Archetune-Up – Oketra, Zombie Spawner

(Unconventional Tactics | Art by Jason Felix)

A Zombie Spawner? What is this, Minecraft?

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, a weekly article series devoted to using the Theme pages on EDHREC to help tweak the average deck generated here on EDHREC – wait… that’s not right, hold on… OH! Would you look at that! Archetune-Up is going to be a weekly series from now on!

Due to this, I will be switching over from tuning up reader-submitted decks to tuning up a commander’s average deck found on the site! This doesn’t mean we won’t ever see reader-submitted decks again, just that I’ll be switching up the formatting of the series for when they do come back. From now on, I will be focusing on a single main theme, as opposed to looking at multiple different ways to build or break down a deck. This helps keep the deck focused, and also makes the series much more feasible for writing in weekly installments on my end.

To kick off this new iteration of Archetune-Up I decided to look at my second-favorite mono-white commander: God-Eternal Oketra.

In a world that scoffs at white for its feeble card advantage, I think that God-Eternal Oketra goes toe-to-toe with Sram, Senior Edificer. I’ve had this conversation many, many times, and I am a staunch advocate of the fact that a 4/4 Zombie with vigilance that comes stapled to every creature we cast is a form of card advantage. This line of thinking is the fulcrum upon which the strategy for the deck turns, allowing us to maximize our ability to create an expansive board state from as few resources as possible.


Who Ordered the Bounce House?

God-Eternal Oketra will spit out a Zombie each time we cast a creature spell. While we can’t take full advantage off of Flicker effects, we can deftly utilize cards from the Bounce Theme! Cards like Stonecloaker live in this theme, and are some of the most important pieces of the deck. With this theme, we are looking to maximize our Zombie output while committing very few actual creature cards to the battlefield. The average Oketra deck already has Whitemane Lion, Jeskai Barricade, and Kor Skyfisher, which help us grease the wheels and make sure we won’t stall out, but we have to go deeper!

Blood Clock/Umbilicus (whichever one you prefer), Erratic Portal, and Scapegoat are all effects similar to the ones mentioned above, but each fulfills a different purpose. Whitemane Lion and Stonecloaker are included in order to “combo off” and quickly amass a swarm of tokens, usually at the end of an opponent’s turn. Blood Clock and Erratic Portal differ because they will only trigger once on your turn, but if one of our creatures becomes trapped on the board, this is a clean way to get it back to our hand and get our chain going again. Similarly, Scapegoat (and to a lesser extent, Erratic Portal) can protect one or more important targets from removal. While it may not be Teferi’s Protection, Scapegoat does a great job at doing exactly what we need, and it’s only 25 cents!

Ugin, the Ineffable and The Immortal Sun are two solid additions to the deck that surprisingly aren’t in the original average list. Ugin can function as ramp for nearly 20% of our deck, provide card advantage, and is also targeted removal. He checks every box this deck wants. Another card with incredible versatility, The Immortal Sun, does everything we could ever ask for. It, too, reduces the costs of our spells, provides card advantage, gives an anthem to our team, and also locks down troublesome ‘walkers our opponents may play. Ugin might be rendered inert if the two are out together, but he will still provide value with his passive even if this unlikely scenario occurs.

The next two cards are just quality of life improvements. I swapped out Return to Dust for Crush Contraband, and Mass Calcify for Tragic Arrogance. On average, Crush Contraband will hit the targets we need while always being able to used at instant speed, unlike Return to Dust. This is especially important because we like playing at instant speed, and we don’t want to to tie up valuable Whitemane Lion mana during our own Main Phase. The reason for swapping Mass Calcify is… well… most of our creatures are actually 4/4 black zombies. While [wl]Mass Calcify[/el] is perfect for most white decks, it will easily backfire in this one. By swapping it out for Tragic Arrogance we can instead ensure Oketra lives, but also get to stick our opponents with their worst possible permanents! Don’t be afraid to add other board wipes that will keep Oketra around, either! Cards like Divine Reckoning, Slaughter the Strong, and Fell the Mighty are perfect for this deck.

The last couple picks take advantage of our tribal synergy. While we aren’t focusing on a tribe specifically, each token that Oketra produces is both a Zombie and a Warrior. Due to this, Binding Mummy, and Unconventional Tactics always give us value. Binding Mummy many not seem like much, but when you are spending one to two mana on Whitemane Lion or Stonecloaker + Oketra’s Monument, you can easily tap your opponents’ boards down while creating a bunch of Zombies that will completely overwhelm them. Unconventional Tactics may seem like an over-costed pump spell (and in reality, it is), but in this deck it is another form of card advantage. For four mana, you can always ensure that an opponent is taking at least seven damage in the air from a vigilant Zombie every single turn, which definitely adds up. Even more appealing, though, is that it pumps Oketra up to a 6/9 flying double striker. This allows her to finish off opponents in two hits since she will be dealing 12 commander damage a turn, putting her on a two-turn clock!


A Little War(rior) Never Hurt Anyone

We’re going to move straight into this article’s Bonus Round, a potpourri section to highlight some particularly special cards. This week’s section will be dedicated to cards that I included in the list but which were not found in the Bounce Theme itself!

Continuing our tribal thoughts, I added a few Warrior tribal cards: Obsidian Battle-Axe, and Mardu Woe-Reaper. Battle-Axe gets a free equip to any of the Zombies we create, giving us a hasty 6/5 vigilant attacker every turn. Applying pressure is important. Battle-Axe will force your opponents to make a choice: do they trade with your 6/5 that you get each turn, or do they take consistent chunks of damage? Both options are great for us, and put our opponents on the back foot. Mardu Woe-Reaper is another card that will trigger whenever a Warrior enter the battlefield. The incremental life gain it provides is great, but what we want is the repeatable graveyard hate. We can reliably make two to three Zombies a turn, which means we can reliably hamper graveyard strategies. These decks are able to trade resource for resource with us and eventually pull ahead, so an on-theme card like this is invaluable.

Speaking of graveyard hate, let’s add Scavenger Grounds! Most one- to two-color decks should be adding this card since its opportunity cost is so low. Being able to nuke all graveyards is a powerful effect, especially when it’s just on a land. The best part about this is that we’re already running Desert of the True, and since I added Shefet Dunes, we don’t have to sacrifice Scavenger Grounds to its ability and gives us repeated use of this graveyard-stomping haymaker.

Fanatical Devotion is a really underrated enchantment that works wonderfully in our deck. The creatures that we care about above all else in this deck are Oketra and her Zombie tokens. Fanatical Devotion allows us to throw our expendable small-fries like Boreas Charger and Gold Myr under the bus to protect our important pieces. It may not stop OG Wrath of God, but a free sacrifice outlet that blanks a Supreme Verdict is an incredible amount of power and versatility.

Sevinne’s Reclamation has grown on me quite a bit. It allows us to get three total Sun Titan triggers whenever we want. This is incredibly relevant considering our deck hinges on low costing cards like Whitemane Lion and Emancipation Angel. Recursion and redundancy are important, so being able to fish multiple pieces from our yard to get our chain started again is powerful. Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle and Bishop or Rebirth are also great inclusions if you really want to amp up the reanimation, but I felt like Sun Titan and Sevinne’s Reclamation was enough for me.

The final card I added is a take it or leave it. Song of the Worldsoul is an expensive enchantment that functions as a second version of Oketra as long as we have at least a single Zombie in play. Since we’re aiming to cast the same creature multiple times in a turn, Song of the Worldsoul functions as an amalgam of Oketra, Anointed Procession, and Endless Ranks of the Dead. We can easily double the number of Zombies we create and quickly overwhelm our opponents. It may seem a bit “win more”, but we do need ways to be able to go over the top and brute force our way through some games.


Equal Parts Brawn and Braaaaaains

White is often touted as the worst color in EDH, but while it may be lacking some of the tools other colors has, it can definitely make up for its shortcomings if you’re willing to put in the work. Oketra may never be as inherently strong as Muldrotha, the Gravetide or Breya, Etherium Shaper, but it can definitely be more fun. Seriously, what other mono-white deck will let you overwhelm your opponents with a horde of free Zombies?

“Card advantage” is a very loose term, and we need to learn to be a bit more flexible with the definition. God-Eternal Oketra, Unconventional Tactics, and Sun Titan/Sevinne’s Reclamation are all forms of card advantage. They may look and feel different than just drawing cards, but they can be just as strong. White still needs better tools to keep up with colors like green and black, but it still has some strong pieces. When building a deck like this, make sure you emphasize white’s strengths. If you try and mimic a Simic deck, you’re going to just make a deck that fails at being a white deck and a deck that functions like a bad Simic deck. Please build responsibly.

With these thoughts in mind, I bid you farewell. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and I’ll see you next week!

As always, thanks for arche-tuning in!

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Angelo is a Connecticut native who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. With at least 20 EDH decks constructed at all times, it's an understatement to say that he loves Commander. Angelo trusts counterspells over creatures, and is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation rotation out of Standard.