Jyhad/Vampire: the Eternal Struggle Deckbuilding Tips – The Crypt

Jyhad may be an old game, but it’s still one of the best multiplayer trading card games out there. I’m going to run down some basic deckbuilding tips for those seeking to start tuning their decks. This article focuses on tuning your crypt.

Being an old game you might think that new players are rare. Yet I was recently given a box of Jyhad boosters as a gift (now that’s a rare find!) and had the opportunity to introduce my gaming group to the game of predator-prey that is Jyhad.

Jyhad and V:tES card backs

It may also be noted Jyhad was first produced by Wizards, a Deckmaster game designed by Richard Garfield after Magic debuted. The trading card game later had a name change to Vampire: the Eternal Struggle. For new players, you may encounter cards with either Jyhad or V:tES backs; they are considered fully compatible and can be mixed together in the same deck.

All right, let’s get into constructing your Crypt!

Stick to the Crypt Minimum

The rules require a minimum of 12 brown-backed vampire cards to make up your crypt. The laws of probability indicate that you want to stick to this number; adding more will simply dilute the occurrences of your most relevant vampires. Note also that, as each vampire is unique, you generally do not want to include more than one copy of an individual vampire. It might seem like a good idea to include two or three Gilbert Duanes and make it easier to find a vampire with superior obfuscate and dominate plus the title of prince, but the extras will be dead cards (no pun intended) when you draw more than one. Not to mention that you’d risk having a higher percentage of your crypt rendered unplayable should a rival manage to control his or her own Gilbert Duane before you.

Weight Your Crypt with Younger Vampires

As you must spend your own blood points to control new vampires, you must carefully consider whether each older and more expensive vampire is worth the cost. Is it better to have one capacity nine vampire, or a decently skilled capacity six and a younger capacity three minion in play? In most cases having a higher number of minions is better, giving you more opportunities to take action and block.

Players putting together political decks are often tempted to fill up on old, expensive vampires to guarantee they draw enough political clout to power their votes. It’s easy to take this to extremes but a more balanced approach is better. Every Methuselah needs some cheap and eager henchmen around, even if it’s just to play defense while you bring out the Nosferatu Justicar.

Jyhad Vampire Blood Cost Pyramid

So how many vampires of each blood capacity should you have in your crypt? For those who are Magic players, you can think in terms of a mana curve (which is really a sort of bell curve). You want the peak to be in the three-to-five range. No more than two vampires of capacity nine or greater (it’s okay not to use any). Several at two or three capacity, and possibly some one-capacity Caitiff if your deck isn’t too picky about clan.

Another way to think about selecting vampires of different capacities is as a pyramid, where each row represents a different vampire generation and the youngest are on the bottom. The pyramid is wider at the base and narrow at the peak, illustrating the concept of having a larger base of inexpensive vampires with a moderate number of medium-capacity vampires (four-six), up through having perhaps a single expensive vampire at the top.

Seven is the Voting Sweet Spot

Since I find vampires that cost nine or above to be too expensive for most situations, that tends to rule out the kindred that carry the highest number of votes (justicars and inner circle members). However, primogen and princes, while individually bringing fewer votes to the table, can be relatively numerous in your crypt if selected with care and don’t have to break the [blood] bank either.

Most clans that play in the political power games have some princes at the seven slot, which is quite an affordable way to net two votes. Princes who are cheaper (Brujah puppet prince Volker, I’m looking at you) are invaluable to a political deck. Inexpensive primogen can fill in the gaps and help get your crypt to reach 7-8 votes easily from five or fewer cards and without a single kindred going over eight cost. The remainder of the crypt might well employ cheaper ruffians and errand boys to do the dirty work.

Smart Brute Needed for Propaganda, Computer Hacking, and General Thuggery

The skills, or rather disciplines, possessed by your crew of malcontents is extremely important. If possible, you want to be able to play all of the cards in your hand at any time they may be required. The more tightly you control the range of disciplines required on the cards and possessed by your kindred, the more consistent your deck will be in avoiding (or causing) trouble.

Often it can be tempting to reach for the old and powerful vampires as they are sure to possess the combination of disciplines you require, and usually bring extra abilities to the table. The critical point to consider is whether those abilities and extra disciplines are worth the cost of an older vampire, when sometimes a younger and less powerful vampire can do fine if they possess the one or two main disciplines you are focused on.

The next question to ask when evaluating a minion’s disciplines is whether they must have the superior version or if the lower level of that discipline is sufficient. Go through your library cards and check to see how many of the cards in each discipline are only being included for their superior effects. You may want to match the ratio of vampires with the superior discipline versus standard to the ratio of library cards you only want to play for that superior discipline’s effect versus standard.

Hiring Henchmen in a Strong Job Market

In the face of strong competition you don’t always have the luxury of selecting the most powerful and qualified minions, and may have to work with those who are simply cheap and available. After all, any vampire can cover the basic tasks of blocking and bleeding your prey, and the finesse brought by the older vampires and lacking from the younger generations can be compensated for with superior numbers.

I’ve already been building a case against utilizing too many older vampires, but you might want to consider dumping them altogether. In addition to their literal blood cost, you should consider the cost in transfers. This is especially important at the beginning of the game, when a first-turn vampire could mean you’re free to bleed your prey next turn and immediately gain the edge.

Cheap vampires (1-4) make an excellent base and don’t need to be scrutinized as carefully for their capabilities as having at least one of your main disciplines at superior, or two at standard level, is all you can usually hope for at that cost.

Vampires in the 5-8 range should be selected with more care, as they should possess both your main disciplines at standard level as a minimum, perhaps with a title or useful ability as well. These kindred will form the strong backbone of your forces and can be called upon whenever you need something done right.

Vampires who cost nine or more should be absolutely critical to your deck to warrant their inclusion, considering they will require three turns of transfers before they can be used.

Getting Along in Mixed Company

The question of which clan or clans to draw from is often simply a function of how many cards you’ve got (and how many decks you’re trying to build). Assuming you have a decent-size collection you should have the luxury of sticking to a single clan, which can be helpful if you’re trying to play a number of clan-specific cards.

Unless you have certain clan-specific cards worth building a deck around, it may be worth mixing clans. Two clans can work together quite easily, while stirring the pot with more than one or two vampires from a third (or fourth…) clan can stress the focus if not balanced correctly.

The best way to mix clans, and indeed to select vampires in general, is to focus on specific disciplines (usually two, with a minor focus on a third) and pick only vampires who possess those disciplines. Without resorting to the older vampires that usually limits your crypt to two clans since they each have their own focus with only a certain amount of overlap.

Among the seven Camarilla clans, I tend to make common pairings when building decks:

  • Venture with Toreador, sharing presence and political clout
  • Brujah with Nosferatu, sharing potence and general combat capabilities
  • Malkav with Nosferatu, sharing obfuscate for sneaky bleeds
  • Tremere with Malkav, sharing auspex and dominate

While the Gangrels can be paired with others, I like them as a lone pack focused on animalism and protean. Finally the Caitiff can find a place in any deck, but work well in a cheap weenie deck; who cares if they get destroyed when they cost so little? And how many of your prey will be able to withstand minions two or three times their number?

I hope that you take away at least a little something from this article; even I tend to forget these principles at times and need to be reminded. If you have any suggestions on ways to improve these tips, or items you feel were left out, please let me know in the comments!

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