Card of the Week #53-55


Parking Garage

LOCATION - No player may roll to recover his weapon while in the Parking
Garage.  (errata'd text)

Parking Garage tends to be an overlooked Location.  It's not a powerhouse
Location (Battlefield, Lighthouse) or one that imposes a major restriction on
an opponent (Catwalk, Ruins).

The first thing to keep in mind when looking at Parking Garage is that it is a
member of a subcategory of Locations which, for lack of a better phrase, "have
initiative."  This means that they will occur at the beginning of your turn as
a "must do" or "may do" effect, before you can deal with them (except with
Reconnaissance).  Just as with Desert, Watcher Regional HQ, and Battlefield,
you are the target of these Locations' effects _before_ you can play a
Location to remove them, or Get Away From It All, or TSC Troopers.

This also means that on the turn you play them, you gain no benefit or
hindrance from them.  Play a Watcher Regional HQ on your turn, and your
opponent will draw first (if appropriate).  Play a Desert and he'll lose two
cards first.

This "initiative" benefit also means if you play such a Location on your turn,
and your opponent removes it on his turn, he gets messed up, but you don't.

This isn't as important for Parking Garage as for the other three Locations,
but it is important to keep in mind.

Parking Garage does one thing, but it does it well.  It keeps an opponent from
rolling to regain their weapon.  So what does that mean?

In essence, it is the equivalent of your opponent having a broken weapon.  So
what happens when you have a broken weapon?

Well, for starters, you can't reroll to regain your weapon.  You can't play
Recover Weapon.  You can use Extra Weapon and Watcher/Fair Fight.  You can
still take a weapon from your opponent using the various Master's Disarms for
Connor, Nakano, and the Kurgan.

The _only_ difference between the above, and what happens if you are
"normally" disarmed in the Parking Garage, is that while in the PG you _can_
play Recover Weapon.  Since most competitive decks don't use Recover Weapon,
this is really a very minor disadvantage in Parking Garage's favor.

So how do you use Parking Garage in a disarm deck?  Real simple.  Disarm them,
and keep this Location down.  Unless they play Reconnaissance, even if they
play a Location on their turn or otherwise remove your Parking Garage they
_still_ can't roll to rearm until their next turn.  Giving you another turn to
put down a new Parking Garage.

Reconnaissance is helpful against Parking Garage.  In the current competitive
environment, it is likely your opponent will be using Locations.  Even if she
isn't, as long as you're using a Location you always have something to play
Reconnaissance on.

But Reconnaissance is not as helpful as one might think against Parking
Garage.  It only allows your opponent to roll the turn he plays it.  His
chance is probably going to be a mere 1-in-6, unless he is using a die-rolling
strategy of his own (disarming, Mugging, etc.).  So at best, he's buying
himself a one-turn shot at rearming.

Forged Steel is probably the best, most reliable way to disarm an opponent
(see Break Weapon, CotW #50).  However, that doesn't make Parking Garage
useless.  Just use it in conjunction with your Forged Steel/Disarm strategy.
If you don't want to wait to play Forged Steel, or your opponent Misfortunes
it, you can still effectively "break" their weapon unless they're using
Recover Weapon.

As always, supplement your disarm strategy with anti-dodge cards.  Using
Parking Garage means you probably won't be using an anti-dodge Location like
Catwalk or Dead End Alley.  Use Master's Advance and Lunge instead.

If nothing else, Parking Garage removes an opponent's Location from play.
Play it early in the game and you can watch the look on their face as they
scramble to get those Extra Weapons and Watcher/Fair Fights down.

A final element to look at is Parking Garage's "associated" card, Slippery
Footing.  Frankly, I'm not that impressed with it.  Rush will just as neatly
remove Standing Defenses, and give my opponent a point of damage to worry
about as well.  Cheesy, but effective.

So overall, Steve gives Parking Garage a _6_.  It doesn't do much, but it does
it very well.  A strategy that "breaks" an opponent's weapon is one that gives
you a higher than average probability of taking an opponent's head.  That
right there kicks it up a step or two.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - The Location of choice if you're playing a Disarm strategy.  Not really
a lot more to say about it.

Rick - Abstain

Hank - A very useful Location for Disarm decks.  I've used it before, it's a
nice Location.

Alan - A must-have Location for Disarm decks (duh!), for Location control, if
nothing else.  The only real downside to this Location is that it,
unfortunately, telegraphs your strategy to your opponent.

Jim - A wonderful Location for disarm decks.

Wayne - Decent location for disarm decks.  With Lighthouse now available, I
would probably prefer Lighthouse to Parking Garage and simply play Forged
Steel in it's place.

Prodipto - An obvious location for Disarm oriented decks.  Not really useful
in any other circumstances.

Allen - The element for Parking Garage is the disarm deck.  In it's element it
is king; outside of it's element it is worthless.  Like many Locations there
is nothing subtle going on here.  Parking Garage also has the distinction of
having a fairly useful associated event (Slippery Footing).

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Jeff                    5
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    7
Alan                    6
Jim                     3
Wayne                   4
Prodipto                3
Allen                   7

Average:                5.13

------------------------------------------------------------------
Stamina

EVENT - Play this card instead of making an Exertion when blocking a Power
Blow.

Well, here's perhaps the most disdained card this side of John MacLeod.  Even
in the original Series Edition, Continuity and simple dodging were superior to
this card.  Even if you were worried about Challenge/SE, only Xavier had to
worry about this, and he could always use Forethought or Carl.

(Note:  throughout this article, unless otherwise noted, when referring to
"Continuity" I am referring to the original version, which let you block Power
Blows without an Exertion for three defenses.)

This brings us to the first release of promos, and the definitive nail in the
coffin to Stamina's status for over a year.  With the release of an
unrestricted Ancestral Blade, there was no reason to play with Continuity,
much less Stamina.  If you wanted, a Chessex deck could stand there and play
two Events a turn while not bothering to attack.  Such a deck could easily
dodge or play Holy Ground to avoid any danger.

The next step was the release of the Movie Edition.  This introduced more
anti-dodge, and also gave us more Personas that could play with Continuity.
Only Katana lacked this card.  Still, when you could load up with six
Ancestral Blades, who cared if you had Continuity or not?

The only real hindrance to Ancestral Blade introduced in the Movie Edition was
Thief.  This prevented you from safely playing multiple Ancestral Blades.
However, since you could simply choose to play one at a time, using multiples
only gave you a small risk of hand jam.

Essentially, there was no real reason to make Power Blows.  The only exception
to this was if you were using Sedarius.

This brings us to the second batch of promos.  The Gathering helped break up
the Chessex combo.  However, cards like the original Safe Haven and Verona
assured that a non-attacker could Power Block with impunity.

And then we come to the "November Surprise":  the major release of errata
which restricted Ancestral Blade to one.  The impact of this was fairly major:
if you lost your one Ancestral Blade from play, only Alex Johnson or Archaic
Collection could get it back to you.

And finally we have the release of Watcher's Chronicles.  The impact here is
three-fold.  Cards like Lunge, Flashing Blade, and Flurry Strike help to make
Power Blows more effective.  Dojo is introduced.  And we get a complete batch
of Personas without Continuity.

So where does that leave Stamina now?  At a higher point, rating-wise, than
any time since its initial release.  Why?

First, a quick game mechanics note.  You _must_ play Stamina with a block, and
against an incoming Power Blow.  If your opponent never makes a Power Blow,
you can never play Stamina.  You can play Stamina and then Exert for a block.
However, you can only do this against a Power Blow.

Why is this important?  Because it tends to restrict one's ability to cycle
unusable Staminas.  However, the answer to this is Dojo.  If those six
Staminas aren't useful, store them in a couple of Dojos.  If your non-Power
Blowing opponent wants to use a Police or an Exertion on them instead of your
other Situations, more power to them.  They're taking out the trash for you.

So who should use Stamina?  Well, let's face it - it still isn't superior to
Continuity.  You can play Continuity even if your opponent doesn't Power Blow.
And six of them can potentially stop 18 Power Blows, while six Staminas only
stop six Power Blows.

Master Swordsman is a nice alternative, particularly if you can't dodge in the
current anti-dodge environment.  Still, this can be an expensive use of your
Master slots.  Xavier might not mind.  However, Katana (Master's Block,
Master/Swordmaster) and Annie and Fitzcairn (Master's Block, Master's Attack,
Master/Swordmaster) might not want to use up their Master slots.

So Katana, Annie, and Fitzcairn almost definitely want to use Stamina.  A
single Lunge/Power Blow can seriously mess up their day.

Xavier and Kalas should also consider using Stamina.  It takes up your play of
a Special, but it's better than losing cards to an Exertion Power Block.

Kern can afford to use Alex Johnson or Archaic Collection, since he has other
Objects that he will want to recover as well (Hogg, Bowie Knife).  He can use
Alex to recover an Ancestral Blade at a critical moment.

If any of these Personas use Stamina, they should use Dojo.  This goes without
saying anyway, given Dojo's wide-ranging usefulness (CotW #34).

What about other Personas?  Well, they've got Continuity.  Particularly if
you're using a Situation-heavy Persona, it's difficult for your opponent to
deal with this Standing Defense.  Rush and Kurgan's Hammer Blow can do so, and
they can waste Police.  However, someone using Continuity still has the
advantage that, unless The Gathering is out, they can wait to see if a Power
Blow is coming and then play Continuity during their defense phase.  This
makes Continuity at least as good as Stamina, even if your opponent removes it
next turn.

The only downside is that you can't use it if Ruins is out.  If you have a
Duncan or Nakano deck that wants to make Hidden attacks and keep opponents
from playing six-area blocks by using Ruins, you may wish to use Stamina
instead of Continuity.  Or you can play Reconnaissance on Ruins and then play
Continuity.

So overall, Steve gives Stamina a _3_.  It has become far more useful since
the WC release.  As the number of non-Continuity Personas increase, it will
remain useful and see wider-spread use.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Unfortunately, there's really no reason to play with this card.
Continuity lasts for three defenses, even if it is Persona-specific.
Ancestral Blade lasts forever.  Plus, this card doesn't have the same
advantages with Amanda.  Not really any use for it.

Rick - Abstain

Hank - A worthless card, less useful than Continuity or Ancestral Blade,
certainly... and it's an Event, so it's the only Special you'll play.  Maybe
useful for some decks, but I never use it.

Alan - A definite dust collector in regular play.  There are better cards
available that do the same job (Continuity, Ancestral Blade--even in it's
restricted state).  However, in Sealed Deck format, this card is _extremely_
useful.

Jim - Nearly worthless.  A major dust collector.  Even with Ancestral Blade
being limited and more Situation removers being used these days, Stamina is
just too limited in its use and there are far more effective cards needed.

Wayne - Abstain

Prodipto - Here is a card in desperate need of an Edge to enhance it.  Between
Continuity and Ancestral Blade, there is almost no reason whatsoever to put
Stamina in your deck, unless you're playing a sealed deck tournament.  Even
the picture isn't all that impressive, so you couldn't wallpaper your bedroom
with it...

Allen - Stamina may see an increased amount of use with the Watcher Chronicles
influx of Immortals possessing non-standard Continuities.  But I wouldn't
count on it.  It's a card you can only play if your opponent does something
very specific (I dislike including such cards in my decks) and accomplishes a
feat I can almost always accomplish in another manner; even if I do have to
Exert.  Stamina isn't worthless, but I'd look at my deck very carefully before
including it.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   3
Jeff                    2
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    3
Alan                    4
Jim                     2
Wayne                 N/A
Prodipto                1
Allen                   3

Average:                2.57

------------------------------------------------------------------
Desert

LOCATION - At the beginning of each turn in the Desert, each player must take
the top two cards from his Endurance and place them in his discard pile.

Desert is probably the most overlooked Location, except for Holy
Ground/Location.  Very few people use it.  Those that do, though, swear by it.

There are no real game mechanic questions involved.  The loss of cards to
Desert is a "must do."  It can be avoided by Reconnaissance, but otherwise
even if you remove it by playing a card immediately at the beginning of your
turn, you lose the two cards.

With Desert, timing is the key.  We talked about this two issues back with
Parking Garage (CotW #53).  However, it bears repeating here.  Unless they
have Reconnaissance, your opponent will get nailed by Desert at least once for
two cards.

Moreover, an opponent desperate to avoid losing two cards will remove Desert
right away on _his_ next turn.  What this adds up to is this:  on your turn
you play Desert.  You lose no cards.  At the beginning of his turn, he
(probably) loses two cards.  He removes Desert.  Now, it's your turn.  You
lose no cards, and are free to begin the cycle again.

The dynamics here are similar to those for Battlefield and, to a lesser
degree, Parking Garage, Watcher Regional HQ, and any future Locations that
generate an effect which occurs at the beginning of a turn.

The discarding of cards is similar to that which occurs from Dirty
Trick/Pummel, Dirty Trick/Kick, Improvised Weapon/Attack, Counterfeit, and Cat
& Mouse/Endurance discard.  These cards are all good to use in conjunction
with Desert.

Cards that are almost as useful are those that let you recover items from your
discard pile.  These include Alex Johnson, Forgery/Kalas, and Advance Warning.
I've never been radically impressed by Archaic Collection, but against a
Thief-wielding opponent, it can be a better choice than Alex Johnson.

So if Kalas is looking to complete Part 2 of that Counterfeit, and he loses it
to Desert, he can play Forgery, recover it, and put it directly into play.

For Objects, this is even better.  If Kern lost a Hogg to Desert (his or his
opponent's), he can play Alex Johnson, put Hogg into play, and then Exert to
avoid damage.

So who should use Desert?  Khan is the obvious choice here, so much so that
Desert might as well be considered "his" Location in the same manner that
Mountain Cave is Connor's, or Catwalk is the Kurgan's or Slan's.

Not only does Khan have less to worry about from exhaustion, but he can use
Alex Johnson to recover his valuable Objects lost to the sands.

You can take your pick with the size of your Khan deck.  In Lean & Mean
format, you can exhaust an opponent rapidly and cost them valuable cards they
require for their combinations.  Or you can go with a larger deck.  Once
Conjure becomes legal, deck size will mean very little when it comes to Khan
finding his Armor, or using Alex Johnson to recover those lost to the discard
pile.

Who else should use Desert?  Well, anyone using the Khan Quickening, who isn't
_too_ reliant on elaborate card combinations.  In Lean & Mean format, you can
injure someone pretty serious through Exhaustion burn, while fending off their
attacks.  As noted above, using Desert will almost inevitably cost them 12
cards out of 44.  If they respond quick enough, that's all they'll lose...but
you'll lose nothing.

Larger tower decks might also find Desert useful.  In such large decks, it
might be wise to mix Locations - a Catwalk here, a Desert there.  If you're
the Kurgan and worried about being pinned down in a Dead End Alley, playing
either one will allow you to Back Away.  And they'll still be losing two cards
per turn.  That might not hurt your deck much, but it can be painful for them.

Personas who can favor tower decks include Duncan, Connor, the Kurgan, and
Kern.  Any of these may find a use for Desert in their deck.

And finally, we have a look at Desert's companion card, Dust Cloud.  Quite
frankly, so what?  It does force your opponent to make his next attack Hidden
(if he chooses to attack).  However, this is really only useful against Connor
Feint decks, and they're probably already using Mountain Cave if they want
this strategy.  The "standard" Trip is more reliable, removes Standing
Defenses, doesn't give your opponent a Hidden attack, and doesn't track sand
in the house.

Also, the upcoming rules re-release will establish that Hidden attacks are
_always_ optional.  So you can never force your opponent to make an attack
Hidden anyway.

So overall, Steve gives Desert a _6_.  It's a nice card, and vastly
underestimated.   Depletion of cards is a strategy that bypasses Nefertiri and
her Quickening, and against smaller decks can be crippling.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Another card that discourages slim decks.  Useful in that your opponent
(much like Battlefield) must fulfill its conditions before being able to play
a Location to replace it.  Good reason to carry a couple of Recons in a Lean &
Mean deck.  Might actually make a L&M Khan deck useful.

Rick - Abstain

Hank - I've used this (along with Avery and other similar cards) in Exhaustion
decks before.  It's a nice Location, not one of the more powerful ones but not
totally useless either.

Alan - A great location for Endurance-burn decks.  It's best use is found when
used in conjunction with Khan/Khan Q/Second Wind plus Avery Hoskins.  Cheesy,
but effective.

Jim - A killer Location if you are using a marathon deck or just want to screw
up your opponents deck timing.  This one even affects Nefertiri.

Wayne - This Location is sometimes used by heal decks to hurt the decks that
rely on combinations of cards for damage and of course exertion decks.  I have
played it before and found it to not be very effective.  It brings too much
luck to the game because you can exert past cards you need while your opponent
may exert past his trash.  It's not one of the better Locations.

Prodipto - An excellent location for tower decks or for Khan decks.  Most
competitive decks aren't built around losing two cards off the top every turn.
One of the truly brutal Locations that, if you can't get rid of it, you better
hope you don't lose anything too valuable to your strategy.

Allen - I hate Deserts.  Of course, that's because they are usually played by
my opponent!  Another good tool in most Marathon decks.  Like all Locations,
however, it does bite both ways.  It is a bit harder than most Locations to
"prepare" your deck for Desert, other than simply making yours big and not
relying upon cards with  small restriction numbers.  (Good advice for any
Marathon deck.)  However, you might want to consider the use of Dr. Alan
Neyman.  The only drawback to Desert is that its associated deck type isn't
especially reliable yet.

Bruce - I use Desert mostly two ways. First, to get past Nef Discard when
headhunting. Second, as Location defense in large decks.  Useful, but not key
strategically like other locations.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   7
Jeff                    6
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    5
Alan                    5
Jim                     8
Wayne                   4
Prodipto                9
Allen                   6
Bruce                   5

Average:                6.11

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