Thursday, December 15, 2011

Going for the Win (Personal Report of the German Nationals 2011)

German Revolution of 1848Below you find an extensive tournament report of one of the finalists, Rudolf, of the German National VtES Championship which took place in Bad Nauheim, Germany on December 11th, 2011. Enjoy!

Maybe three weeks before the start of the tournament, I decided to go for the highest goal: to win the German Championships (GC). Seconded by the great Swedish player Isak Esbjörnsson Bjärmark, I choose to play a variation of my Anson Tap & Bleed deck, which in turn is a deck creation of Isak and his brother Adam, but with some minor modifications.

I never played Fear of Mekhet (there were no valid targets), and never used Force of Personality to enhance Entrancement to steal an ally (though there were targets in one game out of four).

I also had some thoughts about the meta-game in advance. I assumed that out of probably 25 players ..
  • 5 players would probably be unexperienced (maybe having problems even with some core rules),
  • 5 would already have played tournaments, but are not regular playing,
  • 10 would be experienced and regular players (maybe already with an entry in the TWDA),
  • 5 would be "great & famous" players.
Therefore seating would be relevant always, but in a somehow different manner..

Prize support for the winnerOf course, there is no "German meta", or if a had to name it somehow, it would call it "combat-ish". Nevertheless, I expected some of the decks to show up:
  • Tremere/!Tremere Vote around Orlando
  • Girls will find something
  • Tup Dog/Rock Cat
  • Piper War Ghoul
  • a Tucimia Bleed deck
  • a Summon History deck around Al-Munthatir
  • at least one Nosferoyalty deck (G12)
  • at least one Ventrue Lawfirm (around Lodin)
  • at least one Kiasyd Stealth Bleed (G45)
  • at least one Dmitra multi-action Vote deck
  • at least one !Ventrue Grinder
  • at least one Tap & Bleed deck (probably around Edward Vignes)
  • maybe one Toreador AAA/AAAAA
  • maybe one combat deck with Immortal Grapple
  • maybe one ANI combat deck
  • maybe one Weenie AUS deck
  • maybe one Spirit Marionette deck
The meta was quite different from what I expected. Here is the summary of decks as posted by the organizer:
1. Martin S. (GER) -- 1 GW 4 VP -- 1,5 132 TP -- Tremere Toolboxy (Triple-B: bleed, bruise, block)
2. Erol H. (GER) -- 1 GW 4 VP -- 0,5 132 TP -- Trujah Bleed
3. Vincent R. (FRA) -- 1 GW 4 VP -- 0,5 126 TP -- Daughter's Shattering Crescendo
4. Manuel D. (GER) -- 1 GW 3,5 VP -- 0,5 138 TP -- Gangrel Royalty Block
5. Rudolf G. (GER) -- 2 GW 8 0 VP 132 TP -- Toreador Ashur-Tap'n'Powerbleed
6. Alexander T. (GER) -- 1 GW 3 VP 120 TP -- Tremere Toolbox
7. Martin H. (GER) -- 1 GW 2,5 VP 102 TP -- Stanislava S&B
8. Alf B. (GER) -- 0 GW 2,5 VP 132 TP -- Piper Warghoul
8. Miriam S. (GER) -- 0 GW 2,5 VP 132 TP -- Tremere Toolbox
10. Robert F. (GER) -- 0 GW 2,5 VP 126 TP -- Nergal Turbo
10. Timo C. (GER) -- 0 GW 2,5 VP 126 TP -- Lutz & Friends Block/Vote
12. Ralf W. (GER) -- 0 GW 2 VP 114 TP -- Suhailah/Murat Obf/Pot/Ser
12. Ralf L. (GER) -- 0 GW 2 VP 114 TP -- G2/3 Tzimisce Triple-B
12. Carlotta G. (GER) -- 0 GW 2 VP 114 TP -- Caitiff Vote
15. Felix H. (GER) -- 0 GW 1,5 VP 120 TP -- Jaroslav Paszcek Second Tradition Combat
16. Ali A. (GER) -- 0 GW 1,5 VP 108 TP -- Toreador Bleed
16. Christoph B. (GER) -- 0 GW 1,5 VP 108 TP -- Nizzam Black Hand
18. Oskar G. (SWE) -- 0 GW 1 VP 96 TP -- Tzimisce feat. Lambach & Dominate
19. Johannes W. (GER) -- 0 GW 1 VP 84 TP -- Tricky Giovanni Powerbleed
20. Joscha D. (GER) -- 0 GW 0,5 VP 84 TP -- Weenie Dragon Breath Rounds
21. Jan S. (GER) -- 0 GW 0,5 VP 78 TP -- Blood Brothers Kiev
22. Tom H. (GER) -- 0 GW 0,5 VP 72 TP -- Weenie Cel Gun
22. Tobias H. (GER) -- 0 GW 0,5 VP 72 TP -- Old School Ventrue
22. Jörg W. (GER) -- 0 GW 0,5 VP 72 TP -- Assamite Magaji Bamba
25. Julian S. (GER) -- 0 GW 0,5 VP 66 TP -- Dom/Pro Bleed
"Perfect seating"

My first table: Martin H. (Stanislava S&B) > me > Ali (Toreador Block & Bleed G23) > Joscha (Weenie Dragon Breath Rounds)

Alte Feuerwache in 2010I was not really scared of Martin's deck, because I had seen it the day before while playtesting, so I knew there would be no voting and no Mind Rapeing. Ali's deck was similar to mine, plus some additional wakes, so he should have been a "big barrier". Joscha's deck I feared most: I knew it well, and he managed to reach the GC finals with it two years ago. The seating could not have been better for me the given circumstances.

I did not have Anson in the starting crypt, but Delilah, two 5 caps and Jost. So Delilah jumped into play first round. I could sudden a Powerbase Montreal (very important, as I realized later even more) and had my first bleed for 4 in round 2 :-) Ali brought out one 8 cap in round 3 and later another one. Joscha weenie-ed right away, and even played an Information Highway. Martin brought out Stanislava as his first minion, and managed to never get her hurt: Obedience, plus a lot of Earth Melds. One time, Martin even had the courage to send a weenie to torpor with Claws of the Dead and simply play a Skin of Steel against the subsequent DBR ..
As I remember, I had some acceleration due to Dreams of the Sphinx (there were so few of them the hole day over: I never ever contested one!), so I could bring out my minions quite fast and "work" on Ali. Of course, it was not that easy, because he could defend against my bleeds and even against my Mind Numbs with block & Majesty. Plus, he played Mind Numb himself backwards (a suggestion from me the day before). Pentex Subversion helped me, and luck, and the circumstance, that Stanislava was under attack each round.
Luckily, Joscha never rushed cross-table, because he feared to tap out against Ali, and was always in fear of bounced bleeds .. By the time I ousted Ali, Joscha was at five or four pool (and Martin at 10 or so). He rushed Jost twice, because he had already realized (earlier than me), that a single bleed of Jost could mean the oust. Jost survived (Majesty rules!!), and ousted with a bleed for five.
The rest was rather easy: Anson finally in game, Anthelios shining, Pentex on Stanislava. Table sweep in 70 minutes. 1 GW 4 VP, first step to the goal taken!

"No predator"

My second table: me > Johannes (Tricky Giovanni with Liquidations) > Oscar (Tzimisce Wall feat. Lambach) > Carlotta (Caitiff Vote) > Ralf L. (Tzimisce Bleed & Block).

I already knew Johannes deck and was very happy to be its predator. I was not scared too much of the Tzimisce decks (maybe I should have been), and Carlotta is a new player, a beautiful girl of maybe 17 years from the local playgroup.

Carlotta played with a rather weak setup of a Weenie vote deck from one of the other local player, but she was able to immediately put pressure on Ralf with Conservative Agitations. She even managed to get through two Praxis Seizures before titled vampires hit the table.
So, most of the time, I had no predator and could work on Johannes. I mind numb-ed Lady Constancia as soon as the reached the ready region, because I knew I had to: several Freak Drives support Johannes' idea of bloating and bleeding, with minions raised from his graves by several cards .. Oscar, of course, brought out Lambach - so the table was suddenly full of votes, but Oscar had always to be careful, being very vulnerable to Seductions .. Still, Carlotta could continue to "gnaw" on Ralf.

I brought into game Anson, two 5 caps, and Jost (he really meant the difference in the first two games in comparison to the original version of my deck, and had plenty of pool due to Ashur & Liquidation and (almost) zero pressure. But it was not trivial to oust Johannes due to his pool-gain via Liquidations and some Govern-bloating. Then Lambach, though seconded by Mylan Horseed ("so cute") got pentex-ed by Carlotta.

Johannes, whose deck did not "flow", made a deal with Oscar, and removed the Pentex. In Oscar's turn, Jost got pentex-ed .. Oscar forced Carlotta to play her Conservative Agitations 1 on Ralf, 4 on me ("so you can still work on ousting Ralf, and it does not really hurt Rudolf") .. This hit me once, but the second time (and would have a third time), I could play Delaying Tactics.
I tried to struggle Jost free, and was lucky enough to have two Majestys on hand running into a Telepathic Tracking and loads of Vicissitude combat .. I waited a turn. Ralf got ousted. In my next turn, I contested the Pentex playing mine on Lambach, and ousted Johannes.

Oscar gave up the contest, but had to realize that he could not immediately remove mine in his turn .. he was ousted the next round, even though he three minions out, being only at 3 pool. Luckily, Carlotta, out of missing experience, made the finish somehow easy for me, and a series of minor mistakes allowed me to oust her (being on 9 pool) in the last minutes, with the last cards: I got through my library, though I had completed Ashurs twice, and ousted with three "remaining" vampires of mine with three Public Trust bleeds .. So my total score was 2 GW and 8 VP, and I knew I had reached the finals and the qualification for the EC 2012! Unfortunately, my "luck" ended here ..

"Sometimes, going for the oust means not to go for the oust .."

My third table: Jan (Blood Brothers Kiev) > Alf (Piper Warghoul) > Miriam (Tremere/!Tremere Toolbox) > me > Erol (True Brujah Block & Bleed)

Pleasant seating for me, because Miriam is, like Carlotta, a new (and beautiful) player of the local playing group. Plus, I knew what kind of deck all the other players would play. Alas, I do not remember much of the game.

Jan, who feared Erol's deck a lot, never managed to be a real threat to Alf, partly due to inferior cardflow (master card jam). Alf had quite a "typical" start into the game: Got a young Tzimisce out, recruited a Vagabond Mystic the turn after and piper-ed a War Ghoul and a second minion in turn three. Miriam, like Carlotta, played a borrowed deck and started with bringing out Masika St. John, Almiro Suarez and Carna. Her problems began with a Fame on Masika, and found a climax in Carna torporized by Alf's War Ghoul, that survived with 1 life remaining ..

So I could build up. But I was aware, already before the game, that the tap-mechanism could afford "additional 2 blood" now and then against Erol's Trujahs because of Outside the Hourglass. I bled steadily, first with Gideon, I think, then Anson, Jost, and later a 5 cap.
Erol had to take the first bleed, then influenced Lydia out, who got Mind Numbed the following turn. He then managed to equip her with the Heart of Nizchetus, a move crucial to his survival. Two turns later, Erol brought also Al-Munthatir into the game, and was down on 5 pool I think (I had sudden-ed a Villein) after the Scarce penalty.

My next turn: I am not sure now, if I already had out 4 minions, but Anthelios shone, The Parthenon was raised, and I had two choices: a) playing calm and safely, picking up Sudden Reversal again to make sure Erol would "never" play successfully a Villein, or b) going for the oust, picking up Pentex and play Misdirection in addition. I chose the latter, and my cardflow prevented my plan ..

Plus, I underestimated the defense qualities of two Trujahs with superior Auspex. So I tried and tried, but my efforts only brought Erol down to three pool. In his turn, Erol could play Villein and Giant's Blood, and had the Heart to always have good defense in his hand ..
After this, nothing really relevant happened during the rest of the game. Of course, I tried to get Erol again and again, but in vain. Ironically, I was the only one ousted before the time-out, because I did not want to sit down and wait (and I was already in the finals), so I brought out another minion, went down to 5 pool, got my two untapped minions tapped by Erol's Mind Numbs, and Miriam finally found the courage and the cards to bleed ..

After the game I was quite convinced, that I should have picked up the Sudden Reversal, and wait, wait, and again wait, if necessary. I am very sure, that I would have ousted Erol that way in at least 95 out of 100 cases ..

"Stay away from the fire ..": The final round

Standings after 3 rounds:
  1. Rudolf -- 2 GW 8 VP -- Anson Ashurs Tap&Bleed
  2. Martin S. -- 1 GW 4 VP (won in the tie-roll) -- Tremere/Tremere antitribu Bruise/Bleed/Block
  3. Erol -- 1 GW 4 VP (lost in the tie-roll) -- True Brujah Block/Bleed
  4. Vincent -- 1 GW 4 VP (out of only 2 games!) -- Daughters Shattering Crescendo
  5. Manuel -- 1 GW 3.5 VP -- Gangrel Royalty Wall
As I was told afterwards, Martin and Erol were outside, smoking, and full of doubts if they reached the finals. They broke into laughter as Ralf told them that they were on places 2 and 3 ..

I am by no means "used" to choose a place at a final table. Maybe I have been in seven finals before, and only once was top seed. And it was a final table with 4 TWDs: mine (improved! ^^), Martin's and Vincent's only one/two weeks old, plus Erol's. Unfortunately, I could not guess properly how dangerous Manuel's deck could/would be ..
The other finalists sat down in the following order:
Manuel > Vincent
Manuel > Erol > Vincent
Manuel > Erol > Martin > Vincent
Again, I had two choices: Neither wanted I to be Vincent's prey, nor sit in between Erol and Martin. If I had realized at that moment, that the rest of the table would have to struggle for a VP in order to win the finals, I would have relaxed and sat down between Manuel and Erol.
But I did not realize this bonus of being top seed .. Plus, I was still under the impression that I had not managed to oust Erol the round before, and I was not able not consider Manuel's deck to be the least dangerous in this finals, which it was, maybe. Due to these miscalculations, and eager to win "heroically", I decided to sail before the storm near the cliffs:
Manuel > Erol > Martin > me > Vincent
The final tableManuel started the finals. I had no Anson in my crypt, but Mariana, Delilah, Ranjan and the 6 cap. I brought out Mariana. Already a minor mistake: I should have influenced on Delilah and one of the vampires with Dominate ..

Vincent put Diana Vick into Powerbase Montreal (my prey being able to bounce so early, that was somehow new). Next turn, Martin played a Powerbase Montreal. I hesitated, and then decided to keep my Sudden for my prey. Afterwards, I felt this decision to be wrong: steady acceleration for my predator cannot be good .. Plus, Martin influenced Carna out.

First, I did not fear this, but as I wanted to play Mind Numb on Diana, I got Eagle Sighted, with no Majesty in my hand (my hand was more often than before weird, for the duration of the whole game) .. Luckily, I got neither theft-ed nor flame-d .. After a bleed for three the subsequent round, I decided to activate "safety modus" for some time. I put a second minion, with Dominate, into game, and searched for Anson, who "promptly" appeared .. For the first time this tournament I had a "real" predator ..

Erol's deck at the final tableIn the meantime: Turn 2, Vincent could bleed Manuel for 3, and kept the Edge. Turn 3, Yseult showed up, and Manuel was immediately under pressure. He managed to stay in game with Ingrid Rossler, seconded be Dr. Alan Woodstock, and lots of Earth Melds. Erol got Lydia out, and the 3 cap Nagaraja, and played Summon History for 2 blood. Martin tried to block with Selena and Carna, but Tangle Atropos' Hand to times in a row was too sneaky for the Tremere/!Tremere. Erol then equipped with Heart of Nizchetus, a surprise, even to himself, for he had drawn the Ankara Citadel in replace for the Summon History .. Martin could build up, helped by the Powerbase Montreal and due to two Vessels and a Hunting Ground. Also, he magic-ed his copy of the Heart (this contest should last until the very end of the game) ..

Vincent's deck at the final tableWhen I got out Anson, Anthelios shone already, and The Parthenon was in place .. I started to put pressure on Vincent, consequently sudden-ing his Villeins, when he played one. Then the first shot backwards with Shattering Crescendo .. Fortunately, none of my minions dropped into torpor, plus, Vincent forgot to use The Coven in his turn ..

Manuel's deck at the final tableManuel struggled to survive, having a Raven Spy on Ingrid and using one minion as "pool slave" for his Vessel, and not risking to block one of Erol's Trujahs after a Domain of Evernight inferior & Outside the Hourglass combo. Erol had no problems also sending Al-Munthatir into the fight, and consequently tested Martin defense, who rarely attempted a block with full force ..

I kept the pressure on Vincent, but had some problems with my card flow, and risked to go down to 9 pool, and finished my turn with two of my four ready minions (the fifth was already in torpor) untapped. After my next Sudden on one of his Villeins, Vincent cast two times Shattering Crescendo against my minion, apologizing that he had to .. He was right, but of course, this was my downfall. The next turn, Martin bled two times with superior Conditioning, and one time for 1 .. only 40 minutes played.

The winner's (Martin's) deck at the final tableMartin then did not make the mistake I made: He realized that he was top seed now, and he had a VP .. so he dealt with Vincent not to interfere with him until Manuel would be ousted. The rest of the game proved, that it had been necessary to sudden Vincent's Villeins, now he almost played one after another, of course with Lilith's Bleesing on his side. Somehow Manuel survived. Erol was really creative in putting pressure on Martin with Temporis tricks, but "only" brought him down to 2 pool before the table timed out ..

So this is it, my very personal "point of view" to this year's GC. Congratulations once again to Martin for becoming the German Champion! And once again a big Thank You to the organizers, Joscha Duell and Tobias Hoffmann, for this great event!


Ankha said...

My deck is available there:

I didn't change anything.

extrala said...

Thanks again for visiting the German Nationals and the sending the link to the deck as well.

Joscha said...

Very nice report, Rudolf.

Johannes said...

I was really amazed on how much you thought about a potential metagame. I usually just pick a deck and let´s go, the only factor being if tournament is small or large (and need 2+GW).

Rudolf said...

I have to correct: The co-author of Isak was Alex Ek (I remered that fact wrong).

@ Ankha: I would like to get to know some of your insights into the finals.

@ Joscha: Thanks! :)

@ Johannes: I am somehow used to analyse "opening variations" from chess, but of course with V:tES this works totally different. I would say, that it was to some degree helpful to consider the meta in such detail, because it gave me the feeling that the chosen deck should be the right one to possibly win - even if the deck-testing results had been rather discouraging (no GW at the EC or in the different playgroups).