Level Up! – The Prelude, Level 0

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

For the fourth level of our series, we’ll be going to the place where it all begins: Level 0!

This article and its analysis have been brought to you by the whole 9th CX team. Another special thanks to Clinton for his contributions.


Every game starts somewhere. For some, pieces must be setup. For others, apps need to be downloaded before getting ready to embark on long journeys on foot, bike, and car.

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What can I say? The game has been out for about 20 days now and we’ve all been playing.

Weiss Schwarz is a little different though. At the start, the players have evaluated their opening hands, mulliganed X cards, drawn X cards, and have started the game. This is where the game begins, but certainly not where it ends. The tone of the game can be set early on, but it is subject to much change. This is Level 0!

Level 0 at its core is an odd level. It is where every game begins, and leaving level 0 means getting ever-closer to the point of defeat, level 4. Yet, it is necessary to both use level 0, and to get out of it.

The cards used at level 0 are almost all character cards. It is because of this level’s curious nature that most decks are behooved to use ~17 cards. Decks usually do not focus on using level 0 to gain card advantage.  Rather, they try to shape the game’s future as much as possible.

To facilitate this, we have a variety of options to choose from:

Offensive:

  • Level reverser
  • Beaters
  • “Married life” effect (When you play a CX, give +X power to a character)
  • Clock reverser
  • Stock reverser
  • Vanilla(!?)

Hybrid:

  • Runners (or anti-runners)

Defensive:

  • Assists
  • Revenge trigger (When a character is reversed, perform X effect)
  • Backups (Yes, they exist)

Utility:

  • Scry
  • Reveal top, filter
  • Search (Riki, Pay 1+Ditch 1, Reverse Riki)
  • Brainstorm (Search, Salvage, Draw, Hand Fix Search, Hand Fix Salvage, Power, Kill, Effects, etc)
  • Filter (discard card/CX/etc, salvage/draw)
  • Bond
  • Anti-X

Clock Fodder:

  • Whatever you can’t and/or don’t want to use at the moment

The importance of every level in a vacuum is difficult to quantify. Because every deck is different, the level 0 for one deck may not be as important as another. In general, it can be argued that level 0 is slightly more important than level 3 because it’s where the butterfly effect begins to apply. One small thing, like triggering a CX on the first attack – a nightmare for any WS player, can spell out many more instances of ruin down the line.

Let’s go down the list and look at each category and why it might warrant use in a deck’s level 0 lineup.

In Offense, we have a variety of ways to address opposing characters, all of which involve attacking. The premise of a “beater”, or a character meant to attack is simple; either go over the opposing character or trade, and net 1 stock for the attack.

There are nuances as to why one kind of reverser might be better than another because they can affect opposing abilities, but those are better discussed on a card-by-card basis.

Clinton does mention one interesting upside to using beaters:

[Because] utility 0s are king, […] vanillas are surprisingly effective.

When we asked him why, he had this to offer:

Most decks are so full of utility characters that they have a difficult time dealing with a character over 3000 unless they have a 2k1.

Runners are a unique blend of defense and offense. In the super early game, they allow you to open yourself to direct attacks to get to level 1 more quickly (as many decks may want to do), and they preserve your cards by conveniently dodging opposing attackers.

An unnecessarily cute illustration of how it might feel to be against runners

An unnecessarily cute illustration of how it might feel to be against runners

Recently, anti-runners (for lack of a better term) have seen print, where a character will run in front of an opposing character to either prevent a direct attack and/or prompt a side attack. They can have their moments in the early game, but can find themselves quite vulnerable in levels 1 and 3 where on-reverse or other related effects are very likely to appear.

In Defense, we have a handful of power-boosting abilities. These abilities are quite common, but they are usually used with another level (like 1) in mind.

In Utility, we have a whole mess of things. Things that scry, things that filter, brainstorm, search, and so on – these are the cards that can and will determine a deck’s strength. After all, a card with utility can make a significant impact regardless of the level and time in game. Don’t be deceived by powerful abilities being on humble level 0 characters! Some of the game’s most influential and powerful effects have been on level 0 characters.

Remember newly-released Hibiki and Hatsukaze from KanColle?

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Level 0s, both!

Remember the most obnoxious runner+reverser combo Chitoge from Nisekoi?

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Yeah.

One of the biggest challenges in deck building is maintaining the balance within the ‘triangle’ of offense, defense, and utility. Fortunately, many cards at level 0 will feature some kind of blend of abilities, be it offense+utility, defense+utility, double utility, and so on.

When selecting a level 0 line up there are some questions that need to be asked;

  • Can I sustain a field until I have enough stock for when I reach level 1?
  • Do I have a way to put cards into my hand whether it’s through searching, salvaging or filtering?
  • Are the effects that can add cards to my hand cost efficient?

Most, if not all, sets can answer those questions with a resounding “Yes, I can!” But a better question for players might be “Do I have cards that can provide 2-3 of the popular effects listed above?” or “How much mileage can I get out of one card?”

This kind of planning can illustrate to newer players as to why many experienced players opt to not use very many (if at all) level 0 characters that are considered beaters. If you measure a beater to the questions above, they often are only able to answer one question in the affirmative, and can only hang their heads in shame for the other two.

But wait, Clinton said before that beaters are effective! Why would-

Most decks are prepared to stage comebacks if faced with poor starts. Beaters can be more effective in a situation that we have not mentioned yet because it involves a great deal of variance: a stalled level 0.

If a player or players are stuck at level 0 for more than 2 turns, it most likely means that someone has canceled too many times in the early game. Beaters can help extend an early lead in the event that an opponent has disastrous luck. Now, banking on an opponent having poor luck is generally frowned upon because it does not call for you, the player, to make superior strategic decisions in order to gain an advantage.

So what about if we trigger a CX on the first attack?

Consider it lost, and try to build as much clean stock on top of it, unless you have a way to immediately dislodge it.

We have done the math, and if you can put about 4 non-CX cards on top of a CX in stock, it’s generally OK, even if it does mean that you’re going to be playing the game with a maximum of 7 CXs in your deck.

(For those who went back to click on the link, take a look at the 2 soul table; the break point for an attack’s likelihood of success occurs roughly every 3-4 cards, and attacks for 2 are quite common.)

This doesn’t mean that a deck needs to have a way to use 1 stock at level 0, but effects that use 1 stock are very common, because almost every brainstorm effect in the game (at level 0, at least) will need 1 stock to use!

Should I not attack my opponent to 0/X?

This question had a different answer years ago: try to strand your opponent at 0/5. Since then, many Riki clones have been printed, and it has become easier than ever for players to bump themselves from 0/5 directly into level 1. For some series, not even 0/4 can be considered “safe” if one tries to avoid getting to level 1 second.

This question is quite dependent on the matchup, and the additional question is “Does my opponent have an on-reverse combo at level 1?” Going first or second can also influence the number of cards you see from your opponent that could indicate if he or she is using one of those types of combos. Granted, some series are going to be more telegraphed than others. For instance, on the EN side of the game, if one sees an opponent with KanColle and yellow cards in the waiting room, it’s fairly likely there is a Shimakaze in the deck. On the JP side of the game, well… use your best judgment/memory!

Building a deck’s level 0 is hard! … Why?

It’s probably because it requires the most ‘homework’ of any level in a given series. Whereas it can be simple to build a deck from the “top down” from level 3 or 1, level 0 is always a blank canvas because it isn’t color-locked in any way.

Some players subscribe to the school of thought of “less is more”, in that a very structured 4-copy of 4 cards at level 0 is what every deck should have. Others may feel that variety is the key to strength, and focus on including as many effects as possible into their level 0.

Both of these sides have valid points. Using 4 copies of a card is indeed the best way to ensure that it is seen during a game, but at the same time, using fewer effects can mean that a deck is much less flexible, and therefore much less capable overall.

There is no strict formula for what will make a deck’s level 0 successful. When building a deck’s level 0, try listing out all the effects that the level contains. The more abilities, the better. Bonus points for if abilities continue being useful in the late game, such as CX filtering and brainstorm. Remember, it is possible to overdo it with certain cards and card types; a level 0 setup with 8 runners for example, might be significantly less powerful than a setup with 4 runners because the potential for redundancy is much higher (wherein said redundancy makes the others potentially useless and/or look silly).

If building a deck’s level 0 was not a big enough task, testing it can also be frustrating. Because level 0 characters can and will be used at nearly every stage of a game, it may not be possible to determine if certain cards in a lineup are worthwhile until a full game has been played. If you combine that with our philosophy about testing (Always play more games), it can take a while to evaluate!

tl;dr?

  • Use as many efficient abilities as possible.
  • Check for cards that have multiple abilities across all colors – you might be surprised by what you find!
  • Try to balance the number of cards that fit into each category, with a much lower emphasis on Offense unless the series lacks utility or your deck has a specific agenda.
  • Evaluate the quality of your level 0 not from the turns leading to level 1, but throughout the whole game.
  • And as always, keep testing!

If you have questions, please send us a message via Facebook or an email at theninthcx AT gmail DOT com. Be sure to sign up for our monthly giveaway, follow us on Twitch and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Thanks for reading!