Friday, March 19, 2010

Lyrics of the Night : Building a Deck

Building a deck is probably the most interesting thing that Vtes has to offer. Unlike many other CCGs, Vtes has very few banned cards, and has many more options available to deck builders due to the large number of cards available, and the unrestricted single quantity of cards that you can include in the library. IMHO, Vtes is definitely the CCG that offers players the most varied and unconstrained deck building option.
For me, building any deck almost always include the following few considerations and steps, which serves me pretty well. I think that I can claim to be a pretty average player, so I hope to share the few steps that I generally go through with building or tuning a deck, and welcome any suggestions and help that can come along from comments from other Methuselahs.
1. An inspiration
Generally, a new deck begins with an inspiration. It could be from a card, a vampire, a theme, or even just s style. Many Vtes cards, by themselves, inspires great decks. For example, Typhonic Beast, Shattering Crescendo, Summon History etc. Vampires and minions also do that, especially if the vampires hold incredible powers or very unique feature, like Pariah, Enkidu, or even Sonja Blue if someday someone will get it to work competitively.
Inspirations also come often in the form of combos. When 2 or more cards interact specifically well with each other, it may sometimes constitute a worthy deck concept - for example, Target Vitals with Catatonic Fear, Soul Gem with Cybele, Psyche with Raptor and so on.
When any of these happens, use that inspiration and start gathering your cards together into a working deck.
2. Genre
Sometimes the need of trying out a kind of Vtes deck causes me to build a new deck. Say, I got tired of a POT combat deck, and decided to try out a vote deck; or I found the wall deck of a fellow player very interesting and might want to build a similar one; or it could just be me trying to have a deck for every clan and to complete the collection, needed a Nagaraja deck. This may be the motivation to start work on a new deck too.
Once I've decided on why and what I need to build, it's time to consider the deck in proper.
1. Primary Objective - Ousting
All decks, IMHO, should start with considering how it intends to win the table. And that must always start with ousting your prey, one at a time. The PRIMARY path of ousting must first be decided and tested before any deck should be assembled. There are many paths available to Vtes players - but they eventually fall into 3 major categories - Bleed, Combat, Vote. Once I've decided what I want to do with the deck, I can now start to put one together.
2. Primary Discipline
With the objective in mind, I can now try to decide on the discipline(s) that I need to work with. Very often this is dictated by Clans, since it is way easier to use single clan to start off. Sometimes the discipline play a lesser role than the clan or sect factor, for example, in an Anarch deck. But there are almost no instances where the discipline doesn't matter. Deciding on the discipline(s) to use in a deck is thus the second, and arguably the most important step in creating a deck.
3. Primary Card(s)
This might not happen, but I find it very useful to always try to think of the card(s) that I will need in the greatest quantity in the deck. This helps me to keep a focus immediately and aids me in the creation subsequently. This is actually easier than it sounds. For a bleed deck, when the discipline(s) has been decided, it is easy to just use softwares like ARDB to quickly look at all the available options, and then decide on one or more of them. For DOM bleed decks, for example, it is just a simple excercise to decide between Governed the Unaligned, Scouting Mission, or any other DOM bleed cards, and then throw in Conditionings and/or Bonding. For vote cards, KRCs are almost always necessary, wall decks will require intercepts and combat elements and so on.
4. Crypt
I then go ahead to decide the vampires to use in the deck. I make it a point (unless in thematic decks), to always have about 3-5 young vampires below 5 cap in every deck besides the key vampires (or elders that can use every card at superior) in my crypt. Young vampires may not be efficient, and you might not even have Master Discipline cards for them in your library, but they are always good as cool bodies to either throw at your prey, stand in the way of your enemies, or even just as simple blood dolls. The rest of the crypt is often dedicated to efficient vampires with the relevant discipline spread, preferably at superior, or with the necessary or helpful abilities to aid in your primary path.
5. Constitution of cards for Primary Ousting
I usually use 50% of the library to support my primary ousting path. This doesn't mean you should have 45 Enchant Kindred in your 90 card library. It means having about 45 cards to do, support, and effect your primary ousting method. What this means is that you should have 45 cards dedicated to making that happen - Enchant Kindred must be supported by the relevant stealth, the necessary Master Discipline cards if you do not have many minions with superior PRE, Effective Management if you intend to overwhelm your prey with minions, some bleed enhancement to increase the damage, and some sort of delivery system, be it stealth or combat to make your bleed succeed more often.
6. Masters
I then usually go forward to Master cards, since it is usually the easiest to prepare, given the vast options available. I normally stick to 15-18 master cards, more if I use a lot of Trifles. When preparing your master cards, always keep in mind your basic needs of Pool Recovery, Minion enhancement, Speed, and other random options. There are masters that are almost always useful if you have them, for example, Dreams of the Sphinx, Visit from the Capuchin, Vessels, Sudden Reversals, Direct Intervention and so on.
7. Defense
This is the most important support that you need to get after you are alright with your primary offense. Defense includes both combat, pool recovery, and intercepts. If your deck is a combat deck then this part is less of an issue, and should be dedicated to pool recovery or even minion recovery. Bounces are always good to have if you're able to do it. Intercepts can come in the form of Master cards, or some reactions if you have the relevant disciplines. But the most important aspect of this part is always, and ALWAYS, pool recovery. For unless your new deck is very adept at defending your pool, or has bloating mechanics in your main concept, pool recovery is the most important thing that you must have in order for your deck to even advance to the point of able to start your process of getting your first VP.
8. Secondary Objective - Plan B
Always have a plan B if you can, could be to sit and bloat and wait for a difficult prey to suffer from his prey; could be deflecting and let your predator do the work for you. Could be deadly combat, even if it's only once in a while, to eliminate that minion that you can't handle. Try to picture the most "anti-you" deck as your prey/predator, and think of what cards you can include to defeat that, or at least go around it. Granted, not all decks can have a plan B, but believe me most decks can. Try to create one for your deck whenever possible.
9. Surprise element
Add in 1 or several surprises for your opponents. These, even if they do absolutely nothing most of the time, can win you games when the time is right. It can be as simple as an From a sinking ship, or KRCs in an otherwise non-voting deck, or a Flames of the Netherworld in a deck when pretty much no other THA card is played. Surprises doesn't need to be offensive, defensive surprises can be interesting too - such as the only piece of Lost in Translation, or an Autarkis Persecution in a weenie PRE bleed deck. Even a random Lorrie Dunsirn might suddenly force your predator to rethink his strategy against you.
10. Test, test and test
Once this is all done, you have one raw deck to start working on. Table shuffle it 4 times, and start testing it out in your community. You will then need to tune the deck, most probably extensively as you react to your play group and then customize it continuously as they react to your new deck.
There are of course many exceptions to the above few steps that I take. Net-decking, for example, skips all of that and straight goes into tuning. Thematic decks also skips many of these consideration as pretty much the primary path is the main and only concern. (Try creating a plan B for a Thrown Gate deck...)
Deck building is always fun, and don't feel bad if your deck doesn't work in the first few, or even in the first 50 games. Tune it as you play it, sometimes a deck doesn't work very well because it is awaiting a new card to appear in a new expansion, or sometimes you just haven't find the right combination or acquire the necessary skill to play it well yet. Just keep on trying. Eventually your deck will work fine.
We do have an eternity to tune the decks, remember?

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