Matt Attacks: Crushing With Vampires

Wednesday, February 23 – The winner of StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Indianapolis takes pen to paper to recount his victorious run with R/B Vampires! Is this the deck you should consider for this weekend at SCG Open: Washington, DC?


My name is Matt “Lombardo” Landstrom, and you might know me from my recent win in Indianapolis, but I’ve had a few other
accomplishments, such as Top 16ing the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Richmond and more recently the StarCityGames.com Kansas City Open, also with
B/R Vampires. And the locals said I wouldn’t do well once Jund had rotated. Hah!

Throughout January, I was traveling the country going to interviews. I had a lot of downtime in hotels and airports, so I ran two-mans on Magic Online.
The metagame was mostly creature decks, and my list got inbred to the point that maindeck Skinrenders seemed like a good idea.

A few days before Indy, I had Caleb Durward, the friend who introduced me to Vampires, over to help me grind some games against Kuldotha Red and tune
for Indy. Caleb was insistent that Captivating Vampire belonged in the deck but agreed that cutting Staggershock, which had been in his pre-Mirrodin
Besieged list, was a good idea to make room for Go for the Throat.

I can’t begin to explain how sweet Go for the Throat is. It takes out Grave Titan like Feast in Blood but can kill a Lotus Cobra or Overgrown
Battlement on turn 2 and isn’t dead in the mirror like Vendetta. Of course, the card is a reasonable tool against Vampires as well, but at least
the black control decks still lack an answer to Bloodghast.

Halfway through testing, Caleb switched from his build of Kuldotha to a more typical list that ran Ornithopters and Mox Opal, and my win percentage
increased dramatically. I grew more confident in the matchup. By the end of our test session, I had convinced him that the Skinrenders were good in the
board, and we had a list that we could both agree on.

My friend Morrow, whom I knew from the hardcore music scene, had arranged our ride and hotel. Traffic was still bad from snow, which held him up for
several hours. That left me with time to work on my Psychology Doctorate and gave Caleb and Joe Bernal time to get degenerate with some Ascension
gambling. I was fairly productive, only occasionally interrupted by shouts of “What a sack!” and “You’re such a scumbag!”
emanating from downstairs.

Eventually, Morrow made it through the traffic, and we were greeted with good music, beverages, and cookies the second we got into his car. It was
worth the wait. After Joe stopped fondling my hair (he does that to get a rise out of me), we took a nap while Caleb and Morrow talked about music.

When we arrived in Indy, we saw the parking prices were a little absurd, so we asked the hotel if they had their own parking. They offered to valet for
us for the lean (but mostly mean) price of twenty-two dollars, which we no-sirred instantly. Then they looked out the window, saw where we were parked,
and told us that was free for the weekend anyway. Mise?

Despite my heavy use of cold medicine, my sinuses were causing me a lot of pain, prevented me from getting much sleep. Between the nap in the car and
the hotel stay, I only caught a few hours.

When we arrived on site, we saw Kuldotha Red everywhere, and I was glad I had managed to get some games in against the deck. Still, there was even more
than I had expected, and I wanted more hate in the board. I considered Ratchet Bombs at first but moved over to Forked Bolt at the suggestion of James
Bush, winner of last year’s StarCityGames.com Indianapolis Open.

Here is what I ran:

A lot of the tournament went by in a blur. I have a pretty intense meditation ritual that I try to do in between rounds to clear my head and keep me
from tilting, and it can make the match details fuzzy. My apologies. Here is what I remember:

Round One: U/B Control

U/B was in a strange place in this metagame. Ratchet Bomb, their best card against Kuldotha Red, is not what they want to be playing against Vampires.
Killing our turn 1 threat on turn 3 is far too slow, especially on the draw.

I cast some Bloodghasts and put him away in two games.


Round Two: Vampire Mirror

My opponent, while a nice guy, didn’t seem very experienced with the deck. At one point, I attacked in; he chose not to chump, then sacrificed
his creature to scry at the end of turn. Later, I saw him in the 5-1 bracket.


Round Three: Boros

My opponent didn’t seem to have the new Sword of Feast and Famine. He played tight but mentioned how he had been away from the game for a while.

Forked Bolt did its job, and I swept the match.


Round Four: Valakut

I don’t remember this match, but I know it went to three games.


Round Five: Caleb Durward with his burn-heavy version of Kuldotha Red

I wasn’t happy to be facing a friend this early, though we agreed to a ten-percent split to help soften the blow. In game one, he crushed me with
a fast start involving a turn 1 Kuldotha Rebirth followed by a Goblin Bushwhacker and some Panic Spellbombs.

In the second game, he beat me down to two before I stabilized with spot removal, a Skinrender, and a Vampire Nighthawk. He never drew an out to the
life-gaining flyer, and I won.

Game three was pretty intense, and we both timed our removal perfectly, consistently maximizing the value of our two-for-ones. At one point, I
sacrificed a Vampire to scry, seeing a Captivating Vampire. I tanked for a few minutes, putting the card on top but still thinking. Caleb moved to
confirm my life total, and I told him I was still considering my scry.

“Actually, if you put it back, then it’s considered to have resolved.”

I stared at him for a moment.

“Are you serious?” I asked.


The game proceeded. We cast some more removal spells; I dropped down to two life with a clear board, and he ripped a Goblin Guide to finish me off.

After the match, he told me he was mostly irritated that I was taking so long with what should’ve been an easy decision, but I don’t think
I would’ve done the same in his place. We asked several other people’s opinions and heard a wide variety of arguments based on the fact
that we were buddies, that only one of us could make Top 8, and even that the “tough love” would be good for me in the long run. People
seemed to be split down the middle, but everyone was passionate about their view. Tell me what you think in the forums.


Round Six: Kuldotha Red

In round six, I faced another friend, John “Top Five Trader” Donovan, playing the Kuldotha Red list cooked up by Pozsgay and Nick Spagnolo.
It was the list I had tested the most against, so I was confident going into the match.

In game one, I kept a hand that could handle a hoard of red men and did.

In game two, he made a mistake where he didn’t tap a Contested War Zone for mana before I stole it, which was relevant because I was able to cast
Captivating Vampire and Vampire Lacerator in the same turn with Lighting Bolt mana up.

After this match, I was convinced that the Forked Bolts, while fine, weren’t doing what I wanted them to do and should’ve been something


Round Seven: U/B Control

All I remember is that I swept him. I believe he was mana screwed in one of the games, which is when Vampires punishes.


Round Eight: Valakut

I don’t remember much of this match either, but at one point, I cast a second Demon of Death’s Gate, sacrificing my first along with a
Bloodghast and a Kalastria Highborn, in order to trigger the Highborn for his last four life points.


Round Nine: Boros

Round nine was my win and in, so I remember it pretty well. My opponent was Forrest Ryan playing the Boros deck.

In game one, he cast Stoneforge Mystic to fetch out a Sword of Feast and Famine, and the pro-black handily won him the game.

In game two, he had the Stoneforge again, but I managed to aggro him out with Kalastria Highborn triggers and Bloodghast. At one point, I discarded a
Bloodghast to his Sword trigger, and the boost in tempo definitely mattered.

Game three had the Top 8 riding on it, and once more he had the dreaded turn 2 Stoneforge to fetch out the Sword. Fortunately, he started to flood out
when he was at twelve life. The Sword was equipped to a Cunning Sparkmage, so I couldn’t kill it without a Lightning Bolt. My board was
Bloodghast and double Gatekeeper of Malakir. Rather than cast the second Bloodghast in hand, I activated a Lavaclaw Reaches and cracked in. He blocked
the Lavaclaw and pinged one of the Bloodghasts to drop to eight. On my next turn, I cast Bloodghast and played a fetchland to trigger the Bloodghast in
my yard, sending in the hasty team. He blocked and pinged again, falling to four. He drew yet another land, and I cracked my fetchland to attack him
down to two. He drew Squadron Hawk, casting three of them, but I ripped Bolt to finish him off.

That Sword of Feast and Famine scared me every time I saw it, and after the round, I talked to Caleb about it.

“You know, I don’t think I’ll be able to keep running Vampires at these things,” I said

“Why not?” he asked.

“That new Sword is quite a card. It seems like any white deck can just fetch one out and have a huge advantage. My last Boros opponent had to
flood for me to win.”

“Wait, you won? What are you complaining about?”

“I also had to rip well.”

“Keep doing that, then.”

Sage advice.

Round Ten: ID

In round ten, I intentionally drew with Chris Hurley.

Quarterfinals: Valakut

My quarterfinals opponent was Rob Causey with Valakut. In our first game, I beat him down while he only cast ramp spells.

Game two started with me casting a one-drop. On turn 2, I played a Bloodghast and attacked him to eighteen. The Bloodghast’s recursion ability
ensured that any sweeper spell he cast would only trade one-for-one, so he played an Overgrown Battlement and passed the turn. I didn’t have a
third land, so I dropped an unkicked Gatekeeper of Malakir before sacrificing my board to cast Demon of Death’s Gate. He drew for his turn and
scooped from eighteen life.

That ended day one of the tournament, as the Top 4 would play out the next day. This caused a big ordeal, as my ride was leaving that night, but
everything worked out in the end.

I saw Caleb once more before I left.

“Looks like you dodged Kuldotha Red in the Top 8, eh? I think you got this,” he said.

“I’m not worried about beating Kuldotha, just you with Kuldotha,” I replied. He smiled, walking off to drum up some interest in

Whenever I’m in Indy for an event, such as Gen Con, I like to go to the Ram with a group afterwards. We missed last call for food by only a few
minutes, and my buddy Joe made a big deal about it, as he tends to do.

“No food at all?! But I’m starving! Couldn’t you just get me a slice of bread or something?”

He kept on with this for a while, and the waitress took him in stride, actually serving him a slice of bread on a plate, which he devoured.

That night, the pain from my sickness kept me awake again, and I only got around an hour of sleep.

The next morning, I took some drugs, but it still hurt to move my face. I knew I’d be playing against Boros in the Top 4, and I think I had a bit
of the fear left over from the intensity of my win-and-in match. With thoughts of protection from black on my mind, I accepted the Top 4 split. A
thousand dollars made for a nice payday.

My Top 4 matches were both covered here.

Semifinals: Boros

In game one, I won through yet another Sword of Feast and Famine, and in game two, he didn’t have it, and I crushed him with a heavy removal

Finals: Valakut

In the finals, I faced Drew Levin with Valakut, and we agreed that the winner would have to buy the loser breakfast.

In game one, I had a fast draw and killed him before he could play a Titan.

In game two, I played around Slagstorm by only committing a few guys to the board, killing his Baloths and Walls as he cast them. He landed an Avenger
of Zendikar and asked if he was dead, to which I responded by showing him the Viscera Seer and Arc Trail in hand, which combined nicely with the
Highborn and Lacerator on board.

“Thanks for breakfast,” Drew said, extending his hand.

When Glenn wanted a shot of me with the trophy, my face was still hurting, and I couldn’t manage a proper smile. Joe started dancing behind
Glenn, and his shenanigans cracked me up, which led to the photo that makes me look like the happiest man on earth. I mean, I was glad to hold that
fancy cup, but this win, my best finish to date, didn’t feel nearly as meaningful as my first PTQ Top 8. Maybe it’s because I’ve
played in enough tournaments, or maybe I’ve just set my sights higher. Either way, you can be sure I’ll be back.

The deck:

Captivating Vampire was sweet all weekend long and consistently added four to five power to the board for three mana. I could see going up to four, but
I wouldn’t know what to cut. My inner debate over whether I should’ve been boarding Ratchet Bombs or Forked Bolt for the Kuldotha Red
matchup was off-target, as the slots should’ve gone to a third Demon of Death’s Gate and a third Vampire Nighthawk.

In this post-Paris metagame, I’m going to have to do some serious testing to figure out the best way to tune for all these Caw-Blade decks, but
that’s the subject of a different article entirely.

Thanks for reading,

Matt “Lombardo” Landstrom