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