Vampiric Aggro in Aether Revolt Standard Part 3 – The deck is faster than this article

Alright folks, let’s do this. Today, to finish up, we’ll look at the sideboard, key deck strategies, potential changes to the deck, and SWOT – that’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The fat has been trimmed, the conversational tone has been put on the backburner, and the card images are greatly reduced in number. Ragavan, Legendary Monkey will not be in attendence.

The sideboard for the deck has a mix of the utterly predictable, necessary answers in the Red/Black colour combo, a couple of cards I’m on the fence over, and some spicy bits of tech which have frankly impressed me so far. Let’s get in to it:

The Sideboard

As previously listed;

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

Shock, Fiery Temper, Murder and Fatal Push are all here to provide flexible answers based on an opposing deck; If I need to hit things with a low toughness then Shock and Fiery Temper are of more use than Murder, and have the added advantage of being able to go straight to my opponent’s face. Murder is most useful against Heart of Kiran, Ishkana, Gearhulks and similar sized creatures, and the additional copies of Fatal Push are there to bridge the gap, either taking down a crewed Heart of Kiran or post-chump blocked Cultivator’s Caravan, big Rishkar, Peema Renegade or Walking Ballista – I’m sure you get the idea. Alongside the main deck 4x Unlicensed Disintegration, 2x Fatal Push and 2x Fiery Temper, the flexibility on offer is pretty comprehensive and usually provides the right answers at the right time. There are definitely occasions I’ll cut down on Unlicensed Disintegration and, alongside it, some of the artifacts which enable it. If I want a Murder, I probably don’t want a 1/1 Bomat Courier on turn 6, but perhaps want Release The Gremlins in that matchup instead. So almost half of the board is dedicated to removal and burn, allowing a controlling dimension to be brought in when necessary.

shock.pngfierytemper.jpg

murder.jpg

fatalpush.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Release the Gremlins is a really excellent spell when you need access to the effect. Given the density of artifact-heavy decks in the format, it can tend to get boarded in frequently. At Sorcery speed it’s weakness is obvious, though in balance of that point I’ve also managed to use it to wipe an opponent’s board of blockers in my pre-combat main phase before swinging in with three 3/3 hasty Gremlins led on the charge by a hellbent Olivia, Mobilized for War. As a mass-artifact hate spell, it’s the best in Standard just now, so it being in my colours means I’m going to play it.

releasethegremlins.jpg

Lost Legacy is a card I’m torn on. The more I’ve run with it, the more I’ve come to question it’s place. It’s still tremendously useful against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Stasis Snare, Elder Deep Fiend, Baral’s Expertise and Spell Queller, or even Authority of the Consul when that looms but doesn’t land in time, but between the conflicts of curve considerations and double Black casting cost on an ideal turn 3 play, I’m not sure it ever gets played when truly desired. Add to this the significant downside of potentially providing extra draws for your opponent, I’m starting to consider alternatives. We’ll get to that later.

lostlegacy.jpg

The second copy of Ob Nixilis, Reignited in the board serves the role of additional, repeatable removal, painful card draw and a handy if unlikely Planeswalker ultimate win con. This all means that this is most likely to be brought in against a control deck but can also see meritorious use against opponents whose creatures have the keyword ‘Big’.

obnixilisreignited2.jpg

The next two cards are spicy.

Crumble to Dust could happily be renamed ‘Fumarole Killer’. This absolutely comes in against Jeskai or Grixis control decks, with Needle Spires also a fine target in the former. Back in the Jund build there were two of these; I’m considering whether I may want to up that number again. It’s also a fine card against any 4-colour deck simply due to the fragility of their mana base. I don’t think it’s ever coming in against a two-colour deck except for maybe a strict UR spells build or perhaps a Boros Vehicles deck where Needle spires often can be a significant threat, though in that case Shock is probably a better solution. There is of course also utility against Westvale Abbey should that start showing in greater numbers again, and maybe against Shambling Vents in a BW control deck, but at the current time these haven’t been a great consideration. All creature lands outside of Lumbering Falls are of course prone to removal – what makes Crumble to Dust so useful against Jeskai/Grixis is it can significantly reduce their threat-base, hopefully on an early turn where they’ve needed to tap out or aren’t holding a grip full of counterspells. The utility against Lumbering Falls can’t be overstated, but the deck where that is a real consideration to play against hasn’t yet made itself known.

crumbletodust.jpg

Warping Wail. Now then. What a card! I originally envisaged this as an answer to Fumigate and to deal with Selfless Spirits in our once spirit-heavy meta. Since then, the card has proven an unlikely, totally unexpected answer to a variety of threats. From Metallic Mimic naming a creature type which is threatening to totally swing and potentially shut the door on a game, to stopping a crucial Radiant Flames, or exiling a Felidar Guardian just as the Cat Combo is looking to go critical, this two-mana Instant is just excellent.

warpingwail.jpg

It’s entirely feasible that Warping Wail belongs in the main deck here. As I skewed the mana base to allow a sizeable amount of colourless sources, it seems, in retrospect, silly to have all that mana basically enabling the one main-deck colourless card, Reality Smasher. That said, hopefully this sideboard card clears up precisely why the mana base is built the way it is. The two Spire of Industry can usually be tapped for painful coloured mana of course, as the eleven main deck artifacts and the Unlicensed Disintegration value are built upon this premise. We’ll look further into this shortly; it’s safe to say however that the mana base falls into the ‘Weakness’ category of SWOT.

So overall, I feel that, while there’s room for adjustments here, the sideboard is remarkably strong in the meta. If the full removal suite is boarded in, there are few opposing threats that the deck can’t deal with, and the general flexibility of enforcing the key plan of the deck by tuning numbers of creatures or type of removal available means that, play or draw, the deck normally has the tools required to force through the damage it needs.

Running the deck

In general, the game 1 plan for the deck is very straight forward; drop a creature curve, preferably landing and sticking an Olivia, Mobilised for War on turn 3. Should the opposing board state interfere with this, blast it to bits to clear the way. Trading off offensive Scrapheap Scroungers with opposing bodies is fine in this plan, as is shooting low toughness creatures with a 1/1 Walking Ballista. Normally, whatever comes down on turn 4, alongside Olivia’s ETB benefits, will put an opposing deck on the back-foot. Hanwier Garrison alongside a fiery Temper discard-into-Madness, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, or Bloodhall Priest all pile a crazy amount of pressure on to the board, and the fact that they aren’t normally hanging around to block really puts a drain on an opponent’s resources. At this point, shooting down the Olivia with removal may seem necessary, but it’s often redundant as, say, the Hanwier Garrison keeps on swinging as a 3/4 and dropping it’s 1/1 swarm which, if Olivia is allowed to live, may well instead be 2/2s, and may well be allowing madness outlets in the process. Also, as a 4-of, Olivia keeps on coming back – my frequent comment of late is that she seems to roam in a pack, with he excess copies hanging out just out of sight round the corner or floating above cloud level to defy the Legendary rule.

The question of whether to go ‘Hellbent’ or not really does come down to what deck is being played by the opponent, and only slightly as to whether or not we’re on the play or the draw. For those momentarily confused by the term, Hellbent refers to the Rakdos (BR) mechanic introduced in the Dissension set and later returning in Futuresight, which gives a generally beneficial effect to a card when it’s controller is playing with no cards in hand. As is the way with Magic, it has become a catch-all term to state ‘playing empty-handed’, i.e. dumping your cards on the battlefield and into your graveyard as quickly as possible. It comes into play with this deck as a means of making creatures bigger, hastier, and tribally relevant through Olivia, Mobilized for War’s discard ability, as well as powering up Bloodhall Priest. As it regards this decks’ play pattern, a turn 1 Bomat Courier is generally fine regardless of Play/Draw as it’s normally attacking on turn 1 and probably turn 2 as well, happily trading off with a turn 1 or 2 Toolcraft Exemplar (though being shy of Thraben Inspectors and Inventors Apprentice) accumulating cards for a hand refill which, if it comes off, works great with the Hellbent strategy. When things have curved out and Hanwier Garrison is swinging with haste on turn 4, I will generally happily dump two more cards to make the 1/1 creature tokens into 2/2 Vampires, as forcing through the damage at this point is usually how the deck will win. However, this approach can, and has, led to defeat against effective opposing hands including such sickening cards as Baral’s Expertise, or a grip of removal and one solid threat to add to the board. By some twisted minds, even a sweeper may be played – disgusting, I know. Against a Cat-Combo, I am neither going Hellbent nor tapping out past a certain point – though I am dropping sacrificial threats ahead of my more potent threats to deplete copies of Harnessed Lightning. I don’t like to play Hellbent, but the more I’ve played this deck, the more I’ve identified it as a viable strategy.

Post-board, the deck tends to jump in one of two directions. Either it’s fine more-or-less as is and I’ll tune the removal based on opposing creature size and resilience, or I’ll board in a very different, removal-heavy controlling strategy, taking out an amount of artifact creatures – if I need to block, the Scroungers often go away, for example – alongside some amount of Unlicensed Disintegration. Sometimes it’s the Indulgent Aristocrats that hit the sidelines as at their base of a 1/1 lifelinker they’re just not as useful as a Shock, regardless of their potential upside. Here is where the Lost Legacy, Crumble To Dust, Warping Wail and Release the Gremlins will often be considered. The deck certainly gears down on it’s aggro nature in this configuration, preferring instead to build a board prescence preparing to strike whilst removing pertinent threats as and when they appear. It still has the flexibility to pile a tremendous amount of hasty pressure out of nowhere at high amounts of mana too, so sometimes just sitting back and holding up removal before deploying a late-game force can be a perfectly acceptable ploy to outwit 1-for-1 removal.

SWOTting up

I’ve talked about this section enough, eh? I hope you’ve not got your hopes up too much, as this is actually a fairly linear list, mainly, though not entirely, recapping much of what has already been explained.

Strengths

  • Piling on pressure and swinging in for tremendous amounts of damage quickly
  • A bunch of diverse, potent removal
  • Multiple methods of screwing with combat maths and blanking opposing removal
  • Pivoting rapidly and effectively upon core strategy
  • Difficult-to-answer shock troops
  • A diverse threat base presenting multiple ‘must answer’ threats, often on the same turn

Weaknesses

  • A stretched, slim mana base
  • Few aeriel blockers – just the one creature at any given time due to Olivia’s Legendary status
  • Playing Hellbent when in-hand answers are required
  • Aside from beating down on them, a low amount of answers for, and no clean ways of dealing with, opposing Planeswalkers
  • Pre-board Artifact-dense strategies
  • Efficient Enchantments – mainly just Authority of the Consul at the moment, which brings a significant tempo disadvantage, but also notably Stasis Snare hitting Kalitas
  • The deck’s pilot, in my case 🙂

Opportunities

  • A slow start from an opposing deck
  • Removal-light decks
  • Warping Wail! Post board, this really can destroy an opponent’s boarding choices
  • Underestimation of just how much damage all these pesky little things can inflict when they start to swarm
  • Outsizing a decks’ threats out of nowhere
  • The diverse and scalable removal suite providing unpredictable post-board scenarios to the decks’ advantage
  • Instant-speed play on a variety of axis allowing for very flexible play patterns

Threats

  • Indestructible – Ulamog could be terrible for this deck! I’d like to see how the Vamps run against the latest Aetherworks Marvel builds
  • Planeswalker – dense decks
  • Mid- to Late-game control decks answering a well-set early board
  • Efficient life gain decks. Whilst it can be utterly smashed, Cheerios Aetherflux Reservoir has proven to be very frustrating for the deck.
  • Aerial swarms. Whilst Release the Gremlins can play havoc against an amassed force of Thopters from Whirler Virtuoso, it can quickly be overrun at high Energy expenditure
  • An as-yet unseen Enchantment-heavy build.

Swap and change

Looking forwards, I’m very keen to change out something for a 23rd land, either a basic Swamp, Mountain of a third Smoldering Marsh, most likely a basic. The relatively low Mountain count has always concerned me particularly for those occasions where hard-casting Fiery Temper or having a spare red source to cast something else alongside discarding Fiery Temper for it’s Madness cost, or indeed having the red mana held up to sacrifice a Bomat Courier has been an issue, so probably it’ll be a basic Mountain that comes in. The issue really comes from the Artifacts existing alsongside the Vampires.

I’m unsure how to proceed on that note. I have envisaged a build which plays Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Stromkirk Occultist over the Artifact creatures, but they all perform so well that I feel it may be to the deck’s detriment to rebuild so. I’m sure the fabled time-travelling super computer would come in handy for analysing just how important and frequent the three damage gained from a turned-on Unlicensed Disintegration has been, as it doesn’t always feel so very worth it when it comes out as straight removal, but to ignore the very many occasions when it has contributed to victory would be foolish. Nonetheless, I’m tempted to at least try a build with the fifteen slots dedicated to Artifact creatures and Unlicensed Disintegration turned over to a more dedicated RB build, allowing a tightening up of the mana base and an increase to 4-ofs both Hanwier Garrison and Bloodhall Priest, with Murder of Ruinous Path filling out the removal slots – Ruinous Path at least produces a clean, Sorcery-speed answer for Planeswalkers. Warping Wail would potentially make it’s move to the main deck in this build.

An additional tweak I may make to the mana base is to try 2x Warped Landscape over the Drownyard Temples. It’s neither a great nor fast solution to the mana base issues, but is probably better than Drownyard Temple given what the deck is doing.

Shoud the artifact deck prevail, I’m seriously considering Pick the Brain over Lost Legacy in the sideboard. It’s actually fairly trivial to enable Delirium in a build with both discard outlets and Artifact Creatures running Instant-speed removal, so it may be worth a try.

It may also be worth trying out Chandra, Torch of Defiance over Ob Nixilis, Reignited. Whilst Chandra would alter mana considerations, both cards offer a similar minus ability, a different twist on card advantage as a plus ability with Chandra offering direct damage or an immediately cast spell over a painful blind draw from Ob, and Chandra having a more acheivable and directly game-winning ultimate. I think I’ll try Chandra out in the non-artifact build and see how it shakes out, As Ob Nixilis usually just serves as a pricy removal spell which then absorbs a bit of damage the following turn anyway, something which Chandra can emulate a reasonable amount of the time before considering her cumulative upside.

Well, finally, that’s it! Thank you for your patience in reading this rather protracted series. When I began, I really didn’t know I’d have so much to say about this deck. It’s been a real lesson to myself in figuring out many hidden synergies and tactics wrapped up within these seventy-five cards, and hope that it hasn’t been too self-indulgent from a casual reader’s perspective. I shall make a concerted effort to be more precise with these thigs in future, though if you’ve enjoyed the conversational style of my writing – or, of course, been put off by it – please leave a comment to let me know. That’s it; I’m done!

Doug ‘Words’ Greenwood didn’t choose that handle for no reason, y’know. Looking back, the clues were there, and you only have yourselves to blame for choosing to investigate.

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