The Malkavian ’94 deck is one of the earliest and still one of the most successful VtES deck archetype in existence. The name derives from the fact that the deck is around since the introduction of VtES (then known as Jyhad) in 1994. Since then it has seen little need for modification. The Malk ’94 deck archetype is also known as Malkavian (Obfuscate/Dominate) Stealth Bleed deck, which describes the type of deck more closely.
How to win with them
Here’s a short instruction manual for the deck — extracted from a TWD deck description:
“Keep it simple. Get out a bleeder as quick as you can and keep bleeding. If you bring out a vampire and you are bleed, bounce the bleed. If you get bounced and you are going to take out someone else’s prey, play Spying Mission.”
The basic principle of the deck is simple: Bleed fast and bleed hard! The deck was and is the simplest stealth bleed deck one could imagine. Use the Dominate discipline for both the bleed actions and actions modifiers like Govern the Unaligned and Conditioning and Deflection for bleed defense. To make sure the action succeeds use all sorts of Obfuscate action modifiers from Faceless Nights to Lost in Crowds and Elder Impersonation.
At the beginning of the game, you can use Govern the Unaligned at superior, especially if the average capacity of the vampires in your starting crypt is larger than expected. But otherwise you should stick to bringing vampires out, and bleeding with them the next turn.
In general, pool gain comes to small extent from pulling off blood from vampires, or the early/occasional Govern the Unaligned at superior, but mainly from ousting your prey(s) and gaining 6 pool for it.
The term responsible bleeding means that you try to avoid bleeding you grand-prey for large amounts of bleed, because this might give your prey an easy VP. There are several ways for dealing with bounced bleeds:
- Ignore bleed bounce, that is if you bleed your grand-prey, so be it. He’s your next prey anyhow. Also most decks only play a limited amount of bleed bounce, so if your first bleed is bounced, the more likely it is the second bleed will hit the right target.
- The second way is reduce the bleed against your prey by playing Spying Mission. This way at least some of the bleed amount is conserved and can be used later against your new prey. The only drawback is that if another bleed by the same minion is bounced the next turn, and then the Spying Missions special effect goes off, then you’re bleeding your prey for an even larger amount.
- Another variant is to play intercept locations like WRMH Talkradio or Rumor Mill and give your grand-prey’s minion the necessary intercept to block your own minions. This usually only works when your stealth does not exceed +1. Also you should make sure before giving your grand-prey the necessary intercept that he does not torporize your bleeding minion in the resulting combat.
- The last variant is also effective, but requires extra actions. Using Revelations, you can look at your prey’s hand discard a bleed bounce card or an Archon Investigation.
There many similarities between the Kindred Spirits bleed deck and a Malk ’94 decks, because basically they are doing the same thing with (nearly) the same means. But there are some differences, too. The main differentiators are the different bleed action cards, namely Kindred Spirits vs. Govern the Unaligned. You cannot really say which card is better, because they both have their advantages and disadvantages:
- With Kindred Spirits you can bleed any other player at the table, not just your prey. So this can be an option if your predator is becoming too aggressive. With Govern the Unaligned you can only bleed prey, but you bleed for more, so it has more ousting power.
- Kindred Spirits is free, while Govern the Unaligned costs a blood.
- Kindred Spirits let’s you gain a pool for the successful bleed. With Govern the Unaligned the pool gain is better (when using the superior version), but on the other hand you have to take a non-bleed action for the pool gain.
In summary, you can say that Govern the Unaligned is the more aggressive card against your prey, while Kindred Spirits in overall more effective in terms of actions, and has more threat potential against other players.
When comparing the two bleed disciplines Dementation and Dominate , you see some similarities, i.e. Threats is equal to Eyes of Chaos, Bonding equal to Confusion. Although Dominate has one trump card, that Dementation lacks. and that is Conditioning, which together with Govern the Unaligned results in bigger bleeds than Dementation is capable of. Compare the maximum bleeds the decks typically produce (using two cards):
- Govern the Unaligned + Conditioning = bleed for 6 pool damage
- Kindred Spirits + Eyes of Chaos = bleed for 4 pool damage
Note that the Dominate bleed costs 2 blood, while the Dementation bleed costs nothing (and gains you a pool if successful).
The master card section is usually slim, a few Blood Dolls or Vessels to regain pool, a few Washes/Sudden Reversals to prevent your prey from gaining pool, and one or two cards that help decks with early ousts e.g. Momentum’s Edge or Gambit Accepted. Also a good addition are Dreams of the Sphinx or The Barrens, since of the cards give you the necessary hand size/card flow to avoid being jammed with either bleed or stealth cards.
The perfect vampire for this deck is a (sufficiently small) vampire with both superior Dominate and Obfuscates, where superior Obfuscate is generally more important than superior Dominate. With the classic Govern the Unaligned and Conditioning combo you make only one pool damage more, while superior Obfuscate often gives you needed extra effect like on Spying Mission or Faceless Night. The core of the Malk ’94 crypt are the mid-cap Malkavians from group 1/2, since with the Camarilla expansion the clan discipline Dominate was switched to Dementation. Well suited candidates for the deck are vampires like Ozmo, Zebulon and Didi Meyers. They all have either superior Dominate, superior Obfuscate or an inherent +1 bleed. Small cap support is provided by Roland Bishop and Watenda. If you’re not concentrating on Malkavians entirely, Laurent de Valois, Count Ormonde, and Badr al-Budur are candidates for the crypt, too.
Available in the mid-cap department are Mariel, Lady Thunder, and Gilbert Duane. Both are the smallest vampires in group 1/2 with superior Dominate and Obfuscate. In addition, Gilbert Duane wields the title of Prince of Miami, while Mariel can tap to end combat between between to other minions, which can be very helpful against combat decks. As noted below Lucian is also a candidate for deck, but only if you plan to use cards like Obedience for combat defense (see below) or if you want to add a political angle, e.g. with Parity Shift.
In Group 3/4, you find now a comparable selection of vampires (even though most of them are not Malkavians) with the likes of Black Lotus, Halim Bey, Dr. Douglas Netchurch and Preston Varrick. But the average capacity is somewhat higher than the Malkavian, and the small cap support is restricted to Robin Withers.
The bleed defense is often not only defense, but part of the stealth bleed offense. This deck archetype likes to get bled, since it has access to both Dominate and Auspex bleed bounce, although mostly Deflections are used. Even more importantly by bouncing the bleed to your own prey, you force your prey to deal with the bleed. Either your prey needs to waste his own bleed bounce, or needs to block it and therefore tap a reacting vampire.
Vote defense is somewhat light. One part of the bleed defense are the inherent titles of vampires like Gilbert Duane, Gregor Anderson and Lucian, but usually a dedicated vote deck can overcome this with action modifiers which give additional votes, e.g. Awe or Bewitching Oration. Nonetheless these inherent titles are often important when bargaining with other players who gets the additional damage from a Kine Resources Contested, or if a Reins of Power vote is successful or not. The other line of defense is usually the well-known Delaying Tactics, but usually no more than 2 to 3 copies are included in the deck.
Combat defense is often the Achilles heal of the Malk ’94 deck. Basically there are three different ways to deal with combat:
- Completely ignore combat defense, since there is no access to combat cards that provide Strike: Combat Ends for the Malkavian clan disciplines (Note: this has change with No Trace from the “Keepers of Tradition” expansion). This also helps increasing the effectiveness/availability of the stealth bleed cards.
- Play light combat defense with Swallowed by the Night and Behind You. This only helps occasionally, because every seasoned combat deck should be able to overcome this, but once in while it can helpful, e.g. if the Potence Rush deck is out of maneuvers and cannot play Immortal Grapple or if a Auspex/Celerity intercept deck is out of additional strikes.
- Use vampires with higher capacities, especially Lucian and use Obedience or Mental Maze and Mariel, Lady Thunder’s special ability to end combat before it really starts. This usually results in slower deck, since you need more time for setup, and the big cap vampires need to stay untapped to end combat, so they cannot be used for bleed actions.
Another common addition is the Muddled Vampire Hunter, which can hold off at least vampires with a low blood count and/or limited combat capabilities. Actually the Muddled Vampire Hunter is more often used to remove vampires who are likely to bounce a bleed by your vampires.
How to win against them
Let’s face it, if you are the initial prey of a Dominate/Obfuscates stealth bleed deck like this, you’re dead as a dodo more often than not.
If you have no or little intercept, it is imperative that you do not try to block at all. This will hopefully lead to a situation where the hand of the Malkavian S&B player is clogged with Obfuscate action modifiers. Take note when the Malkavian S&B player is discarding these modifiers, and no longer uses action/action modifiers to increase the bleeds.
Obviously both Archon Investigation or Protected Resources are great cards against a Dominate Stealth bleed deck. The later card, of course, only if you don’t (need to) bleed yourself, e.g. in a vote deck.
More details on tactics employed against can be found in the description of the a Kindred Spirits bleed deck archetype, since the defense is very similar, with the notable difference that the Kindred Spirits deck can go against his predator, whereas the Malk ’94 deck is bound to take bleed action against his prey only.
- Govern the Unaligned / Conditioning — main bleed cards.
- Lost in Crowds — most significant stealth card.
- Spying Mission — used to deal with bleed bounce.
- Deflection — main bleed defense.
Notable Examples & Variations
- “All ahead full” by Scott Christofersen — basic variant without any vote or combat defense.
- “Laurent the wannabe-malk n his crew” by Hans Nemeczek — small-to-midcap crypt only, but composed from non-Malkavians; light combat defense.
- “Malk ’94” by Simon Reed — with a bigger crypt and Parity Shift/Obedience angle.
- “Malk ’94” by Tomas Vick — with bigger defense package and 10 Malkavian Pranks.