Sultai Reanimator: A Master's Guide

Introduction


The absolutely best part about reaching master is locking in your rank and somewhat taming the compulsion that spikes amongst us tend to have - the need to win above all else. It allows us to tend to our inner Timmy we so often neglect.

Personally when not just trying to win as much as I can, I love convoluted combos and graveyard play. As our playgroup frowns upon going infinite, it’s no wonder my decks tend to end up as reanimators most of time. I’ve climbed up to Master in MTGA with a pseudo-reanimator UW tokens right before Dominaria hit, and I’ve spent the majority of this patch playing around with God-Pharaoh’s Gift and other reanimating tools we have, until finally giving a go to Muldrotha. This beautiful Maro-Sorceress turned out to be a lot better than I had expected, and after playing around with it and fine-tuning it for the past two weeks, I’ve finally decided to write it up.

This deck has maintained a 60%+ win ratio at Master Tier, and consistently reaches 5+ victories in QC, with an average right above 6.

Table of Content


The Decklist


Lands (24)
2 Drowned Catacomb
1 Evolving Wilds
6 Forest
4 Hinterland Harbor
1 Island
6 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery

Spells (9)
4 Cast Down
1 Journey to Eternity
4 Vraska's Contempt

Creatures (25)
2 Dire Fleet Poisoner
3 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
2 Muldrotha, the Gravetide
4 Ravenous Chupacabra
2 The Scarab God
4 Thrashing Brontodon

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Liliana, Death's Majesty






One can quickly see that this deck is not very budget friendly. Between the three-color mana base that requires a ton of rare wild-cards and the plethora of rare and mythic spells, this deck might not be the best choice if you are only just starting with MTG: Arena.

At its core, this deck is a typical black-green midrange deck sporting the usual two and three mana drops. Its curve is topped with the reanimation engines, allowing the deck to recycle its graveyard and finish off its opponent by overwhelming them. The explore mechanic synergises effectively with the reanimation, as it allows the player to dig for their lands and removal without giving up the discarded creatures completely.



Strengths


Other than being incredibly fun, Sultai Reanimator has quite a few things going for it. Due to its low mana curve, efficient removal and the ability to dig for threats and answers, the deck functions as a pseudo-toolbox. Explore allows the player to hit their land drops on curve whilst developing the board and filling the graveyard for their reanimator engines. Those in turn provide card advantage and significant pressure on the opponent in the mid to late game.

Weaknesses


As it is a midrange deck, Sultai Reanimator has its fill of trouble with the best-of-one metagame we’re currently suffering through in MTG: Arena. A wider curve spread than those of aggro decks leads to lower consistency in hitting on-curve creature drops, and an increased possibility of land floods/screws, although Explore helps mend its impact.

Midrange decks are generally favored against aggro decks, but at a significant disadvantage against control, which can generally keep up with their pressure. Even then, best of one often leaves us hopeless against the unlockable early aggression of RDW and mono-green aggro if we don’t draw into our removal early enough, especially on the draw.

Finally, the deck features very little in terms of evasion and/or reach, meaning efficient board control is vital to our game plane, as we have no secondary win condition. Although this is the list I found the most efficient, I will discuss possible solutions to this problem later in the article.

Card Choices


The Beatdown
These cards serve as the bread and butter of our early game. They help us curve into the win conditions whilst simultaneously fixing our draws, filling our graveyard and fighting for board control.

There are very few reasons one wouldn’t run these little buggers in a green creature based decks. Llanowar Elves allow us to play above the curve, creating additional pressure and giving us an edge over our opponents. They will often slow down aggressive decks that decide to remove them.

Merfolk Branchwalker doesn’t only help us curve out nicely, due to its explore mechanic, it helps us dig through our deck, fixes our draws, and often provides an effective blocker against Earthshaker Khenra and Steel Leaf Champion.

Merfolk Branchwalker's older sister does all the same things, only twice.

This angry herbivorous dinosaur is one of my favorite cards of the deck. As a 3/4 for 3 mana, it helps us stabilize and trade efficiently against aggro decks, and its ability will often force the opponent to use Seal Away and Cast Out on it instead of our engines. If we sacrifice it in response, not only do we waste their removal, but we will also be able to resurrect the dinosaur later.


The Reanimation Engine
These four cards are what separates our deck from the regular BG midrange, and are in large part the reason we are splashing blue.

Multani’s daughter, the Maro-Sorceress of Urborg, is the primary reason for the splash. Her ability might even seem underwhelming at first glance, but untapping with her will often net you a significant advantage. The primary two targets in addition to the creatures, will be Liliana and Journey to Eternity.

If you are running blue and black, the real question is why wouldn’t you run the Scarab God? Unlike the UB Control, our deck will often have drained our opponent’s hand of removal by the time Scarab God lands, and him sticking doesn’t bode well for them. Scarab God allows us to not only resurrect our own creatures, but to recruit some from our opponent as well. He’s also rather effective at winning games against UW control by draining our opponent and thus dodging Seal Away and Settle the Wreckage.

Not only does she reanimate creatures from our graveyard, she can help us fill it as well, which can be particularly useful against white decks running exile. Don’t forget you can cast her from your graveyard with Muldrotha so don’t be too shy using her -3.

This is probably the riskiest card in the deck, as it can often allow our opponent to trade two for one, and would almost certainly be unplayable for us without Muldrotha. That being said, Journey provides incredible value once flipped, especially in long, drawn out games.


The Removal
As board domination is our only win condition, efficient trades are an integral part of our strategy. Removal helps us deal with targets we’d otherwise be unable to.

This often underrated pirate is incredible against mono red and mono green aggro. Although tiny, his flash dodges the unblockable abilities on Earthshaker Khenra and Ahn-Crop Crasher, and his deathtouch takes out unsuspecting Carnage Tyrant and/or Ghaltas, Primal Hunger.

One of the premium removals in the format is often overlooked due to its inability to hit legendary creatures. As the majority of aggressive early game creatures aren’t the stuff of legends, Cast Down is essential to us surviving the early game. Ravenous Chupacabra and Vraska’s Contempt compensate for its shortcoming in the mid and late game where it becomes relevant.

The deck just doesn’t work without it. Planeswalkers, gods and resurrecting creatures would all be a significant hurdle for this deck if it weren’t for Vraska’s Contempt. Exile is incredibly powerful and relevant in the current format, and the healing is almost never insignificant.

Although I hate Chupacabras in control decks, I believe it’s one of the best midrange cards we have in the format, and even more so in Reanimator. What’s better than a 4 mana removal that comes with a blocker? A 4 mana removal that comes with a blocker and does so again in one way or another the turn after that. And then again. And again. And… Well you get the picture.


Replacements
As far as the beatdown part of the deck goes, creatures are pretty flexible. Kitesail Freebooter can be added to the deck to improve the control matchup and give us some reach. A fourth Jadelight Ranger can be used instead of one of the Thrashing Brontodons if you aren’t seeing a lot of enchantments. Wildgrowth Walker is another 2-drop that can be included if aggro presents an issue. If control gives you more of an issue, Carnage Tyrant is a possible addition, but be careful as to how it affects your curve.

Cast Down and Dire Fleet Poisoners can be partially replaced by Moment of Craving if you are finding yourself losing a lot to aggro, and Final Reward can be used as a budget replacement for Vraska’s Contempt. The Chupacabras are irreplaceable.

Finally, the reanimation cards can be used almost interchangeably with regard to the mana curve.

Alternatives and Optimisation


A Case agaisnt Liliana

When I initially tested the deck, I was running three Journies to Eternity and no Lilianas. The main reason was for its inefficiency against the Aggro decks, where it often does too little at 5 mana. I have since then come around to love her, in large part due to how well she does against the increasingly popular UW control.

Nevertheless, if you find yourself facing significantly more aggressive and midrange decks than me, feel free to replace her with either two copies of Journey to Eternity, or a combination of it and any of the other removal engines.

"Mono-Black"

This is a variant I’ve only tested briefly, and runs the usual mono-black suit with no green or blue cards other than The Scarab God and Muldrotha, the Gravetide. The main advantage of it is its color consistency and and significantly better matchup versus control. The downside is its matchup with aggro and much lower overall consistency.

Lands (25)
3 Drowned Catacomb
1 Evolving Wilds
4 Fetid Pools
1 Forest
1 Island
11 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery

Spells (13)
2 Arguel's Blood Fast
4 Cast Down
3 Duress
4 Vraska's Contempt

Creatures (20)
2 Demonlord Belzenlok
2 Dire Fleet Poisoner
4 Dread Shade
4 Kitesail Freebooter
2 Muldrotha, the Gravetide
4 Ravenous Chupacabra
2 The Scarab God

Planeswalker (2)
2 Liliana, Death's Majesty






God-Pharaoh’s Gift and Multani

Even though much less consistent than the variant above, the Sultai God-Pharaoh’s Gift is quite possibly the most fun deck I’ve played in the game. Instead of the 7 reanimators, this version runs four Gates to the Afterlife and two copies of God-Pharaoh’s Gift, using Champion of Wits and the Explore mechanic to fill the graveyard and beatdown the opponent similar to the guide variant. Its primary win condition though, is reanimating Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar with the gift as a 10+/10+ trampler with haste, generally ending the game on the spot.

The main issue of this deck is land color consistency, as it wants green and black on turns one/two, double green and blue on turn three and then double black on turns four and five, leading to a lot of lost games.

Mulligan


As roughly 75% of the metagame consists of Aggro and Midrange we have to mulligan accordingly. Should we run into one of the control decks, we will have time to fix our hand in the first few turns whilst developing pressure



Gameplay


It’s of vital importance to determine whether we are the beatdown or the control in any given matchup. As a rule of thumb, all aggressive and most midrange decks are faster than us so we take the role of control - we endure their aggression until we stabilize through our reanimators.

When going against a control deck however, it’s important to establish that as early as possible and proceed to play cautiously aggressive.


Aggro
The four most popular aggro decks of the format are in no particular order RDW, Mono-Green, Vampires, and Merfolk. Our gameplan is largely the same against all four; endure, stabilize, kill. Our deck is slightly favored against all but the first

The mono-red is the hardest of the four, as their reach in form of burn spells, haste, evasion, and Ramunap Ruins means we are never quite out of the woods, and we are always on a clock. Make sure to balance applying pressure and keeping up your defenses. Make sure to use removal on Ahn-Crop Crusher before combat.

Vampires and Merfolk are both significantly easier matchups but not without difficulties. They both have means of applying a significant enough pressure early game, to win with either evasive creatures or a wide enough board to chip at at our health even past the point we’ve stabilized. It’s important to save the removal for key threats in both matchups ( Legion Lieutenant, Radiant Destiny, Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, Merfolk Mistbinder and Deeproot Elite)... whilst trading efficiently with the rest.

Mono-green is by far the easiest of the four matchups. We can easily trade and remove their threats until they have run out of steam, and finish them with our reanimated threats.
Midrange
These are our best matchups. As we have a plethora of ways to efficiently trade 1 for 1 in the early game and gain significant card advantage in the late game, just make sure to not fall for the opponent’s baits. The longer the game goes on the better our chances of winning so approach these matchups with patience.
Control
As we’ve established earlier, control is our worst matchup, but not straight up unwinnable. The best path to victory is taking the most aggressive route possible, draining their removal and sticking one of the engines.

The most important part of the matchup is deciding what cards to play around and how. As a rule of thumb, it’s important to try to resolve an early threat, even a Branchwalker will suffice, and slowly chipping at their health while they use their removal and counterspells on the rest. Play around Settle the Wreckage by always leaving some creatures behind but acknowledge only attacking with one makes us vulnerable to Seal Away. In the late game it’s often worth taking a gamble on your opponent bluffing removal if playing around it loses you the game either way.

As our Cast Down is often dead anyway, it’s commonly beneficial to use it on our own creatures in response to Vraska’s Contempt or other exiling removal, especially if the creature is enchanted with Journey to Eternity. Remember that control players are much more susceptible to bad draws than yourself and take advantage of it.


Conclusion


Although nowhere close to the two aces of the best-of-one format, Sultai Reanimator is a reasonably powerful deck, held back vastly by its inability to sideboard for the matchups. Having the option of including Kitesail Freebooters and Duress against control and additional Journeys and maybe even Moment of Craving against aggro would help this toolbox deck significantly. Nevertheless, if you are looking to for something to reach 5+ wins in QC consistently while having some fun, this just might be the deck for you.

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