Skill Mastery

I’ve skimmed through the tournament winning decks from Origins.  Perhaps, I’ll take a deeper dive on them; perhaps someone else will get there first.  One deck I thought was interesting but didn’t think I would care virtually at all about was Matt Morgan’s draft deck.  Sure, it’s amazing how different that deck looks from draft decks I’m used to, speaking to what sort of environment a Jyhad/V:TES draft is.

But, I got to thinking about something.  I got 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 that’s what those were called, Master: Discipline cards.  In fact, at various times, I’ve thought about how scarce skill cards have become.  I thought about it with Lords of the Night.  I thought about it with Keepers of Tradition.

Now, KoT does a fair job of at least having most of the ones that would be important to the set, only missing Animalism, Protean, and Thaumaturgy from the original ten disciplines in the game.  Only Animalism, of those three, is a common discipline.

Third Edition, meanwhile, only has 8 of the 13 disciplines it supports.  It’s missing Animalism, Fortitude, Obtenebration, Presence, and Protean.  Some of these really hurt.

Why?

One of the things about V:TES base sets that I’m not all that fond of, even though it’s hard to complain about since other CCGs have done it as well, is that they make the assumption that you’ve bought cards from other sets.  Sure, you don’t have to have vampires from other sets, but absolutely fundamental cards to the play experience are missing in each base set.  Sabbat War had no Telepathic Misdirections.  Third Edition went the Sabbat path and didn’t provide Deflection or Minion Tap.  And, so on and so forth when it comes to staples of the game.

While the absence of Deflections for quite some time was much more notable, it’s quite amusing just how relevant skill cards are, especially to someone just getting into the game.  Obtenebration in three sets ever, one of which is a bloodlines set?  Wowww.

Just a quick note about the differences between V:TES and certain other CCGs that do base sets.  V:TES doesn’t have a format to limit what sets people can play like, say, Magic does.  So, basic cards are always basic cards (until they get obsoleted by strictly better cards later).

My problem with playing Obtenebration in Experiment #1 isn’t due to lack of vampires with Obtenebration to where I would need to graft it with skill cards.  No, that’s my problem with playing Presence out of “my collection”.  One of the precons is even for a clan with Presence, and I’m still not given the ability to upgrade my !Brujah and !Toreador into leaders of Kindred.  Then, I have a bunch of Forces of Will that I don’t have much intention to play as I’d rather not risk a fattie and can’t upgrade some dork.

People with lots of Jyhad, hell, people with a small amount of Jyhad (or V:TES) likely get quite annoyed about all of the wasted slots taken up with the skill cards.  I understand the reluctance to taking up common slots on such dull, weak cards.  Except, these dull, weak cards are not always dull and weak – Lilith’s Blessing has helped justify taking up precious master slots with them and babymaker decks have often run them.  And, they are not nearly so dull and weak when your collection is limited in crypt options.

Can people get them easily enough?  Sure, just like people can easily get Deflections …  Oh, wait, people have been complaining about how scarce those are.  Okay, I think people can easily get these cards because I’ve always been around people who had absurd amounts of Jyhad, et al.  Though, actually, I try to avoid playing Jyhad copies due to the backs, Sabbat copies due to more substantial differences in card structure, Third Edition copies due to … yup, the backs, as well as the crap quality of the cards.  So, for aestheticians, it’s a bit more work.  Then, what if you want a substantial number of copies of a skill card for a deck and look around to see that it’s only been printed as a one-of in a precon for many years?

Yeah, I get that it sucks to print a lot of oft-printed cards.  Of course, it also sucks to see garbage cards like Bang Nakh printed so many times.  But, it is interesting to me just how much it can matter to have a good base of skill cards for someone with a tiny/small collection.  And, I’ve never been all that happy with how base sets are done where they tend to really be more like one third the base cards in both sets, one third in one set, one third in the other set that comes out two years later.  May not be fixable unless you limit sets for a primary constructed format, but it’s argh to both be getting tons of cards you don’t need because the card shows up in both or get tiny quantities of a card you need a ton of, even in those cases when precons might help out with staples.

Or, maybe, if just that precons hadn’t been so awful with respect to putting needed cards in newbs hands, the problem wouldn’t have been so bad.

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2 Responses to Skill Mastery

  1. Brandon says:

    I was in a tough spot for years with regards to Deflection. I started playing just before LotN, so when I invested in cards I got no Deflections or Minion Taps, plus very few Blood Dolls. I managed to buy a box of Jyhad from someone in San Francisco that contained something like 2x Parity Shift, 4x Deflection, 2x Minion Tap, and 3x Blood Doll. With the few 3rd edition starter decks I purchased came another ~4 Blood Dolls, so it was a while before the lowly noob Brandon had enough to make multiple competitive decks.

    It is interesting to think about the importance of skill cards to noobs. I don’t think I really used them much in the pre-Lilith’s Blessing days, but I can see how they would be useful.

  2. Y.Y. says:

    For the longest time, my current local meta had a really slow development phase due to the lack of Deflections, Minion Taps and Blood Dolls. When we finally got a ton of Black Hand starters, suddenly the meta picked up and huge changes were seen in both the decks and the playstyle (specifically the pace and tempo of games). Even the new players who got the horrible !Toreador starter got a whole bunch of said cards due to overflow from other players.

    Interestingly, White Wolf had, for quite a while at the very least, humongous surplus of Black Hand starter decks. Given how there are not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4, yes F-O-U-R deflections in every Black Hand !Tremere starter, I’ve always felt that these should have been floating around more as newbie giveaways.

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