Budget Commander Boot Camp: Zombie Chomp

*Editor’s Note: Abe broke the no Instants rule a little bit with his decklist this week. Seeing as how the plan is to add in other card types eventually, we didn’t think it was a big enough deal to change since there were only two instants added.*

Hello folks and welcome back to Part 2 of the Budget Commander Boot Camp with myself and Mark Wischkaemper. The goal of this series is simple. Use a cheap Commander deck to help new players learn Commander and deepen their understanding of Magic as well, and then give them the deck so they can own it and make their changes to it and such.

And that’s the goal, four fun, cheap Commander decks with built-in smashery! Now, they need to be on the simpler side of life, so in way similar to Portal, we’re starting out with just lands, sorceries, and creatures. And no sorceries should be playable at odd times of the game either! I’m looking at you Extinguish or Harsh Justice!

  • The goal of our series is to show how to teach new players so they’ll be excited to play again. It’s less about knowing all the nuance of this really complicated game, and more about having a lot of fun and wanting to do it more. Once the novice is hooked, complexity can follow.
  • We’re coming at it based on a Drive to Work Podcast by the grand Pooh-Bah himself, Mark Rosewater.

We are also building a 20 card optionboard with 6 each of instants, artifacts, enchantments and 2 Planeswalkers to add to the deck later. That will be included in the price then. The enitre cost of the four decks, plus the optionboards, is going to clock in under $250, so that’s roughly $60 a deck with 120 cards.

Now, Mark got us started off last week with Surrak Dragonclaw, and the initial cost for his deck is $27.94. Check it out!

The intention for this project is to build simple decks, and let people play! Do you have some friends who may have played Magic a few times but haven’t really committed to the game yet? Show them Commander! Do you know some folks who stopped playing Magic before Commander was a major part of the fabric of the game? Show them Commander! For players who have flirted with the game, or have been considering it, the rules for Commander aren’t that hard to wrap yourself around, especially, if you have someone who is a flavor-first sort of thinker, as the mechanics tie into their concept of a leader.

This is a great way to teach the game.

If you love the Commander, then what is stopping you from building a fun, cheap deck and playing with some folks, showing them how to play, and then giving them that deck?

The early editions of these decks are cool because they are easy to play and reinforce the value of creature combat. There is nothing else to hide behind — it’s all about the creatures! Straight and simple. Don’t abuse rules. Don’t try to win. Keep it simple. Remember there are hundreds of key words and mechanics by now, so don’t overwhelm someone with them. Don’t use everything at the best possible time!

Keep it simple, and emphasize the smashing!

So for my first deck, one of the ten or so ideas Mark suggested for the project behind the scenes was a {B}{U} Zombie deck, and I really liked that idea, especially after Amonkhet came and gave us another helping of Zombie loving, including an uncommon Zombie Lord (creatures that pump an entire tribe are referred to as “Lords” due to the creature type that used to exist and the names like Lord of Atlantis).

I took the cheap Zombie challenge and came up with . . . 

This deck!

Gisa and Geralf

Lord of the Accursed
And there you are!

Our cost for this? $29.54 over at CoolStuffInc.com!

Now, I have some built-complexities. For example, it is hard to build a Zombie deck without some creatures that pump up Zombies, so we have cards like Diregraf Captain and Lord of the Accursed here.

A lot of popular Zombie cards are way out of this deck’s budget, such as Lord of the Undead and Death Baron. Shoot those two cards alone are worth more than the entire deck! And support cards like even Soulless One are a little on the pricey side of most people’s budgets. And that’s fine! We can layer in great older cards like Vengeful Dead with modern entrants such as Stir the Sands. Going all the way back to Zombie Master in the first set, Zombies have had a strong tribal component, so you can still tap into cheaper versions of that.

I also wanted some good solid utility here for players to lean on. The obvious place for a deck like this is to use and harness the graveyard. So in shambled Zombies like Gravedigger and Ghoulraiser. And they joined sorceries such as Wander in Death and Rise from the Grave.

Army of the Damned
On that note, I gave ourselves a little of a self-milling theme, just to work with Gisa and Geralf to re-cast Zombies from the graveyard, and I added in a few flashback sorceries of value as well, such as Deep Analysis and Army of the Damned. But I avoided too many of these interactions, as I wanted to focus on swinging and doing cool things. A few other cards remain, like Geralf’s Mindcrusher, Bitter Revelation, and Deranged Assistant. Meanwhile, while you are flipping cards over, that leads to a powerful Rise from the Tides. Check it out!

More utility was needed. Given the high number of creatures running around, we need to be able to handle them. Skinrender awaits. But we also have stuff like Fleshbag Marauder and Deathmark Prelate as well. And we have more utility too! Sedraxis Alchemist will always bounce a non-land permanent if you have out Gisa and Geralf or another Blue creature. Go get lands with Jhessian Zombies or Twisted Abomination. You’ve got this!

And there are lots of moments in this deck. Make sure you let people figure this deck out themselves, at their own speed. Don’t make recommendations for how they should best play it.

Take Probe. Probe is a great card on its own. Play it for 3 mana, draw three cards, and discard two. It has value on its own. And you can kick it to force an opponent to discard two cards as well, so you are up some cards as you play it. But Probe has two extra features you will learn by playing. The first is to discard a Zombie or two that you can then play with Gisa and Geralf. (Or even a flashback card to still get half of the card’s value.) That’s good synergy a new player may not see at first, but will figure out. And there’s another. If you want, you can turn the kicker on yourself. Suppose you have a hand of 6 cards, one of which is Zombie Apocalypse and four of which are Zombies. Play and kick Probe and target yourself. Draw three cards, discard four, ensuring you discard four zombies. Then next turn play Zombie Apocalypse!

I tried to layer in a few of these, “Deeper then they first appear” cards with some added synergies for your deck once you see them, but at first appear just there. Don’t make suggestions for them and don’t abuse these early. If you play the Zombie CHOMP deck, then don’t break Probe open. Let them discover it on their own when they’re playing it. That is an awesome moment!

There are more little synergies as well. I’m sure you can see a bunch already!

Make sure you aren’t overthinking things. My initial deck list had Boneknitter, Skinthinner, and Infernal Caretaker in there. Are you kidding me? Why did I think morph would be an easy mechanic to put into a deck like this? That was stupid. For a similar reason, I stayed away from lands that don’t make mana or fetch another land. I didn’t want to cause too many think-ing things, especially given the moving parts a tribal deck will have to possess.

Corpse Harvester
Remember that this is a deck that is going to be prone to more complex plays and interactions. Don’t use your enhanced knowledge of the game to win. Take Corpse Harvester as a good example. Don’t use it to win the game. Here, let me sacrifice this creature to go get Fleshbag Marauder or something worse. Don’t keep it open to break the game. Use it on your turn to get a decent Zombie just to show how good it is instead. Later on, when the player you are teaching has gotten it, then you can use those cards to better advantages.

Another example is cycling. My deck has a handful of cycling cards. We have three creatures, two of which cycle for lands, and a handful of spells. Don’t overdo it. You don’t even have to cycle in the first game or two. The deck is fine with Twisted Abomination as a 5/3 regenerator. And then later you can add that trick to the deck, and hopefully, the using of cycling anytime may lead to someone understanding instants later. Let them discover the “Cycle a Zombie into your graveyard and then play it with Gisa and Geralf” trick.

Similarly, don’t use delve on Empty the Pits until they have figured it out, or ask about it. You can hard cast it and it’s still a great card!

Don’t abuse it. Don’t break it. Take it slow and easy and most of all, HAVE FUN! Remember this is the sort of deck you can play and give away and enjoy. Don’t be so focused on “doing it right” that you prevent your opponent from having fun!

This is the second deck of our four-deck series. Join Mark next week when he picks this up with the 3rd deck, all ready to rock and drop. I hope you enjoyed this cheap iteration of a simplified but solid budget-based Zombie deck.

Are you ready to CHOMP away? Any thoughts or ideas for Zombifying people’s brains?

Hour of Devastation is now available for preorder at CoolStuffInc.com!