Reanimating in Arizona

I will be focusing on the Legacy series that has been running this year. I will discuss the decks that I have played over the 7 tournaments I have played in, and talk about the different matchups, sideboard options, and my opinions on the different deck options out there. Most of my focus will be on Reanimator, as it is the deck I have played in most of these tournaments.

Unfortunately, I missed the January event. It was my birthday weekend and I spent it hanging out with family. Come Februrary, I was ready to play and borrowed Shardless BUG from Nathan Cardinell. He is one of the few big Legacy collectors in Arizona that lend out multiple decks to people for tournaments. Others include both Jason and Jeff Abong, along with Jim Gorz. Without these people, none of these Legacy events would be the same. For me personally, without borrowing a deck, the options that I would have would extremely small and switching decks would rarely be an option.

Fortunately for me, Nathan has always given me different options on what deck I want to play and I had been playing Shardless BUG for quite awhile. On the other hand, I was not playing it as well as I could have been. I already think through too many lines of plays, so the grindy nature of the deck, in addition to the amount of shuffling, making Brainstorm decisions, I could not finish the control matchups quick enough and dropped after going 0-1-2.

If there was a way to reduce the time it takes to shuffle your own deck and for your opponent to shuffle your deck, then it might be better for me to play a grindy deck. After the February event, I decided it was time to switch to a quicker deck that I could focus more time on specific plays and not have to worry about going into time. This is the list that I ran for March:

5th-8th Place – Alex Tamblyn – BW Stoneblade

Creatures (10)
Dark Confidant
Stoneforge Mystic
Tidehollow Sculler

Spells (31)
Swords to Plowshares
Hymn to Tourach
Liliana of the Veil
Lingering Souls
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Zealous Persecution
Lotus Petal
Chrome Mox
Umeawa's Jitte
Sword of Fire and Ice

Lands (19)
Marsh Flats
Polluted Delta
Snow-Covered Swamp
Snow-Covered Plains
Sideboard (15)
Rest in Peace
Zealous Persecution
Enlightened Tutor
Seal of Cleansing
Oblivion Ring
Sword of Feast and Famine
Phyrexian Revoker
Ethersworn Canonist

This deck looked like my style of deck. I love Thoughtseize in Legacy because it gives me all of the information that I need to make what I feel like the best plays are. I did make top8 in this event but unfortunately ran into Bobby Greene and his Tin Fins deck. This matchup was brutal for me. I specifically remember that even the game I had the perfect draw, I Thoughtseize his possible turn 2 Griselbrand, and instead he draws a card and turn 1s it. My plan was turn 1 Thoughtseize, then I can turn 2 Revoker naming Griselbrand and so even if he does get Griselbrand, he cannot draw cards off it, and then my turn 3 was Liliana. Unfortunately the whole plan got wrecked.

I did not mind losing to a bad matchup and even lost to Bobby the next week at SCG LA where we played the same matchup and he beat me even worse than the first time. The updated list if I were to run this again would include:

  • 4 Dark Ritual
  • 4 Bitterblossom
  • 4 Liliana of the Veil
  • 4 Hymn to Tourach
  • 4 Thoughtseize
  • 0 Elspeth

Dark ritual gave some really good turn 1 plays, and even allowed me to play and equip Jitte off just 2 lands which was extremely powerful.

Reanimator Phase Begins – April, ManaWerx – Phoenix (Split in finals)

After getting knocked off by Tin Fins in back to back weekends, I decided to switch it up again. I was looking for a fun deck that I could pilot and know I could win most of my matches if I played well. Nathan suggested Reanimator and gave me a list that we found online. We only made slight sideboard changes. Reanimator has been extremely fun to play over the last 5 events. I’ve made some minor maindeck changes, but most of my changes has been in my sideboard and in my sideboard plan. Here is the list I played:

Creatures (7)
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Tidespout Tyrant
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Spells (37)
Force of Will
Careful Study
Show and Tell
Lotus Petal

Lands (16)
Underground Sea
Polluted Delta
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Sideboard (15)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Pithing Needle
Inkwell Leviathan
Chain of Vapor
Echoing Truth
Show and Tell
Coffin Purge
Crippling Fatigue

I believe that the original list had City of Traitors in the sideboard, but I had never played the deck and had no interest in playing it if I did not know why I was playing it, so I threw in some other cards to fill the sideboard. The Bloodghast was in there as a way to fight Liliana by using Entomb with a fetch land up. It turns out that the City of Traitors were  there to use with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Show and Tell versus control matches.

This sideboard is meant to be an Entomb friendly sideboard. Using it to search up Crippling Fatique to kill Deathrite Shamans, but I did not like clogging the deck up with cards that required me Entombing to find. I also fell in love with Lotus Petal and have been running 4 of them and 3 Thoughtseize since then. Petal is the only way the deck can turn 1, so having 4 maindeck is great.

I end up squeaking into 8th place and and fought through Top 8 and Top 4 despite being on the draw versus Burn and 12post. Kai and I decided to split because it was late at night. His Top 4 match versus Nathan took an extremely long time. He had to get to his last 3 cards to find his wear/tear to win their match.

May – Amazing Discoveries – Tucson (Top 16)

This event was great because there was a PTQ earlier at the same location. I scrubbed out of the PTQ with my evenly spread 5 color sealed pool, and the Reanimator list didn’t change much except a couple Darkslick Shores because Nathan was short some Underground Seas (slacker). I definitely made some mistakes in this tournament. One mistake included ignoring the fact that I could reanimate his Deathrite Shaman. Usually it is not necessary to do that, but my hand had multiple Reanimates and I was mana screwed, so it was a no-brainer. I just did not have the experience with the deck and it was one of those mistakes that I will not make again. I barely missed Top 8 and prepared for the next event.

June – Crusaders’ Retreat – Phoenix (Split in finals)

I once again split this tournament in the finals. This time it was with Riad Mourssali. Riad is an extremely great player. I have known him most of my 16 years playing Magic. We played versus each other all the time back in the old AZ Gamers days. The changes that I made to the deck was the addition of 3x Massacre in the sideboard, along with Inkwell Leviathan to use versus blue/white based decks that only have Swords to Plowshares + Jace to deal with my threats. I also added Ashen Rider to the main deck for this tournament. The Massacres have become a staple but I have dropped them to 2 since then to make room for other stuff.

July – Pop Culture Paradise – Tempe (Top 16)

Surprisingly, I ran into no really bad matchups this tournament. Round 1 and 2 were wins versus Manaless dredge. Round 3 I lost a very close one to Nathan Cardinell and his Mono Red Blood Moon deck. Round 4 I lost to BUG splash white for Meddling Mage. The Mages along with Gitaxian Probe, got the best of me and even after a big Massacre, I could not draw a 3rd mana for my 2 Show and Tells.

I won the next couple rounds and ended up 12th place. I tried Spell Pierce in the sideboard for this event but that did not work. One reason behind trying it was that if you ever search an island out, that island does nothing on the turn you Entomb + Reanimate, so I thought having Spell Pierce would help. I quickly went back to Duress and went for a longer game versus the decks that boarded in 10 cards versus me.

August – Play or Draw – Avondale (Top 8)

Play or Draw is a new store in Avondale. One of its owners, Joe Weber, has been a friend for 12+ years. He is an old school magic player and the store is very clean with nice tables and chairs. I wish it was close enough to go to during the week, but I do not mind the 45 minute drive on the weekends.

The major change here was adding Inkwell Leviathan to the maindeck and Grave Titan to the sideboard. I had the Grave Titan in the July event too and have sided it in a few times but have not played it yet. I think if I add City of Traitors back to the sb, I will find myself casting Grave Titan versus control.

I started off with a draw versus UWR Miracles, one of my worst matchups. It could have easily been a loss because in g2 he had Rest In Peace and Grafdiggers Cage on the board. I had both my Pithing Needles out on his Jace and Top and was looking for Show and Tell. Eventually I draw it, use Ashen Rider to exile Rest In Peace. At the end of his next turn, Echoing Truth his Cage and Entomb + Reanimate a Grisselbrand to barely win before time expired.

I get a 2nd draw and end up 2-0-2 and play versus PJ Melies. I mistake his turn 1 Glimmerpost to mean he was on blue green 12Post so I Reanimate Iona naming green instead of Reanimating Grisselbrand. I probably should have put Griselbrand into play but I was trying to stop Crop Rotation from wrecking me by allowing him to get Karakas. Turns out he was playing Post MUD and is able to put down Metalworker and the turn before he dies, Metalworkers for 12-14 mana and drops Spine to kill Iona and plays Sundering Titan.

He wins a 2nd game and generously conceded to me, knowing that no 2-2 was going to make Top 8. I was grateful for that because the match next to us had the exact same scenario and the 2-2 player took the win and dream crushed the other 2-0-2. There would have been no hard feelings if he took the win, it was just a very nice thing of him to do and I probably would have done the same if it were reversed.

I played versus Jund in the last round, which is a better match than Delver. I got pretty good hands g1 and g3 and Iona + Griselbrand each won a game for me. G2 he turn 1 Thoughtseized me, t2 played 2 Deathrite Shamans, and t3 played Scavenging Ooze. But he had to mulligan to 5 on our game 3 and I put Griselbrand into play on turn 1. His girlfriend was pretty upset at him for conceding to my turn 1 Griselbrand.

Charles was my Top 8 opponent and he was playing his Blue Green Infect deck. All 3 of our games were extremely close but he bested me with 3 Invigorates game 2 and 3 Force of Wills game 3. I was happy that he went on to win the tournament and my loss was to the winner.

The favorite moment for me in this tournament was Reanimating a True-name Nemesis and using it to block Batterskull + Jitte. I had 2 great Reanimates on opponent’s creatures because I was aware of it after the Deathrite Shaman mistake months prior.

Reanimator – Matchups/Sideboard

After playing this deck in 5 straight Legacy events, I have learned a great deal about most of the decks in the format. The decks that I rather not play versus are decks like UWR Miracles, Delver, and Death & Taxes. Unfortunately, these are 3 of the most played decks, but there are enough people playing, that you will run into plenty of good matchups. It is about sideboard cards and knowing your game plan in games 2 and 3. Your game plan changes from being on the play and being on the draw. In addition, it is important to learn your bad matchups. I feel much better versus UWR Miracles than I did months ago.

For example, versus UWR miracles, if I win game 1, my sb plan looks something like this:

  • +1 Thoughtseize
  • +3 Duress
  • +2 Pithing Needle
  • +1 Ashen Rider
  • +1 Grave Titan
  • +1 Echoing Truth
  • +1 Void Snare/Chain of Vapor
  • +2 Show and Tell

Yes it looks like a bunch of cards, because it is. Sometimes I bring in 14 cards if I know they are playing Meddling Mages and Stoneforge Mystic because Massacre and Elesh Norn become great. The cards I take out vary, but the gist looks like something like this:

  • -3 Reanimate
  • -3 Lotus Petal
  • -2 Ponder
  • -1 Elesh Norn
  • -1 Griselbrand
  • -2 Careful Study

I used to leave the Reanimates in, but found myself having them as dead cards. I never wanted to Reanimate Grisselbrand when I knew I would just draw 7 and then it dies and every other Reanimate becomes completely dead. On the draw, you do not mind playing the slower game and use Duress to get rid of their answers and also knowing their hand gives you the information you need to know for what to Exhume or Show and tell into play. You do not want to run into their Karakas when you could just win with a non Legend, but if their answer is Swords to Plowshares, then you bring out Inkwell Leviathan.

When you are on the play, you can go more aggressive because they only have Force of Will for your turn 1. And you also get to Duress or Thoughtseize them turn 1 if you don’t have the land + Lotus Petal + Entomb + Reanimate. It is just important to not dump too many creatures in your graveyard for no reason, or else Rest In Peace will wreck you.

Deathrite Shaman

Everyone seems to be running 4x of these guys. It is almost like he is the best 1 drop in creature in the game… oh wait he is. People often ask me how do I get past Deathrite Shaman? The answer is quite simple. You either reanimate while it has summoning sickness, or you wait till you get Careful Study + Exhume. You discard 2 targets, cast Exhume, and let them exile one of them. Another great trick is Exhume, let them exile a target, and then cast Entomb and find any target you want.

Your opponent will often think they can just keep Deathrite Shaman up and you cannot win, so they are forced to slow their game down in order to keep green + Deathrite Shaman up 100% of the time. This allows you to set up the Exhume plan, or find Pithing Needle, or simply use the Show and Tell option.

Other Matchups

Most of the fair decks lose horribly to Reanimator. Decks that I do not mind playing versus are decks like High Tide, Elves, Jund, Affinity, Burn, Belcher, Goblins… and other random decks. You just have to expect sideboard hate and try your best to win game 1. Most of the decks I named, don’t have a great sideboard plan for Reanimator. Cage is okay but it’s not as good as Rest In Peace.

High Tide brings in counters, but their deck taps out most turn 1/2’s to cast Ponders, so you can either combo off and Iona on blue with Force of Will back up, or use Thoughtseize + Duresses to take their important pieces. Elves is another deck that scoops to Iona. Elesh Norn also makes Elves, Affinity, and Goblins scoop. Iona stops decks such as High Tide, Elves, Burn, Belcher, and Goblins and is well worth playing main deck in my opinion.

Turn 1s and Mulligans

People have asked me about what hands to keep or not keep. I also struggle with this on the non obvious hands. I have learned that in certain situations, you just have to go for it. I have kept enough hands that consist of:

Land + Lotus Petal + Careful Study + Reanimate + Ponder/Brainstorm

I felt like sometimes you just have to get lucky and hope to hit a creature in this situation. If you are on the play versus a delver deck, letting them play a land and have Spell Pierce + Daze as options, can often end poorly. More conservative players will just play the ponder/brainstorm and find a creature + hand removal. Sometimes I get there, sometimes I do not. But even if I miss, I did not do anything that stops me from comboing off later.

The best turn 1s have been land + 2 Lotus Petal + Entomb + Exhume. If you have Force of Will + blue card, it is very hard to lose this game. Getting Griselbrand and not having to pay 8 life means you get an extra 7 cards.

Non Turn 1

My favorite non turn 1 combo hands usually consist of fetchland + Brainstorm + Entomb. Most decks cannot Brainstorm turn 1 and shuffle their deck. Entomb allows you to end of turn, fetch Underground Sea, cast Brainstorm, and then on your upkeep, use Entomb to shuffle your deck.

Often times against decks like High Tide, even if I have the turn 1, I will Thoughtseize them first to clear the way, because their only chance of winning is having a counterspell. It is worth waiting a turn because High Tide usually kills on turn 4. So a turn 2 Iona is just as good as turn 1.

What deck to play

People are often looking for a deck to play in Legacy. My advice is usually dependent on if they have access to expensive cards, and also if they are more of a combo player or a creature/control player. In my opinion, the best legacy decks are, Delver (RUG/UWR/BUG), Death & Taxes, UWR Miracles (Even though I refuse to play it). Coincidentally, all these decks are good versus Reanimator.

There really are very few bad options out there. Playing one of the “best” decks will not guarantee that you do well in every event. Legacy seems to be pretty balanced in tournaments that have more than 20 people. I strongly suggest watching Legacy coverage and finding a deck that looks fun to you and mastering that deck.

I have thought about switching decks, but the learning curve on the other top decks is not worth the switch. I have made enough mistakes while playing Reanimator, and have learned from those mistakes. If I switch to a new deck, I will make new mistakes, and that is not what I want to do in tournaments that matter.

Two more events

Hopefully I see everyone at The Geekery in Flagstaff this weekend, and September 6th at Desert Sky Games for the Championship event. With my 3rd top 8 over the last 5 events with Reanimator, I am sitting at 30 points and an hoping to take down the Flagstaff tournament and get a Top 8 at the Championship tournament next month. As of now, I am still looking for a car ride up to Flagstaff. Those mountains are brutal and I do not trust my car. I am hopeful that as the week progresses, people will start making plans to drive up.

For more information on any of these events, here is the direct link to the Legacy series page:

Anyone questions or comments, message or tweet me

Twitter – @Ctalbus

– Alex Tamblyn

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