Tribal Bible #9 – Shaun of the Dead – the Bare Bones of why This Deck Sucks

There happens to be three major types of undead legal in Tribal Standard right now. I felt that the coincidence there was too great to pass up, and so I write this mere hours before October 31st to bring you what may well be the first Tribal Standard decks to discuss with Time Spiral enabled, and hopefully a bit of holiday spirit (pun intended, because I can).

[Tribal Bible is a series maintained by Rivien Swanson. Tribal Bible covers a format known either as Tribal Standard, or Standard Tribal, depending on whom you ask. The rules are as they are for Standard, except at least one-third of your deck must consist of creatures that share a type and there are no sideboards. Normally I’d mention that Umezawa’s blinking Jitte is banned, but that’s not precisely necessary any longer, as it has rotated with no unwelcome haste.]

I decided at the end of September that even though I was going to wait for Time Spiral before doing any more with Tribal Bible, I’d still want to do something special for Halloween. Exactly why this is I couldn’t say, since offline the only holiday I celebrate is April Fools’ Day, but for whatever reason I couldn’t let the occasion pass unmarked, given the format of this article.

Why is that, you ask? Primarily because I generally do these articles with three decks at a time, and there happens to be three major types of undead legal in Tribal Standard right now. I felt that the coincidence there was too great to pass up, and so I write this mere hours before October 31st to bring you what may well be the first Tribal Standard decks to discuss with Time Spiral enabled, and hopefully a bit of holiday spirit (pun intended, because I can) if that’s your thing.

Let’s get to the meat of the article, shall we?

Let’s just start this by saying I think Zombies have a very strong chance of having tournament potential. While maybe not this exact build, they have something in common with the until-recently dominating Snakes; two very playable Lords. If you wanted to jank around a bit, you could even give them (or anyone else in Black) a token generator by playing Endrek Sahr and Conspiracy, naming anything but Thrull. Since Conspiracy changes types instead of adding them like Hivestone, the tokens Endrek spews out will be something other than Thrulls, and thus barring the death of Conspiracy, Endrek will never die to his own ability. He might die to being a 2/2 though. I heard Sudden Shock and Sudden Death were somewhat playable cards.

Let’s just get the Lords out of the way: Lord of the Undead is a walking Glorious Anthem who can tap to recur any dead bodies. Generally you don’t want to swing with him in this format; there’s a bunch of Flash dudes around, and people who tap Plains for mana can do bad things to him. I’d only swing if the opponent had less than two mana available and if they had one, it wasn’t potentially White. Undead Warchief’s cost reduction is a bit stymied in this deck, given my card choices, but let’s be honest; it’s the +2/+1 we really want anyhow. Again, I’d be leery of swinging with him unless, of course, you have an active Lord of the Undead ready to recover him in case of Flash critters, and you’re reasonably certain you’re not about to eat Condemn or Devouring Light.

The brute squad consists of Withered Wretch, Sangrophage, Festering Goblin, and Crypt Champion. These are your shock troops that will swing across the ground stupidly, over and over again, trying to bash opposing skull. The gobbo likes to die and generate card advantage, Sangrophage likes to be plainly unfair, and Wretch keeps opposing bins empty so Crypt Champion is one-sided, on top of being a dude who loves global power increases.

Then there’s the special ops, the Stromgald Crusaders, who can take to the air and give you a place to dump your otherwise potentially unspent mana. Don’t underestimate the power of flying, especially with such brutal Tribal Lords to back him.

There’s a brief but powerful removal suite: Strangling Soot can be ridiculous, capable of early game kills and doing an encore performance later. I figured I was going to be at least minorly in Red anyhow, due Crypt Champion, so why not? Then, of course, is the aforementioned Sudden Death. It kills most anything that needs killing, barring a Willbender being around, and the mana cost is no problem for this deck.

The good news: You’ve got an aggressive curve, well costed soldiers, and ridiculous Lords going for you, not to mention a deceptively effective removal suite for anything targetable. The deck can be frightening fast and remarkable resilient if you can keep an active Lord of the Undead on the table. You’ve even got built-in graveyard hosing and evasion, and if you dump enough Lords on the table, even fatties will tremble before you.

The bad news: Artifacts, enchantments, Wrath effects, no way to protect your important critters, and no reliable draw, and what draw there is only gets lands at random. Oh, and vulnerable to land destruction. Honestly, this deck is probably better off without the Snow manabase, but I decided to go for the more affordable version just because some possible draw is better than no possible draw.

Your ideal early game would be turn 1 gobbo, turn 2 swing and drop a Sangrophage (19 opponent life), turn 3 bring in the Lord, swinging for six (13), and finish up with turn 4 Warchief, swinging for fourteen. Chances are you’ll never pull this off, but it’s nice to dream, no? More realistically, you just clap for any hand with the gobbo opener into any two drop into Lord, because that’s a vicious start against most decks. Crypt Champion is your MVP with any Lords out, if the game is dragging out, but overall, the Warchief is of course the man you want.

Now we move on to the Bare Bones of the article with this decklist:

That’s right, Skeletons. And not only that, but all of the available ones except Drudge Skeletons. Why did the Drudges get no love? Primarily because I tried them for awhile and was frankly not impressed. Oh, they’re good guys, to a point. I just kept being embarrassed by having them out with Rimebound Dead and beating down with them. There’s only so many 1/1s a deck can usefully have, after all. I eventually bit the bullet and decided that, somewhat overcosted or not, Drudge Reavers were simply worth it by virtue of having two power. Plus, they’re one of those good reasons for not swinging with a Lord of the Undead.

The first thing you need to know about this deck isn’t that all your critters, barring the off-tribal Withered Wretches, regenerate. It’s that, chances are, they are going to die anyhow. Mortify and Helix are about the only regularly played forms of removal that don’t ignore regeneration. Unless you just randomly put up regen shields just in case of Split Second, maybe. Let me know if that works for you.

Really, that’s just fine. It gives the Grave-Troll something to do. Goodness knows that I’d hate to draw him when he’d be no better than Drudge Skeletons. Note, I do this often, but hey. The Rimebound Dead aren’t very exciting. They’re not even really worth beating down with, since Flash can mean they may be better off hanging back to block an effectively hasty guy. My advice is to just keep them back to block unless you’re very certain your opponent won’t make you regret it. Wretch serves double duty of giving your curve between one and four something to do other than Into the North or Putrefy, as well as his famous graveyard hating abilities. The House Guards are decent beaters, having Fear, and enjoy a mana-free regeneration cost. Drudge Reavers are in as nasty surprises and being two power dudes, which this tribe is hurting for so far. The Grave-Troll exists as a comeback device mostly. If you begin losing a lot of dudes, he’s a second wind. Lastly, Murray visits us with his mana-free regeneration, token generation, and ability to generally be really good.

Into the North fetches your Mouths, Sheets, or Flats, depending on if you need draw, removal, or mana for Crime, making it very versatile. Putrefy is in over Sudden Death because sometimes you just need to kill an artifact… say, for example, Serrated Arrows. Decks with eight one toughness men tend not to like those. Lastly, we have one of my pet cards, Crime / Punishment, and given the power of your removal, both sides have potential uses. It’s especially nice for ridding yourself of enchantments, meaning you come prepared for all sorts of odd things not named Hatching Plans.

The good news: The regeneration is stellar when it does matter. You’ve got two forms of evasion, great removal options, mass kill, and basically everything you could want except non-Scrying Sheets draw. Some opponents, particularly those not yet grasping the importance of removal in this format, can be totally stymied if you cut off their ground game. Just remember not to get aggressive with guys you want to keep if your opponent seems likely to be running Condemn or Devouring Light. Both are very, very bad for this deck.

The bad news: Your regeneration mattering is more the exception than the rule, Grave-Troll can be depressingly bad, and Simic Sky Swallower is probably game against you. On top of that, the lack of draw can be a damper, and the only thing House Guards can transmute for is Drudge Reavers, which is generally a downgrade. You’ve got permanents everywhere on the curve up to six, except for three, so Punishment can be bad for you too. Luckily, your guys can regenerate from it if you’ve got the proper resources to regenerate them with, and honestly the House Guard’s is often the most difficult to achieve, but sometimes it’s just worth it.

Your win condition here is almost certainly Murray, although Grave-Troll will bring home the bacon once in a blue moon or two. While you can’t protect your guys, you’re very good at clearing a path for them and handling most permanents, given the proper amount of mana. Games usually have to be going in a bad way for you in order to need to rely on the Grave-Troll, but if he can bring the game in, there’s no sense in denying him his glory. About time the poor boy finally got some.

No, really

Yes, there’s a pun here. Yes, I know, I’m terrible about those. So let’s get on with the roster, shall we?

Oh man, the mana curve here. This tribe loved Time Spiral, though, as it meant they were no longer were required to run two seven mana monstrosities, although Szadek was a cute alternate win, and less people expect Garza than expect the Spanish Inquisition… and if you have any culture, you’d know that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

We’re going to cheat here and call Soul Collector the lowest on the mana curve, just because you’re likely to put one face down before you play any other guys, unless maybe you see Red mana on the other side of the table. One of the nice benefits of this tribe is everything has a three or large hind end generally, which can often annoy Red, barring Char. The only one without a hind of four can regenerate to boot, so that’s an occasionally relevant bonus (does it come through that I’m not buying Wizards’ claims of regeneration mattering?). Anyhow, the Collector has a new toy available to her this time around, alongside the stalwart Sengir: Arena. Skillful use of Arena can acquire you some opposing dudes if timed well, and Last Gasp can help ensure the survival of your vampires-turned-assassins against tricks or true fat. Moroii is in as a cheap “aggressive” drop, and is especially nice turn 3. Murray shows up again to do his duty as a generally good man to have on your team (the predictions of him replacing Kokusho seem mostly correct). Despite looking like something of a gaunt Marilyn Manson wannabe, I assure you that Sengir Nosferatu is also a good man, and even better at dodging removal than Murray in most cases.

The rest is mana acceleration via “five” signets, removal via Last Gasp and Sudden Death, and finally, some draw via the Phyrexian Arena. You really want a Phyrexian Arena to stick, since the deck performs at least twice as well with one out. You’ve got to push for the win, though. Moroii and Arena are both fond of eating your life total, and you have no way of gaining any, so once you’ve gotten these going, go all-out.

The good news: All your guys are evasive, have large butts, and two are often difficult to remove. The Nosferatu in particular is a vexing question for most opponents. Of course, much of the typical Black removal suite is here to back you, and you’ve got the potential to use Arena to one of its better ends as well. Note that the deck is effectively twenty-three land; Arena is a good card, but not one that produces mana. You’ve got a nice draw source when it decides to show as well, and your mana is pretty stable.

The bad news: Pretty much the same as the first deck; Wraths, no protection, artifacts, enchantments. But you have draw this time, which helps a little (really? And is rain wet, Riv? “Shut up.”). Despite the large men, remember you’re the control deck in the early game. You want to stomp out as many legitimate threats as possible before committing your own threat to the table.

Your win conditions are as varied as your mob; Moroii can be painfully fast beats, and all your guys swing for three or more damage, barring Morph. The Soul Collector can use Arena to steal things, as can Sengir Vampire. The Nosferatu and Murray pair can of course just be a brutal late game, but I think it’s nice to have second wind.

Well, that’ll be all for this week except… did you hear the one about the vegetarian zombies?

… Grrrraiiiiiiiinssss…


Signing off,
Rivien Swanson
flawedparadigm a(aye Carumba!)t gmaSPAMSUCKSil d(.)ot co[I like kittens.]m
Flawed Paradigm on MTGO (Remember, /join SCG!)
GodOfAtheism just about everywhere else.