Constructed Criticism – Real Vampires Don’t Glitter

Thursday, December 2nd – Are you sick of Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Do his stupid, light-bright eyes make you cringe every time he hits the battlefield on your opponent’s side of the board? Have no fear, this tribal deck will run him over.

Are you sick of Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Do his stupid, light-bright eyes make you cringe every time he hits the battlefield on your opponent’s side of the board? His price tag and power level make him one of the most hated and most beloved cards in Magic, but it isn’t all bad. At least you can sell your soul for a playset and be able to compete. Right? While I admit that I own four Jaces, I know that a lot of my friends don’t, and his hefty price tag is easily the main reason. Well then what can you do about it? Give up on Standard?

Screw that. There are a lot of decks in Standard that don’t need Jace, and today we’re going to go in depth on one that snickers at his stupid, rune-painted face and turns some creatures sideways to deliver the beats. What used to be my most hated enemy due to some recent *cough* literature *cough*, I’ve grown to love this bloodsucking tribe and their wily ways. While I’ve seen countless teenage girls go bananas over Team Edward vs. Werewolf, I don’t think they’d be so inclined to fall in love with some of these mangy mongrels. Real Vampires don’t glitter.

If you want an aggressive deck that can turn the lights out for Mr. Blue, then you’ve come to the right place. This deck just laughs at your mother’s fine, imported RUG and just generally steamrolls any other deck that lists “4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor.” You can also build it so that your aggressive matchups become a bit easier as well. While the “traditional” Vampire deck was Mono-Black, Magic Online has given us a new color to the tribal theme: red. While red gives you reach, it also gives you access to Mark of Mutiny, which combos quite well with such mini-monsters like Viscera Seer and potentially Bloodthrone Vampire; though the latter rarely makes the cut.

Over the last few weeks, the B/R Vampire deck has been putting up some good numbers but has been presented with very little praise. Since people will just copy Dan Jordan decklist from the last StarCityGames.com Standard Open, you can bet this deck will just walk all over them:

The pairing of red with this classically dark tribe is something to behold. With cards like Kalastria Highborn and Pulse Tracker, it’s laughably easy to burn your opponent out with a few Lightning Bolts or Burst Lightnings after shrinking their life down to a manageable range. At times, it will feel like you’re playing a combo deck, using Viscera Seer to kill your opponent with multiple Kalastria Highborns in play without using the red zone.

What red brings to the table is something black can’t give it without spending six for Corrupt: reach. The burn in the deck gives your deck the ability to steal victory out of nowhere, whether it’s by doming your opponent for eight with a duo of kicked Burst Lightnings or just slinging the last few points at their head once your minions have had their fill of blood. Either way, it gets the job done with startling efficiency.

As promised, we’ll go over a matchup analysis, as well as a sideboarding guide. The Richmond StarCityGames.com Invitational is going to be full of ringers, so you better be prepared if you want to take down the tournament. Here’s the field:

RUG/BUG Control:

This matchup is all about you getting a fast start. If you don’t open with a one-drop, you’ll often fall behind very quickly. Their Lotus Cobras should never be allowed to stay in play, since that’s their only real way to gain a quick board advantage on you. Expect a decent number of people to be packing Inferno Titans a la Patrick Chapin and Michael Jacob, so don’t go into this matchup with a cocky attitude or a big head. They can always win. The deck is incredibly powerful, but you need to know how to attack them.

+4 Duress, +3 Dark Tutelage
-2 Arc Trail, -3 Burst Lightning, -2 Mark of Mutiny

Mark of Mutiny is mainly for Primeval Titan, but it combos well with your guys. Unfortunately, Frost Titan is rather hard to steal if they tap one of your lands down, so you can safely side them out if they present you with Mr. Freeze. If they’re playing Inferno Titan instead, you can leave a few in and just side out some Lightning Bolts. They’ll most definitely be bringing in Pyroclasm and siding out Lotus Cobras, since the Cobras never survive and just die to their own Pyroclasms if they do.

Be sure to play around Pyroclasm because running headfirst into one of those is just backbreaking. If your opponent uses an early Lightning Bolt, then that usually signifies that they don’t have a Pyroclasm, but move all-in at your own risk. Try to pick up a read on the opponent to figure out whether or not they have the Pyroclasm, because giving them too much time can be very bad. They can’t realistically beat a resolved Dark Tutelage and generally fold to a Bloodghast or two, so make sure you keep that in mind when making mulligan decisions.

Quest Weenie:

This is easily one of your more difficult matchups, but mostly because they try to do everything in their power to keep from interacting with you. The entire goal of Quest-Weenie is to put Argentum Armor into play as fast as possible and ride it to victory. Doom Blade is essential after boarding, as it can kill a creature before it attacks with the Armor, which most of your other cards can’t really stop. While they’ll have the occasionally mediocre draw without Quest for the Holy Relic, make sure to take advantage of those games and apply as much pressure as possible. Arc Trail is at its best in this matchup.

-1 Sword of Body and Mind, -2 Mark of Mutiny, -3 Pulse Tracker
+4 Doom Blade, +2 Arc Trail

Pulse Tracker is easily the worst creature in your deck after boarding, since it trades with almost nothing in their deck, so it can rarely attack. At least Vampire Lacerator provides you with a tradable body, and Bloodghast can enter the fray at any point.

Mark of Mutiny can be an “answer” to Argentum Armor, stealing their suited up creature and using the Armor’s ability to target the equipped creature or the Argentum Armor itself. I wouldn’t recommend this strategy unless you feel completely naked against them, in which case you could side out the Pulse Tracker and possibly some Lacerators to fill in the gaps.

U/B Spagnolo Control:

Made famous by GerryT and Nick Spagnolo, this deck seems to be on everyone’s radar. Mimic Vat revitalized the archetype and gives the deck new life with cool interactions via Grave Titan and Sea Gate Oracle. If you aren’t prepared to beat this deck, then you’ll get a rude awakening when your opponent slams Grave Titan onto the table. That guy is very difficult for you to beat and is probably better than Frost Titan in the deck, which says a lot considering how powerful Frost Titan is. Like most control decks, they’ll have a lot of trouble dealing with your early threats. Since their spot removal is Doom Blade, expect most of your guys to survive, which could allow you to push through lethal damage if they tap out for Grave Titan.

-2 Arc Trail, -2 Mark of Mutiny, -3 Burst Lightning
+4 Duress, +3 Dark Tutelage

After boarding you get answers to their Consume the Meeks with Duress and a way to recoup from sweepers with Dark Tutelage. They can’t beat a resolved Dark Tutelage without a lot of work, so expect that card alone to get you some free wins on the weekend. The most important part of this matchup is having an aggressive start, so don’t keep hands containing zero aggression, since you’ll give them enough time to set up a defensive wall to protect themselves.


This deck has been picking up in popularity as of late due to the addition of Squadron Hawk, which poses a bit of a problem for you. Most of the time you can deal with card advantage, but this kind of card advantage directly affects your line of attack and gives them many more blockers than they normally would have. Arc Trail and your other burn spells shine in this matchup, since they’re so reliant on their creatures to push through damage. They’ll likely have Cunning Sparkmage after sideboarding, so you probably want to transform into a Dark Tutelage-based deck with a ton of removal. Lacerator is mediocre because they’ll likely have a decent amount of burn to throw at you, so having a creature deal you damage can be a liability.

-4 Vampire Lacerator, -1 Pulse Tracker, -2 Mark of Mutiny, -1 Sword of Body and Mind
+4 Doom Blade, +2 Arc Trail, +2 Dark Tutelage

Drawing multiple Dark Tutelages against them could be bad, since dealing yourself too much damage could put you in a vulnerable spot. This matchup is all about the grind, so kill every single creature they play and try to force through some beats with Bloodghast, Highborn, and Gatekeeper while keeping their threats off the table.

Vengevine Variants:

These decks will likely give you the most grief, since there are very few ways in Standard to easily deal with Vengevine. While the card is an all-star on offense, he’s even better against you on defense since he blocks all of your guys without dying and can come back from a Lightning Bolt in a flash. These decks are traditionally weak to Arc Trail and the like, so keep their utility creatures in check. Kill Vengevine sparingly, since he’s bound to come back at least once or twice.

+2 Arc Trail, +4 Doom Blade
-2 Mark of Mutiny, -4 Pulse Tracker

Pulse Tracker is likely to be weak against whatever version they’re playing, while Lacerator isn’t much of a liability and can trade profitably. Viscera Seer doesn’t trade well either but provides a very solid ability for digging you out of holes and can combo-kill them in the meantime. Their mana creatures are their weak point, so kill them fast and often, unless it’s evident they’re flooding. Fauna Shaman is backbreaking if left alive, so don’t give them the chance to kill you out of nowhere by fetching up a few Vengevines.


Like most mirrors, this one is tricky. Kalastria Highborn and Viscera Seer are the most important creatures for you to kill, so try to save your removal for them if at all possible. Taking into consideration the amount of removal and trading that’s bound to occur, Dark Tutelage is your way to break the stalemate. Most people will be set in stone on just siding that card in against control decks, but it has a lot of applications outside of control matchups.

+2 Arc Trail, +3 Dark Tutelage
-2 Mark of Mutiny, -1 Sword of Body and Mind, -2 Pulse Tracker

Like other aggressive matchups, Pulse Tracker and Mark of Mutiny are mediocre. Sword of Body and Mind is equally abysmal, since most of your creatures will be dead upon arrival.

While this deck hasn’t been that popular as of late, it’s still a solid choice for the tournament, and people will play it. You should handle them quite easily, since Arc Trail and a swarm of dorks is just what the doctor ordered. This matchup is a lot like the Quest Weenie matchup, except they don’t have an Argentum Armor. Be sure to eliminate their early mana producers to keep them off Genesis Wave and planeswalkers, but don’t go overboard if they seem to be flooding. Elvish Archdruid is quite strong but can allow you to blow them out if they’re relying on him to make profitable trades.

+2 Arc Trail, +4 Doom Blade, +2 Dark Tutelage
-2 Mark of Mutiny, -4 Pulse Tracker, -2 Vampire Lacerator

After boarding, they’ll likely have Leatherback Baloth and possibly Molten-Tail Masticore. Doom Blade should take care of both, since they’ll likely be tapping out for the Masticore. Tutelage allows you to sit back and accumulate card advantage while they run out of gas in a hurry due to all of your removal.


This matchup is a coin-flip in my opinion. While you have similar strategies, i.e. aggressive decks with combo-kill finishers, they have a bit more explosiveness. Kuldotha Rebirth by itself can be devastating, but there isn’t much you can do about it other than play some 2/2s and hope they’re good enough. Our main concern from them is going to be Goblin Chieftain, but their entire deck functions like a well-oiled machine, so try to play around everything. Goblin Bushwhacker can be quite a nuisance.

+2 Arc Trail, +3 Duress
-1 Sword of Body and Mind, -2 Pulse Tracker, -2 Mark of Mutiny

Duress can be a lifesaver, keeping Kuldotha Rebirth from hitting the table. You can also randomly snatch a burn spell from their hand to keep your important creatures alive. They don’t have very many must-kill creatures, so don’t worry about bringing in additional removal.

Valakut Ramp:

While this strategy is falling out of popularity, it’s still viable and continues to swarm Magic Online Daily Events. I wouldn’t disregard it, because casting Primeval Titan and having awesome lands to grab are just incredibly powerful. While your burn spells will rot in your hand until your opponent is almost dead, they can be a good way of finishing off the opponent once they’ve used Valakut to kill some of your creatures. You should be favored due to Mark of Mutiny, but you don’t have Teetering Peaks to go grab to seal the deal.

-2 Arc Trail, -3 Burst Lightning, -1 Sword of Body and Mind
+4 Duress, +2 Mark of Mutiny

Sword of Body and Mind is mediocre in this matchup simply because they have access to a plethora of things to remove and block. Wurmcoil Engine and Inferno Titan aren’t out of the range of possibility, and even a timely Lightning Bolt can put you into a tempo black hole. You’re better off just having Duress and Mark of Mutiny against them. Burst Lightning is the most time-consuming of the burn spells, and I’d rather just have Lightning Bolt. You don’t want to side out any of your creatures, but having access to Duress can make their Summoning Trap draws laughable.

Eldrazi Ramp:

This deck has been getting no love lately, and it’s probably due to the fact that everyone wants to play Jace. The deck is powerful and has a lot of great interactions, but you don’t have solid removal so the aggressive decks can beat you before you get started sometimes. This matchup is not the same as Valakut, so don’t trick yourself into thinking that. While Mark of Mutiny is still great, they have a lot of other tools at their disposal, including Overgrown Battlement. Their Primeval Titans aren’t as backbreaking as Valakuts, but they are still potent, and can spell disaster next turn with an Eldrazi coming down on your head.

-2 Arc Trail, -3 Burst Lightning, -1 Lightning Bolt
+2 Mark of Mutiny, +4 Doom Blade

Burn is pretty average against them, but keeping in a few Lightning Bolts can stop their busted draws featuring Joraga Treespeaker. Doom Blade kills their important early creatures, making room for you to swing through and deal the last few points of damage. This matchup shouldn’t be too difficult, but they can always nut-draw you.


Overall, I feel like this is the best aggressive strategy in the format, and I would definitely play it at the SCG Invitational this weekend in Richmond. If you’re tired of looking Jace in the face and want to make your opponents pay for playing him, then look no further. Your creatures may seem small, but their interactions and abilities make up for their stature. While some might argue that you should be playing Captivating Vampire, he just doesn’t add to the deck what you need. He further extends you into Pyroclasm, and you will rarely get to activate his “ultimate” ability. The burn is better.

Good luck this weekend, and remember: Real Vampires Don’t Glitter. They don’t have to.

Thanks for reading.

strong sad on MOL