1. Play the deck you enjoy playing.
2. Play the deck you have tested the most.
3. Play the deck you have been the most successful with.
4. Play a new, broken deck because it is so much better than the rest of the decks.
What is the best deck in Standard right now? Your answer almost certainly was CawBlade because it has a strangle hold on the format. It is possible that you might have named another deck with one of the titans but CawBlade has put up consistent results week after week. That in my mind is all I need to determine the best deck in a format.
What is with all these rules? Other writers have mentioned similar things but I continue to find this out the hard way that they really are true. These principles are a central concept in Magic that we sometimes forget about. My team sometimes gets so caught up in innovation and that leads us too far away from these rules. If you look at the Star City Games tournament series and the players it has made into champions, they all follow these rules.
After a few weeks of constantly switching decks and innovating with no success to show for it, I finally realized I was breaking most of the rules. I was trying to force rule four to be true all the time, and the truth is that it just isn’t true most of the time. With the Bant deck I talked about, it actually was true and I am still disappointed that I did not earn a spot to Nationals. What I realized by playing that deck was that, while I actually do like playing CawBlade and its variants, it is not likely that I will top eight or win a tournament with it because of how long it takes to win games. If you are playing the deck and constantly find yourself drawing or losing the mirror, either step up your testing or switch decks. I came to this realization and I advocate you decide what the right move is for you as well.
Seeing the results from the National Qualifiers and thinking back on the article I wrote on Vampires, I was led back to that deck. I really love this Vampire deck and what it is capable of, I play it well, and I have had more success with it than any other deck this season. With all those things being true, how could I not play it again?
So, I headed out to Indiana to hang out with some friends and attend the Midwest Masters, TCG Player joint qualifier. Here’s the list I rocked.
Let me discuss a couple notes before I get into the report. The first thing that should stand out are the Mortarpods! That is my new tech and man, was it amazing! Think about how good Mortarpod is in CawBlade. Now think about it with Bloodghast. Finally, think about it when you have Kalastria Highborn and other vampires, maybe even also a Bloodghast. And yes, it really was that good. The next important thing was the Doom Blades. Let me give you some advice, never play this card. I lost games because this was Doom Blade and not Go for the Throat like it usually is. With the rise of RUG and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas decks I thought that Doom Blade was the better choice, but man was I wrong. The more important things you need to know are that you have Lightning Bolts for the Precursor Golem, the Tezzeret decks sometimes have Phyrexian Crusader, and Vampires is now a part of the metagame. PLAY Go for the Throat!
Other than some odd numbers on cards the only other important thing to note is the amount of lands I played. That number was 25 and I wouldn’t ever change it. Despite its low curve, Vampires demands a lot of mana and you always want to consistently hit your land drops to recur your Bloodghasts. Usually the games I lose are the ones where I end the game with three lands in play.
Let’s get to the games!
Round 1 – CawBlade
What a great way to start the day off, playing against the best deck in the format. I know this player from a variety of events and I know he is very skilled. I start on the play and just punish him for keeping a controlling hand. After all, what spells do you actually want to counter in Vampires? He does play well though but I have every answer that I need. I did not have enough speed to kill him early but I did have enough lands to always recur my Bloodghast. He plays Sun Titan on seven mana, so I untap and play my Gatekeeper of Malakir. Since he is such a good player though, he animates his Inkmoth Nexus that is in play and sacrifices it instead of the Sun Titan. That was not good enough though because the Doom Blade still eats the Sun Titan and I swing for the win.
Game two was all him. I did not draw many creatures, he has the Condemn for my Bloodghast and then he starts casting his sweet expensive spells like Gideon Jura, Baneslayer Angel, and Sun Titan. I concede quickly to make sure we have enough time for game three.
Being on the play is a huge advantage against CawBlade but the Duresses from the sideboard help tremendously as well. One thing I have realized against CawBlade is that you don’t actually want Inquisition of Kozilek against them. The only targets you care about taking are all able to be taken with Duress. It is fine for them to cast Stoneforge Mystic or Squadron Hawk because they are using their mana to do so. If they get the Sword of Feast and Famine either you can just kill the Stoneforge so they have no creature to equip or you can take it with Duress. Personally, I recommend using the Duress to prevent them from playing Condemn, Day of Judgment, or Gideon Jura. Without these cards they cannot stabilize and you should win the game. This was how game three played out exactly. I play turn one Vampire Lascerator into turn two Bloodghast. He played turn one Preordain into turn two Stoneforge Mystic. I untapped and killed it with a Burst Lightning after I Duress the Condemn from his hand. The rest of his hand consisted of Day of Judgment, Baneslayer Angel, two Gideon Juras, and two lands. Once he got to four mana, he played the Day of Judgment but he was tapped out to do so and I took the game. The Lightning Bolt at end of turn, land to recur the Bloodghast on my turn and then a second Bolt finished him off. Plan executed.
Round 2 – Kuldotha Red
Before we started playing I thought I recognized this guy from round one. He sat a couple seats down from me but at one point I looked over and saw him smashing his opponent down on turn three. I was not sure if it was this guy or not but it turned out I was right. With Vampires, the cool thing is that you can actually act like a control deck depending on how you play each matchup. Against Kuldotha Red you must be the control otherwise you cannot beat them. The idea is to get as many two for ones as possible against them and your card advantage should win the match. My opponent for this round forgot to write down some cards in his sideboard so I had a free game one win. This match can be close sometimes but if you know how to play going in, it makes it much easier. Turn one he was on the play with Goblin Guide but I had a Vampire Lascerator that certainly blocked his creature the next turn. I used my removal on his early threats and Gatekeeper of Malakir plus Bloodghast to start actually attacking on turn four or five, whenever he was out of cards in hand. With my life total safe at fifteen and him with no cards, I easily finished the match.
Round 3 – Vampire Mirror
Hey, remember when I said those Doom Blades were horrible? Oh yeah, I definitely drew both of them game one to lose horribly. The Vampire mirror is so close in almost every game, and packing two dead cards will so very often lose you the game. Game two was also close as usual, but my Mortarpod tech was taking over the game until I picked up my cards and punted them across the room. Alright, it was not that bad and I would have lost anyway, but it still was a major blunder on my part. I was at two life, but he was at four life and had two Bloodghasts. I had Vampire Hexmage and a Mortarpod but the germ token was used up. For some reason I was really concerned with the time and after looking at the game clock, failed to equip the Mortarpod. Instead if I had equipped, I would have been able to block and sacrifice to not die that turn. It turns out that I had a land on top which would have allowed me to return my own Bloodghast and sacrifice to Mortarpod but that would have left him at one life and I still would have lost the game. It was very close but I just couldn’t get there either way.
Round 4 – GW
Game one was the biggest beatings of the tournament for me. It was no big deal for him though. He just went turn one Birds of Paradise, turn two Fauna Shaman which I killed, turn four Baneslayer Angel, turn five Wurmcoil Engine. I basically had no shot. I didn’t have removal for the Baneslayer and even then, I could not fight a Wurmcoil Engine also. Games two and three were completely lopsided in my favor though. First of all, he couldn’t find any early drops against me and also I sided all four Mark of Mutiny. Green/White really cannot handle Mark of Mutiny because they have no way to kill my sacrifice outlet.
Round 5 – Another Vampires Mirror
Seems like every tournament I play in I have to play the Vampires mirror, so I have a lot of experience playing it. That does not mean I beat it all the time as we saw from round three, but does mean that I have an edge though. Game one, I had a Kalastria Highborn that he could not answer and it was just too much for him to handle. Game two, his side boarded Bonehoard tech got me and there was nothing I could do about it. That game was the first game I’ve ever lost where I drew three Gatekeeper of Malakirs. Game three was very close again but I had the burn to finish him off.
Round 6 – CawBlade #2 with tech
Game one, I had some sweet Viscera Seer/Bloodghast combo action going to draw straight gas. One thing I have found with this interaction is that unless you need a specific card to not lose the game or are light on lands, usually it is correct to leave whatever actual spell or creature you find and ship the lands to the bottom. That is exactly what I did this game and his counters stayed in his hand the whole game while my two guys and my manland took chunks from his life total. He played cards like Tumble Magnet to slow me down, but when it ran out of counters, he was in trouble.
Game two was a similar story of stalling on his part. Two Tumble Magnets, four Squadron Hawks, and two Stoneforge Mystics all threw themselves against my hoard of bloodsuckers. The last stall tactic almost had me though because I did not expect it at all. In combat he casts White Sun’s Zenith to take out my team and leave him with some 2/2’s. Luckily, Mortarpod is seriously sick, especially with Bloodghast.
Round 7 – Elves
I knew I was playing Elves before the match started and let me tell you, that is not a good thing. Elves is the worst possible match for Vampires in my opinion. They have more and bigger guys, planeswalkers or Vengevine, an I win card in Eldrazi Monument, and a sick sideboard strategy with Leyline of Vitality. Overall it is so hard to actually win a game, let alone the match. So, when one of the three undefeated players got paired down against me and it looked like the math was going to work out in my favor, I agreed to draw. This unfortunately was the end of my tournament, a disappointing 9th place. I think if two of my opponents that did well had not played each other in the last round or the CawBlade player I beat round one had beaten his opponent in the last round, the math would have worked out in my favor.
Final Record: 5-1-1, 9th place
Vampires is still my favorite deck at the moment and I did enjoy playing it again. I will be working on the deck with new cards from New Phyrexia so in one of my next articles, I will have a new list to share with you.
Mtgjedi on Twitter
I will send the first person to post constructive feedback here in the forums a Destructive Force signed by me. I will also send one to the first person to do the same on twitter. Also, I have a criminally low following on twitter so when I reach 50 followers, I will send out the first foil Destructive Force I traded for, signed by me of course, to a random follower. If we can get to 111 followers, I will do something special. : )