60 to 100 — (Living) Death is not the (Living) End!
Welcome party people! I hope your release weekends went great for Hour of Devastation with some awesome god-pulls....
See what I did there? "God-pulls?" Because there are gods in the set...
You know what, I thought it was clever. Don't judge me.
Anyways, this week I get to go back to a deck archetype that everyone plays at some point in time. But we're not doing the basic 1-for-1 type, we're going to be hitting this thing up en masse. Moderation is something that a younger me may not have agreed with, and so in that spirit (or spirits?) we're taking that attitude to the cards.
This week, we're covering the Reanimator archetype. Even more specifically than that, we're going to hit the Living End decks and bring all the fun and chaos the deck brings to our awesome format.
The Living End decks in Modern take their name from the namesake card, you guessed it, Living End. The deck is all about using a ton of cycling effects to put lots of otherwise overcosted creatures into the graveyard before they cascade into a Living End to clear the battlefield and put their own now large threats out instead. Check out the sample list:
With Amonkhet and now Hour of Devastation bringing additional cyclers for the deck it's understandable that people get excited. Since we're playing Commander, where we can go much much bigger, it's time to bring out some big guns. Why settle for JUST a Living End when we can play Living Death too!? Reanimator is a strategy that I've always enjoyed in any format and now we're going to see if we can push it over the edge.
Leading Until the End...
Picking a commander for a mass-reanimation deck only really has one caveat: we must be play black. Black gives us access to not just Living End/Living Death, but all the other good reanimation spells like Reanimate and Grave Betrayal. And since there is a swath of commanders that incorporate black, the world is our oyster.
Karador, Ghost Chieftain is a staple among Commander playgroups. He's cheap to recast, let's you animate without needing extra spells and is in a great color combination. I spoke on his merits in a previous article so I won't rehash them here. Meren of Clan Nel Toth is one of the most built commanders in EDHREC history at over 2,200 decks to date, and she is as brutal as they come. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is a VERY fun commander that I built a while ago, but the reanimation effect is a little prohibitive since we can only get smaller creatures back. This defeats the purpose since if we're going to cheat a little bit, are we even cheating at all?
Bring out yer' dead!
What I like though with these decks focusing on reanimating critters is being able to see lots of cards over a game. Looting effects really shine when you want to cheat them out later, so blue for it's card draw effects becomes pretty attractive all the sudden. Plus, if you're playing a deck that revolves around finding specific cards(and don't enjoy playing tons of tutors) then it's hard to manage to draw enough cards without playing blue. It's just how this game works people, blame Richard Garfield.
Hey, now we're on to something! Great colors for looting and card draw, plays black for our build-around cards, plus we have a way to steal and keep other people's stuff!? Perfect! I've been wanting to find a way to play Marchesa, the Black Rose for awhile, but nothing ever seemed to fit for a full 99 cards before. We have access to some VERY fun cards in these color combinations and some great new ones that have come out recently too. Let's dig in!
Since we're bringing the essence of Living End into Marchesa, we have to bring the cycling theme with us. There are too many sweet new cards not to! Archfiend of Ifnir is a card that I'm sure will see more play than its current <500 deck numbers indicate once cycling ticks up. It's such a hoser for token decks I just feel to need to jam it. Striped Riverwinder is a new toy that can be hard for 60-card players to interact with, and a 5/5 body that we will plan on drawing a card off of isn't the worst thing we can do in Commander either. Horror of the Broken Lands is another common that can wreak some havoc too if we are getting to play our game as well. All are solid choices to keep around for this port. And of course, Living Death since it's just an all-around better version of Living End for our new purposes. Why wait if you don't have to?
Not quite the same rarity, still make big impacts
This is where the deck really starts to shape up. Since we're dropping some restrictions we get MUCH bigger toys to fill our graveyard now. Looting effects like Rhystic Scrying and Careful Study are cheap enough spells to ensure we see a LOT of cards every game. We can even play some spells like Ancient Excavation to help find us lands early or put some non-cycling fatties into the graveyard as well later on, and you all know how I love versatile cards.
We're going to see our whole deck this game, and discard the good half!
Since our chosen commander has a pretty great ability for keeping other people's stuff, we may as well fill the deck with cards that let us take their best cards. Marchesa, the Black Rose states that we need to have a creature die under our control with a +1/+1 counter on it, so it's no surprise that 75% of Marchesa decks at EDHREC are playing Unspeakable Symbol (the most Fight Club of symbols). Paying 3 life to ensure a creature comes back to play will get incredibly annoying incredibly fast for opponents. The card is a HOUSE. Combined with Mark of Mutiny and we have a way to never let our opponents keep their nice things.
Be the friend that borrows things and never gives them back.
To complete the "I have all your things forever," ensemble I'm going to slide in a couple pet cards of mine. Grave Betrayal I already mentioned earlier and in a world of board wipes and Living Death's it's nice to know you don't have to worry about your opponents' graveyards getting too full. We'll just take whatever we can get, which would be most things. For the longest time Rise of the Dark Realms was literally the only good card in a Glissa, the Traitor deck I play for a long while as well. It may not wipe the board but it does it's best Living Death impression as a mega-death(not the band, we know you love School of Rock) mass-reanimate spell. Finally, who wouldn't want to Insurrection the board and sacrifice the creatures to Ashnod's Altar only to pass the turn without using the mana? Thanks to some rando on Twitter with the moniker "EDH Ryan Seacrest," for that idea...
Cards to win games by
- If you really want to pay 5 life every time, you can put a +1/+1 counter on a creature with Unspeakable Signal and then sacrifice it to Razaketh, the Foulblooded's ability for repeatable tutor effects. There are probably more efficient ways to do this, but black has always been power for a price right?
- There is a slight evoke sub-theme running here as well. In a deck running white it might be a little more effective since the Grixis colors we have don't get the greatest evokers. There certainly is some space for exploration if you feel inclined.
- The Scarab God will more than likely be its own deck of mine eventually. I'm not traditionally a blue/black player but this card has me jazzed to build around. Abusing "enters the battlefield," abilities and controlling what the opponents might get back with Living End seems pretty darn good to me. I think it could be one of the most popular Dimir colored commanders in time. You heard it hear folks!
Thank you all again for stopping by again this week. Keep sending suggestions for deck ideas too! I'd love to feature a 60-card deck and transform it into a Commander deck for the kitchen tables. It has been a blast writing this series and I'm glad that you the readers have too. See you next time!