Lead Balloons

Before I can “ramble bury” my theme for this post, the theme is the difference between good concepts and good decks.

As much as I champion the idea that deck quality is of little importance to success, I do recognize that there is a minimum threshold of viability that is needed to have a reasonable expectation that success will occur.  Today, I’m going to bring up some decks that don’t meet that threshold.

In every CCG, there are interesting ideas that make for bad decks.  Of course, not everyone agrees on what’s interesting, but still, in a typical CCG, more than half the cards aren’t tournament viable.  Among those cards, however, are cards people think about playing or even, *gasp*, put into decks.

We had a late cancellation for yesterday’s V:TES playday and then there are all of the other slackers who can’t be bothered to put aside their lives for a couple of days a month to play a dead CCG, so we played a bunch of three-player games of V:TES.  Threesomes are hardly the best way to learn, but it’s possible to pick up a thing or two.  Then, there were also some relevant (to this post) results from a previous playday.

As an aside, it is funny that we keep breaking tournament attendance records yet have a challenging time getting people to play casually on a regular basis, not that the South Bay group contributes the majority of tournament goers, more like a third to a fifth in recent years.

We played five games yesterday, I think.  Some went so quickly it felt like we would play more than that.  Two of those games I played a brand new Keystone Kine deck that was inspired by a deck Ira Fay played in a storyline event.  I played my other new deck, the Shell Break deck I mentioned in a previous post that I got around to pulling the cards for.  I played my Hukros deck.  And, I played one of my most successful decks ever, an oldie from 2002.

The KK deck never did anything.  It got ousted fast and took few actions getting there.  Which brings up something.  My sense is that speed is more important in smaller games.  Maybe that’s obvious, but sometimes the truth is strange.  Anyway, the development of that deck is slow like baseball game slow.  In a fivesome, it might have time to achieve the pinnacle of excellence known as being able to bleed three times in one turn with … three vampires.  The deck also proved to have far too few wakes for the number of actions it needed to take.  But, this deck is not the deck I want to talk about.

The Shell Break deck was amusing as a good episode of an animated humor show is amusing.  First turn, Jake Washington gets a Saturday Night Special.  No vamps around, turn two, Jake Washington gets another Saturday Night Special.  Nothing instills fear in one’s enemies like a Shell Break on Jake Washington.  Nothing gets ignored more than Cry Wolf without a Shell Break.  My 16 years of experience has conclusively shown that a player will win every single game of V:TES in which the only master the player plays is Jake Washington and the only other master in that player’s ash heap is a discarded Jake Washington.  So mote it be.  But, this deck is not the deck I want to talk about.

Prior to last weekend, I had built a couple of decks that have proved to fail the threshold of viability.  The Hukros deck would hardly surprise anyone since the whole point of the deck is to play with a vampire considered among the worst of his capacity.

Let’s start with that deck:

Deck Name:   121012  Hukros Does Stuff
Created By:  Hukros

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 25, Max: 39, Avg: 8)
3  Hukros                             abo cel ANI OBF PRO VIC10 Gangrel Antitribu
3  Luke Fellows                       CEL OBF PRO    7  Gangrel Antitribu
3  Morrow the Sage                    cel vic OBF PRO6  Gangrel Antitribu
3  Mugur Sabau                        vic CEL NEC OBF PRO9  Gangrel Antitribu

Library: (90 cards)
Master (16 cards)
1  Gangrel Conspiracy
1  Lilith`s Blessing
4  Minion Tap
1  Path of the Feral Heart, The
1  Powerbase: Barranquilla
1  Regent
3  Vessel
2  Vicissitude
2  Wider View

Action (21 cards)
2  Abbot
5  Dual Form
6  Mantle of the Bestial Majesty
4  Sacrificial Lamb
4  Zillah`s Tears

Action Modifier (4 cards)
2  Changeling
1  Cloak the Gathering
1  Spying Mission

Political Action (1 cards)
1  Cardinal Benediction

Reaction (11 cards)
1  Confusion of the Eye
2  Eyes of the Beast
1  Forced Awakening
5  On the Qui Vive
2  Sonar

Combat (20 cards)
1  Amaranth
2  Body Flare
1  Bone Spur
1  Breath of the Dragon
1  Claws of the Dead
1  Earth Meld
6  Flesh of Marble
1  Glancing Blow
1  Inner Essence
1  Kraken`s Kiss
3  Target Head
1  Wolf Claws

Ally (2 cards)
1  Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
1  Repo Man

Retainer (1 cards)
1  Mr. Winthrop

Equipment (4 cards)
2  Camera Phone
2  Sport Bike

Combo (10 cards)
2  Rapid Change
8  Swallowed by the Night

An obvious question is why this isn’t a rush deck.  The answer is mostly because I can’t win tournaments with rush decks and, as bad as this deck is, it was made with a good faith effort to achieve the minimum threshold of viability to win with.  If it weren’t, I would have just gone with boring old rush, which I do occasionally play.

One’s attention may be grabbed by the actions.  What’s funny about this deck is that it doesn’t remotely even come close to what it wants to do even when it’s playing as well as can be expected.  Dual Form is actually for multiacting, not cloning, yet the deck is far better off creating monstrous combaticons then it is untapping like an antitypist.  My judgment after a couple of plays is that the deck would be strictly superior removing Dual Form, Mantle of the Bestial Majesty, and Sacrificial Lamb since the approximate number of times that combo got pulled off in actual play was minus 273 degrees Celsius.

Why am I even bothering to play Vicissitude?  Because for all that I hate rush, for all that I hate lots of decks built around high caps, for all that I have a disinterest in most high caps anyway, I love this crypt.  Three out of four!  Three out of four!  Three out of four!  When I can get discipline crossover like this, I feel compelled to make use of it – see awesome Aus/Dem/Obf/Pot decks that suck harder than raisins in cookies.

Would I argue that this makes best use out of Hukros?  Nein!  不是!  Best use out of Hukros will have to wait for another day.  A couple of Presence skill cards and Voter Cap for all of the marbles!

But, what about the concept?  Assuming the concept is to have Hukros make use of Dual Form, Mantle of the Bestial Majesty, and Sacrificial Lamb, that’s a rather awful concept.  It’s too much “doing stuff that doesn’t matter”, while wasting the broken Dual Forms that would be better used by grafting Dominate on Hukros or just playing vampires with Dominate in the first place – a deck I’ve never lost with.

Moving on, we have one of a number of The Becoming concepts:

Deck Name:   120906  Becoming Tzimisce
Created By:  Corine Marcon

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 15, Max: 29, Avg: 5.41)
1  Ana Rita Montana                   aus dom obf VIC5  Tzimisce
1  Caliban                            ANI AUS VIC    6  Tzimisce
1  Corine Marcon                      ani AUS VIC    6  Tzimisce
1  Devin Bisley                       ANI AUS vic    5  Tzimisce
1  Elizabeth Westcott                 ani cel vic AUS5  Tzimisce
1  Horatio                            vic            2  Tzimisce
1  Kazimir Savostin                   ani pot AUS VIC7  Tzimisce
1  Lolita Houston                     aus VIC        4  Tzimisce
1  Meshenka                           ANI AUS VIC    8  Tzimisce
1  Rose                               aus PRE VIC    5  Tzimisce
1  Sascha Vykos                       ani dom AUS THA VIC8  Tzimisce
1  Terrence                           ani aus vic    4  Tzimisce

Library: (90 cards)
Master (24 cards)
5  Auspex
5  Blood Doll
2  Hungry Coyote, The
1  Library Hunting Ground
2  Path of Lilith, The
2  Path of Metamorphosis, The
1  Tribute to the Master
1  Vessel
5  Vicissitude

Action (15 cards)
3  Abbot
3  Anima Gathering
5  Becoming, The
1  Nose of the Hound
1  Rumble
2  Zillah`s Tears

Action Modifier (5 cards)
5  Changeling

Reaction (17 cards)
2  Eagle`s Sight
2  Eyes of Argus
5  On the Qui Vive
7  Telepathic Misdirection
1  Wake with Evening`s Freshness

Combat (19 cards)
3  Bloodform
2  Breath of the Dragon
7  Chiropteran Marauder
1  Inner Essence
1  Liquefy the Mortal Coil
2  Meld with the Land
1  Skin Trap
2  Starvation of Marena

Ally (1 cards)
1  Asanbonsam Ghoul

Retainer (1 cards)
1  Corpse Balloon

Equipment (3 cards)
1  Bowl of Convergence
2  Living Manse

Combo (5 cards)
5  Plasmic Form

If you can tell how this deck will play just by looking at the list, you have pwned me.  I don’t have a problem with Toreador Grand Ball, but I really don’t like Anima Gathering.  To me, it’s too defensive, trading a dude for obnoxious levels of intercept and Laptopiness.  That may seem odd given my defensive style of play, but I need every action I can get to push across the Computer Hacking + Leverage bleed that ousts my prey.  I thought that The Becoming was a perfect way for me to not feel bad about playing Anima Gathering, plus there’s synergy with how my real dudes can be skill card upgraded.

In practice, this deck does nothing.  It just spins its wheels like a vehicle with wheels, waiting to drop The Becoming to clear the hand of masters to … profit.  At a certain point in V:TES’s history, I thought “toolbox” got a bad name.  People assigned toolbox to any deck that was unfocused, which included decks that sucked at everything.  I noticed that my better toolboxy decks were still cored on something, usually either stealth bleed or intercept “combat” with the toolboxy part being, often, respectively, intercept “combat” and stealth bleed.

The real core of this deck is The Becoming + skill cards.  Sure, it has intercept and combat and stealth and bleed.  It sucks at all of those.  I couldn’t believe just how painful this deck was to play, even with The Becoming in play, even with Anima Gathering in play.  I kept wondering how I ousted my prey.  When the core of a deck is just support plays to help the deck do something else it can do without the support plays and do it better, then the concept is … wait for it … as much of a failure as my attempt to learn French.

There are many other things I want to try with The Becoming because I like skill cards about as much as I hate rush.  So, obviously, I need to combine the two for balance as balanced as a Libra gymnast.

Can a good deck be made with Hukros?  No, but I think I could make a deck I could win a tournament with as long as the tournament has 10 players and the finals involves everyone wanting to oust my prey.

Can a good deck be made with the awesome crypt of Hukros and the other two with Vic?  Might end up better without Hukros.

Can a good deck be made with The Becoming?  I’m sure, though the main problem with The Becoming decks is that they probably work better without The Becoming.  I’ve done Dementation bleed with them because of Reiner, and I could have just played real dudes or play The Embrace.  As sexy as “Penny” is compared to “Kenny”, Kenny keeps proving that the Camarilla Edition downgrade just made him weaker, not weakful.

There are just so many bizarre things you can do with The Becoming, like the two five-discipline decks I built for reasons I don’t recall.


One Response to Lead Balloons

  1. Actually, I pondered using Hukros in a Shadow court satyr deck. You can give the satyr a breath of the dragon, or the usual earth meld as well. Maybe it can work out well…

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