More Gooder Deck

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel compelled to talk about every Shadowfist game I play.  We had two games Thursday followed by two games of multiplayer Star Realms.  I do want to post my decks because it gets into something I started thinking about with V:TES decks.

The thought flow was basically:  my Shadowfist decks are rather silly -> does that matter to results? -> yes, but not because they are bad ideas or play bad cards but because they don’t do something important -> as I don’t really care about results in Shadowfist or having decks perform well but I do care about results in V:TES and not having decks suck, what is it about V:TES decks that matters? -> let’s talk about V:TES deck building.

Name:  Police Insurance
Faction:  Ascended
Size:  50

Ascended Cards (37)
Characters (20)
4x Academy Instructor
1x Chief Inspector Pang
3x Cop on the Take
2x Corporate Informer
2x Death Shadow
2x Mantis Fighter
3x Recruits
1x Sergeant Troy Preston
2x Tail of the Lizard

Edges (4)
3x Kickbacks
1x Night Moves

Events (6)
4x Operation Killdeer
1x Realpolitik
1x Secret Handshake

States (7)
5x Insurance Policy
2x SWAT Van

Generic Cards (13)
Events (2)
1x Blade Palm
1x Violet Meditation

Feng Shui Sites (10)
2x Crystal Field
1x Humble Dojo
1x Medicinal Flower Garden
2x Möbius Gardens
1x Phlogiston Mine
1x Rainforest Ruins
1x Solar Farm
1x The Hidden Grotto

States (1)
1x Butterfly Swords

Philosophically, this deck is about aggression.  That all I did Thursday was play out some small characters and sit around was partially the function of playing a five-player game, something I’m becoming less enthusiastic about.

Name:  Mindmaster
Faction:  Monarchs/Syndicate
Size:  60

Monarch Cards (17)
Characters (11)
1x Atourina Baktiari
1x Fire Acolytes
5x Fire Engineers
2x Ice Sorceress
1x Queen of the Darkness Pagoda
1x Queen of the Ice Pagoda

Events (5)
1x Avenging Thunder
1x Blood Lust
1x Brain Fire
1x Chain Lightning
1x Lightning Strike

Sites (1)
1x Sacred Wigwam

Syndicate Cards (22)
Characters (13)
1x Dimitri Lyapunov
2x Hirake Kazuko
2x Jessica Ng
2x Rei Okamoto
1x Street Sensei
5x Street Sweepers

Edges (2)
2x Corporate Warfare

Events (5)
2x Catching Bullets
2x Data Mining
1x Wall Running

States (2)
1x Hyper Alloy Blade
1x Synchronic Beam Emitter

Generic Cards (21)
Edges (4)
2x Stand Together
2x Superior Tactics

Events (4)
1x Information Warfare
1x Secret Pact
1x Solar Flare
1x Yippee-Yi-Yo-Kiii-YAAAH!

Feng Shui Sites (13)
1x Bamboo Forest
1x Cataract Gorge
1x Diamond Beach
1x Forgotten Temple
1x Hanging Gardens
1x Hot Springs
1x Hydroponic Garden
1x Mah-Jongg Parlor
2x Martyr’s Tomb
1x Peacock Summit
1x Rainforest Ruins
1x The Great Wall

I have mastered your mind …  This deck is awful.  It has atrocious foundation issues where I played Jessica Ng in one game to get four Syndicate resources.  I have had to discard every Ice Sorceress I’ve drawn due to lack of two Monarch resources.  As it has cool synergies and amusing plays, I do want to go through and try to make this more like a real deck.

So, V:TES.

I do believe what deck someone builds/plays matters.  I just don’t believe deck strength has much to do with winning.  But, hold on, what does deck strength mean?  What is a “good” deck?

Suppose you build a Dominate/Fortitude bleed deck.  Would you ever not put in Deflection?  While there are DEM stealth bleed decks and Dem/Obf stealth bleed decks that don’t run Telepathic Misdirection, how many decks with Dominate should not run Deflection?  Some don’t.  I’ve seen DOM/OBF decks that are 100% forward to avoid dead draws.  I don’t think those are good choices, but does that make them not good decks?

The aphorism “Every deck is better with bleed bounce.” is to get people to stop playing decks that will autolose not to say that only decks with bounce are viable decks.  Whether it’s EuroBrujah, Assamites with Dominate, FoS with Dominate, !Gangrel with Dominate, or whatever, forcing Dominate just because of Deflection is a productive thing.  Sure, Conditioning comes along for the ride, but bleed is so much easier to find in the game than bounce.  I have the first winning Daughters deck not because of bleed boost but because of Deflection (and seat switching, another aspect of deck construction where its presence makes the deck virtually strictly better, fortunately no longer part of the game).

A “good” deck is rather hard to define.  However, making a deck more gooder is something I think isn’t that difficult a vast amount of the time.

I like to tell people about my own failings when it came to building decks when I was newbish.  I was playing Tzimisce back around the turn of the century when I realized I had no Blood Dolls and, thus, had no stamina.  I was playing in a tournament, the infamous tournament where my second round table saw every player at the table ousted with Return to Innocence, where I realized that I had Deflection in my Malk/Ventrue deck but forgot to put any wakes in.  Reason I mention these things is to point out that people learn (hopefully, those who don’t should really play something less challenging than a CCG).

I keep thinking of a deckbuilding challenge for V:TES.  The challenge is that I posit that a tournament functional deck can be made just by starting with 6x Conditioning, 6x Deflection, 6x On the Qui Vive (or WWEF if you feel old school), and 6x Blood Doll.  The other 36 cards are flavor.  The problem with this challenge is that it’s very easy to fill your other 36 slots with coasters, like Border Skirmish, and miss the point of the challenge.  The challenge isn’t that these 24 cards are your deck, it’s that these 24 cards are going to make you competitive if you don’t try to build a joke deck.

This particular concept came out of an earlier concept that if you just run 6x Conditioning and 6x Deflection that you have enough ousting power (Deflection is offense) and reasonable defense.  I don’t know that a lack of vote defense works that well in the present metas I find myself in, but whatever.

Whether my 36 other cards are Bats/Crows, Celerity guns, damage prevention, stealth, the fist, Majesty, Form of Mist, Theft of Vitae, or whatever, I have viability because when I can get a bleed through it will hurt and I don’t just roll over and die to a bleed deck behind me.

A lot of my decks obviously don’t start with this base.  In fact, because Conditioning is on my personal banned list, I rarely build decks with Conditioning anymore (*sigh* no more Gargoyles Conditioning, Daughters Conditioning, etc. for me).  But, there’s also building decks with neither Dom nor AUS as crazy as that sounds.  And, a lot of these decks aren’t all that viable.

Where so many obsess over deck builds, I would just pull out the checklist and tick off:  can this deck reduce someone’s pool by 10 in one turn; can this deck bounce bleeds reasonably; can this deck bring out who it wants to bring out from its initial crypt draw?

Since many a deck will fail the second item, we get into how some decks can function without bounce.  For them, it’s a matter of:  can I withstand someone bleeding me for 12 before my next turn?  Hyperbloat certainly gives that ability.  Kindred Spirits + 6 gives that ability.  Telepathic Counter, Truth in Ink, Nest of Eagles might get you there.  Several Sensory Deprivations might get you there, though 12 isn’t necessarily coming in *just* from your predator …

I focus a lot on bounce … because bounce is the best thing ever.  I know casual play can give an idea that Earth Meld is the best thing ever or whatever combat defense one prefers, but, then, you play against serious bleed decks and know how bounce is the beating of the heart of V:TES.

But, what of Conditioning?  Conditioning is easily replaced with Eyes of Chaos, with Aire of Elation in some decks, somewhat replaced with Truth of a Thousand Lies/Quicksilver Contemplation/Virtuosa in other decks (ignoring inferior Dominate blood boost as being … inferior).  Monkey Wrench just doesn’t cut it.  Walk of Caine somehow actually occasionally works for reasons that escape me.

Because I have a general style of outlasting my opponents, I don’t tend to eschew having a defensive plan.  But, I do keep running into a lack of coherent offensive plan.  Amazingly enough, Enhanced Senses, Blood Rage, Gleam of Red Eyes, Walk of Flame does not actually oust anyone.  Nor does Carrion Crows, Unflinching Persistence, Flames of the Netherworld.  In the olden days, when the Sun burned blue and you had to manually adjust paper in your typewriter, I would have just thrown in Conditionings to these decks to have the power, the awesome power, to see prey eviscerated.  Permableed just lacks the immediacy of destruction.  Aire is only in the Torrie or PRE decks (I can’t ban Aire as I’ve won a tournament running Presence bleed cheese – stupid-ly awesome Pander deck).

You, as a veteran of all things V:TESy, might be wondering how this post is anything more than “have a plan for ousting and have a plan for not being ousted”.  To a certain extent, since I can’t go into a gajillion examples of how a deck can get better with adding or replacing certain cards, I’m not saying anything that is terribly profound, only sort of profound because when am I not reeking of profundity?

Let me try a different vague angle.  Let’s pull Shadowfist in for a moment.  I keep running minimal events and virtually no character removal in decks.  This is like purposefully avoiding playing with bounce.  Character removal is both defensive and offensive.  Character removal may be the only way not to lose fast.  Meanwhile, I could posit that the analogous mechanic to Conditioning in Shadowfist is hitters or making hitters with states.  I find that it’s surprisingly [sic] difficult to take a site with my F-2 foundation and my F-4 “this art is cool” ramp (though I don’t really use F-4s as ramps so much as I use them as workhorses).  I don’t have to have character removal – I could just try to win before anyone can do anything.  I don’t have to have hitters or pumps – I could just annihilate everyone’s characters with Lotus power.

I suppose I could talk about wakes.  It amazes me how underplayed wakes have been throughout history.  I don’t mean every deck runs too few wakes or the “mode” deck runs too few wakes.  I just see decks that are dead if they get tapped out or I’ve played against decks that die rather easily or I’ve built decks that desperately need more wakes.  I believe that when I give deck advice that I will get little push back on adding more Conditionings or more Deflections but will get push back some of the time on more wakes.  I don’t know.  Somehow, a lot of tournaments are won by decks that should roll over and die to serious bleed decks, but, then, my tournament winning decks are hardly examples of what should win, so I’m being a bit inconsistent about the whole “deck build doesn’t matter much” argument.

“Okay, I get it.  Conditioning, Deflection, wake, and pool gain.”  Not quite.  The point is to go from the general concepts that should be obvious, yet so many decks fail them, of “How do you plan on winning?” and “How do you plan on not losing?” and taking a look at card choices.  If I’m playing winnie Vicissitude, I already have a bunch of Changelings and probably Fiendish Tongues (though I still think Computer Hacking is better).  But, do I have Living Manse?  J.S., Tasha, and Heidelberg?  Mylan?  On the defensive side, do I have Carlton?  Direct Intervention to stop Carlton from being stolen, some annoying vote being called, or whatever?

There are so many good stuff cards in the game at this point that I keep thinking about an all good stuff deck, really a post for another time.  Nevertheless, how many good stuff cards are you not playing?  I can’t ban Carlton (see Mercury’s Arrow TWD), so why don’t I play him more often?  Well, besides the obvious answer of “because playing the same cards all of the time is boring”?

Shouldn’t Club Illusion go in every dedicated anarch deck that isn’t a vote deck?  That it can hurt you or that it’s a massive blood suck is nothing compared to how it can multiply your offense.  This just gave me a deck idea – Lasombra anarch bleed, but anyway, mind is starting to wander.

Guess that makes it a good time to stop.  Did I accomplish anything?  Well, I guess this is my “If you don’t know how to build decks, start with these 24 cards and fill in with whatever you want to play.” post that I don’t have to make in the future, so that’s something.


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