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There may not have been any large events recently to attend, but that doesn't mean there is no time for brewing! Weekly FNM has been a source of a great fun this season for me and a way to test out new decks almost worry free. Do not be afraid to build a crazy deck for FNM. Even if you lose horribly, it can be a great learning experience. For example, maybe you put together a Birthing Pod deck last week but it was a complete flop. What did you learn about the deck in your metagame? Maybe there was a particular card that stood out like Blade Splicer that over performed but the rest of the deck was not very good. Take that information and use it the next week. Maybe build an aggro deck with the Blade Splicer instead of Birthing Pod. I can’t tell you how many times this type of thing has happened to me. Whatever deck you take to FNM, make sure you reflect back on the event afterwards and find the valuable parts of the tournament. This allows you to progress in deck building and as a player.
Another important yet dangerous part about innovation is pet cards. During every Standard season, there are always a few cards that I try to play over and over again just because of how interesting I think they are, or a unique but powerful effect they have, etc. Some examples in Standard have been Wild Nacatl, Fauna Shaman, Kalastria Highborn, and Puresteel Paladin. In the last few weeks, I found my new pet card. What is it you ask? I am certainly glad you did.
This card is simply amazing if you untap with it. I have had conversations about Bloodline Keeper with many of my close friends over the past few weeks. It all started when I took a financial interest in the card. I buy and sell magic cards every Friday night at FNM and Bloodline Keeper has been a card that I buy and sell almost every week. They are just really popular. The interesting part though, is that no one was playing them at FNM. They just wanted the card for EDH decks or casual decks. I thought, but isn’t she at least good enough for FNM, if not competitive play? Since I had been thinking about her so much, it naturally led to deck building ideas. One week, after I slaughtered everyone with blue white Illusions, I thought that I didn’t quite like the deck because it didn’t have enough late game play. Even though Illusions is solid and ends the game rather quickly, I wanted something I could close the game out with. What about Bloodline Keeper?
That snowballed my thought process for days trying to figure out how to fit it in Illusions. I still wanted the white mana for Moorland Haunt because it is so powerful against the control decks. Obviously the mana was horrible and it didn’t work, but then, that will happen when you try to fit in a double black card into a mono blue deck that wants white mana for a colorless land. It was important to try and see if it would work though because if it would have, the leap in deck construction would have been quite the break through. Removing the white mana was hard, but not because of Moorland Haunt. I never realized how much the sideboard relied on the white mana until I took it out. I had to completely innovate the sideboard for a new deck, not just tweak it like I was expecting. With the white out of the deck, that gave me room to expand the black part of the deck. Doom Blade, Diregraf Ghoul, and Dismember were now easy additions.
I had to find something powerful though in addition to the Bloodline Keeper in order to justify no Moorland Haunts. This part took a great deal of research and thought. What I ended up with was not even really my idea. When Illusions was first built, before it played Geist of Saint Traft, it played a card that some laughed at but upon testing was amazing. The card?
While you do not want to play a lot of Stitched Drakes, when you can cast it turn three, it is so amazing. It doesn’t seem that great but the four toughness is hard to deal with in our non-Dismember Standard and it hits hard with evasion. When you draw it late in the game it is still powerful. Obviously Illusions stopped playing it because well, Geist of Saint Traft is sweet if unblocked and you were removing the creatures in your graveyard with Moorland Haunt anyway so why use them up with Stitched Drake. By the way, I do not really like Geist right now because he doesn’t go unblocked very often. The list I ended up with was a ton of fun and really good. Take a look.
The deck plays very similar to an aggro control deck that is very tempo oriented like Illusions. There are a bunch of cards that overlap so that seems obvious. Adding another one cost creature was exactly what the deck wanted too. Diregraf Ghoul adds more consistency to the deck so you should have a one cost creature almost every game. The additional removal package of three Doom Blade and one Dismember performed above my expectations. All of the options in the deck allows Snapcaster Mage to be quite the choose your own adventure.
a.) Search for a new path. Sea Gate Oracle
b.) Defend yourself against an unfriendly creature. Aether Adept
c.) Kill the enemy in your way. Nekrataal
d.) Stop the plot of your enemy planeswalker. Mystic Snake.
Wow, now that is versatility. This is definitely one of the best decks for Snapcaster Mage I have played in Standard for sure. I think the deck could use some tweaking but it was good and a lot of fun.
How else could we play the card? Can you hear the crowd chanting…
With all the chanting, I caved. Red Black vampires forever has a home in my heart from a time where Viscera Seer, Bloodghast, and Kalastria Highborn combined to destroy my opponents. Oh and Gatekeeper of Malakir was sick too. This deck is no tier one deck like the previous version, it is barely tier two. I knew it would not be amazing when I had it built but it should be good enough given how cheap the creatures are, the fact some of them get bigger on their own, and Rakish Heir is really good because of how he grows all your vampires.
I hope the first question is, why did you play this deck? It seems horrible. Well, you would be mostly correct. Why isn’t it good though? There are a couple reasons that make this deck a strictly worse version of aggro in Standard. The first reason is not one you might think of at first glance, I certainly didn’t think it would be that big of a deal.
This deck does not do it basically at all. I thought that would be fine because I wanted to be attacking all the time anyway. Still, there are creatures you just have to block sometimes like Geist of Saint Traft in particular, but also, Hero of Bladehold. Blocking is important because it allows you to survive until you can stabilize or find removal.
The second reason the deck is horrible is the obvious one.
2. Terrible creatures typically do not belong in competitive play.
Bloodcrazed Neonate and Vampire Interloper are just horrible. Bloodcrazed Neonate is not too bad if you can get it to connect but even with flying, Vampire Interloper still sucks. Almost all of these creatures having one toughness is pretty terrible for you also because it allows your opponent to trade profitably with cards like Doomed Traveler and Midnight Haunting. I did beat the green white tokens deck that ran both of those cards though somehow, but it was possibly the worst matchup I could think of.
How did the rest of FNM go? Not well. I beat a random mono black control deck with all star cards like Royal Assassin. Yes, I beat the Green White Tokens deck but I probably should not have. The two decks I lost to were four color control and Blue White Humans. The control games were really close but ultimately this deck cannot beat Wurmcoil Engine. I thought I could beat it game two with my sweet sideboard strategy. The plan was to steal it with Traitorous Blood and then Doom Blade it so I get the tokens. I successfully accomplished this plan but his Slagstorm the next turn followed up by another Wurmcoil Engine the following turn, decimated that plan. The Blue White Humans match was vastly one sided and not in my favor. The match is bad to start off with but my muliganning, colorless sources, all my lands coming into play tapped and no removal draws didn't help either.
What did I learn from playing the deck though? Going back to the beginning of the article, try to take something away from every tournament. It might not be every round, though you should evaluate each game, but definitely every event has some key knowledge that you can discover by replaying your matches in your mind once it is over. For me, I leaned that Rakish Heir was completely busted. I have played him in limited before and he was quite good in my decks there but I have not played him in Standard until this event. Sure he is only a 2/2 and is easily killable, but the effect it had on the game was immense. If we see some more aggressively costed vampires in Dark Ascension, this deck is worth revisiting. If I had never tried this deck, I would not know how good Rakish Heir was in constructed play. Play testing aside, tournament time with a deck is more beneficial than just testing.
Bloodline Keeper is awesome and I hope you guys have a chance to play with it. Both of these decks were tons of fun so give them a shot. I actually think that the Blue Black Illusions may be ready for a larger event, but we'll see. This weekend will be FNM and then Modern on Saturday, so next week I will probably have some cool stories about this new diverse format to share with everyone.
Until Next Time,
Unleash that new technology Force on Standard!