EC 2017 – Explicatio

May 28, 2017

There are some details I missed in the last post.

I never saw Celerity guns or Celerity sticks.  In hindsight, I should have played winnie Celerity, maybe sign some 5-caps without Auspex for the adoring public (hey Sheila, want an autographed crypt card?).

I remembered my other opponent in the second storyline game.  I was in the bathroom, shaving I think, when I started thinking about how much I hate Powerbase: Montreal.  I was considering the obvious way to get rid of it and various other annoying cards, when I realized my grandprey was Kemal playing fat Tzimisce.

Yes, the only reason I remembered the one time I played against Kemal was because of hating Montreal.  For, you see, I had little to do in that game besides take Kemal’s Montreal, which he tried to block with one dude, where I Call of the Hungry Deaded a Tzimisce at inferior and he stopped caring.

Kemal brought out John Paleologus first and used his ability a couple of times.  Still don’t recall Kari’s deck all that well.

So, moving on to where I’m wrong.

Does deck strength matter more than I have suggested?

That’s the most interesting question to me.

Putting that aside, does my play ability and/or style work poorly in large events, crossregional events, or both?

I’m just going to rule out sample size with my games because I wasn’t just impuissant in 8 rounds but pretty useless.

Let’s get play out of the way first.

Play skill is not any one thing.  There’s knowledge:  I was surprised how many cards people weren’t particularly familiar with and do find it kind of odd when good players don’t know what burn-a-vampire-action, I mean, Soul Painting does.  Opponent deck archetype knowledge or possible plays by other decks, too.  There’s technical skill – remembering to take for the edge, ordering effects during untap and master, remembering transfers, not transferring up the wrong minion, understanding combat timing, understanding out of turn action timing, etc., etc., etc.  There’s threat assessment of decks and specific plays, e.g. counting up how much pool damage someone could reasonably do in a turn.  There’s manipulation, not just of a sinister sort but just getting people to recognize how much they can annihilate someone else if they feel it in their hearts.  There’s understanding your own deck in terms of when to cycle, what to expect to draw, what cards in the deck will change the game.  And, whatever else.

I think I do well in knowledge and decently in technical skill.  I think I’m good on threat assessment.  I’m not so good on manipulation, maybe was better before when I cared more whether other people let someone win by ignoring table threats and would talk more.  I don’t deal hardly at all.  I don’t even see the need to deal, but that’s some sort of ideal where everyone is equally awesome and sees the same things I see in a game.

What’s interesting is how poorly I understand how to play my own decks.  Now, one could make the argument that my penchant for playing decks in tournaments for the first and only time in a given tournament means I don’t achieve mastery over how my decks play as other people achieve mastery over their decks.  I often wonder if I don’t cycle enough based on what sort of threats other decks display.

There are certainly far better players and many, many better players than I.  But, I don’t feel overwhelmed by play skill in most of my games.

So, let’s talk about play style, which is different enough to break out separately from play ability.

I do think my play style fits poorly with playing with people who don’t know me and other people’s play styles suit better than mine when playing with the less familiar.  What is my play style?

I actually enjoy playing from a position of weakness.  It amuses me to have low pool, for instance.  I strive for the least threatening position at tables.  This works fine locally because even though people may still consider me to be some sort of threat there’s a lot of table balancing that occurs and there’s not a lot of crush the weak.

As I said in the last post, when I play in tournaments elsewhere, I find there’s a lot more not bothering to table balance the threat and, instead, taking out the weak for VPs even if it doesn’t help long run.  Of course, this is anecdotal.

I don’t talk much, though I will occasionally be so apoplectic at players ignoring that someone is going to run away with a game that I will still interject comments.  I don’t cripple players, generally being interested in players having a chance to lose to me after 1.5 hours of my hunting.

So, I depend heavily on my other opponents to properly punish the winful deck(s).  Given that many of my opponents’ decks have poor control elements, sometimes that’s not even possible.  I avoid decks that do nothing but go forward, but other people will play them.

Now, the rub is that this fondness for weakness carries over to deckbuilding.  My personal banned list is ultimately about avoiding boring plays, but many, many best plays are boring plays.  It’s a big deal when you don’t allow yourself to play Second Tradition, nevermind Govern/Conditioning.

So, there is an argument that I’m a chump, fish, a deserver of Darby’s scorn simply because I don’t work on my fierceness or on mind controlling the weak of will.

But, that’s less interesting to me than the question of deckbuilding.  Why?  I guess it’s because I bitch about how players blame their decks rather than blame their poor play skill on why they lose.  If I’m wrong about deck construction matters, then it undermines my ability to tell people “stop worrying about your deck and just play better”.

Though, anyone can build any deck.  Anyone can webdeck.  Anyone can borrow cards they don’t have.  So, it’s still a pretty easy argument that someone’s deckbuilding skills are pretty much irrelevant to their success.

However, my deckbuilding decisions may be relevant to my success.  I mean, I’m not supermotivated to try to run around and win continental championships.  I don’t have a competitive personality, so my value in playing games is in being amused by them far more than in winning them.

Oh, I would note that I’m the Shadowfist Classic Champion for the sixth largest economy in the world (if you include states).  Assassin Bug for the win!  And, I totally won last night’s Bohnanza game by beating a 10-year old on tiebreakers.

Minimum threshold of viability.  I talk about this a lot with multiplayer CCGs.  The concept took root with me from Babylon 5 play, but I also apply it to V:TES.  Another name for failing to meet the MToV is a nutpuncher deck.

I have previously talked about MToV as a single thing.  But, I can see the reasonable argument that what can win a 10-12 player, 2+F tournament by getting 2 VPs in prelim rounds and timing out with 1.5 in the finals is not the same as what will get you into the finals of a 156 player tournament.

MToV is a moving target?  Okay, sure.  My !Malks with Vicissitude build (I would note Zettler made one of the crypts of the finals of Day 1) might fall into victory in some local event just as my ridiculous Ravnos deck got into a finals on a roll off and then won because everyone wanted my prey dead.  But, it can’t fall into 2 GWs in three rounds.  Same with my vaguely Pre/Vic bruise bleed deck (sorry, Henrik, maybe it won’t work as well for you as I suggested it could).

Now, how you identify whether a deck hits MToV is interesting.  Danilo’s Day 2 winning deck is pretty cool, but it’s hardly a common archetype.

So, you hit MToV.  What’s the range above MToV?  Is it a wide range, where Grinder, Girls, winnie Animalism, winnie _, et al or so much better than, say, random PRE vote?  Is the range not so great where any MToV-satisfying deck is fine and you should just “play better” or metagame better or be at the whim of matchups and seating?

Since my perceptions on what is viable are so skewed by smaller tournaments, I don’t have a sense of that range.

Metagaming is also a thing.  I metagamed poorly for Day 1 in that I could have easily taken out some combat ends and added a bunch more bleed bounce and maybe been more relevant.  I’m not sure I metagamed poorly for Shadow Twin, as I did see a lot more combat like I expected and I laughed at combat [ha ha, ha] all the while I was being ousted.

My most obvious problem is speed.  I get run over a lot when I play outside this region.  I used to play winnies and midcaps far, far more than I do these days.

There’s a reason.  I crave variety.  I run fatties not for their sweet, sweet abilities or lots of votes or whatever but because they share out of clan disciplines.  I play fatties with cool names (I think) or maybe cool art (really?) – nah, I play fatties that other people don’t … because other people don’t, and that’s the fact Jack.

I’ve got to stop doing that or get serious about acceleration.  Yeah, I write up a lot of decks with Info plus Dreams plus Zillahs, but a lot of the decks I’ll play in tournaments will cut most or all of the Zillahs out to make room for Inner Essence and Zip Line.

So, really, I’ve got to stop playing fatties, since I don’t try to abuse their powers.  I need to get back to lots of cheapish minions who take lots of hunt actions.  Though, given my limitations on playing Dominate, there is a reason I go fat with DOM to be able to Murmur folks.  If I could Conditioning like the old days, any random 5 cap is functional.

In other words, I need to be building Ancilla Antics decks.  Or, bunch of 3 caps since I didn’t see Neonate Breach in Berlin.

Of course, I wandered back into play style when talking about building decks differently.  I actually like playing weenies, I just don’t like being punished for playing less good weenies because people Scourge or whatever.

Even with my rather extensive banned list, I think there are plenty of reasonable decks and ones that better suit getting moving faster and having some sort of impact on the game.  I just need to The Becoming those possibilities rather than expecting to need to play Extremis Boon every round.

So, what did I not talk about that I should have?  Most folks care less about my brainwandering egofests than in what the metagame was like, how to own Grinder/Kiasyd SB/winnie Animalism/unnamed/Matasuntha/blah, and, you know, something revelatory about this game.

Actually, I’ve gotten various deck ideas both to metagame against my predilections and to actually incorporate Anthology Set cards.  Maybe I’ll say something about building decks with Anthology Set stuff.  Still annoyed Spiritual Guidance got printed when there were so many other cards from e-sets I would find more regardable.

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EC 2017: Veni. Vidi. Suxisti!

May 24, 2017

So, I went to the 2017 V:TES European Championships.  An obsession with Eyes of Argus (on my banned list), Enkil Cog (banned list), er …, Deep Song (banned list) …  Okay, it was cherry juice.  Cherry juice was the driving force behind going to Berlin.  That and Australian women.

Maybe I should start over.

Before V:TES ceased to be a thing, I wanted to hit a EC and a NAC in Columbus.  I had worked out in my spreadsheet how to have enough hours (stealing from my future accruals) to accomplish both.  Then, I used up more hours than I planned, so I let NAC drop for this year.  Still, with everyone under the Moon, even those who don’t actually play, wanting Anthology Sets and my mother figuring out whether she was going to vacation in Europe, Berlin was booked.

As was London because I didn’t see the point of going for less than two weeks and I didn’t see a point in spending two weeks in Berlin.  My mother had spent a few years going to school in London, so, in theory, we could visit places she knew.  Nigh 60 years absence kind of made that not part of the trip.

We arrive.  In the East End.  To the pub!

See the mustard. Too much mustard.

As is the norm among all middle thinking people, the pub is where you go to drink water and eat.  Yes, every single pub in England I’ve been to I’ve just had water to drink.

My hope was to have localish food in England, pub burger, pub fish and chips, kind of forgot about pub meat pie.  Meat pie.  It was good.  The mustard tray came with dijon, whole grain, and English.  Not liking either of the first two, I figure English would taste … whoa!  Okay, I guess it’s just Statespeople who like sweet mustard that isn’t remotely horseradishy or wasabii.

We only had four days fully open to tourist.  We did not effectively use them all, however I could say we reasonably touristed three days.  We did hit the Childhood Museum a block away from our room.  We did have ice cream at Harrods.  Before getting into other touristing, I should note that my breakfast lasagne at E Pellicci was some of my best food.  Thing about hole in the wall places there – crowded and loud.  I’ll comment more on food hither as I’m sure my insights will sea shanty your world.

Llort! Llort?!?

Yessim.  The key to going to London is to go to Cambridge and do what everyone does in Cambridge – get some Babylon 5 CCG in.  We played two very long games with some cafeteria food lunch and a bit of a crisis averted.

First Game [this is a gaming blog, wrong?]:

I played Ivanova Death Incarnate.  I completely mangled the opening.  I was supposed to Rapid Growth on turn one and sponsor Susan.  I forgot how Rapid Growth/Airlock Mishap openings work.  I set myself probably two turns behind.

Other decks played were home faction Narns, Minbari with intrigue, Non-Aligned.  Narns, for some reason, didn’t develop any infrastructure.  What was interesting was one of the last few groups to play doesn’t use standard openings that get you to 10 influence rapidement.  I didn’t seem terribly threatening, mostly because I couldn’t draw any conflicts and was mostly screwing around with putting things like Spin Doctors out while the Non-Aligned seemed out of control.  I finally started on conflicts.  The Narns Allianced us.  I attacked some with Ivanovas since I could just replace them all.  I brought out Diplomacy characters.  I Rally the People and have enough with A Rising Power to win.

Second Game:

I switch to Llort.  Not Chosen of Llort.  Llort Fast Learner Bodyguard and Non-Aligned Fanatic Llort.  Maybe the spiritual realm was trying to tell me something about playing ineffectual decks as I was ineffectual, actually going back to 10 influence from being above 10 influence.  Home Minbari, Home Centauri Shadows, Bester opposed the righteous Llort.  Centauri should have won.  Then, for some reason, he put Forced Evolution in play to make it harder for him to win and the game times out with a Minbari/Centauri tie.

Crusade cards suck.  I don’t care that they played The Fen constantly and even adapted their play to The Fen.  I care about undercosted or zero costed cards coming into play and dumb turns like making Probes be less huge and just general getting away from what the game was supposed to be about, like Llort.  Oops, argument fail … argument fail!

The highlight of London … em … England was punting on the Cam.  It was relaxing and touristy and our punter was entertaining.

Next day, Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge.  Interesting observation.  No effort to leave time for shopping.  It just felt odd to be rushed about.  Sure, you could shop, but, then, you didn’t spend much time castling or bathing or hengeing.  The guide also didn’t guide much.

Bath was the weakest part of the tour as it was far too museumy for me.  Windsor was wandering around a castle.  Stonehenge was a bright day in the countryside without any interdimensional portals opening up or whatever.  Oh, I should mention that while there was a decent amount of Sun in London, most days it was chilly due to wind.  Sunday, the day when we spent much of the time indoors and on a bus, was warm.  Now, I’m not a warm person, running rather hot [oh nevermind] [see enjoying Scandinavia in January], but we wanted to Thames at some point and warmth on water body not terrible.

As anyone can get pictures of Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge, here’s (of course) a Bath picture.

Nicer looking than broken stone.

Monday, we did get on a ship cruising the Thames, hit Greenwich just before Royal Observatory closed but didn’t think to go to Average Time until time was annihilated into the past.

So, food.  Food was surprisingly cheap in London.  In that, we ended up eating very oddly and kept missing out on pubbing or tourist-fooding.  We had fast food.  It was bad.  Every single time I’ve had fish and chips in England it has been rather awful.  Speaking of chips.  Every single time I’ve had chips [sic] in England, they have been gross.  Soggy crap like you get from fast food places in the States.  Every single time I’ve been to Greenwich, I’ve gotten a burger and French Fries [sic] and it was good.  Now, I did ask them to crisp up my French Fries [sic], but they were better cooked to begin with (I didn’t notice any difference with my mother’s).  Plus, Peanut Butter Cup milkshake was good.  So, secret to eating in London is pay for the extra privilege (aka quid) of having Americanized food.  Or, seek out your breakfast lasagne, whatever.  To be fair, our only pub food was good.

I need to move on … to Berlin.

We get into Tegel, I stupidly have us use public transportation to get to our service apartment.  Not only did that fail when we got to Alexanderplatz because heaven forbid that you put information counters in major public transportation hubs where tourists can find them, but the trek to Alexanderplatz was pain.  Even the better, less stoppy bus, would have taken you through awful looking town in unenthralling weather.  I like overcast, but going from London’s bright and cheery and woodsyness to drab and boxy and congestedness of our bus trip made me hate having to spend so much time in Berlin.

Then, we settled in and wandered a bit and the city was much more pleasant.  We were a five minute walk from Museum Island.  We had the Magic Museum on our block (I eventually didn’t bother due to its reviews).  Walking to U-Bahn stations not so bad.

Speaking of bad.  I hated public transportation besides U-Bahn.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s underground subways and everything else is misery.  Tube – fine.  Metro – my hood.  U-Bahn – same old, same old.  Buses?  Nein!  Trams, S-Bahn, regional trains, trains to other cities?  Icksome.

Speaking of dumb.  I got us Welcome Cards for Berlin, figuring 8 days was enough to tourist.  I was wrong.  We only used the discounts once on the entire trip.  Either too busy, too tired, or the museum or tour we had to pay for didn’t give discounts.  The only good thing was that we never had to get transportation tickets due to the timing of when we validated the Welcome Cards and when we were leaving.

In the hood.

So, food.  London cheap.  Berlin expensive.  Of course, we did mostly sit down restaurants in Berlin in our hood.  Also, what killed the pocketbook wasn’t food.  It was cherry juice.  Every single time I’ve spent more than a week in Germany I’ve never had a beer.  Oh, I should mention that I had no tea in England, not even in the room.  Drinks aren’t just expensive – $4.50 Cokes, for instance – but the volume is weak sauce.  In the US, you pay $2.50 or possibly more these days in a sit down restaurant for a Coke, but you get free refills.  I had like $3.50 juices of .2 liters.  How can someone eat food with .2 liters of drink?

Now, KiBa was really good both times.  My Coconut Kiss was really good and not horrendously priced at the place near the EC.  But, tea, coffee, water outside of the local places near the EC were just incredibly expensive relative to the volume.

Then, there was the EC’s hood.  Pop out of the Birkenstraße Station and you get a coffee/pastry shop with decent sized cafe au lait.  You get döner kebap sandwiches that are huge, may have amazingly good bread, and cost like $4.  And, there’s markets around to get drinks from if you take your food to go.

Oh yeah, the EC.  I played 8 competitive rounds, a storyline pickup game, and three casual games.  This is my tale.

Because we have a limited tolerance for wandering around, we go by the EC on Thursday to see what’s going on.  I get into a pickup game with Rudolf as my predator, Ali as my prey, Dean as my grandprey, and I can almost remember my grandpredator – Peter, maybe.

I borrow Dean’s !Toreador Embrace deck because I was touristing and didn’t bring decks.  I didn’t draw Embraces until the game was essentially over.  I can try to search my mind for who started my games, but, since I didn’t post this when I got home last Wednesday, I’m just going to rush through by listing myself first in every game.

Pickup 1:

Ian (!Toreador horde) -> Ali (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> Dean (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> ?? (??) -> Rudolf (Tzimisce high caps)

General observation – Armin, Dmitra, Hektor, Tara, Jan, et al were extremely popular across all of the events.  What was somewhat different was how fighty the versions were I saw.

Dean brings out vampire.  Ali stops transferring to same vampire.  I bring out dorks, I Palla Grande a couple of times, Ali has no game.  Dean ousts his prey somehow, not entirely sure how.  I go ahead and oust Dean.  I concede after a couple of fights in endgame.  If I wanted to play a better game, I would have played differently, letting Dean work on Rudolf harder, but it was not a great game, so might as well end it.

Storyline:

I didn’t build specific storyline decks.  I happened to have a deck that could work for End of the Line, which a lot of people couldn’t play due to the low cap crypt requirement.  I did have leftover decks that were clanny, so I played Samedi, taking out some of the cards that didn’t work when I played my LMC/Groaning Corpse deck prior.

Samedi -> Ravnos Fatuus Mastery -> Ralf playing !Toreador with sticks -> Ben playing Matasuntha -> Tito playing Aabbt Kindred (storyline!)

I had no predator early on, as only Aabbt came out and started Camera Phoning.  My prey tried SensDep forward.  Tito had no predator.  I ended up with three Samedi SensDepped.  Yup, my two times in life having three minions SensDepped were the time I played a Regaining the Upper Hand deck and the time I played Samedi Groaning Corpse in a storyline event.

My prey did get two VPs, so it was the right play.  Tito, of course, won, once he could start bleeding and I had like three Deflections in my hand at the end of the game having played none all game.

Samedi -> Bart playing with an Archbishop of Berlin! -> blanked -> Kari still blanking -> NewJah

This was maybe my most irrelevant game, as NewJah just rolled over me with stealth bleed as is its wont.  This game timed out with only my being ousted.  It shows how weak my frail mind has become that I don’t recall what other people were playing, just that titles mattered across table and I’m pretty sure Kari was Governing.  I think she was playing !Trem because I expected Oriandus to pop, probably a Malgorzata deck, but I could be making things up.  It’s really bad that I can’t even picture anything of my grandprey’s deck anymore.  Tzimisce, I think, as it torped Bart’s dudes reasonably often, maybe advanced Sascha was in play.

I didn’t feel the storyline flavor of this event.  But, then, ever since the first one, I never understood why people play good clans in storylines.  That someone likes a clan is not an argument for seeing Malks, Ventrue, et al.  I like Tzimisce but don’t play them in an event designed to make the world more interesting.

I was surprised that it was just a 2+F event.  Not that I want to play 3+F events, but I was surprised.

Pickup 2:

I hung around to play a rather Americanized pickup game, where James played his Corrupt Construction deck, Kevin played some Ravnos deck that didn’t do much.  Some Swiss guy was my predator.  Phillip was my prey with Tremere.

Yes, I went to Europe and all I got to play against was a Los Angeles/Taiwan Corrupt Construction deck I’ve played like five times against.  What did I play?  Standard Matthias gets Temporis and Summons History.

I got 2 VPs just before time as I beat down Phillip’s board mostly due to Ivory Bow as Ponticulus was in play.  Pickup game 2 VPs – that was towering crescendo of effectiveness.

Day 1:

I thought about metagaming harder against hyperbleed, but I just wanted to play my deck.  I didn’t realize it was a sloppy 90 cards until I counted it up.

Ian (Aus/Dem/Obf/Vic) -> Gines (Giotto, Nos Princes) -> (Grinder) -> Peter (Thucimia) -> (Winnie Dementation)

I should know my predator’s name as I talked to him on Day 2 quite a bit, but I’m actually fading writing this post.

Gines was going to win unless my predator crosstabled him.  I thought about suggesting that and didn’t bother.  I did hang around a little bit longer so that I could play a Madman’s Quill on Giotto with only three Dementation bleed decks at the table.  Gines got rid of it, right away.  My predator ousted me because he didn’t want to be ousted.

Gines got too fast a start for his prey and I didn’t control Gines in any way, though I had the cards in the deck to kill Parity Shifts.  Gines 4.

Ian -> Frank (small cap Tzimisce wall) -> Dean (Gangrel Animalism) -> Michael (Carna and friends) -> Kari (Trem/!)

This was surprisingly NoCalish, in that Dean took three actions to burn the Pentex on my Gravitnir and they all got blocked by my prey.  Kari gave me some rope to push on the wall, but I was largely ineffectual.

How ineffectual?

I bring out Gravitnir.  My prey places The Erciyes Fragments.  I take an action to steal it.  We fight.  I don’t maneuver.  He uses Dean’s Aid from Bats to maneuver.  I Breath of the Dragon.  I continue to try to take Erciyes or play Madman’s Quills on my prey, and every single attempt gets blocked.  Did I do any pool damage?  After the game I thought naught.  But, maybe I did Changeling bleed once.

I played with two vampires (Luc).  I got Pentexed by my prey, my predator’s first Magic of the Smith was for Signet of King Saul when her predator was kind of already strong and the only 8+ cap that hit play was mine, I got ‘schrecked when playing a combat ends.

General observation backed up by some other people agreeing.  People would rather lose to Govern/Conditioning and Kindred/Confusion than face the unknown.  People expect Dementation bleed from Zettler and Gravitnir?  Why would anyone bother?

I pontificated about my lack of success and in what way my beliefs are wrong about the game.  Does deck construction matter more than I think?  Am I suckier than I think?  Is my play style all wrong?

Play style for the moment.  I rely heavily on other players realizing that I’m virtually never a threat and that someone else is.  I rely on people not crippling the weak.  General observation – a lot of players in crossregional metagames don’t go after the strong but cripple the weak and seemingly play for 1 or 2 VPs.  This is interesting because one thing I’m pretty sure about is that I don’t build decks oriented to multiple game wins and you need multiple game wins to win 156 player tournaments or even 88 player tournaments much of the time.

I had my Sanguine Instruction between two !Malks … for Vicissitude … blocked.  My prey feared my !Malky bleed possibilities – my prey had bounce.

Dean, Frank, and I just beating on each other meant Michael had an easy game.  Kari finished me off, I played Extremis Boon, Michael spent some time calculating the amount of pool to give me, Frank Suddened the Extremis Boon.

Ian -> Bart (Winnie Auspex Anarch) -> Jaakko (Kiasyd SB) -> Enrico (Malk94) -> Jan (!Brujah beats)

Jan Havened and IGed backwards but gave up on eviscerating his predator.  Enrico didn’t bounce early but just kept bleeding and being torped.  Jaakko had sporadic bleed.  I kept trying to Madman’s Quill Bart, but it didn’t work.  I tried Concealing his Bowl, that didn’t work.  I lost a variety of cards to Constant Revolution, which didn’t really hurt me, I wanted one more round to discard 3 cards at random.  I lost Extremis Boon and Personal Scourge.  I did Inner Essence/Coma one of Bart’s dudes, but we mostly just handsed each other.  Yet again, someone tried Pentexing me, though I did bring out three vampires for a change.

Enrico ousted Jan.  Jaakko took the rest.

Did two wall decks in front of me hinder my VPing?  I don’t think so.  Walls are to be expected.  You need a game plan for getting through them.

Actually, with The unnamed doing really well (foreshadowing), Auspex is just not as good as it once was.  I would have vastly preferred Deflection as my bounce of choice from a metagame standpoint.

End of the Line

We finally got a four player together for End of the Line.  Petri was my prey with !Gangrel.  My predator played Kiev Circle.  I played Hermana Mayor.  The other deck was Tupdog.  I actually had a plan for dealing with Tupdog.  Everyone failed me, including my predator who didn’t bother blocking a bleed that ousted him, leaving me tapped out with 4 pool and my new prey having a minion with Groundskeepers.

An awful game, and I think the format has some strong potential for awfulness, yet another game going on during ours was like five player and the Corruption deck won at time or something.

Sunday

Obviously not qualifying, I played in the side event, with its 88 players.

Ian (Pre/Vic BB?) -> (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> (Forestal anarch) -> (Kiasyd combat?) -> Luis (unnamed bleed focus)

I had no way to defend against my predator.  My bounce got cancelled as predicted.  His predator did nothing.  My grandprey didn’t realize Forestal can only fake one discipline at a time.  My prey was the only one who could stop the Baali but didn’t.  Luis swept.

Ian -> (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> (Kiasyd SB) -> (Lutz/Maris) -> (Aus/Tha/Vic)

This was the only talk game I had.  This was what I kind of expect in Day 2 of big tournaments.  There was like a 10 minute discussion that led to not playing a Parity Shift.  Malks Deranged backwards, ended up on Dmitra.  Never left Dmitra as afraid would end up on Hektor.  My prey had to deal constantly with Dmitra’s ability.  I had Velya in play, so I was vote relevant.  I Starvation of Marenaed my predator’s Malgorzata to torpor but didn’t interact much after that.  Kiasyd just kept trying to bleed.

Because Malks were in danger of death, kept dealing to get off Parity Shift.  One Parity Shift was possibly four different targets before eventually going backwards.  My prey asked me afterwards when the game went to my predator.  We agreed it was when he brought out Sha-Ennu after Malgorzata and Mistress Fanchon.  Malks called Reins of Power to bring me to 3 pool, first 3 bleed by predator killed me.  He deemed that his only clear mistake.

It was rough with how to deal the votes.  Yet, it didn’t time out.

Ian -> Kari (Aus/Chi bleed) -> (Shadow Court Satyr w/ Dominate) -> (Winnie Dom/For) -> (Winnie Dom/Pre)

I asked for the time twice.  The other players said something like “with two weenie Dom decks, I don’t think the game is going to time out”.  I considered giving my reason for asking about time.

My first action of the game was Creamy Jade rescues my predator’s Ingrid Russo.

In the first 50 minutes of the game, I played one card – Enchant Kindred (Matteus to Enid Blount).  My predator did 3 pool damage to me all game with his four minions, a bleed I let through hoping he would bleed for more.  I did not Entrancement my grandprey’s SCS.  Misdirection killed me as I was out of wakes for my second predator.

Competitive play was done.  I enjoyed my games, actually, parts of all of my games.  Well, maybe not the second round storyline, thinking about it.  But, I was useless.  I was going to get into why in this post, but I think I need to finish up with the reporting and get into analysis in another post.

Pickup 3:

Ian (!Toreador blocky) -> Peter (Samedi, Genina focus) -> Rudolf (Tupdog) -> ?? (Rudolf’s Montano) -> Ali (Rudolf’s Tzimisce)

Rudolf wasn’t as scary as one expects from Tupdog.  He didn’t draw any Raking Talons for a while.  He didn’t Graverob that much.  I did Soul Painting his Selena, which somehow didn’t instantly burn her, but maybe I’m wrong about Soul Painting as well as many other things.

Peter Nightmare Cursed at double superior my Greta late in the game.  That didn’t hurt too much, as I had Majestys.  Ali didn’t threaten me much.  Montano did one Baltimore Purge and ended up in torpor when it went off.

Rudolf ousted as his prey couldn’t keep minions ready.  Peter ousted.  I should have been able to oust Peter but couldn’t get the right combination of Unholy Penanced, Melanged, Aire of Elationed, Palla Grandeed bleeds lined up before we timed out.

Yes, I was that sad.  Multiple Unholy Penances, a Melange, Palla Grande, like four vampires with Presence, and I couldn’t do like 2 more pool to my prey’s Samedi with Auspex deck when I needed to.

We did talk about teaching English, as the EC was less an opportunity to get VPs and more an opportunity to speak with people who learn multiple languages about how a middle-aged American be less monolingual.  It was kind of funny that Peter mentioned that people count in their own languages, when I find numbers the easiest thing to remember in other languages, though I was in an elevator trying to remember how to count backwards from 100 in French.  Learning a little bit of Mandarin constantly screws up my remembering any French outside of memorized phrases.

My mother and I went out to eat with Hung-ary Peter (you know, it could be that some of these Peters spell their names Pieter or whatever, but I hope I’m getting their names right) and a bunch of Swedes.  Large contingent of Swedes.  They may think I’m a goofball, but I quite enjoy hanging out with them.

Only two people mentioned my blog.  Ralf.  Tomas (sp?).

Rudolf, Ali, my mother, and I arranged to meet Monday for touristing.  We did a hop on, hop off bus trip, finally using a Welcome Card discount (still kind of expensive compared to … foreshadowing).

Speaking of my mother, what was she doing while I was playing cards?  Fortunately, Martin’s mother also wanted to do some sightseeing.  So, his mother who doesn’t speak English and my mother who doesn’t speak German had a good day of sightseeing on the weekend, including a river jaunt.

Martin, his mother, Rudolf, Ali all really helped make the trip better.  As did Michael (B5), organizers, opponents, people I spent some time with outside of play – had lunch with a couple of Italians and Dean, lunch with Kevin who I had never met in the US (to our knowledge), etc.

 

Symbolic.

Tuesday, went to Potsdam on a guided tour.  Interesting thing about this tour.  Unlike the UK tour, where we were just sort of dumped into places to look around at stuff, this tour didn’t have much in the way of going in palaces or churches or whatever but had a lot of history.  Like our punter, the tour guide was entertaining.  We still didn’t have time to shop on the 6 hour tour.  We hit Sanssouci with various pauses along the way.

My phone doesn’t do wide shots all that well, so all of my palace photos show only parts of the palace.

Ironicful.  Best touristy thing in our trip to London was in Cambridge.  Best touristy thing in our trip to Berlin was in Potsdam.

Good size group – 12 + guide.  Guide was Australian.  No, he wasn’t a woman.  But, there were a coincidentally disproportionate number of Australian or Australian-connected women on the tour.  They hung out with cool Spanish/Portuguese guys rather than uncool Statesperson guy.  I can’t blame them.  Who wants to hang out with a guy who talks about logic puzzles and racist pidgin languages?

Foreshadowing1:  unnamed was in EC Day 2 finals, in Shadow Twin finals.

Foreshadowing2:  Tour to Potsdam was 15 euros apiece, 1 more euro than hop on/hop off bus.  Can’t say the latter was bad in any way, just seems like a bus ride with audio guide should be less demanding than live guiding.  Of course, compared to the W/B/S tour in the UK, which was over a 100 sterling apiece, maybe bus rides are superoverheadful.

Well, I think I failed to write in the way I wanted to write, but I have to get this published and get back to Traveller and work and getting on a normal sleep schedule.


Deck Of Many Things

April 30, 2017

I wrote out some four or so new deck lists and managed to get around to pulling together cards for two of them, while also looking back at some of my other possible tournament plays.

Reasons I love CCGs:

One:  Infinite Ideas

While looking over a deck I’ve never pulled the cards for, I was wondering why I hadn’t put Repo Man into it as it ran 4x Sport Bike.  That got me thinking about Repo Man.  That got me to search vehicles.  That got me to thinking about yet other builds for Polaris Coach and deciding that Polaris Coach + Cryptic Mission is totally a deck that should exist.  Then, there’s immediate Helicopters in your PRE/Obf bleed/vote deck.

With every CCG, I think of new decks or card combinations even with a game with as small a card pool as Ultimate Combat! or as focused a card pool (due to allegiances) as Wheel of Time.  Certainly easier with a game with a vast card pool like V:TES, but there are just so many things people don’t do.  Sometimes it’s a clearly less effective strategy, but that may not be a bad thing in multiplayer play.  Sometimes it’s a build that only makes sense for a specific metagame.

There are dozens of decks I can see trying in a local tournament that have never seen the moonlight of night.

Two:  Metagaming

Metagaming isn’t just about trying to win, though that’s quite the driver.  My thinking for the upcoming tournaments goes somewhat along these lines:  the environment will be far more aggressive than our local environment; play will be quicker putting aside deck builds; player skill will be higher; no one will know my play style and I won’t be familiar with other people’s styles.  Doom … d-o-o-o-m …

Just in terms of trying to build to win, I would focus on how Animalism is the best combat, Parity Shift will be played often, Lutz will appear often with some sort of vote, bleeds of 4-6 or permableed of 3 will be common, winnies will probably not be that common but neither will the countermeasures, Imbued will probably show, event decks might appear, tons of fatties, Celerity guns will also likely be notable.

Flesh of Marble plus some sort of hit back should wreck combat decks.  Combat ends should pretty much stop everything if you run enough to get by Psyche!.  Voting may be messy at times with Velvet Tongue, though the chances of much in the way of Daughters screwing around with incentives is low.  The fear with voting, though, is more that tables unprepared for vote should just get run over.  In Stockholm, there was virtually no voting and a vote bloat deck that got going fast enough could have easily won my tables.

Bleed is the easiest thing to defend against, but I find that Auspex bounce is somewhat less valuable due to the commonality of The unnamed decks.

Does what works well versus what works poorly in this crossregional, totally not like my home metagame matter to me?  Of course.  I want to enjoy my games.  If I just get run over then I’m going to find the events boring.  I have plenty of decks that only work locally because I can bank on surviving long enough for them to play out.  My decks show how slow they are in other regions much of the time.  The one deck that did a decent job of getting going, though, even then, it didn’t play in a true crossregional meta, just a different meta, was Living Lolita Loca.  Small vampires allow you to do stuff.  Or, run lots of Zillah’s Valleys and Banishment Santaleous when he appears.

But, there’s more to metagaming than winning, at least for me.  I want to enjoy games.  Maybe an all forward deck would be the best play, but I don’t enjoy those sorts of decks.  I went through several passes on possible decks to play, and I added a fun factor rating that was subtlely different from my usual pros/cons comments on whether to take a deck to an event.

Fun was interesting because it highlighted the difference between fun results and fun play.  In local play, I can believe I can win with anything better than Gargoyles with Presence (which had a chance in that finals).  There are many game features I can build decks around to unlock an achievement.  I’ve never won with Serpentis in a deck.  Or Quietus.  Or Abombwe.  I keep building decks that don’t achieve the minimum threshold of viability with these disciplines because I want to avoid boring stuff.  So, I also build some real decks with Serpentis.  And, I can’t imagine enjoying playing them in a tournament even if I unlock another achievement.

So, yes, I have to adjust to a metagame, but I also have to metagame myself to strike the right balance where I can play something that interests me that will interest me in events I’m not likely to make the finals for.

Three:  Not Every Deck Is Gargoyles With Presence

I started pulling cards for decks, then realized my builds didn’t make sense.  I overlooked vampire specials.  I forgot to put in a hoser.  I overestimated how many vampires I could have in play.  In some cases, it’s annoying to have to change geniusness.  But, in some cases, like realizing Inbase Discotek is h-u-u-u-g-e tech for a deck I want to play, fun can be had by actually trying to construct a well crafted deck.

Now, building for two-player CCGs is usually more interesting for this sort of thing as, again, deck construction is typically much more of a thing in two-player play.  But, maybe I do have room for Force of Will in my Fortitudeless deck.

Four:  Weird Stuff Happens

More so with multiplayer play, where opponents will mess with other opponents, but the nature of vast possibilities of card interactions is that sometimes you aren’t psychic.  Sometimes, you just find the situation amusing.

We played two games of Shadowfist last Thursday.  In the second game, I ended the game with 13+ power realizing my 7 No Masters deck had not that many characters in general – my smoked pile at the end of the game consisted of something like 10, maybe 12, events.  The first game, I proved that multiplayer CCGs are lunacy.  My three Betrayers of the Crane went for a Dockyard and through the power of Butterfly Swords achieved victory.  Yes, three, 1-cost foundation characters seized control of the world.  In both games, I only ended up with one character in a smoked pile and that was the turn I won the first game.

I can only hope some weird stuff happens at these tournaments.  After all, why bother playing games that are chesslike … uh, doh, some people like those sorts of games.  Hey, CCGs are better!

Speaking of CCGs, we are going to check out the L5R LCG and see if it’s more enjoyable than the VCG was.


Cardflopping Like It’s 1999

February 21, 2016

I was going through a box of my stuff in a pathetic attempt to get the house more organized.  Besides some ornamental mementos, there was quite a bit of gaming related stuff from when I was a Precedence Publishing volunteer.

In other words, from 1998 to 2000, the heyday of Babylon 5, Wheel of Time, and Tomb Raider CCGs.

There are so many miscellaneous things in that pile.

gencon ’99 and origins ’99 duty roster [sic]

I’ve only ever been to one Origins in Columbus.  It was because I was so deep in the volunteering thing that I had as my volunteer blocks:  Open Demos, Friday, July 2nd, 12AM-6AM; Open Demos, Saturday, July 3rd, 12AM-6AM; Open Demos, Sunday, July 4th, 12AM-6AM!!

I occasionally need to remind myself just how absurd my life has been, at times.  I worked in San Francisco for a while.  On Van Ness.  Where we had parking!?!  I was doing currency speculation in the ForEx market for a company long gone from that site.  I didn’t have much of a commute when I was getting in at midnight and leaving at 6AM.

Apparently, at some point, the idea of being up in the middle of the night didn’t really bother me.  Oh, how times change.

It doesn’t get any less weird for Gen Con:  Friday, August 6th, 12AM-6AM; Saturday, August 7th, 12AM-6AM; Sunday, August 8th, 12AM-6AM.

While I recognize a bunch of names on the duty roster, there are also a lot of names I don’t recognize.

An email I sent after Origins ’99:

Disgraceful. Sam wins the West Regionals. Mike Calhoon wins the Midwest Regionals. Where were you all at the East and Southeast Regionals?

Origins: the other con. Attendance was probably light due to Dragon Con being the same weekend. I only played in the social tournament. Someone was actually surprised that Adira got up to 11 intrigue. Don’t know much about the constructed. The sealed deck final was one of the longest finals ever. It sounded incredibly amusing with We Can’t Allow Thats flying around. Eventually, the Minbari won?! Just shows you can’t expect everyone to be an expert. Lots more starters given away. Jeff Conaway and Walter Koenig were at the con. Walter was his usual cool self about autographs. The lines were very short because he wasn’t in the booklet. Psi Corps uncut sheets were available for viewing. Nice looking art.

Non-B5, Precedence, Origins stuff: Tomb Raider was on hand for demos. Wheel of Time is still being worked on. The 2nd edition Immortal booklet had suitably eyecatching art on the cover.

Gen Con preview: Walter will be back. He will be joined by Robin Atkin Downes (Byron) and Julie Caitlan Brown (who was born in SF and has been very cool). There will also be the official Lara Croft model. All the Precedence games will get a push, except Gridiron.

Question: Of the B5 stars, who would be most desirable as a Precedence guest at events?

Oh, not much from Gen Con ’99, except one of our local players won US Nationals to qualify to play Worlds in Germany.  I might not crossregionally achieve at my CCGs, but there’s an argument I can make others better.

I found articles written by a couple of Babylon 5 players.  Mike was local.  I have his “The Fine Art of Murder:  Winning With the Narn Seizing Advantage Deck” article.  I have Merric’s “Understanding the Vorlons”, “Delenn Transformed and Ambassador Kosh”, “Winning with Diplomacy”, and other articles.

Why?

Well, at some point, I was an editor for a B5 CCG site.  I didn’t try to edit Merric’s content too much, as one of the things with niche CCGs is that metagames are very different, plus he was writing to the beginner player, not for someone like me.  A virtual pro, briefly ranked in the top 10 in the world before being crushed by serious players at the first Worlds.  (Of the three CCGs I have been ranked in the top 10 in the world, … ah, nobody cares.)

Anyway, the main criticism I’d have of Merric’s articles is that his starting hands are so not what the metagame was like at that point.  His starting hand choices were the sort of thing you’d see before Shadows only using cards printed long after.  They would have been like 3 turns too slow, lacking starting agenda and influence gainers (Corporate Connections, Airlock Mishap) to accelerate to “let’s actually play the game” time around turn 5.  What is the point of my bringing this up?  Maybe I should do a post on B5 deck construction that is pretty useless to pritnear everyone.

I have draft versions of the Tomb Raider and Wheel of Time Rulebooks.  I could go into this in more depth some other time, though why anyone would care is a good question.  But, the single most memorable thing to me about the WoT Rulebook is what a total pain in the ass it is to put into writing how damage works at reducing abilities.  It’s just so ambiguous in the English language unless you word it right, yet it’s the easiest thing to show someone.  I could see how Shadowfist words damage and attributes, as it works like that.

I had a bunch of printouts for playtesting B5, TR, WoT.  Was starting to toss them into recycle when I came across some for WoT and realized that they were for the unreleased Aes Sedai set.  I don’t know where the files are for these playtest sheets, but I gots to reveal to the world the ancient mystery foretold by the prophecy and suppressed by the Illuminites.  I mean, has anyone else who knew anything about the unpublished WoT CCG set ever provided any info on it?  I don’t even recall much, as I think we were very early in playtesting for it and/or were playtesting other things at the same time such that it wasn’t as much of a priority.  Well, and I was designing for B5 at that point.

I have a shocking number of tournament forms from B5 tournaments between 1998-2000.  Again, the game wasn’t actually around that long.  The intensity of my engagement made up for the brevity of it all.

I have Zeta Squadron/Legends membership newsletters.  Looks like I only ever was ranked in B5 in one of them.

I tossed some checklists where I noted how many copies of cards I got.  I have promotional brochures.

Just a very different experience than my current one, yet, it’s entirely possible that someone else is currently in that kind of world.

I certainly miss things from those days, though I could be so involved because I wasn’t as employed, so I certainly don’t want to go back to that sort of thing.  Even if CCGs make money, that doesn’t translate into big bucks for people.

Should I rummage through and find my signed, embossed B5 cards and stare wistfully at the stars?  Probably not.  But, maybe, I’ll go hunt down some emails from those days and look to post more antediluvian mysteries.

However, next up in my plans is to talk about NPCs, maybe get into some !Nosferatu decks.  Who knows?  Some day, I might even get back to posting something about the L5R RPG, since that’s mostly what people read about on my blog.  Actually, I tried finding out some info about the Saturday campaign and it doesn’t look like I’ll get anything more, so I have something I’ve been thinking of posting from that campaign, even though it won’t help anyone to build better characters, murder enemies faster, et al.  Does tie into talking about NPCs, though …


[Tournament Report] No Trophy

January 3, 2016

There are so many people that come to mind as possible players in a V:TES tournament, even now.  Sure, many have family responsibilities or otherwise moved on, but, then, there are others who can forego funds, sleep, or elsewise to drag themselves out to bolster the ranks.

But, you know what?  People should do what they want to do.  We still had 12 players for both tournaments, so all was good.  Back in the day, having that many for two events would have been a cause to rejoice.

We start before 11AM

Tournament 1

Round 1:

Eric H. (Lasombra SB w/ Under Siege fighting) -> Eric S. (Tunnel Runner) -> Ian (Madmen Hold Quills) -> Kenneth (Nakhthorheb)

I get a hand full of Madman’s Quills.  Fortunately, I get enough other cards to be able to fend off being bled for a couple of turns.  I keep putting a Quill on one of Kenneth’s dudes just to get some out of my hand.  My Santaleous is ready to massively cancel … until Eric H. plays Giant’s Blood when I’m sitting on my own.  I cancel his crosstable because Eric S. is in deep trouble, not having enough defense to deal with being bled by Dominate at stealth.

I keep taking Powerbase: Luanda from people, starting with the person who played it, as it gives me something to do to buy time and I thought it was going to be important not to get rushed.

I was concerned that Kenneth was playing Chameleon, so I sat on The Diamond Thunderbolt for a while, eventually tossing it as I couldn’t maintain multiple Quills and nonproductive cards.  Kenneth bloated a fair amount, but I bled him to keep him in ousting range.  While he had Catherine du Bois out, he only bounced me with Lost in Translation.  Kenneth was able to significantly decrease Eric’s pool.  I bled for 3, got bounced, bounced back, DI, bounced back.  The DI brought Kenneth down to 6.  So, I bled twice more.

There wasn’t much of an endgame race.  Eric was low enough that I From a Sinking Shipped his Ermenegildo with Abbot, which didn’t matter as I had three stealth to get by his Under Siege.

A different table split, so I was guaranteed the finals.

Round 2:

Ian -> Rick (Shatter the Gate w/ PJ block) -> Brandon (AUS/OBF 1-2) -> Mark (Mata Hari The Eldest Are Kholo)

Mark clowned around sufficiently that the lack of Scourge of the Enochians or the like meant I couldn’t hold out.  Brandon didn’t have a lot to do effectively.

Rick played a Shatter the Gate that we couldn’t remove.  He got Unmada to defend.  Before I could lunge, Mark ousted me with Paul Forrest enhanced bleeds.  I did Elder Michaelis’s Hold for Freak Drive.  Did I make a mistake not talking to Rick about giving me pool with Parity Shift before I topdecked Confusion of the Eye to kill one I had no love for?  I just tire of the idea of “clear threat, go kill that guy” play.

Rick was low on pool, but he defended well, Eyes of Argus and Second Tradition keeping him alive long enough to bring out Benjamin Rose and, eventually, take the game.

Finals:

I get in as fifth seed on a roll off with Rick.  Fifth seed in a 12 player tournament with 1&3 is just bizarre.  The table splitters didn’t make it.  Eric and Mark rolled off for 2nd/3rd, Eric won that.

Mark places to my left.  Eric places between Mark and Rick.  David A. places as my prey.  I go first.  I love my seating position, figuring Rick can be murdered reasonably quick to where I don’t get Parity Shifted much.  I didn’t realize how much I would factor into that murder …

Ian -> David A. (DoC Crescendo and bleed) -> Mark -> Eric H. -> Rick

What cost me the game?  Was it Nightstick?  Was it not talking to Mark about Con Boon for Malks?  Was it trying to break Pentex on Eric’s dude?  Was it the fact that you don’t always have complete control over winning?

I Santaleoused Rick’s Zillah’s Valley.  I tried breaking his Pentex and Annazir blocked Santaleous!  David tried to Crescendo backwards, and I DIed that.  He tried Vampiric Disease on Santaleous and I Santaleoused that.

Mark lost three ready minions in one turn, one to Society of Leopold, the other two got Crescendoed (one being Mata Hari).  That took so much pressure off of Eric that he broke Pentex and evaporated Rick’s pool.  Rick never got a second dude in play.  I Touch of Clarityed a Bonding, but that was both weak and may have been yet another mistake.  I thought he had played Conditioning – too far away for me to see his cards clearly, though I should have focused on who he had in play.

David got down to 2 pool because he didn’t bother burning my first Madman’s Quill until after I used it a few times.  I ousted him, but I had to discard two Elder Michaelis’s Holds and a Chiram’s Hold beforehand to get into more defensive cards.  I wanted to My Enemy’s Enemy a bleed to Mark, but I used it with Sean Ryscek to try to block an action that I failed to block.  That might have cycled me, however, into surviving later for a bit longer.  What it didn’t cycle me into was one more Madman’s Quill to finish off Mark.

So, Eric bled me out, which guaranteed his win.  We had kind of overlooked that that was going to be the case.  Mark and I should have coordinated better given how that would have worked.

Tournament 2

Round 1:

Eric S. (Osebo flung junk) -> Alex (FoS vote) -> Ian (Akunanse Trophy) -> Rick (Lasombra Clergy Amaranthers)

Eric got a .44, then proceeded to play Thrown Sewer Lid and Thrown Gate with that minion in combats.  I got a lot of masters and sketchy combat, plus I sat on two Red Lists for a long time.  I also had three Nkule Galadima in my uncontrolled, Wider Viewed two away only to have Rick Honor the Elders.  Alex brought out Sarrasine Adv. and Kephamos.

Do you see a possible flaw in this game for me?  Oh, I did bring out Uchenna and Nkule.  I didn’t ever play a Red List … even though I thought about it quite a bit on Eric’s *legal* targets.

Alex recovered.  Rick became all powerful.  Eric tried blocking tons of things early that amounted to little, made limited use of my Powerbase: Luanda.  Uchenna got Amaranthed because I can’t fit enough combat defense in my 90 card deck to actually deal with opposing combat.  I transfer out another to go to 1 pool to put more votes in play to try to limit Rick’s vote lockage, Alex decides to bleed me out.

Rick wins.

Note that besides not being able to Red List predator or prey, Eric’s deck will rip through my combat like adamantium claws through titanium steel.

Round 2:

David A. (DoC vote/bleed) -> Ian -> Mark (Thetmes Contract) -> Alex

I didn’t even play a Trophy.  Sure, I searched one out after murdering one of David’s Daughters.  Not Trophy: Diablerie.  Alex burned my newly minted three bleeder, so I did what I always do and petulantly self-ousted.

Because David lost Angela Preston to Red List, Thetmes, Graverobbing and Gael to my Amaranth, he didn’t have enough left to continue his annoying Madrigaling and Alex ousted him.  Mark, of course, took the endgame.

I used to like Daughters vote, note how I was the first person to ever win a big enough tournament with DoC playing vote, with the ability to Dramatic Upheaval three or more times in a game.  Lily Prelude and all of the “if you vote my way, you get blood” crap just makes it incredibly obnoxious.  People should just shut it down rather than being blood whores.

Of course, bloodhunting one of my two minions wasn’t the only thing that put me in a lost position.  Mark not letting Alex steal Paris Opera House as well as Pentexing one of my guys made me not remotely interested in what happened.

Finals:

I think I’m fairly happy not to have made that finals.  As predicted, Rick won.  See, there were two major themes in this tournament.  Voting with vote manipulation cards that made things incredibly complex between the two Velvet Tongue decks and David’s deck and harsh combat.

David A. -> David CK (Potence flung junk) -> Mark -> Brett (Velvet Tongue) -> Rick

Yup, two rush decks next to each other.  Given that DA’s DoC decks can’t really survive and this one couldn’t even Crescendo backwards, I figured DCK would tire of him and he would pop.  Mark would go forward.  He should go forward, but, given DCK’s and Mark’s play styles, there was likely to be fighting even though the natural thing is to meet back later after nuking the table.  This would contain Brett.  Plus, Rick would just have too much voting power such that the manipulators would have to do a lot work to manipulate votes through.

Not that I watched.  I was in a casual game.

Somehow, I owned a V:TES messenger bag.  A prize, I think, but I don’t remember.  Since I have no use for messenger bags, needing a man bag to carry around 6000 cards or whatever, I provided it as prize support for a modest fee.  Rick seemed happy to get it, which is great, as otherwise it would have sat around without me even having any memories or feelings towards it, unlike various other prizes.

Casual Game:

Kenneth (Trujah w/ Auspex) -> Eric S. (Tunnel Runner) -> Alex (Qawiyya) -> Ian (Ani/Nec) -> Brandon (Bay and Howl)

Kenneth contained Brandon’s swarming.  He also played Scourge of the Enochians.  Brandon played The Uncoiling.  With FBI Special Affairs and The Unmasking(!!) in play, Brandon randomly nailed Scourge, Eric nuked The Uncoiling.

The Uncoiling is just so horrible at its job.  It should be way f*ing harder for it to go away as events are a pox upon the game.  Of course, ban The Unmasking and you only have rarely played events and The Rising that need to go.  I despise Scourge and think it’s terrible design, but, like Archon Investigation, it’s a dumb hoser that serves an important function in the game.

Alex went backwards early, so I ignored him.  Then, he started trying to burn my Army of Rats?!?  So, I blocked him.  I often had multiple wakes in hand.  Tammy’s maneuver meant nobody could hurt her.  Marino’s Spectral Divination based intercept meant I blocked stuff.  I also got Carmine.  Yes, Tammy Walenski, Marino Reymundo Vasquez, and Carmine Giovanni were out at the same time and Aid from Batsing like there was some sort of tomorrow.

More than an hour passed when we checked time I was amazed how little of consequence happened in the game.  Kenneth eventually got Eric.  Nobody else had the firepower to take anyone out before time.

Good times.  I even enjoyed elements of playing my Trophy deck, like having a personal goal of trying to put six trophies in play that I would never receive.  I didn’t know enough to know how Trophy: Diablerie works, but that wasn’t why my dude got bloodhunted.  I put my fate in other people’s hands, and they lost, as they typically do when I have to rely on them.  Maybe, I need to get back to decks that just choose players to die and kills them, like that Daughters deck.  Nah, it’s funny to give people the option of taking me out of games.  It’s like some grand psychology experiment that I’ve been running for a decade or more.

Thanks to Eric and Andy for hosting and for Eric not letting a more boring deck win the first tournament.  Thanks to Brandon for organizing and judging.  Thanks to everyone who showed up and gave me a chance to actually get some V:TES in.  Congratulations to Rick on his first tournament win and to Eric for his third.

Now, we just got to do this more often with more people.


How To: Win 20+

February 22, 2013

I haven’t written much about V:TES recently.  I missed out on the recent excursion to get some tournaments in down South, so missed out on some fodder for posts.  But, I got to thinking about something while looking over deck lists.  I have a theory that I want to “test”.

Since there is no such thing as rigorous testing with this game, I thought I’d take a look at what decks won 20+ player tournaments, going back about 20 tournaments.  As it happens, by going back 19 tournaments, capture October 2012, which includes three 100+ player tournaments from the European Championships.

What am I looking for?

Three things.  Wakes, intercept, and bounce.  In particular, the reaction card kind.

Start with the 100+ player decks and move down.

EC 2012 FCQ: Goratrix/Omaya Wall

Wall deck using Auspex – lots of all three.

EC 2012 Day 1: Unmada and Lutz

Small amounts of each – max output for any one is four slots, with cards overlapping in functions.

EC 2012 LCQ: Toreador Triple-A

Three Deflection, two On the Qui Vive, two Second Tradition.  Amusingly, no Auspex reactions.

If the Toreador had only been doing Auspex, all three 100+ player tournament winning decks would have been using it.

EC 2012 Day 2: Girls Will Find Inner Sleaze

Couple bleed wakes, couple Lost in Translation, and Aksinya.

Porque esto es África

No real reactions.

EC 2012 Silence of Death: Toreador Aching Beauty

Two Eyes of Argus, five Second Tradition, five Telepathic Misdirection.

the nephandus experimental v3.0

No reactions.  The Unmasking for permacept, of course.

Arika’s raping team

Five Deflection.

rambo shambo

Wake, bounce, Delaying Tactics, can use Spectral Divination for intercept, The Unmasking.

Speed Kills

Two Lost in Translation, two Second Tradition.

Extremely Silent and Incredibly Far Away

While not heavy on reaction cards, this is a wall deck that uses permacept and Atonement.  Only two bounce cards, though.

Cara Roja

Wake, bounce, even a touch of Auspex bounce.

Anarch_Goratrix v1.1

Wall deck.

Heavy duty

Twelve wakes, 13 Murmur of the False Will.

Pascek’s Hounds

Permacept, four Cats’ Guidance, four wakes.

Inner Circle

None.

Ventrue Anti 1.1

Grinder deck has lots of these things … shocking.

Cute Little Stone Babies

Two Deflection.

Shane Grimald Deck #4

Wake, bounce, Delaying Tactics.

So, what was the point of all this?

Actually, before getting to that, comment upon the potential metagame biases in just looking 19 decks back.  Lot of decks are from Europe.  But, Europe isn’t one big metagame.  Add in some decks from elsewhere and I’m not going to worry much about metagame biases when I’m looking at so few decks, anyway.

The point of all of this is not one-fold.

First, I keep thinking about how many fat vampire decks along the lines of Girls or Lutz or whatever that have paltry levels of intercept or defense against actions besides permavotes to mess with voting.  I wanted to see if there was a pattern in tournament winning decks from larger events of just ignoring the possibility of being messed with by non-bleed/non-vote actions (and inability to stop tool up actions).

Second, I was curious to see if there was a pattern of having far more bounce cards than wake cards in these decks.  I’m constantly amazed by the decks that run 5+ bounce cards and don’t seem to care about waking.  Not only is that negative actions by keeping someone untapped who didn’t need to be, but it means vulnerability to tap plays – Anarch Troublemaker, Mind Numb, etc.

Within this tiny sample size of 19 decks, there really is no pattern.  Some decks are wall decks.  Some have moderate amounts of wake + bounce.  Some have little to no reaction plan.  Only one does the “I bounce but I don’t care about waking” thing that *doesn’t* involve Aksinya.

Given a lack of pattern, I don’t see an obvious way to take advantage of the metagame.  Now, it could very well be that the decks that didn’t win provided much clearer information.  A breakdown of just the 100+ tournaments of every deck would be far more useful data than what I’m working with.

For some, the threshold of credible stealth is to get to three, to bypass Second Tradition.  Against a lot of my decks and based on inconsistent observation, it still seems like two stealth is far and away mightier than one stealth.  For instance, the Nephandi and Shamblers above are not going to be blocking much in the way of two stealth actions (no intercept locations).

Well, the one thing I take away from this exercise is that there is a decent amount of diversity in what wins, and that wall decks do just fine.  Wait, that’s two things.


2012 V:TES Qualifier

December 30, 2012

Because people from outside the area need to get home, we don’t have a Qualifier Weekend, really.  We did have some Friday night play, though, for early arrivals and the South Bayers.

Weak Sauce 1:

Aaron (Kurt Densch blocks it all) -> Andy (Tumnimos) -> Ian (Kiev Circle) -> David (winnie vote/bleed w/ Obf) -> Brandon (winnie Pre vote)

David and Brandon did much raaahhhrrr.  Andy and I did much hhhar-har-har.  Aaron had to defend all day.  I rushed some with Oppugnant Night not being as effective as I was intending due to the power of Fake Out and Dodge against my largely Desert Eagleless Blood Brothers.

Ultimately, the game was not much to write about, with Brandon dying, David having something like 10 vampires in torpor at some point between intercept combat in front and rush combat behind, and my realizing after the game that I forgot to put in any strategy for ousting my prey.  Time out with just the one oust.

Weak Sauce 2:

Ian (Art Scam/Flamethrower w/ Obf) -> David (Great Beast) -> Aaron (Dom/Pot/Tha) -> James (Millicent Smith combo) -> Brandon (fat FoS)

I put one on Gabriel de Cambrai.  Turn two, Brandon has Pentweret.   James has Apache Jones, adds Sayshila.  Aaron has Cameron, then Marianna to be all punchy.  David Soul Gems Huitz into Beast, losing Huitz to combat and Brandon’s diablerie.

Gabriel learns the all important master Obfuscate rather than the irrelevant master Auspex and largely fails to stop FoS bleeds for 3-5.  James does pull off his combo of Lunatic Eruption, Millicent Smith, plus lending me intercept with Tourette’s Voice and Babble, but it’s all for naught as Malabranca only steals one pool a turn from my prey and I only play two Art Scams – the turn two one and the same card I pull back with turn three Ashur Tablets (the only card I recurse).  Having forgotten how I built the deck, I realized after looking through it why I didn’t see anything other than Quicken Sight for Auspex cards – there weren’t any.  Top card of Quicken Sight, though, might have saved me and may have not in the crucial “stop Nakhthorheb from gaining Blithe Acceptance when Brandon has Millicent” turn.

Since it was late and the next day was the tourneys, I packed up and went home and found out the next day what happened.  Oddly, I was maybe two turns from ousting my prey as I had Palla Grande in hand and there was a lack of defense against bleeds at stealth to my left.  Of course, it’s often the case that I’m finally ready to inflict grievous injury upon my prey right around when I get ousted, since it usually takes me an hour and a half or so to get around to being ready for the inflict grievous injury phase of the game.

Saturday 1, 20 players:

Round 1:

Ian (ABO Magaji Highlander) -> Alex (Saulot & allies) -> David (Jar of Skin Eaters) -> Adam (Giovanni bleed/allies) -> Andy (Tumnimos)

Having not learned his lesson about playing Brandon’s Tumnimos deck, Andy played it again and somehow failed to get a VP with Week of Nightmares in play.  Alex did a lot of Conviction stuff early, so it looked like it might be Imbued even after Beatrice came up – just turned out to be the usual off-Imbued use of Beatrice, with Ossian joining Saulot.  Ossian was an annoyance because I had to play around him, plus I kept an Invoke Poison Glands in hand from beginning to last turn of the game to randomly annihilate Beatrice.  But, Beatrice, even with Crusader Sword, never fought with me.

Adam did stuff and received Jar-age to the Famed Isabel.  His The Unmasking made a real mess of things between my prey, his Akhenaten(!), and my Tunnel Runner.  I had to keep Tunnel Runner on “D” for most of the game (up until Adam got ousted) because I had only two vampires and TR was my best defender.  The game ground on, with David’s Muaziz getting Sensory Depped, though Rutor’s Hand meant she was functional.  David’s lack of blood and getting beaten down by Ossian made it hard for him to get a pool depleted Andy.  I did mistakenly block Andy’s Raven Spy while Adam was still bouncing/bleeding Andy to death because I just figured he could play a stealth card.  Having tooled up forever with Shaman, Murder, Akunanse Remains, Ancestor Spirit, I finally realized how little time was left in the game and pushed impotently forward.  Alex was very close to the oust, theoretically with Saulot Camera Phone, Uriel, and Ossian Fame rushing crosstable on Andy.  Beatrice had been punked and efforts were made to go after her in convalescent care, but even Sprinkles, the Underbridge Stray, couldn’t feast upon her soul.

Time out for the … eh.

Round 2:

David -> Ian -> Rick (3/4 big Tremere) -> Aaron (Malk intercept) -> Kenneth (high cap Malks)

Like I don’t see the Jar deck all of the frickin’ time.  Kaahh.  By the way, I was quite unimpressed with how many decks people were playing that I had seen before, from within the area and without.  I just can’t understand how people don’t get bored playing the same deck over and over, but that’s me.

This was kind of amusing, though Kenneth was quickly dispatched and Aaron found my lack of prey containment not so enthralling.  David doesn’t get Muaziz right away, so weenie Dom guys bleed me, with whoever 3 cap and his skill card getting Archon Investigated to slow the beats.  Rick puts out Mistress Fanchion.  Aaron blocks many with Zoe the master (Ivory Bow) archer, including Kenneth’s Lutz.  Kenneth is at 4 pool after Lutz, Brandywine, and Helicopter, but is around long enough for David to try to Graverob, Eagle Sight blocked by Aaron, followed by Raw Recruit, not followed by Muaziz chomping as Raw Recruit succeeded.

My Ugadja was offended by active Skin Eaters and decided to Deep Song rush Muaziz, which led to Muaziz’s hands and a Horde of Canine burying the Skin Eaters somewhere safe.  Later Jars were delayed by Aaron’s intercept.

With Uchenna, Ugadja, Bamba, and little pool because of constant bleeds from my predator, I did little to my prey except burn his Mob Connections.  My prey, on the other hand, bled Aaron some and contested Ivory Bow, depriving Aaron of combat threat value.  Aaron’s game went from hefty to shifty after Kenneth was gone due to Pulsed Aleph being consumed by Skin Eaters and the lack of Ivory.  I had a way to survive Fame on Uchenna, bleed, and a Skin Eater rush, but I was so low in pool that I had to block a stupid Gargoyle bleed after being bled to one by Muaziz’s 5 bleed, meaning I couldn’t wake, intercept Muaziz rush, Skin of Night in combat the Skin Eaters.

Shame for Aaron and my reputation as an effectual player.  I had been sitting on Fear of Mekhet almost all game, not being sure of what to do with Kenneth still in the game, then having to wait for Fanchion to get below 5 blood.  I also just drew The Kiss of Ra, so possibly on Rick’s next turn, Fanchion would have been gone.  Then, a turn later, some Tremere fattie, like Oliver Thrace takes a nap over some pathetic action of mine.

Game times out.  Then, things get cra-a-a-zy.  Twenty person tournament.  Only two of the finalists had game wins.  Three finalists had 1.5 VPs each round, including Aaron and David.  Dennis Lien won with a Tariq deck.

I played two casual games with mostly Davis players.  First was quick with a bunch of Anarch Revolts.  The second was slow and we cleaned up when it was apparent that no one was going to be ousted before the qualifier.  I did get amused by my Lucian, The Perfect not being threatened by !Toreador to the right or Blood Brothers(!) to the left (both group 2 circles were being played in the game, neither was all that threatening in combat, playing lots of Shell Games and whatnot).  I had a hand of Make an Example, Eyes of Argus, Telepathic Misdirection, and four Tastes of Vitae at one point.  Sadly, this deck’s highpoint over the weekend was this game.

Qualifier, 21 players:

Round 1:

Ian (Ass intercept combat) -> Kenneth (Obeah/Tha) -> James (Iron Glare) -> Jeff (Nos Royalty) -> Chris (big Tzimisce War Ghoul?)

I don’t know what James’s deck was trying to do as he brought out Shemti and Nana, but I know he voted.  Kenneth brought out Saulot and Elena made an Infernal Pact to learn the evil that is Obeah.  He Spirit Marionetted some but took so long bringing out Saulot, I bled him a couple of times with Loss and then ignored him as I dealt with the menace.  Chris was not a menace, simply a speed bump as I blocked Dragos bleeding with Evan Rogers because, seriously, a 3 cap with Cel/Qui does not fear anything, and then, I ignored him as Jeff rolled through him with the power of voting and Selma, the Legendary Vampire, bleeding.

When Jeff got to me, I not only was Blood Awakening low due to having discarded a couple thinking Chris would survive longer but really didn’t have an answer to more than two stealth anyway.  I could have reduced bleeds, but Jeff cheated by playing a vote deck when no one bothered with vote defense.  Jeff may have swept, it hardly mattered.

Round 2:

Steve (Aus/Dem/Obf bleed/vote) -> Joel (Pot/For/Dom rush) -> Ian -> Brett (The Eternal Mask)

Ah, four players, such a different experience.  To my benefit in this case.  Joel got hammered by bounced bleeds and Alicia Barrows and Stavros bleeding.  Steve didn’t vote before Stavros between Joel’s Lazverinus and Amenophobis.  Both were not so good for him for obvious reasons.  Laz rushed a lot but couldn’t finish off Alicia or Stavros when needed, leaving Joel to be a non-existent predator.  Brett worried me as he could easily sweep if he got Steve.  I happened to have Bakr pop up, and, much to my surprise, Bakr went on a killing spree, napping Amenophobis to prevent bounce, napping Alicia, waving his Weighted Walking Stick angrily when not Tasting of the Death.  Who would have guessed that rush would be so useful?

Meanwhile, with no predator, I got out other dudes, so I ended up with Evan with Quietus skill card, Monty Coven, and two Webs.  I had four Blood Awakening in hand at one point and untapped three guys with Eluding and two Sunrises when Brett hunted to annoy Steve in a turn after he finally got Joel.  With Brett largely bloodless and just Renenet and Waters doing Eternal bleeds, I wasn’t worried he would get Steve.  Nor was I that offended by his Suddening my Agent of Power on a Web.  I bled them both out in the same turn, two Loss bleeds for Steve.

GW and 3 VPs was only enough in this event to tie for seventh with Ben Peal of all folks.  David lost a coin flip to Dennis for fifth with a bunch of folks at 4 VPs.  Jeff Kuta won the finals fairly quickly while I was running home to look for cards to trade people, including Shorb who was going to leave early the next morning.

Played a casual after doing some trading, and had to face Brandon’s weenie Presence vote deck and David’s Great Beast deck and Brandon’s fat FoS deck for the umpteenth times.

Chris (Lutz and Herbert) -> Ben (fat FoS) -> David (Great Beast) -> Ian (The Perfect friend for Osebo) -> Brandon (winnie Pre vote)

Lucian, The Perfect got Heroic in his Might, Marked Well, and put on the Leather.  But, I basically did nothing all game as I kept getting bled and didn’t draw any bounce, unlike the casual earlier where I drew something like five TMs.  Brandon did oddly Pentex Lucian and burn him with Justicar Retribution, the only effect of the latter being to deprive me of bleed reduction with Ancestor’s Insight and the former being irrelevant to my inability to block FoS after David dies.  At least I was able to keep Lucian perfect and never bleed with him in either game.

Lutz didn’t slow Brandon’s voting down much, only accelerating pool damage to Brandon’s second prey.  Brandon got vote lock, a bunch of dudes, and I didn’t interact with him all game as my deck didn’t have that much intercept and Osebo Kholo didn’t end up mattering.  Ben got me without too much trouble – see lack of bleed bounce.  Then, the endgame was an interesting match of Brandon’s winnie swarm with no library and FoS big bleed.  I figured Ben had it due to pool counts, only Ben Daring the Dawned Porphyrion to be able to play Redeem the Lost Soul, only to have Nakhthorheb Pentexed for lockdown.

Thank yous, of course, to Andrew and Eric Haas for hosting, Brandon and Andrew Haas for organizing and running and getting food and drink (though I didn’t partake of either), players showing up, especially those who traveled far, such as the SoCal players.

Was there a lesson to be learned from the events?

First, I’m done with Experiment #2.  Still have sample size issues with saying whether my Ass deck was viable, since it performed in only a single game, a game in which I had no predator.  It was amusing, though, to have Bakr run around killing folks.  It was amusing to put a hunting ground in play with a deck with no master pool gain and not feel bad.  Sadly, I can’t say I was playing a rush deck as Bakr is just in there for disciplines.

I may do some more experiments, but the Lords of the Night one was so discouraging with how many things don’t exist in the set to make diverse decks that I don’t know if I can stomach playing more boring decks that can’t play staples of the game, like Blood Doll.  I might do something like a precon and open up some boosters every once in a while just because I have so many loose boosters from so many different sets lying around.

Second, is there anything to be drawn from how I sucked at these tournaments where I played decks I built specifically for tournament play and won 50% of the tournaments when we trekked down to SoCal playing decks only built for casual play as I was too lazy to build some dedicated tournament decks?