Monday, April 28, 2008

Deck Archetypes: Kindred Spirits Stealth Bleed

(c) 2006 by White Wolf Inc.In earlier times - when the "Malkavians" had the clan disciplines "Auspex", "Obfuscate", "Dominate" - the archetypical bleed deck was based on "Malkavians" with "Dominate" & "Obfuscate". With the release of the "Sabbat" expansion the "Malkavian antitribu" took over this role. Although "Dementation" lacks some of the versatility (in areas other than bleed) "Dominate" offers (e.g. "Deflection", or "Govern the Unaligned"), "Dementation" has its own merits. Cards like "Kindred Spirits" offer basic bleed capability and pool gain, while other cards can provide stealth like "Deny" or "Confusion". Furthermore "Kindred Spirits" also offers the possibility to bleed any other player at the table, not only your predator. So this gives the player additional potential for dealing and cross-table interaction. Today the "Malkavian antitribu" "Kindred Spirits" bleed deck is one of the most successful and most feared decks in the VtES tournament scene. Another name of the deck is "Fast Eddie", since "Eddie Gaines" is the smallest vampire with "Dementation" which can bleed for 2 in its turn 2, showing how fast and effective this deck delivers damage to its prey pool.

Remark: Although this deck archetype often uses a mixed crypt of "Malkavian antitribu" and "Malkavian" I will often relate to this deck's vampires as "Malkavian antitribu" for avoiding more complicated sentences.

How to win with them
The basic idea is to bleed heavily and often with low- to mid-cap vampires in order to oust your prey quickly. The deck has virtually no build-up phase, since all it really needs are vampires with "Dementation" and "Obfuscate" for the offense and "Auspex" for the defense. So immediately a "Malkavian antitribu" is influenced to the controlled region and he he can act a turn later, the vampire starts bleeding. Usually the bleed action is "Kindred Spirits" plus an additional bleed modifier like "Confusion" or "Eyes of Chaos" to apply 2 to 4 damage to its prey pool.

This behaviour is not different from any other "Stealth Bleed" deck like the "Setites" "Presence" & "Obfuscate" or "Ravnos" "Chimerstry" bleed decks. The real strength of the deck stems from the two extra features beside the "ordinary" bleed that "Kindred Spirits" offers.
  • First, the one extra pool gain, when the bleed is successful, is crucial. This allows the deck to gain 2 to 3 pool each turn during the midgame just by bleeding. So the deck does not need to waste actions or extra card slots to pool gain like most other decks need to do.
  • Secondly, the ability to bleed any other player at the table is incredibly strong. There are only two other action cards that allow this, "Night Moves" and "Cat Burglary", and there the maximum bleed damage is limited to 1. There are a also very few vampires who can perform this kind of action, but they are widely distributed among the different clans. The ability to bleed backwards and crosstable with "Kindred Spirits" has two usually two implications. On one hand, you can bleed backwards if your predator is threating you too much (e.g. he's playing a Rush Combat deck), and therefore you're able to backoust him and eliminating the threat. On the other hand, you can negotiate deals better with this ability, e.g. you offer to oust your grandprey in exchange that your prey will self-oust himself afterwards. (If he really sticks to this kind of deal is a different matter).
(c) 2006 by White Wolf Inc.Stealth
This deck wants its bleed actions to be successful, and as consequence almost of the different variants of "Obfuscate" and "Dementation" stealth cards are used, even more exotic ones like "Domain of Evernight". Since you are prevented from using the same action modifier twice during a particuluar action, there is this need to diversify. Wall decks (and this usually includes permanent intercept) can be a problem since the amount of Stealth is not enough to overcome the intercept generated by the wall deck. Here you have to deal with your grandprey for example, that you're helping him to oust his prey, while he helps you (by voting/rushing/blocking) your prey.

On the other hand, often the worst problem is that experienced players which are the prey of a "Kindred Spirits" deck sometimes resort to the tactics not to block your actions, i.e. you cannot play your stealth cards. This leds to a Stealth card hand jam quite fast, resulting in measely bleeds which only damage your prey's pool by 1 or 2. To avoid this it is mandatory to pack some cards which allow you cycle your hand fast enough (see master cards below).

Master Cards
The master card section can be quite short, the deck usually needs only:
For blood management "Blood Dolls" or "Vessel" are used; "Minion Taps" only if the vampires are bit larger. Sometimes master cards useful after a quick oust are added, e.g. "Last Stand", "Gambit Accepted" or "Momentum's Edge", but this depends on the flavour of a particular deck variant. Other cards frequently employed are "Pentex Subversion", "Secure Haven" or "Giant's Blood" for obvious reasons.

Other features
Sometimes the deck uses some allies as defense (and very occasionally as offense as well). Favourites are "Muddled Vampire Hunter" and "Carlton van Wyk", or even "Escaped Mental Patient" who blocks and then use "Rötschreck" to send the opposing vampire to torpor. Usually the "Escaped Mental Patient" is burned when he makes his hand damage aggravated, but playing "Rötschreck" prevents this.

(c) 2006 by White Wolf Inc.Bleed defense
The deck relies on the "Auspex" bleed bounce namely "Telepathic Misdirection" and less often "My Enemy's Enemy". In fact the bleed bounce is part of offense, since you're either forcing your prey to commit resources (blocker, bleed reduction or bounce) or you're reducing your prey's pool when he decides to take the damage from the redirected bleed. The "Malkvian antitribu" vampires might block bleeding vampires from time to time but only if they have enough blood (and not enough pool) and/or if they expect no significant combat abilities by the acting vampire.

Vote defense
Vote defense is often two foldfold. First the "Malkavian antitribu" like "Korah" or "Stavros" are relatively cheap vampires with vampires given the "Malkavian antitribu" some leverage during political actions. On the other hand the usual combination of "Direction Intervention" or "Delaying Tactics" is frequently use to cancel the political action/referendum. Some variants of this archetype totally disregard vote defense relying on their speed and ousting power instead.

Combat defense
This is definitely the achilles heal of the "Kindred Spirits" bleed deck. There are two approaches to tackle this isue. Some players pack a few combat cards to offer light combat defense (like "Swallowed by the Night" or "Behind You"). The other school of thought argues these combat cards dilute the offense capabilities of the deck, and any combat deck worth its salt will overcome this light combat defense anyhow. So their conclusion is to ditch combat defense completely and to strenghten the ousting power of the deck instead.

How to win against them
As a prey of "Kindred Spirits" bleed deck it's a though job for any player/deck to hold their own ground, because the S&B deck is able put enourmous pressure on its prey right from the start. The first and main task is to defend somehow against the massive bleeds of the "Kindred Spirits" deck. You can try to block, you can bounce or reduce the bleed, or you can rush the bleeding "Malkavian antitribu".

(c) 2006 by White Wolf Inc."Archon Investigation" as well as "Major Boon" helps, but you need to draw them somewhat early. When burning a vampire you should try to maximize the damage to the "Malkavian antitribu" by trying to target a bigger vampire, e.g. burning a vampire like "Dolphin Black" or "Korah" instead of "Midget". "Protected Resources" only helps in limited fashion, it slows the bleed deck down, but the number of bleeds for two will kill you eventually.

Blocking the "Malkavian antitribu" is only an option if you have access to a decent amount of intercept, since the "Kindred Spirits" deck has a lot of stealth. Starting blocking those vampires with no or inferior "Obfuscate", since they can only add one stealth point per card, and are therefore easier to block. Also, you especially should be aware of "Faceless Nights" in the "Kindred Spirits" deck, that taps your vampires when played at superior "Obfuscate" after the action resolves, thus preventing you from blocking or bouncing the next bleed action.

If you do not have enough intercept, you can resort to simply not blocking, thereby denying and after a round or two the deck is jammed with Stealth . This requires some discipline to follow this strategy to end, and only works if you have enough pool (gain) at the same time as well as a grand-predator who is putting enough pressure on the "Kindred Spirits" deck. Also if your only source of intercept would be playing a "KRCG Newsradio" for example, it would really think about playing the card. It costs you two pool and very likely only lets your predator cycle his stealth cards more quickly.

Bleed Bounce
You can turn these bleeds against you to your advantage, but for this either you'll need a massive amount of bleed bounce cards or you'll make enough pool damage yourself early one that a few selected redirected bleeds from your predator to your prey make the difference. Otherwise the bleed bounce must be timed carefully, i.e. only when the bleeds are making at least 3 damage.

Going Backwards
Faced with this kind of aggressiveness, it is often advisable to go backwards yourself, that this you actively help your grand-predator ousting your predator. You might rush the "Malkavian antitribu" or put more damage to your predator than your prey during a political action like "Kine Resources Contested" or play "Banishment" against the the vampire which is bleeding you the most. A deal with your grandpredator is often advisable, since otherwise you might end up with a new predator whose dirty work you have done, but doesn't show his gratefullness by not letting you act without pressure for a couple of turns.

Going Forward
If you cannot defend properly, and your offensive capabilities are targeted towards your prey, you have two choices:
  • Either you are going all-out forward, trying to oust-race your predator. This option requires a deck that can oust fast. And if you're not fast enough, the "Kindred Spirits" deck is having a field day ousting two preys in quick succession.
  • The other option is to stay tight. That is you try not spend too much pool for equipment,locations, etc. you do not need for defense or bloating and try to gain pool by bloating. This works only if your grandpredator puts enough pressure on your predator, and is likely to oust him rather quickly, or at least before you die.
What can alleviate the general situation is having a strong grand-predator, which in turn is able to put at least some pressure on the "Kindred Spirits" deck. You need to remind your grand-predator that he must act against your predator, since otherwise the "Kindred Spirits" deck is - aiming for a quick oust - will gain 6 pool and 1 VP soon, making it even harder for your grand-predator to oust the bleed deck. Cooperation is the key word. E.g. your grand predator has a wall deck, so you might bounce a bleed to him, when he is able intercept and beat up the "Malkavian antitribu" bleeder.

As a predator
As a predator you must be aware of the back ousting capabilities of the deck by bleeding backwards with "Kindred Spirits". Some players of this archetype tend to go backward quite aggressively when they are threatened or pro-longed pressure is applied to them. The worst error as predator you can make is a non-aggression pack with this S&B deck archetype. This gives the S&B the free hand to launch its deadly attack against its prey.

In the end the "Kindred Spirits" decks has little or no defense and relies mainly on its own ousting power and ability to bleed backwards. You should cooperate closely with your grandprey, even to the end that you offer him to oust his prey or at least offer him a couple of turns with pressure from your side if he helps you actively to oust the "Kindred Spirits" deck.

(c) 2006 by White Wolf Inc.Key Cards
Notable Examples & Variations
As with other deck archetypes there are a lot of different variants around. Most play with the G2/G3 "Malkavian antitribu" while others choose to utilize the new and slightly bigger G4/G5 "Malkavian antitribu". With the new G4/G5 "Malkavian" you can replace some of the "Dementation" with "Presence" cards, e.g. replacing "Entrancement" with "Kindred Spirits" in order to be more flexible when dealing with "Ally"-based decks.
Another variant uses the "Archbishop" or "Priscus" title of the mid-cap "Malkavian antitribu" to be able to play "Creation Rites" to gain additional minions to bleed or used as chump blockers.
Sample Decklist
North American Continental Championship
Day 2
Atlanta, Georgia
October 8th, 2006
40 players
3R + F

Patrick Lusk's Tournament Winning Deck

Deck Name: Got Confusion?
Created By: Pat Lusk

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 17, Max: 28, Avg: 5.58)
1 Ruth McGinley aus cel obf DEM 6 Malkavian
1 Anatole dom for AUS DEM OBF 8 Malkavian
1 Claven aus dem obf 4 Malkavian Antitribu
1 General Perfidio Dios dem obf AUS 5 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Korah ani AUS DEM OBF 7 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Midget obf pre DEM 3 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Uncle George aus dom obf DEM 5 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Kite obf pre AUS DEM 7 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Persia aus obf DEM 5 Malkavian
1 Artemis aus cel for DEM OBF 6 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Colonel cel dem obf AUS 5 Malkavian Antitribu
1 Dolphin Black AUS DEM OBF 6 Malkavian Antitribu

Library: (90 cards)
Master (14 cards)
4 Blood Doll
2 Direct Intervention
2 Dreams of the Sphinx
1 From a Sinking Ship
2 Wash
1 Barrens, The
2 Obfuscate

Action (18 cards)
16 Kindred Spirits
1 Restructure
1 Blessing of Chaos

Action Modifier (29 cards)
3 Cloak the Gathering
5 Confusion
5 Eyes of Chaos
3 Elder Impersonation
3 Faceless Night
5 Lost in Crowds
5 Spying Mission

Reaction (23 cards)
2 Confusion of the Eye
9 Wake with Evening`s Freshness
1 On the Qui Vive
3 Telepathic Counter
8 Telepathic Misdirection

Ally (1 cards)
1 Procurer

Combo (5 cards)
4 Swallowed by the Night
1 Random Patterns

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