Card of the Week #31-33


Challenge/Series Edition

No dodges may be played until the end of your next turn.

As Jeff Barnes notes below, this card seems to have been overshadowed by the
Movie Edition's anti-dodge cards.  This is definitely true . . . and
Challenge/SE needs to be reassessed.

First, the game mechanic questions.  Challenge does _not_ make an attack (or
attacks) undodgeable.  It does not modify _any_ attacks.  This is important to
understand.  What Challenge does is limit your ability to play dodges from
your hand.  This is, in a sense, no different than the final result of Kiss
Your Butts Goodbye.  The fact that you _can't_ play dodges is not the same as
the fact that an attack is undodgeable.  Why you can't play those dodges (bad
luck, Kiss Your Butts Goodbye, or Challenge) is irrelevant.  The dodges simply
are not available to play.

Because of this, Alertness/Dodge will not help you when you are affected by
Challenge.  The attack your opponent is throwing at you _is_ dodgeable - you
are simply unable to play those dodges that you have.

The price for this power is the fact that Challenge spans three turns:  the
turn its owner plays it, the opponent's next turn, and the owner's _next_
turn.  However, in practice the person playing Challenge will only be limited
by it for one turn.  Unless they are foolish enough to play it during their
Defense Phase, that is.

That is how Challenge works.  How does it work within the confines of
Highlander?

Quite well, actually.  In Series Edition, Challenge was _the_ way to nab those
elusive Xavier and Amanda decks.  If you had a Connor, Slan, or Duncan power
blow deck, you needed to slow those opposing Personas down.  Challenge was the
only way to do it.

Challenge further benefited Slan, since he could play it with Shooting Blade
and have a very unpleasant combination.  Only a Holy Ground (or the far less
used Narrow Escape) would allow any target an escape route, and Carl could
take care of that.

The release of Movie Edition unleashed a veritable horde of anti-dodge cards.
Master's Advance, Kiss Your Butts Goodbye, Advance, and Catwalk are the most
predominant ones.

Are these more powerful than Challenge?  Actually, no.  Catwalk, as a
Location, can be replaced or removed.  Even if The Gathering is out,
Reconnaissance will allow a brief respite.  And since everyone plays with
Locations, Reconnaissance is very much a "must have" in every deck.  You'll
never lack for an opportunity to play it:  on your own Locations, if nothing
else.

Advance doesn't seem to see a lot of play.  Personally, I find nothing more
pleasant than Slan making a Power Blow and using Advance when a Catwalk is
out.  However, Ancestral Blade (and Continuity, to a far lesser degree) has
made this strategy almost useless:  your opponent can easily and cheaply Power
Block.  In any case, Reconnaissance will still let an opponent play the dodge
they need to avoid your most powerful attacks.

Master's Advance?  A powerful card, but it's not a 100% guaranteed
preventative even if your opponent can't remove or Focus it.  If your opponent
has two dodges, then they can dodge.  If they have a dodge in their hand, and
Exert for one to play, they can dodge.  As part of a long-term strategy, you
might exhaust their supply of dodges.  However, the heavy-duty dodge Personas
won't be that bothered, Nefertiri will ignore it almost completely, and it
will probably be Policed before too long.

Kiss Your Butts Goodbye (CotW #8) is powerful, but a two-edged weapon in its
own right.  If you can time it right, use with Nefertiri, or use Careful
Planning, then it can be effective.  The addition of Dojo in Watcher's
Chronicles also makes KYBG a bit more effective.  Still, your opponent has the
same advantage.  And they may be Nefertiri or using Selective Memory.

For 100% reliability, Challenge is _the_ best way to keep an opponent from
dodging.  Once you play Challenge, they can't Focus, or Recon, or Exert to
remove a Situation, or use an Edge card to avoid discarding.  They can rip a
TCG or use Forethought, but that means you won't be penalized either.

So who should use Challenge?  Any Persona that makes Power Blows.  Use
Misfortune and/or Thief to deal with their Ancestral Blades, and Challenge to
keep them on the defensive.

Such Personas include the Kurgan, Slan, and Kern for sure, and perhaps Annie
Devlin and Kalas as well.  If you're running an Exertion-based deck (with
Connor or Duncan, most likely), Challenge is also a good addition.

Challenge is a nice supplement to the standard Master's Attack as well.  This
can give a boost to Duncan, Connor, Katana, and Richie (through card-
borrowing).  Amanda's Master's Attack only does a point of damage, and she is
reliant enough on dodges that she probably shouldn't use Challenge.

That brings us to who should _not_ use Challenge.  Amanda, obviously.  Duncan
may not wish to - it's a balancing act between his own dodge-heavy Persona
cards, and his Power Blow tactics.  Xavier and Katana don't typically stand
and fight, so they probably don't want to use it either.

So overall, Steve gives Challenge a _6_.  I would rate it a point or two
higher, but it will be superseded by a particular card in Watcher's Chronicles
(which I will be rating _much_ higher).  When people complain that they can't
tag a dodging non-attack opponent, I always wonder why they don't use
Challenge.  Recon their Verona, play Challenge, and make a Power Blow, and let
the heads fall where they may.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Abstain

Jeff - Challenge/SE is one of those cards that was very popular under SE-only,
but wasn't used much after the release of ME (in no small part due to the
release of Catwalk).  However, it's seen a bit of a resurgence.  Coupled with
a Shooting Blade or a Master's Attack, its utility is obvious.  Even without
those, in the right deck it can be very strong.  Think Renee Delaney for
Dodges.

Rick - This is a good card to get them fighting but it can come back to hurt
you.  Obviously, Challenge and Shooting Blade is a good combo and you can get
some additional benefit with Challenge and Master's Attack.

Hank - Challenge is a great card when used in combination with others.  It's a
common staple in my swordfighting decks.

Alan - Abstain

Jim - Abstain

Wayne - This card was a lot stronger before Movie Edition.  Since you cannot
dodge during your turn either, it is very vulnerable to Connor's Master
Block/Head shot or many persona master attack cards.  I prefer KYBG or
Locations to limit dodges rather than Challenge.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Ben                   N/A
Jeff                    6
Rick                    6
Hank                    8
Alan                  N/A
Jim                   N/A
Wayne                   5

Average:                6.20

------------------------------------------------------------------
Linda Plager

EVENT:  Reporter.  All players discard 2 attacks.  (errata'd text)

Whoa!  High power stuff, ain't it?  Still, let's see if we can find a few uses
for this card.

Game-mechanics stuff first.  There isn't much.  Linda Plager is an Ally.
Discards are resolved normally.  The person who played it discards at the
beginning of their next phase - the opponent discards as a "must do" effect at
the beginning of their next (Defense) phase.

As a Reporter, Linda Plager is vulnerable to Sovereign Media and . . . well,
that's about it.  It doesn't look like there are many other anti-Reporter
cards on the horizon.  The Kurgan's Scare will let him ignore the effects of
LP.  In fact, Linda Plager is the _only_ Reporter that Scare is useful
against.  Scare has no effect on Elizabeth Vaughn, since it is used by your
opponent on himself.  And unless you're overly concerned about a Reporter/Kate
combination, you're probably not going to want to ignore the two-point
healing, either.

As an Event/Ally, there is not much that affects Linda Plager.  Death Before
Dishonor, for instance, only works on in-play Allies, which LP is not.  Ditto
for Fitzcairn's Seduce (see Castle News).

So that's what Linda Plager does.  Her weaknesses are considerable.  She
affects you as well as your opponent.  There are better cards that cause more
attack discarding:  Caught in the Act/SE and Bystander/Event.

Yes, there are cards that cause heavier attack-discarding.  However, Linda
Plager is not a bad supplement to them.  If you don't have Intimidate/Anti-
Attack (Luther and Slan), or even if you do, a good way to make sure they
don't take that Hidden counter-attack is to deprive them of attacks.

Unlike Bystander, Linda Plager can't be countered by the use of Rooftop, and
is immune to Run Away Train.

The penalty of discarding two of your own attacks may at first seem a
disadvantage.  However, this can actually provide a subtle advantage.  As well
as making your opponent lose two attacks, Linda Plager gives you a chance to
cycle a couple of other cards.  Unlike Holy Ground, it doesn't help your
opponent.  And unlike Master's Stratagem, it can't be prevented by Situation
removers.

Play Linda Plager, drop a couple of minor attacks (Lower/Upper Center and
Middle attacks), then play Patience and draw three cards.  You can do this in
your defense phase, so if you need an "emergency" defense, this is a good way
to take a shot at getting cards before making that Exertion.  It won't benefit
you against Katana's Taunt.  However, it will help if you lose defenses to Cat
& Mouse/Defense or Charm/Kastagir.

Also, Linda Plager has one peculiar advantage:  this card affects an even
number of cards.  One deck that I have seen relies on a quirk of the Movie
Edition where you can make up to 12 non-Special attacks to one area without
playing a Special.  You can use 6 ULA and 6 Riposte/ULs, and get 12 attacks to
one area (18 if you use Feint/Event as well).

In this case, you want to make few or no attacks to the other eight areas,
"locking" your opponent's non-UL defenses in his hand.  Four Linda Plagers
actually let you discard those eight non-UL attacks that you are required to
include in your deck, while limiting your opponent's ability to attack.

If you were to use this strategy with Bystander/Event, you would have to
either lose only six non-UL attacks, or lose eight non-UL attacks and one UL.

One last use for Linda Plager is in the multi-player game.  She is one of a
select few cards that affect _all_ players.  Play LP on your Gathering Turn,
and typically everyone will be short two attacks until the end of their next
Gathering Turn.  They may not like you very much, but it is unlikely they're
going to want to enter combat with you (or anyone else) either.  Make sure you
have cards like Quality Blade/ME and Patience so you can draw more attacks.

This is a nice defense for Nefertiri, who can only use her power during _her_
Gathering turns.  This provides a incentive for others to avoid attacking her
during their Gathering turns and render her Persona ability useless.

Of course, Bystander/Event also affects all players, and causes a three-attack
loss.  However, this is potentially a disadvantage:  a three-card loss might
be perceived as much more aggressive move.  Being sneaky without appearing
overpowering is a key to winning multi-player games.

So who should use Linda Plager?  We talk above about the strategy of mixing it
with Patience.  The Persona with the built-in Patience ability is Nefertiri.
LP is a two-pronged weapon for her.  It allows her a quick discard/draw of two
cards (or the ditching of some trash attacks), and it causes her opponent to
discard.  Nefertiri/Discard decks are somewhat passe.  However, with the
advent of Factory (see CotW #23), there is still some advantage to using Linda
Plager.

The Upper Left-only deck mentioned above works best with Duncan and Connor,
since blocking doesn't prevent them from making ULAs.  If they use Ruins,
their opponent can't keep an Upper or Left Guard up either.

There are no other Personas that specifically rely on discarding attacks.  If
you are using a deck with Caught in the Act/SE, you might consider using Linda
Plager as well.

So overall, Steve gives Linda Plager a _3_.  She's not as weak as initially
appears to be the case.  She still is somewhat underpowered compared to most
Highlander rare cards, but there are at least a few uses she can be put to.
Whip her out in a game, and you'll at least surprise your opponent.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Abstain

Jeff - Why would anyone want to play this card outside of sealed deck?  Is an
Ally which effects you and only gets two attacks per player worth giving up
Caught in the Act (a card we don't see very often anyway)?  Not in my opinion.
Just about useless.  (Ed.'s note:  why give up Caught in the Act?)

Rick - There are much better ways to make your opponent drop attacks.  If he's
not attacking, you are only helping them cycle cards.  Now, if you want to
drop your own attacks, use Heroic Deed or Elizabeth Vaughn instead, since you
can immediately draw back some cards to use this turn.

Hank - I've used Linda a few times, but mainly in cheese decks (to keep people
from attacking me and to help me get rid of unwanted attacks)... but in
general, I consider Holy Ground a better card-filter.

Alan - I have never found a reason to use Linda Plager until I saw a quite
creative deck that used it.  Think Lean & Mean and many one-sided attacks . .
.

Jim - Abstain

Wayne - This card helps you cycle cards while hopefully slowing down your
opponent's ability to attack.  There are several other cards which I feel are
probably more effective at doing this.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   3
Ben                   N/A
Jeff                    2
Rick                    4
Hank                    5
Alan                    5
Jim                     2
Wayne                   4

Average:                3.57

------------------------------------------------------------------
Renee Delaney

EVENT:  Prevents your opponent from playing a Special card next turn.

Perhaps no other card has gone so abruptly from relative obscurity to "This
card must be banned/restricted!" then Renee Delaney.  Frankly, I'm kind of
surprised.  I've been using Renee since it was first released.  Even with the
release of other anti-Special cards like Wargames West and Honor Bound, Renee
remains the most reliable way to stop the play of Specials.

But first, the game mechanic questions.  Fortunately, there isn't much.  Renee
Delaney is an Ally.

Although Renee refers to the play of _a_ Special card in the singular, this
encompasses the entire turn.  Thus, even if you are using Chessex, you can't
skip playing one of your two Specials and then playing the second:  that
second one is still _a_ Special and thus unplayable due to Renee.

So what use is Renee?  You play your only Special, your opponent can't play a
Special.  It seems like an equal trade, and one that gives you no huge
advantage.

However, anyone who has run up against the recent spate of lean and mean
"buzzsaw" decks can tell you that isn't the case.  Why?

Primarily because you, the Renee user, are building your deck around Renee.
You can de-emphasize the use of Specials in your deck other than Renee.  While
your deck is built to de-emphasize Special usage, your opponent's probably
isn't.

Nefertiri or her Quickening(s) are a popular choice when using Renee Delaney.
Using Nefertiri gives you access to Desperation, a powerful card that lets you
cycle cards quickly, get to your Ranees faster, and still play her the same
turn you use Desperation(s).

If we're examining Nefertiri and Renee Delaney, then consider using
Battlefield (CotW #3) or Factory (#23) as your Location of choice.  Both of
these are countered if your opponent uses Nefertiri or her Quickening(s)
themselves.  However, against anyone else you can almost inevitably put them
into a cycle of defense loss plus inability to play Specials that can give you
the game.

Another helpful card here is Dirty Trick/Shove.  If your opponent is hit by
this card, they can't attack _or_ play a Special.  And if they dodge it. .
.they probably still can't play a non-Ranged Attack.  Duck, Distract, and Jump
users (Duncan, Connor, Nakano, Amanda, Annie) can bypass this to some degree.
Those who use Combination or Extra Shot to play Dodge for that additional
attack can _not_ however, since they have to be able to play those cards . . .
which Renee prevents!

One note:  to pull off this rapid playing/cycling of Renee Delaney, you will
probably want to use the Khan Quickening to reduce Endurance loss as you burn
through your deck.

That's the most popular use for Renee Delaney these days.  There are others.
One of this author's favorites is the simple expedient of a "free" Power Blow
user like Slan or The Kurgan who plays Renee Delaney and then makes a Power
Blow.

An opponent faced with this choice will probably have to dodge, since they are
probably unwilling to Power Block.  if they were holding on to their Ancestral
Blades, waiting for a Power Blow, they can't play them due to Renee.  And if
they're dodging, they usually can't make a Hidden counter-attack.

Why wouldn't they already have an Ancestral Blade out?  Because AB is best
played the turn _after_ your opponent makes a Power Blow.  Play it out
earlier, and your opponent can Thief or Misfortune it.  Ancestral Blades are
best played conservatively.

Renee Delaney plus Catwalk is a formidable combination for Slan and The
Kurgan.  Both tend to use Ranged Attacks, since they have Shooting Blade and
do an extra point of damage with Pistols, respectively.

If you have a Catwalk in play, on your next turn play a Ranged Attack plus
Renee.  Your opponent can't use Holy Ground, Narrow Escape, or Disappear, and
can't play a Location to remove Catwalk.  If they don't have Reconnaissance,
you've nailed them.

Renee Delaney is also a nice supplement to some of the other non-Special
cards.  If you have a Wargames West on the table, play RD.  Yes, you played a
Special so your opponent can also . . . however, due to Renee, he can't!  Even
Focus or a Katana-Exertion won't let her get out of that one.

If you want to use Focus, this tactic will also work with Honor Bound (ME
version).  This can extend your opponent's inability to play Specials just
that little bit further.

Renee can also help Special "lock down" for Garfield (CotW #25).  You are
advised not to have multiples of this card down when doing so, since you must
Focus past Garfield to play RD.  Turn of Events (#17) might also warrant the
use of Renee, although it can get rather expensive for you Exertion-wise to do
so (unless you use Focus).

So overall, Steve gives Renee a _9_.  Her ability to stop Special playing is
unparalleled, much like that of Challenge/SE (CotW #31).  Once Renee Delaney
hits the table, there's nothing your opponent can do about it.  In a tight
lean & mean deck, or in conjunction with other anti-Special cards, you can
keep opponents dancing to your tune indefinitely.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - [Abstain]

Jeff - My first thought with this card is:  huh?  Why would I give up playing
a Special for a turn just to prevent my opponent from playing a Special?  That
was before I came across the theories of card cycling.  Renee, as an Event,
allows you to cycle a card a turn, but locks up your opponent's Specials.  No
Focus required.  In the right deck, it's borderline abusive.  My current fave
card that, like my Katana cheese deck, I'm sure I'll tire of when every other
deck becomes this type.  =)

Rick - It keeps them from playing Specials but it keeps you from playing one
too (since you had to play Renee).  I'd only use this deck in a degenerate
denial deck like "The Buzzsaw".

Hank - Renee is a fun card for hack & slash decks, especially combined with
other non-Special cards like Honor Bound and Wargames West.  I like it a lot,
it does exactly what I would want it to do...

Alan - Until recently, this card was _seriously_ overlooked.  But then it was
discovered that when used in a slim deck (typically Lean & Mean), it can be
one of the most annoying cards around, creating an "active lock" for your
opponent.  Great when you're using it, but seems broken when you're on the
receiving end . . .

Jim - One of the best active denial cards in the game.  You can use Renee in a
slim deck to deny your opponent the ability to play Specials.  If you play
with six Ranees in a slim deck (L&M for instance), you can keep your opponent
from playing for a good deal of the game.  This card may be vulnerable to
future anti-Ally cards, and is vulnerable to current anti-Events.  Since the
anti-Event cards such as Garfield and Turn of Events are short-lived, Renee
remains a very powerful card.

Wayne - Renee is the most powerful card available for straight combat decks.
It shuts down cheese, heal, Sedarius, while loading up your opponent's hand
with Special cards.  Eventually there will be an Edge card that counters
Renee, but presently I consider this to be a staple card in almost any attack
deck.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   9
Ben                   N/A
Jeff                    9
Rick                    7
Hank                    9
Alan                    8
Jim                     9
Wayne                  10

Average:                8.71

1