Zombies in Pioneer

In few days, I’ll be in Brussels competing for the first ever Pioneer Players Tour. I’m excited for this new format, although I am enjoying way more Standard at the moment. Today I’ll share with you a deck I’ve worked on and liked, but that didn’t quite make the cut for my PT deck choice: Zombies!


It all started after I streamed a bunch of Historic on MTG Arena before the release of Theros Beyond Death. Standard was pretty stale, so I decided to explore the new format, which on top of cards from Ixalan forward, had a bunch of additions selected by Wizards. One of them was Cryptbreaker, and that plus Liliana, Untouched by Death made a pretty good combination. The deck was solid, and pushed me up to Mythic after just a few days.

Meanwhile, my teammates Zen Takahashi and Christian Calcano, Zombies aficionados, were also toying around with Pioneer Zombies, although I didn’t like their list with Lord of the Accursed and Death Baron.

I tried to take the more controlling approach with Liliana’s Mastery and Liliana, Untouched by Death and the results were outstanding. In our first three League, we went 4-1, 4-1 and 5-0!


Andrea Mengucci – 5-0 Pioneer MTGO League 

14 Swamp
3 Castle Locthwain
4 Ifnir Deadlands
4 Mutavault
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Cryptbreaker
4 Diregraf Colossus
4 Dread Wanderer
4 Lazotep Reaver
4 Murderous Rider/Swift End
2 Fatal Push
4 Dark Salvation
4 Thoughtseize
2 Liliana's Mastery
2 Liliana, Untouched by Death

1 Liliana, Untouched by Death
1 Liliana's Mastery
1 Doom Blade
2 Duress
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Legion's End
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Ultimate Price

The deck felt great versus any kind of aggro deck, black and red mostly, and had a great grindy game against U/W Control. It struggled vs. U/R Phoenix but it definitely felt like it had all the tools to be a great choice.

Then, the Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck came out, and ate this deck alive. Niv-Mizzet is the most popular deck and will be the most played deck at the Pro Tour, so I don’t feel like sleeving Zombies, but if you loved this deck in Amonkhet Standard and want to play some local events, I definitely suggest you play this deck.

Dark SalvationDiregraf Colossus

The card advantage from this deck is real, between Diregraf Colossus and Dark Salvation you can swarm the board and grind your opponent into dust.

The best card in the deck will remain Cryptbreaker, and you need to be mindful about the matchup. If you’re up against red, don’t expose your Cryptbreaker to a Wild Slash or a Bonecrusher Giant. Wait to control two or more Zombies so you can immediately draw a card off of your Cryptbreaker.

Playing Cryptbreaker isn’t easy. My general suggestion is to usually not attack up until you can clock your opponents with two attacks. Do your math and play correctly. Lazotep Reaver plays great with Cryptbreaker, as it lets you draw a card immediately on turn 2.

Liliana, Untouched by DeathLiliana's Mastery

Liliana, Untouched by Death and Liliana’s Mastery are your top end, the cards that will let you go over the top of your opponent. Liliana serves multiple roles in this deck—removal spell and card advantage. Whereas Liliana’s Mastery is great for winning races against other aggro decks.

Ifnir DeadlandsCastle Locthwain

Not playing 4 Castle Locthwain might seem crazy, but this deck does use its mana very efficiently, and you aren’t as desperate as Mono-Black Aggro when it comes to the late game. Ifnir Deadlands has been great at dealing with annoying permanents such as Apostle of Purifying Light or Blood Baron of Vizkopa.

Self-Inflicted WoundDrag to the Underworld

In my last version, I was running three Self-Inflicted Wound in the three removal slots in the sideboard to deal with Sylvan Caryatid and Niv-Mizzet Reborn, and I suggest you to do the same if you want to have a chance in that matchup.

Drag to the Underworld is a new card that this deck can play over the two Fatal Push main. I’m not sure about that though, and would need to play a lot more, as Fatal Push was mainly needed to deal with the broken start from any Llanowar Elves deck, but I could see playing more ways to deal with the 6/6 flier, although this deck does have Dark Salvation which sometimes lets you do that.

In order to know how to sideboard with this deck you need to know that you can’t touch your Zombies, you can only toy with some removal and discard spells, as well with some expensive cards. You can’t cut the Zombies or your deck will become worse. So whenever you want to bring in the “Go-Big Package” against the aggro decks, you want to cut Thoughtseize.

Zombies was fun, and if the Niv-Mizzet deck ever leaves the metagame/format, I can’t wait to play this deck again!

Scroll to Top