January 2nd, 2010
So, my brother was supposed to be in town for this, and he was going to play Vampires, and I was as late as Thursday still fiddling with a White/Blue aggro deck that was great against Jund (Hindering Light rocks in that matchup) but only so-so against anything else. I tore it apart and went with every intention of playing a Blue/White/Red control deck (modeled more or less on the Austrian deck from Worlds), and I also had a Valkut Ramp deck with me.
When I arrived to find it more full than expected, looking around there appeared to be a fair amount of white and blue, and John convinced me to play Vampires since I had it with me. Here’s what I played:
3 Vampire Hexmage
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Hypnotic Specter
4 Vampire Nocturnus
4 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
4 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Sorin Markov
2 Mind Sludge
2 Sign in Blood
1 Gargoyle Castle
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Marsh Flats
3 Marsh Casualties
2 Sadistic Sacrament
3 Black Knight
I know, there are some slightly odd choices there (Ob, the Hyppie), but it’s basically the same kind of Vampires deck people have been playing ever since Zen rotated in. It’s completely mindless to play, which was the goal since I wasn’t planning to pilot it. There were, I think, 24 people there, meaning 5 rounds cut to top 8. I believe only 4 were playing Jund, which is not the best matchup for Vampires, so I decided against my better judgment to go in with it. You can guess where this went…
Round 1: Marvin playing Jund
Of course. His build was a little different, with Borderland Rangers (OK, not that weird) and Thornlings. It’s not an un-winnable matchup, but I would to get a bit lucky to have a shot.
Game 1: I was not particularly lucky. It wasn’t a bad game, but Jund has more and better removal, and I just didn’t draw well enough to win.
Game 2: This was a total disaster. I got stuck on three land with various expensive cards in my hand, got Thought Hemmoraged for Vampire Nocturnus (I did have one on my hand) on turn 4, then on the next turn got hit with it again for Tendrils. OK, then. I stayed on my three land with nothing interesting in my hand for a while, and just got beat up.
After this quick beating, I took out my UWR control deck and played that, and just crushed him with it.
Round 2: Hunter, playing R/B Eldrazi Goblins
Well, I thought, hopefully I’d get an easy match in the loser’s bracket. And so it was. This deck had cards I had never seen or heard of before (like Karathi Bomber) and was kind of interesting, but it was in no way a good matchup for him. There’s no point in going game-by-game, I just rolled him. The play of the game was the finish in game 2 when he was at 17: I hit him with a Nocturnus and two other vamps for 13, then played a Bloodwitch to drain for 4. Nice turn.
After this also very quick round so afterward we played with his deck against my Valakut deck. That was actually a much better matchup for him. The humorous part of this matchup was that he played a Coat of Arms, then a Siege-Gang Commander. Then I played a Siege-Gang Commander. Then he played another one. Then I played another one. Whee, very, very giant Goblins!
Round 3: John, playing Valakut Ramp
My favorite opponent, which is good, because I swear I always play him in FNM. This is a matchup that favors the Valukut deck, though it’s winnable by Vampires if the draw is fast and some life is gained. If the Valakut deck ramps up quickly, however, anything other than an optimal draw is an almost certain loss for vamps.
Game 1: My draw was mediocre but he didn’t ramp too quickly, but still just fast enough to beat me.
Game 2: I sided in 2 Sadistic Sacrament and 4 Duress for this one. I got Duress on the first turn and killed a Harrow, and got Sacrament on the third turn and got 3 Valakuts, but unfortunately he had already drawn the first Valakut. I had a fighting chance but he had all the removal when he needed it, wiped out a bunch of stuff with a Hellkite, and then got Valakut active and took me out.
Unfortunately, two losses put me out of contention for the top 8. I came to play, though, so I stayed in.
Again, after this match we played, this time the Valakut mirror. I won two of those and we didn’t quite have time to finish the third, but I had better board position there. He doesn’t run Ruinblaster or Lavaball Trap main, which I did, and that made the difference in the mirror.
Round 4: Mitch, playing mono-White Kor
This might have been a completely Zendikar deck, though maybe there was a Path involved at some point. Kor Duelist, Armament Master, Hookmaster, Kor Skyfisher, Kor Aeronaut, etc. Even Grappling Hook.
Game 1: I know I Disfigured his turn 2 Aeronaut but he never really had much going and a Bloodwitch finished him off. I was at 18 when it ended.
Game 2: More senseless beatings. I got a 2-for-1 on a kicked Marsh Casualties at one point, but he managed to get a lot of other guys out and we were kind of stalemated for a while. He had gained a fair bit of life off a pair of Kabira Crossroads that had been bounced with Skyfishers. I eventually got control of the board and managed to Tendril a Grappling Hook-equipped Skyfisher and finished off with a Nighthawk and a Bloodwitch; I was at 28 life at the end.
Round 5: Nick, playing White/Green/Blue Allies
I know this was not strictly Zendikar because I’m pretty sure something got Path’d at some point in one of the games. That may have been the only non-Zendikar card, though.
Game 1: Early on I got out a Bloodghast and a Hexmage while he got an Oran-Rief Survivalist and a pair of Ondu Clerics. He blocked the Hexmage with the 3/3 Survivalist, not realizing that I could sac the Hexmage to strip the counters off of it after first strike damage. From there he could chump with the Clerics but he chose not to hoping for more life gain. He did chump with one of the Clerics against my turn 6 attack, and then I cast Ob and cracked a fetch to bring him to 9. He cast some other ally to gain 2. 9/9 Ob and the Bloodghast were chumped the next turn, and I played another fetch to bring him down to 5 and cast a Nighthawk. That was it for this one.
Game 2: On my third turn I Deathmarked a Kazandu Blademaster to get a Hexmage in. He one again got down multiple Ondu Clerics and kept gaining life, but I always had better board position; I had out a Hexmage and Bloodghast when I got a Nocturnus and hit on the flip, then next turn cast a Bloodwitch. The game ended with me at the 24 life I had from the Bloodwitch drain.
So, basically, I played two decent competitive decks and lost to those 0-2 each time, and played three basically bad rogue decks and crushed them handily. I remain unconvinced that Vampires is a Tier 1 deck, though I guess more help is supposedly coming in Worldwake. I have probably three more constructed FNMs before Worldwake becomes legal and I certainly won’t play Vampires in any of those.
I of course missed the top 8. However, I did watch most of the top 8, which was instructive about the metagame. There were three Jund decks, one UWR control, a Vampires, John with Valakut, a G/R Eldrazi Elves, and one rogue W/B Ranger of Eos/Steppe Lynx/Soul Warden/Nighhawk/Zealous Persecution deck.
None of the Junds mirrored. The four matches were Valakut vs. Rogue, Jund vs. Vampires, Jund vs. UWR control, and Jund vs. G/R Eldrazi. John’s Valakut crushed the rogue. Amazingly, the other Vampire deck in the tourney won vs. Jund. UWR of course beat Jund, and the Jund deck easily handled the Elves. So, in the semis, it was Valakut vs. Vampires and Jund vs. UWR control. Valakut and UWR control took it and split the top prizes.
So, next week I think it’s UWR control for me or maybe Valakut; I’m not sure, but I do know it won’t be Vampires.