1001^n Deck Ideas

Putting aside actually pulling the cards, making sure they are sleeved correctly, and the other logistical aspects of deckbuilding, I find deckbuilding easy. Not everyone does. There are various reasons, including the possibility that others have the same issue I do with actually assembling a physical deck but, unlike me, don’t write out decklists. This post is just going to focus on generating ideas.

Act On It!

I’d have hundreds more decks written out if I spent just a little bit of time writing down deck ideas whenever I play. Note that the more you play, the more ideas you should have, and the more decks you should have. Unfortunately, it works the other way, too. Sometimes, I do write down ideas, and … it helps – a lot. Just creating that note is action that will lead to more decks. Of course, there are other actions that will lead to more decks.

Like, looking at cards. Not glancing at a pack of this, a box of that, some loose pile here, boxed bunch there, or scanning decks that get posted online but actually just studying one card, whether through a deckbuilder or a physical card. Of course, there’s a subsequent action which needs to take place, namely taking that physical/electronic card and taking a lot of other physical/electronic cards and adding them to that card. Yes, building a deck is by definition deckbuilding, but the inducing action was to just focus on that one card. “Card of the Week” threads, like those that can be found on http://www.thepathofblood.com for V:TES or many places for Magic, are a good way to increase the amount of brainstorming that can be done on how to make use of a card, as can talking with other players. But, anyone who has the mentality to play CCGs regularly shouldn’t have any problem considering enough possibilities for how to use a card to where at least one deck can be generated.


One way of generating ideas has already been mentioned – looking at a specific card. I spent a lot of time, if not really a lot of years, playtesting CCGs. Obviously, reading and thinking about each card was essential to playtesting. Playtesting even involved building decks!! Though, it’s kind of scary how much playtesting for CCGs is throwing out opinions in the absence of actual play-testing, well whatever.

But, there’s lots of cards. What speeds up picking cards that are productive for making decks? Again, playtesting needs point out a useful (and obvious) answer – look at cards you haven’t played before. Even those who aren’t into taking advantage of the ludicrous amounts of variety CCGs offer benefit from playing with cards they haven’t played with before. Even in a CCG like V:TES where sets often have a minor impact on whatever metagame a player may be concerned with, something within any set should have a competitive impact.

In many cases, the set one should be examining card by card is the most recent one. If the set has been out for a while, there might be little left that will be that inspiring. Whether for this reason or for other reasons, it’s often the right call to look at older sets. As new cards get added to the card pool, older cards change in value and ability to interact with other cards (or so one hopes). For example, with V:TES, I have been looking at Heirs to the Blood cards but am also looking at Dark Sovereigns and Ancient Hearts cards. I should really be looking at Kindred Most Wanted, a set I never felt I explored as deeply, also a set which wasn’t as linear* as others, even with the trophy mechanic.

* Linear mechanics, as explained by Mark Rosewater, are mechanics that want the deckbuilder to play more cards with the mechanics as they synergize with each other. In other words, rather than cards with the mechanic competing in function, they reinforce each other. Black Hand, anarchdom, Prince/Justicar, trophy, etc. are not linear in the sense that many Magic mechanics are linear, but for V:TES, they are relatively so.

Okay, so have picked a set, removed cards that are familiar, now what? Cards with more text are often less understood. Then, it’s fairly easy to remove cards that have effects that are common. What shouldn’t be immediately removed from consideration are cards that seem overly narrow, including hosers. While most hosers should never see play, it’s possible that a hoser can have some odd effect that can be exploited. I built a deck around Jackal and talked of other concepts around Jackal. Was the deck insipid? Well, only if you think that Stanislava bleeding at stealth is easy to do without Jackal.

By the way, I find that it’s incredibly common for a deck I build around a particular card leads me to put in other cards I either haven’t played or have played only minimally.

Thirty Something

Moving on, CCGs aren’t just about individual cards. They have categories, mechanics, whatever that provide structure to the game. V:TES decks are most often built around either clans, disciplines, or both.

With 30+ clans and 30+ disciplines, it’s easy to pick one that I haven’t played in a while. For some people, there’s picking one they haven’t played ever. I’ve been considering Ahrimanes ideas recently since I haven’t played them in quite a while (because they tend to be boring). I was just looking at Kiev Circle Blood Brothers today both for the clan (the most boring clan in the game) and for Sanguinus as a discipline that I haven’t played with in quite some time.

Then, there’s sects. I may have thrown together a decklist for a Sabbat oriented deck recently, but I haven’t played a deck that depended upon Sabbatness in recent memory. As a subsect, I haven’t built a Black Hand deck in a while, so I’ve been ruminating about what I could do that would be different.

And, titles. Actually, I have at least two decks written that I haven’t physically built that rely on Sabbat titles. I eschew Prince/Justicar decks for the most part because of how common they are, but I think there are some things I’d be interested in trying, and I may have a First Tradition deck written up that I never put together.

Or, card types. I’m actually a big fan of allies. There are bunches of allies I haven’t played with in a while.

Two Plus

Still at a dead end? Mix and match. Take two disciplines that have never been played together, two clans, or whatever. The best system for people who really have done a ton of different deck archetypes is to mix and match individual cards. One of our former players did it randomly, and it was as awesome as it sounds. I’m sure, these days, it’s easy to come up with a random way to determine cards that a deck must be built around, but if that’s too much effort, there’s always rough randomization that can be done. For instance, maybe roll a 20 sider to find out what set to use (can decide not to include 3 sets for V:TES pretty easily, I’m sure), a 20 sider for card type, a d6 for rarity, etc. until there’s an identifiable card.

Card of the …

Weak. Yeah, that’s a regular topic I should engage in. Maybe soon, maybe not.


11 Responses to 1001^n Deck Ideas

  1. Brandon says:

    The sheer volume of decks waiting to be built is staggering. One problem I have with deck building is narrowing down exactly what deck to build. I’ll usually get 3/4 of the way through and be like, “this is too convoluted and not focused enough on ousting,” and start on something I got the idea from when creating the last deck.

    I’d say that if you weren’t going to post anything else, a card analysis post would be a good idea.

  2. iclee says:

    Card analysis post?

    Might be a topic for another post to talk about taking ideas and ending up with finished decks. I find that people agonize way too much, especially for V:TES. I have so many decks intended only for tournament play that few decks I build are ever going to see competitive play, so worrying about their precise contents just wastes time.

    • Brandon says:

      What I mean by card analysis post is something like card of the week thread, but at fairly random intervals(whenever you get around to it or aren’t posting something else).

      I was trying to randomly select cards to make a deck today, but there are a LOT of cards I don’t have, especially in quantities to say that the deck is based around it. There is also the issue of nearly impossible combinations. The first selection I made was Grasp the Ghostly + Deep Cover Agent. There is exactly one guy who can play bloth cards and not a very compelling reason to even try. What we need is an excel spreadsheet to refer to when rolling. This site was helpful:


      By the way, I doubt I’ll get around to posting about our last game day. I’ve been really busy and need to study.

  3. Andy says:

    I think I usually suffer from what Brandon is describing. I’ll get going on a deck idea only to realize that its hopelessly scattered or bloated because the cards don’t work well together.

    The fact that bounce is SO much more card efficient than virtually any other defensive strategy means that if my deck doesn’t have bounce I have to devote way more cards to defense than I would otherwise. Therefore any side mechanics I want in the deck get squeezed out and the deck turns into an unfocused mess.

    Basically I want to build decks that are

    1) Reasonably effective at ousting and not being easily ousted
    2) Reasonably original or unusual. (Stealth+bleed is not particularly compelling)

    Its surprising to me at least, how few viable deck ideas I find after these two criteria.

    • Brandon says:

      Not playing bounce in a tournament is like bringing your horse and buggy on the freeway. Better be fast(or made of 5 tons of steel) or you’ll get run over!

    • iclee says:

      Take a look at the North America Championships winning deck. Take a look at a lot of tournament winning decks. A lot of tournament winning decks should just be run over by any sort of decent bleed deck, whether of the weenie sort or the evasion sort.

      Furthermore, take a look sometime at the decks that lose tournaments. This is where, I feel, we lack meaningful analysis. People go on about how much stronger something is, yet most of the time, those decks lose.

      On extrala’s site – http://extrala.blogspot.com/ – take a look at the Italian Qualifier and note two of the decks that made the finals that aren’t a generic build. Actually, it would be nice to find out what the Swiss Qualifier decks are.

      Anyway, as to playing with bounce, sure, go ahead and play with it. That reduces the number of possible deck builds down to only approaching infinity. What clans are meaningfully cut off from bounce? Abominations – not really a clan. Ahrimanes – tons of intercept. Akunanse – okay amounts of intercept. !Brujah – do have three vampires in 2/3 with Dominate. DoC – play with Ventrue like I did. Gargoyle – I might be the only one who bothers playing real Gargoyles and not lame two clan decks or even lamer Tupdog decks … and I grafted Dominate. Guruhi – two group 4’s have Dominate, which sounds low, but Laibon got shafted on number of vampires. Ishtarri – there’s a reason most, if not all, of the early Ishtarri wins featured Ayo. Pander – three Dominators in group 2/3 even if you didn’t already win off of weeniedom. Samedi – yes, you need a second bouncer, but group 2 was made for Seal of Veddartha.

      When has our local environment been at its most competitive? I don’t know, but it’s hard to say that it’s clearly more competitive now than it was in other years. I won tournaments with Ravnos with no bounce, Baali/!Salubri with no bounce, with “Toreador” with no bounce. In the first case, my prey was weenie Dominate, his prey Tzimisce wall, then EuroBrujah, and toolboxy Tzimisce – in other words, I had the only deck in the finals with no bounce.

      Bounce is the most important element in the game, but the most important determinant of who wins is play skill, at least that’s the conclusion I draw from what evidence we have.

  4. Brandon says:

    True enough, bounce is not determinate in winning and losing. Looking over the TWDA and the Hall of Fame, there are lots of decks that I cannot believe won a major tournament. Skill, seating, table-talk, luck, they all factor in. Looking at some of Ira’s decks, it’s just like wtf is this doing in the TWDA. The Progeny deck? Seriously?

    I find that bounce relieves my attention from putting in too much intercept and combat. Cards not put towards 2nd traditions, wake + intercept, Soak, etc are cards I can use to go forward, one way or the other. That said, I expected Murmur of the False Will to make a much bigger splash than it did.

    • iclee says:

      The power of bounce is that it doesn’t just sub for defense, it subs for offense, so you can put more of whatever you want to put in. Compare with bleed reduction, where you still need some way to oust people.

      Also, not relating to your post, but going back to something else that’s incredibly important about bounce – it doesn’t reduce the number of counters removed from the game. Well, in and of itself. It often does because bleeds get blocked by others that wouldn’t normally get blocked, and nothing might happen in those combats. But, as a defense, it isn’t one that prolongs or slows games in any way, which is way good for the game. I just don’t get people who want to weaken bounce when it’s the only way the game works and makes the game better.

  5. Azel says:

    Y’know, and I hate the idea of VTES going slower tan it already does, I am now musing (as a non-player currently residing in the ether) that VTES is more about reactions than actions. As a multiplayer game, you have more playtime during other players’ turns than your own in just about every game. Maybe general deck construction for new learners should lean towards 30% react & 20% actions, compared to the current generic 30% action & 20% reaction.

    I do know that upping my wake count from 6 cards per deck, and even 10% of a deck, to your recommendation of 10 wake cards made a difference. Sure, it can choke if you just throw in wakes w/o backup. But wakes cycle nicely, in general.

    Oh wait, I’m still fixated on bounce — i’m ignoring the origin of this discussion.

    I found randomly choosing deck focii and brainstorming a single card to be great methods to create inspiration. I also enjoy picking overlooked vampires from the past; running through two superior and around 1-2 basic disciplines from a forgotten big cap tends to work some brain cells. Actually, learning to appreciate a basic discipline in a DIS/DIS/dis discipline deck was rather eye opening as well. Probably not as much as running 5-discipline decks you did, but still educational. Doing weird dual clan madness (only link is one shared discipline) was rather fun — the DoC + Samedi was rather memorable.

    Interestingly, I found the imperative for some “tournament worthy” deck ideal to be one of the greatest sources of VTES ennui. So often you could dwell on some completely novel idea and then you have that nagging insistence that “you might as well play Cam Princes votes; OBF/DOM stealth bleed; just use bounce” to be “competitive” — be it from the community or your internal critic. But TWDA is filled with confusing and conflicting examples, and some really novel ideas have bubbled up lately, so really, perhaps this pursuit of “tournament competitiveness” might be unnecessary. I guess as long as you can reliably deal 3-5 pool damage a turn, and/or lunge for more, it doesn’t really matter. Just keep your creative passion and go construct something.

    • iclee says:

      The “pick a vampire with 5 disciplines and build around it” method of deckbuilding was pretty effective for building different decks, I still don’t know why I’m so reluctant to going back and trying more of that.

      I’m a big action-hater. My style of deckbuilding is one where choking on actions is the worst of all worlds, so I try to thin them as much as possible. In general, I think people overdo actions, but then, I’m big on conservation of resources, so I won’t cycle actions just to cycle. Still, there’s a reason you see J.S., Tasha, and Heidelberg in so many of my decks – reasonable offense with conservation of card slots and minimal number of actions required.

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