Zombies at Pro Tour Amonkhet

by Lee Shi Tian on 19 May 2017, Friday

Lee Shi Tian

Zombies at Pro Tour Amonkhet

 

Pro Tour Amonkhet is in the books and what a great weekend it was. Multiple copies of Temur Marvelworks and Zombies made the Top 8. As for members of Team MTG Mint Card and Team MTG Bent Card, we put Christian Calcano into his long-awaited and well-deserved Top 8. 7 out of 12 of our team played the exact same Mono Black Zombies list and today I'd like to show you how we arrived at the decision.

 


Anticipating The Metagame

The beginning point of the metagame is simple.

 

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

 

 

Mardu Vehicles was what we considered to be ground zero. It was good the last Standard season and is still one of the best Gideon, Ally of Zendikar decks of the format. Also, as seen from various evolutions, a midrange build of Mardu Vechicle is the best way to handle the mirror match, and it is even better now that Copycats is out of the picture.

 

Thraben Inspector Toolcraft Exemplar


With only 8 one mana threats and only one of them considered aggressive, Mardu was actually built to grind while having the occasional aggressive draw. If the metagame remains the same and contains a lot of Mardu Vehicles, we could maintain this formula to succeed.

 

However, we expected Mardu Vehicles to drop in popularity, which is why we felt that things were slightly different at this Pro Tour. We had multiple teammates adding Blue to Mardu Vehicles but we didn't think that it was going to be a popular modification.

 

Aetherworks Marvel


Having said that, Aetherworks Marvel was the frontrunner on Magic Online and it took down the Magic Online PTQ in the first week. With blue being cut from Mardu Vehicles, the chance of Aetherworks Marvel succeeding is much higher.

 

 

Aetherworks Marvel is still pretty consistent and there are many way to build it, including Bant, Temur and Sultai. And even the Temur variants were separated by the spell-heavy version and the creature-heavy version. Each of them have different characteristics and have a wide range of angles of attack. We figured that Aetherworks Marvel will likely be the most represented deck if we added up all the variants.

 

Relentless Dead Cryptbreaker

 

That brings us to Zombies, which is the king of all creature aggro decks. We had tried out White-Red Humans, Black-Green Aggro but they were all poor when compared to Zombies. They cannot beat Zombies because it was difficult to attack profitably.

 

Zombies is also the best "defending deck" in the format. Creatures either pump each other or return onto the battlefield after they die. Once you preserve your life total and stall up the board, you can set up huge swings and win quickly.

 

The removal spells are also premium and efficient, especially Dark Salvation which is usually a 2-for-1 spell and yet it can still function as a one mana removal spell when you have a few Zombies on the board.

 

Torrential Gearhulk Censor

 

Torrential Gearhulk control decks usually contains a lot of counterspells and answers. Decks with low threat density will find it difficult to beat these blue decks. Censor was such a good addition to this archetype as it can either dig for land drops or solutions, or force opponents to cast their threats off curve.

 

However, the biggest problem is that you cannot have all the answers for various threats, such as Scrapheap ScroungerHeart of Kiran and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and especially not at the same time.

 

This is different from Zombies, who present a narrow range of threats because most of the deck is mostly linear and presents only creatures. Also, Aetherworks Marvel only has a few cards in their deck that truly matter to the control player.

 

Combining all these information, we have a metagame that looks like this:

Mardu > Gearhulk > Marvel > Zombies > Mardu

There was a pont where I struggled to make a choice between Mardu Blue and Zombies. If I played Mardu, I would have a better matchup against Gearhulk and Marvel. However, if I played Zombies, I'll do better against Mardu and the mirror match.

 

I believed that most players at Pro Tour Amonkhet would choose between Mardu or Zombies asa the proactive deck of the tournament. Hence, if Mardu was the most popular choice, it was better for me not to play Mardu, which is why I ended up picking Zombies.

 

 

Mono Black Zombies

 

This was the list I played and it was the exact 75 which Christian Calcano played:



Let me share some notes on our card choices, starting with the creature base.

 

Metallic Mimic Lord of the Accursed Liliana's Mastery

 

The creatuers in the deck are mostly stock choices and pretty standard. CryptbreakerDread Wanderer and Relentless Dead are very aggressive while providing you with lots of resources for the late game. Metallic MimicLord of the Accursed and Liliana's Mastery provide a lot of Anthem effects.

 

Diregraf Colossus

 

However, the card you need to answer immediately is Diregraf Colossus. If you allow us to untap with it, it simply means you're out of removal spells and we will proceed to flood the board with a swarm of Zombies and overrun you really quick.

 

I decided to go down to 2 copies of Liliana's Mastery because I think a deck with 24 lands cannot support five mana cards that well. Mana screw is a real problem for the deck because you need to keep mana open pretty often, especially for cards like Fatal Push and Relentless Dead among others. As long as I have mana, I always feel like I am ahead of the game because we actually have a lot of card advantage from the creatures.

 

Dark Salvation Grasp of Darkness Fatal Push

 

As for the spells, Dark Salvation is one of the most flexible removal spells. It scales well as the game progresses. It generates card advantage. It can be used as a one mana removal spell for tempo. It does everything you need it to do and please make sure you're playing 4 copies.

 

As for Grasp of Darkness, it is well-positioned in the metagame at the moment. It kills Heart of Kiran, Archangel Avacyn, Lord of the Accursed, Diregraf Colossus, Tireless Tracker, Whirler Virtuoso and combined with Fatal Push you should have the kill spells you need to operate.

 

10 removal spells seem like a lot and it could result in you having many dead cards in control matchups. However, you can always cast it on your own Relentless Dead to bring back any Zombie in your graveyard. It occured many times during the Pro Tour when I killed my own Relentless Dead to bring back both itself and Cryptbreaker from the graveyard, or to bring back Lord of the Accursed at the end of my opponent's turn to transform a non-lethal board into a lethal board.

 

Swamp Westvale Abbey

 

The lands are nothing special. There are many Swamps. However, Westvale Abbey is pretty crucial. You can out-grind control decks with it and sometimes you can simply transform it to race your opponent. I actually succeeded in racing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in one game. 

 

 

Signing Off

 

Zen Takahashi is going to be sharing the detailed sideboard plan next week, so I'll leave that up to him. Overall, I was 9-2 after Draft 2 and was hoping to make Top 8 once more. Unfortunately, my good fortune ran dry and I went 2-3 in Standard after a series of mana screw where I was stuck on two lands in five games. Thankfully, I won my last round to finish 21st, which is good enough for 10 Pro Points and locking up Platinum for another season.

 

Overall, the event was a huge success for both Team MTG Mint Card and our playtesting group. We managed to hang on to the Top 4 of the Pro Tour Team Series Leaderboard, which means that Nam Sung Wook is now qualified for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in Kyoto. Thanks for reading and I hope that you like Zombies as much as I do!

 

But for now, I am suffering from serious jetlag and I need to take a quick nap before I head to work. Signing off now!

 

@leearson




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