Set-tling Matters

The recent release of the Danse Macabre e-set along with PCK‘s efforts of e-sets has gotten people to rate sets and cards.

Which got me to thinking.  First, I started thinking about Final Nights.  There were a lot of complaints about PCK’s Laibon set’s cards, but I’ve opened a lot of packs of V:TES under both the WotC regime and the WW regime, and there were so many bad cards.  Final Nights sticks out more in my mind because I not only opened a lot of packs of it but I opened a lot of packs after the set had been out for a while, so, instead of the focus being on distributions or ideas of how to use the new cards, I could just shake my head in wonder at the awfulness of the commons.

Which I’ll get to in a moment.

Before getting into details, the point of this post is that a good set isn’t necessarily one full of good cards and a bad set isn’t necessarily one full of bad cards.

Final Nights was a “Good set full of bad cards.”  Meanwhile, as that’s not the most interesting opinion, Keepers of Tradition was a “Bad set full of good cards.”

What are the goals of a set?

Obviously, making the game more fun, but that’s too general.  Final Nights had a goal of making the indie clans competitive.  It succeeded.  Now, it kind of shafted the Assamites by giving us a bunch of crap Quietus cards, but even the Assamites gained a lot from getting Badr al-Budur.

But, what of KoT?  Of course, it was another base set.  It was a Camarilla base set.  I would say it had a goal of making high cap vampires more playable, which it succeeded at.  I would say it was looking to give some love to Brujah, who had few competitive options prior to KoT, mostly EuroBrujah with some decks like Brujah Debate (still likely to play EuroBrujah) and Arms Dealers.  Brujah finally got political vampires that had Presence instead of Dominate and were still good enough to play!

Maybe I could find something to complain about with the crypt cards in KoT, probably start with the lack of identity of Gangrel, but whatever, it’s cool.  KoT seems a beloved set, however, not just because there are new Inner Circle vampires and whatever but because of the library goodies.

Which I’ll get to.

Final Nights – one stars:
Baleful Doll
Banner of Neutrality
Blood Clots
Canopic Jar
Clandestine Contract
Contingency Planning
Daemonic Possession
Dagon’s Call
Exuding Blood
Final Nights, The
Grasp the Ghostly
Guard Duty
Jones, The
King of the Mountain
Masquer (Wraith)
Meat Hook
Priestess of Sekhmet
Rafastio Ghoul
Red Herring
Relentless Pursuit
Save Face
Scorpion’s Touch
Sensory Overload
Shilmulo Deception
Skin of the Adder
Starshell Grenade Launcher
Succulent Vitae
Thin Blood
Thrones Crumble
Tortured Confession
Vascular Explosion
Veil of Silence
Venetian Conference

This is my list of “one star” Final Nights commons, i.e. cards so bad they couldn’t rise to the level of mediocre.  I like some of the cards a bit, Masquer for instance, so I tried to use the TWDA to validate some selections.  Anyway, since all of my opinions are opinions, let’s just say this list is an accurate assessment of awful Final Nights commons.

There were 54 Final Nights commons.  This list is 39 cards long.  This isn’t a list of “average” cards or “just for fun” cards or whatever but a list of awful cards – 72% of the commons in the set sucked!

And, still, as tedious as it was to crack packs and look at the same crap over and over again, as a set, FN was good.  Could have been way better.  Could have been more realistic about the failings of Assamites.  Could have made Abomination non-unique.  Etc.

So, now my list for KoT:

Keepers of Tradition – three plus stars:
Ashur Tablets
Dark Influences
Dark Mirror of the Mind
Deep Song
Eyes of Argus
Force of Personality
Heroic Might
Kevlar Vest
Neonate Breach
No Trace
Old Friends
Perfect Paragon
Rego Motus

Okay, a list of 15 cards, so what?

These are the cards I’d put three or more stars to from the new commons and uncommons in KoT (using TWDA a lot to try to take out some personal biases).  Three stars being solid/good, four stars being excellent, five stars being best in game.  The list of new commons and uncommons in KoT is only 36 cards long.  That means 42% of the commons and uncommons in KoT were superior cards!

But, why is that bad?

Because it’s a massive power creep and not one justified at all.  V:TES has historically needed power jumps for clans, disciplines, sects, or whatever.  But, let’s single out some of these cards, cards that are extremely popular and many seem to like being in the game, to get into how they didn’t address improving the game, just improving what was already studly.

Ashur Tablets – Not going to spend much time on this card.  I’m firmly in the camp of thinking the card is absurdly broken, not just in terms of power but in terms of undermining the idea that the library is finite.  Do I like to come up with deck ideas using the card?  Sure.  Still wish it didn’t exist.

Dark Influences – At first, I gave this a much lower rating.  After checking the TWDA, I bumped my rating up considerably.  It’s not Direct Intervention, but it’s what DI should have been and is still full of magic.

Okay, enough off topic comments.  The four cards I find most offensive in this list are Deep Song, Eyes of Argus, Perfect Paragon, and Villein.  Villein has much controversy, so there’s little point in explaining my position on it.  I’m sure the other three are the ones people will disagree the most about.

All of these cards were unnecessary power jumps for things that didn’t need any power jump.  I’m amazed by how people seem to have forgotten the metagame prior to KoT and just how powerful winnie Animalism was before getting such a ridiculous card as Deep Song.  I was listening to Cause and Effect recently and amazed that anyone thought winnie Animalism didn’t rush prior to Deep Song.  It just rushes that much better – with +1 bleed – these days.

As for Eyes of Argus, more arms race between stealth and intercept, that punishes the middle ground.  I’m not saying you can’t get by with one intercept or one stealth anymore, but, as an example, I find a lot of decks give up on intercept because multiple stealth is so common because stealth needs to so often beat two intercept.  Prior to KoT, Second Tradition was the transient play that might shift a metagame to three stealth.  After KoT, even some inferior Auspex dork, just standing around untapped, can grief stealth attempts on D actions.  But, whatever.  Auspex worked just fine without the card.  Auspex has never been weak.  Boring, maybe, though this card hardly addresses that.  What is the point of giving a discipline more of what it already does better than everyone else?

As with Eyes of Argus, I play Perfect Paragon a lot.  Auspex is probably my most played discipline.  Presence is way overrepresented in my tournament decks.  But, speaking of punishing casual intercept, now we can have vote decks effortlessly get the equivalent of two stealth.  With so many modern vote decks that don’t run Obfuscate running Celerity, Resist Earth’s Grasp puts them at the equivalent of three stealth, all gained back from Voter Captivation.

Presence has never been weak.  Presence had not needed help in passing votes.  Presence plus stealth was an extremely successful strategy prior to KoT, and, in terms of PP only affecting younger vampires, Presence based decks have often been the fattiest due to Voter Cap.

Great cards but great for the game?

I see the game becoming less fun after KoT.  Animalism is off the rails.  Presence vote is a tad more common than it was before – being all over the place before.  Non-Obfuscate stealth seems increasingly pushed out by Obfuscate stealth to overcome the ease of blocks.

Final Nights could have had a lot of power Obfuscate cards, given how two of the indies are Obfuscators, but that wouldn’t have addressed those clans’ needs.  KoT put out some good cards – I think Horseshoes, as annoying as it can be, was an important step in making Potence less dull.  But, it just ramped already powerful strategies with no justification.  Celerity gets Torrent while Presence gets Perfect Paragon?  Not exactly fair.  Fortitude, which is really Freak Drive plus some other cards, got a crap card and a card I may like, Steadfastness, but that has only shown up in four tournament winning decks.

So, to recap, just because a set has good/great/awesome cards, that doesn’t mean it’s good for the game.  And, just because a set has a lot of bad/awful/sucky cards doesn’t mean it failed to deliver on making the game better.


3 Responses to Set-tling Matters

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know that adding more good cards to the game is the equivalent of power creep If cards are just plain better (i.e. Villein 75%+ of the time vs minion tap), then that’s power creep. Sometimes better cards *need* to be created, For example, quietus could use new cards that are superior to the crap they’ve had before.

    • iclee says:

      Putting Quietus aside as there were never going to be any Quietus cards in the set, how much better for the game would have Deep Song have been if it were a Potence card? Potence is weak in the current metagame, not able to win against Animalism or agg and having poor game against Celerity guns, nevermind its usual issues with ousting.

      Or, how about giving better cards to Fortitude? Fortitude is incredibly limited (as is Potence, as used to be Celerity), but people think it’s good because of Freak Drive.

      I’d be perfectly happy to see strong cards for weak strategies. Instead, we get strong cards for some of the best things you can already do in the game.

      Ideally, with a CCG what is good one day is bad another and the elements to decks see constant (if measured) flux. V:TES has a long history of leaving some things to always be good and not pushing hard enough in stuff that isn’t.

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