Executing on Zombies

Posted in Reconstructed on March 31, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

It's a dragon-eat-everything world out there on Tarkir right now. And although there are certainly plenty of dragons running around, plenty of other tasty morsels are out and about on Tarkir.

The creatures with the best chance of living on Tarkir are the truly hardened and obstinate ones. And one creature has, shall we say…risen to the challenge.

If you're looking for a fun, budget, and unique Standard deck, then you'll definitely want to check out what we'll be tapping into for today.

Ready? Well, let's take a look at today's deck from perennial reader Qoarl:

Qoarl's Devoted Zombies

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The Battle Plan


Err, uh…let me rephrase.

This is a Zombie tribal deck. While some of the individual cards may not look that impressive, let me assure you, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts here.

Why Zombies? Why now? I mean, didn't The Walking Dead just have its season finale?

It's all because of a couple new Dragons of Tarkir cards, headlined by this fine fellow:

A Zombie lord is great—and one that comes back from the graveyard is even better.

You can start off your Zombie assault, then use the Executioner to push all of your creatures to be a little larger. With your Zombie hordes around, he can really start bringing the damage.

But a single awesome lord wouldn't be enough to get me to want to play with Zombies. After all, even if you pump them all up, they're still just slightly-above-average creatures. However, in conjunction with cards like Necromancer's Stockpile and the new Corpseweft, it gives the zombie deck an incredible long game. Unlike most other tribal decks that can run out of gas, this zombie deck actually thrives in the long game.

The secret here is that this deck isn't designed to win quickly—no, this ragtag band of 1/3s and 2/4s isn't made for that at all. Don't let all of those creatures deceive you. But, much like how zombies work, the deck is going to lurch forward, ever growing, ever present, with massive ranks of the undead showing up time after time, and eventually overwhelm their enemies.

And that's what you've signed up for today.

Ready for more? Let's move ahead!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards can stay and which ones can the deck just not quite execute on? Let's go through the deck card by card and find out!

The praises of this card have certainly been sung above, but just to reiterate, in addition to being an awesome Zombie lord he also comes back from the graveyard. With things like Corpseweft going on, it's pretty easy to make this castable from your graveyard for its mana cost over and over again, so you can always win the long game that way too. Four copies of this card, absolutely.

While a two-mana 1/1 isn't exactly the pinnacle of effectiveness, the Emissary has a lot of power in its ability. Manifesting when it dies means it both replaces itself and also digs you closer to your best cards like Risen Executioner. This is definitely a Zombie I'm happy with all four of.

The Assistant does a couple important things. Firstly, it trades off with larger creatures nicely. But secondly, it flips cards into your graveyard, helping to fuel your Corpsewefts or find Risen Executioner.

However, while it is a consideration, at three mana it's a little on the weak side and I don't really want to cast it over other things the deck is doing. I need enough creatures to have enough going on for Necromancer's Stockpile, but I think these can be cut and that ratio can be maintained. Goodbye, Assistant!

While it is a five-mana Zombie, and while devotion doesn't work quite as well in a deck full of Zombie tokens, I can't deny that Gray Merchant is one of the strongest Zombies in Standard and can just close out games on its own. The games when you draw two or three copies tend to make winning a breeze. They play into the long game plan well, and I want to keep all of them.

This kind of utility is how this deck thrives. Black Cat can deal with a creature, strip a card out of your opponent's hand, count as a Zombie, and is a creature to be exiled to Corpseweft later on. Two-mana 1/1s aren't something I want to play too many of, but this has so many different uses in this strategy that I actually want to move to the full four.

Milling is alright in this deck—you can get closer to your Executioners and help set up Corpseweft. But in general it's a little on the weaker side. I'd rather have Necromancer's Assistant than this card, and I already cut the Assistants.

Instead, I'd love to have a one-drop—and Dragons of Tarkir introduces the perfect adorable little fella: Shambling Goblin. This deck needs a critical mass of Zombies to work so I can't cut too many to play cards like Thoughtseize, and having something to do on the first turn and help deal with quick decks like red will go a long way. Four Goblins it is!

Ah, Sidisi. This new Dragons of Tarkir Zombie is a great fit for this strategy. In the Zombie deck, you really want to draw some specific cards—and Sidisi helps ensure that you find them. Additionally, it means you can play a few one-of cards that are great in particular situations and Sidisi can lead you into them as well. (More on that in a bit.)

At five mana, it's certainly on the expensive side to cast, but I'm entirely happy playing two of them.

An absolutely integral part of the deck, I couldn't imagine playing without it. A continual source of Zombies that also fills up the graveyard, Stockpile turns every one of your creatures into a Zombie that draws a card. With few exceptions, once this is on the table you will just want to keep cycling all of your Zombies. (With an occasional break to cast a Risen Executioner to pump them all up, or perhaps a Corpseweft to turn them all into huge creatures.)

This is one of the most important cards you want to draw and cast. I would absolutely play four.

Maintaining a delicate Zombie-to-spell ratio is crucial in a deck like this one, which truly relies on having enough Zombies to make cards like Necromancer's Stockpile work. Of course, on the other hand, removal is incredibly important—you can't afford to have cards like Mantis Rider or Stormbreath Dragon killing you in the air while your Zombie hordes lurch around on the ground confused.

Since Standard is so creature-heavy right now, having access to this is important. Additionally, I actually want one more spell, and having a one mana removal spell with Sidisi to search it up could be useful, so I'm adding a single Murderous Cut. While exiling creatures from your graveyard is bad with your Corpsewefts, it can also help make your Risen Executioner easier to cast in a pinch and is fairly efficient. I'm going with 4 Downfalls and 1 Cut.

Necromancer's Stockpile turns all the creatures in your hand into Zombies, and Corpseweft turns all of the creatures in your graveyard into Zombies. Ah, the zombie cycle of life.

Corpseweft is fantastic, and definitely plenty strong. However, unlike Necromancer's Stockpile, you don't need one early. Additionally, you really only want to draw one—which is also true of the Stockpile. I have four copies of Stockpile because it's so integral to this deck, but you can't really afford to have a ton of enchantments rotting in your hand. Plus, Sidisi can search one up in a pinch. I'd like to move down to two copies of Corpseweft.

One Whip of Erebos might look a little odd, but it's really there as a Sidisi target! Whipping back Gray Merchants of Asphodel is a tried and true way to take down games, and the lifegain in the long game can be extraordinarily relevant. I definitely like having one of these.

Additionally, there are a couple other one-ofs I want to add in for this same reason.

One is Obelisk of Urd. If you have the right board for it, searching up the Obelisk can be game ending. Additionally, against control decks, it makes every one of your creatures a tremendous threat. Having one to search for is well worth it.

The other is Empty the Pits. An easy way to win any long game is to end-step Empty the Pits for a ton, untap, cast Risen Executioner, and attack for the win. It does directly clash with Corpseweft, but there's only one so you can tutor it up when you really need it and the board situation is right.

With all of those changes made, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's Rise and Repeat

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If you're looking for something fun and unique in Standard, then definitely give this a try. The feeling of overwhelming your opponent as your horde of the unquiet dead grows larger and larger is just so...satisfying.

There are definitely some other angles you can take with this kind of strategy. One is to use more traditional cards like Thoughtseize and really take a Mono-Black Control route with a Zombie subtheme. You could also go red for Tymaret, the Murder King and potentially pick up Kolaghan's Command and a few other red cards as well.

Have fun with Zombies!

McArtor's Mentions

Welcome to what was formerly known as the "Honorable Mention" section!

As you may have seen on our website, last week Wizards of the Coast and, really, all of the Magic Community at large lost an incredible member: our DailyMTG.com editor, Mike McArtor.

Mike was an incredible help and inspiration to me, and really was a huge part of what helped make this column awesome. Something he would tell me about on occasion is how much he enjoyed decks from the Honorable Mentions section (even if it caused formatting headaches for him) and that he was glad I had them. Moreover, often the kind of decks that showed up in Honorable Mentions were exactly the decks he would want to play, and honorable mentions are the kind of encouragement I'm sure he himself would want to give other people.

From here on, as a lasting memory to Mike each and every week, I'm renaming this reoccurring section from my articles in his honor. Welcome to McArtor's Mentions.

Let's take a look at a list of some of the other coolest decks people sent in this week:

Tono Yusuke's Khan's Underlying Strength

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Mark Ashelford's Turbomonk

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Harry Burke's Jeskai Ascendancy Combo

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Mekanic's Band of Brothers

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Andrew Weisel's Izzet Dragon Time?

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Kazuyoshi Kurata 's Blue-White Control

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Matthew Medina's Anafenza Weenie

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Shawn Brophy's Bant Mystery Morph

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Akinori Yukawa's The God and Warriors

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Yvo Warners's Counter Strike

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Yutaka Moritake's 4-Color Dragons

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Dragons of Modern

Standard is looking great and fun right now…but Modern is also poised for excitement!

What new Modern decks have you been thinking about? Well, how about you show them off!

Format: Modern

Restrictions: None!

Deadline: Monday, April 6 at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Firedrinker Satyr

3 Ash Zealot

4 Lightning Bolt

…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

I always delight in looking at your Modern decks, so I'm excited to see how these turn out. Bonus points if they also use new cards from Dragons of Tarkir!

In the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts at all, please feel free to send them my way! You can always send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to see what you have to say.

I'll be back next week with a look at Standard for the Pro Tour! Until then, may your Magic decks always rise to the occasion!

Talk with you next week,




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