Experiment #2

September 27, 2012

There’s really little reason not to begin another experiment in playing V:TES with a limited collection.  In the past, I’ve mentioned going from Experiment #1’s one of each Third Edition precon and one box of Third Edition boosters to a box of starters and two boxes of boosters – a more normal buy in for a CCG.  That doesn’t enthuse me overmuch.

Instead, I keep wondering about what to do with a Giovanni precon from Lords of the Night.  And, there’s always been the question as to whether the Ravnos precon can ever be used as a basis for a deck or whether you just mine it for Week of Pleasant Dreams and a few other cards.

So, the next experiment is one of each of the Lords of the Night precons and probably a box of boosters from Lords of the Night, as I don’t feel like wasting unopened boosters.  Though, unlike Third Edition, I didn’t record booster results down to the common level, so there will need to be some sort of faking up vampires and commons to go with the first box’s rares.

The questions are similar to those from Experiment #1.  But, the situation is different.  Obviously, LotN is all about the original four indie clans, so there’s only so much clan variety available.  One hopes, though, that the greater focus means that there are more variations with each clan that are viable.

And, obviously, there are some different expectations based on what sort of cards got printed in the precons and boosters.  One reason to go with LotN is that LotN is a strong set for generic effects.  It introduced multiple wakes, generic bounce, Camera Phone, and Target Vitals.  The question is going to be how much the precons will need to provide in terms of other staple effects both generic and staple to the clans and for the disciplines.  I fear lack of pool gain the most as this is the “Vessel” set.

Going in, having quite a bit of distance from when I cracked my first LotN precons, here are some expectations:

  1. The Ravnos will be extremely hard to work with.
  2. Creativity will be how to survive with no Blood Dolls, Minion Taps, or Villeins.  I wonder if decks will bias strongly either to quick ousts or lots of defense to prolong games until Vessel matters.
  3. The FoS will be more tempting than anything else – better high caps, The Eternals of Sirius, better precon, etc.

Powerful But Not Strong

September 21, 2012

I’ve been getting caught up on the Wheel of Time book series.  This came about due to going to the library for something far more important that I couldn’t find.

As always, there are things I enjoy immensely in the series, but it’s a terrible series.  Fortunately, for those of us who still read (parts of) it, Brandon Sanderson taking over writing the series has improved it immensely.  One can say he has a different style (yeah!).  One can see his characterizations aren’t perfect imitations.  But, at least, stuff happens.  And, while it may have been Robert Jordan’s plan all along to make us hate characters only to have them redeemed and BS is just using his notes, some of the characters are much improved under BS.

I say parts because it got so bad with the posturing and irrelevant subplots and irrelevant minor characters that I couldn’t actually read every chapter.  I would skip pretty much everything that involved the numerous obnoxious female characters that RJ foisted upon us.

Before getting closer to the point or how any of this has to do with gaming, I want to emphasize the word “posturing”.  I quite like how well it describes the central problem of books 7 to 11.  It’s just endless posturing, mostly by individuals but also by factions.

What’s funny is that anyone can think that Robert Jordan created strong female characters.  Powerful?  Sure.  Having magical abilities in a world where most don’t helps.  Having the ability to heal is sweet.  Erasing people from existence back through time has applications.  But strong?

Most of his female characters are adults who act like children, whether they have lived for centuries or not, whether they rule the world or not, whether they are supposed to be major antagonists or not.  But, not all.

Ignoring the ones who become more palatable over time, such as Moiraine, there are three major female characters I can think of off the top of my head that function as adults.

Min, who has a special ability that is important and emphasizes the fantasy nature of a series that too often gets mired in personal and national politics, is actually like a normal person.  Normal is not a great word considering we are talking about epic fantasy that in many ways qualifies as high fantasy.  Believable may be better.  No, I got it – real.  And, of course, mature.

Berelain is a temptress, overtly slutty to where the idea of this being a strong female character is deliciously ironic.  Amusingly enough, in telling someone about the two books I got from the library, I don’t recall her actually successfully seducing anyone.  She makes a play for two of the male leads, but they rebuff her.  If all she did was make other, far more annoying female characters jealous, then, sure, she would be kind of a useless tramp.  Instead, whenever she isn’t written in for such things, she is portrayed and perceived by other characters as a skilled politician, capable administrator, efficient organizer.

Birgitte combines both power, being a legendary hero across the ages, with maturity, a rare feat in the series.  She doesn’t incessantly whine, pout, worry about her attire, dwell on being punished or punishing others, try to manipulate people who know what they are doing, etc.  She’s a play hard, work hard soldier with far more perception, insight, wisdom, and … sense … than those who keep claiming they possess it.

Interestingly, a number of minor or minor minor characters also fare well, such as Aludra.

But, anyway, this isn’t just a diatribe about how much RJ hates women (or has some convoluted way to show that he doesn’t with the few characters who you don’t want to strangle).  Whether female or male, there’s something to creating and developing strong characters in one’s role-playing endeavors.

It’s easier for PCs to develop as they see more and more play, so I’m not so concerned with them.  I’m more interested in the crafting of NPCs.  I tend to have one or more of these failings when it comes to NPCs:  designing someone who amuses me rather than someone who helps the story; being too subtle in design; being overpowered in design even if the intent is not to show up the PCs; not playing the character fully enough even when the design is appropriate.

I try to play against stereotypes.  But, I realize how fake it can seem if it’s obvious that a character is just astereotypical.  I think I run into less problems with male characters for obvious reasons.  So, the greatest challenge should be a female character who is relevant to the story, who is clearly about something and clearly either likable or hatable, who isn’t useless or overpowered, and who gets played as a real person, well, at least, as a realized character.

What can I draw from Min, Berelain, and Birgitte as examples that can be applied to this ideal?  Then, stepping back from the greater challenge, there are still the lesser challenges.

From Min, I suppose what can be drawn is that more realistic characters have more realistic views, actions, and reactions.  She is frequently worried but doesn’t overreact or make absurd assumptions.  She takes actions but not absurd ones.  She reacts without, again, overreacting.

From Berelain, it’s encouraging that a temptress can be written as something other than the author’s wish fulfillment or the embodiment of lust as an obstacle or even as comedy.  There are women (and men) who use their attractiveness to manipulate others, well, arguably there are almost no people who don’t use their attractiveness with at least someone to manipulate that someone.  Berelain’s backstory makes her character make sense.  Berelain’s role as seductress is, as stated, rather underplayed, but the perceptions of others makes her more interesting.  After all, everyone is perceived differently by various people.  Romance, lust, and sex are not things I see easily played.  However, the lack of any does remove a sense of believability to a world.

From Birgitte, we get a heroic figure [sic] who is not a Mary Sue.  Actually, I think the WoT series would have been so much better without the coming of age characters and, instead, focusing on the worldly adults – Tam, Thom, Birgitte, Lan, Elyas, Verin, and, yes, Berelain (for all that she’s about 20).  Even having knowledge from various lifetimes, she isn’t a know-it-all.  She makes mistakes but not ones I recall being as silly as other characters’.  She occasionally even gets to show her stuff, if far less than is preferred.  She’s a contrast with Berelain.  She’s the hottie who can be one of the boys, who isn’t any sort of meaningful temptation (as unrealistic as that might be), but, then, it’s not like there aren’t tons of hot women (and quite a few studs) in the series.  I think her legendary quality gets written well, to where she seems special enough to not think of in a “you are really good with that bow, want to see my sword?” way without so outclassing the more major characters around her.  Though, as much as I like her with Mat, she and Rand/Lews could have had some great scenes.  And, if Faile wasn’t around … if only.  Poor, pathetic Perrin still hasn’t recovered in my eyes.

And, they are all different.  That’s key.  Don’t go to the well too often, but also don’t appear to be different just for the sake of being different.  They have different backstories, different goals, different ways of interacting with others.  Interestingly enough, each one has been mostly tied to a different major major character … I never said RJ couldn’t write.  But, one thing they have in common is that they are all respected by a decent number of other characters, including ones that I have more respect for.

I’m still not clear on how to improve my NPC building efforts, but it should help to think about these things and put them down on electronically stored packets of data.


Hearten

September 18, 2012

I’ll leave the details of the games to Brandon.  As funny as some might be, there’s something more general that comes to mind from Sunday’s playday – the nature of frustration in V:TES.

While my experience was likely nowhere near as bad as Gerentt’s, on the way home I got to thinking about just how unappealing the games were as a whole.  It didn’t matter that I was in a strong position in game one, my deck completely failed to do what it was built to do.  It didn’t matter that I won game two, the table collapsed with minimal interesting interactions.  The third game had amusing moments due to the futility of both the deck I was playing and the deck I lent out to my prey but really rated as a very bad game.

There is no one way a game of V:TES can be frustrating.  I’ve sat in front of weenie bleed.  I’ve sat next to weenie combat.  Behind walls.  Been locked down with Derange, Sensory Deprivation, Brainwash, or whatever.  But, just having no chance in a game doesn’t cover every possibility.  Adding in games where there’s no chance of winning still doesn’t cover the panoply of frustrating experiences.  Sometimes, it’s enough to simply not have a deck do what it’s supposed to do.  And, I’m sure there are other situations that lead to frustration.

Some complain about V:TES being too rock/paper/scissors-y.  I’ve never seen it.  But, then, I avoid focused decks, in part to make the game less RPSish.  I’m not sure how much there will be to take away from this post, but I do suggest that if you want to make the game less about match ups, make your decks less focused.

Then, I don’t have nearly as much of an issue as some do with serious stealth bleed or weenie bleed.  While the former as predator may not be all that survivable and the latter pretty much isn’t, I do take these archetypes into account when building decks and don’t have much sympathy for those who complain about such decks but don’t metagame with them in mind.

Of course, I tend to feel the same way about every nuisance.  It’s fair to hate certain archetypes.  It’s fair to bitch about them.  It’s not fair to bitch about them while leaving out easily played counters.

I’m going to get completely sidetracked for a moment to expand on the “bitch only if you show you cared” rule.  I may argue for the low threshold of viability when it comes to deck contents in V:TES, but not everything is viable.  In most CCGs, very few deck archetypes are viable at a competitive level.  V:TES is an oddity in terms of how many builds are viable.  As much as many of us want to play whatever we feel like playing, some strategies are flawed and some are terrible.

Getting back to what I was thinking.  I dislike Imbued, but I don’t hate Imbued decks with a passion.  There are numerous plays that grief them.  I was thinking about Tension in the Ranks in my recent winning deck and how I don’t really see Tension in the Ranks being an aid to winning, the damage is too uncontrollable just as with Dragonbound, but, rather, see it as a hoser play against Nocturns and Tupdogs that may or may not do more damage to my prey than it does to me.  I like the concept of Nocturns, I don’t like how good they are.  I love Tupdogs but hate decks built around them.

One can’t metagame against everything, so one has to pick one’s poison.  For me, the choice changes.  Sometimes, I really want to stop rush combat.  Sometimes, I really want to stop votes.  A lot of the time, I’m playing something where I don’t have card slots to hate on someone else’s deck choice.

Which brings me to another element of Sunday’s experience.  I had broken down three of my four tournament decks from Gateway 2012.  I pulled the cards for four decks Sunday morning.  The decks I brought to the playday were of the “I haven’t done this before” type.  That’s hardly unusual for me, but, as experimental decks go, I didn’t figure they were all that awesome.  The Tzimisce deck choked horribly throughout a game I appeared to be winning because it was failing to do what it was supposed.  The Ahrimanes deck had a four Anarch Convert uncontrolled region draw and ended up doing silly stuff to compensate for not drawing expected library cards.  The Mind of a Killer deck I lent out played Mind of a Killer.

There probably should have been better balance between sketchy strategies and less sketchy strategies.  Well, I don’t know.  Actually, from an outside perspective and compared to what I’ve done many other times, one could think that I played two reasonable decks and a deck that got horrendous draws.

I get the sense that V:TES is more frustrating to some than other CCGs.  I find it far less so.  Sure, many games have sucked, but the percentage, out of the thousand or whatever that I’ve played, is not nearly as high as it is for Magic, Babylon 5, and the many CCGs I never invested in.

Regardless as to the level of frustration one tends to feel, I believe there are ways to counteract it at the deck construction level.  I’ve increasingly thought to myself when it comes to what to play in a tournament, “Is this going to be fun to play multiple games with?”  More generally, I write up decks that I will probably never pull the cards for since they are thought experiments that should lead to very unfun play.

I enjoyed Sunday’s play.  And, I don’t know if I learned any lesson from what I brought to the table.  But, I can hope future play is more enjoyable.


[Classic] DDC tournament report [2/22/2001]

September 10, 2012

So, the question was asked why the two decks I mentioned in my last post never got entered in the TWDA.  Comments section of that post addresses that.  I did try to search for comments I made on the newsgroup back in 2001 and 2002 for the two decks.  That didn’t work so well.

On the other hand, there’s this amusing post to our (old) local V:TES Yahoogroup from February 22nd, 2001.  Well, at least the second to last sentence is amusing.  I also found my tournament report to our local list for the other deck, but I’m sure that’s of no interest.

* * *

Was originally going to send this just to Melanie, but it occurred to me that it doesn’t precisely help her since she’s on this list anyway and that everyone might be interested sooner but maybe not later. Should we put tournament reports up on the site? I can’t remember what was discussed.

First round:

Brad (Butts), myself, John, Jim

Brad was playing a toolboxy (bit of everything) Lasombra deck. My deck is [will be] posted in the deck section. John was playing his weenie whittle deck – global pool loss with Anarch Revolts and/or Antediluvian Awakening plus obfuscated bleeds. Jim was playing a weenie bleed deck using presence and dominate (that’s all I saw in this game).

Brad spent a lot of time defending, putting little pressure on me. Jim was having trouble getting his bleeds through while continuously losing pool. John didn’t draw much in the way of bleed control. I got a good draw and was bleeding regularly. Both a Revolt and an Awakening were in play. I hadn’t invested much in pool, so it was mainly a race to see whether John, Jim, or Brad got ousted first. A stealthed bleed of 4 by Jim got bounced around the table to John which softened him up for the kill. John’s own Anarch Revolt killed him (which saved me from having to take an extra action bleeding him). After my prey went, the table collapsed as the remaining players were low in pool, which was the pattern for the day.

Second round:

David, myself, Brian (sp?), Frank

David is new to the game and never put any pressure on me. I got out 4 vamps by the end of turn 4. Brian was one turn away from Minion Tapping Alexandra for a lot. But, I had just enough bleed and stealth to oust him prior. Little of import happened once Brian was ousted. Frank’s deck was horrible (I can say this without offense as it was the !Ventrue starter modified with cards that had nothing to do with the starter, like !Toreador vamps) and put no pressure on during the game except to put out an Awakening while David walled up. I put out a lot of Kennys (Embraces) until my hand was full of stealth bleed again. So, once I made my move, Frank was ousted and David was facing around 8 minions.

Final round:

Brad, myself, John, Cory, Chad

Having the most VPs going in, I got to choose last for seating position. My plan wasn’t too complicated, and the others cooperated. I had already envisioned sitting between Brad and John, with John as my prey. And, I was looking to stay away from decks I hadn’t seen. I hadn’t seen either Cory’s or Chad’s. I considered some other options, but none seemed to make as much sense as squeezing between Brad and John.

Cory’s deck was a weenie stealth deck with mostly Nosferatu. Chad’s seemed like another toolboxy Lasombra deck, though he vote bled where Brad’s deck didn’t (from what I saw).

Brad did little offensively or defensively. I drew a lot of permanents and a lot of my Telepathic Misdirections, so I spent much of the early game building up and discarding. John blocked a turn two Kenny, which helped slow my build down – extra minion would have meant more actions to flush my permanents. John played an early Awakening, I think turn one. He drew into much more of his bleed control and cut my bleeding down quite a bit with Telepathic Counter once I started trying to move forward. His deck seemed to be playing okay, but his prey was hurting him. Cory kept a relatively large amount of pool by virtue of influencing up only about 3 vamps, all very cheap. He was also playing with Embraces, so he had more minions than he influenced out. That Cory wasn’t close to being ousted for most of the game was John’s first problem. John’s second was that the two of them contested Dimple for most of the game. As John pointed out during the game, this pretty much only helped me. Chad was often in danger of being ousted. The Awakening was hurting him the most as Cory was whittling on his pool. But, he had a vote lock and wasn’t being intercepted, so his vote bleed dropped Brad down to where Brad was an easy oust. Up until that point, there was an interesting dynamic in terms of what Chad’s allies were hoping for. I was hoping Cory would oust Chad first to give him enough pool to withstand John’s deck. John, obviously, hoped that Chad wouldn’t go down using the same reasoning. Chad still didn’t have a lot of pool after the oust. A later Minion Tap helped, though.

After that first oust, no one looked particularly strong, though Chad had the most offense. I was hurting by virtue of not being able to mount an effective offense, though I was putting out Kennys as they weren’t costing me any pool. My pool was dipping, though I had a couple Blood Dolls. It was in the high single digits. John was hurting in pool from the long contest. Cory was starting to get in the danger zone as well.

Then, John played Game of Malkav … not Malkavian Prank. When he played the card, Brad (still sitting at the table) and I both heard Prank. John certainly wishes it were a Prank, even ignoring what happened. With a Prank, he could have boosted Chad, and there was no chance of him, John, losing any pool. Once I realized it was the Game, I had to completely change my thinking.

I wasn’t doing well, though John only had 6? pool. I wasn’t drawing stealth to get my bleeds through. And, I didn’t know how many turns I could survive my predator. I wasn’t even up to blocking as I kept tapping out every turn trying to do something constructive. So, I was tempted to go big. If I gained, I had a better time cushion to go over the top later. Losing big wasn’t incredibly different from the slow crawl to oblivion I felt like my deck was sending me. I was already tempted to choose 5 when I started trying to figure out what would suck besides someone choosing 4. John gaining 6 would suck. As the only one capable of going 6, 5 looked better as a defense against the “player’s (of the Game) option”. I couldn’t see him choosing 4-5 when he could choose 6, and it briefly crossed my mind that choosing low for him was as bad as choosing low for me. I chose 5 …

Gaining 11 pool was game. Cory and Chad were both too low in pool. I had a lot of permanents and kept putting out more as well as going all out with bleeds now that I was out of danger.

Luck. I definitely had it on my side. You may not have noticed, but every game I went second. Going second with my deck is the best possible position. I have no odd caps, so any odd position is inefficient. Second has an edge on fourth as I have plenty of 2 and 6 caps, and I often have plenty of actions to take. In my first two rounds, the deck match ups were perfect. And, of course, John’s Game won me the tournament.

I felt guilty when it came to prizes. Brad (Nozik) dealt out 5 cards, and I would get to choose first. This was repeated until they were gone. However, Chad, who came in second by virtue of his 1VP in the final round, got some decent stuff including a cool t-shirt I passed up for a Body Flare (I really do have lots of t-shirts). And, none of the others got any VPs. And, I’ll probably never win another tournament. So, I guess a different mechanism for prize allocation can go into effect *next* time.


Lo, More Data

September 9, 2012

I mentioned in April, when I got to writing about Dementation’s lesser played cards, that there was little point to updating one of my March 2009 posts about what I’ve won tournaments with since, uh, I hadn’t won any TWDA-worthy tournaments in three years.

Having won two recently, increasing my TWDA count by 33% assuming Jeff ports the data, I thought I’d revisit what I’ve won with, or, actually, more what I haven’t won with as that might compel me to come up with certain deck ideas.

I lost interest in winning with different clans.  What interests me far more is what disciplines I haven’t won with and more esoteric things.

Discipline Nots (ignoring cards only played for outferiors):

  • Abombwe
  • Dementation*
  • Necromancy (!!)
  • Obeah
  • Quietus
  • Sanguinus
  • Serpentis
  • Spiritus
  • Temporis
  • Thanatosis**
  • Thaumaturgy
  • Valeren
  • Vicissitude***
  • Visceratika

*    Won nine-player tournament with !Malk stealth bleed.
**   Winning deck not entered into TWDA.
***  Winning deck not entered into TWDA.

Half are bloodline disciplines, including both scarce clan disciplines.  Abombwe is similarly specialized.  Obtenebration just came off the list, and the other two “Sabbat” disciplines don’t concern me much.

That leaves one original gangsta discipline in Thaumaturgy and a whopping three out of four of the indie disciplines, including Necromancy.  One can see how I would fail to win with Nagaraja no matter how many attempts, but to not win with them, Harbingers, nor Giovanni?  Oct-a-Libra!

Does any of this really motivate me?  I guess I could try to get interested in doing something with Quietus.  I like what Brandon did with Principia Discordia, which kills two birds (Serpentis) with one stone, maybe three if crazy enough to use CrimethInc. at Thaumaturgy as well.  But, this seems rather forced.

Trying to find some other tidbits.  I have no deck in the TWDA with an equipment card that costs more than two pool.  I have three vote decks in the TWDA (if you consider the Honor the Elders deck a vote deck) and not a single Tradition card or Parity Shift … but with two Praxis Seizures and a Protect Thine Own.

I still have zero copies of Conditioning and Govern the Unaligned in the TWDA.  No copies of Freak Drive, either.  “Weapon Not Found”, my winning Samedi deck that didn’t make it into the TWDA, did have Freak Drives, but looking up the decklist, I see that it didn’t have any Conditionings.  Technically, I have Potence cards in the TWDA, all of two of them – one Thrown Sewer Lid, one Stunt Cycle – not from my Osebo deck but from my Pander deck!  I now have a winning Protean deck but still zero copies of Earth Control, Earth Meld, Form of Mist, and aggpoke cards.

Not a single The Embrace, Creation Rites, or other babymaking card.  I have such oft played allies as Ghouled Street Thug and Rom Gypsy in the TWDA, apparently the only one to have Ghouled Street Thug.  The two new decks add some more allies, including normal ones like Carlton and Underbridge, but it’s interesting to me how few allies there are given how much I like allies.

Clan breakdowns are obvious, but what about sect breakdowns?  Ravnos, Baali, DoC – indies.  “Toreador” – Cammie.  Osebo – Laibon.  Pander – Sabbat.  !Gangrel + Adana is kind of nothing, and the Kiasyd deck is an actual anarch deck and not just some Anarch Converts to cryptthin.  The Cammie and Sabbat decks, notably, both vote.

Speaking of voting, three vote decks as mentioned, though the Honor the Elders deck wins from swarm bleed and the Pander deck is supposed to do tap and bleed stuff, which I totally forgot about when I played it.  The Ravnos deck is intercept, if it’s anything at all, much like the Kiasyd deck is intercept combat only with hardly any intercept.  Baali and Osebo are stealth bleed.  !Gangrel is more viably a mix of intercept and combat.  I know I can’t win with rush decks, so I guess this distribution makes sense.  Though, no ally deck and no winnie deck.

Yeah, I think this gives food for deck ideas.


Pallid

September 6, 2012

There I be, up 1-0 on the competition.  Knowing that Gangrel antitribu are all of the rage (2012 wins – !Gangrel 5, Ventrue 4), I went with semi-turbo ally for the Saturday night tournament.

Round 1:

Robert (see below) -> Fred (!Ventrue grinder) -> Julien (Shamblers) -> Ian (!Gangrel ally) -> Matt (weenie Dom)

I have actually forgotten what Robert was playing.  Winnie predator will tend to do that.  Though, this game was excruciating and a strong signal of a possible flaw in my deck.

Let me start with the end, as that will give an idea how tedious this game was.  Matt got 1.5 VPs.  I had a dozen or more minions in play at times.  I was the only who might get ousted before time and only really because of Anarch Troublemaker and because I was still trying to do pool damage to Matt when I could have just stayed all untapped and given up on anything happening.

My predator’s game ended when I merged Sebastian Goulet.  He ended the game with like 27 pool, though.  Fred grinded Matt some but could never seriously mount offense.  Matt had 8 blockers after he gave up trying to get through Fred.  There was likely some optimal way for me to use my Gregory Winter, Impundulu, Young Bloods, stolen Shambling Hordes, Ossian (got burned by Autonomic Mastery), and my bleeders – two Shadow Court Satyrs, Black Spiral Buddy with Jacob Fermor in play, Mylan.  But, nope.  I just couldn’t deplete Matt fast enough with Lilith’s Blessing in play to where he lost enough minions to stop blocking/bouncing.

The deck did everything it was supposed to do:  Una The Summonings and Freaks for free; Sebastian owns the ally world; Jacob Fermor gives me an extra bleeder …  Actually, this was a major flaw in the deck.  For some reason, when building the deck, I was thinking Jacob would pump more of my allies.

Round 2:

Directions Dude (Jar of Skin Eaters) -> Mike C. (Tzimisce Eternal Vigilance) -> Ian -> Mike S. (DEM bleed) -> Greg (Malk intercept combat?)

Mike S. needed a lot of VPs to get into the finals, but then, so did I.  He bled a lot.  Jar of Skin Eaters did lead to two burned bleeders, but Mike S. swept.  I wasn’t too far away from stabilizing in the endgame as he was nearly out of deck, but whatever.  His Nightmares upon Nightmares forced me to cycle, my low pool forced me to avoid bringing out more annoying allies, his The Rising was tiresome.  The Rising is rising to a level of requiring metagaming as my decks are atrocious at getting VPs early enough and barely hang on poolwise much of the time.

From the penthouse to the oustedhouse.  All in one single day.  No four tournament sweep for me.  I’m so pathetic.  Should just give in and play Dominate …

Sunday

Round 1:

Directions Dude (DoC 5/6) -> Mike S. (AAA) -> Ian (Kiasyd 5/6 w/ Animalism) -> Doe Eyes (FoS bleed)

David lost a bunch of pool.  David only Shattered Brandon’s Crescendo once.  Brandon drew bounces early so that I only cost David more pool.  David was doomed.  But, not before he Kissed Alexandra with the power of Ra.  Alexandra being Mike’s only dudess.  Mike brought out Francois but lacked nondoomedness.

In the endgame, I too lacked nondoomedness.  While I had Myrna (Villeined down to 1), The Arcadian, and the all powerful Greer Worder, Eater of Alexandra, Mike’s Reins of Power depleted a nontrivial amount of my pool, though it did make sense to call for the possible Voter Cap benefit.  And, I had the power of Dominate at my beck and call, so Brandon might have poofed on my next turn.  I was kind of hoping Francois would steal blood backwards or bleed into my fist of bounce, but it was not to be and Mike’s game was crap (too many turns for Alexandra, Alexandra getting eaten before she did anything).

Bumby, while David was still in the game, I played Scarlet Lore, way later than I should have.  What did I choose?  Folderol, of course.  Just meant Brandon had to play one more card for the oust.

Round 2:

Ian -> Edward (Gangrel w/ Serpentis) -> Mike C. (Tzimisce bleed/’schreck) -> Directions Dude

David had no game.  Scout came out.  Scout fell down.  Scout got eaten (yummy Scout).  Scout came out.  Scout fell down.  Scout got eaten (tasty Scout).

Twelve player tournament, so all fours until the finals.  With no predator and the fearsome power of Dominate at my beck and call, I brought out Myrna and Nitidas and worked on upgrading Nitidas’s powers to MYT-y and ANI-mated.  Edward’s Nadima got ‘schrecked, so I had to save her and her wondrous Raven Spy, after bleeding to get the edge.  Because he had a Camera Phone and either J.S. or Tasha on Horrock, he couldn’t really stop trying to oust his prey.  Draeven proved the bomb in this matchup, in that I used him once to ignore Breath of the Dragon at inferior.

In truth, verily, Mike couldn’t do anything to me.  I was on the wrong side of him to get ‘schrecked.  My Hell-for-Leathers and Draeven pretty much stopped any damage my way.  My Earth Swords took down two of his dudes.  I played Scarlet Lore for … no, not the obvious choice of Trainer … but On the Qui Vive as I was kind of wake scarce.

I used the MYT-y power of Gremlins to bleed Edward out, brought up The Arcadian, which prompted Mike and his reduced minion force and questionable pool total to concede.  Good ole Dominate.

Finals:

Directions Dude scoffed at my chances of making the finals, but he forgot the power of Dominate, for Dominate is very MYT-y.  I only got in as fourth seed, so didn’t have to agonize about seating.  Matt chose to be between Dennis and myself.  Doe Eyes chose to be Dennis’s predator.  Fred chose to be Dennis’s prey.  I really liked my position, knowing Dennis was toast, figuring Fred could pressure Matt and having scouted the decks enough to know that I played the bounce game against Matt.

Dennis (1/2 Celerity Princes Fourth Tradition) -> Fred (Gangrel w/ Serpentis) -> Matt (Stanislava bleeds and burns) -> Ian -> Doe Eyes

Dennis did some traditional stuff.  He called an Anathema early but wouldn’t ensure that it was going backwards, so Fred DIed it.  Dennis died.

I had a very slow game.  I brought out The Arcadian, had bounce in hand, but no wakes.  I had to keep The Arcadian untapped as I feared much bleed.  I actually played things really badly with Anarch Convert and when to play Draeven, so I was even slower than I should have been.  Antediluvian Awakening was a thorn in my existence as, briefly, was Dennis’s Judgment: Camarilla Segregation.  I didn’t have anything for pool gain and I wasn’t cycling.  I finally realized I needed to cycle.  So, when Myrna joined the party, it was go time.  She may have Sanguine Instructioned The Arcadian in the power of Ani-mation.

Fred almost stabilized against Brandon, getting up to three intercept on Nadima.  A bit of miscommunication led to my wasting a Folderol on trying to save Fred.  Too much bleed killed Fred, though, at least, I wasn’t part of the problem by bleeding into Amenophobis’s Deflections.

Matt did largely zilch.  He had Abombwed and Soul Gem nuked Stanislava once and had mucho pool, but he knew I was in the mood to bounce and did bounce his one early bleed.  He couldn’t draw another Abombwe, so there was no reason to ignite Stanislava anew.  With just the three of us, Matt started going forward, by that I mean he bled for six, I bounced, Brandon bounced back, I bounced back, Brandon played Archon Investigation.  This was a move Brandon regretted the rest of the trip.

Due to seeding, Matt couldn’t win as soon as I oust Brandon.  If Matt gets me in the endgame, Brandon wins.  So, dying wasn’t bad for Brandon, nevermind that he was never going to survive with my five bleed on the table and lack of having Gremlinsed all game.  AI took him to 4 pool, would have been at 1 by eating the bleed.  With no Stanislava for Matt since no Abombwe meant no free 11 cap, by the time Matt got new ICM up, I ousted him.  Two lessons:  obviously Adana is superior to Stanislava in every way as proved by the earlier tournament and this event; Dominate is MYT-y.

Two blue ribbons.

I knew what deck I would play for tournament four based on my results in three.  If I won, I would play my Chill Dudes deck (tuned for added nonsuckiness).  If I failed to win, I would play a much stronger deck that would give me a chance for a second tournament win – KoT Ventrue precon + six Blood Dolls.

Sadly, I won with Dominate, so I was forced to play Chill Dudes, who, having proved their ineptitude, are now and forever to be known as Catatonic Dudes.

Round 1:

Edward (Anson skill card) -> Matt (Obf/Pre w/ Events) -> Robert (!Toreador Undue Influence w/ votes) -> Ian (Catatonic Dudes) -> Mike C. (Horrid Form)

I was never seriously threatened by my prey.  He did keep Deep Songing Edward, but I’m not sure if that was because he couldn’t target Laecanus and Aleister Crowley or he just didn’t care about catatonic minions.  Robert, meanwhile, could Undue Influence me at will since my one intercept card (in the deck?) of The Mole did nothing to him.  Matt did massive pool damage early and never drew into the kill, no matter how much I broke Pentex on his Stavros.  Edward lost Anson with many skill cards before either Reins of Power or Golconda.  I had to rescue Alexandra to keep him in the game.

I did meaningless stuff.  Some day, I will learn the lesson that every deck has to be able to do significant pool damage to a defenseless prey.  Technically, Mike wasn’t defenseless, I just didn’t care about his Meshenka, Dragos w/ VIC, or Underbridge Strays.  That’s the advantage of being catatonic.

Robert didn’t die, which made me sad.  He offered Edward a deal for some nice juicy ICM votes to pass Robert’s Reckless Agitations, which were intended to kill Matt and me, but could only kill me.  If Edward didn’t vote up, Robert would transfer out since he was at 2 pool and dead to Matt’s next turn, anyway.  Edward agonized, rightfully so.  We were short on time, finally I got crosstabled to death, the only reliable way to oust me no matter how catatonic I may be.  I left.  Edward did get his 1.5 before time, so it proved the correct play for what was a tedious game.  That result, since this fourth tournament was only 10, meant that Edward and Robert simply set themselves up for a coin flip for fifth place going into the finals.

Round 2:

Aaron (Anneke blocks) -> Edward -> Ian -> Fred (unnamed Barrenness) -> Robert

Fred Barrennessed Laecanus twice.  I hardly cared.  Aaron blocked some of my actions, like trying to Entrancement away Veneficti, so I didn’t do anything, thus preserving the power of catatonia.  Edward lost too much pool to not be ousted.  Robert tried to go forward, but it didn’t amount to much.

With Edward gone, I read the game this way:  Fred and Robert should coordinate to reduce Aaron’s dominate position but they wouldn’t and Aaron would win.  Fred did get Robert but lost the endgame.

In the following pickup game, I played the Ventrue precon with six Blood Dolls and was happy.  Happy to bring out Mike Courtois, Jackson Asher, happy to bring out Hardestadt, happy to be the table threat, happy to have Hardestadt Archoned by my prey playing Tzimisce, happy to oust my prey with the power of a fist full of Conditionings, happy to lose to a Heaven’s Gate/Resurrection deck.

In a previous pickup game, I played the anti-hunt deck I built for Jeff and was amused by how The Final Nights was too threatening to not Delay.

Monday

There is this fast foody place within walking distance of Mike’s house.  I wasn’t thrilled with their hot pastrami dip because it was overcosted for what it was, but they had a “meat burrito (ground beef)” on the menu, and I quest and quest for ground beef burritos (Taco Bell doesn’t count).  While bland, with salsa, it was a vast amount of taco filling goodness in a flour tortilla.

Anyway, we played a pickup game, and I demanded with all of the power of Dominate at my beck and call to play someone else’s deck.  I played Robert’s Qawiyya & Saulot deck.  Lots of stuff happened that I’m too tired to write about.  Basically, I got a perfect Zillah’s Valley and Repulsion draw to get set up right away and to bleed with Saulot a lot for two at stealth, only got Slaughterhoused for 10 by my predator, and bled out Eze Like Monday Morning on Sunday … wait … whatever … for the win.  My main takeaway was that I had only like 10 cards in my library when I won and only got Slaughtered for 10, so the deck was moving cards at a rate incomprehensible to my play style of trying to play no cards like an evil zen robot.

The drive home sucked.  We will not take Interstate 5 again, I hope.  Everyone just wanted to get home and crash.  Other than the drive back being endless, it was quite the pleasant trip and one we should try to do again.

Great for Courtlyoil to put us up for the weekend, for Matt and Robert to give driving directions pretty much along the lines of “Follow that car.  Follow that white car.”, for Matt to drive and provide directions to his secret parking place that crosses international borders, for Robert’s lending of his unstoppable deck, for everyone who made playing four tournaments funnish, for the con for giving dealer dollars for high placement so that I could give Directions Dude half and keep the other half for my sparkly … secret awesomeness.  Also, while everyone else was getting smashed on inferior liquor, nobody bothered me for my Perrier-Jouet … I think that’s what it was, it was kind of brownish and sometimes was mildly sweet and sometimes carbonated and seemed to have 23 flavors.


Indefatigable

September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend saw two local conventions, including one I could have walked to.  So, naturally, I decided to drive 350 miles to go to a local convention.  It was all because of this new game I got into.  I picked it up recently and decided I’d risk playing in a tournament and see what would happen.  Conveniently, only 350ish miles away, there was a convention running not one, not two, not three, but one more than three tournaments for this game.

The game?

Vampire: The [something] [something] … I can never remember.  It’s a card game.  I should be more specific.  It’s a customizable card game, like a living card game.  Only, get this – it’s collectible.  Yeah, there are all these super rare cards and you need them all to be competitive, so constructed decks likely run something like $1,000 or less.

What I like best about the game is that you can copy a deck off the web, webdecking is what I think they call it, and trounce the best players at will.  In fact, in a few seconds or less of searching the web, I found the decks I wanted to play and ripped off all the tier zero decks that are owning the professional circuit.

Two others joined me for the road trip.  I’ll refer to one of them as Directions Dude and the other as Doe Eyes.

We arranged to stay with Mike Curtis Tortoise … damn Frenchies … Courtlyoil … hold on, I’ll copy and paste this from my memory … Courtois.  He just got into the game, himself, and thought it would be cool to have some guys over to share webdecking ideas and to maybe pick up a few of the ultracommons that he was missing from his minuscule collection.

It was supercool for this complete stranger to offer to put us up.  It did seem a bit sketchy when we got there and the cheerleaders with whips were just leaving, but hey, go cheap or go home is what I always say.

So, a quarrel quickly broke out over who was the best Inner Circle Member (ICM).  The opinions were typically nonsensical with folks trying to justify their specious views by citing some deck archive.  One doofus was so clueless, he thought Gideon Fontaine was an ICM.  Like any of the actual ICMs have QUI/ABO and +4 Strength.  I’m not sending that dumbass a Festivus card this year.

Saturday, we hit the con.  Because these tournaments always start exactly on time, I had to rush to move over some cards from one of my decks to my tournament deck.  One of these days, I’ll have to break down and pick up some singles from Overstock.com so that I have enough Minion Taps for all of my decks.

Anyway, we shuffle up (well, I’m not sure about the redhead with the big … sleeves).  Because I know that cheating is rampant at this level, I go through my usual intense shuffle of my prey’s crypt and library and ask that others do the same.  People stare at me hard for a moment, but what can you do?  With all of the money and international travel rewards these events offer, who can blame people for trying to sneak in a fifth … or even sixth … copy of a card?

For this first tournament, I know I really want to qualify for the smaller tournaments on Sunday, so I play a deck that will ensure me at least one Victory Point each round.  As a metagame play against Body of Sun and Mayaparisatya decks, which are all of the rage in Thailand and other parts of Africa, I run dodges and damage prevention, which, of course, forced me to play Celerity and Protean.

I don’t remember jack from these things.  I’m usually horribly inebriated and more concerned about hiding my stash of Pernod-Ricard Perrier-Jouet from the con police.  So, I hired someone to write his thoughts on my games, which I’ve edited to put into my own words.  Why anyone still uses chalk and pocket blackboards I have no idea, but whatever, I only care about the chicks, the booze, and scoring big to make the pros.

Round 1:

Chris (Nana, Animalism) -> Gene (Black Hand Psychic Assault) -> Matt (Pre/Obf  w/ Events) -> Shane (Mordechai) -> Ian (Mercury’s Arrow intercept)

I’m shocked when my prey whips out smaller dudes with Animalism and Nana Burlapsack.  My online research suggests that just dies to my dodges and that Psychic Assault will rip him a new one.  To avoid combat, Chris occasionally bleeds with Deep Song.  He may have played stealth to get them through or not – I would have relied on Animalism block denial myself, but I do recall some crackpot suggesting that you can save card slots by bleeding at stealth.  My predator brought out Mordechai and a Shambling Hordes and Smiling Jack.  I was way too scared of what he could do with votes, so I tried to get everyone else to burn Smiling Jack, but they all wanted it in play and let it get to five counters.

I didn’t get Mitru in my crypt draw, so I figured I was toast.  Instead, I had to go with my backup play of Adana, who proved yet again that she’s horribly broken and pretty much guarantees 1.5 VPs like this guy kept saying Week of Nightmares does.  I really prefer Mitru because I like how nobody expects him to rush.  With Adana, I kept hoping to draw into Fleetness rush, but failing that, would try to bait my predator into bleeding me so that I could cycle a wake and so I just kept tapping Adana to bleed.

Gene just didn’t get the optimal Psychic Assault draw and got ousted.  I think Matt was doing some backousting tech, but I focus entirely on my predator and prey, so just don’t know nor care what is happening with my allies.  I really want one of those t-shirts that shows an arrow to the left and the word “Prey” to remind the scrubs that you win the game by putting as much forward pressure on your prey as possible at all times.  As soon as you let up, they will sit on 20-29 pool and make your day miserable.

After getting Gene, Chris hunted a couple of times.  I know there’s a theory in the game that the more you hunt, the more you win, but I think that’s too European for my play style.  Still, I’m worried that Chris is just tooling up to whip out some Song in the Dark action, so I take a chance and block that stuff.  My backup plan (to my two Desert Eagles and Blur for hands of one three times) is Mercury’s Arrow and I cycle a few to torp Chris’s dudes.  I was still guzzling my vino, so maybe this didn’t happen, but I think I played Fame on Nana and torped her.  With four vampires in torpor, no Failsafes in play, and Smiling Jack, Chris couldn’t hold on.  I went crazy on Matt at that point, knowing that his one ready vampire with one blood was enough to continue his backousting efforts.  Something happened in the endgame that resulted in Shane getting ousted and I got my first win!

It was so tempting to try to arrange a table splitting deal and betray my partner.  Now, I’m happy that I could restrain myself from playing like the pros.  Suck it, pros!  I’m saving the dealbreaking for the finals!

Round 2:

Robert (Tzimisce w/ Pre) -> James (Corrupt Construction) -> Fred (Kiasyd bleed) -> Ian -> Doe Eyes (Animalism rush)

I played a Minion Tap.  I drew Giant’s Blood.  I figured more blood on my guys meant my Tastes would net me less blood, so I looked around for some chump and, on a whim, filled Velya up after Brandon emptied Robert’s vampire.

Fred was playing a hunt deck with casual bleed.  I think he was playing stealth as well.  James was the clear table threat as he was about to multirush with his Corrupt Construction, but fortunately for me, as my deck had a hard time dealing with close range ally combat, Fred Riddle Phantastiqued the CC and Robert Entrancemented it.  Robert was driving me nuts putting out War Ghouls that Brandon just annihilated.  Still, Robert did get a VP.

I wasn’t paying any attention to Brandon’s game, so I didn’t realize he had played most of his deck, as I kept trying to keep the bleed pressure up with Mitru and whoever else I had in play.  My game was slowed some by James’s deck, so I would keep guys untapped to use my Channel 10 and Mitru’s Mr. Winthrop to block any crosstable nonsense.  Fred also walled up, knowing that tapping at any moment might see James bleed like crazy.

Brandon and I contested Fame, but I hate being low on pool, so gave it up when I had under 15 pool.  Brandon would tap out bleed Fred and rushed his Famous dude.  Fred knew that blocking was pointless due to weenie Animalism’s top tier stealth module, so Fred dies, as everyone expected.

I had to hold on to try to get half a VP, but I got a few lucky combats in while Brandon had no cards left, and he conceded.  Wow!  If I were in his position, I so would have stalled by examining each of the cards in my hand really slowly and pretending I didn’t understand what Conquer the Beast did (I think that’s what he was choking on, I couldn’t be sure, say hello to Perrier-Jouet and Diet Pepsi cocktails, mmmmm).

I made the finals!  I couldn’t wait to find a pay phone and ring my girlfriend’s mistress.  The worst thing about my whole day was her response about the stick thing turning blue.  She dropped the receiver before she could tell me which brand she bought.

As top seed, I went with the recommended strategy of placing myself between the two decks I hadn’t seen.  The Devil you know is always harder to deal with than some random decks.

Finals:

Fred -> Chris -> Mike C. (Week of Nightmares Tumnimos) -> Ian -> Directions Dude (Ventrue w/ Obf)

David brought out Arika, and we all tried to hide our laughing.  Frickin’ newbs who luck into finals.  I’m glad the community hates people who can’t take this game seriously.  Chris had gone all forward in our earlier game, now he went all backwards, even though Fred’s Kiasyd were only likely to hunt and wall up.  Mike made some Tumnimoses (good card, I guess, but kind of crummy art).

I was just doing my usual table chatter to unnerve the weak, when I just randomly threw out that Fred or Chris would get a VP, David would get two, and I would beat him in the endgame to win the tournament based on seeding.

What was so messed up was that Fred somehow got through Chris.  Mike played a couple of Sensory Deprivations on Fred’s guys even though I was within nine or so bleed actions of ousting my prey – blew my mind that he was worried about Fred – he must have had at least five pool that the Kiasyd would have to eat through.  I was clearly about to run the table.  David got Fred – I don’t remember how, he might have rushed his guys with Ranjan, Arika, or Wilhelm.  Mike dropped Week of Nightmares or, how like all the top players call it – Weak of Pleasant Dreams.  I just ignored him, maybe stopping a bleed when I didn’t think he’d wreck me in combat.

David ousted Mike.  I don’t remember why Ranjan was in torpor or burned.  Wilhelm was in torpor.  Arika tried some stuff, but she had no real way of getting any actions through.  She did manage to take Mitru down in combat with Rolling with the Punches, when I foolishly didn’t read Psyche! correctly and just wanted to cycle them.  David must not have noticed that he didn’t have more damage prevention in hand, as our three round combat did also put Arika into torpor.

Not that that mattered.  The real problem was that David was transferring up another vampire.  Fortunately, I cycled enough that I drew into a Fleetness.  I wanted to play it with Mitru, since it’s free with him (his special was such a bonus).  But, I think I made a rookie mistake and tapped him, so I had to use it with Adana.  I’m sure I misannounced my action, by playing it at inferior to bleed for three at one stealth.  I couldn’t have played it at superior, anyway, I guess since David’s new dude, whoever it was, wasn’t tapped.  David had a bad draw with his deck and didn’t draw into Pack Tactics or Elder Interventions, so he had to let the action go through.  I looked up and he was only at three pool!  Holy ay caramba!!  Adana bleeding for three ended up being the key play of the finals!  Who could have imagined that?

We joked for hours about my calling my shot.  I just threw out the least likely scenario I could and bam!  It’s almost like I’m psychic or something.  Wish that kicked in when I go to buy lottery tickets.

The prize support was even better than cash or a round trip to Chiang Mai.  I’m working hard to fill out my collection, and the precons and boosters will get me some much needed stock, especially for trading so that I can get some extra Carltons as I’ve decided that two per deck just isn’t enough combat defense.  Also got a ribbon from the con and dealer room dollars.  Only a stuck up jerk would actually wear a ribbon that said first place.  Problem with dealer credit is just that there’s so much stuff that I want so badly that I achieve paralysis by analysis issues and they have to drag me out of the room.

You know, that was just the first tournament, but I’m sure nobody is really interested in anything else from the weekend, and I can’t stand it when people write long, rambling blog posts.  For all of you bloggers out there TL:DR for the win!!  So, like, I have some Perrier-Jouet left, just heating it up in the microwave, so I’m out of here.  Peace.  (And, if you have an extra crib, get back to me in … uh, soon.)

And, remember, always webdeck if you care about winning.  If you don’t bring the best deck to the table, you might as well go home and cry into your gun collection.