Well, last week was a bit of a rollercoaster, wasn’t it? After the banned and restricted list went up on Monday, I began on serval decks for the upcoming standard session, including a funky Cat Tribal deck. However, a couple of days later, Wizards of the Coast went and announced the first standard emergency banning in decades, and Felidar Guardian received the banhammer treatment. So, I went back the drawing board, and tried to crack the new, copycat free Standard format. With most of the initial web articles, seeming to be working on heavy creature aggro strategies, I wondered what kind of deck could flourish in this format. It didn’t take me long to brew up this spicy little number, which is not only competitive, but will also breathe new life in to one of magics oldest tribes. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at Esper Zombies.
Return of the Living Dead
Ever since we returned to Innistrad, players everywhere have tried to get zombie decks to work in standard. Some people have had some success, but the lack of top table showings have kept the deck from getting the much need press it required, and many players have yet to take the archetype seriously. But, thanks to Amonkhet, we have a whole host of new additions for our favourite undead horde.
Binding Mummy and Wayward Servant are the key pieces to making this deck work. As only 2/2’s for two mana, you would be forgiven for under valuing their importance’s, and that would be a mistake. Both of these creatures affect your opponent when a zombie enters the battlefield under your control, either tapping your adversary’s creatures, or draining their life and gifting it to you. On the face of it, this seems not too shabby, but if we could repeatedly add to our horde, we could stop any blocking creatures, or even turn our zombies into an attrition style deck, (very on theme).
In order to take advantage of these ETB triggers, we want to play lots of zombies, create zombie tokens, and recur our destroyed creatures back to the battlefield. We start off with a playset of Cryptbreaker and a couple of Liliana, Death’s Majesty. Both of these cards can create zombies, at the cost of putting cards into our graveyard. To some, a down side. To us however, pure upside. Liliana can use her minus one to return any creatures will mill back to the fight, triggering our mummy combo. We also will add playsets of Dread Wanderer, Relentless Dead and Haunted Dead, which all either return themselves, or can bring back another zombie from the graveyard.
With all this graveyard recursion, it would be rude not to invite Prized Amalgam to the party. Anyone who has played against Dredge in modern will attests to how evil this 3/3 can be. Each time we bring back a creature from the graveyard, the amalgam will hitch a ride back to the battlefield. To round out our creature package, we add the new zombie lord, in the form of Lord of the Accursed. Once we have amassed a large enough horde, giving +1/+1 to all our team can quickly close out the game. And the added value of menace on a stick for all our team is quite nice too.
Aside from Liliana, we are running only two non-creature spell, in the form of Fatal Push and Dark Salvation. Mardu Vehicles will still be an issue, so the push will help us handle most of what they can throw at us. We also need to be ready to handle any of the new gods that we may have to deal with, and so the inclusion of a spell that not only can refill our board, but can take out indestructible creatures is a must.
We round out the deck with a health collection of duel lands and basics. We also make use of the new ‘bicycle’ lands to have access to blue mana, just in case we need to hard cast an amalgam. The great thing about these lands is that once we have one on the battlefield, we can cycle the rest to draw into more zombie. The sideboard is fairly open to tweaks, at least until the meta is more settled, but more removal and some hand attack is always a good place to start. We also include Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, to fight against other graveyard strategies, but there is an argument for his inclusion in the main deck, it all depends on your pereference.
A few thinks to note on the deck. First of all, don’t be too worried about trading or chumping with your creatures, as even if they go to the graveyard, they will not stay there for long. You may be a creature heavy deck, but you have the staying power to outlast your opponent, so if you need to double block in order to trade, go ahead. Secondly, use your Cryptbreaker and Haunted Dead abilities in your opponent’s turn. If used right, Binding Mummy can take advantage of their abilities to lock down opposing creatures, keeping them out of the game.
And there you have it. What do you think? Is this the kind of deck that you would like to run out? Amonkhet standard session is still new, so anything goes. Go ahead and try new brews, it’s an exciting time for standard. And don’t worry, I have plenty of new brews coming over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for some spicy goodness coming your way very soon. Until then, good luck, and have fun.