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Brains Sure Are Delicious! - Stephen Rogers (2/29/2012)

Well last week I talked about werewolves, so this week I’ll be talking about zombies. Can you see a logical transition there? I can’t, so oh well here we go.

Zombies are an extremely interesting horror trope. They’re closer to vampires than werewolves in that one of the main things about them that scare us is how close they are to us. There is a scale, those of you who play video games or know of the PATV show Extra Credits know it well, called the Uncanny Valley. It is found on a graph of familiarity vs. human likeness. It moves upwards as the similarity to humans increases, then take a sharp dip down before arching back up to “actual human”. The downward dip is the actual Uncanny Valley.

Here's the best example I've heard: You like R2-D2 right? Well he’s on that first part of the upward curve, and C3-P0 is close to the peak before the line drops down because he’s kind of human but not so close that it causes a sense of revulsion. We don’t like zombies because they’re at the bottom of that curve, they look very much like humans so every difference stands out and scares us. Of course after the major dip the graph rockets back up to real humans.

[Editor's note: This is actually really fascinating. If you want to check it out, here's a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley]

The little things (the dead eyes, the peeling skin, the loose jaws) just disturb us because we’re reminded about how close we are to these monsters. And that's the other thing that zombies and vampires share - we’re just a bite away from becoming one of them. One bite and we die and start trying to eat our loved ones.

Innistrad does take a very refreshing look at zombies. Obviously we’ve got the classic black zombies, corpses revitalized through magic, disease, or what have you that now stalk Innistrad hunting human flesh. But Wizards also brought us blue zombies. Blue zombies are very interesting as they’re more Frankenstein-esque. On a world populated by vampires, werewolves, zombies, necromancers, and ghosts you have to work hard to stand out as scary, and blue zombies manage that perfectly. Every Innistrad citizen lives in fear of being raised as a zombie after they die. The church of Avacyn can offer some protection from ghoul callers turning them into black zombies, but they can offer no protection from the stitchers. A stitcher doesn’t need to overcome the magic of the church, they get to chop the dead of Innistrad into bits and selectively use the bits and revive their abomination with runebound armor. Stitchers may be sick monsters, but they’re also extremely innovative. Not only did they figure out a way around Avacyn’s protective enchantments but managed to make their loophole absolutely terrifying.

And since zombies are absolutely terrifying and stitchers are black and blue mages, it seems very flavorful for zombies to be a very swarmtastic mill deck. Every time an enemy dies you can get another zombie and each one of them is scary as all hell. The fear messes with you mind, more zombies, more psychotic moaning, driving you crazy, slicing big chunks out of your mind/library.

The key blue cards this mass of zombie relies on to function might be a bit obvious. The first is the Undead Alchemist
Undead Alchemist
Undead AlchemistSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
84
Artist:
Michael C. Hayes
Power:
4
Toughness:
2
Text:
If a Zombie you control would deal combat damage to a player, instead that player puts that many cards from the top of his or her library into his or her graveyard. Whenever a creature card is put into an opponent's graveyard from his or her library, exile that card and put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.
. I’m doing a swarm mill deck so the Alchemist works on multiple levels. It can produce tons of 2/2 creatures and it makes all the creatures mill instead of doing damage, what could possibly be better? Oh I know, he also seriously hinders recursion strategies. The only real problem with having more than one Alchemist at once is that the mill ability doesn't stack. But hey, the zombie spawning ability triggers once for each Alchemist! Muhahahaha, fear my zombie army!

The next blue card that plays a critical role is the Havengul Runebinder
Havengul Runebinder
Havengul RunebinderSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
39
Artist:
Bud Cook
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
{2}{U}, {T}, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield, then put a +1/+1 counter on each Zombie creature you control.
. Because my deck has no skaabs, the zombies in my graveyard are pretty useless. At least they were until Dark Ascension gave me this little gem. Pay 2U and tap the Runebinder to exile a creature from your graveyard to put a 2/2 black zombie token on the battlefield then put a +1/+1 on all your zombies. I really like this card, it lets me get rid of my useless graveyard creatures and get a creature and +1/+1 counters for it. He actually has a bit of an interaction with my third blue creature, Geralf’s Mindcrusher, a card Steph and I talked about quite a bit on episode three of The Show of Feast and Famine
Famine
FamineSet: Portal Three Kingdoms
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Sun Nan
Text:
Famine deals 3 damage to each creature and player. (This includes your creatures and you.)
, which should be up by the time this is.

Geralf’s Mindcrusher lets me mill myself if I really want to get some +1/+1 counters on the rest of my creatures. Of course it does mess with the Mindcrusher’s undying ability. Though the Mindcrusher’s real job in this deck is to get to mill my opponent for up to twenty cards between the two Mindcrushers. Oh and he’s a 5/5. What’s better than a 5/5 who gets to mill my opponents and gets to make zombies if one of my Undead Alchemist
Undead Alchemist
Undead AlchemistSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
84
Artist:
Michael C. Hayes
Power:
4
Toughness:
2
Text:
If a Zombie you control would deal combat damage to a player, instead that player puts that many cards from the top of his or her library into his or her graveyard. Whenever a creature card is put into an opponent's graveyard from his or her library, exile that card and put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.
s is out.

Sadly Black doesn’t seem to have a lot of good creatures, but it has a couple. The most important is a dollar rare from Innistrad, the Unbreathing Horde
Unbreathing Horde
Unbreathing HordeSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
121
Artist:
Dave Kendall
Power:
0
Toughness:
0
Text:
Unbreathing Horde enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each other Zombie you control and each Zombie card in your graveyard. If Unbreathing Horde would be dealt damage, prevent that damage and remove a +1/+1 counter from it.
. It's very cheap for only 2B and is amazing late game. The Horde is only a 0/0 but when he enters the battlefield he gets a +1/+1 counter for each zombie in your graveyard and under your control on the battlefield. That's amazing after I get a ton of zombie tokens out. And better yet, the zombie mass has the hydra ability that prevents damage at the cost of a single +1/+1 counter.

The other two black creatures in this deck are sadly much more expensive, in terms of money. The first is Gravecrawler
Gravecrawler
GravecrawlerSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
64
Artist:
Steven Belledin
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
Gravecrawler can't block. You may cast Gravecrawler from your graveyard as long as you control a Zombie.
. It is just a great card and only costs a single Black, and is part of a three-card combo I’ll bring up later. The other, slightly less expensive card is Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the UnhallowedSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
6
Color:
Black
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie Cleric
Rarity:
M
Number:
70
Artist:
Chris Rahn
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Intimidate Whenever a Human deals damage to you, destroy it. Other non-Human creatures you control get +1/+1 and have undying. (When a creature with undying dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it.)
. He costs 3B and has some very nice abilities. First? Intimidate. He’s a legendary zombie cleric, I’d be pretty scared of that too. His second ability is kind of boring but useful in my personal testing; he destroys any human who deals damage to you. I only have found it useful since two of the decks I’ve been testing against are human based. His third ability is amazing; it gives +1/+1 to all non-human creatures and gives them undying! What is better than that in a zombie deck?!

Speaking of legendary creatures, I have a rule I forgot to mention. Since there still is no legendary Werewolf I didn’t have to bring this up before, but I already ranted about that problem on my podcast. Because I’m doing flavorful decks, I’m making sure to only include one card of each legend. Silly rule, but it's a flavor deck. So yeah, didn’t I have a point?

Oh yeah, the other legendary creature I have is Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
Grimgrin, Corpse-BornSet: Innistrad
Cost:
5
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie Warrior
Rarity:
M
Number:
214
Artist:
Peter Mohrbacher
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born enters the battlefield tapped and doesn't untap during your untap step. Sacrifice another creature: Untap Grimgrin and put a +1/+1 counter on it. Whenever Grimgrin attacks, destroy target creature defending player controls, then put a +1/+1 counter on Grimgrin.
. He is in this deck to flavorfully lead the zombie army, or stumble in front of it and occasionally cut off the heads of his fellow zombies. He combines with Gravecrawler
Gravecrawler
GravecrawlerSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
64
Artist:
Steven Belledin
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
Gravecrawler can't block. You may cast Gravecrawler from your graveyard as long as you control a Zombie.
to provide a constant source of Grimgrin buffing and untapping. The actual combo invovles the hilarious card Rooftop Storm
Rooftop Storm
Rooftop StormSet: Innistrad
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
71
Artist:
John Stanko
Text:
You may pay {0} rather than pay the mana cost for Zombie creature spells you cast.
to let me cast my Gravecrawler
Gravecrawler
GravecrawlerSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
64
Artist:
Steven Belledin
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
Gravecrawler can't block. You may cast Gravecrawler from your graveyard as long as you control a Zombie.
s for free, muhahahaha.

Now I think you guys deserve a deck list. Yes I know, it is a 61 card deck. I don’t know why I always do that with mill decks.

Creatures (22)
4x Diregraf Ghoul
Diregraf Ghoul
Diregraf GhoulSet: Innistrad
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
U
Number:
97
Artist:
Dave Kendall
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Diregraf Ghoul enters the battlefield tapped.

2x Gravecrawler
Gravecrawler
GravecrawlerSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
64
Artist:
Steven Belledin
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
Gravecrawler can't block. You may cast Gravecrawler from your graveyard as long as you control a Zombie.

2x Black Cat
Black Cat
Black CatSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie Cat
Rarity:
C
Number:
54
Artist:
David Palumbo
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
When Black Cat dies, target opponent discards a card at random.

2x Cemetery Reaper
Cemetery Reaper
Cemetery ReaperSet: Magic 2010
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
87
Artist:
Dave Allsop
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Other Zombie creatures you control get +1/+1. {2}{B}, {T}: Exile target creature card from a graveyard. Put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.

2x Unbreathing Horde
Unbreathing Horde
Unbreathing HordeSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
121
Artist:
Dave Kendall
Power:
0
Toughness:
0
Text:
Unbreathing Horde enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each other Zombie you control and each Zombie card in your graveyard. If Unbreathing Horde would be dealt damage, prevent that damage and remove a +1/+1 counter from it.

2x Havengul Runebinder
Havengul Runebinder
Havengul RunebinderSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
39
Artist:
Bud Cook
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
{2}{U}, {T}, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield, then put a +1/+1 counter on each Zombie creature you control.

4x Undead Alchemist
Undead Alchemist
Undead AlchemistSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
84
Artist:
Michael C. Hayes
Power:
4
Toughness:
2
Text:
If a Zombie you control would deal combat damage to a player, instead that player puts that many cards from the top of his or her library into his or her graveyard. Whenever a creature card is put into an opponent's graveyard from his or her library, exile that card and put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.

1x Grimgrin. Corpse-born
2x Geralf’s Mindcrusher
1x Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the UnhallowedSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
6
Color:
Black
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie Cleric
Rarity:
M
Number:
70
Artist:
Chris Rahn
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Intimidate Whenever a Human deals damage to you, destroy it. Other non-Human creatures you control get +1/+1 and have undying. (When a creature with undying dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it.)


Artifacts (2)
2x Trepanation Blade
Trepanation Blade
Trepanation BladeSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Sub Type:
Equipment
Rarity:
U
Number:
235
Artist:
Daniel Ljunggren
Text:
Whenever equipped creature attacks, defending player reveals cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a land card. The creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn for each card revealed this way. That player puts the revealed cards into his or her graveyard. Equip {2}


Enchantments (8)
2x Curse of the Bloody Tome
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Curse of the Bloody TomeSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Sub Type:
Aura Curse
Rarity:
C
Number:
50
Artist:
Jaime Jones
Text:
Enchant player At the beginning of enchanted player's upkeep, that player puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

2x Endless Ranks of the Undead
2x Call to the Grave
Call to the Grave
Call to the GraveSet: Scourge
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
58
Text:
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a non-Zombie creature. At end of turn, if there are no creatures in play, sacrifice Call to the Grave.

2x Rooftop Storm
Rooftop Storm
Rooftop StormSet: Innistrad
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
71
Artist:
John Stanko
Text:
You may pay {0} rather than pay the mana cost for Zombie creature spells you cast.


Sorceries (5)
2x Increasing Confusion
Increasing Confusion
Increasing ConfusionSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
41
Artist:
Dan Scott
Text:
Target player puts the top X cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. If Increasing Confusion was cast from a graveyard, that player puts twice that many cards into his or her graveyard instead. Flashback {X}{U} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

2x Moan of the Unhallowed
Moan of the Unhallowed
Moan of the UnhallowedSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
109
Artist:
Nils Hamm
Text:
Put two 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens onto the battlefield. Flashback {5}{B}{B} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

1x Army of the Damned
Army of the Damned
Army of the DamnedSet: Innistrad
Cost:
8
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
M
Number:
87
Artist:
Ryan Pancoast
Text:
Put thirteen 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens onto the battlefield tapped. Flashback {7}{B}{B}{B} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)


Lands (24)
9x Island
Island
IslandSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add U to your mana pool.
s
2x Nephalia Drownyard
Nephalia Drownyard
Nephalia DrownyardSet: Innistrad
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
245
Artist:
Cliff Childs
Text:
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool. {1}{U}{B}, {T}: Target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

13x Swamp
Swamp
SwampSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add B to your mana pool.
s


As you can see, this yet again is kind of a slow deck. It works very well in multiplayer. The Undead Alchemist
Undead Alchemist
Undead AlchemistSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie
Rarity:
R
Number:
84
Artist:
Michael C. Hayes
Power:
4
Toughness:
2
Text:
If a Zombie you control would deal combat damage to a player, instead that player puts that many cards from the top of his or her library into his or her graveyard. Whenever a creature card is put into an opponent's graveyard from his or her library, exile that card and put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.
s basically make a mill deck fairly viable, you don’t have to rely on instants and sorceries with some reaching walls. In this deck you get to use creatures like spells that get to fire off each turn. Of course if you're playing a one on one duel you have cards like Increasing Confusion
Increasing Confusion
Increasing ConfusionSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
41
Artist:
Dan Scott
Text:
Target player puts the top X cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. If Increasing Confusion was cast from a graveyard, that player puts twice that many cards into his or her graveyard instead. Flashback {X}{U} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)
to mill a ton of cards directed at one opponent.

The deck ends up playing very much like an aggro-control deck. The opponents have to deal with swarm of zombies and be prepared to eliminate every enchantment that hits the field. Zombies swarm past any opening the enemies leave open, and sometimes the mill strategy can even jump over defenses with Trepanation Blade
Trepanation Blade
Trepanation BladeSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Sub Type:
Equipment
Rarity:
U
Number:
235
Artist:
Daniel Ljunggren
Text:
Whenever equipped creature attacks, defending player reveals cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a land card. The creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn for each card revealed this way. That player puts the revealed cards into his or her graveyard. Equip {2}
and Nephalia Drownyard
Nephalia Drownyard
Nephalia DrownyardSet: Innistrad
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
245
Artist:
Cliff Childs
Text:
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool. {1}{U}{B}, {T}: Target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
. At the same time the deck manages to eliminate specific targets with Grimgrin attacks and uses the two copies of Call to the Grave
Call to the Grave
Call to the GraveSet: Scourge
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
58
Text:
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a non-Zombie creature. At end of turn, if there are no creatures in play, sacrifice Call to the Grave.
for constant creature removal.

I hope you like the deck. In my play testing it can build up pretty fast and does not attract as much hatred as the werewolf deck does. That's mostly because, while it is still evil, it is slightly less evil than the wolves. Of the decks I have fully fleshed out right now, this is one of my favorites. I wrote an article some months ago for Cardshark on a Naya
Naya
NayaSet: Planechase
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Plane
Sub Type:
Alara
Rarity:
C
Number:
27
Artist:
Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
Text:
You may play any number of additional lands on each of your turns. Whenever you roll {C}, target red, green, or white creature you control gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each land you control.
infect deck where I mentioned my love of alternate win conditions. Mill has always been a favorite of mine, possibly because it has never really been competitive. A Standard mill deck that doesn’t play a seriously controlling build is my kind of deck. It’s weird, it’s off the wall, which means it is for me. That and I find the idea of eating human brains kind of interesting (I’m not a sociopath, I promise! *twitch*).

I can’t wait to write the article for next week. Unless the deck suddenly becomes atrocious, it will be a white and blue spirit deck, hopefully just as Vorthos-crazy as this one.

I hope to see, or whatever, you all next week, but there was a recent death in the family, so I might get a bit delayed. I would like to leave on a specific note: go see your family, sure they might be crazy, silly, stupid, or give you asthma or genetic diseases, but they’re your family. You know you love them, and they love you back in their own, potentially odd, way. Make sure they know you love them, because you never know what might happen.


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