BW Zombies in Pioneer

Parker Ackerman
February 26, 2020

Tribal decks have been, for the longest time, a staple of Magic as a game. Merfolk, Goblins, and Elves have long seen play in a variety of formats. And thankfully, Pioneer is no different, with Spirits lists consistently performing. Lately, Spirits seems like the only tribe that is putting up results. That said, MTGO user Darkwonyx has put together a beautiful black/white Zombies list for us to try out.


For any tribal deck, creature choices are important, but thankfully we have Shadows and Amonkhet block to make those choices a bit easier. Cryptbreaker is the first creature here, which makes sense since its ability to make tokens and draw cards at 1 mana is huge, making it one of the best zombies ever printed. This card almost acts more like an enchantment than a creature at times, since we usually just want it for the abilities, and will rarely be using it in combat. Next, we have Dread Wanderer, which gives us a little bit of attacking power on a recursive body, making it difficult for the opponent to permanently deal with, and giving us a way to get extra ETB triggers. Foulmire Knight gives us some card draw attached to a body that’s hard to block, and can also play defense against decks that are beating us on-board. Stitcher's Supplier gives us an early way to fuel our graveyard, Corpse Knight acts as a clock that never really has to attack, and Wayward Servant does the same thing while also padding our life total against decks like Mono-Black aggro. Lazotep Reaver gives us two bodies on one card, and Diregraf Colossus takes advantage of our discard and milling to give us a huge body for just three mana. Add in the fact that it doubles up all of our zombies, and we’re looking at a huge value engine that forces the opponent to burn a removal spell on it.


We also have a good bit of support for the tribe on non-creature spells. Starting with Liliana, Untouched by Death. Her +1 gives us more fuel for Diregraf Colossus and gives us a little bit of a life swing. The -2 can act as a very potent removal spell, and her -3 is a great way to potentially close out a game. Dark Salvation gives us a powerful token-producer stapled to removal, and Rally the Ancestors is an amazing way to end the game in a single turn, even after a board wipe. 

Our lands here are pretty standard, with lots of color fixing and a little bit of utility in the form of Castle Locthwain, which lets us draw extra cards even if our opponent deals with our Cryptbreakers.


In the sideboard, we have three copies of Thoughtseize, which is useful against any deck, but especially against combo decks like Inverter of Truth, where we can take away a key combo piece early on. It is also likely just the best black card in the format! Fatal Push is just generally good removal for the matchups where we need it, Liliana's Triumph represents a potential 2-for-1, making it great in matchups that are particularly grindy like Sultai Delirium, and Noxious Grasp is effective against Spirits, Delirium, and more. Lifebane Zombie gives us even more color hate against these decks by attacking the hand, while also being difficult to block thanks to Intimidate. Collective Brutality gives us hand hate, removal, and a little bit of life gain and drain, all on one card, making it effective in a wide range of matchups and giving us a discard outlet in the process. Devout Decree is a white Noxious Grasp that has hits against Mono-Black, except it exiles, making it effective against things with Indestructible, like gods, and things that come back from the graveyard, like Gutterbones. Death Baron gives us a true lord against other creature-based decks, while heavily punishing both attacking and blocking on our opponent’s part thanks to giving our entire board deathtouch. Finally, we have Fleshbag Marauder, which acts as a tribal edict that we can bring back with Rally.


  • The deck can win with a combo finish, using Rally the Ancestors to bring back our entire graveyard with just X=3. With this, we can get a lot of Wayward Servant and Corpse Knight triggers, potentially killing our opponent in a single shot.
  • Rally can also be used to punish an attack, since it’s an instant, by flashing in a lot of blockers. And since Rally, unlike many similar effects, doesn’t exile the creatures brought back if they would die, we can let them die by blocking in order to Rally them again later on.
  • Dread Wanderer is particularly effective alongside Cryptbreaker, since we can discard Wanderer to make a token, then activate its ability to bring it back from the graveyard.
  • If you need to hold up blockers, you can use them to block, then tap them to Cryptbreaker to draw a card, allowing you to squeeze extra value out of them.


Extra Spice:

  • Liliana, Heretical Healer gives us an extra token and is a cheap way to reanimate creatures, making it easy to stay in the game long-term.
  • Lord of the Accursed is another lord that can also make it easier for us to get damage through, since our opponent would need twice as many creatures as we have zombies to block everything.
  • God-Eternal Oketra is more expensive than most of our deck, but acts as a more potent copy of Diregraf Colossus in some ways, giving us 4/4s with vigilance instead of tapped 2/2s. Generally, Oketra is a bit too expensive to be effective, but as a 1- or 2-of, she could definitely end a game.
  • Relentless Dead is a good way to punish our opponent for killing our creatures, being itself easy to recur, and helping to recur other creatures.
  • Liliana, the Last Hope gives a bit of removal on her +1, recursion and a way to fill the graveyard with her -2, and a game-winning emblem with her ultimate. For three mana, this Liliana is extremely efficient, and plays into our gameplan well.
  • Binding Mummy is great at tapping down potential blockers, and given cards like Rally and Cryptbreaker, can even tap down our opponent’s attackers.
Ever since Amonkhet, Zombies has been one of my favorite tribes, and the additions since then have made it even easier to love. Stitcher's Supplier, Corpse Knight, and even Lazotep Reaver are cheap creatures that more than pull their weight in this deck. The tribe just continues to improve, and who knows, maybe one day it’ll be the tribal deck to beat.