Rethinking Zombies

With the rotation of Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon, standard lost one of its successful archetype which brought Garry Thompson the championship in Protour Amonkhet, Zombies.

        

In the past, zombies were mindless creatures that was good at dealing high damage, offered great resilience, and were quite under costed. The playstyle of old was smash them to the board and turn them sideways, pressuring the opponent to make bad blocks, spend their removal only to have our zombies come back.

Thankfully the zombies from Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon learned a thing or two from their brothers from the original Innistrad block and evolved to be more powerful towards the new meta.

Cryptbreaker was the fulcrum that propelled the zombie archetype to the top of Protour Amonkhet and thousands of FNM tables around the world. A 1-mana zombie that produces more zombies and gives card advantage was unheard of. Relentless Dead brings back almost anything with enough mana, while Diregraf Colossus was large and in charge of widening the board super fast.

With the rotation, zombies got hurt really bad losing all of its value creatures and efficient removal spells, especially Dark Salvation.

Dark Salvation is a very unique spell because there’s nothing like it from previous sets. It was removal and token generator in one. It was a potential 1-mana kill-anything spell in a deck capable of having 5-6 zombies at any given time. On a flooded board, it’s a great top deck. In fact it was never a bad draw at any stage of the game as mentioned by Gerry himself.

Moving into Amonkhet, zombies are not as intelligent nor bloodthirsty. They are reborn from good guys that died trying to be worthy (whatever that meant) thanks to Embalm, turning them white in the process. In Hour of Devastation, zombies went back to black when creatures are Eternalized. That said, a potentially good zombie deck has to come in these colors.

Dread WandererAmmit EternalPlague Belcher

Black gave us under costed but powerful creatures, tons of which have absurdly high power values versus their converted mana cost. The consequences help control their power but these are very easy to work around.

Binding MummyMummy ParamountWayward Servant

White on the other hand gave us some utility creatures that generate value for playing zombies. Binding Mummy is a great tempo card that inhibits your opponent’s ability to block while Wayward Servant drains the opponent for playing zombies, somewhat giving your creatures haste and lifelink just for entering the battlefield.

Time to ReflectIn Oketra's NameFatal Push

We don’t have high impact spells like Dark Salvation but we do get some consolation with Time to Reflect which is like Swords to Plowshares in our deck. in Oketra’s Name is an awesome alpha strike card which will catch your opponents off-guard the first time you cast it on an unblocked attack.

Of course Fatal Push remains to be our premier removal spell. Revolt will most likely be triggered after combat since we will be trading a lot of our stuff against bigger creatures.

Metallic MimicLord of the AccursedLiliana's Mastery

Let’s not forget the ‘Lords’ that are still standard legal. Metallic Mimic has been climbing up the charts because of Ixalan’s new tribes and zombies are no exception. Lord of the Accursed not only makes our creatures bigger but his Menace ability is a good way to get through an otherwise bad attack. Lastly we have Liliana’s Mastery which is the best top end for this deck.

Here’s my semi-budget Zombie deck!

Creatures: 29

4 Dread Wanderer
4 Metallic Mimic
3 Binding Mummy
4 Mummy Paramount
4 Wayward Servant
4 Lord of the Accursed
3 Plague Belcher
3 Ammit Eternal

Spells: 8

4 Fatal Push
2 In Oketra’s Name
2 Liliana’s Mastery

Lands: 23

4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Unclaimed Territory
4 Swamp
3 Ifnir Deadlands
4 Plains
2 Shefet Dunes
2 Scavanger Ground

Sideboard: 15

3 Dusk//Dawn
4 Saving Grace
3 Solemnity
2 Lost Legacy
3 Never//Return

With any tribe, the key is to play with at least 26 cards that support or go along with the tribe and we have 29 creatures, and 4 non-creature spells that support the deck. With the 2-cmc curve being the most dense, we can afford playing less lands without slowing our play down too much.

Unclaimed TerritoryIfnir DeadlandsShefet Dunes

Unclaimed Territory offers solid mana fixing for a deck that needs BW available early, always. We also play some copies of Ifnir Deadlands for additional removal, and Shefet Dunes to give us that reach. We are only running 23 lands which explains why we don’t play the full playset of Liliana’s Mastery.

Dusk // Dawn

Surprisingly, Dusk//Dawn actually works well in the deck post board if we remove our Lords and play closer to the ground against bigger decks. Even if we don’t take out our lords, the Dawn part of the deck will still work since most of our creatures will come back after a Fumigate resolves. This is no Relentless Dead but having the option of wiping the board free of dinosaurs, dragons, hydras, and gearhulks is nice.

Solemnity

With Energy winning the 2017 Worlds Championship we can expect even more players sleeving up Temur,  Sultai or a combination of both in your local game shop. Playing Solemnity off the sideboard will dampen this deck’s ability to generate value and even curb their mana fixing once their Servant of the Conduit and Aether Hubs run out of juice. This card replaces Metallic Mimic primarily because they both counter act each other however, after the swap our Ammit Eternal and Plague Belcher just became better.

Saving Grace

Saving Grace is a super sweet tech card that functions like 3 other cards:

  1. Fog – when the opponent alpha strikes you, you can cast Saving Grace on a creature you control and have it take all the hits.
  2. Pariah – when an opponent attempts to cast Hour of Devastation or Sweltering Suns, casting Saving Grace redirects all the damage to one creature saving everybody else.
  3. Combat Trick – on attacks, if the opponent assigns his blockers hoping to get good trades, Saving Grace negates all the damage the blockers would deal and gets mowed down by our attackers.

Why not in the mainboard you ask? I would prefer In Oketra’s Name in game 1 especially if we don’t know the opponent’s deck. A switcharoo can keep your opponent guessing when we enter combat after seeing a pump spell on game 1, then suddenly falls victim to a fog spell on game 2. He wouldn’t know how to configure his blocks on game 3!

That’s it for now! Hit me up in the comments section below!

Cheers,

Vanson

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