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By: gwyned, gwyned
Nov 28 2011 1:31am
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I. Introduction

Welcome back to another special edition of Standard Pauper Deck Tech. It's been several weeks since my last such article, and with the extra time afforded by the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, it seemed the perfect time to create another videocast and article. Although typically the purpose of this series is to highlight the winning decklist from the weekly tournament Monday Pauper Deck Challenge that I host every Monday, today I wanted to take this opportunity to brew something totally new and run it through the rigorous analysis that is necessary for these types of articles. Even in the reduced cardpool that makes up Standard Pauper at the current time, I always believe that there are new competitive decklists just waiting for someone to virtually sleeve up and pilot to success, and I hope that today's entry will be no exception. 

As always, allow me to first remind you that the goal of this series is to highlight relevant information about the Standard Pauper format from the results of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, commonly referred to as MPDC. MPDC is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. You can also check out any of my previous articles by clicking here.

Two weeks ago, I submitted an article examining what I believe is one of the most powerful cards in the current cardpool - Forbidden Alchemy. As I was working on that article, I played with several different builds that sought to take the most advantage of the unique opportunities that card presented. Forbidden Alchemy, as is well known, takes the next four cards from the top of your Library, allows you to draw one, and place the other three into the Graveyard. The closer you can come to be able to interact with any card in your Graveyard, the close Alchemy becomes to drawing you four cards instead of just one. In any case, one build that I tested involved playing as many Zombie cards as possible and thereby allowing the deck to play both Gravedigger and Ghoulraiser. Although I initially discarded that particular strategy in favor of an alternate build, a recent video of a Limited event in which the player attempted to draft the "Zombie-deck" inspired me to return to this build and see if it just might be viable after all. And thus today I present you with A Zombie's Rule.

II. Building a Better Zombie

The obvious big idea of the deck was to maximize the total number of Zombies. Gathering shows that there are currently 13 Zombies in Standard Pauper, including 6 in Innistrad alone. 4 of these are also Infect Creatures, and can immediately be set aside. Of the rest, this deck will clearly revolve around Gravedigger and Ghoulraiser, using this duo to return to hand almost every Creature that finds it way into the Graveyard. Of the others, which are worth playing?

1. Armored Skaab is the first on the list, and in many ways a pivotal card to this deck. Forbidden Alchemy is already dumping a significant number of cards into the Graveyard. Unless one is prepared to make use of most of these, this Skaab could quickly become a liability, flushing away too many valuable cards. On the other hand, his ability to drop an creature into the Graveyard and thus enable a Turn 4 Stitched Drake or Makeshift Mauler is too powerful an effect to be ignored. Furthermore, in a metagame that is increasingly tending towards the aggressive side of the spectrum, the 4 Toughness is also quite significant, especially since it places him just outside of range of Incinerate. On the assumption that both Stitched Drake and Makeshift Mauler make the deck, Armored Skaab's benefits probably outweigh the risks.

2. Speaking of which, next in the list is Makeshift Mauler. On first blush, this seems like an excellent Creature. For the reasonable cost of , plus exiling a Creature from the bin, one gets a 4/5 beater, one that can reasonably expect to slay or at least trade with almost any other Creature in Standard Pauper. There are two issues to consider, however. First, every such Creature exiled is one that cannot be returned with Graveyard recursion. Second, and the more serious concern, is that Makeshift Mauler lacks any additional abilities that would help it punch through to an opponent's Life total. Any other relevant ability, like Trample or First Stike, would make this a valuable addition. As is, I would consider it borderline for inclusion into the deck, although it will certainly shine in certain matchups, especially those where an opponent lacks any relevant way to destroy it.

3. Now this is more like it! For one less mana than the Mauler, our next card for consideration loses a single point in both Power and Toughness, but makes up for it by being evasive. A 3/4 with Flying on Turn 3 or 4 most of the time is simply better than a 4/5 without any relevant abilities, even on Turn 4. And like the Mauler, Stitched Drake has a high enough Toughness to protect it from Incinerate or Brimstone Volley without Morbid. The only other consideration is the potential virtual 2-for-1 if the Drake does get removed before it has a chance to connect with an opponent. While this deck should have little issue dropping Creatures into the Graveyard, exiling those Creatures to no gain is certainly not what one wants to see happen. Given the increased presence of Black in the metagame, this potential loss shouldn't be overlooked. Still, the power level is probably high enough to warrant including it nonetheless.

 4. Of the remaining Zombies, none were really worth playing. Generally speaking, even in Standard Pauper, vanilla Creatures simply are not relevant enough to make the cut. Walking Corpse is probably the best of the four, as a 2/2 for 2 with synergy might actually matter in certain matchups. Nonetheless, the deck will probably have sufficient options on Turn 2 to avoid having to play even the best of what are clearly the dregs of the remaining Zombies in the cardpool.

So with my team of Zombies assembled, let's see who made the final cut!

III. The Decklist

While the decklist began with a full complement of the four best Zombies in the format (Gravedigger, Ghoulraiser, Stitched Drake, and Armored Skaab) as well as two copies of Makeshift Mauler, testing suggested both that the Mauler simply was not good in most matchups and that the Graveyard recursion effects might be too pronounced. As a result, I cut back a single copy of Ghoulraiser and eliminated Makeshift Mauler entirely, leaving the decklist with a very healthy count of 15 Zombies, which is still a significant number. Joining their ranks are Phyrexian Rager, whose card-drawing ability makes him almost an auto-include in any deck running Black, and Perilous Myr, whose ability to come down early and either threaten a 2-for-1 or take out a much larger creature is likewise indispensible, especially given the aggressive nature of the current metagame.

For spells, I first added what I believe is a very helpful mix of Black removal in the form of Doom Blade, Grasp of Darkness, and Geth's Verdict, the last of which gives the deck at least some play Game One against Hexproof. Next, Forbidden Alchemy, Think Twice, and Altar's Reap provide the deck with additional card advantage. Between Alchemy and Armored Skaab, the deck can reliably drop a Creature into the Graveyard by Turn 4, allowing Stitched Drake onto the virtual Battlefield with ease.  A pair of Sylvok Lifestaffs round out the deck, giving the deck needed Lifegain to survive long enough for its card-advantage engine to make a difference.

The Sideboard is targeted against two specific matchups, but includes options that are relevant in a variety of matchups. First, the four extra removal spells allow the deck's removal to be tweaked for maximum effectiveness against certain decks, or simply to supplement the existing options against Creature heavy decks. Second, Disperse, along with the splashed Revoke Existence, give the deck further options against Hexproof, which continues to be a tough matchup. The latter card is also useful against a variety of opponents, and should definitely be considered when facing down the R/W or RDW decks that are so popular in the current metagame. Third, Negate is a nice utility spell primarily good against other Control decks, but once again has applications against almost any opponent. Finally, One-Eyed Scarecrow allows the deck a fighting chance against the Flying WW deck, which in testing proved to be a very difficult matchup.

IV. Playing the Deck

A Zombie's Rule works best against decks that rely upon Creatures to defeat an opponent, backed up by an arsenal of removal spells. Given the amount of Graveyard recursion in the list, almost any time a card ends up in your Graveyard works towards your advantage. Armored Skaab, in addition to fulfilling this role, serves as a solid defender, as its 4 Toughness makes it quite resilient against other Creatures and resistant to many forms of removal. However, when what you need is to place a Creature in the Graveyard as quickly as possible, Forbidden Alchemy is often the better option, since you not only dig one card deeper but also get to keep the best of the lot. But in a pinch, even Altar's Reap can be called upon for this task, since you immediately break even on cards and can gain additional advantage at a later poitn, assuming you can recast the Creature. Obviously, this is particularly good against Pacifism, since your opponent ends up down a card in the exchange.

Similar to some situations in Innistrad Limited, one often needs to carefully select which removal spell to cast in a given situation, anticipating what you might need in future turns. Geth's Verdict is the least flexible, since your opponent gets to make a choice, and at times it can be right to use it earlier than you might otherwise simply to guarantee that the Creature you destroy is worth removing, particularly given the amount of tokens that are now present in the metagame. Perilous Myr, in combination with Altar's Reap, also makes for a potent removal spell, allowing you to remove a key Creature and immediately replace both cards. And if you can get a Sylvok Lifestaff equipped on the Myr prior to its sacrifice, one can assemble quite the combination indeed!

Finally, when faced with the choice between Gravedigger and Ghoulraiser, remember that since the latter only returns a random Zombie, one can shape your Graveyard by playing the Gravedigger first, increasing or even guaranteeing that the card returned is the optimal one. Don't forget either that you can setup a powerful chain of recursion simply by getting one of these on the Battlefield and holding the other in your hand. By waiting to cast the second one until the first one dies, one can trade or even chump opposing Creatures without consequence, knowing that you can immediately return the slain Creature to your hand. Generally speaking, even Nihil Spellbomb is not that strong against this strategy, as the deck has enough ways of refilling the Graveyard that one can simply power through the exiling effect of this artifact. In fact, the general weakness of this Spellbomb in the current metagame is the primary reason why I did not include any copies in the Sideboard.

V. The Match



VI. Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this Standard Pauper Deck Tech on my latest brew. Let me remind you in closing that if you would like a sneak peak at my content before it goes live here at, you can always browse over to, search for "gwyned42," select one of my video-casts, and click the Subscribe button. You can also now follow me on Twitter at the username "gwyned42"; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Let me also extend a special thanks to all my fellow Standard Pauper players who have taken the time to read my thoughts, watch the videos, and comment on my articles. See you next time!

VII. Bonus Content

Why did I name this deck, "A Zombie's Rule"? Initially I simply called it, "Zombies Rule," which seemed to be an apt-enough description. However, as anyone who has a lot of decks saved on Magic Online can attest to, since the client displays those decks in alphabetical order, I got tired of having to scroll down to the bottom to select the deck. So I placed an "A" at the front of the name, merely so that it would appear at the top of the list. But then the moniker "A Zombie's Rule" sounded even better, and thus the name stuck.

What, you were expecting some deep analysis or special trick here? Sorry!


One of the (few) good by JMason at Mon, 11/28/2011 - 10:50
JMason's picture

One of the (few) good features of the client is being able to reverse the sort order by clicking on the deckname column header, so you could have simply brought Zombies rule to the top with one extra click.

mpdc by joekewwl at Mon, 11/28/2011 - 12:20
joekewwl's picture

Nice read!
Keep them coming.

I still find myself by JMason at Mon, 11/28/2011 - 18:19
JMason's picture

I still find myself disagreeing with the same things I didn't like in your last build. I think the grottoes hurt your mana development and are unnecessary in 2 colours. I think you fail to commit to the theme. What it needs is more evasion and more things to do with 1 mana. I believe you need less forbidden alchemy and more ghoulcaller's chant. Delver of Secrets gives you options for evasion and against ww flyers so you avoid bulking out the deck with stuff that's not part of the theme, myrs, scarecrows etc. I think you also underestimate Walking Corpse in this deck to achieve a critical mass of Zombies. The more you try to make this a control deck the less zombies are the right choice, this should curve out as an aggro deck.

I'd love to see a decklist if by gwyned at Mon, 11/28/2011 - 19:57
gwyned's picture

I'd love to see a decklist if you have one. By no means am I claiming that this is the best possible version.