I love powerful cards. Often, people incorrectly assume that I like to take cards that are not powerful and somehow convert them into something that is, but in reality, many of the cards I build around are powerful, but niche in application. Glissa the Traitor is hardly a bad card. It has a huge impact on the game and is impossible to rumble with in combat. Unfortunately, she had a restrictive mana cost on her and required some interesting deck-building decisions to fully maximize.
I could argue the same thing about Crypt Ghast, or Dictate of the Twin Gods, or Necrotic Ooze. These cards can all do big things. They have a very high ceiling. They just require a very specific set of conditions in order to reach that potential. Siege Rhino is Siege Rhino, which is why the card is so good. Outside of some mana requirements, just cast the card and you are going to be happy in just about every situation. You cannot say the same for a card like Necromancer's Stockpile, which is what we are going to talk about today!
Shortly after Necromancer's Stockpile was spoiled, I quickly became obsessed with the card. At the time, the zombies in Standard were very hit or miss, but unfortunately, there was only about 15 or so to choose from altogether. While I loved the idea of Lotleth Troll and Dreg Mangler, playing Slitherhead and Spiteful Returned was much less exciting. Still, one of the beautiful things about Necromancer's Stockpile is that it does not care about what your zombies do, but only that they are zombies!
That is a bit of an exaggeration of course, as plenty of zombies have cool effects other than when they are in play, but the idea was simple enough: Stockpile effectively morphed your other cards into 2/2 flash cantrips for two mana and clearly those would be powerful enough for constructed!
The truth was that while the deck fired away with an active Stockpile, without one, the deck just didn't get there. Unlike Abzan or Esper, our deck was not a compilation of individually powerful cards. Instead, we were a theme deck looking to kick things into high gear with a single card. Without it, our deck could operate, but not on the level of other tier 1 strategies.
Unfortunately, with the rotation of Return to Ravnica, the pool of zombies in Standard grew even smaller and the incentives to run my favorite two-mana enchantment had all but vanished. Over the last few sets though, we have seen some new undead enter the fray and its about time to revisit that old Stockpile of flesh and bones.
Naturally, the first place to look is going to be at the zombies of Standard. We can afford to have a few zombies that aren't very good yet synergize with the deck, but we want to have at least most of our cards stand on their own. This is especially true now that people are running ways to kill enchantments in their main decks some of the time. As always, I did a quick search and noted any of the powerful or synergistic zombies that I ran across.
Agent of Erebos
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Odunos River Trawler
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Siren of the Silent Song
Tymaret, the Murder King
Alongside just the zombies, I figured there was some other graveyard stuff that probably works well with Stockpile. If nothing else, I didn't want people to forget that these existed, so here are some odds and ends that might work well with our assembled Undead. Keep in mind that Stockpile does cantrip off of any creature, it simply won't always net you a zombie in return if it isn't one itself.
Despoiler of Souls
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Empty the Pits
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Shadows of the Past
Strength from the Fallen
Soul of Innistrad
On to Some Brews
Previously, when I worked on Stockpile, the deck was almost required to be green and black. As I said before, the pool of zombies was not very large and some of the best ones were arguably all green. Lotleth Troll., Dreg Mangler, and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord were all quite good in the deck. Without them, I would have needed to turn to 2/2s for two mana like Walking Corpse and that is just not a direction that excited me. Instead, I decide to sacrifice my mana a tad and play with better cards.
These days, as you can see from the list above, black is sporting enough zombies all on its own that we can at least explore a monoblack direction for the list. The advantage here is a rather stable manabase which is good because our mana acts a little different here. First of all, untapped mana is huge as activating Stockpile an additional time can be crucial. Additionally, we don't want to run too many lands. Once Stockpile gets online, we want to be able to chain creature after creature to get maximum token production. If we draw two or three lands in a row, we can easily run out of gas. If we choose to run fewer lands, it becomes harder to fit in the appropriate colored sources for each color. That leaves our most consistent mana base as something that is a single color.
Luckily, the list above is made up of most monoblack zombies, so it looks like we shouldn't have a problem reaching critical numbers. One zombie in particular stands out: Risen Executioner. We did not have a zombie lord in Standard when I ran this deck at the Pro Tour and it would have helped a ton. Upgrading an army of 2/2s into 3/3s not only means more damage, but it also means getting into combat you otherwise couldn't have. A pair of 3/3s doesn't mind attacking into a Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix, for example.
Unfortunately, it isn't likely that a Risen Executioner is coming back from the yard for cheap, as we plan on running a lot of creatures in our list, but there are a few workarounds for that. Here is where I first arrived:
As you can see, those workarounds are just the delve mechanic and then Corpseweft, but the Corpseweft on its own will get the job done so it comes up.
This list is made up of a few cards of questionable power level, but I wanted to try an extreme first and see how it goes. Most notable, Undead Servant is not what most people consider a constructed quality card, but with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant requiring such a color commitment, this felt like a time to at least try the servant. Realistically, you want to cycle the first copy away and finding a second or third copy is much easier in a deck with this much card flow. At the point where you are getting 3 bodies, this is certainly at a constructed-worthy power level.
Beyond that, the list is rather straightforward. We sought some zombies with utility, like Fleshbag Marauder and Sidisi, Undead Vizier so that our deck could be more versatile than just a Stockpile plus zombies. At the same time, this deck is still toward the aggressive spectrum just due to have a lot of two and three-drop creatures with a lord to back them up. The only real one-drop for the deck is Shambling Goblin, but perhaps we are aggressive enough to consider such a thing.
Tymaret may look a little strange, but he was a part of my last Stockpile list and is usually worth the slot if you can afford it. With Tymaret, you can cycle him via Necromancer's Stockpile, then sacrifice the zombie you get to bring back Tymaret. This results in 2BB to draw a card and is uncounterable, which is a great weapon against any control deck or slower midrange deck.
Looking back at the list of zombies from above though, I had left quite a few constructed playable ones on the bench without dipping into another color. This leads me to believe that we have some wiggle room to adjust this strategy some.
We could look to take that same concept and slow it down a bit. One of the issues with the GB Stockpile list i played at the Pro Tour was that its plan B was not the best. It was essentially a tier 2 or 2.5 aggro deck that was able to go Super Saiyan when it drew and got Necromancer's Stockpile online. One of the big issues though, is that the Aggro plan and the slower more methodical Stockpile plan often were at odds. If you commit all of your creatures to the board, that means a mostly empty hand when you finally do draw Stockpile.
If we were to slow down the deck a bit and not make it so reliant on those two and three-drop aggressive creatures, we could have a deck that is more focused on executing the Stockpile plan rather than just an aggro deck that likes to draw Stockpile. Sidisi, Undead Vizier is a big help in this area as it gives us a tutor that is also a zombie, allowing us to play with additional copies of Stockpile and yet synergizes so much better with everything else going on.
Going midrange means we can potentially drop our creature count a bit as we are no longer relying on long chains of zombie cantrips to win a game. Just cycling away two zombies on an end step should give us some nice pressure while we continue to manage the game with whatever tools we decide to load this thing up with.
For now, I wanted to focus on a deck that was still monoblack, or near monoblack.
This list is not necessarily better than the first, but it is different. Mage-Ring Network is perhaps my favorite addition to this list as it pays us for stalling, which is awesome. After you have been charging one for awhile, drawing a Stockpile becomes an explosive turn which the first list could never do. Additionally, our curve is a little higher and our mana count higher so this deck is going to fare much better in the mid to late game than our first list.
There are certainly some incentives to moving outside of the monoblack nature of these lists though. As mentioned before, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is highest on that list, but we could look to abuse other graveyard cards were we to branch out a bit. Turning back to green, I was looking to gain an additional "build-around" that would provide the deck with some power in games where Stockpile isn't drawn, but then not be clunky in the games where Stockpile was active. Eventually, this led me back to Strength from the Fallen and the following list:
I am pretty convinced that the sacrifices to our mana are substantial here, but the power level of cards like Sidisi is just so high that the switch still may be worth it. This list is much closer to the dredge decks of a year or two ago that I was working on but it does play fairly different. In particular, Necromancer's Stockpile gives this kind of deck a robust long-game which is great because Strength from the Fallen gives us an explosive early to mid-game, so the enchantments work rather well together on top of being natural constellation partners.
It is possible that I went a bit heavy on the enchantment count here but I think the plan C of being a constellation deck isn't that bad as it really does not interfere much with your first two plans of attack. The mana in this list probably needs work as one might expect. My biggest question is whether more copies of Mana Confluence can be supported, though I fear the answer is no.
That is about all of the graveyard digging I do for today. I think that the zombie tribe has some nice match ups, specifically control, but it is not the only strategy to come out of the yard. Gather the Pack has sort of reinvigorating the more traditional Dredge decks and I want to do some exploring in that area for next week. Until then, as always, thanks for reading!