written and drafted by Sam
The deck list (In order from left to right on the picture, top to bottom; this does not include the horizontal cards or the lands):
1x Spell Pierce
1x Pack Rats
1x Snapcaster Mage
1x Dimir Signet
1x Mana Drain
1x Azorius Signet
1x Mimic Vat
1x Crystal Ball
1x Sewer Nemesis
1x Icy Manipulator
1x Deep Analysis
1x Grave Titan
1x Consecrated Sphinx
1x Oona, Queen of the Fae
Meta Game Analysis
I’m not in love with this deck as it loses to any super aggressive start that I can’t respond with a reanimation spell, but it has some good things going for it, mainly being strong finisher, good disruption, and some cards that did serious work in this type of deck. I’ll go over some of the choices for cards that made the main deck.
Spell Pierce: This is a card I used to really not like but have grown fond of. A typical cube deck will having something like 10-12 creatures in that; there is no real research behind those numbers, but after hundreds of cube drafts that seems to be the average. That means there are 11-13 targets, on average, that Spell Pierce is really good against. Sure, it’s not the best in late game, but if your opponent gets greedy with a huge x-spell or something, you can really take the air out of their lungs. On top of that, no one really plays around Spell Pierce. People will respect Daze, Force Spike, and when they know about it 100% Mana Tithe, but there usually isn’t enough time to wait for the two extra to void Spell Pierce. Can you really afford to wait turn 6 to drop Jace, the Mind Sculptor to bounce back my early Grave Titan? You’ll be dead by then! Spell Pierce is good insurance against a lot of the answers that an early fatty presents.
Daze: Daze is awesome. It’s a card I never go for early but I’m always happy to wheel it later in a draft. As I said, people will respect Daze, but how long do you go without playing spells when you’re looking down a Griselbrand? The great thing about Daze and Spell Pierce in this deck is that when you can’t afford to respect them, you REALLY can’t afford it. On top of that there’s no signaling that I have it in hand, since I can tap out no problem. There were a couple games where I had both in hand, and one where one turn I Spell Pierce a card and Dazed one the next turn. It’s super satisfying when you can play cheap counters to protect your giant monster twice in a row, two spells your opponent could’ve played around but shouldn’t be blamed for not doing so.
Exhume: This is a card I think more cubes should be playing. If you support any kind of dedicated reanimator theme, this is one of the better cards you could run. For starters, there are no issues with Protection from Black creatures shrugging off a Necromancy or Animate Dead; while that is not always relevant, it’s something to consider if you like to dip your fingers into an Akroma when it’s getting late. (Who doesn’t?) On top of that, I have the option of Snapcasting it in case worse comes to worst, a luxury that Necromancy does not present me. Sure, it can be a bit of a nonbo with Stupor, but unless my opponent knows I’m on reanimator and truly believes I don’t have Necromancy in hand, he probably won’t pitch a fatty he’ll want to cast with his second discard option.
Sewer Nemesis: This card is simply really strong. It’s not like there are a lot of synergies with it in my deck or I can consistently reanimate it, but that’s OK—when he does work, he clocks in and cures cancer. Additionally, as they’re casting spells they can give me more targets for my Necromancy. (That means it’s also another nonbo with Exhume, but I’m OK with that. I have no problem running a card that is boom or bust like Exhume, as when it’s really good it’s the best card in my deck.)
Crystal Ball: If you can afford to spend the time, this guy is a work horse. I had a game where I was able to put 8 land on the bottom of my deck. That’s crazy—I was able to cast aside a 1/5th of my deck in order to dig for my action spells. I lost a game (part of the only match I lost with this deck) because it didn’t really do anything to my board state, which is the big risk of this card. If you’re facing an aggressive start, the card isn’t useless but it is certainly less than ideal. Crystal Ball doesn’t stop a Goblin Guide, Sulfuric Vortex, even a Goblin Patrol. The Ball can help you find cards you want, but it’s never going to kill a creature. Still, I liked what it did and overall performed very well.
Icy Manipulator: I’m not going to say a lot about this card, as I feel its power speaks for itself, but hot damn is this card powerful! In a land of swords and mazes and creatures that like to get in the way of your Grave Titans and Griselbrands, it’s nice to be able to clear a way. If I drafted a Manipulator, I can almost always find a way to get it in.
Oona, Queen of the Fae: Perhaps I could’ve played one less bomb or a different one, but Oona is really strong and I straight-up love casting and playing cards that cost 6 or more. Winning is the ultimate goal, but if I can do it with Sphinxes and Titans and whatnot, I’d rather take that route. All the decks I draft and make seem to reflect this ideology: I love Mayael, the Anima as a commander for EDH, green ramp is one of my favorite cube archetypes, and one of my first casual decks was a Naya mid range ramp deck that looked to play Chancellor of the Tangles on t4 or 5. (The deck was pretty broken.) While Oona dies to a good amount and the Sphinx with Shroud might’ve been a better option, Sphinx is so boring whereas Oona is a flying, milling faerie machine of doom.
Duplicant: This card is really good, both as a solid spell and to set up and exhume. By Duplicanting a problem bomb they may have, I allow my late game Exhumes to work better and more efficiently instead of running into the same problem again. Not super exciting, but solid removal that can double as a win condition.
Psychatog: I wanted to run two dedicated discard effects. Pack Rats of course had to be one of them; sometimes you don’t even need to reanimate the cards your pitching with the Rats, the army that you get is enough to win anyways. After that it was between Psychatog and Waterfront Bouncer, and I sided with Psychatog for two reasons. One was that Psychatog was free and I could do it the turn I played him. Sure, he came down a turn later, but it’s essentially the same turn for all intents and purposes, and if I were to draw it later the ‘Tog is typically more efficient. Second, Psychatog is seriously nuts with a Griselbrand in play. If your opponent can only block one and doesn’t have removal, they HAVE to block the Psychatog. Oh, you block big bad griselbrand? I draw 14 cards, pitch them all, and remove them all from the grave yard, hit for 22, GG. I’m a sucker for stuff like that.
Tinker: I picked this card fairly early in pack 2 with a duplicant, two signets and the vat already selected. Soon after I grabbed the Icy Manipulator, but the artifact options dried up after that. Ultimately I decided not to play tinker. While Tinkering into a Duplicant or a Manipulator can be good, it isn’t exciting in the least and sometimes straight-up useless. With Tinker I like to sneak in giant fatties like Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Wurmcoil, Battlesphere, Sundering Titan, or Inkwell Leviathan, not a sometimes-important Duplicant or Icy Manipulator.
I went 2-1 with this deck. I lost pretty badly to a 4 color aggro deck that I could never find a reanimation spell against and got ran over by his efficient creatures and 4-drops—there’s nothing like getting hit by a Hero of Oxid Ridge and a Hellrider, followed up by a Time Walk for the game, and replace one of those two with a Koth and there are even more smiles, sunshine and rainbows—but the deck played extremely well in the other two match ups. There were a couple games where it seemed like I made a terrible keep when I pitched by Grave Titan or Griselbrand to the graveyard with an 8 card hand at the end of turn, only to drop the second land I had in my hand to Exhume them back into play. That is a play I ended up liking a lot; my opponents were lulled into a false sense of security, only to be facing a giant monster on t3 or 4 that was unstoppable.
Overall I liked this deck a lot. The list could’ve included another reanimation spell, but you can only draft what you see. Thankfully, it wasn’t “all in” as some reanimation decks are with Entombs and Buried Alives, as I was able to cast all the guys I wasn’t able to pitch. This is not an archetype that is always available, as Necromancy and Animate dead are premium picks that a lot of black decks are happy to play, but when the pieces come together it’s super strong and requires an opposing, faster start to beat.