Modern Abzan Reanimator by ICTERIDAE
Reanimator is a complex strategy in Modern. No one would argue with its potential for powerful draws and quick wins. After all, if you could draw Unmarked Grave and Persist in every opening hand, life would be easy.
But what about when your library doesn’t deliver in such a clear way? What about when your opponent disrupts you with discard spells, permission, or graveyard hate?
Magic Online player ICTERIDAE took this Abzan Reanimator deck to 4-0 in a recent Magic Online Preliminary event. I love the deckbuilding, particularly in the way it allows you to operate on multiple axes, and have plenty of Plan B’s and C’s for when things don’t go smoothly.
As mentioned, the most direct route to victory is to put Archon of Cruelty or Serra’s Emissary onto the battlefield from the graveyard. To do so, you can use Persist, Priest of Fell Rites or Unburial Rites.
Crucially, there’s a strong self-mill theme, with Satyr Wayfinder, Grisly Salvage and Grist, the Hunger Tide to support Unmarked Grave’s ability to send a creature directly to the graveyard. Grief helps to clear the way for your combo, but is also a strong creature that finds its way directly to the graveyard. Evoking Grief and then casting Persist to bring it back is a perfectly strong opening.
Ephemerate also combos with Grief, allowing you to blink it after an evoke with the sacrifice trigger on the stack. This shred the opponent’s hand by forcing them to discard two cards right away, with a third trigger on deck for the next upkeep. You can also Ephemerate Satyr Wayfinder to accelerate the self-mill process.
And what about the games where you don’t draw Persist? Well, Priest of Fell Rites and Unburial Rites provide backup reanimator plans. And crucially, you don’t even have to draw them! In theory, this deck can accomplish everything it needs, playing purely out of the graveyard. I’m not necessarily saying you should keep a hand of Grisly Salvage and all lands, but if you did… that might wind up being all you need! You can also use Unmarked Grave to put Priest or Rites into your graveyard in the scenarios where you have a reanimation target ready to go, but no way to actually return it.
Other cool combos include using Persist to bring back Grist, the Hunger Tide (it counts as a creature when in the graveyard). You can also go nuts with Eternal Witness, reanimating it to pick up the most important spell from your graveyard. If you Ephemerate Eternal Witness, you’ll net two triggers; one can return whatever you want, and the second can return Ephemerate itself in order to repeat the process.
And of course, when all else fails, you can simply play a fair game with Thoughtseize, Prismatic Ending and some value creatures. With Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage to help your land drops along, it’s not even out of the question to reach seven mana and cast your heavy hitters the old fashioned way.