Standard Jund Reanimator

Whilst typically not extremely serious players of Magic the Gathering, those who dabble in the junk-rare filled madness of deck brewing still seek the glory of victory over their unsuspecting opponents. I am one such brewer, and recently, Hour of Devastation game day brought me the one thing a brewer yearns for above all else: vindication. Today I bring you the source of that vindication, fresh from my personal brewery, standard Jund Reanimator.

As with most brews, the deck is a result of attempting to take an idea and make it as competitive as possible. I knew I wanted to play some sort of grindy, creature based jund deck, and so I arrived at this wonderful collection of cards. Finely aged by a few weeks of online testing, I took my completed list to FNM the day before game day, where it swiftly went 1-3. Oh no. Reluctantly, I went back to the drawing board and, with the deck’s weaknesses fresh in my mind, this final list was born. By no means was I happy with it – it could definitely use some refinement – yet on the big day it managed 4th overall and I think it could have done much better in top 8 had I piloted it better. Without further ado, here is the list I ran on the day:

The Deck:

Creatures: (15)
Shefet Monitor
Combustible Gearhulk
Noxious Gearhulk
Deathcap Cultivator
Glorybringer
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells: (16)
Abrade
Magma Spray
Unlicensed Disintegration
Ever After
Cathartic Reunion

Planewalkers: (4)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Liliana, Death's Majesty

Other: (1)
Vessel of Nascency
Lands: (24)
Game Trail
Foreboding Ruins
Canyon Slough
Evolving Wilds
Cinder Glade
Blooming Marsh
Hissing Quagmire
Mountain
Swamp
Forest

Sideboard: (15)
Transgress the Mind
Pick the Brain
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Fatal Push
Liliana, the Last Hope
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Dragonmaster Outcast
Abrade
Crook of Condemnation
To the Slaughter

The deck’s main goal is to survive the early game with efficient removal whilst building towards a powerful lategame which should overpower most decks. With a full graveyard, the deck turns into a top-deck monster, either drawing and playing its threats for their mana cost, or chaining multiple copies of Ever After into one another and beating the opponent into a pulp with massive zombified robots and undead reptiles. Early turns are spent filtering your hand and filling the yard with Cathartic Reunion and keeping the board clear to preserve your life total.

While setting up for your lategame, the deck also needs to well, not die, and so it runs a decent amount of removal to help it survive to a point when it can begin deploying powerful threats, usually on turn 6 with an Ever After.  Magma Spray, Abrade, and Unlicensed Disintegration can remove threats, and in control matchups where these card are usually dead we can trade them for more useful cards using Cathartic Reunion. The removal suite we run here is by no means optimal, and on the day I found myself wanting the full four copies of Abrade, which almost always came in from the sideboard after game 1, being good against aggro and Torrential Gearhulk-based control decks.

As for reanimation targets, Shefet Monitor plays a crucial role as an instant speed ramp spell, reanimation target and beatstick, and in my experience with the deck playing the card as a 6/5 for 6 when your opponent’s removal has been exhausted can be enough to close the game. As well as the Monitor, we run 2 Combustible Gearhulk as a draw/burn engine. With so many high cmc cards in the deck, opponents are faced with a tough choice when this hits the board. A single Noxious Gearhulk along with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet allows us to stabilise the board and our life total, and 3 copies of Glorybringer provide removal and an evasive threat in one. The exact numbers of each of these creatures is definitely something that could be refined, and I also looked to some other creatures as potential targets in my early versions of the deck, including Ishkanah, Grafwidow, Razaketh, the Foulblooded, and junk-rare all star, Chaos Maw.

The deck has fairly good matchups against most archetypes, sporting a healthy enough removal suite to survive Ramunap Red and having a high enough threat density to overwhelm control decks. However, I found that against more midrange decks such as GB Constrictor variants and Temur Energy, if the deck falls behind on the board it rarely manages to recover, especially if the removal spells in hand don’t line up with the creatures on the board (staring down a Glorybringer with a Magma spray in hand feels pretty gross). The deck might benefit in these matchups from a number of copies of Hour of Devastation, either in the side or in the main.

The Matches:

The deck dropped only one match on the run up to top 8, beating UR Control, Ramunap Red, and UW Approach control before ID-ing in. The match versus Ramunap Red was close but I managed to close the match 2-0, with Chandra really shining as a way to out-value my opponent and Kalitas proving a wonderful way to escape burn range. Versus the two control decks, the value-based strategy the deck relies on came into its own, with the high threat density and hand filtering allowing me to pitch dead cards for threats and exhaust the control decks’ removal and counterspells. I feared the matchup may be rough as having a Cathartic Reunion counterspelled is fairly disastrous, but bringing in more threats from the sideboard and ditching some dead removal spells made the game 2s much easier. My only match loss was versus UW God-Pharaohs Gift, with me failing to find Abrade to deal with my opponent’s God-Pharaoh’s Gift in game one and with Cataclysmic Gearhulk proving to be a back-breaker after stabilising with multiple Ever afters in game 2.

In the first round of top8 vs G/B energy I took game one quickly. The deck, whilst a reanimator deck, can also play a more normal “Jund em’ out” gameplan pretty effectively with the right hand. In the first game I resolved a turn 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance off a turn 2 Deathcap Cultivator into turn 4 Glorybringer and turn 5 Liliana, Death’s Majesty reanimating the Glorybringer which had been hit by a Ruinous Path the previous turn. Game 2 was a slog which ended with me at the receiving end of a 10/11 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet with no removal in sight. The final game was lost due to my keeping of a risky low-land hand, which, with more experience with the play of the deck, I might have mulliganed. The deck is fairly forgiving when it comes to opening hands due to our four copies of Cathartic Reunion, but alas, in this game it was not meant to be.

Despite losing in the first round of top 8, I left with my head held high, knowing that a deck which I had constructed myself had (mostly) held its own against some powerful decks. If I were to take the deck to another event, I would likely swap the Deathcap cultivators and unlicensed disintegrations for a harnessed lightning – servant of the conduit – aether hub package, but as is the deck is still powerful. The deck is a blast to play, and whilst many of the key cards (RIP Ever After, we barely knew you) rotate out with the coming of Ixalan, I encourage you to try this deck if you have the appropriate junk mythics and rares lying around.

The take-home message to all my fellow brewers out there: never lose faith. No matter how many decks you go through on your way to find the deck with real potential, keep trying. Whilst it’s tempting to throw away a deck after a few matches of initial testing, stick with it. Try to know when the deck is losing because of your lack of experience with the deck or a poor draw and when it loses because it needs some modification. Constantly tweak, adjust and refine your 75 until you’re happy, and don’t be afraid to play off the wall decks. Frequently, lists you’re not sure about will end up providing surprising results if you put in the blood, sweat, and the many, many tears required.

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