I know many people feel the current Standard environment is very stale. It’s Caw-Blade this, Caw-Blade that. Most people are taking the approach “If
you can’t beat them, join them” when it comes to Standard. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, I personally always try to find
a deck that fits my play style. Tempo decks have been my favorite style of play, and whenever I have an opportunity to play Magic that way, I will tend
to always go that direction.
This takes me to my current standard deck of choice: Mono-Black Vampires. I recently made the Top 4 in Minneapolis’s most current StarCityGames.com
Invitational Qualifier, which was a great feeling and a lot of fun. Even though I am already qualified for the StarCityGames.com Invitational from my
Top 8 in Kansas City, I still wanted to participate in this event to try to take home the $250.00 in travel expenses awarded to the winner. These
tournaments give you a feel for a major tournament only in a much more local setting.
Out of the eight total rounds I played, I beat Caw-Blade three times and lost to it twice. I’m also currently up seven to one against Valakut in
tournament matches. Having game against both those decks is very important, especially in this current metagame. You’re almost guaranteed to play
Caw-Blade and Valakut a total of 6 out of your 8 rounds in a major tournament.
Here’s my list:
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 2 Vampire Hexmage
- 4 Vampire Lacerator
- 3 Abyssal Persecutor
- 4 Kalastria Highborn
- 4 Viscera Seer
I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Why Vampires and why mono-black?”
I want to start off by saying that Standard is the most mana-hungry format I have ever played in. Almost everybody has “come into play tapped” lands,
and if you discard a Squadron Hawk or Stoneforge, they need to get to turn five before they are able to do much of anything.
What if I wanted to play a deck that could control your opponent’s hand and creatures with good discard and top-level removal spells, while at the same
time have a relevant clock and a great late game in the form of a 6/6 flying, trample for four mana? Mono-Black Vamps is where it’s at.
I have nothing against the R/B Vampires list. They are good, strong decks. I personally just would rather have a deck with no taplands. I also prefer
playing with Tectonic Edges, discard, and Go for the Throat, which is the best removal spell we have seen since Path to Exile.
A funny fact about playing Mono-Black Vamps: The deck doesn’t get a lot of respect. I have never been chewed out by so many players on MODO, or in
person, about how lucky I got and how they only needed one or two more turns to take over the game. I just like to laugh and agree with them and say
“Good games, kid!” My most recent incident was playing a Valakut player on MODO who typed an essay about how lucky I was with my draws, how he deserved
to win, and how my deck was a stupid little boy’s deck. This all happening after I beat him 2-0.
Let’s look at some card choices:
Abyssal Persecutor, my savior:
Remember the days when Abyssal Persecutor was spoiled, and everyone was saying how good it would be? Well I can tell you this card is amazing! In my
opinion, he works better in Mono-Black Vampires than in any other deck. I never have to worry about my ability to kill him after he hits play. In
Vampires, you have twelve ways to kill him: four Go for the Throats, four Viscera Seers, and four Gatekeepers of Malakir. This guy usually only needs
to swing once to give you the win, and he is a great wall against many of the most popular creatures in the format. Persecutor is a devastating threat
that can invalidate many creature-based decks. I haven’t figured out why he isn’t played more often, but I’m happy to use this forgotten hero.
Not only is Vampires an aggro deck, but it’s an aggro deck that has the ability to fix its draws. For those of you not familiar with this combination,
Viscera Seer states: “Sacrifice a creature: Scry 1.” This pairs very well with Bloodghast’s landfall trigger that returns him from your graveyard to
play. Whenever I do this, I feel like I’m piloting a Legacy deck, not Standard. When doing this interaction, it is important that you wait to play your
land until the second Main Phase after you attack with Bloodghast to obtain max value. It seems easy enough, but I have observed many people scrying
incorrectly with Bloodghast. Viscera Seer also gives you game against Wurmcoil Engine because you can sacrifice creatures before damage so your
opponent gains no life. Both these cards help you recover from a Day of Judgment too. Having the luxury to fix your next draw by scrying three to four
times and the ability to recur your Bloodghasts with a land drop gives you the opportunity to get back into the match after your board has been swept.
The last piece of the Bloodghast and Viscera Seer puzzle is Kalastria Highborn. With the Highborn thrown in the mix, you have the ability to sac a
creature, pay B, scry 1, and give your opponent a Brush with Death. With Bloodghast, the ability is recurring. I’ve burned out many people doing this.
The dream scenario when you play this deck is turn one Seer, turn two Bloodghast, turn three kicked Gatekeeper forcing your opponent to sacrifice their
only threat. He’s also good at slaying Titans and the occasional Demon.
A 2/1 first strike for BB isn’t the greatest. However, A 2/1 first strike that can kill Jace or Gideon by sacrificing is the nuts! I killed Gideon on
three different occasions during the Invitational Qualifier, turning a game-ending planeswalker into dust. Hexmage is not a card easily played around
either. It’s important you play this card correctly against certain decks. Some games you will want to use Vampire Hexmage as a two-mana “kill target
planeswalker” instead of running him out early to get killed.
It’s important to have a relevant clock early on. Vampires is an aggro-style tempo deck, and many times you are going to be the beatdown. A 2/2 for B
fits the bill nicely.
It’s key to have a way to deal with turn one Steppe Lynx and turn two Lotus Cobra. Not to mention the occasional Squadron Hawk or Stoneforge Mystic.
Disfigure gives you a little what you lose for not playing Lighting Bolt.
These cards allow you to make perfect lines of play because you have the opportunity to look at your opponent’s hand. The ability to play perfectly in
a match doesn’t come often, but discard allows you to play your match flawlessly. Having six cards in your main deck that can take Sword of Feast and
Famine after your opponent plays Stoneforge Mystic is key.
One mistake I made in my list above was not having four Tectonic Edges main. This card is amazing, and if your deck can afford to run these, I suggest
you do so. Tectonic Edge allows you to punish decks that use a lot of nonbasic lands with a number of four-, five-, and six-drop spells. I Tectonic
Edge my Caw-Blade opponent off white more times than I care to remember.
This guy is for Valakut or Mono-Green Ramp decks. Some matches you need more than three Demons to fly over and kill them.
Some control decks’ whole strategy is based around certain planeswalkers. When that’s the case, it will be advantageous for you to up the count of
Julian Booher was the first to recognize the power of Mind Rot. I love this card and can’t say enough good things about it. When you have picked apart
an opponent’s hand or killed their ramp threats so they couldn’t cast a Titan, discarding it with Mind Rot is a wonderful feeling.
You will have games when you need to turn your little aggro deck into a straight-up mono-black control deck. Use whatever removal you see fit. When
it’s time to kill every threat your aggro opponent plays, be prepared.
A quick tutorial on how to approach your key matchups:
In this match, it’s important that you take key ramp spells with your discard, along with killing any type of mana producers they cast. If you disrupt
their combo for one or two turns, that’s all you need to win the game. Persecutor is King in this match because they usually don’t have a way of
dealing with the clock he provides. Remember: don’t be silly and forget to use Tectonic Edge on Valakut and make smart discard decisions. You will most
likely win this match if you do.
In this match, it’s very important you keep Stoneforge offline. Sword of Feast and Famine is the scariest card in the deck. The longer that it doesn’t
hit play, the more likely you are to win. If you discard the Sword after they cast Stoneforge, she is nothing more than a 1/2 Squire. Tectonic Edge
their white sources of mana whenever possible, and prevent them from getting to the precious five-mana spot for Gideon, and you will win with ease.
Even if Gideon hits the board, you still have Vampire Hexmage. This is a very winnable match if the Vampire player plays tight and knows the matchup.
As I stated earlier, when playing against a deck like Boros, it’s very easy to simply turn your aggro deck into straight MBC. This makes the match up
easier, especially when you have a team of Bloodghast and Persecutor. Be very mindful of your life, try to stay out of burn range. Kill everything they
play and save Gatekeeper for the odd times Sword of Feast and Famine magically gets equipped.
This match is easier than Boros because they don’t have the Sword of Feast and Famine to save them. It’s important that you deal with Koth ASAP. If
they kill your team and play a Koth; let’s just say you will have issues. Your one saving grace is responding to Koth with Abyssal Persecutor. Nice
Overall, I feel that Mono-Black Vampires is a serious contender in the current metagame. If you want to play something different before New Phyrexia
hits, I suggest you give it a try.
If you have any questions, just message me on Facebook.
Quick thanks to my friend Alex, who inspired me to play the deck. He played it to a successful Top 16 in Denver last year and has stuck with it ever
Many thanks to Ben for fine-tuning my Vampires deck and always being a fantastic editor.
Thanks for reading!