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Advanced Jumpstart: Innistrad's Vampires


It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a year now since I last wrote about Advanced Jumpstart! Since finishing my Ravnica Jumpstart series, there came to be an endless stream of Commander-related stuff to talk about, and so Jumpstart ended up on the backburner a bit. In the time since then, however, we've actually seen a few other Jumpstart products coming out of the woodwork. Jumpstart Historic Horizons was released on MTG Arena, bringing with it a massive shakeup to the Historic format, and that was then followed up by another more beginner-centric version called Jump In! Wizards even announced another paper Jumpstart release scheduled for 2022!

With all the recent releases as well as Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow - a pseudo-block of Innistrad sets - coming out, I thought it would be a good opportunity to bring back Advanced Jumpstart once more. This way, I could give the Advanced Jumpstart treatment to the Innistrad's major tribes. This includes vampires, humans, zombies, spirits, and everybody's favorite: werewolves! After all, we're three "blocks" deep, much like how it was when I covered Ravnica, so there's plenty to cover.

With the recent release of Crimson Vow, I thought it only fitting to start with some vampires. Much like with the Ravnica Advanced Jumpstart series, we'll be covering each "block" individually and making one last pack bringing them all together. We'll be skipping some supplemental sets, so don't expect Edgar Markov to make an appearance here. We're keeping these packs Red and Black for simplicity's sake.

Each pack contains 8 lands (with somewhat better fixing than we've come to see from existing Jumpstart products), a heavy smattering of creatures, and a small dose of spells. This gives you a great way to have some packs that boast quite a punch and give you sweet new ways to play quick pickup games with your friends. Remember as well, the new Blank Card template used in Zendikar Rising forward makes for excellent ways to list out each pack's contents, so make good use of them!

With that brief recap done, let's dive into an all-timer: the original Innistrad block.

I - like many - truly love this block. It was a perfect time to be coming back to Magic for me. Scars of Mirrodin block revisited a favorite plane and a classic villain - perfect for my old school tastes - and then Innistrad came right out and scratched that horror itch perfectly. I'll never forget walking away from the first prerelease weekend and telling people I think this was one of the best Limited formats I'd ever seen. Others weren't so sure at the time just yet, but it was a set where things just felt right.

While Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored put a slight damper on things from a Limited perspective, there were still a number of excellent cards that were worth including and revisiting. Indeed, it was refreshing to see some familiar faces again. I remember when Falkenrath Exterminator and Fires of Undeath were powerhouses in the 40-card format front, but not so great when it came to Constructed. And so, they were left by the wayside for a while, until now.

Stromkirk Noble
Fires of Undeath
Olivia Voldaren

Your typical Limited giants are still here, though. Bloodline Keeper // Lord of Lineage and Olivia Voldaren absolutely demolish games single-handedly. Dark Impostor, Brimstone Volley, and Dead Weight are excellent removal sources as well, while Stromkirk Captain brings some tribal ferocity into play and ties it all together. Casual favorite Blood Artist shows up here and can easily take out a good chunk of your opponents' life totals, but he's not the only one. An early Stromkirk Noble or Rakish Heir can take over boards fast and Falkenrath Aristocrat closes the games out completely.

All told, what we get here is a nice, cleanly aggressive vampire strategy. It's quite in line for what the block provided the tribe, and happens to work nicely for the sake of a way to pick up games quickly. But what about the return block, Shadows Over Innistrad, where Emrakul's tentacled mass influenced the plane? Let's see what that block has to offer us:

Coming up with this pack was actually the most difficult of the bunch. Original Innistrad was filled with a lot of good memories and simple aggressive gameplay. The newer sets also play similarly: very aggressive and with a greater focus on key legendary creatures. All in all, it made for some pretty easy packs to design. The problem with this one was that a critical aspect of Shadows block was discarding cards.

Lightning Axe
Collective Brutality
Stromkirk Condemned

Look at the above cards. Those - plus the absolute beater in Heir of Falkenrath - all had a big focus on discarding cards. They weren't the only ones either. Ravenous Bloodseeker and Call the Bloodline were forces to be reckoned with in that block's format. The problem? It's a lot better to lean so heavily into discarding cards in your whole 40-card deck, but it gets far more difficult when half of your deck doesn't utilize this theme at all. With Shadows block, there were payoffs like madness and graveyard synergies, but it's harder to plan for that, so we have to work within our means.

As such, most of the cards included here work on the axis of being fine inclusions on their own merits even if you don't utilize much discarding. Lightning Axe is good early or late and you're never gonna be unhappy simply using Collective Brutality to take out a small creature. Hopefully too once you have Heir of Falkenrath // Heir to the Night or Stromkirk Condemned in action, you have a spare land or two to toss away to make them work - or else one of the few madness options here. It's definitely a bit more nuanced of a strategy, but at the end of the day it still plays fairly aggressively and allows you to take down the opponent cleanly. It just happens that there's also a little bit of extra shenaniganry at play as well.

Finally, we have this year's most recent releases:

I still haven't really had much time with Crimson Vow yet, but I do know that when it came to Midnight Hunt, I went in pretty hard on the Red and Black strategy. The removal was great and the creatures were aggressive as all hell. What wasn't to love? It felt great to play every time, even when I was losing, and I really enjoyed it - even if the overall reception was lukewarm at best. As it happens, though, I felt that many of the Crimson Vow options were simply better from the Jumpstart standpoint.

You see, playing Red and Black in Midnight Hunt was best when you had a plethora of the same types of cards. A one-of Immolation or Vampire Interloper isn't going to break things, but in numbers they can do some serious work. The best cards for the purposes of a deck like this are more in the rare and uncommon slots as well. That works great for a pre-built Limited type of thing, but less so when it comes to an actual draft (barring cubes, of course). As such, Crimson Vow's heavier lean on the tribe leant to some overall better options for us.

Vampire Socialite
Sorin the Mirthless
Gift of Fangs

Vampire Socialite and Stromkirk Bloodthief may be great in general from Midnight Hunt, but cards like Dominating Vampire and Henrika Domnathi // Henrika, Infernal Seer are just absolute houses. Sorin does a ton as a planeswalker, Anje spits out tons of blood tokens to slowly whittle down life totals, and Olivia will completely dominate games if you can get to six mana. Even without the bombs, we get Bloodline Culling and Hero's Downfall for some super premium removal and Gift of Fangs is either a sweet pump or a Dead Weight. Hard to go wrong either way and it's arguably better in something like this where you're less likely to run into vampires on the other side of the board.

All of this culminates in the final pack, bringing these sets together in one tight package:

With a pack like this, the goal is to get as streamlined as possible, and as a result I eschewed a lot of the gimmicky nonsense the different blocks got into. Here we break out the strongest bombs, the best removal, and the most ferociously aggressive creatures all in one package. It works well here, with a better low-to-the-ground package from each block and better lords to bring them together. Fittingly, the color combination even gets a planeswalker in Sorin who is no slouch either.

And there's our first exploration into what Innistrad has to offer us as we dive back into the world of Advanced Jumpstart a little more. Soon I'll be back to talk about zombies - another favorite tribe of mine that those who read my Upgrading Undead Unleashed article might recall. It's going to be a great time with lots to talk about so don't miss it. We're just getting started and have plenty more to discuss. What packs do you hope you'll get to mix with these vampiric delights?

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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