Archetune-Up - It Was a Graveyard Smash?

(Niambi, Esteemed Speaker | Art by Eric Deschamps)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, a weekly article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme pages!

A few Fridays ago, I decided to do an impromptu stream on Twitch where I brewed a couple decks for this article series. It was during this stream that a good friend of mine from Twitter, Aaron offhandedly suggested that I take a peek at what themes Niambi, Esteemed Speaker had to offer, so I scooted over to her page and... well...

Unsurprisingly, a commander with only 27 decks to their name didn't have any themes to utilize!

Despite this minor setback, I figured that this would be an article where I could do something a bit different and ascribe a theme to her, then write the article backwards. I uploaded the average Niambi deck onto Archidekt and got to work. Looking at it for a few moments with the people in my chat, I was confused: why were these cards in here?

Not only are we not a go-wide deck, but we want to cheat things into play with Gateway? And why is Oath of Jace included? The deck has four 'walkers, sure, by why run this and Oath of Teferi, too? It made no sense... until I also saw that people were running Zetalpa, Primal Dawn.

When I saw this Elder Dino, it triggered something in my brain. It was at this time that I knew that something was up. I'm used to WotC throwing Zetalpa into Commander decks if they need a win condition, since they've done it two years in a row now, but why here? Why are actual people running Zetalpa in a Niambi deck, of all places? Then it hit me like a truck.

+ = !

I was expecting Niambi to be a slightly different take on Azorius's normal Bounce Theme that it supports, but instead, people are building Azorius Reanimator with her! That is incredibly cool!

Let's take a look at how neat this list is:

Average Niambi

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Commander (1)
Creatures (24)
Sorceries (7)
Enchantments (8)
Planeswalkers (4)
Artifacts (10)
Instants (12)
Lands (34)

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Without knowing any better, this deck looks like a mess that's all over the place. But, once we understand that it's a reanimator deck, everything makes a lot more sense. What can be done to support this sweet little build, though? Let's check out EDHREC Reanimator Theme and see if we can glean anything from it and help this list succeed!

Reanimation Station

Since there isn't an "Azorius Reanimator" theme on EDHREC proper, the cards I pulled from this theme come from the Mono-White Reanimator Theme and the Dimir Reanimator Theme, respectively.

First up on the list is Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Avacyn is one of the most powerful white cards in Commander, and for good reason. The ability to give every single permanent on your board indestructible on top of being an 8/8 flying vigilant beater on her own is incredible. With all that said, though, she costs a hefty eight mana to balance that power out. Luckily in this deck, we can pitch her into the yard with Niambi or another discard spell, then fish her back out with one of our many reanimation spells to cheat her into play! Just make sure that you have a Counterspell available to counter the inevitable Swords to Plowshares that comes her way!

Lyra Dawnbringer and Gisela, the Broken Blade are in a similar class of card in terms of this deck. They aren't the most powerful reanimation targets, but they are both incredible creatures that help us stay alive longer and can deter threats. Lyra is a legendary Baneslayer Angel, which automatically makes her better for this deck since we can discard her to Niambi. Lyra also pumps up all Angels and gives them lifelink, which is great since a lot of the reanimation targets in this deck are Angels! Gisela, on the other hand, is an aggressive early threat that we can either discard or trade off early, and then can be brought back with Bruna, the Fading Light, which was already in the deck. In most decks, trying to assemble Brisela, Voice of NIghtmares is a bit of a pipe dream, but in a deck like this with so much reanimation and filtering, I think that it could happen much more often!

Next, we move onto one of blue's best targets to bring back from the grave: Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur! Jin is both powerful and crippling, shredding opponents' hands to nothing while we get to draw a full grip each turn. This lets us easily outpace our opponents with card advantage on top of setting up future reanimation targets since we will almost assuredly discard down to hand size each turn! Much like his fellow Praetor, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Jin is a card we are going to want to cheat into play as often as we can in order to swing games wildly in our favor.

As much fun as reanimating big creatures is, we need to make sure that we can get there. This means the deck needs smoothing, and lots of it.

This is where cards like Windfall and Compulsive Research come in. Both of these cards filter our hand perfectly, drawing us a handful of cards and letting us pitch the ones that we don't need. Windfall does so in a very heavy-handed way, forcing the entire board to rid themselves of their hand and draw a fresh grip. Compulsive Research on the other hand nets us three cards and makes us discard two unless we discard a land card. In most decks, we would opt to discard a land, but there are plenty of situations where we may actually want to discard both cards, which is pretty nice change of pace!

Wall of Omens is a perfect card for this deck. It comes down early, cantrips, blocks early threats, and is a target for Niambi to bounce once she comes into play, netting us another card! It isn't flashy, but Wall of Omens does everything we want. The only way it could be better is if this Wall was legendary, and if that's my only complaint, I'll consider myself more than happy to include it!

Which Card? Dis Card!

With an average CMC of nearly 4.25, I determined that the deck still needed some smoothing in order for it to function and not fall flat on its face. This deck needs ways to make sure that these huge spells don't get stuck in our hand and muck up our gameplan. As such, I turned to the Esper DIscard Theme to find ways of... well... discarding!

I could have utilized cheap cantrips like Preordain, Ponder, or Serum Visions since they go a long way in setting up your draws, but since the graveyard is such an integral part to this deck, I decided to go with some more mana-intensive, yet synergistic cards.

Frantic Search, Careful Consideration, and Fact or Fiction were my picks from this theme. All of these spells are fantastic at filtering through cards, and in some cases even get you ahead on card advantage while doing it! Another important piece with these is that they're all instants. Due to Niambi having flash and an activated ability, I want to ensure that we always have the mana available to either cast her or activate her when necessary. This deck functions on an axis akin to a combo deck since we need to ensure that we're drawing specific pieces in a specific order, and all of these spells allow that to happen.

This is the first time in quite a few months that Archetune-Up features a Lighting Round! Just as a refresher, this is a quick blurb about a handful of cards that work really well in this deck, but came from a smattering of different places, so I didn't want to dedicate an entire section to them. These cards aren't part of the 99 and instead are part of the deck's "Maybeboard" that can be added in or swapped, depending on the pilot's preferences.

  • Volrath's Shapeshifter is a neat and fun way to "cheat" creatures into play whenever you need... as long as they're the top card of your graveyard. This ability is great for copying cards like Avacyn, Angel of Hope, but less so for Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, so use at your own discretion.
  • If you need another discard outlet, I would suggest Forbid. This Couterspell is a recurrable Cancel, which, on its own, is incredibly strong. Then add in its its Buyback cost of discarding cards and *chef's kiss* it's exactly what we're in the market for!
  • False Defeat and Profound Journey are two more white reanimation spells that this deck can utilize if you want some more. The deck has quite a few already, but I thought it would be good to mention these two options as well.
  • This deck is a bit light on blue reanimation targets, so I might consider Stormtide Leviathan, Consecrated Sphinx, and Agent of Treachery to fill that role. All three are very potent and can wrest games form opponents' hands on their own through their unfair and powerful abilities.
  • The last card that I want to mention is Scholar of the Ages. Scholar is one of the best cards to utilize recurring our recursion spells! If we choose to reanimate Scholar, we can buy back two reanimation spells and keep the graveyard fun going indefinitely and build a board back from nothing in just a turn or two!

Brushing the Dirt From Our Robes

I have to say, when I started this deck list, this is not where I expected to end up.

Normally, Azorius is a boring, stuffy color combination that often has issues innovating, which is why I was so incredibly excited to see a list like this come around.

Prior to this deck, I haven't found a reanimator list that spoke to me. I think the combination of colors and innovation thereof is what really won me over. I love seeing commanders utilized in really fun ways, especially when they make me feel like the deck they're leading could be a Time Spiral-like list in terms of the color-bending feel.

Regardless of my opinion, how do you feel about this deck and strategy? Have you seen something similar to this before, and if so, what colors (aside from black, of course)? Do you know of any neat brews that bend the color pie and do so in an interesting way? Make sure you let me know down below!

I also want to take a second to mention that I will be taking a bit of a break for the next few weeks. I need some time to recharge considering the state of the world and things going on in my personal life. Archetune-Up will return afterwards on a twice monthly schedule afterwards, so I'll see you then!

As always, if you’d like to reach me, I’m active on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Riding the Grave-y Train

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Commander (1)
Creatures (24)
Sorceries (9)
Planeswalkers (2)
Artifacts (10)
Enchantments (6)
Instants (12)
Lands (36)

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.

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