It’s been a while since tribal decks have been good in Standard, but I think Core Set 2020 can break that streak. In early testing, the two best-performing decks have been B/W Vampires and R/G Dinos. I’m going to start with Vampires today and follow up with Dinos later this week.
Sorin has been incredible for me. The best synergy is indeed with Adanto Vanguard–it beats down harder and harder and mitigates the life loss with the first ability. Sorin’s second ability has also been very relevant, killing planeswalkers or going to the face by sacrificing Vampire tokens or Dusk Legion Zealot. But the most important ability has been the -3, or what I keep calling Show and Tell.
The first deck I tried was basically a combo deck, and I kept on assembling my Show and Tell for Emrakul (The Haunt of the Hightower) or for Griselbrand (Champion of Dusk), which always closed the game with the card advantage they created.
B/W Vampires in Standard
7 Swamp (RIX) 194 7 Plains (RIX) 192 4 Godless Shrine (RNA) 248 4 Isolated Chapel (DAR) 241 1 Temple of Silence 4 Dusk Legion Zealot 4 Legion Lieutenant 4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 3 Champion of Dusk 1 Sanctum Seeker 3 The Haunt of Hightower - Foil Buy-a-Box Promo 2 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 4 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord 2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants 2 Mortify
The Haunt of Hightower was the MVP. It often came into play on Turn 3 and if unanswered it just took the game over on its own. Unlike Show and Tell, if your opponent does deal with the Vampire, you still have your Sorin chilling in the battlefield to continue creating value. This might seem more fun than competitive, but I would suggest you not sleep on this combination.
The other Vampire great to put into play with Sorin is Champion of the Dusk. On turn 3, this might be a 4/4 body that draws 2-3 cards and leaves a planeswalker behind, a very strong play. In some games you’ll be too far behind on life and can’t deploy this creature, but between Sanctum Seeker and Sorin you can recoup a lot of that life back.
Lots of people kept asking me why I didn’t include Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord, and once again I will take this podium to tell the world that Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord might be one of the weakest planeswalkers in Standard, and I still can’t believe that some people played the card–it’s almost as unthinkable as cutting Experimental Frenzy from Mono-Red.
The other thing people asked me is why I only played one Temple of Silence in the deck. I believe that decks with one-drops don’t want to play tapped lands, and while we have the ability to avoid them I’ll continue to.
The second B/W Vampires deck I tried didn’t have the Show and Tell combo, but it was an aggressive deck with a solid curve and a way to swarm the board.
I tried Icon of Ancestry but was disappointed. I don’t think Glorious Anthem is playable nowadays and I’d prefer Unbreakable Formation instead. This was the list that Jon Rolf streamed, and I went something like 15-2 on stream with it. Of course, some of those were against nonsense decks, but it was definitely very powerful with plenty of Turn 4 or 5 kills.
7 Swamp (339) 7 Plains (331) 4 Godless Shrine 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Dusk Legion Zealot 4 Legion Lieutenant 2 Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle 4 Adanto Vanguard 2 Bishop of the Bloodstained 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 2 Sanctum Seeker 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 4 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord 2 Unbreakable Formation 2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
The Knight was a powerhouse in this deck, and the combination with Adanto Vanguard is very much real since you can pay 4 life on turn 2 just to grow the Knight at end of turn. Bishop of the Bloodstained replaces Champion of Dusk in this version; I like Bishop and it was good against Root Snare, not to mention being completely unexpected from Sorin.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants is an all-star in white aggro decks, and I believe it’s much better than Ajani, Strength of the Pride. After rotation, we would probably need to play the much weaker Ajani, and maybe move into a version more focused on lifegain with cards like Bloodthirsty Aerialist and Vampire of the Dire Moon.