Through the Looking Glass: BR Reanimator with Jax

Davide Aiello

Special Guest

A few words on Jax (@Jax_mtg):

Davide Aiello, better known as Jax on MTGO, is a combo specialist. Davide has success with Reanimator in the past, including a third-place finish at Ovinogeddon in 2019. He loves to brew and always tries to push the boundaries of combo decks in Legacy. Stay updated with all his combo brews and memes.
How do you feel about the RB Reanimator in the current metagame?

Reanimator is finely positioned and a bit underrated at the moment. There aren’t many [[Leyline of the Void]] decks around (Basuta’s Red Stompy is not even playing the full set). [[Surgical Extraction]] seems to be the most popular anti-graveyard hate, and the deck is well equipped to beat it. [[Force of Negation]] is the scariest card probably, but with the recent ban of [[Dreadhorde Arcanist]], playing many of them now has a real cost.

How effective do you think [[Empty the Warrens]] is in the matchup? It is a card that you generally worry about coming from The EPIC Storm?

I think [[Empty the Warrens]] is pretty bad in the matchup. [[Griselbrand]] on turn one will always beat [[Goblin Token]]s. There is a chance that you can get there by making many [[Goblin Token]]s on turn one on the play, but it’s a very risky line. Recently, [[Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite]] is a rarely played card (at least not in the main deck), but [[Empty the Warrens]] is not a card that I’m generally worried about.

What sort of interaction do Reanimator decks have before sideboarding? What should The EPIC Storm be on the look-out for?

Reanimator plays up to eight discard spells main deck, so I think that it is pretty reasonable to just play your mana artifacts and [[Wishclaw Talisman]] as soon as possible to play around them. Additionally, holding up [[Veil of Summer]] is very good in the matchup. The only card that can punish that strategy is [[Ashen Rider]] which is rarely played in the main deck. Even so, [[Veil of Summer]] stops the exile trigger as well. [[Children of Korlis]] could be another annoying card to deal with for The EPIC Storm, it could be played off a [[Lotus Petal]] or a [[Scrubland]] early on.

Is there any single card of The EPIC Storm that you are afraid to see in game one? Does this answer change for post?

I think the scariest cards are [[Echo of Eons]], because it can mess with your graveyard, especially after a turn one [[Faithless Looting]]. The second is [[Veil of Summer]] because it stops your interaction and can let The EPIC Storm player untap and kill you with a lethal [[Tendrils of Agony]], especially, if you already lost life drawing cards with [[Griselbrand]].

Does the inclusion of [[Veil of Summer]] in The EPIC Storm affect your game plan?

While [[Veil of Summer]] is a good card in the matchup. I don’t think that it affects my game plan at all, however, which is to put [[Griselbrand]] into play as fast as possible. I will prioritize hands that can put a [[Griselbrand]] into play on the first turn over hands that are highly disruptive, but slow at executing the combo.

How do you think The EPIC Storm matchup compares to other [[Dark Ritual]] combo decks such as [[Ad Nauseam]] Tendrils?

Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) is a bit easier than The EPIC Storm because it’s slower, but discard spells from ANT can slow you down by discarding an [[Entomb]] or any key spell from your hand. It’s a very good matchup regardless. [[Doomsday]] is much harder than both because they run both [[Force of Will]] and [[Daze]], and they usually have up to four graveyard hate cards in their sideboards, sometimes even [[Leyline of the Void]]. They could also go off pretty fast with the right hand.

Are you worried about losing life against The EPIC Storm? Would you choose to wait to combo in one turn rather than decrease your life total the turn before winning?

Losing life is really scary, but I think it’s almost always the correct play. If [[Veil of Summer]] is not up, you can just discard their key cards with [[Unmask]] or even kill them on the same turn with a [[Children of Korlis]] loop plus [[Tendrils of Agony]]. If [[Veil of Summer]] is up, you can still try to put as many [[Chancellor of the Annex]] on the battlefield as possible to lock them out of the game. Giving an extra turn to The EPIC Storm player is not a smart move because they can kill you pretty easily or even mess with your hand with an [[Echo of Eons]].

What does your overall sideboard plan entail?

The only reasonable cards in the matchup are [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]] and [[Shenanigans]]. [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]] is not even that great because you can play around it and [[Shenanigans]] is probably too slow. I wouldn’t side any cards all in this matchup.

What sideboard plan do you expect from The EPIC Storm?

I’m expecting [[Chain of Vapor]] or [[Echoing Truth]]. I never expect graveyard hate, and I won’t play around cards like [[Surgical Extraction]]. [[Tormod’s Crypt]] is rarely played too. A correctly timed [[Chain of Vapor]] on [[Animate Dead]] could buy a turn, and it obviously gives outs to cards like [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]] or [[Chancellor of the Annex]].

How likely are you to keep a hand with your combo, but without disruption and protection? Should we expect our opponent to have mulliganed for a discard effect?

I would never keep a hand without a way to go off in the first two turns. I will even consider discards targeting myself if it is necessary to put a creature into the graveyard. Trying to disrupt the deck with eight tutors and eight cantrips deck is a losing strategy. While playing the Reanimator, it’s best to just put a [[Griselbrand]] into play as soon as possible and nothing else matters.

How do you value cards such as [[Leyline of the Void]], [[Faerie Macabre]], and [[Silent Gravestone]] against The EPIC Storm? Do you play any of them?

I usually play some number of [[Faerie Macabre]] if graveyard based decks are popular or for the mirror, but I would never board in them against The EPIC Storm. I think that diluting my game plan with mediocre cards is not the correct approach in this matchup. Reanimator is the aggressor — just win the game.

How do you value [[Leyline of Sanctity]] against The EPIC Storm? Do you play any copies?

I play zero copies of [[Leyline of Sanctity]]. The card is not great in my opinion, and The EPIC Storm can easily beat it once it is known.

What is the biggest mistake you see The EPIC Storm players make against Reanimator? What is the biggest mistake you see Reanimator players make against The EPIC Storm?

I think the biggest mistake The EPIC Storm players make against Reanimator is not playing out their hand to dodge discards. This also gives them a higher chance to beat a [[Chancellor of the Annex]], or set up a lethal [[Tendrils of Agony]] after [[Griselbrand]] activation.

The biggest mistake the Reanimator players make against The EPIC Storm is not going for [[Griselbrand]] thinking [[Chancellor of the Annex]] may be good enough — it’s not. [[Veil of Summer]] can easily beat one [[Chancellor of the Annex]]. Just [[Entomb]] for [[Griselbrand]], draw cards, and try to kill them immediately.

Any final thoughts or comments you would like to make? Any plugs or shout-outs?

I have the reputation of being a fast combo deck player, mostly Reanimator and Oops all Spells, but I actually play a large variety of combo decks. I’m also one of the minds behind a lot of the innovations happening at Legacy combo decks in the last three years. I have been trained by some of the best Legacy specialists like Thomas Hepp, Eric Landon, and Newton Hang.

I’m also a Sensei of the Blue Dojo, which is a (mostly) Legacy Italian community. You can find us on Discord and on Facebook.

Remember to mull for [[Force of Will]] if you get paired against me!