This is a report on the tournament I was looking forward to the most since my hometown Grand Prix in Dortmund 2006. The MGM Continental Cup 2018 was announced with a great promise: players from all around Europe will gather and fight for a very nice trophy. While the Metagame Masters series in Berlin is big, there hasn’t been a 7-round Highlander tournament in recent years. For me, preparations started quite early, since I wanted to play a new deck. After playing 5-color Goodstuff/Midrange for at least six MGMs, I wanted to try something else—I wanted to cheat big creatures into play.
So I decided to play Reanimator.
Since I had no practice with the deck whatsoever, I chose to use the 13th Metagame Masters (MGM) as testing ground.
And boy, I really needed some practice with the deck.
I learned a lot—especially not to include Anger in the same deck that also contains Oath of Druids.
But games like the one that I won after a Ruination left me with a single land in play showed me how
unfair fun Reanimator can be.
For the 13th MGM, I started with a netdecked list. The only change was to cut the Final Parting and to add a Dack Fayden, because I think that the deck already plays enough five-drops. After some vigorous testing—for the first time, we were motivated enough to hold weekly testing sessions—I found a configuration that looked promising enough to take it to Halle, so let us talk about some of the card choices and changes.
This is somewhat straight forward. Back then, I thought that the deck doesn’t need any of the four-mana reanimation spells, e.g., Zombify, because they often are too slow. Instant reanimation however is very good, that is why I added a Shallow Grave to the deck, as most of the creatures have an enter the battlefield ability and a timely block or a surprise attack make some matchups better. The last unusual spell is Unburial Rites, which somewhat contradict my distaste for the four-mana reanimation spells. However, the ability to flashback is makes it significantly better. Before I added Unburial Rites, Entomb was a somewhat dead draw in the late game, but now it searches for both: creatures and reanimation spells.
After Halle: I would add at least one of the four mana reanimation spells, e.g., Zombify, because sometimes the deck runs out of gas to early. Maybe even two are necessary, but that’s something we are currently testing.
Nothing special here, but I’m not happy with the current configuration.
After Halle: I torn between keeping and cutting Chart a Course. While it’s one of the few discard outlets that doesn’t create a card disadvantage, it’s quite slow. Two mana is a lot for only this type of effect. Also, I wasn’t happy with Fact or Fiction, because it’s easier to split the cards for an opponent when you play a deck like Reanimator.
One thing we are quite sure about after a lot of testing is the importance of being able to cast the creatures. Hence, we went down on the uncastable cards. Still, we think the correct creature configuration is an open problem, especially for the current meta.
After Halle: Shroud is an important keyword, because every removal spell will be targeted at the one or two creatures you reanimate. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many useful creatures with it (or Hexproof). Also, Karakas is played in so many decks, that legendary creatures can be a huge disadvantage. I’m definitely going to test Empyrial Archangel, because it has evasion and shroud.
Fortunately, there isn’t that much graveyard hate running around. A Scavenging Ooze and Deathrite Shaman are bad and must be handled immediately. Some of the protection from creatures is already mentioned as enabler, see Collective Brutality, Fireblast, and Izzet Charm. Cards doing double duty as enablers are one reason why this deck is so hard to fight. Especially Collective Brutality is amazing in the Control matchup.
Non-basic hate is another bullet I would like to dodge. Magus of the Moon is the easiest to handle, as we play enough creature removal and basic lands. Bloodmoon and Back to Basic are much harder to deal with. The former is very hard to beat and requires us to already have our Swamp and Forest in play. The best bet is to not let it hit the board.
After Halle: I want to add Gitaxian Probe and maybe Peek to the deck. These two cards have been heavily advertised by a teammate and fellow Reanimator player. Everything else seems good.
Well, here we have all the remaining non-land cards. I will not change anything—unless cards are getting banned—because this is all just good stuff. Putting Dragon Breath into the Graveyard with Oath is very nice. Other than that, we play all cheap tutors. Here, I don’t like Mausoleum Sectres, as it can only look for reanimation spells, but not lands, discard outlets, and creatures.
One thing I like a lot when playing Reanimator is the diversity in strategies that we can combine in this shell. Of course, we hope to simply reanimate a big creature and win the game this way. Unfortunately, most games are not this straight forward. To have a chance in longer games, I really like the Life from the Loam recursion and land tool box this deck can support. Life from the Loam is a beast in combination with Bazaar of Baghdad (if you have the time). Also, the tutors for the lands are great, because they support both strategies: Reanimation and Oath of Druids.
After Halle: Maze of Ith is going to be cut. It’s too slow and cannot handle multiple threats. Everything else seems good so far.
The deck must support 4.5 colors, where the only two white cards are Enlightened Tutor and the Flashback of Unburial Rites. Please note the Savannah, which is really important for the turn one Enlightened Tutor into turn two Oath of Druids play.
After Halle: I want Scrubland. Adding Unburial Rites is too much of a stretch for the current mana base. This will also make fetching for black easier, which felt sometimes unfeasible during the MGC Continental Cup. I’m also thinking about cutting the Creeping Tar Pit, because coming into play tapped can be a huge burden and stifle an otherwise fast start. On the other hand its late game potential is great.
Other than that, there is some fast mana in form of Lotus Petal and Dark Ritual. I personally do not like Mox Diamond, as I only want it in 3+ Land hands, which are usually not keep-able (with or without Mox Diamond).
Both cards can be responsible for very broken starts so they’ll stay in the deck for now.
The location is very nice. Lots of space, chairs for each player and after the first round tables are adjusted to accommodate for the not maxed out number of players, giving some tables a little bit more space. I’ve heard that some sort of ventilation system will be available next year, which would make this one of my favorite locations for Highlander tournaments. The tournament started with roughly 45 minutes delay, which was a lot for a seven-round tournament with 60-minute rounds, but spoiler alert if you don’t make Top 8 you don’t have to care.
He won the first game, beating me down with a Kari Zev and a Kessig Wolf run. Being able to block at most the monkey is just not enough. According to the life points, I have won the next game easily by reanimating something big. The third game is a quite interesting one that shows the vulnerability to graveyard hate: he started with Deathrite Shaman and had no lands in the following four or five turns. Since I only had reanimation spells that target in my hand, I wasn’t able to do anything at this point in the game. Fortunately, I cast a discard spell right on time to let him discard a Bloodmoon. With Wasteland and Woodfall Primus support, I was able to restrict him on mana further on, leading to my victory.
Our fist game took some time, but in the end Karakas was just too good against the creatures that I had to my disposal that game. In the second game his plays got even slower as the end of the round approached. Asking to play in a reasonable speed just made him salty (according to him that was the reason that he lost the second game, which he was very vocal about). I guess, there always has to be such an opponent …
I have no memories of the first game, but I lost it. An Iona naming green won a short second game. In the third game, a reanimated Grisebrand is not enough to keep up with his pressure, so I lost an (according to my life point notes) close third game .
In the first game, after handling a Magus of the Moon, I got completely destroyed by a Ruination, which leaves me with no lands in play. Since there already were juicy targets for reanimation spells in my graveyard, I kept playing … but it wasn’t enough. A Thing in the Ice finished my quickly after it flipped. Another early Ruination also won the second game, cast on turn four using Mana Drain mana.
I won the first game through a Karakas, thanks to Woodfall Primus. My Wasteland handled his Maze of Ith and the way is clear. In the second game, I was ahead all the time (at least that’s what I was thinking). Going down to ten with a Primeval Titan in play, I got completely wrecked by a Price of Progress that I should have played around by not getting so many non-basics with the titan. Unfortunately, we cannot finish the third game: my opponent was (close to) dead on board with no cards in hand thanks to my Jin-Gitaxias and only one land in play, while I had a Stubborn Denial in hand. I get him down to ten in my last extra turn but that’s all I can do.
The first game is one of the most unreal I had the whole day. He starts with Forest Llanowar Elf, a play I was really happy about because I had an Oath of Druids in hand. Next turn, he continues with Sylvian Cariatid, Gaea’s Cradle, and more manadorks. Since I assumed that my fatties will be better than his, I just slam my Oath of Druids. Then, he plays a Woodland Bellower, searching for a Reclamation Sage that destroys my Oath of Druids. With more than eight power on the board, he easily wins and I can complain how I lost to (nearly) Mono Green with an Oath on turn two. In the second game, I cannot find any creatures, even though I dredged Life from the Loam at least four times. He continues to play creatures which soon finish me off.
He’s color screwed during the whole first game and I finish him off with one of my fatties (I cannot remember which one). Since he only had one Plains and multiple lands producing colorless mana in play, I assume that he is on Mono White. In the second game he shows me some Mountains, but a fast Iona naming white seals the deal and the match. This was she shortest round the whole day, so we play a few additional games, where he also shows me some Stax elements in his deck, which just didn’t perform during our match.
So the tournament ends quite unsuccessful for me. Still, I had a lot of fun, talked to a lot of new and old players. For me, the MGM Continental Cup lived up to its hype. It was the best tournament in years and I look forward to its next iteration.
All participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the banlist. I personally really like the current state of the format. Our format feels very diverse, there are a lot of decks capable of winning bigger tournaments and no deck feels oppressive. Therefore, I currently would not ban anything. If you feel like testing new territories, you could unban Birthing Pod. I don’t think that it’s too dangerous—but if it turns out to be too strong, we can simply ban it again. All other cards on the unban watchlist cannot be unbanned without risking to put one deck over the top (Gifts Ungiven) or warping all creature matchups around them (Skullclamp and Umezawa’s Jitte).
The last (hopefully) big tournament this year will be the fourth Highlander Westfalen Masters, which takes place in Dortmund on 22.12.2018. Let us make this the biggest Westfalen Masters yet, which would require more than 21 players. Proxies are allowed, so this is the perfect opportunity to test new decks. Our format needs tournaments like that to allure new players—and of course to give players the chance to play—so let’s make it happen. I hope to see you there.