Monday, August 22, 2005

NAC Day Two report

As seen on the newsgroup - there is, I am sorry to report, no new information here if you've already read it there. :-)

Hi there everybody! As you might have heard by now I got to play four games on Saturday, on account of winning one of them (and having good tiebreakers from the other two - 3 VPs in round 3, 2 VPs (no GW, went 2/2/1) in round 2, 1 VP in round 1 - almost magical, huh?) to go into the finals as third seed. Here's my short story of the day's VTES. (Warning: story may not actually be short.)

So we came to the Ultimate North American Championship VTES Tournament of 2005 on Saturday morning after having taken it relatively easy the night before... just playing the NAC Day One from noon till sixish, going out for dinner, playing a couple single-booster "Duffin Drafts" at the Hyatt, and then a couple constructed games, getting back to the hotel room at, what, maybe 2 am, working on decks for an hour or two... I'm sure we must have been asleep by like 4 or 5 am the latest. So you know, get up at 9:30, get some breakfast, shower, make some last minute deck tweaks (dropped one Perfectionist and one Majesty, myself, for a Jake Washington and a Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)), and stroll on over to the convention center with a brief stop on the way for another Giant Iced Coffee (tm)... good times.

The deck I was playing came out of an idea I had for trying to "abuse" (or maybe just "use") Disengage - the concept was to play with, like, twenty Majesties, a smattering of Disengages, and thus be mostly guaranteed of being able to end combat and untap whenever I might happen to get blocked (or rushed). It was appealing to me that it seemed a more elegant solution to combat defense + untap than trying to manage the card-flow of the classic Freak Drive/Majesty/Fortitude prevention in a traditional Ventrue Law Firm deck, along with the slight advantage in being able to use smaller-capacity vampires. As it turned out, though, Matt Morgan convinced me that it would make the deck better for a Continental Championship tournament if I dropped the Disengages entirely, because it seemed rather unlikely that I would have to play as predator or prey of an Immortal Grapple deck more than one time in the three rounds, and the rest of the time, those card slots would be much better devoted to improving the offense of the deck (which was, I must now admit, somewhat low on KRCs and Parity Shifts when it still had the 7 Disengage in). Props to Matt for giving me very solid deck advice for both days of the NAC. :-) (He had also had some good ideas for the dirty dirty Lasombra stealth-vote-bleed I played on Friday's NAC Day 1.)

My first round table was like this:

Shane Schneider, !Toreador vote-bleed (?)
Christian Herro, Tzimisce toolbox
Nick Smith, Giovanni Shambling Hordes/bleed
Wayne Chin, Giovanni bleed/fight/toolbox (?)
Josh Duffin, Presence vote/bleed Majesty-abuse (group 1+2)

Here we not only had two people that I play with pretty regularly, but one of them was sharing my hotel room and I had just the previous night helped him make his deck... (That would be Christian, with about ten Wakes, a fair amount of intercept, and the Ivory Bow...) At least he wasn't my starting prey, heh.

So this game started out with Shane getting Remilliard, Devout Crusader, and then Lachlan, Noddist, while I got, mmm, I think it was Gideon Fontaine, Timothy Crowley, and uh, Sela? Meanwhile Christian got Sascha Vykos (advanced) and Corine Marcón, Nick got Rudolfo Giovanni and then Isabel, a couple Shambing Hordes, and Carlotta, Wayne got Nedal the Careless and Mario Giovanni, and then Marianna (!!). Shane tried an early Crusade, but I voted against it with Mr. Crowley and Xian voted against with Sascha, and Wayne's Mausoleum: Venice wasn't enough to get Lachlan and Remilliard into the appropriate city. So when I played Ventrue Headquarters a turn or two later, I had vote lock for at least one referendum per turn, I think - not for two though, usually, since Xian and Shane each had Archbishops, someone else usually had the Edge, and Wayne's Mausoleum was still worth one vote. Anyway, I voted and bled quite a bit of damage to Shane, Xian played NSA Trio to keep
everybody honest on the S:CE front (I didn't feel like I could take a turn off of acting to burn it until Xian was my prey, since Wayne had bled me for enough early on (and I'd influenced enough) that I was below 10 pool most of the game), Xian got Magic of the Smith for a Bowl of Convergence, equipped the Ivory Bow, and had a Raven Spy on Corine, but didn't bleed much early that I saw, or block Nick much early that I remember; Nick bled Wayne quite a bit since Wayne didn't really have intercept I don't think, and rushed him with Hordes some. Wayne's Marianna started costing Nick a pool a turn when she came into play, plus Xian had bled Nick some by then, so Nick was pretty low, and so was Shane. If I remember right, I got Shane down to 2 pool, then Nick played Fame on Marianna and torporized her, Wayne bled me once or twice, and I think I Deflected one, making Shane tap one of his guys, then on my turn I used From a Sinking Ship to convince his freshly influenced Jost Werner to get off that boat before it went down and join my team, tried a Parity Shift that would have stolen pool from Xian (my about-to-be-prey) except that he saw that coming and Eagle's Sighted it, sending, hmm, probably Timothy Crowley to torpor with Ivory Bow (stupid NSA Trio, heh), then got a Kine Resources Contested through to do 1 to Shane and 3 to Xian, ousting Shane with Fame on his untap phase. Xian bled Nick some more, I think, then Nick ousted Wayne either that turn or right afterwards. Sadly for me, even after I burned NSA Trio by not taking any actions for a turn, the Hordes rushed me and Xian blocked all my rescue attempts (even with my ill-gotten Jost!), so Nick ousted me too. Xian had played Fame on one of Nick's vampires, then Nick contested Fame on one of my vamps (possibly a fresh Walter Nash? or maybe it was Sela?), then yielded Fame on his next turn due to being too low on pool, then ousted me, I think. If I remember right the game timed out like that, though it's possible it did finish before time, it's a bit blurry now.

So, VPs: Nick 2.5, Wayne 0, Josh 1, Shane 0, Xian 0.5 (?)

Round two was another interesting one for me:

Josh Duffin, still Presence vote/bleed
Jonathan Scherer, Euro-Brujah fight/2nd Tradition/etc
Stefan Ferenci, Celerity guns rush combat
Alex Harmon, big Presence princes
David Tatu, Kanimana + Iliana pro/dom/? weirdness

David was clearly playing the most unconventional deck at the table - I don't know exactly what it was intended to do, since he never managed to pull off whatever tricks might have been going on, but he played one Gehenna card (Torpid Blood), took at least two Research actions with Kanimana, played a bit of stealth, KRCG News Radio, at least a few combat cards (Flesh of Marble I think? and Form of Mist?), and maybe even a Bum's Rush? And he definitely looked like he might have Claws, but I don't think he ever actually played any.

Meanwhile, Alex and I were both playing vote decks, but Jonathan got Constanza Vinti first and then Anvil and then Volker, giving him another five table votes and a good number of Second Traditions to keep me from actually getting my votes to referendum in the first place, plus a fair pile of Celerity and Potence combat with Immortal Grapples to (mostly) keep me from Majestying away. Stefan got Parmenides, who Jonathan very considerately didn't do anything nasty with on the borrowed turn, as Stefan and Jonathan didn't end up wanting to fight much anyway - Stefan was concerned with trying to hurt Alex without making Alex want to Parity Shift backwards to punish him, while Jonathan spent pretty much the whole game leaving at least one or two vampires untapped to block possible bleeds (or Deflect them, which happened a couple times). Alex got Anson, then hmm, I think it was either Walter Nash or Rake?, and definitely Klaus van der Veken. Alex threatened to Parity Shift Stefan when Stefan had rushed him once or twice, so Stefan agreed to not rush for two turns in exchange for not getting Shifted, and David got Shifted (or is that Shafted?) instead (Stefan could still bleed, by the deal's terms).

The game seemed kind of wheel-spinning for quite a while, as I couldn't really call votes unless I had run both Jonathan and David out of intercept (well, David might have skipped blocking if he were expecting to take just the 1 end of a KRC, but I think Alex was requiring 2/2 to let me pass the votes at this point), Jonathan couldn't do much of anything, and Stefan would be running a pretty big risk of back-ousting if he did anything too drastic (he didn't seem to draw many Psyches this game so wasn't able to just blow Alex's vamps out of the picture). David pretty much also had to do nothing but block the occasional vote of Alex's and gain pool with Blood Doll or something, and sometimes bleed me for 1, although I think he got a bleed of 4 through one time when I was tapped out with no Deflections. As time started running low there was some discussion of maybe withdrawing for the extra half-VPs, but we kept going with at least sort of trying to oust people, and I was lucky enough to survive two rushes from Jonathan by double-using my Erciyes Fragments to have Mariana Gilbert (yay otherwise-useless Celerity!) block, Flash to long with one of Jonathan's ash-heap Flashes, Majesty to untap, block again, and Pursuit to long. If I remember right, that was the turn that left Jonathan tapped out on about 4 pool, and on my next turn, I suggested to Alex that if he would vote for my first KRC doing 3 to Jonathan and 1 to David (letting me oust Jonathan with a bleed of 1), I would call any more KRCs I could get through unblocked as 3 to David, 1 to Stefan, until David was ousted (at which point the three remaining players would fight it out as normal). Standard evil cross-table-vote-deck alliance, basically. I think this happened with around 20 minutes left, Alex agreed after some not-incredibly-lengthy arguments on all four sides (heh), and it turned out that David wasn't able to block too much that turn, so I think there were two unblocked KRCs immediately, ousting Jonathan and reducing David to somewhere below 10 pool (can't remember exactly how much), then Stefan and Alex had turns, where not terribly much happened that I can recall, David took a turn and probably stayed untapped, and I tried for a few more KRCs (one might have been with Charming Lobby which kept the actual KRC in my hand when blocked? or that might have been the turn before), one or two of which sufficed to oust David. After that time was running pretty low, so I think we might have gone one more turn around the table trying to earn a game win, and then Stefan, Alex, and I agreed to withdraw, burning through our libraries pretty quickly (at least, two of us did, Alex had the biggest library so was going to sit and wait to be the "last player standing" when Stefan and I withdrew - a lesson about withdrawing in tournaments I learned the previous day when in round 3 my table TRIED to withdraw as time ran out, but failed because we didn't have quite enough time to actually discard through all our libraries)... then Alex realized and pointed out that we had forgotten about his Famous vampire in torpor (Stefan had managed to finally do this to a Progeny, I think, pretty recently). DOH! We had to call the legendary Mr. L. Scott Johnson over to help us resolve this error - Stefan would have rescued the torporized vampire right before starting the withdrawal attempts, then we would have allowed it to hunt, if we had been paying attention, so we "rewound" to that point and went on properly. How embarrassing. :-)

VP results: Josh 2, Jonathan 0, Stefan 1, Alex 2, David 0.

Third round was kind of wacky from my perspective...

Ben Peal, Mata Hari War Ghouls with burn-option cards
Josh Duffin, the usual
Martin Laganière, some kind of Baali + Anson deck
Scott Gomes, Potence/Dominate bleed/fight
Tobin Lopes, Fatime al-Faqadi & friends block/fight/bleed (?)

Martin got out Sargon for his first vampire when I got um... first turn Gideon? I don't think so, ah yes, now I remember, it was second turn Jazz Wentworth for me, just ahead of his Sargon. Meanwhile Scott got, hmm, Cameron, Tobin went for second-turn Fatima, Ben got Piotr Andreikov, and then Mata Hari, and Ana Rita Montaña, and much later Krid, I got, um, I think Timothy Crowley, and Sela, and the Ventrue Headquarters. Surprisingly (to me) Martin got Anson as his second vampire and Minion Tap/Golcondaed him the next turn to (re)gain 16 and be above 20 again (after I'd hit him for maybe 3 or 6 in KRCs and bleeds, I'd guess), but that just let me Parity Shift him once, then he got Huitzilopochtli and was back to not being terribly high in pool. Ben didn't draw a War Ghoul or an intercept permanent for a while, bled me for 1 a bit and tooled up some, put Chanjelin Ward and then Secure Haven on Mata Hari to make sure Tobin didn't nail her (after he omitted nailing her the first turn or two), and burn-optioned a bunch of Riddle Phantastique and D'habi Revenants. Martin Majestied several times when I attempted to bleed him (knowing that I had bleed modifiers), but I was Majestying too (most of the time, I did save some for the expected War Ghouls) and called votes damaging him some and Scott a little bit (or was I hitting Ben? I don't think so - Ben was pretty low on pool the whole time Tobin was in the game). Scott tried to bleed Tobin some but Tobin seemed to have an unending supply of Forced Awakenings for Fatima, who didn't get a gun (.44 Magnum) until quite late in the game, but did Blood Sweat and Taste of Death people some. Tobin also got Abd al-Rashid and like three Web of Knives Recruits, but wasn't able to do much to Ben - I think he bled for 1 a little bit before Ben got a War Ghoul, but that first War Ghoul stayed untapped quite a while keeping Tobin from bleeding. Basically, I was lucky here that neither of my neighbors had any intercept or substantial opposing votes (Mata Hari's 2 weren't doing it) for a long time - I killed Martin pretty quickly, then killed Scott in another couple turns (Martin hadn't done much to him that I can recall, but he had bought quite a few vampires looking to be able to go forward). Then I ran into the Fatima problem, as she still had a lot of Forceds and a Sport Bike. I had to shift to pretty much just bleeding for offense at this point, since Ben had gotten KRCG and then The Unmasking, so I needed to avoid being blockable by two people calling votes... but Tobin did eventually run out of Forceds and I was able to get a couple bleeds through (I had also been influencing out more vampires throughout here, getting Violette Prentiss and Sir Walter Nash, I think, as the Voter Captivations were paying off well and I had an Uptown Hunting Ground too) to oust him.

At this point time was running fairly low (there was at least half an hour left though) and Ben and I seemed kind of evenly matched - he had two War Ghouls (at least one had gotten killed by Blood Sweat and my Catatonic Fears) and like four vampires, but I had five or six vampires and still had library cards to draw Majesties, and he needed to keep multiple minions untapped to be able to block votes. Neither of us really lost any pool for quite a while, I played the Coven and gained from that and Hunting Ground, while Ben gained from just Coven and maybe hunting. But neither of us could hold the Edge so much either, since I could try to block any of his vampires bleeding without much fear, and Piotr and Krid had to hunt pretty frequently if they got blocked (he did have stealth for Krid and Mata Hari though). Then I ran out of library as time was running down, Ben played Dragonbound and was able to get two and then three of my vampires in torpor (though I was staying fairly even with that due to Blood Dolls + Coven + Hunting Ground for a while), and I misplayed my Entrancements (I played the first one in a momentary lapse of remembering his KRCG News Radio, having run out all but that one of his intercept permanents, and then the second one got Direct Interventioned). I might have made it to time (it was less than 10 minutes left) but maybe not, as I was finally out of Majesties and about to start losing more and more vampires to torpor/Dragonbound, since Ben would be able to block my rescue attempts. So having the game win already, I conceded the last two VPs to Ben.

Resulting VPs: Ben 2, Josh 3, Martin 0, Scott 0, Tobin 0.

At this point I wasn't expecting to be in the finals at all, since I figured there would be at least a few people with two game wins and then a few more with one GW and a lot of VPs. Apparently I was wrong... I turned out, when the round ended, to be third seed going into the finals, ahead (on tournament-point tiebreakers) of two other people with 1 GW and 6 VPs (those would be Stefan Ferenci and Jared Strait, I don't know who was 4th and who was 5th). I was behind Ben Swainbank, second seed with, I suppose, more than 6 VPs, though I don't know for sure, and Peter Charnley, who was apparently the only person with 2 GWs on the day.

Seating went like this from my view:

Jared and Stefan were predator and prey
I inserted on the Stefan -> Josh -> Jared side
Ben put himself in to make it Ben -> Stefan -> Josh -> Jared
Peter put himself in to make it Ben -> Stefan -> Peter -> Josh -> Jared

My thinking here, such as it was, was that Stefan was the only person whose deck I had seen that day, and given the limited Psyches he had shown at the time, I thought he would make a better predator than prey (since as prey he would probably leave vamps untapped to block bleeds). Better the devil I knew than the one I didn't, or something. It was later pointed out to me that it might have been smarter to pick Stefan as prey, since if he couldn't nail my vamps by rushing them, he would be pretty defenseless against my main offense. My foresight wasn't up to thinking that cleverly, though. :-)

I don't know if Ben or Peter had seen any of the other finalists' decks - I think Peter mentioned something at some point about knowing Jared had plenty of votes to call, but then again, it might have been Stefan that mentioned that, heh.

It was randomly determined that Ben went first (after Scott managed to roll about four 6s in a row on his lucky die). This was when I discovered that the decks were...

Ben Swainbank, Giovanni bleed/block/allies?
Stefan Ferenci, Celerity guns rush
Peter Charnley, Arika & friends Freaky vote/bleed w/stealth
Josh Duffin, still the same Presence vote/bleed
Jared Strait, group 1+2 Princes with some Obf/Pot/Ani

Oops. I was sitting between two other vote decks. Bad news there. Worse news was that Arika was Peter's first vampire, so I discarded my opening-hand Ventrue Headquarters, thinking I wouldn't be able to afford to pay a pool a turn for it for the entire game. That was probably sloppy thinking since I could have held it in hopes of Arika eventually getting torporized, or in hopes of being able to pass one important Parity Shift with it, etc. But it looked to me like the most useless card in my hand at the time.

I could try to do a play-by-play recap of the game, but my memory is probably not accurate enough to get it all right, so I'll leave that to the videotape and just relate some key points and anecdotes...

Ben got Gloria Giovanni on his second turn, Ambrosius the Ferryman, WMRH and Channel 10 pretty early, and Le Dinh Tho and Andrea Giovanni not too far in. Stefan got Jesús Alcalá on his first turn, later adding Scarlet Carson O'Toole, maybe Carter?, and Jimmy Dunn I think. Peter played first-turn Zillah's Valley for second-turn Arika and followed up with Ranjan Rishi. I got first-turn Gideon Fontaine and third-turn Timothy Crowley I think (and Walter Nash if I remember right). Jared got Selma the Repugnant first, then Fourth Traditioned for Murat, Rake, and Volker. Eeesh! Though I was kind of glad I hadn't drawn Rake myself, since that would have given Ranjan +1 bleed against me.

I was pretty useless vote-wise in the early game, since my prey had 6 standing votes by the time I had 4, and my predator had 4 before I even had 2. I might have gotten a couple bleeds through, but Jared seemed to have enough Second Traditions to block almost anything scary I might try. Meanwhile, Stefan slapped a Haven on Arika pretty early and rushed her with a CEL minion with a Concealed .44, but Peter had Majesty plus three Rolling with the Punches straight (!) to keep her from losing too much blood before she burned the Haven. I don't think Ben bled Stefan much at this point, maybe for 1 to 3 a few times, but Stefan probably still had over ten pool, while Peter was also in the 10-15 range - he drew Minion Taps a few times but only Tapped for 3 at a time, presumably not wanting to make it too easy to torporize his vampires. Jared seemed to have spent almost nothing on vampires with those Fourth Traditions he'd played - he probably had about 15-20 pool. Ben was OK on pool in the early game, but he kept steadily losing pool to Jared's KRCs (with Forgotten Labyrinths most times he tried a block).

Somewhere in here, Stefan found a Fame for Arika and managed to dunk her with a run of maybe three Psyches and/or presses/additionals. Unfortunately, he didn't follow it up with diablerie, and I didn't think to suggest that he do so - Peter was down to about 6 pool and it looked like the Fame was likely to get him ousted. But Peter had the crucial Giant's Blood in hand, played it on his turn, and she escaped torpor immediately. Peter turned out to be hardly slowed down here, with his Freak Drives and bleeds and votes and stealth (he didn't show much vote push - just a couple Awes - or any reactions that I can recall, though). In hindsight, Stefan would have had a much better shot at a VP if he had diablerized when he had the chance. (It also would have been good for me, of course, since I would have been relatively predator-free for at least a turn or two...)

With Arika back out, Peter called a Protect Thine Own against Stefan's Scarlet (who had both Stefan's only Blood Doll and one of his two guns), which passed with Jared's support, so Stefan was pretty weak after that. He got a couple more rush cards and I think played them against Ben to try to stay alive, but Ben was able to block with Ambrosius most of the time. Then, on the bleed with Conditioning that would have ousted Stefan, Jared played Direct Intervention, leaving Stefan alive with 4 pool, but Jared's Camarilla Segregation was going to make him burn 1 (or a vampire) - that was hitting both Ben and Stefan, but not Peter, me, or Jared, of course. Ben was low on pool himself and seemed likely to be ousted on Jared's next turn (barring unprecedented success at blocking Jared's KRCs), so, seeing himself as being kept alive only to score Jared a second VP in a single turn, Stefan instead burned the Segregation *and* a pool and transferred his remaining couple pool to oust himself to Ben instead. Jared was understandably unhappy about that, but to me it did seem reasonable for Stefan to think he had no chance of getting more VPs before Jared rolled through Ben and him.

The 6 pool from Stefan's oust kept Ben a viable player a little longer. I got Carlton van Wyk and blocked a few of Peter's bleeds and votes (though definitely not all of them, since Peter did have +2 or +3 stealth modifiers with some regularity, or Cloaks for votes). That was probably around the time that Peter got Victorine Lafourcade (having gained probably a decent amount with Minion Taps and Voter Captivations by now) - which contested Rake's Prince of Atlanta title. I don't even know how long it's been since I saw that happen in a tournament. :-) Jared and Peter contested that title for a couple turns, then made an agreement to help each other oust their preys (Ben and me, respectively) and fight it out at the end, and Jared yielded the title. (He probably didn't really need to do that, since they had collective vote control anyway, and it would have been far better for him in the endgame if he had kept the title, and he had more ability to hunt or Blood Doll on to do so than Peter did...)

Ben was ousted when he and I were unable to block one of Jared's KRCs even with Carlton and Ben's media locations. I was ousted no more than two turns later - it might have been the same time around the table - when Arika bled me for 5 at 2 stealth. That was my second significant misplay of the game, I think (counting not getting Arika diablerized as the first): I actually had two Deflections in hand at the time, and even though Walter Nash only had 1 blood, I should have left him untapped instead of going for the Erciyes Fragment (a rather significant factor in the game itself, I probably should have mentioned it earlier, heh) and leaving Gideon Fontaine untapped. I still might have gotten ousted (if Peter had gotten to use the Erciyes Fragment he could have called one of my KRCs) but I would at least have had a better shot at another turn or so. Overall, really, I probably should have played total defense in the three-player game, but I'm not sure it would have helped enough, considering that I just didn't have that much defense available against stealthy Arika (there were only four Deflections in my deck, and no defense against being outvoted at all).

After I was ousted, Jared had minion advantage (6 to 3, counting his two Progenies), but Peter had some vote advantage (9 to 6 standing, counting the Ventrue Headquarters), and Arika's +2 bleed and stealth probably about made up for Jared's +3 vampires. It did look like Peter was likely to oust Jared in the next turn or two when time was called, but since he was top seed going into the finals, he was the winner regardless.

Final VPs: 1.5 Peter (first place), 0 Josh (fourth), 1.5 Jared (second), 1 Ben (third), 0 Stefan (fifth).

We got all kinds of cool swag from White Wolf, including uncut card sheets (I got a 10th Anniversary set sheet, there was also a KMW rares sheet, Anathema starter deck sheet, Sabbat War rares sheet, and ... a KMW printing plate that Peter got! The actual aluminum plate they used to print the cards - very cool), booster packs, a Mage Zippo (I guess they didn't make Vampire lighters?), a Vampire: The Masquerade vanity license plate (ha!), and some Werewolf stick-on tattoos (ha ha!).

Thanks to White Wolf, Scott, Oscar, Steve, Stewart, and everyone else for running a great set of tournaments. And thanks to all the cool folks I played games with over the Week of Nightmares - great fun, all of you.

Next year in Atlanta!


out like a lighter with no butane


Blogger Xian said...

I like how you switch back and forth between my name and my nick. Heh.

Stupid building a deck the night before and not knowing how to play it right during NAC Day 2. Ah well, at least my ruining your first game didn't keep you out of the finals.

I recall that my thinking about that first game was: "Well, Nick is going to lose a lot of blood off of his vampires, and he's going to do a lot of my work for me, so I shouldn't give him excuses to rush me with the Hordes." It almost worked out, as I had him at 2 pool for a long time, and 1 pool at the start of a couple of turns. Sadly, he managed to survive (I bet that ousting Wayne helped with that). Most of my bleed cards didn't show up in that game, so I was pretty ineffective. Maybe another minion would have helped, but I recall that I lost too much pool to a few KRCs.

Interestingly, in my round 3 game, virtually all of my bleed cards showed up right away, meaning that I convinced Robin (my prey) early on that I was a really bleedy deck.

2:03 AM  

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