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Re-Chantimator

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Readers! By now some of my habits should be fairly familiar to long-time readers of this column. I tend to approach decks for this column by looking at a commander and thinking about how best to use that commander to cheat. When I say "cheat" I obviously don't mean to win by sneaking extra cards, tapping out to play a spell you can't afford and hoping no one notices or lying about the game state - this is a friendly format and you're likely playing with friends. No, when I say "cheat" I mean doing something earlier, easier, or better than the rules are supposed to allow. Playing extra lands is "cheating" because the rules say you can only play one land per turn and cards that allow you to play more give you an advantage. One way to "cheat" is to not pay the mana cost for your big creatures. If you can get a creature with a large CMC into play without paying a lot of mana, you "cheated" and it should give you an advantage. Maybe you played two big creatures in a turn instead of one. Maybe you played something many turns early. Maybe you used Natural Order or Tooth and Nail and really stuck it to them by both tutoring and skipping the mana cost. A very early way to cheat on mana costs was to play Animate Dead on a large creature, either one they had discarded or one you had discarded. Paying a colorless and a Black mana for a Shivan Dragon on turn two was a very strong play and had to be dealt with immediately. As Magic cards got better, both creatures and reanimation spells got better and Reanimator strategies impacted every format.

I don't mention dedicated Reanimator in this column often because I don't think they're all that distinct from each other. When the commander can pitch in and do some of the lifting like Meren of Clan Nel Toth can, that's great, but I don't think I can really add my spin to any decks like that. They're pretty tight since they have so many moving parts - discard outlets, big creatures, combo pieces, ramp, lands, reanimator spells. Trying to monkey with tight lists doesn't seem worth it so I have mostly stayed away. However, that all stops today because I have found the Reanimator commander I want to build with.

Ghen, Arcanum Weaver

Look, I never specifically said I was going to reanimate creatures now did I? It's not just creatures that have high mana costs - some enchantments can be very expensive and it's kept them from being played in any format besides Commander. Some enchantments don't pair well with colors that let you ramp your mana meaning you don't always live long enough to play them. That all changes today, because we're going to cheat them into play by using Ghen to bring them back from the grave. But how do we get the cards there in the first place? I'm so glad you asked!

Something I've been wanting to do lately is add more Black to my enchantment-heavy decks. There are a ton of fantastic Black enchantments that can give you a ton of value or squeeze the opponents very hard and while it obviously occurred to me to play Painful Quandary paired with Tinybones, it never occurred to be to pair it with Enchantress' Presence. I included a lot of powerful Black enchantments in decks where the deck called for that effect but I never considered using them as enchantments for enchantments' sake and building synergy between the enchantments themselves rather than building synergy between a commander and an effect. You don't need to have a commander that makes opponents discard cards to get value out of Waste Not and realizing that simple premise made this decklist really come together in my mind. Yes, making the table discard with Bottomless Pit is cool, but I thought I would prefer Court of Ambition because it wouldn't force me to take damage or discard cards. It never occurred to me that I would want to discard cards. Using Bottomless Pit to chuck a Grave Betrayal into the 'yard and bring it back for three mana is the kind of cheating that will help us win the game, and what could be more 75% than an enchantment that steals their creatures? Playing big, expensive enchantments with powerful effects early is a huge advantage, and being able to bring them back if our opponents destroy them is a very nice added bonus. Ghen can even stash an enchantment safely in the graveyard in response to a Merciless Eviction which is more than I can say for any of the cards in my Estrid deck.

If we want to make ourselves discard to get those big enchantments into the 'yard so we can cheat them into play, we'll want to focus on cards that let us do that. Bottomless Pit effects obviously make the cut, and cards like Bone Miser that reward us for discarding come to mind. Liliana of the Veil could get added to a Commander deck of mine for the first time ever, which is a plus. Insidious Dreams is a monster card that fills your 'yard with gas and replaces them on top of the deck with anything you want. That's all great but I think a lot of people building with Ghen miss something we've talked about before in this column, and that's the Spellshaper cards.

Hammer Mage

Spellshapers confer a powerful, repeatable effect at the cost of discarding a card from your hand, which is honestly pretty playable under ordinary circumstances. Turning any card in your hand into a Shatterstorm is incredibly useful in most decks - in a deck where we want to discard cards, it's almost unfair. There are 56 Spellshapers in Mercadian Masques and Time Spiral blocks, and the majority of them are in our colors. We can choose between a bevy of powerful effects from destroying all creatures, destroying lands, making an opponent discard their entire hand or casting Swords to Plowshares or Reverse Damage at will. We don't want too many of these cards, but having access to the best ones, like Hammer Mage, accomplishes two of our aims - repeatable use of powerful effects and reliable discard outlets. The synergy here is incredible.

So, we're discarding, they're discarding, we're recovering from discarding and they're hopefully not. It sounds like we're set up to slant the battlefield and take over. There's one major problem - we don't want to run a ton of creatures that aren't spellshapers. They basically get in the way. However, it's pretty tough to win the game without creatures. I think we have two options here and we should exercise them both. The first option is to steal their creatures from them and the second is to create creatures with our enchantments. Divine Visitation can turn Assemble the Legion into an Angel-production factory that can quickly swarm the board, shrug off wraths and win all by itself. If we can't win with our own creatures, expensive enchantments like Debtors' Knell and Grave Betrayal can snag beaters for us. Is all of that taking too long? Maybe Revel in Riches can join our Smothering Tithe and wrap things up in a hurry.

I don't want to run that many creatures since it benefits us to clear the board with lots of wipes so apart from Spellshapers, we're going to keep the creature count very low and load up on enchantments. We're going to cheat and steal and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of the most 75% decks I've concocted this year. So, what would this pile look like, anyway?

Re-Chantimator | Commander | Jason Alt


This is my kind of deck!

You are still a little weak to Merciless Eviction, and you may want to consider running a copy of Nevermore in the deck. Being able to "save" one enchantment by throwing it in the graveyard and having something get wiped in its place is better than nothing, but we're still very vulnerable to that card and it's best to have a plan. Aura Thief isn't great, either, but it's not as common to see that as it is to see Eviction, so be aware that we can get our pants pulled down.

There are a few directions we can go with this. I think this is a nice balance of what we're trying to achieve, but here are options as I see them.

We could double down on hating artifacts. We don't have a ton, and I swapped in "bad" rocks like Commander's Sphere and Mardu Banner because we can sac them in a pinch when it's Hammer time. Adding more artifact sweepers like Vandalblast, Shatterstorm and Pulverize can give the opponents fits. We don't need a ton of mana anyway since the enchantments we play are cheap and the expensive ones effectively cost 3 mana. I didn't include anything like Illusionists' Bracers for a reason. If you can keep wiping Artifacts off of the board, you'll tilt the battlefield even more if any of them rely on them.

We could run more creature theft. I have a bit and while I like that in a 75% deck, I also don't love relying on them to have good creatures. We're going to get either Debtors' Knell or Grave Betrayal often, so we don't need to go too deep into this aspect, but it's a 75% deck and I personally love stealing their creatures. A few more targeted effects like Necromancy and Unhallowed Pact could go a long way.

If we wanted to be a Blim deck, we have quite a few of the cards that would help us kill them and we're set up to add more. I cut cards like Overwhelming Splendor that I felt were kind of narrow and were more of an inconvenience to one player who is now furious with you than they were a way to kill someone. If you add a few more of those pernicious Black enchantments that we are running because they draw us cards and we can always sac them before they hurt us, we can add Blim and Harmless Offering and have the ability to kill someone with a well-placed Nefarious Lich or Demonic Pact. Check out my Blim deck from last week for ideas.

That does it for me this week. I really love the idea of cheating at Magic by renaimating big, dumb enchantments rather than creatures and building up a wall they can't swing through, making them discard their whole hand and beating them down with Angel tokens. What could be more 75% than that? Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of your comments on last week's piece. Until next time!

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