Not very often, but once in a while I have the urge to prove that you can build a viable deck around a certain card. Last year, I looked at Nightstick, a card that was introduced with the Lords of the Night expansion in 2007. A quick check showed that the card is not included in any tournament winning deck (and still isn’t). Like most other melee weapons, the basic benchmark is Bastard Sword/Meat Cleaver. It offers the same damage (+1 strength), has the advantage of alternatively preventing 3 damage from a hand or melee weapon strike, and has the disadvantage of being usable only once per combat round. In that sense, the Nightstick (like Baseball Bat or Kerrie) costs the same as Bastard Sword/Meat Cleaver, and has a set of advantages which balance roughly against the disadvantage.
The real drawback of the Nightstick is the limitation of using it only once per combat round. Otherwise, the Nightstick would be a great weapon, first preventing the hitback by the opposing minion, and then hitting for +1 strength damage with one (or more) additional strike(s). Nonetheless, I really like the versatility of the card, e.g. when I was playing against a deck which used Valkyries with Trap and Flesh of Marble to kill allies or send vampires to torpor, the Nightstick was the perfect answer for this kind of deck. As soon as he used Flesh of Marble, I could use the Nightstick to prevent the damage ad nauseam, and if not I could hit the Valkyries for (at least) two each round as well.
Now what to do with the Nightstick and its limitation? Eventually I came up with a number of different approaches, which I want to show you and discuss briefly why I had chosen a particular approach.
- The very first idea that came to my mind was to use Nightstick together with Carrion Crows, using the damage prevention of the Nightstick and letting the environmental damage of the Crows do its work. Unfortunately with Animalism alone it’s not that easy. The usual means of fully utilizing this combination is using Aid from Bats, and this obviously doesn’t work when you’re using a Nightstick to strike. (In hindsight, using Trap instead might work well). Nonetheless I built a deck based on Animalism and Obfuscate using Nosferatu antitribu, but it turned out that the lack of being able to make full use of Carrion Crows (and/or some other additional damage) defeated the purpose of the deck, and after 15 years of Beast being one of the top rushers in VTES, I totally forgot that he cannot have/use equipment. So after playing the deck two times with very little success, I scraped the deck and moved on ..
- African Policing — So the second deck I build was based on Akunanse, since they could provide everything (or at least more than the Nosferatu antitribu could) I needed to make the Nightstick effective (or so I thought). You have access to damage prevention cards (via Fortitude), as well as environmental damage (Carrion Crows) and most importantly access to presses (with additional benefits) (Invoking the Beast). And make the deck complete, there’s Matata (press & +1 strength!) and Powerbase: Luanda to be able to rush, if necessary. But the deck didn’t work, and I blame mostly the fact, that the crypt average is rather high; you want two Akunanse with capacity of 7-9 plus perhaps a small-cap Akunanse. It just takes too long to have finally this set of vampires in play and the necessary setup in terms of locations and equipment for being competitive against weenie decks or big cap deck using Zillah’s Valley and Villein.
- Assamite Anarch Attacks — The next idea was to use Diversion as main combat together with the Nightsticks. Even though you cannot use the same Nightstick, you can use the Nightstick as defense when needed, or as offense when you use Diversion for damage prevention. A second premise of the deck was to eventually equip a vampire with more than one melee weapon, in order to hit with Nightstick defensively first and with the second weapon via Diversion offensively. The crypt consists mostly of Assamite vampires belonging to the Black Hand and/or having Fortitude and Celerity. Janni and Joe Boot Hill come especially handy, because both can inflict 3 damage with one Nightstick strike. The deck also uses a mixed Anarch/Black Rush technique for rushing opposing minions, Steely Tenacity (req. Anarch) and two different Black Hand contracts plus Shakar. With Crimethinc and Forced March the deck also has some multi-rush options. The deck did OK(ish), it’s greatest weakness being the lack of any defense other than rushing your predator’s minions. To address this gap I recently added two (cheap) intercept locations, namely Anarch Free Press and Market Square. It remains to be seen if these are worthwhile additions to the deck ..
- Goes To War — The last deck I built (although only virtually) has a different approach than the previous ones, in the sense it’s not a rush deck per (although it can rush via Shakar), but rather a more wallish approach. It uses Elimelech as star vampire, he combines a lot of what I wanted from the two previous decks. He has +1 strength, and can use his special ability to avoid some hitback from time to time; he can use Shakar to rush almost any vampire on the table, and has decent defensive capabilities with Auspex (shared by his crypt buddies). The deck also has an Obeah angle, mostly to fill up Elimelech (via Renewed Vigor) and untap him using Eurayle’s special ability. Eventually I decided not to build this deck for actual play, because even though it looked reasonably fair on paper, I fear that it is much too slow (even bigger crypt size than the Akunanse deck) and has too many moving parts (e.g. the Fueled by Heart’s Blood or the Shakars).
Conclusion: After playing now a couple of decks with Nightsticks, I still like the card, very much so even .. don’t get me wrong, the card is inferior to the likes of .44 Magnum or an Ivory Bow, but given the right accompanying cards, Nightsticks can be asset to your deck and game.