Sorry, I just can't get BRAINS out of my head. The Zombies have officially returned to Standard in a big way and I'm excited to really explore the archetype in my quest for brains. Liliana's Mastery makes for an absurd Magic card still and will continue to make a huge impact and be one of the best cards to be drawn at all times. Sure adding a lord and an extra 1-drop is great but there's much more than that. Let's take a look at the decklist that I'm currently playing.
B/W Zombies -- M19 Standard | Rudy Briksza
- Creatures (24)
- 4 Death Baron
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Graveyard Marshal
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Wayward Servant
- Planeswalkers (2)
- 2 Liliana, Untouched by Death
- Sorceries (1)
- 1 Never // Return
- Enchantments (4)
- 4 Liliana's Mastery
- Lands (25)
- 2 Plains
- 8 Swamp
- 3 Ifnir Deadlands
- 4 Concealed Courtyard
- 4 Isolated Chapel
- 4 Unclaimed Territory
The major question has to be why splash White? Well there's a good reason, I promise you. Wayward Servant is absurdly powerful and helps swing games in your favor. In a format like we have now every point matters and stalemates are sometimes the name of the game. Part of the reason cards like The Scarab God, Heart of Kiran, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger are such integral cards to Standard is that they break stalemates. A card like Wayward Servant doesn't care if you get into combat, and with some of the token producers you have like Liliana's Mastery and Graveyard Marshal, it's easy to have some massive swings.
Death Baron makes a huge impact in the deck by giving an important keyword in Deathtouch. This lets us get into combat no matter what and when Mono-Green big creatures, and The Scarab God is great for ensuring we can always carry over for the last bits of damage. While I like Death Baron, I think that Lord of the Accursed is the better lord since it gives Menace and if you're looking to trim post board that's where I'd start first.
Liliana is certainly a card I was impressed by as well. In my last article, I debated how good Liliana would be and it mostly depended on the zombie deck. Since Zombies is good, we can play her. Besides the obvious value of the drain, the -3 is another huge benefit. You're priced into to playing enough lands to be a midrange deck, so flooding is something that does happen and Liliana helps you make use of it. Rebuying a bunch of creatures is okay, but fireballing your opponent while filling the board is something else. It also makes you even more resilient to removal and sweepers. While it may be a slow grind, the types of decks playing sweepers are often a little bit slower on the uptake which gives you time and the ability to follow up.
Against aggressive decks, Liliana lets you push an advantage by clearing the board of a potentially huge threat or by swinging the life total race massively. Between Wayward Servant and Liliana, it's easy to put your opponent on the back foot. And with gigantic Zombies crashing through it makes any thought off a defense just holding on for hope. No Dark Salvation is a big hit, especially against the Red decks; but, at least Liliana's -2 can take down everything, provided you have enough zombies. It does mean you have to work harder to make sure Liliana can take down bigger threats, but you won't have to worry too much about killing smaller creatures. And with this deck I just want to jam.
The benefit to being like a Merfolk deck is all your cards are redundant. This makes deck-building a little bit easier as you really just have to fill in some spaces with removal and have solid sideboard plans ready to go. Post board I've included Demon of Catastrophes as it lines up well against the mirror and Mono-Red decks. Without Disintegration they struggle to be able to kill it. If they use two Lightning Strikes or trade a creature and burn spell for Demon you're going to make out for it. With recursive threats it's pretty easy to trade up any creature for the Demon and make an impact.
Playing White in the deck also gives us an opportunity to splash some neat sideboard cards like Ixalan's Binding and Invoke the Divine. These give you options against cards like The Scarab God while Invoke can swing races against Vehicles style decks. If Tezzeret gets big, it will be nice to have against the artifact decks as well. Otherwise, the deck is built to have the most redundancy and consistency. The plains are often a terrible draw, but needed if you'd like to cast Wayward Servant or have the White sources post board. It's possible it should be one Plains and one Forsaken Sanctuary, but having a Guildgate in the deck causes more problems than it solves. I've been pretty happy and the issues have come up quite infrequently to the point where I'm fine with the risk.
Since we are at the start of the format, there is some uncertainty as to what decks you'll be playing against, but we do have some idea. Against Red decks, we don't really want the 1-drops as they come into play tapped and don't make an impact. We want to go bigger; and, with the removal we have post board, we can afford to trim away some of the little creatures and some Death Barons. For control decks we have some of the best cards against the like Duress or even Arguel's Blood Fast. Since we have White in our deck if they are a heavy Cast Out version Invoke the Divine comes in and otherwise we have our own Ixalan's Binding. I prefer Binding since it's so good against cards like The Scarab God. The control decks have all moved to playing less win conditions, so having a semi permanent answer to their few threats is a good way to close out the game. When it comes to midrange mirrors, we are already in a great spot. There's not too much to change except adding some more removal for some bigger creatures. Having a lot of Lords that give you either evasion or Deathtouch means you'll be able to punch through most boards. I would highly recommend never boarding out Liliana's Mastery as it is one of the best cards in your deck by a mile.
What deck are you looking forward to playing? If you haven't tried Zombies yet, I'd certainly recommend it. I doubt this tribe is going anywhere. They always seem to come back from BEYOND THE GRAVE.