I’ve been having a lot of fun and success with Simic Flash. It was a natural counter to slower control and midrange decks and Simic Nexus. People seemed to have adapted by trying to get under Flash by playing fast creature decks with a lot of one-drops, like B/W Vampires, Mono-Blue Tempo and cards like Shifting Ceratops and Veil of Summer in the Ramp strategies with mana dorks and Nissa.

I’ve spent some time thinking about how to get over the top of that and I believe Drakuseth is the answer. It’s not just fun and something completely different, it’s also surprisingly good.

Drakuseth, Maw of Flame

If you have ever been on either side of an attacking Drakuseth, Maw of Flames in Limited, your first thought was probably “Wow, this is messed up.” 18 damage split between 4 different targets in one swing is essentially a one-sided Plague Wind.

Seven mana is a lot for Constructed, though, and waiting a turn to attack often means that you are going to be too slow. Luckily, with Bond of Revival, we get to bring Drakuseth into play on turn 5 and immediately attack with it. Now you only need to find a good way to get it into your graveyard.

Together with Frank Karsten during a 14-hour stream last week, we tried a version with Stitcher’s Supplier, more big creatures and Blood for Bones.

While it looked good on paper, the fail rate was quite high and the support cards felt too weak. Missing on Stitcher’s Supplier’s trigger means you invested a card into a 1/1 that didn’t do anything. You just can’t afford to do that. In Modern, Supplier is amazing in Hogaak because about 50% of your deck are cards you would like to mill. Here, you have 8 cards total. Blood for Bones gives your opponent the chance to interact with Drakuseth before it gets to attack, making sorcery-speed removal like Conclave Tribunal or Mass Manipulation very effective. Rotting Regisaur is also not what this deck wants. You don’t need more big creatures, you need to interact with your opponent and disrupt their game plan.

After trying out Mat Mansoor’s deck shared by Arena Decklists, I was hooked. After playing for a few days, this is where I eventually ended up with Grixis Reanimator.

Reanimator in Core Set 2020 Standard

4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Swamp (339)
4 Steam Vents
4 Watery Grave
4 Blood Crypt
1 Temple of Epiphany
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Burning Sun's Avatar
3 Rix Maadi Reveler
4 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
4 Tomebound Lich
2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
4 Chart a Course
3 Ritual of Soot
4 Thought Erasure
1 Cry of the Carnarium
4 Bond of Revival
2 Enter the God-Eternals
2 Tyrant's Scorn

Sideboard
3 Duress
1 Ritual of Soot
2 Lava Coil
2 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Noxious Grasp
2 Moment of Craving
3 Negate

You can find a short video with how this deck plays out here.

How Does the Deck Work?

It’s pretty simple, you defend yourself with some removal spells, disrupt your opponent’s game plan with discard, get Drakuseth into your graveyard and bring it back attacking with Bond of Revival. Cards like Chart a Course and Tomebound Lich are the “enablers,” helping you get Drakuseth in the graveyard from your hand, but you can also do that using the surveil ability on Thought Erasure and Search for Azcanta.

Standard is currently almost all creature decks and everyone just doing their own thing, ramping to planeswalkers, trying to get advantage from tribal synergies and attacking with small and medium-sized creatures. Attacking with Drakuseth on turn 5 means you get to kill Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Risen Reef, Llanowar Elves and a 3/3 Elemental Token all in one swing.

The reason why I like this deck is because the support cards are good on their own. This deck feels more like a Grixis Control deck, rather than an all-in Reanimator strategy. Between Thought Erasure, Search for Azcanta and all the sweepers, you are still doing powerful things even if you aren’t attacking with Drakuseth on turn 5.

Here’s a quick summary of the Grixis version:

  • Ritual of Soot is extremely well-positioned right now. Not only does it kill all the mana dorks, Risen Reef, the explore creatures, Vampires, everything from Boros Feather even through Gods Willing, all the creatures from Mono-Red and Mono-Blue, but it also kills Hydroid Krasis, Voracious Hydra and the creature lands from Nissa.
  • Multiple copies of Cry of Carnarium are in the 75 for the same reason. Sweepers are very good right now.
  • Rix Maadi Reveler is the weakest card in the deck. Without Drakuseth in hand, you often don’t really know what to discard because you need both spells and to make the first 5 land drops. I’m not sure if it’s better than Tormenting Voice, but it does feel nice when the 2/2 body trades for your opponent’s first creature and slows them down. Augur of Bolas could also be an interesting replacement, but you would need to ask Frank Karsten if the odds to hit a spell here are good enough.
  • It can take a while to find your Drakuseth sometimes, so I felt like the deck could use Burning Sun’s Avatar as the fifth big creature to reanimate.
  • 26 lands felt like the right number. You really need to hit your fifth land on turn 5. Having so many “cyclers” makes it easy to throw extra lands away.
  • Tomebound Lich is surprisingly good. Deathtouch and lifelink are both very relevant abilities and getting to “loot” multiple times is also useful.
  • As for removal, I prefer Tyrant’s Scorn over Cast Down. The upside is that you can kill Feather, the Redeemed or bounce something, which is often enough. The downside is not being able to kill Nightpack Ambusher, Crackling Drake and big Dinosaurs. If you feel like your local metagame has more of those, just make the swap. Bedevil and Vraska’s Contempt are a bit too expensive. Disfigure could be better than Moment of Craving, but I feel like you want the life gain. Noxious Grasp being able to kill planeswalkers like Tamiyo, Nissa and Gideon felt very relevant. Lava Coil is mostly in the sideboard because I was having problems with Rekindling Phoenix.
  • Enter the God-Eternals is a nice way to get some life back in close games and mill yourself for 4 when you are looking for Drakuseth.
  • I wasn’t a fan of Kasmina and God-Eternal Kefnet in this deck. You don’t want your curve to be too high and Kefnet falls under the same category as Rotting Regisaur or Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. You just aren’t really interested in more big creatures, you need interaction. I’ll admit I haven’t actually tried Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, but it just seems too expensive and situational to me.
  • Why Drakuseth and not Agent of Treachery, Vilis, Torgaar, Verdant Force, Zacama, Multani, Vona or Massacre Girl? The reason why Drakuseth is so good is that it immediately clears your opponent’s side of the table. None of these other fatties do that. I would consider Zetalpa if it had lifelink. Agent of Treachery is also bad because the 2/3 body is totally irrelevant and stealing only one permanent just isn’t enough. You need to leave them with nothing. Massacre Girl is too small and unreliable at actually sweeping the board and you also can’t afford to play more 5-mana cards.

I was getting asked why I was playing red in the deck, when it was basically just for Rix Maadi and Lava Coil in the sideboard. The thing is, it’s basically free to also play red and be able to hardcast the Dragons, which is something that comes up quite often. I did try a straight-up Dimir version out of curiosity, but it felt a little bit worse. If you are missing wild cards for all the rare lands or want to give it a try anyway, here is what the Dimir version looked like.

Dimir Reanimator

Lotus Field and Detection Tower are two amazing suggestions by Michael Jacob that I would probably never have thought of myself. Lotus Field by itself helps you hardcast Drakuseth and there is almost no cost to playing it. You can easily play it on turn 3, when you usually play another 2-mana spell anyway, so you don’t even end up with unused mana. It also helps you flip Search faster by adding two more cards to the graveyard.

Detection Tower is pretty cool tech against Veil of Summer. Discovery // Dispersal was much worse than it looks because it doesn’t help you discard Drakuseth from your hand. The reason for no Connive // Concoct in the deck is that it suffers from the same problem as Blood for Bones. This deck only works because you are bringing Drakuseth back with haste and killing your opponent’s board immediately.

Thief of Sanity is not the powerhouse it used to be against Control decks because of Teferi, Time Raveler. It wouldn’t be very good against Esper, but it could be effective against Simic Flash. Keep in mind that your sideboard cards need to do something your opponent won’t be ready for or something that completely wrecks them.

The last version I tried was Sultai, and here is my current list:

Sultai Reanimator

4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Island (335)
1 Swamp (339)
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Watery Grave
4 Breeding Pool
1 Lotus Field
1 Temple of Malady
1 Temple of Mystery
2 Hinterland Harbor
2 Woodland Cemetery
4 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
4 Tomebound Lich
4 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
4 Chart a Course
4 Ritual of Soot
4 Thought Erasure
1 Cry of the Carnarium
4 Bond of Revival
3 Tyrant's Scorn

Sideboard
4 Duress
1 Pelakka Wurm
2 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Enter the God-Eternals
1 Tyrant's Scorn
3 Negate
2 Cast Down

You can find me playing the Sultai version for a few hours here.

  • Tamiyo makes the deck a bit slower, but it’s an excellent way to dig for Bond while hopefully milling Drakuseth. It also makes the deck much better against control, discard and counterspells. Remember that Tamiyo makes you want to play as many 4-ofs as possible rather than a little bit of everything, which can be a fairly relevant restriction when building a sideboard.
  • Growth Spiral felt like it just didn’t belong in this deck. We aren’t really ramping into anything here and two mana is a pretty high cost for drawing a card. The explore package sounds interesting in theory, but in reality you don’t care for the small creatures and instead want to get the most out of Ritual of Soot.
  • There are probably too many green sources just for Tamiyo right now, though you do have that 1 Pelakka Wurm in the sideboard. If you are low on wild cards, playing fewer green duals is perfectly fine.
  • Shifting Ceratops could be a good sideboard card if Mono-Blue and Flash stay popular. Green Cavalier is an interesting choice as well, but it would need to replace Enter the God-Eternals.
  • It’s perfectly fine to keep a land-heavy hand because your deck has a lot of looting effects. For example, a hand of Thought Erasure, Tyrant’s Scorn and 5 lands is perfectly fine to keep because you have early interaction. Two Drakuseth, 4 Lands and Search is not, because you will most likely be dead before you do anything.

So, which version do I like the best? All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. When choosing a deck, you always must consider the current metagame. Grixis is probably a little better against aggro and Sultai is definitely better against control and at finding Drakuseth. Overall, I would lean towards the Sultai version right now.

Sideboard Guide

Mono-Red

Out

2 Search for Azcanta

2 Tamiyo

1 Ritual of Soot

1 Cry of the Cariarium

In

1 Pelakka Wurm

2 Enter the God-Eternals

2 Cast Down

1 Tyrant’s Scorn

I feel like Cry is a little unreliable at actually killing their stuff now that Chandra’s Spitfire is in a lot of versions.

Mono-Blue Tempo

Out

2 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

3 Tomebound Lich

2 Search for Azcanta

In

2 Cast Down

1 Tyrant’s Scorn

4 Duress

Simic Flash

Out

4 Ritual of Soot

1 Cry of the Carnarium

In

3 Duress

2 Cast Down

I’m not completely sure about Duresses and Negates, especially if they have Veil of Summer, but you need to add some more interaction with them. It can be awkward that neither of them work against Frilled Mystic.

Boros Feather

Out

1 Cry of the Carnarium

1 Search for Azcanta

1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

In

1 Tyrant’s Scorn

2 Cast Down

Temur Elementals

Out

1 Cry of the Carnarium

1 Tomebound Lich

In

2 Cast Down

Vampires

Out

2 Search for Azcanta

In

2 Cry of the Carnarium

I like that Tyrant’s Scorn can interact with Vona, which seems more relevant than Cast Down being able to kill Champion of Dusk.

Simic Nexus

Out

4 Ritual of Soot

1 Cry of the Carnarium

3 Tyrant’s Scorn

In

4 Duress

3 Negate

1 Cast Down

Their creatures are usually only Nissa lands or Hydroid Krasis, but they might bring in Shifting Ceratops, so some number of Cast Downs is probably reasonable here.

Bant Gateshift Ramp

Out

1 Cry of the Carnarium

3 Ritual of Soot

3 Tyrant’s Scorn

In

4 Duress

3 Negate

In game 1, they don’t have any interaction outside of Teferi, Time Raveler. After sideboard, expect Veil of Summer and Dovin’s Veto. I like keeping 1 Ritual of Soot in the deck because you have Search for Azcanta to find it and it kills every creature they have even after a big Scapeshift.

Esper

Out

4 Ritual of Soot

1 Cry of the Carnarium

1 Tomebound Lich

2 Tyrant’s Scorn

In

4 Duress

2 Negate

2 Cast Down

I’m not actually sure if bringing in the Negates is necessary, and it might be better to just leave in more removal.

Gruul/Jund Dinosaurs

Out

1 Cry of the Carnarium

4 Ritual of Soot

In

2 Cast Down

1 Tyrant’s Scorn

1 Pelakka Wurm

1 Enter the God-Eternals

That’s all I have today about Reanimator! Let me know which version you like the best and what kind of information you are usually looking for in an article. More written content, shorter or longer articles, videos on how to play the deck, more decklists, sideboard guides. I am very flexible and we are creating all this content for you, so I’ll be happy for any kind of feedback!

As usual, you can find me on my stream, twitter and youtube.

I’ll see you guys next week!

– Martin Juza