What is V:TES?

By Brett Schofield


Welcome to Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (or VTES for short)! VTES is a multi-player collectable card game based on the award-winning Vampire: the Masquerade role playing game in which players take on the role of ancient vampires known as a Methuselahs. Considered mere legend by many, Methuselahs rule everything from the shadows, engaging in a eons-long Machiavellian conflict that encompasses political, social, and even physical warfare. The struggle is won or lost based on the actions taken by your minions – younger vampires who unknowingly do your bidding. In this way, the game can allow for deep and immersive storytelling as your minions purchase equipment, hire retainers, and even suggest legislative changes to vampiric society, all in the service of your dark plots.

The game is currently published by Black Chantry Productions.

This guide will provide you with the information that you need to quickly and easily get involved with the game.

  1. What kind of game is VTES, and why would I want to play it?
  2. How do I play VTES?
  3. How do I find people to play with?
  4. Where can I acquire cards?
  5. What are some good beginner decks that I can play?
  6. How do I build my first deck?
  7. What else do I need to know?
  8. Where can I find more information?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

First, there is no set rotation in VTES, so all cards are legal for play at all levels (other than the very short list of banned cards).  There is no other restriction on what library cards can be included in your deck, meaning that there is no limit to the number of copies of a single card you may included.

Second, some older cards have received errata, and the correct versions have been reprinted.  As an example, if you have a new copy of Majesty, you will notice that it costs a blood at both levels (older versions cost a blood only at the superior level).  It is important that you pay attention to which cards have received new wording and which are the same – you can find a complete list of the cards that have been updated here.  Note that most of the changes are minor wording changes.

Third, there are multiple card back images for VTES cards including the original “Jyhad” cards, the new “Vampire: the Eternal Struggle” cards, and the misprinted upside-down Third Edition cards.  You are allowed to play decks that include cards with more than one card back, but tournament organizers often ask that these decks be placed in opaque card sleeves so that the card back is no longer visible.

Fourth, there are restrictions on which crypt cards can be included in a deck.  Only crypt cards from sequential groups may be included in a single deck.  This means that a deck might include groups 1 and 2, or 2 and 3, but not 1 and 3.  This rule was included for balance reasons, but it wasn’t instituted until group 3 – meaning that group 1 and 2 crypt cards do not include group numbers.  The way to tell what group a crypt card with no group number is to look for the presence or absence of an expansion icon in the upper right hand corner of the card.  If the card does not have an icon, it belongs to group 1.  If the card does have an icon, it belongs to group 2.  Check out this image for a visual guide on how to determine the crypt group for these older cards.

Fifth, new VTES products are being released by Black Chantry Productions

Sixth, some VTES cards are only in PDF format. These cards can be freely printed and played, and they are legal at all VTES events.  In order to play with these cards, they must be printed, cut, and slid in front of a normal VTES card inside an opaque card sleeve (such that you can’t see the original card).  Note that for legal reasons, you may not produce or play with cards that have been professionally printed.  If you have any questions about how to play with these sets, check out this FAQ.

Finally, there are a number of terms and abbreviations that VTES players commonly use to describe specific cards and strategies.  VTES ONE has put together a fantastic colloquial dictionary for VTES that will introduce you to the most common of these.

If you are looking for more information on Black Chantry ProProductions and VTES, please see their FAQ.

If you are seeking more information on the VEKN organization, or want to learn how to get involved, please see the VEKN FAQ.

If you are having a rules question, you should go to the rules forum.  There, you can search through old postings, or simply post your question.  Make sure to include the card text of cards that you are confused about!

If you are looking for more information about the lore of Vampire: the Masquerade, you should take a look at the unofficial White Wolf Wiki, which is a very complete source for lore information.  Another fantastic resource are the videos produced by the Gentleman Gamer regarding individual clans and bloodlines.

Finally, if you are looking for more websites that discuss VTES, please check out this list of links.