Article for the V:TES CCG by Mike Nudd, originally published in Scrye 8.8
V:TES CCGVEKN Interview
Scrye 8.2 - Ventrue antitribu
Scrye 8.3 - Tzimisce
Scrye 8.4 - Lasombra
Scrye 8.5 - Brujah antitribu
Scrye 8.6 - Final Nights
Scrye 8.7 - Voting Strategies
Scrye 8.8 - Combat Strategies
Scrye 48 - Bloodlines
Scrye 49 - Harbingers
Combat is perhaps both the most challenging strategy to get right in V:tES, but it is also often the most fun and the most rewarding. There are many different ways to approach combat, but every fighting strategy relies on your success in three different areas: a) getting your minions into combat, b) dealing damage in combat, c) preventing your opponents from escaping combat, and d) surviving the dangers of combat yourself.
Getting into combat is quite straightforward. You can rush your targets using repeated Ambush and Bum’s Rush actions, or alternatively use Haven Uncovered. If you play with Assamites then you can also add Contract and Clandestine Contract to your deck too. However, rather than attacking your opponent’s minions directly you can instead constantly block them by adding intercept to your deck. Or, pack your deck with intimidating actions (bleed, vote, etc.) in the hope that your opponents will block you. Some vampires such as Ellen Fence and Beast even come with built in rush abilities that you can use every turn for free.
Once in combat, there are many ways of inflicting harm on the opposing minion. If you have equipped your own minions with weapons, then you can use them to deadly effect, although bear in mind that some cards such as Drawing Out the Beast and Terror Frenzy actually prevent minions from using equipment in combat. Alternatively you can play cards from your hand to increase your hand damage, and/or to strike for more damage. Potence is the best discipline for these sorts of cards, although you fill find that Obtenebration, Chimerstry and Quietus can also pack a punch too. If you can throw additional strikes, you can double or triple the amount of pain you can inflict in one round, and if you play with Protean or Vicissitude you can easily inflict aggravated damage to burn the opposing vampire, or to send them to torpor.
The biggest problem comes from the fact that most enemy minions will want to avoid the worst of your damage, and will likely strike: dodge or strike: combat ends to escape you. It is very difficult to overcome this problem, and there are only a few strategies you can use in such circumstances. If your opponent plays a dodge, then you can use additional strikes to catch them out. If your opponent ends combat then you can rush them again and again until they run out of these pesky cards. A better alternative, however, is to use cards of your own to trap the opposing minion in the first combat that starts. If you play Potence-focused combat, then the essential card is Immortal Grapple – played at close range, this card prevents all strikes that are not hand strikes, including all dodges and strikes that end combat. Alternatively, if you have access to Dominate, then you can use the expensive Thoughts Betrayed to stop your opponent from playing any strike cards at all. If you cannot prevent your opponent from playing non-combative strikes, then another option is to continue combat in an unpreventable fashion using the superior version of either Psyche or Telepathic Tracking. As well as all of the above strategies, you can also start another combat with another one of your minions using Hidden Lurker – this card conveniently prevents your opponent from striking in the first round of combat.
The aim of a combat deck should always be to remove your opponent’s minions as quickly and as effectively as possible. Sending vampires to torpor is normally the order of the day, and cards such as Pulled Fangs and Disarm will certainly make it more difficult for them to recover. If you are able to garner enough voting favour then you should not be scared of committing diablerie to remove these dormant threats. If you are not able to curry such favour, then save your resources to block rescuing attempts, or to attack the other vampires who might later try and rescue their brethren. If you play with a Garrotte, or with aggravated damage then it may be possible for you to burn a vampire entirely from combat without worrying about torpor and diablerie at all. Once your opponent’s minions are destroyed and/or neutralised it should then be a trivial matter to bleed what is left of his pool.
The only remaining thing to consider is how to keep your own minions alive in combat. When facing other combat-heavy decks, the pressure is often high, and the odds can be stacked against you. You can attempt to dodge your opponent’s strikes, but they may also be using any or all of the above tactics themselves. A safer option lies in using the damage prevention available through Fortitude, or through equipment, but you should also bear in mind that some strikes are unpreventable. Always bear in mind that your opponents’ decks may be as feisty and as dangerous as yours. Success in combat will often rely more on careful timing and judgement, and a good deck of cards may not necessarily be enough on their own.