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By: Sheppy, Daniel J. Shepherd Sr.
Dec 16 2011 9:50am
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Since the early days of Magic The Gathering, Zombies have always been there shuffling around causing their own brand of fun and mayhem.

Some Zombie cards like Bog Raiders, Dross Crocodile, and Walking Corpse are little more than quick drop fodder for other combos or certain mechanics, while others like Cemetery Reaper, Coffin Puppets, and Corpse Connoisseur are very involved and complex creatures.

I have loved Zombie movies and comics since I was a kid, so making a Zombie deck seemed like a natural thing for me to do. And with AMC's The Walking Dead adaptation of the now classic comic book series I have a renewed interest in all things walking and undead. 

So what should a good Zombie deck be? Looking over the 250+ available Zombie cards one thing became very clear, quite a few of them have high casting costs. Granted those do great things but they tend to make for very slow building decks and the mechanics become very cumbersome.
Being somewhat of a Zombie Fanboy, (I even have an official NORCAL Zombie badge number 667! It's a Ham Radio thing, PM me and I'll explain) I know two basic facts about Zombies, they are slow and they like to hang out in large packs nomming on Plainswalkers brains. So how does this relate to a Zombie deck, well it says that you need lots of low casting cost Zombies. LOTs of low casting cost Zombies!

My first thought was a creature heavy deck with little or no enchantments and instants. After looking over the pool of Zombie cards it became fairly obvious that for simplicity it would be a mono black deck, not bad considering all the good instant removal cards that are available in black. I set out to find a balance of good removal and a horde of Zombies. This proved to be a bigger pain than I first thought, trying to figure out a balance of wanting a creature heavy deck and wanting to use a lot of other spells along with them was not easy. The last thing I wanted was a 100+ card deck. This lead me back to the root idea I had for this deck in the first place, Keep It Simple Stupid!

So I grabbed 40 low cost Zombies and 20 Swamps and went for a test drive. It's funny how a simple idea came turn out to be oh so bad.

Okay that was not a good road trip; I went 0 for 5 games. Why? Because a horde of Zombies that have no real cohesion is, well just a crap deck of cards. What I needed was at the least some unity in their numbers or some way to make them stronger while keeping the deck fast and simple. I went back to the drawing board with this in mind; I need to pump up the Zombies without using enchantments, I need a way to return them from the grave (I learned that small 1/1 and 2/2 creatures are very prone to being dispatched rather quickly) and keep their casting cost low. For the later I decided that if I went with 24 lands and used a casting cost of 3 or lower this would mean a good deck could be possible, in fact with as little as six swamps out things could move at a decent pace. Okay, now that I have a clearer plan it's time to take another look at what fits these parameters.

Taking it slower and really paying attention to detail I found three cards right away that fit my new criteria, Death Baron, Cemetery Reaper, and Lord of the Undead. Each of these cards gave other Zombie creatures +1/+1. Other benefits included the addition of Deathtouch, the ability to exile creatures from my opponents grave yard and give myself a 2/2 Zombie token, and the ability to return a creature from my grave yard. The best thing of all is the fact that each of these had a 3 mana casting cost! Another good addition is Grave Digger who when cast allows me to return a creature from the grave yard. He comes in at 4 mana but his ability is well worth the one extra mana. Next up is a nice 3 mana card Ghoulraiser, this guy brings a creature from the grave yard at random when he enters the battle field. This is getting good, so I need to add a few small filler Zombie creatures to the mix.  Now I'm looking for a creature that could hit for a point in the opening round; I like this because it can set the tone of the game and has a certain demoralizing factor to it. Knowing that I was going to use four Piranha Marsh for this very reason I remembered an old classic Zombie to fill this slot, Maggot Carrier! This nasty little bugger hits all players for 1 point when he enters the battle field. I also like Diregraf Ghoul, he’s a 2/2 for one mana that taps when he enters the battle field, next I chose Walking Corpse, he’s a 2/2 for two mana, not a bad filler creature. Right away these little guys set up a nice scenario where playing Diregraf Ghoul first round, then Maggot Carrier the second and hitting my opponent for a total of 3, then with the addition of a +1/+1 multiplier the possibility of swinging for 5 more by the third turn. Nice!

Finally I got to think of a way to blast my opponent’s creatures quickly and repeatedly as soon as they hit the battle field. One card that I absolutely love came to mind, a nasty lard ball from the Alara Block, Fleshbag Marauder! This guy is nothing but pure dag nasty evil. When he enters the battle field each player must sacrifice a creature. This is great in that it targets the player and not a specific creature, so those nasty indestructible, shrouded, and over equipped creatures get sent away rather quickly. When I do this I will sacrifice Fleshbag Marauder, I  can always bring him back later. This one simple card has turned out to be the anchor card of this deck. It allows you to blow away those nasty large creatures while you build your army of the undead.

Lastly I decided to add one enchantment to this deck. I know it goes against the basic design parameters but it has been a game winner. Bad Moon. A two mana dropper that gives black creatures +1/+1, but be careful because it gives ALL black creatures +1/+1, not just yours.

So here is the finished deck!

Dead Rising
To the grave and back, and back again!
4 Cemetery Reaper
4 Death Baron
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Fleshbag Marauder
3 Ghoulraiser
3 Gravedigger
4 Lord of the Undead
3 Maggot Carrier
3 Walking Corpse
32 cards

Other Spells
4 Bad Moon
4 cards
20 Swamp
4 Piranha Marsh
24 cards
Fleshbag Marauder


Now it's time to take THIS deck out for a test drive.
I played a test of 10 random games in the new "Just For Grins And Giggles" area or what every they call it now.   This time I won 8 of 10, now that's an improvement sports fans! One of the two I lost against was a classic crazy reveal this card, add tons of mana, trade that for my life to beat the other guy on turn one. WHAT EVER. The other deck was a very well built Vampire and Zombie deck that while I held my own against, I was just out classed by a great deck. And that's Okay! The others I beat ranged from Elves-N-Treefolk to Artifact Heavy sets. All were solid decks, but this one just got it's cards out fast with little mana, has a small bit of control, pumps up the creatures quickly, and with the ability to keep returning cards from the graveyard did far better than I had hoped.

Give this little Johnny Deck a try, it's fairly cheap, fun to play, and when you see all those multi colored lands dropping, and YOU know you are up against a complicated mechanic, by turn 5 or 7 you have them pretty much beat down. "Huh huh huh, Zombies are cool!", "Yeah, Zombies RULE!".

Enjoy and thanks for indulging me. As always comments and critiques are very much welcome.


. by Sheppy at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 10:23
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Hm by AnimalWedding at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 18:51
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I apologize if i'm mistaken, but you mentioned that this is a Johnny deck, implying weird combos. This looks like a fairly standard zombie deck. Play zombies, kill creatures, ???, profit. Granted, it looks pretty effective, but these kinds of decks kind of build themselves.

I would suggest Gempalm Polluter as a win condition/card draw over the Gravediggers. They work well with Lord of the Undead as well. Also, 24 lands seems a bit steep for a deck with a maximum casting cost of 4 (3 if you replace the Gravediggers). I'm glad you found success with it though!

Good points by Sheppy at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 22:18
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Thanks for the reply and suggestions. I guess "Johnny Deck" is not the correct term. I'm still learning. :-)

More like Timmy. Stylish win by Paul Leicht at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 22:59
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More like Timmy. Stylish win con but not complicated or hard to find. Oh and some Vorthos for good measure (Theme ties into movies.)