Ah, reanimator. Laugher in the faces of removal spammers, breaker of mechanics, and generator of all-round silly things since Magic begun. It’s a bit disappointing to see yourself forced to choose between consistency and winning spectacularly, but at least Unfinished Business isn’t Rogues’ Gallery. No need to expect too much of it when it does its job rather well. What job? Push the fucking Izzet deck out of the meta, of course!
Perhaps that’s the philosophy for the entire deck. Don’t try for some turn 3 KO combos that will work approximately 5% of the time. Instead, keep calm and laugh at Dodge and Burn.
Dying is just so yesterday
Let’s get something out of the way; I don’t think too highly of relying entirely on Exhume, so I don’t run that type of strategy. My build plays mostly midrange, using reanimation to *gasp* re- instead of initially animate its creatures. Believe me, the last thing you want to see after using three cards to burn a “Kill me now or lose” is for that exact creature to come back. Those things have a casting cost for a reason, you know.
Thus it’s a game of stall out, play guys of increasingly ridiculous size, trade them generously, then give them another three lives. Isn’t black magic wonderful at times? And I suppose you can just skip paying for them altogether if you feel like it.
As mentioned, this deck is actually rather flexible. It can, besides this build, also be played as a highly aggressive all-out variant, or as a mono-black control deck. I’ve added the best decklist I could figure out for mono-black, ’cause I love you. However, it’s not advised as giving up blue forces too many good spells out of the deck. As for aggressive reanimation… well, I have a word for decks that rely on drawing three to four specific cards by turn two and can’t win otherwise. (It’s “bad”.)
Unfinished Business deck list (by mana cost)
60 cards, 3 Terramorphic Expanse, 10 Island, 11 Swamp
- 1 Oona’s Prowler
- 4 Accumulated Knowledge
- 3 Doom Blade
- 2 Distress
- 4 Hidden Horror
- 2 Undermine
- 1 Consult the Necrosages
- 2 Sift
- 1 Ghastlord of Fugue
- 2 Body Double
- 1 River Kelpie
- 1 Beacon of Unrest
- 2 Living Death
- 4 Rise from the Grave
- 1 Wrexial, the Risen Deep
- 1 Sphinx of Magosi
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Tidal Kraken
- 1 Scion of Darkness
- 1 Demon of Death’s Gate
Mono-black control deck list (by mana cost)
60 cards, 24 Swamp
- 3 Putrid Imp
- 3 Distress
- 3 Exhume
- 3 Doom Blade
- 1 Cunning Lethemancer
- 4 Hidden Horror
- 3 Doomed Necromancer
- 1 Victimise
- 1 Diabolic Tutor
- 1 Ghastlord of Fugue
- 1 Beacon of Unrest
- 2 Rise from the Grave
- 2 Living Death
- 1 Wrexial, the Risen Deep (see discussion below)
- 2 Extractor Demon
- 2 Decree of Pain
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Scion of Darkness
- 1 Demon of Death’s Gate
Unfinished Business card-by-card analysis
Putrid Imp: 3.0
It’s a one mana discard outlet. Yay. It might ping your opponent for two or three damage. Yaaay. It gives you nothing for the discard and can’t chump block when you really need it to. No.
Oh, can I not already see the comments questioning my gender and demanding that I acknowledge Reanimate as the best card ever made. Just one word: “Ow.” Don’t know about you, but nine out of ten players agree that a reanimation spell can cost one mana (yet get cast turn 2 the earliest regardless) all it wants if it’s only going to result in an Unsummon after she punches herself in the face for nine life. Anything worth resurrecting will hurt so much that it’ll be too risky (or straight up deadly) to play this after the second turn.
Oona’s Prowler: 4.0
Unlike Putrid Imp, does something. A whole lot, actually. Three power is a large amount, so large that it can’t be safely ignored. Certainly they can discard to power it down, but if they do that, you’ve likely already won. Also allows you to discard yourself if you need to. However, don’t play this and Exhume in the same build, ever. Even if you can safely get rid of this before casting Exhume, any decent opponent will dump her bomb into his graveyard, knowing that the Exhume will come eventually. Which it obviously won’t, so no matter how well your opponent knows your deck, it’ll be an insane deal.
Can give you your best incredibly cheap, but can do the same for your opponent. If you can stand waiting a few turns (you can) it’s better to use more reliable reanimation that also allows you to yoink your opponent’s creatures instead of being a dead draw. The point is, if you’re running Exhume, you’re looking to cast it as soon as possible, which makes the deck far more fragile than I’m willing to accept.
See Beyond: 1.5
So… you get to dig into the top two cards, which is nice, but you lose two cards in the process, one of which goes into your library rather than anywhere it could be useful. Why should this be good in this deck again? Can’t we just have Read the Bones, please?
Accumulated Knowledge: 4.0
It’s a wheel that runs itself. Each cast will increase the odds of drawing another, which will then give you increasingly more buck-bang. In the end, if you’ve cast all of them (which I’ve seen more often than you’d think) you will have used four cards and four easy payments of two mana at instant speed to draw ten. Hell, I’m fairly certain people would play it if it was just one big card that required triple discard to cast. Either way, go with four or none; anything in between is a waste of synergy. Besides, you don’t exactly have many other useful things to do turn 2.
Doom Blade: 3.5
Removal. Plus, the creatures this can’t hit are played by decks that you should stomp anyway, so no loss there if you draw it against a black deck.
Two black mana can be a bit hard to hit turn 2, but since you aren’t using Exhume, cast away. Requires some experience with the enemy deck and evaluation of the current board state to pick the option that will screw up your opponent the most, but often kills their strategy, dead. That is, until you reanimate it, of course.
Dimir Cutpurse: 2.0
What are you doing this far from home, little agent? Have you lost the homeward path? Let yourself be guided to where you belong.
Dimir Doppelgänger: 2.5
The original spelling of this card is wrong. WRONG! Ahem. Quite cheap if you want to reanimate stuff, but it also exiles that stuff out of the graveyard, so it’s quite likely that you’ll end up with a Doppelgänger killed in response being the only creature in your graveyard. The ‘yard eating can be used offensively simply to clear your opponent’s before a Living Death or the sort, but it’s nevertheless fragile and narrow. If this survives, your opponent was already beat.
Hidden Horror: 4.0
Don’t see it as a way to give yourself card disadvantage. See it as a 4/4 that allows you to turn one of your guys into a Dark Ritual for later reanimation. Essay homework, list the creatures in DotP14 that are going to swing in past this before you can revive its discarded card. Yes, topdecking it lategame with no fodder sucks, but it’s still a 4/4 blocker (and offender) for three mana with a free discard outlet stapled on top.
Countermagic. Auto-include. It’s also conditionless and packs a significant punch for the injury part. While three of twenty points might not seem like much, it will be significant more often than not, especially when it cuts down your opponent’s clock an entire turn when there’s a 6/6 flier swinging at them.
Cunning Lethemancer: 2.5
If this lives to trigger even once, your opponent doesn’t WANT it to die. There are far better outlets to discard out there, especially since you don’t have to empty your hand with those. Not every card in your hand can be lost without consequences.
Doomed Necromancer: 3.0
Again, its best quality will be to eat removal so that your bombs don’t have to. No one in their right minds will allow this to tap.
“Because fuck you, Izzet.”
Beyond the scenario of getting seven fresh cards, many, many decks will empty their hands before you do. It’s nice to make them pitch a hand they probably liked (after all, they chose not to mulligan it), but drawing 2-3 extra cards probably makes up for it when you’re also tossing all of your reanimation engines.
Consult the Necrosages: 3.0
Knock the final bits out of an opponent’s hand or refill your own, whichever is needed. Lovely spell good in about every situation.
I never find it as satisfying as I’d imagined. I just rarely find myself with two reanimation targets, this, three mana, and a disposable creature all at the same time. Strong, but very easy to be a dead card.
If you’re going to toss something out of the deck, you can probably start here. Sift isn’t bad, mind you; It essentially lets you dig way into your library while providing a free discard outlet for the bomb you drew. Whenever I cast it though, it lacks impact and feels easily replaceable, unlike a lot of this deck’s cards. Perhaps it didn’t need to be four mana.
Diabolic Tutor: 3.0
Anything you want it to be, provived that you want to spend a turn getting it. Also stapled onto Rune-Scarred Demon.
Fool’s Demise: 3.0
“This guy is mine as soon as he dies.”
Funny as it is to say, as is it rather impractical. Yes, it can steal and revive plenty of creatures indefinitely. Provided that it lives long enough to be enchanted and die afterwards. Why bother with bringing your guy to life if you can simply drag out his corpse for less mana?
Ghastlord of Fugue: 3.5
Distress on a stick, with no worries about Living Death. That being said, though he can’t be blocked, he will die rather easily. Still, if he doesn’t die upon entering (and/or you have some reanimation ready) he’s an inevitable five turn clock for your opponent that all but ensures its own survival.
Body Double: 3.5
Wondering if your opponent has removal for your bomb? Toss this out there and find out for yourself. The great thing is, not even exile will really harm you since it’s just a copy, leaving the original in your (or another) graveyard until you need it. For evilness, put two copies of a creature which is rightfully a singleton onto the board. Watch the legendary rule though, it still applies for doubles on your side.
River Kelpie: 4.5
All of your reanimation now cantrips. Your opponent trying to kill it even though it’s just a 3/3 will cantrip. Each Undying zombie will cantrip. I would’ve liked to see some more Flashback or Unearth in the deck to make use of this better (Think Twice?) but it’s rather insane as is. You’ll draw an absurd amount of cards even without your opponent contributing. Then, when they finally killed it for good, what do you do? Play Living Death, of course! Bear in mind, this will trigger off of Living Death if it was revived by it, but not if it was killed by it, even if it returns due to Persist.
Beacon of Unrest: 3.5
Since about every single artifact in this game save one gargles bearded gonads, the artifact clause is near irrelevant, as is the reshuffling. Certainly you CAN redraw it, but the question is whether you are realistically going to. Far from impossible, but far from reliable. So it’s practically a strictly worse Rise from the Grave due to double black cost. Still, it’s reanimation, gifted horse and mouth.
Living Death: 4.5
It was referenced in Time Spiral for being far too much effect for a five mana surprise. That about says everything. Obviously, if you know that you will play it, don’t be too careful with your own creatures while leaving your opponent’s alive. Of course, even just reviving your Hidden Horror fodder while killing two of your opponent’s guys would already be amazing value, but you can always go up further.
Rise from the Grave: 4.0
You jelly, Doom Blade? Don’t forget about its last sentence, painting the creature a black zombie while reanimating it. Sounds like a little gimmick, but actually makes it immune to a large amount of removal it may face if it wasn’t already. And it can steal your opponent’s creatures while doing the same.
Wrexial, the Risen Deep: 5.0
Really beefy, so you can count on not getting attacked after you reanimate him/her/it. Once she starts swinging, a full 45% of decks will be straight up unable to block her and even fewer will want to. Five damage a turn drops players faster than you’d expect, especially coupled with stealing spells. In fact, it is so good that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t run him even if your only hope of getting her onto the field is reanimation.
“Is that an Opportunity in your graveyard? Don’t mind if I do!”
Sphinx of Magosi: 4.0
Divination on a stick. A very, very deadly stick, that is. If the game doesn’t end at her feet, you’ll have the cards to keep going.
Rune-Scarred Demon: 4.5
Oh, Wizards, just why couldn’t we have the deck search display multiples of the same cards, say a basic land, as one? Regardless, this little beauty will fetch you what you need to take. I suppose it combos with Beacon of Unrest to give you literally infinite revival, so at least that also has a use. Getting your best card for free with a 6/6 flier is easily worth the price… if anybody ever paid that, anyway.
Tidal Kraken: 4.0
It has been released. Unambiguously voted least looking like a Kraken, but incredibly useful. Practically, your opponent will have a few turns to deal with this guy, or lose. The only catch is that few cards will be able to deal with it in the first place, especially when it has been turned black and you have some more reanimation to keep it up. Practically, if you see this and it’s not under your control, there’s a good chance you’re boned.
Scion of Darkness: 4.0
Discards itself while helping you get the tools to get it back. Then, when it’s on the field, grabs your opponent’s creatures out of her graveyard for whatever you may play to do with them. It’s also a 6/6 Trample, back it up with a Doom Blade to kill the blocker that provided just enough damage and go to town. You can even get back what you just killed as long as it was dead before the combat damage step.
Demon of Death’s Gate: 4.0
Big. Really fucking big. You’ll never meet its alternate casting cost, but reanimation says that you don’t have to either. As soon as it comes out and isn’t immediately exiled or bounced, someone is going to die very rapidly. It likely won’t be you.
Keiga, the Tide Star: 3.5
If you feel like you need additional big guys, this is probably a good place to start. However, at 5/5 it feels a little small to be worth the effort. Without sacrifice effects, you’re reliant on your opponent to kill it, meaning that its effect will rarely have any real impact on the board.
Cerulean Sphinx: 2.5
Some creatures are just hard to argue whether or not you want them. This is not one of them; It’s just terrible and it should feel bad for everything it’s ever done.
Extractor Demon: 3.0
Another fatty that you can consider. If its effect ever triggers, you should always target yourself, save for extreme cases. (Facing Eldrazi with an Artisan being revealed on top, for instance.) However, he never seems to do that much. Surely he can mill you some juicy reanimation targets into your graveyard, but you’ll often have to tear through at least six cards (including Beacon and a Rise) to get them. Another example of a nice card spoiled by no support other than itself. Where’s the Flashback, where’s the Unearth? You can Unearth it for just three to get a 5/5 flier for a turn plus some mill, but that’s about it. Some might say that’s enough, some might say that I’m too hard to please, but Unearthing him won’t leave anything for reanimation, so is it really worth it?
Gather Specimens: 2.5
Can be used as a before-the-fact Mind Control, assuming that you often keep three blue mana plus three open and wait for your opponent to play her stuff rather than casting your own.
Silent-Blade Oni: 2.5
The only way that this will ever hit is through Ninjutsu, and you unfortunately won’t have a lot of reliable yet expendable attackers. Even if you score a hit, what will you do when you see only an Armageddon as viable target other than simply decline and wait for your opponent to cast it herself?
Goliath Sphinx: 2.0
Big, not big enough without any effects.
Tidespout Tyrant: 3.0
Could arguably be fit in, so if you want to use it, feel free. (And don’t flood the comment section with it.) However, this deck isn’t really the one to cast that many spells to make it worth it on such a rather squishy body. Hilarious in multiples, though.
Decree of Pain: 2.0 (3.5 for control)
Kills stuff, draws cards, and can be cast at instant speed as a mini version of itself. Unfortunately, you’ll rarely want to cast this even if you do get the mana for it.