Looking Ahead: Vampire Specters

On blistering summer weekends, my uncle would sometimes drop by and take my brother and I to our nearby Quick Stop. It was always a coveted moment for us kids, fully aware we were about to be blessed with a slurpee to slow the residual melt of our insides from the concrete oven that is Miami. But what really had us hyped: just the idea we might get Yu-Gi-Oh! packs, too.

This was the era where our game was at its all-time high: every store sold  Yu-Gi-Oh, every kid was playing it, and even the ‘grown-ups’ like our uncle picked it up.  He’d get to the register, buy a box, and my brother and I would look at each other with gaping eyes. We’d get home, he’d split the box between the three of us, and get to opening packs.

During one of these adventures, in the midst of us opening what were not-very-promising Dark Crisis packs thus far, I finally pulled a Kaiser Glider and paraded it around the table.

“I’m just glad it wasn’t a [ccProd]Vampire Lord[/ccProd],” my uncle jokingly said, “I’d have to just take it from you.”

He was looking for that card for weeks. But not only was it difficult to pull: everyone wanted it. And with reason; at its time, it was a great card, and a Secret Rare at that. There was no wonder why it became such an iconic monster, and those were its glory days. But what happened?

Nothing. Years passed. And since those long, forgotten eras of Ancient Sanctuary and Dark Crisis, Vampires were sealed away in a crypt of forgotten concepts, and it became readily apparent to fans that it was another lapsed archetype that was going to be buried by new themes.

So when Shadow Specters teased new, fully realized Vampire support I was clouted with a backhand of nostalgia, knocking me right back to those days when everyone was hunting for Vampire Lord. The feeling’s bittersweet, but it seems like there’s a lot of reboots paying homage to beloved and iconic cards these days, and I’m still glad to see Vampires are one of them.

So the first questions to always emerge are, “what do they do,” and “how well do they do it?” Many players have become jaded toward these reboots after the Harpie hype-train fiasco that emerged back in February, and was sent careening off a cliff months later bursting into flames once we actually got the new Harpie cards in Lord of the Tachyon Galaxy.  People have a tendency to build their hopes a bit too high sometimes. But I’m here to put my hand on your virtual shoulder and let you know:

It will be okay.

Let’s break down what Vampires really do.

The Core Concept
Let’s talk about the ultimate goals and real win conditions at work for the new Vampire theme.  Meet Crimson Knight Vampire Bram…

Crimson Knight Vampire Bram

Rank 5 / Dark / Zombie
2500 ATK / 0 DEF
2 Level 5 Zombie-Type monsters
You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 monster in your opponent’s Graveyard; Special Summon that target to your side of the field, but if you do, only that monster can attack for the rest of this turn. You can only use this effect of “Crimson Knight Vampire Bram” once per turn. During the Standby Phase of the next turn after this card you controlled was destroyed by your opponent’s card (either by battle or by card effect) and sent to your Graveyard: Special Summon it from the Graveyard in face-up Defense Position.

Simple enough. Though the restriction on your Battle Phase may hurt, this card is particularly good due to its last line: It comes back every Standby Phase if destroyed by your opponent, whether it was destroyed by a card effect or battle. Aside from Spellbook of Fate, there aren’t many practical ways to get rid of this nuisance.

Vampire Kingdom
Field Spell
Zombie-Type monsters gain 500 ATK during damage calculation only.
Once per turn, when a card(s) is sent from your opponent’s Deck to the Graveyard: Target 1 card on the field; send 1 DARK “Vampire” monster from your hand or Deck to the Graveyard, and if you do, destroy that target.

Your Vampire effects include the ability to send Monster, Spells and Traps from your opponent’s deck to grave. That, on its own, is astounding in giving away critical deck information and forcing your opponent to ditch power-play spells and traps to prevent them from gaining an advantage. Since traps aren’t very prominent right now, you’re often hitting horrifying cards like [ccProd]Return From the Different Dimension[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Sixth Sense[/ccProd], depriving your opponent of some of their best stuff. On top of that, getting to ditch Vampires from your deck to set up your graveyard’s an added bonus, and all of your main Vampires become 2500 ATK beatsticks thanks to [ccProd]Vampire Kingdom[/ccProd]’s basic ATK boost.

The Vampire Engine
These supporting cards are what let you accomplish your central goals, Summon Crimson Knight Vampire Bram, and take full advantage of Vampire Kingdom

Shadow Vampire
Level 5 / Dark / Zombie
2000 ATK / 0 DEF
When this card is Normal Summoned: You can Special Summon 1 DARK “Vampire” monster from your hand or Deck, except “Shadow Vampire”, but if you do, only that monster can attack for the rest of this turn. This card cannot be used as an Xyz Material for an Xyz Summon, except for the Xyz Summon of a DARK monster.

The engine starter. Shadow Vampire fetches other Vampires from your deck, so you grab a Vampire Duke, overlay into a Rank 5, and continue on from there.

Vampire Duke
Level 5 / Dark / Zombie
2000 ATK / 0 DEF
When this card is Normal Summoned: You can target 1 DARK “Vampire” monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon that target in face-up Defense Position. When this card is Special Summoned: You can declare 1 card type (Monster, Spell, or Trap); your opponent sends 1 card of that type from their Deck to the Graveyard. You can only use this effect of “Vampire Duke” once per turn. This card cannot be used as an Xyz Material for an Xyz Summon, except for the Xyz Summon of a DARK monster.

Vampire Duke’s a World Premiere cards that ties the engine together, bringing this deck far more hope than it had in the OCG. When you fetch it with Shadow Vampire, you can immediately use its Special Summon effect to force your opponent to pitch a card. With so many ways to search the Field Spell, you can likely pop a card and set the grave up using it, too.

Vampire Sorcerer  
Level 4 / Dark / Zombie
1500 ATK / 1500 DEF
If this card in your possession is sent to your Graveyard by your opponent’s card (either by battle or by card effect): You can add 1 DARK “Vampire” monster or 1 “Vampire” Spell/Trap Card from your Deck to your hand. You can banish this card from your Graveyard; 1 DARK “Vampire” monster you Normal Summon this turn can be Summoned without Tributing.

Looking past Vampire Sorcerer’s first effect, since [ccProd]Goblin Zombie[/ccProd] accomplishes the same and more, it’s especially useful as banish fodder to Normal Summon your Level 5.  You can load it to your graveyard for free with [ccProd]Vampire Kingdom[/ccProd] to really make the most of that ability.

Vampire Takeover
Normal Trap
If you have no card in your Field Card Zone, and all face-up monsters you control (min. 1) are Zombie-Type: Activate 1 “Vampire Kingdom” directly from your Deck, then, you can Special Summon 1 DARK “Vampire” monster from your Graveyard in face-up Defense Position.  You can only activate 1 “Vampire Takeover” per turn.

Vampire Takeover seems great on first read, but in practice, I found it often conflicts with opening plays. You’ll often want [ccProd]Vampire Kingdom[/ccProd] out immediately before you Summon a Vampire, but Takeover forces the opposite. You might find yourself contemplating Terraforming over Takeovers, since you don’t have to wait a turn to play it and the Special Summon part of Takeover’s effect isn’t justification enough for that delay.

Aside from the rocky start, Vampire Takeover’s useful in dealing with other decks that run Field Spells, since its activation requirement only dictates that you, not your opponent, cannot control a Field Spell before activation. Being able to chain this to a [ccProd]Dragon Ravine[/ccProd] pitch or [ccProd]Spellbook Tower of Prophecy[/ccProd]’s effect in the Standby Phase is really decent.

Looking beyond the named Vampire support, there are several ways to get your Tribute monsters on board fairly reliably.  The primary options aside from banishing Vampire Sorcerer are [ccProd]Soul Exchange[/ccProd], or simple Zombie support like [ccProd]Book of Life[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mezuki[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Call of the Haunted[/ccProd] on fodder like Goblin Zombie.

Beyond those cards, I found I liked [ccProd]Tyrant’s Tummyache[/ccProd] as a personal tech choice.  A Continuous Trap from Generation Force, you activate it by Tributing a monster.  Then, neither player can Special Summon Level 6 or higher monsters so long as Tummyache remains on the field, and if you have three or more cards in hand it’s destroyed. 

Tummyache is like [ccProd]Vanity’s Emptiness,[/ccProd] but better. Tributing is never an issue with stuff that regenerate your card presence like [ccProd]Goblin Zombie[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Mezuki[/ccProd], and since the Vampire strategy only Special Summons Level 5 or lower monsters, Tummyache only restricts your opponent.  Depending on how monster-heavy you decide to make your build, I’d highly recommend it in Vampire decks that keep to a slim monster lineup.  It gives you a much needed edge against fast-paced and aggressive decks like Dragon Rulers, which has few immediate options to beat it.

Demonic Disadvantages
After looking at at all the new cards, most would immediately suspect that the biggest challenge to Vampires is their speed; they’re consistent, but terribly slow in comparison to what’s big right now. The cards have several attack and Summoning restrictions, and their plays are somewhat linear.

With the right tech choices in the Main Deck, Vampires might stand a chance in current competition. Perhaps with the release of further support or more World Premieres, or with the next balancing of the Forbidden & Limited List, they’ll be allowed room to develop. For now, it’s predominantly a fun deck to play and a slice of nostalgia to indulge in.

Vampires feel like they’re missing some tools, but they’re now far from the relics they once were, and they’re very much capable of being a functional strategy. It’s been a while since I’ve legitimately had fun with playing a deck – the same kind of feeling you felt as a kid.  Vampires deliver that, partially for their ties with the past, and partially because the playstyle of the deck is entertaining in and of itself.

What are your thoughts on Vampires? Any other strategies you’d like to share? I’m curious to know your opinions: what other archetype or concept reboots would you like to see happen?

As always, it’s been fun!

-Amanda L.

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