Pokedecks: Narfi, the Duskull

Unsummoned Skull • November 18, 2023

Scaring up a Good Time with Narfi Zombie Tokens!

Last article, we followed up Hamza Elephants with another unusual kindred deck: Zirda Spellshapers. Chucking Earthquakes was succeeded by stampeding pachyderms and then meta-magicians for an incredible 1-2-3 sequence. This week, we'll look at an unusual take on a popular kindred deck: Zombie tokens!

You heard that right: this is not just a Zombie deck, but a deck built around specifically Zombie tokens, for an added spellslinger twist!

Narfi, Betrayer King!

Kindred decks are one of my favorite deckbuilding restrictions because the decks wind up feeling fun, thematic, and relatively low-powered. I love kindred decks because they simplify Rule Zero conversations and catch peoples' attention who might not know me, the commander, or even the game of Magic in general. You don't need to know those things to root on a Spellshaper deck; you just need to find what they do cool! I've run kindred streams; I have a kindred podcast (Quote of Arms); and I've even run a casual 16-person kindred tournament with $20 donated to charity in each podwinner's name, and gifting a Cavern of Souls to the grand champion!

For the most part, kindred decks require a large number of creatures. Usually, they're defined by a minimum of 20 creatures, 80% of which need to be of the type, preferably not having to include Changelings in that percentage. But what if creatures aren't your bag? I posit that cards that produce tokens of a given type ought to also be considered among the percentage of the deck needed to determine whether the deck holds true to the theme. Players who love Elementals should be able to count Chandra, Acolyte of Flame as an Elemental card, and Zombie decks should be able to count Rise from the Tides as a Zombie!

Interestingly enough, the PokeAlter, one of the first I would commission from Foxnoctom, was my logo for a while! It makes sense for a Ghost-type to represent a Zombie, and it's a particularly cute Pokemon that can evolve, which is a running theme among my kindred decks. It also learns a move called Phantom Force via TM, which sounds like an excellent name for an army of Zombies. But how do we get these pieces to fit together into a cohesive build?

Narfi's Abilities

Narfi itself fills a role that a lot of other creatures have filled before: on its face, it's a fairly generic Zombie lord. There have been a lot of them, going back as far as the game itself. For as long as people have wanted to go wide with creepy crawly critters, there have been lords to pump the hordes. Some provide additional abilities, some additional bodies, some additional creature type buffs, but all of them cost between three and five mana and add layers of buffs to our not-officially-an-army.

Risen Executioner was actually one of the main reasons for building the deck. The card originally came to my attention as a sideboard card in Esper Dragons decks, way back in the Khans of Tarkir block. I loved that block, and I still have a lot of my constructed cards from that time. The Executioner is a lord that can be cast from the graveyard, but only if a generic mana is paid for each other creature in the grave. That would make it pretty much unplayable in most Zombie decks, but this is a deck that goes wide with Zombies but doesn't actually play that many Zombie cards. As a result, the cost won't get that high, and this becomes a lord that can keep coming back!

Cemetery Reaper may be a bit slow, like the shambling specters themselves, but it brings a beating. It's a Zombie lord that turns dead creatures into Zombies, but not just ours! As it turns out, anyone's creatures can be reanimated into mindless Zombie tokens. This is big because, as pretty much anyone who has ever played Commander can tell you, creatures have a habit of dying over the course of a game. When that happens, they leave bodies, and we're running a Zombie cleaning service.

Diregraf Captain is one of the more recent lords, although there's already been a return trip to Innistrad since Dark Ascension. As a Dimir dark dastardly dominator, the captain is a solid blocker with deathtouch, a lord, and a dissuader of wrath effects. Whenever a Zombie dies, including tokens, the captain pings a player, giving the deck reach, making blocking and attacking difficult for opponents, and enabling the deck to put forth a lot of pressure.

Duskull's Moves

Phantom Force is a cool-sounding move, but the move itself has little to do with the deck. The move has the user disappear for a turn and then reappear to hit the opponent with perfect accuracy, with nothing able to prevent that damage. As awesome as combining phasing with unblockable to create an indomitable alpha strike or defensive position would be, that doesn't really translate well into Magic. The name, however, is a sick title for a Zombie deck with wave after wave of foot soldiers. So how do we make our horde?

Army of the Damned is an excellent finisher in any black-heavy deck, as it makes a ton of power and can be cast twice, with flashback. For 18 mana, you get 26 2/2s, or 52 power. This is without factoring in the lords the deck provides, including Narfi, who's able to continually revive itself using our snow-covered lands. This card hits hard.

Delve, as a mechanic, was a mistake. Even the "bad" delve cards see fringe play, so for the decently powerful ones, they're pretty darned amazing. Empty the Pits is a holdover from Khans block, which, again, I loved and still hold onto a lot of cards from. Even without the deck loading the grave, Empty is a great outlet for extra mana and superfluous cards.

Dread Summons is another powerful X spell that fills the grave with flashback spells and cards to delve away while making a sizable army from what we and others mill. Even if we aren't packing a lot of creatures to make into Zombies, chances are that someone is, which we can use to flood out board. Factor in the lords, and, again, this is an army in a can.

So...we've got lords and tokens to pump, but how do we dig through the fluff? Not every card is good, and, like most kindred decks, there are plenty of inefficient cards played for the sake of synergy.

The Perfect Fusion

The deck has lords and token-producers, but many of the flashback cards and cards that care about loading the grave need help to realize their potential. With the amount of fluff that decks like this have to play to have enough synergy, there are times when cutting through the fluff is needed to advance the game. This is especially true when digging for a specific card or effect, like a lord.

Whispering Madness is a powerful card that doesn't seem to get its due. Windfall gets plenty of love, which it deserves. The political effect of drawing everyone loads of cards and loading the graveyards makes for a ton of fun. The anti-sculpting is another interesting benefit that can create some mind games and force people to think on their feet. Madness does all this and leaves a trace of itself ciphered to a body, and this is a deck that should have bodies to spare, in order to do it again.

Unfulfilled Desires is a repeated looting effect, one that costs a bit of life, but not a consequential amount. The repeated looting allows for hand sculpting and controlled digging, as well as giving the deck things to do and ways to use spells that aren't helpful at a given moment.

Lich Lord of Unx is an absolutely brutal beating of a card. It can tap to make a blue and black Zombie Wizard, much fancier than the average Zombie token. It also has an activated ability that doesn't require tapping, so it can be activated multiple times in a turn: it causes a player to lose life and mill cards equal to the number of Zombies its controller controls. We can use this to enable our grave strategies in a pinch, or this can be an incredible snowballing win condition.

Narfi, Use Phantom Force!

Here is the most recent iteration of the deck, which is still one of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite kindred decks? And how might you build some underrepresented ones? Also, how do you feel about token-producers being counted in kindred decks?

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Teacher, judge, DM, & Twitch Affiliate. Lover of all things Unsummon. Streams EDH, Oathbreaker, D & D, & Pokemon. Even made it to a Pro Tour!