Nicol Bolas Chromium Reanimator: How Silly Can We Get in Old School Magic?
A lot of Old School decks are very fair.
There are your control decks that seek to gain card advantage through Jayemdae Tomes and kill everything in sight before slowly killing with Mishra’s Factory. There are your tempo decks that seek to end the game as fast as possible by making a cheap creature and protecting it. Creature-based burn decks can seek to end the game even faster and can have insane reach with the Channel/Fireball combo.
However, there is one major archetype that largely lacks representation: combo. There are decks that have little combos in them, the aforementioned Channel/Fireball being the primary combo, but the only real combo deck is Underworld Dreams/draw 7s.
A traditional staple of the combo deck has been largely overlooked. Until now…
Reanimator has been a strong deck in many formats for a long time, but up to now has seen little play in the Old School format. This is largely due to the prohibitive cost of a lot of the cards available in the format that would be good in that deck. So, in the spirit of building the best deck possible, I’ll throw my usual budgetary concerns out of the window and run the best stuff I can in the most expensive ways possible.
For starters, we’ll need some actual reanimation spells, and there are very few in the format. Animate Dead is one of the poster children for this effect and is a definite inclusion, but to have eight copies of this effect we’ll need something else to go with it. Hell’s Caretaker is an option, but leaves us weak to far more removal spells than we otherwise would be and is a lot slower than our other realistic option: Resurrection.
This takes us heavily into white, which opens up a strong suite of control spells in the form of Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God, and sideboard cards like Disenchant and Moat. We also get access to Balance, which leads us to look strongly at artifact mana. Balance is the perfect card for this deck as it can stunt our opponents’ mana development, wipe the board, gain card parity in hand when we’re behind, or if we’re ahead on cards in hand it’ll even act as a discard outlet for our reanimation targets.
What Are We Reanimating?
At this point, it’s time to start looking at creatures. Our reanimation targets are an important consideration in this format as there are no Griselbrands, Tidespout Tyrant[card]s, Ionas or Elesh Norns running around to wreck everyone’s day. A lot of the large creatures of the formats have large drawbacks: [card]Force of Nature costs GGGG every upkeep, Lord of the Pit needs a regular supply of snacks, and the big blue fishes tend to need an Island on the other side of the board to swim to.
However, I feel that the best option for this slot is the Elder Dragon route. Seeing as we’re already black and white and likely to splash blue for some draw, Chromium is a strong inclusion as we can pay its upkeep fairly easily. The biggest, baddest one is Nicol Bolas, who we are already able to hit two colours for. Fortunately, hitting red mana is also something we’ll want to do for cards like Wheel of Fortune and Winds of Change.
Nicol Bolas also helps close out the game by generating some pure card advantage through mass discard when he connects with your opponent. Whilst Chromium isn’t straight up as powerful as Nicol Bolas, there is still one very important point to remember: he is still a fricking huge 7/7 flyer! That game isn’t lasting much longer. His Rampage ability makes him even more difficult to actually block and kill through creature damage, as suddenly multiple blockers cause him to grow larger.
Earlier I mentioned Wheel of Fortune and Winds of Change, which are both a part of our draw and discard engines. These two red cards are the perfect thing for us, allowing any of the dragons in our hand to get in the graveyard and help dig for the tools we need to bring them back. This is also one of the few decks in the format that can actually use Bazaar of Baghdad as a legitimate engine to sculpt our hand and let us find the right cards we need at the right time. Disrupting Scepter, in addition to its usefulness in disrupting our opponents, can also target its controller as it says “player” rather “opponent”. This gives us yet another discard outlet.
The actual card draw in this deck is fairly standard with Ancestral Recall and Braingeyser, and Library of Alexandria able to keep a steady flow of cards and even provide a pseudo discard outlet by causing us to consistently draw about 7 cards. However, we are not running Timetwister for what should be fairly obvious reasons – we need to keep our graveyard intact!
As for the mana base, we can’t really afford to run too many off-colour lands. The fact that we’re running four Bazaar of Baghdad already limits utility slots, so we can’t really afford a Maze of Ith. We definitely want a Black Lotus (who doesn’t?) and one of each on-colour mox.
The actual coloured part of the mana base is a bit of a headache. With this many colour requirements, 4 City of Brass is definitely a must, but it’s a little sticky from here. With no Wasteland in the format we’re safe to not worry about running any basic lands, so we’ll jam it full of dual lands. We need to be able to make double white, double blue, black, and red mana, with access to black very important to hit the upkeep payments on our dragons. I feel that 3 Scrubland, 2 Tundra, 2 Underground Sea and 1 Badlands is about right, but I could be wrong. Certainly in the goldfishing I’ve done it seems about the right sort of balance.
Which brings us to the decklist…
Old School Nicol Bolas Chromium Reanimator, a 93/94 deck by Christopher Cooper
This deck is rather a linear combo deck with very little that interacts with opponents’ game plans short of a few removal spells, so you have to choose your targets carefully. This can be shored up a little in the sideboard with a few Counterspells, extra Disenchants or more creature removal in the form of Swords to Plowshares or Terror. We also have access to both Blue Elemental Blast and Red Elemental Blast, which are some of the most efficient hate spells in the format.
Golgothian Sylex is a consideration for Antiquities heavy metagames as there are no Antiquities cards in the deck. City in a Bottle is a no go because there are just too many Arabian Nights cards in the deck as key engine pieces. I would also consider Flash Counter as a less blue heavy Counterspell to protect your dragons from your opponents’ answers. Otherwise, it can be a little difficult having to find three blue mana each turn for both the dragon’s upkeep and protection.
Now, I realize that the cost of this deck is a little steeper than I would normally recommend. Going for a fully Alpha’ed deck (because who doesn’t do that) would set you back around about $35,000 USD on TCGPlayer. However, if instead of using the most pimp available versions of a card we use the cheapest versions available, this price drops down to about $18,000 USD, which is an absolutely massive saving of $17,000, the largest budget cut I’ve ever managed in a deck on this website! Hooray for record breaking!
Community Question: What’s your favourite combo in the Old School Magic format?
Thanks for reading,
[schema type=”review” url=”http://www.manaleak.com/” name=”Nicol Bolas Chromium Reanimator Combo: How Silly Can We Get in Old School Magic? ” description=”Reanimator has been a strong deck in many formats for a long time, but up to now has seen little play in the Old School format. This is largely due to the prohibitive cost of a lot of the cards available in the format that would be good in that deck. So, in the spirit of building the best deck possible, I’ll throw my usual budgetary concerns out of the window and run the best stuff I can in the most expensive ways possible.” ]