Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bump in the Night: Vampires in Post-M13 Standard

If you are looking for my Tibbles and Bits decklist and deck tech, click here! If you're interested in my most recent blog post, read on!

I’m just going to say it; I think the ancient Greeks had me in mind when they invented the Olympics.    A ton of sports, all at once, with contestants from all over the world.  It’s high action, there’s a lot of it, and it’s always on (well, for a couple weeks).  It’s like reality TV except it’s awesome.  It caters very well to my lack of durative attention, too.  “Aw, men’s rowing?  Pshaw, I’ll just wait five minutes and watch women’s synchronized table tennis!”  


This is how I’ve felt lately about deckbuilding.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Tibalt and all of his awesome interactions and his sweet potential.  His deck is one of the most fun I’d made in a while.  It's synergetic, fun, interesting…I love it.  Still, though, I like to stretch my imagination, get my fingers dirty…

Last week I was out of town to visit my in-laws for a week.  It was awesome!  In my reprieve from work, I had a fair amount of downtime between tasty, home-cooked meals, outdoor excursions and air-conditioning to noodle on a deck I’d scribbled up before I left.  It revolves around a single card (as a lot of my decks do), and this one comes in the form of an unusual reprint from 2009.

Once you go black, you...well, you get +2/+1 and flying.
Not a ton of Vampire-matters cards right now.  Stromkirk Captain, sure…well, wait!  He’s red AND black!  He offers synergy in his abilities, his creature type AND his color…what if it ALL could be black?

Vampire Nocturnus has a specific problem in the current format.  He has a lot of vampire buddies, but some of them are red and therefore make his lord-like ability really awkward.  As it is, black/red vampire decks are pretty awkward and haven’t had any presence in the metagame.  I mean, it’s what I play on MTGO, but it’s because I’m cheap (or not antisocial, your choice), not because it’s good. 

So, everything needs to be black.  Yeah, it can be another color, but it’s got to be black too or it’s not in.  That way, Vampire Nocturnus will be online more often than he’s not.  Black is much deeper than it used to be back in Zendikar Vampire days, so there should be plenty we can do.  Black decks usually have to pick power over flexibility, but here, I think we can have our blood and drink it, too. 

After some tweaking, here’s an initial list.

Paint it Black

Creatures (20)

3 Vampire Nocturnus
3 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Stromkirk Captain   
3 Blood Artist
2 Dark Impostor
2 Falkenrath Aristocrat
3 Child of Night

Spells (17)

3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
3 Dead Weight
2 Sign in Blood
3 Dismember
3 Victim of Night
3 Cower in Fear

Lands (23)

9 Swamp
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Isolated Chapel
3 Evolving Wilds
2 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Vault of the Archangel


3 Geth’s Verdict
3 Bump in the Night
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
3 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Appetite for Brains
1 Olivia Voldaren

Deck Tech – Creatures

Vampire Nocturnus

Right at the helm, Papa Midnight is the lord of choice.  It gives an immediate, almost Overrun-like effect (most of the time) making it a much sweeter topdeck than a lot of other four-drops.  With 37 cards that flip its switch, it’s a pretty sure bet that he’ll be online.  Compare it to Delver; most Delver decks I’ve seen only have about 16-30 cards that support it for the exact same effect (if you think about it, +2/+1 and flying,) except Papa pumps your whole squad.  The 1BBB cost is intimidating, but with 19 out of 23 lands providing black mana (either directly or indirectly via Evolving Wilds), this doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.  You won’t always want to play him turn 4 anyway.  He’s a great surprise.

Vampire Nighthawk

The awesomest of the awesome, Darkwing Duck is the bread and butter of a lot of black midrange decks, providing about as much versatility as you can hope for in mono-black.  He’s a vampire, he flies without help, he kills anything and he wins races!

Stromkirk Captain

An uncommon lord, for sure.
First strike is an immensely powerful combat ability, and the Captain helps everything else in this deck be awesome.  He’s the only non-land 4-of, and I think that’s because he’s just a solid man by himself.  He mucks up the ground, and a pair of them can safely block a Wurmcoil Engine, any Titan, a huge Champion of the Parish, or a Silverblade Paladin.  He’s pretty sweet.

Blood Artist

This painter has won me a lot of games.  It grinds out advantage, makes combat math very difficult, and he’s on-type.  With the Captain or the Nocturnus, he can even get in there!  I’ve learned that the Artist is not really a playset guy because of his uselessness in (most) combats, but I’m happy to include a trio.  He’s also an easy board-out if they’re playing anything besides uber-aggro.

Dark Impostor

You got a little...a little tissue, sir.
This one is a bit of a gamble.  On his own, he can take over any late game barring removal, and he can swell to overcome some stat-based removal (burn or Dismember-type effects).  Though, on his own…he’s just a Scathe Zombies.  Still, I’m OK with including him because of a growing trend I’ve observed in recent matches.  In an aggro-eat-aggro world like the one in which we currently live, we thrive on the topdeck (most of the time).  Even U/W Delver often devolves to that point in a lot of matches.  He’s premium removal on a stick and with him being on type, I can’t picture a better trickster in this slot.

Falkenrath Aristocrat

Ew, hellew!
A powerful and tough-to-kill finisher, this lass can close up tight races or provide an impregnable blocker.  A sacrifice outlet is also not bad on a mucked-up board where you control a Blood Artist.  Not much else to say about this bloody lady.

Child of Night

Just got his baby fangs in!
Let me state that I am not happy about playing French vanilla Baby Midnight here, but black vampires are in short supply right now.  Truthfully, though, on the play, he’s a fine attacker.  He also helps keep your opponent on the defensive, giving you that crucial turn to help you get there.  In concert with any other Vampire, he’s outstanding.  The Captain makes him a nigh-unblockable lifelinker or a superb wall.  Papa Midnight (the Nocturnus) makes him a 4/2 flying lifelinker.  That’s…that’s almost a Baneslayer!  Ok, maybe not…either way, I feel fine including him to give you a little more survivability on the back pedal while being an excellent rank-filler when you get in the red zone.


Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Certified boss.
An exciting inclusion in this deck, he provides much needed card advantage, inevitability and versatility to an otherwise one-note machine.  He synergetically makes on-type minions, provides the extra +1/+0 to crack through the stalemate and his ultimate is terrifying and attainable, unmolested, by Turn 7.  He helps on the backpedal, and he should be a welcome draw on an empty board.  As basically the only reason I’m playing white, he’s gotta be good.

Dead Weight

I was trying to think about something better for this deck, but then...weight a minute...
This efficient enchantment is highly specialized to deal with a wide variety of early threats as well as some mid-game ones (Acidic Slime and Huntmaster come to mind.)  This deck has no one-drop creatures, and if they don’t play a creature, that’s probably better for this deck.  If they do, Dead Weight it!  It’s so easy!  But man, does it make me miss Disfigure…

Sign in Blood

Just sign on the clotted line.
This is not the first Vampire deck to play this on-flavor card.  I’m not sure this is right here, but this deck needs card advantage somehow.  It also can finish them off, and I have won my share of games that way.

Dismember, Victim of Night and Cower in Fear

My, what sharp...Voldo claws you have?
This is an unusual suite of removal, but I feel strongly about it.  Victims of Night are in here just because I don’t have Go for the Throats, and I’d rather play them as they’re easier to cast and they hit plum everything.  Dismember is easy on the mana and is darn convenient because of that.  I have enough lifelink that I’m not very concerned about paying life when I need to.  Cower in Fear is one of those underrated cards I mentioned, and so far, I’m pleased to play it.  It’s highly metagame specific; the places I play are swarming with mana dorks, tokens and Gavony Townships.  Killing your opponents’ Blade Splicer when they try to Restoration Angel it is a sweet feeling.  This is an easy board-out, but I’m fine with it in the maindeck.  That being said, it might not be right for you.  If your environment isn’t rife with white-knuckle aggro decks, it’s not even a sideboarder.


I’m really pleased with the land setup in this deck both in count, functionality and color weight.  In playtesting, I’ve always had the mana I need, though I ironically always seem to be short on black.  Three Evolving Wilds is pretty aggressive, but they serve an additional feature by thinning the deck, giving more possible online moments for Papa Midnight as well as stronger draws.  Normally two is sufficient in a multicolor deck, but without anything to do on Turn 1 on the play, evolving is a welcome play.


Admittedly, the sideboard is a circus of nonsense, but here’s some reasoning.

Bump in the Night and Bonfire of the Damned are probably the most unorthodox.  As opposed to a race, Bump in the Night gives me a non-combat way to close out games against a variety of decks.  It’s also a black Lava Spike that you can cast twice.  Six damage to a player for 5BR is not awesome, but it’s on the black-only theme while providing an alternative option to close out a game.  I’ve had a lot of games where the opponent stabilized at four or five and this just handles that situation.  Bonfire, although against theme, is just that good.  Also, if you so happen to have Nocturnus out with this face up on the top of your library, your opponent will play much differently, and so will you.

After some fiddling with this deck, I’m really pleased with the way it plays.  It’s weak to bounce, as most of my cards don’t have comes-into-play effects, but it’s a powerful creature deck that has flexibility and versatility unlike the vast majority of other aggro decks I’ve seen. 

I wanted to play this deck last night at Something2Do’s Tuesday tournament, but I was unable to get all the cards I was missing.  I hoped to get the last few rares I needed but I only got a four out of the seven.  I’ll need to postpone the play-by-play of that one for what I played instead; this is a fairly straightforward UR Delver, similar, though not as inventive, as my MiRUcle list.  Here’s what I hurriedly sleeved for the tournament yesterday.


Creatures (11)

4 Delver of Secrets
3 Augur of Bolas
4 Snapcaster Mage

Spells (27)

3 Krenko’s Command
4 Incinerate
3 Arc Trail
3 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Mana Leak
3 Dissipate
4 Vapor Snag
1 Brimstone Volley
2 Amass the Components

Lands (22)

4 Sulfur Falls
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Desolate Lighthouse
6 Mountain
9 Island


1 Talrand, the Sky Summoner
4 Pillar of Flame
2 Mental Misstep
2 Creeping Chill
3 Runecaster’s Pike
3 Flames of the Firebrand

Round 1 – Philip (G/W Aggro)

The round had already elapsed several minutes while I finished sleeving up the last of my cards, but Philip was very patient, content to shuffle for a while.  On the play in game one, he made an Avacyn’s Pilgrim.  I got a Delver down on my turn, but he didn’t flip for a while.  He made a Bird of Paradise and got stuck on two lands.  I started hitting him with a flipped Delver and Mana Leaked a Sublime Archangel from his side.  Another one appeared, but it was Incinerated, and Snapcaster to Mana Leak kept the third one from resolving.  I beat him down right after he drew his needed land.  In game two, he stalled on two land, cast a single creature, and I Bonfired him and smacked with Delver for exact.


This seemed like the perfect matchup for my deck made of Arc Trails, Krenko’s Command and Mana Leaks.  Maybe more uber-aggro decks like this would come…

Round 2 – Colin (Mono-Black Midrange)

I’ve played Colin many times before, and at least from my end, I always enjoy matches with him.  In Game 1, I countered and durdled for a while, getting him to about 10 life or so.  He resolved a Lashwrithe and, forgetting it had a Germ token attached, smashed me to pieces.  In game two, I got a slightly stronger draw and dodged his removal for a while.  I killed him definitively.  Game three was a bit more of a grind, with him casting Mutilates to kill single, unflipped Delvers.  I kept ripping Delver after Delver, though, and some unlucky choices from his Surgical Extractions and precariously low Sign in Bloods ticked up another win for me.


Round 3 – Tyler (U/W Delver)

Tyler, a very skilled player, shuffled up the heartbreaker and I recognized it right off the bat with his Seachrome Coast to Ponder.  His deck was air tight; suffice it to say, even after some awkward sideboarding on my part, I barely scratched him either game.


Round 4 – Ryan (RUG Humans)

Ryan, a kind and gracious player, was sitting behind a stack with a unique and intriguing mana base.  In Game One, I kept his Mayor of Avabrucks form sticking.  Bonfire did a ton of work too, sweeping his relatively small squad of Delvers and Mayors off the table.  I was able to crash in effectively with Snapcaster and Friends, decisively taking game 1.  In game 2, he flooded pretty hard while I beat him down with a single Krenko’s Command token (he Snagged the other one).  Intriguingly, he slow-rolled a Huntmaster of the Falls to turn 8, fearing a counterspell (all of which I had boarded out upon seeing Cavern of Souls.)  Amass the Components really shone in this game, always drawing me into the answer I needed.  A single Brimstone Volley was still enough, despite consistently anemic attacks from one and two-power boards.


Third place and three prize packs of M13 yielded little except my fourth Rancor and a couple Goat tokens, but as uninspired as this decklist was, it was pretty fun to play.  Krenko’s Command was arguably the most fun card to cast…I’m not sure why.  The sideboard also proved effective, and I did like having seven counterspells maindeck.  I might play a singleton Pike in the maindeck in the future, but overall, I was pleased with how it played.  Nothing stellar, but I’ll take it.

Pack to Power

Backing up before my vacation, I played a Friday Night Magic at my usual haunt with a slightly ill-fated revision of Tibbles and Bits, but I made good strides in my Pack to Power!  You win some, you lose some I guess.

The gentleman with whom both of these trades occurred is nameless to me; I’d recognize his name if I heard it, but he’s never directly introduced himself, so I’m left in that “hey…guy!” territory.  Either way, he was polishing off the final touches to his blue/black zombie deck before game time and, as he eyed my Phyrexian Crusader, he was happy to trade for my profit even after being clearly informed of the price difference.  What a trader!

Phyexian Crusader - $1.49

Think Twice (2) - $0.25 ($0.50)
Forbidden Alchemy - $0.25
Butcher Ghoul - $0.15
Goblin Arsonist (M12) (2) - $0.15 ($0.30)
Driver of the Dead (2) - $0.15 ($0.30)
[Elf Warrior Token] (4) - $0.49 ($1.96)
Grave Exchange - $0.15
Demonlord of Ashmouth - $0.75

Net Change - +$2.87

Well, the values on my gains are probably a bit exaggerated.  Regardless, I’ll take the acceptable amount of staple commons, some selection and some interesting trade bait in the tokens and the Demonlord.  Originally, I was fine with doing it just for the Demonlord and take a loss (as Phyrexian Crusader has, in my opinion, NO future in Modern), but he was willing to give me basically his whole stack of the only trade stuff he had on him.

Later in the evening, after the tournament, he told me he wanted the Drowned Catacomb I had.  He offered a stack to me, in which I found a Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.  I was fine with trading up.

Drowned Catacomb (M13) - $2.99

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker (M13) - $6.99

Net Change - +$4.00

Although the Catacomb is a lot more liquid, I was fine with making this trade.  Someone will want Nicol Bolas, and I think it will be fairly simple to trade him up for a better planeswalker; Garruk Relentless or Sorin, perhaps?  Even two Tibalts, though arguably at a loss, is in high demand and short supply despite his low price tag.  Brewers everywhere are getting Tibalt fever!

Total Net Change - +$6.87

Total Adjusted Pack Value as of August 1, 2012 –$28.66

I’m tossing around the idea of a couple other offbeat Standard decks that we’ll look at here in the next post or two.  I hope you want to paint it black, and let me know if you have any suggestions! 

Also, RTR is coming.

Thanks again for dropping by, and as always, don’t forget to untap!

- Matt H


  1. Hi, I quite like your blog, hope you get more popularity now that Klotz video spotted you.

    My question is, have you considered Cavern of Souls for the Paint it Black deck or it didn't get the cut out of budget reasons?

    PS: love your deck names

    1. Thanks for your kind words! Kevin is one of the better magic video producers I know, and he and I are cut if the same deck building cloth, too.

      About cavern of souls, my major limitation is budget, but secondly, except for the "can't be countered" clause, I don't really need it; the mana has proven to plenty sufficient in playtesting. Also, with enough BB spells, it'd be awkward to have that cavern, though that Is admittedly a weak argument. I'll stick to the "I'm cheap" one.

  2. I know it's rather late to ask considering the spiralling out of Scars block, but could you construct a Torpor Orb deck? I was thinking of making one myself but I've not seen many deck lists like my own. It does however feature heavy use of Demonlord of Ashmouth, Treachetous Pit-Dweller and Vexing Devil.
    As I said, I'd like to see the deck constructed by someone with experience in the matter, and as of now that person is not me.

    1. That's a great suggestion! I'll see if I can throw one together for my next blog post, which itself is nearly completely about scars block.

    2. If it helps, I have what I've come up with of the decklist so far.


    3. My newest post is up, and I highlight your Torpor Orb deck idea in there. I didn't look at your list (and I will and probably see many errors in my own). In the meantime, take a look! Cool idea!

  3. I have to admit, I really enjoyed this read over! I especially liked the detailing to your build of that B/R Vampire deck. Ironically, I just went up against one at my recent FNM with a U/W Spirit Delver deck I was testing. It was definitely mean, though I think her build was a bit different from what you have here.

    I find myself very curious about that RUG Humans deck you went against there. I haven't come across one myself at my FNMs, but it sounds very interesting. Also, very good trading! I was hoping to get some done myself last night, but a lot of the regulars that bring their binders weren't there. I think it's because of the Star City Games Open in Kansas City this weekend, roughly a 3-4 hour drive from St. Louis.

    Anyway, enough of my babbling again lol. Look forward to your next post my good sir!