Highlander decks built by Canberra players are traditionally known for greedy mana bases, fringe cards, and niche (terrible) combos. My new Reanimator list is a typical Canberra deck. Considering the unusual amounts of praise the deck has received from other Magic Players including ‘It’s OK’ (from Juzza, high praise indeed), ‘I mean, I wouldn’t want to play against you’ (not sure if he meant me or the deck) and ‘I thought you usually played bad decks’ I think the community might be starting to recognise that Reanimator has become a player in the Highlander metagame.

I’ve made the final of a small 15 man tournament with a similar list to what I was playing below, and top 4’d a 30 odd-man event in Melbourne with a straight U/B/R list. Another U/B/R list managed to top 8 the Infinity Games Highlander League in Adelaide.

My current list looks like this:

Reanimator

Points

1 Mystical Tutor**
1 Oath of Druids*
1 Force of Will*
1 Vampiric Tutor***

Reanimation Targets

1 Griselbrand
1 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Platinum Emperion
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Spells

1 Show and Tell
1 Entomb
1 Faithless Looting
1 Careful Study
1 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
1 Reanimate
1 Animate Dead
1 Exhume
1 Mental Misstep
1 Spell Pierce
1 Misdirection
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Izzet Charm
1 Stitch Together
1 Gamble
1 Thoughtseize
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Frantic Search
1 Pithing Needle
1 Lotus Petal
1 Swan Song
1 Daze
1 Chrome Mox
1 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Life // Death
1 Stifle
1 Firestorm
1 Dance of the Dead

Lands
1 Volcanic Island
1 Tropical Island
1 Bayou
1 Marsh Flats
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 City of Brass
1 Underground Sea
1 Badlands
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Watery Grave
1 Steam Vents
1 Cephalid Coliseum
1 Bazaar of Baghdad
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Flooded Strand
1 Swamp
1 Island
Sideboard

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Flusterstorm
1 Mindbreak Trap
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Chaos Warp
1 Duress
1 Into the Roil
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Autumn’s Veil
1 Xantid Swarm
1 Terastodon
1 Spellskite
1 Shred Memory
1 Abrupt Decay
Points

Mystical Tutor 2 points
Oath of Druids 1 point
Force of Will 1 point
Vampiric Tutor 3 points

My points choices are fairly straight forward. Vampiric Tutor and Mystical Tutor provide the deck with a little bit of extra consistency and Force of Will protects me from disruption and counter magic if I need to tap out for a reanimation spell.

Oath of Druids is probably the most powerful card in the deck and an early oath will often force creature decks to hold back on firepower until they have an answer, since once oath is triggered, cards like Griselbrand and Iona, Shield of Emeria can lock an opponent out of the game entirely.Oath of Druids also gives me a solid alternative to needing fatties in the graveyard in the event that my opponent resolves a Deathrite Shaman or Scavenging Ooze.  The opportunity cost of running oath is fairly low. You lose Hapless Researcher entirely, Spellskite moves to the board, and boarding in Xantid Swarm becomes less exciting. Small drawbacks for a card that can often lock up a game as early as turn 1.

There aren’t many alternative points choices. Intuition and Muddle the Mixture are powerful in the deck, and both could easily replace Mystical Tutor but they’re often far too slow to be effective. Often the deck aims to have its first fattie out by turn 3, and both Intuition and Muddle the Mixture move the deck’s clock back without providing the consistency boost of Mystical Tutor in the early game.

Reanimation Targets

Griselbrand
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Rune-Scarred Demon
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Platinum Emperion
Sphinx of the Steel Wind

I used to run 7 targets, but have moved down to 6 in the mainboard to make room for more defensive spells. I think 6-7 targets in the mainboard is the optimal configuration to ensure that you’re able to get a fatty in the bin early, but not have your hand clogged up in the early game by dead draws. Griselbrand, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur and Elesh-Norn, Grand Cenobite are no brainers. Rune-Scarred Demon was a recent addition and has earned his spot. He can either fetch a removal spell, protection or another target to be reanimated in the same turn that he’s brought into play. Sphinx of the Steel Wind is an excellent beater, particularly against zoo, and against most decks. Platinum Emperion is hilarious. Unfortunately the mighty emperion has a hard time bashing through a board full of dudes, so often, if you have a choice, Platinum Empirion is going to be your second reanimation target. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the emperion’s ability stops life loss from Reanimate and Life // Death even when he’s the target. This deck also runs City of Brass over Mana Confluence because of emperion’s ability. Inkwell Leviathan or Blazing Archon may be worthwhile inclusions depending on your meta. Blazing Archon does great work against fast aggro and tinker decks, and Inkwell Leviathan tears it up against control.

Protection and Disruption

Force of Will
Mental Misstep
Spell Pierce
Misdirection
Izzet Charm
Pithing Needle
Swan Song
Daze
Stifle
Firestorm
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek

The protection/disruption package is fairly straight forward. I’m not playing any disruptive cards that cost more than one, with the exception of Izzet Charm because it plays three roles in this deck, shocking Deathrite Shamans, looting and disruption. In a deck that wants to tap out or almost tap out on turn 2 and 3 for a reanimation spell, cards like Mana Leak are simply not good enough. Pithing needle needs to be in the mainboard as an additional answer to Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze. It also functions as the deck’s main way of dealing with a resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a deck running a mainboard Karakas. Firestorm came in from the board replacing Lightning Bolt fairly early in deck development. It loots, it finishes people off (particularly on a board with alot of creatures after a Griselbrand activation) and clears out annoying creatures. The life side of Life // Death is also a useful surprise finisher.

Sideboard

Iona, Shield of Emeria
Flusterstorm
Mindbreak Trap
Red Elemental Blast
Chaos Warp
Duress
Into the Roil
Ancient Grudge
Nature’s Claim
Autumn’s Veil
Xantid Swarm
Terastodon
Spellskite
Nihil Spellbomb
Abrupt Decay

The sideboard has been built to provide a set of diverse answers for the hate that is likely to be boarded in against you. Most decks will board in up to two of either Grafdigger’s Cage, Rest in Peace, Tormod’s Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb or Relic of Progenitus. Once people see green, they’re likely to also board in enchantment removal to combat your Oath of Druids. For cards like Rest in Peace the sideboard offers a number of removal options.  The deck has a number of ways to get around Tormod’s Crypt style effects, either by aiming to resolve Show and Tell or Oath of Druids, by forcing them to pop the card, making them discard it, pro-actively needling it or countering it. Chaos Warp is in the board to get rid of a resolved Blood Moon and one day, I hope to use it to fluke a fatty into play. Autumn’s Veil is great, mostly because you can use it reactively unlike a Silence style effect, and also because it protects your creatures from removal.

Matchups

Your main weakness is to main deck hate. Jace the Mind Sculptor, Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, Karakas, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. The deck is flexible enough find ways through most disruption that an opponent might have against you in the mainboard, but can struggle against a lucky draw with multiple pieces of permanent based hate. The deck’s free (and cheap) counterspells and discard help it fight control on the stack, and most of my matches against control players haven’t been particularly difficult.

Roundup

This deck is sick. Try it.

If you have a list you want me to write about, post it in the comments. If you’re interested in writing a couple of articles, send me a private message over Facebook or this website’s forum. I intend to use this site less as a curated SCG knock-off, and as more of a communal blog. So if you have anything interesting to say, you’re more than welcome to post up some content and I’ll edit it as much or as little as you want me to.