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By: Cl3m, Cl3m
Aug 04 2010 12:26am
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ExhumeUlamog's CrusherCareful Study
It's been quite a long time since Exhume has been on MTGO, but the card isn't really seeing any play in pauper. What's stopping it? It's quite a unique and powerful effect to have in pauper, but people haven't broken it yet.
Since then we've had ROE which brought decent options for finishers, and another great drawing/discard spell in Frantic Search with Urza's Legacy. But still, no competitive deck revolving around Exhume is being played. Why is that so?
Well, if we compare Pauper UB Reanimator to the Legacy archetype, there are a few things to note to show what problems this deck could have. First, there's only one reanimate spell at common rarity, Exhume. Second, Legacy reanimator has finishers that can protect themselves (Iona, Shield of Emeria, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, ...), whereas Pauper only has access to "vanilla" creatures, so removal is much more of a problem for Pauper reanimator. Finally, compared to the big combo deck for pauper, Storm, it has a lot more weaknesses: like Storm, Reanimator is vulnerable to discard and countermagic. Plus it can be wrecked by removal or graveyard hate. Finally, it's supposed to be less consistent than Storm.
While all of this is true, I can't help but think that the deck is still viable somehow: attacking with an 8/8 annihilator 2 on turn 3 or 4 seems like a very powerful strategy, even with all this hate running around. So I've decided I would give this deck a shot.
First, I want to test a pure aggro list, something that tries to combo off as fast as possible. This is the draft I started with:
UB Reanimator
1st Draft
4 Ulamog's Crusher
2 Hand of Emrakul
2 Stinkweed Imp
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Frantic Search
3 Dragon Breath
4 Dark Ritual
4 Exhume
4 Shred Memory
4 Brainstorm
4 Duress
4 Careful Study
3 Lotus Petal
34 cards
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Terramorphic Expanse
6 Swamp
6 Island
18 cards
The cards:
ExhumeShred Memory
Exhume is the centerpiece of the deck, the card that you'll want to cast at least once every game, and that you don't have replacement for. Therefore you'll need 4 of these. Now, even with 4 copies of it, you run the risk of not drawing one soon enough, even with a ton of card draw. Since you absolutely need Exhume to win the game, running tutors seems like a good idea. The best (only?) option available for pauper are the transmute cards Shred Memory, Muddle the Mixture and Dimir Infiltrator. Of those 3, Muddle the Mixture would have been the best if it weren't for its casting cost. Double blue is a commitment towards a controlling strategy, and that's not what I'm trying to do here. I want to combo off as fast as possible, and for that and since we are in black, Dark Ritual seems like a fantastic option. The fact that the ritual is perfect to transmute Shred Memory makes it the best choice I think.
Ulamog's CrusherHand of EmrakulStinkweed ImpDragon Breath
Before ROE came out, the only options as reanimate targets were either big vanilla creatures or things like Twisted Abomination which were just not worth the effort. Now we have a good one: Ulamog's Crusher. It's going to be our main target and we want 4 of him. In fact we'd want 8 of him if we could. His little brother Hand of emrakul is just a lot worse. Minus 1 power is not a big deal (it's still a 3 turn clock), but annihilator 2 is much stronger than 1. Against annihilator 1, aggro decks, which have such a low curve, can still develop their board. It's a lot tougher when they have to sac 2 permanents a turn.
There is an alternative at running a lot of fatties to be sure to get one: Stinkweed Imp. Since you want your finisher in your graveyard anyway, discarding an Imp to dredge for a bunch is the best way to dig for your Ulamog's Crusher.
There's another card that we want in our graveyard for when we go off: Dragon Breath. It effectively accelerates us one turn, which is kind of huge. We don't ever want to cast it, just put it in the yard and let it do its thing. It's worth noting that, if you have the mana and the time to do it, you can fetch Dragon Breath with Shred Memory.
BrainstormCareful StudyFrantic Search
So, in order to win a game, you need to find a finisher, put him in your graveyard, and then find an Exhume. So you need card draw to find all those pieces, and a lot of it.
Careful Study and Frantic Search are the first obvious inclusions. The fact that they make you draw AND discard is great, and they are both very cheap mana-wise. Frantic Search in particular is even better than I thought it would be, especially when you start drawing into multiple of them. You can start chaining them on turn 3 and draw you a perfect hand.
At first I was scared about the casting cost of Ideas Unbound, that's why I didn't included it in the first list. Another problem with this card is the fact that it makes you discard at the end of your turn. But it can be fetch with Shred Memory, so at least 1 copy seems like a must have, and although the mana can get awkward sometimes, it performed quite well in testing.
For a last drawing spell, there are a few options available. Things like Impulse, or more Ideas Unbound are possibilities. I've opted for Brainstorm, which is very cheap, and, with a little bit of work, can be as close as it can get to "U: Draw 3 cards". You want to cast Brainstorm on turn 2 most of the time, and follow with a shuffling effect (fetchland or Dark Ritual+Shred Memory). You can cast it on turn one off a Lotus Petal too.
Dark RitualLotus Petal
Since we went the aggro route, acceleration doesn't sound like a bad idea. Dark Ritual is actually huge here, allowing you to cast Duress+Exhume or to transmute Shred Memory off a single swamp for example.
Lotus Petal on the other hand is a little bit disappointing but still fine in my opinion. It's a great mana fixer and can help keeping some borderline hands, or provide a crucial mana needed to combo off a turn earlier.
Also keep in mind that with this amount of acceleration, hard casting your win condition isn't out of the question...
Protection is crucial to this deck. You don't want all your work undone by a simple Journey to Nowhere. Main deck Duress seems like a good way to start. Of course sometimes they will just be dead cards (against goblins for example) and so will come out for game 2. Sometimes Dispel will be more appropriate (against faeries), but overall Duress is the best way to start.
How consistent is it?
So I started gold fishing with the deck, and actually noting my results so that I can share them with you. Keep in mind that those results show the turn in which I attack with a big guy (not the turn I cast it). That is to take into account the haste factor from Dragon Breath. Also, the number of times the combo is protected with Duress can be misleading since I only cast it in these test if I have the mana to spare before I combo off (obviously in a real game situation you'll sometimes want to wait one turn if it means having access to Duress protection).
Turn With Duress Without Duress
1  0  0
2  1 (2%)  1 (2%)
3  8 (15%)  6 (11%)
4  13 (24%)  10 (19%)
5  5 (9%)  1 (2%)
 10 (18%)
So the deck goes off pretty consistently on turn 3 or 4, with a relatively low chance of miss (it includes mana screw and mana flood situations).
After this round of testing, I made a few adjustments, and started a sideboard:
-1 Hand of Emrakul
-1 Stinkweed Imp
-1 Shred Memory
+2 Ideas Unbound
+1 Twisted Abomination
And another round of gold fishing:
Turn With Duress Without Duress
1  0  0
2  1 (3%)  1 (3%)
3  4 (13%)  8 (26%)
4  5 (16%)  6 (19%)
5  0  2 (6%)
6+  4 (13%)  -
I then got a chance at testing it in a competitive environment during EPDC 2.01 and it went surprisingly well. I finished 2-1, missing top 4 because of tiebreakers.
Round 1 I lost 0-2 to MBCu. Game 1 I start with a very good hand of turn 1 Careful Study turn 2 Exhume for Ulamog's crusher, he has Echoing Truth for it, turn 3 I go Careful study+Exhume (yeah I know, good hand, but his is better), he has the second Echoing Truth. A few turns later I manage to find another Exhume but he is able to double Agony Warp+block and that's game. Game 2 I start with a very borderline hand, he has a turn 2 duress, taking Ideas Unbound. He then casts turn 3 and 4 Chittering Rats, turn 5 Echoing Truth on the Rats and kills me shortly after with me not being able to do anything.
Round 2 and 3 were against a UR Kiln Fiend deck and Goblins and I won both of them 2-1.
So the deck is definitively more stable and consistent than one would have thought, but it is also very weak to multiple forms of disruption. Given the current state of the meta (lots of MUC faeries and MBCu), I wouldn't advise to take it into the queues to see how it performs there, I'm not sure it's worth it.
Final thoughts:
This aggro version of UB Reanimator is more of a Timmy/Johnny deck than a Spike deck. It's not that far from being good in the correct meta. It's capable of "stealing" wins every time your opponent doesn't have an answer in his opening hand, and the answers available really depends on what he is playing, as Goblins or stompy have none, whereas control decks often have plenty, especially post board.
So now what? Well, I'm not giving up on Exhume yet. I have 2 other ideas on how to make it work. The first option is to play it in a more controlling version of this deck, running Muddle the Mixture, no acceleration and lots of counterspells. One other option is playing a deck that includes Exhume but does not revolve around it. And that would be part 2 of this article. I also have another deck I want to talk about in the near future, some crazy home brew revolving around Tortured Existence, so I'm not sure which one will be out first.
Anyway, that's it for today, thanks for reading !


suggested cards by rayjinn at Wed, 08/04/2010 - 12:07
rayjinn's picture

Strategic Planning, Tolarian Winds and maybe putrid imp should be in the deck.
The mana acceleration isn't really needed, maybe a set of lotus petals instead of some lands but i can't see the use of dark ritual.

If you're truly going for the by FierceTable at Wed, 08/04/2010 - 13:12
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If you're truly going for the fastest possible combo then I'd agree with the use of Putrid Imp. You could attack with an 8/8 before your opponent even took their first turn. I like the idea of the deck and I'm definately looking forward to the next iteration of the deck.

I've tested putrid imp and by Cl3m at Wed, 08/04/2010 - 13:34
Cl3m's picture

Thanks for the feedback !

I've tested putrid imp and it's not that good, the deck isn't really lacking ways to discard and it's its only use (of course it can make for some broken hands like putrid imp/dark ritual/exhume/crusher, but that doesn't happen that often, trust me). As for Tolarian winds, it's an interesting card, but it might be too narrow (it's only good when you are digging for exhume, it does more arm then good if you have exhume and are digging for crusher).

Strategic planning on the other hand I like a lot and I'd like to make room for it to see how it works out.

You should give dark ritual a try, it's really great with shred memory and the discard spells. The deck needs to be fast, attacking on turn five or six isn't good enough.

Also, a small update on the list:
-1 Hand of Emrakul
-1 Dragon Breath
-1 Lotus Petal
-1 Ideas Unbound
-1 Stinkweed Imp

+2 Distress
+1 Twisted Abomination
+2 Cabal ritual

With 4 Duress 2 distress main it's a lot easier to find protection for Crusher, and distress can be fetched with shred memory and used to discard the big guy. Cabal ritual helps going for big turns like transmute shred memory + distress or exhume. It can also be used to hard cast one of the fatties.

And the sideboard now looks like that:
4 Ponder
4 Dispel
1 Boomerang
1 Shred Memory
1 Distress
1 Dragon Breath
1 Stinkweed Imp
1 Echoing Truth
1 Ideas Unbound

This is my current build of by Rerepete at Sat, 08/07/2010 - 12:13
Rerepete's picture

This is my current build of Reanimator:


4 Brackwater Elemental
2 Hand of Emrakul
4 Ulamog's Crusher


4 Compulsive Research
4 Dark Ritual
4 Dragon Breath
4 Exhume
4 Frantic Search
4 Ponder
4 Tolarian Winds


10 Islands
3 Swamp
3 Bojuka Bog
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Terramorphic Expanse

A few words about my card choices:

Brackwater Elemental: The purpose of this creature is to dump it into the yard and unearth it on Turn 3 if I get Turn 2 Ulamog/Dragon Breath. This allows a Turn 3 kill.

Tolarian Winds/ Dark Ritual Allows you to dump your whole hand into Yard while Ehume is on the stack. With opening hand of Dragon Breath, Dark Ritual, Tolarian Winds, Ulamog's Crusher, 2 Lands (or a land and a fetch), You get Hasted Crusher on Turn 2.

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