Road to EC: New Blood Report

Road to EC: New Blood Report

This week we come back with a report of Joensuu’s (Finland) second Road to EC tournament. This report is written by Aapo Järvelin, the organizer and (spoiler alert!) winner of the tournament, and the very same we had write our last week’s article about getting into competitive Vampire in the first place.

European Championship events are at the moment the largest VtES events in the world, and they generate understandable hype within player communities globally. This shows in the Finnish tournament scene at the moment, with one to three tournaments organized nation wide each month.

Our second event of the “Road to EC” series was held in Joensuu last Saturday, February 15th. In the tournament I played one of my all time favourite decks, Ventrue Antitribu Grinder, and did really well with it, getting 3GW and 9,5 VPs in the preliminary rounds, and winning the event, getting 1,5 VPs in the finals as top seed. As the EC is going to be in Finland this year, and we have a blog on the official site of the event, I thought it would be appropriate to write something about this tournament. Something I hope will continue in future with the rest of our “Road to EC” series. I hope we will get a brief look into the minds of all the winners in the future!

So, as I already said I played the classic !Ventrue Grinder. How did I choose this deck for the tournament? First of all, it was my plan to play something that you would expect to see in the EC in all of the Road to EC events, just to show a glimpse of what you could expect to see in the EC for our new players. My original plan for this tournament was to play something with Ashur Tablets, as it’s not something we see a lot in my play group. But during the few weeks before the tournament, in our weekly games I saw lots of bleed decks, and not those nice ones that first take a few turns of some tool-up actions and then start bleeding a bit at time, but a lot of very aggressive very irresponsible bleeders with dominate and stealth. So I was thinking that I have to play something to show people why that is not always such a good idea.

It was time for me to dust off the good old grinder. It is actually the deck I started with back in 2016. I had just quit MTG, and asked my friend to give me a deck that is closest to “Jund”, a very known midrange toolbox deck from MTG, capable of dealing with plenty of different situations and being fairly even in all of the matchups. After the hard start, I found myself playing just that in the stickmen. Being fairly happy with the deck, I played it for almost 6 months straight, with very little changes. But then I got kind of bored with it, and I have played it only a couple of times since then.

With the metagame I expected in mind, I put together this version of the deck:

Crypt: 12 cards
1x Edward Neally                
1x Jefferson Foster            
1x Jephta Hester                 
1x Katherine Stoddard    
3x Neighbor John              
2x Owain Evans, The Wanderer 
1x Ulrike Rothbart         
2x Blackhorse Tanner   

Library: 82 cards
Master (14 cards)
2x Anarch Troublemaker
1x Misdirection
1x Pentex(TM) Subversion
1x Retribution
4x Vessel
1x Channel 10
1x Corporate Hunting Ground
1x Direct Intervention
2x Dreams of the Sphinx

Action (13 cards)
11x Govern the Unaligned
2x Abbot

Action Modifier (13 cards)
2x Foreshadowing Destruction
1x Kiss of Ra, The
4x Seduction
4x Conditioning
2x Daring the Dawn

Combat (17 cards)
5x Hidden Strength
2x Indomitability
2x Rolling with the Punches
2x Taste of Vitae
1x Unflinching Persistence
5x Weighted Walking Stick

Equipment (2 cards)
1x Ivory Bow
1x Bowl of Convergence

Reaction (23 cards)
6x Eyes of Argus
1x My Enemy’s Enemy
4x On the Qui Vive
2x Redirection
1x Telepathic Misdirection
1x Wake with Evening’s Freshness
6x Deflection
2x Eagle’s Sight

The deck is fairly classic build, very close to the version I played when I started the game. But I did make a couple of changes to my “original build”. In the Original version, I was playing a lot more reactions, I wanted to block a lot of things, and get to combat more, so I also had a bit heavier combat module. As I expected the meta to be very bleed-heavy, with little or no combat and very little politics, I chose to cut the intercept reaction module almost entirely, adding a couple of more bounces and a retribution, a suggestion made by a good friend of my, Jyri Puhakka, and then boosting the hand cycling abilities of the deck with some Crypt decisions. I replaced Joseph O’Grady with Edward Neally and chose Katherine Stoddard as one of the lower capacity vampires. Being fairly happy with the build, I sleeved it up, quite confident in my chances in the tournament!

Round 1.

Seating: Lauri (Nana Animalism) → Julius (Lasombra S&B) → Mari (Malk 94) → Me.

When I sat to the table, I was pretty sure I knew what Mari was playing, but I had no clue about Lauri or Julius’s deck choice. My opening hand was 3 deflections and some mixed cards, but knowing what Mari was playing, I knew that I would need all of the reactions. My crypt draw was a bit worrying, 1x Jephta Hester, 1x Neighbor John, 1x Ulrike Rothbart and 1x Katherine Stoddard. The lack of superior dominate, proper govern chain and the small capacity of all the vampires might be a huge problem in some games.

On the first turn Lauri opened with Anarch Revolt and flipped an Anarch Convert to the table. This pretty much revealed his deck choice to me, as Nana Animalism combat deck is something that I know Lauri loves to play. This was a bit worrying too, because animalism combat is very annoying to deal with a Grinder, and it might have a larger amount of minions, which makes ousting a bit trickier.

Having the early Revolt in table, I opted to bring up Ulrike first, and transferred the one extra to John, to be able to bring him up next. I also played Anarch Troublemaker to the table on my master phase. My plan was to make Ulrike an anarch as fast as I could, to not get hit by revolts. This might sometimes be really risky, but I had Direct Intervention in my hand to get rid of one rush from Lauri, and I knew that the deck he usually plays is really light in intercept, so the action to go anarch is likely to go through successfully. I also knew that I would be bringing a few more minions quite fast, to help protect the anarchist.

Lauri continued his path of revolting with a second copy of Anarch Revolt on his second turn. He then brought up Beetleman and passed the turn. Julius got one of his minions up this turn, I don’t really remember which one it was, but a Lasombra with superior relevant disciplines. He was a bit worried with the Revolts but we didn’t really have any talk about the situation at this moment. Mari got his first minion up too, and said that she will remove one revolt on her turn. On my turn, I did as I had planned, made Ulrike an anarch, flipped Neighbor John to the table and passed the turn. 

Lauri’s master phase was getting really predictable now, as he played a third copy of Revolt. We had a quick discussion about removing them quickly, but I didn’t really take any part in any deal making, as I was quite fine with the revolts taxing the other players. It forced them to play more aggressively, which was quite fine for me, as my plan was to take out Lauri with bounced bleeds.

The game quickly evolved into quite a race between me and Lauri, as he didn’t really draw any combat, so he just bleeded as fast as he could, to get an oust before I could get him down. I won the race eventually, and then finished the game with 3 VPs and a game win. Julius got Mari down while I was too busy harassing Lauri, but it was fine. Starting a tournament with a game win is always nice and makes the rest of the day a bit more stress-free.

Round 2.

Seating: Me → Anni(Toreador toolbox) → Emma (Louhi Wall) → Petro (Blood Brothers) → Julius (Lasombra S&B)

This time around I had no idea about the decks Anni, Emma and Petro were playing. Having seen Julius in the last round gave me some confidence though, as it was really good for me to have an aggressive bleeder as predator. My opening hand was almost perfect to the situation too, a nice mix of reactions, couple of Governs, conditioning and a vessel. My crypt draw was also really nice, having Owain, Blackhorse Tanner and double Neighbor John.

I had a pretty good start to the game, discarding a couple of extras from my hand got me a fast Dreams of the Sphinx and a hunting ground. To make things even better, Anni had a super slow start. The game almost started to stall, when Julius opted to only bloat, as he was afraid of my bounces and intercept. I also got a bit hand jammed, not drawing much of bleed after the opening cards, so it was really hard for me to go forward. It also turned out that Emma was playing a wall deck. She had an early Under Siege from Louhi and she started to be a bit threatening, blocking a couple of key actions from both Petro and Anni.

In the end, Julius got pressured by Petro so much that he had to make a move, and he started bleeding heavily. I had been waiting for this moment for a while, so I just casually bounced all of his bleeds, and got Anni ousted pretty easily. I also happened to draw some bleed, and a couple of Daring the Dawns… So, on my turn, I tapped Emma’s untapped minion with Misdirection, and then bleeded her out with a couple of unblockable bleeds! I then rescued Owain from torpor, and passed turn to Petro, who took Julius down on his turn.

On my following turn I rescued Blackhorse and passed the turn. Petro made a couple of tool-up actions, that I didn’t really consider that threatening, and then he passed turn. At this point, I basically had two hunting grounds: one real hunting ground and Owains ability. I also had 2 Vessels, one on Owain and one of John, and all of my vampires were at full capacity. I thought it would be better for me to not act, and just block Petro’s vampires and torporise them with my basically infinite amount of resources. On the other side of the table, Petro was a bit scared of the situation and decided to wait for me to make a move, so for a couple of rounds we just passed the turn, until I just proposed that we could just decide that the game times out, as it looked like neither of us was going to do anything and we didn’t have much time left. Petro took the deal, being quite happy with his 1,5 VPs. I was more than happy to take 2.5 VPs and a game win. Having 2 GWs and 5.5 VPs I was already secured to finals. 

Round 3.

Seating: Outi (Dementation S&B) → Timo (Inner Circle vote/Bleed) → Me → Emma (Louhi Wall)

Not much to say about this game. I had a decent start. I just sat at the table, not saying much and waiting for my time to strike. It came a bit earlier than I expected, as Outi had a really strong start, getting Timo to a really low pool before he could really do anything. Emma also got really scared of the situation, and they decided to focus on getting Outi out. I was kind of left out of everyone’s mind, so I just bleeded ones and tried to look as non-threatening as I could.

That worked out pretty well, I got a good window to try to go for an oust, Emma didn’t have anything, and I got her down. And as Outi was really weak after being attacked from two directions, I got her down quickly too. Timo didn’t even really have a chance in the game, so he was not much of an opponent in the 1v1. 

For me the game was a bit boring, but I take a win where I can get one. 3 GWs and 9.5 VPs secured me the first seat going to finals. That’s always nice. 


Seating: Tero (Malgorzata) → Me → Esku (Stanislava Vote & Bleed) → Simo (Ondine Combat/Wall) → Jyri (Ventrue Princes with Sticks) 

Before the finals we decided that the finalists would show their crypts to each other before seating, that way everyone would be on the same level of information. So I had a pretty clear image of what everyone was playing before the game started. 

I decided to sit in between Tero and Esku, as both of their decks have quite a low amount of stealth, so I would be able to block them quite consistently in the end game, and I knew that Stanislava doesn’t usually have a huge reaction module. I also knew that Tero’s deck is quite slow, so I’d have a bit of time before I have to really be ready to defend myself, so it would not be as punishing for me to have a bit of a bad start, if that would happen. I knew that Simo’s deck is really capable in combat and blocks a lot, so I didn’t want to sit next to him, and I didn’t want to sit next to another “grinder” deck, as it will be harder for me to utilize its bleeds for my advantage, and it can disrupt my gameplan quite easily. I also fear and respect Jyri a lot as a player, he is really good at playing the long game and getting on top in tough situations.

The finals game started really slow. My crypt draw was not optimal, being 1x Owain and 3x Neighbor John, but my hand was decent. I was a bit worried about Tero behind me, so I opted to bring out Neighbor John first. It turned out that Tero had an awful start. He didn’t have Malgorzata in his opening crypt, so he opted to try to dig for her, before bringing out any other minions. He was unable to find her, so he then brought up Mistress Fanchon on the sixth turn of the game. This basically meant that I didn’t have a predator for the whole game. 

Esku had a decent start too, but the real threat at the beginning looked to be Simo. He had quite a good start, bringing out a couple of small vampires and Oracle171 early, so he got to pressure Jyri from the get-go. When he got Ondine up, he started rushing forward consistently, and that limited Jyri’s options to go forward a lot. That led to a situation, where Jyri was really low on pool, unable to really do anything to not die. Tero was also really low on pool, as Jyri had bleeded him a couple of times and bounced a lot of bleeds from Simo to him too, and having his first minions so late, he was pretty much harmless for me. Esku then made a deal with Jyri to take out Simo, saying that he would then help Jyri to get Tero out. That could have been a bit worrying for me, but at that point I had a great hand, and I got Esku out on my following turn, even though he just got an oust.

After that the game went to a total lockdown, and timeouted after about 40 minutes of no-one doing anything relevant. So I won the tournament with 1,5 VPs in the finals.

All in all we had a nice event. The finals game was really boring in the end, but it is what it is. It’s really easy for the finals to go like that, if the first seat  gets the upper hand in the game and is playing a deck that has a good staying power. Just like the deck I was playing.  

Ventrue Antitribu Grinder is a great deck in any tournament, but I think that it was the perfect deck for this tournament. I also did get incredibly lucky in the first couple of rounds, with my seat being perfect for me, and all the draws lining up great. But it’s part of the game. To win a tournament you need to have a good and consistent deck, some skill and a bit of luck!

Thank you again, Aapo!

We know that you are deep into training session yourselves. Please let us know in social media, like our Facebook page, what are your local tournaments like, and have you had new players recently? All of them are very welcome to Helsinki in July to have a shot at any of our EC tournaments!

See you next time,