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The Zombies of Innistrad


It's hard to believe we've been deep into Innistrad: Midnight Hunt for more than a month now. I've been jamming some drafts on Arena and just covered the World Championship, though (congrats to Yuta Takahashi!), and time has flown and it's been more than a month since I wrote an article about the previews and the Vampires of Innistrad!

I had intended to follow up my Werewolf and Vampire articles with a look at some favorite Commander Zombies, and I didn't realize it had been so long already, so let's dive right in!

It's especially a timely time to tackle Zombies, as we're seeing a ton of people building the tribe right now thanks in large part to this card:

Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver

Look, Zombies have no shortage of Commanders to choose from, but Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver is still a cool new toy. The fun in Wilhelt comes in the puzzle that he unlocks with the decayed Zombies.

See, any Zombie card can spit out tokens. There's Diregraf Colossus and Ghoulcaller Gisa and so on - certainly no lack of Zombie tokens to swarm an opponent. And Wilhelt can do that, too. If you want a horde of 2/2s Wilhelt isn't your Zombie Warrior, but if you want a consistent token maker to send Zombies into the red zone, Wilhelt can do that for you reliably.

But the real challenge comes in finding ways to use those Zombies for other, more sacrificial means. After all, in order to keep the Zombies flowing you have to get your Decayed Zombies off the battlefield. And while Wilhelt offers a way to do that himself (for a great benefit), people are clearly enjoying the challenge of finding other things to do with the tokens and Wilhelt has been among the most popular new commanders.

Before too long we'll be deep into Crimson Vow previews, which I'm sure means more Zombies. So with that in mind, let's look back of some of the best Zombies of all of our Innistrad sets!

Undead Alchemist

This is kind of a secret Zombie lord. It doesn't fit the traditional "lord" mode of something like Lord of the Undead that pumps the team, but what it does do is something I've always loved: give a theme-specific ability. In this case, the Alchemist allows all of your Zombies that connect to mill opponents.

Now, milling your opponents in Commander is not always the best idea, but it is a pretty unique take on a tribal theme, and given that you can build around it to an extent. As a Zombie deck you're probably already looking at some reanimation action, and tuning your deck to cards that can target opposing graveyards for reanimation shenanigans like The Scarab God can turn the downside into an upside.

Plus there's always Havengul Lich! It's a classic Zombie option, and is the kind of card you can really catch people by surprise with in 2021. Or if you're into a more modern option you could always just slam a Syr Konrad, the Grim and c-c-combo your way to victory with the Alchemist in a giant swing.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Remember how we were talking about solving the minigame puzzle of Wilhelt's tokens? Well, Grimgrin is an oldie but a goodie, and perfect for putting those tokens to good use.

It's easy to forget how powerful Grimgrin can be given how old it is, but if you can reliably untap the Zombie it's an absolute house in play - when it attacks you destroy any creature and grow the Grimgrin, making it a threat to end games with commander damage.

Of course, you have to feed the Grimgrin. And while Wilhelt is a perfect partner, this is Zombies we're talking about so there's plenty of options. The classic Gravecrawler comes to mind, but there are plenty of Zombies you can throw away for value in Commander even if you're not abusing Decaying Zombie tokens.

Relentless Dead
Diregraf Colossus

I remember when Diregraf Colossus was first previewed for Shadows Over Innistrad. It seemed enormously powerful to me at the time - it was a fresh take on Unbreathing Horde and one that seemed even more powerful. And yet it took a while for things to really catch on for the tribe in Standard.

But catch on they did, and there was a really sweet Standard deck featuring the three cards above. It turns out the trio is still an amazing Commander 1-2-3 curve. Cryptbreaker is just a monster one-drop reminiscent of Deathrite Shaman in form if not in power level. But the Zombie is enormously strong in Commander, allowing you a discard outlet if you want to fill your graveyard with reanimation fodder or Gravecrawlers or putting your Zombie hordes to card advantage duty to help you refill.

Speaking of refilling, Relentless Dead is iconic. The art is astonishing and a perfect representation of everything I love about the Innistrad aesthetic. But besides that it's a really annoying card to play against in Commander. Unless you can pick it off with an exile spell, it's trivial to return it to hand essentially forever for the Zombies player, and it keeps the absolute worst of the worst coming back to shamble on for more brains.

Champion of the Perished

It doesn't matter that there are some other really cool card names in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt like Triskaidekaphile, anything and everything comes in behind Champion of the Perished. It's an amazing callback to Champion of the Parish, and even if it weren't such a perfect Human-Zombie analogue, it is a strong name on its own.

Anyway, the card is also just as important for Zombies as Champion of the Parish is for Humans, especially when you consider that where Humans uses Thalia's Lieutenant to double-dip on counters on turn two, Champion of the Perished can actually combo with Lazotep Reaver to do the same. I'd love to see some competitive 60-card decks come of these interactions in something like Midnight Hunt Standard!

Tainted Adversary

As the Mythic Zombie representation from Midnight Hunt, the Adversary presents an intriguing puzzle for Commander. Obviously you can play it early as an above-curve threat that can trade up and start triggering whatever Zombie synergies you have, but the real power of Tainted Adversary comes in its second ability.

I'm sure this will be put to nasty use. Allowing a payment any number of times is asking for combo potential, and in the color with Cabal Coffers and all the sacrifice outlets you could want, the upper bound of Adversary seems quite strong. It can very quickly spit out a ton of tokens, and those tokens can then be turned into sacrifice fodder for game-winning effects or simply more mana. No matter how you look at it, this flagship Zombie mythic from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has some huge upside in Commander and is yet another terrifying combo with Coffers.

I've talked a lot about how Innistrad is my favorite set, and I think it provides some of the best tribal Zombie cards in all of Commander. I've highlighted a few of my favorites today, but what are you favorite Zombie memories from Innistrad sets?

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler


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