December 18, 2012

We continue our week long review of Set 27, Hero's Ascension with my review of the Earth cards in the set. I'll break down my thoughts on the element as a whole as well as give you my impressions on what I feel are the five best cards for the element. Check out the list after the jump.

Mini Research Tour: Keylyrics n' Shit

Last set, we were introduced to a whole new set of keywords as a surprising and fresh start to the new Block (Set 26 to 29), with each specific element receiving a special keyword. Earth's keyword was Revitalize, which reads:

When a card with REVITALIZE is moved to the Discard Pile from anywhere (Village, Battlefield, Hand, etc) it will move to the bottom of your deck instead.

This is a replacement effect, and doesn't use the chain, as it isn't triggered or activated, rather, it just happens in place of going to the discard pile.

This set, things were shifted around a little bit. Each element was given the keyword of one of its closely associated elements. So while Revitalize was sent off to try and do something useful in Wind, Earth received Inherit from Fire. Inherit, for all of you out there, is the following:

Valid: When this Ninja would be discarded, remove it from the game instead. In that case, target Ninja you control gets this Ninja cards effect text (except Inherit) as long as it remains in play.

An important thing to know is that Inherit will only apply if that Ninja (which must be in play) is discarded. Getting outright removed from game, or sent to another zone such as Hand or Chakra area will not satisfy it's requirement. It only replaces an instance of that Ninja being discarded either due to damage or a game effect that discards it. Inherit is also mandatory, so when a Ninja with Inherit is discarded, it is removed from play instead and then you must give its effect to a target Ninja that you control.

In Fire, this effect was on Ninjas that themselves had interesting activated effects, such as Itachi Uchiha, who drew you cards for discarding Ninjas, or Kakashi Hatake, who would negate a Jutsu and then Discard himself, thus moving his Inherited effect onto someone else. It was a theme of sacrificing a Ninja for a powerful effect, as well as being able to pass that effect onto someone else.

Instead, for Earth this set, Inherit focused on passing along Battle oriented effects like giving extra Combat, giving growth coins, or giving untargetable status to a Ninja. There were only three Earth Ninja that received an Inherit effect, all of which were Entrance Cost 2 or less. So while Fire was more often focused on higher turn Ninjas passing effects down, Earth seems to be passing effects up.

I'll get into which cards I think were the overall best that we've seen from this element, save for the Super Rares, which I already reviewed in Feudal Lord's Treasure Part 1, so instead, I will give you the Top Five Earth cards, which is based on strength, playability, and impact. Without further ado...

Set 27 Hero's Ascension Top Five Earth Cards

I'm gonna do this reserve countdown style, starting with the “Not Best” of the Five and working my way up, as an overall reverse of how MJM did his list for Void in yesterday article, Comparative Strengths: Set 27 Void.

Number 5: Overwhelming Hunger

This card squeaked in at the fifth position less because it is an Earth card, and more because of it's application and viability as a strong Side Board option in any Deck. For 2 of any Chakra (Which Must still have some kind of Symbol, so Chakra with no Symbols is not going to help us here), we get to kill Any Animal, be it ours (terrible plan), or our opponent's (good idea), even if that Animal is minding it's own business in the Village. As an added bonus, the user of the Jutsu gets healed. So what exactly is on the menu here in the Naruto CCG? Well, you can take a page from the recipe book of Ginkaku and Kinkaku and try a bite of Tailed Beast,

 Or as I like to call them, That Cat, The Monkey, The Sea Horse, and Kabuterimon

Or, if you're a fan of Cuisses de Grenouille, you have a hefty choice of amphibians to fill your gut,

Mull to Four does not condone the consumption of sentient beings, even if they are toads

Like it or not (Wikipedia guide my hand) we can't forget the very real occurrence of mutton of the earth or roof rabbit, which comes in plenty of varieties, from felines with the mark of Lord Voldemort upon their brow, to mission blocking canines,

This Jutsu is actually kind of sick, the more I think about it

And we cannot forget the exotic sprinkling of multitudes of other species, whether they be hand painted Fish or Birds, Centipedes, Chameleons, Rhinos, Taijutsu wielding Ostriches, and even the occasional Inuzuka clan member.

If the popularity of the Tailed Beast decks maintains as it has since Set 24, two of this Jutsu in your sideboard, or even three if your local meta game finds the Deck extremely popular, will do nothing but help you out. Just remember, next time you stop by Ichiraku Ramen, I'd make sure I knew exactly what I was ordering.

The 4th One: Power of the Trio

When I originally started piecing together my Top Five list, this card not been previewed yet. When I saw it, and read it over, and did a bit a searching through Block Legal Ninjas that fit the criteria, I started to warm up to it more and more.

While there are tons of Choji Akimichi in format, there are a few that stand out over the others, [Infuriation] and [Power of Food], and if you're a fan of him, Choza Akimichi has two legal versions as well, [Upscaled] and [As a Father].

Ino on the other hand has plenty of playable versions in [Power of Kunoichi], [Stalwart Mind], [Academy Training], and [Pressing].  Her father, Inoichi Yamanaka [Mind Destruction] is no slouch either. Despite being an estranged ginger relative, Foo [Body Transfer Trap] fits the criteria as well.

Shino'sDad Secret Technique: The Human Path of Pain, who received a reprint this set, has Mind too

As for Shikamaru and his family, both Mom and Pops got a reprint in the Set 25 Earth Starter Deck with Shikaku Nara [As a Father] and Yoshino Nara [As a Mother], and Shikamaru Nara himself has enough playable versions to choose from for any type of Earth Deck you'd want to play, between [Ouwit], [Shadow Barbs], [Supreme Strategist], or [Tactical Paragon].

The make or break moment for this card is going to be just how many 'Food', 'Mind', or 'Shadow' Ninjas you plan to play in your Deck. Earth already sees a lot of use in Shikamaru Nara [Outwit], and Ino Yamanaka (Childhood) [Academy Training] is a card that many people think is Too powerful now. Both see a lot of play in the Revitalize version of Earth. On the Permanent Earth Deck front, Shikamaru Nara [Outwit] again sees almost always three of status play, and Choji Akimichi [Inner Strength] allows for some interesting plays when it comes to dumping a BBQ that you might want gone. As for Mental Power Earth, The Nara family can make full use of this Mission to curve out their Ninjas starting on Turn 1.

Don't forget that while rarer and rarer these days, there are still Ninjas that trigger this Mission that have Growth, and growthing one of those Ninjas will search for a Ninja as well. Squading into a 'Food', 'Mind', or 'Shadow' Ninja also works, so Shikamaru Nara & Asuma Sarutobi or even the Ino Yamanaka, Choji Akimichi, & Shikamaru Nara Squad will do the trick as well.

Although the most popular Earth Deck right now it the Revitalize Deck, there is still chance over the next few sets and all into next rotation to see a new style that can benefit from a Mission that fills out your Ninja curve without much effort.

Numero Tres: Choji Akimichi [Power of Food]

This is one of those three Earth Ninja that received Inherit this set, and in my opinion, is the best of the three (the other two being Ino Yamanaka [Abrasive Attitude] and Hinata Hyuga [Bashful Personality] ). Barring some sort of solid effect that either helps you stall a bit in the early turns or draws you cards, Entrance Cost 0 Ninjas are going to want to have four or more Combat. While Choji doesn't technically always fit that description, his effect comes in handy by allowing him to Attack as a 4/0 Ninja. Even when he is injured, he still offers at least 1 Power to the Team as well, whereas all too many Ninjas drop straight to 0/0 in injured (What we liked to call Sasuke Syndrome back in the day). The real draw though comes from the fact that his eventual death will not be without some benefit.

Unless that Turn 0 Ninja has plans to try and survive to Turn 6 and go Super Saiyan like Jirobo (State 1), or has aspiring dreams of becoming that actor from Who's the Boss, they're going to sign up for chump blocking duty around Turn 3 and head for the big Discard Pile in the sky. The Ninja that is lucky enough to Inherit Choji's effect now enjoys that +2/+0 boost on the Attack, and if you're attaching it to any Ninja worthy of being a Head Ninja, this can give you that small edge that you need to overpower your opponent and force them to play the first Jutsu.

Number 2: Neji Hyuga [Genius of the Hyuga]

Alright, so there are a lot of good things going for this Ninja, and that's why he is in the number two position. We've got a Turn 4 Jonin Ninja with Solid stats and a relevant Combat Attribute. To top it all off, he has an effect that is not only valid, but can be applied any number of times per turn, and literally turns him into an unkillable tank.

Neji's effect is an replacement effect that allows you to, in place of him taking any damage at any time, move up to the same number of Earth cards in your Discard Pile to the bottom of your Deck. They target him with Dragon Flame Jutsu? That's fine, two Earth cards to the bottom of my Deck instead. He's still going to lose the Battle? That's fine, one or two Earth cards to the bottom of the Deck. Only hard removal of some kind such as something like Wind Style: Rasen Shuriken, Rasengan, or Double Lariat is going to put him out of commission. So long as you have Earth cards in your Discard Pile, Neji can soak any hit. If only we had a reliable way to keep cards in our Discard Pile...

Neji wants to tell you an Intriguing Story about how his best friend is a little girl

That's right, Ino Yamanaka (Childhood) once again swoops in to fill a very useful niche. The two cards compliment each other perfectly. Ino mills cards for Neji to put back, and Neji makes sure that you always have cards to mill with Ino. An endless cycle that affords you not only an extra card each turn, but a Ninja that cannot take damage at all. While this strategy doesn't work too well in Revitalize, as your main goal is to get to ten or less cards in your Deck by Turn 6 and spam away with Spontaneous Tree Summoning, breakout variations of Earth are bound to pop up eventually, and with the immense popularity of Ino Yamanaka (Childhood), having a way to refill your Deck is an important priority. Having an Ninja that can't be damaged is icing on the cake.

Number 1: Asuma Sarutobi [Knockout Punch]

When this card was previewed, people were still settling down from the storm that was Jonin's Intervention (Which I will discuss on Saturday, unless of course the world ends on Friday). This card didn't help slow down that storm, and only added to it. Interestingly enough, for those who have been hip to the game since its early days, we've seen a very similar Asuma before, sort of.

I like to think of this card as “I'm never going to get to make any use of my effect”-sensei

Twenty three sets later, Asuma's discrimination has been widened to any Non-Leaf Ninja, though having grown old and technically dead at this point, he can only get in a single good punch on one guy, rather than the whole lot of them. Of course, he also sits comfortably at Turn 4 with good stats that befit any mid-late game Ninja.

As for the impact of his effect on the format, it all depends on the Deck you're playing against. Earth and Lightning have near complete immunity, with almost every Ninja that sees play from either element being exclusively Leaf Ninja.

Fire comes next, save for a few standout Ninjas such as Tsukado, Chainya, and Bartender Cat, the former being a very popular card all around for the aggro potential, and the latter two featuring prominently in Tailed Beast Decks.

Wind is third as they have a few Leaf Ninja that sit around Turn 2 in Sakura Haruno [Identity Swap], and sideboard material Shino Aburame [Silence], otherwise Wind is populated in the lower drops by Sand Ninjas and Hotaru “Jugs” Katsuragi.

Water will always have something to hit, ranging from Jirobo (State 1) to make sure they never go State 2, Sea Monster who is just an annoying wall, Karin [Absorption] who is an excellent target, as her effect is relevant throughout the game, and beat stick Haku or troublesome Suigetsu [Dehydrated] as well. Only the ever diligent Shimon Hijiri [Keeping an Eye] dodges Asuma's angry fist.

Lastly we have Void, who is going to lose a Ninja from Asuma's effect every time. A choice target might be Pain (Naraka Path), though by that time they'll most likely have Heretical Icon out and ready to revive Naraka Path on their next turn anyways. A solid target remains in Giant Rhino though, who just gets stronger each turn, as well as giving your opponent's Ninjas protection from effect negation.

Even if you don't manage to drop this guy early with a Jonin's Intervention, he gives you a substantial advantage when it comes to field size over your opponent, especially if you go first, giving you a possible five Ninjas to your opponent's now three Ninja. If you happened to have broken one of their bigger Power Teams from discarding one of their Ninja, that sets you up for a powerful Attack during that turn, and Asuma is a perfect candidate for going in solo, due to his 6 combat overpowering nearly any single Ninja in that point of the game.

He also has Revitalize, which isn't incredibly relevant to the card itself or any real interactions that he has with other cards, but it means that if you happen to be playing a card like Ino Yamanaka (Childhood) in the Deck, you don't risk milling off all of your copies. 

Be sure to check back tomorrow for MJM's review of both of our favorite element, Water.

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