Archenemy: Bring About the Undead Apocalypse (Part 2 of 2)
One of my early, sour impressions of the Undead Apocalypse deck was that it- oh the irony!- had a certain recycled feel to it. Early sightings of the Festering Goblin, Twisted Abomination, and Urborg Syphon-Mage harkened back to earlier preconstructed efforts such as the Garruk vs. Liliana Duel Decks and last year’s Planechase deck, Zombie Empire.
It became evident very quickly, however, that this was not the case at all, and that a certain amount of care had gone into the construction of Undead Apocalypse. As noted in our playtest article on the deck, it is structured around a graveyard recursion engine which- when it goes off- can be quite the beast. In this analysis, we’ll be going under the hood, looking at all 60 cards (and not just the ones I happened to draw).
The Dead Walk
Undead Apocalypse is unsurprisingly a creature-heavy deck, but recursive themes tend to warp the traditional assessment of mana-curve. Case in point, this deck packs in a choking eight critters of 6 converted mana cost (CMC) or more. By contrast, there are only an eleven additional beaters at a cheaper cost. But in Undead Apocalypse, this is shrewd deck design. Let’s have a look at the fatties.
Twisted Abomination: Alright, a 5/3 with Regeneration for 6 isn’t hideous, but the Abomination has a nifty little trick in that he Swampcycles. This mitigates the ‘penalty’ incurred for having one of these drawn early. In this deck, pitch it to get a Swamp (which helps in your board development), then when you have resursive spells come online later in the game, you’ve got him sitting in your graveyard just waiting for the coach’s call.
Scion of Darkness: Another brute, he carries an Eldrazi-like CMC of 8. However, like the Abomination, he has a built-in pitch mechanism, as he Cycles for 3. Toss him early for the replacement card, then pull him back later on when it counts.
Avatar of Woe: A true smashmouth beater, the Avatar is a game-ender nearly by herself but with a pricetag to match. She has no way on her own to fall from your hand into your graveyard, but she does have a nifty little incentive package- if there are ten or more creatures total in all graveyards, she only costs to play. When it’s remembered that Archenemy is a multiplayer format, that incentive becomes all the sweeter!
If You Won’t Go Voluntarily…
The deck also sports other avenues to push your pals into an early grave. The Corpse Connoisseur drags an ally kicking and screaming from your deck and dumps it unceremoniously into your graveyard when cast (and he has Unearth, so he can do it again later).
The Avatar of Discord turns disadvantage on its head when it comes out, ‘forcing’ you to discard two cards to keep it in play. A 5/3 flyer as early as turn 3 can put some serious pressure on your opponent while filling your graveyard for later enjoyment.
Rakdos Guildmage similarly turns vice into virtue, allowing you to pitch cards to give your opponents’ critters -2/-2. The Urborg Syphon-Mage lets you pitch to gain life.
Lastly, the true standby is Zombie Infestation, an Enchantment whose gifts keep on giving, turn after turn. The 2/2 Zombie token it yields is almost an added bonus.
Between the beaters with Cycling and these options above, Undead Apocalypse virtually ensures that you’re going to be cheating something into play before long.
Waste Not, Want Not
As many ways as there are to shove critters into an early grave for later, the deck offers just as many options for dragging them back out again when the time is right. Zombify is as straightforward as it gets, but for those who like their recursion with a ‘twist,’ Torrent of Souls and Beacon of Unrest are present as well. Reanimate is about as inexpensive as it gets, though care must be taken when paying its blood cost.
Several creatures have ways to pull themselves out of the tomb for another shout. Dregscape Zombie, Corpse Conoisseur, and Extractor Demon all have Unearth, while the M11 “preview card” Reassembling Skeleton’s unique mechanic makes it the perfect card to pitch.
But Wait, There’s More
Undead Apocalypse isn’t done there. It gives you the tools to a creature-based victory, and to clear the way to your opponent it also packs a robust removal suite. A pair of Terminates, an Inferno Trap and a Bituminous Blast are all solid spot removers, with the Cascade of the Bit Blast a bit hit-or-miss in the deck (Cascading into a Reanimate when the only critters in your graveyard are a Festering Goblin and an Artisan of Kozilek can make for a rather difficult decision). When you can, pay more for the fixed-damage cards like the Trap and Blast over the Terminates, in case something hits the table later that’s carrying more toughness than 4. You’ll be glad you did.
There’s a moderate sweeper option in Infest, and a potential three-for-one in Incremental Blight (though I’ve found this difficult to reach its full potential, even a two-for-one is solid. Your mileage may vary).
The last thing to look at is how the deck plays in its format, namely multiplayer. Although it has proven valuable to pilot the deck to a one-on-one duel to see how it flows in actual play, it’s clear that the full, dark majesty of the deck comes out when there is more than one victim at the table. Indeed, a great many of the cards in Undead Apocalypse have been obviously selected with this in mind.
Infest sweeps more; Reanimate, Scion of Darkness and Cemetery Reaper have more options (remember, the Reaper can recycle from other graveyards as well); Avatar of Woe is potentially cheaper; and the effects of Infectious Horror and Urborg Syphon-Mage are magnified.
Additionally, included rares Kaervek the Merciless and Extractor Demon are even more filthy the more players there are in play. Kaervek in particular can have a dampening effect when one player realises the spell she’s about to cast could trigger a kill on one of her ally’s best beaters. Delectible!
Bring About the Undead Apocalypse is a very solidly-constructed deck. It has a strong engine (recursion), plenty of support and a good removal suite to get it through. It doesn’t pack in a lot of utility (there are a pair of Sign in Bloods), but then it really doesn’t need to as so many of the creatures have utility built-in (see: Shriekmaw, the various Mages, etc).
Not only that, it’s fun as hell to play. I’m already looking forward to grabbing a few more victims and parking a Scheme deck in front of this one.
Great concept, solid design and construction and a very enjoyable card pool make this an easy pickup. The fact that there are eight rares (as compared to the Duels of the Planeswalker decks which packed six, and the 41-card “Intro Packs” with three- including the random one in the booster pack in each count) makes it an even stronger value.
FINAL GRADE: 4.5/5