Archetune-Up – No One Hits Like Gaston, Matches Wits Like Gaston…

(Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver | Art by Chris Rallis)

…No One Brings Himself Back from the Pits like Gaston

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme Pages!

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. It’s the perfect time for warm apple cider, pumpkins are plentiful, the air is as crisp as the leaves on the ground, and horrors lurk around every corner! Oh, uh… forget I mentioned that last part.

This autumn, we are back on Innistrad, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. During this time of the year, I love channeling the holiday spirit and writing about decks built around scary themes and monsters. Last October, I wrote four spooky articles:

And this October will be no different! During this “Monster Month”, I’ll have an article out each week on one of the four Innistrad monster tribes, and first up is my personal favorite, Zombies!

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This time around, we’re getting preconstructed Commander decks to accompany the latest Innistrad set, and instead of going through Wilhelt‘s average deck, I figured it might be more fun to tune up his precon decklist!

As a character, Wilhelt is really fun. He’s basically Disney’s Gaston, only in this case, he fell in love with (and was quickly spurned by) Gisa, the infamous necromancer. Being rejected for the first time then caused him to have an unfortunate lumberjacking incident, resulting in his death, but his unrequited love for her brought him back to life. He then raised a zombie army for her, but she spurned him once again, and they began to wage war inside the ruined capital of Thraben.

I love it. Exactly what I expect from a character who is entangled with Gisa.

If this piques your interest, you can find out more about these two in Wilhelt‘s bio here, or in the story about their lover’s quarrel here.

Enough about the story, though! How does Wilhelt‘s Undead Unleashed deck stack up?

Overall? Pretty well!

Lots of lands, lots of Zombies, and lots of synergies! There are some great cards and reprints, like Endless Ranks of the Dead, Liliana, Death’s Majesty, and Dread Summons, that really make the deck hum. This is a precon though, so there are bound to be some cards that are fairly mediocre as well.

Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth is an awesome commander, but she’s not great for this deck as a whole. Shadow Kin isn’t a Zombie, even if it can conditionally masquerade as one, so I’m off it. Havengul Runebinder seems like a homerun initially, but having to exile creatures from our own graveyard, while putting counters on a bunch of Decayed Zombies that we will need to get rid of eventually, seems small-ball compared to the grand armies we can create with other cards.


I’m Especially Good at Expectorating…

Like with last year’s Josu deck, I decided to dip back into the well of Zombie Tokens and see what lovely, rotten little things I could dredge up.

Let’s first go over the cards that are going to turn our tokens into huge pains for our opponents.

Vizier of the Scorpion not only brings a token along with it, but it gives all Zombie tokens deathtouch! Zombie tokens are quite often easy to chump, and that goes double when they’re Decayed. Vizier makes it impossible to block our token army profitably.

Once our Zombies die, Plague Belcher ensures that our opponents lose life anyway! Belcher is great with Decayed Zombies and is also an excellent board wipe deterrent, too. Along with these two, Noxious Ghoul easily takes advantage of the fact that we will have plenty of Zombies entering the battlefield in a single turn, allowing us to mop up small creatures with ease and clearing the way for our horde.

As with any army, we need to make sure ours is stocked up – on bodies, on cards, or whatever it needs to keep functioning! Kindred Discovery goes to great lengths to ensure all of the above happens. If this (pricey) enchantment sticks, Wilhelt will never want for cards again. Each Zombie, including our Decayed tokens, will net us at least one card, and potentially more if they attack! This is a fantastic way to eke value from our undead pawns.

Should you forego Kindred Discovery, or want another draw spell alongside it, God-Eternal Bontu is perfect here. Not only is she a Zombie herself, but she’ll provide a use for your Decayed horde, turning those frail bodies into actual cards. This deck is also chock-full of graveyard synergies, and there is no better Zombie to facilitate them than Master of Death. A recursive body that Surveils and can be sacrificed to any number of our effects, including our commander? Sign me up!


As a Specimen, Yes, I’m Intimidating!

That’s not all, though; that Zombie Token EDHREC theme page is overflowing with undead goodies that are perfect for Wilhelt to take advantage of, even if they aren’t Zombies themselves. Let’s look at some non-Zombie Zombie synergy cards.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add Gisa to Wilhelt‘s deck, partially because of their lore, and partially because she works so well here! Gisa is a fantastic sacrifice outlet, turning any of our Zombies into multiple 2/2 Zombie tokens! This is especially great when combined with Wilhelt, since Gisa can “upgrade” a Decayed token into two regular Zombie tokens. That’s some nice synergy!

Liliana, Untouched by Death is one of the many great Lilianas that could be added to the deck. Lili is right at home with this undead horde, giving us a way to mill ourselves, ping opponents, or get pinpoint removal when we need it. The main draw to her, though, is the fact that she can function as a Yawgmoth’s Will for Zombies, letting us cast them from our graveyard, should we have the mana. I’ll never turn down versatile recursion, especially in a Zombie deck.

For the last synergy card, I added Call to the Grave. I am not a fan of cards like Grave Pact or Aura Shards, since they can often turn into oppressive lock pieces, but I’m not opposed to something slow and fair, like Call to the Grave. It’ll pick off non-Zombie creatures each turn, which, when combined with our growing horde that they need to block, will help clear the field considerably.

For the final three cards, I have some “vegetables” to add. Nothing flashy, but they will help the deck run smoothly.

I think the deck needs a bit more interaction. I think it needs a few more Counterspells in particular, but everyone has a different threshold for them. Taking this into consideration, in lieu of a Counterspell, I added Lazotep Plating. Plating is a great little trick, since it will protect one or more creatures from targeted spells or abilities, while also providing an extra Zombie token to utilize however we see fit. There are plenty of generally good additions, like Negate or Arcane Denial, that would be great here as well, but I would suggest taking Lazotep Plating out for a spin to see how you like it.

The final two cards are the Angelo Special: Zendikar Rising MDFCs. I mentioned that this deck wants a bit more interaction as well as recursion, right? Well, along with that, it also wants to hit its land drops when necessary, too, so why not do all that at the same time? Agadeem’s Awakening and Hagra Mauling are perfect additions to cover these slots, and they do everything I could ask for. I’ve talked about ZNR MDFCs at length in other articles already, so I won’t beat an undead horse. If you’ve got them, add them in, and if you haven’t played with them, try them out. They really help smooth your deck out considerably, especially when you play multiple in the same list.


How Can You Read This? There’s No Pictures!

And there we have it! An Undead Unleashed quick and dirty upgrade, thanks to the Zombie Token Theme!

I really like Zombies, and I also really like the Decayed mechanic. It looks like a downside, but makes it so much easier to throw away those frail tokens with ease. No sweating about whether you could have gotten better use out of them. All they can do is sit still or attack anyway, so pump them, sac them, do whatever you please!

A few weeks back, I made a guest appearance on The BM Cast, where we talked about both of the Midnight Hunt precons, and an interesting discussion came up. It was posited that Wilhelt functions similarly to Teysa Karlov, because he basically doubles all Zombie death triggers. With nearly 3,500 decks to her name, Teysa has shown that the self-sacrificing strategy is quite popular. Since Zombies are the third most popular tribe on EDHREC, and this is a precon commander, I think there may be a chance that Wilhelt shoots up the Dimir Commander rankings. He is already the second most popular commander from Midnight Hunt, second only to Tovolar, Dire Overlord. Impressive!

What do you think? Are you a fan of Zombies, and if so, do you like Wilhelt, or do you have a different preferred Zombie commander? How do you feel about his precon deck? Where does it stand when compared to other recent precons? Make sure you let me know down below!

As always, you can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Archetune-Up Oh What a Guy!

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.