It’s safe to say that you’ll be hearing a thing or two about mono-black Zombies, so let’s go looking for something different from Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Mardu Vehicles? Bor-ring, and suddenly not as much of a menace as it was expected to be. Temur Aetherworks Marvel? So last week.
But hidden away in the 7-3 lists from the PT is this little beauty, which is a fine candidate for Deck of the Week.
B/R Midrange, by Alexandre Habert
24th place, Pro Tour Amonkhet
Let’s break it down.
Chandra once again fits nicely into a midrange deck that is looking for both power and flexibility in its card choices, and all four of her abilities are relevant here.
What’s most important is her interaction with Glorybringer, both for you and your opponent. If your opponent has one in play, Chandra can come down and immediately kill it. Or, if you play Chandra on turn 4 and miss your fifth land drop the next turn, simply +1 to add two mana and power out your own Glorybringer. In addition to that, she doesn’t immediately die to a Glorybringer off the top.
Liliana, the Last Hope is really good against decks that run one-toughness creatures because she can just keep picking them off while building towards an ultimate that very quickly gets out of hand. Say, does Gerry Thompson’s PT-winning deck run any one-toughness creatures?
Beyond that, she can just keep blanking the more powerful creatures to keep you alive until you can stabilize. She can’t hit vehicles, but she can make it so the creatures used to crew the vehicles can’t do so, which is still pretty relevant.
Liliana, Death’s Majesty is going to end up playing a big role in this Standard format. Her +1 helps protect herself while digging for threats, and dumping a Glorybringer into the graveyard off of an activation sets up a free Glorybringer the next turn, and Glorybringer is absurd even when you pay full price for it.
Speaking of Glorybringer, has anyone mentioned just how absurd it is? Hasty 4/4 fliers are good; hasty 4/4 fliers that are the unholy offspring of Stormbreath Dragon and Flametongue Kavu are really, really good.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury is an interesting inclusion over Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Kalitas is pretty good in a format where a lot of the creatures can be brought back from the graveyard, but Gonti can kill anything it blocks. Gonti’s ETB effect is also very strong, because even if Gotni dies before you get to cast the card, you still get to take a decent card away from your opponent. When you do get to cast the card, you get the opportunity to wreck your opponent with, say, their own Gideon, which feels pretty great.
Walking Ballista is still good in its own right, and it also offers that combination of power and flexibility that decks like this want. It can come down early to pick off small creatures, be a mana sink in later turns, or can be brought back from the graveyard by Liliana, the Last Hope to be a finisher. Tip: Do not target Walking Ballista with the other Liliana’s “return a creature” ability. Unless, of course, you really need to trigger Revolt.
Removal and Disruption
Speaking of Revolt, Fatal Push is absurdly good against mono-black Zombies. Even without Revolt, it cleanly kills 16 of the 24 creatures in the PT-winning list. With Revolt, it kills the other eight.
Grasp of Darkness kills almost everything, including gods. One thing to keep in mind is that Grasp will not kill a Diregraf Colossus that enters the battlefield with three (or more) +1/+1 counters, because unlike Verdurous Gearhulk, Colossus doesn’t require a trigger to resolve to get the counters. One other thing to keep in mind: Although Grasp of Darkness will not kill Gideon, Ally of Zendikar when he’s a creature, it will kill Gideon of the Trials, because he only becomes a 4/4.
Unlicensed Disintegration is a nice clean answer to just about anything, but it does lose some utility in a deck that only runs four artifacts in the main, which is probably why there’s only one copy here. Never // Return kills planeswalkers on the front side and can get rid of a recurring threat on the backside while also giving you a zombie of your very own. Sweltering Suns does double duty as a sweeper and a cycler, meaning it’s never dead against control decks or midrange decks that play threats with more than three toughness.
A full four copies of Lay Bare the Heart is the extent of the disruption in the main, which is an interesting choice. It does get rid of cheap threats that Transgress the Mind can’t deal with. Lay Bare the Heart can’t hit Heart of Kiran, but it can hit planeswalkers, which are not actually legendary.
The only thing missing from the removal package is Magma Spray, and going forward, it basically has to be in here somewhere. Exiling Zombies and Scrapheap Scrounger is a big deal against what will likely be two of the most common decks you’ll play against.
The obvious advantage to only running two colors is better mana than a shard or a wedge, and that’s very pronounced in this deck. A full 12 duals should meet your color requirements nicely, and the combination of Smoldering Marsh, Canyon Slough and basics should mean that you never have to play a tapped Foreboding Ruins when it matters.
It would be nice to have access to a creatureland, but what you get in return is a manabase where only four of your 26 lands have to enter the battlefield tapped, and those offer cycling as a trade-off.
This manabase gives you 20 black sources and 18 red, which means you should have no problem being able to cast Grasp of Darkness on turn 2 and Glorybringer on turn 5.
Four copies of Transgress the Mind offer more disruption, and the exile effect matters against a lot of decks because of the Aftermath mechanic. Unlicensed Disintegration, Never // Return and Sweltering Suns offer more removal for match-ups where you want to transition into being the control deck.
On the other hand, four copies of Scrapheap Scrounger lets you go aggro early. One potential concern is having enough fuel for Scrounger, because there are only 11 creatures in the main. Dragonmaster Outcast is great in grindy match-ups where you can keep it alive, because once it starts pumping out dragons every turn, it quickly spirals out of control.
Release the Gremlins is a concession to both Mardu Vehicles and Aetherworks Marvel decks, and can even snag a Gearhulk here and there. An argument can be made for By Force instead because it scales up so much faster, but it doesn’t leave any kind of threat behind, which can be a concern.
B/R midrange decks aren’t exactly new, and they tend to share the same gameplan regardless of era: Kill everything, then start smacking your opponent in the mouth. This one certainly does that well, and as evidenced by its performance at the Pro Tour, is a good choice for anyone looking to play something slightly out of left field that can still be competitive.
Deck of the Week is a breakdown of an interesting deck from the previous week in Magic. Email questions, comments and deck suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.