GP Louisville has come and gone, and Fatal Push is knocking on Legacy’s door. I’m calling it the black Swords to Plowshares, and I’m excited to see what metagame changes it will bring. Today, though, I’m going to go over B/R Reanimator—a deck that will not be directly affected by the printing of Fatal Push.
Andrew Sullano, 2nd place at GP Louisville
U/B Reanimator has been a popular deck for a while now, but B/R Reanimator managed to fly under the radar until it won Eternal Champs Europe a few months back. It’s been gaining a traction on Magic Online, and the affordability and power of the deck have made it popular. The deck has some key differences from its blue cousin, and these differences mean the two decks play out quite differently.
First of all, the B/R Reanimator build plays Dark Ritual (and potentially Chrome Mox), which means that it’s more likely to combo on turn 1 or 2. This burst of speed makes it a turn-1.5 combo deck, whereas U/B Reanimator is more of a turn-2.5 combo deck. Furthermore, B/R Reanimator doesn’t really have cantrips, just 4 copies of Faithless Looting. This means that the deck is built to live and die by its opening hands as the lack of card manipulation means it’s not set up to win a longer game.
As a result, one of the most important skills in playing the deck is mulliganing. You only get one chance to “filter” your draw, and for the most part the deck can mulligan very well. You only need 3 cards to win on turn 2 (land, Entomb, Reanimate), so you should generally mulligan down to 5 any hand that doesn’t have a way of getting a creature in play. On 5 card hands, you are still looking for a Faithless Looting or an Entomb.
The deck also has considerable built-in redundancy. It plays 10 creatures and 12 reanimation spells, so once you have a creature in the graveyard, you are likely to run your opponents out of counterspells because you have so many reanimation effects.
In terms of disruption, the deck relies on discard effects (Unmask, Thoughtseize, Collective Brutality) and Chancellor of the Annex. Chancellor doubles as disruption and a creature to reanimate. Against most combo decks and Delver decks, an early Chancellor is enough to finish the game. For the discard package, I like playing the full playset of Unmask. It makes your Griselbrands more potent as you can draw 7 and Thoughtseize your opponents with no mana. Unmask is also a free way to bin your own fatties if needed, and definitely increases the goldfish speed of the deck. Finally, in post-sideboard games, most decks in Legacy run Surgical Extraction, and the discard effects are one way to beat it.
For extra reanimation targets, Andrew chose Sire of Insanity, Tidespout Tyrant, Grave Titan, Inkwell Leviathan, Elesh Norn, and Iona. Sire of Insanity is great on turn 1 on the play as it forces your opponents to topdeck land and removal for it. Tidespout Tyrant can answer troublesome permanents like Ensnaring Bridge while also letting you “catch up” from a behind board state in conjunction with Griselbrand’s draw 7. A common play is to reanimate Griselbrand, and then reanimate a Tidespout Tyrant to bounce your opponent’s board. In the sideboard, Andrew plays Elesh Norn as a sweeper to beat creature decks like Delver and Elves. Iona comes in against mono-color decks and combo decks. Inkwell Leviathan and Grave Titan are good against decks with Karakas and Swords to Plowshares because they are more resilient threats.
Andrew also plays the full set of 4 Reverent Silence, which in conjunction with his 7 fetchlands and Bayou gives him a way to beat Leyline of the Void. Personally, I tested this plan and didn’t find it that effective because there are times when you won’t have access to the Bayou, and other times where the Leyline decks play Chalice and Thorn/Thalia, which are also difficult to beat. Personally, I prefer to sidestep Leyline through a Show and Tell splash or Stronghold Gambit + discard, but the important thing is to have a plan for Leyline.
He also runs Abrupt Decay, which is playable against a variety of decks, but in my opinion not necessary as you are decreasing the redundancy of your deck. Grafdigger’s Cage and Rest in Peace are not popular cards, while Surgical Extraction is fairly ubiquitous. Furthermore, when games go past the first 4 turns, blue decks get to cantrip and build unbeatable draws while B/R Reanimator will draw into some number of dead cards. So I prefer to have proactive sideboard plans.
One card I do like is Collective Brutality, of which he plays the full set. Brutality is an excellent way to beat countermagic or Deathrite Shaman. If they only have counterspells and no graveyard hate, then Brutality is an uncounterable way to bin a fatty while also stripping their counterspell. If they only have a Deathrite Shaman, then Brutality can simply get it out of the way. If they have both Deathrite and counterspells, Brutality is less effective but still reasonable as an option to overload the Deathrites and countermagic.
Let’s go through some matchups. These sideboard suggestions are just that, and are often play/draw dependent. For example, you almost always want Sire on the play, but it’s perfectly fine to board out on the draw.
The cards to sideboard depend on the Miracles player’s build, but in general you only need to hedge against Containment Priest. Rest in Peace is not popular anymore and most players run Surgical Extraction instead. If you run Show and Tell or Stronghold Gambit, I think those are reasonable plans against Miracles and you can sidestep Surgical Extraction.
It’s possible to board in Abrupt Decay, but I don’t like this plan. In a deck that plays no cantrips, your opponents’ hands will be better than yours from turn 4 on. Sure, you might kill their Counterbalance, but you are not beating their 6-card hand of 4 counterspells and a Surgical Extraction.
B/R Reanimator can beat many hate cards with speed, but Leyline of the Void is the one exception. Andrew chose to find a way to kill it. Alternative plans include Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, and Stronghold Gambit.
Delver Decks with Deathrite Shaman
Faithless Looting can be a liability and card disadvantage, so it’s fine to board out against any deck with multiple Surgical Extractions. Similarly, taking out a Griselbrand is reasonable to hedge against Surgical Extraction.
Death and Taxes
I have not played this matchup that many times, but overall Chancellor has been rather underwhelming. The plan is still to get Griselbrand in play, and then draw enough cards so that you can beat StP/Path/Karakas. Many D&T lists are now running Surgical or Faerie Macabre, so be aware of that and Thoughtseize them if you can.
Against combo decks, you just need to rearrange your reanimation targets to best beat the specific combo deck. You are more disruptive and faster than almost every other deck in the format so, in general, combo decks are good matchups. Before I wrap up, I wanted to go through Alex Mangone’s U/B Reanimator list from GP Louisville:
Alex Mangone, 11th place at GP Louisville
Gee, doesn’t this look familiar? Alex’s U/B list is a hybrid of traditional U/B lists and the recent B/R Reanimator lists. To compare to B/R Reanimator, he cut Dark Ritual, Faithless Looting, Unmask, and Animate Dead for Ponder, Brainstorm, Careful Study, Daze, and Force of Will. This means Alex’s deck is set up a bit better to play after turn 2, but loses some speed on turns 1 and 2. Essentially, he’s giving up power for more consistency and resiliency. Furthermore, his Griselbrands are more powerful because he has access to countermagic in his deck. He’s also on color to play Show and Tell in the sideboard, which is another side benefit.
B/R Reanimator is here to stay, and I would recommend testing against it. It’s the most powerful Belcher-esque deck we have seen in a while, and it’s tough to beat without a critical mass of hate cards. B/R Reanimator forces you to have the answers early, and if you don’t have enough of them, Griselbrand will leave you in the dust.