In the previous Challenge of the Fortnight, Armed Citizens was in the spotlight, which turned out to be an exercise in abdominal fortitude as Iczers took on this underdog of level 1 Units. It wasn't many people's cup of tea unfortunately, but it wouldn't be much of a challenge if it were easy. Hopefully I can rectify the "cup of tea" thing now, though in some respects this card might be more difficult to play. On this fortnight, the ebb and tide has flowed to the darker side of Lavato. Please welcome the unforgiving mistress that shall be your taskmaster for the next two weeks:
Holy Mother of Blood / Velvet
This is the first time ever that an EX card is being featured on Challenge of the Fortnight, and for those of you who don't know, you may purchase a copy of Velvet in the shop as part of the Lawtia Champions of Lavato pack. There might be some way to expedite the purchase of one of these limited-time EX packs in the future, but I claim no reliable knowledge of things outside the CotF. It’s just something I heard from some guy with a name that sounds like someone crossbred a lion with a female man-eating giant. Anyway, unlike its EX-pack sister card, Rutina, the Holy Mother of Blood hasn't seen much play since the introduction of the second EX packs, so let's see if we can't get the creative juices flowing!
Let's take a look at her Soul Skill first. As a 1 LP card, the effect has to be pretty powerful, and much in line with the rest of the EX2 cards, it is. Unlike the other cards however, Mercy of the Holy Mother affects all Units, and in a very peculiar and dual-purpose way. All units get MAX HP -20 and AT +20, meaning the Soul Skill makes all units on the field less hardy while giving them additional power. Permanently, unlike her EX-pack compatriots Cudgel and Chiruru. This also conceivably gives you a chance to eliminate any of your opponent's weakened Units, providing their Max HP is at 20 or below. Note that Units with a current HP stat of 20 but a Max HP of 30, will not be closed, as only their Max HP value is lowered. Ultimately though, as contrary as it seems, this Soul Skill almost seems to be a match made in heaven for Refess, since its Units tend to have higher-than-normal HP and just a tad lower-than-normal AT.
A quick gander at the statistics shows that it's a pretty standard level 4 card. HP-wise, it's pretty average, considering 11 of the 28 level 4 cards have 50 HP. The 30 AT is pretty standard as well, and an agility of 2 is bit underwhelming. If there is any one stat that seems to make Velvet stand out, it is her range of 3, which makes it possible for her to be placed in that oh-so-hard-to-get-at back row. And all the better for her Start Skill to make her shine as an individual unit. Wisdom of the Holy Mother will trigger at the beginning of the round, reducing Velvet's HP and Max HP to 40, but raising her AT to the magic number of 50. At that point, she can basically slaughter the opponent's front line a unit at a time, all from the safety of the back row. And she can continue to do so for 4 rounds if not interrupted, and even then, she can be revived to plague the front row again.
Naturally, there's more to it than that. Her Start Skill actually affects all friendly Units, and it is presumably for this reason that she is not used more often. After all, if you're looking for AT buffs, then the conventional wisdom is that you're better off going with Bellydancer / Kurina or Chaoslady / Annarose. They both will give an AT buff, albeit smaller, with no debilitating cost, and Annarose even gives Lawtia Units extra agility. But this goes back to the AT efficiency that was referred to in the Armed Citizens Challenge results. There are currently 44 Units in Lawtia, and exactly half of them have an AT of 30. Chances are, you’re using some of those Units, and raising your AT to 40 really isn't going to help all that much because it will still take two attacks to defeat the magic number for a front-line tank, 50 HP. The conventional wisdom isn't so wise from this angle. Only 4 Lawtia Units would be buffed to 50, and it's hard to make a case for using maximizing AT efficiency with Kurina or Annarose pumping Lebeau, Millia, XXXX, or the Black Hound. It certainly is possible, but most people wouldn’t be using those 4 cards since 3 of the 4 are a bit fragile. And Annarose's agility bonus isn't as useful as it seems, considering Lawtia has more agility 4 and higher Units than any other sphere. So Velvet could be a viable alternative to maximize your efficiency.
There are probably still some naysayers amongst the Iczers at this point, and they are probably thinking, "Yeah, but Kurina and Annarose are still better because they don't hurt you, and that's good for sustainability." Yes, grasshopper, that may be true, but you're not playing Refess. You're playing Lawtia, the sphere that's all about sacrificing assets for greater gains, whether those assets are SP, HP, actual Units, or on the rare occasion, LP. Also, keep in mind that Velvet only affects your Units' Max HP, not their current HP. So your Units can still take some damage, and when Velvet's Start Skill kicks in, their 20/50 HP will become 20/40. No loss for you since that unit will most likely be gone in one hit anyway. And if it does close, it will still be restore to full HP when you revive it. It’s not so bad if you think of it that way.
Here's another perspective. Lawtia is known as the sphere with lycanthropes. Sure, Refess has some too, but Lawtia has way more, and there are more ways to bring night to the battlefield at this point and time. But timing is still an issue for any lycanthrope File, since a shift to day can cost a Lawtia Iczer the game. Velvet offers a way to essentially play a lycanthrope File without the lycanthropes and the timing. The formula is easy. Fast Units + moderate HP + Velvet Start Skill = win. No fuss, no muss. And you probably wouldn't want lycanthropes in a File with Velvet since she’ll cause them to die in Files that have a lot of night, in addition to costing you an SP per lycanthrope as they try to auto-revive but can’t. But in one that requires regular timing? It might not be such a bad idea considering most lycanthropes die in one shot anyway. There’s not much difference between 30 HP and 10 HP, something that was covered in an earlier strategy article.
Lastly, there are advantages for slowly reducing your Units’ Max HP, especially if their Close Skills are handy. Most such units do not usually have an auto-destruct button like Exploding Spores or Ancient Zombie Lord, so bringing them down to 0 at your own pace might be something an Iczer would want. And it might be something people will want to consider doing when the new sets come in, but you didn’t hear that here. It’s also possible to use Velvet as a splash of color that can push your File over the edge. “Splash a level 4 card? You’re mad!” you might say to yourself. Well, there is method to the madness, and it is definitely possible to multicolor 4 levels in a sphere if you’re so inclined, and quite simply too. But that’s something better served in Arakis’s Across the Spectrum events though, so we’ll leave that subject to the experts.
Anyway, this is turning out to be quite the dissertation, so let us kick things off. You have the theory, Iczers. Put it into practice. One word of advice: any who decide to multicolor 4 in Lawtia and has a plan for doing it will automatically get my attention.