Sunday, December 12, 2010

Treaty Tree (Weekend of Nightmares: Sunday)

Sunday saw 8 players for the Treaty Tree tournament. We were unable to use the Tokai Library as planned, due to an annoying scheduling issue resulting in no one being around to hand over the keys during the week, which hurt the turnout, so we opted to do several rounds of multi-deck play without a final.

In the first round, I played my "Not a Lutz deck" deck, bleeding Simon (!Salubri) bleeding Mike Streathfield (Ravnos Sense Dep and Bleed) bleeding Phillip (Settite S & B). I had a mixed start, with an good opening hand (1st turn Dreams and a Zillah's Valley), but no Lutz in my uncontrolled region. Fortunately, the Dreams and the Zillah's meant I was able to fish for Lutz successfully without losing too much time. Mike Sense Dep'ed Phillip's largest vampire, which slowed him down and gave me a bit of time as well. Once I had both Lutz and Alicia out, I managed to survive a couple of rushes from Simon, which allowed me to get a Secure haven on Lutz, and I was then able to get a sleep unseen on Alicia, which protected her from the threat of a cross table Sense Dep long enough to oust Simon. Mike then bled out Pillip, and did Sense Dep Alicia, which slowed me down, but the combination of A minion tap on Alicia, and Lutz's steady 3 bleeds meant I was able to oust Mike, although it was tight, as I wouldn't have survived another turn.

I feel the Lutz deck is somewhat vindicated, after a troubled debut at Dragonfire. It won despite having a not quite ideal library flow, and having a minion locked down with a Sense Dep, which did hurt. Like many decks relying on only a few minions, it is sensitive to card flow issues, and can lose momentum by not having the cards available, but the option of bleeding for 3 with Lutz is always a useful backup plan. The Sleep Unseen's were a good addition, as the extra defense is really worth it in this deck.

In the second round, I played my HoS wall deck, bleeding James (Assamites), bleeding Simon (!Salubri), bleeding Brendan (Tzimisce with Lambach). The table dynamics, with several nasty combat combo's running around, where a bit strange. I got two Slaughterhouses early, and was thus able to failry consistently bleed James with Trochomancy, although I did lost a minion to a early contract. Brendan was having some serious problems with the !Salubri, so I was never bled that heavily, and generally had the bounce in hand I needed. James did manage to whittle Simon's pool down quite effectively, and I had to Eagle Sight's what would have been an ousting bleed to keep James in lunge range. While this did allow to eventually oust James, it also gave time for Simon to bin all of Brendan's minions and oust him, although he did have one of his minions burnt in the process. The two player game was quite tight, and I came close to ousting Simon, but I couldn't quite deal with enough the !Salubri combat, so Simon ousted me. Unusually, both Simon and I had run out of library by the end of the game, which also contributed to how the end game played out.

The HoS deck is generally working OK, but I need to do something about blood management. It would also be nice to return to the original Black Hand angle, since unpreventable Psychic Assault is just so much better, but that requires further crypt tweaking.

In the third game, I played my Osebo wall, bleeding Brendan (weenie Auspex wall), bleeding Kevin (FoS corruption shennigans with Nakhthorheb) bleeding Richard (weenie Liabon vote). Kevin failed to draw Nakhthorheb, and generally seemed to struggle for stealth throughout the game, so didn't get that much forward momentum. Richard was largely shutdown by my deck, and I was able to prevent several key actions on Brendan's part which kept him under control, although he did return the favour several times. In general, it was a game where nobody's deck really quite took off. My combat package came up a bit oddly, Kevin didn't draw stealth, Richard was struggling to find votes and Brendan didn't see sniper rifles early enough to get one down. The combat package of the Osebo was able to keep putting down Brendan's minions, but, as he was able to bring more out, and recover blood with Lillith's blessing, I never had him down for the ousting bleed. Richard kept bringing out more minions, hoping to eventually be able to swarm past me, but I was generally able to block enough that it wasn't an issue until late in the game. There were a couple of turns of epic table talk, with resulted in Kevin blocking a couple of Richard's votes to help keep me alive, and Brendan Eagle Sighting Kevin when he looked likely to oust Richard, before I managed to eventually bleed Brendan out. At that point, being some way over the time limit, we called the game. I may have been able to take the table, as I probably had enough combat left to keep control of the table, but it wasn't completely clear cut, given the resources I'd expended by that point.

The Osebo deck is now pretty well tuned, and I'm not sure if there are any significant changes I need to make. A few more Eyes of Argus for the extra untap option may be useful, but that's a minor tweak. At some point, I do want to revisit the original ranged thrown junk version, especially given the new Laibon set range tech in EK.

I saw comparatively little of the other games played. One very notable moment was Simon using Santelous to cancel a Gangrel Conspiracy Mike had played, which resulted in Enkidu being burnt in a blood hunt.

Saturday Socials (Weekend of Nightmares: Saturday)

The Saturday socials had a regrettably low turnout, with only myself, Simon and Richard eventually showing up. Thus there were a number of 3 players games, which was not quite ideal.

In the first game, I was playing a deck built out of two Kiasyd / Lasombra starters bleeding Simon (tweaked Anarch Lasombra) bleeding Richard (2 Guhuri starter). I got off to a nice start with the Kiasyd, and, with the benefit of an early Dominate Master, was able to Govern down twice, which allowed me to get to 3 minions quickly and cheaply. The deck generally had decent forward momentum, but struggled a bit in combat, and really does need a couple of conditionings added to it. I was able to oust Simon, but fell to Richard's deck, as I wasn't able to block enough of the votes.

The Kiasyd deck operated much as I expected, and probably can become a decent DOM & B deck. I need to retool the combat package, which is a bit light. Earth Swords would be a good addition, although I may need some more manevours. I need to also examine the other crypt options I have, as I was rather lucky with the Master draw, which did help.

In the second game, I played a deck I'd put together out of two Ishtarri starters, bleeding Richard (2 Akunase deck), bleeding Simon (Anarch Lasombra). I had a nice crypt draw, and generally the deck flowed quite nicely. I generally struggled for blood management, there are a number of expensive cards, but the combination of a Marajavi Ghoul, Heildeburg and Ganhuru's special mean I was often bleeding at stealth, and gained a fair bit of pool from the bleeds, which helped me considerably. Simon had minion torporised and burnt early on in the game, which left him struggling to put pressure on me, which also helped a great deal, and so I was able to sweep.

I'm somewhat surprised at how well the Ishtarri deck did. I've always been a bit meh on Uncontrolled Impulse, due to it's conditional nature, but, if the deck's flowing a bit, it works really well. The crypt needs tweaking, as there are some good vampires who aren't in the starter.

In the third game, I played my Off Kilter + Enticement deck, bleeding Simon (Thaum Cel Trophies) bleeding Richard (Guhuri bleed). Simon maanged to red list and burn one of Richard's minions early, which allowed him to get permanent untap and intercept. I got off to a reasonable start, and had got up to 3 minions and SER on one by the mid game, but hadn't quite seen enough pool damage or any of the Freak Drives, so hadn't really pressurised Simon. Simon then burnt my third minion, and I wasn't able to bloat or bleed fast enough to survive the Guhuri deck. Simon wasn't able to keep enough blood on his minions to survive the potence from the Guhuri, and eventually fell to them as well.

The Off-Kilter deck continues to feel as if it will almost work, but doesn't. The deck just doesn't generate the actions it needs to continually keep it's prey under pressure, and, although I did have Simon down quite low at one point, I didn't have the push needed to oust him. More Freak Drives would help, but I think I need to retool the Master package to include some Effectives or Coroner's Contracts, so I can gain more use out of the Little Mountain Cementaries. Sprinkling in a handful of Corpses is probably not a bad idea either, as a few extra 2 bleeds can't hurt.

At this point, we decided to play a couple of rounds using decks built by other people.

In the first game, I played Richard's Akunase deck, bleeding Simon, playing a weenie'ish Liabon vote deck of Richard's, bleeding Richard, playing my Ravnos weapons deck. Simon had a failry bad game, as the combination of my getting out a magagi before he passed a vote, the small minions all being vulnerable to the Abombwe block fails tech and the wall'ish nature of the Ravnos tech resulted in him not being able to go forward, and he was unable to defend against the Akunase. The Ravnos deck did fairly well, getting decently setup and blocking several actions, but the fortitude of the Akunase was enough to stay alive. I managed to oust Simon without two much difficulty, but there were a couple of tight rounds against the Ravnos were I drew into a couple of combat cards at just the right time, and was able to trade minions going down with Richard, but, as that left it as 2 minions against 1, I was then able to win the endgame, although not completely comfortably.

The Akunase deck was fiddly to play, largely due to my unfamiliarity with the cards, but, with small'ish minions, and some strong action modifiers, it works quite well. Reliquary: Akunanse Remains is also really strong. The combat package needs a bit of work - on several occasions, I had a rush card in hand, but no good combat options available to me. ANI support, for crows, and some of the new Abombwe tech from EK will help that at lot.

In the next game, I was playing Simon's Nergal deck, bleeding Simon, playing Richard's two Guhuri starter deck, bleeding Richard, playing Simon's Samedi wall. Despite an almost prefect start for the Nergal deck (1st turn concordance, merging Nergal immediately), I found myself constantly struggling to get actions through, and, when I did land a bleed, the bloat of the Guhuri deck eradicated the effects almost immediately. Consistent bleeds from the Samedi deck eventually ousted me. The Guhuri deck, while bloating quite effectively, wasn't able to generate much forward pressure, so it couldn't prevent the Samedi deck getting setup, and, after I was ousted, the Samedi deck was able to whittle the Guhuri deck down with consistent blocks, and thus swept.

The Nergal deck is again just not fast enough. Once setup, it has some nice combos, but probably needs either a little bit of permament stealth, or some more block fails tech, and, if the untappy thing is working, it needs some additional damaging actions for Nergal to take. I'd be tempted to sneak in a Heart of the City and a couple of D'habi Revenant's, so Nergal's bleed continues to tick up, relying on Nergal's special and the Spying Missions to deal with bounce.

Simon's Samedi wall continues to be surprisingly effective. Having played against it a few times now, I've come to the conclusion that the stealth, which allows it to get almost all the setup actions, is a key component. This allows it to run mainly off permanents, which is always better.

Fee Stake Cape Town (Weekend of Nightmares: Friday)

Friday evening was the Fee Stakes tournament. We got going a little late, due to various people, and were annoyingly one short of the 10 required for a TWDA entry, so we opted to go with a multi-deck tournament.

In the first round, I opted to play my Anarch vote deck [1]. The game was Hendrik (Assamite blood control), bleeding Phillip (group 1 Gangrel) bleeding me bleeding Marc (Stanislava and friends) bleeding Simon (Lasombra Anarchs Hell-for-Leather). I got a slightly weird crypt draw, with 3 Anarch Converts, which meant I didn't get going that quickly. Initially, Marc looked like the table threat, pulling out Stansiliva and another minion, and, while not going for huge bleeds, consistent 3 bleeds from Stansilava were whittling through Simon's pool quite quickly. Phillip was bleeding consistently, but was slowed down by Hendrick's blood denial actions. I made an early miscalculation with a Voter Cap, and left Raphael Catarari stuck tapped on odd blood total without a Crimethinc in play, and thus spent a couple of turns effectively down a minion. I did manage to get a Fee Stake down, and scrape through a Reckless Agitation, which, with a combination of Marc voting away the Fee Stake, and then having what would have been the ousting bleed blocked by Simon, who was able to Immortal Grapple to prevent the Form of Mist, left Marc in lunge range for the next turn. The next turn, I was able to play a Dreams, and the increased hand size allowed me to get what I needed to oust Marc, and was able to oust Simon almost immediately as well. The game then folded fairly quickly in my favour, as I had the stealth and Crimethinc's needed to oust both Hendrik and Phillip. It was a bit tight for a couple of turns, and, had Marc ousted Simon, I may not have been able to keep him from running away with the table, but the table was quite favourable for my deck, and I had a couple of lucky moments.

I didn't see much of the second table, but it had James (Imbued) bleeding Yancke (Tzimisce wall) bleeding Brendan (Lasombra vote, I think), bleeding Richard (Akunase wall). At the point I saw the game, other than the imbued, the only minion up was one of Yancke's vampires, who had been Pentexed. Richard was ousted by his own Smiling Jack, giving Brendan a VP, but then James swept up the rest of the table.

In the second game, I decided to play the Harbringer's of Skull deck. The table was James (!Salubri) bleeding Brendan (Big cap vote with Rafael de Corazon) bleeding me bleeding Hendrik, bleeding Yancke (!Ventrue grinder). An early Antediluvian Awakening by Yancke, and an early bleeding for 6 from Brendan left me somewhat low on blood, and, as I'd drawn the fat end of my crypt, I ended up being far too defensive, and I only brought out 1 minion. In general, I just played this game badly, and really should have gone fishing for a small second minion. James, however, was able to block enough of Brendan's actions that Brendan could never really get the farm going, and a couple of Eagle Sight's from James helped keep me in the game for quite some time. I did manage to whittle done Hendrik to almost in lunge range several times, but was always an action short of being able to oust him. Yancke eventually ousted James (after a couple of turns when he should have ousted James, but misplayed things, such as not saving a bonding for the minion with DOM), and swept through Brendan and myself quickly, but then timed out against Hendrik. I didn't see anything at all of the other game, but Marc collected the most VP's and made it to the final.

On a die roll, I opted to play the Anarch Vote deck for the final, but I made a very poor seating choice. James had decided to play the Imbued, and as I was worried by their ability to interfere with my setup, I didn't want to sit next to them. I also thought that Marc would be playing the Stansilava deck again, so I didn't want to be downstream of it, so I opted to sit as Marc's predator and Brendan's prey, not realising that Brendan would be playing the Lasombra deck, and not realising that Yancke, Brendan's predator, was going to play his PRO DOM deck. Marc turned out to be playing his Assamite Black Hand deck, and, although I got Raphael Catarari early, and was able to start getting the Anarch cycle going, I didn't see the Fee Stakes our Crimethinc's I needed to really get going, and a few heavy bleeds early left me unable to get the number of minions I needed out. An early Yawp Court from Marc meant that I was also going to struggle to get a vote to hit the table, since I saw little of my combat package. My involvement in the final was thus fairly short-lived, and, although I did land a couple of 3 bleeds on Marc, he farmed most of it back so I had made little impression on his pool. James was being largely left alone, so was able to tool up fairly nicely. Marc was up to through minions, and around 10 pool when I was ousted, but fell quickly afterwards, thanks to a couple of heavy bleeds that were deflected onto him and a single bleed for 4 from Brendan, and, given that James was fairly low on pool at that point, I thought Brendan had the game. Brendan though, didn't have the cards that he needed to force the actions through past the Imbued, and suffered a critical bounce failure on a turn when Yancke bled for 14. This wasn't enough to oust Brendan, so Yancke fell to the Imbued, and, as Brendan was unable to draw into enough stealth, James won the two-player shootout.

In retrospect, given the decks involved, I should have sat as James' predator, as I may have been able to negotiate vote support of the basis that the Imbued are always a threat, which could have given me a VP, but I didn't have anyway of dealing with permanent votes of the Lasombra, so it's doubtful if I could have really done better than that.

The Anarch deck is probably about as good as this version is going to get. The addition of the Reckless Agitations has helped a lot, as it's a significant amount of pool damage that is less resource intensive than the Revolutionary Councils, and the Revolutionary Council, Crimethinc, Reckless double is a scary combo, but it is ultimately a fragile deck build, and vulnerable to heavy bleed or serious vote.

[1] Given that it was "Fee Stake: Cape Town", someone had to play a Fee Stake deck, after all.