"Really? You'd play that even with Scavenging Ooze in the format?"
"Doesn't Ooze just beat your deck?"
"Do you just not care about Scavenging Ooze?"
I was asked these and a myriad of similarly themed questions this past weekend many times over.
Let me respond in kind. Allow me to pose a few questions of my own.
Do I look like the kind of person who cares about Scavenging Ooze? Do I look like the kind of person who would dedicate even the smallest possible fraction of a second to thinking about whether or not I would want to then spend an additional equally-as-miniscule portion of a second considering Scavenging Ooze? Do I look like the kind of person who would even know that Scavenging Ooze was in the format because that's how insignificant I deem it in the grand scheme of things? Do I look like the kind of person who would care at all about a 2/2 green creature with type Ooze?
Now let me answer that for you.
Yes. Yes, I do. I look exactly like that kind of person. I am exactly the kind of person who cares a lot about Scavenging Ooze as well as each and every creature that shares his type.
Regardless, zero Muck Drubbs were given. I sold my playset a while back.
Scavenging Ooze is a pretty cool card. Yet I don't think the card beats Junk Reanimator. In fact, and this may sound like crazy person talk, I actually think it makes Junk Reanimator better. Scavenging Ooze, that is. Fire-Belly Changeling would probably destroy Junk Reanimator.
Let me use an example to explain.
When Deathrite Shaman first became a huge part of Legacy, there was actually a time period where Dredge became better as a result. Even though Deathrite Shaman is a one-drop that attacks the graveyard, Deathrite Shaman is slow at removing threats. If the Dredge deck simply produces multiple creatures with dredge or goes off with a Faithless Looting, Deathrite Shaman actually ends up being just a minor speed bump.
However, people believed that since Deathrite Shaman was able to remove cards from the graveyard that they didn't need other graveyard hate cards. They already had four copies of graveyard hate maindeck. People cut Surgical Extraction, Leyline of the Void, and Relic of Progenitus. As a result, Dredge was actually made better. Once those cards started coming back into sideboards, then Dredge was worse off than it was before Deathrite Shaman, but only after people started playing both Deathrite and their normal hate cards.
Scavenging Ooze plays a similar role against Junk Reanimator. As a Junk Reanimator player, I would rather play against Scavenging Ooze than Ground Seal or Rest in Peace. Now that Scavenging Ooze is taking the place of those cards, I actually think Junk Reanimator is better as a result. If people start playing both Ooze and other graveyard hate cards, then Junk Reanimator will take a huge hit, but that's currently not the case.
I'm not sure it will ever be the case. Rest in Peace shuts off Scavenging Ooze's ability. Ground Seal does as well. It's hard to play both of those graveyard hate cards in the same deck since they lack synergy, and frankly Scavenging Ooze is just a better card overall and a reasonable threat against other decks that don't utilize the graveyard.
Ooze does work with Grafdigger's Cage, but Cage is simply a much worse hate card since Angel of Serenity can still pick up creatures from the graveyard when cast from the hand and Junk Reanimator is capable of playing a game without Unburial Rites active. Cage also doesn't replace itself like Ground Seal or provide an effect even if later removed like Rest in Peace.
As a result, I think a build of Junk Reanimator that is prepared to beat Scavenging Ooze is well positioned right now.
I tried to do that last weekend. Here's the list I played:
- 2 Angel of Serenity
- 3 Arbor Elf
- 3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 2 Shadowborn Demon
- 4 Thragtusk
- 1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
I decided to try out a more midrange approach with fewer Mulches and more spells. Doom Blade provides an answer to the aforementioned Scavenging Ooze while also being a good universal response to cards like Boros Reckoner, Thundermaw Hellkite, Hellrider, and the like. Shadowborn Demon gives the deck another angle by providing a reusable remove option depending on how many Restoration Angels and Unburial Rites you're packing.
I ended up going 6-3. The deck was both good and bad at the same time. I added a land and cut an Angel of Serenity from the standard Junk Reanimator build numbers on those cards in order to ensure that I had a better chance of hitting all my land drops and a lower chance of having expensive cards stuck in my hand. I wanted to make sure that cutting Mulch didn't hurt my consistency. It wasn't enough.
Even with eight mana dorks and four Grisly Salvages, I still had a number of games where I struggled to hit five mana to play Thragtusk and friends. In fact, two of my three losses can easily be attributed to a failure to hit my land drops in a timely fashion. In one of them, I also took a line of play that was unnecessarily risky and lost to the fourth Tragic Slip off the top. Had I played it correctly, I would have given myself an opportunity to win. That opponent, one Adrian Jermaine Sacher, went on to win the entire tournament.
You win some. You take some risky lines that don't pan out, ultimately leading to your demise later in the game, and lose some.
I'd like to talk about some of the things I liked in my deck as well as some of the things I didn't.
The Good Stuff
This card is simply awesome in the format right now. It took me some time to figure out exactly how I wanted to build my sideboard, but the Fiend Hunter, Garruk, Obzedat, and two Abrupt Decays formed what I called the "five uncuttables." I knew there was no way I was going to trim the numbers on any of those cards. Being able to go up to three copies of Fiend Hunter against a number of aggressive decks really helps those matchups out a lot. The difference between a game where you play a turn 2 Fiend Hunter and one where you don't is absolutely enormous in those matchups.
Going into the tournament, my biggest regret was actually that I didn't find room for the fourth Fiend Hunter in my sideboard. This will likely be rectified in the future.
Nothing terribly surprising about these, but I don't envision myself playing fewer than the full four of either moving forward. Restoration Angel gets a lot better when you start adding in cards like Shadowborn Demon and Lifebane Zombie into the mix. When every single creature has some awesome come-into-play effect, it's hard to envision a world where I don't want to just max out on Restoration Angel.
Thragtusk has actually also gotten better with the new format. One of the things I found when trying to figure out how to beat Junk Aristocrats is that when combined with removal for cards like Blood Artist and Skirsdag High Priest Thragtusk actually becomes your best threat against them by far. A few Tusks and Restoration Angels goes a very long way.
B/W Humans plays out similarly. Now that there are two decks that are both arguably tier 1 that have a vulnerability to a lot of recurring Thragtusks, I think it's important to play no fewer than the max.
I've lived my whole life by the maxim "all tusk, all the time" and I see no reason to change anything after that motto has spearheaded 27 successful years.
I consider these cards to kind of be a package deal. Without Garruk and Lingering Souls, I don't really want Gavony Township. Yet it's the power of Gavony Township that actually makes Garruk and Lingering Souls worth playing. I won many games last weekend by activating Gavony Township after putting a few Souls tokens into play. Much like with Thragtusk, I feel that the rise of decks like B/W Humans and Junk Aristocrats to prominence has really improved the value of Garruk Relentless and Lingering Souls in the format. If nothing else, you want them simply to fight your opponent's copies of the same cards.
I think this tournament involved the fewest situations I can ever remember where I was holding dead Unburial Rites in my hand. My Rites were all amazing. Almost every time I drew the card, it was as though a light shone down from the ceiling to illuminate my match and my match only. As I began to slowly ascend toward the source of the light, Angels began singing, and a calm serenity washed over me. Then I snapped back to reality, cast the spell, and my opponent lost.
Perhaps my awesome Unburial Rites were due to the fact that I only played three copies and thus had fewer opportunities to draw them when they were bad, but considering I also cut Mulch, which typically fuels Unburial Rites, I'm not sure I buy that explanation. I also sat there a lot of times simultaneously hoping to draw Unburial Rites as I likewise bemoaned my shortsighted decision to play just three. Contrary to the Simple Jack rule of deckbuilding "always go with full Rites cards."
Personally, I think the power of Unburial Rites stemmed somewhat from the inclusion of Shadowborn Demon, which provides another powerful card to reanimate and allows you to sacrifice your creatures to fuel their reanimation as well. Next time I play this archetype, I'm going back up to four copies of Rites, where it should have been all along.
I sided him out a fair amount, but the times I drew him he was generally very good. In a game against B/W Humans, I had an opening hand that featured two mana guys, three lands, and two Shadowborn Demons. I decided to keep, and along with a Fiend Hunter and Restoration Angel I drew, I was able to dispatch a pair of Champion of the Parish, a Blood Artist, and a Skirsdag High Priest.
From a flavor standpoint, it probably didn't make much sense that the high priest of the cult that celebrates, promotes, and releases demons into the world was brutally murdered by a demon that was only able to kill in the first place by virtue of being saved from its doom by an angel whose sole purpose is to stop demons and save humans.
Standard Hollywood plot twists.
Innistrad is a complicated plane. There's a reason Sorin got the hell out of there as soon as he figured out how to do the whole planeswalking thing.
Then again, I think it makes perfect sense that a human who summons giant flying demons died at the hands of one. It's just a matter of time when you play with fire like that.
Regardless, Shadowborn Demon's gross display of power left my opponent without enough pressure to seal the deal before I was able to draw an Obzedaddy to close the game.
I was also able to kill a Lifebane Zombie and then block a Vampire Nighthawk in one round for an easy two for one. A few rounds later, Cavern on Demon gave my opponent a little hint that his lone blocker probably wasn't going to be enough to stop my lethal Thragtusk the following turn. It wasn't.
I felt like this card was probably good enough to warrant its inclusion in my sideboard. It definitely was. I played against B/W twice and Junk Aristocrats once, and each time I cast Profit // Loss, it was a huge blowout. I got to set up a lot of favorable board states for myself thanks to this card. A+, would play again.
The Bad Stuff
Seriously. I think it's probably a fluke and that the card was probably much worse for me purely because I lacked Mulch and the fourth Unburial Rites to really get full value from her, but Angel of Serenity consistently rotted in my hand and very inconsistently got put into play from my graveyard. I even screamed out "Serenity Now" a few times, and Woodland Cemetery was found greeting me in my draw step instead. What a bummer.
I could see myself playing two copies again instead of the customary three. Shadowborn Demon fills a lot of the same space, and while the Demon doesn't have nearly the same level of versatility or power as Angel of Serenity, it is much easier to cast on curve.
This came as quite the surprise to me. I thought Doom Blade was going to be doing some serious dirty work over the course of the event. I imagined completely and 100% realistic scenarios where my opponent followed up his turn 2 Fencing Ace with three Ethereal Armors and I got to slap down the Doom Blade for the surprise blowout.
Instead I ran into situations where my opponent had cards like Olivia Voldaren or Blood Artist in play, and I was doomed. Doom Blade can't take out that pesky Blood Artist, much to my chagrin. Thankfully, it did work on the Sandwich Artist at the Subway across the street from the Convention Center, which was essentially the same thing.
Moving forward, I feel like this should either be Abrupt Decay, Putrefy, or simply not in the maindeck at all. I'll save Doom Blade for decks like R/G Aggro where I know it's going to kill everything and the versatility of being able to kill both a Hellrider and a Stromkirk Noble is valuable.
I never really used it. I brought it in exactly twice. Both times I drew it, my opponent didn't have the card I brought it in against (Burning Earth and Omniscience). In both situations, it would have been better as Golgari Charm, which can also double as a counter to Supreme Verdict or kill off stuff like Stromkirk Noble and Lightning Mauler.
I'm not sure I want both Golgari Charm and Profit // Loss in my sideboard since they both fight for a lot of the same space, but outside of the Bant Hexproof matchup, I think Charm is simply a stronger option than Ray.
As good as this card has been for me in the past, I think I'm actually done playing her for a time. It's extremely rare that I actually get to cast her and then untap with her still in play. Often I feel that the times I'm able to do that, I'm actually ahead and would probably win anyway. I also feel like Trostani is very narrow in that I only really want her against G/R aggressive decks. I thought for a period it might be good against the various Aristocrat or B/W decks, but I've found in testing that Garruk Relentless is stronger at the same mana cost and thus Trostani's value goes down a lot.
The Missing Stuff
As much as this card often just does nothing, it's too important to ensure your mana base runs smoothly to play without. I won't be making the mistake of playing a Mulch-less build again.
I actually didn't miss Acidic Slime at all. I might run a couple copies in the sideboard if I play the deck again but I could only think of one time I actually wanted the card throughout the tournament: the final round against an Obzedat's Aid / Omniscience deck. Slime is still a very reasonable threat against the mirror and various control decks, but Lifebane Zombie does a lot of work in the mirror match and I feel like the control decks are all good matchups with or without Slime involved.
It's been a while since I've played this card in my Junk Reanimator lists, mostly because of the huge spike in the popularity of Pillar of Flame in the decks you want Voice against. With that being said, it's possible that it's worth moving back to playing some number of this card again because it does still help against the various R/G aggressive decks, which I consider to be the worst matchups for Junk Reanimator.
It's also important to respect the Selesnya guild and have some sort of "Voice" card in your deck at all times. If Trostani is getting the axe, then Voice of Resurgence has to come back to keep the Conclave in check. Those centaurs can get pretty rowdy.
When you tie it all together, I like the following list:
- 2 Angel of Serenity
- 3 Arbor Elf
- 3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 2 Shadowborn Demon
- 4 Thragtusk
- 1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
The Sever the Bloodline, Acidic Slime, and Putrefy could all easily be substituted for something else, with Doom Blade, Golgari Charm, Fiend Hunter, and Voice of Resurgence being the frontrunners for me.
Junk Reanimator may have fallen off its pedestal for now, but I still think it's a viable choice despite the new hate for it in M14.
But that's all I have on Junk Reanimator for now. This weekend I'll be playing in the SCG Invitational in Somerset, New Jersey. I haven't settled on a deck yet for either format, but I'm confident I'll be able to figure it out in time. Junk Reanimator is an option for me, but I am certainly not locked into it by any stretch. There are a lot of powerful new cards, and anything is fair game.
I suppose in closing I should finally provide an answer to the initial query.
Yes. I would play Junk Reanimator even with Scavenging Ooze in the format.
It turns out it's not even the best card in M14 against Junk Reanimator:
Thankfully, no one has bothered to ask me how Junk Reanimator beats a couple of Lifebane Zombies. That card, unlike Scavenging Ooze, is a true terror to deal with. The question you ask me should be: "Do you really think Junk Reanimator is good in a format with Lifebane Zombie?"
I'm still formulating an answer to that one.
P.S. Last weekend I had the honor of being the teammate of friends Ali Aintrazi and Shaheen Soorani for the Team Sealed Open. While our pool was average and almost every single game I played was completely and utterly miserable, I still had a blast playing in the event with them. All I could think about that day was how awesome it would be if SCG ran a Team Constructed event. I would love the challenge and opportunity of putting together three coherent decks to battle in a Team Standard event, and I'm sure others must feel the same way. I hope SCG can make this a reality in the future.