I've just read something on the newsgroup that inspired me to write this brief article. A guy asked if Dissolution was a good card or not. There was one reply to this which I really liked. The idea is plain and simple: if a combat card costs you blood than it have to give you a real boost, otherwise it's not worth playing it. I tend to agree with this. When playing a combat deck you must always be aware that others will hit back. So when you enter combat you will get damaged yourself (most likely) therefore playing cards with blood cost will cause your vampires to run out of blood quickly, leaving them vulnerable. A good combat deck needs to solve the blood management first! Back to the original point: in order to take the disadvantage of paying blood for a combat card it has to give you a big boost.
Let's look at these cards:
You can see that all of these cards provide a press or a maneuver with an optional press. When we compare Dissolution to Flash we see that they are basically the same. There is no question that Flash is the better card. Dissolution costs you a blood, but gives you no boost in exchange that another free card couldn't give you. Of course there is the discipline issue. You might want to play a combat deck where celerity is not available. Since Protean however does good aggravated damage you might not need any press in your deck. A maneuver is much more important. I will come back to this.
Let us compare Flash to Resist Earth's Grasp first. Both are pretty much the same when we consider the inferior celerity level of Resist. Resist does cost a blood, but it provides an awesome boost: stealth! This is a boost worth paying for with most decks. A Brujah or Brujah antitribu can use this stealth to pass an important political action like Party Shift or Dogs of War. A bruise and bleed version can use this to go for the oust. Any rush deck can use this to stealth over any ally (Jake Washington, Procurer, Tye Cooper) when trying to "hit the target".
Back to the Protean issue, lets take a look here:
These are both better alternatives to Dissolution. Quick meld can be used for a free maneuver or can be used for an additional maneuver at the cost of 1 blood. It is a better card than Dissolution because the cost is optional. Claws of the Dead's strength is the aggravated damage. You need to make a choice here! You either mix Quick Meld and Claws to be able to stay at close and hit aggravated damage (let's say you play 6 Quick Melds and 8 Claws) or you go for Claws only (14 copies). The drawback is that a maneuver + aggravated damage will cost you 2 blood which is a lot. There is an advantage though, which is reliability. You will always have your main combat weapon (the aggravated damage) available. Your choice here shouldn't be made on an emotional base here (like "Oh, I like this artwork" or "Oh, more different cards are more fun"). You should take a look at your deck and consider your blood management: if you can prevent and refill your vampires (Amaranth, 2 Hunting Grounds, +blood when hunting, etc) than you should go for reliability and pack 14 Claws. In the other case, when blood support might be a problem you should go for the free maneuver!
This is just an example. Next time you build a combat deck take the time to check all the available combat cards and try to figure if those cards that cost blood are really worth to cost (= good boost that free combat cards can't provide). You might find a cheaper option.
/well, it didn't finish as a brief article. I hope this article is of any use actually and that it made any sense to write this/