Reanimator has come a long way since the initial Junk lists right after rotation. Up until last weekend, the four color versions running Red for Faithless Looting were the cutting edge of these decks, with 11 dig spells to power through the library and find exactly what the player needed. I personally played a four color deck with some Seance shenanigans and found the deck vastly powerful, able to consistently craft situations where the game ceases to be interactive for my opponent.

Then two Standard GPs happened in one weekend.

Over in Bochum, Germany, the Juzam Djinn himself won the whole thing with a no-nonsense, mana dorks + Craterfhoof Behemoth deck that the internet quickly dubbed “Hoof, There It Is!”

Over in Charleston, SC, a version of the Japanese Blue Reanimator made the top 8.

The question naturally arises: between Red, Blue, and Hoof, which list is the best?

Let’s start by looking at the Hoof deck. Make dudes, power out a Craterhoof, win the game. A very simple and elegant game plan. The sideboard contains cards meant solely for the aggro matchups, where the mainboard is understandably soft. There are no gadgets and situational answers in the toolbox for this deck, it basically asks its opponent “Can you stop me from casting Craterhoof?”

In my opinion, as awesome as this deck is, it’s likely going to be a flash in the pan. This just reeks of meta deck to me. The designers made a meta call and correctly assumed that there would be more UW Flash, Reanimator and other midrangey decks at a Grand Prix than RDW and GW aggro lists, two of a select few decks that could just blitz this deck before it even gets the engine going. I do like that it digs deep and can more consistently and more quickly get out a lethal Craterhoof swing than all of the other Reanimator decks out there, but its lack of answers in the sideboard makes me feel uneasy just taking this to an FNM.

So that narrows our choices down to Red versus Blue. I must say that I really like Blue (shocker, I know). A couple of things really sell the list for me:

  1. A full four Deathrite Shamans in the main. These guys are the real deal, and after the straight beating I received last Tuesday from turn one Shaman three games in a row, I feel that there is no reason not to run the full suite if you’re in the colors. These guys are just a thorn in the side of so many decks out there. UW hates seeing it, as do other Reanimator lists. Another neat little bonus is that, in this shell, these guys can use their mana generating ability since many lands will end up being binned by Tracker’s Instincts and Forbidden Alchemy.
  2. Did I mention the deck runs Forbidden Alchemy? With Alchemy, you always get what you want, at instant speed, with flashback. I’d go so far as to say that this is the best dig spell in the format.
  3. Farseek. I’m mostly listing this because it’s something the Red version lacks, and while Red doesn’t often get color screwed, sometimes you just brick and brick and brick with your Mulches. Nothing wrong with ramp and fixing when your turn two plays in the other lists are usually Mulching with the same goal in mind.
  4. Real Wraths in the sideboard. Red had to settle for Rolling Temblor. Sometimes I felt awesome killing a Geist or a Thalia and Silverblade with it. Other times it sat in my hand because their Champion was too big and their Sublime had flying. A guaranteed reset is a nice thing to have.

There are obviously drawbacks to the Blue list, none bigger than not being able to run Griselbrand. Tracker’s Instincts and Farseek push the player in the direction of hardcasting threats, and with less Black sources and a lack of Arbor Elf, playing Griselbrand the fair way will be tough. Having to get rid of Seance will be rough as well. I’ve gotten used to getting things for free on any upkeep. Crafting the perfect Craterhoof scenario will be harder now, which means longer games with more Thragtusks, but it’s the safer bet as people begin to realize that Deathrite Shaman is just as powerful in Standard as he is in Modern.

Who knows, maybe I’ll ditch the Centaur Healers entirely for more Craterhoofs. As JChan would say, no risk, no gain.

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