InQuest-ionable

It occurred to me after the qualifier weekend that I didn’t say anything about the casual play on Friday before the tournaments on Saturday.

It might be a good mental exercise to try to recall the details of those games.  But, is that interesting?  What was most memorable to me was how my Childling Muse deck didn’t win … because we didn’t add 5 more minutes to the clock to account for a player taking a phone call.  It has dropped from the heights of “winning every game it has ever played” to “it has never lost”.  It a-muses me enough to play one more time and see what happens.  Would it be constructive to play in a tournament?  Since I still don’t have a TWDA entry with Dementation, it would make sense to add some Dementation cards to the deck, like Touch of Clarity.  Then, a “serious” Childling Muse deck really should be running Heidelberg …

Anyway, that was an idea.  I could also write about today’s casual games, wherein my Tzimisce rush deck somehow lasted 100 or so minutes.  But, eh.  There were two very different sessions of Shadowfist, but, other than my playing good cards (Year of the Goat only decks) in various games and Miguel being kind enough to offer up his extra cards and some prizes for one of the events, … it’s even harder to remember Shadowfist game details than V:TES game details as so many more microevents occur that may or may not be important.

Now, that could be a topic for another post – What actually matters in Shadowfist games and how does that differ from what seems to matter as you play?

But, let’s try having a topic for this post.

I woke up in the middle of the night not long ago and grabbed something to read for a while.  Being someone who writes this sort of blog, naturally, I would have some InQuest Magazine issues at hand.  This particular issue was #113.

It was an interesting view into just how much history of collectible games developed in a short span.  Keep in mind that this was 10 years ago, so you had things like:

Cyberpunk The CCG.

Dwarves owning the Lord of the Rings CCG World Championship environment.

Top 10 cards from Dragon Ball GT – Shadow Dragon Saga.

Visual player’s guide, every card revealed, for … the GI Joe TCG!!  No, I never played it.  Somehow, I missed out on a couple hundred CCGs since I started playing them in 1995.

Top hidden gems from Rampage of the Super Warriors.  …  Rampage of the Super Warriors is …?

MegaMan TCG promo spoilers.

Okay, okay, who cares?  If I’m not going to talk about the Dixie CCG or other “oh no you didn’t make that” CCGs, why talk about this issue?

A 10th Anniversary Retrospective of V:TES

Yup, as limited marketing as V:TES and other CCGs that survived a long time without large playerbases got (see Shadowfist, et al), InQuest did put a sidebar of LSJ’s best cards and most underrated cards by set through the first 10 years.

Jyhad

Best:  Dramatic Upheaval

A sign of the times.  Maybe just because of when I started playing tournaments seriously and who I played with, but I have a specific, if maybe not singular, perspective on tournament play back in the day.  DU was all the rage for a while.  If you want dumb, seat switching is about as dumb as it gets.  For all of the whining about how “I just randomly lose because of matchups without seat switching”, I think you have to be in denial or not paying attention to think that undermining the predator-prey dynamic which the whole game is based around is a good idea.

We’ve managed to survive without seat switching.  And, as I said lo those many years ago, my number one reason for running one of the most hated cards in the game’s history – Direct Intervention – was to kill seat switchers.  Now, I just run it, when it occurs to me to run it, to kill various annoying things like Bowl of Convergence.

Even when DU was legal, though, I don’t rate magnitude of effect as important as ubiquity.  Wake with Evening’s Freshness or Blood Doll were far, far more important because they made decks functional.

Underrated:  Change of Target

Guess it depends upon your style.  CoT is the sort of card that is fantastic against how I build decks and play as I rely heavily on wakes.  When I play it, I just wonder why I’m not playing more stealth, as I’d much rather get an action through.  Of course, I’m not a big multiactor, so I don’t really have anything much to do after my hunt gets blocked.

Unlimited

Best:  Archon Investigation

Well … since V:TES had only a few cards Jyhad didn’t, kind of limited options.

Underrated:  Elder Intervention

*shrug*  Did this see much play, ever?  Limited options.

Dark Sovereigns

Best:  Arika

A crypt card.  Kind of hard to argue about this, unless you want to argue for Stanislava.

Some library cards that are kind of good today (keep in mind that what was good right after DS came out might have been considered a bit different, though Thoughts Betrayed was less good and more really, really obnoxious):  Aire of Elation – first Presence action modifier plus bleed and still a key to many of my decks; Banishment – used to be way more annoying when Igo could Banish Arika, still quite annoying; Force of Will – maybe more of an underrated card in the metagames I played in than a best card, but it just opens up some very different possibilities; Heidelberg Castle – oh my; Legendary Vampire – never works for me, but it makes Nos Royalty so much more legit; Pentex Subversion – didn’t make the most recent banned lists*; Sensory Deprivation – kind of like Banishment if maybe more annoying, yet countered by Banishment … ick; Toreador Grand Ball – so many decks people built around this.

*  I could have also written something about the new banned cards that I found out about today.  Seeds of Corruption – funny.  Sad that all events weren’t banned, but, hey, I never expect The Unmasking to get banned no matter how antifun it is.

Underrated:  Strained Vitae Supply

Um, no.  I played back when DS was newish.  I saw it played.  Not a mighty impact.  If you want “most underrated” these days of DS cards, Powerbase: Rome would probably be it, in that hardly anyone seems to consider the card when it was essential to my “if you try hard enough, anyone can vote” vote decks, like !Salubri vote.  But, “most underrated” is such an impossible thing because it’s so very subjective.

Also, Force of Will is a really interesting card that doesn’t see a lot of play.  Tends to be much more of a build around since it has a rather meaningful drawback, but what I rarely see is it used for lunges.  Also sees play in decks where you try to nuke yourself, of course.

Ancient Hearts

Best:  Dreams of the Sphinx

‘k.  Tomb of Rameses was supercommon before it got nerfed.  One might note that Protect Thine Own and The Return to Innocence both got banned, though the former had something to do with how amazingly unfair it was, where TRtI was only unfair in the sense of how it ousted someone when you played it.  Of course, LSJ was hardly going to choose cards already banned.

Underrated:  Foul Blood

Someone with well known initials in the V:TES community must have played in a very different meta than I did.  Even as an annoyance play, it hardly ever came up.  Mind Numb or The Signet of King Saul would be a better fit for this title.

Sabbat

Best:  Direct Intervention

Well, sure.  Keeping with the idea that specific cards, no matter how common Deflection was, don’t make for best cards, so Carrion Crows, Kindred Spirits, and Palla Grande aren’t DI.  Someone want to run the numbers on how many decks have won with DI vs. CC vs. KS (sure, throw in the number for PG, as well)?  CC completely changed the viability of Animalism and is arguably the best combat card in the game outside of the likes of Majesty, trying to think of whether it has any serious competition among combat cards that deal damage.  Torn Signpost comes to mind as an inferior option in the current meta that was a superior option in older metas.

Underrated:  Marked Path

Welp, it’s certainly something rated.  I suppose that it would actually suit my play style in that I can lead with a minor bleed and unjam, except I’ve never found myself wanting this card in hand.  Actually, my style is much more about hidden information, and this isn’t.  It’s a target.

I play Adaptability.  But, no one else seems to.  Certainly hasn’t been a key to victory for me in tournaments, though I haven’t played a ton of Protean in tournaments.  Underrated in this set is hard.  There are undervalued choices, like The Hungry Coyote.  THC might see a bunch of play (more so back in the old days of The Embrace), but I don’t think people realize just how strong it can be even for decks that don’t Freak Drive.

Sabbat War

Best:  Powerbase: Montreal

I so hate that this card ever got made.  Yes, let’s encourage walling up and trading pool and actions that don’t move the game to resolution.  Not a ton of choices.  But, how about Chiropteran Marauder?  Got me my first TWDA win.  Just amazing card to go with Changeling for the sort of versatility I enjoy.  Of course, these days, less likely to see Immortal Grapple than to see Aid from Bats and Resist Earth’s Grasp.

Underrated:  Storage Annex

I’m with LSJ, for a change.  There are only 50 new cards in SW, so it’s not like a ton of competition, but this card has been good to me.  I’m not a hand size guy, but, somehow, the pseudo-hand size of this card just works for me, plus it’s funny when someone steals it when you have The Portrait or whatever underneath it.  Elder Library is a crap card, but Elder Library that’s free is something I’d like to be able to squeeze into more decks.

Final Nights

Best:  Zillah’s Valley

Again, a broad choice.  Week of “I gain 1.5 VPs” is a rather strong card.  The Path of Paradox, by itself, might have made Ravnos playable where they weren’t prior to this set.  Zillah’s was an in thing for some metas right away since some metas were always Parity Shift happy, but it took time in other metas.

Underrated:  Visit from the Capuchin

Brandon played this today.  I remain a hater.  I have always been a hater.  Yes, for a bit, it comboed with events.  Rather than play this, can just take it out and make your deck tighter.  Certainly one of the most overrated cards at times, right along with Elder Library.

My choice would be Free States Rant, not because it doesn’t see play but because it has been a lot more powerful in my experience than the amount of buzz it engenders.  Now, I haven’t actually won a tournament with it unless it was a storyline event, but I have vague recollections of being happy with how it played for meselfim.

Bloodlines

Best:  Spirit Marionette

Nope.  I’ve had to endure playing against a lot of Spirit Marionette decks.  They lose.  It’s something of a trap play.  Sure, you get to cause someone else to lose, but that just means being the target for that much more hate.  There’s actually a reasonable argument for Call the Great Beast.  Shroud of Absence could double for best and most underrated … as well as most stupidly overraritied.

But, Speak with Spirits seems to me to be the clear winner.  Ahrimanes used to be the bloodline for winningness.  I never really understood why, since they are just a cut down version of Tzimisce.  But, SwS shows up a ton in the TWDA.

Underrated:  Nose of the Hound

I can see it being underrated.  Kind of forgotten in my meta, as the South Bay group isn’t used to playing with a lot of the Bloodlines cards.  But, c’mon, Soul Painting.  ’round these parts, pardner, Soul Painting has garnered a reputation akin to Protect Thine Own.  This is one of the most completely overlooked cards in the game.  I get that it doesn’t so much help you win so much as it’s Spirit Marionette level of causing someone else to lose.  At least Nose sees play.  Maybe someone else has played SP, but I don’t recall that so much as I recall dropping one on an ICM and the player wondering what it did right up until the “you killed my vampire” for an action and a blood realization.

Camarilla Edition

Best:  Tension in the Ranks

Nope.  Just nope.  Sounds great.  Does deal damage.  Often helps kill the player who played it.  See, something people still seem to overlook is that combat decks are the most prone to getting beaten up sort of decks because, this may sound odd, but they try to get into combat.  There’s enough random hitback or casual +1 Strength that you may deal way more damage but still take too much damage to persevere.

Most obnoxious is, of course, Maris Streck, whose wording is moronic and just leads to a great deal of hate for what the game can be.  Carna, The Princess Witch or Rachel Brandywine probably rates as better, with Vignes being too specific to one archetype.

But, Weighted Walking Stick was Target Vitals before Target Vitals.  It didn’t help !Salubri as much as it just completely changed the ease with which any random dude could start beating.

Underrated:  Scrounging

This is one of those fancy, city slicker choices.  Scrounging is pretty underrated for Force of Will style decks, but I got another card that doesn’t get nearly the attention that I’ve started paying to the card – Harass.  Harass is just a really solid rush card.  Sure, I can’t play rush to save my pool.  I don’t even really understand rush.  But, I’m usually happy having Harass over a bunch of other options, including Bum’s Rush much of the time.

Anarchs

Best:  Fee Stake: X

While certainly game affecting in that you can sprout votes without pushing votes, something that isn’t done casually often enough, possibly making this a better choice for underrated rather than best, Life in the City is so much better.

Just today, Brandon was talking about how LitC is something he wants to play more of.  Remember kiddies, choosing to hunt is strong, having to hunt is weak.  Don’t hunt when it’s go time.

Underrated:  Life in the City

Oooh.  Not so far off.  But, Dummy Corporation is kind of more underrated.  It’s actually an interesting psychological play for some folks, like for me.  If you want to encourage me to go forward, DC is a way to do it.  But, hey, I keep mentioning him because I’m like the only person who ever plays him more often than once a decade – Repo Man.  So many people don’t even know the card exists because they either missed Anarchs or didn’t buy much of it.  While ally hate can make him less good in a particular meta, not every meta in the last 10 years has been gunning for allies.

Did I say Repo Man?  I meant Gambit Accepted.  Sometimes, I wish that I played decks that ousted people before the 105 minute mark just to show how crazy Gambit Accepted is in play.  But, since I have to wait until the 90 minute mark for my first bleed action, just too hard to justify in my decks.  Meanwhile, hardly anyone else seems to consider running this in their “I like winning right proper quick” decks.

Black Hand

Best:  Capitalist

Ha!  Ha ha!  Note that this was published after Gehenna existed, Gehenna – bringer of Perfectionist.  Capitalist was never good and quickly became completely dominated.  There are some cards that came into their own later:  Iron Glare, Path of Evil Revelations (to a degree), Reunion Kamut, The Art of Memory.  There are cards that fall under underrated, like Specialization, that I’ve gotten a lot of use out of.  There are cards I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of, but you would think I would and others seem to – Zillah’s Tears.

But even when Black Hand was kind of sucky because there weren’t enough vampires to support a lot of crypts, Watchtower: Four Ride Forth was more meaningful than Capitalist.  There are actually a lot of cards that are decent and might be kind of underrated in this set, but my choice for best is Foundation Exhibit.  Talk about making Palla Grande decks that much more annoying, I mean, common and brutal until the meta changed.  Did Scourge of the Enochians change the meta?  I don’t think so.  Affected, yes.  Did more winnie hate go into decks?  I don’t know about that either.  Did winnie Animalism make winnie “I can’t survive anything” decks less meta appropriate?  I’m really thinking that Foundation Exhibit just sees less play because the game moved towards high cap, Villein based decks because of a card called, um, Villein.  Same reason Clown Car is less common.

Underrated:  Specialization

LSJ and I actually think alike for a change.  Maybe we can discard our two copies of thinking alike to gain a pool.  Should have seen more play before people realized Imbued kind of don’t care if they gain pool for dropping cards that come back for free.

Have I mentioned that I’ve won every tournament I’ve ever played in with a deck running Chalice of Kinship?  I might be mistaken about that, as I’ve sort of lost track on every tournament deck I’ve ever played.  But, let’s just assume it’s true.

Gehenna

Best:  Dragonbound

Most overrated, to be sure.  Yet again a card I’ve seen kill its player, though, actually, I’ve seen Dragonbound do a much better job killing the person who played it than Tension in the Ranks.

Maybe it was a bit different 10 years ago, but this isn’t even close.  The Unmasking is just amazing at ruining the enjoyment of the game, I mean, helping obnoxious decks win.  After The Unmasking is, of course, Perfectionist, a card I don’t hate!

Underrated:  Nod

I’d say Gehenna, the set, is just generally underrated.  People seem to overlook how many quality cards got first printed in this set.  Besides Perfectionist, which highlighted how previous archetypes were design fails, Mylan Horseed, Soak, etc.

For me, the easy underrated choice is Seal of Veddartha.  Gehenna was a point where a lot of people weren’t buying much, so a lot of people I played with didn’t realize the card existed, at first.  But, even when people know the card exists, they don’t play it.  Not everyone needs a Laptop, where it isn’t even a Laptop.  But, everybody needs DOM/FOR.  Yup, everybody.  Really, look at how many folks can use the upgrade.  Consider that people have, at times, dropped Fortitude skill cards on Lambach to stop The Kiss of Ra (well, it also made Obedience less likely and Banishment less likely once Banishment changed, but TKoR was tech to blow through Tzimisce walls).

How a card that gives you DOM fast and eventually FOR and, by the way, can make you better bleedy and can be Magic of the Smithed into play doesn’t get more action is kind of extraordinary.  Yeah, people finally started turning Rebekka into a normal Tremere with +1 Stealth and +1 Bleed, but I was playing this from day one of the apocalyptic nightmare that was the introduction of event cards.

That’s it for the article.  Talking about a 10 year old magazine I had lying on a bedside table, after all.

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One Response to InQuest-ionable

  1. brettscho says:

    Very interesting to see what LSJ thinks was undervalued from each set. Thanks for posting this!

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