Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ignazio's Bleeding Army of Fools

As a response to the deck concept posted by Johannes Walchs here I created the following variation using the same core mechanic of using Chain of Command on a vampire with DOM and FOR/for to then bleed with them, have them explode during the bleed (Daring the Dawn) and then bring them back with Possession.  The trip through the ashheap also rinses them clean of NRA (AFAIK) so you can rinse-repeat on the bleed actions.
V:TES deck - Ignazio's Army of Fools

Deck Name: Ignazio's Bleeding Army of Fools
Created by: Juggernaut1981
Description: Ignazio Giovanni + Chain of Command/Daring the Dawn + Bleed style shennanigans.
Crypt [16 vampires, average capacity: 7.25]
6x Ignazio Giovanni DOM FOR NEC POT obf 9 Giovanni:3
1x Lucita DOM FOR OBT cel pot 8 Lasombra:2
1x Victorine Lafourcade DOM FOR PRE tha 8 Ventrue:3 prince
1x Blackhorse Tanner AUS DOM FOR 7 Ventrue antitribu:3
1x Gracis Nostinus DOM PRE aus for 7 Ventrue:3 primogen
1x Charice Fontaigne AUS DOM for pot 6 Ventrue antitribu:3
1x Edward Vignes DOM PRE for 6 Ventrue:3
1x Vanessa DOM FOR aus pre 6 Ventrue antitribu:2
1x Catherine du Bois DOM for obf pre 5 Ventrue:3
1x Ranjan Rishi, Camarilla DOM PRE for 5 Ventrue:2
1x Ingrid Russo DOM for 4 Ventrue antitribu:2
[83 cards]
Master [16]
2x From a Sinking Ship
2x Golconda: Inner Peace
2x Perfectionist
4x Wider View
6x Zillah's Valley
Action [16]
6x Chain of Command
6x Possession
4x Scouting Mission
Action Modifier [40]
4x Command of the Beast
8x Conditioning
8x Daring the Dawn
4x Foreshadowing Destruction
6x Freak Drive
4x Safe Passage
6x Seduction
Equipment [1]
1x Sargon Fragment, The
2x Break the Code
Reaction [8]
8x Deflection

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Spider League 2012

In 2012, I'm thinking of running a number of Constructed Tournaments that will also contribute to rankings in The Spider League.  They would also be Standard Constructed Tournaments that would contribute to VEKN Rankings and so on.

The Spider League takes its name indirectly from a quote from Matt Barnett "We're not here to [have intercourse with] spiders... let's play some VTES!".

So, without a moment to waste...

  • Each of these will be 2 Rounds + 1 Final.
  • Round VPs = 1 point, Round GWs = 2 points, Final VPs = 2 points, Final GWs = 3 points
  • TPs will be accumulated as normal through the League and will be used to break ties.
  • If TPs cannot break the tie, then it will be done based on GWs (both Rounds and Finals). If this will not break the tie, then comparing Final GWs to Round GWs or Final VPs to Round VPs 
There is:
  • a minimum of bragging rights.
  • potentially a perpetual trophy will be kept at Unlimited Hobbies
  • Deckbackers
  • Pool counters
  • Counter Cards
  • Buttons/Badges
  • Other loot...
I'm planning to include competitions on the following dates...  (these dates are very much in the DRAFT stage except for Burning Wrath)

Burning Wrath (Australian Continental Championship Qualifier) Saturday 18th Feb 2012
Claws of the Dead (Constructed) Saturday 15th June 2012
Exuding Blood (Constructed) Saturday 17th August 2012
Gemini's Mirror (Constructed) Saturday 23rd November 2012

I'd plan to hold all of these games at Unlimited Hobbies Blacktown NSW 2148.  I may hold them in other locations if Unlimited Hobbies is unavailable but they will also be within a short distance of Blacktown Train Station.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Custom Made Tournament Loot

Here is a start of some of the custom made things I am planning to use in the future for my tournaments... Packs of 40 seem like a good number.  If you are regularly running tournaments, I might be able to make some for you to give out as loot at your games... We can figure out the details of costs and so on later.  I'm also happy to make and send my Counter Cards for you to give out as prizes.  Again just send me a message (either here or via my email or on my VEKN Profile)

These beads have a 12mm diameter design on paper and have been backed with Red felt.  I liked the blue vase stones (sold by a local hardware store) but of course they can appear in other colours.  The flash and exposure are high on this image to help you see the design in the background; it turns up poorly in low light and in the other photo.
Here is a couple of "Action" shots of the Corruption Counter Cards underneath Theo Bell ADV.  They have been shrunk slightly (I think the Local Stationery Chain may have resized it rather than set it to full bleed) because they are supposed to be as tall as a normal card.  I might also have to make them a little wider... but you get the idea.  Put them under your stuff (or under other people's stuff) to keep track of the counters they have...

Burning Wrath: Tournament Announcement

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Hunters are about...

All I'm getting out of the VEKN page is...

"Database Error: Unable to connect to the database:Could not connect to MySQL"

Hopefully we can re-establish...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bent, Broken, Wallpaper and Boring...

After ICLee's nice post I felt the need to spend some time of my own talking about the following ideas:
- What makes a card 'broken'?
- What makes a card 'powerful but not broken'?
- What is the role of the metagame in the ongoing life of VTES?
- When is the metagame unhealthy?

Please, do go read IC Lee's post. It's very good and I do think that he makes one particularly good and interesting point:

People think the metagame is 'unhealthy' or 'sick' when it is not fun to play anything but a narrow range of deck types.

I am very firmly in this camp. I don't care much if I am not playing the most 'efficient'* deck. I love my Nos Princes Hate You All (Nos Princes Anathema/Archon Deck) because it is unusual, fun to play, competitive in many versions of my local metagame and is often more about play skill than 'beating the Card Gods of Fate'.

So what makes a card broken?
In my own mind, 'broken' cards are those cards that can single-handedly distort the metagame over a long period of time.  These are often the 'Autoinclude' or 'Must counter' cards that are mentioned in deck-building advice for Tournament Quality decks. Pentex Subversion, Carlton van Wyck, Mylan Horseseed, Villein, Parity Shift... Many people feel the need to directly counter the effects of these cards.

From many people's comments on the VEKN Forums, there is a strong sentiment that Villein is single-handed distorting the metagame.  Many others are saying "It has had little effect compared with Minion Tap which it has replaced in the metagame".  I agree with this.  I don't think Villein has distorted the metagame as much as is claimed. I do believe it is probably too powerful for its cost (it's efficiency is too great).  Archon Investigation on the other hand is about right (maybe a little low for my taste, but not 'waay out the bottom') because it has steep conditions (4+ bleed action on you required) that can be countered (careful player decision) and a moderately high cost (10% of your starting pool + 1MPA) to get a strong effect (destroy a vampire).

So if Villein is, at most, closer to 'broken' than Minion Tap... what is their common effect that people object to?  Mass converting blood back into pool.  Both Villein and Minion Tap convert a large amount of blood into pool.  This explains why Blood Doll, which was (and is in my opinion) a staple card, is very rarely considered broken... each copy can adjust your pool total by 1 per Master Phase.  Since, more often than not, Villein and Minion Tap are used on pool you have recently spent on a large minion... where is the problem with them?  My conclusion is: Being able to use Villein/Minion Tap again on a minion.  So this means that the root of the problems with Villein and Minion Tap is not these cards but instead with putting blood onto vampires.

Cards that are 'famous' for putting blood onto vampires are: Giant's Blood, Taste of Vitae and Voter Captivation.  Most of the Fortitude actions seem to be largely ignored (e.g. Restoration) or things like 5th Trad are again ignored.  So this means that these cards should be investigated.
Giant's Blood has very restrictive conditions and powerful effects.  Sure this makes it a "Giant's Blood Raffle" for who is going to get it to arrive out of their deck first... but then it is over.  Giant's Blood has done its thing and gone.
Taste of Vitae has a lot of conditional requirements.  You need to cause damage to your opponent in combat (and while combat is a regular occurrence in VTES it is not guaranteed to run in your favour and can be highly risky).  You need to not be sent to torpor by your opponent.  You want to be on comparatively low-blood when you begin the combat (increasing the risk you are taking).  Then it can only give you the blood you have removed with damage (so your opponent could spend like a drunken sailor before paying for damage if they assumed they were going to torpor anyway).  Few people complain about Taste of Vitae because it is seen as a facilitator card for a 'sub-optimal' ousting methodology; Oust-by-Combat.
Voter Captivation has some requirements. You need a successful referendum called by this vampire.  If you are calling referendums, you are usually doing it to either damage your prey's pool or to increase your own.  Both of these goals are strong components of winning VTES.  You need to have that referendum pass.  Voter Captivation relies on the same discipline that provides most of the highly effective additional votes (Bewitching Oration and Awe).  Voter Captivation rewards the player by, at least, providing blood back to the acting vampire and potentially adding up to 2 pool as well.  So every aspect of this card provides a significant bonus with a comparatively limited risk; Vote is a strong defensive and aggressive strategy, Vote-push and Voter Cap are both Presence functions, Vote decks are naturally protected against other Vote decks by the nature of their votes.

My conclusion is that Villein and Minion Tap were never the cards actually distorting the Metagame.  It was the easy availability of additional blood counters through Voter Cap (and to a lesser extent Renewed Vigor) that led to the increased use of Minion Tap/Villein.

[Similar logic will also explain why Villein has proven more problematic now that players can play Villein & Golconda in a single turn with limited additional mechanical setup.  The original AAA decks required additional MPAs and this mitigated them but also cemented them as a very strong deck in the Metagame]

So what makes a card 'powerful but not broken'?
Cards that are 'powerful but not broken' are easy to find, but a little harder to define and the 'grey' area of this debate (in my opinion).

Giant's Blood is a highly powerful card, but its ability to distort the game has been mitigated by its 'once per game' clause.  The same goes for cards like Political Stranglehold, Ancient Influence, etc.

Minion Tap is a highly effective card but without the ability to refill vampires, it is more of a gambit.  You are increasing the risk to your minions to decrease the risk to yourself.  That risk-trading seems like an acceptable balance.

Parity Shift is a highly effective card but comes with a fair amount of risk.  You must have a way to balance your own pool to be less than your prey when needed.  You must have a way to manage your own safety against your predator while on a 'lower than you would otherwise be' pool total. You need to pass the vote (although the requirements of Parity Shift often help you ensure you have enough vote power).  In return for this, you then get to change your absolute pool total by up-to-the-number-of-players but your relative pool total with your prey by twice that amount.  This usually means you are playing a slightly dangerous game of relying on the absolute pool amount to be enough to protect you while you exploit the relative pool change.  A few in my playgroup actually dislike playing decks that have Parity Shift as a major mechanic because of the risks associated with the card.

What is the role of the metagame in VTES?  When is the metagame 'unhealthy'?
This is all surrounded by the idea of 'What does a healthy metagame look like in VTES?' and this does come partly down to taste and philosophy.  The things that have always attracted me to VTES is its "Rock-Scissors-Paper-Lizard-Spock" nature and its multiplayer nature.  Its "rock-scissors-paper-lizard-spock" nature is that no one deck beats all others; each decktype has "countering" decktypes and others it will neither help nor harm.

I think in VTES the role of the Metagame should be to increase the diversity of decks and diversity of cards played.  It should be dynamic.  At its healthiest I think the Metagame should slowly prove the maxim "No one deck can always win VTES" (i.e. the VTES metagame is 'anti-net-deck').  So the more narrow the decks appearing at tournaments and winning tournaments, the less health I think is in the Metagame.  I think that the Qualifier Scene in Australia has been sick in the past, purely because it was rife with mid-to-low-cap Dominate decks.  The metagame did heal itself partially at one point, when at a Qualifier around 8 vampires across 25-players in a 2R+F tournament were burned with Archon Investigation.  3 of those were burned by the predator of the acting vampire.  5 of them burned in a single game.  This brought some health back to the Metagame in Sydney, there are a wider range of decks appearing (bleed is still very strong, but there are a number of variations on the bleed deck) but more vote decks are appearing, Laibon decks are appearing, some Wall decks and the usual rogue Trick Decks and Combat Decks making guest cameos.  It is leading back towards some powerbleed, particularly with the Guillaume Giovanni "Hand of Library"power-bleeding decks appearing, but we do not seem to be experiencing much in the way of "Girls Will XYZ" decks.  Imbued have recently had strong success (winning the 2011 National/Continental Championship for instance) which has provided an interesting element to the Metagame.

So, I think I've addressed many of the ideas I have about the structure and health of the Metagame at least in Sydney and the impact cards can have on that.  My personal method for assessing the power of a card is to analyse its effect on people's thinking on deck design because this is usually the point when people decide to conform or contradict the metagame. Some people become more inventive (attempting to use old cards in new ways) as a response to the metagame and others return to 'tried and true' decks that are 'out of favour' in the metagame as a way to mix it up.  That constant dynamic change in the metagame without the prevalence or dominance of a single deck or family of closely related decks is a sign of health in a VTES metagame.

*Efficiency, as often espoused by the European VTES players on the VEKN Forum seems to be short-hand for "Using a deck with the minimum number of cards required". Possibly from my own background of Science, Mathematics and personal history... I find a minimisation concept of efficiency as very limited. I have always preferred the concept of efficiency as "Effect achieved from effort expended". So I am likely to increase the size of a deck to include cards that will potentially have a large effect to my game. I have no fear of a 90-card deck and some of my favourites are 90-card decks. I think of Ashur Tablets as less of a 'library extension' tool, but as an efficiency enhancer since it allows me to reuse many effective resources from my Ash Heap and giving them twice the effect for approximately the same number of card slots. I see Ashur Tablets as a very efficient card, because it enhances the efficiency of other cards dramatically as well as providing a bonus on their own.