Pumpking of Games - the Zombie Master!
Written by: Jeix
Chapter One: How we built it
If you had asked me a few months ago if zombies were good in Edison, I would have told you (and I have) that it was “one of the worst engines of Edison format, having been hit so hard by the banlist”.
Up to that point, I had only tried a small zombie engine, featuring only Mezuki, Plaguespreader, Master and double Goblin, with very poor results. My first instinct was the opposite of what turned out to be the way to go: I indeed needed more zombies, not fewer.
Me and my friend XyZero started from the January 2010 lists that were topping before the banlist hit. The deck was very powerful then, featuring 2 Allure of Darkness, 2 Foolish Burial, 2 Mezuki, 3 Burial from the Different Dimension and 3 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier. Compared to that, Edison format’s list was like a budget alternative. But it was a start.
Our eyes fell on Adam Corn’s list because of how similar it was to a post-banlist list.
The only cuts we had to make were the second allure, the second mezuki and the two extra brionacs. It’s strange to see he wasn’t playing any of the two available foolish burial, but this was our starting point, as we figured it was very similar to a post-banlist deck.
After some testing and trying out different options, our final build only differed 7 cards from Corn’s list:
Outside of the obvious Mezuki and Allure cuts that were forced by the banlist, we swapped a Tomato for a Turtle, having lost the second Allure to go with the Tomato. We tried to compensate for the new lack of consistency by adding cards that could get our engine going and also have a bit more extra utility such as Card Trooper and Foolish Burial. We added some powerful cards that we found were performing well like Call of the Haunted and Return From the Different Dimension. We rounded our deck with a copy of Il Blud to have an extra Dark monster that could both be a target for Pyramid and Goblin.
Finally, with Necro Gardna we found good synergies with Brionac, Zombie Master, Allure, Dark Armed, Return, Burial (Foolish and Dimension) and Sangan. It’s the weakest card in the deck but it’s hard to find a replacement that ticks all of those boxes.
As you know, Plaguespreader is the only legal zombie tuner and it’s limited. Looking to replace it, we find Gale and Diva. Gale needs no introductions, finding its home in many decks thanks to its ability to fend for itself and get rid of problem cards. Deep Sea Diva has been a popular card in zombies in the past, and Adam Corn wasn’t the only one running it.
Another option you have is 2 Krebons and 1 Teleport but I’m here to tell you why Diva is better: that second Diva really matters!
Starting your turn with a Goblin in play (or bringing one back with Book of Life) and summoning Diva allows you to make two level 6 synchros, one of them being Brionac that discards Mezuki and brings back Goblin, and still be up a card. You get a free bounce on the way there too.
Alternatively, you can make a lv8 synchro. Also, if you start your turn with a lv3 monster in play, Diva unlocks some rare lv7 synchro options for you, something that Krebons can never do alone.
I think the benefit of sometimes being able to special summon a tuner without using your normal summon with Teleport is overshadowed by all the other options Diva can open for you, such as the double synchro or bridging into a lv8 or even into lv7s.
Caius and Friends
Caius is synonymous with problem solving, and this deck does have some arch enemies. The biggest one is Royal Oppression, a card that will lock you out of most of your power plays. Caius can get rid of it for you, but he needs a tribute. The deck plays 5 ways of generating tribute fodder that Oppression can’t negate because it happens in the damage step: Tomato, the two Pyramids, Gorz and Tragoedia.
Not only that, but Caius is also a solid midgame option when your Goblin Zombie is stranded without a tuner.
From testing and tournament experience, I’ll admit that Caius is not a perfect fit and there’s still room for experimentation in its place. The normal summon is very crucial and sometimes you’d rather develop a zombie.
Powerful cards are what allows your deck to do unfair stuff that sets you apart from the rest of the competition. Zombies are well positioned in this sense as they are able to exploit a good number of them. The top three are definitely Dark Armed Dragon, Burial from a Different Dimension and Return from the Different Dimension.
If you’d like to take a look at my replays from the tournament, you’ll see that a lot of games were decided by one (or more) of these power cards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4mnKEAF4Gw
Everything in your deck screams synergy with these blowout cards that end games on the spot, sometimes you even OTK your opponent from full life.
As far as I’m concerned, any midrange deck (defined as “a deck that looks to set up its graveyard early to enable powerful plays later”) should play the full suite of 2 Bottomless, 1 Mirror Force, 1 Torrential Tribute, 1 Solemn Judgment and at least 2 Book of Moon. The inclusion of Phoenix Wing is a nice touch, able to deal with both monsters (mainly Stardust Dragon) and spells/traps (mainly Royal Oppression).
Book of Life: a surprisingly strong card
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I was under the impression that if 5 zombies were bad, adding more would just make the deck even worse. I was wrong. Zombies love sticking together and the more you have, the better your Book of Life will be.
It’s not just an extender, it’s a special summon from the graveyard AND a D.D. Crow all in one and in the main, something that hurts a lot of strong decks built into a card so many archetypes wished they had: a themed monster reborn.
Of all the decks in Edison format, only two of them have graveyard hate built into their main deck engine: Gladiators (with Retiari) and Zombies (with Book of Life).
Every other deck has to rely on cards like Crow that are often bad in the main, granting unusual decks like Frog Monarchs a great game 1 matchup. But not against Zombies!
Zombie World is strong against Monarchs, Dragons and is decent against Fairies. You are cutting Caius when siding them in because they conflict.
D.D. Crow is the Edison format staple side deck card. It’s strong against a large number of decks. If those decks run very few Bottomless targets, replace those with Crow. If it’s Monarchs, replace MST and Storm with them. If they tend not to attack you nor to leave monsters in attack position, you can cut Tomato, one Pyramid or Necro Gardna. Going second, you can consider cutting Dustshoot.
Dimensional Prison is another option against decks that attack you a lot, especially if their monsters are resistant to destruction like the ones that Fairies run. You are looking to cut other forms of protection that aren’t as effective as Prison would be. Usually, but not always, this means Book of Moon.
Dust Tornado is sided against any deck that likes setting traps and/or relies on floodgates like Royal Oppression or Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror. In general, decks that set traps will not be able to keep up with your engine once their traps are destroyed. In other words, the more you can delay and prolong the game, the better your chances of winning are. Your graveyard will be more full, you’ll have access to more power cards to chain together in a single turn and so on. Against Gladiator Beasts or Hero Beat, don’t be afraid to cut Book of Life. The only way they can beat you is by preying on a clunky opening and Life doesn’t work when your opponent’s monsters rarely hit the graveyard. The chances of it staying dead in your hand against a deck like that is real.
Pulling the Rug is your friend against Gadgets, Monarchs, Quickdraw and even Diva Hero, being able to stop two of their most powerful plays (Diva and Caius), as well as Stratos.
Just like with Dimensional Prison, you are looking to cut other defensive cards that don’t do the job as well as Rug does. Sometimes that means Book of Moon, other times Bottomless, other times Phoenix Wing or MST.
Starlight Road is a key card, despite being a 1-of. It’s powerful against a large number of decks, mainly Lightsworns, Gladiators and Blackwings, though it can sometimes work against Diva Hero too. I also like siding it when I put in Zombie World as I’ll be more likely to be exposed to a Heavy Storm due to having World and 1 set spell or trap.
The card can be very hard to activate and smart players will try their best to play around it, that’s why I think 1 is all you need. Unless you are able to fire it off quickly, your opponent will usually have a read that you have it set, as they check off everything you could have whenever you don’t respond to their play.
Blackwing Armor Master: This card is in every one of my decks with Gale in it. Its ATK stat covers a very important Edison threshold. It doesn’t come up often, but it’s better than Black Rose when you are just looking to put a big guy on board and much stronger than Ancient Fairy at sticking around.
Dark End Dragon: Dark End is silly strong. If you can summon it, you should play it. No other synchro can do what it does, namely non-destructive monster removal in main phase 2.
Gaia Knight, the Force of Earth: The only good generic level 6 synchros are limited. This is another option if you need it. Once again, the ATK stat is crucial. Play Uruquizas instead of this and you’ll stare down a Caius contemplating your life choices (yes, it’s happened to me).
Magical Android: I used to not run this until I needed another level 5. Its ATK stat is (again) crucial. Against monarchs, you can usually set your Goblin next to this, as their monarch will be forced to use its effect on Android unless they wanna trade it in battle. Summoning Catastor in the same scenario will cause your Goblin to be banished by Caius and your Catastor being run over.
Thought Ruler Archfiend: I was debating between Red Dragon Archfiend and this. Eventually I chose this because the deck runs both Solemn Judgment and Return from the Different Dimension, both cards that halve your life points. A card that gives you a good chunk back is very welcome.
Doomkaiser Dragon: Doomkaiser has seen better days, as Plaguespreaders in your opponent’s graveyard aren’t as common as they were before the banlist, but the card still has its uses, especially when you side in Zombie World. Most games you won’t touch this synchro but I can promise you that it will enable plays that no other card can do in games where you summon it, such as a Zombie Master becoming a Stardust, then banishing Mezuki to bring back Kaiser and use it again for another level 8 synchro.
Revived King Ha Des: This card is awesome! All your Zombies become Dark Balter! Run over any Flip effect monster, Sangan, Card Trooper, Dupe Frog, Treeborn Frog, Necro Gardna, Vayu and many more! This card is also the ONLY level 6 DARK synchro you can summon, allowing you to bridge into Dark End Dragon. It’s also a zombie, so you can bring it back with your other cards and use it again. This is another card that is well positioned in the metagame and that only zombies have access to.
Chapter Five: Strengths & Weaknesses
The main reason why this article exists is because I won the tournament I mentioned at the beginning of this article with it. Let’s talk about my tournament experience to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the deck.
I faced a total of three Lightsworn decks, including the rematch with the finalist, two Frog Monarchs, and two Skill Drain decks.
As you may know, five of these seven decks run little to no traps, meaning my zombies could have a field day unimpeded and combo off at the first given moment, always taking initiative and leaving the opponent in a situation where they had to have the perfect card (usually Gorz) or lose.
I’m not saying it was easy, but I certainly had fewer things on my mind my opponent could have, rather than having to slowly narrow down every single trap card in the game when facing 2 sets.
The remaining two decks were trap heavy but I was able to play without too many worries under Skill Drain and then side the proper counters for the matchup, eventually either grinding them out thanks to my battle floaters or comboing them out of existence turn 2 thanks to a lucky opening.
If my matchups had instead been 5 trap heavy decks and 2 trap light decks, there’s definitely a chance they would have managed to stop me. One misstep against those decks can be fatal and I doubt I would have been able to stay lucid to play 5 of those in a row.
I believe the deck struggles against Gladiators, as they run Chariot to stop your monster effects, they can use Dimensional Prison to protect their monsters and then banish your zombies with Retiari. I didn’t face any Gladiators this tournament but it doesn’t sound easy on paper (it never does when your normal summons are smaller than theirs).
Now you know more about this deck and how to counter it. I don’t think it’s the best deck in Edison and one tournament is not enough to elect it as such.
Speaking of countering it, the deck has one more issue, my final point.
Chapter Six: How Hard are Zombies to Play?
Very hard. And that’s not a good thing.
One might think that a harder deck is better than an easier deck because it lets the better player show how good they are at the game and surprise everyone with plays they’ve never seen before.
But a harder deck means higher chances of being punished harder over very small mistakes that can happen over the course of a tournament due to fatigue.
The answer is counterintuitive and lies in the power level of the deck.
If two decks are similar in power level (and in my opinion Zombies are close to Quickdraw in power), there’s no reason to prefer the harder deck over the simpler deck.
A harder deck will challenge you more but will also cause you to lose more often as a consequence of a very small mistake. You want your deck to be as impervious to these mistakes as possible, so if two choices are very similar in power, go for the easier deck.
The hardest (or most skillful) deck is not always the best choice. If its power is comparable to other, easier decks, I’d say the harder option is just wrong.
I chose zombies for the tournament because the theme was Halloween and I wanted a shot at winning that bonus prize. It worked out, but it was exhausting.
If you pay close attention to the replays, you’ll see me being extremely careful at maneuvering around Gorz and Tragoedia, making Stardust before attacking into 2 sets, making sure I don’t pass the turn with any monster in attack position so that I don’t die to double honest, making sure I never set a monster game 2 to avoid Nobleman of Crossout.
All of these scenarios are real and they all happened during the tournament.
I played the finals at 11 pm. I didn’t sleep much the previous day and had just got back from a long dinner with family that was half an hour of driving from my house (and I drove both ways).
My finals were full of mistakes and I was able to BARELY come out ahead after losing the first match and throwing at least two games due to dumb mistakes.
The first one was not realizing my opponent had milled exactly 4 Lightsworns early game and that my hand couldn’t deal with Judgment Dragon. JD hit the field and I died in three turns, holding a D.D. Crow I should have used in my opponent’s standby phase.
The second one was setting a Goblin turn 1 instead of summoning it. I got hit by Ehren and that setback cost me the game.
In a previous game, I played around Ehren by summoning my Mezuki instead of setting it (and they had it), but slipping there meant the game was over.
In the very last possible game of the series, I neglected playing around Tragoedia and only won because my opponent didn’t have it. Had they had it, I would have thrown the game for no reason.
Note this: I COULD HAVE played around it, but DIDN’T because I FORGOT about it.
I hope you see what I mean with this. Zombies are hard and nobody wants to lose over extremely small mistakes that can only be prevented by being an absolute AI and remembering every little thing that’s going on in a game.
Every search with Goblin Zombie matters.
Every play you make without thinking “what happens if they Crow me here?” matters.
Every choice like which card to activate first to keep a backup plan in case of an interruption matters.
Every card you put on top with Plaguespreader matters.
Every little thing such as chain blocking a Torrential by activating Allure and chaining Return from the Different Dimension to it MATTERS and COULD cost you the game.
(Round 5 against Antimeta, I used Plaguespreader chain link 1 to chain block a Bottomless on my Return that they didn’t even have but would cause me to miss the kill range, which I still missed because of Book of Moon. Looking back, the entire play made no sense because I was trying to protect 2 Goblins and a Mezuki from a Mirror Force when that Mirror Force would have put them all back in the graveyard, instead of having them get banished in the end phase.)
Zombies are powerful, but they are insanely hard.
Is their hardest counter their own pilot?
Are they that much more powerful than the second best alternative to warrant the huge risk of playing them?
I can’t say just yet, but I hope you’ll give them a try yourself and let me know.
I don’t want to end the article on a sad note, so I will actually encourage you to play zombies and see for yourself. What I didn’t mention before is that a harder deck is usually more fun than a simple one. I can confirm zombies are a lot of fun and that the tournament was nothing short of exhilarating!
In short, while I do not recommend zombies if you are new, I recommend you try and play whatever piques your curiosity ;)
Thank you for reading this far and I hope to see you on our Discord server!