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Gale / Scion: Dimir Reanimator Control (EDH / Commander)

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Primer updated September 19, 2022

Reanimating around timing restrictions with Gale

> Introduction

For years I've been brewing UB graveyard decks. Most of them have revolved around The Scarab God, and most of them have felt too slow, tribal, had unreliable wincons, had wincons that had nothing to do with my graveyard strategy, or wincons that were too aggressive for my playgroup. Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy / Scion of Halaster is a pairing that lit up my deckbuilding imagination once I realized that Gale's trigger 1) allowed double mileage out of my graveyard filtering instants and reanimation sorceries and 2) allowed sorceries to get around timing restrictions. I built the deck and have been iterating it for several weeks, scoring several wins in person and on TTS. It really hummed and I enjoyed tinkering with it. I saw a nice primer post on a different deck in the r/cEDH subreddit and thought that was a nice format. I figured I'd write a primer for my deck here 1) convince myself of my choices and talk through them and 2) get feedback.

> Overview

This is a spellslinger reanimator deck that looks to outvalue our opponents early and often with cheated bombs, closing the game out with said bombs or combos. While I do have combos in the deck, it is purposely tuned for my meta, which is why you'll see no hand tutors, Buried Alive, more aggressive infinite combos, or fast mana. I'll point these out in the Notable Exclusions section. Feel free to power your deck up with these additions. I'm not simply missing them, is the point.

> Strategy

The deck is fairly open in terms of game plan right from the start. A perfect hand would have 2-3 lands, ramp, graveyard filtering, a bomb, and a cheap reanimator spell. Feel free to aggressively mulligan; don't be afraid of getting down to 5 cards in hand to set yourself up, you've got two cards in the command zone that represent a lot of card advantage.

Early game, the goal is fairly simple. Ramp yourself, filter your bombs into the bin, reanimate bombs to apply pressure on your opponents, and set up your wincons. Gale lets you get a lot of mileage out of your instants and sorceries. Recognize that Gale's trigger allows you to sidestep timing restrictions. When you cast an instant, a Gale trigger goes on the stack and you can do things, for example, on your opponent's turn:

  1. {Fierce Guardianship cast} > {Gale trigger}

  2. {Fierce Guardianship cast} > {Reanimate cast from Graveyard}

  3. {Fierce Guardianship cast} > {Reanimate resolves, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur ETBs}

  4. {Fierce Guardianship resolves, opponent's spell is countered}

Just things like that let you get a lot of mileage out of your cards.

Ultimately you're looking to set yourself up through graveyard filtering and Entomb type effects for a synergistic draining type effect (Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Sheoldred, the Apocalypse), Rise of the Dark Realms, or combo to win the game. Lord of the Forsaken is our MVP for hardcasting. Gale gives us a trigger to cast a spell out of the graveyard. With Lord of the Forsaken out, you can do something as simple as cast Consider from hand in order to get a Gale trigger and cast Rise of the Dread Realms or Exsanguinate out of the bin paying life for all the colorless you want (Note Karn's Sylex thoughtfully does not shut down mana based abilities!). Sheoldred, The Apocalypse, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Exsanguinate are also chosen specifically to stabilize your life total. A Hail Mary with a single Gary or an Exsanguinate for a handful of mana still gains you a decent plug of life against 3+ opponents.

Our non-infinite combo line is Necrotic Ooze on the Battlefield with Asmodeus the Archfiend and Skirge Familiar in the Graveyard. This combo allows you to discard a card in your hand for B, and to draw 7 cards for BBB with no downsides. This will allow you to filter your deck into your graveyard, setting yourself up with a lot of black mana. From here you can cast whatever bombs you kept in your hand, which will most likely be Exsanguinate or Rise of the Dark Realms. As most players now opt to run cheap counterspells that don't actually hit creatures (Negate, Swan Song, An Offer You Can't Refuse, Fierce Guardianship, etc.) (something I think WotC has been steering us towards but I'm not sure the community sees yet, but I feel every time someone resolves a Dockside Extortionist) this combo line is hard to disrupt, but let's look at the different interactions:

  • An opponent can counter the entomb effect of tutoring a combo piece to the graveyard, which would prevent assembly of the combo.

  • An opponent can counter a hardcast of the Necrotic Ooze. This would put it in our graveyard and we'd have to rely on reanimating it.

  • An opponent counters the reanimation of the Necrotic Ooze. Just keep trying.

  • An opponent uses graveyard hate to remove our graveyard or combo pieces from our graveyard. Hope you have Disallow in your hand or you're looking for another way to win.

  • An opponent tries to remove the Necrotic Ooze once it's out. Respond by continuing to activate it's abilities at instant speed.

  • An opponent tries to graveyard hate once Necrotic Ooze is out. Respond by continuing to activate it's abilities at instant speed.

Once you've filtered your deck into the graveyard, you'll have a lot of black mana but might not have the blue mana needed for interaction. Hopefully you've got Gale out and through the combo filtered Fierce Guardianship into your hand. Feel free to power up the deck with a Force of Will and/or a Pact of Negation for consistency here. If you are unable to provide air support with a counterspell here, I suggest first attempting a Rise of the Dark Realms win to bait a counter out before sinking all remaining mana into Exsanguinate.

> Infinite Combos

I removed Codex Shredder, and thus the deck no longer has an infinite Combo. Easy infinite combos to include in the deck are:

> Wincons

*Sheoldred, The Apocalypse and Windfall. You can attempt to cast Windfall from hand and again from the graveyard. Protect her and she punishes your opponents for playing the game.

> Tips

Most of the tips have been outlined above. It's important to stay aware of how Gale triggers layer on top of your cast spell (your spell will not resolve before the spell cast from Gale's trigger does) and how his ability allows you to sidestep timing restrictions, and play appropriately.

> Single Card Discussion

  • Karn's Sylex finally gives us a pretty sweet piece of removal in Dimir for enchantments and artifacts. Most of the stuff that ruin a reanimator deck are less than 3 mana meaning you've got a sweet sweeper to deal with them. I'm interested to see how the hate piece of the card effects my meta. Yasharn, Implacable Earth is sneaky good in my experience, for example.

  • Incarnation Technique is slept on. Mill 10, reanimate 2 for 4B is a crazy rate.

  • Disallow is run as a way to combat graveyard hate ETBs like Bojuka Bog.

  • It might be obvious but casting a reanimator sorcery, getting a Gale trigger, and casting Entomb out of the bin to put the thing you want to reanimate in there before your reanimator sorcery resolves is a pretty strong line.

  • Some really good modal spells have come out of the D&D sets. White got Your Temple is Under Attack, blue got You Find the Villains' Lair. Modal filter or hard counterspell, excellent.

  • Trying out Commit // Memory. Double tuck on a spell or a permanent is fantastic. You might be saying "4 mana is a lot" and you're probably right. I find myself heavily playing "Draw, Go" style magic with Gale as you really do your best work during other people's turns. I often find myself open with 4 mana for this to be an effective removal option, but we will see. Memory is a good reset, but note it also doubles as a wheel which is brutal with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.

  • Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator seems like a very flexible 2 mana body. Merfolk Looter stapled to a (sorcery speed) Mission Briefing.

  • Ertai Resurrected is a very flexible answer. Disallow stapled to Hero's Downfall. I contend the "downside" of giving your opponent a draw actually reduces the aggro caused by countering someone's spell or removing something of theirs, like a consolation prize.

> Notable Exclusions

  • Codex Shredder - Combo piece with Hullbreaker Horror. Outside of that, felt very low impact. Didn't need the combo to win.

  • Pact of Negation / Force of Will - mentioned above. Multiple free counterspells to protect a combo win is probably too strong for my meta. Feel free to make swaps and include them.

  • Fast Mana - Feel free to power the deck up. Would allow greater consistency to combo with Hullbreaker Horror

  • Rhystic Study / Mystic Remora - Maybe I'll add them back in at some point, I'm just getting tired of tracking triggers. Feel free to include them.

  • Cyclonic Rift - I'm tired of this spell. It's great, run it if you want. It's just a blow out every time I'm able to resolve it, and it's met with zero enthusiasm amongst my friends.

  • Hand Tutors (Demonic, Vampiric, Mystical, etc.) - I'm already packed with Entomb effects, I don't need the consistency to hand as well. Feel free to power the deck up.

  • Bolas's Citadel / Sensei's Divining Top / Aetherflux Reservoir: I've done it enough in the past. Cards, while super good, are "goodstuff" and not synergistic with what I'm trying to do Gale-wise or Reanimator-wise.

  • cEDH quality UB combos - I'm not interested in running these. Feel free. I wanted to stay on theme with a reanimator combo.

  • Buried Alive - Almost immediately enables the Necrotic Ooze combo. Felt very linear and I took it out when someone got a Farewell off with all modes, and I topdecked Buried Alive, dropped the combo into the bin, Reanimate on Necrotic Ooze and won the game. You might like this - if so put it back in.

> Change Log

  • Revision 10 September 19, 2022 Slight adjustment. I like flexible cards in commander. Vohar doubles as a (sorcery speed) spell recursion and a looting effect on a 2 mana body, and doesn't need to transform to a planeswalker like baby Jace. Ertai is a flexible removal spell or Disallow. The "downside" of letting an opponent draw off the removal (in my opinion) removes the sting. I think he's fantastic. Finally, I wanted to try Commit // Memory. Double tuck on a spell or a permanent is fantastic. You might be saying "4 mana is a lot" and you're probably right. I find myself heavily playing "Draw, Go" style magic with Gale as you really do your best work during other people's turns. I often find myself open with 4 mana for this to be an effective removal option, but we will see. Memory is a good reset, but note it also doubles as a wheel which is brutal with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. I removed Reality Shift (less flexible, more direct and cheaper removal... we will see), Archon of Cruelty (fantastic reanimator target, but I think it shines in value reanimator lists), and Silver Scrutiny (low impact card draw that enables some shenanigans).

  • Revision 9 September 16, 2022 Updated manabase. Tolaria West can grab a utility land, such as the recently included Blast Zone, which I added to continue to help deal with problem permanents. Added Port of Karfell, which is an instant speed Reanimate on a land.

  • Revision 8 September 9, 2022 DMU Update. I want to start running less Cyclonic Rift. Although it's obviously one of the best board wipes in the format, it's just not fun anymore. It's such a blow out after it resolves. Kind of like running the same 2 card combo over and over again. I decided to replace it with Karn's Sylex, which has some interesting hate stapled to a solution against things Dimir is weak against (enchantment-based stax pieces) (-1 Cyclonic Rift +1 Karn's Sylex). I felt that rituals feel good in a deck that wants to do spell slinging and can get double use out of them from the graveyard. I also wanted to try out the new Haughty Djinn and Wizards of Thay. The Djinn can become a flying beater with a static cost reduction for instants and sorceries, while Wizards of Thay allow instant speed Sorcery > Instant shenanigans with a Gale trigger, in addition to the potential burst -3 cost reduction with Myriad. I removed what I felt were low impact / underperforming ramp pieces (-1 Deranged Assistant -1 Millikin -1 Mind Stone -1 Thought Vessel +1 Cabal Ritual +1 Dark Ritual +1 Haughty Djinn +1 Wizards of Thay. Updated card advantage to try out some interesting / synergistic pieces. Archon of Cruelty felt great to drop previously, and I did miss it as a reanimator target. Silver Scrutiny allows some instant speed Sorcery > Instant shenanigans with a Gale trigger. Windfall synergizes obviously with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse as a potential wincon. Astral Dragon, while interesting, never seemed to do anything useful. Bolas's Citadel is just a goodstuff card, having no real synergy with the deck. We will see if I miss the cheap cantrips I removed. (-1 Astral Dragon -1 Brainstorm -1 Bolas's Citadel -1 Thought Scour +1 Archon of Cruelty +1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse +1 Silver Scrutiny +1 Windfall). Finally, updated the protection / reanimation packages. Narset's Reversal and Twincast are situational, I just removed them and replaced with a good old Swan Song. Codex Shredder just wasn't really doing anything for me besides being an infinite combo piece, which I didn't need. Connive // Concoct felt real bad every time it was in my hand. The only 5 mana reanimator spell I want to be playing is Incarnation Technique. I added in the remaining enchantment based reanimator spells and Obsessive Stitcher, which does two things we want to be doing, looting and reanimating. (-1 Codex Shredder -1 Connive // Concoct -1 Narset's Reversal -1 Twincast +1 Animate Dead +1 Dance of the Dead +1 Obsessive Stitcher +1 Swan Song).

  • Revision 6 August 13, 2022 Readjusted the land base - All my fetches are in Yarok Landfall. Reflected what I built in paper.

  • Revision 5 August 11, 2022 Wanted to try out Ancient Excavation - Filter my hand for 4 mana or cycle it for a land with my low land count feels good.

  • Revision 4 August 4, 2022 There's really only 2 or 3 targets in the deck that I'm excited to hit with Scholar of the Lost Trove, so I removed it. Demilich felt WAY too slow in playtesting. I thought on combat damage it let you cast the spell for free, which was worth the hoops. Removed it. Added back in Necromancy and Animate Dead - just solid reanimator spells, even if they don't fit into the spellslinging gameplan. I'm finding Gale's triggers are a nice spice for the deck, but not something that should be built around.

  • Revision 3 July 29, 2022 Expropriate just isn't that "fun", YMMV. Replaced it with Astral Dragon, which is a reanimation target that can enable a lot of shenanigans.

  • Revision 2 July 15, 2022 Decided I should have at least one big X spell in the deck to dump mana into from either combo or Lord of the Forsaken (-1 Aminatou's Augury +1 Exsanguinate)

  • Revision 1 July 15, 2022 Resnap a new baseline from another decklist

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These are the all the revisions of this deck. Click on a revision to view the deck as it looked back then.
  Compare Revision Created By
» Revision 10 September 20, 2022 _shift
Slight adjustment. I like flexible cards in commander. Vohar doubles as a (sorcery speed) spell recursion and a looting effect on a 2 mana body, and doesn't need to transform to a planeswalker like baby Jace. Ertai is a flexible removal spell or Disallow. The "downside" of letting an opponent draw off the removal (in my opinion) removes the sting. I think he's fantastic. Finally, I wanted to try Commit // Memory. Double tuck on a spell or a permanent is fantastic. You might be saying "4 mana is a lot" and you're probably right. I find myself heavily playing "Draw, Go" style magic with Gale as you really do your best work during other people's turns. I often find myself open with 4 mana for this to be an effective removal option, but we will see. Memory is a good reset, but note it also doubles as a wheel which is brutal with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. I removed Reality Shift (less flexible, more direct and cheaper removal... we will see), Archon of Cruelty (fantastic reanimator target, but I think it shines i
Revision 9 September 16, 2022 _shift
Updated manabase. Tolaria West can grab a utility land, such as the recently included Blast Zone, which I added to continue to help deal with problem permenants. Added Port of Karfell, which is an instant speed Reanimate on a land.
Revision 8 September 9, 2022 _shift
DMU Update. I want to start running less Cyclonic Rift. Although it's obviously one of the best board wipes in the format, it's just not fun anymore. It's such a blow out after it resolves. Kind of like running the same 2 card combo over and over again. I decided to replace it with Karn's Sylex, which has some interesting hate stapled to a solution against things Dimir is weak against (enchantment-based stax pieces) (-1 Cyclonic Rift +1 Karn's Sylex). I felt that rituals feel good in a deck that wants to do spell slinging and can get double use out of them from the graveyard. I also wanted to try out the new Haughty Djinn and Wizards of Thay. The Djinn can become a flying beater with a static cost reduction for instants and sorceries, while Wizards of Thay allow instant speed Sorcery > Instant shenanigans with a Gale trigger, in addition to the potential burst -3 cost reduction with Myriad. I removed what I felt were low impact / underperforming ramp pieces (-1 Deranged Assistant -1 Millikin -1 Mind Stone -
Revision 6 August 13, 2022 _shift
Readjusted the land base - All my fetches are in Yarok Landfall. Reflected what I built in paper.
Revision 5 August 11, 2022 _shift
Wanted to try out Ancient Excavation - Filter my hand for 4 mana or cycle it for a land with my low land count feels good.
Revision 4 August 4, 2022 _shift
There's really only 2 or 3 targets in the deck that I'm excited to hit with Scholar of the Lost Trove, so I removed it. Demilich felt WAY too slow in playtesting. I thought on combat damage it let you cast the spell for free, which was worth the hoops. Removed it. Added back in Necromancy and Animate Dead - just solid reanimator spells, even if they don't fit into the spellslinging gameplan. I'm finding Gale's triggers are a nice spice for the deck, but not something that should be built around.
Revision 3 July 29, 2022 _shift
Expropriate just isn't that "fun", YMMV. Replaced it with Astral Dragon, which is a reanimation target that can enable a lot of shenanigans.
Revision 2 July 15, 2022 _shift
Decided I should have at least one big X spell in the deck to dump mana into from either combo or Lord of the Forsaken (-1 Aminatou's Augury +1 Exsanguinate)
Revision 1 July 15, 2022 _shift
Resnap a new baseline from another decklist
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