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Budget Magic: $99 (14 tix) London Zombie Hunt (Modern, Magic Online)


Zdravstvuyte, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're doing something different and fun. Wizards implemented the London Mulligan rule on Magic Online this week (if you're not familiar, it's a new mulligan rule being tested at Mythic Championship London where you mulligan to seven every time you mulligan, and then once you decide to keep a hand, you choose X cards, where X equals the number of times you mulliganed, and put them on the bottom of your deck). So we're taking one of the most infamous budget decks in all of Magic out for a spin: Zombie Hunt! If you've never heard of Zombie Hunt, it's a really strange deck. Apart from a playset of Treasure Hunt and Zombie Infestation, every card in the main deck (and sideboard) is a land. We then mulligan until we find Treasure Hunt (which should be a lot easier with London mulligans) and hopefully a Reliquary Tower as well, cast Treasure Hunts until we hit a Zombie Infestation, discard the oodles of lands we draw to Zombie Infestation to make a bunch of Zombie tokens at instant speed, and beat our opponent down, hopefully making the Zombies on Turn 3 and winning on Turn 4. While the deck is hilarious and surprisingly effective, traditional consistency is its biggest problem since we literally cannot keep a hand without Treasure Hunt. Does the London Mulligan rule fix this problem, making Zombie Hunt into a (semi-)legitimate deck in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: London Zombie Hunt (Modern)

The Deck

Zombie Hunt is a combo deck, with the combo being casting Treasure Hunt in a deck that's 87.7% lands, which means we often draw seven cards (and sometimes 20 or 30 cards) for just two mana! We can then use all of the lands we draw to fuel Zombie Infestation, which Treasure Hunt allows us to find since it draws until we hit a nonland card (which will either be another Treasure Hunt, allowing us to repeat the process, or Zombie Infestation since they are the only nonlands in our deck), make a ton of Zombie tokens, and (hopefully) win game as early as Turn 4 with Zombie token beats.

The Combo

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The most important card in Zombie Hunt is Treasure Hunt. In fact, Treasure Hunt is so important that we have to mulligan until we have a copy in our opening hand. If we don't, it's unlikely we'll find one since our deck is nearly 90% lands. Thankfully, under the London Mulligan rule, it's extremely rare that we don't find a copy of Treasure Hunt if we are willing to mulligan all the way to one or two cards. 

While mulliganing all the way to one or two cards probably sounds strange, in Zombie Hunt, a two-card hand with a land and a Treasure Hunt is actually perfectly fine since once we cast Treasure Hunt, we'll likely draw until we have more than seven cards in hand anyway. So step one of playing Treasure Hunt is making sure that we always, always, always have at least one copy of Treasure Hunt in our opening hand, no matter how many mulligans it takes.

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The second most important card in Zombie Hunt is Reliquary Tower, and one of the sweetest aspects of the London mulligan rule is that we can be super greedy with our mulligans in the hopes of finding both Reliquary Tower and Treasure Hunt in our opening hand. The reason why Reliquary Tower is so important is because Treasure Hunt typically draws us so many cards that we'll end up discarding to hand size, which isn't ideal. As such, if we have both Reliquary Tower and Treasure Hunt in our opening hand, we can play Reliquary Tower and cast Treasure Hunt on Turn 2. On the other hand, if we don't have Reliquary Tower, we need to wait until Turn 3 to cast Treasure Hunt (before we play our third land), in the hopes that we'll find a copy of Reliquary Tower to avoid discarding a bunch of cards to hand size. The good news is that, under the London mulligan rule, the odds are actually in favor of us mulliganing into both Reliquary Tower and Treasure Hunt, if we mulligan aggressively.

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Our final combo piece is Zombie Infestation, but we don't actually need (or even want) Zombie Infestation in our opening hand. Because Treasure Hunt draws us cards until we hit a nonland, we know that one of two things will happen when we cast a Treasure Hunt: we'll draw a bunch of lands and another Treasure Hunt (which is fine, since we can then repeat the process) or we will draw a bunch of lands and a Zombie Infestation (which is also fine since we can then play Zombie Infestation, discard all of the random lands we drew from Treasure Hunt, and make a massive board full of Zombies to win the game). 

Another secondary consideration here is that the London mulligan rule allows us to put cards we don't want on the bottom of our deck, which is a great option if we end up with a Zombie Infestation in hand. The more nonland cards we can stack on the bottom of our deck, the better, since this increases the odds that our Treasure Hunts will draw us more lands before fizzling when we eventually hit a nonland. While we can't afford to mulligan into a Zombie Infestation just so we can put it on the bottom of our deck, it's an option we should take advantage of when it is available.

Winning the Game

The basic process of winning the game with Zombie Hunt is simple: with an ideal draw, we'll cast Treasure Hunt on Turn 2 (with a Reliquary Tower on the battlefield), cast Zombie Infestation on Turn 3, and then discard essentially our entire hand on our opponent's end step, often making 10 or 20 power worth of Zombies on Turn 3, allowing us to untap, attack, and potentially win the game on the spot (or at worst, over the course of two attack steps). While we sometimes need to make a Zombie or two during our opponent's combat step if we need to block, waiting until the end step is important since it allows us to dodge sorcery-speed sweepers like Anger of the Gods, Deputy of Detention, and the like. This is the way that we'll win the game more than 90% of the time, but we do have a backup plan in case everything goes wrong...

The Lands

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One of the strangest aspects of Zombie Hunt is that our main deck has 52 lands and our sideboard has another 15. The deck can't play any nonland cards apart from Treasure Hunt and Zombie Infestation or else it will ruin our combo since we'll Treasure Hunt into whatever random nonland we have in our deck. Because of this, our deck has a ton of room to play utility lands, which we take advantage of to the maximum.

Our backup plan for winning the game is a bunch of creaturelands. We have full playsets of Creeping Tar Pit, Faerie Conclave, and Hostile Desert (which is especially good in the deck since Zombie Infestation fills our graveyard with lands we can then exile to activate the 3/4). While it's pretty unlikely that we'll win with just creaturelands, it does happen on occasion. Plus, all of the creaturelands are good ways to chip in for additional damage. One of the risks of Zombie Hunt is that we'll occasionally run poorly with our Treasure Hunts (hitting a nonland near the top of our deck), which will minimize the number of Zombie tokens we can make. In these games, being able to fire up a Creeping Tar Pit, Faerie Conclave, or Hostile Desert to chip in for some extra damage alongside our Zombies is essential.

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Meanwhile, Westvale Abbey and Tomb of Urami are just one-ofs, but since the bar is so low for basically any land that does something relevant, they are pretty spicy in our deck. Westvale Abbey gives us a way to turn a bunch of Zombie Infestation tokens into a massive 9/7 flying, indestructible lifelinker, which is especially helpful against aggro decks like Burn. Meanwhile, Tomb of Urami is our plan Z. If everything goes wrong, we can sacrifice our entire board of lands to make a 5/5 flier, which can theoretically kill our opponent in a few turns if our opponent doesn't have any removal.

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Otherwise, we have a few utility lands. Boseiju, Who Shelters All is just a one-of since it's nearly $20, but it gives us a way to resolve Treasure Hunt through opposing counterspells. Ghost Quarter helps us disrupt Tron for a turn, which is often all we need to win with a bunch of Zombie tokens. Finally, Bojuka Bog gives us main-deck hate against decks like Dredge and Izzet Phoenix. The biggest upside of all of these lands is that,thanks to Treasure Hunt, the odds are high that we'll find one by Turn 3, which means they often hit the battlefield quickly enough to be relevant in the matchups where they are good.

The Sideboard

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In all honesty, you can play Zombie Hunt without a sideboard since you can't sideboard in any nonland cards, but I filled it up with various removal and utility lands just in case. Against a deck like Tron, having access to Field of Ruin is nice, but there is some risk of playing it in the main deck since we can draw all colorless lands and not be able to cast Treasure Hunt, which makes it a perfect fit for the sideboard. Otherwise, cards like Ifnir Deadlands and Blighted Fen technically offer removal, but it's actually exceedingly rare that the game will go long enough for these cards to become relevant. Oh yeah, my one regret with this build of Zombie Hunt is that the sideboard doesn't have a playset of Radiant Fountain. The card is a great answer to aggro decks like Burn, and even just gaining two life can be the difference between buying one extra turn to attack with our board full of Zombies and dying to a bunch of Lightning Bolts. If I were going to play the deck again, I'd cut the random Nephalia Drownyards and some of the removal lands and put four copies in the sideboard. 

Wrap-Up

Let's start with the good news: we went 3-2 with Zombie Hunt, which is a fine performance for a very strange budget build. More importantly, the London mulligan rule makes the deck about 100 times more consistent. We were able to aggressively mulligan for both Treasure Hunt and Reliquary Tower, and we only had one game where we ended up getting punished by mulliganing to one and not finding a Treasure Hunt (and in that game, we could have kept just a Treasure Hunt at six if we wanted to). Under the London mulligan rule, it's surprisingly easy to mulligan for two specific cards and find them, especially if you are willing to go all the way. As such, Zombie Hunt gets significantly better with the new rule.

On the other hand, Zombie Hunt still has a couple of unfixable problems that keep it from being a truly competitive deck, even though it can consistently win by Turn 4. Those problems are interaction. Since we are often mulliganing into hands that only have a single Treasure Hunt, and since it's unlikely we'll ever draw into another copy naturally (since there are only three left in our deck out of 50-something cards), it becomes really difficult to win if our opponent can Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek us on Turn 1 to take our Treasure Hunt. The same is true of counterspells. If our opponent can counter our first Treasure Hunt, our deck is usually left with a handful of lands and does nothing. While the London mulligan rule helps a bit in this aspect (since our odds of drawing into a hand with two copies of Treasure Hunt is higher, giving us protection from one discard or counter), if you decide to pick up Zombie Hunt, you should do so knowing that the opponent will have the right interaction some percentage of the time and the deck will look like the worst deck in Modern.

So, should you play Zombie Hunt? I think the answer here is yes, but only for fun. The deck is good enough to win a reasonable number of games at the FNM level, and in the right matchups (where the opponent doesn't have Thoughtseize or counters), it can feel almost unbeatable. A lot of our opponents tried to sideboard in cards to kill Zombie Infestation once it was on the battlefield, but that plan doesn't really work since we can just make a bunch of Zombies in response to the enchantment-removal spell. Another good option is to play an ultra-budget build of the deck. While this means losing some utility lands and the creaturelands, in all honesty, the backup plan of winning with creaturelands happens too infrequently (we did it once in all of our games) that it probably isn't all that important. The combo itself—Zombie Infestation, Treasure Hunt, and Reliquary Tower—could be supported by all basic lands (for a cost of around $10), and the combo would be just as efficient and happen just as often as with our $100 build of the deck. As such, Zombie Hunt is a deck that I recommend pretty much everyone put together, mostly because you can build it for less than the cost of a single draft, and then every once in a while, you can pull it out at an FNM, catch everyone by surprise, and maybe even win a few games on Turn 4 in hilarious fashion!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Have you been testing the London mulligan rule? What decks have you been playing? How have you found the rule so far? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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