Friday, April 3, 2009

Coping with Strike: Combat Ends

For VtES players playing combat decks the most annoying countermeasure of non-combat decks is using "Strike: Combat Ends". So one of the main questions for combat decks must be: "What can I do against Strike: Combat Ends?".

There are four main cards against Strike: Combat Ends, which are quite effective and can be used easily. They are:
  • "Immortal Grapple" (pot) -- restricts strikes to hands strikes only, but requires the combatants to be at close range. The card is very good, but has it's limitations (close range) and needs some backup, e.g. access to maneuvers or cards that deny the ability to maneuver to long range. Also, since it doesn't force the opposing vampire to play the Strike: Combat Ends, you are most likely guaranteed to need another "Immortal Grapple" the next round/combat. On the other hand, it's the only card of the four that only requires a discipline at inferior level.

  • "Psyche" (CEL) -- starts a new combat after the combat ends. This one is probably the best, since it forces the opposing vampire to play the Strike: Combat Ends card, making it more likely you do not need a new "Psyche" during the next combat. Also it's cost free and not restricted to be used at close range like "Immortal Grapple".

  • "Telepathic Tracking" (AUS) -- continues the combat after the Strike: Combat Ends has been played (or the combat ends otherwise). Surprisingly you see this card not as often as "Psyche", though the advantages using the this card are almost the same. The only drawback when compared to "Psyche" is that it costs a blood, but on the other hand combat decks often play "Taste of Vitae" anyhow. The one reason I can imagine for the less frequent use is that Auspex is not combat discipline per se, and so you need an additional combat discipline to be truly effective.

  • "Thoughts Betrayed" (DOM) -- prevents the other vampire from using strike cards. There are two disadvantages to this card. First, the card is the most costly of the four mentioned in this section, and although you can recover the blood by playing "Taste of Vitae" you need to have the blood at start of the combat at your disposal. Second, combat can still be ended by cards in play, like "Flash Grenade" or a built-in Strike: Combat Ends like "Gotsdam, The Tired Warrior" has. Also, the card suffers from the same effect as "Telepathic Tracking"; since Dominate is not a combat discipline, it requires an additional combat discipline.
Ranking the cards, "Psyche" is the clear leader of the pack, closely followed by "Immortal Grapple" and "Telepathic Tracking", and then with some distance, "Thoughts Betrayed".

In addition there are several other that can achieve successes against Strike: Combat Ends, but they are more limited in use, often just because the above cards also prevent the opposing minion to play Strike: Dodge effectively.
  • Discipline Based
    • "Hidden Lurker" (obf) / "Fast Reaction" (aus) -- both prevent the opposing vampire to strike in the first round of the resulting combat. The main disadvantage is there that both cards require an additional untapped vampire. Also the opposing player will be more cautious after the first appliance of the card to block (or react), i.e. you may not be able to choose your combats as you like.

    • "Blessing of Chaos" (dem) - prevents Strike: Combat Ends that requires Dementation, Chimerstry, Dominate or Presence. As good at it sounds, there are several disciplines such as Necromancy, Obtenebration and Protean with access to Strike: Combat Ends are not covered by "Blessing of Chaos". The other issues is that Malkavian (antitribu), the main clan that features Dementation, are not known for their fighting capabilities, i.e. they lack proper combat disciplines like Potence or Protean.

    • "Lapse" (TEM) -- prevents any strike during the initial strike phase. Somewhat weaker than "Thoughts Betrayed", since the later card prevents the opposing minion playing Strike: Combat Ends during the complete combat. Otherwise it has the same dis-/advantages as "Thoughts Betrayed", only that the "True Brujah" have Potence as clan discipline which can provide the necessary punch for hurting the other combatant.

    • "Mind of a Child" (dem) and "Withering" (THN) -- prevent discipline cards from being played, and therefore stops all discipline based Strike: Combat Ends. "Mind of a Child" has the problem that it is way too expensive for a card, that can be removed by any vampire as a +1 stealth (D) action. "Withering" on the other hand suffers from the problem that you first need a combat to apply the "Withering" in which the opposing minion can play , and then you need a combat (or at least press) to make good use of the "Withering's" effect, since the card is burned in the opposing minions discard phase. Just to complicated to be truly effective.

    • "Skin Trap" (VIC) -- prevents the opposing vampire from striking if they fail to pay 1 blood. This is probably the weakest countermeasure, since the opposing minion can easily circumvent the effect by paying a blood. Only repeated use of the card can lead to desired countermeasure, i.e. when the opposing vampire is empty of blood.

  • Clan Based
    • "The Path of the Scorched Heart" -- prevents Strike: Combat Ends that require Presence. Since the restriction to only one discipline is too narrow, this shouldn't be the only countermeasure against Strike: Combat Ends. In the case of the True Brujah "Immortal Grapple" and "Lapse" (see above) are the likely candidates to fill the gap.

    • "Dog Pack" -- minions opposing the minion with this retainer cannot play Strike: Combat Ends. The biggest restrictions here are that employing "Dog Pack" requires a Gangrel and costs hefty two pool. Otherwise quite usuable in a Gangrel combat deck.

  • Minions
    • "Oliver Thrace" -- minions in combat with him cannot play Strike: Combat Ends. Very good feature, but restricted to just one vampire.

  • Other
    • "Rötschreck" -- does not prevent playing of Strike: Combat Ends. It simply ends combat in a different way, and sends the opposing vampire to torpor. The disadvantages are threefold, it restricts your combat to aggravated damage, is only playable once during another player's turn, and is utterly useless against allies. Otherwise very hard to counter.

    • "NSA Trio" -- during the first combat between an acting vampire and a blocking vampire each turn, neither combatant may end combat as a strike in the first round. This is the only (near) universal (read: affects all vampires in play) countermeasure, but decks relying on Strike: Combat Ends as combat defense will try to remove the card as soon as possible. So, though it is a good addition for combat decks, it should backed backed up with other countermeasures.


Brent Ross said...

You're missing Blissful Agony. It's in the Psyche/Telepathic Tracking family of targeting the end of combat (as opposed to S:CE directly). It's important to remember that you can redirect that combat back to the same vampire that played it (or another on of your minions)... many people misread this card.

It requires 1 blood and superior Valeren, but does have some interesting possibilities. The big problem with it as S:CE defence is that it's a strike... which means that it's only useful when you get to see the opponent's strike first (ie intercept combat).

Joo Maselli Gouvêa said...

one intersting card to crack the combat ends is the Heaven Hunt from T.R.

Anonymous said...

Another card is missing for anarchs : "status perfectus".

Anonymous said...

Don't forget superior version of The Jones as a semi-useful way to combat S:CE, S:dodge and also nasty things like Burst, etc.

Anonymous said...

you've missed a card also: Death Seeker. Cancel a recently playe combat card, without the option to replace it for 1 blood, Salubri Anti card. Only once per round of combat (but usually 1 round of combat for a !Salubri deck against a deck which relies on mainly S:CE is more than enough).

extrala said...

When I wrote the post more than a year ago, Heirs to the Blood was not available/printed. So no Death Seeker at that point in time.