Monday, December 31, 2007

VtES Clan Newsletters in December 2007

Three new clan newsletters have been posted in the "rec.trading-cards.jyhad" usenet newsgroup this month. Beside using a newgroup reader, you can also access the newsgroup by Google Groups.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Deck Building and Card Search Utilities

Due to the recent changes of the ARDB, I have updated the article and I have added links to the card pictures/images downloads.

There are quite a number of deck building programs or online card search utilities for VtES available. The good thing is, all of them are free for use. I will list the most common tools here and briefly give some information about each of them. The raw data for the VtES card databases comes from the "White Wolf" website where the complete list of cards including the card texts are stored. Usually two to three weeks after the release of a VtES expansion this list will be updated. Although the card text list is the basis of all of the utilities listed below, but the WW website offers no search or filter functionality by itself.

Elder Library Deck Builder (ELDB)
The ELDB is a legacy program, since it is no longer maintained. The author David Andersion-Davila discontinued the development of the program quite some years ago, but for long time it was the only working and usable deck builder program for VtES. So, kudos to David for his great program, the mother of all VtES deck builders!!

Fragments of Elder Library Deck Builder ("FELDB")
Current Version: 2.4.0
Author(s): Balasz Kuno Kiss
Description: After the ELDB ("Elder Library Deck Builder") was no longer maintained, the ELDB's author David Andersion-Davila published the sources and FELDB was the result of the development with serious improvements over the old program.
Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • Card List & Inventory
    • complete card list with card text
    • almost complete collection of pictures of actual cards (only LotN is missing), but not always the latest version of the cards.
    • basic ability to filter and sort cards, this could be better, especially when compared to the ARDB.
    • card inventory can be kept, but needs to be used carefully when updating to the next version or expansion.
  • Deck Building
    • offers the basic functionality of deck builder
    • includes some statistical information about the decks as well as card drawing simulation
    • ability to store decks in native format (*.eld), as text (*.txt), HTML file (*.html) or for use with JOL (*.jol).
  • Other Features
    • several import/export options for decks and inventories
    • usually the quickest update after an expansion has been released
    • can update card database from White Wolf website (indirectly)
URL: http://webware.interware.hu/bala0/feldb.html
URL for card images: http://feldb.extra.hu/pictures.zip
Cost: free software
OS Platforms: Windows
Expansion Updates: about 1 to 2 weeks after an expansion has been released.
Expansions: all VtES expansions.
Latest Posting: 05/Oct/2007

Anarch Revolt Deck Builder ("ARDB")
Current Version: Version 2 RC 4
Author(s): Francois Gombault / Graham Smith
Description: Layered Filters, multiple export functionality and a tidy interface are the top features of this program, somewhat newer than the FELDB it had a fresh start and gained soon popularity in the VtES community.
Advantages/Disadvantages:
  • Card List & Inventory
    • complete card list with card texts
    • almost complete collection of pictures of actual cards, but not always the latest version of the cards. The card images are only working on Windows.
    • great search & filter use, multiple, layered filters
    • card inventory can be kept
  • Deck Building
    • offers the basic functionality of deck builder
    • includes some statistical information about the decks as well as card drawing simulation
    • ability to store decks in XML format (*.xml), as text (*.txt), HTML file (*.html) or for use with JOL (*.jol) or for posting to internet forums (*.phbBB).
    • gives some advice on deck building based on the "Happy Families" theory
  • Other Functionality
    • can update card database from White Wolf website
    • little utility for creating proxy cards
URL: http://ardb.googlecode.com/files/ardb_11_01_2008.zip
URL for card images: http://www.divshare.com/download/3437098-a1c
Cost: free software
OS Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X 10.3+
Expansion Updates: about 2 to 4 weeks after an expansion has been released.
Expansions: all VtES expansions.
Latest Posting: 12/Jan/2008

Simple VtES Deck Builder
Current Version: ??
Author(s): Bob Joseph
Description: I haven't had the pleasure of testing it, since it requires both a Linux OS and/or an installed Perl. There is also little advice on how to install the program, definetly nothing for the casual Windows user.
URL: http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~joseph/svdb.tar.gz
Cost: free software
Version: ???
Platform: Linux (possibly Windows or Mac as well)

Comparison

While FELDB is the oldest (working) deck builder available, it sometimes shows, especially when it comes to the design of the interface and the filter abilities. Having it lost the advantage of showing the card images recently, it has a slight disadvantage against ARDB. The only real advantages I see is that the FELDB is slightly faster when it comes down to expansion update and it does not require any Java installation.
ARDB is equally good, while it sometimes lacks the speed of expansion updates, but it has to offer great search and filter capabilities as well as clear and tidy interface. With the addition of the card images it has overtaken the FELDB.
All in all I have no clear favourite, and it's more a question of belief (and maybe history of usage) for most VtES players which program is the better one.

Online Card Utilities
There are also quite a number of online search (and filter) websites for VtES cards: All of them offer a quick search by card text or name as well as an advanced search & filter functionality. They all include the cards from all VtES expansion. Their advantage is their availability from a computer or internet terminal without the need to install extra software. Good for the quick search while away from home at least.

VtES Monger
Current Version: 3.7
Author: Ethan Burrow
URL: http://monger.vekn.org/
Description: The oldest web site offering a VtES card search, unfortunately the site was quite often down in the last few weeks, but it still does it's job. The most distinguished feature is the ability to set (and store) preferences for viewing the search result. Also quite unique is the "Crypt Challenge" where you can enter a few constraints and based on the "Happy Family" theory a sample crypt is generated.

V:EKN nu
Current Version: ??
Author(s): Archibald Zimony
URL: http://www.vekn.se/search.php?page=search
Description: A swedish website, also with search and filter capability. The filter capability is somewhat enhanced from the functionality VtES Monger offers.

Secret Library
Current Version: 0.6.0
Author: Jussi Hattara
URL: http://www.uusimaailma.net/vtes/
Description: A finnish website with similar filter & search functionality as "V:EKN Nu" and "VtES Monger". Nice, fresh web design and the ability to keep one's inventory as well as deck building utility. Definitively the best web-based site. The only "drawback" you need a (free) account to use the deck building and inventory functionality.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Deck Archetypes: Speed Shamblers

(c) by White WolfThe "Speed Shamblers" deck archetype has had considerable success in the past few years in the VtES tournament scene. Olivier Perez is the foremost player using it, his tournament score card is quite impressive with tournament wins in the German and French ECQ 2006 and runner-up during the French Nationals 2007. The deck archetype is basically a Rush combat deck with the "Shambling Hordes" as its main weapon. The "speed" factor is due to the small deck size of 60 to 70 cards, and the recursion/tutoring technique from the "Liquidation" and "Sudario Refraction".

How to win with them
At first you need to keep a low profile, and convince everybody that you only need the "Shamblers" to defend yourself and you low-/midcap vampires ("This is Bob. Bob is never going to attack you!" or "This is not a powerbleed deck! Look at my puny vampires!"). Surprisingly this works more often than you might think, especially with more inexperienced players.

First priority is to bring out 2 to 3 "Shambling Hordes". It's somewhat easier for the "Shamblers" player to bring them into play than the somewhat comparable "War Ghouls". Instead of having a retainer or an ally in play, the only requirement (besides "Necromancy") is one of them in the ash heap instead. For assistance you'll mainly use "Call of the Hungry Dead". Against a dedicated block deck this won't help much though.

After some "Shamblers" have been recruited, you'll need usually need to attack your predator; either to elimiate him as a threat, or to threaten him into submission. After that you can turn your eye onto your prey. Start eliminate vampires that can block easily or bounce your bleed actions. The deck usually packs only few "Conditionings", but they can be recycled - like everything else - by using the "Sudario Refraction". When the defense of your prey is down, you can use these to oust your prey more quickly.

(c) by White WolfThere are several nifty techniques/tricks in this deck:
  • The main engine which makes the deck so powerful is the combination of "Liquadation" and "Sudario Refraction". The "Liquidation" generates three pool and puts seven cards from your library to your ash heap. This seven (additional) cards in the ash heap allow to a more effective search for particular cards using the "Sudario Refraction".
  • The combination of "Unmasking" and "FBI Special Affairs Division" makes a good defensive package. If the "Shamblers" are successfully blocking, and the acting vampire actually manages to burn the "Shamblers, he takes an additional two damage from the "FBI".
  • You'll gonna need "Acquired Ventrue Assets" to refill the costly "Shambling Hordes". Take notice that the "Assets" are not unique, so multiple copies of the card can be in play.

Bleed defense
Bleed defense is a number of the traditional "Deflection". You won't see much "Redirection" or the new "Murmur of the False Will" since the deck's crypt is somewhat smallish and only relatively few vampires have superior "Dominate". If bled heavily the deck will try to regain played "Deflections" by playing "Sudario Refraction".

Vote defense
The deck uses "Delaying Tactics", as the name of the card suggests, just to delay the votes of political deck. Afterwards, if threatened seriously the Giovanni player will send the "Shamblers" to rush the offending/voting vampires, if necessary also cross-table.

Combat defense
The deck works well against almost any form of close combat decks, but has problems against ranged combat, e.g. "Celerity Gun" or "Animalism" combat decks which use "Aid from Bats" and "Carrion Crows". With the ban against "Memories of Mortality" the "Speed Shamblers" deck will have more trouble against close combat decks, since it can no longer effectively elimate the damage of the combat vampires from the equation, and will have to act more cautiously against these type of decks.

How to win against them
The "Speed Shamblers" deck is far from invincible, though even if harrased it is often still the strongest deck at the table, since it is needs little setup, and can replace lost resource often quite easily. Here are some tips on how beat it:
  • (c) by White WolfPlay "Wash" or "Sudden Reversal" on the "Parthenon" or the "Memories of Mortality".
  • Block the "Sudario Refraction"; remember you will usually need two minions with +1 intercept each to block. If you are a wall deck, block the Giovanni early and block them often. This is their Achilles heal: lack of stealth and other ways of bringing their actions through other than "Call of the Hungry Wolf".
  • Play "Sniper Rifle" or other long range weapons. Even two or three in a deck are enough if you can manage to wake often enough to block attacking shamblers. Good news is that you do not need stealth for block the brainless.
  • If you are a Rush deck, rush them first; the "Shamblers" if you can put them down, the Giovanni if you can get past the Shambler blockers.
  • If you are play a political deck, pack some "Approximation of Loyalty". The Giovanni playing the "Delaying Tactics"" are usually mid-caps or weenies.
  • Talk to your crosstable buddy and your prey to get rid of the "Memories of Mortality". Profit from the bad image the "Speed Shamblers" have.
  • And most importantly: Don't get initimidated by the threats the Giovanni player is making, and do not let them built up!

Key Cards
  • (c) by White Wolf"Shambling Hordes" - the Meat and Brain of the deck, chumps to kill key vampires, block weenies, etc. Get them early, get lots of them.
  • "Liquidation" -- provides both pool gain and the ability to fetch the cards the "Shamblers" player needs right now by Sudario Refraction.
  • "Parthenon" -- "Speed Shamblers" is often play with less than 90 cards, but still a high count of Master cards (20+), so the Parthenon is essential.
  • "Acquired Ventrue Assets" -- the card to quickly refill the Giovanni to get the next shambler; better than a hunting ground since you can use more than one a single Giovanni at once.
  • "Sudario Refraction" - to gain/recycle those cards currently needed that may have been milled away by a Liquidation earlier.
  • "Unmasking" & "FBI Special Affairs Division" - the Unmasking for the obvious intercept, the FBI for punishing especially other combat decks if they dare to attack one the Giovanni.
Notable Examples & Variations

Decklist
ECQ Paris 2006
Continental Qualifier
Paris, France
23 September 2006
Players: 47
3 round + final

Deck Name : SpeedShambling
Author : Miriadel - Olivier Perez
Description : Tournament Winning Deck

Crypt [12 vampires] Capacity average: 4.42
------------------------------------------------------------
2x Andrea Giovanni 7 DOM NEC pot vic Giovanni:2
2x Rudolfo Giovanni 3 NEC Giovanni:2
1x Rafaele Giovanni 6 NEC cel obf Giovanni:2
1x Isabel Giovanni 5 DOM NEC pot Giovanni:2
1x Le Dinh Tho 5 NEC aus dom Nagaraja:2
1x Francesca Giovanni 4 dom nec pot Giovanni:2
1x Gloria Giovanni 4 DOM nec Giovanni:2
1x Cristofero Giovann 3 nec pot Giovanni:2
1x Lia Milliner 3 dom nec Giovanni:3
1x Mario Giovanni 3 nec pot Giovanni:2

Library [80 cards]
------------------------------------------------------------
Action [7]
2x Graverobbing
5x Sudario Refraction

Action Modifier [8]
6x Call of the Hungry Dead
2x Conditioning

Ally [21]
1x Felix Fix
1x Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
1x Leonardo, Mortician
17x Shambling Hordes

Combat [2]
2x Trap

Equipment [4]
4x Unlicensed Taxicab

Event [5]
1x Anthelios, The Red Star
1x FBI Special Affairs Division
3x Unmasking, The

Master [31]
4x Acquired Ventrue Assets
1x Charisma
3x Direct Intervention
2x Fame
1x Fortschritt Library
1x Giant's Blood
6x Liquidation
3x Memories of Mortality
5x Parthenon, The
3x Path of Bone, The
1x Pentex Subversion
1x Powerbase: Cape Verde

Reaction [3]
3x Delaying Tactics

Monday, December 24, 2007

Poll Results: "My opinion on the newly banned cards ..."

Here are the results of the latest poll on your opinions on the newly banned cards ("Edge Explosion", "Memories of Mortality", "Protect Thine Own"):
  • Why didn't they ban DI/Anthelios with it? -- 5 (9%)
  • All/most of them deserved it. -- 18 (33%)
  • Start fixing these cards, instead of banning them. -- 24 (44%)
  • They needed no fix, let alone a ban. -- 3 (5%)
  • I don't care whether they're banned or not. -- 4 (7%)
So there's no overwhelming majority for either side, although people tend to dislike banning (49%) vs. liking the banning (42%).

Friday, December 21, 2007

VtES League 2007 in Bochum

Here are the final standings of the VtES League 2007 in Bochum, Germany. This year's winner is Martin Schumacher.
  1. Martin 5,30 RtP/Game, 23 Games, 4 GW, 22,5 VP
  2. Martin 5,00 RtP/Game, 2 Games, 0 GW, 2,5 VP
  3. Björn 4,12 RtP/Game, 17 Games, 2 GW, 13,5 VP
  4. Jörg 4,00 RtP/Game, 7 Games, 0 GW, 7,0 VP
  5. Didi 3,90 RtP/Game, 20 Games, 2 GW, 15,5 VP
  6. Hardy 3,37 RtP/Game, 19 Games, 1 GW, 14,0 VP
  7. Ralf 3,30 RtP/Game, 23 Games, 1 GW, 17,0 VP
  8. Michael 3,22 RtP/Game, 18 Games, 1 GW, 12,5 VP
  9. Markus 3,08 RtP/Game, 13 Games, 1 GW, 8,0 VP
  10. Sascha 2,35 RtP/Game, 17 Games, 0 GW, 10,0 VP
  11. Nicole 2,33 RtP/Game, 12 Games, 0 GW, 7,0 VP
  12. Oliver 2,22 RtP/Game, 9 Games, 0 GW, 5,0 VP
  13. Michael 2,00 RtP/Game, 1 Games, 0 GW, 0,5 VP
  14. Barbara 1,50 RtP/Game, 4 Games, 0 GW, 1,5 VP
Marked red are the players that have played the minimum number of games of 8.
The results can also be found in the german VEKN forum here (incl. the individual matchday results). This years ranking shows a very low number of GWs; less than 50% of the games had a GW, and there were a a lot of timeouts. This becomes especially evident when compared to the more than 80% of GW that where scored in the Gelsenkirchen VtES League in 2007 (see below).

VtES League 2007 in Gelsenkirchen

Here are the final standings of the VtES League 2007 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. This year's winner is Martin.
  1. Martin 51 12 33 1,53 10,63
  2. Matthias 35 8 34 1,58 7,58
  3. Sebastian 40,5 7 40 1,86 7,31
  4. Frank 8,5 2 8 0,37 6,62
  5. Sebastian 29 6 34 1,58 6,40
  6. Ralf 19 4 20 0,93 6,33
  7. Thomas 22 3 31 1,44 5,05
  8. Dietmar 20 1 33 1,53 4,20
  9. Martin 1,5 0 3 0,14 2,14
  10. Tobias 3 0 14 0,65 1,51
  11. Michael 1 0 3 0,14 1,47
  12. Heiko 0 0 2 0,09 0,09
The table shows the rank and name of the player, the following numbers are VPs, GWs, Games, Game Attendance Correction, Total Points. Marked red are the players that have played the minimum number of games of 12.
The results can also be found in the Gelsenkirchen VtES forum here, the individual matchday results are stored here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Card Advantage in VtES (Part 2)

This article completes the discussion on "Card Advantage in VtES" together with the first part published two months ago. The first part defined what "Card Advantage" (CA) in VtES actually is, and what the goals of CA are.

The Basics
There are a number of ways to establish a good card flow, in order to get new hand cards which are better suited for the current game situation:
  • cycle unwanted cards
  • draw/discard additional cards
  • search for desired cards
  • increase handsize

Card Cycling
The general concept of "Card Cycling" is playing cards just to get new, and hopefully better ones. Each time you play a card, you draw another one, which is good a good thing in general. Very simple: Playing cards gets you new ones. When having a hand jam, i.e. to many combat cards but no action card to enter combat, the one discard in your discard phase isn't enough, you have wasted a whole turn of yours, and you discarded and redrew one measly card. So you have to take actions to be able to cycle cards.

Example: Your prey is down to 3 pool, but you only have two minions which can bleed each for one only. Your hand is full of combat cards, but no bleed actions or bleed modifiers. In order to better the situation, one of your vampires should start a fight, play some combat cards, in order to draw into a bleed card like "Conditioning" or a "Legal Manipulations".

Sometimes you have to be creative when it comes to cycling, i.e. you are playing cards for the sake of cycling only. Typical examples for this include:
  • Playing a "Minion Tap" for zero blood/pool or a "Taste of Vitae" for zero blood.
  • A vampire hunts and plays a "Freak Drive" afterwards. In the end the hunt action had a net gain of zero (Hunt +1 blood; Freak Drive -1 blood), but you have cycled one card.
  • A vampire plays "The Summoning" even though you do not really want to put an ally in play, since you cannot afford the cost right now.
But take care: sometimes it is not allowed to play a card that requires a second one, i.e. you cannot play a "Concealed Weapon" when you do not have a weapon equipment card in your hand.

(c) by White Wolf Inc.Drawing/Discarding Cards
There is a slight difference between drawing and discarding additional cards. When drawing additional cards, you first draw a number of cards from the library and then discard down to your handsize. When discarding cards, you first discard a card, and then draw up to your handsize. So drawing additional cards first is simply more advantageous than discarding additional cards first.

During discard phase you have an optional discard. You should always should check, if there is any viable card for discarding, by asking yourself the following questions:
  • Can you play that card at all in your next 1-2 turns? Or don't you have the requirements for playing it?
  • Do you have multiple copies of the same card in your hand? Do you need all of them? How many are already in your ashheap?
  • Do you have cards not needed in the current game situation? Nobody's playing politics, so you can throw away your "Delaying Tactics", or nobody's playing "Immortal Grapple" so you might consider discarding your "Disengage".
Example: You have two "Kine Resources Contested" in your hand, but your opponents have currently more votes (titles, etc). on the table than you do. You might consider, discarding one KRC in order to draw an "Animal Magnetism" or a "Ventrue Headquarters".

There are a number of cards which allow you to draw/discard additional cards, such as:
  • Permanents
    • "The Barrens" -- the clasic, allows to discard one additional card.
    • "Fragment of the Book of Nod" -- allows discard two additional cards, but can be stolen.
    • "Powerbase: Los Angeles" -- gives an additonal discard phase action, with an additional bonus for "Anarchs".
    • "Heart of Nizchetus" -- draw up three cards, but do not discard the cards, but put the unwanted cards to the bottom of your library. Clearly the best card in the area.
    • "The Admonitions -- discard one card for controlling a Sabbat vampire, two for a "Black Hand" vampire.
    • "Secret Library of Alexandria" -- let's you draw card each time you successfully bleed, requires Nosferatu.
    • "Watchtower: Chosen are Called" -- use a Master phase action to draw three cards; requires a "Seraph" vampire.
    • "Learjet" -- each time you draw to replace a card this minion played as an acting minion, you may draw an additional card.
  • Vampires
    • "Sascha Vykos (ADV)" -- draw a card from your library whenever another Methuselah plays a master card.
    • "Babalawo Alafin" -- discard two cards in your untap phase.
    • "Blackhorse Tanner" -- once each turn, when you draw a card from your library, you may place that card on the bottom of your library and draw a new card.
    • "Nehemiah" -- during your untap phase, move up to two cards from your hand to the bottom of your library.
  • Temporary
    • "Deal with the Devil" -- discard your complete hand at once; I have seen once play somebody this card about 3 years go. This card is clearly not selective enough in your discard choices to be considered a good card.
    • "Flurry of Action" -- draw two additional cards after bleeding succesfully; requires Celerity.
    • "Distraction" -- take an action to draw five additional cards; requires Celerity.
    • "Hourglass of the Mind" -- take an action to draw trhee additional cards; requires Potence.
    • "Scrounging" -- draw three cards, take two of them into your hand.
    • "Pandora's Whisper" -- every other player may draw two cards from his or her library. You may draw five cards from your library. At superior you may place any of the cards on the top of your library instead of in your ash heap.

(c) by White Wolf Inc.Burn Option Card
Cards with the so-called "burn option" are cards which can be discarded during each player's untap phase. This an effect designed for those clans where you usually pack only one or few vampires in crypt, in order to make the minion cards not an unnecessary burden. So if you do not have the requirements, you can discard them easily.

There are some decks, notably some of those created by Ben Peal, which use the burn card option to effectivly lower the size of your library in order to draw the cards one needs as early as possible. They pack the cards not to play them, but with the actual intend to discard them easily in order to draw into those cards needed early in the game. If this tactic is combined with some mechanic of card retrieval (especially "Waste Management Operation"), the deck is called often called a "Twister" deck. Here's the orginal article called "Burn Option" by Ben Peal.

Increased Handsize
One of the most effective tactics is to increase one's handsize which is usually limited to seven cards in VtES. This increases the probablity for certain card combos and the availability (read: flexibility) of cards in most situations.

There are not so many ways of increasing a player's handsize, and the permament effects are usually restricted to +1 handsize for a specific card. Some discipline-requiring cards and a few vampires are an exception to this rule.

(c) by White Wolf Inc.Card Tutoring
Often better than just increasing your handsize, is to just search your library for a particular card. In remembrance of the MtG card "Demonic Tutor" this technique is often called "Tutoring". This technique is one of the strongest, since it practially circuments the laws of probability when randomizing a deck before play. It also helps reducing the cards you need for your game plan, since you can search it from your library, instead of hoping to draw it.

There are a couple of cards for tutoring in VtES as well, though they usually have some restrictions or requirements:
  • "Eriyces Fragment -- put a card from your prey's library on the card, play the card as if from your hand; card can be stolen.
  • "Sargon Fragment" -- put a card from your ashheap to your hand; at undirected action at no stealth.
  • "Sudario Refraction" -- put 2 cards from your ash heap to the top of your library, discard 3 cards randomly; requires a Giovanni.
  • "Sibyl's Tongue" -- get a card from your library; requires a Malkavian; cost is increased for each "Sibyl's Tongue in your ashheap.
  • "Drop Point Network" - get a minion card from your library; requires a Black Hand vampire.
  • "Gramle -- choose a card in play or in any ash heap by name and move it to your hand.
  • "Magic of the Smith -- choose an equipment from your library and equip with it.
  • "Spirit Summoning Chamber" -- search your library for a minion card that requires "Thaumaturgy".
  • "Mokole Blood" -- search your library or ash heap for up to four cards that require "Serpentis" and place them on this card (face down).

(c) by White Wolf Inc.Card Disadvantage
Also you should always try to prevent the same for your opponents. As an alternative or in addition to boost your own Card Advantage, you can also try to deny your opponents Card Advantage:
  • Permanent
    • "Meedling of Semsith" -- a chosen player Methuselah doesn't draw to replace cards during any players's minion phase; reduces own handsize by one.
    • "Port Authority" -- doesn't replace a card that has been discarded in your discard phase until his or her next untap phase.
  • Vampires
  • Temporary
    • "Raptor" -- reduces handsize by one in combat; multiple Raptors can reduce opponent's handsize to zero.

Hand Jam
When you run into a hand jam, try to get rid of it as fast as possible. Discarding cards in this situation is mandatory, card cycling should also be strongly considered if possible.

Example: You play a "Rush Combat" deck and you only have one "Rush" card like "Ambush" in your hand, and a bunch of combat cards, you can try to "unnecessarily" prolong the following combat in order to cycle into your next "Rush" card.

Stapeling Cards
When in need of more than a certain type of card, it is often wise to stack cards. I.e. you do not waste your one copy of that card type, hold onto it and try to acquire more, by discarding or cycling other cards, until you have enough of the said kind.

Example: Your prey is down to four pool and has a minion with two "Raven Spies", you have a "Conditioning"", but only a single "Cloak the Gathering" in your hand. So have have to choices in order to succeed, either you are going to top-deck by hoping to redraw two stealth cards for your "Conditioning" and "Cloak the Gathering", or you wait until you draw the additional +2 stealth by waiting, discarding or taking dummy actions to recycle cards.

Summary
"Card Advantage" is a vital technique for winning a VtES game. Applying the different techniques described abovem doesn't guarantee the victory in a given game alone, but it you manipulates the likeliness of drawing the cards you need for winning.

So remember: The motto of the "Card Advantage" technique is:
"Drawing many more cards than your opponent doesn't guarantee you'll win, but it helps."

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Blood Shadowed Court"

"The Camarilla court is a dangerous place to do business. Take care how you handle these regal fiends. Royalty does not preclude savagery."
The next VtES product named "Blood Shadowed Court" is not a new expansion, but a collectors set. The set is scheduled for April 2008, contains 100 Camarilla Edition vampires and will be sold for approx. 10€ ($15) per set.

The reprint is likely to consist of the 100 CE vampires which belong to Group 3 (those which were "booster-only" in CE). This would prepare the release of the next VtES expansion which will likely contain Group 4/5 Camarilla vampires. On the other hand this would mean, no reprints of any "Dark Sovereigns" or "Ancient Hearts" vampires including the "Inner Circle Members". The list of reprinted cards then looks like this:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Deck Archetypes: Cybelotron

(c) 2005 by White Wolf Inc."Cybelotron" is quite a new decktype in VtES which emerged during this year's tournament scene, although the earliest incarnation was created/played successfully by Erik Torstensen in 2005. In "Magic the Gathering" terminology this a combo deck, it mixes a "Call the Great Beast" deck with components of a "Turbo" deck in a new way. Johannes Walch & Ben Peal finally brought it into its current, streamlined version. Ben's elaborate explanation, that came with the deck, of the deck's inner workings greatly eased up writing this article.

How to win with them
The core of the deck are the vampire "Cybele", the Daimonium card "Call the Great Beast" (or other cards that actually burn the vampire like "Antediluvian Awakening") and the "Soul Gem of Etrius". Basically the deck works like this (after "Cybele" has been influenced out):
  1. Put a skill card on "Cybele" to increase her capacity by one (which skill one doesn't really matter). If you have a "Minion Tap" on your hand, you can move some of the blood (4-5) from "Cybele" to your pool, since she's gone anyhow in the next minion phase.
  2. "Cybele" uses "Magic of the Smith" to equip with the "Soul Gem of Etrius".
  3. Use "Truth of a Thousand Lies" (instead of "Freak Drive" as in the "Turbo" decks).
  4. "Cybele" plays "Call the Great Beast", burns and the effect of the "Soul Gem" triggers influencing out a new "Cybele".
The second difference to a "Turbo" deck (other than the "Freak Drive" usuage) is that the burn-reincarnate cycle ends here and cannot be repeated the same turn, since "Cybele" cannot increase her capacity during the minion phase. The "Great Beast" gets superior Obfuscate and Serpentis plus a third discipline (depending on the actual deck flavour) as it's disciplines, so it can use all/most of discipline-requiring cards of the deck.

Nonethless after the cycle - which gained a second vampire and possibly approx. 4 pool with the "Minion Tap" - the deck then bleeds with both vampires, both at +2 bleed and considerable stealth if necessary. If there are more "Truth of a 1k Lies" available, they can also be used a +2 bleed modifiers, of course.

The next turn on the "Great Beast" a "Minion Tap" is played (gaining 5-8 pool), if the burn-reincarnate cycle cannot be repeated, otherwise a "Golconda" can be played on him (gaining 10 pool). In the next master phase the second master phase action should always be a new skill card on "Cybele" in order to be able to trigger the "Soul Gem" effect again in that turn. Take note that "Golconda" does not actually trigger the "Soul Gem" effect because "Golconda" does not burn the vampire, instead it removes the vampire from the game.

(c) 2005 by White Wolf Inc.In this situation, where "Cybele" already has the "Soul Gem", she can bleed before untapping with the "Truth of 1k Lies" and then playing a new "Great Beast". In a turn this gives the deck a potential bleed for 9 (3+3+3), if the base bleed modifiers are used only, or up to 13 (3+5+5) if "Truth of 1k Lies" are used as bleed modifiers, too. Remember, "Truth of 1k Lies" can the only be played once during a turn, either as the bleed modifier or the untap effect. The good thing is with the "Soul Gem" you're kind of immune against "Archon Investigation", since if "Cybele" is burned by the Archon Investigation, she reincarntes via the "Soul Gem". Some variations use other bleed modifier cards like "Sense the Sin" or "True Love's Faith" in addition to "Truth of 1k Lies".

"Antediluvian Awakening" can be used to lower the pool size of each player, and - if no other player burns a vampire for the "Antediluvian Awakening", it can be used as burn effect for "Cybele" similar to the "Great Beast's" burn effect.

Bleed & Vote defense
Since the deck is a (more or less) pure combo deck, it neglects any direct defensive option, instead choosing to generate pool by playing "Golconda" and "Minion Tap"; in desperate situation it may even choose to rush an opposing minion with the "Great Beast" and hit him with a "Conflagration" or the +2 strength of the "Great Beast".

Combat defense
There's virtually no combat defense at all, but since the vampires are expendable/replacable (by "Golconda" at best, "Antediluvian Awakening" at worst) this is not as worse as it sounds.

How to win against them
The combo can broken by playing a "Sudden Reversal" on the skill card or a "Direct Intervention" against the "Truth of 1k Lies". Intercepting is hard, since except for the bleed actions, all other actions of the deck start at +1 stealth, and the deck has considerable stealth (Obfuscate) cards to offer.

One of the weak points of the deck are the two "Soul Gems" the deck has. If both of them are destroyed (or even better stolen), the deck has a serious problem. So stealing the card with a vampire's special ability or destroying it with "Canine Horde" works wonders. Unfortunately you cannot take the "Soul Gem" when one of your vampires diablerize its bearer (i.e. "Cybele") according to the "Soul Gem's" card text.

If you can generate enough pool damage faster as the "Cybelotron" predator's deck gains pool (especially in the first few turns), it's not too hard to oust the deck, since the deck has no defense other than pool gain. So instead of playing a "Sudden Reversal" or "Wash" against Master discipline card, you can also choose to play it against the pool gaining cards like "Minion Tap" or "Golconda".

Key Cards
  • (c) 2005 by White Wolf Inc.Cybele -- theoretically it could be any other 10+ capacity vampire who could play this role, but her specials (especially the extra master phase action), make her stand out.
  • Great Beast -- not only used for bringing out a new vampire, it also triggers the "Soul Gem's" effect by burning "Cybele" after she has called the "Great Beast".
  • Golconda: Inner Peace -- massive pool gain, and even required to bring out a new "Great Beast" (since the Beast is unique).
  • Soul Gem of Etrius -- as in most "Turbo" (or similar decks), the motor that keeps the deck going forward.
Notable Examples & Variations
Since this is actually a variation of the "Turbo" & "Great Beast" decks, there are few variations to this, but the deck made it to three appearances in Lasombra's Tournament Winning Deck Archive (and making it to the finals in the Dutch ECQ 2007):
  • "Cybelotron" by Andrew Kashpar (2007) -- adds "Nergal" as a vampire, and Obeah as its third discipline for the "Great Beast".
  • "Cybelotron" by Ben Peal (2007) -- version with streamlined the library and made focus on the "core" business of the deck.
  • "Cybelotron" by Johannes Walch (2007) -- this version introduced the mono-"Cybele"-crypt, making it more similar to a "Turbo" deck.
  • "Summon the Serpent" by Erik Torstensen (2005) -- the original deck design but without the mono-"Cybele"-crypt, instead bringing new "Followers of Set" into play similar to a "Turbo Baron" deck.
Decklist
Origins 2007
Columbus, Ohio
July 8th, 2007
Sunday 11AM
2R+F
21 players

Deck Name: Cybelotron
Created By: Ben Peal

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 40, Max: 40, Avg: 10)
--------------------------------------------
12 Cybele ANI DAI OBF PRE SER THA 10 Baali

Library: (90 cards)
-------------------
Master (28 cards)
1 Antediluvian Awakening
2 Auspex
1 Barrens, The
2 Celerity
1 Direct Intervention
1 Dominate
4 Dreams of the Sphinx
2 Fortitude
1 Fortschritt Library
1 Giant`s Blood
4 Golconda: Inner Peace
4 Minion Tap
2 Parthenon, The
2 Redeem the Lost Soul

Action (19 cards)
8 Call the Great Beast
3 Entrancement
8 Magic of the Smith

Action Modifier (31 cards)
4 Cloak the Gathering
5 Elder Impersonation
4 Faceless Night
5 Lost in Crowds
2 Spying Mission
11 Truth of a Thousand Lies

Combat (3 cards)
3 Majesty

Ally (1 cards)
1 Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Equipment (2 cards)
2 Soul Gem of Etrius

Event (1 cards)
1 Anthelios, the Red Star

Combo (5 cards)
5 Swallowed by the Night

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Crowd Here Has Gone Ballistic!!

Due to the lack of VtES goodies on YouTube, I have to resort to some "Magic the Gathering" material. Here's the so-called "Top Deck of the Century" video of the match between Craig Jones and Olivier Ruel during the MtG Pro-Tour Honololu in 2006(?).

I don't know what's funnier, the reaction of Craig Jones or the reaction of the commentators, which are both sooo exaggerated ... hillarious!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Deck Archetypes: Turbo

(c) 2002 by White WolfIn general a Turbo deck is deck archetype which burns a copy of the same vampire, reincarnates via the Soul Gem of Etrius, and repeats this sequence of actions over and over again. The main purpose is that the last action is a big bleed, and this will - repeated multiple times in a turn - kill every prey, even sometimes more than one in a given turn.

How to win with them
There are several boundary conditions for this deck which need to be met:
  1. need to equip with the Soul Gem of Etrius.
  2. need to increase the capacity by at least one.
  3. need to (nearly) empty the blood from the vampire.
  4. need to multi-act.
The first condition can be met by cards which allow to search for a particular equipment card in your library, and put it either in your hand or equip right away. Most commonly used is Vast Wealth, but also possible choices are Drop Point Network, Inconnu Tutelage, Magic of the Smith or Sybil's Tongue.

The second condition is by far the most restricting condition, increasing one capacity is not easy to do without a Master card. But Master cards are out of question, since the goal of the deck is to repeat the burn-reincarnate cycle multiple times within one turn. Options for increasing the capacity of a vampire include Reliquary: Akunanse Remains, Camarilla Vitae Slave and several Praxis Seizure votes.

Getting the blood of the vampire is relatively easy: the Freak Drives do cost, the Force of Will action cost a blood. But this isn't usually enough, so some addtional actions are required, preferably those that cost two blood (or more) like going Anarch (two blood), Embrace (two blood), Procurer or Neighborhood Watchcommander. The later three have the advantage of getting additional minions in play.

(c) 2002 by White WolfThe fourth and last requirement mandates the use of Freak Drive, since it is the only repeatable form of untapping a vampire, which doesn't rely on equipment or retainers.

After the vampire has been influenced out to the ready region, the typical sequence of actions for a Turbo deck is this:
  1. Equip with the Soul Gem of Etrius
  2. Freak Drive
  3. Increase the capacity by one.
  4. Freak Drive
  5. Use one or more actions to remove the blood from the vampire if necessary.
  6. Use Force of Will to bleed, the damage and the blood paid for action modifiers must be enough to burn the vampire, thus triggering the Soul Gem's effect and bring out a new copy of the vampire.
The choice of vampires is driven by the third condition, increasing one's capacity, and the fourth condition, the superior Fortitude required for the proper use of Freak Drive. Also it is recommended that the vampire has access to stealth, otherwise the likeness of actions being blocked increases dramatically. Obfuscate is the obvious choice, but Obtenebration or Necromancy also work.

Bleed/Vote/Combat defense
All of this is virtually neglected, since the deck relies only on the Turbo trick with the Soul Gem.

How to win against them
Deflection or other bleed bounce cards only help partially since the Turbo deck will repeat the bleed action multiple times each turn, so the number of Deflection in your hand isn't usually enough.
Intercepting actions (if possible at all) helps only in a limited way. The most important action to block is the action to equip the Soul Gem itself, thus preventing the most important requirement for the burn-reincarnate cycle. After the key vampire has the Soul Gem and you have intercepted him, you need to sent him to torpor with as little blood as possible. Otherwise the Turbo vampire will just rescue himself and try to restart the cycle.
(c) 2002 by White WolfDirect Intervention helps only partially, it has to be either on the Freak Drive or the Force of Will since this both interrupts the ability to continue/completed the required set of actions. On the other hand the DI will only stop the Turbo deck for one turn, next turn it will try to start its Turbo again.
Otherwise anything that helps remove the Turbo vampire from the game or if he changes owner, i.e. Graverobbing him or playing a Hostile Takeover kills the deck instantly, since the key figure is missing (and is not replaceable).
The Turbo deck is almost defenseless against all sorts of offensive actions, but it needs to be taken down quite soon.

Key Cards
  • Soul Gem of Etrius -- the key equipment for the burn-reincarnate cycle.
  • Vast Wealth -- most commonly used for fetching a equipment from the library to your hand.
  • Force of Will / Daring the Dawn -- both cards aggravated damage on the acting vampire can be used to burn the vampire. Usually Force of Will is preferred, since it can be played by a tapped vampire (saving a Freak Drive), and gives an additional +2 bleed.
Other resources
Notable Examples & Variations
Traditionally, there are three types of Turbo decks, named after their main vampire, but new variants are coming up as soon as another way of increasing a vampire's capacity are released:
  • Turbo Arika" by Philippe Lang -- uses a Praxis Seizure vote and Awe to push the vote through and lose the blood simulanteously.
  • Turbo Lucita by Andrea "RaVa TwO FaCeS" Ravera -- uses the Camarilla Vitae Slave to increase her capacity.
  • Turbo Baron by Erik Torstensen -- works somewhat differently than the other turbo decks. It does not feature a complete crypt of the same vampire, but instead a diversified crypt with one Baron as it's key vampire. Instead of reincarnating himself using the Soul Gem, the Baron brings up a second vampire which inherits the Soul Gem and uses his superior Necromancy to play a Possession to bring back the Baron from the ash heap. The Baron then takes the Soul Gem back from the new vampire and immediately uses Force of Will to repeat the cycle. Since the deck only features a single "Baron" in the crypt, the deck uses Coroners Contact to search for the "Baron" in the crypt.
  • Turbo Amavi by Lasombra -- the lastest addition of the Turbo deck uses Reliquary: Akunanse Remains to increase Amavi's capacity.
  • Spiridonas Soul Bleeder by Christian Chénard -- not a "true" Turbo deck since it cannot repeat the burn-reincarnate cycle more than once a turn, on the other hand Spiridonas special ability lets him bleed for huge amounts.
Decklist
Deck Name: Turbo Arika
Created By: Philippe Lang
Description: Sweep a table in turn four ? Let's try this eleven-card deck (Crypt included)!!

Crypt: (20 cards, Min: 44, Max: 44, Avg: 11)
--------------------------------------------
20 Arika aus cel DOM FOR OBF PRE11 Ventrue

Library: (90 cards)
-------------------
Action (15 cards)
5 Distraction
10 Force of Will

Action Modifier (53 cards)
11 Daring the Dawn
13 Awe
10 Conditioning
10 Freak Drive
5 Lost in Crowds
4 Forgotten Labyrinth

Political Action (13 cards)
13 Praxis Seizure: Berlin

Equipment (9 cards)
9 Soul Gem of Etrius

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Developer's Interaction (... or the lack of it)

In an open letter to the VtES community Mike Tinney, President of "White Wolf", apologized for the lack of marketing support for the NAC 2007 and the then forthcoming "Lords of the Night" on September 9th, 2007. Since then there has been some coverage on the "White Wolf" site since, but the reports of the EC2007 and NAC2007 were posted several months after the events actually took place.

With the announcement of the new 2007 VEKN tournament rules, I thought, why are we satisfied with the way this is presented? In VtES after such an announcement the community usually begins to speculate about the explanation for the changes, usually these guess are quite educated, but these are guesses still. Again I am comparing this to Magic the Gathering: why are there no articles on the reasoning behind the decisions, why are there no articles on the development (process) of new expansions, etc.?

Hell, after the release of the "Lorwyn" edition there was a "Kithkin" week with articles on this creature type. Why is there nothing similar on the 4 independent clans Ravnos, Giovanni, etc.? There could be information why the Followers of Set were the only clan who didn't receive a reprint of "Path of ..", or an article about the development process behind cards like "Spell of Life" or "Kazaar's Diary"?

I understand, that VtES does not have the financial or personal backing that MtG has, but nonetheless a little bit of insight in rules team's decisions or design team's process would be nice.

Let the "Sphinx of Texas" speak and write from time to time.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Banned Cards in VtES

Here's a (still surprisingly short) list of the cards that are (or were) banned for VtES tournaments in 2008. For each of the cards I will briefly explain why (and when) they have been banned:

  • "Playing for Keeps" -- since January 9th, 1995
  • "High Stakes" -- since January 9th, 1995
  • "Cunctator Motion" -- since January 9th, 1995
    An ante is a forced bet in which each player places a card from his deck into the pot before the game begins. The player who ousts another players actually wins the forfeited card from the losing player. The concept was (as in "Magic The Gathering") never really popular, and the concept was dropped very soon after the release of VtES. So cards relating to ante, as those three above were banned for this reason.

  • "Madness of the Bard" -- since July 1st, 1999
    The judgements of this card vary from "downright silly" to "very much fun", but in the end it prevents most players from freely communicating to each other, which is one of the cornerstones of a multiplayer game.

  • "Return to Innocence" -- since March 14th, 1999
    A card which allows a vampire to bleed for 10+, is just too good for the game. In a typical tournament the comfort level in terms of having pool is something like 10-12. With that amount of pool you need two high-level bleed come through, but this requires considerable setup and/or amount of cards being played during these actions, or you need at least 3-4 "Kine Resource Contested"/"Conservative Agitations", but this also needs some setup. With RtI you can just bleed with "Daring the Dawn" and the only thing you'll have to worry about is bleed bounce.

  • "Succubus Club" -- since January 1st, 2005
    Mass trading resources, especially with the now defunct tournament rules about table-splitting (at least for practical purposes), this led to absurd situation. Players Bob and John made a table split deal, with one of the them having a "Succubus Club" in play. After the deal both "trade" regularly their whole set of resources of vampires, master cards and other permanents back and forth, until they succeed in having ousted the other players.

  • "Kindred Restructure" -- since January 1st, 2005
    The abusive technique for using "Kindred Restructure" (and to a lesser extent) "Dramatic Upheaval" was called "VP Sniping". The player with the "Kindred Restructure" in hand would wait where some predator was in sure ousting range (i.e. down to less than 5 pool or something similar) for the next turn. Then the "KR" would be played, and his new player, while having done nothing all the while, ripped of the reward for ousting from the original player. Furthermore with Kindred Restructre this player could arrange the table in manner which was most suitable for him, e.g. having a weak predator or prey or both.

  • "Dramatic Upheaval" -- since January 1st, 2005
    The same arguments as for "Kindred Restructure" applies to "Dramatic Upheaval" as well, but to only slightly lesser extent, since it allowed to change seats with one player only.

  • "Edge Explosion" -- since January 1st, 2008
    One of the driving engines of an "Imbued" deck, since it both allowed him to have a power for which he hasn't had the appropriate "Virtue", but may gain a "Conviction" for a successful action once each turn.

  • "Memories of Mortality" -- since January 1st, 2008
    Very powerful when playing an ally deck, not only wasn't an opposing vampire with this card no longer allowed to block any ally, he couldn't hurt him anymore and the card was hard to get rid off.

  • "Protect Thine Own" -- since January 1st, 2008
    This card provided a very cheap way to remove any non-Camarilla vampire, though it requires an IC member for using the card's full effect.

Earlier Card Bans and Revokes
  • "Rowan Ring" -- from January 9th, 1995 to January 1st, 2000(?)
  • "Stake" -- from January 9th, 1995 to March 14th, 1999
    The cards were banned because the corner-case paralysation rules which were dropped in VtES (as opposed to the Jyhad rules). Since extensive rewording would have been necessary the rules team decided to ban the cards. With the new wording of the VtES version of "Wooden Stake" and the CE version of "Rowan Ring" the "paralyse" mechanic was dropped and replaced by "send to torpor", so the ban could be lifted after the new version had been released.

  • "Monocle of Clarity" -- from January 9th, 1995 to January 1st, 2000(?)
    The wording of "Monocle of Clarity" allowed easily to break the game, thus it was banned. For an example see the following thread. With the new wording of the CE version which limited the card's functionality to the current game state, not a future one, the card was allowed again.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

VtES EC 2008 & Reports for NAC/EC2007

Along with the new tournament rules, the time and place for the EC 2008 have been announced! The VtES European Championship will be held in Prague (Czech Republic) from September 11th to 14th, 2008.

Also an extensive report of the EC 2007 in Gothenburg (Sweden) with many photos has been posted on the White Wolf website. The author of the report is Johannes Walch, the european VEKN coordinator.

In addition today a report of the NAC 2007, which was held in Los Angeles (US) has been added to the White Wolf website.