Why I Chose Mono Black Vampires in Pioneer

Dmitriy Butakov

Dmitriy Butakov

Introduction; Why I chose Vampires?

Hello everyone, after a storm of bans, Wizards have finally come to a kind of formed and “fair” Pioneer metagame (I, personally, don’t see any candidates for ban right now). Today we’ll have a look at Mono Black Vampires, back in the day people often referred to it as a subtype of Mono Black Aggro or Mono Black Devotion, it is neither, yes, there is an aggro plan, but midrange plan is preferred and devotion comes by default playing mono-colored decks. I haven’t played much Pioneer before the last ban, but now it seems the waters are calm and you can start testing for the coming MagicFests without a fear of having to change the deck right before the event.

First of all, why Vamps? I have 2 reasons:

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

The tribal theme limits the cards you can play in the deck, so let’s just have a look at most of them and I’ll try to explain what makes me play some over another.

Main Deck Candidates

0 CMC

《Mutavault》

Mutavault

The best vampire printed fits the deck perfectly, apart from the obvious advantages. It works wonders with Sorin, allowing you to pump a non-sweepable creature and serving as a cheap ammunition. It also raises the vamp count for 《Champion of Dusk》.

《Castle Locthwain》

Castle Locthwain

《Castle Locthwain》 looks good in most of the black aggro decks, but it just shines here thanks to a lifelink effects. It’s one of your best weapons against control decks.

《Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth》

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

《Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth》 is a tricky one, I didn’t understand why people play 2 at first, but it allows you to start Urborg+ (optionally) 1 drop -> 《Mutavault》+《Gifted Aetherborn》 or double 1 drop -> Any land+One drop+《Mutavault》 attack. Once I’ve failed that sequence a couple of times, I agreed 2 is the number.

《Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx》

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Like I said devotion to black is not a main theme of the deck, but it comes naturally since you have a ton of (B)(B) in costs. 1 copy looks reasonable.

1 CMC

《Thoughtseize》

Thoughtseize

As always 4 in any aggro or midrange black deck.

《Fatal Push》

Fatal Push

《Fatal Push》 is not that awesome without Fetchlands and there are some creatures it can’t take care of when it’s needed most. But it’s still good enough to be played 4 of.

《Knight of the Ebon Legion》

Knight of the Ebon Legion

The card is played even in a non-vampire black aggro, needless to say it is a perfect 1 drop in vamps.

2 CMC

《Gifted Aetherborn》

Gifted Aetherborn

2 mana creatures are mostly a glue that keep your game plan together and Aetherborn plays that role pretty well – it is OK both in offense and defense, it provides devotion, it’s a vampire for Sorin and 《Champion of Dusk》.

《Dusk Legion Zealot》

Dusk Legion Zealot

《Dusk Legion Zealot》 is something between 《Baleful Strix》 and 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》 here. I was sceptical about it at first, but now I like to play a full set. A vampire (even with a body that bad) +cantrip for 2 mana is fine just as a cheap ammunition, but followed by Sorin it can even become a threat.

《Stromkirk Condemned》

Stromkirk Condemned

I saw this card in some builds, but I don’t like it since from my experience you grind out your opponent way more often than swarm them. It could provide some pressure with 《Mutavault》s, but with no Madness or Graveyard synergies it’s unlikely you’ll discard a card with a light heart. There is a bunch of other 2 mana vampires such as 《Asylum Visitor》, 《Oathsworn Vampire》 etc. I’m not gonna review them just because we’re not playing the Condemned and they are even worse.

《Grasp of Darkness》

Grasp of Darkness

I’ve tried all kinds of 2 mana removal and finally agree with the people who played 《Grasp of Darkness》 all along. The card is more of a sideboard one, but with an abundance of 《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》, 《Rankle, Master of Pranks》, 《Spawn of Mayhem》 and 《Glorybringer》 around it could find some place in the main.

3 CMC

《Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord》

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

The boss of the deck, all 3 abilities are incredible relevant.

《Murderous Rider》

Murderous Rider

A very universal card, one of the few ways to deal with the 4+ mana creatures. The only Planeswalker you want to kill with it is probably 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》. 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 could be problematic as well, but since your opponent uses [-3] ability most of the time, there is usually plenty of ways to finish her. Sadly, the Rider itself is not a vampire, but it fits the strategy. Don’t forget you can just cast it right away on turn 3.

《Liliana, the Last Hope》

Liliana, the Last Hope

I saw this card in the main sometimes, but her set of abilities is awesome against some decks and quite useless against the others, I’d rather have her in the sideboard.

《Drana, Liberator of Malakir》

Drana, Liberator of Malakir

I don’t like it. Too small body, too small effect if it connects, and no ETBs.

4 CMC

《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》 suffers from some popular removal cards in the format like 《Glorybringer》, 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》, and 《Lava Coil》. But his impact on aggro decks is insane, once he eats at least one creature it becomes almost impossible to race and pretty hard to kill (virtually impossible for a non-black deck).

5 CMC

《Champion of Dusk》

Champion of Dusk

Little explanation is needed I guess. This card and 《Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord》 are what makes possible Vampires deck to exist.

《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》. Just as Nykthos, since you can exploit the devotion mechanic, so why not? Gray is not always great, but he sustains the assault and breaks the stalemates, good enough to play a couple.

Current Main Deck

At the moment I’m playing like this:

Grasp of Darkness

I try not to rush with the changing the list that proved itself, but now it seems 1 or 2 《Gray Merchant of Asphodel》s should be replaced with 《Grasp of Darkness》.

Sideboard Candidates

《Noxious Grasp》

Noxious Grasp

It has a plenty of potential targets like Green Walkers, 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》, 《Questing Beast》 and 《Lovestruck Beast》s along with other green beef. It’s reasonable to have a few copies.

《Drill Bit》

Drill Bit

Against the matches you bring 《Duress》 in, you should have no problems activating the “Spectacle” and 《Drill Bit》 works better against Ramp.

《Leyline of the Void》

Leyline of the Void

There are at least 2 Graveyard based strategies (Phoenix and Dredge). I don’t know how successful 《Soulflayer》 is, but Leyline is OK to board in against the Lotus Storm to cut them from 《Dig Through Time》 (and you have things to side out).

《Rankle, Master of Pranks》

Rankle, Master of Pranks

A great sideboard against Bogles, Control and Ramp and a fine creature if you need to take some cards out.

《Damping Sphere》

Damping Sphere

I’ve seen it in a few decklists, but I can’t see a problem it solves. It shuts down Lotus Storm, but the match is already OK postboard.

《Cry of the Carnarium》

Cry of the Carnarium

《Cry of the Carnarium》 is awesome against Mono Black Aggro, but so is 《Liliana, the Last Hope》. Sometimes it is reasonable to have a couple though.

Current Sideabord

Right now I have sideboard configured this way:

Noxious Grasp

3

Leyline of the Void

3

Rankle, Master of Pranks

2


Grasp of Darkness

2

Drill Bit

2

Liliana, the Last Hope

2


Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

1

Decklist

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

The deck itself doesn’t have much tricky interactions. As irrational as it sounds, try to play Urborg as soon as possible.

Bonecrusher GiantFatal PushMurderous Rider

Remember you can 《Fatal Push》 your own guys to fizzle 《Stomp》 and opposing 《Swift End》. Because if an Adventure spell has no legal targets it gets countered and you don’t have to deal with the Adventuring creature an opponent would play later.

Speaking of 《Swift End》, don’t forget it’s also a 3 mana creature so sometimes you should play it on turn 3 as a threat.

Sideboarding

Mono Red

I’m still trying to solve the Mono Red side plan. It’s also a midrange and it’s always hard to find a correct strategy here.

Against Mono Red

Out

Dusk Legion Zealot Dusk Legion Zealot
Gray Merchant of Asphodel Gray Merchant of Asphodel

In

Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Rankle, Master of Pranks

Mono Black Aggro

Against Mono Black Aggro (On the Play)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Murderous Rider
Gray Merchant of Asphodel Gray Merchant of Asphodel

In

Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Liliana, the Last Hope Liliana, the Last Hope

Against Mono Black Aggro (On the Draw)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Murderous Rider
Champion of Dusk Champion of Dusk

In

Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Liliana, the Last Hope Liliana, the Last Hope

Mono Green Ramp

Against Mono Green Ramp

Out

Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

In

Drill Bit Drill Bit Rankle, Master of Pranks Rankle, Master of Pranks
Noxious Grasp Noxious Grasp Noxious Grasp

Azorius Control

Against Azorius Control

Out

Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

In

Drill Bit Drill Bit Rankle, Master of Pranks Rankle, Master of Pranks
Liliana, the Last Hope Liliana, the Last Hope

Izzet Phoenix

Against Izzet Phoenix

Out

Murderous Rider Murderous Rider
Gray Merchant of Asphodel Gray Merchant of Asphodel

In

Leyline of the Void Leyline of the Void Leyline of the Void
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Lotus Storm

Against Lotus Storm

Out

Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push
Murderous Rider

In

Leyline of the Void Leyline of the Void Leyline of the Void
Rankle, Master of Pranks Rankle, Master of Pranks

《Soulflayer》

Against Soulflayer

Out

Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push
Gray Merchant of Asphodel Gray Merchant of Asphodel Dusk Legion Zealot

In

Grasp of Darkness Grasp of Darkness Rankle, Master of Pranks Rankle, Master of Pranks
Leyline of the Void Leyline of the Void Leyline of the Void

The Possiblity of Splash White

Blood Baron of Vizkopa

People are splashing white for 《Blood Baron of Vizkopa》 and some sideboard options, but I remain unconvinced they are worth the splash. With red decks being on the rise it suffers from 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 and 《Glorybringer》. Against Mono Black Aggro Baron doesn’t solve the Rankle & Spawn problems if you play it for mana, and if you sneak in a Kalitas or Champion on turn 3 that should be enough anyway.

Rest in PeaceDevout Decree

Certain sideboard options like 《Rest in Peace》 do the same as your Leyline. 《Devout Decree》 looks good, but a sideboard card has to be much better to justify splash.

Conclusion

As I write this article (January 9th) I am pretty happy with the deck and seriously consider taking it to Players Tour.

Thanks for the reading and hope you’ve found it interesting! If you have any questions feel free to ask me on Magic Online or Twitter.

See you in Nagoya,

Dmitriy Butakov (Twitter)

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Dmitriy Butakov

Dmitriy Butakov A player from Russia who plays mainly on Magic Online. He was champion of the 2012 Magic Online Championship and in the following year, he top 4s the 2013 Magic Online Championship. In 2018, he becomes champion of the 2017 Magic Online Championship for the second time. Also, with his win at the Magic Online Championship, he achieved his prize to become a Platinum Level Pro. Having these tremendous results, in March 2018, he joins the Hareruya Pros. Read more articles by Dmitriy Butakov