Sect Insanity

Greetings Methuselahs!

Some time ago (and it feels like a very long time indeed!), I wrote an article in which I examined which clans had been the most successful, and why.  It came as a surprise to exactly nobody that both clan Malkavian and Malkavian Antribribu made it on this list.  But at least I was a little surprised that the tactics employed by each clan were fairly different: the Malkavian victories were roughly equally split between Politics, Bleeding with Dominate, Bleeding with Dementation, and Intercept Combat (many of which featured Rachel Brandywine and Earth Meld).  In stark contrast to this stunning array of decks, nearly 90% of the Malkavian Antritribu decks fit into the very narrow category of Dementation Bleed, and the vast majority of these are variations on the prototypical weenie Dementation Bleed deck.

And the question is: why are the Malkavian Antitribu such a single dimensional clan while their Camarilla brethren have managed to maintain a fair amount of diversity in their decks?  Well, after carefully studying the crypt available for both clans, I’m come to two conclusions.  First, the Malkavian Antriribu are in a better position to use Dementation as they have the a great selection of small and mid-capacity vampires with it at superior.  And second, they don’t have Lutz von Hohenzollern, and access to the Camarilla cards – most notably Parity Shift and Second Tradition: Domain.  Perhaps it’s strange to consider that a clan’s deck diversity is due to the presence of a single vampire and access to a few library cards, but I’ll get to that in the fullness of time.

 

Reason #1: Malk Antitribu have a more DEM focused crypt:

Perhaps the most significant reason for the abundance of Malkavian Antitribu weenie Dementation decks is the simple fact that they have the superior crypt for the deck’s signature discipline.  Looking at the charts below, you can see that for every legal crypt combination, the Malkavian Antitribu have more weenies (cap <4) with inferior dem and more cheap vampires (cap <6) with superior DEM.  The average capacity of the vampires is in parentheses.

Malkavian Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
dem Weenies (Cap <4) 0 (NA) 0 (NA) 0 (NA) 1 (2.0) 0 (NA)
DEM Small (Cap <6) 0 (NA) 0 (NA) 1 (5.0) 0 (NA) 2 (4.0)
Malk Antitribu Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
dem Weenies (Cap <5) 0 (NA) 2 (2.5) 0 (NA) 1 (3.0) 0 (NA)
DEM Small (Cap <6) 0 (NA) 1 (5.0) 2 (4.0) 2 (4.0) 0 (NA)

Assuming that a weenie Dementation bleed deck would be built around these two categories of vampires, the best that Clan Malkavian can offer is group 4+5 which provides three total vampires: 1 with dem and 2 with DEM.  That’s not much to base a deck off of.  Contrast this with the Malkavian Antritribu who have two group combinations (2+3 and 3+4) that offer 5 appropriate vampires.  3+4 is likely a little better as it provides one extra vampire with superior Dementation as compared to groups 2+3.  But both crypt combinations seem to be readily used, as they are both nearly equally represented in the TWDA.  Having 5 ideal vampires for a deck is a very good place to start building a crypt.

In a way, giving the Malkavian Antitribu this strong focus on Dementation makes a great deal of sense – after all, the discipline was introduced to VTES (and the RPG if I recall correctly) with the creation of the Malkavian Antitribu.  It also provides the Clan with a powerful deck that is distinctive from the decks usually built by their Camarilla counterparts.  I think that giving clans their own identity (especially for the poor Sabbat) is actually a very good thing.  The problem comes if this deck is the only viable one that can be built.

 

Reason #2: Malk Antritibu lack Lutz and Camarilla power cards:

Here’s where things get interesting.  Weenie Dementation bleed is clearly a powerful deck, but the presence of one strong deck does not by itself restrict the diversity of decks that can be made from that clan.  As mentioned above, successful Malkavian decks come in four main flavors: Politics, Bleeding with Dominate, Bleeding with Dementation, and Intercept Combat; and each of these categories feature one or more strong decks.  It is the presence of so many different viable strategies that provides the Malkavians with their deck diversity.  Admittedly, the Malkavian Antitribu start at a bit of a disadvantage because they lack access to Dominate (they have zero vampires with DOM, and only 5 with dom spread across three different groups).  But what stops them from utilizing the other two core strategies – politics and intercept combat?

Political decks rely on the votes afforded to them by titled vampires, temporary votes gained through cards like Awe, or both.  Since neither Clan Malkavian, nor the Malkaivan Antitribu have easy access to Presence or another discipline that grants temporary votes, both clans are forced to primarily reply on the their titled vampires.  One reasonable assumption, then, is that the Malkavians simply have more or better titled vampires.  But by and large this simply isn’t true.  If you look at all the titled vampires with 2 or more votes (so ignoring Bishops and Primogen), their capacity, and how many votes they have, it turns out that the clans are remarkably similar, except that the Malkavians have titled vampires in group 1 and 5 and the Malkavian Antitribu do not (meaning that they have fewer crypt group options).

Malkavian Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Titled Vampires 2 2 3 2 1
Avg Capacity 8.5 9 8.67 10.5 10
Capacity / Vote 3.4 3.0 3.7 3.5 3.33
Malk Antitribu Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Titled Vampires 0 3 1 4* 0
Avg Capacity 8.67 7 9
Capacity / Vote 3.25 3.5 3.27

*Before I move on, I should note two quick things about the Malkavian Antitribu group 4 vampires.  First, the chart above does not include Fabrizia Contreraz – although he is an Archbishop, he is an unreliable source of votes, and including him in the calculations above would paint a very inaccurate picture.  Second, this group bizarrely includes two Prisci (Stravos and Gravitnir), meaning that it is difficult to actually take advantage of all the titled vampires in this group.

The vampire who single handedly opened up a new deck type for Clan Malkavian.
This vampire may have single handedly opened up a new strategy for Clan Malkavian.

By using groups 3 and 4, clan Malkavian can have up to five titled vampires in a single deck (3 Princes, 1 Justicar, and 1 Inner Circle member, for a total of 13 votes between them).  The Malkavian Antitribu can get four titled vampires using groups 2 and 3 (2 Archbishops, 1 Priscus, and 1 Cardinal for a total of 10 votes), or up to six titled vampires using groups 3 and 4 (3 Archbisops, 2 Prisci, 1 Cardinal for a total of 10 votes or 12 if your prey controls a Camarilla vampire).  The Malkavian Antitribu also tend to have slightly lower capacities, and a slightly better capacity per vote ratio.  So if the titled vampires are so similar, why aren’t Malkavian Antitribu political decks successful?

We can gain a hint by looking at the 20 Malkavian political decks that have won a tournament since 2008 (so all events since the release of Keepers of Tradition).  Five of the decks center around the incredibly cheap and vote-efficient vampires in groups 1 and 2 (notably Gilbert Duane and Greger Anderssen).  The other fifteen all have 3 or more copies of Lutz von Hohenzollern.  Hell, if you look at the four Malkavian Antitribu political decks in the TWDA, two of them also include multiple copies of Lutz!

Clearly one of the key differences between the success that the Malkavian political decks enjoy and dearth of Malkavian Antitribu political decks is access to Lutz.  He simply brings too much to the table.  Not only does he provide 4 votes, and bleed for 3, but he makes any political referendum more deadly and provides access to key Presence cards like Voter Captivation.  Of course, Lutz shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame.  A Malkavian voting deck has access to a number of strong Camarilla-only cards like Parity Shift.  Sadly, cards like Public Vilification and Auto-de-fé can’t make up for the loss of these Camarilla-only cards.

While not as powerful as Lutz, Rachel has carved out her own little niche.
While not as powerful as Lutz, Rachel has carved out her own little niche.

What about Intercept Combat?  As I discovered during with my last article, this was tied with politics as the most successful strategies for clans lacking Dominate.  What allows the Malkavians to build successful decks that utilize this potent strategy, and what bars the Malkavian Antitribu from doing so?  Well, if we look the Malkavian Intercept Combat decks, we see that they fall into one of two categories.  The larger of these are decks based around Rachel Brandywine, who mostly blocks using Second Tradition: Domain, and whose combat option of choice is Earth Meld.  The second category is slightly more tradition – these decks feature small and mid capacity vampires with Auspex who are usually armed with weapons (Sniper Rifles seem popular) that they equip using Disguised Weapon.

Clearly the first category is specific to it’s star vampire, and thus is unavailable to the Malkavian Antitribu.  But what about the second type of deck?  Perhaps the Malkavian Antitribu crypt composition keeps them out of this category.  The charts below show the number (and average capacity) of small and mid-capacity vampires from each clan with AUS.

Malkavian Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Small (Cap <6) 1 (4.0) 2 (4.0) 0 (NA) 0 (NA) 1 (5.0)
Mid (Cap 6-8) 4 (6.75) 3 (7.67) 6 (7.0) 2 (7.0) 3 (7.67)
Malk Antitribu Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Small (Cap <6) 0 (NA) 1 (4.0) 2 (5.0) 0 (NA) 1 (4.0)
Mid (Cap 6-8) 0 (NA) 6 (6.0) 2 (7.5) 3 (7.0) 2 (6.5)

From the chart, it appears that both clans have similar access to small capacity vampires with AUS, but Clan Malkavian has access to group 1, meaning that they have more options.  They can muster 11 vampires with AUS (2 small, 9 mid) by using group 2 and 3, but they have to contend with vampires who have two different sets of clan disciplines (group 2 has Dominate, group 3 has Dementation).  But the Malkavian Antitribu can do basically the same thing using groups 2 and 3 (11 vampires – 3 small, 8 mid) but without the problem of split clan disciplines.

So what’s the difference?  Why do we see so many Intercept Combat decks from the Malkavians, and none from the Antitribus?  Well, the lack of Rachel Brandywine precludes that sort of block-and-untap deck, and the lack of Second Tradition: Domain means that the Antitribu have a difficult time basing their blocking strategy on their titled vampires.  Really, I think the problem is that the Malkavians lack a discipline that gives them a reliable way of significantly damaging a minion after blocking it.

 

Is there any hope for Malkavian Antitribu deck diversity?

Shattered Mirror
Could this be a viable in a wall deck?

I actually believe that the Clan has a lot of untapped potential.  When looking at the difference between successful Malkavian decks and unplayed Malkavian Antitribu decks, the differences are quite minor.  Especially for the Intercept Combat strategy.  I’ve spoken quite a bit about the edges that the Malkavians have, but what about their Sabbat brothers?  What might drive somebody to play a Malkavian Antitribu deck other than weenie Dementation bleed?

I’m actually surprised that more people haven’t played Intercept Combat decks – it would be very simple to use them to make an effective blocking deck with Disguised Weapon and Sniper Rifles. This is especially true with the release of Under Siege – which is a natural inclusion for the Malkavian Antitribu with their cheap blocking-oriented titled vampires like General Profidio Dios and Kite.  If somebody wanted something more like the Rachel Brandywine block-and-untap deck, they could consider using a high cap vampire along with a combination of Shattered Mirror (which is fantastic, but limited to blocked bleed actions) and Voice of Madness.  Both of these act like Obedience in that they simply cancel the combat, thus making the deck more resistant to Immortal Grapple and strike cancellation.  I think that Louhi would be an interesting vampire to use as a blocker, as he has the option of simply canceling action cards instead of blocking them.  Finally, if they had some way to decrease the cost of Dementation cards (perhaps in the form of a Path, or a crypt card), they could potentially utilize a block and Coma deck (along with blood gain, maybe in the form of The Hungry Coyote), which would be very interesting.

Until Sabbat political decks become popular, this is be their ace in the hole.
Until Sabbat political decks become popular, this is be their ace in the hole.

The Malkavian Antitribu clearly have enough titled vampires to make a stealth-politics deck, and while being Sabbat precludes them from using a lot of powerful Camarilla cards, it does provides them access to a card that I consider to be extremely under valued: Private Audience.  Most political decks contain some cards that will help them pass referendums without vote lock, and in a game where the vast majority of political decks are Camarilla, allowing only Sabbat vampires to vote is almost always guaranteed to pass a referendum.  I personally consider Private Audience card to be one of the most potent vote cards in the game given the current meta (and certainly better than anything the Malkavians have access to), and it will continue to be the only real ace that Sabbat voting decks have until Sabbat voting decks become more popular.  In addition, any high capacity Sabbat deck is in a prime position to take advantage of Mylan Horseed (Goblin), who opens to the door for multi-acting to clans who otherwise don’t have it.

While I think that there is some potential for new types of Malkavian Antitribu decks with the current card pool, I would also strongly encourage the VEKN designers to create group 5 crypt cards that help provide the Malkavian Antitribu with new deck options.  While Pearl was an excellent attempt to bolster blocking decks, the dearth of small and mid capacity vampires with AUS in group 4 mean that she’ll never see play in a clan-based intercept deck.  Drozodny was clearly intended to help political decks, but it’s so rare that you would want to include a Bishop into your crypt that I think that he will very rarely see play in a political deck despite his neat ability.  Really the only home I see for him is a Lutz deck where his low vote count doesn’t mater as much as his inferior Presence – and we really don’t need to strengthen that deck any more!  If he had a better title and lost Presence, I think he would be a real winner for the Malkavian Antitribu.  What they need are a pair of good titled vampires in group 5 – Cardinals would be particularly welcome.  The danger, of course, with giving the Malkavian Antitribu good titled vampires is that it will just help out the already powerful Lutz deck.  To help combat this, I would advise making sure that none of these new titled vampires have Presence as an out-of-clan discipline, or give them special abilities that specifically reference Sabbat cards, titles, or vampires.

 


So, what do you think about the Malkavian Antitribu?  Have you made or had a great idea for a new type of deck?  Post your comments and suggestions below!

Until next time, may the Camarilla never interfere with your referendums,

Brett

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4 thoughts on “Sect Insanity

  1. Let me start with pointing out some gaps in your otherwise good analysis. You’ve ommited clan cards comparision. If you look at clan cards for malkavians and tournament winning decks you will find out that a lot of them feature Madness Network which is both very strong and interesting card. This card is a big part of malkavian’s success, especially for decks with some blocking capacities. Malkavian antitribu has no access to any clan card with similar power level. Also, looking on crypt cards, malkavians have much more vampires with great specials. Not only Lutz and Rachel, but also Tryphosa, Unmada, Maris Streck and Victoria (with Madness Network) are often main stars of successfull decks. Sabbat malkavians have only, already mentioned Louhi.
    Coming back to your question I think that are two roads worth considering when searching for some more good malkavian antitribu decks. One lies in black hand trait and other in political decks based around Louhi and Stavros. I’ve build breed and boon deck with those vampires. Fabrizia Contreraz is great there as she can play creation rites even if she lacks her votes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a fantastic point about the differential value of the clan cards! It’s hard to overestimate the value of Madness Network, and I completely forgot to consider it in the post above! That having been said, I really hope that there are no more cards that allow people to act during other people’s turns. If you wanted to even the playing field between the Malks and the !Malks, I’d advise getting rid of Madness Network, rather than creating something equally powerful for the !Malks. But maybe that’s just me… 🙂 Thanks for your insightful comment!

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  2. Bah! I was just coming down here to mention Madness Network, and I see I was beaten to it. Well, I’ll chime in about it anyway.. but first, just want to mention again that I always enjoy your articles. Thanks for this!

    On to the nerd soapbox:
    Madness Network is certainly the main reason I would ever bother to make a Malk blocking deck rather than making a wall out of, say, Tzimisce, Toreador or !Ventrue. Not only does it expand bleed (and lunge) potential, but it helps to grant pool gain from the edge, especially when you’re packing Victoria in your crypt.

    Combining the Network with Rachel, who can Homonculus-untap and +bleed every turn, provides a card-light ousting mechanism, cheaply and easily tacked on to a 2nd-trad/AUS wall (just throw in a few copies of Homonculus and you’re there.) Combining M.N. with a group 1-2 crypt gives you the ability to 2nd-trad block, Obedience, then follow it up with a Dominate bleed of your own on that same turn. It’s more card-intensive and opportunity-sensitive than the Rachel approach, but somewhat less gimmicky/star-vamp-dependent, and with slightly higher lunge potential and surprise factor.

    In short, maybe we would see more !Malk blocking decks if they had something clan-specific that was really worth defending.. although I wouldn’t go with something as game-bending as the Network. Maybe some sort of powerbase that creates an opportunity for a Death-Star-Lunge turn, or a location that over time makes it harder to defend against their bleeds or something — but it would have to be destructible by a (D) action, meaning that card slots that would normally go into stealth and bleed would have to go into wake, intercept and combat.

    The only other thing I would stress about the flexibility of Cam Malks (which I think you passingly alluded to) is that easy access to Dominate allows you to shrink your bleed-defense package into a handful of Deflections and a couple wakes, leaving many card slots open to complete the card requirements for successful alternative strategies — including politics. Sure, you can bounce with AUS, but not only does it require superior, which narrows crypt options, but it always taps the user. This usually results in a defensive package that needs more wakes, in turn taking up more space in the deck, and thus leaving less room to get creative with the rest of the library. While the later groupings don’t have much Dom, Lutz can afford to bounce a little less due to the additional bloat potential he provides, what with his superior PRE and large capacity, not to mention the card-slots he saves on +bleed via his I.C.-standard bleed special and his extra-vote-damage special.

    Once again, thanks for the great article; keep up the good work!

    SIDE NOTE regarding your musings about why there is not more Disguised Weapon + Sniper Rifle intercept combat from !Malk: It’s worth mentioning that the set-range ability on Sniper Rifle cannot be used in the same combat in which it is disguised out, because you have to possess it at the time of the block: “If the bearer blocks an action, he or she may…” (This is an old ruling; if there is a newer ruling overriding that, please let me know as I’m sometimes out of the loop for these things.) I think this discourages people from relying on the combo, because it means your vamps will typically suffer from one vulnerable combat before they are geared up. Contrast that with the .44, and the additional advantage of being able to use the .44’s maneuver during a bleed offensive of you own, and Sniper Rifle gets relegated to an occasional 1-or-2-copy add-in rather than a staple weapon choice.

    Cheers,
    -Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent comment! I’m always delighted to see one of your posts. You are right, of course about Madness Network. It really provides the Malkavians with a beautiful tool that facilitated block decks (block or bleed, or both with the right cards!). I think your idea of a powerful !Malk card that can be removed as a D action is a really interesting idea. Oh, and finally, thanks for letting me know about the Sniper Rifle – I had honestly glazed over the details of what would happen during the first combat. Thanks again for your insights!

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