The Best of … 2013

December 31, 2016

I almost forgot about the need to post my annual look back three years.

Sadly, with my poor timing, I’ll have two posts on the same day, which I feel like doesn’t give the other post enough visibility.

Here we go, the callouts I want to make from 3 years ago.


Deck Choice

This post is relevant to me now, as I expect to have far fewer tournaments unless V:TES goes back in print, even maybe if it does, as the local, local group has fallen apart, failing to replenish the people who have basically stopped playing.

Chunin Exams

Wow, I was so much more fire style back three years ago.  Maybe I’ll get back some of that gaming passion.  True Dungeon, for the wind style?

Anyway, advancement is … hmmmmm … relevant again.  What I like about this post was I used examples.  Examples are meatriffic.

Review – Book of Earth

Relevant not in that this book was ever relevant to my play but relevant in that most of the 4e books aren’t relevant to my play.  I was mentioning how for our upcoming mod playing trip, I don’t see why I need anything besides the core book and largely don’t even need that, anymore, because I know enough about the game.


Roll With It

If January had lots of “hey, this is still important to me” posts, the beginning of 2013 was very heavy on my challenges being better at GMing.  I tend to not be mechanically inclined as a GM and, in my feeble efforts to promote campaign play, started learning some nonobvious things about how to provide for players.

Kata Analysis

Just because tons of people view my L5R crunch posts doesn’t mean that I should skip over calling some of them out.  Do I, as of today, know everything about 4e kata?  Oh, yeah, totally, I’m the kata king, the master of the maneuvernot, the lord of lechery … wait, ignore that.

I crunched numbers.  When someone crunches RPG numbers, pat them on the head and tell them they are pretty and will make a good homespouse.  After all, how many people even bother?

Of course, it’s still largely opinion.  Not like I crunched numbers on how much +3 ATN will reduce damage in 1000 fights or whatever.

Book of Fire for more exciting kata, Book of Fire.



This sounds like a pretty terrible post … up until the point where I use numbers.  Numbers, the only true way to play RPGs.  There are so many ways to quantify RPG play that I just don’t see done, though maybe I’m just overlooking other people’s contributions to mathing your way to storytelling.

RPG death seems to be a topic I talk a lot about given how infrequently it happens in my games besides the Friday group’s slaughterfest.  Studying death so that it can be managed in a reasonable way, therefore, became an interesting topic to me.


Challenge 4 – Zayyat

I had to pick one of the Challenge posts.  Why?  Because I don’t interact much with my audience and this series actually saw some interaction.  While I may not have come up with brilliant decks, especially given that my inclinations tend towards things other people find difficult to play (e.g. hardly any ousting power), perhaps the series allowed me to share a bit about how I range through different possibilities, mostly coming up with junk, occasionally winning too many tournaments.

This post saw comments, which felt like I was doing a bit more service than sermonizing.



And, so it begins …  Shadowfist, Kickstarter, wait, I was part of five gaming groups back then?  Oh how I need to get out and socialize through the playing of … anything.  I’m part of like one gaming group at the moment, with maybe some potential for a HoR group coalescing.


The Elemental Party

Besides being brilliant comedy and a pure example of all that is right with the world, this post has colored my thinking on characters ever since.  I’m all about exploring the extreme in Ring/Trait.  I’ve done Air 5/Water4/Earth 3/Fire 2/Void 2.  At some point, I’ve got to stop dumping on Water and do a Water 5/whatever build.


Deconstruction 01

Fascinating?  Not likely.  But, I think there’s things I could say that aren’t boring, repetitive, or repetitively boring about deckbuilding, and this was some of them.  Strategic commitment, comrades, strategic commitment.


My Samuraimichi

Play with your magic tsurugi.  Okay, maybe there is more to L5R than this.

Set-tling Matters

I think this is still an interesting subject, the idea that sets can be good when full of bad cards and sets can be bad when full of good cards.

I suppose I could have included my Book of Fire review.  It was very long, thus it must have been awesome.  But, it was Book of Earth where I think began the rantfest on the series being pretty weak.

While my 2016 wasn’t as bad as many other people’s, saw a friend I hadn’t seen in 8 years and close family got married and, oddly, pretty much every major US sports championship was won by the team I wanted to win, I can understand the hope that 2017 is better.  Happy New Year!  Already there on the East Coast and much of the world.


Challenge 4 – Zayyat

May 31, 2013


I have always wanted to make at least semi-workable deck around Zayyat, the Sandstorm, but i always failed.
Any ideas?


This is both a good challenge and a bad one.  The good is that I think it’s a more challenging, open-ended challenge that can lead down some interesting roads.  For instance, the Saulot/Uriel deck only had so many ways to go and still be doing the Vitae Block/Blissful Agony thing.  The problem is that a lot of options of similar worthiness means not knowing which one to go with.

Back when !Salubri had nothing going on, I built !Salubri Vote.  People would say, “You can make a better deck with vampires with presence.”  But, that misses the point.  When you have no good options, it doesn’t matter what option you go with.  They couldn’t do anything well, so might as well do vote, leveraging their Sabbatness.  I got tired of !Salubri vote, which, by the way, Josh Duffin came in second in a tournament with and which I played on day two of the North American Championships when they were in Los Angeles.  I became more interested in !Salubri stealth bleed, though, by this point, LoB had been published.

Anyway, the challenge I face with Zayyat is that things you could do make just as much or more sense without Zayyat or with him as filler.  You could purely superstar him, but I think you end up with some pretty janky efforts trying to do too much with him.  For some of my ideas, can read the May 10 post that started this series.

Here is what I came up with as one possibility for trying to leverage as much of what he has going on as possible while still being functional:

Deck Name:   Challenge 4 – Zayyat

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 31, Max: 40, Avg: 8.83)
3  Aksinya Daclau                     cel tha ANI FOR PRE PRO9  Gangrel Antitribu
1  Danielle Diron                     chi for ANI PRO7  Gangrel
3  Nadima                             ani aus FOR PRO SER8  Gangrel
1  Randall                            ANI AUS FOR PRO8  Gangrel
1  Xaviar                             ANI aus cel FOR pot PRO10 Gangrel
3  Zayyat                             aus qui tha ANI FOR PRO10 Gangrel

Library: (80 cards)
Master (24 cards)
1  Barrens, The
5  Blood Doll
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Effective Management
1  Fortschritt Library
1  Giant`s Blood
2  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
2  Information Highway
2  Parthenon, The
2  Powerbase: Rome
1  Rack, The
2  Vessel
3  Zillah`s Valley

Action (8 cards)
8  Loki`s Gift

Action Modifier (14 cards)
4  Bribes
10 Freak Drive

Political Action (12 cards)
2  Banishment
2  Kine Resources Contested
1  Neonate Breach
5  Reckless Agitation
2  Rumors of Gehenna

Reaction (9 cards)
3  Cats` Guidance
1  Eluding the Arms of Morpheus
4  On the Qui Vive
1  Rat`s Warning

Combat (9 cards)
4  Earth Meld
5  Form of Mist

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Aaron`s Feeding Razor

Event (3 cards)
1  Break the Code
1  Nightmares upon Nightmares
1  Rise of the Nephtali

So, a much stronger hunt angle could be done with either Sabbatness (The Hungry Coyote, Harvest Rites) or anarchdom (The Anarch Free Press, Hospital Food), but it’s jumping through a bunch of hoops, actually less so to go Sabbat (Into the Fire is something I’ve done before to open up Sabbat voting resources).  If Zayyat and Ariadne could be played together, would try that.

The event angle is prayerish, but it makes the deck more interesting.  The key to this deck, not having played it, seems to be to survive with Aksinya and Nadima (the latter not being as reliable) while trying to give a bunch of blood to Zayyat or whoever is Recklessly Agitating.  It’s in my style (paltry offense), which may not appeal to others, but that can be fixed with more vote or maybe some bleed to mix things up.  Legendary Vampire is another way to up offense, but I’ve never had good feelings with LV.

The thing is, someone could do all sorts of other modules to gain blood, like Renewed Vigor or Fifth Tradition.  The last almost sounds good, until you start questioning why Zayyat is in your P/J deck.  This is just something I’d like to try; I’m sure it needs at least some tweaking, probably to make hunting pay off more.  It does use the Powerbase: Rome vote lock module that has been historically way underplayed (key element in !Salubri Vote, of course).  It does use Aksinya, who seems to get underplayed in non-Girly decks.  It is interesting what sort of titled Gangrel do exist in this grouping.

There are two TWDs according to Secret Library with Zayyat, but one is really an Omaya deck and the other is a Dominate deck, so I don’t see him being necessary to either.

Challenge 3 – Brujah Group 1/2

May 20, 2013

Brandon’s request:

Can you make an interesting, tournament quality group 1-2 brujah-ish deck? I see a lot of titled vampires, good for No Carthage. There are also some Brujah with fortitude. Just a thought


I actually had just built a group 1/2, Brujah w/ Fortitude deck.  Sidetrack time …

We played some casuals yesterday, mostly three-players so they weren’t all that normal.  For one of them, Brandon borrowed the deck I had built.  It was not all that serious, kind of bloated, and didn’t have enough votes.

But, what was interesting was that it accidentally was more of a bleed deck than vote deck.

… So, in this iteration, I embraced that path a touch more.

Deck Name:   Challenge – Brujah Un-Deux

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 22, Max: 43, Avg: 8.58)
3  Appolonius                         CEL for pot PRE10 Brujah
2  Brachah                            for CEL PRE    5  Brujah
2  Crusher                            CEL for PRE POT9  Brujah
3  Gwendolyn                          aus CEL FOR POT PRE tha11 Brujah
2  Rake                               aus cel pot PRE6  Brujah

Library: (80 cards)
Master (19 cards)
1  Barrens, The
1  Carthage Remembered
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
2  Fortitude
1  Giant`s Blood
1  Information Highway
1  Monastery of Shadows
2  New Carthage
2  Sudden Reversal
5  Villein
2  Wider View

Action (5 cards)
1  Blood Hunt
2  Enchant Kindred
1  Entrancement
1  Judgment: Camarilla Segregation

Action Modifier (17 cards)
1  Approximation of Loyalty
6  Forced March
2  Iron Glare
3  Perfect Paragon
5  Voter Captivation

Political Action (12 cards)
1  Ancient Influence
1  Banishment
1  Brujah Justicar
1  Consanguineous Boon
1  Imperator
1  Kine Resources Contested
1  Neonate Breach
1  Praxis Seizure: Rome
2  Reinforcements
1  Reins of Power
1  Rumors of Gehenna

Reaction (5 cards)
3  On the Qui Vive
2  Wake with Evening`s Freshness

Combat (7 cards)
7  Majesty

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Seal of Veddartha

Combo (14 cards)
2  Force of Personality
6  Resist Earth`s Grasp
6  Scalpel Tongue

This is not a fun deck to play behind a deck with a bunch of bounce, as you really don’t have a lot of good stuff to do, so you kind of just want to bleed some to be a predator.  On the other hand, it’s actually a bit too focused for my tastes, though it would likely seem unfocused for many others.  Brandon hated my Alastoring out equipment in the earlier deck, which was fairly reasonable.  Could easily do more with votes, probably cut the Enchant Kindreds at that point, the Bloodhunt, the Seal, and maybe the second New Carthage.

Very much not a deck where you want to have a bleed deck behind you.  Could run Archon Investigation, which I seem to be playing so often these days in tournaments that it would be tricksome if I didn’t run it, but not so much Protected Resources, as the deck kind of needs to *sneak* some bleeds in, which it should be able to do against not terribly defensive decks.  The other thing it should do is discard Scalpel Tongues as fast as possible if they don’t look like they will matter, I often choke on them, though the intent is to help with a tap bleed strategy.

Carthage Remembered is a pretty easy cut, being kind of prayerish.  Bloodhunt is similarly prayerish and not terribly needed in a deck that can already do stuff crosstable.  More acceleration would be good.  I don’t have the other deck in front of me at the moment, so I can’t say what I cut from that I might put back.  Could you do this better with 4/5?  Sure, whatever.

Legendary Vampire belongs more in a Legendary Apple knows the Heart of the City deck … for all of the grief he gets, Apple is actually quite scary offensively.

Lost in Translation can be added, if it’s expected to work.  I have my doubts, one, and, two, blood is actually rather precious in this deck.

What is clearly missing, now that I remember forgetting to put them in, is Tangle of Atropos’ Hand.  Lots of them.  Guess a Scalpel, Majesty, and wake would go to make some room.  This is, after all, a stealth bleed deck with plus bleed vampires, with a side of vote bloat.

Challenge 2 – Dabbler

May 16, 2013

Matt Green’s comments:

How would you use Dabbler to win a tournament? Trifle, untap effect, should be useful for big caps…it should be non-terrible, but doesn’t seem to have found its tournament stride. I’d be interested to see if our ideas come close.

There is a tournament winning deck with Dabbler in it:  Lucian the Lecturer.

While a way cooler deck than where I’d start, it does share cards with where I’d start.  Mind of the Wilds and Read the Winds are easy plays for getting mileage on as many turns as possible.

The basic deck, then, is Tzimisce playing all three of their disciplines.

Deck Name:   Challenge 2 – Dabbler

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 25, Max: 38, Avg: 7.91)
1  Anton                              ANI AUS cel obf vic8  Tzimisce
1  Caliban                            ANI AUS VIC    6  Tzimisce
1  Corine Marcon                      ani AUS VIC    6  Tzimisce
1  Devin Bisley                       ANI AUS vic    5  Tzimisce
2  Lambach                            ANI AUS DOM pre VIC10 Tzimisce
1  Little Tailor of Prague            ANI AUS dem VIC8  Tzimisce
2  Meshenka                           ANI AUS VIC    8  Tzimisce
1  Sascha Vykos                       ani dom AUS THA VIC8  Tzimisce
2  Velya                              for ANI AUS PRE VIC9  Tzimisce

Library: (90 cards)
Master (19 cards)
1  Archon Investigation
1  Barrens, The
3  Dabbler
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Fame
1  Guide and Mentor
1  Information Highway
1  Pentex Subversion
1  Rack, The
1  Sudden Reversal
1  Vicissitude
5  Villein
1  Wider View

Action (7 cards)
1  Army of Rats
6  Deep Song

Action Modifier (12 cards)
6  Changeling
6  Mind of the Wilds

Reaction (24 cards)
2  Cats` Guidance
2  Eagle`s Sight
1  Enhanced Senses
6  Eyes of Argus
1  My Enemy`s Enemy
1  Precognition
6  Read the Winds
5  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (24 cards)
1  Aura Reading
1  Canine Horde
6  Carrion Crows
3  Chiropteran Marauder
8  Horrid Form
1  Skin Trap
2  Taste of Vitae
2  Telepathic Tracking

Ally (1 cards)
1  Underbridge Stray

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Femur of Toomler

Event (1 cards)
1  Uncoiling, The

Combo (1 cards)
1  Plasmic Form

I’m a bit less concerned with this deck being 90.  On the one hand, it makes it harder to ensure getting an early Dabbler, on the other, Dabbler is all about card flow.  Note the relatively low number of permanents.  Yes, there are likely too many masters.

The other concern is that it’s not very offensive.  A different take on the idea would be to focus more on the offensive side and run more bleed and/or votes.  “Bleed, Mind of the Wilds, Changeling, untap from Dabbler, vote with standard Tzimisce vote lock” is a more exciting way to go but may leave Read the Winds stranded without support.

Could free up a bunch of slots by dropping the Horrid Form angle, but I thought it was cute with Telepathic Tracking, is transiential, and provides some combat defense (not much but some).  Maybe better as a fear play than an effective way to win, something (fear plays) I’m often curious about in decks.

Now, there are many things that can be done with Aus/Dem/OBf.  Offense is just a Madman’s Quill and Obfuscate stealth play, while defense can come in the form of Random Patterns and Confusion of the Eye (when you fail to block because it’s totally worth failing to actually defend against stuff with multiple cards just for a blood/untap; Mental Maze is too unreliable to plan around as the only other Obfuscate reaction) or Random Patterns and No Trace in combat.  But, why does this discipline combo need this?  Run !Malks for both Sibyl’s Tongue to tutor out Dabbler and The Hungry Coyote to do things after you untap?  Why not Perfectionist or just play cards that cause you to win without blood/untaps?

Scalpel Tongue would make more sense if there was a third discipline that went with it; what’s nice about Scalpel is that you get more out of the untap part of the card.  Soul Painting + Obfuscate is loads of fun but in a different realm, as there’s little to do on the defensive side.  Quicken Sight + Majesty or whatever on the defensive side works, but what about the offensive side?  Same issue with Quicken Sight + Potence.

Who really wants the untap effect?  Sure, boring multirushers and ICMs, but Baali obviously like untapping, and they get either the Presence action/action modifier with I Am Legion play or the True Love’s Face with Sense the Sin play, which gives them untaps to drop Condemnations, Infernal Servitors, Contagion, or even do some voting – Charming Lobby + I Am Legion, perhaps?

Shroud of Absence is another efficient building block.  Horseshoes is the obvious combo here, with maybe a couple of Tangle Atropos’ Hands for when you want to stop your Shroud of Absenced bounced bleeds.  More of a hassle on defense for Lasombra, but moving to Kiasyd makes things easy for just straight bleed on offense and a bit less complicated on defense, assuming either a Obt+Myt intercept play that fails followed by bounce or that succeeds followed by something sketchy.

Did I fail to mention the rather vast number of purely offensive plays, where you multiact for winnage?  Yeah, but, then, those aren’t my sort of decks, and the point of this series is to take a look at paths I’d explore in trying to get something to work.  I really like getting extra defensive untaps, maybe not as the primary reason for playing the card but as part of a balanced two-way play of the card on defense – gaining blood when the untap isn’t necessary (or the blood is necessary).

Challenge 1 – Saulot & Uriel

May 12, 2013

DeathInABottle made this comment in Friday’s post:

Any ideas for how to make a Saulot/Uriel combat deck viable? I’ve amassed a collection of Vitae Block and Blissful Agony, which is making me want to try Anathema – which is obviously way, way too complicated.

Here’s a take:

Deck Name:   Challenge – Blissful Block

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 26, Max: 44, Avg: 8.5)
2  Mordechai Ben-Nun                  ANI AUS FOR NEC8

Harbingers of Skulls
2  Neighbor John                      dom for AUS    5

Ventrue Antitribu
4  Saulot                             AUS dai FOR OBE THA

VAL11 Salubri
4  Uriel                              AUS FOR VAL ani obe8

Salubri Antitribu

Library: (90 cards)
Master (17 cards)
1  Animalism
1  Barrens, The
2  Dreams of the Sphinx
1  Fame
1  Giant`s Blood
1  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
1  Information Highway
1  Pentex Subversion
1  Rack, The
4  Villein
3  Wider View

Action (8 cards)
1  Lord of Serenity
2  Renewed Vigor
4  Sense Death
1  Unburdening the Bestial Soul

Action Modifier (10 cards)
9  Freak Drive
1  Repulsion

Reaction (19 cards)
3  Eagle`s Sight
5  Eyes of Argus
1  My Enemy`s Enemy
4  On the Qui Vive
6  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (26 cards)
4  Blissful Agony
1  Eye of Unforgiving Heaven
2  Hidden Strength
2  Indomitability
1  Psychic Assault
2  Resilience
4  Target Vitals
5  Vitae Block
3  Weighted Walking Stick
2  Zip Gun

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

Equipment (6 cards)
1  Bowl of Convergence
2  Camera Phone
1  Heart of Nizchetus
1  Ivory Bow
1  Light Intensifying Goggles

Event (1 cards)
1  Scourge of the Enochians

Combo (1 cards)
1  Penitent Resilience

I was close to an 80 card version when I gave up and bloated it to 90.  Could be okay to test at 90 to get a better sense of what doesn’t work and trim back down.

Few things I don’t really like:  virtually no ability to stealth bleed a VP; lack of combat permanents; slowness.  The reality is, no matter what a deck is supposed to do, stealth makes ousting far easier, especially when you don’t have a horde of minions.  This has less stealth bleed going on than Robert Scythe’s Qawiyya & Saulot deck that I played last Labor Day.  That deck felt more coherent, maybe worth asking him for a decklist.  The combat is all over the place, trying to keep in mind both Animalism (the bane* of all other combat decks) and decks that try to ignore combat.  I’d actually be cool with far more Psychic Assaults as an anti-Animalism play, if that’s all I had to worry about.  Then, an aspect of my success in playing Scythe’s deck was Zillah’s Valley to speed out the two fatties, this deck tried to get some acceleration in but had to cut the second Info Highway and is already pushing things with the masters.

*  Not because you can’t build a combat deck that owns Bats/Crows but because the deck is likely, then, to suck at actually winning.  Increased Gates wouldn’t be horrible, and few Animalism decks seem to meta against guns to where we do see Anson guns a good amount, but it’s still tiresome to deal with the versatility of B/C.

What I do like is that I shoehorned in two +1 Intercept vampires.  With a bit of unlikeliness, Saulot can push enough blood to get a full boat of all four dudes in play.  But, even then, stealth vote is an atrocious matchup.  Some Enhanced Senses and Wall Street would help address that, as would Delaying Tactics, but then, the combat angle becomes even sketchier.  The defenses in this deck can make bleed miserable, which is par for the course for how I build “tournament” decks …

… Rule #1:  Don’t lose to stealth bleed …

Maybe this is why I don’t get annoyed by straightforward stealth bleed decks, like others do.  My decks can lose to them, but even if they do, so will the stealth bleed decks.

But, anything vote is very likely to be a greater problem.  Nevermind that just ousting one’s prey with this deck is a problem.  The second Camera Phone is not that thrilling when I think about how Heidelberg doesn’t synergize as much with multiples.  Lord of Serenity probably won’t work, but I identified that the 80 card version had serious problems with a blood counter death spiral as Taste makes little sense in a deck using Vitae Block; Renewed Vigor was another late addition to address that.  The Hungry Coyote was a thought, which might make more sense as I upped the number of Freak Drives from 6 to 9 when going to 90.

Then, does this really qualify for what was intended?  A key element with making decks better is to not be a slave to your theme, but does this even embrace the theme or does it just throw in some of those cards and hope that the rest of the deck pulls things through?  One key nod, which amuses me quite a bit, was to how Animalism factors in the deck.

Chaining Vitae Blocks off of Blissful Agony is sketchy, and it’s still not clear how great that is when you don’t either Fame yo-yo the vamp who gets his blood back or burn the vamp.  I replied that I thought Anathema might not be impossible, but, now that I think about how many things that can go wrong, Anathema would only make sense with a high, high risk deck that eschewed either combat defense or serious bleed defense or both.  Also, why Blissful Agony in such a deck?  Why not just go Salubri and P/J?  The double Vitae Block play is just so unreliable in such a deck.

Now, it could be made more reliable by having support vamps with VAL instead of the +1 interceptors.  Little dude Senses Death and Blissful Agonys over to a Vitae Blocker who passes the vamp along to the other Vitae Blocker.  But, what in the world does this plan have to do with winning?  Get some defense in a VAL focused deck from Hide the Heart, but still no plan for vote (barring DT, DI, et al).  Still no coherent ousting plan.

Could run more ousting power, but, then, I don’t see it doing its trick.  Note that a problem with combat decks is that, because they try to get into combat, they get into more combats than other decks and increase the probability of losing combats because of it.  Blissful Agony is certainly an out against Animalism when there are other players in the game, but B/C doesn’t run out, where BA does.

Win Tournament Challenge

May 10, 2013

Completely different from my normal ramblings or reports.

I generate plenty of ideas for what to try to win V:TES tournaments with.  Once upon a time, it was clans, which is why I have the first TWDs for Baali, Daughters, Osebo, Ravnos, and Samedi … and why I had many, many awkward decks over the years.

However, my world of deckbuilding is not necessarily applicable to most others, so I got to thinking that I should try to evoke some ideas for what other people want to see in terms of putting together decks around particular strategies/cards for tournament play.  I’ve seen similar in forums.  I participated in similar for at least one clan newsletter … back when people actually did clan newsletters.

So, if anyone is interested in seeing my spins on how to build decks around different ideas, post a comment.  Can be anything from a single card to a full blown decklist that you want me to look over.