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Week of Nightmares 2021: Recap

I had originally intended to capture each day of play, but that didn't work out so well.  Week of Nightmares is just exhausting.  Not only are there tons of Vampire: The Eternal Struggle events, there are games played back at the AirBnB too.  For long-time VTES players, I will say that the Cylons did really well this week and I'll recap those events as well.

I decided to drop my previous updates in favor of this more encompassing one.

Day Zero

There were a few of us in the same AirBnB.  We started the week cooking up some dishes that would last and help maintain our stamina.  We also had our first game of BSG.  We played a legacy format, in which any revealed Cylon or executed human is unavailable for the rest of the week.  Later in the week, we began selecting random by character type, which added more fun, as we saw less frequently used characters more often.

Day One

I decided to start the week, an Anson MMPA lock-and-bleed deck.  I've only played this deck a few times.  It definitely needs more optimization.  It has trouble with wide play-spaces and tons of unlock.  I managed a few VPs, but not much else.

This will be a reoccurring theme throughout the week for me.  Not enough reps with decks and not enough finely-tuned decks.  Some of that is due to COVID and some of that is due to not wanting to play decks that I've previously won with.  (I will do that later in the week, but, in general, I want to do new things.)

Some clearly, not good enough decks, like Mictlantecuhtli with Talbot's Chainsaw, didn't see play, but I should have left this Anson deck in the box as well.


Yep, more BSG. I've lost track of how the week went on BSG, but we played a ton.

Day Two

Morning Event

I began the day with Angelique Shambling Hordes + Emerald Legionnaires. This is a deck that I am very happy with. I've made a finals with it previously and it handles lots of different problems. Unfortunately, it's weak against both cross-table vote and high stealth vote. Those two things combined in round two to oust me. My grand-predator put 5 on me from Reckless Agitation and my prey ousted me with Anarchist Uprising. Round one was better, as I nabbed 2 VPs there, but the blank in round two, left me outside of the final.

Evening Event

For this event I chose a Ventrue Stickmen deck using group 5/6. This is a pretty standard build of Stickmen. I really like the new crypt choices because the superior Fortitude is more important for this deck type than superior Dominate. Another bad showing.

Day Three

Morning Event

I have been experimenting with adding Talbot's Chainsaw to Khazar's Diary decks. This deck was too raw to be played at Week of Nightmares. I've only had one real success with it in test plays. It's hard to manage the pool, the action count, and get the counters to accumulate fast enough. I hope the make this work at some point, but hoping might not be enough. This deck needs to find 5 extra pool somewhere and that's a big ask.

Evening Event

Next up: Black Hand !Toreador Palla Grande.  Yeah, it's fun, but like most breed decks suffers from early blocks and key blocks.

In round one, I was back-ousted by my prey on a deflected bleed.  I had a decent setup, but was on the clock because of my predator's !Malkavian stealth-bleed deck.  I was actually tempted to bounce the bleed somewhere else because I feared the back-oust (correctly), but shipped the bleed there instead of elsewhere because if it landed my chances of the oust increased significantly.

Round two gave me a prey with lots of wake and intercept.  I never managed to get off the ground in this game.

Day Four

Morning Event

The charity draft was a lot of fun. The decks were not evenly matched however. I had a Followers of Set deck from Lords of the Night, but draft packs from Kindred Most Wanted and Final Nights. There's no extra stealth in those sets to bring in and no draft text. I did manage to get some smaller Setites and reduce the overall crypt size, but there's a significant lack of pool gain. So, no success.

It was great fun to crack open packs again. While I really love knowing what I'm buying, the surprise of finding out what's in the pack is special. I did manage to get a Sudario Refraction and a Condemnation: Mute (even though they were useless for my deck).

Evening Event

Alex Romano suggested I go back to my roots and play some Anarchs. It's somewhat of a running joke that a good number of my decks feature Anarchs (and yes, I cannot wait for the new sets). I had a few Anarch decks with me, but I chose !Brujah Undue Influence. The deck makes a lot of beads and is fairly aggressive in the bleed department.

Round one was dream card flow. I blew my prey off the table rather quickly, leaving me with an extremely high-functioning Lutz deck as my new prey. Unfortunately, I could only Wash so many Minion Taps and Delay so many votes (that got Voter Capped). I easily bleed that deck for more than 30 pool and prevented it from gaining another 10, but never managed to oust it. My predator's slow build-up turned fast as Palla Grande hit the table. I only saw 1 VP.

Decks that play lots of cards can get clumpy. I found that in round two as the deck crawled. I need to remember to do multiple table shuffles when playing this deck before attempting any hand shuffling.

Day Five

Morning Event

A slightly tweaked version of my Zurich Fellowship deck. (You can also see it in action, thanks to Lionel.)  I went into the final with a game win, but not much choice on where to sit.  My prey ended up being a No Secrets deck.  The usual toys: Faceless Night and Form of Mist don't have much effect here.  After burning three No Secrets, my prey got two more before I was ousted.  Sometimes, they just have answers for what you're doing.

As a side note, I really love this design.  Luke's special combined with Powerbase: Zurich is really strong.  There's lots of stealth and a decent amount of combat avoidance, plus some chumps for blocking, if necessary.

Evening Event

In the second event, I borrowed Jay Kristoff's Petaniqua deck. I'll respect Jay's deck privacy and simply say that table match-ups were horrible for me. Round one was a very good Valkyrie deck and +1 strength should not be underestimated. Round two was a small-and-mid-cap DEM deck. I managed to last a whole 23:30 against it.

I will mention that Ben Peal piloted Susan Lucci, my !Toreador Undue Influence deck, for this event. It's seen many finals but has never taken home the gold. Hence the name. It was apparently too effective at taking pool away at tables with rush-decks and had the success you might imagine.

Day Six

Today is the day that I decided to play decks that I had high familiarity with. I had more success because of that. Making two more finals.

Morning Event

I played Balls of Stihl, the Imbued Talbot's Chainsaw deck designed by John Eno and Darby Keeney. I had experimented with other Imbued variants, but this deck is really solid. I felt that any changes I was making to it, were based on vanity and not on reality. The deck performs as is. With that being said, I had very few previous runs with it (less than I would have liked), but had seen Darby pilot it twice before. It's a Rube-Goldberg deck, where each tiny piece eventually fits into a much larger whole and works.

This was and will be the most successful event of the week for me. I managed to make the finals on VPs alone as my last minute oust for a game win was blocked by my cross-table "ally." Vengeance was mine, however, as I ousted that ally in the final where he was set up as my prey. Hopped on the next prey the next turn and survived until the end to take home my game and tournament win.

I'll make a full tournament report shortly and the decklist will be available there.

Evening Event

Since 1994 Dominate + stealth has been good. I decided to use that to my advantage, playing a DOM/OBT bleed deck. This is another deck that's seen a couple of finals. In this case, I went in as top seed. I managed to earn one VP in the finals. I should note that my grand-predator banished my 7-cap, requiring we to reacquire him later at the loss of some momentum. My predator used Parity Shift to give my prey 3 of my pool. My oust was with two vampires taking all 13 of my prey's pool in a single turn, having drawn into Command of the Beast to get that extra bleed I needed. My freshly-returned vampire was burned with Archon investigation next turn and that's where my momentum stopped.

Again, a really smooth round one, but a clumpy round two. The final had mediocre flow, so more shuffling between rounds with this deck in the future.

Day Seven (NAC)

I decided to go more outside the box for the North American Championships. I played Anarch Enkidu. If you've read my previous posts about crypt construction, you'll note that I talk a lot about draw odds. Sometimes the deck just fails. In round one, I had a 0.7% draw. In round two, I had a 0.5% draw. I think it goes without saying, but both of those rounds were unsuccessful.

Round three had some promise. The crypt draw was solid and I had a great first turn with Enkidu: Ancient Influence (passed by my predator, who benefitted), Homunculus, Enkidu rush resulting in a burned vampire, a Harass rush resulting in a torporized vampire and an empty ready region for my prey, and a bleed, which I was able to play Enkil Cog on. I also got the Enkidu end-of-turn unlock from the employ of a retainer, so I was ready to use that Cog. My grand-prey was Cybele MMPA Baali with Striga. Both Unleash Hell's Fury and Hexe are unpreventable aggravated damage and make Enkidu sad. After going to torpor for the fourth time, on the action that ousted my grand-prey, who was now my prey, I was unable to diablerize Enkidu (I had a spare ready). As such, I lost the table 2-3.

Still, I thought the deck performed well, when it could perform. Sometimes, there's nothing that can be done.


I had to run back to the house to grab the prize support for the finals of the NAC and grab something to eat. Four of us played two games of Hanabi during this time and we got a 25 (perfect score) on the second one.

A monster big BSG game followed after the finals and was the last BSG game of the week. The Cylons poured on the hate after the sleeper phase and we only made one more distance before dying. 7-player tables without a Cylon leader really make it hard for the humans. Every time we tried that this week the Cylons won.

Day Eight

Dream a Little Dream, my Malkavian antitribu Dream World deck, has two wins. The versions are slightly different. This Sunday's version is radically smaller, clocking in at a mere 63 cards and 3 of those are Obfuscate masters that I intend to pull from the deck when making babies.

I got a game win in round one. There was no VPs to be found in round two, but I did manage to call Lextalionis, locking all of my prey's minions. Unfortunately because I wasn't able to be a good predator for most of the game, he played 6 wake effects on that turning, leaving me with no hope of ousting him. Lextalionis is an underrated card for decks that expect to be playing in the second hour of the game, but don't expect to get the first VP.

I was sitting the finals as a low seed. I had the newly-crowned NAC champion, Alex Romano, as my prey. He was playing Assamite breed-boon, featuring Amaravati. My predator was playing The Capuchin. I was in a tough spot in that Alex would have as many minions as me. I keep the bleed pressure up every turn with lots of bleeds for 1. I hunted with a Blood Doll every turn and managed to keep the Edge a few times. I was, for the most part, not in the worst shape. My predator had been playing tentatively, probably having some bad draws. He managed to get the Heart of Nizchetus. I attempted to Conceal the Heart at 5 stealth, but got blocked. Unfortunately, this burned a large portion of stealth leaving my hand full of non-stealth cards. Alex is at 6 pool and finally have Stavros in play and a Dream World in hand, but The Capuchin is showing 2 intercept on the table. Instead of trying to play it at superior, I decide to push forward hoping to sink four bleeds for 1 and a Stavros bleed for 2. Alex has a bounce and so my game ends on my turn as The Capuchin bleeds me via Enkil Cog.

I really like this 63-card version; it feels leaner and meaner than the previous ones.

Ben Peal borrowed another deck from me for this event, a raw deck with very few runs: Ian Forestal + Summon History + stealth-bleed. I am grateful for Ben's feedback, but not surprised that it had a poor showing. There was quite a bit of intercept. I guess no one wanted to die. With some tweaking, perhaps, I'll actually pilot that myself next year.

America's Cup: Final

We had the final for the America's Cup event after the last tournament. The following is seating order (and I think Darby was first, but it's kind of all blurring together at the moment):
Darby Keeney: Mambo Jeanne ->
Kelly Schultz: Lazverinus block ->
Brad Cashdollar: Typhonic Beast ->
Karl Schaefer (me): Budapest bleed ->
Marshall Hogue: IC Vote

Final result: Karl 2 VP, Brad 2 VP, Darby 1 VP

Brad was not drawing rushes and with so little intercept around me I was able to take all of the actions that I wanted. Mambo Jeanne had early success forward, crippling Kelly. Marshall was recouping pool from his large vampires and calling votes. His hand was running decently, but not perfectly, missing Voter Cap a few times. Marshall ends his turn at 10 pool and I have a Camera Phone, a Heidelberg Castle, and 5 Blood Brothers (missing Zizi, but having New Blood) in play. Darby bleeds into Kelly, but he's not done yet (next turn). Brad finally hits a rush and dunks the Camera Phone. I rescue, bleed and bounce the Phone around with the Castle and Redistribution, but come up short. Instead of taking bleed for one actions to finish my turn, I use Unwholesome Bond at superior and bring out the last Blood Brother, Zizi. Darby gets his oust and Brad bleeds me, which I take. I need to hit 15 pool to get Marshall, who is now looking really strong. Walk of Caine and a midturn acquisition of Codex of the Edenic Groundskeepers, lets me get through all of Marshall's pool. Mambo rushes down two of my vampires and Brad fires off another bleed. I use Redistribution to get the Codex off of a vampire in torpor and bleed out Darby's last 8 pool. Brad rushes and Tempts my vampires, leaving me just short of getting him.

The game ends in a tie and everyone is sad.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have made a deal with Darby, but Brad was much tamer. It's hard when you have almost no answers for Mambo Jeanne. I was holding an Archon Investigation, which given the fullness of my torpor garage and Blessings of the Loa meant that a bleeding Mambo Jeanne wouldn't be a problem much longer. But I would have needed at least one vampire not in the dirt to make that work and am unsure that is a state I would be in if I managed to burn Mambo Jeanne. I chose the safer route of gaining my VP and then dealing with Brad, but it was not to be. If we used seeding for this final, I might have made a different choice depending on whether I was seeded above or below Brad.

Post Script

It was wonderful to see so many friends and play so many games over the course of the week. Even though I didn't have the success that I had hoped for, I finished with a decent showing. More importantly than winning (or losing, which is mostly what I did this week) was the camaraderie and the normalcy of VTES. It's definitely something I needed after 18 months of not having it.

I look forward to more regular events and next year's Week of Nightmares.


  1. Thanks, Karl. This recap is especially nice for those of us who couldn't be there. I am hoping I get to participate fully in 2022.



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