My testing for Eternal Weekend and Grand Prix Birmingham continues with another explosive deck: B/R Reanimator. After Andrew Sullano came in second place with the deck at Grand Prix Louisville last year, it spiked in popularity and remains one of the fastest decks around.
It never reached tier 1, however, because of its fragility after sideboarding.
It was never a deck I thought to play myself, because I don’t like decks that rely so heavily on luck. But recently, Eric Landon—ewlandon on Magic Online—was the Legacy Trophy Leader with 32 trophies, 24 of which he won playing B/R Reanimator.
Last week, I decided to try the deck. I was intrigued, since it wasn’t the usual B/R Reanimator list I was used to seeing. There are a few important differences. Eric also wrote an excellent deck guide and posted it on Reddit. I refer to it frequently in this article, so give it a read.
I also chose to include Eric’s input in this article—I asked him some questions about his deck choice and deck building.
Let’s start with his final deck list.
The plan is to reanimate a creature as early as possible—that’s why you run Lotus Petal and Dark Ritual, along with the cheapest ways to put creatures in the graveyard like Faithless Looting, Entomb, and Unmask.
Most lists in the past played Collective Brutality over Unmask. I think that is a big mistake. Unmask is very versatile, letting you either discard their Force of Will or Surgical Extraction on turn 1, or target yourself to discard a creature to reanimate. All of this at 0 mana!
The main innovation Eric brought to the table was Cabal Therapy. Stock lists were playing Thoughtseize, but the 2 life along with the option to flash Cabal Therapy back were enough to make the change.
Eric: “Storm players wait until they know that the coast is clear or when they are forced to attempt to combo. So why not play B/R like this?”
Flashing back Cabal Therapy is also useful against decks like Death & Taxes with Karakas, where you can use your Griselbrand to refill your hand and then use it to hit some cards in your opponent’s hand.
I did the same versus Miracles, where I knew my opponent had two Swords to Plowshares in hand, so when I reanimated Griselbrand and Tidespout Tyrant, I used the second one to get rid of their removal spells.
The sideboard is also very innovative. We’ve seen plans with Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, and Stronghold’s Gambit, but Eric chose none of those, sticking to his main plan with a little bit of disruption in the form of Grim Lavamancer and Magus of the Moon.
“I’ve tried pretty much every sideboard plan out there,” he said, proceeding to explain why he didn’t like each of those plan Bs: they’re bad against creature decks, Karakas, and overall don’t add a new angle of attack to the deck.
Although he was losing a lot of sideboard games he didn’t quit. He thought hard about how to beat those strategies until he found a path. “I was losing terribly to 4-Color Leovold and Grixis Delver, but thanks to Magus of the Moon and Grim Lavamancer, I turned it around and I started to beat those matchups a lot more frequently.”
Grim Lavamancer is a fantastic way to deal with Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets. Delver decks usually board out Lightning Bolt, or at least they did before this plan was out there, and you buy a lot of time that enables you able to go off once you know the coast is clear, often sacrificing Grim Lavamancer to Cabal Therapy to remove their last piece of interaction.
And even if they leave in Lightning Bolts, you still have about 12 reanimation cards to get those back and run them out of resources.
Even if you are playing versus 4-Color Leovold with a bunch of basics, Magus of the Moon will still be a powerhouse, since they need green mana to exile a creature with Deathrite Shaman.
So what Eric found out is that while this deck is one of the most explosive you can find, the way to approach the postideboard games is to dilute your deck because your opponent will have a lot of ways to deal with your “combo” and you want to be prepared with all of the pieces, and with perfect information, before going off.
Finally, I asked Eric a question not about the deck, but about a change I think should come to Magic Online: a reward for the trophy leader at the end of the season!
I believe that if a player plays Magic Online a lot, and becomes the first in the world for that, that they should get a reward for it. I was convinced by Eric and others that it can’t have monetary value because then people would bribe opponents for concessions, but a golden avatar that says that they have been Trophy Leader at some point in their life would be pretty cool, and I would be hyped to play against the one-time Trophy leader, just like I am to play against a good player in real life!