I spent the long weekend mainly at Dragonfire, which, for me, consisted of several VTES social games of mixed success, a less enjoyable run in the tournament, an rather lengthy game of Arkham Horror and some enjoyable role-playing modules.
Running chronologically'ish. Friday was the newbie demo games - I went to kibbutz and also play in a few social games. A somewhat mixed evening deck success wise.
The slightly retooled Jann Berger deck actually swept the three-player table it was one, although it did bottom out at around 4 pool, and struggled more than I expected in combat, although it did manage to dunk a few minions. Table dynamics helped, but being able to drop an Iron Glare on a presence bleed card can whittle through pool at quite an impressive speed.
The tweaked Samedi Corpse deck didn't really get going, and I think I was first ousted in the game, but the deck showed some signs of promise.
I then played two games with the very reworked Spell of Life deck. In the first game, it crashed and burnt horribly. I didn't get Nakahoteb until I'd drawn 3 crypt cards, and had to bring out a different minion, which didn't help the deck flow. Nobody tried to block the Spell of Lifes, so I jammed on stealth, and, with only 1 minion out, I didn't have other actions I could use the stealth on. I was ousted after only getting 3 Spells down, even though I only had 1 turn were I didn't have one to play.
The second game with the Spell of Life deck was rather more successful - I didn't draw Nakhoteb in my opening crypt, but was able to pull him immediately with an Effective. I brought out the 5 cap, so I could start Spell of Life'ing earlier, and, even though I ended up contesting Nakahoteb with Kevin cross table, my single minion was able to get the Spells down in time. I did have to frantically pull cards from my crypt - by the time I had 4 Spell of Lifes down, I could only have brought out 2 mummies that wouldn't contest. When the Spells did go off (for 4 mummies), they performed impressively. My prey (Yancke, playing Simon's Aching Beauty deck), had just ousted Kevin, and was sitting on 12 pool. However, 4 Mummies, a Dream World, a Psychic Veil (cunningly stored in a Storage Annex early in the game) and a couple of bleed mods I could use with the mummies saw me oust him in a single turn. I was then able clean up, largely by using the mummies to rush everyone else and smooth out the path for the Settites to bleed. While not yet a particularly good deck, the 12 pool in a single turn showed considerable potential.
Saturday was the SA VTES Nationals. We had a decent turnout, with 15 players, even though the Fishhoek crowd couldn't make it, and no-one from Joburg traveled down. I've had a Alicia Burrows/Aristole vote deck idea knocking about in my head for some time, which I finally decided to build and play. It ended up becoming a Lutz deck, as he had the overlap on PRE and pot I was looking for. In theory, the deck should work OK. In practice, I badly misread the meta-game, and didn't have the combat defense I needed.
In the first game, Dave (Toreador wall with guns) was bleeding Hendrik (!Tor toolbox), bleeding Richard (Guhuri ANI & POT rush), bleeding me, bleeding Matthew (old school Brujah rush). I was a vote deck between two POT immortal grapple rush decks, so things did not go well for me at all. I had only a single action (with Lutz, which admittedly did do 5 pool damage) in the game, and had both minions I brought out burnt, one by Matthew, and one by my predator. Richard. The game stayed static for a long time after I was ousted, although that's largely because Richard did not go forward as hard as he could have done. Dave was eventually able to oust Hendrik, who never got setup enough to really make an impression on Richard's farm, and Richard cleaned up the rest of the table.
In the second game. Dan (weenie DOM & THA) was bleeding me, bleeding James (Imbued), bleeding Simon (!Salubri rush) bleeding Phillip (!Ventrue toolbox). The deck did a lot better, and I had James' imbued down to three pool before Simon rushed me cross table and put Aristotle in torpor and burnt Lutz. I should have had the Imbued though, as I made a couple of serious errors. The first was not bringing out Aristotle as my second minion (I brought out Alicia instead) - the extra stealth would have saved me a couple of blocks by the imbued, and allowed me to oust James, and the combat defense saved might have been enough to survive against Simon for long enough to oust him. Then, after playing a Zillah's Valley at a point when it wasn't ideal for me to do so to cycle cards, I brought out Aristotle as a third minion, when I should have just stayed on two minions and looked less threatening (although that might not have been enough) . Simon was able to oust Phillip, who never drew enough combat defense to survive against the !Salubri. I didn't watch the rest of the table unfold, as I went to play a social game, but eventually James cleaned up the rest of the table.
Dan proceeded to win the final with his weenie deck.
In between, I did also play a couple of social games - in one, the Venture deck got up and running, and pretty much steam rollered the table. In the other, the reworked Samedi managed one oust, but them got smashed by Phillip's red list combat deck.
After the tournament and some supper, we ended up playing a 6 player game of Arkham Horror, with the great old one being Zhar. An early 2 extra counters on the doom track, and an environment preventing us from sealing gates for most of the game left us always chasing the game, and, indeed, in 10 turns Zhar awoke, and duly devoured us (although we did defeat him once). We erred by not getting more people blessed near the end of the game, but there were numerous amusing incidents, though, and the game was quite fun.
Sunday saw me play in both modules. They were both enjoyable, although I was a bit disappointed that the first module's big surprise was as predictable as it was. As I wasn't playing in the LARP that evening, I went home, but failed to catch up on sleep, being distracted by a link to tvtropes.
Monday was the long two-session Innocents module, which was great fun, despite the length. As a result, I didn't do have much to do with the newbie tournament, although it attracted 9 players, and generally seems to have been a success.
I did fit in one final social game, with the Grotesque deck. It ended up with the table win, although this was largely due to weaknesses of the other decks and the inexperience of a couple of the new players we had involved. The deck does gather some impressive momentum when rolling, but it takes time to get going, and still needs a bit more combat oomph to be really scary.
 The Lutz deck was seen as the table threat on a table with an imbued deck and a weenie dominate deck. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.