Introduction and Resources

Despite the rumors that Animar has become largely inviable following the transition to the Vancouver Mulligan and the banning of Prophet of Kruphix, I believe that the deck remains fast, consistent and competitive. Here I provide an uncompromising, highly-tuned Animar list designed to compete in any meta up to full-powered cEDH.

The key factor to bear in mind when reviewing this list is that Animar is not a "big-creatures" deck nor a "big-mana" deck. It's a creature-based storm deck designed with the aim of casting one or more cheap creatures as many times as possible for as little mana as possible, with Animar himself acting as a vastly more powerful Helm of Awakening effect.

For more detailed info and a great discussion, the official primer can be found here: The cEDH Ancestral Animar Primer.

You can also have a look at the Discord server if you want more real-time info.

Wincons

Animar primarily relies on Ancestral Statue to win games, but we actually have access to several other powerful combos worth considering, some of which have a long history with the deck. The list below is ordered roughly by how likely I would be to include them in my build.

  • Animar + Ancestral Statue = infinite ETBs and infinite Animar counters. This combo wins games with Walking Ballista / Beast Whisperer. It's the most efficient and easy to set up combo in the deck, and should be the go-to line in almost every game.

  • The basic Kiri line, as follows: Imperial Recruiter fetching Phyrexian Metamorph > Phyrexian Metamorph copying Imperial Recruiter fetching Kiri-Onna > Kiri-Onna bouncing Phyrexian Metamorph > Phyrexian Metamorph copying Kiri-Onna and bouncing the original > Kiri-Onna bouncing itself and Phyrexian Metamorph > Phyrexian Metamorph copying Imperial Recruiter fetching Peregrine Drake > Peregrine Drake to untap, at which point the line becomes mana- and life-neutral, and can be ended by searching up Walking Ballista. There are two major benefits to this line. First, it requires only Recruiter in hand to start (plus six life, two counters and four pain-free lands). These requirements are relatively trivial for the deck, and telegraph our wincon less obviously than tutoring into Statue and Ballista, Kiki and an Untapper, or one of the bulkier enchantments. Second, the color-requirements are no less strict (UUUR vs. URRR) but they allow us to focus our manabase more on Blue and Green, which are by far our most essential colors. Although no alternative wincon for the deck typically makes up more than 25% of our wins, having access to one is a real boon, and this is the one I recommend. Check the Discord server for some variations on the basic line.

  • Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Pestermite / Deceiver Exarch = infinite copies of the chosen untapper. I currently consider this the a viable alternate wincon for the deck when Animar is the frequrnt target of removal, but the fact that it requires two cards in hand (vs. just Recruiter for the Kiri line) and forces our manabase into more Red than is desirable makes it a slightly less preferable option for the blind meta.

  • Animar + Cloudstone Curio + any two nonartifact colorless or Morph creatures = infinite ETBs and infinite Animar counters. This combo will win games with many of the same outlets as the Statue line, but has a few drawbacks. Cloudstone itself is difficult to tutor and expensive to cast, and having two colorless creatures available is often more work than simply tutoring Ancestral Statue. Still, there are several good colorless creatures in the deck already, so the only cost to including this combo is Cloudstone itself. In many cases, it can even serve as a decent midrange piece when you need to grind out a stalled game.

  • Earthcraft + Man-o'-War / Dream Stalker / Shrieking Drake + a basic Island = infinite ETBs. This combo can actually win a game without Animar on board as long as you use the Drake and any outlet other than Walking Ballista. It suffers from the same drawbacks as the Cloudstone combo, however, in that Earthcraft itself is inaccessible to most of our tutors, and the combo requires 3+ pieces not counting an outlet. The creatures themselves are solid inclusions for the deck and Earthcraft can be used to generate mana on its own, so the only real restriction on deckbuilding is that the combo requires you to run a few more basics than would be ideal. Animar depends heavily on it's landbase in the first few turns and mulligans poorly, so including too many basics can throw away some games.

  • Aluren + Man-o'-War / Dream Stalker / Shrieking Drake = infinite ETBs. This combo works without Animar as well, but can also be used to make infinite Animar counters and win by combat. As with so many Animar wincons though, Aluren itself doesn't work well with the deck's suite of tutors, and at 4CMC, can be awkward to cast. Nevertheless, it has a very small footprint in the deck, so it's worth consideration.

  • Animar + Palinchron = infinite ETBs and sometimes infinite mana. Once Animar reaches 4 counters Palinchron has the ability to bounce and recast himself, winning the game with most of the same outlets as the Statue combo. Problematically, this combo requires at least 6 lands on board for Palinchon to be mana-neutral, or 7 to generate infinite mana. The deck plays as few lands as possible, however, making this line only viable late in the game. Further, Any combo that requires access to Animar on 4 counters, a particular creature and an outlet will inevitably be compared to the Statue combo, and Palinchron is simply less efficient at the same job.

Conclusion

Animar is a great deck to play. As with any good cEDH deck, it consistently rewards research, practice, tight play and a little creativity. While not a true Tier-1 competitor, the deck remains fast, fun and surprisingly powerful at almost any table. Rumors of Animar's death have been greatly exaggerated!

Please use this space to discuss all aspects the deck. I always learn a lot by chatting with other talented pilots on here!

Changelog

Cut:

Earthcraft

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

Yavimaya Coast

Shivan Reef

Karplusan Forest

Forest

Island

Added:

Green Sun's Zenith

Sylvan Safekeeper

Tarnished Citadel

Exotic Orchard

Thran Quarry

Dryad Arbor

Grove of the Burnwillows

Reasoning:

The best line in almost every game is to tutor Ancestral Statue as soon as Animar reaches 2-4 counters. Earthcraft is a viable secondary wincon in some games, but it's very hard to tutor up and requires more combo pieces to go infinite. To keep this line viable, we have to include a few too many basic lands for my liking, so the more streamlined the deck became, the less I found Earthcraft to be worth the slot and the mediocre landbase. I took this opportunity to shave the painlands and replace them with some solid Gold lands, further smoothing our early game out. Feels much better!

Cut:

Lotus Cobra

Added:

Mox Amber

Reasoning:

There are two fundamental kinds of ramp in this deck: pre-Animar ramp that helps you cast him on turn 2, and post-Animar ramp that is only useful thereafter. The first kind is essential to making this deck work, but the second kind is almost always overkill. When your creature casts all accelerate further creature casts, high-priced ramp cards are often irrelevant. I still find Wood Elves and Beastcaller Savant useful as free storm-like cards, Lotus Cobra has always been a bit more conditional, especially as the landbase becomes more refined. While Mox Amber isn't technically pre-Animar ramp, it's effectively concurrent with Animar, allowing the occasional cast of a 1-drop on turn 2 with Animar, or a faster turn 3 right after. Even mediocre games with this card are noticeably quicker.

Cut:

Peregrine Drake

Added:

Spellseeker

Reasoning:

Holy shit, I did not anticipate getting such a great card in what felt like an intro-level expansion. This tutors up Pact of Negation, Mental Misstep, Worldly Tutor, Sylvan Tutor, personal favorite Gamble, and even Glimpse of Nature sometimes. Testing has been very successful so far!

Cut:

Cloudstone Curio

Scavenging Ooze

Siren Stormtamer

Added:

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Pestermite

Deceiver Exarch

Reasoning:

The updated discussion of wincons above covers why I like Kiki over other options like Cloudstone and Earthcraft. ScOoze and Stormtamer were cut for being relatively niche hate (in my meta, at least) and requiring subsequent mana investments to be useful. This was definitely a meta-pick, though, and you still may want to play them.

Cut:

Phyrexian Metamorph

Ainok Survivalist

Added:

Dark-Dweller Oracle

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

Reasoning:

Much like Skullclamp, Dark-Dweller allows us to turn a stalled board full of spent ETB creatures into gas. He seems a little expensive, but the cost is the same as Clamp and we can feed him a wider variety of creatures. This guy will never be quite as good as Clamp because you don't technically draw the cards and you get fewer of them, but being an easily-tutorable creature is a big plus.

Vig has historically been considered too slow for the deck, but a lot has changed since I cut it a few years back.

  • The deck is way smoother overall. Creatures are cheaper, draw and tutor support are more efficient and our answers are more potent. Vig has a lot more to work with, and gets a lot better as a result.
  • Our topdeck manipulation is a lot better. Vizier and Oracle turn topdeck tutors into Demonic Tutors, and our improved draw suite makes it a lot easier to get a quick draw.
  • Mox Amber makes Legendary creatures a little more relevant. This one is very fringe, but definitely fun.

Overall, Core 2019 added a lot of speed to the deck!

Cut:

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

Added:

Scavenging Ooze

Reasoning:

I liked Vig a lot, but adding ScOoze back in was a necessary meta call. I just needed a way to interact with the yard. Similarly, after a good bit of testing, Loyal Drake turned out to have some great games, but ended up being a bit situational. Both he and Vig are solid choices for the deck, just not my preference.

Cut:

Primordial Sage

Soul of the Harvest

Added:

Beast Whisperer

Goblin Cratermaker

Reasoning:

I had been running both of the "Enchantress" creatures as a preference pick because I liked the redundancy, but the new Beast Whisperer is so much more accessible it hardly seems necessary to run either of the 6CMC options anymore. Cutting them will make room for Goblin Cratermaker as well, who represents an amazing bit of utility for us. He can murder most hatebears AND most of the best wincons in the format. This set is shaping up to be fantastic!!

Following some great discussions with experienced Animar pilots and cEDH experts on the Discord server, I've made the first major revision to the deck in years. a lot of cards that were products of my own inbred meta or were simply taken for granted have been cut, and a ton new tech has been introduced. Rather than make a card-by-card changelog, I'll simply overview the major updates and post an archive of the old deck here: Ancestral Animar: Kiki Jiki Build.

  • Kiki replaced by Kiri: See the wincons list above, but the major benefit is access to an easy one-card wincon via recruiter.
  • Removal of Empath and The Eldrazi: Taking out the Empath package allowed us to make room for smaller, more efficient alternatives.
  • More interaction: Despite my longstanding opposition to the idea, we added a few more uncounterable options plus some cheap counterspells. The increase in Blue lands and a greater focus on Spellseeker plays makes this a bit less finnicky, and it makes the deck better suited to competitive multiplayer settings.
  • Land Swap: More Blue lands have been added, with an emphasis on ways to make mana painlessly when looping Drake.

I'm still tinkering with the list, but I think the major elements are in place. I'll keep this space up to date with any other changes I make!

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