So, what is your zombie survival plan? Oh come on, we all have one, (mine involves a cricket bat and my local pub). It’s fair to say that zombies have permeated all levels of popular culture, from films and TV to our beloved Magic: the Gathering. This was never truer than at last weekend’s Pro Tour Amonkhet, where the break out decks were full of the recently dead – even shambling to victory in the finals against the ever impressive Aetherworks Marvel strategies. Well, we all know what that means, don’t we? Like a true pandemic, zombie decks will spread their infection throughout our entire community. From FNM to PPTQs, Dread Wanderers and Cryptbreakers will terrorise standard as players everywhere seek to join the endless ranks of the dead. But fear not, there is a chance you can avoid been crushed by the zombie horde, and we here at Master of Magics will give you all the tools you will need to survive. So, let’s choose the right tools for the job and see if we can weather the coming darkness together.
First of all, we need to arm ourselves. We all know we will have to battle through masses of undead corpses, but if you pick the wrong weapon you may end up as lunch. Luckily for us, there are many great choices when it comes to battling the recently deceased. If you are planning on playing white in your decks then lucky you, for you have some of the best tools for the job, thanks to the vast number of exile effects you can throw down. Declaration in Stone, Stasis Snare and Cast Out all remove a threat, as well as preventing them from returning from the graveyard later on. You also can sweep away vast sways of zombie tokens with a single Declaration in Stone without giving your opponent a ton of card drawing clues. Creatures such as Angel of Sanctions and Fairgrounds Warden also exile creatures upon entering the battlefield. The angel can even remove a pesky Liliana’s Mastery or the necromancer herself, if the situation demands it. But even if we are facing down a board full of zombies we still have outs, thanks to Quarantine Field and Descend upon the Sinful, which can quickly turn the odds in our favour. Naturally Fumigate, the sweeper of choice from before Amonkhet, remains a strong option with the lifegain helping stabilise your position (even if the zombies may still come back).
If you aren’t in the mood for playing white, then next best colour we can play is red. The recently reprinted Magma Spray proved its weight in gold last weekend, and should be a mainboard consideration if it isn’t already. Another card you will want to consider is Incendiary Flow, as it can not only take out a Lord of the Accursed, but can be directed at the opponent’s face if there are no other valid targets. It is also worth throwing in some red sweeper to burn away the armies of the dead. Although they don’t exile creatures, cards such as Sweltering Suns and Radiant Flames, can be played early enough that they can destroy our opponents board before they can pump up their team.
Black is also a strong choice against the living dead. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet turns all of our destruction based removal into exile based removal. Not only that, but we also get to add some zombies to our side of the board when we do take them out. We can also use Scarab Feast to remove up to three creatures from our opponent’s graveyard, before they get the chance to bring them back. Black also has access to an exiling sweeper, in the form of Flaying Tendrils. Although it may only deal out -2/-2 to the board, it has a low enough CMC to make it valuable in the early game, and you can always live in magical Christmas land when you cast it off Yahenni’s Expertise for a -5/-5 exiling sweep. One final card to think about is the card Trespasser’s Curse. Though it may not seem all that powerful, the zombie decks do seem to play out and return a ton of creatures, and in that means this two mana curse can swing games in your favour.
Blue players may not have hard removal like some of the other colours, but they are far from defenceless. Horribly Awry may have seemed like a weak Essence Scatter when it was first seen back in Battle for Zendikar, but with the emerging threat of the zombie deck, its exiling effect make this two mana instant far more playable. Spell Shrivel has a similar effect, but has the added benefit of hitting cards such Liliana’s Master and removal effects if the need arises. If we are running a mono blue control deck we could also run Engulf the Shore, as though bouncing creatures isn’t a permanent solution, the vast number of tokens the deck can churn out makes it better than it may first appear.
Do you plan on running green? Well I have some bad news for you, you have the weakest colour to battle the endless ranks of the undead, and will probably end up as zombie chow. You still have a chance, but you are going to have to battle them in the more traditional way, with lots of creatures. Zombies can’t hit you if your board is full of big beefy monsters, and green has some great early game creatures that grow larger as the game goes on, such as Longtusk Cub, Tireless Tracker and Bristling Hydra. There are even corner case cards such as Unnatural Aggression, which is really your only on colour remove option, but I feel it is too limited to be useful. Most of the time, you are just going to have to out race your opponent before they can amass their army, and hope it is enough to win you the day.
So, will you fight against the coming darkness, or join the shambling hordes of the dead? Personally, I love that zombies are finally getting their day in the sun, and I look forward to seeing what will happen to standard in the next few weeks and months. So until next time, good luck and have fun.