Vampires have always been one of my favorite creatures in the game of Magic, I still remember back in the day playing with my brother’s cards and thinking that there was not a whole lot that was better than Soul Collector, a 3/4 from Scourge that cost 5 to play and when a creature dies the same turn that it was dealt damage by Soul Collector it comes back into play under your control. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that Tribal Vampire decks were not exactly competitive decklists. There was a few very short times during Zendikar, Innistrad and then towards the end of the Return to Ravnica set that Vampires entered the standard mindset, but the place that Vampires have really had a chance in my opinion is in the realm of Elder Dragon Highlander, or EDH, as it’s also known. EDH is a format I play pretty regularly even if it’s almost impossible to find tournaments for it, since I live in Delaware most of the time.
Night Life by Daniel Clayton
Olivia Voldaren EDH / Commander
Olivia Voldaren EDH deck borrows heavily from another deck that was posted by Cassidy Silver on the 7th of October 2011, you can find it here. While my decklist “Night Life” does borrow heavily from his, I have added a few cards to the list, taken some out, and directly subbed others to make the decklist mine. The commander of my deck is of course Olivia Voldaren, a strong creature with all of the abilities you’d want in a vampire, Flying, the ability to deal damage to other things and get bigger, and most importantly, it has the ability to take control of opponent’s creatures. There are quite a few interesting lands in this deck and some of them are potentially very expensive cards; on a less expensive note, the deck does run almost 20 basic lands in Swamps and Mountains. The deck also runs quite a few fetch lands, from Bloodstained Mire to Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds. Following up the fetches, the deck does run a compliment of dual lands, in Badlands, Blood Crypt, Command Tower, and Dragonskull Summit. The deck also contains various lands that can be used in conjunction with other cards for combos, such as an infinite mana combo with Cabal Coffers or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. These lands can sometimes tap for lots of mana, first black mana equal to the amount of Swamps for Cabal Coffers and the other Nykthos can tap for any one mana equal to your devotion to that color. Deserted Temple for one mana and taping it you can untap a land, such as these big mana producers I just mentioned. Then Rings of Brighthearth for two mana can copy any spell or ability, this card not only works into this combo, but works well with quite a few cards in the deck making their powerful abilities even more powerful. Another smaller combo built into the deck is Strip Mine and Wasteland with Crucible of Worlds to shut down your opponent’s ability to keep lands on the field. The deck also contains various forms of mana fixing and acceleration in Graven Cairns, Phyrexian Tower, and the two cards we named before Cabal Coffers and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The rest of the lands in the deck have unique effects that in many cases is not sufficiently covered by the rest of the deck. The first of these is Bojuka Bog, a Swamp replacement that enters play tapped, but makes up for it by exiling a graveyard from the game. There’s Reliquary tower, which removes your hand limit. Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, a replacement for a Swamp that can give a legendary creature fear until end of turn. Spinerock Knoll is a replacement for a Mountain with hideaway that you can activate when an opponent takes 7 damage in a turn. Stensia Bloodhall is a land that taps for two damage to target player for four mana. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a land that makes all lands Swamps in addition to their other types, that can boost up Cabal Coffers. Volrath’s Stronghold is a land card that returns a creature from your graveyard to the top of your deck. As well as Shinka, The Bloodsoaked Keep a replacement for a Mountain that can give a legendary creature first strike until end of turn. The creatures in the deck largely contribute to the tribal theme of the deck being vampires for the most part. There are many creatures in the deck that are not vampires, but the cool thing about having Olivia as your general means that you can turn any creature into a vampire. Additionally, the card Conspiracy allows you to turn all your creatures into a specific creature type, both in and out of play. There is also Mephidross Vampire from Fifth Dawn that not only turns all your creatures in play into vampires, but he also gives them the ability that when they send another creature to the grave they get a +1/+1 counter. The first vampire in the list Anowan the Ruin Sage, is one that I almost made my general, it’s an outstanding Vampire that makes each player sacrifice a creature during your upkeep. Baron Sengir is an outstanding addition to any vampire tribal deck with two strong abilities and flying, his first ability is that he gets larger by two +1/+1 counters each time a creature it deals damage to dies, secondly you can tap him to regenerate a vampire. As an additional reach against opponents, Blood Artist gives you both more life and takes life away from your opponent each time a creature dies. Bloodghast is one of those creatures that you don’t find on a lot of EDH decklists, but it just feels worth it for a 2/1 that comes back from the grave each time a land enters play. As mentioned before, there are several non-Vampire creatures in the deck like several demons. Two such demons are Bloodgift Demon, a creature that makes a player pay 1 life and draw a card and Charmbreaker Devils, a big flyer that gets bigger when you cast an instant or sorcery and them brings back from the grave each upkeep. Kicker and multikicker are mechanics that when activated they give their spells a more powerful effect, a few cards in this deck take advantage of these kick abilities. Urza’s Rage deals ten damage when kicked and four when it is not. Blood Tribute is a card that takes away half of an opponent’s life, but lets you gain it when it is kicked. And finally Bloodhusk Ritualist a vampire with a multikicker that makes the opponent discard equal to the number of times you kicked it. The set Rise of the Eldrazi gave us many powerful creatures, but for the vampire tribal deck there are few that are more powerful than Nirkana Revenant. She Acts like a “black” Mana Flare for all your swamps and pumping herself for every black mana you spend. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief acting as both removal and a pump up for this flying vampire. This deck also comes with two token producers in Bloodline Keeper which produces tokens, then if you control five vampires you can flip him to turn him into a lord for vampires. And Kiki-Jiki, I know he’s not a vampire, but it lets you produce token copies of all of your most powerful creatures until end of turn. Vampire Nighthawk is in the deck, because it didn’t feel right to run a vampire deck without it. And the last three vampires all have powerful effects, Bloodlord of Vaasgoth gives all of your Vampire creature spells bloodthirst 3, giving vampires +3/+3 if an opponent was dealt damage on the same turn you cast them. Butcher of Malakir and Grave Pact make your opponent’s sacrifice a creature each time one of your creatures die, and Captivating Vampire takes control of a creature and makes it a vampire if you tap five vampires. The deck contains its three indestructible Gods for their powerful abilities, Mogis, God of Slaughter which makes opponent’s have to sacrifice a creature on there upkeeps or take 2 damage. Erebos, God of the Dead let’s you draw cards in exchange for life and stopping your opponent’s from gaining life. Lastly Purphorous, God of the Forge deals damage each time a creature enters the field under your control. The last three creatures have useful enter the battlefield abilities, there is Duplicant with the ability to make himself a copy of any creature on the battlefield and exiling it from the game as well. Godo, Bandit Warlord let’s you search your library for an equipment card when he enters the battlefield and then each turn he gives himself and all samurai an extra combat phase after the first time he attacks. Solemn Simulacrum searches for a land when it enters the battlefield and draws you a card when it leaves play. There are only eleven instants and sorceries in the deck, but they are some great ones and allow my Charmbreaker Devils to get me exactly what I want almost every time. The deck runs a whooping six tutors in the deck, we already went over Godo, so the others are Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Beseech the Queen, and Planar Portal to search up anything in your deck and then Expedition Map to search up one of any land. The instants and sorceries also contain most of the decks removal suite, whether it’s Hero’s Downfall to kill a creature or planeswalker, Shattering Pulse a recurring artifact hate or Damnation which is one of the best creature mass removal spells in the game. The removal may be scarce, but it gets the job done in most cases. Exsanguinate is a pretty big win condition in the deck, with the amount of black mana that this deck can generate. The last two sorceries in the deck are Yawgmoth’s Will which can be extremely broken if you’re able to generate a tremendous amount of mana. It allows you to play out every card from your graveyard, the only problem is that any cards sent to your graveyard this turn are exiled instead. The second to last sorcery is Temporal Extortion which either takes away half of an opponent’s life total or gives you an extra turn. It can be a pretty hefty sum of life or accelerate your board position especially with the deadly combination of Charmbreaker Devils. The enchantments in this deck may be the strongest categories of cards if for nothing else than their sheer abilities of card advantage or mana ramp with only one exception. The remaining enchantments either generate mana like Black Market, Braid of Fire, or in the pseudo fashion of Heatrless Summoning by making creatures cheaper to play or they generate card draw like Phyrexian Arena and Dark Prophecy at the expense of life. I understand how the power of Braid of Fire can be overlooked, but this is an outstanding ability for Olivia’s first ability and potentially lets you ping down your opponent’s field all the while making Olivia larger. The last powerful enchantment is Stranglehold which shuts down a ton of cards by preventing your opponent from searching their library and from taking extra turns. The artifacts in the deck help to make things easier for you with their powerful effects. The first set of artifacts aim to make your general even better than she already is, whether it’s making her a 1-ping kill with Basilisk Collar, or making her hexproof with Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves. The next few artifact aim to improve your mana cost such as Urza’s Incubator making all of your vampires cheaper to cast or mana acceleration through Rakdos Signet and Sol Ring. The last artifact in the deck, Relic of Progenitus is a powerful artifact that gives you a way to not only deal with your opponent’s graveyard recursion, but also a pretty solid way to filter cards out of your own graveyard to make Charmbreaker Devils better. The planeswalkers in the deck basically act as curveballs for the deck that your opponent has to have answers for or they begin to take over the game. The first planeswalker on our list is Chandra, the Firebrand, her plus 1 ability can ping for one an opponent or a creature, her -2 makes all of your instants or sorceries twice as good by copying them and finally her -6 can decimate both your opponents and creatures on the field by dealing 6 damage up to 6 targets. Karn Liberated is probably the second biggest planeswalker in the deck by price and probably the most powerful of all the planeswalkers in the deck. His +4, that’s right +4, exiles a card from your opponent’s hand, then his -4 exiles a permanent from the field while his ultimate at -14, restarts the game with all permanents exiled under him being put under your control. The next three walkers are Lilianas, the most famous of all of them is Liliana of the Veil, a three mana walker that has the ability to make an opponent sacrifice a creature, another makes each player discard a card, and then ultimately make your opponent sacrifice potentially a lot of permanents. The second is Liliana of the Dark Realms that can fetch a swamp for plus one loyalty, as well as a mutilate for minus three and her ultimate creates an emblem that makes all of your swamps tap for four mana. The final is the most expensive of the three Lilis: Liliana Vess, but her abilities are top notch. For starters her plus ability makes target opponent discard a card, then her minus acts as a tutor that puts a card of your choice on top of your library and her ultimate brings back a substantial amount of creatures from the grave to the battlefield all under your control. Overall, I feel that these planeswalkers add a healthy degree of randomness and power to the deck that opponent’s must find an answer to.
Today, we looked at Olivia Voldaren EDH as tribal vampires, a great deck at least in my opinion. EDH is a great format that I feel is under-appreciated by a lot of players because they feel that it’s too weird of a format, or it’s too hard to learn, while these are the types of players that would be most acclimated to join the format as most of the time these players are casual players with too many cards on their hands.By Daniel Clayton – The Will of the Floral Spuzzem @Dc4Vp on Twitter