Battle Royale Round Six – The Second Coming

StarCityGames.com - Battle Royale!

Battle Royale! When this series was announced I was quick to jump onboard. As the fateful email finally arrived, I was extremely excited and thrilled to take part. But I had a problem: I had never played Constructed MTGO. What’s a guy to do?

Hello Magic players, how you doin’? Did you know that my last two articles could be the most reviled of all time? Seriously, it was like I was aiming for the ground instead of that whole “bullseye” nonsense.

But nevertheless, here we are: Battle Royale! When this series was announced I was quick to jump onboard. As the fateful email finally arrived, I was extremely excited and thrilled to take part.

But I had a problem: I had never played Constructed MTGO. What’s a guy to do?

The thing is, I always thought of MTGO as nothing more than a fun diversion – wouldn’t it be cool to have your collection online be as robust as your cardboard? That’s about as much as I would humor it. Unfortunately Wizards has drawn a line in the sand about where you stand in terms of the game: either you got a great cardboard collection or your online collection is Teh Nuts. Choose one! (Or get rich.)

Aside: The Great Barcode Idea

The reason I hate MTGO is because all my cardboard is essentially worthless there. But what if it wasn’t? What if going to a prerelease for Time Spiral would let me use all of those cards when it finally came out on MTGO a month later? (Another thing that kills me about MTGO.)

Here’s the idea: Use barcodes on the cards themselves. These unique identifiers could be read with any barcode reader (such as a CueCat – Google it), or Wizards could sell cheap USB barcode readers themselves.

When you buy a pack of cards, along the bottom edge is the barcode and the barcode number associated with it (in case you don’t have a barcode reader). They would setup barcode.wizards.com as an easy web-applet to look up the status of the card. There would only be two options: Entered or Not Entered.

A card could only be entered into MTGO one time, into a single account. You would, therefore, “cash out” a card digitally, yet it would still retain its cardboard Constructed (and casual) merit.

In Magic Online itself there would be a Scan Cards interface, where you could use your barcode reader for fast entry or manually type in the numbers themselves.

This way a card would be doubly valuable. First it would be worth it as a cardboard common/uncommon/rare and all that that implies (e.g. Dual Lands are always $20 bills). Second, it would worth it as a digital rare and all that that implies (i.e. that Dual Land would be worth an additional $8 or so, based on current digital pricing).

As cards age, they would retain their value due to their cardboard and their current online status. Cards will be judged on not only their Constructed merit, but their collectability on two scales: The online and the off.

This would bring a dynamic to the game that it currently lacks: how to bridge the gap between cardboard and digital objects. You would do away with that whole send-me-a-complete-set crap and have it be piecemeal based on the user’s choice. Either they register their cards and the cardboard loses value, or they don’t register them and so their real-life trading has more intrinsic value.

End Aside

So, where was I? Oh, yes – the deck I’m going to use on Monday. Quite simply, I’m up against no slouch. The man knows what’s going on, he knows how to play the game, he’s the frickin’ English National Champ for chrissakes. What can I bring that is unique, different, and competitive to a man like that? [Hah! – Craig, amused.]

Personally I’m in the “I wanna have fun with Magic” phase right now, meaning I’d rather see cool things happening than Crush My Opponent Mercilessly (but if a “fun” deck can actually do so, I’m more than happy to take it). This was the similar thinking of Mr. Joshua Claytor, but his uber-budget deck didn’t really work out.

Me? I’ve found something a little spicier. I began the search last week, where I took a long hard look at Warp World and thought about Eye of the Storm. Unfortunately, that’s too weird/iffy, and it causes interface nightmares. As I tried to look further, I found I simply didn’t have the funds available or the cards were just too expensive. Years of Apprentice and Magic Workstation had just spoiled me rotten: Where were my magical digital objects when I needed them?

But then I had an idea: fun, powerful, and consistent. Can it happen? Can it transcend the 25-ticket limit, can it go where no Battle Royale deck has gone before?

The question finally became this: Can Reanimator make a comeback?

I think it can. But the final decklist took a few tries to get right.

Firstly I spoke with my friend Zach (MTGO handle “luckzach”) about his thoughts on Reanimator. Doable?

“I’ve got a list I’ve been using for awhile,” he says, “it’s been doing pretty good.”

I asked him to send it along, and this is what I got:

U/B Reanimator

4 Compulsive Research
2 Sift
3 Slight of Hand
3 Tidings
3 Vigor Mortis
4 Zombify

4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Thought Courier
4 Tidespout Tyrant
2 Blazing Archon

4 Dimir Signet
3 Simic Signet

4 Dimir Aqueduct
7 Island
9 Swamp

After figuring out what cards I did and didn’t have from the above list, I began to deconstruct its power in terms of a Reanimator deck.

It had card draw in the form of Sleight of Hand, Sift, Thought Courier, and, of course, Tidings.

It ran one main win condition: Tidespout Tyrant. And that’s when I said “Tidespout Tyrant? Are you kidding me?”

Folks, he wasn’t kidding. Tidespout Tyrant in a format that is devoid of dragons and Angels of Despair is just ridiculous. According to Zach, you could “combo out” with draw spells and those signets and so on as to end the game in a hurry.

However, I didn’t feel this list was perfect – or even buildable – at first. It needed work.

Firstly, I hated Sift. I don’t like the card, period. I mean, you got a full suite of Compulsive Research, the best card drawing spell in the game right now, and with Tidings it seemed like overkill.

Matter of fact, as I playtested it, even Tidings seemed like overkill! Ugh!

So I had to infuse my own technology. First up was Remand. I consider this spell to be the best spell in Standard. No deck is “immune” to it. It’s ridiculously tough to play around, and in a game winning or losing situation, the guy who can stop the Wrath of God and draw a card and get to untap and do whatever he/she wants will simply end the game right then and there.

Goodbye Sift, hello Remand!

Second, I was a little skittish of only running six win conditions (those who consider Stinkweed Imp to be a win condition should stay after for detention). Why wasn’t there more? Why didn’t I have ways of winning faster? Why didn’t I run a full set of reanimation spells?

And, most importantly: How much was this going to cost?

After much tinkering and tooling, I came up with a list I was fairly happy with:

U/B Reanimator Part 2

3 Dimir Aqueduct
9 Island
8 Swamp

4 Blazing Archon
4 Compulsive Research
4 Dimir Signet
2 Ideas Unbound
4 Mana Leak
4 Remand
4 Thought Courier
4 Vigor Mortis
4 Zombify
4 Tidespout Tyrant

This list came to me in a few ways. First I researched all of the top Reanimator decks that did well this year (just use the incredible Deck Database and search for “Zombify”). This included such gems as Sift Through Sands that made a lot of sense as another discard outlet, but just seemed… janky.

After taking a long look at this deck and what did and did not work, I began to desire a variety of threats. My friend Chris suggested Kokusho. I suggested he rephrase his question. We were thinking budget here. He then explained to me how when he ran Reanimator for States ’05, which he was one win away from Top 8, that he would rely almost solely on his dual Kokushos for the win.

Why? Because Glare of Subdual would always keep it tapped down. Because Faith’s Fetters would render it dormant. Because when you had two out, you gained ten life and they lost ten life and a few more Zombifies later, you simply killed your opponent this way no matter what tapping madness was going on.

Let’s examine how ridiculous Tidespout Tyrant is in contrast: it handles Glare with ease (i.e. the deck that Craig won with last week) because it simply bounces it. It handles Vitu-Ghazi by returning it to its owner’s hand. It is a 5/5 flier, big enough to stop almost anything, and definitely bigger than a Watchwolf or a Loxodon Hierarch.

And when you have two Tidespout Tyrants on the board, just like when Chris ran his double Kokushos, you will almost certainly win. Matter of fact, any game in which I successfully got two Tidespout Tyrants into play would effectively end then and there.

So with that said, I went in search of a new fatty to add to the mix. I’ll show it to you a little later. But let’s discuss the other primary fatty of the deck first: Blazing Archon.

Blazing Archon is, if you’ve never seen it in play, a house. He needs to be completely removed from the game, or he wins it. This means that if your opponent is playing Devouring Light or Condemn, or you have the slightest inkling that they might be playing it, don’t you ever attack. Just wait (and bait) them out. Your opponent will be frustrated by their lack of any attack capabilities that they’ll likely make a mistake anyway.

Blazing Archon beats Glare of Subdual just by existing. Hard to argue with that.

But there was something Chris told me that stuck out: “Remember that amazing tech I had in the sideboard of my States deck?”

I searched my memory banks. They were empty. And I’m horrible at guessing games.

Then he told me. Two words that would forever change this deck:

Nezumi Graverobber.

Now, think about it: This is a creature that must be dealt with. He must die or he’ll flip and suddenly you’re paying five mana for endless Vigor Mortises and Zombifies. This includes their dead creatures after he’s flipped.

I can’t tell you how much fun it is to pay five mana for their Court Hussar just to get a free mini-Impulse out of it, and then do it again for five more. Graverobber is a creature that causes your opponent to use their removal differently, to play their creatures differently, and that is, to me, about as good as it gets in this environment.

At the end of your turn, put Tidespout Tyrant into play. Untap, win. There were so many games that went this way it’s scary. Quite simply, Nezumi Graverobber is the tech that time forgot. But now is his time to shine. Much like Summer Bloom, some things just need the right components to truly show how powerful they are.

So with that tech firmly in place, I moved a playset of anti-control to the sideboard and I’m left with this list for Monday:

Now this includes a single, solitary Coldsnap card: Deathmark. Why only one? Because I’m poor and don’t have money to buy any packs, and my two drafts gave me only a single Deathmark (I blame my love of Arctic Nishoba). It’s an amazing sideboard card, obviously, and what I wouldn’t give for a playset in this deck.

Matter of fact, I’d like a set of Flashfreeze too, but I’m simply out of time. You got a deadline, you meet that deadline. So here I am, meeting it.

I hounded Craig for days about the inclusion of Coldsnap, and here I am representin’ with a lonely black sorcery. Tsk tsk. [Hey, it’s more Coldsnap than I managed… – Craig, waiting for the prices to drop.]

If there’s one thing that seems “scattershot,” it’s definitely the sideboard. I’d love to find some Seize the Soul or perhaps Eradicate, but I like what’s there. You have the anti-creature suite with Deathmark and Last Gasp, along with weenie and token management via Hideous Laughter. You have the anti-control suite of Distress and Mana Leak, the former doubly as a combo disabler should Craig go that route.

Here’s something else you may notice: It only runs 21 lands. Yes, I know that’s a scarily low number. Yes, I know that most of my deck is online at two mana but my money spells, the ones that win me the game, are at four mana (Zombify, et al).

But, after many playtesting games, I found that I was getting mana flooded by running any more than 21. Matter of fact, I’d like to drop this to a mere twenty lands, but I’d rather not get mana screwed out of potential wins.

The caveats with this thinking are “What if you have nothing but a land and a Karoo on the draw?” Well, that’s great! We get to discard some random fatty.

“What if you get screwed on the draw?” Then you can either keep it and discard a reanimation target, or you can mulligan. Even at 21 lands you’re likely to pull two, and any two will do. With five Signets and four Karoos, you’re due to smooth your mana in no time.

To make sure we’re in budget, let’s break down the deck:

4 Blazing Archon = 1 Ticket
4 Compulsive Research = 1 Ticket
4 Nezumi Graverobber = 2 Tickets
4 Remand = 4 Tickets
4 Vigor Mortis = 2 Tickets
4 Zombify = 2 Tickets
4 Tidespout Tyrant = 2 Tickets
4 Mana Leak = 1 Ticket
2 Hideous Laughter = 1 Ticket
1 Simic Sky Swallower = 6 Tickets

Grand Total: 22 Tickets

I left out the random commons (Last Gasp, Ideas Unbound) as you can find those in the Common Bots… just pick one. The three tickets leftover should be more than enough to cover them. [Commons in the Battle Royale are free. – Craig.]

I splurged on a single creature, my own personal fatty boom-boom I alluded to earlier: Simic Sky Swallower. Why? Because he Just. Ends. Games. And you and I both know it. And opponents know it. He’s the best “pure” reanimation target, as he needs no other spells to be awesome and bigger than anything else on the field.

If you choose not to splurge on a creature as magnificent as Simic Sky Swallower (which you can also hardcast, keep in mind!), then feel free to replace it with something like Razia, Boros Archangel or Autochthon Wurm. Both of these are fine replacements (I would recommend Razia, between the two). But when it comes to raw fat, it’s tough to beat ole’ Triple S.


First, this was great fun, as much fun as I’d hoped it would be. Now the competitive gene is firing up and I’m ready to take Craig down. I’d like nothing better than to vindicate my recent writing woes with an article proclaiming this deck’s raw, vicious tech against the Badass English Champ Who Also By The Way Just Q’d For Kobe Thank You Very Much.

I guess we’ll see. Won’t you see with me? Come, join us online and see what makes this deck tick. Or build it yourself. I think you’ll be surprised at how much fun it is for the price.

The match is happening in the Anything Goes room on Magic Online, at 8pm EST on Monday 28th August.

Thanks for reading,

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written while listening to Midlake’s “The Trials of Van Occupanther”