Tribal decks, built around creature types and their synergies, are popular for a reason. There is something deeply satisfying about piloting a deck filled with evocative creatures that all work together. The many different creature types in the game allow you customize your tribal experience extensively, letting you choose from some of the most interesting, fantastical creatures in existence.
While I enjoy a wide range of tribes in the worlds of Magic: The Gathering, my favorite has been Vampires ever since the 2009 release of the original Zendikar set. Here, we’ll look at a bit of the Tribe’s best offerings, broken down by their home planes and aspects of their color identity.
While vampires have existed since the games inception, the classic Sengir Vampire representing the tribe in the alpha set, they only started to get real tribal support around the release of Zendikar. Their first “lord” effect, Vampire Nocturnus, was printed just before Zendikar as a clear signpost card telling players what was coming.
Zendikar then saw a number of popular vampires that briefly gave the tribe a shot at competing in standard, including Bloodghast, the now infamous combo piece Vampire Hexmage (used to free Marit Lage from Dark Depths for “free”), and the popular finisher Malakir Bloodwitch.
Innistrad block fully added red into the color identity of vampires. Previously, the tribe had been all but exclusively black, but the aggressive, horror-filled flavor of the Innistrad vampires demanded that a fiery splash be given to the blood sucking tribe. Future releases set on Innistrad would go on to highlight the tribe, adding even more supportive lords.
The recent return to Innistrad has further focused on the red aspects of the tribe, giving them additional bonuses for bleeding out the opponent and adding synergies with the Blood Token mechanic.
Meanwhile, on Ixalan, Vampires have embraced a stylized form of “noble” self-sacrifice to gain their immortality, battling against their blood thirst with a religious zeal that earns them a white pip in their color identity. While Ixalan-era vampires never quite took off in standard, the power of adding white into their color pie has been felt across the Commander format in particular, alongside many of the solid support cards printed here.
Perhaps most notable, the addition of white in the vampiric color pie helped open up the design space for the tribe as a sign of things to come. Life gain and drain synergies became a more evident focus, and previous white-aligned vampires were suddenly looking much more playable.
New Capenna Blue
With the release of Streets of New Capenna, vampires have returned with a vengeance, but now they’re singing the blues. The black and red aspects of the tribe persist, but with a blue splash to give them some additional spellslinger synergies, card advantage tools, and assorted new powers that really make them shine.
Combined with many of the vampires from Crimson Vow, vampires are once again a force to consider in the standard metagame, but the reinforcement of blue in the vampiric color identity has brought further life (or undeath) to the tribe in Commander. Older blue vampires are seeing new play again and
Zendikar may have started the support for the tribe, but Commander has seen the strongest overall love for vampires. Two full Commander decks have been printed built around the tribe, and few preconstructed decks have been as powerful out of the box as the original Mardu Edgar Markov commander deck.
This deck, Vampiric Bloodlust, has done more to empower and popularize the tribe than the sets above combined. The power of vampirism has been further enhanced in the format with the relatively recent precon, Vampiric Bloodline, that takes the flavor of Innistrad vampires and ramps it up.
An Eternal Gift
The future of the vampiric tribe looks bright. There are few tribes that can boast of seeing so much support in so little time, and vampires look poised to gain new powers with every set that Wizards believes they can comfortably fit them in. There is no better time to start brewing your own vampire deck, as you are all but guaranteed to see something new and exciting to add to your brew in the near future.