Theory Crafting: Outlaws of Thunder Junction Reanimator

Updated:
Dive into theory crafting for an Outlaws of Thunder Junction Reanimator deck in MTG. Explore card synergies, strategies, and game-changing combos.

What is this Exercise?

As of this writing, we’ve seen most of the cards from Outlaws of Thunder Junction, so it’s a perfectly good time to start theory crafting the new brews we’re going to try when the set releases. While I don’t have a complete 75 to share with you yet, I wanted to share my thoughts and how I approach a Standard deck build with brand new cards.

And, of course, I had to start with my favorite archetype of all time: reanimator.

The Existing Tech

Given our current Standard rotation schedule, there are already a ton of options for every archetype and reanimator is no exception. In any good reanimator deck, you need three things:

  1. permanents (often creatures) worth reanimating,
  2. reanimation spells that can get the job done fast enough to be worth the effort,
  3. and a way to get those permanents into your graveyard (often discard or mill).

In Standard right now, we have plenty of options at every point including Legacy-playable reanimation threats in Atraxa, Grand Unifier and Etali, Primal Conqueror. We also need to be mindful of how each of these fit together. For example, if we want to use Squirming Emergence as our primary reanimation spell, we should probably avoid discard as our primary graveyard filler in favor of mill because we need more cards in the yard per mana spent, not specific ones necessarily. Meanwhile, if we’re using a Cruelty of Gix/Atraxa package, we would be better served running loot effects like Collector’s Vault or Rona, Herald of Invasion to make sure we don’t mill the reanimation spells or removal we’ll need to survive.

What we’re trying to do today, though, is not just review the current reanimator packages, but see if Outlaws of Thunder Junction adds anything to them to help them stand out or, ideally, create a brand new variant.

The Fresh Threats

Magic the Gathering Card - The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride - MTG CircleMagic the Gathering Card - Rakdos, the Muscle - MTG Circle

Let’s start with what threats will be worth reanimating in this set. This won’t take long because the pickings are pretty slim. There are very powerful threats like The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride, or Rakdos, the Muscle, but I hesitate to call them reanimation threats because they only cost five mana. At such an inexpensive rate, they aren’t worth reanimating because they can be hard cast so easily. There is one five-drop I’ll make an exception for though.

Magic the Gathering Card - Terror of the Peaks - MTG Circle

Terror of the Peaks is getting a reprint in Thunder Junction and I cannot express how happy I am. This card fits into reanimator shells because it makes the other large creatures you bring back that much more effective with its static ability to blast your opponent’s face. While you often will be hard-casting this card, if you have to spend a reanimation spell on it, you won’t feel bad. Also, some reanimation effects let you grab multiple creatures simultaneously (Breach the Multiverse, Push // Pull) and Terror of the Peaks coming in alongside an Etali or Atraxa is terrifying indeed.

The Fresh Enablers

Now, once we have our threats identified, what spells are we going to use to bring them back? Well, Thunder Junction has a few options here that merit a look.

Magic the Gathering Card - Rakdos Joins Up - MTG Circle

Five mana is the going rate for most reanimation these days, so it’s no surprise that that’s what we have here. In the case of Rakdos Joins Up, we get a single creature for five mana with two additional +1/+1 counters. The stat boost is nice, especially if we have a Terror of the Peaks live, but it’s nothing to build a deck around. The additional static, however, of being able to blast your opponent when a legendary creature dies is nothing short of incredible. This being on the battlefield alongside a sacrifice outlet could win a game on its own. Also, it makes reanimating a legendary you already have on board a meaningful play.

Magic the Gathering Card - Badlands Revival - MTG Circle

For an uncommon reanimation spell, I believe Badlands Revival is not bad, although far too fair compared to other available options. For five mana, it brings back a creature while also letting you regrow any permanent spell. Replacing itself in hand while progressing the reanimator gameplan is very nice, especially when you consider so many efficient threats or enablers it could return to your hand. Even removal is often on permanents in the shape of battles, sagas, or adventures. I would want to use Badlands Revival in a heavy mill deck where I can hit the Atraxa to the battlefield while having a lot of options for the card returning to my hand.

Magic the Gathering Card - Smuggler's Surprise - MTG Circle

The last card I want to talk about in this section deserves consideration because it works alongside everything we’re trying to do but at instant speed. Smuggler’s Surprise can cheat in creatures from your hand for as little as six mana at instant speed. It’s a little awkward choosing to not discard them earlier in the game if this is the enabler, but it has flexibility to be meaningful even if you don’t choose to do that. Also, if you have creatures in your hand already, playing out Smuggler’s Surprise on your opponent’s end step will likely pull counter magic if they have it, leaving you open to simply casting those creatures on your turn with less mana and one fewer card to worry about from your opponent.

The Fresh Graveyard Fillers

With cards like Demand Answers, Collector’s Vault, and Brass’s Tunnel Grinder already in the format, we don’t really need additional graveyard fillers, but a few stuck out to me and I wanted to touch on them.

Magic the Gathering Card - Tinybones Joins Up - MTG Circle

Tinybones Joins Up is a Hopeless Nightmare type effect but it has the added benefit of letting you target any number of players, including yourself. You don’t draw a card like so many good loot or rummage effects, but this does fit neatly on the curve for only one mana and it pressures your opponent’s hand in the process. The additional mill and life loss for legendary creatures hitting the field adds enough value where I’d consider running this in nearly any black deck.

Magic the Gathering Card - Discerning Peddler - MTG Circle

Discerning Peddler is a powered-down Rix Maadi Reveler, which was one of my favorite graveyard enablers when it was legal in Standard. While I probably wouldn’t choose to play this over Charming Scoundrel, its 2/2 stat line is relevant given how many Bant Toxic and Boros Convoke decks are running around on the current ladder. Being able to block favorably is very important given that these decks need to survive the early game and set up.

Magic the Gathering Card - Highway Robbery - MTG Circle

Highway Robbery is effectively Demand Answers except you can sacrifice a land instead of an artifact, but it also has plot. The plot cost is relevant because of how much graveyard hate people are running these days. Being able to discard a card on turn five and then immediately reanimate whatever you discarded is critical when cards like Tranquil Frillback see play in many sideboards these days. Also, in grindy late-game matchups, being able to turn a land into two cards is nice utility.

Conclusion

I don’t necessarily believe a meta reanimator deck will appear after Thunder Junction’s release on April 19th, though I am intrigued by the possibilities. I look forward to trying out the above-mentioned tech as early as April 10th during the streamer early access event. Come by and say hi at twitch.tv/hamhocks42.

I look forward to seeing you there! Happy brewing!

Graham, also known as HamHocks42 on the internet, is a Twitch streamer who adores Magic: the Gathering in all its forms and tries to find the fun, even in the most competitive and sweaty environments.