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Posts Tagged ‘Tidehollow Sculler’

It looks as though the printing of Cemetery Reaper in the upcoming M10 core set has got some people thinking a Zombie deck might, uh, rise in the standard ranks. Some of these ideas can be found at the Starcity Games forums here. I have been thinking about Zombies for a while too, and when I saw the Reaper I also started to think of the synergy between the new “lord” and the the rest of the shambling masses.

However, making a viable rouge deck is pretty tough. I don’t like to play something that has no chance of winning. So, when I sat down and put my Zombie ideas to paper, it became clear, as it always does with sudden ideas, that making a viable zombie deck isn’t as easy as it might seem.

Does this mean it is impossible, though? Maybe.

First, zombies won’t win a battle with any of the other creatures decks in the meta; at least not in a stand-up-fight. Zombies would have to be sneaky, or find a way to deal with monsters bigger than they are.

Second, removal is everwhere. Zombies will bite it to almost every sweeper unless there is something powering them up, and very few of them can survive  spot removal or burn. Zombies would have to be able to weather the storm somehow, or more likely, quickly re-populate the board after a wipe.

Third, the actually good zombies are in every frickin’ color, meaning if I threw them all in, it would be a 5C zombie deck. Not going to happen. I had to look at the spells and zombies in each color and decide which best complimented each other.

Zombies do have a few things going for them.  Surpisingly, there are quite a few good zombie cards out there. Secondly, if constructed  and played right, a Zombie deck can be quite resilient. The zombie “lords” also play very well together. Finally, some very nice spells are avaliable for all zombie color choices.   

So I looked at the zombies and looked at the different combinations. I also had to figure out how zombies could win in this unstable meta. I assumed Mono-White, Mono-Red, Jund, 5CB, Elves, Faeries and Fog decks will be popular.

Here are some preliminary ideas I came up with:

Jund Zombies by Colin Merry

Creatures
4 Grixis Grimblade
4 Putrid Leech
4 Death Baron
4 Cemetery Reaper
4 Shambling Corpse
4 Chameleon Colossus

Spells
3 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Blightning
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Thoughtseize

Land (tentative)
4 Savage Land
4 Reflecting Pool
2 Graven Carins
2 Twilight Mire
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Swamp
2 Mountain
2 Forest

Sideboard (tentative)
2 Thoughtseize
3 Thought Hemorrhage
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
2 Banefire
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 More things

The straight-forward Zombie beatdown deck. I had to cheat and put Chameleon Colossus in there, but the deck runs green and he is amazing.  The removal, Lightning Bolt especially, helps with the early threats or the creatures that will be a problem later (ie. Figure of Destiny, other “lords”) and should buy the deck some time to establish itself. Thoughtseize and Malestrom pulse will have to deal with power-boosting enchantments and planeswalkers. The direct damage aspect of Blightning and L-Bolt should help deal with the last few points of damage, should the board stagnate.

I didn’t like Death Baron at first, but he’s the only real way Zombies will be able to deal with the more powerful creatures out there aside from the removal. He might also be good at ending stalemates, as you can continually send in a guy with deathtouch to eliminate a blocker, then make the dead critter rise from the grave for you with the Reaper.

The Jund Zombies could use some fine tuning, but I barely put that one down before another idea, one I was a bit more excited about, came to mind.

Esper Zombies by Colin Merry

Creatures
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Grixis Grimblade*
4 Death Baron
4 Lich Lord of Unx
4 Cemetery Reaper

Spells
4 Thoughtseize
4 Ajani Goldmane
2 Esper Charm
2 Path to Exile
3 Agony Warp
1 Sleep

Land (tentative)
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Fetid Heath
2 Sunken Ruins
2 Swamp
2 Plains
3 Islands

Sideboard
1 Esper Charm
3 Deathmark
1 Path to Exile
2 Reveillark
2 Necromancer’s Covenant
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
3 Zombie Outlander

Esper Zombies operate a bit differently than Jund Zombies. Esper Zombies are all about stealing the opponents early game thunder and then setting up a situation where they can win without attacking. They can also power up much like a token deck, but with the right conditions, you can field and entire army without even playing another card.

Lich Lord of Unx is the centerpiece of this deck. He can make guys without restrictions, for less than the Reaper, and his second ability does quite a bit. It robs the opponent of resources, it makes them lose life in the process and it also feeds Cemetery Reaper. 

Two “lords” and Ajani help give this deck the same advantages of a Mono-White/Token deck, albiet a little slower. The hand disruption and removal is again key to letting Zombies get set up. Esper Charm is there mostly to deal with any power-boosting enchantments that slip through and can provide (dis)card advantage. Sleep is just kinda neat.

VedalkenGhoul

The other Pudrid Leech?

Again, these are just preliminary ideas. I can see lots of other ways Zombies can be built using these colors or other combinations. However, I feel it is not a good idea to try for more than three colors. I’m not even sure how these mana-base options will work.

*A quick note about Grixis Grimblade. I don’t know how much I like this guy, especially since deathtouch isn’t such a great abilty for him. A 3/2 should kill most things his size, and Death Baron helps by giving everybody deathtouch. I don’t wonder if there is a better option, but I’m not sure what. Zombie Outlander could be good if green decks are popular; Elves, Doran, 4/5CB and such. I also think about the Vedalken Ghoul sometimes. A 1/1 for UB sounds like total crap, but his ability is interesting. He might just be able to creep in there and do enough pinpricks to make him worthwhile if the opponent doesn’t want to lose four life on turn 3 or 4.  Like Putrid Leech, people may not want to block him. If he is killed by removal, the opponent had to use a removal on a stupid 1/1 instead of one of your lords. If he gets enough boosts, or deathtouch, he might even be able to kill a blocker and make the opponent lose life.

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Deck Technology

 The standard metagame is somewhat paradoxical at the moment. The format is pretty hostile to creatures, yet creature decks are at the forefront of the pack. Control decks are slipping under the waves of critters too numerous for traditional sweepers. You’re more likely to see three spirit tokens and a Kitchen Finks across the board than an empty crater the turn after you cast Wrath of God. Token decks have plenty of ways to juice up 1/1 tokens in a jiffy, putting them well out of range for Volcanic Fallout or Jund Charm.

 So what to do? Play creatures. Don’t just play any creatures though; the current format is so bloated with removal that only the most efficient creatures are worth your mana. Throwing out a ton of Kithkin just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you’re going to risk paying for something that’s probably going to get terminated, terrored, pulsed, pathed, burnt to a crisp or swept into the graveyard the next turn, it better be worth the tapped lands. It should have an immediate effect on the game, even if it dies. Remember, forcing your opponent to use removal counts. If they don’t have to kill it, or it doesn’t give you some kind of advantage besides having a body on the board, it probably isn’t worth playing.

 Here is a list of some of the most efficient creatures seen in the top standard decks and why they’re there. 

Forgetender

She can do amazing things with a red-hot poker too.

Burrenton Forge-Tender
With all of the red colored sweepers, this hard lady is a necessity if you want to keep your 1/1’s and 2/2’s around long enough for them hit the gym. She can also protect your gourd from various burn and mancers with the first name of Anathe. She’s not too bad at blocking things like Bloodbraid elf or Boggart Ram-Gang either. At one mana, she’s a bargain, and usually quick enough to get in for a few jabs if you draw her early enough.

Figure of Destiny
One of the best guys printed in a while, Figure of Destiny a man for all seasons. He starts out as a 1/1 for one, but he’s also a 2/2 a 4/4 and an 8/8 flying first-striker. It gets costly to pump him up to his full potential but even if he sits as a 2/2 for most of the game the threat is always there. He can also be de-pumped in response to a spell or effect which would take control of him.

 Kitchen Finks
This guy is everywhere, and for a very good reason. He’s the bane of many aggressive decks, not only providing life gain but a sturdy blocker; twice. He’s strong enough to take out a good number of early threats and come back for more. At a reasonable price to boot, this guy is easily one of the most efficient creatures around.   

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