Saturday, February 9, 2019

Zombie Master: the Black Sheep

"As the years went on, Goblin King and Lord of Atlantis made their way into tournament-caliber decks and the hearts of players everywhere, but Zombie Master never enjoyed that level of glory. With tons of copies in print and very little player interest in owning more of them, Zombie Master was put out to pasture after 7th edition, replaced in the mind of players, and later in core sets, by Planeshifts Lord of the Undead"--Aaron Forscythe

The black sheep lord, Zombie Master is one of the strangest, one of the most interesting lords in the game. While all pre-onslaught lords (with the exception of Keldon Warlord) gain +1/+1, and something (usually landwalk), Zombie Master chose something different. Since the set already had a color buff, and it's henchmen are a 2/2 already, it's understandable why it doesn't give a buff.

It's interesting to say, he's one of two creatures in beta printed with the type 'Lord', the other being Keldon Warlord. Lord of Atlantis is called 'Summon Lord of Atlantis' and Goblin King is 'summon Goblin King' respectably. Meanwhile, the two of them seen major tournament play, while Zombie Master remained the black sheep, and was even replaced with Lord of the Undead in later sets, he always had something of a small following.

It should he noted while he now he's  says 'all other zombies', he himself is now a zombie, which means multiples can set up a soft Regeneration loop.

Art: The Art on him is amazing. Jeff Menges draws great zombie pieces, as few and far between those are, and he's the perfect example of how (though Scavenging Ghoul also is a great example). Everything about this, is well, cold. The white of the skin looks lifeless, deathly. Even his face, appears to be in some form of agony. The 'shirt' looks more like wraps, through a cadaver or momification process. Finally the cape and hood, which shows he was, in life, a wizard, or a powerful mage. The sword on the side shows he's capable of fighting. The fact it's all black, doesn't try to be over glamorous as the new zombie lords, instead it's a simple pitch black. The lifeless trees in the background are a nice touch, showing either it's late autumn, or they are dead. Finally, though, and the best part of the piece is the sunset sky. Just before dusk, it adds a small bit of color, that fades the farther it moves from point, with the actual sun arguably being behind the Master himself. It's a small bit of color that adds an amazing touch to a photo that might be otherwise gloomy.  The clouds in the sky are also a nice small touch. It sets an atmosphere, the descending of light, into the night.

It should be interesting to note, some of the color was washed out in the earlier pieces (either due to printing technique or design), the original piece has a bit more color, which is also viewable with the Classic 6th printing.

Notice the reflections or orange and white.

If only the older prints looked like this, I'd give it a full 5. It's more distinct, more defined, and more 'colder', if you will.

The art piece, is pretty good. It's atmosphere sells it, without it, I'd be a 2/5 piece, but the surrounding area, it becomes a solid 4. 4/5

Playability: I'm going to get a lot of flak over this, but I think Zombie Master is better than the other two lord. Sure, Lord of Atlantis got better as fish became a more prolific deck, and Goblin King's hayday came and went, Zombie Master never got that, but I blame that on the lack of prolific Zombies.

Before Ice Age, only two other printed Zombies existed, Scathe Zombie, and the Drowned. Luckily, for the format, the GCU made numerous creatures Zombies, and it's possible to run him in 93/94. Among some of the better ones include 'The Fallen', Frankenstein's Monster, Khabal and Scavenging Ghoul, and if you are into is, Cyclopean Mummy. If you play the 95 variant, you get access to Lim-Dul zombies, who are also 2/3, for three (making them 'efficient' bodies). Speaking of which, he is the strongest of the Lords, as a 2/3 for three. Not to mention Ashen Ghoul and the awesome beater Dread Wight.

The regeneration seem more useful. Considerably more useful than landwalk, and more tactically useful than a +1/+1. Being able to block with your zombies, or having your zombies survive burn and Disc are potent, but what's best, is allowing two of them to regenerate each other. The GCU made him much more potent. If only his zombie brethren were just a little better.

Then Swampwalk is equally as good, because of Evil Presence, and Cyclopean Tomb. I already wrote a review on evil presence, but it's no secret that disrupting utility lands and mana bases are good strategy. This also, makes your zombies unblockable, and this helps them.

I give the playability 3/5, but not due to the Zombie Master himself, but those around him.

Flavor: Like many lords, Zombie master got a boost in flavor with his creature type being updated, and while I still mourn the loss of the Lord creature type, I don't mourn it improved his type since his flavor text says 'now that he's joined them'. While swampwalk is dubious, it makes sense a necromancer can regenerate zombies, which makes that mechanic work. I'm also not sure why he has three toughness, but I'll attribute that to 'magic'.

All and all, flavor 3/5.

11/15, or 3.5/5. Sure, it's not the best tribe in Old School, but it's one of the more interesting. Having a wide variety of different creatures (Zombies (12) outnumber Thrulls(6), Kolbolds(7), and Merfolk(9) (Goblins edge out on 13)). make it certainly a brewers paradise. And with unique effects like Frankenstein's monster, Boris Devilboon, and Khabal Ghoul, it's certainly something worth thinking about. It won't hit as hard as goblins, nor as consistently as Merfolk. However, if your heart is dark, and you want to try to muster death, it's worth an interesting deck with lots of building around.

The 6th edition art. Notice the brighter colors and reflection of the sun.


  1. great blog post. i have long loved this card and always had a deck built around it.

  2. I believe Walking Dead from Legends is also a Zombie creature nowadays.

  3. The best of the updated ones is Cyclopean Mummy I think. If you have the Lord out, it will "never" die and thus not be removed from the game. Ha!
    I had a great day playing Zombies last December, which I described here:

    1. Yours is a considerably strong deck (impressively so). Thanks for the read.