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 Post subject: Ertai and his Zombies
AgePosted: 2017-Jun-02 4:05 am 

Joined: 2009-Jun-10 6:04 pm
Age: Wyvern
Friends,

I'm looking for feedback on a deck I'm considering assembling. I've built it on an app I like, and played ten sample turns over fifty different times. So far I'm really disappointed in how it's tested. Before diving into my disappointment, I'll cover the concept for the deck, then the card choices. My thoughts on the deck are below.

My playgroup: Casual, non-oppressive, control permissive, medium-low budget.

Main theme: horde of zombie tokens, killing with overrun effects (like menace) or by pinging (e.g. Vengeful Dead effects)

Subtheme: Wizards (creatures almost exclusively limited to zombies or wizards, or even better, Zombie Wizards!). Flavor forward.

Subtheme: Sac for value, use tokens or creatures for control.

Subtheme: Steal and sac

Subtheme: Puppeteer (lots of tapped activated abilities in here, two is better than one). Most ready to ditch this subtheme, but it'll only save me two or three cards.

Subtheme: Filling and using graveyards (mine and yours)

Noted deficiencies: zero ramp, minimal draw, vulnerable to graveyard hate, few answers, mostly weenies, slow to build an army, slow to rebuild after a set back.

Creatures
Gravecrawler - sac for value, graveyard
Thoughtpicker Witch - steal and sac, Wizard
Wayward Servant - ping
Zulaport Cutthroat - ping (rare flavor exception)
Captain of the Mists - defense, Puppeteer, Wizard
Cemetery Reaper - token, graveyard
Death Baron - token, Zombie Wizard!
Diregraf Captain - token, ping
Diregraf Colossus - token
Fleshbag Marauder - general control
Lich Lord of Unx - token, ping, Zombie Wizard!
Lord of the Accursed - token
Lord of the Undead - token, general control
Plague Belcher - ping
Puppeteer - defense, Puppeteer, Wizard
Undead Gladiator - graveyard
Xathrid Necromancer - token, Wizard
Zombie Master - token
Corpse Augur - sac for value, Zombie Wizard!
Fatestitcher - defense, Puppeteer, Zombie Wizard!
Gisa and Geralf - graveyard, Wizard
Havengul Runebinder - token, graveyard, Wizard
Undead Alchemist - token, graveyard, (should be a Zombie Wizard!)
Vengeful Dead - ping
Beguiler of Wills - Steal and sac, Wizard
Ertai, the Corrupted - Commander
Ghoulcaller Gisa - tokens, sac for value, steal and sac, Wizard
Gray Merchant of Asphodel - ping
Havengul Lich - graveyard, Zombie Wizard!
Phyrexian Delver - graveyard
Stitcher Geralf - tokens, graveyard, Wizard
Gempalm Polluter - ping
Grave Titan - token (rare flavor exception)
Noosegraf Mob - token
Twisted Abomination - graveyard
Vela the Night-Clad - token, ping, Wizard
Scourge of Nel Toth - graveyard, steal and sac

Artifacts
Grimoire of the Dead - graveyard
Helm of Possession - Steal and sac

Sorceries
Dark Salvation - tokens
Dread Summons - tokens
Dusk//Dawn - graveyard, control
Moan of the Unhallowed - tokens
Sift - card advantage, graveyard
From Under the Floorboards - tokens
Living Death - graveyard
Syphon Flesh - tokens, control
Austere Command - control
Army of the Damned - tokens

Instants
Death Denied - card advantage, graveyard
Grim Harvest - card advantage, graveyard
Pulse of the Grid - card advantage, graveyard
Empty the Pits - tokens, graveyard
Fact or Fiction - card advantage, graveyard

Enchantments
Graf Harvest - tokens, graveyard
Vampiric Rites - card advantage, sac for value, steal and sac
Martyr's Cause - sac for value, steal and sac
Anointed Procession - tokens
Chamber of Manipulation - control, steal and sac, graveyard
Endless Ranks of the Dead - tokens
Grave Pact - control, steal and sac
Oath of Scholars - card advantage, graveyard
Necromancer's Covenant - tokens, graveyard

Relevant lands
Crypt of Agadeem
Unholy Grotto
Vault of the Archangel
33 other lands


Mana Curve:
1: 5
2: 6
3: 16
4: 17
5: 10
6: 7
7+: 2



Based on my testing (again, not real playing, just running simulated hands in an app), there's lots of problems. First, too many subthemes, not enough focus or consistency in my main theme. I knew this when I was building it, but I took comfort in the idea that my subthemes fed my main theme. As it turns out, they don't seem to come together often enough to effect a good game plan.

Second, it's very slow. The early game I have nothing to do - no ramp, little draw, many token makers need bodies in the graveyard. And unlike saprolings, zombie tokens tend to build one at a time. Plus, my general doesn't add tokens, he subtracts them. SLOW!

Third, it's highly dependent/conditional. To do its thing, the deck needs a number of pieces all coming together just so. For example, if I get a steal card and a puppeteer card with no sac card, it's kind of pointless. If I get a sac card and don't have tokens to spare, it's wasted until my steal cards come online or until I get tokens to spare. If I get a card that's ready to abuse the graveyard but my graveyard isn't ready for abuse, the card just sits there.

Fourth, it's vulnerable. It's lots of weenies that don't naturally have evasion. And one setback (e.g. Wrath, graveyard hate, etc) and I have to reset my slow build all over again.

Fifth, there's little of the traditional control advantages (spot removal, counterspell, card advantage), and few answers (I'd be dead to any graveyard hate artifact).

I recognize an easy solution is to reinvent the deck entirely. I could make the token part a subtheme and crank the control elements up so they become the main theme. I suspect it would be a much more viable plan, but it doesn't excite me as much (FLAVOR!!!!!!!!). Besides, this reinvention sounds like just a more oppressive Ertai deck. Oppression isn't really my style, or my playgroup's style.

So the question I put to you, friends, is this concept viable? Can I build a zombie tokens deck with Ertai the Corrupted? Can that deck win by being mostly about zombies and not mostly about control?


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 Post subject: Re: Ertai and his Zombies
AgePosted: 2017-Jun-02 11:17 am 

Joined: 2009-Apr-21 3:38 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Palm Springs Area, CA
I like Ertai, but he's better in a dedicated token deck with bitterblossom.
Gisa and Geralf would be a better choice. White doesnt bring enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Ertai and his Zombies
AgePosted: 2017-Jun-02 11:29 am 
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Joined: 2012-Feb-07 4:15 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
I generally will not build a deck without at least some smidgen of ramp or draw. Since there is exactly one card on-theme that ramps and is legal in Ertai (Vesper Ghoul), the better place to focus would probably be in increasing your draw capabilities. A wrath blowing up half your stuff really isn't that big of a deal if you can just replay a bunch of new stuff. The best on-theme draw engines are Cryptbreaker, Blood Scrivener, Ragamuffyn, and Graveborn Muse while there are tons of decent cantrip/oneshot effects like Cemetery Recruitment, Necromancer's Stockpile, Corpse Augur, and Stir the Sands.


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