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.
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]].
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.
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]].
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.
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]].
[[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.
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.
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.
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.
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]].
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.
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.
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.
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.