Magic: The Gathering's newest set "Rivals of Ixalan" has arrived, making now a much better time to play Ixalan's tribal decks. Vampires, Pirates, Dinosaurs, and Merfolk, Oh My!
Prior to MTGRIX, I was playing a home-brewed artifact tokens deck built around Sram's Expertise. It even brought me a 1st place finish at a Standard Showdown. But Orzhov has always been one of my favorite guilds, so I think now's the time to build a vampire deck that has the potential to be competitive in organized play.
My vampire list in its current state doesn't focus too heavily on one strategy. There are other lists out there that focus on aggro, tokens, the ascend mechanic, and lifegain. But rather than limiting myself to one strategy, my preferred gameplan is a simple one—play all the best vampires!
At the end of this article, I'll even reveal the only creature that I'm running that isn't a vampire.
This current vampire build is multi-faceted, borrowing from all of the aforementioned strategies, and even incorporates a playset of one tried and true vampire in Gifted Aetherborn.
The mainboard starts with 4 copies of Skymarcher Aspirant. 2-power one-drops have proven their worth in standard. (Think Bloodsoaked Champion or Kytheon, Hero of Akros.)
Since you can't build a vampire deck without Legion Lieutenant, you can bet there are 4 copies of that in here too. It's going to be a few more weeks until I'm totally familiar with this new set, but I wouldn't be surprised if Martyr of Dusk is the best common vampire in the whole block. I think 3 copies of that sounds good to me.
2 Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and 2 Yahenni, Undying Partisan add to the mix with powerful 3-drop vampires. Remember how expensive Monastery Mentor was at its peak in standard constructed? Mavren Fein helps us go wide, and pairs well with several other cards in the deck. And Yahenni will work great, since we'll have vampire tokens we can sack to it. If left unchecked, Yahenni can become quite a big problem, forcing exiling or mass removal.
The following creature is not only one of my all-time favorites, but it was also one of the most underrated and underplayed cards of recent years. That card, is Brutal Hordechief. And with Sanctum Seeker serving as a vampire-esque hordechief, I have a feeling Sanctum Seeker might be quite strong, so I'm throwing 3 copies of it in there. Some people will run 4, but even back when I used to play Brutal Hordechief, I was always happier when I only ran 3 of him, so I think that number makes more sense.
Image: Elenda, the Dusk Rose | Chris Rahn/Wizards of the Coast
Now, Champion of Dusk doesn't have nearly as much hype around it as Twilight Prophet or Elenda, the Dusk Rose do. All great cards that I'll probably end up playtesting with sooner or later. That said, I really think Champion of Dusk is currently undervalued. I expect this card to go up in value in the weeks to come, and I'm patiently waiting for my copies to arrive in the mail so that I can combine my new vampires with my old ones from Ixalan and get to testing. I'm gonna run 2 or 3 of these, but I haven't determined which count makes more sense yet.
There's one Vona, Butcher of Magan in there too for good measure. It may or may not stay, as it might be better suited for a build with an even greater emphasis on lifegain, but it's too capable of a card not to incorporate in these initial stages.
Ready for that non-vampire now? I'm going to test running 2 copies of Noxious Gearhulk—another monstrous creature that still hasn't gotten the credit it deserves. This card helps flip the script if you're behind on board presence and can potentially swing the game in your favor.
My current plans pair these creatures (I hope I didn't miss anybody) with 8 removal spells and 24 lands, 8 of which are deserts. I'm hoping Shefet Dunes and/or Legion Lieutenant can help maximize the value of my attacks.
When I first started building my vampire list, Call to the Feast was an auto-include in multiples. A few weeks later and it's not even on my list! Standard just might have enough playable vampires where Call to the Feast might be relegated to either builds on a budget or tokens builds. (Since we're on the topic of relegation and changes, it's important to note that I'm beyond certain this list will undergo multiple substitutions after a couple weeks of testing.) I might even cut a couple of 5-drops and test with 2 copies of Call to the Feast, since it would make for a healthier mana curve.
I don't necessarily view that as a bad thing though. You should always be looking for ways to make a good deck better!
The sideboard contains a pair of Authority of the Consuls to bring in against aggro, anti-control measures in Duress and Kambal, Consul of Allocation, some extra removal varieties, and a pair of Fumigate.
It's time to carve out a schedule of FNMs, Showdowns, and PPTQs, and see if a competitive vampires deck can actually Top 8 or even win in tournament play, the way mono-black zombies was a real force a few standard seasons ago.
It's going to be especially interesting to see how the MTGRIX metagame takes shape, considering Wizards of the Coast shocked most players when they announced the banning of 4 standard playable cards ahead of the set's release. The two most powerful decks in the format each lost 2 of their key components, so in the weeks to come, we're going to find out just how neutered Ramunap Red and Temur Energy are, post-ban.
With the losses these decks have incurred, and the gains the tribal decks are going to make with the launch of Rivals of Ixalan, I'm excited and hopeful the standard format is going to be a much healthier and more diverse format for the next few months.
This deck is probably going to be my front-runner for the current standard constructed season. Are you building a fresh vampire deck using cards from Rivals of Ixalan? Drop us a line on social if you feel like chatting about it!
And in the next several weeks, I'll be sure to post a Rivals of Ixalan vampire deck update not only highlightng how the deck list has evolved, but also how well the deck/I have been able to do in local tournaments. That post will also include a full deck list.
In the meanwhile, happy brewing, Wizards!
Feature Image: Twilight Prophet | Seb McKinnon/Wizards of the Coast