The Ventrue antitribu Grinder deck is a toolbox deck based mainly, but not exclusively of vampires of the Ventrue antitribu clan. It can bleed, block and fight to some extent, and you can see in these three areas each of the three clan disciplines of the Ventrue antitribu, Dominate, Auspex and Fortitude. More often than not it grinds down its opponents with steady bleeding and blocking, hence the name of the deck archetype. The deck’s motto is “Patience is a Virtue“, since it is a rather slow deck, which really takes off in the late mid- and end-game, and needs to find the right spot to lunge against its prey(s). The Ventrue antitribu Grinder deck could be played for long time, since most the cards exist since the Sabbat War expansion. But the deck archetype became popular and successful in the tournament scene only in 2008-2009 sometime after the release of the 3rd Edition expansion and the Ventrue antitribu vampires that came along with it.
How to win with them
When looking at the decklist, you can ask yourself the question, how can this deck win? It has
- no votes to participate in the political referendums,
- no (or very little) stealth to make bleed actions successful, and
- no straight forward combat offense and no answer to Strike: Combat Ends.
The short answer is that the deck is very persistent in what it does. It keeps bleeding persistent with a large number of bleed actions and bleed modifiers, it keeps blocking with the permacept locations and cards like Abbot, it’s persistent in combat by preventing damage and pressing into subsequent combat rounds, always trying to wear down opposing vampires and players.
In the early game tries to build up, especially trying to get out 3 to 5 minions with the help of Govern the Unaligned or Scouting Mission, and getting some master cards like KRCG Newsradio or Blood Dolls on the table. In this stage the deck is mainly reactive, and only probes its prey’s defenses with single bleed actions per turn, and trying to block mainly its predator.
After the deck has established a solid position in the game, it tries to setup its first ousting in the mid-game. The Ventrue antitribu try to block more often than before its prey’s minion actions, trying to eliminate blockers and bouncers for the forthcoming Ventrue antitribu’s bleed actions. Keys for ousting are also the master cards which tap blockers or prevent them from blocking, i.e. Anarch Troublemaker, Misdirection and Pentex Subversion. The hard thing for the player is to find the right spot when and where to lunge at your predator. Often it is the case when you can leverage bleeds from your predator bleeding or when it becomes apparent that your prey is unable to block anymore because of lack of untap cards. The Ventrue antitribu then bleed hard with their Dominate bleed cards, mainly Conditioning or Govern the Unaligned.
In the endgame, hopefully both your opponents and (equally important) the opposing vampires are somewhat low on blood. This is usually the chance for the Ventrue antitribu to seal a game win, again with bleeding and blocking. In the heads-up, you have to be more careful against bleed decks, since your best defense, bleed bounce cards, don’t work anymore.
Overall the deck has no real strengths, but no real weakness either. It might take some time to adjust your playing style to it, since it requires some patience, and an eye for the point in time when to attack full force.
The deck is composed not of weenies (which would also be a reasonable choice), but mainly from mid-capacity vampires with Dominate, Fortitude and Auspex. This combination of disciplines, of course, favors heavily the vampires of the Ventrue antitribu clan. The deck’s best choices are the midcap Ventrue antitribu from group 3/4. They can play all the discipline cards, and a lot of them have valuable special abilities. The following three vampires usually make up the core of Ventrue antitribu Grinder deck:
- Neighbor John — he’s the smallest vampire with +1 intercept special ability, which makes him invaluable (although you sometimes wished he had Fortitude and/or Dominate at superior).
- Blackhorse Tanner — one of the best special abilities in VtES, since he let’s you “re-draw” a card from your library every turn. It’s good, because you don’t discard the unwanted card to the ash heap. It’s extra good for a reactive deck like this, because you can use the ability in other player’s turn as well.
- Owain Evans, The Wanderer — the wandering hunting ground he’s sometimes called, because other player often ask (and sometimes get) a blood from blood bank during their untap phase. Give him a Blood Doll or Vessel, and you have a constant pool gain almost instantly.
Other than these three vampires it’s just a question what set and level of disciplines you want. If you want some votes and a full set of disciplines, you can include larger vampires like Polly Kay Fisher. If you value a larger number of vampires which you can move to the uncontrolled region by playing Govern the Unaligned on them, you can be content with a vampire like Ulrike Rotbart. Other vampires (from other groups and clans) are possible as well, e.g. if you want to have another angle. For example, you can include some Tremere antitribu vampires like Keith Moody, Antonio d’Erlette, Esoara if you want to include the Nephandus ally for burning vampires in torpor without a bloodhunt.
After the initial success of the Ventrue Antitribu, around 2010 players tried different variations of the deck mostly by switching the crypt. The most successful change in the crypt is replacement of Ventrue antitribu by Ventrue Princes. Instead of using Auspex, the deck uses then Second Tradition: Domain as main means for untapping and intercept. The star of the deck is obviously Lodin, whose special ability of preventing one damage per combat serves the deck very well. The deck also benefits from the fact, that there are whole lot of mid-cap Ventrue Princes in groups 4/5.
The deck has lots of defense against bleed decks in general and stealth bleed decks in particular, since the deck has a reasonable amount of intercept (although as not as good a weenie Auspex or Animalism intercept deck), and lots of bounce cards. Usually the Dominate bounce cards are more prevalent than their Auspex counterparts, since the Dominate cards only require the inferior discipline for that feat.
Usually you should try to block first, and if the acting minion uses stealth, bounce the bleed if you have the card. If you don’t have the bounce card try to block again with Auspex cards or permacept. Don’t worry if you’re being bled sometimes, since you have the means to gain pool by bloating with Govern the Unaligned or just good old Blood Dolls.
This is maybe the one Achilles heel of the deck, since the deck lacks often any titles or other votes. If you have a vote deck sitting next to you without any or little extra stealth, you usually do need not worry that much, since you can block most or at least the most important votes. The matter is different with vote decks that can generate stealth, usually by using Obfuscate. Here you have to be extra careful, since you will often not have the intercept to block votes that, for example, got up to +3/+4 stealth with the help of Forgotten Labyrinth or Into the Thin Air.
The lack of votes can be somewhat compensated by including Demonstration (or even Framing an Ancient Grudge, if you encounter Camarilla politics a lot), but often you’re just better off with another permacept location like Channel 10 because you can use it against other deck types as well. The other card that is most helpful, if the Ventrue antitribu fail to block a vote that is damaging you, of course, is Delaying Tactics. But you need to use it for the important votes like Parity Shift or Reins of Power, when you can’t block.
Generally this weakness has been addressed with the deck evolving to the Ventrue Princes Grinder, which has access to a significant amount of votes, and adding permanents like Ventrue Headquarters or Ephor.
The decks main combat defense are the Fortitude prevention cards and the combat-equipment cards like Weighted Walking Sticks (and occasionally also Zip Guns). The damage prevention cards serve three purposes:
- Prolonging combat with Indomnability and Hidden Strength to inflict extra damage and/or (with some luck) even torporizing vampires or burning allies later in the game.
- Preserving blood needed to pay cards later or that will be moved to the pool via Blood Doll or Vessel.
- Staying alive against combat decks.
The Weighted Walking Sticks are in the deck for having a cheap equipment (without the need for an equip action), that can be used for punishing blocking or acting vampires. This is also intended for depriving the opposing vampires from blood they would have need to pay cards or that would have been moved to the controllers. Again, the deck has no answer to S:CE, but by being persistent with a number of minions that just won’t go away, the deck can score later in the game even against deck which utilize S:CE cards.
The deck does surprisingly well against combat decks, but has problems with decks that can hit repeatedly in a turn (read: Celerity Gun), or inflicts environmental damage (read: Carrion Crows).
How to win against them
The Ventrue antitribu Grinder deck is a tough nut to crack. The best angle is to prevent the Ventrue antitribu from building up early on, mostly by blocking the Govern the Unaligned which are almost exclusively played at superior in the early game.
As bleed deck, you’ll have a hard time being the predator of the Ventrue antitribu, because they have lots of bleed bounce and and are being able to block. Bleed decks should concentrate their bleeding, i.e. if they bleed, they should bleed with all their minions in a given turn. By bleeding only once or twice per turn, the Ventrue antitribu can almost certainly bounce a bleed and/or block the other one, which is even helping the Ventrue antitribu in their own bleed actions.
Combat decks should be aware of the considerable amount of damage prevention cards, which usually prevents them from regaining any blood by playing Taste of Vitae. If possible you should try to single out vampires with inferior Fortitude, but due the intercept and number of untap cards the Ventrue antitribu have, you cannot rely on getting into combat with the vampire you want to. A good advice is to try to prevent the opposing vampires from getting out of torpor, since the Ventrue antitribu usually lack any extra stealth.
The best chances against the Ventrue antitribu probably has a vote deck, preferably one with additional stealth (beyond the +1 stealth of the political action itself). But even then you should try to concentrate your offensive actions to one round or two, not giving the Ventrue antitribu the chance to block as often and trying to move them into position where their hand is jammed with Fortitude and master cards.
- Weighted Walking Stick — the signature card of this deck, cheap and effective.
- Govern the Unaligned — the proverbial pool gain and bleed card.
- Anarch Troublemaker — the finisher/enabler when trying to oust.
- Indomitability/Hidden Strength — the damage prevention cards that keep the blood on your vampires, and let your vampires get another shot at the opposing minions.
Notable Examples & Variations
- Stick Men by Hugh Angseesing — this is one the grandfathers of this archetype (see also the example deck below).
- Corporate Hit Squad by Ben Peal — uses .44 Magnums for the Weighted Walking Sticks. You can find the deck in VTES Player’s Guide (2005) (p112).
- Aim and Chain by Vincent Ripoll — a more aggressive version, leaving the intercept (Auspex) part behind, but concentrates on the forward motion. With the lack of need for Auspex, the crypt can be modified, using smaller vampires instead of the 7 or 8 capacity vampires.
- Earth Feeder by Adam Hulse — adds a Necromancy angle (also by adding Harbinger of Skulls and Samedi removing some of the discipline cards requiring Dominate. The whole decks moves more toward a wall deck.
- Better Gentlemen, Same Sticks by Tiago Brum — the Grinder variant based on the Ventrue Princes.