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Budget Magic: $72 (26 tix) Modern Rally Vampires

Bonjou Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again. With the impending Standard rotation, I've been having a difficult time motivating myself to brew for the format so this week we are heading back to Modern to showcase Rally Vampires. This deck that has been super successful this week for me even against some of the most popular and powerful decks in the format. Rally Vampires occupies an interested place in the metagame: it is a tribal, creature-based combo deck that can occasionally win by beating down with (somewhat) efficient creatures. I could go on and on, but first let's get to the videos and then we'll talk a bit more about the deck. Oh, right. A quite reminder — if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Rally Vampires Intro

Rally Vampires vs Twin

Rally Vampires vs Merfolk

Rally Vampires vs Boggles

Rally Vampires vs Living End

Let me say first that I love this deck. When I make a Budget Magic, one of two things happens: Either I record the matches, write the article and move on to the next deck, or I stumble across something I really enjoy playing (which for me involves not just having fun, but also winning matches) and keep playing the deck in my free time (i.e. even when I'm not recording content). Rally Vampires falls into the latter group. After starting off strong on camera, I've continued to play (and tweak) the deck and am currently 10-5 over the course of 15 matches (66.67 mwp), almost exclusively against tier one and tier two decks. 

One of the things I love about Rally Vampires is it has game in a wide range of matchups. Incidental life gain from Blood Artist and Kalastria Highborn give us a shot against aggro decks (although these matchups are still hit-or-miss game one, but much better once we board in more removal). Rally the Ancestors gives us a way to pressure control decks (and decks like Twin) at instant speed, allowing us to combo off in response to an end-of-turn Snapcaster Mage or Desolate Lighthouse activation. Plus we are naturally resilient to removal. Not only do we have nine sacrifice outlets to fizzle exile effects like Path to Exile, but a lot of the time we actually want our creatures to die so that we can Rally the Ancestors and Return to the Ranks them back for value. 

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Blood Artist and Kalastria Highborn are the centerpiece of the deck and they are almost always the way we win the game (out of 20 game wins, I've won by beating down two or three times). Blood Artist is a known quantity at this point being one of the primiere cards in Standard Aristocrats a couple years ago and now seeing fringe play in other Return to the Ranks decks in Modern. Its power in conjunction with sacrifice effects is undeniable. 

Kalastria Highborn, on the other hand, is part of what make this deck unique, basically acting as Blood Artist five through eight in a deck full of Vampires. While it costs more to get going since you have to pay B for every activation, draining two instead of one is a big deal. One of the typical lines with Kalastria Highborn is to Rally the Ancestors back a bunch of Vampires at the end of our opponent's turn and, with the "exile" trigger on the stack, sac our board to drain for 10 (or more). 

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The realization that all of the best creature-based sacrifice outlets in Modern were also Vampires is what brought the entire deck together. With one these cards on the battlefield we can trigger Blood Artist and Kalastria Highborn at will, protect our creatures from exile-based removal (mostly Path to Exile), shut down cards with lifelink (like Wurmcoil Engine by blocking and sacrificing before damage), and occasionally win by beating down with a huge threat. 

Vampire Aristocrat is pretty bad, mostly because he costs three which means we can't get him back with Return to the Ranks. However, I really wanted a ninth sacrifice outlet in the deck because having one at all times is super important. Since we're not allowed to play nine Viscera Seers or five Bloodthrone Vampires, Vampire Aristocrat makes the cut by virtue of being the next best option. 

Bloodthrone Vampire is solid although almost always worse than Viscera Seer. Initially I thought we might win a reasonable amount of the time by beating down with (and pumping up) Bloodthrone Vampire, but the more I play the deck, the less concerned I am with winning by combat damage — it just doesn't happen all that often. Instead, Bloodthrone Vampire is usually just another free sacrifice outlet that is sometimes very good at blocking creatures like Tarmogoyf

Viscera Seer is — by far — our best sacrifice outlet. As we'll talk about momentarily, Rally Vampires gets to play eight mass-reanimation effects between Rally the Ancestors and Return to the Ranks. The goal of the deck is to get a handful of creatures on the battlefield/graveyard and cast our reanimation effects as often as possible. Viscera Seer is great because it not only lets us sacrifice our board to trigger Blood Artist and Kalastria Highborn, but it also digs for our next reanimation spell. Once we are sacrificing five or six creatures every turn, we've got nearly a 50/50 shot that we'll be able to scry into another Rally the Ancestors or Return to the Ranks, allowing us to repeat the process again the next turn, and the turn after that, and the turn after that until our opponent is dead. 

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Pawn of Ulamog is the card I'm most proud of "finding" for this deck since it allows us to do two crazy things. First, when combined with a sacrifice outlet it allows us to double up on our Blood Artist triggers. Every time we sac a creature, we get an Eldrazi Spawn token which we can immediately sac for another "drain one" from Blood Artist. The other application of Pawn of Ulamog might not be as obvious. Remember that the idea of this deck is to play some Vampires, sacrifice our board and reanimate everything with Rally the Ancestors and Return to the Ranks. When we have a Pawn of Ulamog in play, every creature we sacrifice adds one mana towards our next mass-reanimation spell. This sometimes allows us to Rally or Return all of our creatures multiple times in the same turn. 

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Rally the Ancestors is typically better than Return to the Ranks because the "exile" clause on Rally isn't actually a downside in our deck since we almost always have a sacrifice outlet to get everything back in our graveyard and because Rally the Ancestors can reanimate our three drops (which Return to the Ranks cannot). The real power of these cards is that we get to play them both, giving us a critical mass of reanimation which allows us to loop our entire board nearly every turn in the mid and late game. Once we get things set up with a sacrifice outlet and some combination of Kalastria Highborn and Blood Artist, the power of these cards ranges from "pay 3WW, Fog and Drain life for 10" to "you win the game." As a result, it usually doesn't take that many loops to finish off our opponent. 

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The remaining creatures in the deck are more or less there for value. Gatekeeper of Malakir is a great card in a deck that can reliably pay BBB on turn three (which Rally Vampires can), plus its cmc of two means we can get it back with both Rally the Ancestors and Return to the Ranks to generate more drain triggers. Geralf's Messenger isn't a Vampire, but his synergy with sacrifice outlets and Rally the Ancestors is so strong that it is worth a slot regardless. With any sac outlet, Geralf's Messenger represent at least four damage, and it gets even crazier when we have a Blood Artist on board or Rally it back.

The idea of Mogis's Marauder was to pull the Standard Rally combo with Bloodthrone Vampire or Vampire Aristocrat taking the place of Nantuko Husk. That said, since we typically win by comboing off rather than beating down, I'm not sure it is really necessary. I'm thinking of adding another removal spell in this slot. 

Less-Budget Vampire Rally

I mentioned that I've been working on the deck in my own time since recording the videos, and while the foundation of the deck has remained more or less the same, I have made a couple changes designed to streamline our manabase and shore up the sideboard. Here's where I'm at currently for the non-budget build. 


Anyway, that's all for today. What can we do to improve the deck? What other cards should we test? Am I missing any awesome Vampires or other synergies? Let me know in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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