Hi everyone! We’re wrapping up coverage for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks with the last set up upgrades for the preconstructed decklists. For our final deck, we have Blood Rites, which hones in on the Vampire explorers in Ixalan and their Conquistador-esque theme for the set. Led by the shiny new Clavileño, First of the Blessed, this deck brings a surprisingly fresh take to Vampires while staying true to the general theme seen across most sets for the creature typing. Clavileño wants to be on the aggressive, promoting a playstyle of attacking to convert your Vampires to something even more outlandish- Vampire Demons. While they still mostly won’t have to yell “Bat!” to turn into a bat, these might have your opponent yelling when you get to sacrifice them for free 4/3 flying tokens, that also are still Vampires! You also draw a card when this happens, so Clavileño himself has a pretty sweet one-card value engine going on. The general goal of this deck leans more into wanting to play an Aristocrats style deck but still maintaining an aggressive, attacking-oriented playstyle rather than turtling and playing it safe like some other commanders in the archetype do. While the deck pushes a lifegain subtheme, our commander doesn’t inherently have any lifegain synergy, so that will be more on the backburner here.
Key Cards from the Precon:
Well color me impressed, this is a pretty darn good deck right out of the box. We have some really great reprints like Elenda, the Dusk Rose, Bloodghast, and Exquisite Blood. We have some new toys to play with as well, like Bartolomé del Presidio who’s just a disgustingly potent sacrifice outlet as well as March of the Canonized for some token generation with a seriously great ceiling for value. I think this one plays great as is, but we can make it better. As per my usual, I’ll try to keep the upgrades on the reasonable side for pricing, although this one has a few pricey lands for the sake of a decent manabase.
I also should mention that I’m putting very little priority on the lifegain aspect of the deck, but I think it’s worth leaving in some of the lifegain synergies that still work pretty well just in case you want to pivot and try some of the other Vampire commanders that have more to offer there.
To save from repeating myself too much, a good chunk of the cuts are cards that are just too expensive and/or slow. We really want to play aggressive and build a board of attackers and supporting creatures that can accrue value quickly.
- Bloodtracker is too expensive, we can get better draw elsewhere.
- Indulgent Aristocrat isn’t the worst, but is a bit of a high price to pay per sacrifice.
- Dusk Legion Zealot is a card more suited for decks that want to reanimate creatures or bounce them. While we do a little bit of reanimation, there isn’t enough to warrant this being more than a cantrip on a body. Also not awful, but I’d rather have something else.
- Oathsworn Vampire is pretty meh outside of dedicated lifegain decks.
- Bloodline Necromancer is tossed in the “too pricy” bin.
- Nighthawk Scavenger is a useful beatstick, but that isn’t really what we need in this deck.
- Radiant Destiny is just not really worth it. It’s a +1/+1 and Vigilance anthem with extra steps. We kill our own stuff and it comes in tapped anyway, so Vigilance only helps the surviving Vampires.
- Order of Sacred Dusk. Nah, we want more than one thing to be attacking usually. It’s a neat idea, but the deck has more synergies with going wide that make it way more valuable to just plan on swinging in with the team.
- Commander’s Sphere isn’t worth it in a two color deck.
- Timothar, Baron of Bats:
I think this card is laughably bad.
- Kindred Boon is a neat card on paper, but has way too many chances to just be ignored by instant speed interaction..
- Vona, Butcher of Magan. I like this card a lot, but this deck does not gain nearly enough life consistently to toss around for removal. It could end up being a pretty dead draw beyond just being a good creature to sacrifice off.
- Blade of the Bloodchief and Heirloom Blade are a little low value, and we don’t have enough artifact synergy to make them worth it. Heirloom Blade is honestly not awful, but I’d rather just throw in more consistent draw.
- Utter End. 4 mana for removal? What, did I land on Boardwalk?
For lands, we’ll drop Temple of the False God and Myriad Landscape, as well as one of the Plains. You can realistically play around with the lands how you like, but I wouldn’t go below the deck’s already allocated 37.
We’ll add some more cards to help with the aristocrats theme, but for the most part we’re just going for consistency and value.
- Let’s get it out of the way early here: I’m windmill dunking Sanguine Bond in here. While lifegain isn’t one of the main win conditions, this card plus Exquisite Blood give us a two-card win condition to pave through stagnant board states and get around other players who could have really high life totals. I think it’s very much worth the inclusion since neither card is really too dead in hand on their own. If you/your group aren’t fond of two card combos, you can tag this one out, but I’d suggest leaving it in, especially since this deck can really only play it naturally and won’t tutor it out consistently.
- Generous Gift is fast, flexible removal.
- Teysa Karlov isn’t a vampire, but boy is she worth it. Doubling down on death triggers will help our incremental damage and token generation go from scary to nightmarish.
- Edgar, Charmed Groom finally has a chance to shine! He provides a near-infinite supply of Vampire goons to demon-ify.
- Nullpriest of Oblivion is a nice piece of flexible recursion that can be a quick source of lifegain in a pinch.
- Victimize is just reliable, solid reanimation when we can also gain value off the death trigger.
- Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim is another non-Batman intruder, but is a really good payoff for when our engine can get rolling.
- Deadly Dispute & Plumb the Forbidden are nice draw spells and quick sacrifice outlets.
- Vraan, Executioner Thane is really powerful for the “once per turn” sacrifice game we’re shooting for.
- Kindred Dominance finally has had a reprint, making it actually accessible. It’s a powerhouse here and enables us to either catch up from behind or just straight up close out a game.
- Exsanguinate is a decently synergistic finisher to throw mana at late game to push some opponents over the edge into lethal-damage territory.
- Vampiric Rites is good long-term value and gives us a nice instant-speed sacrifice outlet, even if it does have a bit of a mana cost.
- Charcoal Diamond & Marble Diamond to give a slightly faster ramp package
For lands, I put in Caves of Koilos, Fetid Heath, and Vault of Champions since they’re all fast and decently priced. Realistically, none of these are 100% necessary, but you will notice when you want to hit the ground running and you have some speedy lands.
That’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed, I’ll catch you all next time. Happy Holidays!