Magic: The Gathering Tribal Spotlight: Zombies, A Host Of Undeath

We here at Bleeding Cool have a particular fondness for the undead in our tabletop gaming. Well, at the very least our tabletop writer, Josh Nelson, does. Today, for some content that seems like a fun time, we are here to share with you a Magic: The Gathering tribal spotlight. So, we will be looking at various Zombies from Magic, in form and function.

The artwork for Magic: The Gathering's Walking Corpse card, originally from the Innistrad expansion set. Illustrated by Igor Kieryluk.
The artwork for Magic: The Gathering's Walking Corpse card, originally from the Innistrad expansion set. Illustrated by Igor Kieryluk.

In the Beginning

We would be remiss to speak about Zombies in Magic: The Gathering without looking at the first common Zombie in the game, and likely the first that a player who started playing back in 1993 would have seen: Scathe Zombies.

Scathe Zombies, a card from Magic: The Gathering's first set, Alpha.
Scathe Zombies, a card from Magic: The Gathering's very first set, Alpha.

Sure, its mechanical presence is unassuming, even weak, but the use of Samuel Coleridge's famed epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is exquisite and a true draw for Zombie fans.

Enter Phyrexia

Moving ahead by some years, we see a surge of Phyrexians. Now, Phyrexians don't have their own creature type, but they often did adopt the Zombie typing in order to compensate. For example, take the Phyrexian Delver, from Invasion.

Phyrexian Delver, a card originally from the Invasion set for Magic: the Gathering (shown here in its Commander 2018 version).
Phyrexian Delver, a card originally from the Invasion set for Magic: the Gathering (shown here in its Commander 2018 version).

The Borg-like Phyrexians have been a constant force of evil in the Magic storyline. From The Brother's War all the way up to the conquering of Mirrodin (or the establishment of New Phyrexia, depending on your perspective), Phyrexians have plagued Magic: The Gathering since the beginning, which could be a very good thing – after all, a great storyline needs great villains. Their goal is much like the Borg – they wish to "compleat" (or assimilate) all flesh and metal into one kind of lifeform, akin to themselves. This has obviously caused much controversy in the world of the game – for who truly wishes to slough off their flesh and trade it in for metal augmentation (besides the Esperites of Alara, but that's a slightly different story altogether).

Phyrexian Crusader, a card from the Mirrodin Besieged expansion set for Magic: The Gathering.
Phyrexian Crusader, a card from the Mirrodin Besieged expansion set for Magic: The Gathering.

The further down we go into this Zombie-hole, the more apparent it is that further discussion should be had about this topic. So while we have just scratched the surface of the tribal concept of Zombies (and the concept of the Phyrexians), we have covered quite a bit of ground at the same time. Hopefully, nothing pops out of that ground except more content!

What do you think of this Tribal Spotlight? More will come of it as we go forward, to be sure. Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on the matter!

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About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.
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