour Amonkhet. After Cryptbreaker and Dark Salvation rotated out, however, there wasn't much incentive to commit to the tribe and the deck waned in popularity. With the advent of Core Set 2019, we now seem to have enough Zombies for it to be a deck once again.

This was the deck piloted by Tinefol_Ru to a 5-0 finish in a Magic Online Competitive Standard League:

Tinefol_Ru's Zombies

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This is an aggressive deck that abuses tribal synergies. It has twelve lord effects (cards that give +1/+1 to a specific tribe), which means that you will overgrow any board if your opponent isn't interacting with you, but it also runs cards like Liliana's Mastery, Scrapheap Scrounger, and Dread Wanderer, which make it more resilient than most tribal builds. So, if you love the go-wide aspect of decks like Vampires or Merfolk but hate feeling powerless in the face of a Fumigate, Zombies might be the deck for you.

Let's take a look at the new cards the archetype got.

The first clear addition is Graveyard Marshal. This is the best Zombie in Standard. As a 3/2 for two mana with a very relevant ability, it's already a powerful card in a non-Zombies deck, but if you have the many synergies that this deck does, then it gets to a whole new level because this card is not only a Zombie, but it also makes Zombies. Making a 2/2 for three mana and a creature from your graveyard is already a good deal, and it only gets better with your twelve ways to make them bigger. If you have a Liliana's Mastery in play, for example, you can drop this and activate the ability once, then you'll have 7 power worth of attackers the following turn, threatening to add 6 more power. Graveyard Marshal is clearly a four-of.

Next, we have Death Baron, which is yet another lord, but instead of granting menace it grants deathtouch. Deathtouch isn't usually thought of as a Constructed ability, but it can be quite relevant against a variety of decks, especially green ones. How is a mono-green opponent supposed to beat a Death Baron?

That said, Death Baron is a 2/2, whereas Lord of the Accursed is a 2/3. This means Lord of the Accursed survives Magma Spray and Shock, and once you play another lord, it can fight Goblin Chainwhirler and Scrapheap Scrounger in combat. Because of this, I'd play the fourth Lord of the Accursed over the fourth Death Baron, but I think it's likely you should just play four of each, as I don't think Metallic Mimic is well positioned right now anyway.

Then we have Liliana, Untouched by Death. When I saw the card for the first time, I thought Liliana, Untouched by Death wasn't very good. She's since grown on me. If she comes down on an empty board, then she has the potential to drain for 2 and give you some advantage. In this deck, she's about 70% to hit and about 35% to mill a card that has an ability in the graveyard—either Dread Wanderer, Scrapheap Scrounger, or Never // Return. Of course, she also mills cards that fuel Scrapheap Scroungers and Graveyard Marshals you already have.

The minus ability leaves a bit to be desired, since it will often fail to kill a big creature, but it does have the potential to kill indestructible creatures like Hazoret the Fervent, and it can at least finish something off after a block. The ultimate, however, is pretty good. The first ability fuels it, and it can single-handedly rebuild after a sweeper. If the game has gone long and you untap with it, it won't be uncommon to cast three or even four Zombies from your graveyard, as some of them are quite cheap. It's also relevant that the ability remains active until the end of the turn, so if you cast a Zombie from the graveyard and they counter it, you can just cast it again.

The last card from Core Set 2019 that is potentially playable is Stitcher's Supplier. It's smaller than Diregraf Ghoul, but it can block the turn it enters play, and it has a shot at giving you an advantage when you play it and it does. Overall, I think the presence of Goblin Chainwhirler makes 1 toughness too much of a liability when you actually want a creature that survives to benefit from your lords (which is the same reason I don't like Metallic Mimic), but there's a chance there's an even more graveyard-focused list of Zombies somewhere that plays four Stitcher's Suppliers and more Lilianas. For now, however, I'd stick to the more aggressive option.

Other than the new cards, the main change I'd make is adding a fourth Ifnir Deadlands. In a mono-black deck, it doesn't make much sense to me to play only three of that card. This is the list I'd try:

PV's Mono-Black Zombies

Download Arena Decklist

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