Road to Pulled Fang is a Czech series of local tournaments that seed a special final game to be played during the Pulled Fang tournament. The fifth and final tournament of the series was held in Brno.
In contrast to the previous years when the Brno prince held the tournament at his house (with an outdoor terrace, swimming pool, and two giant cats), this year we had the Brno tournament in the local game store, Rishada. Unfortunately, we had to share the venue with the Magic: the Gathering tournament (the Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate prerelease), which made the space pretty crowded and almost without fresh air, especially later in the afternoon.
Deck: Infernal Princes of Anarchy
After the disappointing performance
in the last tournament where I played the Enkidu Block deck, I wanted to play
something more aggressive and straightforward. In contrast to my currently
beloved Banu Haqim bruise bleed,
maybe something less janky and with a chance to win something 🙃. None
of my existing decks felt right, so I perused Codex of the Damned archetypes
for ideas. The Hidden Royalty
list is something I have wanted to try several times already. Still, I eventually
went with the Bram van Stappen’s Infernal Princes of Anarchy
variant of the deck, mostly because I like the highly optimized library with
recursion. Also, I enjoy playing decks without Dominate. I was missing one
Arishat, so I borrowed one from Karel, and I also did not have nine spare
Ashur Tablets, so I needed to loot them from the Enkidu Deck. That is why I use
identical sleeves on all decks; I can just move cards between them quickly.
Playing a deck in the tournament without ever playing it before is not really
optimal. Although this showed a bit during the tournament, the deck is relatively
easy to play otherwise. I want to aggressively get out (at least) three titled
vampires (in the ideal case, one Prince, one Baron, and one Arishat), start
beating people with
Parity Shifts, and finish them with
Filter the hand with
Dreams of the Sphinx and later bring back the necessary cards
with Ashur Tablets.
I was a bit worried about the defensive capabilities against aggressive decks. I
toyed with the idea of tuning the deck slightly, adding
Bait and Switch, but I
decided not to mess with the deck I never played.
Game 1: 1VP
Marionette Bleed (Hrbi) →️ Salubri Marionette (Ondra) 3VP GW →️ me 1VP →️ Inner Circle (Faldys) →️ Gangrel Combat (Martin)
I had a reasonable crypt with a Prince, Baron, and Arishat. I started fast with
a prince first and started chaining shifts. Faldys had
Mistress Fanchon, but I
brought out Arishat, so I had a vote lock and used it. The
depriving me of blood, but I somehow managed with the help of the
Unfortunately, the grandpredator played something similar to my predator
but decided not to contest. Additionally, he suffered in combat with his Gangrel
predator. He also made a mistake in the middle of the game: he paid two pool
for a master on a minion, then played an inferior
Magic of the Smith while having
Millicent. Of course, his Gangrel predator blocked the action, and the vampire
burned. All this left my predator without any significant pressure.
With the help of some suboptimal decisions by my predator about what mine minions
to borrow and steal their blood, I managed to oust Faldys by chaining a Parity
Shift and two Reckless Agitations for twelve in total. My hand was a little stuck
after that, though, and I did not have a good follow-up. I had an
Ancilla Empowerment, which would get my prey to two pool, but I lacked the finisher. I
would end at seven pool myself, which I considered too risky. I was severely
missing blood on minions, and my hand sucked. That is what Dreams of the Sphinx
are for, but I saw none during the whole game. When I finally got one, my
predator played one first. I tried to fuck around; I did some actions and played
some masters but died rather quickly without blood. Grandprey died shortly
after. The Gangrel managed to defend longer than I expected but eventually died too.
This game was a bit bittersweet. It feels like I should have managed more. On
the one hand, I had a vote lock and managed to have a reasonable game until
quite late into the game. I think there was a one or two-turn window after I
ousted my first prey where I could have used the momentum while there was time
if only I had some ousting cards in hand. On the other hand, being seated
in front of the blood deprivation deck really hurts the deck: it can be pretty
blood-hungry with the Reckless Agitations and Arishats special. It feels like
the deck could use another blood-gaining tech (
Jake Washington, maybe?).
Game 2: 0VP
Giotto Legionnaires (Aahz) 3VP GW →️ Malkavian S/B (Kaczkin) 1VP →️ PRE weenie (Albert) →️ Hektor Combat (Vápno) 1VP →️ me
Albert pressed Vápno hard, which gave me breathing room to act, so I was trying
to aggressively go for the oust. I was not too successful with that because
Aahz employed a
Rock Cat and started rushing me. I managed to pass some Parity
Shifts, but I needed to give pool to my predator to keep him (barely) alive.
Eventually, Vápno managed to lower the pressure on him by beating backward, and
the presence weenie started to be pressured by the Malkavian. I needed Malkavian
votes, so I even used the grandpredator as a target for collateral to get my
political actions to pass. I was keeping Aahz at low enough pool to be oustable
but was never able to finish him. First, he brought
Maris Streck out, which meant
one or two actions would be blocked no matter what. I ran a Reckless Agitation on
seven stealth to at least burn as much blood as possible from Maris.
After that, I had enough stealth cards but not politics, so another turn or so
went by, and the grandprey died. Vápno and Rock Cat started to torporize
my vampires. Without vote lock and with vampires in torpor, I tried to strike
a deal with Vápno to allow me to kill Aahz, who was unlikely to ever be ousted
by Vápno through the
Legionnaires. I would transfer out of the game afterward,
leaving him on the table with just a very crippled Malkavian. Aahz called
the deal illegal because of confusion about when are deals erased in the endgame,
but that was sorted out quickly, and Vápno agreed after some hesitation. I tried
to pull that off, but Aahz had
Delaying Tactics, so I failed. With the deal off
the table, I had to take some pool from Vápno with Parity Shift (I do not
remember how I managed to push that through) to survive. Oops.
I somehow continued to be part of the game, and eventually, I had one more chance to oust Aahz with a political action, but he had another canceling card, so no success.
Game 3: 0VP
Ministry Bleed (Kuba) 1VP → me → Malkavian S/B (Tom) 4VP GW → Aahz → Banu Haqim Bruise Bleed (Argorius)
I was missing an Arishat from this crypt, which was terrible because the forced abstain would help greatly on this table. Still, I could do significant pool damage, but the Malkavians were able to bloat it back. Kuba bred a horde of minions, then started whining about getting ousted (with five minions on the table, right after he transferred out a 6-cap or something similar, convincing Aahz to allow ousting me. There was a situation where I considered a back-oust, and I even allocated some significant damage backward, leaving Kuba at two pool. I hoped my grandprey would be able to finish the rest, but he was not able to, and after a pretty wild turn where Kuba did a million actions, including two Reckless Agitations, I was ousted.
I did not take good notes from this game because I was pretty pissed off,
but I remember it was a really clunky game where nothing went right. I got stuck
with Dreams of the Sphinx in hand twice because someone always played it first.
I contested a title with my predator (one of the new Ministry barons is from
Donny Kowalczyk), and my grandpredator did almost no pressure.
In hindsight, I think I really should have tried to back-oust. I really hate doing that because I find it difficult to assess whether it is the right thing to do (I think many people are happy to back-oust without improving their situation on the table at all). Looking at the table just after I was ousted, I realized that Aahz likely made a mistake allowing the oust; I think the situation would have been better for him if I stayed on the table instead of Kuba. He was worried about his prey getting the six pool, but I would be able to offset that with politics. It was not that apparent from inside the game, though.
Considering the performance of the deck, the tournament metagame, and the seating, I am pretty disappointed with the result; it feels like I should be able to get more from each game I played. The deck felt very powerful (obviously, as a netdeck from one of the best European players), and I do not think it needs to be tuned; it works really well as it is. I am pretty happy with my technical play, not making stupid mistakes, and not forgetting things. I tend to be rushed and sloppy in the late game; this time, I never survived that long 🙃. I still struggle with major strategic decisions, like back-ousting the prey in the third game.
The Brno tournament was also the last one from the Road to Pulled Fang series. I have attended four of the five tournaments, and my (hideous) results aside, I have enjoyed the series. The added stakes of the series standings (basically a little national league) made the tournaments feel “important” and fun. So, congratulations to everyone at the top, and see you all on the Pulled Fang.