Standard Brew: Zombies


Zombies are one of my all-time favorite tribes in Magic and with Dark Ascension in full swing they currently have a formidable presence in Standard. I’m not convinced that they’re going to be a stand-out competitive force, but I think they have a lot of appeal to the more casual environments, and can still be pretty powerful. The intriguing part of this deck is not so much the Zombies, given that it is a Zombie deck, but rather the inclusion of White. Yes, this is a Zombie deck splashing White.

Before I get to the decklist, I’d like to discuss why I think White serves a solid purpose in this build. There are three things that Black Zombies have trouble with in general in my experience. These are fliers, Artifacts, and Enchantments. Zombies tend to favor a ground-based assault, with only seventeen of two-hundred and sixty eight Zombies printed having flying, and most of those being very conditional flight. See Bladewing’s Thrall or Putrid Imp. As such, having some way to swing in the air, or at least block fliers once you’ve run out of kill spells is going to be key. Delver of Secrets and Inkmoth Nexus are both real threats which must be taken seriously. Enter Lingering Souls. The splash of White gives access to one of my favorite spells in Dark Ascension and, given that we’re already in the Flashback color, it will often be generating four Spirits almost immediately.

When it comes to Artifact and Enchantment removal, Black leaves something to be desired. To deal with Artifacts, Black has historically had to sacrifice creatures a la Gate to Phyrexia and Phyrexian Tribute. Suffice to say this is less than ideal. That’s not to even mention that the current Standard card pool lacks any way to meaningfully interact with Artifacts in Black, and no mono-Black spells have ever actually dealt with Enchantments. White gives access to the catch-all removal Oblivion Ring to deal with pesky Artifacts and Enchantments like Sword of War and Peace and Honor of the Pure, as well as opposing Oblivion Rings. Finally, we have Vault of the Archangel. I’ve been trying to put this to good use since I saw it spoiled, and I think this is a great home for it. Giving your creatures Lifelink can create massive life swings in the late game, and the Deathtouch will make your Spirit tokens something to be reckoned with in the air.

Without further ado, you can check out the decklist here.


Now let’s talk about card choices. The 1-drop slot is pretty straightforward with Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawler filling that out nicely. Most games you’ll have a 2-power creature out on the first turn, which is always nice. Gravecrawler is remarkably resilient in longer games, being castable from the Graveyard as long as you control a Zombie. In the 2-mana slot, we’ve got Highborn Ghoul which shines in most matches due to Intimidate (A creature with intimidate can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.) and helps to round out our creature count. I had originally opted for only Distress and kill spells at 2 mana, but I eventually decided that having more Zombies meant getting more value from Gravecrawler in the late game and running only twelve creatures didn’t seem like it was quite enough. Also, since we’re not likely to be casting kill spells on the second turn, I wanted more action than just the four Highborn Ghouls so I kept two Distress in there. The hand disruption is very handy in almost every matchup, grabbing a counter to make sure you resolve your threats, ramp spells to interrupt their game plan, or creatures in case you have a removal-light hand. Finally for 3-mana threats we’ve got Geralf’s Messenger and Lingering Souls. Messenger is probably my favorite creature in the deck, causing the opponent 2 life loss immediately when he resolves and another 2 the first time he dies. Messengers are particularly nice in the field because they make Slagstorm less desirable to cast, and generally make a poor Vapor Snag target.

I included two Liliana of the Veil for extra removal and hand disruption, since I scaled back from four Distress to only two. If you can discard a Gravecrawler or Lingering Souls to Liliana, you get extra value, plus the low mana curve and inclusion of 24 lands in the deck means you can often discard spare lands in a pinch. If you’re having trouble getting the last couple points of damage through, you can also use Geth’s Verdict or Liliana on yourself to sacrifice a Geralf’s Messenger to finish them off.

As far as utility goes, I’ve got three Oblivion Rings for catch-all removal. As mentioned above, they are strong against opposing Swords, Honor of the Pure, Tempered Steel and so on. Two Geth’s Verdict and three Doom Blade make up our creature control with four Tragic Slips that couple well with any of the kill spells to take out anything in your way. Vault of the Archangel is quasi-removal, due to granting Deathtouch to your creatures, so if you’re not in need of the life swing it can give you on offense, just hold it back for defense to make attacking a poor proposition for your opponent.

Zombies are pretty much wide open right now in Standard, so if this isn’t your cup of tea, you can still find something more suitable to your taste. How about it? Is this to your liking, do you prefer mono-Black Zombies, or would you rather play a Blue/Black build with Diregraf Captain and Cemetery Reaper for buffs?



Q: I have animated an Inkmoth Nexus and cast Travel Preparations, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Inkmoth Nexus, then enchant it with Curiosity. At End of Turn, what happens to the counter and the Enchantment?

A: At the end of the turn, Inkmoth Nexus will stop being a creature. The next time State-Based Actions are checked, the game will see that Curiosity is attached to a non-Creature permanent, something that it cannot legally enchant, and it will be put into its owner’s Graveyard. The +1/+1 counter, however, will remain on the Inkmoth Nexus, but have no effect unless it becomes a creature again, as is the case with Raging Ravine.

704.5n If an Aura is attached to an illegal object or player, or is not attached to an object or player, that Aura is put into its owner’s graveyard.

Any +1/+1 counters put on Raging Ravine remain on it even after it stops being a creature. They’ll have no effect until it becomes a creature again.

Question of the Week
You have eight cards in hand during your opponent’s second Main Phase. At what point during who’s turn do you have to discard down to seven cards?

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