Resurrection Perfection – An Abzan Reanimator Primer

Dredge. Reanimator. Storm.

All of these decks are extremely powerful. All of them are current tier-one strategies in Legacy. All of them have one thing in common: they use their graveyards as a resource.

So why wouldn’t you do the same thing in a less powerful format like Standard?

[deck title=Abzan Whip, by Ken Crocker]
[Creatures]
*4 Satyr Wayfinder
*4 Sylvan Caryatid
*2 Nyx Weaver
*4 Courser of Kruphix
*4 Siege Rhino
*2 Wingmate Roc
*2 Doomwake Giant
*1 Soul of Theros
*1 Soul of Innistrad
*3 Hornet Queen
*1 Ashen Rider
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*3 Whip of Erebos
*3 Murderous Cut
*2 Banishing Light
[/Spells]
[Lands]
*4 Forest
*1 Plains
*4 Llanowar Wastes
*3 Caves of Koilos
*4 Sandsteppe Citadel
*4 Windswept Heath
*2 Temple of Malady
*1 Temple of Plenty
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
*1 Whip of Erebos
*3 Bile Blight
*2 Reclamation Sage
*4 Thoughtseize
*2 Duneblast
*3 Hero’s Downfall
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

While this looks like a regular Abzan Midrange deck with some odd-balls thrown in, there are some powerful interactions here:

• [card]Siege Rhino[/card], [card]Ashen Rider[/card], [card]Doomwake Giant[/card], and [card]Hornet Queen[/card] all have powerful enter-the-battlefield abilities. These are easily abused when using [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]. Even [card]Wingmate Roc[/card] is capable of being used with Whip, which adds just that little extra value.

• There are 13 maindeck enchantments to trigger [card]Doomwake Giant[/card]’s constellation ability. This helps deal with aggro decks that swarm the board and opposing [card]Hornet Queen[/card] tokens from Mono-Green and GB Devotion.

• Both [card]Nyx Weaver[/card] and [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/card] feed the graveyard for using the [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] ability and [card]Murderous Cut[/card]. Plus, you get to use both of the Souls’ abilities in the graveyard as well and, luckily for you, most of your opponents will never play around these. Free wins!

As for individual cards:

[card]Ashen Rider[/card] – a nice one-of to reanimate in order to deal with a pesky permanent, like a planeswalker or [card]Chain to the Rocks[/card].

[card]Hornet Queen[/card] – the go-to creature to reanimate. There are several decks in Standard that can’t beat one [card]Hornet Queen[/card], let alone several being Whipped back.

[card]Wingmate Roc[/card] – this is a concession to Jeskai Burn/Aggro/Tempo…whatever the hell you want to call it. Basically, your deck has trouble beating [card]Mantis Rider[/card], and [card]Wingmate Roc[/card] solves this problem. Furthermore, it is very good against Mardu Midrange and its [card]Crackling Doom[/card]s.

Finally, [card]Nyx Weaver[/card] may seem like filler, but it is very important to this strategy. Sometimes you mill over a [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] or you need another [card]Murderous Cut[/card]. Well, with the way Nyx Weaver works, you can Whip it back and then use the ability to get back the card you need. One game, I whipped back a [card]Nyx Weaver[/card], used its ability to get back [card]Soul of Innistrad[/card], cast the six-drop, and started using its ability. That was a fun game!

Given all of these interactions, and the usual interactions ([card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] plus fetchlands; [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] + [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], etc.), and the inherent power level of several of the cards, Abzan Reanimator is the king of the midrange decks.

Thou Shalt Not Have Other Gods Before Me: Why Play White (Siege Rhino) Over Blue (Sidisi, Brood Tyrant)?

There has been some recent tournament success for Sidisi Whip and, as such, it seems like one should ask why one should play Abzan instead of Sultai. In order to demonstrate why I think Abzan is a better overall deck, let’s talk about the pros versus the cons to playing Sultai:

PROS:
• [card]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/card] can win the game on its own, if left unchecked. Sidisi creates her own brood of [card]Walking Dead[/card] while fueling your own graveyard shenanigans all on her own. She can be a one-woman wrecking crew.
• Your sideboard includes high impact, situational cards, such as [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card], [card]Disdainful Stroke[/card], and [card]Negate[/card].

CONS:
• As good as she is, [card]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/card] is extremely fragile. Cards like [card]Bile Blight[/card] and [card]Lightning Strike[/card] are played in numerous decks, both in main decks and sideboards. For a card that fuels an entire deck, Sidisi can lead to some of the biggest blowouts. Don’t believe me? Try attacking with the [card]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/card] trigger on the stack, and having your opponent cast [card]Jeskai Charm[/card] to place Sidisi on top of your deck.
• There are no other powerful maindeck cards in the blue version of the deck. White gives you [card]Siege Rhino[/card], [card]Wingmate Roc[/card], and [card]Soul of Theros[/card], which Reid Duke is on record as saying that, “This card is so busted that I say shame on us, as a community, for not finding a home for it sooner.”
• Finally, the white version gives you access to more removal and constellation synergies than the blue version does. [card]Banishing Light[/card] is a premium removal spell for problematic cards such as [card]Butcher of the Horde[/card], [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card], and opposing [card]Whip of Erebos[/card].

Now that you are obviously convinced that Abzan is our true savior, let’s look into some common matchups and sideboarding you will run into at any given tournament.

The Gospel: Sideboard Guide

vs. Mardu Midrange –
In: +1 [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], +3 [card]Bile Blight[/card]
Out: -1 [card]Soul of Theros[/card], -3 [card]Murderous Cut[/card]

This matchup is amazing. I have yet to lose a game, let alone a match. They can’t beat [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], they can’t beat [card]Doomwake Giant[/card], and they can’t beat [card]Wingmate Roc[/card]. The [card]Bile Blight[/card]s are for [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] and his token friends. Other than that, this matchup should be a bye for you.

vs. Mono-Green & GB Devotion –
In: +2 [card]Duneblast[/card], +3 [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]
Out: -2 [card]Wingmate Roc[/card], -1 [card]Soul of Theros[/card], -1 [card]Ashen Rider[/card], -1 [card]Nyx Weaver[/card]

This matchup can be a toss-up. If the Devotion deck gets their nut draw, they are about a turn and half faster than you. However, you get to cut some of the fat in order to add extra removal, both mass and spot removal. Since you have Whip, you should win the late game most of the time, as you both have access to [card]Hornet Queen[card], but you have access to more of them. Expect long, grindy affairs, but you should come out on top.

vs. Any Red Aggro deck –
In: +3 [card]Bile Blight[/card], +1 [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]
Out: -1 [card]Soul of Theros[/card], -1 [card]Soul of Innistrad[/card], -1 [card]Ashen Rider[/card], -1 [card]Hornet Queen[/card]

Resolve a Whip, win the game. It’s that simple. …Well, not that simple. But with the amount of incidental lifegain you get from [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], [card]Siege Rhino[/card], and [card]Wingmate Roc[/card], plus the board clearing capability of [card]Doomwake Giant[/card], you’re set up pretty well against them. Play smart, get a Whip in play, and win the game.

vs. Four-Color Midrange / Abzan Midrange –
In: +1 [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]
Out: -1 [card]Ashen Rider[/card]

You’re both trying to do similar things, but you have Whip. The late game should be yours for the taking. Like I said, we are the Kings of the Midrange.

vs. UB Control –
In: +4 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], +2 [card]Reclamation Sage[/card], +3 [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]
Out: -3 [card]Murderous Cut[/card], -1 [card]Soul of Theros[/card], -2 [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], -3 [card]Hornet Queen[/card]

And now the bad news. You have two very bad matchups: UB Control and UW Heroic. UB Control has several cards that are very good against us, namely [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card], [card]Perilous Vault[/card], and counterspells. This matchup is very difficult to win in game one, but fairly winnable after sideboarding. I suggest testing this matchup several times before going to a tournament…or just hope to dodge Ali Aintrazi and Adrian Sullivan all day.

vs. UW Heroic –
In: +4 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], +3 [card]Bile Blight[/card], +2 [card]Reclamation Sage[/card], +3 [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]
Out: -3 [card]Hornet Queen[/card], -1 [card]Soul of Theros[/card], -1 [card]Soul of Innistrad[/card], -3 [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], -1 [card]Ashen Rider[/card], -3 [card]Satyr Wayfinder[/card]

This is why you don’t see this deck out right now. As the popularity of UW Heroic goes up, the chances this deck has goes down. Luckily, we have a bunch of sideboard cards to help the matchup…but it’s still not pretty. If you are aware that your metagame has a good amount of U/ Heroic, I might suggest a different deck. The matchup isn’t unwinnable, but it is very lopsided in their favor.

Now that you are armed with a new weapon and the proper knowledge to wield it, go forth and spread the news of Abzan Reanimator! Praise be to Rhino!

About the Author
Full-time philosopher, part-time Magician, Ken Crocker is a Magic grinder in the Midwest. While only playing competitively for four years, he has already made two SCG Open top eights.

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