Hi guys, in my last article I recounted my Grand Prix Lille experience. Today I will be doing a deck tech on the UB Zombie deck that I won with.
The Deck List
Here is a recap of the deck I played at the GP:
4 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Fume Spitter
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Diregraf Captain
2 Phyrexian Obliterator
4 Tragic Slip
4 Geth’s Verdict
3 Mortar Pod
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Sword of War and Peace
The Main Deck Cards
Fumespitter may not look like an obvious inclusion but it is the 9th and 10th 1 drop and acts like a 5th and 6th Tragic Slip against Birds and Delvers. There is also a synergistic interaction with undying which is occasionally relevant. I only played 2 because the Fumespitter on its own does not provide much pressure and I only want it on turn 1 to shoot mana guys and Delvers.
The Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawlers are obvious choices for a zombie deck and an automatic conclusion. I am not playing Skirksdag High Preist and not intending to do much blocking so the drawbacks are pretty much negated.
I chose not play skirksdag priest since he is only good vs some aggro decks and terrible against control. He does not apply any pressure for 2 mana. Again, I do not want a hand with a fumespitter, priest, mortar pod, 2 removal and 2 land, since it is unlikely to get there without pressure.
Phantasmal Image, Geralf’s Messenger and Phyrexian Obliterator are the cards that win games. These guys all hit hard for their mana cost and the Messenger and Image are obvious 4 ofs. So why are there only 2 Obliterators main deck? I only played 22 land and there are a lot of three drops in the deck already. I do not want clunky draws with lots of three and four drops. The Obliterator is also weak against Delver since they just bounce it.
I chose to play 4 Diregraf Captain which in hindsight should probably be either 2 or none. There are some situations where the Captain is second to none, I had a game where my opponent played a T4 Thrun, the Last Troll when I had a Gravecrawler and a Geralfs messenger in play. I played the Captain and attacked with my team, he blocked the Gravecrawler and lost 5 in total, when he was expecting to be able to block the Messenger. The extra damage was backbreaking. The captain also accelerates the Gravecrawler/Mortar Pod combo, doubling the damage output. However, these abilities are fairly niche and do not justify including 4 Captains, especially since they require blue mana and I only have 8 blue mana sources.
Removal wise, Tragic Slip is potentially extremely efficient. The slip can kill T1 Birds or Delvers which is vital. Delver is a good match up but if they flip a Delver on T2 it can be close. Generally zombies has the pressure against RG but again, Birds can make a huge tempo difference, powering out T2 Swords or early Huntsmasters. Late game, Tragic Slip is still excellent, it combines very well Geths Verdict and Mortar Pod/Fume Spitter.
Geths Verdict is essential to the deck since most decks have hard to kill targets (Thrun, Geist of Saint Traft, Dungrove Elder, Mirran Crusader or any guy with a Sword of Feast and Famine). Geths Verdict enables these targets to be killed, and it also forces the opponent to lose 1 life which soon adds up over the course of a game.
Liliana of the Veil is essentially another Geths Verdict. 4 Verdicts did not seem like enough ways of dealing with protected targets, so 2 Liliana gives 6 spells which seemed much better. I did not wish to play more than 2 because competition for the 3 drop slot is tough and multiple Lilianas are useless. Potentially Liliana can win games or force multiple sacrifices. This makes Liliana better main deck than Tribute to Hunger.
3 Mortar Pod felt like the right number. Mortar Pod is important to deck as a combo piece and extra removal for Birds etc, especially when on the play. However, Mortar Pod is like a legendary creature. One is fantastic but I would rather draw any other spell in the deck than a second mortar pod in 95% of situations.
Finally, I chose to play one Sword of war and Peace. This was a metagame call since I expected lots of Human decks. The Sword provides a way to race them and other aggro decks in general. I feel it is now important to have a Sword of Feast of Famine either in the deck or the board. This is predominantly for the mirror.
The Swords are obviously very powerful, however, the deck already has plenty of 3 drops and with 22 mana sorces it is unlikely the Sword will be cast as a 5 drop unless the game goes very long. This reduces the value of the Sword since it is almpst always a better play to make a creature on t3 than to cast a sword. Also, the Sword is pretty useless against Delver since it requires a high mana investment and they will hold a Vapor Snag to bounce whichever guy gets equipped and win the tempo race.
With the mana base, it is vital that all the land can produce black mana to ensure Geralf’s Messenger can be played. Most of the spells have only coloured mana symbols, so like the black red vampires of the previous season, an Island would virtually be a dead land. In a friendly game against Ben Heath he lost a game simply because his T3 land was an island so he could not cast Messenger and had no play. Then his T4 land was a topdecked darkslick shores which came into play tapped. The double timewalk was fatal.
The SideBoard Cards
I wanted a flexible sideboard with extra targetable removal and specific threats for specific decks.
2 Nihil Spellbomb, 2 Surgical extraction, 1 Cemetery Reaper. I chose this configuration as my graveyard hate. Against Frites (which I never played) all the cards would come in. The Surgical Extractions are only there for frites and I never used them. I chose to only play the 2 Spellbombs and the Cemetery Reaper against the mirror or Delver. I like the principle of using Surgical Extraction in the mirror, but resources are tight and I did not like the card disadvantage. The Spellbombs can always be cycled and do almost as good a job as Surgical Extraction. Cemetry Reaper pumps all my guys and can be used to prevent a Messenger from coming back. Against Delver, the ability to remove their graveyard turns off Runchanter Pike and can stop Moorland Haunt tokens which is important since it enables Geths Verdict to kill Invisible Stalkers and Geists.
The additional Phyrexian Obliterator provides support against RG aggro, wolf run ramp, the mirror, humans and red deck wins. The card is hard for many decks to deal with and forces some to use Dismember without any black mana. The 4 damage they suffer is adequate compensation. The card can be copied as well and can wreck opponents extremely quickly.
I never used the 2 Corrosive Gales but they were in the board for BW tokens or spirit Delver as one sided sweepers.
The Sever the Bloodline comes in against rg aggro to shoot Strangleroot Geists but it is still effective against Huntmaster of the Fells and can always get flashed back if the game goes long. Again, this card comes in for the mirror, reanimator or token decks. The card is really strong but costs a premium which is why it is a one of.
The 2 Go for the Throats and the Dismember both come in for the mirror. Dismember can also come in against Birds or Delvers. I think 2 Go for the throat is probably unnecessary since I never boarded in more than one except against the mirror in round 2. They are great against the mirror because Gravecrawler can make Geth’s Verdict underwhelming.
The 2 Ratchet Bombs come in against any token decks and can also come in against humans or Delver. I would often board one against RG aggro to kill wolves and a flipped Garruk Relentless. The card is very flexible and can deal with a lot of random cards people may play. Sometimes I board them in Game 3 if my opponent showed me a Grafdigger’s Cage or Torpor Orb.
The Black Sun’s Zenith is another sweeper for spirit Delver or tokens. I board the card in against humans and Delver, to provide another way to kill hexproof guys and Mirran Crusader. Sometimes, the card can be used to clear all the opponent’s creatures except a Crusader with Angelic Destiny or a Sworded up guy, then Geths Verdict can remove the awkward target. The card can combo with undying guys (just do not kill them with it). The zombie deck itself is quite resilient to Black Sun’s Zenith so careful play can provide a majority upside to the card.
I hope the deck tech has provided an insight into the Zombies deck and how to use it. The deck is clearly very powerful and has a good game against some of the more popular decks. Like any deck it has bad matchups, but they are still winnable with decent draws. If you have any questions or comments then please do not hesitate to let me know by commenting below.