Archetune-Up - A Bloody Good Time

(Strefan, Maurer Progenitor | Art by Chris Rallis)

Come, Sit, Have a Drink...

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme Pages!

While WotC may already be past both Innistrad sets, I'm not through with them yet! I was a fan of Strefan, Maurer Progenitor since he was previewed. He's well-costed, interesting, and creates lots of Blood for little cost. More importantly, he wants you to play with BIG Vampires.

I mentioned in one of my Halloween articles (and in my Crimson Vow Gold Set Review) that one of the Vampire tribe's biggest "weaknesses" is that all of their legends pale in comparison to Edgar Markov. No other Vampire legend is all three colors, nor can any of them pump out a board full of Vamps as quickly or as aggressively as he can. Edgar thrives on playing tons of cheap Vampires as quickly as possible, which, by proxy, doesn't leave much room for big, fun, splashy Vampires to populate his lists.

You might be thinking, "Angelo, you're putting a lot of emphasis on Edgar alone. That seems a little unfair, doesn't it?" Well, Dear Reader, there are over 12,000 Vampire decks on EDHREC, and Edgar makes up over 7,000 of them! If you have more decks than every other Vampire tribal commander combined, I'm going to levy a lot of scrutiny at how your deckbuilding influences how other Vampire decks are built.

Strefan, by comparison, blends a lot of little strategies to make a fun deck that stands apart from Edgar, which, if I'm being honest, isn't something I thought I'd be saying in the year 2022, what with all the power creep lately. Instead of wanting to play lots of little Vampires, Strefan wants to emphasize larger, more powerful ones, as he can cheat them out for free by sacrificing two Blood tokens whenever he attacks! On top of that, his Blood production helps smooth the deck out considerably, letting you crack them to pitch unneeded cards whenever necessary! He's a self-sustained package, and one that's fun and far from oppressive.

Strefan Mauer

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For this article, I wanted to look at Strefan's preconstructed deck, Vampiric Bloodline. Strefan has nearly 1,400 decks to his name already, most of which I can assume were based on this preconstructed decklist. While I thought about using EDHREC's Precon Upgrades page, I instead wanted to consult the Rakdos Vampire Page proper, since it has been collecting data on this tribe for the longest amount of time and has more cards overall to dig into.

When all was said and done, I ended up cutting 13 cards from Strefan's deck. How appropriate for Innistrad!

The main cuts here were mediocre sorceries and middling Vampires. We're trying to leverage a mana advantage with Strefan by cheating on costs, so Vampires that take work to be good, like Dark Impostor and Vampiric Dragon, were the first to go. Non-Vamps, like Shadowgrange Archfiend and Laurine, the Diversion, also got cut, and there was a minor sacrifice theme that I didn't see a whole lot of use for, so Indulgent Aristocrat and Falkenrath Noble also got the boot since we couldn't take advantage of them to the fullest extent.

If you'd like to see a full list of of swaps, you can find them here!

If Looks Could Kill

First, let's go over the Vampires I added from the Vampire theme. I cut eight creatures total, six of which were Vampires, and ended up adding four, which still brought our creature count up to a very respectable 32! Most tribal decks want around 30-ish creatures, so being able to hit that mark while also leaving plenty of room for other noncreature spells is perfect!

I'm going to start off this list with the oddball out: Voldaren Epicure. Yes, yes, I was talking about how Strefan didn't have to run lots of cheap Vampires, but I never said I would sideline all of them. When combined with Strefan, Voldaren Epicure will make a total of four Blood: one from its ETB, and three at the end step from our commander's ability. This immediately provides a ton of extra material to work with and gets us off to the races, giving us two turns to cheat in Vampires, or providing plenty of filtering, all for the low cost of a single mana!

The next two Vamps are also from Crimson Vow, and each can also help us produce plenty of Blood: Anje, Maid of Dishonor and Olivia's Attendants. Miss Anje is a great addition to the deck. She provides a Blood token once a turn whenever she or another Vampire enters the battlefield, and she has a respectable stat line as well as the ability to utilize Blood to drain opponents and trigger Strefan on turns where attacking isn't practical. The complete package! Olivia's Attendants, on the other hand, is just an absolute house. A 6/6 with menace is a pain to block, and if you cheat it out with Strefan, you'll immediately refund yourself on the Blood you spent, and then some! The ability to ping any target is just an added bonus on top of all this!

Finally, we have Westgate Regent! In my October article, I remember cutting Westgate Regent because it was too expensive and unwieldy. Here, though, Regent is perfect! We can cheat it in with ease thanks to Strefan and just start going to town. Regent will easily double in size each turn if left unopposed, and it can quickly knock out players one after another while your Vampire horde attends to other duties. It's a gameplan all on its own!

More Hors d'oeuvres? Where is the Main Course?

Next, let's go over some of the deck's vegetables. These cards aren't flashy or splashy, but they help the deck run much more smoothly thanks to their inclusion. Don't worry, we'll get back to the fun cards soon!

Protection is important for decks where the strategy revolves around the commander, and luckily the Vampire theme had two that were great for us. Lightning Greaves is a no-brainer, giving Strefan Shroud and haste, letting him cheat out a Vampire the turn he hits the battlefield, provided that we have enough Blood lying around. Malakir Rebirth was another great inclusion. I love my MDFCs, and one that can pivot between protecting key creatures, like our commander, and being a land when we need it is *chef's kiss*.

Speaking of land, while I didn't do a deep dive on the mana base, I did want to add two more lands. Voldaren Estate is perfect for this deck. If we pay life to help cast Vampires, Strefan will end up seeing that we lost life during our turn and then produce an extra Blood for us! On top of that, it can also simply tap the Estate to add Blood on its own, giving us a great way to fix our mana and have utility, all on one land!

The second land I added is Hagra Mauling. You didn't think I could go an entire article without adding two MDFCs, did you? Because I definitely can't. I'm much too weak. Like Malakir Rebirth above, a card that can pivot between a removal spell and a land is just too good to pass up. At the very least, it's much better than Urge to Feed, which is the card I swapped it for.

Tailor-Made, Just for Him

If I've learned anything from Crimson Vow Limited, it's that Blood production can make or break games. The ability to give cards in your hand "Cycling 1" is incredibly strong and can help filter through your deck with impressive speed. As such, I wanted to add a few ways to make sure to keep that Blood flowing! This is where Oni-Cult Anvil, Sanctum of Stone Fangs, and Cryptolith Fragment come in. All three of these cards will ping opponents (and yourself, in the case of Cryptolith Fragment) to help us produce plenty of Blood with our commander. Blood production is one of the most important facets of this deck, since it can be used to smooth our hand and cheat mana costs, so I wanted to make sure to have enough slots dedicated to it.

Now, with all the Blood production, at some point, we will have an excess of it. That is where Inspiring Statuary shines. Statuary turns all of our Blood into mana rocks whenever we cast nonartifact spells, increasing our mana production significantly. On top of cheating Vamps out with or commander, having a card that can help us outright cast our big, splashy Vampires with ease is invaluable. Inspiring Statuary is probably my favorite inclusion in this deck. It's so good.

Finally, what would a black deck be without a little reanimation? Blood tokens are excellent discard outlets and can easily help us set up huge turns with mass reanimation. Using the early game to pitch chonky Vamps, like Markov Enforcer and Patron of the Vein, smooth our our hand, and then bring them back with Patriarch's Bidding sounds awesome. It gives the deck another plan of attack and also provides resiliency after a board wipe, both things this deck seemed to be missing. While not in the list, Living Death and Haunting Voyage are also great inclusions if you choose to lean more into this kind of strategy.

Ahh, That Was Simply Delicious!

There we have it! A viscous and voracious Vampire list!

I am so incredibly happy that there is a Vampire commander that now wants to play big ol' Vamps like Necropolis Regent and Butcher of Malakir. With the movement of EDH as a whole slimming down and focusing on getting faster and cheaper over the last few years, it's great to see that WotC is still looking at ways to make big, splashy creatures fun and usable. I'm hoping we see more designs leaning to the more expensive end of the spectrum in the years to come. Efficiency is fun, but sometimes I just want to play some battlecruiser Magic!

What are your thoughts, though? Do you ascribe to the Edgar Markov approach of playing lots of little Vampires, or have you simply played whichever Vampires caught your fancy, regardless of what might be "most efficient"? Also, do you think Strefan has done a good job at making more expensive Vampires more playable, or would you like to have seen something different from a legend like him? Make sure you let me know down below!

As always, you can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Archetune-Up: Strefan Mauer

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.