Hello and welcome to this week’s article! On today’s menu is a two-course meal consisting of a spine-chilling tale of alternate reality followed by the furious sounds of battle from Zoo versus Reanimator in a 30-game Legacy testing session.
Last week we learned why Mystical Tutor was banned from competitive Legacy play. But dear reader what if a similar look at the Legacy format was applied in June 2009? What might the Legacy format have looked like if the June 2009 B&R announcement had taken a different frightening turn? Read on dear reader read on…
Last week we announced some changes to some of our formats. I want to specifically look at the banning of Counterbalance in Legacy.
Let’s go back in time to Grand Prix: Columbus. The story of this tournament was the card Flash which at the time newly reflected its printed wording in a way that combined very powerfully with Protean Hulk. Three Flash decks made the Top 8; one played four Counterbalance the other two played zero. Can you guess which deck won?
Steve Sadin Flash
3 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
1 Tropical Island
1 Underground Sea
1 Body Snatcher
1 Carrion Feeder
4 Dark Confidant
1 Karmic Guide
1 Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker
4 Protean Hulk
4 Chrome Mox
1 Echoing Truth
4 Force of Will
4 Mystical Tutor
4 Sensei's Divining Top
That’s right the one with four Counterbalance. While a majority of Flash players loaded their decks with tutors Sadin’s deck (by Billy Moreno) trumped the mirror and any number of other aggressive strategies designed to operate quickly due to the threat of Flash by using the Counterbalance / Top soft lock.
It’s easy to say that the bigger problem here is Flash and I would agree with you. The people behind the Legacy banned list also agreed with you as they banned Flash after this tournament. I think that we also learned something about Counterbalance here though as it was an important part of what made this particular Flash deck so dominant.
Let’s flash forward to Grand Prix: Chicago early last year. Two of the Top 8 decks were Counterbalance decks. Both of those decks played their way through the other non-Counterbalance decks before meeting in the finals:
Counter-Top Gabriel Nassif
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
3 Tropical Island
4 Underground Sea
4 Dark Confidant
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Trygon Predator
4 Force of Will
1 Krosan Grip
4 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Vedalken Shackles
1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Energy Flux
1 Engineered Plague
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Kataki War's Wage
1 Krosan Grip
1 Planar Void
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Umezawa's Jitte
Counter-Top Andy Probasco
2 Academy Ruins
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
3 Tropical Island
1 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
3 Sower of Temptation
3 Trinket Mage
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Force of Will
2 Krosan Grip
1 Pithing Needle
4 Sensei's Divining Top
3 Spell Snare
2 Vedalken Shackles
Neither of these decks is as onerous as the Flash deck but both showcase the versatility of the Counterbalance-Top shell which won back-to-back Legacy Grand Prix regardless of whether it was housed in a combo or control archetype.
The Gentlemen’s Agreement
When we saw the Grand Prix: Chicago finals and then the results of other large Legacy tournaments in early 2009 a few of us got worried and started testing against random opponents of wildly varying skill level in a non-tournament setting. Against this random riff-raff we many being ex-Pro players who are surrounded by the game at all times and involved in its very creation were stunned by what we found: we weren’t losing very many matches with Counterbalance-Top. In my case I don’t recall losing a single game outside of one where I accidentally shuffled my Top away and broke my own soft lock when I was distracted by a particularly intriguing blonde who was carrying a poster board with some sweet trigonometry calculations on it. Regardless of the exact build of the deck the shell was so strong that opponents not set up in their maindecks or that didn’t sideboard heavily against us couldn’t compete.
Our research took another turn however when we investigated how Legacy is played in the real world. We discovered something rather interesting and that is that Counterbalance decks were quite rare at Legacy tournaments that did not have tons of money on the line. At Grand Prix and other cash tournaments people were happy to bust out their Counterbalance decks. However in the comfort of their home stores they seemed to prefer doing other things that were more fun if perhaps less powerful. This struck me as being a sort of gentleman's agreement; everyone knew what sick deck was out there but they chose not to play it.
We knew what the alternative was. In order to stop a Counterbalance deck people needed to either play decks full of things like Aether Vial Red Elemental Blast Qasali Pridemage or odd-casting cost spells or sideboard heavily into enchantment hate and cards like Krosan Grip. Decks like Elves and Storm were severely hindered by having to sideboard hate cards like Grip and Reverent Silence. After sideboarding the games were all about the hate cards which struck us as being a little unhealthy. Worse Sensei’s Divining Top and Brainstorm allowed these decks to easily protect the lock or reassemble it by nature of their design and without any serious difficulty or impediment.
The fascinating thing about the aforementioned agreement is that it seemed that the people who were part of the gentleman's agreement were having more fun than the people who weren't. Whether or not they were aware that there was anything “special” (you know what I mean!) going on when they chose their decks they were experiencing a better variety of decks and a higher quantity of recognizable baseline Magic gameplay —even though they were still playing with nearly every Magic card that has been printed. We saw the world they had made and we liked it. We liked it so much more than the competitive world with Counterbalance decks that we decided to give that happier world to everyone.
And then on the seventh day we rested.
The rest is up to you: enjoy your brave new world! Freed from the oppression of Counterbalance-Top all manner of decks previously locked out by this engine should flourish. We don’t believe that Magic games should degenerate to a point where one opponent can pay one colorless mana to trump the opponent’s entire deck at their leisure and we trust you’ll agree.
End: Part 1
Begin: Part 2
Zoo versus Reanimator – The Grudge Match Continues
Last week I took a look at Reanimator post-July 1 and I’ve continued to test it since. Here’s the list I have sleeved up at the moment and again keep in mind the sideboard is really a placeholder as the format will take some time to shake out again:
- 1 Inkwell Leviathan
- 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
- 1 Blazing Archon
- 1 It That Betrays
- 1 Terastodon
- 2 Iona, Shield of Emeria
What I found in testing was that although Top was decent against control decks it was absolutely dead against a fast Zoo deck. I replaced it with another creature and a Show and Tell
In the other corner?
- 3 Grim Lavamancer
- 3 Knight of the Reliquary
- 2 Loam Lion
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Steppe Lynx
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
As you can see I made only a small change to the main cutting a Fireblast for Jitte but the sideboard is totally revamped.
I gave these decks to two players and let them battle it out for thirty games. First ten games on the play for Zoo then ten on the play for Reanimator; then sideboarding followed by five more games on the play for each deck. Let’s get to it.
Pre-board - Zoo on the play
Game 1: Both players mull to six. Zoo opens with a Wild Nacatl while Reanimator plays Entomb but has unfortunately drawn Sphinx for turn (with Archon in hand). Zoo attacks and sends Reanimator to 17. Reanimate on Terastodon brings Reanimator to 9 but gives Reanimator plenty of time to draw one more land. Unfortunately that land is nowhere to be found and Zoo burns out Reanimator.
Game 2: Zoo keeps a strong seven with Goyf Nacatl PoP Path and lands. Reanimator keeps a similarly strong draw hand with 2 Brainstorm Exhume Entomb Thoughtseize Archon and land. After Zoo’s third turn Reanimator is at 10. Reanimator Exhumes a Sphinx into play and uses Dispel to Counter a Path to Exile from Zoo. Reanimator is now at 8 after two fetches enough to live through the Price of Progress and Fireblast Zoo has thanks to some careful fetching. Sphinx takes over the game and Reanimator wins barely.
Game 3: Zoo mulls a hand of five fetches Goyf Pridemage into a hand of no lands before keeping six. Reanimator mulls to six. Stuck on one land Zoo attacks and uses Chain Lightning to get Reanimator to 14. Reanimator plays Strategic Planning seeing Exhume Sphinx of the Steel Wind Careful Study. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 11. Reanimator untaps and plays Entomb for Iona and Exhume naming White. This effectively ends the game as the next turn involves a second Exhume for Sphinx of the Steel Wind.
Game 4: Zoo and Reanimator both keep mediocre but acceptable hands. Zoo leads with a Steppe Lynx. Reanimator plays a land and passes. Zoo plays two more one-drops and attacks for 4 with Lynx. Reanimator plays Brainstorm into a bunch of junk. Another fetch from Zoo means that it is attacking for 11 damage on turn 3 and with only Reanimate and no Exhume that’s game. Had Zoo not drawn another fetch on turn three Reanimator might’ve been able to stabilize by using Reanimate on Sphinx.
Game 5: Both plays keep. Zoo leads with a Plains into Lynx and Reanimator counters with Force of Will. Reanimator uses Brainstorm and finds It that Betrays and Show and Tell. Zoo has no two-drop. Reanimator uses Strategic Planning to dig for protection for It that Betrays finding Thoughtseize. Zoo plays Knight of the Reliquary. Reanimator plays Thoughtseize taking Price of Progress and plays Entomb for Sphinx of the Steel Wind. Zoo plays Jitte and equips and attacks taking Reanimator to 12. Reanimator plays Show and Tell putting out It that Betrays. Zoo draws a THIRD consecutive Lightning Bolt. With Jitte on two counters Zoo can win the game any number of ways and does.
Game 6: Zoo keeps while Reanimator has to go to five. Zoo leads with a Lavamancer which is a huge plus for Reanimator. Reanimator plays Brainstorm and finds Entomb but is missing Exhume or Reanimate. Zoo draws Lynx (awk) plays it and attacks with Lavamancer and plays Chain Lightning. Reanimator is at 15. Reanimator digs but can’t find a creature. Thoughtseize clears out a Path to Exile. Zoo can’t find another land stuck on two with an 0/1 Lynx a Knight and some burn. Reanimator goes to 11. Strategic Planning finds Reanimate but it’s a dead card with Zoo having Fireblast Bolt and Lavamancer. Zoo draws another Bolt and is now holding lethal if Reanimator doesn’t have counters. Holding Show and Tell Reanimator draws Blazing Archon. Show and Tell gets it in play. Reanimator is at six and Archon won’t let it survive the burn.
Game 7: Both players keep both with very strong hands. Zoo leads with Steppe Lynx while Reanimator uses Careful Study to bin a Sphinx. Fetch into Pridemage leaves Reanimator at 14. Reanimator untaps and plays Exhume for Sphinx. Zoo untaps and plays Jitte and Lavamancer but has no Path to Exile; irrelevant really as Reanimator has double Force.
Game 8: Both players keep and Zoo leads with Steppe Lynx off Horizon Canopy. Reanimator has a hand with Force two Entomb and Strategic Planning but no reanimator spells. Zoo has fetch into Pridemage leaving Reanimator at 15. Entomb bins a Sphinx. Strategic Planning and a draw step later the graveyard is stacked with creatures. Zoo plays a Knight of the Reliquary and attacks Reanimator down to 10. Reanimator draws Careful Study and whiffs and that’s game.
Game 9: Both players mull to five. Zoo has Wild Nacatl two Chain Lighting and two land leaving Reanimator at 10 by turn 2. Reanimator has Entomb for It that Betrays (Sphinx is in hand). Zoo attacks Reanimator to 6. Reanimator draws Careful Study which lets it bin the Sphinx and Exhume it into play at 5 life. Zoo has one turn to draw a burn spell or Path. Zoo draws Lavamancer plays it and casts a Bolt leaving Reanimator at 2. Attack with Sphinx puts Reanimator back to 8. Strategic Planning finds just a Brainstorm. Zoo draws Chain Lightning. Chain puts Reanimator back to 5 then Lavamancer drops it to 2. Zoo plays the Bolt but Reanimator has Dispel off Cephalid Coliseum to stay at 1. Reanimator draws Exhume and uses it to get Iona into play on White. This protects the Sphinx. Zoo draws a blank and that’s game.
Game 10: Zoo keeps a very fast double-Lynx Loam Lion Goyf Path hand. Reanimator keeps as well and uses Force on the turn one Lynx. Careful Study gets an Iona into the Graveyard immediately. Zoo plays two one-drops. Reanimator uses Entomb for Sphinx. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 14. Reanimator continues to dig leaving it with Exhume Dispel and lands (including Coliseum which is active) and Sphinx in the Graveyard. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 7 and plays two more creatures. Exhume brings back Sphinx (and Steppe Lynx). Zoo has SIX creatures in play! Zoo plays Path on Sphinx which is countered by Dispel leaving Reanimator at 6. Horizon Canopy goes to the Graveyard as Zoo digs for a fetch and finds it! Zoo sends the team; Reanimator blocks Goyf and goes to 12 but dies anyway.
On the play Zoo is up 6-4. Players switch.
Pre-board - Reanimator on the play
Game 1: Both players keep. Reanimator plays a land and passes looking to Brainstorm at end of turn to put Sphinx back into the deck. Zoo leads with Wild Nacatl into Tarmogoyf. Reanimator untaps at 17 life. Careful Study and Brainstorm find Reanimate but no Exhume and Reanimator has to pass. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 9. Reanimator plays and uses Cephalid Coliseum to look for Exhume but misses. Zoo has four creatures on board and Goyf is large enough that Zoo can attack through Sphinx.
Game 2: Both players keep. Reanimator uses Careful Study and finds Entomb and Exhume. Zoo plays Wild Nacatl and is miserable. Reanimator uses Brainstorm to dig for land finds one and uses Entomb on Sphinx of the Steel Wind. Zoo plays two more Wild Nacatls causing McCall’s Misery Meter to explode. Reanimator Exhumes Sphinx. Zoo looks sad as Reanimator has double Force. That’s game.
Game 3: Reanimator draws a very solid hand but Zoo has to go to five. Reanimator’s first turn is Careful Study discarding Iona and Blazing Archon. Zoo has a Wild Nacatl. Reanimator digs twice with Brainstorm but can’t find Exhume. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 14. Reanimator uses Coliseum and finds Exhume and Entombs a Sphinx. Zoo plays Bolt untaps and plays Bolt and Price of Progress and attacks leaving Reanimator at 3. Reanimator plays Exhume holding Force of Will Force of Will and Dispel. That’s enough to win.
Game 4: Reanimator mulligans to a second-turn It that Betrays while Zoo keeps and plays Steppe Lynx. Reanimator rolls the dice believing Zoo to have no Path to Exile going to 9 with Reanimate. Zoo does not but plays two more one-drops to buy time. It that Betrays has to sit back for one more turn as Zoo has two Steppe Lynx and a fetch could be lethal. Zoo still has no Path and Reanimator has Dispel regardless. Zoo attacks Reanimator to one but Reanimator brings back Sphinx and attacks with It that Betrays and Zoo has no more outs when a burn spell is countered by Dispel.
Game 5: Both players have terrific draws. Reanimator leads out with a fetch Zoo plays a Wild Nacatl. Entomb bins a Sphinx. Reanimator goes for the second turn Sphinx with Exhume but Zoo untaps and uses Path to remove it. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 16 and drops another Nacatl. Unfortunately Reanimator has a back-up plan using Entomb on Blazing Archon and bringing it back into play with a second Exhume with a mana up for Dispel thanks to the Path. Zoo happily plays the second Path but that smile turns upside-down when Dispel counters it. Zoo adds another creature to the board. Reanimator has just It that Betrays in hand and improbably rips Show and Tell slamming It That Betrays into play. Zoo does not rip Path to Exile and that’s game.
Game 6: Reanimator keeps a decent hand: It that Betrays Careful Study Careful Study Exhume Thoughtseize Misty Rainforest Swamp. Zoo mulls to six. Reanimator uses Careful Study putting It That Betrays in the Graveyard. Zoo plays Grim Lavamancer. Reanimator has a Thoughtseize to check for Path to Exile but sees only a ton of burn. Careful Study puts Terastodon in the Graveyard. Zoo attacks with Lavamancer and plays two burn spells to put Reanimator at ten. Exhume brings back It that Betrays. Zoo rips another Chain off the top but it isn’t going to be enough as Reanimator has a Dispel and Force of Will. Reanimator starts stealing Zoo’s board and the Force and Dispel prevent a loss to burn.
Game 7: Both players keep their seven and Reanimator leads with Careful Study which puts Sphinx into the Graveyard. Zoo plays a Steppe Lynx. Reanimator plays another Careful Study and gets Blazing Archon into the Graveyard but can’t find a reanimation spell. Thoughtseize puts Tarmogoyf into the Graveyard. Unfortunately Reanimator is out of gas drawing two more lands and an Iona and Zoo wins.
Game 8: Reanimator’s hand is borderline but is kept Zoo’s has two one-drops plus Path Chain and land. Reanimator plays a fetch and passes. A top-decked Lynx comes into play. Reanimator plays Entomb for Sphinx. Careful Study digs but doesn’t find an Exhume or Reanimate. Zoo plays a land Nacatl and a second Lynx drawn off the top. Reanimator is at 17 and draws yet another creature. Zoo attacks for 7. Strategic Planning whiffs and Zoo wins pretty easily.
Game 9: Reanimator keeps and Zoo goes to five. Swamp pass leads to a Steppe Lynx from Zoo. Reanimator uses Entomb for Sphinx then draws and has to decide between the following: Reanimate Sphinx with Dispel mana Exhume out the naked Sphinx or pass and Exhume with Dispel mana next turn. Ultimately Reanimator passes. Zoo draws and smashes the Lynx in for five thanks to a Pridemage but that’s going to be game as the protected Sphinx can’t be raced effectively.
Game 10: Reanimator keeps a one-lander with two Brainstorms. Lacking Brainstorm in a one-land hand of its own Zoo goes to six and keeps. Reanimator plays a land and passes then uses Brainstorm in response to a Wild Nacatl. Nacatl resolves and Reanimator uses Entomb on Sphinx. Zoo plays Pridemage and attacks Reanimator for four down to fifteen. Reanimate on Sphinx leaves Reanimator at six. Zoo has some more creatures but can’t race Sphinx and scoops after two draws don’t reveal Path. Reanimator had Force Force Force Careful Study in hand the turn Reanimate was played.
On the play Reanimator wins 7-3. Overall Reanimator wins 11-9.
Post-board - Reanimator on the play
Game 1: Reanimator keeps a hand with mana Thoughtseize and Brainstorm. Zoo mulls to six to a hand with Tormod’s Crypt Steppe Lynx and lands. Thoughtseize takes the Crypt and Zoo plays Lynx. Brainstorm reveals a Reanimate and Needle. A second Thoughtseize takes Path to Exile. Lynx attacks for four and Reanimator is down to 12. Reanimator draws a land and sends back and takes two from Lynx. Reanimator draws another land and Zoo hits Goyf; Canopy is sacrificed and draws into a fetch and that’s game for Zoo.
Game 2: Reanimator keeps and Zoo mulls to a six-card hand with Path to Exile and Wheel of Sun and Moon. Reanimator plays Thoughtseize putting Wheel into the Graveyard. Both players play draw go for a few turns until Zoo plays Knight of the Reliquary. Reanimator finds Entomb and bins a Terastodon then Reanimates it and blows up all its lands save for a Sea and Coliseum. Force protects the Don from Path and suddenly Zoo can’t attack. Coliseum draws Reanimator into Dispel and the 9/9 goes all the way.
Game 3: Reanimator has to mull to five while Zoo’s hand has a nice mix of threats mana and a Relic. A Careful Study puts Archon and Don into the yard. Zoo plays a Relic. Reanimator uses a Needle on Relic and Zoo plays a Pridemage. Reanimator plays Reanimate on Don and blows up all of its non-Don permanents. Zoo tries a Path which is met by Force of Will. In comes Team Dumbo and Zoo has to come up with a Path to try to eliminate Operation: Dumbo Drop. No dice and Reanimator wins. This game was particularly impressive to me as from the openers I thought Reanimator had no shot.
Game 4: A first-turn Thoughtseize with Careful Study Iona Entomb and mana looks good for Reanimator while Zoo has to mull and does so into a hand that has Tormod’s Crypt. Thoughtseize takes it immediately so Zoo has to settle for Wild Nacatl. Careful Study draws Reanimator into Show and Tell. Zoo attacks Reanimator to fifteen and plays a Tarmogoyf. Show and Tell pops an Iona into play naming white. Tarmogoyf is still able to attack being 4/5 and sends Reanimator to eleven. Reanimator has Entomb in hand… and draws Exhume. Must be! (Is.) Sphinx comes into play and that’s game.
Game 5: Both players keep; Zoo has no hate but has a very fast hand that may be able to race. Reanimator opens on Thoughtseize and seeing no hate takes Steppe Lynx which hurts Zoo pretty significantly. Zoo opens on Loam Lion. Reanimator plays Careful Study and Reanimate on It That Betrays going to 8. Zoo plays Loam Lion number two and a Wild Nacatl. Reanimator attacks putting Zoo to 8 and gets two tapped lands. Zoo needs to draw a burn spell or Path or the game is over unless Reanimator is holding Dispel or Spell Pierce. Zoo draws the Bolt which is countered by Dispel and that’s game.
Reanimator takes the post-board set 4-1 on the play.
Post-board - Zoo on the play
Game 1: Zoo keeps a hand with no one-drops but with Wheel Goyf and Knight but the opening turn is land pass. Reanimator plays Careful Study discarding Iona and Terastodon. Zoo goes for the Wheel of Sun and Moon but it is countered by Force of Will. Unfortunately a Brainstorm from Reanimator reveals no more land and the writing is on the wall. Perilously low on life an Exhume returning Terastodon buys a turn but Path removes the Don and that’s game.
Game 2: An opener with five lands goes back for Zoo which keeps six with two lands Path Fireblast Lynx and Pridemage. Reanimator keeps a hand with Entomb Exhume Show and Tell Blazing Archon It That Betrays Swamp and Misty Rainforest. Lynx opens the game for Zoo. Swamp from Reanimator then back to Zoo. Zoo plays fetch into Pridemage and bashes for 5. Reanimator plays Entomb for Sphinx plays a land and Exhumes it into play. Zoo uses Path to clear out the Sphinx and bashes Reanimator to 9. Chain Lightning puts Reanimator to 6. Show and Tell puts Iona into play on red. Zoo responds with Fireblast putting Reanimator to 2. If any land is on top Zoo wins. The top card is Arid Mesa. Note that this was a game I might have played differently; Entomb on Iona naming White followed by Show and Tell for It That Betrays or Blazing Archon seems like a strong line of play but really it wouldn’t have mattered as the singleton Fireblast can kill Iona or Archon in combination with the Chain Lightning. This was a strong hand from Zoo. If Zoo whiffed on the land Reanimator drew Careful Study into Exhume which probably swings the game over to Reanimator.
Game 3: Zoo keeps another fast hand without any hate while Reanimator has a solid hand but only one land to fuel it. Wild Nacatl opens things for Zoo. Reanimator plays the Brainstorm in response to Zoo’s turn-two Tarmogoyf but lets it resolve. The line of play for Reanimator will be to Thoughtseize itself and then Exhume Sphinx with Force back-up. Reanimator goes to 16 from Wild Nacatl. Reanimator plays Thoughtseize going to 14 then 13 to play Pithing Needle naming Tormod’s Crypt before passing back. Zoo plays Knight and gets in for 6 sending Reanimator to 7. Reanimator plays Exhume for Sphinx and goes to 6. Zoo can’t attack profitably and passes back. Reanimator attacks and goes back to 12. Zoo draws another blank and can’t beat the Sphinx.
Game 4: Zoo keeps a risky hand with 2 Tormod’s Crypt but only 1 land. Reanimator keeps as well. Zoo opens on double Tormod’s and passes. Thoughtseize from Reanimator takes Pridemage so a Needle will blank both Tormod’s. Zoo draws another Goyf and has to pass back. Reanimator draws Entomb and has Exhume and Strategic Planning. Planning digs but whiffs. Zoo hits a land and Goyf comes into play. Reanimator can only play a fetch and pass. Zoo attacks for 4 and Reanimator goes to 13. Reanimator gets Threshold playing Brainstorm and digs with Coliseum but can’t find a creature or Needle. Zoo attacks Reanimator to 9 and plays another Goyf. Reanimator finds Careful Study which finds another Careful Study which finds a Needle leaving Reanimator short on mana and dead to two Goyfs plus Lightning Bolt.
Game 5: Zoo mulls to five keeping a hand of Wild Nacatl Tarmogoyf Lightning Bolt and two lands. Reanimator has a nut draw with Entomb Exhume Island Swamp Force of Will Force of Will Dispel. Zoo leads with Wild Nacatl into Goyf while Reanimator has Entomb into Exhume with a Force of Will for the Path to Exile Zoo has drawn. Sphinx wins the game easily with protection from Dispel.
Zoo wins 3-2 on the play in post-board games.
Finals score: Reanimator wins 17-13 overall and wins 6-4 post-board.
Summary and Thoughts
Watching this version of Reanimator was interesting. The loss of Mystical Tutor forces Reanimator into some tough decisions as it is rarely able to use Reanimate profitably against a Zoo deck that is this fast and has a much harder time finding Exhume than it did with four Mystical Tutor. Iona was only useful in a few of these games and I can’t help but wonder if a second Sphinx of the Steel Wind wouldn’t be a better metagame choice provided Zoo is as popular as everyone expects; cutting It That Betrays might also make sense but that guy is really good in some match-ups that I expect to see. The increase to seven creatures felt warranted because this deck does a lot of digging compared to the older version and the Show and Tell plan is an important part of the post-board plan. I’m curious to see if this build can hold its own against the rest of the field; I suspect that players that slow down their Zoo decks will have worse results than shown in this session which Reanimator was still able to win.
Zoo looked decent enough but I think another hate card for the graveyard might end up being the right choice given that Lands is going to continue be a big metagame player at the top tables of competitive events. I know a lot of people are immediately leaning back towards Sylvan Library-fueled builds but give the meta time to adapt to Zoo first. A fast style like this with a revamped sideboard is probably still going to be a dangerous weapon for a while. Watching how quickly Zoo can hurl damage at its opponents was impressive. This is a deceptively powerful deck and it is easy to see why the Mystical Tutor match-ups weren’t quite as miserable as advertised. Note that Zoo did not bring in Pyroblast for the post-board games; some players might do that to attack Show and Tell or spells that dig.
A lot of the future of Reanimator depends on how many people turn to Dredge and how many people attempt to attack Lands (and to a lesser extent New Horizons) using hate for the Graveyard. Because of this I still think Reanimator has a future in this format but time will tell; other Graveyard strategies might force Reanimator out of the meta due to overlapping hate. Then again if Reanimator can find a build that gives it a solid Zoo and Lands match-up it could definitely still have a place…
Voltron00x on SCG TMD and The Source