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Brewing with Zane: Modern Reanimator


by Zane Rowland

Reanimator. One of the most iconic decks in the Legacy format. Everybody loves cheating their favorite fatty into play on the first turn or two and watching their opponent’s face as they realize they don’t have any answer for it.

And, paying full price for creatures is so overrated when you can simply put them into your graveyard then get them onto the battlefield for the cost of one or two mana.

The Reanimator deck has been around for a long time, and has undergone many changes and variants through time – mostly thanks to the fact that Wizards has printed incredibly more powerful creatures over the years.

unburial-ritesSome players will remember, a few years ago, when Innistrad and Return to Ravnicaigmpafaoswu were in Standard and Unburial Rites targeting Angel of Serenity coupled together to form the shell of a powerful reanimator deck that devastated your opponent most of the time and allowed you to smash your way to victory.

Today, however, I’m not here to talk to you about Legacy or Standard.

Today, as the intriguing title announced, I’m talking Modern! Now, I love modern. It’s my favorite format. I love the card pool, the versatility and the capability a good brewer has to be somewhat competitive.

As we’re all aware, our recent Eldrazi winter-turned-spring is putting kind of a damper on the Modern format and making it very difficult for brewers like myself to create something competitive. But I’m confident a banning for one of Eldrazi’s Mishra’s factories, errr… I mean lands, is imminent.

One of the main reasons why I decided to write about this particular brew first is because it can actually match up against our Eldrazi menace, as well as other top tier decks, and come out on top!

As an archetype, Modern Reanimator doesn’t really exist. Gifts Ungiven probably being the closest thing in Modern to what we could call a reanimator deck built inside a control shell using Unburial Rights once again.

But for me, that’s not good enough! I don’t want to just splash a little black here and there for when it suits me, I’m a black mage, show me what black can do! Give me a reanimator deck with black as its main color!

No doubt at this point our skeptical readers are thinking that if a Reanimator deck in Modern were possible, it would be a thing already. And if it were any good, it’d definitely be a thing already. Well for all you skeptics out there, hopefully today I can change your minds and show you that Modern Reanimator IS a thing, it IS good, and most importantly, it IS fun to play!

So without further ado, here is the list:

Modern Reanimator

4 Thoughtseize

3 Bloodghast

4 Smallpox

4 Zombie Infestation

4 Dark Withering

4 Zombify

4 Resurrection

4 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

3 Griselbrand

2 Blazing Archon

2 Liliana of the Veil

1 Big Game Hunter


4 Marsh Flats

4 Flagstones of Trokair

4 Fetid Heath

3 Godless Shrine

4 Swamp

2 Plainssmallpox

So there it is, let’s break it down now.

Some of the more experienced players will notice a three card combo that involves two lands: Flagstones of Trokair, Fetid Heath, and Smallpox.

On turn 2, activate Fetid Heath for BB to cast Smallpox. You sacrifice your Flagstones and get to go searching for a Plains-and not a basic Plains either! Godless Shrine if you so choose, (Cuz why wouldn’t you?) Smallpox is land destruction, removal, a discard enabler, and disruption, all rolled into one – perfect for our deck.

So, every Reanimator deck needs at least three things in order to work. A discard enabler, a reanimating enabler, and a target. Considering that all the creature cards Legacy Reanimator has been playing with the last several years are modern legal, (Stormtide Leviathan, Inkwell Leviathan Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Iona, Shield of Emeria, Griselbrand, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite etc.) a target for us isn’t going to be a problem.

Our Targets are:

4 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

3 Griselbrand

2 Blazing Archon

Elesh Norn is so good against so many decks in modeBlazingrn. She destroys Melira Coco, affinity, infect, zoo etc. Your opponents definitely won’t be activating any manlands while she’s in play. And she can pump our relentless Bloodghasts into 4/3 for more beats. Against control, Eldrazi and Tron she’s not quite as desirable, but can still be decent if unanswered.

Griselbrand is the target of choice in Legacy for good reason. Huge Fattie, evasion, lifelink, and major card advantage. While not nearly as good in Modern where there aren’t many free spells like Force of Will to give him pseudo hexproof, if unchecked for one turn he’ll be your new best friend. Also, if he enters the battlefield and you find yourself at a low life he loses a lot of his appeal very quickly. Look to side him out in a lot of matchups for other fatties that will give you a more favorable matchup.

Against many normal decks Blazing Archon easily dies to most removal without doing anything for us, however it survives through a dismember; which coincidentally is the removal spell of choice this Eldrazi winter. Basically our ensnaring bridge in creature form, without the low card count hand disadvantage and packed into fatty creature form for beats!

So the main setbacks for a Modern Reanimator build are the apparent lack of good discard enablers and reanimating enablers. In legacy, we have become spoiled with Entomb; which is basically a target and discard enabler for 1B. We can search our library for any creature we want and put it directly into the graveyard, this also allows us to run fewer targets and keep our consistency. In Modern we don’t have the luxury of playing with Entomb, (Thank the Gods!) so we have no choice but to have our target in our hand first and then discarding it in some way. So we run 10 discard enablers:

4 Smallpox

4 Zombie Infestation

2 Liliana of the Veil

Zombie Infestation works as a discard engine and makes us discard two cards at a time, but also gives us a zombie and lets us do it at instant speed at no additional mana cost. We’ve already talked about Smallpox, and Liliana of the Veil is one- if not THE best planeswalker in the format, and coincidently helps our cause. Double points for Slytherin!! With 18 cards in the deck we actually WANT to discard, we should be sitting pretty well.

***It is noteworthy to add that Thoughtseize can be used to target ourselves if need be, bringing our number of discard enablers up to 14, but obviously this isn’t the most ideal or efficient use of our disruption spell. However, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do however!***

Reanimate enablers:

4 Zombify

4 Resurrection

If you’re like me, some of you may not have even realized these cards are Modern legal! Well that’s why you read my articles, so I can do all your thinking for you.

Zombify shows us the necromancy power of the black mage by bringing the dead back to life in undead form. And once again, Time Spiral comes through for us and gives us Resurrection, a card we hadn’t seen since Revised Edition! Resurrection shows us how the white mage’s power of good can also perform the miracle of raising the dead to a pure unadulterated form. Careful! Resurrection is the only white card in our deck (that we plan on hardcasting) and it requires two WW to cast. Take this into consideration when fetching and figuring out your lands, you don’t want to hit four mana and top deck resurrection and realize you only have one white source! Since neither of these spells are going to be castable until turn four, you’re going to have to be doing something in the meantime to keep your opponent in check, otherwise you’re going to be getting swarmed by eldrazis, artifacts or a collected company of creatures. That’s why our deck’s disruption and removal is so important the first few turns. Believe me, nothing is more satisfying than targeting your opponent’s Reality Smasher with your big game hunter, and discarding dark withering to blow up their Thought-Knot Seer because Reality Smasher “forced you” to discard in order to target it. Well, if we have too…


4 Disenchant

1 Revoke existence

2 Iona, Shield of Emeria

2 Massacre Wurm

2 Blazing Archon

2 Big Game Hunter

1 Path to Exile

1 Ashen Rider

Seeing as how our game plan is reanimate, and since we’re too stubborn to change, our entire sideboard is basically a toolbox devoted to tailoring the right fatty we choose to reanimate to the opponent we are playing, or protecting our reanimate scheme. Bloodghast is probably our weakest card, and you’ll often find yourself siding him out because he was voted least likely to succeed in hurting our combo. You may even want to replace him entirely in the Maindeck with more fatties, I’ll leave that to the players.

Iona, Shield of Emeria: Because a few months ago, Iona would have been an AI (Auto-include) in any Modern Reanimator deck, but things being as they currently are *cough* Eldrazi *cough* I opted for Blazing Archon in the Main instead.

Disenchant: Because you’re gonna want to blow up your opponent’s Relic of Progenitus, Grafdigger’s Cage or Rest in Peace after game one.

Revoke Existence: Because see above. Replace “blow up” with “exile”.

Massacre Wurm: Because not only should you wipe your opponents’ board of all creatures, but they should get punished for even having the audacity of having creatures as well. Good friends with Elesh Norn, they go way back. Yah, you did have a lot of tokens…

Blazing Archon: Because last time I checked, it still survives through a dismember, which coincidentally is the removal spell of choice this Eldrazi winter. Also, it might take a while for ratchet bomb to tick up to nine counters. Oh, your opponent had two dismembers? Well, you can’t win ‘em all I guess, hopefully they at least paid the eight life to kill it…

Big Game hunter: Because Eldrazis usually come in plus sizes. Sorry, no skinny gals around here. Except for that pesky Eldrazi mimic…

Path to Exile: Best removal spell in the format, however our Dark Witherings and Big Game Hunters are extremely efficient and synergetic (That’s a word right?) in this deck with the current Meta, but sometimes you just want to exile.

Ashen Rider: Because sometimes you just have to get rid of some of your opponent’s annoying crap. Liliana of the veil can help you get rid of double the crap. Two for the price of one as they say.

Total Deck Cost: This Modern deck comes with a Modern price tag at nearly a thousand bucks, or $967.27. It’s definitely not budget, but hopefully in the future we will see some more affordable brews!

Well, thanks for checking out my brew this week guys, hopefully you can now see for yourself how playable, good and fun Modern Reanimator is!

Comments are appreciated and encouraged, and if you’ve got a card you’d like to see a deck built around, let me know and maybe I’ll see what I can come up with.

I’m Zane Rowland; bringing you deck brews tier two through twenty-two since 2011. I won’t bore you with all that tier one nonsense. Email me at Zrowland19@gmail.com

© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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