In VTES, the basic strategy of a Powerbleed deck is to bleed his prey successfully with as few actions as possible, but with high amounts of damage in each action at the same time. This can be ranging from +2 bleed (Govern the Unaligned) to +7 bleed (Govern the Unaligned plus Command of the Beast plus Conditioning) actions. On the other hand, these bleeds are usually at no or low stealth. Instead the decks uses cards which don’t allow other minions to block these bleed actions. This technique is called block denial. This lack of decent amounts of stealth differentiates these decks from the Stealth & Bleed (S&B) bleed decks. This article mainly covers the Giovanni Powerbleed deck archetype since this is the most prominent and successful type of the Powerbleed breed and most of the principals also apply to other Powerbleed variants.
How to win with them
The key to winning with Powerbleed is to bleed consistently and always with the aim not only to land a successful bleed for 1 or 2, but a bleed for 5 or more. There are are a large variety of cards, but Dominate is the first choice since besides having a large number of bleed modifier cards, it also offers with Seduction one of the crucial block denial cards. The second choice of discipline is driven by the need for the second block denial card.
The crypt is then chosen by the question if a particular vampire features these two disciplines: a vampire below 5 should have both disciplines, between 5 and 6 at least one at superior (and the other at least inferior), and 7 and above both disciplines at superior.
The deck usually has two things to consider, how to prevent its prey’s minions from blocking and how to cope with bleed bounce.
Block Denial Tactics
One of the early goals of the deck is to prevent your prey having more than 2 minions. The basic idea is that in this case you can easily use your two main block denials cards (Seduction and Call of the Hungry Dead or Seduction and Elder Impersonation) to prevent any of the two minions to block your bleeds. This also shows the deck’s main offensive delivery mechanism, try to deny your prey’s block attempts.
Here’s a rough overview over block denial cards in VtES. Roughly they fall into two categories. Those which must be played in advance usually have a stronger effect, but may be wasted. The second category can be played in response to block attempt, but often have lesser effects, e.g only work against allies or younger vampires.
- Can be played in reaction to a block announcement (or after being blocked):
- Blanket of Night (Obt) — requires a second vampire with superior Obtenebration.
- Blood Awakening (Qui) — only younger vampires are affected.
- Call of the Hungry Dead (Nec) — unconditional at superior Necromancy.
- Circumspect Revelation — requires a Black Hand; only against Sabbat vampires.
- Command (Dom) — only against allies.
- Council of Seraphim — requires a Seraph; only against Sabbat vampires, otherwise the blocking minion receives -1 intercept.
- Devil-Channel: Throat (Abo) — only against younger vampires or allies.
- Elder Impersonation (Obf) — unconditional at superior Obfuscate.
- Eyes of the Serpent (Ser) — only against allies.
- Heart’s Desire (Aus & Chi) — only against younger vampires or allies.
- Horrific Countenance (Pro) — unconditional, but costly (4 blood).
- Neutral Guard (Obe) — only against younger vampires or allies.
- Phantom Speaker (Mel) — not working against older vampires.
- Psalm of the Damned (Mal) — unconditional at superior Maleficia.
- Psychomachia (Dai) — unconditional at superior Daimonium.
- Siren’s Lure (Mel) — requires a second minion to go into combat with the blocking minion after resolving the action.
- True Love’s Face (Obf & Pre) — can be canceled by paying a pool.
- Predator’s Mastery (Abo) — vampires with cap. less than 7.
- Must be played as the action is announced:
- Approximation of Loyalty (Pre) — only against vampires with capacity less than 7.
- Beast Meld (Ani & Pro) — not blockable by vampires; not on bleed actions.
- Deed the Heart’s Desire — only against younger vampires.
- Grandest Trick — vampires cannot block, but the acting vampire is treated as mortal ally; requires Kiasyd.
- Memory Rift (dem) — against a titled vampire; requires an Anarch
- Notorious Brutality — requires Sabbat vampire with cap. greater than 7; vampires with capacity less than 7.
- Penitent Resilience (For & Obe) — vampires cannot block.
- Recurring Contemplation (Tem) — allies and younger vampires cannot block.
- Seduction (Dom) — unconditional at superior Dominate.
- Sleeping Mind (Dom) — against a tapped vampire.
- Strange Day — requires a Laibon; vampires cannot block.
- Virtuosa (Mel) — unblockable at superior Melpominee.
- Will-o’-the-Wisp (Chi) — X-1 allies or younger vampires cannot block.
As you can see the combination of Dominate & Necromancy provide two unconditional block denials, which build the foundation for the Giovanni Powerbleed as both are Giovanni in-clan disciplines.
Assuming that your prey spends 10 to 15 pool on vampires (and other cards), you can oust your initial prey in turn 4 to 5. The problem is usually the next prey who had some time to build with low or no pressure from its initial predator (your initial prey). In order to out-bleed him you need usually a higher number of minions or heavy use of master cards that tap your preys vampire like Anarch Troublemaker or Misdirection. Another card that might also fit into this category is Blind Spot. Even though it is only applicable against younger vampires, it also prevents the targeted vampire from playing reaction cards like bleed bounces.
A neat trick is to play multiple copies of Anarch Troublemaker, which you play at first, then use it to tap two vampires from your prey. During the next round(s) you play your next copy of the Troublemaker, thus contesting it with your prey. Since your prey is under a lot of pressure and has often no pool to spare then, he is likely to give the contest up, and you can use the new Troublemaker in your next turn. Rinse and repeat .. If on the other hand, your prey chooses to contest, that’s alright too, because he now has to lose a pool each turn. And hopefully you can afford that contest while your prey (in the short-/mid-term) cannot.
Dealing with Bleed Bounce
If your bleed is being bounced to your grand-prey, this typically isn’t a huge problem, since you do not use stealth (or at least not much of it), so your grand-prey should be able to block this. Only you must be aware that your grand prey might fear you already, even if your still its grand-predator, so having a Strike: Dodge or Strike: Combat Ends at hand is quite helpful. Also sometimes these decks contain cards like Change of Target to prevent the wrong target to be bled.
Another addition to Giovanni based-decks is Le Dinh Tho, whose special ability allows him to look at another (read: your prey’s) hand and force him to discard one of hand cards (read: bleed bounce) as a + stealth action. This of course greatly helps to make those big bleeds land where they should.
The bleed defense is almost always exclusively bleed bounce, the deck even uses this technique to an offensive extent. Deflection, Redirection and the new Murmur of the False Will as Dominate-based bounce cards are usually used for this.
Vote & Combat Defense
Both vote and combat defenses are usually light, a couple of Delaying Tactics as well as some Strike: Combat Ends like Majesty or Spiritual Intervention are in this deck type. Not so often Powerbleed decks pack some hitback like Entombment or Breath of Thanatos, but also not likely more than 2 or 3 of those.
How to win against them
This decktype lives from its forward momentum: If it loses the momentum, it usually cracks fairly fast under pressure from predator (and sometimes prey). The deck is not quite good in defending against particular threats, and usually relies on speed rather than durability or long-term success. This is often its main weakness; if for some reason the forward motion against its prey is slowed down, the deck often fails, due to its inability to defend against an aggressive predator or a prey that is able to attack it predator.
Most other decks have difficulties defending against a Powerbleeder, since they usually put a lot pressure on its prey. So bringing out the typical number of minions (for a particular deck) is often not possible, due to the heavy pool loss during the early game. On the other hand, the Powerbleed deck has problems if you have three or minions, or if you can untap frequently in order to block. Usually you need at least three minions to be able to effectively block the powerbleeder’s vampires.
Also quite helpful is to have access to resources (minions/ retainers/ locations/ etc.) which provide +1 intercept, since this is typically the max. amount of stealth a powerbleeder’s minion can generate, e.g. a Guardian Angel (although it costs two pool) is a good investment against a powerbleeder. The most effective cards against this type of decks are Eternal Vigilance and Secrets from the Magaji since they provide a reliable untap capability. The later card is somewhat tricky, since Secrets from the Magaji is burned when a block fails. So you have to try to block with other minions first, and saving the block capability of the Secrets for the last block attempt, when (hopefully) the bleeding minion has already played its block denial cards.
If you’re block capability is limited, either due to lack of minions or lack of untap cards, you have three options:
- You try to put pressure on your prey by bouncing the powerbleeder’s bleed actions, but this usually requires large amounts of bleed bounce cards (at least 8+ cards on 90 cards total. Since most decks are not packing that much bleed bounce, it is often not viable solution.
- You can try to gain (speak: bloat) more pool than your predator can remove by bleeding each turn, e.g. by playing Consanguineous Boons and/or Voter Captivations frequently or cards like Govern the Unaligned en masse. This is also not often not viable solution for the problem, since it explicitly assumes, that this part of your strategy anyway, and assumes your grand-predator is able to oust his prey fast enough before you’re ousted.
- One of the best strategies against a powerbleeder is usually to backoust him. Due to its enormous amount of pressure a powerbleed deck applies on its prey it is very often advisable to go upstream against it. So if your deck can go backwards, it should do so, and aggressively too, even to the price of ousting your predator. This strategy is a must for a Rush combat deck, or a Vote deck without enough bleed bounce or bloat, since otherwise the pool loss by the power bleeds is too much to endure for more than 3-4 rounds.
As prey a Powerbleed deck is relatively welcome, since it has no real way of holding onto its predator. It tries to outrace its predator by ousting its prey fast, and thus gaining momentum. The only problem is if you’re using a bleed strategy yourself. Powerbleed usually packs a lot of bleed bounce, since it helps tapping out its prey vampire, and at best (or worst) the grandpredator is ousting the powerbleeders prey.
The weakness of the deck is that it lacks a proper defense against both vote and combat, and it cannot hold out for long, if pressure is applied to it and it cannot oust its prey at the same time. But both combat and vote decks should be aware that they shouldn’t wait too long to take actions against the Powerbleed deck, since otherwise its grandprey is gone very soon.
- Seduction, Call of the Hungry Dead — most commonly used, also True Loves Faith, Neutral Guard are possible choices.
- Anarch Troublemaker, Misdirection — to tap prey’s vampires w/o spending minion actions for it.
- Govern the Unaligned, Legal Manipulations — bleed actions which provide a decent basic bleed.
- Conditioning, Foreshowing Destruction, Aire of Elation — bleed modifiers with a somewhat high amount of damage.
- Majesty, Spiritual Intervention — combat ends to prevent being caught by blocking or rushing minions.
Notable Examples & Variations
There are quite a number of variations on this theme, and the distinction between the different variants is somewhat blurred, because for example an Edward Vignes deck may include Mind Numb (typically used in a Tap & Bleed deck), or a Lasombra Powerbleed might pack some Daring the Dawn for the surprise.
- Giovanni Powerbleed — makes pressure from the start & tries to oust fast.
- Giovanni Power Bleed by David Anderson-Dávila — Basic version (2001).
- Rise From Your Graves by Márcia Mota/Thiago Brum — Basic version (2013); see decklist below.
- Cappadocian Powersleaze by Michael Andryuk — Giovanni Group 3/4 Powerbleed with a Fortitude twist.
- Giovanni Location by Fernando Cesar — Giovanni Powerbleed based on Guillaume Giovanni’s special ability.
- Lasombra Powerbleed — similar to the Giovanni Powerbleed, but using Obtenebration instead of Necromancy.
- A Sudden Anarch Troublemaker by Jeffery Thompson — Lasombra Powerbleed w/ a few votes.
- Edward Vignes — a Ventrue mid-cap powerbleed deck that ousts when the prey is low on pool and/or has tapped out, e.g. by using Anarch Troublemaker and/or Misdirection. The deck usually plays the waiting game. It essentially does nothing against its prey, lulling it into a false sense of security. In the beginning it just bloats and tries to influence out a large number of minions. The deck is somewhat more durable than the typical Powerbleed since it packs more than defensive cards than the Giovanni Powerbleed decks.
- Daring the Dawn — this is actually a different deck archetype ousts by playing Force of Will and Daring the Dawn to land successful bleeds, although sacrificing low to mid-cap vampires. Often used with Movement of the Slow Body to rescue themselves from torpor after the bleed.
- Tap & Bleed — this is also essentially a different deck archetype; instead utilizing the the block denial technique the Tap & Bleed deck tries to cards like Mind Numb or even Spike Thrower to tap opposing minions for at least a round, so it can bleed heavily without being blocked or using copious amounts of stealth. On the other hand it shares some characteristics with the Powerbleed archetype like the low stealth and the high amounts of bleed.