Reanimator is a deck archetype known for putting powerful creature cards into their graveyard, then using spells or abilities to return those creatures to the battlefield for a cheaper cost.
Reanimator strategies almost always include the color black.
- 1 Popular Cards & Commanders
- 2 Key Components
- 3 Strategy
- 4 Strengths and Weaknesses
- 5 Compatible Sub-themes
Popular Cards & Commanders
Popular Reanimator spells include:
Popular Reanimator commanders include:
There are three main components to any reanimator strategy: creatures to reanimate, the spells that reanimate them, and a reliable way of putting creatures into a graveyard.
- Reanimator players are frequently able to put creatures into play without paying their mana costs. As a result, their reanimation targets are frequently high-cost creatures with powerful effects that take place as soon as they enter the battlefield.
- Popular targets for Reanimator decks include:
- Reanimator decks may elect to revive a handful of creatures, keeping them and their powerful effects on the battlefield to overpower their opponents. At other times, they may choose to repeatedly reanimate and sacrifice creatures in and out of play, triggering their powerful enter-the-battlefield abilities multiple times. Because this strategy allows players to avoid paying high mana costs, some players may also choose to reanimate creatures that form infinite combos with each other.
- Reanimation spells may refer to spells that return a single creature from the graveyard to the battlefield, or spells that return multiple creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. Some popular methods of putting creatures into play from the graveyard include:
Filling the Graveyard
- Reanimator decks do not necessarily wait for their creatures to die of natural causes before they begin reanimating them. Rather, they employ a variety of tactics to fill their graveyards with potential targets.
- Tutors: Reanimator players often put creature cards from their libraries directly into their graveyards. Cards like , , , , and all help load the graveyard with specific cards, which the Reanimator player can then revive more easily.
- Discard: A Reanimator player may occasionally wind up with powerful, expensive creature cards in their hand, which they do not intend to cast. In these instances, it is more efficient to discard the creature card, then reanimate it with a cheaper spell. Popular discard outlets include , or . Mass discard effects like can also be effective. and are popular for their ability to both discard and tutor new targets.
- Self-Mill: Putting cards en masse from one's own deck into the graveyard is one of the fastest ways to amass a variety of potential reanimation targets. , , , and Dredge effects like can all assist with this. Some card advantage spells like , , and will also incrementally add to the graveyard.
- Mill: Because a Reanimator player can never be certain whether their opponents will be Spellslingers with few creatures, they tend to revive their own creature cards. However, they do not need to do this exclusively, and plenty of Reanimator decks will mill other players to potentially revive their creatures. Popular methods of rapidly filling other players’ graveyards include , , and . Reanimator players may also use and to target either themselves or others to fill various graveyards.
Reanimator decks take a variety of forms, but follow a similar play pattern: fill the graveyard with one or more creatures, then use a spell or ability to revive them. Reanimator decks may operate at a very fast pace (for instance, by usingand to put an enormous creature into play as early as turn two). Others may take their time, preferring to accumulate a large number of creatures in graveyards, which may give them more options and resiliency over the course of the game.
Winning with Reanimation
- Reanimator decks differentiate themselves based upon how they intend to fill the graveyard, but also differ in how they intend to use the reanimated creatures. Some Reanimator decks, especially those that can reanimate multiple creatures, will use the sudden and overwhelming board presence to attack with a very large army of previously-dead creatures.
- Other Reanimator decks may instead elect to repeatedly revive creatures with powerful enter-the-battlefield effects. Creatures such as or , when repeatedly brought in and out of play, will drain enemy life totals.
- A fairly constant feature of Reanimator decks tends to be the prevalence of sacrifice outlets. Cards such as , , or allow the Reanimator player to put creatures they control back into the graveyard at any time they desire.
Propensity for Combo
- Infinite combos are not necessarily a common feature of Reanimator decks. However, given the ease with which Reanimator players are able to abuse the resources available to them in the graveyard, some of the cards that appear in Reanimator decks can also be used to create game-ending combos. Some examples may include:
- + . Reanimating the Dragon will exile all permanents that belong to its controller, including the reanimating enchantment. This puts the Dragon back into the graveyard. Once there, the reanimating enchantment will come back into play, able to re-reanimate the Dragon. This can allow the user to tap their lands for infinite mana each time their lands come back into play, or abuse inifnite enter-the-battlefield triggers of their other permanents.
- + . Triskelion can remove counters from itself to deal damage to any target. By dealing damage to a player, then using the counters on itself to target itself with lethal damage, it will trigger Mikaeus's ability, which brings the artifact back with another counter. This can be repeated to deal lethal damage to each opponent, a few points of damage at a time.
- + : Each of these creatures is able to revive the other, and Reveillark is also able to bring back other creatures along with it. Combined with a sacrifice outlet, these creatures can repeatedly loop themselves in and out of play.
- Combos like these are not mainstays for all Reanimator decks, but decks intent upon using such combos are able to make use of the Reanimator strategy by holding important combo pieces in the graveyard, where they are harder for opponents to remove than if they were on the battlefield.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Reanimator decks put enormously powerful creatures into play long before other decks are able to play creatures of a similar caliber. Reanimator players may even revive a powerful creature so early in the game that other players are not yet prepared to respond to those creatures, staunching opponents’ abilities to set up their own plans properly.
- Reanimator players frequently fill up graveyards with dozens of cards. This gives them access to such a large number of creatures that they will frequently be able to find any effect they require. This flexibility is so great that Reanimator players will often care far more about the contents of their graveyard than the contents of their hand.
- Reanimator decks are enormously resilient to typical forms of creature removal, such as creature combat, -style board wipes, or pinpoint spells like . Whenever creatures die, they are eligible to be returned with a new reanimation effect, which can make those effects difficult to remove for good.
- Exile effects are the bane of a Reanimator player’s existence, and are generally a silver bullet against the archetype. Exile-based removal like and are much more effective than or , since they eliminate the Reanimator player’s ability to bring back the removed creature. and other instant-speed abilities are famous for exiling the very creature the Reanimator player targeted with their , fizzling the spell. These effects drastically reduce Reanimator’s resiliency.
- Mass exile effects such as ramp into those costs, they may be left stranded until much later in the game, when they have acquired enough mana. , , , , , and many other cards can eliminate graveyards completely, leaving the Reanimator player without any targets whatsoever. This effectively blanks all reanimation spells in their library, and forces the Reanimator player to actually cast their creatures. Since those creatures have such high costs, and Reanimator decks may not always be built to actually
- Reanimator decks rely upon a few integral pieces: the reanimation spells, and the creatures to reanimate. An imbalance in either direction can offset a reanimator player's strategy. Drawing too many high-cost creatures with no ability to put them into the graveyard can be a large setback, while drawing too many reanimation spells without any creatures to revive will leave the deck spinning its wheels. Reanimator players also often prioritize looting effects (spells like card draw. As a result, if their initial reanimations are countered or removed, they may be left with fewer cards in hand than other players, and may become dependent on their draw step to help put their strategy back on track. , which draw and discard) over general
- Since you need to put cards into your graveyard to reanimate anyway, why not also attack your opponent's libraries at the same time? you may also take a juicy creature from their library that you yourself can reanimate
- Since you need to put cards into your graveyard to reanimate anyway, why not also get rewarded for filling Your Graveyard?
- If you are considering discarding cards to reanimate, why not lean on effects to share the misery? Not only do you get to put cards from your hand into the graveyard and disrupt your opponent's plans, you may also get them to discard a juicy creature you yourself can reanimate
- Since you need to put cards into your graveyard to reanimate anyway, why not replace them while doing so? wheel spells allow you to exchange cards you don't need right now for cards you may want later while also emptying your opponent's libraries and disrupting their hand and you may also get them to discard a juicy creature you yourself can reanimate
- If you find yourself reanimating certain creatures over and over again for their enter the battlefield effects... why not consider recurring those directly? Blink spells can trigger these effects without touching the graveyard, which can be useful when certain cards like or prevent you doing your Plan A, and can often also double as a means of avoiding removal which can sometimes set a reanimator deck back significantly