Bench Players

I was going through V:TES decks I had written up in preparation for the upcoming Berkeley tournaments.  I had used a system, when deciding what to take to LA in February, of listing pros and cons and giving a rating to how much I wanted to play the deck.  While doing the same for the upcoming tournaments, I had a couple of thoughts.

One of which I forgot.  Some sort of earth-quivering epiphany, I’m sure.

Another thought came from a recent experience.  I was invited to an Independence Day event by a Shadowfist player.  Now, Merlin and I have played in a RPG campaign together (Feng Shui), played some other stuff together, my perfect victory record with the Dune Boardgame came from playing it at his house, and we even were designing a CCG together (with Bill) that was Merlin’s pet project at the time, but Shadowfist is the main thing he’s playing when I’m around.  I picked up some Shadowfist boxes from him of non-Modern stuff.  Whether I make use of it, hard to say given how little Shadowfist action is going on in the area.  But, anyway, he was mentioning that such and such a set had good cards for whatever faction, and I responded about how I wasn’t that concerned about good cards.

The gist of my response was intended to be, “I’m not concerned with good cards, I’m concerned with cards I’d be interested in playing.”

The two are very much not the same thing.  Not the same thing for Shadowfist.  Not the same thing for Babylon 5.  And, …


Clearly not the same thing with V:TES, but one of the criteria for decks I decide to take to tournaments is functionality.  There are pieces to that.  Will it just roll over and die to stealth bleed?  To vote?  To some dude with a .44?  Those are not decks I’m enthused to play.  I even downgrade the desirability of decks that have no coherent ousting plan, as hard as that may be to believe.


Babylon 5 taught me that decks that don’t meet a minimum threshold of viability (aka nutpunchers in V:TES lingo) are to be eschewed.  It’s not just that I will lose, it’s that I will skew results for everyone else.  V:TES is arguably more that way because it’s attack left.

To a greater degree than many years ago, I feel a responsibility to be relevant in tournaments.  I used to think casual play and tournament play didn’t need to be different for me, and that was wrongheadedness.  Even when I was more likely to play some goofy deck in a tournament, it was by design.  In casual play, it’s all about “let me see how this works” with varying degrees of caring whether it will work or not.  Tournament play is far more about “okay, it’s funny, but will it keep vote decks from winning?” or whatever the goal in V:TES is supposed to be.

That’s not a bad thing.  Some of what I miss about two-player CCGs is the idea of bringing something to the table intended to compete with tournament decks.

But, it does make both deckbuilding and deckdeciding less fun.  I can throw in a couple of random, funny cards in any sort of well-designed deck, but how boring is that deck going to remain because it plays cards/strategies I’ve played dozens of times before?  It’s far more interesting to play some deck that doesn’t seem like it should do anything, yet does.

Which brings up something.  One of the things missing from my multiplayer CCG play in the last 10 years or so is the desire to try to show how something is better than people think.  Sure, I build concept decks (see old post about these) that show how something is still broken even when it isn’t played in the standard way, but those are really boring decks when I’m not in the heat of the moment of having arguments with imaginary forum posters.  Whether I can get back to the idea of “for you see, Elixir of Distillation is tech against Suicide Auspex” is unclear.

I think it was around the time of Gargoyles with Presence that I went from “this is underrated and should see some play” to “this is funny and … it is funny” and rarely crossed back.  It’s not that I always play joke decks, Mercury’s Arrow was totally … er … totally … um …

I asked people if they wanted to give me decks to play for one tournament weekend and I got a couple.  I wasn’t terribly enthused by the experience, which was useful to learn.

As someone who believes the game isn’t boring, even with no new cards, I can’t justify playing a deck that will be known to be boring.  On the other hand, to be responsible as a tournament participant means playing “junk” and not junk.  The issue with this is that such decks don’t often come readily to mind.  I’m so anti playing certain stapley cards that even reasonable decks with these cards are downgraded or written off.

I could, of course, build 80% of a deck and roll dice to randomly determine the rest of the deck, a completely cunning scheme that cannot possibly fail.  Too much effort.  Would be rolling dice forever when I need that precious time to hunt through my collection for the cards to go into my decks.

Actually, it would be funny to play some webdecks, you know, the cool ones or just plain “why did you not play better cards?” ones.  The primary downside being reduced credit for goofiness if I should accidentally achieve firstest place.  The plusser side is that it will confuse people when I play that intercept deck with no wakes or whatever.  Though, I’ve discovered that not having the cards everyone expects you to have tends to make for some very unenthralling experiences.

There are lots of good cards.  Maybe, it’s time to play with some of them.  Only 10% of a deck determined by random die rolls is still funny, am I right?


2 Responses to Bench Players

  1. Andrew Haas says:

    I’m beginning to think that your blog posting is an extension of your vicious table talk. I’ll be trying to make a decision at the tournament, think of your blog post, get confused by your meandering writing structure and fake words, then make a critical mistake…Ian sweeps again.

    Why not try to build a deck that someone else tried but was unsuccessful with? See if you can take the “core” and “Ian Lee” it up and just cold oust people with your sweet Incriminating Videotape deck? I dare ya!

  2. iclee says:

    What are decks someone else tried but was unsuccessful with? Locally, I suppose I can figure it out, but a lot of the time people just keep trying the same strategy, so why would I copy them? Outside of local play, how do I recognize these decks? People don’t tend to post about their decks that failed. Sure, they post about decks they haven’t gotten to work, yet, but that’s the same situation of someone still trying something.

    Now, I have built decks around other people’s ideas that weren’t as successful as they wanted, so it’s possible. I just remember doing that more with Babylon 5 or the like, not sure why the difference.

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