Standard: To Zombie or Not to Zombie

Zombies are clear proof that one doesn’t need brains to have an effective strategy. Oh, the irony, that the mindless should prey on the brainy!

Have you ever pondered what you’d do to survive in the case of a random Zombie apocalypse outbreak? Personally, I’d hide on the Ohio State campus—I’m pretty sure that Zombies would never think to look for brains there… who needs to win football games when your coach gets that many Twitter likes?

Another solid strategy I typically employ in the MTG multiverse is simply to Lich it up and command my own swarm of Zombies. If you can’t beat ‘em, lead ‘em!

One of my friends, Jon Wilkerson, showed me his Mono-Black Zombie brew a few days ago and I was very impressed with how it looked. I’ve made a few small tweaks and built my own sideboard, but I’ve been jamming this deck to reasonable success over the past week:

Mono-Black Zombies

Brian DeMars

All things considered, this is a solid Zombie deck as both the total number of Zombies and the Zombie based synergy is high. Yeah, it’s a little basic (most mono-colored beatdown decks are) but I’d give it high marks for consistency.

12 is the number of lord effects where I start to get excited in Standard because you can count on getting those bonuses up and running. I’ve also been impressed with Death Baron granting my smaller creatures deathtouch, which is pretty neat with so many 1-drops.

I defaulted to Jon’s recommendation of packing all the Scrapheaps in the main deck. It’s one of the best cards in Standard and I can’t really argue with the logic of simply playing an amazing card. The downside is that it is not a Zombie and ducks being boosted by my own lords! The replacement card, of which I’m playing two, is Metallic Mimic. I like Mimic, but I also agree with Jon that playing a ton of 1-toughness creatures is begging to be blown out by Goblin Chainwhirler.

When I played Zombies the last time they were good in Standard, I always packed the Scroungers in the board. So, I’m confident that they have a place somewhere in the Zombie 75.

The rise in Vine Mare is certainly problematic for a mono-black aggro deck. The green deck is a challenge since they have a few strategic trump cards and also play efficiently onto the board.

I’ve been sideboarding Divest, which can take the cards that will stymie my attacks. I’ve also been experimenting with Bontu’s Last Reckoning, which is kind of a house against green decks. Granted, it’s good against me too, but the Zombies are better at rebuilding in a pinch.

B/W Zombies

Brian DeMars

I don’t ever specifically try to build budget decks. Not that I have anything against them—they’re a great resource for new tournament players—but my mind isn’t programmed to approach things from that angle.

With that being said, sometimes I’ll start working on a deck and take it as far as I can and realize, hey, this deck isn’t very expensive to build!

The B/W deck is primarily built around Zombie tribal synergies that just so happen to be mostly common and uncommons. The deck does feel like a glass cannon, but it’s pretty effective at doing what it is designed to do. It pressures hard, swarms, and has In Oketra’s Name to force one very large combat step.

There are also some cool synergies in here that I wouldn’t necessarily have focused on if I wasn’t playing the games…

Graveyard Marshal allows you to make Zombie tokens on the opponent’s turn to generate “tap” triggers from Binding Mummy, which is actually really savage, as it can tap down a Hazoret or Phoenix before it can be declared as an attacker.

Marshal also teams up to do some grinding/draining with Wayward Servant, which is nice.

I’m also a big fan of:

It provides a similar, but much better, function against huge green monster decks. There is some tension between the lords and the wrath, but when you are sweeping away an army of huge green creatures I don’t mind too much.

The Dawn side is a great way to rebuy a bunch of slain Zombies later in the game after you’ve wrecked them with Dusk.

I’m always excited to play a reasonable Zombie deck and these two have been fun to work on and test out. I do think the Zombie tribe has a role to play in the emerging Standard metagame, but what the role is will ultimately be determined down the line. On the other hand, I think these are two spicy brews (one of them budget-friendly) that are competitive and fun to play.

These are decks I’ll be excited to sleeve up for FNM this week and continue to tune for possible tournament play.

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