The Speed Shamblers deck archetype has had considerable success in the past few years in the VtES tournament scene. Olivier Perez is the foremost player using it, his tournament score card is quite impressive with tournament wins in the German and French ECQ 2006 and runner-up during the French Nationals 2007. The deck archetype is basically a Rush combat deck with the Shambling Hordes as its main weapon. The speed factor is due to the small deck size of 60 to 70 cards, and the recursion/tutoring technique from the Liquidation and Sudario Refraction.
How to win with them
At first you need to keep a low profile, and convince everybody that you only need the Shamblers to defend yourself and your low-/midcap vampires (“This is Bob. Bob is never going to attack you!” or “This is not a powerbleed deck! Look at my puny vampires!“). Surprisingly this works more often than you might think, especially with more inexperienced players.
First priority is to bring out 2 to 3 Shambling Hordes. It’s somewhat easier for the Shamblers player to bring them into play than the somewhat comparable War Ghouls. Instead of having a retainer or an ally in play, the only requirement (besides Necromancy) is one of them in the ash heap instead. For assistance you’ll mainly use Call of the Hungry Dead. Against a dedicated block deck this won’t help much though.
After some Shamblers have been recruited, you’ll need usually need to attack your predator; either to eliminate him as a threat, or to threaten him into submission. After that you can turn your eye onto your prey. Start eliminate vampires that can block easily or bounce your bleed actions. The deck usually packs only few Conditionings, but they can be recycled – like everything else – by using the Sudario Refraction. When the defense of your prey is down, you can use these to oust your prey more quickly.
- The main engine which makes the deck so powerful is the combination of Liquidation and Sudario Refraction. The Liquidation generates three pool and puts seven cards from your library to your ash heap. This seven (additional) cards in the ash heap allow to a more effective search for particular cards using the Sudario Refraction.
- The combination of Unmasking and FBI Special Affairs Division makes a good defensive package. If the Shamblers are successfully blocking, and the acting vampire actually manages to burn the Shamblers, he takes an additional two damage from the FBI.
- You’ll gonna need Acquired Ventrue Assets to refill the costly Shambling Hordes. Take notice that the Assets are not unique, so multiple copies of the card can be in play.
Bleed defense is a number of the traditional Deflection. You won’t see much Redirection or the new Murmur of the False Will since the deck’s crypt is somewhat smallish and only relatively few vampires have superior Dominate. If bled heavily the deck will try to regain played Deflections by playing Sudario Refraction.
The deck uses Delaying Tactics, as the name of the card suggests, just to delay the votes of political deck. Afterwards, if threatened seriously the Giovanni player will send the Shamblers to rush the offending/voting vampires, if necessary also cross-table.
The deck works well against almost any form of close combat decks, but has problems against ranged combat, e.g. Celerity Gun or Animalism combat decks which use Aid from Bats and Carrion Crows. With the ban against Memories of Mortality the Speed Shamblers deck will have more trouble against close combat decks, since it can no longer effectively elimate the damage of the combat vampires from the equation, and will have to act more cautiously against these type of decks.
How to win against them
The Speed Shamblers deck is far from invincible, though even if harassed it is often still the strongest deck at the table, since it is needs little setup, and can replace lost resource often quite easily. Here are some tips on how beat it:
- Play Wash or Sudden Reversal on the Parthenon or the Memories of Mortality.
- Block the Sudario Refraction; remember you will usually need two minions with +1 intercept each to block. If you are a wall deck, block the Giovanni early and block them often. This is their Achilles heal: lack of stealth and other ways of bringing their actions through other than Call of the Hungry Wolf.
- Play Sniper Rifle or other long range weapons. Even two or three in a deck are enough if you can manage to wake often enough to block attacking Shamblers. Good news is that you do not need stealth for block the brainless.
- If you are a Rush deck, rush them first; the Shamblers if you can put them down, the Giovanni if you can get past the Shambler blockers.
- If you are play a political deck, pack some Approximation of Loyalty. The Giovanni playing the Delaying Tactics are usually mid-caps or weenies.
- Talk to your crosstable buddy and your prey to get rid of the Memories of Mortality. Profit from the bad image the Speed Shamblers have.
- And most importantly: Don’t get intimidated by the threats the Giovanni player is making, and do not let them built up!
- Shambling Hordes – the Meat and Brain of the deck, chumps to kill key vampires, block weenies, etc. Get them early, get lots of them.
- Liquidation — provides both pool gain and the ability to fetch the cards the Shamblers player needs right now by Sudario Refraction.
- Parthenon — Speed Shamblers is often play with less than 90 cards, but still a high count of Master cards (20+), so the Parthenon is essential.
- Acquired Ventrue Assets — the card to quickly refill the Giovanni to get the next Shambler; better than a hunting ground since you can use more than one a single Giovanni at once.
- Sudario Refraction – to gain/recycle those cards currently needed that may have been milled away by a Liquidation earlier.
- Unmasking & FBI Special Affairs Division – the Unmasking for the obvious intercept, the FBI for punishing especially other combat decks if they dare to attack one the Giovanni.
Notable Examples & Variations
- I Love the Dead by John Ivar Sandvik.
- The Black Parade by Jason Ryan.
- SpeedShambling by Olivier Perez.
- Hordes of Liquidators by Marc Desaulniers.