At the time I'm writing this article the full spoiler for Hour of Devastation is not yet available, but simply looking at the cards we do know, it's easy to see that there are going to be even more Zombie synergy in Standard soon enough. Zombies is already one of, if not the, best decks in the format. Mono-black is the best variation at the moment, though that may not be the case for much longer.

During the Aetherworks Marvel days, Zombies fell off in the metagame because of its generally poor Temur Marvel matchup. If Temur Marvel lists wanted to have a great matchup against Zombies they could, by adding cards like Radiant Flames and Chandra, Flamecaller. For a tribal deck that is trying to go wide on the ground, sweepers are your worst nightmare. Now the metagame is in a much better spot for Zombies, with Temur Energy, black-green and Mardu Vehicles some of the primary archetypes. Zombies has efficient creatures and removal spells like Dark Salvation and Fatal Push provide an edge in creature-on-creature battles, so this helps push the deck up a level.

Most of the decks that are popular in Standard right now are not receiving multiple cards that could be good fits for them. Zombies, on the other hand, has multiple directions it can go in given what we are seeing in Hour of Devastation. Mono Black and White-Black Zombies are still available, but Blue-Black Zombies is an option be as well. The Scarab God looks extremely impressive as an incentive to be blue-black, though, it is also a five-drop that competes with Liliana's Mastery.

Blue-Black Zombies

How does The Scarab God measure up to Liliana's Mastery? They are very different cards, and each is going to be better in slightly different decks. I remember expecting to see Liliana, Death's Majesty more in Zombie decks, but it turns out Liliana's Mastery is the better fit, at least for Mono-Black Zombies, which is mostly an aggressive deck with a secondary plan of drawing cards with Cryptbreaker. In order for Blue-Black Zombies to be successful, I believe it will need to be more of a controlling deck. If you have enough time to make 4/4 Zombies The Scarab God will be much more impressive.

Oftentimes I have found that after playing Liliana's Mastery, Mono-Black Zombies is all in on attacking and hoping the cards on the board are good enough to finish off the opponent. There is very little to do with your mana late in the game. The Scarab God is a win condition, a way to make sure you draw gas in the lategame and a mana sink as already mentioned. It won't have the same immediate impact as Liliana's Mastery, but it does create more inevitability. Besides The Scarab God, there are other Zombies that easily forgotten that are perfect fits in blue-black.

Gisa and Geralf is a card that has been patiently waiting to see Standard play. It is not as if Gisa and Geralf isn't powerful, there just hasn't been enough of a reason to be blue. Prized Amalgam is another card that we can potentially look to put in the deck. If control decks become popular, Blue-Black Zombies is going to be a better choice, as the creatures are tougher to permanently answer. Here is what the deck might look like.

In order to justify playing blue-black over the mono-black version you need to create a completely different sort of deck. This deck has no lords in it, and in fact many of the creatures aren't Zombies at all. The key here is that there is more graveyard synergy, which makes a lot of the creatures better. There are multiple ways to both put creatures in the graveyard, and return them to the battlefield, while still having a host of removal to try and deal with the early plays from the opponent.

There aren't many one-drops in the format to choose from, so it shouldn't be a surprise to see both Cryptbreaker and Dread Wanderer here. Cryptbreaker is potentially even better in this deck than Mono-Black Zombies because discarding a card with it is more advantageous here. We want to be putting Prized Amalgam into the graveyard, rather than casting it naturally. Dread Wanderer is a way to trigger Prized Amalgam later on, and provides pressure early.

Miasmic Mummy is a card we occasionally saw in Mono-Black Zombies, but it never really felt like a good home for it - this is a much better fit. There are actual creatures we want in the graveyard, which is a huge boon when being forced to discard a card. Scrapheap Scrounger is the other two-mana threat, which we are used to seeing in the sideboard of Zombie decks as a way to grind out control decks. Here, the synergy with Prized Amalgam and discard outlets means it is worth main decking.

Champion of Wits is a bit of an experiment, which is often going to be the case with new cards. It is hard to know exactly how a card like this will play out without actually testing it. With that said, while the loot effect is great, Champion of Wits not being a Zombie is a pretty big downside. The embalm is nice, but a lot of mana, so many times you won't actually reach the point in the game to use it. I'm not sure if this is the right fit for Champion of Wits, but I see it being a solid role player in spots where it can provide good synergy. Unfortunately, this deck has no good way to pump his power.

This Blue-Black Zombies deck is worth being aware of, there could even be more cards from Hour of Devastation that slot in. Even if The Scarab God doesn't see play in Blue-Black Zombies, it could shine elsewhere. The card is good enough even if you aren't draining your opponent for a lot with it.

White-Black Zombies

Unraveling Mummy is certainly no Wayward Servant, so the question becomes, will it end up being played in White-Black Zombies? I'm not sure it is good enough to beat out Lord of the Accursed or Diregraf Colossus as a three-drop. Both activated abilities are relevant, especially the lifelink when racing. However, the body on Unraveling Mummy isn't really what you want for a three-mana play. Since the white Zombies don't stand out that does hurt the odds of a White-Black Zombies resurgence, but I could see Grind // Dust being a useful card to have access to.

Grind // Dust is going to be great alongside other cards that give -1-1 counters to opposing creatures, but even without them the card is impressive. Imagine killing a Cryptbreaker and Metallic Mimic on turn two, or killing two big guys later in the game. Both halves of Grind // Dust are extremely powerful, so any White-Black Zombie deck should consider this card as part of their removal suite. There are incentives to splash in Zombies, but it is also going to be important not to create a worse deck by trying to get too fancy, since we are already talking about one of the top decks in the format.

Upgrading Mono-Black Zombies

I suspect most players are not quite ready to splash in Zombies, and would rather play the version with the most consistent mana. This is a perfectly reasonable approach to take. So far there are a couple of black Zombie synergy cards in Hour of Devastation like Accursed Horde, but they really aren't worthy of Constructed play. Ammit Eternal, on the other hand is definitely worthy of discussion.

Ammit Eternal is a pretty difficult creature to evaluate. First of all, we are getting a nice size on our creature for three mana. Ammit Eternal is going to be best in the most aggressive of black decks, as it doesn't get better the longer the game goes like Diregraf Colossus does. Instead Ammit Eternal becomes worse if you aren't attacking with it, so you really need to get in with it as often as possible. Afflict three is pretty significant, as it makes it difficult for the opponent to block, and if the opponent doesn't block Ammit Eternal is quite quickly back to its original power and toughness. Expect Ammit Eternal to pick up one or two counters and then lose them back most of the time.

Ammit Eternal does synergize well with cards like Plague Belcher that might want to put counters on it, as you can remove all the counters fairly easily. Once again, the issue here is that there are already lots of good three-mana Zombies to choose from, and it's not immediately clear Ammit Eternal is better than what is already available. So what does Zombies definitely gain from Hour of Devastation?

So far, there are lots of options to choose from, but none that are strict upgrades to the deck as it currently stands. I could see Torment of Hailfire being a great way to close out games. It is another late-game card, but it is a pretty insane Fireball effect as most of the time the opponent won't have many nonland permanents they are willing to sacrifice. Liliana's Defeat is the most obvious sideboard card for the Zombies deck, though it is also very good against Zombies as well.

SIdeboarding Liliana's Defeat creates a situation where you are almost obligated to do so because of the importance of the mirror match, but your opponent will likely also have the card, so it is more or less a wash. Overall, there is a good amount of Zombie synergy in Hour of Devastation, but not as much as we saw in Amonkhet. Still, the Zombies archetype doesn't need major improvements in order for it to remain successful in the new Standard.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield