KoT Starter Decks
Four starter decks were released as part of the Keepers of Tradition expansion:
Of the four the Ventrue and Malkavian decks are the most effective out of the box.
The Brujah starter is a rush combat deck—it's aim is to enter combat with your prey's minions and put them into torpor. Once all of your prey's minions are down, the aim is to oust by bleeding your prey with presence bleed actions.
Ideally the game starter by bringing out the vampire Tomaine (a 6-blood with celerity, potence and presence all at the superior level). If Tomaine is not available, either of the 10-blood vampires is a suitable substitute but Adana de Sforza, the Inner Circle member, is preferable because of her better basic bleed (+2 vs Jann's +1) and more votes (4 vs Jann's 2). One or both of the two 4-blood vampires are good supporting minions.
The deck has a strong selection of weapons available and equiping at least your primary minion with one is strongly advised. The Sengir Dagger is notable for dealing aggravated but the Bang Nakhs which deal damage are also extremely effective. In more serious play the Bundi is often the weapon of choice because of it's ability to be used alongside Immortal Grapple which is present in almost every potence-based tournament combat deck.
The thirty-two card combat package is focused on close-range combat. Although it is somewhat vulnerable to combat defense (strike combat ends, strike dodge or damage prevention cards) when the deck does land its strikes, the opposing minion is likely to regret it. Immortal Grapple which prevents the opposing minion from dodging or ending combat is the primary way around combat defense but there are only three copies so they need to be used carefully. In the presence of solid combat defense, the decks best hope is to conserve rush cards until it appears the opponent is out of defensive cards and then put down as many minions as possible before they have the opportunity to draw more.
The decks greatest weakness is a lack of ways of entering combat. Harass is the preferred card to use for entering combat, but there are only five copies and Enrage, the other rush card that comes with the deck, is far inferior. Bleeding with Adana (who bleeds for 3) is often a good way to entice your prey to block and enter combat when you don't have a Harass in hand.
This starter is a fairly effective sneak bleed deck—it's aim is to bleed your prey playing stealth cards to avoid minions who might block and using bleed modifiers to increase the bleed amount.
Morel, the 6-blood vampire with superior auspex, dementation and obfuscate is the most effective in the crypt. Tryphosa's ability to increase the stealth and bleed amount of each of your minion's bleeds is often a game winner if you have enough vampires out to take good advantage of it.
A good turn should see you bleeding with each of your minions using either Forgery (which nicely offsets the cost of Tryphosa's ability) or Kindred Spirits (widely acknowledged as one of the best bleed cards in the game because of its build-in pool gain effect and the ability to bleed any methuselah on the table). Generally the bleed action will be followed up by the playing of stealth cards, usually Into Thin Air or Veil the Legions. Once your prey has declined to block, an Eyes of Chaos can be used to add to the bleed amount.
The decks biggest weakness is defense, especially in combat which should be avoided at all costs unless you have the Elysium: The Arboretum in play. The deck is also vulnerable to having bleeds re-directed. The defense against this is Spying Mission which can be used to cancel a bleed after it has been re-directed and has the additional benefit of providing extra bleed enhancement later on.
If you're caught without stealth cards, the best option is to slowly discard cards or play cards until you manage to draw into the stealth needed. The Learjet can be very useful in these cases.
The Toreador deck is either a wall deck without intercept (here the aim would be to block as many actions as possible) or a rush deck with rush (here the aim would be to enter combat with your preys minions). As a result it struggles to perform well. On the up side, it has some of the most effective equipment cards in the game: Ivory Bow, Sniper Rifle, Mark V, Bowl of Convergence.
Eugene and Kateline are probably the best vampires in the crypt although Rafael's enhanced bleed also makes him an attractive option despite his high cost (11-blood).
You should probably be looking to discard equipment from your hand as soon as the game starts since there is little chance you will have enough spare minion actions or pool to equip with them all. The Ivory Bow, Bowl of Convergence and the IR Goggles should probably never be discarded as these are all potentially gaming winning pieces of equipment of which there are only a few copies in the deck. The guns can be safely discarded—there are more than enough in the deck.
Once the game is underway the somewhat scattered and toolboxy nature of the deck provides an interesting challenge. Your aim is to convince your predator that no matter how he attacks, you have the appropriate defense in hand. This is achieved by a combination of playing cards carefully and outright bluffing. If your predator is without access to stealth you can usually block his or her bleeds safely although against decks like the Brujah deck you'll want to have Pursuit or some other means of manoeuvering to long range to avoid their close range combat. Minor Irritation can be used to avoid tapping your big minions when they block smaller ones. If your predator does have stealth, are either to attempt to run them out of stealth cards or to jam their hand with stealth cards by blocking nothing. This can be a tricky thing to judge, but with this deck it's probably more worthwhile attempting to block everything since you have no direct way to take advantage of your predator's hand jam. Once you have attempted to block and your predator has added stealth, wait for them to increase the bleed with a bleed modifier before playing a Telepathic Misdirection to re-direct the increased bleed to your own prey.
With Kateline out it may be possible to occasionally pull of a Kine Resources Contested by splitting the four pool damage it deals in a way favourable to other players with votes but it's unlikely to succeed if you're in a strong position.
The Toreador deck is not easy to play but it does have potential—there is a reason the Toreador one of the most featured clans in tournament play.
This is probably the strongest of the four starters—it packs a strong offensive bleed and vote package and a solid fortitude based combat defense. It also helps that many of its cards are played in a reactive manner and so are seldom wasted. It's biggest weakness is that the crypt is expensive and you are likely to find yourself low on pool until your first prey has been ousted.
The two main offensive cards are Conditioning (which adds three to a bleed) and Kine Resources Contest (a vote card that can potentially do three pool damage to your prey). These combine nicely with Seduction (which prevents one minion from blocking) and Freak Drive and Majesty which both allow your minions to untap and then take another action (Majesty is played in combat and is also a very useful combat defense card).
Honor the Elders is a vote that can help offset the cost of your minions by allowing you to gain pool and is likely to be supported by others with votes on the table and so it relatively easy to pass. Fourth Tradition: The Accounting is another means to gain pool and bring out your big minions quickly.
Defense against bleeds is primarily via Murmur of the False Will which will allow you to re-direct bleeds against you to your prey. The weakness of Murmur is that it can only be played when a younger vampire is acting so keep that in mind when your predator has a big vampire in play. Murmur can also be used to add one to a bleed performed by your own minions but this is seldom useful except if it is needed to oust your prey. Second Tradition: Domain provides both untap and intercept but requires a prince or justicar—so be sure to influence one out.
The ten damage prevention cards (four Armor of Vitality, six Soak) are the primary combat defense and combine very well with the vampire Hardestadt who hits for three with each hand strike instead of the normal one. Hardestadt can also make effective use of Haymaker to strike for four and then for three in the next round.
If one of your large minions has been put in torpor with very little blood, Golconda: Inner Peace can be used as a very effective last ditch means of recouping the pool spent on the minion. Alternatively it can be used on one of your predators minions to slow them down or to avoid having your predator ousted. It should only be used against your prey if there is a large minion they cannot afford to lose—even if it gives them an extra eight to ten pool.
Generally speaking the Ventrue deck profits for an extended game so do not be afraid to play a non-aggressive game early on. Once you have brought out your big minions and replenished your pool, there will be plenty of time to put pressure on your prey.