Revisiting Zombies has been on my to-do list ever since I initially gave the deck a spin back when Amonkhet released. Hour of Devastation followed up and I thought it would be possible the tribal Zombies deck would get an upgrade. While we did get one of the sweetest honorary Zombie ever in The Scarab God, I'm not sure any of the other additions really changed the tribal-focused beatdown build of the deck.
But Julien Berteaux proved there's more than one way to bring the undead to life.
Berteaux and his team just missed the team Top 4 at Grand Prix Madrid with this deck, and he also took it to a semifinals finish at a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier. So, coming in we already know the deck has legs and has put up results at premier tournaments, which means it's not a fluke and is something you may want to seriously consider a growing part of the metagame.
This is unlike any other Zombie deck I've seen. It's not all-in on the tribal aggro plan, it's not trying to get cute with Zombie lords, and it's not trying to play a Smallpox strategy with some Zombies thrown in. No, this deck plays out much, much differently. The creatures are all individually recursive, and provide synergy with the full four Smuggler's Copter, which is shaping up to be on the best value propositions in Modern. Alongside Collective Brutality, the value you get from looting and discarding cards like Gravecrawler, Bloodghast Lingering Souls is exactly what a deck like this one that wants to grind out small advantages is looking for.
Backing up that graveyard-centric value shell is the disruption suite that makes black one of the best colors in Modern. Between the best removal in Fatal Push, the best hand disruption in Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize, and the best planeswalker in Modern that combines both of those things in Liliana of the Veil, this deck plays out much more like a white-black control deck that it does anything else. The value the Zombies adds here is perfect and comes at the right time, with the creatures getting in beneath opponents' defenses and coming back later after both players have traded resources. And don't forget that Mutavault can come alive to bring back Gravecrawler, not to mention teaming up with Shambling Vent to add in some creature lands to help turn the corner when needed.
The white cards may seem like an afterthought for Lingering Souls, but Shambling Vent is actually one of the best creature lands in Modern. Life gain and three toughness go a long way in the appropriate matchups, and a swing or two can turn the tide against the aggro decks. Of course, white also gives you access to some of the strongest sideboard cards in the format. This list has Kataki, War's Wage, but you can also turn to Stony Silence as your artifact hate, while having access to both Path to Exile and Anguished Unmaking means you have lots of flexibility in your removal when needed.
Overall, I really liked this deck. It does rely heavily on curving out and lacks a ton of truly high-impact cards to swing things in the late game, but it can absolutely Snuff Out opponents by accumulating small value over time and beating in repeatedly with Gravecrawler. Two points of damage at a time may not seem like a lot, but I promise it adds up. And in this case, it adds up to a very competitive Modern deck.
Thanks for reading,