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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Dec 13 2011 1:46am
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From Casual Room to FNM
Part IV
by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. This week's theme is one of the most beloved tribes of Magic; it's Zombies! 

Zombies are animated corpses and the only thing that satisfies those emotionless undead creatures is feeding on human flesh (brains preferred; especially yours!). Many planeswalkers among us like summoning those monsters onto the battlefield simply because Zombies do not feel pain, they don't need to drink or eat (other than the opponent's brain!), they do not sleep and don't know fatigue; but the best thing is that they don't question orders. 

And this week I will be one of those planeswalkers and summon Zombies at my disposal. I want to truly test the powers of the walking dead. Going to the battle with an army of undead creatures that know no fear must be good, right? And besides, I have one other reason to try this tribe and it is this below breathtaking art: 

Endless Ranks of the Dead is the card that started this week's article.

What? Endless Ranks of the Dead? That's an enchantment that doesn't do anything on it own! Well, other than overextending you to Wrath effects! Is this the card you will build all your decks around this week?!

Ah my inner-me, once again you're overreacting. First of all, I only said that I will be building Zombie decks and said that the inspiration came with Endless Ranks of the Dead. But yes, I will use it in my decks because it's an interesting card that may be useful in the right deck.

Endless Ranks of the Dead
A poor man's Bitterblossom!

So... shall we start?


DECK #1 & DECK #2 & DECK #3
Casual Zombies

So let's take a look at what we can do with this tribe in the Casual Room. Zombies in Standard are heavily Black but Innistrad also introduced Blue Zombies as well. And then there is also Glissa, the Traitor who may be a good reason to splash some Green and artifacts.

So I went over the possibilities carefully dear readers and at the end I decided to build three casual Zombie decks. And the first one I'm going to show you now is a mono Black one. I realized that Black Zombies had everything I needed; targeted removal, non-targeted removal, mass removal, card drawing, token producers, a lord to pump them and finally a big and fearsome finisher.

Cemetery Reaper Moan of the Unhallowed Call to the Grave
The lord. The army. The removal.

And now, The Deck:

They... just... keep... coming!!
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
4 Cemetery Reaper
4 Skinrender
2 Unbreathing Horde
2 Ghoulraiser
2 Geth, Lord of the Vault
14 cards

Other Spells
4 Moan of the Unhallowed
3 Ratchet Bomb
3 Call to the Grave
2 Altar's Reap
2 Doom Blade
2 Go for the Throat
2 Dismember
2 Endless Ranks of the Dead
1 Victim of Night
21 cards
2 Buried Ruin
23 Swamp
25 cards

Unbreathing Horde


As you can see, my deck is actually a slow-ish midrange deck. And that's also the reason why I have lots of removal in it. Most of the time I spend early turns playing my lands and killing things. Then slowly I start building my army with mainly Moan of the Unhallowed; it is as you know four tokens build into one card which helps me greatly both in offense and in defense.

Endless Ranks of the Dead as you see, fits perfectly into this deck and acts as a slow Bitterblossom variant. One other important card in this deck is Call to the Grave. I already kill everything I can with my removal spells, but sometimes there are things that I cannot target with them. And in those situations, Call to the Grave becomes my savior.

One final card I'm going to mention is Ratchet Bomb. During testing I was always facing cards like Mimic Vat, planeswalkers, hexproof creatures, Mirran Crusaders and many other nasty cards. And my mono Black deck was simply helpless against them. So I added Ratchet Bomb and I feel much better now.

And here are a few screenshots showing you the deck in action:

Endless Ranks of the Dead, Call to the Grave and a bunch of Zombies... there isn't much one can do against this menace at this point.
Geth, Lord of the Vault is leading his army of the "walking dead".
They... just... keep... coming!!
Ratchet Bomb... still the worst nightmare of all token decks!

Alright, that was one way to enjoy the walking dead in the Casual Room. And the second one happens to be this:

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Mr. "Grim-Grim" is such a fun card and the best thing about him is that there are many different ways one can use him; and I'm not even talking about the known Necrotic Ooze combo here. He can be used in a  pure Zombies deck that also has Endless Ranks of the Dead in it, or one can use him again in a  tokens deck without playing Zombies only. That second deck would of course like to play cards like Bloodline Keeper, Reassembling Skeleton, Druidic Satchel etc...

Or one can add Green to the deck and try Grimgrin together with Glissa, the Traitor. That deck would play creatures like Perilous Myr for example, to maximize the usage of Glissa. Or he can also be used in Esper colored decks as well. An Esper Control deck that also has Unburial Rites would be a good start. Or a more tokens heavy deck with Midnight Hauntings, Geist-Honored Monks and Moan of the Unhalloweds could be an option as well. 

As you see, there are many equally good and playable ways one can use Grimgrin, Corpse-Born.

But this week I am going to show you only two versions; a Zombies version and a three colored one. As I'm having a Zombies week here on Rogue Play, I would like to start with the tribal version. Here's the deck:

Nom Nom Nom!
A Standard deck by Nafiz Erman
4 Cemetery Reaper
3 Skinrender
3 Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
2 Ghoulraiser
12 cards

Other Spells
4 Moan of the Unhallowed
3 Ratchet Bomb
3 Mana Leak
3 Think Twice
3 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Endless Ranks of the Dead
2 Doom Blade
2 Go for the Throat
2 Mimic Vat
24 cards
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Buried Ruin
10 Swamp
4 Island
24 cards

Moan of the Unhallowed


I like this deck a lot and in the Casual Room it wins almost against anything that isn't Tier-1 (and there are lots of Tier-1 decks around in there!). The strategy by the way must be obvious: Make a few tokens, kill a few things in the meantime, get your Grimgrin, Corpse-Born out and start bashing with him while you continue killing things. Pretty straightforward.

One card I like a lot in this deck is Mimic Vat. Not only it is useful because of the reasons we all know, but it's also great when used with Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. You attack with your token and with Grimgrin, and just before exiling the token you sac it to your Zombie monster and untap him. Excellent!

One final thing I want to say about the above deck is that once again I found myself playing Ratchet Bombs in my Zombies deck. Neither mono Black nor Black/Blue can deal with permanents that aren't creatures, and that fact -obviously- makes Ratchet Bomb one of the most important cards of this deck.

Alright, the second deck I'm going to show you is a non-tribal version. Grimgrin, Corpse-Born is still the center of my deck but this time he has being accompanied by another legendary Zombie; it's Glissa, the Traitor.

Gutter Grime

What I'm going to do with this second deck is actually very similar to what I did with the first one. I'm once again going to sacrifice things to "Grim-Grim" but this time my sacrificial fodders won't be tokens; well at least not mainly. This time I'm also going to use creatures like Perilous Myr (obvious choice with Glissa) and Viridian Emissary.

I'm still going to produce tokens as well but this time I'm not playing token producers like Moan of the Unhallowed or Endless Ranks of the Dead. Instead, I have Mimic Vat (again) and one other very interesting card; I have Gutter Grime in deck this time.

Gutter Grime puts tokens into play each time I sacrifice a nontoken creature. In my case that's a Perilous Myr which I'm going to play again and again thanks to my Glissa. Cool, no?

Glissa, the Traitor

By the way, there are also other ways to untap Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. Sacrificing tokens or nontoken creatures to him is absolutely not the only option. The first way to keep him untapped is to give him vigilance of course. There are ways to do that, such as using Accorder's Shield in the deck, but I will not use any of them in my deck. The other way is to play those so called "untappers". Most of them are weak and non-playable cards, such as Copperhorn Scout or Mirran Spy, but there is one which seems to fit perfectly into this deck.

And that is Deceiver Exarch.

And when we put all those cards in our deck, this is how it looks like:


A few things: Of course I know that Acidic Slime is much better than Sylvok Replica, especially in a deck that uses Mimic Vat, but Sylvok Replica has synergy with Glissa and that's the reason why I'm using it. And the reason I chose Tezzeret's Gambit over Think Twice is mainly Grimgrin but it's also Gutter Grime.

Forbidden Alchemy is another important card in this deck as it allows me to dig four cards deeper into my library.

The deck may look a bit removal-light at first to you dear readers but that's not true. Perilous Myr is removal. My superstar Grimgrin is removal. And then I also have the "basic removal package" in the deck and most of the time Mimic Vat also helps me keep monsters away from me.

So... so far we've seen three decks; one tribal Zombies deck that unleashes armies of walking corpses onto the battlefield, then we saw another Zombies deck which I built around Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and finally we saw yet another Zombies centric deck which was using both Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and Glissa, the Traitor in its core.

Now it's time to make those decks better. Now it's time for...


DECK #4 & DECK#5
Semi Competitive Zombies


So you're someone who likes to play at your local shop's FNM tournaments once in a while. You like Magic but sadly you're a student so your budget is limited. You played mono Red for a while (because it was the cheapest deck to build) and had fun and won more than you lost. But in time that deck got boring and nowadays you're after something new and fresh. Which of course should be within your budget limits.

If that's the case, then you're at the right place! Now I'll show you how you can compete at your local FNM tournament with a bunch of walking corpses! I'll add only two powerful cards to my casual decks above and you'll be ready to rock at your next local tournament!

So let's start with the first mono Black Zombies deck. It was tons of fun in the Casual Room but sadly that deck won't be enough to win you packs at your local shop. But things will most definitely change after we add this monster you see on the right to the deck.

Grave Titan itself is not a Zombie, you know.

Of course I know that my inner-me. But luckily for us there are still things we can do to turn Grave Titan into a Zombie.

Such as?

Why, such as Nim Deathmantle of course!

Turning Grave Titan into a Zombie is important because we will continue playing our Call to the Grave. Even though the local shop's meta isn't the same as a Pro Tour, people still do play cards like Geist of Saint Traft and Mirran Crusader and whatnot. We cannot deal with them unless we play non-targeted removal. And instead of trying cards like Tribute to Hunger and Geth's Verdict, we will continue playing our "beloved" Call to the Grave.

And the second expensive card we will add to our deck is Black Sun's Zenith (the first one was Grave Titan in case it wasn't clear). But will not be needing it in our main deck. Black Sun's Zenith will stay in our sideboard and will come in against Aggro decks.

So, let's take a look at our semi competitive Zombies deck now and then we'll continue talking about it:


As you can see, I added Adaptive Automaton to the deck as well. Cemetery Reaper is nice but why not have a second lord? Then I also added one Gravedigger in case I cannot use my "Nim Deathmantle trick" on my Grave Titan. I still have the basic core of the casual version, but had to cut a few cards and change a few numbers to fit in my Grave Titans, Adaptive Automatons and Nim Deathmantles.

And let's say you want to try this deck but want to do some "modifications" first. That's fine and you're of course free to do whatever changes you would want, but no matter what changes you do, do not touch Ratchet Bomb!! That card is the most important part of this deck. I seriously don't know how a mono Black deck would survive without it in today's Standard meta.

And let's see this deck in action:

Human brains are preferred, but Werewolves will also do just fine.
That's one huge Lumberknot there, but do I look like I care?!
Endless Ranks of the Dead... Literally!

So yes, the deck is still tons of fun but it also became much more powerful after the changes.

And now it's time for Mr. Grimgrin. Above in the first section I showed you two versions; one was Blue/Black and one was a tricolored deck. I will now continue upgrading the tricolored one, but will not continue working on the Blue/Black version.

But why?!

Because that tricolored one is much more fun my inner-me and because I want so! And hey; who's writing these articles?! You or me?! Geez...

Anyway, as I said I really did like the tricolored version during testing dear readers, and decided to concentrate on that one. The other version was also "cute", but after playing Glissa together with Grimgrin, that other Dimir version always felt like it was lacking something. And that's the reason why I will not continue working on it.

Anyway, here's the deck I'm talking about that is so much fun to play:


As a tradition, I only added two expensive cards to the first casual version and they are Grave Titan and Solemn Simulacrum. And with their help, the deck became something extraordinary!

So the basic plan is still the same but I'm just executing it with better cards now. I'm fixing my mana during early game, remove unwanted guests, counter a few spells, draw some cards, tutor for my missing pieces with Forbidden Alchemy and then the fun starts! 

And a few words about the sideboard: I do very much like it to be honest. Surely there are many powerful cards I could have used but sadly I have a rule here at the semi competitive section and therefore cannot add more than two expensive cards to the deck. I know that Black Sun's Zenith would be a perfect addition to the sideboard but sadly my budget at this section doesn't allow me to do so.

Anyway, I hope you liked the semi competitive tricolored version. And now let's take a look how we can make those two decks (the Zombies tribal one and the tricolored Grimgrin decks) even better than they are now.


DECK #6 & DECK #7 & DECK #8
Competitive Zombies

Let's face it: There is no way a mono Black Zombies tribal deck can be competitive ("competitive" as in Daily Events worthy). One cannot pack some Cemetery Reapers and Doom Blades and expect to go 4-0 in the next Daily Event. So we must really do something extraordinary here to be able to come up with a deck that has a very good chance against Tier-1,5 and Tier-2 decks, and that can at least put up a good fight against the big boys.

And to be able to achieve that goal dear readers, we must really work hard. And we must also come up with some "radical solutions".

I spoke above as "we" but thankfully there is nothing you must do dear readers; because I already worked hard and built not one but two really good Zombie decks. And yes, they both have radical solutions in them.

Here's the first one:


The first radical solution I found is, as you see, adding Blue to the deck. The deck automatically became much stronger by just adding counterspells and card drawing to it. But that is of course not the only addition I made. I also added a couple of Shapeshifters to the deck. And my goal is to turn the deck into an all-lords deck with those shapeshifters. 

So I now have Cemetery Reaper, Adaptive Automaton and Phyrexian Metamorph acting as my Zombie lords. Even Evil Twin acts as one (when he copies a Cemetery Reaper). Then I play one simple Skinrender who kills something upon entering the battlefield but that "simple" Skinrender comes into play as a 5/5 or even 6/6 sometimes.

And I don't think that I have to tell you how insane it is to make 6/6 tokens with Grave Titan!

The rest of the deck must be clear. So basically I play "protective stuff" early turns, then start bringing in my Zombie lords, resurrect the fallen ones with Gravedigger and bring them in again, and then most of the time seal the deal with a Grave Titan.

Alright that was one of those radical solutions I found. And if you think that it wasn't that radical, just wait until you see the next one. Because the next one is the definition of radical.

Check it out and be ready to say "Wow":


I guess instead of "Wow", you just said "Huh?". That's okay and I knew that you'd say that. But in order to understand this "interesting pile of cards" please watch the video below. I explain everything there. And hey! If you don't watch it you cannot understand the deck! So go on and watch it please.

Okay, for those who cannot watch the video somehow, here's a quick explanation: My win condition above is Zombie Infestation. And to "feed" it with cards, I use Blue Sun's Zenith and Consecrated Sphinx. And to be able to cast big Blue Sun's Zeniths (so that I draw lots of cards), I play those mana ramping spells; meaning Solemn Simulacrum, Sphere of the Suns and Mycosynth Wellspring.

For the rest of the deck and for the details of how I'm executing that plan, you really should watch the video. There I also explain what I'm doing with that Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in the sideboard.

Alright, those two were my "shot" at making Zombies as competitive as possible. Now I'll concentrate on the Grimgrin, Corpse-Born deck. And as I did with the above Zombie Infestation deck, I'll now show you the deck directly without telling you things before, and then show you two videos.

First the deck:


And now please watch the below video in which I explain the deck in full detail. I also show you one nice game after that.

And now here's another video which will show you the deck in action once again. This time I'm facing a more serious opponent. 

I hope you liked it.



Okay dear readers, one other Rogue Play is about to end, and I really do hope that you liked what I did with Zombies. As I said a couple of times in the article, there are many other different possibilities one can do with them. I just chose the ones I used in this article. I mean, there are at least six other decks one can build even with Grimgrin, Corpse-Born alone. I just hope that you liked my decks and the way I upgraded them from pure casual to cutthroat competitive.

And as (almost) always, before I say goodbye I have one final thing to say, which is...


Rule #52: If you can't beat it, it's a netdeck 
Rule #53: Trash-talk wins games

The Casual Room is a hilarious place and it's really full of interesting people. There are many nice and friendly budget players, Johnnies with their interesting decks, Timmies with their huge monsters, Spike wannabes with their "tight" decks, but there are also lots of -sorry for saying that- jerks in there.

I really don't mind people who play Tier-1 decks in the Casual Room. I don't, I swear! So they don't belong to that "jerks category". My motto has always been "play what you will, concede when you will". So when I see something that disturbs me, I simply concede and move on. But there is one group of players in the Casual Room I really cannot stand, and they are the whiners.

No comment.

So just because I countered that Sever the Bloodline, I am being accused of being a netdecker. And as you can see, I'm beating my opponent with my Endless Ranks of the Dead!!!

There are many players such as that in the Casual Room and the one thing they have in common is their love for trash-talk. 

"You only win because I drew nothing but lands."
"Do you know how lucky you are?"
"Just two lands, so enjoy your free win."
"Must feel good to have mana."
"I wish I can topdeck like that."
"Of course! Lucky topdecker."
"Boooooring." (this came from a player who played three Dissipates and three Mana Leaks all in a row and stalled the game to death)

And similar other things.

Back in October there was one article over at Channelfireball written by Matt Laidely. Here's the link if you have time. Please read it. It's a perfect article about whining and whiners. If you're one of those players, that article may help you "cure that disease". But whatever you do, please do not trash-talk while playing! That isn't helping. Neither yourself nor your opponent. Thank you.


From Casual Room to FNM, Part V

Next week in the fifth installment, I will finally visit the Mountains and see what I can do with Red mana. And no, none of my decks in next week's article are mindless Aggro decks. Fire can be surprisingly sophisticated and unexpectedly complicated, if you only know how to command it.

So thanks for reading and we'll see us next week. Oh and don't forget to wear fireproof clothing next week! You'll need it. Trust me.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman


walking ded by BOBBAKAKE at Tue, 12/13/2011 - 03:43
BOBBAKAKE's picture

ok ur alive after the death thing. great now draft the ISD so i can do the my thing and calculate,
its hard somtimes but i got what it takes!
gimmie ISD! DRAFT isd!
gimmie gimmie gimmie

Very nice article, I'm a huge by Sheppy at Tue, 12/13/2011 - 09:50
Sheppy's picture

Very nice article, I'm a huge fan of Zombies and enjoyed the variations you presented. I have submitted an article around Zombies, hope it makes it through. I agree with you 100% on the Casual Room people. Most are nice but there are those.... I do the same thing, concede, block if warranted and move on.

Keep them coming and maybe I'll catch you on MTGO one of these nights.

Dan, aka Wovoka.

As far as ebh goes, I'm so by ScionOfJustice at Tue, 12/13/2011 - 10:28
ScionOfJustice's picture

As far as ebh goes, I'm so sick of all the sore losers there are on mtgo. All they have to do is "gg" and that's it, but no, some people think they have to win and when they don't there is a problem with their opponent because the problem couldn't be with them. So many sore losers, they also happen to be the bad players.

To be fair, it was your own by Westane at Tue, 12/13/2011 - 14:45
Westane's picture

To be fair, it was your own fault for bring in that all-mythics (14!!!!!) Grimgrin Mimic Vat broken combo deck that's been winning all those SCG Opens to the Casual Room.

I mean really, what were you thinking?

Nice article - thanks for by country hillbilly at Tue, 12/13/2011 - 19:04
country hillbilly's picture

Nice article - thanks for that.

RE: Trash talking - there is some sort of this preconceived notion that if you say anything that could be taken as trash talking the person is just a worthless worm. I will admit there is nothing that gets my juices flowing like someone who wants to talk trash. As long as it doesn't devolve into name calling and whining I think it is fair game. I also must admit all the whining ABOUT trash talking (not in your article - just in general) is as hypocritical as the people citing trash talking in the first place! I don't want to hear about the crying just sack up and deal with it....

If I didn't talk a little trash I would be a different guy, and that just ain't happenin'.

P.S. - I like the grimgrin deck :D



This is what BoaB should be today by mrpiddlex at Tue, 12/13/2011 - 21:24
mrpiddlex's picture

I just started an account to tell you how great it's been to read your articles for the past few weeks. I have been completely re-energized to play again and am not so bitter about not being able to afford mythics and not being able to compete as a poor student on a budget. I really just wanted to thank you for doing a much, much better job at building on a budget for a casual crowd than the current mothership series. I feel like I can play with fun cards and improve over time to make the competitive decks or even just the semi-competitive ones. I haven't been able to find a competitive home for my glissas since basalisk collar rotated out of standard and I couldn't have instant kills with mortarpod/perilous myr/viridian emissary! Thank you very much and please never give up this casual deck style!

Also, it helps a lot that you also share my love for the spine of ish sah/sac effects combo!

1:18 PM ApolloGod: rules of by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 21:45
ShardFenix's picture

1:18 PM ApolloGod: rules of mtgo: 1. if you win, you netdecked. 2. if your deck is good, it's cheap. 3. if you have $$$, you're lame. 4. if you play discard/counter/ld/mill you're boring. 5. if you don't let your opp win all the time, you're a jerk

LOL by apaulogy at Wed, 12/28/2011 - 19:33
apaulogy's picture

This is funny

I enjoy your videos much by guidaux at Wed, 12/28/2011 - 17:51
guidaux's picture

I enjoy your videos much better than the game images. That Grimgrin deck looks really fun and hope you show more games with it.