Out for Blood at the World Magic Cup Qualifier

I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth lately. It’s like I’ve bitten my cheek and liquid from the wound has been gushing down my throat. However, I grew used to the taste, and now I’ve even come to crave it. Blood that is. Naya Blitz, Junk reanimator, Jund midrange, and UWR control drew blood first. They are the ones that brought this bloodthirst on, and now I’ll take my fill from them unless they kill me first.

This coming weekend is a BIG weekend for me here in Japan. Nagoya is hosting the last World Magic Cup Qualifier in Japan on June 1st at Fukiage Hall. Yuuya Watanabe, Shunsuke Aka, and Jun’ya Takahashi have already qualified for the event, leaving legends like Shuhei Nakamura, Katsuhiro Mori, and other Japanese pros scrambling for the last spot (if they decide to come out that is).

They’ll have to get through me first though.

I expect at least 150 players from all over Japan to show up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number topped 200 at Fukiage Hall on Saturday. There’s a lot on the line, and with a PTQ the following day at the same location I think it will be enticing to many Magic players to make the trip to Nagoya. The metagame has started to stabilize, and the once dominant Naya blitz decks have begun to fall by the wayside. In their place, Bant hexproof has been destroying slower decks left and right. UWR has also made a comeback for control, focusing on either burning you with cards like Warleader’s Helix, or obliterating your creatures with Supreme Verdict before laying down AEtherling to finish the job. But the biggest beast to beware of is Junk reanimator, which has totally transformed and is raking in wins left and right. Japan has finally caught on, and on Saturday and Sunday they’ll be out in force.

There seems to be very few ways to beat Junk reanimator in the current meta, but I think that’s because the answer doesn’t lay in the decks that are currently seeing the most play. The answer to the GWB reanimator COULD be one of the lesser played decks such as Bant control, RW humans, or even a Maze’s End deck. I’d like to think differently though. I believe that RWB decks are the next step in the metagame, using black’s removal and deadly force, red’s burn and speed, and white’s life gain and control to win games. I’ve been playing my RWB Vampire/Midrange deck a lot lately, and I’ve finally settled on what I think is a deadly mix of all those traits I mentioned above.

Good blood Bad blood
75 cards, 15 sideboard
Cavern of Souls
Clifftop Retreat
Vault of the Archangel
Blood Crypt
Godless Shrine
Sacred Foundry
Dragonskull Summit
Isolated Chapel

24 lands

Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Vampire Nighthawk
Tithe Drinker
Olivia Voldaren
Boros Reckoner
Cartel Aristocrat
Stromkirk Captain

1 Bloodline Keeper

23 creatures

Blasphemous Act
Pillar of Flame
Orzhov Charm
Underworld Connections

13 other spells

Rest in Peace
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Sin Collector
Slaughter Games
Sire of Insanity

Pithing Needle
2 Boros Charm
Blasphemous Act

15 sideboard cards

This deck initially started out as more of RWB midrange/control deck. It had cards like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Lingering Souls, Boros Reckoner, and Blasphemous Act, but after Dragon’s Maze was released things changed. Blood Baron of Vizkopa found his way into the deck, and soon after Olivia Voldaren followed. With Sorin already producing vampire tokens, I decide to just go all in and stuff the deck full of vampires. Why not? I was just having fun. Vampire Nighthawk was a given, and from there on I experimented with various vampires such as Stromkirk Noble and Vampire Nocturnus, but this one seemed to get the best results. Most of this was of my own design, but I did get a few ideas from Sam Black’s RWB vampire build on SCG, and I also had some input from friends. You’re probably looking at a few of these cards and wondering what the hell they’re doing in a standard constructed deck, but before you suggest turning this into another RWB control or Aristocrats deck, hear me out.

A Thirst for Blood (Spells)

Let’s start out with the removal package of Pillar of Flame, Orzhov Charm, and Blasphemous Act. While it’s true that GWB reanimator has been dominating the metagame lately, you can not be unprepared to take on Bant hexproof, Naya or GR blitz, or other quick decks such as Naya humans. The best way to beat any of these decks is to slow them down until you can set up a defense and then wipe them out. With Voice of Resurgence a very real threat, as well as Champion of the Parish, Pillar of Flame is an obvious choice. You need something you can use on your first turn to stop that first attack with. I had originally had Stromkirk Noble in this slot, but aggro was constantly overpowering me and this deck really wasn’t aggro. Orzhov Charm fits the colors well, but is the life loss worth it to kill any creature? Couldn’t I just use Tragic Slip, Victim of Night, or Murder? Well, aside from those cards being very effective against a few decks, they don’t do well overall. Without sacrifice outlets or creatures to sac Tragic Slip loses a lot of it’s power, Victim of Night fails to hit Falkenrath Aristocrat and Olivia Voldaren, and Murder is simply too slow. Normally the loss of life would be a bad thing, but in this deck sparing a few points of life here and there is no problem. Blasphemous Act is in there to take care of insanely fast decks such as blitz that can put up to 4 creatures on the battlefield on turn 2, and it also gets around hexproof creatures’ ability. Without any other board wipe, this deck would fall too easily to aggro.

Children of the Night (Creatures)

Coming up with a good mix of creatures for this deck was difficult. Through a lot of trial and error, I settled on the current set up. First off, why vampires? Humans are the fastest and can end games quickly, Zombies don’t die, and spirits tend to fly unthreatened across the table at your foe. Vampires, however, are the deadliest. They have the highest power, dangerous abilities, and are deadly. If one by itself is dangerous, what would an opponent do about an army of them?

Stromkirk Captain

 Vampire Nighthawk, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and Olivia Voldaren are without doubt the best vampires in standard right now. They would be fine in any deck. The Baron is good against a lot of the top tier decks such as GWB aggro/Reanimator, GW aggro, and it also is a great answer to cards like Boros Reckoner and Azorius Charm. Once you get your opponent in range, he becomes the ultimate finisher. Oliva Voldaren is a menace and a central figure of one of the other top decks in standard right now, Jund (GBR) midrange. She pings, she kidnaps, and all the while she adds your opponent’s power to her own. Vampire Nighthawk is another scary card that your opponent has to look out for. With a 2/3 body it can block most of aggro’s creatures, and its deathtouch makes your opponent think twice about attacking with their best creature.

With a solid corps of vampires, I had to decide which cards would best support the overlying theme and  strategy of this deck. Aggro always weighs on my mind. If you forget about it and don’t prepare for it, you’re dead on turn 4. For this reason I decided to go with Tithe Drinker and Stromkirk Captain. What Tithe Drinker does is puts a 2/1 body on the ground to trade with your opponent’s attacking creature while giving you the benefit of 2 life, effectively wiping out the advantage of another attacker. Against slower decks, it also acts as an annoyance, hitting for both 2 damage and extorting them whenever you have the extra mana laying around.

Stromkirk Captain is a creature that stops aggro dead in their tracks. Let’s say you’re playing against naya blitz and you have a Tithe Drinker out on turn 2. Your opponent drops a Burning Tree Emissary , Burning Tree Emissary, and a Flinthoof Boar. On your turn 3 you drop a Stromkick Captain and now you have a 3/2 first strike, life link vampire and a 2/2 first strike vampire. On your opponent’s turn, do they attack? Well, if they do, the Flinthoof Boar is dead as well as a Emissary, and the life gain negates anything that your opponent manages to push through. What about GW aggro? Your opponent can drop a T2 Smiter if they want, but as long as you get out that Captain on T3, you can double block and take it out the following turn. Both of these vampires do their job well and can become pretty deadly later on if your opponent doesn’t take care of them.

I had 8 spots left after putting those cards in my deck, and those spots were the hardest to fill. Since I was using Blasphemous Act, I decided to add in Boros Reckoners as an alternate win condition (For those of you that haven’t seen the combo, Blasphemous Act does 13 damage to all creatures, and when the Reckoner is damaged he does that amount of damage to any creature or player. With two on the battlfield, you can do 26 damage to a player in one turn). Boros Reckoner is still a powerful card even though it’s not seen as much as before, and with Bonfire of the Damned seeing an increase in play, it makes UWR, Jund, and Naya midrange decks think twice about burning your board. Since I had an extra spot with only 3 Boros Reckoner, I went with a Bloodline Keeper (but I think a 4th Boros Reckoner might better). As a one off, the Keeper isn’t bad. Since the majority of this deck is vampires, you can flip him fairly easily into a 5/5 flyer that boosts your creatures with a +2/+2 bonus.

In the last 4 spots I tried out Stromkirk Nobles (they were easily outclassed and bad in aggro match ups), as well as Blood Artists (good against midrange decks and control that wipes your board, bad against fast aggro), but I ended up settling on the mutli-talented Cartel Aristocrat. At its weakest, it’s a  2/2 creature that trades early on against aggro to slow down their attack. But later on, it can be a potent blocker or attacker as long as you are willing to sacrifice creatures to it. With Sorin, Lord of Innistrad making tokens after you sideboard, the Aristocrat becomes a challenge to kill. It’s also a good way to get around Azorious Charm and other removal in a control deck.

Confessing your Sins (The Sideboard)

One of my decks greatest strengths is its sideboard. Having access to red, black, and white lets you deal with a large swath of the metagame. Here’s how I’d use these cards in my match ups

  • Junk (GWB) reanimator/Frites/RWB frites – + 2 Rest in Peace, +2 Slaughter Games/ -4 Pillar of flame === In this match up, you’ll want to cut off all chances of your opponent reanimating their finishers such as Angel of Serenity and Thragtusk. Let them fill up the graveyard a little before dropping Rest in Peace thought. It also halves the “power” of Angel of Serenity in half, making it nothing more than a glorified Fiend Hunter. Slaughter Games should definitely target Angel of Serenity and Thragtusk in this match up, especially when the deck switches into Junk midrange mode after sideboard. If you take those out the deck loses 70% of its effectiveness. Since most creatures will have 3 toughness or higher, the pillars come out.
  • UWR/Grixis/Esper Control+2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, + 2 Sire of Insanity, +1 Pithing Needle, +3 Sin Collectors / – 4 Pillar of Flame, -2 Blasphemous Act, -1 Boros Reckoner, -1 Orzhov Charm === 8 cards is a lot to side out, but some cards are worthless against control, namely the Pillar of Flames and Blasphemous Acts. I left one in as an alternate win condition with the 2 Boros Reckoners, and just in case your opponent has a large finisher that you can destroy otherwise. You should still keep some instant speed removal just in case, and 3 Orzhov Charms can also serve to save your creatures. Sire of Insanity works great against decks hoping to get card advantage through Sphinx’s Revelation, the Sin Collectors take out Supreme Verdict, Bonfire of the Damned, and Terminus, and Sorin lets you populate the board even if Supreme Verdict hits. The most IMPORTANT card in this match up is Pithing Needle though. Control’s win condition has changed from Nephalia Drownyard to Aetherling, and without a way to shut down its abilities you can get into big trouble. If there is a lot of control in your area, I’d recommend even putting 2 of these in the sideboard. You can also put Slaughter Games and Boros Charms in for these match ups, but I think those would go better in Bant control.
  • Bant hexproof/Naya Blitz/ Naya Humans/other aggro+ 1 Blasphemous Act, +2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad / – 2 Underworld Connections, -1 Bloodline Keeper === Sometimes aggro gets nut draws and puts 5 creatures on the board on turn 3, sometimes they put +6/+4 worth of enchantments on a Geist of Saint Traft. There’s really not much you can do about it expect for blocking aggressively and keeping your life high until you can cast a board wipe like Blasphemous Act. Sorin isn’t great in this match up, but he’ll be better than the 2 Underworld Connections. The life gain and tokens he pumps out will at least be decent roadblocks, especially if you have a Stromkirk Captain in play.

For other match ups, use your own discretion, but keep in mind what their deck’s weak points are and think how you can exploit it. This deck is built well enough to beat most rogue decks, but if all else fails put in some Slaughter Games and Blasphemous Acts and destroy everything.

Holy Water, Garlic, and Crucifixes

Sadly, not every deck can be infallible. There will be some times when you mulligan or mana flood and can’t recover. There will be times when you keep a decent hand but your opponent gets a perfect hand and proceeds to steam roll or out tempo you. This deck has been doing well against aggro thanks to the removal, life gain, and better creatures, but if you don’t keep the perfect hand against a deck like hexproof you will be in trouble. It’s also done well against midrange decks and control thanks to a good sideboard (just be sure to pace yourself and put just enough pressure on control decks). If I had to state a weakness for this deck, it would probably be instant speed removal. There are also times when 12 pieces of removal aren’t enough and you need a better board wipe. Once you start playing this deck against the field though, you’ll notice that it draws very well later on in the match, giving you value cards that effect the field in your favor.

Try it out against a few deck types and wait for your opponent to bare his neck, then bite!