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BMoor's Magic The Gathering Deck Garage
"Deck Ideas for returning Medic (UNCLASSIFIED)"
January 10, 2012

Normally I don't build decklists on request for people-- I expect my clients to at least make a token effort at building their own deck before I come in to help improve on the first draft. Normally I don't go in for blind patriotism or military worship, either-- I've had two family members and one of my Magic buddies enlist in the military, and I've seen firsthand that active duty does not turn you into a superhuman avatar of all that is good on this Earth (as the recruitment commercials would have you believe) it just gives you a new set of jokes to make with your friends about why you hate your job.
That said, getting an e-mail that appears to have gone through the intelligence bureau is a unique experience for me, and since somebody apparently had the good sense to determine that this army medic's email about land destruction and zombie was not in fact some sort of terrorist secret code, I decided I had to give it an article. 

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Hey there Mr. BMoor,

  I've been reading your website for a while now, iitching to be in the game again. I say again because I started playing in late 94 however lost all of my cards to flooding of my storage while on a mission in Bosnia some years ago. My last couple of tours in Afghanistan, people are still playing and so I borrow decks and played too. I'm wanting to get back into the game for good again but with a military income and three kids I'm limited now to a budget. I'm looking for two decks to build but am not sure with all the new stuff, where to start. I've always been a big fan of LAND DESTRUCTION decks and ZOMBIE decks. Sink Hole, Ice Quake, and Stone Rain are gone, and the Zombie Master is retired.

Can you give me some ideas with these two decks? I'm looking through cards for months now and I'm not seeing that Land Destruction is at all an option. Remember... I'm just getting back in and Budget is the key word here. I'd like to play Type II, sorry, Standard if at all possible. Modern is good too, I suppose if that's where the card pool is.

Thanks for any ideas...

Detachment Sergeant/Facility Manager

Well, Mike, I've got good news and bad news for you. The bad news first.
You didn't mention how long you've been out of the M:TG loop before coming back to it, but I'm guessing you missed the Standard season circa 2006. Quick history lesson: the format was dominated by two land destruction decks. Magnivore decks used Eye of Nowhere and all the Stone Rain variants they could get to keep opponents on one land the entire game, and Blink Riders used Momentary Blink to cheat the echo cost of Avalanche Riders to achieve similar results while they built up to Numot, the Devastator. Since Wizards of the Coast has instituted a policy of clamping down on overpowering strategies only if they're particularly frustratting to lose to, and getting stuck on one land for eight to ten turns is about as frustrating as Magic ever gets, they decided that they didn't want dedicated Land Destruction decks to be viable any more. Your observation is quite astute, Mike. Land destruction now only exists in minor traces as a way to keep powerful nonbasics like Emeria, the Sky Ruin in check. Building a deck full of them just isn't an option.
Now the good news. You mentioned not only land destruction, but Zombies, and Zombies are VERY viable! If you like Zombies, you picked a good year to get back into Magic, because Innistrad is the current hot set and it's a gothic horror set straight out of the black-and-white Bela Lugosi pictures! I have no doubt that you'll be able to do a cheap yet powerful Zombie deck, and make it Standard-legal. Just one thing though-- you don't mind playing blue and black, do you?
The Zombies of Innistrad fall into two categories. First is the standard "swarm of walking corpses" in black, and second is the "Frankenstein's Monster" flesh golem type of zombie in blue. You can make a monocolored Zombie deck in either color, though a monoblue Zombie deck will be fairly limited in its scope. I'm going to be focusing on a black and blue deck, but of course you're the one playing it Mike and it's your decision to make in the end.
When you said Zombie Master, I knew that the best modern analogue was Cemetery Reaper, currently going for between $2 and $2.50 each. A global +1/+1 is hard to ignore, and the ability to make Zombie tokens is a very nice feature. If you want more Zombie Lords, Adaptive Automaton can do the job, but is a bit pricier due to the high number of decks that want copies of it. If you really want to exploit your Zombie army, there's two cards to keep an eye out for: Unbreathing Horde and Undead Alchemist.
Unbreathing Horde is your quintessential beatstick. It rewards you for playing lots of Zombies, whether they're still alive or not. Undead Alchemist is trickier-- it turns you into a mill deck, but rewards you for milling by giving you Zombie tokens, which the Horde will appreciate. And if you decide you don't want to mill anymore and want to deal damage with your Zombies normally, you should have no problem sacrificing or killing off the Alchemist. After all, what black deck doesn't run a few kill spells? A singleton copy of Grimgrin, Corpse-Born would give you a sacrifice outlet and a heavy-hitting Zombie, or a few copies of Altar's Reap would give you card draw. The Alchemist is going for 99 cents and the Horde for $1.50 thereabouts, so you should be able to afford playsets of each no problem. 
But high-profile Zombies won't get you there unless you have plenty of troops to back them up, as I'm sure you can understand, Mike. As of this writing (before Dark Ascension has come out) there are 29 Zombies in Standard. Walking Corpse and Warpath Ghoul are the simplest and the cheapest, and it only gets better from there. Abattoir Ghoul can be had for a quarter each and gives you a way to gain life, or scare opponents into not blocking. Diregraf Ghoul is a great one-drop and costs less than a dollar each. If you'd like to try infect, there's Blackcleave Goblin, Contagious and Toxic Nim, Scourge Servant, and Hand of the Praetors to act as "infect lord". Skaab Ruinator is a 5/6 with flying that makes a great late game "mopper upper", but at $3.49 each it's starting to lean on your budget and it doesn't synergize well with Unbreathing Horde. Nested Ghoul is unlikely to ever produce more than one Zombie token, but that's still two Zombies gotten with one card.
But really, it's Zombie tokens that are going to give you the best results, as they can be made cheaply. For this task, I recommend Endless Ranks of the Dead. Because it triggers every upkeep, it'll help you keep up the pressure with no further investment, and it gives you more tokens each turn until someone plays a Day of Judgment. Luckily, it also help you recover from Day of Judgment, since the Day won't kill the enchantment. Undead Alchemist is a good choice here as well, especially if you've got a Cemetery Reaper on the board.
All you need now is the basic support spells. You're in black and blue, so you'll want some countermagic and kill spells. Ponder, Mana Leak, Vapor Snag, Dissipate, Go for the Throat, and Wring Flesh are all decent choices.
I hope that's helped, Mike. Remember, you can build the final deck however you see fit, but if I were you I'd wait a few weeks for Dark Ascension to release. That set is bound to have a whole host of new Zombie cards!
Good luck!



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