Friday 24 November 2017
Most of the colours now offer something to the zombie archetype, be that some spicy zombies, some good discard outlets, that sort of thing. Unlike vampires however the zombies can easily keep it all in house. Staying mono reduces your options but it greatly increases your consistency and any fighting you might have to do over fixing. Zombies has all the tools it needs in sufficient number to stay mono. The thing it lacks most is a nice deep pool of two drops. The black two mana zombies mostly suck while the white and green two drop zombies are pretty decent. I found some unlikely cards to fill in at the two slot and as such had some good success with a non-bidding mono black zombies list. It is the closest any zombie deck has felt to anything like a tier one deck. It felt like it had the ability to compete in any kind of matchup with basically none of the free wins and auto losses it used to suffer with (yes, not all consider free wins to be a suffering! Still won't be fun for some people and isn't great for loads of other reasons). This new build of zombies felt like it could play a good range of strategies well. It could race well, it could go wide, it could grind out value and go long, it could go big, it could go through, it was just a capable deck. It actually felt like it had depth and power in the way a goblin deck does!
Lord of the Undead
Lord of the Accursed
Curse of Disturbance
Grey Merchant of Asphodel
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
So what is it about Butcher Ghoul and Sultai Emissary that, despite sucking themselves, stop the deck from sucking so much? This deck is chock full of lords and synergy. The individual card power level is less important when you have all that and so these are pretty much two cards in one. You just have a lot more staying power on the board against removal or aggression which empowers your synergies more quickly. A 2 mana 1/1 isn't exciting but when it holds off their 2/1 or wastes their turn as they are not going to Terminate it and then suddenly grows or taps to draw cards then it is all good. The Ghoul is better as both halves are zombies. The Emissary can find zombies but you have to pay extra mana to flip them and you lose the EtB effect of them as well which greatly reduces the value of a couple of the more top end ones. Both were depressingly good in all the matchups I played them in. Depressing because Young Wolf is barely playable and Ghoul is half as good...
The two best cards in the deck are the utility one drops; Carrion Feeder and Cryptbreaker. Both have a surprising amount of effect on the game. Feeder can one shot people with Plague Belcher, it can negate removal effects, it can upgrade the undying style dorks or just grow very out of hand with a Gravecrawler and win on its own. The Cryptbreaker on the other hand provides quick and reliable card draw as well as getting free value with certain from the bin cards or dud draws.
Zombies have never been short of lords but the newest addition is the best of them in a tempo sense. Mostly this is down to having 3 toughness rather than two making it that little bit safer and more able to get involed in combat. More lords is only good when you have lots of good cards to empower them with. This list has all the 3 drop lords (except Zombie Master as he doesn't pump stats and thus doesn't really feel like a lord). There are more in the way of four drop lords but it is all a bit too much at that point. Warchief is just a bit of an Overrun, two lords in one and remains the best of the four drop options for most occasions, even if not using the cost reduction to good effect. A couple of cards, including the Warchief made me want to include more burst mana like Dark Ritual so as to power them out and make better use of things like the cost reduction.
Other new things enhancing zombies effectiveness include the decently powered one drop Dread Wanderer and the lesser known Curse of Disturbance. The latter is really good with the recursive dorks, be that Butcher Ghoul style or Gravecrawler. It just makes it very painless to get a free 2/2 every turn. While not the quickest of cards the Curse does grind people down pretty well and greatly helps empower the lords.
Arguel's Blood Fast was great, as it has been in most places. That being said, a Skullclamp would probably be better. As that point you probably want a Bloodghast to go with it. You don't want too many non-zombie cards in the deck and this eats up a bunch of those slots without providing much disruption. Brutality is hand and creature disruption so is a premium non-zombie card you can run. Liliana is decent at this too but you are not at all short on the three slot. I would prefere targetted hand and dork removal at one or two mana in this list. With a slower Bidding plan Liliana goes up a bit in value, as does the Brutality. Dark Salvation is a bit clunky as removal goes but there are not many good zombies that disrupt beyond Skinrender and so it seems like one of your better removal options.
The rest of the deck somewhat speaks for itself. It is just the highest individual powered zombies left padding out the deck as best it can in the CMC slots available. There are some surprising omissions still which is mostly an indication of the progress made by the tribe. Liliana's Mastery is one such card. It is decent being both a lord effect and a pile of zombie. The problem is it is just a bit too late and expensive. Not for what it does, just in general. Even Grey Merchant is not all that in this list, certainly one of the more cuttable cards. In decks like this five drops want to be devastating or game ending which Mastery is not. Merchant can be but typically is more of a warped Seige Rhino.
Noxious Ghoul + Patriarch's Bidding + Zombie Infestation and other potential discard outlets/tutors.
Mogis Marauder also feels like he is an honorary zombie in some of the more aggressive lists. He is a surprisingly good push through card. The haste and the intimidate give extra reach and burst which the colour typically lacks. Grey Merchant and Plague Belcher only really get their slots in this list because of the reach they offer.