Card/Deck Vamps


anyone give this a whirl? there are 104 vampires in MTG history and the quarry below proves it's the most pushed tribe of all time second-most pushed tribe of all time after Brushwagg

good cards

maybe good cards


Jason Waddell

Staff member
I've looked at this before, but there's not a lot of actual incentive cards. Maybe the captain and Kalastria Highborn? Like, Bloodghast just works better with Carrion Feeder than any of these dumb old vampires.

Other incentive card:

Eric Chan

Hyalopterous Lemure
Staff member
I love tribal as much as the next Timmy, but I'm skeptical if there's anything of substance to vampires. Like Jason, I'm not sure what the payoff is here. Nocturnus seems poison principle-y. Pretty sure that if you really want to make Kalastria Highborn work, you should probably be looking at a second Blood Artist. The guy just gets no respect, and I suspect it's his dainty 0/1 frame to blame. But he does good work on all of your creatures as well as your opponents' - and he tolls away for free, to boot!


I agree that (just glancing at it right now) the main difficulty is in the incentive cards, though I 'only' have the 3 Gravecrawlers for Zombie buffs, and per 'Poison' I don't mind too much that the incentive is weakish if the cards are good on their own (which they are) and fit well into other themes (herein lies our challenge). For example, stuff like Xathrid Necromancer + Gravecrawler + Doomed Traveler + Goblin Bombardment fills me with joy, but you're right I'm not seeing much like that here; maybe it's that the incentive cards are just really parasitic (which you could conclude from there either being a 'Vampires' deck or not in Standard, rather than some Vampires in some decks).

Blade looks sweet though, any Black deck could play it.

Another potential problem is how the CMC is spread from 1 to 7, with an annoying bulge at 3. However, with the Zombie count in my Cube at 13/450 (+ mutavault and x-man etc), I think it could work.

What about



20 is kinda big, but I'm sure it could get pared down
What's the aim? Are you wanting to add vampire tribal for actual gameplay reasons, or because vampires are cool? If it's because of tribal, of course it's going to be poison-y, because that's what mechanical tribal does. If it's for flavour, then do you really need to play the poison-y cards rather than straight up synergistic mechanics?

With gravecrawler, as I understand it the incentive is to get it so you can replay your dude with (mostly) any black creature, or 70% of small black creatures, or whatever your target is, rather than necessarily 'play zombies'. This seems to me like a solution in search of a problem; with that said that may be our stock in trade as a site, so don't let my questions dissuade you! My opinion would be to jam the good vampires and maybe bloodline keeper as an incentive card, rather than try and force the archetype into existence, much like I run cavalry master and 6 or 7 flankers.
I really think the only thing vamps need are a proper "fix-point", which isn't simply a pump/buff to creatures on the board. There are a lot of vamps which are very playable in and of themselves, but the lords are kinda meh, I think. Also, Duskmantle Seer has been really good for us, you should try it out (considering it was in "may be good").

Jason Waddell

Staff member
I think Bloodline Keeper is a pretty shitty lord, and think the "archetype" just needs one cool incentive card, as you can easily reach a high density of good cards that are incidentally vampires and can go in other decks.

Duskmantle Seer is cool, and, in a way, supports the lifegain theme. Esper lifegain with Duskmantle as a finisher? Yes please.
I think this is the only vampire I've made

Heartdrinker {3}{B}{B}
Legendary Creature - Vampire Wizard
When Heartdrinker enters the battlefield it deals 4 damage to target creature or player and you gain 4 life.

Anyway you can imagine there are many edits that can be made and it was obviously designed by someone who doesn't think about commander. I think a 2/2 that does 3 damage is probably the most reasonable.

I'm just not seeing what the appeal of vampires is. It feels kinda flat to me.
Sengir ability + fight was something I really liked in some limited formats.

I see these things being kinda relevant: Fight, provoke, +1/+1 counters, devotion, wither, cards that make black cards in hand or permanents more relevant.

Edit: Mirri and Duskmantle seer are cards I'd really love to see for black. Would a couple solid vampires be a good focal point for a UB infinite 1for1 control deck? Would they be a good solid creature for disruptive BG rock or does green do the better job?


Hmmm, so I've been trepid re. the Seer because people's attempts to make him Standard- or Modern-playable have not worked, and, you know, the whole Blue beats problem, but you guys have convinced me to give it a go. FWIW Bloodline Keeper is easier to cast and is a more powerful card, but the Seer would fit in well with something like cantrips + Nocturnus.

Bob, I'm envisioning this being like the Zombie thing, where the cards are decent on their own but work well with multiples / other Black creatures. Blade of the Bloodchief, Viscera Seer, and Bloodthrone Vampire in particular seem to have strong synergies with the Zombie thing.

Another issue is that, even with the overlap, there isn't room in my Cube for this, and at 450 my Cube's current iteration is on the big side for this site.

Dom Harvey

why would anyone think about Commander

The main problem with Vampires is that if they all had different creature types only Highborn (and Nocturnus if you're going that far) would be affected, so unless you have exactly that card it doesn't feel like you're actually exploiting tribal synergies at all. Maybe a +1/+1 version of Bloodthrone Vampire for B, or a guy that lets you sac a Vampire to drain for 1?
I'm always leery of trying to include true tribal themes in cube. Because generally those tribal cards suck without the tribe. So I limit them to just the ones that are playable on their own and if guys end up with an all elf deck for example, sweet. I will even run an elf over another similar effect (even if that effect is slightly better) just because I like supporting those themes even if there is no real mechanic behind it. It gives your deck identity if nothing else and guys in my group dig that.

As much as I love vampires, I really don't think there are enough exploitation effects to make it a thing. I do run a lot of vampires though as there are a lot of good ones.


I run Kalastria Highborn. She doesn't need any support. Just check your cube: if you are running 12+ other vampires and some sac/recur stuff, you can play her.

If I was going deeper, I 'd run the blade.


OK, I'm exhuming this thread in honor of the Legacy Cube updates. Gerry T specifically requested it and it was too long to post on Facebook so I've put it here.

Vampires are Storm

Everyone knows Black aggro is terrible in conventional Cubes and the Legacy Cube is a conventional Cube. Moreover, it probably has to be at least a little conventional to satisfy people's expectations of what an official Cube “should be,” which might limit the number of solutions the designers have at their disposal — it would be great if Randy and Gerry could speak to that, and understandable if they can’t.

At any rate, Carnophage et al. are too weak of cards to match up well against much of anything in the average 2015 Cube environment, which is undesirable from a design standpoint, nobody disagrees with that. One solution would be to weaken the overall power level of the Cube by cutting its strongest cards, but I tend to prefer higher-power environments and so do the Modo drafters, presumably. Another solution would be to just cut Diregraf Ghoul et al. and replace them with different Black spells — more finishers, more removal, or more viable yet more expensive creatures. This may have the desirable result of strengthening Black, the conventional worst color in conventional Cubes, to the point it doesn’t suck in general. This would promote deck diversity through balance. I will come back to this.

The argument for trying to keep Black aggro would also be one of diversity — if a color doesn’t have aggressive options, then there’s less you can do with it. So in order for Black aggro to be worth having around, what Black gains in versatility has to outweigh what it will lose in power level. This is an evaluation that every designer has to make for every “theme” they put in their Cube — should I have Academy Rector and a few goofy targets, or a Sublime Archangel and three more beaters? Aggro “themes” are bigger than other themes — they require a lot of slots — but we don’t think about it much because putting in beaters in Naya is what everyone does and everyone should do. However, the conventional Cube community, at large, has ruled against at least one aggro theme: Blue aggro. Check out“blueggro”-in-your-cube/ and tell me that Lu Xun, Horizon Drake, and Mistblade Shinobi are worth three slots in your Cube. If they’re not worth it, the other bad support cards you need to make the theme big enough to be supported aren’t worth it, so then it’s time to get rid of the theme and allocate the slots to six Brainstorms, four Rune Snags, and a Dissolve or something.

I mention the multiples because in the case of Black aggro I could come up with no solution that did not involve breaking singleton. Jason Waddell’s excellent articles on CFB are not perfect, but they do have a lot of ideas worth borrowing, and the most successful one I’ve implemented in my own Cube ( is detailed here: The Cliffs are that Black aggro with Gravecrawlers, Carrion Feeders, Bloodghasts, and Blood Artists is lots of fun because the cards interact well with a number of other themes, can be reduced or increased in number to nerf or buff, and are viable and flexible enough to lead to interesting drafting and gameplay decisions. Some of the cards the Gravecrawler theme works well with are Vampires, and my Cube contains Blood Artist, Bloodghast, Bloodghast, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Guul Draz Assassin, and Stromkirk Noble, popular inclusions all, as well as DKA Sorin who makes little lifelinking Vampires.

Given that everyone likes these cards, and that Vampires, being an OK deck in a Standard format with Jace and Stoneforge, are among the most-pushed tribes in MTG history, a Cube Vampires theme is tempting. I tried it. It failed, but I learned something from it and some of what I learned I will type out below.

Start at my Vamps thread here: To the typical lineup of Vampires, you could also add Bloodline Keeper, Olivia, Kalastria Highborn, Vampire Nighthawk, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Vampire Nocturnus, Blade of the Bloodchief, Bloodthrone Vampire, Anowon(?), and maybe another few that I’m missing, without making the theme too obtrusive. People who aren’t drafting “the Vampire deck” will want to play with most of these cards at least sometime, and that’s what you want.

At first blush, therefore, the theme looks reasonable. Why didn’t it work? Most of why is captured by Waddell’s comment — “There’s not a lot of actual incentive cards. Maybe the captain and Kalastria Highborn? Like, Bloodghast just works better with Carrion Feeder than any of these dumb old vampires” — but I should go into further detail. You want the “filler” cards to be fought over by a bunch of different people, but not too much — so far, so good. You also want there to be the incentive of synergy if you get a lot of these cards; this is what did not happen. The payoff for assembling the tribe was just not that great, and the tribe didn’t come together often enough. For the week or two I tried the Vampire theme there were maybe 20 vampires in my Cube of 450 cards, or 4.4%. By comparison, there are 56 humans in my current build of 470 cards — 11.9% — and I still cut Mayor of Avabruck and worry about people not picking Champion of the Parish and Xathrid Necromancer until late.

Yet 4.4%, which is insufficient, is significantly higher than the proportion in the Legacy Cube — and my list did not include Guul Draz Vampire, Vampire Interloper, and other draft dreck I see here. It is always funny to me how Cube power-maxers say “Cube is about the good cards,” and then include Sangromancer and defend themselves. (Though Vampire Interloper does make our jokes about Greg’s including Stormfront Pegasus even funnier, if that’s even possible.)

But I digress. In the unlikely scenario someone assembles a decent Vampire deck in the Legacy Cube and gets an incentive card or two, they may win some matches. Far more likely are the scenarios where the deck only comes partially together (40 percent of cards aren’t “opened” in a 600-carder), or where all the cards go 13th pick. The Zombie theme, synergizing as it does with sac outlets and recursion, is only partially a tribal theme; by contrast, Vampires (minus Bloodghast) are just regular dudes. Pure tribal in Cube is fundamentally problematic unless it is Humans. Compare Mayor of Avabruck, a two-mana lord in a big tribe, with the possible Vampire reward cards:

— Blade of the Bloodchief sucks, nobody else will ever want it.
— Bloodlord of Vaasgoth also sucks.
— Vampire Nocturnus looks like it should work, but it will not. 1BBB is a restrictive cost in my Cube, which has a lot of fixing — and no one who has ever played both triple KTK and full-RTR block should ever bemoan games decided by something other than color screw.
— Stromkirk Captain will be drafted by nobody else and is two colors. In general, the lack of fixing in the Modo Cube engenders awful games and throttles options for multicolor aggro, which brings me to the next card.
— Kalastria Highborn is an amazing card, but there’s only one of them, and it’s not worth it with such a small amount of Vampires.

The larger issue is that the Legacy Cube is too big — 600 cards is better than 720, but it’s still obese. With a 600-card singleton Cube, there will never be enough strong Vampires to make a worthwhile theme, yet the theme will be too large and will stoop to include weak cards to artificially support itself — Guul Draz Vampire isn’t better in the abstract than Sarcomancy. This will ensure Black aggro continues to suck, which will make Black continue to suck, which is undesirable for all the reasons I covered at the beginning that everyone agrees on.

There are certain problems that cannot be solved without drastically slimming down the Cube or breaking singleton, likely both, and one of them is the problem of Black aggro. That Black aggro is not seen as irreparable when Blue aggro is widely looked down upon is, I think, due only to inertia and accepted convention, yet for some reason there are Vampires in the Modo Cube and I am writing a polemic about it.

While we’re at it, I’ll articulate my thoughts on aggro in Cube: having it is absolutely vital, and most of my design choices in my own Cube — more fetches and duals to fix and fix untapped, a smaller size, a lower curve — flow from this axiom. Yet I think that singleton Cubes mainly support aggro through having control decks either draw too many 4-drops or color-screwing themselves. (It is also funny to me how Cube power-maxers claim that “the decks should do powerful things” when the average deck will just implode pretty often.) Anyway, this does technically balance the Cube by bridging the power gap between “Scorched Rusalka” and “JTMS,” but leads to rote drafting and lots of horrible games. I also think nobody would consider playing big singleton Cubes were the Cubes popularized first.

Yet it is easy to rip something apart without doing any better myself. I will propose several solutions:

— Actual redesign of the Legacy Cube with Gravecrawlers, Bloodghasts, and so on.
— Ideal: let everyone make their own Cubes on Modo and draft them free of charge.
— Decent: maybe offer multiple Cubes.
— If the constraints on my solution are what I think they are, I would cut all the weaker Vampires (maybe a dozen of them) and add the strongest Black spells, regardless of function, you can find. Demonic Tutor would be a good place to start.

Jason Waddell articulates the process by which a theme becomes not worthwhile in his excellent article “The Poison Principle,” though, for Vampires, a more pointed comparison might be to Storm. Nobody will argue that “Great, I get to pass this 14th-pick Empty the Warrens again” is a good drafting dynamic, yet here we are with Guul Draz Vampire. Anecdotally, this is what happens when I include a terrible, half-baked theme, which I have done dozens of times in the last three years since I assembled my Cube. There have been a lot of bad cards in my Cube and there are still a lot of bad cards. A few of the bad cards leave and come back and are adopted given time, but almost all do not.

I support experimentation in Cube — I’m on Riptide Lab all the time, I find maybe one idea in twenty worth trying and find that to be worth the time spent, and I have a lot of radical ideas for Cube, including lowering the power level to open up a wider variety of cards, a broader and less explored design space. I’m not arguing that no one should try Vampires — I have tried Vampires. Rather, I am arguing that, based on personal experience and heuristics, and in the context of a 600-card singleton Cube with a conventional power level, it is very likely Vampires will not fix the issue their inclusion is meant to fix, or will just fail to work out according to game-design principles we as MTG players largely agree upon.

Jason Waddell

Staff member
Good stuff CML. Obviously I'm slightly biased, but I think you captured the points very well. I'm a bit swamped at the moment, but I'll see if one of the mods can package this for the front page.

I agree that the Vampire deck isn't quite there, but I think it's an interesting endeavor.

For any designers reading, here is how I first stress-test these archetypes: take some previously drafted decks (surely the MODO designers have archives), and put together the "nut Vampire deck". Does it perform? Now strip out some cards. Is it still viable? Particularly in the context of an N > 360 card cube, consistency is a concern.

That said, given the volume that the MODO cube is drafted, it WILL come together. I also wonder if, commercially, inconsistent archetypes aren't seen as a good thing in a roundabout way. Players love their White Whales, and there were always streamers burning tickets trying to force a Storm draft deck.

I will say, if we're pushing something like Vampires, I'm not entirely against a small, compact group of narrow support cards. Zombie's had some (Geralf's Messenger and Carrion Feeder weren't huge picks for other drafters, but they did have some appeal: Messenger in GB Pod, Feeder in RB Threaten + Tuktuk Aggro), but having most of the cards be "on curve" power-level wise is necessary to make sure it's not too poisony.


That seems like a much more solid argument than my 'Vampires? How could this possibly go wrong?'

Nice work CML