Since I reached the finals of the German ECQ (for the second time after last year in Bochum), I decided to write a short tournament report. In the end, it became a wee bit longer than I anticipated. Before the tournament I had two decks that I considered fair choices for gaining a VP or two. The first deck was a version of Randal Rudstam's Protean/Animalism Tap & Bleed deck (featured as Deck of the Month April 2010). The second deck is variant of the Nordic deck creation surrounding Cybele, some Inner Circle members and large number of master cards. In a moment of clarity before the tournament, I decided to give the Cybele deck a go. One of the reasons was that I had played the Pro/Ani Tap&Bleed deck in a tournament on the weekend before the ECQ, the other that I deck is really fun to play.
Some remarks on the Cybele deck: basically the deck is stealth bleed deck with a few extra votes, which can turn the tide later in the game when (and if) vote lock is achieved. There are several aspects of the deck that makes it really strong:
- the ability to bloat -- the amount of pool the deck can generate is quite high, my guestimation is that I can generate an average of 4-6 pool each turn, starting very early in the game with only Cybele in the game. When doing a quick calculation of the pool gained (without pool for ousts) in the first round of the tournament I came up with 48 pool gained. This makes the deck rather hard to oust, if you're not able to remove the key vampires. On the other hand, when you look at the number of the master cards, 50 master cards seems quite high, but there's a fair amount of trifles among them, and you want to play 3-4 master each master phase. At the same time you need extra master cards to discard when Aksinya is using her special ability to redirect a bleed against you. More often than not, I didn't have enough master cards in my hand to make full use of my master phase actions.
- the ability to bleed heavily -- even without cards most of the vampires (Cybele or the Inner Circle members) can bleed for 3 without using any library card. When using library cards, the bleed can be as high as 8 (Rafael de Corazon bleeding with Intimidation and Aire of Elation). Most preys cannot withstand this pressure for long.
- the recursion -- this is the last key element. With Liquidation and Ashurs you can manipulate your library, ash heap and hand almost at will, giving you the cards you want. Even better you gain even pool for playing these cards.
Round 1: Johannes (Anson Vote Punisher) --> Ralf (Cybele Bloat & Bleed) --> Didi (Followers of Set w/ Dominate) --> Vincent (Dom/For Bleed Aim & Chain)
I had an almost perfect start with 2 transfers and a Zillah's Valley in my starting hand. So I could influence Cybele in turn 2, and started bleeding heavily in turn 3. Even better, Anthelios was out pretty soon, too, but was removed immediately by an Uncoiling played by Didi. After 24 minutes Didi was ousted by a Reins of Power called by Cybele for 5 pool dmg and by a bleed for 6 by Rafael de Corazon. In the mean time Vincent finished bringing out four weenie to midcap vampires with Dominate (and sometimes) Fortitude, and had began to bleed Johannes. Johannes had an interesting vote deck based on the old G1/2 Toreador with Anson as the star vampire. At this point, he only could pass his votes with the help of vote push, but he seemed to have plenty of it. Then I made a crucial error by moving an Anarch Convert into the ready region, because in the next turn Johannes called two Neonate Breaches to inflict 8 dmg to me. Luckily the following the turns were less harmful for me, since Johannes was only able to pass one vote per turn. Therefore I started to influence on Lutz von Hohenzollern, after realizing that Johannes' Protected Resources and Vincent's dom vampires were a match for quite some time in the future, so Aksyina Dachlau wasn't a good option for me. Johannes moved more and more small vampires to the ready region, mostly as defense against Vincent's many minions, but that brought him down to less than 5 pool. I decided then wouldn't go forward with bleeds in order not to help Vincent help ousting Johannes. Rather I wanted to let Vincent spent as many of his resources on ousting Johannes as possible. This slowed down the table, but in the end Vincent ousted Johannes with his five vampires, which was for me the sign to go full forward. I managed to bleed him for 7 and played an Anarchist Uprising for 5, leaving Vincent on less than 5 pool. In the following two rounds, I blocked the potentially big bleeders with DOM, and 15 seconds before the end of the game I could oust him with a bleed for 3 by Lutz, who succeed Cybele (who I had blown up with a Golconda), after tapping out all of his minions with Anarch Troublemaker and Misdirection.
Result: Vincent 1 VP, Ralf 3 VP+GW
Round 2: Ralf (Cybele Bloat & Bleed) --> Joscha (Weenie Dragon's Breath Rounds Graverobbing) --> Robert (Ventrue Antitribu) --> Ralf (Akunanse Abombwe Combat) --> Erol (MidCap Ani Wall)
This table was a nightmare. My prey was a weenie rush deck, which I cannot really handle, my prey was wall deck, which would be able to block my actions eventually. I decide to go real slow, and move two minions to the ready region at the same time, hopefully with hand full of Strike: Combat Ends cards. At first, most of us were not sure whether Joscha was playing a Weenie Dom bleed deck, or something different. But after initial bleeds for 1 by his many minions the answer to that question was clear. Robert was only a victim at this table, only able to move Owain Ewans to the ready region, who was attacked almost immediately. Ralf with his Akunanse deck built up a little bit, and had some minor skirmishes with Erol's Ani vampires, but nothing decisive happened on this front. Erol brought out vampire after vampire (eventually he had 6 vampires with ANI on the table), and put three intercept locations in play early on. Quite impressive. After Erol started bleeding (luckily mostly for one), finally I had enough blood on both Cybele and Adana de Sforza to move them to the ready region at once. At first things looked good for me, I managed to defend both Cybele and Adana with 3 Strike Combat Ends, and in the next round I could play 2 Villeins for massive bloat. In the end why leave that many blood on them, if Joscha's weenies eventually will graverob them anyhow? Joscha had a massive amount of minions and even more pool, so I started to bleed somewhat heavily. This scared Joscha somewhat, but his access to rush cards seemed to be limited at this point. But unfortunately I cannot prevent Joscha from stealing Adana in one of the following rounds. This made any upcoming political actions in my deck useless, since with Adana he had the vote lock on the table. Robert is ousted quite quickly then, and that put Ralf and his three Akunanse under immense pressure, especially because Robert's Owain had switched sides before Joscha had ousted him. Ralf's Akunanse defended bravely for 2 or 3 turns with a huge number of untap cards, but eventually had to succumb to the number of minions bleeding and attacking him. That left Erol completely without pressure and he started bleeding with most of his minions. This wouldn't oust me, since I could easily bloat at the same rate with Liquidation and Ashur Tablets, but it also prevented me from influencing a Inner Circle member to the ready region, so I have to be content with Aksinya as company for Cybele. I can land some more bleeds against Joscha, which is then in ousting range. Unfortunately I am the mercy of Erol, which I foolish tell, that he can prevent me from ousting Joscha by tapping both the WRMH Talk Radio and Rumor Mill against my Monastery of Shadows and Veil of Legions when Aksinya is bleeding. At first he declines to let me oust Joscha, but then time is running out, and Erol realizes he cannot oust me first, and then fight Joscha to the end within the time limit. So he's content with me letting oust Joscha, and taking 2 VPs for himself. In the end, he rushes Cybele (as my last ready minion) with a Deep Song and that's it for me.
Result: Joscha 2 VP, Erol 2 VP, Ralf 1 VP
Left: Round 2 Table 1 with Didi, Andreas, Ela, Hugh and Lukas.
Right: Round 2 Table 2 with Joscha, Robert (not ousted, but "coaching" his predator), Ralf and Erol (not the proverbial red shirt).
Left: Round 2 Table 3 with Vincent, Rudolf, Yann and Cassian.
Right: Round 2 Table 4 with Johannes, Quentin and Johannes.
Left: Round 2 Table 5 with Michael, Mazni, Khaled and Sebastian.
Right: Round 2 Table 6 with Alf, Frank, Benoit and Jean-Bapiste.
Round 3: Cassian (Malkavian antitribu Royalty Bleed/Vote) --> Ralf (Cybele Bloat/Bleed) --> Yann (New Brujah Vote/Bloat) --> Erol (MidCap Ani Wall)
Another four player table and luckily the wall deck is sitting at the other end of the table, are my first thoughts. Both Cassian and Yann had a rather slow start, but I wasn't too fast myself. The only player having a turbo start (with starting Powerbase Montreal) was Erol, who immediately started bleeding with all of his Ani vampires (mostly for 1). This put Cassian with Alicia Barrows as his first vampire under immediate pressure. He discarded two Kindred Spirits early on, which gave me the impressions that he played a bleed-only deck, and not one with considerable amount of votes. Initially he was quite defensive and played a couple of The Call, managing to move Stavros out as well. I moved Cybele to ready region, and started to bloat a bit as usual. In the mean time, Yann moved first Dmitra Ilyanova, then Karen Sudela to the ready region. He bloated like crazy with some votes (My Kin against the World), but didn't put real pressure on Erol. Cassian became nervous by the low amount of pool he had and by the pressure that Erol put on him. Cassian then offered a deal to Yann, that they should first oust Erol (his predator) (who seemed to be first one to score a VP at the table) and then me. Yann happily agrees, and they both started throwing votes like crazy at Erol, giving him three pool dmg during every KRC and Conservative Agitation they found in their hands. I made a mistake(?) by playing a Pentex on the untapped Dmitria, and not on Karen Sudela. I wanted to bleed with both Akysina and Cybele that turn, and I wanted Dmitria out as blocker for that turn. Unfortunately I had missed that Erol's intercept capability was quite limited at this point, and Yann managed to oust Erol with a KRC during his turn. Now both Yann and Cassian started marching against me. Good grief! Since of them left me alone for those 2-3 turns before that, I was able to influence Lutz out, while still having a comfortable pool cushion. Initially both Yann and Cassian started out strong, giving me plenty to think about with some votes and (less bleed), but shortly after both of them run out of political actions. Yann even bled Cassian just to cycle some cards, even though he couldn't wake or bounce, and Cassian remained somewhat passive with bleeds since he feared that I would bounce the heavy bleeds to Yann. This gave me then the opportunity to move forward, even though I lost Lutz almost immediately by an Archon Investigation from Yann. I should have known that without any bounce, he was likely to have an AI or two in his deck. In the end the lack of vote cards they both had, and my ability to bloat and bleed sealed the deal, and I could oust first Yann, and then Cassian shortly after. A tough race to the game win, and with no small portion of luck for me.
Result: Yann 1 VP, Ralf 3 VP GW
So with 2 GWs 7 VPs I was at the final table, and for a long time I even had a choice where I would be sitting. I had quickly asked some other players what the other finalists were playing, since had only played against Joscha in the previous rounds. The players at the final table and their results & decks were:
- Benoit -- 2 GW 7 VP -- Big Cap Stealth Bleed
- Ralf -- 2 GW 7 VP -- Cybele Bloat/Bleed
- Alf -- 1 GW 5 VP -- Dom/Pot Bruise & Bleed
- Joscha -- 1 GW 5 VP -- Weenie Dragon's Breath Rounds
- Andreas -- 1 GW 4 VP -- Osebo Aus/Pot Wall feat. Cesawayo
Benoit (Big Cap Stealth Bleed) --> Ralf (Cybele Bloat/Bleed) --> Alf (Dom/Pot Bruise & Bleed) --> Joscha (Weenie Dragon's Breath Rounds) --> Andreas (Osebo Aus/Pot Wall feat. Cesawayo)
The seating was quite good for me, since wasn't sitting next to the wall deck or the rush deck, what I didn't know was, how strong Benoit's deck really was or what his deck was actually built upon. I had a rather good start with an Information Highway, which made an early appearance of Cybele possible, and some bloating followed with Villein and Giant's Blood and two turns later another Villein. I started influencing on Aksinya (or so I thought), in order to make her my leverage against Alf when Benoit would be bleeding heavily later on. In the mean time Joscha moved with several against his prey or predator (can't remember which one), but he was punished heavily when Andreas/Alf's Potence minions hit the weenies to torpor. It became also apparent that he suffered some kind of hand jam with a lack of either Concealed Weapon or more likely the Saturday Night Special. Nonetheless he was able to bleed Andreas with a number of vampires, reducing Andreas pool to less than 12, when Andreas had only Cesawayo out.
Finally Benoit moved Rafael de Corazon to his ready region, and started showed the main angle of his deck in the following turn. Rafael bled with Flurry of Action with his first turn, and immediately put a Enkil Cog on him. Nasty. I thought, ok, he can do it once again, before I move Aksinya to the ready region, and then we'll see about, when I can bounce him both in his turn, and in my own turn to Alf. Benoit bled me again for 4 in my turn, but I only needed one additional pool on her. After moving the last and 9th blood to her, I flipped the vampire over, only to discover that it was another copy of Cybele .. Shock! I immediately thought "OK, a classic Bakija gambit, game over", when the other players informed me that with 9 blood Cybele wasn't moved to the ready region. But still that blood was tied to Cybele, and not on Aksinya. And to add insult to injury Benoit seized the opportunity and contested the Information Highway the next turn. I was in deep trouble, but could stabilize against Benoit's continued bleeds by bloating with Liquidations and Ashurs, but I wasn't able to put any real pressure against Alf (only an Entrancement of Carlton made me feel somewhat better) for a long time.
Left: Finale Table with Alf, Joscha, Andreas and Benoit.
Right: The different decks in the mid-game, in the turn Benoit moved Mistress Fanchon to the ready region.
Meanwhile at the other end of the table the situation had deteriorated considerable, because Andreas had moved Homa out, leaving him less than 5 pool, while Joscha suffered also when Alf put a Scourge of Enochians in play. Alf was clearly in the best position then, because he had two preys with considerable problems. Benoit on the other hand had bloated, but moved beside Rafael de Corazon, Suzanne Kadim and finally Mistress Fanchion to the ready region. This left him only for pool, which then ironically made him fear Cesawayo's Dominate, and he was rather passive for a round or two.
Alf seized the opportunity and finally managed to oust Joscha, whom nobody at the table really wanted to help, in fear that if he overcame his apparent hand jam, he might attack and steal the other player's vampire. This happened 25-30 minutes before the end of the game, just after I had figured out how to overcome my problem. I exchanged some master against a Golconda, and wanted to blow up the (almost) empty ready Cybele, and then be able to move the new Cybele to the ready region in the same turn. Then I would be able to play a new Villein on her, giving me enough pool to put Aksinya to the ready region in the next turn with the help of Zillah's Valley (and one pool already on her). Unfortunately Benoit washed the Golconda, and my attempt was delayed for full round. In the end of the game nothing really exciting happened, since with the number of players at the table (and minions on the table), it was then quite clear that Alf was going to win the qualifier as the only player with an oust in the finals.
Congratulations to Alf who seized the opportunity when having almost no predator for the most part of game, and sealing the win in this tournament.