Fangs, but No Fangs

Posted in Feature on February 15, 2006

By Chris Millar

From the silly to the sublime, Millar's decks do a little of everything.

Welcome Johns, Jonathans, Joes, Jacks, and Johnnies! In case you missed the bloodsoaked memo, it's Vampire Week! The one week of the year you can sleep in your coffin without everybody getting weird on you. And what better week to schedule the celebration of Magic's soulless bloodsucking night-stalkers than the same week as Valentine's Day? Er … Is there something you're not telling us, editors?

It'll be tricky, but I guess I can build some Vampire, flower, and chocolate combo decks.

I'm just glad it's not Groundhog Day. I don't know what kind of decks I would have to build then.

I Vant to Build Some Decks

When it comes to combos, Vampires really bite. You might even say they suck. They are not the Johnniest of Magic's tribes. That honour probably goes to the Lepers (they're like a walking Rube Goldberg machine!). Despite the fact that they are, for the most part, pretty straightforward fat flyers, Vampires can nevertheless be used to further the nefarious Johnny agenda.

There's the classic Soul Collector + Viridian Longbow + Death Pits of Rath + Intruder Alarm combo, but that one's been done to death and I'm not about to resurrect it. Then there's Mephidross Vampire + Triskelion. With both in play, Triskelion becomes a Vampire with “Whenever this creature deals damage to a creature, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature.” This means that each time you remove one of Triskelion's counters to “ping” another creature, your Triskelion gets a +1/+1 counter. This forms a loop, allowing you to deal an arbitrarily large amount of damage to creatures. Sure it's cute, but it's way too expensive. Twelve mana for a one-sided Wrath of God? That'll never, ever work.


I was kinda stumped. Luckily, the poll at the end of Aaron Forsythe's column last week brought back some memories and provided some inspiration. He wanted to know where we got our lands when we started playing. Back when “What colour do you play?” was a reasonable question, my two younger brothers and I would pool our money to buy Revised Starter decks. When we got home from Ye Locale Card Shoppe, we'd divvy up the cards according to which colour we played. They were Green and White mages, respectively, and I played Black. It is just a coincidence that those happen to be enemy colours. Yes, that's it. Coincidence.

I was a good brother.

The Blue, Red, Artifact, and non-basic land cards were selected on a “I'm the oldest, I get first pick” basis. Since I was the oldest, this often worked out in my favour.

Conveniently for this article, one of the cards that I was very impressed with was Sengir Vampire. Maybe it was my bad blond dye-job, or my love-hate relationship with the cheerleaders, but back in the day, playing with Vampires made me think that I was a real Spike. Through some less-than-shrewd trading with my classmates, and some frantic sifting through cereal boxes (“There's a Norritt in my Corn Flakes!”), I managed to assemble the following deck. I alluded to its non-brilliant construction in my first article. If you've got eyes, I would recommend that you avert them now.

Major Blood

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Just look at that steaming pile of pure … synergy! You've got Nettling Imp and Sengir Vampire. Merfolk Assassin and War Barge. Dark Ritual and Norritt. It could only be described as “total insanity!” You know, if you had a very limited vocabulary. Here's how the games would usually play out:

I have the Merfolk Assassin/War Barge combo in play. My brother plays a Fungusaur.

Me: “At the end of your turn, I'll give it Islandwalk and assassinate it!”
My brother: “Man, I hate those cards!”

Next turn, he plays a Thicket Basilisk.
Me: “At the end of your turn, I'll give it Islandwalk and assassinate it!”
My brother: “That combo is so annoying!”

Next turn, he plays a Force of Nature.
Me: “At the end of your turn, I'll give it Islandwalk and assassinate it!”
My brother: “I quit!”
Me: “Come on, don't quit. If you do, I will probably beat you up.”
My brother: “Okay, fine. But stop killing my guys!”

Then I'd promise not to use the Merfolk Assassin any more. And I wouldn't. But I'd get out some other unnecessarily complicated creature-killing combo, like Nettling Imp and Royal Assassin, or Sorceress Queen and two Prodigal Sorcerers. If I didn't get a timely Sengir Vampire, I'd eventually ping him to death about thirty turns later. Oh, what fun!

Somehow, from games like these, I concluded that my deck was really powerful. Later, after playing against Hypnotic Specter-based discard decks or creatureless burn decks (“No creatures? What kind of crazy deck is that?”), I concluded that my deck was not quite as powerful as I had initially believed.

Revised Revamped

Could the deck be updated for Standard? The answer is a resounding, “Kinda.” Many of the cards are now out of flavour for their colour. Not only have Merfolk gone the way of the dodo, but assassinating creatures is probably no longer in Blue's repertoire. Prodigal Sorcerer would be Red. Nettling Imp would be Red. Dark Ritual would be Red. Counterspell would be Red.

Scratch that last one. I got a little carried away.

Out of necessity, the updated deck will be a little different. Luckily, Sengir Vampire and Royal Assassin are both back in 9th Edition. In they go. Fumiko the Lowblood is a fine replacement for the Nettling Imps and Norritt. But fear not, Imp lovers! Stinkweed Imp is a great addition, since it also has a lot of synergy with Fumiko. Hand of Cruelty and Toshiro Umezawa are formidable defenders, and since you should be offing a lot of creatures, Toshiro's ability ought to be very relevant.

Anyway, here's the deck. It's definitely new, and you'd better believe it's fangled.

Major Blood Re-Vamped

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Stinkweed Imp's Dredge ability works pretty well with Toshiro. Quicksand provides you with another way to punish attacking creatures, and it's also your only out against Paladin en-Vec. If you face a lot of them, you might try adding some Icy Manipulators to the deck. They can keep the Protection creatures at bay, while also tag-teaming nicely with Royal Assassin for more old school comboliciousness.

I experimented with Into the Fray (and more Arcane spells), because, to be perfectly honest, I have no shame (see last week's article). The thing I learned is this: you don't have to go to a lot of trouble to get your opponent to attack you. Believe it or not, if their deck has creatures, they are probably planning to attack you anyway! Fumiko the Lowblood turned out to be sufficient “incentive.”

More than Meets the Island


As I mentioned above, the Magical Color Pie has been reshuffled a bit since the days of Revised. Now, I'm not sure how one goes about shuffling a pie, exactly, but the boys in R&D managed to find a way to do it. Kudos, gents! Everyone loves the Color Pie, or as I like to call it, the “Colour Pie.” How could you not? I mean, who doesn't like Pie? And who doesn't like Colour? Someone who grew up in a family of clowns?


Despite being a beloved - not to mention delicious - metaphor, I don't much care for it. Actually, that's a lie - I like it fine. As I said, who doesn't like Pie? Besides, it makes a building a Mono-Green discard deck or a Mono-Red milling deck a fun challenge. I suspect, however, that there are some Colour Pie saboteurs in R&D. Otherwise, why would they give us a card like Terraformer? Ha! Now Blue mages can have access to cards it shouldn't have, like Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Amnesia, and Psionic Blast!

Just imagine this turn sequence:

Turn 1: Land, Serum Visions.
Turn 2: Land, Sakura-Tribe Elder.
Turn 3: Land, Terraformer. Sacrifice the Elder during your opponent's turn.
Turn 4: Land, Beacon of Creation. Make five Insects.
Turn 5: Land, Mind Sludge. Make your opponent discard six cards.
Turn 6: Land, Flow of Ideas. Draw seven cards.

Good Gravy! Of course, that's with the proverbial “God draw.” Even without it, your opponent is in for plenty of nasty surprises.

Terra Ridiculis

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Last Stand and Crystal Quarry is a trick that some old Mono-Black Control decks would use. Since all of your non-Crystal Quarry lands were Swamps, a Last Stand would cause massive life-loss for your opponent. Terraformer makes this trick even more versatile. Nightmare and Uktabi Wildcats are in the deck mostly for fun. The problem is, they will die the minute you change your lands to something other than Forests or Swamps. One way to keep them alive, is to put a Blanchwood Armor on the Nightmare, or Nightmare Lash on the Wildcats. That way, you can have them both at “full strength” at the same time.

I would've made the deck Mono-Blue, but I wanted to be able to at least do something if I didn't draw a Terraformer. If you're feeling bold, go ahead and play it that way. I think it'd be pretty funny to play Cabal Coffers in a deck without a single Swamp.

The Vapors Made Me Do It

One of my favourite Ravnica cards is Congregation at Dawn. I've already built and written about one deck based on the card. Unbeknownst to you - but knownst to me - is the fact that I have a whole slew of Congregation at Dawn decks waiting in the wings. Two slews, in fact. It's just a great Johnny card. The fact that the creatures go on top of your library opens up more interesting possibilities than would putting the cards into your hand. One such card is a Blue card-drawer from Betrayers of Kamigawa. What is it called again? Obey the Spray? Mind the Spume? Do What the Fog Says? Follow that Cloud's Instructions? Heed the Mists? There, that's it!

Congregation at Dawn can put, say, an Autochthon Wurm on top of your library, and the subsequent Mist-Heeding will net you an amount of cards so obscene, you'd have to give your hand an "X" rating. Drawing that many cards sure is fun, but what do you do with them all? I don't know, how about attack for the win with Soramaro, First to Dream?

The “Maro” cycle from Saviors of Kamigawa hasn't had too much exposure (at least in the articles I've been reading), but they are perfect in this deck. Masumaro, First to Live can become enormous, but its lack of evasion is a problem. Enter Flight of Fancy, Masumaro's best friend. Seriously, I think Flight of Fancy was the Best Man at Masumaro's wedding. That might be completely made up.

Heed of the Congregation

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Drift of Phantasms can Transmute for Congregation at Dawn, but it can also fetch Heed the Mists, by way of Eerie Procession. Sakura-Tribe Elder and Carven Caryatid can keep all sorts of nasty critters at bay while accelerating your mana and keeping your hand full.

This deck was a lot of fun to play. It's always a good sign when a deck does its thing the very first time out. At the end of my opponent's fifth turn, I cast the Congregation and put a Soramaro on top, followed by a creature selected at random, followed by the Autochthon Wurm. On my turn, I drew and played the Legend as a 5/5. On my next turn, I drew the random creature and cast Heed the Mists, drawing fifteen cards and making Soramaro, First to Kill! He flew in for the full twenty. Another fun trick for later in the game involves stacking the Green Myojin on top of a fatty, on top of the Autochthon Wurm. Play the Myojin, then Listen to Some Moisture-Dense Air the next turn and put a handful of creatures directly into play!

Until next time, mind the spume!

Chris Millar

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