by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
I recall that it wasn’t that long ago when Exquisite Blood was gaining some casual momentum and people were really trying to build the Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo deck. It was probably Modern legal most of the time, but not exactly a ‘thing’. Then Magic 2014 happened and they decided to reprint this:
Looks like a blood donor ad, no?
I instantly wanted to make it work and had the perfect ‘curve’ planned out for it:
Turn 4: Trading Post
Turn 5: Sanguine Bond
Turn 6: Exquisite Blood, win
Of course this implies that you are playing a land every turn here (even the 6th one, since you need to cast the enchantment and activate Trading Post).
It seems good in theory and you can even sub your turn 4 for a Diabolic Tutor to fetch a combo piece if you have a lifegain permanent already in play (Vampire Nighthawk). Of course, things never really work out that way in practice. The format is rather quick in Standard (don’t even get me started on Modern). You will not be afforded the luxury of having a high life total on turn 5. People play decks like Red-Green Aggro and Mono-Red that just rip apart your life total rather quickly.
We have to play the control role early on if necessary in order to achieve our mid to late game combo. For those not familiar with the combo, it’s rather simple:
With both enchantments in play ( Sanguine Bond + Exquisite Blood) either lifegain or opponent life loss will allow us to ‘go infinite’ and win. One enchantment will trigger the other and then loop until we decide to end it (or most likely when the opponent has lost all his life). It offers us a relatively risk-free win condition (barring counterspells, mostly).
Yummy, yummy, yummy! I got blood in my tummy!
The reprinting of Trading Post inspired a pretty neat way to gain life, thus enabling the combo. It also gave us a great way to stave off some aggro so we may survive long enough to land and activate our combo. In addition to these bonuses, it also allowed us to effectively ‘Warleader’s Helix‘ our opponent each turn with a Sanguine Bond in play. This gives us the ability to win the game without necessarily having to combo. It also gets twice as good if we draw 2 Sanguine Bond instead of our Exquisite Blood (this is the main reason the deck plays a 4/2 split).
While we can still have played the deck without the Trading Post reprint in M14, it allows for some nice possibilities depending on what Theros will bring. If anything we can do sill things with Angelic Accord as well once Exquisite Blood rotates (end of October). Plus goats are big in Greece and Greek mythology, so there’s bound to be a Goat-related card to be released.
I even made a Trading Post playmat for the occasion (Now with more goats!)
We also have a little ‘backup combo enabler’ in Vizkopa Guildmage. He basically acts as Sanguine Bond # 5 in the deck in case our opponent does something nasty to our combo. Something like, oh, I dont know: resolving a Slaughter Games.
Here’s our tidy little decklist:
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Vizkopa Guildmage
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Prophetic Prism
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Trading Post
1 Haunted Plate Mail
4 Sign in Blood
4 Barter in Blood
2 Exquisite Blood
4 Sanguine Bond
2 Diabolic Tutor
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Sin Collector
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Underworld Connections
You’ll notice that the deck is almost entirely monoblack with a few exceptions. In the main, you have Oblivion Ring which pretty much deals with permanent types that black typical cannot deal with (planeswalkers, enchantments and artifacts). It also allows us to play Vizkopa Guildmage as noted earlier.
Lastly, we get to cast Sin Collectors from our sideboard so that we can have a sporting chance against the blue decks ( I would almost be tempted to go with a fourth Sin Collector here).
The ‘final’ decklist underwent a few changes but the core stayed the same: we need to combo to win. It requires more testing, but we discovered this little Return to Ravnica gem:
Straight from your last month’s draft deck
This also, strangely enough, gave us an interesting alternate win condition. While one of these is unlikely to mill out our opponent, two might do the trick. It also fills the role that Nephalia Drownyard did in the Esper Control decks of months past: allows us to dig for cards (artifacts to recover with Trading Post). Lastly, its ‘Regrowth‘ option is just what the deck needed. Lost a combo piece? No need to jam Auramancer into the deck, just keep it all in the Artifact family.
The final list also runs Orzhov Keyrunes over Vampire Nighthawks (to hopefully accelerate into turn 4 Exquisite Blood or Sanguine Bond). While the deck is not 100% perfected, it does showcase an interesting slew of possibilities for this ‘archetype’. It’s not the kind of deck you’ll run to a Grand Prix or Pro Tour Qualifier with, but it’s a blast to try out at your local FNM or even Grand Prix Trial events.
Another route to maybe take here is to squeeze in one or more copies of this limited combo piece:
We’ve all probably face this plus Bubbling Cauldron in draft or sealed events at our local gaming stores. Now with the ability to ‘Codex Shredder‘ back combo pieces we can go more all out on the enchantments while keeping a decent amount of artifacts and 0 creatures. We can pretty much make almost all of our opponent’s creature removal spells dead cards. If you absolutely must run a creature because not having any in your deck makes you a little uncomfortable, might I suggest one of these two:
If he connects once, he can get the Angelic Accord ball rolling
If you have ever had to face off against this you surely know how much of a pain he can be to play against. Barring mass removal or cards like Mizzium Mortars, this guy is nigh-unkillable. It may sound a little exaggerated, but there are very few commonly played removal cards that can deal with him. Sure, he can get countered. We can still get him back if need be with a Codex Shredder every other turn (except if he was Dissipated).
He just keeps us in the game and can pretty much end it on his own even without the combo in play, thanks to his second ‘Achievement unlocked’ ability. Opponent at 10 life or less? Swing in and win!
of course, there’s the ‘safer’ pick:
The Orzhov would like to have a word …
These Orzhov guys are good at dodging removal spells. While Obzedat is almost immune to mass removal and sorcery speed removal due to his ‘blink out for the turn’ ability, he is often going to get hit by the removal spells that the Blood Baron won’t. I’m talking about Putrefy, Murder, Orzhov Charm and the list goes on. Luckily, not many of those are really played (except for Putrefy in Jund builds). He slowly drains your opponent and simply casting him with the combo pieces in play will give you the game. No need to attack or anything, that would be un-Orzhov-like.
One little piece of removal both cards should watch out for (or almost any creature should, for that matter) is Turn/Burn.
Stops almost any critter dead in its tracks
Oh well! we can’t win them all, eh? From dealing with Thragtusk to Angel of Serenity, this little spell does wonders. It’s not commonly played at the moment aside from being a 2-of in various Red-White-Blue or ‘USA’ Flash builds.
If you are very concerned with your one creature getting countered you might be tempted to run a copy or two of Cavern of Souls. Don’t! It will ruin your mana base and just not be worth it in the big picture. If you doubt that, I invite you to experiment a little. That is why there is no real ‘finalized’ decklist. It’s more of a basic shell that you can customize according to your local metagame. Feel free to try things with the deck and reply with some results even.
After the end of September the deck will lose Exquisite Blood but it will still be mostly legal in some new form no doubt (possible with another splash color or just new colors altogether). Who knows? The only semi-engine to build around a bit will be Angel’s Accord and Trading Post. We know that Theros is going to be an ‘enchantment matters’ set, so we might be able to dust off those Underworld Connections we’ve been saving and create something spicy.
Speaking of Underworld Connections, I ‘ve been trying to find space for 2 in the main deck but it seems a little tight.
Have fun experimenting and happy brewing!