Pro Tour Amonkhet Debrief: Marvelous Zombies

cryptbreaker artwork

First off, congratulations are in order for one Gerry Thompson, from myself and the rest of the team. We would be hard pressed to find a more deserving human being to take home the trophy.

Your Amonkhet champion has given Standard players something to be excited about, as it’s been a while since a deck came out of left field to win it all, and what a way to do it! Zombies, a tribal deck, beat the almighty Aetherworks Marvel, not to mention keeping Mardu out of the top 8 entirely.

Put simply, Mr. Thompson has renewed my hope for a great Standard season.

(Side note: check out an interview we had with him back in March)

Looking at the PT results is reassuring, and points to a Standard that will enjoy more diversity, but I’m predicting it won’t resemble the top 8 a whole lot. Typically the PT is a highly metagamed tournament, with many players and teams gunning for what they percieve as the best deck. Sometimes this results in the best deck morphing into a more normalized strategy, for example Temur to GR Marvel from PT: Kaladesh’s top 8, while at other times this results in an archetype disappearing from the metagame altogether, like GB Seasons past of PT: Shadows Over Innisitrad.

Let’s look at the top lists and see if they have what it takes to exert themselves past the Pro Tour.

Mono B Zombies by Gerry Thompson - 1st PT:Amonkhet

Creatures (24)
Cryptbreaker
Dread Wanderer
Metallic Mimic
Relentless Dead
Lord of the Accursed
Diregraf Colossus

Sorcery (4)
Dark Salvation

Instant (5)
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness

Enchantment (3)
Liliana’s Mastery
Lands (24)
Westvale Abbey
22 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Grasp of Darkness
Lost Legacy
Liliana, the Last Hope
Scrapheap Scrounger
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Transgress the Mind
Aethersphere Harvester

Unfortunately, tribal strategies are pretty straightforward to target and hate out. Typically, someone who comes prepared with sweepers and plenty of removal will have an easy time dispatching hordes of the undead.

Now granted, zombies generally have some sort of recursion which can help against removal, but these ones are a little weaker than the past zombie decks with Geralf’s Messenger and Gravecrawler. This build plays a bit more like Merfolk, which builds a large board with creatures that grow with the help of “lords” like Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident.

The lords in this case offer some extra insurance against red removal, but they’re still pretty weak to things like Fumigate as well as Radiant Flames, both of which I expect to pick up in the coming weeks.  I don’t think Mono Black Zombies will fall off the map, but it will have to change and splash a color to facilitate a more robust and malleable gameplan. Which brings us to:

BW Zombies by Chris Fennell - Top 8 PT:Amonkhet

Creatures (22)
Dread Wanderer
Cryptbreaker
Wayward Servant
Binding Mummy
Diregraf Colossus
Lord of the Accursed

Sorcery (4)
Dark Salvation

Instant (6)
Fatal Push
Anguished Unmaking

Enchantment (4)
Liliana’s Mastery
Lands (24)
Concealed Courtyard
Shambling Vent
Plains
10 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Anguished Unmaking
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Transgress the Mind
Scrapheap Scrounger
Declaration in Stone

I predict BW Zombies will be the premier zombie list in the coming format. The sideboard plan of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar gives control decks that would prey on zombies a huge headache, and Anguished Unamking gives zombies a better catch-all answer to Aetherworks Marvel. Still, I predict zombies as a whole won’t do much better than their admittedly excellent Pro Tour showings.

Temur Aetherworks by Eric Froehlich - Top 8 PT:Amonkhet

Creatures (12)
Rogue Refiner
Whirler Virtuoso
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Torrential Gearhulk

Sorcery (4)
Attune with Aether

Instant (14)
Harnessed Lightning
Censor
Glimmer of Genius
Magma Spray

Artifact (8)
Aetherworks Marvel
Woodweavers Puzzleknot
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Spirebluff Canal
Lumbering Falls
Sheltered Thicket
Mountain
Island
Forest

Sideboard (15)
Torrential Gearhulk
Tireless Tracker
Negate
Dispel
Aether Meltdown
Radiant Flames
Ceremonious Rejection
Chandra, Flamecaller

Now here’s a list that’s here to stay. Aetherworks Marvel is an absolute, proven powerhouse and this build has a lot of new innovations that will keep it competitive long after the metagame settles.

The biggest upgrade from the PT is going to be the four copies of Glimmer of Genius as a method of energy production and card advantage. This significant change lets the deck play an exceptional fair game on top of its busted Ulamog draws. Cutting Servant of the Conduit means there are less bad draws in the deck, and pulls it away from being a fundamentally “all-in” strategy.

If this deck changes at all, it’s to combat zombies.  Instead of Censor we might see Sweltering Suns or more copies of Magma Spray. The nice thing is that these changes make room for a more flexible list that can easily be adapted for your local metagame.

Mardu Vehicles by Sebastian Pozzo, PT: Amonkhet

Planeswalkers (4)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Creaturues (20)
Archangel Avacyn
Pia Nalaar
Scrapheap Scrounger
Thraben Inspector
Toolcraft Exemplar
Veteran Motorist

Instants (6)
Unlicensed Disintegration
Fatal Push
Artifacts (6)
Heart of Kiran
Cultivator’s Caravan

Lands (24)
Canyon Slough
Concealed Courtyard
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Needle Spires
Plains
Shambling Vent
Spire of Industry
Aether Hub

Sideboard (15)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Fumigate
Painful Truths
Oath of Liliana
Release the Gremlins
Transgress the Mind
Cast Out
Anguished Unmaking
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Mardu is a deck that won’t falter despite a poor Pro Tour showing. Mardu players had a target on their back, and their usual build has a poor matchup against zombies. In the coming weeks I think we’ll see slower builds with more main deck planeswalkers/sweepers. These slower builds are naturally weaker to Marvel, which should form a nice metagame wheel that gets us away from a two deck format.

What’s also important in Standard right now are the decks that did not show up at the Pro Tour. There have been a couple of dominant decks on Magic Online that didn’t show up at the PT and I believe that these decks simply weren’t fleshed out by a lot of the pro teams, and thus are relatively endemic to Magic Online. Still, these decks look extremely powerful and are something you should be ready to play, or play against soon enough.

UW Midrange by GHETT_SMART, 5-0 Competitve League

Planeswalkers (4)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Creatures (21)
Archangel Avacyn
Devoted Crop-Mate
Glory-Bound Initiate
Selfless Spirit
Spell Queller
Thraben Inspector

Instants (6)
Censor
Void Shatter
Enchantments (5)
Cast Out
Stasis Snare

Lands (24)
Irrigated Farmland
Island
Plains
Port Town
Prairie Stream

Sideboard (15)
Bruna, the Fading Light
Declaration in Stone
Dispel
Fragmentize
Fumigate
Gisela, the Broken Blade
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Linvala, the Preserver
Negate
Thalia’s Lancers

This deck did show up in small numbers at the PT, but it has been putting up consistent results on MTGO, and looks to be well positioned against the Marvel decks that will be the default choice going forward. I have this pegged as UW Midrange but it looks a lot like the UW Flash decks pre-Reflector Mage and Copter ban.

4C Goodstuff by KAL-C-LUCHO, 5-0 Competitive Leauge

Planeswalkers (9)
Arlinn Kord
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Nissa, Steward of Elements
Saheeli Rai

Creatures (16)
Glorybringer
Manglehorn
Rogue Refiner
Servant of the Conduit
Whirler Virtuoso

Sorcery (4)
Attune with Aether

Instants (5)
Harnessed Lightning
Magma Spray
Enchantments (6)
Oath of Chandra
Oath of Nissa

Lands (20)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Cinder Glade
Forest
Game Trail
Island
Mountain
Sheltered Thicket
Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
Glorybringer
Manglehorn
Magma Spray
Ceremonious Rejection
Dispel
Negate
Sweltering Suns
Tireless Tracker

It’s hilarious that this is essentially 4 Color Saheeli deck without Felidar Guardian, and it’s still great. When I first pictured this deck without the combo I didn’t expect it to look this good on paper.

The interaction between Saheeli Rai and Glorybringer is still good enough, and I especially like how Glorybringer and Arlinn Kord play together. The first thing I want to test is going up to 2 in the maindeck.

I do want a few more creatures for Nissa, Steward of Elements but overall I think this is a great alternative to Marvel if it gets hated out of the format. Perhaps there’s even a tranformational sideboard to be made one way or the other. I can’t really put my finger on it but this list is doing something great and it’s just a tweak or two away from busting the format.

Well, that’s what I think going forward. Hopefully this has helped you navigate the post-PT: Amonkhet world a bit better! Also, since I missed my pre-Pro Tour article I figured I’d show you the list I would have brought had I been qualified:

UB Zombie Haven by Nick Peternell

Creatures (22)
Cryptbreaker
Dread Wanderer
Haunted Dead
Prized Amalgam
Scrapheap Scrounger
Voldaren Pariah

Instants (5)
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Enchantments (8)
Call the Bloodline
Drake Haven

Lands (25)
Choked Estuary
Fetid Pools
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Island
Sunken Hollow
12 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Archfiend of Ifnir
Censor
Collective Brutality
Dispossess
Liliana, Death’s Majesty
Negate

As always, thanks for reading and supporting the website. We appreciate it.

Nick Peternell

Nick has been playing Magic since the 2013 Core Set was released, and grinding since Return to Ravnica. He’s played on the Pro Tour and has multiple high finishes at both the Star City Tour and Grand Prix levels. He’s a brewer at heart and excels most in the beginning and middle stages of a format. Finding weaknesses in the metagame and exploiting underplayed cards is just another day in the office for him.

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