Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cutting down a .. VtES deck

In the White Wolf VtES forum a player asked how one would cut down a 90 card VtES deck to smaller size more suitable for tournaments or competitive games in general.

When I start building decks I usually start with 90 card version. With this initial draft I then play a couple of league or casual games, to see which parts are working or not. Between these games I often remove cards that didn't work in this deck. Sometimes I replace them with more suitable cards, or if I have the impression, that the card doesn't fit into the concept at all, I just throw them out, e.g. when I have too many master cards in the deck, I remove those which are not essential to the deck. So this is already the first step of reducing the deck size.

Before trimming down the deck to a tournament size between 60 and 80 cards, I first ask myself, if this is necessary at all? How much cards were left in the library in a typical game and did I came close to decking myself? E.g. when playing a combat deck with a high throughput of cards or a deck with many Liquidations, it's often not advisable to reduce the card count below 80 to 90.

When I have decided to reduce the deck size, I usually aim to reduce the deck to 75 cards. Sometime ago in the french VtES forum Sabbat in France one of the forum members came up with the following classification with regards to deck size:
  • 60 cards -- fast or combo decks
  • 70 cards -- fast deck with extras
  • 75 cards -- normal deck
  • 80 cards -- combat decks
  • 90 cards -- bad decks
Although it's slight exaggeration at the lower end of the list, it shows the a good guideline for which deck size to aim. The faster or the more combo-dependent the deck is, the smaller the deck should be.

Usually when trimming down a deck, I follow these principles:
  1. Try to retain card ratios where possible, e.g. try to keep the same ratio of master cards to combat cards to action cards, etc. This is important to avoid handjams with certain types of cards.
  2. Eliminate cards that are not essential to your deck, but nice-to-have and/or corner case.
  3. Eliminate cards with higher number of copies (5 to 10) in your deck by one or two copies.
For example, if this would be my DOM bleed deck with 24 cards, ..
Master Cards (7): [29.2%]
5x Blood Doll
1x Pentex Subversion
1x Retribution

Action/Action Modifier Cards (11): [45.8%]
6x Govern the Unaligned
4x Conditioning
1x Graverobbing

Reaction Cards (6): [25%]
6x Deflection
.. I can reduce it to the following deck with 18 cards (removing 1/4 of the deck):
Master Cards (5): [27%]
4x Blood Doll
1x Pentex Subversion

Action Cards/Action Modifier (8): [44.4%]
5x Govern the Unaligned
3x Conditioning

Reaction Cards (5): [27.8%]
5x Deflection
I have removed the Graverobbing and the Retribution, because they are kind of useful in some cases and nice for casual games, but not necessary for the deck to work in general. Then I removed one copy each of Govern the Unaligned and Blood Doll, and as a consequence one copy of Conditioning to retain card ratios between the different card groups. This is of course a simplified example, but it shows the general principal.


Stefan said...

I try (not always with success) to do the opposite and build a 60-card deck as the first draft. That way, risk of hand jam and bad draw is reduced so I quickly can see the potential of the deck.
Most decks needs more cards and I feel it is easier to add than subtract so all the hard work is already done in the first draft. Sure, some times my decks runs out of cards while testing them but if I burn 60 cards (not being the prey of a Slaughterhouse-deck) the playtest have been successful to some degree just because of that.

Anonymous said...

I actually do the reverse. I start decks by taking the absolute essentials of a concept [even combat rush] and cut everything extraneous and make a 60 card deck. Then I play it and find out what it lacks, then increase the deck as the "lack-ness" requires it to grow or change.

extrala said...

Interesting approach .. that's the first time I hear from anyone making use of it!

Michael Heyder said...

I'm not quite sure about the above mentioned approaches. At least not when building decks whose designs you're not familiar with or that don't have great archetypes all over the www. It's great to let ideas go free and implement as much as possible. You'll soon see which cards are worth keeping and which not, even if you're not sure of it in the first place. Might take some playtesting, but it's definately worth it. I like this especially for newer players since they just don't have the experience to build a good deck from scratch and it gives them a better feel for the game overall. But it's also very viable for more experienced players since they might discard cards outright because they're seemingly cornercase while they might actually be viable when implemented in a given strategy... so in short I'm more of a 90 > 60 person...

Anonymous said...

@Michael Heyder

I actually think the 60 deck approach is better for new players as they get to the combos or interactions quicker. They see and thus use more cards they need, and the more cards they play in the game I think the more they learn from it and grasp it better.

The way I see it going bad is in super focused decks as they might fall into that playstyle only. But make a fairly toolbox 60 card deck and they can possibly go through all the aspects of the game without stopping every now and then because they handjam deciding whether to keep cornercase or specialty cards that looks good.

I believe 60 card decks facilitate playing more cards, because you see the cards you need quicker. And playing more cards, more or less, leads to more experience for a new player. What use are options that you don't get to use anyhow?

-same anon as above

John Eno said...

I'm in the same camp as Stefan and anonymous, though I often find that I end up with 70 card decks as my first draft.

Dr.Mafrune said...

I usually make the following approach. First: stablish a card limit depending on the deck style. Second: reducing or increasing after test.
The 60 card approach is also very good; maybe should be increased to 70 only for combat/mixed combat decks.

My deck limit list:

Pure Combat 80
Mixed/Toolbox Combat 85
Toolbox 80
Pure Bleed 70
Politics & Bleed 75
Allies 65
Blocker 75
Mixed(tricks,allies...) bleed 75
Pure Politics 65
Imbued 65
Combat with Tablets 70
Other style with Tablets 60

The average deck of Vtes should normally stay between 70-80 cards, but there can be exceptions. 90 card decks can also be good if the concept and proportions of the deck demand it.

Michael Heyder said...

I see your point, you're probably right. I guess the reason I've stuck with my above mentioned approach is that I'm not very good at making a clear cut to a deck in the first place (e.g. building a deck based on what's good for performance only), especially not when I'm not really familiar with the general concept. On top of that I've been playing decks that usually have above standard handsize and cycle very fast, which leads to me being low on deck or out of library at tables that last more than one hour a lot.
But I'll try your approach!