Reanimator is a deck that's as old as time itself. A deck that's been around before our grandfather's grandfather. A deck that's very simple and very easy to play, you're dumping big fat creatures and bring them out easily and cheaply using various resurrection spells. Although it can be a slow deck, it does command a lot of power and utility that can be difficult to work against.
Such benefits are having fatties with flying, vigilance, lifelink, haste, and indestructibility including creatures that cannot be countered if they're hard to cast from your hand. The only downfalls are bad hands or lucky draws. Heliod Lifegain decks are pretty much free wins. The deck can be pretty affordable to make as the MDFC lands are generally are $3-$7 apiece, Velomachus Lorehold is still cheap at $5 apiece generally. However, the best fatties are kind of price with Koma being $15-25. Still, this deck, even with a limited budget, can be really fast, fun, and easy to build and it has relatively few bad matchups.
Table of Contents
1.) Building the deck
2.) Instants and Sorceries
3.) The Mana
5.) Why Play this Deck?
6.) The Current Meta, Sideboards, and You
7.) Example/Basic Deck Design
8.) Playing the Deck
9.) History & Tournament Results
10.) New Sets/Updates
Building the Deck
Deck Core: The deck is 10 monsters general, 24 lands, 26 other spells. You want 8 ways to revive and 12 ways to draw. The rest are flexible. The monsters are pretty flexible. Lands however aren't so much. While it is nice to be able to hard cast when facing something like blue, we have lots of Treasure to make us flexible mana such as White for Velomachus or Green for Koma.
Velomachus is the true speed of this deck. His ability to dive into the deck and find more revives or field control is amazing. I've turned games around because he'd find me Storm's Wrath or Shadows' Verdict. Burning-Rune Demon is also necessary as he can be quite a very useful toolbox. He can grab lands you need, Thrill or Command or Seize if you need to draw & pitch, get one of the two revives, OR simply put a Velomachus in the GY just so you can revive him that or next turn.
For a 5/5 with Flying, Vigilance, Haste that has an amazing effect, Velomachus is the key card for this deck. He's even meaning when he has Lifelink and causes many rage quits, especially if you use his effect with removal.
Burning-Rune Demon is pretty much a staple as well. His ability to find 2 cards, of different names, can help out tremendously. Plus he's a good fake-out for stuff like Baleful Mastery, Banishing Light, Murder, Poison the Cup, Inscription of Abundance, and other n00b/controlling spells that you rather not have on your Lifelinker or Velomachus. Easily use him to get a creature in your hand for a cantrip cost or get a cantrip or even find lands you need.
He's still a 6/6 Flyer that can be annoying with Lifelink, that's an additional plus going for him and you do NOT have to resolve his effect although I don't see why you wouldn't.
Other Creatures: Is it a fatty? If yes, does it have an awesome and immediately useful power? If no, then do NOT run it. Koma gives him serpents for indestructibility or tapping your opponent's creatures, Velus is stupid good when he's brought back with Velus' ability and you get him on the field with a revive so you can double-strike with him and not have problems. The following are choices for the deck, if there's more note worth fatties with good effects, I'll update this. Especially after rotation.
If the deck picks up or after rotation: Baneslayer Angel will be a fun side deck/tech card to run. Until then, each creature has a lot of pros and relatively few cons. Koma and Velus can set up for rage quits and quick wins or big life gains in the right situations. Orchus can nuke the field but drain you, however, he does have a built-in reanimate. It does require a LOT of mana. The game SHOULD be over by the time you have 9 mana. Tergrid is an option if your meta has a lot of people discarding stuff from their hand or if they're sacrificing a lot of stuff. Thryx is a powerful, POWERFUL, sideboard option as he makes the revives even cheaper plus makes the spells unable to be countered. Goldspan can ramp nice and has haste, Dream Trawler can be very useful as he has built-in flying & lifelink, he gets stronger as we draw A LOT, and by discarding a card he gains Hexproof making him even MORE annoying. With that said:
Draw & Discarding are the key ability to revive our creatures to win. Control is always a great idea too, it's nice to have a nice fatty like Koma or Dreamy out but if they have no staying power due to lack of controlling their field, it's going to be short. The following are not really flexible.
The Prismari Commands are too good to run short. The ability to shock something, draw & discard two, make Treasure to cast or have main-deck artifact hate is too much to pass up. The best part: It's an instant. Being able to pop that makes it one of the strongest utility cards in the deck.
Return Upon the Tide & Unbreakable Bond is the key to victory. Most of the time, the ability to hard cast Koma and/or Velomachus won't be available as the lands are Grixis, not five colors. Treasure helps hard cast but we'll be more reliant on the previously mentioned reanimating cards. RUTT has the nice ability to Foretell on turn 2 and cast on turn 4, which can throw people off fairly well. Unbreakable has that lovely, LOVELY, Lifelink counter. This can put Velomachus or Koma or whomever out of Heartless Act making the opponent blow two of those on your creature or can just turn the game around. RDW and Heliod can't deal with Lifelink, Vigilance, Haste, Flying Velomachus who's giving us a revive/control each attack. Running at 4 is mandatory and never siding them out is most wise.
Seize the Spoils & Thrill of Possibility are two more draws & discard spells that are very useful and are best ran as a full playset. While Thrill is cheaper to cast at 2, Seize is the better option because of the Treasure ability. Both are great cards with great draw & graveyard feeding as they require discarding as cost. Even countered, getting a creature in the grave is an advantage. These can be sided out just don't overdo it, should you side them out.
All of those work EXTREMELY well in the deck. They're cards that can be cast through hard casting as Grixis lands, but they're importantly able to be cast through Velomachus Lorehold's ability. The ability to free cast a Shadows' Verdict or Storm's Wrath against Pests & Heliod can lead to rage quits. The majority of creatures are too big to die from Storm's 4 damage, although Koma's Serpents are vulnerable so play wisely if you're using him and he's present, and none of your creatures are affected by Shadow's Verdict. Baleful Master is another of the best spot removals in the game presently. Even if your opponent draws a card, being able to shut down a key card of theirs immediately can be the difference between winning and losing. I should note this: Running Shadows' Verdict is almost mandatory due to the number of small creature decks like Lifegain and RDW. I've been at a 44 life disadvantage and had opponents rage quit from ONE Shadows' Verdict.
If you're using other stuff, just be aware of Mana Cost as you don't want anything bigger than a 5 drop as Velomachus' effect clearly states equal to or less than his attack power, and the cards' speed is a major determining factor. Other cards that can be used are as follows but the above-mentioned are preferable in most cases.
Of these cards, Bloodchief's Thirst & Heartless Acts are going to be the best replacements if you can't score Baleful, Storm, and/or Shadows'. While it's best to grab those, if you're testing the deck out or want to try something different: Those are the best replacements that can be used. The nice thing is Velomachus can cast Bloodchief free through his effect and you can pay the Kicker too! Just make sure you have the mana open in this situation.
3.) The Mana:
This deck is a big mana deck ultimately. Yes, it has small spells to draw. But the main kill cards and the reanimate spells are all big 5 drops. Ideally, you want 3-4 lands and a drawing card in your hand. It's nice to have a creature too but having 10 creatures in 60 cards can sometimes be a miss. Generally, the deck runs 24 lands. Basics are always a welcomed touch so a minimum of 5 is suggested, just not snow lands. Using MDFC lands and Temple/Scry lands helps out great too as it's needed to mana fix or encourage a Reanimate Spell or Creature to show up faster. Lands are suggested as follows, use any duo mana lands if you're unable to get all. The Life Gain lands aren't expensive and can help slightly against Red Deck Wins.
I admit I'm not a whiz on this, so suggestions are welcomed. But I feel from my losses, you'll want to have some Enchantment destruction with stuff like Elspeth Conquers Death, Binding the Old Gods, Banishing Light, to name a few. If the deck gets big, there's enough stuff that'll be added. Also, some counterspells could increase the survival of this deck massively. At this time, the sideboard should be more controlling.
Feed the Swarm is a good option if your opponent has some graveyard retrieval like Harald Unites the Elves or Elspeth Conquers Death which can become problematic. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is another difficult thing, however, most of the time when he sees the field, unless you have Baleful ready, he'll likely just see a -7 and sacrifice himself to get rid of your creatures so don't fret too much if you're using 2 creatures and see him. Storm's Wrath is easy enough for those small decks like Lifegain & RDW. Pests could be problematic with Storm's Wrath however Shadows' Verdict doesn't let them gain life and you won't lose with their enchantment combo pieces.
Things to Avoid: Kunoros, Hound of Athreos is solely the biggest threat as it's just mean. Vigilance, Menance, Lifelink, and locks down the graveyard. Scavenging Ooze is another threatening card, so is Froghemoth, all of those are cards you WILL want to hold onto a Baleful Mastery or side in more. There is some other minor graveyard hate, most are negligible as it'll remove one maybe two cards. Four Velomachus in the main deck means we can lose one or two, same with our other creatures as well run duplicates. However losing two of one, CAN be problematic. Just be aware of your opponent's mana as they're casting, and choose your Baleful Mastery/Storm's Wrath/Shadows' Verdict wisely so you don't take a hit that's too hard.
5.) Why Play This Deck?
This reanimator can be pretty cheap, as mentioned above. The only really expensive cards are Koma & Velus if you're running them. Some of the alternatives could be more, maybe less. The lands are under the double digits per too. Velomachus hasn't done anything ridiculous yet but I do foresee him becoming a Reanimator staple in Modern, Historic, and possibly Legacy. The deck starts slow and takes damage early on against small weeny decks early on, but unless they get an incredibly lucky first hand or Embercleave and you kept a bad hand, that disadvantage disappears very quickly.
6.) The Current Meta Decks, Sideboards, & You:
From playing this in ranked Arena. Haven't done traditional yet however, if I have a good feeling it'll be more of the same. More playtesting will be done and updated as necessary. All of my sidings are PURELY based on my experience and is personal preference, feel free to suggest what to side out/in. But I feel my suggestions are most prudent.
Heliod & Angel & Lifegain Decks: They just rage quit after seeing Daxos, Blessed by the Sun and/or Heliod, God of the Sun get removed by a Baleful Mastery. Plus the life gain from a vigilance & lifelink Velomachus is way too much for their angels to stop. Sometimes they get big, yes. However Shadow's Verdict quickly squashes their hopes, plus it removes any 2/2 griffins made by Griffin Aerie, as will a nicely placed Storm's Wrath. Generally, this is the best match-up as there's little they can do, even with the random Banishing Light. The only problematic card can be ECQ, which you'll want to side for dropping the Storm's Wrath.
Answer to this: Siding in Baleful Mastery and Fracture is best. Siding out Storm's Wrath and a Shadow's Verdict.
Red Deck Wins: Another deck this holds a STRONG chance to win against. Early Embercleave can see you surrendering quickly. However; four main decked Pristmari Command can help counter that, ASSUMING you've remembered to keep the three required mana open for it. Once more, a fatty with Lifelink, especially on Velomachus, is on the field, it can shut this deck down. Once in a while, they can burn out a Velomachus but with 8 revives and the ability to hard-cast stuff like Koma, Burning-Rune Demon, Tegrid, etc. via Treasure Tokens, we can fight back fast and hard.
Answer to this: This deck can be problematic early on, but most of the time; this is a fast win for us especially if we're pulling off Storm's Wrath and/or Shadows' Verdict. Sideboarding in Rip Apart and maybe Baleful Mastery is best, never know when an Embercleave can drop. A judgment call is the best here.
Dimir Control: Black/Blue Mill is a REALLY good match-up. Due to the lack of counters, each time they feed our graveyard 2-8 cards sets us up to win. Generally, we outspeed the mill and with flyers such as Burning-Rune Demon & Velomachus in our main deck, we stop their flyers plus Velomachus can easily retrieve us field control to hurt them. Sure they can sac a Merfolk Windrobber to draw a card. Rankle, Master of Pranks isn't run usually, and when he is: He's not much of a threat. His ability to make us discard is what we want, and his sacrifice is offset very easily.
Answer to this: As long as we don't lose too many Returns or Bonds, this is a very favorable match-up. Siding in more Balefuls and/or Storm's Wrath is best in this match-up. Feed the Swarm can be useful for Agadeem's Awakening as well as more Storm's Wrath or Shadows' Verdict. Use your best judgment call here.
Mono-Blue Mill: This is a really unfavorable match up sadly, even with side boarding. They're able to nuke deck hard with Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Then the usual mill of Ruin Crab, Merfolk Secretkeeper, etc. All you can do is pray you can outrace their THS and avoid getting counter-spelled.
Answer to this: The main decking of an Inferno of the Star Mounts and/or Koma is a MUST, assuming you know Dimir/Mono Blue mill is common in your meta. Thryx is another card that could be good if we're able to get him on the field and not get countered as our Returns & Bonds are uncounterable. Test of Talents to hit their Tasha's Hideous Laughter or simply protect our reanimate. Siding out Shadows' Verdict and Storm's Wrath are best, if you wish, keep in Storm's Wrath and drop one or two Thrill of Possibility.
Poison: Unless they get early 2/3/4 Fynn, the Fangbearer, this is a very favorable match-up, I'd say 80% in our favor. The Deathtouch creatures can be problematic however keeping control of Fynn is the key to victory here. The deck sometimes runs a big fatty or a few Rogues to mill. However this doesn't guarantee victory, maybe an offhand card like we don't foresee can be a big difference-maker. Cards like Chevill, Bane of Monsters, and other fatties aren't likely to be main decked. The problem is Fynn, Toski, Bearer of Secrets and possibly Scavenging Ooze and/or Froghemoth.
Answer to this: It's best to side in more Baleful Mastery over Storm's Wrath. Shadows' Verdict should stay in the main deck.
Black/Rakdos Control: Another really favorable matchup, their big creatures aren't scary enough to fear as again: Storm's Watch, Shadows' Verdict & Baleful Mastery are cards that simply shut them down, plus Kroxa only helps us getting our creatures/lands from our hand into the graveyard. Egon, God of Death can be a nuisance, as is Throne of Death. Main decking artifact hate in the form of Prismari Command is really useful here, and Egon can kill himself if we're constantly removing creatures with Baleful Mastery and Shadows' Verdict. Tergrid can be a rough card, however, once you see it's Mono Black/Rakdos, just assume that a Tergrid is being run and save a Baleful Mastery for her.
Answer to this: More Baleful Mastery, maybe a Shadows' Verdict if you see a bunch of Krosa as it's still a RU card that can be removed easily. Siding out Storm's Wrath & a Thrill or two.
Pests: Generally unfavorable, sadly. Even after side boarding, this is a general disadvantage. This deck simply can fire off faster than we can. However it's not that we're defenseless, Shadows' Verdict is insanely good against this deck, and a properly timed Storm's Wrath can also slow if not shut them down. With that said, they're able to fire off really quickly and have mean creatures like Polukranos, Unchained. For that last reason, Baleful Mastery NEEDS to be held onto when you see Green/Black lands. Shadows' Verdict is a nice workaround when they want to fire off and gain. If you're able to remove their creatures, namely their Pest Tokens, with Shadows' Verdict, you get around their life-draining and keep you alive longer. Siding in more Shadow's Verdict and losing some draw with Thrill of Possibility being sided out may be optimal here. Elspeth's Nightmare can be a problematic card too.
Answer to this: Shadow's Victory in, Storm's Wrath out. Use your best call for Baleful Mastery if you need more or less. It's simply a race against their kill cards and yours.
Green Fatty/Stompy/Aggro: This is a 50/50 match-up or a really favorable match-up, pending on the fat creatures used. They can get some really big creatures quickly, or they could mutate into some big ramp and somewhat big creatures. Sometimes they're just too big, and if they're running cards that Fight, that puts our creatures at a big disadvantage allowing them to kill our creature and they can still attack. Verdict on a bunch of mana dorks and insect tokens is nice, but Baleful's should be saved for big creatures like Froghemoth, Scavenging Ooze, Werewolf Pack Leader, Old-Growth Troll, Questing Beast, or Elder Gargaroth.
Answer to this: Side in more Baleful Mastery, side out a Shadows' Verdict and a Thrill of Possibility.
Experimental Overload: Haven't been tested enough. However, in the few I have tested this against, this can go 50/50 honestly. Saving Shadows' Verdict can remove their little creatures quickly but the Baleful Mastery on their overload or previously mentioned: Verdict on their Overload can be very crushing. This deck does run counters, so it's best to play a little bit on the conservative side.
Answers to this: Test of Talents is great here, if you can remove one Experimental Overload, you really hamper their deck. Side out Storm's Wrath and whatever else you feel fit.
Blue Draw decks: Generally favorable, they don't have anything huge. But they are able to draw a lot of cards, getting Midnight Clock can put us in a really bad situation without any Prismari Command to take it out. These decks sometimes run counter, but some just run draw so they can also get Ominous Seas uses. These decks seem threatening, but they're generally not threatening in the least. Yeah, the 8/8 looks scary, but then again it doesn't have Hexproof and can get RFG'd by Baleful Mastery and/or Shadows' Verdict.
Answer to this: Side out Storm's Wrath for Baleful Mastery or Shadows' Verdict. Maybe Test of Talents as they'll probably side this in themselves.
Dimir and Simic Mutate: Generally favorable. If you can control their Sharks & Polly***gs, it's almost an instant win. The deck doesn't have enough to fire back and control our huge creatures, it'll likely run some form of cheap control like Heartless Act or Bloodchief's Thirst. But it's not enough to stop the deck, especially if Koma is on the field as his two effects are really overpowering for their deck. The shark mutates bounce our cards back, so they're significantly worst and NEED to be Baleful Mastery to not be as effective.
Answers to this: Side in more Baleful Mastery, side out Shadows' Verdict. Storm's Wrath is more useful as their mutates are under 4 toughness but converted mana cost is equal to or greater than 4.
Mardu Control: Generally favorable matchup. Even with Elspeth Conquers Death and Doomskar, this deck is still too fast that it can handle. The spirits made are too slow, the creatures aren't much of a threat. Kaya the Inexorable is the only real threat as she can exile our creatures. Her +1 ability, while annoying, isn't too much of a threat.
Answer to this: Side out Shadows' Verdict, side in Baleful Mastery. Maybe one Storm's Wrath as it does hurt her and all the creatures are pretty weak.
Golgari Enchantments: 50/50 match up, they can make some stupid plays. Get a lot of tokens with class cards, ramp, and gain life. Nothing too much to fear if you can get Baleful's or Shadows. Elsepth's Nightmare may be involved in this game too, so watch for this.
Answer to this: Side out Stor's Wrath for more Baleful Mastery & Shadow's Verdict as their enchantments can get bigger than Storm's Wrath can hit.
Answer to this: Side out Shadow's Verdict for Baleful Mastery & Storm's Wrath.
Cycling Aggro: Untested yet in ranked. I've only played against n00bie Cycling and it wasn't even close.
Answers to this: Likely side in Fracture and Test of Talents. Not 100% sure.
Golgari Elves: Untested yet.
Answers to this: Likely side in more Shadows' Verdict and Fracture, side out Baleful Mastery.
Yorion Ultimatum: Untested yet, however from past experience, I feel this is a generally unfavorable match-up in game one. However, games 2 and 3 should be more favorable.
Answers to this: Test of Talents is the best answer here, drop the Storm's Wrath and two Thrill of Possibility so you can counter any Alrunds, Sharknado's, and/or Ultimatums. They may Duress you too, so you'll likely want to knock that out if possible as it'll hurt not having Test of Talents or Unbreakable Bonds.
7.) Example/Basic Deck Design.
Hopefully, this has convinced you to try something different. This is the deck I'm currently using myself. Maybe you think or see something that can be done differently, please feel free to leave your comments.
Not much to this. Ideally, you want 3-4 lands, 1 draw & discard card, a creature, and a reanimate card. Two land hands are doable if there are scry lands and a Thrill. However, 3 or 4 scry lands are doable. You generally only need 5 land total to run this deck, once you hit 5 lands, you can scry lands to the bottom. Seize & Prismari does count as mana sources. When you have Thrill and/or Seize, you'll want lands to pitch, but ideally, you want a creature. Velomachus is your preferable card to throw away, followed by Burning-Rune Demon. Your choice of fatty/kill card is next.
Whenever you have a Prismari Command, try to save it for your opponent's turn due to the sheer number of artifacts that are played now. Preferably during their End Phase after they've cast stuff and are nearly tapped out or will have likely played their more powerful artifacts. When you do use Prismari Command, you're generally going to make a Treasure Token until you hit 5 or 6 lands and draw 2, discard 2. Once you hit 5 or 6 lands, you can burn them or their creatures for 2. Artifacts that are played will take general priority as most are vicious, such as Throne of Death or The Book of Exalted Deeds.
When you start using Return Upon the Tide or Unbreakable Bond, you'll want to first bring back Velomachus Lorehold as he's simply too good. His ability to dive in, grab a revive/control card is too pass up. If you can bring him back with a Lifelink, take that choice. Burning-Rune Demon should be brought back if you have less than 2 creatures in your graveyard or if you need a Thrill/Seize, Land A/B, or Land B/C, or Land A/C. If you go for creatures, it's best to look at the situation, but most of the time using Burning-Rune Demon to grab a Velomachus and Koma/Mount Velus are ideal. Usually, the bigger one goes into our hands and the smaller one goes into the grave. Except for Koma, most of the time our opponents send him to our hand due to not having green lands too hard to cast him, but Treasure will make that easy. Just like if we get a Velomachus in our hand.
If you're running Koma, Cosmos Serpent make sure to time your Shadows' Verdict after he becomes Indestructible by sacrificing a Koma's Coil. Also remember: KOMA MAKES A SERPENT ON EVERY SINGLE UPKEEP! Realizing this has won me many games, as he can become unkillable (save removal like Banishing or Baleful Mastery) or simply screw around with your opponent as he can sacrifice a Koma's Coil to tap a permanent and lockout its activated ability. This can be a life-saving ability, especially during your opponent's end phase.
Inferno of the Star Mounts is another card that can potentially win us the game. While we can never hit his 20 ability, just using an Unbreakable Bond on him so he's a 6/6 Flying, Lifelink, Haste with Firebreathing is a really fun ability. Being able to get 6-12 life a turn can turn everything around in your favor. Even if he returns from Return Upon the Tide and not Unbreakable Bonds.
If you're playing with Terror of Mount Velus, you're going to be pitching him. Very rarely will you cast him, and you'll want to get him on the field when you also control a Velomachus and/or Rune Demon w/o Summoning Sickness. The ability to get double-strike while flying is a very fun turn, should one of those double-strike creatures also have Lifelink, you're going to turn the game in your favor pretty quickly.
Other creatures have different effects on the game. Just make sure they're able to win the game quickly or quickly turn the game in your favor.
EDIT: So far, I've been able to push Platinum 2 in 5 days. I'm going to see if I can make it into Mythic. But Diamond 4 is my goal. Any higher will be gravy.
9.) History & Tournament Reports
Feel free to let us know if you test this out in MTGA or MTGO! Pictures are required to know if you're telling the truth.
10.) New Set/Updates After rotation, this will be updated.
So in 4 days I've pushed through Bronze 1-4, Silver 1-4, Gold 1-4, Platinum 4 and am currently Platinum 3 in Best of One Standard Ranked. This deck is more potent than I thought. I'm looking out for some MTGA tournaments to really see how good it is.
This looks great, thanks! I got to diamond in the last season playing this deck. I found that Draconic Intervention was very good, and I ended up running 2x Intervention, 1x Storm's Wrath, and 1x Shadow's Verdict.
I also found that I almost always wanted Koma over Terror of Mount Velus, so I ended up with 4x Koma. But I keep wondering if having 1 copy of another non-legendary creature would be worth it, as I kept being in the situation of having one fattie on the board, casting or reanimating Burning-Rune Demon, and not being able to get another creature with it because I already have one on the board and both Koma and Velomachus are legendary.