There was not a single week in 2015 where somebody failed to ask me about Loam Pox. "What changes did you make to you last version?" "What do you think of xxx?" "When is your next article coming up?"

So for some people this article is going to be a "come on, not this deck again!" For others it's going to be a second Christmas (at least!).

After Grand Prix Copenhagen, there was a long period when Modern wasn't exactly my priority, Standard was, and then I wanted to take a short break. However, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch is coming up soon, and even though we've only recently seen what Oath of the Gatewatch has to offer, it is unlikely the whole modern metagame gets shaken up. The bans, however, could affect the format, but we'll have to wait a little more to see what's around the corner.

This time though I haven't tweaked a card or two; I gave the deck a totally new twist.

If you want to know a little more about the history of Loam Pox, I've written a bunch about it starting in December, 2014. This deck already has a long history, so I may not be able to talk about everything in detail here but you might find the answer to a question you may have in a previous article.

So let's get to the new version of the deck.

Smallpox used to be one of the centerpieces of the deck. It enabled dredge and it allowed a lot of card advantage on the play when you got rid of a creature your opponent played on turn one without really going against your game plan. Sometimes you would just gain so much tempo that your opponent would not be able to recover.

However, sometimes it just sucked. Against decks without creatures, you would rarely want to play it to destroy a land and discard a card. Sometimes when you had a Zombie Infestation out, you would not want to play it to keep your zombies around, and even less when your opponent has a Kitchen Finks out.

All along, I've always wanted the deck to focus on one thing: milling itself. You want the cards that don't do anything in the graveyard to be 100% useful, like Zombie Infestation for example. Smallpox is still very situational, so the room for improvement for the deck probably came from taking out Smallpox. We then needed ways to kill creatures and enable dredge.

In Copenhagen, there was one card I was always super impressed with and often wished I had more of. That card is Conflagrate. I was always happy to have it in the graveyard, but sometimes I just couldn't fire it for too much, as I just didn't have enough cards in hand. So I needed a way to fix that. It turns out, I already had the answer in the deck, but as a one-of: Squee, Goblin Nabob.

Squee was already great with Zombie Infestation and was ok with Faithless Looting when I wanted to keep some of my cards in hand, but playing more than one or two goblins wasn't justified.

Today I give you the latest version of the deck. Given the new twist, the deck is no longer called Loam Pox, but Zombie Loam (or Squeeflagrate, up to you!):

DECKID=1257646

The biggest change here is the absence of Smallpox, and the addition of two Conflagrate and three Squee. The deck now has one goal, the goal I always wanted: to mill itself. Squee and Conflagrate were the missing keys to make the deck from very good to great.


How the Deck Works

It follows the same game plan as it used to: you try to enable your dredge cards by pitching them to a Faithless Looting, or just by playing Darkblast or Life from the Loam. If you have a Zombie Infestation in your opening hand and you manage to cast it on turn two, the game is usually hard to lose. Once you start dredging, you have access to a lot of value. The deck has answers to almost everything in the maindeck and only really has trouble against a Scavenging Ooze that arrives at the "wrong time."

In case you don't have a Zombie Infestation when you start dredging, you will be milling yourself every turn and gaining value from almost every card in your graveyard. The big difference with the older versions is that now you have a lot more reach and a way to kill multiple creatures at once, without having to find and retrace Flame Jab again and again.

4 Squee, Goblin Nabob
3 Conflagrate

The more you mill yourself, the more Squees you're going to have in your graveyard. You can pitch them to Faithless Looting and have two extra cards on the next turn, therefore firing a bigger Conflagrate. The more the game lasts, the bigger the Conflagrate will be. With the help of Bloodghasts, it won't be long until your opponent gets within Conflagrate reach, which could very well be 10 to 14 life.

Conflagrate can be played in the early game to kill a critter or two and, as a bonus, allow you to pitch the cards you want to dredge or have in the graveyard, a very good way to sit your Pharaoh in the graveyard when you don't have an Infestation.

Two tricks you have to know with Conflagrate:

- You can cast it for 0 by paying R and putting it in the graveyard. You don't have to pay 2R to have it there. It's extremely relevant in the late game for example, when you have one in hand and want to discard your hand to clear the board; you would only need RRR to use the Discard X: Deal X.

- Spellskite isn't doing too much against Conflagrate.

Some decks will board in Spellskite against you to protect their creatures from your removal. The thing is, Spellskite doesn't work too well against Conflagrate. You only need to target it for one to keep it from redirecting the damage from other targets. The reason is that you can't target the Spellskite twice if you decided to Deal Damage to several targets (including the Spellskite). If you don't target it, your opponent will be able to Redirect the damage from one of its targets.

In the maindeck there are only six cards that don't do anything when you mill them:

4 Zombie Infestation
1 Murderous Cut
1 Lightning Axe

Zombie Infestation is the absolute best card in the deck. It does pretty much everything you want: create blockers, create attackers (win condition), and enable your dredge. You can also pitch a Vengeful Pharaoh during your opponent's attack step for surprise value.

The other big difference with the previous versions of the deck is that I took out some of the spot removals (Go for the Throat and Abrupt Decay). They were really only here against Scavenger Ooze, but overall were quite annoying to draw against the wrong matchup. I wanted my removals to be able to kill Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze, as well as Deceiver Exarch, for as little mana as possible. I had the answer with Murderous Cut but I didn't want to play too many of them. I tried Lightning Axe, and it was just great. Here again, Squee plays a big part. If you don't want to pitch a dredge card (as you want to keep cards in hand for some reason), you can just pitch a Squee, you'll get it back on the next turn.

The rest are either value cards or lands.


The Value Cards

1 Ancient Grudge
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Raven's Crime

Cutting Abrupt Decay meant that we didn't have any answer to Cranial Plating in the maindeck and that's one of the reasons I wanted to have one Ancient Grudge in the main. It's also a good answer to Amulet of Vigor, Spellskite, Inkmoth Nexus / Blinkmoth Nexus, AEther Vial, etc.

I also really liked Ray of Revelation. I like to have one in the main to have something to dredge to against Twins. Sometimes, they just take their time to set up their win, trying to play around one of your removal spells, while you dredge your deck away, without any real way to disrupt them (except for Raven's Crime). You try to get your Bloodghasts out as soon as possible and pressure them - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - and having one Ray of Revelation makes their math a lot more complicated.

This deck doesn't really care about the cards you have in your hand, they could be lands, dredge cards, flashback cards, or even an ace of spade, so long as you can pitch them to Faithless Looting or Zombie Infestation it really doesn't cost much to play trump cards like Ancient Grudge or Ray of Revelation in the maindeck.

Raven's Crime is a very-good-but-situational card. When you get it going, along with Life from the Loam, there's not much your opponent will be able to do to come back into the game. He won't be able to protect his threats, while you draw pretty much three cards a turn.

2 Golgari Brownscale
2 Vengeful Pharaoh

To beat aggro decks and/or get out of reach of bolts from Burn, Delver, or U/W/R decks, the deck needs a life gain generator. While it doesn't provide a lot of life at once, it will be a reliable source of life every turn, something that decks that try to burn you out can't beat. Along with his buddy, the Vengeful Pharaoh, it's a good way to keep creatures at bay (as long as Scavenger Ooze doesn't show up to munch the mummified zombie).

4 Faithless Looting

Probably the card I played the most from Innistrad. Needless to say this card is part of why this deck works. It draws you two cards in the early game, enables dredge, allow you to dredge twice in the midgame/late game, and you can even play it from the graveyard when you mill it...

4 Life from the Loam

Life from the Loam has been shining in many formats, but we haven't seen much of it as of late. In this deck it allows you to refill you hand to either make more zombies, strip your opponent's hand with Raven's Crime, fire a bigger Conflagrate, fix your mana, retrieve or replay the utility lands from your graveyard, or of course, mill more cards every turn.

2 Darkblast

One of the most efficient removal spells in the format, as it almost single-handedly destroys Infect, gives a very hard time to Affinity, and kills most birds and elves.

1 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Grave-Troll

These two are new to the team. The deck now has more one-ofs than before, and sometimes the only thing you want to do is find to one of the cards that will win you the game. A mill-five or mill-six can quickly give you one of the cards you're looking for. And since now you're playing to collect as many Squees as possible, it's a good way to do it.

I haven't figured out which one is better between the two creatures. You can play the Imp early and it can block Restoration Angel (or flyers), while you play the Troll a little less often and it's rarely game breaking. You would mostly play it as a 4/4 or a 5/5 for five, which isn't great.

The Imp is a better creature, the Troll is a better dredge card. Overall, having one of each is the way I solved this puzzle.


The Lands

4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Temple Garden
2 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Mutavault
4 Ghost Quarter

The manabase has changed a little bit since last time as we're not playing Smallpox anymore and don't need black mana as much.

4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Wooded Foothills

The 10 fetch lands are necessary as you need all three colors early. I could totally see switching Catacombs or Mires for Foothills, but I don't think I've ever faced a situation where I needed one over the other.

1 Temple Garden
2 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground

The shock lands have changed a bit too. The most questionable land is Temple Garden. It really only enables Ray of Revelation, so is it really worth it? I believe it is. Being able to hardcast Ray of Revelation is extremely important against Rest in Peace. Rest in Peace is obviously a very problematic card and if it hits the battlefield when you're tapped out or don't have a Ray in the graveyard and a green mana open, your chances of winning the game are highly compromised.

Oh, and it's also great to be able to play a Ray of Revelation from your hand against Splinter Twin.

1 Swamp
1 Forest
1 Mountain

Now that Smallpox is gone, we can afford playing a basic Mountain. It happens that you get to sac a Ghost Quarter on your own land to fetch a red source. It also allows a better mana sequencing with fetch lands as in the first two turns, you only really need a dual land and a basic to have all three colors (Stomping Ground + Swamp, Overgrown Tomb + Mountain, Blood Crypt + Forest).

1 Tectonic Edge
1 Mutavault
4 Ghost Quarter

The utility lands. They all really depend on the metagame. With Amulet Bloom still around, Ghost Quarter is a necessity. It's also great against Tron since they only play one (sometimes two) basic Forests.

Mutavault is the last addition I made to the deck. I used to have Treetop Villages in the very early version of the deck, and it sucked. With 24 lands, we can afford a sixth colorless land. This one along with Life from the Loam provides you with a good late game pressure (to attack along Bloodghasts), and a good blocker, especially against Etched Champions that you have no way to kill anymore. Blocking every turn and racing could be a winning strategy against Affinity that will rely on their Champion to win.


Sideboard

3 Ancient Grudge
2 Ray of Revelation
1 Darkblast
2 Golgari Brownscale
2 Gnaw to the Bone
2 Lightning Axe
2 Jund Charm
1 Bojuka Bog

One of the things that hasn't changed much since the last version is the sideboard. I added two Gnaw to the Bone against burn decks as we now have a lot more creatures in the deck (Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Squee).

As for the Lightning Axe, I just wanted extra removal for Scavenging Ooze and Deceiver Exarch.

As you know, I love the deck and what it does. It's of course not perfect and has trouble against some cards. I mentioned Scavenging Ooze countless times, and it's probably the only card you're really worried about. Rest in Peace is a problem, but it's played in decks that you're supposed to beat. Relic of the Progenitus is also a little annoying, but you can play around it.

I feel confident in most matchups, except maybe against Jund and Junk as these decks that can take over the game with a Tarmogoyf and a Scavenging Ooze.

The only deck that I feel is unbeatable is the B/R Eldrazi deck. While I like my chances against the other versions (B/W for example), I don't think I can beat a deck with four Relic of the Progenitus, four Nihil Spellbombs, and Pyroclasm. That deck has been on the rise, and if it is the real deal (I don't think it is, but there is a new set of Eldrazi coming up in just a couple of days), that could be a deal breaker for our dredge friends.

Talking about Oath of the Gatewatch, I'm not sure what kind of influence it will have on Modern. I don't think we'll find cards that can be played from the graveyard, and the only thing we can hope for to improve the deck is utility lands. Sea Gate Wreckage is interesting, but it's a steep cost to draw a card. We already had Mikokoro, Center of the Sea that would have a similar effect, and it was already too expensive. The deck will be better or worse depending on how the other decks improve and how the Metagames shapes.

With that in mind, I'm looking forward to going over the full Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler and, of course, working on Modern for the upcoming Pro Tour in Atlanta!

Cheers!