Another Week of Nightmares has come and gone. As usual it was a blast to spend the week with good friends. The attendance was higher this year, which is a good sign. This is a recap of my experiences this year. A little less detailed than last time, but hopefully you enjoy the review.
Day 1: Week of Nightmares Event 1
As is tradition, the first event takes place outside of Columbus at Comic Shop Plus. This is the venue that I normally travel to when playing in tournaments. So, I am quite familiar with everyone. The meta here has been greatly impacted by the V5A sets. I had been holding off playing anything from them because I hate contesting. However, I decided it was time to unveil my Banu Haqim breed-and-bleed deck.
It was a nice mix of combat and survivability for the meta. Being able to hit or bleed for a lot with Embraces changes the dynamics of the table. In the final, my Embrace played and broke a Weighted Walking Stick in my first combat, sending a clear message. Eventually, I am able to take 3 VPs in the final and walk away with my first win of the week.
Day 2: Week of Nightmares Event 2
I played an updated version of Lions, and Tigers, and Legionnaires. The new version removed too much combat in favor of more intercept and the mix proved to be untenable. I was able to block, but not survive the combats. I'll probably go back to the last tournament version and tweak from there. Not much to say. Sometimes the decks you field just don't work. Sometimes the tweaks you make just make it worse.
Day 2: Week of Nightmares Event 3
Darby and I had both independently developed multi-act bleed/vote designs with the new Ministry. We chatted about some ideas, tweaked, and talked again. Our decks were very close in design without ever directly collaborating. Our chats, however, really helped me tighten my version and I think do as well with it as I did.
Darby played his in the morning and I had been waiting for that to happen before I played mine. I absolutely didn't want to contest. With his out of the way, I thought I'd give mine a try.
I made it to the finals. Ben Peal has started a new streak of taking every starter deck to a finals after missing on Sunday. He was playing the Ministry starter, which could present some serious problems for me in the final. There are not that many vampires and we both want the same toys. I set up cross-table from him and we decide to start friendly splitting the pair of vampires that we have duplicates of.
The game moves quickly to the three player, where everyone still has a chance at a finals victory, but where Kelly is definitely in the worst position. He has to keep his predator in the game, but Ben does not need to do the same. After three Eagle's Sight blocks, I manage to call a vote that ousts both Ben and myself to win on a 2-2-1 split with the higher seed.
Day 3: Week of Nightmares Event 4
I had built a series of Death Star decks for non-Assamite/Banu Haqim clans several years ago. I've played the Setite version many times, always falling just short in the finals. I've taken my Daughters version to two finals, winning the latter. So, I am very familiar with the deck type and decided that I wanted something I was really strong at playing after my late night. So, I played the Ravnos version on Tuesday morning.
(Yes, there are other clan versions that I have as well. I spent a lot of time playing this concept out. What Bill Troxel is doing with Legionnaires is somewhat what I was doing with Revolutionary Council.)
The Ravnos deck played well all day. Mark Loughman had a tough time with it even when he shouldn't have. I ousted him cross-table in round one and back-ousted him in round two. He just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those moves, however, helped me earn two game wins and top seed.
The final moved more slowly for me. Both Guy and Brad had lots of bleed. I got on track just in time to pull off two ousts in the same turn, putting me heads-up with Brad. I managed to get the better of him after playing a Week of Nightmares and mostly just bleeding him out.
Day 3: Week of Nightmares Event 5
The now-retired John Eno was playing a great Blood Brothers bleed deck. Sorority Codex won shortly after he played it, so we knew the deck had the potential to go all the way. I had asked to see John's decklist and decided to cut it down to 75 cards from the 90 that he was running. I sent it back and I think he may have made some more tweaks at that point.
Since then, I was maintaining my own variant of the deck. I played it once before in a tournament, but didn't do well. Mostly recently, I added more stealth, Shell Game and Plasmic Form, because the V5A meta has more minions in play and stealth bypasses that more easily. Those changes really helped seal the deal today.
Round one was really tight. I hit my only Info Highway in my opening hand and had all six Blood Brothers in play quickly. Darby was playing Temptation and knew quite well what my deck was capable of. After a long battle that saw my first Codex blocked by my predator with some encouragement from Darby and my second Codex burned by Conceal, I manage to oust him with my third Codex. I hit the heads-up against weenie Auspex. There's very little time on the clock and I get Guy down to 8 pool. I declare a bleed of 2 just before the timer expires. After a wake and a Daring the Dawn, I drop a Walk of Caine landing a bleed of 8.
Round two was much harder, sitting at a table that saw 15 Second Traditions. I got my prey at least and that single VP combined with my round one totals to put me into the final in second seed.
The finals were a little wacky, but I was able to oust 3 people, leaving me heads-up with my predator. I conceded my VP at that point, taking my fourth tournament win for the week.
Day 4: Week of Nightmares Event 6
I was definitely tired by this point. I played a g5/6 Tremere bleed deck and totally screwed up. After recognizing that I misplayed Dominate Kine to steal a location with a vampire that only had inferior, we decided to apply the bleed and restore the location. This left me in a quandary because my prey was now at 3 pool and I was holding From a Sinking Ship. I decided that, in good conscience, I couldn't play it because I would have gained an advantage from my mistake and our resolution of that mistake. Instead of getting my prey on that turn, I spent the next 50 minutes trying to do so. Finally, managing to oust him with minutes left. That mistake cost me a game win because my next prey had no answers for me and I likely roll to 3 VPs in that round.
I was completely out of my game and got crushed in round 2. I paused for a good lunch and some relaxation (and a beer) on the patio while waiting for Event 7. This really helped clear my head and get me focused.
Day 4: Week of Nightmares Event 7
The unveiling of "homework." Darby gave me a homework assignment during Week of Nightmares 2021. It was to create an unnamed deck with some additional tricks that we haven't seen elsewhere. I'll keep the tricks in close to the vest for now as I will give this deck another go at some point.
The unnamed did well in round one taking 3 of the 4 VPs and sweeping all 4 VPs in round two. Surprisingly, 2 GW 7 VP was only good enough for second seed in the finals. Ben Peal, with the Gangrel starter, managed 2 GW 6 VP. I did have seating choice after Ben, which was useful. The unnamed does not like bleed reduction and the Gangrel starter has plenty of that. I sat as his prey and ended up exactly where I wanted to.
Unfortunately, Ben manage the perfect start with a weenie Gangrel and Constant Revolution. I was stymied by only finding one Instantaneous Transformation in the first half of the deck. Even when I was using the Constant Revolution to cycle my hand. After taking very few actions, I have a little setup and decide it's time to remove the Constant Revolution.
Unfortunately, my prey was a Lutz deck and without enough other votes on the table was having his way. By the time I am really ready to go forward, Lutz already has 2 VPs. He manages another VP rather quickly. I decide to concede. There was a chance that I could have gotten the last 2 VPs, but what does it really matter if my prey has already won the game.
Not sure I could have changed the outcome by playing differently in that game. Perhaps if there wasn't an early Constant Revolution I would have gotten additional vampires out more quickly and managed to do something forward sooner. Good showing for my unnamed deck overall, so am very pleased with it.
Day 5: Origins - Thursday 1
I played Anarch Enkidu. This was originally another deck design by John Eno. I played against it many times and have taken it over since John's retirement. At this point, I've changed maybe 6 cards because I really love the core of this deck so much.
Round one goes badly as I get blown off the table by speed bleed. It's a deck weakness and perhaps I should have been expecting that at this point. Round two goes much better for me as I manage to sweep a 4-player table. I think that's quite an accomplishment with Enkidu because table balance in a 4-player usually results in your cross-table gaining a VP. I actually find it easier to sweep 5-player tables with combat than 4-player tables for that reason.
That sweep was enough to put me into the finals. This is the same deck I played in the NAC in 2021, which had crypt failure twice. I mention it because I had more crypt failure in the finals. My bleed predator put me into a position where I wouldn't be able to afford Enkidu. A sad end to the tournament, not even playing in the finals, but a decent showing for combat.
Day 5: Origins - Thursday 2
I have won playing an Anarch Khazar's deck, but wanted to try out the speed variant. Just adding counters manually and ditching burn-option allies into my ash heap. These decks have been successful in high profile tournaments.
Round one went swimmingly. I managed to get to my wraiths and get a game win. I actually slow-played the wraiths a bit. Most players forget that the wraiths are usable immediately and given my initial situation, blocking wraiths were a good idea. I played two or three turns never using a wraith the turn I brought it into play. Once I had sufficient mass, I unleashed new and existing wraith gaining VPs for my efforts.
Round two was a different story. My predator had no predator after torporizing and diablerizing all of his vampires. I gained 3 counters on the Diary this way. I used Sudario Refraction to my advantage, playing the same DI four times. I recurred Pentex Subversion late and put Xendil, who had multiple Hatch the Viper and permacept in lockdown. This gave me some turns, but he was finally able to stealth by my blocks with a sidekick to burn Pentex. After recurring Pentex again, I was never able to play it, as a 2-stealth Fame rush ended my game.
In the finals, I was hamstrung by having Santeleous as my predator's first vampire. Between Wash and Satneleous, I only managed to play one master card. Future NAC winner, Bill Troxel, playing his NAC deck was displeased by my recycling of bounce with Sudario Refraction and used Shattering Crescendo to end my game.
While the speed version performed decently, I think I prefer the Anarch variants better. Cry Wolf's early rush is useful at taking out problems and would have solved my Santeleous issue. I think the deck is weaker in the early game than the Anarch variants and I guess, with Khazar's, I prefer a more toolboxy, slower approach.
Day 6: Origins - Friday 1
I began Friday with Song of Pan bleed. Group 4/5 has the best crypt for this, of course. Bleeding the Vine proved quite useful and when almost nothing in the deck costs blood you can recoup a lot of your expense via Villein.
I think I may be the only guy in VTES that can show up with a straight-up, stealth-bleed deck and not do well. I mean, if you look at the decks that I won with this week, none of them really fall into this category. For me, this is ice-skating uphill.
In round one I was dominated by combat and didn't really go anywhere. Round two was much better, reaching the heads-up with a 2-1 VP advantage. I came out on the wrong end of the heads-up because I had a vampire burned by Archons and had nowhere to bounce the consistent bleeds. My heads-up competition was an Andre, The Manipulator Force of Will bleed deck. Andre smooths out the card flow problems in that deck with his torpor bouncing to drop and regain cards. Beyond the basics, the deck used Loki's Gift, which slowed my deck down significantly. I spent a turn with two of my three vampires hunting because they had no blood. It was a really nice combination of effects to keep the "more powerful" Dominate deck stymied. In a world, where we're all Villeining for too much, the Loki's Gift had a real impact on the outcome of the game.
Day 6: Origins - Friday 2
I've had really good success with my Luke Fellows deck. This was, by far, its worst showing. To be honest, I remember almost nothing about round one.
Round two I was preying on Darby's g6 Nosferatu with Protected District. That's a huge problem for Luke, of course, because his special cannot trigger if the bleed is reduced. My predator was Mambo Jeanne. It was the most mild Mambo Jeanne deck that I've faced, but it's still Mambo Jeanne. So, I lost at least one vampire per turn. I was close to getting an oust, but never actually managed it.
Day 7: North American Championship
The only 3 round event of the week. Four rounds if you make the final, which I did not. I played my DOM/OBT Art of Memory bleed deck.
Round one, I sat prey to Darby playing Khazar's Diary. I grabbed a VP just before the Diary went off. I was making limited progress against my next prey thanks to his large amount of reduction and occasional bounce. After a couple of turns where Darby is slow-playing the wraiths, I know I won't see another turn if he's my predator. I fire off a bleed that isn't reduced. I decide to pump it to 6. Bounce to Darby, who tries to block. I decide that I'd rather face Norm heads-up, since I have two more bleeds this turn and he will not be able to call Reckless Agitation any more. So, I stealth by Darby only to have him bounce it back. The bleed is reduced by 4. The next bleed is smaller, but hits. I attempt to land another large bleed of 6 at 2 stealth, but that's sent to Darby who cannot block and cannot bounce. I'm heads-up, but on the last bleed instead of the first. Not where I wanted to be. Norm was holding a Monkey Wrench, so it didn't really matter.
Round two, I sat at Kelly's predator. His Beefcake block deck had 3 GWs to head into the finals in first place. I had the perfect opener with big bleed and Seduction. It didn't matter. He had the bounce when necessary and the intercept when needed. I tried to Pentex the Blackhorse and keep the Bowl from stopping me, but that's Suddened. I play another Pentex next turn, but Kelly is already too set up. Any big bleed is bounced and I basically killed my cross-table. My predator and I cut a deal, since he wouldn't have been able to take Kelly heads-up. I bounce his bleed into Kelly locking down Carlton. After several attempts, I can't make any progress. I fall on my sword, giving Adam my VP, since he gave me the chance to earn one.
Jay was playing weenie Auspex in round three and preying on me. He Eagle's-Sighted my first ousting attempt. I manage to finally get my first prey, but an Archon and another Eagle's Sight keeps me from earning any more VPs.
Not my best showing at a NAC. I really like this deck and it's made several finals, but didn't fair too well. I really wasn't sure what I wanted to play for the day and picked something that should've earned VPs, but the amount of bounce was very large. I should have expected that.
Day 8: Forced Awakening
Our 9:00 AM start was a little later than that, but it was very early after such a long week of VTES. I played my Angelique deck, since Shambling Hordes seemed like a fun way to end the week. Two other players thought so as well as there were three Hordes decks in the event!
Round one was going well, but too slow. I needed about 10 more minutes to work through Norm's vampires, possibly ending up with 3 VPs. Alas time ran out leaving me in a 1.5-1.5-1 split. Yuck!
Round two was a much different Mambo deck than I faced on Friday. I was unable to take a single action in the game. Not really the way I wanted to end my week.
Without a doubt this was my best week of VTES ever. I was lucky with my early deck choices, which suited the meta much better than my later deck choices. I definitely ran out of steam this week, and the lesson that I learned was that I should probably not play in one of the tournaments if I'm feeling run down. The Week is grueling, but fun. I hope to see you at a future Week of Nightmares.