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Playing Pauper: Zombies

Welcome to another episode of Playing Pauper! These week's deck is tribal Zombies, and let me tell you: they are vicious. The Zombies make us pay a lot of our own life to use them, but their efficient stats make it worthwhile. There are aggro decks in all the other colors (Tokens, Delver, Goblins, and Elves), and it's time to debut the power of an aggressive Black deck.

Check out the matches, then read the discussion below. If you enjoy Playing Pauper, subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel so you'll never miss any of our great video content!

Zombies Intro

Zombies vs Mono Black Control

Zombies vs Burn

Zombies vs Izzetron

Zombies vs Mono Black Control

Zombies vs Crack the Earth

The Deck

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Our Zombies cost us quite a bit of life to keep around, but the removal in the deck usually allows us to come out ahead in the damage rage. Carrion Feeder lets us get a +1/+1 counter when an opponent tries to remove one of our other creatures, and it can also sacrifice a Sangrophage or Wretched Anurid if we're too low on life to keep them around.

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The Zombies deck runs just enough removal to get blockers out of the way and win damage races. Nameless Inversion gets a spot since it counts as a Zombie, while Grasp of Darkness and Geth's Verdict make it in just for being efficient.

The Zombie recursion spells Ghoulcaller's Chant and Ghoulraiser provide just enough gas to pressure the last few turns of the game.

The Sideboard

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Duress is there to grab problematic spells like Evincar's Justice or countermagic.

Sylvok Lifestaff is useful in aggro mirrors for giving us an extra cushion of life.

Undying Evil is good against decks whose removal is all "destroy" effects and not exile effects, such as Journey to Nowhere.

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Shrivel can take out a horde of token creatures or Elves, while leaving our Zombies mostly intact.

Choking Sands is a necessity versus Tron decks to keep them from having enough mana to deploy their entire hand as soon as they have their three Tron lands.

The Matchups

Against Burn it's almost impossible to win game one, and Affinity's creatures outclass ours, while also not dying to Nameless Inversion. Against other aggressive decks, Zombies has a fair shot.

Against slow or midrange decks such as Temur Tron or Mono Black Control, Zombies is fast enough to put a clock on the opponent while having just enough recursion to be able to keep the board full in the face of removal spells.

It helps that Zombies is currently an unknown deck in the metagame, so most players aren't sure exactly what type of removal or creatures we're playing and how best to interact.

Beating Zombies

Tips for surviving a Zombie apocalypse:

  • Pay attention to how much damage your opponent is dealing to themselves and determine if you should start trying to race instead of trading creatures off. No reason not to kill your opponent if they're going to do half of the job for you.
  • Remove creatures after they pay their upkeep costs but before Carrion Feeder is cast.
  • Don't play too many copies of Victim of Night main deck. Against Zombies or control decks packing only Gurmag Angler, it's a dead card.
  • Ghoulcaller's Chant is a very good card. Keep in mind that those Zombies you killed may be coming back. Consider boarding in graveyard hate if you have the time to use it.


Zombies offers a change of pace for the aggro player who is bored of Stompy or Goblins. You get to play more removal than either of these decks, and also have slightly larger creatures that fare better in tiny creature combat and have a chance of surviving an Evincar's Justice. On the other hand, you do deal a ton of damage to yourself with Sangrophage and Shepherd of Rot, so you have to watch your life total closely when you're battling versus another aggressive deck. Maybe the deck needs Tendrils of Corruption in the sideboard for faster life gain over Sylvok Lifestaff.

Let me know what other cards you might try out in a Zombies deck and how Zombies compare to the other aggressive decks that exist in the Pauper format.


Viewer submissions are open! I'll still be playing known decks occasionally, but I'm now mostly playing:

  • Decks submitted by viewers
  • Decks created from viewer challenges (e.g. build a deck around Horned Kavu)
  • Decks created by Jake (especially ones comprised of cards from new sets such as Shadows over Innistrad)
  • Email me at or Tweet to me @JakeStilesMTG with your decklist or challenge, and I'll give you a shout-out if I use your submission!

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