Vampires in Commander: Main decks, products and commanders

Magic: the Gathering

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Vampires in Commander: Main decks, products and commanders

Celebrate all the majesty of vampires and remember the evolution of the tribe in EDH: its main decks, promotional products and commanders!

By Vinicius, 01/08/22, translated by Humberto - Comment regular icon1 comments

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Tribal decks are a big hit on Commander. One of the dearest tribes of the crowd today is undoubtedly Vampires. With the recent visit to Innistrad, on Midnight Hunt and mainly on Crimson Vow there was high expectation that the toothy bloodsuckers would be treated to amazing new cards, putting them in the spotlight. However, it is worth remembering that the vampire tribe was already very well consolidated before this recent incursion.

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This article serves as a reminder of that and celebrates all the majesty and charisma of the most daring predators in the multiverse. We'll learn about the tribal tradition of vampires in Commander, their customs, strengths and weaknesses, as well as the evolution of the archetype throughout the previously released sets. But before we start, a word of warning: keep the garlic, mirror and wooden stake close by. You won't want to turn the feast around until the reading is over, will you?!
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Vampires keeps lurking nearby

Vampires' concepts and characteristics

In Magic: the Gathering, vampires are a bloodthirsty species, usually undead. It is a characteristic creature found in black, but it can also be found associated with red and white. While humans are the most common victims of vampirism, other races can also be affected. Throughout the Magic Multiverse, vampires can be created through other vampires transforming their victims (typically through a bite) or through enchantments. Some cards that mechanically represent this conversion well in-game are Captivating Vampire, Olivia Voldaren, and New Blood. The most striking feature of vampirism is its hunger for the blood and/or life force of other creatures. This eating pattern is often represented on cards by various effects related to drain and life gain (Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, Malakir Bloodwitch, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Sanctum Seeker) or counters (Vampire Socialite, Rakish Heir, Bloodlord of Vaasgoth). The predatory nature of vampires is also mechanically translated through sacrificial effects or abilities triggered by killing creatures, as is well exemplified in Indulgent Aristocrat, Blood Artist, Sangromancer, Butcher of Malakir and Anowon, the Ruin Sage.
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Vampires and their predatory nature

Vampires' History in Commander

Vampires today can be considered a highly representative tribe in Commander, with a certain diversity of generals and theme options. Vampire history in the format goes through some 'waves of plenty' - which are basically specific moments where various useful cards are thrown to the tribe, usually because it's one of the themes of a set or block.

Zendikar (2009)

The first card with the subtype was Sengir Vampire in

Alpha

; therefore, vampires have always existed in Magic. However, during the first years of the game, there wasn't any support for it to be possible to build decks focused on them. It was only in 2009 that they were first approached as a respectable tribe, in

Zendikar

. The set featured vampires as one of its main tribes, featuring important cards such as Anowon, the Ruin Sage, Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet, Butcher of Malakir, Malakir Bloodwitch, Nirkana Revenant, Vampire Nighthawk, Blade of the Bloodchief, among others. The core sets of the time also reinforced the archetype with Vampire Nocturnus, Captivating Vampire, Viscera Seer, and Bloodlord of Vaasgoth.

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Anyone who wanted to set up a Vampires tribal Commander at the time would have Anowon, the Ruin Sage as the most obvious choice. Then in 2011 the first

Commander

decks were released, bringing a new freshness and starting a long era of the format's ascension. Among the released cards in the set, Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter would emerge as a new general alternative, adding white to the archetype (although there were no white vampires at the time). This undoubtedly gave a boost to the archetype being possible, and the importance that

Zendikar

and these core sets represented for the vampire tribe was indisputable. However, support was still short and the representation of vampires in Commander was still simple. It was with

Innistrad

in September 2011 that the second wave of tribal support would come, which would then become a respectable tribe in the format.

Innistrad (2011 - 2012)

The Innistrad Block (

Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored

) brought vampires as a tribe aligned with black and red, with more cards geared towards tribal synergy - Bloodline Keeper, Rakish Heir, Stromkirk Captain - and Olivia Voldaren as legendary representative. Olivia then became the top commander of choice at the time, as she allowed access to the right colors and possessed a skill set that made a lot of sense in a tribal deck context. In addition, pieces such as Blood Artist, Falkenrath Noble, Falkenrath Aristocrat and Bloodflow Connoisseur further reinforced the Sacrifice theme (which from then on would be called allegorically of 'Aristocrats').
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Battle for Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad (2015 - 2016)

After the second wave, the vampires would retreat to their coffins and hibernate for 3 years while Magic went through other sets that eventually brought one card or another to be used in the archetype, but without treating it with any specific attention. Until the Third Wave would come in 2015 until 2016 in a total of four consecutive sets that revisited the two planes where vampires had more space since then: Zendikar and Innistrad. In the first part of this wave -

Battle for Zendikar

and

Oath of the Gatewatch

- the tribe featured more with the addition of comprehensive value cards that were vampires, such as Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Defiant Bloodlord. Note that these cards do not have any mention of vampires in their texts because the tribe was not a theme in the sets. As a result, the impact of this block was weak when compared to its sequel,

Shadows Over Innistrad

and

Eldritch Moon

, which couldn't treat vampires with greater attention. Some of the best contributions from these sets to the archetype were Indulgent Aristocrat, Olivia, Mobilized for War, and Olivia's Bloodsworn. In addition, the Innistrad-set block began to pave the way for a new sub-theme within the vampire archetype to begin to be introduced: the Madness decks. The biggest representative of this was Falkenrath Gorger, which made cards like Insolent Neonate, Markov Dreadknight and Stromkirk Condemned make a lot more sense. However, it was too early for a vampire deck based entirely on Madness to be viable, as the number of dedicated pieces was still insufficient.

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Commander 2017 & Ixalan (2017-2018)

After a short cool-down period between 2016 and 17, the vampires would be put back in the spotlight with the release of

Commander 2017

. The set that first featured tribal decks as a broad theme of all precons was destined to be a milestone for vampires with the

Vampiric Bloodlust

deck, run by none other than Edgar Markov.
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Vampiric Bloodlust was one of the great milestones for the tribe
This deck was a game changer for the archetype in many ways. First, by the main commander himself, which itself is a card above the average of any standard when it comes to tribal decks. Second, he expanded the horizons by delivering three Mardu commander options (white, black, and red), a color combination that was not yet well represented in the tribe and simply allowed the use of all sorts of vampires released in previous (and future) sets. Third, the deck brought new cards that would reinforce the archetype, such as Patron of the Vein, New Blood, and Bloodline Necromancer. With this deck, vampires have never been so high, and undoubtedly, it was the release that marked the most important wave of the tribe for the Commander. However, things would get even better with a release that would come soon after.
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Vampires feast on Ixalan

Ixalan

(and its sequel

Rivals of Ixalan

) was more of a set focused on tribes and vampires were one of them, with the difference of being aligned in black and white. This was undoubtedly the biggest contribution of this block, which in several cases increased the number of useful creatures on white with cards like Bishop of Binding, Bishop of Rebirth, Forerunner of the Legion, Legion Lieutenant, Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle, Legion's Landing and especially Elenda, the Dusk Rose. Other very significant additions were Champion of Dusk, Sanctum Seeker, Twilight Prophet, and Call to the Feast.

Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow (2021)

After the huge features from Ixalan and Commander 2017, vampires had become one of the most popular tribes in Commander's metagame, but would naturally remain low for another three years, with a few point cards sticking out here and there (like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Drana, the Last Bloodchief). For a brief moment on this path, the tribe was stirred up by the

Commander 2019

decks, which would have the mechanic of

Madness

as one of its preconstructed decks.

Unmerciful Fury

brought in Anje Falkenrath as the main commander and a few vampires with

madness

. Only Anje's Ravager and the commander herself were unreleased cards, but this small representation was enough for some to try to untangle the idea of โ€‹โ€‹a โ€œVampires Tribal with Madnessโ€ deck, a sub-theme that remained a bit more latent and in wait of more support.

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Anje Falkenrath left a taste of what a discard-based vampire deck could look like
This boost would come with the tribe's fifth and most recent wave of bounty, with the advent of two more sets that would visit for the third time our favorite gothic horror plane. The first of these,

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

, was released in September 2021 and in theory would be more focused on supporting the werewolf tribe. Still, there was no way to get back to Innistrad without vampires, and some of them showed up. Most gain additional abilities if an opponent loses life during the turn, such as Florian, Voldaren Scion, Famished Foragers, and Vampire Socialite. But it would be in the second part, with

Innistrad: Crimson Vow*, that vampires would receive the biggest highlight of the season. Released in November of the same year, the set featured Blood Tokens as the characteristic mechanics of vampires. Associated cards, in addition to producing these tokens, often use them for alternative purposes, as in Anje, Maid of Dishonor and Bloodtithe Harvester, Olivia's Attendants, Bloodvial Purveyor, Falkenrath Forebear, Voldaren Bloodcaster, and Arterial Alchemy. The usefulness of the blood tokens is little explored beyond this set, but they are put to good use in a strategy based on Madness, this being one of the main contributions of the set for the tribe. Other

Crimson Vow

reinforcements include Henrika Domnathi, Welcoming Vampire, Olivia, Crimson Bride, and Edgar, Charmed Groom. The set also featured the

Vampiric Lineage

precon, specially dedicated to the tribe, with Strefan, Maurer Progenitor commanding a deck focused on high-impact creatures (something not yet explored in the tribe so far), reprinting classics and bringing Relevant unreleased cards such as Crossway Troublemakers, Kamber, the Plunderer, Markov Enforcer, Midnight Arsonist, Scion of Opulence, Timothar, Baron of Bats, Glass-Cast Heart, and Olivia's Wrath.
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Despite the large number of additions these sets have brought for vampires, some fans of the tribe have expressed dissatisfaction with this latest set, claiming it wasn't enough. In fact, expectations were too high, and perhaps it is natural that part of the fan base was not happy, as they expected something as grand as the 2017's releases. Nonetheless, Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow brought some good additions to the tribe.

Main Vampires tribal Commanders

When it comes to vampires, there are plenty of commanders suitable for a tribal deck, certainly more than I could cover in this article. I'll just talk about those that, I think, are the most relevant in each of the common subthemes used for vampire decks.

Edgar Markov

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Of all the commanders one can choose to lead a vampire deck, Edgar Markov is undoubtedly the first in the overwhelming majority of cases. His abilities and his color identity make him almost absolute reign as the main commander of the tribe, being able to easily support any sub-theme within it. However, the most intuitive line taken by those who use the Markov parent as a general is to focus on token production exploiting his

Eminence

. This is this commander's most defining feature, allowing him to exert a significant presence in the game without even needing to be cast. Because of this, most decks with this focus opt for extensive use of low-cost creatures, to boost their speed and generate critical mass of creatures in the first turns. Combining that with pumps and lords like Legion Lieutenant, Stromkirk Captain, Shared Animosity, among many others, the deck can put pressure on opponents with a speed hardly seen in the format. The ease with which Edgar Markov creates 1/1 vampire tokens is also put to good use by sacrifice engines like Indulgent Aristocrat, Viscera Seer and Skullclamp, making him a very promising commander for Aristocrat decks, very popular among the vampire tribe.

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Edgar Markov's weakness is precisely the Achilles' heel of every token deck: a heavy reliance on creatures that makes sweepers like Day of Judgment or Damnation especially devastating. Draws, graveyard recursions, and board-safety-specific cards like Teferi's Protection and Boros Charm are essential to maintaining the strategy.
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Edgar, Charmed Groom

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While the classic version of progenitor Markov naturally suffers from board wipes, his new version seems more prepared to deal with this issue. Edgar, Charmed Groom combines three different and very useful functions. First, strengthen the creatures by increasing the board's power. Second, because it's "self-recurring" it makes a good "sac fodder", being useful in Aristocrats decks. And last, its ability to go back into play transformed ensures an easier recovery after a sweeper, as Edgar Markov's Coffin creates some vampire tokens. While this Edgar hasn't proven itself enough to unseat the classic C17 commander, it's certainly relevant enough to serve as a top choice for someone who wants a deck that's aggressive and has some resilience. He is also the best tribal commander for vampires in black and white combination.
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Olivia Voldaren

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Olivia was for a long time the main choice of commander for the tribe, as before Commander 2017 there was not a great diversity of options. While she makes sense in a tribal context, she was designed to be able to function perfectly on her own, without the need for a board full of vampires. Olivia Voldaren is still a good option for players who like commanders with good individual worth and who can do well even when tribal synergies fail. Likewise, due to her characteristic self-sufficiency, Olivia can serve as the generic commander for a vampire Rakdos deck with any subthemes. The following list presents a conventional combination of Aristocrats with Life Gain, designed to exploit the commander's first activated ability with

deathtouch

(Basilisk Collar, Vorpal Sword) to establish a certain control over opponents' field while strengthening your own.
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Anje Falkenrath

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This is a deck created to exploit the guidance of many vampires for discard effects (especially Falkenrath Gorger and other cards with

Madness

). Loots and wheel effects also power cards like Bone Miser and Archfiend of Ifnir. This isn't exactly one of the most efficient ways to use vampires in Commander, but I chose to include it here as it represents a different sub-theme than the tribe's conventional lists.
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Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

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Although Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is often used as a commander in lifegain combo decks that aren't necessarily tribal, a good portion of those who use it pick vampires as their theme. He is well-remembered for his Exquisite Blood combo, but his role in a vampire deck is far more recurrent as a damage booster, as gaining life is a commonplace in the tribe. Sanctum Seeker, Blood Tribute, Malakir Bloodwitch, Crossway Troublemakers, and Sangromancer are some of this commander's signature cards in a tribal context.

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Anowon, the Ruin Sage

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Anowon was the very first legendary creature to assume the mantle of the main representative of the vampire tribe in Commander (perhaps sharing this place with Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief). So, I thought it's fair to mention him in this article, albeit being quite absent on the current Metagame. Still, Anowon, the Ruin Sage has benefited greatly from the waves of vampires that have followed that have strengthened the aristocrats theme in the tribe, and still remains a good fit for anyone who wants to build a vampire deck and make sure it's mono black. A deck that exploits his ability can do very well at a table against other creature-based decks.
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Conclusion

I hope this article helps you better understand how Vampires became one of the most popular tribes in Commander. Now, time will tell what we can expect from the tribe in the future sets! If you have any suggestions or opinions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
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Vinicius

Martial arts teacher and content producer about Magic. Player in love with the Commander format, presenter of the Offline Kitchen youtube channel.

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