Welcome to Level Up!, 9th CX’s intermediate strategy column!
This column will be a smaller column dedicated to more narrow and meta-specific topics that can’t be covered by the advanced topics or level 0 columns.
We will be discussing the “forgotten level”; level 2. This article and analysis are brought to you by Michael, Johnny, Melanie, and Felix. Thanks to our old contributor Billy for the article suggestion, and to Clinton for last-minute contributions.
Disclaimer: This column goes into details that significantly more experienced players may consider “common sense”. If you are one of those players and have noticed that we missed something, let us know! This stuff is hard to write about, but it’s much easier to edit and add to.
In WS, level 2 is often misunderstood. This happens usually due to some combination of bias and inexperience.
For instance, a newer player may see that level 2 is where 2-soul characters begin to come out. Because 2-soul characters hit for more damage, it could follow that level 2 is where to go “all-in” and ignore using level 3 characters altogether.
But let’s back up first and look at the most popular state of the level 2 game so that we know where we’re coming from.
For many decks, level 2 serves as a stepping stone into level 3. Stock is conserved, and a deck refresh is often sought to prevent as much damage as possible in the following turns. However, there are…
…that break the rules…
…and can show up much earlier than their level indicates.
It’s a mechanic known by other names in other games, and by none in particular in WS. Some call them early plays, or early outs, etc. Chaos knows it as “trespass”. Yu-Gi-Oh! knows it as “advance summon”. Magic knows it (kind of) as “cheating into play”, but the premise is the same: level 2 has become inundated with level 3 characters.
But wait, it’s always been like this! Level 3 characters have always been accessible at level 2!
True, but let’s also consider this: level 3 characters were accessible by means of using change abilities, and often, those abilities would trigger at the start of one’s draw phase. Sometimes, they would trigger at the end of a battle phase, or at the start of a climax phase. These newer level 3 cards, as seen above, cannot be as easily disrupted. Whereas before, a change card could have been bounced or even attacked, these level 3s just happen. That is, a certain condition on the user’s turn, must be fulfilled in order for them to be played.
Because there is very little play-by-play interaction in the game, it’s even more difficult for someone to sculpt a scenario where a level 3 cannot be played early. For example, some ask for specific cards to be in clock, and others to be in hand. There are very few ways for an opponent to manipulate the kinds of cards in a player’s clock, and even fewer (if any at all) that can manipulate a player’s cards in hand.
So now what do people do at level 2?
Aside from trespass effects, there is an assortment of popular effects found on level 2 characters.
Effects? Why not power?
So let’s take a look at the most popular effects first, and we will likely find the answer to that question.
The most commonly seen effects at level 2 are:
- Trespass (see above)
- “Slayers” (buff when facing a level 3+ character)
- Level assists (characters that give characters in front +500 x level power)
- Utility backups (backup abilities that include removal of over-level characters, filtering cards, and refreshing the deck)
The struggle for power is kind of covered by this “not-quite rock paper scissors” cycle of trespass characters, slayers, and backups (more specifically, anti-change effects). On attack, slayers and trespass characters beat one another. On the defense, anti-change beats trespass.
Raw power at this level is actually not consistent enough to factor into this equation. Raw power can beat slayers and is not prone to being defeated by anti-change, but it gets beaten by anything with trespass, and even more resoundingly if a level assist is behind it.
To be more specific, vanilla 2/2 characters tend to have two types. One is 10000 power with 1 soul, and the other is 9000 power with 2 soul. Trespass cards tend to have some kind of scaling power (+500 power per on-trait character) with a lower base, somewhere near 9000. If both a vanilla and trespass character are alone, yes, the vanilla wins. With one more character on board, they are even, but if one puts a level support behind both characters, the level 3 wins! It isn’t unreasonable to expect that someone will have more than one character at level 2, and therefore, trespass characters are almost always more attractive options.
Let’s also consider another thing – freefresh. Many decks want to use level 2 to refresh and prevent future damage as much as possible. The popularity of this effect also makes it much more difficult to play CX combos at level 2. When a refresh is imminent, having the choice of whether to play a level 2 CX combo or ditch it is kind of a Morton’s fork.
At level 2, the game is hardly over. There’s still a full level to go, and games rarely end in one fell swoop. If one plays a CX combo at level 2, this can make for an awkward decision tree: “Do I keep this in my hand to use later/after refreshing, or do I ditch it and use it to potentially cancel damage?” Most players will opt out of ever having to encounter this painful choice and use CX combos at levels 1 and 3.
Why levels 1 and 3?
Level 1 CX combos are typically used to find card advantage. There are combos that rely on reversing, on attacking, and so on, but ultimately, they are used to get more cards. Because these combos are usable at any level from level 1 and on, they often bleed into level 2. At level 3, CX combos are often used as finishers because they offer some form of damage and/or high probability damage.
Let’s consider something else too, that level 2 characters in one’s opening draw are essentially as “good” as level 3 characters; good to clock, and little else. In contrast, level 1 characters can be held and preserved for the next level.
Vanilla level 2 characters that cost 1 stock have historically hovered between 8500 and 9000 power. Level 1 characters have gotten progressively larger over time, to the point where it is not unreasonable for a level 1 character to hit 8000+ power. Card effects and CX combos make it possible to push the numbers even higher, e.g. Soundless Voice from Miku, and this ease of access has made power-oriented level 2 characters very nearly obsolete.
So what should level 2 be used for?
The most popular and powerful sets have access to the “big 5” level 2 effects; trespass, slayers, etc. Because the very effects are capable of keeping the others in check, it’s safe to say that generally, the level 2 for a deck should focus on the utility that those cards offer.
Won’t that mean that the number of level 2 characters will be really small in a deck?
For a lot of newer sets, yes, this is the case. Characters with trespass are usually level 3, and that cuts down the number of cards that are truly level 2. (There are some characters that can trespass at level 1, but those characters are rare and not as powerful as those that can do so at level 2.)
What about events?
Events are a little different, because they have a wide variety of effects. Some decks will use them to gain an advantage through sheer power, some will use them to prevent damage. The list goes on, and they often are played in decks that lack one or more of the “big 5” effects to fill the gap in power.
tl;dr for level 2?
- Play few level 2 characters
- For those that are played, make sure they are a part of the “big 5” effects as much as possible
- Play events sparingly
- Save the slots for powerful events
- Play CX combos as little as possible
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Thanks for reading!