The Scoop: Top-8 Debate – Mono Black Zombies

 The Scoop

Welcome to the Scoop, a new series based around everyone’s favorite card game, Magic: The Gathering. In these articles, our lead writer Dalton will give you glimpses into MTG from a casual player’s perspective. But don’t let that dissuade you, because this guy knows his stuff. Enjoy!

Top-8 Debate

In Top-8 Debate, we will cover a deck that is currently placing in the top-8 for pro MTG events. The success found in Standard is often materialized at its peak in pro MTG Standard events, so it’s a good glimpse at what the current meta is and how much it’ll set you back.

Mono Black Zombies

What is on Kalitas’ head?…Half-Life 3 confirmed.

It’s been a while since zombies have been a threat in the top-8, but with the Amonkhet block, the popular tribal creature type has made a huge jump in strength. In order to follow the flavor of Egyptian lore while maintaining MTG criterion, zombies became the representative for mummies, and thus tribal zombies were a thing again. And MTG didn’t play around.


  • Creatures
    • 4x Cryptbreaker
    • 4x Diregraf Colossus
    • 4x Dread Wanderer
    • 4x Lord of the Accursed
    • 4x Relentless Dead
    • 3x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • Instants and Sorceries
    • 4x Dark Salvation
    • 4x Grasp of Darkness
    • 3x Fatal Push
  • Enchantments
    • 2x Liliana’s Mastery
  • Lands
    • 3x Ifnir Deadlands
    • 2x Westvale Abbey
    • 19 Swamp
  • Sideboard
    • 2x Collective Brutality
    • 3x Dispossess
    • 1x Liliana, The Last Hope
    • 2x Never // Return
    • 3x Scrapheap Scrounger
    • 1x Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
    • 3x Transgress the Mind

This decklist is about as simple and straightforward as you’re going to see in the top-8. It nearly follows the two traditional trends of conventional deck building, with “rule of 9” and 40% mana base. He breaks rule-of-9 by sacrificing a Fatal Push and Kalitas to squeeze in two of Liliana’s Mastery for a little extra buff for the zombie horde. It’s not unusual to see this happen in other top-8 decks for a couple of planeswalkers. But he does keep the conventional 36/24 nonland/land split for 60-card decks.

Back in my day, tribal lords were rare!…Except for Undead Warchief, I guess…

I love top-8’s that are creature-based, and this one is heavy on the creatures to dive deep into the tribal zombies. It has 5 different sets of cards that produce 2/2 zombie tokens! Kalitas is the primary heavy-hitter, with Diregraf Colossus supplying some weight of his own along with his contributions to the zombie horde. Cryptbreaker works as a draw engine while supplying zombies and fodder for a potential Colossus down the line. Dread Wanderer behaves like a poor man’s Gravecrawler. Lord of the Accursed buffs all of the 2/2 zombie tokens. And Relentless Dead supplies constant Kalitas fodder and graveyard shenanigans.

What ensures the zombies maintain field advantage is the deck’s overwhelming removal. The deck boasts 11 removal spells, 4 of which (Dark Salvation) provide additional zombie tokens. Throw in two of Liliana’s Mastery, and your zombie deck is in good shape to swing away early and often.

Oh, the sweet, sweet flavor of Innistrad sets…

The Ifnir Deadlands and Westvale Abbeys are a good touch. Ifnir provides a little extra removal assistance without sacrificing another nonland slot, and Westvale Abbey is a sneaky win condition should the game be pushed late. With all the 2/2 zombies running around, it won’t be hard for this deck to summon the 9/7 demon with Flying, Indestructible, Lifelink and Haste that is waiting beneath the surface of the Abbey.

I love the structure of this deck and its exploitation of a powerful tribal layout with the brief period of time that the Shadows over Innistrad and Amonkhet blocks share in Standard. At the end of September, this deck will need to be revised, or likely irrelevant, but it definitely looks like it will be fun while it lasts.

Price notes: Kalitas and Relentless Dead are where most of the money is going (approximately $13 a piece). But don’t let the high cost of the uncommon Fatal Push (almost $10) catch you off guard. It’s possible you could replace that card by simply adding a fourth Ifnir Deadlands and two more of Liliana’s Mastery. Everything else shouldn’t set you back too far, speaking relatively of Standard play.


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