Resurgence of Zombies

Christian Calcano

“Core Set 2019” (M19) is in the mix now for Standard, and after 1 week on Magic Online, we’ve already seen some new cards have an impact on the format.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Without a doubt the most impactful card has been 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》, which has brought Grixis back as a top archetype in Standard.

Thorn LieutenantVine MareViashino PyromancerBanefire

We also saw Mono-Green get a couple of new cards in 《Thorn Lieutenant》 and 《Vine Mare》. While Mono-Red decks picked up 《Viashino Pyromancer》 and 《Banefire》. These decks, along with UW Control, 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》, and RB Aggro/Midrange, appear to be the current metagame to beat.

Enter Zombies, a once powerful archetype just last year that fell off the map once the main core of the deck was lost to rotation. Today I’ll be discussing the resurgence of Zombies in Standard, how it’s positioned in the metagame, and where do I see the format headed going into PT 25th Anniversary. Let’s get right to it then!

Resurgence Of Zombies

Death BaronDiregraf GhoulGraveyard MarshalLiliana, Untouched by Death

After rotation, there were still a few Zombies cards left in Standard, but it was clear that the deck needed a lot more help. Well M19 has done just that as it’s brought back a couple of older Zombies in 《Death Baron》 and 《Diregraf Ghoul》. As well as provided us with a couple of sweet new Zombie cards in 《Graveyard Marshal》 and 《Liliana, Untouched by Death》.

I was pretty excited to see the deck has finally gotten enough support to see Standard play again, and after week 1, a couple of versions have managed to go 5-0 in the MTGO Competitive Leagues.

Metallic MimicGoblin Chainwhirler

Both lists here are fairly similar, with a few changes in the main deck and sideboard between them. I’ll start things off by saying that I’m not a fan of playing 《Metallic Mimic》 in the main deck right now.

It’s definitely a powerful card in a deck like this, but for as long as 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 dominates Standard, I don’t really want to be playing with 1 toughness creatures. The exception in this deck of course is 《Dread Wanderer》, which can be brought back with its ability in the mid to late game.

Scrapheap Scrounger

I’m also not sure about 《Scrapheap Scrounger》‘s place in this deck. As we can see, Tinefol_Ru played 4 in their main deck while DavidBeaudrie played 0 in their 75. I determined that Scrounger doesn’t fit that great into this deck for a few reasons.

First, it isn’t a Zombie, second, its ability doesn’t exactly play well with 《Graveyard Marshal》/《Dread Wanderer》, and third, it’s rather poor against the aggressive Red and Green creature decks in the format. With all these things in mind, I came up with my version of the deck based on the current metagame:

Card Choices For Main Deck

So the main differences here as you can see are my choice to play 4 《Doomfall》 and 3 《Cast Down》 maindeck over 《Fatal Push》 and multiple 《Vraska's Contempt》. I opted to play these for a few reasons.



I think 《Doomfall》 is actively one of the best cards in Standard as it’s one of the few cards that can answer many difficult to deal with threats. With the most powerful cards in the format costing 4 and 5, 《Doomfall》 allows you to strip them from your opponents hand the turn before they could cast them, which is huge for dealing with cards like 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》. I feel like there’s no matchup that 《Doomfall》 is bad in right now.

Cast Down


My reasoning for playing 《Cast Down》 and no 《Fatal Push》 is because 《Cast Down》 kills the creatures that I need to answer such as 《Glorybringer》, 《Thrashing Brontodon》, 《Goblin Chainwhirler》, 《Aethersphere Harvester》, etc. While 《Doomfall》 and 《Cast Down》 are certainly a lot slower than 《Fatal Push》 vs the aggressive decks, the deck still has 8 one drops which help slow those decks down.

Karn, Scion of Urza


The last card that’s different that I decided to include was 《Karn, Scion of Urza》. One of the problems you run into with these kinds of decks is a lack of ways to generate card advantage. 《Arguel's Blood Fast》 is certainly one of the best cards for that in Black, but it’s not good vs the aggro decks. 《Karn》 is a nice card to play on curve that can help make sure you make your 5th land drop for 《Liliana's Mastery》, or dig for all your action spells.

Liliana, Untouched by Death


Another form of card advantage in the deck is the 1 《Liliana, Untouched by Death》. When I first saw this card I wasn’t too impressed because of her “+1” ability feeling mediocre at best. But that ability is not bad as it feeds 《Marshal》, can find you a 《Dread Wanderer》, and even finish off some opponents in your fast starts.

The two – abilities are both fairly strong. Zombies is good at amassing a board presence thanks to cards like 《Mastery》 and 《Marshal》, so 《Liliana》 can often have her “-2” ability deal with 3 and even 4 toughness creatures. Her “-3” ability isn’t that powerful solely because it generally involves her surviving for at least one turn. But it’s yet another way this deck can out grind opponents.

Card Choices For Sideboard

On to the sideboard now, the only real changes I made from the 5-0 lists are putting 4 《Metallic Mimic》 and 3 《Bontu's Last Reckoning》 in the sideboard.

Metallic Mimic


The 《Mimic》 come in against the non- 《Chainwhirler》 decks. I usually take out the 《Ghouls》 or the removal spells for them depending on the matchup. Vs decks like Mono-Green where they have cheap big creatures, I take out the 1 drops since they don’t matchup well in combat. Vs decks like Control I take out the removal spells and get more aggressive post board.

Bontu's Last Reckoning


The 《Bontu's Last Reckoning》 I’m trying out now for the Mono-Green matchup. It’s pretty difficult for this deck to deal with a resolved 《Ghalta, Primal Hunger》 otherwise, so the Reckonings are mainly for this matchup. I think they’re also ok against the new Mono-Red aggro deck, but you only want 1 or 2 against them since their deck plays a lot of burn spells.

The rest of the sideboard is filled up with discard, a few extra removal spells, and a few extra card advantage spells.


I expect Zombies will be around for a bit, but I’m not sure just how much of a player it’ll be. I definitely think it can compete in Standard, but the format will most likely be focused around Grixis Midrange and BR as the decks to beat going forward. I think the matchups vs the red decks and the control decks are quite decent, but the green decks and 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》 decks are tough.

Hopefully you enjoyed this article, and that Zombies treats you as well as it treated me in the past!

Thanks for Reading,

Christian Calcano

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