One Step Ahead – Legacy Reanimator and Standard Bant

The StarCityGames.com Open Series comes to Seattle!
Wednesday, June 9th – In this two-pronged article, Gerry Thompson examines his favored Reanimator deck in Legacy, presenting a new list for the archetype he believes to be the best in the format by far. He then discusses Patrick Chapin’s Next Level Bant strategy in Standard, and suggests a few ways in which the deck could adapt for the current metagame.

So, no Reanimator in the Top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Philadelphia Legacy Open? That’s not incredibly surprising I suppose, but none in the Top 16?! I am extremely eager for Jared Sylva metagame breakdown. I would like to see how many people played Reanimator and what they lost to, especially considering how little hate everyone was packing.

Check it out:

First place: 3 Faerie Macabre, 2 Tormod’s Crypt sideboard.
Second place: 2 Faerie Macabre, 3 Relic of Progenitus sideboard.
Third place: 4 Tormod’s Crypt sideboard.
Fourth place: 2 Faerie Macabre, 3 Tormod’s Crypt, 1 Bojuka Bog sideboard.
Fifth place: 3 Faerie Macabre sideboard.
Sixth place: 1 Extirpate sideboard.
Seventh place: 1 Tormod’s Crypt, 1 Relic of Progentius, 1 Bojuka Bog sideboard.
Eight place: 1 Tormod’s Crypt maindeck, 1 Tormod’s Crypt, 1 Bojuka Bog sideboard.

Ninth place: 3 Relic of Progentius sideboard.
Tenth place: 3 Tormod’s Crypt, 1 Bojuka Bog sideboard.
Eleventh place: 2 Faerie Macabre, 1 Tormod’s Crypt sideboard.
Twelfth place: 1 Tormod’s Crypt maindeck, 1 Relic of Progentius, 1 Wheel of Sun and Moon.
Thirteenth place: 2 Tormod’s Crypt, 2 Relic of Progenitus sideboard.
Fourteenth place: 3 Faerie Macabre, 1 Tormod’s Crypt sideboard.
Fifteenth place: 1 Bojuka Bog maindeck, 3 Leyline of the Void, 1 Bojuka Bog sideboard.
Sixteenth place: 3 Living Wish (for Faerie Macabre) maindeck, 1 Tormod’s Crypt sideboard.

That’s roughly 3.5 sideboard cards for Reanimator with basically no deck putting up any resistance in game 1. I suppose that’s not entirely fair, since there are seven aggro decks and a combo deck, but c’mon, Reanimator typically fares incredibly well against those decks game 1.

Granted, at least there’s been a recent shift toward Faerie Macabre, and some players are splitting up their disruption so that they aren’t kold to just a single Pithing Needle or Null Rod. Still, do these guys realistically think that three Faeries are enough to stop Reanimator? They have Thoughtseize, Pithing Needle, lots of card drawing and search, and redundant combo pieces.

I’m not saying this because I’m a Reanimator player. I’m saying this because I played Reanimator in one tournament and it was one of the easiest tournaments I played in my life. There’s isn’t more hate than there was back then. There’s slightly more aware hate, but that’s not good enough.

Regretfully, I didn’t get to attend Philly, and am 95% to miss Seattle, but I will almost certainly be in St. Louis. Hopefully, even by then, the format will be the same, and the field will be as soft.

During Pro Tour: San Juan, I was talking to Tom LaPille about Legacy and the banned list. Naturally, the topic of Entomb came up. He was wondering if I felt like it deserved to be re-banned, but I wasn’t so sure. The StarCityGames.com Open series isn’t exactly like a Pro Tour or a Grand Prix series. There aren’t numerous pros traveling to these events, or even non pros, so you only get a snapshot of the local metagame, or the various metagames that are surrounding the location of the Open.

Consider that, at most, there will be about five actual masters playing the same deck in each tournament. In Atlanta, it happened to be Reanimator, and the deck did really well. Imagine an event that was 400 players and the 20 best players played Reanimator. They would know how to play the matchups, how to sideboard, how to play around the hate, and how to think on the fly if necessary. You would see an event similar to Pro Tour: San Juan and results like Zvi’s Mono Green deck.

Reanimator literally is that good.

It may seem easy to say, “Hurr, Reanimate my Iona!” but that’s not all the deck is. Sometimes you get free wins, but almost every other time you have to work for it. If you’re going to play Reanimator you’re going to need to know what you’re doing.

Anyway, my opinion on banning Entomb is that it’s very similar to Extended Dredge with Breakthrough a couple of seasons ago. It was absurdly good, but no one really wanted to play it. Everyone was fearful of the guy with four Leyline and four Crypt in his sideboard, so they just said screw it and played Tarmogoyfs instead.

If people had reasonable amounts of hate in addition to a fast clock, then I might be worried.

Anyway, my current list:

There’s an open slot in the maindeck and sideboard. You could play the Show and Tell or bounce spell maindeck, but neither of those are necessary at the moment. I suppose as far as the maindeck is concerned, the Coffin Purge might also not be necessary, but it seems very good in metagames where the best players are going to be playing Reanimator. The deeper you get into the tournament, the more likely it is that you’re going to be playing against mirrors, and those are the important rounds where you need to gain an edge. Thoughtseize is getting better and better as more people are adopting Macabres.

The sideboard Thoughtseize could be a Cabal Therapy, since I could see situations where you want to Mystical for Thoughtseize to clear out their Macabres, and you’re just dead if they show you two of them. You could also Entomb it in the mirror match and sacrifice your Bloodghast, but that might be getting a little too cute.

Sickening Dreams could take the open slot in the either the maindeck or sideboard. With Zoo and Merfolk taking a large portion of the Top 16 slots in the last Open, I imagine those decks will still be quite popular. Sick Dreams will often take the wind out of their sails. Firestorm is another option that I’ve considered, but that can take the toll on your manabase. Once I have Red in the manabase, I’m going to want Green so that I can play an Ancient Grudge to Entomb or Mystical for, and then Wasteland really starts to beat the crap out of me.

I’m not sure if Bloodghast is definitely better than Nether Spirit. It has pseudo protection from Coffin Purge, but being able to block means that I would want it in more than one or two matchups.

The Gilded Drake and Fleshbag Marauder can afford to go. With Blue and Black answers to Iona and multiple Coffin Purges, it’s rare that they’ll be able to Reanimate with any success. Fleshbag is much worse if everyone has the Arbor/Bloodghast plan as well. At this point, it’s probably correct to just go for Terastodon if possible.

The only other out of the ordinary thing is the fact that I have green fetches instead of Deltas because of the Dryad Arbor in the sideboard, and how important it is to be able to fetch that.

Sideboarding is something I tend to do on the fly. What I do in each matchup depends on how good I think my opponent is, and how I think that they perceive the matchup, and therefore how they will end up playing it.

Against Merfolk, for example, I want all the Pithing Needles. Dryad Arbor is good against Curfew, although it seems like very few lists play that. Wipe Away and Echoing Truth have their merits as well, but it all depends what you want to take out.

If they seem like they are aggressively mulliganing for hate, then you probably need to keep in the aggressive cards like Daze, Careful Study, and Mystical. If they are content keeping loose hands, you don’t need those cards as much as you will be fine playing a long game where you don’t want to draw multiples of those.

Daze is also a card whose value changes depending whether you’re on the play or draw. If you can profitably use it to counter Aether Vial, then it’s worth keeping in, but on the draw, it’s so much worse.

In the dark, it would probably end up being:

+ 4 Pithing Needle, 1 Show and Tell, 1 Thoughtseize
– 1 Mystical Tutor, 2 Careful Study, 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind, 1 Coffin Purge

Game 1, Blazing Archon is probably game over. In the later games, Terastodon is probably your best bet. They should have some bounce spells, and it’s rare that Iona can race the fishy hordes.

Sideboarding against Zoo is similar, except I want the Dryad Arbor to block Tarmogoyf for a turn.

+ 4 Pithing Needle, 1 Show and Tell, 1 Thoughtseize, 1 Dryad Arbor
– 1 Coffin Purge, 1 Blazing Archon, 1 Inkwell Leviathan, 2 Careful Study, and then probably 2 Daze

I could see cutting some Force of Wills in this matchup depending on what your plan is. The only thing you really counter is Path to Exile on your Sphinx, a Tarmogoyfs (which probably later gets Exhumed), or lethal burn spells. Other than that, FOWing their turn 1 Nacatl is about the best use for it, and that seems pretty crappy.

Sideboarding versus the mirror is simple:

+ 1 Diabolic Edict, 1 Coffin Purge, 1 Dryad Arbor, 1 Bloodghast, 1 Thoughtseize, 1 Echoing Truth,1 Wipe Away, 1 Sadistic Sacrament, 1 Realm Razer
– 4 Daze, 3 Exhume, 1 Blazing Archon, 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind

The games will definitely go late, so Daze typically sucks. Exhume, while symmetrical, might be better than I think it is seeing as how I have two Coffin Purges, so maybe I want to keep two in. Other than that, I’m very happy with my sideboard plan.

Versus ANT:

+ 1 Thoughtseize, 1 Sadistic Sacrament, 1 Realm Razer
– 1 Blazing Archon, 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind, 1 Coffin Purge

Some amount of Pithing Needles could come in if they have an excess amount of Tops or something. Obviously Null Rod would be good here, but it’s so poor versus Macabre that it’s no longer worth it.

Versus Lands:

+ 1 Realm Razer, 1 Coffin Purge, 4 Pithing Needle, 1 Wipe Away, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Show and Tell
– 1 Blazing Archon, 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind, 4 Daze, 3 Thoughtseize

You could bring in the Sadistic Sacrament to try and get all of their Loams, but I think the best plan is to just be aggressive. Coffin Purge is a much more versatile disruption card than Sad Sac anyway. Needles are for their Tormod’s Crypts and Maze of Iths (and sometimes Wasteland), while the bounce spells are for Ensnaring Bridge.

Daze is pretty loose against the Exploration/Mox Diamond deck, and Thoughtseize will very likely not hit anything unless you are on the play.

Overall, a good matchup, especially considering none of them have a very good answer to Realm Razer.

So there it is. Try to make me proud, Reanimator players!

That’s enough Legacy talk. We’re still in the thick of this year long Standard binge, but at least things are getting interesting. Kibler won GP: Sendai with an updated version of Chapin’s Next Level Bant.

I was testing with Chapin the day before GP: Washington, since I wanted to audible to basically anything, but I really didn’t like his deck. Kibler’s changes have since upgraded the deck, and now it’s all over Magic Online, but I feel like there’s no reason to stop there.

I want to add Lotus Cobra, who is finally proving his worth, and cut the Ranger of Eos package. While I haven’t played a game since DC with NLB, I have played plenty of games with Naya, and both decks are very similar. Once I cut Rangers and added more Cobras, I really liked the deck, and I feel like that could be the case here.

Sea Gate Oracle also failed to impress me, and I would want to try Knight of the Reliquary in those spots instead, but that could very well be wrong. Obviously, with Knight and Cobra, I would want more fetch lands, and probably more lands in general.

Here’s what I was thinking:

Either way, I don’t feel like Chapin’s list can’t be improved upon. Is it the best deck in the format? Maybe. The format has evolved to the point where it’s Planeswalker decks versus. … um, bad decks? You either need to play Planeswalkers, be really good at killing them, or be able to ignore them, otherwise you probably won’t succeed in this format. Personally, I prefer the “ignore them” route, but we’ll see how that works out.

Today is a good day. Standard and Legacy are both excellent formats, with lots of room for innovation. Even the draft format is awesome. What more could we ask for?

I’ll be at the Madison MMS next weekend, although I’d rather be in Seattle. Hopefully I’ll have a sweet report next week detailing my epic victory with my sweet brew!