Card of the Week #21-23


Blood of Kings

Part 1: Foundling

Part 2: First Death - You may not play this card unless Foundling is in play.

Part 3: Immortal - You may not play this card unless Foundling and First Death
are in play.  Discard all three cards.  All damage from your opponents next
three successful attacks is reduced to zero.

What can I say?  I'm a sucker for Plots.  Unholy Alliance is one of the most
powerfully obnoxious things in Highlander, particularly in the hands of
Xavier.  Some people's opinions to the contrary, I can get Counterfeit to work
pretty well.

On the Movie Edition side, Destruction is about the best way to pull off Head
Shots, giving you a chance to play other Specials (like Amanda's Seduce!) on
subsequent turns.  A Head Hunter deck is truly painful when combined with
Master's Advance.  Take both of these Plots and put them in a Kurgan/Disguise
deck, and an opponent has real problems.

Joy Ride is a bit of a lame duck, even with the errata.  However, Cat & Mouse
is almost too powerful for words.  Whether you're a Kurgan deck zapping their
defenses and then Power Blowing, or a Xavier deck making them burn through a
potential 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12 = 78! cards from their Endurance, there's
little doubt this card can hurt.

Also, since the Series Edition, new Plot-enhancing cards (several cards in
Watcher's Chronicles, Simple Mind, Schemer, both Director's Cuts, Measure of a
Man) are far more powerful and common then new anti-Plot stuff like . . .
Moran, and that's it.

So now we have the first new Plot in a while.  What does it do?  Negate all
damage from the next three successful attacks.  This has several game mechanic
issues.  First of all, there are several attacks that do not do damage when
successful.  Those include undefended Head Shots, Improvised Weapon/Attacks,
and Dirty Tricks.  Blood of Kings doesn't prevent any of their effects.

Worse, whether attacks _do_ damage or not is irrelevant.  Thus, if you are hit
by a Dirty Trick, it counts as one of the three attacks that Blood of Kings
aids you against.

However, only successful attacks count against Blood of Kings.  If you
Disappear against an attack, the attack was not successful and thus doesn't
count against the three-attack immunity.

Preventing all damage from an attack (i.e., Dr. Sonny Jackson) does not make
the attack unsuccessful.  So an attack dealt with in that manner still counts
against the three-attack immunity.

Like Continuity, the effect of Blood of Kings doesn't "stack" or accumulate.
If you complete a second Blood of Kings while you still have a previous one in
effect, only the next three successful attacks from that points on are damage-
negated.

You can use the effect of Blood of Kings the turn you complete it.  So if your
Kurgan opponent unleashes a big six point Sedarius/Thrust/Power Blow on his
turn, you can play the third part of BoKs on your defense or attack phase and
ignore the damage.  Even if he has The Gathering out, you can still prevent
the damage in your attack phase.

So that's what Blood of Kings does.  What do you do with it?

Blood of Kings is pretty much useless against non-attack decks, and it's
probably a waste of your time to even bother with it.  Still, if such decks
step in at the end of the game to do a Head Shot, you may wish you had
completed that BoKs plot 20 turns ago.

Blood of Kings isn't a bad counter against Katana's Taunt . . . except that
against Katana, you're pretty unlikely to succeed in completing it.

Blood of Kings will also stop a Stalk.  However, since Xavier can potentially
use Plan Ahead and Police, that's not likely to happen either.

Other than those exceptions, however, Blood of Kings is a pretty good cards.
Many games come down to who inflicts the most damage in the fewest number of
attacks.  Sedarius, Shooting Blade, Power Blows, Connor's Master Block/Lunge
combination, Xavier's Stalk (if Richie is using it):  these are the biggies.

Against decks that rely on lots of smaller hits (Amanda comes to mind, but
Pistol users as well), Blood of Kings is a little less effective.  Preventing
three attacks of three damage may not be as satisfying as ignoring a 5 or 7
point attack, but it will still help.

Also, you don't have to rely on just Blood of Kings for defense.  It will let
you go a little lighter on stuff like Alertness/Block.  And you can probably
afford to drop a couple of Dodges.  Still, Blood of Kings' effect is only used
up if they hit you.  Just keep defending normally and let BoKs work when you
want it to.

So who should use Blood of Kings?  Well, when it comes to Plots, always look
first to Xavier St. Cloud.  Twelve of these and twelve of Unholy Alliance
provide a painful combination of defense and (non-swordfighting) offense.
Blood of Kings is the best defensive plot (with 12 Cat & Mouse/Attack the only
other qualifier).  It's not as good as Verona, but there are ways to counter
Verona (see CotW #20).  You might be better off using Illusory Terrain in
conjunction with these two plots, keep them from playing of Locations.  This
option also lets you toss out a Stalk or two.

Kalas is a secondary plotter, and might wish to consider this Plot as well.
He isn't nearly as strong in the Plot department as Xavier.  However, he's
also less agile, having only Back Away.  If Kalas doesn't want to sit there
and hope for a Holy Ground when his opponent fires that Shooting Blade, he
should consider Blood of Kings.

The Kurgan, thanks to Disguise, ranks with Kalas as a plotter (see PotM #1).
Like Kalas, he currently lacks any dodge except Back Away.  Still, Blood of
Kings is a defensive Plot and the Kurgan is more of a heavy-hitter on offense.
Destruction and Head Hunter are probably better choices.  But if you want to
add a third plot, you could do worse than BoKs.

Other Personas?  Everyone can use the benefits.  However, Plots are difficult
to complete.  Unless you're using a lot of other Situations to use up your
opponent's Situation-removers, Blood of Kings (or any other Plot) probably
isn't a good choice.

The exception?  Director's Cut/Situation.  This card can give any Persona
Xavier-like abilities to play and complete multiple Plots.  And in the hands
of Xavier himself, DC is a weapon of earth-shattering dimensions.

So how do you cope with an opponent using Blood of Kings?  Simple:  wear them
down with minor attacks.  Slashes, Pistols, Dirty Tricks, Improvised Weapons.
Save your heavy-hitter stuff for after BoKs' effects have dissipated.

So overall, Steve gives Blood of Kings a _6_.  There are other ways to handle
defense, but BoKs takes all the guesswork out of it and ignores The Gathering
as well.  Once BoKs effects have kicked in, only Underworld Contacts can stop
it.  You don't need to worry about your opponent ripping a TCG against your
Alertness cards when he performs a Seduce/Shooting Blade later in the game.
BoKs is really the only good defense Plot, and the problems with Plot usage
are becoming smaller and smaller as time goes on.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Abstain

Jeff - Moderately useful for a 3-part plot, particularly if you have multiples
and fear Sedarius.  I'd personally rather have three defenses and/or Holy
Grounds, myself.  A bit over-rated by most, IMHO.

Rick - Your opponent's next three _successful_ attacks do zero damage.  It
still lets you defend normally and only if an attack gets through does it
count against the three.

Hank - A cool plot.  Not too powerful, but nice, useful for decks that want to
go toe-to-toe with someone.

Alan - Before the release of ME (and Schemer), and Director's Cut/Situation, I
would have loved this Plot (even though it could be considered
anti-swordfighting).  It has a nice effect but was still a Plot (and therefore
harder to pull off).  But now, since it is possible to complete a plot in one
turn (thanks to the use of Chessex + Dr. Sonny Jackson/Desperation), it is now
even more useful to anti-swordfighting strategies.  In the hands of Xavier it
becomes even more powerful (and Cheesey).

Jim - Another promo card:  well, actually, a set of cards.  Although this plot
sequence seems to be quite powerful, it simply is not very efficient in light
of other cards that are available.  You fare better by adding more general
cards such as Master's Block, Feint/Edge, Dr. Sonny Jackson,
Watcher/Treatment, and such.  For cheesers, Verona and Safe Haven are much
better.  Blood of Kings when completed can allow you to take punishment from
three successful attacks.  However, often the successful attacks will be ones
that do less damage (like Slash).  Since only damage is reduced to zero you
are still vulnerable to a Head Shot.

Chip - Abstain

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Ben                   N/A
Jeff                    4
Rick                    4

Hank                    7
Alan                    5
Jim                     3
Chip                  N/A

Average:                4.83

------------------------------------------------------------------
Amnesia

Remove any 1 card from your opponent's discard pile from the game.
[Restricted to 2]

What were we talking about again?  Oh, right - Amnesia.  Seems simple enough,
doesn't it?  Take a card in the discard pile - toss it out of the game.

Any game mechanics issues?  A card removed from the game can't be recovered
through any other means.  Alex Johnson and Sacrifice won't get it back.

If an in-game Darius is removed from the game, the card it was allowing you to
use is removed as well.  This makes the use of Amnesia a bargain since you
remove two cards from the game.  It's also a nice back-up to James Horton.
Removal of a "Darius'd" card is done the same way as when a pre-game Darius is
remove:  search the discard, then the Endurance, then your Ability, then your
in-play cards.

So what do you do with Amnesia?

At first glance, it seems a fairly powerful card, well worth its restriction
to 2.  Its primary use is against restricted cards.  If your opponent only has
one Shooting Blade, remove it once it gets to the discard pile and he won't
have it for the rest of the game.

Do you have trouble with those bothersome Watcher/Treatments.  It has a
restriction of two:  so does Amnesia.  A nice match.  Remove the Watchers once
your opponent plays them, and they won't be recovering four Ability each time
through their Endurance any more.

Choose practically any other restricted card, and you can find a reason to use
on Amnesia on it.  Heck, maybe even Pierre Bouchet is giving your head hunter
deck problems.

Amnesia isn't nearly as useful against unrestricted cards.  Still, there is a
strong advantage to, say, removing two of their six Back Aways if you're using
a Catwalk.  They can't use Dodge, they have a diminishing number of Back Aways
- looks like they're going to have to stand and block your Power Blows.  What
a shame.

Locations, particularly bothersome ones like Verona, Factory, Battlefield, and
Catwalk, are also good targets for removal.  Amnesia makes a nice supplement
to TSC Troopers (CotW #14).  Use six TSC Troopers and two Amnesia, and their
chances of having any Locations left after an Endurance burn are pretty
minimal.

And finally, not _every_ really annoying, powerful card is Restricted.  Take
out two of Xavier's Forethoughts each time through his Endurance.

There are two problems with Amnesia, however.  The first is that it is
restricted to two.  A determined opponent will probably use six of a Location.
_And_ several powerful Restricted Persona cards.  _And_ two
Watcher/Treatments.  You may have a hard time choosing which cards to use
Amnesia on.  TSC Troopers will help you against the Locations, but the
Exertion requirement is also a penalty.

The other problem is that Amnesia's effects seem impressive.  However, they
are _delayed_.  Since Amnesia only affects cards that are in the discard pile,
your opponent isn't going to feel the absence of the targeted cards until the
_next_ time through his Endurance.

In tournament play, this is a major handicap.  Most decks are designed to hit
hard and fast, and take you down to an unviable Ability before your opponent
has to reshuffle.  If your opponent has already blasted you with two
Bloodlusts for 6-8 points of damage each, removing them from the game probably
isn't going to help you much.

In some cases, this problem is even worse.  A cautious opponent, for instance,
may avoid taking any damage.  In that case, he won't even have to use his
Watcher/Treatments until he goes through his Endurance the first time and
loses five Ability.  So if you use Amnesia on his two Watcher/Treatments, he
won't notice the impact until the third time through his Endurance.

The loss of key cards can impact Lean & Mean decks.  But perhaps even more
than most decks, they count on hitting hard and fast.  The game will probably
be decided by the time they take an Endurance burn and start looking for those
cards again.

So how do you get maximum effectiveness out of Amnesia?  Your best bet is to
combine it with cards that force your opponent to lose cards directly from her
Endurance.  These include Avery Hoskins, Challenge/ME, Desert, Cat &
Mouse/Endurance, Improvised Weapon/Attack, Dirty Trick/Pummel, and
Counterfeit.  If they go past a card without getting a chance to use it the
first time, you can use Amnesia to make sure they never will.

This type of strategy favors Khan slightly, since he can withstand Endurance
burn better.  However, if you are using any or all of the above cards, Amnesia
becomes a bit more powerful.

The disadvantage of this strategy is that the most reliable ways to force your
opponent to go through cards either are not particularly dependable
(Counterfeit) or tend to backfire (Desert, Cat & Mouse).  It doesn't do much
good to force your opponent to go past cards so you can use Amnesia, if you
lose Amnesia yourself.

So overall, Steve gives Amnesia a _4_.  Yes, it's a useful card in any deck.
However, the payoff is delayed almost to the point of uselessness.  And there
are too many "toolbox" cards that are useful in any deck already, including:
Focus, Misfortune, Watcher/Treatment, Dr. Sonny Jackson, Reconnaissance,
Police/Remove Situation, Upper Hand, Locations in general.  These two factors
keep Amnesia's rating down.  If you can add it and keep your total deck size
down, and you anticipate a long game, go for it.  I rarely have both of these
occur in a competitive environment.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Amnesia is a card for the paranoid.  One of the first things I come to
terms with when I sit down to build a new deck is that you can't possibly plan
for everything.  So I stick to offense and keep my deck as focused as
possible-- which means purely defensive cards like this get tossed out.

Jeff - The main problem with this card is that it can only affect cards that
have already been used on you.  Since most decks aim to have you at or below 7
by the end of their first pass, this seems a bit pointless (as does its
restriction to 2).  Not a bad card, certainly, but still a bit over-rated.

Rick - The biggest drawback to this card is you are restricted to two.  It can
really mess with decks designed around other restricted cards (Wargames West,
Honor Bound, Forged Steel).

Hank - An interesting card, but I'm not sure of its usefulness.  In tournament
play most of the game should be decided by one trip through a deck, so your
opponent won't care too much if you remove a card.  In non-tournament play,
it's just annoying.  Still, cards with unique function are a good thing.

Alan - This is a great card to use against those Personas who like to use
Restricted cards (Master cards, Special Attacks, etc.), since a lot of
strategies revolve around such cards (or are at least somewhat crippled
without the use of such cards).  There is almost no Persona this card can't be
used against in this manner.  Not necessarily a must-have in every deck, but a
card you should at least consider when making a deck.

Jim - One of my favorite cards.  Extremely useful in removing very powerful
cards that are restricted.  Also useful for removing cards that your opponent
has only included a couple in the deck, which is sometimes done with Lean and
Mean decks.  This card is great for getting rid of Nexus, Shooting Blade and
Bloodlust.  Removing Master's Blocks can be effective if you're using an
attack deck.  Plots can be slowed down by removing a part of the plot or by
getting rid of plot accelerators like Schemer or Director's Cut.  Since
Amnesia is restricted to two, it can't be used effectively against cards that
your opponent has several of in their deck.

Chip - Abstain

Wayne - A very under-rated card.  Great for Basset & Hotchkiss/healing decks
to remove opponents' healing.  The only downfall of the card is that in 30
minute or less rounds, there are many times you don't go through the deck
twice, thus making it useless.  I like this card, though.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   4
Ben                     4
Jeff                    5
Rick                    7
Hank                    6
Alan                    7
Jim                     9
Chip                  N/A
Wayne                   8

Average:                6.25

------------------------------------------------------------------
Factory

No player may draw up to his Ability during his Draw Phase while Factory is in
play.  If any player's hand drops below 5 cards, remove Factory from play.
(errata'd text)

First and most importantly, _note the errata on this card_!  It can't be
emphasized enough.  Originally, Factory omitted the reference to, "...during
his Draw Phase...".  This was a mystifier of sorts.  Obviously you couldn't
draw during your Draw/Discard phase.  However, could you draw due to Patience?
Holy Ground/SE?

The question also came up as to whether Factory directly affected Nefertiri.
While many Locations indirectly limit an aspect of a Personas's ability
(Verona keeps Amanda from attacking at all, but doesn't specifically prevent
her from making a second attack), Factory directly targeted Nefertiri's
ability.

The errata answers all of these questions.  You _can_ draw due to Patience and
Holy Ground/SE, because you don't draw due to these cards on your Draw phase.
Nefertiri can draw cards, as long as she doesn't draw during her Draw phase.

Although the card text suggests that you should be able to draw up to one
_less_ than your Ability, this is not the case.  You cannot draw cards at all
during your Draw phase.

As with any card that removes a card, even itself, the removal of Factory
occurs _immediately_ when a player's hand drops below five cards.

So with these thorny game mechanic questions resolved, the next issue is:  how
useful is Factory?

The ability to draw cards to replace the ones you use is a critical part of
Highlander.  The act of playing cards is a major means of drawing more cards.
Compare this to Magic the Gathering or X-Files, where the normal sequence of
play only allows you one card per turn.

Factory takes away this ability to draw cards freely.  Without the ability to
replace cards, you can easily enter a downward spiral where you are eventually
trapped with cards you can't play or are otherwise useless to you.  If you
have five or more cards when this happens, you will have to start Exerting
every turn.

One means to slow this spiral is to play cards _very_ slowly.  Instead of
blocking and then attacking, merely block.  Save the attack for a later turn,
hopefully after your opponent has used up all of his attacks and you can
respond freely.  Don't use those playable Specials until you have to.

This waiting game is not an unfamiliar one:  it's also a valid strategy in the
multi-player variant during an Encounter.  This is a case of "Who'll blink
first?" as you hope your opponent runs out of playable cards and Exerts to end
the Encounter before you do.

The difference between Factory and the multi-player variant is that you can
_stop_ the "no draw during draw phase" limitation.  Simply play your own
Location, or Illusory Terrain, or TSC Troopers, or Get Away From It All.

There are several problems with this Factory-related strategy, however.
Conserving cards so you don't have to Exert is normally a good strategy.
However, you're not getting any _new_ cards.  And without new cards, you have
no way to eventually break the cycle.  Meanwhile, rest assured your opponent
_does_ have cards that let him bypass Factory.

The primary cards to bypass Factory are Reconnaissance and Patience.  Both of
these essentially do the same thing:  let the owner draw cards up to her
Ability when Factory is out.  Patience is better since it can be used at any
time.  Reconnaissance may be played at any time, but you only get to draw up
once:  during your Draw phase.

Of course, if your opponent plays Factory and you have one or more of these
two cards in your hand, you're in good shape.  Again, the trick to dealing
with Factory is to extend the process.  Try to get by for a few turns without
using them.  Then use one.  Draw some cards.  Draw out the situation some
more.  Play another one.  And so on.  Your opponent will be doing the same.

You still have options even without these cards.  Cards that let you "cycle"
stuff into your Ability are essential when dealing with Factory.  These
include:  Quality Blade/ME, Master's Stratagem, Dr. Alan Neyman, Elizabeth
Vaughn, Flashback/ME, Lean & Mean, and Holy Ground/SE (and the ME version to a
lesser degree - remember it only lets you draw a # of cards equal to those you
previously had, _not_ up to your full Ability).  Brenda Wyatt and John MacLeod
are also cyclers, but pretty ineffective ones.

Use these cards as soon as possible.  If you don't immediately have the
resources to deal with removing Factory, at least these will give you a chance
of drawing what you need.

As our reviewers note below, dealing with Factory is a whole new situation if
Nefertiri is using it.  This strategy may not be as obnoxious and/or
predictable as Connor using Mountain Cave.  However, it's very close.

If Nefertiri lays down a Factory, play a different Location or otherwise get
rid of it ASAP.  Use the card cyclers to get what you need.

No review of Factory would be complete without looking at its related Special:
Explosion.  Since it's dependent on Factory's presence, this card is a less
powerful version of Angry Mob/SE.  You can avoid the damage with Careful
Planning.  However, you're better off simply using Careful Planning + Angry
Mob/SE.  You don't have to worry about getting a Factory out and keeping it
out long enough to play Explosion + Careful Planning.

Who should use Factory?  Nefertiri, obviously.  Personas that function better
on a small number of cards might also wish to use it.  This includes Kastagir
(because he Exerts more effectively) and the Kurgan (since he can Power
Blow/Exert better, and Bloodlust gives him plenty of attacks).

Factory is also good in any deck that causes your opponent to discard.  If you
use Master's Advance, for instance, your opponent won't be able to draw to
replace those extra dodges he's using up.  With some careful timing, cards
like Charm/Kastagir, Kiss Your Butts Goodbye (CotW #8), Louise Marcus (CotW
#9), and Cat & Mouse/Attack or Defense (next week's CotW #24) can be
crippling.

Generally, any Persona can use Factory - you merely have to build your deck
accordingly.  Add six Reconnaissance and six Patience.  The problem is that
these are good "toolbox" cards and your opponent will probably either or both
of them as well.

So overall, Steve gives Factory a _7_.  I'd rate it a 5 if Nefertiri didn't
gain such a huge benefit from it.  You rarely get an ideal "lock" when your
opponent has a diminishing hand of 5-7 cards that he can't play.  But when you
do, the game is pretty much yours.  If you have a strong head-hunting deck,
this is perhaps your best unaugmented way to succeed at decapitation.  They
just keep Exerting until they run out of luck.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - A so-so card for anybody but Nef-- now that the ruling has been changed
in her favor.  No other Location supports her as much.  I also like Factory in
a Kurgan deck, to keep them from drawing back defenses before or after a nasty
Bloodlust.  The problem is I have no room for Locations in such a deck.  I
rate it 10 for Nefertiri.

Jeff - Beautiful in any Nef deck -- especially Nef cheese.  Also tends to work
well with Kastagir or Kurgan, if you pop in a few Patience and/or Recons.  A
solid, fun card.

Rick - The Location of choice for Nefertiri so for her this rates a 10 (6 for
any others).  With some Patience and Holy Grounds/SE, you can minimize its
effect.

Hank - The perfect Nefertiri Location, of course.  Anything that slows your
opponent's progress through his deck prevents him from furthering his
strategy.  I've
used it in Nef decks and in a weird Richie deck of mine, and I liked it both
times.

Alan - A great Location when used in combination with Nefertiri, since she can
ignore its effects.  Anyone else using Patience and/or Reconnaissance can do
the same thing.  Great for taking your opponent's head while he's low on
Ability.

Jim - Factory is lethal in the hands of Nefertiri.  Nefertiri is immune to
Factory's effects.  Factory is also a good location for Head Hunting decks.
You can use Reconnaissance and Patience to bypass the restriction Factory
imposes on you.  Make Head Shots when your opponent is low on cards.

Chip - Abstain

Wayne - Factory can be somewhat useful with Nefertiri or any deck heavy in
Patience or Reconnaissance.  I feel that Factory is one of the weakest
Locations.  Most people in our area play with Patience and Holy Ground/SE,
which both negate the effect of Factory.  It's possibly a good Location if you
have nothing better to play, but there seems to normally a better option.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   7
Ben                     6
Jeff                    7
Rick                    8
Hank                    8
Alan                    7
Jim                     8
Chip                  N/A
Wayne                   4

Average:                6.88

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