New Phyrexia has been spoiled, and it’s the most exciting set in recent memory. The next set features two cycles of giant creatures, a powerhouse
planeswalker, several of the best Equipment ever printed, and plenty of other game-changing rares and mythics. Even in a set chock-full of ridiculously
powerful cards, one creature caught my eye:
I never thought I’d live to see the dayâ€”I never even thought that my grandkids or my great-grandkids would live to see the dayâ€”that those two lines of
text were printed on a Magic card. Yes, you can kill Jin-Gitaxias with most removal spells, but there’s a very narrow window in which to do so. Yes,
ten mana is prohibitive for ordinary decks, but since when do we pay mana to cast big creatures anyway?
Magic’s most powerful creaturesâ€”Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Progenitus, Phage the Untouchableâ€”come with little catches that make them impossible to play
from the graveyard. There’s nothing like that on New Phyrexia’s blue Praetor. I see potential for Jin-Gitaxias to breathe new life into the dead
Reanimator deck in Legacy, which will in turn be breathing new life into its dead Jin-Gitaxias on turn two or three every game.
Last month, Patrick Chapin wrote an excellent article about Legacy
Reanimator before New Phyrexia. I used his decklist as a starting point, but my own experiences with Reanimator as well as my excitement about the new
cards inspired me to make some changes.
While Mystical Tutor was still legal, Reanimator was the best deck in Legacy. Being able to search up either Reanimate or Entomb on the first turn made
having a creature on the board by turn 2 very easy. It won with a simple two-card combo where both pieces only cost one mana. The deck could be built
with plenty of redundancy and more disruption than just about any other deck in the format.
The banning of Mystical Tutor didn’t have to be the end of turn 2 Ionas. As Mr. Chapin pointed out, it’s still quite easy to discard a big creature and
Reanimate it on the second or third turn, even when you don’t draw Entomb. The problem that I’ve never been able to overcome is that without the
ability to tutor for Entomb, you often have to settle for a creature that’s not the right tool for the job. Iona can’t save you from a swarm of Merfolk
or Goblins. Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Blazing Archon are easily answered if the opponent has Swords to Plowshares. Inkwell Leviathan doesn’t provide
a fast enough clock against combo decks. When you have to work with only what you can discard to Careful Study, you’ll often find yourself losing even
after you assemble your combo.
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, seems powerful enough to be the go-to guy. Drawing seven cards in a deck with twelve free permission spells ought to be the
end of the story, especially if it happens in the early turns of the game.
There are two obvious criticisms of Praetor Jin as a Reanimate target. Problem number one is that his combat stats aren’t very impressive and he
doesn’t do a great job of holding off an opposing army on his own. Problem number two is that he’s vulnerable to removal.
Iona, Shield of Emeria and Inkwell Leviathan, the other frontrunner reanimation targets, suffer from problem number one even more than Jin-Gitaxias
does. In all three cases, you’re only able to block one creature the turn after you Reanimate. However, if Jin-Gitaxias lives until the end of your
turn, he’ll refill your hand with free permission spells, which will help save you from being burned to death or finished off by haste creatures.
More importantly, Iona and Inkwell Leviathan not only have to defend you, but they have to kill the opponent as well. Often, racing even a single
Tarmogoyf can be a struggle after losing half your life to a Reanimate. On the other hand, the Core Augur doesn’t even need to attack once to win the
game. After drawing seven cards, it should be a breeze to Reanimate Platinum Emperion the following turn. There’s no risk of the Emperion ever dying at
this point because you’ll have a hand full of permission and the opponent will be playing off the top of his or her deck. Also, remember that the
Reanimate that targets the Emperion won’t cause you to lose life.
We only need to scroll down one card from Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur in the alphabetical spoiler to find our solution to problem number twoâ€”Mental
Misstep. Last week, Drew Levin wrote about this new
Legacy powerhouse, and I highly recommend the article to anyone interested in Legacy. Much of the article and its fantastic forum discussion explore
which decks are likely to benefit most from Mental Misstep’s printing. Curiously absent, however, is any talk of Reanimator.
Mental Misstep counters Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, opposing Mental Missteps, and the Three Amigosâ€”Duress, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek.
These, along with Force of Will, are the only cards that routinely show up in time to disrupt Reanimator. Naturally, Misstep also counters the
opponent’s first proactive play, which may be the only play they’re able to make before you go off in their face. Most importantly, however, it
counters one mana removal spells free of charge, opening up a whole world of new possibilities for Reanimator.
For anyone not familiar with Legacy, far and away the most popular removal spells (other than burn) are Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. Mental
Misstep counters both of those and also protects your Jin-Gitaxias if you face some jokester who thinks it’s funny to play Flame Slash in Legacy. Some non-white decks play Go for the
Throat or other unpredictable removal spells, but those are much more likely to be countered by Daze, and there’s always Force of Will when all else
What I mean by a whole new world of possibilities is that the Reanimator deck no longer needs to play it safe. You can go for the most powerful
creature you can think of and protect it with permission rather than always choosing Iona or a shroud creature. The claim I’m making today is that
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur is the best overall Reanimate target ever printed.
Even if you don’t buy into that, there may be another matchup where Mental Misstep allows you to go for a powerful but fragile creature. Sphinx of the
Steel Wind against Zoo comes to mind, because they’ll typically have four or fewer Path to Exile as their only answer. I put four copies in my
suggested sideboard as a swap for Jin-Gitaxias in matchups where you absolutely need to stabilize the turn you cast Reanimate.
The final allure of both Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur and Mental Misstep for Reanimator is less obvious at a glance, but Legacy blue players will recognize
that it’s not to be ignored. Both of New Phyrexia’s additions are blue cards that can be pitched to Force of Will! Old Reanimator sometimes struggled
to cast Force of Will due to of its abundance of black discard spells and non-blue Reanimate targets. The decklist I suggested above has twenty-seven
blue cards. Additionally, extra fatty creatures and disruption spells are exactly the type of cards you want to be able to pitch to Force of Will.
Entomb and Reanimate are both crucial cards that you’d rarely voluntarily throw away, even if you could. A second copy of Jin-Gitaxias or even a first
copy that you can’t discard can have its moment in the sun if it helps to counter an opposing Ad Nauseam.
Reanimator’s biggest flaw is its lack of card advantageâ€”although not so much if Jin-Gitaxias sticksâ€”and I have vivid memories of having to Force of
Will a spell using my last Brainstorm and being stuck with two lands and a Blazing Archon in my hand. Never again!
Legacy isn’t the only format where drawing seven cards is good. How about this little number?
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 4 Oath of Druids
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Imperial Seal
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Gifts Ungiven
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Fact or Fiction
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Ponder
- 4 Spell Pierce
- 4 Preordain
- 1 Blightsteel Colossus
- 2 Mental Misstep
It seems like there’s a new recipe for success in Eternal formats. Step one is to cheat Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur into play. Step two is to add a
generous helping of free permission. Step three is to bake for one to three turns, or until the opponent is cooked thoroughly. Finally, enjoy winning
at your convenience.