Weak 2 – Ghoul Retainer

March 10, 2012


One would think Card of the Weak posts would be easy.  Pick a card, talk about it.  After all, when I build decks, I frequently pick a card and then think about all of the different things I can do with the card.

In practice, I find choosing a good card to talk about challenging for several reasons.  Before listing them, what is the point of highlighting these cards?  The point is to examine uses for rarely seen cards.  That’s not the same as identifying underrated cards, which is what I’ve said at least once was kind of what I was going for.  I don’t consider Laecanus underrated, for instance.  He’s bad.  But …

  1. The card can’t be generally considered to be good.
  2. The card has to have interesting features.  Eyes of the Dead may be weak, and you might come up with some convoluted idea for why to put it in a deck, e.g. it stacks with The Deadliest Sin for your Faithful Servant deck or crosstable stop diablerie deck, but I want something I can drone on and on about.
  3. I have to be interested in droning on … em … talking about the card.

I justify #1 with Ghoul Retainer only having appeared in six tournament winning decks:  three Tariq decks; Tsunda No Secrets; weenie Auspex; Una.  As for #2 and #3, well, I did choose this for only the second entry in this “series”.

Here’s something I did with this card:

Deck Name:   Stuttering Bangs
Created By:  Samantha
Description: Burn opposing vampires with environmental Bombs and aggpoke.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 21, Max: 34, Avg: 7.08)
1  Steve Booth             CEL pot pre pro      5,  Brujah:3
2  Darrel Boyce            CEL OBF PRO          6,  Gangrel antitribu:2
2  Ellen Fence             aus CEL OBF PRO      8,  Gangrel antitribu:2, Bishop
1  Samantha                ani CEL OBF PRO tha  10, Gangrel antitribu:2, Bishop
1  Scarlet Carson O’Toole  pro CEL              4,  Gangrel antitribu:3
2  Zachary                 CEL for OBF PRO pre  7,  Gangrel antitribu:2
2  Miller Delmardigan      aus CEL PRE pro      8,  Toreador antitribu:2, Bishop
1  Marcellus               AUS CEL pro          8,  Toreador:2, Prince

Library: (90 cards)
Master (13 cards)
2  Blood Doll
1  Campground Hunting Ground
2  Fame
2  Gangrel Conspiracy
1  Hungry Coyote, The
5  Minion Tap

Action (9 cards)
7  Bum’s Rush
2  Sacrificial Lamb

Action Modifier (4 cards)
4  Cloak the Gathering

Combat (48 cards)
2  Amaranth
3  Bone Spur
3  Claws of the Dead
6  Disguised Weapon
6  Flash
9  Flesh of Marble
6  Pursuit
10 Stutter-Step
3  Wolf Claws

Retainer (4 cards)
4  Ghoul Retainer

Equipment (12 cards)
10 Bomb
2  Improvised Flamethrower

This deck is so old I had to find it in ELDB 3.1.  This deck is so old it doesn’t use my naming convention of beginning with the date …

This deck is so awful it’s, well, awful.  Not as awful as other decks.  More awful than many.  As an example, it’s kind of interesting in that it wasn’t Ghoul Retainer that was the reason for the deck.  The impetus for building the deck was trying to find a reason to play with Stutter-Step.  May wonder why that’s so hard.  Another possible Card of the Weak entry.  Way back in the long, long ago, before Bats and Crows came to rule the magic land of The Kingdom of Kombat, there were decks that played a card known as Immortal Grapple.  Immortal Grapple, by unnecessary rule, stopped Stutter-Step.

But, but.  Stutter-Step is so aggpokey or Torn Signposty and acts as defense when IG isn’t played.  Well, yes, it is just that amazing, amazing enough to show up in eight decks in the TWDA.  The greater issue is how many close substitutes we get, nevermind that the Torn Signposty deck may like playing IG itself.  Sideslip for defense against pokeyness.  Additional strikes that came with maneuver, press, dodge, another additional strike.

I seem to have gotten completely off track in talking about Ghoul Retainer.  So, there I was, less than an hour ago or so, looking at retainers.  I started looking at vampires with retainer cost reduction.  I did a search for Jibade decks.  I found one.  And, it was a Ghoul Retainer deck.

There are many, many cards in CCGs that are “only good in play” cards.  What does that mean?  It means that the card seems perfectly respectable, perhaps even strong, when someone has gotten it into play, but the card is actually quite bad because the likelihood of seeing it in play (or seeing it in play without the player getting ousted because of it) is so low.  Cards in this camp tend to be ones with high costs.  If the high cost doesn’t cripple you or the game goes long past the point you played the card or whatever, you’re gold.

Ghoul Retainer has a high cost, a very high cost.  Would the card be too good at 1 pool?  Can’t see how.  Why the card even costs pool is less than clear.  At 2 blood, would it be costed better?  Probably.  It is interesting that a pool cost on a retainer means that an ally can employ it.

Then, there are the other costs.  The action to get a retainer may not be all that great a cost, otherwise people would never bother with retainers at all outside of plays like Pack Alpha.  Still, 2 pool and an action.  Then, what does the card really do for you?  Somewhat better in combat by itself, only shining when you have weapons to hand off to it.  Weapons tend to cost more pool, making the combo quite expensive, though each of the cards, at least, is probably playable on its own, so it isn’t combo-dependent.  However, we are still talking about a combat support play.  There’s a reason I play J.S. and Tasha a lot and combat support plays not so much.

Yet, the point is to find uses.  I see a decent amount of deck design space with Ghoul Retainer in mind.  While I have little interest in Tariq decks or Una decks, we can see a couple of other uses that people have gone with.  In some cases, I see Ghoul Retainer being tech.  Environmental damage, especially environmental aggro, may be very hard to deal with, though given the prevalence of Carrion Crows these days, one assumes a certain level of metagaming against environmental damage.  Outside the Hourglass annoyance would be another reason.

Note that Ghoul Retainers can be smited.  In fact, Aid from Bats, Aid from Bats is a real threat for removing the overcosted retainer.  This is why we meta against Animalism or wish we could meta against Animalism with DIs and Botched Moves and not having room for such.

Take this deck:

Deck Name:   120310  Jibade Retainer
Created By:  Jibade

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 29, Max: 36, Avg: 8.08)
2  Eugene                             AUS CEL FOR PRE8  Toreador
4  Jibade el-Bahrawi                  aus PRE FOR DEM CEL9  Ishtarri
2  Joshua Tarnopolski                 CEL obf pot PRE7  Brujah
1  Kateline Nadasdy                   AUS CEL PRE    7  Toreador
2  Klaus Konrecht                     for pot AUS CEL PRE8  Toreador Antitribu
1  Muhandis                           for qui AUS CEL PRE8  Toreador

Library: (80 cards)
Master (15 cards)
2  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Giant`s Blood
1  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
2  Life in the City
1  Lilith`s Blessing
1  Rack, The
7  Villein

Action (6 cards)
5  Enchant Kindred
1  Entrancement

Action Modifier (10 cards)
3  Aire of Elation
3  Forced March
3  Freak Drive
1  Perfect Paragon

Reaction (16 cards)
4  Eyes of Argus
6  On the Qui Vive
6  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (13 cards)
3  Concealed Weapon
8  Sideslip
2  Taste of Vitae

Ally (2 cards)
1  Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
1  Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Retainer (7 cards)
4  Ghoul Retainer
1  Malajit Chandramouli
1  Mr. Winthrop
1  Robert Carter

Equipment (7 cards)
1  Bowl of Convergence
4  Desert Eagle
1  Ivory Bow
1  Spike-Thrower

Combo (4 cards)
4  Resist Earth`s Grasp

I put this together while writing this post.  It was not fun to cut it down to 80 cards.  What I like a lot about this deck is that there are plenty of card choice changes I could make, even changing the basic nature of the deck by, say, ripping out Auspex.  (Auspex was not an original plan for a Jibade and Joshua retainer deck.)

Is anything about this deck reliable?  Not so much.  I chose not to be a slave to my theme by ensuring the Ghoul Retainer beatdown.  Nor did I run a bunch of other random retainers or, since they both discount on allies as well, a bunch of random allies for support as the deck would get too far afield from its plan.  I could cut good stuff to make room for theme, but there is always the idea of trying to build a serious deck, if not a powerful one.  Direct Intervention to mess with Carrion Crows … the idea that the game has gone to the point where this would be the primary reason to run DI is amusing I suppose … and other plays would require some annoying cut.  I’d rather the deck were 75 cards, but then, I might be getting too focused.  Though, switching fatties with disciplines for smaller minions could see freeing up slots used on discipline-requiring cards, while also likely killing my defensive abilities.

This is derivative of the deck I found while searching for Jibade decks.  Certainly, there are plenty of other possibilities with Ghoul Retainers, if not trying to recreate Stuttering Bangs.  A range control deck could easily see Gas-Powered Chainsaw for close range beatings without a big cost.  Improvised Flamethrower is a favorite as environmental agg is kind of a pain to deal with and burning vampires becomes so much easier.  Ivory Bow, by itself, becomes much more of a threat with Ghoul Retainer.  Decks with substantial pool gain or defenses can ignore trying to use cost reducing plays like the vampires I went with.

I went with my vampires dodging, but a perfectly reasonable way to go is with agghandsors with the Ghoul Retainer acting much like Carrion Crows.  Now, Carrion Crows is so much better, but Ghoul Retainer can be a smaller card slot investment and can support all of those useless vampires that lack ANI.


Weak 1 – Laecanus

October 9, 2010

Those who read this blog may have seen my comment about doing Card of the Weak exercises as an inspiration for deck ideas.

From http://www.vtes.net:

Should every card have at least one purpose? Sure. At least two? At least three? Most cards in CCGs are coasters when it comes to constructed play. Not that that’s a good thing, but it does put into context the idea of how worthwhile any individual card should be. When it comes to vampires in V:TES, I tend to believe that they should have multiple uses, but to be fair, a lot aren’t terribly flexible.

Just as an example, in and of herself, Victoria Ash is a quality cupcake. Yet, she’s played way, way less than one would expect, checking her out, out of the context of what sort of Toreador decks are typically played group 1/2 or 2/3. She even has frickin’ Dominate to fit in with the Ansons, Annekes, and Alexandras of the world … and misses the AAA cut … often.

But, getting back to Laecanus, he has an obvious use. He came out of the same set as Hell-for-Leather just to make sure that nobody missed the synergy. Like:

Deck Name: 080605 For Hell
Created By: Laecanus

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 4, Max: 21, Avg: 3.58)
4 Anarch Convert none 1 Caitiff
1 Idrissa aus CEL 4 Osebo
1 Jeremiah Noble obt pre CEL POT6 Brujah Antitribu
2 Laecanus obt pre CEL 5 Toreador
1 Rodrigo pot pre qui CEL5 Brujah Antitribu
1 Scarlet Carson O`Toole pro CEL 4 Gangrel Antitribu
1 Skryta Zyleta obf pot pro CEL5 Gangrel Antitribu
1 Steve Booth CEL pot pre pro5 Brujah

Library: (80 cards)
Master (18 cards)
6 Blood Doll
2 Fame
2 Haven Uncovered
1 Heidelberg Castle, Germany
5 Obtenebration
2 Tension in the Ranks

Action (9 cards)
2 Big Game
7 Bum`s Rush

Action Modifier (1 cards)
1 Monkey Wrench

Combat (39 cards)
2 Acrobatics
5 Concealed Weapon
2 Dragon`s Breath Rounds
2 Flash
2 Groundfighting
7 Hell-for-Leather
8 Psyche!
2 Pursuit
2 Side Strike
2 Sideslip
5 Taste of Vitae

Equipment (7 cards)
7 .44 Magnum

Event (3 cards)
1 Break the Code
1 Dragonbound
1 Uncoiling, The

Combo (3 cards)
3 Resist Earth`s Grasp

Then, when more Toreador with Obtenebration came out, we got possibilities like:

Deck Name: 090313 Laecanus Storyline
Created By: Laecanus

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 24, Max: 40, Avg: 8.41)
3 Allanyan Serata ani AUS CEL OBT PRE9 Toreador
3 Laecanus obt pre CEL 5 Toreador
1 Melinda Galbraith obt AUS CEL DOM POT PRE10 Lasombra
1 Melinda Galbraith (ADV) obt AUS CEL DOM POT PRE10 Toreador Antitribu
3 Montecalme obt AUS CEL DOM PRE10 Toreador
1 Ondine ‘Boudicca’ Sinclair obt AUS CEL PRE PRO9 Toreador Antitribu

Library: (75 cards)
Master (17 cards)
1 Aching Beauty
1 Art Museum
1 Barrens, The
4 Blood Doll
3 Dreams of the Sphinx
2 Information Highway
1 Pentex Subversion
4 Villein

Action (6 cards)
4 Descent into Darkness
1 Entrancement
1 Portrait, The

Action Modifier (16 cards)
3 Aire of Elation
1 Blanket of Night
4 Perfect Paragon
1 Shadow Play
1 Shroud of Night
1 Stone Travel
1 Tenebrous Form
4 Voter Captivation

Political Action (8 cards)
2 Consanguineous Boon
2 Kine Resources Contested
2 Neonate Breach
1 Political Stranglehold
1 Reins of Power

Reaction (13 cards)
4 Eyes of Argus
1 My Enemy`s Enemy
4 On the Qui Vive
4 Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (8 cards)
2 Dodge
1 Flash
4 Majesty
1 Unholy Penance

Ally (1 cards)
1 Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)

Equipment (2 cards)
1 .44 Magnum
1 Bowl of Convergence

Combo (4 cards)
4 Resist Earth`s Grasp

I have a hard time believing the Descents into Darkness are real, I’m thinking they are probably proxies. Maybe I’m missing something from what the storyline rules were or maybe I was into some seriously weird tech at the time, but I think assuming that those are supposed to be good cards may be the way to go.

But, the problem with Laecanus in the second deck is that you pretty much never want him instead of another vampire. Why? Because Auspex is kind of useful, especially the older you get. The omission isn’t all that noticeable with some sort of CEL gun deck, but it’s painful when mixing with clanmates. Does that matter?

Goes back to how many uses a card should have. I can probably find another half a use for him, but if he had inferior Auspex, he’d still be weak for decks where Auspex is important, yet not be a cripple. Oh, but someone who doesn’t understand balance will claim that it would make him too powerful – too many points or some nonsense. By any reasonable way of measuring vampire value, he’s underpowered and having aus would only make him okayish (graduating to being a real midcap Toreador, now, if only they found better looking models for some of these Toreador …). He still ends up being filler in Toreador decks and gains insignificantly for Hell-for-Leather decks – with Auspex added, joining a 6 cap and a 9 cap as untitled vampires in his groups with Aus/Cel/Obt.

Can’t even fit into Shadowed Eyes decks – Mon Dieu!

However, given all of this, I feel compelled to try to come up with decks where he adds value. Not horrendously costed for someone with CEL, so there’s always throwing him into mono-Celerity stealth bleed, though how he differs from others in the crypt is questionable. Cel/Pre at a reasonable cost, though it’s not like that discipline combo is anything other than ubiquitous. Obt/Pre goes back to voting, where he pretty much sucks since he has no title, both disciplines at inferior, and weird combat-related specials; on the other hand, if you really, really had to make an Obt/Pre baron deck, he has friends.

Speaking of his combat specials, again with the gun theory. No frenzy means fewer equipment hoser effects, press to end is trivial to a combat deck but, in theory, means pressing out of combat when your gun maneuver is spent or the other deck is a second round combat deck (these don’t really exist, anymore, do they? well, okay, there’s ally combat decks) and saving your Psyche! to get your gun maneuver back. Of course, being immune to ‘schreck may be techy. But, by far the most important reason why no frenzy is the shiznit is that he can’t play Scourge of Alecto, therefore, any deck with Laecanus is that much less likely to have Scourge of Alecto in it, therefore you just win, baby.

Being Toreador is usually pretty sweet. You get to go to Balls where you get “tapped” while the bigshots go do the actual work. You get invited to Art Museums, which I’m sure is full of easy mortals. And, best of all, you get to do people’s Portraits, which, as long as you avoid the sewers (or bad luck or people with way too much reactions in their hands), typically ends up in a marginal profit … and awesome stories for when you are mingling in Society …

… Thing with Laecanus, though, is really, from a game play standpoint of taking advantage of clan cards, the use you usually want is him being the target for Art Museum – again and again and again – up until the point where you have conquered your fellow Methuselahs without ever having to put the supposed scholar* to work.

* A backstory scholar with no Auspex. Right. At least he can find his books fast.

Of course, I already talked about most of these things in one of my Aquarius posts. Has anything changed? Well, few more CEL/Pre options after Twilight Rebellion. Why go with a card I’ve already talked about for my first in this earth-shattering, rainbow-inducing series? Well, as much as I like Portrait better …