Cube Archetype – Zombie Tribal (BUg)

Continuing in updating my cube to make the themes a bit more noticeable, today I’m looking at Zombies.

Originally this was the BG archetype but while there are a few good BG zombies there are very few straight up green zombies. There are however some BU zombies I’m quite fond of and some acceptable mono blue zombie creatures.

The BG “happen to be zombies, actually graveyard matters” cards will stay in and become part of a kind of 3 colour arc of graveyard matters decks (the black part of Rakdos vampires, Golgari sacrifice and Dimir zombies, plus Sidisi herself in Sultai can all to a degree mix and match).

The All-In Cards

Much like vampires we have a pair of lords, one mono black, one dual colour. Death Baron nearly made the cut over Lord of the Undead but I thought that in a primarily midrange/control cube which is designed to encourage big silly plays mass deathtouch could be a little on the OP side (or at least really annoying to play against).

Endless Ranks of the Dead and Lich Lord of Unx are both aimed at giving you a huge horde of zombie tokens. Endless ranks is dead outside of a heavy tribal deck and I do want a few cards like this in each theme.

The Standalone Cards

As expected for the titan cycle Grave Titan is a bomb in its own right. Liliana’s Reaver and Sidisi, Undead Vizier are both great in any black deck.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed basically goes into ANY deck which has few or no humans. The undying is a little better in a deck with sacrifice effects but is still perfectly good in isolation.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born is a little on the clunky side BUT is a huge trundling value engine as long as you can keep him fed (happy time occurs if you have a gravecrawler).

Army of the Damned is a card I glossed over as too slow and clunky when I first built the cube, but after playing it (and realising my concerns about rampant aggro were hilariously unrealistic) I decided I could push up the top of the curves and put in a few over the top items like this.

The Filler Cards

Deranged Assistant is an enabler for the graveyard cards in here (plus this isn’t a quick deck so every little helps). Havengul Runebinder obviously plays better the more zombies you have. The actual blue zombies all either fill or eat your graveyard (roll on Shadows over Innistrad for more blue zombies).

Black has a bit more selection, but zombies arent great at the sub 3 CMC level. Gravecrawler sits at 1 and is best used as combo fuel with sac outlets like Grimgrin. 2 has Blood Scrivener (not terrible if you ever manage to grind a game out long enough to empty your hand), Highborn Ghoul (blech, true filler) and Sultai Emissary (I really quite like this guy, I only just remembered he was a zombie).

Once you pass CMC 3 the selection opens up and we have the more interesting Nantuko Husk, Lifebane Zombie, and Ghoulraiser all having useful effects stapled on. We also have Rakshasa Gravecaller (conveniently makes zombies, plus one of my absolute favourites from DoT) and Silumgar Butcher (I’ll just sac this here Gravecrawler).

Crossover With Other Archetypes

Pontiff of Blight is great in the zombie deck (especially as its slightly slower to get rolling than some of the other decks and would be happy to gain a little extra life to stay in the game) but is intended mainly for the BW taxman deck.

Corpseweft gets a mention here also as its much more at home in the GB deck which will have a full graveyard a bit more often. UB cares more about getting its stuff back out (Ghoulraiser, Lord of the Undead, Gravecrawler, etc) and has less means of getting cards into the yard.

The Off-Colour Bleed Cards

Golgari Rotwurm, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and Lotleth Troll all serve as strong creatures with a means of filling the graveyard up (again, this is going to be Golgari’s thing) while also being zombies. In addition all our tribal lords synergise with at least one of these guys.

Dreg mangler is just a decent body with the benefit of working from the graveyard (Golgari is rapidly filling up with things I like too much to remove so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go at some point).

Varolz, the Scar-Striped is an honourable mention as he isn’t a zombie at all (although I briefly thought he was) but is a pretty strong addition to the deck regardless as both a strong sac outlet and a use for whatever youve put in your graveyard.

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant works as great in both the GB and UB decks, or a combination of the two, Lord of the Undead and Cemetery Reaper both love a full graveyard and there are some incidental self mill cards floating around the general Sultai section of the cube (such as Forbidden Alchemy, Mulch, Splinterfright and Nyx Weaver).

The complete list

BUg Cube Subtheme (Zombies) - November 2015

Black (22)
Gravecrawler
Blood Scrivener
Highborn Ghoul
Sultai Emissary
Cemetery Reaper
Fleshbag Marauder
Geralf's Messenger
Ghoulraiser
Lifebane Zombie
Lord of the Undead
Nantuko Husk
Liliana's Reaver
Rakshasa Gravecaller
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Silumgar Butcher
Grave Titan
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Pontiff of Blight
Moan of the Unhallowed
Army of the Damned
Corpseweft
Endless Ranks of the Dead

Blue (9)
Screeching Skaab
Armored Skaab
Skaab Ruinator
Stitched Drake
Havengul Runebinder
Relentless Skaabs
Skaab Goliath
Deranged Assistant
Forbidden Alchemy

Dimir (4)
Diregraf Captain
Lich Lord of Unx
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
Possessed Skaab

Golgari (4)
Lotleth Troll
Dreg Mangler
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Golgari Rotwurm

Sultai (1)
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

In the future I’d definitely like to improve the quality here and add a couple more early game cards. Innistrad 2 is pretty guaranteed to at least buff up the Vampire and Zombie tribes (hopefully not with some kind of parasitic ingest esque mechanic stapled on). In an unrelated aside I would love to see more werewolves too…I want modern werewolves to be a thing…I know it wont…but give me just a few more and I’ll try dammit (another decent 1 and 2 drop and at least the deck will be roughly the right shape).

Cube Archetype – Vampire Tribal (BRw)

Last Friday in place of our usual draft we had a cube draft night.

Due to some drop outs we had a less than ideal 6 players but good times were had by all with an abundance of silly decks. From the previous times I played the cube I was concerned about the possibility of there being too many aggro decks but we got quite a good assortment, including:

  • UGr +1/+1 Counters (splashing Sarkhan Unbroken and Borborygmos Enraged)
  • WBG Midrange (Seige Rhino, Tasigur, Wurmcoil and other goodstuff)
  • RWu aggro/soldier tribal (Field Marshall and Captain of the Watch with Assemble the Legion)
  • BG Midrange.
  • Jund Midrange (some vampires but not a tribal deck).
  • Something I’ve forgotten.

It all went well though and it’s put me in the mood to start work on improving the setup again. Specifically I want to look at the various archetypes (one in each two colour pair although some bleed into a third colour to include some cards I like, plus there are some miscellaneous tribal themes and an optional artifact deck).

Due to the cubes size (just over double the normal size to allow for lots of variance and for more players) to make an archetype actually appear in drafts and be noticeable a thing you can play you need a few more cards for it than you would normally have so if this looks like overkill its just to balance it. Also due to the variance theres a lean towards cards that work on their own without going all in on a theme with just a few hard themed cards.

In this example I’ve leaned towards there being quite a crossover with the BG graveyard/zombie deck (the sac outlets and death triggers in particular).

Today I’m looking at the BR theme (which has a very slight bleed into white) which is Vampire Tribal. The original build didnt have near enough cards to make the deck viable, nor were there enough tribe relevant effects to make you want to draft it. This version should improve slightly (the full list is at the end of the post).

The All-In Cards

There are a few cards which just don’t do a great deal while you aren’t running critical mass of vampires, Chief among these are the tribal lords Captivating Vampire and Stromkirk Captain, neither are playable without multiple other vampires but are all stars if you’ve got the numbers on your side.

These guys are also the big indicators that there is the possibility of drafting a tribal deck as a lot of the cards play well enough independently or are bombs in their own right.

Kalastria Highborn wants a vampire heavy deck but also works well if you have elements of the GB-Sacrifice/Zombie deck.

The Standalone Cards

There are plenty of vampires which are strong enough to be bombs in their own right and get taken by any deck playing the colour but get pushed a lot by being surrounded by more vampires.

Anowon is great on his own as in the event of there being no other vampires out he will still just kill everything BUT himself which is no bad thing for a black centric control deck.

Nighthawk, Drana and the Aristocrat all get improved greatly by having a lord in play (with a Stromkirk Captain in play nighthawk kills anything it touches and it costs a lot less to keep Aristocrat alive in combat) and Drana will keep some of your more fragile vamps from biting it (no pun intended, seriously its not even a good one).

Olivia gives the unique benefit of potentially turning everything with more than 1 toughness in your deck into a vampire, and that’s on top of being both removal and mind control.

And Malakir Bloodwitch…despite the textbox being a direct synonym for “PLAY MOAR VAMPIRES” would be absolutely fine as the only vampire in your deck (4/4 flying with pro-white for 5 is already bomb-level good, draining 1 on top of that is at least some degree of relevant).

The Filler Cards

There are a pile of other vampires to fill out the deck (most being just acceptable cards on their own, a couple like Bloodcrazed Neonate need a little more work to make good).

Between the high likelihood of seeing some planeswalkers in the draft and some of the shenanigans that could come about in the GU deck then Vampire Hexmage is a strong pick for any black deck. The same applies to Gatekeeper of Malakir, as he is strong in his own right and is another card which would play nice in a base-black control deck.

There are also a handful of red vampires from Innistrad in here to fill out the deck.

Crossover With Other Archetypes

Given vampires seem to change theme every time a block includes them (Original Zendikar had the “less than 10 life” theme, Innistrad had “the slith ability”, Return to Ravnica had Orzhov vampires and Battle for Zendikar has life gain…although on that front I wish Kalastria Healer was a “vampire enters the battlefield” rather than “ally enters the battlefield” for the purposes of this even though I know that would make absolutely no mechanical sense in the set) there’s quite a wide variety in effects.

This does mean that a few of the vampire cards fit pretty well into the other Bx decks in the cube.

Blood seeker is fine in the BW Taxman deck as one of many effects that gradually kill the enemy outside of combat.

Viscera Seer and Blood Bairn fit into the BG deck as sacrifice outlets and Blood Artist, Falkenrath Noble and Butcher of Malakir all serve as part of the payoff for those sacrifice effects.

The Off-Colour Bleed Cards

There are 3 vampires in BW which are included in here. They all serve roles in the defense oriented BW-Taxman deck but are perfectly acceptable splashes here given how multi colour the cube often leans. They’re all also cards I’m quite fond of, particularly the two Dragon’s Maze cards as I played them a lot when they were in standard (Tithe Drinker bumped the frustratingly bad Bloodcrazed Neonate out of my standard vampire deck and I played Blood Baron both in that deck and BW Midrange for his entire time in standard.

Technically in this section is Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker. He is however absolutely sod all to do with the deck and is basically an alternate win-con for a UB deck, although he wouldn’t be an abysmal splash.

The complete list

BRw Cube Subtheme (Vampires) - November 2015

Black (20)
Vampire Lacerator
Viscera Seer
Blood Artist
Blood Seeker
Child of Night
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Kalastria Highborn
Vampire Hexmage
Blood Bairn
Captivating Vampire
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Markov Patrician
Vampire Nighthawk
Bloodline Keeper
Falkenrath Noble
Mirri the Cursed
Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Malakir Bloodwitch
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Butcher of Malakir

Red (6)
Stromkirk Noble
Bloodcrazed Neonate
Crossway Vampire
Markov Blademaster
Rakish Heir
Vampiric Fury

Rakdos (3)
Stromkirk Captain
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Olivia Voldaren

Orzhov (3)
Tithe Drinker
Drana's Emissary
Blood Baron of Vizkopa

Dimir (1)
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker

I have yet to obtain 100% of this but it (and changes to the other decks) will be going in before the next time the cube comes out to play.

The KING of Draft Decks

Sometimes a draft just comes together and you get a fantastic polished machine of a deck, something that almost feels like constructed-lite. I was lucky enough to have one of those last Friday. For context this was a 6 man draft and in the end Blue seemed pretty open even with me hogging all the good red (Blue is traditionally rather under drafted in my group, at least in this set).

The draft opened with a Scab-Clan Berserker, and I followed that by sticking to red as my main colour throughout pack 1. In general I try and stick to 1 main colour in pack 1 just to stay open for later in the draft and that worked pretty well here as I pretty effectively staked out red and had my choice (mostly in pack 2 where i picked up Skysnare Spider, Undercity Troll and Valeron Wardens) of pretty much anything as support.

In fact for the entire draft red stayed wide open so I was able to pick up multiples of some of the better cards. In fact its only Undercity Troll that really convinced me to not try mono red.

Also as a fun little bonus I picked up a Hangarback Walker as my rare in pack 3, although he didn’t come out that much except as win-more in a couple of games. The walker was only hugely relevant in one odd game where I started with it and removal and pretty much had to play defensively for a long time (in that situation the Walker is an all star, constantly threatening to get beyond the reach of combat).

By the end of the draft I had the following

Draft - 28/08/2015

Creatures (16)
Hangarback Walker
Subterranean Scout
Undercity Troll
Leaf Gilder
Akroan Sergeant
Ghirapur Gearcrafter
Thopter Engineer
Scab-Clan Berserker
Valeron Wardens
Firefiend Elemental
Skysnare Spider

Spells (7)
Titan's Strength
Fiery Impulse
Ravaging Blaze
Wild Instincts

Land (17)
Mountain
Forest
Sideboard (18)
Thopter Engineer
Lightning Javelin
Goblin Glory Chaser
Magmatic Insight
Cobblebrute
Volcanic Rambler
Smash to Smithereens
Mage-ring Bully
Elvish Visionary
Evolutionary Leap
Vastwood Gorger
Hydrolash
negate
Nivix barrier
Nantuko Husk
Fetid Imp
Heavy Infantry
Throwing Knife

Round one was vs BG Elves and opened with a truly ridiculous start of T2 Undercity Troll, T3 Valeron Wardens, T4 Firefiend Elemental. By the end of the game I had a full board on top of about 6 cards in hand from a stream of renown triggers. It was a sort of magical christmas land moment.

Game 2 wasn’t so outright ridiculous but still progressed similarly.  I did over extend a little but decided the odds of the one card that could stop me, Eyeblight Massacre (which admittedly my opponent had in his deck), actually appearing was limited enough and the risk did pay off.

Round 2 was a UB control build. In games 1 and 3 he just didn’t have the blockers to survive the relentless onslaught of dudes. Game 2 my opponent got pretty much all removal until a Possessed Skaab to return MORE REMOVAL while I got badly flooded out (it happens to us all from time to time) and couldn’t maintain any kind of relevant board presence.

Round 3 was a tempo-ey UW flyers deck. Again the early rush proved too much except for one bizarre game where I opened on Hangarback Walker + a guy and my opponent removed the guy and put Grasp of the Hieromancer on a creature putting me in a strange defensive position of having to bluff the boardstate into allowing me to appear to need to chump with the walker then pump him to get large enough to trade. That series of things drained enough of my opponents toys though that I was able to rebuild afterwords with an assortment of Thopter makers.

Sadly over the entire course of the night I never saw Skysnare Spider or Ravaging Blaze.

As a thought experiment I’ve put together what is probably the best mono-red deck you could get from this pool.

Draft Mono R Variant - 28/08/2015

Creatures (16)
Hangarback Walker
Goblin Glory Chaser
Subterranean Scout
Akroan Sergeant
Ghirapur Gearcrafter
Thopter Engineer
Scab-Clan Berserker
Firefiend Elemental
Cobblebrute
Volcanic Rambler

Spells (7)
Titan's Strength
Fiery Impulse
Ravaging Blaze
Lightning Javelin

Land (17)
17 Mountain
Sideboard (18)
Magmatic Insight
Smash to Smithereens
Mage-ring Bully
Elvish Visionary
Evolutionary Leap
Vastwood Gorger
Undercity Troll
Leaf Gilder
Valeron Wardens
Wild Instincts
Skysnare Spider
Hydrolash
negate
Nivix barrier
Nantuko Husk
Fetid Imp
Heavy Infantry
Throwing Knife

The question to me is do you run Goblin Glory Chaser or Throwing Knife…Im genuinely not sure…probably the Knife.

 

NOTES FROM A WEEK LATER:

This Friday just gone I managed to end up with an extremely similar deck, albeit slightly slower. I don’t have the full list to hand but this time I had 3 Lightning Javelin, 1 Exquisite Firecraft and 3 Fiery Impulse…yeah…quite happy with that. Creature wise I lost the thopter makers and Hangarback, getting double Zendikar Incarnate, another Undercity Troll and a couple of Yeva’s Forcemage.

I didn’t manage 3-0 this time, instead i won the first two rounds then lost to a bizarre Angels Tomb+War Horn+Flameshadow Conjuring+wide assortment of 1 drop creatures deck. I didn’t see THAT coming I can say that much.