February 18, 2016

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Going Rogue: Modern 5-Colour Human Reanimator

Hello and welcome back to Going Rogue, where winning isn't the goal but it often happens anyway!

We've taken a bit of a break from the sillies lately, focusing on the best card for this, the worst cards for that, or brewing meta-answer to big, bad Eldrazi. If you've been coming here for your weekly dose of eye rolling, and found yourself disappointed with halfway decent suggestions of how to play competitive Magic - put your mind at ease, today's deck is going to deliver the sweet, janky goodness.


Yup, it's a one-shotter.

Many of the key cards in this deck actually saw life in Standard together, but much like other instances where this has been the case, like Eldrazi Tribal, Affinity, and Splinter Twin (R.I.P.), the deck gains valuable access to a wealth of other great tools when the card pool expands.

The Standard version used an infinite loop consisting of Angel of Glory's Rise, Fiend Hunter, Cartel Aristocrat, and Huntmaster of the Fells, enabled by Unburial Rites to create unlimited Wolf tokens and gain infinite life. While certainly powerful, it had three things going against it:

  • It requires five specific cards to all be in the graveyard.
  • Four colours without fetch lands is very ambitious.
  • While Innistrad-Return to Ravnica block graveyard enabling was very good (Mulch, Faithless Looting, Grisly Salvage, it didn't have access to two of the deck's best cards...

When combined with Faithless Looting, Golgari Thugs can self-mill up to eight cards per turn, meanwhile acting as as a fantastic recursive blocker on its own, buying a key turn or two.
JVP? More like MVP. Dig a little, pitch a little, replay Grisly Salvage? Yes please. Jace is not only great in this deck, he's also disposable as he adds to the fuel for Kessig Malcontents.

Getting it up to Modern Standards

Beyond a key synergy in gaining access to Dredge, the deck also benefits from its Modern porting with the additions of Noble Hierarch, Grim Lavamancer, Big Game Hunter, Collected Company, and possibly most-importantly, Meddling Mage. Meanwhile from within Innistrad, we add a solid piece of tech in Deranged Assistant.

With these additions, the deck sees a drastic improvement in speed, endurance in the long game, and even has a weak-but-passable beatdown game if the matchup calls for it.

Modern is a "Turn 4 Format" - is it Fast Enough?

Not even close. Although a strong draw and good luck with early milling will easily surpass 20 damage by turn four, your expectation should be to have to wait two or three turns longer. The thing that makes this bearable is that one of the best ways for this deck to enable its combo-kill is simply.... blocking.

Every creature in the deck comes with the extra bit of rules text "Sacrifice this creature: Prevent all combat damage that target attacking creature would deal this turn. Deal 1-4 damage to target player in a few turns from now." Sweet! In this way, the deck plays a lot like Scapeshift, with blocking in place of its countermagic while you build up the critical mass needed to get the job done.

You do need to play carefully though. First and foremost is the issue of graveyard fragility. With little reactive interaction, a resolved Scavenging Ooze makes the game as good as over, so use your Meddling Mages wisely. Secondly, tiptoeing around the intricacies of a five-colour deck can be a dangerous proposition (the colours are fairly evenly distributed, too.) This is mitigated by no card requiring two mana of the same colour, and a fetch-shock-basic mana-base that is set up specifically to support all possible plays over the first two turns, while also being able to withstand one Ghost Quarter activation, provided you haven't milled away the needed basic. Once you're at three or more mana, the critical issue just becomes keeping White available for Unburial Rites.

Anyway, with no further delay, let's see this pile:

Match-ups - How does it fare?

  • Good match-ups include aggressive decks like Zoo, Infect, Burn, and classic Tribal decks. Early blockers prevent a ton of damage while furthering our win condition, and a Gnaw to the Bone out of the side does an awful lot of work.
  • Decent match-ups include midrange and control decks, including Tron variants, with the games basically hinging on suppressing graveyard hate and counterspells long enough to go off. Meddling Mage is absolutely clutch.
  • Combo decks are pretty bad match-ups. Ad Nauseam is faster than us, and decks like Scapeshift and Kiki-Chord pack various ways to interact with our shenanigans. Some flashback cards out of the sideboard help, but overall these can be challenging match-ups. Affinity is also fairly tough due to its evasion. Adding more sideboard Ancient Grudges is a good way to improve this matchup if you see a lot of Affinity in your meta.

This is a deck that I've been toying around online with for the better part of the last year, meeting varying levels of success as graveyard hate has gone in and out of favour. While I wouldn't advise playing it in a tournament right now - thanks to the rise of Eldrazi tribal and the higher-than-usual levels of mainboard graveyard hate - this is a fun joke deck to show up with when the time is right.

It's also very easy to budget-ize, as long as you have a decent land collection, as Noble Hierarch can be Harabaz Druid, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy can be Magus of the Bazaar or Thought Courier, and Collected Company can be done without. You can even cut colours if you like - a straight-up Mardu (White, Black, Red) version would probably do just fine, if only a little bit slower, and requiring something in place of Meddling Mage. Cheesy decks typically have a lot of budget options, and this is no divergence from that trend.

Anyway, that's all for today. I hope you enjoyed this silly brew and even consider testing it out and taking home some unfair wins with it. Tune in next week for another groan-worthy approach to winning games. Until then, have fun, and may the force be with brew.