IBC: Godzilla!

Reanimation strategies have been around since Alpha, but are limited in Invasion Block. What can we do with a Call?

In recent articles I have been exploring the potential of graveyard recursion in Type 2, which led me to develop Sleeping Beauty. The deck is a lot of fun, but lacks the speed and sheer power that Type 2 demands. Type 2 is also filled with counterspells and control, which is even more of a problem for Sleeping Beauty – so for now she’s been put on the back burner, awaiting Odyssey to see what that rotation might bring.

However, I got to thinking about Reya herself and the fact that she’s in Invasion. Could I translate Sleeping Beauty to Invasion Block Constructed? Unfortunately Breath of Life isn’t available, but we do have the more powerful (and more expensive to cast) Twilight’s Call.

Of course, Twilight’s Call is very different from Breath of Life; it empties all graveyards and dumps the creatures into play. It’s not nearly as pinpoint accurate as Breath is, but it’s also potentially much more powerful. A Twilight’s Call deck would probably resemble a classic Godzilla deck rather than Sleeping Beauty.

Reanimation strategies have been around since the days of Alpha and Animate Dead. However, it wasn’t until Tempest’s Living Death came around that the strategy became much more sound. Before, if a fat creature was smashing you in the face, you could save yourself with a timely Disenchant. Living Death brought the beef back with no strings attached to be Disenchanted. You had to deal with the large creature itself, often in multiples.

Alan Comer created the Godzilla Deck as a Standard version of the Rath Cycle reanimator decks that performed so well at the 1998 Pro Tour: Los Angeles. The penultimate goal of the deck was to fill the graveyard with huge fat creatures and then sweep them into play with a Living Death. Here’s his decklist:

4 Animate Dead

4 Dark Ritual

4 Hidden Horror

2 Living Death

4 Necromancy

2 Necrosavant

4 Merfolk Trader

4 Mana Leak

3 Shivan Dragon

4 Firestorm

4 Verdant Force

2 Sliver Queen

4 City of Brass

3 Underground River

3 Sulfurous Springs

2 Reflecting Pool

2 Undiscovered Paradise

4 Gemstone Mine

1 Swamp

1 Island

Looking over this deck, you can really see how far we’ve fallen in terms of quality graveyard recursion. Pinpoint reanimation strategies such as Necromancy and Animate Dead could be done early on to get out a Verdant Force or Sliver Queen to defend against a quick weenie deck. If your opponent could deal with that, filch out another fattie. Eventually, however, the deck would run across a Living Death and then it was all over but the crying.

So how does this translate to IBC? On the surface of things, Apocalypse’s split card Life/Death and Invasion’s Phyrexian Delver look like adequate replacements for Animate Dead/Necromancy; however, the life loss attached is quite significant. Any fattie worth animating is going to cost you dearly, and against fast decks you might not have the luxury to pay that life.

Reya is an animation engine all her own, but she’s tricky to work with. First you’ve got to get her in play, which is no easy task. Then you’ve got to protect her long enough to work her magic, which fires off once during each of your upkeeps.

Really, I think the most viable strategy is to lean on Twilight’s Call for your muscle. Let’s take a look at how we might template off Alan’s original Godzilla for an IBC version.

The Reanimation Block

Original Godzilla: 4 Animate Dead, 4 Necromancy, 2 Living Death

IBC Godzilla: 4 Twilight’s Call, 4 Probe, 2 Fact or Fiction

Invasion gives us some real gems for this deck in Probe and Fact or Fiction. Not only do these cards let you dig for your Twilight’s Call, but they also allow you to fill your graveyard.

Protect Your Position

Original Godzilla: 4 Mana Leak

IBC Godzilla: 4 Evasive Action or Undermine

This is a tough one. Evasive Action is very close to Mana Leak most of the time; Undermine is a guaranteed counter, but the mana might be a little trickier to pull off. I’m leaning towards Evasive Action here, but we’ll see.

Footsoldiers and Utility

Original Godzilla: 4 Merfolk Trader, 4 Dark Ritual, 4 Hidden Horror, 4 Firestorm

IBC Godzilla: 4 Vodalian Merchant, 4 Morgue Toad, 4 Phyrexian Rager, 3 Flametongue Kavu

The Traders and Merchants are exactly the same cards, and perform the same duties in both decks. Don’t laugh, but Morgue Toads are actually better than Dark Ritual a lot of times in this deck, allowing you to ramp up to Twilight’s Call mana (even as an instant) without losing cards to do so. Some versions of Godzilla and Living Death decks used Blood Pets for similar reasons. The Ragers and Flametongue Kavus, the best of the few non-kicker 187 creatures in the format, are cheap enough to cast early on and great to recur with a Call.

The Monsters

Original Godzilla: 3 Shivan Dragon, 4 Verdant Force, 2 Sliver Queen

IBC Godzilla: 3 Devouring Strossus, 3 Penumbra Wurm, 1 Reya Dawnbringer

The fatties available for IBC don’t hold a candle to the Alan’s original monsters, but they’re still pretty good. Devouring Strossus is a huge flying, trampling, regenerating finisher. Penumbra Wurms are also large and trampling, plus have the advantage of having a built in Route backup plan. If your opponent can deal with one 6/6 trampling wurm, can he deal with the second that comes back for revenge? Reya is icing on the cake, and forces your opponent to deal with her first before they can permanently deal with your other fatties.

So, add it all up, throw some mana in there and this is what we get:

IBC Godzilla

4 Twilight’s Call

4 Probe

2 Fact or Fiction

4 Evasive Action

4 Vodalian Merchant

4 Morgue Toad

4 Phyrexian Rager

3 Flametongue Kavu

3 Devouring Strossis

3 Penumbra Wurm

1 Reya Dawnbringer

4 Salt Marsh

4 Shivan Reef

2 Crosis Catacombs

3 Island

7 Swamp

4 Mountain

Playtesting has shown the deck to be surprisingly effective, and there’s usually very little problem casting Twilight’s Call. With fourteen card drawing spells and creatures, you can ramp up to six lands fairly consistently.

One potential flaw in the deck is its vulnerability to Lobotomy. There are four creatures that are impossible to cast if Twilight’s Call gets removed from the game. Is this a fatal flaw? Playtesting will show. It might be worth cutting a Call and another card, and adding in a few Life/Deaths. Or maybe the countermagic will be enough?

I don’t know if this is going to win me or anyone a PTQ, but it is a lot of fun and is quite capable of some spectacular power plays. I’ll work on it and cue you in to any positive developments that arise. If anyone has any playtest experience they’d like to convey, please feel free to drop me a line.