15, Apr, 24

Overlooked MTG Gems Find New Homes in Top-Tier Archetypes!

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Article at a Glance

When it comes to Constructed MTG formats as a whole, one of the common complaints that many players have is that, in some cases, matches become very routine. Not only is it likely to play against a lot of the same archetypes repeatedly, but many individual strategies feature minimal innovation within them. For instance, if you play against a well-tuned deck like Izzet Phoenix in Pioneer, chances are you won’t see any interesting tech that would make the deck stand out.

Furthermore, if an archetype is consistently performing well, players are often hesitant to change much of anything in their decklist. While the term “netdecking” is a bit overused and players are unnecessarily ridiculed for taking advantage of it, it can certainly feel a bit boring when all decklists look the same. Sometimes, staying complacent in a format can do you a disservice, especially as the metagame fluctuates. It may take thinking outside the box to have the most success, even within a well-established strategy.

With this in mind, we thought it would be worthwhile to discuss recent intriguing deckbuilding decisions that have translated to high-level performances. These seemingly minor changes can have a big impact on how games play out between top-tier decks. Let’s start by looking at some intriguing Rakdos Vampires tech in Pioneer.

Two-Drop Vampire Selection

Nullpriest of Oblivion

In a recent Magic Online Pioneer Challenge, one player made top eight with some intriguing card choices. First and foremost, what immediately caught my eye was the inclusion of three copies of Nullpriest of Oblivion. Up to this point, the general consensus amongst Vampires players has been to play Dusk Legion Zealot alongside Bloodtithe Harvester to help increase the deck’s overall Vampire count.

All things considered, Dusk Legion Zealot has never been a very impressive card. The fact that it replaces itself by drawing you a card when it enters has always made the card serviceable as a second option to Bloodtithe. Bloodtithe is clearly leagues better than Zealot, but in order to maximize the power of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, the deck needs a reasonable density of Vampires. After all, not every draw you have with Sorin features Vein Ripper to go alongside it.

The problem is that, in games where you don’t draw Sorin, Dusk Legion Zealot is pretty mediocre. A 1/1 just doesn’t impact the board enough for the opponent to care about its presence in most games. Nullpriest changes this dynamic. A 2/1 with Menace and Lifelink is just scary enough that the opponent has to respect it.

Additionally, in the late game, getting to return Preacher of the Schism or Vein Ripper to play is a great option to have. With Fable of the Mirror-Breaker in the mix, getting to six mana is certainly not out of the question. If anything, Nullpriest deserves consideration simply based on the weaknesses of the other two-drop Vampire options.

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Answers to Vein Ripper

Blot Out

The sheer dominance of Rakdos Vampires overall has also forced players to adapt. Cards like Sheoldred’s Edict that can potentially answer a turn-three Vein Ripper have risen in popularity as a result. Even Edict effects have their limitations, though. If your Rakdos Vampires opponent even has a Dusk Legion Zealot in play alongside Vein Ripper, your Edict won’t solve the problem without a Fatal Push to go with it.

As such, many players have started adding Blot Out to their sideboards. Not only can Blot Out always tag Vein Ripper when needed, it even exiles the Creature so you won’t lose extra life by removing it. Blot Out can also answer Sorin when Vein Ripper isn’t present, which is very useful.

In a similar sense, some Izzet Phoenix decks have started incorporating Tears of Valakut into the sideboard as a way to get around Vein Ripper’s Ward ability. Tears of Valakut is obviously narrower, but can be vital against the best Vampires starts. Plus, Izzet Phoenix decks always have the out of discarding Tears of Valakut to Ledger Shredder or Lightning Axe when applicable.

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A Replacement for Wrenn and Six?

Invasion of Ergamon

This change I am rather skeptical of given how powerful Wrenn and Six is in Modern Indomitable Creativity shells, but Invasion of Ergamon is starting to garner some hype in the deck as a replacement. Despite the mana costs of both cards being identical, they function quite differently.

Wrenn and Six is used primarily as a way to ensure your ability to keep hitting Land drops. First of all, this deck usually needs to hit its initial four Land drops at minimum. This both enables Dwarven Mine to enter the battlefield untapped, make a token, and ensures you have the mana to cast Indomitable Creativity in the first place.

Wrenn and Six keeps the Lands flowing, and excess Fetchlands can be used to grab additional copies of Dwarven Mine in grindy games. Not to mention, chapter two of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker can allow you to convert unwanted Lands into new cards.

As such, Wrenn and Six helps enable this deck to play a longer game. On the flip side, Invasion of Ergamon can help speed this deck up. The Treasure token Invasion creates provides a great target for Indomitable Creativity that, unlike Dwarven Mine tokens, isn’t vulnerable to typical removal spells like Lightning Bolt.

Additionally, Invasion allows you to discard copies of Archon of Cruelty from your hand to bring back with Persist. The fact that Invasion fills both roles makes it the ultimate combo enabler for two mana. Wrenn and Six is a hard card to beat out for sure, but perhaps Invasion has been unnecessarily overlooked.

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Neat Sideboard Tech

Cemetery Gatekeeper

Our last card worth discussing is a card that, despite being hyped up during spoiler season, largely fell short in the competitive scene. As it turns out, Cemetery Gatekeeper wasn’t quite good enough for red aggro decks in most formats. As it turns out, however, there may be a role for the card in Standard after all.

A recent Magic Online Standard Challenge winning decklist showcased three copies of Cemetery Gatekeeper in the sideboard, and the inclusion actually makes a lot of sense. Typically, Cemetery Gatekeeper is a bit tough to enable, since you need a card in your opponent’s graveyard to exile in order to maximize its abilities. That being said, the Temur ramp decks in Standard make use of Lands like Brokers Hideout that go to the graveyard on their own.

With this in mind, if you can slam Gatekeeper on turn two and nab one of these Lands, your opponent will quickly feel pressured to kill it or risk taking a ton of damage over the course of the game. Seeing this card pop up again is cool, since it helps show that even cards that were written off can still have a home in specific contexts.

Magic is certainly a complicated game. It can be difficult to know when to stray from the norm, but if you can find that hidden gem, the reward may be bigger than you expect.

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