Cube Draft Strategy: Reanimator

Overview

Reanimator is a very specialized draft strategy that allows you to take advantage of its highly narrow cards that are included in the cube for its benefit. In other words, Reanimator is one of those strategies that will probably only work for one person at the table, and when most people are too afraid to commit themselves to it, you’ll rack up.

High Picks

Fatties (Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Simic Sky Swallower, Hellkite Overlord, Empyrial Archangel)
Reanimation (Recurring Nightmare, Zombify, Dread Return, Beacon of Unrest, Reanimate, Exhume)
Card Draw / Filter (Thirst for Knowledge, Looter il-Kor, Entomb)
Removal (Snuff Out, Damnation, Profane Command – Dual use!)
Counterspells (Mana Drain, Mana Leak, Arcane Denial)
Creature Control (Control Magic, Treachery, Dominate, Legacy’s Allure)

Strategy

I love straightforward strategies, and this is about as straightforward as they come. Let’s get the basics out of the way: A Reanimator strategy intends on getting a huge, scary fatty in the yard (preferably Akroma) and then plays a spell which ‘cheats’ said creature into play without paying its cost (Zombify).

The primary color scheme for this is Blue/Black, as Blue gives you the most powerful cards in the cube period and Black gives you access to all of the removal and reanimation spells you need.

Generally I don’t bother with trying to have the mana, however improbable, that I’ll need to cast the fatties in this archetype. Having three white mana sources does not support Akroma by any stretch of the imagination. You could also draft Tropical Island in order to raw dog Simic Sky Swallower, but if your strategy is working it will rarely come to this.

Your black cards are to either kill things (Snuff Out) or bring back your fatties. Your Blue cards either filter through your deck (Looter il-Kor), draw you cards, or provide you with creatures you don’t own (Dominate, Legacy’s Allure). Counterspells (Mana Leak) will be your best friends as you work your way through an opponent’s deck, waiting for just the right time to bring back a monster, which you can do instantly with Makeshift Mannequin. Makeshift Mannequin works brilliantly with Shroud creatures such as Simic Sky Swallower or Empyrial Archangel, providing you damn near unstoppable beef to go along with its Shroud ability causing Makeshift Mannequin’s “drawback” to be nothing of the sort.

As for draft strategy, you can almost always table the reanimation spells. This means you need to take Akroma, Angel of Wrath over pretty much everything else (as it works great in U/W Control and they will happily pluck it 3rd or 4th pick), and then wait for that Zombify or Reanimate to come back to you on the wheel. Again, the beauty of this very narrow archetype is that you will have few if any players actively fighting you to draft it as well. This way you get all of the good removal, card draw, and fatties on the first go ’round, and on the second you pick up the cards that actually bring them back.

Of course, the beauty of drafting against this archetype is that if someone wants to randomly hate your Makeshift Mannequin, they can seriously damage your chances of winning.

The nuts for this archetype (and I’ve seen it happen) is a first turn Black Lotus, Entomb, Exhume Akroma, Angel of Wrath, burn for 1 and bash for 6. Then, inevitably, your opponent will have a Swords to Plowshares waiting on you. But they have an equal chance of entering the scoop phase, which is just as well.

One last note on the strategy for this archetype, you can also run G/B if you pull Recurring Nightmare and get the fortunate pairing of Survival of the Fittest. This archetype is more “Rock-ish”, meaning it’s a slower archetype with ‘less powerful’ spells (i.e. Green creatures and so forth), but is far better at managing the late game versus 5-Color and U/W Control archetypes.

Weaknesses

There’s not a lot of graveyard hate in the cube, so that’s not really your worry or focus. Rather, it’s cards like Unmake and Swords to Plowshares you’re worried about. Other hosers include Prison Term and of course various Wrath of God effects. However, with your ability to bring back your monsters along with plenty of Counterspells to protect them, you should be prepared for such shenanigans. Better yet, you are more likely to allow Wrath of God/Damnation to resolve while simply reanimating your monster next turn and counterspelling the real threat, Arrest or some simliar ‘creature shut down’ card.

Your worst matchup is probably G/W Aggro, as their incredible starts can knock you off balance and their protection creatures cause havok among your targeted removal. G/R Aggro is also powerful, as they have aggressive starts and can disrupt your manabase which is paramount to them winning games. This is the archetype in which you may wish to pay 4 life at the beginning of the game to kill their Kird Ape, as paying the piper to stop their fast starts may be worth it in the long run (i.e. that Kird Ape will deal a hell of a lot more over time than the life you paid for Snuff Out).

Summary

This is one of the archetypes that cube veterans enjoy because it is so narrow no new player would attempt it. It’s powerful because it runs the best color in Magic, and bringing back monsters over and over again is a sure fire way to demolish someone’s strategy of Deal With Your Dude With Wraths And Go From There. Every time I see Zombify table, whether I’m playing this archetype or not, it makes me smile.

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2 Comment(s)

  1. I have a little budget (no card over 5 €/6$) cube for my own. as graveyard hate tends to be either very late picks, or sideboard at best, I completely took it out in exchange for superior spells.
    Like you said, there are a lot of potent cards, that work against reanimator (bounce, rfg spells, auras, controlmagic in the mid-/lategame), that are very useful against other archetypes as well.
    So my question is: How much “real” antigraveyard cards should approximately be in a cube with 450 cards?

    eidolon | Mar 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. I have a cube of 320 cards, and in this very tight cube I think I only have one grave-hater, Stonecloaker. And even that is doing a good amount of double duty by itself. (I’m not counting cards like Unmake, StP or Kumano.) Then again, reanimator is a little anemic in such a small cube, as Evan correctly pointed out that this archety[e benefits from a lot of players at the table.

    wamyc | Jul 21, 2009 | Reply

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