Vampires in Magic
Vampires are a creature type in Magic typically belonging to the black and/or white factions. They're not the strongest bunch in terms of battle stats, but vampires wield a variety of life-based effects, reflecting their bloodsucking abilities. Vampires often bear lifelink to recover health whenever they battle, and several can drain life when certain conditions are met. Many also have flying (allowing them to soar over ground-based blockers) and madness (letting you cast them for reduced costs when discarded).
Several vampire abilities strengthen depending on how many vampires you control, making them a family-inclusive series that can still blend with other archetypes (like Ajani or demons). Thanks to some support in newer expansion sets, vampires remain a competitive and fun group that I definitely recommend testing for yourself. But with hundreds of immortal twilight denizens running amok, which fanged creatures reign supreme?
These are the 10 best vampire cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Only having 1/3 (one power and three toughness) while costing four mana is a poor deal; however, the legendary Jeleva compensates with other alluring traits. She bears flying, and she counts as both a vampire and a wizard, supporting two of the bigger creature types in the game. She's also red, blue, and black, accessing three colors (more than most vampires) when serving as your general in EDH format.
Even better, when she enters the battlefield, each player exiles X cards from the top of their deck, where X is the number of mana needed to cast Jeleve. Normally, this will be four, but if you're using her as a commander and recasting her from the command zone, X will be higher. And you want X to be large since Jeleva lets you cast an instant or sorcery from the exiled cards for free when she attacks! This can access many of the best blue sorceries in the game, from Expropriate to Time Strech and more.
And as long as she survives and can attack again next turn, you're welcome to play another exiled spell without spending its mana cost.
9. Gatekeeper of Malakir
If you cast Gatekeeper with his base cost of two, you've simply got a 2/2 vampire warrior. That's not a bad deal, but he works best when you apply his kicker trait by spending another black mana to play him. Do this, and when Gatekeeper enters the battlefield, a target player sacrifices a creature.
Thus, three mana nets you a 2/2 combatant and forces your opponent to forfeit a creature, bypassing even indestructible and protected foes. You can even target yourself with Gatekeeper's effect if you wish, perhaps to activate an exit-the-field ability of one of your units. Versatile and inexpensive, Gatekeeper remains one of the most criminally underestimated undying units.
8. Gifted Aetherborn
If you like 2/2 on a two-cost creature, try Gifted Aetherborn's impressive 2/3. Not only does this monster (bearing the aetherborn and vampire subtypes) wield impressive stats for its low cost, it also bears deathtouch and lifelink. The former lets it kill any creature it battles regardless of that unit's toughness, and the latter restores you life (normally two, stemming from Aetherborn's base power) whenever it clashes.
Aetherborn doesn't wield any special abilities beyond that, but what more could you want? Great toughness, good power, deathtouch, lifelink, and two creature types all for just two mana.
Yet another useful two-cost immortal, Bloodghast belongs to both the vampire and spirit factions. Like most low-cost vampires, he's not legendary, so you can field multiple copies at a time in standard formats.
Bloodghast only arrives as a 2/1 and he can't block. However, if an opponent has 10 or less life, he comes with haste, letting him attack/tap the turn he arrives. Even better, while in your graveyard, whenever a land enters the field under your control, you can return Bloodghast from your graveyard to the field, an excellent revival that repeatedly summons your unit, possibly with haste to immediately attack. This ability helpfully activates when you acquire any land, not just the black swamps that most vampires feed from.
6. Arvad the Cursed
Arvad the Cursed possesses both black and white in his color identity, the two hues most associated with vampires. He's our most expensive vampire yet (on this list, that is), but five really isn't that pricey in the grand scheme of things.
Avad's a bit weak for his cost, bearing only 3 power and 3 toughness, but this vampire knight wields both deathtouch and lifelink. Not only that, he boosts the stats of other legendary creatures you control by +2/+2, a sizable upgrade that strengthens your best warriors even further. Since all commanders must be legendary, Arvad works great as a lieutenant in EDH decks, especially ones littered with a myriad of legendary creatures.
5. Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Another black/white legendary vampire soldier, Elenda's a bit cheaper than Arvad, requiring only four mana. She wields lifelink, but only possesses a pitiful 1/1 in stats. Thankfully, Elenda amasses a +1/+1 counter whenever any creature dies, including allied, opposing, and even token creatures. This should get her battle prowess up to par before long, especially if you're using black's numerous creature-annihilating spells.
Not only that, but when she dies, Elenda creates X 1/1 white vampire tokens with lifelink, where X is Elenda's power. This should guarantee at least one weak bat upon death, but can provide many more as Elenda accumulates +1/+1 tokens. Boost her strength even further with artifact equipment spells or aura enchantments to amass additional blood-sucking tokens.
4. Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Legendary Drana has several boons working for her. She's both a vampire and an ally, assisting the type-dependent abilities of two large creature families. She's inexpensive and only needs one color to cast, arriving with a decent 2/3, flying, and first strike (dealing damage first in battle and potentially avoiding a counterattack).
As if that weren't enough, Drana places a +1/+1 counter on each attacking creature you control whenever she inflicts combat damage to a player, boosting not only vampires, but all forces you wield—including herself! Her flying trait can help her bypass land defenders to hit your opponent, but if they're also using airborne creatures, you may need to employ other unblockable-providing tricks (blue can help with this) to consistently trigger her effect.
3. Blood Artist
Blood Artist should spend a bit less time painting and a bit more in the gym considering his terrible 0/1 stats. However, he's inexpensive, and whenever he or another creatures dies, a target player loses one life and you gain one life.
This amazing ability can really punish your foes for destroying your weaker vampire tokens, and it functions when all creatures (even tokens and Artist himself) perish. At the absolute worst, Blood Artist can block an attack and drain one health upon death, which for just two mana is already decent. But as his best, he can scavenge you dozens of life points after ripping them from your foes. And since he's not legendary, go ahead and congregate your artists as you see fit.
2. Vampire Hexmage
Yet another two-cost black nonlegendary immortal, Hexmage counts as both a vampire and a shaman. A 2/1 with first strike isn't bad for just two mana, but then Hexmage throws out one of the game's best benefits: You can sacrifice her at any time to remove all counters from a target permanent.
This awesome trait doesn't require tapping or spending any mana, may activate at instant-speed on any turn or phase, and can immediately remove all counters from an opposing planeswalker, essentially setting their loyalty to zero and defeating them. Hexmage also works great at shutting down hydras or other counter-happy enemies, making her my favorite nonlegendary vampire yet.
1. Edgar Markov
Bearing the highest mana cost we've seen today, Edgar demands six mana to play. His 4/4 stats are comparatively low, but first strike and haste make up the difference, especially since Markov places a +1/+1 counter on each vampire you control (including himself) whenever he attacks.
However, Markov's real treats lie in his skill as a commander. Not only does he provide you with black, red, and white in your deck, the three colors that encompass nearly all vampires, his eminence trait creates a 1/1 black vampire token whenever you cast a vampire spell. This works from both the battlefield and the command zone, meaning Markov will field you several disposable creatures long before he hits the field. Factor in his helpful trio of colors and sweet capabilities if he ever actually arrives, and you've got our best vampire yet.
I've used Markov's token generation to great effect in my own EDH decks. I bought this card when it was still inexpensive (about 5 dollars), but I still highly recommend picking one up if you don't mind dropping closer to 15 dollars.
Vampire Abilities in MTG
Vampires can really suck (ba-da-cha) considering their health-draining, token-swarming, and aerial capabilities. Most don't need to tap to activate their effects, keeping them ready to either swing or block, and they're a relatively inexpensive clan, letting you form your combos early in the game.
I hope to encounter vampire-supporting planeswalkers in the future, though I'm glad they've expanded in recent sets.
But for now, as we eagerly await more Dracula-esque monster expansions, vote for your favorite vampire, and I'll see you at our next countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill