A Guide to Vampires – the Best Deck in Standard

75% of this week’s MPL play submitted Vampires, with Carlos Romao winning the Pearl Division with it.

Vampires is a fast, powerful and effective deck. It plays a lot of individually powerful cards and Sorin and Sanctum Seeker give the deck a lot of reach. You also have access to some of the best sideboard cards. The metagame might be shifting every week, but I believe that in a vacuum, Vampires is the #1 deck in current Standard.

B/W Vampires

Martin Juza

7 Plains (331)
7 Swamp (339)
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Sanctum Seeker
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
1 Champion of Dusk
1 Dusk Legion Zealot
4 Legion Lieutenant
3 Skymarcher Aspirant
3 Vicious Conquistador
2 Vona, Butcher of Magan
4 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
2 Cast Down
2 Legion's End
4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort

Sideboard
4 Duress
2 Plague Mare
3 Gideon Blackblade
2 Legion's End
1 Noxious Grasp
1 History of Benalia
2 Mortify

Card Choices

  • I currently like Vona more than Champion of Dusk. Basically, my plan is to win as fast as possible, not to play a long grindy game. I feel like Champion is only good when you also draw Sorin and I don’t like the idea of playing 4 copies of a card that is only good when I also draw the best card in my deck. Keep in mind you are playing 22 lands. Without Sorin, Champion is usually stuck in your hand, with you wishing it was something cheaper.
  • That said, Champion is amazing against Esper Control, where it provides you with much-needed card advantage and helps you rebuild after their board wipes. So if Esper becomes popular again, it deserves a spot. Vona is much better in the mirror, where it’s almost unkillable, because most people play Cast Down and Legion’s End as removal and Sorin only deals 3 damage. It’s also better against other aggro decks like Mono-Red or Nexus, where it can kill their Reclamation.
  • I really like maxing out on Sanctum Seekers. They provide the deck with a lot of reach and they get even better in multiples.
  • Knight of the Ebon Legion is impressive and it will definitely be a major Standard player after rotation. The other one-drops are nothing special, but you need them to have a fast draw and they help you flip Legion’s Landing. I do like Vicious Conquistador and Skymarcher Aspirant, which hit harder than Duskborne Skymarcher and Vampire of the Dire Moon.
  • I don’t like Ashiok in the sideboard. It’s only good against Scapeshift and it provides no pressure. Scapeshift’s popularity is on the decline and you need cards that are good in multiple matchups.
  • The mana can be a bit awkward, but I don’t think you can afford to play Temple of Silence–curving out is extremely important. You need your lands to come into play untapped.
  • I’m still not entirely sure how many Plague Mares I want in the mirror, but it’s amazing against the Temur Elemental decks recently popularized by Sjow and Crokeyz. Killing Llanowar Elves, Risen Reef and Scampering Scorcher and its tokens in one swing is a pretty satisfying feeling.
  • Gideon is by far your best card against Esper Control out of the sideboard because they can’t bounce it with Teferi, Time Raveler or kill it with most of their removal spells. I wouldn’t leave home without 3 in the sideboard.
  • I like History of Benalia a lot against Mono-Red, where you need to keep flooding the board with more creatures than they can remove. It’s also good against control decks like Esper and Grixis, but much less than Gideon. It seems a bit random, but your deck actually has 15 other creatures with the type Knight in it–Knight of the Ebon Legion, Legion Lieutenant, Sanctum Seeker, Vona and Sanctum Seeker are all Knights.
  • I currently have Mortify in the sideboard as extra removal because it can kill Vona in the mirror and also Wilderness Reclamation against Nexus. I’m not really sure why everyone is so high on Noxious Grasp over the other removal spells. I’m trying to kill Teferi with creatures and Gideon or discard it with Duress. Green decks usually can’t get rid of Sanctum Seeker, so I don’t really feel like I need my removal to also be able to kill Nissa because that’s not really what the matchup is about. It doesn’t seem good to me in the mirror because it can’t kill Knight of the Ebon Legion. I can see Grasp being better if Esper decks start sideboarding Lyra again. Devout Decree is also good if you expect Vampires and Red.

Tips and Tricks

  • Vona says “during your turn,” not “as a sorcery.” That means you can attack and still use her ability before blockers are declared, killing your opponent’s creature or making combat math harder for them.
  • Make sure you take a good look at which lands and one-drops you have in your opening hand and plan the first couple turns correctly. For example, Swamp, Swamp, Plains, 2x Knight of the Ebon Legion, Skymarcher Aspirant, Sorin will want to lead on Swamp and Knight into Plains and Knight + Aspirant. It’s pretty common to just automatically start with the creature that deals the most damage on turn 2, only to realize that you can’t actually cast two cards next turn, because you played the wrong land first.
  • Don’t keep slow hands. This deck needs to curve out and apply pressure. With the London Mulligan, you can very easily go down to 5 and still win. I remember watching a match between Vampires and Scapeshift after sideboard, and the Vampires player kept 4 lands, Gideon and 2 Legion’s Ends. Even though Legion’s End might seem like one of your best cards against Scapeshift, it’s only going to be good enough if you apply enough pressure, otherwise they will have all the time in the world to rebuild. I would mulligan that hand in a heartbeat.
  • The London Mulligan also rewards aggro decks, because you only need 2-3 lands to function. I’d much rather mulligan into 2 lands, Knight of the Ebon Legion, Adanto Vanguard, Legion Lieutenant, than keep 4 lands, Legion’s End, Sanctum Seeker and Champion of Dusk.
  • Try to not give your Scapeshift or Nexus opponents an opportunity to get value out of Veil of Summer. Sometimes that means leading on Duress on turn 1 instead of playing a creature when they don’t have green mana available. It slows you down, but makes sure the Duress actually resolves.
  • If you lead with Knight of the Ebon Legion into Adanto Vanguard, you can put an extra counter on it on turn 2 if you pay 4 life to make your Vanguard indestructible. It requires any player to lose 4, not just your opponent.

Sideboard Guide

Vampires

Out

Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortLegion LieutenantAdanto VanguardVicious ConquistadorSkymarcher AspirantKnight of the Ebon Legion

In

Legion's EndLegion's EndMortifyMortifyPlague MarePlague Mare

This matchup is usually about whoever has Sorin on turn 3. Don’t bring in Gideon–it doesn’t block and there usually isn’t a good time to play it profitably. Even though I hate boarding out Knight, Lieutenant and Vanguard, I feel like boarding out down to 3 copies of my early drops is correct so that I don’t get 2-for-1ed by Legion’s End. Most Vampires lists play 4 copies these days and the fact that they take it from your hand as well means that you have no way of playing around it.

Scapeshift

Out

Cast DownCast DownLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortDusk Legion ZealotVona, Butcher of MaganVona, Butcher of MaganChampion of Dusk

In

DuressDuressDuressDuressLegion's EndLegion's EndNoxious Grasp

I don’t like bringing in Gideon, as it gets very easily chumpblocked by Elvish Rejuvenator or Arboreal Grazer. Remember that Sanctum Seeker can kill them even if they flood the board with Zombie tokens.

Reclamation Nexus

Out

Legion's EndLegion's EndCast DownCast DownLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortDusk Legion ZealotChampion of Dusk

In

DuressDuressDuressDuressMortifyMortifyNoxious Grasp

Nexus has a really hard time beating a fast draw with Sanctum Seeker on top. Good luck trying to Root Snare 5 life drain triggers every turn.

Esper

Out

Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortLegion's EndLegion's EndCast DownCast DownVona, Butcher of MaganVona, Butcher of MaganSanctum SeekerSanctum Seeker

In

Gideon BlackbladeGideon BlackbladeGideon BlackbladeHistory of BenaliaDuressDuressDuressDuressNoxious Grasp

Gideon is your best card in this matchup because it’s so hard to remove. Use Duress to get rid of Kaya’s Wrath and kill them before they can use their expensive cards.

Mono-Red

Out

Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortDusk Legion ZealotSkymarcher AspirantSkymarcher AspirantSkymarcher Aspirant

In

MortifyMortifyHistory of BenaliaLegion's EndDuressDuressDuressDuress

Try to not use Sorin’s -3 ability if you don’t have to because then it’s easily killable by Chainwhirler or burn. Sorin’s power here is in making your creatures bigger while having a lot of loyalty. In an ideal world, I’d like to bring in just 2-3 Duress, but I currently don’t have anything better–all the creatures with 1 toughness just die to Chainwhirler. Adanto Vanguard is actually good because it creates a big indestructible lifelinker with Sorin.

Temur Elementals

Out

Legion's EndLegion's EndDusk Legion Zealot

In

Plague MarePlague MareNoxious Grasp

Boros Feather

Out

Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortSkymarcher AspirantSkymarcher AspirantDusk Legion ZealotSanctum SeekerSanctum Seeker

In

Noxious GraspMortifyMortifyLegion's EndLegion's EndDuressDuress

Jund Dinosaurs

Out

Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortDusk Legion ZealotSanctum Seeker

In

MortifyMortifyNoxious Grasp

 

Legion’s End doesn’t seem great because they usually only have 8 targets for it, but both are super important for their game plan, so I feel like keeping in the 2 copies is fine.

If you want to see some actual game play, you’ll be able to catch me playing Vampires on my stream this week. Good luck if you are playing the Arena Mythic MCQ and stay tuned for more deck guides this week 🙂

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