The Speed Shamblers deck archetype has had considerable success during the years 2006 to 2008 in the VTES tournament scene. With Amiel Feldman being the chief author of the deck, Olivier Perez has been the foremost player using this deck. Olivier’s tournament score card is quite impressive with tournament wins in the German and French ECQ 2006 and runner-up during the French Nationals 2007. With the rising popularity of Animalism combat decks and the ban of Memory of Mortality in 2008, the performance of Shambling Hordes decks in general have suffered quite a bit since then, but there not an unusual sight in VTES tournaments today.
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 70 to 80 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 at least three Shambling Hordes. It’s a little bit 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 to avoid being blocked when performing the recruit action, you’ll mainly use Call of the Hungry Dead and Spectral Divination. Against a dedicated block deck this often won’t help much.
After the first 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 who can block 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. Also take note that the Assets can be used in the same master phase you played it.
The basic criteria for selecting vampires is if they have superior Necromancy, the second criteria is that they have Dominate (either inferior or superior). Since you want to play the first Shambling Hordes fast, the average capacity of the crypt shouldn’t be too high. The best crypt which fit these requirements are Giovanni of group 2, with Rudolfo, Isabel and Andrea Giovanni forming the back bone of the crypt. The group 4-5 and group 5-6 Giovanni offer a similar number of vampires with superior Necromancy (for vampires with capacity 7 or less), but the average capacity is significantly larger than for the group 2 Giovanni. In group 6, Dr. Oliver Genet can be the cornerstone of a Shambling Hordes deck, because he has a special ability which allows him potentially to recruit a Shambling Horde for free, providing a Path of the Bone is in play, and he has a Charisma.
Theoretically you can play a Shambling Hordes deck without relying on the Giovanni clan, that is based on the Samedi or Harbingers of Skulls, but you would be missing out some of the key cards that require the Giovanni clan like Path of the Bone, Sudario Refraction and Acquired Ventrue Assets.
Bleed defense is a number of the traditional Deflections. You won’t see much Redirection or 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 also usually pays very little for its vampires, which leaves pool buffer to live on. Similarly important is to keep your vampires filled up with blood, so that they can play another Shambling Horde. For achieving this the Path of the Bone, Acquired Ventrue Assets and Charisma are included in the deck.
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 should and will send the Shamblers to rush the offending/voting vampires, if necessary also cross-table.
The deck works reasonably 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 of Memories of Mortality from tournament play in 2008, the Speed Shamblers deck have more trouble against close combat decks, since it can no longer effectively eliminate the damage of the combat vampires from the equation, and will have to act much more cautiously against any type of combat decks. The situation has become a bit less complicated with the introduction of Target Vitals in Lords of the Night, allowing also beaten down Shambling Hordes (those with only 1 or 2 life left) to deal significant damage. Also Glancing Blow is not a bad addition to deck, but keep in mind the restriction that Glancing Blow cannot be replaced until your next untap phase.
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 Acquired Ventrue Assets.
- Block the Sudario Refraction; remember you will often need two minions with +1 intercept each to block. If you are playing 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 one or two 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 intercept 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.
- 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 on 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. The later is especially useful in the late game, when almost all vampires are low on blood.
Notable Examples & Variations
- SpeedShambling by Olivier Perez — the most successful Shambling Hordes deck of all times (see deck list below).
- Hordes of Liquidators by Marc Desaulniers, The Black Parade by Jason Ryan and I Love the Dead by John Ivar Sandvik — all have very similar deck lists as Olivier.
- Family Will Never Forget by Nicola Lonardi — one of the latest tournament winning Shambling Hordes deck with Dragonbound as additional events and no use of Memories of Mortality.