Weak 2 – Ghoul Retainer


One would think Card of the Weak posts would be easy.  Pick a card, talk about it.  After all, when I build decks, I frequently pick a card and then think about all of the different things I can do with the card.

In practice, I find choosing a good card to talk about challenging for several reasons.  Before listing them, what is the point of highlighting these cards?  The point is to examine uses for rarely seen cards.  That’s not the same as identifying underrated cards, which is what I’ve said at least once was kind of what I was going for.  I don’t consider Laecanus underrated, for instance.  He’s bad.  But …

  1. The card can’t be generally considered to be good.
  2. The card has to have interesting features.  Eyes of the Dead may be weak, and you might come up with some convoluted idea for why to put it in a deck, e.g. it stacks with The Deadliest Sin for your Faithful Servant deck or crosstable stop diablerie deck, but I want something I can drone on and on about.
  3. I have to be interested in droning on … em … talking about the card.

I justify #1 with Ghoul Retainer only having appeared in six tournament winning decks:  three Tariq decks; Tsunda No Secrets; weenie Auspex; Una.  As for #2 and #3, well, I did choose this for only the second entry in this “series”.

Here’s something I did with this card:

Deck Name:   Stuttering Bangs
Created By:  Samantha
Description: Burn opposing vampires with environmental Bombs and aggpoke.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 21, Max: 34, Avg: 7.08)
1  Steve Booth             CEL pot pre pro      5,  Brujah:3
2  Darrel Boyce            CEL OBF PRO          6,  Gangrel antitribu:2
2  Ellen Fence             aus CEL OBF PRO      8,  Gangrel antitribu:2, Bishop
1  Samantha                ani CEL OBF PRO tha  10, Gangrel antitribu:2, Bishop
1  Scarlet Carson O’Toole  pro CEL              4,  Gangrel antitribu:3
2  Zachary                 CEL for OBF PRO pre  7,  Gangrel antitribu:2
2  Miller Delmardigan      aus CEL PRE pro      8,  Toreador antitribu:2, Bishop
1  Marcellus               AUS CEL pro          8,  Toreador:2, Prince

Library: (90 cards)
Master (13 cards)
2  Blood Doll
1  Campground Hunting Ground
2  Fame
2  Gangrel Conspiracy
1  Hungry Coyote, The
5  Minion Tap

Action (9 cards)
7  Bum’s Rush
2  Sacrificial Lamb

Action Modifier (4 cards)
4  Cloak the Gathering

Combat (48 cards)
2  Amaranth
3  Bone Spur
3  Claws of the Dead
6  Disguised Weapon
6  Flash
9  Flesh of Marble
6  Pursuit
10 Stutter-Step
3  Wolf Claws

Retainer (4 cards)
4  Ghoul Retainer

Equipment (12 cards)
10 Bomb
2  Improvised Flamethrower

This deck is so old I had to find it in ELDB 3.1.  This deck is so old it doesn’t use my naming convention of beginning with the date …

This deck is so awful it’s, well, awful.  Not as awful as other decks.  More awful than many.  As an example, it’s kind of interesting in that it wasn’t Ghoul Retainer that was the reason for the deck.  The impetus for building the deck was trying to find a reason to play with Stutter-Step.  May wonder why that’s so hard.  Another possible Card of the Weak entry.  Way back in the long, long ago, before Bats and Crows came to rule the magic land of The Kingdom of Kombat, there were decks that played a card known as Immortal Grapple.  Immortal Grapple, by unnecessary rule, stopped Stutter-Step.

But, but.  Stutter-Step is so aggpokey or Torn Signposty and acts as defense when IG isn’t played.  Well, yes, it is just that amazing, amazing enough to show up in eight decks in the TWDA.  The greater issue is how many close substitutes we get, nevermind that the Torn Signposty deck may like playing IG itself.  Sideslip for defense against pokeyness.  Additional strikes that came with maneuver, press, dodge, another additional strike.

I seem to have gotten completely off track in talking about Ghoul Retainer.  So, there I was, less than an hour ago or so, looking at retainers.  I started looking at vampires with retainer cost reduction.  I did a search for Jibade decks.  I found one.  And, it was a Ghoul Retainer deck.

There are many, many cards in CCGs that are “only good in play” cards.  What does that mean?  It means that the card seems perfectly respectable, perhaps even strong, when someone has gotten it into play, but the card is actually quite bad because the likelihood of seeing it in play (or seeing it in play without the player getting ousted because of it) is so low.  Cards in this camp tend to be ones with high costs.  If the high cost doesn’t cripple you or the game goes long past the point you played the card or whatever, you’re gold.

Ghoul Retainer has a high cost, a very high cost.  Would the card be too good at 1 pool?  Can’t see how.  Why the card even costs pool is less than clear.  At 2 blood, would it be costed better?  Probably.  It is interesting that a pool cost on a retainer means that an ally can employ it.

Then, there are the other costs.  The action to get a retainer may not be all that great a cost, otherwise people would never bother with retainers at all outside of plays like Pack Alpha.  Still, 2 pool and an action.  Then, what does the card really do for you?  Somewhat better in combat by itself, only shining when you have weapons to hand off to it.  Weapons tend to cost more pool, making the combo quite expensive, though each of the cards, at least, is probably playable on its own, so it isn’t combo-dependent.  However, we are still talking about a combat support play.  There’s a reason I play J.S. and Tasha a lot and combat support plays not so much.

Yet, the point is to find uses.  I see a decent amount of deck design space with Ghoul Retainer in mind.  While I have little interest in Tariq decks or Una decks, we can see a couple of other uses that people have gone with.  In some cases, I see Ghoul Retainer being tech.  Environmental damage, especially environmental aggro, may be very hard to deal with, though given the prevalence of Carrion Crows these days, one assumes a certain level of metagaming against environmental damage.  Outside the Hourglass annoyance would be another reason.

Note that Ghoul Retainers can be smited.  In fact, Aid from Bats, Aid from Bats is a real threat for removing the overcosted retainer.  This is why we meta against Animalism or wish we could meta against Animalism with DIs and Botched Moves and not having room for such.

Take this deck:

Deck Name:   120310  Jibade Retainer
Created By:  Jibade

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 29, Max: 36, Avg: 8.08)
2  Eugene                             AUS CEL FOR PRE8  Toreador
4  Jibade el-Bahrawi                  aus PRE FOR DEM CEL9  Ishtarri
2  Joshua Tarnopolski                 CEL obf pot PRE7  Brujah
1  Kateline Nadasdy                   AUS CEL PRE    7  Toreador
2  Klaus Konrecht                     for pot AUS CEL PRE8  Toreador Antitribu
1  Muhandis                           for qui AUS CEL PRE8  Toreador

Library: (80 cards)
Master (15 cards)
2  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Giant`s Blood
1  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
2  Life in the City
1  Lilith`s Blessing
1  Rack, The
7  Villein

Action (6 cards)
5  Enchant Kindred
1  Entrancement

Action Modifier (10 cards)
3  Aire of Elation
3  Forced March
3  Freak Drive
1  Perfect Paragon

Reaction (16 cards)
4  Eyes of Argus
6  On the Qui Vive
6  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (13 cards)
3  Concealed Weapon
8  Sideslip
2  Taste of Vitae

Ally (2 cards)
1  Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
1  Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Retainer (7 cards)
4  Ghoul Retainer
1  Malajit Chandramouli
1  Mr. Winthrop
1  Robert Carter

Equipment (7 cards)
1  Bowl of Convergence
4  Desert Eagle
1  Ivory Bow
1  Spike-Thrower

Combo (4 cards)
4  Resist Earth`s Grasp

I put this together while writing this post.  It was not fun to cut it down to 80 cards.  What I like a lot about this deck is that there are plenty of card choice changes I could make, even changing the basic nature of the deck by, say, ripping out Auspex.  (Auspex was not an original plan for a Jibade and Joshua retainer deck.)

Is anything about this deck reliable?  Not so much.  I chose not to be a slave to my theme by ensuring the Ghoul Retainer beatdown.  Nor did I run a bunch of other random retainers or, since they both discount on allies as well, a bunch of random allies for support as the deck would get too far afield from its plan.  I could cut good stuff to make room for theme, but there is always the idea of trying to build a serious deck, if not a powerful one.  Direct Intervention to mess with Carrion Crows … the idea that the game has gone to the point where this would be the primary reason to run DI is amusing I suppose … and other plays would require some annoying cut.  I’d rather the deck were 75 cards, but then, I might be getting too focused.  Though, switching fatties with disciplines for smaller minions could see freeing up slots used on discipline-requiring cards, while also likely killing my defensive abilities.

This is derivative of the deck I found while searching for Jibade decks.  Certainly, there are plenty of other possibilities with Ghoul Retainers, if not trying to recreate Stuttering Bangs.  A range control deck could easily see Gas-Powered Chainsaw for close range beatings without a big cost.  Improvised Flamethrower is a favorite as environmental agg is kind of a pain to deal with and burning vampires becomes so much easier.  Ivory Bow, by itself, becomes much more of a threat with Ghoul Retainer.  Decks with substantial pool gain or defenses can ignore trying to use cost reducing plays like the vampires I went with.

I went with my vampires dodging, but a perfectly reasonable way to go is with agghandsors with the Ghoul Retainer acting much like Carrion Crows.  Now, Carrion Crows is so much better, but Ghoul Retainer can be a smaller card slot investment and can support all of those useless vampires that lack ANI.


2 Responses to Weak 2 – Ghoul Retainer

  1. Brandon says:

    Based on what we were talking about before, this was a good choice. Not good, but not completely bad, and not used often. To justify taking an action to recruit a retainer, they have to be pretty good. +bleed and +intercept are the main things I look for. This guy, for two pool, *might* give you an edge in combat. That is as long as there’s no Weather Control, S:CE, etc. Wolf companion is generally better, unless you are equipping. Weapons that come to mind are WW or Ivory Bow. Second choices might be something like gas-powered chainsaw, argent baton, J.’s Axe, or possibly Nightsick. I was picturing trading off using a WWS and a Nightstick with the Ghoul Retainer, preventing damage until you are ready for the finisher. Assamite melee combat? Desert Eagle was a good call. For one pool, you get 2r instead of the usual melee tradeoff of 1 pool for str+1.

    I was thinking about using Ishtari with The Summoning, Forced March, and Freak Drive. It would be good to have a way to mark a dude for rushing, so maybe Victor P. or Mustafa, The Heir can use Blood Hunt first. Legal Manipulations or Social Charm could help recoup the high cost of playing such a silly card as Ghoul Retainer. With little dominate and Second Tradition you even have some pool defense! Parity Shift ftw? Dmitra is so good, she could be the star. Forget dominate!

  2. Azel says:

    Ghoul Retainer: Garrote + aggpoke (sometimes Ghoul enviro agg)? Spike-Thrower? Crimson Sentinel?

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