As most people know, I am a vampire, so I have no reflection. Every day, I paste a picture of someone else on the mirror.
In Nephalia, vampires hide themselves well, and it’s only a few new, freshly-turned vampires that go on bloody rampages of feasting and depravity, slurping through men, women, and children like slices of watermelon on a hot day.
Stromkirk Condemned appears to be one of those, and I’m fine with that. Magic players, as a rule, are willing to overlook something as minor as unadulterated vampiric frenzies if it means that they get a playable card out of the deal, and this one has potential.
Let’s start with the casting cost of BB. There are a few different possible reasons for the cost (as opposed to 1B), including a heavier color identity, a throwback to iconic Vampires in Zendikar block, and most importantly, power level. Double-colored 2-drops are hard to cast, with restricted playability in multicolored decks. While not a sure thing, it is a sign that someone at Wizards thinks this card is good.
Now for the fun bits:
Discard a card: Vampires you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. Activate this ability only once each turn.
This can be a tricky ability to visualize. For starters, you don’t always have to activate it, as the mere threat of it will make combat math a nightmare for the opponent.
Imagine attacking a Stromkirk Condemned into an opponent’s Grizzly Bears. Even if you only have 1 card in hand, they can’t afford to block. For all they know, it’s a madness card that you want to discard anyway, and they’d be throwing away the bear for no value. Instead, you get to hold on to your card and make the same attack next turn.
OK, I’ve established that Stromkirk Condemned is better than Grizzly Bears, which I’m sure has you plenty hyped already, but there’s more! Imagine your opponent has an entire squad of Grizzly Bears, and you have a Stromkirk Condemned alongside a squad of Grizzly Vampires (not a real card but bear with me). If you send in the team, the opponent has to double-block your Vampires for fear of Condemned’s ability, which lets you get in damage and leaves them vulnerable to removal.
On the other hand, it is worse than a static +1/+1 unless you’re taking advantage of the discard.
The last time Vampires were tier 1, they had a lot going for them. Kalastria Highborn gave reach, Bloodghast gave inevitability, and Gatekeeper of Malakir gave card advantage, and they were all aggressively costed. In Shadows of Innistrad, the madness-type Vampires have the synergy but lack the punch.
Stromkirk Condemned by itself won’t be enough to bring Vampires back into the limelight. And perhaps that’s for the best, as Vampires don’t do so well in the light. But you do have an awful lot of rare Vampires floating around for the tribe to be completely dead, and there’s still a chance for the right printing to bring the archetype to life.
Voldaren Pariah is the sort of payoff card that could take advantage of Stromkirk Condemned’s discard and push Vampires as an archetype, but there’s a lot of risk there as well. I can see Pariah destroying someone at instant speed, and I can also see getting blown out by a Dromoka’s Command.
In short, Stromkirk Condemned is a:
- Flood mitigater
- Madness enabler
- Board breaker-upper and damage forcer-througher
Stromkirk Condemned lacks:
- Kalastria Highborn’s reach
- Bloodghast’s resilency
- Gatekeeper of Malakir’s raw card advantage
- Moves like Jagger