I’ve built my share of demo decks for CCGs. The difficulty with doing such varied quite a bit. With Ultimate Combat!, it was easy. With Babylon 5, more complexity than I liked tended to creep into decks because so many of the commonly played conflict cards had way too much text.
My concern these days runs towards Vampire: The Eternal Struggle for the obvious reason that it’s the only CCG I regularly play anymore. This Saturday, I’m going to support a demo in Santa Cruz. I’ve been writing out some decklists, but I’m not thrilled.
I understand the demo decks (the “pawn” expansion) that White Wolf put out, though I thought they were too simplistic, not showing off cards you would see in every game you ever played such as Blood Doll and Deflection. For a game with such a high learning curve, starting off with very basic stuff is reasonable.
Which brings up the question of whether it’s better to teach people with decks that fight or just kind of ignore combat since it brings up a ton of additional considerations. The classic stealth bleed deck that relies on dodge for defense is the best real deck for players to understand, but there are only so many decks that ignore combat that are worth doing before having to introduce combat decks to show the full game. Also, it’s kind of hard to get the right stealth-intercept balance without combat as many decks that block want to fight.
Besides Dom/Obf (or Aus/Dom/Obf) and Dem/Obf (or Aus/Dem/Obf), decks that can minimize combat would include weenie Obfuscate, weenie Auspex, weenie vote, weenie Presence, Dom/Obt, Obf/Pre, Aus/Pre, Ventrue Law Firm, Toreador vote, Dom/Nec (which I don’t like for teaching as much as other Dom variations), weenie Hack. That’s kind of a messed up metagame to spring on newbs, especially when the decks eschew more complex cards.
So, add combat decks into the environment and what? Aus/Dom/Tha intercept Theft is not too crazy as long as it’s almost entirely maneuver + Theft for combat. Tzimisce intercept combat tends to get esoteric, though I think my new “I want to play with bad Vicissitude cards” deck could be pruned a bit and made not too complex. Guns aren’t inherently difficult to play with, so I like Aus + guns. The problem with Celerity guns, Potence, et al is how swingy games can be with other decks that just try to dodge or combat ends to prevent annihilation.
Certainly, it’s hard to demo the game with normal constructed decks and my typical decks are completely awful for teaching purposes (because being jaded means trying to do weird or ironic stuff all of the time).
The below is an exerpt from a post I made to the UK forum about how I would train someone on being a knowledgeable player of V:TES. Besides the obvious comment that this progression will never happen in the real world, I can’t see this having a lot to do with demoing to random people who show up. This would be for the unusual player who wanted to go from knowing nothing to being able to compete at the major level in the minimal amount of time.
For a player new to the game, I would do a progression something like:
a. Dom/Obf Brinksmansh- … obvious. Not only does this give the player an understanding of how straightforward stealth bleed w/ bounce works, but it also shows off many of the most commonly played cards in the game.
b. 1 cap Hack. Highlights speed and how much can be done without disciplines.
c. Weenie Presence bleed. Introducing … combat ends.
d. Ventrue or Toreador vote. An uncomplicated version that focuses on abusing Majesty and making use of clanness.
e. Weenie Presence vote. Mix c. and d. and see how annoying the game gets.
f. Kindred Spirits. The long separation between this and a. is mainly due to the similarities. Now, it’s time to understand the differences.
g. !Tor guns. Yes, !Tor. It should be less complicated than Tor with no worrying about whether to play traditions and with less complicated specials.
h. EuroBrujah, low/no rush version.
i. Nephandus horde. Brings in the idea of ally hordes. Shambling Hordes is the more common deck (and much easier for people to find the cards for) but has more things going on much of the time – blood control, self-mill, etc.
… Various weenie decks, starting with bleed variations, moving on to the likes of Ani, Aus, Pot, Cel; Tzimisce intercept combat; non-Pre vote; P/J; babymakers; and, so on and so forth in no particular order. Of course, interlaced with suffering … I mean … learning would be building one’s own, more quirky decks.
Probability that the above will ever occur – not significantly different from 0%. Stealth bleed, weenie, pure vote, bleed/vote, intercept combat, bruise and bleed, traditions, allies, etc. – something like that order of importance – seems quite daunting. On top of all of the other items which make it difficult to understand the game – difficult rules, lots of deck factors (disciplines, clans), lots of cards, length of games, political elements – there’s the variety of deck archetypes that veteran players just take for granted.