Vs RB Reanimator
(last updated 5/31/18)
Worst cards (main): generic beaters, Stoneforge package
Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Numbers: 1, 2
Deck Strategy and Key Cards
For quite some time, BR Reanimator was seen as a budget option. If you couldn’t afford a few Underground Sea for traditional UB Reanimator, this was a stepping stone towards it. In the past year or so, RB Reanimator began to outperform its UB brother and established itself as a successful archetype. While the UB deck used cantrips for stability and consistency, playing a longer game, the RB deck wants to produce a giant idiot asap.
BR Reanimator is a relatively all-in reanimator deck. Its primary gameplan is to produce either Griselbrand or Sire of Insanity on turn one before the opponent can interact at all. There are going to be other creatures in the deck since it’s so easy to include a few bullets when you have an Entomb package; expect things like Tidespout Tyrant, Grave Titan, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobyte, and Iona, Shield of Emeria to be pretty stock either in the maindeck or sideboard. A Chancellor of the Annex in their opening hand or some early discard like Unmask or Thoughtseize often punches enough of a hole to get the job done, even through opposing resistance. Oddly enough, the Reanimator player often targets themself with these cards to get a fatty in the graveyard, so don’t just flop your hand on the table when they play a discard spell!
This deck plays a very limited amount of card selection. Faithless Looting doubles as card selection and as a way to get a fatty in the graveyard, but that’s about the limit of card selection outside of Entomb. This means that it’s often correct for the Reanimator player to mulligan *very* aggressively. They don’t need many cards to win, just the correct combination of cards. For example, an opening hand of land, Dark Ritual, Entomb, and any Reanimation spell is still an absurd four card hand.
While this deck wants to go as quickly as possible, that doesn’t mean that it just loses if the turn counter ticks up to two. Collective Brutality is a pretty great at wiggling through annoying creatures like Deathrite Shaman or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The escalate ability on it allows you to Duress your opponent while also pitching a fatty; that’s some great utility! The deck also has pretty strong top-deck potential. Assuming you have a creature in your graveyard, you have about 12 Reanimation spells to hit. There will be plenty of games where the Reanimator player draws too many pieces of one side of the combo, but don’t get cocky and assume you’ve won the game if you stop their initial burst.
The Matchup and Important Interactions
So the first thing to accept is that you will lose some games without doing much of anything. D&T has limited interaction with this deck before turn two. Swords to Plowshares and Karakas are about the only relevant ones. Don’t be afraid to throw away a Mother of Runes or an Aether Vial to get rid of that annoying Chancellor of the Annex trigger (and on that note, if you use Cavern of Souls to play that Mom, that trigger does nothing.). Even in the post sideboard games, many of our best cards will still cost two mana.
Don’t dismay even if your opponent does their thing on turn one. Drawing Plains followed by Swords to Plowshares will undo most of the work of a Sire of Insanity. Drawing a Karakas might be enough to beat an early Griselbrand. Assuming that you make it to turn two, Thalia gives this deck fits. Much of this deck’s mana is one-use, so the repeated tax can be backbreaking.
All reanimation spells are not created equal. Reanimate puts a strain on their life total, which when combined with Griselbrand and Thoughtseize can be a real problem. Exhume might end up giving you a creature too if the game drags on. Animate Dead sometimes can get into pretty weird situations with a Flickerwisp blinking it out. Animate Dead and Reanimate can also target creatures in the opponent’s graveyard in a pinch, though using an Animate Dead on a Mirran Crusader never works the way they want it to.
Phyreixan Revoker will go on Griselbrand most of the time, though it occasionally attacks a mana source. Sanctum Prelate can pretty safely go on one or two. One will stop their selection of Faithless Looting and Entomb as well as Reanimate. Two will stop both their Exhume and Animate Dead as well as the Collective Brutality to get rid of it.
Things on your side of the field are pretty easy: bring in your graveyard hate and extra cheap removal. Ethersworn Canonist is also probably good enough to make the cut. Surgical Extraction is one of your best options, but keep in mind that it doesn’t do well against a Faithless Looting pitching two creatures followed by Exhume. You’ll need a Faerie Macabre for that sort of thing, which also happens to work well against the Chancellor of the Annex tax; I do not recommend playing Faerie, as its not very impactful against decks other than this one. Sticking a Rest in Peace or a protected Containment Priest will usually win the game. Trim your slower cards and most or all of the Stoneforge package to make room for all your goodies.
I say usually, because it’s very possible for the RB Reanimator deck to just start casting Grave Titan or Sire of Insanity; casting Griselbrand isn’t out of the question either. RB Reanimator also usually takes some sort of precaution against opposing hate. It often splashes for either Abrupt Decay or Wear as catch all answers, and it’s not uncommon to see cards like Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, or Stronghold’s Gambit as a way to reduce reliance on the graveyard. The creature suite usually changes a bit going into the post sideboard games, but other than Archetype of Endurance, most of them can be handled with traditional means. Council’s Judgment is great against that, but otherwise a little over-costed for this matchup. Watch out for Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobyte. That guy is a jerk.
You will lose some games without casting a spell. That’s fine. There is little you can do about that. That being said, in anything that starts to resemble a real game, you are probably favored. The matchup probably ends up being even overall due to that. The RB Reanimator players always say they feel favored, but I’m not entirely sure that’s actually true.
Winning the die roll can be pretty important for how game 1 plays out; if you stick Thalia on the play, you may buy yourself enough time for the rest of the deck to do its thing. If you are running a traditional D&T list with ~6 graveyard hate cards and a few extra removal spells, you have all you need to win this matchup. Don’t be afraid to mulligan aggressively. You can usually knock them out of the running with about two relevant spells. I am very willing to go down to four or five cards in this matchup. Throw back those average looking hands full of generic beaters until you get something with some relevant hate cards.
Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 9-2 (84.6%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 2-4 (33.3%)