Friday, March 30, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse

With the influx of quality Zombie cards the current block has given us, along with a cool new Zombie Legend, it’s no surprise that everyone and his mother has some sort of Zombie-tribal list. Fortunately, the tribe has been supported well enough since Magic’s earliest days that the sheer number of Zombie cards is enough to build a dozen decks.

Okay, that might be overstating it a bit, but you get the idea. I’ve seen mono-black decks helmed by Balthor, the Defiled or Geth, Lord of the Vault. I’ve seen U/B builds with Grimgrin, and… well just Grimgrin, and finally there is no shortage of Thraximundar decks with minor zombie themes.

I’m of the opinion that three color decks are usually the way to go, and Grixis happens to be one of the strongest color-trios out there. It also happens to be that Thraximundar is one of my favorite generals of all time, and he’s a Zombie! However, I’m also on a kick right now of trying not to do what everyone else is doing, at least to an extent. While it might not be the slightest bit original to go Zombie tribal right now, I think you’ll see that what I’ve cooked up isn’t entirely without a few original ideas…

Starting with the general, I made the surprising decsision of going with Sedris as my general (I even surprised myself, as I’d pretty much assumed that I’d be using Thrax initially). The primary reason for this was that I wanted to combine the Unearth and Flashback mechanics into one highly synergistic machine of a deck where using every creature and spell twice would provide the back-breaking card advantage that would lead me to victory. That ended up being WAY too much to fit into one deck, and the Unearth creatures out there are almost entirely unplayable in EDH.

So I changed tracks a bit, picked Sedris as my new general, and scrapped most of the Flashback stuff, filling out the deck instead with zombies and zombie-related things. In the end, I was able to keep a few of the original ideas – such as breaking River Kelpie and Flayer of the Hatebound in half by recurring shit tons of creatures. Also, it means I get to play Zombie Apocalypse, one of the coolest cards in this block so far!

Here’s how it all shaped up:


Zombie Lords
Cemetery Reaper
Death Baron
Diregraf Captain
Lord of the Undead
Undead Warchief

Obviously, we want as many Zombie Lords as we can get. I don’t have Zombie Master, the original Lord of the tribe, because I don’t think I even own one, and the lack of the +1/+1 to all Zombies element makes me a little sad. Also missing is Lich Lord of Unx, which I’d like to run because he’s cool, but didn’t because he’s terrible.

Heavy Hitters
Balthor the Defiled
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Havengul Lich
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Sedris, the Traitor King

These Zombies are the nukes of the deck. They are all powerhouse plays with enormous, swingy effects, and these six cards represent the biggest part of why I am so excited to play this deck. Having all six of these badass mofos in one place is pretty damn awesome.

The Undead
Coffin Queen
Corpse Harvester
Deathbringer Thoctar
Fleshbag Marauder
Graveborn Muse
Lightning Reaver
Noxious Ghoul
Unbreathing Horde
Vengeful Dead
Withered Wretch

Behold the shambling hordes of undead. It’s not a long list, I admit, but it’s full of really good cards, and while I’d like to implement a slightly larger Zombie count, this was the best I could do for now. Keep in mind, though, with the Lords and Heavy Hitters (who are all Zombies!) I do have 23 Zombies in the deck, and a few of the non-Zombie creatures in the next section can become Zombies…

The Living
Body Double
Flayer of the Hatebound
Grave Titan
River Kelpie
Solemn Simulacrum

These are the essential non-Zombie creatures I felt I just had to run. As previously mentioned, Flayer and Kelpie are there to make Unearth as busted as possible since the Exile clause makes Unearth itself just a tad weak. Grave Titan is an obvious pick as it shits out Zombies like mad, while Body Double can become a copy of any Zombie in my ‘yard. I really, really want Phyrexian Metamorph in here too, but I had to leave him out to make room for more thematic cards. As always, once cards in the list reveal themselves to be underperformers, I will start adding in these leftovers like the Metamorph.
The Evoke guys are all really good cards on their own, but are even better with Sedris or Mikeaus in play. Synergize! Like a boss!
Sad Robot and Duplicant should require zero explanation.


Apocalyptic Events
Decree of Pain
Living Death
Patriarch's Bidding
Zombie Apocalypse

These are the mass removal and mass reanimation spells, obviously. I also wanted Blasphemous Act in here, as it’s a card I’ve really started to appreciate more and more. It’s almost always a straight up Wrath of God for one single red mana. Alas, the black spells have more flavorful connections, and are slightly less conditional.

Tribal Support
Army of the Damned
Cruel Revival
Door of Destinies
Endless Ranks of the Dead
Ghoulcaller's Chant
Rise from the Grave
Rooftop Storm

Obviously, these all reference Zombies in some way, and are supportive of the tribal theme. Rooftop Storm is another of those cards that just makes me smile. It’s such a cool, flavorful design, and the mechanic is stupid good, too. I’m almost equally as excited to be playing Endless Ranks of the Dead finally. Army of the Damned is probably the worst card in this group, overall, but how can I not play it? Then again, casting it with Vengeful Dead on the board will likely make my opponents think twice about casting a Wrath effect right away…

Cackling Counterpart
Deep Analysis
Demonic Tutor
Profane Command
Rite of Replication
Slave of Bolas
Teferi's Veil
Wheel of Fortune

Boring old good stuff, mostly. Teferi’s Veil is interesting though. It’s one of the very few ways I can cheat around the Unearth exile effect. As long as the Unearthed creature keeps attacking every turn, it’ll always be Phased Out before the Unearth exile effect can find it! Cackling Counterpart has proven to be a strong card in almost any deck, but here I’m most excited about the potential to cast it targeting Vengeful Dead in response to a Wrath effect. Or, alternately, targeting Flayer of the Hatebound with my own Patriarch’s Bidding on the stack.

Of the 30 or so cards that could and probably should be in this group, but isn't here, the one that I want most is Warstorm Surge. Second to that, Grave Pact. If I can find a way to get those in, I'll be very happy.

Nim Deathmantle
Sword of Light and Shadow
Mimic Vat
Sol Ring
Dimir Signet
Izzet Signet
Rakdos Signet
Coalition Relic

Nim Deathmantle is an obvious choise as it is on-theme flavor-wise, and it can turn one of my few non-Zombie creatures into a Zombie! Putting the Deathmantle on a Grave Titan seems pretty sexy. It came down to Sword of Light and Shadow versus Sword of Fire and Ice, and I’m still not sure if I chose correctly, but the recursion aspect plus the more relevant protection colors makes me think I picked the right tool for the job. Ideally, though, I’d run both!
Mimic Vat and Skullclamp should both be eye-rollingly obvious choices, but you can’t deny that they are both clearly good enough to warrant their inclusion. In fact the deck is pretty light on draw power overall, so the clamp is actually of crucial importance.


Blood Crypt
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Terramorphic Expanse
Scalding Tarn
Cascade Bluffs
Graven Cairns
Sunken Ruins
Crumbling Necropolis
Command Tower
Reflecting Pool
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacombs
Sulfur Falls
Bojuka Bog
Halimar Depths
Creeping Tar Pit
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Temple of the False God
Volrath's Stronghold
Tolaria West
Unholy Grotto
Phyrexian Tower
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
High Market
Swamp x4
Island x4
Mountain x4

The mana base is terminally boring, I admit. Volrath’s Stronghold is painfully obvious, as is Unholly Grotto. Phyrexian Tower, Minamo, High Market and Vesuva are also staples that I play in virtually every deck that can run them. Yawn. In fact, the only real interesting thing is what’s missing, rather than what is here. You see Urborg up there, yes, but no Cabal Coffers!

Relax, I’m not trying to be some Magic hipster, refusing to run cards just cause they are “mainstream”. Obviously, if that were the case, half a dozen or more of my lands up there would also be missing. No, I just felt that Coffers didn’t really add all that much to the deck. The only X-mana spell in the deck is Profane Command, and while Coffers does do wonderful things for that card, it’s not worth reusing a card most people are sick of seeing just to power up one spell.

*(Plus, I couldn’t fit in Expedition Map to help find the Urborg/Coffers pair, and drawing Coffers without Urborg always sucks ass.)



  1. OMG!! Flayer of the Hatebound?!!!!! River Kelpie???§!!!!! Why are you not Zombies?! WHHHHHHYYYYYYYYY?

    Really not a fan of Door of Destinies as I rarely ever actually play a Zombie. Have you tried Slate of Ancestry? (or you can use the slot for E.Map?)

  2. This is the first real tribal EDH I've built, so I wanna give the Door a chance first. Probably expendable, though. Time will tell.

  3. You forgot a lord, the automaton from M12. You should also include Phyrexian Altar for Kelpie/Graverawler shennanigans

    1. Nah, I don't want to go infinite, and with Mikaeus in the deck, that's WAY too easy to pull off.

  4. I actually cut the Adaptive Automaton for space reasons + feedback from the forums, suggesting the Automaton would be a disappointing topdeck and a mostly do-nothing guy even early. Which turned out to be pretty acurate - all the other Zombie lords have additional benefits, making him considerably less sexy.

    I think Adaptive Automaton is best for filling in gaps in tribes that NEED the support, whereas Zombies, Elves and Goblins (for example) already have so much in-tribe goodness that the Automaton is just outclassed.

    By the way, I did end up taking your advise and cutting Door of Destiness - for Reforge the Soul. I desperately needed more draw for the deck, and even casting Wheel/Reforge with a full hand is acceptable for setting up a big Living Death/Zombie Apocalypse/Etc.