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Owen’s a Win – Invitational Decks

This weekend is the SCG Invitational and it’s the first tournament I have played in weeks. I am more than ready to get out and go to battle once again. The formats are Standard and Legacy, so it has been a challenge to prepare adequately for each format. My preparation for Standard has been superb and I love my deck—for Legacy, not so much.

I have decided to play Reanimator for a few reasons—first and foremost that I don’t like my old UWR Delver deck. Don’t get me wrong, UWR Delver is still a good deck, but I have had poor results with it as of late and grown tired of playing it—I just want to switch things up and try something new. The deck just isn’t as good as it used to be and I’m happy to try Reanimator again. I only ever played Reanimator in one major tournament—Grand Prix Atlanta 2012 where I got 10th place losing in the second to last round for Top 8. The deck was incredibly powerful all tournament long and all three losses I took were from misplays or bad luck. The deck felt broken and I don’t often get to play decks like that. Here is the list I intend to play:

Legacy: Reanimator

The most important adjustment I have made is to play 0 copies of Lotus Petal and 18 total lands. I typically play more lands than other players and I can’t really explain why. It could be that I’m arrogant enough to feel one of the main ways for me to lose a game of Magic is to mana-screw, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. I like to play decks that are strong and consisent under normal pressure from the opponent, Lotus Petal does not do this well. The point of Lotus Petal is to win the game on turns one, two, or three, and although Reanimator can do that,  the real power of the deck is in being resilient to all sorts of disruption.

Your game plan before sideboard is already so strong against so many decks, it really doesn’t ever matter whether you get Griselbrand into play on turn one or on turn two, so having 4 less total lands in your deck for the sideboarded games is a huge liability. Anyone who puts Lotus Petal into Reanimator has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the deck plays out and how to have a plan for the worst case scenarios. I know people have done well with Lotus Petal in Reanimator before, but I think that this is just more evidence that the deck is great since people win with lists that are less consistently powerful. Also, Lotus Petal can play similarly to a land in a large number of games, so it is very difficult to see a difference, but for me, it is there.

I also run two copies of Show and Tell in the main deck alongside the awkward-looking 3 Careful Study. I previously have run 4 Careful Study and 0 Show and Tell, but I’ve seen time and time again that Show and Tell is just an absurdly powerful card, and a deck that plays 4 Griselbrand can easily get away with playing a few Show and Tell. They add a new dimension to your combo while providing a way to beat a resolved Deathrite Shaman in game one. I very much like the fact that with Show and Tell in my main deck I get to play less of them in my sideboard while still having four total in my 75 cards—a smart way to get what I want out of my deck while also giving me more sideboard slots.

The 3 Careful Study could be wrong, but it sucks after sideboard. People attack your graveyard alongside your hand and other resources, so the fact that it’s card disadvantage and leads to playing into graveyard hate makes me unhappy. I also feel that with Show and Tell there is a little less of a need for Careful Study as they both play well with a Griselbrand that happens to be naturally drawn.

The other thing that I like and feel is unique to my list is the sideboard—look at those three beautiful copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I ran these last time I played Reanimator, primarily as a plan for the mirror match, and they were excellent. The first thing to notice is that with my more stable 18-land mana base coupled with the two sideboard City of Traitors, Jace is very easy to cast. With Force of Will, Daze, Thoughtseize, and Vendilion Clique, Jace is easy to resolve and protect. Lastly, he can both lock up the game and win entirely by itself. It attacks from a completely different angle and gives the deck a whole new way to attack. Someone could have a Rest in Peace and a Karakas out and feel they have you locked out of the game when that just isn’t the case. On top of all of those things, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is just an absurdly powerful Magic card. Putting that card into a deck that can cast it increases your win %, period.

The two City of Traitors in the sideboard are there primarily for Delver decks that run Daze and Spell Pierce. When you sideboard in Show and Tell, your mana curve goes up. To accommodate that and play around the mana-conditional counter magic, City of Traitors is a great option.

Vendilion Clique may look odd at first glance. The Reanimator list that made Top 4 at Grand Prix Paris had four Duress in the sideboard and that does make sense to me. I suppose it could be better simply because it’s a cheaper card against a Delver deck, but I prefer Vendilion Clique for multiple reasons. First, as a creature it’s extra tough to deal with in combination with Reanimate and Exhume, it is very common for a control deck to be forced to counter the Clique or lose their counterspell to it, so if they try to counter it, each different copy of Reanimate in your hand becomes a one-casting-cost Vendilion Clique.

On top of that I like the Clique because in a pinch I can remove it to Force of Will. Lastly, it combos extremely well with Jace—turn three Clique into turn four Jace is a staple of the format that I have had a ton of success with. The two cards just play so well together and Clique is the type of card that demands an answer, making the opponent vulnerable to Jace.

Standard: Mono-Black

For Standard, I have gone with a Mono-Black Devotion list. Last week I said that Lifebane Zombie was a windmill slam card to maindeck and I stand by my statement, but with the results of Grand Prix Cincinnati I have decided to go back to Nightveil Specter in the main deck. There were a ton of Pack Rat and Sphinx’s Revelation decks in the Top 16 and in a field like that Lifebane Zombie is significantly worse and Nightveil Specter is significantly better.

I talked about this deck in depth last week, but I’ll run down the few changes that I did make.

I cut a Nykthos for a Swamp, a simple change and my opinion on it has not changed since the last time I played the deck. Having Nykthos is an unacceptable risk to take when you play with Nightveil Specter, as the power of the card doesn’t outweigh the downside of not being able to play your spells. Especially a spell as time-sensitive as Nightveil Specter.

I cut 1 Lifebane Zombie and 2 Doom Blades in total from the list I posted last week and that’s because there were no winning Jund Monsters decks at the Grand Prix and nobody plays it online any more. It’s crazy to say it’s just that hot and cold but it seems to be. One week people are all about it and love it and the next they are just playing a different deck. Last week I felt strongly that Lifebane Zombie was the correct choice for the main deck and this week I feel the opposite, that Nightveil Specter is the best choice. It is possible that I was correct each time that I made this statement and that the metagame changes each week.

I have grown to love Pithing Needle as one of my main tools against control decks. With 4 Duress and 4 Thoughtseize after sideboard I love the strategy of stripping their Detention Spheres or Revoke Existences and slamming Pithing Needle on whatever planeswalker they have drawn the most of. Almost every single list of Esper Control runs 4 Jace and 3 Elspeth.

I have played hundreds upon hundreds of games with my Standard deck and I feel highly prepared for that format, but sadly I have played exactly zero games with my Legacy deck. This may sound bad to say, because I know what it takes for me to win at a Magic tournament, and careful preparation is always at the top of the list, but I feel I can skimp this time for a few reasons. This tournament is 16 rounds, half of being Standard so I could easily see myself going 8-0 in Standard and 4-3-1 in Legacy and still make it to the Top 8. I could just be greatly underestimating the power of my Legacy deck and my own skill with it. I have played a deck like that before and I have had good results. Hopefully it’s like riding a bike. And I could just get lucky, right?

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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