Card of the Week #34-36


SITUATION:  At the beginning of your turn, you may either place cards from
your hand facedown underneath Dojo or take cards from the Dojo and place them
in your hand.  Each Dojo can hold up to five cards.  If this card leaves play
for any reason, then the cards underneath are discarded.

Well, for our first Watcher's Chronicles card, we start off with a card that
while somewhat inconsequential, is one of several new WC cards that gives a
_radical_ boost to many combat-oriented strategies.

First, the game mechanics.  Moving cards beneath Dojo is a "may do" beginning-
of-turn effect.  You can only store _or_ remove cards from a Dojo on any given
turn, not both.  You may store or remove from any number of individual Dojos
per turn.

Focussing a Dojo causes it to leave play, albeit temporarily.  However, the
text that would cause the Dojo'd cards to leave play also disappears.
Focussing your own Dojo will prevent you from drawing or storing cards to it
that turn.

That's what Dojo does.  How do you use it?  Does it have any use?

Dojo is a subtle yet powerful card.  The first use you have to consider for it
is whether you actually _use_ it to store useful cards, or junk.

Do you have five cards you need to get rid of?  Did you load up on
Alertness/Block and run into that non-Sedarius Luther deck?  Just store them
under Dojo and they'll remain there until the end of game.  Even better, your
opponent might make an effort to remove the Dojo.  Make sure you show him what
he got rid of.

If nothing else, this strategy can give you a quick burst of cards.  Store
five useless cards, play Patience and draw to replace them.

However, let's say you decide to use Dojo for storage of useful cards.  If you
use a Dojo to store critical cards, there is a chance you will lose them.  So
you probably shouldn't do so.  If you only have one Head Shot, Dojo is
probably not a good place to store it.  Ditto for Watcher/Treatment, Darius,
Seduce, etc.

This decision may change depending on other Situations that you are using, and
your opponent's Persona.  If you are using Nakano or Xavier, you can probably
"hide" Dojo among other, strategy-critical Situations like Forethought, Poison
Gas, Mirror Image, Master's Advance, and Master's Stratagem.  Your opponent
will probably not be able to take care of all of your Situations:  Dojo will
probably be low on their list of priorities.

Of course, if your opponent is Katana, or Xavier using Plan Ahead to
supplement Police, Dojo's life expectancy will be brief.  If you're not using
many Situations, count on losing your Dojos, and use them accordingly.

These are all factors to consider when deciding whether to store useful cards
under Dojo, or use it as a "garbage can."  But if you do store important
cards, the question is, which ones?

One useful strategy is to store attacks underneath a Dojo.  You can almost
always afford to lose most non-Special attacks in your deck.

In this case, though, you want to _keep_ the attacks for later.  Why?  This
lets you set up a Battle Rage down the road.  One problem with a Battle Rage
strategy is holding on to five attacks while still keeping pressure on your
opponent by attacking each turn.  By using Dojo, you can store attacks in the
Dojo until you're ready to unleash them.  Combine this with Situations like
Watcher Involvement and Carl, and Battle Rage can actually endanger your

In fact, Dojo is useful for storing any cards that are part of a large
combination.  Are you using a Sedarius/Thrust combination?  As noted above,
you probably don't want to put Darius or Seduce in the Dojo.  However, Dojo
makes a perfect place to tuck away a Thrust or two until you're ready.

Dojo is also nice for storing cards that _might_ be useful.  Rather then waste
a turn playing an Extra Weapon, store it in the Dojo until you know if your
opponent is using a Disarm strategy.  This even makes Pierre Bouchet useful!

This strategy also applies to defenses.  Store a few extra ones in your Dojo.
If your opponent unleashes a Bloodlust or Berserk, those extra defenses could
mean the difference between winning and losing.  You'll also have them if your
opponent appears to be building a forced discard strategy (using Cat &
Mouse/Defense, Factory, and/or Charm).

Here's another defense strategy for Dojo.  Being reduced to zero Ability is
just no fun.  However, if you tucked away an Upper Center Block or a Upper
Guard or a Pierre Bouchet in the Dojo, you can pull one out on your last turn
when you have no cards in your hand, and avoid that unpleasant end-of-game
Head Shot.

Another use of Dojo is in conjunction with "discard if you draw a card"
Situations like Poison Gas, Shadow of the Mind, and Garfield.  "Drawing" is
defined as taking a card from your Endurance and adding it to your Ability.
Thus, taking cards from the Dojo is _not_ drawing.  Spend several turns and a
Dojo or two saving up to 10 extra cards.  Then, when you've drawn back up and
have a number of cards to match your Ability score, play the "discard to draw"
Situation on your next turn.  The cards in the Dojo(s) give you a nice
resource to call upon.

And finally, Dojo gives you a way to cycle out useless cards from your Ability
_and_ your Dojo(s).  How?  Place them in your Dojo on your first turn.  On
your second turn, bring them back into your Ability.  You now will probably
have _more_ cards in your hand than your Ability score.  Discard the useless

If you use the Dojo as a "garbage can" and can afford to wait, another
strategy is to put your useless cards into your Dojo(s) and let them sit.
Wait for an Endurance burn.  At the beginning of the turn that you will
discard to your new Ability, retrieve all of the Dojo cards back to your hand.
You'll now be able to discard all of them, and you won't see them this time
through your Endurance.

So who should use Dojo?  Personas who have Battle Rage (Duncan, Nefertiri,
Khan, Connor, Richie) can get some use out of it.  The Kurgan, with Bloodlust,
can also benefit by storing a few extra attacks.

Annie Devlin's power is similar to Battle Rage.  She not only wants to attack
her opponent, but set aside a few attacks for when she is hit.  Dojo assists
her in this.

Nefertiri can pull off the tactic of storing and immediately drawing without
the need for Patience.

As noted above, Xavier and Nakano have a number of critical Situations:  Dojo
could very well get lost among them.  These two Personas also benefit from
using Dojo in conjunction with "discard if you draw" Situations like Poison
Gas and Shadow of the Mind.  Shadow of the Mind in particular becomes far more
powerful with Dojo:  store five attacks per Dojo, play SotM, and when you run
out of attacks from your Ability, take some more out of the Dojo(s).  Mix with
Focus and Patience, and you can keep SotM out for any number of turns.

There are a number of Personas that gain no specific benefit from Dojo.
However, most of the strategies above benefit any Persona.

So overall, Steve gives Dojo a _7_.  There are several strategies and/or
Personas that gain a substantial benefit from Dojo, and the rest gain a small
advantage.  Dojo may not be a card for every deck, but it's a card you should
try to squeeze in if at all possible.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Dojo is a great card.  You can use it to cycle cards you don't need, or
to store cards for later combos (just watch out for Katana!).  Flexibility
plus an increase in hand size equals a card worth playing with in some decks.

Rick - The card effectively increases the size of your Ability giving you a
way to "store" cards that might be clogging your hand otherwise.  Be sure to
have a Patience to play at the start of your next turn since you will have
fewer cards in your hand than your Ability.

Hank - Dojo is a cool card concept, and I could certainly see a use for it
(there are many times where I draw a card that I know I'll want later, but I
don't need now).  I'm wary of placing useful cards under a Situation,
though...  Situations are so prone to removal.  Still, cool idea.

Alan - Dojo is a card that, while I haven't found much room for it in my decks
before, I am starting to think more and more about.  The advantage it gives
you is _really_ good, since it essentially adds 5 cards to your hand without
actually having them become a part of your hand.  Now you can safely store
that Master's Block (or Disappear) where the Kurgan's Upper Hand can't get to

Jim - Dojo is a great card for avoiding card jam. You can use Dojo to get rid
of cards you don't need when you can't discard down. It's great for stashing
away excess cards when you have too many of a particular card like Head Shot
early in the game when you are using six of them in a head hunting deck.  You
can set aside Guards when Ruins is in play and retrieve them later.  Leave
some attacks for later use while your opponent is hiding out in a Safe Haven
in Verona.  The main drawback with Dojo is that it is a Situation so it is
vulnerable to Katana, Police, and Simple Mind.

Wayne - Abstain

Prodipto - Dojo is a mixed blessing kind of card.  It's great for card
cycling, which has always been a problem in Highlander.  This lets you get rid
of "closing" cards (like Head Shot or Ped-5), and free room in your hand for
other cards.  Of course, being a Situation, it is highly susceptible to
removal (Police, Simple Mind, Katana, etc.)  This is a drawback that requires
serious consideration before you use Dojo.

Allen - Originally unimpressed with Dojo, I've grown to give it respect.
While it seems the place to store strategic cards, this tactic is dangerous as
a single Police can rob you of several valuable cards.  Dojo is better used
for contingency cards (Misfortune when not facing objects), or to empty your
hand when short on key resources (defenses on the Battlefield) or suffering an
opponent's lock strategy.  Elizabeth Vaughn works faster and with no risk of
being Policed before use.  Dojo can be used more slowly over time, and you can
get cards back should they suddenly prove useful.  A non-glamorous workhorse
card for larger or toolbox decks.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   7
Jeff                    7
Rick                    7
Hank                    7
Alan                    7
Jim                     6
Wayne                 N/A
Allen                   6
Prodipto                6

Average:                6.63

Master Swordsman

SPECIAL ATTACK/BLOCK:  When you play this card, choose one area on the grid
where the attack or defense applies. If used as an attack, this attack may be
a Power Blow without an Exertion. If used as a defense, this defense may block
a Power Blow without an Exertion.

The first thing to do is describe what this card looks like:  the text above
doesn't do it justice.  The grid on this card is divided into the standard
nine areas, but none of them are filled in.

What this means is, as the text indicates, the card is both a (Special) Attack
_and_ a Defense at any given moment.  It is _not_ a block, however, even
though it may be played as such.

This has several meanings.  First of all, if you are prevented from playing an
attack (or due to Verona, a Special Attack), you can _not_ play Master
Swordsman.  So if your Slan opponent plays a basic attack, a Lunge,
Intimidate, and makes the attack a Power Blow, you'd better be able to play
that Ancestral Blade or Continuity, because you can't play Master Swordsman -
Intimidate stops you.  Why?  Because Master Swordsman, even if you play it as
a defense, is still an attack and subject to any limitations on playing

If an opponent plays Charm/Fitzcairn and you've got a Master Swordsman in your
hand, you lose it.  However, if he plays Charm/Kastagir, you do _not_.  Why?
Because Master Swordsman is not a block - it's a defense.  Charm/Kastagir does
not target defenses.  Cat and Mouse/Discard Defense will, however.

Once you play Master Swordsman as a block, it is _still_ not a block - it is
just treated like one.  However, it still has the properites of a block, and
thus will not stop unblockable attacks (unless modified by Alertness/Block).

Master Swordsman can be played from an Exertion _if_ you Exert for a defense.
You cannot play it from an attack Exertion, since it is still a Special
Attack, and the normal rules apply.

You may make a Master Swordsman/block a Power Block whether you play it from
your hand or from an Exertion.  Used in this manner, it is similar to a
Focussed Block.

Since a Master Swordsman/attack can be made a Power Blow in contradiction of
the typical Special Attack rules, you may use it in conjunction with a Head
Shot, Power Blow, or Hammer Blow.  You can not, however, play Head Shot, then
Exert for an attack and play Master Swordsman from that Exertion.

As you may have gathered, Master Swordsman is a _very_ useful card, and well
worth being limited as a Master.

Let's look at its attack potential first.  Essentially, it functions like
Slan's Persona ability and Quickening.  You may make a Power Blow without
playing a Special or Exerting, thus allowing you to play a Special to
modify/supplement the attack while saving cards.

Thus, Katana can use Master Swordsman with Taunt and toss out "free" Power

Other useful cards that can be played with a Master Swordsman/attack include
Break Weapon, Honed Weapon, Cat and Mouse/Defense, Master's Block/Connor, and
Trip/Kalas or Annie.  If you make it the second attack of an Extra Shot (the
"standard" variety) in conjunction with Flashing Blade, your opponent has
serious trouble.

Master Swordsman/attack has its weaknesses.  As a Special Attack, it can not
be made Hidden by Combination or the "standard" Trip, or modified by Lunge.
Nor can it be played from an Exertion.  However, if you are forced to Exert
for attacks, you could do worse then play Courage/Attack to play another
attack while keeping Master Swordsman for future use as an attack or defense.

Even for Slan, Master Swordsman/attack is not a bad card even though it
duplicates his Persona ability.  The ability to attack to any area means you
can pretty much ignore that restrictive block you just played, while targeting
your Power Blow for maximum placement.

So much for Master Swordsman as an attack.  How is it as a defense?

Pretty good.  With a probable restriction on Ancestral Blade, the "standard"
Continuity and Stamina will once again become the standard Power Blocking
tactics for those who don't want to Exert or who can't Power Block for free
(Slan and Luther).

That's nice.  But when Ruins are out, or you don't have the "standard"
Continuity users (Xavier, Katana, everyone in Watcher's Chronicles), what the
heck do you do?  Worse, what if your opponent just made a Lunge/Power Blow, or
there's other anti-dodge stuff about?  Master Swordsman/block, of course!

Now we come to a major point:  Master Swordsman is the only gridded non-
Persona Master card.  Which means that _anyone_ can use it in Renaissance-
style games.  This means that Personas who do not have any Persona-specific
Master cards (Luther, Nefertiri, Slan, Xavier, Khan, Kern) should use the
maximum allowed them.  The Kurgan probably should as well, unless he is
contemplating Master's Disarm.  And Master Swordsman isn't a bad choice for
the other Personas, particularly those who lack the "standard" Continuity like
Annie, Kalas, and Katana.

Master Swordsman/block's one "weakness" is that it only covers a single area.
Thus, it isn't very effective against multi-area attacks (Slash, Master's
Attack/Annie) or Hidden attacks.

So who should use Master Swordsman?  Well, everyone, essentially.  Even in
non-Renaissance, it is an excellent card, and finally provides all Personas
with some hard choices about which Masters to have in their deck.

Even Luther and Slan should think about using it.  Since Master
Swordsman/attack duplicates Slan's Power Blow ability, Luther can use his
Intimidate the same way Slan does, without Exerting for a Power Blow.

Connor, Richie, Duncan, Kastagir, and Amanda have enough other Masters to
choose from that they may not want to use Master Swordsman.  However, Connor
and Duncan can benefit from making Power Blows because of their immunity to
Hidden attacks, while Amanda can use Master Swordsmsan to bolster her

The above analysis is based on which Persona-specific Masters the various
Personas have.  Some Personas can benefit from generic Masters, particularly
Master's Advance and Master's Stratagem.  However, if possible Master
Swordsman should still be added to such decks if the space can be made.

So overall, Steve gives Master Swordsman a _8_.  Only its Master status and
the fact that a few other Masters are nearly as good limit it.  It's an ideal
card for Renaissance-style play (where it deserves a 10), and as the "Power
Block" Continuity's presence is minimized, Master Swordsman will become more
and more useful to more and more Personas.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Abstain

Rick - Abstain

Hank - Master Swordsman is a great card for swordfighting decks, but it eats
up those precious Master slots.  I use it in almost every deck I build that
doesn't use Master slots for anything else, so that says something.

Alan - Not really a card I tend to use, though its "wild card" nature is
interesting and unique.  There are really other Master cards I would rather
include in my deck, though I can definitely see its usefulness in a
swordfighting deck.

Jim - Master Swordsman is an excellent card.  It helps on both offense and
defense.  It is very useful for head hunting decks and may save your head when
you run up against a Head Shot and have no other appropriate defense.  This
card is also a good supplement decks that emphasize Power Blows.  The downside
is this uses a Master's slot and as a Special Attack you may not play it as an
attack from an Exertion.  This may be one reason to reconsider using Courage
(attacks) in decks.

Wayne - Abstain

Prodipto - This card is very useful.  In the hands of Duncan or Connor, it
allows you to make a Power Blow with no penalty.  In any Persona's hand, it
makes a valuable defense against Power Blows or Head Shots.  Obviously it has
limited use for Slan or the Kurgan who have minor or no penalty to blocking
and making Power Blows, and a little less limited for Luther.  A key drawback
to note is that it is a Special Attack, and therefore can't be Hidden or
played from an Exertion.  I would definitely play a few Courage in a deck if I
was expecting to be able to use this card.  Another thing to note is that it
does take up a Master slot.  However, since it is most potent in the hands of
Connor and Duncan, who have the most Master slots available, it would be well
worth considering in a deck.

Allen - Master Swordsman can almost take the place of a Master's Attack and a
Master's block in your deck; all at the cost of one Master Slot.  While it
can't defend an entire Bloodlust and isn't intrinsically undodgeable, its
versatility makes it a great swordfighting card.  I prefer to use it in the
attack.  Master Swordsman is a great addition to Spinning Attack decks which
employ Exertion-free Power Blows without playing a special card.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   8
Jeff                  N/A
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    8
Alan                    6
Jim                     7
Wayne                 N/A
Prodipto                7
Allen                   7

Average:                7.17

Lunge - by Hank Driskill

EDGE:  Play in conjunction with a basic attack.  Your opponent may block
normally, but may not dodge this attack unless the dodge is from an Exertion.

Lunge is one of the cards in the new expansion set, Watcher's Chronicle.  It's
a card that has made its way into a number of my swordfighting decks, and one
of many recent attempts to help refocus the game toward swinging swords
instead of playing cheese.

Let's look at the game mechanics.  Lunge is an Edge card, which means you can
play it any time during your turn, and it doesn't count as your one Special
card for that turn.  This makes playing the card a simpler thing, and means
it's fairly easy to get out of your hand:  you just need to be playing a basic
attack to use it.

A Lunge-modified attack may not be dodged under certain circumstances.
Nonetheless, playing Alertness/Dodge has no effect because all Alertness/Dodge
lets you do is . . . play a dodge.  You could do that before you used
Alertness/Dodge, so you gain no benefit.

Strategically, Lunge can be compared to other cards which limit an opponent's
ability to dodge . . . Challenge/SE, for example.  What makes Lunge really
interesting is that it doesn't count as your Special, unlike Challenge/SE or
others.  This opens it up to lots of combination possibilities . . .
unfortunately, it can only be used with a basic attack, which means it can't
be used with Stalk, Master's Attack, Shooting Blade, or other non-Special
attacks (i.e., Slash, Dirty Trick, and Flurry Strike) that are either
difficult to block or unblockable.  Those work with cards like Challenge/SE,
where you use Challenge/SE as your Special and follow with an unblockable
attack.  You have to use some other means to make your attack unblockable with

Let's look at some combinations for Lunge.  The first combo is Lunge/Head
Shot.  This is a simple, easy-to-play pair which forces an opponent to either
have a way to Power Block _and_ have an Upper Block/Guard ready, or spend five
cards scrambling for a Dodge.  Many cheese decks rely on Dodges as their main
defense, so this is a simple way to keep them nervous.

Break Weapon:  I never used this card before Lunge came along, but now I can
play Lunge/Break Weapon, make a Power Blow, and my opponent has three choices:
take the Power Blow, Exert for a Dodge, or block and risk losing their weapon.
Fun . . .

Head Hunter:  This plot just became much more interesting.  For three turns,
your opponent can't block, and Lunge means it is hard for them to dodge.
Opportunities for Head Shots and Power Blows and other obnoxious attacks await
you thanks to Lunge.

Other cards that limit blocking include Xavier's Hook, Mishap, Kastagir's
Charm, Run Through, Connor's Master's Block, and more.  These are all usable
with Lunge.  The worst of them is Connor pulling a Master's Block, Lunge/Head
Shot attack:  a Head Shot that's unblockable and dodgeable only with an
Exertion.  Ugh.

Looking at the rest of the Watcher's set, only one new card really begs for
the use of Lunge:  Annie's Extra Shot (second attack is unblockable).  There
are other cards that work well with it, however.  Watcher's Chronicles has
lots of ways to do multiple attacks in a round, so Lunge's ability to limit
Dodges works nicely with Flashing Blade, and the many multiple attack combos
in this set.

Rachel Ellenstein is the only card that currently cancels Edge cards, and it's
not in wide use.  This means putting Lunges in your deck, if you ever plan on
playing a basic attack against your opponent, is probably a reasonable thing.
They're fairly easy to get out of your hand, and they're always useful when

In summary, Hank gives Lunge an _9_.  It's a great addition to the
swordfighting aspect of the game, it opens up new possibilities for fun
combos, and it encourages the parts of the game I like the most.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Steve - This is the card that breaks the back of those irritating dodge-types.
Having trouble pinning down those Amanda types?  Got a non-attacker like
Xavier who prefers to dodge?  Lunge/Power Blow them.  A vital card for Slan
and the Kurgan, helpful for Duncan and Connor as well.  Good for enhancing
Trips, Power Blows, the first attack of a standard Extra Shot and the second
attack of a standard Combination.  More versatile than Flashing Blade, and
duplicates many of FB's functions.  All these factors make Lunge vital in

Jeff - Now _this_ is a sweet little Edge card.  Play Kalas with a Slan Q,
Intimidate, and make it a Power Blow.  Nasty.  Lends itself to an infinite
number of combos, some fun, some nasty.

Rick - Abstain

Alan - One of my favorite new cards, since it makes dodging attacks _really_
expensive, especially with Master's Advance out.  I find its best use,
however, is in a Connor deck with Master's Stance/Advance Warning, Master's
Block, and six Thrust.  Not quite as effective as Master's Block/Lunge, but
effective nonetheless.

Jim - Lunge is a cool card.  It lets you get more mileage out of basic
attacks.  This is an excellent card to use in conjunction with Combination and
Extra Shot.  It's nice to use in conjunction with Hidden attacks, so it works
well with Trip as well as being played following Jumps and Ducks.  Lunge is a
good card to play with the first attack on a Kurgan Follow-Up. This is a card
that should be used in just about any attack deck.

Wayne - Abstain

Prodipto - This is one of the best attack-oriented cards yet.  The usual
defense against a Power Blow or Head Shot is to dodge if possible.  With the
Lunge, played in conjunction with a Head Shot or Power Blow, you can quickly
put your opponent on the defensive.  They'll either have to block and exert,
or exert for a Dodge (unless they're Luther or Slan).  Lunge will also have a
huge impact when you play Hidden basic attacks.  Again, your opponent has to
either block and hope it's the right defense, then Exert if it's not, or Exert
for a dodge.  Note, Lunge doesn't make the attack undodgeable, so even
Alertness doesn't help here.  Of course, it only works with basic attacks, but
I would still put it in just about any deck.

Allen - Lunge is a great friend to attack-heavy decks.  Dodges have long been
the bane of decks stressing multiple and/or hidden attacks.  When played with
power blows, Lunge assures that your opponent cannot escape exerting for a
Power Block merely by dodging.  Used with Extra Shot or Combination, you
prevent your opponent from avoiding your use of three cards by merely playing
a single dodge.  Of course, you'll still need to do something about Holy
Ground.  You'll find your odds of scoring sword damage in one pass through
your deck to be much greater if you include Lunge in your strategy.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                  10
Jeff                    8
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    9
Alan                    8
Jim                     8
Wayne                 N/A
Prodipto                9
Allen                   8

Average:                8.57