I’ve long been an advocate of trying to make powerful decks from a limited selection of cards. Such “commons” decks thwart the argument that a given CCG is merely the realm of the those who want to invest large amounts of money into it if they can do reasonably well against such decks. This was the reasoning behind my Barbed Wire decks that I made and still sell that mostly use Jyhad card stock.
Another VTES player, perhaps inspired by my Barbed Wire decks, made his own limited card selection challenge: Atom Weaver’s “Deck Bashing Challenge.” This challenge revolves around making as competitive a deck as possible by combining two starter decks of your choosing. While I like the idea, I do have a few reservations about the idea.
For one, starter decks in VTES are much like Magic: the Gathering and are set specific. If one were to find a great combination of starter decks to make an excellent general purpose deck, the starters you were using might be out of stock two years down the road and simply be of little use to the proposed newbie who needed it. Secondly, the starter decks all revolve around a certain strategy; by combining two of them, all you are really going to be able to do is refine that strategy a bit. The starter decks themselves are not toolboxy enough to really serve as the blank slate that I like as a deck constructor. Of course, one could combine two separate starters, but that runs into it’s own problems. Lastly, VTES is a game that has always favored certain strategies such as sneak and bleed or vote and cap. Starter decks, such as the Malkavian or Venture starters from Keepers of Tradition, will be quite competitive whereas working with the other starters from that set means that you will be building a deck that will simply never be as competitive. That’s just the nature of VTES and CCGs in general.
Ever after a challenge, I chose to work with the Brujah starter in Keepers of Tradition. The deck’s contents can be found here. Clearly this is a combat deck, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t contain many support cards that would allow it to overcome the obvious handicaps that that strategy fosters. For one, there is simply no multi-acting in the deck. I’ve played similar decks based on Gwendolyn (who has Fortitude for multi-acting and damage prevention), the predecessor of Adana de Sforza, and those decks contains either Forced March of Flurry of Action or both.
An example turn might consist of bleeding with Gwendolyn for the base 3 at one stealth from Forced March, and paying 1 to untap (use of 1 card). Then having Hrothulf burn the edge to rush my predator’s largest standing minion (a free action), then having Gwendolyn take another action to call Reigns of Power to simultaneously damage my prey while gaining pool because the largest of my predator’s vamps was taking a dirt nap. Those kinds of turns are powerful and great fun to pull off if you can manage it.
Unfortunately, this deck has no multiacting cards at all: no Flurry of Action, no Forced March, nothing. So the deck is going to be dramatically less powerful with no multi-acting ability than a similar deck that had one. To add insult to injury, this particular deck is promotion a new type of rush mechanic using the card, Enrage. In essence, it looks like the deck designer wanted you to bring up a fighting minion and a smaller minion (such as Garret) to take the Enrage action to allow your fighting minion to rush someone at +1 strength. That mechanic is inherently inferior to just having your fighting minion rush someone using a card (which is inferior still to just having your fighting minion have a built in rush like most dedicated combat decks do).
So the deck is crippled in a number of ways, right out of the box. Furthermore, it has precious little bleed defense (a couple of Major Boons) and the only blood management it has is Entrenching plus Vessel. Paying a pool to get a blood doll as a trifle Master Phase action to drain some blood off of your minion in the hopes that it will be able to regain some of it using Entrenching requires a action from a large minion. Since the deck has no multi-acting, the actions of the largest minion is at a premium, and so this Entrenching strategy is subpar even in the best of situations. In short, the entire deck is simply a horrid lesson in inefficiency.
One could, as The Lasombra suggested, combine this deck with the Torreador deck to try to help it a bit. In theory, that would allow for a decent deck because both clans share two out of three disciplines. Unfortunately, unlike in the Jyhad edition, the Brujah vamps have no Auspex and the Torreador vamps have no Potence. You’d be forced to rely on using the Master Discipline cards to try to correct for some of that, and it could get messy. The deck itself would need to really focus on being a Celerity combat deck with Presence bleeds to make a bleed and bruise deck using Auspex for bounce.
Unfortunately, this reasonably suggestion is hamstrung again by the contents of the Brujah starter; the only celerity combat cards are three Psyche!s, four Stutter-Steps, and five resist Earth’s grasp. The Torreador deck doesn’t help much in this department having only three more Psyche!s and six Pursuits. If we added both decks celerity packages together, we’d have six Psyche!s, six Pursuits, five Resist Earth’s Grasp, and four Stutter-Steps for a total of 23 celerity combat cards. All in all, that doesn’t sound too horrible because we could make the resulting deck a 60 card library to get what we needed, but the four Stutter-Steps simply have very little synergy with the rest of the concept we are going for because it doesn’t combo with the available weapons the deck has access to: Desert Eagles, Tiger Claws, Mark Vs, Sengir Dagger, and Ivory Bow. The Stutter-steps do have some synergy with Bundi, but the Brujah deck only have two and there’s just no way to build a deck around that.
In essence, any attempt to combine or work with these decks in any way will result in a subpar result, and that’s just the nature of these particular starters. Of course, that did not stop me from trying. So I made two decks from combining two of the Brujah and Torreador Starters. The Brujah Starter deck contains five Harrases, which when doubled will allow for gratuitous rushing of other minions. It has a smattering of decent bleed cards in Public Trust, and some decent combat gear with Sengir Dagger, Bundi and Tiger Claws. Unfortunately, that’s really all there is to work with. The Master Cards given allow for limited bleed defense with Major Boon, a single good combat support card in Tension in the Ranks, and… damn little else. I dare say that KRCG News Radio is a waste of pool in a deck with little intercept; sure, if your predator or prey do not have stealth then it would conceivably shut them down, but if they do have stealth then you’ve just wasted two pool. Furthermore, there’s always the temptation to use KRCG News Radio to help a cross table ally gain enough intercept, but, at a pool a whack, that’s pretty pricy.
KRCG represents an attempt at a catch and kill style strategy, but attempting such a thing is fraught with difficulty. For one, it requires an untapped vampire or many On the Qui Vive to be of any use and the way the card pool is thrown together untapped vampires are at a premium. Furthermore, if one were to try to use this strategy in a typical constructed deck, it would require the use of multiple intercept locations rather than two copies of a single unique intercept location. It would also help if the vampires themselves had some level of intercept, and two copies of Phased Motion Detector just isn’t going to cut it.
When it comes to Crypt selection, the I prefer some vampires that have votes because it allows you table talk options and can often give you vote lock at a table without a political angle. That would allow for you to diablerize opposing vampires once they had gone into torpor with impunity or convince a cross table ally to do it for you (which I actually did in one of my games with this deck). Furthermore, a built in bleed represents a powerful option for what is, in essence, a bleed and bruise deck. For all of these reasons, I’m going with the IC member Adana de Sforza.
If one tried to construct a deck without the two large vampires Adana de Sforza or Jana Berger, then you’d be left with Tomaine, Herbert Westin, Reginald Moore, and Garret. Unfortunately, Herbert Westin is a horrible vampire for this deck because of his discipline spread: OBF PRE pot for a five cap vampire is all kinds of horrible. So now we’re down to just three vampires, and there’s no way to design a deck around small and midcap vamps. Once again, with this deck, we are all kinds of screwed.
Here’s the deck I ended up with:
Adana dr Sforza(11) x4 CEL POT PRE PRO OBF aus +2 Bleed, IC
Tomaine(6) x4 CEL POT PRE Primogen
Garret(3)x2 pot pre
Reginald Moore(4)x2 PRE
Master Cards 8
Tension in the Ranks x2
Major Boon x2
Reaction Cards 3
On the Qui Vive x3
Combo Cards 6
Resist Earth’s Graspx6
Political Action Cards 5
Finding the Path x4
Year of Fortune
Public Trust x6
Immortal Grapple x4
Weighted Walking Stick x6
Taste of Vitae x6
Stutter Step x4
Brute Force x10
Relentless Pursuit x2
Torn Signpost x6
Sengir Dagger x2
This deck is a combat deck. I’ve designed a lot of combat decks in my time, but this is one of the most rugged of combat packages. Every time this deck gets in combat with an opposing vampire, they seem to go to torpor empty- which is nice. Unfortunately, that’s the decks only saving grace. It requires the player to attempt to leverage that one dimensionality of the deck to deal with all other elements of a VTES game. A daunting challenge (both times I played the deck I got zero VPs), but one that at least teaches the player the pitfalls of a combat only focused strategy.