Wednesday, March 15, 2017

3 Most Forgotten Straight-Edges

Welcome back nerds and nerdettes, it's time for another opinion piece. Today I'll be discussing the forgotten Straight Edges of this format. I call them Straight Edges because they aren't quite Rulers, at least in the competitive sense. These are the Rulers that had promise or potential, but just didn't make a splash in the meta, or fell short in one or more areas. I'll only be addressing Lapis Cluster cards, since Alice was pretty hit and miss, and we're almost rid of those sets anyway.

Lunya, the Wolf Girl

Lunya, the Wolf GirlOne of the flagship cards of the cluster, Lunya is the starter deck Ruler for the red deck. The deck itself isn't bad, although it's one of the least competitive of the available decks, and I believe it's the only one that hasn't seen competitive play in some form or fashion. Mikage and Fiethsing were both top-tier Rulers (Fieth still is), Mercurius saw some rogue tops early in the CFC days, and the Fairy Tale core from Millium has seen one or two rogue tops in mono-light decks. Lunya, to my knowledge, is the only of these decks whose Ruler or core hasn't seen play at a major event. But why is that?

Lunya's design is based around aggro. On top of the standard Energize + Judgment that all Lapis Rulers have, her unique effect allows you to ping a resonator for 100 damage whenever one attack with one of your resonators. This is one of the only Ruler effects that encourages aggression, especially early aggression, and I personally like the way it plays off of red's theme in a unique way. It combo's with Demonflame very well, but there really aren't too many effects in the game that need things to be damaged. Unfortunately, the Ruler herself can't generate advantage without having attacking resonators, and resonator-reliant strategies always tend to die to meta/control decks.

Nyarlathotep, the True False LegendWhen you flip her is when she really loses her luster. 1200/800 aren't the worst stats, and exemplifies red's aggressive nature with an ATK-heavy stat distribution, and she has the flagship keyword of red, i.e. Swiftness. The downside to this is that she can die to double Artemis Bow, or Bow + Space-Time, which most 1000 DEF Rulers are just outside the range of. She also has the Limit keyword, so she won't remain on the field consistently. Her main effect is that she deals 800 damage to a resonator on-flip, and herein lies the problem. While she doesn't have to burn herself (and thus kill herself) if there isn't anything on the field, the ability is basically a worse Sylvia. The 'ole red dragon deals a whopping 1000 damage on enter, can hit J-Rulers with her burn, and recovers three stones whenever her damage kills something. Compare that to Lunya's meager 800 burn, with no extra benefits, and you see the mediocrity.

So how could we have remedied this? What would it take to push her into the light of the meta? Well, as far as her Ruler ability goes, I'm not sure we need too much improvement. She's a bit of a lackluster Mikage, and while you don't have to pay for her burn, it's much less flexible. Maybe if her burn was 200, or even 300 (although that's pushing it a bit), to be able to kill off most chump blockers and mana dorks. If red had more effects that synergized with having damaged cards, like Demonflame, then she'd be stronger. Her J-Ruler side needs a bit of an overhaul, though. The idea is to flip her, burn something, then swing in (letting her Limit counters drop), flip back to a Ruler, then flip again to burn something else. It's a cute strategy, but not a terribly viable one, especially for a whopping 4 judgment cost (well above curve for the rest of the Rulers in this cluster). If she had a more impactful flip, like Melgis 2.0, then she'd be a lot stronger. Or a much cheaper judgment and only Limit 1, to immediately flip back. As she stands now, though, she just doesn't pack enough of a punch to really make a dent in the meta. The absolute lack of Cthulhu support doesn't help either.

Umr at-Tawil, Master of 1000 Keys

Speaking of Cthulhus, here's another testament to their lack of coherent support (and love). Umr at-Tawil (or Yog-Sothoth, if you're into pronouncing words) was the darkness Ruler from Curse of the Frozen Casket. Poor Cthulhu's got very little support this cluster, and even less of that was coherent, but that's an article for another day. Yog suffers from an acute condition of what I call "being bad."

As a Ruler, he has literally nothing to offer. He judgments for BX, has energize for black, and... that's it. He doesn't have a unique Ruler ability, meaning you get no utility out of him during the early turns or after he dies post-flip. I suppose the X cost in his judgment is supposed to be what's "unique" about him, but... well, maybe his J-Ruler side makes up for it?

Umr at-Tawil, Master of 1000 KeysHe enters the field with X+1 Limit counters, so your total judgment cost equates to how many counters he gets. At the end of your turn you nuke all resonators on the field whose total cost is equal to the number of Limit counters on him, then you remove 1 counter. At the beginning of any turn, if you have no Limit counters on Yog, you lose 500 life and then flip back. He's a fairly decent field nuke, but the fact that he only hits one cost per turn makes him slow, and he has to wait until the end of the turn to get his nuke off. Attacking or blocking reduces his Limit count, so manipulating them gets a tad awkward. And since most decks don't run staggered costs, you won't really be getting much utility out of most of his counters.

So how would we make him playable? Easy: Give the man a Ruler skill. There's tons of potential here, since he's a generic kind of Ruler. An effect that puts Limit counters on him, and lets him invest in his judgment, would be cool. Or maybe a Cthulhu-related effect, to give that race some much needed love. Maybe put an "Encounter with Cthulhu"-type effect on his Ruler side. His J-Ruler side honestly doesn't need too much of a change. Maybe if he killed every resonator with cost equal to or less than the number of counters on him. I don't think a field nuke every turn, for both players, would be too terrible. Maybe if he had an effect that scaled off of the number of things he killed, like how the Vingolf 3 Lapis worked. Like Lunya, he just doesn't pack enough of a punch.

The Monkey King Born from Stone

The big man himself, Wukong. He had a lot going for him, and he's definitely one of the strongest J-Rulers in the game in terms of potential ATK and DEF. Being able to search for Flying Clouds is a strong Ruler ability, making for a good will sink in the early/mid game. A total judgment cost of 4 is steep, but in a deck that tends to run ramp, it's not too bad. He can make it substantially cheaper by having his two minions in play, but we'll talk about them later.

Great Sky Sage, Sun WukongAs a J-Ruler, Wukong hits like a truck. A minimum of 1800/1800 with Flying, and the ability to immediately field all of the clouds you searched, makes him a total Behemoth. Unfortunately, his only other ability just searches for his two minions and adds them to your hand. It's not terribly useful. There isn't too much to say about him either, since he's more or less a meathead. Wukong's power comes from hitting hard and hitting fast, rather than generating plusses or controlling your opponent.

So how do we improve him? The most obvious answer: Kill the minions. Wukong has a huge reliance on Sha Wujing and Zhu Bajie, which honestly isn't great card design. His usefulness, and power level, are directly reliant on how strong those two cards are. It's hard enough to get one solid card designed, but making one that relies on two other cards being well-designed is just asking for trouble. And wouldn't you know it, they're pretty bad. Sha Wujing (aka Orochimaru) gives Wukong +200/+200, Precision, and makes your opponent's chants cost 1 more will. He's seen some play in Lumia decks recently, as a countermeasure to counter spells, but that's really more a testament to player innovation than his card design. Zhu Bajie (aka Gannondorf) makes additions and regalia cost one more, and gives Wukong +200/+200 and Swiftness. This may see some play against the new Kaguya deck if she picks up steam, but other than that... meh. Both of these guys' jobs can be done way better with regalia, since they're very costly 3-will investments. It's not feasible to play both of them before Judgment, and have them survive. Searching them doesn't do much other than put 2 cards in your hand. If they were Inheritance cards, or 2-drops, or had actual advantage-generating abilities then they might have been good. Currently, though, the majority of Wukong's utility is focused around having them (with no actual way to play them for cheap), and unless he gets some other support cards, I don't expect him to see any play.

That's it so far. I wanted to include the newest Millium on here, but it's a little too early to complain about him, and I'm also just lazy and wanted to cut this at 3 Rulers. Jordan has hinted at another Ascension Campaign, so maybe some of these guys will get the Alisaris treatment. Fingers crossed, right?

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