Last Friday in place of our usual draft we had a cube draft night.
Due to some drop outs we had a less than ideal 6 players but good times were had by all with an abundance of silly decks. From the previous times I played the cube I was concerned about the possibility of there being too many aggro decks but we got quite a good assortment, including:
- UGr +1/+1 Counters (splashing Sarkhan Unbroken and Borborygmos Enraged)
- WBG Midrange (Seige Rhino, Tasigur, Wurmcoil and other goodstuff)
- RWu aggro/soldier tribal (Field Marshall and Captain of the Watch with Assemble the Legion)
- BG Midrange.
- Jund Midrange (some vampires but not a tribal deck).
- Something I’ve forgotten.
It all went well though and it’s put me in the mood to start work on improving the setup again. Specifically I want to look at the various archetypes (one in each two colour pair although some bleed into a third colour to include some cards I like, plus there are some miscellaneous tribal themes and an optional artifact deck).
Due to the cubes size (just over double the normal size to allow for lots of variance and for more players) to make an archetype actually appear in drafts and be noticeable a thing you can play you need a few more cards for it than you would normally have so if this looks like overkill its just to balance it. Also due to the variance theres a lean towards cards that work on their own without going all in on a theme with just a few hard themed cards.
In this example I’ve leaned towards there being quite a crossover with the BG graveyard/zombie deck (the sac outlets and death triggers in particular).
Today I’m looking at the BR theme (which has a very slight bleed into white) which is Vampire Tribal. The original build didnt have near enough cards to make the deck viable, nor were there enough tribe relevant effects to make you want to draft it. This version should improve slightly (the full list is at the end of the post).
The All-In Cards
There are a few cards which just don’t do a great deal while you aren’t running critical mass of vampires, Chief among these are the tribal lords Captivating Vampire and Stromkirk Captain, neither are playable without multiple other vampires but are all stars if you’ve got the numbers on your side.
These guys are also the big indicators that there is the possibility of drafting a tribal deck as a lot of the cards play well enough independently or are bombs in their own right.
Kalastria Highborn wants a vampire heavy deck but also works well if you have elements of the GB-Sacrifice/Zombie deck.
The Standalone Cards
There are plenty of vampires which are strong enough to be bombs in their own right and get taken by any deck playing the colour but get pushed a lot by being surrounded by more vampires.
Anowon is great on his own as in the event of there being no other vampires out he will still just kill everything BUT himself which is no bad thing for a black centric control deck.
Nighthawk, Drana and the Aristocrat all get improved greatly by having a lord in play (with a Stromkirk Captain in play nighthawk kills anything it touches and it costs a lot less to keep Aristocrat alive in combat) and Drana will keep some of your more fragile vamps from biting it (no pun intended, seriously its not even a good one).
Olivia gives the unique benefit of potentially turning everything with more than 1 toughness in your deck into a vampire, and that’s on top of being both removal and mind control.
And Malakir Bloodwitch…despite the textbox being a direct synonym for “PLAY MOAR VAMPIRES” would be absolutely fine as the only vampire in your deck (4/4 flying with pro-white for 5 is already bomb-level good, draining 1 on top of that is at least some degree of relevant).
The Filler Cards
There are a pile of other vampires to fill out the deck (most being just acceptable cards on their own, a couple like Bloodcrazed Neonate need a little more work to make good).
Between the high likelihood of seeing some planeswalkers in the draft and some of the shenanigans that could come about in the GU deck then Vampire Hexmage is a strong pick for any black deck. The same applies to Gatekeeper of Malakir, as he is strong in his own right and is another card which would play nice in a base-black control deck.
There are also a handful of red vampires from Innistrad in here to fill out the deck.
Crossover With Other Archetypes
Given vampires seem to change theme every time a block includes them (Original Zendikar had the “less than 10 life” theme, Innistrad had “the slith ability”, Return to Ravnica had Orzhov vampires and Battle for Zendikar has life gain…although on that front I wish Kalastria Healer was a “vampire enters the battlefield” rather than “ally enters the battlefield” for the purposes of this even though I know that would make absolutely no mechanical sense in the set) there’s quite a wide variety in effects.
This does mean that a few of the vampire cards fit pretty well into the other Bx decks in the cube.
Blood seeker is fine in the BW Taxman deck as one of many effects that gradually kill the enemy outside of combat.
Viscera Seer and Blood Bairn fit into the BG deck as sacrifice outlets and Blood Artist, Falkenrath Noble and Butcher of Malakir all serve as part of the payoff for those sacrifice effects.
The Off-Colour Bleed Cards
There are 3 vampires in BW which are included in here. They all serve roles in the defense oriented BW-Taxman deck but are perfectly acceptable splashes here given how multi colour the cube often leans. They’re all also cards I’m quite fond of, particularly the two Dragon’s Maze cards as I played them a lot when they were in standard (Tithe Drinker bumped the frustratingly bad Bloodcrazed Neonate out of my standard vampire deck and I played Blood Baron both in that deck and BW Midrange for his entire time in standard.
Technically in this section is Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker. He is however absolutely sod all to do with the deck and is basically an alternate win-con for a UB deck, although he wouldn’t be an abysmal splash.
The complete list
BRw Cube Subtheme (Vampires) - November 2015
I have yet to obtain 100% of this but it (and changes to the other decks) will be going in before the next time the cube comes out to play.