Finally we reach the end of this first batch of demo decks. I’m hoping to have a second batch in the future that include the Tremere (I finally have extra group 1+2 Tremere!), as well as the Independent clans, and maybe some of the Sabbat Clans, too. But those are all for another day. Today, is all about the puzzle that is Clan Gangrel. How does one take a clan whose major success comes from a single vampire and a host of expensive and rare dominate cards and make a good deck from them? Well, here is my current best attempt. If you need to re-familiarize yourself with the guidelines I used when building these decks, you should check out the first article in this series, otherwise, allow me to present Demo Deck – Gangrel Block and Aggro-poke:
|Crypt (12 cards; Capacity min=3 max=9 avg=5.75)|
|1x||Anastasia Grey||3||ani pro||Gangrel:1|
|1x||Badger||6||ani pot FOR PRO||Gangrel:1|
|1x||Bear Paw||5||for pre pro ANI||Gangrel:1|
|2x||Camille Devereux, The Raven||5||ani FOR PRO||Gangrel:1|
|2x||Gitane St. Claire||7||ANI FOR PRO||Gangrel:1|
|1x||Gunther, Beast Lord||7||aus for pro ANI||Gangrel:1|
|2x||Ingrid Rossler||9||dom ANI FOR PRO||Gangrel:2|
|1x||Ricki Van Demsi||3||for pro||Gangrel:1|
|Library (60 cards)|
|1x||Tension in the Ranks|
|1x||Army of Rats|
|Action Modifier (4)|
|1x||Kiss of Ra, The|
|5x||Claws of the Dead|
|2x||Drawing Out the Beast|
|2x||Flesh of Marble|
|2x||Form of Mist|
|2x||Rolling with the Punches|
Piloting Instructions for New Players:
How does the deck win? This is a very flexible deck – it has the ability to bleed a little, block a little, and effectively fight. But unlike many decks, you’ll need to spend some time equipping Laptop Computers (for bleed) and to recruiting Raven Spies (for intercept) before this deck will really sing. Your main weapon in combat is Claws of the Dead, which allows your hand strikes to deal aggravated damage (which instantly sends vampires into torpor). These can be played at any time during combat, so you should wait to see what strike the opposing minion picks before deciding to play your card. If they dodge or end combat, just save your card for the next time. Combat will be useful for removing blockers, and for teaching your predator to leave you alone, but it can also do pool damage to your prey through Fame and Tension in the Ranks.
How does the deck survive? This deck relies on a mixture of proactive (entering combat with your predator’s minions and hurting them) and reactive (blocking) defenses. While this deck can’t generate a lot of temporary intercept, Raven Spy will permanently give a minion +1 intercept, which will be a significant problem for some decks. If you find yourself in combat with other combat decks, you’ll need to rely on damage prevention from cards like Flesh of Marble, Rolling with the Punches, and Soak. Finally, if you are fighting a deck with guns, you may want to use Drawing Out the Beast which will prevent them from using equipment during that combat.
Play Test Notes:
All I can say from my play test is that this deck is tricky to play, which probably doesn’t make it the best demo deck in the world, but for the Gangrel, I think this is just the nature of the beast. The deck has been played by two new players so far – the first was a bit overwhelmed by the entire game and hasn’t come back, and the second was frustrated by the combat. This player was sitting behind my Toreador deck and she never drew any damage prevention or maneuver cards other than Claws of the Dead, meaning that she got shot up a lot without ever really being able to respond. I’ve added more maneuvers to this deck, and cut a few from the Toreador deck in an attempt to have balance between them. The problem this deck will always have is that if you want to mess with another combat deck, you need to have the right hand.
How does it fit my demo deck rules?
Defense: This deck has a lot of ways to block, but it heavily relies on the permanent intercept granted by Raven Spy. While dedicated stealth decks will give this deck problems (although even they may eventually be drained of stealth cards when forced to generate 2+ stealth to get any action through), it should be able to block most actions.
Voting: Like the Toreador deck before it, this deck deals with hostile votes mostly by blocking. The deck also includes some titled vampires, which should help to gain favorable terms on political actions called by cross-table allies.
Combat: The combat cards can really be broken into four main categories: aggravated damage (Claws of the Dead), maneuvers (Quick Meld), damage prevention (Flesh of Marble and others), and miscellaneous (Canine Horde and Form of Mist). The first three categories flow together nicely, while the last category kind of stands apart. Form of Mist is simply too good not to include, and sometimes it’s more important to push an action through than it is to put a blocker into torpor. Haven Uncovered is particularly good at allowing your vampires to enter combat – given how much intercept this deck has, it’s very likely that you will be able to block the vampire with the uncovered haven even if they take the +1 stealth action to remove it! So once you play it, you can on being able to enter combat with that vampire for the rest of the game if you want to.
Pool / Blood Management: Pool gain is mostly limited to Blood Doll and Ecoterrorists, but the usefulness of this last card can’t be underestimated – not only will it help power out the larger vampires in the crypt, but it will gain you a pool turn after turn. Blood gain is limited to Restoration and the various damage prevention cards that should keep blood on your vampires.
Equipment / Location: The deck handles locations through the awesome new card Rewilding, and equipment with Canine Horde. The later might be a little tricky to play as only half the crypt has the necessary superior Animalism.
How could it be changed by a new player?
This is a tricky question. The one thing that Gangrel struggle with is ousting their prey. They block well, they fight well, they can multi-act in a number of ways, and they have a lot of nifty tricks up their sleeve. Unfortunately, in VTES none of those things matter if you can’t oust. The Gangrel have a very limited ability to vote (they have a few titled vampires, but they are very high capacity and they lack a way to gain temporary votes), meaning that the only viable strategy open to the clan is what this deck is using: bleed and a little bit of pool damage in combat via Fame and Tension in the Ranks.
So the question is how can we make that strategy work better? Well, the first suggestion would be to replace the Laptop Computers and some of the Computer Hackings for Camera Phones , which is a free equipment card that effectively gives you permanent Computer Hacking at the price of not being able to use it while playing bleed actions. You could also consider adding Tier of Souls, which allows you to steal a blood and permanently gain +1 bleed. I would also suggest adding Force of Will. It is a very powerful bleed card that will end up sending your vampire to torpor after the action, so it’s costly, but it will allow you lunge very effectively. If you wanted to make regular use of that card, you might consider also adding Movement of the Slow Body (which allows a vampire in torpor to untap and gain a blood), and Rapid Healing (which rescues a vampire for torpor and gains them a blood). Those three cards actually form the foundation of a very interesting and little used deck. You can see an example of this sort of deck here.
The next thing we want to do is find a way to take more than one action per turn, allowing us to do something like equip a Camera Phone and bleed, or bleed and be untapped and ready to block. This can be accomplished by adding Freak Drive to the deck. And finally, we want more ways to ensure that our actions get through. Earth Control and Form of Mist actually do an excellent job of this, but you can also pair them with cards like Daring the Dawn and Day Operation which prevents vampires from blocking the action at the cost of taking 1-2 aggravated damage. These can allow you to push very important actions through despite heavy resistance. If you opt to use these cards, just be a careful with them – having an unblockable bleed redirected to your cross-table ally is a terrible thing.
Well, what do you think about this demo deck? How would you change the deck to make it stronger? Post your comments below – I’d love to get your feedback! And if you have any good ideas for a group 1-2 Tremere deck, please feel free to post those as well – looking at the crypt, I’m a little stumped!
Until next time, may your bleeds never be bounced, and your votes always pass,