I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to dream up more good decks for webcam play in advance of CommandFest, and my mind kept spinning around one idea: Reanimator. When you’re all about putting a big creature in play, things don’t get that complicated – the biggest issue is making sure you visually communicate about what’s in your graveyard. That may mean that you play with the “relevant” cards in your graveyard spread out and the others stacked up in order to help opponents understand the game state and what’s going on. Honestly, I often did this in paper regardless, but it’s even more imperative to a good experience online.
The biggest sticking point, though, was the colors. I’ve seen and played every flavor of reanimator within the Grixis and Temur color pies… or so I thought. While virtually thumbing through cards on Scryfall, I realized there was one version of reanimator I’ve never seen myself: mono-White.
With that, let’s introduce today’s commander: Bruna, the Fading Light
Bruna’s very specific about which types of creatures she’s willing to bring back. Getting back Humans is rarely good value, as most are low-cost, so it looks like we’ll be playing an Angel tribal Reanimator deck. That sounds plenty unusual to me while still being effective enough to hold its own in a properly balanced pod. As a 7-mana Commander, Bruna won’t be doing all the work on her own, obviously. So how are we getting our Angels out of the graveyard otherwise?
Karmic Guide is a classic, and it feels like it would have been the inspiration for this deck, but honestly, it wasn’t – it’s too deeply embedded as a generic value card in my brain to have gotten me here. I think it’s important to break yourself of those concepts around cards and try to imagine wider concepts they can support, because otherwise you, like me, will take an extra few hours to get around to mono-White Reanimator. Reya Dawnbringer would be this deck’s Commander if she weren’t even more ridiculously expensive mana-wise than Bruna, and Emeria Shepherd does a great job of returning our Angels to the battlefield as long as we have some Plains to put down.
Resurrection, and the other similar effects below it, were the real inspirations for this deck. Miraculous Recovery was a favorite of some of my friends in the summer camp days, and it always felt so unfair back then – I’m excited to make it part of a fun Commander experience over 20 years later. Defy Death and Breath of Life make the cut as well, and if you happen to have a copy of False Defeat from Portal 3 Kingdoms, you might want to slot that in as well. Profound Journey is another high-cost effect, and the power to bring back any permanent is a little bit lost in this particular deck, but the rebound puts it over the top for me.
Marshal’s Anthem is barely about the anthem at all – the whole point is the multikicker. Spending 5WWWWW in the late game to reanimate three creatures is a huge win. Elspeth Conquers Death is less about frontloaded power and doesn’t lock up the game as hard as it might in Standard, and frankly I almost didn’t include it because of how annoying Chapter II is in a webcam game, but at the end of the day it beat out the aforementioned False Defeat for some additional removal utility.
This is the card Reya Dawnbringer dreams of being. Instead of paying nine mana, all you have to do is play Magic for long enough – this deck packs 26 basic Plains, which should be more than enough to keep Emeria running. This is one of the few noncreature permanents in the deck worth bringing back with Profound Journey.
White has this strange ability to bring back things that just died, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t leverage that a little bit. Adarkar Valkyrie is a “rattlesnake” card of the highest order, discouraging opponents from killing your creatures or, in the worst case, forcing them to team up against you to remove critical threats. Twilight Shepherd is more of a post-combat play or insurance against an instant-speed board wipe like Starstorm being cast on your turn, but it’s a good reanimation target too. Brought Back and Faith’s Reward are great wrath recovery tools, whether it’s your wrath or someone else’s.
Let’s get into the creature base, starting with some lower-cost options you might actually cast early on.
Gisela melds with our Commander to create the horrifying Brisela, and that’s pretty much her sole function in this deck. Lyra and Herald of War both serve to embolden an army of Angels, with Lyra providing an anthem while Herald of War gives us a steep discount on actually casting them. Angel of Invention, meanwhile, is an “army in a can” style card that can also be a moderately-sized threat when necessary. It all depends on what you’re trying to block.
Many of the Angels available to us are defensive options, and these five get top billing in that department. Linvala is a great way to help come back from behind, and early on, this deck is going to be a little bit behind most of the time. Resolute Archangel is another comeback tool – imagine reanimating this after taking some hits in the first few turns. Sunblast Angel can wipe out a tapped army, while Angelic Arbiter hamstrings opponents’ options each turn. Finally, Platinum Angel does what it says on the tin: no losing. It’s a fantastic target for Miraculous Recovery – ever brought a Platinum Angel onto the board at instant speed? It’s delightful.
Now we get to the more offensive options. Avacyn and Akroma are both amazing attackers, each with their own strengths and each hard to deal with. Angel of Deliverance doesn’t really fit in the same sentence as those two, but as long as you have delirium, it’s hard to block profitably. Sephara does a decent impression of Avacyn, while Deathless Angel is more reactive.
So how, exactly, do these cards get in the graveyard? Let’s check in on some artifacts that will help us mill or discard cards for a reanimation advantage.
White isn’t known for its self-mill technology, so we’ll have to improvise a bit with artifacts. Millikin is self-mill disguised as ramp, while the next three are more transparently about putting cards from our library into our graveyard. Altar of Dementia is a great way to turn a creature that’s about to die into a resource for later in the game, but it can also eliminate a player who gets caught unawares when you have a big board.
You don’t see a lot of looting effects being played in mono-White decks, since they’re not usually about leveraging the graveyard, but in this case, we’ll have to make do with these two. Key to the City has that upside of making something unblockable, while Jalum Tome provides instant gratification on the card draw instead. Geier Reach Sanitarium lets the whole table loot, but when that effect is attached to a land, it’s hard to pass up.
Now that we’ve covered our reanimator bases, what’s the support structure like?
The majority of our early-game creatures are ramp-related. These three, along with Millikin, will provide some early-game fuel so that we can move toward executing our plan a little faster.
With Arcane Signet more available these days, Marble Diamond and its friends look more and more ridiculous. Sol Ring shows up in most of my decks these days now that it’s clear I’ve lost the battle on its ubiquity, and Hedron Archive is a favorite of mine for its flexibility. Caged Sun does wonders in powering up mono-colored decks, and the Medallion cycle is similarly powerful if you land yours on curve.
A repeatable card draw engine, a way to make sure you make your land drops, and, in this deck, a discard outlet – Land Tax does it all! Grab three extra basics in your upkeep, make your plays, and then if you’re over 7 cards in hand, toss a huge Angel into the graveyard for later.
This card is creeping into more and more of my mono-color and basic-heavy decks, but the fact that it enters tapped continues to be a bit of a burden. I go back and forth on this card, so if I’m roasting it on Twitter next week, it’s not because I’m inconsistent, it’s because my opinions have some fluidity to them.
It wouldn’t be mono-White if we didn’t have a ridiculous number of board wipes. Tragic Arrogance is wonderful for its ability to set up the board the way we want it, and Mass Calcify and Austere Command can both be maneuvered to our distinct advantage as well, clearing what we want to clear and leaving something behind to keep us ahead. Settle the Wreckage can be a huge setback for someone who has gotten too far ahead, and Hour of Revelation is a reliable reset button for WWW.
White has some of the best point removal out there, with two premier creature exile tools in Path and Swords along with Generous Gift, everyone’s favorite colorshifted Beast Within, and Return to Dust, which continues to flip-flop with Crush Contraband on my lists. I tend to play the latter in less White-focused lists since you lose some of the flexibility of Return to Dust, but maybe the reliable 2-for-1 at instant speed is the more generally powerful option? This can only be settled by me playing much more Commander, which I’ll be quite happy to do.
If we’re going to do tons of work to reanimate our creatures, let’s keep them around. These are my top three when it comes to protecting the board, but more clones of this effect like Make a Stand and Rootborn Defenses are available for lower budgets or increasing your redundancy.
What’s better than reanimating a huge creature? Doing that but giving it haste and shroud too. Lightning Greaves shines in decks like this, and not because they get polished terribly often.
Believe it or not, White isn’t known for being tops at card draw, so once again, we have to lean on some artifacts. Endless Atlas is great in any mono-color deck, while the other two are more generally useful across many decks. I chose Mind’s Eye because I think the deck needs more mana sinks, and I chose The Immortal Sun because I think the discount effect will be really powerful on our huge creatures (including our Commander) and because we’re not running any Planeswalkers. Finally, Arch of Orazca made the cut because of lack of mana sinks and ease of use in our mono-color deck.
Graveyard hate that doesn’t exile our graveyard? Perfect.
Let’s cover a few remaining utility lands:
Cycling lands, especially in a mono-color deck, are a staple for me. The cost of having a tapped land early is, to me, worth the utility of tossing these aside later in the game.
Maze of Ith doesn’t make the cut too much due to taking up a land drop without producing mana, but Kor Haven is a little easier to appreciate since it generates some resources and doesn’t cost too much to activate.
When you’re in self-mill mode, it’s nice to be able to get a little extra value, and Drownyard Temple is exactly that. It’s also here to pair with another card I’m about to mention.
If you have a Strip Mine or Wasteland, go for it, but Ghost Quarter always feels so much less hurtful. Similarly, Dust Bowl at least creates an equitable exchange, but when you pair it with Drownyard Temple, you get to go off in a grindy, midrange way, and that’s always fun.
Add in 26 Plains and we’ve got a deck! I’ll be working on more webcam-ready Commander decks soon, so keep your eyes open for more, and tweet any suggestions at @RagingLevine. Here’s the full decklist – see you next time!