ello and welcome back to the Lab. This week it's none other than Bloodthirst Week, seven (well, five) days dedicated to the little mechanic from Guildpact that could. As I've mentioned before, I love when mechanics from days past make a return leap into modern Magic, whether with a game-play twist or not. Bloodthirst in Magic 2012 basically returns to its damage-dealing days from Guildpact, but this time with Vampires.
I wondered if any Guildpact cards with bloodthirst would make the leap to the big time, but as those cards were guild specific (Gruul smash!), they didn't exactly qualify for a core set. The closest parallel was Bloodrage Vampire, a color-shifted Bloodscale Prowler.
So let's dive into the thick of today's column, which contains straightforward and smashadelic decks built around bloodthirst.
Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Vampires
Let's all take a gander at Bloodlord of Vaasgoth, the mythic rare flagship card of both Vampires and bloodthirst. Whenever you cast a Vampire creature spell, it'll gain bloodthirst 3. Therefore, I'll need lots of ways to damage my opponent before I cast my bloodthirsty Vampires.
One thing that struck me about Bloodlord of Vaasgoth is that it's essentially another Vampire lord. Ever since the resurgence of Vampires (Magic 2010 and Zendikar forward), new Vampire lords have sprung up willy-nilly. I thought I'd just combine them all into a deck, for extremely powerful Vampire forces. Vampire Nocturnus was the such lord, and I love its top-down flavor (the power boost occurs if it's nighttime, geddit?) Captivating Vampire offers a traditional bonus to all your bloodsuckers, with a nifty (and also flavorful) creature-thieving ability. Kalastria Highborn slides right into the two-drop slot as both a quick beater and a late-game life leecher.
There are also lots of Vampire-themed spells to play around with. In terms of straight-up creature removal, Urge to Feed is probably my favorite (or should that be flavorite?), and Feast of Blood is a blast also.
I still need some ways to quickly damage my opponent for bloodthirst. Since I'm running black aggro in the first place, half the time creature damage will do the job for me. I looked for cheap ways to accomplish this and settled on two cards. Taste of Blood may not be too efficient or versatile, but I love flavor and I don't give a goblin's hindquarters about Standard or tournament efficiency. Viridian Longbow is nice as well. A bit expensive to equip, perhaps, but once it's locked and loaded it will do the job.
As for the Vampiric troops, I went with the usual one-mana beat sticks. Vampire Lacerator and Pulse Tracker are scary good. Gatekeeper of Malakir has always been great, and Vampire Nighthawk has always been insane. I added a singleton Viscera Seer as both a sacrifice outlet (for Kalastria Highborn) and a scry enabler (to help out Vampire Nocturnus).
I'm sure Innistrad will bring some more excellent Vampires to the table. Speaking of which, Innistrad is the gothic horror set. Swoooooooooooooooooooooooooooon.
That's how you go about building around Bloodlord of Vaasgoth... normally. There are other avenues, such as hacking the Bloodlord with Artificial Evolution, one of my favorite cards. Wow, I've really got to stop saying that, even though it's true every time. How about this disclaimer: Magic is freaking awesome, and most of its cards are also. There, that should cover it.
What creature type to choose? First I had to figure out which creature type really, really wanted to enter the battlefield with three extra +1/+1 counters. I was already locked into blue and black as well, and I needed to keep constant damage dealing in the back of my mind as well. I jumbled all these requirements and came up with... Spincrusher?
Constructs, more accurately. Lots of Constructs like to mess around with +1/+1 counters, the godly trinity being Pentavus, Triskelion, and their awkward child Triskelavus. Spincrusher happens to be an easily unblockable Construct and thus a nice bloodthirst enabler. Mindless Automaton loves the extra counters as well.
I wanted both extra ways to add +1/+1 counters and extra targets for Artificial Evolution. I found some great linking cards under those restrictions. Blade of the Bloodchief gives counters and is safely hackable. On top of that, it's mildly broken with Triskelavus and its ilk, creating any number of stupid engines. (": Deal 1 damage to target creature or player" sounds awesome to me.)
This deck itself is a pretty wonky collaboration between Vampires and Constructs, which speaks to the vast infinity of Magic possibility. You can't know how such a meshing will turn out until you try.
Next, I thought I would take a look at actual Guildpact cards with bloodthirst, as the Magic 2012 candidates for Johnny dry up quickly past Bloodlord of Vaasgoth.
The first Guildpact bloodthirst card I want to look at is Rabble-Rouser. Its bloodthirst level might not be insanely high or anything, but it's the second ability that gets me excited. All my attackers will get +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is Rabble-Rouser's power. Immediately my mind jumps to a token-heavy strategy, packed with cards that amp the power of my creatures.
Slap a Claws of Valakut on Rabble-Rouser to amp up its power Mountainfold. The Claws, a sneaky obsoleting of Granite Grip (caught you! (not that I'm complaining)), can also be handily slapped on any token. The other power boosters come in the form of combat tricks, like Fists of the Anvil. Sunforger is another power booster that can find all these combat tricks and burn spells (Lightning Helix, anyone?) from nowhere.
As for tokens, they come from all sorts of sources. Raise the Alarm and Even the Odds make Soldier tokens; Dragon Fodder and Mogg War Marshal make Goblin tokens. Rise of the Hobgoblins makes both. For kicks, I threw in the double-colored creature pumper, Balefire Liege. The Lieges of Shadowmoor and Eventide exist now almost as "perfect fit" cards for certain decks. Building a red and white token deck and need a boost from somewhere? Call Balefire Liege! Building a green and black Germ token deck with Rhys the Redeemed and Leyline of Vitality? Um, I did that, and I called Creakwood Liege. He sent Worms after me.
Anyway, this is a straightforward red-white beatdown deck, with extra rabble rousing. A singleton Predator Dragon could randomly win games as well.
Ogres Have Layers
I really, really tried with Petrified Wood-Kin. Really. In the end it was too hard to maneuver into a deck that wanted it. It's too bad, as that card is the only card to bear the abilities "bloodthirst X" or "protection from instants"...on the same card, no less. I usually love random stuff like that, but less so when it costs seven mana.
Whenever I hit bottom, I wind up staying there for an ugly span of days. Er, whenever I hit the thematic bottom, I move on to card names and pray there's a match. That's what I meant to say.
I love names, and they usually deliver a touch of randomness to my articles whenever I endeavor down this deckbuilding path. Who knew I would be building an updated Ogre and Demon deck today? Certainly not me.
Bloodthirsty Ogre was the trigger card here, of course. Tap to add a devotion counter, eh? Proliferate burst through my deckbuilding gates in a flash. It always has the inside track these days. Volt Charge makes me so very happy, each and every day.
While sifting through recent Ogres, I came across Blood Ogre, which was the coincidence / wink from God (whichever you prefer) that solidified my plan. It dovetails my two themes! Other fun new Ogres include Singe-Mind Ogre. Rawr.
If anyone's bamboozled right now, let me explain. Back in the days of Kamigawa (a block I happen to treasure), there was an awesome theme of Ogres and Demons playing alongside each other. Usually this equaled chunky beats from fat Demons and Ogres, and I thought I'd update it with recent Ogres and Demons. Did that make sense?
I wanted to curve out nicely with Blood Ogre, so I turned to the only two-drop Ogre that fit, Drooling Ogre. I added some artifacts to the deck (Rakdos Signet and bloodthirst enabler Mortarpod) to make sure it didn't betray me that often.
Blood Speaker has a toolbox of Demons to find, including Rune-Scarred Demon (now we know why Demonic Tutor was Demonic), Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, Tombstalker; and the mammoth Dread Cacodemon (a windmill-slam-worthy card, I believe.)
Now to end the column on a friendlier note. After a hiatus of contests, I'm pleased to announce another one. Last time you all voted between three contest ideas, one of which was a straight forward build-around (that one won). This time I'm having you all vote between the two that lost. There were a good amount of votes for each, so I'm confident both contest ideas will tickle your fancy. Here they are.
Collector Number Contest
Pick two collector numbers. (The collector numbers can be found near the bottom of each Magic card, right before the slash (that isn't in the power/toughness box).) Build a deck using only those two collector numbers. For special notice, use only one collector number.
Pick a word, from three to five letters long. Build a deck about that word, using only cards beginning with one of the word's letters. (So, if my word is WATER, I can only use cards whose title begins with W, A, T, E, or R.) Basic lands CAN still be used. (So I could still use Islands.) All the letters in your must be represented in your deck, and the deck you build has to have something to do with the word you chose.
Vote if you wish; either way, until next time!
Which of these two contests do you want Noel to run?