The Ultimate Graveyard Block – Sample Decklists


One thing I am known for in my playgroup is the ability to create interesting formats for strange tournaments, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done so. The last interesting format we did was The Gold Standard, quite some time ago, and so I thought it was high time we did another cool tourney again.

This time, our format is going to be called The Ultimate Graveyard Block. And what a format it will be! I took a quick look at the format here, and now it’s time to present to you the sample decklists that Darby and I tested with.

Let’s take a look!

First, to recap, these were the sets legal in this challenge:

-Odyssey block: Odyssey, Torment, Judgment
-from Time Spiral block: Time Spiral, Time Spiral timeshifted cards
-from Innistrad block: Innistrad, Dark Ascension
-Shadows block: Shadows Over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon
-Amonkhet block: Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation

These are the graveyard-based sets from throughout Magic’s history that were, quite simply, the best sets for producing high quality and fun graveyard-related cards. From flashback to threshold, delirium to embalm, and retrace to eternalize, these sets had great recursion mechanics and let you play with your graveyard as an entirely new sort of resource.

And how the deckbuilding worked:

We had to choose:
-One base set (so either Odyssey, Time Spiral, Innistrad, Shadows Over Innistrad, or Amonkhet)
-One small set, which cannot be from the same block as your large set
-A second small set, not from the same blocks as your other two sets

I thought going in that this was a very interesting deckbuilding challenge, and should lead to a lot of innovation. Here were the decks that Darby and I settled on as a testing gauntlet early on:


Mono-Red Aggro - Shadows Over Innistrad/Torment/Hour of Devastation:

Fiery Temper
Violent Eruption
Lightning Axe
Senseless Rage
Village Messenger
Falkenrath Gorger
Grim Lavamancer
Ravenous Bloodseeker
Burning-Fist Minotaur
Earthshaker Khenra
22 Mountain

Our first deck was the fastest deck I could come up with, and was built to test the speed of the format. This is a classic mono-red aggro list, otherwise known as “Red Deck Wins”, and was built with a minimum of land, lots of burn spells, and scads of early creatures to beat face with.

This deck really showcased the power of the red madness burn spells (Fiery Temper and Violent Eruption), and I built in lots of ways to discard them for benefit.

I liked the look of the madness burn spells in action so much, that I built a second red deck with different sets:

Mono-Red Aggro 2 - Amonkhet/Torment/Eldritch Moon:

Fiery Temper
Violent Eruption
Incindiary Flow
Collective Defiance
Soul-Scar Mage
Bloodlust Inciter
Grim Lavamancer
Furyblade Vampire
Bloodrage Brawler
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Hazoret the Fervent
23 Mountain

Just like the first deck, this deck is trying to be as fast as humanly possible, to kill the opponent as quick as you can. The madness spells are likewise excellent in this deck when you build around them with discard outlets, and I particularly liked how well Hazoret played with self-discard, giving you a huge payoff creature in return for discarding your hand.

This deck was an excellent aggro deck, but it had big issues with the various green midrange decks we tried. Speaking of which…

W/G Midrange Living Wish Aggro - Shadows Over Innistrad/Judgment/Timeshifted:

Living Wish
Declaration in Stone
Bound by Moonsilver
Always Watching
Descend Upon the Sinful
Duskwatch Recruiter
Lambholt Pacifist
Anurid Brushhopper
Tireless Tracker
Phantom Centaur
Archangel Avacyn
Fortified Village
Nantuko Monastery

The G/W Wishboard:

Spike Feeder
Soltari Priest
Phantom Centaur
Phantom Nishoba
Commander Eesha
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Tireless Tracker
Krosan Verge
Nantuko Monastery
other cards

One of many decks that I brainstormed with a Wish board, G/W midrange was a powerful mix of large, beefy creatures, pump spells, and removal. Living Wish gives the deck a huge amount of flexibility, letting me grab anything from Genesis (to fight control decks), to Spike Feeder (to gain life against aggro decks), to Akroma as a huge finisher, to extra lands if needs be.

This deck was deceptively good. It had a very simple gameplan (play giant dudes that are bigger than your opponents, and punch them to death), but when backed up by Wishes, this turned the deck into a strong contender.

Side note: It did amuse me that the only thing I needed a third set for was the sideboard (that’s the only place I used Timeshifted cards, and this set really could have been anything).

This was not the only deck that I experimented with Timeshifted cards, however…

R/G Midrange Aggro - Odyssey/Timeshifted/Eldritch Moon:

Assault // Battery
Fiery Temper
Incindiary Flow
Reckless Charge
Wild Mongrel
Noose Constrictor
Eternal Scourge
Call of the Herd
Roar of the Wurm
10 Forest
Barbarian Ring
Mossfire Valley

Just like the W/G midrange deck, this is also an aggressive deck, but it’s looking to get an edge on other aggro decks by discarding and casting Roar of the Wurm, one of the biggest early roadblocks in the format.

I liked this deck less than the W/G deck, as it lacked the versatility of Living Wish. It was, however, quite good against the aggressive red decks that it was built to beat.

Speaking of aggressive decks…

Tribal Zombies - Amonkhet/Timeshifted/Dark Ascension:

Dread Wanderer
Withered Wretch
Miasmic Mummy
Lord of the Accursed
Undead Warchief
Never // Return
Trial of Ambition
Bad Moon
Liliana’s Mastery
23 Swamp

We’d also looked at tribal Humans, but the Zombie deck has several key things that make it very powerful.

Between Gravecrawler and Dread Wanderer, you get to play two highly aggressive one-drops that recur themselves, and in a format with any sort of control, this is quite strong. The deck was able to play multiple Zombie Lords in Lord of the Accursed, Undead Warchief, and Liliana’s Mastery — this made every Zombie into a huge threat, and made the deck very scary. Adding Timeshifted to the deck lets it run Bad Moon, a pseudo-Lord effect that is hard to remove and makes all the Zombies into huge threats. Finally, Liliana’s Mastery is a big payoff card, giving your Zombies a boost and making Zombies; we found in testing that this card was amazing, and very hard for opponents to beat.

Zombies was quite strong, but we found that it had many issues with the W/G decks (and Phantom Centaur in particular). So we moved on to an even stranger aggressive deck…

W/B Token swarm - Shadows Over Innistrad/Judgment/Dark Ascension:

Hanweir Militia Captain
Gather the Townsfolk
Lingering Souls
Battle Screech
Increasing Devotion
Anguished Unmaking
Declaration in Stone
Tragic Slip
Cabal Therapy
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Westvale Abbey
Forsaken Sanctuary

This was one of several white weenie-esque token swarm builds that I experimented with. I thought going into this event that Lingering Souls and Battle Screech could be a powerful engine to build into a token-based deck, and I was right.

My favorite part of this deck is that it gets to use transform land Westvale Abbey. Outside of Chainer’s Edict, I didn’t see many decks in this format being able to deal with the mighty Ormendahl.

So that’s a quick look at the aggressive decks we tested. What did we do for control decks?


Mono-Black Control:

Emrakul, the Promised End
Laquatus’s Champion
Nantuko Shade
Shambling Swarm
Liliana, Death’s Majesty
Mind Sludge
Collective Brutality
Chainer’s Edict
Never // Return
Dark Salvation
22 Swamp
Cabal Coffers

As soon as I knew we’d be playing this format, I knew that my old buddy Joel would want to play Mono-Black Control. He had qualified for our Nationals waaaay back in the day with Cabal Coffers, so I knew he’d jump at the chance to port it into this format now.

As would be expected, the deck is hell for any creature-based aggressive deck to fight. There is scads of removal spells, a Wrath effect in Mutilate, and some powerful discard to back it all up with. The deck even gets to play Emrakul, the Promised End, the biggest threat in the entire format (which can be powered out of this deck by Coffers!)

This was a strong deck, and I thought it was an excellent contender. There were, however, other control decks to try out…

Dralnu du Louvre - Time Spiral/Eldritch Moon/Hour of Devastation:

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Dralnu, Lich Lord
The Scarab God
Emrakul, the Promised End
Mystical Teachings
Think Twice
Careful Consideration
Haunting Hymn
Bontu’s Last Reckoning
Hour of Glory
Sudden Death
Supreme Will
Commit // Memory
12 Island
Ifnir Deadlands
Dreadship Reef

Based off an old Time Spiral-era control deck named Dralnu du Louvre, this is a deck built to abuse the power of Mystical Teachings. Teachings lets the deck run a number of powerful silver bullet spells to fight different strategies (like Haunting Hymn to fight control, Hour of Glory to fight opposing Gods, etc), while the deck already operates as a potent U/B control deck.

This is one of the few decks I found that could use The Scarab God effectively; nonetheless, he’s still just a one-of, since you can Tutor for him with Mystical Teachings (and Teferi in play).

I found that this deck’s performance would hinge greatly on what decks everyone ran. The two red decks above would run it over in the first few turns, so if everyone ran aggro decks, this was a bad choice. If everyone ran a midrange deck, however, this deck crushed those ones.

From control, I moved on to combo decks. And there certainly were some interesting lists to work with in this format…


Reanimator - Odyssey/Eldritch Moon/Timeshifted:

Emrakul, the Promised End
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Gisela, the Broken Blade
Bruna, the Fading Light
Haunted Dead
Zombie Infestation
Rise from the Grave
Collective Brutality
Blessed Alliance
11 Plains
12 Swamp

One of the cards in this format that I initially thought would need to be banned was the Legacy Reanimator card, Entomb. After looking at the format, however, I decided to let it stay, as there are very few ways to abuse it. Having said that, there is definitely a Reanimator build to be played (here’s one above), so that’s not to say this isn’t a strong card.

This deck’s gameplan is super simple: Put a fat creature in the graveyard. Bring it back to life with one of ten reanimation spells. Bash your opponent to death.

The issue with the deck, of course, was that your reanimation spells (Resurrection, Zombify, Rise from the Grave) all cost four and five mana, so the deck is prone to just getting beat to death by the aggro decks before it does anything. Any amount of counterspells also tend to stop the deck cold in its tracks.

Having said that, this can be a strong deck, and I’m quite sure there’s a place for Reanimator in the format.

There were other decks that Darby and I looked at, but these were the main ones in our testing gauntlet. Stay tuned, I’ll be looking at some of the wackier builds that I brainstormed next!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *