You’ve definitely heard of them - they’ve been around a while. Whether you’re a longtime veteran or a player just starting out, you’ve listened to the stories about (or experienced firsthand!) the power of Zombies. From Japan’s “Tier 0” Zombie synchro deck with 3 Mezuki, 3 Burial from a Different Dimension, 3 Dark Armed Dragon, and 2 Card of Safe Return to our (the TCG’s) watered-down version with 3 Burial from a Different Dimension, 2 Mezuki, and 1 Plaguespreader Zombie (as well as several variants prior to this), we see that Zombies have been on and off the upper tier lists. With the limiting of Mezuki, Brionac, and Burial from a Different Dimension, Zombies lost a considerable amount of power and consistency, disappearing off the upper tier list for quite some time.
But they’re back again. Enter Tour Guide from the Underworld. This is it. This is the card that makes the Zombie archetype playable and consistent. The card that ties together the deck, creating first-turn Sangan setups or explosive plays characterized by a blend of synchro and Xyz monsters. Without further ado, here’s a decklist of upper-tier Zombies of this format:
3 Tour Guide from the Underworld
3 Goblin Zombie
3 Maxx "C"
3 Thunder King Rai-Oh
3 Spirit Reaper
2 Pyramid Turtle
1 Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning
1 Gorz the Emissary of Darkness
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Plaguespreader Zombie
3 Book of Life
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Enemy Controller
1 Mind Control
1 Book of Moon
1 Monster Reborn
1 Dark Hole
2 Dimensional Prison
2 Solemn Warning
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Trap Dustshoot
Extra Deck: 15
2 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 TG Hyper Librarian
1 Ally of Justice Catastor
1 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
1 Orient Dragon
2 Revived King Ha Des
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!
This deck breeds consistency. The first thing you’ll notice are the full playsets of Goblin Zombie and Maxx “C”. Goblin Zombie is the heart of the deck - you’ll need to learn how to utilize the search power to play this deck effectively. It’ll set up Synchros via Plaguespreader Zombie, blocks and presses for advantage via Spirit Reaper, Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier plays with Mezuki, and anything you can think of in the deck. It should come to no surprise that getting a Goblin Zombie live is key, which is why two Pyramid Turtle are included. Additionally, Pyramid Turtle allows you to keep a Zombie on the field to set up for a big Synchro or Xyz play the following turn.
Maxx “C” is one of the best cards in the deck - one which which really shines when you’re playing competitively. Let’s say your opponent explodes with Rescue Rabbit or Tour Guide from the Underworld. You’ll notice the trap lineup is nothing impressive, but Maxx “C” is! It’ll stop big plays from going off (at least, to those who understand card advantage) while allowing you to draw cards. The more cards you draw, the more chances you have at drawing your combo pieces and power cards. It’s searchable via Sangan (which you have “four” of, compliments of Tour Guide from the Underworld!) and serves to help keep your opponent in control. To emphasize the awesome-ness of Maxx "C", I'll be posting a full article on it soon!
Consistency is the key, especially in tournaments of 9 - 11 rounds, such as YCS events. You’ll be relying on your sets of Goblin Zombie, Maxx “C”, and Tour Guide to grant you access to your deck, and it’s an extremely important resource to learn how to use.
Power Plays and Card Advantage
This is perhaps the best OTK deck I’ve played all format. I can put 2-3 Synchro monsters and 1 Xyz monster on the field early to mid-game (assuming the game lasts that long) as well as a Leviair the Sea Dragon. We’ll start with the basic combo of the deck:
Combo 1 - Mezuki Madness
Start the game off with an early Mezuki [+1], granting you an easy synchro or more card presence. This is often accomplished as early as the second turn. Set up wisely, making sure you have Plaguespreader and Goblin Zombie on the field or in the graveyard. This would be an ideal play: set a Turtle and let your opponent attack into it (or if your opponent’s smart and doesn’t attack into facedowns, ram it into their monsters to get what you need!). Grab a Goblin Zombie with Turtle (blocking with multiple Turtles if necessary). Normal summon Plaguespreader, synchro Brionac, search Mezuki with Goblin Zombie. Discard Mezuki to rid your opponent of a synchro or Xyz. You’re all set up at this point!
Alternatively, if you open with a Turtle and Goblin, you can let Turtle get you Plaguespreader during the battle phase, then normal summon the Goblin, going into Brionac. The same play will essentially be accomplished. This is one of the many “removal” strategies of the deck. Alternatively, you can synchro into Orient Dragon or Revived King if you don’t want their Sangan or TG search to go off. Any path you choose mentioned above grants you access to a great level 6 synchro and your Mezuki/Goblin/Plague setup.
Combo 2 - Leviair: The Zombie Recycler
Once you used up Mezuki (but not Plaguespreader!), normal summon Tour Guide. Get another Tour Guide or Sangan and Xyz into Leviair. Detach a material, and special that Mezuki right back! This grants you access to your banished pile. This is extremely powerful because it’s essentially like running a beefed-up Burial from the Different Dimension on an 1800 beater. However, Tour Guide from the Underworld isn’t the only way you can make Leviair the Sea Dragon - you can accomplish the same thing (on a slower basis) with Spirit Reaper. You have a full set of Spirit Reaper with three copies of Book of Life, a Mezuki, and Monster Reborn, allowing you to put two Spirit Reaper on the field and make Leviair. Therefore, you’ve got 2 total Tour Guide plays (one for each pair), along a full set of Spirit Reaper to help you make Leviair the Sea Dragon. Woah! That banished pile is free for you to dig into!
Remember this: don’t use up Plaguespreader unless you absolutely have to! Plaguespreader is your source of synchro summons, and you should never activate the in-grave effect to “stack” and special, because this will cut you off of future synchros. Avoid this! Only stack a Plaguespreader if you have Tour Guide from the Underworld in your hand, an unused Leviair effect, or you’re going for game and only need one synchro. Remember this!
Of course, the deck doesn't stop there. Tour Guide is just one card. Let’s say you have Tour Guide and Book of Life. Normal Tour Guide, going into Leviair, detach and do the Mezuki combo, getting your Mezuki back. Activate Book of Life, bringing back Plaguespreader, banishing your opponent’s Glow-Up, Spore, Agents, Plaguespreader, and so forth. Synchro Plaguespreader and Mezuki for a level 6. Banish the Mezuki, bring something else back, like Revived King Ha Des!
For those of you looking to flex your new card advantage skills, here’s the card advantage in that play: [+1] from Tour Guide + [-1] from inherent Xyz + [+1] from Leviair effect + [+0] from Book of Life + [-1] from synchro of Plaguespreader and Mezuki + [+1] from Mezuki. Whew! Thankfully, you’re well-seasoned in card advantage counting after reading our articles, but if you missed it, here’s the count: +1 - 1 + 1 + 0 - 1 + 1 = [+1]. So a Tour Guide into Leviair coupled with one graveyard revival card (either Book of Life, Reborn, and so forth) grants you a Leviair, a level 6 synchro of your choice, and a free Zombie from your graveyard special summoned to your field at a total card advantage of [+1]. Impressive!
“Combo” 3 - Doin' the Derp
Black Luster Soldier and Dark Armed Dragon - hey, who doesn't like free wins? One's a [+3], the other's a [+1 or 2]. 'Nuff said. Thunder King for Black Luster Soldier, or Mind Control or Enemy Controller an opponent's monster and get Utopia. There's your light, you're set to go - full derp ahead!
A neat trick is using Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning and Tour Guide from the Underworld together. Banish your Thunder King Rai-Oh and a Dark for Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning. Then summon Tour Guide from the Underworld and bring the Thunder King Rai-Oh back for a game-sealing combo!
“But Why?” - Concerning Card Choices
This Zombie deck is quite different from a lot of other builds out there. Mostly, I get a lot of heat for only running one tuner (Plaguespreader). This is more than sufficient to play the deck, because Plaguespreader can be recycled almost indefinitely, and is effortlessly searched out. This is all the deck needs, and it just doesn’t make sense to clutter up deck space with unnecessary tuners when you could add more power and consistency to the deck. One pet peeve of mine is Pain Painter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “But it’s like Plaguespreader!” Exactly. It’s like Plaguespreader. Meaning it isn’t Plaguespreader. It can’t self-revive from the grave, which is, without a shadow of doubt, the best part of Plaguespreader Zombie. The perfect word to describe Pain Painter is “unnecessary”. Play better cards. Don’t even get me started on the situational mess that's Blue-Blooded Oni.
Another thing I get some criticism on is my choice of 3 Book of Life. Book of Life is, simply put, amazing. It revives any Zombie type monster from the graveyard, including Revivied King Ha Des for an easy level 8 synchro. It banishes key cards that generate advantage in your opponent’s graveyard. It takes away that Light (or Dark) for Black Luster Soldier. It blocks future plays for your opponent (try banishing Grapha, Dandylion, Spore, or Glow-Up Bulb with Book of Life!). The deck moves so fast, that drawing 2 (or even 3!) in your opening hand won’t hold you back - rather, it opens up more explosive plays for you while shutting down plays for your opponent.
Given the current meta, Thunder King Rai-Oh is a great choice for this deck, because it shuts down so many opposing meta deck plays. Additionally, Thunder King Rai-Oh allows you to produce Black Luster Soldier derps, If you don’t open up with a Zombie, Thunder King Rai-Oh is simply an amazing card to put on the field during your opening turn. It stops Rabbit plays, Tour Guides, opposing Thunder King Rai-Oh (via suicide), Duality, most floaters, and so forth. In fact, Thunder King Rai-Oh is so deadly that I’ve included two copies of Dimensional Prison for opposing Thunder King Rai-Oh - a well protected copy of Thunder King Rai-Oh can shut this deck down!
This deck isn’t exactly for the faint of heart. It requires an in-depth knowledge of card advantage, combo setup, combo disruption (what to use your Maxx “C” on, what to banish with Book of Life - it’s not as straightforward as it seems), and the damage step, as well as a fairly good grip on predicting plays and knowing when to push for game. Put simply, it requires an advanced player and a good bit of practice.
On a personal note, I've been testing this deck since the advent of Tour Guide in EXVC, playing it through the old, new, then old (again) Xyz rulings. I've got to say, when I was playing the deck under the "Xyz-materials-on-field" ruling, it was absolutely insane. I was so sure it was going to get smashed by the ban list come March 2012, but I'm extremely content with the ruling change! I love this deck, and I wish it could stick around forever!
If you’ve got the heart for it, definitely pick it up. It’s a great deck that’s extremely difficult to beat in the hands of a skilled player, but regardless of what skill level you’re at, it’ll take some practice. Remember, be patient! You’ll get it down eventually. I’ve only touched the surface of all the combos that this deck is capable of in this article, and it’s up to you to discover the rest yourselves! Don't let this intimidate you, pick it up and play!