Happy Friday, y’all!  It’s great to be here; this has been a grueling week, and I’m looking forward to…well, probably a grueling weekend, since the Christmas season brings about a billion and a half obligations with it, as well as some seriously un-finished shopping.  (Okay, okay…some seriously un-started shopping.)  Still, I’ll take holiday parties over work any day of the week, so let’s get to it. 
CROSSED WIRES ARE CROSSED
We’re going to post Patrick’s co-winning Thraximundar deck list today before we get to looking at the play-testing results of Imshan’s list.  Why is that, you ask?  Simple – my brain is suffering from mild sleep deprivation as of late, so I grabbed Patrick’s deck list instead of Imshan’s when packing my bag for the Wednesday EDH night this past week.  As a result, I have some seat-time with that deck, so I figured we would get it up and discuss a bit, and leave the other list for another day. 
DISCLAIMER: Good lord did the play-testing go poorly for this deck this week.  I’m sure the list is good, so either I suck at Magic totally, or I lost a bet with the God Of Shuffles.  The takeaway here is basically to stay tuned for more play-testing on this deck too.
THERE…PRETTY AS A PICTURE…
Full disclosure time – Patrick is one of my closest, oldest friends, and the number-one Friend of GDC both in readership and comments posted.  We’ve known each other since middle school, went to college together, he was in my wedding, and we’ve been in a band together for the better part of the last twenty years.  Before anyone cries foul, Patrick also went out of his way to submit multiple lists to me for the Thrax contest.  His first list was on a similar slant to Imshan’s list, and as a result, I asked Patrick to get outside of the box and show me what he could do with a straight tribal zombies list.  Patrick is one of the best deck builders and players I’ve ever met, and currently has an EDH deck stable that includes a minimum of one deck for every available color combination out there.  He knows his stuff like no other, and dove right in, coming up with the following list, replete with a full explanation of inclusions, synergies, and an overall deck strategy.  It was this level of detail that won him a co-slot in the winner’s circle. 
Let’s start with the list:
GENERAL – 1
CREATURES – 25
ARTIFACTS – 6
PLANESWALKERS – 1
INSTANTS – 6
SORCERIES – 16
ENCHANTMENTS – 7
LANDS – 38
2 x Island
2 x Swamp
…and there it is.
ACH!  ZOMBIES!
In asking for this list, I was much less concerned with the general’s role in the deck.  He would see play for sure, but I was far more interested here in the creature type printed on the card, rather than the abilities in the text box.  I was also up-front in that I wanted a deck that wasn’t just another theme deck, but maintained playability and could stand up to the average deck in the format.  He started with the manabase I had posted as part of my original list, added Unholy Grotto and Crypt Of Agadeem for some added recursion and acceleration, and went from there:

“THE CARD YOUR DECK IS BUILT AROUND:
That’s right…you’re now running a Rooftop Storm combo deck.  Ok, well sorta.  The way I see it, Zombies go like this:

BLACK-because that’s what 99% of Zombies are.  If you want a second color you go into…
RED-because they really want haste, and also Deathbringer Thoctar!  From there you can either go into…
WHITE- for Necromancer’s Covenant or…
BLUE-for Rooftop Storm or…
(if you’re uncreative you can go into…)
GREEN-for ummmm…mana ramp?

So anyways it’s really either Mono Black, Black-Red, or a tri-color.  If you’re in Blue you obviously are there for Rooftop Storm, so let’s break the s**t out of that thing.”
Absolutely.  I’m not crazy about Innistrad as a whole, but Rooftop Storm was the standout card of the set from my perspective, both from a flavor perspective, and also because of the discount you get for Thraximundar.  Those of you who say my original list will note it was in there for the general alone.
So I’m down here.  Lead on-

“THE CARDS THAT BREAK ROOFTOP STORM:

-Leyline of Anticipation

Rooftop Storm lets you play guys for free.  You know what goes well with that?  Being able to play your guys as instants.”

RECURSION:

-Empty The Catacombs
-Soulquake
-Evacuation
-Infernal Caretaker

Hey look, a handful of free Zombies!

-Patriarch’s Bidding
-Living Death
-Twilight’s Call
-Balthor The Defiled

As long as one of the zombies coming in is Noxious Ghoul, nothing except zombies will survive.”
Solid.  I love the inclusion of the mass-bounce spells, as I’m getting discounts all around re-playing my zombies, and these get around problematic shroud creatures.  It takes the deck and spins it in a slight combo direction, working up to a critical turn where everything is bounced, the zombies are all replayed for free, and ideally are hasty and can swing for a bunch all at one.  The mass grave recursion is clearly a must in a tribal deck like this, and I’m all about my Living Death.  This should be a great engine.  

“TECH!

Tombstone Stairwell
-Vicious Shadows”
Makes perfect sense.  Tombstone Stairwell and Vicious Shadows go in well, giving me some extra value from what ends up in the yard, and a bit of a damage boost when they head out the door at end of turn.  Let’s face it…tribal decks sometimes need the boost in damage in the face of superior (in most cases) creatures and strategies, and Shadows is thematic and custom-made for a deck like this.
Patrick notes that protection is going to be key:

“COUNTERS:
The paradox here is that by going more tribal, you should probably run more counters.  Since theoretically you’ll have Rooftop Storm out, you should theoretically be able to keep counter mana open.
-Cryptic Command
-Dismiss
-Hinder”
This makes sense.  If we’re going all-in on Rooftop Storm as a strategy in these colors, we’re going to need to protect it.  If it gets destroyed, I’m basically limited to Recall, Skull Of Orm, and…er…
…uh…
Crystal Chimes?  Seriously?  That’s it? 
This is why I’m always in green, folks…
Anyway, Patrick continues on to flesh out the choices he makes, and we end with a solid list; haste from Anger and In The Web Of War, creature buffs from Akroma’s Memorial and Eldrazi Monument, and a host of supporting card draw and mana fixing/acceleration, and some strong game-breakers in Insurrection and Time Warp.  Seems like a solid mid-range tribal deck on paper.
SO HOW’D IT GO?
In a nutshell, terribly. 
Now again, I don’t blame the build at all; I fully blame my luck.  I was able to play two games with the deck.  The first was against a Riku deck and a very competitive Kaervek list, and the second was against the same Riku deck and (if memory serves) Tolsimir Wolfblood.
In game one, I kept a hand that had enough land to get me going, a Phyrexian Arena, and a few minor zombies.  I figured the Arena would get me to where I needed to be, but the Riku player decided to Krosan Grip it, despite the Kaervek player having his own Arena and a Crucible Of Worlds with a fetchland in his yard.  I found myself tossing out chump-blockers to block Kaervek while the Riku player was inexplicably busy committing suicide by playing things like Kozilek, Butcher Of Truth and doing nothing else.  He died to Kaervek damage in short order; I found no gas or threats and was not far behind. 
Game two saw me stall out on the three lands I started with in my opening hand until about turn nine.  At that point, Kozilek had come back down and Annihilated Tolsimir out of the game, and I was faced with losing two-thirds of my permanents in the next attack phase.  Scoop!
I think the main lesson learned was that while this deck has some solid competitive elements, it’s not a tier-one list by any stretch.  (To be fair, I didn’t ask for one to begin with!)  While it does have some control elements, it has a very hard time dealing with non-creature permanents, and due to the theme, it needs to be drawing and playing a ton of cards to stay competitive.  Against a dedicated tier-one strategy, I think it needs to go a step further and be able to get one of the mass-bounce or mass-reanimation pieces going quickly as well, or else it ends up playing out sub-par threats with minimal disruption, and that’s not going to go toe-to-toe with a dedicated strategy. 
In any case, these were not good examples, and I know I need to get some more seat time with the deck to really feel it out.  Patrick himself said that this list was really only a starting point, and to experiment and tune from here; my intuition tells me the zombie count needs to go up, as does the card draw, and perhaps some added acceleration and/or mana fixing.  We will see.  
Oh…and this guy:
COMING UP NEXT TIME
We’ll talk a little bit about the debut of creatureless Sisters Of Stone Death.  (spoiler: it’s a blast to play!)  I swear to god we’ll also get more seat time and reporting from both Thrax decks as well.  If I’m feeling particularly saucy, I may audible to something completely unrelated to tear apart as well.  We’ll see how the wind blows on that one. 
Happy Holidays!
àDJ