by Simon Tran
The Standard format has taken shape recently with quite a diverse line-up. Many of you have undoubtedly faced off against a reanimator deck only to realize how resilient this deck is. It’s one of the rare reanimator decks that can also simply hard cast its reanimation targets very often and win.
Here’s the 4 color version we’ve been running:
4 x Overgrown Tomb
3 x Rootbound Crag
2 x Woodland Cemetary
4 x Temple Garden
4 x Blood Crypt
3 x Sunpetal Grove
1 x Vault of the Archangel
2 x Clifftop Retreat
4 x Grisly Salvage
3 x Centaur Healer
4 x Unburial Rites
4 x Mulch
3 x Lingering Souls
2 x Dreadbore
4 x Faithless Looting
1 x Devil’s Play
1 x Sever the Bloodline
1 x Olivia Voldaren
1 x Griselbrand
1 x Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
1 x Craterhoof Behemoth
3 x Angel of Serenity
4 x Thragtusk
2 x Duress
2 x Slaughter Games
2 x Oblivion Ring
1 x Purify the Grave
1 x Divine Reckoning
1 x Ray of Revelation
1 x Ancient Grudge
1 x Golgari Charm
1 x Sever the Bloodline
1 x Rakdos Charm
1 x Rolling Temblor
1 x Deathrite Shaman
So where to begin? That’s a rather simple question … the Reanimation spells!
This one was rather obvious to most. However, with the inclusion of Faithless Looting, this card gains much more value. A turn 1 Faithless Looting can easily turn into a Turn 4 game-changing fatty. It basically involves the ‘complex’ decision of discarding Unburial Rites and said ‘fatty’.
You are never really forced to do this unless the deck your facing is more aggressive than the norm. Often times you will simply find yourself casting it later in the game. Contrary to the blazing quick Reanimator decks of the Legacy format, this one is somewhat turtle-ish. It steadily feeds the graveyard and puts roadblocks in place (Thragtusk and Centaur Healer) and then if necessary will begin reanimating some threats.
Unburial Rites can gain you even more value if it ‘happened’ to be a card that you flipped with a Mulch or a Grisly Salvage. It’s similar to the ancient art of Dredging while not actually dredging. It’s more like guaranteeing your future land drops steadily. You can just, if need be, cast it later in the game (essentially making it a kind of +1). I’m sure none of this is particularly new to most you reading this. It is however nice to note that while it is somewhat a key piece of the puzzle, it is rather easy to almost completely side this card out in Game 2 and still be able to play the game out as you normally would. Your opponent will most likely bring in graveyard hate and you can mostly not care. The most popular hate cards will be:
They seem problematic but not as much as one might think.
In the case of Slaughter Games, it depends as to what card your opponent will usually name. A lot of players will make the error to name Unburial Rites. This is due to the fact that you probably only kept 1 Rites in post board. The ‘better’ choice would probably be Angel of Serenity. The even better choice is probably Thragtusk. It is the card that is basically defining the format at the moment. It’s also the card that keeps your deck from simply getting wrecked in the early turns. Thragtusk is also good times with Angel of Serenity.
Purify the Grave is somewhat menacing, but again, since you are siding out your ‘real’ reanimator spells: not so much. It will essentially negate 1-2 targets of Angel of Serenity (unless of course, you simply choose to exile 3 creatures in play)
Yep! Good old Journey to Nowhere. I recall this was a fairly popular card at many many FNMs awhile back. I never really played it myself but it was sometimes used with a Kor Skyfisher to bring it back and exile a bigger threat later on. Now with Ms. Serenity, you can get 3 Journeys for the price of one!
Of course when you are up against the more controllish decks, you are probably targeting another Angel and friends from your grave in the unfortunate case that Serenity gets exiled, dies or bounced. Your opponent pretty much has to ‘nullify’ her with something like Tamiyo’s +1 ability:
It ain’t pretty, but it’ll have to do!
Let’s not forget that our dear old Angel is also about the size of 3 Gravediggers as well. Well, if you equate her flying to the -1 drop in overall power. She becomes a pretty big beater that is hard to ignore. Also, she’s conveniently sized to block an opposing Thragtusk and survive the turn you put her into play. It’s not wonder the price on this card has just gone up since its release. I somewhat doubted it at first, but she is the real deal.
You would expect this deck to play 4 copies of this fabulous card, but it also wants to minimize on the random hate. This is why we run one solitary copy of Gisela, Blade of Goldnight.
Nice to have another ‘playable’ angel that’s not named Restoration Angel. I put the quotes around playable because it is not a universally adopted card in this build. At the same seven-mana investment as Angel of Serenity we somehow feel gipped.
Miss “Thang” here is somewhat of a real deal. Sure, we are not reanimating Elesh Norn and board whiping our opponent’s team like the Frites deck of Standard past. We are however often times threatening lethal or providing a creature that is virtually unmatched in terms of combat.
A 5/5 first strike body means the attacker has to be a 10/11? to survive?
I don’t believe there are many of those.
Of course, when Gisela goes on the offence, that 10/11 also needs to have flying to even be able to block.
While these things MAY be possible, they are also very unlikely. If your opponent has 3 Angel of Serenity he would not be able to take out Gisela by double blocking either. One of the Angel of Serenity would die to first strike damage and the leftover Angel would deal 2 damage to her. I mean, seriously, think about that! It’s pretty huge.
Now, yes, you can play the part of DoomBladeGuy and argue that she dies to removal. You WOULD be right, except that Doom Blade is now Ultimate Price and… Woah! that doesn’t kill Gisela! What?
That’s one tough Angel.
Then again, to be fair, this Angel doesn’t get Ultimate Price’d either:
The other creatures in this deck obviously all have ‘Enter the battlefield’ effects since we need to max out on their value. This is true whether we hardcast them or reanimate them. As previously stated, Thragtusk and Centaur Healer clog up the board and load us up on some life so that our ‘late game’ fatties can come in and do some damage.
These cards do not particularly win more but they do offer the deck more flexibility. Lingering Souls is just a great card. Whether you are casting this Tier 1 sorcery from your hand or Flashbacking it from your graveyard, you are always getting value. It plays the dual role of chump blocker x 2 or beater versus the more control-ish decks. Just like Unburial Rites, it’s sometimes a ‘free’ card when we flip it with Mulch or Grisly Salvage.
What is this doing in here?
Are we playing a Jund or some weird Next-Level Grixis deck ?
It’s a bit of an oddball card but it does of course play nice with the rest of the deck. Oftentimes we are just getting controlled by a Tamiyo ,are drawing nothing great and our game plan is being hindered by cards like Rest in Peace and co.
In this case, Dreadbore is a great answer to the Planeswalker problem. It’s nothing fancy but it gets the job done. It also provides us with some ‘versatility’ if we decide to destroy our own Angel of Serenity and collect the goodies she’s been preserving. It can occur in the case of a stalemate in which she is no longer able to profitably defend or attack (or just being tapped down).
Then we have a miser’s Sever the Bloodline. Good versus tokens and the like, as well as critters that have triggered effects when they die (ie: Undying dudes). Just like the Unburial Rites and Lingering Souls, this card can still give us some value even after we ‘dredged’ it with a Faithless Looting , Grisly Salvage or Mulch. Early game, it can really help us out in a bind versus something like double Loxodon Smiter beatdown for example.
Last and probably least is Devil’s Play.
Yes, it can act as a kind of finisher. But triple Red mana Flashback can be rough. It is however possible nonetheless and in the early game can take out something small like a Deathrite Shaman only to come back and deal a considerable amount of damage later to close out the game. It’s probably a card I would replace in a future version but it seems to be working well in this deck thus far.
The deck’s manabase is decent from what I’ve seen. Vault of the Archangel over something like Slayers’ Stronghold is correct. Vault is another good support card for the board-clogging tactic and it raises the value of Lingering Souls. That last part is somewhat obvious, but I see way too many people use that interaction offensively as opposed to protecting their life total with lifelinking deathtouchers.
They need only think about the benefits to realize that even if you never get to block with the tokens and give them deathtouch/lifelink, the mere fact that you are able to do so will deter some aggro. Just leave the mana open and move on to other things. You are technically winning on that front. Your focus now should be trying to win with your other creatures.
The Sideboard contains some control deck hate as well as permanent removal answers we cant have main deck, meaning : enchantment and artifact removal.
Golgari Charm offers us the flexibility at a mana cost we should have but don’t’ always have, since we are after all a 4-color deck.
Ray of Revelation is probably the better enchantment removal spell. It’s upsides being that you can cast is more easily and that you can probably flashback it later on. Of course, this changes nothing if you happen to discard it or mill it from your deck with Rest in Peace in play.
On that note, you can still use its flashback ability in response to Rest in Peace‘s ‘enter the battlefield’ ability.
Slaughter Games is an interesting card here. It’s odd to see it in this kind of deck as is it’s almost always strictly reserved to Jund decklists. It’s better than it looks from experience, especially in the mirror match. I believe that much is obvious.
What’s not always 100% obvious is its applications versus various decks, especially those that seem to have very limited win conditions. I’m talking mainly about decks that need to win with Runechanter’s Pike, Lingering Souls, Planeswalkers, Entreat the Angels and not much else. If you examine such decks and more or less memorize their contents, this card can go a looooooong way.
As mentionned earlier Thragtusk or Angel of Serenity are also both good cards to call with Slaughter Games. A small note however: if you are planning to name Angel of Restoration, please allow your opponent sufficient time to decide if he passes priority. Otherwise, he is likely to try and flash one in in ‘reponse’ to you just casting Games and outright naming Resto. Can’t be countered does not equal cannot be responded to.
Obviously if you get to the point where your opponent asks you what card you are naming, it is too late for him to respond as your spel is resolving. It’s a somewhat common mistake that I thought needed to be clarified.
Deathrite Shaman is also against the mirror match but can have decent applications versus blue-white decks as well, especially when we can slowly grind away future Snapcaster Mage and Moorland Haunt targets for profit.
The lone Rolling Temblor is a concession to Geist of Saint-Traft or weenie decks that may be a wee bit too quick.
I think the Divine Reckoning slot can be better used but it’s more of a slot i’m using to test various cards. It’s perhaps better used up as a second Deathrite Shaman or Rolling Temblor.
In closing, I would recommend this deck to those of you who have always wanted to play a reanimator deck with a little more versatility and less redundancy. The cards it uses to interact with opposing threats cannot fully be overlooked and make the deck more fun to play in general.