Fly No More

June 25, 2011

I’m kind of out of touch with V:TES discussion.  It’s hard to embrace the new go to place of vekn.net because the scheme is really hard on the eyes (changing it is more painful) and because I just don’t have the same level of interest.  I did look around lately, so I saw the question about expectations at the NAC, not a lot of posts.  I did try to find some blog about Week of Nightmares but couldn’t find anything.

So, I can still make predictions in the absence of any sort of results.  There’s definitely a sense that Girls variants and Stickmen are overrepresented as winners in the last year or so.  In the past, I might have done the deck by deck analysis to really see what has been winning recently, but in lieu of going to that much effort, I’d note that Giovanni have done well in 2011 in larger tournaments and I feel like Dementation and Imbued decks are threatening.

As to what I’d expect, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of these various archetypes, except maybe Dementation, at the NAC.  While I’m hesitant to say that there is greater diversity of deck archetypes at major US events, I do think that there’s evidence that suggests that frequent winners in Europe will play the same archetypes repeatedly, embracing what is considered the strongest archetypes rather than eschewing them.

What I would expect is Animalism.  If asked maybe a year ago, maybe two or three, what I’d feel was the most troublesome archetype, I would probably have said weenie Animalism.  It was already a go to metagame choice before Deep Song was printed, and Deep Song only made it vastly more efficient.  While hardly perfect and while there are a number of matchups the archetype isn’t fond of, it wrecked enough decks while having a good enough game against enough of the field, that it seemed a prime choice.

I wouldn’t say the same about weenie Animalism today, but I would say Animalism is even stronger.  Why?  Decks like this one:

V:tES ECQ @ GothCon 2011
Gothenburg, Sweden
April 23, 2011
37 players

Erik Torstensson’s Tournament Winning Deck

Deck Name : girls will find aids (68-rörelsen)
Author : Isak Bjärmark Esbjörnsson and Erik Torstensson
Description : Five minutes with Enkidu.

Crypt [12 vampires] Capacity min: 7 max: 11 average: 8.91667
————————————————————
4x Aksinya Daclau     9 ANI FOR PRE PRO cel tha     !Gangrel:4
2x Cybele            10 ANI DAI OBF PRE SER THA     Baali:4
2x Nana Buruku         8 ANI POT PRE             Guruhi:4
1x Enkidu, The Noah    11 ANI CEL OBF POT PRO for     !Gangrel:4
1x Nangila Were     9 ANI POT PRE obf ser         Guruhi:4
1x Gustaphe Brunnelle     8 ANI DOM POT obf         Nosferatu:4 primogen
1x Talbot         7 ANI NEC PRO for         Gangrel:5

Library [68 cards]
——————————
Action [1]
2x Deep Song
1x Entrancement

Combat [20]
9x Aid from Bats
7x Carrion Crows
1x Target Vitals
2x Taste of Vitae
1x Terror Frenzy
1x Canine Horde

Event [2]
1x Anthelios, The Red Star
1x Dragonbound

Master [31]
9x Ashur Tablets
2x Dreams of the Sphinx
1x Fame
1x Giant’s Blood
2x Haven Uncovered
2x Information Highway
5x Liquidation
1x Lilith’s Blessing
7x Villein
5x Zillah’s Valley
1x Pentex Subversion
1x Jake Washington
1x Golconda: Inner Peace

Reactions [4]
1x Guard Dogs
1x Rat’s Warning
2x Lost in Translation

The evolution of Girls decks is interesting.  Compare with this deck:

Swedish National Championship 2010
Örebro, Sweden
September 11, 2010
44 Players
3R + F

Erik Torstensson’s Tournament Winning Deck with 1,5 VPs in the Finals

Deck Name : Girls will find…
Author : Erik Torstensson
Description :

Crypt [12 vampires] Capacity min: 9 max: 11 average: 10
————————————————————
4x Cybele                 10 ANI DAI OBF PRE SER THA          Baali:4
4x Aksinya Daclau         9  ANI FOR PRE PRO cel tha          !Gangrel:4
1x Adana de Sforza        11 CEL OBF POT PRE PRO aus inner circle Brujah:4
1x Lutz von Hohenzollern 11 AUS DEM OBF PRE pot     inner circle Malkavian:4
1x Mistress Fanchon       11 AUS CEL DOM OBF THA VIC inner circle Tremere:4
1x Rafael de Corazon      11 AUS CEL DOM OBF PRE     inner circle Toreador:4

Library [82 cards]
————————————————————
Action [4]
1x Entrancement
2x Intimidation
1x Unleash Hell’s Fury

Action Modifier [16]
2x Aire of Elation
1x Approximation of Loyalty
1x Cloak the Gathering
2x Elder Impersonation
1x Enkil Cog
2x Faceless Night
1x Into Thin Air
2x Lost in Crowds
2x Mirror Walk
2x Perfect Paragon

Combat [4]
4x Majesty

Event [2]
2x Anthelios, The Red Star

Master [48]
9x Ashur Tablets
1x Blind Spot
1x Coven, The
1x Direct Intervention
2x Dreams of the Sphinx
1x Fortschritt Library
1x Giant’s Blood
2x Golconda: Inner Peace
2x Information Highway
2x Jake Washington (Hunter)
8x Liquidation
1x Metro Underground
1x Misdirection
1x Monastery of Shadows
1x Parthenon, The
1x Pentex(TM) Subversion
7x Villein
1x Wash
5x Zillah’s Valley

Political Action [4]
1x Ancient Influence
1x Banishment
1x Political Stranglehold
1x Reins of Power

Reaction [4]
1x Guard Dogs
2x Lost in Translation
1x Rat’s Warning

Same player, same region, same sort of broken core strategy that abuses masters, very different support module.

Nana Buruku should have settled in everyone’s minds (but I’m sure didn’t) that multiple master phase actions is broken.  Here’s a vampire without a number of the benefits that Anson has provided lo these many years who still has shown up in a variety of winning archetypes as the key vampire at the higher levels of play.  Add to Aksinya and Cybele a third ANI vampire, and one sees how easy it is to bolt a combat module on to crazy bloat and recursion.

And, what a combat module it is.  Anything can win.  We see that.  But, would anyone want to run weenie Potence or Celerity guns into Aid From Bats + Carrion Crows?  So, it doesn’t beat combat ends.  It doesn’t need to.  Eventually combat ends runs out (ignoring Henry Taylor or whatever).  The massive power that Majesty has always brought to the table is that whatever the deck was doing that wasn’t getting out of combat was harsh to one’s pool.  Girls decks are kind of decent at pool gain.  Bloat enough to play a game of attrition and 1+2+press+1+2 is enough damage to tear up minions.

I’ve thought about how to counteract Animalism decks and the answers come up wanting far too often.  Sure, against weenie Animalism, stealth vote is nice but how well does it do against “oh, my deck also has Lutz”?  Combat ends has the problem I mentioned of only being good enough if the deck can be ousted fast enough.  Opposing combat can be a big annoyance, especially ranged agg, but then, what does your combat do for you against stealth bleed, stealth vote, etc.?  Can’t really avoid getting into combat when Deep Song is around.

To abuse masters or to try to stop master abuse?  While I might not expect much in the way of Girlie decks at the NAC, I’m sure people will still try to abuse Ashur Tablets, Liquidation, the two together, and whatever else.  Join the club?  Or, try to Monkey Wrench (grossly underplayed card) the club?  I just don’t have any confidence that a deck can run enough Suddens and/or Washes to ensure winning the metagame.  Answers aren’t as good as threats and the threats in a deck with 6+ Ashur Tablets feel pretty much infinite.  Even if the Tablets never go, the amount of effort put into stopping that likely means everything else happens which is not a “win”.

Though, there are deck archetypes that are fearsome enough without having to stop a lot that I can see decks such as Dementation bleed with 4+ Suddens try to be anti-club.  Not really anything new, I was suggesting just such a build back when Gen Con still had major V:TES tournaments and played such in 2001.

V:TES is a multiplayer game.  So, sometimes, it’s a matter of playing something that with a bit of help, the problem decks go away.  There’s this deck http://thelasombra.com/decks/twd.htm#2011iecqbi that doesn’t stop masters (other than with Le Dinh Tho) or much of anything else.  It basically bleeds … a lot, with LDT possibly being an annoyance.  Girls and Stickmen are anywhere from reasonably resilient to big bleed to absurdly happy to see it, and there’s a lack of tech in here to tap Aksinya, nor is there Trochomancy tech, but think about an actual game where this sits as a predator to a Girls deck or a Stickmen deck.  In addition to being relentless in attack, what if this deck’s predator doesn’t want Girls or Men around?  There’s enough bounce to create a two predator situation and that should be enough, everything else being equal.

What I run into when I play in crossregional metagames is a lot more intercept than I’m used to.  Interestingly, Girls, Giovanni, Dementation, and other successful archetypes aren’t terribly blocky.  I’d expect to run into enough intercept, especially weenie Auspex (awful against Animalism but just horrid to deal with) or fat Toreador, at the NAC that I’d need to adjust my thinking away from my normal deckbuilding style, which often fails miserably against significant intercept.

Likely, even if I had gone, I wouldn’t have made much of an effort to metagame my decks.  While I could have looked for tech, like when I ran Mercy for Seth in my Harbingers vote deck years ago or Ambulance and merged Sebastian Goulet last year, I need a certain level of amusement in my decks.  I don’t know what I would have built, since I pretty much ignored the NAC when I realized I wasn’t going, but I think I would have spent less time on trying to kill Parity Shift (my most recent goal) than trying to figure out how to survive winged animals and get through outrageous bloat.

Probably just means some lame Parity Shift deck will win.  … sigh.

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Off Kilter

June 19, 2011

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration – so sayeth someone who stole a bunch of inventions.

I could, of course, do my first June post by stealing some idea.  The inspiration hasn’t been great enough to justify the, admittedly modest, perspiration.  Why?  KublaCon came and went.  Normally, write about my con experiences.  Then, other things came and went that kept my mind unfocused.

I didn’t get inspired by KublaCon because it was mediocre.  It wasn’t terrible in any way and some of the annoyances didn’t have to do with gaming, like having my favorite Chinese restaurant have stupid hours on the weekend.  There was nothing particularly excellent.  Sure, there were a lot more V:TES players around than usual, but that also contributed to a lot of messy organization because people can’t be forced to be ready to play on time.  I must remember to never pretend that a convention tournament is ever going to be a tournament and just have whoever is there start a game and keep having games generate as players become available.

It would have been amusing to have my main character in HoR3 get killed on my birthday.  I did like Fire and Water.  The main gimmick is interesting but also not one I’d like to see employed much.  The reward gimmick based off of it is less bothersome and kind of cool, if, typically, unfair.

Rank the Mods (1-10 FQ, fun quotient):

SoB00 New Beginnings – (7)  Cute spin.

SoB01  Undefended Border – (4)  Stuff going on that went over my head, too early.

SoB02  Bonds of Fate – (3)  Not much going on, IME.

SoB03  Standing Against the Waves – (3)  What’s the story?

SoB04  Personal Sacrifice – (7)  Could use more development, PC defining.

SoB05  Poisoned Gift – (1)  Cool ideas, terrible plot, ridiculous rewards.

SoB06  Walk Through the Mountains – (8)  I was much more into this than SoB03.

SoB07  Delicate Negotiations – (9)  Biased cuz my PC was perfect for it?  Felt shafted on rewards.

SoB08  WC: Kyuden Hida – (6)  Would have done more with my other PC.

SoB09  Fire and Water – (7)  Could have done Fire and felt screwed in the end.

Okay, so that’s from a FQ perspective and that’s only factoring in the actual play, not the aftermath that is rewards.  Factoring in a more objective measure of quality of mod, trying to take personal experiences out of it, the rankings of the mods in my mind are more like:

1.  SoB07 – Lots to do, aka depth, personal achievements matter and don’t screw over others.
2.  SoB06 – Things to do before plot, resolution interesting.
3.  SoB08 – Decent number of things going on without being bogged down.
4.  SoB00 – Better intro than Topaz Championship (fewer die rolls), decent narrative.
5.  SoB09 – Linear, which a number of mods have a problem with, but flavorful.
6.  SoB04 – Heavy on the exposition, light on things to do.
7.  SoB01 – Too much wandering about without a sense of what to do.
8.  SoB03 – Maybe there’s more to the story, felt like excuses for combat.
9.  SoB02 – Missing a scene or better connectivity between scenes.
10. SoB05 – Waste of some interesting mechanics.  Is there more than one way to proceed?

In general, the earlier mods suffer from lack of depth either in story or in choices.  Later mods feel fuller, more coherent.  Undefended Border would probably be given more credit if it came later, when it made more sense to introduce “new” things.  Alternatively, if there was follow up to it, to where what happens mattered more.  I really want the sequel(s) to Personal Sacrifice since its reward/punishment mechanic clearly needs a follow up.

It’s good to see some different faces for our Sunday V:TES sessions.  My new Pander deck is the sort of hilarious, “here’s a bunch of cards in five disciplines” deck that is so much more interesting to play than focused decks.  I so need more of these.  Maybe I build a counterpoint deck that is the other five common disciplines.  What I just said might not make any sense.  The Pander deck is an Aus/Obf/Pot/Pre/Tha deck.  Not intentionally, just because it’s what the crypt encouraged.  If I build a deck specifically of Ani/Cel/Dom/For/Pro, I have a challenge and a wacky deck … um, except Stanislava is the only vampire that natively has all of those disciplines, with Forestal in support.  That doesn’t sound wacky or hugely challenging.  Maybe I just don’t run either one.  I could take out the “crutch”, but that leads to boring Gangrel/! crypts.  Taking out Protean is funny for Cardano and Kostantin.  Taking out Animalism has some interesting choices.

As for Off Kilter, only thing I got that would be different is vote, in particular Patsy deck to try to wreck annoying titled decks, except those are the decks that can stop your votes.

Bonus boardgaming section:

I’ve gone to some boardgame days recently.  I played a couple of games of Phoenicia (and watched one before playing which helped immensely).  I liked it.  Not great but something I’d do again for a few more times.  Quick, light, auctions weren’t painful.  It was a day of nothing but auction games for me, though, with a six-player of Scepter of Zavandor.  First six-player game I can recall, though I think I’ve played five once or twice.  Fortunately, only one new player, so things weren’t crazy long.  My strategy of focusing on production with sapphires and buying up production artifacts worked well … for someone else.  I came in third or fourth in what was a reasonably close game.  With players who know how to value artifacts better, the game is much harder to dominate.  Anyway, a reasonable day.

Yesterday, played Alea Iacta Est for the second? time.  We totally didn’t remember how it was supposed to work so we played a practice round first.  I finally remembered what it was like and went through the same feelings as the first time – it seems like sets end too quickly but it makes sense when you play the game out.  Frustrating in some ways because I find the dice mechanic neat and the game is much more tactical than strategic in how you use dice.  Me being a strategist and not so much a tactician.  Another game I’d want to play again, though I’m more interested in how to use the dice mechanic for something cooler.

Then, played Glen More for the first time.  I’m not a big fan of Carcassonne.  It’s okay if uninspiring out of the base game and I’m not too familiar with the expansions.  I hate Caylus.  Didn’t used to.  But, it’s mechanics are not ones to endear me to repeated play.  Glen More has elements of both.  Yet, I’d easily play it again, maybe a few more times.  I like the flavor, for one thing.  That I haven’t figured out the winning strategy is another plus.  I had the most whiskey, the most chieftains, the castle that rewards for villages to counteract my massive territory, and came squarely in last.  I knew a big territory was bad, but I didn’t realize that what VPs I got from my advantages wouldn’t pay off at all.  My theory is that brown tiles are where it’s at and the game is about cashing them as much as possible.  I only had one in my 17 tile empire and I didn’t even max it out.  I find the “bigger territory = less VPs” mechanic highly amusing and innovative.  Do I think it will hold up after about 5 or so plays?  Probably not.  Even with the randomness of tile sequences, the game seems simple enough to solve in terms of optimal strategies.  I’m not a huge fan of games that require spatial planning, since I overthink things, but this has few enough tiles that I don’t see a big paralysis by analysis problem.  Kind of a lighter way to go then Caylus, with more style.