sorin, grim nemesis
24, Feb, 24

Innovative MTG Rakdos Vampires Deck Boasts Incredible Pro Tour Win Rate!

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Article at a Glance

Murders at Karlov Manor cards have been available for tournament use for over three weeks in paper and almost three weeks on Magic Online. Over that stretch, we’ve started to see changes in the metagame landscapes of various Constructed formats. In Standard, the additions of Novice Inspector and Case of the Gateway Express helped solidify Boros Convoke as a top tier strategy.

In Modern, Leyline of the Guildpact has been making plenty of noise alongside Scion of Draco in multiple archetypes, including Crashing Footfalls decks. Meanwhile in Pioneer, No More Lies became a solid staple for Azorius control decks and Archdruid’s Charm helped make Lotus Field combo even stronger.

As powerful as these Karlov Manor inclusions are, most of these cards were simply additions to already well-established archetypes. While the Pioneer metagame certainly shifted, there didn’t appear to be a new strategy that had a massive breakout performance. That is, until now.

Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor is currently underway, and the talk of the town is the innovative Rakdos Vampires deck that is taking the tournament by storm. 11 players registered Rakdos Vampires at the Pro Tour, and all 11 of them made day two. If this wasn’t astonishing enough, the finals of yesterday’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenge featured a Rakdos Vampires mirror match! This deck is the real deal and a lot stronger than it might appear at first glance.

The Power of Vein Ripper

Vein Ripper

The major upgrade that the basic Vampires shell in Pioneer gained from Murders at Karlov Manor is Vein Ripper. Vein Ripper helps replace other top-end haymakers that the deck used to make use of. Before Vein Ripper, most players utilized Champion of Dusk in this slot.

The goal with Vein Ripper, similar to Champion of Dusk, is to help maximize Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and its -3 ability. Sorin is an elite three-mana Planeswalker with a handful of powerful abilities, but only in a Vampires shell. The -3 ability gives the Vampires deck immense upside, allowing you to cheat in a large Vampire from hand on turn three while still leaving Sorin around.

Champion of Dusk was a solid card to put into play given the small boost of card advantage it could provide. Additionally, you could always hard cast it for five mana to help in games of attrition. The issue is that Champion isn’t quite the game-ending bomb you’d hope for anymore. Some players have tried in the past to go even bigger, playing Ghalta and Mavren to help close the game alongside Sorin. The problem there is that, not only was hard casting Ghalta not an option, making it a dead card when you didn’t draw Sorin, but it also still died to plenty of removal spells.

Vein Ripper completely solves this problem. As a 6/5 Flier, it threatens to end the game quite quickly. Its Ward ability means that many decks will not be able to simply cast a removal spell on it and move on. Even if they have removal and a Creature to sacrifice, you still force them to sacrifice that Creature and ultimately get drained for four life (thanks to Vein Ripper’s triggered ability).

Vein Ripper really does it all. It has evasion, helps win a race, dodges removal a large portion of the time, and can always be cast later in the game when necessary. Not to mention, it can block for Sorin the turn you put it into play and if Sorin survives, you can start giving it Deathtouch and Lifelink, a nasty combination.

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Elite Three-Drops

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

The biggest area of strength within this deck lies with the range of awesome three-drops you have access to. Obviously, Sorin is incredible in this shell. Getting to pump your copies of Dusk Legion Zealot or sacrifice them to build your own Lightning Helix is quite powerful. However, splashing for red cards like Bloodtithe Harvester also helped take this deck to the next level.

The most impactful red payoff is certainly Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. The premier three-drop in Rakdos midrange makes its presence felt here as just a strong card, even if it doesn’t have amazing Vampires synergies. Once Fable Transforms, it does work quite well with Vein Ripper. Not only can you copy Vein Ripper since it isn’t legendary, but your token copy gets sacrificed at the end of the turn, draining the opponent’s life total even further.

If your opponent doesn’t kill the Goblin Shaman right away, your Treasures can help ramp you, letting you cast Vein Ripper ahead of schedule. Finally, even though Chapter II of Fable doesn’t generate a ton of value in this deck, getting to pitch excess Lands or dead copies of Vein Ripper in hand is nice.

Beyond Sorin and Fable, this deck also gets to utilize Preacher of the Schism as yet another great three-drop. Preacher is a great blocker against decks like Boros Convoke. Having four-toughness means it dodges Fiery Impulse and Torch the Tower against Izzet Phoenix, which is a nice bonus. It also has an impactful attack trigger, either drawing you a card or making a token (or both if you have the same life total as the opponent). Add on the fact that the tokens Preacher makes are Vampires to synergize with Sorin and you’ve got a good card on your hands.

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An Edge Over Rakdos Midrange

Thoughtseize

On the surface, this deck has a lot of similarities to typical Rakdos midrange shells in Pioneer. You still get to make use of Fatal Push and Thoughtseize, two of the best interactive spells in the format. Bloodtithe and Fable are solid threats that can help close the game. Still, the reality is that the Vampires package plays an enormous role in this deck’s success.

Rakdos midrange has historically prayed on small Creature decks. With a good mix of cheap disruption and efficient bombs like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Rakdos midrange was top dog in Pioneer for a while. Unfortunately, times have changed. Rakdos midrange is in a tough spot where it isn’t quite fast enough to reliably match up with Lotus Field combo or Niv to Light, which are both on the rise.

Simultaneously, many surging Creature decks like Abzan Amalia Benavides Aguirre combo and Izzet Ensoul Artifact are better at fighting through interaction. This is where the Vampires package comes into play. Rakdos Vampires is still fully capable of playing a grindy game just like Rakdos midrange. The difference is that the Sorin+Vein Ripper dynamic is capable of winning games by itself.

Sorin adds a ton of pressure to the board very quickly, which is essential in a combo-heavy metagame. Decks like Izzet Phoenix that could normally rely on using removal to stabilize and Treasure Cruise to pull ahead can have a tough time removing Sorin or Vein Ripper from the board. Losing out on Sheoldred is a weakness, for sure, but Vein Ripper’s upside is much higher.

With access to Fable, this deck isn’t as reliant on drawing Sorin as the mono-black Vampires decks of old. This is part of what makes this version of the deck so successful. Still, Sorin and Vein Ripper can bail you out of sticky situations quite nicely that traditional Rakdos midrange variants couldn’t get out of. With a fantastic win rate this weekend, this deck appears to be more than just the new hotness. If you plan to play Pioneer in the near future, you better be prepared!

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