Deck Building

Building a deck in any CCG is a hard thing to master, and can be one of the biggest hurdles in feeling comfortable with the game.  It's even worse with Vampire.

This is an overview of how I build a deck.  There are many ways to do it, but this one is mine.

Please do not assume that I am suggesting that this is the only, or even the best, way to build a deck.  Talk to five VTES players and you'll hear seven ways to build a deck, and they're all valid.  This is nothing more than an explanation of how I do it, in the hopes that it might be helpful for you to see one approach, which may work for you, or may not, or may just spark a few ideas.  As always, don't be afraid to experiment.

I normally build my decks with Anarch Revolt deck builder software, which helps to give you quick stats on your discipline spread and ratios, as well as keeping track of everything for you.  It does make things easier.

Step 1 - Concept

What is the deck going to do, and what resources is it going to use to do that?  This could be as straightforward as 'Ventrue voters' all the way to 'mixed-clan Auspex heavy intercept and bounce with Smiling Jack'.

The big thing to decide at this step is, What is the mechanism I am going to use to oust my prey?  Ideally you'll have a plan A and a plan B, but very focused decks will just throw everything into plan A and damn the torpedoes.

Step 2 - Crypt (First Pass)

Review the vampires in the clan and/or discipline combinations you're looking for.  Pick which group best supports your plan.  Pull out a dozen vampires -- they don't need to be perfect, you'll review them again later on.

Usually, as I'm doing this, I'll assign roles to the disciplines I'm using.  I'll try to get a balance of guys who are strong in that discipline, and who ideally have special abilities that support the
role I plan for it.  This naturally starts to orient my crypt into 'ousters' and 'defense' (that is, guys who carry out plan A, and guys who protect you and the guys doing plan A).

For example, I might decide my Ventrue deck will use Dom for bounce and block denial, Pre for vote push and some combat escape, and For for combat.  It's not a fighty deck so it'll have more Dom and Pre than For.  Consequently, ideally, I'll have guys with PRE dom and titles to vote, a few smaller guys with DOM to bounce, and a mixture of for and FOR throughout, where possible. This helps me get a good ratio of guys useful in different roles in my crypt, and is already giving me ideas about what I need from my discipline-requiring minion cards.

Consider if there are any out-of-clan vampires who would be good support guys in this crypt.

If I'm building a multi-clan crypt, I probably won't build a complete crypt at this stage, but I'll have at least half the vampires picked out.

Step 3 - Masters (First Pass)

Pick out a half dozen or so masters that you know you're going to want (blood dolls, hunting grounds, in-clan masters that you'll obviously want like Ventrue Headquarters).

Step 4 - Discipline Requiring Minion Cards

Based on the roles you composed in step 2, pull out your discipline-requiring minion cards.  Keep them in separate piles because you'll need to adjust how many you're taking as you go.  I try
to aim for about 18 +/- 3 of each if I'm playing three disciplines equally, or ~22-24 of the strong ones and correspondingly less of the weaker third if the third is just a splash.

Pick cards based on the roles you chose.  In the Ventrue example, your PRE is just for voting and a bit of combat escape, so throw in a few Majesty and then go wild on vote push, Awe, Voter Cap, etc.  Don't worry about PRE bleeding because that's not what we're here for.  Some utility cards from outside of that discipline are okay (Enchant Kindred, say) but try to stay on message.

If a deck has a non-discipline card type which is very important to it, you may want to treat it like a discipline and do it in this step.  An example would be a Camarilla Princes deck, which has lots of Tradition cards.

Depending on what you're doing, the focus of disciplines may overlap.  A combat deck may devote a chunk of each discipline to combat cards.  Be careful that the ratios of the cards between disciplines lines roughly up with the availability of disciplines between vampires.

Step 5 - Disciplineless Minion Cards, Retainers, Allies, Equipment, Events, Votes

By this point I have a plan that I can execute.  When I'm doing this step, I'm thinking about two things: 1. What can I do to help the plan?  and 2. What can I do to mitigate my weaknesses?

For Disciplineless cards, I'll normally put in a Wake package (unless I really couldn't use one) and then start looking at reactions, action modifiers and combat cards that can help close holes.

For Retainers and Allies I'll be looking for things to help the plan, mostly.  Do I need bleed boost, intercept, combat?

For Equipment, I'm doing both.  If I'm combat-light, a few .44s always go over well.  If I'm getting weapons I need to think about what sort of combat package I have.  Can I use guns, or should I use melee weapons, or are weapons just a waste?

For vote decks I usually leave room for about 16 vote cards.  A lot of this should be damaging votes but also include utility cards to derail other people's plans.

Step 6 - Masters (Final Pass)

You should have between 10 and 18 master cards, with an average around 13 or 14.  If your deck is going to cycle fast (long chain combat, for example) you need fewer Masters because you'll see them more often. If your deck doesn't go through cards quickly, put in more masters.

At this point I'm usually pretty confident that my deck can do what it needs to do, so I'll put in more defensive masters than offensive. What holes does my deck still have?  Bloat, vote defense, whatever -- pick masters that will help close the gaps.

Step 7 - Crypt (Final Pass)

Review the crypt.  Make sure that the discipline spread and abilities you chose still work well with the deck you've built.  Make sure that the capacity curve is optimal.  You'll typically adjust it a bit at this point to increase synergy with the deck you'll be playing, but it's possible you got it right the first time.