This week I'm going to play some matches with my current favorite Standard deck, G/B/W Reanimator.
This is an update of the deck that I played in Grand Prix Verona and the Super Sunday Series Standard tournament in Utrecht. My current list is:
- 4 Angel of Serenity
- 3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Thragtusk
- 1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
I've discussed the deck before, and the basic plan is pretty clear. It's a midrange value deck like G/W/B, but instead of removal it has cheap card advantage spells that enable unfair plays with Unburial Rites. The deck is built to be more resistant to graveyard hate like Rest in Peace by keeping its threats castable and focusing on being able to play a reasonable "fair" game of Magic.
The recent changes to this build are all in the sideboard. I have more removal for aggressive decks and more Deathrite Shamans to help out against other graveyard decks.
I've been very happy with how it's been positioned in the tournaments I've played with it, so let's look at some matches.
I think game 1 did a good job of showcasing the late-game strength of this deck, even when I kept a weak hand. Games 2 and 3, on the other hand, revealed what I think is a pretty bad matchup for this deck (my draws were bad, but it's clear that the things they were doing just line up well against the things I'm doing). I hadn't played with Reanimator against Bant Control previously, but it makes sense that the matchup is very hard if the opponent has graveyard hate and knows what they're doing.
The problem is that this deck relies on its midrange game to match or exceed the power level of what the opponent is doing; against a deck like Bant Control, it's severely outmatched. The only way to compete is to do something unfair, which means stealing a win with Unburial Rites and/or Craterhoof Behemoth. After sideboarding, that's a lot harder to do.
Ok, I shouldn't have kept my hand in the first game. Game 2, as I mentioned, was just a case of me getting much luckier than my opponent, although I will note that I stopped playing colorless lands because I found that I had more games where they made me unable to play spells than games where I activated them.
In game 3, my opponent got some reasonable value out of his Acidic Slime, a card I'd definitely rather have than not have for the mirror, but when I had it in my sideboard, I felt like I didn't have room for all the cards I wanted to get the aggressive matches to a point where I was happy with them. For the most part, I felt like my opponent just hit well with Mulches this game on top of having removal for my Deathrite Shaman.
Game 1 I simply had an unfair draw that he didn't have an answer to—the games like this are exactly why this deck is better than other midrange decks. Occasional free wins add up to give you a significantly higher win percentage. Game 2 was an unusual game. Neither one of us did much, and I just lost to his Rest in Peace with pressure.
Game 3 demonstrated exactly why I side Obzedat, Ghost Council in against everyone. When they disrupt your engine, it's the perfect card to power through whatever's happening in the game to win on its own.
The first game was a shockingly early concession for a game in which my opponent didn't mulligan, but it might have been for the best if he couldn't win and wanted to try to conceal his deck. I've lost matches before because I sideboarded completely incorrectly after my opponent did nothing in the first game.
Game 2 was basically determined by my opponent's decision to pair the Lightning Mauler with the Boros Elite. This is something to keep in mind if you're interested in playing aggressive decks. It's often appealing to get as much damage in as soon as possible, but with battalion in particular, it's often better to play it slow and set up bigger turns later. On top of that mistake, I was extremely lucky and managed to get a quick Angel of Serenity into play, something his deck can't beat, despite sideboarding to dramatically lower my chances of doing that.
Whether it's correct to side out those Angels and Unburial Rites if I know what he's playing is debatable. I'll win almost every game where everything comes together like that, but I might lose other games where the clunky cards fill my hand and stop me from playing a normal game. I've found the matchup to be good enough that I can play it safe and stick to cheap spells, but if you find that you're losing when you try to play a fair game, just keep the whole package and try to win with a quick Angel.