Previews – Heirs To The Blood

December has come and I’ve been derelict in writing.  So many things I should be writing.  In addition to my appearing in December, so have V:TES previews of the Heirs To The Blood set.

Additional information is available at http://www.white-wolf.com/vtes/index.php?line=Checklist_HeirsToTheBlood [edited to VEKN.net] but I just wanted to do what everyone likes to do – comment on the new cards spoiled.  Card images are from White Wolf’s web site.

The most common reaction to a new card is to overrate it.  There were people arguing that Tortured Confession had uses when it was first spoiled.  I easily fall into the trap as well.  The trap comes from thinking about all of the possibilities and consider the best uses of the card.  The reality, though, is often that a card’s best uses aren’t any better than what already exists.

I’d play with this card.  It has three different uses, after all.  But, I’m not into playing Baali rockstar decks.  In those decks, cancelling Auspex becomes far more important while blood costs are more complex costs when doing Soul Gem tricks.  Makes The Textbook Damnation more useful.  Still, I’m not impressed.

Stars:  **

Then, anything to do with combat seems to enthrall a large segment of the player population.  Here we have someone who can easily Grapple + Disarm someone, Freak, and stealth through a built in Graverobbing.

Unfortunately, even with Presence – the second most useful out of clan discipline in general, I don’t see much use in anything like a good deck.

However, the second most common reaction is to underrate a new card.  This comes from not having full information on sets.  If Thanatosis stops being pathetic as a discipline, then maybe there’s some additional synergy in the disciplines that I don’t see.  If not, I see people trying to build really bad combat decks.

Stars:  ** (questionably, but Samedi seem to be underrated in general)

Combat … and combo.  There’s a reason that Magic categorizes players into Timmy, Johnny, and Spike psychographic profiles.  Johnny is the combo player, and while I tend to hate combo decks, I can appreciate the appeal of them (up to a point).

Choir is far too many players’ dream.  It’s a linear mechanic in a game without a lot of clearly linear mechanics.  It’s also boring as hell and completely awful as a strategy.  On the other hand, Choir doesn’t need to be boring or awful.  In my post about what I think Heirs should give, I consider developing the Choir mechanic by having cards key off of Choir.

As for this card, it’s a fascinating card for people who want to get deeply into probability in deck construction no matter how terrible a deck you may end up with.  While it has been pointed out on the newsgroup that it not being a Choir has advantages with Freak Drive (Change of Target would work, too).  It’s not itself a Choir and does absolutely nothing without Choirs.  Cards like that tend to be truly awful.  I don’t see how this makes Choir any better.  Three actions to do 6 pool damage is just not that impressive.  Sure, it can oust people.  But, then, so does bleeding or voting.  For all that decks prepare for bleed and don’t prepare much for these sorts of actions, relying entirely upon the combo is fragile where bleeding is not, and not relying entirely upon the combo means having to deal with one of the deck’s strategies being very awkward.

Stars:  *

Nine capacity is far too often where we find horrendously designed vampires.  This design is pretty bad.  Great, Kiasyd with Animalism.  That’s fine if there are at least two others with good enough discipline crossover.  +1 bleed, blah.  Look at top three cards, marginal.  The history of the game has been to play high caps for their titles, their superior Presence, and their specials.

Stars:  ** (Might be a weak Kiasyd, but Kiasyd have Dominate + stealth)

There so needs to be some cost reduction for Temporis.  It would be amusing if Temporis got stealth or other evasion out of this set as that would make this card even worse.  As it is, it’s an expensive comboish card that doesn’t do anything that wouldn’t be far easier to do with Obfuscate without paying any blood.  Now, if it weren’t a bleed action but an action modifier (just like Flurry of Action should have been an action modifier), it would be hawt with voting (Voter Cap your other votes to refill the engine).

Stars: *

Lot of folks are commenting on the combo potential.  It’s value add, sure, but if I squint at this card, I can ignore the completely unnecessary Necromancy and focus on a vampire who only has all of the best common disciplines in the game and the Freak Drive discipline.  Sure, inferior Dom and Pre are not the hotness, but you are getting all sorts of overlap possibilities with other vampires, and there’s that +1 stealth thing.  Presence (if loser Presence), Freak, quality specials, every bounce discipline – that seems more like a reasonable high cap.

Stars:  *** (especially if I factor in having a terrible group number, so want to do half stars in these ratings)

It’s interesting how much the value of paths vary.  The Path of Paradox is obscenely powerful.  The Path of Typhon not so much.  While Squirrel Balance is a strong card, and I’m sure there will be blood costing Spiritus cards in the set, this card is currently a waste of space.  To change that will necessitate seriously good, blood costing cards.

Stars:  * (in reality, it would be zero stars with what currently exists, but one must assume there’s a reason for this card)

Gargoyle cards just don’t make sense to me.  Visceratika gets stuff you don’t care about mixing with Fortitude and Potence, Tupdog is ludicrous, etc.  I’m struggling to see how this isn’t the anti-Tupdog – an awful card that has hardly any uses.  It’s similar to Aabbt Kindred only somehow actually worse.  The card would be properly designed by eliminating the (additional) drawback.  Still, as a challenge it will peak the interest of people … like me.

Stars:  * (it’s hard to give anything zero stars)

Wow, this is bad design.  Openended effects are just conceptually bad as they may be open to breakage.  If they aren’t open to breakage, it’s probably because what they do is weak.  This isn’t weak.  Yes, there’s a practical limit to how often you’ll untap even playing actions that untap you, a boatload of Freak Drives, and whatever.  But, it’s a big limit.  I actually don’t see it being so difficult to generate 20 pool off of this card.  Now, whether the deck that does that is any good is a completely separate issue.  The key with this card is either running a bunch of copies or searching it out.  Any of Magic of the Smith, Vast Wealth, Sibyl’s Tongue, Inconnu Tutelage, Drop Point Network, etc. come to mind.

Stars:  ** (building around it is questionable)

Bleeding successfully is easy, so that special will kick in most turns.  The combat special is a reasonable deterrent.  Whether it’s Flurry of Action, Dual Form, or any of the other ideas someone has mentioned on the newsgroup, it’s still playing a big vampire that isn’t game changing.  No bounce discipline, no Freak Drive discipline, no Rutor’s Hand discipline, too many combat disciplines leaves me to wonder whether there’s significant help for Baali in the set or whether there is some sort of Protean theme to pursue with them.

Stars:  ** (it could be so much worse)

What commenting on previews makes me want to do is go back and look at how I rated cards in the past and see how well my predictions for them turned out.  Maybe a return to the Ebony Kingdoms post, though I still haven’t seen enough people play with EK to clearly determine what is what.

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10 Responses to Previews – Heirs To The Blood

  1. extrala says:

    One quick question: what’s maximum number of stars a card can get? 3? 5? 10?

  2. finbury says:

    I am legion: One thing that’s interesting about this card is how well it cycles. If you have a reason to play Baali at all, and aim to ever act with them, it’s a blood moved to your pool at best, and a canceled bounce or wake (Eyes of Argus / Read the Winds) at worst.

    Josette: Grapple/Withering combos aside, she’s the second Samedi with all in-clan disciplines at superior, and the cheapest (by 1). Not that The Baron isn’t clearly a better minion – he has dom, after all – but that bodes well in general for the G6s casting aside the curse of crappy discipline selection.

    Harmony: I don’t mind alternate win strategies. It’s too early to say yet whether Choir is going to stay down at the level of Spell of Life or be this set’s Khazar’s Diary, but either way, it’s variety. Probably the worst effect of this card, if it gets Choir up to a useful point, is that it makes Direct Intervention better – which we didn’t need.

    Myrna Goldman: Not great, but not all that terrible either. Clearly the vampires she’s supposed to hang out with haven’t been printed yet – we’ll have to wait for the next Sabbat set for that…

    That actually is an interesting question. There are only two G5 Lasombra. If the starters really have no new vampires, and a good chunk of the Kiasyd in this set are G6, what the hell are they going to put in the starter?

    Cheat the Fates: Agreed, terrible. Horrific Countenance may actually be a better card. Hm, though, Temporis already does have a doubling / halving theme – if there’s a cost halver for them in the set, like Ankara Citadel, then this might end up being somewhat playable.

    Byzar: He’d be a decent vampire if the Harbingers actually had anything to do. They don’t yet, so he doesn’t either. He does make a good target for Cardinal Benediction, though.

    Grotesque: One problem with the Slave mechanic has always been that it’s tough to get enough gargoyles into play to cover your Tremere, and if your Tremere aren’t covered you end up with discipline issues when they have to fight. These guys are really cheap – one Govern – and can fight pretty reasonably when you count Raking Talons, Pounce, Grapple, Roll, Soak, Disarm, and Crawling Chamber. The Tremere certainly have enough location options (Chantry, Arcane Library, Ankara Citadel) that sprinkling in a couple of extras (Storage Annex, Info Highway, Barrens, Centralized Background Check) is probably not going to slow you down much.

    Journal of Hrorsh: I don’t like it much either. This may be just a waste of ink, but there’s probably a reasonable 48-card deck involving Ashur Tablets, Magic of the Smith, and Saulot that could handle having 2 of these and 40 Freak Drives crammed into it. It may even include the Sargon Fragment. It may even be a really strong deck, if boring to see in action.

    The unnamed: I think the biggest issue with the Baali is that you’re always playing catch-up – that overcoming their infernal cost is so much work that you’d always be better off with another clan. This guy overcomes his own weakness, without library support for anything you wouldn’t be doing anyway. That’s something we’ve never seen before; hell, we’ve never even seen awareness that it was an issue before (as Azanael’s special ability makes absolutely clear.) That’s progress.

  3. Brandon says:

    The fact that The Unnamed directly addresses the clan’s built-in weakness is really useful. I’m not big on bloodlines, but The Unnamed and I am Legion make me want to give Baali a shot.

  4. Azel says:

    what bothers me about several of these cards is how they don’t really address needs to help these clans, but merely reinforce the thematics in a rather costly and narrow way.

    like, I am Legion could’ve been an excellent action making Infernal a trait almost worthwhile, or a Freak Drive of sorts. i personally go with adding value to Daimoinon actions over tempting bad design w/ FD. but do Bloodline disciplines really need dual discipline cards already?

    here it front loads the reward to offset the Infernal cost, but only at the highest level. at basic it does something that is wholly redundant from OBF clan discipline. at double basic it cancels out AUS reactions, which is fair enough. but again, i’ll have to see the rest of what Daimoinon gets before i really find this a missed mark.

    it’s not horrible, just a strangely wasted opportunity, just like a lot of these cards.

    as much as i dig Harmony for Qadir’s Concert Tour w/ DoC back up singers, this card is tightly type-casted. there’s no flexibility. it’s also not a direct play, it’s a one-off. w/o immediate Choir support, it’s a dead draw. again, this is a missed opportunity. if it offered another effect, it could be interesting. it would open doors to cards keying off of Choir as a resource. whether that happens, who knows…

    Cheat the Fates is over-costed Speed of Thought garbage that still succumbs to bounce. honestly, what’s the point of all these efforts when we already are aware that bounce exists? and why are we whistling in the dark when we already know that bounce favors several clans… sorry off topic. i have no idea how this even escaped the initial brainstorming phase.

    The Path [for Spiritus], was this even necessary? no. will it be? unlikely, as the clan can do quite nicely w/o higher cost cards. that higher cost card better be pretty damn amazing, and if it is, this Path might make it troublesome. not a valued creation. i actually think the Paths existences from WotC have done more harm than good for design.

    Journal… again, it is bad design. but maybe someone will trick Mr. Noir out into something hilarious. otherwise i expect this to generate much combo hilarity, of the stone faced kind. again, was this what the Salubri needed at the moment? i keep feeling that real opportunities are being wasted here.

    • finbury says:

      On Harmony, again: I think Azel is being a bit too harsh.

      I’ve been thinking about Choir decks in terms of Ben Swainbank’s old Malkavian newsletter about posture:

      http://www.thelasombra.com/newsletter/malkavian_february_2002.htm

      Using the terms from there, an archetypal Choir/Harmony deck doesn’t have all that many posture options regarding its prey. It can’t Cripple, Destroy, Thwart, or Deter, and it doesn’t want to Assist, so it can Ignore, Probe, or (try to) Oust.

      When I’ve previously considered Choir decks – and that was simply as a theoretical exercise, I’ve never played one – I always just assumed that it would be pushing to Oust all of the time. However, that’s really not a good idea:
      – Putting your prey on a right-focused footing from turn 1 is not good, especially when your primary ousting mechanic is limited by cards drawn. If he/she chooses to bring out one less minion, that extra 6 pool is a LOT more work for you to burn through.
      – It’s very hard not to be seen as the table threat if you’re constantly in an Oust stance.
      – There are going to be times when the right strategy is to wait around rather than moving forward. For example, your prey and grandprey may have combat decks.
      – A constant Oust stance, especially for a card-intensive strategy like Choir, puts really strict requirements on your deck, limiting your ability to defend yourself or bloat.

      The next most obvious approach is to Ignore until you are ready to pounce. This may include building up with an Embrace, an Enchant at PRE, or even a Flaming Candle. Or it might involve dropping Aranthebes, having your Blood Doll hunt, and other standard bloat stuff.

      Where it gets tricky here is, does your prey block at all? If not – say her defense is just Wakes and Deflections – then you’re in good shape anyway – your Choirs ignore her Deflections, so you’re going to walk all over her no matter what. If not, then she’ll going to be able to block your build-up actions too. And, if she can assume that you will only be playing Choir/Harmony on your “big turn”, then she can do so with impunity.

      Which leads us to the Probe stance. Sure, everyone knows that Choir gets more efficient the more you play. Sure, everyone knows that all you need to do is block the last Choir. But most decks need to use transient or limited resources in order to block +1 stealth actions. So, if you demonstrate that you are willing to Choir with just two actions to do a small amount of pool damage, you make your prey’s decisions a lot more difficult. Block that Embrace and risk a Freak Drive / Choir / Choir? Or, block that Choir(MEL) for 2 and risk an Embrace?

      I think that Harmony would work well in this environment. First, Choir/Harmony is a more threatening probe than Choir mel/Choir MEL. Second, it gives you more Freak Drive options, and thus more ways to psyche people out. If you play Choir mel/Choir MEL, now your prey has to think, “is he expecting a block, so that he can play Freak Drive / Harmony? Or does he just not have the Harmony in hand? Or does he just want to tap me out so he can play Entrancement on Carlton?”

      On I Am Legion: Azel, I have to disagree with you again here.

      It seems clear to me that nobody is intended to play this card just to gain access to the dai effect. +1 stealth for a blood is a pretty miserable deal, right? Well, yes… unless you need it. The DAI OBF ability here only functions if your action is successful, and the dai obf version requires that your prey have AUS, so a card with just those abilities might cause hand-jam in some environments – say, your prey running an ANI wall. The inferior ensures that the card will be played, and probably be useful, in those cases. 1 blood to make a bleed for 3 successful _and_ to avoid a faceful of Carrion Crows is a pretty decent deal.

  5. Bill Ricardi says:

    I’d rate Byzar a 4. The combo-tastic discipline mix at stealth is tasty. Sure group 6 blows… but does he even need friends? Ex Nihilo up for +2 stealth on all actions. Regeneration and Rapid Healing/Resume the Coil tricks. If you do find him some friends, more power to him!

  6. echiang says:

    I actually think most of the previewed cards are quite good.

    Sure, I am Legion may seem a bit redundant with OBF, but it does open possibilities for DAI decks without using OBF. There are a handful of Daimoinon minions without any Obfuscate at all. Elihu and Valerius Maior come immediately to mind. Their lack of stealth has always been irritating (especially with their Infernal penalty), so some Daimoinon stealth is welcome. It might not be a bad option for Dylan either, if you’re not using Protean.

    Obfuscate already has Hide the Mind to cancel Auspex bounce. But that requires superior OBF. I am Legion only requires two inferiors (Barbaro, Mary, Maureen, Sargon, and Helena only have inferior Obfuscate). Furthermore, Hide the Mind is hard to cycle if no one is playing Auspex (the inferior is particularly bad). I am Legion offers new options and is easily cyclable. Plus, it can be used in combination with Hide the Mind to *really* hose Auspex. Imagine bleeding with Perfect Clarity (no Dominate bounce) with both Hide the Mind *and* I am Legion ready to hose two Auspex bounces. Might be an interesting option for Nergal or Petaniqua.

    Josette has a really neat ability. It’s slightly different than a Graverobbing (moves to your torpor region rather than to your ready region so you still need to rescue). But then again, it does work on incapacitated Imbued. At the very minimum, it’s like being able to diablerize with immunity for the cost of 2 blood (effectively prevents your opponent from using that minion).

    I agree that it would have been better to have Harmony function differently. But it’s not a bad card. I’d say a Choir/Harmony deck would be pretty effective in ousting its prey. Lots of cheap minions, multi-acting, plenty of stealth. Few defenses. Might be a bit boring (it’ll be like solitaire unless you’re next to an intercept deck), but it’s viable.

    Journal of Hrorsch has a major advantage in that it can be used any time except during an actual action. Unless your predator can surprise oust you in a single action, it can throw a wrench into his plans. He bleeds for 4. He bleeds for 4. Wait, now you sack your Journal for 5 pool and foil his lunge. You can even use it during the Untap or Master phase to save yourself from Fame or other such effects.

    • iclee says:

      Being able to oust a prey is not equivalent to being viable. What exactly is the Choir’s deck plan for not getting ousted? Be far more competitive taking out every Choir in a Choir deck and putting Deflections in instead.

      As to the damaging ability of Choir, I’ve played Choir decks on several occasions and I consistently did more damage bleeding. Sure, I could have dumped things like stealth and played nothing but Choirs and consistently do damage to people who have no intercept, no DIs, and whatnot.

      I don’t see how someone is lunging when the defense is sitting on the table. The problem with the card isn’t that you can’t gain tons of pool off of it, the problem is that Salubri don’t need to gain tons of pool – that’s actually one of the things they do best. What does it do to address the need of either helping Salubri oust better or making their decks less complex? Now, gaining pool makes their decks less complex as it becomes easier to afford a second Salubri, but how many people are going to fill their decks with things that aren’t that good just to gain more pool? Still likely to get value add, but how much value add?

      The preview cards by and large do stuff, which is better than a lot of cards in the game, including a lot of bloodlines oriented cards in circulation. But, what are they doing that is going to produce better results than rather average plays currently available?

  7. finbury says:

    One thing I did observe in the previews: there are hosers for a couple of common defensive strategies here.

    Running just bounce without intercept (ie Wake/Deflection): Choir/Harmony hoses you, if it isn’t ousted first.
    Intercept without bounce (weenie ANI, Ahrimanes, Second Tradition): Cheat the Fates hoses you, if it doesn’t run out of blood on its minions first.
    Bounce plus intercept via Auspex: I Am Legion hoses you, unless it dies to Infernal cost first.

    As to doing stuff better than current average plays: that is still required before Bloodlines are even worthwhile, yes, and we haven’t seen anything that raises the bar just yet. OTOH, when that shows up it might be spread across three or four cards, not condensed into one.

    Also: nobody has anything to say about Fractura or Greater Curse?

    Finally, a card idea that I think would have made a great addition to this set, and that is topical to current newsgroup discussions:

    Disorienting Tone
    Reaction, 1 blood
    mel: Only usable when a minion is bleeding you after blocks are declined. Tap this reacting vampire. Choose another Methuselah other than the controller of the acting minion. The acting minion is now bleeding that Methuselah, with -2 bleed.
    MEL: As above, but with -1 bleed.

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