My dad has a B/W/G Abzan Warrior deck that build counters like crazy. He has Ajani Pridemate and this card called Retribution of the Ancients. I play B/W life gain Vampires, and lost because of it. Is there a way I could stop him from building counters, or using Retribution of the Ancients?

  • 1
    Possibly Solemnity.
    – GendoIkari
    Feb 9, 2018 at 5:51
  • Just a thought, maybe wait for a couple answers before selecting one... Feb 9, 2018 at 14:55
  • For your case, if your'e going to be playing him all the time, mainboard solemnity, or sideboard it at least. No counters in the first place shuts abzan down
    – Andrew
    Sep 19, 2018 at 21:19

4 Answers 4


I wouldn't metagame too much against his deck, because doing so essentially makes your deck worse in a vacuum (i.e. worse against any other deck besides his). You should want to improve your deck overall while simultaneously improving your match-up against him; or at least hold the quality of your deck constant while improving your match-up against him. Doing so also manages to avoid the appearance of excessively targeting his deck (doing this in a casual setting can lead to hurt feelings or be interpreted as poor sportsmanship, plus you probably want your deck to be good against other opponents too). Also, attempt to keep your vampire count and your creature count up so that your own proactive strategy doesn't get watered down (although not all of my advice follows this rule, because you are forced to make trade-offs between fulfilling your vampire requirements and meeting other needs, and there won't always be a perfect vampire card for any given need).

So, here are some options that can help counter his strategy to a degree.

  • Efficient creature removal, to destroy his largely buffed creatures. Some financially inexpensive examples include Go For The Throat, Journey To Nowhere, Swords to Plowshares, Gatekeeper of Malakir. These are good options because killing an Ajani Pridemate can be very disruptive to his game plan, and at the same time, a modest amount of creature removal is broadly useful against most decks. These cards are reasonably efficient, since they only cost 1-2 mana, or give you bonus value in the case of Gatekeeper of Malakir. Shriekmaw can kill a creature for 2 mana, with the upside that you can pay more to get a 3/2 Fear. Consuming Vapors can kill 2 of his creatures while also feeding your life gain synergy.
  • Efficient enchantment removal, to get Retribution off the board. War Priest of Thune can destroy enchantments for cheap while adding value. This has merit because enchantment removal is usually dead against many decks, but War Priest of Thune is not a totally dead card when the opponent isn't playing enchantments. Collective Effort is another enchantment destruction spell that has ways of being live even when the opponent doesn't control enchantments, and it has ways of delivering added value on top of the enchantment destruction.
  • Disruptive hand destruction. Hymn to Tourach can potentially derail a strategy if it nabs key cards; and at the same time, it is very efficient. There are other financially cheap, efficient discard spells, like Gerrard's Verdict and Duress. But Hymn To Torach is best in that it can hit either half of the combo, doesn't give the opponent a choice in what to discard, can win games by causing mana screw, and it's broadly effective against any opponent.
  • A small number of flexible removal spells, Oblivion Rings (or Mortify). This can address whichever is currently more pressing between enchantment and creature. But it is less cost-efficient, so you should not play a lot of them. Again, it's a big play if you're able to destroy an Ajani Pridemate or a Retribution of the Ancients. But since these cards allow a broad range of targets, they are rarely dead cards against any other deck. Or you could play Vindicate, which is the better and pricier version.
  • Efficient deathtouch vampires like Gifted Aetherborn or Vampire Nighthawk. Gifted Aetherborn seems almost automatic. Vampire Nighthawk feeds into your vampire synergy, and as a 2/3 with 3 abilities for 3 mana, it is reasonably efficient. But the fact that it has deathtouch makes it capable of trading with a 15/15 Ajani Pridemate. Basilisk Collar is another high quality card you can use to confer deathtouch to various creatures on your team so that several of your small creatures can trade with several of his large creatures. If Basilisk Collar doesn't fit your budget, then Gorgon's Head is a lower quality card that serves the same purpose for financially cheaper. However, be careful not to lower your creature count too far, and of course, playing equipment with a low creature count is not a good combo.
  • A powerful proactive strategy. In other words, winning via a powerful offense, rather than a reactive defense. This is good especially because it helps you beat any opponent, not just a particular deck. I would have to see the match-up to surmise the most efficient path to ending the game. However, assuming you can assemble a board full of small attackers, you might be able to represent a powerful attack using an offensive force multiplier like Sorin, Lord of Inistrad, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Sword of Light and Shadow, or Hero of Bladehold. The Sorins and the Hero are all good at boosting the power of your whole team, making them more effective attackers. The Sword of Light and Shadow (and other powerful equipment) is good at boosting one creature at a time, and then when that creature dies, boosting another one, therefore leading to many favorable trades. Some other generally powerful vampires might include Vampire Nocturnus, Khalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Drana, Liberator of Malakir
  • Gas. Gas, of course, being a term meaning a steady stream of playable cards in hand and other sorts of fuel. Since Retribution of the Ancients stands the risk of killing all of your creatures, you need ways of drawing more cards, creating many creatures (and creature tokens), recurring creatures from the graveyard, and so on. Bloodghast is a very good, recursive vampire (although it's no good for blocking, so it really just helps keep pressure on). Bloodline Keeper is good vampire for creating many token creatures. Skeletal Vampire is kind of a clunky card, but it's another vampire that generates tokens. Lingering Souls is another good B/W token producer. Phyrexian Arena is a decent card for providing a constant stream of card drawing. Grave Titan is a non-vampire, but it is a prolific token generator.
  • Repeatable creature destruction like Royal Assassin, Intrepid Hero, Deathbringer Liege, Avatar of Woe, Gideon Jura, Ob Nixilis Reignited, Visara the Dreadful, Umezawa's Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice, Spear of Heliod, or a Shriekmaw + Grim Harvest combo. The virtue of repeatable creature destruction is that it can yield significant card advantage, disrupt a lot of the things his deck wants to do, and put you in a position to inevitably win the game. A lot of these are unfortunately rather vulnerable to being destroyed by Retribution's ability (especially the 1/1's), and the card quality of most of these options is only medium.
  • If you go the hand destruction route, Thoughtseize would be good (financially expensive, but effective).
    – Becuzz
    Sep 27, 2018 at 20:39

I can think of some cards that can deal with that though they're kind of hate cards.

  • You could use Aether Snap to remove all counters from the field and all tokens.
  • Lost Legacy should also be able to remove Retribution of the Ancients. Its an extraction card, so you can be sure he'll be left with no single copy in his deck afterwards. (You could also remove other non-artifact key cards with this.)
  • Solemnity stops any and all counter placement though those already on permanents remain there.
  • Fate Transfer is niche card as well. Maybe you could transfer some of his counters to one of yours

That's what I can think off the top of my head.


There are a few ways to deal with counters like this. You can prevent counters from being placed, you can remove the creatures from play, either temporarily or permanently, or you can remove the counters themselves. You can also prevent Retribution of the Ancients from being played or used.

  1. Prevent counter placement - Solemnity stops counters from being placed on permanents, if they can't have +1/+1 counters, Retribution does nothing.
  2. Remove the creatures from play - Any field wipe spell can do this for you, like Damnation or In Garruk's Wake if you want to save your board, or a mass flicker like Planar Guide.
  3. The counters can be removed from the creatures before he plays Retribution.
    • Remove counter effects - Æther Snap removes all counters and all tokens, and as a vampire player you have Thief of Blood to remove the counters too. Also since you're playing vampires Vampire Hexmage is a good way to pull counters off one permanent, often used to kill a planeswalker, or to 'cheat' Dark Depths.
    • -1/-1 counters - Since these are +1/+1 counters, putting a -1/-1 counter on would cause these counters to be removed, so wither, infect or cards like Incremental Blight or Black Sun's Zenith could help.
  4. Finally removing or preventing Retribution of the Ancients - Lost Legacy or Sadistic Sacrament can pull the card out of the deck, Nevermore prevents it from being cast in the first place, and Pithing Needle prevents them from using the ability on the named card.

As a side note, a generally good card against any counter based deck is Kulrath Knight, as it stops anything with a counter from attacking. It'll be an early target for removal for your opponent likely, but does slow decks like this down.

  • @Mitch25232 You need to know here though that a lot of these options only work before your opponent has his combo out, if he has Retribution and the creatures with counters already they can use retribution in response to your spells or effects.
    – Andrew
    Feb 9, 2018 at 18:16

In addition to the great cards that Blender mentioned in his answer you might want to consider the following:

Thief of Blood 4BB Vampire:

As Thief of Blood enters the battlefield, remove all counters from all permanents. Thief of Blood enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each counter removed this way.

Vampire Hexmage BB Vampire:

First strike
Sacrifice Vampire Hexmage: Remove all counters from target permanent.

You mentioned that you were playing W/B Vampires so I figured these gals might fit better into your deck thematically. You didn't mention format so I assumed you are playing casual and anything is fair game, but Hexmage is modern legal and Thief is legacy.


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