Since the numbers of viewers for new articles has been plummeting lately, I’m guessing that people would like me to stop writing my VTES rules guide and get back to producing more relevant content for current players. Well fear not, for today I’m going to take another swing at one of my old demo decks. Not only was my previous Gangrel demo deck the weakest of the bunch, it was certainly the most complicated to play. When I demoed the game, I found myself shooing people away from the Gangrel in favor of easier to play clans. The deck was screaming out for a redo, which is exactly what I’ve done. This is no minor tweak, or slight refocusing – this is a completely new deck. I’ve abandoned the aggro-poke concept and called upon the power of weenies to bolster this weak clan. I’ve left the article discussing the old Gangrel demo deck up, but for all intents and purposes, this deck replaces the old one. 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 Swarm:
|Crypt (12 cards; Capacity min=1 max=6 avg=3.58)|
|1x||Anastasia Grey||3||ani pro||Gangrel:1|
|2x||Badger||6||ani pot FOR PRO||Gangrel:1|
|2x||Camille Devereux, The Raven||5||ani FOR PRO||Gangrel:1|
|1x||Huang, Blood Cultist||1||pro||Pander:2|
|1x||Ricki Van Demsi||3||for pro||Gangrel:1|
|1x||Roman Alexander||4||ani for pro||Gangrel:1|
|Library (60 cards)|
|3x||Life in the City|
|3x||Tribute to the Master|
|1x||Zoo Hunting Ground|
|2x||Army of Rats|
|Political Action (1)|
|Action Modifier (6)|
|3x||Wake with Evening’s Freshness|
|2x||Claws of the Dead|
|4x||Form of Mist|
|2x||Skin of Rock|
New Rule: Life in the City is a a new type of Master card. When you play a Master card that says Trifle, you are allowed to play a second Master card this turn. This means that you may play one Trifle Master card and one non-Trifle Master card, or two Trifle Master cards.
How does the deck win? This deck is all about action advantage. While there is a lot that separates low and high capacity vampires, they share one significant feature: both only get to take one action per turn. Your minions are so cheap that you can bring out 2-3 times more minions that you opponents. More minions mean more actions. So what should you do with all these extra actions? While the deck has a number of different possible actions, they mostly boil down to bleeding or putting counters on uncontrolled vampires (using Thing) in order to influence them out faster. If anybody tries to block you, you have a number of stealth options including the combat card Form of Mist, which allows you End Combat and continue the action with an additional stealth.
How does the deck survive? While this deck can block decently well, you will find it difficult to do so regularly. You have some permanent intercept (from Raven Spy) and a bit of transient intercept (from Sonar). But really, your major form of defense is simply gaining more pool than your predator can take away from you. When your vampires take the Thing action, you gain 2 blood on an uncontrolled vampire – this can either be used to transfer out vampires more quickly, or you can transfer those two blood back to your pool. Furthermore, you can play Tribute to the Master which moves 1 blood from each of your minions back to your pool. If you find yourself in combat, you have an array of defensive options including simply ending combat (through Earth Meld or Form of Mist), preventing the damage (Skin of Rock or Soak), or striking back with aggravated damage (Claws of the Dead).
Play Test Notes:
This deck has really been a joy to play. It has a straight forward mission (get out as many minions and possible and bleed for a lot), and all tools it needs to accomplish this. While I think it’s disappointing that a more aggressive combat deck isn’t viable, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to show new players good strategies and to highlight the very best cards available to the Gangrel. My last deck was really trying to approach the clan from how I see them in the role playing game, versus the reality of the clan in VTES. As a result, my previous deck really struggled to win, but I’ve swept tables with this new deck. My actual concern is whether it’s too good! But given that I have that concern every time I build a demo deck, I take it as a good sign. I expect that new players will really enjoy getting so many minions into play.
How does it fit my demo deck rules?
Defense: As I mentioned above, this deck can block if it needs to. It’s got access to some nice permanent intercept, and just a dash of transient intercept. But really this deck should focus on offense – it’s true defense is in saving pool. The minions are cheap and you’ll gain plenty of extra counters on them through the use of Thing.
Voting: Like most weenie decks, this one is weak against voting. It’s got a little bit of intercept and so it might be able to block a vote now and then, but if that doesn’t work, the only thing is really has to fall back on is Gangrel Justicar – a vote that should be relatively easy to pass and which will give the deck enough votes to be able to negotiate for favorable terms during referendums.
Combat: The Gangrel really excel at combat avoidance – you try to punch them and they just turn to mist or sink down into the earth. Even if you do manage to land a blow, they’re supernaturally tough and your blows will simply ricochet off them. That’s pretty much what this deck does. It should be noted that Form of Mist is particularly good as it lets you end combat and also continue your previous action with another +1 stealth. But sometimes you need to hit back hard enough to teach people not to mess with you. It’s times like these that you’ll play Claws of the Dead, which allows you to deal aggravated damage with your punches. Note that you can play this card after your opponent has announced their strike – if they dodge or end combat, just don’t play it!
Pool / Blood Management: Most of the pool management in this deck is centered around saving pool. The only real way to get it back is to play Tribute to the Master, which will move one blood from each of your vampires back to your pool. Blood management is covered by the Trifle Master card Life in the City as well as a Zoo Hunting Ground.
Equipment / Location: The deck handles locations through the awesome new card Rewilding. There isn’t a dedicated way to handle equipment other than simply preventing the damage or ending combat. The vampires in this deck are pretty disposable and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to include dedicated cards to specifically handle equipment.
How could it be changed by a new player?
This is a tricky question. Whenever you build a new deck, the first question you should ask yourself is how you intend to oust your prey. And this fundamental aspect to the game is something that the Gangrel have traditionally had trouble with. This deck overcomes this weakness by having lots of minions. Sure, each is only bleeding for 1 or 2, but there are only so many bleeds of 1 that somebody can take! If you want to continue with the swarm bleed concept, there are a few changes that could be made. The first card that should be considered is Camera Phone – it’s a free equipment that allows you to take an action to bleed like you had played Computer Hacking. There are also two free retainers that both increase bleed (JS Simmons and Tasha Morgan). They are both unique, meaning that only one can be in play at a time, but saving 1 pool over a Laptop Computer is significant. Finally, if this deck had a bit more superior Animalism, you could also consider Tier of Souls, which allows you to steal a blood and permanently gain +1 bleed.
You will also want to consider how to help your actions be successful. The most frequently used strategy (also employed by the deck above) is stealth. While Earth Control, Rapid Change, and Form of Mist are all costly, they do provide a very nice core of stealth which should be enough to get most actions through. But stealth isn’t the option. Another is in cards like Daring the Dawn and Day Operation which prevents vampires from blocking the action at the cost of taking a bit of 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.
While having your minions take aggravated damage isn’t a good thing, you can plan around it. One interesting deck type that is fun to play with anticipates sending their own minions to Torpor with the cards mentioned above or Force of Will (which allows a tapped vampire to bleed in exchange for taking aggravated damage). Once there, these vampires take actions like Movement of the Slow Body (which untaps the vampire and provides a blood), and Rapid Healing (which rescues a vampire for torpor and gains them a blood). You can see an example of this sort of deck here.
Regardless of which type of deck you ultimately decide to go with, you will want to try to overcome the weak ousting power of the Gangrel with action advantage. The deck above accomplishes this by having many small minions, but another strategy is to use higher capacity vampires and rely on Freak Drive to untap the vampire and allow them to take another action at the cost of a blood.
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! I’m also starting to work on demo decks for the four Independent Clans, and admit that I’m running into some problems – does anybody have any good ideas for them (especially the Ravnos)?
I’m going out of town for a bit, so expect a slight delay before my next article. But once I return, I’ll finish off my VTES Quick-Start Guide. Until then, may your bleeds never be bounced and your votes always pass,