December 21, 2012

If you're reading this it means you are part of the select few who have survived the destruction of Planet Earth. I congratulate you for your survival however I regret to inform you that the creators and designers of the Bandai CCG have all passed. Not a single one was able to survive the apocalypse. In other news, Mull to Four founders, Shino'sDad and I, have made it out okay. Hit the jump for our Lightning review.

So a few sets ago Lightning was the dominant deck. The key to its success lied in its early game control, rather the threat of early game control, and its ability to stay relevant throughout the course of the game. Both of these were accomplished by cards such as The 4th Hokage, Ink Leech, Rasengan, Konohamaru Ninja Squad, Anko's Memory, etc. However, with the banning of the former two and the rotation of the latter two,  Lightning has been taken down a notch.

This doesn't mean its unplayable, don't get it twisted. Lightning just has to be a supporting element since half of its momentum has been stopped. This is true for other elements as well; Fire has been the dominant element with Lightning supporting it for the most part. This is apparent in both NvS and just Fire/Lightning decks. Lightning still has great cards that give it a unique edge over other elements. They have a great draw engine with cards such as The Sage, Rock Lee, Tsukado, and Nice Guy Pose. They still have Rasengan but with no good Konohamaru in format, the lateness of The 4th Hokage and Jiraiya, and lack of playable Naruto, it's not going to see that much play; though the new reprint Naruto may change this.

Lightning also received a keyword this set: Flashpoint. Flashpoint on Lightning Ninjas is a really cool concept, since many Lightning Ninjas are fast and are portrayed well through this keyword. Examples include Might Guy, Rock Lee, The 4th Hokage, Naruto, etc. But like most other elements and their keywords, Lightning and Flashpoint were not fleshed out to their full potential. Expect an article on card design and this topic in particular in the upcoming year.

Without further adieu, let's get into our Top 5. We'll be starting with our Number 5 pick just like last time, of course. You should note that, unlike my Water Review, I was actually excited to do the Lightning Review. To be honest, I picked the Number 1 pick weeks ago. Playtesting with it just further supported my choice. But let's get into it already.

5. Naruto Uzumaki

This card is the Number 5 pick until the errata or ruling that makes him just a decent rehash of this Naruto. For those of you who don't know, currently he can only be blocked by "target Ninja". This means, when he Attacks, assuming he was put in play except by deployment that turn, you declare the target Ninja. The technicality that can make or break this card is the range of his targeting. By this I mean, if he can target himself, he is literally unblockable. Yes, he can swing in for a free Battle Reward every turn, in theory.

On the flip side, if he is ruled differently or given an errata, he is a decent rehash of the aforementioned Naruto. But, don't get me wrong, he's still a good card. He has relevant Characteristics, both Genin and Clone Status, in addition to his Oil Combat Attribute. Granted, you'd probably want to play a Turn 3 Naruto to go into Sage Mode but NvS might like this card. While NvS is in effect, if you select a non-Genin for Naruto's target, he'll go right through. Try him out anyway.

4. Pakkun

To be honest with you, Number 5 and Number 4 are interchangeable if Naruto does get hit through an errata or ruling. This doesn't lessen Pakkun's ability at all. Pakkun is quite weak, this is true. Despite his weak stats, he has relevant characteristics: 2 Mental Power, Ninja Dog, and Leaf, in addition to his Fang Combat Attribute. However, his effect is what makes him key to the Fire/Lightning deck. The -2 Entrance Cost to all your Kakashi cards makes him quite playable. 

The best two Kakashi in format are [Assassinate] and [Well Versed], the latter of which will be discussed in Shino'sDad's Fire Review tomorrow. In this certain build, Fire/Lightning, you are most likely going to play the former due to its put in play effect. Pakkun paves the way for a Turn 3 Kakashi, meaning you will be able to permanently take care of one of your opponent's Ninjas on Turn 3. This puts you one up on your opponent since they just -1'd on their board while you deployed a Turn 3 behemoth with relevant stats, characteristics, and Combat Attribute. Not to mention he has the ability to cast Genjutsu on Turn 3, although you won't unless you are extremely lucky and can generate that much more Chakra. 

Assuming you are playing The Sage, like you should be, you are able to go into the Might Guy/Kakashi Squad on Turn 4. As if you're board wasn't strong enough, right? Now you have a 9/5 6/2 that gives Damage to Ninjas after a Victory on your Turn 4, which includes an additional Battle Phase by the way. Assuming you're playing The Warhawk and other advantageous cards, your set up should be pretty good right now. 

I'm sorry, that was all a perfect case scenario, I apologize. But it's not that hard to pull off. It's really just a two card combo, Kakashi and Pakkun, that builds upon itself if you happen to have cards such as The Sage and The Warhawk. The latter will help you search out Kakashi or The Sage through outrageous draw. If you're having trouble looking for Pakkun, you can even play the newly reprinted Messenger Ninja. Don't worry, you're not just playing him to grab Pakkun, you're probably playing cards you didn't even realize he could hit. Messenger Ninja helps you get other Messenger Ninjas, Pakkun, of course, Gama, and even Kisuke. Maybe even that Naruto we just discussed? 

I'm not saying you need to open with Pakkun, you probably won't want to do that. He's a better Turn 1 or Turn 2 Ninja. Just drop him before Turn 3 if you want to hit the Kakashi Train. Remember you can Patriarch him out if you opened with Chainya or some other Turn 0 Fang Ninja, Naruto comes to mind. But if push comes to shove and you just have to drop him on Turn 0, don't worry. He can take a hit on the first turn, he's Valid. And who knows, maybe they'll drop a Shikamaru

3. Sage's Training Ground

Who doesn't love a good Turn 2 tutor? Although this card shouldn't be compared to Shikamaru's Decision, it's similar to it in a few ways. Not only does it share the Entrance Cost, but it also has the additional condition of drawing a card. Tutoring out a Ninja is great, but evening out is even better. The reason this card is so high on the list is because it guarantees you your Naruto. Everybody knows Naruto is one of the key Ninjas in Lightning. Remember when I said Rasengan was going to see less play since it had a lack of good users? Well this card might change that. 

Tutoring out Naruto is essential in Lightning. It allows you access to many Jutsu and even Sage Mode later on. Not to mention grabbing the reprint Naruto [Like Whirlwind] is a huge plus. The second part, the one that sets up a draw, isn't going to happen as often as you want it to. There aren't any Turn 2 or lower Senjutsu Ninjas. If you play this on 3 and hope for the draw, you probably played Shima. It's not horrible to play your Naruto on 4, 5 if you're going for Fukasaku, but it's not optimal either. I mean, this might even make the new Sage Mode more playable. However, I'm certain this card will be played.

2. Killer Bee (Tailed Beast Form)

Now, I'm not completely sure on how I feel about this card. I don't really like him, considering he's weaker than and similar to Killer Bee. His effect isn't bad, it's a lot easier to pull off than the other Bee. Speaking of the other Bee, the other Bee we have in format is the Turn 5 one. He's not that good, moving on.

You can play both this Bee and one of the other Bee's but I don't recommend it. Especially since you'll probably just go Version 2 on Turn 6. The only thing that I like about this Bee is that he has Taijutsu, which is usually more relevant that Fang. As for his effect, it's certainly interesting. What's unique about it is that he can Attack, be Blocked by a stronger Team, and still get the Battle Reward. The only problem is if he gets injured, he's not going to use the effect again. He's not Valid.

Back to the comparison of this Bee and the other Bee. If you're playing a Bee just to go into Version 2, this would be the Bee to play. Why? Simply because you can get a few BR's without any set up, then go Version 2 two turns later. On the other hand, if you're not really interested in going Version 2, except when the situation calls for it of course, then the other is the one you'll want to use. The other one, although it requires some set up, can get you Chakra back and get you Battle Rewards. The Chakra restoration might be relevant since there are a lot of Chakra destruction in format. Speaking of, our Number 1 pick is...

1. Exhaustion

This is definitely my favorite card in the set, and for good reason too. Before I discuss the card in detail, let's take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at all the former versions of this card. Note that, there's a Water version of this card in the set. To see that review, check out this article

So back in the first set we got this beauty. Chakra generation was scarce, so this card could be deadly. However, it -2'd your Hand and left you with 1 Chakra. If you could somehow build some Chakra and Attack, you were most likely good to go. Twenty-four sets later, they dropped the "of Stamina" and brought us a Chakra control version of Untold Destruction. It's not good, let's just leave it at that.

Two sets later, we got the Lightning Exhaustion. Why do I call this card both the best Lightning card and my favorite card in the set? It's the outcome of Loss + Exhaustion of Stamina on Turn 1. This card would not be nearly as good if it didn't let you draw up to 2 cards. The reason why Exhaustion of Stamina wasn't that good was because you lost so much Hand and had 1 Chakra to show for it. Exhaustion lets you even out and kill Chakra.

When I first read the card, I didn't care for it. After some playtesting I realized its true potential. Although you can play the card whenever, you don't really want to play it until they have at least 3 Chakra. Don't look at this card as a Chakra control card, look at it as a conditional draw card. The ability to wipe out both players' Chakra and draw 2 off of it is amazing. If your opponent has 3 Chakra and you only have 1, go ahead and charge 1 then play this card; paying its Hand Cost brings you to 3. Sure you -1'd but you also got new cards. 

Looking at this card in a different light makes it a lot better. Don't view it as a Chakra killer than can net you up to two cards; view it as a draw 2 that kills both players' Chakra. The thing about this card is you have to know when to play it. If you drop it as soon as they get Chakra on Turn 2, there was no point. They're just going to build the Chakra back up on their 3 with a Warhawk. However, if you drop it on your 3, after their 3, or your 4, you can do some damage. 

Warhawk draws 4, usually putting them at 8 or 9 cards in Hand. However, they have to charge 2 or 3 of those cards. What do they do? They charge the useless cards and keep the Jutsu. Of course they hold Ninjas and Missions too, but usually, after a Warhawk, they have loads of Chakra waiting for you. A well placed Exhaustion can shift the game in your favor. This card is definitely a huge boost toward Lightning's playability. 

But you have to look at the other decks that can play this card too. Fire/Lightning can benefit off of this card even more than Mono-Lightning. An Exhaustion, followed up by a Warhawk, sets the tides even more in your favor. NvS can utilize this card to wipe out your opponent's Chakra before they swing in for the game. This card has so much potential despite being a straight forward card.

As I was about to save this, I just realized something cool. I'm pretty sure the art is the result of their training on the picture of Struggle. Guess who draws if you Struggle their Exhaustion? Guess who doesn't?

Honorable Mention: Rasengan

Now, I know what you all are thinking, "Why isn't this in the Top 5?". The reason is simply because of the Requirements, not the Effect. The Requirements are the same as all new Rasengan, however, unlike past formats, there are no good Users for it other than Naruto on 3 and 4th and Jiraiya on 6. Without Konohamaru Ninja Squad, I feel the playability of all Rasengan Jutus cards will go down. This doesn't mean it's not going to be played, it's just not as much.

This is the last of my three Comparative Strengths reviews for Set 27: Hero's Ascension, but that doesn't mean its the last of Mull to Four's. Shino'sDad brings you our final Comparative Strengths review, for Fire, tomorrow. We'll have something special for you on Sunday, and maybe some little things through the Holiday week. Maybe we'll just take the week off like we planned, maybe not. Happy Holidays.

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