Combat occurs when a block succeeds, but can also be provoked directly using actions like Bum’s Rush: because of this card, other actions with similar effects are commonly called rush actions. It also gave its name to an entire category of decks: the rush decks.
Combat does not help reducing the prey's pool, at least not directly. There are basically three strategic postures a deck can adopt when it comes to combat:
- Disabling the opponents minions is the most aggressive one. This slows down the opponents, but does not help to achieve victory by itself. On the other hand, it gives incredible control over the table balance. Rush decks specialize in that aspect.
- Grinding is a more balanced posture. The idea is to target the prey's blood and not only its pool, focusing on making sure the opponents systematically lose more blood. Paul Jones' article Blood, Pool and Grinding Beads explains the grinding posture in details.
- Resisting is the last posture: the idea is to just be able to resist the two other postures well enough, either with defensive combat options, or just relying on speed or number of minions.
On the discipline side, p and h are great at dealing high damage. i has a strong combination with Aid from Bats and Carrion Crows, giving 3 damages with a press. t has the excellent Theft of Vitae, which provides a non-preventable 4 blood differential at no cost. Many disciplines give access to aggravated damage options:
- j with Wolf Claws, Claws of the Dead, Bone Spur and Body Flare.
- v with Chiropteran Marauder and Breath of the dragon.
- t with Walk of Flame, Flames of the Netherworld and Burst of Sunlight.
- l with Eye of Unforgiving Heaven and Sword of the Righteous.
- y with Flames of the Netherworld and Conflagration.
- q with Baal's Bloody Talons and Taste of Death.
- n with Breath of Thanatos.
- k with Mayaparisatya.
- w with Devil Channel: Hands.
- f with Dawn Operation.
- Gargoyles N with Raking Talons.
Using aggravated damage
Using aggravated damage while acting is tricky, as the acting minion has to choose and pay for his strike before the reacting minion. Cards that make the damage of a strike aggravated, like Claws of the Dead, are superior in this aspect, as one can wait to see if the reacting minion will play a combat ends or a dodge before using the card.
Using aggravated damage on the reacting side is easier. Moreover, it allows the use of Rötschreck, sending the opponent into torpor whatever his strike. The only prerequisite is for the range to be right for the aggravated strike to be able to land in theory.
Apart from dealing more damage each strike, additional strikes are a good option to deliver more damage each combat. They are, however, mostly available only for c users, with the notable exceptions of Arms of the Abyss ($), Devil Channel: Back (w) and Octopod (g).
Finally, Target Vitals is an excellent option to increase damage, available for every minion at no cost.
Weapons are also a good way to improve damage. There are a lot of weapons available, here are the most efficient and most played:
- Weighted Walking Stick: A weapon that can be wielded without losing an action to equip it. It provides a total of three additional damages at no cost, an excellent ratio.
- .44 Magnum: An additional damage each strike, together with a manoeuver to keep the range long an avoid damage. This is also the best weapon Concealed Weapon can get out, thus avoiding to loose an action (and risking interception) to equip with it.
- Ivory Bow: Although unique, 1 pool for an aggravated ranged damage each strike is a bargain.
- Sniper Rifle: Although only useful when blocking, its ability to set the range is an excellent option to avoid damage.
- Assault Rifle: A stronger version of the .44 Magnum. The 5 pool cost is prohibitive, but if it can be reduced by bringing it in game using Alastor, for example.
- Blade of Bellona: An additional damage and optional manoeuver at no cost, a bargain for Salubri antitribu d.
The easiest defense for combats is to avoid them altogether using a Strike: Combat Ends, S:CE for short. Multiple disciplines give access to this option:
- r with Majesty, Force of Personality, Catatonic Fear, Staredown and Unholy Penance.
- j with Earth Meld, Form of Mist and Rapid Change.
- $ with Oubliette and Shadow Body.
- I with Flesh Bond.
- O with No Trace.
- V with Meld with the Land.
- C with Preternatural Evasion.
- N with Spiritual Intervention.
- Z with Leapfrog.
- rs with Serpent's Numbing Kiss.
It is worth noting that Flash Grenade is an option for any minion, and also that big capacity vampires have access to d Obedience and O Mental Maze to avoid combat altogether, although only when reacting to an action.
How to deal with Strike: Combat Ends (S:CE)
S:CE are a real issue for combat-focused deck. Some solutions exist to deal with them.
- NSA Trio is available to everyone but is not an option for Rush decks, as their combat may not be the result of a block.
- Some disciplines have a counter that let them prevent S:CE or continue the combat after a S:CE: p with Immortal Grapple, C with Psyche!, A with Telepathic Tracking, H with Relentless Reaper and CQ with Sanguine Entrapment.
Other than that, the only option is to get into enough combats to exhaust the S:CE on the defence side.
Damage prevention is another important aspect of combat. It is useful in defence, but also on the offence: reducing the loss of blood is always important. f is the key discipline for damage prevention, and only a few damage prevention cards exist outside this discipline:
- Glancing Blow prevents only one damage, that makes it a viable option only for saving an ally.
- Rockheart and Stonestrength (U)
- Rego Motum (t)
- Apparition (k)
- Flesh of Marble (j)
- Horrid Form (V)
- Leathery Hide M
Dodging is also a good defensive option, and the simple Dodge is available for everyone. It is weaker than ending the combat with a S:CE, but it is still a viable defensive option when S:CE are not available.
Finally, two combat cards can send a vampire into torpor directly: Coma (e) and Entombment (£). They're too costly to be used effectively as an offensive option, but they are good defensive options as they can act as a deterrent against combat decks.
Getting the correct range is fundamental for combat. Most combat module specialize in a given range, either maintaining long range to avoid the basic one damage any vampire can do, or using strong short range strikes and effects. Many cards provide maneuvers and many offensive combat module use them to manage their range. A few cards allow a vampire to set the range directly, without letting the opponent the opportunity to maneuver:
- Sniper Rifle
- High Ground (^)
- Selective Silence (Q)
- Shadow Step (£)
- Cold Aura (n)
- Charge of the Buffalo (z)
- Brick by Brick (U)
- Giulia Giovanni Abruzzina O
- Omael Kuman D
- Storm Sewers s