Last weekend at Pro Tour Kaladesh, I played with the usual suspects at ChannelFireball’s Team Pantheon. While most other members of the team played White-Red Vehicles, and a few played Temur Marvel, Green-Black Smuggler’s Copter, and Black-Red Key to the City, Antonino DeRosa and I decided to sleeve up Black-Red Vampires.

Black-Red Vampires

Our group felt that the baseline of the format was Red-White Vehicles, a deck that best took advantage of the staple of the format: Smuggler’s Copter. I liked Fiery Temper in that deck, partly because of how good it was with Smuggler’s Copter and partly because of how good 3 damage was in the format. Depala, Pilot Exemplar, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and Spell Queller, alongside Smuggler’s Copter, meant cards like Temper and Harness Lightning were widely played at Pro Tour Kaladesh, even if they didn’t look like strong cards at first blush.

Another card we liked was Lightning Axe—a 1-mana instant-speed removal spell that could give you back the initiative in a format where being on the backfoot was often a death sentence (as anyone losing the die roll might tell you). A natural pairing with the Axe (and a good card with Smuggler’s Copter) is Scrapheap Scrounger—in fact, it was so good that many Vehicles decks splashed black just to be able to recur it. All of this didn’t quite satisfy us in Vehicles, and it was on the back burner until Monday when Antonino mentioned a forgotten card: Olivia, Mobilized for War.

Although Olivia was vulnerable to the aforementioned Bolts, I felt she also benefited a lot from Fiery Impulse and Reflector Mage leaving the format, not to mention that she was great with Fiery Temper and Scrapheap Scrounger. As we put together various mixes of Vampires and removal spells to complement Smuggler’s Copter and Olivia, we got excited. Fiery Temper and Lightning Axe were very efficient removal spells, and we had a fair amount of explosiveness and resilience from cards like Scrapheap Scrounger and Bloodhall Priest, along with Smuggler’s Copter and Olivia, the deck’s most aggressive threats.

If you haven’t played with Olivia much, consider turn-3 Olivia, next turn Stromkirk Condemned, discard Scrounger. Return the Scrounger and discard a card to give it +1/+1 and haste. Now you have 10 power of Vampires (not to mention any other creatures you had in play ahead of time—remember, Olivia makes her targets Vampires)—and the potential for 3-4 more damage from Crusading your team with Stromkirk Condemned. Antonino and I both had several turn-4 and 5 wins seemingly out of nowhere.

We hoped to face other creature decks (Vehicles, Humans, Pummeler Energy), with our strong removal and the late-game power of Bloodhall Priest shining against decks with smaller creatures. We felt pretty disadvantaged against the blue-white decks that were popular at the Pro Tour—their removal was simply too efficient and our 1-drops were too weak to put them far enough behind. Antonino and I went a combined 11-9 in Standard, which isn’t anything to get excited about. Going back I’d probably pull some of the weaker creatures for Stromkirk Occultist and pull some of the odd sideboard cards (like Key to the City) to be able to go up to 4 Unlicensed Disintegration. If you are interested in madness or Vampires, this is a reasonable way to go. Good luck.