Typically, typal strategies played in competitive MTG formats have a lot in common. Whether the deck in question is Azorius Soldiers in Standard, mono-white Humans in Pioneer, or even mono-blue Merfolk in Modern, there are some key similarities between each archetype. They all, generally, consist of creature-based strategies with some of the best to offer of their type. Ways to maximize a wide board, such as “Lords” of the Creature type built around, are utilized as major payoffs for sticking with one Creature type in deckbuilding. It’s unusual for a typal deck to break away from these norms.
Occasionally, though, players will find success deviating from the norm. For example, this week, we saw a super unique Pioneer Golgari-based Vampires deck that was anything but ordinary get five wins in a Magic Online Pioneer League. While mono-black Vampires was a strong deck years ago, it’s been a long time since the deck has seen extensive play. Not only that, but some of the Vampire payoffs, such as Champion of Dusk, don’t even show up in the Golgari version! What is this deck’s main goal, then, if it’s not flooding the board with Vampires?
Maximizing The Huntsman’s Redemption
What this deck does best is actually utilize The Huntsman’s Redemption to its full potential. Most of the one-drop and two-drop Creatures in the deck provide value in some way, making them prime cards to sacrifice to chapter II. Ichor Drinker can be exiled from the graveyard to Incubate 2, and Dusk Legion Zealot draws you a card when it enters the battlefield. Additionally, this deck plays four copies of Mosswood Dreadknight, which you can play on turn two, sacrifice it to The Huntsman’s Redemption later, then play the Adventure portion of the card from your graveyard for extra value.
There are a bunch of elite targets this deck can search for with The Huntsman’s Redemption. In some instances, searching for Sheoldred, the Apocalypse will be your best bet.
Perhaps you need a particular piece of interaction instead, though. Well, you can find Murderous Rider for removal or Thought-Knot Seer to strip a combo player of necessary resources. In this sense, The Huntsman’s Redemption is used as a toolbox, helping in a variety of different scenarios.
Where the ultimate power of The Huntsman’s Redemption lies, though, is alongside Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. This is thanks to Sorin’s -3 ability. If you have access to both Sorin and The Huntsman’s Redemption in the same game, you can lead with the Saga and use chapter II to search for Ghalta and Mavren. Ghalta and Mavren is an enormous Dinosaur Vampire Creature with a choice of powerful abilities whenever you attack. Because it’s a Vampire, you can put it into play with Sorin.
If your opponent can’t kill Ghalta and Mavren before you untap, you will almost certainly be able to win the game. After all, a 12/12 Trampler that makes even more threats when you attack is already strong, but being able to give Ghalta and Mavren Deathtouch and Lifelink with Sorin could be the nail in the coffin. Of course, Sorin is a strong card in its own right even if you don’t have access to Ghalta and Mavren.
Using either of Sorin’s +1 abilities in conjunction with Ichor Drinker, Dusk Legion Zealot, or Gifted Aetherborn is powerful. For those who have played against the mono-black Vampires deck of the past, you know how good Sorin is when it comes down on turn three. You even get to make use of a playset of Mutavault. As a Land with every Creature type, Mutavault pairs excellently with Sorin too.
Obviously, the appeal to playing this deck is to be able to cheat Ghalta and Mavren into play as early as turn three. That isn’t the only thing this deck does well, though. This deck can act as a solid midrange deck, using cards like Mosswood Dreadknight to pull ahead on cards in grindy games. While Ichor Drinker and Dusk Legion Zealot are nothing special on their own, they work perfectly with both The Huntsman’s Redemption and Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord.
Against other midrange decks, this Vampire deck generates a ton of value, allowing you to play long, grindy games when necessary. At the same time, Sorin and The Huntsman’s Redemption can put a lot of pressure on the opponent. One of the most underrated aspects of the Saga is its chapter III ability, letting you pump two of your Creatures and give them Trample. This not only helps you close out games quicker when necessary, such as against opposing combo decks, but it also helps in racing situations when paired with your Vampires with Lifelink. This archetype even has access to both Fatal Push and Thoughtseize, two of the format’s premium pieces of interaction.
Where this deck falls a bit short is with its consistency. There are a limited number of Vampires in this deck, meaning Sorin isn’t always the reliable bomb you’d hope it would be. Similarly, Ghalta and Mavren without Sorin is just a dead card. This deck relies a lot on The Huntsman’s Redemption to get its engine going, but without it, some of the Creatures in the deck are a bit mediocre. Not to mention that this strategy’s closing speed, even with the Saga, isn’t ideal. This makes things tougher when facing combo or control.
Additionally, as good as Sorin cheating Ghalta and Mavren into play can be, there are plenty of archetypes that are capable of simply removing the Dinosaur Vampire before you get value out of it. There are definitely situations when putting Champion of Dusk onto the battlefield with Sorin would be better.
Still, this quick “combo” gives you a fighting shot against combo, and this shell is naturally good against single-target removal spells. If anything, this archetype shows just how powerful and underrated The Huntsman’s Redemption is in Pioneer. It might not be the most competitive deck around in the format, but this Vampire brew is certainly capable of winning games in cool fashion. If you enjoy off the wall decks with big, flashy win conditions, consider giving this deck a shot.