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The Tome


Post-Rotation Extended: Reanimator and TurboLand
  - by Tim Sprague

Normally I donít like to rant and rave about any random issues that come up in the Magic community. Discuss, yes, and sometimes disagree with issues, but itís very rare indeed that I simply say screw it and go off. In my last article I did just that, though, and I thank those that read it for bearing with me. The Extended rotation is just a subject that I feel very passionately about, and I needed to vent in a very open and very public place. Isnít that what The Tome is all about in the first place? The open and public display of ideas?

In any case, Iím just about ranted out when it comes to the rotation. Instead, Iíve moved on to testing the new environment (minus Onslaught, of course) in hopes of restoring my faith in Extended. A few of my normal testing partners are still moping around, but Iíve somehow managed to get in a fair amount of games. Iíll go ahead and say right at the start that two of the decks that weíve been working on are strictly off-limits for the moment, which is due to various reasons that pretty much boil down to, ďWe could tell you, but then weíd have to kill you.Ē The reality of the situation is that all testing teams hold back certain tech in hopes of getting the jump on the competition, and mine is no different.

Besides, there are plenty of other decks to go around, as this series of articles will show. Hereís the format of the series: each article, there will be one reworked deck for the new Extended, and one of my own design. That way, it mixes the rehashed with the original. Iím going to be breaking that format a bit in this article, because the second deck is based off of a past one, but itís different enough to warrant a slot. Shall we begin?

The best place to start is probably the most discussed deck with regards to post-rotation Extended, Reanimator. Have you ever noticed that thereís a certain love between many players and this archetype? Itís probably due to the fact that Reanimator attempts to break one of the fundamental philosophies of the game: the larger the creature, the longer it takes to get into play. Itís not a real rule, but it tends to be the truth. Thereís a select few creatures that bypass this, such as Phyrexian Negator and the insane muppet Blastoderm, but these creatures tend to have drawbacks (except Spiritmonger, but Spiritmonger is the exception to a lot of things). Reanimator bypasses this chain completely, and thereís always a warm fuzzy feeling to having a gigantic creature on turn three looking across the board at your opponentís Llanowar Elves.

Before we get into the actual design of the deck, thereís something that needs to be addressed. There are many people who say that Reanimator will become too strong, especially with Swords to Plowshares no longer in the environment. Keep in mind that Reanimator lost certain tools due to the rotation as well, perhaps most noticeably Animate Dead and Krovikan Horror. That was one of the major points of my last article: no archetype can say that it wasnít affected by the rotation announcement.

However, youíre still left with a number of viable tools. It will be quite some time, of course, before Entomb rotates out of Extended (sometime around 2008, according to the schedule set down by Wizards). That means that on turn one you can still throw a random creature from your library into your graveyard, which in this case is always a plus. You loose Animate Dead and the sometimes-used Necromancy, but retain Exhume and Reanimate. Thanks to the wonders of Sixth Edition, you even retain Vampiric Tutor.

For reference, here are a few Reanimator decklists from Pro Tour: New Orleans. Top Eight Reanimator decklists, to be exact.


Darwin Kastle
PT: New Orleans

21 Swamp

1 Avatar of Woe
1 Crosis, the Purger
2 Krovikan Horror
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Nether Spirit
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Verdant Force
1 Animate Dead
4 Buried Alive
1 Contamination
4 Duress
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
1 Massacre
4 Reanimate
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation

And of course, The Humpís deck.

David Humpherys
PT: New Orleans

3 Rishadan Port
19 Swamp

1 Avatar of Woe
2 Krovikan Horror
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Nether Spirit
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Verdant Force

2 Animate Dead
3 Buried Alive
1 Contamination
4 Duress
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
1 Massacre
4 Reanimate
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation

Just by taking a quick look one can see that this most certainly will be viable in the new Extended. Perhaps what makes the deck so strong is not what Reanimator retains, but what other decks lose. Thereís no Force of Will to stop your second turn reanimation, and thereís no Swords to Plowshares to mock you when your hand is out of gas. In fact, thereís really only a few spells that can make much of a difference, and most of those are black. The Edicts, for example, and even those only work if itís done before a Verdant Force gets going. Thereís one card that increases its worth tenfold almost on the Reanimator matchup alone, which is Disrupt, but Iíll get to that a bit later.

So now we have to begin to strip away the old and put in replacements. A large part of the deck can remain intact, so letís start with a core. Iím going to work from the Humpherys list, as it is not only the most adaptable, but itís the version I prefer in the first place.

1 Avatar of Woe
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Nether Spirit
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Verdant Force
3 Buried Alive
1 Contamination
4 Duress
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
1 Massacre
4 Reanimate
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation

Thatís thirty-four cards that remain completely intact (not counting land). Thatís not bad at all, now is it? In fact, itís amazingly good. Thirty-four cards out of thirty-eight total. In fact, the only losses are Krovikan Horror and Animate Dead. One could argue that itís as simple as making this deck:

1 Avatar of Woe
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Nether Spirit
3 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Verdant Force

3 Buried Alive
1 Contamination
4 Duress
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
1 Massacre
4 Reanimate
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation
1 Living Death
1 Zombify

While that is certainly a possibility, youíre suddenly raising the mana curve with Living Death and Zombify. Raising the Squee count to three is certainly justifiable, though, and itís probably what I would do for the first revision of Reanimator. Squee simply isnít as good as Krovikan Horror when it comes to creatures being dumped into the graveyard, but itís a close enough substitute.

Now, as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, I prefer the Humpherys version when comparing it to Kastleís, but I do agree with the inclusion of Crosis, the Purger. That would leave one slot to fill rather than two. So now thereís almost a question of style rather than a question of tech. Do we substitute another reanimation card, such as a Living Death or Zombify, perhaps another creature, or maybe even a fourth Rishadan Port or basic land? My personal feeling is that the deck is better served with a Living Death in that slot. Yes, I realize that it will be difficult to cast the majority of the time, with only twenty-three lands in the deck and three of those producing colorless mana. However, the longer the game goes the worse it gets for Reanimator, and there needs to be some sort of reset. Not only is Living Death a reset, but itís much more than that. When suddenly youíve got four or five monsters breathing down your opponentís neck while they have very little in the way of brawn, you get that warm fuzzy feeling that I mentioned earlier. Yes, in most games Living Death will be a pitched card to Zombie Infestation, but thereís going to be times when itís a lifesaver.

The other modification I made the decklist is the removal of Massacre and the addition of Mutilate. I tested out the deck with Massacre for a while, then realized that white is lacking in the new Extended. White Weenie has a chance, of course, but as I will show in later articles it doesnít have that big of a shot against the metagame I believe will exist. In any case, if I was going to have to pay four mana for a Wrath effect, I was going to make it normally be larger than Ė2/-2. For this reason, I tested out Mutilate and was almost instantly won over by it. In one very lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) game, I was sitting on a Port and five Swamps and managed to Mutilate away a Covetous Dragon. I didnít win the game, but it was still impressive.

So the current post-rotation Reanimator is looking a little something like this:

3 Rishadan Port
19 Swamp

1 Crosis, the Purger
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Nether Spirit
3 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Verdant Force

1 Living Death
3 Buried Alive
1 Contamination
4 Duress
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
1 Mutilate
4 Reanimate
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation

I suppose that someone somewhere gives points for originality, but in the real world of Magic points are given for winning, not being the first on the block to come up with an idea. Besides, there are a number of those original ideas coming up in later articles in this series.

Feel free to toy around with individual card choices. Itís not like all my choices are written in stone or anything like that. Just be sure to keep the basic reanimation core in Entomb, Exhume, and Vampiric Tutor. Beyond that, have fun with it. Switch out cards for others. Go insane.

Now, the second deck on tap for this article is a bit strange, but strangeness is one of the cores of originality. If you remember my rant on the Extended rotation, I emphatically stated that Oath in its current form is dead and buried come November. I still stand by that, and that sentiment extended to TurboLand as well. However, TurboLand is interesting in the respect that the Oath engine wasnít present at all points of last season.

Zvi Mowshowitz
GP: Las Vegas

3 Forest
10 Island
4 Thawing Glaciers
2 Treetop Village
4 Tropical Island

4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Brainstorm
3 Call of the Herd
4 Counterspell
1 Emerald Charm
4 Exploration
4 Force of Will
2 Gaea's Blessing
4 Horn of Greed
2 Intuition
2 Scroll Rack
3 Time Warp

Notice that the Oath engine was replaced by an engine of a different sort, namely Intuition/Call of the Herd. Zvi has stated on his website that he has lost the respect he had for this design, but that was before Wizards shot Extended to hell. As it stands, itís more than possible to work with this, and itís quite possible to ďgo infiniteĒ with Time Warp in a restructured version of the deck.

So letís see what weíve got to work with here. The obvious Exploration/Horn of Greed engine needs to stay intact, as it will cycle through the deck and allow for the deck to be thinned out to set up for the Time Warp loop. So thatís a good enough place to start.

4 Exploration
4 Horn of Greed

The card drawing not based around Horn of Greed remains intact as well, and indeed itís quite solid in testing. So now weíve got:

4 Exploration
4 Horn of Greed
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Brainstorm

Brainstorm is, of course, absolutely necessary in here, and the reasons thatís true will be discussed shortly.

In Zviís decklist, the win condition is Call of the Herd, preferably in the form of one Call put into the hand and two put into the graveyard thanks to an Intuition. This is, however, not the combination that I prefer. Instead, I tend to go for the gigantic threats in the form of Roar of the Wurm. Remember how youíre drawing a ton of cards and putting a bunch of lands into play every turn? Seven mana is not hard to achieve with the new TurboLand, but putting that aside you get 6/6 tokens off of an Intuition rather than 3/3 tokens like the list above. Yes, itís somewhat rare that youíll actually cast a Roar rather than flash one back, but the size of your threats more than makes up for that. Donít believe me? Ask Chris Benafel what his sideboarding strategy was at the Nice Masters.

With this said, Intuition is far more important in this version than in the pre-rotation version. One of the big reasons is that now youíre attempting to Intuition three cards quite a bit of the time. The first card is Accumulated Knowledge, which is obviously a great way to draw a ton of cards. The second is Roar of the Wurm, which you WANT tossed into your graveyard. My, how far weíve come since the pre-Odyssey days. The third card is one that I havenít mentioned yet, and that is Deep Analysis. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to replace Force of Will, and I ended up realizing that finding a replacement wasnít an option. Instead, I faced the fact that I was going to have to try to win through extreme card advantage rather than taking full control of the game.

Perhaps itís better to start this section with what I decided to remove. The four Force of Wills, obviously, went first. Next came the one maindeck Emerald Charm, because that simply wasnít going to work. Because I knew that I was going to be drawing an extremely large amount of cards, it didnít seem feasible to play with three Time Warps, so I cut one. Then I tried it and wanted the Time Warp back, so back in it came. That left five open slots. Hereís what I did with those slots.

3 Deep Analysis
1 Intuition
1 Forbid
No, Forbid isnít a Force of Will replacement, but it can severely punish an opponent when youíre drawing tons of cards a turn. Thatís something that weíre all going to have to accept about the new Extended: Force of Will is irreplaceable, and thus we shouldnít even try. Instead, itís best just to cut our losses and move on. The deck currently only has five counters, which seems low at a first glance, but thereís no help for it that I can see. Iím not about to cut the four Counterspells, though.

Anyway, the inclusions of those cards left the deck currently at this.

4 Exploration
4 Horn of Greed
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Brainstorm
3 Roar of the Wurm
3 Deep Analysis
3 Time Warp
3 Intuition
1 Forbid
4 Counterspell
2 Scroll Rack

Obviously, Scroll Rack is a must so that the Time Warp loop can be achieved. Besides, itís a solid card all-around, allowing for more land to be dug out so that they can be dumped into the Exploration/Horn engine. Actually, Scroll Rack becomes more important in the deck than it was in the original, as Thawing Glaciers is no longer present to help the deck out of a manascrew.

So assuming that twenty-three slots were going to remain for land, which still seems about right, that means that thereís two slots remaining. The Gaeaís Blessing slots. This is both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult to do at the same time. The obvious (indeed, really the only) answer is Dwell on the Past. The printing of this card gave me some suspicions when I saw it for the first time. Indulge me for a moment, if you will.

If you look through the Invasion and Odyssey blocks, you see a number of ďreprintsĒ, or cards that closely resemble older counterparts. I believe this to mean that the rotation of Extended was a conscious decision long before there were any rumblings out of the Wizards camp. Hereís a quick list off the top of my head:

Ball Lightning Ė> Skizzik (or perhaps Kamahl)
Gaeaís Blessing Dwell on the Past
Ophidian Shadowmage Infiltrator (I know Finkel designed it, but it still fits the pattern, plus Wizards accepted the design)
Necropotence Necropotence
Nevinyyralís Disk Pernicious Deed
Dark Ritual Cabal Ritual
Enemy-color Duals Apocalypse painlands
Animate Dead Zombify
Incinerate Volcanic Hammer

Thatís just off the top of my head. When viewed individually there doesnít seem to be much to the speculation, but when seen as a whole one has to begin questioning.

With the exception of Shadowmage Infiltrator and Pernicious Deed, however, the replacements simply arenít as strong as the original, which is of course what Wizards was probably shooting for. This holds true for Dwell on the Past. Yes, it does indeed shuffle more cards into your library than Gaeaís Blessing does, but it neither cantrips nor has any effect when Oathed into the graveyard. Thatís what I meant about it being an easy and hard replacement: in the TurboLand variant Iím welding together in this article, Dwell will do fine, but it doesnít allow for the sideboarding plan of the Zvi version above. Thereís no way to convert TurboLand into the Oath version without Blessing. Thatís just a loss weíll have to take, I suppose.

I was eager to share this new TurboLand in the inaugural article in this series because itís currently a deck Iím very high on. Notice I said ďdeckĒ and not ďdrugĒ. My current listing looks like this:

4 Yavimaya Coast
3 Treetop Village
11 Island
5 Forest

4 Exploration
4 Horn of Greed
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Brainstorm
3 Roar of the Wurm
3 Deep Analysis
3 Time Warp
3 Intuition
1 Forbid
4 Counterspell
2 Scroll Rack
2 Dwell on the Past

This is the deck that Iíve been playtesting the most against what is believed to be the opening metagame of the new Extended, and itís been a powerhouse against a number of archetypes. I donít want to say that itís THE deck to play out of its testing pod, but itís certainly up there and I believe that TurboLand can only improve in the coming weeks. Iíll be working on it semi-religiously, Iím sure.

In the next article Iíll be hitting on either Tinker or Stacker for the redesigned archetype, and probably a Tradewind Rider-based design for the original concept. Until then, keep testing Extended, as itís still the best format in the game no matter what some doped-up Standard player or some moon-eyed Type One player will tell you.

All content © 2001-2003 "The Tome" & contributing writers