Vampire Decks: Let’s Do This

Want a new way to look at Vampires? Sorry, you’re out of luck. GerryT has TONS of new ways to look at them, instead! Gather around as he updates existing archetypes, explains new cards and where they slot in, and everything in between!

Is it just me, or does Rivals of Ixalan look sweet?

Trust me, I’m a little gun-shy after how poorly the Ixalan cards
performed, but now we kinda know what we’re looking for to fill out these
tribal decks. At 90/196 cards previewed as of this writing, it looks good
so far. Maybe we’ll even get an Attune with Aether ban as a late Christmas
present or something.

I shotgunned a couple of mythic rares to write about, but to see the entire
picture, we need to start somewhere else.

If we start simple, this is probably where we end up at.

With Metallic Mimic, Radiant Destiny, and Shefet Dunes, there’s going to be
an aggressive Vampire deck. You even get access to Legion Lieutenant if you
want to splash. It’s the exact recipe of solid, aggressive creatures, a
good curve, staying power, and powerful sideboard options that makes these
sort of decks playable.

Radiant Destiny is excellent. This might not have the city’s blessing all
that often, but it’s more of an added bonus than anything. Comboing with
Famished Paladin is nice, but likely unnecessary. Glorious Anthems are
historically something that give small creature decks a chance to
capitalize on an early tempo advantage or trade up against bigger threats.
Vampires desperately needed something along those lines.

With Skymarcher Aspirant, we can actually pressure our opponents early.
Vampires had a huge issue with that before, but now we have twelve
one-drops that are viable. Even though Legion’s Landing and Duskborne
Skymarcher don’t give the firmest beatdowns by themselves, Radiant Destiny
and the like can help out. A triple one-drop opening into Radiant Destiny
is as strong as always, especially if one of those one-drops was Legion’s
Landing. Transforming Legion’s Landing is much more threatening in a
beatdown deck once it’s creating 2/2s.

If we wanted to go even further, we could play Cartouche of Solidarity in
some numbers. Paying W for a 1/1 token isn’t the worst deal if we’re trying
to go wide and make blocking difficult for our opponents. It doesn’t work
well with Radiant Destiny or Metallic Mimic, but it’s still fine with
Shefet Dunes and provides two power on its own.

I’m unsure of the new two-drops in a hyper aggressive Vampire shell.
Thankfully we basically have enough playables to have a deck regardless.

Paladin of Atonement will get larger each turn if you’re in a racing
situation (since damage causes loss of life) or if you have a Shefet Dunes
on the battlefield. I would be shocked if Tom Ross has never used Adanto
Vanguard to make his Paladin of Atonement larger. That probably makes it
good enough, although having a sacrifice outlet would be helpful. As is,
your opponent will try to deprive you of getting the life gain if you
really need it, which is unfortunate. It’s effectively like that part of
the text doesn’t really exist.

Famished Paladin is the two-drop that probably doesn’t fit, although I’m
sure we could make it work. More lifelinking tokens would help, and while
Queen’s Commission is significantly worse than Gideon of the Trials in a
vacuum, it could be worth it with all the various pump effects in the deck.

Overall, I’m impressed.

Unclaimed Territory is a nice way to play a small splash until we try to
start casting Fatal Push (or Duress out of the sideboard). If you end up
wanting black spells, you could always dust off those Forsaken Sanctuaries.
I enjoy how clean this build looks, but realistically, it’s probably better
to go with versatility over being clean once we actually have to start

Legion Lieutenant joins the Glorious Anthem party! Suddenly we are flooded
with ways to pump our Vampires. Having a plethora of options is actually
how these types of decks are going to survive. If the metagame shifts and
your deck needs to built in a certain way, you’re capable of doing that.
Before Rivals of Ixalan, we barely had enough to fill out a
decklist. Now that we’re cutting playables on every spot on the curve,
chances are that we have something good.

Elenda, the Dusk Rose isn’t really turning any heads right now, and I
understand that. Obviously I’m more excited for Kumena, Tyrant or Orzaca
(aka Merfolk Cryptbreaker), but Elenda looks good to me too.

How quickly will she grow though? Typically those sorts of cards don’t see
Constructed play because of how matchup-based they can be and relatively
tame their stats are to begin with. Elenda isn’t really different, except
this time, things look more favorable. Keying off creatures dying on both
sides of the battlefield is step one, and it makes me rethink playing white
removal over the black options.

No matter what, you’re getting a 1/1 Vampire if Elenda dies, even if it’s
immediately. With Radiant Destiny, Metallic Mimic, or Legion Lieutenant,
it’s more. Elenda isn’t something your opponent can ignore (like Paladin of
Atonement) because of lifelink. If they kill her, you win. If they don’t
kill her, you win.

Many of the decks in Standard are creature-based, and those that aren’t
willing have something like Fumigate or red removal. Either Elenda grows
large enough to invalidate red removal or she dies and you have a fresh set
of Vampires to attack with. Overall, there are very few bad scenarios.

One of the cards that helps makes Elenda great is Yahenni, Undying
Partisan. Having a sacrifice outlet to cash in Elenda for an army at any
time is a tenfold increase in versatility. Not only that, but it means that
Yahenni will likely have fuel throughout the entirety of the game, meaning
he could potentially get out of control as well.

With a Legion’s Landing and two other one-drops, you could potentially cast
Elenda as early as Turn 3. One of the things I like about Elenda is how
easy it makes alpha striking. Either your opponent takes the damage or she
gets bigger. Sanctum Seeker is another card that accomplishes the same sort
of scenario, except eventually your creatures could get dealt with and you
have no reach to finish the game. Elenda tends to snowball games out of
control, which is what white aggro decks need.

Sanctum Seeker is probably one of the most overrated cards I’ve seen. We
had Brutal Hordechief, which also didn’t accomplish much during its time in
Standard. Hellrider was an incredible card, and these are no Hellriders. If
you wanted to be purely aggressive and eschew the staying power from
Elenda, you could potentially play Sanctum Seeker instead. However, the
necessity for more black sources is rough.

Forerunner of the Legion is cute, but there’s not enough utility to justify
playing a card that’s going to be so weak on average, at least in a mostly
one-dimensional aggressive deck.

The great thing about W/B is that it has nearly the staying power that
Mono-Black Zombies did during Amonkhet, and that makes it worth
looking at.

In case you didn’t think Elenda had enough potential for growth, you can
add Oketra’s Monument into the mix. Vampires typically won’t get as much
value from Oketra’s Monument as the old decks did with Bygone Bishop and
Cloudblazer, but it’s close.

Legion Conquistador is the big payoff, letting you create an army for
little investment. Bishop of Binding and Elenda, the Dusk Rose both benefit
from Oketra’s Monument’s cost reduction, though, allowing you to have a
slightly higher curve and not feel too bad about it. If you draw Oketra’s
Monument, your deck has a turbo-charged feeling, but is perfectly
reasonable if not.

The big payoff here is an alpha strike with the tokens from Elenda, the
Dusk Rose, powered up by Shefet Dunes. You could go deeper on pump effects
with Radiant Destiny, but this deck isn’t necessarily going super deep on
Vampires. There are also Oketra’s Monuments in the “three-drop that doesn’t
really effect the battlefield all that much” slot.

Metallic Mimic is an interesting one because it doesn’t trigger Oketra’s
Monument but does a good job filling the curve. It’s also going to be close
how often you name Warrior or Vampire in this deck. If Radiant Destiny were
a pure Glorious Anthem, it would be worth considering, but the fact that
you have to choose between creature types, it doesn’t effect the
battlefield well in the early turns, and you have Metallic Mimic to kind of
cover it, the early creature wins out over the enchantment.

I’m playing two Forerunner of the Legion here to set up Legion Conquistador
mostly. There are some other neat tricks, like finding a Yahenni, Undying
Partisan to crack an Elenda, the Dusk Rose when necessary, but I’m unsure
how often that would come up. Playing a singleton Vona, Butcher of Truth
probably isn’t the worst idea either. With Oketra’s Monument to help the
prohibitive mana cost, I could even see playing two copies. Angel of
Invention is likely better in those slots though.

This deck could use a better early game, but could potentially be a better
way to go.

Again, we are light on actual Vampire synergies, mostly because of the top

Azor, the Lawbringer is a card I could write an entire article about, as I
think it’s potentially a hugely impactful card in Standard. Having it as a
control finisher is the obvious choice, but the best home for it is in a
midrange deck. Think of it like Dragonlord Ojutai. Some early pressure with
a difficult to remove creature on the top end that also provides you a
bunch of value is exactly where you want to be. It’s especially nice
considering you have Legion’s Landing and Oketra’s Monument to cheat the
prohibitive six mana casting cost. Getting UU might be an issue still

How good is Huatli, Radiant Champion?

The goal should be to race to a quick ultimate or maybe use her -1 to give
your opponents the beatdown, similar to how Willy Edel’s W/G Aggro deck
used Appeal. Both abilities want you to go wide with creatures, so that’s
exactly what we’re going to do.

Oketra’s Monument seems like step one, but you probably don’t have to go
that hard if you don’t want to. With Oketra’s Monument, a Huatli emblem
should be game over. Assuming your deck is built with answers to the
current decks in mind, you probably shouldn’t be losing to anyone at that
point. For example, I could see situations where you lose to a Glorybringer
(or other flyers), so maybe that needs to be addressed. You could also get
burned out by Hazoret the Fervent and some Lightning Strikes, so maybe some
life gain needs to be added to the deck. Either way, the possibility for
you to get a quick Huatli emblem and ride it to victory is there.

Even if you can’t make the jump to Huatli’s ultimate immediately, gaining
three loyalty per turn is something they will probably have to try and
ignore at some point. If all of their attacks are directed at your
planeswalker, you’re going to be soaking up a ton of damage over the course
of a game. Given that Oketra’s Monument decks typically have the better
late game, that’s a dangerous proposition for your opponent.

Skymarcher Aspirant makes the cut in this decklist because you will likely
get the city’s blessing at some point, but also because you want to
maximize Huatli’s +1. Flying as a late game ability is huge, as it means
your dorky Savannah Lions will actually make an impact on the game state.
Overall, I’m very pleased with it.

Other than Mono-White Aggro, I think W/G Monument is the strongest decklist
in this article. Now let’s get to the worst.

I played against something like this leading up to the World Championship.
It seemed interesting but was clearly lacking in some departments. Again,
the early game is weak unless we want to load up on mopey beatdown
creatures with very few ways to make them relevant. Ideally, you’d be able
to play something like Minister of Inquiries early to establish a mill
engine, but this deck can’t really do that.

Ideally, you could build a deck that is a beatdown deck early with a
God-Pharaoh’s Gift late game, but I’m unsure how to actually achieve that.
Maybe cutting more of the clunky Chart a Courses for Legion’s Landing and
another two-drop or some removal is a better idea. How many Gate to the
Afterlifes do you actually want to play when you have Trophy Mage and it’s
your Plan C? I’m guessing we could go down to only one or two copies.

Bishop of Binding is the only real Vampire payoff here, but it’s not a bad
one, particularly with God-Pharaoh’s Gift.

Exile your Ghalta, Primal Hunger, attack you for 16?

Okay, that probably won’t ever happen.

A boy can dream though.