Zombies in M2019 Standard

by Zen Takahashi on 02 July 2018, Monday

Zen Takahashi

 

Zombies in M2019 Standard

Hello everybody!

Core Set 2019 is now entirely spoiled, and I love the look of the set thus far! Core sets have historically been some of my favorite Magic sets, and I love how Core Set 2019 has added new mechanics that we have traditionally not seen in core sets, while still maintaining the "pure" feeling that these sets have always carried. 

While I am eager to draft Core Set 2019, and I will be covering the draft format in the weeks to come, what I am more excited about is the return of Zombies! Mono-Black Zombies from the previous Standard format is my favorite Magic deck ever – even more than Dredge!

It is the deck I have had the most success with in any Standard format, as I played the deck in back-to-back Pro Tours – Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation – the former at which I finished in 27th place after losing the last round playing for 10th place. Also, I also won a Magic Online RPTQ with the deck, which qualified me for Pro Tour Ixalan. 


The key additions from Core Set 2019 are Diregraf Ghoul, Graveyard Marshal, Death Baron, and Liliana, Untouched by Death.

 

Diregraf Ghoul Graveyard Marshal 
Death Baron Liliana, Untouched by Death

 

Conveniently, these cards almost directly replace the main losses from the rotation of Shadows over Innistrad block – which were Cryptbreaker, Relentless DeadDiregraf Colossus and Dark Salvation.

While the latter set of cards are more powerful, the current Standard format is also of a lower power level – as the previous Standard format included Aetherworks Marvel, Temur Energy and Mono Red with Ramunap Ruins. Although I do not expect this Zombies deck to be Tier One like it was in the previous format, I think it is worth exploring as it may be powerful enough to be a key player in Standard.


Going through Gatherer, below are the cards that I believe are options for the archetype.

One Drops:

Stitcher's Supplier 
Diregraf Ghoul 
Dread Wanderer 

Two Drops:
Graveyard Marshal 
Tattered Mummy 
Metallic Mimic
Khenra Eternal 
Wayward Servant (White Splash)
Binding Mummy (White Splash)

Three Drops:
Death Baron 
Lord of the Accursed 
Ammit Eternal 

Four Drops:
Liliana, Untouched by Death 

Five Drops:
Liliana's Mastery 
Liliana, Death's Majesty
The Scarab God (Blue Splash) 

Removal:
Fatal Push
Murder
Vraska's Contempt 
Cast Down 
Thopter Arrest (White Splash)
Ixalan's Binding (White Splash)
Cast Out (White Splash) 

Lands:
Ifnir Deadlands
Scavenger Grounds 
Hostile Dessert 
Aether Hub (Blue/White Splash) 
Unclaimed Territory (Splash for just Zombies)
Fetid Pools (Blue Splash)
Drowned Catacombs (Blue Splash)
Concealed Courtyard (White Splash)
Isolated Chapel (White Splash)



Mono-Black Version

The obvious starting point would be the straight Mono Black version. In the previous Standard format, people did experiment with various versions splashing Blue or White, but ultimately, the straight Mono Black version prevailed over them. Zombies plays out similar to other aggressive tribal decks like Merfolk, so it is vital that you can curve out – and so having a consistent mana base is instrumental. 

 

Mono-Black Zombies (M2019) (Standard (M2019) - Others)

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Standard by

deck download

 

Overall, this Mono Black version looks quite good as it is. I think Liliana's Mastery is the best card in the deck, especially now that you have eight Lords, and playing less than four is a mistake. However, since they are five drops and you no longer have Cryptbreaker to draw you cards, I believe you need to play twenty-five lands to support it.

 

Ifnir Deadlands


I think that is fine though because you also do have access to a playset of Ifnir Deadlands – which is arguably the best of the cycle of uncommon lands from Hour of Devastation. The fact that a single copy can kill Winding Constrictor, or two copies can kill Hazoret the Fervent is quite powerful.


One of the critical issues with the straight Mono Black version though is its lack of good two drops beyond Graveyard Marshal. Metallic Mimic is decent and I did not mind playing it before, but it has gotten considerably worse with the presence of Goblin Chainwhirler.

Ideally, I do not want to play either Tattered Mummy or Khenra Eternal, as they are both close to Grizzly Bears. However, now that you have eight Lords at three mana, I do not think you can afford to only play with four two drops. 




White Splash

 

White-Black Zombies (M2019) (Standard (M2019) - Others)

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Standard by

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The White splash is largely an attempt to try to fix the issue around the lack of good two drops in the Mono-Black version. Splashing White allows you to play Wayward Servant, which is a decent two drop for the deck. Also, White also provides some good sideboard options – notably Ixalan's Binding, which is great against Mono Red and the various B/R Vehicles decks, as well as Invoke the Divine

 

Wayward Servant Ixalan's Binding Invoke the Divine


The White splash does come at a cost though – which is a worse mana base. However, referring to Hall of Famer and Statistician Frank Karsten's article about the number of colored mana sources you need, with thirteen sources of white, the deck should be able to cast Wayward Servant on turn two with about 90% probability. Casting Graveyard Marshal on turn two should also not be an issue, as you need twenty sources of Black to be able to cast it on turn two with about 90% probability, and the list above has twenty-two. 

 

Isolated Chapel Concealed Courtyard


I suspect in gameplay though; the mana base will come across some issues surrounding consistency. You may come across problems around Isolated Chapel coming into play tapped because your draw involves a bunch of non-basic lands, or you need a fifth land to cast Liliana's Mastery but draw Concealed Courtyard.

These aspects are harder to account for and will involve playing a bunch of games to figure out, but as I mentioned previously, curving out is important for this deck, so this mana base has to be reasonably consistent before I will be sold on splashing White. 




Blue Splash

This version is slightly different to the lists before, as it is based much more around graveyard synergies. Between Scrapheap Scrounger, Graveyard Marshal and The Scarab God, you can get a lot of utility out of having a graveyard full of creatures.

 

Stitcher's Supplier


To help supplement this, this version has a higher creature count, as well as the addition of Stitcher's Supplier. While Stitcher's Supplier is vulnerable to Goblin Chainwhirler, in a deck that can utilize having creatures in the graveyard, I believe paying one mana to mill six cards is worth it. Since this version is a lot less aggressive and plays more of a grindy game plan, I cut the Death Barons. 

 

The Scarab God


The addition of The Scarab God helps provide the deck with more flood insurance, as you now actively have things to do with your mana. Its first ability is surprisingly good in this deck as you have a lot of Zombies already. The Blue splash also provides you with Negate in the sideboard, which is a crucial card to have against Control decks. Overall, I suspect this version will be slightly too clunky and will not be as good as the more aggressive versions, but I do believe it has potential and is worth exploring. 

 


I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered the various versions of Zombie decks we may see emerging in Standard thanks to the printing of some powerful cards in Core Set 2019.

As my favorite deck in Magic, I am excited to further explore this archetype, and I hope that a good version of the deck can be made so that I can play it at Nationals next month. Over the coming weeks, I will be covering the Core Set 2019 draft format in detail, as the format will be relevant for some Nationals and Grand Prix happening around the world.


Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter 




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