Last updated on January 11, 2023
Cryptbreaker | Illustration by Darek Zabrocki
Things that rise from the dead have long since been a part of the human mythos, with necromancers, ghouls, and zombies all making their appearances across various mediums. Like with many early creature types Magic draws from these human experiences and stories, and there have been zombies in Magic ever since Alpha.
Over the years there have been a multitude of different styles of zombies and various types of spells that all play well with the creature type. Zombies have become a staple of Magic and even won a Pro Tour in a tribal synergy style deck. While perhaps not as popular as other tribes, we have seen zombies pushed in terms of power level on several planes and through several sets, including those set on Innistrad.
So, what are zombies specifically in Magic and what zombies are the best? Let’s find out!
What are Zombies in MTG?
Diregraf Colossus | Illustration by Vinent Proce
Zombies are any card that specifically have the “zombie” creature type.
Zombies have been a staple of Magic ever since Alpha and have been the main tribe of several sets featured on the plane of Innistrad. Their popularity continues to earn new cards each year and the zombie horde has spread to all five colors.
So, let’s look at the best zombies in Magic!
Best White Zombie
Since Apocalypse, white has had access zombies, but those early zombies were only in the form of multicolored cards paired with black. Mono white zombies started appearing 2017’s Amonkhet.
God-Eternal Oketra kicks off the cycle of God-Eternal gods of Amonkhet printed in War of the Spark. Oketra’s power in creature decks cannot be overstated as each creature brings along a 4/4 vigilant Zombie, quickly amassing an insurmountable army. Oketra also has the God-Eternal ability to go third from the top of your library whenever killed or exiled, which doesn’t increase the commander tax and makes it near impossible to answer permanently.
Best Blue Zombies
Blue paired with black on Innistrad as the primary tribe for the color pair. Outside of Innistrad, there have been a handful of powerful blue zombies. While not nearly to the same level as black for zombies, blue is certainly the second deepest color for zombies and many multicolored zombies have some blue in them.
God-Eternal Kefnet continues the cycle of God-Eternal Amonkhet Gods from War of the Spark. This God-Eternal saw a bit of play as a control finisher in Standard and is a powerful staple of EDH as a four-mana 4/5 flier that can allow you to cast cheaper bonus copies of instants or sorceries you draw as your first draw each turn. Along with the God-Eternal’s ability to avoid permanent death or exile, Kefnet leads the way for blue zombies in terms of raw power level.
A combo piece of the original Jeskai Ascendancy decks in Modern, Fatestitcher acts like an Arbor Elf but for all permanents. With the untap ability from Ascendancy, each spell you cast with Fatestitcher out will net a mana and make the Stitcher larger. With the unearth ability, you can combo starting with the Stitcher in the graveyard, making it more resilient to removal.
Forgotten Creation works to fuel the graveyard, since most zombie decks using blue have access to cards with flashback, zombies with recursion, and other nice threats that are best in the graveyard while keeping your hand full of new cards. With skulk, it also makes for a creature that can sneak through damage against larger creatures.
A War of the Spark zombie lord, Eternal Skylord gives all your zombie tokens flying and amasses 2 when it enters the battlefield. This means your excess 2/2 Zombie tokens from other sources all suddenly gain flying and can surprise players that were expecting to block. Skylord pairs especially well with Field of the Dead or other regular zombie token producers.
A more powerful static ability than Skylord, Hordewing Skaab gives all zombies flying. Along with being a reasonably-sized flier itself, Hordewing Skaab lets you repeatedly filter through your hand if you split up your attacks against various opponents. A good card for zombie EDH decks, especially those that go wide prior to playing the Hordewing Skaab.
Undead Alchemist prevents combat damage that zombies would deal to players and instead has that player mill that many cards. Whenever a creature is put into an opponent’s graveyard via milling or surveilling, you exile those creatures and make a 2/2 zombie. In combination with Eternal Skylord or Hordewing Skaab, you’re able to quickly amass a board of evasive creatures and mill opponents out.
Quite the clever name, Cleaver Skaab takes a zombie and splits it into two copies. Especially powerful with enters-the-battlefield abilities, Cleaver Skaab can also protect your lords from removal and grow your board without having to overcommit resources into potential wraths. A great card in zombie-centric EDH decks.
An exploit counterspell in zombies is quite the powerful effect. Having Overcharged Amalgam as a surprise counterspell in a primarily creature-heavy deck can allow you to surprise opponents in the same way Frilled Mystic does.
Best Black Zombies
The primary color for zombies, black leverages its connection to death and the undead to build an army of strong zombies that far outpace any other color.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Historically, Gray Merchant of Asphodel is one of the most powerful zombies in terms of its impact on Standard. A large part of the mono black devotion deck that dominated Standard, it still sees tons of play in various EDH shells as the drain equal to devotion hits each opponent. While most powerful in mono black decks, the Gray Merchant can help kill players in any deck that leverages some early-aggression via black creatures.
A powerful sacrifice engine, Carrion Feeder was a part of the Hogaak decks that dominated Modern before being banned and is a part of the Legacy version that still exists. Sacrifice outlets without a mana cost are at a premium in decks like zombies that can recur creatures from the graveyard and Carrion Feeder is one of the best.
Diabolic Edict effects are generally powerful in decks that either run an excess of creatures or none. In zombie decks, having plenty of extra fodder that you don’t mind dying isn’t too difficult to achieve, so having Fleshbag Marauder as an Edict that hits all players at the table can be very powerful.
Midnight Reaper has seen play as a sacrifice payoff in Standard, Pioneer, and EDH as it can allow you to flood your hand with resources as a side benefit of leveraging your main strategy. When paired with recursive zombies like Gravecrawler, you can suddenly out-grind most controlling decks through raw card advantage.
The adventure zombie, Murderous Rider acts as both a reasonable lifelink body and a removal spell to clean up any problematic creature or planeswalker. A staple of Standard and Pioneer in the past, Murderous Rider continues to find a home in EDH.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
A card I’ve played against many times in the era of Whip of Erebos, Sidisi, Undead Vizier is a powerful blocker that can exploit to Demonic Tutor a card into your hand. Especially in decks where you have an abundance of fodder around, the cost to find the best card in your deck is incredibly low.
An engine card for many decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Legacy, Stitcher’s Supplier is an innocuous uncommon that opened the door to tons of graveyard-based strategies. From Vengevine to Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to Dreadhorde Arcanist to Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Stitcher’s Supplier is a top-tier enabler for graveyard decks.
Gravecrawler is a recursive zombie engine that has enabled aggressive and sacrifice synergy decks in Standard, Modern, and Legacy. When paired with other zombies and a sacrifice outlet like Carrion Feeder, you can repeatedly put a counter on your Feeder for just .
A solid zombie lord, Death Baron powers up all your other zombies and skeletons while giving them deathtouch, making them hard to block profitably. While not overly exciting, there are very few zombie lords and each of them is worth considering for this list.
A three-mana threat, Diregraf Colossus enters with a +1/+1 counter on it for each zombie in your graveyard and creates a 2/2 zombie whenever you cast a zombie spell. Colossus is one of the most impactful zombie threats whenever you draw it and can gum up the board by itself, either as a large threat or by making plenty of blockers in the turns after it’s cast. While a little fragile, if gone unanswered, the giant will take over the board quickly.
Much like Midnight Reaper but only for zombies, Undead Augur draws you a card at the cost of one life whenever it or another zombie you control dies. Able to quickly amass value in decks that pair zombies and sacrifice engines, Undead Augur is a staple of zombie-centric decks.
Lord of the Accursed
Another zombie lord, Lord of the Accursed helped zombies win Pro Tour Amonkhet in Standard. While the anthem for your zombies is powerful, being able to give all your zombies menace often makes blocking impossible and can force through damage.
Another rare zombie lord, Cemetery Reaper pumps your zombies for +1/+1 and can turn creatures in any graveyard into more zombie fodder for you. Army-in-a-can lords are generally quite powerful, and Reaper is no exception.
One of the more powerful one-drop zombie creatures printed, Cryptbreaker can grow your army of zombies or tap your untapped zombies to draw you more cards. One of the more versatile options for zombie payoffs around, Cryptbreaker was a staple of the zombie decks in Standard and EDH.
Yet another God-Eternal, God-Eternal Bontu focuses on the sacrificing subtheme of both zombies and black in general. A 5/6 menace creature with the God-Eternal text to avoid permanent removal, Bontu enters the battlefield and allows you to sacrifice any number of other permanents and draw that many cards. A combo killer when paired with cards like Mayhem Devil, Bontu never saw quite the same level of play as some of the other God-Eternals, but is still a solid inclusion in specific EDH decks.
Best Red Zombies
Red is the only color not to have a God-Eternal due to story reasons but manages to leverage the Dreadhorde of Nicol Bolas to fill the role of best zombies. While not a primary color for zombies, all of the Grixis () colors had access to zombies thanks in part to the Amonkhet sets’ tie to Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh and his plans for planar domination.
Neheb, the Eternal
Neheb, the Eternal is a powerful mana generator in red decks, creating in your second main phase for each 1 life your opponents have lost this turn. So, if you happen to deal 1 damage to players, you suddenly you have a Black Lotus worth of free red mana. With afflict 3, Neheb can’t be profitably chump blocked to prevent mana generation, as you still get three extra mana. Both abilities of Neheb working so well in tandem is a big part of the card’s power.
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
A mana cheaper than the above card, Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion retains the post-combat mana generation, but now at the cost of discarding X cards to get that amount of red mana and drawing that many cards. A more likely one-shot effect as a four-toughness creature is unlikely to survive combat, the effect is powerful enough to swap out weaker cards and power out high-cost spells in red.
Good enough for a ban in Legacy, Dreadhorde Arcanist was a multiformat staple that required an immediate answer or you were likely to fall too far behind to play the game. Currently played in Pioneer Feather and previously in Rakdos () Arcanist, Dreadhorde Arcanist is easily one of the most powerful zombies ever printed.
Best Green Zombie
Like white, there weren’t many powerful green zombies to choose from as the color primarily has multicolored zombies. However, the God-Eternal Cycle returns as the most worthwhile green zombie for this list.
God-Eternal Rhonas has the same ability to go back into the library rather than being killed or exiled that the rest of the God-Eternals have, making it very difficult to answer permanently. When Rhonas enters the battlefield, you double the power of each other creature you control until the end of turn, and they all gain vigilance. Especially in creature heavy green decks, Rhonas can serve as a surprise kill. Along with being a solid blocker as a 5/5 with deathtouch, Rhonas manages to earn a spot in many green EDH decks, even if it doesn’t have much to do with the God’s status as a zombie.
Best Colorless Zombies
The replica cycle of Mirrodin help us round out this creature type with a singular colorless option.
A three-mana 3/1 with a weak activated ability isn’t anything to write home about, but Nim Replica manages to be a zombie any deck could play. Not sure why they would, but the option’s there.
Best Multicolor Zombies
While primarily black, we see that there are zombies in every color and that continues to show in the best multicolored zombies. There are zombies here that are each color and that is one of the benefits of zombies is there are styles of zombie cards for any color pair.
Corpse Knight pairs well with token generators, draining each opponent for one life. When paired with Gravecrawler and a sacrifice outlet like Carrion Feeder you can drain out the table quickly, paying one mana for one life from each opponent.
Another zombie lord, Diregraf Captain pumps your other zombies and whenever a zombie you control dies, target opponent loses a life. While not as strong as some of the rare lords or even cards like Zulaport Cutthroat for the second ability, lords that can damage players killing your creatures can play well with zombies.
A powerful zombie ninja from Modern Horizons, Fallen Shinobi pairs well with the various zombie tokens that spawn from various Dimir () decks as they tend to get around blockers through swarming or by having effects like decay. When paired with ninjas, these excess zombie tokens can become powerful effects, like with Fallen Shinobi, which can give powerful free cards from the top of the opponent’s library.
Bladewing the Risen
A rare Rakdos zombie dragon, Bladewing the Risen brings a dragon permanent back from the graveyard to the battlefield. A large flier that comes with a second dragon is quite the nice rate, even for seven mana. While the pump ability to all dragons is a nice incidental ability, it plays much better when you maximize the Rakdos dragons found in various sets rather than focusing on the zombie creature type on Bladewing.
Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver
Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver pairs the older zombies with the latest zombie mechanic from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. Whenever another zombie you control dies, if it didn’t have decay, you get a 2/2 zombie with decay. You can also sacrifice a zombie at the beginning of end step to draw a card and potentially make a replacement zombie. With various other Dimir and Orzhov () zombies, there’s a lot of value in creating a train of additional zombie tokens and drawing extra cards each turn.
Nekusar, the Mindrazer
A famous commander, Nekusar, the Mindrazer deals 1 damage to an opponent whenever that player draws a card. Nekusar also has each player draw an extra card in the beginning of their draw step. While this enables the rest of the table to get some card advantage, when paired with Wheel of Fortune effects, Nekusar can deal seven to the whole table or more if you’re able to chain Wheel effects together in one turn.
Master of Death
Another Dimir recursive zombie, Master of Death surveils 2 when it enters the battlefield, and at the beginning of upkeep you may pay one life to return it to your hand. Master of Death allows you to quickly churn through your deck if you keep sacrificing it and buying it back for a very paltry cost.
Belbe, Corrupted Observer
Belbe, Corrupted Observer is a Golgari () 2/2 that ramps for each opponent who lost life this turn. A great tool for decks like zombies that can cause the whole table to lose one life and then gain six free mana in the second main phase.
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus
An Izzet () zombie commander with partner, Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus is a flying 4/4 haste creature that draws a card whenever an opponent casts their second spell each turn.
Like Corpse Knight and often paired with each other, Wayward Servant drains each opponent for one life whenever another zombie enters the battlefield under your control. Originally finding a home in Orzhov Rally the Ancestors zombies, Wayward Servant can play quite well with other zombies like Gravecrawler and the various zombie token producers.
A staple of Modern since its printing, Prized Amalgam gave dredge decks a recursive threat that helped lift the deck from unplayable into the top echelon along with the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll. While the Troll is back on the ban list, dredge remains a strong player in the Modern meta and Amalgam was a large part of that resurgence.
Best Zombie Payoffs
We’ve covered most of the large zombie payoffs above, but here’s a list of those plus a few others:
- Eternal Skylord
- Hordewing Skaab
- Cleaver Skaab
- Undead Alchemist
- Diregraf Colossus
- Lord of the Accursed
- Cemetery Reaper
- Undead Augur
- Diregraf Captain
Creating a pair of zombies is solid, but also acting as a hard-to-interact-with anthem for zombies is where Liliana’s Mastery shines. Another one of the powerful payoffs that helped bring zombies a Pro Tour title in Amonkhet.
The best zombie-based removal spell, Dark Salvation can kill large creatures for cheap or scale up in cost to give you excess zombies. One of the hardest cards for creature decks to beat when fighting against zombie decks, it remains a staple of zombie decks whenever they appear.
Liliana, Untouched by Death
Liliana is the necromancer planeswalker and it’s only expected for her to have a zombie-based planeswalker card. Liliana, Untouched by Death focuses on zombie synergies and rewards you for pairing her with an excess of zombie creatures in your deck.
Are Zombies Good in MTG? What About Commander?
Gravecrawler | Illustration by Steven Belledin
Zombies have been good in Standard, but the power level of zombies on average doesn’t tend to match more eternal formats like Modern or Legacy. Certain zombie staples show up to enable other more powerful cards, like we saw in Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, but as a tribe, zombies aren’t quite powerful enough on their own.
But in Commander the various types of zombies can pair together with other sacrifice payoffs to make zombies a good deck. While the same situation happens wherein you can have zombies be a theme of your deck, it’s hard to create a competitive deck that is primarily leveraging the power of just zombies.
What Counts as a “Zombie Spell”?
Any spell that has the zombie creature type, which includes tribal zombie spells or creatures with changeling, count as a “zombie spell.”
Is Lord of the Undead a Zombie?
Yes, Lord of the Undead is a zombie now. It was once a lord, but over time it was changed to reflect its status as a zombie via errata.
Are Walker Tokens Zombies?
Walker tokens are 2/2 zombies, so they’re considered zombies. They go under a different name but still have the zombie creature type.
Carrion Feeder | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Zombies remain a powerful and plentiful tribe in Magic. While perhaps not as prevalent in eternal formats as the likes of elves or goblins, zombies continue to dominate the tribal space in black and continues to gain more support every few sets. While we haven’t had many zombie decks break through, they did win a Pro Tour in Standard and I’m sure see plenty of play in EDH. Even so, there are plenty of high-power zombies that have found homes in various decks.
So, what are your favorite zombies and what decks do you play them in? Be sure to let me know down below and check out the Draftsim blog for more Magic articles. Stay safe and thanks for reading.Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: