December 22, 2012

So, it's Saturday and the world didn't end yesterday. Sorry for those who are disappointed. For the rest of us, we can celebrate the turning of the Wheel of Ages and bring in the new Mayan Calender with our final Comparative Strengths article, focusing on my second favorite element, Fire. Take a look at Shino'sDad's impression on the cards that Fire received in Set 27 Hero's Ascension after the jump.

Fire has been a dominant force for several sets now, gaining a snowball effect of better cards each set to help fill out it's vast repertoire of strengths. To highlight that point a bit better, I have written up a brief history and summary of the best cards that Fire has gotten over the past Block.

Set 22 Weapons of War gave Fire a powerful removal Jutsu in the form of Fire Style: Dragon Flame Jutsu, which has seen play almost always as a 3 of in any Deck that includes Fire in it. Set 23 Invasion gave us overtly powerful draw in the form of The Warhawk, as well as a solid tutor Mission with Patriarch, and one of the staple Turn 0 Ninjas of any deck that includes Fire, Kisuke Maboroshi [Death]. Tournament Pack 4 offered a early game rush Jutsu, Subdue, as well as reprinting Obito Uchiha [Hidden Strength], who's Jutsu negating effect means that you will always be controlling how Jutsu resolve in the mid-game. Set 24 Sage's Legacy only pumped Fire's early game even more with the introduction of Sasuke Uchiha [Solo Attitude], who brought many a cheer and jeer from many players. Pakkun [Sense of Smell] gave us back the Mission negation aspect of Fire that many players had come to expect, and Hidan (Curse Mode) [Linked Fate] gave Fire (as well as Lightning) a late game win condition. Set 25 Kage Summit closed up the current Block by giving Fire access to a few powerful late game Ninja with three of the Five Kages possessing Fire as one of their Elements. Additionally, a proper Mission negation was printed with New Orders, and those who remember Biscuit will see some resemblance In Hidan [Immortal Soul] (Who, when combined with Hidan (Curse Mode), was powerful enough that a rules change on how Reinforcement cards worked has to be made).

As for the current New Block that began with Set 26 Avenger's Wrath, Fire as begun the preemptive rebuilding process for when Set 22 through 25 rotate come next fall. We still have nearly a year to go, so there isn't too much to worry about right now. Set 26 introduced a list of new keywords to the game, with each element initially receiving one of them. In Fire's case, that keyword was Inherit, which allowed you to transfer the effect of the Ninja with that keyword to another Ninja you control when the Inherit Ninja is discarded.

In Set 27, Fire borrowed Water's keyword of Desperation this time around. An interesting thing to note is that this shift was perhaps hinted back in Set 26, with the cards Sasuke Uchiha [Desperate Avenger], as well as Susano'o (Sasuke) [Spirit of Vengeance] being dual element to Fire and Water. Desperation itself being the effect that, if your opponent has five or more Battle Rewards, those Ninjas with Desperation may use their Activated Effects up to twice per turn, rather than the usual once per turn. The actual cards that received Desperation are not entirely anything too worthy of note, though. Mr. Ostrich [Untamable] was so close to being a solid 0 drop, were it not for his initial low stats of 2/0 0/0. Had he been a 3/0 0/0, I would actually very well probably play him, as he is a solid 4 Combat in the early game, and a possible 5/0 later on. Sasuke Uchiha [Genius'Privilege] is a Desperation card that does more good for your opponent than is does good for you. Though, if you happen to have five Battle Rewards, you can attach a Konoha's Strongest Genin to him and get two uses of the Mission's effect before Sasuke is discarded. Obito Uchiha [Time of Action] is a solid card, but not because he has Desperation. The only actual way to even get double the use out of his effect is either double activating him on the chain, the first time to get your opponent to respond, and the second time to still get to apply his effect, or using Karin [Absorption] in between the activations so that he will be Healthy again by the time his first activation is ready to resolve (The chain would be Obito 1, Karin, Obito 2, and would resolve as Obito 2 – injure and injure a Ninja, Karin – Heal Obito, and Obito 1 – injure again and injure a Ninja, then Obito would return to your hand). The last Fire Ninja with Desperation is Masked Man, whom is a tough call anyways, as his effect is initially already expensive, and by Turn 6, you probably already have almost all of your Tailed Beasts in play, so using it twice would be a very rare occasion.

Interestingly enough, none of those prior mentioned cards made my Top Five list, which took some time to construct, seeing as there are a few cards that almost made the cut, but fell just short. Because of that, I have an Honorable Mention for Fire, because there were so many solid cards this set.

Honorable Mention: Backstab

In a similar vein to Subdue, Backstab is a Fire Jutsu that only costs 1 Fire, and has the potential to decimate a Team on its own. At it's worst, the card is a single cost injure effect, which can snowball an already Victory into a kill on the Head Ninja, or possibly trigger an Outstanding Victory, wiping the opposing Team out. This is not only great for early game rush, but is mostly only viable at that point as well. Later in the game, your opponent is likely going to have access to removal Jutsu or negation Jutsu, which trumps your injure or single damage Jutsu.

Number Five: Jonin's Intervention

The card made the Top Five list because it is a potentially powerful card that can give you an almost game winning advantage as early as Turn 1. The reason it isn't higher up on the list is due to its inherent inconsistency. Yes, you can tool your Deck to make this card more consistent, but in that case, you're dedicating slots to what can easily become an all or nothing combo. If you don't happen to hit Jonin's Intervention, you need to still be able to play the game normally, or you will end up losing. It is important to note that while this card has 'Target: 1 Jonin Ninja in your hand', you cannot actually target a card in your hand, as it is a private zone, and there is no precedent for what it would entail. Expect this card to receive either a clarification as to whether you must reveal the card you target and keep it revealed until the effect resolves, or much more likely, the target line will be removed and the effect text revised. 

 Obvious choices for this effect are going to be powerful Jonin Ninja that have an immediate effect on the board. The new Kakashi Hatake [Well Versed] is going to be a nearly unblockable 6/3 while he is still in play, not to mention that he will pass his effect to one of your other Ninja from Inherit when Jonin's Intervention expires. Baki [Cleaning Up] is weaker stat wise, but can cause a major shift in tempo, as your opponent will have to sacrifice Ninjas for the next two turns due to Baki's effect. Asuma Sarutobi [Knockout Punch] enters play and discards a Non-Leaf Ninja with an Entrance cost of 2 or less, which can be a crippling effect if cheated into play as early as Turn 1. A very tempting choice is also Kabuto Yakushi [Intellectual Pursuit], as any Ninja that he happens to bring into play from the Discard Pile not only ignores Entrance Cost and Hand cost themselves, but also stays in play. Imagine having a Ninja like The 3rd Hokage [Fire Shadow] in your Discard Pile and using Jonin's Intervention to bring out Kabuto. You can sacrifice your wimpy Turn 0 Ninja for a Powerful Kage, or in a much more ironic fashion, sacrifice Kabuto himself to his own effect on the last turn before Jonin's Intervention would expire. If you happen to have another Kabuto in your Discard Pile, you can sacrifice your Jonin's Intervention'd Kabuto for the other one, and that Kabuto stays.

Obviously, if you can somehow manage to keep that big Jonin you played a few turns early, you would want to, right? Luckily, Pakkun [Sense of Smell] can do just that for you. On your opponent's turn before the last coin is removed from Jonin's Intervention, you can activate Pakkun, targeting your own in-play Jonin's Intervention. The effect of the Mission will be negated, and then it will be discarded. Because the effect was negated at the time the Mission left play, you would not have to discard the Jonin you put in play with its effect! This can also be accomplished with any other Mission negation type card that you might have, such as New Orders, Self Conversation, or Secret Book.

Number Four: Path of the Avenger

We've seen a similar effect to this in Sneak Attack, but I feel like this card is actually stronger and more reliable than Sneak Attack. What I like about this card is that you can hit a Turn 0 Ninja without having to remove anything from your Discard Pile. While this doesn't seem like a very helpful effect on Turn 4, it is still a viable use for the card, setting your opponent back a Ninja and possibly changing their plans. The best use for this card is of course going to be hitting their high drop Ninja that they play, and this card can be chained to the triggering of a put in play effect, depriving your opponent of both a powerful Ninja as well as a potent effect. Ninjas will naturally wind up in your Discard Pile due to being used as Hand costs for Missions and subsequently used for the cost of Jutsu and effects as well, so getting a few Ninjas in your Discard Pile in preparation isn't setup as much as it is just playing the game. If you do prefer a way to guarantee that your Discard Pile has some Ninja to use for this card, you can always use any of the Chakra filter Ninja from Set 25 such as Bartender Cat, who can start digging useless Turn 0 Ninjas from your Deck every turn as soon as Turn 1. I personally have been testing this card in a Wind/Fire field control deck, and it has been serving be pretty well.

Number Three: Kakashi Hatake [Well Versed]

While I don't think I would rank this Kakashi over Kakashi Hatake [Assassinate], I will admit that he is a solid card. His best use is going to be paired with Jonin's Intervention, giving you a Ninja that is unlikely to be able to be Blocked while it is around, as well as transferring that effect to another of your Ninja when Jonin's Intervention runs out of coins. Nearly nine out of ten times, Kakashi is going to be able to Attack alone and not be able to be Blocked, due to the fact that his effect requires Any Ninja that Blocks him to have to have the same Combat Attribute as him. That means that every Ninja in the Team has to have Genjutsu, which is going to be a rare occurrence outside of almost any deck. Better yet, if you are transferring his effect onto a Ninja with a particularly exotic Combat Attribute, your opponent may never be able to mount any sort of considerable defense. A good way to add insult to injury is sending Kakashi Hatake out as the only Team, ensuring that you are the only one with a Ninja on the Battlefield, and then using Reverse Tetragram Sealing Jutsu with him, wiping out all of your opponent's lower turn Ninja.

Number Two: Shadow of the Leaf

A lot of people's first reaction to this card was “What? Another Mission negation for Fire?” I can echo that sentiment, though it makes sense. One of Fire's most prevalent effects has been Mission negation, and receiving another one is fine, since it was printed in a new Block of sets. New Orders will be rotating next rotation, leaving us with Shadow of a Leaf still. Now, the problem is that I feel Shadow of the Leaf is strictly better than New Orders in almost every way. If you're playing Fire, chances are that you are going to want to play one of the Turn 4 Sasuke Uchiha that we currently have available. At its worst, Shadow of the Leaf is a straight Mission negation, which is very good. At its best, it not only negates a Mission, but also let's you injure up to two of your opponent's Ninjas of your choice. This can easily cripple their field and leave them with a group of Ninjas that they will not want to Attack with, and will end up losing if they have to Block with next turn. Compare that to the extra 1 draw off of New Orders, and you can see why this card will be played almost exclusively over New Orders, save for the rare occasion that you aren't playing a Turn 4 Sasuke Uchiha. The way I see it, Fire got a strict upgrade for one of its Mission slots.

Number One: Sasuke Uchiha [Exhausted]

Before I get into talking about this card, I'd like to play a small game. Can you tell me what these three cards all have in common?

If you said that they were all bad card, then you're correct. If you said that they all allowed you to pay for Jutsu from alternate sources, I guess you're right too. No, actually the second is more correct than the first, only because Naruto Uzumaki (Sage Mode) isn't absolutely terrible, just over hyped. Sasuke completes our group of alternate Jutsu cost abilities, and he is arguably the best of the four. Sage Mode is great, but he's also a Turn 7 Reinforcement with a Hand cost, while Sasuke is a simple Turn 4 Ninja. Being able to use a Jutsu without actually having to pay Chakra is a powerful effect, and Sasuke goes a step further by being able to do it any number of times a turn due to his wording using 'may' instead of 'can'. Also, you don't have to worry about having the correct Symbols at all for Sasuke, as he considers all specific symbols to be (1), thus allowing you access to Jutsu you might not normally have been able to pay for even with the Chakra you have. The fact that he has Inherit means that he gets to give his effect to another Ninja when he gets discarded at some point. An obvious combination is giving his effect to a Turn 5 or higher Ninja with Genjutsu in order to play Genjutsu almost guaranteed.

That wraps it up for all these Comparative Strengths articles. As you may have noticed, this article came out a bit late today, due to me being ill. Hopefully the article didn't suffer too much because of that, as I feel my writing may have been a bit lacking today. Hopefully I'll be better for the coming holidays. Be sure to check out the blog over rest of the weekend, as he have a few things prepared for before the holidays and our small break.

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{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Loved the article, I've been waiting for It all week as fires my favorite element, Just as I suspected Sasuke made it to 1st. I was a bit suprised that JI was so low on the list but it is rathe situational when I really think about it. I honestly didn't like it that much, but everyone on bandai seemed to hype it up so hard lol.

    Anywho hope you get better soon Shino'sDad (no your articles were great as usual don't think it was anything less then great), and thank both of you for the great week of articles. :)

    1. Thank you very much, and I'm glad you enjoyed this week's articles. Jonin's Intervention used to be much higher, but the more I tested with it, the less I liked it for how situational it was. While I feel it's a good card, the cards above it just are more reliable. Everyone is going to have their own opinions though on how the order should be. As for me, I'm starting to feel a bit better. Lots of soup and rest today.


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