Card of the Week #9-11

Louise Marcus

SITUATION:  While Louise Marcus is in play, if a player does not play an
attack in his turn, he must discard a defense.

At first glance, Louise Marcus appears like a fairly powerful card.  If you
use an attack deck, then you think, "If they don't attack, they're going to
lose defenses.  I should be able to hit them eventually."

This is indeed Louise's main strength.  And to some degree it is true.  But
perhaps not as much as one might think.

For one thing, Louise affects _both_ players.  This might not seem like a
problem if you have an attack-oriented deck.  However, all but the most
attack-heavy of such decks can't keep up a constant barrage of attacks.
Against a non-attack deck, for instance, you have no way to get rid of most of
your defenses.  Eventually they pile up to a point where it is hard to come by
attacks.  You will also have occasions when you have to play a Holy Ground, or
use a Back Away or Dodge and find yourself unable to attack that turn.

In all of these cases, you will find yourself discarding defenses to your own
Louise.  This may or may not hurt you.  In fact, it may benefit you.  Against
a non-attack deck, if you can't play those defenses, this gives you a chance
to get rid of them.

However, that point is another weakness of Louise Marcus.  If you are playing
against a non-attack deck, they probably have ways to keep you from attacking.
These methods include Pedestrian/Delay-2, Safe Haven/Situation, and Verona

If they've stopped you from attacking, then _they_ have defenses that are
taking up space in their hand.  So every turn they don't attack, they get to
discard a useless card and draw a new one.

Ironically, players who use non-attack decks may actually wish to add Louise
Marcus to their decks.  You take the risk of losing a defense you may need if
your opponent manages to make an attack.  However, Louise will let you cycle
cards to get to the cheese-type stuff that you want more quickly.  And you can
still play another card cycling Event, such as Holy Ground/TV, the same turn
you discard due to Louise Marcus.

Okay.  So Louise isn't as powerful as she first seems.  So what _is_ she good

First of all, we noted that Louise Marcus is of little use if your opponent is
using a "cheese" deck that keeps you from attacking.  But if they are using a
cheese deck that _doesn't_ keep you from attacking, she is of much greater
use.  This may seem unlikely, but it could happen.  And if you are faced with
a "lock" deck, Louise allows you to discard a defense and draw a new card
every turn . . . hopefully getting that card you need to break the lock.

If you have an attack-heavy deck and are playing an combative opponent, Louise
can be quite useful.  If you are fighting an opponent that uses Dodge and Back
Away, they typically must discard a defense to Louise Marcus every time they
dodge.  Why?  Because generally after playing these two dodges, they can't
counter-attack.  Back Away only allows Ranged Attacks, while Dodge can only be
followed with an attack if a card like Combination, Extra Shot, Hook, or
Follow-Up is used.

So who will be using strategies that make an opponent Dodge and Back Away a
lot?  Amanda, for starters.  An opponent may play a single dodge rather than
two blocks to avoid her two attacks.  This becomes more likely if Amanda gets
Hidden attacks through the use of Jump, Mountain Cave, or Acrobat.  Since
Amanda can also make two attacks per turn, it is unlikely that she will be
hurt by Louise Marcus.  If she is running low on attacks and wants to avoid
losing defenses, Amanda can simply make one attack per turn and stretch out
her attacks in this manner.

Speculating on Yung Dol Kim based on his two Quickenings ("You may play
attacks as blocks." and "If you have an Extra Weapon in play, you may make an
Exertion to play an additional attack."), we see that anyone using these
Quickenings, and hopefully Kim himself, may want to use Louise.  Not only does
he have the ability to make multiple attacks, just like Amanda, but even if he
has to discard defenses, he will still have attacks to use as defenses.  These
two Quickenings are not considered the most powerful:  however, combine them
with Louise Marcus and they become more useful.

Dont' want to risk even relatively less powerful Quickenings?  Use Parrying
Blade and the Prize/Extra Attack to do the same thing.

Any Persona that makes Hidden attacks can expect an opponent to Dodge or Back
Away a great deal.  This makes Louise Marcus an ideal card for Connor/Mountain
Cave decks.  It's also nice in conjunction with Trip.  Louise combined with
Master's Advance in this circumstance can be _very_ painful.  They must
discard a dodge to play a dodge, and since they probably can't attack, they
must discard _another_ defense.

The common defense used against the standard Combination and Extra Shot cards,
as well as Hook, is a single Dodge or Back Away.  Louise Marcus makes this an
expensive choice.

Some Personas _want_ their opponents to attack them.  Annie Devlin is the best
example.  Her power only kicks in if her opponent succeeds with an attack.
Louise Marcus provides an incentive for them to do so.  Beware, however:
Annie often wishes to delay attacking so that she can accumulate three attacks
for when she can use her Persona ability.  She can easily fall afoul of her
own Louise Marcus.

Annie is the best example, but anyone who wants to use Riposte and make it
Hidden will want an opponent to attack them.  This includes anyone using Iman
Fasil's Quickening ("If you successfully block an attack, your next attack
that turn may be Hidden.").  By the same reasoning, when Fasil is released in
a future expansion, he will want to use Louise Marcus as well.

If you are up against a combat deck, keeping your opponent from attacking
while making them discard defenses is a valid strategy.  Slan decks often use
Intimidate, Distraction, and Pedestrian/Delay-2 to immobilize an opponent
offensively.  Luther can do this as well, then make them expend their
accumulated attacks rapidly by using Taunt.  And Fitzcairn can keep an
opponent from attacking by using Charm and Fast Talk.  So Louise Marcus works
well with these Personas as well.

And finally, Louise Marcus is a discard-type card.  Which means Nefertiri is
immune to her, both when she is using it and when her opponent is.  Combine
this with her new Watcher's Chronicle card, Cunning, and you can hit an
opponent with a double penalty for not attacking.

Louise Marcus is _not_ quite as effective as Master's Advance, since that card
forces you to specifically discard a dodge.  On the other hand, Louise doesn't
take up a Master slot, either.  And you can more easily play with multiples of
her for the same reason.

Louise Marcus is an Ally.  However, she affects both players equally, so there
is no real reason for an opponent to take her.  She is a bit more vulnerable
to cards that remove Allies, however.  On the other hand, if you have a
strategy that requires Allies, she is a good one to include.  Unlike cards
like Carl or Rachel Ellenstein, she is not a "discard to use" card.

So, overall, we see that Louise can backfire on you.  However, she is
remarkably versatile.  She can be used with almost any Persona.  She can be
used in attack decks and non-attack decks.  Due to the backfire possibility
she should be considered carefully, but she _should_ be considered for
practically any deck you build.

So Steve gives this card a _6_.  She is not overwhelmingly powerful, but she
can chip away at an opponent's defenses, and lends herself to many strategies.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - A card that might be a nice counter to cheese decks... if TCG hadn't
printed Safe Haven and Verona -- and if they'd allow it to stack.
Unfortunately, with the "metagame" scene as it is, there are plenty of other
cards I'd rather use the slots for.

Hank - Great card with attack decks (Slan, Kurgan, et al).  A staple for many
of my decks.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Ben             [Abstain]
Jeff                    4
Rick            [Abstain]
Hank                    8
Alan            [Abstain]
Jim             [Abstain]
Chip            [Abstain]

Average:                6

Master's Stance

SITUATION:  Any block you play during your Defense Phase may remain in play as
a Guard.  The block is now considered a Standing Defense.  Master's Stance is
a Standing Defense.

Well, as we progress alphabetically through the Movie Edition's generic cards,
we finally come to the "M"s.  Which means it's time for a Master card.

Of the five Movie Edition generic Master cards, Master's Stance lies somewhere
in the middle.  It is neither as overall useful as Master's Stance or Advance,
but is definitely better than Master's Endurance or Domain.

Master's Stance seems simple enough.  It turns any block you play into a
Guard.  The block is a Standing Defense, and Master's Stance itself is a
Standing Defense.  The block has all the limitations and advantage of a Guard.

But first of all, what are the advantages of a Guard?  This brings us to one
of the most commonly misunderstood parts of the Highlander CCG.  You can
attack through a Guard.

The rules do _not_ say that attacking through a Guard is impossible.  They are
a little vague on this subject, particularly when they talk about dropping a
Guard to get into position for an attack.  This seems to be included as a
reference to the most _common_ type of Guard:  the Right, Left, Upper, and
Lower Guards found in booster packs everywhere.

Why can't you attack through these?  Because the _cards_ say so:  the rules do
not.  When you look at the other Guard found in the game, Kastagir's Master
Guard, we see that the text about attacking normally is merely idiot-proofing:
the same reason some Special Attacks say they can not be Power Blows or made

Remember, however, that a block is still a block.  If you use it that turn,
you're restricted by it, since that's what blocks normally do.

Example:  Nefertiri has Master's Stance in play.  Her opponent plays a Upper
Left attack (ULA).  She plays a Upper Left block (ULB).  She leaves the ULB
up, but her first attack this turn can not be to any area that block covers.

An important note:  the last block played only impedes your _first_ attack.
This means the following is possible:

Example (cont'd):  Nefertiri plays Combination.  She plays a LRA.  Now, she is
no longer restricted by the ULB she played.  She may now make her second
attack anywhere, _including the areas covered by the ULB_!

A player can do this because the ULB, as a Guard, does not restrict attacking.
This is less effective than Kastagir's Master Guard, which does not restrict
_any_ attacks.  A block that is "Master Stanced" will restrict the first
attack you make, but not subsequent ones.

So Master Stance isn't bad when combined when two-attack Specials like
Combination and Hook.  What else does it do?

Well, you now have a Guard up.  This means, in essence, that on his turn, an
opponent can not effectively attack to areas you blocked on your last turn.

If you are using two-attack Specials then this isn't as big a deal.  However,
if you are making single attacks it becomes a bit more impressive.

Example:  Slan blocks his opponent's URA with a URB, and keeps it out as a
Guard with Master's Stance.  He then makes a LLA Power Blow.  His opponent
then plays a LLB and prepares to counter attack.

At this point, let's study the situation.  Unless the opponent is Connor or
Duncan, they now can attack to only five areas due to their LLB:  UR, UC, UL,

However, Slan's URB is still up.  This makes it useless for the opponent to
play three of those attacks:  UR, UC, MR.  The opponent now has only two
attacks they can make to an unblocked area:  UL and LR.

The opponent can still play those "unusable" attacks, forcing Slan to keep up
his URB as a Guard.  Since he uses it, the URB still restricts his attack next
turn.  He still can attack to five areas, however.  And when he does so his
opponent can still only effectively respond with two attacks.

So those are the general tactical advantages of Master Stance.  Which Personas
specifically benefit from this?

The most popular tactic is to use Master's Stance with Master's Block.
Although this takes up at least two Master slots, it means that the five
current Personas with Master's Block (Richie, Connor, Katana, Duncan, and
Fitzcairn) can put the block up and keep it up.  They can all attack through
their individual Master Blocks the same turn they use it - definitely a
superior advantage to using regular blocks.  The Master Block can then be left
up.  It doesn't impede counter-attacking and never goes away unless the
opponent either removes Master's Stance or forces the Master Stancer to dodge.

For Duncan, Richie, and Connor, this tactic becomes an actual strategy.  Why?
Because each of their Master's Blocks have inherent abilities that are
triggered when an opponent attack.  If the opponent dares to attack Connor
with a Master Stanced Master's Block, Connor's next attack is unblockable.

Other Personas can pull this trick off by using Darius. However, they can only
do it with Richie's Master Block.  Why?  Because Connor's and Duncan's Master
Blocks do _not_ say you can attack normally after using them.  The MacLeods
_can_ attack normally through their Master's Blocks, because that is their
Persona ability.  However, another Persona Dariusing in their Master's Blocks
can not.

As long as someone with a Dariused Connor/Duncan Master's Block is _not_
attacked, they can attack through the block.  Why?  Because again, as a Guard,
they can attack through it.  It is only when they use the Master's Block that
the rule that _any_ block restricts attacks kicks in.

Other uses for Master's Block?  As outlined above, this card can be attacked
through when using Combination, Extra Shot, Hook, or Follow-Up.  And if you
are a heavy Power Blow user, you can severely restrict an opponent's ability
to take a Hidden counter-attack.

Mixing Master's Stance with cards that restrict your opponent's attack
ability, Situations such as Higher Ground and Tight Squeeze, is not a bad idea
either.  Granted, you should always play a Lower Guard when you have a Higher
Ground out.  However, having Master's Stance to add a few spare Lower Center
blocks wouldn't hurt.

Master's Stances has several weaknesses.  It is both a Situation and a
Standing Defense, and vulnerable to cards that remove either.  However, an
interesting note is that there are some options that, while good for removing
a Guard, will have no effect on Master's Stance.  If an opponent plays Shove,
you would lose a Guard whether you dodge or not.  However, if you have
Master's Stance, you can still dodge.  It will cost you your current
block/guard, which is painful if it was a Master's Block.  However, that's why
you have two (three with a pg Darius) Master's Block.

Master's Stance is also a Master card.  It counts against your total number of
Masters, and is vulnerable to cards that target Masters.  This can make it an
expensive proposition if used with Master's Block:  only Connor, the Kurgan,
and Duncan probably have the necessary number of Master slots to utilize it
with Master's Block.  If you intend to use it merely to supplement normal
blocks, you probably have enough room to use two or three and still leave
yourself room for Master's Stratagem and Advance.

So overall, Steve gives Master's Stance a _6_.  It is generally useful enough
that it warrants inclusion in any general attack deck.  It's extremely
powerful in certain combinations, but vulnerable as a Situation and Standing

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Master's Stance has three problems.  First, it is a combo card and
requires a second card (a block) to pull off.  Second, it almost requires that
you play it with Master's Block, since almost any other block is inferior to a
regular guard anyway.  And finally, it eats up one of your Master slots.  So
to be an effective card, you basically have to play it with someone who a) has
Master's Block, and b) can afford to use a lot of Masters.  Thus, in ordinary
use, I give it a 3, but in the right hands, as high as an 8 or 9.

Jeff - A fun card, but useful only in theme decks . . . or if you're desperate
to get up a Master's Block as a guard.  I'd rather have Master Swordsman or
Master's Stratagem, myself, though.

Rick - The ability to keep any block played up as a Guard is very nice.  If
you are stuck in a Lock deck game, Master's Stance lets you keep playing those
blocks instead of having to exert to death.  Just another good card to help
you cycle cards.

Hank - Anyone who puts Master's Block in their deck should have this card, if
they can spare a slot.  The nine-point Guard is a nice combo.  Otherwise, it's
fairly useful but not immensely so . . .

Alan - Oh, how I *love* this card.  It is a staple in almost all of my Connor
decks, particularly my "Toolbox" one.  Naturally, I combine it with Connor's
Master's Block to create a "super Master's Guard", which allows me to not only
go lighter on my defenses, but also gives me an unblockable attack whenever my
opponent attacks.  Combined with an Honor Bound and/or Wargames West, this
becomes a powerful combination: my opponent has to play 1 or 2 Focii, as well
as either a 3rd Focus, or a Police to remove my "super Guard".  Not easily
done.  Of course that unblockable attack becomes quite useful, particularly in
an end-game situation when used with an upper attack + Head Shot.

Jim - Master's Stance (MS) is a staple among attack decks, especially for
personas that have Master's Blocks.  It particularly effective when combined
with Honor Bound since it is usually quite easy to remove Master's Stance
using Police or any anti-standing defense or Guard removing special.  MS is
very useful in Connor and Duncan decks, but any deck that has access to
Master's Block should consider using MS.

Chip - This card allows you to make all your blocks guards.  This can be VERY
useful if you are playing against an attack heavy deck especially if you come
across a Bloodlust or Berserk.  The downfall is that the card itself is
considered a standing defense allowing your opponent the opportunity to get
rid of the guard but also the masters stance with a single rush or any other
card that removes  standing defenses for that matter.   Obvious combo:
Masters Stance and Masters Block.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Ben                     3
Jeff                    4
Rick                    7
Hank                    7
Alan                    9
Jim                     8
Chip                    6

Average:                6.25

Parrying Blade

OBJECT:  You may only have one Parrying Blade in play at a time.  While
Parrying Blade is in play, you may play attacks as blocks.  If you are
Disarmed, you may still block with the Parrying Blade, but you may not attack.
(Restricted to 2)

Parrying Blade is one of a number of Objects added in the Movie Edition.  In
this reviewer's opinion, it is one of the most useful.

First of all, this is one of several cards that duplicate  a Persona's
abilities.  Just as Alertness/Hidden lets Slan or Duncan gain the "See all
Hidden attacks" ability of Connor, Parrying Blade can give Amanda or Luther
the ability to use Yung Dol Kim's skill at playing attacks as blocks.

Let's make sure we understand what this card does.  It lets you play attacks
as blocks.  This does not mean they _are_ blocks.  Thus, cards that cause you
to discard blocks and/or defenses (Kastagir's Charm, Cat & Mouse, Battlefield)
do not affect this card.

This also means that in circumstances when you _want_ to discard a defense
(Battlefield), you can't say that an attack is a block, and get rid of it.
And finally, your attacks are still attacks, and therefore subject to cards
such as Linda Plager and Caught in the Act/SE.

The above provides one strong advantage when using Parrying Blade.  If you are
playing against a defense-draining opponent, you have an emergency cache of
attack/blocks to fall back.  If Connor plays Darius + Kastagir's Charm, and
then his Master's Lunge, this can give you a reason to use that Thrust or
horizontal Slash you've been holding on to.

Unlike Kim's ability, Parrying Blade gives you another advantage:  the ability
to block when you are disarmed.  This is not quite as good as an Improvised
Weapon/Object, but it is better than the Dragon promotional card.  Why?
Because not only can you play attacks as blocks, but you can still play blocks
normally while you are Disarmed  (see the FAQ, Q11.5).  This gives you a way
to get rid of attacks which would otherwise stack up in your hand as you wait
to regain your weapon.

Parrying Blade is an Object, which makes it relatively immune to removal.
Only two cards currently remove Objects:  Thief and Misfortune. If you are
playing with an Object-heavy deck (using, say, Khan with his Armor, or Amanda
with Ancestral Blade), Parrying Blade will probably be a lower priority target
for your opponent.  Unless your opponent is playing with a disarm-type deck,
or has plenty of the above two cards to spare, once you play a Parrying Blade
it will probably stay in play.

Another mixed blessing of Parrying Blade is, unless you're using Slashes, it
doesn't provide you with very large coverage.  This is good in one sense:  if
you play a URA to block your opponent's URA, you have _eight_ areas that you
can counter-attack to.

Someone using Fasil's ability via Quickening ("If you successfully block an
attack, your next attack that turn may be Hidden.), or a large number of
Ripostes, can do quite well with Parrying Blade.  Instead of blocking and only
being able to attack to one of five-six areas, you can attack to eight areas.

In fact, if Iman Fasil is a heavy attack-type Persona, when he is released in
a future Movie expansion he could be quite formidable when using Parrying
Blade.  Block to one area, make a Hidden area to any of the other eight.

Why is the limited coverage of an attack/block via Parrying Blade bad?  Trying
to block a Hidden attack becomes very difficult if you play an attack that
blocks only one area.

So which Personas benefit from the use of Parrying Blade?  Any deck that has a
lot of attacks in it.  This includes Amanda (with her Persona ability), the
Kurgan (with Bloodlust), Slan (with Berserk), anyone with Battle Rage (Connor,
Nefertiri, Duncan, Richie, Khan), Annie, and Kern.

In fact, Kern probably benefits the most from Parrying Blade.  He has other,
presumably more powerful Objects (Hogg and Bowie Knife) that an opponent will
try to remove first.  And he can enlarge his Exertions to such a degree that
his odds of drawing the proper block _or_ attack-as-block are very high.

Any Personas that use extra attacks for the Extra Shot and Combination cards
in their deck can also benefit from the use of Parrying Blade.  Amanda may
benefit, but typically she prefers to dodge.  Parrying Blade can still provide
her with a useful "emergency" block or two, though.

Parrying Blade can be a useful card in conjunction with Connor's or Nakano's
Master's Disarm.  Unlike Improvised Weapon/Object, Parrying Blade is _not_
considered a weapon.  If you Disarm yourself via Discard Weapon, you can block
(using either attacks or blocks), and then take their weapon.  If your
opponent refuses to attack you can use the Parrying Blade to play Guards and
wait them out.

As was noted above, Parrying Blade is also effective if you use Slashes.
Anyone who uses the "generic" horizontal and vertical Slashes can do well
here.  However, Connor and Duncan, with their corner-to-corner Slashes, gain
the benefit of additional block coverage when using a Parrying Blade.

Annie Devlin's Master's Attack becomes much more powerful with a Parrying
Blade as well.  However, she cannot attack to any areas she just blocked so
her attack options are rather limited the turn she uses Master's Attack as a

If a future effort is made to release more attacks that cover two or more
areas, Parrying Blade could prove useful in decks that use those cards.

So overall, Steve gives Parrying Blade a _6_.  It's a versatile defense card,
can provide you with protection against several debilitating strategies such
as defense-loss, and has several strategies you can build around it.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Undoubtedly a great card, and a great sealed deck card.  Unless you are
trying to trim your deck down very slim, almost always worth playing with.

Jeff - Half of Yung Dol Kim in a can.  Not really my favorite anti-disarm
card, but useful in heavy attack decks, such as Kern or Kurgan.  Or if you
want to ditch attacks, but can't bring yourself to play something as cheesy as
Basset & Hotchkiss.  =)

Rick - This card never hurts in a deck.  It's an Object so it hangs around
longer than most situations.  It lets you expand your defense options with
attack cards in heavy attack decks.  Best of all, with it you can block an
attack then play Master's Disarm (Connor or Nakano).

Hank - Fairly useful for attack-heavy decks, but not particularly powerful or

Alan - Admittedly, as fond as I am of Objects, this isn't a card I have used
very often.  It is, however, quite a useful emergency card (particularly with
Slash):  if your opponent attacks to an area none of your blocks cover, then
there's a good chance that you'll have an attack to that area.  Unless you're
Connor or Duncan, you wouldn't have been able to use that attack that turn
anyway . . . may as well get *some* use out of it (such as keeping your head,
perhaps ;-) )  Also, when you have to Exert for a defense, you have a better
chance of getting an appropriate defense, since attacks count as blocks in
this case.

Jim - Parrying Blade is a good card to use in attack decks, particularly when
your the deck is attack-heavy.  I like using Parrying Blade in Slan and Kurgan
decks. Using Slash as a block against another Slash can be fun.  I usually use
Parrying Blade in attack decks which are light on Guards, like if I'm using
Ruins as my Location of choice.

Chip - If you are trying to master a nasty Bassett & Hotchkiss deck and don't
have room for all those pesky blocks, this card can help tremendously.  Since
the Parrying Blade is an Object it has a good chance to stay in play for a
while, allowing you to use those attacks as blocks.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Ben                     7
Jeff                    5
Rick                    8
Hank                    5
Alan                    7
Jim                     7
Chip                    5

Average:                6.25