How to build around a star Vampire

So, long time no see I guess, or something. One of the most exciting things in Vampire is the vast majority of concepts and cards available to make deckbuilding interesting. And what could possibly be more exciting than picking your favorite bloodsucker and building a whole archetype around him?

1/ Let The Right One In

The first step in building a star-centered V:tes deck is … well, choosing a star Vampire. If you’re reading this post and thinking about building your own deck, I’m guessing you probably have someone in mind. To better illustrate my points, I will use my personal favorite Vampire as an example through this post: Guillaume Giovanni.

Chances are your star vampire has a capacity of 8 or more and a unique effect or a unique spread of disciplines. Before hopping in, you should take your time to analyze the strength and weaknesses of your vampire. It will vastly be different based on your vampire of course, but what I want you to concentrate on is really thinking about the card text rather than just glossing over it. To help you with that, let me introduce you to the wonderful world of enablers and payoffs.

An enabler is a way to allow your vampire or your archetype to work, for example, The Embrace in swarm decks.
A payoff is a reward you get from having those enablers, for example, Week Of Nightmares or Palla Grande.
Understanding this concept and thinking about what you gain in playing certain cards you wouldn’t play in a normal deck otherwise is a major key in deckbuilding around a certain concept or Vampire.

For my Guillaume example: it’s pretty obvious that the way to enable it is to play a high number of locations and some number of allies.
The interesting part is thinking about the payoff however: sure, we can have tons of cards in hand, but what does it accomplish? Having more cards in hands isn’t something that will directly allow you to win the games, as it doesn’t directly remove pool from your prey. Thankfully, Guillaume Giovanni does have access to an icon with chains on it, so it isn’t much of a problem in the end.
Therefore, the way I think Guillaume should be built is by only using good locations that you would play in a normal deck (or locations that were almost good enough to make the cut), using your increased hand size as pure utility and your locations as additional lasting power. As such, I don’t think locations like Elder Library or Storage Annex make much sense in the deck as, while they are indeed locations, their impact (having bigger handsize) is too low on a deck that already has a far greater handsize than any other deck.

2/ What We Do In The Shadows

I think we drink virgin blood because it sounds cool

Once we have a solid concept and a solid grasp on what to do around our star, let’s think about building our library.

Unlike a normal deck, you don’t necessarily need a coherent spread of disciplines for your whole crypt. You can have a number of cards only playable by your star vampire and, as such, you should think about every single one of the available disciplines they have and decide if you want to do something with it. In particular, we talked numerous times on this blog already about two principles of deckbuilding any deck should follow: you need to have a win condition and you need to have a way to stay alive. As such, those should be your main considerations when thinking about which disciplines to use.
Of course, since we just went through payoff and enablers, it’s very likely you already have some idea for your gameplan or how it should work.

If we take the example of Guillaume, we have five disciplines to work with: the clan’s disciplines (POT, NEC, DOM) as well as CEL and obt.
In Giovanni decks, POT is often hard to use as most of them are bleed/stealth decks. Without going into too many details as it’s not the primary focus of the deck, I decided to overlook the fight module (only playing some combat ends), thus not using POT or CEL.
DOM is in the top three disciplines of the game, as it acts as a win condition thanks to all its +bleed cards, as well as a defensive discipline, with the bounce effects, such as Deflection. It also allows for acceleration/pool gain with Govern the Unaligned, which is always relevant in a deck that sometimes wants to take things slow. Finally, you also get some stealth or pseudo stealth (Bonding, Seduction or Shroud Of Absence) which is always handy.
NEC is sadly not a very good discipline when used to play stealth although it is inevitable in this archetype. If anything, the prevalence of Call of the Hungry Dead indicates it should be closer to a tap and bleed (ie. a power bleed deck that wants to deny the number of blockers as much as possible) than a regular stealth bleed.
Obtenebration, while it seems like it would be mostly useless in a Giovanni deck is actually really useful in Guillaume Giovanni for two cards: Shroud of Absence and Nocturn. Both cards are very good in the deck. Shroud of Absence is +1 stealth for 0 blood, which Giovanni can’t provide with Nec. Nocturn is both a way to protect from rushes and to chip away at our prey’s pool, as our tap and bleed approach makes blocking a Nocturn very risky. Also, what’s not to love about a recruit action at +2 stealth that unlocks our star (remember, you should try to use every part of your special card text)?
Lastly, Guillaume is from the Giovanni clan, which does have quite a lot of very good Masters (namely Power Base: Cape Verde and Dis Pater), which is fortunate for our gameplan.

V:tes is a game where you can’t beat every single deck and every single seating… and that’s ok. I’ve read a long time ago on TTC’s blog that in a V:tes tournament, there will always be one table where you can’t do anything, one table that you should win and one table where anything can happen. It’s been mostly true so far, so you should build the deck with that in mind.

3/ Only Lovers Left Alive

Now that we have a good idea of what we should be doing with our library, we should finish our crypt.

The rest of it should serve as support for your star, not trying to steal their spotlight. As such, you need to think of the way they can assist her. Should they be weenies in case you need to do a cross table action or rescue your star from torpor? Should they be bigger caps that you will play thanks to Zillah’s Valley/Govern? Should they all have mustaches? Those are important questions you need to think about.

I strongly believe you shouldn’t just play vampires “because they are close enough” or “in case I don’t have my star”. If you are playing a deck around a star vampire, you should consider you will have it every game. Just play 5 or 6 copies and 2 Wider View and you’re good to go.

Unless your star is grouping 1 or 6, you also have two different pairs of grouping available and it’s often not quite obvious which one should be the best. I strongly advise you to use the filters on Amaranth DB to try to filter as many possibles vampires as possible. Some common filters I use are “Max cap: 4”, Group “X/Y” and a discipline or two I want, at inferior. It should give you a very good idea about which weenies can help complement your crypt.

Another crucial concern is the way you’re going to influence out more vampires. Do you play acceleration and if yes, which kind? Are you playing any kind of “Move X blood from the bank to a younger vampire in your uncontrolled region”, like Govern The Unaligned, Enchant Kindred or Founders of the Ebony Kingdom? If so, how many actions can you afford with your star in the early game to influence weenies?
Are you playing Information Highway/Dream of the Sphinx? If so, do you need them in your opening hand every game and do you have enough copies of them in your library?
Are you playing Zillah’s Valley? If so, is your pool gain good enough that you can really afford your expensive crypt?
And finally, if you are not playing any acceleration, is your defense strong enough that you won’t immediately die to any predator with a fast deck?

If we take the example of Guillaume, here is the cryp I’m currently playing :
5x Guillaume Giovanni 9 CEL DOM NEC POT obt Giovanni:4
2x Raphaela Giovanni 6 DOM NEC pot pre Giovanni:4
1x Sennadurek 6 AUS NEC dom Nagaraja:4
1x Gianmaria Giovanni 5 POT dom nec obt Giovanni:5
1x Kay Polerno 4 dom nec pro Giovanni:5
1x Primo Giovanni 4 dom nec pot Giovanni:4
1x Cristobal Ghiberti 2 nec Giovanni:4

Contrarily to some of my original versions, I’m not playing Pherydima because, while she makes a decent Guillaume impression with the same spread of disciplines at superior, she just is too expensive to bring out most of the time, and definitely can’t replace the man if we have an unlucky crypt. While you don’t need most of the crypt to be Giovanni per se, having access to Sudario Refraction or better bleed with Dis Pater does strongly encourage us to use them. Finally, Sennadurek is criminally underused in my opinion and works really well in this kind of deck.
If we apply what I wrote earlier, we can see that it is also possible to give up on NEC, and use obt instead as a way to stealth (even though Guillaume only has it at inferior). We could for example use some Lasombras or Kyasid to fill up the crypts, although I think missing access to some of the Giovanni clan cards is probably too much of a cost.

Ironically enough, building around a star vampire gives you a lot of options for crypt building and you shouldn’t overlook possibilities just because it’s off clan vampires or they are missing one of the disciplines your star will play.

4/ Interview With The Vampire

And finally, let’s test our deck and see if it seems to be working, before bringing it to your Tuesday night game and realizing it has a major flaw.
What I like to do before testing any deck in an actual game is playing it alone on my bed (I think you can also use your kitchen table but results may vary).

This should give you a good idea of what you need to do in the early game, if you usually jam, what kind of board state you have after X turns, the overall pool cost of the deck, etc.
When I’m feeling fancy, I even test with a particular scenario in mind, for example, “My predator is bleeding me very aggressively” or “My prey is playing an intercept deck”. Of course, as already stated before, you won’t be able to win every table but you should at least have a good idea of good and bad match-ups and play each table accordingly.

For reference, here is the list of Guillaume Giovanni I played at the Belgium NC last year.

Crypt (12 cards, min=15, max=36, avg=6,5)

5x Guillaume Giovanni 9 CEL DOM NEC POT obt Giovanni:4
2x Raphaela Giovanni 6 DOM NEC pot pre Giovanni:4
1x Sennadurek 6 AUS NEC dom Nagaraja:4
1x Gianmaria Giovanni 5 POT dom nec obt Giovanni:5
1x Kay Polerno 4 dom nec pro Giovanni:5
1x Primo Giovanni 4 dom nec pot Giovanni:4
1x Cristobal Ghiberti 2 nec Giovanni:4

Library (90 cards)
Master (33; 7 trifle)
1x Anarch Troublemaker
1x Barrens, The
1x Charisma
1x Dis Pater
2x Dreams of the Sphinx
1x Dummy Corporation
1x Filchware’s Pawn Shop
1x Giant’s Blood
1x Information Highway
1x Jake Washington
1x Line, The
1x Metro Underground
1x Monastery of Shadows
1x Morgue Hunting Ground
5x Parthenon, The
1x Pentex(TM) Subversion
2x Perfectionist
1x Powerbase: Cape Verde
1x Powerbase: Los Angeles
1x Powerbase: Savannah
1x Secure Haven
4x Vessel
2x Wider View

Action (15)
1x Dominate Kine
1x Far Mastery
9x Govern the Unaligned
1x Slaughtering the Herd
3x Sudario Refraction

Ally (9)
1x Carlton Van Wyk
8x Nocturn

Equipment (1)
1x Gran Madre di Dio, Italy

Action Modifier (15)
2x Bonding
5x Call of the Hungry Dead
3x Conditioning
1x Foreshadowing Destruction
1x Seduction
3x Shroud of Absence

Action Modifier/Reaction (3)
3x Spectral Divination

Reaction (9)
5x Deflection
2x Delaying Tactics
2x On the Qui Vive

Combat (3)
3x Spiritual Intervention

Event (2)
1x FBI Special Affairs Division
1x Unmasking, The

While I don’t believe it’s perfect and I would change some cards if I were to play it now (namely adding a WRMH Talk Radio for more table control), I do feel it’s pretty close to what I would consider an optimal Guillaume Giovanni list. I think I began working on this list in early 2018 and it took quite some time to get to this particular list, even though there were already a lot of decent Guillaume lists in the TWDA.

The more unique your vampire is and the more pellicular your deck is, the longer it will take you to find the perfect balance. But, it will all be worth it in the end. I hope this post encouraged you to finally build your star centric deck and if you are looking for more deckbuilding advice or ideas, I can’t recommend you enough to use the TWDA or, since you’re here, to read some of our other articles. Happy bleeding and happy New Year!

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