2015: A Retrospective

Greetings Methuselahs!

Today I’d like to take a look at all the tournament data from 2015 and compare it to previous years.  Why have I waited four full months to talk about this?  Well, partially I was waiting for the Tournament Winning Deck Archive to be updated, and partially I got distracted with the the tantalizing news that White Wolf and the VEKN had been in talks.  But now I’m finally ready to discuss the 2015 tournament scene – including taking a look at tournament attendance, and how the various clans fared.

Now before I begin, I should note a few things.  First, the TWDA is not complete as there are undoubtedly tournaments which were never reported, and others that took place with 9 or fewer players.  That means that all the numbers below are likely to represent only a majority (possibly a vast majority) of the world-wide VTES tournaments.  I think that’s good enough to start making some inferences, but it’s important to keep in mind that we likely don’t have all the data.  Second, I’m not comparing the 2015 data to the entire history of the game for two major reasons – it wouldn’t be fair (think of all those tournaments before Bloodlines that the Baali weren’t allowed to win), and I only have data cataloged from 2008 to the present.  So just note that the rest of this article effectively ignores data from 2007 and before.  If you are interested in looking at my raw numbers, you can find them on this google doc.

Let’s start at with the basics.  While tournament attendance and the number of events are not perfectly indicative of the health of the game, I think they are correlated.  So how’s our game doing?  Well, in 2015 there were 136 total tournaments.  Unfortunately, that’s the lowest number of events on record (2008 to present).  It represents a ~24.5% reduction in the number of events from 2014 (180), which itself was a ~25.9% reduction in the number of events from 2013 (243).

So that’s the bad news.  The good news comes when looking at attendance.  2479 people participated in those 136 events from 2015, which works out to an average tournament attendance of 18.23 participants.  That average figure is higher than the last two years (2014 had 16.43, and 2013 had 17.37), and is quite in keeping with the average attendance from 2008 through 2014 (19.37).  One likely explanation for this is that attendance at the very largest tournaments has remained relatively static (Continental Championships held steady or saw increased attendance from 2014, National Championships mostly held steady), while the small 10-person events are slowly vanishing.

This indicates to me that small play groups are slipping under the 10 player threshold needed to have a tournament that gets recorded in the TWDA.  But when looking at a national scale, the number of participants seems to be more static.  I suppose this means that the hardcore dedicated players are staying, while the players who only attended small local events (like me!) are starting to drift away.  While that state of affairs isn’t ideal (I’ve stated many times that growth and new blood are the keys to the future of VTES), it actually seems to be pretty descent for a game that has been out of print for more than 5 years.

Now there are two major exceptions to the trends above that should be pointed out.  Brazil had it’s largest National Championship ever – 43 players!  There has also been a significant increase in the number of tournaments held in Brazil, which indicates to me a strong and growing player base.  Spain also had a fantastic year: 54 players attended their National Championship, making it the largest Spanish NC since 2007!


Clan Breakdown:

Let’s now turn to the clans that won those 136 tournaments!  In seeking the understand how well individual clans performed in 2015 in comparison to previous years, I ran into a few problems.  First, it is impossible to do a simple comparison of the number of victories because the number of events was so different.  Getting 10/500 wins is rather different than getting 10/100 wins, and while the difference in 2014 and 2015 tournaments isn’t that extreme, the effect remains.  To counteract this, I decided to look at the percentage of wins captured by an individual clan.  Given that there are 40 total clans (including all bloodlines and Imbued), we would expect each clan to take home 2.5% of the wins assuming that each clan was equally able to win tournaments.  Of course in order to get this value, we have to ignore the decks that could not be put into a clan classification.  There were 40 such decks this year, which narrows our pool to 96 clan decks in 2015.

The second problem is that we would expect to see year to year variation in the fortunes of even the most successful clans.  So comparing this year against last year just means we’re comparing one variation to another.  I’d rather look to see how much 2015 deviated from the average level of success achieved by each clan.  So the obvious solution is to consider the entire TWDA to create a baseline, but the problem with that is that if you go back far enough, you get to a point where certain clans didn’t exist.  If you go back before Nights of Reckoning, you loose Imbued; before Legacies of Blood and you loose the Laibon clans.  And so on.  So you have to pick some date to start collecting your “average” data.  I selected January 1, 2008.  Why?  Well, partially because all the clans and all the groups (except 6) existed by this point.  But I confess that a significant factor was simply the fact that I’ve only sorted decks from 2008 to the present in my Google Document.  In that time, there have been 1584 entries in the TWDA, 1145 of which are clan decks.

Below is a chart that includes each clan, the number of tournaments they won in 2015, their percentage of wins in 2015 (x/96), their average percentage of wins from 2008-2014 (x/1145), and how much change there was in those last two numbers:

2015 Wins 2015 Win % Avg Win % Change
Abomination 0  0.00  0.00 0.00
Ahrimane 2  2.08 2.18 -0.10
Akunase 1 1.04 2.18 -1.14
Assamite 0 0.00 3.14 -3.14
6 6.25 2.45 +3.80
Blood Brothers 0 0.00  0.26 -0.26
Brujah 2 2.08 4.02 -1.93
Brujah Antitribu 2 2.08 0.96 +1.12
Caitiff 0 0.00 0.26 -0.26
Daughters of Cacophony
0  0.00  0.79 -0.79
Followers of Set 5 5.21 2.97 +2.24
Gangrel 9  9.38 3.58 +5.79
Gangrel Antitribu 1 1.04 1.57 -0.53
Gargoyle 1  1.04 0.44 +0.60
Giovanni 9  9.38 7.25 +2.13
Guruhi 1  1.04  1.75 -0.71
Harbingers of Skulls 0  0.00  0.52 -0.52
Imbued 6 6.25  3.23 +3.02
Ishtarri 0 0.00  1.57 -1.57
Kiasyd 2  2.08  2.27 -0.19
Lasombra 5 5.21  4.89 +0.32
Malkavian 9 9.38 6.29 +3.09
Malkavian Antitribu 6 6.25  3.67 +2.58
Nagaraja 0 0.00 0.00 0.00
Nosferatu 2 2.08 2.79 -0.71
Nosferatu Antitribu 0 0.00 0.44 -0.44
Osebo 1 1.04  1.14 -0.10
Pander 1  1.04  0.52 +0.52
Ravnos 1 1.04 2.10 -1.06
Salubri 0  0.00 0.44 -0.44
Salubri Antitribu 1  1.04 0.52 +0.52
Samedi 0 0.00 0.61 -0.61
Toreador 0 0.00 5.59 -5.59
Toreador Antitribu 1 1.04 2.01 -0.97
Tremere 6 6.25 5.15 +1.10
Tremere Antitribu 3  3.13 3.93 -0.81
True Brujah 2 2.08 0.44 +1.65
Tzimisce 5 5.21 4.45 +0.75
Ventrue 5  5.21  7.60 -2.39
Ventrue Antitribu 1  1.04  6.03 -4.98

That chart is kind of like drinking from a firehose, isn’t it?  Well, let me see if I can break it down a bit.  Here is a chart that describes the clans who were the most successful in 2015, and the clans who were the most successful from 2008 to 2014:

2015 Victors: 2008-2014 Victors:
9.38% Ventrue
9.38% Giovanni 7.25%
9.38% Malkavian 6.29%
6.25% Ventrue Antitribu 6.03%
Imbued 6.25% Toreador 5.59%
Malkavian Antitribu 6.25% Tremere 5.15%
Tremere 6.25% Lasombra 4.89%
Followers of Set 5.21% Tzimisce 4.45%
Lasombra 5.21% Brujah 4.02%
Tzimisce 5.21% Tremere Antitribu 3.93%
Ventrue 5.21% Malkavian Antitribu 3.67%

Unsurprising the lists are pretty similar.  7 of the 11 clans (I had to do a top 11 list because of the 4 way tie in 2015) appear on both lists, leaving only 4 new clans.  It’s interesting to the the Gangrel do so well – they’ve always been good (they’re clan #12 for 2008-2014), but 2015 was particularly good for them.   I initially assumed that this was because people were discovering the power of Thing, but sadly it appears to be little more than people remembering how good Stanislava is.  7 of the 9 Gangrel decks were really Stanislava star decks.  In an interesting twist, only 1 of the 9 decks actually includes Thing!  I’m pretty shocked at this because Thing could be pretty useful in a Stanislava deck.  Likewise, it’s no surprise to see the Imbued on this list as they often do quite well (netting 3.23% of wins from 2008-2014).  It makes me particularly thankful that the Imbued are so hated in my local meta that I never see them.

The real two surprises on this list are the Baali and the Followers of Set.  The Baali decks are mostly unexciting Unnamed star deck clones (4/6), but it’s still impressive to see them do so well.  It’s also nice to see that a fair number of Follower of Set decks (3/5) include cards from The Unaligned set (2 had Velvet Tongue and 1 had In Memory of the Two Lands).  I think a fairly accurate criticism of the new sets is that they do little to shake up the meta, so it’s nice to see them create some new viable deck archetypes.

It’s also interesting to see which clans have historically been successful, but struggled in 2015. Toreador is certainly the most shocking.  They won exactly 0 tournaments this year.  Let that sink in for a moment.  From 2008-2014, there have been an average of 9.14 Toreador wins per year.  This year nothing.  I guess people got bored of the AAA archetype.  Now this isn’t to say that the Toreador weren’t represented – there are a number of clanless decks that feature Anson for this ability to grant an additional Master Phase action.  But I don’t expect them to stay down for long.

Ventrue Antitribu only pulled off a single win possibly indicating that people are moving away from the stickmen archetype.  Or maybe the consensus is that having access to Second Tradition is just as good or better than having superior Auspex.  The other notably absent clan is Brujah, who only got 2 wins this year.  Both decks stem from classic group 1+2 archetypes (Euro-Burjah, and Brujah Debate).  It’s interesting to see that the group 4+5 title heavy crypt just isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago.

So now let’s look to see which clans did the best and worst in comparison to their 2008-2014 averages:

 Largest 2015 Gains: Biggest 2015 Losses:
Gangrel +5.79% Toreador -5.59%
Baali +3.80% Ventrue Antitribu -4.98%
Malkavian +3.09% Assamite -3.14%
Imbued +3.02% Ventrue -2.39%
Malkavian Antitribu +2.58% Brujah -1.93%
Followers of Set +2.24% Ishtarri -1.57%
Giovanni +2.13% Akunase -1.14%
True Brujah +1.65% Ravnos -1.05%
Brujah Antitribu +1.12% Toreador Antitribu -0.97%
Tremere +1.10% Tremere Antitribu -0.81%

Not a lot to talk about on the gains side.  Nearly all the clans who gained a lot were also in the top 10 clans of 2015 (not surprising).  The big exceptions being the True Brujah and the Brujah Antitribu.  It’s very exciting to see them on this list, until you notice that each clan only got 2 wins this year.  That’s just better than they usually do….

The clans that lost the most are a bit more interesting.  They include clans that we’ve already talked about (like Toreador, Venture Antitribu, and Brujah) who had a long ways to fall, but the list also includes several moderately powerful clans like the Assamites and Ishtarri who simply got no wins this year.  It’s kind of sad to see the Ravnos continue their long slow slide into obscurity despite having access to Animalism and Deep Song.  The VEKN design team had an opportunity to pull them back out of obscurity, but their efforts don’t seem to have taken fruit yet.

What else can be said about 2015?  The bloodlines continue to be incredibly unpopular with the exception of the Baali (who have increased in popularity) and maybe the Ahrimanes and Kiasyd (who were once popular).  This makes it both more reasonable and more perplexing that the next VEKN set will focus on them.  I suppose it’s the search for the new and exciting.  The Laibon still struggle to justify their existence in the game.

Personally, 2015 was a good VTES year for me because I rediscovered how much I liked it.  I briefly slipped in torpor for 2014 and a bit of 2015, but I’m very pleased to be able to return to the game.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to play all that regularly, which would normally be a recipe for me to lose interest (I admit that it’s hard for me to really focus on a game that I don’t play very often), but starting this blog and putting so much time and energy in preparing and running demos has really helped keep my interest alive as I wait for the next game.

So what about 2016?  Well, given how far 2016 we are, it’s a bit too late to be making predictions, but I am deeply excited by the conversation that White Wolf and the VEKN had, and the possibility that somebody out there is interested in resurrecting VTES.  I sadly don’t expect to hear anything definitive this year, but I hope to in 2017.

Until next time, may your bleeds never be bounced, and all your votes pass.



5 thoughts on “2015: A Retrospective

  1. Nice analysis, but I feel you just scratch the surface. It would be great to try find the reasons behind those changes, f.e. check what new cards/ archetypes stay behind last year clan succes (like you do for Followers of Set). Also, it’s strange to me that you limit your analysis to clan perspective. VTES is not based on clans. Most decks are build on disciplines/ special abilities. Sometimes it means same clan, but very often not. By comparing only clans you’re not really talking about vtes metagame but about some distorted data.


    • VTES is certainly dominated by deck archetypes, and I agree that it would be interesting to see how they have waxed and waned over the years. The problem comes in how to define a specific archetype. Take something as basic as “Stealth-Bleed.” What defines that archetype? Stealth cards and bleed cards, right? That would include Stanislava decks, AAA, Malk ’94, Weenie Obf, DEM bleed, DOM + NEC, and so many others. Should there be a threshold like >10% stealth cards and >10% bleed cards? Do each of the subcategories I listed above get their own category, or would it make more sense to combine some together. Is DOM/OBF really different enough from DEM/OBF that those deserve different categories? What about Malk decks that make occasional use of AUS, is that no longer a Stealth Bleed deck? Are weenie OBF that relies on computer hacking and leverage versus those that relies on Camera Phones different types of decks, or two manifestations of the same archetype?

      The point is that it’s extremely difficult to decide what the categories should be, and then nontrivial to separate a given deck into a specific category, especially since whoever does this will have to do it 1,716 times. The same would be true for counting the frequency of individual cards. That’s a lot of work to produce a list where it’s unclear how well the decks have been sorted due to vague criteria.

      If you want to test this out yourself, go check out the “unaligned” decks in my google doc. Next to each, I’ve put my own description of that deck’s archetype. See how often you agree with my assessment. My guess is that our answers would only occasionally coincide due to the two difficulties I’ve listed above. I’m not sure that data that is open to that level of interpretation is actually valuable.


      • I wouldn’t call s&b an archetype. As you said, it’s too broad. It’s more like group of archetypes. On the other hand, decks like mono potence, weenie animalism, etc. are easy to define and are big part of metagame. Same goes for star decks.


  2. Comparing disciplines is vastly more difficult. Also, it would probably be pretty boring to hear how Dominate, Presence, Obfuscate, Auspex are extremely common. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see the card breakdown for a given year of most played cards from a total standpoint and from a percentage of decks standpoint; I can’t be bothered to do that sort of analysis except with my own TWDs.

    I’m surprised such a high percentage of decks qualify as clan decks. Some of my old TWDs wouldn’t qualify under the system Brett is using and many of the decks I play in tournaments these days wouldn’t qualify.

    It’s also funny how well Imbued are doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 4/6 Imbued wins are from Brazil, so I’d guess that their meta is more friendly to the Imbued. Maybe there are fewer players who will punch you in the face if you bring an Imbued deck :). The other two wins are from Europe. So maybe it’s just the US playerbase that hates them so…?


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