Sunday 28 July 2019

Desecrated Tomb Zombies .dec

Desecrated TombI set out to build a deck based around Desecrated Tomb but instead wound up doing a refined version of my undergrowth dredge build as found here;

This build and article predates the Mythic Championship IV and Modern Horizons by a long time, I built this deck around the start of the year and just had too much reviewing going on to get round to posting it. With Hogaak now on the scene the greater community has mapped this archetype out rather better and I will be posting some Jund and Sultai Hogaak builds soon that are less of a gimmick than this list and less of a wishful mess than the four colour undergrowth deck. Given how powerful these silly unrefined lists have been in cube I suspect the sensible three colour builds to be brutal top tier affairs. Now, back to this list.

Stitcher's SupplierNot only is this a graveyard based deck but this also has a tribal theme of zombies as teh title may have hinted at. Excitingly the tribal thing arose naturally rather than being forced. It just so happened that a lot of the cards I wanted to use in my Desecrated Tomb deck were already zombies and so it was free synergy if I wanted to build upon that angle. Historically most zombie decks have felt forced and clunky. There are so many zombies on offer it feels criminal playing non-zombies in a tribal deck when you set out to build a zombie deck. This being a Desecrated Tomb deck freed me from the strict allegiance to exclusively zombie typed creatures! As such the end result felt a lot more streamlined and purposeful.

It even looked sufficiently good on paper that I felt I didn't need to go nuts empowering the namesake of the deck. I had planned on ramming in Tutors and recursion for it so as to get my payoff but the deck had so much else going on with the synergies that it seemed best to just have it be good when I draw it and leave it at that. I certainly milled Desecrated Tomb myself more than I cast it but it was also absolutely outstanding when I did play it. Sai, Master Thopterist has proven that three mana cards that generate 1/1 fliers are pretty darn good. Desecrated Tomb has some significant perks over Sai as well. Not being a creature makes it harder to deal with once in play. Not needing to play cards also makes it much easier to fuel the Tomb.

GravecrawlerEasier is a risky word to use and should probably have been "more efficient". Drawing cards so as to be able to play out cheap artifacts for Sai to trigger is relatively expensive business. In most cases, even a lot of the more combo orientated ones you don't expect to go that nuts on making tokens. Tomb however just needs things leaving the bin. It is a lot cheaper to mill yourself than it is to draw cards. There are also plenty of great payoffs on the back of cheap ways to remove dorks from the bin. Gravecrawler plus another zombie and a Phyrexian Altar for example is infinite bats! I didn't even bother with the Altar as the deck is more aggressive than combo. Just using any old sac outlet and being able to pay a black mana for a bat on repeat is going to win most games pretty easily. Back to the point, which is that while you need to go through a couple more hoops to get returns on Tomb when compared to Sai, the returns for doing so are more rapid and abundant and will close out a game that much more reliably.

Overall this deck is very tricksy. It fronts like a typical black aggressive deck but then quickly turns into going nutty and killing like a hardened scales deck out of nowhere or it turns into a grindfest fighting it out over value and efficiency. This latter plan also typically ends up in the favour of this deck unless it is facing disruption. That, like so many synergy decks in 40 card builds, is the main issue this list has. It is disruption light and vulnerable to disruption as well. The deck is incredibly option dense for an aggressive deck as it has so much action from the graveyard. Choosing what and if to discard from hand as well affords yet more high relevance option density. For a linear and relatively uninteractive aggro deck this list sure is complicated! If played well however it is impressively strong being able to race very well, do unfair looking things, and duke it out over a long game too.
Graveyard Marshal

25 Spells

Carrion Feeder
Crypt Breaker
Stitcher's Supplier

Deathrite Shaman
Putrid Imp
Dread Wanderer

Plague BelcherPriest of Forgotten Gods
Nether Traitor
Graveyard Marshal

Satyr Wayfinder
Lotleth Troll
Grapple with the Past
Grisley Salvage

Collective Brutality

Desecrated Tomb
Lord of the Undead
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Plague Belcher

Liliana, Untouched by Death
Crypt of Agadeem
Scourge of Nel Toth
Gurmag Angler

15 Lands

Volrath's Stronghold
Phyrexian Tower
Crypt of Agadeem
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Basics and Duals

Grisly Salvage
The list is far from refined despite feeling streamlined to play. I have only done things close to it a handful of times and so I am light on experience to draw on. To get a list like this looking good you not only need to work out what the best cards are but you also have to work out the ideal ratios of things like self mill, discard outlets, sac outlets, etc in addition to all the usual things like curve, threats, disruption, mana etc. All told I expect this list can be improved upon more than most I put up. I know that the self mill element is near impossible to get right as things currently stand. While there are great tools to do this very few of these tools are high tempo cards. If you could play 3 or 4 Stitcher's Supplier then that would be problem solved. As it stands you have to play cards like Grisly Salvage in your aggro deck. While they do wonders for your consistency they do undermine the aggression a little. I have tried to go a little leaner on the self mill for this reason and attempted to make up for this with more discard effects. This is rather more draining on resources and leads to you leaning a bit more on your card draw tools. With there being so much value potential in the graveyard recursion cards you don't really feel like you need much card draw either. All one big juggling act. Really the deck just wants more playable cheap self mill zombies.

Liliana, Untouched by DeathAs with any synergy deck it is key to keep your concentration of participating cards as high as possible. With lands rarely being a part of such things it is typically hard to get above 50%. This list manages exactly 50% as it is leaning on creatures - the most abundant card type. This greatly increases the value on utility creatures and cards that can perform multiple roles. Skinrender is a relatively poor card by cube standards these days. It is only in this list because it ticks all the support boxes; it is black, it is a zombie, it is a creature, it has a spell effect. I would love to have found room for more such cards, especially ones with hand disruption effects. Sadly there just wasn't the room given all the things this deck is trying to do.

The deck has a lot of generic recursion as well as cards that recur themselves. This combined with the self mill makes you fairly able to find specific cards. As such a single disruptive addition goes a fairly long way. Gurmag Angler is probably the most cuttable card from the deck. You don't want to exile more than one creature at a time with the Tomb but more importantly you don't want to exile that many of your cards. Most have a use and so getting rid of a load is more of a cost than usual. Especailly when the payoff for Angler isn't all that impressive, it is just a 5/5 with no other value. Tarmogoyf probably outperforms it a lot of the time! With that six month delay on releasing this article we also now have Hogaak who is an obvious replacement for Angler, or any of the top end really!

Priest of Forgotten GodsAt the other end of the spectrum we have the standout cards. Priest of Forgotten Gods is certainly one of those. This list has near endless fuel and so Priest feels a lot like it has no cost beyond tapping it. Suffice it to say that it wins games all by itself. It hits your opponent everywhere while powering you up. It is a must kill card. Crypt of Agadeem also shines bright in this deck. It can fairly quickly output a lot of mana and while this deck does have a lot of cheap cards it also has plenty of mana sinks. Two of the other standout cards are ways of putting your free stuff to use. Carrion Feeder, as ever in cube, is one of the best sac outlets. The card gets huge quickly and is one of your most dangerous threats. I won a lot of games with the mana from Crypt making a vast Feeder via a Gravecrawler. Phyrexian Tower also shone as a different kind of sac outlet. It simply allowed for a lot of options and cool plays. When a sac is generally low cost and sometimes a perk the resultant average performance equates to a land that simply taps for BB which is obviously obscenely potent, even if it can't on turn one.

Scourge of Nel TothScourge of Nel Toth is a standout card again as it was in the undergrowth dredge list. It is the original Hogaak and even if it isn't quite as impressive it is still a brutal card in this list. Being a card you can recur from the bin and a sac outlet it has a lot of synergy overlap. On top of that it is a fatty you can cheat the cost on. While this archetype has those in abundance it does not have cheap fatties with evasion built in and that is really what pushes this dragon over the top. It makes it one of the more reliable finishers. It doesn't matter if you mill or discard it like the Tomb nor does it fail against a board stall like the Angler or Molderhulk.

Then there are the standout one drops. Obviously Stitcher's Supplier is the perfect support card we want more of. It isn't exciting but it is a big part of why this kind of thing is even viable. Cryptbreaker is the other big name in the one drops. It is good in zombie decks and it is good in decks that want more discard outlets and so it is already starting from a really good place, not to mention also being a cheap black zombie itself! What really pushes the otherwise good card is that you can do so much in a turn. I was able to use Gravecrawler as part of a "tap 3 zombies to draw a card" more than once in the same turn on multiple occasions. Scourge of Nel Toth didn't need improving but it is still lovely when it comes into play with an extra third of a card! Cryptbreaker is so good it puts a bit of a damper on zombies that come in tapped as per Marshall tokens and Wanderer.

Here is a list of the things I considered playing but didn't wind up in the final list this time around. I will absolutely be revisiting this archetype repeatedly and starting soon. Lots of fun and lots going on with lots still to learn. This was good as a graveyard deck and also the best tribal zombie list I have ever built. Sadly the best version of this deck, while containing plenty of zombies, will not really be any sort of tribal deck. It will rather more obviously resemble the modern incarnations of Hogaak lists as they are at the time of Mythic Championship IV or those just before the banning of Bridge from Below. The only real thing left is to determine for 40 card singleton compared to the more solved modern lists is which cards from outside of modern will be good for the deck and which others from within modern that are not presently played will be needed to fill out the ranks. Also whether red or blue is the preferred third colour although I strongly suspect it is blue with it's superior number of self mill and looting one and two drop dorks.

Relentless Dead

Corpse Churn
Embalmer's Tools
Scavenging Ooze
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, Death's Majesty
Lord of the Accursed
Barrow Ghoul
Zombie Infestation
Heir of Falkenrath
Ashen Ghoul
Barrow GhoulDreg Mangler
Entrails Feaster
Grave Scrabbler
Midnight Reaper
Nantuko Husk / Ghoul
Relentless Dead
Rotting Giant
Rotting Rats
Shambling Shell
Skirk Ridge Exhumer
Undead Gladiator
Spider Spawning
Dread Return

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