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Updating the Vampiric Bloodline Commander Deck


I remember a time back when vampires were far and few between in Magic. They were the kind of creatures you only saw once in a blue moon, like a special treat that you got to savor from time to time. In fact, when I first started with Urza's Legacy in 1999, these were the only four that existed in the game:

Sengir Vampire
Krovikan Vampire
Ravenous Vampire
Skyshroud Vampire

That's right, even Baron Sengir - the classic vampiric villain - wasn't actually a vampire. He was only a Summon Legend! Many cards from this era were later errata'd to be vampires, but at the time, this was all we had. Being fiercely into horror throughout my childhood and teen years, I was super into vampires as a creature type and it was always something I loved to see when a new one dropped. You should've been there when they announced they were reprinting Sengir Vampire in Torment, because it was truly something special at the time. Over the years that followed, we got the likes of Repentant Vampire, Treacherous Vampire, Vampiric Dragon, Mephidross Vampire, Moroii, and so on for years - giving hope that we could get a real vampire deck one day.

First there was Zendikar, where vampires truly became a major tribe of a set for the first time in Magic. And then came Innistrad and suddenly all bets were off. Vampires were everywhere and quickly became greater mainstays throughout Magic's recent history. We've seen them in huge amounts in non-Innistrad blocks and even saw the tribe get its own Commander precon with the release of Commander 2017 thanks to the popularity of the tribe. It's safe to say that by this point, vampires are here to stay and have turned into a cornerstone of the game, much like with, say, demons since they came back in Onslaught after an extended hiatus.

Now we're on Innistrad: Crimson Vow and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more vampire-centric set to ever have been released. The vampiric aesthetic looms over the entire set, even when it comes to the non-vampire cards the set has to offer. It's only fitting, then, that the set also brings with it another vampire-themed Commander precon: Vampiric Bloodline.

Here we see Strefan, one of the progenitors of the five vampire bloodlines of Innistrad. Here, we can find all manner of powerful cards and excellent vampiric delights. Let's check out the list and see what's inside!

Vampiric Bloodline Precon | Commander | Wizards of the Coast

Boy, we sure have come a long way from Sengir Vampire huh? And especially from the days of only around three creatures with the vampire creature type on them at that. Vampires now have gotten stronger, more prevalent, and ever more aggressive. This deck is especially fast and really plays primarily by spitting out a ton of creatures in quick succession and turning them sideways. Like, that's it. That's the deck. You play your creatures and beat face, as one might expect from a Rakdos colored deck.

Nirkana Revenant
Patron of the Vein
Necropolis Regent

For as simple as the deck often reads, looks, and plays, though, there's a lot of fantastic cards here. Whereas the Spirit Squadron deck was a lot of $5-8 cards, we've got some big hitters here in the form of Nirkana Revenant and Patron of the Vein - both of which had gone up quite a bit in recent years. But that's not to say there isn't still value in some of the other cards as well! Blood Artist, Night's Whisper, Vandalblast, and Necropolis Regent have long commanded a decent price tag, and more reprints are always very welcome. Even the big old classic Vampiric Dragon gets its first reprint since Planechase 2009, even if it's not a huge money card like it was once upon a time.

There're tons of wonderful new cards here as well. Olivia's Wrath is a wildly delightful one-sided wrath fitting the vampiric nature of Crimson Vow's story and flavor. Midnight Arsonist delivers on a really unique approach to getting rid of artifacts too. This way you can get rid of a ton of problematic cards without accidentally neutering the player who's been just holding on in the game thanks to a handful of mana rocks. Sinister Waltz is a great multi reanimation spell as well that can also help get back something to your deck for later, though I think it's a little medium in a deck where the commander himself is already doing a lot of reanimating. And of course, the amazing Timothar, Baron of Bats looks to be an absolute powerhouse.

Olivia's Wrath
Midnight Arsonist
Shadowgrange Archfiend

A few cards lack a bit, like Imposing Grandeur doesn't terribly feel great for the cost that you're paying toward it. In another deck, it might be fine, but here where our commander is a mighty four mana, it feels kind of weak. Then there's Shadowgrange Archfiend. This card almost feels more like something I'd expect to see at a Legacy table getting pitched to a Putrid Imp or in a Cube or something than Commander. It's also not a vampire which makes it stand out even more. Glass-Cast Heart and Arterial Alchemy are fine here, but aren't really my favorites and are pretty narrow.

There're also a few odd standouts I see just going through the list. Like what the heck is Avacyn's Judgment doing here? It feels not great for several reasons between being way too narrow most of the time, madness being a little tangential - even if it fits the deck's minor blood theme, and the flavor being off when Avacyn is dead. We'll have our chance to make some changes so let's see a list that looks a little more changed up!

Vampiric Bloodline ReVAMPED | Commander | Kendra Smith

As you can see, I took the deck and added a bit more of a flourish when it comes to the creatures - shoving in some more aggressive creatures, better removal, and so on. The big issue I had when going through all the aspects of the deck is that they feel somewhat at odds with each other a lot of the time. In reality, there aren't that many cards with madness that are really that great for Commander, barring some combo-esque shenanigans with Anje Falkenrath. We don't have that here, so it makes the Blood token subtheme a little dull.

In fact, with there being such a blood theme, I'm almost more inclined to say that Strefan should be a bit less vampire-focused and lean a little more into a reanimator strategy. But that would require a complete deck overhaul and I want this to be something more that a player can pick up the precon and take some ideas from the list above. From there, it can be updated with a few or all of the cards here to give their deck more cohesion and feel like the vampire deck they want to play. And that's not to say Strefan's bad or anything, as he's quite good - I simply wonder if he might not benefit from a different approach.

Olivia Voldaren
Captivating Vampire
Vampire Nocturnus

What we end up with at the end of the day is a ton of strong vampires while cutting the chaff. There's also a little sacrificing going on here, but largely insofar as we don't mind our creatures dying. In death, they're still bringing the pain thanks to cards like Blood Artist and Timothar, and they can even be brought back quite a bit thanks to the many ways reanimation happens. All in all, it's a bloody mess that snowballs into an all-out slugfest: Vampires going nuts and trying to inflict as much damage as they can.

The night is young, though, and in the grand scheme of things vampires are still fairly young as far as tribes in Magic go. They've been around forever, but for the longest time it was in such small quantities it might not have even mattered. In that small time, though, they've come quite far. You can't even really run Sengir Vampire - one of Magic's original premiere creatures anymore due to simple power creep. The archetype has plenty of room to grow as more sets get released in the future, so I expect you'll have plenty more opportunities to build this deck up over the years. For now, pick up the deck and a couple extra vampiric goodies and try it out at your next Commander night with friends. I promise you'll have a bloody good time.

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Innistrad Crimson Vow's Legendary Creatures!

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