Once again, it’s time to upgrade! We covered the Spirit Squadron deck last time, so today, we’ll be making a budget Vampire tribal deck out of the Vampiric Bloodline deck from Innistrad: Crimson Vow using a $50 budget. As always, I’d like to remind you of a couple of things regarding my budget articles:
- $50 has a different impact on different people, but given that it’s less than the price of a triple-A console game release, I think it’s a price many will be willing to pay for hours of entertainment, which a Commander deck should provide.
- I’ll be using prices from the ChannelFireball Marketplace to track our costs, specifically the lowest available Near Mint price at the time of this writing. I apologize if listings have changed since then, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.
The Vampiric Bloodline deck is headlined by Strefan, Maurer Progenitor and looks like this before any modifications:
1 Ancient Craving 1 Anje's Ravager 1 Anowon, the Ruin Sage 1 Arcane Signet 1 Arterial Alchemy 1 Avacyn's Judgment 1 Blasphemous Act 1 Blood Artist 1 Bloodline Necromancer 1 Bloodlord of Vaasgoth 1 Bloodsworn Steward 1 Bloodtithe Harvester 1 Bloodtracker 1 Butcher of Malakir 1 Champion of Dusk 1 Charcoal Diamond 1 Command Tower 1 Commander's Sphere 1 Cordial Vampire 1 Crimson Honor Guard 1 Crossway Troublemakers 1 Damnable Pact 1 Dark Impostor 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Falkenrath Gorger 1 Falkenrath Noble 1 Feed the Swarm 1 Fire Diamond 1 Foreboding Ruins 1 Glass-Cast Heart 1 Imposing Grandeur 1 Indulgent Aristocrat 1 Kamber, the Plunderer 1 Laurine, the Diversion 1 Malakir Bloodwitch 1 Markov Enforcer 1 Midnight Arsonist 1 Mob Rule 1 Molten Echoes 11 Mountain 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Necropolis Regent 1 Night's Whisper 1 Nirkana Revenant 1 Olivia's Wrath 1 Path of Ancestry 1 Patron of the Vein 1 Predators' Hour 1 Rakdos Carnarium 1 Rakdos Charm 1 Rakdos Signet 1 Rakish Heir 1 Sanctum Seeker 1 Scion of Opulence 1 Shadowblood Ridge 1 Shadowgrange Archfiend 1 Sinister Waltz 1 Smoldering Marsh 1 Sol Ring 1 Stensia Masquerade 1 Stromkirk Captain 1 Stromkirk Condemned 1 Stromkirk Occultist 14 Swamp 1 Swiftfoot Boots 1 Tainted Peak 1 Temple of Malice 1 Temple of the False God 1 Timothar, Baron of Bats 1 Unclaimed Territory 1 Underworld Connections 1 Unstable Obelisk 1 Urge to Feed 1 Vampire Nighthawk 1 Vampiric Dragon 1 Vandalblast
Once again, we have a pretty cohesive tribal deck right out of the box. We have a higher mana curve than the Spirit Squadron deck did, and while this deck is also focused strongly on its three-drops, we have a 3.68 average mana value ignoring lands along with a merciful 37 lands in the list.
There are seven mana rocks in the list as well – Sol Ring, four two-drop rocks and two three-drop rocks. I think we can actually go up a little on both land and mana rocks here, so I’ll be looking for ways to marginally increase both while keeping the average mana value about the same. That said, I do want to make sure we have enough big Vampires for Strefan’s ability to make sense, and I also want to ensure we continue to play well with the Blood theme and madness subtheme.
Today I’m making 19 swaps, so let’s get started with the creatures – I’ll be cutting six of them!
While this is a Vampire deck with a high creature count and a madness subtheme, I don’t think either of these cards are particularly justifiable – if we were going wide with Edgar Markov and lots of tokens, I’d be into these, but in this list, I’m going to have to pass.
This card is just so slow – nine mana before it does anything at all, plus more to activate the abilities of those creatures? I’m out.
Between the understandable but also depressing errata to Kamber and the off-theme nature of these cards, I’d prefer to let them have their own deck.
Oh, fantastic! A huge Vampire to cheat in with Strefan and… a Demon, you say? Well, it was nice while it lasted.
In this creature-heavy deck, it should be no surprise that I want more creatures. Let’s bring in eight!
|Voldaren Epicure (VOW)||Drana, Liberator of Malakir (JST)||Florian, Voldaren Scion (VOW Showcase)|
Small Vampires keep the engine running! Voldaren Epicure helps Strefan make more Blood tokens and brings a Blood with it too – all upside. I know I said we’re not going wide, but Drana’s trigger goes very well with a Strefan activation. Florian has impressed me already since its release, and I think in a deck with some heavy hitters, it can give us some helpful card selection.
|Nighthawk Scavenger (ZNR)||Anje, Maid of Dishonor (VOW)|
Nighthawk Scavenger is a great early-game creature that becomes pretty scary even later in the game, and Anje both fuels Strefan’s Blood-lust and gives you more ways to use all that Blood.
|Westgate Regent (AFR Showcase)||Olivia’s Attendants (VOW)||Thief of Blood (C15)|
Now we have the heavier hitters. Westgate Regent is perfect coming off a Strefan trigger – it’s tough to block an indestructible flyer of this size without losing some value, and if you don’t, you have to contend with an 8/8! Olivia’s Attendants is just an obvious winner in a Vampire deck focused around Blood. Thief of Blood is my sleeper hit here – drop this in play for free, chew up any planeswalkers or +1/+1 counter hoarders and create a large threat.
So far we’ve spent a scant $8.08 and made some serious improvements. Let’s go ahead and cut nine noncreature spells!
These are okay draw spells, but we can streamline things, make our draw a bit cheaper, and, in the case of Underworld Connections, move away from incremental advantage into “cards now!” With all the Blood in this deck, we should generate plenty of incremental advantage via the filtering we have access to anyway.
A low-impact removal spell built for a different deck. Out it goes.
These are fun cards, but since we’re trying to upgrade, let’s focus on consistency.
Since we have a four-mana Commander, it’s best to focus on two-drop accelerators. If we were on a five-mana Commander, I’d be more interested in a mix of twos and threes.
We don’t need to give everyone this option, especially since we already have tons of filtering via Blood and absolutely won’t have the highest mana value Commander at the table.
Since we overdid it on creatures, we’re bringing in seven noncreature spells to compensate.
|Valakut Awakening (ZNR)||Pact of the Serpent (KHC)||Read the Bones (THS)|
I’m pushing some three-drop draw/filtering options into the list here. Valakut Awakening doubles as a land – if it didn’t, I’d probably not bother with it. Read the Bones is, for my mana, better than Ancient Craving, and Pact of the Serpent does for us what something like Painful Truths would do in a different deck – three mana, three or more cards most of the time.
|Mind Stone (C21)||Talisman of Indulgence (MRD)||Cursed Mirror (C21)|
Mind Stone and Talisman of Indulgence increase our count of two-mana rocks here, which is important for turn three Strefans in the future. Cursed Mirror might not cost two, but it’s a powerful late-game draw as well as a solid early play. I’m trying it out in a lot more red decks, and I recommend you do as well.
|Ghirapur Aether Grid (ORI)|
Need something to do with your extra Blood tokens? Ghirapur Aether Grid is the perfect answer. Pick off pesky creatures… or players, perhaps.
We’ve now spent just $23.02, leaving us more than half our budget to upgrade our lands. I guess that means it’s time to buy some Commander staples!
Out come four lands:
Shadowblood Ridge and its ilk keep showing up in these preconstructed decks despite their low adoption rate outside of them as far as I’ve seen. They’re Signets in land form, and while that’s a desirable structure for an artifact, it’s not a good way for a land that might need to operate on its own to play. Temple of the False God isn’t good in lists with land counts under about 42, as we discussed last time, so away it goes. The basics were cuts of convenience.
Here’s what comes in:
|Dragonskull Summit (M12)||Haunted Ridge (MID)||Blood Crypt (RTR)||Blightstep Pathway (KHM)|
The Summit, Ridge and Pathway are all cards you’d expect in a budget series – staple lands under $5 are always nice. Blood Crypt was a concession to the fact that we just have a ton of money left over! I didn’t want to upset the apple cart of the original deck list too much, and with that in mind, I though it best to simply spend our cash on a land you’ll use for the rest of your Commander career.
Okay! We’ve spent $49.38, which is close enough to $50 that I’m quite happy. Here’s the full upgraded list – see you next time with something other than an upgrade article!
Commander: Strefan, Maurer Progenitor 1 Anje, Maid of Dishonor 1 Anje's Ravager 1 Anowon, the Ruin Sage 1 Arcane Signet 1 Arterial Alchemy 1 Avacyn's Judgment 1 Blasphemous Act 1 Blightstep Pathway / Searstep Pathway 1 Blood Artist 1 Blood Crypt 1 Bloodline Necromancer 1 Bloodlord of Vaasgoth 1 Bloodsworn Steward 1 Bloodtithe Harvester 1 Bloodtracker 1 Butcher of Malakir 1 Champion of Dusk 1 Charcoal Diamond 1 Command Tower 1 Cordial Vampire 1 Crimson Honor Guard 1 Crossway Troublemakers 1 Cursed Mirror 1 Dragonskull Summit 1 Drana, Liberator of Malakir 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Falkenrath Gorger 1 Falkenrath Noble 1 Feed the Swarm 1 Fire Diamond 1 Florian, Voldaren Scion 1 Foreboding Ruins 1 Ghirapur Aether Grid 1 Glass-Cast Heart 1 Haunted Ridge 1 Malakir Bloodwitch 1 Markov Enforcer 1 Midnight Arsonist 1 Mind Stone 1 Mob Rule 1 Molten Echoes 10 Mountain 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Necropolis Regent 1 Nighthawk Scavenger 1 Night's Whisper 1 Nirkana Revenant 1 Olivia's Attendants 1 Olivia's Wrath 1 Pact of the Serpent 1 Path of Ancestry 1 Patron of the Vein 1 Rakdos Carnarium 1 Rakdos Charm 1 Rakdos Signet 1 Rakish Heir 1 Read the Bones 1 Sanctum Seeker 1 Scion of Opulence 1 Smoldering Marsh 1 Sol Ring 1 Stensia Masquerade 1 Stromkirk Captain 1 Stromkirk Occultist 13 Swamp 1 Swiftfoot Boots 1 Tainted Peak 1 Talisman of Indulgence 1 Temple of Malice 1 Thief of Blood 1 Timothar, Baron of Bats 1 Unclaimed Territory 1 Valakut Awakening / Valakut Stoneforge 1 Vampire Nighthawk 1 Vampiric Dragon 1 Vandalblast 1 Voldaren Epicure 1 Westgate Regent