In earlier times — when the Malkavians had the clan disciplines Auspex, Obfuscate, Dominate — the archetypical bleed deck was based on Malkavians with Dominate & Obfuscate. With the release of the Sabbat expansion the Malkavian antitribu with Dementation (instead of Dominate) took over this role. Although Dementation lacks some of the versatility (in areas other than bleed) Dominate offers (e.g. Deflection, or Govern the Unaligned), Dementation has its own merits. Cards like Kindred Spirits offer basic bleed capability and pool gain, while other cards can provide stealth like Deny or Confusion. Furthermore, Kindred Spirits also offers the possibility to bleed any other player at the table, not only your predator. So this gives the player additional potential for dealing and cross-table interaction. Today the Malkavian antitribu Kindred Spirits bleed deck is one of the most successful and most feared decks in the VTES tournament scene. Another name of the deck is Fast Eddie, since Eddie Gaines is the smallest vampire with Dementation which can bleed for 2 in its turn 2, showing how fast and effective this deck delivers damage to its prey pool.
Remark: Although this deck archetype often uses a mixed crypt of Malkavian antitribu and Malkavian I will often relate to this deck’s vampires as Malkavian antitribu for avoiding more complicated sentences.
How to win with them
The basic idea is to bleed heavily and often with low- to mid-cap vampires in order to oust your prey quickly. The deck has virtually no build-up phase, since all it really needs are vampires with Dementation and Obfuscate for the offense and Auspex for the defense. So immediately a Malkavian antitribu is influenced to the controlled region and he he can act a turn later, the vampire starts bleeding. Usually the bleed action is Kindred Spirits plus an additional bleed modifier like Confusion or Eyes of Chaos to apply 2 to 4 damage to its prey pool.
This behavior is not different from any other Stealth Bleed deck like the Setites Presence & Obfuscate or Ravnos Chimerstry bleed decks. The real strength of the deck stems from the two extra features beside the “ordinary” bleed that Kindred Spirits offers.
- First, the one extra pool gain, when the bleed is successful, is crucial. This allows the deck to gain 2 to 3 pool each turn during the mid-game just by bleeding. So the deck does not need to waste actions or extra card slots to pool gain like most other decks need to do.
- Secondly, the ability to bleed any other player at the table is incredibly strong. There are only two other action cards that allow this, Night Moves and Cat Burglary, and there the maximum bleed damage is limited to 1. There are a also very few vampires who can perform this kind of action, but they are widely distributed among the different clans. The ability to bleed backwards and cross-table with Kindred Spirits has two usually two implications. On one hand, you can bleed backwards if your predator is threatening you too much (e.g. he’s playing a Rush Combat deck), and therefore you’re able to back-oust him and eliminating the threat. On the other hand, you can negotiate deals better with this ability, e.g. you offer to oust your grand-prey in exchange that your prey will self-oust himself afterwards. (If he really sticks to this kind of deal is a different matter).
This deck wants its bleed actions to be successful, and as consequence almost of the different variants of Obfuscate and Dementation stealth cards are used, even more exotic ones like Domain of Evernight. Since you are prevented from using the same action modifier twice during a particular action, there is this need to diversify. Wall decks (and this usually includes permanent intercept) can be a problem since the amount of stealth is not enough to overcome the intercept generated by the wall deck. Here you have to deal with your grand-prey for example, that you’re helping him to oust his prey, while he helps you (by voting/rushing/blocking) your prey.
On the other hand, often the worst problem is that experienced players which are the prey of a Kindred Spirits deck sometimes resort to the tactics not to block your actions, i.e. you cannot play your stealth cards. This leads to a stealth card hand jam quite fast, resulting in measly bleeds which only damage your prey’s pool by 1 or 2. To avoid this it is mandatory to pack some cards which allow you cycle your hand fast enough (see master cards below).
The master card section can be quite short, the deck usually needs only:
- Sudden Reversal or Wash to prevent pool gain by its prey.
- Dreams of the Sphinx or The Barrens to get better card flow/selection.
For blood management Blood Dolls or Vessel are used; Minion Taps or Villeins only if the vampires are bit larger. Sometimes master cards useful after a quick oust are added, e.g. Last Stand, Gambit Accepted or Momentum’s Edge, but this depends on the flavor of a particular deck variant. Other cards frequently employed are Pentex Subversion, Secure Haven or Giant’s Blood for obvious reasons.
Sometimes the deck uses some allies as defense (and very occasionally as offense as well). Favorites are Muddled Vampire Hunter and Carlton van Wyk, or even Escaped Mental Patient who blocks and then use Rötschreck to send the opposing vampire to torpor. Usually the Escaped Mental Patient is burned when he makes his hand damage aggravated, but playing Rötschreck prevents this.
The deck relies on the Auspex bleed bounce namely Telepathic Misdirection and less often My Enemy’s Enemy. In fact the bleed bounce is part of offense, since you’re either forcing your prey to commit resources (blocker, bleed reduction or bounce) or you’re reducing your prey’s pool when he decides to take the damage from the redirected bleed. The Malkavian antitribu vampires might block bleeding vampires from time to time but only if they have enough blood (and not enough pool) and/or if they expect no significant combat abilities by the acting vampire.
Vote defense is often two-fold. First, the Malkavian antitribu like Korah or Stavros are relatively cheap vampires with vampires given the Malkavian antitribu some leverage during political actions. On the other hand the usual combination of Direct Intervention or Delaying Tactics is frequently use to cancel the political action/referendum. Some variants of this archetype totally disregard vote defense relying on their speed and ousting power instead. An interesting alternative appeared with Wrong and Crosswise in Keepers of Tradition. Technically it is worse than Delaying Tactics or Telepathic Misdirection, but it offers versatility and can be played by almost all of the vampires at both levels (whereas Telepathic Misdirection requires superior Auspex).
This is definitely the Achilles heal of the Kindred Spirits bleed deck. There are two approaches to tackle this issue. Some players pack a few combat cards to offer light combat defense (like Swallowed by the Night or Behind You). The other school of thought argues these combat cards dilute the offense capabilities of the deck, and any combat deck worth its salt will overcome this light combat defense anyhow. So their conclusion is to ditch combat defense completely and to strengthen the ousting power of the deck instead.
How to win against them
As a prey of Kindred Spirits bleed deck it’s a though job for any player/deck to hold their own ground, because the S&B deck is able put enormous pressure on its prey right from the start. The first and main task is to defend somehow against the massive bleeds of the Kindred Spirits deck. You can try to block, you can bounce or reduce the bleed, or you can rush the bleeding Malkavian antitribu.
Archon Investigation as well as Major Boon helps, but you need to draw them somewhat early. When burning a vampire you should try to maximize the damage to the Malkavian antitribu by trying to target a bigger vampire, e.g. burning a vampire like Dolphin Black or Korah instead of Midget. Protected Resources only helps in a limited fashion, it slows the bleed deck down, but the number of bleeds for two will kill you eventually.
Blocking the Malkavian antitribu is only an option if you have access to a decent amount of intercept, since the Kindred Spirits deck has a lot of stealth. Starting blocking those vampires with no or inferior Obfuscate, since they can only add one stealth point per card, and are therefore easier to block. Also, you especially should be aware of Faceless Nights in the Kindred Spirits deck, that taps your vampires when played at superior Obfuscate after the action resolves, thus preventing you from blocking or bouncing the next bleed action.
If you do not have enough intercept, you can resort to simply not blocking, thereby denying and after a round or two the deck is jammed with stealth . This requires some discipline to follow this strategy to end, and only works if you have enough pool (gain) at the same time as well as a grand-predator who is putting enough pressure on the Kindred Spirits deck. Also if your only source of intercept would be playing a KRCG Newsradio for example, it would really think about playing the card. It costs you two pool and very likely only lets your predator cycle his stealth cards more quickly.
You can turn these bleeds against you to your advantage, but for this either you’ll need a massive amount of bleed bounce cards or you’ll make enough pool damage yourself early one that a few selected redirected bleeds from your predator to your prey make the difference. Otherwise the bleed bounce must be timed carefully, i.e. only when the bleeds are making at least 3 damage.
Faced with this kind of aggressiveness, it is often advisable to go backwards, that this you’re actively helping your grand-predator oust your predator. You might rush the Malkavian antitribu or put more damage to your predator than your prey during a political action like Kine Resources Contested or play Banishment against the the vampire which is bleeding you the most. A deal with your grand-predator is often advisable, since otherwise you might end up with a new predator whose dirty work you have done, but doesn’t show his gratefulness by not letting you act without pressure for a couple of turns.
If you cannot defend properly, and your offensive capabilities are targeted towards your prey, you have two choices:
- Either you are going all-out forward, trying to oust-race your predator. This option requires a deck that can oust fast. And if you’re not fast enough, the Kindred Spirits deck is having a field day ousting two preys in quick succession.
- The other option is to stay tight. That is you try not spend too much pool for equipment,locations, etc. you do not need for defense or bloating and try to gain pool by bloating. This works only if your grand-predator puts enough pressure on your predator, and is likely to oust him rather quickly, or at least before you die.
What can alleviate the general situation is having a strong grand-predator, which in turn is able to put at least some pressure on the Kindred Spirits deck. You need to remind your grand-predator that he must act against your predator, since otherwise the Kindred Spirits deck is — aiming for a quick oust — will gain 6 pool and 1 VP soon, making it even harder for your grand-predator to oust the bleed deck. Cooperation is the key word. E.g. your grand predator has a wall deck, so you might bounce a bleed to him, when he is able intercept and beat up the Malkavian antitribu bleeder.
As a predator
As a predator you must be aware of the back ousting capabilities of the deck by bleeding backwards with Kindred Spirits. Some players of this archetype tend to go backward quite aggressively when they are threatened or pro-longed pressure is applied to them. The worst error as predator you can make is a non-aggression pack with this S&B deck archetype. This gives the S&B the free hand to launch its deadly attack against its prey.
In the end the Kindred Spirits decks has little or no defense and relies mainly on its own ousting power and ability to bleed backwards. You should cooperate closely with your grand-prey, even to the end that you offer him to oust his prey or at least offer him a couple of turns with pressure from your side if he helps you actively to oust the Kindred Spirits deck.
- Kindred Spirits — the namesake of the deck, bleed card, pool gain and threat potential all rolled up into a single card.
- Eyes of Chaos / Confusion — the two basic bleed modifiers.
- Spying Mission — used for responsible bleeding.
- Dolphin Black — the archetypal Dementation Stealth Bleed vampire, since she’s the smallest vampire with all three clan disciplines at superior.
- Dreams of the Sphinx / The Barrens — essential for card flow.
- Telephatic Misdirection — not solely used as bleed bounce but sometimes as intercept as well.
Notable Examples & Variations
As with other deck archetypes there are a lot of different variants around. Most play with the G2/G3 Malkavian antitribu while others choose to utilize the new and slightly bigger G4/G5 Malkavian antitribu. With the new G4/G5 Malkavian you can replace some of the Dementation with Presence cards, e.g. replacing Entrancement with Kindred Spirits in order to be more flexible when dealing with Ally-based decks.
Another variant uses the Archbishop or Priscus title of the mid-cap Malkavian antitribu to be able to play Creation Rites to gain additional minions to bleed or used as chump blockers.
- Got Confusion? by Pat Lusk — the basic version of the deck (see decklist below).
- Mad Dancers by Gines Quiñonero — uses Danse Macabre and The Call to gain extra pool and/or bring out additional vampires.
- Cholinesterase Inhibition by Darby Keeney — Art of Memory is used for improving its hand cards.
- Malki de Presencia by Alex Parcero — adds a streak of Presence, especially a number of Entrancement and Majesties have been included.
- Bleed Like Me, Responsibly by John Alston-Campbell — by including a huge number of Telepathic Counters can frustrate his predator like hell; also a higher number of Spying Missions prevents “abuse” of bleed bounce by your prey.
- Miami Vice by Romain Naïm / Kamel Senni — uses Fabrizia Contreraz to bring Creation Rites into play.