It’s not a secret that I love Toxrill and that I’ll try any Reanimator deck a dozen times or two, particularly in Standard. Unsurprisingly, Felix Sloo’s Standard Reanimator has been at the forefront of my mind as I climb the Arena ladder. The gameplan is simple: Mulch until you mill Toxrill, the Corrosive then cast Diregraf Rebirth. It can also play a more traditional game of Magic with Esika’s Chariot backed up by quick Vampires.

Sloo’s list is Jund; it runs Red for early board presence like Voldaren Epicure and Bloodtithe Harvester. Both help you discard reanimation targets in the early game, and Epicure can get in for a couple of damage before being upgraded by Fell Stinger, while Harvester can surgically kill a troublesome creature and isn’t a completely mortifying reanimation target itself.

I think Sloo’s list is phenomenal, and would recommend it for the current environment; but I’ve also adapted the deck to better suit my own personal predilections by swapping Red for Blue. This lets us activate Toxrill’s ability and, more importantly, lets us hardcast the most brutal threat in Standard in Koma, Cosmos Serpent.

Initially, I took Sloo’s list, cut all of the non-reanimator creatures, and added Old Stickfingers as a mega tutor. The line of play was cast Old Stickfingers for 2BG on turn four, mill a guaranteed Koma or Toxrill or Hullbreaker (the deck ran two copies of each, along with three Stickfingers), then cast Rebirth on turn five. It went 0-5 and I went back to the drawing board.

I had cut the Prosperous Innkeeper to avoid a non-ideal Old Stickfingers spin, but the card is simply too important to leave out. Without Sloo’s early drops, I also had no way to survive the early game—Voldaren Epicure is a pretty effective deterrent in a world of X/1 creatures. Instead I looked for Blue analogues for Sloo’s Red cards that would further our agenda while weathering our opponent’s. Here’s where I’ve landed:

Standard Reanimator

Creatures (15)
Prosperous Innkeeper
Fell Stinger
Avabruck Caretaker
Tovolar's Huntmaster
Toxrill, the Corrosive
Koma, Cosmos Serpent
Hullbreaker Horror

Spells (21)
Witherbloom Command
Syphon Essence
Esika's Chariot
Diregraf Rebirth
Lands (24)
Clearwater Pathway
Shipwreck Marsh
Darkbore Pathway
Deathcap Glade
Barkchannel Pathway
Dreamroot Cascade

Sideboard (15)
Wrenn and Seven
Infernal Grasp
Path of Peril
The Meathook Massacre
Binding the Old Gods

Consider is our Epicure equivalent. Surveil 1 is a huge upgrade to Opt’s Scry 1, and the ability to toss one of our scariest creatures in the graveyard in the early game is critical. Syphon Essence, our sole other Instant, allows us to interact with an opponent’s spell and potentially discard a reanimation target to the Blood token. All in all, this list is slower than Sloo’s list, which leverages Blood tokens to great effect to discard drawn threats; but everything in the deck, save the vital Prosperous Innkeeper, is an absolute must-answer, which gives us a good resiliency.

The little Halfling flies under the radar, but Innkeeper is the MVP. While your mana is good, the Pathways can sometimes be frustrating; Innkeeper lets you smooth your mana or can ramp you to Rebirth on turn four if you hit a lucky Mulch. The life gain is also periodically relevant once you start dropping Chariots or making Slugs or Serpents, but don’t be afraid to turn your Innkeeper into fuel for the Fell Stingers.

Avabruck Caretaker shows up as a one-of because I’m sick of playing with her in Crimson Vow Limited, and I want to see what she does in Standard. She’s essentially a worse Koma, but she diversifies our threats a bit alongside her partner in Limited balance disruption, Tovalar’s Huntmaster. They may be inferior to Toxrill or Koma, but since our backup plan is simply casting our massive creatures, it’s good to have something a bit lower on the curve. Hullbreaker Horror is, of course, an absolute behemoth. I may go up in copies, as turning your excess Considers or late-game Mulches into bounce spells is hard to resist.

Aggro is a bit of a rough matchup, particularly when aggro decks are so dominant right now. Witherbloom Command does just enough against aggressive decks right now to justify its inclusion. While it mostly serves as additional copies of Mulch, it can also kill a 2/1 and invalidate one of their attacks with the life drain mode. Path of Peril in the sideboard also allows you an out against the quick rush decks that plague Standard.

Against control decks, Wrenn and Seven further your agenda while providing a threat factory. Syphon Essence comes out for Infernal Grasp pretty frequently—this deck’s greatest enemy is the surprisingly-common Hive of the Eye-Tyrant. Stone Raining their Hive before it can attack and skim out a Toxrill or Rebirth is crucial (and tilting).

Speaking of Black-based decks, this deck does match up well against The Meathook Massacre decks. Your creatures are too big to wipe with the Massacre, and you can destroy the pesky enchantment with Witherbloom Command. The rest of the board is the usual mix of Massacres and Binding the Old Gods, both the epitome of “problem solver” cards. Hullbreaker Horror also allows you to rebuy either with each spell cast, thus allowing you to Vindicate or Mutilate every single turn.

As threats have gotten better, so has Reanimator. We’ve gone from Goryo’s Vengeance on Griselbrand to a different, grindier style of deck that seeks to repeatedly cast or reanimate these Titan-esque threats for recurring advantage. With a hefty 24 lands and a stockpile of Mulches and Commands, it’s trivial to hit seven lands and cast a Toxrill or Koma or, in the event they’re dealt with, return them with a flashed back Diregraf Rebirth. This means that you can even win through Test of Talents extracting your Rebirths by simply casting Koma or Hullbreaker and riding it to victory.

While I’ve experimented with Reanimator in Standard before, the addition of Crimson Vow pushes it forward a full turn and gives us more vicious threats. The Prosperous Innkeeper into Esika’s Chariot line of play is hard enough to beat for some decks in Standard; bait and switching them into committing resources to combat that, only to pivot and start dropping Komas and Toxrills feels completely unfair.

Neon Dynasty may not add much to the deck. I doubt the set will have much in the way of graveyard synergy, but it will presumably offer a couple of new reanimation targets, as it wouldn’t feel like Kamigawa without a nine-mana Demon Spirit or two. In the meantime, either this Sultai version or Felix Sloo’s original concept are worth taking for a spin. There’s little better than seeing your opponent’s cursor hover over Koma, Cosmos Serpent right before they concede. That’s an outcome only Reanimator decks can give you, and it’s an outcome I chase with each new release.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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