The 2016-2017 season is over, and it was a great one. I hit Gold with 47 Pro Points, which was my target at the beginning of the season, and I got to hold the captaincy of Team Italy for the second year in a row, which seemed incredibly difficult to accomplish since I was fourth coming into Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, 6 points away from Federico Del Basso.

This season was  a celebration of my testing team: MTGMintCard + MTGBentCard. We put one player into the Top 8 every time, and we always had the top deck choice for Standard.

At the beginning of the season, we had only two Platinum-level players, and only one of us competed in at Worlds (me). Now, we find ourselves with 5 Platinum-level players and 4 future Worlds competitors!

For the last three PTs I’ve finished 7-3 in Standard, and in Kyoto it was with Mono-Black Zombies.

Our team was split between two decks: Mono-Red and Zombies. Overall, we had great results with both lists—Yam Wing Chun and Javier Dominguez made Top 4 and 9th with Red, while Christian Calcano and I made Top 16 with Zombies.

I settled on Zombies early in testing. I understood that Mono-Red was insane, keeping the entire format in check—in fact, control and combo were just folding to it, so there would be fewer sweepers around—fertile ground for Zombies. The matchup between Zombies and Mono-Red isn’t as good as it seems, but after plenty of testing, I had settled on the undead.

As always, my Draft preparation was lacking, and unfortunately this time Jason Chung didn’t break it.

The format is very balanced (unless one of the two players opened a God, then it’s just over if that player has God plus lands), so the best strategy is to simply stay open and read signals. In general, my teammates and I liked the control strategy better, with a preference for Abzan colors over Izzet. We had Oasis Ritualist and Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs very high in our pick order, as well as premium removal like Sandblast and Torment of Venom. I’ll cover this next week, but today I want to focus on Standard, starting with the list that 9 members of our team played.

Mono-Black Zombies

Andrea Mengucci, 13th Place at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation

There wasn’t much innovation since we Top 8’d the last Pro Tour with Zombies—Ifnir Deadlands was by far the biggest upgrade.

A spell-land with a very low cost is just wonderful. You should always play 4 of this card.

Scavenger Grounds was insurance for the God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck, but it turned out that the deck isn’t good overall so we might just replace those with a Swamp and a Westvale Abbey. It was versatile overall, as it’s a Desert that can be sacrificed for Ifnir Deadlands and can hit Earthshaker Khenra and Torrential Gearhulk.

Tips and Tricks

• Sometimes you want to save your 1-drop Zombies to follow up your Diregraf Colossus on turn 4, so you might opt to leave a black mana untapped for Fatal Push on turn 1 over playing a Dread Wanderer.

Cryptbreaker is insane versus Mono-Red because it plays around Earthshaker Khenra and Ahn-Crop Crasher, so never trade it if they offer one.

• Cryptbreaker wants to come into play against U/R Control once you already have 2 Zombies untapped to gain instant card advantage.

• If Relentless Dead gets back Diregraf Colossus, the Colossus will see itself and the Relentless Dead in the graveyard, so it’ll have at least two counters. So keep in mind that you can kill your own Relentless Dead if you have lots of mana.

• Against B/G, Temur Energy, and U/R Control, play around sweepers by playing Relentless Dead, Dread Wanderer, and drawing extra cards with Cryptbreaker. You have to pressure them without losing cards.

• Against Mono-Red, never attack in the early stages—your life total is more important than theirs, and you have plenty of ways to deal with Hazoret the Fervent, so if you stabilize the board at a healthy life total you won’t lose.

• Against Zombies, if they play Cryptbreaker on turn 1 you can play Dark Salvation on turn 1, targeting your opponent, and it’ll kill their creature.

• Against U/W Monument, never play Lord of the Accursed or Liliana’s Mastery, and with Metallic Mimic make sure to name Jackal to play around Dusk // Dawn and overwhelm them with card advantage.

• Against R/G Pummeler, don’t bother killing other creatures other than Electrostatic Pummeler—they can’t beat you with their fair creatures if you go wide with Diregraf Colossus and Liliana’s Mastery.

Sideboard Guide

Mono-Red

On the Play

In

Out

On the Draw

In

Out

U/R Control

In

Out

Mardu Vehicles

In

Out

U/W Monument

In

Out

Temur Energy

In

Out

B/G Constrictor

In

Out

R/G Pummeler

In

Out

Zombies

On the Play

In

Out

On the Draw

In

Out

God-Pharaoh’s Gift

In

Out

Ramp

In

Out

Despite the dominance of Mono-Red in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour, I never played against it, and Christian Calcano defeated three. The matchup sees Zombies slightly favored, but you have to play it well and test thoroughly.