10 Extended Decks in 10 Days – Reanimator

Continuing our two-week long Extended blow out, today we bring you Gadiel Szleifer, “Magic’s latest teenage bad boy.” Who better to guide you through the ins and outs of Reanimator for the upcoming PTQ season than the kid who took it to the Pro Tour Top 8?

I don’t know if I will show up at Grand Prix: Boston this coming weekend with Reanimator in my deck box – I really don’t. However, since I still believe Reanimator to be a top contender, I have worked on improving my list from Pro Tour: Columbus primarily for my personal success in the GP and while I’m at it, to tell you dear readers about the card choices and how to play and sideboard in each matchup.

I was obviously happy with how my Reanimator list performed at the PT, but it had certain flaws that need to be improved. I talked about them a bit in my PT: Columbus report, but in case you missed it, or didn’t read it out of sheer jealousy, I will fill you in. Anyway, the maindeck I am actually leaving the same, but the problems with the deck all lie in the sideboard. To give us a starting point, here is the sideboard I ran in the PT:

4 Smother

3 Phyrexian Negator

2 Gilded Drake

2 Show and Tell

1 Echoing Truth

1 Energy Flux

1 Energy Field

1 Cranial Extraction

The first problem is that this is simply a thirteen-card sideboard. Cranial Extraction is, at its best, a four-mana Coercion. I still brought it in against the decks it was supposed to be in against, but I would have preferred drawing a Duress or Cabal Therapy every time. Now that is stainsy, but not nearly as much as Energy Field. The card did literally nothing, and by the time I played against Red Deck Wins in the Top 8 (the matchup it was intended for) I didn’t even bring it in due to how bad it was.

The next card that should not be in the sideboard is Show and Tell, but not for the same reason as the aforementioned Extraction and Energy Field. Show and Tell is actually a very strong sideboard card against the Rock, and I did beat both Rock decks I faced. However, the matchup is really lopsided in your favor already, and that is the only matchup in which you bring in Show and Tell. Since I’m going to beat Rock anyway, I would rather use the sideboard slots for a tougher matchup where I will need them.

This brings me to my next point, which is what the sideboard was lacking. One of my losses in the Swiss was to Nick West’s Scepter-Chant deck, and with the lists as they were for the PT, that is a very hard matchup for me to win. However, game two where I randomly drew my one Echoing Truth for a Scepter, I did smash him. I am going to run three spells that can bounce Scepter instead of just one, especially since Nick did well and the deck will probably increase in popularity during PTQ season. As of right now, they are a pair of Echoing Truths and a Rebuild, which can double as Affinity hate – another deck that should increase in popularity thanks to Pierre Canali’s win.

The last deck I think will show up in bigger numbers because of the PT is the Life deck. Despite the fact that I lucked out Ryuchi Arita when we battled in round thirteen, his deck was the actual worst matchup for me in that entire tournament. Not only is his deck’s combo quicker than mine and just as redundant, but my deck literally can’t beat his while all he has to do to beat mine is go off himself within a few turns. This is not something we can stand for, so a False Cure is going to find its way into my sideboard. In case you are like me and bad with card names, that is crap rare from Onslaught that costs two Black mana and makes your opponent lose life instead of gain it the next time they would gain life. As far as I know, if you simply Vampiric Tutor for this card on turn 1 against Life and they can’t do anything at all (barring Chant out of their sideboard, which they probably did not board in) and you are free to kill them at your leisure.

The Smothers are by far the most important card in the sideboard. In fact, for a little while I considered moving them into the main deck and Duresses into the sideboard. The four are staying in for sure. Phyrexian Negator is also a great card and is incredible in the matchups where it comes in. Unfortunately, it is a bit more narrow than Smother and slots for one-of are in high demand, so I won’t be able to fit the fourth, but I’m going to stay with three for this weekend. The Energy Flux did exactly what it was supposed to do, but no more are necessary since there are effectively five with the Tutors. The Gilded Drakes didn’t do very much, but that is largely due to the fact that I did not play against any mirrors. Because of that, I’m a bit unsure as to how many I want. I do know that I want at least one to Tutor for, but since the slots are needed for other stuff and the Drake is a pretty narrow card, I am going down to one from the pair I had in Columbus.

This leaves us with the following juicy peach:

4 Smother

3 Phyrexian Negator

2 Echoing Truth

1 Rebuild

1 Energy Flux

1 False Cure

1 Gilded Drake

2 ?

The first extra slot is pretty easy. I removed Cranial Extraction, which comes in against combo decks such as Mind’s Desire and Aluren, and like I said, every time I drew it I would have preferred getting a Duress. I think it is pretty safe to say that the fourth Duress deserves that slot.

The last slot I am still unsure about, but right now I feel like the man for the job is Waterfront Bouncer. The reason being is that no other single card I could add would swing a matchup as much as the Bouncer would. In the mirror, if they didn’t bring in their Smothers – which they shouldn’t – beating a Waterfront Bouncer will be no easy task. It’s the only matchup it comes in for, but it swings that matchup enough to be worth it.

So as of now, if I play Reanimator in the GP, here is the list, with sideboard:


4 Putrid Imp

4 Akroma Angel of Wrath

3 Rorix Bladewing*

4 Careful Study**

4 Cabal Therapy

3 Duress

4 Exhume

4 Reanimate

4 Vampiric Tutor

1 Show and Tell

1 Sickening Dreams***

4 Brainstorm

4 Chrome Mox

4 Polluted Delta

4 Underground River

6 Swamp****

2 Island


4 Smother

3 Phyrexian Negator

2 Echoing Truth

1 Rebuild

1 Waterfront Bouncer

1 Gilded Drake

1 Energy Flux

1 Duress

1 False Cure

* As some may know, running the Rorixes over the standard Nishoba’s was considered quite unorthodox at the PT. I had my reasons then, and they still apply. If you would like to learn more about them, check out my PT report where I discuss the details on that choice.

** Careful Study, which is a pretty obvious fit in this type of Reanimator deck, is a card I’ve considered cutting for a while now. Jon Finkel once ran Hapless Researcher over the Studies and it seems like a decent idea – to the point that the new artifact Reanimator deck that premiered last week runs them. The Researcher can chump then be used, can serve as Edict fodder, and can even beat for a few points sometimes. The main argument for Study is that it lets you dig two cards deeper instead of one. The counterargument to that is that it doesn’t matter really because if you’re using either, you probably already have a gigantic guy in your hand already, since you wouldn’t randomly Study with no guy unless you were going to lose anyway. So what the right card? I’m not sure, but even though the arguments point to the Researcher, I don’t really have the juevos to just sub it in, so I’m sticking with Study.

*** Sickening Dreams is quite solid, and a top candidate for sideboard slots. It barely missed when I was remaking the deck this time, and I don’t plan to count it. If your local metagame has a lot of Goblins and Red Deck Wins or even White Weenie, consider adding extra copies in the sideboard.

The [card name=

**** And now I’m sure you’re wondering what I’d ever have to say about basic lands that would be worth starring. Well, I just wanted to point out that it is correct to run them over the legend lands from Champions, Shizo, Death’s Storehouse and Minamo, School at Water’s Edge because those can get Wastelanded. Yes, they are only worse against that one card, but it is one of the most important and most played cards in the format and the upside of those lands isn’t so exciting as to force their inclusion. To me this call seems obvious, and I hope it does to you too. I am just adding this because multiple people have told me I should be running those legend lands.

By now, I am sure you have figured out that this is not a Tim Aten article, and doesn’t have anything interesting or particularly humorous in it. Tim has had year’s to cultivate his amusing hatred of life, while I’m still banging away in high school. Thus, I figure that if you are still reading, you are the serious type and probably want me to give you some tips on how to play and sideboard against the important matchups.

Vs. Red Deck Wins

Despite the fact that I lost to it in the Top 8 of Columbus, this is actually Reanimator’s best matchup. Its pretty easy to see that game one they simply cannot beat Akroma, and sideboarded they do have an answer in Ensnaring Bridge, but Echoing Truth and/or Rebuilds make that answer temporary. While they can burn out your Rorix, it will usually still get in a decent amount of damage and they will have to use multiple resources to kill it. Usually, if they have a Bridge or multiples, you just bounce it then Therapy for it to get rid of any amount of Bridges they may have had and continue bashing with your guys. With all this in mind, the plan against this deck is very easy to follow: mindlessly try to get a creature – preferably Akroma – into play and attacking, because they can’t really deal with it. Your sideboarding is exclusively to combat their sideboarding. You do not bring in Smothers, which you might think at first glance. This is because their creatures don’t matter, the only thing that matters is you getting a creature in play and attacking unimpaired by a Bridge. The lone Duress is left in over the Show and Tell because it can randomly nab Bridges, is Black so it works with your Chrome Moxes (which is important against their Ports and Wasteland), and because the Show and Tell is not needed against a deck like this with no hand disruption.

-1 Show and Tell -2 Duress +2 Echoing Truth +1 Rebuild

Vs. U/G Madness

Whether this is a good matchup or not really comes down to how much they want to beat you. They could have four maindeck Waterfront Bouncers and three Drake, four Seal of Removal out of the board. In that case, you’re not winning. A list like Geoffrey Siron’s from the PT, however, is an excellent matchup, since it has nothing main and only two Bouncers in the board to combat the threats Reanimator poses. Yes, I lost that match, but that was because I threw game one and he randomly drew both of his Bouncers game two. Irrelevant, I say!

The problem here is that us Reanimator players can’t really control if they choose to beat us or not. The best we can do is have a solid game plan and sideboard plan, which is exactly what I’m about to give you. Game one, you just try to get a guy into play as quickly as possible. If they have a discard outlet in play, use Reanimate instead of Exhume if you can afford to do so. This is to prevent them from putting Waterfront Bouncer into play by discarding it and bringing it back with your Exhume. Also, playing around Daze is pretty important if you haven’t seen their hand with a discard spell. If they get a Bouncer in play, things get tricky because your only answer is the one Sickening Dreams. If this unfortunate situation occurs, try to sit back and set up a strong hand where you can Dreams and reanimate beaters all in one turn.

Games two and three are a lot more complicated. You have Smothers to deal with their Bouncers, but they may have more ammo. Remember Gilded Drake before going “all-in” with Akroma or Rorix. You also bring in your one Gilded Drake and Bouncer. If they play Bouncer and you can Drake it, then continue Bouncing your Drake and stealing their creatures for an easy win. A Bouncer of your own is just solid for buying time and containing their Bouncers. Show and Tell gets cut because it’s too slow and they don’t have discard, Dreams is now unnecessary since Smother is strictly better for killing Bouncers, Duress doesn’t have enough targets, and Exhume is not as good when they can insta-discard Drake or Bouncer to demolish you.

-1 Show and Tell -1 Sickening Dreams -3 Duress -1 Exhume + 4 Smother +1 Gilded Drake +1 Waterfront Bouncer

Vs. Rock

This is also a very good matchup. The key to this one is to play around Edict, since it’s the only way they can stop you. Try to clear the way with discard before getting a guy in play or just make sure you have a Putrid Imp you can sacrifice. All you sideboard is the extra Duress to stop Edicts and their discard. Scrabbling Claws or Nezumi Graverobber can be somewhat troublesome out of their sideboards, but they aren’t too hard to get around. If you think they are packing four Graverobbers, bringing in Smother might be right.

-1 Sickening Dreams +1 Duress

And You Thought Only Akroma's Boobs Bounced...

Vs. Desire

This is said to be a terrible matchup for Reanimator, and for a while, I believed it. On paper, it looks really bad. I mean, they’re a combo deck and they have Snap of all things. However, after playing out lots and lots of games of this matchup, it’s just not that bad. Reanimator is actually able to pull out just about half of the games. Each time they Snap a creature, sure they are getting two-for-one or whatever, but they are also using up a key part of their combo engine. Meanwhile, you chip away at their hand with discard and at their life total with random hits from your Rorixes, Akromas, and Imps. Basically, those random hits add up to twenty about as often as they don’t, making the matchup pretty even. The great thing is that this is before sideboard – if you know anything about anything, you are probably aware that Desire’s sideboard is full of Wish targets and doesn’t have almost anything to bring in. You, though, have some gas in the board with three Negators and the fourth Duress. If they are playing the Black version like Masashi’s, you want to bring in some amount of Smothers since Psychatog and Nightscape Familiar make for nice targets. If not, just keep their hand low and don’t worry about them bouncing your creatures because you get them in the long run your fair share of the time.

-1 Show and Tell -1 Rorix -2 Exhume +3 Phyrexian Negator +1 Duress

Vs. Life

As I said before, this is the worst matchup the Reanimator deck has. Game one, Reanimator has no game at all. That is sadder than some of the gruesome gang violence stories I’ve heard lately, but it’s true. You just have to get your guys in there and hope that they get really screwed.

Games two and three are a different story – I’d say these are fairly even. This still leaves the matchup as terrible, since you have an autoloss for game one, but you have a fighting chance after you bring in the four Smothers, False Cure, Waterfront Bouncer, and one of the Echoing Truths. The Duresses and Therapies get the cut in this matchup because their deck is too redundant for Therapy and their combo is too creature-based for Duress.

Anyway, in this matchup there is a very clear-cut game plan. If you have Vampiric Tutor in your opening hand, you use it for False Cure on turn 1 and sit on it, always leaving mana open to use it. Assuming the Life list in question is like the one played in the PT Top 8, they have no outs besides Chant which they may not even bring in. If you do not have the Cure or a Tutor, things get a little trickier. Now you have to try to battle their combo with Smothers and bounce. If they try to go off with Worthy Cause, a Smother is a total disaster for them. Total disasters for opponents are obviously good beats for us, so if they have no Sanctum in play you want to keep Smother mana up. Then, when they make a guy infinite toughness and play Worthy Cause, you respond my Smothering the infinite toughness guy. The Cause then forces them to sacrifice a creature, which will probably be their remaining En-Kor creature for a gain of one or two. This is three, count it, three-for-one.

It will be pretty easy to catch Life players with their pants down like this, especially in PTQ’s, since they are likely not to know about it. However, after you do it once, I would think they will be more careful and try to go off with the Sanctum. If they are showing a Sanctum, and you lack False Cure or Tutor, I will be honest and say you are probably going to lose. You have to try to bounce and Smother their creatures on your turn and prevent them from getting both combo pieces long enough to kill them or find False Cure. If this all fails and they go off, then that is. Hopefully you can stop them.

-3 Duress -4 Cabal Therapy +4 Smother +1 False Cure +1 Waterfront Bouncer +1 Echoing Truth

Vs. Affinity

This is another very straightforward matchup. It also happens to be largely in Reanimator’s favor. Blah, blah, just mindlessly get a guy into play they have no answers for it. Game two they might have Seal of Removal, so don’t be so quick to go “all-in” with a creature. You gain more than they do though, since Smother means you don’t randomly die to huge Arcbound Ravagers and Energy Flux and Rebuild are obviously just nuts.

-3 Duress -1 Show and Tell -1 Sickening Dreams -1 Cabal Therapy +4 Smother +1 Energy Flux +1 Rebuild

Vs. Scepter Chant

This is another really bad matchup for Reanimator. Game one you just have to try to get lucky, sort of like against Life. The good news is that it’s more likely for you to get lucky, since their combo is less redundant. But don’t count on it, you’re still way behind. The bad news, compared to the Life matchup, is that it doesn’t improve nearly as much after you sideboard. They only get a few Wrath of Gods, while you get a pair of Echoing Truths and Rebuild to deal with Scepters, the fourth Duress for additional disruption, and Negators, which are good beats but can be a liability against a deck like this with Fire / Ice. You take out the two one-ofs, four Putrid Imps and a Rorix. The Imps are not needed because there is no Edict to worry about and you are really in no hurry to get a creature out. I mean, you obviously want to, but your primary goal is to tear apart their hand and make sure the path is safe before trying to get a creature out. Lots of times, you just play an early Negator and when they counter it, you can use your Exhumes and Reanimates to get the Negator back in play rather than a six-power flyer. Playing against Scepter Chant with Reanimator is pretty mindless, so there’s not much to go into here. Just don’t be too disappointed when you lose this matchup, since you are coming in as a large dog.

Vs. Goblins

This a good matchup, and is somewhat similar to the one against Red Deck Wins. It is not as good as that one because they can, at times, beat a turn 2 or 3 Akroma, while Red Deck Wins literally can’t, but the matchup is still “positive EV.” If they are playing the version with Burning Wish, try not to leave your creatures chilling in the graveyard while you look for a way to Reanimate them. If you give them a window, they might Wish for a Reanimate of their own and you’ll find yourself staring down your own Akroma. The mono-Red version is easier, since you don’t have to worry about this or about Edict. Against mono-Red Goblins, you take out the useless Duresses for Smothers, but against Red/Black, you really want the fourth Duress. When gaming against Goblins with Burning Wish, you usually want to check out their hand with discard before making any big moves, since Burning Wish and Living Death can both cause problems. Against mono-Red you can act safely without worrying about what they might be holding, since odds are its some combination of land, Aether Vials, and goblins. Most Goblin builds don’t sport Ensnaring Bridge in the sideboard, but if they get you with it game two, you need to adjust to that by bringing the bounce for it.

vs. Red Black Goblins -1 Show and Tell +1 Duress

vs. Mono Red Goblins -3 Duress -1 Show and Tell +4 Smother

Vs. Mirror

Well, all there is to say is that most Reanimator decks don’t have Waterfront Bouncer in their sideboard. As long as they don’t, having it yourself is quite an edge. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you some great secret about the matchup that gives you a leg up on a person who hasn’t read this article. Basically, you want to try to kill them, but don’t put too many resources into animating one creature because using the legend rule to their advantage will let them kill it. Of course, you can kill their stuff with the legend rule as well so play smart. Never, ever leave guys sitting around in your graveyard because they can easily wind up on your opponent’s side of the table after they cast Reanimate.

After sideboarding, you have the Bouncer as well as an extra Duress, the Drake, the Negators, and Truths, which they will probably have as well. Try to go for Bouncer quickly, but make sure they don’t have Gilded Drake in their hand since stealing your Bouncer should be game. The cuts may seem random, but they actually make a lot of sense. Show and Tell and Exhume are obviously terrible, since in this matchup they are truly symmetrical cards. Cutting one each of Rorix and Akroma as opposed to, say, two Rorix is to mix up the creature base so you can come out on top of the Legend on Legend violence. The Study gets cut because you have fewer creatures to discard.

-1 Show and Tell -4 Exhume -1 Careful Study -1 Rorix -1 Akroma +3 Phyrexian Negator +2 Echoing Truth +1 Waterfront Bouncer +1 Duress +1 Gilded Drake

One final note about Show and Tell. As you can see, it comes out in almost every matchup. This could leave you wondering why it is in the deck at all. Well, despite the fact that the cards coming in for it in each matchup are better, there is nothing you can really have in that slot that is equally useful against everything. It is just solid as an extra way to put creatures in play and a good Tutor target if you have creatures in hand, but no way to discard or reanimate them. I don’t know if I am making sense on this one, but if not, just trust me that I know what I’m doing when I’m thinking about it in my head, and therefore you should leave the one copy in the main but board it out as noted above. If not, I guess that will just be your loss.

Well, there you have it. What to do and how to sideboard against all the decks in the PT Top 8 as well as against The Rock, which was the most popular deck but didn’t make it to Sunday. I hope this helps you guys with PTQ’s, GP’s, or whatever Wxtended tourney you might feel the need to bash in these days. If I missed anything you want to know about, feel free to email me ([email protected]) or pm me on Magic Online (Gadiel).

Gadiel Szleifer

“the new bad boy of magic” L

(according to Jon Becker, not me)