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By: Westane, Jeff Torres
Oct 27 2011 9:45am
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Oh Hai Thar!

 Hey kids, sorry to disappoint but it looks like I'm back for a while! I've been away from the MTGO scene for a minute but that pungent, decaying scent of a new block constructed format was just too much to resist. Truth be told I've been lurking around online since the end of SOM block but a field of tempered vault skirges was just a little too off putting for me. Oh and this happened...

Yep, my firstborn! Huzzah! Oh, and despite my (typical) facial expression, I'm not angry... just disappointed. I mean, Forests? Really? So, for the last six months this little girl has pretty much been the only entertainment I have time for, and can afford for that matter. If I'd have known babies were so expensive I would have kept the receipt!

 

My wife loves that joke...

Anyway, I've freed up some time and I'm back in the game and I couldn't be happier and I still can't form a proper sentence and that's okay... and stuff. Additionally, I understand that there's a lot of new blood amidst the writers' circle at Pure these days, and I've decided to take advantage of this. See, I realize that, in the past, I've come across as being a bit of an ass. I know how cynical and abrasive I can be, and I know I used to complain all the time. Well no more of that! This year you'll all find a new Jeff, a smarter, kinder Jeff. A... Wait a minute... Am I really STILL using this same crappy old editor for my article? Are these card tags for Innistrad STILL not working? Are you @#$%ing serious!? Can't you just switch over to a simple vBulletin system that will accommodate all the needs of the site only better and be done with it? I mean we could get some really great MTG mods for deck tags and card links and whatnot. I mean seriously! Ugh... What was I talking about? Eh, doesn't matter, moving on!

 


RE: Your Brains

The last time I brought zombies to an event was years ago during Onslaught-Mirrodin Standard. I had a blast cycling Gempalm Polluters and Undead Gladiators until I could drop down my Graveborn Muse and Undead Warchief for the beats. Having Phyrexian Arena legal in the format was pretty awesome, too. The deck would actually perform very well at my local FNM, but it would be the last time I ever gave the tribe any thought.

Fast forward to 2011 and I find myself reading WotC development logs regarding Innistrad. I skim a part where they talk about how they wanted their new run of zombies to act like they do in the movies - a slow moving, unrelenting horde of walking corpses. I smirk a bit a continue reading.

Finally, Innistrad hits the online scene. I make an impulse decision to sell my small Standard collection, and use the return to buy a playset of Innistrad. I already have an idea of what the meta's going to look like in my head. UG Dredge, which more closely resembles UG Madness than any dredge deck, but I digress, UR Burning Vengeance, W/x Humans, and probably RB Vampires and GR Werewolves. As I'm looking through this collection I find myself getting distracted by all the cool zombie cards and decide what the hell, let's build a zombie deck!


Alpha - Hypothetical Thinking

For my first pass at the deck I quite literally just grabbed every black card that didn't look terrible and threw it in the deck. After that I started trimming cards that didn't look synergistic (This included Liliana, more on her later). After I had what looked like a good base, I tweaked a couple numbers to get up to 21 lands. My goal was to keep a low curve so as to efficiently and continuously reanimate my dead undead dudes. I ended up with something like this...

Zombies - v0.1
Lands: 21
21 Swamp

Creatures: 16
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Walking Corpse
4 Ghoul Raiser
4 Unbreathing Horde

Spells: 23
4 Altar's Reap
4 Endless Ranks of the Dead
4 Ghoulcaller's Chant
4 Moan of the Unhallowed
4 Tribute to Hunger
3 Sever the Bloodline
Sideboard: 15
4 Dead Weight
4 Victim of the Night
3 Witchbane Orb
3 Ghost Quarter
1 Sever the Bloodlines

 How's that for a hot mess? The idea was simple enough - establish an army of cheap, expendable, recurring dudes and eventually overwhelm the enemy. I basically wanted to brute force my way through all my opponents' resources and still have a steady stream of gas with which to end the game. In fact, that sounds a lot like how zombie movies work, and indeed that's exactly how the deck played. I was extremely surprised to see my deck succeed! Naturally, there were issues, but I really got the sense that this could work. In regards to the limited testing I was able to do...

UGb Dredge:
As long as I didn't get royally mana screwed UG/x Dredge is probably my best match up, which is great given its probable popularity. The fact is our removal is just too good. Game 1 we have Tribute to Hunger and the amazing Sever the Bloodline as removal. The only really relevant card they have against us is Splinterfright, since we can block Boneyard Wurm all day long, let's just hope they don't reprint Wonder. After sideboarding the match is all about us since Victim of the Night hits all their guys and we pick up a 4th Sever the Bloodline.

Aggro (RW, RB, GW):
The aggro match up is also fairly easy for this build, thanks not only to the removal suite, but also to the endless blockers we can supply. Even with their burn RB Vampires was nothing as I could trade with their creatures all day long, and RW was no different. GW is a somewhat different game, and is the hardest aggro match up to win, but Sever the Bloodlines, Dead Weight and Victim of the Night are real all-stars.

UR Burning Vengeance and Other Control Decks:
This is where things go south. I had the hardest time playing against Dissipate, and UR in particular made all my removal useless. I simply didn't have enough to sideboard in to replace my removal and I paid for it.

The recurring theme in all tests was my mana issues. I would either be stuck on 2-3 lands and have a 4-drop in my hand all game, or be mana flooded and have nothing worthwhile to cast. With this knowledge I moved into revisions.


Beta - OM NOM NOM

Zombies - v0.9
Lands: 23
23 Swamp

Creatures: 17
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Walking Corpse
3 Bloodgift Demon
3 Ghoul Raiser
3 Unbreathing Horde

Spells: 20
3 Altar's Reap
2 Endless Ranks of the Dead
2 Grimoire of the Dead
4 Ghoulcaller's Chant
2 Moan of the Unhallowed
4 Tribute to Hunger
2 Sever the Bloodline
1 Army of the Damned
Sideboard: 15
4 Dead Weight
4 Victim of the Night
2 Witchbane Orb
3 Night Terrors
1 Army of the Damned
1 Sever the Bloodlines

 After some revising I was able to make some great improvements and terrible decisions all at the same time. I wanted to try Grimoire of the Dead after getting stomped by it in the ISD sealed events, and I quickly found that to be a mistake. The Necronomicon is just way too slow, and there were other things I wanted to be doing on that turn. On the other hand, the increased land count and the inclusion of Bloodgift Demon worked wonders. I dropped a few of my numbers in cards I was finding okay, but unimpressive. Moan of the Unhallowed is fine, but slow, and cries in the face of Dissipate. Endless Ranks of the Dead is also fine, but its timing is awkward. Either I play it turn four and some creatures turn five, or the other way around. Simply put, it was rare I ever really got to activate it. Unbreathing Horde got dropped to 3 simply due to the loss of some zombies. Finally, the single Army of the Damned gave me something to do if the game drew too long.

In the sideboard I finally added the three Night Terrors in place of the underwhelming Ghost Quarters. Being able to bring in both the Night Terrors and the Witchbane Orbs against Burning Vengeance makes that match up incredibly winnable for us. Night Terrors in general is good, and the control game has considerably improved. Still, the deck lacked some consistency, and there was no sense playing cards I outright didn't care for, like Grimoire.


Release Candidate - When In Doubt, Throw Money At It!

And that brings me back to Liliana. I had, to this point, been somewhat reluctant to put her in the deck. I didn't feel she really fit here, and that her abilities wouldn't be very relevant. Well, turns out I was quite wrong. Liliana was the final missing piece against the control and midrange match up. Here's my final list, and this is what I plan on running in a daily event.

Zombies - v1.0
Lands: 23
23 Swamp

Creatures: 17
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Walking Corpse
3 Bloodgift Demon
3 Ghoul Raiser
3 Unbreathing Horde

Spells: 20
3 Altar's Reap
3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Ghoulcaller's Chant
2 Moan of the Unhallowed
4 Tribute to Hunger
2 Sever the Bloodline
1 Army of the Damned
Sideboard: 15
4 Dead Weight
4 Victim of the Night
2 Witchbane Orb
3 Night Terrors
1 Army of the Damned
1 Sever the Bloodlines

The sideboard stayed intact, but I removed the Endless Ranks entirely. I still get a little sick when I see Walking Corpse in my 75, but I really want to stick with the recursion theme, which is why there's not a better 2-drop in that slot. This deck has proven to be surprisingly resilient to the current run of decks, and I'm excited to give it a true field test.

When it comes down to it I think this really is a meta call, even though there is no meta. That said I'll be pleasantly amused if Zombies.dek ends up being a real contender. I'll be back next week with a full tournament report and let you know!

Good to be home...

-Jeff Torres

8 Comments

Hey Wes wb and cute baby pic. by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 12:17
Paul Leicht's picture
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Hey Wes wb and cute baby pic. :D She's casting Tarmogoyf right?

Thanks! Truth be told it was by Westane at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 15:16
Westane's picture

Thanks! Truth be told it was Wild Mongrel, which is better for nostalgia's sake anyway.

Nice one. The baby is by ricklongo at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 15:14
ricklongo's picture

Nice one. The baby is adorable, and I appreciate block strategy.

I hope block dailies start soon, I have so many ideas to test.

Next Wednesday as I by Westane at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 15:15
Westane's picture

Next Wednesday as I understand it, and thanks for the comment :)

Good stuff, and welcome back! by Leviathan at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 18:26
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5

Good stuff, and welcome back! The kid is cute, but wait until she turns 2...

WB by Lythand at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 22:09
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5

Welcome back Brother. Odd, I was just thinking about you last night and wondering what happened to you..

First of all, welcome back by Lord Erman at Fri, 10/28/2011 - 01:37
Lord Erman's picture
5

First of all, welcome back Jeff. I truly missed this humorous writing and it's good to have it back.

Second of all, a huge, Huge, HUGE and H-U-G-E +1 to that rant about Puremtgo.

About the deck: I'm also toying with a mono Black deck these days but mine isn't a Zombies tribal like yours but it's a bit more Control-ish one with Bloodgift Demon, Liliana, Reaper from the Abyss and tons of removal. One creature I find very interesting in that deck is Typhoid Rats. That rat is so cheap but it can kill even the mightiest of Werewolves... until it eats a removal and dies of course. Which is also fine because now your opponent wasted a precious removal on your 1/1 creature!

Your Zombies do look good as well and it's also good to hear that "things go south" when you come accross Dissipates because I'm also tapping Islands and casting Dissipates in Block these days. It's good to hear that I have a good match up against Zombies by default.

Finally, your final version of the deck has 58 cards.

And welcome back!

LE

PS: Oh and give that lovely girl of yours a few Islands and some Counterspells and Rewinds and Hinders. If she's anything like her father, then she will love them more than she loves those Forests (Forests?!! Really?! I'm very disappointed!).

Thanks guys, I missed all by Westane at Fri, 10/28/2011 - 12:16
Westane's picture

Thanks guys, I missed all y'all too.

Thanks for the +1. I hope it's well established that I love the hell out of this site, but I think an update could go a looooooong way, and vBulletin is just so easy to support.

I keep considering dropping the tribe and going a more MBC route with Bloodline Keepers and whatnot, but I'm committed to seeing this strategy through, and am still enjoying success.

Also sorry to burst your bubble but I've since bolstered my defense against the dreaded Dissipate, and it's not the horrible threat it once was.

Finally, yeah, embarrassed about the 58 card list. When I got home I confirmed the missing cards were a single Reaper From the Abyss and a third Moan of the Unhallowed.

PS: That picture was taken by my wife piloting my UW control deck, and the kiddo's sitting at a UG Madness deck. She's actually got a tiny tiny fist full of Deep Analysis, Aquamoeba, Circular Logic and Frantic Search... But I guess even babies get mana screwed...