Ertai’s Trickery: The Bloodsucker’s Ball (Part 2 of 3)
Welcome back to the second episode of Ertai’s Trickery: The Bloodsuckers’ Ball. As noted in our opening piece, we’re looking to make a tightly-focused, more competitive version of a Vampires aggro deck by combining three theme decks: Zendikar’s Rise of the Vampires, Worldwake’s Fangs of the Bloodchief, and Magic 2011’s Reign of Vampirism. The first round of cuts are always the easiest, as we clear our space of inefficient creatures, distracting spells, and off-colour cards. What’s left is a field of forty-nine cards, of which we’ll want to select only the 37 that best fit our game plan. Now that we’ve recapped our progress, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.
Before We Begin
At this point, the best next step before we dive into the cards is get an idea for how we want our deck to function. Being both fast and mono-Black, we can shave a land off of the usual 24/36 deck split and put 23 Swamps aside. Sight unseen, we know two things about this deck already:
1. We want it to be aggressive. That means no matter how nice an expensive card might look to us, we need to set aside the “best-case mentality” and imagine how it’s going to feel when we draw it in our opening hand. There’s a lot of power here, but power comes with a cost- we can’t get dazzled by the effect and lose sight of the mission.
2. We want to kill things. Lots of things. Aggressive decks that peak fast essentially put themselves on a clock- if you can’t kill your opponent early, the gap you need to close just gets further and further away. Red decks typically solve this through burn, letting them both clear out early roadblocks (so they can get more value out of their creatures) and finish off a wounded opponent directly (once the red zone thickens up and their attacks are no longer profitable). Although most of our removal doesn’t have the same versatility as burn, the principle will be the same: keep the red zone clear of obstacles to let our Vampires do their grim business unimpeded.
The Noncreature Support
We’ll start by taking a look at the spells that support our deck’s goals and help our creatures on the ground. We see that we have an abundance of removal, and a few other tricks. Let’s break them down by converted mana cost.
Safe for Now: All of them. Every one of these is quality removal. The Doom Blade is a bread-and-butter staple, and while it’s Achilles’ Heel is that it cannot target Black creatures, you’ll have other options with no such scruples. Feast of Blood offers you a bargain- in return for a slow cast (it’s a sorcery) and creature requirement, it will solve a creature for you and give you a small life bump in the process. Since we’ll be playing with almost exclusively Vampires, the tribal drawback is hardly a drawback at all. Finally, there’s Urge to Feed, a versatile card with multiple applications. It can kill off one of your opponent’s creatures outright or finish off a wounded fattie, and can give your Vamps a much-needed adrenaline boost in the process.
3 CMC: Hideous End (x2)
Safe for Now: Both. A Doom Blade with a life-loss bonus for an extra Black mana, this one’s an auto-include.
5 CMC: Rise from the Grave (x2)
Goodbye Forever: Both. Rise from the Grave is an interesting spell with a number of applications. The problem is that it optimises on a conditional basis. First, there has to be something in a graveyard worth reanimating. Although you’re helped along by the fact that it can also target your opponent’s graveyard, there’s no guarantee that there’s going to be anything tasty in any of them. Second, it’s expensive- five mana. The overwhelming majority of your Vampires will cost less than that. With that in mind, wouldn’t you have just rather drawn another Vampire? We all like to dream of grabbing an opponent’s brutal beatstick or outrageous utility critter from their boneyard, but most of the time you’ll be staring at this in your hand, wishing it was something else.
Safe for Now: The Corrupts. I wouldn’t take anything that expensive lightly, but Corrupt is as close to gold as you’re going to get here. The six-mana cost means that whatever it hits is going to be taking a minimum of six damage, since we don’t have any ramp options available to us to cheat it along more quickly. Send it your opponent’s way and that’s a 12-point swing. This is one of your finishing options, and will win you games.
Goodbye Forever: Blood Tribute. The mind swims with the promoses that this sweet card whispers into your ear, but if you take a closer look at her she’s not quite able to live up to the promise. The “live-the-dream” moment of a 20-point life swing is only possible if your opponent is at 20 (or more) life, and if your opponent is still at 20 life when you’re finally able to cast this spell, you’re probably doing something wrong. Although it has a higher ceiling than Corrupt, the fact that Corrupt can kill off creatures (and doesn’t require you to tap one of your own in the bargain) puts Corrupt well above Blood Tribute. Finally, we just can’t affort to have this many expensive cards jostling about in our deck. Every draw counts, and this isn’t worth one.
X CMC: Consume Spirit
Safe for Now: This is essentially a sliding version of Corrupt, and it trades impact for scalability. To do the same damage, Consume Spirit will always cost you two more mana, but the fact that you can cast it from around turn three on (as circumstances permit) make it a keeper. The Bloodsuckers’ Ball doesn’t have a lot of reach- it relies mainly on its creatures- but cards like this that can finish them off have a place.
That brings us to the end of our noncreature support. We’ve narrowed it down to eleven spells that we’ll be keeping, which means we’ve got plenty of room to layer in the Vampires. Join us in our next feature when we take the paring knife to our creature pool. With thirty-five cards vying for twenty-six slots, the competition is bound to be fierce!