Before we talk about the strategy behind deck building, we need to go over some quick rules that you will need to keep in mind when building your decks:
- Your crypt must contain at least 12 cards, but may contain as many as you wish.
- All your crypt cards must belong to the same crypt group, or to sequential crypt groups: so you may include cards from group 1 only or groups 1+2, but not groups 1+3 (what are crypt groups?).
- Your library must contain at least 60 cards, and no more than 90 cards.
- There is no limit to the number of copies your crypt or library can have of any single card.
The next question will be how you keep track of your decks. While some players don’t use any sort of deck tracking mechanism, many utilize websites and programs that allow them to build and save decks. One of the most popular of these is the web-based Secret Library, which will also allow you to track your collection and to look at public decks saved by other people. Another is the Anarch Revolt Deck Builder, which must be downloaded. Finally, Vampidroid is a great program for Android phones and tablets.
In general, deck construction is a complicated subject, but here are a few general pieces of advice:
- Decks are usually built around themes, which are often a specific combination of disciplines. When you are selecting vampires, don’t be afraid to step outside your “core” clan to grab a vampire who matches your theme. Examples include Beast, the Leatherface of Detroit being added to a Brujah combat deck, or Suhailah being added to a Nosferatu political deck.
- The best themes include a way to oust your prey, and a way to survive. Prey ousting themes traditionally include bleeding, political actions, combat, and trick decks. Survival themes traditionally include blocking, bleed bounce, rush combat (proactive defense), and pool gain.
- Make sure that you have some way to recoup the pool that you invest in your minions. This typically means including cards like Blood Doll, Vessel, Minion Tap, Villein, or Tribute to the Master in your deck to move blood from your minions back to your pool, and some mechanism to get blood back onto your minions.
- While Master cards are powerful, you can only play one per turn, and if you include too many in your deck, you’ll find that your hand is filled with unplayable master cards. As a rule of thumb, 20% or less of your deck should be master cards (so 18 or less in a 90 card deck). There will be exceptions to this rule (like if you can play more than one master card per turn because of cards like Anson or The Parthenon, or if you have a number of trifle master cards in your deck), but in general, you should be very mindful of how many master cards are going into your deck.
- Finally, while you are allowed to have 90 cards in your library, it is rarely a good idea to do so. Having fewer cards in total makes it more likely that you will draw your most important cards. If you are having trouble with a 90 card deck, try cutting it down to 85 or 80 and see what happens – the deck might improve by quite a lot!
If you want to read some more in-depth advice on making successful decks, please check out these fantastic articles about deck building:
- Basic Concepts in Deck Construction by Gregory Williams. I think that this is the definitive article written on deck building for VTES. It is a fantastic resource and should likely be your go-to guide. It was originally posted in 2005 and was preserved by the Los Angeles and Santa Clara play groups.
- Strategy Guide For Noobs: Deckbuilding 101 by Kevin Scribner and Deckbuilding Theory by Bram Vink are also good resources, although they are both older and somewhat outdated (some of the resources they point to no longer exist). Both articles were preserved by The Lasombra.
- Happy Families is a very popular theory on how to balance the number of discipline cards with the crypt cards you have. The Secret Library deck builder also contains the code necessary to do this calculation for you.
- Here is an article written by Andrew Weston about deckbuilding for Jyhad.
- VTES Newbie and Singing VTES both wrote excellent articles on how they build decks.
- Finally, Paul Johnson wrote a system where you can play test your deck solo. He advises that the system only be employed by advanced players. This article was preserved by The Lasombra.
Finally, if you are looking for inspiration, you should consider checking out the Deck Clinic section of the forums, as well as these two great resources:
- VTES ONE has written articles about 27 different significant deck archetypes, along with suggestions on how to build and play each of them It’s well worth checking out!
- The community keeps a listing of all the decks that have won tournaments, called Tournament Winning Deck Archive (TWDA). This archive has been organized and sorted according to clan by Brett S.