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By: Mundisv, Raimundas Vitkauskas
Apr 24 2014 12:00pm
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I was eager to share my experiences about Junk Reanimator in Block for a while but a couple of exams I had to take recently were messing with my intentions. Finally I‘m here and after all this time format is still fluid and exciting. Junk Reanimator is currently the most popular and arguably the strongest deck in the metagame. I have spent some time with the deck and found out that people have different opinions about it's choices. In this article I‘m going to focus on this deck and its options against the field.

It is reasonable to face Junk multiple times in a Daily Event and people are trying all sorts of innovation to gain an edge against the deck. That resulted in a million of different Junk Reanimator lists we have. I‘ll try to recap, what‘s in these lists, and provide you the answers to the following questions.

1. The numbers of Hero‘s Downfall and Gild
I have to admit that I was a little blind sighted when I was running full 8 of copies of these. Reanimator is a synergy-based semi-combo deck, which wants more of its combo pieces, enablers and power cards instead of excessive removal. Having answers to Ashiok and Elspeth as well as Ashen Rider is necessary, yet these removal spells drastically shift in value according to the match-up. At the moment, I‘m running a 3/2 split with more Downfalls, as that card is more impactful against Dimir and Esper (Control from now on) than Gild is against Junk. Both of these are amazing against Naya Monsters and half-decent against aggro. Although, Gild is a stone blank against Control while Hero‘s Downfall is poor in the mirror. Currently popular 2/2 split is also good (in expectation of equally diverse field) as it allows to change bad removal spells for good ones after sideboarding in different match-ups.

2. Cutting a copy of Abhorrent Overlord or Ashen Rider
Space is very tight in Junk Reanimator and it is quite popular to cut a copy of our 7+ drops in favour of something else. I have done that too but came back to full 8 copies of fatties as we want all of them in the mirror and against Esper/Dimir Control. A build with less late-game drops is likely stronger against aggro but that‘s a mirror advantage and not something to seriously consider. If you have decided to still cut one of these, I would rather remove Overlord than Rider. It feels absolutely terrible when your opponent draws more Riders than you in the mirror. Keep in mind, that Abhorrent Overlord is the card, which trumps and finishes games in the end though.

3. Reaper of the Wilds
Simply put, you want these in your 75. Some people main two and side one, others sideboard all of them. This creature is amazing against Control and carries its weight versus aggressive decks. It‘s one of the seven threats in your deck (in conjunction with Whip of Erebos) that straight up win against Dimir, if resolved. These cards create huge headaches for Esper too, even if that deck can answer these cards with Elspeth, Sun‘s Champion and Revoke Existence. Scrying to threats is also relevant unless an Ashiok is mitigating that effect. The fact that Reaper is insanely strong against Control and not too hot against everything else makes me leave all of its copies in the sideboard. It‘s your choice, where you can fit Reaper of the Wilds, just have it available for you in one of the most important match-ups right now.

4. Number of Whips
The vast majority runs three and I wouldn‘t recommend going down any further. Three feels like the right number – we want to find this card in every game but avoid getting multiple copies. Some builds run 4 and have a higher chance of it sticking against Junk Reanimator or Control. What has been working for me, is siding the fourth copy. That card is hard to remove in game one but people usually bring some hate for it later on. In that case, we want to overpower enchantment hate and counters with higher numbers in the match-ups where Whip matters the most. My advice – main three, side the fourth.

5. Numbers of Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Rescue from the Underworld
I have lumped these two together because in some way it feels like these cards are fighting for their spots in some lists. The most popular split is, once again, 2/2. I am currently maining 1 Fated Return instead of Rescue and 2 Elspeth, Sun‘s Champion. My experience with Rescue from the Underworld has been weird at the very least. When I cut it from my deck, I would lose all the time, often getting blown out by that card in the mirror. When I put Rescues back, I‘ve literally never cast them, although I started winning. The card gets milled a lot and when I drew it I was either losing so much that it didn‘t matter or winning that much that there was no time or reason to cast it. People are still playing with the card, which shows promise for it, but it was lackluster for me and I‘ve decided to switch it for an independently stronger card. As for Elspeth, it is amazing against Naya and good against aggro if it‘s not too late. Versus Control Elspeth is yet another threat, which demands an answer. As we don‘t really care what we are casting there as long as it resolves and sticks on the field. On the other hand, the planeswalker is weak in the mirror. If you are already ahead, it can put a clock on your opponent. If you are even or behind, Elspeth will stay stuck in your hand with no good use. The card is good enough to deserve space in the deck and should get sided out against Junk Reanimator.

6. Fated Return
I‘ve already discussed why I like this card earlier. It is stronger alone, a good top-deck and is capable of blowouts on instant speed (good against attacks, especially strong against targeted recursion spells). Fated Return fills the role of an instant to play on opponent‘s turn and pressure Control‘s counters. It also doesn‘t need a sacrifice, which is a real cost in Esper/Dimir match-up where controlling a creature besides Sylvan Caryatid is difficult. Fated Return isn‘t receiving much attention right now and is a decent tool to gain an edge against the field.

7. Read the Bones
This is hot new tech and I haven‘t tested it yet. If you can fit it in the deck somehow, I like this card. Some card advantage is welcome against Junk and Esper/Dimir but painfully bad versus BW, Mono-Black and Mono-Red. Read the Bones is a low reward, semi-low risk metagame call, which should be done with caution.

8. Thoughtseize maindeck
This card should definitely be in your sideboard because it is really strong against Control and Naya. Maindecking it is another question. There are enough poor match-ups for it, so unless you like it in the mirror (I don‘t), you shouldn‘t have it in your starting 60.

9. Pharika‘s Mender
Mender is not too popular across decklists but still can be found in Daily lists from time to time. It is yet another good card against slow decks and not so much against faster ones. For me, it is a tad little too slow, although it comes down to personal preference. Also, always be mindful of cards like this total in your deck before aggressive match-ups become unwinnable. It is reasonable to go all-in and expect to play slow match-ups only. But I wouldn‘t advice that at this exact moment.

10. Voyaging Satyr
I‘ll start with a statement – this card is good in the mirror and I love these 2 copies in my main. Not everyone would agree, but for me, mirror matches come down to hitting land drops and getting mana advantage most of the time. The player, who starts unloading his fatties first, usually puts enough pressure on his opponent and wins in a quick fashion with multiple Harpies or even worse - mana-screw from Ashen Rider. Mana dorks are not terrific top-decks in the late game but for me they work very well and certainly provide an edge. In other match-ups, Satyrs are passable because ramp helps for a deck full of fatties. Voyaging Satyr can block creatures when needed and has 1 power against Control, which is enough sometimes.

11. Glare of Heresy in the sideboard
I couldn‘t fit any Glares in my sideboard and strongly disagree with cluttering 4 copies. One or two copies are fine, on the other hand. This card can cleanly answer Elspeth, Ashen Rider, Brimaz and White Bestow guys, as well as Chained to the Rocks and Chromanticore. That‘s probably enough targets in the metagame to justify some copies, although I‘m not a fan.

12. Drown in Sorrow/ Dark Betrayal in the sideboard
The number of these cards depend on the amount of aggro expected, which is not too high right now. DIS wins against Red (Red Aggro is not popular) but is weak against Mono-Black and BW. That‘s enough to cut this card. Dark Betrayal is much better because Black is more popular than Red. I‘m playing 3 copies and would be happy, if I could fit the fourth. Mono-Black Aggro is rough to play against and any edge is appreciated there.

13. Sideboarding Dark Betrayal in the mirror
That is another new tech and I‘m not certain how many copies is correct, if any. The main purpose of it is to target your own Ashen Rider in response to opponent‘s Rider/Gild/Glare of Heresy. That‘s a neat trick to get the creature in the graveyard and get additional Rider „deathrattle“ trigger. Betrayal is also good against Abhorrent Overlord before it spawns Harpies. That works in rough situations even if the Overlord gets dumped into the graveyard. Dark Betrayal can nab a win against unsuspecting opponent, just don‘t overload on its numbers to the point, where it gets stuck in your hand. One is a good number to begin with.

14. Unravel the Æther > Revoke Existence
Unravel is easier on mana, works on instant speed and has some upside in a format, where you can forecast what‘s on the top of your opponent‘s deck. I‘ve already discussed these points in my previous Block article. According to decklists getting posted, community agrees, you should agree too.

15. Cutting Courser of Kruphix
Diminishing returns are strong on this one. Although, the first copy is highly appreciated. Reducing its numbers weakens aggro match-ups, which is a concern already. I‘m against cutting Courser, although it is an option, if you can find an excuse for that.

16. Purphoros/Polukranos?
One obscure list was playing these cards and I don‘t really see much merit for doing that. Purphoros, God of the Forge looks like an insane win-more card. When you are resolving Abhorrent Overlord or Elspeth, Sun‘s Champion, this God might kill before you need to attack, but do we really need that? Sideboarding Polukranos, World Eater sounds strictly incorrect for me. At the very least, if we want fat ground creature, we have more synergistic creatures – Reaper of the Wilds and Nemesis of Mortals.

17. Erebos, God of the Dead
This card is a stone blank against aggro (surprise, surprise). It is also a stone cold trump versus Junk, Esper and Dimir. In these match-ups Erebos is likely to draw a pile of cards because life is not very relevant. Turning off opposing Whips is sweet and getting Erebos online is game more often than not in the mirror. If Erebos gets answered by Esper, at least your opponent has one less Revoke Existence for your Whip. The card is lovely and I was trying to fit a second copy in my sideboard for a while but I couldn‘t force myself to spend tickets on it until I wrote this article (stupid, I know).

I have posted my win percentages a while back and right now they have dropped quite a bit in comparison. I still have positive results in the mirror, which is the result of always hunting for advantageous tech and having better luck of drawing 8 mana + 8 drops. An ugly match-up, which didn‘t exist beforer Esper is ruining our day a little. Although, be aware that its counterpart, Dimir, is doing much worse. More Ashioks is strong against us but having no White answers for our resolved threats in Revoke Existence and Elspeth allows us to run away with more games than early Ashiok could. Black Aggro is a beating recently and I can‘t really remember the last time I‘ve won against it. Also, I had very good short-term results against Naya previously. With higher data volume, it is apparent that‘s not the case. Rogue strategies are a rare sight nowadays but they still struggle against us quite badly.

 

 

Moving forward to Journey into Nyx, it‘s clear that Wizards were aware of this archetype. Junk Reanimator is receiving lion‘s share of sweet new cards. Third set in the Block also provides some graveyard hate, which might hurt the deck but it is a necessary evil for format‘s health.

1. Temple of Malady


This is the first card to move right into our decks. Reanimator is a slower deck, which had little mana issues, yet turning „little“ into „almost none“ is a sweet upgrade. I don‘t know, if the deck will support full 12 temples package (it should be capable of) but Temple of Malady will be a 4-of in post-JOU Reanimator.

2. Nyx Weaver


This little spider is another card to likely fill up to 4 slots in Junk decks. Setting up early defence, slowly building our graveyard and providing an option to revive any card (Honorable mention: Whip of Erebos) is a lot of utility for one card. Since Weaver is an enchantment, it synergizes with Kruphix‘s Insight and allows for Constellation shenanigans too. Despite all the upside, our Golgari spider has some flaws. It‘s 2/3 body cannot block Herald of Torment profitably and it‘s static ability is a nonbo with scry effects (It also screws Courser of Kruphix reveals, which is a neutral side effect messing with both our and opponent‘s plans). I expect Nyx Weaver to be a real card in Block after Journey.

3. Kruphix‘s Insight


In his articles a known "Dredge“ player in Standard, Conley Woods, has stated that 10-12 dredge spells is the sweet spot for these kinds of decks. We had access to only 8 such spells until now in Block. While three mana casting cost is an issue, this card works like a horse for that price. It digs for Whip with higher consistency than anything else, is a way to gain card advantage (at least I would be happier to cast this than Read the Bones at any time) and it has plenty of real targets: Whip, Courser and Erebos in current decks plus Nyx Weaver, Pharika, any Constellation card in the future. I expect this card to see play but in smaller numbers than the previous two highlighted cards.

4. Banishing Light


I‘m hyped on this card more than any other in the set. It is a strong answer to any problem and it fits in a lot of Block decks. While having a flexible answer to our Whip in the format is painful, having no-questions-asked removal spell is great. I‘ve told you that this deck can‘t overload on removal spells and Gild with Hero‘s Downfall are match-up specific. Banishing Light has none of that and can easily fill their spaces. The only concern is that this card might require us to skew our mana towards white but that‘s a price I‘m willing to pay to start with 4 copies of this one.

5. Pharika, God of Affliction


This goddess received its share of hate from Standard community already. In Block though, I love this card for Reanimator mirrors. It gives us interaction with opponent‘s graveyard and is not all that hard to turn on. We run permanents with double black and double green costs already plus a lot of stray mana dorks and Satyr Wayfinder, who provide plenty of devotion. Pharika will be on more often that Erebos and she might be unbeatable for decks with little interaction. In addition, our big fat game-ending fliers don‘t really care about deathtouch snakes while our opponent‘s ground creature do care. Pharika needs testing but I‘m positive that she will not only fill sideboards but see maindeck play.

6. Agent of Erebos


If Pharika will prove to be too clunky, Agent of Erebos is going to be the answer for opposing graveyards in the mirror. Agent is a strict sideboard card but quite a good one at its job. It gets rid of opponent‘s graveyard the moment it hits play (and at 4 mana that could be right after a Whip) and has a real chance to do his thing again with multiple Enchantments in our deck. This card paired with Pharika will make mirrors even more tricky than they already are.

7. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes


While this doesn‘t look like a planeswalker our deck desperately needs, it is yet another threat to sideboard against Control. Ajani can find us threats to cast on upcoming turns or buff our Satyr Wayfinder into a must-answer 4/4. I don‘t know if there‘s any other match-up where Ajani could help, but if there is, our mana can support Ajani and he might find his way into sideboards.

8. Silence the Believers


Gild‘s Gold token is very important ramp and fixing for us. If instant-speed and occasional ability to kill multiple creatures sounds better for you than this card will replace it. If not, then Silence will be an answer for our threats instead of an improvement for our deck.

9. Strength from the Fallen


Junk Reanimator is a slow control deck with no need for such card. On the other hand, an aggro Golgari deck similar to the Standard one, which was played at the beginning of BNG format is in the market for this effect. Strength from the Fallen might be enough of a push to make Golgari Aggro a viable deck in the format again.

10. Deicide


This card has the same problems as Revoke Existence minus Sorcery speed issue. Unless some deck reliant on Gods (like Mono-Blue Devotion) pops up in the meta, I don‘t see Deicide changing Unravel the Æther.

11. Nyx-Fleece Ram


This card is weak against Mono-Black Aggro. For it to see play in the format, other kinds of aggro (like Mono-Red) have to become popular. For Ram to see play in Reanimator, Red Aggro has to become popular AND we need to add enough White mana to our deck for this goat to be consistent.

Little card choices can add up for some big edges. The fact that there‘s no one and only Junk Reanimator list means that the archetype is nowhere near solved. I tried to shed some light on several choices and help you understand this deck. To make this article more informative, I‘ve made several bold statements on certain cards instead of staying neutral. Please, don‘t feel offended, if you disagree. There is a real chance my opinion could be incorrect and I would be more than happy to have a healthy discussion with constructive criticism in the comments below.

See you later,
MundisV