mercredi 19 mars 2014

Sensory deprivation and its little friends

Hello guys,

Starting from today, I will try to publish more small articles instead of a few big ones. It will be easier for me and more readable for you. 

Those articles will often be top five, or ten, or list of advices, stuff to improve your game, and a lot of interviews as well. I am pretty happy from the feedback I get from people who read all the blog, even recently, and I can’t underline enough how much I appreciate a kind word, a nice comment or a food for thought. So don’t hesitate to leave a token of your journey when landing on my blog shores.

(I won’t be advertising my other blogs since they are all written in French but for the French-speaking people that are curious, contact me, I got other stuff to speak about that you can find on the Internet)

So, today, to introduce the new way of doing things, I have a very special guest, who happen to live in the town nearby, but we still did the interview by chat, it’s Pascal Bertrand, a.k.a Floppyzedolfin, who is the current rules director, so who is responsible for all changes of rules, and helps the design team to design the new sets, has his word in the game decisions, in addition to help answering all tricky forum questions when possible.

The theme I will grind today, and Pascal will give his best to answers my questions without knowing what wrote myself on the different topics, is the
TOP 5 OF THE CARDS THAT ANNOY MOST PLAYERS (for good or bad reasons)

1           1 -      Sensory deprivation

I have not heard of any player who does not either adore or dislike this card the most. I have memories of games completely stuck at Turn 2 without being able to do anything because of a stupid 4-Capacity Ravnos passing by, especially when I was playing Enkidu or Sutekh. I am all the more surprised to see it so often heavily played as results have shown that running multiples of it generally doesn’t bring victory after all.

Pascal, don’t you think that sensory deprivation is a card so uncool that we should ban it right away?

-         It’s a rather vast question… Cards cannot be banned for a motivation of lack of fun because fun is a totally subjective criterion.
The fact that a minion is « blocked » during at least one turn is a theme that we encounter a lot in Vampire (Rötschreck, Mind Numb, Mind Rape, Pentex Subversion, Banishment, ..) and if we start removing one of the cards that use this mechanic because it’s not fun, I don’t see what would prevent us from banning other cards from the list. Then, one day somebody will tell you, sensory deprivation is so much fun because the illustration shows a sewed mouth.

2 – Pentex subversion
I am a big fan of Pentex Subversion myself and I think it is the most defining card of Vampire. It is not a card that prevents most decks from being played, but it gives an edge to the better players that will manage to play it successfully, or more important manage to not play it when it is not needed.

Pascal, there is a vast debate about Pentex Subversion, tell us your best story with this card.

-         Funny story: Kamel, Jerome, Stone, Benoit and Floppy are playing a friendly game in Prague. On turn 2, Benoît plays Anson. On Turn 2, Floppy puts a pentex on Anson. 2hours later, Benoit is still whining for anyone to break the Pentex.

-          3 – Kindred Spirits
Speaking about kindred spirits also means the whole package of the weenie bleed. You all died at least once to a stupid deck, generally played by a guy who looks like he spent too much time watching reality-TV, a weenie dementation, or weenie dominate, or 52-computer hacking decks. I accepted to bear with that. If I die to them, that’s life, I won’t ruin my day playing decks just to survive as they don’t win much tournaments.

Pascal, what is your opinion about the KS decks running like 20x of the same card?

Personnally I am playing 22. It does not shock me more than 14 Governs in Vignes or Carna.
It’s a type of deck that presents one of the main problems of the game – it is extremely difficult to create new interesting cards when there are some power houses like KS, GtU, Majesty, Freak Drive or Parity Shift. At the end, all card will get compared to them and judged worse. Cards like Neonate Breach offer a totally viable alternative to the established standards.

4 – Sudden reversal/ Direct Intervention

Well, it is just a simple fact. You’re playing a card, not for yourself, but to deny your opponent a way of playing. Sudden reversal breaks your balls even more since it’s taking care of your only master of the turn. But I feel like this card invades your territory, thus upsetting you for more than it should in fact, mostly because we have all been victims of “I play my sudden reversal just to cycle”

Pascal, which do you find stronger, Sudden or DI?

Direct Intervention.
It is far more difficult to play (and not to play). Sudden has huge main targets: Pentex, Parthenon, TOGP, and sometimes the « card that breaks my ball just now, but I play Sudden to cycle ». There are far more opportunities to play DI (GtU #1, Faceless, Elder, Conditioning), and well played, it gives or prevents one victory point.

                5 – Una

You’re playing. Alone. Like one hour. Worse than a turbo or a reversal of fortunes deck. Nobody gets to do anything once you’ve started. If you’re a fast player, people will just get bored, if you’re upsetting from the start, or they did not get enough sleep, they might even feel violent. I got the craziest stories playing Una, including people wanting to hit my face, for real.

Pascal, should we limit the time of a player’s turn?

No, because it’s totally impossible to gauge, with all debates on who should block or not, during votes, the talks “play your card/ don’t play your card” and stuff like “But, but, but, what does your Imbued card do? Is it breakable? It would be quite interesting to know how much time players spend /not playing/ (where playing includes asking/answering about votes, thinking, reading cards, ...) during a vtes game. 

To conclude, many cards could have made the top of the list. 
What I realize is that it is more often a matter of players than a matter of cards. I am not annoyed by a mere sudden reversal; I am annoyed by a guy playing it “to cycle”. I am not annoyed by a deck long to play, I am annoyed by a guy slow playing intentionally. 

Last question to Pascal: Is there any card you specially dislike and why?
-        I don’t like to see at the table Heart of Nizchetus mainly. Ashurs Tablets also. Mostly because those cards need too much time to be managed correctly.

 Have a good game... TTC.

mercredi 8 janvier 2014

2 0 1 4 V A R I O U S T O P I C S

Hello folks and happy new year,

I have been hesitating upon various subjects for this article so I have finally and bravely decided to cover them all, probably in shorter ways than I would have otherwise. Overall, I want to address the issues of 2014 and some other I have seen on the forum. I will talk to you about

-          The world ranking, how it works and who is the best

-          The Danse Macabre expansion and what’s exciting about it

-          The 2014 tournaments changes that have been discussed recently

I will try to make something really easy and accessible to everybody. As always, I just speak my own thoughts, feel free to comment or discuss them, and eventually prove me wrong of course

1 – One player to rule them all and in darkness bind them

This is a very touchy but since it seems to bother lots of people from what I have seen on the forum, I thought I had my word to share about it. There two major issues, in my belief. The first one being simply to determine how to judge who the best player is. Some players have been extremely strong during a given period of time. Some have had awfully good results with a specific archetype. Some have been exceedingly regular over the years.

The second issue is then, when the first issue is determined, to give an answer to the question.
Since it is not up to me to choose a way of ranking people, I’ll just give all the acceptations I know about V:tes and you can pick whatever you like most.

Before giving those answers, I just want to say the V:tes ranking encourages regularity in big tournament wins. If you win massive tournaments with lot of game wins, you’re on the top. You just need 8 of them. Not 20 little. Just 8 big. That being said, when I was ranked first in the world, it was not because of a glitch but just because I had won a 150 people tournament with 4 game wins, which was giving me more points than two other tournaments alone.

Ok now I can name like 10 players I think about when “being the best in the world” but it would probably be unfair, based on people I know, or period I used to play. Here is what I think:

è The player who was playing the best during a certain period of time is certainly Olivier Perez when he won French championship in 2005 and within 2 years after.

è The most regular player over the years, keeping always a high level among the best in the world is Hugh Angseeing.

è Some great players did fantastic results in the past but it is difficult to judge them as the game changed a lot over the year. Players like Matt Morgan or Ben Peal did a tremendous job to keep winning tournaments while the decks played were shifting the game from heavy negotiation to more powerful decks.

è Erik Torstensson has probably been the best player overall but he did not travel enough to prove it.

è In my personal opinion, I tend to removed people I see making technical mistakes from my own list of the best, even if those guys have won big tournaments in the past. But in the opposite, you can think that the sole thing that matters is the final result.

2 – Danse Macabre, a French joke?

Yes, yes, yes, finally French players got their expansion. The next step is to get a translation of the game. Je vais te saigner maintenant. Danse Macabre is of course a very good news to v:tes. I am dreaming of all my old games I am not playing to keep making expansions, and with the possibilities offered by no card limit, I am pretty sure we will find useful spots for those cards. I am not here to state the obvious: yes, The Unnamed got a new untap. And yes you might do decks with Mimir. And yes Badr fits totally in your Nocturn decks. But I will try to provide you with a top 3 of the cards you might think are bad (and if you think the opposite, well, I am sorry) but I think are not.

Bronze medal: Gerald Fitzgerald

This guy does not stand out much. But he had no drawback and a perfect discipline spread. I am totally willing to pay 1 more pool to get the Black Hand Seraph that is sooooooooo good but is generally used by crazy bad vampires. The superior Auspex will help defend all those nice Seraph cards that might be breakable. And the special power to make people black hand is pretty nice.

The thing is: when playing black hand vampires, people tend to put so many useless cards just because they can. But in reality you don’t want that. What you want first is people solid. Superior Dominate is solid. Superior thaumaturgy and auspex are also great. Then when you have built great 75 card decks, you can add 5 Seraph cards to sweaten the deal and surprise your opponents. Also don’t forget that Govern the unaligned requires higher capacities vampires. So throwing a nice 7-cap in the !tremere family is just perfect.

Silver medal: Spoils of war

It might not seem big. 1 pool and 1 blood. But it is free. The condition is quite easy to fulfill. It is probably not the kind of card that will be stacking your hand too much. 1 pool is big. Rushes is not something people want to block. Bleeds from a combat deck is not something people want to block. 1 blood is big because if you’re bleeding with a legal manipulations with a 1 blood vampire, chances are high you’re getting a 3-bleed + 1 pool here, then you can screw people by getting a second pool and that blood that will prevent you from having a little hunt next turn.

In addition, it is a clan card. I have always supported the idea that among minion cards, cards requiring a specific clan have the highest potential. The reason for this is that you can build which much more variety around them AND build embrace decks with it. I am not saying that !brujah embraces deck will be huge tomorrow. But I am appreciating the potential of this card. I will always find the space for one or two and will try to build around shenanigans to include more if possible.

Gold medal: Shadow boxing

I am not really sure if people thinks that this card is bad, but I suppose it does not reflect more than Shakar: the hunt or stuff like this, but I like shadow boxing. Mostly because it totally fits a theme: all the vampires that have the power but lack the stealth, not because they don’t have obfuscate but because they can’t afford to lose slots to put obfuscate cards in there.

But this card is different. At inferior, it is totally useful. I would say: you never have enough maneuvers when playing !Nosferatu, right? So I would like to have a card that helps me avoid chump blockers, or blockers if against weenie auspex for example, but which is still useful in the combat, whatever my opponent. The only situation where this card is jammed in my hand, is when the opponent just dies without doing anything to me… isn’t it perfect?

I think this card is a perfect addition to a heavy fight/slight stealth deck, probably using permanent tools such as preternatural strength. Its dual discipline makes it rather difficult to find room to, but its effects are far more powerful because of their versatility than they might look at first glance.

3 – What’s new, Pussycat?

In 2014, we might have thought that the year would be plain, with national championships, then continentals, no new stuff, the old routine again. However, we were wrong. There is new stuff up there. I am mostly interested in the potential “end of game” changes.

I have always supported the idea that finishing at 2hours exactly was just the less of two evils, granted that we could not find a better solution to finish our games. But how many times have I regretted that? I have missed day 2 qualifications to year in a row due to infamous stalling. People with no reactions in hand, all taped, managing to stay alive ten minutes just because they wanted it. Bounced bleed that should but would never kill my prey. It also happened the other way around but less because, stupidly enough, but the best players play like this, I did respect the fact that time limit or not, if I am dead, I am dead. If I have no ready minions, my turn will be one minute maximum, period.

But some people don’t feel that way…

This is stupid…

But which makes us more stupid if we don’t react to that behavior.

My first idea was to penalize people caught stalling. The thing is, it is not always rewarding the good person. And it is furthermore difficult to implement at a local level.

In that case, we have no choice but to push things further ahead. Having people finish the last turn is not much but I feel that it might change behaviors because people trying to slowplay will know that he will be more difficult from now on, and that they will look even more stupid if they miss their spot trying to do so.
If we cannot counter people directly, let’s try to render them useless.

But that should not prevent you, as a local judge or player, to heavily try to counter this type of behavior which ruins the playing experience of all opponents at the table.

I just grazed some topics here. As usual, I am totally happy to dig them deeper with you in the future if you like it. In the meantime, don’t forget to bleed your predator heavily and leave your prey alone, that’s how you win games ;-)

mercredi 13 novembre 2013

Totally Wonderful Decks Archive

Hello folks,

Today’s article is a little bit special as I have recently heard a very sad news, and I suppose everybody is aware of it now, since the public of the blog is made of people following the v: tes actuality pretty extensively: the Lasombra Tournament Winning Deck Archive (TWDA as it will be named later on and is usually named everywhere) is closed. I don’t really know the reasons for Jeff Thompson to stop. I don’t even know if Jeff was the only guy working on that project, so I won’t discuss anything about this. 

But I will thank all people who have made the TWDA available through the years: Jeff and his pals, the persons who made the efforts of updating the tournament results and transmitting decklists, and the players themselves. I know quite well how complicated it was to do every step through the online publication, especially at the beginning of the years 2000, as I myself played lots of tournaments without seeing the TWD being posted.

I have never, and won’t probably ever (never say never, would Fievel say) find such an useful tool as the TWDA for any field I might be interested in. The TWDA was, is, and will be, the best materials any v:tes player could use, and I will still be using it when reviewing tournaments in five or ten years. The incredible density of the v: tes world makes such a situation possible: it is impossible to rhetorically explain most of the phenomenon that appear at a v:tes table (which explains the poverty of what I write on the blog), but it is practically very interesting to look at what the decks that won, not always the best decks, but the decks that you would have needed to play to win a specific tournament, are.

The study of the TWDA intensively has helped me gather knowledge and information and has probably been one of the three main things leading me into achieving #1 spot in the world ranking (the 2 others being my own skills and the skills of the players I was competing with at that time). I am also pretty sure 99% of players considered among the best in the world have spent several hours looking at the tons of data gathered on that single page. What is this information? How to use it? We all have our own ways but I felt like a duty of memory to give some hints on the greatness of the TWDA.

The first thing about the TWDA is that it is an ultimately powerful deck building tool. It’s almost impossible to make a great deck out of nowhere in v: tes. Of course, with experience, you are more and more able to do it but it is the data you have gathered previously that helps you doing so. If you don’t believe me, try to remember your first attempt at doing a v:tes complete deck. I am positive it was crap. I remember clearly my two first decks and it was horrible. One was a bonecraft/blur deck… Well, it is very difficult to determine what is good, but maybe even more difficult to determine what is bad.

The TWDA has the ability to provide you with crucial information: is my idea viable? If it has already won tournament, let’s see which build did win, and what I could eventually change to give my identity to the deck (something fundamental at v: tes). If it has not, let’s find something similar, look the differences, and understand why would an Enkidu and not a Mugur Sabau deck win tournament.

The TWDA gives you unbiased and objective knowledge. This is very important on a field where “thinkers” (like me) are everywhere and want to control the players and provide you with information they think objective but that are subjective in fact. Saying “this deck is bad because…” might be true but, if it is in the TWDA, is it really bad, and has been lucky one day, or is it I who don’t understand how the deck works, how it plays or how it should be faced on the table.

When you have identified which archetype you’re building, you are faced with a great question: how should I balance the information of the TWDA? It would be a little long to provide you with examples but you can do it with the !ventrue grinder deck for example. Note that playing any version in casual games and adapting it afterwards is fine, but not anybody is able to play 10 or 20 games with a deck before bringing it to a tournament. I know I was not able to.

I have several decklists on the TWDA corresponding to the grinder deck. How can I balance them, depending on:

-          - The player playing the deck: a better player might play the best version of the deck but he might also be relying on his way of playing too much.
-        -  The date: the latest versions should be better than the previous one.
-        -   The number of players in the tournament: I pretty logically tend you be interested in the TWD of tournaments with the largest number of players.
-         -  The metagame choices: are they adapted to what I might face in the tournament?

Managing a good arbitration between those factors is the key problematic you will face when using the TWDA to build decks. When mastering it, it is a huge gain of time. Gaining time provides the ability to play more competitive decks, thus giving more experience to face them afterwards.

Another way of using the TWD to win tournaments is to use it to anticipate the metagame and increase its own knowledge against it. When going to a tournament, the TWD provides you with tons of interesting facts:
-          The tournaments at the same place (so probably with the same players). If combat is always winning, it might be a good hint that it is strong in that metagame. If a player wins every time, you know who you have to be careful with.

-          The latest tournaments in general. People like to play/adapt recent TWD in tournaments because they like new stuff. I always check the interesting recent stuff to see if there is something I might encounter, study what’s in there, and try to imagine which changes could be done.
-          In general, what tournaments have won major tournaments the year before. Always useful before the same tournaments one year after because you know people will have this information to decide which decks they will be playing.
-          Comments (sometimes) on the decks providing you information on how the finals were played, which changes to make…

During my competitive years of v:tes, I would know several things I had judged important. I think every player has his ways of working, but it’s for sure that only hard work will bring you victories. For myself, on the TWDA:

-          I knew pretty well all TWD on the twenty best players in the world, including mine, that people could copy, and that would give me hints on how playing when facing those especially strong players

-          I knew all variants of my deck for the tournament, so I could bluff playing some cards even if not or the opposite if I was including something new.

-          I knew all the TWD of my country correctly, because those were the people I would play against the most, and people tend to play their TWD again on big tournaments.

-          I would check every week or so for all recent TWD, reading them entirely at least once.

-          When building around specific cards or vampires, I would always read every deck with an occurrence of the card on the TWD.

-          I would often try to structure the TWD of the bigger tournaments to find good proportions for my own decks.

-          I would try building and playing with or playing against all archetypes that would win more than 3 tournaments within 3 months.

-          I would do many, many, many more stuff, spend tons of hours just browsing the TWDA, reading and discussing the ideas, efforts and blood that every player has provided us with.

The TWDA is the result of all the efforts we made together trying to have fun while be great players during several years, that’s why I respect it so much. It has been an honor to be in there and I think everybody there feels the same. When winning a tournament sure is a nice thing, having that achievement engraved in the TWDA was adding lots to the sweetness of the realization.

I hope you have liked this little explanation on the TWDA and that you will learn to love it if you did not. Again, I am playing other games, and I just wish that a TWD would exist for every of them. It is such a powerful instrument with almost no limits, so I just wish everybody won’t forget about it, whatever it happens with it now.

jeudi 10 octobre 2013

(Back)Rush hour

Surely, you are aware that rushing is considered the hardest part of v :tes, because a correct rush’ goal is generally not just to send an opposing vampire into torpor, but more to use this rush as a starting point to win the game (or as an eventual finishing point). The reason behind is is that, if the consequence following the rush immediately is easy to determine, its middle-term or even long-term consequences are difficult to determine in advance.

My pretention is not to explicate the rushing art here. Not that I am not able to do it, most players could learn somebody when reading me, but because the subject is very vast, every deck having to be interacted with differently, a vampire who has an integrated rush like Beast is not played like a weenie DBR, a deck is not solely combat sometimes, it can also be a bruisn’bleed or an intercept/fight… so, a lot of stuff to deal with, too much for a single article.

You can however learn more on strategy of rushes by listening to Otso’s conference there, where you will learn a lot of interesting things: 

But, even after listening to Otso, a point seems crucial to me as a technique that is still not mastered by most players, even  if awfully strong when used correctly because it gives results, brings pressure just by talking about its eventuality, and because it impacts tables flux very deeply: I am talking about rushing the predator, more commonly called Backrushing. The backrush is an ART that requires a lot of sensitivity and create a lot of delicate to handle situations. It’s in order to master it better than I would like to offer you to talk about it today. Most of the technics I will refer to will concern the initial backrush, at a 4 or 5 players table, because it becomes very different when we are only 3 players left. I will not go into the details of each discipline or each clan. You will have to use the theoretical advices by yourself to use them with your own decks because dozens of articles would be enough to cover every possibility resulting from a Backrush.  

Just after the European Championship, it’s a rather technic-oriented article that I want to offer you. I will try to classify criteria that help to enable a backrush efficiency, but will also try to help you evaluating the goal you could search for and the results you could obtain in your process of Backrushing.
Let’s cite Montesquieu (I will be citing a lot of French writers, as the original article is in French, so please forgive my poor translation of what those guys said)
[De l'esprit des lois.
Partie deux. Livre IX. Chapitre VI, "De la force défensive des Etats, en général". ] 

« Pour qu'un État soit dans sa force, il faut que sa grandeur soit telle, qu'il y ait un rapport de la vitesse avec laquelle on peut exécuter contre lui quelque entreprise, et la promptitude qu'il peut employer pour la rendre vaine. Comme celui qui attaque peut d'abord paraître partout, il faut que celui qui défend puisse se montrer partout aussi ; et, par conséquent, que l'étendue de l’État soit médiocre, afin qu'elle soit proportionnée au degré de vitesse que la nature a donné aux hommes pour se transporter d'un lieu à un autre. » 

( “For a country to be in its own strength, he needs to have a strength so strong that the swiftness needed to try attacking him should be greater than the fastness he can use to prevent it. As the attacker can pretend being anywhere, the defender needs to show that he can be everywhere also, and, as a consequence, that the size of the country must be small because the time to transport resources must be lower than the time needed by the enemy to deploy his attack”)

Montesquieu would certainly have been a great v:tes player, and we’ll see why now.

I/ Criterion that must be taken into account towards the necessity of a Backrush

It is probably hard to rank them, because it is generally a global situation which will entice you to decide to backrush or not. However, some elements look more crucial than others there.

a) The necessity 
Before deciding whether I should backrush or not, I generally ask myself if I NEED to backrush. Some situations are just impossible to avoid. The most spread of those cases is the following: my predator is going to kill me next turn if I don’t backrush immediately, for example I am at 1 pool and my predator plays night moves, or my predator plays a combo deck who needs to be stopped during the first turn if I want to have a second turn to play later, like Turbo Cybele or Una. My advice is that case would be not to try negociating because it is too easy for your predator to try lying to me by promising me stuff like a Game Win to deal break me later. It is a point that can be discussed during a friendly game but in a tournament, the field this article tries to explore, I would backrush always, except if that opens an equally biggest threat somewhere else at the table.

« Je suis, je vis ; j'attaque, je détruis ; je pense, donc je contredis. » 

Vipère au poing 
[ Hervé Bazin ] 
( « I am, I live ; I attack, I destroy ; I think so I should argue »)

b) Irreparability
A rather complicated word to express the fact that, should I not backrush my predator, I’ll put myself in a situation where I will have to backrush later. For example, my predator plays Arika, has no pressure and I am at 10 pools. I can reasonably consider that I won’t die in the turn (I could, though), but if I don’t backrush now, I will take at least 7 or 8 points of damage next turn and will then be in the (a) necessity case. So instead of running away, I will generally prefer attacking the root of the evil.

« Ils sont un millier à couper les branches du mal contre un seul qui s'attaque à ses racines. » 

La Moëlle de la vie : 500 Aphorismes de Henry David Thoreau 
[ Henry David Thoreau ] 
(« They are one thousand to cut the branches of the tree but only one attacks its roots. »)

c) Temporary work
The next reason I feel best to determine a backrush is that the possibility of doing it is now when I am unsure that I will be able to do it later. The best example is when playing against Lasombra Nocturn. If he finishes one turn without Nocturns, then you can’t take the risk that he will spend the rest of the game hatching 2 of them every turn until he kills us. Avoiding being in a more delicate situation later is an excellent reason for Backrushing.

« Temporiser, c'est l'art de la défense ; saisir le moment, l'art de l'attaque. » 

Journal intime 
[ Henri Frédéric Amiel ] 

(« Temporizing is the art of defense, seizing the day is the art of attack. »)

d) The priority 
Next possibility for me is to backrush because I want to be peaceful for being able to move forward to my prey later on. For example, when I have frontal assault in my hand but also 2 deep song I backrush twice to give myself a real peace of mind for my turn of frontal assault later.  

« Il y a quelque chose de plus lâche qu'un homme qui refuse de se battre, c'est un homme qui s'attaque à une femme qui ne peut pas lui répondre. » 

[ Alexandre Dumas ] 
(« There is something more coward than a man who refuses to fight, it’s a man who fight a woman who cannot defend herself. »)

e) The feasability 
Now, we are speaking about the most epinous problem that you will face . Always, always, always: when the backrush is not an obvious choice and that you will have to take into account your success rate potentially, but also to estimate how bad a failure can become. In such a case, I think the estimation needs to be global and includes the following: success rate, positive or negative consequences, and then you will have to decide for yourself to take the right decision. Example: if your prey has the vote lock, your predator playing entombment and you have no immortal grapple in the hand, it might not be the best moment to backrush. But it can become the right moment if that empties your predator’s vampire and that you can rescue yourself from torpor. So, this point is the one you will need to arbiter yourself, the hardest one which will require all your brains to get out of it.

« Attaquez-vous au monde et il vous écrasera. Montrez-vous plus rusé que lui et il vous récompensera. » 

[ Henry Denker ] 
(«  Attack the world up front and it will smash you down. Show yourself shrewder than it and it will reward you. »)

f) Necessity 
Backrusing because you have only one legal target realistically. Your prey has only Edward Vignes left and you have the choice between rushing Sutekh back and bleeding for 1. In some cases, you will want decide to backrush Sutekh even if you like it and you handle it quite easily, because you will want to show your willingness to the table, because you will want to play cards, or you will want to discard one majesty from his hand. I am not a big fan of it, but it can happen.
Hence the F point.

g) Balancing
There is no backrush that I hate more than the one realized in order to « balance the table » but it happens quite often. Basically, if you estimate that none of the 6 previous points apply to you but you still estimate that your predator handles the table too well, without doing anything to you, you can rush him to balance the situation, or a cross-table buddy eventually. You need to have a huge confidence for doing this because that means you’re better at reading fluxes than the other players to create a new flux without logical ground.
Very sensitive, isn’t it?

h) Feeling 
You kind of feel that this backrush is needed… Why ? You don’t know, but you feel like the triple Baltimore Purge under House of Sorrow and Enkil cog is coming.

i) Despair 
Nothing is working, you’re going to die anyway. That rush will be your last will, and, who knows, maybe Lazverinus is out of red cards right now. 

2/ Consequences of backrushing 

The important thing we have spoken about was in point ( e) , it is the vital core of the backrush. Why am I doing it? What is the expected value I am getting? What are the risks for me? Here is my take on the elements not to forget when you are thinking about going for the BIG MOVE.

a) In any case 

è You will play cards. It can be positive (infernal pursuit in an ashur tablets deck) or negative if your resources are limited. In any case, it implies giving additional information to the table.

è You will, at least, a little, make somebody unhappy. It remains something aggressive towards the guy who is aggressed. Only a few players will be able to forget that later in the game, especially if the move was questionable (logically, if the guy plays Ozmo, he can do nothing but expect that you’re going to backrush him, if he plays Jacob Fermor, there is a bit more room for discussion. You need to be aware that you might even risk to create a force of will of your predator against you to try to deteriorate your game as much as possible, especially if you’re playing to put his deck deep under the water, like condemning him to defend himself all game long. Not all players are able and willing to play for 0,5 VP like assholes.

è You’re giving a determined image to the table : the player who will not hesitate pulling the trigger. It can show strength, or it can show weakness towards your predator if the backrush is not justified enough, which might prevent other players from making ousts at a moment where we would like to get them as new predators.

è Generally, I will always like to backrush/backvote first. The reason behind this is that my prey is going nowhere in most of the cases, and a one-turn delay is not a big problem generally, especially if I am packing frontal assault (and why wouldn’t I?). On the opposite, should my predator start with a bleed for 6, I’ll never see that pool again and it might prevent me from playing correctly the rest of the game.

è The initial backrush often gives an interesting configuration at a 5 players’ tables : my prey has no pressure, thus will move forward without choking me too much, my predator will be under even more pressure and will have to defend.

è Choosing wisely the initial backrush’s target is vital if my predator has more than one minion. Depending on the deck and the match-up, trying to torporize the star vampire, torporize the guy who makes only inferior govern the unaligned, or play safe and just get the guy who cannot defend himself, are choices to be thought depending on how you want to make your predator play later on.

è On the opposite, I am not a big fan of FAME on my predator. It is so difficult to make people lose pools, why would I help my future predator (excepting if salmoning, and knowing it from the start) and have even more problems killing my prey afterwards. 

b) When successful

è If you have the opportunity, always think the different possibilites available : leave the target into play with few blood, no blood, torporize or burn it. Generally, it will depend upon two things, the number of resources you would like to spend, and the willingness you have to put the head your predator deeper in the water.
è The negotiation can be opened there eventually, or after the result of the fight, to determine if the other vampires will receive the same punishment, under which conditions… Some decks will need a precise vampire to play (Shalmath…), but for other decks this deck will probably the first of a long line of dead people because they will try to pull out as many vampires as possible (Palla Grande…). To define your terms will then be an important criterion of your future management of the table. For example, you can discuss with your vampire about the number of vampires he will play with (that can also be discussed before your first backrush eventually), or eventually you can require turns without aggression.

è Don’t let your success lower your guard. Being able to determine your predator’s possibilities and anticipating the reactions of the table when showing your strength are essential. It won’t bring anything good to show that you are easily getting rid of your predator if your prey is able to put 9 damages on you “in prevention” the turn after. 

c) When failing

è You knew that failing was a possibility, and yet you tried. It happens. Shit happens. That’s why you always try to rush at the best time in terms of going out of torpor afterwards (by having a vampire able to do it, or a blocker to wait for your ally’s turn).

è Use this failure to show how weak you are, even if you perfectly know that the Coma was the only one that would touch you during the game, because it costs 3 blood, that it needs to be close range, and that you play 12 dodges + additional.

è Analyze the reasons of the failure. If you have taken a big hit, remind yourself that villeins next turn should be less voluminous, if you have taken one aggravated damage, cherish those sideslips as if they were your family… basically the more opportunities you will have to know the other players’ decks, the more you will be able to analyse the key cards of the match up and play accordingly.

To make things short, the backrush is a very complete move, often hard to play well. If it appears obvious when being bled by a stealth/bleed, it also unbalances strongly the table since you will prevent a player from playing to win early in the game.
Unbalancing fluxes is the most dangerous thing to do at the table, because it makes players’ behavior more difficult to comprehend. The reason behind this is that a table of v :tes tends to decompose itself when players become stronger than other if it does not create ousting, which if often the case with a backrush.

So, upon your analysis, I offer you a move so obvious that it will change your game more than any other. The good solution will be to try rationalizing it to make it at the same time efficient and understandable by your opponents. I personally think that the key to the best backrush is that every player of the table, even the target, will consider it logical after you state your reasons for doing it. If you manage doing it, you will avoid most risks of disproportionate reactions, and this will be a huge step forward for your GW. You will then be facing the difficulty of letting your predator play correctly, finding a good solution between killing him and letting him to kill you.

I hope you have found some interest in reading me. Don’t hesitate providing comments, questions, or game examples to complete the next version of this article, and progress together in the art of the fight.

jeudi 26 septembre 2013

Fortunes and misfortunes

In the same way than a good Malkavian must act during the other player’s turns, a French championship of V :tes should be something rather epic. That summary will show you how epic it was, between technical considerations, miscellaneous stuff, physical pain et many other things.

My decks selection for the French championship

Tier 0: sociopaths -> weenie madness reversal, weenie DBR, ravnos carnival

Tier 1: powerhouses -> weenie animalism rush, army of Allah, palla Grande

Tier 2: nice guys-> Party of roses, Malgorzata vote, Wait’n’bleed

And I knew some other decks might be available on site.

After looooooong time looking for my available cards, having discovered that my version of Ravnos Carnival was not working properly, that I was missing Alamuts for Army of Allah and also that Palla Grande was a crap deck in the French metagame, I was settled for a smaller selection for day 1, when everybody tries to have fun while resisting a rather aggressive metagame of people wanting to qualify themselves. That’s why I decided to play wait’n’bleed there. Wait’n’bleed, I should remind, is a deck that has never really been something people would play often, mostly because it is needed to release high-capacity vampires while being naked for the first turns of play. Personally, it is still one of my favourite decks, with each decision you would take being heavy consequently.

And it gives an opportunity to work anew that old archetype that has been in the closet for as long as Girls went out in tournaments. Here is our proposition, Florian Prosper (Champion of  France 2007, please respect his authority) and myself.

Wait’n’bleed 2013
Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 37, Max: 44, Avg: 10,0)
4 Cybele ANI DAI OBF PRE SER THA10 Baali
3 Aksinya Daclau cel tha ANI FOR PRE PRO9 Gangrel Antitribu
1 Lutz Von Hohenzollern pot AUS DEM OBF PRE11 Malkavian
1 Lucian ANI AUS DOM OBF POT PRE 11 Guruhi
1 Nergal AUS DAI FOR OBF PRE THA10 Baali
1 Rafael de Corazon AUS CEL DOM OBF PRE11 Toreador
1 Adana de Sforza aus CEL OBF POT PRE PRO11 Brujah

Library: (60 cards)
Master (32 cards)
1 Misdirection
1 Pentex Subversion
2 Parthenon, The
2 Blind Spot
2 Information Highway
4 Dreams of the Sphinx
5 Villein
2 Jake Washington (Hunter)
1 Coven, The
1 Golconda: Inner Peace
9 Ashur Tablets
1 Monastery of shadows
1 Giant’s blood

Action (7 cards)
5 Intimidation
1 Entrancement
1 Unleash hell’s fury

Action Modifier (16 cards)
2 Approximation of Loyalty
3 Aire of Elation
1 Enkil Cog
2 Faceless Night
4 Lost in Crowds
2 Elder Impersonation
1 Cloak the Gathering
1 Into Thin Air

Combat (1 cards)
1 Majesty

Event (2 cards)
2 Anthelios, the Red Star

Combo (2 cards)
2 Swallowed by the Night

Well, it is a deck I would recommend to every player that is not the target of everything in the table, for strange reasons like he was 1st in the world ranking or whatever. If your prey leaves you alone, there are good chances you can just wait during one hour 30 minutes then get all remaining vps. Thus, the name of the deck.

I am not sure now if Cybele is that good because, despite giving two master phases, her special is no good with Intimidation and she puts a big red target on the head of the player who puts her in play.
At the French Open, people play aggressive tactics. I have been able to see it this year again.


Of course, I am the first one to influence out, because it is not funny otherwise. I m bleeding Romain N. (Shalmat) who bleeds Tristan D. (weenie dementation) who bleeds Cedric G (Ishtarri vote et bleed) who bleeds Quentin B (weenie dementation).
With two weenies dementation, the table goes very fast. I put the big balls of Aksynia on the table but I get midirectionned, and then I cannot draw to a Vilein unfortunately. Romain playing Shalmat does not give me any ousting opportunity, that’s dead for me. Everybody dies ultimately, save from Quentin who gets 4 vps, Tristan 1. Bleeding is strong!

It’s quite the same for me. This time, Jorge D (princes first tradition) bleeds me, and I am bleeding Medhi M (Nephandus), who bleeds Lionel G if I am correct ( ?) and I don’t remember the fifth player who was Jorge’s predator at all, well Jorge had small pressure so obviously he was not in a good spot. Jorge won that table thanks to his Fourth cycle breaking both Anthelios and Unmasking. Very nice.
More seriously, Jorge also won that tournament, and I think he had a good deck choice here, able to play first tradition, parity shift, play alone, and resist his predator even if that one was aggressive, very good key to go far at the Open (by the way, Mehdi’s deck was doing the same and he was in finals also later on)

I have far better memories of Round 3, DAY 1 ROUND 3,
It was the kind of game that would deserve to be told by itself, with forceful details and so on, but it does not bring anything to the total report, since nobody on that table would make to the finals the same day. That being said, there were 3 future French championship finalists on that table, playing decks that you could not say were bad, but probably funnier than the one they were going to play the day after.

I am therefore bleeding Dean G (lasombra bruise’n’bleed) who bleeds Yohann G ( !salubri intercept) who bleeds Pierre T (deckus Ultimus also called Troglodyta/Harbingers by himself) who bleeds Alex P (weenie animalism intercept ? I am unsure there)

The game itself is anecdotic. I win it with 1GW4 because my predator is blocked by Pierre. But I have seen quantities of crazy cards on the table: entombment, trochomancy, mercy for seth, warding the beast among other proofs that great players can bother playing not-so-great cards… I will try to bring the Harbinger stories in another article

I have played many Opens in my life, including European championship, North American championship. I won some. You could consider me an open expert, especially when it comes to the French open (1 victory, 3 finals in 6 tournaments). This year’s French Open is for me a good opportunity to draw some conclusions about the generics of Opens, because it is a tournament easy to metagame, even if it is always difficult to make finals in it. Here are my ideas about Opens in general.

è Opens tend to be very violent. You need to be prepared for big GW. The final entrance will probably be at least 2 Game wins as long as there are something like 40 players, and you might need 2 good game wins to make it to the final tables.

è As a consequence, you will need a rather agressive deck because you will need to take your own VPS and not wait for the table to go down to 2 or 3 players to start playing, except if you want to finish 8th with 2GW6 for example.

è You need to be able to handle agressive predators. With rushs, with bounces, you need to handle the stealth/bleed. You cannot bring, in my opnion, a deck who dies to pentex subversion at the Open.

è Don’t hesitate reinforcing the modules you think you might need, even if that sounds too extreme. In 2005, I was playing 8 Archon investigation in my Palla Grande. Ok that was another era but the idea remains the same.

è You need to remember that with the new qualifying rules, it’s rare that anybody will beg for 1VP at a table, and most people will be interested In breaking deals to get GW if possible. So you cannot play a deck that will rely on other player’s weaknesses.

è That being said, I don’t think you will need to go for a second sight reading, by trying to beat the decks I have described above, because most players don’t use this strategy. For example, the not qualified players I saw during the week-end were playing weenie vote or weenie bleed on Saturday. Because in their mind, that’s the kind of deck which will always get a GW in a tournament, which all in all is not such a bad calculation.

I think that everything not related to v :tes in that week-end would deserve its own report. Players have seen me, the attentive businessman, prepare my new sale site with v:tes cards by buying back a big collection. I also got my old game gear and my games, and other cards. So basically Saturday night I already had 60 kilos of stuff to bring back to Nice.

So my goal on Sunday was to save myself physically by choosing my deck on Saturday evening, despite the tireness. Jérémie T, who was in my team, qualified the day before with Party of Roses, the so-called shit deck, had taken my weenie animalism rush an poetry  (20 deep song, 58 red cards, 12 masters) that I wanted to play at first, so few choices for me really. Weenie DBR is strong but does not handle Owain Evans. Madness reversal is good too, and I have one built. It is not my version, though, I am playing brainwash, and without them I don’t find the deck very attractive. When walking to the tournament on Sunday in the Parisian streets, I have wondering myself, how can I win with that ? When arriving at the tournament, I am asking Pascal Bertrand alias Floppy if he has other decks for me. The first deck I find is another weenie madness with exactly the same cards. So I guessed that this version was not so bad after all.
I LOVE weenie madness. First, it is a deck which uses cards no other competitive tier 0 or tier 1 decks would play: brainwash, malkavian justicar, alastor, sargon fragment, madness network, even the cards less used like Fragment of the book of Nod and that’s way cooler!

Then, it is a deck that creates new ways of playing and opens debates every time I get results with it. I know lots of players are against thenon-playing events, that is preventing players from playing at all. As a good competitive player, I just love the debates to determine the border between what is acceptable (Tupdog rushing/graverobbing) and what’s not (call 35 reversals during a game). Great!
That being said , I also understand the claims against the deck. But hey, that’s the French championship, not some local league, at least I think

Deck of choice : weenie reversal not-so-good version
2 brazil
2 Dollface
1 Normal
2 Ohanna
3 Watenda
2 Zoe
(personal comment, why not 2 Normals and 1 Zoe)

60 cartes :
1 Asylum HG
1 Barrens, The
4 Dreams of the sphinx
2 Fragment of the Book of Nod
6 Masness Network
6 Parthenon
2 Perfectioninst
3 Pentex Subversion
2 Smiling jack
3 Wider View

5 Alastor
6 Malkavian Justicar
1 Praxis Seizure: Stockholm
13 reversal of fortunes

2 Flamethrower
2 Helicopter
1 Sargon Fragment

I don’t like this version. To me, it is not a real lock. So you get the hatred towards locking deck but not the lock itself. Also, there should be 2 Sargon fragments. I am not afraid to go “man vs wild” at a tournament, but this is a little too much for me obviously. The game plan is to get a lose-deal against lot of decks, and does not offer that many possibilities for a breakdeal.
But the deck remains very strong when set up, even without lock, and if my prey plays a deck that goes towards his prey (sweet dreams), it’s sweet time. So I think to myself, what a wonderful world… or at least why not!

Another personal note: I am giving myself the opportunity to play dirty decks because I bear a target whatever should I play but I don’t advise it for players that can avoid being the target.

Day 2, round 1
As usual, I am first to play. And I got a table of noobs with the noob Mehdi M (weenie animalism intercept), easy preyLaurent R (cock robin rush and unexperienced allies , Arnaud B (shambling hordes) who bleeds Kamel S (AAA I think).
I don’t have the Turn 2 madness network to play and Mehdi sets up very fast, as does Laurent, which forces me to wait. The table, despite this, moves swiftly, with Arnaud trying to kill Kamel on a small window after breakdealing Laurent : Bleed for 6good pools, Bleed for 6 who gets investigated by the Archon. Ouch. Arnaud is a corpse, Kamel at 3 pools. So it is a good opportunity for me to lose-deal with Laurent. By making just defense during one hour, I can prevent Mehdi from getting stronger. I have absolutely no way to stop Laurent, I try to find weakness but he just stomps on everybody at the table, gets GW3 and leaves me with 2 Vps.  

Some technical notes on that round :
The choice of the deck you’re dealing with is important but also the choice of the player, especially in big game tournaments. Find the player who will not break you, whether by conviction or because of his deck is important and can make me accept a worse deal if needed. I would have rather played with Laurent for 1VP than 2Vps with Kamel or another player of the table.
In addition, playing with the weakest player at the table is better because if you give him a game win, you don’t catapult a strong player to the finals (especially when his deck can handle yours).
Second thing, try to count the GW and eventually the points they scored. It gives you an overview of how many points are needed for the finals. Here, we were playing 6 tables, that’s 18 Gw potentially, but after the first round, it was less so I was pretty confident that 1 good GW would be enough for the entrance in the finals, which did not put me in a bad situation at that moment. If I had seen 6GWs at the 6 tables, I would have had to get GW at the second table, I guess.

Day 2, round 2,
It is the polemical game of the week-end, so I’ll try to describe it more precisely than usually. I am bleeding François P (Gotsdam and !ventrue) who bleeds Vincent Ripoll (Giotto vote’n’bleed) who bleeds ? (sorry for the name , a deck dominate bleed I think) who bleeds Denis (Spell of life).
What happened is very simple. I ammalkavian justicar but no madness network. When Gotsdam is out, I am not set up. Even if I were, Gotsdam is too good against me. Then I am looking for a Pentex Subversion but does not find any. Then Neighbor Jon comes with Gotsdam. You could say that my deck loses to intercept. Not wrong. But also my problem is that the other players at the table can only go forward. . If somebody plays rush (cf round 3) we can discuss.

The conclusion is that nobody can/want help me against François. Since I am afraid points might leave the table too quickly, I offer the following deal against François: 3/2 for him, but he lets me set up, gets pool, in order for me not to be deal broken. François still tries to breakdeal me with 3VPs in the pocket. Pentex on Gotsdam, flamthrower rush, that’s good. I could have tried to breakdeal him before, and maybe that could have worked… Maybe 50/50 chance.  But…
1/ I was afraid of Gotsdam even with Pentex subversion
2/ I did not want to break the deal
3/ I was confident that my deck could score a GW in the third round, because in the third round people need to make deals with me.

As a side note, please look upon players : they often do not get settled for their final dual when in a deal with that player. A deal is not immortal and you can be broken at any time. I have even been broken at the start of my turn in the past! Having a Pentex Subversion in the hand, a way to kill, or at worst looking strong at the table, are ways to avoid losing points. In the final dual, I had 5 vampires out and 20 pools to start with, and that should have scared lot of people, but the fact that he already had a GW and more or less nothing to lose except the same and the dignity let François try his chance still.  

Day 2, Round 3
So I now have 4VP and the almost certitude that a GW, even the tiniest one, will be enough for me. It is good because that last table is horrible also in terms of seating.  
I am bleeding Matthias S alias Fat Panda (Owain Evans) who bleeds Jorge D (the guy who won the day before, theo/beast anarch) who bleeds Lionel L (some stuff with Baali) who bleeds Nefe (Tap n’bleed Giovanni).

In that game, I was feeling strong until my predator would pull out… Enzo Giovanni as his first vampire. Seriously !? Enzo !? Yes. The guy who gets +1 Intercept against political actions. Damn. That makes my day. Well, he still deserves a Pentex Subversion. Instead of the Neighbor Jon that my prey releases on the table. Life is hard with me.

So I need first to survive. So I try to prevent my predator for playing. Because Reversal is also good for this. You can play the salmon with that deck. So I try to prevent Nefe to play, but it is not enough and I barely survive for one pool. Then, I survive for one stealth because I get the madness network broken cross-table. Ouch. So, as usual, nobody likes me. In the meantime, Jorge cross-table rushed me and then we had words. And then we made a deal.Not trying to get revenge is also a characteristic of the great players. So I had a 3/2 deal with Beast and Theo, and it’s reversal time. HE RUSHES. His prey plays. Then reversal and HE RUSHES AGAIN. My prey has no vampires left. And let’s go like good old times. My prey dies to the fame and then we play both, and nobody else does. Then we make the deal because that’s how it works. Jorge loses the dual to swarm bleed and pentex subversion. I don’t have any interest in breakdealing him: with 1GW7 I am in the finals logically, probably the same seat I would have gotten with 1GW9 (even if I would have loved to get 1GW9 because I never did). In addition, if Jorge is in the finals, I cannot hope to play with him if I breakdeal him. Finally, the fact that he burnt everybody does not matter so much.

Day 2, Final
I don’t have to judge other player’s strategy during a final. Here is just how I chose to seat myself. I know that Yoann (Ahrimane/ First in the final) will like to be my predator or eventually my prey. When I choose, the seating is that one:

Pierre T (Tupdog) -> Laurent R (cock robin) -> Gildas L (Pupeteer WOUHOU) so 3 possibilities for me :
Being Pierre’s prey. Meaning Yoann will be my prey probably. So I will never be able to get my VP and my predator will also be able to kill me at some time.

Being Laurent’s prey gives the best possible seating to Yoann, being my prey and bleeding a player that is bound to die to him. Let’s forget it.

So I can only be Gildas’ prey. It forces Yoann to be my predator and I prefer it that way because he is first in the final so I can be supported at some point to prevent him getting a VP first. If Pierre goes to Laurent, Gildas can put pressure on Yoann by making actions and taping minions.
Of course, the best possibility would have been to be first in the finals but I like that seating also. Yoann is my predator, as forecast.

I don’t have any comments to do on the final. I took only one action, calling a Malkavian Justicar that was blocked. I was rushed and backrushed, I was blocked and my allies never helped me because they had better stuff to do, no blame for this. I let everybody make his own choices of courses. For people who were not here, fast summary of the final:

Yoann starts with a raven spy on Effie Lowery. I don’t have any Pentex and get my Malkavian justicar blocked. Then Stone backrushes me with 2 Tupdogs and I don’t have any vampires left. I am the ham in the sandwich (do you say that in English?). Gildas tries to get the best out of it but get blocked too often and Laurent starts making love to him by behind with Cock Robin and deep songs. (You like Cock robin’s songs, don’t you?). Fast, it appears that Gildas and I will dit first. At 3 players remaining, the table is very balanced. Laurent misses his killing spot on 2 delaying tactics on anarchist uprisings (Yoann had an underbridge stray to use, at worst, but it appears he did forget about it), then Pierre bleeds him to death. In the final dual, even with several Tupdogs stacked and released, it is very hard to determine a winner, and the clocks runs out first after two hours, with two remaining players

Yoann is « champion de France «  with 1,5vp , Stone getting also 1,5 and Laurent 1.

Yoann’s victory is in the French tradition of playing intercept during French championship. The Sunday might be the more defenseive tournament of the year: Owain Evans, Stick, Howler, or Carna are often among the stars of the day, but finally have seldom won at the end of the day. Justice is done with the Ahrimane’s victory and Yoann to win this year after a very good performance (3GWs) at French championship of Caen in 2009. For myself, I collected my 3rd French championship final in the last 5 years, which is pretty good too.

The end of the week-end taught me how to get by Paris with at least 60 kilos of luggages when the employees of the subway are not there, saw the French basketball team win, and the loss of Man United in the derby. That was too much for me, I was going back to Nice until next year.

I have many thanks, and they are in the right order, for once:
Guilhem for organizing and judging, eliminating himself from a chance to get the championship
The rest of the Parisian organization team
Rémi L who lodged me
Florian P, Pascal B and Antonio C  for their tactical and technical support
Dany G and Jérémie T to have given a high-spirited atmosphere all week-end long
François P for the efforts of the morning and the breakdeal after lunch
All people who stood me during games
All people who stood me out of games
Other people
The Earth
The universe

But not you, you recognize yourself, yes !

Free of tax, here is Yoann's decklist

1 Aiyana, The Wolfcatcher
1 Darlene Killian
2 Effie Lowery
2 Gentha Shale 
3 Muricia
2 Sahana
1 Stick 3-cap 

5 Blood Doll
1 Direct Intervention
1 Erciyes Fragments, The
1 Pentex(TM) Subversion
1 Powerbase: Montreal
1 Rack, The
1 Smiling Jack, The Anarch
4 Wash 
1 Abbot
7 Deep Song
2 Enchant Kindred
2 Legal Manipulations
4 Vulture's Buffet 
1 Sniper Rifle
1 Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
4 Underbridge Stray
1 Mr. Winthrop
5 Raven Spy
1 Aire of Elation
1 Squirrel Balance
3 Cats' Guidance
2 Delaying Tactics
1 Falcon's Eye
1 Forced Awakening
2 On the Qui Vive
7 Speak with Spirits
8 Aid from Bats 
2 Canine Horde
10 Carrion Crows
1 Target Vitals
3 Taste of Vitae
5 Swiftness of the Stag