Card Spotlight - Shear Winds

Shear WindsAn honest to goodness Card of the Week? Could it be a rare card from Set 3? A Proxy perhaps? Or maybe one of those EX Cards that are expiring this month? Something for my rush File? My Lycan File? My rush Lycan File? Um, no. Would you believe an underused Falkow Grimoire from Set 2 that works best with Gowen and Lawtia big creature files? Hello? Hey, come back! I just want to talk about Shear Winds!

Shear Winds engages all units on both sides of the field for one turn and costs you 2 SP. Meanwhile, your enemy gets to keep his 2 SP or use them, so he gets a built in advantage out of the deal. Okay, we’re off to a great start. Let’s talk about some various advantages skipping a turn can bring you. First of all, it can negate any one turn effect if you can predict it ahead of time. The Soul Skills of Magic Shade Soldier, Cudgel and Magic Doll Melee are no longer to be feared. Same goes for Open Skills like Succubus or Griffin and Grimoires like Daybreak and Defensive Maneuvers. If you get lucky and it goes off the same round as a Spell Lock or a Punishment Hole, it’ll even save you some grief. Up against a File that uses Night or Morning without the ‘endless’ prefix, you can even use Shear Winds to skip a battletime. Actually, it is a big help any time just about any Soul Skill or Grimoire is activated, because it stops the enemy units from taking advantage of your weakened units. For example, if a Soul Skill kills off your front row, Shear Winds stops the enemy front line from killing off all your support units. Instead, you’ll have time to Revive before the action starts.

The advantage of Shear Winds becomes exceptionally clear when you’re dealing with big creature Files. Because of the various ways to remove a unit from the field without returning the controlling Iczer’s SP, big creatures are often considered a risky place to put your Spell Points. However, perhaps Shear Winds can help change that. Engaging your big unit is the time-honored cure for Assassin Soul Skills, and it also happens to work on a few other damaging and returning Soul Cards you’ll want to avoid. Soul Bind is the most basic way, but Petrification also protects your precious unit from some degree of harm with an extra 30 defense. But let’s be realistic. In a game where every Action of every turn can mean the difference between winning and losing, how many Iczers are going to be lining up to spend precious Card File space and SP just so they can prevent their own best unit from doing anything? Shear Winds is clearly the better choice here, since it Engages all units at once you’re at least not really giving up an Action. As an added bonus it has a pretty good chance of stopping an additional returning Soul Skill that the others do not, Invisible Druid. If you’re lucky you can actually get it to backfire.

All that sounds pretty awesome in theory, but how often can you really predict all this? Sure, sometimes you find yourself thinking ‘damn, he revived that Cemetery Rats for no reason, the Soul Card his AZL is going to trigger has to be Assassin… if only I had some way of preventing it…’ but more often than not you get blindsided. So, are you really going to spend one to three of your precious 25 cards on something that only comes in handy when your Spider Sense is working? Probably not. If you really want to take full advantage of Shear Winds you have to have a proactive strategy that actually uses it, as opposed to all the reactive strategies I’ve been talking about. As with the Assassin Soul Skill, the big advantage comes out with big creature files.

Level 6 and 7 cards are one thing, but let’s go all the way and address level 9 cards directly. There are only three in the game, as Refess’ Dragon Emperor is still sealed up in a small puppy at the moment. We all know where Legrye fits into the metagame, but where do Dark Emperor Zu-jyva and Flame Emperor Allind fit? The answer is in your Card File, right next to Shear Winds.

First ask yourself, why would I want one of these bad boys in my File? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Allind’s Tyrant of Scorching Flame, which lets you kill some non-Refess, non-Gowen tanks for an affordable 3 SP. It’s also not Zu-jyuva’s staggering 90 HP, barely challenged by units half his level. No, where the power of these super-units comes from is in their Open and Close skills. Both of them are true field-clearing powers, hitting all units. Allind’s can bypass armor, and Zu-jyuva’s can even be buffed. In Allind’s case, it seems the best way to use him is to never Revive him, just to let him go to the Cemetery and then bring him out again. As it turns out, this is a fantastic way to avoid Assassin Soul Skills and even Merciless Death for both the Emperors, as the enemy times his moves looking for your Revive. In fact, to play a big creature File you have to be slippery, always avoiding unit removal as your enemy wastes his resources trying to put you in permanent SP debt with a well-placed return or send to cemetery. The best way to avoid this and screw up your enemy’s timing is keep your big units off the field half the time! Make sure they die from damage, then let them go and bring them back when you can. You’ll get the most from your Open and Close skills, and they’ll have nothing to aim at.

This strategy has two fatal flaws. First, since Zu-jyuva and Allind’s skills both hit all units, including friendly units, it’s very likely that you’ll have little to nothing on the field for a turn. Second, you effectively need a spare 9 SP to pull this off, because otherwise you’ll have to wait a second turn for the SP to come from the previous copy going in the graveyard. Okay, so because the Dragon Emperors are characters, you have to wait for them to leave the field completely to be able to bring out another copy anyway, but I’m trying to use them as an example for other big creature decks that might not have that problem. In any case, these problems are solved by Shear Winds. It buys you a turn so you can get the SP back, and it prevents the enemy from attacking while you have a completely empty field. In Zu-jyuva’s case you’ll still have a turn with an empty field, so you’ll have to pad your LP. As for Allind, he comes out swinging so the enemy will probably not be in the best of shape for Iczer attacking.

As you can see, Shear Winds supports a big creature deck both proactively and reactively. It can get your Dragon Emperors and other Assassin-prone creatures in gear, and if they have big Open or Close skills, it just might turn them into a force to be reckoned with. At least, it’ll make them a lot less predictable.

This isn’t really part of the Shear Winds discussion, but I’m sure many of you are wondering about a key part of this strategy: How do you make sure your big units die from damage? First, you’ll have to be smart about when you play them. With Allind, if the enemy has enough damage on the field to kill him in one turn, they’ll probably go for it. Hopefully his three AGI will get him one kill in before he goes, and if he pulled off a field clear on the round he opened, that’s a pretty decent bang for your buck. Pull that off three more times, with a little help from Shear Winds, and you’ll be left with a crippled enemy and plenty of SP to do whatever you want to next. As for Zu-jyuva, being Lawtia she has a few more options. If you’re afraid she’s going to get returned or sent to the cemetery, hit her and your enemy’s biggest unit with a Sacrifice. If you’re playing Lawtia and you need a guarantee that one of your units is going to die when and how you want, just kill it yourself!

Card Spotlight - Virtuoso / Rutina

Virtuoso / RutinaA new addition to the Lawtia lineup who solidifies the Duchy of Crest’s lead in the cute girl department, and has some pretty nasty tricks, to boot. I’m talking about the Virtuoso / Rutina this week.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a single card write up, but I’ve been busy with Fortnight challenges and the like. Also, they’ve been fitting the bill a bit when it comes to looking at new uses for cards.

However, I felt that Rutina deserves some more face time so I brought the Card of the Week column out of retirement. Rutina is a level 2, which means you can bring her out any time, and it’s not too hard to let her go if you have to and bring her back later. 30 HP is as good as it gets for a support unit, keeping her relatively safe from Salamanders and most low powered area effect damage. RNG 2 is all she needs to do a little damage if you don’t have SP to spare, since she will pretty much always be in the second row. She could benefit from more AGI, but then she would probably be too powerful for her level, and buffing is always an option.

Her first ability, Melody of Dischord (pun intended), allows you to hit one enemy unit, bypassing armor, for an amount equal to the AT of another enemy unit. Actually, both targeted units can be the same, if you like. This means that as long as the enemy has one heavy hitter, you can pretty much kill any unit you want, no matter the DF, no matter the range, for 2 SP. Not bad for a level 2 unit.

Her Close Skill, Melody of Darkness, is really the most interesting thing about her. She sets the unit directly in front of her to HP=1, and gives it a +30 attack. The obvious thing is to put her behind a Lycanthrope or Noirweiden, or some other unit that doesn’t mind dying. Note, this will only be useful for the AT bonus if the unit attacks after Rutina is killed.

Things get really interesting when you consider that a card does not flip over, IE become Closed, until all Close Skills are resolved. What actually triggers the “Close Skill” is not Closing, but being damaged below 0 HP. This means that if there is another unit in front of her, and they are both knocked below zero simultaneously, then before the units are flipped over her Close skill will set the other unit’s HP to 1, effectively healing it and keeping it alive when it would have been killed! How often is she killed at the same time as the unit in front of her? If you use a lower HP combat unit, like Black Hound, all the time. Alind, Dalos, Spores, even Lancer and other column attacks, all these circumstances will likely end up with two of your units closing at once.You could even do it on purpose with a unit like EX: Broken Iron Soldier / XXXX, allowing him to survive his own sacrificial Action Skill.

This idea takes a new dimension when you think about other units with Close Skills. If the unit in front of Rutina has a Close Skill and she bites the dust as the same time as the other unit, the other unit will actually be able to use its Close Skill and still survive. First, both units will be knocked down to or below 0 HP. Then both Close skills will resolve, the first unit's going off, and Rutina’s healing the first unit back to 1 HP. Then, Rutina will flip over, leaving the other unit alive and with a bonus. As far as I know, this is one of the only ways you can use your Close Skill and live. This may not sound all that exciting right now. After all, there are only a few Close Skills in the game. However, just as Counter is Refess’ trademark Skill, Close is Lawtia’s. More and more cards will have Close Skills in the near future, so who knows how many good combos will pop up?

Let’s finish off this discussion with a good example combo. Put Dark Emperor / Zu-jyuva down in front of her. If she dies first, she’ll set him to 1 HP, so he’s likely to die next turn. Just Revive her and you’re ready for your combo. If they die simultaneously or if he dies first, the combo happens automatically. Here’s how it goes. Zu-jyuva is sent below 0 HP, and it sets off his Close Skill, which hits all enemy and friendly units for ½ his AT, or 50 damage. This automatically sends Rutina below 0 HP, triggering her Close Skill (before Zu-jyuva flips over). Her close skill buffs Zu-jyuva and heals him back up to 1 HP. Now it’s the end of the turn, and Zu-jyuva is all buffed and still ready to attack thanks to his 1 AGI. The enemy may be gone, but if he has one super unit that survived your Close Skill damage, you can finish it off with 130 damage from a straight attack. Even better, Zu-jyuva’s at 1 HP so you’ll probably get to do this again next turn!

Card Spotlight - Rifleman Knight

Rifleman KnightThis week’s card is a bit of a contradiction, except for the part where it’s a low level Gowen card that can do cartloads of damage. It’s level one, it works best as a late game card, it’s not used very often, is Rarity 1, and it can do 100 points of damage with no exterior help. Let’s take another look at Rifleman Knight.

Incidentally, Rifleman Knight is female, but Riflewoman Knight is a bit awkward and I actually didn’t notice it was a she until last week when someone on the forums pointed it out. I haven’t seen much use out of the card, maybe because you put her out in the early game and she’s practically useless. Salamander is also level one, except he has one of the best open skills in the game. He also does more damage out of the box, and while the Rifleman has more hit points, when the numbers are this low it doesn’t make much of a difference. The Rifleman’s RNG of 5 is awesome, but in the early game you never need more than RNG 3 to hit the back row. His Charge attack is nice, but how often do you have 2 SP to spare in the early game? Might as well use Magic Weapon, it’s cheaper, permanent, and doesn’t cripple your unit.

When you bring Rifleman Knight out a little later, everything changes. First of all, after Rank Up he’s doing 50 damage a shot on his own at a RNG of 5. That’s a magic number for taking out Lawtia tanks, and it’s coming from a throwaway unit. Second, once the field starts filling up, having a unit that can consistently take out support cards in the enemy’s third row can be a lifesaver. He can even take out Light Spearwoman and other high HP archers pretty easily. Charge is just a nice extra here, but it makes short work of just about anything, including a Blessed Coatl and most dragons. Spending 2 SP in the mid-late game is a lot better than wasting a Grimoire, and it can be just as effective. Notice that the negative aspect of Charge is self-inflicted damage; that means that you are one Dryad away from being able to use the power indefinitely with no ill effects. If you don’t want to waste one, you can just let the Rifleman kill himself the second time, or Standby in between shots.

Rifleman Knight’s Soul Skill is a fairly humble LP 2, +10 AT and +1 RNG to all units. However, in practice having every unit on your field able to attack the enemy’s support cards can be devastating. I’m not sure any Vordore File will be able to survive it, especially if you use it with fast units that are likely to go before those augmented Sylphs and Undines. It only works if you field a lot of units at once, however.

Card Spotlight - Legendary Unicorn

Legendary UnicornIn a Sealed Card File tournament, you’re generally forced to rely on whatever cards you get three of. Therefore, you end up trying to squeeze the usefulness out of a card you’d never put to use in any other situation. This happened to me during our Weekend Warriors Tournament, where I ended up with 3 Legendary Unicorns.

Why have I never used him before? Well, with 50 HP he’s a little low for a Refess level 3. 30 DMG is okay, he can at least one-shot level two Gowen units, but to do reasonable damage he needs to spend SP and it won’t work at all on mid to low level units, like Blitz Soldier or Sea Hunter. Yeah, sign me up.

Any way you look at it, his numbers don’t work all that well against Gowen or Falkow. He’s Returnable, and his special attack The Weak Hate the Strong won’t do enough to take out Deep Squid and it’s overkill for Vordore. Short answer, other level three units will do better against Falkow.

Against Gowen, you can’t use The Weak Hate the Strong against their high HP level 3’s, and most of their level 4’s either have more than 60 HP, or range. It works on Unwilling Hero, Asuet and Steel, although it’s overkill in the first two cases and I’ve never actually seen Steel in play.

So what happened when I brought him out in the tournament? This little guy plugged away on what is supposed to be Refess’ true enemy, Lawtia. He’s really efficient at putting high-level above-average HP units in the cemetery round after round. Zombie Lord Zugateroza, with or without a Dryad on him? Pop. Elite Crest Knight? Pop. Dalos? Pop. XXXX? Pop. Ancient Zombie Lord? Does it matter? Pop. Crest Mindsoldier? Pop. Sometimes, you’ll have to pull some strings to get him to live long enough to do his job, (I’m looking at you, Dalos) but a Dryad or a Sylph will take care of that in a pinch. Really, the point is these are some of the most feared units in the game right now, all either level 4 or level 5, and you’ve got a level 3 card turning them into mulch. Also, with so many Lawtia cards on this list, chances are your enemy is going to be fielding two or three of them.

So his numbers aren’t very impressive, so why does he work so well? For starters, being part of Refess means that he’s got good company, a lot of things that can keep him alive and tank for him. One thing Refess normally is missing is lower level, efficient cards that can consistently close enemy units, and Legendary Unicorn fills in that slot very nicely. His numbers make him the equivalent of a Lawtia tank, which is not as good as a Refess tank but still acceptable. However, the one thing that makes him so effective is the fact that his special attack only hits units level 4 and higher, effectively making him a pinpointer. The Weak Hate the Strong seeks out the high level unit, taking out that Elite Crest Knight positioned between two Moonlight Warriors. It doesn’t sound like that amazing an effect, but for some reason it can really make a difference.

So would I use him outside of a tournament? I’m not sure, but Lawtia is quickly turning into the Sphere to beat in Folrart. Also, against the higher HP units in Gowen and Falkow, a level 3 that can bite off 60 HP chunks of dragon would be quite welcome. As an added bonus, he’s a unit, not a character, so you could pull out two and make short work of something if you had to.

As an aside, let’s look at that soul skill. It’s pretty unique, and 100 DMG is nothing to scoff at. It’s on par with the soul skills that target one Sphere or another. Sure, it hits all types of units, but you have to not only be up against an Iczer who uses high level cards, but you also have to time it so your enemy’s high level cards are out when your soul skill goes off. One thing’s for sure, you’re guaranteed to find yourself in a game every few days where you’re thinking… “man, if I only had Legendary Unicorn in my Soul Cards I’d wipe the floor with this guy” right before he tramples you.

Card Spotlight - Rapidly Flying Apprentice
Written by Edgar Figaro   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:40

Rapidly Flying ApprenticeAs I was sitting around thinking about which Dragon to do a Card of the Week on first, I realized that my favorite File of the moment was my only Falkow Card File that doesn’t have Dragons in it. I’m talking about my Azure Beastmaster File, but of course the man himself is not exactly exciting enough for an entire article. The one card in that File that does deserve some space is one of the most unique cards in the game: Rapidly Flying Apprentice.

Level 1 means SP isn’t an issue when bringing her out, although being a late game card it’s more a matter of having a turn free where you don’t need to bring out a monster or use an Open Skill. Her 10 hit points hurts, especially with the popularity of Exploding Spores. Protecting her is a big pain, and if you’re spending one SP on her Action Skill and one SP Reviving her every turn, she can get expensive fast. AGI 3 is fair, and once you use her Action Skill once her exact place in the turn order becomes less important. You use your skill, he moves, repeat. As long as your alternating, it’s fine. The only issue might be using her power on another AGI 3 unit, because a tie could result in him getting two moves in a row.

Let’s talk about her Action Skill in detail. For 1 SP Confusion Spell switches the enemy’s front and rear rows. His archers and support characters are now up against your front row, and his RNG 1 front line fighters are now in back, where they can’t do anything. It sounds like all fun and games for you, but actually it requires quite a bit of finesse to pull off correctly. For example, clobbering his archers sounds fun, but if you kill them all before his heavy hitters in the back get to go, then you might accidentally clear the way for them to pound on you. Also, he might be able to move one of his guys in the front out of the way, allowing his former front line to attack. When using Rapidly Flying Apprentice you have to take a very careful stock of the field, who could move where and when.

If the enemy plays lean, with three or less units on the field, then he can just move them all into one row to gain immunity to your ability. You should be ready with a row-clearing effect, maybe hidden in your Soul Cards. Also, speaking of combos, the Apprentice is an awesome combo with Falkow Favorite Vordore.

Very few people know this, but Vordore has TWO Skills. No really, Azure Dragon’s Tactic isn’t the only thing he can do. Read the card again, trust me. Strategist’ Plan sets RNG=0 for a target unit in the back row, and it’s an Auto Skill. Normally, cards in the back row are just there making SP or staying alive until they need to be sacrificed, but with the Apprentice you can actually move a useful enemy into the back row and then debuff their range! This is great, because a lot of front line cards can still be used from the back row, like Gowen favorite Blitz Soldier, or Magic Scythe Soldier, or Deep Squid. Also, this makes the Apprentice useful even if the enemy only has one row, just so long as it’s the front row.

Rapidly Flying Apprentice’s Soul Skill is another unique one, and another winner. Returning disengaged units means it works well for a send to cemetery trigger, or if you’re lucky and the opponent’s big gun hasn’t gone yet when he Iczer attacks you. Of course, it only works on level 5 and over, but if you find yourself facing a lot of Dragon Card Files or Rougeerst Soul Skills, it might be worth it. Losing 7 SP worth of dragon can be especially crippling to any Sphere.

So don’t let the Moe get to you and give her a test flight. She’ll defiantly give you some flexibility, and that’s something that can help any Falkow file. Also, let’s not forget that at 1 SP she’s well within the reach of any Sphere.

Card Spotlight - Counterattack
Written by Edgar Figaro   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:30

CounterattackPeople have been asking me, “Why no Card of the Week on Grimoire cards?” Okay, not many people have asked. Well, one. Fine, it was me, I asked myself that question. Anyway, the point is, this week’s Card of the Week is Counterattack.

Counterattack is probably one of the strongest attack Grimoire cards in the game. It’s also the only one that hits all the enemy units without also hitting all of your units. If you’re a Lawtia player, it will probably be doing 30 damage, since Lawtia can power this card with the likes of Animated Dead, a level 1 card. It’s a level four, which makes it a bit more expensive than Gowen’s Flame Arrow, but cheaper than any other Grimoire capable of hitting multiple units.

However, Counterattack requires the sacrifice of any unit of your choice. It seems like a disadvantage, except maybe for use on a wounded card that can’t be revived. Coincidentally, Lawtia has a number of cards that are especially short lived, like Mad Priest, or that hurt their owner. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for a Lawtia player to want to get rid of their own units, especially if they’ve planned for using Counterattack. The obvious choice is the Angel of Moon and Soul, Noirweiden. She revives, burning one LP off her Iczer each time. In addition, she hits for a murderous 50 AT. Keep her around until your LP starts going low, and then turn her into a field-clearing 50 damage explosion with Counterattack. Sometimes, getting rid of another auto-regenerating card can also help, like Animated Dead. After he buys you a few rounds until you get out the rest of your army, the enemy keeps pinpointing him to drain your SP! Counterattack turns that liability into an advantage. Using Counterattack on Zugateroza is much less likely, unless you’re up against a full field of Falkows and a Vordore that can pretty much kill anything six times in one turn. Then instead of burning all your SP before he gets a chance to go at AGI 1, Zugateroza will take out most of that Falkow field at Open Skill timing.

While not as game dominating as Return, nor as strong against DF as Fire Tornado, Counterattack is probably the best general-purpose direct damage Grimoire any Sphere has to offer. As a nice bonus, since it hits everything randomness isn’t a factor. It is an absolute must for any Card File running Noirweiden, and probably is also the only reason to ever include an Animate Dead in your game.


Card Spotlight - EX 1 Card Rundown

Card of the week is back after a brief con-related hiatus. One trick LeBeau busters or key cards? This week I’m going to do four mini-reviews, one for each EX Card.

Looking them over, the first thing that hits me is they don’t fit that well with the popular strategies of each Sphere. In Japan, clearly these cards came out after Set Two, when double the number of available cards means a lot more strategies are available to each Sphere. This is doubly true when considering that most strategies right now involve modified starters. Let’s face it, Falkow players aren’t going to be tripping over themselves for a card that makes Defense useless. Not only are most of the Starter Set cards DF oriented, but the key Falkow card, Vordore, uses DF to stay alive long enough to do what he does best:which is win the game, and I don’t see any players not wanting to do that. To give these cards a fair shake, we’ll have to assume that we’re playing with, at the very least, significantly more than just a Starter and have some flexibility.

Lion Baron / Zagar

EX Lion Baron / Zagar

Our first contender is EX: Lion Baron / Zagar. His LV, HP, DF, RNG and AT all match the Bear-Killing Axeman, only he has a 2 AGI and a much better special ability. Wait, a front line fighter that’s just like a Gowen unit but better, and he’s Refess?What’s the catch?Well, I guess the catch is that the Bear-killer isn’t exactly the greatest Gowen unit ever. Despite that, Zagar here is a pretty strong card. His Shield Breaker goes beyond a LeBeau buster for a few reasons. First, he’s useful without it, so he’s not just a one trick pony. Second, it’s cheap, it penetrates and it still does damage, so it’s worth doing to any unit with defense, even 10 points. Now, how does Zagar compare to other level 3 Refess units?He’s comparable to Folrart Paladin in many ways, since the Paladin’s defense rarely comes into play, and the Baron’s ability is much better. Most importantly, Zagar is one of the few Refess tanks who is able to do 30 damage. This is the magic number against so many units, especially Gowen units, who often have 30 or 60 HP. One of the biggest things that impairs Refess’ ability to consistently put units in the Cemetery is when their 25 damage runs face first into the law of averages. Finally, his Soul Skill is nothing complicated, but if you don’t want to rely on your Sphere Level for damage, he’s got the best single-target one in the game.

Broken Iron Soldier / XXXX

EX Broken Iron Soldier / XXXX

Now we’ve got the pretty boy of the bunch, EX: Broken Iron Soldier / XXXX, one of the very few cards with five X’s in its name. Statistically, he’s your basic Lawtia front line tank. In fact, he’s got the exact same statistics as Moonlight Warrior. What makes him interesting is his special ability, which bypasses armor and deals 50 damage to every unit on both sides. That makes this unit the strongest board-clearing card in the game, including Grimoires! Almost makes you want to add some Will o’ the Wisps to your Lawtia file for the novelty of seeing this guy as the only one standing (almost). So, he doesn’t fit at all with the present Lawtia strategies, but he does do something that none of the other EX Cards do, and that’s have a power that’s different enough from everything else out there to inspire new strategies. Another nice thing is that while his ability happens to make LeBeau’s Soul Skill irrelevant, that’s more of a side effect. Its primary purpose is field-clearing, and that remains whether or not your enemy is packing any Unforgivable Failure. XXXX’s Overdrive Soul Skill is the same as Salamander’s, except it does more damage. If you want to use board clearing and you don’t want to hurt your guys too much, use Salamander. Otherwise, use this guy. For late game use, XXXX is probably better, but generally these kinds of Soul Skills don’t see much play.

The Red Mantle / Defau

EX The Red Mantle / Defau

EX: The Red Mantle / DeFau is the lowest level anti-defense card in the game, and he’s tied for the position of fastest. For a level 2, 20 HP and 10 AT are kind of unimpressive. Not that Gowen will be complaining about getting another AGI 4 level 2 card, but generally they can do better. Really, it’s all about his Open Skill. First of all, having his anti-defense power on an Open Skill makes it almost impossible to avoid. It’s the only unavoidable, instantaneous solution for a high DF enemy other than Dispel. Second, it’s the most LeBeau-directed of the anti-DF EX Cards. Not only does it render LeBeau’s Soul Skill useless, it even penalizes the enemy for using it!It’s great justice, but to make it worth playing you’ll need some alternate uses for this ability. One interesting use would be for turning the enemy’s temporary DF bonuses into permanent AT bonuses. However, since this is an Open Skill timing it may be impossible, and the enemy would get back the DF next turn, anyway. One good thing about this card is that at level 2, it’s the only EX card you could consider using with another Sphere. It’s no harder to use than Dispel, and you get a unit out of it. Also, notice his Card Sub-type is Mage Soldier, generally reserved only for Falkow Units. Interesting.

Azure Dragon - East / Vordore

EX Azure Dragon - East / Vordore

Now we’re on to the EX version of one of the strongest cards in the Basic Set, EX: Azure Dragon - East / Vordore. He’s sometimes considered the weakest of the EX Cards, but I disagree. Although, his exact role in the present Falkow strategies is a bit questionable. First, as a level 3 Falkow unit he’s a bit weak in AT, but a bit strong in AGI. Unfortunately, Falkow usually has better luck making AGI happen that making AT happen. Ironically, he’s most useful in combination with his older, higher level self – provided the standard Vordore is covered by a Sylph. EX: Vordore is not such a good replacement for any of the standard Falkow level 3’s, however it’s possible that he would fare better in a low-DF Falkow File. Sounds strange, but Sorcerer Guard is already going out of style, and by the time this guy comes out your Sea Hunter will be long gone. This will give you a big advantage against other Falkow Files who still rely on DF, Lawtia files that rely on night or everyone’s favorite Soul Skill, and Gowen Files that try to throw multiple Dryads on a Brave Soldier or the like. Remember, for Vordore to be effective he doesn’t need to go before the enemy, he only needs to go before the rest of your attackers. It’s still a bit of a stretch, but this strategy might fare better after the second set comes out. But wait, didn’t I say at the beginning that I really liked this card?Well, that’s because of its Soul Skill, Flash of the Heavens. Now, normally Soul Skills that pump up your guys are a waste, but I’m not so sure in this case. +10 attack to all units could make a difference to Spheres that have trouble with damage, and +10 DF is a Dryad Soul Skill built in to another Soul Skill! Now, a permanent +1 AGI is the last bonus. This is one of only a few effects in the game that gives permanent AGI, and none of the others hit all your units. Using this Soul Skill on a group of units weak in any one or two of these areas can turn things around. I once dueled someone who had three Vordores mixed into his Soul Cards, meaning over the course of the game pretty much every unit had one Flash of the Heavens effect on them at some point, the longer lived units had two, and occasionally a lucky unit would be blessed by all three!A bit of a waste, maybe. But surprisingly easy to time for certain Spheres.

That’s all I got, I hope that made up for skipping a week. I’ll be back next week with my usual single card review.

Card Spotlight - Witch Queen Catherina
Written by Edgar Figaro   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 19:26

Sandwich QueenTo be honest, I've been playing a lot of Refess, and I wrote this week's article about another Refess card. But then I realized that I shouldn't do two Refess in a row, and also I shouldn't give away all my good strategies so quickly. So, I saved that article for another day and decided to do this article on one of the must-have high rarity Falkow cards, Witch Queen / Catherina.

Catherina is a great card. At level 2, she's dirt cheap to use, and 30 HP is the high end for a low level support card. AGI 3 isn't bad, but about the minimum for a card like her to be useful. More on that later. AT 0 and RNG 3 is fine, good for a card who will be sitting in the back row doing nothing but buffing the other units until Vordore comes out, and then her range lets her participate in the beatings like everyone else.

What we're really here for is her Skills. Let's start with everyone's favorite, Miracle Drug of Vitality. Adding 10 DF permanently is just about the best thing ever. Two little limits here. One, she can't buff herself, and two, she can't raise anyone's DF above 20. You want to try to use her to raise some DF up to 20 before Sorcerer Guard goes, so the grand total will rise to 30. Not only is that 30 DF without LeBeau's Soul Skill, but it's 30 DF you can put on multiple units.

Miracle Drug of Youth is another strong Skill, there's not a whole lot in the Basic Set that gives permanent AGI. Bumping Voredore up so he'll always go before everyone else is nice, as is making up for your varieties of slow shellfish. But don't forget what I said before, Catherina's built in 3 AGI is the absolute minimum for a support card like this, so you'll want to have her augment her own AGI at some point.

Most people consider Miracle Drug of Power the least useful of her abilities, and that's true if you're playing fast and with Vordore. However, for just about every Card File that doesn't revolve around Vordore, this is your most important power. You'll still want to lay the groundwork by buffing the DF and maybe AGI of your units first, but what most Falkow units are lacking is AT value. Think about how much your Deep Squid will do with +10 AT added on every round. Think about how deadly your Pinpoint or Flying attacks will be with an AT value high enough to one hit kill a front row fighter. Sure, it takes time, but that's why you gave all your tanks +30 DF first.

Blue Miracle Drug basically turns her into a good first turn gambit, raising your Falkow level from 2 -> 3 and leaving you with enough SP to bring out a level 3 card on turn two. This will be nice because the level 3 card will be able to block for her, and she can start increasing its DF right away. However, this is risky for two reasons. First, if the enemy brings out something that can do 30 damage, you'll send a very rare copy of her off to the cemetery right away. If you do happen to have multiple copes, you'll have to Revive her and you'll lose the 1 SP advantage you've risked so very much to get. Second, Shade also kills the 1 SP advantage right away. Still, it's not a bad strategy to take the risk, and let her go to the cemetery if the enemy gets lucky and kills her, then bring her back out later once you've got some blockers in place.

Now, let's look at Wonder Drug. This is easily the best LP 3 power in the game. Depleting your Cemetery is no big deal late in the game, you probably won't even notice. There are only three limitations to this. First, with all the great 2 LP Soul Cards in game, 3 LP is going out of style completely. Second, if you plan to use LeBeau's Soul Skill, then you can only place her after him. No great loss, but more and more I see Card Files that make up for the strong starts of other Spheres by putting 3 LP cards forward, giving themselves time to gather SP and put out something big, and then rear load their 1 LP area effects and LeBeau to keep their one big boy alive. Rather than hurt your Cemetery before that happens, it's better to try your luck with one of the other LP 3 cards. The third and final limitation is for Falkow players only. Let's face it, as cool as 3 free LP is, her Action Skills are so much better. You want every copy you can get in your combat File, not your Soul Cards.

The best thing about Catherina is that as powerful as she is, she's a support card through and through. Many of the high Rarity cards are awesome, but to really use them you'd have to build your entire strategy around that one card. Catherina, on the other hand, enhances any strategy you already have. Like Vordore? She's a great addition to a Vordore setup, she can help you start faster and keep Vordore alive longer. Like Deep Squids? She can make up for all of its shortcomings. Larut? She can make his double attack twice as strong. Want a speed mongering front line? With her, Haste Soldier will cut down a LeBeau every time, and Magic Scythe Soldier will beat out Gowen speedsters. Man, all this talk has got me homesick for Falkow...

Card Spotlight - Brutal Inquisitor

Brutal Combo!Refess has the hardest working units in the game. Big hit points, solid defense, they help each other out, great ranged attacks, decent area effect, healing and Grimoire cards like Dispel that can end the enemy's LeBeau Soul Skill threat, and Defensive Maneuvers, which can double your own. But, they just don't get any respect. Why? Because Refess is missing speed, and doesn't have many special powers that trip up the opponent's strategies. This week I'm looking at a card with both, Brutal Inquisitor.

So he doesn't exactly have three copies in the starter deck, but he's rarity one, you'll manage. Also, his name is Brutal Inquisitor. This lets you name your theme decks things like "No one expects the Brutal Inquisition," a very important consideration. Brutal Inquisitor has a lot of things going for him. The number one thing is an AGI of 3, something pretty much every other Refess card is missing. If you have a front line and a row of archers swimming around with nothing better than AGI 2, you're going to be looking at that Gowen starter set covetously in no time. Brutal Inquisitor has a respectable 45 HP, as to be expected of a Refess unit, and very nice when you consider his RNG of 2. If he's in the second row, then he won't get hit too often and when he does, it won't be enough to take him out. His AT is 25, not too bad considering his special attack, Bash.

For SP 1, Bash does normal damage and engages the enemy unit. That means the enemy unit goes gray, as if his turn had already passed. No action, no Auto Skill, no nothing. The only other power like this in the Basic Set is Harpy's screech, but that costs 2 SP and doesn't do any damage. Bash means that one little Brutal Inquisitor can keep the enemy's Zugateroza with 100 DF from a LeBeau Soul Skill busy forever, and still leave you enough SP to use Light Spearwoman's special attack every turn.

Unfortunately, Bash has one big drawback, you can't target it. Because of this, you have to be very careful where you put Brutal Inquisitor. If you want to target the enemy's front line, put him in the second row to make sure his 2 range doesn't make him swing wide. Another good way to even the odds is to bring out two of him out at once. Sounds risky? Maybe, but if a pair of Brutals can ruin the enemy's flow, when they finally get wiped out you can take that 6 SP and use it to propel yourself into the Refess endgame, which usually involves SP guzzling cards like the Dragonrider, Phoenix and my personal favorite, Sphinx. Now your enemy's plan is a mess and you've got some very big guns on the field.

Another thing to consider is that Bash only works if you go first, and 3 AGI only seems impressive because of the AGI 2 company it keeps in the Refess camp. You have to think of the competition you will be facing from each Sphere. You've got heavy hitters like Moonlight Warrior, Magic Scythe Soldier, Eagle Soldier, and the Lycanthropes, all 3's. You've only got a 50% of going before them. This can be solved with Soul Skills, like Elite Crest Knight and Expert Sorcerer, but that doesn't help much against speed demons like Magic Sword Dual-Wielder and LeBeau. I recommend throwing in one level of Falkow, giving you access to Song Sorceress, Sylphs and Undines to make this strategy really pay off.

Thanks to Refess' solid cards, it’s simple to put together an army that doesn't fall apart easily. Unfortunately, it can be undermined or circumvented by the enemy's tricks and strategies. But see how well his plans work when you're causing his cards to lose turns left and right. Once his army begins to slip up, Refess' solid setup and endurance will really begin to shine. Brutal Inquisitor slows down the game, which can tip the scales against Spheres that like to burn out and then fade away. But the best part of this strategy is that it's not just a stalemate move. Your Bash isn't just slowing the enemy down, it's doing damage. It's not even taking away all your SP to do it. In fact, if you've got any SP generation out, you'll stay even with your enemy while you do damage to him.

Brutal Inquisitor helps a Refess deck the way Song Sorceress helps a Sea Hunter, by filling in its weaknesses. A Sea Hunter usually never gets a chance to attack because he's a front line fighter with no AGI. By the time he goes, he's already on his back. Song Sorceress solves that problem by making the enemy go second. Having the same problem with Refess? Brutal Inquisitor makes it so the enemy doesn't go at all! That should help. Just try to back your Brutals up with cards like Ruby Carbuncle, Boy Combat Priest and Lapierre. You may not be able to outdo your enemy in a speed contest, but by taking up the average AGI of your cards, you'll make sure it won't be the deciding factor.

Card Spotlight - Elite Crest Knight

Tina Turner Gone Wild!This week I wanted to take a look at something from Lawtia, and a found a bit of a conundrum. (Which is a great word that both means confusing and is confusing to read.) Lawtia has lots of great units, like Shade and Counterattack, which sort of do their thing and then go away. Not exactly enough material for a whole column. Finally I happened across Elite Crest Knight, one of the most versatile front line fighters in the Basic Set. She also appears to be wearing armored spandex, if such a thing is possible.

Elite Crest Knight is level 4, which makes her a bit of a challenge to use effectively in Basic Set Card Files. However, she has a ton of benefits that make her worth the effort. First, she’s one of the only dedicated front line fighters at level 4. Most level 4 cards in the game are strong, but usually their value comes from a strange ability or gimmick. Voredore, Firestorm Wyvern and Deep Squid, for example, are among the strongest cards in their Spheres and they have great special abilities, but their statistics aren’t much better then their level 3 counterparts. Elite Crest Knight has good hit points and damage, a defense value (otherwise unheard of among the Lawtia), an AGI of 3, and two Skills that are perfect for a front line fighter.

Her Combat Support Skill is a Start Skill, which means that she’s got a big advantage over Kurina who, despite having 4 AGI, always seems to trigger her autoskill right after the Combat Monk has gone. (Gowen Iczers, you know what I’m talking about.) Elite Crest Knight is the only front line fighter who gives AT bonuses to her row, which is great because that’s exactly where you want those bonuses to be. Put her next to LeBeau, and not only does she make his Slash attack more effective, but she tanks for him too! Also, most support characters who give bonuses to AT don’t have the HP or DF to stick around for long, but Elite Crest Knight has both.

Her other big advantage is Penetrate. At 30 AT, she’s a pretty armor-piercer. As Lawtia, you might need some LeBeau’s in your playing Set but your enemy won’t, so you can bet one of them is going to be in his Soul Cards. A powerful Penetrate is a must, and if Elite Crest Knight gets two hits in, or one hit with some back up from Annarose or Magic Doll, your enemy’s invincible damage sponge will be heading towards the Cemetery.

As a Soul Card, she’s just as versatile. She’s got 2 LP, and two different powers. Sure, they’re pretty minor compared to a lot of Soul Skills, but setting off two at once grantees you’ll have a good use for at least one of them. 30 damage to a target unit means you get to pick off a support character, and the +1 AGI will help your Moonlight Warrior and other Elite Crest Knights get the jump on the classic AGI 4 Gowen front line of doom.

Elite Crest Knight might not be as economical to get out as Moonlight Warrior and Crest Regenerator Knight, but once she’s out she fills a lot of roles and fills them well. She really shines in combination with other strong Lawtia cards, like Annarose, whose buffs will really let Elite Crest Knight put holes in the Gowen offense or the LeBeau Soul Skill defense. And, of course, she’ll look great doing it.

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