In the most recent Mythic Championship, a dark horse deck placed very well at 9th place. This Mardu Vampires deck, piloted by Joe Soh, is a critical mass aggro deck that goes wide and gets big before your opponent can properly address the threats you’ve resolved. Although not previously considered to be exceptional, the success of this deck shows us that Mardu Vampires could be one of the best standard MTG decks in the format either in its current form or with some adjustments. In this article, we take a look at what makes this deck so powerful and where Mardu Vampires might go from here.
Similar to the Azorious Aggro deck that has consistently been one of the top MTG decks in standard, Mardu Vampires achieves a valuable doubling of strategies as it attempts to put your opponent at zero life. First, the deck floods the board with a large number of cheap creatures, playing cards like Duskborne Skymarcher, Skymarcher Aspirant, and Vicious Conquistador that have evasion or alternative ways of pinging damage. The deck also generates tokens with Legion’s Landing and Mavren Fein to further go wide and swarm around midrange decks that try to stall with individual creatures, or aggro decks whose creatures are poorly situated on the defense. As the Mardu Vampires deck generates an army of small creatures, however, it simultaneously gains critical mass by playing cards that provide benefits per creature. Thus, cards like Judith and Legion Lieutenant that provide additional power and/or toughness to each creature become more valuable as the total number of creatures increases. This two-tiered strategy is excellent against targeted removal like Mortify, and can easily play around board wipes by establishing a winning board state and forcing out Kaya’s Wrath on only two or three inexpensive creatures.
One extremely unique advantage this deck achieves is synergies surrounding the creature type Vampire. Unlike virtually any competitive deck in the format, Mardu Vampires plays cards that create scaling benefit specifically relative to the number of vampires you control, a powerful archetype that is currently lackluster in most other creature types. With Vampires, however, there are some specific pay-off cards that reward the use of vampires instead of other efficient aggro cards. Legion Lieutenant, for example, provides the same benefit to Vampires as Benalish Marshal does to all creatures; Legion Lieutenant, however, is cheaper and has a less demanding mana cost, so if all the creatures in your deck are Vampires, Legion Lieutenant is almost completely a better choice. Mavren Fein and Champion of Dusk are additional examples of how powerful effects can be accomplished through a limited creature type choice. Unclaimed Territory also provides an advantage at the cost of relying on a single creature type, virtually eliminating the color concerns of your creature base and enabling one drops in both black and white. As a secondary benefit, many of these Vampire creatures are found at common and uncommon, making this one of the cheapest standard MTG decks despite the mana base.
Keeping Options Open
With a mana base that supports three colors, Mardu Vampires is a deck that derives much of its strength from the ability to modify the main deck and sideboard in anticipation of a changing meta. Soh, for example, chose to include three Lyra and a full four Duress in his sideboard for the Mythic Championship, cards that are excellent against the ubiquitous mono-red burn variants and the myriad of control decks, respectively, that the format has become familiar with. These cards, however, represent extremely different mana requirements, one relying on very early back mana while the other needs double white in the mid to late game, and the deck is well equipped to handle both. Additionally, this strong mana base allows players to play a wide variety of cards in both their sideboard and main deck that they think will be effective at that moment. Tech cards as diverse as Profane Procession or Priest of Forgotten Gods can seamlessly be added to the deck to deal with the tournament field in your own idiosyncratic way. The deck also allows for easy variation in best of one matches, making it one of the best MTG Arena decks for climbing ladder.
Mardu Vampires is a deck that’s fun and aggressive, pushing the pace of the match and forcing your opponent to play by your tempo. As a creature deck, it’s a bit light on tech cards, but the support spells it runs are powerful and variable, and the sideboard opens a large number of potential options. Overall the deck allows you to outplay opponents through your battlefield presence, letting two or three synergistic creatures force expensive removal against control decks, while threatening one enormous attack phase against aggro. With 21 lands and a super low curve, this top tier MTG standard deck is nothing but gas, so sleeve it up next time you head to an FNM and drive it like you stole it.