The Toreador Grand Ball (TGB) deck archetype has been around for quite some time now. Essentially a TGB deck is a political deck, which uses the namesake Toreador Grand Ball to make the political actions like Kine Resources Contested, Banishment and Parity Shift unblockable. Another alias for this decktype is AAA or Triple-A for the three main vampires it features, namely the Toreador Anson, Anneke and Alexandra.
How to win with them
The TGB deck initially lulls the table into the belief, that it is utterly harmless and it won’t do anything. In a way this is even true, but only until the deck has had its required setup. Then the first (and maybe second and third) TGB hits the table, and the vampires start inflicting pool damage by calling unblockable political actions.
The main action to keep the deck alive is Parity Shift; if you have an aggressive Stealth Bleed or Combat deck as predator, then you need to take down the aggressor first, and then turn to your prey. The deck is also a master of deal negotiation, because with the help of Parity Shift and/or Anneke’s special ability the player is able to deal damage quite effectively cross-table or block critical actions cross-table. The description of Erol Hammer’s TGB deck was “Survive and make a deal with someone who can oust”, and that exactly is this deck archetypes strength: it has table control. Each of the AAA trio of vampires has it’s own superior asset:
- Anson provides a second master phase action,
- Anneke can block cross-table, and
- Alexandra can untap another Toreador (during its player’s minion phase).
Once you have three Toreador (in play) and have a reasonable chance to pass votes, the deck switches from survival to going-forward mode. If it doesn’t have vote lock yet, you can reasonably deal with other vote decks at the table splitting damage evenly between your prey and the other vote player’s prey. The intermediate goal is always to gain enough pool, in order to bring more titled vampires into the ready region, and thereby gain eventually achieve vote lock. At this point, the deck becomes really, really dangerous, because of the build-in bleeds of the vampires and the power of the political actions, it is able to remove significant amount of pool in a very short time.
Another neat trick is having multiple TGBs in play, but effectively you only need to not to untap only one of your Toreador vampires. And even that can be circumvented by Alexandra’s special ability to untap a tapped Toreador once per turn. Because of that, some players even argue (and not without cause), that Alexandra is the most important vampire in the deck, and not Anson or Anneke. The deck not only generates large amounts of pool by Parity Shifts, but (like most Presence-based vote decks) also with any other vote, by first (nearly) emptying the vampires with Minion Taps, or Villeins and then refilling them with Voter Captivation later on.
As the alternative deck name Triple-AAA suggests, the three Toreador vampire Anson, Alexandra and Anneke are the key vampires in the deck. To be fully functional, you need at least three Toreador vampires, Anson for providing the extra master phase action, Alexandra for the (extra) untap as well as third Toreador as target for the TGB. This vampire need not be Anneke (if Anneke is ready, then Anson is actually often the target of the TGB), but a small cap vampire like Isabel de Leon is doing adequately for that job as well. The crypt beside the three star vampires is often a mix of other larger Toreadors with a Prince title and small cap Toreador without a title. These small cap vampires often have superior Auspex to be able to bounce bleeds.
The deck’s bleed defense is quite simple, yet effective. It uses Telepathic Misdirection to bounce bleeds of and/or Second Tradition: Domain to block it. The amount of intercept can often be enhanced by Eyes of Argus, Eagle’s Sight or other Auspex-based intercept cards. With Villein another strong cornerstone of this deck was added, extending the bleed defense by bloating easily and recapturing some of the blood using Voter Captivation.
Usually no special vote defense is needed here, since the TGB deck has a lots of votes to offer. A TGB deck might pack either the classic Delaying Tactics or even better Scalpel Tongue, since it can turn around both a vote that you call yourself or a vote that is called by your adversaries.
TGB’s combat capability is typically defensive in nature, with an abundance of Majesty, and sometimes with sprinkles of Obedience. Also Secure Haven is often seen in this deck type. Some deck variants also feature Concealed Weapons and .44 Magnums to be able withstand other combat decks more consistently and even provide some hitback against ally or weenie decks. From the later expansions, Charismatic Aura has found its way into the deck, even though the card provides no untap, but some players deem the ability to circumvent Immortal Grapple more valuable.
How to win against them
Once the deck is built-up often having multiple high cap. vampires out, it is difficult to oust, even more so it has then generated a considerable pool buffer by using Parity Shift, Vote Captivation and Villein. Therefore early pressure is mandatory, but you need to be aware of the deck’s capability to steal “back” one’s pool by playing Parity Shift. The victim of the Parity Shift is often, especially early in the game, its predator, not its prey.
If the deck is low pool, especially after putting itself deliberately down for being able to play the Parity Shift, it is very vulnerable to Delaying Tactics (and even more so Confusion of the Eye). The same applies to the first (or second) Villein/Minion Tap that is being canceled by Sudden Reversal or Wash, especially if Anthelios is not yet into play.(1)
It is advisable for both the prey and predator of the TGB deck to remove the name-sakes of the deck. This is true, even if the TGB player can recycle TGB from the ash heap and play it as a second master phase action in the same turn. The reasoning is that if he uses two master phase actions to retrieve and play a “used” TGB, he cannot use it for playing and/or retrieving other vital master cards like Pentex Subversion or Dreams of the Sphinx. And, of course, without the TGB, the Toreador can be blocked during actions or they don’t try anything funny at all.
- Toreador Grand Ball — the namesake of the deck, vital for taking political actions without the fear of being blocked.
- Anthelios, the Red Star — retrieve Toreador Grand Ball, Direct Intervention and other vital goodies from the ash heap. Best utilized with Parthenon and/or Anson in play.(1)
- Parity Shift — the main means to keep the deck alive.
- Second Tradition: Domain — the deck’s untap card and main source of intercept as well.
One of the key cards used to be Anarch Revolt, but due to the fact that you can get “immunity” from the Anarch Revolt by making one (or more) of your vampires an Anarch, it is no longer one of the favorite cards of a TGB deck.
Notable Examples & Variations
- Classic TGB deck /w multiple copies of the “Triple-A” vampires
- Toreador Grand Ball by Kamel Senni — the basic classic version.
- Anneke+Anson by Ruben Van Cauwenberghe — another basic version (with Anarch Revolts based on the old wording), but w/o Alexandra.
- Erol Triple-A by Erol Öngün — focuses on blocking and table control.
- Masters of the Grand Ball vol 2.0l by Teemu Sainomaa — with Liquidation & Ashur Tablets engine.
- Toreador Grand Ball by Djordje Bjelajac — modernized version with Villein, Perfect Paragon, etc.
- Alastor variant –here the main vote is Alastor, and the deck mutates into a Rush combat deck during mid-game.
(1) Anthelios, the Red Star has been banned from VTES tournament play (effective from February 16th, 2016). This is considerable setback for the deck, because of it’s inability to retrieve Toreador Grandball back from the ashheap!