Brewing for GP San Diego – Taking a bite outta the competition

Modern season is just over the horizon, and I’ve been scrambling to choose a deck for Grand Prix San Diego on March 16th.    I wanted to play Jund, but Tarmogoyf is just too expensive, and I don’t wanna be that guy who spent $400 on goyf just to go 0-3 drop.

Without the option of Jund, I tried to piece together Melira Pod, Splinter Twin, and even Infect, but quickly realized that my limited Modern collection just wasn’t up to snuff with the current meta.  To push myself even further, I gave myself a $100 building budget to work from, hoping this would get the creative juices flowing.  I began to flip through my cube looking for ideas.  And that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks.   There they were, Geist of Saint Traft and Gatekeeper  of Malakir.  I had an epiphany.   At that moment, I decided to pay homage to Zendikar block constructed and champion GP San Diego with a sweet brew of vampires.

kalastria highbornSo, why vampires? Well, I think this deck is positioned well against many of the tops decks in the meta.  With players piloting All in Auras, Infect, Splinter Twin, and presumably Geist of Saint Traft, vampires’ uncounterable creatures, explosive attacks,  and edict effects may put me on a path to victory.

This deck will also surprise opponents.  Vampires haven’t seen the light of day in competitive play since Zendikar block, and for good reason; they simply haven’t been playable. However, just like Legacy Goblins,  powerful spells have been printed that strengthen the competitive value of this tribe.

The first card on my list is not a vampire at all, but a land, Cavern of Souls.  Cavern is so good against control, and with a lack of land destruction currently in modern, Cavern of Souls is going to blank counterspells and push through creatures to apply excessive pressure on the battlefield.  This will prove relevant as more players pick up UW and UWr control decks after the banning of Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song.

There have also been a couple powerhouse vampires printed in recent sets – Most notably Falkenrath Aristocrat and Olivia Volderon.

falkenrath aristocratFalkenrath Aristocrat is amazing. First of all, she fits perfectly in the curve as vampires’ main win condition.  She attacks with haste on turn 3 (spoiler alert, im running Deathrite Shaman), she’s an indestructible machine against everything but Path to Exile,  she enables interactions between Kalastria Highborn and Bloodghast, she can sacrifice a Dark Confidant, and mitigate life gain from a wayward Ajani Vengeant or Lightning helix.

This deck IS explosive.  An uncounterable Falkenrath Aristocrat or Vampire Nocturnus can put away a game with haste, literally.  And you can expect it to happen fairly often.

Vampires can also play a passive game. As games linger, top deck wars will inevitably select a winner. I’m counting on Kalastria Highborn, Liliana of the Veil, Dark Confidant, and Deathrite Shaman to stabalize the battlefield and advance my position with incremental hand and board advantage. Vampires will punish opponents who spend resources too quickly. It will be difficult for many decks to keep pace with the 29 creatures at my disposal.

I have really enjoyed my journey with this deck. Vampires is still in its infacy in terms of testing, though I’ve come a long way since my first build.

My initial delve into vampires began on a quest to create the perfect BW vampire/extort control deck. I had Lingering Souls, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, and even a Teysa, Orzhov Scion in my list.  Don’t get me wrong; white certainly has its merits with spot removal, killer sideboard options, and better mana fixing with the Zendikar fetches.  But I realized it was a little too cute, and that NOTHING playable came out of Gatecrash. The white soon faded from memory, and I moved to a more aggressive stance with green. [Insert Legacy All-Stars here]

I grabbed my Legacy Elves deck and snatched some Abrupt Decays and Deathrite Shamans to run iron man in Modern. Let’s face it, gotta keep that budget in mind!

gb cards

This concession to green wasn’t easy, but necessary.  I need Abrupt Decay to answer non-creature permanent threats like Liliana of the Veil, Blood Moon, Pyromancer’s Ascension, etc.

Next on my list was Deathrite Shaman.  Although not a vampire, Deathrite Shaman is the perfect 1-drop for this deck and quickly took his rightful place at my side. The Darth Vader to my Emporer if you will.  Deathrite Shaman acts as a source of passive damage and life gain, he punishes graveyard shenanigans, ramps me to Falkenrath Aristocrat, Lessens the overwhelming enormity that is Tarmogoyf, nullifies life lost from Dark Confidant triggers, and activates my Vampire Nocturnus. What more could you ask for one mana?

The only regret I have for my current build is from a lack of hand disruption and targeted creature removal.  With more testing, I may include Inquisition of Kozilek (no thoughtseizes here) and Terminate in the main.  If this were to happen, these cards will inevitably replace my Aether Vial package, or substitute for creature threats: Vampire Nighthawk, Vampire Nocturnus and the last of my Viscera Seers.

I’m looking forward to the Modern PTQ in Kawasaki next week.  Good or bad, results from the PTQ will certainly help in my quest to champion Grand Prix San Diego.

Here’s my current list.  I’m completely up to suggestions, so if you’ve made it this far in my article, I’d appreciate the feedback.

If you’re gonna be at the GP in San Diego, and you figure out who I am, please say hi! I’ll have a ton of Japanese foils for trade and will be more than happy to sit down for a game of Commander.


– Jon

4 thoughts on “Brewing for GP San Diego – Taking a bite outta the competition

  1. I’ve been watching a lot of modern format, lately. You placed a lot of thought into this idea and…it looks like it could work!

    Here are some additional options:

    How about Dismember? This is an awesome card. I’d consider sideboarding it at least.

    Relic of Progenitus? This was the most popular ran artifact in the last modern pro tour. Definitely a consideration.

    I wish you had 3-4 Thoughtseize. I understand the card is just too damn inaccessible to get. Inquisition of Kozilek will have to do. The reason you need Thoughtseize or Inquisition is because you’ll need to look at your opponent’s hand. The discard is great, but getting a glimpse at your opponent’s hand will also really help. Everytime you do, write down the cards they have in their hand on a piece of paper. Honestly, Inquisition should be okay, because I rarely saw anyone target a CMC above 3 and at least you won’t lose 2 life! Most of the top 8’s run some way of looking at their opponent’s hand in one form or another.

    I watched a match where a guy had his Tarmogoyf stolen from him by a Threads of Disloyalty. Not pretty.

    Make sure whenever a player shuffles his/her library, you shuffle it for them! I saw a guy stack his deck whenever he shuffled. I was not impressed.

    • Thanks for the comment Brendan. The reason I’m not currently running Relic is because most of the current tier 1 decks don’t abuse the graveyard and Storm is not as much of a thing. I don’t believe Scapeshift, Jund, or Tron use the bin, so I decided to leave the Relics out (At least for now, it may come in after the PTQ).

      Most of the sideboard comes off a stock Jund list, and I think their board is geared more towards Scapeshift and Tron. I’m running two Malakir Bloodwitch for the Path to Exile/Lightning Helix matches. I’m hoping Bloodwitch is gonna take down some games for me.

      What do you think is better, Dismember or Terminate? I would like at least 2 of them in the deck, but then I start losing my concentration of vampires.

      I want discard, but I’m just not sure what cards to pull. If you have any suggestions, I’m happy to hear them.


  2. Relic of Progenitus: How much do you hate Snapcaster Mage? Over 50% of the top 8 are running x4 Snapcaster with either Delver or the Mr. degenerate, Geist of Saint Traft.

    (3 mana for 6 power? 4 from Flying? 2 from Hexproof? What on earth was wizard’s thinking!? Another reasion to main Inquisition so you can nail him from the hand).

    Dismember: Immune to Spell Snare and can play around Remand. However, the life loss from this coupled with your Dark Confidants might be too much, which leads to the next option.

    Terminate: More and more top 8s are running this. It’s prone to Spell Snare, but you are playing red and that leaves room open for
    Lightning Bolt and artifact hate (nuke those damned Robots). The more red you play, the more useless Blood Moon becomes against you (the most common enchantment in Modern). However, more red makes it harder to get your Gatekeepers out with kicker and get your Vampire Nocturnus. Terminate does entail less life-taxing with the Dark Confidants, though. I’d say run Terminate?

    The top 8 modern decks ran an average of 4 4+CMC spells in maindeck. One had 9 4+CMC spells maindeck, which had 5 dedicated mana accel creatures like Birds maindeck. It could win with combo. You have 7 4CMC spells. I don’t think you need 4 Falkenwraths and 4 Aether Vials. It’s up to you.

    1 single Sowing Salt? Also at 4 CMC? Most of the top 8s I saw ran multiple Molten Rains.

    FINAL VERDICT: Terminate. 2 copies main. Sideboard them out when against Geist. 2 Relic of Progenitus sideboard. It will dampen reanimators and Snapcaster Mage. Need to drop some cards? Try to make your average cost for spells around 2-3. I think your average CMC is a little too high. Yeah, Aeither Vials even that out a bit, but 4 means you have a higher chance of drawing them later game where it will be too late.

    Good luck.

  3. Ok. Here’s the decklist from the Standard World Championship. Yeah, I know it’s standard, but it could be modified for modern.

    Here goes:

    4 Blackcleave Cliffs
    3 Cavern of Souls
    4 Dragonskull Summit
    11 Swamp

    22 lands

    4 Blood Artist
    4 Diregraf Ghoul
    3 Falkenrath Aristocrat
    2 Fume Spitter
    4 Geralf’s Messenger
    4 Gravecrawler
    3 Highborn Ghoul
    2 Phyrexian Metamorph
    1 Vampire Nighthawk

    27 creatures

    3 Brimstone Volley
    1 Doom Blade
    1 Flames of the Firebrand
    2 Mortarpod
    4 Tragic Slip

    11 other spells

    2 Duress
    1 Flames of the Firebrand
    2 Geth’s Verdict
    1 Go for the Throat
    2 Liliana of the Veil
    3 Nihil Spellbomb
    2 Skirsdag High Priest
    2 Smelt

    15 sideboard cards

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