How to Build Vampires with Shadows over Innistrad

Posted in How to Build on April 4, 2016

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

We can expect Standard to look drastically different as Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged leave and Shadows over Innistrad joins the mix. Shadows over Innistrad offers up a variety of powerful new Standard options. Many of the popular archetypes we'll be seeing will build upon strong interactions that have already existed in Standard. However, some new strategies will surely prove themselves and rise through the ranks.

One of the most exciting new archetypes we'll be seeing is Vampires. Shadows over Innistrad introduces a bevy of new Vampire cards to be played alongside the likes of Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, cards that have already proven their viability in Standard. Vampires are aggressive and encourage us to build a deck that aims to win the game before our opponent has a chance to stabilize and play more expensive cards.

The first thing we'll notice about the bloodthirstiest brotherhood in Shadows over Innistrad is that we'll be encouraged to take advantage of the madness mechanic that comes back with the new set. Cards like Fiery Temper, Falkenrath Gorger, and Asylum Visitor all reward us for discarding cards, and we won't have to jump through many hoops to make those things an impressive reality thanks to Heir of Falkenrath, Olivia, Mobilized for War, Liliana, Heretical Healer, and even Call the Bloodline.

We can play a healthy number of lands in our Vampire deck and simply hold lands beyond the fourth to be able to take advantage of cards that want us to be discarding. We'll want our Vampire deck to have a fast curve in order to empty our hand as quickly as possible for Asylum Visitor.

There are a lot of ways we can go about building our new Vampire deck. First, I'd like to look at a version of the deck that plays all of the best Vampire cards without skimping on removal. Let's take a look!


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This deck feels like a nice starting shell for a strategy like Vampires. It has a lot of good interactions and gets to take advantage of the post-sideboarded power play of Indulgent Aristocrat in combination with Act of Treason.

We could also design our Vampire deck in the most aggressive way possible. This version of the deck would want to be playing more inexpensive Vampires and would surely want access to four copies of Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Senseless Rage comes at a pretty good rate when we're casting it as a madness card, and this deck should be able to lay it on thick and quick before recovering with Asylum Visitor.

Aggro Vampires

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A dedicated aggressive Vampire deck can win as early as the fourth turn. The deck will be very good at closing the game with reach in the form of hasty Vampires and Fiery Temper. Just imagine the curve of Falkenrath Gorger into Heir of Falkenrath into Olivia, Mobilized for War. The opponent better have access to an inexpensive sweeper like Radiant Flames or they'll be dead before they know it.

For now, Vampire decks in Standard will always be somewhat aggressive. However, it does seem like it might be worth exploring a more midrange version of the strategy that gets to take better advantage of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

All of the Vampire legendary creatures that we have access to are very powerful cards. Unfortunately, we need to untap with them in play if we want them to matter. Three- and four-mana creatures that can be dealt with for two or three mana often give our opponent a chance to beat us at the tempo game. We want to build a Vampire strategy that gives us better insurance against opposing removal spells.

One way we can achieve this is by cutting some of the less powerful cards in the deck in favor of Duress. Simply nabbing a removal spell or ramp spell from the opponent's hand will usually be enough to drain their necks of plasma and achieve victory!

Midrange Vampires

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This deck doesn't bother with any of the less exciting Vampire cards. Instead, we're simply playing a lot of powerful removal, disruption, and threats. This deck takes excellent advantage of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet by playing the card alongside a lot of removal while protecting with Duress.

One of the most difficult hurdles for Vampires in Standard will be board sweepers like Radiant Flames and Languish. These cards harshly punish bloodsuckers and force us to play the game differently. Duress helps a lot on these fronts, but we can adapt to a better plan against these types of decks in post-sideboarded games by bringing in Goblin Dark-Dwellers alongside some extra lands and the appropriate spells for the matchup.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is best in a midrange slugfest where we've gotten the upper hand in terms of removal spells. We want to be adapting to midrange matchups so that we won't be punished by the opponent's sweepers.

If we suspect that we might be up against a deck that has main deck Languish or Radiant Flames, then we may want to hold on to a few creatures in our hand, especially Asylum Visitor, to apply a new wave of pressure once they've dealt with our initial onslaught.

I spoke with Standard aficionado and Platinum pro Brad Nelson, currently ranked No. 20 in the world, about Vampires in the new Standard. Nelson suggested that I take to the skies and try to play a version of the deck that flies over opponents before securing victory with burn spells.

This version of the deck seems like it has the best game plan against what we can likely expect to see a lot of in the new Standard. There are a lot of good creatures with their feet on the ground, and the ability to fly over for easy damage will allow us to secure the game with our burn spells a decent portion of the time. Let's take a look at a version of the deck that focuses on the air.

Bat-Mode Vampires

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Dedicated Vampire decks seem like they'll have what it takes to compete in the new Standard. Aggressive strategies with strong synergy and good curves are traditionally very strong in new formats, and the cards that a Vampire deck gets to work with are pretty impressive.

Personally, I'm most excited about the prospect of using Falkenrath Gorger (and a discard outlet) to madness Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet into play on my opponent's end step before mowing down their board with removal spells and making an undead army in the process.

Vampires encourage us to thirst for blood as we try to end the game quickly by applying pressure that gets underneath powerful cards like Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Chandra, Flamecaller. There are a lot of different ways to approach the new Vampire archetype in Standard, and it's still unclear what the best recipe for success is. How will you build your Vampire deck in the new Standard?

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