Egalitarian Experiment #1 – First Thoughts

Following up from my last post, I have pulled the cards (or opened unopened precons) for one of each Third Edition precon and my first box of Third Edition boosters.

I suppose I need to clarify the point of these exercises in collection limitation.  Here are the questions I’m looking at:

  1. What level of buy-in would a player need to compete at the tournament level?
  2. What level of buy-in would a player need to have a reasonable diversity of decks to enjoy the diversity that the game has to offer?
  3. What does the game feel like when you have a modest collection?

A goal is to not focus on what is missing but to focus on what is possible.  The CCG model is such that people aren’t supposed to have everything, though I would tend to believe that this isn’t the case when it comes to being able to build top level tournament decks for people deeply invested in CCGs.

That third question is unlikely to be answerable for me, given that I can’t just forget the last 16 years, though I can try to get some insight into what it must be like for others at times.

The obvious starting point on building a deck suitable for tournament play with this level of investment is !Malk stealth bleed.  I have claimed on a number of occasions that a bad stealth bleed deck is still a more formidable deck than the norm – an argument, by the way, for the power level of stealth bleed when debating the best decks in the game.  I continue to claim such.  I think the deck I put together is perfectly functional at winning.  It might not be as forgiving of mistakes in play as other builds, but then, it’s far more forgiving than most all of the decks I have been playing in recent years.  Regardless, success is going to depend primarily on quality play, including table politics, and certain factors that are difficult to control – card draws, seating, player personalities.

After building the first deck, I became discouraged.  Three of the four precons are for clans with Auspex as a clan discipline, yet between them they only have x2 Telepathic Misdirection – the only Auspex card truly needed to compete.  TM is a common in the set, which is far far better than the many years in which the only TMs available were from Jyhad/V:TES.  Still, want a minimum of 12 for two decks.  Yes, this gets into looking at what’s missing rather than what’s available, but again, this is a necessary card – on the level of Blood Doll, WWEF/On the Qui Vive, Deflection, and a few others being an essential part of the game.

Adding to my discouragement was that my sum total of Obtenebration cards consists of …

x1 Oubliette
x1 Shadow Play
x1 Shadow Strike

I was looking forward to some old school Lasombra stealth bleed.  By the way, this points out two rather significant problems with Third Edition:  the precons are moronic not only in their contents but in Lasombra not being one of them; the distribution of cards is insane, which I’ve complained about before, but which rears its head so eloquently in these experiments.  Once I add box #2 into the pool, three more Shadow Plays and two Shrouds of Night will be “unlocked”, but I’m inclined to believe that, when you are trying to support with one set 10 clans and 13 disciplines, that you can cut some terrible cards to make more decks viable.

Good time to talk about the business of CCGs.  There are those who will argue that all this makes sense.  That giving a player a completely functional preconstructed starter deck will undermine additional sales.  I’m not completely dismissive of the point, but the way I view it is that there are plenty of other ways people can spend money, including spending it on CCGs that are more newbie friendly such as … wait for it … Magic.  Magic may be far less friendly when it comes to constructed play, but Magic became more about limited play a long time ago.  Anyway, I believe the amount of effort someone has to go to to get up to a competitive level correlates to the size of the resulting playerbase (though not nearly so much as popularity of the genre/licensed property).  I’d rather have a higher volume of players with less investment than a smaller group with vast collections.  Give people a solid foundation out of the gate, get them playing often, then they will chase the rarest cards because so many CCGers are collectors or do want to do different things or do want to build esoteric decks that rely on obscure rares.

Or, if you are like Bandai (from what I hear) from years ago, think entirely short term and care only about the first few sets before pulling the plug on a game, while hyping the next anime CCG in the works.  Sucker born every minute and whatnot.

I came back to “my” collection, finally opened the !Brujah precon to see if handling the physical cards would get me more inspired for a second functional deck.  While full of all of the usual problems with a deck with no bleed bounce, I wasn’t unhappy with what I goldfished.  It may not rise to the level of viable for competitive play, but it seems nonridiculous given how much !Brujah suck even when you have tens of thousands of cards to work with.

With that, I became a bit more inspired and went to work on the !Tremere deck.  The advantage of the !Tremere deck, especially over a Tzimisce deck, is that Dominate replaces the need for more Telepathic Misdirections.  There are actually quite a few Thaumaturgy cards in the deck and I got some Thefts of Vitae from my box, so it wasn’t hard to fill things out.  The primary weakness is masters.  In fact, the master selections for each of the decks suck.  On the other hand, I got six On the Qui Vives from box #1 (zero will be in box#2), so I’m okay on wakes … for two decks.

I’m not enthralled by the idea of trying to scrape together a Tzimisce deck.  Besides the dearth of TMs, the Third Edition Tzimisce just suck so bad.  Jane Sims is worthless, as evidenced by how I’ve never put her in a deck e-e-ever (accuracy of this statement subject to my memory not failing).  Where, Lolita Houston is one of my original fly girls.  Duality is perfectly positively presentable and completely failed in support, as well as showing up 50% less than he/it should in the precon.  I do have a good number of Sha-Ennus for some superstarish deck or Tzimisce w/ Obfuscate, but as one can see in the Deck Clinic subforum on, going the path of Tzimisce with Obfuscate is a sad panda path while superstaring is likely to be quite the challenge with my < 800 card collection.

Then, we get to clans not supported by precons.  Just not looking so viable at this point.  On the other hand, there might be just enough discipline crossover to do some mixed clan decks around disciplines I have enough decent cards for.  As for low discipline decks, the quality of the generic cards is, of course, low.  The weakness in master options is the biggest challenge, with lack of On the Qui Vives being important if I decide not to share cards between decks.

Which brings up some facets of these experiments.  In truth, it would be fair to share cards as I’ve done that for plenty a CCG even when I had sizable collections.  That relieves pressure in the key problem areas of lacking Telepathic Misdirections, Redirections, On the Qui Vives, and Blood Dolls.  Also, a real player would likely look to focus some, not expecting to play everything, and trade or otherwise supplement sealed purchases.  For instance, if I had this collection and truly loved Lasombra, I could just trade for Obtenebration and trade away, say, Protean cards.  So, these experiments may be quite artificial.  Nevertheless, I’m trying to change my perceptions of the game.  I want to run cards I never currently bother with in decks because I can just play something better and feel no shame.

I’m not sure when I should end this first experiment.  It would be nice to have some tournaments handy to play decks from such a modest collection before expanding to a larger card pool.  On the other hand, one box of boosters and half a box of starters is rather skimpy for anyone who actually likes the game and I’m artifically restricting trading and buying singles, so moving to experiment #2, the full box of starters and two boxes of boosters, might be more reasonable.

I am finding this amusing already, however one looks at it.  I’m definitely putting in questionable cards with metagame thinking in mind.

7 Responses to Egalitarian Experiment #1 – First Thoughts

  1. Brandon says:

    As a point of reference, I started tournament play with one box of LotN starters, two boxes of LotN boosters, one box of Jyhad boosters, a 3rd ed !Malk and Tzimisce starter and a handful of 3rd ed boosters. I somehow made the finals. Not that I knew what I was doing.

  2. Darby says:

    I love your experiment. Painful as it might be, I encourage you to give your level one collection at least a few casual games before proceeding with additional boosters.

    With no new publisher lined up and sealed product prices on the rise, wouldn’t it be great to be able to show people that limited card counts can still be played, even with slim pickings like 3rd Ed?

    • iclee says:

      What I’d really like to do is play a couple of tournaments before adding more cards. If we didn’t have our own convention here, I could have gone to SoCal for the qualifier weekend. I am running an event here, but we don’t get enough people at conventions for meaningful tournament play.

  3. juggernaut1981 says:

    I find it interesting, but my own advice to new players has always been:
    1) Buy 2 starters for 1 clan
    2) Get on eBay and buy those 500+ common card lots for as little as you can manage because they are usually packed with core cards (WWEF, Forced Awakening, KRC, stealth, intercept, Blood Dolls, Minion Taps, etc).

  4. […] to thinking about what one of the greatest difficulties with building a variety of decks out of my experiment is.  There’s hardly any skill cards, er, for those who haven’t played since […]

  5. […] questions are similar to those from Experiment #1.  But, the situation is different.  Obviously, LotN is all about the original four indie clans, […]

  6. […] Egalitarian Experiment #1 – First Thoughts […]

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