Last updated on November 23, 2021
Immersturm Predator | Illustration by Nicholas Gregory
Crimson Vow is finally with us, and it’s been very well received from players worldwide. It’s a breath of fresh new air for Limited as it feels more balanced than Midnight Hunt. As far as Constructed goes, new cards like Hullbreaker Horror or reprints like Abrade have started filling well-defined archetypes and sideboard slots.
But there’s also the possibility that new strategies come to the surface as with any new set. Today I’ll be going over a deck that’s been speculated for a while, but it seems like it finally got the pieces it needed to start running through its opponents.
Which deck would that be, you wonder? The answer is straightforward: Rakdos Vampires! It shouldn’t surprise you coming from a set dedicated to them.
But will this new deck have what it takes to make a dent in the Standard meta? Let’s find out!
Henrika Domnathi | Illustration by Billy Christian
Gabriel Nassif, one of the best deck builders and greatest minds in Magic’s history, made this deck to take the meta by surprise with an impressive 30-4 ladder run reaching the #1 spot on Mythic this season. Certainly not an easy feat considering just a few have been able to claim the title, not to mention keep it as long as he did.
Here’s the list:
Valentin, Dean of the Vein
Falkenrath Pit Fighter x4
Voldaren Epicure x2
Bloodtithe Harvester x4
Vampire Socialite x4
Bloodthirsty Adversary x2
Florian, Voldaren Scion x4
Anje, Maid of Dishonor x2
Any aggro deck likes to curve out and start pressuring opponent on turn 1, and this deck is no exception. It runs seven versatile creatures that help you accomplish this.
Falkenrath Pit Fighter is the first on the list. This is one of the multiple 1-drops with 2 power that WotC likes to print every once in a while. Even though it doesn’t have haste like Goblin Guide, it does have a unique ability to turn into a card advantage engine in later portions of the game.
Your other 1-drops are Valentin, Dean of the Vein and Voldaren Epicure. These pressure your opponent early and provide value on their own. But the big deal here is that they’re vampires, which is huge in a tribal deck.
Why is it so important that the previously mentioned Valentin and Epicure are vampires? The answer is Vampire Socialite. Turning your small creatures into big ones from one turn to the next is devastating for your opponents. Especially if they’re running a slow deck on the draw. Things can snowball pretty quickly if this card isn’t answered.
Even if your opponent gets rid of your Socialite, the damage has already been done. Unlike other lords, its effect doesn’t vanish when it dies. This one stays in play indefinitely. It might be a bit tricky to pull off, but it’s easier than it looks with lots of evasive creatures.
Next up is a card that took me a bit by surprise: Bloodtithe Harvester. Don’t get me wrong, a 3/2 creature for isn’t bad on its own, but it’s no surprise to see cards like Werewolf Pack Leader be slightly bigger for the same mana value given the power creep that we’ve been seeing in the last few years.
So, why is Harvester here? First of all, it’s got built-in removal, and second, it’s a vampire. Both qualities are a must in a tribal deck. It also has a third interesting quality about it: Harvester smooths your draws in the late game thanks to the Blood token provided when it enters the battlefield.
Bloodthirsty Adversary is a mix of an early aggressor and a late-game card that can be played either way depending on the circumstance. It’s usually just a 2/2 creature with haste, but it can also be a 2/2 creature with haste plus a removal spell. Very neat.
This deck’s main value engine is without a doubt Florian, Voldaren Scion. It’s the only 3-drop creature you run but make no mistake: you don’t need any others. A single copy of Florian can usually provide you with tons of extra value when unchecked. This is also an easy feat most of the time since you run a combination of multiple cheap creatures and tons of removal spells.
How many of each card you include varies and can be adjusted based on your personal experience, but having a mix of 4-drops that pressure your opponent in multiple ways is great. I like Anje the most since it can turn your excess Blood tokens and creatures into the last few points of damage you need to close the deal.
The others aren’t too far behind it, though. They also provide powerful utility in their own ways, especially Henrika Domnathi. This card reminds me a lot of a Rankle, Master of Pranks in that it doesn’t need to hit your opponent to activate its ability.
Don’t expect your opponent to just stand still without deploying any pressure or board presence. There are a number of other aggressive strategies in the meta right now, so it makes sense to be prepared with answers aside from just Bloodtithe Harvester, which can sometimes be too slow.
Play with Fire steps up to the challenge of killing small creatures like Luminarch Aspirant or mana dorks like Sculptor of Winter that need to be addressed as soon as possible unless you want to face a huge creature or artifact that can generate even more creatures. Yes, I’m looking at you, Esika’s Chariot!
Bloodchief’s Thirst fills the same role with reduced speed. But it has the upside that it can kill anything in the late game.
Following the path that Doom Blade started, your 2-mana conditional black removal slots are dedicated to Infernal Grasp and Power Word Kill. These cards’ task is to kill every creature that your other removal can’t touch.
Having a mix is crucial since you never know when you need those extra few life points, so think twice before switching stuff up.
Now, you may be wondering, “isn’t there a vampire planeswalker I can use to spice things up?” And the answer is yes!
The newly printed heart-stealer that made more than half of Twitter blush, Sorin the Mirthless, is here! Even though the list only sports one copy, you can’t run a tribal vampire deck without dear old Sorin.
But in all seriousness, a four-drop that can create a 2/3 evasive body that needs to be answered isn’t something to balk at. Sorin can turn out to be very painful to deal with if left unchecked since the vast majority of you should already know how good Dark Confidant was in its prime. Sorin the Mirthless is pretty similar to Confidant.
One thing we need to talk about is your mana base. As good as they may be, your creatures are useless if you can’t cast them. So you have to run every mana fixer available to smooth out your curve.
To be clear, not just any dual land can fill the job. You want to start applying pressure on turn 1 and lands that enter the battlefield tapped aren’t suitable for aggro decks.
Blightstep Pathway / Searstep Pathway, Haunted Ridge, and Voldaren Estate are here to fix this for you. The latter is quite valuable on its own in the late game if you don’t have too much to do with your spare mana.
But that’s not the only way to use extra mana in later portions of the game. Den of the Bugbear and Hive of the Eye Tyrant are some of the best manlands we’ve seen in a while to pressure your opponent. The first usually trades for one of your opponent’s creatures or eats removal while leaving you with an extra body behind, and the second is hard to block.
Last but not least, Agadeem’s Awakening acts as an extra black source most of the time. But if you’re not in a hurry in a grindy matchup, you can sometimes bring up to four creatures back from the dead!
Florian, Voldaren Scion Illustration by Justine Cruz
This deck may seem like a straightforward aggressive strategy, new mechanics from the most recent sets could prove to be a bit difficult to grasp. I present to you the most common interactions I’ve noticed to make sure you know exactly how to pilot this list:
- Remember that you can render your opponent’s removal useless by paying two mana and discarding a card from your hand as long as they’ve lost life this turn if you’ve got Falkenrath Pit Fighter in play. Pay attention if your opponent paid some amount of life already. If not, cards that can deal damage at instant speed like Play with Fire are always handy to have if it comes to that.
- Voldaren Epicure damages your opponent when it enters the battlefield, so it’s better to play it before attacks with three mana available and a Falkenrath Pit Fighter in play.
- Bloodtithe Harvester’s second ability can only be played at sorcery speed, so don’t count on it to win combat with instant speed.
- Incidental life loss from your opponent makes Florian, Voldaren Scion’s ability trigger post-combat. Anje, Maid of Dishonor, Voldaren Epicure, and Play with Fire are examples of cards that can damage your opponent without engaging in combat. This is key in board stalls.
- Bloodvial Purveyor’s ability is mandatory.
Sideboard options may vary with the meta, but let’s go over each of the cards on this list to see what they’re targeting. I’ll move on to specific matchups right after, so stay tuned!
Another copy of Bloodchief’s Thirst is a must to handle aggro matches where cards that are slightly bigger than yours or pesky blockers can ruin your plans.
Duress is an excellent card in control and some midrange matchups. You can usually swap your otherwise dead removal here.
Go Blank is another card that’s great in both control and midrange matchups. This kind of effect is also key against decks that can abuse the graveyard.
Inscription of Ruin
Power Word Kill
Graveyard Trespasser is the perfect utility creature that can be used as another threat against graveyard-based strategies.
This matchup is kind of tricky. If you don’t draw your interaction and start pressing your opponent enough, the game inclines in your favor pretty fast. But if they don’t happen to draw Smoldering Egg the first turn and you draw your removal package, they might be able to catch up with big turns.
The key is to not keep too much removal in game 1 After that you want to bring in your late game cards and discard package.
Mono green aggro is a relatively a difficult matchup. Their creatures are bigger than yours but keeping hands with a bit of removal is fine since you just need to remove the creatures you can’t handle. The other ones will get run over thanks to your evasion.
Florian shines in this match as it has first strike and keeps multiple threats at bay, especially if it’s pumped by Vampire Socialite. Post-sideboard you want to remove some of your otherwise fragile creatures and bring in your dedicated removal package.
Post-sideboard you use the same sideboard plan as against green, but Vampires’ Vengeance shines more often than not, your opponent’s creatures are smaller, and you want to keep them that way.
Jund Midrange Matchups
This matchup is strange since your opponent’s strategy is ramping into a very early threat in the form of Esika’s Chariot or Goldspan Dragon. They rely on the Jaspera Sentinel + Magda, Brazen Outlaw combo, so try to prevent them from assembling it if you see either piece on their side of the board. Taking out the Sentinel usually does the trick in the first half of the game.
But you need to rely on your value creatures in the late stages. Vampires’ Vengeance is vital to cleaning their setup and incidental cat tokens post-sideboard.
Nullpriest of Oblivion is great. It has lifelink and evasion in the form of menace, which is important if you want to race against aggro decks. Its kicked ability can also prove useful against decks loaded with tons of removal.
Ray of Enfeeblement is mostly another sideboard option outside some of the copies of removal you already run in your main deck. This one specifically targets the mono white matchup.
Voldaren Bloodcaster / Bloodbat Summoner
This very aggressive creature threatens to flip and fill the board with multiple bats if left unchecked. You can easily stay back and trade your other creatures for your opponent’s until Voldaren Bloodcaster flips and takes over the game if they don’t have removal.
Finally, another option for your removal slots post-sideboard! Gift of Fangs turns your sometimes dead cards into something useful since it can pump any of your vampire creatures.
Vampire Socialite | Illustration by Suzanne Helmigh
I’ve been expecting Rakdos Vampires to join the meta since its first support cards were printed in Midnight Hunt. I’m thrilled with how it turned out now that we have it!
What do you think? Does this deck seem interesting to you? Do you want to see a Historic build coming soon? Are you planning on grabbing Arena Tutor for MTGA to start crafting cards for the deck? You should!
Let me know in the comments, and make sure to follow us on Twitter for more Magic-related content. As always, take care!