Who am I?
My name is Justin Ventura aka the meme king, aka Justin “Pro Player” Ventura, aka Yu-Gi-Oh! tracksuit guy. I’m twenty years old and have been playing the game since I was sixteen. I’ve been on Episode 9 of the podcast and you may have seen my various memes being posted on The Salt Mine Facebook account.
Though I don’t think of myself as the “Pro Player” as Steve and others likes to call me, I have been to two RPTQs in 2016 and finished with medium records at both. Although I did enjoy my time at these, Legacy has provided me something that I felt I didn’t have in the Spiky world of the PPTQ grind. Friendship and community. Every single person in the Melbourne Legacy group is a top bloke who enjoys the game and the bantz. They’ve made me feel the joy of the game again in a time I thought I had lost it, when Wizards had created the worst standard environments I’ve ever experienced. Like ever. Putting my balls in a vice grip was more appealing than playing Standard. Who ever thought of printing a graveyard based mechanic without printing graveyard hate, is an idiot (Editor’s note: Justin is not a game designer, makes poor deck choices at RPTQs and is very salty Red mage).
But enough about me and the shittiness of Standard, let’s talk about Black-Red Reanimator.
Why did I pick up this deck?
I had played Burn at 2016 Masters finishing 11th. It was a blast, I did well and was hoping to take this success into our weeklies. Unfortunately, I was unable keep up the success and after several weeks of 1-3’s and 2-2’s due to some bullshit combo decks, I was looking for something that would help maximise my quick wins. Ironically, I chose a bullshit combo deck. The deck that would help me win/Top 8 several of our sanctioned Melbourne tournaments was Black-Red Reanimator. This deck looked sick; the idea that I could essentially win on turn one or two because of Griselbrand was an amazing concept to me as a Spike.
I took the deck to one of our weekly proxy events, and in the last round I versed fellow Salt Miner Sean Brown. I had discussed the deck with Sean a lot, as he is known as “Mr. Legacy”, “Thalia’s Pimp” and “Turn 1 Vial”. In game two, Sean had his classic turn one Vial off a Karakas and it was looking pretty grim for me. I had a hand of Lotus Petal, two Entomb, Exhume, Unmask, Thoughtseize and Reanimate. And then I top decked a Dark Ritual and the turn ended up with me having a Griselbrand, Tidespout Tyrant and a Pithing Needle on Karakas all on turn one. There is no way he was coming back from that. That moment made me fall in love with the deck.
Why you should pick up this deck?
If you like winning fast, being able to go get food between rounds, smoke breaks, beating people with a big fat meat stick, making everyone start packing four pieces of graveyard hate because you won an event, having a tier 1 legacy deck for <$1200 AUD or like touching yourself to the thought of Griselbrand in play on turn one, you’ll love this deck.
Why you shouldn’t pick up this deck?
If you don’t like combo decks, if you need the personal validation of your peers, have a mother’s love, hate Deathrite Shaman, aren’t addicted to smoking, your meta is infested with graveyard hate, you hate having games decided by the top seven-to-nine cards of your deck or actually enjoy interacting with your opponent, this deck isn’t for you.
The difference between Blue-Black and Black-Red
This question comes up a lot on r/MTGLegacy. The common answer given is speed vs. consistency. Blue-Black having Brainstorm, Ponder and counter spells allows it to play less creatures in the main, allows for cards to draw through the deck and have counter spells to make sure that their reanimation spells resolve. It allows them to react to their opponents.
Whereas Black-Red, being the all-in glass cannon, it must be proactive and use early game disruption. Using hand disruption and Chancellor of the Annex is how you’ll be able make sure you slip in a big creature. Your games are decided in the first one-three turns, so mulligan to wins; your deck does not have a very good long game. The longer the game goes, your chances of winning decrease.
A “minimum core” is the term for the lowest possible amount of a card that is found in all the different versions of the deck; so for example, in every Delver list I see the minimum core as four Force, Delver, Daze, Brainstorm, Ponder, Wasteland, eight fetches and six fetchable duals.
For Black-Red Reanimator, I deem the below cards as the “minimum core”:
6 Black fetchlands
4 Lotus Petal
4 Dark Ritual
4 Faithless Looting
4 Animate Dead
4 Chancellor of the Annex
8 Hand disruption
Why I deem many of these the “minimum core” is easily explainable. Looking to the lands first, 2 Badlands is standard for the deck, allowing the Red for Faithless Looting, whilst also allowing for all the Black spells in our deck to be played. Two Swamp I find is the best to get around any sort of land destruction/disruption (Wasteland, Blood Moon, etc.) that goes around Legacy. The minimum fetchland amount run in the deck is six black fetches. It doesn’t matter which Black fetches you run, though people typically run Bloodstained Mire and Polluted Delta because they are cheaper than Marsh Flats and Verdant Catacombs (Editor’s note: It is likely the optimal fetch setup is Deltas and Catacombs to bluff being a BUG deck, money not being a consideration). However, some lists decide to run a singleton Mountain, so in these the Bloodstained Mires are a necessity.
The four Lotus Petal and four Dark Rituals never change in the list. The fast mana gained by them is what makes the deck amazing, and running any less than four of each is sub-optimal.
Twelve reanimation spells (aka Monster Reborn). These cards are the core of the deck; without these cards, there is no deck. I have seen people run less than twelve, dropping an Animate Dead or two in favour of more hand disruption and various other things. I think that people have done this mostly because in Blue-Black, nine reanimation spells looks fine. However, they fail to consider that Blue-Black has far better card filtration thanks to Ponder and Brainstorm. With Black-Red you want to see one in your hand in every single game. Thus, running twelve to always see one in an opener is best.
Four Entomb and four Faithless Looting. “Get in my belly (graveyard)”. Entomb allows for the classic Dark Ritual, Entomb, reanimation that the deck is known for. Faithless Looting is a great way for you to get your fatties in the graveyard and potentially give you better cards. Never leave home without a four of both bad boys.
Griselbrand. The fairest card in Magic. I’ve found the minimum amount of him to be three. Typically lists run four. However, you can drop him to three and allow for more silver bullet fatties and make yourself less vulnerable to Surgical Extraction. Anyway, drawing seventeen to fourteen cards in a turn is disgusting.
Chancellor of the Annex is another card that I deem as an absolute core to the deck. It enables you to have protection from counterspells on turn one. I’m of the opinion that this card is an alright card to reanimate, but not the best. I’ve lost my fair share of games because this thing didn’t apply enough pressure to my opponent. On a side note, I do want to start testing chancellor as a three-of, rather than a four-of. I’m mainly taking this idea from Manaless Dredge (Editor’s note: I’ve actually gone up tofour Chancellor in Manaless…) and it also allows for another silver bullet creature to be put in the deck.
I mentioned eight hand disruption spells in the minimum core, but why was I not specific? I believe that hand disruption should be appropriately tailored to the meta. My argument is that if you meta is heavy on Deathrite Shaman, play main deck Collective Brutalities. In a meta filled with combo leave the Collectives in the side, and play four Unmask and four Thoughtseize.
There are a lot of Black-Red Reanimator lists floating around the internet lately, and since the deck is so new, people are trying out everything. Mostly you will see a third splash colour for the deck. It will either be Blue, Green or White, or include the use of Simian Spirit Guide and more reliance on Red. This choice is up to player’s preference, as each has their own strengths and weakness and can change the percentage points slightly from matchup to matchup.
Green (Abrupt Decay and Reverent Silence) – Having a uncounterable way of removing your opponent’s < 3 cmc graveyard hate (DRS, Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s cage), is great, however the shortfall of using Abrupt Decay is that it does not answer Leyline of the Void. That is when typically you will bring in Revenant Silence. I find Reverent Silence an understandable annoyance. By having to play this card in the deck to make up for Abrupt Decay not being able to hit Leyline of the Void, you reduce the number of cards that could be in the sideboard for other matchups (Faerie Macabre, Pithing Needle, Collective Brutality).
White (Wear // Tear) – Wear // Tear is a fantastic card as is allows both the answering of Grafdigger’s cage, Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. However, its weakness is the inability to kill Deathrite Shaman. Though Pithing Needle or Collective Brutalities are additionally included in the sideboard to answer that. I tend to stray away from the White splash mainly because of the Miracles matchup. Having Decay answer a turn two Counterbalance can mean the difference between victory and defeat. That being said, often the Miracles matchup can be in our favour due the abundance of hand disruption we can use early to remove all their answers.
Here is an example of a White-splashing list.
Blue (Show and Tell) – I have yet to play this type of list, so this is just my opinion of it, rather than based on evidence and experience. The Blue list is interesting as it almost turns into a Blue-Black Reanimator/Show and Tell hybrid deck. If they get in their graveyard hate, a plan that doesn’t use the graveyard to sneak in a creature is an interesting and unique take on the deck. However, I feel that focusing on just destroying graveyard hate and moving on is a better plan than relying on drawing a four-of card from the sideboard in post-board games.
Simian Spirit Guide or no Simian Spirit Guide
Some lists have begun to play Simian Spirit Guide to gain more fast mana for the deck. You can use your SSG to pitch for a Faithless Looting rather than using a land or Lotus Petal. As well as getting people by paying for a Daze. However, these lists often reduce the amount of hand disruption and play a basic mountain to play around Wasteland. Given that so much of the power in this deck is using hand disruption to remove your opponent’s interaction, moving away from hand disruption feels wrong to me. Regarding the basic Mountain, subjectively I had an experience where I would have had a turn one kill. My hand was Dark Ritual, Thoughtseize, Entomb, Reanimate and two other irrelevant cards… My only problem was that I had a Mountain rather than a swamp. Because of trying to stop Wasteland, I gave up the opportunities of having a turn one win.
Tendrils of Agony or no Tendrils of Agony
One card I tried earlier on in my deck building of Black-Red Reanimator was adding Tendrils of Agony and Children of Korlis. You become this weird sort of Tin Fins hybrid, which rather than pseudo-winning once Griselbrand comes into play, you win instantly once Griselbrand comes into play. Draw fourteen cards, find Lotus Petals and way to cast or reanimate a Children of Korlis. Draw fourteen again, reanimate again, draw twenty-one cards, generate ten Storm with Unmasks and then Tendrils them for lethal. This is great against any Karakas deck or deck that may have an out if they go to their turn.
Below is a nifty little spreadsheet about how your anti graveyard hate interacts with their graveyard hate. This will hopefully help you in deciding on which version to play. I have only included cards that are aimed at targeting the graveyard.
My current list
This is what I used to make the Top 8 of a recent Legacy event. I enjoyed playing it and the event report can be found here. The idea came from good friend DNSolver who, after picking up the deck again, decided to target the Online metagame of DRS.dec and has been on an absolute crushing spree o. I didn’t get to play against any Deathrite Shaman or Force decks, so I’m still exploring the options of doing something like 3-3-2 in the hand disruption split.
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Polluted Delta
4 Chancellor of the Annex
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Tidespout Tyrant
Non-Creature Spells: (38)
4 Collective Brutality
4 Dark Ritual
4 Faithless Looting
4 Animate Dead
2 Chrome Mox
4 Lotus Petal
4 Abrupt Decay
1 Archetype of Endurance
1 Children of Korlis
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
3 Faerie Macabre
1 Grave Titan
4 Reverent Silence
Anyway, thanks for the read, hope you enjoyed the article. Check out my Legacy meme content at The Salt Mine Facebook page and remember to “take us all with a pinch of salt”.
By Justin Ventura