As a self-proclaimed “uber casual,” when it comes to the art of Commander in Magic: The Gathering, the height of my joy with the format is in the brewing of decks. As someone who tends to end up flavor over function, it’s not surprise that one of the first decks I ever brewed was a zombie tribal deck.
In the 10 years since this deck was first created and as Magic’s relationship with zombie tribal and graveyard recursion has deepened, this deck has evolved into something I just can’t play enough, win or lose. While not being optimized by any means, the potential fun of of a Commander deck such as this one is off the charts.
Our Commander: Twisted Siblings
Our Commander for this deck is Gisa and Geralf. Like many cards from the plane of Innistrad, the amount of crazy graveyard recursion and undead shenanigans coming from this card does not disappoint. While these two were not the original commander for this deck, they’ve taken the top spot in providing a singular balance of both flavor and function in this deck.
Besides being relatively cheap to cast, the effect of being able to cast cards from your graveyard, though it being only once per turn, gives you an almost extended hand size, especially in a deck that is almost entirely zombies. Also, it’s color identity allows several awesome prospects for the 99 coming from the plane of Innistrad.
Lords of the Undead: The Lieutenants
It would be unfair to expect Gisa and Geralf to manage all the possible zombies this deck has or can possibly create. Like any good military leader, they can establish a chain of command and delegate. That is where a whole host of zombie lords come in when playing this deck.
While working in concert these lords make the zombies of this deck truly terrifying. The fact that the average CMC of 3 makes them relatively cheap to get out on their own and each provides a great deal of additional value.
Most notable among these lieutenants are the Diregraf Captain and the Undead Warchief. The captain provides additional benefits to just throwing undead bodies at your opponents, come what may, or making removal of any of your other creatures just a little more costly.
The Undead Warchief brings a very helpful discount to all zombie spells as well as (yes, you read that right) a buff to all zombies including himself.
Removal of any of these lieutenants doesn’t cause the deck to crumble with the Commander on the field to bring them right back, or any of the other graveyard recursion in the deck.
Tokens, Tokens, Tokens
While the lieutenants are powerful in the own right, they can’t unlive their best life without some zombie minions.
Besides having a low cost zombies sprinkled in just the get the ball rolling, this deck have a great deal of focus on zombie token generation
A nice balanced combination of sorceries, creatures, and artifact, and enchantments (which we will talk about later) bring a lot of undead fodder to the battlefield.
One of the more powerful token generating creatures in this deck is the Undead Alchemist, which not only helps your tiny zombie (hopefully buffed up by the lieutenants) to do some damage, but starts exiling your opponents’ creatures as well as making even more zombies on the battlefield for you to play with.
Not even including the enchantments, this deck has a lot of token making potential.
However, no discussion about zombies and bringing things back from the dead in Magic: The Gathering would be complete with Liliana Vess getting in her two cents. Though there are different Liliana planeswalker cards, these two provide some amazing value in addition to raising more and more zombies.
Air of Foreboding: The Enchantments
To add to the sense of dread your opponents should be feeling with all these mindless zombies buffed up and running around, there are several enchantments to add to the mix to get even more bang for your mana.
Rooftop Storm, while expensive, definitely makes a deck like this sing (a funeral dirge, but still). The discount like this during mid to late game can really put the nail in the coffin (zombie pun?) so to speak. Bringing out any of the lieutenants with this can only help your game. While it does become an immediate target for enchantment removal, sometimes even one spell cheated out with it will help.
But Rooftop Storm isn’t the only enchantment to add to the climate of impending calamity. With all these zombie lords and tokens dominating the battlefield, Endless Ranks of the Dead is an amazing ramp to your overall board state, considering that all but two creatures in the deck (one being the Commander) are zombies.
These two enchantments are also not alone in this deck in making many more zombie tokens as well as preventing your opponents creature from effecting the board states. Call to the Grave adds some additional protection while Liliana’s Master buffs your ghoulish army even more.
Amass, Amass, Amass!
This deck got one it most major re-tooling when War of the Spark came out, introducing us to the concept of Amass. This additional token generation was already amazing, but to have some of the cards, such as Eternal Skylord and Gleaming Overseer affecting all zombie tokens. All those zombies that you made with Liliana, Cellar Door, or the enchantments; remember those? Now they are hexproof with menace, and can fly, and that’s just the beginning.
Big Beefy (Undead) Bodies
Between putting zombies in the graveyard with Gisa and Geralf, your opponents removal of your creatures, or just throwing bodies at your opponent, cards such as Unbreathing Horde or Diregraf Colossus really add some additional power to your board (also buffed by the lieutenants, just to note).
We can even add to the power some more with a wonderful vintage card, the Soulless One, combining all the zombies on your battlefield and all the graveyards in the game. Add in a few friends, and you can hit your opponents hard.
Their Power Becomes Your Power
One of the more sinister themes in this deck is the ability to make your opponents creatures zombies not only under your control, but buffed by all the other cards in this deck. Lim-Dul, the Necromancer does this for cheap if you can get him out, but we also have our other ways to use your opponents power against them. As the lady says, “Death is no excuse for disobedience”.
Add in some obvious removal, a tiny bit of ramp, a liberal helping of additional graveyard recursion, and a couple of zombie flyers, you will have yourself a zombie-tastic play experience. All of these pieces work in concert beautifully and solo to make a very fund game. However, if you’re lucky, during late game you can really bring your necromancer power to bear on all of your opponents:
While we don’t see this taking the place of Gisa and Geralf as the commander of this deck, we do see it having a place very soon and are excited about the possibilities.