Brewing Vampires

vampires bloodghast

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I have a deep love for synergistic decks (few things get me going more than chaining together multiple copies of Collected Company), and with that comes a natural love for tribal decks. Today I’ll be straying away from the green tribal decks I’ve covered previously and venturing into the bloodsucking world of Vampires.

 

Aggro is the natural draw for people who begin to brew Vampires in Modern, but Starcity Games’ Tom Ross figured out a different, clever approach last year founded much more on value, synergy, and resilience. Below is his recently updated version.

Vampires by Tom Ross

Creatures (20)
Bloodghast
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Kalastria Highborn
Vampire Nocturnus
Viscera Seer

Spells (12)
Dismember
Murderous Cut
Inquisition of Kozilek
Sign in Blood
Thoughtseize

Lands (24)
10 Swamp
Bloodstained Mire
Mutavault
Polluted Delta
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Sideboard (15)
Vampire Nighthawk
Leyline of the Void
Darkblast
Disfigure
Deathmark
Feast of Blood
Thoughtseize
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Tweaking Vampires

I like the core of Tom’s list a lot, but there are a number of changes I would make outside of that core.

1) 3 Mutavault, 4 Urborg. I’ve tested the interaction between these two in 8Rack extensively (also a monoblack deck with a lot of black heavy costs) and done the math (well, someone smarter did it for me), and found this is the correct combination to ensure you’re rarely screwed on mana while still getting a lot of use out of Mutavault. Going to 3 Mutavault doesn’t really hurt much since you’re not going to want to activate it all the time anyway.

2) No Dismember. Cheap is nice, but this is going to feel horrible a lot of the time against Burn, Affinity, and Delver, among other decks, even just as a 1-of. Let’s swap this for Victim of Night (which has bonus flavour).

3) No Cut. This is generally used as a 1-of in three colour decks with a slow pace and a bajillion answers, none of which is the case here. Our removal is limited, which means we need it to be extremely reliable — not being able to kill a turn 1 Delver or Goblin Guide or turn 2 Eidolon or Pyromancer is going to suck a lot more and a lot more often than the 2cmc of Victim will.

4) Revert to tried and true 3 Thoughtseize, 3 Inquisiton package. I like versatility and reliability, and the life loss shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially with our sideboard, and after cutting Dismember.

5) Cut a Lily for a third Victim (kill spells are lacking). Junk often does it, so we should be fine to as well.

6) The sideboard I’m not a big fan of: 4 Leyline is overkill (especially since only a few fringe decks need the yard to win), the Disfigure slot is better served by the more versatile Sorin’s Thirst (more flavour!), Feast can’t kill turn 1-2 Burn and Infect creatures, and Thoughtseize should be main or not at all. So we overhaul that.

That brings us to…

Vampires by Sean Ridgeley

Creatures (20)
Bloodghast
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Kalastria Highborn
Vampire Nocturnus
Viscera Seer

Spells (16)
Sign in Blood
Victim of Night
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Liliana of the Veil

Lands (24)
Swamp
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Mutavault
Sideboard (15)
Vampire Nighthawk
Leyline of the Void
Darkblast
Sorin’s Thirst
Deathmark
Duress
Bile Blight
Cranial Extraction
Liliana of the Veil
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Life Total? What’s That?

Next is my own aggro Vampires list, built on the old “Suicide Black” premise wherein you throw all caution to the wind and lose a ton of life in an effort to win as fast as possible. Because we take this approach and because Burn and Affinity are so popular, it’s possible we should show some caution and maindeck some amount of Vampire Nighthawk, or put a playset sideboard (instead of just the two copies).

Suicide Vampires by Sean Ridgeley

Creatures (24)
Bloodghast
Dark Confidant
Guul Draz Vampire
Stromkirk Captain
Vampire Lacerator
Captivating Vampire

Spells (14)
Bump in the Night
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Lightning Bolt

Lands (22)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Mutavault
Polluted Delta
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Darkblast
Deathmark
Duress
Grim Lavamancer
Magus of the Moon
Rakdos Charm
Terminate
Vampire Nighthawk
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Breaking it Down

Unlike the list above, this one is built on a very smooth curve that caps out at 3cmc. Two creatures (four copies of each) are made much better when the opponent has 10 or less life, so we pack plenty of Lightning Bolt and Bump in the Night to help with this (Bolt of course helps get rid of troublesome creatures, too, and Bump offers reach in fringe situations). Our other maindeck red card is the wonderful Stromkirk Captain. Because we’re more aggressive and because we run a total of eight red cards, we cut Vampire Nocturnus and a couple land.

The manabase is tuned around Magus of the Moon (which we use over Blood Moon because we’re aggro), and also to be a little conservative toward our life total, since we take enough from our spells (Urborg means we’ll fetch less, while helping with Mutavault; only two shocks and six fetches alongside 14 painless lands means we won’t be too hurt). It could maybe be improved slightly, but this feels like a strong starting point.

vampires nighthawk

Besides the aforementioned Magus, red gives us access to the potent Lavamancer, the ever-versatile Rakdos Charm (which covers all kinds of bases), and unconditional removal in the form of Terminate for things we really need to kill that don’t die to Bolt. The board almost definitely needs tuning, but it’s a decent first iteration.

So, while we give up Nocturnus and some synergy, value, and resilience, we gain more creatures, a more aggressive gameplan, some different abilities, and a few sweet sideboard cards.

While I lean toward the list above being the best of all these, this one should give it a run for its money. Good stuff.

Closing Thoughts

These aren’t meant to be extremely competitive decks, of course, but rather, something fun you can use to mix it up at FNM with or at the kitchen table with friends. That said, you will win often enough to enjoy yourself. Happy bloodsucking!

Sean is a Magic Online grinder that’s been playing Modern since 2012. His background comprises a combined 10 years of journalism study and practice. You can find him on Twitter @regalforce.

10 thoughts on “Brewing Vampires

  1. I’ve been toying with the idea of a Vampire deck for some time now, and I somehow had not come across the Tom Ross list. Thanks for that, it’s really quite helpful.

    Your aggro list seems to have 58 cards in it, though. Might I suggest running 2 Captivating Vampire? Every bit of pump helps. Failing that, I would probably promote 2 Nighthawks to the mainboard to try and tone down the list’s suicide element. Is there a reason this deck has opted against AEther Vial, by the way?

    1. Oops. 2 Captivating Vampire was supposed to be in the list. Edited.

      Vial is best in decks with lots of 2 and 3 drop creatures and few or no 1 drop creatures, particularly if it’s a tempo deck. I’d rather just play a 1 drop creature, since we have some good ones.

      Edit: cut 4 Cullblade for 2 more Captivating Vampire and 2 Bump. Also swapped Cure in the first list for Sorin’s Thirst because flavour.

  2. Enjoy the article, huge tribal fan. My teammate was testing vampires some time ago, and the common opinion we came to was that Stromkirk Noble and Kalastria Highborn gave the deck a much needed damage push; is there a reason those two were excluded from the casual list?

    1. Noble I feel like won’t get through often enough to warrant inclusion. Highborn isn’t very good if you don’t run Seer, which I’m inclined not to in an aggro list. Note I’ve since added 2 Captivating Vampire which were intended to be in the list. That adds some punch, and a neat ability.

      Related thought: possibly we should cut 2 Guul Draz or 2 Cullblade and add 2 Bump.

      I don’t consider the second list any more casual than the first, really. They both try hard, one just happens to get further (at least, that’s the impression I get from looking at them).

      Edit: cut 4 Cullblade for 2 more Captivating Vampire and 2 Bump. Much better. Also swapped Cure in the first list for Sorin’s Thirst because flavour.

    1. Oh jeez. I saw the 8Rack list awhile and wrote about it, but didn’t catch the Vampires list. I looked to see if he had updated it but didn’t find anything. I blame the vague title. I’ll update the article with this list and my thoughts on it momentarily. Nice to see our sideboards are similar. And I like that he added more removal.

      Red cards are a bad idea with Nocturnus.

  3. Any thoughts on Arrogant Bloodlord? I know Lingering Souls is backbreaking to it but a 4/4 for three in type seems solid against nearly everything else…(Its an auto out against Jund and Abzan simply because of LS and AD of course.)

    1. Weak against Swiftspear, Deceiver, Souls, Ornithopter, Signal Pest, Pyromancer, Delver, Hierarch, etc. Even if that wasn’t the case, Lily, a lord, or Nighthawk is stronger in that slot.

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