Category: Deck Reviews


vampire-onslaught-magic-2012-deck

The Vampire Onslaught Event Deck from the Magic 2012 Core Set may be one of the best event decks Wizards has ever released! Its Magic 2012 Core Set counter-part, Illusionary Might, was not a bad buy for newer players, as it formed the basis of a fun Illusion-based deck that with some tweaks was a playable FNM deck. But Vampire Onslaught was, and still is, easily the best money deck of the two. In fact, it may be the best money deck ever put together as a pre-constructed release by Wizards of the Coast.

Why is this? It has a Verdant Catacombs/strong> in it. As of June 2014, it’s still a $45 card.

Let’s take a look at the list, which is actually pretty solid even beyond the fetch-land.

Lands (24)
23 Swamp
1 Verdant Catacombs

If you could get this deck back in the day at its MSRP, you already had made an incredible investment. Alas, I sold my four Verdant Catacombs back when they were worth about $15-20 (so I technically still profited from the deck.) That was back in 2011. There was no Modern yet. Oops.

But wait, there’s a lot more in here that is pure value.

Creatures (29)
2 Bloodghast

Bloodghast is a very, very good card that was long a Vampire deck staple. A card that can come back from the graveyard any time you play a land is pretty ridiculous. In Modern Dredge, he’s a fantastic card. Back then he was about $7 a copy, and still sells for roughly that same price today. Two copies of this in a single deck is fantastic.

4 Bloodthrone Vampire

Not a bad common, but it was in Magic 2011, and not in the 2012 Core Set. It combos very well with other cards in the deck, as it gains +2/+2 each time you sacrifice a creature. It’s not bad when you see how many cards work off of sacrificing creatures in the deck. (Interestingly enough, for those that actually looked to play this deck, Bloodthrone Vampire was in fact reprinted in Magic 2013.)

4 Gatekeeper of Malakir – One of the best uncommons out of Zendikar, second only to Vampire Nighthawk, he’s a 2/2 for 2 black, but it’s his kicker effect of one extra black that he’s played for. It makes your opponent sacrifice a creature. On turn three, when this guy was ordinarily played, that is a major setback, especially against a quick swarming deck like Vampires. Basically, you only ever play him as a three-drop. Then he becomes expendable for your Bloodthrone or Viscera Seers, which we’ll get to.

As of August 2011, a playset of these could cost as much as $10 USD on the secondary market. Unfortunately, they are no longer nearly near that value, partly due to a reprint in the Sorin Vs Tibalt Duel Deck, but also because he doesn’t see much Modern play. Still a good card.

1 Kalastria Highborn – The Highborn has long been one of my personal favorite Vampire cards, and she’s quite deadly. Whenever one of your creatures goes to the graveyard, you may deal 2 damage to target player or creature and gain 2 life. It’s that deal 2 damage to a creature that is most deadly. With how many expendable creatures you have in this sort of deck, the Highborn can get ridiculous. Securing a second copy of her for this deck was a pretty darn good idea at the time. She used to sell on the secondary market for about $5 USD, although now in 2014, she’s about a $2-3 card – sStill well above a bulk rare.

4 Pawn of Ulamog – Not a card you see very often, but this uncommon from Rise of the Eldrazi certainly isn’t bad. Any time a non-token creature of yours goes to the graveyard, you may get a 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn token, which can be sacrificed to give you 1 colorless mana. Probably not the best card choice for competitive Vampire decks, but with this particular build, there are advantages to having these tokens.

1 Vampire Hexmage – It seems a bit silly to only run one Hexmage. She’s pretty darn good, as she can one-shot kill planeswalkers and remove all the counters from any card. Plus, she’s a 2/1 with first strike, and that’s always good, especially for 2 mana. There are 3 side-boarded, but 2 main-board is a better move.

4 Vampire Lacerator – A solid little one-drop that used to see tons of Standard play. He’s a 2/2 for one mana, but if your opponent has more than 10 life, you have to pay 2 life during each of your upkeeps. The sad part about this is that it’s not an upkeep cost, you can’t choose not to pay it. This isn’t really that bad, though. Most of the time, you’ll be ahead in life anyway. Vampire decks could gain life back in a hurry and deal a lot of damage before many other decks can get set up, so running 4 is perfectly fine.

2 Vampire Nighthawk – There’s probably no excuse not to run full play-set of Nighthawks in a Vampire deck. 3 mana (1BB) for a 2/3 Flyer with lifelink and deathtouch makes for a very strong creature. The Nighthawk helps you both gain back lost life,hold the air, and hold off opponent’s larger creatures. It’s just an all-around spectacular card playable in any format.

3 Vampire Outcasts – The only of TWO Magic 2012 Core Set cards in the entire deck and the only card in the maindeck that will be legal in Standard come October (barring any reprints in Innistrad, and it isn’t out of the question we could see a few of these other cards reprinted). Vampire Outcasts is for four mana, two of which are black, a 2/2 with Lifelink and Bloodthirst 2. Now, a 4/4 with Lifelink is certainly not too bad. The truth is that you could easily swap these out for 2 Nighthawk and 1 Hexmage and have a far better deck, not to mention a lighter mana curve. Just not really too good a card outside of Limited, and not worth being in this deck.

4 Viscera Seer – A 1-drop 1/1 with the ability: Sacrifice a creature. Scry 1. Now, scrying 1 doesn’t sound that great. It seems far too high a cost to just see what your next card is and possibly put it to the bottom of the deck. But with Kalastria Highborn and Pawn of Ulamog in the deck, sacrificing a post-kicked Gatekeeper or a Vampire Lacerator that’s already swung for damage or outlived its usefulness certainly isn’t too bad. Most good Vampire decks only run a copy or two, which is probably good enough. (Also an excellent card for those Modern Pod decks!)

Non-Creature Spells (7)
2 Blade of the Bloodchief – Not a bad rare from Zendikar. Very playable in a Vampire deck. It’s a good equipment, but equipment in Vampires probably isn’t the greatest play. Still, gaining a +1/+1 counter every time a creature hits the graveyard (this includes even token creatures), and gaining a +2/+2 counter if it’s a Vampire, is certainly a lot of fun. It’s perhaps the crux of this deck’s strategy, hit for a ton early on…

4 Dismember – One of the best removal spells, ever. While they no longer sell for about $5 USD a copy, a play-set of Dismember is still quite valuable.

1 Mimic Vat – This card is a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s a fun rare in Scars of Mirrodin block Limited, no doubt about that. Whenever a creature would go to the graveyard, you exile it instead and imprint it to Mimic Vat. You can do this any time you want, but each time you do, the card that was imprinted before goes to its owners graveyard. You can then pay 3 and tap Mimic Vat to create a token copy of that creature, that gains haste and is exiled at the end step. Honestly, why would you use mana in this way for Vampires? It just seems to be a waste. It’s not a bad card, but it shouldn’t be in a Vampire deck. Sure, it can copy a really good creature of your opponents, but it’s still quite an investment of mana. Granted you could use the spawn tokens from the Pawn of Ulamog and combo with your Viscera Seers and Kalastria Highborn for some cheap damage, lifegain, and deck manipulation, but this isn’t really the best tactic. It’s a silly card that really doesn’t belong in this deck.

Sideboard (15)
4 Distress – The SECOND of two Magic 2012 Core Set cards in the deck. Double black sounds like a bit much for a discard card, but it can discard any of your opponent’s non-land cards. There are situations you may want to board these in, perhaps against combo decks, but ordinarily you won’t. Still, not a bad card, but I still prefer the original Kamigawa/Tenth Edition artwork. The new one’s too creepy for me. Still, with no Duress or Inquisition of Kozilek in sight past October, it’s not a terrible option.

2 Go for the Throat – Very solid removal card against any deck that doesn’t run artifacts. It’s not out of the question to main board at least one of these over the Mimic Vat, and another over a Seer. It helps you kill a lot of whatever Dismember can’t.

4 Skinrender – Far from being a bad card, it’s some decent removal with its ability to put 3 -1/-1 counters on target creature. It is mandatory, however. Still, 4 mana is certainly worth it, and he’s a 3/3 creature. But he is a Zombie, and not a Vampire. He’s not a bad card. Certainly hold onto your playset, but he’s far better in a Zombie deck (Call of the Grave, anyone?)

3 Vampire Hexmage – At least one of these belong in the main board. Two should be in the side to make cards like Shrine of Burning Rage and Koth of the Hammer/Chandra the Firebrand sad.

2 Vampire Nighthawk – These should be in the mainboard. ‘Nuff said.

In the “How to Play the Deck” pamphlet that Wizards always include in these sorts of product, it was suggested to add Bloodlord of Vaasgoth to the deck. As a one of, that card was never too bad, but it rarely saw play. The trick with Vampires has always been to keep a low mana curve and swarm the board. Malakir Bloodwitch is another suggestion, and she was never a bad option for the sideboard as far as her protection from White is concerned. (She could stop Gideon Jura, for example, who was a massively played card in those days.)

Overall, this was a fantastic value for the money. As far as “Bang for Your Buck” was concerned, you would have probably get about $60 market value per deck, at a typical cost of $25-$35 a deck, even back in 2011. It was a no-brainer buy. They’re obviously very rare now. If you happen to find any hanging around for less than $50, they’re easily worth the buy. But you’d be lucky to find them for under $100.

This has been another Throwback Thursday Deck Review. If there’s any pre-constructed deck or even a Top deck from the past you’d us like to review, let us know!

– Elspeth for the Win

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(UPDATE June 2014 – The Modern Event Deck has had such underwhelming sales that copies are currently selling well below retail price: $50-60 USD, especially on Amazon and TCG Player.)

Finally the day has come when the decklist for the Modern Event Deck has been revealed. It was revealed early this morning on Wizards.com. The deck is indeed Black/White tokens and it has some nice little surprises in it.

Here’s the list

LANDS (24)

4 Caves of Koilos
2 City of Brass
4 Isolated Chapel
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Windbrisk Heights

CREATURES (5)

2 Soul Warden
3 Tidehollow Sculler

NON-CREATURE SPELLS (31)

3 Honor of the Pure
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
3 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Spectral Procession
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Zealous Persecution
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

SIDEBOARD

2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
3 Duress
2 Ghost Quarter
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Relic of Progenitus

First of all, let us consider what the spoiler from a couple of months ago told us. We were expecting Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Intangible Virtue, and Honor of the Pure. What is missing is Hero of Bladehold. This is okay, because of what it was replaced with:

sword-of-feast-and-famine

Considering that this deck has an original MSRP of about $75, it’s great to see a card of this high value in a deck. It obviously fits the deck quite well. It also somewhat makes up for the lack of fetch-lands in the deck.

Speaking of fetch-lands, let’s look over the no-fetch mana base.

caves-of-koilos

A full play-set of the white-black “pain” land will help you fix for your colored mana, plus two City of Brass. A full play-set of Isolated Chapel, the white/black “buddy” land will help you also fix without the need for pinging yourself for life, as long as you control a Plains or Swamp. There are 5 plains and 4 swamps to complement them. In addition, there is a Vault of the Archangel, with which you can tap for 2WB to give your creatures deathtouch and lifelink until end of turn. There is also a full play-set of Windbrisk Heights, a rather useful card with Hideaway. Whatever card gets put under it can be cast for a single white mana and a tap, providing that you have attacked with at least three creatures in a given turn.

Overall, it’s not a bad mana base, although I would replace the two City of Brass and at least one plains and one swamp for a full play-set of Godless Shrine. It is, at least, a functional mana base.

soul-warden

Being in a deck with only five creatures, it would make sense that Soul Warden would comprise a couple of those spots. With all of the tokens that this deck generates, Soul Warden will help you keep your life total high. Note that she also gives you life for opponents’ creatures entering the battlefield, as well. There’s a reason that Soul Sisters can be difficult to beat. Many burn decks and aggro decks hate this card, although Skullcrack and Flames of the Blood Hand do exist, as well as the Leyline of Punishment, to counteract these effects. OF course, with only two Soul Warden in the deck, in those match-ups, the Wardens can easily slip out for something in the sideboard.

tidehollow-sculler

An old white/black favorite, sure to see even more play in the near-future in Modern with the existence of Athreos, God of Passage, Tidehollow Sculler deprives your opponent of a non-land card until the Sculler leaves the battlefield. It’s a very solid two-drop that compliments the other hand distruption in this deck quite nicely.

Let’s move on to the meat of the deck, the non-creature spells!

The three copies of Honor of the Pure, which pumps all of your white creatures by +1/+1 are an obvious inclusion, as are the full play-set of Intangible Virtue, which gives all tokens +1/+1. Being able to stack multiple copies of this card on the board is key to this deck’s success.

inqusition-of-kozilek

As many speculated, there are also two copies of Inquisition of Kozilek in the deck. It’s yet another way to disrupt your opponents’ hands of their early plays, giving you time to build up your forces on the board while they recover. There are also 3 copies of Zealous Persecution, an instant which gives your creatures +1/+1 and your opponents’ creatures -1/-1 until end of turn, making combats a bit tricky for your opponent.

As for tokens, there is a full suite available. A full-playset of Lingering Souls, with its Flashback ability, is an absolute must. It’s joined by a full-playset of Raise the Alarm, which creates two 1/1 white soldiers for only 1W. There’s also a full play-set of Spectral Procession, which makes 3 flying tokens.

shrine-of-loyal-legions

There’s also a couple of copies of a fun card from New Phyrexia, Shrine of Loyal Legions. The cool part about this card is that so much of the deck is comprised of white spells. Each time you cast a white spell (which includes the dual-colored spells) it gains a charge counter. You can pay 3 and sacrifice the Shrine and put a 1/1 colorless Myr artifact creature token onto the field for each charge counter that had been on the Shrine. This can potentially be a lot of token generation.

The deck also contains 3 Path to Exile, which is a very pricey removal card nowadays.

Now onto one of the main win conditions of the deck, my favorite card in all of Magic: the Gathering:

elspeth-knight-errant

Elspeth, Knight-Errant should need no introductions. Both of her +1 abilities are fantastic, and her ultimate ability, her -8, gives you an emblem that basically wins you the game. Making more tokens, then making them fly over opponent’s creatures is always fun. And making everything indestructible is pretty good, too. You also will have enough blockers to protect her, meaning that her potential of going ultimate is actually pretty high if they don’t deal with her outside of combat.

Overall, the main deck looks quite playable. Let’s look over the sideboard:

burrenton-forge-tender

Here’s a card you don’t typically see, two copies of Burrenton Forge-Tender. Obviously, this card exists to help in match-ups against mono-red decks. I’m pretty sure by design that these are meant to replace the two copies of main-board Soul Warden in those match-ups. The cool thing about Forge-Tender is that it can prevent damage from any red source, including board-wipes like Anger of the Gods (the bane of this deck’s existence) and Blasphemous Act. Speaking of Blasphemous Act, in those Boros builds that include Boros Reckoner, that damage isn’t dealt to the Reckoners, either, saving you at least 13 points of damage from that card’s ability. Solid little sideboard option here.

Most of the remaining side-board cards are self-explanatory. Dismember deals with big threats, Duress gives you more hand-destruction, Ghost Quarter gives you some land destruction ability against greedy mana-bases and Relic of Progenitus helps stop graveyard shenanigans.

kataki-wars-wage

The last card in the sideboard is a very useful card called Kataki, War’s Wage. Three copies exist in this sideboard. Essentially what it does is make all artifacts have an upkeep cost of 1 mana. This obviously can be quite problematic for Affinity and Tron decks in the format. It also has a negative interaction with the Shrine of Loyal Legions, but those can come out when this card is boarded in. It’s nice to have three copies included.

Overall, this deck looks fairly solid. Black/white tokens are a deck that doesn’t necessarily need the fetch-lands to function. Of course, four Marsh Flats and the four Godless Shrine would be nice, but the pain-lands do suffice in this case. Besides, the pain from the fetch-lands and the shock-lands coming in untapped is very similar, and you’re gaining life back from Soul Warden in many cases anyhow.

I think as a gateway deck into the format, there’s nothing wrong with Wizard’s first attempt. Is it worth the $75 MSRP? I would say most likely. Since card price numbers can fluctuate over time, I won’t break it down here, but the cards do currently add up to well over $75 if you consider median prices for these cards (double that, in fact!) I certainly am happy to see the Sword in here, although Hero of Bladehold may have made more sense. It’s clear that Wizards wants to give it the “Bang for its Buck” without having speculators buying them all up, thus making them inaccessible to players trying to enter the format. For what it’s meant to be, it’s pretty good, and it’s put copies of some harder-to-get cards out there more readily available without flooding the market too much.

I can see this not selling quite as well as some might have first suspected, but I think it’s a worthy start to what will hopefully be a long line of event decks for the Modern Format.

~ Elspeth for the Win

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