Ahrimanes Bleed & Block deck is one of the best VTES toolbox decks around. It has won numerous tournaments around the world, including the EC 2006., the UK National Championship 2006, the Czech National 2007 and the French National 2013. It draws its strength from the ability to intercept all almost anything while being able to put pressure on its prey by bleeding it and/or intercepting its prey’s actions.
How to win with them
Despite the fact that most players consider this deck a wall deck, its approach is quite toolboxy when you look at the actual deck lists. The deck can intercept, fight and bleed. Not as good as dedicated decks in these respective areas, but comparable to some degree at least
The deck’s main strength is its ability to intercept consistently. The Ahrimanes have access to permanent intercept like Raven Spies or Guardian Angel as well as transient intercept in the form of Cat’s Guidance, Speak with Spirit, etc. More importantly the deck can also block crosstable (with Falcon’s Eye), i.e. it can block his prey’s bleed or tries to oust its prey in turn with any other (D) actions.
While the deck has some combat abilities, it lacks any decent damage prevention; it can only go to long range to avoid combat. The deck does not hit very hard, nor does it feature aggravated damage, but it offers consistently damage for 2-3 per round, often with Aid from Bats and Carrion Crows. So the deck usually doesn’t put an opposing vampire to torpor immediately, but by prolonged combats or repeatedly battling the same vampires. Nose of the Hound or Charge of the Buffalo is often used in addition, especially if the opponents vampire are hard to block (i.e. they are playing block denial or running high amounts of stealth).
One of the deck’s strength is that is has a number of ways of ousting its prey(s). It can oust by bleeding using the Presence discipline, it can oust by putting vampires to torpor using Fame, Tension in the Ranks, etc, or it can oust by putting a Smiling Jack into play and defending it.
Bleed & Vote defense
Since the deck any bleed bounce or reduction ability, the deck relies only on its ability to block bleeds. This is difficult in the beginning, when it only has to rely on its transient intercept, which is usually not enough for a dedicated stealth bleed deck. The deck lacks any votes, and therefore also has to rely on its ability to intercept in this section.
As the deck can dish out some damage as well, it has somewhat good prepared against combat decks. Against close combat decks the Ahrimanes do quite well as the number of maneuvers (Nose of the Hound, Aid from Bats, Swiftness of the Stag) the decks has, are enough to go to (and stay at) long range. Against long range combat deck, the Ahrimanes have significantly more problems. Cel Gun decks can usually be kept at bay with Canine Horde and Carrion Crows, but against Breath of the Dragon or Walk of Flame, the Ahrimanes go to torpor.
Although the Ahrimanes clan only has a small number of vampires to select from, the group 2/3 selection is quite sufficient. Howler is clearly the star of the deck; a built-in +1 strength as well as handy maneuver for an 8-cap vampire with all of the Ahrimanes clan disciplines at superior is a neat package. The alternative is group 4/5 with Muricia as the main vampire. Although she’s not as strong as Howler, the Animalism discipline is represented much more strongly in the G4/5 Ahrimanes.
How to win against them
The deck is somewhat vulnerable at the start of the game, but properly build-up with Raven Spies and the permacept locations like KRCG Newsradio it is hard to oust. For example a Stealth & Bleed deck is often able to oust an Ahrimanes deck if it is its first prey, but has problems ousting it when it is the second prey.
You can exhaust the untap capability of the deck, if you have enough minions or means of untap (like Majesty or Freak Drive), but you have to be aware of the combat capabilities of the deck. The deck is also vulnerable to block denial or the combo Forgotten Labyrinth and Elder Impersonation like many Stealth Vote decks use.
The deck is also vulnerable to decks, that can hit hard in combat, since the Ahrimanes have few options for damage prevention. On the hand, with Howler’s built-in maneuver and Swiftness of the Stag, the Ahrimanes can often determine what range is used in a given combat, and thus avoiding to get hit in the first place.
- Raven Spy — provides the basic intercept the deck needs for blocking.
- Falcons Eye — this the Animalism version of Eagle’s Sight allowing to block actions ignoring normal restrictions.
- Speak with Spirits — this is the basic reaction card for this deck, as it both allows the reacting vampire to untap and optionally give the acting vampire +1 intercept.
- Carrion Crows / Murder of Crows — both cards are used for adding damage which cannot be prevented easily as it is not damage from a strike, but environmental damage.
- Enchant Kindred / Aire of Elation — these Presence bleed card are usually used for ousting.
- Swiftness of the Stag — the hidden champion because of the card’s versatility.
Notable Examples & Variations
Usually I try to list all of the different variations of the deck from Tournamet Winning Deck Archive, but in this case I choose not. The reason for this that there are 50+ Ahrimanes decks in the TWD archive, and the variations of the deck are usually only how much bleed vs. how much intercept is in the deck. Despite it’s general classification as wall deck, an Ahrimanes deck is quite often very toolboxish, because of the versatile nature of the Ahrimanes and Spiritus cards.
More intercept/combat orientated variants:
More bleed orientated variant:
- Ahrimanes by David Quiñonero-Santiago.
- (Still) Crazy Bird Lady by Andy Smith.
- Birds of Prey by Chad Brinkley.