Deconstruction 01

It was suggested to me to talk about deckbuilding (for V:TES).  Plan is to take a look at two tournament decks.

Why tournament decks?  I’ve built a lot of decks, so, even though I tend to get into ruts and have biases in deck construction, I still end up with a lot of variety of builds.  That variety is greatly reduced with decks I play in tournaments and my deckbuilding style is clearer with the smaller sample size.

Pale Panda Warriors

Crypt (12, average 7.0)
x1 Father Juan Carlos
x1 Melinda Galbraith
x1 Melinda Galbraith (Adv)
x1 Alicia Barrows
x2 Caroline Bishops
x1 Alfred Benezri
x1 Alfred Benezri (Adv)
x2 Matthew Romans
x1 Nickolai, The Survivor
x1 Lucubratio

Library (75)
x2 Auspex
x4 Blood Doll
x1 Dreams of the Sphinx
x1 Fear of Mekhet
x1 Information Highway
x1 Joseph Pander
x3 Minion Tap
x1 The Barrens

x1 Enchant Kindred
x3 Entrancement
x3 Epiphany

x1 Aire of Elation
x4 Iron Glare
x4 Voter Captivation

x1 Ghouled Street Thug

x2 Fake Out
x9 Majesty
x1 Stunt Cycle
x1 Thrown Sewer Lid

x1 Anarchist Uprising
x1 Ancient Influence
x1 Banishment
x1 Cardinal Benediction
x2 Consanguineous Boon
x1 Disputed Territory
x3 Kine Resources Contested
x3 Legacy of Pander
x1 Reins of Power

x3 On the Qui Vive
x1 Quicken Sight
x7 Telepathic Misdirection
x4 Wake with Evening’s Freshness

x2 Scalpel Tongue

This deck got more grief than many simply because it was better known than my other TWDs.

There seems to be a misconception when it comes to my decks.  They aren’t full of crap cards.  I actually play quite a few staples and other quality cards.  The weaknesses of the decks, such as they are, come in three flavors:  crypt; unusual choices; strategic commitment.

Crypt

Crypt (12, average 7.0)
x1  Father Juan Carlos
x1  Melinda Galbraith
x1  Melinda Galbraith (Adv)
x1  Alicia Barrows
x2  Caroline Bishops
x1  Alfred Benezri
x1  Alfred Benezri (Adv)
x2  Matthew Romans
x1  Nickolai, The Survivor
x1  Lucubratio

This is an obvious case of playing with a suboptimal crypt … assuming all someone cares about is winning.  Fortunately, I am not afflicted with a pure desire for winning.  In this case, the whole reason for this deck is to play fat Pander.  Caroline Bishops, as useless as she is, makes the deck what it is (in addition to the other two).

Starting with the idea that I have to play those three Pander and that I had to play library cards that require Pander, what was the best deck I could put together?  That was the question.  Two of my key minions have Auspex and Benezri is a second line voter to go with Legacy of Pander for unstoppable voting power.

So, obviously, I go Aus/Pre with some Potence somewhere, which is an easy combination to find in the game.  Furthermore, it’s easy to find on Sabbat vampires, so I can be rooted in a Sabbat vote deck.

The one thing I forgot during the tournament, which I’ve mentioned a few times, is that my crypt included various tap abilities to help do a two-way bleed/vote strategy in combination with Majesty for unsuccessful multiacting.

Unusual Choices

x1  Joseph Pander
x1  Ghouled Street Thug

x2  Fake Out
x1  Stunt Cycle
x1  Thrown Sewer Lid

Split these into musts and dependencies.

Why not throw one copy of Joseph in?  Maybe I play against squishy decks with empty vampires.  Thug is because people seem to forget it exists, and I played Thugs back in the day, when I built a lot more decks that had no concerns for viability.

The combat cards are due to not only the Pander-requiring cards but due to Caroline and Matthew sharing Potence.  Prayerish?  Of course, but that’s not the real value.  I hardly ever expected to hit someone with one-of flying junk, even though I did in the finals to my hazy recollection (maybe it was the first round when I had the same predator).  The real value of plays like this is that they confuse people as to what your strategy is.  There’s no combat strategy in this deck – it’s a vote deck with a touch of bleed.  But, if Caroline recruits Thug on turn two and he runs and Lids in his first fight, everyone can laugh at the horrible combat deck.  Fake Out doesn’t really cost as it is slightly synergistic with Majesty to avoid Immortal Grapple, which was more common in earlier days.  It’s just two wasted slots on combat cards, and Stunt Cycle even has defensive uses!

Because the deck is 75 cards, these six (really four when you take out Fake Out) slots were not so unlikely to show up.  Add in Caroline showing up reasonably often when she’s next to useless, and the deck seems far more junkified than it actually is/was.

Strategic Commitment

The only “criticism” that could be leveled here would be something like not enough vote bleed or bleed bleed to be oustriffic.  Cut the unusual choices slots and replace with KRCs or even just replace the largely irrelevant Legacies of Pander with vote bleed, and I think the deck looks “normal”.

Note that there is a tap bleed strategy in the deck that the deck commits to even if I didn’t commit to it while playing.  Bleed bounce plus Majesty plus specials all work together to land a few bigger bleeds.  Not many but a few.

Quality

x4  Blood Doll
x1  Dreams of the Sphinx
x1  Information Highway
x3  Minion Tap
x1  The Barrens

x1  Enchant Kindred
x3  Entrancement

x1  Aire of Elation
x4  Iron Glare
x4  Voter Captivation

x9  Majesty

x1  Banishment
x1  Cardinal Benediction
x2  Consanguineous Boon
x3  Kine Resources Contested
x1  Reins of Power

x3  On the Qui Vive
x1  Quicken Sight
x7  Telepathic Misdirection
x4  Wake with Evening’s Freshness

x2  Scalpel Tongue

I’m kind of down on Reins of Power these days even though it does give that first VP much of the time.  And, sure, there are four disciplines at work among these cards, but where’s the bad here?  Those masters count among the best the game has ever seen.  Wakes, bounce, Majesty, Voter Captivation – add in some votes and that’s the deck.

Sure, the deck is light on offense.  When the request to talk about deckbuilding was made, one of my first thoughts was that my style of play is to live at the margin.  I don’t blow people away or grind them out, I look for windows of opportunities and either exploit them or don’t.  I don’t need a lot of offense – I need the requisite amount of offense when I lunge.

Meanwhile, the deck is not light on defense.  Oh, it’s no intercepty fence.  But, titled minions and Scalpel Tongue, casual intercept, nearly 10% bounce, the ability to bloat some, and 12% Majesty mean a spectrum of defenses against pritnear everything.  Sure, Direct Intervention over Joseph Pander would make sense if the Pander theme is abandoned or whatever, but this deck can be thought of as a 65 card deck with 10 miscellaneous, low yield cards.  Small decks are all the rage now but weren’t at the time.

“When in doubt … Win.”

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 10, Max: 38, Avg: 6.41)
———————————————-
2 Tupdog POT VIS 1 Gargoyle
1 Ismitta aus cel pot 4 Osebo
1 Idrissa aus CEL 4 Osebo
1 Homa AUS CEL POT 6 Osebo
1 Khalu ani pro AUS CEL POT 7 Osebo
2 Tatu Sawosa ani cel AUS OBF POT 8 Osebo
2 Massassi obf AUS CEL POT QUI 9 Osebo
2 Ayo Igoli obf tha AUS CEL FOR PRE 10 Ishtarri

Library: (80 cards)
——————-
Master (20 cards)
3 Blood Doll
1 Dreams of the Sphinx
1 Information Highway
3 Life in the City
1 Mbare Market, Harare
2 Minion Tap
4 Obfuscate
1 Direct Intervention
1 Barrens, The
1 Pentex Subversion
1 Giant’s Blood
1 Ancestor Spirit

Action (7 cards)
5 Computer Hacking
1 Legend of the Leopard
1 Victim of Habit

Action Modifier (11 cards)
1 Strange Day
2 Faceless Night
1 Lost in Crowds
1 Spying Mission
5 Cloak the Gathering
1 Elder Impersonation

Reaction (20 cards)
8 Wake with Evening’s Freshness
2 Eagle’s Sight
1 My Enemy’s Enemy
7 Telepathic Misdirection
2 Quicken Sight

Combat (8 cards)
4 Side Strike
4 Preternatural Evasion

Retainer (1 cards)
1 Shaman

Equipment (4 cards)
1 .44 Magnum
1 Ivory Bow
1 Changeling Skin Mask
1 Kduva’s Mask

Combo (9 cards)
8 Ancestor’s Insight
1 Swallowed by the Night

Crypt

2 Tupdog POT VIS 1 Gargoyle
1 Ismitta aus cel pot 4 Osebo
1 Idrissa aus CEL 4 Osebo
1 Homa AUS CEL POT 6 Osebo
1 Khalu ani pro AUS CEL POT 7 Osebo
2 Tatu Sawosa ani cel AUS OBF POT 8 Osebo
2 Massassi obf AUS CEL POT QUI 9 Osebo
2 Ayo Igoli obf tha AUS CEL FOR PRE 10 Ishtarri

Osebo with Obfuscate, other Osebo with relevant disciplines, other Laibon with relevant disciplines – that was the order of criteria for this crypt.  This deck was a bit of a bookend, a finale, to my philosophy of playing bad clans in tournaments and showing that doing what the clans are supposed to be good at is the wrong path for winning with them.  Play stealth bleed.  Or, in the absence of that, play vote or something else that doesn’t suck.  Do not play melee weapon combat, etc.

Far too often, people overlook options just because other options are better.  The reality is that bleeding with Laibon with AUS is not that ridiculous.  I learned from doing Tzimisce stealth bleed that Dominateless/Presencesless/Dementationless bleed still hurts.  Besides the Laibon having toys (permanents in this case) that increase bleed, they get Ancestor’s Insight.

While I could speak of it later, I might as well stop now and point out something about cards I like to play.  I’m not into game swinging effects, raw, unbridled power, and the like.  I’m into versatility, flexibility, consistency.  Ancestor’s Insight is the sort of card to appeal to me for the same reason Changeling appeals to me or Telepathic Misdirection is probably my most played discipline-requiring card.

Anyway, back to crypt.  I’m a fan of crypt fungibility.  I’m not into superstars for sure, dude.  But, I’m also not even into chumps & studs style crypts and the like.  This deck is different.  I had my Obfuscators and my “look at all of the Osebo” dorks.  Ayo was key for expanding the Obfuscate angle while giving a theoretically useful special, but she was hardly necessary.

Unusual Choices

Action (7 cards)
5 Computer Hacking
1 Victim of Habit

Combat (8 cards)
4 Side Strike
4 Preternatural Evasion

One could say that the unusual choice was to graft Obfuscate onto Osebo, but for individual card choices, this is it.  Even then, Computer Hacking isn’t that unusual within context.

Victim of Habit has not lived up to the potential I saw when I built and played this deck.  I had a theory about that in some other blog post, but it just could be that it was always crap rather than becoming worse over time as metagames shifted.  I used the card in the tournament to oust someone … naming Unwholesome Bond!!  I was satisfied with it.

Computer Hacking seems to often get overlooked in decks that aren’t about winnies.  Well, admittedly, Dominate, Presence, and whatever else are so common in the game that Computer Hacking would be replaced.  And, nowadays, there’s Deep Song, so even Obfuscate and Protean decks get their own “Computer Hacking Plus”.  At the point of committing to stealth bleed, having action bleed pump was essential.  After all, this deck was modeled on my Tzimisce stealth bleed deck, so I knew that “Bleeding for how much?  4??” was a means for reducing pool.  Permanent bleed is less flexible and suited more to a grind style that I don’t possess.  Sure, some permableed is common in my decks and I’m huge, potentially large, on Heidelberg with J.S. and Tasha, but too much “on the table” scares folks into defensive postures and doesn’t disguise lunges well enough.

The combat seems goofy.  Maybe it is.  I know I was amused when making those choices.  Side Strike was obfuscation of whether the deck had meaningful combat or not.  Preternatural Evasion was obviously my No Trace long before No Trace got printed.  Leaking into strategic commitment, this deck was quite committed to its stealth bleed plan.

Strategic Commitment

Master (20 cards)
4 Obfuscate
1 Pentex Subversion
1 Ancestor Spirit

Action (7 cards)
5 Computer Hacking

Action Modifier (11 cards)
1 Strange Day
2 Faceless Night
1 Lost in Crowds
1 Spying Mission
5 Cloak the Gathering
1 Elder Impersonation

Reaction (20 cards)
8 Wake with Evening’s Freshness
1 My Enemy’s Enemy
7 Telepathic Misdirection

Retainer (1 cards)
1 Shaman

Equipment (4 cards)
1 Changeling Skin Mask
1 Kduva’s Mask

Combo (9 cards)
8 Ancestor’s Insight
1 Swallowed by the Night

That’s 50 card slots based on the idea of bleeding at stealth.  Yes, bleed bounce is stealth bleed.  Bleed bounce is “bleed (any)”.

Decks like this that force strategies that the crypts aren’t suited for don’t look committed.  But, actually, these sort of decks require additional commitment in the form of devoted slots just to do what other crypts could do natively.

Yes, there’s an intercept angle.  I find pure stealth bleed rather dull, so it’s the norm for my stealth bleed decks to have an intercept or intercept combat angle, just as it’s common for my intercept combat decks to have a stealth bleed angle.  Within the context that I don’t typically build monostrategic decks, this deck is committed to the stealth bleed with casual intercept archetype.

This deck was extremely successful, though I don’t recall what happened and can’t find a round by round report.  I think I was top seed.  I think the level of strategic commitment was better than some of my other tournament winning decks, certainly far, far better than that awful Ravnos deck and better than the Pander deck above.

Quality

The unusual choices section pretty much addressed quality.  Yes, Obfuscate masters are not strong like Dominate masters are, but, given that grafting Obfuscate was the plan, the card choices around that made sense.

Is this a good stealth bleed deck?  Only if you think disguising your strategy adds to goodness.  It’s awkward, especially with the smaller dudes.  It doesn’t have the copious free slots to put in magic bullets that efficient stealth bleed builds have.  Its intercept plan is medium and its combat plan is fragile.  Vote defense is not much of a thing, though the metagame at the time was much less votey than it is now.

But, it is versatile.  Side Strike and prayerish .44/Ivory is annoying while being additional defense (keep in mind that Carrion Crows wasn’t everywhere back then).  Ancestor’s Insight – two-way play.  Telepathic Misdirection … for the umpteenth time.  Shaman doubles as intercept while it’s waiting for the stealth bleed lunge.  Legend of the Leopard!  It’s not going to compare to modern Kiasyd decks in versatility, and, yes, it lacks the versatility of Govern the Unaligned type plays, but it could have been much worse.

Other

A ripe topic for further posts.  For this post, what other takeaways are there about my deckbuilding style?

I like around 10% bounce.  I like having at least as many wakes as bounce.  I’m pro Dreams/Info/Barrens.  Card cycling is crucial in nearly every game where acceleration may mean the difference between having a game and not against a fierce predator.

I don’t tend to play a lot of copies of cards unless they give deck flexibility.  This is actually important for when people borrow my decks.  My decks may seem inconsistent due to not drawing copies of certain cards consistently, but the idea is that of fungibility.  If you just need one card to get out of a combat, whether you draw a maneuver, a dodge, or a combat ends doesn’t matter.  Enchant Kindred and Entrancement do the same thing at inferior.  Wake + bounce is the equivalent of taking a bleed action.  Sins of the Cauchemar is totally an intercept card …

Though, as an aside, my speaking of fungibility may seem misplaced by those who’ve played my decks as I’ve had people say that they run into problems when they discard a card that is key to the deck, not realizing its importance.  I’d actually say it has more to do with people discarding cards that they should play because the efficiency of the deck over the course of the game, rather than in the moment, goes up.  The card is not key.  The recognition of the potential for a card to be useful later is key, as is adapting one’s game based on lost resources.  For example, if I discard all of my permableed, I need to make up that pool damage some other way by additional bleed actions, bouncing bigger bleeds, having a tighter window in which to lunge, etc.

These two decks do share a theme of disguised intent.  When people borrow my decks, they don’t always know that some slots are taken up with cards that don’t need to be played or that don’t have anything to do with the strategic intent.

Now, these two decks both used Auspex, making them not as distinct as they could be.  Though, there is a reason Auspex is featured often in my tournament winning decks.  I think what I’ll do for the next in this series is try to find a nontournament deck that exhibits aspects of my building decks, one that is different in some qualitative way, though I fully expect similarities.

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3 Responses to Deconstruction 01

  1. Brandon says:

    Nice write-up. I think I understand your decks a lot better already.

  2. […] as promised from Deconstruction 01, a non-tournament deck and one without Auspex.  Also, tried to pick out a deck that wasn’t […]

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