Card of the week is back after a brief con-related hiatus. One trick LeBeau busters or key cards? This week I’m going to do four mini-reviews, one for each EX Card.
Looking them over, the first thing that hits me is they don’t fit that well with the popular strategies of each Sphere. In Japan, clearly these cards came out after Set Two, when double the number of available cards means a lot more strategies are available to each Sphere. This is doubly true when considering that most strategies right now involve modified starters. Let’s face it, Falkow players aren’t going to be tripping over themselves for a card that makes Defense useless. Not only are most of the Starter Set cards DF oriented, but the key Falkow card, Vordore, uses DF to stay alive long enough to do what he does best: which is win the game, and I don’t see any players not wanting to do that. To give these cards a fair shake, we’ll have to assume that we’re playing with, at the very least, significantly more than just a Starter and have some flexibility.
Our first contender is [card=172]EX: Lion Baron / Zagar.[/card] His LV, HP, DF, RNG and AT all match the Bear-Killing Axeman, only he has a 2 AGI and a much better special ability. Wait, a front line fighter that’s just like a Gowen unit but better, and he’s Refess? What’s the catch? Well, I guess the catch is that the Bear-killer isn’t exactly the greatest Gowen unit ever. Despite that, Zagar here is a pretty strong card. His Shield Breaker goes beyond a LeBeau buster for a few reasons. First, he’s useful without it, so he’s not just a one trick pony. Second, it’s cheap, it penetrates and it still does damage, so it’s worth doing to any unit with defense, even 10 points. Now, how does Zagar compare to other level 3 Refess units? He’s comparable to Folrart Paladin in many ways, since the Paladin’s defense rarely comes into play, and the Baron’s ability is much better. Most importantly, Zagar is one of the few Refess tanks who is able to do 30 damage. This is the magic number against so many units, especially Gowen units, who often have 30 or 60 HP. One of the biggest things that impairs Refess’ ability to consistently put units in the Cemetery is when their 25 damage runs face first into the law of averages. Finally, his Soul Skill is nothing complicated, but if you don’t want to rely on your Sphere Level for damage, he’s got the best single-target one in the game.
Now we’ve got the pretty boy of the bunch, [card=174]EX: Broken Iron Soldier / XXXX[/card], one of the very few cards with five X’s in its name. Statistically, he’s your basic Lawtia front line tank. In fact, he’s got the exact same statistics as Moonlight Warrior. What makes him interesting is his special ability, which bypasses armor and deals 50 damage to every unit on both sides. That makes this unit the strongest board-clearing card in the game, including Grimoires! Almost makes you want to add some Will o’ the Wisps to your Lawtia file for the novelty of seeing this guy as the only one standing. (Almost.) So, he doesn’t fit at all with the present Lawtia strategies, but he does do something that none of the other EX Cards do, and that’s have a power that’s different enough from everything else out there to inspire new strategies. Another nice thing is that while his ability happens to make LeBeau’s Soul Skill irrelevant, that’s more of a side effect. Its primary purpose is field-clearing, and that remains whether or not your enemy is packing any Unforgivable Failure. XXXX’s Overdrive Soul Skill is the same as Salamander’s, except it does more damage. If you want to use board clearing and you don’t want to hurt your guys too much, use Salamander. Otherwise, use this guy. For late game use, XXXX is probably better, but generally these kinds of Soul Skills don’t see much play.
[card=176]EX: The Red Mantle / DeFau[/card] is the lowest level anti-defense card in the game, and he’s tied for the position of fastest. For a level 2, 20 HP and 10 AT are kind of unimpressive. Not that Gowen will be complaining about getting another AGI 4 level 2 card, but generally they can do better. Really, it’s all about his Open Skill. First of all, having his anti-defense power on an Open Skill makes it almost impossible to avoid. It’s the only unavoidable, instantaneous solution for a high DF enemy other than Dispel. Second, it’s the most LeBeau-directed of the anti-DF EX Cards. Not only does it render LeBeau’s Soul Skill useless, it even penalizes the enemy for using it! It’s great justice, but to make it worth playing you’ll need some alternate uses for this ability. One interesting use would be for turning the enemy’s temporary DF bonuses into permanent AT bonuses. However, since this is an Open Skill timing it may be impossible, and the enemy would get back the DF next turn, anyway. One good thing about this card is that at level 2, it’s the only EX card you could consider using with another Sphere. It’s no harder to use than Dispel, and you get a unit out of it. Also, notice his Card Sub-type is Mage Soldier, generally reserved only for Falkow Units. Interesting.
Now we’re on to the EX version of one of the strongest cards in the Basic Set, [card=178]EX: Azure Dragon - East / Vordore.[/card] He’s sometimes considered the weakest of the EX Cards, but I disagree. Although, his exact role in the present Falkow strategies is a bit questionable. First, as a level 3 Falkow unit he’s a bit weak in AT, but a bit strong in AGI. Unfortunately, Falkow usually has better luck making AGI happen that making AT happen. Ironically, he’s most useful in combination with his older, higher level self – provided the standard Vordore is covered by a Sylph. EX: Vordore is not such a good replacement for any of the standard Falkow level 3’s, however it’s possible that he would fare better in a low-DF Falkow File. Sounds strange, but Sorcerer Guard is already going out of style, and by the time this guy comes out your Sea Hunter will be long gone. This will give you a big advantage against other Falkow Files who still rely on DF, Lawtia files that rely on night or everyone’s favorite Soul Skill, and Gowen Files that try to throw multiple Dryads on a Brave Soldier or the like. Remember, for Vordore to be effective he doesn’t need to go before the enemy, he only needs to go before the rest of your attackers. It’s still a bit of a stretch, but this strategy might fare better after the second set comes out. But wait, didn’t I say at the beginning that I really liked this card? Well, that’s because of its Soul Skill, Flash of the Heavens. Now, normally Soul Skills that pump up your guys are a waste, but I’m not so sure in this case. +10 attack to all units could make a difference to Spheres that have trouble with damage, and +10 DF is a Dryad Soul Skill built in to another Soul Skill! Now, a permanent +1 AGI is the last bonus. This is one of only a few effects in the game that gives permanent AGI, and none of the others hit all your units. Using this Soul Skill on a group of units weak in any one or two of these areas can turn things around. I once dueled someone who had three Vordores mixed into his Soul Cards, meaning over the course of the game pretty much every unit had one Flash of the Heavens effect on them at some point, the longer lived units had two, and occasionally a lucky unit would be blessed by all three! A bit of a waste, maybe. But surprisingly easy to time for certain Spheres.
That’s all I got, I hope that made up for skipping a week. I’ll be back next week with my usual single card review.