Standard Issue: Mono Black Zombies

Welcome to the first Standard Issue where I will be tackling the standard format and providing my thoughts and insights into this ever changing landscape. With rotation just around the corner we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing we will be leaving Kaladesh block in the dust and hope to see a decent meta-game shakeup when it is all said and done. In the meantime we have the largest pool of cards to use in this standard format at one time so there has got to be a few more interesting decks to play around with before September (cue zombie moans). Zombies have got to be my all-time favorite tribe and if I have a chance to then I am always going to jam some games with the undead. With M19 zombies got a couple new tools to rise from the grave one last time before rotation and I couldn’t be happier.

Pro Undead

Mono-Black Zombies by Gerry Thompson
4 Cryptbreaker
4 Dark Salvation
4 Diregraf Colossus
4 Dread Wanderer
2 Fatal Push
3 Grasp of Darkness
3 Liliana’s Mastery
4 Lord of the Accursed
4 Metallic Mimic
4 Relentless Dead
22 Swamp
2 Westvale Abbey
Sideboard
2 Aethersphere Harvester
2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Grasp of Darkness
3 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Lost Legacy
3 Scrapheap Scrounger
2 Transgress the Mind

Here we have the list Gerry Thompson used to win Pro Tour Amonkhet last year and we have a decent number of these cards still legal in the format. Cryptbreaker was a key zombie that was lost allowing you to refuel your hand a common problem in aggro decks and one of the things that made zombies so powerful since they just kept coming. Dark Salvation is probably the other key piece lost and could be a mana sink if you started flooding out on lands and made a bunch of zombies while doubling as a removal spell. Gerry’s creature curve here is very low and even going with 8 1 drops , 8 2 drops, and 8 3 drops. He could play a 4 of Liliana’s Mastery but chose to play only 3 which I think is the most powerful card after rotation which I find interesting and have seen most new lists jamming 4. His creature count is 24 and 9 removal spells.

New Corpse Who Dis?

Let’s take a look at a recent 5-0 Mono Black Zombies list posted on 7/9/18.

TINEFOL_RU
4 Diregraf Ghoul4 Dread Wanderer
4 Lord of the Accursed
1 Metallic Mimic
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
3 Death Baron
4 Graveyard Marshal
1 Never // Return
1 Cast Down
2 Fatal Push
2 Vraska’s Contempt
4 Liliana’s Mastery
3 Ifnir Deadlands
1 Scavenger Grounds
21 Swamp

Sideboard
2 Cast Down
1 Liliana, Untouched by Death
2 Doomfall
3 Duress
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Plague Mare
2 Ruin Raider
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 The Eldest Reborn

This list has the new zombie 2 drop introduced to the format in M19 name Graveyard Marshal and is a great rate as a 3/2 for 2 with a relevant ability allowing you to churn out more zombies. This is a new mana sink for the deck attempting to replace Dark Salvation but this requires a creature in your graveyard to exile but is a repeatable effect as long as your yard is full of fresh bodies. I think the Marshal will be very annoying for control decks and as just an aggressive creature can hit hard. We also have Death Baron a reprint from Shards of Alara as a much needed second 3 mana lord giving the deck 8 lords now. Diregraf Ghoul is our new 1 drop zombie reprint here that is much more aggressively slanted as opposed to Cryptbreaker that played a little slower game. Finally the other card that has been talked about quite a bit is Liliana, Untouched by Death and here we only see 1 which I find interesting. I have seen list play 3 main and I often see it boarded out. I found the card rather unexciting and think Liliana’s, Death Majesty may be better suited for the deck. Death’s Majesty still mills 2 cards which can fuel your graveyard synergies and instead of draining makes a zombie which could also just be a 4/4. You can use her minus to return a lord that died and her ultimate is a board wipe. The only thing that really appeals to me about the new Lili is that she is 4 mana as opposed to 5. Another interesting thing I see here is that both Metallic Mimic and Scrapheap Scrounger were legal when Gerry won the Pro Tour and they are still legal now. Gerry went with the full 4 Metallic Mimic which I guess had a little extra synergy with Diregraf Colossus at the time and he put 3 Scoungers in his sideboard. The new 5-0 list is running 4 Scrounger main and 1 Mimic and no others. The new list is also still playing 24 creatures but opted to play nine 2 drops and take out a 3 drop. What I am seeing between these lists are they are both trying to be very low to the ground and the problem I see with the new list is that they are playing 1 more land than Gerry’s list and Gerry’s list had Cryptbreaker and Dark Salvation as a way to turn extra lands into zombies which the new list lacks. They attempted adding an extra 2 drop but they are playing an extra 5 mana Mastery and a 4 mana walker as well as 2 Vraska’s Contempt so they kind of need that extra land with all these extra expensive spells but I feel they aren’t paid off enough to play this extra land and think the deck should be more streamlined and aggressive.

Walking Forward

Generally in new formats aggressive decks perform the best while everyone durdles around with new brews and haven’t gotten their decks fully tuned yet. The undead horde hopes to take advantage of that and come at you fast without stopping. Here is the list I am going to start with:

Mono Black Zombies by aGangofHippies
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Dread Wanderer
4 Metallic Mimic
4 Graveyard Marshal
4 Death Baron
4 Lord of the Accursed
1 Never//Return
3 Fatal Push
1 Cast Down
2 Vraska’s Contempt
3 Liliana’s Mastery
2 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
4 Ifnir Deadlands
1 Scavenger Grounds
19 Swamp
Sideboard
1 Never//Return
2 Doomfall
4 Duress
2 Ruin Raider
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Swamp
2 The Eldest Reborn
2 Vraska’s Contempt

I kept with Gerry’s 8 creatures in the 1, 2, and 3 slots. I cut a few removal spells in favor of the extra creature and opted to try out Liliana, Death’s Majesty since I think it can accomplish more just bringing back a lord when your opponent wasn’t expecting it and suddenly boosting your board’s power can catch your opponent off guard. In the sideboard is an extra land if you want to board into a bigger controlling deck. I think Skysovereign, Consul Flagship can be a great card to help you deal with planeswalkers and survive board wipes. Ruin Raider is not a zombie but I am interested in trying this against more controlling decks adding that much needed card draw to the deck. You have 1 Never//Return in the main and board plus 21 Scavenger Grounds in the main to help against Gift decks which can be a rough match up. Basically, I want to come out quick in game 1 and then you can board into a more controlling deck after game 1. If I find that there are too many higher CMC cards then I may put the Lillis in the board and play some Scroungers to just try to be aggressive as possible.

Closing the Coffin

There are quite a few different ways to build zombies right now whether you want to add a blue splash to play Scarab God or the debate of Scrounger Vs. Mimic, Is the new Liliana actually good or just not worth it and what about the old one? Maybe playing Stitcher’s Supplier and Minister to fuel a Gift deck could be possible as well. Whatever your preference you only have a short time while a decent number of these cards are legal so get out there and walk with the dead.

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