Card of the Week #68 - 70


Ancestral Blade

OBJECT
While Ancestral Blade is in play, you may block Power Blows without an
Exertion.  (Restricted to 1 per errata)

Well, as we drop back a step or two to take a look at some promos, Ancestral
Blade comes up at the top of the list.  What's not to like about Ancestral
Blade?

But first, some game mechanic questions.  Not much, though.  Unlike Stamina,
using Ancestral Blade, like Continuity, does _not_ count as making an
Exertion.  This is important to keep in mind when it comes to Amanda blocking
Power Blows.

As soon as Ancestral Blade is in play, you may start using it to make Power
Blocks.  It will let you make a Guard that you already have in play a Power
Block.

You may use Ancestral Blade to make any number of Power Blocks per turn.

And that's about it.  So what do you do with it?

One thing.  But that's enough.  Ancestral Blade remains the single most potent
Power Blocker in the game, among the ranks of such cards as Stamina,
Continuity, and Focused Block, and Master Swordsman.

Stamina requires that your opponent _make_ Power Blows:  it's unplayable
otherwise.  Focused Block is almost as bad.  It's a one-area block that won't
stop stuff like Master's Head Shot and Upper Slashes.  Master Swordsman is a
great card, but uses up Master slots.  Unless it serves another strategy as
well (say, General Katana using Taunt + Master Swordsman), you want to save
those precious slots.

As for Continuity...well, it's close in strength to Ancestral Blade.  But
let's face it:  Continuity is a Situation _and_ a Standing Defense.  If your
opponent sneezes hard, you'll lose it.  Compare that to Ancestral Blade, which
can currently only be removed by Misfortune and the (errata'd) Thief.

Thief is _way_ too restrictive.  Never mind that it originally either forced
you to play without Objects, or waste turns putting them out and then removing
them yourself.  The new version not only still has these weaknesses, but makes
you lose one Ability for each Object removed as well.  No thanks.

Mental Ward will keep you from playing an Ancestral Blade, but do nothing
about an Ancestral Blade you have in play.  In an emergency, you can easily
play Recon to get AB down if you need it.

Ancestral Blade is essentially Luther or his Quickening.  Except it's a lot
easier to get than a Quickening, and doesn't preclude you using someone other
than Luther as your Persona.

Wisely, Ancestral Blade has been errata'd so that it is Restricted to one.
Still, cards like Security Guard/Object (CotW #58). Alex Johnson (#49),
Conjure (#65), and Archaic Collection will let you either protect it, grab it
quickly, or put it readily back into play.

If you use a strategy relying on Power Blows (typically the Kurgan, Kern, and
Slan, but quite likely Duncan and Connor, and many others under the right
circumstances), and you don't already have Misfortune in your deck to deal
with Hogg and Flying Machine/Wings, then put it in now:  you'll need it.

So, who should use Ancestral Blade.  The first obvious Persona to use it is
Amanda, due to her Power Blocking weakness.  If she uses Ancestral Blade, she
doesn't suffer from it.  This lets her use her Master slots for cards other
than Master Swordsman.

Second choices are those Personas without the standard Continuity.  This
currently includes:  Xavier, Katana, Kalas, Kern, Annie, Fitzcairn, Corda and
Reno, and Kane.

The subset of this group with only Back Away for a dodge have a greater
incentive to use Ancestral Blade.  This includes Kalas, Kern, Corda and Reno,
and Kane.

Khan should put Ancestral Blade in automatically.  He's already got Objects,
so it's one more card an opponent has to deal with using Misfortune.  He can
play it faster due to Armorer.  And it moves him one step closer to doing an
extra point of damage using Plunder.

The Kurgan, Kern, Richie, and Corda and Reno have yet another reason to use
Ancestral Blade:  if their opponent has to deal with that, then that's one
less Misfortune for Hogg or Flying Machines, or for the Kurgan only, Skull
Helmet.  Corda and Reno's Nemesis will remove Ancestral Blade, though, so they
should be careful.

The Kurgan and Kim have "cheap" ways of making Power Blows...but Ancestral
Blade is cheaper yet.  And the same rationale mentioned above for heavy
Object-users applies to Kim as well:  if you've got one more Ancestral Blade +
Extra Weapon than your opponent has Misfortunes, you're set.

After that...well, really anyone except Luther and Slan should at least
consider using Ancestral Blade.  Even if you're Duncan and can dodge eight
ways from Sunday, there's enough anti-dodge that someone is going to try to
pin you down with a Power Blow/Lunge or Trip-No Dodge combo.

So overall, Steve gives Ancestral Blade an _8_.  It's an in-play card that is
the equivalent of a decent Quickening, hard to remove, and easy to protect or
retrieve.   What's not to like?

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - In the dodge-light summer of 1998, one card stands supreme for those
who wish to avoid the ill effects of Lunge: Ancestral Blade.  A tough card
which made Xavier and Katana much more competitive than otherwise would have
been the case.  With its restriction to one, it seems most at home now in slim
decks that don't want to use a Luther Q or in multiple-Conjure decks.  And, of
course, in Amanda decks.

Hank - Even restricted to 1, Ancestral Blade is still a useful card.  It makes
its way into most decks I play, although lately Darius/Hogg has beaten it in
the lineup for damage avoidance.  Still, I consider Ancestral Blade to be a
very useful card.

Alan - A much less useful card, since the errata'd restriction number, but the
existence of Conjure and Alex Johnson make up for it.  An almost must-have
card for every deck.

Wayne - Ancestral Blade can be a very good card but only if played in a deck
with several Objects.  With the new set being out, Objects are much more
powerful therefore forcing players to play with more Misfortune cards.  If it
is your only Object in the deck I would say leave it out.  But if you have
more than a couple objects, this is a very powerful card.  Conjure and Alex
Johnson make this card even more powerful.

Prodipto - Except for Renaissance tournaments, I can't think of a single
reason not to include Ancestral Blade in any deck (except Slan and Luther).
It is a very potent card, inasmuch as it allows _any_ Persona to completely
block a Power Blow.  It essentially makes Power Blows impractical to make.  By
making it an Object, you tend to make sure it stays in play, or you can get it
back into play very quickly (Conjure, Alex Johnson, etc).  The restriction of
one on Ancestral Blade is for a good reason, but is its only drawback.

Allen - Old memories here.  Ancestral Blade is only the second Highlander card
I ever hated.  If you are not using Slan, Luther, or the Luther Q, then there
is no reason you should not use Ancestral Blade.  It's an Object so it can't
be Focused, Alex Johnson and Conjure make it easy to get and easy to keep, and
it pretty much puts paid to anyone's Power Blow strategy.  Superior to
standard Continuity in every way.  Don't even consider Stamina.

Bruce - This was always a very effective card:  the errata on Thief makes it
even more powerful. It is high on my list of Power Blow defenses, although I
usually just use Master Swordsman and some Dodges.

Stealth Dave - Even post-errata, Ancestral Blade is a powerful card.  It's
essential in any Amanda deck now that anti-dodge is so prevalent.  With the
new errata on Thief, Objects are quite a bit safer, and Conjure and Alex
Johnson can take care of that little restriction number quite handily.  It
also solves the relatively new problem of defending against multiple power
blows.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   8
Jeff                    6
Hank                    8
Alan                    6
Wayne                   8
Prodipto                9
Allen                   9
Bruce                   7
SDave                   8

Average:                7.67

------------------------------------------------------------------
Berkeley Game Distributors

SITUATION: Watcher Field Agents
Before your Attack Phase, discard this card and roll a six-sided die. You may
make as many attacks this turn as your die roll.  (Restricted to 2)

This promo, somewhat harder to get than many, is not often seen.  However, it
seems to be making somewhat of a comeback recently, so now seems like a good
time to look at it.

Game mechanic questions first.  You currently can _not_ use Iron Will to
modify the die roll you make in conjunction with Berkeley.  Iron Will modifies
a chance of success: BGD has no chance of success.

BGD is a discard-to-use card, so you have to play it, and your opponent then
gets a chance to play at least one card.  Since you can't discard BGD on your
opponent's turn and gain any benefit, essentially this means if you play it on
your Turn 1, you can't discard it until your Turn 2.

Using BGD doesn't take up an attack slot.  Rather, it determines how many base
attacks you get that turn.  Normally you get one (unless you're Amanda - then
you get two).  The number rolled on Berkeley is how many you get instead.  Any
"additional attacks" that you get are added on top of that base figure.  You
may also play cards that require attack slots (Battle Rage, Bloodlust,
Berserk) in one of these attack slots, to get even more attack slots.

BGD is a Watcher Field Agent, but not a Watcher.  And it in no way limits your
ability to play a Special the turn you discard it.

The last demonstrates why Berkeley can be such a powerful card:  you can play
any Special the turn you use it.

So what Special should you play?  Challenge/SE comes to mind: your opponent
can't dodge at all on his next turn.  Of course, neither can you on your next
turn, so you might wish to be careful.

Specials that mess up your opponent's ability to play Specials don't hurt.
Renee Delaney, Carl, The Gathering, Forethought, Inquest, etc. are all helpful
here.

Timing is useful here for Location play.  If your opponent attacked you and
you know he is going to fail, play Lighthouse or Laundry Room before you
defend, then defend, then discard BGD and attack.

Don't overlook Flashing Blade here: it is almost as good as Challenge/SE, and
still lets you play a Special as well.

There are other Situations you can play that will thwart your opponent's
defensive abilities.  Master's Advance comes to mind.  However, you're better
off playing this on a previous turn, and then playing one of the Specials
mentioned above the turn you _do_ discard BGD.

The next question is, which attacks you should play?  This is fairly
straightforward:  playing BGD in conjunction with several Flurry Strikes, if
you roll well, is basic strategy.  Also, remember that if the last defense you
played was a block, _any_ Ripostes you play that turn can be made Hidden.
When making multiple attacks, Slashes are also useful, whether the basic ones,
or Connor/Duncan's diagonal versions.

The final thing to note is Berkeley's randomness.  To minimize this, though,
remember to play whatever Special you're going to use _after_ you make the die
roll, if possible.  If you're going to play Challenge/SE, roll first.  If you
get a 1, save the Challenge/SE for later.  If you get a 6, play it.

So who should use Berkeley Game Distributors?  Personas who already have
multiple-attack capability can take better advantage of it.  Yung Dol Kim, for
instance, can discard Berkeley and use Frenzy and his Persona ability to gain
even more attacks on top of the first 1-6.  He can use Trip or Cutting Room
Floor to make one of the many attacks that much more dangerous.  Run Away lets
him set up his first attack better, since if he uses it he can avoid the last
attack his opponent played.

Annie has Combination, which requires that her opponent play a separate
defense against _all_ of her attacks that turn, as well as giving her another
attack.  If she lets herself be hit and plays Dr. Sonny Jackson to avoid the
damage, she can then make one to six basic attacks from Berkeley...plus her
two attacks for being hit...plus one more attack for Combination.  And her
opponent has to play a separate defense against each attack.

Fitzcairn may have numerous attacks in any case, for use with his Combination.
By playing Fast Talk and discarding Berkeley, he can hopefully get a good
number of attacks and his opponent will have to Exert for defenses.  If he can
mix in a few Flurry Strikes, all the better.  Wait to play Fast Talk until you
see what you get on the die roll, of course.

Connor in the Mountain Cave (and using Bagpipes and the extra Master slots to
take advantage of Master Race) can do nearly as well, Hidden-wise.

Other Personas can adapt as necessary from these strategies, or come up with a
few others.  Typically, Berkeley lends itself to a wide range of strategies.

So overall, Steve gives Berkeley Game Distributors a _5_.  It can be a
dangerous card for many Immortals.  The main problem is BGD's randomness.
Currently, there is no way to modify the die roll (unless you can convince
your opponent to use Cursed in your favor - good luck :) ).  Still, playing
your Special after the die roll can often minimize your waste of such cards.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Not a bad generic card at all, this card lends itself to many, many
combinations.  Most fun in my opinion is a Fitz deck: Fast Talk, Flashing
Blade, Berkeley.  Add Scotland the Brave, Bright Blades/Kurgan Q, and Practice
Practice to taste.  Main problem is the same as with most combos:  it's hard
to use the elements of it separately if you don't get the combo itself.   Also
of use in supplementing an Annie deck against a non-attack deck (though I
personally prefer The Prize: Attacks due to BGD's randomness).

Hank - I've never gotten this card to work well.  I've tried it in many decks,
but IMHO there are better Personas and better ways nowadays to make multiple
attacks.  Rolling a 1 with Berkeley just sucks.

Alan - Great card for those Personas who lack an inherent multi-attack
ability.  Combine with Flashing Blade for optimum effect, and let the attacks
fly!  Only downside is it's relative vulnerability, being a Situation, _and_ a
Watcher Field Agent.

Jim - This is a fun multi-attack card.  It works well for Duncan combined with
Scotland the Brave for multiple Power Blows.  It is also go for use with Slan
and some of the other Immortals who lack an easy method of making multiple
attacks.

Wayne - I've tried using this card and every time I do I roll a 1.  I think
that there are better cards for making multiple attacks.  I prefer using
Events rather than Situations.

Prodipto - Berkeley Game Distributors is like a "poor man's" Battle Rage (and
only because of its ability, not availability).  There's a little risk
involved, since you might roll a 1.  However, some of the attack monsters
(Slan, Kurgan, Kern) can make great use of it.  The other point to note is
that it is a discard-to-use Situation.  This means it's cumulative with the
"three B's" (Berserk, Battle Rage, Bloodlust).  So you could discard a
Berkeley, roll a 6, then play a Bloodlust and wind up with the ability to play
20 attacks.  Berkeley attacks can be avoided with a Dodge, so I recommend
using Flashing Blades and Lunges judiciously.

Allen - This card seems to have a fair reputation, but it is never one I've
really taken seriously.  Flashing Blade gives it a boost, but there are many
other ways to make multiple attack strategies and most seem superior (or at
lest more reliable.)  Then again, maybe dice just don't like me.  It does
(almost) get you a Battle Rage without losing one Ability, but I would only
use this card with that don't have any means of their own to make multiple
attacks.

Bruce - This is an interesting card that I have seen frequently in gimmick
decks, but there are a lot better ways to make multiple attacks now, some of
them even allowing multiple Power Blows.

Stealth Dave - Berkeley Games is a good card for small attack decks, but its
usefulness is somewhat limited and success relies heavily on luck.  You can't
use die roll modifiers with it because there is no "chance for success", so if
you roll a one, you're out of luck.  On the other hand, with a Berkeley in
play you can play another Special while making multiple attacks.  Your
opponent will be in quite a bit of pain if you're lucky enough to roll a six
with six Flurry Strikes and a Challenge/SE :).  However, in today's rough and
tumble tournament scene, reliability is the key success, and Berkeley Games is
not.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   5
Jeff                    6
Hank                    4
Alan                    6
Jim                     5
Wayne                   5
Prodipto                7
Allen                   5
Bruce                   3
Sdave                   4

Average:                5.00

------------------------------------------------------------------
Death Before Dishonor

Situation
Discard to prevent an Ally from being removed from play. You lose 1 Ability.

This is another Situation, like last week's Berkeley, that has been around for
a while, but doesn't seem to see a lot of use.  Unlike Berkeley, it's a bit
more available since it was released in tournament packets.

Game mechanics questions first.  As per the FAQ, an Ally is any card with a
proper name of a character or characters in the title, excluding Personas.

Pre-game Ally cards that are removed from the game (via Divine Intervention)
are considered to be being removed from the game, and can be protected from
removal using DBD.

Death Before Dishonor will protect an Ally from removal from _any_ means.
However, if you prevent a discard-to-use card such as Carl or Rachel
Ellenstein from being removed when you choose to discard it, it has no effect
since it wasn't actually discarded.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Death Before Dishonor will really only
"protect" two types of cards: Situations and Pre-Games.  An opponent may be
able to remove an Event or Edge card that was played and is still in play
waiting to be "swept."  However, at this time removing an Event/Edge in this
manner will have no effect on what that Event/Edge has already done.

So Death Before Dishonor will only help defend Ally/Situations.  That's a
fairly small subsection of the total Allies.  Currently, this includes:

SE: Avery Hoskins, Carl, Tessa

ME: Angus MacLeod, Brenda Wyatt, Dugal MacLeod, Garfield, Heather, Jack
Donovan, Louise Marcus, Rachel Ellenstein

Watcher Chronicles: Dr. Anne Lindsey, Hideo Koto, James Horton, Joe Dawson,
Signorina Arianna

The Gathering: Lt. John Stenn

Duncan Collection: Debra, Anne

So when using Death Before Dishonor to protect Situation/Allies, the question
you have to ask yourself is: is it better to keep that Ally in play, play DBD,
and lose one Ability to keep that Ally in play?  Or should you simply play
another copy of that Ally instead of taking a turn to play DBD.

Only Stenn, Rachel Ellenstein, Hideo Koto, and Dr. Anne are Restricted among
the generics.  Duncan's Debra and Anne are as well.  It really doesn't do much
good to use Death Before Dishonor to protect Rachel, since Edge play is so
common that you're going to lose a lot of Ability trying to keep her in play
until you're ready for her to counter an Edge.

There can only be one copy of Anne and Hideo each in play on your side at a
time.  So you can't play multiples of these.  They may be worth protecting via
Death Before Dishonor.

Protecting Stenn in this manner can be expensive.  Not only do you lose one
Ability if you use DBD and keep him in play, but you'll lose another one
Ability when you discard to use him.

In the case of the other Situation/Allies, you're probably better off playing
multiple copies of that Ally, rather than play DBD to keep it in play while
losing one Ability.

The exceptions here are Garfield and Dugal MacLeod.  These are removed, fairly
easily, through other means.  However, DBD will not let avoid the two damage
from losing Dugal by keeping him in play.  It's the Guard's removal that cause
the two damage, not Dugal's removal.  You can probably use Focus to bypass
Garfield and keep him in play while drawing, rather than draw a card, have him
leave play, and use DBD to keep him around while losing one Ability.

There's also Security Guard/Situation, which will not only protect your
Allies, but other Situations as well.  It's Restricted to 3, and won't cost
you ability.  It won't help if you yourself remove your Situation/Allies.
However, that doesn't seem particularly helpful or worth the Ability loss.

So much for Situation/Allies.  That leaves Death Before Dishonor as protection
for pre-game Allies.  Here, DBD looks a little better, but not much.  The only
other card that protects pre-game Allies from removal is Do What I Say Woman!
It does exactly the same thing, and doesn't cost you Ability loss.  It also
protects Quickenings and TCG cards.  Unless you're heavily into those pre-game
Darius cards, your opponent will probably be targeting those Quickenings and
TCGs for Divine Intervention anyway.

If you're _really_ paranoid about protecting those pre-game Allies, Death
Before Dishonor makes an adequate back-up to the power of Do What I Say Woman!
Otherwise, you probably don't need it.

So who should use Death Before Dishonor?  Well, it doesn't seem to be a
particularly strong card for anyone.  Duncan has his two Persona-specific
Ally/Situations, and tends to use Carl a bit more than others.  If he combines
Inner Strength with Carl, he can force his opponent to Exert and cycle out
some garbage from his hand.  Mix well with the Kastagir Q for best effect.

Heavy-hitters like the Kurgan and Slan, or multi-attackers like Kim, Annie,
and Amanda, hoping to score with one hit out of many, might want to get some
extra damage and protect a Hideo Koto long enough to do it.

Otherwise, if you're using a particular Persona, and any of the Allies
mentioned above looks appealing, _and_ you are willing to lose a point of
Ability rather than lose that Ally, go for it.

Overall, Steve gives Death Before Dishonor a _2_.  It has some minor usage,
mostly as back-up to Security Guard/Situation and Do What I Say Woman!  Before
the Gathering release, it might have warranted a higher rating.  Now, its
effects have been surpassed by better cards.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Well, to be honest, I've never liked this card.  There aren't that many
Situation/Allies that I care about protecting.  What, he's going to Police my
Tessa or my Signorina Arianna?  Anybody playing with those cards outside of
sealed _and_ using DBD deserves to lose the one point of Ability.  Perhaps
other cards would have made DBD more useful in the future, but now there's
this card called Security Guard that works much better, doesn't entail a loss
of Ability, and works for non-Ally Situations, too.  Can't see any reason to
play with DBD.

Hank - Not terribly useful.  Security Guard/Situation is more generally useful
(unless you play with several Allies at once), and doesn't have the ability
loss.  Until Allies become a more useful part of my decks, I can't see myself
using this card.

Alan - Good card to have, due to the great number of Situation Allies
available, and the reliance that many Personas have on them.  The one Ability
Loss is worth the keeping of an Ally in play, at times, depending on the Ally,
of course :-)

Jim - This card will be invaluable as the number of Allies available increases
but currently there are too few to make much of a difference.  Security Guard
is a better bet.

Wayne - Decent card for protecting Allies.  I haven't ever used this card and
would probably rate it fairly low.

Prodipto - This is a more or less decent card.  It's not overpowered, but also
not useless.  It's a good tool for protecting extremely valuable Allies, but
there aren't enough Allies out that are worth sacrificing a point of ability
for.  I'd think very carefully if I was to use this card.  I'd probably only
use it for Dr. Anne Lindsay or Joe Dawson.

Allen - Death Before Dishonor does what it was meant to fairly well, but has
almost completely been supplanted by Security Guard: Situation.  The latter
can do everything the former can but does not cost you a point of ability.
I'd only use DBD if I'd already used 3 SG's and still wanted more.

Bruce - If you are playing with a lot of Allies, this card might be more
efficient than Security Guard to protect them.  It could also be better than
Do As I Say Woman! to protect PreGame Darius because the Divine Intervention
would actually leave the game.  But both of these advantages need to be
balanced against the penalty of losing one Ability.

Stealth Dave - With the existence of Security Guard, this card is just too
expensive to use.  That 1 pt. Ability loss may not seem like much, but
compared to the no-cost use of Security Guard, which can work on *any*
Situation, it's just not worth it.  If you're worried about your Pre-Game
Allies being removed from play, this may be the card for you, although you can
also use Do As I Say, Woman without incurring ability loss.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   2
Jeff                    2
Hank                    4
Alan                    6
Jim                     4
Wayne                   3
Prodipto                4
Allen                   3
Bruce                   3
Sdave                   2

Average:                3.30


1