Vampires in Standard.

Written by Tony Guidotti on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Vampires in Standard.

Tony Guidotti

Tony learned to play Magic unsleeved on dirty tent floors as a Boy Scout in middle school, but truly became enamored with the game after college. He likes to find unseen card interactions, will draft all day every day, and probably is competitive to an unhealthy degree.

Vampire tribal has been underplayed in Standard since the release of Shadows over Innistrad. But the void made by the banning of Aetherworks Marvel has opened a world where the dark terrors of the night can reign supreme, and can do it on a decent budget.

Since Drana, Liberator or Malakir is still a card with incredible potential, I figured I would give her one last chance at Standard stardom.

I learned three things:

  1. With so many good creatures, limiting yourself to only vampires is a serious pain in the neck.
  2. The more vampires you have on the battlefield up the better. After all, blood is thicker than water.
  3. In a damage race, their aggressive nature means you will always be neck and neck.

Seriously though, Drana, Liberator of Malakir still has huge upside. A 2/3 flyer with first strike for 1BB is not bad in black, but she goes over the moon with her second ability. Whenever she does combat damage to a player you put a +1/+1 counter on all of your creatures. I love putting counters on things. I’m a sucker for it.

Recall though how she has first strike, meaning the damage she does, and consequently the trigger to put counters on your creatures, happens before any of your regular dudes deal damage. She makes every other creature you attack with better and is a great force multiplier who can really get in people’s heads.

Now if only there was a card which made her produce more counters. I would go batty for a card like that.

I spent a summer in Africa, and the most common song I heard repeated, “Everything is double double!” It listed things like health, and money, and blessings as being double double. The song is definitely not about vampires and snakes, but it applies here.

Winding Constrictor makes Drana double double. Why just give all your attackers one counter when you can give them two? Every time you deal damage with Drana and the snake is on the board each creature gets two counters. Turning a 1/1 into a 3/3 on the spot and then doing the same thing each turn? Cool story bro.

Winding constrictor even curves well into Drana. A great turn four follow-up is Yahenni, Undying Partisan. Yahenni’s haste means they can attack at the same time as Drana’s first attack, making for an ideal follow up. Yahenni’s ability to sacrifice a creature for indestructability is useful against board wipes and spot removal. Plus, anytime an opposing creature dies Yahenni gets a +1/+1 counter. And if the Winding Constrictor is on the board…Yahenni is double double.

If we can play a good one drop then we could be off to a hot start. Our two one drops are Vampire Cutthroat and Indulgent Aristocrat. These two lifelinkers each have an additional rule. The Cutthroat has skulk, meaning it can’t be blocked by creatures with more power than it. This allows it to sneak in under the radar to deal incremental damage while you set up your bigger stuff, plus in the event of a board stall can act as a reliable clock. The Indulgent Aristocrat is a surprise all-star. By being able to give all your vampires +1/+1 counters (or even double double counters!?!) at instant speed you have another way to complicate combat match and make your attacks more favorable to you. The only draw back is the Aristocrat only buffs your vampires.

 

Good thing we play lots of vampires, even metal vampires. Metallic Mimic might be the best non-zombie specific tribal enabler, especially because we are playing around with +1/+1 counters. Metallic Mimic is double double.

Another Vampire which is totally undercosted at BB is Gifted Aetherborn. 2/3 provides a solid early body (with more lifelink), and the deathtouch is great for forcing through more damage on a stalled board or holding up any non-indestructible big baddie. Asylum Visitor gives us three power at the two drop spot, and is mostly in the deck as a way to draw cards once we, and potentially our opponent, has played out our hand. Because we have so much lifegain, the “lose 1 life” drawback isn’t even a concern.

Finishing out the list is nine removal spells; 4 Grasp of Darkness, 4 Never/Return, and a single Battle at the Bridge.

$75 and you have a fun deck to pilot which can 2-1 or 3-0 local events.

You probably aren’t reading this to win a few packs at an FNM though. You want eternal glory (which, is exactly the kind an immortal blood drinking vampire would pursue). How would I optimize the list after playing it a few weeks?

As soon as the budget restriction is off the table the first thing I add to the 75 is 4 Fatal Push. Being in black, it is essential we take the best removal available to us, and with several fast decks with low CMC like energy and W/r humans in the format we need need need Fatal Push to have the time to build our double double engine. This card is extra flexible for vampires since we have a sacrifice outlet that lets us trigger revolt and thus target more expensive creatures with this spell.

Next is Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. This guy not only has a way to make his own double double counters, efficiently using any creatures that are too small to be relevant to fuel his own lifelinked rampage, but also creates a 2/2 zombie whenever a creature an opponent controls dies. As a higher curve creature who is legendary, he is only present as a two of.

Verdurous Gearhulk is a double double dream, and in some matchups provides some much needed trample on a body Glorybringer can’t eat. With a Winding Constrictor in play you get 12 power for five many and can spread it across a number of bodies. He gives us perfect flexibility for whatever situation he is played into. Depending on the meta there are times you will want more Gearhulks over the two Kalitas.

Speaking of useful trample abilities, the last creature addition is a single copy of Rhonas, the Indomitable. In most cases a single round of double double counters on our creatures should activate Rhonas for attacking and blocking and being able to give a creature +2/0 trample is relevant on a stalled board. Rhonas’ trample aspect is especially relevant with Drana, as combat damage from her trampling triggers her +1/+1 ability the same way as if she attacked a player unblocked.

 

Blooming Marsh dramatically smooths out our opening hands, but the land we added which is a real rock star is Westvale Abbey. Ormendahl is an ultimate threat, and our deck has a low enough curve where having five creatures out isn’t too hard. He is a great out to have in any match where the board gets mucked up.

In the sideboard we find the last Fatal Push, the other three Never//Return, and two Battle of the Bridge for a flexible post-sideboard removal package. Battle of the Bridge actually is decently positioned right now against the white aggro decks as it is a way to gain life while stabilizing the board. 3 Dead Weight is also great for matchups where your opponent is strictly playing the smaller creatures.

I am moving Yahenni to the sideboard where they can assist in heavy kill spell and board wipe matches due to their ability to become indestructible, but overall is not as essential to the deck’s functioning. Joining creature Yahenni is Yahenni’s Expertise, a solid board wipe that really can set us up well against zombies provided we play it before they have two Lord of the Accursed.

Overall this is a really fun deck if you are looking to try something new or hop into standard on a budget and a fantastic way to come at the metagame if you already have all the pieces for the tooled out version. The creatures are aggressive, flexible, and with the right pieces synchronized together can go completely over the top and run over other creature decks. If you’ve got the cards and want to try something new, take some unloved vampires out for a spin!

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