The Junk Reanimator Article You All Wanted

If you’re looking for a deck to beat up on Jund and G/R at SCG Standard Open: Cincinnati, 2012 Florida State Champion Mark Nestico suggests Junk Reanimator.

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Anderson Silva being injured means the UFC 168 buy rates will drop considerably.

If Jarvis Jones is injured, I’m going to lose my mind.

My cat, Bynx, is doing much better. Thanks for all the kind words!

Is that enough junk for you? Are you not entertained?

Like many of you, I tuned into this website on Friday expecting to read another awesome Brad Nelson article about Junk Reanimator. A few days prior he’d unveiled the pre-M14 standout’s new makeover, complete with multiple Shadowborn Demons, a sideboard plan that put Kibler’s G/R deck in its place, and a very strong and new overall feel. I was in love! It was like getting married, hearing the Deftones for the first time, and opening a Super Nintendo on Christmas morning all rolled up in one sweet little package.

I spent the entire week battling with Junk Reanimator on paper and on Magic Online, basically winning a staggering percentage of my matches. When I went over to my best friend’s house to test for a local 5K that was coming up, they thought I was exaggerating when I explained to them that I had loaded up my account with tons of tickets piloting Brad’s deck. When we fired up Magic Online and started battling, several matches (wins) later they were also sold on the power level of the deck. Immediately two tickets were turned into 38, and the number just kept growing.

My biggest concern was that this deck was too good and that everyone else was going to catch on and our element of surprise would go straight down the tubes. Several mirror matches confirmed my fears, and we started trying to figure out ways to beat the mirror.

Then he did the work for us.

On Friday Brad exclaimed that he was doing very poorly with the deck online and decided to eschew a primer on it in favor of a really cool article entitled Resetting The Standard.

To a normal person this would be disheartening and cause them to enter scramble mode and start trying to figure out something else to play. Not I! In the infamous words of Emma Bunton, "I’m not aware of too many things, but I know what I know if you know what I mean."

What I knew was that my best friend and I were winning with the deck a lot, so we decided to use this fact to our advantage.

One of the first things people told me Friday afternoon when I said I was playing Junk Reanimator was "oh . . . Brad said that deck was bad." Perfect! The less preparation that people were putting in against Junk Reanimator, the better, and this was going to give my team the element of surprise again.

As we piled into my car and began the trek to Orlando, Florida, we finalized the sideboard changes that we wanted to make. There weren’t many, but they were relatively significant and helped us in several matches that we were having a modicum of trouble with online.

Meet the team:

John Dean: Florida ringer, best friend, groomsman, all-around great guy.

Chase: Up-and-coming player from Fort Myers, great at identifying cards for matchups, playboy extraordinaire.

After selling some cards to our friends at Armada Games, we drove to the hotel. The first and only thing that we wanted to do as soon as we unpacked was fire up Magic Online and test out our new changes to the sideboard, which proved to be extremely potent. A quick 3-0 confirmed our theories, which gave us the extra confidence we needed to press forward. This is what we sleeved up the next day:

Brad’s 60 was glorious, and all the work that Brian Braun-Duin put into it made the deck a humdinger. I knew first and foremost that I didn’t want to mess around with it and decided early on that I wasn’t going to touch the maindeck.

When it comes to the sideboard, I was disenchanted with Ratchet Bomb very early in the testing process. In the few losses I was suffering, Aristocrat variants were giving me the most fits, especially the Junk version. To remedy this I went back to a few old favorites in Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Curse of Death’s Hold. Both cards give you a ton of mileage against various versions of Aristocrats, making it so decks like The Aristocrats have to have a threaten effect to kill the Blood Baron, which isn’t always the easiest thing for them to accomplish.

The Curse was our hedge against the random Elf decks still floating around while still giving us a lot of power against the Aristocrat decks. At first we were a little nervous about having it float around our board, but we quickly realized the amount of cards we were seeing because of Disciple of Bolas meant that we weren’t doing ourselves a disservice by including it. If we were to naturally draw it or have it in our openers, the matchup felt completely unlosable.

Gaze of Granite was something that we thought about and that Brad even talked about in his deck tech, but we ultimately decided it could be too narrow. Casting it "on time" against the Human decks and Hexproof decks meant that we were killing off one or two of our mana creatures, and if we didn’t have the mana producing dorks, it was a little too slow to do anything good for us. We still wanted a random extra card for people playing Hexproof, so John and our friend Sheridan decided on Ray of Revelation, which turned out to be spectacular a lot of the time.

Obzedat, Ghost Council is a tremendous card and not playing him might have been the wrong call, but against decks like Jund he was harder to cast given that my mana creatures were dying often and without Cavern of Souls he was rarely resolving against the counter-based decks.  

The rest of the board was Brad’s creation, so all credit where credit is due. It’s tight.

Here’s a basic rundown of what the board is packing:

3 Liliana of the Veil: Your anti-control, anti-Hexproof darling. She’s fantastic against decks like U/W/R Flash, U/W Control, and Bant Hexproof.

2 Sin Collector: Against Jund and various control decks, this card along with Restoration Angel can give you the opportunity to keep troublesome spells from ever resolving against you.

1 Ray of Revelation: This card might seem like it is only good against Hexproof, but it was also very strong for us against Flash and U/W Control, letting us take out cards like Detention Sphere or Assemble the Legion.

2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa: A few weeks ago I referred to this card as "The Truth, because people can’t handle him." That still rings true, and in the matchups he’s good against, like Junk Aristocrats, The Aristocrats, Jund, and the mirror match, he’s extremely powerful. His downside is cards like Lifebane Zombie just blank him. But if he resolves, he’s going to do a silly amount of work for you, and if he survives for a turn, it’s lights out for your opponent.

1 Curse of Death’s Hold: Like we said earlier, this card overpowers all the token-based and Elf decks. Ratchet Bomb on a board containing Human tokens and Xathrid Necromancer made me want to pull out what is left of my hair, whereas Curse always made us feel like we were in complete control.

2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice: If Blood Baron is The Truth, Trostani is the cold reality that punches your aggro opponent in the face. Doing Sir-Mix-A-Lot proud, her huge backside will keep you safe and will gain you a freakish amount of life. With Burning Earth out in full force, this is the card that makes it almost irrelevant.

2 Tree of Redemption: BBD was right—this card is the real deal. I can remember the first time I played this card in this deck. It was against Hexproof. My opponent had a 10/8 Fiendslayer Paladin. I had a Tree of Redemption. Can you guess who won that game?

1 Putrefy: One of the few problems a deck like this has is against cards like Thundermaw Hellkite and Olivia Voldaren. Adding an extra Putrefy gives you a better chance to 187 these creatures and secure your victory.

1 Angel of Serenity: This card has tons of applications, from being great in the mirror match and against Jund to helping you recoup your lost creatures against control decks. You’ll be boarding this baby in a lot.

As for the maindeck, I’m sure you’re all familiar with Junk Reanimator by now, but this list puts a very unique spin on it.

First, this isn’t your momma’s old Reanimator deck.

One of the things I learned very quickly was that above all else this deck plays out like a powerful Junk midrange deck. I wasn’t as concerned with filling my graveyard as I was in the past; cards like Mulch existed to ensure I hit my land drops, and Grisly Salvage was a pseudo-tutor for whatever card was annoying me at the moment.

Disciple of Bolas is everything you could want from a creature in this deck and acts like your Sphinx’s Revelation or -3ed Garruk, Primal Hunter. There are other less subtle tricks with Disciple, like using it in conjunction with Angel of Serenity to remove three creatures (oftentimes your own that are in your graveyard), following that up with a sacrifice, drawing five cards while returning your three removed ones to your hand, and then an Unburial Rites to nail three more things out of the way.

Congratulations! You just drew eight cards, gained five life, and exiled three creatures. Hooray!

In my opinion, this deck makes the best use of Restoration Angel because the amount of targets she has is huge. Aside from the typical fare of blinking a Thragtusk, Restoration Angel on Disciple of Bolas draws you into a ton of gas, and hitting a Shadowborn Demon when your opponent casts a Thundermaw Hellkite is every bit as sweet as it sounds.

Speaking of Shadowborn Demon, this is easily my favorite inclusion in the deck, and like Brad it is the reason I fell in love with the deck. The power level of this card is just off the charts, letting you kill practically anything. You’d think the sacrifice during upkeep would be a detriment, but usually you’re happy to let it die so that you can reanimate it with Unburial Rites and kill another creature. With Grisly Salvage, filling up your graveyard isn’t even terribly difficult, meaning your Nekrataal has flying and is a 5/6. This creature is real, right?

Opponent: "I’ll Sphinx’s Revelation for seven."

(Inside my head): "Son of a . . . "

Opponent: "I concede."

(Inside my head): "Pelvic THRUST!"

That actually happened.

The tournament went reasonably well for the team. I started out undefeated but took a couple of losses very late in the event that knocked me out of Top 8 contention. U/W/R Flash was able to counter everything I played two games in a row, and the other loss was to eventual second-place finisher and one of the best players in the country that you’ve probably never heard of, Dr. Nick Werner. I can say that those two losses were to two of the best players in the room, so I can’t even be remotely upset about it.

My best friend John was able to go undefeated during the Swiss with the exact same 75 as me, and a few draws later he was sitting pretty in the Top 8. His first match was against the almost-mirror piloted by another fantastic player, Jim Bishop, who has been playing Junk Reanimator variants for the past year. John was able to take the match, due in part to mulligans from Jim but also because our sideboard with Blood Baron of Vizkopa was a hard card for Jim to deal with post-board, with his only out to it being Thragtusk.

In the Top 4, John was defeated by Nick, but regardless of the loss we were both very impressed with the overall performance of the deck. Combined we were able to go 11-3-2, placing third and 34th out of about 200. Upon leaving the venue we were still convinced we made the best call for the tournament, and if given the chance we’d play the exact same configuration again.

Going Forward

Play this deck. No seriously. Give it a chance.

In a world full of Jund and G/R, this deck preys on the two with great success. I can say with all confidence that it’s a contender, and if you’re looking for something to break the monotony, this deck is an excellent alternative. It’s complicated to play—I made mistakes with it even after playing 100+ games with it—but it’s rewarding.

There aren’t many changes I would make to it—probably one or two alterations to the board—but like I said I think the maindeck is about as airtight as it could possibly be. I rarely feel like I’m in complete control when battling with a deck, but this makes me feel like no match is out of reach.

It’s entirely possible that Obzedat should be back in the board since I was soundly crushed by a U/W/R Flash player, but I was able to beat one as well. I’ll be streaming this week with Obzedat and Blood Baron, so hopefully I’ll be able to make a more educated call in the next few days so that if you decide to sleeve this up for the upcoming StarCityGames.com Standard Open or even your local Friday Night Magic you’ll have better information.

. . .

. . .

. . .

Green-based decks, I just can’t seem to quit you.

I know what you’re saying.

Last week it was play Jund. Now it’s play Reanimator. What will next week hold? I have no idea, and that’s the beauty of Standard—it feels like something awesome is happening every week. For now, though, I think this Junk Reanimator deck is where I want to be.

I’d also like to thank everyone for the overwhelmingly positive response I received on last week’s article, which was my most successful one to date. You guys are awesome!

Lastly, before I sign off for the week, I’d like to extend a personal congratulations to my friend Minh Nguyen for winning the entire event. It feels like just yesterday you were asking for advice on becoming a better player. The student has become the master, and watching you play made me incredibly proud and impressed. In such a short time you’ve come a long way, mate. Cheers!

Catch ya on the flip-

Watch me stream! http://www.twitch.tv/Mark_Nestico
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