December 31, 2012

Normally, Mondays are for ranting, as you may have noticed. This week, we decided to do something a little different since it is New Year's Eve. Today we will be counting down what we feel are the Top 10 new cards that were released during the year of 2012. The list contains cards from Tournament Pack 4, Sage's Legacy, Kage Summit, and Avenger's Wrath. We did not include the newest series, Hero's Ascension, due to the fact that we cannot accurately size the cards against others due to there being no tournament data until after the set becomes legal on January 4th, 2013.

This Top 10 list covers the cards that we feel were some of the best cards released and had the most impact of the game. Cards that have been used to great efficiency are likely to appear on the list, and we did our best to prioritize the most played and best cards in a countdown style list.

MJM and I will be posting a card every hour on the hour, culminating in the number one card at midnight. Be sure to check back every hour as he add a new card to the list, starting with number ten and going all the way to the card we feel was the best card of 2012.

Number 10: The 5th Kazekage

Our Top 10 list starts off with one of the five Kages introduced in Set 25, Kage Summit. The 5th Kazekage saw fringe play during Gencon 2012, as a top of the curve Ninja who provided protection against a few annoying Ninja effects such as Naruto Uzumaki (Tailed Beast Form) [Anger Unleashed] or a late Kakashi Hatake [Assassination]. Additionally, his negation effect was solid protection from many of the high level Jutsu that saw play, giving you back plenty of resources in exchange. Even after rotation, he continues to be a good six drop for Lightning or Wind, while Earth has fallen into mostly just Revitalize builds. I think he will remain a strong playable card throughout, especially seeing as how many Ninja effects specifically use targeting now, which he protects from completely. 


Number 9: Spontaneous Tree Summoning Jutsu

I'll be honest with you guys, I did not like any of the cards on the Top 10 list we had come up with. Not because the cards on the list are not good cards, but because I feel they're standard "good" cards. You know I enjoy creativity and uniqueness. To be even more honest, I only chose this card because of the Water symbol on it. 

Now the reason why this card is so low on the list is because of its limitation in playability. It's really only limited to Earth, and even only Revitalize within that. In addition, there weren't any real events that could gauge the power of the card. Nonetheless, this card is definitely a strong card. After all  it is the centerpiece of the Revitalize deck. It is obvious to see that this card is a strong contender in the format, pushing the Revitalize deck to Tier 1 or 1.5. There isn't much else to say about this card, it speaks for itself. It's obviously one of the stronger cards of 2012. 


Number 8: The 3rd Hokage

MJM being honest again: I only picked to review this card because of the Water symbol on it. Actually, that's a lie. I really like this card. When I see a 6 drop, I usually have a preconceived thought: It's not going to see play. This is true for most 6 drops. Don't believe me? Who's playing The 3rd HokageThe 3rd Tsuchikage, or the The 4th Raikage. No one that's who.

This version of The 3rd is really good, no question about it. It has what a 6 drop should have, a strong effect that is very beneficial. Some North Eastern players may complain the card is too strong, but we won't get into that. The effect is a culmination of the abiltiies of the three elements it has: Water's Chakra control, Lightning's aggressive Battle Reward gain, and Fire's lackluster theme of -1/-1 coins. Such a strong, well designed effect is perfect for a 6 drop. I assume he'll continue to see play as the season progresses.


Number 7: Sakura Haruno [Concentrated Punch]

This Tournament Pack 4 Super Rare (Notably the most pricey card of the set as well), comes in at Number 7. Sakura saw tons of play as a catch all three drop in any deck that could fit her, and wasn't using the Cruz Control engine of Sakura Haruno [The Dance of Sakura] and Kakashi Hatake [Sharingan Copy]. She has solid stats, as well as relevant Mental Power and Growth, and her effect just makes her even bigger and allows for grabbing key Battle Rewards without having to go unblocked. She was a good way to force your opponent to play the first Jutsu in response to her effect. If you hadn't noticed, being the first to play a Jutsu is usually a bad thing. She may have fallen a bit to the wayside now, but that doesn't mean she wasn't a highly playable card all throughout the year prior. We'll see how she plays on in 2013.

-Shino's Dad

Number 6: Art of the Raging Lion's Mane

More honesty from MJM himself: There weren't any cards that I really liked or had Water symbols left, so I chose this because there was water present in the picture. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, something you will find, or fail to find, throughout the rest of our Top 10, this card is a good card.

Of course it is MJM, it's on the Top 10 list.

Truth be told, there's nothing else to say about these cards. Lion's Mane might be too good in that it offers two strong effects for the small cost of 2 Lightning Chakra. It's the most versatile Jutsu in the game, being able to negate Jutsu, damage Ninja, and even give your Head Ninja a pump. Countless Outstanding Victories have been won just because of 2 Chakra and this card in Hand. I'd be surprised, and concerned, if it didn't see anymore play in the new year.


Number 5: Shikamaru Nara [Outwit]

[OUTWIT], arguably the best Shikamaru in format, is the Number 5 choice on our Top 10. Shikamaru offers what the game has been missing since the rotation of Shikamaru [Flexibility], consistent Mental Power Battles. While this might be both good and bad, it is a necessary evil within the Naruto CCG. Shikamaru is a strong, strong card that, like its previous incarnation, relies on the Hand to keep the Mental Power Battles going. Is it better than Flex? Not by a long shot, however he's here and will continue to see play in the months to come. 


Shikamaru also interacts well with the mission of his namesake, Shikamaru's Decision.  Allowing you to grab any Ninja despite it's Entrance Cost is huge.  His effect also jives well with Revitalize, as his effect will trigger many of the cards that do things in response to a card moving to the bottom of your Deck, such as The 1st Hokage [Leader of the Senju].  Being Exchange of Jutsu timing also means that you don't even have to bottom deck the card if they don't block, setting up plenty of mind games and tough strategic decisions.


Number 4: Ino Yamanaka (Childhood) [Academy Training]

Despite only having been legal for a few months now, you'll notice that a good amount of Set 26 cards are managing to make the list. This is due to the fact that these standout cards go above and beyond in their utility and playability. Like Spontaneous Tree Summoning and Art of the Raging Lion's Mane before, this Ino Yamanaka from Set 26, Avenger's Wrath is an amazing card, and goes beyond the others in being able to make the Top 4. There is so much to say about this card, but I will try to sum it up quickly.

  • Mental Power of 2 means that Mind Transfer Jutsu is still very viable and useful with her.
  • Valid means that she can put in early blocking duty and still retain her effect.
  • Her effect is a +1 every turn.
  • Her effect fuels the Revitalize Deck goal of milling down to 10 or less cards in your Deck.
  • She is Female, meaning you get the bonus draw off of Shikamaru's Decision.

She's good enough that people want her on the Rogue List, which I can understand. Given the ease of getting the requisite five Mental Power on the board in order to trigger her effect during your start phase, she's going to start to break out of just the Revitalize Deck and begin seeing splash in other decks that can field that kind of Mental Power, even if you have to wait until Turn 3 to start reaping the rewards.  The card is very similar card that saw immense play, The One Who Lives Within. 2013 is going to be an interesting year for the game.


Number 3: Hidan [Immortal Soul] & Hidan (Curse Mode)

There two Ninjas share a spot together in the number 3 spot, due to just how interwoven they are. Hidan (Curse Mode) was released first, in Set 24, Sage's Legacy and immediately started to see play in the popular Fire and Lightning builds of the time. At that time, the only real usable Hidan was Hidan [Anathema], who worked out well due to having both Elements as well as Ambush, making him a good Hand Cost for Missions until Turn 4, so you play him. Also, back then, you could use Hidan (Curse Mode) to Reinforce into another Hidan (Curse Mode), making it possible to generate 3 Battle Rewards in a single turn. This was actually a very common play after Turn 6, and usually secured a player the game. After the rules change to Reinforcements, we figured that Hidan (Curse Mode) was just a good card now. Then, with Set 25, Kage Summit, we got a new Hidan who was very similar to Biscuit from Set 18, Fangs of the Snake. Being able to jump into play from the Discard Pile meant that he didn't take up out Ninja for the turn, and when he was removed from game for Hidan (Curse Mode), he just went back to the Discard Pile, meaning we had a reliable way of playing a new Curse Mode again if our current one was removed somehow (Or even from our own choice with Deidara [Fiery Wrath]).

Hidan continually sees play as at least a one of in many decks that can support the Hand Cost for Curse Mode, and he was on a lot of people's speculative lists for the Rogue List. Since he wasn't actually on the official list, he will definitely continue to see play as a reliable extra Ninja on Turn 4, allowing for boards to be rebuilt quickly or giving that extra push for field presence. Likewise, Curse Mode will continue to be in the respective Reinforcement Deck as a possible win condition when the game is winding down.

-Shino's Dad

Number 2: Shikamaru's Decision

“I can see the ending.” - Josh Lu

Those were the words spoken moments before Thomas Cao secured his second Gencon Naruto CCG Championship in 2011, bestowing upon him the unique and never before done title of “Double Sannin” or “Super Sannin”.

Cao's prior win in 2009 had allowed him to design a card of this choice, and we ended up with the rather lackluster Shikamaru Nara & Choji Akimichi Squad, which was meant to symbolize himself (Choji) and his partner in card gaming crime, Josh Lu (Shikamaru). Although we cannot be certain exactly what occurred, though rumors suggest that the card may have been alerted slightly from a prior agreed state before being printed, the card was not very popular, and hardly lived up to being a symbol of Cao's strength in winning the Championship, unlike the prior Champion cards Just Like Drifting Clouds, created by Joe Colon in 2007, and Long Awaited Reinforcements, created by Jerry Balentuangin in 2008. Given a second chance to right the wrongs of the design from the last card, we received this card, Shikamaru's Decision, which has rightfully found itself in the number 2 spot.

Shikamaru's Decision is a tutor card that relies on targeting one of your Ninjas, and searching for a Ninja with an Entrance Cost equal to or less than the target's Mental Power. The added benefits are that if Shikamaru Nara is your target, you are not restricted in Entrance Cost at all. Also, no matter who the target is, if you search for a female Ninja, you get to draw a card after all is said and done. This card will almost always search for a Female Ninja, allowing you to break even on the use of the Mission card itself. Prior to rotation, you would be able to use this Mission on Turn 2 to find the incredible powerful Konohamaru Ninja Squad, which not only was a Female Ninja, but replaced itself after being played. The massive hand advantage and search power this card offered cemented it as a sort of second coming of Monster Research, the Champion card made by Eric Melone in 2010. Both cards fetched an incredibly high price tag, despite only being Rares. Any Earth or Wind Deck is going to want to get a full set of three of this card in order to make sure they have the ability to hit their drops, as well as draw new cards throughout the game.


Number 1: Sasuke Uchiha [Solo Attitude]

Turn 0: Swing for 5 Combat.
Turn 4: Reinforce into Danzo.
Turn 5: Squad into Sasuke/Kakashi.

'Nuff said. 


MJM summed it up pretty well. A Turn 0 Ninja with 5 Combat is just insane, having no real competition in stats by any other really playable Turn 0 Ninja, and only being curtailed by Earth's early Mental Power starters such as Shikamaru Nara [Outwit], and the Childhood Advisors that were recently reprinted, Koharu Utatane and Homura Mitomon. Being able to Reinforce into Danzo [Research] on Turn 4 opened you up for playing a new Sasuke that didn't have Growth, or Squading into the powerful Sasuke Uchiha & Kakashi Hatake meant that he was relevant in the late game as well. The fact that his effect is not Valid, and thus allows him to be injured into a 3/0 that can not contribute to a Team as a normally stated Turn 0 Ninja only helped secure him a place in nearly every single deck played.

In fact, five of the Top 8 Decks for Gencon 2012 played at least 2 copies of him in their Deck, with one of the Top 8 playing a singleton copy. This actually beat out Shikamaru's Decision in Decks playing the card, but not in overall quantity though, as Sasuke was almost exclusively a 2 of save for 3rd Place Nick Brady and 4th Place Destin Earsery playing 3 copies, and 5th Place Thomas Veazie's single copy, compared to Shikamaru's Decision being almost always a 3 of save for 2nd Place Stephen Garret only playing 2 copies. This put both Sasuke and Shikamaru's Decision at a very close race, but due to Sasuke's overall splash-ability  he was able to secure the number 1 spot. I'm excited to see what next year holds for us. Until then, Happy New Year.


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