Review: 'Commander 2017: Vampiric Bloodlust' (MTG)

Review: 'Commander 2017: Vampiric Bloodlust' (MTG) WOTC / VOLKAN BAGA

Magic: The Gathering has gone tribal with its Commander 2017 preconstructed EDH decks with each of the four decks having their own creature type focused themes -- Cats, Dragons, Vampires, and Wizards.

Compared to the other Commander 2017 decks, Vampiric Bloodlust might be the most consistent to play.  It's a good aggressive mid-range deck with a focus on smaller creatures that can grow into larger powerhouses.  That said, the deck relies on momentum probably more than the other three C17 decks.  Thankfully, the deck has a lot of removal to keep opponents off-kilter.

The face of Vampiric Bloodlust is the new card Edgar Markov, who was the first vampire of Innistrad.  A three-color 4/4 for six mana, he helps players both go wide through his vampire-creating Eminence ability and also helps them go big with his ability to put +1/+1 counters on all of your vampires each time he attacks.  Yes, that includes putting one on Edgar himself.  Aside from Draconic Domination's The Ur-Dragon, Edgar Markov may be the best default commander in this year's batch.

There are two other new legendary creatures included in Vampiric Bloodlust. Licia, Sanguine Tribune is a bit more selfish than Edgar as her abilities largely only affect her, but she goes well with a life gain deck and can discount herself around commander tax.  Unfortunately, she isn't very exciting and is overall a bit of a disappointment.  Thankfully, Mathas, Fiend Seeker is a bit more appealing than Licia.  A three-colored 3/3 with menace for three mana, Mathas is very appealing economically and is pure politics.  Think "group hug" with a twist.  He lets you single out one opponent at a time and puts a big target on one of that player's creatures, incentivising and rewarding all of the other players (you included) to go after that player and that player's targeted creature.  He provides a great way to control the game at large, underhandedly tilting the balance of power in your favor.

Looking at Vampiric Bloodlust's non-legendaries, there are a few cards of note. Crimson Honor Guard is one of them.  This mono-red creature punishes players every turn with four damage simply for not having their commander in play.  The downside, however, is that this includes you.  While designed for EDH, it would be interesting to see if anyone tries to brew something with Crimson Honor Guard in a different format such as casual legacy.  Another notable card is Patron of the Vein, which is a 4/4 flier that not only has built-in ETB removal, but also buffs all of your vampires with a +1/+1 token whenever an opponent's creature bites the dust.  Looking at the uncommons, Bloodline Necromancer deserves special recognition.  It's a 3/2 lifelinker for 4B that is able to bring a vampire back from the (un)dead, plopping it back onto the battlefield for another go.  That's nice two-for-one value and since its ability is ETB, it could be fairly easy to abuse.

Another new single worth highlighting in the Vampiric Bloodlust deck is the sorcery New Blood.  If played right (or simply in the right scenario), it could be the most powerful card in the entire deck.  Way back in the day, black had a similar card called Ritual of the Machine and it was difficult to deal with at the time because it's a creature-stealing Control Magic type of card, but on a bit of a more permanent basis because there's no aura to destroy to allow players to get their creature back.  The downside then, however, is that you'd have to sacrifice one of your own creatures and Ritual of the Machine couldn't hit black or artifact creatures.  For the same casting cost, New Blood is strictly better as players only need to tap one of their vampires rather than sacrifice it and the card can hit any targetable creature regardless of its color (or lack thereof).  Plus, by changing the not only creature's type to include vampire but also all instances of creature types means that the stolen creature also gets to benefit from the "vampires matter" cards such as Edgar Markov and Patron of the Vein and can share its own (if any).  Exciting!

One final new single that's absolutely bonkers is the nostalgia-heavy Teferi's Protection.  This card is easily one of the most exciting in all of the C17 decks.  It's the penultimate protection card for players and their creatures.  Defensively, it's extremely powerful thanks to it giving you protection from everything and locking in your life total at whatever it's at until your next turn, but it also phases (yes, phasing is back) out all of your permanents.  And it's that phasing part that can make Teferi's Protection a very cruel offensive card as well.  Imagine tapping four mana for Armageddon, destroying all players' lands; but in response you then cast Teferi's Protection phasing out your permanents and thus protecting your own lands from being destroyed.  The same can happen with Wrath of God, Obliterate, and darn near any other board wipe type of card you can think of.  You might not make many friends playing this way, but dang if it isn't a cool (and cruel) way to go.

As was mentioned earlier, Vampiric Bloodlust plays well as an aggressive mid-range deck.  Unlike the cats deck, which has a muddied focus between going wide and going tall, Vampiric Bloodlust does a good job at doing both.  Players should be able to keep tempo fairly well thanks in part to the deck's removal options and selection of both value and effective on-curve cards.  Having two of the top overall cards between the four decks in New Blood and Teferi's Protection is a bonus and really makes the deck quite appealing from both a player's and a collector's standpoint.

The Magic: The Gathering Commander 2017 deck Vampiric Bloodlust is available now and retails at $34.99.

If you want to see the Commander 2017 decks in action, check out our highlights video from the recent preview battle royale match we held at a LGS in Las Vegas.

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