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$50 Budget Zombie Commander Upgrade – Undead Unleashed

I took a break last time to talk about a hypothetical precon, but it’s time to go back to what I do best – talking about the actual precons! I’ll be going through each of the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt precons and upgrading them on a $50 budget, this time doing a budget Zombie Commander deck upgrade. As always, I’d like to remind you of a couple of things regarding my budget articles:

  • $50 has a different impact on different people, but given that it’s less than the price of a triple-A console game release, I think it’s a price many will be willing to pay for hours of entertainment, which a Commander deck should provide.
  • I’ll be using prices from the ChannelFireball Marketplace to track our costs, specifically the lowest available Near Mint price at the time of this writing. I apologize if listings have changed since then, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.

 

Today, let’s look at the Undead Unleashed deck featuring Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver!

 

Wilhelt is pretty simple – Zombies make more Zombies, albeit with decayed, and you can sacrifice a Zombie (probably a decayed one) on your end step to draw a card. Really solid – Zombie decks can easily use the decayed tokens as sacrifice fodder or just to overwhelm an opponent late. 

Here’s the deck list as it stands at the start:

 

Undead Unleashed Precon

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Is it me, or do these decks keep getting better and better? With a 3.97 average mana value without lands, which is a little high but not ridiculous, we have a full 40 lands and seven mana rocks to go along with a pretty solid mana curve. The deck sticks really close to its theme, and we even have some good reprints like Endless Ranks of the Dead. All in all, I’m very impressed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t upgrade it!

 

 

Header - Creature Cuts

Today, we’ll make 20 swaps, starting with eight creatures.

 

Spark ReaperEater of Hope

These expensive activations are a little difficult for me to enjoy. We’ll have many better ways of drawing cards by the time I’m done with this, and while we won’t be putting Attrition in this list, I just think Eater of Hope is too costly, even if we’re just sacrificing decayed tokens.

 

As usual, some of the new cards don’t quite fit the bill. I much prefer Geistcatcher as an ETB-abuse card rather than a go-tall worker, so slot it into another deck – this one would need too much restructuring. Eloise provides a little bit of nice surveilling but I’m not convinced she’s right for this deck, and Shadow Kin milling everyone is a little dangerous for my liking.

 

Undead Alchemist

Replacing the damage isn’t quite what I want, even if we can sacrifice this once we’re up high enough on Zombies.

 

Stitcher Geralf

Again, my desire to mill everyone is not this high – combine that with the fact that you have to spend eight mana before you get anything and I’m out.

 

 

Havengul Runebinder

 

While I’m happy with our large set of lords, Havengul Runebinder is a combination of too slow and too non-Zombified to make my cut. Cleaver Skaab at least has the decency to have an okay stat line that benefits from our lords.

 

Header - Creature Additions

So what goes in? Well, it’s quite the selection of Zombies – yes, they’re all Zombies.

 

Carrion Feeder (MH1) Champion of the Perished (MID)
$0.70 $3.60

We’re adding two one-drops! Carrion Feeder is a great place to put those decayed tokens and Champion of the Perished goes tall better than Prowling Geistcatcher at a significantly lower cost.

 

Bladestitched Skaab (MID) Vizier of the Scorpion (WAR)
$0.20 $0.32

These two do great work at augmenting our decayed tokens – the increased power makes opponents want to block them more, but the deathtouch makes that a lot more difficult.

 

Liliana's Standard BearerGod-Eternal Bontu
Liliana’s Standard Bearer (M21) God-Eternal Bontu (WAR)
$0.37 $5.00

Need to draw cards? These two have you covered. Hurl your tokens into the breach and then cast Liliana’s Standard Bearer after combat, or just use Bontu to eat them. Don’t forget to just attack recklessly with Bontu – he’ll be back again and again.

 

Murderous Rider // Swift EndMaster of Death
Murderous Rider (ELD) Master of Death (MH2)
$1.48 $0.30

We have some solid mid-level role players here. Murderous Rider acts as some additional point removal, while Master of Death helps out with card selection and is a great sacrifice for lots of Wilhelt value.

 

Header - Noncreature Cuts

So far, we’ve spent a scant $11.97. Let’s do the same thing with spells that we just did with creatures – eight in, eight out.

 

I don’t want to be milling our opponents this much when we’re not even getting that much out of our own graveyard. With a higher budget, we could get the tools such that it would be a far superior value proposition, but if we’re just looking to swarm opponents Walking Dead style, this kind of effect isn’t on target.

 

Dreadhorde Invasion

I don’t want one big Zombie – I want lots of little Zombies, and while I understand this gives us a Zombie to sac to something each turn for Wilhelt value, it’s not quite enough juice for a single card.

 

Go for the Throat

Infernal Grasp is right there! It’s in the same set this deck is associated with!

 

Hour of Eternity

It’s just so expensive. Too much so for me.

 

These cards are both fun, but neither one does quite enough for five mana that I’m excited about it. Shame about Ghouls’ Night Out, though – it’s a fun card, and if you’re milling everyone, it’s definitely better, but it’s a fun card, and sometimes that’s what we cut in these upgrade articles.

 

Clearly meant for the Curse deck, represented by a commander only available in Set/Collector boosters. Sadness. A fun card, again, but it’s out.

 

Header - Noncreature Additions

Now that I’ve cut all these fun cards, I’d better have something rad to add. Well, good news – I’ve got more than one great card on the line.

 

Ravenform (KHM) Infernal Grasp (MID)
$0.20 $2.53

More spot removal – this time, we have Ravenform here to shore up our (nonexistent) ability to deal with artifacts as well as Infernal Grasp to just generally be a good card. If you’re at two life and staring down a nonartifact creature, I sincerely apologize, but the flexibility is too much to ignore.

 

Dread ReturnHaunting Voyage
Dread Return (TSR) Haunting Voyage (KHM)
$0.26 $3.67

Zombie Apocalypse is sweet, but why not add more reanimation to the mix? Haunting Voyage is a great Patriarch’s Bidding that doesn’t add risk, and Dread Return is easy to flash back with a bunch of decayed tokens.

 

Plumb the ForbiddenBlasting Station
Plumb the Forbidden (STX) Blasting Station (5DN)
$1.70 $7.40

Here comes the fun! Plumb the Forbidden is an amazing card draw tool if you have creatures to sacrifice (and you will), and if you’re looking to convert non-decayed Zombies into damage, Blasting Station is the best card available. With Wilhelt in play, you get some great value out of your Zombies, but the biggest thing to remember is that when multiple creatures enter at once – say, from a cracked Crowded Crypt or an Endless Ranks of the Dead trigger – you’ll get multiple untap triggers on Blasting Station, and you should respond to them with some sacrifices.

 

Wand of OrcusReflections of Littjara
Wand of Orcus (AFC) Reflections of Littjara (KHM)
$4.10 $0.49

And here are the rest of the really fun cards. Wand of Orcus, which looked initially like a medium-power card out of the Forgotten Realms decks, has turned out to be quite playable even outside Zombie decks and is clearly very good when you’ve got other Zombies to power up with deathtouch. Reflections of Littjara is just fantastic – with 24 nonlegendary Zombies in the deck, you’ll get quite a lot of value out of copying lords and creatures with great ETB abilities.

 

Header - Land Changes

We’ve now spent a total of $32.32, which means there’s plenty of room in the budget to upgrade the mana base. I cut an Island, a Swamp and then two ETB tapped lands – the unimpressive Mortuary Mire and the somewhat outdated Dimir Aqueduct – for the following:

 

Castle Locthwain (ELD) High Market (AFC) Shipwreck Marsh (MID) Drowned Catacomb (XLN)
$3.78 $0.50 $5.10 $6.60

 

Another sacrifice outlet in High Market is important for keeping the engine running, and Castle Locthwain helps out when you’re out of cards. Shipwreck Marsh and Drowned Catacomb should come in untapped more often than not, and both are cards you’ll want to keep for the long haul.

 

Header -The Final Deck List

Our spend is up to $48.30, and while I have some cards picked out to spend the rest on, I didn’t feel good about any more cuts. I could have cut a land to add a spell, with the average mana value of nonlands dropping to 3.69, but that’s a judgment I’d want to make after playing the deck some. Here’s the full list – enjoy, and I’ll see you next time!

 

Undead Unleashed Precon Upgrade by Eric Levine

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