The last big event I attended was Grand Prix Atlanta. This Grand Prix Atlanta felt a lot like the last one I played in—both times I played blue-black and felt like my deck was incredible, despite being between the crosshairs of everyone who showed up playing to win. Last time I played Faeries, and as I explained, everyone was gunning for me. It was well worth the tradeoff of having a highly favorable game one against the field, and all day I was paired against opponents who sideboarded predictably. This time around, my weapon of choice was Reanimater. I absolutely loved this deck! My wins felt savage, and my losses felt like I just got unlucky. I like Reanimater because it is by far the best Griselbrand deck in Legacy, over the alternatives: Sneak Attack and Hypergenesis.
Assuming all these decks are broken against the fair Legacy decks, all that remains is the ‘mirror’—and here Reanimater is advantaged. All your combo cards cost one mana (Reanimate, Entomb) instead of three or four (Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, Violent Outburst), and you have Thoughtseize, Daze, and Force of Will, whereas the other builds have to settle for just Force of Will. My preparation was once again lacking, but what I missed out on in actual gameplay I made up for in research. I know just about every deck in Legacy, and when I see 1-2 cards I know exactly what cards are in their deck, what cards they might play, and what they could potentially sideboard.
I read enough articles and talked to enough people to know what the popular decks were going to be and how to sideboard against them, and as the tournament went on my mistakes from the early rounds disappeared, and I was sideboarding much better. There really is no substitute for tournament experience. I’d say something like 50 playtest games should equal one match in a tournament. In playtesting, you just want to see what happens in the games, but in a tournament you and your opponent are trying their hardest to beat the each other. Plus, you play a full match with sideboarded games, and you are put under the gun with a sideboard locked in—as opposed to playtesting, where you can just keep switching stuff around. Regardless, the final list I used is one hundred percent a product of LSV and his testing.
The factors I would credit most for my solid finish this weekend:
1. LSV ships me his list, which is very strong.
2. I am convinced to play 4 Thoughtseize, as it’s the best card in the mirror and incredibly valuable after sideboard.
3. Andrew Cuneo explains to me that in a format where your deck can do something very degenerate, you should mulligan aggressively.
4. Jason Ford lends me just about every card in the deck.
5. My first couple rounds were very easy, so I was able to make mistakes and learn my deck without getting punished for them.
First, the list:
I would say the most important distinctions from this list and earlier versions of the deck would be 4 Thoughtseizes, 3 Dazes, 18 lands, and the creatures. I loved having 4 Thoughtseizes—it is by far the best card you can possibly have for the mirror match. We expected to not only be a popular and powerful deck, but that the mirror match would be dumb as well. The fact that Reanimate and Animate Dead can target creatures in any graveyard means Thoughtseize can double as disruption or a combo enabler, taking a Griselbrand from their hand or your own.
Daze is really strong in this deck as it acts as a free counterspell post-Griselbrand, and all the action happens in the first couple turns of the game. The ability to pitch Daze to Force of Will adds a significant amount of value to the card as well. Almost all builds chose to run four, but I was very satisfied playing only three. I knew Reanimater was going to be a popular deck, both in terms of being played and being prepared for, and that meant each of my opponents would know I had 4 Dazes in my deck. I figured enough people would hardcore play around Daze, and this would reduce its effectiveness. I still wanted it, but I basically never wanted to draw two, and I wanted to have it less often when my opponents were mindful of it. Next, the decision to play 18 lands was an easy one, the cards people played the most to disrupt the deck were Daze, Wasteland, and Spell Pierce—so just having a ton of lands was a benefit more often than not. On top of that, having the sideboard Show and Tells meant my average casting cost went up after game ones.
The creatures I chose to run were really sick. Griselbrand is the obvious choice. He is super powerful and resilient to removal—he gets an A+.
Next is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and I was pretty satisfied with this card overall. It's also resistant to removal, as you can get its effect before it can be Swords to Plowsharesed against Maverick. All tournament long, whenever I went for Elesh Norn I had really positive experiences with it. In multiple games against Maverick it would just wipe a board of Mother of Runes, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Noble Hierarchs clean, while ignoring Karakas or Swords; and one game I mulliganed to five on the play and just had a turn 2 kill against mono-green Elves. Elesh Norn was great, and far outperformed what a Blazing Archon would have done for me.
Sphinx of the Steel Wind is an oddball card, and during the tournament I questioned its inclusion—It ended up being worth its weight in gold. I liked the Sphinx because it acted as a Griselbrand, in that it was a giant lifelink creature that could win the game all by itself, but it can dodge Karakas because it isn’t legendary. I also liked the Sphinx because it was a Griselbrand with a different name!
One match I went to Entomb and Reanimate it, anticipating a potential Surgical Extraction, which my opponent had, stripping the one Sphinx out of my deck—leaving me with a Griselbrand in hand that ended up taking the game via Show and Tell. If I had Entombed for Griselbrand I would have surely lost.
Tidespout Tyrant is complete garbage. I hated him all tournament, and I only used him when I had to. This is the card I sideboarded out the most and reanimated the least, I think just about any other option would have been better. If I had to run the tournament again, this would become an Iona, Shield of Emeria.
The spells in this deck are fairly stock, scrolling down the list the first real WOW you get is 2 Karakas. When LSV showed me the list I saw this and immediately mocked him. They looked so out of place, and the only benefit seemed to be bouncing an opposing Griselbrand—and at that point how likely is it that you are going to win anyways? Oh, how wrong I was, these were all-stars for me throughout the tournament. I was using them to bounce my own sideboarded Vendilion Cliques, I was using them to remove Thalia from the board—and believe it or not I won multiple games bouncing opposing Griselbrands. The main reason they are in the deck are just to prevent an opponent from having Karakas—which you may think Wasteland does better, but you’d be wrong. If I have a Karakas and a Griselbrand I’m on top of the world, but if I have a Wasteland and a Griselbrand then you can still own me with Karakas. It was slightly annoying that they were lands that didn’t produce blue or black, which meant I couldn’t keep a one-lander with them, but still overall very powerful and worth the tradeoff.
3 Show and Tell are in the sideboard as your main strategy against graveyard hate, and they were quite effective. I had people sideboarding in Grafdigger's Cage and Surgical Extraction all day, and being able to sidestep that is nice. Naturally Show and Tell is weak to the Wasteland, Daze, Spell Pierce plan that RUG Delver is on from the start, but that’s why we sideboard 2 City of Traitors as well. With Brainstorm and Ponder it’s not hard to just get a bunch of lands, or find the Cities. Show and Tell works exceptionally well with Thoughtseize and Vendilion Clique to clear the way.
2 Coffin Purge serve as hate for the mirror match, and they were excellent at that. They provide a flexible form of graveyard hate that you can tutor for with Entomb, and when drawn naturally can be very problematic, as it is resistant to Thoughtseize and Force of Will. My fondest memory of the tournament is from when I beat Drew Levin in a Reanimater mirror in round six. Game three he’s on the play and starts off with turn 1 Entomb, Griselbrand. I play Underground Sea and pass, he plays Animate Dead. My hand is Force of Will, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Coffin Purge, Entomb, and two lands. I Coffin Purge his Griselbrand, and he responds with Force of Will. I think 99% of players would just snap Force of Will the Force of Will here, but after a moments thought I let his Force of Will on my Coffin Purge resolve, and I used my Force of Will on his Animate Dead. This leaves Griselbrand in the graveyard, and allows me to topdeck Animate Dead/Reanimate to steal his Griselbrand at minimal risk, since if I don’t topdeck and he goes for a Reanimate next turn, I can just flashback my Coffin Purge and remove it. My creative play was rewarded as I topdecked Animate Dead and made short work of him.
2 Vendilion Cliques were added to the sideboard at the last minute, but proved to be incredibly useful. First, one of my favorite plays in Legacy is Vendilion Clique into Jace. When you play Vendilion at end of turn they are going to lose their Force of Will one way or another, and Force is basically the only card that can properly defend against Jace. On top of that, Vendilion Clique is great before a Show and Tell, and it's good at blocking Delvers and Nimble Mongoose. On top of that if it ever gets countered or killed, you can just spend excess Reanimates on it—one mana and 3 life for a Vendilion Clique is quite a bargain.
Lastly my sideboard had 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptors, and they were AWESOME! This card is just amazing, and I seem to have it in my deck in all my good finishes. It was tech for the mirror match, since it can get really bogged down, and there are very few or zero ways to interact with Jace once it’s on the table. Believe it or not, but I’d rather resolve a Jace than Reanimate a Griselbrand in the mirror. It also proved to be quite useful against the UW Miracles decks that had Humility and tons of graveyard hate, sidestepping all of that was really nice.
I was pretty happy to make Top 16 at this event. I lost in round 14, and if I had won I would have been in the Top 8. I realize I have 11 Grand Prix Top 8s already, but each one is pretty sweet, and whenever you have a good finish its just showing people that you really are good and you do deserve to win—that feels good. In any case, the deck was amazing, and I highly recommend it moving forward.
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