Some great tribes have come and gone throughout Magic’s history. Soldiers, squirrels, homunculi… you name it, we’ve seen it.
Starting with this article I’ll look at the best commanders for the EDH tribes we know and love. Starting with the blackest of the black tribes, the walking dead… ZOMBIES!
If you’re not looking for an actual zombie to head up your zombie-themed deck, Gisa and Geralf are a solid two colour option that basically extend your hand right into your graveyard.
Recursion and graveyard synergies are obviously what Zombie decks want to do and Ma and Pa zombie allow that to work in spades. Having access to blue certainly helps the Commander game with self mill in addition to protection with counterspells after you’re all set up. Could they be the best zombie commanders? It’s possible but let’s… “dig” a little deeper.
Of all the colours in Magic to go all in on, Black may just have the biggest payoffs and Zombie Tribal is certainly one of them. If your zombie strategy involves dumping as many tokens on the board as possible, it’s hard to imagine a better commander than Ghoulcaller Gisa. As one half of the aforementioned Gisa and Geralf, Gisa is arguably a more effective commander on her own when it comes to filling up your board with the undead and having an on-board way to sacrifice creatures is always a welcome ability.
All in all, a mono-black zombie deck is definitely a viable strategy in EDH. While you may sacrifice the utility of a two colour deck, you gain a lot of consistency and a lot of value from the myriad of Swamps-matters cards black has to offer.
I’ve personally never seen a Stitcher Geralf deck, but I’m a big fan of the possibilities this card has to offer.
Feeling less like a zombie-tribal deck and more like a giant token build, I think your average Geralf deck probably benefits from some unblockable synergies with cards like Thassa, God of the Sea or Deepchannel Mentor. Also, make sure to stack your deck with massive-powered creatures since Geralf mills ALL players when looking for the ingredients for his masterpieces. So while your deck might not look like mono-blue zombies, the results once Geralf gets going say otherwise.
Another not-zombie-zombie-commander is the first version of Sidisi from Khans of Tarkir. To be honest, despite the excellent three colour combo Sultai gives you, Sidisi’s on board ability of milling and making a 2/2 zombie isn’t super spectacular. What Sidisi does give you is a reliable way to fill your graveyard and access to an awesome three-colour wedge, with some incidental zombie synergy. Even so, I still think that the mild zombie synergy is enough that, if you were to pick a Sultai zombie commander, Sidisi should be near the top of your list.
I know I started off saying how great the zombie parents are but really, The Scarab God is right up there. One of the main reasons is simple; the Commander tax hardly ever applies to this guy. You can cast The Scarab God all game long for the regular five-mana which, let’s be honest, is way too cheap for a card with this power level. Oh yeah, it also Eternalizes any creature in a graveyard then does a weird drain-scry to all your opponents.
There was once a time way back in the day when the only good zombie commander was a zombie himself!
I feel like since Gisa and Geralf and The Scarab God have invaded the tribal scene, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born doesn’t get quite as much love as he used to. Fair enough, as those other commanders are almost certainly better, but don’t count Grimgrin out just yet. Being a sac outlet on legs that gets bigger the number of creatures you sacrifice, PLUS having spot removal built right in makes Grimgrin a formidable zombie tribal leader still. He sort of functions as a more combo-centric general looking for infinite combos like Gravecrawler plus Rooftop Storm but then again all these decks are looking for Rooftop Storm.
The big issue with Big Grim is that he tends to get dealt with, and once he does his cost isn’t super cheap meaning he can get hated out of the game. With that in mind, I’d argue he is a bit fragile, but still a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking of combo decks, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed can definitely be at the helm of a mean mono-black zombie deck. Honestly though, he’s spending so much time trying for turn three combo kills that I don’t know if anyone is actually wasting their time with 2/2 zombie tokens and killing attacking humans. A very powerful commander, perhaps even the best mono-black commander out there, Mikaeus can pump your zombies and make it basically impossible to remove any of them. I just think Mikaeus players have better things to do.
Grixis is the home of zombies that have red mana in their casting costs. While that may seem, weird Sedris is a great commander for those guys and brings a lot of value to the table.
Easily one of the most underrated generals in EDH, Sedris, The Traitor King has great synergy with zombies, whether through graveyard unearthing or combo enabling. The reason he’s underrated is probably the fact that unearth isn’t a real sought after ability in Commander. The fact that you have to exile the creature is definitely not attractive to commander players who like to squeeze every last bit of value from every card in every zone. But that downside is easily mitigated by the value and advantage Sedris gives you.
Trust me, Unearth is WAY better than it looks and if you don’t mind exiling a few zombies, it’ll steal you games you never thought you could win.
Lim-Dul the Necromancer costs way too much and I only included him here because he happens to be a great zombie tribal card, but certainly not a commander. I mean you CAN run him, but his ability to steal dying creatures makes him a massive lightning rod. Plus, while regenerating zombies is great, he does cost seven mana the FIRST time you cast him. Personally, I think zombies deserve a little better.
Are there any other great zombie tribal commanders out there? Did I forget a key one? Let me know in the comments! Also post your zombie tribal lists here and talk about why you’re running the general you are. Until next time! EAT BRAINS.