Another classic in VTES among the tournament winning decks is the Tzimisce War Ghoul deck. As the named suggests it based on the Tzimisce War Ghoul ally, the sturdiest ally in the game with 5 life, 4 damage and the ability to prevent one damage each round of combat. This deck archetype has a long history in the tournament scene and a pretty successful one too.
How to win with them
The War Ghoul deck is basically a rush combat deck using the War Ghoul ally as rushing minion instead of vampires like Beast. The means to oust his prey are putting down your prey’s minions first, then bleeding him out using Changeling or bleed-enhancing retainers like Tasha Morgan.
The early aim of the deck is to bring out War Ghouls as fast as possible, and spend a lesser amount of pool to bring out only two, maybe three vampires early in the game. The best scenario is a turn-2-War Ghoul where Horatio sacrifices a Jake Washington to bring out the first War Ghoul. The crypt is comprised of a number of weenie to mid-cap group 2 vampires notably Horatio, Lolita Houston, Caliban and Corine Marcon, since they have a great cost-capacity efficiency (in that group).
The key question/issue is, how to get the War Ghouls out without being blocked in the first place. There are (at least) three different approaches of achieving this ..
- .. by using Vicissitude stealth cards like Plasmic Form and/or Changeling. This is the classic option, giving you up to +3 stealth total for the recruit action. This is something that can still be blocked by dedicated wall decks. On the other hand, since both Plasmic Form and Changeling have additional functionality beyond stealth (dodge and +1 bleed), they’re quite useful later in the game, when you already have enough War Ghouls on the table.
- .. by using permanents like Unlicensed Taxicab or Creepshow Casino. This is providing usually the same amount of stealth, having the advantage, that you do not need the transient action modifiers every recruit action. On the other hand, you need to equip/play these cards first before starting to recruit the War Ghouls. This makes a deck relying solely on stealth permanents significantly slower, and this in turn is reason, that you do these cards only occasionally and then only as assistance to the Vicissitude action modifiers.
- .. by using Piper. The latest option for ally recruitment came with Twilight Rebellion expansion, and the card Piper. With this concept, blocking is no longer an option, since the recruiting is no longer an action, but achieved by playing a master card and tapping an Anarch. The disadvantage to this is obviously, that you don’t have to worry about wall decks as prey or predator, and can even ditch the use Vicissitude altogether if you want to. On the other hand, you need to modify your crypt significantly by adding at least 4-5 Anarch Converts to ensure that you have Anarch available early on in the game.
The War Ghouls should then attack your predator’s minion first, to make sure he’s no real threat for you. After that you’ll have change your focus on your prey. Beat up your prey’s minions and then use your vampires to bleed +2 either with the bleed retainers or cards like Changeling to oust you prey.
The War Ghoul’s combat strategy is easy (and obvious), lay down a Trap, hope your opponents doesn’t play Strike: Combat Ends and then beat the hell out them. Variations of the theme include the use of a Hawg to press into round 2 of the combat, where a lone Repo Man fetches these vehicles from the library before.
Beside the bleed retainers like J. S. Simmons, Esq. or Tasha Morgan, the deck also often features Vagabond Mystic to heal wounded War Ghouls as well as number of. Of course, all of these allies or retainers can be used as fodder for the War Ghouls if necessary, even though Jake Washington is generally the preferred victim.
Since the War Ghouls form the backbone of the deck, the crypt selection is almost secondary, but only almost … The crypt selection really depends on decision, if you want to use Vicissitude on a larger scale in your War Ghoul deck, If not, you can restrict your crypt selection to vampires of capacity 4 or less. This way you have very often a vampire able to recruit a War Ghoul in turn 2. Horatio & Lolita Huston in group 2 and Piotr Andreikov, Droescher One-Eye & Ilias cel Frumos in group 3 are probably the best choices here. If you want to use Vicissitude for more than just using action modifiers during the recruit actions, you need to include some capacity 5 or 6 vampires like Caliban or Corine Marcon.
The deck has two ways of defending against bleeds. The first is to use the permanent +1 intercept from the Unmasking to block, although the “traditional” War Ghoul deck isn’t an intercept combat deck, but a rush combat deck. The second way is a usually small number of bleed bounce cards based on the Auspex discipline.
Eventually the intercept defense is too weak and the amount of bounce cards too small, so the War Ghouls have to rush the minions of Stealth & Bleed deck and even more so those of Power Bleed decks early in the game, even to effect that it has to oust it effectively after all of your predator’s minion are in torpor.
There is virtually no vote defense in this deck archetype, since the small- (or mid-)cap vampires the deck features have no titles. The deck usually has a small number of Delaying Tactics to prevent the worst effects of votes, but again the main line of defense is to rush the voting vampires (both those from prey or predator).
The War Ghouls make up both the decks combat offense and defense. They are — as other allies — immune to Rötschreck, Disarm, etc., can withstand some hit-back, deal a whole lot of damage and can rush any vampire at the table. If your opponent is not a combat deck, you only have to persstent in your rushes, eventually he will succumb to the number of rushes and the use of Trap. Combat decks on the other hand can be a problem depending on the type of combat they are playing. The biggest problem for the War Ghouls are gun-based decks, especially Celerity Gun, and Animalism based decks. Against these type of combat decks, you have to pick your fights carefully. When you can assume, that they have little or no combat cards in your hand, you can go all-out to try to stomp their vampires into oblivion.
How to win against them
One way of avoiding the War Ghouls in the first place is to prevent either the recruitment the allies/retainers, who are later fodder for the War Ghouls, or the recruitment of a War Ghouls itself.
The first one is usually problematic since Jake Washington is a master card, and you need a Wash or Sudden Reversal to cancel it. When the fodder retainer/allies or the War Ghouls are recruited, you can try to block that, but you will need 2 to 3 intercept for blocking that because your opponent will use Changeling and/or Plasmic Form during the action. But most somewhat serious intercept decks should be able to block the War Ghoul recruitment.
Another way of dealing with the War Ghouls is to simply steal them from your opponent using Far Mastery, Entrancement, Lure of the Serpent, etc. When trying to take control of another player’s War Ghoul make sure you do it with a tapped one, otherwise the opposing player may just use the War Ghoul’s special ability by tapping him and burning any one location on the table.
Combat-wise Celerity Gun decks are the nemesis of the War Ghoul deck. The can out-maneuver the War Ghoul and kill it in a single turn using a .44 Magnum and a Blur, these being staple cards in a Celerity Gun deck.
If you play a combat deck other than a Cel Gun deck, try attack the soft targets first, e.g. the vampires. The vampires main defense is either to use the Chiropteran Marauder standalone, or a maneuver plus Breath of the Dragon. In desperate moments your opponent will use the Breath of the Dragon also at close range, even at the cost of losing one of his Tzimisce vampire.
There are number of ways to deal with War Ghoul deck, but a lot of decks can’t. Those who cannot deal with the War Ghouls directly have two options. The first option is to strike a deal “You don’t harm me, I don’t harm you” with them. This of course only works if you are the predator of the War Ghoul deck. The second option is to try to outrun the War Ghoul, e.g. you can try to out-bleed your opponent faster than he can beat up your vampires, or to delay him by playing Majesties in combat and then back-oust him using Kine Resource Contested or similar votes. But be prepared, the War Ghoul deck needs not that much of time for its setup.
- War Ghoul — what to say about this that hasn’t been said above …
- Jake Washington — the easiest way of getting an ally/retainer to sacrifice for the War Ghoul.
- Charisma — as in other ally decks this is a must to reduce the cost of the allies.
- Horatio/Piotr Andreikov — funny that this a a key card/vampire, but it is the fastest way of getting out a War Ghoul.
- Trap — the main combat card for this deck archetype.
- Piper — the safest way of recruiting War Ghouls.
Notable Examples & Variations
- “Classic” War Ghoul — described in detail above; often not a full 90-card deck, but only 60 or 70 cards large.
- The Warghoule deck by Stephane Lavrout — uses Vicissitude for stealth & combat.
- Jake Washington eats the world by Erik Torstensson — a 60 cards version.
- Wild Thing War Ghoul by Hugh Angseesing — uses Vicissitude for stealth only.
- War Ghouls by Ruben Vidana Ramos — uses Corpse Balloon as additional retainers.
- Piper War Ghoul — this variant uses Piper for ally recruitment in vast quantities.
- Piper Warghoul by Antonio Cobo Cuenca — uses Vicissitude not at all, focusing on non-disciplined based combat cards.
- The Remarkable Beauty of the Dog/Warghoul Synergy v2 by Ginés Quiñonero — uses Nana Buruku for additional Master Phase Actions as well as Underbridge Stray for untapping War Ghouls or giving them presses in combat.
- EconoGhoul — developed by Ben Peal it uses the Burn Card option mechanism to effectively reduce the size of library and thus being able to play a War Ghoul deck with quite a low number of ally cards.
- EconoGhoul by Ben Peal
- War Ghoul Summoning — this variant has a splash of Presence. It uses The Rose and the Summoning to fetch allies it needs from the library.
- War Ghouls in the dark — uses the G3/G4 vampires with Obfuscate to make the recruitment of the vampires more reliable.
- What Ghoul? by Cameron Roberts / Ginés Quiñonero