Alternative Outcomes — Breya
Welcome to the home of Alternative Outcomes, a series of self-expression through the development and brewing of alternative builds, often of popular commanders. The name’s “Dev”, and I will be your guide on these journeys. I have proudly played Magic the Gathering player for over fifteen years with competitive experience across multiple formats. EDH, to me, is a brewer's paradise with nigh unlimited possibilities. Alternative Outcomes seeks to use the power of EDHREC to help identify key cards and unique interactions in existing archetypes that help bring our alternative brews to life.
Breya is a hot topic commander as of late, and is obviously a solid combo commander. However, what happens if you do not feel like playing combo? I have for you a lovely brew, Breya, the Grave Shaper. This Breya list makes thematic use of artifacts and her unique color palette to wheel, loot, and rummage our way to victory.
How to Kill Friends and Influence Dead People
Reanimator has been my personal favorite deck archetype, as I love the concept of using my graveyard has a second hand and “cheating” threats into play from that zone.
The first step is to identify our win conditions and primary threats. To do this, we use EDHREC for recommendations based on Daretti, Scrap Savant and Sharuum the Hegemon. Daretti’s minus 2 ability is thematically how our deck intends to work so his recommendations may apply in our case. Sharrum is very similar to Breya and will show us cards used in the rest of our color palette.
The cards I note for the win conditions and threats:
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur acts as a stax piece that practically locks everyone else down unless they had removal or are lucky enough to top deck.
Platinum Angel keeps someone from winning until we do.
Platinum Emperion prevents us from losing to combat damage and life loss until we can win.
Wurmcoil Engine synergies very well with everything in the deck. The wurm becomes a synergy train we can ride to victory, making this a solid reanimation target.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk clears the board and then gets some beats in.
Combustible Gearhulk fuels our strategy of putting things in our graveyard, a win win.
Duplicant is a clone and removal all in one? Yes please!
Sphinx of the Steel Wind is basically Akroma, great stats and some decent life gain.
Magister Sphinx takes care of those “infinite life” folks. Since we are don't run a combo, this allows us to end them regardless.
Darksteel Forge makes it hard to remove our stuff. Sure, remove from play is common in EDH, even more so at the high levels, but since we can cheat it out, this card makes it considerably harder for them to remove our threats and therefore is worth running
Now that our threats are established, let's look at how to get them onto the field. Remember that talk about wheels, looting, and rummage? That’s the secret! Combining those tools with access to all our tutors should quickly get us exactly what we need into play.
Daretti’s list shows him running various wheel-effects like Reforge the Soul and Wheel of Fortune. If you click on “Wheel of Fortune” you can see the top cards played alongside this one, including the popular blue wheel, Windfall. This should satisfy our wheel count.
Loot and Loot Again
As looting is primarily a blue ability, we find Thirst for Knowledge in Sharuum's list of signature cards. Select it to see additional blue instant and sorceries often played of similar ability such as Frantic Search and Compulsive Research.
The Rummage Bin
Finally, we have our rummage effects. Rummage is red's loot effect, just with more chaos. Instead of drawing and then discarding, you discard first and then draw. Daretti’s list focuses on rummage effects for its draw engine, so we can look there for ideal choices such as Faithless Looting, the new Cathartic Reunion and the well known Tormenting Voice.
Now that we have our threats identified and a way to bring them into the graveyard, we need to discover the top ways to bring them back.
Daretti, Scrap Savant's minus two ability is ideal for our purpose.
Scrap Mastery is a fantastic way to get extreme value post wheel or after a boardwipe.
Goblin Welder is the perfect one drop that lets us exploit our strategy early game.
Trash for Treasure is a solid card that we can cast early game with good ramp.
Buried Alive is my favorite graveyard combo tutor.
Entomb is another graveyard tutor
Animate Dead is a classic reanimator.
Dance of the Dead is a little expensive, but the tax is not too bad for getting us so far ahead
Living Death can save us post a boardwipe game loss.
Exhume is great because, ideally, our creatures are scarier than theirs.
Reanimate because, in EDH, we can afford the life loss when bringing back a reasonable threat.
As usual we include a removal package and counter magic suite to keep our threats alive. Just like combo, our ability to win often hinges on the survival of one or two cards. Due to this fragility, we need counter magic to get in for the win. On the Sharuum list you can see the inclusions of:
Swords to Plowshares is the best removal spell in EDH.
Path to Exile is most likely the next best removal spell.
Dispatch is fantastic in our artifact heavy list, since it quickly ties Swords to PlowShares in power.
Swan Song is a single U counterspell. 'Nuff said.
Counterspell is the one that started it all.
Like combo, reanimator is about speed and landing our threat quickly. For this reason, this list keeps the average CMC below three, runs fast mana, and a number of cheap mana rocks.
To finalize the list, I threw together a modest mana base that should provide easy access to the colors you need.
Breya, the Grave Shaper
Pilot to Co-Pilot
Now for the fun part, how to actually go about piloting this list. The first couple of turns focus on getting out our early game ramp in the form of fast mana, signets, and talismans. This strategy allows us to have the mana available to play multiple spells per turn for our reanimation turn and all turns following. On turn three the focus should move to dumping our threats into the graveyard. Then, by turn four, you should have access to enough mana to both attempt the reanimation of your threat and protect it. This is the key reason why stronger decks strive to maintain a low average CMC. The ability to both perform a powerful action and protect it from other players is one of the primary separators of power levels among decks.
Now that our threats are successfully reanimated, we enter the mid-game. With an ample pool of mana, we should be able to protect our threats or obtain new ones, while keeping our opponent's threats manageable with cheap targeted removal. Ideally the mid-game is where our reanimator list ends the match.
If we are against a heavy control or stax opponent, the healthy amount of draw and the ability to reanimate many threats should allow us to keep alive in the late game as we try to 'out-value' our opponents. The advantage at this stage of the game is that we only need one threat alive and actionable to win. This allows us to get around Ghostly Prison and Propaganda effects that can lock out decks that “go wide”.
In the end, this is a traditional reanimator list that sets itself up for a strong mid-game transition. Primarily using the graveyard as a second hand can provide resilience against sweepers and many effects common in EDH. I hope you enjoy piloting Breya, the Grave Shaper as much as I did brewing the list. Until next time!