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Convertible Commander: Drana, Liberator of Malakir

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In mythology, Vampires are often capable of transformation. Sometimes it’s to a wolf or a bat, sometimes a cloud of mist, and sometimes it’s merely from a normal human face to a visage revealing the demon within. While we continue this experiment of decks which transform themselves, what better way to look at it than through the lens of the Vampire, a classic transforming race?

Drana, Liberator of Malakir

Vampires, within Magic, have the capacity to be very strong. Anowon, the Ruin Sage is kind of a Sheoldred, Whispering One lite, keeping opponents off their board state while slowly building up a resilient, powerful force of their own. Vamps like Butcher of Malakir and Nirkana Revenant ensure card advantage and resources. One can dip into White and have access to all the Sorins that ever were, or Red for Olivia and another group of inexpensive, relevant threats. Yet no matter what, while going that direction can be powerful, Mono-Black decks traditionally are really good at slowing the game, keeping opponents off their own board state, and generally making the game less fun for the whole table.

While my friends think it regrettable that I’m a huge fan of oppressive, grindy Black decks, in Commander, we can make a different choice. So let’s try a different direction and see what it’s like to do something hyper-tribal. We’ll enslave ourselves to the theme, and then with our optionboard, we’ll grow fangs and take on the mantle of a vampire our very selves.

Drana, Liberator of Malakir ? Commander| Mark Wischkaemper


Asylum Visitor
This is as straight forward as they come. The mana base is 40 lands and nothing else — none of the normal mana rocks or mana doublers so common in Black decks — though there are a lot of fetch lands to go get basic Swamps. More on that in a minute, but there are more 2-drops in this deck than anything else, and there are very few cards at five or higher, so the traditional extra mana sources aren’t really needed. We’ve also got fewer ways to draw cards than normal. Sign in Blood and Asylum Visitor can help, but for the most part we’re all-in here; we come out fast and early and hope no one wraths the board. Sea Gate Wreckage can be helpful, although it can be hard to get that colorless mana for the activation cost.

We’ve got a bunch of cheap vampires to put early pressure on the table. They have nifty abilities, like Shadow Alley Denizen, which can help our dudes get through; Vampire Nighthawk, which flies, lifelinks, and deathtouches its way through its life; and Kalastria Highborn, which lets us use extra mana to drain our opponents. Driver of the Dead returns one of our fallen bloodsucking brethren, Gatekeeper of Malakir forces a sacrifice, and Blood Seeker makes it difficult for Goblin players to go too crazy with it all. Our commander on turn three helps the whole team get stronger quickly.

Then we’ve got some bigger dudes to help close things out. Malakir Bloodwitch is surprisingly effective as a beater. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief is both large and destructive, as is Butcher of Malakir. Chancellor of the Dross is pretty smashy, and Bloodlord of Vaasgoth does a nice job of making all our dudes bigger. While we’re at it, Mephidross Vampire helps our whole team, and Captivating Vampire not only makes it bigger, but lets us start stealing our opponents’ stuff. Bloodline Keeper is less a lord and more a factory, until he transforms. Then he’s both.

Vampire Nocturnus
A special note about Vampire Nocturnus, which is one of the most powerful things we can do. The power/toughness bump and flying can really surprise an opponent, but we need the top card of our library to be Black. 41 cards in the library, though, aren’t — lands don’t have color, and our one artifact is colorless as well. That’s why we’ve got all our fetch lands; we can leave them on the ‘field, then crack them for another shot at a Black card, because we get to shuffle our library. We can also cycle one of the cycling lands to try for a Black top card. Go ahead and crack a fetch early if the mana is necessary, but hold them whenever possible just in case Nocturnus arises from the shadows.

Our answers are constrained because of our theme; we’ve got limited Black kill spells like Urge to Feed and Sorin's Thirst instead of traditional ones like Tragic Slip and Hero's Downfall. Feel free to make the switch, but if being vampiric is the goal, staying on-theme is the way to go. We’ve also got Drain Life and Consume Spirit, as well as Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption, all of which drain the life force from our opponents (or creatures) and give it to us.

Finally, Blade of the Bloodchief needed to be here, as did Call the Bloodline. Sorin's Vengeance and Blood Tribute are big, splashy, and super on-theme. The last funny card is Demonic Pact, which may be not perfectly on theme, but it’s pretty close. Vampires give up their humanity for power. What better way to represent that than a deal with the Devil?

This deck will be fun and themey. It will not be overpowered, and as such is a great one to pull out if the table is a group of inexperienced players or people playing pre-cons right out of the box. It’s also a great way to teach the game, because it’s straightforward and easy to grab as a concept — the whole thing feels cohesive. It’s not going to stand up to a group of highly-tuned decks, but that’s okay. Not everything needs to. Besides, if we want to be a bit meaner, we can just slide in our optionboard and don a vampire’s cape ourselves.

Optionboard:

We put in these nine cards and we change what we’re doing, because now we’re going for a game-winning combo in Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond. These two cards work together to kill our opponents with any amount of damage; with both on the ‘field, do any damage to an opponent. Exquisite Blood gives us that much life. Then Sanguine Bond triggers, so now they lose more life, which gains us that again, and so on. Once we kill our first opponent, we’ve just gained life, so we change targets to a remaining opponent. We’ll kill everyone here, though it’s worth pointing out the way the rules work: if someone has a Platinum Angel or another way to not lose the game, it will tie, because the loop can’t be broken. Definite style points if you can start the loop by playing Piranha Marsh, and if somebody is mean enough to try to destroy either combo piece a sweet way of starting it again before the piece is lost would be to tap Leechridden Swamp. When’s the last time you were able to kill the table by playing a land?

Exquisite Blood
Sanguine Bond

Then we get seven tutors to look for the pieces. Power at all costs, right? Tutors are a point of contention in our game, but if it’s going to be done, go all-in; this Vampire is not going to toy with its victims. Besides, the deck can be played without the combo and the tutors if it’s not the right time! If the time has come, though, to suck our opponents dry, get to it and don’t mess around.

There are a bunch of cards that would be fun to add without blowing up the power level of the main deck, but are simply out of the price range of our budget. Specifically, Bloodghast, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Nirkana Revenant, Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet, and Sorin Markov are all good cards and would keep the deck vampiric. That’s a good reason to build this one, because it starts in a way that works but it’s easy to update as more expensive cards are acquired. Plus, the optionboard means the deck can stand up to a table of powered decks.

At no point while playing this deck, however, should you say “I vant to suck your blood…” in a creepy voice.

Total cost of main deck: $98.72

Total cost of optionboard: $23.69

Total cost of both: $122.41


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