VEKN Brujah Newsletter May 2001

Introduction:

Welcome to the May issue of the Brujah newsletter, a little bit more
on time than the previous ones. In this issue the strategy section
offers advice for all types of decks, while the Deck Of The Month is,
as promised and at last, a little on the bizarre side. Still it shows
some of the points I want to make in the strategy section, and its
main angle is something not common, but still not unusual in
tournaments. So read it, try it or at least take away some useful
information.
Four newsletters have passed already, still I'm sorry that I can't
give you too much feedback on the decks I introduced so far. At the
end of the day I will never muster Xian's determination and just play
Brujah decks (although I should, as my latest non-Brujah creations all
sucked apart from a decent Ravnos thingy I made to get ready for Final
Nights - first time ever I played this clan), which basically means
that the March rush affair has not been played since I published it.
Last month's frisbee deck I took apart just the other day as a
pre-emptive measure against the anticipated shift in the meta game.
For what it's worth it still stands (almost) undefeated, sweeping all
but one table so far. The local meta game looks favorable for pure
rush now, so probably next month I can give you some live experience
from the March ranting at last. I played February's Euro-Brujah in a
slightly modified form lately, and it fared reasonably well (one
defeat due to the most horrible crypt and library draw ever, one sweep
on a four player table).  Also please check the SydCon Winning Deck by
Chris Arthur which is similar to the one I posted. Good job, Chris!

Fiction:

"Awful weather, this. What with global warning, err? May approaching
and still snow. 'Tis crap, I say."
"Sure thing, lad. Shit hole this, as well, end-of-the-world type of
stuff. Nothing to wet the throat as well."
"Aye, just ice, no booze. What does the big-shot spaghetti want here
anyway?"
"Meet with the bums. Well, bird over there on the boat looks cute
though..."
I shoot them a warning glance, and they fall silent. Jimmy 'Fingers'
Macintosh and Aaron 'Ace' Aswell, who is apparently so dumb that he
needs to repeat his name in every second sentence. Two tall bikers
from the Cold Dawn, Inverness-shire branch, shuffling their booted
feet uncomfortably on the bleak pier. Too much water everywhere for my
taste, the woolen suit the Don made me wear is soaked and
uncomfortable. I rest my back against the black Rover I drove up here
from Glasgow, every single mile longing for some honest punk rock. I
mean, Joey Ramone just died, and man: That calls for some respect. The
Don wouldn't have any of it, of course, instead we were listening to
Verdi for hours: crooning bitches, strings Burt Bacharach would drown
in, pompous Ben Hur-type orchestral affair. So much for my promotion
after the Munich "success". I light a Gauloise and look over to the
rusty fisher boat. The Pride Of Uig, I presume... The guys are right,
this place is remote. The Isle Of Skye lies behind us, ahead the black
and cold Atlantic ocean. The bearded guy the Don came over to meet
must be one of The Wylde Ones, and an Olde One. Crazy tongue he
speaks, could hardly understand anything he grumbled when the Don,
exquisitely dressed as always, greeted him with exaggerated
friendliness. Well, there is someone here I would understand, but we
never exchanged as much as a nod of the head. Kallista and a moronic
native american fellow named Bear Paw form Olde One's escort. She
looks worn out, thick make-up on a pale face, the familiar
pret-a-porter dress hanging loosely around her haggard frame. No rest
for the wicked, I presume. With a sad smile a squash the cigarette but
under my heel.

I'm whistling 'Kids In America' for no apparent reason while scanning
the deserted waterfront of Uig for suspicious movements when Fingers
catches my attention with a polite cough. Mr. Winthrop, who looks like
Caine's school buddy but is actually mortal, about 100  years old and
the Don's factotum,  feebly waves in my general direction. I suspect
that my humble presence is required inside the venerable hulk and make
my way to the plank. "Guess you kids are now in charge. You take care
that nobody creeps around. If you fail, you will be dead AS WELL", I
command with a wry grin to Ace before I slowly descend the slippery
gangway. "Yes, Captain", comes the satisfying reply. A quick glance
into the cabin shows me that everything inside seems to be fine: the
Don and the Olde One smiling, tumblers in hand. A venerable looking
bottle of Scotch dominates the table between them. The Olde One's
lustrous eyes rest on Kallista, who desperately tries to become
invisible as I enter the cabin. The Don clears his throat.

"Mind if I take some", I ask, but nobody reacts. So I help myself to a
good shot of the amber liquid and concentrate on the screen. Funny
that the Don always carries his fancy Getaway laptop but doesn't have
a clue about how to use it... He hands me a floppy with a phletoria of
"undisclosed recipients", then I unleash a storm of spam. "DONATE
BLOOD AND WIN 100K!!!" - a clever move, I think, involuntarily envying
the Don. Who of Caine's children would donate blood? But then again
who would resist a Hunting Ground like this? No hassle, tons of Vitae.
"Click here for more information", and pronto, you have Black Cruezade
(tm) installed on your machine. The rest is handled by our server farm
back down in NYC. It will open a non-traceable connection to every
infected computer and communicate an "irresistible offer" - which
apparently will not involve graphic demonstrations of power
incorporating huge amounts of heavy iron. I feel like the pawn I am in
this big game and wonder when someone is going to spend this much of,
well, anything to make me happy.

Strategy:

The Master Question: How many I should have?

After the recent discussions on the newsgroup the question about the
appropriate number of Master Cards in any deck is still unresolved, it
seems. And rightly so, I would like to add, as I think it really
depends on what you want to achieve. Still, many decks I see err on
the excessive side of Masters.
To me Master Cards roughly fall into three categories:
Deck management: Cards hat help you to manage your pool, blood on
minions, library size and card flow (for example Fragment, Dreams,
Elder Library, ToR3, Info Highway, Minion Tap, Ascendance)
Strategy enhancers: Cards that give you stuff like extra bleed,
stealth,rush, intercept or votes (Rumor Mill, Haven Uncovered, Ventrue
Headquarter, The Labyrinth etc.)
Active strategies: Cards that form the backbone of a distinct strategy
(stuff like Hostile Takeover, ToGP, Betrayer, Madness Network in case
of OOT combat)
Only the first category I implement in every deck, but then the whole
discussion about how many Masters is moot - you never need close to 20
percent in your library of these. I do not expect to play a Master
Card every turn, nor to hand jam on them any time. Actually the last
effect is something I try to avoid altogether, for obvious reason. If
your main strategy doesn't rely on Master Cards, you should be fine
with about 12  in a 90 card deck. I normally take some Blood Dolls, a
Dreams Of The Sphinx, maybe Minion Tap if I use huge minions, and than
a little extra from the second category. It would be stupid not to use
Masters to enhance your strategic options, be it casual intercept
(News Radio), extra rush (Haven Uncovered), more votes (Legendary
Vampire) etc. But when thinking about these cards, keep in mind that
you can only play one Master per turn (normally that is) and the
average game rarely goes beyond 12 turns. Which is to say: If you
really need intercept, take transient cards or retainers/Sport Bikes,
if you really need rush, use Bum's Rush/Ambush, if you really need
votes, use Bewitching Oration... 
Of course the third category is different. There are strategies that
need Master Cards as a core element. Anarch Revolt decks are maybe the
best-known and most-feared type - if you want to construct one of
those, you want to play an Anarch Revolt every turn. So you include
many, plus the means to go around master card hand jam: The Parthenon,
but also Fragment or The Barrens. So there is no definite answer to
the question "How many should I use?" . As the whole process of deck
building it boils down to deciding what strategy you want to follow.
I'd say: Not more than you need. And never think along the lines of:
"I have a master phase, I have to use it." Nobody ever lost a game
because he refused to play a master card, but many have lost after the
card they really needed for their winning move didn't show up because
that second Hunting Ground they put in "just to make sure it comes
out" actually came instead.

The Big Vampire HOWTO (or a few ideas towards something like this)

A similar point as in the above Master Card discussion has to be made
about minions. A lot of huge capacity guys and gals look dead cool,
but coolness doesn't win games. Your minions of choice should be
bigger than they need to be to get the job done. This doesn't rule out
big vampires, but say in a rush deck that simply needs Potence and
maybe a hint of Celerity, everyone above 5 capacity is a waste of pool
(with obvious exceptions, Beast being a classic in rush decks because
of her inherent rush ability - these are general guidelines, not the
Ten Commandments...). On the other hand there are deck concepts that
need huge minions, be it bloat, politics relying on inherent votes or
special things as this month's deck. Which leads me to the points I
want to discuss:

How to get them going
Okay, my first advice is a personal preference, it can be done either
way. But if you don't need Don Cruez for the unlife of you first, and
you don't have a crypt full of biggies, I think it's better to bring
out a small minion first. You will play passively during the first few
turns, but some defense is better than none. Plus an early minion
means early actions or reactions, which means card cycling that should
improve your hand. 
Of course there are the so-called speed toys, namely Tomb Of Rameses
III (shouldn't that be "Ramses", LSJ? ;-) and Information Highway
(honorable mention is due to the always handy and versatile Dreams Of
The Sphinx). One of these played in the first round will give you (if
you don't start with one transfer) your Don in two turns. But there is
a drawback: All these cards take up master slots, and to guarantee one
in your opening hand you have to include redundancy. 

How to survive
Basically I want to repeat the advice from the last paragraph: You
need massive minions? Fine. But also include some smaller vampires as
they might give you the crucial extra generic actions (bleed, call a
vote) or reactions (which might be a suicidal block). Apart from that
there are some  things to keep in mind: You will spend a lot of pool
on minions, so get it back. Minion Tap is the card of choice in a big
minion deck. Bloat is the perfection of this, basically you need
Minion Tap and ways to refill (be it The 5th Tradition or stuff like
Voter Captivation) to get a decent bloat deck. Yet another
possibility, which comes back to my first advice and really depends on
what your strategy is: If you simply need one big guy, let there be
one and only one. A Lazverinus All Star deck needs Laz, period. While
having a crypt of twelve Lazverinus copies is a little extreme,
everybody else should be in a neglectable price range. One vampire
decks are definitely exotic, but still fun to play - I will post a
Brujah variant soon (well, as soon as everybody has recovered from
this month's exoticness). Still the lesson to learn is simple: Never
play big minions without reliable pool gain.

How to be competitive with them
Normally it's a very simple calculation: Two 5 capacity vampires can
take twice as many actions or block twice the number of actions than a
single 10 capacity monster. To offset this disadvantage you need to
use special card effects. That doesn't come down to superior
disciplines: Neither means superior as opposed to inferior twice the
effectiveness, nor do you need double the capacity to get the
necessary skills at superior. Other cards can make the difference
though. The 2nd Tradition (or more generally all Traditions) is maybe
the best example: Untap and block at +2 intercept for all Princes and
Justicars, so your fat boy can take an action and still be able to
block. Study all cards that offer advantages to certain vampires in
terms of multiple actions/reactions and try to incorporate them into
your strategy. Normal multiple action strategies are good for standard
decks, for huge minion decks they become essential most of the time.
Use Wakes and if possible Freak Drive to the utmost effect.
To put the point more generally: Make use of the specials big vampires
possess. Be it a title, a massive bonus to bleed or hand damage,
inherent stealth or an inherent rush action - these make those big
dudettes worthwhile, IF your strategy needs their special. Never rely
on the multitude of different skills. Although there are examples of
decks that rely on a strange discipline combo only found on a
particular minion, three things speak against using a minion only for
his disciplines. First: The more disciplines involved, the more
complicated and thus unlikely the combo is going to be pulled off.
Second: Skill cards can handle the problem without spending that much
pool. Third: If the combo depends on having one minion out, it becomes
very vulnerable. Not only to bad crypt draw, but also to decisive
action against this weakest part of your game - be it combat or stuff
like Banishment.


Vampire of the month:

Not surprisingly I give to you
Don Cruez, The Idealist: 10, ani CEL dom pro POT PRE, Brujah, Justicar
Brujah Justicar: Once each combat, Don Cruez may burn 1 blood to get
one maneuver.

As many huge minions the Don suffers from six discipline syndrome. A
classic Jyhad vampire, he's the Justicar of our clan and as all of his
colleagues (apart from Sheldon) the privilege to use him costs you 10
pool. For this big wad of cash you get all Brujah clan disciplines at
superior, three votes, a sometimes useful, if somewhat expensive
special and three extra disciplines. Two of these, Animalism and
Protean, are extra combat boosters, while Dominate can be seen (as
mentioned in the February issue while discussing Euro-Brujah) as the
fourth Brujah discipline - and a good one at that. While no deck will
ever use all six of his skills, the more you focus a deck on the Don,
the more you can toy with interesting combos. All in all a decent
vampire, although normally I need very strong reasons to include a 10
cap. vampire - bloat decks being one good use for him, this month's
deck... well, maybe also.  

Card of the month:

Temptation of Greater Power: Master, Justicar, 3 pool
Master. Requires ready Justicar. Choose a vampire. Any Methuselah may
bid pool for control of the vampire. Highest bidder burns pool and
takes control of the vampire. Methuselahs may be credited up to five
pool on the bid: highest bidder pays 1 pool toward his or her debt at
the end of each of his or her turns until debt is repaid.

(That's the ToGP abbreviation I used throughout the whole newsletter.)
The one original Jyhad card that took the V:tES community years to
break, it is now considered borderline broken. Legbiter first
introduced us to the power of this card, and his version of the ToGP
deck centered around the Nosferatu Justicar Sheldon is possibly the
best in terms of effectiveness and having a secondary strategy. What
does this card offer? Played against your prey it means either the
loss of a minion or the loss of pool when he has to "repay" her.
Against a weenie horde arguably not a trump card because of its high
cost, but in most cases it will bring the victim almost down on its
knees. Its use has to be augmented by a good pool gain strategy, be it
classic Minion Tap/5th Tradition or political power cards like Parity
Shift.

Deck:

The Don's irresistible offer
Strictly an alpha version, this month's deck features both Don Cruez
and Angus, Justicars of Clan Brujah and Gangrel respectively. They
share a good amount of disciplines, namely Animalism, Celerity,
Potence and Protean - pretty close to the ultimate combat ability.
Problem is: If you spend 10 pool for one of those characters, combat
is not really the way to win. Which not surprisingly leads us to ToGP.
So the basic idea is to use ToGP to put pressure on your prey and use
the minions to intercept and kill anything in reach. As massive bloat
and a smidgeon of politics is also recommendable to make a deck like
this work, it approaches toolboxiness quickly. The other vampires are
mainly auxiliary, I concentrated on Animalism because it is the most
versatile of the skills present. An extra prince for playing the
Traditions and some Presence are included as well. An unwieldy affair,
probably, but at least 50 percent Brujah, and always remember: The
real punch comes from the ToGP. So your first priority should be to
get out the Don or The Olde One. Let their irresistible offers do the
job for you... (And of course some vampires like Kallista are in there
due to story reasons and might be exchanged for suitable, preferably
weenie minions ;-)

Crypt: (12 cards) [Min: 11, Max: 40, Avg: 6,5]
1  Anastasia Grey                (ani pro, Gangrel, 3)
2  Angus the Unruled             (ANI cel for pot PRO, Gangrel, 10,
Justicar)
1  Bear Paw                      (ANI for pre pro, Gangrel, 5)
3  Don Cruez                     (ani CEL dom pro POT PRE, Brujah, 10,
Justicar)
1  Dre                           (cel pot, Brujah, 3)
1  Kallista                      (AUS CEL pre pro, Toreador, 6)
1  Rake                          (aus cel pot PRE, Brujah, 6, Prince)
1  Raziya Samater                (ani pot, Brujah, 3)
1  Vliam Andor                   (ani, Gangrel, 2)

Library: (80 cards)
Master (18 cards)
2  Information Highway
1  Legendary Vampire
5  Minion Tap
1  Parthenon, The
1  Presence
2  Protean
5  Temptation of Greater Power
1  Tomb of Rameses III

Minion (62 cards)
2  Army of Rats
2  Bewitching Oration
3  Blur
4  Bone Spur
3  Carrion Crows
3  Cats' Guidance
1  Distraction
4  Earth Control
5  Fifth Tradition: Hospitality, The
4  Flash
2  Flesh of Marble
3  Guard Dogs
1  Hand of Conrad
5  Immortal Grapple
4  Legal Manipulations
3  Parity Shift
1  Raven Spy
7  Second Tradition: Domain, The
1  Shadow of the Beast
4  Torn Signpost

Final Note:

That's it for this month. The next issue will write about the
increasingly more popular toolbox approach applied to Brujah. I'd like
to thank Hardy Range as I should have every month for his valuable
assistance in writing this.
Any comments, suggestions or praise please send to
skaffen_amtiskaw@runbox.com
Any abuse please direct to /dev/null

Thanks for reading

Skaffen

Chantry Elder Of Munich

'I saw pale knights, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry'd - "La belle dame sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starv'd lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill side.'

(Dre, Leader of the Cold Dawn, as remembered from John Keat's 'La
belle Dame sans merci')