[Classic] Durga Syn

November 26, 2009

I’ve posted a lot in a lot of CCG forums over the years.  One of the reasons I was motivated to do a blog was to consolidate my more verbose thoughts.  I’m currently looking through the UK V:TES forum – http://www.anarchfreepress.com/vtesuk – for my favorite posts.  Here’s the first “classic” post.

In response to Shroudfilm‘s post about the preview of Durga Syn …

“Yeah LSJ,why hasn’t she got votes?!? Or Necromancy?!?!? Or Flight?!?!?!?! Why isn’t she 12-cap?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Why can’t she have an ability which wins me the game in one turn?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? I hate VTES now, this one card means the game is doomed!!!!!!1111one!!”

Rolling Eyes

http://www.anarchfreepress.com/vtesuk/viewtopic.php?p=1729&highlight=#1729 …

I imagine the discussion went something like this:

[LSJ.1] Why don’t you give Durga some votes?

[LSJ.2] Too hard to become an anarch which would waste all of those disciplines. I’d piss off millions of anarch lovers.

[LSJ.1] You could make Orpheus happier if you gave Durga Necromancy.

[LSJ.2] Then he might notice how good Chimerstry is when you don’t pay full cost for it and would want highly flexible Necromancy cards … with no cost.

[LSJ.1] Durga seems to be lacking flight.

[LSJ.2] Does anybody even remember what any of the flight cards do anymore?

[LSJ.1] She could be a 12 cap.

[LSJ.2] Without PRE? Are you insane? Uh, don’t answer that.

[LSJ.1] Durga is a good choice for one of those win in one turn decks. You know, turbo, et al. You should give her FOR, a capacity increase when she’s in play, and NEC. And, the ability to play Baali cards.

[LSJ.2] What makes you think she can’t win in one turn? Besides, the text box font would be so small that no one would know that she would combo with every card in the game.

[LSJ.1] Aren’t people going to hate the game because of cards like this? Won’t Durga doom the game?

[LSJ.2] I keep trying, but they keep playing.

[LSJ.1] Local 1111?

[LSJ.2] Should be played by !Trem with Rutor’s Hands to see if it doesn’t suck. But, Eric Chiang keeps travelling.


Scorpio II – Zodiac I

November 22, 2009

I wish I were inspired more often to talk about play philosophy.  Well, let’s see if I can do something with Scorpio.

There are, of course, many common features of different gaming types.  While RPGs are typically very different from competitive gaming since typically they aren’t competitive, my hope is to have something to say that isn’t overly specific.  Below are the same traits I included in my other Scorpio post.  I’m going to talk about how they fit into competitive gaming based on my experiences.

Loyalty

Outside of the actual play of the game, loyalty is hugely important for keeping niche games (most of the CCGs I’ve played regularly, for instance) alive.  But, what about in play?  In two-player games, no real concept.  But, what about political games:  multiplayer CCGs, many boardgames, etc.?  While there’s certainly the capability of generating a reputation for trustworthiness and for being supportive to a cause, I’ve never found that it really mattered.  I’ve changed my stances frequently when circumstances altered, far more so in boardgames than in something like V:TES, as there’s really nothing else to do in most boardgames than try to win whereas CCGs have interesting card interaction to give someone something to do.

Willpower/Self-Control

How does willpower differ from self-control?  Maybe a bit broader, covering aspects of controlling things beyond oneself, but it’s simpler to lump them together.  Another difference I find between boardgames and CCGs is that players of boardgames seem much better at controlling themselves and at not doing crazy or self-destructive stuff.  Maybe it’s because boardgames are simpler and less personal.  It’s amazing how often players of CCGs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (or, at least, competitiveness) because of lack of self-control.  Too greedy, too spiteful, too impatient, whatever.

Magnetism

Actually a trait useful for two-player gaming as you might get cut some slack.  But, really more of a multiplayer thing.  Magnetism is huge for manipulating people into improving your position or undermining someone else’s.  Can have the most logical arguments, but the people who get listened to are more likely to be the ones with more charisma.

Gentleness

I still find this so weird to be included since it’s pretty opposite to ruthlessness.  Well, whatever.  Occasionally, I see gentleness paying off as people rather lose to someone nice than someone who isn’t.  And, it’s an interesting approach in multiplayer play.  I’m incredibly gentle to my opponents in V:TES, except those rare instances when I whip out a deck of extreme prejudice in which the goal is more to nuke things with overkill than win, and it works okay for me.  The appearance of gentleness is certainly desirable, nice mix with actual but subtle ruthlessness.

Insight

Perceptiveness is hugely important.  Insight, I take to mean self-perception.  Certainly a good counter to losing self-control since you will realize you are losing it.  Frequently, the mind isn’t perfectly focused on the game and being able to realize that can save some grief.

Ruthlessness

Ruthlessness is awesome for winning.  It’s something I lack.  I said in my Eden Storyline post that the lack of interest in winning will keep me from ever being a great player of competitive games.  It’s the ruthlessness needed in things like optimal deck construction, ruining other people’s chances in games, and the like that comes out of a desire to win just to win that is missing.  I actually don’t have a problem with ruthless play, per se.  It’s possible to be ruthless without being obnoxious.  On the other hand, I don’t take my gaming seriously enough to be in favor of it and there’s little point in being ruthless unless players are of similar level.

Fanaticism

Fanaticism about wanting to play a game is often great for me since I need opponents.  Fanaticism within a game is very likely to turn people off and reduce one’s chances of winning.  “Why are you doing that?  It’s what my deck does.  Your deck … loses?”

Revenge

Revenge is interesting because there’s such a wide spectrum.  There are many multiplayer games where revenge is necessary to balance the game.  Even personal revenge I can relate to – if someone screwed up my game through bad play, then I understand screwing up that player’s game as I lose.  (One of the advantages of two-player gaming is you don’t get spite moves that affect the results of the game.)  But, there are obvious limits.  The point to competitive games is to try to win them.  When players cease trying to win, the game becomes pointless.  Also, sometimes players screw you because that’s the correct play in the game.

Sadism

I find lots of players to be sadistic.  Whether it’s enjoying playing prison decks in Magic, playing unrest decks in B5, cutting off people’s ability to expand in Settlers of Catan who are way behind, or whatever.  Lots of folks seem to enjoy inflicting pain upon their opponents.  Gaming can be an outlet for that that is less worse than other things (e.g. pranks).  But, it’s not conducive to my enjoying games.

Suspicion

Suspicion is what makes games like Diplomacy.  I happen to hate Diplomacy, but that’s pretty much neither here nor there.  Some level of suspicion is good as deceiving people is an important element in many games.  Excessive suspicion can backfire as you start believing something that isn’t the case.

Self-hatred 

Fundamental to life is self-hatred.  Without it, why bother getting up in the morning?  So, of course, it’s essential to good gaming.  Only by self-hating myself throughout games do I ever enjoy myself and have any chance of competing.


Scorpio I – Zodiac I

November 22, 2009

Scorpio
“I desire”
positive: loyalty, willpower, magnetism, gentleness, insight, self-control
negative: ruthlessness, fanaticism, revenge, sadism, suspicion, self-hatred – Linda Goodman’s “Love Signs”

Do people feel strongly about any of the Zodiac signs?  The only one I think people have any sort of reaction to is Scorpio.  The scorpion image isn’t helped any by the negative traits above.

The point of this series was to take advantage of a source of personality types that people could identify with but which aren’t simplistic or really that familiar and/or take imagery/symbolism from the signs as inspiration for gaming ideas.  While I’m surprised by how many people who have never thought of using astrology to create characters or whatever, I can’t imagine that L5R’s Scorpion Clan wasn’t connected originally to Scorpio.

Take loyalty.  It’s often stated that the only tenet of bushido the clan believes in is loyalty.  It’s even described how to have a Scorpion “not”-ninja fit in with a party of more honorable sorts by stressing that once a Scorp cares about you, loyalty kicks in and the dishonorable scum is only being dishonorable while looking out for the party’s interests.

I understand the appeal of the Scorpion Clan in L5R.  Both from a world design standpoint where you get to have PC ninja and spice things up with a contrast to the idealized belief that bushido is the end all and be all of how to approach the world.  And, from a player standpoint, where it certainly seems that the most popular clan played in Heroes-of-Rokugan is Scorp.  The sneaky, intriguing types get to have side adventures.  Plus, you get to mess with other PCs and have the excuse that you are just playing to stereotype.

But, I don’t really buy the plausability of the clan.  Sure, the background and explanations and vaguely historical tie-ins do a good job of justifying the clan.  But, it’s just incongruous.  It’s just too far away from “gee, there are monsters to the South that need to be kept at bay all of the time” and strikes me as too likely to fall apart politically.  But, most of all, it’s just too extreme.  “You all follow one way of living and we will follow this other way yet we are all …”  Being all part of the same empire is one thing, but L5R puts all samurai in the same religious structure.

Then, I know that different people want different things from L5R and my desire for heroic fantasy is different from those who get off on the intrigue, but it’s so weird to go from fighting oni one day to wondering whether your fellow samurai are messing with your mind another.  In a house game, that’s easily solved.  In HoR, there’s not much you can do but try to cover a wide range of interests, though I think heroic fantasy gets shorted.

By the way, I had the same trouble with the incongruity of Babylon 5 where Sheridan goes from sending the elder races beyond the rim to dealing with secret police.  It may not be any more unrealistic than the alternative, but it’s jarring.

I keep thinking of Scorpion character ideas, mostly involving schools of highly honorable clans as I’m into irony.  But, I just can’t pull the trigger.  I just can’t get behind the idea of playing someone with so much baggage.  Play one straight and you end up with the sort of character I could do without seeing.  Play it against type and you very well may end up with a bad joke that you can’t be rid of.

That’s not to say that Scorpio traits aren’t interesting.  Sure, they sound villainous compared to pretty much every other sign, but that’s too easy.  I’d be good with seeing more heroic characters that managed some of the negative traits.  Of particular interest may be playing a Scorpio who isn’t a Scorpion in L5R.  When the _ cares more about loyalty than the Scorpions do – that’s at least interesting role-playing.  From a mechanical standpoint, it would also be interesting to see a high Earth Ring Scorpion (willpower …).

And, what’s up with “gentleness”?  I keep thinking that should read “gentlemanliness” or something.  Well, that would certainly be a different angle to come from.


Eden Storyline – Santa Clara

November 22, 2009

Yesterday, we had our first Eden’s Legacy event – http://white-wolf.com/vtes/index.php?articleid=1157.  I was quite pleased.

First, having five players from Castro Valley/Hayward show up was huge, not just for the numbers but for the refreshing attitude that tournaments are a good thing, an opportunity to be part of a larger community of players.

Second, people metagamed for the storyline rules.  Far too often, I see players just bring some normal deck and put no thought into how to leverage the special rules to one’s best advantage.  What a wasted opportunity to think about the game considering that people don’t really need to metagame in standard constructed play around here.

I hear the !Brujah are doing well and they certainly need help, not that winning storylines really means jack, but we can pretend it does.  So, I considered playing them, but with a bloodlines set coming out soon, I also thought about reminding people that bloodlines are functional currently (with a few exceptions) and I’m always for promoting the more obscure clans.

I ended up building three decks before the tournament.  One was to lend out, so I didn’t stretch very far – Kiasyd.  One was insanity – Abomination rush.  The one I ended up playing was a ripoff of a Harbingers deck I played in this year’s qualifier.  The one that got borrowed was the Abomination deck and somehow he got a VP.

There were several features of this event I focused on, but one that had a lot of resonance was bleed reduction.  I don’t play bleed reduction much.  I don’t think it’s that good since it doesn’t oust my prey like bleed bounce does.  I also just have a general aversion to strategies that make games last longer since we have such a problem with games timing out.  The beauty of bleed bounce is that it doesn’t preserve the amount of blood in the game.  Specifically to metagame to these rules, three of the four Motivations require having the edge, so not letting the edge go to one’s predator is actually important.

For the Kiasyd deck, that was easily achieved with Folderol.  It’s too bad it didn’t see play as it would have been interesting to see how many Folderols went crosstable.  For the Harbingers’ deck, it meant a bunch of Telepathic Counters and Ancestor’s Insights …

… So, Laibon get a searching mechanic and searching is broken, so it would be kind of lame not to check out what it would mean to have easy search.  Top off with Motivated by Knowledge, yet another broken mechanic, and the synergy is all there.  Group 3/4 Harbingers have Laibon, two of three of those Laibon can play Ancestor’s Insight and TC for mucho bleed reduction.  Freak Drive is a natural complement to Perfectionist to maintain blood to burn for card draws while Mina’s special might go off.  While, Necromancy provides a means of recursing cards discarded in the pursuit of knowledge.

What was amazing, especially after playing a round, was how little people were interested in the Codex of the Edenic Groundskeepers.  I won off of the back of this one card, sweeping my first round game, coming back from 1 pool in my second, and getting the last two VPs in the finals because of numerous bleeds for 4 and 5.

Round 1:

Jeff (my Abomination deck) -> Ian -> Eric (Malk94) -> Andy (Guruhi rush)

With a ludicrous deck as my predator, I was never successfully bled the entire game by my predator.  With a huge table threat as my prey, Andy had no choice but to rush backwards all game.  What was amazing was how long it was before Eric started doing any pool damage.  A bit less pool and Andy would have been toast.  Instead, I got through Eric without having to expend too many resources and Heidelberging the Codex killed Andy and Jeff.

Round 2:

Brandyn (Lasombra bleed) -> Oliver (Lasombra vote) -> Brandon (Nos weenie Obf) -> Ian

This was a brutal game, especially for the typical NoCal environment where everyone would rather stop people from being ousted than oust folks.  Brandon hit on one of the ways I think the environment can be broken – weenies.  Oh wait, the normal game can be broken by that.  Well, he had Motivated by Jyhad to nearly double his bleed output.  Course, what he should have done was grab the Codex right away as that’s what I would build a weenie deck to do for this event.

Brandyn and Oliver contested a vampire for the second straight game, but it almost didn’t give me the table as I was being pounded.  On the other hand, I had the deck to deal with Brandon’s.  Bleed bounce wouldn’t have done much, but bleed reduction kept me alive.  What completed the keeping me alive was Oliver bouncing some bleeds into Brandon and then ousting him right before Brandon would oust me as I had burned through my reduction.  I dropped Brandyn with a Codex bleed on a Strange Day and the endgame was a tense affair with my finally being able to pay for Heidelberg and bleeding Oliver out with some bleeds of 2 and ending the game with zero blood on my four vampires.

This game really brought out how annoying Motivated by Knowledge is.  Oliver had gone with Presence for Voter Cap to pay for card drawing.  Fortunately for me, he also tried to shoehorn in Laibon, so his vampires weren’t natively Presencetastic.  Still, I couldn’t stop the votes, so he had a blood engine to dig for useful cards, which meant there was rarely a chance I wasn’t going to run into a wake for my bleeds at negative stealth.

Finals:

Eric -> Grant? (Giovanni bleed) -> Gerentt (Malk wall) -> Ian -> (Oliver)

Gerentt’s deck was truly a wall.  Oliver questioned my sitting in front of it, but he didn’t realize what a huge threat Eric was.  There were only two spots, in front of a wall that would mess with my tooling or in front of the only vote deck and behind the bleedmonster which would likely get a lot of pool before I’d get help from the table.  Gerentt never bled me, which was kind of annoying as I was choking on Eyes of Argus, TC, and TM.  I was afraid to discard bleed defense in case Eric’s bleeds or Grant’s got bounced around the table, but I don’t think Gerentt ever bounced a bleed.

I was yet again able to get the Codex, though Oliver at least argued that it was a bad idea.  Not sure why he cared so much since he had bounce.  I didn’t care if my predator got it, my prey got it, or my grandpredator (who I urged to take it) got it.  Eric getting it would have likely given him the game.  So, somebody needed to care.  I almost took it with a first turn Tupdog just to take it out of the game, but I figured I had a decent shot at it and my predator or grandpredator having it would have helped through bounce while my prey having it would have gotten the threat off the table.

As it was, Eric reasonably quickly got to the point of blowing his prey off the table, but as I hoped going into the finals, ran into the wall and sputtered while also keeping my predator busy enough to not block my actions.  This was hot for Oliver who had vote lock and a table without Delaying Tactics.  I went forward out of not drawing any toolup actions and Eric’s pool evaporated between Oliver and my bounced bleeds.  With Eric gone, Oliver was in a sick position for timing the game out.  Going forward, the wall stood fast and beat his guys down with Sniper Rifle.  Along with losing blood in combat, blood wasn’t coming back as none of Oliver’s vampires started with Presence, which was huge for preventing “I draw cards until I win.”  I kept swinging on Oliver, time was growing shorter, Gerentt couldn’t draw enough wakes to stay in the game.  Fortunately, there was still just enough time left as I figured Oliver couldn’t do much in his depleted state as his library was getting thin, partially from Zygodat milling, and his blood was thin, plus he couldn’t bounce in the endgame and had no intercept to stop mundane bleeds.  With about 5 minutes left, I finally ousted him.

Let me step aside and talk about winning since I never seem to get a chance to accurately explain my take on it.  Above, I say I was quite pleased and lots of folks would figure it was because I won.  And, yes, winning had something to do with it.  But, as I try to explain to people for why I could never be a great player of a competitive game, winning and losing, in and of themselves, do nothing for me.  Pleasure out of winning for me is derived from pleasure overcoming challenges.  It could be the deckbuilding challenge.  It could be the challenge of playing well.  It could be winning when winning is unlikely due to a sheer stubbornness to keep trying to win or, at least, not get ousted.  I don’t know that I played particularly well, oddly, my games, even with Motivated by Knowledge, weren’t that complicated for me most of the time.  I did survive and go on to victory in the second round through tight play, I guess.  The deckbuilding challenge was playing Harbingers and metagaming properly to the rules and what I expected out of opponents.  But, mostly, it was winning close games.  Winning easily is a complete bore, much like watching sporting events that are close are so much more entertaining than ones that aren’t.  On the other hand, if I’m going to lose, I’d rather get blown out than lose a game I think I can win.

I want to run another storyline.  I think there’s a lot of metagaming possibilities without too much obnoxious stuff to deal with.  I have some ideas for !Brujah decks, so maybe I’ll actually go through with that.  Still, really trying to abuse either the Laibon search of the Knowledge draw mechanics might be interesting.  Alternatively, blood denial might be cute in this format to screw with the Knowledge seekers.


Deck Building Ain’t Hard

November 13, 2009

A combination of two things inspired this post.  First, there’s the newsgroup topic about how someone’s group isn’t having fun wherein I emphasize the need for people to build new decks regularly.  Second, there’s the ongoing conversation with Azel in the comments section of the first Virgo post.

One distinction paramount to framing the discussion is whether we are talking about building any deck or building a good deck.  Building any deck can be a matter of slapping together the minimum number of cards and promptly being eviscerated by someone who built a competitive deck.  The extreme, therefore, is irrelevant; however, as with most things, there’s a spectrum and I’m more concerned with people building passable decks than with them building some sort of masterpiece.

There’s a line, somewhere, between the desire to build a masterpiece and the general desire to build decks well.  I think these get confused in people’s minds even when there’s no real interest in trying to build the best deck.

Different CCGs have different thresholds of viability.  Even choosing the opening hand wrong for a Wheel of Time deck means losing an hour or two later (if you are quick).  Rather than take the approach of looking at a number of CCGs, I’d rather focus on the one that makes a difference to me these days and one that people often complain about in terms of length of time building decks.

Yes, it’s time for another V:TEScentric article.

What seems to give people trouble with building V:TES decks is … I’m not sure what it is for any particular person.  I could guess, but I don’t think it matters.  Nevertheless, here are some possibilities.

  1. Most cards have small effects and the game in general is about building off of numerous small effects, whereas many other CCGs have cards with more obvious strengths.
  2. There are a lot of disciplines, and there are tons of ways to combine disciplines.  Other CCGs may have deckbuilding components with more obvious themes.
  3. The lack of card limits radically increases the number of choices.  With a four card limit game, most good decks are likely to play four copies of the best cards and look for support elsewhere or specialty plays elsewhere.  With V:TES, whether to play 6 copies of a card or 8 copies may be agonizing.
  4. There are lots of clans and multiple sects.  I don’t know that this is anywhere near as troublesome as the number of disciplines because it’s just so easy to build monoclan or like-clan decks.  Most people don’t build a deck for each clan in the game, so a simple place to start in one’s deckbuilding career is to build decks for clans never played before.

There are different types of deckbuilders as CCGers have a large variety of desires and eschews.  It’s amazing sometimes, actually, how stubborn some people can be about what they won’t build.  Anyway, I can’t cover every personality type and what they are looking for and what they aren’t, so my focus is on helping people who aren’t terribly experienced with the game build rather ordinary decks.  Even if ordinary doesn’t cut it, maybe there’s something about philosophy that will help.

Fortunately (as I left this hanging above), building a viable V:TES deck isn’t terribly difficult.

Bleed Bounce

The single most desirable element in a V:TES deck is bleed bounce.  Yes, it’s arguably not the best defense in the game.  Even if it isn’t, bleed bounce isn’t (just) a defense.  Bleed bounce is the most efficient way to win the game being both an extremely powerful defense combined with an, on average, medium level of offense.

Any deck without it better have a great reason why.  As to quantities, an old belief was in minimum six in a 90 card deck, but I’m more of the minimum eight or 10% of the library.  There is a maximum that makes any sense, of course, even for bounce that doubles as intercept.  I ran 20 bounce cards in a major tournament and discarded a number in the finals, though that was mostly due to using ones that didn’t work against larger vampires.

But, what about bloat?

Bloat

Some argue bloat is the best defense since it doesn’t limit itself to any particular attack strategy (well, ignoring that combat stops your ability to act and most bloat comes from actions).  What do we mean by bloat?  It matters.  I tend to think of the term referring to substantial bloat, such as Tap & Cap, Con Boon, and the like.

If we are talking about any level of bloat, then only the most aggro weenie decks can get away without it.  If we are talking about substantial bloat, then there are pros and cons to relying upon it instead of something else.

One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done was to forget to put Blood Dolls in decks.  Whether it’s BDs, Vessels, Minion Taps, or Villeins, there needs to be a strong reason not to play with the blood management masters.

I put the number of Blood Dolls at five, i.e. in an eighty card deck, a minimum of five slots should go to them.  If I play Vessels, I’ll probably play more or combine them with Villeins.  Back when Minion Tap was worth playing, I’d play at least six or play less and add some BDs.  With Villeins, I’ll tend to run four or five and play some BDs.

Wakes

I started with bleed bounce because it is both offense and defense.  Bloat can turn into offense by enabling bringing out more minions.  Waking is squarely in the realm of defense, the realm of not getting ousted.

In certain environments, I can imagine not caring a lot about wakes and certainly some deck types don’t gain much from them.  But, if there’s anything that boggles my mind more than why people so often short the number of wakes they play, it’s probably just why people continue to play Elder Library.

Unless you think you are a better deckbuilder than I am, and you probably do, minimum 10% wakes.  The days of six WWEF in a 90 card deck ended for me at least five years ago.  Even for my unordinary decks, it’s unlikely I’ll play few wakes.  After all, the wakes in the game worth playing are either Freak Drives that cost no blood or give +2 intercept.

Stealth

Moving from how not to get ousted to how to oust, it was probably after Bloodlines came out that I really thought about how important stealth is in the game.  I was trying to decide how to best win with !Salubri and realized that Kennies (Embraces) with Dominate (this was before Camarilla Edition made Embraces something of a specialty play) was not the best way to go about it.  Kennies with Obfuscate made a lot more sense because it doesn’t matter how good your actions are if they don’t go through

While I’ve done many, many things with !Salubri and finally decided to play !Salubri vote in a major (2007 NAC, day two), my current view on building a !Salubri deck with comfortable viability is to graft/splash Obfuscate.

Stealth enables victory.  Given an infinite amount of time and an infinite amount of your predator not killing you, getting actions through will eventually oust your prey.  Contrast with bruise and bleed’s philosophy.  There’s a reason evasion bleed has been many times more effective in the history of the game than B&B.  Okay, smash all of your prey’s vampires, now watch the table rescue empty chump blockers.  Not to say that there aren’t good B&B decks, weenie B&B decks have that winnie magic.  But, it’s so much less work to just not have people block.

Other evasion can be as good but rarely is.  Crocodile’s Tongue is not Lost in Crowds.  It’s not even Resist Earth’s Grasp.

The other reason to stress stealth (delivery) over payload (+bleed or whatever) is that it’s actually really easy to find payload.  Computer Hacking, bleed retainers, bleed equipment – common like dirt.

Many decks aren’t going to be stealthy.  It’s just not worth forcing stealth on every deck.  But, if trying to build a viable deck is an issue, it’s better to start by looking for where stealth is easy than where it isn’t.

Enchant the Unaligned Spirits

There’s a reason that Govern the Unaligned, Kindred Spirits, and friends show up so often in successful decks.  In one card, you get offense and defense, sort of like bleed bounce only bounce doesn’t require a successful action.

I don’t play these much anymore, but then, I don’t play ordinary decks much anymore and too many of my decks aren’t really viable.  While I’m no fan of Social Charm and Legal Manip, even Enchant Kindred makes a huge difference over not having these sorts of two-way cards.

Voltron

Putting it together, my idea of an ordinary deck is going to have 10% wakes, 10% bounce, 5-8 blood management masters, 10-20 stealth cards, and …?

Maybe a better way to envision the process is to thing about where to find the things you want.  Bounce only really comes from two sources.  Stealth is best from Obfuscate, but there are other possibilities.  Govern is Dominate, Kindred Spirits is Dementation, Enchant Kindred or Public Trust or Undue Influence are Presence.  Dominate + stealth, yeah, that’s a winning combination.  Auspex plus bleed plus stealth – I think that has worked, too.

It may sound like I’m being overly limited in how to quickly throw together new decks.  The reality is that AUS and/or Dom are everywhere in this game.  Evasion is pretty damned common as well.  What about vote decks, you say?  Combat decks?

Vote Decks

I think too often people play too many votes.  I have two ordinary tournament winning vote decks (Mellow-Yellow Drama, Pale Panda Warriors) that have a fair number of votes – 17 out of 80, 14 out of 75.  I’m not thrilled with having an ordinary deck be more than 20% vote cards.  Vote decks can (almost) always bleed, and vote damage is often pound for pound much higher because a successful vote won’t be bounced.  If you want an idea of an absurd vote deck, check out the Guruhi precon.

Stealth isn’t as important in vote decks and room needs to be devoted to things like establishing vote control, but the other principles of bleed bounce, wakes, blood management masters still apply.

Combat Decks

I think of two sorts of decks when I hear someone say combat deck:  rush; intercept combat.  B&B is a bit different in that it’s far more successful if it never gets into combat.

I would imagine that building a decent rush deck is one of the harder things for people to do.  I don’t feel qualified to dispense advice as I’ve never had any tournament success with rush.

Intercept combat, I’m much more comfortable with, whether people who play with me agree is questionable.  The main problems I see with people playing intercept combat are relying upon too few minions and putting too little ousting power in.  It’s possible to win games by not dying, but it’s a hard way to advance in larger tournaments.  It’s still worth considering stealth since, at some point, you are likely to need to get actions through to be successful.  Propping up empty chumps works against an intercept deck that destroyed its prey’s minions just as much a rush deck that has.

The problem is striking the right balance.  If you don’t run enough intercept, mighty stealth will annoy you; if you don’t run enough combat, fighty decks will annoy you; if you don’t run enough preykill, not getting any VPs will annoy you.  Judging the metagame well is a big help, where a stealth bleed deck can pretty much hope for the best against anything.  A low stealth, high combat environment means very different card choices from a high stealth, low combat environment.

Good Stuff

V:TES has tons of good stuff cards – cards that are just generically useful in lots of situations.  Information Highway, Sudden Reversal, Wash, Direct Intervention, .44 Magnum, Ivory Bow, Heidelberg, Parthenon, Carlton van Wyk, Mylan Horseed, and on, and on, and on.

Once you get the basics of your deck in, made sure you had enough blood management, made sure you had enough wakes, made sure you had enough bounce, top off with whatever good stuff you prefer, there really isn’t a whole lot (or any) space left.  Bam!  New decks just roll off the assembly line.

Then, if you don’t like your decks, well, changing them shouldn’t take that long or be that painful.  There are a lot fewer things going on in this game mechanically than people seem to think there are.

But, what about ideas?  First, if you haven’t built a deck for every clan, do it.  If nothing else, it will force you to think about the strengths and weaknesses of each clan and make you familiar with a lot more cards.  If you haven’t built a deck with every discipline, do it.  Same reasoning, plus since you probably aren’t going to be using just one discipline, the number of combinations means building an absurd number of different decks. 

Honestly, there are some really terrible deckbuilders out there who post decks publicly.  I find that they focus way too much on flavor, specific vampires, convoluted strategies, and the like to where they miss that even unique decks should be viable and play good cards.  I’m not going to worry about how someone wants to build their one vampire, nine discipline deck that wins off of The Path of Lilith and Leadership Vacuum.  I’m concerned with those people who really can’t seem to frame basic deck construction to where somehow they are discouraged by the idea of building 1+ new decks a week.