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.