Last week I wrote about BG Dredge: a graveyard based deck that had a "reanimator" feel to it but didn't do any actual reanimating. At the end of my article I posted a Junk Reanimator decklist that made Top 16 of a Magic Online Premier event. The deck was created by Brent Bartholomew, known as shadowinthedark on Magic Online. Here's the list.
I had a chance to talk to Brent about his deck and get some insights on playing it. He named the deck "Whippin' A's" because the deck's main win condition is Whipping back your Angels, Advisors, and Avatars. We aren't Makin' Krakens over here but I'm always a fan of a clever deck name.
I've been playing this deck online for about a week now and it's a lot of fun. The deck is a bit clunky and capable of getting some awkward draws, but if we are able to survive to the late game we will have a hard time losing. This deck plays very powerful seven drops that can completely dominate a board and will either win you the game outright or give you such a commanding lead that your opponent will have a hard time recovering. If you play a second seven drop the following turn, then the game is likely over.Card Choices and Explanations
The downside of this deck is that it's very slow and takes a lot of work to set up. You will usually be spending the first two turns playing your Sylvan Caryatids, Satyr Wayfinders, and Commune with the Gods. Sylvan Caryatid is your best play on turn two, hands down. In a deck as slow as this one, being one turn faster is crucial. In fact, I've lost games where I didn't draw a Caryatid and always felt like I was a turn behind. The ramp is that important.
When you don't draw your Caryatid, you need to make sure your hand consists of lots of early plays. Lotleth Troll is a must in the early game, as he allows you to survive against aggro decks and gives you a discard outlet for when you don't draw ways to fill up your graveyard. You never want to get your seven drops stuck in your hand against a fast opponent because you'll usually die before you're even able to play them. Against some decks, Lotleth Troll is not a turn two play but rather a turn three play. I'd rather play a Satyr Wayfinder on turn two and the Troll on turn three with Regeneration mana up if I'm up against an opponent with lots of removal or burn. Trolls are terrible in multiples and although it's great early, you never want to draw more than one. I've been happy with two Trolls in the deck.
We have eight cards that are used to fill up our graveyard: four Satyr Wayfinder and four Commune with the Gods. You may notice that Grisly Salvage did not make the cut. I love the versatility of Grisly Salvage and would love to get a few in there. First, it flips five cards, which is much better than flipping over four in the Wayfinder's case. Salvage is also great at any stage of the game. In the early turns it can find you the lands you need but later on it can find you a game winning creature. Commune with the Gods is not necessarily better, but it's much different. The biggest difference is that with Commune, you don't have to take any cards into your hand. I remember back when I was playing Junk Reanimator in Pre-Theros Standard and getting some awkward Grisly Salvage flips of a bunch of spells, Unburial Rites, and the one creature I needed to Reanimate. I was forced to put that creature into my hand and it would usually cost me the game. That scenario will never happen with Commune with the Gods. Commune also lets you put Whip of Erebos in your hand, which is something that Salvage can't do and is pretty awesome. A downside of Commune with the Gods is that you can't find a land with it, which means that two land hands that are unkeepable with Commune with the Gods may be amazing hands with Grisly Salvage in its place. It's a tough call as to which card is better and I would actually prefer to play both.
Our reanimation spells are Rescue from the Underworld, Obzedat's Aid, and Whip of Erebos. The best of the three is easily Whip of Erebos because everything you Reanimate with it gets lifelink and haste. The lifelink will help you win races against aggressive decks and the haste will give control decks nightmares. Whip also allows you to buyback all of your creatures with come into play abilities to get another use out of them. Whip of Erebos, unlike the other reanimation spells, is vulnerable to Detention Sphere, Revoke Existence, and other similar removal spells which is something to keep in mind when deciding which reanimation spell to play.
Rescue from the Underworld is a card that takes a lot of work to set up but is very powerful when it works. You need a creature to be in play in order to cast Rescue, and that may be very difficult against some decks. If you can't keep a creature on the board, this card will just sit in your hand and do nothing. On the plus side, Rescue is an instant which means you can cast it in response to your opponent's removal or cast it on your opponent's end step in order to play around Counterspells. Late in the game, Rescue is just insane. You can sacrifice your creature with an "enters the battlefield" effect such as Sylvan Primordial and then return it and another creature to play. That is some great value.
Finally, we have Obzedat's Aid. This card is pretty self-explanatory as it's just a five mana reanimation spell. The interesting thing about this card is that it can return any permanent, not just a creature, so you can return your Whip of Erebos to play if you need to. You can even return a land, which seems like a terrible play but if it ramps you from five mana to seven it can actually let you cast your Angels and Sylvan Primordials a turn earlier.The Creatures
The prime reanimation targets are Angel of Serenity and Sylvan Primordial. Angel of Serenity serves two purposes in the deck. One is to be a one-sided Wrath of God and the other is to gain some card advantage when the Angel dies. Against some matchups, such as creature decks, Angel of Serenity will just ruin their day. Not only will they have a 5/6 flyer to deal with, but you will remove three of their best creatures from play. However you may want to play more defensively against decks such as Monoblack or Esper. Against them, it's better to remove your own creatures from your graveyard to give you some insurance for when they destroy your Angel.
Sylvan Primordial is another great reanimation target for this deck. His Enters the Battlefield ability can hit lands, Detention Spheres, Planeswalkers, and Whip of Erebos just to name a few. The creature itself is also pretty sizable as a 6/8 with reach, and grabbing a forest out of your deck isn't too bad either.
Obzedat, Ghost Council is another great card for this deck. He is really hard to kill as a lot sorcery speed removal can't touch him and most instant speed removal such as Doom Blade and Ultimate Price can't target him either. This guy gives most Esper decks nightmares because unless they are playing Hero's Downfall, the only way they can stop him is by countering it or casting Azorius Charm. Whip of Erebos and Obzedat is a great combo that will result in an unkillable Obzedat. When you activate Whip, the Obzedat gains a delayed triggered ability that will cause you to exile him at end of turn. Obzedat himself has a triggered ability that causes you to exile him as well. If you put the Whip trigger on the stack first followed by the Obzedat trigger, you will never have to exile the Obzedat permanently.
I've already talked about the roles of Lotleth Troll and Sylvan Caryatid, but the one creature that doesn't really add much to the deck in my opinion is Courser of Kruphix. Courser is a solid guy that can gain you some life and maybe a few extra cards, but he really isn't necessary in this deck. I think most players fall into the trap of "I'm playing a green Sylvan Caryatid deck, so I have to play Courser of Kruphix." It is an early creature that you can sacrifice to Rescue from the Underworld, but besides that it doesn't help you achieve the deck's goals. We want cards that help us fill up our graveyard, big threats to Reanimate, and reanimation spells. I don't think this guy is needed.The Sideboard
The first card I want to talk about is Sin Collector. I have been loving this card against Esper decks. The Esper matchup can be tough because you play a lot of low impact cards that your opponent can just ignore, and only a few cards that they have to deal with. Usually you will not draw enough must-counter cards and you will get overwhelmed by your opponent's Sphinx's Revelations. Throw Sin Collector into the mix and now you have three more spells that your opponent has to deal with. They either have to counter it or lose their best instant or sorcery. Combine this guy with a couple of Thoughtseizes and the Esper matchup is a piece of cake.
Next up is Golgari Charm, a very versatile card that is good against a lot of different decks. Giving -1/-1 to all creatures is the least relevant mode of the three. The aggressive decks of the format don't play very many X/1s so it's really unlikely that this card will get you value against beatdown decks. However, the other two modes are awesome. There are a lot of relevant enchantments that you want to destroy, the most important being Detention Sphere, but killing Underworld Connections, Nighthowler, Herald of Torment, or Whip of Erebos is pretty good too. The final mode of Golgari Charm can save your creatures from Supreme Verdict or random spot removal spells. Golgari Charm is the perfect card against Esper or Monoblack.
Lastly we have our anti-creature package. The hardest matchup for this deck is actually fast aggro decks so we have a whopping nine cards against them. Bile Blight and Doom Blade speak for themselves. They are simple two-mana removal spells that are good at doing what they do. The more questionable card is Lifebane Zombie. Lifebane Zombie comes in against decks with green or white creatures, and it's even fine against red devotion decks because it hits Burning Tree Emissary and Boros Reckoner. The body it leaves behind can trade with most creatures or soak up a burn spell which is one less piece of burn pointed at your head. However, Lifebane Zombie doesn't do anything against the fastest aggro decks, Monored and Monoblack Aggro, our worst matchups. A spell like Drown in Sorrow might be a bit better because it can take care or their entire board.Changes
While I really like this deck, to me it's still just a turn too slow. I really think more ramp is needed and see no problem adding a Elvish Mystics to the deck. Playing more ramp can give us explosive draws and casting a seven drop on turn five becomes more of a possibility. One downside is the elf only produces green mana which can make casting spells like Obzedat and Angel of Serenity a bit awkward. Adding four elves to the deck will make our curve a bit lower which means that we can cut a few lands. 26 lands is a lot of lands in a deck that plays eight mana ramp creatures. Adding early creatures to the deck also makes Rescue from the Underworld much better.
Grisly Salvage is another great addition to the deck. I think we need more ways to mill ourselves and it does an amazing job at finding the right lands we need. It can help smooth out our draws and is an additional spell to cast in the early game.
Three Whip of Erebos is just too many. They are legendary so we never want to draw multiples. We see a lot of cards in our deck throughout a game and we can grab it with Commune to the Gods or return it with Obzedat's Aid. I don't see a reason to play a third copy.
As for the sideboard, I don't think the Lifebane Zombies help us in our worst matchups, so those were the first to go. I wanted to add Thoughtseize because they help the control matchup tremendously and work very well with the Sin Collectors. We desperately need a way to stop early aggression and Drown in Sorrow does that perfectly. Drown in Sorrow doesn't combo very well with Elvish Mystic, so they should be sided out in those matchups.
Here's the revised list:
This revised list solves most of the problems that the original list had. The deck is a turn faster now and much less clunky. The addition of Grisly Salvages makes the deck more consistent and gives us a good chance of having something to Reanimate on turn five. More mana creatures allow us to cast our seven drops by turn five or six. Overall the deck plays out much more smoothly.
That's all I have for this week! Thanks a lot to Brent Bartholomew for your decklist and insights. This week I'll be with Frank Lepore at the TCGplayer Diamond 5k in Orlando so feel free to say hi if you're there. It should be a great event!
Melissa DeTorahttp://twitter.com/MelissaDeTora on twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook