This week on Legion’s Landing, Kristen takes us through an alternative way to play Edgar Markov: Midrange, with lots of threats.

Edgar Markov is a little bit of a boogieman of the format. Merely mentioning him can send many scrambling for control decks; and thanks to his overbearing presence in 1v1 Commander, Edgar Markov was even powerful enough to have earned a ban in that format. It’s obvious that free tokens for casting Vampires is strong, and in regular Commander, most people expect an aggressive, low to the ground build that can dominate the early game.

Today, I’d like to present an alternative take on the Vampire progenitor. Much in the same way you may be surprised to see Volkan Baga’s masterly artwork without the more bloody hue present on the card itself, I’ll be bringing you a different way to play Edgar that seeks to thrive in the mid game: Midrange Markov.

Midrange Markov

Most Edgar decks at the more competitive end like to go wide fast, before trying to lock things down with anthems and stax pieces. We still appreciate tokens in this version, but we have a more diverse approach to how we play the game. As well as tokens, we’re focusing on +1/+1 counters, anthems, midrange threats with good bodies and abilities, and strong removal—both on spells, and on creatures. We’re even playing the Sanguine Bond & Exquisite Blood infinite combo as a backup way to win in more dire circumstances, with a copy of Defiant Bloodlord as redundancy. All it takes once you have the two pieces of the combo out is to trigger life loss in an opponent, setting up a stack of triggers that will eviscerate life totals in a dance of death.

In this build, though we’re playing the likes of Blood Artist and Indulgent Aristocrat, we’re forgoing most low drops that don’t actively contribute to our game plan. Our spells can run as expensive as seven mana, with the likes of Ruinous Ultimatum and Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. Thus we’re running more lands than the more aggro builds, and we’re also running a decent amount of card draw and recursion in order to give us the best chances at accessing what we need at any given time.

The diversification of our game plan does mean we’re less competitive in a way, but it also grants something equally valuable to many Commander players: variance. No two games are the same with this build! One game, you might go wide by curving out and stealing threatening creatures with Captivating Vampire, while others you might grant your team flying with Vampire Nocturnus, and then use Sorin Markov‘s -3 to set an opponent to 10 life before ending them then and there. Variety is the spice of life—as I’ve said many times before, it’s one of the things that keeps EDH fresh and exciting for me.

The Deck


First things first: we’re never short of something to do with our extra tokens. Whether that’s damage from Shared Animosity, Phyrexian Tower turning these extra bodies into extra mana, Vampiric Rites and Culling Dais offering extra cards, or Victimize buying back stronger creatures, we’ll always have a way to cash our chips.

There are two main things tokens are good for, though: buffing and sacrificing. We aim to take advantage of both in Midrange Markov. Anointed Procession is a snap include that helps us build a board from nowhere, and Legion’s Landing helps us ramp with more aggressive starts. Both of these are pretty straightforward includes, so let’s delve deeper.

Coat of Arms is an overperformer, and a slam dunk in this deck; I’ve tucked this under Windbrisk Heights many a time, and cast it at the last possible second, punishing bad blocks. Vanquisher’s Banner is a less magnificent example of heraldry, but is a solid way to keep drawing cards, so we’re happy to play that too.

Thanks to the fact our creatures generate additional vampires, every Lord effect we run is effectively severely undercosted for what we get. On top of Legion Lieutenant, Captivating Vampire, Stromkirk Captain, and Vampire Nocturnus, we also have many ways built into our creatures to generate +1/+1 counters: Indulgent Aristocrat, Cordial Vampire, Metallic Mimic, Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Patron of the Vein, and Cathars’ Crusade.

+1/+1 Counters are a great way to keep our team threatening when our Lords eat removal, so we’re set up to take advantage of having them. Bloodtracker draws cards for each counter on it when it leaves the battlefield, for instance, providing us a strong flying body with a relevant use outside of attacking. Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter loves using +1/+1 counters for removal, and we have a super cheap option early on the curve that can generate absurd levels of value for us: Retribution of the Ancients.

Retribution is incredibly efficient, and when paired with cards like Blade of the Bloodchief and Cordial Vampire, is a very hard-to-stop engine that can make swift work of opposing armies. Thanks to all of our anthem effects, we rarely care about losing +1/+1 counters anyway, so feel free to use this greedily.

I spoke a moment ago about the fact our Lords tend to eat removal. Though we do have excellent recursion like Bloodline Necromancer—the vampire Karmic Guide that gives us three bodies thanks to Edgar Markov—prevention is ultimately better than cure. Sacrificing tokens to Etchings of the Chosen can keep our Lords around while providing even more anthem, while Together Forever can help us save bodies with +1/+1 counters to play again. In a deck with so many great Enters-the-Battlefield effects, and cast triggers like Edgar Markov’s Eminence ability, we’re more than happy to just use it as a way to generate value.

Howard Lyon’s New Blood


There are a number of cards in the deck that I can’t praise highly enough, and being in a more Midrange build allows us to run them in the first place.

The first is Champion of Dusk, one of our premier ways to refill our hand. Sure, we could draw into Necropotence, but this vampire usually draws us as many cards over the course of the game. The floor is always two thanks to Edgar Markov’s Eminence trigger, but this will, on average, draw 5-7 cards each time you can trigger it. With the plentiful recursion in our deck on cards like Unburial Rites and Victimize, we’re sure to be able to take advantage of this multiple times a game. What’s more, this’ll often be our target when we play Diabolic Intent, or Forerunner of the Legion, as it’ll refill our hand in short order.

New Blood, meanwhile, has to be my favorite card in the deck. It’s an effect rarely seen in mono-black, and it’s a powerful one: gaining permanent control of a creature using a sorcery. It’s not even a flimsy aura! This is a hell of a beating whenever it’s played, and can help us deal with enemy Commanders that are as dangerous when recast as they are on the battlefield.

Thanks to us changing all instances of one creature type to Vampire, we can lend extra strength to whatever we steal, but more than that, we can pull off some ridiculous stunts. My favorite so far has been stealing an Atla Palani, Nest Tender, and changing the occurence of “Egg” to vampire. This next-level play will ensure you get to cascade into more vampires whenever yours die, offering quite the dilemma for your opponents, and a great way to cash in your tokens to sacrifice effects.

Bonus points for the mechanical win of having to tap a Vampire as an additional cost to cast the spell, and that stunning, stunning Howard Lyon art!

Patron of the Vein is the final card in this section. Though on paper this card is a 4/4 flyer, due to the abilities present, you’re usually getting a 5/5 flyer, a 2/2 Vampire token, a dead opposing creature, the exile of that creature from the graveyard, and an amount of other +1/+1 counters on the rest of your team—all for six mana. Patron is a house, and hits like one! What’s great about the trigger, too, is it says “whenever a creature dies, exile it.” Crucially, rather than saying “exile it instead,” this means that you’ll still get “dies” triggers, making creatures like Blood Artist and Yahenni, Undying Partisan still relevant.

Duskborne Skymarcher, by Seb McKinnon

Multi-Purpose Ideology

Patron of the Vein embodies what our card choices mean in this deck. Where possible, each of your cards in Commander should do as many things as possible; it’s why modal cards are considered so playable. Looking over the list of creatures and Planeswalkers we’re playing, it’s clear to see that they aim to fit this ethos a lot of the time. Twilight Prophet gives us card draw and lifegain; Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord gives us lifelink and recursion; Bloodline Keeper gives us an anthem and token production; Vanquisher’s Banner gives us card draw and an anthem; Elenda, the Dusk Rose can generate tokens, but also +1/+1 counters.

There are many more cards which achieve this, and it’s part of what allows the deck to play in different ways at different tables, and adapt to different hands. Above all, though, it increases the overall synergy of the deck, which increases the chance we can close a game.

Vindicate by Karla Ortiz

Exquisite Blood

One of the things that draws many people to a certain tribe in magic is the flavor. The theme, and how far they can represent in deckbuilding, is what really lights a fire for many deckbuilders. In this build, I’ve centered around representing the tribe mainly from an Innistrad point of view, with some contingents from Ixalan and Zendikar, mainly in the form of legendary creatures like Drana, Liberator of Malakir. An easy choice to increase flavor points is to include Sorin Planeswalkers. I’m running Sorin Markov, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord, and Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. They all offer different things the deck likes to do, from token production to recursion, and help give the deck an identity.

Sorin’s influence is felt further still in spells like Vindicate, which I’ve chosen to use over a card like Despark, because not only does it remove lands, but the Karla Ortiz art looks badass while doing so. Anguished Unmaking and Victim of Night really keep the flavor train going, and spells like Austere Command earn their place when considered in light of Avacyn’s plotline. For every Ruinous Ultimatum, there’s a Kindred Dominance, which is a real flavorful Vampires card; and there are lands like Vault of the Archangel and Silent Clearing in the manabase. I haven’t gone as far as to pick unique basic lands for the deck yet, but something Innistrad themed would no doubt offer some sense of completion to the venture.

Edgar Markov, by Volkan Baga

Sanguine Bond

Should you choose to pledge allegiance to Edgar Markov with this build, you’ll be sure to have a deck that can react to varied board states, and a midrange strategy that can hang at tables not limited to the higher end where a more aggressive Edgar Markov deck would sit. The flexible and powerful removal on offer can deal with most issues, and the engines it’s possible to put together can lend some level of intricacy to a combat oriented deck.

If all else looks lost, the aforementioned Exquisite Blood & Sanguine Bond combo can help us close a game, and we have Diabolic Tutor as a backup to grab it in a pinch. It’s never my main strategy, but it’s there for you.

One final note: you’ll notice the deck is heavily skewed toward Black and White, with only a Red splash. I did this for two main reasons. Firstly, to ensure that we’re rarely color-screwed by playing a three color deck. The other reason was so that if we wanted to include Cabal Coffers & Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, we’re already set up to do so and take full advantage with a high Swamp count. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t included Olivia Voldaren; having access to red mana reliably to take advantage of the ability, which often requires multiple activations to play around other effects is difficult without access to multiple fetches.

When playing this deck as a midrange deck, most of the other Red vampires aren’t worth twisting your manabase to include, and we only tend to cast Edgar Markov when we’re in a position to use his anthem—placing +1/+1 counters on our team—to push through damage to win, or when we’re out of cards entirely.

I hope you enjoyed this look at a slightly different Edgar Markov build today. Let me know what you think on Twitter to continue the discussion!

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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