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A few words on John Shindledecker:

(Twitter: @shindymtg | MTGO:shindy)

John Shindledecker (“Shindy”) has been playing Magic since the age of 13 (original Theros). When I picked up Legacy for the first time a few years into my Magic career, I immediately fell in love with the Reanimator archetype. A veteran of the GP and SCG circuits, John has notched three Legacy Challenge Top 8s this year, including a win.

How does BR Reanimator typically win the game? What kinds of threats are typically available in the mainboard? What kind of interaction does BR Reanimator typically have?

BR Reanimator typically wins the game by getting a large creature into the graveyard using cards like [[Faithless Looting]] and [[Entomb]], or by self-targeting with a discard spell like [[Thoughtseize]] or [[Unmask]]. From there, you want to cast [[Reanimate]], [[Animate Dead]], or [[Exhume]] to bring that creature into play. While this can be done over the course of multiple turns, ideally you have cards like [[Lotus Petal]] or [[Dark Ritual]] to put a creature into play as soon as turn one.

Generally speaking, your ideal reanimation target is [[Griselbrand]], which you can use to draw a large portion of your deck. You can use these cards to put more threats, such as [[Archon of Cruelty]], into play, use your copies of [[Grief]] and [[Unmask]] to take your opponent’s answers. From there, the deck attacks its opponents to victory. Other threats can vary by pilot. While all lists will run some number of [[Griselbrand]] and [[Archon of Cruelty]], you get additional choices in [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]], [[Serra’s Emissary]], [[Atraxa, Grand Unifier]], [[Chancellor of the Annex]], and even [[Sire of Insanity]].

BR Reanimator’s interaction usually comes from hand disruption, using cards like [[Thoughtseize]], [[Unmask]], and [[Grief]]. Very rarely, you might see [[Collective Brutality]].

With the printing of [[Grief]] in Modern Horizons 2, we’ve seen an uptick in hands played (particularly G1 against an unknown opponent) that open on a [[Grief]] then [[Reanimate]] it as a slower, “Scam”-style win-con. Is this early disruption with a clock typically enough to beat a deck like The EPIC Storm? Is this style of hand keepable, in particular on lower mulligans (e.g. 5 or 4)?

Usually I would say no. It is not enough unless The EPIC Storm player’s hand is weak or on a mulligan. Because TES usually does not run graveyard hate or counterspells, the BR Reanimator pilot wants to aggressively mulligan for the kill on turn one or two. Another problem with the [[Grief]] plan on turn one against The EPIC Storm is, if they have mana open for a [[Veil of Summer]], your whole plan is ruined. Rebuilding the resources to go for another reanimation of a bigger threat will take some time to set up.

If given the opportunity to [[Entomb]] then [[Reanimate]] any creature against an unknown opponent, will you always choose [[Griselbrand]]? What if you know your opponent is on The EPIC Storm?

I would reanimate [[Griselbrand]] every time. The draw you get off of [[Griselbrand]] is usually enough to close out the game with the hand disruption you get, and in general, is the strongest reanimation target in the blind.

If you know you are against EPIC Storm and are on the play, this means they cannot [[Veil of Summer]] your hand disruption. I would always grab [[Griselbrand]], unless you run [[Sire of Insanity]]. On the draw, if they have mana open for [[Veil of Summer]], I would look at options like [[Sire of Insanity]] or [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]] (on red, so they can’t [[Burning Wish]] for a win condition). If you don’t run either of these cards, I would just grab [[Griselbrand]] and hope to dodge [[Veil of Summer]].

One last thing I’ll call out: I would not recommend reanimating [[Serra’s Emissary]] because TES can [[Burning Wish]] for either [[Tendrils of Agony]] or [[Empty the Warrens]].

How do you identify that your opponent is playing combo? What key indicators would tip you off to The EPIC Storm, and how will this impact your game plan?

I look for cards like [[Preordain]], [[Veil of Summer]] and [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]]. All are early indications that my opponent could be on a combo deck.

Key indicators that would tip you off that you are up against The EPIC Storm would be [[Veil of Summer]], [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]], and dead giveaway cards like [[Wishclaw Talisman]] and [[Burning Wish]].

Another dead give away is if your opponent’s MTGO handle is Bryant_Cook.

We have seen a recent re-emergence of slower, base-Dimir Reanimator decks that give up speed in exchange for stack interaction like [[Force of Will]] and [[Daze]]. How can The EPIC Storm player differentiate between these two shells; which cards are shared across each, and which are unique to BR Reanimator?

For identifying this type of Reanimator shell, you should keep an eye on what they are fetching. Is it [[Badlands]] or [[Underground Sea]]? If you know your opponent is on UB Reanimator, this could mean they’re holding up cards like [[Brainstorm]] and [[Daze]].

Both Reanimator decks run cards like [[Entomb]] and [[Reanimate]] along with some number of [[Exhume]] and [[Animate Dead]]. Threats are largely similar across both shells as well – [[Griselbrand]] and [[Archon of Cruelty]] are mainstays. [[Thoughtseize]] is often cut from the UB shell, given the additional interaction they have in [[Daze]] and [[Force of Will]]. I have also seen some UB lists cut [[Dark Ritual]], but most do run both [[Dark Ritual]] and [[Lotus Petal]].

How do you deal with [[Veil of Summer]]? If I cast a [[Veil of Summer]] in response to one of your hand disruption spells, how do you typically proceed? Can you win the game on a turn where The EPIC Storm pilot has cast [[Veil of Summer]]?

[[Veil of Summer]] is an extremely strong card against all Reanimator shells. If my opponent casts a [[Veil of Summer]] on the turn I am trying to combo, it makes it a lot harder for me to win because so much of my deck is hand disruption. At that point, I would have to look at trying to reanimate either a [[Chancellor of the Annex]] to make it harder for them to storm off, an [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]] on red to stop [[Burning Wish]], or if you’ve got one, [[Sire of Insanity]] to dump their hand. Without any of these cards, you’re in deep trouble and most likely dead next turn.

Do you have a specific sideboard plan for The EPIC Storm (e.g., bringing in copies of [[Serenity]] or [[Dauthi Voidwalker]] to slow down our gameplan), or are you just trying to execute your combo as quickly as possible? Do you have specific creatures (like [[Chancellor of the Annex]] or [[Sire of Insanity]]) that you bring in against decks like TES? Does this vary on the play vs. on the draw?

Against The EPIC Storm, I like trying to stay as fast as possible because they typically don’t run graveyard hate, so I can often win on turn two. If you know for a fact your opponent is on [[Leyline of the Void]], I would definitely bring in [[Serenity]] or [[Show and Tell]], but the vast majority of TES lists aren’t on this card.

I always bring in [[Chancellor of the Annex]] and [[Sire of Insanity]] against The EPIC Storm, but I wouldn’t bother with [[Dauthi Voidwalker]] or [[Serenity]] as both are too slow. I cut [[Archon of Cruelty]] and [[Serra’s Emissary]], as neither does much in this matchup.

How do you feel about the sideboard plan of [[Show and Tell]] (or to a lesser extent, cards like [[Stronghold Gambit]])? Is this a common plan for all-in, BR Reanimator shells? Should The EPIC Storm expect this to come in post-board, or will Reanimator typically stick to its main gameplan?

I think [[Show and Tell]] and [[Stronghold Gambit]] are a good sideboard plan for a lot of the format, and I would expect most BR Reanimator pilots to have them in their sideboard. I would not expect them to come in against TES, however, as they slow the deck down on average. That said, some pilots really fear [[Leyline of the Void]], so don’t be shocked if you see one of these cards.

[[Chancellor of the Annex]] (a card that can disrupt The EPIC Storm’s gameplan, especially if we don’t have access to [[Veil of Summer]]) appears to have fallen off in popularity in recent months. Is this accurate? Should the TES pilot still be thinking about [[Chancellor of the Annex]], particularly post-board?

Yes, [[Chancellor of the Annex]] has fallen off quite a lot recently, but I do know people that still play it in the sideboard (some even in the main), so I wouldn’t say it’s completely gone. So yes, the TES pilot should absolutely still be playing around the possibility of [[Chancellor of the Annex]], especially post-board.

How do you think The EPIC Storm matchup compares to other combo decks such as Oops! All Spells, Ad Nauseam Tendrils, [[Doomsday]], etc?

I think a lot of the combo matchups depend on play vs. draw. If you are on the play, you will very often win game one due to them not having interaction most of the time. [[Doomsday]] does run interaction, so it’ll depend on whether or not they have it. I feel that The EPIC Storm is easier then Oops! All Spells and [[Doomsday]], but harder then Ad Nauseam Tendrils (as ANT often doesn’t have access to main-deck [[Veil of Summer]] like TES does).

Meanwhile, Oops! All Spells runs [[Leyline of Sanctity]] in the board, which hurts us whether we are on play or draw. At least we can beat [[Veil of Summer]] on the play. [[Doomsday]] often runs [[Leyline of the Void]], [[Force of Will]] and [[Force of Negation]] post-board, which can be hard to beat together, and they can protect their own combo from hand disruption with [[Brainstorm]].

Post-board, should The EPIC Storm pilot expect a fairly consistent turn-one reanimation (given our lack of countermagic and graveyard hate)? Should we be hard mulliganing for a turn-one kill or [[Echo of Eons]], or do hands that require some sculpting (particularly those that can protect themselves with [[Veil of Summer]]) have play?

You should expect BR Reanimator players to aggressively mulligan a turn-one kill against The EPIC Storm. If your opponent keeps seven cards, I would probably recommend mulling for a turn-one kill (though admittedly I’m not an expert on how well or poorly TES mulligans). [[Veil of Summer]] is definitely nice to have, but sometimes isn’t enough on its own.

Mulliganing as The EPIC Storm against BR Reanimator can feel extremely painful – if we aren’t able to win immediately, we’ll have a (shrinking) pool of cards that can get picked apart by hand disruption. This is especially true on the draw, before we can even have [[Veil of Summer]] online. Should we ever expect to dodge turn-one hand hate, or should we assume that any hand on the draw is losing its best card (or two)?

You should assume you are losing one card on average, potentially as many as two. You should always play to win, which is a common mistake players often make. Players often play to survive, but surviving does not mean you will win. If you have the option of a six-card hand that is weak to hand disruption or mulliganing to five random card, you should probably take the six and hope your opponent doesn’t have it. I can imagine mulling to five being a death sentence for TES in this matchup.

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

The biggest mistake would be keeping hands that are slow and do not have [[Veil of Summer]]. Against BR Reanimator, you cannot keep the same hands you keep against other decks. You need to be fast, and [[Veil of Summer]] is important to protect yourself against hand disruption as well.

BR Reanimator players’ biggest mistake as a whole is keeping slower hands, especially on 6-7 cards. BR Reanimator pilots need to mulligan more and understand their deck can mulligan extremely well against non-interactive decks. Many players see a seven-card hand with a [[Faithless Looting]] and keep no matter what. Meanwhile, I have won plenty of games on a mulligan to three. Don’t be afraid to mulligan.

Any final thoughts or comments? Any plugs or shoutouts?

In conclusion, I’d say the matchup is good for BR Reanimator if you’re running targeted threats like [[Sire of Insanity]] or [[Iona, Shield of Emeria]]. Otherwise, I think the matchup is pretty play / draw dependent.

I would like to take a moment to thank John Shindledecker for joining Through the Looking Glass and giving some great context on the BR Reanimator matchup!

Until next time, keep counting to ten.