Liliana, Untouched by Death (Misc. Promos) - Illustration by Terese Nielsen

Liliana, Untouched by Death | Illustration by Terese Nielsen

Are zombies still as big in pop culture as they were for the last few decades? Perhaps the zombie fad’s dying down, but the bumbling horde of flesh-eaters persists in Magic. Typal decks are among Commander’s most popular strategies, with zombies representing one of the most, er, fleshed out creature types in the game. For reference, Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver is the seventh most popular commander of the last two years.

But no fun, casual strategy can get away from nefarious combo players waiting to put an infinite spin on it. Zombies have decades of support as a creature type, so there’s bound to be combos aplenty. Don’t worry, they’re not all as brain-dead as you might expect, given the clientele.

But which are the best to turn your shambling armies into victorious soldiers?

What Are Commander Zombie Combos in MTG?

Necroduality - Illustration by Billy Christian

Necroduality | Illustration by Billy Christian

I’m defining a “zombie combo” as any infinite loop or otherwise exceptionally powerful interaction involving at least one zombie creature or a support card directly referencing zombies (think: Necroduality). This list focuses on combos for Commander, though you might recognize some combos from more competitive Constructed formats.

We’re talking about the undead here, so repeat offenders aren’t that surprising. I’ll do my best to limit myself to one notable combo per card; otherwise I’ll be the dead one once I’m finished listing all the possible Rooftop Storm combos. Finally, I’m trying to make the zombies the centerpiece of these combos. I don’t want this to devolve into a list of Dockside Extortionist combos where the zombies are just incidental.

#10. Rot Hulk + Necroduality

Rot Hulk’s such an obscure card that many players don’t even know about, despite being quite the combo engine. It requires Necroduality to double up on your zombies and a free sac outlet of your choice. I recommend Carrion Feeder since it’s a zombie itself and can be brought back with the first Rot Hulk trigger. This combo has some funny timing, so here’s a detailed breakdown of the steps:

To turn this loop into a win, you need another zombie that deals damage as creatures enter or leave your battlefield, such as Diregraf Captain or Vengeful Dead. The combo also uses cards that are just generically good in zombie decks, so you might stumble on it without even trying.

#9. God-Eternal Kefnet + Extra Turns

God-Eternal Kefnet, which can copy the first instant or sorcery you draw each turn without making you cast the original card, offers us a cheesy infinite turns combo in mono-blue. If you spike an extra turn spell like Time Warp with your first draw (or set up the combo with cards like Mystical Tutor and Personal Tutor), you can copy it while keeping the actual card in your hand.

Now add in Scroll Rack, which lets you put Time Warp on top of your library each turn. In other words, you get all the turns! If you don’t have any additional card draw you won’t draw into anything other than Time Warp, but a 4/5 flyer should be sufficient to end the game over an arbitrary number of combat steps.

#8. Geralf’s Messenger + Solemnity

It’s no secret that undying is a broken mechanic that’s easy to manipulate. A card like Solemnity stops creatures from getting counters, so an undying creature always returns to play sans +1/+1 counter. All it takes is a sac outlet and a payoff to turn that into a win. Geralf's Messenger includes the payoff right on the card, dealing two damage each time it enters the battlefield. Sac, undying, deal 2, sac, undying, deal 2. Rinse and repeat until all opponents are dead.

#7. Ratadrabik + Boromir

Ratadrabik of Urborg is more a legendary payoff than a zombie payoff, but it works for the purposes of this list. Ratadrabik’s supposed to circumvent some combos by creating non-legendary copies of legends that die, but Boromir, Warden of the Tower works around this. Here’s how the combo functions:

  • Ratadrabik of Urborg and Boromir, Warden of the Tower need to be in play.
  • Sacrifice Boromir, triggering both creatures.
  • Resolve Ratadrabik’s ability first, creating a non-legendary 2/2 copy of Boromir.
  • Resolve Boromir’s death trigger, choosing the new Boromir token as your Ring-Bearer. This makes the Boromir token legendary, which loops back to the beginning.
  • Add Blood Artist or Corpse Knight for infinite damage.

#6. Corpse Knight + Plague of Vermin

Most of these combos need a way to deal damage to produce a win, a role Corpse Knight usually fills. Since it’s such a consistent payoff, I wanted to highlight a different infinite using this zombie knight.

You must have the highest life total to make this work, but paying more life than your opponents have with Plague of Vermin creates enough 1/1 tokens for Corpse Knight to ping your opponents to death.

#5. Acererak the Archlich + Aluren

Turning Acererak the Archlich into a combo engine requires a way to cast Acererak for free. You could use Aluren or cheese people out with Rooftop Storm. Either way, the goal is to cast Acererak over and over without completing the Tomb of Annihilation Dungeon.

Instead, spam the Lost Mine of Phandelver and use the Dark Pool room to drain your opponents out. Note that this combo can easily be interrupted by a well-timed removal spell on Acererak in response to its own bounce trigger, so pack some protection like Tamiyo's Safekeeping and Malakir Rebirth.

#4. Wilhelt + Poppet Factory

Here’s another opportunity to knock out two zombie-related cards with one combo. Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver has built-in “anti-infinite” protection; it turns non-decayed zombies into decayed Zombies, which stops the chain. However, if you remove the decayed ability from the tokens Wilhelt creates, each Zombie token that dies replaces itself.

One of the most thematic ways to remove decayed is Poppet Factory, the transformed side of Poppet Stitcher. With Factory on board, 2/2 decayed zombies are treated as 3/3 zombies with no abilities, removing the decay keyword. Toss in your sac outlet of choice and a trusty Corpse Knight to sac zombies to your undead heart’s content and your opponents’ woe.

#3. Mikaeus + Yawgmoth + Gray Merchant

Yes, undying’s still broken, but I had to fit Gray Merchant of Asphodel in here somewhere! Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is the enabler here. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician provides the engine, and Gray Merchant’s the wincon. Notably this combo includes a fourth non-human creature of your choice with toughness 2 or greater. Here’s the plan:

  • All four creatures need to be on the battlefield.
  • Use Yawgmoth, Thran Physician’s ability to sacrifice Gray Merchant of Asphodel, putting a –1/-1 counter on anything.
  • Mikaeus, the Unhallowed will trigger, bringing Gray Merchant back with a +1/+1 counter. Gray Merchant will drain a bunch of life from your opponents.
  • Sacrifice your extra non-human creature to Yawgmoth, putting a -1/-1 counter on Gray Merchant.
  • The +1/+1 and -1/-1 counter will cancel out, and Gray Merchant will be left with no counters. The non-human creature will return with a +1/+1 counter due to undying.
  • Now sacrifice Gray Merchant again, putting a -1/-1 counter on the creature that just returned to the battlefield, again canceling out the +1/+1 counter.
  • Keep cycling through until Gray Merchant drains enough life, alternating between putting the -1/-1 counter on whichever creature just came back with undying.

#2. Rooftop Storm + Liliana, Untouched by Death

Rooftop Storm is the poster-child for zombie-related combos. It turns out making an entire creature type free to cast creates some absurd lines of play. I’m choosing to highlight its interaction with Liliana, Untouched by Death, who allows you to cast zombies from your graveyard for a turn.

With Rooftop Storm active and a -3 on Liliana, you can cast zombies from your hand or graveyard, feed them to a sacrifice outlet of your choice, then just continue to recast them from your graveyard ad nauseum. From there it’s just a matter of turning this loop into a win. You can tutor your entire library with Sidisi, Undead Vizier, ping people to death with Wayward Servant or create a ludicrously large zombie army with Headless Rider.

#1. Gravecrawler + Phyrexian Altar

Gravecrawler is almost assuredly the easiest zombie creature to combo with. The combination of recurring itself from the graveyard plus only costing mana makes it the backbone of tons of infinites, usually involving Phyrexian Altar. Combining broken cards with broken cards makes for broken combos. Who knew?

Altar sacs Gravecrawler for , then you just recast Gravecrawler, assuming you control another zombie. That’s infinite death triggers and ETBs for your Wayward Servant or whatever payoff card you want to win with. This doesn’t actually generate infinite mana like some Ashnod's Altar combos do, but sacrificing a creature infinitely is often all you need.

Wrap Up

Rooftop Storm - Illustration by John Stanko

Rooftop Storm | Illustration by John Stanko

The farther down the zombie-combo rabbit hole you go, the more you realize the combos utilize the same handful of zombie creatures in increasingly convoluted infinite loops. I’ve highlighted most of the usual suspects, though there’s plenty of overlap just in the combos listed here. That Gravecrawler fellow’s a busy body.

But now it’s your turn to rise from the dead and tell us your favorite zombie combos. If you’ve got a popular combo I missed, or one that you get excited to pull off, let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

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