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The Undead Curse [Modern Zombies]

Modern Aggro Mono-Black Tribal UB (Dimir) Zombie

Happymaster19


God DAMN I love zombies. The first product I ever got was a Legions starter deck featuring these lovable dead. Soulless One, Carrion Feeder, Gempalm Polluter and more. After a long time of being out of Magic, I learned how non-Standard formats work and zombies have been the one tribe I’ve wanted to see be good at the highest levels. While most of the list comes on with some newer additions, I think I’ve learned that Zombies are extraordinarily difficult to pilot well. A lot of the newer additions have opened up lines that make zombies much more than slam and spam. We’ll get to them when we get into them. In the meantime, this is my attempt at the most competitive possible build of zombies. While I normally try to stay mono color for budget, zombie support outside of black is fairly lackluster and scattershot so zombies naturally work best for me at mono black (I’m not the type to make color splashes exclusively for sideboard cards). Let’s see what we’ve got.

We’ll run over the non creatures to get them out of the way. Fatal Push for staple removal. Aether Vial for curving while opening mana. We also open up some tricks we’ll hit on when we get to the relevant cards. Smuggler's Copter for quickly board rebuilding and evasion.

Now then. The crew. Before we get into them I want to stress that there will often times be something open to activate. This deck requires your attention. There’s a ton of small interplay between our cards that can make or break games. This deck will take a lot of practice but certainly had the power to be a bit more than rogue if done well.

Let’s get into the drops.

  • Cryptbreaker was once our star lead. And while it doesn’t enable what Carrion Feeder does, it is still absolutely bonkers value availed to a one drop. The ability to turn late game trash or early game Gravecrawlers into 2/2s is the really juice of this little guy. But when we get into stall positions or we can’t push past big dork, we can tap our crew to dig for removal or whatever else we may be in need of.

  • Carrion Feeder has been a revelation to the deck. The combo of Feeder+Gravecrawler is nothing terribly special. It does give your Feeder SUPER fire breathing with counters! But Diregraf Colossus and Undead Augur go bananas with this combo out, making a token and/or drawing a card respectively for one black mana. God forbid they ever print a black color shifted Skirk Prospector. Feeder also give us instant speed death triggers on Relentless Dead meaning instant speed reanimating if you manage your mana appropriately. While it isn’t an exactly color shift of Arcbound Ravager you can still do tricksy combat stuff where you sacrifice all your block guys that would die anyway into the Feeder to take down whatever is in front of it. Feeder + Relentless Dead is this deck’s version of the Falkenrath Gorger+Stromkirk Condemned combo in that this is how you play around traditional creature casts. Zombies cast through reanimating. Go figure.

  • Gravecrawler really goes hand in hand with Feeder. It just becomes an absolute engine. It’s easy fodder to Cryptbreaker and Smuggler's Copter as well. I wish I could say more but this is really only half of the whole.

  • Lazotep Reaver looks dumb but there is actually a lot of value in splitting the body. We have anthems which give a bigger boost across bodies than to any one. And there’s other cards that like quantity as well from Smuggler's Copter to Cryptbreaker.

  • Relentless Dead has really impressed me the more I play around with it. It’s first ability is so annoying for decks to deal with. It just blocks up any creature that can’t fly, deathtouch, or trample it. Also works as a backup creature that can repeatedly trigger Diregraf Colossus’s cast trigger. Menace in combat is really almost forgettable but gravy at making combat more complicated for the opponent. The last ability is absolute gas, especially with Carrion Feeder giving it instant speed. Keep that in mind for tricks when the line is open. Maybe you want to sacrifice the Dead to Feeder to get a Death Baron and smoke your opponent’s team.

  • Undead Augur is a blessing and a curse. He gives us access to card draw we don’t get anywhere else. A common question I get is whether we risk killing ourself with the combined life loss of Augur, fetches, Cryptbreaker, and Castle Locthwain. Truth be told, Augur is the only real concern. See you control all the others. And over the course of a typically game, I probably activate these other card draw effects a combined average between 2-3 times per game. Augur on the other hand can give us lots of cards, but can cut into your life a bit. It’s a ‘must’ ability so just be mindful. All that said, this card loves the Carrion Feeder+Gravecrawler interaction.

  • Lord of the Undead is a fantastic lord in control matchups by keeping our hand stocked out of the yard. Not terrible at stretching our presence against opposing aggro strats. To go over lords for zombies there are a lot of options just at the three mana slot. Among the two choices we landed on there’s Cemetery Reaper and Lord of the Accursed. I simply find Reaper’s activation cost to be a bit pricey. I like the effect but not the cost. Lord is actually somewhat appealing but I personally feel it is tailored to aggro and when you boil it down to ‘good lord that punishes aggro’, we have a better option. With an aggro based lord selected I wanted to balance that with a lord that provided some support in grindy midrange or control matchups. Considering we have Vial and a relatively low curve as it is, I would prefer getting our stuff back rather than exile it for generic tokens for board presence.

  • While we could go basic and slam another lord in these slots, I wanted to go in a more creative route. Diregraf Colossus will often play similarly (in its timing) to a lord. We want to get to more of a mid game state where we can make him a big boy. It’s not always necessary but the value is nice. Just like a lord. Except our lords’ value come from what’s on the board. Colossus is more of a retaliation piece, getting value from what has died. But most importantly, it gives insane value to the Gravecrawler+Carrion Feeder combo, spitting out a 2/2 for each black mana spent.

  • Death Baron is our primary lord and absolutely hoses opposing aggro strats. Standard anthem with deathtouch to break barriers.

The mana base is fairly self-explanatory. Fetches to trigger Fatal Push, Cavern of Souls because why not when you’re tribal, Castle Locthwain for card draw to keep you gassed, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to make enabling Castle trivial as well as being able to hold back fetches to stock Push triggers.

I don’t really care to review how I have the current sideboard set up so much as talk the various options that can be accommodated by the build for various metas.

  • Damping Sphere is an easy choice for Tron and Amulet style decks that can build their mana quickly. Also great for stopping spell chains.

  • Pithing Needle has become a more and more relevant as planeswalkers have become more of a presence across formats. Shutting off an Urza deck’s Grinding Station or a Steel Overseer from Hardened Scales or a Wrenn and Six will help slow things down for the tide of zombies.

Suggestions

Updates Add

Horizons brings major updates.

Many decks will be incorporating the ‘Canopy’ lands. We are no different. This gives us extra game when things are stretching long. Thanks to Urborg, Tomb of Yawmoth, we can mitigate the life loss. Full sets of Nurturing Peatland and Silent Clearing.

Lands are crucial but not very sexy. Let’s talk glam.

Carrion Feeder is a big addition. Zombies are excellent at recursion but simply have lacked an efficient sacrifice outlet. Feeder is sort of a soft combination of Champion of the Parish and Arcbound Ravager. Functionally, Feeder can make a chain with Gravecrawler. This can enable explosive amounts of triggers for Diregraf Colossus and Undead Augur. Can also enable instant speed triggers of Relentless Dead. In a weird round about way, this enables Relentless to do a graveyard impression of Rattlechains. With Carrion Feeder we get cheap and direct access to the many lines of value via the graveyard.

Undead Augur compliments those Canopy lands to offer massive draw potential. That they gave Modern zombies this on top of Carrion Feeder to trigger it blows my mind. The synergy is beautiful. That’s a card per zombie as opposed to (or as well as) three zombies for one card with Cryptbreaker. Control opponents with cast wraths through gritted teeth as you refill you hand. And the natural recursion of zombies means you can very often reclaim the killed zombie as well.

Regardless of my opinion on Modern Horizons as a set, Zombies may have gotten a bigger push than any other existing deck. Only time will really tell, but good lord. Look at what zombies got!! A free sacrifice outlet at the one mana slot to finally give zombies an efficient way to enable all their value chains. The perfect compliment to a sacrifice outlet as well as fantastic wrath insurance. And a cycle of lands that gives zombies the means to really play a long game, something they already are known for.

I don’t believe zombies will be some new monster to the format, but I think they have the pieces to make a competitive presence. Be on the look out. Zombies are coming.

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79% Casual

21% Competitive

Top Ranked
  • Achieved #23 position overall 1 year ago
  • Achieved #2 position in Modern 1 year ago
  • Achieved #1 position in Modern Aggro 1 year ago
  • Achieved #1 position in Modern BG (Golgari) 1 year ago
Date added 4 years
Last updated 1 month
Legality

This deck is Modern legal.

Rarity (main - side)

4 - 2 Mythic Rares

31 - 7 Rares

12 - 6 Uncommons

7 - 0 Commons

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 1.68
Tokens 0/0 Zombie Army, 2/2 Zombie
Folders Tribals, Deck Ideas, zombie notes, Decks I like, cool modern, save, Cool zombie deck ideas, Modern, Pauper, Decks I dig, See all 40
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Revision 61 See all

2 months ago)

+2 Ashiok, Dream Render side
+2 Collective Brutality side
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope side
-1 Pithing Needle side
+5 Soul-Guide Lantern side