Since Commander's early days, decks with the theme of reanimating creatures from the graveyard have been recurring, and the more the years pass, the more tools this archetype gains with new sets.
In this article, we'll show you some of the various cards used to build this archetype, as well as the 10 best current commanders to build a deck around this theme.
The Reanimate Archetype
The name of this archetype comes from the Reanimate card, which does exactly what its name says: reanimates. This term has become common in both Magic in general and Commander to refer to creatures leaving the graveyard and going straight to the battlefield thanks to a spell or ability.
That famous mana, Dark Ritual, Entomb on an Iona, Shield of Emeria and then the infamous Reanimate was once real on Commander, before the banning of Iona, Shield of Emeria. Whereas the first two cards can still be used, nowadays, the target for the spell is different.
But disregarding this perfect play, there are many other cards with the same effect of resurrecting creatures, and even not only in black, such as Karmic Guide or Resurrection, for example. Most of the time the deck is black with some other color, but there are also cases of reanimate decks without black.
Decks of this archetype manage to follow several lines: aggro, combo or control, it depends on the imagination of the deck builder who is piloting it. But despite having different lines, there are several cards that are common between the lists, and before presenting the decks, we will present such cards so that it is not repetitive throughout the article.
We have a huge variety of cards that do the same thing as Reanimate. Spells like Dread Return, Persist, Victimize, Living Death, Beacon of Unrest and enchantments like Animate Dead and Dance of the Dead are quite common in reanimate decks. Creatures also get in on the fun, like Phyrexian Delver or Sepulchral Primordial.
Other cards that are also fundamental tools are Entomb, Buried Alive and Unmarked Grave, so that these spells can have a target. And even creatures with this same effect are often used, such as Vile Entomber, Oriq Loremage or Corpse Connoisseur. Now, knowing this, we can move on to the cards that will be reanimated.
Most Played Creatures
The creatures will always be at the discretion of the pilot who built the deck, but there are cards that are recurring in the decks: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is often used to finish the game alongside Triskelion, for example.
But besides them there is a wide variety of possible targets: Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Junji, the Midnight Sky, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Ashen Rider, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Archon of Cruelty, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and a huge range of cards can be mentioned here, but all are very related to the deck's colors and the Commander's proposal.
Knowing this, we can start the awaited Top 10!
10. The Scarab God
Occupying the tenth position, The Scarab God. Although it seems strange that he is here for going to a Zombies tribal line, another strategy for it is reanimating thanks to his ability, which by the way is the nightmare of any other deck of the same archetype on the table.
In an even mixed line of zombies with reanimate, the deck can run cards like Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and the classic combo of Gravecrawler with Phyrexian Altar. And yet, in this blended theme, Phyrexian Delver and Gravespawn Sovereign are great options.
The Scarab God occupies the tenth position because it is not a deck totally focused on the archetype, unless the pilot wants it. And also by exiling the creatures from the graveyard and the combination of colors not having some recursion that recovers them, like a Riftsweeper, means that every choice on the Commander's activation is essential.
Despite being able to take creatures from other graveyards, being at the mercy of what opponents have may not be effective most of the time.
09. Saffi Eriksdotter
In ninth place, Saffi Eriksdotter. A peculiar combination of colors, considering that there is no black to provide much of the necessary recursion. However, that's not what prevents it from being remarkable: a strong combo deck with a very low-cost piece in the command tower can be just as dangerous as decks that run black.
Saffi Eriksdotter is also a strong staple for reanimate decks that rely on green and white, as its effect only requires Saffi to be sacrificed to use. Several combos are included in this deck, with the Commander, Renegade Rallier and Altar of Dementia, or Karmic Guide / Reveillark instead of Renegade Rallier.
Other altars like Phyrexian Altar or Ashnod's Altar also work, providing infinite mana and infinite death triggers. Alternatively, two previously mentioned pieces combine with each other with some altar as well: the classic Karmic Guide with Reveillark.
The "problem" here would be to quickly find some win condition, like Altar of Dementia to mill your opponents' entire deck, or Altar of the Brood which serves the same purpose. Blasting Station is also an option for infinite damage with the aforementioned cards.
Considering that there is a certain lack of support for this combination, but that doesn't stop it from being strong, Saffi Eriksdotter is in ninth place in this top 10.
08. Karador, Ghost Chieftain
The once-feared Karador, Ghost Chieftain ranks eighth. Karador was once a huge threat in Commander's early days, when there wasn't such a wide variety of legendary creatures that actually interacted with the reanimate archetype in the interesting way Karador does.
Karador, Ghost Chieftain basically has almost all the cards mentioned above in Saffi Eriksdotter's deck, with the difference that it has access to the black color, providing opportunity for more variety to the combo, such as Viscera Seer as well as access to creatures like Blood Artist and derivatives to be possible finishers.
As stated before, Karador has had its fame. Today there are better options and even better color combinations, but that depends on who is piloting it and on the game proposal of the deck itself.
Although its cost decreases with creatures in the graveyard, it is still quite high to execute, and if controlled, it can become a problem to depend entirely on the commander. For these reasons, Karador, Ghost Chieftain is ranked eighth.
07. Chainer, Dementia Master
It is important to note that, not only for this deck in particular, but for all reanimators in general, sac outlets such as altars, Viscera Seer and derivatives are also essential to respond to spells such as Path to Exile and similar, to avoid losing important cards.
Chainer is a classic here, both in the reanimate and control lines. Its position has to be limited only to black, since other colors offer great support, and if any important piece is removed or even exiled with cards like Bojuka Bog or Rakdos Charm, its controller can take quite a few turns to assemble another setup.
This generally applies to all decks, but it is not necessarily something that takes the pilot out of the game: there are always ways around it. And with these considerations, this is the seventh place in the top 10.
06. Olivia, Crimson Bride
Olivia, Crimson Bride ranks sixth, bordering the top 5. Despite her relatively high cost, she's a pretty dangerous commander considering the possible cards she can come back with, like a Master of Cruelties that can already take someone out of the game, or creatures like Port Razer, which grants extra combat.
It is worth remembering that Olivia with Port Razer and any other sacrifice outlet results in infinite combat phases.
It can be said that an Olivia, Crimson Bride with a reanimate line is not very common, considering other commanders who have the same premise and color combination, like the next one on the list, for example. But that doesn't mean it's less effective: red offers several cards like Faithless Looting, Thrill of Possibility and the like, which feed the graveyard.
The deck also "asks" for some sac outlets for answers, since if the commander is removed, it's good to at least save the creature that was reanimated. Considering this, Olivia is ranked sixth.
05. Chainer, Nightmare Adept
Again mentioned here as a character, but this time on another card: Chainer, Nightmare Adept. This would be the commander I mentioned being better at red and black color combination.
Chainer provides the same haste that, in theory, Olivia, Crimson Bride grants, with the difference that he can feed the graveyard with his ability while also allowing casting creatures from your graveyard.
And we have the fifth place, without many additions to be said here, since most of the cards that fit here have already been mentioned before.
A differential would be that a deck of Chainer, Nightmare Adept manages to have a good synergy with cards like Squee, Goblin Nabob to discard, Apprentice Necromancer or Doomed Necromancer to reanimate a higher cost creature spending less mana, and to further reduce that cost, Gravebreaker Lamia. Some more aggressive options like Etali, Primal Storm and Lord of the Forsaken can be considered.
04. Sefris of the Hidden Ways
In yet another unusual color combination, Sefris of the Hidden Ways appears here, bordering the bronze medal. Even using a little more venturing mechanic cards like Radiant Solar, Midnight Pathlighter and Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker, the deck still has great targets to be reanimated: Toxrill, the Corrosive, Karmic Guide, Sun Titan, Ashen Rider among many others.
The colors allow access to cards like Unburial Rites, Obsessive Stitcher, Priest of Fell Rites and derivatives like the aforementioned Doomed Necromancer, which work very well with the commander. Besides, having access to the blue color allows running counterspells, leaving you in a slightly more "calm" position considering that it is possible to deal with certain things that will bring you problems eventually.
The considerable low cost of Sefris of the Hidden Ways is also noteworthy, thus giving the possibility to cast it more times without remorse or even throw it in the graveyard, to bring it back later. Counting all this, Sefris of the Hidden Ways ranks fourth.
03. Meren of Clan Nel Toth
Earning a bronze medal in our top 10, Meren of Clan Nel Toth. This famous human is highlighted here for its reanimate every end of turn, which even when not returning to the battlefield, the creature chosen by its ability returns to the hand.
There's also the option to always finish your opponents' hands with Mindslicer. If Dauthi Voidwalker is on the battlefield as well, it's a guarantee that opponents won't actually have access to cards discarded this way.
Meren of Clan Nel Toth has always been targeted for this archetype since it was released, and it would be strange for her to be outside this top 10. A deck almost entirely focused on creatures that also offers a variety of different lists.
That's why Meren of Clan Nel Toth ranks third with a bronze medal in our top 10.
02. Nethroi, Apex of Death
Bordering first place, with a silver medal, Nethroi, Apex of Death. A commander who has the potential to end the game as soon as he enters the battlefield, considering the damage it can do in this color combination, which provides access to the same combos mentioned in Saffi Eriksdotter and Karador, Ghost Chieftain .
A consistent deck that, when well piloted, manages to control the game well so that it can finish with the commander. Its color matching also helps a lot with recursion. I would even venture to say that Nethroi, Apex of Death inherited the mantle that Karador, Ghost Chieftain "left", being a pretty big threat just by being in the command zone.
The deck has several self-mill cards, so that the commander's effect is successfully completed, such as Nyx Weaver, Old Stickfingers, Golgari Grave-Troll, Altar of Dementia among others. Also answers like Teferi's Protection, Perpetual Timepiece, Surge of Salvation and Krosan Reclamation to save yourself from possible cards like Rakdos Charm, Bojuka Bog and derivatives.
And that's how Nethroi, Apex of Death takes second place with a silver medal in our top 10.
01. Muldrotha, the Gravetide
Our first place goes to Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Its color combination makes it incredibly powerful, with access to reanimates, counterspells, and cards that work very well with the commander.
Having access to great cards like Rhystic Study, Cyclonic Rift, Secrets of the Dead, River Kelpie, Glen Elendra Archmage, Mulldrifter, apart from answers like Counterspell, Arcane Denial, An Offer You Can't Refuse while having all the recursion that a green and black reanimate deck would normally have Muldrotha, the Gravetide our champion here.
It is possible to have many, many lines with Muldrotha, not limited to this specific archetype, making it the highlight of the time. Karador, Ghost Chieftain is limited to creatures only, whereas Muldrotha gives you a choice of one permanent of each. With the recent addition of battles, it makes things even more interesting, opening up more possibilities for deck building.
The top spot is well-deserved considering what the deck is capable of. Answers, resources, ramps, finishers, everything we want in a deck like this. It is for fulfilling all these requirements that Muldrotha, the Gravetide earns the gold medal in our top 10.
Honestly, it was hard to think about which commanders to put, even more from the top 5 upwards. As I always say, the Commander is a free place to test all builds that the pilot sees fit, with the limit being your imagination. It is possible, yes, to make several other reanimate decks with other commanders, here were compiled the most popular and even the most recursive that I found.
And you, do you agree with the top 10 positions? Would you mention another commander or another staple?