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Understanding Basic Crypt Construction

I wanted no land – I didn’t like that Magic had about 40% boring resource cards in the deck. -- Richard Garfield 

And so, VTES players have a different problem, we have two decks to optimize.  So, let's tackle common crypt construction issues and ideas. 

The Basics

You need at least 12 vampires to accomplish the aims of your deck, whatever those are.  They can be any 12 vampires as long as they are from two consecutive groups (1/2, 2/3, etc).  So, twelve copies of the same vampire or one copy of 12 different vampires, they're all equally valid, but they're not all equally useful.  We'll start by looking at some of the simpler crypt designs.

The Highlander Crypt (There can be only one!)

This is the model that a lot of players use when they first start playing.  On the face of it, this seems like the most logical way to build a crypt.  You're guaranteed to get 4 different vampires in your uncontrolled region and anytime that you decrypt to draw a new one it's also guaranteed to be different from all previously drawn vampires.


  • Each uncontrolled vampire is unique
  • Each decrypt is unique


  • High variability in opening draws (33% chance that any given vampire is present)
  • Large swings in uncontrolled costs if the distribution is weighted towards the extremes

What decks is this good for?

Decks that have highly interchangeable vampires prefer this type of crypt.  They typically focus on weenies or single disciplines (or both).  The 1-cap Computer Hack deck wants to flood the table with vampires as quick as possible.  Their disciplines don't matter, just churning out more 1-capacity vampires does.  Similarly, a Legacy of Pander deck wants to put as many different Pander in play.  The only commonality is their clan.  Weenie Obfuscate, Presence, Auspex, etc, all focus on single disciplines.  Such decks often feature weenies with a splash of mid-capacity vampires.  The goal is the discipline; if a vampire's got it, then it's good.

You should choose this crypt model if one vampire is as good as the next as long as they meet your criteria.  Try to avoid large differences between the smallest and largest capacity vampires to avoid swings in the initial costs of your uncontrolled region.  Aim for a range from smallest to largest of no more than three: all 1, 1-2, 1-3, all 2, 2-3, 2-4, etc.  You want to tend to have smaller vampire for such crypts as one of the win-conditions is to bleed for 1 a lot.

Doubling Up

Picking six vampires to double up to form a crypt is the large vampire version of the Highlander crypt.  Since you expect to get fewer vampires into play (because they are much larger), concentrating on 6 vampires that do exactly what you want makes it more likely to get a good opening crypt draw.  The odds off getting any card once (48.5%) is fairly good.  It's very likely that you'll end up with 3 or 4 different vampires and a statistical aberration to have only two different vampires (only a 2.2% chance).


  • High probability of 3 or 4 unique vampires in the uncontrolled region (~97.8%)
  • In the worst-case-scenario, uncontrolled region, the first decrypt is guaranteed to be unique.


  • Still reasonable variability; only a 57.6% chance to see any given vampire.

What decks is this good for?

Doubling up on vampires is essentially the mid- to large-cap vampires' Highlander crypt.  You still probably want a tight range of capacities or wild swings are still possible.  The Parliament of Shadows deck from Black Chantry is a really good example of this type of crypt usage.  The vampires range in capacity from 8-10 and all titled, Sabbat Lasombra.

Focus and Support

Let's imagine mixing the Highlander crypt with the Doubled-Up crypt.  If we do a 50/50 split, 3 vampires with two copies and 6 vampires with one copy, we can get some interesting results.  The vampires that you're focusing on (the doubles), plus many different support vampires (the singles).


  • High probability of getting a focus vampire (~97%)
  • Extremely unlikely to start with only two vampires (~3%)


  • Depending on the capacity differences in the focus and support vampires influencing more than 3 may be difficult
  • Depending on the capacity differences cost swings (although rare) can occur.  This is exacerbated if the focus vampires are not tightly grouped in capacity.

What decks is this good for?

Decks that need 1 or 2 "key" vampires, but have the ability to get many support vampires into play.  Such decks will often use Govern the Unaligned, Enchant Kindred, Fourth Tradition, etc. to influence the additional minions quickly and cheaply.  Every deck in the Fifth Edition boxed set has this crypt model.  Classic decks that use this (or similar crypts) include the Ventrue Law Firm and !Ventrue Grinder.

Other Basic Variants

Of course crypt design is not limited to the concepts I've laid out in the three example crypt constructions.  Understanding how to balance crypt draws to get good vampires without putting yourself at a disadvantage by get only that vampire or terrible support vampires or too many high-capacity buddies comes with time and practice.  You can use the draw odds to help you discover the best way to organize your vampires.

Next Time: Advanced Crypt Construction

Our next discussion will focus on more advanced crypt designs, such as star-vampire crypts and Anarch Convert usage.  Draw odds are calculated via hypergeometric probability.  There are several online calculators and both Excel and Google Sheets have functions available.  We make even more use of draw odds and non-standard crypt sizes when discussing those deck types.


  1. Nice article - really like it as VTES beginner. Looking forward for that advanced crypt construct.


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