Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and his Vampires in Modern
This past Monday, Modern was once again thrown through a loop with the banning of Bridge from Below. As was clearly evident by the data around the Hogaak deck, this was inevitable. While I believe Faithless Looting is still the true mastermind behind Bridgevine’s crimes, I’m relieved Hogaak won’t be running rampant across Barcelona.
I’m sure many of you (myself included) are curious as to what the new texture of the Modern format will be with the absence of Bridge. Modern Horizons has many diamonds in the rough that have yet to truly shine through the Bridge shaped dark cloud that was over the format. While the Mythic Championship is only a mere two weeks away, I still prefer to wait a little while to process everything that has occurred and let the Modern experts get to solving the format within the initial days of the banning. However, you can expect an article prior to the MC as to my thoughts on Modern’s new world!
With a clear banning on the horizon, I decided to take a weekend off of my testing, and enjoy a visit with fellow Magic grinder and author over on Hipsters of the Coast, Zack Kanner! While our trip included many Non-MTG related activities, neither of us could forgo the opportunity to attend the Core Set 2020 (M20) Prerelease. We got to explore Magic’s newest set and found the format much more interesting than most vanilla Core Sets. We posted a dominant weekend record of 19-1 between the two of us!
This led me to thinking about the implications of M20 on constructed. While I didn’t want to focus on Standard due to its lack of personal relevance to me at the moment, I was interested in the possible effects the set could have on Modern. I talked fairly in-depth about Veil of Summer a few weeks ago in my Neoform primer, but I was overall unimpressed with many of the cards within a Modern environment. This was until my amazing editor, Connor Bryant, made a case for Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord.
As seems to be the norm these days, the new Sorin is a powerful three-mana planeswalker with an immediate game-changing presence. I’m not sure how much I like this precedent of Planeswalker mana-cost limbo where WOTC appears to be exploring “How low can we go?” in terms of initial investment versus but potential payoff. Nevertheless, let’s break down Sorin’s loyalty and abilities for a closer look at his power much like we did with Wrenn a few weeks ago!
Once again, we’re passing the old-fashioned Bolt test. Sorin is going to five loyalty after using one of its first two abilities, and is safely out of early attack range. However, more often than not, in the early turns Sorin will likely be providing a Quicksilver Amulet-esc effect all while staying around after the dust settles.
+1: “Target Creature you control gains deathtouch and Lifelink until end of turn. If it’s a Vampire, put a +1/+1 counter on it.”
I feel like this is Sorin’s most underwhelming ability, and that says a lot as to the card’s power level. Being able to swing a race, pressure opposing Planeswalkers, and grow a creature out of combat and removal range, all are very important within the early stages of the game.
+1: “You may sacrifice a Vampire. When you do, Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord deals 3 damage to any target and you gain 3 life.”
Increasing in loyalty while providing a Lightning Helix seems unfair. Sacrificing a Vampire won’t be a hefty cost, and may even be a benefit if we build our deck right. It’s also necessary to note you don’t sacrifice a Vampire until this ability actually resolves, and your opponent won’t get a chance to respond once you do. That means if you only have 1 Vampire in play, your opponent can remove your Vampire and fizzle Sorin's helix. The sacrifice at resolution is a benefit in the case of a pump spell or protection spell making the damage not matter, so it goes both ways.
-3: “You may put a Vampire creature card from your hand onto the battlefield.”
Following in the footsteps of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sorin gets to ultimate the turn he hits the battlefield. But as we mentioned earlier, unlike Gideon, Sorin continues to fight after this powerful ability has resolved. Caleb Durward attempted to break this ability on his daily stream by using the changeling aspect of Morophon, the Boundless to his advantage. While I find this quite amusing, my ideas for Sorin branch in a different direction.
Vampires will always hold a special spot for me within Magic: The Gathering as the deck that provided me with my first non-FNM victory at Worldwake Gameday back in 2010. Vampire Nocturnus is among one of my favorite cards of all-time, and putting him directly into play off Sorin sounded like a very pleasant trip down memory lane.
Other than Sorin which we delved into earlier let’s look at the core of our deck and what we are looking to accomplish:
These are the threats which we are looking to sneak into play off of our Sorin -3. All of them either provide immediate value and/or a threat that must be answered. Casting these big Vampires on curve has also been a proven strategy for almost 10 years now!
Along with Sorin’s second ability, this is the part of the deck I’d refer to as “The Engine”. Sacrificing Bloodghast as well as other unimpactful Vampires in order to grow your team, drain your opponent, and stack your library, all sound very appealing. It’s also worth noting that preserving fetchlands is often better than deck thinning as recurring Bloodghast for an additional sacrifice or giving Nocturnus another look is quite game changing.
Say hello to your aggro creatures and how to best tackle any kind of slow match-up. These guys also provide synergy with our engine allowing us to discard Bloodghast to Stromkirk Condemned to recur later, or sacrifice Vicious Conquistador mid-combat after its trigger has resolved. When to play versus hold extra lands for Stromkirk Condemned is also important to think about.
Removal is often absent in aristocratic aggro style decks, but Dismember comes at a very low cost, and Gatekeeper being a Vampire is just too much to dismiss. Be cognisant of when it’s correct to play Gatekeeper on two as a beater versus holding it for an edict. Also know that even if you don’t have the life to pay for Dismember, Kalastria Highborn and friends can help recoup life at a more efficient rate than just paying actual mana for Dismember.
Despite what Jund winning the MCQ may lead you to believe, Modern is not a format full of fair decks. This is why I decided to dedicate nine sideboard slots to tackle some of the more degenerate strategies of the format. Where each of them shine is fairly intuitive for most players, but what to take out often isn’t. I’ve found myself taking out some or all of the removal package where it is lacking, and trimming on high end threats in faster match-ups.
These plus the additional Kalitas serve to help further our advantage versus other aggressive and creature strategies. In these match-ups I believe cutting Vicious Conquistador as well as some number of Bloodghast and Cordial Vampire to be correct.
While I don’t expect Modern Vampires to be making any format waves in the coming weeks, it’s always fun demonstrating the applications of new cards within a format as powerful as Modern. I was able to successfully 3-2 a league with the deck, so I believe there may be some potential behind the skeleton I created. Please leave feedback or comments on any kind of Modern tribal strategies you’ve explored since the printing of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord!
As much fun as casting Vampires has been, I’m looking forward to catching up in the world of competitive Modern within the next few days. The format is more open than it’s been in almost a month, and it’s time to explore!
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