Last updated on July 21, 2021
Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord | Illustration by Chase Stone
Today we’re going to venture into the bloodsucking world of vampires. Mono black vampires is a niche deck that functions like an aggro deck with a tiny splash of control.
With spells being as mana efficient as they are nowadays, playing an aggro deck can be rough in Historic. Especially when decks can out-value everything we want to do. The deck is still sitting at an average win rate of 57% though.
The list I’ll be covering today was on Aetherhub several days ago, sporting a 67% win rate. I think this high number attributes to a low sample size of games. Still, after looking into the list, I think it’s the perfect starting point for both new and experienced players that want a change of pace playing MTG more like the way it was intended: curving your way into your plays with a splash of Sorin shenanigans. Because why wouldn’t we want to cheat out our big vampires? Right?
It’s worth looking at many of the other high-value vampires, but since many of them are locked behind a mythic slot, I think this deck is a perfect starting point. You can always add things like Drana, the Last Bloodchief, a card I really like in this type of deck, and take out a Dusk Legion Zealot or two.
The History of Mana Black Vampires
Back in the summer of 2019, a very similar deck ripped up the Standard meta using Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord to gain massive amounts of momentum and card draw. The deck was so good that it’s still doing quite well in Historic two years later. The deck has its flaws but is sitting at an average win rate of 57%.
I tend to go into great detail about how all the elements in the deck work together, but it’s straightforward for this deck: flood the board with vampires, trigger effects, and draw cards! With just two vampires per mana value (CMC) slot, I’ll briefly go over them and emphasize their synergies.
For the newer players out there, the mulligan rules will give you some clarity on how your opening hands should look, but a rule of thumb is to have at least two vampires you can play in the first two turns in hand.
Creatures and Planeswalkers
First we have Knight of the Ebon Legion and Vampire of the Dire Moon. The latter is apparent, but the Knight is a force to be reckoned with. This card can buff itself for the mere cost of three mana, allowing it to turn into a 4/5 until the end of turn and gain a neat +1/+1 counter whenever either player loses more than four life during your turn.
Luckily, if you can’t deal enough damage to your opponent, the deck has several ways to deal damage to yourself and trigger the effect anyways. Paying life for your Agadeem land, for example, or playing Champion of Dusk.
In the 2-mana slot we have Gifted Aetherborn and Dusk Legion Zealot. As is on-theme with the 1-mana value slot, we have a very cost-efficient deathtouch lifelinker on the one hand, while sporting card draws on a body with the other.
Finally, Silversmote Ghoul and Champion of Dusk are value creatures. The Ghoul keeps returning whenever you gain two life while the Champion combined with our planeswalker Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord can instantly restock your hand with cards.
- Turn 1: You play Knight of the Ebon Legion.
- Turn 2: You play Gifted Aetherborn.
- Turn 3: You play Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, use Sorin’s -3 ability, and put Champion of Dusk onto the battlefield. The Champion will draw you three cards at the small cost of losing some life.
Now you can easily defend Sorin and start to stack up value with its plus abilities with three unique vampires on the field.
The deck is so simple yet so effective, giving you a constant stream of resources. Even playing Sorin and putting the Champion down without any other vampires on the field will still give you a card draw and a respectable body on turn 3.
We also have some copies of Murderous Rider. This is the only non-vampire that’s mainly here as a value removal spell and a creature in one. Keep in mind, since the removal side costs you life, you could shock in Agadeem’s Awakening as a land, play the Swift End side, and lose enough life to give your Knight of the Ebon Legion it’s +1/+1 counter.
Other neat combos with the deck revolve around using Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord to gain life. Sacrificing Silversmote Ghoul helps deal three damage and gain three life simultaneously, allowing it to pop back out of the graveyard in the same turn, ready to be used for the next sacrifice. And judging by the way the Ghoul looks, it has been sacrificed plenty of times before.
The deck is remarkably light on interactive spells. A playset of Thoughtseize and a few copies of Bloodchief’s Thirst is all we have. The first to try and snipe removal spells out of your opponent’s hand or even some of their on-curve threats, and the Thirst as a mana-efficient removal spell that can be kicked to do some neat tricks.
I’ve already gone into Murderous Rider and Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, but a friendly reminder that Sorin’s sacrifice ability can target creatures and planeswalkers. So you could even sacrifice one of your vampires to deal three damage and get rid of an opponent creature or planeswalker that’s in killing range if you want to. You could even lure out a block before bringing Sorin out to finish the job. We can focus on having more creatures than most decks in the format thanks to this excellent synergy.
This deck runs Snow lands and Faceless Haven. The Haven has all creature types when using its ability, which helps trigger more effects and synergies with your other cards. A few copies of Castle Locthwain helps to give you card draw on turns you have nothing else to spend mana on, preferably in your opponent’s end step.
A mulligan with a deck like this can be a headscratcher. You want to get your Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord out as early as possible, but even with four copies in the deck, we can’t realistically expect it to be in every opening hand. But you’re likely to push out some massive pressure early on when it is.
On the other hand, there’s still a chance you naturally draw into it when you don’t have it in-hand, or you can keep the game going long enough to naturally cast your high mana value vampires. In this case, Champion of Dusk.
Follow these rules:
- Have at least one vampire with a mana value of one.
- Have three lands with at least one black source.
- Have a second vampire you can cast on turn 2, either another 1-drop or a 2-drop.
I quite like the sideboard the deck’s creator made. Not because it’s geared for every matchup but because it picks its battles.
Control deck matchups are going to be a near auto-loss. We can’t protect ourselves from board wipes even with a Sorin on the table and a Silversmote Ghoul in the graveyard. If we get our board purged, it’s hard to make a comeback. Instead we’re looking to capitalize on the matchups that use creatures as a way of putting pressure on your opponent.
It’s easy to do some intelligent blocking with all the deathtouch creatures in the deck, especially since we can give it to creatures that don’t have it through our planeswalker and Knight of the Ebon Legion‘s activated effect. But there are still those matchups that simply need hard removal, like goblin and other creature aggro decks.
Since many of these types of decks capitalize on pulling creatures straight out of the deck (think a well-timed Collected Company), we have three copies of Grafdigger’s Cage and Trespasser’s Curse. Can you imagine the hilarity that will ensue when a goblin player has to pay one life for every token they create?
Control and Midrange Matchups
Despite it being a tough matchup, we aren’t entirely defenseless against control decks. Since we have four copies of Thoughtseize already, adding in three Drill Bits adds another “suck it!” to those players.
Get it? Suck it? Vampires?
Phyrexian Arena is another card that helps you get back into the game after a board wipe. Drawing two cards a turn can make it awkward for your opponent, especially if they only run four board wipes.
What to Side Out?
Gifted Aetherborn | Illustration by Ryan Yee
A straightforward and effective deck. By no means is this a top-tier deck, but sometimes it’s just healthier to grind at a slower pace while also having a ton of fun, especially in a game of variance like MTG. Getting to a rank like Diamond should be easy, but you may need to change gears into something more substantial after that.
Personally? I like using this deck in BO1 by siding in some of the extra removal and Phyrexian Arenas. I also talked about Drana, the Last Bloodchief; pulling a vampire out of the graveyard whenever you attack is incredibly strong. I’ve played around with an Orzhov build of this deck, adding things like Legion Lieutenant. But then you need the full Orzhov land base, which pushes the deck into the wildcard-heavy territory.
If you’re low on wildcards yourself, you can always trim down the land base and make it 21 Swamps with two Castles. Faceless Haven is rarely activated anyway. Also, replacing Murderous Rider with any other uncommon removal spells is an option. Agadeem’s Awakening can be swapped with Call of the Death-Dweller. All the other mainboard cards are a must-have, though, putting the overall cost of the deck at 12 rare wildcards and four mythic wildcards.
Either way, I hope you have fun with the deck! It’s one of those techs I tend to return to play a couple of quick games regularly. If you’re looking to try this list out for yourself or are just looking to up your rank, make sure to check out Arena Tutor. It’ll help you track all your matches for free, plus give you statistics and insights on your play.
With that said, I hope you’re all safe out there and see you all soon with the next deck tech!