elcome back to the Lab, surfers of the web. Thanks once again for stopping by my little corner of cyberspace. This week has thus far been dedicated to the undead, a term that seems to encompass all sorts of horrific beings. Zombies, vampires, horrors, oh my! Naturally, I'm going to be at my restrictive best and pick one of these tribes to examine today. Since I've been chomping at the bit to play around with the Zombies of Innistrad, I'll go with them. (And today's title gives it away, I guess.)
So, zombies. To me these nightmarish bags of flesh have always been compelling as "villains," although their lack of conscious thought and motivation (other than eating you) makes them almost pitiable. Especially when a member of your traveling band of survivors (heading across a blasted landscape with no real destination or hope, of course) falls victim to a bite. Sure, your group could bust out a kickass action scene and kill loads of those... things... but when you've all escaped, that one person is no less doomed. It's these sinking twists and moral weights (and kickass action scenes, as noted above) that have populated my DVD shelf with lots of zombie movies.
Unbreathing Horde | Art by Dave Kendall
With that in mind, let's proceed to today's experiments.
So That's Why It's Forbidden
Some of my mad scientist brethren from Innistrad have dabbled in the blue-tinged art of reanimating corpses to do their bidding. Just look at all the blue Zombies that interact with your graveyard. Whoever's making all these skaabs must be really, really insane. Especially Skaab Ruinator, which, in the context of Innistrad Limited, has now bashed my face in thrice. It's enough to make me main-deck Purify the Grave in any white-based build.
But I'm not here to talk Limited. Right now my goal is to break Undead Alchemist in half. This interesting Zombie has two dovetailing abilities that combine to make tons of Zombies and cause death by milling. My straightforward solution involves making tons of Zombies, making them huge with the various Zombie tribal lords, and basically attacking my opponent's mind directly (and ideally getting more Zombies in the process.)
Fittingly for Undead Week, I went with Lord of the Undead and Undead Warchief as two of my three Zombie boosters. (Cemetery Reaper is number three and can also produce more Zombie tokens.) Lord of the Undead in particular is helpful, as it resurrects your fallen Zombies. A nice Zombie to boost is Unbreathing Horde. When all its +1/+1 counters have fallen off, it'll still be alive (undead?) and still be impermeable.
I also wanted to make Zombie tokens, and after careful selection, I went with two ways to do that: Endless Ranks of the Dead, which can generate waves of them, and Skirk Ridge Exhumer, an important two-drop that can make lots of Festering Goblins. Actual Festering Goblins and Skinrenders provide quasi-removal in a Zombie body. Furthering the Zombie tribal angle, Call to the Grave can become a one-sided The Abyss.
To help the milling angle, I threw in two Lich Lord of Unx and one Mindcrank. The Lich Lord has never been happier these days, thanks to a whole set's worth of blue and black milling-related Zombies. Mindcrank, meanwhile, seems harmless as a singleton and pulls its weight.
With some helpful nonbasics as the final touch, the deck is done! All together now...
I have no better subtitle for this section. That's just a cool name. I want to start a heavy metal band called Grimgrin now. Either that, or write "Grimgrin" on a huge sign and walk around public places holding it up. Grimgrin. Just awesome.
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born | Art by Peter Mohrbacher
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, as a card, is just as awesome as its name. Ignoring its supposed drawback for a minute, this legendary Zombie slaughters opposing creatures just by attacking! And the guy gets bigger in the process. As for his untapping deficiencies, the Corpse-Born gets around them by eating innocent creatures that I control. Just to spell it out for y'all: Grimgrin's broken.
Lots of readers figured out that a couple of Shadowmoor Auras are the catalyst for Grimgrin to go infinite. Presence of Gond and Elemental Mastery are the two in question. By attaching one of these enchantments to Grimgrin, you can tap him for a creature token (be it one Elf, or many Elementals), untap him by sacrificing that creature, and repeat for profit.
Out of all the lists sent to me by readers (this was a popular combo), I liked Vektor480's, for its synergy and skillful ideas.
So, the main idea here is to go "infinite" with Grimgrin. You achieve this by enchanting it with Presence of Gond. This way you can make it as big as you want, by tapping it for an elf, and then feeding the elf to it. Rite of Consumption makes you drain as much life as you want, and Fists of Ironwood can let you attack for the win if you prefer (it also offers tasty tokens for Grimgrin).
But why stop there? There's much else that can be done with Grimgrin. Take a look at Experiment Kraj, for example. Since Grimgrin (I never get tired of saying its name) gets counters, Kraj can get his activated abilities. But why run him anyway? Well, now we look at Cytoplast Manipulator. With Kraj and the Manipulator, we can take control of any creature, feed it to Kraj, get another one and repeat. Seeker of Skybreak and Aphetto Alchemist make sure we can untap the Manipulator when we want to, and also allow us to use Kraj for putting many +1/+1 counters on our creatures. They also work very well with Grimgrin.
Time of Need tutors for both the Corpse-Born and Kraj, making it extremely efficient. Ponder closes the deck, making sure that you get what you need when you need it, since the deck itself works in different ways, depending on how you want to play with it.
Nicely built! I didn't want to change anything from Vektor's deck, but I did think about adding a singleton of The Mimeoplasm, just for kicks. You can fetch it with Time of Need, which only has two other targets (Grimgrin and Kraj).
I loved the use of Experiment Kraj in the above deck. I always liked the small sect of creatures with abilities like his, er, hers, er, its? Um. Yeah. Quicksilver Elemental and Skill Borrower are similar creatures. So too is Necrotic Ooze, which is the basis for the next Grimgrin reader idea that I enjoyed. This one comes from Josh R, and didn't come with an actual list, so I guess I'll riff off of his idea. Here's Josh:
I was thinking of a much more complicated Grimgrin combo. It involved having Grimgrin, Corpse-Born in your graveyard alongside Mikaeus, the Lunarch while Necrotic Ooze sat on the battlefield. Preferably alongside a Murderous Redcap.
Can you see the combo?
Sacrifice the Redcap to place a +1/+1 counter on the Ooze, the Redcap persists and deals 1 damage to whatever (preferably your opponent's face), tap the Ooze and remove a +1/+1 counter to place one on the Redcap to cancel out the -1/-1 counter, then sac the Redcap again to untap the Ooze... repeat until 20 damage has been done.
Also, if you have other creatures out all of them are getting +1/+1 counters up the wazoo. You can throw in Kitchen Finks to gain infinite life.
All sorts of shenanigans are possible.
Well, that's amazing. I love that the combo uses two cool legends from Innistrad, only to unceremoniously dump them in a graveyard for a black sludgy Ooze to cover them and steal their attributes. I was wondering when Mikaeus was going to show up in this column.
To get the legends in their place, I used Buried Alive and Merfolk Looter. The Looter is nice because if it dies, a forthcoming Ooze can Loot in its memory. To find some useful pieces, I used Dimir House Guard, which not only transmutes for the Ooze (and the Redcap, and Wrath of God for survival, and the singleton Elemental Mastery) but gives an Ooze regeneration capability.
The Book of the Dead, folks. Now it's a genuine part of Magic, thanks to the adventurous goal set by Wizards to recreate famed horror stigma within Innistrad. This goal is achieved at the highest level with Grimoire of the Dead, a card that made me stand up, throw my fists in the air, and bellow. You think I'm kidding.
My celebration was for flavorful reasons, of course. It's not like we haven't seen this effect before. Liliana 1.0 could unleash it as well. Funnily enough, both cards like to be proliferated. I smell a deck.
The goal of this deck is to use either the Grimoire or Liliana Vess to win. This means I'll need to stuff my opponent's graveyard with creatures to eventually reanimate. Milling is a decent way to achieve this, but I wanted something more. I wanted to pinpoint exactly which creatures I wanted to steal. Ideally this card would be versatile, saving me from aggressive decks while setting me up for a giant Grimoire / Liliana ultimate.
Oh hi, Life's Finale.
Use the early game to play defense. If your opponent accumulates creatures, wipe 'em out with a Life's Finale and go after your opponent's three best creature cards. Netherborn Phalanx can find it, but can also find Contagion Engine (the colorless Wrath plus double proliferate is pretty great), Geth, Lord of the Vault, and Oona, Queen of the Fae (singleton legends that blend with my deck's goals).
One of my favorite finds for this deck was Riddlekeeper. By placing a milling tax on your opponents' attacks, you dissuade them while potentially filling their graveyards with tasty creatures. One of my favorite Riddlekeeper tricks is this: When your opponent attacks, the Riddlekeeper's ability goes on the stack. Cast and conspire Æthertow! The attackers will be swept to the top, where they are promptly milled.
The deck just begged for Mindshrieker after a while, a new card that easily makes my Innistrad Top Ten. The deck has lots of moving parts. As always, feel free to mold the list to your own personality.
Whew! Until next time.