Feature Article from Mark Nestico

That Vampire Scene from Blade

Mark Nestico

3/16/2020 11:02:00 AM

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Pumping techno music. Dancing. Raving. Those platform shoes and silly hats. Do you remember how old you were when you saw that sweet scene in Blade where blood comes out of sprinklers and then the titular character comes in and cleans house? I do. Twelve. And ever since then I've really dug vampires.

Not the sparkly Twilight ones, either. I'm talking bloodthirsty and ravenous creatures of the night. You see, I'm a huge horror movie buff, and vampires get the short end of the stick quite a bit. They're either too sexy or not sexy enough; dangerous and brooding or forlorn and tortured. There's not an in between.

But then there was her.

Olivia Voldaren

When I first saw Olivia Voldaren I started jamming her in just about every deck I could. Jund? Yup. Kessig Wolf-Run? Why not? Rakdos Control? Uh…duh.

Olivia is the kind of finesse creature I love. She helps you control the board, grows into a huge win condition, and can steal your opponent's best creatures and keep them if you protect her. She can be played in control, tempo or aggressive strategies because of how versatile she is. However, we want to maximize all her powerful traits, and in order to do that, we need her to have a coven, like that cool one from American Horror Story.

What we have here is a pretty budget-friendly version of a very strong tribal deck. Olivia thrives off of Vampire synergies, which this deck packs a ton of from the creatures to the lands.

Right off the bat you're going to notice a lot of the creatures work within synergistic parameters.

Cordial Vampire

Welcome to the party!

The first thing we need to look at with a deck like Olivia Voldaren Vampires is how we want to approach each game as dictated by the Commanders we're facing in a given pod. This might seem complicated, but because Olivia is a convertible general, she allows us to assess any situation with an answer.

If the Pod Appears Aggressive

When checking out the competition, if you see the pod has more aggressive elements, like say Skullbriar, the Walking Grave or Geist of Saint Traft, we'll know that Olivia won't be doing much creature stealing because we likely won't have the time. This makes Olivia's 1R ping very valuable, but it has to be backed up by a strong curve of your creatures to stabilize the board. Usually casting a turn four Olivia Voldaren will be basically tapping out for a 3/3 flier that will be on blocking duty. She's not very high impact in these situations.

Hands you'll want to look at keeping will involve some measure of our early drops such as Dusk Legion Zealot or Anje's Ravager backed up by some of our cheaper removal like Urge to Feed. Where Olivia takes over a game against aggressive opponents is when they cannot attack profitably and are forced to pass the turn. Olivia is great at picking off smaller threats, but she also needs to be used in conjunction with your smaller creatures to keep your life total at a reasonable level.

If the Pod Appears Controlling

Funny enough, control decks with few win conditions that can't handle a swarm of threats in multiple waves is where Olivia thrives. Since she can steal their best creatures at any time, Olivia Voldaren can sit in play and demand an answer immediately lest you begin dealing one damage to all of their threats and stealing them. Olivia, by herself, is already a potentially massive body that you can replay over and over to start siphoning removal from their hand. Just pinging your own creatures for one damage or theirs to grow her is going to be bad for opponents simply because she is a functional army-in-a-can of their minions.

The other aspect of Olivia Voldaren is that you can keep up with their card advantage with synergistic threats and your own card draw. Read the Bones, Night's Whisper, Champion of Dusk and Phyrexian Arena can keep your creatures flowing while simultaneously providing pressure on a table. Your creatures working together in unison means often two to three of them require a board wipe or some greater attention to keep you from running away with the game. Assessing which creatures work the best together in the early, middle and late game will give you a huge edge on your scrambling opponents.

If the Pod Appears Combo

Politely pack your deck up and move on to a table not occupied by heathens.

Olivia is an excellent aggressive-to-midrange-to-control deck, but your creatures aren't fast enough to apply immense pressure to the tune of turn-five or six kills, even if you're left unimpeded. When someone is doing just enough to stay alive before combo-killing the table, there's very little you can do to prevent it.

If your playgroup is very combo-heavy, begin adding various forms of hand disruption like Duress, Mind Shatter or Coercion to your lists instead of heavier removal such as Bedevil or New Blood. Understand that Olivia Voldaren is not for that kind of metagame, however.

Upgrades

If this deck hits all the right notes for you (and you want it to be more like mine), there is a LOT of upgrade potential to power up Olivia.

Big money search spells like Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Tutor greatly improve your toolbox capabilities and consistency. I'm a huge fan of mass removal spells like Toxic Deluge, Black Sun's Zenith and Damnation. I believe they give you much more play against the aggressive decks, which usually consist of turns where you let them overextend, blow their creatures up, and if they stumble drop two or three vampires they'll have trouble stopping. A turn-three Toxic Deluge followed by an Olivia Voldaren can be a death knell to aggressive decks.

Bloodchief Ascension

A couple of enchantments that will help with your consistency are Braid of Fire and Bloodchief Ascension. Ascension is a powerful tool against reanimination, control and midrange strategies, and is my favorite card in the deck. The life loss coupled with your creature pressure adds up very quickly. Braid of Fire means you can ping MANY things at once with Olivia without having to tap out, and once it begins to roll, Olivia can pick off entire teams of creatures.

If you're looking for That One Scene in Blade with the awesome vampire rave party, Olivia Voldaren is the deck for you. She's strong, underplayed, and takes synergy and tribalism to the next level.

She doesn't suck! Well, maybe. If you ask nicely.