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Budget Magic: $106 Combo Zombies (Modern)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! During The Brothers' War spoiler season, I completely overlooked an innocent little uncommon: Thran Vigil. At first glance, the ability to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature when an artifact or creature leaves your graveyard doesn't look like much. But with the help of the persist mechanic, Thran Vigil can actually be a powerful (and budget-friendly) combo piece! Today, we're heading to Modern to embrace Thran Vigil's power in Combo Zombies, a deck that can win by beating down with random Zombies but also has the ability to grow infinitely large creatures, make infinite tokens, or drain the opponent for infinite life thanks to Thran Vigil! How good is Thran Vigil Combo Zombies in Modern on a $100-ish budget? Is it a legit threat to 5-0 a Modern league? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Combo Zombies

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The Deck

Combo Zombies is a Zombie tribal deck that can win like a normal creature-aggro deck by beating down in combat but also can go infinite in a bunch of different ways thanks to Thran Vigil!

The Combo

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Let's start with the most interesting aspect of our deck: the infinite combo! Here's the plan: First, we need Thran Vigil so we can put a +1/+1 counter on a creature whenever one of our creatures leaves the graveyard. While we have a couple of Thran Vigil synergies (like casting Gravecrawler from the graveyard a bunch of times to grow our creatures), the big payoff for the enchantment is Putrid Goblin, which has persist. With Thran Vigil on the battlefield, if Putrid Goblin dies, it will briefly go to the graveyard before returning to play with a –1/–1 counter thanks to persist. Putrid Goblin leaving the graveyard will trigger Thran Vigil to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature, which we'll use on Putrid Goblin to get rid of the  –1/–1 counter, returning it to its normal form, which means the same thing will happen the next time it dies. Basically, having Thran Vigil and Putrid Goblin means we can sacrifice Putrid Goblin an infinite number of times to something like Carrion Feeder (which will make an infinitely large Carrion Feeder) or Nantuko Husk (which will also get infinitely large but just for one turn). While growing a massive Carrion Feeder or Nantuko Husk is pretty sweet, things become even more exciting with one additional combo piece...

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If we add Undead Augur to the combo, we get to draw a bunch of cards as Putrid Goblin dies. Sadly, this isn't infinite because we lose a life for each card we draw, but we can usually draw 10 or 15 cards to find another finisher before sacrificing Undead Augur before it kills us. If we add Headless Rider to the combo, then we make infinite 2/2 Zombie tokens since every time Putrid Goblin dies, Headless Rider will trigger to make a 2/2, and these Zombie tokens should win us the game the next turn unless our opponent has a wrath. For a more immediate win, we can add Plague Belcher to the mix to drain our opponent every time a Zombie—like Putrid Goblin—dies. 

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While not full-on combo pieces, both Champion of the Perished and Gravecrawler are pretty synergistic with the combo. If we have Champion of the Perished on the battlefield while we are comboing, it will grow infinitely large thanks to Putrid Goblin entering the battlefield over and over again. Meanwhile, Gravecrawler can replace Putrid Goblin as a sort of mini-combo with Thran Vigil and Carrion Feeder. While we can go fully infinite, since we need to spend a mana each time we cast Gravecrawler from our graveyard, we can sacrifice Gravecrawler to Carrion Feeder to grow it, recast Gravecrawler from our graveyard to trigger Thran Vigil, grow something with its +1/+1 counter, and do this as many times as our mana permits.

And this covers all of the Zombies in our deck. One of the things that make the deck so powerful is that pretty much every creature in the deck is a combo piece in one way or another. But outside of maybe Putrid Goblin itself, which isn't great outside of the combo, all of our creatures are also just good Zombies that form the foundation of our Zombie-beatdown plan. Basically, the power of Combo Zombies is that we are a solid budget Zombie deck that also has the ability to go infinite, which allows us to play and win a fair game but also win out of nowhere with the combo.

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our main deck are Fatal Push for removal and Diabolic Intent to tutor up whatever combo piece we happen to be missing. Diabolic Intent specifically is great in our deck because we have a ton of sac fodder (like Gravecrawler and Putrid Goblin). This often turns it into a Modern-legal Demonic Tutor, which is pretty absurd!

Playing the Deck

Two important notes on playing Combo Zombies. First, Thran Vigil only works during our turn. I actually messed this up myself in one of our early games, by chump-blocking with a Putrid Goblin during our opponent's turn only to realize that Thran Vigil wouldn't trigger. This isn't a big deal, but it is worth remembering. We have to combo during our turn, not our opponent's turn.

The other thing to realize is that the full combo doesn't happen all that often. If you go back through our league, we went fully infinite twice, meaning we won with the full infinite combo just 20% of the time. As such, you should think of the deck as a synergistic Zombie tribal beatdown deck that can also combo, rather than as an infinite combo deck that can sometimes beat down, because the synergistic beatdown wins happen way, way more often than the full infinite combo wins do. If you focus too much on the combo and too little on beating down, you'll probably have a rough time with the deck.


Record-wise, Combo Zombies was as good as it gets, going 5-0 in a Modern league on Magic Online while taking down several of the top decks in the format, including Izzet Murktide, Rakdos Scam, and Domain Zoo, which sets Combo Zombies apart as one of the few Modern decks to have 5-0'ed a league on Budget Magic. While consistently 5-0'ing might be a challenge, this is a pretty good sign that Combo Zombies is a really solid budget option for the format, which is especially important now considering how expensive it is to get into Modern.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm not sure Nantuko Husk is worthwhile. We ended up sideboarding it out pretty often. It might be worth replacing some with something like Cryptbreaker or another copy of Headless Rider, which was really impressive both inside and outside of the combo.

So, should you play Combo Zombies in Modern? I think the answer is pretty clearly yes. As we talked about before, it's pretty rare for Budget Magic decks to 5-0 a Modern league, and Combo Zombies managed to achieve that feat. If you like tribal aggro decks with some sneaky synergy and / or weird combos, this deck seems like a great budget option for Modern!

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The good news is that getting Modern Zombies down near $50 is very possible. The bad news is that it mostly requires cutting the combo. This might seem odd because most of the combo pieces themselves aren't very expensive, which is true. The issue is that Diabolic Intent is—by far—the most expensive card in the budget build of the deck, which means it needs to be cut to get the deck down to the ultra-budget price range. Considering that we only comboed off 20% of the time even with Diabolic Intent to find our missing combo pieces, without the tutor, the odds of finding all of our combo pieces are low enough that we might as well just cut the combo altogether and play a more beatdown-focused build of Zombies, with additional tribal payoffs like Lord of the Accursed and Diregraf Colossus replacing the combo pieces. 

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Finally, we splash into white for our non-budget build, mostly to have answers to artifacts in our sideboard, although this also allows us to play Wayward Servant over Plague Belcher as a combo finisher. Otherwise, the deck is mostly the same but with an upgraded mana base and sideboard. By far the biggest question about the non-budget build of the deck is just how focused we should be on the infinite combo. If we want to try to up our combo rate, we could add cards like Metallic Mimic (which can work as a backup version of Thran Vigil) or Murderous Redcap (sadly not a Zombie but a backup for Putrid Goblin that generates lethal damage by itself thanks to its enters-the-battlefield trigger) to the deck. But I'm not sure that going all-in on the combo makes the deck more competitive overall because one of the deck's biggest draws is that it's good enough to win fairly. Adding more cards that are underpowered unless we are going infinite would likely diminish our fair game plan, which could be a problem. As such, for now, we're sticking to a build that's very similar to the one we played in the video, although it could be worth testing a more all-in combo build of the deck as well, in non-budget form.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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