2, Apr, 24

Powerful Vampires Core Makes Big Splash in Alternative Format!

Article at a Glance

At this point, if you’ve been following Pioneer, it’s no surprise that Vein Ripper is a messed-up Magic card. Its printing in Murders at Karlov Manor helped singlehandedly revive the Vampires archetype. Its Ward ability makes it very difficult for many decks to answer, especially when it comes down turn three off of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord.

This deck has completely warped the Pioneer metagame as a result. It has also been completely dominant in Explorer on MTG Arena.

Interestingly, with how potent the Sorin+Vein Ripper combination is, some players have even been trying it out in Modern. In fact, this weekend, these two cards made top eight of a Magic Online Modern Challenge with 112 players!

Not only that, but the supporting cast is very intriguing and extremely different than in Pioneer. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is nowhere to be found, and there is only one other Vampire Creature featured besides Vein Ripper. While this may seem strange, the way the deck is structured makes a lot of sense.

Vampires Package

Vein Ripper

As mentioned, the stars of the show in this deck are Sorin and Vein Ripper. The goal is to set up a turn where you can cast Sorin and immediately use its -3 ability to put Vein Ripper into play. Even in a Modern environment, a lot of decks will have trouble dealing with this. Solitude is an effective answer, but most of the other common removal spells in the format like Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push won’t cut it.

Where the Modern deck begins to separate itself from its Pioneer counterpart is with its Vampire selection. The Pioneer deck makes use of a large number of other Vampires, including Bloodtithe Harvester and Dusk Legion Zealot. In Modern, only playsets of Vein Ripper and Bloodghast are showcased along with a few copies of Mutavault.

Bloodghast is an extremely strong card with Sorin given its recursive nature. If you have excess Lands, you can keep sacrifice Bloodghast to do a nice Lightning Helix impression and bringing it back. Still, there is a noticeable decrease in the Vampire subtheme. Instead, this deck is much more reliant on finding Vein Ripper. As such, Profane Tutor plays a huge role in helping you assemble your combo. The One Ring, unsurprisingly, is excellent here, digging you closer towards your win conditions.

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Maximizing Smallpox

Scion of Draco

Beyond just the cool interactions with Sorin, there’s another reason why Bloodghast is an important piece of the puzzle. Its ability to come back from the dead repeatedly works exceptionally well with Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil. Smallpox is a card that has had its time in the spotlight in Modern before but has been nearly nonexistent in recent years. If there was ever a time for the card to make a resurgence, though, now would be the time.

Currently, the combination of Leyline of the Guildpact and Scion of Draco has taken the Modern format by storm. With Leyline in play, Scion can be reliably cast on turn two and is incredibly difficult to interact with. It’s evasive, has Lifelink making it tough to race, and has Hexproof, meaning traditional removal spells are off the table. With this in mind, cards like Pick Your Poison that can make the opponent sacrifice Scion are on the rise.

Smallpox takes this strategy to the next level. Not only can it get rid of Scion, but forcing the opponent to sacrifice a Land in their five-color deck can be backbreaking. Obviously, the downside of Smallpox is that the card is symmetrical. However, adding Bloodghast and Flagstones of Trokair into the mix makes things a lot less painful for you. This deck plays a few copies of Shadowy Backstreet which can be grabbed when sacrificing Flagstones.

Beyond that, this deck plays the usual one-mana interactive suite in Thoughtseize and Fatal Push. Thoughtseize and Smallpox are great at keeping the opponent off-balance, and slamming a Sorin is a great way to punish your opponent for stumbling.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Urza's Tower

All things considered, even though this deck is new and underrepresented in Modern, it has a lot of the tools necessary to fight against the top decks of the format. Smallpox is an excellent card against Scion of Draco decks, but it also heavily punishes decks that rely on specific Lands, such as mono-green Tron and Amulet Titan.

That’s an area where this deck has a big edge over traditional mono-black Cabal Coffers decks. Not only can Smallpox be backbreaking, but being able to follow up with Sorin and Vein Ripper can close the game quickly before the opponent can rebuild.

Smallpox can even answer enormous copies of Murktide Regent that could otherwise brawl with Vein Ripper. Vein Ripper’s life drain ability can make it very tough for Golgari Yawgmoth, Thran Physician decks to execute their combo. Meanwhile, Sorin is a complete nightmare for decks like Burn or Prowess that rely on damage output.

That isn’t to say this deck doesn’t have its weaknesses. Without Sorin, this deck does not apply early pressure. This makes the deck quite reliant on finding Smallpox to fight against Tron and Amulet Titan, even if that particular card is excellent.

Four-color Omnath, Locus of Creation shells can be rather problematic, too. Wrenn and Six lines up nicely against Smallpox, and Solitude is a great answer to Vein Ripper (you can Evoke Solitude and still sacrifice it to pay for Vein Ripper’s Ward ability).

Given how popular Leyline and Scion are, this deck still seems like a solid metacall. If you’re tired of getting cheesed by these cards, definitely consider giving this deck a shot.

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