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Perfect Deck Guide to Mono Black Zombies

2017/09/08 00:00 

    • Christian Calcano
    • Hareruya Pros Blog

Hello everyone!

My name is Christian Calcano and I'm very excited to be writing for Hareruya!

Today I'll be talking about a deck that has brought me quite a bit of success in this standard format and that's Mono-Black Zombies. The deck has certainly seen less play in recent weeks which has lead people to believe it's not much of a contender in Standard.

However, the deck is still very good and the fact that there's been at least 1 copy in every Standard GP top 8 since the PT means it'll be a player until the rotation. I feel as if it's the most consistent deck in the format due to it being a mono-colored deck and multiple ways of gaining card advantage (《Cryptbreaker》, 《Dark Salvation》, 《Liliana's Mastery》).

CryptbreakerDark SalvationLiliana's Mastery

This past weekend we saw the resurgance of Mardu Vehicles, as well as 3 new archetypes breakthrough in UB Control, Mono-White Eldrazi, and GW Ramp. Prior to this the focus was mainly on Ramunap Red after the PT. Zombies had a good performance at GP Minneapolis so going into GP Denver the focus shifted to Zombies. Temur with multiple 《Skysovereign》 main deck ended up being the answer.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

That meant that going into GP DC / Turin Temur Energy was the deck to beat. Since Ramunap Red and Zombies saw less play as a result of this shift, it allowed these decks that try to go over the top of Temur to flourish. However, out of all these decks doing well in the current metagame, I'd argue that only GW Ramp is truly a bad matchup for Zombies. I say truly because I don't feel that the Temur matchup is bad for Zombies at all. I've heard players say it is, but I beg to differ and I feel like the matchup is rather close as you have all the tools to beat it. Here is the list that I sleeved up at GP DC:

Christian Calcano - Mono Black Zombies
GP DC 2017(59th)

19 《Swamp》
4 《Ifnir Deadlands》
2 《Scavenger Grounds》

-Land (25)-

4 《Cryptbreaker》
4 《Dread Wanderer》
4 《Relentless Dead》
4 《Diregraf Colossus》
4 《Lord of the Accursed》

-Creature (20)-
4 《Dark Salvation》
2 《Fatal Push》
4 《Grasp of Darkness》
1 《Hour of Glory》
4 《Liliana's Mastery》

-Spell (15)-
4 《Transgress the Mind》
2 《Dispossess》
2 《Never // Return》
2 《Gonti, Lord of Luxury》
2 《Hour of Glory》
1 《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》
1 《Fatal Push》
1 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》

-Sideboard (15)-

The main addition to the deck for this weekend was 《Hour of Glory》. I learned shortly before the GP that 《The Scarab God》 was definitely a card I had to respect going into it. I knew it would be very popular in Temur Energy decks as well as UB Control becoming a deck that was seeing more play. It's certainly a powerful card that is difficult to deal with and can easily take over the game, so upgrading 《Murder》 to 《Hour of Glory》 felt like an easy decision for me.

Hour of GloryThe Scarab God

Another thing I'd like to touch on is the omission of 《Westvale Abbey》 in favor of 2 《Scavenger Grounds》. I feel that 《Grounds》 is a lot better than 《Abbey》 for multiple reasons. First of all it's a Desert, which is huge as it gives you extra activations out of your 《Ifnir Deadlands》. Second, the ability is relevant in multiple matchups (《God-Pharaoh's Gift》, Red for 《Earthshaker Khenra》, 《Torrential Gearhulk》 decks, 《The Scarab God》, and even sometimes in the mirror). And last, in most scenarios where you actually have 5 or more creatures, you will almost always be winning the game.

Westvale AbbeyScavenger Grounds

I was very happy with my list for the GP and don't feel like anything warrants changing. With all that said let's go into the matchups and how to sideboard for each of them.

Matchup Guide

Ramunap Red:

Arguably the best matchup for Zombies, this is definitely the deck you want to see on the other side of the table. However, the deck is extremely powerful so you can definitely still lose to it. The game plan vs them is to try to make it to the late game as once you start casting 《Liliana's Masteries》 and 《Dark Salvations》 for 2, it becomes very difficult for them to finish you off.

Liliana's MasteryDark Salvation

Clearly removal is key here, but another thing that you need to do to assure you get to the late game is to rarely attack in the early game. The Red deck is so good at pushing through damage thanks to their haste creatures that also make your creatures unable to block. So for example if it's your 3rd turn and you're on the play and have a 《Dread Wanderer》 untapped and play a 《Relentless Dead》, you generally don't want to attack in this situation as both 《Earthshaker Khenra》 and 《Ahn-Crop Crasher》 give them good attacks on their turn.

Earthshaker KhenraAhn-Crop Crasher

Another thing I find important is to not use 《Grasp of Darkness》 on creatures that aren't 《Hazoret the Fervent》 or 《Glorybringer》 if you can afford to as you only have so many ways to deal with these important threats. For this matchup I board differently if I'm on the play or the draw, so this is how I board if I'm on the play:

Against Ramunap Red On The Play


Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed
Fatal Push Fatal Push


Never // Return Never // Return
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Hour of Glory

Red decks generally go big post board, especially when on the draw, so I like siding out 《Fatal Push》 on the play because they'll most likely be more of a midrange deck and you get to establish a board presence before they do. The cards that matter the most post board are 《Glorybringer》 and 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》. For this reason you generally want to setup a 5/5 《Diregraf Colossus》 as it becomes very difficult to deal with since it's out of the range of their burn spells and 《Chandra》/《Glorybringer》.

GlorybringerChandra, Torch of Defiance

Also important to note, you want to setup a board that is resilient to 《Chandra》 (2-3 creatures) because having it come down on an empty board is one of the ways they can run away with the game if you don't have a 《Never // Return》. On the draw however, I board a bit differently:

Against Ramunap Red On The Draw


Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed


Never // Return Never // Return
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Fatal Push

Being on the draw means that they're more likely to have an aggressive game plan. So you want an extra 《Fatal Push》 here as you'll mostly be on the backfoot in the early turns and you don't want to get run over.

Temur Energy:

This matchup is the main reason I decided to just play the 4th 《Grasp》 main deck as it's the best answer to 《Glorybringer》 and dealing with 《Whirler Virtuoso》/《Bristling Hydra》 with their ETB triggers on the stack (if they don't already have 3 Energy of course).

Grasp of DarknessWhirler VirtuosoBristling HydraGlorybringer

This matchup is fairly straight forward I feel. Develop your board but make sure to hold up 《Grasp》 once they get to 5 mana. You'll mostly want to 《Fatal Push》 their 《Servant of the Conduits》 and 《Longtusk Cubs》 on sight as they're the only 2 CMC targets in the deck. Here's how I sideboard vs them:

Against Temur Energy


Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed
Fatal Push Fatal Push


Never // Return Never // Return Gonti, Lord of Luxury Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Hour of Glory Hour of Glory

Postboard you can expect more of the same but they'll most likely have 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》 as well as 《Chandra, Flamecaller》. 《Gonti》 is excellent here as you'll have plenty of big spells to choose from, 《Abrade》 as an answer for their 《Skysovereign》, and it's deathtouch blocker for their 《Bristling Hydra》.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Something to note is whether or not they have black in their deck for 《The Scarab God》. If you don't see 《Blooming Marsh》 or if they don't 《Attune with Aether》 for a 《Swamp》 in a position where it makes sense to get it, then it's fair to say they're on normal Temur. If that's the case you can bring in the 《Kalitas》 instead of the 3rd 《Hour of Glory》 as another late game threat. However, you'll want to try to wait till turn 7 or later to cast it so you can be able to activate its ability in the same turn so it doesn't just die to a 《Glorybringer》/《Chandra》/《Harnessed Lightning》.

Mono-White Eldrazi:

This isn't a matchup I've gotten to test much but after looking over the list that Corey Baumeister played to a top 4 finish at GP DC, I feel that the only cards that are of real concern preboard are 《Thought-Knot Seer》 and 《Archangel Avacyn》.

Thought-Knot SeerArchangel Avacyn

They have multiple ways of transforming 《Avacyn》 so you should be careful about tapping out if they have 5 mana open along with a 《Selfless Spirit》 or 《Walking Ballista》 in play. But representing 《Grasp of Darkness》 definitely puts them in a difficult situation and you generally don't want to cast it on anything that isn't 《Thought-Knot》 or 《Avacyn》. This is how I would board vs them :

Against Mono-White Eldrazi


Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed
Fatal Push Fatal Push


Hour of Glory Hour of Glory Gonti, Lord of Luxury Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

I expect they will bring in multiple 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》, as well as 《Linvala, the Preserver》. 《Gonti》 seems good in this matchup but you will definitely have to keep 《Eldrazi Displacer》 in mind when taking a creature. 《Hour of Glory》 gives us more answers to their threats and 《Kalitas》 can swing games in our favor and definitely demands an answer. They also can't transform 《Avacyn》 as 《Kalitas》 exiles their creatures if they would die.

Gonti, Lord of LuxuryHour of GloryKalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Mardu Vehicles:

Zombies was one of the decks that drove Mardu out of the format after PT Amonkhet. Preboard is very good as their creatures are poorly positioned vs you. So you want to save your 《Fatal Push》/《Grasp of Darkness》 to deal with their 《Heart of Kiran》 as well as 《Archangel Avacyn》. 《Dark Salvation》 is what you want to be using on their other creatures as it can't interact with their Vehicles. It's important to stay ahead on board as an unchecked 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》 will quickly take over the game.

Heart of KiranArchangel AvacynGideon, Ally of Zendikar

Here's how I board for this matchup:

Against Mardu Vehicles


Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed Lord of the Accursed
Dark Salvation Dark Salvation


Never // Return Never // Return Gonti, Lord of Luxury Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Hour of Glory Hour of Glory

《Dark Salvation》 isn't the best here as they will most likely side out their 《Toolcraft Exemplar》 and other small creatures for more Planeswalkers and Vehicles. Keeping 2 《Fatal Push》 is fine because it's the best answer to《Heart of Kiran》. 《Never // Return》 is great as most Mardu decks will have 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》, 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》, and 《Nahiri, the Harbinger》 after board. 《Hour of Glory》 serves as additional answers to their Vehichles as well as 《Avacyn》.

Hour of GloryNever // Return

《God-Pharaoh's Gift》:

This matchup can be a bit difficult preboard if you don't draw 《Scavenger Grounds》. You definitely want to hold on to 《Grasp of Darkness》 for when they return their 《Angel of Invention》 with 《Gift》 while the trigger is still on the stack. However, it's definitely important to note that 《Grasp of Darkness》 on 《Champion of Wits》 with its trigger on the stack means they cannot draw cards off it.

Angel of InventionGrasp of DarknessChampion of Wits

You don't want to overextend too much into 《Cataclysmic Gearhulk》 but most decks have gone down to 1 or just have in the sideboard instead. If you have a 《Diregraf Colossus》 though rebuilding after a 《Gearhulk》 can be fairly easy so while it's one of the best cards against Zombies, it's certainly not game ending. Here's how I would sideboard:

Against 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》


Liliana's Mastery Liliana's Mastery Liliana's Mastery Liliana's Mastery
Fatal Push Fatal Push Dark Salvation


Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind
Dispossess Dispossess Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

You generally don't want to use removal spells on their small creatures as they are not very good at blocking and feed 《Gate to the Afterlife》. It's definitely important to always be aware of how many creatures they have in graveyard, especially if they manage to get a 《Gate》 into play before you get to 《Transgress the Mind》 them.

Gate to the AfterlifeTransgress the Mind

But using 《Scavenger Grounds》 once can sometimes not be enough so having 《Ifnir Deadlands》 to sacrifice to 《the Grounds》 so you can use it again is often key. 《Dispossess》 naming 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》 is often good enough to seal the deal against them as their 《Angels》 become far less threatning and easier to manage when they're not 6/6.

Scavenger GroundsIfnir DeadlandsDispossess

GW Ramp:

Easily the worst matchup in my opinion, it's very hard to race this deck because their ramp spells gain them life as well as mana. Also preboard your removal spells are virtually dead so you'll want to fire them off on 《Thraben Inspector》 and 《Hour of Promise》 tokens. The fact that they have multiple sweepers in 《Fumigate》 and 《Descend upon the Sinful》 as well makes things even more difficult.

FumigateDescend upon the Sinful

Their end game is 《World Breaker》 and 《Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger》 so they usually win if they can get to them. You do have an 《Hour of Glory》 as answer to the first one of these, but game 1 is as bad as it gets but things improve a bit after board:

Against GW Ramp


Dark Salvation Dark Salvation Dark Salvation Dark Salvation
Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness
Fatal Push Fatal Push


Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind
Hour of Glory Hour of Glory Never // Return Never // Return
Gonti, Lord of Luxury Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Clearly 《Transgress the Mind》 is the huge addition here. Being able to disrupt their game plan while you pressure their life total is the only way to beat this deck. The turn before they have 5 mana will be the most important one as that's when they get to cast both 《Fumigate》 and 《Hour of Promise》. 《Hour of Promise》 is far scarier than 《Fumigate》 here since it gets them to 7+ mana as well as gives them 2 blockers which often enough is all they need to buy time to start casting 《World Breakers》 an 《Ulamogs》. The other cards aren't that great vs them but clear upgrades to your removal spells.

Hour of PromiseTransgress the MindFumigate

UB Control:

I think this matchup is favorable and mostly involves playing around certain cards. Because the deck has a lot of spot removal spells, you want to play around 《Censor》 in the early turns as well as cast your 《Relentless Deads》 when you have an additional mana to pay for its ability. For that reason you also want to be casting your 《Liliana's Mastery》 on 6+ mana if possible.

Relentless DeadCensorLiliana's Mastery

《Grasp of Darkness》 isn't the worst as it at least can be used against a flashed in 《Torrential Gearhulk》 that's blocking one of your creatures. 《The Scarab God》 is easily the best card against us but we have a main deck 《Hour》 as an answer and if you're far enough ahead you can just go wide because the deck doesn't have a true board sweeper. Here's how I would sideboard:

Against UB Control


Dark Salvation Dark Salvation Dark Salvation Dark Salvation
Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness
Fatal Push Fatal Push


Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind Transgress the Mind
Hour of Glory Hour of Glory Never // Return Never // Return
Gonti, Lord of Luxury Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Post board we get a lot of answers to 《The Scarab God》 which includes being able to exile it with the Aftermath on 《Never // Return》 in the same turn you use 《Never》 on it.

Never // ReturnThe Scarab God

《Transgress》 is a card you generally never want to use in the first 3 turns of the game. The 3 most important turns for the Control deck are turn 4 (Turn they cast 《Glimmer of Genius》 and before they can cast 《The Scarab God》), and turn 5 (Turn before they can cast 《Torrential Gearhulk》). Therefore you want to use 《Transgress》 on their turn 4 forward to get the most out of it. Also casting 《Glimmer》 on turn 4 is so important for this deck, that after they pass on turn 4, you want to punish them as much as you can. If you don't have 《Transgress》 than this is the best turn to land threats against them as it puts them in a difficult situation to have to decide between casting 《Glimmer》 which they need to do, or countering whatever threat you play.

Transgress the MindGlimmer of Genius


Last but not least, the mirror. 《Cryptbreaker》 is easily the most important card in the matchup so it's important to note that if your opponent has one on turn 1 you are able to 《Dark Salvation》 targeting them and the 《Cryptbreaker》 to kill it.

CryptbreakerDark Salvation

Since pretty much all the removal in this deck doesn't exile, casting 《Relentless Dead》 with mana up is very important as it's one of the key cards in the mirror. Here's how I sideboard:

Against Zombies


Dread Wanderer Dread Wanderer Dread Wanderer Dread Wanderer


Skysovereign, Consul Flagship Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Hour of Glory Hour of Glory

《The Hours》 are mostly to deal with 《Skysovereign》, but is also great for 《Relentless Dead》 as it exiles it. Saving 《Kalitas》 for turn 7+ if possible is also key here as it becomes a lot more difficult to get rid of since you can play around the 1st 《Grasp of Darkness》. Other than that the mirror is mostly about card advantage and developing a bigger board than your opponent.

Hour of GloryKalitas, Traitor of Ghet


Well those are the matchups that I expect will make up the majority of the metagame going into Nationals. I suspect that Ramunap Red and Mardu Vehicles will now become a larger part of the metagame which are both great matchups for Zombies.

Falkenrath GorgerCryptbreakerToolcraft Exemplar

I hope you enjoyed reading this and I wish you good luck in your Nationals or any other event you may be playing as we say goodbye to this Standard format!

Thanks for reading,

Christian Calcano

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