Budget Commander: Budget Black Reanimator – 3 Cards – $3!

This week in the Budget Commander series, we’ll be looking at three great budget options for black-based decks that value creature-based recursion from the graveyard – whether that’s mono-Black zombies, Esper control, or just a black/white re-animator style deck.

The sum total of the prices of the three cards is less than $3. There are more expensive options out there, but, as with all of the recommendations in my budget series, I’ll never recommend a bad card just because it’s cheap* – I’d always consider running cards I recommend in stronger, more expensive builds. Let’s jump right into it.

* Unless I’m just making a bad evaluation.

Victimize, $1.71

The first card on the list is Victimize. This is a great little spell that requires some setup for it be utilised to its full potential. For two generic and one black mana, as well as sacrificing a creature you control, you get to return two target creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield. Not one, but two. That’s extremely efficient, given that this allows us to abuse enter the battlefield triggers (and sometimes leaves the battlefield triggers, too!), and there are many decks that will have spare creatures in play that they’d gladly trade in. Being able to throw away an incidental vampire token in Edgar Markov to bring back a Twilight Prophet and a Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, for instance, can be really valuable. This card also does work in decks that enjoy sacrificing their own creatures – think Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Teysa Karlov, Judith, the Scourge Diva, or Slimefoot, the Stowaway. It’s even great in mono-black decks that rely on cards like Grave pact and Dictate of Erebos. So, why is Victimize so cheap? Well, aside from it being an uncommon that sees no constructed play, it has also been reprinted several times and requires some creative play to make it work.

The main issue you’ll face is that Victimize requires you to have a creature in play to sacrifice for the spell to resolve. Victimize says:

‘Choose two target creature cards in your graveyard. Sacrifice a creature. If you do, return the chosen cards to the battlefield tapped.’ 

This means that an opponent can remove a creature in response, leaving you in the position of having to choose to sacrifice something more meaningful than your Reassembling Skeleton, or if you have no other creatures remaining, the spell fizzles. Awkward. This is fairly easy to play around, though – you’ll be baiting out removal first, generally by playing the creature you plan on recurring later and then choosing the best possible time to cast Victimize for maximum efficiency. This restriction is a lot easier to manage in a build with tokens, too, so this card is especially valuable in decks like Edgar Markov and Slimefoot, the Stowaway.

There is the unfortunate downside of your reanimated creatures coming into play tapped, but hey – if you’re going to die to combat damage, Victimize probably wasn’t going to save you anyway. Overall, it’s a solid playable at most tables.

Rescue from the Underworld, $0.21

The second card we’re looking at today is Rescue from the Underworld. This card sacrifices the instant gratification of Victimize for some flexibility, but it can be tricky to time well. Let’s first look at its text:

As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a creature.
Choose target creature card in your graveyard. Return that card and the sacrificed card to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of your next upkeep. Exile Rescue from the Underworld.
The first major difference is that we are sacrificing the creature as an additional cost – that means that by the time the spell is on the stack, the creature is already in the graveyard, so it can’t be removed by an opponent prior to its resolution. However, both the creature you sacrifice and the one you want to reanimate will only return at the start of your next upkeep. Essentially, you’re sending a creature on a mission… quest… thing. This has both pros and cons – as there’s a delay on your creatures returning to the battlefield they won’t be the victim of a board wipe before your next turn; however, they will suffer from summoning sickness when they do eventually return from the underworld.
The strength of this card comes in the value you can accrue from its flexibility. The ability to play this card at Instant speed means that it can be done in an opponent’s turn, giving you less ‘downtime’. This becomes even more valuable when you consider that this can actually save a creature from removal, or from Control Magic-type effects. If somebody targets your favourite creature with a Path to Exile, for example, you can cast Rescue from the Underworld in response, saving it from exile and getting another creature back from your graveyard as a bonus. That’s pretty good value, and I’ll gladly take interaction with upside any day of the week.

Final Parting, $0.25

The… final… card for today is Final Parting. For three generic mana and two black mana, you get an interesting tutor effect:

Search your library for two cards. Put one into your hand and the other into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.

The reason this card makes it into a list of cards related to reanimation is fairly obvious – a lot of the time you can use it to pitch a creature into your graveyard and grab a way to recur it at the same time. Additionally, you can seek some other value from having the card you choose in the graveyard (e.g. flashback, dredge, and other abilities which can be activated from the graveyard). Recently, however, I’ve found myself appreciating the value of this card from a more political perspective.

When you play Final Parting, most opponents will assume that any creature you place into your graveyard is going to be reanimated in the foreseeable future, likely using the card you placed into your hand. A lot of the time this will be true, but you don’t have to follow through with that line of play. Final Parting is an excellent way to divert attention from a more nefarious plan! You can grab anything with Final Parting, and so the opportunities for deceit are endless. Don’t forget that this premise also extends to the card you’re putting into your graveyard, which doesn’t have to be a creature. Sometimes you might want to turn Delerium on, for example. Delerium requires you to have at least four different card types in your graveyard, so being able to go grab a card with two card types and dump it in your graveyard can really help in that regard.

Final Parting does cost five mana, so it is a little on the pricey side (in terms of Mana cost), but at most Commander tables this is a perfectly fine card, especially in playgroups with a ‘soft’ ban on low-Mana tutors such as Demonic Tutor.

In Closing

The cards showcased today can easily find homes in both budget decks and more expensive brews. My Edgar Markov deck, for example, runs at a cool $600 or so total and runs Victimize. Synergy and flexibility are important, and some of the best cards in all of Magic are or were originally printed as Uncommons, including Eternal Witness, Force of Will, Wasteland, Fact or Fiction, and Bloodbraid Elf. Final Parting is a card I’m really interested in playtesting further, as I love cards that let me bluff and have greater influence over my opponents.

If you liked today’s article, or have any other cheap reanimation effects you think should’ve gotten a mention, let me know on Twitter @TheKristenEmily.

I’ll be at MagicFest London at the end of the month, so if you’re there come say hi! I’ll be playing some Commander over the course of the weekend with the Master of Magics team – just look for us in our snazzy #TeamMoM gear that @MoMAbbieBurger has masterfully arranged for us.

I’ll catch you on Thursday for another Deck tech.

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