Probably the easiest and most fool-proof way to build a budget deck is to pick up two of the same pre-constructed starter decks and slap them together, particularly a pre-con with good cards. For the Zendikar releases, this would be the Rise of the Vampires pre-con, which comes with a Blood Tribute and a Malakir Bloodwitch, two solid cards which go a long way to making a vampire deck work. Let’s take a look at the deck, shall we?
The deck’s pretty straightforward; it’s a black weenie/horde deck with a lot of cheap creatures, backed up by a metric ton of creature removal, and an interesting theme of gaining life as your opponent loses it. The added benefit is that most of your weenies get gnarly abilities once an opponent has 10 or less life, have flying and/or lifelink, or are otherwise very cost-effective. Since they’re all black, they’re somewhat safe from creature removal, and most of them have CMC costs of 1-3.
To be honest, most of the cards will go directly into the finished deck. First off, take out 18 swamps and 4 of the Piranha Marshes; this will be the mana to power the deck. Normally I’d run 20 lands, but with the high-end mana curve of 3BB and 4BB on the rares, 22 lands is a good idea; running 24 is always an option.) This leaves us with 9.5 open playset slots. The four rares immediately fill one of these slots; after all, they’re the reason we bought this instead of the crappy Ally deck or the blue deck nobody bought. Personally, I hate running two-ofs in decks, but in this case the rares have incredibly high mana costs, and Blood Tribute really only needs to be cast once, so I can see running only a pair of each.
Looking at the decklist for the pre-con, this deck almost builds itself. 4x Guul Draz Vampire, 4x Child of Night, and 4x Vampire Nighthawk sets you up with a solid baseline of fast-acting, hard-hitting vampires. 2x Gatekeeper of Malakir give you yet another dash of creature removal, and 2x Hideous End fill this out as a fifth filled slot, followed by 4x Vampire’s Bite and 4x Feast of Blood for a good selection of solid vampire-based cards.
Having immediately filled 7 of our 10 slots—aren’t pre-cons fun like this?—we’re left with 12 cards/4 slots to add in for a finished deck. Vampire Aristocrat is a good card, but doesn’t fit the deck’s theme at all; you need those weenies to swarm with, not to sacrifice to the Aristocrat. Mindless Null and Heartstabber Mosquito are too expensive mana-wise, and generally worthless. Acolyte of Xathrid is a good way to spend excess mana to get your Guul Draz’s pumped up, but isn’t anything to write home about. 2x Diabolic Tutor is a good idea, just to pull the Bloodwitch and the Blood Tribute with some regularity. At this point, I’d suggest trading for specific commons/uncommons or buying singles to get the necessary cards; if you’re determined to stay with just the two pre-cons, I’d say to put in the Aristocrat, Acolyte, the two Tutors and the two Mindless Nulls.
Outside of the two pre-cons, there are plenty of options to tweak this deck. Getting playsets of the Gatekeeper and the Hideous End are high on the list, and the same goes for the Tutor if you’re using it. Syphon Soul had an excellent combo with the deck’s focus, and was reprinted in the Zombie Empire Planechase deck. Consume Spirit from M10 is a workable substitute. Dark Ritual is a freakin’ duh, and was in both Zombie Empire and the Divine & Demonic dual deck. Sign in Blood is probably the best black card draw in a while, and while we’re looking at M10 cards, Doom Blade is a good option if you want to make sure your opponents are devoid of creatures. Out of the Zendikar vampires, the Vampire Lacerator is an option; it’s cheap, but you need to pull off a Blood Tribute for it to be effective. Lastly, if your environment sees a lot of plansewalker use, think about Vampire Hexmage, which removes all counters from a single target.
I looked at adding in a pair of legendary rare vampires to amp up the deck. Ascendant Evincar, from the 10th Edition pre-con and the black Planechase deck, makes your vampires superpowered and is a good way to hose an opposing token or weenie deck. Mirri the Cursed is an interesting option; I had a pair of these left over from Planer Chaos drafts, but they don’t fit with the deck’s focus. 2x Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet is what I eventually put in; it’s a mythic, but a cheap one at $5 per. I pulled mine from boosters, and the ability to make big new vampires is what sold me. If you want to take the deck out of the budget range, I’d recommend looking at Vampire Nocturnus for pumping your weenies into rampaging killers, and Bloodghast, a weenie which keeps coming back for more. Both of those can range up to $10-25 per card, so they’re definitely not a budget options, but add a lot of much-needed punch.
Here’s what I ended up with building; the last modification was dropping 2x Vampire Lacerators for 2x Dark Rituals, which may end up replaced by Gatekeepers when I get more, or a pair of Vampire Nocturnus when I break down and buy some.
Lands (22) 18x Swamp 4x Piranha Marsh Spells (20) 2x Blood Tribute 4x Vampire’s Bite 4x Hideous End 4x Feast of Blood 2x Dark Ritual 4x Diabolic Tutor Creatures (18) 2x Malakir Bloodwitch 2x Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet 4x Guul Draz Vampire 4x Child of Night 4x Vampire Nighthawk 2x Gatekeeper of Malakir