How does one prove deck quality in V:TES?

By winning?  But, say you play six tournaments and win once.  Is the deck that plays one tournament and wins better?

The problem is solved in CCGs where vast quantities of tournaments are played to where you (generally) overcome small sample size problems.  Not many CCGs have the volume.

Maybe in a six-month span, V:TES generates enough events that at least a few things can be determined.  Imbued were obviously broken – take a look at results here from March 2007 through the end of the year.  As a percentage of wins and in terms of quality of wins (based on tournament size), Imbued dominated.

Or, did they?  If I were to pinpoint the most overlooked factor in determining what is good and what isn’t in V:TES, it would be looking at what lost.  Unfortunately, we really have no idea what loses.  Where Magic can support a system where every matchup in a tournament is recorded, we don’t have a list of all of the table results for every tournament or, pretty much, even a single tournament in most cases.

Personal results should be meaningless.  Nevermind that those who play in 30, 40, 50, 75, 100 player tournaments have experiences I’ve had less than a handful of times.  My entire tournament career is a small sample size with huge biases in player skill and player interests.  Though, I will point out, as an arguing point, that I’ve lost every tournament I’ve ever played where I was running weenie Dominate to go with all of the “I’ve won every tournament I’ve ever played playing …[junk]…” statements.

Revisiting the issue of whether it’s possible to determine or credit deck quality in this game comes, unsurprisingly, right after we had a tournament.  It’s quite amusing.  We’ve had what I consider the most successful tournament season in the region ever in the past month or so.  Sure, storyline seasons saw more total participants, but from a competitive standpoint, we’ve had better than a qualifier weekend’s worth of events spread out to a degree that shows some stability.

Anyway, here is a deck I did not play:

Russian ECQ
Moscow, Russia
September 3, 2011
12 players
3R + F

Konstantin Prischepa’s Tournament Winning Deck

Crypt (12 cards; Capacity min=3 max=6 avg=4.5)
2x Angela Preston            5 for PRE MEL     Daughter of Cacophony:2
2x Céleste, The Voice of a Secret 3 pre mel         Daughter of Cacophony:2
2x Delilah Monroe            4 for pre MEL     Daughter of Cacophony:2
2x Gaël Pilet                6 chi pre FOR MEL     Daughter of Cacophony:2
2x Muse                3 ani for mel     Daughter of Cacophony:2
2x Yseult                6 FOR MEL PRE     Daughter of Cacophony:3

Library (78 cards)
Master (10)
1x Command Performance
1x Dreams of the Sphinx
1x Elder Library
1x Fear of Mekhet
4x Hanging Fermata
1x Paris Opera House
1x Protected Resources

Action (33)
18x Choir
4x Concert Tour
6x Enchant Kindred
5x Harmony

Ally (6)
6x Member of the Entourage

Action Modifier (18)
4x Freak Drive
8x Missing Voice, The
2x Phantom Speaker
4x Virtuosa

Combat (11)
4x Majesty
4x Skin of Steel
3x Soak

The relevance of this deck should become clearer by posting the deck I did play.  Ta da:

Deck Name:   110910  Harm-on-ye v2
Created By:  Angela Preston

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 4, Max: 23, Avg: 3.5)
4  Anarch Convert                     none           1  Caitiff
2  Angela Preston                     for MEL PRE    5  Daughters of Cacophony
1  Celeste                            mel pre        3  Daughters of Cacophony
1  Delilah Monroe                     for MEL pre    4  Daughters of Cacophony
1  Gael Pilet                         chi FOR MEL pre6  Daughters of Cacophony
1  Muse                               ani for mel    3  Daughters of Cacophony
2  Yseult                             FOR MEL PRE    6  Daughters of Cacophony

Library: (80 cards)
Master (14 cards)
1  Bastille Opera House
1  Command Performance
1  Conductor
1  Coven, The
1  Failsafe
1  Hanging Fermata
3  Life in the City
1  Paris Opera House
4  Wider View

Action (14 cards)
10 Choir
4  Harmony

Action Modifier (32 cards)
4  Bribes
4  Echo of Harmonies
10 Freak Drive
5  Missing Voice, The
4  Siren`s Lure
1  Virtuosa
4  Voter Captivation

Political Action (9 cards)
7  Consanguineous Boon
1  Free States Rant
1  Lily Prelude

Combat (7 cards)
2  Majesty
2  Soak
1  Toreador`s Bane
2  Zip Gun

Combo (4 cards)
4  Madrigal

Is one deck better than the other?  I have no frickin’ clue.  It’s easy to say that one deck won and my deck wasn’t that deck.  In fact, I gained .5 VPs over two rounds.  One could read the tournament report from the Russian event like I did (to the extent that I could have the page translated to English), but I’m still not at all clear how the first deck was so successful beside that it didn’t have either of the stealth bleed decks behind it in the finals.

It could easily be that Konstantin is a better player than I am.  Going off on a tangent, I’ve noticed that I come away from tournaments feeling like I haven’t played much, that I don’t have much to talk about.  I realized that a likely reason for this is that I used to be in finals frequently and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be playing pickup games when the finals of events are occurring these days.

My deck … before I attempt some analysis, I’d note that I took a deck I wrote up almost exactly a year ago – 9/12/10 – and modified it some after goldfishing it once and realizing a lot of vote action modifiers aren’t a good idea when you don’t draw any votes.  Plus, I cut it from 90 to 80.

My deck is not the sort of deck I like to play.  For me, it’s awfully high risk and inflexible.  For a whole lot of other people, this might seem hilarious as it’s way less high risk and way more flexible than most Choir decks.  I could play Konstantin’s deck, but I could never build Konstantin’s deck.

I’ve played maybe four or so different Choir builds.  The general problem of Daughters being unable to defend themselves against pool loss, only made worse when you are forced to fill your deck with awful cards like Choir, is one I’m constantly trying to address.  Based on yesterday’s results, I’m tired of using vote bloat.  People do not respect the fact that you must bloat in decks like this or you will be easily ousted.  It’s also rather boring to Con Boon over and over again.  What was interesting was that I lowballed Choirs so much in my final build that I wasn’t bored with Choir for the first time ever.  I actually hoped to draw Choirs and was entertained when I played them.

Besides dropping the vote angle and likely going with Forestal bounce, I would not run the Anarch Converts as Wider View makes them redundant and Wider View is filtering with pool gain while Convert is filtering with pool loss.  Sure, I dodge Anarch Revolts, but that’s not a major problem these days, and I don’t really have the combat defense to survive anarch removal attempts, anyway.

Removing the vote angle so changes the deck that it’s not that clear how it would look or what sort of vote defense plays I’d consider.  One thing I have to consider is how much evasion to run.  I keep ending up discarding Siren’s Lure and The Missing Voice even though they are tactically crucial.  As I say to people, getting actions through with Daughters is easy, but at what cost of jamming on evasion?  Of course, all problems are solved with Dreams and The Barrens, which may be another reason my game has fallen off, though …

Getting back to the problems of determining deck quality, player skill has a huge impact on results.  Even if you believe deck strength is more important than I do, I believe it’s an easier argument that player skill affects results than deck quality.  Which brings me to my skill.  As I said, I was in finals far more back in the day.  What can that be attributed to?  Smaller events might have something to do with that.  Only need about 2 VPs to get into the finals of a 10-12 player event.  But, recent discussion about how I don’t deal or don’t try to really talk at all to improve my positions in games leads me to believe that my skill has fallen off significantly because I no longer try (to a meaningful degree) to influence games in my favor with politics or table talk.

Sure, the less table politics influence play, the more deck strength will.  My argument on the irrelevancy of deck strength, assuming a minimum threshold of viability, is because any game can be talked to victory, overriding the power of card play.  It’s not because deck strength is meaningless in a vacuum.

Anyway, here’s how my day went:

Round 1:

Rodney (Dementation bleed) -> Ian (Harm-On-Ye) -> Steve (Imbued) -> Brandyn (Aching Beauty)

Steve’s V:TES goal seems to be to destroy vampires and put lots of cards in play.  Rodney was amazingly ineffectual, though his position wasn’t that bad, so at least I didn’t have a lot to worry about from that side.  On the other, though, I didn’t realize until too late that Steve never intended on trying to win and simply wanted to beat up vampires, starting with mine.

I quickly learned that my deck chokes on voting.  Not terribly bad in some respects because stealth bleed behind me can only be survived with my votes, but it meant I got off to a slow start.  Normally, that would be fine and I’d just wait to lunge, but Steve wanted my guys dead even when all I was doing was gaining pool and was perfectly willing to let Brandyn do whatever he wanted, so I was in the mindframe to play for 1 VP anyway.  By the way, 16 player tournament meant all four-player tables and a decent chance of needing a GW to make the finals.

I ended up with four vampires in torpor, but I didn’t feel like I was going to get ousted before time was called, leaving Rodney as the only one to fall.  I also thought I had a reasonable chance of ousting my prey if he “tapped out” (he had Vigilances) by taking the leave torpor action with Delilah with three blood, untapping with Command Performance, gaining blood with magic, Freak Driving for Choir and Harmony.  Might have taken two turns as I had two Life in the City in hand and earlier had played The Coven without using it, though it went when Rodney went.

Did the game bother me?  Not really.  A lot of things did make some sense.  Steve beating down my vampires made some sense.  Brandyn never rescuing made sense.  Rodney going forward made sense.  The game was fairly pointless, but I did stuff and had chances.  You can’t legislate against bad play and whose bad play was really at fault?  Could argue that I let things happen by not pointing out that Brandyn was free to do what he wanted until so late that the game was going to time out.

Round 2:

Joel (Clown Car) -> Sean (Lasombra bleed) -> Ian -> Gerentt (Newjah)

I never tried blocking the Lasombra bleeds.  Talley Govern.  Gratiano.  Guess I’ll just keep Con Booning and playing Bribes/Voter Cap.  I did call one for Abominations to make sure I could cycle a Cap.  I choked horribly on my bloat early, even discarding one of the three Con Boons in my opening hand.  That was okay, I ended up calling seven or eight with Echo of Harmonies help.

I thought it was hilarious that both my prey and my predator talked about my being able to just “Choir my prey out”.  One turn, I played a Choir that got blocked – it was the only one in hand – and ended up bleeding for as much damage as I could have done if I had gotten Choirs through.  Another turn, I Choired for a mighty 2 pool damage.  Late in the game I Harmonyed for 3.  I can take solace in the fear I generate when I’m being completely ineffectual.  Gerentt didn’t even bother bringing out a third vampire because I was such a threat.  Joel got Sean just in time to prevent my being ousted on Sean’s turn.  Didn’t really matter.  I misplayed by bringing out an Anarch Convert rather than blowing a Wider View because I forgot all of the Tumnimoses had superior Chimerstry and it was easy to stealth by this “key” blocker.  Eventually, Joel swept.


Rather than go into too much detail, I’ll simply say that Shattering the Gates is pretty easy when no one cares if you get counters.  I fell a Sense the Sin short of ousting my prey which would have meant two VPs and 12 precious pool, and, then, I died never bringing out anyone besides merged Nergal.  Failsafe getting Suddened by my predator may or may not have mattered, but it was funny how important it is to the South Bay group that I not be allowed to play Failsafes.

Good times, but I should probably either get more pickups in or try to get into the finals to have more to talk about after tournaments.


4 Responses to Cacophony

  1. Andrew Haas says:

    I don’t even think you disagree with me about deck strength mattering. Look at your own “Fly No More” post about the power of Girl’s decks. Do you think that these decks are successful just because they are consistently played by good players, maybe, but I’m willing to bet that I could give someone a 30 minute lesson on how to use that deck and drop them into the CV tournament and they would have easily walked away with it.
    You’re free to disagree but if I play Girls at our next tournament and win are you going to start saying I’m a great player or would you say I’m using a powerful deck?
    Deck strength matters where you can create a deck such that interaction with the table is nearly irrelevant, the game is played basically via algorithm and the result is consistently win.

    • iclee says:

      I believe there are differences in deck strength. I just don’t believe they matter. This is the problem with doing analysis for V:TES. While it’s possible and would be far more helpful to talk about how to improve one’s play skill since it’s play skill that has the most impact on results*, the point of CCGs is to build decks, so what people want to talk about is how to build stronger decks.

      * Of course, the value of everything else matters far more when play skill is similar. I just don’t believe that play skill is similar, even in more competitive environments. If it were, we wouldn’t keep seeing the same people win over and over again.

      My commenting on Girls decks has more to do with how annoying they are to play against rather than any belief that playing the deck causes you to win. The players playing Girls can easily win with other decks, as well. Go ahead and have someone play a Girls deck and see if they win. Still, though, we are talking about ridiculously small sample sizes.

    • Joel says:

      What is this Girls Deck and can I scrub like me who doesn’t know how to play VTES win with it?

  2. Azel says:

    I’ll split the middle and stand that VTES is a game where deck quality definitely does not hold as much import as most other duelist CCGs. My experience in MtG and L5R, where people fret down to the last card, focus value, card cost, opportunity advantage, etc., is nowhere represented in VTES as a whole. You can get away with some really janked up decks.

    Did I ever tell you about my Daughters/Samedi deck that killed off an Arika Does Everything and the following weenie Kindred Spirits deck in a 6 player, taking the game at time with 2 VPs? I retired the deck right after, because it probably reached its pinnacle of glory right there. However, it’s a great example of this phenomenon of questionable builds besting known winners. And further, a sample size of one game does no favors in maintaining credibility, but as a delightful fluke to tell as a war story, it’s wonderfully colorful.

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