So I wrote this last night when I was out of my mind tired, and I'm not sure how much sense it makes, but this was my impression of a Refess tank deck at oh god AM in the morning. I threw out some of these ideas yesterday in the forums as they developed. I guess the basic thing I got out of it was that with the other 3 spheres, the standard deck builds need to be designed to win. Once you can do that constantly, you work on tweaking things so you stop your opponent from stopping your win. With a Refess tank deck, your build needs to be designed to draw. Once you can do that consistently, you work on tweaking things so you can win. The benefit is that your opponent is always trying to stop you from winning, but he usually isn't trying to stop you from drawing, so there's actually less resistance to the first part. Anyway, here is my post...
Okay, remember my last post? At this point I'm pretty sure the Japanese do have an extra brain lobe for playing Refess, and that lobe is filled with... patience. So much patience that it's really not a compliment anymore. It's actually kind of scary.
I've completed my first day of Refess, and I fought all day with a pure Refess tank deck, slow as slow can be. It was quite a learning experience. Ironically, after all this talk my first 4 out of 5 battles were against fellow Refess players. Then, I started hitting the Lawtia, nothing but Lawtia. It took a lot of long, harsh beat-downs, but I think I got the hang of it. As has been said before, the Refess tank deck is a stalemate deck. I tried a lot of variations, but I found that the only way I could make it work was a really perverse way of thinking: Stalemates are a good thing. Barely surviving is a good thing. I know it's been said that a lot of times it seems like if you play Refess perfectly you stalemate, and if you slip up you lose. Well, I've fought a lot of Lawtia variants now, a Eskatia Night deck, a bunch of double LeBeaus, a triple LeBeau, a few Zugataroza LeBeaus, and a SP drainer. I'm pretty sure if your deck is put together right and you don't give in to restlessness or the temptation to burn SP before the endgame, then you can put yourself in a situation where if you are unlucky you Draw and if you're lucky you win -- At least against Lawtia. Maybe Gowen will teach me some new lessons tomorrow.
Anyway, let me explain how the winning happened to me. I found I could get to an endgame setup fairly easily. I'd have Phoenix, an SP generator, and if I was lucky, maybe one other card. I often put LeBeau's soul skill on my Phoenix, for a huge number since almost everything else in my deck has been clobbered and the Cemetery is about full. Since at one point I usually can get two big guys out, a Sphinx and a Zagar for example, I usually also have a good buffer of SP from when they got clobbered like everything else. Since until now I've just been tanking, my enemy usually has way more units on the field then he's used to. Maybe he's gotten a LeBeau or two off, but he usually has a ton of Shades and other things out that can't really hurt me. Remember, I have an SP generator and a buffer of SP, so even without LeBeau (because he could always Dispel, or use Assassin's soul skill, or do some kind of Returning thing -- oh yea, and to deal with this situation you need a buffer of LP at the end because while you're replacing your Phoenix he'll beat the crap out of you) the Phoenix takes a long time to take down. I find that two Phoenixes out helps, because his damage gets randomly split between them, it takes longer to take them down. Once I'm in this position, I start attacking. 30 Damage isn't much, and it bounces off his high DF guys, but if it hits Eskatia, Annarose, a Shade or a Magic Doll then you might do some LP damage. Keep in mind, the less Soul Skills you've triggered the better at this point, since 90% of Soul Skills won't bother the Phoenix much but they play hell with your standard tanks, by not setting them off you've forced your enemy to take a lot longer to get to this point in the game then they'd like. So, by now you're probably thinking that if your enemy has as many units on the field as I'm describing, and he's set off a bunch of LeBeau's soul skills, then isn't this just gambling? What are your chances of really being effective? Keep in mind you'll be doing this for 10 rounds or more. You'll hit something eventually, right? Well, there are a few ways to improve your odds. First, if you can safely have two Phoenixes out, that doubles your chances. Second, and the Japanese players told me to try this one, try putting two Magic Weapon cards in your deck. In the end game 1 or 2 SP for Gowen won't matter so much, and if you get your Phoenix's attack up to 50 or 70 in the situation I'm describing, then your enemy is going to have some serious problems. But, I know what you're thinking. To play this way, you've already let your enemy set off a whole bunch of LeBeau Soul Skills. What good is 70 damage going to do? Actually, a whole lot. You see, since you're pretty much getting smacked around the whole game until now, you've sent very little to the Cemetery on your enemy's side. However, he's probably been in a hurry to set off his LeBeau's so he's probably not revived a few guys to force them to go off. This means he's got a lot less in the Cemetery than you're used to seeing, and 70 damage just might be enough. And if you can't win? Then you stalemate, which kind of has to be okay with you to play this way. The secret really is to never burn your SP away. Slow the enemy down, collect SP, and don't be tempted to use any Grimoire or high SP cost abilities until the end game, and then only use them at a rate so that you won't deplete your reserves before turn 30. Now, there is a question of how victories actually come about using this strategy. Basically, if your enemy's killable units are greater or less than his remaining life points when you enter the end game, then I'd say you've got an even chance of winning by the numbers. In reality, most Lawtia players have no patience, and they look at the board, and then they either make a risky move (like pulling out an Assassin when they don't really have the SP to support it) which probably increases your chances of winning (while also adding a certain possibility of losing as well), or they just give up because they don't want to go through the effort of fighting you to a draw. I'm not sure how I feel about winning like that. I'm pretty sure it's not fun, although I do kind of like seeing if I'm lucky enough to win at "Kill the Shade in the Endgame." All said and done, I think it's possible to build a streamlined end game Refess tank deck (but it has to be streamlined) that will get you say, 20% wins, 5% losses, and 75% Draws against Lawtia players who are equal in skill to you. That's a great win ratio, but boy is it a lot of work -- and humbling, basically you succeed by letting them beat you senseless for half an hour.
Anyway, that's what I've learned from my first day. My guess is most high level Refess players already have figured this much out and decided that spending 30+ minutes on every match was making your head explode, and have been trying to find an alternate ever since. Well, I have a few different things I'd like to try (oh, dear god, I hope there is a different way to play Refess), but for now I'm going to see how this strategy plays out against Falkow and Gowen.
"Scissors are overpowered. Rock is fine." -Paper