I love how Legacy decks come in so many different flavors. Take Reanimator for example. The traditional Blue/Black version is built around Entomb, Reanimate, and Exhume. The lightning fast “Tin Fins” build is based on Shallow Grave and Goryo’s Vengeance. Recently, we have even seen Black/Red Reanimator lists featuring Chancellor of the Annex take the spotlight. Today I want to talk about the forgotten member of the Reanimator archetype, Ooze Reanimator.
Ooze Reanimator has been around for quite awhile now, taking shape almost immediately after Necrotic Ooze was first printed in Scars of Mirrodin. The original combo revolved around casting Buried Alive to find Necrotic Ooze, Triskelion, and Phyrexian Devourer, then reanimating the Ooze to win the game on the spot. Phyrexian Devourer allows Necrotic Ooze to exile the top cards of your library in order to make lots of +1/+1 counters, and Triskelion allows the Ooze to eat the counters in order to machine gun out an equal number of points of damage.
With the printing of Aether Revolt, the combo has received a pretty decent upgrade. Walking Ballista replaces Triskelion as the kill piece of choice. Theoretically, you can now kill your opponent without the Phyrexian Devourer in your graveyard, provided you have enough mana at your disposal. The real upgrade though, comes from the fact that Walking Ballista is a solid threat in its own right. It is much more realistic to cast than Triskelion, and it is able to pick off pesky Deathrite Shamans or Delver of Secrets that may get in your way. It is also ludicrously simple to dump it into your graveyard for the combo—all you have to do is cast it for zero.
I decided to brew up an updated Ooze list to see if Walking Ballista can give the deck the power push it needs.
The Walking Dead
4 Necrotic Ooze
3 Walking Ballista
1 Phyrexian Devourer
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Collective Brutality
3 Cabal Therapy
4 Dark Ritual
3 Buried Alive
3 Shallow Grave
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Lotus Petal
1 Chrome Mox
2 Sensei's Divning Top
3 Ancient Tomb
3 City of Traitors
4 Verdant Catacombs
Entomb, Buried Alive, Reanimate, and Shallow Grave make up the core of the combo. Buried Alive is a bit expensive, but it will assemble all of the pieces in your graveyard with one efficient spell. Shallow Grave costs one more than Reanimate, but it allows you to combo off at instant speed in response to your opponent tapping out. Entomb is great at finding silver bullets. Just wait until you see the look on your opponent’s face when they realize that Necrotic Ooze now lets you draw seven cards once you Entomb your Griselbrand.
One of the greatest strengths of Ooze Reanimator is that it does not actually need to reanimate anything. Simply dumping the combo pieces into your graveyard, followed by hard casting Necrotic Ooze is a perfectly reasonable way to win the game. Due to this, many traditional hate cards like Containment Priest or Grafdigger’s Cage are laughable when brought in against us.
Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy make up the one-two punch of hand disruption. Not only can you use them to strip your opponent of any possible answers, you can also point the discard at yourself in order to get a needed combo piece in the graveyard.
The hot new tech in many Reanimator lists lately has been the new charm on the block, Collective Brutality. It adds another discard spell to help clear the way, plus it can pick off an annoying Deathrite Shaman, all while giving you the option to ditch more combo pieces into your graveyard as part of its additional cost. Before I sat down to research the deck, I was pretty sure Collective Brutality was going to end up being the spicy 61st card. Don’t worry though, I came up with something even better to fill that illustrious spot.
While we are able to dodge many hate pieces, cards like Pithing Needle and Rest in Peace will ruin our day. In order to reliably deal with these threats, I splashed green for Abrupt Decay. If you would like to move this deck in the more budget-friendly direction, feel free to cut the green and replace the Abrupt Decays with more hand disruption such as Inquisition of Kozilek.
Like all reanimator decks, the goal of the game is to power out explosive game-winning turns as early as possible. In order to achieve this feat we fill the deck with plenty of mana acceleration. Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, and even the singleton Chrome Mox, are pretty standard as far as mana acceleration goes in most Reanimator decks. What is pretty unique about this deck is the support provided by the “Sol” lands: Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors.
An ideal opening play would be Ancient Tomb, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Buried Alive, into Shallow Grave for the win. However this play is less consistent than our more efficient Reanimator cousin, Tin Fins. Where the “Sol” lands really shine is in all the spells requiring two colorless mana. Both Necrotic Ooze and Buried Alive will happily be cast off of one of the “Sol” lands. When the game calls for Walking Balista to be hard cast, Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors will make sure that it comes into play with plenty of +1/+1 counters.
Sensei’s Divining Top is also a big fan of the “Sol” lands, allowing you to both cast and “spin” the top off of a single land. Top is particularly important for the games that start to go long. Having none of the cantrips present in other Reanimator decks, Sensei’s Divining Top is our only way to ensure that we continue to draw live as the game progresses.
The Spicy 61st
One of the best parts of this deck is the nearly endless potential of combo pieces that can be added. Almost any creature with an activated ability is a potential target to help beef up Necrotic Ooze’s long list of abilities. For a while I was considering Thornling. The ability to give the Ooze both trample and indestructible was very alluring.
Ultimately I decided that all that green mana would be too hard on the mana base though. That is when I remembered a certain goblin with a history of doing broken things. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is the perfect Entomb target once you have a Necrotic Ooze in play. On your opponent’s end step, Entomb our goblin friend and have Necrotic Ooze tap to copy itself. Each copy gains the same ability, so rinse and repeat until you have a million Ooze tokens in play. The tokens do not exile themselves until the beginning of the next end step, so all the tokens will stick around until the end of your turn. This means you get to untap with an Ooze army and bury your opponent under a literal blob of death. Now that is what I call wholesome family fun!
Jerry Mee is a Boston Native who has been playing Magic since Onslaught Block. Primarily a Legacy player, he cohosts the weekly Leaving a Legacy Podcast found on Mtgcast.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @Jmee3rd