Trials and Tribal-ations: Mono-Black Vampires

For this article, like all the previous ones I had to make a decision.  I could have written about mono-black zombies, but zombies have been played to death (see what I did there?).  Vampires, while certainly not being an obscure black tribe, at least haven’t had multiple articles written about them this year.  When I was compiling my list of the best and brightest vampires in Magic, I was surprised at how small the tribe is.  Wizards designers surely took this fact into account when they decided to visit the tribe in the Zendikar block, and the Innistrad block just a year later.  There’s still a lot of room in Magic for vampires.  That said, some great ones have been printed both recently and further back in Magic’s history.  Since historically vampires have been likely sprinkled lightly in sets for flavor, their abilities go in a lot of directions.  Black magic has a few inherent qualities.  Black magic is very good at killing things.  Black mana is willing to supply a planeswalker with the resources he or she needs to win, for a price.  You won’t find a black mage practicing dark arts with power drawn from black mana who isn’t willing to pay with his life.  This is the nature of black mana.  Vampires exist here.  Unlike zombies, vampires are well aware of the price for power.  Unlike the black clerics, vampires already have a vast amount of power, and they aren’t about to spend their energy entreating other forces, like groveling at the feet of demons or evil avatars, or raising filthy zombies to do their bidding.  Vampires worship only their own ambitions, and they will do anything necessary to realize them.  In Magic, there are a few things, though, that you can expect vampires to do.  First, a lot of great vampires can fly.  Second, the longer they exist, the more powerful vampires become.  And thirdly, whatever else is going on in the game, you can expect things to be dying around vampires.  This just happens.  If you’re familiar with Interview With a Vampire, you may better understand how hard it is for a vampire to deny his or her nature.  Stuff dies.  Whether the vampire’s ability requires sacrifice, causes a sacrifice, or just straight up kills another creature, being around vampires is a dangerous business.  The main thing that ties all the great vampires together, however, is their efficiency.  With these creatures, you get a lot more utility than you pay for.  First, we’ll make a list tuned for power.  If we want a power list, the first place we look is Vampire Nocturnus.  This guy is a house, obviously.  He’s also managed to stay around $20 despite being printed in M10, and never seeing much competitive play.  Since I’m basically going for more budget decks, let’s leave him out of it.  Next up on the power scale we have Bloodlord of Vaasgoth.  He was just printed last summer, and this card is very cool.  I love getting bonuses for things I would do anyway, and the Bloodlord does just that.  He rewards you for attacking with vampires, then casting vampires in your second main phase.



2 Pulse Tracker

4 Vampire Lacerator

4 Bloodthrone Vampire

4 Vampire Nighthawk

4 Bloodlord of Vaasgoth



4 Sign in Blood

4 Duress

4 Go for the Throat

2 Mind Sludge



2 Blade of the Bloodchief



2 Sorin Markov



Basic Land:

24 Swamp


This build applies early pressure in the form of Vampire Lacerators and Pulse Trackers, keeps it up with Vampire Nighthawk, then lands a combination of Mind Sludge, Bloodlord of Vassgoth and Sorin Markov as finishers.  Duress offers some protection/disruption as needed, and Sign in Blood keeps your hand full.  Sorin and the Bloodlord play nicely together, since Sorin’s first ability is actually damage, therefore meeting the Bloodthirst requirement.  The Blade of the Bloodchief and Bloodthrone Vampire play very nicely together, enabling some huge attacks.  Blade of the Bloodchief gives significant advantage.  It’s counters are attached to the equipped creature, and not to the blade itself, meaning you can give one creature counters, and move the blade to the next guy to make him big.  This deck has a lot of haymakers, but there’s another way to build vampires- as an aggro deck.

In a streamlined aggressive vampire deck you can have about 10-16 highly aggressive creatures distributed between the 1 mana and 2 mana slots, then Gatekeeper of Malakir (who is most often played for 3 ,mana- BB+B for kicker), or Vampire Nighthawk comes out to seal the game.  It sounds simple because it is.  A board full of “beaters” coupled with some of the best creature removal in the game can spell disaster for any opponent.  Here’s a nice aggressive mono-black vampire list that’s great for building on a budget:


At The Gates



3 Viscera Seer

4 Vampire Lacerator

4 Kalastria Highborn

4 Gatekeeper of Malakir

4 Captivating Vampire



4 Geth’s Verdict

4 Go for the Throat

1 Feast of Blood



1 Mortarpod

1 Blade of the Bloodchief



3 Dark Tutelage


Basic Land:

23 Swamp


The stars of this list are Gatekeeper of Malakir (not surprising) Kalastria Highborn (maybe a little surprising) and Viscera Seer (maybe even more surprising).  While the early pressure flows in, Gatekeeper opens the valve a little wider.  Kalastria Highborn’s ability guarantees that every creature (including herself) gets in for 2 points of damage before it dies.  With Highborn on the table it’s very important to think about what mana to tap, and when.  She makes it doubly important to remember to save your non-essential spells for your second main phase, and to save them until you really need them.  Think about this- board of 4 vampires including Highborn, with 4 Swamps untapped means that a Day of Judgment from your opponent will cost them 8 life (and gain you 8 life).  Viscera Seer combines with Kalastria Highborn to give you what we call “reach”, those extra few points of damage an aggro deck needs when the board gets clogged and you’re low on cards.  Make no mistake, Kalastria Highborn wins games.  She needs to be protected, and when played against red decks should always be played with 1 black mana left open, so a Lightning Bolt or Incinerate targeting our girl will cost its caster a 4-point life swing (they lose 2, you gain 2).  Everybody in the deck is meant to attack.  Highborn might hang back when it’s obvious she’ll be blocked and die for nothing, but this deck is meant to be aggressive.    Finally, Captivating Vampire is another creature that can do a lot of work.  With the number of 1 and 2 mana vampires, having 5 on the board at once is not impossible.  The best part about this guy, besides his leather tunic and Photoshopped waistline, is that he turns the creature he “captivates” into a vampire, his own personal Louis.  The ability says “tap 5 untapped vampires you control” meaning your can tap Captivating Vampire the turn he comes out, and other summoning sick vampires for the ability.  The new recruit gets Captivating Vampire’s +1/+1 bonus, and triggers Kalastria Highborn’s ability, as well.  And to add insult to injury, if your coven grows tired of this new recruit, it can be sacrificed to Viscera Seer.  Dark Tutelage is also a very important card in the list.  Since all the spells have relatively cheap casting costs, you’ll likely be playing a couple spells a turn.  Dark Tutelage ensures that you won’t run out of cards to play.  Sure, you take a little damage when you reveal, but when you have one Tutelage out, the worst it can do is “Lightning Bolt” you.  You will have (assuming nothing in your hand) 4 Captivating Vampires and 2 Dark Tutelages left in your deck, and a bunch of 2 mana and 1 mana spells.  The odds of taking less than 3 are pretty good, and the life payment is definitely worth an extra card.  Card advantage is often the difference between almost winning and actually winning.

This list is somewhat reminiscent of the Black/Red Vampires list that existed in Standard last year.  That list ran Bloodghast with Verdant Catacombs and Marsh Flats, and paired with Kalastria Highborn and Viscera Seer abilities, Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning (not to mention Bloodghast’s Haste clause) the deck could deal lethal damage seemingly out of nowhere.  That explosive standard deck was ported to Modern and has been doing very well (some 4-0 and 3-1 finishes) in the four-round MTGO Modern Daily Events, the testing grounds for all new decks.  After the Zendikar BR Vampire deck, WotC decided that it made sense for vampires to be red, too.  The deck benefitted, gaining Stromkirk Noble to its arsenal.  It looks like this:


Dark Confidant
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Kalastria Highborn
Stromkirk Noble
Vampire Lacerator


Inquisition of Kozilek
Lightning Bolt
2 Terminate


Basic Land:



Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Dragonskull Summit
Lavaclaw Reaches
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs


This list is basically our mono-black list on steroids.  In Modern the Dark Tutelage that generates so much card advantage comes in its original, able to attack form- Dark Confidant.  The best discard spells in Magic (save Hymn to Tourach) are in the deck, keeping the opponent on their heels, and stealing their answers.  This deck is fast, brutal, and knows how to have a good time.  Everything we love about vampires.  If you’re looking to make your own tribal vampires deck, here’s a list of some good ones to think about:

Name Set Function 1 Function 2 Color(s)
Anowon, the Rune Sage WWK Sacrifice Legendary B
Ascendant Envincar NEM Lord Legendary B
Baron Sengir HL Regenerate Beats B
Blood Artist AVR Life Drain Life Gain B
Blood Seeker ZEN Life Drain B
Blood Tyrant CFX Beats Counters UBR
Bloodcrazed Neonate INN Beats Counters R
Bloodghast ZEN Beats Recursion B
Bloodhusk Ritualist WWK Discard B
Bloodline Keeper INN Lord Tokens B
Bloodlord of Vaasgoth M12 Lord B
Bloodrage Vampire M12 Beats B
Bloodthrone Vampire ROE Beats B
Butcher of Malakir WWK Beats Sacrifice B
Captivating Vampire M11 Lord Control Magic B
Chancellor of the Dross NPH Beats Lifelink B
Child of Night M12 Lifelink B
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief ROE Removal Legendary B
Driver of the Dead AVR Recursion B
Falkenrath Aristocrat DKA Beats Counters BR
Falkenrath Exterminator AVR Counters Removal R
Falkenrath Marauders INN Beats R
Gatekeeper of Malakir ZEN Removal B
Guul Draz Assassin ROE Removal Level-Up B
Guul Draz Vampire ZEN Value B
Kalastria Highborn WWK Life Drain Life Gain B
Kalitas, Bloodhcief of Ghet ZEN Removal Tokens B
Malakir Bloodwitch ZEN Life Drain Life Gain B
Markov Blademaster DKA Beats R
Mephidross Vampire FD Lord B
Mirri the Cursed PC Beats Legendary B
Nirkana Revenant ROE Beats B
Olivia Voldaren INN Removal Mind Control BR
Pulse Tracker WWK Value B
Rakish Heir INN Beats R
Sangromancer MBS Beats Life Gain B
Skeletal Vampire GDP Value Tokens B
Soul Collector SC Morph Mind Control B
Stromkirk Captain DKA Lord BR
Stromkirk Noble INN Beats R
Vampire Hexmage ZEN Utility B
Vampire Interloper INN Beats B
Vampire Lacerator ZEN Beats B
Vampire Nighthawk ZEN Beats Lifelink B
Vampire Nocturnus M10 Lord Beats B
Vampire Outcasts M12 Beats Lifelink B
Vein Drinker ALA Removal Beats B
Viscera Seer M11 Scry B
Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter CMD Removal Beats BW

That’s all for today.  Follow me on Twitter @MIRTHxCRISIS


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