Side attacking is one of the finer points of Weiss Schwarz.
Not quite a side attack per se…
What is a side attack?
A side attack is an attack that is declared normally. Effects that trigger upon a character attacking will still trigger when a side attack is declared, unless the character specifically says otherwise. Side attacks trigger like frontal and direct attacks. However, the soul is subtracted from the character in front of the character that is making the side attack. Side attacks cannot be made when there is no opposing character. Side attacks also do not have a Battle Step where character powers are compared, and also do not use the Counter Step.
Side attacking prevents this from happening, at least to your characters!
Side attacking allows us to manipulate how damage works in a game of WS. At first glance, the most obvious way of using side attacks is to shrink the soul value of an attack to ensure a greater probability of it hitting. But there are some less visible nuances to side attacking that can be used to one’s advantage.
When should I side attack?
As stated before, the first and most obvious time to side attack is to deliberately reduce the soul value of your attacking character to ensure the damage hits, and/or limit the amount of damage being dealt to your opponent. However, there may be specific points of the game where side attacking is optimal, and some points where side attacking is forced.
To do this, we’ll go through how side attacking works at each level.
Let’s look at the start of every game, level 0. The goal of level 0 is not to win the game outright. It’s a bit of a trap for newer players to attempt to smash their opponent with tons of damage at the start of the game. An extremely small number of games of WS will ever end with a player at level 0. Because we play for what will happen most of the time, (that’s why we have the math!) we have to play the level 0 game to get to level 1, and get there first.
How does that work?
Going from level 0 to level 1 gives us the first power spike in a game. Characters become considerably larger, and CX combos have significantly more impact. Side attacking at level 0 for 0 damage is somewhat rare, but not impossible. In fact, a number of sets have characters that gain power and a level if they are completely alone on the stage. In some cases, there are characters that increase the soul of the character opposing them, only to gain a very large power boost if the damage cancels.
Inserted and presented without comment.
If you have a character to attack with, you should, but don’t sacrifice your character with lower power. Build stock, and side attack!
Don’t I lose a card anyway if I do that?
Losing a card early on is kind of like a positional sacrifice in chess. Yes, you will have lost material (1 card), but you will still have gained stock. What’s more is that your opponent (ideally) will have stayed at relatively low damage. Consider this: every turn, each player has the option to net two cards (draw, clock, draw two). The overall effect is that the player has seen three new cards per turn. Losing one card early on when the danger of losing is extremely low (almost zero), is unlikely to matter later on.
Ideally, the opponent is forced to get you to level 1 first and is stuck at 4 or fewer cards in clock.
But please, remember to keep things sporting.
If you are on the other side of things though, you may be forced to use level 0 characters against your opponent’s level 1 characters. Side attacking in this situation is still viable, especially if you want to minimize damage. Why? Remember that the chances of an attack for 2 soul landing are very close to the chances of an attack for 1 soul landing. By clearing your own center stage (especially early on), it allows your opponent to deal 6 damage, provided no soul triggers occur, which is double the normally expected damage!
Level 1 may seem like an odd time to side attack. Characters at level 1 will mostly have 1 soul, and if they side attack other level 1 characters, the chance of doing one or more damage is not exactly favorable. However, there are a couple of circumstances where making the side attack is favorable to the frontal attack.
If you know that your opponent potentially has a Backup effect in his or her hand, and you would rather use your own, a side attack can make sense. There are some pros and cons to this approach. On one hand, you are guaranteeing (at least until your turn ends) that your character will stick around for at least the next turn. You are also building the same amount of stock that you would if you made the frontal attack. However, if your opponent is aware that you may be side attacking to bypass their Backup effect, he or she might turn around and do the same thing to you the following turn! If that happens, it could mean one of a few things depending on the powers of the characters. If the characters have equal power, the side attack is indicative of a Backup effect in hand. If his or her character is at lower power, it is not very telling of much (except that they don’t want to give away a character for free). If your character is of lower power, it’s very likely they know that you have a Backup effect in hand, or that they respect the possibility of you having one.
Mind games in WS? They exist!?
If you are at level 1 and your opponent is at level 0 and making a frontal attack on a character would be the same as a side attack as far as damage is concerned, in general you should make the frontal attack there.
There are also some instances where your character is already larger than your opponent’s. However, if you have a very stock-intensive level 2 and level 3 game, and if your character gains power on your opponent’s turn, side attacking is definitely favorable. The downside to this, is that the +2 soul effect is an effective answer to this plan, because it may force you to a level earlier than planned. +2 soul in this case gives the potential for 2/2/2 (most likely and efficient) damage if the opponent side attacks with their characters against your level 1 center stage.
From level 1 to level 2, side attacking becomes a bit more difficult to justify as a ‘winning’ move. This is because around level 2, characters will attack for 1-2 soul, but the 2 soul penalty is usually enough to ensure that a side attack at level 2 will usually not have any damage done at all.
This means that if you have to side attack into a level 2 character, it reads a few ways:
– You have a card with a Backup ability you want to use on the following turn (if your character is of comparable power)
– Your character is at a severe power disadvantage, and it is worth saving the damage to build up stock
– You are trying to get to level 3 first with enough stock to access effects such as Heal
However, the point of getting the opponent through level 2 is to get him or her to level 3 to close the game. Heal effects start as early as level 2, and there are some sets that have various combos and other interactions that allow for the dreaded “Heal loop” that allow the player to Heal at least once per turn. Side attacking at level 2 is also hideously inefficient. Where at level 1 it would take a single soul trigger to have an attack deal damage, a side attack at level 2 requires either a character with 2 soul to trigger a soul trigger, or a character with 1 soul to trigger a double soul trigger. Double soul triggers are restricted to CXs, which makes them less desirable to trigger.
Level 3 is the endgame, and the only reason to side attack should be to deliberately use the soul penalty to reduce damage. By this time, building stock should not be the top priority – ending the game is! However, characters don’t really get to 3 soul without the help of a CX or a soul trigger. Side attacking a level 3 character specifically is usually not going to result in much happening. It’s more common to see a level 3 character with 3 soul (usually as the result of a 1k1 effect) side attacking a level 2 character for only 1 damage. However, unless the opponent is at 3/6, it makes sense to attack for full values (as close to 2 as possible) to close the game.
That feeling when you get killed by a 1 soul attack at 3/6
If you are at level 2 and your opponent is level 3, it may make sense to make frontal attacks anyway to clear your center stage and prepare for the following turn when you will (presumably) be at level 3. This gives you the maximum opportunity to deal damage, and also the highest chances to cancel, since it does not make very much sense for the opponent to “switch” their board by pushing support characters to the front to deal one less damage each for direct attacks. Barring superior compression, an attack for 3 soul is barely better than a coin flip to hit most of the time, so it still would make sense to make the direct attacks for 3 soul. If the opponent has many cards in hand though, he or she may have the luxury of pushing his or her support characters to the front row to deal more secure damage at the cost of a lower potential damage output.
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