Seven Innistrad: Crimson Vow Standard Decklists Based Around Vampires

GerryT puts on his brewing cap (and neckguard) to present seven Vampire-based brews for Innistrad: Crimson Vow Standard. Which will you build first on MTG Arena?

Voldaren Bloodcaster, illustrated by Kim Sokol

The most recent Innistrad sets are quite the curveball. I didn’t expect to see a plethora of tribal support, but I’m certainly not complaining. Vampires is the tribe that’s most appealing to me thus far. You’d assume it would be Zombies, but somehow Vampires got (most of) the good cards. 

Dom Harvey already did an excellent breakdown, focusing more on Anje, Maid of Dishonor. Preview season wasn’t quite over when he wrote his piece and a few new exciting cards have shown up since then. Strap in, because there are some very sweet decks incoming.

Voldaren Bloodcaster Falkenrath Forebear

These two are quite the engine. Both are aggressively costed flyers, which makes me want to lean into aggression as our main gameplan. You might be tempted to lean into the sacrifice aspect, but I advise against it, at least in a traditional Vampires deck. Vampires are able to beat down while not running out of gas and these two are at the forefront of that plan.

Being able to generate Blood tokens for value is nice, but the game-changer is Falkenrath Forebear. Vampires now has access to an aggressive flyer that’s difficult to keep in check. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben might cause Spikefield Hazard to show up more often, which is the cleanest answer to Falkenrath Forebear you can imagine. We have sacrifice effects and other targets for Spikefield Hazard, so Forebear will be difficult to keep in check.

Olivia, Crimson Bride

It’s easy to dismiss Olivia, Crimson Bride as too clunky of an option for Standard. Maybe she’s supposed to be a Commander card. Then again, the upside is exactly the type of effect that can effortlessly crack midrange mirrors. If all goes well, she’s basically Broodmate Dragon with haste. Even in 2021, that type of effect is a strong win condition.

Olivia doesn’t line up well against Fading Hope or 4/4 flyers, although it’s more complicated than that. Flyers will be killed or attacking you and Fading Hope will likely want to target something earlier. By the time Turn 6 rolls around, I wouldn’t be surprised if Olivia gets to attack more often than not. If that’s not the case, you can build around it. If you need more removal to clear the way, play more. And if you’re finding it difficult to bait out Fading Hope, include more aggression or cards like Duress

The upside is huge, so Olivia is worth investigating.

Anje, Maid of Dishonor

Despite believing in the Blood token synergies, I’m less high on Anje. Her statline lines up well against many popular removal spells in Standard, yet I’m not convinced that’s good enough. We still face Fading Hope, Divide by Zero, and Infernal Grasp among other cards that will give your opponent favorable exchanges. 

Dodging most commonly played removal, blocking well, winning battlefield stalls, and being another legendary Vampire for Olivia are all small upsides that could lead to Anje seeing Standard play. I’m still skeptical of something that doesn’t have a relevant enters-the-battlefield effect, but we’ll see if her statline is good enough.

Dominating Vampire

Dominating Vampire has the potential to be powerful, at least in small numbers. In aggro mirrors, it can be a Claim the Firstborn with a body, but it won’t take anything large until much later in the game. Oddly, it can give one of your own creatures haste, including itself, which means it isn’t completely useless against creatureless decks. Overall, it’s an interesting card whose usage I expect to fluctuate depending on the metagame. 

Sorin the Mirthless Chandra, Dressed to Kill

Both Sorin the Mirthless and Chandra, Dressed to Kill look like Intro Deck planeswalkers, albeit ones with reasonably appealing text. How basic can you make a planeswalker while still having it see Constructed play? In the right deck, Chandra could end up being its best card, whereas I expected Sorin to be relegated to a simple role-player. I’ll be trying these two out in some of my decks, even though I don’t expect them to overperform.

So, now that we have all these Vampires and their synergies, where do we go? 

There are so many unanswered questions for Vampires. Will we get another playable one-drop? Does Voldaren Estate actually fix your mana? Is Olivia strong enough for the maindeck? Is Hero’s Downfall better than Soul Shatter? And is the deck fast enough or disruptive enough to beat Izzet Epiphany reliably? 

A second one-drop would make Vampires a premier aggro deck in Standard, but it looks like we might have to settle for more of a midrange strategy. The deck is capable of aggressive draws, but won’t have them with any sort of regularity. Without that aggression, you’ll need disruption to beat Izzet Epiphany.

Voldaren Estate seems fine in small numbers. It gives you more dual lands to cast Falkenrath Pit Fighter on Turn 1, although that potentially comes at the cost of casting spells with BB in the mana cost. In the late-game, you can activate it on the cheap, giving you more fuel for Anje and Forebear. Plus, you might need the extra help to transform Voldaren Bloodcaster.

Will Reckless Impulse see as much play as Light Up the Stage? Similarly to Light Up the Stage, you’ll either want to keep your mana curve low or plan on casting it later in the game. A single copy seems fine, as it will be the last card you’ll cast from your hand. Then again, will it ever be better than playing a single copy of Deadly Dispute

With so many cheap, powerful creatures in Innistrad: Crimson Vow, I wouldn’t be surprised if we need to trim the mana curve in order to keep up. Play with Fire would be a great maindeck option if it comes to it.

Okay, this one is kind of a joke, but Vampires does have a solid Pyre of Heroes chain. The issue is that Pyre of Heroes is clunky in a format that’s relatively fast. It also promotes a game based on attrition and that strategy isn’t a winning one at the moment. Pyre could theoretically become a sideboard plan, although I doubt that will happen. There’s more value to be gained in other spots.

This version does lean into the sacrifice aspect, which allows you to create massive amounts of Blood tokens with Voldaren Bloodcaster. Your clock will be slower in the beginning, but perhaps being able to transform it regularly makes up for that? Blood tokens are medium in general, but we could play more copies of Deadly Dispute if we needed an outlet for them. Building toward a critical mass for Anje or Bloodcaster might be enough.

One-drop into Mindleech Ghoul into Fell Stinger is appealing. With Mindleech Ghoul, we might have enough disruption to successfully fight Izzet Epiphany, at least in the sideboard games. If I were building Zombies, I’d start with those two exploit creatures.

There aren’t many high-value targets for Olivia to return in this deck, but she still provides a massive clock and a powerful source of card advantage. Anje, Maid of Dishonor provides protection for the reanimated creature if Olivia happens to die. 

The mana would be much better if we ditched Kalain and Abrade. At that point, we’re splashing red just for the Vampires and I’m not sure that’s worth it.

Unfortunately, tokens from Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia or Lolth, Spider Queen don’t trigger Voldaren Bloodcaster; otherwise, we’d really be cooking. I could see a version of the deck that forgoes tokens entirely.

I love all these cards and truly hope something like this is playable.

It’s time to test the Broodmate Dragon theory. Can Olivia, Crimson Bride function as the ultimate Standard win condition?

Wrenn and Seven combines well with Olivia, except that it takes the slot of something else you could reanimate, such as Goldspan Dragon. However, getting two Mulches before attacking with Olivia should find something reasonable to bring back. If it’s Cultivator Colossus, you should also have plenty of lands to put onto the battlefield.

Cathartic Pyre will probably be much worse than any of the other removal options. However, it sets up powerful Olivia turns, so it’s worth trying. The Celestus might be a better way to do that, but having more filtering isn’t a bad thing.

I may have gotten carried away with Dig Up. Realistically, the only card I wouldn’t want to play maindeck is Light Up the Night, but even that’s a fine choice in a deck with Wrenn and Seven and a couple of other planeswalkers. If Dig Up is nonsense, you can consolidate the threats and removal however you see fit.

After years of having Cranial Extraction effects in Standard, we have a Standard format where I’d be happy to play one, and now they’re completely absent.

Is 30 red cards too low for Chandra, even in a three-color deck? Does it ever matter? Is anyone actually going to read an in-depth breakdown of a Bard Class deck? 

Finally, we have a nice brew.

Is Cultivator Colossus the best card to reanimate with Olivia? There are other options with cards like Burning-Rune Demon or Tovolar’s Huntmaster, but Colossus has the highest upside.

Wake to Slaughter is no Unburial Rites, although it does have its benefits. Your opponent will always get to choose what’s best for them, so the goal is to give them no good options. Assuming you want to cast Mulch and gain some card advantage, it’s all upside. 

If you cast Wake to Slaughter targeting Olivia and Cultivator Colossus, you’d better hope you have another creature in your graveyard to return with Olivia. You’ll often want a graveyard full of creatures, which is why I’m playing things like Old Rutstein and more copies of Anje and Cultivator Colossus.

Ideally, the deck would have creatures like Ravenous Chupacabra that could control the battlefield while also being solid targets for Wake to Slaughter and Olivia. Given that Olivia could die, Gelatinous Cube probably won’t cut it. Edgar’s Awakening would be even more palatable if we had Chupacabra and the like. Having the direct reanimation might be stronger than playing Wake to Slaughter, even with the Mulch synergies. Getting to play a madness card alongside The Celestus is cool though.

The deck feels like we’re close to having the right pieces, though there are still issues with how this style of deck lines up against the current metagame. Olivia decks want to prey on midrange, which Alrund’s Epiphany has successfully eliminated from Standard, so we may never see something like this come to fruition. 

So far, it looks like the black cards will be the first ones I craft on MTG Arena. I’m digging the tribal synergies, the various different ways to build around them, and the fact that they’re aggressively slanted. Falkenrath Forebear and Voldaren Bloodcaster are the best of the bunch, although I wouldn’t be shocked if Olivia, Crimson Bride has her time to shine as well.