Level Up! – The Endgame, Level 3

EXPLOOOOOSION

Welcome back to Level Up!, 9th CX’s intermediate strategy column!

For this article, we will be diving into the level where the game of Weiss Schwarz is at its most tense; level 3! This article and its analysis have been brought to you by the whole 9th CX team, as it has been worked on for a while. Special thanks to Clinton for his contributions as well.


So it’s come to this…

The battle has been fierce.

Damage has been flying.

Waifus have been slain.

Your third card goes into your level zone…

A glance at stock, an internal nod.

The incantation begins:

I, the player, defender of my honor (or my waifu’s etc we’re having fun with this bear with us)…

Call upon the forces of –

OVERWATCHMEMES

And well, before you know it, someone has scooped up their cards in gracious defeat, blamed their level 0 characters for feeding and said “gg”.

Indeed, level 3 is where the most memorable fun of the game is had. Why? Defeat (or victory) is imminent, and the game could still, in theory, go to either player. You may be familiar with the sight too – the final table in the round of a tournament is surrounded by a murmuring crowd of spectators. One of the players at 3/6 is being attacked for exactly one damage, and flips over… a CX! The crowd goes wild gets hyped and so on.

For those of us who’d be watching, that is really fun, but for the one who’d be most invested in that moment, that is, the attacking player, what could they have done more to win the game?

The answer is in the many effects that are offered in level 3 cards!

For ease of reading, we’ll be using three categories to classify effects: OffenseDefense, and Utility.

Within each of these categories are a variety of abilities, but some are seen with some regularity, to the point that their ability is known to players by an unofficial keyword, such as Heal.

Offense:

  • On-attack burn X
  • Punish burn, 1 or 1+X (Musashi)
  • Restand (on attack / on reverse)
  • Kick (clock, top of deck, memory, stock- in descending order of strength)
  • Summon/Call (get characters from somewhere)
  • Putting card(s) from in play or in waiting on top or shuffled back into opponent’s deck
  • Hexproof/shroud

Defense:

  • Bodyguard
  • Soul manipulation of opposing characters
  • Frontal attack prevention
  • Clocked card(s) removal
  • Kiting (moving characters around)
  • Denial (CX combo denial, anti-damage, anti-event, etc)

Utility:

  • Draw up to X, discard X
  • Look at top X put X in hand and discard the rest.
  • Look at top 6, discard 3 and rearrange 3
  • Search (on attack)
  • Support (anti-burn, +XXXX power, etc)
  • Generate stock (from anywhere)

Here’s what Clinton has to say about these effects:

My personal favorites are clock kick, punish burn 1+X, burn X, and heal. Many top decks feature at least 2 of those effects. So it is safe to say that most successful decks utilizes these effects and build/plan around them accordingly.

So with that in mind, let’s go into each of these “trees” briefly and look at why each ability might be effective. After, we’ll look at why the effects Clinton likes might be his favorites.

The list of effects here is by no means exhaustive, but we want to show the most popular and common effects. The most powerful cards will often have some combination of abilities on them as well.

In Offense, we have a variety of ways to get cards pushed into the opponent’s clock.

The idea of using an offensive ability at level 3 is to win; to push the opponent to level 4. Some methods are more certain than others.

For instance, the various burn abilities have a range. The smaller the number, the more likely the damage is to hit, but the larger the number, the greater the range of a potential comeback.

Continuing in offense, we have the “kick” abilities, the most powerful of which is the ‘clock kick’ ability. Sending a reversed character to clock is more reliable than trying to deal 1 point of damage through burn, because while only some series have the opportunity to sacrifice characters before they would be sent elsewhere, anyone can cancel a burn for 1 with a CX on top.

Restanding is in an interesting place, because when someone attacks with a character more than one time in a turn, any soul that it may have gotten from a previous trigger(s), is retained. For example, if your character attacks for 2, reveals a soul trigger on attack, and then attacks again, its base soul value will be 3 plus the next trigger, not 2. Now, a character that can restand and get value out of it…

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Let’s just say that there’s a reason someone was changed before being printed in EN, and restricted in JP.

Pulling characters from deck, hand, or in some cases, clock, can be counted as an offensive ability because it enables more attacks. More attacks = more opportunities to deal damage, and so on.

On the flip side, putting cards back into the opponent’s deck, whether on top or shuffled back, provides more opportunities for your damage to go through uncontested. While this does not immediately translate to damage, it directly contributes to a scenario where the attacking player is more likely to deal damage.

Most puzzling of all may be the presence of the hexproof and shroud abilities. Whereas in games such as Magic and Hearthstone the ability is considered defensive, in Weiss Schwarz, it can be considered offensive for a couple of reasons. First, the window of interaction is very small and limited. In Magic, a player may have ten (or more) opportunities in a given turn to do something any number of times, in Weiss Schwarz, there is only one window to do something during an opponent’s turn, and only one card or effect that can ever be used or played in that window; i.e. Counter Step. Second, shutting that window on the opponent usually puts them at the mercy of whatever effect is being used. For example, being able to render the opponent unable to use a Backup ability or event while attacking with a character that has a clock kick effect is a very potent combination of abilities.

A card’s offensive efficiency can be measured by how many abilities it has. If a card has only one ability, such as burn, it can be considered less efficient than a card with the same cost that can burn and heal. When constructing a deck’s endgame, it’s important to consider the balance of “one-trick” cards versus those with more defensive abilities or utility.

In the Defense camp we have the many ways to try to deny an opponent’s victory.

At the top of the list, in terms of defensive power, is the the most recognized ability: heal. It creates distance that the opponent must close in order to win, and extends a game to create more opportunities for the user to win.

Further down, we have one of the few ways to directly deny damage in terms of soul manipulation. The most commonly seen effects without a CX combo is a -1 soul “shrink”, though CX combos can increase than number. On the flip side, some cards and effects can actually increase soul values, with the idea to ensure that a cancel is found.

Preventing frontal attacks is a way to render attacks potentially useless. Characters rarely get to attack for greater than 3 damage when facing a character, and using a Bounce trigger (or on-attack effect) won’t change the type of attack declared.

Now, kiting and Bodyguard are two defensive abilities of questionable value. Moving characters around can prevent them from being reversed (and perhaps sent somewhere), but it only gets better as the opponent’s effects improve. Similarly, Bodyguard does not actually prevent damage, but forces the opponent to make all frontal attacks (as long as it remains unreversed).

Lastly, we have Utility abilities. These abilities are meant to facilitate scenarios where more of what the player’s objective is, can be found. For instance, if a player wants all burn all the time, utility can help dig for finishing combo pieces. If a player wants more heal, utility again is there to dig for more.

Many of the effects are simple, and are sometimes seen at lower levels. Effects that draw X cards are seen more often on level 3 cards than they are on lower level characters, though.


What is it about clock kick, burn and heal that make them so appealing?

Of course, their common appearance on cards can make them seem like their use is inevitable. The “common sense” argument aside, these abilities represent the most efficient methods of closing the gap to victory, and in the case of heal, elongating it.

But what about power, +soul, and that kind of thing?

As we mentioned before in the article about level 2, a good handful of cards that are printed as “level 3” are playable at level 2, and have more power-oriented abilities. Some actually do have one or more ‘prime’ abilities such as heal. As for abilities that directly add soul, they are basic enough to where what they contribute to a game plan can be considered relatively minor in scope. There is a slight skill gap we have to acknowledge in the use of soul manipulation effects (e.g. on attack +soul), but in effect they are functionally similar enough to burn effects.

So +soul is like burn but with a brain check?

More or less.

Then what should we do when building a deck’s endgame?

Be sure to look for the most powerful effects the set or series has available to it. Often, these effects will not be cut and dry, and will be in unique variations and/or combinations. The more luck the ability takes to resolve, the higher the reward will usually be. Try to look for the cards that feature the lowest risk for the highest reward possible, and then consider the other options.

If a deck’s endgame looks like it might be “S tier” in terms of power but “C tier” in terms of reliability, it might be worth trying to get both of those to “A tier” rather than accepting the disparity.

Tip from Clinton: Prepare your wallets too, because the most expensive cards in the set, also tend to be the set’s best level 3s.

What if I’m wrong?

Then Clinton will be summoned and he will give you his highly-motivating table-flipping tantrum-speech combo-

BAKAT

Though, in all seriousness, it comes down to testing. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but at the same time, do your best to find the best ones possible!


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Thanks for reading!