Preview Review - The Reanimation Station

(Graveyard Shift | Art By Liiga Smilshkalne)

You're Never Gonna Keep Me Down

Welcome back to Preview Review, where we take a look at cards from recent sets you might have missed. These are cards I’ve seen performing at my table, so maybe they can perform at yours. As per usual I’ll be including a commander recommendation for each card. Let’s get into the review!

This article is going to cover a suite of sleeper reanimate spells. Even if you’re not in a graveyard strategy, it’s important to run recursion in our decks so that when our opponents rightly blow up our big threats, they’re only a spell away from coming back to the battlefield. We’ve been spoiled for choice in recent sets, and lots of these options can be procured for minimal financial investment. All my choices aim to be reasonably accessible at time of writing, so let's see if we can’t uncover some sweet tech.

Never Tell Me the Odds

We’re working backwards in this article and we’ll start with the recently released set: Phyrexia: All Will Be One.

Against All Odds is a modal reanimation spell. This allows you the flexibility of returning an artifact or a creature card straight to the battlefield at sorcery speed. The flexibility doesn’t stop there, though - if your graveyard is empty, this card pulls double duty as a blink spell. Don’t overlook this card’s ability to target artifacts. If you run powerful Equipment that might be targeted for removal, you might be happy to reanimate Shadowspear or Sword of Hearth and Home.

My recommendation here would be to try this card in Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines.

Here you can double up that enter-the-battlefield effect when your commander is in play. You can also hit a surprising number of key creatures in that strategy at mana value three or less. Just ask Eldrazi Displacer, Flickerwisp, or Charming Prince.

It’s A Bit Of A Fixer Upper

Revisiting The Brothers' War, we have Recommission. This card does a lot of work for two mana. As the average mana curve of a commander deck keeps coming down, you’ll always have targets for Recommission.

Use this card like a Limited player and play aggressively in the early turns. Make some key blocks and trade for your opponents' early-game creatures. Then a two-mana investment brings your creature back, and with a +1/+1 counter, too.

My recommendation here would be in Falco Spara, Pactweaver. That +1/+1 counter can put in a lot of work, like giving you a counter to Proliferate in the early turns, turning your innocuous creature into a threat that grows with the game. If we've already got some power on the board, we can easily turn that counter into some card advantage instead.

I Don’t Feel So Good

I like to include cards that pull double duty in my decks when I can. Each card in our deck is a valuable slot, and we ideally don’t want to leave needed effects out. Remember, you might not be the only player at the table looking to utilize their graveyard. Nurgle's Conscription allows us to cherry-pick an opponent’s best creature while exiling the remaining cards.

I’d see the graveyard exile as incidental here. We’re spending five mana, so we’d like to get a fairly decent creature. This can come in the form of a big threat, or a key combo or utility piece. Five mana might seem like a lot to pay for a Devoted Druid, but it might be better with you than with your opponent. If you’re not sure what to go for, instant speed means we can hold this card up in response to a reanimation or Regrowth spell from our opponent. Let them show you what they value most so you can take it instead.

My recommendation here would be to try this card in Ratadrabik of Urborg. While a utility creature is nice, there's nothing more fun than stealing a cool legendary creature from our opponent. If they're milling their key reanimation targets into their graveyard then all we have to do is wait for that perfect moment. If we're stealing a big splashy legendary from our opponent, why not make sure it sticks around? Ratadrabik will make us a copy even if the card we steal gets removed!

The Sleeper Has Awoken

Dominaria United Commander brought us some underrated inclusions for our decks, and Activated Sleeper is a card I have seen overperform time after time.

Activated Sleeper acts as pseudo-reanimation, leaving the target in the graveyard but entering as a copy of any creature that was put there this turn. The real spice with this one is that we can use it on our opponents' creatures, too. If there’s a problematic creature on an opponent’s board, let one of your other opponents remove it, then steal it for yourself with Activated Sleeper. The sheer flexibility here ranks this highly on my list of newly printed reanimate options.

My recommendation here would be to try this card in Oskar, Rubbish Reclaimer. Oskar cares about the cards in our graveyard for his own cost reduction. Activated Sleeper lets us leave the target card in the graveyard so we get our creature back while reducing the cost of our Commander. It’s a win/win!

Let Me Patch That Up For You

Speaking of Streets of New Capenna, let's peer back a little further. The set provided a glut of options for cheap and cheerful reanimation spells. First I’d like to talk about Patch Up. This card is an absolute powerhouse in the right deck. At its floor, it brings us back a three-mana-value creature. As I’ve mentioned in this article, that covers a lot more than you might think. Where this card shines, however, is reanimating three one-mana-value creatures, or a combination of a one- and a two-mana-value creature.

My recommendation for Patch Up would be in Varina, Lich Queen. Zombies are impactful at all mana values, so use Patch Up to return Cryptbreaker, Stitcher's Supplier, and Gravecrawler, then tap them to Cryptbreaker to replace that Patch Up in your hand. Seems pretty good!

Working Late?

While we’re working late, I’d like to talk about Graveyard Shift. Shirking off that three-mana-value limitation, this card can set us up for impactful plays or possibly that game-winning turn. This card returns a creature to the battlefield without any additional stipulation. It does, however, come with the upside of gaining flash if we’re able to hit that five different mana value requirement.

This allows us to hold up our defenses, reanimate a blocker during an opponent's combat step, then make an impactful trade. Keeping Graveyard Shift in our hand until it’s nearly our turn and casting it on our opponent’s end step is where this card can really shine. Use it to bring back that huge threat so it can be ready to bring ruin to your opponents. Haste is one of the few keywords Atraxa, Grand Unifier doesn’t have, so why not pseudo-grant it to her with Graveyard Shift? Untap with a 7/7 flier and a fresh hand full of cards!

My recommendation here is really any deck that has lots of threats that can be dumped into the graveyard, but in colors that lack haste on those threats. For completeness's sake, let’s also say Syr Konrad, the Grim, because why not get a little something extra for your Razaketh, the Foulblooded leaving the graveyard?

Pass Turn

And that's a wrap! We’ve covered some underrated choices that have really brought some life into our reanimation strategies. Do you run them in your decks? Agree or disagree with me on these picks? Let me know in the comments, or you can chat Magic with me on Twitter @PrinceofBielTan

See you in the next one!

Joshua is a Medical Researcher from the UK. He's played Magic since Dragons of Tarkir and loves all things Commander, the more colours the better! When not playing Commander, he can be found insisting Jund is still a viable deck in Modern and painting tiny plastic miniatures on Twitter @PrinceofBielTan

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