Description

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.

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 / Purphoros, God of the Forge / Soul of the Harvest / Primordial Sage. 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.

  • Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Pestermite / Deceiver Exarch = infinite copies of the chosen untapper. This combo is unique among Animar's alternate wincons in that it requires no non-creature cards to function, making it readily accessible to the tutor package already in the deck, and easy to protect with things like Cavern of Souls and Prowling Serpopard. Requiring three deck slots to function is a considerable downside, but notably both of the untappers are essentially free with Animar on board (they can untap the land or artifact used to cast them) and they can also be used as disruption by tapping down opposing attackers, combo pieces and open mana. Kiki himself is definitely not cheap to cast, but the in the casting cost is easily attainable with our manabase. He also works as an value engine by copying useful ETB effects. I currently consider this the best alternate wincon available to the deck, and would recommend playing it over the other options listed.

  • 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:

Dream Stalker

Testing:

Loyal Drake

Reasoning:

Drake my not be a big and splashy, but he effectively draws card on ETB if you cast in Mainphase 1, which is pretty mediocre but not unplayable at 3 CMC. The upside is that by the next turn he's a better Mulldrifter, and the longer the game runs the more powerful he gets. So the basement level of value is mediocre, especially if Animar just keeps dying, but the ceiling is very high. More importantly, in a typical game, this guy falls somewhere between Elvish Visionary and Mulldrifter, which is a pretty good place to be.

I'm going to keep testing Drake, however, because he's a hard card to evaluate. Sometimes he enters on turn 3 and draws 4 cards, sometimes I'll be on a Kiki-Jiki line and he'll be utter dead weight. I want to test a little more before locking this one in.

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