I’d like to share a write-up on Pet Sematary, a Reanimator deck I’ve built and played for the past two months in a series of events. I built it originally for the Northern Paladins Heroes of Legends tournament. This tournament focused on the Legends set and was held five days before Halloween, so I knew I wanted to play Reanimator. However, I also wanted to include some Legends heroes and find a way to further abuse Bazaar of Baghdad. The former was accomplished by adding four Legends heroes (described below.) The latter was accomplished by adding Library of Leng, a card more known for the first half of its text than the second half. As added fun, my deck theme revolved around Stephen King’s book with the four Legends representing the Creed family of Louis, Rachel, Ellie, and Gage.
What makes this deck different from other Reanimator builds?
Reanimator decks often go either the robot route with Triskelion, Pentavus, and Workshop or the big fatty route using Deep Spawns and Nicol Bolas, sometimes adding Eureka. This deck leaned towards the latter route, but with a more diverse set of creatures and a Bazaar filter engine described further below. I tested Nicol Bolas, but his upkeep cost was awkward at times, particularly with the fragile strip-able mana base and ideally wanting an animated creature down on turn 2 or 3. I also wanted creatures that I could hard-cast when I didn’t have an animation spell. So, I settled on a pair each of Deep Spawn, Triskelion, and Shivan Dragon, representing the pets to be buried in the cemetery. However, that doesn’t explain my choices for the four family members:
Bartel Runeaxe (Louis – dad): Bartel is perhaps the most efficient 6 mana beater in Legends with a 6/5 body, immunity to control magic, and his vigilance allows you to both attack and defend.
Lady Orca (Rachel – mom): Orca is the only 7+ power creature without a downside. Sure, she’s vanilla and tougher to hard-cast, but she can be reanimated on turn 2 and kill an opponent faster than a Deep Spawn or Shivan!
Sol’Kanar the Swamp King (Gage): Ok, Sol’Kanar doesn’t look like a cute little boy, but think of him as the reanimated murderous boy. While Bartel is the best 6 mana Legend beater, Sol’Kanar wins the prize for 5 mana – a 5/5 body, swampwalk, and a bonus life gain ability.
Rubinia Soulsinger (Ellie): Rubinia is perhaps the weakest link in the family since she can be bolted and can’t attack for the win. However, the deck runs little creature removal, so she’s often your only means to handle a pesky opponent’s creature.
Beatdown Shivan Dragon (Church the cat): With no flavor text, the Beatdown version looks the wimpiest of all the Shivans, but she still beats for 5+.
Old Guy in the Library of Leng (Jud): Like Jud, this card can try to stop you from burying things in the graveyard, but your temptation usually fails with your loved ones!
For discard, the 4 Bazaar of Baghdad are an obvious choice. Another discard outlet is Recall. As a last resort, if you’re on the draw and have land, mox, animate, creature, I have drawn to 8 and discarded a creature to animate it turn 2. Other discard outlets such as Jalum Tome are too slow, so I settled on just five discard outlets and aggressively mulliganing when necessarily. It is absolutely critical you have a Bazaar or a Sylvan Library (to find a Bazaar) in your opening hand.
For animation, the 4 Animated Dead are a no-brainer. With bazaar and a mox, you can often animate creatures as early as turn 2! And similar to the book, animating your pets and family members brings them back in a deformed state (-1 to power.) As for All Hallow’s Eve, this card can be difficult to cast when bazaars occupy your land drops. Recognizing I have hard-castable creatures, I settled in on two. All Hallow’s Eve is one of the most beautiful cards to cast in the Old School format. Check out this board state with Rubinia, two Shivans, Bartel, and a Triskelion all coming back from the dead (with Deep Spawn already animated):
The Filter Engine:
This is where the deck gets really fun. They key here is you need to empty your hand to zero cards for these engines to shine, and that’s not hard to do when have cheap artifacts and Bazaar online.
Bazaar and Sylvan: The first combo is more known. With these two cards, you take the best card from Library and Bazaar the worst two away. Turns your every Sylvan activation into a draw three, discard two.
Perhaps a less know technique that I admit I haven’t done is that if you have three useless cards, you could bazaar during upkeep, discard the 3 useless cards, activate Sylvan, and then put back the worst two cards to your library. For a cost of three cards, your Sylvan activation turns into a choose three of the next five cards without paying life.
Bazaar and Leng: This second filtering mechanism is less obvious and I haven’t seen it used before. You Bazaar on your upkeep and discard to the top of your library none, one, or both of the cards. This is a free “Scry 2” every turn.
Bazaar, Sylvan, and Leng: This is where things get ridiculous. You Bazaar on your upkeep and decide whether or not you want to keep either card. Then you Sylvan and prepare your bazaar to mill the bad cards away. This engine allows you to see potentially 5 new cards in a turn and take the best one!
With all these engines, it’s not long before you find an Animate Dead or your restricted cards, and you will certainly be top decking better than your opponent. Also, these filtering engines get even better with two Bazaars. You can even Bazaar in between two Sylvan activations with a Library of Leng, though you accept card disadvantage for more filtering.
Library of Leng has an added benefit of semi-protection against Mind Twist and other discard. As a related amusing play, I had an opponent play Wheel of Fortune assuming it would be an equal refill to 7. However, I was able to keep my best cards in the new draw 7 by discarding the choice cards to my library and redrawing them.
While I only run one white card maindeck, I can’t stress enough the value of Balance. It’s a Mind Twist, Wrath of God, and Stone Rain all for two mana. The card allows you to even the playing field, particularly when Bazaar is producing card disadvantage and you can’t stop early creature beats. After you get your engines running, you will win the top-deck race after a well-planned Balance.
Scavenger Folk in the Sideboard:
The one card I’ll highlight in my sideboard is Scavenger Folk. Because this deck wants to empty its hand as fast as possible, the spicy add is to use Scavenger Folk against the various artifacts (looking at you City in a Bottle, Tormod’s Crypt, and Disk) brought in to fight your deck instead of Crumble or Disenchant that can be awkward sitting in your hand as you Bazaar. The dream is to All Hallow’s Eve a couple Scavenger Folk back to the field along with your host of beaters.
How has the deck performed?
First of all, this deck is a blast to play. Win or lose, you will have fun. There’s no greater joy than resolving an All Hallow’s Eve and smashing your opponent with a swarm of beasts while clearing the weenies away with your Triskelions. The “family” adds a ton of diversity to your games, and you can swap new heroes in from tournament to tournament (looking at you Stangg.) And when the filter engine gets going, it’s a guilty pleasure as you see 3-5 new cards each turn to their 1.
Second, this deck has been competitive. It placed top 8 in the NP Heroes of Legends tournament, won the NP October Skype tournament, and place top 8 in the NP Online Fall Open. My record has been 13-5 in matches.
But definitely as the greatest honors of all, I was proud to win Top 4 Creative Prize at the NP Heroes of Legends tournament and Top 5 Spice in the NP Online Fall Open. Deep down I can be a spike, but honestly the most fun games have been playing with the heroes and the bazaar engine, including:
- Turn 2 animated Lady Orca pounding for the win
- Casting Rubinia Soulsinger and then thinking through the rules as she stared eye to eye with an opposing Royal Assassin.
- Playing Sol’Kanar while dead on the board, only to have my opponent cast a black spell to give me the 1 life to stay alive
- Animating Bartel Runeaxe and pounding for a win while my opponent had a dead sideboarded Control Magic in his hand.
- Opponent playing Eureka for Jacques le Vert, Marhault Elsdragon, and Jerrard of the Closed Fist with me getting Animate Dead for Shivan Dragon, only to have All Hallow’s Eve resolve on my next upkeep for Triskelion, Deep Spawn, and 2 Scavenger Folk. What a face off!
A Hilarious Rules Headache:
Yes, this happened. I had Bazaar of Baghdad and Library of Leng and my opponent played a Chains of Mephistopheles. How dare you!
I think most people would give up right there, and I did forgo any more bazaar tricks. However, for the rules geeks, I did give this thought after the match. My conclusion was that you can still filter, but it’s not very efficient. You need a card in hand (if you don’t have a card in hand, the Chains will make you mill instead of discard/draw.) During upkeep of your next turn, if you don’t like the card, you activate Bazaar of Baghdad, discard the card, draw a card, discard to top of library or grave, draw a card, then discard 3 cards (one which could be to top of library), which allows you to potentially see two more cards at the expense of losing that first card.
I’ll close by saying the Northern Paladins are the most amazing Old School community, providing me, other players in Minnesota, and players worldwide such amazing tournaments and events. Props to Joseph, Angelo, David, Adam, Jon, and all my other fellow Paladins!