Monday, March 7, 2016

Modern Monday: Mono Black Zombies

Last year, I began a series of mono colored tribal themed Modern decks by writing an article on Modern Mono White Soldiers. In January, I finally got around to writing the second installment with Modern Mono Blue Merfolk. Now, in order to avoid taking a few years to actually finish the series, I'll try and get one out every month or two, and here is the deck for Zombies.

This whole series has an underlying purpose other than being a mono colored deck featuring an "iconic" creature type for that color. Each deck so far has been under $100 by Star City Games standards. Now, the price might go up or down over time for some cards, but when written, White Soldiers wound up at $93.02 and Blue Merfolk resulted in $93.98 so we're doing pretty well. Hitting a price goal and adhering to an underlying theme is successful, and it gives players with a more restrictive budget a chance to enter Modern with a cheap deck and have ideas for cards to replace/upgrade when they get the chance. If every card in the deck was $5 or $10, it wouldn't be budget, so we'll save that for the pros.

Thus far, we have soldiers and merfolk. My idea board (HEAVILY outdated, mind you...) says Zombies or Vampires, and I felt there was more room to work with Zombie tribal than vampires. Both are arguably two color factions, but I feel zombies just work better and are overall more "iconic" and with the spoilers of the horror-themed set of Shadows over Innistrad having started over the weekend, this seems to be a great time to look at budget zombie tribal decks... Sure Vampires could work too, but they aren't as budget friendly last I checked. Either way, let's go ahead and get started on the zombie deck.

Mono Black Zombies


x4 Diregraf Ghoul
x4 Gravecrawler
x2 Blood Scrivener
x4 Shambling Ghoul
x4 Cemetery Reaper
x4 Lord of the Undead
x2 Geralf's Messenger
x2 Unbreathing Horde
x2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel


x18 Swamp

Other Spells

x4 Duress
x2 Doom Blade
x2 Go for the Throat
x2 Dismember
x4 Hero's Downfall

Just like the previous two decks, I'm using as the benchmark for prices, All prices will be for the Near Mint versions with the cheapest version available. For instance, any card with multiple printings where one is $1 and the other is $0.50, the one worth $0.50 would be the price used. Basically, the copies from Innistrad/Dark Ascension are a little higher in price from the new Duel Deck: Blessed vs. Cursed copies, so we're probably using the duel deck price if it was printed there.

Diregraf Ghoul  Gravecrawler

Diregraf Ghoul x 4: $1.00
Gravecrawler x 4: $15.96

Diregraf Ghoul is a key piece of getting the deck off to a strong start. On turn two you're swinging with two power. Coming in tapped is meaningless unless you consider blocking, but that's typically irrelevant turn one.

Gravecrawler, while it can't block, you can keep casting it from your graveyard. Every creature in the deck is a zombie. If you can't keep bringing Gravecrawler back, there is something seriously wrong with the deck. Just like with Diregraf Ghoul, one of these turn one turns into two damage turn two. It's the best this deck can hope for, but it's still great.

Blood Scrivener  Shambling Ghoul

Blood Scrivener x 2: $0.98
Shambling Ghoul x 4: $0.60

Blood Scrivener is strictly here for the card draw. Once you've played your entire hand, you want to draw extra cards. More cards mean more zombies. More zombies mean more damage. More damage means more won games. You get the idea. One life is nothing, but I'm sure you could find your favorite two-drop zombie to substitute for him. Black Cat might be a reasonable alternative.

Shambling Ghoul is basically extra copies of Diregraf Ghoul. Nothing gives your zombies haste in this deck, so coming into play tapped doesn't hurt much, but on turn three if you have one of our anthem creatures, Shambling Ghoul is out of Lightning Bolt range, and that's important.  

Cemetery Reaper  Lord of the Undead

Cemetery Reaper x 4: $8.76
Lord of the Undead x 4: $35.96

Cemetery Reaper boosts all your zombies and can even make tokens if all you have is a full graveyard. Seems good enough.

Lord of the Undead is pricey (not in the mana way), but you can get zombies back from your graveyard AND boosts your zombies. He's strictly better than Cemetery Reaper because the ability costs less and you get a zombie to play and keep playing, not a token that can be easily swept aside.

Geralf's Messenger  Unbreathing Horde  Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Geralf's Messenger x 2: $9.98
Unbreathing Horde x 4: $1.96
Gray Merchant of Asphodel x 2: $0.50

Geralf's Messenger is powerful because it basically deals four damage to your opponent during its lifetime. Bring one back with Lord of the Undead and I think you'd have a strong chance of winning.

Unbreathing Horde was added because with all the zombies in the deck, by turn three I would hope it would be a 2/2, but later in the game it could be much larger depending on your graveyard.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel was a powerhouse during the Mono Black Devotion days of Theros and getting life while taking it away just from black mana symbols, well Geralf's Messenger will hopefully give you a major boost. He also offsets life loss from Blood Scrivener, but most important of all, he withstands a Lightning Bolt. There are only two because you won't always want to see him, but in the late game, if one showed up, it'd be one of the best things to happen, depending on how your day is going.


Duress x 4: $0.60

Duress is here for obvious reasons. Taking away options from your opponent is good.

Doom Blade  Go for the Throat

Doom Blade x 2: $0.50
Go for the Throat x 2: $5.90

Doom Blade and Go for the Throat are both cheap kill spells. Mainly due to the possibility of wich deck you'd be playing against, I dropped in a couple of each, but if there is a big Affinity meta, you'd want more Doom Blade and less Go for the Throat. If we're talking Eldrazi, they're colorless, so go nuts with both.

Dismember  Hero's Downfall

Dismember x 2: $3.30
Hero's Downfall x 4: $7.96

Dismember is another great kill spell to consider. You can even use it when low on mana earlier on in the game. It's not recommended due to the limited amount (read "two cards that allow for") of lifegain in the deck, but it's there in a pinch.

Hero's Downfall is much more important which is why there are four copies. Options are good. Sure, creature kills spells are great, but being able to take out a planeswalker is good too. Your other kills spells have requirements with creatures either being nonblack, nonartifact, or a 5/5 or smaller, but ere it doesn't matter. If you don't have any Hero's Downfalls or don't want to spend $8.00 for them, Murder is a good alternative. It doesn't take care of planeswalkers, but it'll set you back just under $3 for a playset and the mana cost is the same with no requirements for the targeted creature.

Assuming the Swamps cost nothing, the deck winds up costing $93.96. This price is likely to change based on the popularity and availability of these cards, but as of the publishing date of this article, it's under $100. Sure, I had to make a major tweak to the deck, but keep reading the potential upgrades to learn what I changed during pricing.

While there isn't a way to make this deck any cheaper on account of the vital pieces for the deck, there are many ways to improve it. Let's touch on that now, shall we?

  Death Baron  Inquisition of Kozilek  Thoughtseize

Death Baron was originally included as having four copies in the deck. Skeletons are irrelevant to the deck, but giving other Zombies +1/+1 and deathtouch was relevant. Of course, when more than 50% of the budget is used up in four cards and just these four and Lord of the Undead raise you above the $100 budget, something has to go, and I got rid of Death Baron entirely. By the way... four copies of the cheapest version will run you $59.96, so if you want to upgrade the deck, take away two Diregraf Ghouls and two Shambling Ghouls. I hated to make that trade, but it stops being a budget-friendly deck if I didn't.

Inquisition of Kozilek and/or Thoughtseize are more useful and far more versatile than Duress. Duress only takes noncreature cards while Thoughtseize takes any nonland card and Inquisition takes any nonland costing three or less mana (which in Modern, under three mana is most of what people play).

  Zombie Apocalypse  Empty the Pits

I like Zombie Apocalypse. It's pretty cool since you can bring all your zombies back from the graveyard, of course it can easily be stopped by a Relic of Progenitus, but it's still something to consider for the deck.

Empty the Pits is also another cool card and works opposite Zombie Apocalypse. Basically you exile your whole graveyard to create zombie tokens. If you were to include these, I'd recommend going with one of each or choose just one. They both have their merits, and I suppose it really just depends on your local metagame.

Anyway, here is a basic mono black zombie tribal deck for Modern under $100. I hope you have enjoyed the third installment of this series as much as I have and I look forward to showing off the red tribal deck, whenever that might get written.

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