How do I defeat Primclone?
Written by Edgar Figaro   
Monday, 04 January 2010 14:43

EX: The Magician / PrimrosePrimclone refers to a combination of:EX: The Magician / Primrose and Cyclone. A Primclone file will typically open with skipping the first turn and Proxy of Flame / Pullermia on turn two. On turn 3 the Primcloner will play an SP generating grimoire like Meaning of Failure or Rapid Growth. On around turn 5, the Primcloner can play Primrose. Her open skill, Ignorance of the Masses, makes all friendly units drop to level 1 and all enemy units get their level lowered by 2. Note the condition that Gowen must be level 6 or higher for this open skill to take place. By turn 5, the opposing field will generally have three or more cards on the field and if they are all level 4 or less, they will all now be dropped to level 2 or less. Primrose is followed on the next turn with Cyclone, which returns all units level 2 or less. Often the Primcloner is the only one with a unit (Primrose) remaining on the field following this combination. The first soul skill you might expect from a Primcloner would be either Dryad Soldier for the +3 to Gowen or 2nd Dragonrider / Resource which counters a double Shade opening followed by Iczer Attacks. The second through fourth soul skills for Primclone frequently include one or more Solar Prince / Verlaat’s to return cards and grimoires which may have been sent to the cemetery. The additional 1 SP is useful, but the fact that Verlaat provides two life points is crucial.

Primclone File Basics:

  • Proxy of Flame / Pullermia x 1-2
  • Meaning of Failure x 1-3
  • Rapid Growth x 1-3
  • EX: The Magician / Primrose x 2-3
  • Cyclone x 1-3
  • Forest Hero / Athira Shin x 3 - And/Or - Dragon Slayer / Bringer x 3
  • Shear Winds x 1-2

Primrose File Variants:

  • Lady Paladin / Mirelia x 3
  • Flame Emperor / Allind x 2-3
  • Steel Bladesman / Bazgar x 3
  • Forest Sorceress / Anttila x 3
  • Heierrat Revolver Bladesman x 3
  • Earth Dragon x 3

Forest Hero / Athira ShinAs of December 2009, Primclone files utilize Pullermia, Primrose, and Cyclone, as well as either Forest Hero / Athira Shin or Dragon Slayer / Bringer (display currently “secret”). At least one file also utilizes Flame Emperor / Allind to provide a devastating field-clearing opening skill, while another utilizes Forest Sorceress / Anttila to generate copious SP. Many players are dismayed when they face Primclone. However, we live in an environment where Primclone is lurking and Iczers need to know how to defeat it. That is the purpose of this article. I want to credit Arakis, Exemplar, and Nehless for their terrific input into this article.

Luck can be defined as preparation meeting opportunity. When Iczers are unprepared for Primclone, they can see themselves as “unlucky” that they got matched up with a Primcloner, or they can adapt their file. To beat Primclone will require perhaps 2 cards to be substituted in your deck and perhaps one or two soul skills. It makes perfect sense to counter whatever the most powerful file in the Meta at any given time. When the Meta shifts, you may have to shift your 2 cards and soul skills.

Level (Card and Sphere) Manipulation
The heart of Primclone is the cost effectiveness of Cyclone. Cyclone costs 4 SP, but has the potential to remove 6-9 SP of opposing cards. If successful, Cyclone has removed multiple turns of cards and put the other player behind the power curve as far as field development. The obvious avenue of countering Primclone is to counter Cyclone. Miracle Fruit and Reforestation are counters that attempt to get card levels up above two so Cyclone fails. There is a catch involving timing though. If you play Miracle Fruit or Reforestation prior to Primrose coming out, the Primcloner can just Nuke your units (i.e. with Ball of Flame or Fire Arrows), then play the Primclone combo to wipe the field. Grimoire activation occurs before Open skills, so if you play Reforestation on the same turn Primrose comes out, your Reforestation will be wasted. Cyclone is usually going to follow Primrose the next turn, so you will often play Miracle Fruit or Reforestation on the same turn the Primcloner plays Cyclone. Grimoire activation is random, so that means you have a 50/50 chance of saving your units. If it works, you will have an advantage over the Primcloner who just spent a lot more SP than you did. If it fails, you may have just lost the game.

Shield Coate / FierteShield Coat / Fierte is quite effective against Primclone because of the soul skill, Shield of Truth, which sets the sphere level of both Iczers to zero. Primclone depends on a Gowen level of 6 for Primrose’s Ignorance of the Masses and Falkow level 4 for Cyclone. Fierte is potentially devastating to the Primcloner. Of course, Fierte is a four star rarity card and requires a specialized file to play since your levels drop to zero too.

SP Drain
SP Drain is a strategy employed by Lawtia to minimize the ability to fuel Primclone. The turn a Primcloner initiates Primclone, he will need 10 SP:

  • EX: The Magician / Primrose 4 SP
  • Cyclone 4 SP
  • Gowen level from 3 to 6 3 SP
  • Falkow level from 3 to 4 1 SP
  • SP Generation between turns -2 SP

If Pullermia is closed, you can count 3 SP as “banked” towards this total and if Dryad Soldier is the first soul skill you can count an additional 3 SP. Here’s the typical Primclone SP progression in a non-SP drain environment

  1. Turn 1 Skip End with 5 SP
  2. Turn 2 Proxy of Flame / Pullermia End with 1 SP
  3. Turn 3 Meaning of Failure / Rapid Growth End with 4-5 SP
  4. Turn 4 Pullermia probably closed by now First turn you might end with 7+ SP

If the Primcloner has Dryad Soldier as the first soul skill, turn 4 could see the initiation of Primclone assuming Pullermia was closed on turn 3. Typically turn 5 is the most likely scenario for Primrose to be played and turn 6 sees Cyclone. SP Drain files aim to disrupt achieving that SP goal of 10. A typical opening might be Shade on turns 1 and 2. The Primcloner is likely to respond to a Shade opening with Rapid Growth on turn 2, then Pullermia on turn 3. Beware making more than one Iczer Attack when you have 2 Shades on the field. Pullermia will trigger one life point and if the first soul skill is 2nd Dragonrider / Resource the Shades will perish if you have Iczer Attacked twice already. Here’s the Primcloner’s SP progression vs Shade/Shade:

  1. Turn 1 Skip End with 4 SP
  2. Turn 2 Rapid Growth End with 3 SP
  3. Turn 3 Proxy of Flame / Pullermia End with 2 SP

Mad Priest is quite effective against Primclone because of its Auto skill, Blessing of Divine Insanity. Shade on turn 1, then Mad Priest on turn 2 is a very strong opening for SP Drain. The Primcloner is likely to play Return on turn 3 to counter. No problem. Play Shade on turn 3 with Mad Priest again on turn 4. He’ll run out of Returns soon. Expect to see a Ball of Flame take out your Mad Priest and Shades. This is actually a good thing as Ball of Flame takes away 4 SP. The Primcloner is playing your game, not his.

Another SP Drain gambit is Shade on turn 1, followed by Exchange of Souls on turn 2. If the Primcloner plays Rapid Growth on turn 2, there is a 50/50 chance that you will do nothing to him because his Rapid Growth has “banked” the 3 SP. However, if your Exchange of Souls goes off after Rapid Growth, you will have spent 2 SP (Shade + Exchange of Souls) to destroy 4 SP. I don’t recommend this tactic, but I can testify to its effectiveness if you get lucky.

Of course the ultimate in SP Drain is Succubus. Her action skill, Nightmare, is absolutely devastating to a Primcloner. However, it is unlikely this form of SP Drain will occur outside of an Eternal Night file because her open skill, Night Summoner, makes it night when she is played and it will be two turns before it will be night again. Back to back Succubi can work, but again, a file that has multiple Succubi is most likely going to be an EN file. Most Primcloners will strive to close Succubi.

Grimoire Bane
Units which can drain grimoires (Mage Knight of Regus, Lycanthrope [Dagon], Crest Veteran Swordswoman, Black Cat / Fellana, Ancient Magic Pixie) can send Cyclone to the cemetery. Magma Golem's soul skill, Magma Eruption, or the Falkow spell Lost Tome are unlikely to be successful because a Primclone file has ~ between 7-10 grimoires so the odds of sending the Cyclone to the cemetery are low unless you drain repeatedly. Primcloners who run their files with only one Cyclone are vulnerable to Grimoire Bane. Beware the possibility of a Verlaat soul skill returning a Cyclone to the Primcloner’s file.

The Dao of Pixies
Mage PixyMany people already utilize Miracle Fruit, Reforestation, Shield Coat / Fierte, SP Drain and Grimoire Bane as the standard counters to Primclone. But don’t underestimate the power of pixies! Mage Pixy has two excellent skills which can defeat Primclone. Most important is Anti Magic Zone, a soul skill which prohibits any grimoire card being played by either Iczer for five turns. Mage Pixy also has an open skill, Hero Bind, which prohibits your rival from playing a Character card for two turns. Mage Pixy is an excellent first soul skill when you are facing Primclone because that file is highly dependent on grimoires. Most Primcloners rely on spells for SP generation (Meaning of Failure and Rapid Growth), Crowd Control (Ball of Flame), Assassin/Salamander Soldier Protection (Shear Winds, Petrification and Time Stop) and Field Removal (Return, Sweeping Tidal Wave, Disjunction, and of course, Cyclone). Archer Pixy’s open skill, Lock Arrow, prohibits the Primcloner from playing a card higher than level 3 for two turns. This blocks both Primrose and Cyclone, as well as a number of other cards in the Primclone File (Allind, Athira Shin, Bringer, etc.)

Lawtia’s Deadly Tool: Crest Spy
Crest SpyTypically, Primclone opens with a skip on the first turn. If Lawtia opens with Shade, the Primcloner will then respond with Rapid Growth. Set 6 offers Lawtia the opportunity to play Crest Spy on the second turn. On turn 3, the Primcloner will play Pullermia and the Lawtia player can use Crest Spy’s Infiltrate and Destroy trait to reduce the Primcloner’s LP by 3. On turn 4 the Primcloner will likely play Return so the Lawtia player can play another Crest Spy that turn. On turn 5, the Primcloner does not have enough SP for another Return and cannot do enough damage to Crest Spy to kill it so the only chance of killing it is Pullermia. The Lawtia player can play Flesh Recycle to destroy that hope and follow up with another Iczer attack to reduce the Primcloner’s LP by 3. On turn 6, the Primcloner loses another LP when Pullermia leaves the field. That’s 7 LP destroyed in 6 turns! Good momentum for the Lawtia player and solid opportunity for victory.

Individual File Recommendations
Eternal Morning/Shrine Knights/Lapierre Files: These files consist of multiple level 2-3 cards. Because there are so many units and quite a few level 2’s, I would advise against Miracle Fruit or Reforestation as your counters. Instead, I recommend Mage Pixy Soul Skills in slots 1 and 3. Eternal Morning and Lapierre files do quite well in a spell-free environment because spells like Return, Fire Arrow, Ball of Flame, Curse Spell, Pure Terror, Counterattack, Burning Sun, and Hero’s Strike can either kill large number of cards or disrupt key characters (Lapierre or Verlaat). Shrine Knights is really hurt by these soul skill alterations for two reasons. The first SK soul skill is typically something like Wise Swordsman / Steel or Roaming Predator / Asuet because they give +1 SP (and SK files are hungry for SP). Using Mage Pixy instead of Steel or Asuet detracts from SK file development and momentum. Switching the 3rd SK soul skill to Mage Pixy is a huge disadvantage over 3rd Shrine Leader / Ridrea. In fact, SK files with Ridrea soul skills can shrug off grimoires better than most files. By using Ridrea to revive cards, sometimes two shrine knight cards remain closed in the open phase and “miss out” on damage intended for them. EM might typically have Asuet or Steel for the first soul skill, but in general EM has very strong SP generation, so can fairly easily afford Mage Pixy. What this means is when Primclone is at its zenith in the Meta, SK may be a poor file choice. When Primclone is in declining prevalence, SK will likely do relatively better.

Command Unit / Violet X2Eternal Undead/Magic Doll Files: These files also consist of multiple level 2-3 cards, but they have two key differences, first in their resiliency (how difficult it is to close them or the level boost with use of Parts Recycle) and second in their relatively lower numbers (3-4 cards on the field instead of 5-6 with EM or SK). These files are thus excellent candidates for two Miracle Fruits. The time to play Miracle Fruit is the turn after Primrose has lowered your unit levels (which is when one expects Cyclone). There is a 50/50 chance of success. If you are lucky and win the initiative for Grimoire activation, you have spent 2 SP to save probably 5-6 SP of cards. The Primcloner has just paid 5 SP (one to bump Falkow to 4, plus 4 for Cyclone) and may end up returning nothing. This initiative roll can be the game. If you have two Miracle Fruits, you can be more aggressive in the timing of your Miracle Fruit and play it the turn you expect Primrose to be played. This will force the Primcloner to try to close your cards -- something you are good at resisting if Undead or can reverse with Parts Recycle if Magic Dolls. Because Primrose drops your cards by 2 levels and Miracle Fruit boosts your levels by 3, Return is a losing proposition for the Primcloner if he tries to return a level 2 card that you boosted up to 5, but had dropped to 3 with Primrose. Since EU and MD files tend to have mostly level 3 cards, Fire and Gaia / Rougeerst might be an interesting soul skill, but I’ve never seen this combination in play. Make sure you don’t use Reforestation with a Rougeerst soul skill! (All the more reason to use Miracle Fruits.) Magic Doll files might even consider 3 Miracle Fruits with Command Unit / Violet X2’s Dead Twice Over skill. Note the usefulness of using Miracle Fruit on Athira Shin to stop Gaia’s Rage for a turn.

Wizard Kingdom File: This type of file might be able to utilize Reforestation better than most depending on what Level 3’s you are using. If you have the type of Wizard Kingdom that has level 3’s and 4’s (Mage Knight of Regus, Guard Leader / Renally, Magic Greatsword Soldier, Rapier Fencer of Regus, Sorcerer Monk of Regus), Reforestation works quite well. By using an early Sylph instead of Song Sorceress, you might end up with the dream scenario where the Primcloner pays 5 SP to return your Sylph while all your other units remain on the field. If you tend towards the level 2 Wizard Kingdom units (Wizard Archer of Regus, Black Cat / Felanna, Sky Staff Sorceress), then Mage Pixy and Grim Bane is a good approach. If you can pull enough spells from the Primcloner’s file in those 5 turns, the game might be over. WK files often use Assassin or Salamander Soldier as a soul skill and the Primcloner will counter with something like Shear Winds. Instead of a second Mage Pixy soul skill in slot 3, consider Spell Lock. This takes a great deal of skill to time successfully, but you can increase the odds of removing a high level unit this way. If you suspect Allind this turn or next, play Spell Lock. If he does play Allind that turn, he won’t be able to play Shear Winds, Petrification or Time Lock the following turn to engage Allind. If he didn’t play Allind, he won’t be able to the next turn either out of fear for the same reason. Use these turns to Iczer Attack relentlessly. If some of the triggered soul skills kill some of your units, it is all to the good -- You will have more SP for Iczer Attacks!

Eternal Night/Gowen Rush (Gowen Level ~=2): These Files face the ever present danger of a field wipe via Cyclone. The upside is these files are perfect for utilizing Fierte as a first or second soul skill. Mage Pixy works wonderfully as a first or second soul skill for either file. Even if Primclone did not exist, Mage Pixy as a soul skill is worthy of consideration with these two files because they are quite vulnerable to field wipe or return from Grimoires. My recommendation is Mage Pixy as the first soul skill and Fierte as the second to give them more time to pump up their levels. EN and Gowen Rush with Fierte are very likely to beat up on any file that relies on high level cards, so going with Mage Pixy and Fierte is probably serious overkill. When either of these files encounter an opponent with a large number of life points, they should open with something to trigger their own soul skills if the Primcloner will not accommodate. Options include Magic Doll – Defective –, Soulbane Swordswoman, or Exploding Spores. Gowen Rush can also use Mage Pixy’s open skill, Hero Bind, to prevent the Primcloner from playing character cards like Pullermia, Primrose, Athira Shin, or Allind. Archer Pixie’s Open Skill will work even better, preventing Cyclone also. This strategy is also quite effective against other files when you know they depend on getting out a Lawtia game changing character near the end (Dalos, Afel, Zugateroza, Zangadylan, Zalzagul). EN is particularly effective against Primclone because it can make use of Fierte, Mage Pixy, Dagon for Grim Bane, and Succubus for SP drain – the every counter we’ve discussed in one file.

Modified Starters: In my experience, it is quite difficult to beat Primclone with only a modified starter file. You will probably need some counter cards as described above to give you a fighting chance against Primclone. Exemplar offers the following advice

“Modified lawtia starter is full of sp drain and big unit hate – things that greatly hinder Primclone. I have seen modified lawtia starter kick Primclone files down the curb. Also, Gowen Rush which appears above is technically a modified starter. Falkow starter usually converts itself into the witch -> mage knight grim bane ? bog wyvern setup these days anyway, coupled with assassin soul skills to get rid of extra great spirits. Refess starter has built in SP generation, which is crucial for recovering after Primclone. High hp units + sp generation means you can keep spamming iczers or replay all your units after the clone happens. 20X damage SS should stop rapid LP loss against a big file.

Beating Primclone simply requires a different mindset... play only a few units early on but play units that can rush down Athira-shin if need be. Generate SP to keep up the onslaught of iczer attacks. Eternal Morning for example, plays only their first 3 units Weiss ? Verlaat ? Orfen and just spams Iczers while keeping some reserve sp to play a miracle fruit.

In the end, dealing with Primclone means SP or sphere drain, Grimoire bane or lock, big unit hate, or level increase. Character lock is something that doesn't happen too often but can be accomplished with mage pixy like you've stated above or fighter pixy or chase wing / volfield etc.”

Logress adds:
“Primclone, at its roots, is a file that combines the benefits of a Returning File and a big unit File. If your File is a strong match for either one of those, it’ll be a really big help. And, since both File types are pretty common, it’s not like you’ll be in trouble if your enemy isn’t Primclone. For a File that’s strong against Returning, look at cards with level manipulation. In addition to the ones listed above, there’s Folrart Lady Paladin, Heierrat Horseman, Esria, non-EX Primrose and several Soul Skills. To make Open Skills on units work best, however, you’ll need to play them the same turn the enemy plays Primrose. Play them on the turn of Cyclone and they won’t work at all, play them too early and the Primcloner will switch strategies. The other way to oppose level based returning is simply to play big units yourself. This has its own difficulties of course, but if you’ve got a good big unit File it might turn into a Primclone buster with just a few tweaks. The Primcloner will attempt to bring out Prim multiple times, without killing any of your units. You might be able to get around this by figuring a way to get in enough Iczer attacks during the time you have, (difficult to do for a big File) buffing your own levels after he’s Primrosed once, killing your own units somehow, or combining your big units with some of the other tactics described in this article.

Stopping big units is a bit easier than stopping a Returning File. In fact, with Heartbreak you can turn big units into a big liability, especially for the Primcloner. One of the ways Primcloners stay flexible is by letting their units go to the cemetery so they can switch strategies. Start with Primrose, if the enemy doges it or tries to recover, let Prim die and bring out Shin. The opponent floods the field to take out Shin? Let Shin die and Primclone again. With Heartbreak you can stop them from getting the SP back from anything that goes to the Cemetery. Of course, Lawtia might fight it easier to get a modest field setup and just use Death’s Embrace a few times. Not only will it drain SP, but it can prevent the enemy from being able to use a SP generating Grimoire next turn, effectively costing them another 1-2 SP. There are plenty of other cards that are strong against big unit files (especially ones that run on Characters like Primclone), like Disarmament, Angel’s Trumpet, Lycanthrope [Seraph], Heierrat Spy, Frost Bow Archer, Katana Dual Wielder / Sakura, Sorcerer Monk of Regus, Fighter Pixie, Unknown Knight / Ano (as a bonus, her Start Skill will go before Shin’s and debuff him), and of course Returners who ignore levels like Diondora, Sky Staff Sorceress, Dead Wing / Volfied and Mermaid Aquamancer. Archer Pixie’s Open Skill has been mentioned above, but I thought I’d give it another sentence or two. Her ability to delay pretty much every key card in Primclone combined with her general ability to mess up any predictable File out there sounds like a winning combination to me. Combining unit removal or Returning Soul Skills with units that can trigger Soul Skills at will, like Soulblade Swordswoman and Cassandra, will do the trick as well. Also, pay close attention to any lower level cards that can take a hit from Athira Shin or Allind, like Sea Serpent, Dual Axe Wielder, a slightly buffed Folrart Hammer Soldier, or anything with Refresh, Undying or Living Dead. If they can’t close your units quickly, they can be overwhelmed even just by two or three units.

In Alteil, the strongest field setups usually involve one or two ‘super units’ or 4-6 units that get stronger in numbers. However, for maximum versatility take a look at the viability of having a File full of units that can be assembled onto the field in different arrangements of 2-3 man ‘teams’ of low to medium level units, each arrangement for a different situation. You can of course support them with Grims and Open Skills, as well. This way, in the case of a field wipe you will take a max of 2-3 turns to recover, and you’ll be prepared for anything. As more and more cards are available, this strategy will become more viable and more fun to play. As of now I haven’t seen it too often, except in a few medium Gowen and multi-color Proxy files, but there is still more potential here. And remember, any File with a lot of medium level units can be played that way when faced with heavy field wiping.”

I’d love to hear from other Iczers who have come up with clever ways to beat Primclone. Please contact me with suggestions or ideas I’ve missed.

Good luck hunting the Primcloners!

Inigo Montoya