Ever since I used to cast Lord of the Pit out of the Graveyard I have loved reanimator decks of all persuasions. There are so many things to like about these decks. First, of course, it's just cool to attack with dead stuff. More importantly reanimation equals card advantage. After all, if you are playing stuff from your graveyard you don't care if your opponent is putting stuff in there too. Third, most reanimator decks play almost as if you had a constant Demonic Tutor in play. This ability cannot be underrated and the power was seen in the now classic RecSur decks.
When Reya first came out, I thought the next generation of reanimation decks was here.
I was wrong, but that's okay because it's here now thanks to Odyssey and all that amazing Black graveyard manipulation. The mechanism, as I had wished for, is mostly based around Reya. The deck will get her into play (and back up her ability) with the Death half of Life/Death and Zombify. Then we can try to get Braids into play so that we can start some real fun. Reya will bring in whatever creature you need from your deck and then Braids will kill it so you can play with it again next turn. Let's have a look shall we. . .
3 Reya Dawnbringer
3 Braids, Cabal Minion
4 Vodalian Merchant
1 Penumbra Wurm
1 Meddling Mage
1 Darring Apprentice
1 Coalition Honor Guard
1 Staunch Defender
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Aven Cloudchaser
4 Careful Study
3 Buried Alive
3 Tainted Pact
Land 22 :(
3 Caves of Kolios
4 Underground River
4 Adarkar Wastes
3 City of Brass
Well, the first thing you will notice (especially if you read my article on "How Many?") is that there are an awful lot of "1 of" creatures. That's the beauty of this deck, indeed the beauty of reanimation. This deck has the ability to drop a total of 13 creatures of your choice into the graveyard over the course of a game. There are also 4 Tainted Pact. That's almost like packing a total of 17 Demonic Tutors. There are only 10 unique creatures in this deck and that means that you will have your pick of any creature in your deck at any time. Since you will control what happens when (and you will never lose that control with this deck) you only need 1 copy of each creature except for the cornerstones of the deck.
If you read that last sentence you might look up at the deck list and notice that 4 Vodalian Merchants are in the deck and that means I consider them to be a cornerstone. You may think that's because I have a strange passion for commons. Actually, this card is perfect for the deck. It draws cards to help you get the combo AND it dumps the pieces you need into your graveyard. Also, since this deck is low on lands a quick cheap Merchant can help straighten things out. Who could ask for anything more?
Braids and Reya both appear only 3 times. 3 because the deck will lose without them and not 4 because it's easy to search for them. I want to make it clear that casting either of these from your hand against a Blue deck is a bad idea 90% of the time. With Syncopate in T2 you are asking to have a key card tossed out of the game.
After that we have Penumbra Wurm providing a means to some quick and powerful beatdown in the carcasses that he will leave behind. Did I mention that those carcasses can block (and kill) the dreaded Infiltrator? Staunch defender will be needed in most of your games since one of the best possible starts for this deck has you down to 11 life on turn 2 (that would be turn 1 Entomb/Careful Study to get Reya in the graveyard, turn 2 Death Reya back to life). Flametongue Kavu is the creature control for this deck. The Aven deals with enchantments for you. And the Meddling Mage, Daring Apprentice, and Honor Guard are all there to give you some protection against control decks, which are your arch nemesis. Remember, if you need to have a creature stick around sac a land to fulfill Braids upkeep, once the deck gets going land isn't very important.
As for the spells, some have already been mentioned and the theme is pretty simple. Careful Study should be the Turn 1 play of choice if possible unless you have no creatures to dump into your graveyard. I like Tainted Pact, I think it's amazing (better than Consultation), and it can be this deck's biggest friend or biggest enemy. Don't ever use the Pact to get any spell unless every creature you think you will need is either in the graveyard or in your hand.
The last element of the deck is land. I don't feel comfortable with my mana allocation and it's a work in progress (so is the whole deck). 22 mana is okay in this deck because once you hit around 3 mana, extra lands are usually tossed to Braids anyway. Also, with all the deck thinning and card drawing lands will start to come up often. The downside is that playing with so few lands is just scary. The other scary part of playing with these lands is the amount of damage that you could end up taking. I want to say it's okay because of the Defender but you will still be dangerously low for most games. I felt, however, that the amazingly fast start this deck is capable of would have been diminished if I had gone with lands that come into play tapped.
This deck is still a prototype but the more I think about it the more comfortable I am becoming with it. It is a hard deck to play though and maybe only experienced players (or RecSur gurus) should mess around with it. It can be unforgiving of mistakes and has to be played carefully. However, It can deal with most every deck if played properly.
Will this be the final build, I don't know. Are there other builds, yes. One interesting one that I have seen (and a large part of the inspiration for this deck) uses Reya and Pardic Miner. I can't predict the future of these types of decks but I expect that Reya will be coming to a deck near you just in time for States, be prepared!