Cunning Reanimator

Posted in Building on a Budget on November 20, 2008

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

I've really been meaning to build a deck around Cunning Lethemancer. Making your opponents discard their relevant spells is pretty sexy. It's even more attractive when you can turn it into an advantage for yourself. I've been wanting to build a reanimator deck for some time now. Beacon of Unrest is going for less than 0.5 tickets and you can get Empyrial Archangel for 1.5 tickets in the classifieds section of Magic Online. I fiddled around with a build that was strictly focused on reanimating something very dangerous as quickly as possible, but I was disappointed with the results. I decided I could use the usual suspects (Shriekmaw and Mulldrifter) with Makeshift Mannequin and probably make a much better deck.


Cunning Lethemancer
Makeshift Mannequin

Now, I chose to use Empyrial Archangel as my big reanimation target. It's important to note that there are a lot of other choices that could also be used, so if you don't have enough Angels, you can just replace them with your favorite fatty boom-boom. I like having at least one Reya Dawnbringer in the deck. Just think about it; Makeshift Mannequin, Reya Dawnbringer at the end of your turn. During my upkeep, put Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, or Empyrial Archangel into play.

I'll start by explaining my card choices. Here's the list I used:

Cunning Reanimator

Download Arena Decklist

Hidden Horror: I scoured through the available card pool in Standard and found some hidden gems that could make an archetype like this really work. One of the cards that excited me most was Hidden Horror. You can use Hidden Horror to discard your reanimation target and leave it on the ground to block whatever threat your opponent might be attacking with. Better yet, if you're the aggro, you can start swinging for 4 at a time.

Cunning Lethemancer: The power level of this card in this particular deck is pretty absurd. If you're opponent doesn't have a removal spell immediately they're in a world of trouble. Control players will be put to tough decisions like, "Should I play a land or discard my counter?" Aggressive decks will run out of steam a lot quicker than you. Always discard a reanimation target if you can. If you're low on cards, (which rarely happens) you should hold excess lands (beyond the fifth) to discard to your Cunning Lethemancer. Lands six through eight do very little for you; it's only once you get to nine that they really starts to help.

Mulldrifter: Where there's a Makeshift Mannequin, there's bound to be a Mulldrifter.



Shriekmaw: Again, Shriekmaw is an automatic inclusion in decks running Makeshift Mannequin. You don't necessarily need to be playing four, but I like having a decent amount of removal, especially considering the amount of White Weenie that's been floating around lately.

Makeshift Mannequin: This card is important on many levels. Bringing back Shriekmaw or Mulldrifter is usually good enough, but Cunning Reanimator makes your Makeshift Mannequin work double duty and gives you some exceptionally powerful targets at stages of the game when you wouldn't necessarily expect to see a card like Woodfall Primus, Reya Dawnbringer, or Empyrial Archangel.

Beacon of Unrest: Beacon of Unrest serves as Makeshift Mannequin numbers five through infinity. The threats this deck can put on the board with reanimation spells warrant playing more than four reanimate effects.

Sift: Sift may seem odd, but I was looking for another discard outlet. I thought about Ghastly Discovery, but I already have eight cards that cost three and I figured I could afford to pay an additional mana to net an additional card.

Reanimation Targets:

Empyrial Archangel: Prevents you from dying and puts your opponent on a relevant clock.

Woodfall Primus: The persist is important. If you're destroying a Five-Color player's land or a Faerie player's Bitterblossom, you'll understand why it's important to have this in the deck.

Reya Dawnbringer: If you can get Reya to stick around for a turn, there is little chance an opponent will be able to overcome the massive amount of card advantage and tempo she creates.

My sideboard changed a lot in between games. I know for sure I want 4 Infest in the board, but I'm not sure what else I'd play.

I thought about some other cards, but I didn't have time to thoroughly test a list with them. If you decide you want to try the deck out, feel free to fiddle around with Merfolk Looter.

Due to the casual nature of the deck. I decided to play my matches in the Casual Room this week.

Round 1 vs. Red-Green Beatdown

Empyrial Archangel

Game 1: I won the play and kept Swamp, Swamp, Swamp, Hidden Horror, Empyrial Archangel, Makeshift Mannequin, Shriekmaw. I played a land and passed, and my opponent came out quick with Tattermunge Maniac on turn one. I drew a second Makeshift Mannequin and evoked my Shriekmaw to kill Tattermunge Maniac. I could just eat it the next turn with Hidden Horror, but I figured I'd see another threat, and a life total is a precious resource against what I thought was mono-red. My opponent played a second land and played two more Tattermunge Maniacs. I drew an Island and played Hidden Horror, discarding Empyrial Archangel. I ate one of the Tattermunge Maniacs, and my opponent played Imperious Perfect. I played my fourth land, attacked, and passed. He swung with the Tattermunge Maniac, and I played Makeshift Mannequin targeting my Angel. He scooped it up.

Game 2: I kept Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, Island, Island, Swamp, Swamp on the draw. My opponent didn't have a turn-one play this time. He had a Bramblewood Paragon on turn two, but I killed it with Shriekmaw. He played another Bramblewood Paragon on his third turn and missed his third land drop, I evoked a Mulldrifter, drawing a Makeshift Mannequin and a land. He missed his third land drop again and just attacked for 2. I drew Hidden Horror and played the Makeshift Mannequin targeting my Shriekmaw. He played a third land and played Boggart Ram-Gang. I blocked. On my turn I played a Mulldrifter and drew Beacon of Unrest and Woodfall Primus. He played a Goblin Assault on his turn. I played Hidden Horror discarding my Primus, attacked with my Mulldrifter, and passed. My opponent drew a fourth land, played Flame Javelin on my Hidden Horror, and attacked with the fresh Goblin token. I played Beacon of Unrest on my Woodfall Primus to destroy Goblin Assault, and my opponent scooped shortly thereafter.


Round 2 vs. Blightning Beatdown (?)

Game 1: I kept Swamp, Swamp, Island, Island, Makeshift Mannequin, Makeshift Mannequin, Shriekmaw. My opponent played a turn-one Mogg Fanatic. I drew Reya Dawnbringer, played my land, and passed. He played Stigma Lasher. I drew an Empyrial Archangel, played my land, and evoked Shriekmaw to kill the Lasher. He tapped three to play Blightning, and I discarded my two Angels. I played my fourth land and passed. He tapped out and played Ashenmoor Gouger, and I played Makeshift Mannequin targeting Reya Dawnbringer at end of turn. At the beginning of my upkeep, I returned Empyrial Archangel to play. I attacked with Reya Dawnbringer and passed. On my opponent's turn, Ashenmoor Gouger attacked, and I blocked with my Empyrial Archangel. He Flame Javelined me to finish off the Empyrial. I just played my other Mannequin at the end of his turn. He scooped.

Game 2: I mulliganed to five this time around and couldn't really put anything together.

Game 3: I mulliganed to six and kept Swamp, Swamp, Island, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, Hidden Horror. My opponent didn't have a one-drop. I played my second land. He played Goblin Deathraiders. I drew a Reya Dawnbringer and played Hidden Horror discarding the Reya Dawnbringer. He played an Ashenmoor Gouger and passed. I drew a land, played it and evoked my Mulldrifter. I drew Beacon of Unrest and a land. On his turn he attacked with the Ashenmoor Gouger, and I traded with my Hidden Horror. He played another Goblin Deathraiders and passed. I untapped, drew another beacon, and reanimated my Reya Dawnbringer. On his turn he attacked me for 6. I opted not to block and went to 14. He passed. I used Reya's trigger to return my Mulldrifter back to play, then drew a Sift and played it, finding and discarding an Empyrial Archangel. I attacked with Reya Dawnbringer. My opponent played Flame Javelin targeting me and brought me to 10. He attacked with both 3/1s on his turn and I blocked one and took 4 damage (they have trample). I went to 6, and my opponent incinerated me during his main phase. During my upkeep I reanimated the Empyrial Archangel. I attacked for another 4 with Reya. My opponent never got past the Angel, and the match was over.


Round 3 vs. Five-Color Control

Reya Dawnbringer

Game 1: I kept Mulldrifter, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, Island, Island, Swamp, Swamp on the play. The game went long without much transpiring. My graveyard had some bombs in it and I eventually drew a Makeshift Mannequin. I tried to wait for my opponent to tap out so I could reanimate my Reya Dawnbringer. I got my wish and my opponent tapped out. Unfortunately, he tapped out for a Cruel Ultimatum, and I was out of the game.

Game 2: I had an excellent starting hand of Swamp, Swamp, Swamp, Cunning Lethemancer, Makeshift Mannequin, Woodfall Primus, Woodfall Primus. On my third turn I played the Lethemancer and passed. My opponent probably sided out Firespout or Pyroclasm if he had it main, because he only saw Mulldrifter in Game 1. On my fourth turn I discarded a Treefolk and played my Makeshift Mannequin destroying one of his lands. On my fifth turn I discarded the other Treefolk and drew another reanimation spell, and my opponent scooped it up.

Game 3: Now my opponent was packing what seemed like a full set of Negate, and I had trouble playing through the countermagic. Eventually my opponent activated the one-sided Armageddon on Ajani Vengeant and had a Kitchen Finks in play while I had no permanents. I lost.


Round 4: Elf Tokens!

Game 1: I was on the draw with a mediocre hand. My opponent had an unbelievably fast draw. He played a Regal Force on turn four and drew seven cards. I had the reanimate spell for my Reya, but my opponent played Overrun the next turn and I was out of the game.

Game 2: I sided in Infest and took out both my Woodfall Primus and two Sift. My opponent again had a blisteringly fast start. I drew a lucky Infest on my fourth turn and six-for-oned my opponent, who scooped immediately.

Game 3: I had an opening hand with two Infest. The Elf combo can't really avoid being at least three-for-oned by the Infest. I beat down with a Shriekmaw until my opponent decided to overcommit and I used my second Infest. I passed, and he played an Imperious Perfect off the top of his deck. Luckily, I drew Shriekmaw off the top of mine. I attacked a few more times, and my opponent was in scoop mode.


Round 5 vs. White Control

Woodfall Primus

Game 1: I kept an opening hand with Cunning Lethemancer, Woodfall Primus, Mulldrifter, Swamp, Swamp, Island, Island on the play. We both played lands and passed on our first turn. I drew into a Makeshift Mannequin and kept playing lands. On my third turn I played Cunning Lethemancer. My opponent didn't have Oblivion Ring, and discarded a land as I discarded a Woodfall Primus. He played Story Circle and named black. I used Makeshift Mannequin to kill a land with Woodfall Primus. My opponent missed his land drop, and I beat him for 6 a turn until he died.

Game 2: I sided in two extra Woodfall Primus and took out my two copies of Empyrial Archangel. My opponent had the Oblivion Ring for my Cunning Lethemancer, but I drew Hidden Horror. I was attacking for 4 a turn, and my opponent had to use a Wrath of God. I used Beacon of Unrest on my Woodfall Primus and blew up the Oblivion Ring. My opponent played another Wrath of God. My Primus came back, and I blew up a land. I got in for another 5 and put my opponent to 2. I had a Makeshift Mannequin in hand, and I played it on my opponent's end step after he used Hallowed Burial. I returned my Cunning Lethemancer and got to deal the last 2 points.


Well, that's my tale of Reanimator in standard. I hope you guys liked the deck. It's a lot of fun to play. I was admittedly pretty lucky with my test draws, and my record shows it.

Until next week, build some decks, get some drafts, and have some fun.

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