Ertai’s Trickery: The Bloodsuckers’ Ball (Part 1 of 3)
Welcome to a special edition of the occasional deck-tinkering column, Ertai’s Trickery. Ordinarily I post these on my main home, the precon review site ErtaisLament.com, but to help get the word out for this exciting new venture, Red Site Wins, I wanted to host this here instead. For those unfamiliar, in the Trickery series we take two or more preconstructed decks that share a theme and use them as component parts to build one improved version of the deck. All along the way we discuss the cards we like, why others are cut, and every step in the process. Readers of the Lament might recall that our inaugural feature saw us combine the Tezzeret Duel Deck, Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, and Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine into the “Mad Machinist’s Mash-up.” Today, we’ll be taking a trio of intro decks from today’s Standard environment, and crafting “The Bloodsucker’s Ball.”
It’s a deck that virtually begs to be made, with three intro decks all centered around the same theme: vampires. From Zendikar we have Rise of the Vampires, to which we add Fangs of the Bloodchief from Worldwake and Magic 2011’s Reign of Vampirism. Each showcased a Black aggro deck which had a few elements which put the throttle on the archetype’s ordinarily blinding speed, and we’ll be taking a careful look on what could make the archetype run more consistently here. We’ll continue crafting “The Bloodsucker’s Ball” over a few columns on non-post days, and as always feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged!
Today we’ll be giving each deck a first look, and making some easy cuts- those cards that just won’t have a home in a fast, mono-Black aggro-vamps construction. We’ll begin with Magic 2011.
Reign of Vampirism (M11)
In one way, the cuts we’ll be making here will be amongst the easiest of all. To keep with the set’s theme of “one colour major/one colour minor,” Reign splashed Green for a touch of utility. Giant Growth and friends might have had a home there (truth: they were always a misfit, as we assessed in our reviews), but we’re throwing Green right out of the cemetery.
Next we’re taking every Vampire out of the deck and putting it into a pile- they automatically advance to the next round of cuts, because we don’t know yet what sort of mana curve and efficiencies we’ll have available to us. That leaves a few stragglers. The Reassembling Skeletons are interesting. Although when it gets down to the belt-tightening stage they might not have enough to offer to earn a place on the bench, the recussing sacrifice subtheme has a lot of eager adherents in Vampires decks. We’re not ready to cut them yet. Nor are we getting rid of the pair of Howling Banshees. Efficient flyers with a little damage thrown in, they’re very solid role players at the top of the curve. Like the Skeletons they’re a bit of a longshot, but right now we just want to cut the obvious. Same goes for the Royal Assassin.
Moving on to the noncreature support, the quality removal (two Doom Blades) are put right into the ‘keep’ pile. We’ll also offer free passes for the pair of Corrupts and Rise from the Graves. Everything else? Not so lucky.
Quag Sickness: It’s removal, but it’s at sorcery speed. If there’s one thing we’ll have little trouble assembling from three mono-Black decks in this exercise, it’s a strong kill suite. Quag Sickness might be a few things, but ‘strong’ isn’t one of them. Gone.
Diabolic Tutor: This might on the surface seem like a tough cut. For four mana, you get the ability to go find exactly the card you need at any given time. If we were building a slow deck, they might have had a place. Not here. Typically playing this Tutor meant giving your opponent a free turn, as fast decks don’t usually hang around until they’ve got eight or nine mana on the board. Either you’ve killed your opponent, or died trying. The card is useful, it’s just way to slow. Also gone.
Sorcerer’s Strongbox: Costing four to do absolutely nothing, there are so many reasons to kill this card. In the end, all we need is one.
That leaves us with the following keepers, sorted by converted mana cost.
1 CMC: Viscera Seer (x3)
4 CMC: Howling Banshee (x2)
5 CMC: Rise from the Grave (x2)
6 CMC: Corrupt (x2)
Rise of the Vampires (ZEN)
Unlike the preceding deck, Rise was released during the reign of the 41-card intro deck. This format’s unpopularity compelled Wizards to restore the decks to the necessary 60, but for our purposes it means we have about 33% less to work with. Still, we should have plenty.
As discussed in our recent review of the Knights deck from Duel Decks: Knights vs Dragons, fast decks tend to frown upon lands that will stumble their pace. The Piranha Marsh found here will be our first cuts- the speed bump is far too high a price to pay for a single point of damage on your opponent. Next, a trio of redundancies: a Diabolic Tutor, a Child of Night, and Rise from the Grave are right out. They made it through in the previous deck, and if they even find a home, it won’t be through us trying to assemble a playset of them. Keeping one Child from this deck gives us four, and that’s all that’s needed. So… out.
Acolyte of Xathrid: Too slow, and almost entirely useless aside from the activated ability. There’s nothing she can offer us that we won’t already be doing better in the red zone.
Heartstabber Mosquito: A nice two-for-one, but to get the full effects of the card we have to pay how much mana? Seven? No thanks. It’s not even all that good on its own- a 2/2 flyer for four mana.
Mindless Null: The drawback on this card is irrelevant, but for all that it’s still a steaming pile. Three mana for a 2/2 that doesn’t have any real upside is simply outclassed right at the starting gate.
Vampire’s Bite: The extra bit of damage is nice, but this card is a casualty of space. With all the removal we’ll be wanting to pack in to help keep the lanes open for our Vamps, we just don’t have room for a combat trick like this. The lifegain option is minimal (and probably not worth four mana to cast kicked), so it’s headed to the scrapheap. We don’t need to rely on these kinds of surprises to kill creatures- we’ll be able to do it straight up with Doom Blade and friends.
Zombie Goliath: A 4/3 for five mana is about what you’d expect from a Black common, but there’s no way we’d want to play him. By the time we hit our fifth land drop, we’ll have wanted to exhaust most of our hand, and this guy is hardly a game-changer even when he lands. Just not enough bang to justify the buck. Here’s our keep list:
1 CMC: Guul Draz Vampire (x2)
5 CMC: Malakir Bloodwitch
6 CMC: Blood Tribute
Fangs of the Bloodchief (WWK)
This improved successor to the Zendikar offering has quite a few treats for our deck. Of course, we have to wade through the rubbish and the redundancies to find them. Some easy cuts include…
Brink of Disaster: Bad removal, and expensive to boot. Landkill is similarly useless to us.
Butcher of Malakir: An exception to the “keep every Vamp” rule, he’s just way too expensive to even be considered here (no matter how sweet his effects)
Child of Night: We have four already
Dead Reckoning: A clunky spell that tries to be both recurion and removal, and doesn’t do either well enough to earn a place here. Were we removal-starved, it might have a shot, but we’re loaded with talent
Diabolic Tutor: For the same reasons discussed above
Jagwasp Swarm: Another expensive flyer, we’ve simply better options for this role already
Mire’s Toll: Discard is a great disruptor and can seal a game for us, but these are too slow to be all that useful. Unless you’ve got enough Swamps in play to see their whole hand, you won’t even get a sniff of their best card, and if your opponent has emptied their hand it’s a dead draw that we absolutely cannot afford
Rise from the Grave: Because we already have enough…
Zombie Goliath: See above
With those out of the way, we can now take a good look at what remains.
1 CMC: Pulse Tracker (x2)
5 CMC: Anowon, the Ruin Sage
X CMC: Consume Spirit
The Sun is Rising
Time for us to return to the crypt and plan our next moves. We have a pool of forty-nine cards available to us for the making of the Bloodsucker’s Ball, and we’ll only be needing around thirty-seven of them. That means more cuts, and they’re going to start getting a lot harder. See you next time!