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Where Champion Of The Perished Fits Into Every Format

Let the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt brewing begin. Ari Lax builds around Champion of the Perished in future Standard, Historic, Pioneer, and Modern.

Champion of the Perished, illustrated by Kekai Kotaki

Sometimes they just make the good cards obvious.

Champion of the Perished Champion of the Parish

Champion of the Perished is a really good card, and will be a reason to play Zombies in a ton of formats. If anything, you’ll see more of it than Champion of the Parish solely because it’s legal in more formats.

Standard

There aren’t a ton of Zombies already released for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard, but that shouldn’t be a huge shocker. This last year included focuses on Elves in black, and on creature jobs due to party where Zombies tend to be freeloaders. Of course, we probably have a ton of them coming in the next sets, but importantly the Zombies we already have include a bunch of really critical ones.

Dungeon Crawler Shambling Ghast

In addition to Champion of the Perished, we have multiple reasonable one-drops. As someone who stupidly played Humans at Pro Tour Dark Ascension when Champion of the Parish was in Standard, one huge issue was that your curve was forced upwards in way that didn’t really support your best card. You often got to mid-games where you had Hero of Bladehold to draw in your deck, but also a ton of bad one-drops. Or your draw just wasn’t modular and your Champion just got stranded below the curve.

Starting with a good base of one-drops is important to make Champion of the Perished work. Dungeon Crawler has a lot of words for an Elite Vanguard, but Shambling Ghast has real implications. It means Zombies will have edges against other aggressive decks, that you might want a light sacrifice theme, and that you have natural ways to hit higher-cost cards with a lower land count.

Faceless Haven Draugr Necromancer

Of course, that land count comment is a bit of a moot point when the best Zombie in the format is probably a land. Once you’re already a snow deck, I’m pretty into Draugr Necromancer somewhere in the 75. It’s not a universally good card, but it does offer an important cascading advantage in many matchups.

Masked Vandal Realmwalker Glasspool Mimic

On the subject of Shapeshifters, don’t forget the several other technically Zombie creatures in the format. Masked Vandal and Realmwalker are the obvious ones right now, but Glasspool Mimic is likely the long-term best option since Zombies are traditionally Dimir on Innistrad.

Let’s just focus on that part right now, because I’m still really into Pyre of Heroes and this is a tribal shell that has a desire for sacrifice outlets.


I certainly can’t say every card in this deck is good, but you know, it’s a work in preview progress. I would also love if more of the random tutor targets to find off Shapeshifters were actually Zombies or chained to Zombies, but one step at a time. There’s still a Snarl in the deck, so there are clearly bigger issues to solve.

Historic

Lazotep Reaver Cryptbreaker

Stepping back to Historic, we get a couple of key additions in Lazotep Reaver and Cryptbreaker. The double trigger on Champion of the Perished from the amass Zombie plus magnifying Lord of the Accursed means you have a reliable way to rapidly accumulate power. Cryptbreaker is at its best in the triple one-drop draws that Champion of the Perished also promotes, though it’s a bit tough to choose to draw a card Turn 2 if you have a 3/3 Champion that can attack.

Haunted Dead Undead Augur

The rest of the Historic specific additions are weirdly flat in effect. There are some small creatures, and Undead Augur is nice, but you feel weirdly constrained to being a super-linear aggro deck. The sacrifice outlets just aren’t there to do anything crazy. I kinda wish there was a good way to pull Haunted Dead into the mix, but without Prized Amalgam I don’t see a great reason to do that even with Stitcher’s Supplier.

So here’s “Merfolk but it’s Zombies” for you today.


Mayhem Devil Mizzix's Mastery Kor Spiritdancer

That all said I’m really skeptical “generic tribal cards” is a functional Historic deck. There are just way too many things that are actively hostile to your strategy, more powerful for little effort, or both. Nothing going on here beats a Turn 3 Magma Opus, or really even beats a Mayhem Devil.

Liliana, Untouched by Death Shambling Ghast

Technically, Champion of the Perished does integrate well into one powerful shell. If you perpetually give Shambling Ghast -1/-1, it dies on entering the battlefield. That makes a Treasure token, returning the mana you spent on the Ghast. Liliana, Untouched by Death’s -3 ability is just an effect that applies for the turn, unlike most similar things that grant the ability to cards in a graveyard. That means you can keep casting a Shambling Ghast that keeps dying, even if it’s “a new game object” each time. That’s infinite Zombies entering the battlefield for Champion of the Perished, which is also just a good normal card when the combo doesn’t go off.

Vesperlark

I say technically, because this is by far the second-best instance of the perpetual cards doing something egregious. And I do mean egregious, because the perpetually 0/0 Vesperlark setup is so far beyond reasonable. If you don’t have another target, Vesperlark must choose itself and the game is a draw. If you actually want to win the game, Vesperlark doubles as a way to recur Blood Artist and similar cards. Does anyone want Worldgorger Dragon combo on Arena?

Something is going to happen to this setup, but I’ll spend some time on a list in case they only ban Vesperlark and assume that’s okay.


Pioneer

Pioneer might be the place I’m most excited for Champion of the Perished.

However exciting you think the Historic version of the Shambling Ghast combo was, it’s better in Pioneer. Instead of the whole perpetual part, you just pair Liliana + Ghast with Nantuko Husk and that’s it. Adding to that, Rally the Ancestors is a hell of a card that just works with all the same things the Liliana combo does.

And now you can just clock people with Champion of the Perished when your combo is cut off. Creature-combo-aggro, here we go again.


Mire Triton Feed the Swarm Vanishing Verse

I want to specifically mention a few cards released since I wrote that initial article after Throne of Eldraine: Mire Triton, Feed the Swarm, and Vanishing Verse.

Let’s start with the good. Feed the Swarm and Vanishing Verse are awesome for the sideboard in any black graveyard deck in Pioneer. They are the perfect mix of coverage for Rest in Peace and opponents doing normal things. Even past these removal spells, this deck has a really great sideboard. I’m not even copy-pasting the common cards in Mono-Black Aggro sideboards and I still feel like they are all good, which means there are even more options if you need to change it up.

On to the bad. Mire Triton…. that just isn’t a good card. It’s always a trap. I might consider a couple of copies of Tymaret Calls the Dead since it mills a significant number of cards, but I’m skeptical of more noncreatures that tax your creatures in the graveyard.

Modern

Champion of the Parish isn’t even good enough these days in Modern. What needs to happen to make Champion of the Perished playable in the format?

Gravecrawler Geralf's Messenger

Some of this is already done for you. Your threats are resilient to Unholy Heat and Fury in a way the random Humans aren’t.

Meddling Mage Reflector Mage

The gap you need to make up is in scope. The Humans cards all play Magic on another axis from just having power and toughness. On rate the Zombies cards aren’t matching the raw-power threats in Modern, and they play right into the opposing plan of a chunk of interaction with enough threats to fade one or two removal spells. You really, really can’t just tribal-pile your way to wins.

Here’s my attempt at a Zombies deck that does more.


Strangleroot Geist Geralf's Messenger Butcher Ghoul

The premise here is almost identical to the traditional Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo deck, but with better mana. You still have the mix of resilient beatdown and combo, just without Turn 2 double green into Turn 3 triple black issues. Champion of the Perished is even a combo piece, growing as you loop undying Zombies with Yawgmoth.

Imperial Recruiter Aether Vial

This also borrows something I had seen people trying in the later part of Golgari Yawgmoth’s recent success: Imperial Recruiter plus Aether Vial. I doubt this deck wants to splash for Ignoble Hierarch’s acceleration, but Aether Vial will do just fine while Imperial Recruiter fills in for the green tutors.

With that splashing comment in mind, you may want to splash for Imperial Recruiter targets. Gorilla Shaman was just the first in-color pass at something to clean up Colossus Hammer. I don’t think Collector Ouphe is quite the card you are looking for, but there are other threats in the format that have a Imperial Recruiter-able answer worth spending a single sideboard space on.

Champion of the Perished

Regardless of what format you’re playing Champion of the Perished in, the general statement remains the same — good one-drops make good new decks. Champion of the Perished is obviously good; it’s just a matter of seeing if the rest of the Zombie crew can provide the support it needs.