The Modern Learning Curve: Zombie Hunt
(This article has been edited since its initial publication, most notably the sideboards for our stage 2 and 3 build. Thank you MTGAmino user Rectcarahc Eman for the suggestions)
Welcome back to The Modern Learning Curve! The goal of this ongoing series is to introduce players to the Modern format with a relatively affordable archetype at three different budget levels, allowing someone to buy into a deck and upgrade it over time. Today we tackle one of the most wallet friendly, explosive, and all-around-fun strategies in the format…Say hello to Modern Zombie Hunt!
This deck functions on a different axis than most other decks in the format in that it’s a combo deck that goes all in on creating a horde of zombies using just 2 cards and a deck full of lands to get the job done. Along with the fun factor of creating your very own undead army, this deck can be put together for as little as $2, less than the entrance fee to your LGS’s Modern night!
Super Budget Zombie Hunt (stage 1)
The Game Plan
This bare bones build can pack a bigger punch than almost anything else we could put together at its price point, and is brilliant in its simplicity. The idea is to play a Zombie Infestation, which allows us to discard 2 land cards to create a 2/2 zombie token. We facilitate the growth of our zombies throng to critical levels by playing Treasure Hunt; since we only have 6 spells and 54 lands, it is very likely we can hit 10+ lands in our hand and immediately discard it to our Zombie Infestation. Ideally, we have both Infestation and Hunt in our opening hand, allowing for a turn one land, turn two land into Zombie Infestation, turn three land into Treasure Hunt and a field full of zombies, and finally swinging for lethal on turn 4. Now, because of the land heavy nature of this deck, picking up 7 cards and seeing only a handful of Island and Swamp staring back at us is more than likely. This scenario is an auto mulligan, as the numbers are not on our side to draw into both of our pieces before our opponent takes the game. When it comes down to it, we need a Treasure Hunt to lead into our win-con, as a couple 2-2 zombie tokens will seldom get close to closing the game out for us. Because of this, we must stick to the mantra, “Treasure Hunt or Bust,” which could realistically take us down to 1 or even zero cards in hand, which can be a hard pill to swallow for competitive players who like to hold a well-rounded seven cards in hand at the beginning of each game. Aside from beating ourselves, such a dedicated combo certainly opens itself to being stopped with counter magic or discard spells, but that is just something that comes with the territory, and you have to get comfortable with this idea if you want to pilot the deck.
There is no sideboard for this list, as there isn’t much we can include without mucking up our chances of a successful Treasure Hunt draw nor cranking up the price of the list, whose appeal partly relies on the affordability. However, this isn’t to say the deck and sideboard can’t be improved upon, as it most certainly can for only $10-$15 more dollars, or $20 if you want a full sideboard.
Zombie Hunt (stage 2)
This is absolutely the single best upgrade to our stock list, and the bulk of where our upgrade cost comes from. By allowing us to bypass the normal hand size limit, we can fire off a Treasure Hunt as early as turn two in search of a Zombie Infestation, or another Hunt to fire off the next turn if our first doesn’t yield our key enchantment. With an unlimited hand size, we can afford to play our infestation and pass the turn. We ideally want to create our zombies on our opponent’s end step in order to avoid sorcery speed removal, and this land facilitates that effort.
Contested War Zone
The next best upgrade to add to our list, this card is ideally played the same turn we are ready to swing in with our zombies, often making the critical difference in bringing our opponent down to zero. Don’t play this card before you have a mass of undead on your side of the board however, as this can lead to your opponent stealing and using this tech against us.
This card allows us to throw down a plant token as an early defender, or muck up our opponents turn after we swing in for less than lethal with our zombie horde.
Our budget creature land, this card allows us to create a 1/1 with regenerate, an annoying blocker that can turn-after-turn keep our opponent from hitting with a giant creature. In a pinch, this card can also account for some points of damage, but we seldom want to rely on this card to get us there.
Again, the sideboard is optional for the most part (and not optimized yet, per our stage two budget), but there are a few cards and some lands that can help us out in certain situations, and won’t clog our engine too bad if we avoid being overzealous. Spells are limited to 1 copy a piece, and we should not board in more than 1 spell at any time.
Eldritch Moon has given us Nephalia Academy, a potential answer to discard when our opponent is on the draw, a most welcome addition to this deck.
This card is in here as either a counter spell to answer your opponents attempt to counter one of our combo pieces, or as a hose against Ad Naseum. Also can be used in a pinch against sweepers.
This tech can help eliminate a small creature with big growth potential, or rid our ramping opponent of their temp advantage.
2 more copies for when we need more bodies.
Overall, this upgraded version is faster with an optional sideboard plan, which can help secure some of those close games and help us run over our better matchups more efficiently. While it feels more like a true Modern deck, there are still some glaring issues in getting around counter Magic and less-than-ideal Treasure Hunt draws, which leaves us an opportunity, albeit a comparatively expensive one, to answer these threats best we can. For just around $150 we can optimize our deck and realize its full potential.
Zombie Hunt (stage 3)
A strictly upgraded creature land, this card gives us a better shot at chipping in for damage and trading for a 2 toughness creature.
Creeping Tar Pit
Another upgraded creature land that has a bigger body and can threaten on both offense and defense.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
This is our best answer to decks running holding up Blue for counters, and doesn’t clog up our draws. While far from a guarantee, this gives us a fighting chance against someone trying to stop our fun from ever starting.
Bojuka Bog A strict upgrade over trying to run a singleton Tormod’s Crypt, this land based answer to graveyard strategies doesn’t clog up our engine while efficiently exiling our opponent’s graveyard.
Playing the Deck
Our game plan is about as straight forward as it gets, and so this list doesn’t require much skill to pilot, but does require experience and nuanced play to get every last drop of value out of our deck. For instance, one of the easiest and most prevalent mistakes players can make is creating your zombie on our own turn before passing to the opponent, which affords them the chance to untap and use sorcery speed removal on our undead forces, reducing our board presence to nothing and basically shutting us down. So try to hold your lands in hand until your opponent’s end step to avoid sorcery speed removal. Giving our zombies the best chance to stick around long enough to take the game is definitely a primary concern in such a dangerous format. Being able to activate at any stage not only keeps our zombies safe from sweepers, but allows us to throw down some emergency blockers if our opponent threatens a potentially lethal creature assault. We can also activate in response to an enchantment destruction spell, allowing us to trade our enchantment for a small army when our opponent mistakenly side in enchantment hate, which is more likely with players not used to our deck, an advantage that will quickly dissipate if you play this deck regularly.
Our creature lands seem like an afterthought in 80% of our games, but every now and then, flying over/swinging past our opponents defenses for those last precious points of damage, or a creating chump blocker to keep us alive long enough to see our combo pieces, can be the difference between pushing through for game or fizzling out. Relying on this strategy, however, lends itself to accepting we are already operating from a disadvantageous position, and so we should act accordingly and play tight.
We’ll often run into the scenario of having Treasure Hunt ready to fire, but no Reliquary Tower in hand; considering our deck composition, we are likely to hit a Tower off our Hunt draw, so don’t be tempted to wait until one comes up naturally, as that choice will often cost you the game. As always, if we don’t get the right pieces off our first Hunt draw, reload and fire off another until you do.
All in all, this is a fun and inexpensive way to either dip your toes into the format without breaking the bank, or can be a fun way to take a break from your regular deck. Sometimes there is nothing our opponent can do to stop us from raising a critical mass of undead soldiers, and other times, we either get shut down or fall short of our goal; this dynamic nature makes the deck analogous to the mentality of “live by the sword, die by the sword.” While far from tier 1, this deck offers some real bang for your buck, and can lead to some hilarious board states, offering you a great alternative to metagame mainstays.
Thank you for reading, please feel leave any comments, questions, or suggestions below, and let me know if there is a particular archetype you would like to see covered in the future. See you next time on the Modern Learning Curve!