The inspiration for this post comes from this article – http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/mf37
The narrowest concept of reach in Magic is to be able to do the last few points of damage outside of creature combat. Within Mike’s article, he does talk about reach a bit more broadly than that.
While V:TES has similarities to Magic in terms of putting “actors” into play that deal damage to an opponent, the card pools are quite different and the actors are far more sophisticated in V:TES. There are some cards that are closer in concept if one were to try to port reach over as closely as possible from the one CCG to another: Anarch Revolt, Antediluvian Awakening, Dragonbound, (most obviously) Personal Involvement, etc.
While some of those cards are commendable, in particular Antediluvian Awakening is underplayed in speed decks, I’m not all that enthralled by focusing entirely on such a narrow range of cards and such a limited concept.
Rather, I use the philosophy of reach fairly often when determining decklists these days to throw off expectations. Though, to be fair, the way I use it is as old as people’s decks in 1994 in many ways. But, let me speak of what I mean. To me, reach in V:TES is the ability to get an extra few pool of damage out from one’s actions, especially with bleed actions.
Note that it isn’t the same as lunging. Lunging is about devoting a concentrated effort during a prey’s apparent moment of vulnerability to attempt to put the prey out during the present turn. Reach makes lunging easier, and the philosophy of doing those few points of extra damage are very much consistent with lunging, but I’m more focused on the details of an individual action.
Hey dude, isn’t Conditioning just a reach card and everyone has been doing this since day one? The nature of CCGs is that there are expectations. When you see Dominate, you can calculate fairly easily how many bleed of 5 or 6 will be coming. The power of CCGs is that there are always unknowns, so it’s not the case that someone will always accurately predict the amount of damage someone will inflict. What we are looking for with reach in V:TES is increasing that unknown, throwing off the “combat math” so to speak.
More in my mind, for the brokenness that is Dominate, is Command of the Beast. Sure, if the deck is chock full of them, it tends to be as predictable as the expected Govern/Conditionings. In truth, Dominate is not really where I’m concerned with the concept as Dominate’s ousting power is so unfair that it hardly matters whether you slip an extra point of damage in from a strategic standpoint (with the fun of Dominate being all about the tactical issues of maximizing damage).
So, what am I talking about when it comes to deckbuilding? I had lent a Samedi Off Kilter deck for storyline use and a suggestion was taking out the one Computer Hacking and one Leverage, the former to make room for something more important and the latter because it lacked synergy with Off Kilter. My response was very close if maybe not exactly, “But, that’s how you oust people.” Or, maybe, it was, “But, how else do you oust people?”
Many of my decks actually have very little ousting power, light years less than the decks that run double digit Governs, et al. Now, that isn’t just about reach, it’s about conservation of resources, well, and eschewing decks that just blow people off of tables, as that’s dull, especially when I’ve played so many bleed decks in the past. Early on, after I adopted my more passive play style that relies far too much on lunging, I didn’t really need reach as I could just fire off some Changelings or whatever when someone left an opening; yes, for the day, it was reachy since people weren’t used to lunging. But, anyway, over time, I see players being more cautious against me, expecting such antics.
The point of the casual (read: low quantity) bleed pumps is to make the lunges just a bit deeper, to throw off the math a bit further. Now, I do like tactical Anarch Revolt or whatever for similar reasons, but let’s get back to focusing on Computer Hacking and Leverage. That these two cards can be played by any minion who can bleed, regardless as to how much bleed the minion has, is of exceeding importance. In one major tournament, I only ousted one prey because I could Computer Hack with Mylan (aka Crowbait) to set up getting a couple of Conditionings through after expending my prey’s wakes. That random Carlton, Repo Man, or Jake Washington might be the end of someone who, given another turn, would be able to hold out beyond my decks’ abilities. Leverage is even more interesting since it starts a bit sneakier and can be followed up with more beats, say, a Monkey Wrench.
Of course, Power of One (Potence) is another way to go if the deck can support it and I contemplate (because I’m just that way) the Power of One into Monkey Wrench off of someone with copious amount of blood to burn. A very different way to go, and one that has been obvious since its printing, is the reach possibilities with Force of Will.
Note that the concept I’m going for is really much about exceeding expectations. There’s nothing tricksome about Force of Will when playing a Force of Will deck. It’s the ones and twos of particular cards to put someone away or, at least, into a deeper hole that may be problematic. A Force of Will for the kill is not the same as a Force of Will for the “reduce under double digit pool” play.
In one game, against the eventual tournament winner, we were down to the endgame and I had my opponent on the ropes; he survived due to a lot of wakes, some misplay on my part with On the Qui Vive on Carlton, and the fact that I had run out of Leverages in my deck even if Carlton could act on the relevant turns. What was interesting was that my opponent, a far better player than I, was concerned with the possibility of my drawing Leverage having seen two come out earlier.
One question from this experience was whether the fear factor of reach had any benefits beyond the actual damage output effects. Probably not, as I typically find that fear makes it harder to oust people not less so. But, there’s a whole level of gaming where getting people to misplay, no matter the sort of misplay, is of interest. Actually, I do think I’ve saved a grandprey or two due to representing a much greater threat than in fact was the case, which pales next to how many prey I’ve had wall up for no reason and throw the game to their prey, but whatever.