Challenge 4 – Zayyat

May 31, 2013


I have always wanted to make at least semi-workable deck around Zayyat, the Sandstorm, but i always failed.
Any ideas?


This is both a good challenge and a bad one.  The good is that I think it’s a more challenging, open-ended challenge that can lead down some interesting roads.  For instance, the Saulot/Uriel deck only had so many ways to go and still be doing the Vitae Block/Blissful Agony thing.  The problem is that a lot of options of similar worthiness means not knowing which one to go with.

Back when !Salubri had nothing going on, I built !Salubri Vote.  People would say, “You can make a better deck with vampires with presence.”  But, that misses the point.  When you have no good options, it doesn’t matter what option you go with.  They couldn’t do anything well, so might as well do vote, leveraging their Sabbatness.  I got tired of !Salubri vote, which, by the way, Josh Duffin came in second in a tournament with and which I played on day two of the North American Championships when they were in Los Angeles.  I became more interested in !Salubri stealth bleed, though, by this point, LoB had been published.

Anyway, the challenge I face with Zayyat is that things you could do make just as much or more sense without Zayyat or with him as filler.  You could purely superstar him, but I think you end up with some pretty janky efforts trying to do too much with him.  For some of my ideas, can read the May 10 post that started this series.

Here is what I came up with as one possibility for trying to leverage as much of what he has going on as possible while still being functional:

Deck Name:   Challenge 4 – Zayyat

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 31, Max: 40, Avg: 8.83)
3  Aksinya Daclau                     cel tha ANI FOR PRE PRO9  Gangrel Antitribu
1  Danielle Diron                     chi for ANI PRO7  Gangrel
3  Nadima                             ani aus FOR PRO SER8  Gangrel
1  Randall                            ANI AUS FOR PRO8  Gangrel
1  Xaviar                             ANI aus cel FOR pot PRO10 Gangrel
3  Zayyat                             aus qui tha ANI FOR PRO10 Gangrel

Library: (80 cards)
Master (24 cards)
1  Barrens, The
5  Blood Doll
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Effective Management
1  Fortschritt Library
1  Giant`s Blood
2  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
2  Information Highway
2  Parthenon, The
2  Powerbase: Rome
1  Rack, The
2  Vessel
3  Zillah`s Valley

Action (8 cards)
8  Loki`s Gift

Action Modifier (14 cards)
4  Bribes
10 Freak Drive

Political Action (12 cards)
2  Banishment
2  Kine Resources Contested
1  Neonate Breach
5  Reckless Agitation
2  Rumors of Gehenna

Reaction (9 cards)
3  Cats` Guidance
1  Eluding the Arms of Morpheus
4  On the Qui Vive
1  Rat`s Warning

Combat (9 cards)
4  Earth Meld
5  Form of Mist

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Aaron`s Feeding Razor

Event (3 cards)
1  Break the Code
1  Nightmares upon Nightmares
1  Rise of the Nephtali

So, a much stronger hunt angle could be done with either Sabbatness (The Hungry Coyote, Harvest Rites) or anarchdom (The Anarch Free Press, Hospital Food), but it’s jumping through a bunch of hoops, actually less so to go Sabbat (Into the Fire is something I’ve done before to open up Sabbat voting resources).  If Zayyat and Ariadne could be played together, would try that.

The event angle is prayerish, but it makes the deck more interesting.  The key to this deck, not having played it, seems to be to survive with Aksinya and Nadima (the latter not being as reliable) while trying to give a bunch of blood to Zayyat or whoever is Recklessly Agitating.  It’s in my style (paltry offense), which may not appeal to others, but that can be fixed with more vote or maybe some bleed to mix things up.  Legendary Vampire is another way to up offense, but I’ve never had good feelings with LV.

The thing is, someone could do all sorts of other modules to gain blood, like Renewed Vigor or Fifth Tradition.  The last almost sounds good, until you start questioning why Zayyat is in your P/J deck.  This is just something I’d like to try; I’m sure it needs at least some tweaking, probably to make hunting pay off more.  It does use the Powerbase: Rome vote lock module that has been historically way underplayed (key element in !Salubri Vote, of course).  It does use Aksinya, who seems to get underplayed in non-Girly decks.  It is interesting what sort of titled Gangrel do exist in this grouping.

There are two TWDs according to Secret Library with Zayyat, but one is really an Omaya deck and the other is a Dominate deck, so I don’t see him being necessary to either.


KublaCon 2013

May 29, 2013

First time I ever stay at KublaCon.  Thanks to Jeff for the use of his hotel room.

Pick up Andy and get there Friday afternoon.  Look over the schedule of events, have some interest in a 6PM Godlike game but decide that I’m in the mood to relax and an 8 hour game doesn’t set me up well for being chipper in the morning.

Talk to some folks I only see at the cons, which is really becoming the most interesting thing to do.  A former coworker of one of my friends is demoing a card game she designed.  Electronimoes is a circular card/tile game of forming molecules by bonding atoms together.  The double and triple bonds score 2x and 3x points, respectively, with points being determined by the atomic number of the element, e.g. Hydrogen 1, Silicon 14.  Closing off all of the bonds means you get to also take the molecule’s cards into a victory point pile, one card equals one point.  Noble gases can just be played by themselves.  Some other things going on.  Cards in hand at the end of the game subtract their atomic number in points.  I won one of the games to get a free copy, signed by the designer.

So, the RPG schedule just wasn’t to my tastes.  It was a lot of the same thing, mostly Pathfinder, but also a number of games that I’d be okay with playing yet have no enthusiasm for – 7th Sea and Buffy, for instance.  Too much been there, done that.  There was only one game on the schedule (ignoring Sunday night when I was running V:TES) that I cared to sign up for – At The Hands Of An Angry God.

But, first, I looked to other gaming channels.  Boardgames looked boring, except for a lego thing that was in the young players’ room.  CCG stuff had Shadowfist events run by Merlin, which I noted and, then, forgot to actually think through what that meant.  I looked through other stuff, and I noted BattleTech.  Four events were being run on Saturday based on the adventures of Clan Snord (or Rhonda’s Irregulars or Snord’s Irregulars).  I keep forgetting that I actually enjoy BattleTech.  For some reason, I don’t get that excited to play it, but I’ve been deeply into thinking about it, at times.  Just weird.  Well, prioritizing RPGs over BT makes some sense, but why prioritize doing nothing over BT?

So, 9AM, I play a Clint (piloted by Sharonus Wayne) and a Phoenix Hawk (piloted by a suck pilot).  Our mission is to raid the Mariks to get some ancient coins and to nuke some factories along the way.  We come up with a plan where better pilots of slower mechs go down the middle of the board to cross the river while a Marauder and the jump mechs go through a swamp on the side of the board to cross the river.  This turned out suboptimal.  A few turns in, while still trying to consolidate forces and with the Marauder barely progressing, we get reinforcements behind enemy lines!  Then, the enemy springs a trap and ComStar shows up behind us.  A player new to the system gets lucky and finds the coins right away and her two mechs go into factories and one of them has to fight out.  My mechs engage a Catapult a bit and keep firing on a factory because my crap pilot couldn’t hit a moving target.  Actually, forgot to mention that we had Star League level tech in our mechs, so I actually had tons of range – three ER Large Lasers between my two mechs, yet it hardly mattered.

As one of the ComStar mechs is a King Crab, there’s beatdown to our rear.  Our Archer, Warhammer, Jenner, and Marauder were all firing on the King Crab, while the ComStar group fired on our Warhammer.  Both were virtually toast by the time the scenario was called.  I took out a factory and we got the coins out, around a third of the way home (off the edge of our entry board) when time was called.  We won as it was fairly likely we would have escaped with the coins as our Thunderbolt had jump jets to get by the river/swamp faster.  In our neck of the woods, we also pretty much took out the Catapult I was fighting.

The next scenario was completely different.  Rather than over a dozen mechs of all sizes spread out over multiple boards, we had assault lance versus assault lance with our objective to head hunt Waco (of Waco’s Rangers).  We started right next to him, so the scenario lasted two rounds … four mechs of 70+ tons all firing on one mech, even a Battlemaster, from the first round with short range weapons and even getting a kick!! in is a brutal scenario.  I was Sharonus Wayne again, only in her Spartan that ran 7 hexes right in front of the enemy and fired three Medium Pulse Lasers and two Streak SRM-2’s from 4 hexes away on the Battlemaster.  As a prime target, a lot of shots came my way.  A lot of the big ones missed, including a Gauss Rifle and various PPCs.  I also maneuvered into a position where an enemy Banshee couldn’t target me with a Gauss Rifle, instead hitting our Victor’s SRM ammo and blowing its torso off.  I never took internal structure damage.  A mass of attacks on the Battlemaster left it a complete wreck, multiple gyro hits, unconscious pilot, no torso on one side, barely any on the other.

Lasted maybe an hour of actual play and an hour or so of setup.  I got into my Saturday night RPG, so I bailed on playing the two-part finale.  Went to my favorite Chinese place, got the tan tan mian, which is so good, if kind of challenging to eat when gotten to go.  Thick layer of hot oil sits on top and the pork falls to the bottom, have to feed the noodles in in bunches to not overflow the sauce container.

Anyway, there’s so much that could be said about ATHOAAG.  The GM was the designer doing testing.  He told us that it was based somewhat off of Microscopic, a game I had never heard of.  The core idea is that you are colonizers leaving behind a lame world to build a utopia.  While obviously patterned on colonists from Europe going to the Americas, the genre could be anything.  In one game he ran, the “families” (factions) were different animals with the squirrels creating religion, etc.  We decided to go with steampunk alternate Victorian England where the English lost the opium war to the Chinese leading England to be a druggee state.  So, we took our space zeppelin and spent multiple generations finding a new world.  Our core beliefs started with Straight Edge (not that people really new what it was), Just Say No To Drugs, indolence is a sin, the Babbage Engine was our people’s oracle.  We were split by job role.  So, I played the crafters.  We also had educators, scientists, artists, security, and Babbage engineers, though the last person left early.  You could detail out individuals in your “family”, but we didn’t bother role-playing individuals, just factions.  The resolution system involves d6’s and some card play.  “Fate”, the GM, starts out strong, but the player factions get stronger, typically, as the game goes on and it starts becoming easy to roll Fate.

Really, I’m not inclined to go into all of the details or all of the postgame analysis Andy and I had (he played the artists).  Major takeaways were:  GM said there were two things notable about our table – our dystopic old world was the most dystopic, which is bizarre as I don’t think druggee world, especially when it’s only part of the world, is that dystopic, and, while other tables had much more contentious groups from the outset, our table had the biggest shift from cooperation to conflict; I think our table was a rather typical experience with the game, where players would want to undermine their own utopia and where the players, looking for a challenge, would tend to fight each other more as the game went on due to the GM getting weaker; it’s a really interesting concept and the ideas could be used for other premises, but I have serious doubts about replay value.  I think there’s a way to spin the game differently that would make it more positive, but I don’t know if it would be as interesting.

Sunday, I sleep in.  And, make a mistake.  I finally remembered that I wanted to talk to Merlin about both Feng Shui and Shadowfist, as I’m not terribly opposed to getting into the latter at this late date and struggle with some of the challenges of the former in campaign play.  The mistake was not in playing in his Shadowfist tournament.  I didn’t have anything else going on, and I just ended up watching a lot of it, anyway.

Example of my weird life – I’ve spent far more time watching people play Shadowfist than play Shadowfist myself.  Not watch while doing something else but just sit at a table and watch people play.

I talk to Merlin some, almost get into a pickup game of Shadowfist but don’t (winning!).  I get dinner (same tan tan mian) before my V:TES event.  Recent years, decent number of V:TES players, if not enough to hold a real tournament (plus, people come and go at the con).  This time, only four of us.  But, more morale breaking was who didn’t show up this year.  After I found out that a couple of folks came to the con because of my event (to whatever degree), I started using that as the basis for doing V:TES.  Without the hot blonde to ogle, might as well go down to LA and play V:TES with folks who don’t qualify as hot blondes.

Didn’t do any other gaming at the con, so easy to follow up on that last statement.  While seeing people I only see at cons is good and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with KublaCon, there’s also not anything really left that I feel is essential about it.  There’s no convention campaign with Brad, et al.  There’s no CCG thing that matters.  Why not go to LA and play in their events over their qualifier weekend?  Maybe I liked going down there last Labor Day so much because of novelty, and my enthusiasm will wane when it becomes more common, but right now, I’m just not that into any of the local cons.  The ones I go to are adequate.

Which brings up something else.  I was asked about the fairness of grading a con when I don’t make that much effort to do stuff at it.  I could make an argument that it’s the con’s responsibility to entertain the people who attend, to offer the events that the con goer wants to participate in and to be able to get into those events, something that wasn’t the case for a couple of years in a row with DunDraCon, but I’m okay with saying that the reason I don’t get more out of cons is because I don’t make as much effort as I once did.

So, assigning a grade to KublaCon probably has no real meaning.  I didn’t game much.  I found my RPG interesting and decently enjoyable.  I liked playing some BattleTech.  I enjoyed playing Electronimoes, though that was probably less the game, which was a bit too party game to really pull me in, and more hanging out with people I know.  I’m on the fence about trying to get some BattleTech going (lack time slot during a typical week) and about getting into Shadowfist.  Now is not a bad time for the latter due to it going to a LCG model, though it’s hard to find the sets for sale.  V:TES was disappointing, but, on the other hand, I was surprised at how well attended it was in prior years.  If I was more into doing stuff, maybe it would have been a B+ or A- con, but again, what’s the context anymore?

I would, of course, go to KublaCon next year; still like it better than any of the other local cons.  But, SoCal seems the better choice, at the moment.

Challenge 3 – Brujah Group 1/2

May 20, 2013

Brandon’s request:

Can you make an interesting, tournament quality group 1-2 brujah-ish deck? I see a lot of titled vampires, good for No Carthage. There are also some Brujah with fortitude. Just a thought


I actually had just built a group 1/2, Brujah w/ Fortitude deck.  Sidetrack time …

We played some casuals yesterday, mostly three-players so they weren’t all that normal.  For one of them, Brandon borrowed the deck I had built.  It was not all that serious, kind of bloated, and didn’t have enough votes.

But, what was interesting was that it accidentally was more of a bleed deck than vote deck.

… So, in this iteration, I embraced that path a touch more.

Deck Name:   Challenge – Brujah Un-Deux

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 22, Max: 43, Avg: 8.58)
3  Appolonius                         CEL for pot PRE10 Brujah
2  Brachah                            for CEL PRE    5  Brujah
2  Crusher                            CEL for PRE POT9  Brujah
3  Gwendolyn                          aus CEL FOR POT PRE tha11 Brujah
2  Rake                               aus cel pot PRE6  Brujah

Library: (80 cards)
Master (19 cards)
1  Barrens, The
1  Carthage Remembered
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
2  Fortitude
1  Giant`s Blood
1  Information Highway
1  Monastery of Shadows
2  New Carthage
2  Sudden Reversal
5  Villein
2  Wider View

Action (5 cards)
1  Blood Hunt
2  Enchant Kindred
1  Entrancement
1  Judgment: Camarilla Segregation

Action Modifier (17 cards)
1  Approximation of Loyalty
6  Forced March
2  Iron Glare
3  Perfect Paragon
5  Voter Captivation

Political Action (12 cards)
1  Ancient Influence
1  Banishment
1  Brujah Justicar
1  Consanguineous Boon
1  Imperator
1  Kine Resources Contested
1  Neonate Breach
1  Praxis Seizure: Rome
2  Reinforcements
1  Reins of Power
1  Rumors of Gehenna

Reaction (5 cards)
3  On the Qui Vive
2  Wake with Evening`s Freshness

Combat (7 cards)
7  Majesty

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Seal of Veddartha

Combo (14 cards)
2  Force of Personality
6  Resist Earth`s Grasp
6  Scalpel Tongue

This is not a fun deck to play behind a deck with a bunch of bounce, as you really don’t have a lot of good stuff to do, so you kind of just want to bleed some to be a predator.  On the other hand, it’s actually a bit too focused for my tastes, though it would likely seem unfocused for many others.  Brandon hated my Alastoring out equipment in the earlier deck, which was fairly reasonable.  Could easily do more with votes, probably cut the Enchant Kindreds at that point, the Bloodhunt, the Seal, and maybe the second New Carthage.

Very much not a deck where you want to have a bleed deck behind you.  Could run Archon Investigation, which I seem to be playing so often these days in tournaments that it would be tricksome if I didn’t run it, but not so much Protected Resources, as the deck kind of needs to *sneak* some bleeds in, which it should be able to do against not terribly defensive decks.  The other thing it should do is discard Scalpel Tongues as fast as possible if they don’t look like they will matter, I often choke on them, though the intent is to help with a tap bleed strategy.

Carthage Remembered is a pretty easy cut, being kind of prayerish.  Bloodhunt is similarly prayerish and not terribly needed in a deck that can already do stuff crosstable.  More acceleration would be good.  I don’t have the other deck in front of me at the moment, so I can’t say what I cut from that I might put back.  Could you do this better with 4/5?  Sure, whatever.

Legendary Vampire belongs more in a Legendary Apple knows the Heart of the City deck … for all of the grief he gets, Apple is actually quite scary offensively.

Lost in Translation can be added, if it’s expected to work.  I have my doubts, one, and, two, blood is actually rather precious in this deck.

What is clearly missing, now that I remember forgetting to put them in, is Tangle of Atropos’ Hand.  Lots of them.  Guess a Scalpel, Majesty, and wake would go to make some room.  This is, after all, a stealth bleed deck with plus bleed vampires, with a side of vote bloat.

Challenge 2 – Dabbler

May 16, 2013

Matt Green’s comments:

How would you use Dabbler to win a tournament? Trifle, untap effect, should be useful for big caps…it should be non-terrible, but doesn’t seem to have found its tournament stride. I’d be interested to see if our ideas come close.

There is a tournament winning deck with Dabbler in it:  Lucian the Lecturer.

While a way cooler deck than where I’d start, it does share cards with where I’d start.  Mind of the Wilds and Read the Winds are easy plays for getting mileage on as many turns as possible.

The basic deck, then, is Tzimisce playing all three of their disciplines.

Deck Name:   Challenge 2 – Dabbler

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 25, Max: 38, Avg: 7.91)
1  Anton                              ANI AUS cel obf vic8  Tzimisce
1  Caliban                            ANI AUS VIC    6  Tzimisce
1  Corine Marcon                      ani AUS VIC    6  Tzimisce
1  Devin Bisley                       ANI AUS vic    5  Tzimisce
2  Lambach                            ANI AUS DOM pre VIC10 Tzimisce
1  Little Tailor of Prague            ANI AUS dem VIC8  Tzimisce
2  Meshenka                           ANI AUS VIC    8  Tzimisce
1  Sascha Vykos                       ani dom AUS THA VIC8  Tzimisce
2  Velya                              for ANI AUS PRE VIC9  Tzimisce

Library: (90 cards)
Master (19 cards)
1  Archon Investigation
1  Barrens, The
3  Dabbler
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Fame
1  Guide and Mentor
1  Information Highway
1  Pentex Subversion
1  Rack, The
1  Sudden Reversal
1  Vicissitude
5  Villein
1  Wider View

Action (7 cards)
1  Army of Rats
6  Deep Song

Action Modifier (12 cards)
6  Changeling
6  Mind of the Wilds

Reaction (24 cards)
2  Cats` Guidance
2  Eagle`s Sight
1  Enhanced Senses
6  Eyes of Argus
1  My Enemy`s Enemy
1  Precognition
6  Read the Winds
5  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (24 cards)
1  Aura Reading
1  Canine Horde
6  Carrion Crows
3  Chiropteran Marauder
8  Horrid Form
1  Skin Trap
2  Taste of Vitae
2  Telepathic Tracking

Ally (1 cards)
1  Underbridge Stray

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Femur of Toomler

Event (1 cards)
1  Uncoiling, The

Combo (1 cards)
1  Plasmic Form

I’m a bit less concerned with this deck being 90.  On the one hand, it makes it harder to ensure getting an early Dabbler, on the other, Dabbler is all about card flow.  Note the relatively low number of permanents.  Yes, there are likely too many masters.

The other concern is that it’s not very offensive.  A different take on the idea would be to focus more on the offensive side and run more bleed and/or votes.  “Bleed, Mind of the Wilds, Changeling, untap from Dabbler, vote with standard Tzimisce vote lock” is a more exciting way to go but may leave Read the Winds stranded without support.

Could free up a bunch of slots by dropping the Horrid Form angle, but I thought it was cute with Telepathic Tracking, is transiential, and provides some combat defense (not much but some).  Maybe better as a fear play than an effective way to win, something (fear plays) I’m often curious about in decks.

Now, there are many things that can be done with Aus/Dem/OBf.  Offense is just a Madman’s Quill and Obfuscate stealth play, while defense can come in the form of Random Patterns and Confusion of the Eye (when you fail to block because it’s totally worth failing to actually defend against stuff with multiple cards just for a blood/untap; Mental Maze is too unreliable to plan around as the only other Obfuscate reaction) or Random Patterns and No Trace in combat.  But, why does this discipline combo need this?  Run !Malks for both Sibyl’s Tongue to tutor out Dabbler and The Hungry Coyote to do things after you untap?  Why not Perfectionist or just play cards that cause you to win without blood/untaps?

Scalpel Tongue would make more sense if there was a third discipline that went with it; what’s nice about Scalpel is that you get more out of the untap part of the card.  Soul Painting + Obfuscate is loads of fun but in a different realm, as there’s little to do on the defensive side.  Quicken Sight + Majesty or whatever on the defensive side works, but what about the offensive side?  Same issue with Quicken Sight + Potence.

Who really wants the untap effect?  Sure, boring multirushers and ICMs, but Baali obviously like untapping, and they get either the Presence action/action modifier with I Am Legion play or the True Love’s Face with Sense the Sin play, which gives them untaps to drop Condemnations, Infernal Servitors, Contagion, or even do some voting – Charming Lobby + I Am Legion, perhaps?

Shroud of Absence is another efficient building block.  Horseshoes is the obvious combo here, with maybe a couple of Tangle Atropos’ Hands for when you want to stop your Shroud of Absenced bounced bleeds.  More of a hassle on defense for Lasombra, but moving to Kiasyd makes things easy for just straight bleed on offense and a bit less complicated on defense, assuming either a Obt+Myt intercept play that fails followed by bounce or that succeeds followed by something sketchy.

Did I fail to mention the rather vast number of purely offensive plays, where you multiact for winnage?  Yeah, but, then, those aren’t my sort of decks, and the point of this series is to take a look at paths I’d explore in trying to get something to work.  I really like getting extra defensive untaps, maybe not as the primary reason for playing the card but as part of a balanced two-way play of the card on defense – gaining blood when the untap isn’t necessary (or the blood is necessary).

Challenge 1 – Saulot & Uriel

May 12, 2013

DeathInABottle made this comment in Friday’s post:

Any ideas for how to make a Saulot/Uriel combat deck viable? I’ve amassed a collection of Vitae Block and Blissful Agony, which is making me want to try Anathema – which is obviously way, way too complicated.

Here’s a take:

Deck Name:   Challenge – Blissful Block

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 26, Max: 44, Avg: 8.5)
2  Mordechai Ben-Nun                  ANI AUS FOR NEC8

Harbingers of Skulls
2  Neighbor John                      dom for AUS    5

Ventrue Antitribu
4  Saulot                             AUS dai FOR OBE THA

VAL11 Salubri
4  Uriel                              AUS FOR VAL ani obe8

Salubri Antitribu

Library: (90 cards)
Master (17 cards)
1  Animalism
1  Barrens, The
2  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Fame
1  Giant`s Blood
1  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
1  Information Highway
1  Pentex Subversion
1  Rack, The
4  Villein
3  Wider View

Action (8 cards)
1  Lord of Serenity
2  Renewed Vigor
4  Sense Death
1  Unburdening the Bestial Soul

Action Modifier (10 cards)
9  Freak Drive
1  Repulsion

Reaction (19 cards)
3  Eagle`s Sight
5  Eyes of Argus
1  My Enemy`s Enemy
4  On the Qui Vive
6  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (26 cards)
4  Blissful Agony
1  Eye of Unforgiving Heaven
2  Hidden Strength
2  Indomitability
1  Psychic Assault
2  Resilience
4  Target Vitals
5  Vitae Block
3  Weighted Walking Stick
2  Zip Gun

Ally (2 cards)
1  Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
1  Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Equipment (6 cards)
1  Bowl of Convergence
2  Camera Phone
1  Heart of Nizchetus
1  Ivory Bow
1  Light Intensifying Goggles

Event (1 cards)
1  Scourge of the Enochians

Combo (1 cards)
1  Penitent Resilience

I was close to an 80 card version when I gave up and bloated it to 90.  Could be okay to test at 90 to get a better sense of what doesn’t work and trim back down.

Few things I don’t really like:  virtually no ability to stealth bleed a VP; lack of combat permanents; slowness.  The reality is, no matter what a deck is supposed to do, stealth makes ousting far easier, especially when you don’t have a horde of minions.  This has less stealth bleed going on than Robert Scythe’s Qawiyya & Saulot deck that I played last Labor Day.  That deck felt more coherent, maybe worth asking him for a decklist.  The combat is all over the place, trying to keep in mind both Animalism (the bane* of all other combat decks) and decks that try to ignore combat.  I’d actually be cool with far more Psychic Assaults as an anti-Animalism play, if that’s all I had to worry about.  Then, an aspect of my success in playing Scythe’s deck was Zillah’s Valley to speed out the two fatties, this deck tried to get some acceleration in but had to cut the second Info Highway and is already pushing things with the masters.

*  Not because you can’t build a combat deck that owns Bats/Crows but because the deck is likely, then, to suck at actually winning.  Increased Gates wouldn’t be horrible, and few Animalism decks seem to meta against guns to where we do see Anson guns a good amount, but it’s still tiresome to deal with the versatility of B/C.

What I do like is that I shoehorned in two +1 Intercept vampires.  With a bit of unlikeliness, Saulot can push enough blood to get a full boat of all four dudes in play.  But, even then, stealth vote is an atrocious matchup.  Some Enhanced Senses and Wall Street would help address that, as would Delaying Tactics, but then, the combat angle becomes even sketchier.  The defenses in this deck can make bleed miserable, which is par for the course for how I build “tournament” decks …

… Rule #1:  Don’t lose to stealth bleed …

Maybe this is why I don’t get annoyed by straightforward stealth bleed decks, like others do.  My decks can lose to them, but even if they do, so will the stealth bleed decks.

But, anything vote is very likely to be a greater problem.  Nevermind that just ousting one’s prey with this deck is a problem.  The second Camera Phone is not that thrilling when I think about how Heidelberg doesn’t synergize as much with multiples.  Lord of Serenity probably won’t work, but I identified that the 80 card version had serious problems with a blood counter death spiral as Taste makes little sense in a deck using Vitae Block; Renewed Vigor was another late addition to address that.  The Hungry Coyote was a thought, which might make more sense as I upped the number of Freak Drives from 6 to 9 when going to 90.

Then, does this really qualify for what was intended?  A key element with making decks better is to not be a slave to your theme, but does this even embrace the theme or does it just throw in some of those cards and hope that the rest of the deck pulls things through?  One key nod, which amuses me quite a bit, was to how Animalism factors in the deck.

Chaining Vitae Blocks off of Blissful Agony is sketchy, and it’s still not clear how great that is when you don’t either Fame yo-yo the vamp who gets his blood back or burn the vamp.  I replied that I thought Anathema might not be impossible, but, now that I think about how many things that can go wrong, Anathema would only make sense with a high, high risk deck that eschewed either combat defense or serious bleed defense or both.  Also, why Blissful Agony in such a deck?  Why not just go Salubri and P/J?  The double Vitae Block play is just so unreliable in such a deck.

Now, it could be made more reliable by having support vamps with VAL instead of the +1 interceptors.  Little dude Senses Death and Blissful Agonys over to a Vitae Blocker who passes the vamp along to the other Vitae Blocker.  But, what in the world does this plan have to do with winning?  Get some defense in a VAL focused deck from Hide the Heart, but still no plan for vote (barring DT, DI, et al).  Still no coherent ousting plan.

Could run more ousting power, but, then, I don’t see it doing its trick.  Note that a problem with combat decks is that, because they try to get into combat, they get into more combats than other decks and increase the probability of losing combats because of it.  Blissful Agony is certainly an out against Animalism when there are other players in the game, but B/C doesn’t run out, where BA does.

Win Tournament Challenge

May 10, 2013

Completely different from my normal ramblings or reports.

I generate plenty of ideas for what to try to win V:TES tournaments with.  Once upon a time, it was clans, which is why I have the first TWDs for Baali, Daughters, Osebo, Ravnos, and Samedi … and why I had many, many awkward decks over the years.

However, my world of deckbuilding is not necessarily applicable to most others, so I got to thinking that I should try to evoke some ideas for what other people want to see in terms of putting together decks around particular strategies/cards for tournament play.  I’ve seen similar in forums.  I participated in similar for at least one clan newsletter … back when people actually did clan newsletters.

So, if anyone is interested in seeing my spins on how to build decks around different ideas, post a comment.  Can be anything from a single card to a full blown decklist that you want me to look over.

In Cinco

May 8, 2013

Cinco de Mayo, we had a casual V:TES day.  Let’s see what we can gather from that.

Game 1:

Ian (Victor Ventrue) -> Brandon (Ishtarri bleed) -> David (Arika & friends) -> Andy (borrowed Thrones Crumble)

My first vampire is Victor Pelletier, who becomes a Justicar.  This would end up being an amusing choice.  He gets his Throne Crumbled.  My second vampire is Victor Donaldson.  David brings out Arika, multidowns (uses cards like Govern and Scouting Mission), and brings up Lucinde, preventing VP from being a legal target for more Crumbles.

I can’t remember a lot of the details at this point as I’ve had work stuff on mind all week, but the gist of this game is that Brandon bled for a good amount, I kept Golcondaing David’s guys while putting out 3 of my 5 Camarilla Exemplarys (the other two failed to pass) and while Con Booning Ventrue when David usually had only one in play and while bleeding with Conditionings, and Andy brought out 8 Followers of Set.

Andy’s Temptations and Throne Crumbles often went my way, the two Temptations backwards went on vamps who found Golconda.  His massive army of “bleed for one” minions could have ousted me, but he didn’t.  I ousted Brandon and David ousted Andy right after 2 hours, then the endgame was crushing as I had no deck left to do anything interesting.

I should add ousting power to the Thrones Crumble deck, but I did find it hilarious to watch more and more vampires come out with Andy in double digit pool.  My 60 card, all-Jyhad library ran out too fast in a four-player.  Sure, I discarded most of my Short Term Investments, but the reality is that my usual decks aren’t so transiential as my 60 card, all-Jyhad library decks.  I’ll talk more about these decks at the end.

Game 2:

Brandon (Khalid & dorks) -> Ian (POT/PRE) -> Andy (borrowed Groaning Corpse intercept) -> David (Jar of Skin Eaters)

Brandon’s deck used multiple master phase actions (Vessel, Rumors of Gehenna) to use Khalid’s ability to gain pool while Night Movesing with a bunch of weefolk.

This game was mostly pain.  David had no game as a Divine Sign by Tangine saw Muaziz get taken out.  Though Andy got a much better start than I’ve ever seen my Groaning Corpse get, with two vampires who could bleed for 2 – Morlock and Tangine with Tasha Morgan, the Friends of Mine he drew were dead draws and he choked on tool up intercept.

Also, my deck didn’t help him.  One of my themes for the decks I built Sunday morning was forward force.  The Ventrue deck had Governs and Conditionings.  This deck had a bunch of Social Charms and Legal Manipulations.  I played the deck largely how it was intended to be played by having most rushes go backwards and bleeding constantly, burning two Carltons with Torn Signpost and Immortal Grapple, but it meant Andy and I tussled at times when he blocked with his Samedi, which was not good for either of us.  With nothing going on from David except a Graverobbing on one of Brandon’s dorks and with no Scourge of the Enochians, Brandon could Night Moves a lot.  Andy ousted the defenseless David.  Andy and I didn’t cooperate in the endgame much, except for a couple of my pool-gaining bleeds getting through, and Brandon ousted us fairly easily.

Again, my 60 card deck burned out quickly.  Not unexpected given that I routinely played multiple combat cards in combats.  Did it bring up the fundamental problem of bruise and bleed, by having bleeds easily blocked and resulting in fights that only left both it and its prey in bad shape?  Perhaps.  But, I don’t know that it’s worth further confirming something that has always been a problem for bruise bleed, non-winnie decks.  What was more interesting was further seeing the 60 card, all-Jyhad, go forward decks in action.

Game 3:

Andy (Dom/PRO) -> Ian (Cybele Great Beast) -> David (Bima w/Obf) -> Brandon (Shattering Crescendo)

We chose one of our decks and then passed them to our left.  Something we’ve done before for variety of play, if not necessarily variety of decks.

Andy was playing a deck that Brandon built that we weren’t familiar with.  It brought out Stanislava, it passed votes when it had votes to call.  David didn’t draw any Obfuscate cards until far too late, so he kept tossing Bimas and also tossed Deflections early, which may or may not have made sense.  He did get enough FoS action, bleeding for onesies because we all know FoS have no way to bleed for more than one, that Brandon Shattered backwards a couple of times.

I had exactly what I wanted.  I brought out Cybele.  I Villeined.  She got Dominate.  She Magiced Soul Gem.  When my Call the Great Beast got DIed, I dropped the third Ashur Tablets to return it to hand (and return zero cards to library).  I had Annazir with some Tend the Flock help, I Great Beasted.  So, why didn’t I win?

While I had a ton of pool at various points, I ignored Stanislava and friends and so absorbed bleeds.  I depleted David’s pool quickly with Annazir, Cybele with Heart of the City, and Great Beast, but Annazir got Archoned, and the math wasn’t ideal for ousting David and Brandon in quick succession with just Cybele, Nergal (adv), Great Beast, and Mylan.  I think there was a point where I should have rushed Black Lotus at one blood – I never rushed anyone with the Great Beast, though I thought about Stanislava.

Then, with David out, Brandon’s Virtuosa bleeds got bounced – my one Lost in Translation play to bounce backwards didn’t help due to rebounce – and Genevieve and Caitlin played Dominate cards to support Stanislava bleeding.  I didn’t have one more turn to oust Brandon, though the endgame probably wouldn’t have been that good.

Did I play Andy’s deck too aggressively?  Probably.  Did I not use the Great Beast more for smashing?  Sure.  But, I’m really not a believer in Tend the Flock, which I choked on for a while, having three in hand at one point.  People don’t believe me when I say the card isn’t nearly as good as it sounds, but I’ve played it in multiple decks, and it doesn’t do what it “claims”.  Far too often, it’s a dead draw due to not having the uncontrolled region to support it.  Well, person arguing with me will say, “Then, build your deck to have legal targets.”  Except, that it’s not nearly as versatile as it seems.  Even if you can play it, did it do what you needed it to do?  Did it truly accelerate you?  Did it truly give you pool?

I find that its existence in some decks designed with the idea of exploiting it still requires distorting your play.  For instance, in this game, I could have left Annazir down to absorb more Tending.  But, did I want to play the game with just Cybele for that long?  Maybe if Annazir was suckier, but he’s kind of not sucky.  The deck may intend for Tend to be this awesome “I have multiple master phase actions” play to get a free 9-cap, but is that a desirable goal?  One would think it would suit me just fine as I embrace doing nothing, which fewer minions facilitates, but actually, I find that fewer dudes in play is risky and I’m all about the aversion to risk.

I could speak to how The Horde + Tend the Flock is also not as exciting as it sounds, but this post wasn’t to rip on Tend the Flock.  Nor do I think it’s never worth playing; I just find that replacing them with other cards produces fewer awkward moments.  In this game, for instance, more Sense the Sin and, maybe, more Eluding the Arms of Morpheus would have been welcome.

Old Is The New New

When people complain about seeing the same stuff all of the time, I sometimes empathize but mostly don’t.  I empathize at the big picture level that the game has seen relatively little change in the past 19 years, where archetypes like Malk94 and Ventrue Law Firm can still function largely off of cards printed in Jyhad.  However, at the detail level of specific deck builds, there’s an absurd amount of variety, even more so because, unlike many CCGs, there are no card limits.  And, sure, I empathize at the level where many decks with different details still are basically the same deck.  But, sometimes, just a small number of card choices can produce unexpected game play.

I cut my fangs with a Jyhad-only group.  Would I claim that we could all be playing all-Jyhad libraries and have enough variety to sustain play?  Not today.  But, that I could put together two highly redundant decks that played library cards only from Jyhad and not have a boring or, even, straightforward experience suggests to me that people need to build a greater variety of decks … if they are bored with the game.

One thing about at least the Ventrue deck I built is that it could swap in and out modules easily to produce very different play.  Was Camarilla Exemplary a good choice for political action to run?  Surprisingly, it did affect the game as Brandon’s Ishtarri ran low on blood to where my dudes started becoming unblockable.  But, CE is just not a good card.  I discarded most of my Short Term Investments as I didn’t have the master phase actions to make use of them – that was an intentional deck design choice to play bad cards that didn’t really belong in the deck.  Could easily replace them with something else, something else that doesn’t need to be boring (e.g. Blood Doll) as pool wasn’t really a problem.

Could the POT/PRE deck see the same sort of modulating to produce enjoyable levels of variety?  Probably not.  There’s a reason that Brujah and !Brujah have lagged behind peer clans at most points in history – lack of bounce, lack of stealth, and lack of intercept equals lack of success (at the non-winnie level).  But, I could easily build other 60 card, all-Jyhad library decks.  I could even make them bigger than 60 cards or do crazy stuff, like not have the number of copies of each different card be identical.

I’ve built a lot of decks using restrictions, but it’s amazing how unrestricted I felt with these Jyhad-library decks.  After all, I don’t recall in 1996 seeing the Ventrue decks run two Victors and a bunch of Golcondas.