Vampiric Aggro in Aether Revolt Standard Part Two – No More Monkey Business

In the second part of my inaugural article here at Geeks Headquarters Gaming, it’s time to cut the irreverance and get down to some serious detailed analysis. After the break, you’ll immediately see my refocused efforts as I get down to explaining why I quite like my deck. I’m looking forward to showing you all some of the nasty and unexpected things it can get up to.

Look! He’s wearing goggles!


That concludes my article. Thanks for reading!


But seriously…

I had planned to include sideboard breakdown and analysis alongside a SWOT guide and some rumination on what is and isn’t quite working in the current build, but things are getting longer all the time and so I’ve decided to break this up into a third part to cover such things, so today we’ll just feature the main deck. Still, you get a picture of the sideboard ahead of next time. Ready? Let’s go!

Let’s immediately start with a look at the full deck in it’s broken down, numerical, deck-listed component form:

Main Deck

Creatures (28)

  • 4x Indulgent Aristocrat
  • 3x Bomat Courier
  • 4x Walking Ballista
  • 4x Scrapheap Scrounger
  • 4x Olivia, Mobilized for War
  • 3x Hanweir Garrison
  • 2x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • 3x Bloodhall Priest
  • 1x Reality Smasher

Planeswalker (1)

  • 1x Ob Nixilis, Reignited

Instant (8)

  • 2x Fatal Push
  • 2x Fiery Temper
  • 4x Unlicensed Disintegration

Sorcery (1)

  • 1x Transgress the Mind

Land (22)

  • 6x Swamp
  • 4x Mountain
  • 2x Smoldering Marsh
  • 4x Foreboding Ruins
  • 2x Drownyard Temple
  • 2x Spire of Industry
  • 2x Hanweir Battlements

Sideboard (15 cards)

  • 2x Shock
  • 1x Fiery Temper
  • 2x Murder
  • 2x Warping Wail
  • 2x Lost Legacy
  • 1x Ob Nixilis, Reignited
  • 1x Crumble to Dust
  • 2x Fatal Push
  • 2x Release the Legendary Monkeys Gremlins.

Got that folks? Cool. Let’s take a look at the critters, then.



Looks like a fairly solid creature curve, yeah?

At the One…

Originally there were 4 copies of Bomat Courier, one of which momenteraly became a Hope of Ghirapur, before being recently swapped out for the 1 copy of Transgress the Mind. The Courier is here for a couple of reasons. Obviously the fast early damage is the sort of thing the pure aggro part of this deck is interested in, and the exile effect allows for both the filling of a fresh hand and some Madness synergies. It’s been rare in this build to have been able to get much Madness value from the discard, but it’s still an option with both Bloodhall Priest and Fiery Temper being relevant here. There’s also potential protection from flooding or mana screw from a risky keep with this guy in hand, though obviously there’s no way of knowing if it will help out there until after swinging with it a few times and then sacrificing it – I’ve had it go both ways in the past. It also shares the dual utility which all the artifact creatures in this deck have, those being enabling Spire of Industry to tap for coloured mana (oww) and getting value out of Unlicensed Disintegration. I’m running less than the full 4x now because it’s the worst card to draw late-game, even allowing for the Olivia dimension I’ll talk about next for Indulgent Aristocrat. Even allowing for an additional +1/+1 counter, it’s a 2/2 which already had haste and as such is fairly underwhelming. The deck ran without hand-hate for a few weeks, and the decision to go with the 1x Transgress rather than an eighth 1-drop has been made to allow just a little extra reach. It could have been Harsh Scrutiny equally, but I prefer Transgress for it’s flexibility – the deck has plenty of means to deal with creature-heavy opposition, especially post-board.


The Indulgent Aristocrats are a fairly brilliant hangover from the Ragavan days. The flexibility they add in allowing attacks and messing with combat maths is a welcome extra dimension in the deck; the lifelink is gravy; but the on-board interactions that exist here between Olivia, Kalitas and these little guys are sweet. There’s also a lot of utility for late 1-drops in hand for this deck, as they allow for a turn-four 4 mana play where Olivia is in play, Aristocrat comes down, and Bloodhall Priest gets to be dropped for it’s Madness cost of 1RB. If there’s nothing else in hand at this point, you end up with a hasty 2/2 lifelink and 2 damage pointed wherever you’d like it. If there is something else in hand, that can be dumped too, allowing the addition of a hasty 5/5 Bloodhall Priest, which then deals that two damage wherever wished. Oh, and if you can instead do that on 5 mana, then it may just be that what you’ll discard to Bloodhall Priest is a Fiery Temper cast for it’s Madness cost. You’ll lose the ETB trigger but immediately recover it when you attck Hellbent.. So assuming Olivia, the Aristocrat and the Bloodhall Priest get in, that’s somewhere up to 15 points of damage, potentially removing two blockers before combat, or perhaps just sending it straight upstairs if the way is clear of if chump blocks are already required – obviously, it all depends on board state. There’s also the possibility of using a sacrificial Hanwier Garrison token to pump the vampiric team with Indulgent Aristocrat – and don’t forget that with Olivia in play, there’s likely a whole bunch of creatures in play which are Vampires regardless of what their creature-type line reads. Overall I’ve been very impressed with Indulgent Aristocrat.


At the Two…

‘It’s a junk rare, I’m sure of it’. That’s what I heard said on more than one occasion about Scrapheap Scrounger upon Kaladesh‘s spoiling. Granted, any creature which has a line of text which reads ‘{this creature} can’t block’ does have a significant downside to it, and it is one which has raised it’s ugly head numerous times throughout all iterations of this deck. But a 3/2 for two colourless mana which can be bought back from the graveyard at instant speed and which can happily be discarded to Olivia to enable, say, a hasty 4/5 Kalitas on turn four? Just checking… yep, still good. It’s also not a bad enabler for a turn three Unlicensed Disintegration which may just see you getting in for 6 damage total.


Walking Ballista is, of course , just a remarkably strong Magic card. It earns it’s place as quick, easy damage, removal, a scalable mana-sink and quite simply the most amazing get-out-of-jail-free card to trigger Olivia. Stuck on 3 mana? then have you considered dropping a Walking Ballista for X=0, discarding a Bloodhal Priest to it? I hadn’t until, stressing over my hand, I saw it. Yowzer. Sadly, State-based effects will kill the Walking Ballista before it gets a chance to resolve a +1/+1 counter, but that’s not too big a loss when you have a use for creatures in your graveyard via Scrapheap Scrounger. I have been considering cutting one as they are a lot less impressive early game in this deck than any of the other 1-and-2-drops and without either Winding Constrictors or Metallic Mimics to make ridiculous things happen to the number of counters being dumped onto this battle bot, it can be a little underwhelming at times. However, it’s hard to justify cutting any number of copies of this powerhouse. It’s application in dealing with enemy Planeswalkers cannot be understated, particularly once again when it’s coupled with Unlicensed Disintegration.


At the Three…

Olivia, Mobilised for War is an absolutely vital, central card for the deck. That’s why we’re running 4-of a Legendary creature here. Perversely however, the usual Legendary Caveat isn’t such a drawback in this case- discarding a spare copy of Olivia to whatever creature you want to cast, make larger and hasty is just fine here. Scrapheap Scrounger wil even enjoy gnawing down on her undead bones to come jumping back in at your leisure – perhaps getting a +1/+1 counter and haste for the privilage. But wait! That’s not all! With an Olivia already in play, a second one may be cast and before the State-based actions cause you to select one of them to sacrifice to the Legendary rule, you can put her ETB/discard ability on the stack. Sacrifice the original and the new Olivia will be a hasty, flying 4/4. Yay!

The number of unpleasant plays that come about from the madness-esque abilities of Olivia, Mobilised for War should be fairly obvious. One of these will be covered in the next card. They do, however, come with a play-pattern cost, regarding whether going Hellbent is the correct decision on any given turn. Add to this the relative lack of actual Madness cards in the deck, a restriction of this artifact-heavy build, and I do wonder whether there’s more that can be done here. I’ll leave that discussion for the third and – hopefully – final part of this article series, however.


I really, really want to put a 4th copy of Hanwier Garrison into the deck. On the perfect curve, the guys who are ‘ready for anything!’ are bashing alongside a significant force on turn four with additional counters on them, with excess cards being pitched to Olivia to put counters on one of both of the 1/1 Human Soldiers coming into play when a hasty, Vampiric Garrison swings. If the deck has curved out correctly and taken advantage of a slow start from the opponent, there’s 13-14 points of damage (depending on whether the deck is on the play or draw) coming in, with a fiery temper being ditched for it’s Madness cost to either remove a blocker of get in some bonus points to face. If it can go to face, it may be a lethal swing. Whilst Hanwier Battlements is in the mana base, it’s there for late-game reach only – an un-melded Garrison is as good as a Melded, Writhing Township in most circumstances. Card is good, will cast again.


(apologies for the awkward spacing here – I’m still figuring this stuff out!)

At the Four…

Hey everybody, It’s Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet! I know this one’s a bit of a sleeper, but I suspect it may see majoy tournament play soon! All silliness aside, Kalitas is a very serious card. If your opponent can’t answer it quickly and cleanly, they’re in a lot of trouble most times. Exiled opposing creatures and free 2/2 Zombies for Kalitas’ controller is so very sweet when Fatal Push, Fiery Temper, Unlicensed Disintegration and more sideboard removal are amongst your weapons of choice. The lifelink is formidable on an initial 3-power creature, and the mana-sink abilities Kalitas can use at Instant speed make combat maths tricky for an opponent at the best of times. Obviously this deck can make pretty much anything into a Vampire, and coupled with the Indulgent Tormentor, Kalitas’s efficiency when combined with open mana should be obvious. Late game, with 7 mana available and Olivia in play, Kalitas discarding Bloodhall Priest with either an empty hand or a spare card, any card, to discard is ridiculous. Shoot down a two-power blocker with the Bloodhall priest on either ETB trigger or preferably swinging with it as a Hellbent 5/5 alongside a 4/5 lifelinking Kalitas, get a free Zombie to hold up for chumping with or else getting more value out of on the tricky comnbet maths next turn, and it’s all good, basically. I’d again love to put in a third Kalitas, but the curve doesn’t want it, nor does it often need it so desperately. Kalitas is generally great whenever he turns up, and even if he doesn’t, you’ll still have the hope and potential joy of top-decking him. Win-win!


I’m still unsure how Bloodhall Priest hasn’t seen regular play at a high level of competetive Magic.Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s Siege Rhino or anything, but just look at it! Tell you what, I think I’ve covered it from just about every angle already while discussing the various interactions with the rest of the creature base, so I will simply repeat here: just look at it!


And last but not least, at the Five…

There’s a slightly twisted side to me that does enjoy the fact that a card which suddenly disappeared from Standard due to it being a Madness enabler for your opponent in and of itself, fits in so nicely as a curve-topper here. One of Reality Smasher is just big, fast, and will take down a Torrential Gearhulk if Olivia gets involved, or without her assistance can smirk at a Wandering Fumerole or Needle Spires as it tramples on through. Does the colourless mana requirement jeapordise the mana base? Well, yes it does, but it’s here as a result of that mana base, not as a cause of it. We’ll get to part of that during the mana-base breakdown shortly, and the true reason for it when we get to the sideboard.


Overall, aside from a couple of numbers I’d like to tweak, I really, really like this creature curve and how it plays out. It can smash early, hold the midgame, and has reach to finish the long game should things go passably okay in a slow-starting game. More on this in the next part of the article.

Removal, Hand-Hate and ‘Walkers


So, I’ll whip through these utility spells, the purpose of all of which should be fairly obvious

We have 2 Fatal Push to clear the way early, take down a Heart of Kiran or to deal with more substantial high CMC threats either post-combat or after triggering Revolt with either Kalitas, Bomat Courier or Indulgent Tormentor. 2 Fiery Temper are there mainly to be cast for single Red mana after discarding to an Oliva trigger, but can perhaps be cast for the full 1RR at a push and at instant speed, again forming a beautiful 2-card synergy with Bloodhall Priest. The 4 copies of Unlicensed Disintegration, as talked about at length in part 1 of this article series, is what hedged the deck out of Jund and into Rakdos, allowing an answer for Copycat Combo and just being genarally excellent at dealing with big things, such as Verdurous Gearhulk or Ishkana, Graf-Widow, or forcing the issue against a huge opposing Walking Ballista – though oviously I’d rather use Fatal Push there.


Transgress The Mind, as noted earlier, is a general-use reach card. I love having it in my opener when an opponent snap-keeps. A future build may see more copies either in the main or the side, as it stands though it’s only been in for our last FNM, where the single copy performed more than adequately.


Ob Nixilis, Reignited is there for a bit of card draw, repeatable removal, and a handy Ultimate vs Control decks. At 5 mana the deck doesn’t want this guy showing up in too many opening hands, but it’s effects are very potent when they land on a relevant board state.


(L)And Finally…


Okay. There are a few points to touch on here.

The basics are weighted in favour of Swamps because os a significant number of BB casting costs in both the main deck and the sideboard. Simple enough.

The two Smoldering Marsh versus full 4 Foreboding Ruins are there to try and keep ETB tapped lands to a minimum. It’s not perfect, but it usually works out. The deck doesn’t really want to lose velocity; in a perfect world there would be more basics in the deck, but mana pip distribution requires a bit more flexibility, I feel, hence this selection.

Six colourless lands seems – and perhaps is – excessive. The 2 Spire of Industry have worked out very well – having eleven Artifact Creatures in the early curve means they can both cast a good chunk of the deck, and usually allows painful fixing (oww) when desperately needed if the other lands don’t show up.

The 2 Drownyard Temples are there for Olivia synergy. I had mistakenly thought that I could return them to my hand from the graveyard for 3 mana – read the cards, kids! They still work okay with Olivia, but they are sub-optimal and may get cut completely in the next build in favour of coloured mana.

The 2 Hanwier Battlements have a dual purpose, both helping cast Reality Smasher, the 2 sideboard copies of Warping Wail, and also allowing the Meld with Hanwier Garrison – again, this is ideally for late-game reach. At a pinch they could give something Haste, but that surely hasn’t come up yet.

And that will do for this time around! Thanks if you’ve patiently read through all of this. In part three, coming soon, I’ll cover all that other stuff I keep mentioning, primarily a detailed sideboard breakdown, and the all important SWOT analysis. Until then, have a great interval of time!

Doug ‘Words’ Greenwood is doing all of this without a license. Someone should probably call an intervention, but be sure to do so carefully and clearly to avoid getting all the value-hawks in the vicinity into a flap from thinking you’ve pulled a lottery ticket in a Kaladesh booster.


One thought on “Vampiric Aggro in Aether Revolt Standard Part Two – No More Monkey Business

Add yours

  1. I worked hard on that first Ragavan gag. Then, for some reason, WordPress didn’t display the header correctly for the article on the main site, the break was nonexistant, and the joke was destroyed. Why, WordPress? Would you smash up the Mona Lisa so? :p


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