Commander Deck Tech: Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver
Another week, another Commander deck! I had been wanting to put a Zombie deck together for quite some time. I own 3 sets of the Commander decks from Innistrad Midnight Hunt, but just haven't had the time to open one. As I was researching for this week's build I first thought of playing The Scarab God. The ability on this card is nuts, but at 2UB plus having to have the card in play first is pretty expensive. Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver on the other hand has two abilities that do not cost any mana, but you have to keep him in play. Now, we want our Creatures to die that way they will trigger Wilhelt and create a 2/2 decayed Zombie token, which we can then sacrifice to draw a card. It's all about card advantage with this one, although there might be a random instance where you keep your decayed tokens for an Exploit trigger or to attack.
I think one of the most exciting and powerful parts of this deck is the insane amount of lord buffs (+1+1) or (+1+0) available to us. The deck has Nine different lords, plus Vanquisher's Banner and Liliana's Mastery. With 11 total cards, 11% of the deck consists of cards that provide buffs to zombies. On top of this, we have a plethora of cards which create Zombies, or create additional Zombies. In total we have 8 cards that create Zombies without having to pay any additional mana. There are also another 10 cards which allow you to create Zombies by having to pay mana. Overall there are many different ways to create Zombie tokens, double them, and use them via sacrifice outlets to gain different advantages. It should be pretty easy to amass a horde of different Zombies to crush your enemies. This deck will mainly be attacking as I cut a lot of the Milling Zombies, Amass ability cards, and decayed ability cards from the deck during the final cut. I thought these abilities, although cool, were just not powerful or synergistic enough to take the deck to the next level.
I also ended up cutting Rooftop Storm, which is a very nice card in this type of deck but I thought it was just too expensive and in many cases you should have already cast most of your hand by turn 5 to 7. Late game can be lackluster if you don't have a way to draw lots of cards. This may end up going back into the deck, but for now I'm going to playtest without it.
Let's also consider all the new cards that made it into the deck. From Innistrad Crimson Vow we have: Geralf, Visionary Stitcher, Headless Rider, Overcharged Amalgam, Cemetery Desecrator, and Necroduality. I've drafted the set several times now and had the opportunity to use Overcharged Amalgam. It feels good in that format but is way better suited for Commander. Necroduality is the coolest flavor overall, and I love the picture and style of the headless rider (headless horseman).
We also have several new Zombies from Innistrad Midnight Hunt, these consist of: Champion of the Perished, Bladestitched Skaab, and Tainted Adversary. So basically we got another cheap lord, a Grave Titan-ish Adversary, and a really cheap Champion of the Parish from the upside down. These all seem good and will be exciting aggro Zombies for any deck.
As I do with all my Blue or Black decks I did put in: a Sol Ring, a Demonic Tutor, a Rhystic Study, a Phyrexian Arena, and a Cyclonic Rift. If you're playing these colors you pretty much must play these cards. The only time you shouldn't is if you don't have the cards or cannot afford them. We also have several pieces of spot removal and several wrath effects. There is a chance you get a rough opening hand and end up having to play defensive until you can start drawing some Creatures. In that case you'd want to try and stack your hand with good Zombies and wait for your opportunity to wrath.
Notice the amount of different lands in the deck this was to help support Field of the Dead. The card fits the theme of the deck while also producing Zombies at some point during longer games. I did end up running a few copies of Swamp just because the deck is about 70/30 in favor of Black spells. There is also one lord I did not play in the deck and that was because of Field of the Dead. There's a great card from Kaldheim called Narfi, Betrayer King which I love. However, you'd need to run lots of Snow Lands, and multiples of them to be able to take full advantage of his ability. This wasn't cohesive with Field of the Dead which is why I ultimately decided to cut it from the list. You can add it to the deck as another lord, but a 5 drop lord with an ability you can't use isn't very cost efficient.
Like most of my decks I'm not afraid to put in expensive cards like dual lands or lots of $20+ dollar cards. You definitely could make a similar build to this at a far lower cost by substituting the mana base with less expensive alternatives. You can also switch up the creatures in the deck with less expensive Zombies and just playtest and upgrade a card at a time until everything flows right.
There are several different types of Zombie builds out there like Mill or drain life. The Mill build looks fun too, but there's lots of players who run just a random Eldrazi Titan that can reshuffle the deck which almost defeats the purpose of a Mill deck. Also you could build a drain life type Zombie deck, but lots of the drain life creatures in black are not Zombies. Overall this deck was fun to build and I am looking forward to sending the ghoulish army's to overwhelm my opponents with the stench of flesh, death, and decay. I hope you have fun doing the same!
Happy Holidays to all!
Until next time,