Welcome to the 9th CX’s spotlight on keywords! This miniseries is geared toward newer players to go in-depth on the many keyword abilities in Weiss Schwarz.
For this article, we’ll be looking at the newest addition to the keyword ‘family’: heal tax, or “anti-heal”.
Heal tax or Anti-Heal is a static ability that triggers from the zone that is relevant to the card. That is, some trigger when they are on the stage, and some trigger from memory. It reads, “Whenever a player has a card placed from clock to waiting room, that player may pay 2 stock. If he or she does not, that player takes the top card of the deck and puts it into clock.” Note that the wording of the ability is very specific about where the cards in the clock go. Cards sent from clock to memory or to a player’s hand will not trigger this ability.
Author’s Note: This article refers to the newest iterations of “anti-heal” cards that are due for release for more recent sets. Rewrite and Little Busters! have effects that are functionally the same, but are required to be on the stage to trigger. Because the effects that involve triggering from memory are far more effective and noninteractive (that is, it is currently impossible to interact with cards in the memory zone), the ability will be referred to primarily as if it exists to trigger from memory.
Most recently, this ability has been found on level 0 characters that have an ability to send themselves to memory upon being reversed. Note that each iteration of the ability that is available to trigger will trigger when the conditions are met. That is, if there is more than one Heal tax in memory and someone sends a card from their clock to waiting room, they will have to pay up or they may end up at higher damage than they were before the effect!
Why use it?
Experienced players may recall that Heal is one of the oldest abilities in WS. It has also been the target of much controversy because it is one of the most frustrating mechanics of the game to play against. Many single cards and CX combos can Heal a player as early as level 2 (some even in level 1 if you try hard enough). The probability of losing a game drops dramatically with even a single Heal effect.
Though this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive breakdown of why Heal is so good, let’s look quickly at one instance where a single Heal effect can make a huge difference.
Remember the math? Let’s say that we are at level 3 and have 6 cards in clock. We were very fortunate to be able to refresh with all 8 CXs in the deck, with 30 cards, but all it takes is one damage to end the game. Because normally an opponent will use 1 soul attacks and try to maximize the chances of winning (that is, that he or she will play optimally), we will assume that the opponent will be making three attacks for 1 soul. With 8 CXs remaining in 30 cards, our chance of canceling an attack for 1 soul is 26.67%. Provided we cancel that, our chance of canceling the following attack is 24.14%. And if we cancel that, we get a 21.43% chance of surviving that attack. Multiply that all together and we have a very bleak 1.3% chance of living.
1.3%? Could we get some perspective here?
Here’s a hypothetical situation. If you bet on a horse at a race that has 5:1 odds, assuming the odds are fair, you are about 12.3 times MORE likely to win that bet, than you are to cancel that damage.
Author’s Note: 9th CX does not own a horse.
But what if we heal?
Let’s go back to that scenario where we have 30 cards in our deck with 8 CXs. Our opponent has 3 1-soul characters and has played a 1k1 effect, ensuring that the attacking characters will be attacking for 2 each. The math gets a little trickier here. Why? Because we will be looking at the probability of having a single CX in the top 2 cards, but when it shows up is not relevant.
Couldn’t we just do a function that looks for 3 CXs within 6 cards?
We could, but that would mean that we could still lose the game in the (many) scenarios where the top 2 cards contain exactly 0 CXs.
For the sake of ease though, let’s say that the CX comes on the second card with each attack. The odds of us canceling the first attack are 46.9%. If the second card is a CX and we are left with 28 cards in the deck, the chance of canceling that attack is 44.44%. If the second card is a CX and we are left with 26 cards thereafter, the chance of canceling the ultimate attack is 41.54% (because where the cancel happens doesn’t matter). Multiply that all up and you have an approximately 8.6% chance of canceling everything- more than 6.6 TIMES the chances of survival as before!
(The branches from canceling on the first card of the first attack only worsen the odds overall per attack by 1-2%, and the worst-case scenario only lowers the odds to 7.8%)
Is your head spinning yet?
How much worse does it get for 3 soul? The chances of finishing off an opponent at level 3 and 4 in clock with 3 soul attacks is about 37.93% for the first attack, 38.97% for the second, and 40.32% for the third, meaning that the opponent has about a 62.07% chance to cancel the first, 61.06% chance to cancel the second, and 59.68% chance to cancel the third, for a combined 22.61% chance of surviving; roughly 17 times more likely to survive the turn! (19.02% in the worst case scenario)
How about if you only have 6 CXs remaining in 30 cards? The chances of surviving at 3/6 are simply awful: 0.4%. Surviving at 3/5 with 6 CXs remaining, in the best case scenario, increases the odds to 3.4% (8.5 times higher!)Though the chances overall are still quite small, what matters is the impact that the single Heal has is quite large.
What does this mean?
At first glance, people may look at a Heal effect and say, “Oh, it increases the amount of damage you need to deal by one, so therefore, it’s two times harder to end the game.” But as we can see, this is not the case. Heal improves the odds of survival much higher than a simple 2:1. If you heal from level 3 and 6 in clock (and take our scenarios into account), the first heal improves your odds by a factor of 6, and the second improves your odds by a factor of 17! Even in the uglier scenario when one has only 6 CXs remaining, the chances of surviving the turn increases by 8.5 times.
Heal has been left unchecked as one of the game’s most powerful mechanics. As an acknowledgement of this mechanic’s power, the game now has a powerful countermeasure in taxing the effect.
Let’s take a look at what this can mean for the game as a whole.
Heal tax is a symmetrical effect.
This is something to note, because at this point, the tax applies to both players. Presumably, this is to ensure that the effect does not become as one-sided as Heal is itself.
Heal effects that do not involve sending a card from clock to the Waiting Room are going to become more powerful.
Card text: Put a Sayaka you control into your waiting room. If you do, put the top card of your clock into your hand. Send this card to memory.
Newer players may recognize that Sayaka’s Wish from Madoka would not in fact trigger a Heal tax, because the card is going from the clock to a player’s hand, not the waiting room.
Card text: Put all cards in your clock into your hand. Send this card to memory.
Players who have played the game a bit more may remember Execution from Persona 3, which has the huge effect of sweeping up every card from the clock into the hand at the hefty price of 8(!!) stock. This card will also get around the Heal tax.
Relevant Card Text: When [Little Busters!] is placed in your Climax Zone, if this is in the center stage, you may discard a character card. If you do, choose a level 2 or lower character from your clock or memory and place it onto any slot on the stage.
This card effect is also a familiar sight from Little Busters! (and is also similarly seen in Dog Days) where it takes a character from the clock or memory and puts it onto the stage. This effect also will not trigger a Heal tax.
Cards that Heal will become significantly more difficult to play.
Card text: Choose up to 2 cards in your clock and send them to the waiting room. Send this card to memory.
Fans of Da Capo may recognize Xylophone Fortune Reading as one of the cards that is on the restricted or “Choose one” list, and it’s with good reason that it’s on that list! With an active tax though, a card like this could effectively cost 6 stock. While this is expensive, the effect is and has been too cost effective for a long time. This also means that should there be games where neither player has access to a Heal tax effect, Heal effects become more powerful just because either player could have at any point had access to them. By lowering the opportunities and probabilities, it makes the effect itself all the more satisfying when it is carried out without penalty.
Prevention effects will become slightly stronger.
There are some cards that prevent characters from going from rested position to standing position the following turn. Those cards are not necessarily what one would call prevention effects (barring really late endgame scenarios).
Card text: Choose a battling character. That character gains the ability “This cannot deal damage to a player” until end of turn.
Cards such as Horrible at Horror (coincidentally, also from Da Capo) will get a small bump to relevance because no character has an ability that states that its damage cannot be prevented nor canceled. This does not necessarily mean that cards such as this will see more play, but it does mean that cards with effects like it could become more relevant in the future.
Players will be reminded that Heal effects are generally optional.
With a very few rare exceptions, Heal for the most part is a “may” ability. There may come times that a player will either bankrupt their stock by accident because of a Heal effect taken as a result of an automatic motion or lose the game due to being dealt more damage as a result of multiple Heal tax effects. Make sure that if you are playing with and or against the effect, that you remember that taking advantage of a Heal is optional!
It will be difficult to justify not including at least some number of copies of cards in a deck that contain this effect.
Heal as an ability to have on cards has been almost mandatory to have in a deck (barring special circumstances). On the flip side, cards that have a Heal tax ability on them put themselves into memory, and thus improve the odds of canceling in the future by ensuring that they will never become damage.
Author’s Note: Folks that play Dominion may recognize cards that send themselves to memory are like Chapel – trash those curses and coppers and never see them again!
Characters that send other characters to zones upon reversing them will not necessarily become more powerful.
It may be a thought in some player’s minds that all that is needed to address a character with Heal tax is to put it to the bottom of the opponent’s deck, or to return it to their hand. Unfortunately, because the effect is most prominently featured on level 0 characters, and effects that push characters to the bottom of the deck are generally only present at levels 2 and 3, relying on those effects is not quite the answer.
So now that we have this effect and it’s here to stay, what can we do?
Going forward, this means that deck techs may look quite different because to some degree, players will be faced with some ways to address Heal tax. They can either use it or not use it, and they can continue to play with Heal effects or they can omit Heal effects. An ideal deck, in a vacuum, is able to not only use this effect but also Heal by sending cards from the clock to hand, instead of the waiting room.
Time-sensitive statement: As of early 2014, no cards in the English printing of WS have any Heal tax abilities, and none is scheduled to be printed in the near future, unless Kantai Collection is set for English, or SAO 2 contains a card with the ability. In the greater scope of the game (all cards EN and JP), Vividred and Gargantia as well as Kantai Collection have access to this effect. Kantai Collection will therefore be the subject of upcoming JP deck techs for a few reasons – it has access to the Heal tax effect, it is a large set, and because Kongou.
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