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Brewer's Minute: Three Lessons from RB Vampires


Hey, everyone. It's time for another Brewer's Minute. Last week, we had an Instant Deck Tech featuring RB Vampires for Modern (and you'll get to see the deck in action this Sunday for Much Abrew). The more I thought about and played with the deck, the more I realized that the deck has some issues, which do a really good job of teaching us some lessons that apply to building other decks. So today, for our Brewer's Minute, we are going to look at three lessons we can learn from RB Vampires!

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Lesson 1: Standardize and Be Decisive

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RB Vampires plays a total of eight one-drops, which is a fine number. The problem is they are broken down in a really strange way, with three copies of both Insolent Neonate and Vampire Lacerator and two copies of Falkenrath Gorger. While there are some reasons to play weird numbers of cards (like tutors or because they are expensive finishers), when the cards are all competing for the same slot, playing a 3-3-2 split is almost certainly less than optimal. 

In this deck, Insolent Neonate and Falkenrath Gorger support a madness plan, which is fine. There are several madness synergies in the deck, and some are fairly powerful. On the other hand, Vampire Lacerator is purely a beatdown card, which really wants aggressive starts to get the opponent under 10 life. Having a 3-3-2 split is a clear sign that this deck isn't really sure what it wants to be. Is it a madness deck or a tribal beatdown deck? This is an important decision, and it needs to be made for the deck to function optimally.  

The issue with the split is that it reduces the consistency of the deck. Sometimes, you'll want to be beating down and be stuck with the underpowered 1/1 Insolent Neonate as your one-drop. Other times, you'll want to take advantage of your madness synergies with cards like Asylum Visitor and have a Vampire Lacerator sitting on the battlefield losing you life every turn. 

Basically, we need to decide what direction the deck is heading and play a 4-4 split of the one-drops. If we are beating down, we play four Vampire Lacerators and four Falkenrath Gorgers (as a Savannah Lions). If we are madnessing, we go with four Falkenrath Gorgers and four Insolent Neonates. What we don't want to do is mix and match and just play a little bit of everything, in the hopes that we draw the right cards in the right order.

Lesson #2: Play Good Cards

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There are certain cards that push you toward playing a color. In Modern, for black these cards are Fatal Push and discard like Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize; for red, it's Lightning Bolt. If you are playing a deck with these colors, you need a really compelling reason not to have these cards in your deck. 

Our RB Vampires build has just two copies of Fatal Push in the main deck, zero copies of Lightning Bolt, and no discard, even though all of these cards clearly fit the plan of being an aggressive RB deck. 

In building a deck, it's sometimes easy to leave out good cards to play sweet but bad cards—for example, Call the Bloodline and Call to the Netherworld. While it sounds cool to say "I'm playing Call the Bloodline in Modern," if you are doing it at the expense of Lightning Bolt and Inquisition of Kozilek, the deck is going to be worse than it needs to be.

This is a lesson I learned from Against the Odds. You'll notice that no matter how janky our theme, I'll usually find room for the "best" card in a color. Winning with some random card is already hard enough; there's no reason to handicap yourself even further by trying to win with a janky card without other good support cards. 

Lesson #3: Look beyond the Surface

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One thing I learned in playing RB Vampires is that Smuggler's Copter is extremely strong—it might be the best card in the deck. The problem is we only have two copies of Smuggler's Copter (so we don't actually draw it all that often), while we have three copies of Olivia's Bloodsworn (which isn't playable in Standard, let alone Modern). 

On one level, this makes sense. When you sit down to build a Vampire deck, you put a lot of Vampires in the deck, and Smuggler's Copter isn't a Vampire. However, if you look below the surface of the deck, you'll see that the deck actually has just as many Smuggler's Copter payoffs (things like Bloodghast) than it does Vampire payoffs. So, while it might sound strange, playing more Vampires (especially bad ones like Olivia's Bloodsworn) actually makes the deck worse, while playing fewer Vampires (especially good ones like Smuggler's Copter) actually improves the deck.

The point is that it's easy to get locked into a level-one theme (in this case, Vampire tribal) and fail to realize that, just below the surface of the deck, there's actually another, more powerful theme lurking (discard / madness) that is perhaps even more important to support. This isn't to say that making a straightforward tribal Vampires deck is wrong but more a reminder to be conscious in deck building and to take some time to think through the deck and strategy as well as what cards will support what you are trying to achieve.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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