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Graveyard-based strategies are common in casual and tournament MTG. The graveyard offers players easy ways to cheat on costs (e.g. Reanimator), grind out incremental advantage (e.g. Sun Titan decks, Zombies with Gravecrawler), set up infinite combos (e.g. Melira Pod in Modern, Sharuum EDH), or short-circuit most of "normal" Magic altogether (Manaless Dredge).

However, Wizards of the Coast also prints powerful hate cards to hold graveyard decks in check, including Leyline of the Void, Relic of Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, Grafdigger's Cage, Jund Charm, and Scavenging Ooze.

Part of running a fun and powerful deck is making sure you don't just fold to hate immediately.

What are the most common and successful strategies for playing around graveyard hate, especially for decks with a graveyard-based combo element? I am interested in both deckbuilding solutions (including sideboarding, of course) and in-play tactics.

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(It may be useful to distinguish between playing around lasting effects like Leyline of the Void and one-shot graveyard hate like Nihil Spellbomb in your answer, if the techniques involved are significantly different.) – Alex P May 20 '12 at 21:36
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Best is of course to go off before he manages to get his hate into play.

You can use all-round disruption (Force of Will, Thoughtseize), hate for their hate (spot removal, Mental Misstep) or hate for their win con to delay them.

The big problem comes when they have different types of graveyard hate against you so you can't bring in that perfect card against it. Mental Misstep, Daze, FoW and Snuff Out are examples of "free" spells that might be useful. Krosan Grip can be good against Relics and Crypts, though it's quite expensive.

If you're up against a "one shot hate" you can try to set yourself up to be able to do two shots, first forcing him to use the hate and then going off. Some people (me back in the day) sideboard wrong and slow down their own deck quite a bit, which gives you extra time to set up.

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Depending on the format, you can

a) be faster than the hater (except against Leyline of course, only white control helps against that): The fastest combo is Swamp, Dark Ritual, Putrid Imp/Entomb, discard, Exhume.

b) control your opponent's solutions. Black is notoriously bad at dealing with artifacts and enchantments, so you probably need white (Disenchant) and/or blue (countering) as well. Google "reanimator control" for deck lists.

Unfortunately, control typically conflicts with Reanimator's strategy of bringing a fat guy on the table as soon as possible. You either need to spend a turn removing a hate card, or you need to keep enough mana open to counter one. Trying to be faster loses against Leyline of the Void, and possibly against cheap permanent or instant-speed graveyard removal.

Either way, you should always try to discard your fat guy and reanimate it in one go if possible. Give the opponent as little an opening as possible. But if you go against a dedicated graveyard hate sideboard, you're going to have a tough time either way, because as you already pointed out with your list of hate cards, all those cards are cheap and have either a static or an instant-speed activated hate ability.

On the positive side: when going the counter route, the hoser spells' low costs and specific type can be to your advantage. Cards like Spell Snare, Mental Misstep and Annul protect your graveyard for minimal costs.

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I'd expect a deck packed with graveyard hate cards (from a side deck) to be pretty slow to deal damage to you, so having an alternative way to deal damage (besides graveyard) should be enough for you, even considering that you would have a side deck as well... Persoanlly, i found that side decks that allow you to "change the face" of your deck (in this case, from graveyard to aggro or aggro-control) are often more effective than a side deck selected only to protect you from particular focussed decks (land-shatter, discard, etc.): this way you can "attack" and run the show...;-) – Yaztromo May 24 '12 at 20:31
Actually, the most common answer to Leyline isn't White, it's Blue: Chain of Vapor. – Steven Stadnicki Jun 2 '12 at 22:14

Check out cards that allow you to prevent specific cards from being played, such as Nevermore, Phyrexian Revoker, and Memoricide.

There are a lot of different ways, besides just counters, to control what cards a deck can play. These are all good sideboard cards to have if you're playing something weak to cards like Nihil Spellbomb or Ratchet Bomb, etc.

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