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By: DimeCollectoR, Jason Moore
Jul 03 2017 11:00am
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Hi folks!

Long time no see.

 

While personal obligations have made it difficult for me to produce content over the past couple of months, I'm happy to say that I'm finding time to once again write articles for PureMTGO! Here's hoping I'll be able to keep this going on a regular basis.

 

The timing seems to work out quite well here, not only because summertime should be freeing up the schedules of many Pauper mages, but also because Pauper will soon be facing an Hour of Devastation courtesy of Wizards of the Coast!

 

(Don't worry, it's not anywhere near as bad as it sounds!)

 

In my opinion this upcoming set has quite a lot of slack to pick up. I say this because its predecessor, Amonkhet, has not exactly succeeded in revolutionizing the commons only format as far as I can tell. The singular exception to my claim is Amonkhet's Cartouche of Solidarity, which has managed to become a staple in every single one of Pauper's 5-0 Hexproof lists. If you'll recall, the enchantment is doing exactly what we expected it to do.

 

We don't have a lot of spoiled Hour of Devastation commons out there quite yet, but we are starting to notice a trend. What do I mean? The Hour of Devastation is gearing up to be a rather zombie-filled hour by the looks of things.

 

As I'll hope to demonstrate in this article, the zombie creature type has been well-represented in common form over the past several years. It seems like only a matter of time until either one or two “over the top” zombies get printed, or a critical mass of “good enough” cards is reached, thereby enabling Pauper Zombies decks to swarm Leagues and Queues at an unmanageable rate.

 

Next Level Chant

 

Like a zombie itself, the ghoulish tribe has been slowly, painfully slowly, clawing its way up from the ground in hopes of breaching the surface and terrorizing everyone in its path.

 

One of the tribe's biggest breakthroughs, if we can even call it that, occurred in 2011 with the release of horror-themed expansion Innistrad. While this set diverted a large degree of attention towards flashier tribes like werewolves and spirits, it also did a number of intriguing things with zombies.

 

Two of the critical commons printed for the tribe were Ghoulcaller's Chant and Ghoulraiser. These cards didn't just succeed in being intensely flavorful (since they, after all, deal with invoking zombies from the grave), they also succeeded in getting fringe Pauper brewers interested in the various configurations of a potential Pauper Zombies strategy.

 

Ghoulcaller's Chant and Ghoulraiser

 

I want to highlight these two cards in particular because they retain attributes that many of Pauper's lynchpin spells and creatures absolutely must have to be competitive.

 

Firstly, they present us with the opportunity to generate card advantage. Secondly, they present us with the opportunity to utilize an “engine” and/or an infinite loop (Ghoulraiser returns another Ghoulraiser, who returns the original, etc.). Thirdly, thanks to cards with changeling like Nameless Inversion, they present us with a degree of versatility (and in this case a pseudo-toolbox). Fourthly and correlating with everything else, they are potentially highly attritive. Lastly, they get us caring about the graveyard.

 

That last little bit is deceptively key. I need only point you in the direction of top-tier staples like Archaeomancer, Mnemonic Wall, the dense amount of spells with flashback, and to a lesser extent Pulse of Murasa and Reaping the Graves to illustrate how effective strategies can be when they're leaning on their graveyards.

 

Ghoulcaller's Chant's ability to retrieve both a Nameless Inversion and a relevant creature is not to be scoffed at. We're talking about a spell that, on a good day, is comparable to Pieces of the Puzzle while costing a third as much to cast. Considering the fact that Pieces of the Puzzle ended up being good enough to build entire decks around, I'm liking Chant's chances of turning heads in the future.

 

I believe that if a competitive Zombies deck is possible, it will contain at least one of the aforementioned cards, if not both.

 

Potential Pitfalls

 

Perhaps I've done a disservice thus far by putting the cart before the horse here. We haven't even breached the topic of what a Zombies deck might actually look like, what archetypal traits it might possess, what its overall game plan might be, etc.

 

So let's begin with a bit of groundwork, shall we? A Zombies deck is almost certainly going to contain a decent amount of creatures. So can we go aggro? My initial instinct is "no," but for the sake of argument lets look at a few aggressive-ish creatures that happen to be zombies.

 

One-drops:

 

Carrion Feeder

Carnophage

Fan Bearer

Festering Mummy/Shambling Goblin

 

Two-drops:

 

Dregscape Zombie

Putrid Leech

Shepherd of Rot

Sultai Emissary

 

Note: There are some other niche two-drops available such as Binding Mummy, Highborn Ghoul, possibly Shambling Ghoul, etc.

 

We should also pay a bit of attention to In Oketra's Name because it offers a great rate for any Zombies strategy. For now I'll leave this card out of the discussion, but don't think I'm not keeping my eye on it or pondering its theoretical utilization.

 

So considering the above lists, are we excited about Zombie beatdown? We shouldn't be. But why?

 

For one thing, this creature suite comes nowhere close to rivaling the speed or damage output of Pauper's superlative aggro deck of the moment, Mono Green Stompy. With the exception of Carnophage and Carrion Feeder, our one-drops don't quite hit hard enough. Besides, these cards both have downsides and Feeder in particular needs additional help to become threatening. The stats simply aren't there.

 

Things get a bit more interesting when we start looking at two-drops, but none of those cards in particular scream “great aggro deck.”

 

Perhaps most telling of all, black aggro has already been attempted several times over in the form of a deck called Suicide Black. That deck has not gotten close to the upper tiers due to a lack of overall power level and a lack of any powerful synergies.

 

So for now we can rule out aggro. What about midrange/attrition?

 

This is where I believe things start opening up. Card advantage. Disruption. Value interactions. And there are many value interactions available. Carrion Feeder-plus-creatures with unearth, for one. Wailing Ghoul-plus-creatures with unearth or Ghoulcaller's Chant/Ghoulraiser. Wailing Ghoul-plus-Undead Servant? These are just the first few I could think of, and as far as I know there should be a heck of a lot more out there.

 

We also start to get into “bigger creature” territory if we end up being midrange. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Gurmag Angler have proven themselves as two of the best black creatures of the past four years, and they both happen to be zombies. MBC with a heavy zombie theme? You tell me.

 

We've only scratched the surface of archetypes here. For the sake of brevity I'm going to move on, but hopefully I've gotten the wheels turning in the heads of you brewers out there.

 

Devastating Disciples?

 

So what can be said about the upcoming zombies from Hour of Devastation? Let's find out!

 

 

A Grizzly Bears with a pseudo-Pulse Tracker effect attached. Not at all mind-blowing, and there are already a number of two-drop zombies to compete with. I don't imagine (Khenra Eternal) will take precedent, but he could be worth testing.

 

 

This guy could end up filling our three-drop slot if necessary. Yes, we have access to Ghoulraiser, but we might in fact want more dudes who can survive Evincar's Justice, attack into Mulldrifter, etc. I feel confident that we can “turn off” his downside as well.

 

 

Four mana for a frail flier with no “187” ability? Instant pass.

 

And...that's all we've got for now. I'm very confident we'll be seeing a lot more zombies in the coming weeks though!

 

Dime's Up

 

Do you think Hour of Devastation will enable a playable/competitive Zombies deck in Pauper? I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.

 

You can also follow me on Twitter (@DimecollectorSC) for MTG-related updates and info!

 

Bye for now!