Come January 1st, Extended is going to be a very different format. The most recent banned list has torn the format asunder, laying waste to the staple decks in the environment. The last banned list got rid of Reanimator and Frantic Search-based combos, and this one puts the screws to Tinker, Belcher, Hermit, Goblin, and Oath decks.
It should be obvious to all, that decks unaffected by the last two banned lists (like Tog and Rock) will be powerhouses in the new Extended. The interesting question for deck designers like myself is, can we build new decks or revamp the”dead” decks in such a way that they are actually competitive?
Given my love of Reanimator decks, I decided my first designing task in this format would be to see if I could make this deck type work in the absence of the keystone cards Entomb and Hermit Druid. The big hope in playing any Reanimator deck after the consecutive banning of Entomb and Hermit Druid is that the deck type will be off people’s radar and cards like Coffin Purge will be out of their sideboards. Armed with this bit of wishful thinking, my first attempt was inspired by my backup plan for the Hermit deck that I played in New Orleans. I ran Putrid Imps to suck up Diabolic Edicts, flash back Cabal Therapy, and discard Akromas, Ghouls, and Dragon’s Breath. I ended up winning quite a few games with the Akroma-Imp duo.
Akromas Gone Wild
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Vampiric Tutor
3 Worldly Tutor
4 Putrid Imp
3 Wild Mongrel
4 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Plated Slagwurm
4 Chrome Mox
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 City of Brass
3 Tarnished Citadel
The idea behind this deck is to get out a discard-enabling guy, pitch an Akroma to the graveyard, Reanimate her and ride her to victory. For those of you who have not been following Reanimator decks, Akroma is the new Queen of the fatties. Her haste allows her to out-race Verdant Force, her Protection from Black makes her trump Visara the Dreadful, and her protection from Red and outright speed makes her a better bet than Phantom Nishoba against Goblins. Once she’s on the board, the main things that get her off are Bounce and Edict effects. Imps and Mongrels help get around both these weaknesses.
Card by card analysis:
In my preparation for Pro Tour: New Orleans, I found (to my great shock) that Duress was too slow a card for the Hermit Druid deck. Often I was faced with the choice between Duressing on turn 1 or tutoring for a Hermit, and in that scenario, taking a turn out to Duress was the wrong call most of the time. This deck (and the format as a whole) moves at a more reasonable pace now, so I can happily back away from the view that Duress is over-costed at one Black mana.
In this get-out-a-big-threat-and-hope-they-can’t-deal style deck, Duress is amazing. It allows you to pluck the card that could deal with Akroma out of their hand or keep them from doing their thing long enough for the lovely lady to finish them off.
The Therapies are a great addition to Duress to achieve hand destruction overload (which can be particularly useful against Tog). Additionally, they help you get more mileage out of your Putrid Imps. In a pinch, a Therapy can even get a fatty from your hand to your graveyard.
Four of this card is a no-brainer in any Black-based deck in which you are trying to get a combination of cards with which to win the game.
For this deck to work, you need three pieces to come together: a fatty, a way to discard it, and a way to reanimate it. Both the fatty and the way to discard it can be acquired with a Worldly Tutor, and without having to give up two life. It may be a mistake for me not to be running four of these.
The notorious Putrid Imp. At first glance, the Imp may seem horrible. Okay, he may still seem horrible at second glance, but he’s actually an incredibly good way to discard Akroma. Why? Allow me to list my little Imp’s fine qualities:
- He flies, so he can come over the top a couple of times to add his two point’s worth to Akroma’s eighteen.
- He sucks up an Edict with the best of ’em.
- One Black mana. This bargain-basement casting cost allows easy turn 2 Akromas (or turn 1 with a Chrome Mox). It also makes him a very cheap way to flash back Edict.
- Strangely enough, after testing with both Putrid Imp and Wild Mongrel, I was much happier with Putrid Imp.
In addition to being a relatively cheap, discard-enabling creature, the Mongrel’s a nice little beater. That beatdown element is particularly nice after sideboarding to assist your Phyrexian Negators.
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
For all the reasons I stated earlier, she’s the queen of the fatty beatdown. However, you could actually get some great Entomb-like utility out of this deck if you play a larger variety of big creatures. Very often you’re getting your big gun with a Worldly or Vampiric Tutor, so you can get whatever you want out of the deck.
This makes it tempting to mix things up a bit and run cards like Petradon, Phantom Nishoba, Visara the Dreadful or others. I’ve found that in most situations, Akroma is the creature that will give you the best chance to win the game. It’s worth giving up the utility packing other fatties in your deck would offer to increase the odds you draw her naturally.
There are a wide variety of useful abilities you can get out of adding one more fat creature to the deck. Of all the options, I feel untargetability is the one you can’t live without. The reason for this is the popularity of Fire / Ice imprinted Isochron Scepters. There is nothing sadder than having your giant monster tapped down every turn, while your opponent draws extra cards.
The big question is which untargetable creature to use. The other contender that came to mind is Plated Slagwurm. The Wurm’s guaranteed size is handy, but Multani can often be downright gigantic in the match-ups in which you most want an untargetable threat.
Damn the card disadvantage! Full speed ahead! All you care about is getting down an Akroma as quickly as possible, and maybe using the odd Duress or Therapy to prevent your opponent from finding a way to survive. This makes Chrome Mox a perfect fit for this deck (as it is for most Extended decks).
You can win without Green mana, but you’d be hard pressed to win without Black mana. This fact, plus the need to be firing off Duresses and Therapies in addition to your business Black spells, means the deck needs a heavy Black mana base. Unfortunately, you really want Green mana early as well. To make the job of putting together the right mana base even harder, the deck has such a low mana curve it would be nice to keep the land count low to avoid mana flood (and make room for more goodies).
I’m greedy. I wanted to meet all my mana requirements and keep the total land count low to boot. Llanowar Wastes and City of Brass simply didn’t give me enough Green/Black Lands, so I turned to the Tarnished Citadel. That may be a mistake for a deck that tries to win games with Reanimate. A lot of that will depend on just how aggressive the Extended format ends up being.
Cards to consider
With any deck containing four Vampiric Tutors, I am sorely tempted to play single copies of situationally powerful cards. With the addition of this deck’s Worldly Tutors, that temptation is even greater for situational creatures. In the end, I decided to present the focused build, but the deck should definitely be tested with a wide verity of one-ofs. Here are some that I had in mind:
At three mana, Buried Alive is a bit slow, but it would be nice to have a card to you can Tutor for that can put Akroma directly in your yard. This would be particularly useful for the draws with Vampiric Tutor and reanimation spells, but no discard mechanisms or fatties.
I’m confident that Scepters will be very popular in January’s Extended format. Having one Uktabi to Tutor for can be a nice answer for the turn 2 Scepter.
Negators are an absolute must in the sideboard, but with all the Tutors this deck has, a single Negator may be a good addition to the main deck. A Mongrel and a Negator, backed up by a couple of hand destruction spells can be tough to come back from.
If you’re going to try to win the game with a single early big creature, Verdant Force is second only to Akroma. He makes a fine threat to randomly have in your hand, and you would occasionally Tutor for him to thwart multiple Edicts, Tangle Wire, or other occasions where lots of Tokens would be handy.
Life / Death
While Death is a pretty lame Reanimate, you can actually cast Life with this deck, and if you imprint this card on a Chrome Mox, it makes both Green and Black mana. In my opinion, none of those are good enough reasons to play it over an Exhume or Reanimate, but it’s a fine option if you want more than the eight reanimation spells.
The glaring weakness of this deck is that you need to have the three pieces (a fatty, a way to discard it, and a way to reanimate it) come together in your opening hand for you to have a game. The deck has lots of built-in redundancy and plenty of Tutors to make that happen, but it will still result in a fair number of mulligans. You may need to add one of the aforementioned Negators or Buried Alives to get the deck to what you feel is an acceptable Mulligan percentage.
On the subject of Mulliganing, it’s worth noting that if you are drawing first, you can keep a hand that has reanimation and a fatty, but no way to discard it. Simply do nothing on your first turn, and you’ll have eight cards at end of the turn and be forced to discard. It can be a bit risky either way, but it’s obviously a lot better if you can Reanimate or Exhume (with the help of a Mox) on your second turn.
Next time: A very different approach to Reanimator in the new Extended.