KublaCon 2016

May 30, 2016

I’m not a fan of posting two posts on the same day, so I could have scheduled this to post tomorrow, but I won’t since the UC! post I made earlier today is only relevant to, I’m sure, a very small number of people.

I have become even less invested in local cons.  Because I usually commute back and forth to KublaCon, I don’t have to be there all weekend.  Much of my enthusiasm, actually, is to go to my favorite Chinese restaurant and get my favorites, though it seems to be always really busy these days.

I had work Friday, like a lot of people.  I went home and built some Shadowfist decks and realized I didn’t need to be at the con until noon Saturday to do anything I cared to do.


After getting tan tan mian, I get to the con at about the perfect time, finding a close by parking spot on the street.  Why do I mention this?  As far as I’m concerned, the parking situation has been resolved and people should stop complaining about it.

Shadowfist classic.  Top prize – box of 7 Masters versus the Underworld.  How fitting.

Because, I have sucked in Shadowfist tournaments.  I may have won a game or two but was never a credible threat to win a tournament.  I decided to play coherent decks for a change to see if all that really matters is building the best deck possible, like how all other multiplayer CCGs are entirely about building the best deck.

I had won every game I ever played playing a 7 Masters deck (I had Kunlun Clan Assault in one or two other decks that didn’t always win).  That is no longer true.

Game 1:

Miguel (Virtuous Hoods/Proving Ground), Ian (Master of None), Earl (Purists)

I get a terrible start where I can’t really play any cards as I get a lack of 7 Masters resources.  Miguel and Earl fight a lot, balancing the table some.  I eventually can start playing cards, including a free Red Bat and a free Jade Willow.  I win.

Earl’s tiebreakers are crap.

Game 2:

Steve (Monarch Battleground), Miguel, Ian

Steve got lots of battlegrounds in play that I wanted to eliminate, he also got a couple hitters in play.  I kept playing hitter after hitter until I won.

Steve’s tiebreakers are crap.


I convinced Earl to have a finals rather than a third round as I didn’t see any way I don’t win if there isn’t a finals.

Earl, Steve (7 Masters, no foundation *characters*), Ian

I get out strong, Monkey Fools the Tiger wrecks me.  Earl has a very weak early game, so it’s just me and Steve trying to cripple each other.  I get out Jade Willow.  She’s gone.  Steve gets out Jade Willow.  She’s gone.  Discerning Fire kept Steve in check by taking out multiple masters.

Steve gets out Ghost Wind.  We don’t have enough left to stop him.

To beat the Master, you have to play the Master.  I have won every game I have ever played with this broken faction except when playing against this broken faction.  And, I’m not that good at Shadowfist.

I pick up promos I didn’t have.  Yeah, promos.  Ian loves promos.  He so loves promos.  Promos are the best thing ever.  Remember, Disarray and Destined to Be is a bombo and should not have won me that Babylon 5 tournament to get me placed into Worlds.  Yesss.  You cannot combo two promo cards and make other people incapable of winning unless you play Dragonball Z or whatever.

Actually, I don’t play promo cards in my Modern decks because I don’t know which are legal.  I also largely don’t play promos at all because they aren’t organized to where I know where they are.


So, the tournament ends and I play some Dresden Files Coop Boardgame that I just find really weird because it just seems incredibly limited.  All coop games are somewhat solitaire like, but the randomness in this game is so low, that this game feels like playing extremely fancy solitaire.  Like, you don’t need any of the actual rules and could just get a deck of 52 cards and play solitaire and it would be about as interesting.

Anyway, V:TES.

We had 8 people.  We still couldn’t play a tournament because people won’t commit to playing tournaments at cons in any semblance of making them meaningful.  Some guy left after the first round and we had 7.

We played four games.  Brad swept two.  I got the same number of VPs but didn’t sweep my two, so he won.  Promo cards for everyone and packs for table winners, which is kind of meaningless for me since the prize support is all stuff I own.

I did play my Ani/Nec/Trochomancy deck both games because it’s … fun.

I talked to a few people about the demo that was happening Sunday morning.  None of those people showed up for it.


I got into a Slayers d20 game.  I was not all that enthused because I kind of just don’t care about most things, but it was an opportunity to play a RPG at the con.  The GM didn’t show up.

I hung out with Brett for his V:TES demo for hours, he did a demo, we went to have lunch.  I’m just not that enthused by rice cake.  I ordered stir fried rice cakes to try them, even though I know a friend of mine from China had ordered rice cake when we went there and I didn’t care much for that dish, either.  I did get the all important sesame balls rolled in crushed peanuts, which ranks up there with ice cream as an elite dessert.

It was unclear how many we were going to have for the Shadowfist Modern event, so Earl and I played some Star Realms while the others got started.

To be blunt, I hate Dominion.  I find it a bore.  I hate Thunderstone, same reason.  Lots of chrome for virtually no game.  Star Realms is actually a good game.  I’d rather play a CCG than a deckbuilding game, but it’s just what a deckbuilding game should be like.

Earl beat me in the two-player.  I won a three-player off of exactly enough damage.  I left off midgame to play in the Shadowfist event and my sub won the other three-player with a very Blobby deck.

Shadowfist Modern

Ian (Queens of Nu Gua), Drew (Lotus), Andy (Ascended Insurance Policy), Paul (Jammers)

What was funny was that my Daughters of Nu Gua were fairly easily blocked as many of Drew’s characters didn’t have magic.

I got three sites in play with little on the board.  Andy was struggling hard to play anything.  I put out a Daughter and Deadly Fansed her to take Drew’s Emerald Mine.  She didn’t die due to a lot of help from Medicinal Flower Garden.  I played a second Daughter and had event stoppage and Andy’s damaged Dockyard game me the win as Drew had just too little to clear it out earlier.

Same group, same decks.

I didn’t get out to a fast start just an efficient start with a Temple Guards and Butterfly Swords to burn for power.  Andy couldn’t play much besides sites that no one took, so he had lots of power but only foundations in play.  Drew got out three sites.  Paul benefited from no one being concerned about him.  Andy on four sites in play and power was a threat.  He could have made a bid for victory with Tears of the Crocodile but didn’t, knowing Drew had a bunch of character kill.

On the last turn, I pointlessly went for the win, knowing the table would stop it, but I Blade Palmed one of Andy’s sites to put me at 4 and everyone else at 3.

Yup, no character with fighting more than 4 in my deck, and I win my first Shadowfist tournament.  Here’s the lesson, kiddicos – great art trumps great cards.

Thanks to Earl for running events, Andy for playing in one of them, and everyone else who played.  CCGs are the best competitive games anyone has ever come up with – they should be played, even bad ones.


It’s Monday, and I never left home.  The KublaCon schedule was just bad.  It’s a bit … ironic? … that Kubla used to be ManaFest and CCGs only and the only events I played in were CCG events.

I didn’t hang out much with folks.  I didn’t talk newConan with Brad.  I just thought about how I could hit my dumpling place as often as possible and had ludicrously overpriced and terrible pizza from a place in San Mateo.

I actually like pizza, from chains.  I just don’t get how anyone charges more than the chains when pizza is the cheapest thing you can have someone else make for you that rates as food.

Grade?  I so don’t think grades even matter anymore.  What I want to do is often not available or is dependent upon people wanting to do pickup games at cons.  The schedules are just so not my thing, unlike Gen Con, where I would have played in double the number of events if I could have.  That I didn’t even play a RPG at Kubla was a torn signpost.

While V:TES has sucked more at other cons, that there’s no stability to how many people are around is really frustrating for having people get a chance to just play more.

I did however have some interesting conversations about CCGs because, you know, Kubla is all about the CCGs.

Magic.  I was doing my usual rant about how the draw one card a turn in Magic is what fails it.  I gave the example that paying 3 life to draw an additional card [in draw step, probably only once a turn] would have made it far more interesting, though it could also be argued that it makes it way more snowbally.  Really, even draw 2 cards a turn is a far better game.  Anyway, this would make life gain far more attractive.

I was talking to Brett and explaining some things about Precedence CCGs – B5, WoT, TR.  He thought the Shadow War mechanic was interesting only in reverse for V:TES.  Instead of making it harder to win, something like Antediluvian Awakening coming up to make everyone die.  I put out the idea of having it happen at 10 turns, then a second at 15 turns.  Of course, what makes V:TES slow is players not mechanics.  Either players who don’t take their turns quickly or players who build decks weak in offense or both.  In other words, everyone in our area I can think of.

The far more interesting thing to me is the discussion about redoing V:TES with no ousts.

My concept is that you get VPs for reducing someone’s pool below a certain threshold maybe to zero and you get VPs for torping vampires and maybe burning allies or maybe not.  You lose VPs for diablerie or burning vampires.

So, how does pool work if it can go to zero?  You constantly regenerate pool when below a certain level.  For instance, you gain pool when below 10, gaining like 3 pool a turn or something.  You gain VPs if you can reduce a player’s pool to maybe something like below 5, maybe more if you go to 0.

How do you win?  Most VPs.  Most VPs when?  Thought about time, but I don’t think time works.  Thought about a race game, like Babylon 5 and a bunch of other games, where 20 VPs wins.  But, that doesn’t interest me.  I think turns is interesting, if tricky.  Have a thirteen turn game.  Most VPs after thirteen turns wins.

Of course, the kingmaking in such a situation is rather problematic.  V:TES does a fairly good job of limiting kingmaking through its ousting mechanic.  But, it can really suck to not be playing for an hour while other people are.  Plus, this rewards beating people up.  Plus, this punishes people for burning vampires, which leads to an interesting assessment on the relative merits of permanent removal versus VPs.

Name:  Master of None
Faction:  7 Masters
Size:  40

7 Masters Cards (19)
Characters (12)
1x Ghost Wind
1x Gold Lion
2x Jade Willow
1x Monsoon
2x Mountain Hermit
1x Red Bat
2x Wah-Shan Clan Warriors
1x Wudang Monk
1x Wu Man Kai

Events (6)
3x Kunlun clan Assault
1x Monkey Fools the Tiger
2x Pao Yeh Pao Lo Mi

Sites (1)
1x Wudang Mountain

Monarchs Cards (3)
Characters (3)
3x Auramancer

Generic Cards (18)
Events (7)
1x Discerning Fire
1x Larcenous Mist
1x Pocket Demon
2x Spirit in a Bottle
2x Violet Meditation

Feng Shui Sites (9)
3x Dockyard
1x Martyr’s Tomb
5x Mobius Gardens

States (2)
1x Boundless Heaven Sword
1x Six Demon Bag

I think I could have played Boundless in one game but didn’t need to.  Mobius Gardens has to get changed.  I guess being changed to Limited is the fix, though that just means it’s 1-2 copies in every single deck ever.

Name:  Queens of Nu Gua
Faction:  Guiding Hand
Size:  40

Hand Cards (23)
Characters (12)
3x Chanting Monks
5x Daughter of Nu Gua
4x Temple Guards

Events (9)
3x Confucian Stability
1x Corners of the Mouth
1x Into the Light
1x Iron and Silk
2x Journey’s Reward
1x Rigorous Discipline

Sites (1)
1x Garden of Peaceful Reflection

States (1)
1x Bamboo Cane

Generic Cards (17)
Events (6)
2x Blade Palm
4x Violet Meditation

Feng Shui Sites (9)
1x Medicinal Flower Garden
4x Mobius Gardens
1x Puzzle Garden
1x Quanqiu Wishing Well
1x Temple of Celestial Mercy
1x Temple of the Angry Spirits

States (2)
1x Butterfly Swords
1x Deadly Fans

It’s even a Garden!!  The metagame is just ridiculous where it’s all about how many Mobius Gardens you seize.

By the way, I tried to give a new player a 35 card deck to play in the classic tournament as it was my simplest deck, and someone thought that was ridiculous.  I have run out of cards in games … when I play against my own decks.  Otherwise, may have happened once, but I don’t recall.

I just don’t get why anyone would ever want a deck bigger than 45 cards unless you like not knowing what you are going to draw.  Admittedly, I quite like decks that play randomly in what cards I get, but that just means I take out redundancy in cards.

This build has won every game it has ever played.  I never had a character with fighting greater than 4.


Ultimate Combat! Rules

May 30, 2016

Yes it does.

Anyway, I’m kind of lazy and don’t feel like typing the single foldout, two-sided sheet of game rules for UC!.  Plus, there’s this thing called the internet where other people have done work.

Wikipedia entry.  That covers basics.  Actually, UC! was surprisingly sophisticated in a few ways.  One of them is that the tutorial in the rules sheet is quite good.  But, anyway.

I’ll consider scanning the rules, but I think it’s going to be hard to read, though I don’t know how well .pdfs zoom.

One thing the entry doesn’t talk much about is advantages.  The sequence of attack goes:  attacker pushes forward a single technique to display an attack, the defender decides whether to block with a single technique or not, the attacker plays all advantages (with an important exception), the defender plays all advantages.  Exception?  Combination.  When the first attack resolves, the attacker may play a combination on a set up technique (techniques have summoning sickness if it isn’t explained anywhere) to create an additional attack, which is resolved as above.  Any number of combinations can be played in a turn if there are enough techniques to attack with.

Combination decks can be vicious.  Something I got wrong on my oral exam was that any time the total defense value is higher than the attack value, all subsequent combination attacks are -X where X equals the amount the defense is higher.  I thought that only applied with counters, but it always applies.

Action cards can only be played on your turn unless they say otherwise.  Only advantages can be played during an attack.  It’s unclear what the timing rules on actions are, though they largely don’t interact with each other except things like Psychic Delay.

Weapons may break by playing rock-paper-scissors after use, which is why they suck in constructed.  They get 2 counters on them after use and lose a counter each recovery phase, cannot be used when they have a counter on them.

The movement grid is nonintuitive.  Movement only affects when attacking.  If I have a move left in play and you aren’t moving, I get +1 to my attack.  If you have move left in play as well, I get -1 to my attack.  Don’t try to think of movement as having two modifiers.

You can have only one of each talisman, weapon, or armor in play at a time.

I think that covers some major things not in the Wiki entry.

Bad Deck, Bad Deck, What …

May 22, 2016

Well, you know it had to come to pass.  There I was putting together my last post and realized I won a tournament with Lucubratio and Nickolai, The Survivor.  I had no recollection they made the crypt of that vote deck.  Maybe, Kevin was right to call that the worst deck in the TWDA.  Except, he was wrong then and wrong … again.

I’ve had much worst.

I’m in this funny position.  I may not Dominate play like the Hughs or Robs or Bens or Brians or whoever of the world.  But, I have a sample size to laugh hysterically at.

Okay, so worst to less worst of my 12 TWDs.  Guidelines.  Can’t say what would be worst now, that’s not fair.  There’s a reason Zip Gun shows up in so many of my decks.  Metagame.  Metagame.  How it performed in the tournament it performed in is critical.  Still, any one event is rather random, so there is some element of trying to understand just how putrid something is.


Of Ghastly Dreams

Starting out with a bitter fight for most awful.  This is a toughie, mes amis.  But, where Evanescent “earned” its way into the finals with maybe a GW or something, this deck got into the finals on a roll off.

Contrary to what some locals suggest, Ravnos are the bomb.  They are immune to combat, unblockable, can theoretically block anything, rip you apart in combat, bleed like crazy, and Gabrin has Dominate.

Meanwhile, this deck has 6x Sensory Overload and 2x Pseudo-Blindness.  I wanted to think this deck was an intercept combat deck that could bleed at stealth.  I realized it didn’t actually have combat, so even back in the day I called it “cored on intercept”.

It’s a good thing that it’s an intercept deck, as it’s full of zero stealth actions with a mighty eight transient stealth cards.  Maybe, it’s a good thing no one cares about getting Sensory Overloaded.

How did it win?  Winnie Dominate as prey in the finals.  Entire table ganged up to stop the deck from turning the corner, with a key cross table Direct Intervention on Bonding to stop a second oust.  By the time I ousted, the EuroBrujah were spent on defense and pool.



Yes, this deck got a GW.  I was writing up this deck for Courtly Oil, when I … I … stopped understanding the deck.  This is an intercept combat deck, except I forgot to put intercept in it.  Oh, sure, it does some Mytherceria intercept and … uh … one Cat’s Guidance and … uh … one Eyes of the Night.  I still look at the deck list and just assume it had Raven Spies in the deck.  But, it didn’t.

I have basically no comprehension what this deck is expected to do.

I didn’t intend to play this in a tournament.  It just happened to be a built deck when I lacked time to build decks for the SoCal Trek To Glory.  I have a lot of bizarre card choices in decks.  This one just keeps gifting the world (or maybe just me) with the gift of “holy wtf?!?”.

How did it win?  After getting into the finals, the table fell in such a way that only two of us could win.  Brandon (prey) Archon Investigationed Matt’s (predator) Stanislava as he was tired of being bounced to, which gave me enough time to oust Matt before he could get another Stanislava doing annoying stuff.


Chapel Hard By

Tough decision on where this lands.  I put it here because it largely just does its thing.  It’s not hard to oust.  It’s dangerous like any swarm bleed deck is dangerous, but it’s not that dangerous.  It’s the sort of deck that would have been more metagame appropriate back in the day, when Scourge wasn’t around, though people don’t seem to understand how powerful swarm bleed is anymore, so maybe it would have gotten more grief back in the day.

How did this deck win?  Make dudes.  Bloat.  Swarm.  It’s not a complicated deck.  Oh, play Consecration Rites, too, because that’s how you win V:TES.


For Sex

I get the sense this is one of my hardest to understand decks.  After writing this post up, I understand that.  I’m not really sure where this deck falls on the worst to less worst list.  I put it here because it kind of fell into winning.

This deck has so many fun things it could do.  Sure, I discarded Walk of Flame every time, same with Clan Impersonation.  I had no Sabbies in play in the finals when I played a turn one/two Powerbase: Madrid.  But, I did get to Trochomancy in the finals.

A five discipline deck with three Dominate cards – Far Mastery, 2x Obedience.  That’s how you win V:TES.

How did this deck win?  It’s a vote deck.  If you don’t murder vote decks, they can do stupid stuff and win.  Murder vote decks.  Murder them.  They do annoying crap like use The Sargon Fragment to get back Reins of Power which was discarded at the beginning of the game to oust one’s prey.


Thunder Is Impressive

This is a sketchy deck that owned the metagame I wanted to own.  This was another deck that was already built when we went down to LA.  The point was to beat Animalism.  It beat Animalism. I got into combat often enough and layeth the smacketh down often enough.

It’s actually not horrible in that the two main vampires have tremendous synergy, even with my not playing any Obfuscate in the deck.  Actually, because of this deck, I can’t play Earth Control, Earth Meld, or Form of Mist in tournaments, which is both cool and frustrating since Earth Meld just owns the current meta.

The deck always got at least 2 VPs just because it refused to get ousted.  I keep wanting to do 2x Carlton after playing this.

How did this deck win?  It beat up Arika in combat because she sucks at stealthing by Celerity/Protean intercept.  It also didn’t die to Clown Car on the right.


Baali of the Name 1.1

This deck is so much fun to play.  Even Andy, who hates my TWDs when I rebuild them, enjoyed playing this deck.  Why do I justify it being higher on the list than the above (does this sentence make any sense)?  Because it’s just amazingly functional for how stupid it is.  It got me into the finals of a multideck tournament that I won.  I play it in games and it ousts or threatens to oust.

It should be much stronger now than it used to be in terms of what it’s trying to do.  Fear of the Void Below is, of course, awful in the current meta, but it was a necessary anti-Potence play back in the day.

What I regret is not discovering the Blessing of the Name/Change of Target combo much earlier in time to abuse the greatest combo of them all in this deck.  By the way, I am the undisputed heavyweight champion of playing Blessing of the Name … at least, until someone disputes it.  I played BotN a ton before I played this deck.  Note that it’s 1.1.  I didn’t play the same decks in tournaments back then.  I made an exception for this deck because I saw the potential if I added far more wakes and took out some of the BotNs.

How did this deck win?  My prey was Malk Mask of a 1000 Faces (Command of the Beast multiple times).  He got his one VP but had to die.  I was using Giotto’s ability like crazy to discard everything except bleed and stealth.  I bled at stealth and he was all forward facing so didn’t just bounce me for the win.


Pale Panda Warriors

Mergen thought this deck was ridiculous.  It is.  It’s also the only deck I’ve played that has won a large tournament (large being relative, talking about in the US).  I ousted Hugh in the finals playing some crappy archetype that involves Tzimisce bleeding at stealth.

Before I ousted him, Hugh turned to my predator, Courtois, and asked “What does this deck do?  Do I need to be worried about it?”  Mike’s answer?  “I have no idea.”  This was the same Courtois who was my predator in the first round.  That was the round in which my Ghouled Street Thug went to long with Fake Out and threw a Sewer Lid.

As I’ve said I think multiple times, I completely forgot that this deck was supposed to tap my prey’s minions to facilitate bleeding using vampire specials.  In the second round, where I got my GW, I refused to oust my prey for the longest time playing Goratrix while he sat on one pool.  He was in dire straights largely because my predator, Swainbank, was playing merged Ambrogino Giovanni and I kept bouncing.  I stole Swainbank’s Barrens and Barrensed away my own Barrens.  I was forced to reveal my hand due to Aura Reading by Goratrix, where David Tatu and Paul Johnson saw my Fear of Mekhet with both of them having ICMs in play.  Paul cycled like crazy to Sudden.  Paul helped me collapse the table.

How did this deck win?  I was in an endgame with The Lasombra.  The game almost timed out.  Jeff’s phone went off, but the official time wasn’t done yet.  I had enough bleeds for three/five and votes to win, providing one of the funniest tournament reports I’ve read – Mini Qualifier Winner.  I’ve got to preserve that for posterity.

I had so much fun asking Courtois to write up a scathing commentary on the deck.  I wish we would have written down what I told him.  Instead, mundane stuff you can read on Secret Library.


Silent Symphony

Yes, I put Protect Thine Own in a deck.

This deck, “objectively”, could be higher because it’s a combo deck and because some of the following decks are kind of goofy.  People who don’t understand it will grossly underestimate what it can do.  It’s not a vote deck.  It’s a deck that plays 38 votes to win the way it’s supposed to win.  It swarm bleeds with Inner Circle Members.

It also plays Business Pressure because I had to build Colin’s deck after seeing it played in the DC area.  Who doesn’t want to play a Business Pressure deck?

Why is this my deck and not Colin’s deck?  It is cored on his concept.  The crypt is a bit different.  The main difference is the combat.  Majesty x4 and Zip Gun x5 – that’s how you win V:TES.

Why isn’t this higher?  It didn’t Dominate.  I had like one GW or something going into the finals.  “Objectively”, it can be dealt with before or after it “goes off”.

How did this deck win?  One point, a player could have played Delaying Tactics on Honor the Elders.  He didn’t.  I don’t remember much else of what happened.


Weapon Not Found

Where Pale Panda Warriors was the deck that got the most grief when I won, this is the deck that I get the most grief for now.  The #2 deck has the same feature that has me put this so high in the list.

I Dominate-d.  I had two GWs in the three prelim rounds.  Only two?  I was the only player to oust anyone in the third prelim.  I was just playing for controlling who got into the finals at that point.

Sure, in the finals, no one ousted anyone.  I was closest.  I had two chances.  Another deck had one.  I had Arika as my predator, discarded a Dominate skill card with The Baron in play and Redirection in my hand because who needs to be able to bounce her sorry ass when you are just this elite?

How did this deck win?  I burned a War Ghoul with Compress in one round.  I played Ashes to Ashes.  I don’t mean I had it in the deck.  I mean I played it … in a game.  That’s how you win V:TES.


Mellow-Yellow Drama

How do you know this deck is strong like bull?  I had other decks with currently banned cards, two with Lilith’s Blessing.  This deck has two banned cards in it.

In one prelim, I changed seats three times.  From my votes.  In the other prelim, I changed seats.  In the finals?  Nope.

How did this deck win?  The rest of the table forced me to oust everyone.  Well, except in the endgame.  My predator was trying to combat me.  So, he had to die.  My next predator was combatty, so he had to die, but I had to kill my prey, so I killed them both.  Per a deal, my last opponent withdrew.  Yes, that makes zero sense.  Maybe being in second meant something back then.  Whoever I chose to be ousted got ousted – that’s how you play Daughters.


When in doubt … Win

Objectively, whatever objectively means with regards to deck strength, this deck is a joke.  So, how can I, in good faith, present this as better than the above decks?

I controlled my own fate.  I effortlessly got into the finals.  In the finals, I threatened my prey by saying “if you don’t go forward, I’m just going to oust you”.  He didn’t go forward enough.  So, I ousted him and took my chances in the endgame, where I didn’t have that much trouble finishing off Ira.

No, I don’t remember how this deck could be so dominating.  I do remember ousting one player with Victim of Habit naming Unwholesome Bond.  Irrefutable proof of perfection.

How did I win?  I bled some, blocked some, bounced some, … I have no frickin’ clue.


Living Lolita Loca

Locals weren’t prepared for this deck.  Actually, the community at large didn’t know this archetype at the time I played it, as people would make comments on the newsgroup about how it should have more intercept.

Evidence of the brokenness of The Embrace.  Yet, I gave this exact deck to someone in the last few years and he was top seed going into the finals with a really good path to victory.  Since the winning deck, which was quite cool, never got published, I would have preferred this deck won to prove how absurdly good winnie bleed is.

Some tech here because, as I keep saying, combat back in the day was all about Immortal Grapple.

So my type of deck.  Just so fun to swarm bleed at stealth.  Then, nowadays, it’s highly amusing for how janky it seems with the Saturday-Night Specials.

How did this win?  My prey in the finals played Game of Malkav.  I chose 5.  He was ousted.  I ripped through the rest of the table.

Deck Stats 2, The Stattier

May 21, 2016

Seven years ago, I scored for my tournament winning decks in the TWDA at the time.  I found it interesting.  At the time, I only had six decks in the TWDA.

I was thinking about how to write a post making use of my badminton play last Tuesday.  It’s not hard to rant and rave about what makes games fun is also what makes sports fun – close results.  Doesn’t matter how awful something is, score one more than the other guys makes it fan-tastic … relative to if it’s score far more than the other guys, though seeing Brazil get destroyed in World Cup play was a different type of entertainment – the surreal trainwreck.

Greatness is overrated.  Long live mediocrity backed up by “whew, you almost had it”.

Anyway, I got to thinking about whether I’ve ever had duplicate vampires in the crypts of my TWDs.  I couldn’t remember off the top of my head.  Since I had to do pivot table work to get my data together, I decided to update on the library side, as well.  And, I spent hours prepping for this blog post.  I hope you appreciate my slaving away, doing data manipulation in Excel like it’s any of the office jobs I’ve ever had.

Rather than lay down tableage, I think I’ll just ramble for a while on whatever I think of.

In 12 decks, I have used three different vampires four times, my zenith.  Guess?

No?  Because people don’t like guessing as much as I do?

Sure, Anarch Convert.  All in one deck, by the way.

Yeah, Tupdog.  You gnome it!  Two decks, two copies each.  Answered my question, already.

Go ahead, make my delirium.  What vampire out of thousands of vampires in the game would I have won tournaments with that showed up four times, only matched by the two best crypt options in the game?

I’ll give you a hint.  It’s a Gangrel antitribu, because of course it is.  No, it’s not Aksinya.  It’s obviously not Enkidu, as I never got around to playing Enkidu vote in a tournament.  Sebastian Goulet?  You know me so well.  Except, nope, not him.

Xendil Charmer.

And, this is why I bother going through stuff that sounds like occasional bragging.  Because I’m just that awesome.

Good ole Xendil, he makes two different decks.  He creates Creation Rites in Chapel Hard By and throws Mercury’s Arrows in Thunder Is Impressive.  Impressively hard he is.  Wait, that came out kind of salaciously.

Who is the final, the third, the supreme leader, vampire who shows up in more than one of my TWDs?  One copy in two different decks.  I have a TWD with Anson in it, but it’s not him.  Corine Marcon, like my favorite vampire?  Don’t be ridiculous, there’s nothing left to do with Tzimisce after you do winnie stealth bleed.

Yeah, this one isn’t that shocking, is only a 3-cap I have made an argument for as best vampire in the game back in the day.  Gideon Fontaine is no Anson, but he showed up slightly more often than Anson did, so he scores points on the “Wake with Evening’s Freshness” track.

There are three vampires I played three copies of in individual decks.  Two of them were in the same deck.  Since you can go to Secret Library and put in my name and have only my TWDs (plus a second copy of Chapel Hard By because coordination on using Secret Library for TWDs is kind of disjointed), you can totally look at stuff and wonder, though I have no idea how by the name of decks anyone would get a hint.

Hint, it’s not Augustus Giovanni and Lille Haake.  They were only two copies per in “that” deck.  That’s a terrible hint.  One of them is an 11-cap, the other in the same deck is an 8-cap.  The only other crypt card I’ve put as many as three copies of into 12 winning decks that isn’t Tupdog, Anarch Convert, Xendil Charmer(!!!), or the two fatties is, of course, a 4-cap.

You may not be having fun, but I am.

Total number of copies of Gabrin in all of my TWDs?  One.  One!?!  “That that” deck is just hilarious.  Probably get mentioned again.

I have three Baali in a TWD.  None of them are Cybele, Nergal, The unnamed, The Horde, or whatever.  Yes, one of them is High Priest Angra Mainyu.

I won with Lucubratio and Nickolai, The Survivor.  In the same deck, of course.  A vote deck.  Drops keyboard and realizes he’s already home.  Picks up keyboard.  A vote deck with Ghouled Street Thug in it.

The only Brujah I have in any of these decks are … 11-caps.

The only Caitiff besides Anarch Convert is one copy of Igo the Hungry.  In a bleed deck.  A bleed deck with more than 30 political actions in it.

I have one copy of a Gangrel.  Of course, it’s Stanislava.  In a deck that plays only one discipline – Presence.

Meanwhile, four different Gangrel antitribu, none of which are Sebastian Goulet but does include Spider.

Giovanni – Augustus x2.

Eze = win, according to SoCal.  Well, who am I to argue?  Only Guruhi I’ve ever won with.  Good thing he can play Walk of Flame …

Four different Kiasyd.  Okay, that doesn’t sound all that (unless you think it’s notable that three of them are group 6).  One copy of one Lasombra.  In a different deck.

Three different Malkavian antitribu.  Oh yeah!  One copy of one Malk.  Oh?  Yeah?  Let’s just say his capacity is above 10.  Let’s also say he isn’t Lutz.

Not shocking that I’m not a Nosferatu winner-with-er.  Harrod fills out my quota, nicely.

Getting back to Ravnos, more copies of Alexis Sorokin than Gabrin.  Equal number of copies of Tereza Rostas.

Eight different Ventrue!!  Arika, of course.  She fit in great with that deck that had Lambach in it.

Recapping the Cammies.  Ventrue – 8 different.  Toreador – 6.  Brujah, Caitiff, and Tremere – 2.  Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu – 1.

Sabbie?  Brujah anti – 2.  Gangrel anti – 4.  Lasombra – 1.  Malk anti – 3.  Nos anti – 2.  Pander – 6 (! … one is advanced!!).  Toreador anti – 2.  Tremere anti – 3.  Tzimisce – 6.

Huh?  What do you mean there are 10 original Sabbies.  One, two, … nine.  Oh, right.  Ventrue anti – 0.

If people keep wondering why they see me play Assamite decks, Followers of Set 3, Giovanni 1, Ravnos 13.  Ass – 0.

Bloodlines – no scarcies, no Harbingers, no Brothers, no Ahrimanes.

Zero Akunanse.  One Guruhi.  One Ishtarri.  Six Osebo.


Capacity    Total
1                  11
2                  8
3                  6
4                 19
5                  9
6                 16
7                 25
8                 24
9                 12
10                9
11                14

Who says 9-caps suck?  Clearly, this immense sample size displays clearly that 3-caps are the lamest, most pathetic, most weakessiest things in the game.  After all, Gideon Fontaine makes up a full third of all of the 3-cap crypt cards in my decks.  Others include the obvious:  Kervos, The Lieutenant; Tsigane; Muse; Celeste.

This distribution is so absurd.  Here I am, someone who built multiple decks around all 5-caps.  I didn’t realize I use the Inner Circle crutch so much.  Such a touch.


Enough about crypts.  We want answers!

What cards make a mockery of the TWDA?

Wake with Evening’s Freshness – 41 copies.  Reasonable start.

Blood Doll – 32 copies.  Borr-ring.  Of course, if you read the original post, you know what’s coming next.

Honor the Elders – 27 copies.

Telepathic Misdirection – 26.

Cloak the Gathering – 25

Majesty – 24.

Minion Tap – 20.

Obfuscate – 19.  Yes, the master card.

KRC and … Effective Management – 17.

Computer Hacking – 16.

On the Qui Vive – 15.  Had to be.

Blessing of the Name and Voter Captivation – 13.  I put those two cards on the same line.  Drops keyboard.

Villein and Changeling – 11.  Whew, back to normal.

Bewitching Oration, Creation Rites, Deflection, Forced Awakening, and Mercury’s Arrow – 10.  Borr-ring.

As I mentioned last time, number of copies is horribly misleading.  What interested me more seven years ago when I was scoring for was breadth of use.

# of Decks

WwEF – 9 different decks.  75% of everything I’ve ever won with in V:EKN sanctioned, constructed tournaments with 10 or more players.

Blood Doll – 7.

Dreams of the Sphinx and The Barrens – 6.  Almost poetically … wait … 50% of my decks either play only one or neither?!?

Majesty, Minion Tap, Storage Annex – 5.  No surprise here (assuming you bothered to read the original post).

… some boring stuff …

I have Auspex and Obfuscate skill cards in three different decks each.  Nineteen copies of Obfuscate.  Four copies of Auspex.

Speaking of three different decks, c’mon Ashur, Cardinal Benediction … and Fear of Mekhet.

I have more different decks with Peace Treaty than with Conservative Agitation.

Sure, I hate The Unmasking.  My TWDs with Rom Gypsy and Draeven Softfoot didn’t miss it.

I have as many decks with Fleecing the Gaje and Ashes to Ashes as I do decks with The Parthenon and Pentex Subversion.  Speaking of Pentex Subversion, I have as many copies of Pentex Loves You as Pentex Subversion in TWDs and six times as many Sensory … Overloads as Pentex Subversions.  Only two times as many Pseudo-Blindness, of course, of course.

Banned List

I can’t ban Pentex Subversion, it’s already in a deck.  I can and have banned these cards that have never been in any of my TWDs (as an example):

Conditioning, Govern the Unaligned, Scouting Mission, Threats, Bonding.

Aid from Bats, Carrion Crows.

Why ban Animalism cards when it’s obvious I don’t play Animalism in tournament decks … oh, right, there are two copies of Trainer in my … Kiasyd deck!!  (Admittedly, only Cat’s Guidance shows up in more than one deck.)

Card Type

Actions – 131 cards.

Action Modifiers – 141 cards.  You may think this is dull as obsidian.  But, trust me, this is fascinating.  I am an action hater, hater of actions.  Or, apparently, not.

Ally – 7.  The usual suspects.  Draeven, Rom, Underbridge, Carlton, and Ghouled Street Thug.

Combat – 166.  Wait, what?  Oh yeah, combat ends and dodge and maneuver to long and, uh, Zip Gun are all combat cards.

Combo – 57.  I’m amazed Swallowed by the Night didn’t show up in more decks.

Equipment – 27.  Ivory Bow shows up in four different decks (older ones, mostly).  On the other hand, Chalice of Kinship shows up in a deck.  No Heart of Nizchetus (finds its way to my banned list) or Bowl of Convergence (ditto).

Event – 1.  I am such a hypnoticrite.  That The Fourth Cycle just means I am truly revealed to be an event lover, passionate for all things eventism.

Master – 224.  Not all that interesting.  Low of 14 masters in one deck, high of 26.  Four times, I won with 16 masters.

Political Action – 88.  Six different decks have political actions, though only three of the decks are vote decks.  The deck with 38 political actions is clearly not a vote deck, trust me.

Reaction – 149.  This is fascinating.  I’m telling myself.  I play more combat cards than reaction cards.  Jabberwocky.

Retainer – 4.  Huh, four.  That’s rather modest.  One J.S., one Tasha, one Mr. Winthrop, and one Shaman.  Huh.

Lows and Highs

Action:  low of 3, high of 25.  Because, of course, the Baali deck (per The Lasombra but not per Brett) will have the most action cards.

Action Modifiers:  low of 4 twice … no … low of zero; high of 22.

Ally:  high of 3, in the Kiasyd deck because I needed two copies of Underbridge Stray.

Combat:  low of zero – that’s what I’m talking about; high of 41?!?

Combo:  three different decks have none; high of 9.  Some day, this will change, oh yes it will.

Equipment:  high of 8, in the Tzimisce deck, of course.

… skip unregardable stuff …

Reaction:  lows of zero, Silent Sympathy, and two, Chapel Hard By; high of 22, in a deck that has Auspex, you know, with that one copy of Faerie Wards, one copy of Folderol, and five copies of Aura Absorption.

So, what now, brown cow?

It’s all about remembering these things when tournaments come around.  For some reason, I can spend hours studying my personal win list and my personal ban list and my personal want-to-win list, but I forget all of that stuff when tournaments occur.

Plus, I guess I need a new keyboard.

Minus, if you hate this sort of self indulgent nonesmuch, just make sure I don’t win anymore.

Unusual Suspects

May 15, 2016

I will post about the routine.  V:TES playdays, Shadowfist nights, not as much RPG sessions as I’m not trying to elevate the visibility of RPGs the same way I have an interest in elevating the visibility of CCGs.

While recent gaming hasn’t necessarily been esoteric, obscure, or unprecedented, I feel like there’s some callout on the distinctiveness of certain things.

We didn’t play Shadowfist last Thursday, but we did the week before.  There was one thing I wanted to mention.  I played a Gibbering Horror.  “Yo, dude, so your metagame is, like, eventriffic, n’est-ce pas?”  Could be.  Red Bat is fairly common.

Gibbering Horror, rather than posting the whole text, has a Fighting equal to the number of events in the smoked pile of the player to your left.  I played one.  The player to my left had this many events in his smoked pile:  0.  I was the table threat that needed to be beaten down for much of the game.

I questioned what I was doing when I did it.  I eventually concluded it was the correct decision.  Spending three power for no characters in play – try not do or do not.  I’m sure any Shadowfist player will figure out why it was necessary – resources.  With a second Lotus resource, I could play characters that did something.

Okay, moving on.

Saturday, I played in a playtest of a friend’s Feng Shui game using the FATE system.  It went fine.  We pointed out a few things.  I was reminded of why I have such a hard time with systems that mechanize thematics.  You don’t need to mechanize thematics.  I find FATE so much more gamey than d20, for instance.  When everything relates to some sort of mechanic, you are actually, shockingly enough, more mechanical than a game where the GM just says “Okay, go ahead and roll Brains + K: Pudding.” and tells you what’s what.  Anyway, always nice to have food served for his events.

We played V:TES today.  Brandon built a cube.  In my mind, a cube draft is you choose any card from the cube and people keep doing that with all cards and picks known, but I guess I’m wrong as Wikipedia says you can make makeshift boosters out of your cube.

Six of us did that.  We made crypt boosters of nine cards, two “packs” per player, and booster drafted them.  We made library boosters of 10 cards and booster drafted them.  All of the crypt cards were group 1, no duplicates.  Library cards had some duplicates – the total contents of the cube weren’t known to the rest of us.

So, let’s say you know V:TES.  Which vampire did I draft first?  No, not Gideon Fontaine, I actually passed him when he came around.  I did not see Anson.  I did see Mariel, Lady Thunder but passed her.  I did draft Anneke … and didn’t play her, it was more of a hate draft in that I hate her ability.

Give a hint, Ventrue.

I drafted Nash but not first.  I drafted Bridges but not first.  I drafted Democritus as a second pick.

I had Jazz, Heather, Melissa (really tempted as I love the card even if I prefer other cards’ art).  Never saw Crowley.  I had Helena and Natasha since no one wanted her.  I played neither.

Yup, once you filter the list down, not a lot of other possibilities.  Oh, I also had Violette and Courtland and played neither.  Yup, I first picked a +1 Strengther.  Every time I see her, I think about how I’d like to play her.  Maybe, the art has something to do with it.  Maybe, I am nostalgic for the days when I played Dominate all of the time.

I second picked another 6-cap.  A Tremere.  I didn’t play Lydia.  See, it was fairly obvious that there was a fight for Dominate cards, and the Presence cards were often bleed cards.  So, I picked up a lot of Fortitude damage prevention relative to what I wanted to get.

I like that it was different.  But, what makes me more interested in limited play is seeing cards you don’t see in constructed.  I put a Meat Cleaver in my deck.  That’s cool.  What was not as cool was how many times I had to pass bleed cards because I had to get good stuff.

#1  Pool Gain

#2  Untaps

#3  Permahurt or permastealthbleed (permableed is good, permastealth is good, permastealthbleed is sick)

My first library pick was … Wake with Evening’s Freshness.  I had to pass good stuff to get Sudden Reversal (stopped Legendary Vampire on my predator’s Anson in the first game, stopped Frontal Assault by my predator in the second game), King’s Rising, a second King’s Rising.  Sure, I also ended up with one of the most powerful transient cards in limited play – Leverage.  And, a Bonding.  And, something like four Presence bleed actions.  I cut Restoration from my deck as I felt too action heavy.  I didn’t cut Mesmerize.

Ah, Mesmerize.  Shows how little I play with it (keep wanting to call it Memorize) that the first game I made three horrible mistakes on my prey’s first action.  I blocked The Crimson Sentinel with Nash and Second Tradition (only intercept card in the deck) … wait for it … with Memorize in my hand and the minion getting the card couldn’t generate intercept and my prey wasn’t going to bring out another minion that turn.  I had Minor Irritation in my hand and didn’t play it.  I used a disciplineless combat card to avoid being hand striked rather than take Anastasia’s hand strike when I had damage prevention in my hand and I had Delilah in play who couldn’t play any of my numerous damage prevention cards.

I swept that four player game.

I didn’t sweep the six player.  I ousted my prey just at time with a four bleed at two stealth because Leverage is broken.  Well, my prey didn’t have to bring out another minion late in the game.  I did have both King’s Risings in play.  I had Barrensed away one of them in the four player as I had too much pool to want to negate transfers.

It was not constructed play, but it was limited play with a lot of the common suspects.

Given how much players who aren’t good at draft complain about their decks, I can see this being more popular as a format as there’s much less fighting with one’s deck to do things.  I think it helps level the playing field.  I found that I had vastly superior decks to my opponents when I drafted challenging sets because I evaluated cards better and had a clearer vision of what sort of deck I was making.  I rarely had to pass cards of the power level that this draft had.  Anyone could get good cards, though here’s a tip – don’t pass King’s Rising, unless, of course, you have the choice of Failsafe or some similar pool gain bomb.

Anyway, we also did a constructed game, but that’s hardly unaccountable.

Oh, Gen Con events today.  Things seemed to have worked out for me and another, but I’m not sure if the third of our group that is going together got what he wanted.  As painful as hotel reg can be, event reg is light centuries ahead of what it used to be and actually rather efficient.  The wish list thing is magnifique.  I was done in the first 20 minutes of registration being open.

What did I go for?  A lot of supernatural stuff.  That’s really my thing.  Whether it’s mythological supernatural or modern supernatural or historical supernatural, it’s just my biggest draw.  No CCGs – Shadowfist is at the wrong time, which I mentioned last year; V:TES just isn’t fun enough during the con.  After the con, before the con, I’m happy to do whatever, maybe a pickup game late at night.  But, I have so very many things I want to do just in the RPG schedule.

And, that’s without any HoR.  What’s the point of my playing any Nightmare War at this stage?  I did look at some non-HoR L5R games, but there are just far too many things I want to try.

Hot Hawk

May 10, 2016

So, you want to play a fire shugenja?

Yup, even though I’m not doing anything with L5R, I’ve been thinking about possible constructive posts.

Of course, we aren’t going to go down the path of boring old Isawa.  There are other schools that flame on.  Let’s go with something amusing but, hopefully, illuminating.

So, you decided to play a school that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen used by a PC in 4e – Agasha Shugenja.  Let’s work on the first real choice.

Agasha/Agasha?  Asako/Agasha?  Isawa/Agasha?  Soshi/Agasha?

Let’s keep it in the Phoenix (for when this would be in the Phoenix).  Why does this choice matter?  Given enough XP, it’s not so important, but we are going to start in the land of pathetic loserville and go with 40xp builds.

At this point, this choice becomes rotund.  Agasha/Agasha is interesting but far too long term.  The whole point, well, a point, of choosing the Agasha school is to have a Water deficiency since that’s interesting and Isawa Shugenja isn’t.

So, why be saddled with +1 Perception?

Two reasons.  First, at SR-2, you take Path to Inner Peace and want a 4k3 roll rather than 3k2.  Second, Perception is really, really useful.

But, not only do you have a dearth of Water, you get one more than one Earth spell at SR-1.  Earth spellcasting is just so good.  Then, you do actually get a school technique, one that keys off of wasting Void Points on unimportant things.  Get to the school technique later, but, in theory, you may actually want to use your technique, so dumping on Void is hard, harder than it would be for other shugenja.

I should note that I’m not going for quixotic for the sake of quixotism.  This isn’t my character.  It’s a sample of how to take the worst kind of shugenja and still abuse the rules.

Asako was actually my first thought as Air is just so good, especially when just a pathetic loser, so you level off Fire and Air and look a lot like a Moshi Shugenja.  I even thought about how this could help someone build their Moshi Shugenja.

But, then, I thought about the humor value in being Isawa/Agasha.  After all, people play Isawa Shugenja for the power all of the time.  Who runs from that?  Who?  Right.

So, while I need to get to other stuff and won’t bother with the Kitsu/Agasha build or whatever, keep in mind that the family/school decision matters more out of the gate.  Plus, if you like messing with people, it’s such a good way to do it.

Okay, now, you are committed to a lava build.  See if I can remember the various builds:  mud, lava, dust, steam, mist, smoke.

Evening off Earth and Fire, you spent 24xp.  Now, my inclination is Void 3, but there’s a huge problem with that.  First, you need to memorize Fires of Purity and Jade Strike, so that’s 2xp, add in Sage for either 3xp or 2xp depending upon interpretation of wording on discounts.  Okay, not that big of a deal, 7 points of disads aren’t that hard.  But, you always Luck.


Sage (3), Luck (9)

No Ishiken-Do for the obvious reason that you wanted to play a fire shugenja, not a sleazemaster.  Elemental Blessing is just too expensive for the 40xp build, though it’s an interesting long play for a non-Isawa Agasha.


Stamina 3 (12), Agility 3 (12)

Twelve points sunk into advantages.  Brutal.  Spent 36xp and have really done nothing remotely interesting other than choose a weird school.


Fires of Purity (1), Jade Strike (1)

Don’t forget to memorize spells.  Who knows, you might have a GM that never takes your scrolls from you or doesn’t force you to burn actions switching spells.  Just suck it up and sink a few XP so that you never have to worry about it.  Note that you can’t memorize the required memorized spell – Path, but you will do that at SR-2.

Why Jade Strike?  Okay, in theory, you could play in a campaign where you can get by on burning things with red flames and not green.  But, an assumption I have to make is a typical campaign.


Interesting choices, even for your last school skill.  Kenjutsu is a perfectly legit choice, but so is Jiujutsu.  Divination, Medicine, Horsemanship are all possible.  Stealth is something you toss an XP at.  Need Investigation at some point.  Have 2+disads to work with, which is pretty sad, but, I’d be inclined to drop an XP on Language and shortchange my skills even more.  Could go Kenjutsu (or Jiujutsu) 3, though that’s playing for the short term.


Which brings up something that kind of is important.  What is your Agasha going to do in the party?  Could eventually be a healer.  With a lava build and no Path, really looking at Fires of Purity, feel the wakizashi and/or grapple burn.  Can always plan ahead.  What fiery future awaits?  Well, the really cool stuff is R-5, R-6.  Get the Book of Fire, to be sure to open up some more spells you might actually want to know.  I don’t see specializing as making a ton of sense, though we can finally get around to talking about the school technique.

Two lines of thought on the school technique.  “Why would I want to waste a VP to eat up a slot in my awesome ring?  I’m going to go balanced and use my lack of a dump ring to cast extra stuff where I have spells.”  Or.  “Hey, I have this awesome ring that I can totally VP over to cast ultraPath to uberheal.”

I’m somewhat inclined to the former because you desperately need to get your rings up to 3 and get to SR-2 and SR-3 to get the sweet Water spells.  I can see the light on why you would pick to go specialized since you chose this weird school in the first place and are of that bent.  I can also see that being potentially frustrating, whether for the rest of the party or for you kind of depends upon how many other shugenja the party has.  Let’s assume zero to one other.

So, you are one of one or one of two shugenja in the party.  You need to Jade Strike.  You need to heal once you can.  You need to murder the crap out of anything that looks threatening (this is why you chose Fire, after all), even if that murdering is all about “Yo, no-dachi boy, want +1k1 damage on that thing?” or whatever where your minions murder for you.

It would be funny to build a lava character and eschew combat, but, that’s just in my ankle of the woods.


Forty is just so absurd, as you see how quickly you have nothing left.  Oh, I didn’t say anything about disadvantages.  Well, can read my post on disads.

Sixty is the least number of points I’d start experienced L5R players out with.  My latest idea, I think, is to give 60, then have GM or collaborative increases to 80.  I’m not going to go through advancing from 40 to 60, even though that might be useful, just to save space.


3 (18)


Stamina 3 (12), Agility 3 (12)


Sage (3), Luck (9)


Fires of Purity (1), Jade Strike (1)

Pretty much nothing changes … except you are way better for having Void 3.  Now, I could see a complete rethinking of the initial build now that you have some extra points.  Might even consider a split ring build where you actually start with +1 Perception.


Getting real.  Can force IR-2 with either a fourth ring at 3 or buying a lot of skills that you will mostly suck at because Earth Ring does so little for making you good at things.

After spending 42xp on Void and traits, 12 more on advantages, 3xp on memorization, what does 23+xp get you?

Lots of options, which is one of the reasons I like L5R so much.  Can start work on a ring of 4.  Can look to go Kenjutsu 7.  Can be working on getting Reflexes up to 5.  Can go Defense 5, though that’s going to pay off far more if you are also working on Reflexes.  Can even consider Spellcasting 5, which brings me to something rather important.

Spell Selection

Let’s rewind a bit.  You are in pathetic loserville and haven’t done anything interesting, yet.  Maybe spells can make this character not so cookiecutter.


This shouldn’t be too hard.  If you do a lot of combat, Tempest of Air.  If you can importune a lot, Tempest of Air.  Otherwise, probably By the Light of the Moon.


Jade Strike.  One might be tempted to do Armor of Earth with the idea of wasting one round of combat adding Reduction 4 followed by another round of combat adding 2k2 damage to everything you do or have done to you that’s “personal” followed by hugging or wild wakizashi swings.  It just isn’t that strong, especially as you advance as it scales horribly.

Earth’s Stagnation is what I keep choosing for shugenja, but this may be a case of combat overkill with a fire shugenja.  There is such a thing as doing interesting things.  Of course, what you really want is the ability to choose R-2 Earth spells and choose … the awesome combat spells at E-2.

Other core book choices aren’t necessarily unusable.  Lot of people take Jurojin’s Balm for that one moment when it ever matters.  What gives me slight interest in spells I never see cast is the long durations for some of the E-1 spells.


Well, you chose the weakest element.  After Fires of Pure Cheese, which you have to take because you don’t want to let team samurai down, you actually have a variety of choices.  As much as I don’t find Fire spells to be all that great, I do see a lot of them cast.

Extinguish gets cast a fair amount because it’s an easy way to gain Honor, I mean, it’s a humble and kind thing to do.  Fury of Osano-Wo has range.  People talk about Katana of Fire a lot for reasons that escape me.  I already have a wak and far more important actions to take.  If people are constantly being disarmed, well, I didn’t memorize this so I won’t have my scroll, either, unless the GM is trying to make KoF more useful.  Actually, no, I did memorize this as the only reason it matters is when the GM is messing with your stuff.  So, now, I need to memorize a low yield spell on top of everything else?  I suppose you can have your buddy get through invulnerability by handing off your magic, but that’s kind of sad panda time for everyone – you have to waste a spell when you could have been Jade Striking, your buddy is worthless without your spell, what about your other buddies being worthless?

Biting Steel is kind of interesting for when you want a buddy to really murder stuff.  Kind of see it being more relevant at IR-3, when your murder buddy attacks twice, your enemies run around with 12 Reduction and/or Spirit, or whatever.  Arguably makes something magic to get through invulnerability.

You chose to burn things.  You get upgraded burn options at SR-1.  So many take The Fires From Within.  Sure, if you never fight Tainted stuff, it’s something else to do, also something else to burn Tainted things with when you run out of Earth slots (not that you ever want to do that).  Mental Quickness sees use, but you are a fiery lord of immolation; I guess the Agasha/Agasha investigator build who doesn’t immolate everything would take this early.

The numbers on Tail of the Fire Dragon are really interesting.  When I had a Fire-6 shugenja build, I did the basic math this spell requires, and I was frightened.  This spell just scales in ways that so many others don’t.  Why would you rather use this than TFFW?  Spell slots.  One slot on this to be doing like 8k4 attacks with 4k4 damage not too far into the future, still at range, compared to having to burn a slot every time you want to fireball something.  Now, TFFW does allow for multiple targets, which is massive.  It’s why Jade Strike just owns combat.  One action, double damage is a thing to consider.

So, you FoP yourself on round one to discourage aggro.  You can take a few hits but are way too easy to hit because you didn’t go smoke but went lava.  Round 2, Tail??  That means you don’t murder anything until round three and you don’t even get to tack FoP on to Tail.  Of course, you might have FoPed another PC or, even, a NPC.  Still, this is one area that shugenja suffer – can eat up a lot of actions buffing yourself to own combat.

As terrifying as Tail can be, I actually rarely see it get used much.  By the time you just annihilate things, the rest of the party probably doesn’t suck at combat, either.  The rest of the party far more needs to be FoPed or to be healed or to be Force of Willed or needs a three target Jade Strike.  Once you whip it, you whip it hard, but it’s just so long to get the whip phase going.

You hit SR-2, can now take R-3 Fire spells.  Do you?  There’s nothing essential to take.  Path and another Earth spell will eat up two of your three choices.  Hungry Blade is something I saw with the prior edition.  I just don’t know if it’s as crazy as it was when someone cast it on my war fan and everything died.  I can see Shining Light being incredibly annoying, but I also never recall it being cast.  The Fist of Osano-Wo is so much more fun when you drop like four of them at once because you can cast R-6 Fire spells – Book of Fire, my friends, Book of Fire.

At SR-3, Wall of Fire opens up, which is hot.

Back On Track

So, you have XP, you have some spells though less than you want, you might have started working on skills or a ring of 4/5.  You’ve murdered goblins, bandits, maho-tsukai, gaijin.  Why are you playing a Fire shugenja?  Was it just to cast Breath of Fire and start breath weaponing your enemies?  Was it to whip it?  Was it to summon a bunch of fire dragon heads and bombard every chaff foe in sight?  Yup, it was to do the last.

I see three philosophies with your Agasha.  You ramp up as much as possible and get into spells where you do 8k6(x10) damage to enemies.  Not that that is different from what Isawa Fire shugenja will do.  You focus on your Fire Ring and Stealth and Horsemanship and Commerce your way to coolness, which is something I would do with a different school.  You take some noncombat spells and every once in a while blow a VP on mixing stuff up.

Sure, there’s alchemy or multielement spellcasting or whatever unnecessary mechanics you can dig through in supplements.

Fire has some interesting spells.  It has some spectacular spells at high ranks or if you build up your ring enough and whip it.  It’s just a bit too prone on variations of doing damage or in giving buffs to attack rolls.

Possibly more so than the idea of burning things is how I wouldn’t be boring and take the Isawa school but be awesomely radical and take the Agasha school so that I have a Water deficiency and have to not just plan on taking the same old, same old awesome Water spells.  Sure, and I can “craft”.  Then, whenever I can find a way to do ring switching with my technique and actually leverage it, I do that (and watch the Isawa and Tamori snicker because my tech isn’t cheese).

The lava build is kind of dull.  It’s a 40xp plan.  If I can avoid starting off a zero, maybe I do embrace the investigator build and actually bother with skills (as long as I get to SR-2).  I might go Asako and build an Agasha duelist, but that’s me and not anyone else.

The point of this post wasn’t optimization.  It was to address effectiveness with an archetype on the one hand that is godlike but on the other is more demigodlike.  Why?  Because it draws together what I’ve said in other character building posts and the more I think about an Isawa in the Agasha school, the more I warm up to the idea.

Despised VTES Sets

May 8, 2016

If you read this blog for V:TES stuff, can read my prior post for my top 5.  Let’s go with the dark side, the shadow, the ill, the haflingification of the game.

Starting with the worst:

#1  Ebony Kingdom

Nights of Reckoning introduced the worst idea into the game, the most unfun decks, but it was trying to do something interesting.  This set didn’t.  This set is offensive.

It’s offensive in bringing in way too few vampires.  It’s offensive in trying to fix Aye/Orun without consideration of how to fix the crappiness of Laibon (which is fixed by printing a bunch with Dominate – hey, that’s how most other things got fixed).  It’s offensive in introducing two of the most moronic hosers I’ve seen.

It’s borderline offensive in not giving Abombwe far better cards.

Not every single card is bad.  It has that going for it.

Oh, and it’s offensive for not learning a most basic lesson – additional master phase action is broken.  We have known it was broken since whenever I looked around and thought about what was broken in Jyhad/V:TES.

#2  Nights of Reckoning

Some people don’t hate it.  Not sure why.  It’s not V:TES.  It did one good thing – it caused people to metagame against all that is vile.  Most V:TES sets don’t have that sort of shake up on the environment.  Now, I’m sure there’s bad shake up even from a set about vampires.

Gehenna was the previous “Do you want me to stop playing this game?”  NoR made Gehenna so much worse.

#3  Gehenna

There are interesting vampires in this set.  There are a bunch of cool cards in this set.  Using the discard phase to play cards seems kind of cool.

Burn Gehenna and NoR becomes far less obnoxious.

Lesson for designers everywhere – global effects sound good but aren’t.  Just say no to killing babies.  Just say no.

#4  Kindred Most Wanted

There are interesting vampires in this set.  There are some cool cards in this set.

I understand that it was trying to do something, something top down, something that made use of the IP, which is a major selling point for the game.

It made me enjoy the game less.

Drafting this set is dumb.

#5  Keepers of Tradition

This is why I’m infected with geniusness and so many others are healthier.  This set is full of cards I don’t think should have ever been printed.  That’s even more impressive when you consider how much of this set is reprints or innocuous crypt cards.

There are plenty of “bad” sets – Anarchs, Black Hand, Third Edition (for reasons that have less to do with the text on the cards), Sword of Caine, 10th Anniversary, Dark Sovereigns and Ancient Hearts (which I largely give a pass to for being when designers and players were much dumber about how the game worked).

KoT is a perfectly reasonable set full of bad cards.  Cards I want to see gone from the game include:  Villein, Ashur Tablets, Eyes of Argus, Deep Song, Dmitra, Lutz.  That’s off the top of my head.  I’m sure I could find some others.


What do these choices say about me?

Don’t execute on bad ideas.  Don’t introduce stuff that takes you away from the core of the game.  I know expansions need to expand.  I know every niche CCG goes through the process of getting further and further from what the game was originally about.  I know Gehenna was themed to tie into Time of Judgment.

Don’t invent.  Reinvent.  Take what the game is about and make it fresh.  Take the Camarilla sect and stop saying it doesn’t need help because P/J cards are overpowered and give it Cammie things to do.  Don’t just keep introducing mechanics that are insular, make crosspollination more common.  Why don’t we have Tzimisce/Lasombra decks?  Because they don’t share anything relevant.  Yeah, you could find more titled minions by joining them, but each of the clans can get by or can call upon more friendly partners.  Yet, there could be a “Leadership of the Sabbat” card that makes them playable together.

Babylon 5 could have played with existing or logical traits a lot, it didn’t.  Instead, Nightwatch, Drakh, ISA, Techno-mage.  Wheel of Time didn’t get much of a chance, but it could have focused more on Forsaken.  We got tons of Aiel.  I kind of get that, but Aiel versus Aiel just doesn’t feel global enough.  Sure, White Tower was going to be the next set, which reminds me that I need to post some playtest info at some point.

Another takeaway is that I don’t care for power.  Sure, I said in the last post that I’m not attracted to it.  But, I’m almost repulsed by it.  V:TES is a game of small effects when you compare against other CCGs.  Upping the power level largely just further coasterizes a bunch of cards and removes deck diversity.  There are so many masters in this game I find interesting yet hardly ever see because … it’s a phrase I invented … Good Cards Squeeze Out Bad.  Okay, in this case, it’s actually Better Cards Squeeze Out Worst, but that’s less memorable and draws less upon my economics background.