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The Graveyard Combo Archetype in Highlander

Welcome to the Graveyard Combo deck archetype for 7 Point Highlander! On this page you will find all the content related to this play style.

A Summary of the Graveyard Combo Archetype

Graveyard Combo decks often look to deploy a game-winning threat much earlier than its mana cost dictates. The most common way to do this involves discarding a large creature from your hand, and then casting a spell that returns a creature from the graveyard to the battlefield. The goal is to be operating on a very different axis from your opponent, and when your game-winning threats cost only two-mana it will make answering them a significant challenge. Graveyard Combo decks capitalise on the fact that most opponents will not be equipped to interact with cards in your graveyard zone during game one, and then often Sideboard into an alternative and sometimes slower and more controlling strategy during games two and three.

Graveyard Combo Deck Lists and Variations

One popular variant of the Graveyard Combo archetype is a deck referred to as ‘Reanimator’ after the spell Reanimate, the most powerful representative of the effects that return a creature from the graveyard to the battlefield. This iconic spell allows you to put a powerful creature into play for only one Black mana, and the downside is rarely relevant when you are enacting this plan as early as turn one! A common perfect opening hand can place a Griselbrand directly onto the battlefield via Entomb, Reanimate, and a piece of fast mana. This makes Black essential to the Reanimator deck, and it is commonly supported by Blue and Red spells. The two colours in tandem offer card selection in order to tear through the deck in search of Animate Dead, Exhume etc, whilst also providing the outlet to discard key creatures like Jin-Gitaxias Core Augur, ready for reanimation. Key spells that fill this role in Red and Blue include Frantic Search, Faithless Looting, Careful Study, and Dack Fayden. Red and Blue also offer alternative avenues to deploying your huge creatures, such as Sneak Attack and Show and Tell, which are critical to navigating around graveyard interaction from the opponent in Sideboarded games. Likewise, your own sideboard offers means of combatting graveyard interaction, Counterspells, and even alternative creatures that will dominate specific match-ups. 

Deck ListReanimator

In addition there is a video primer available, which covers the key groupings of cards and touches on the fundamental aspects of the Reanimator playstyle in only 7 minutes. You can watch it here:

In addition there is an in-depth video primer available, which covers the role of each group of cards as well as the fundamental playstyle for the Reanimator deck. You can watch this Deep Dive video here:

Rather than place one threat in the graveyard at a time, a different approach to Graveyard Combo instead seeks to put the majority of its deck into the graveyard and then win on the spot. If you engineer your deck to contain a combo that allows you to win entirely from the graveyard zone, it means that any means by which to ‘mill’ the majority of your library will effectively win you the game. The best enabler for this is the creature Hermit Druid, which will mill your entire deck as long as you are not playing any basic lands! Whilst this ‘one-card win’ is where the deck earns its name, redundancy is also important and you can achieve the same goal via the interaction between Cephalid Illusionist and Nomads en-Kor. Usually Dread Return is a key card, as it permits you to ‘reanimate’ your most important game-winning creature and can be cast with Flashback directly from your recently mill-ed deck. Therefore, ‘free’, Unearth, and Embalm creatures are critical, such as Narcomoeba, Fatestitcher, and Sacred Cat. The actual creature reanimated by Dread Return is largely academic so you can choose whichever option suits your fancy, and one of the popular options involves The Mimeoplasm, which copies your Murderous Redcap and enters as large as your Lord of Extinction! The other involves targeting Angel of Glory’s Rise with your Dread Return, which then also returns your Laboratory Maniac and Azami, Lady of Scrolls, the latter of which allows you to tap your wizards to draw the last card in your deck and win on the spot. 

Deck ListHermit Druid

In addition there is an in-depth video primer available, which covers the role of each group of cards as well as the fundamental playstyle for the Hermit Druid deck. You can watch this Deep Dive video here:

Building Graveyard Combo on a Budget

If you enjoy the sound of Graveyard Combo but you are on a budget, it is possible to build decks like Reanimator without the card Bazaar of Baghdad. Likewise, to reduce the need to purchase multiple original dual lands (e.g. for the Green ‘splash’ in Oath of Druids) you can also streamline your colours and mana base. Building Reanimator in ‘Dimir’ (Black-Blue) colours means that although you lose powerful spells like Gamble and Sneak Attack, the fundamental Reanimator shell of ‘Animate Dead’ spells and card selection/filtering is still very much intact. You can also predispose your budget variant toward playing a slightly longer game, because whilst you lose the speed of Bazaar opening hands, you can potentially leverage the longevity of cards like Search for Azcanta to set up ‘big’ turns a little later, rather than attempting the combo early game without protection. If going for a Dimir Reanimator strategy the most expensive card may be Underground Sea, however it is feasible to play without the original dual land and still have a very competitive list. Consider leveraging Back to Basics in the Sideboard too, as a way to capitalise on a budget basic land manabase and punish opposing greedy decks.

Playing 7 Point Highlander on a budget? Don’t forget to listen to listen to one of the 7 Point Highlander Cast’s seminal episodes on how to construct a good deck whilst on a shoestring!

Podcast – Building on a Budget

Highlander Graveyard Combo Video Content

Compiled below are links to some excellent YouTube resources that can help you see versions of the Graveyard Combo deck archetype in action.

Watch this video to see Grixis Reanimator in action:

Watch this video to see Reanimator in action, featuring Oath of Druids:

Watch this playlist to see a deck tech discussion on Reanimator and follow it into a gauntlet:


Where to next?

Did Graveyard Combo fit the kind of deck archetype you’re looking for? Want to know more about other Combo decks? Visit the Combo hub here.

Sometimes you will see Graveyard ‘sub-themes’ in other archetypes, such as the Lands deck abusing Life from the Loam, or Control decks employing Gifts Ungiven with Unburial Rites. If you’d like to know more about dedicated Control decks or Control decks with this kind of ‘combo element’, visit the Control hub here, and likewise you can explore Midrange decks with a graveyard sub-theme by visiting the Midrange hub here.

Dr Sarven McLinton

Sarven has been playing Magic the Gathering since Stronghold (1998) and is on The Highlander Points Committee. He is well-versed in a wide variety of deck archetypes but remains an avid student of the game. Sarven is a passionate writer and seeks to apply his extensive experience in research and statistics to gaming. By day, 'Dr McLinton' works as a Research Associate at the Centre for Workplace Excellence (CWeX) managing various projects investigating psychosocial factors at work, as well as lecturing Psychology Honours and supervising PhD candidates. By night, 'McLinton Sensei' teaches traditional Japanese Karate in South Australia's premiere sporting centre, the ARC Campbelltown. He holds a 4th-degree black belt and is a gold medalist, competing both nationally and internationally in Karate and Open-style contact tournaments.