Know your Rulers Part 1

With our friends in America anticipating the arrival of the Grimm block, there has been an interesting discussion regarding which rulers are viable, and which ones are less so. Here’s my take on each of them, but please do keep in mind that I’m just a month into the game and also still in the process of digging deeper – think of this article as less of a guide and more of another gamer’s opinion. You know, just some additional information floating around the net. 😛

Let’s dig in.

Light

Grimm, the Fairy Tale Prince

Well, let’s start with the elephant in the room. Grimm is undeniably powerful in the Grimm block/cluster, having placed top finishes on two major tournaments in Japan so far – the World Championships in 2014, and the Winter Open in 2015. His lack of a J-Activate is more than made up for by the fact that he can cast all Fairy Tale Resonators regardless of their color (which makes it impossible to be color-screwed), while being able to trade less useful ones with his Activate ability. This gives Grimm-based decks a lot of flexibility, wherein you can pack one-ofs of cards like Emperor in New Clothes, and Grimm, the Avenger of Fairy Tales.

Speaking of Fairy Tales, they’re no pushovers either. Tinker Bell is a threat that grows as your field develops, Hunter in Black Forest is probably the best 1-drop Resonator in the block, Rapunzel is a potential 1-turn killer, Pied Piper can lock your board when left unchecked, and Aesop, while not being a Fairy Tale himself, adds a layer of protection to the rest of the cast.

However, the one spell which puts him over the top is Tell A Fairy Tale, where you can search for any Fairy Tale Resonator and put it directly into play, triggering its Enter ability. Most of the time, this means staring at a 1000/1000 Hamelin’s Pied Piper on turn 3. It can also be cast on five resources, with the other two reserved for protection or interrupts.

A Grimm deck can be built in different ways – the World Championship decks (which only uses CMF) were Wind/Water/Light. With TAT thrown in the mix, I personally use Wind/Darkness/Light, while the winner of the Winter Open used Fire/Light/Water.

Despite all of these strengths, Grimm is beatable. He builds his Field advantage one step at a time, so early disruption is essential in improving your chances against a Grimm deck. Fire is especially good since Thunder and Rapid decay works against most of the Fairy Tales, and Fire resonators tend to be huge for their cost (see Seven Dwarfs, Murderous Snowman), so Duel of Truth works as well. The deck’s composition makes it an easy target for Return to Stories as well. The lack of healing effects makes him vulnerable to direct damage even if he stabilizes the field. Like most decks, Grimm has a hard time dealing against Flying Resonators. Early aggression followed by Pumpkin Witch can kill him before he sets up.

Grimm decks are usually light on removal spells. This means it’s also possible to go over them with huge Resonators like Mephistopheles and Gilles de Rais. They usually depend on Pied Piper to control bigger Resonators, so as long as you have an answer for him, it’s possible to brute-force your way into victory.

Lastly, Grimm doesn’t have much in card draw. While he can improve the quality of cards in his hand by swapping them for more useful ones, it is possible to grind him out of options with decks like Kaguya control.

In summary:

+ Flexible ruler that has tools for most match-ups.
+ Can switch useless Fairy Tale Resonators in hand for more useful ones.
+ Tell a Fairy Tale is borderline broken with him.
+ Deck can be built in any color.
+ Fairy Tales are good once they get together…
– … and not so good when picked off one-by-one.
– Limited tools versus early aggression, kinda weak against Fire.
– Very few removal.
– Unlikely to put in other Rulers as sideboard options.
– Doesn’t have much card draw.
– Weak vs mass removal (Pandora of Light, Redbird of Prophecy, Midnight Bell + Cinderella)

Sacred Princess of Guidance / Lumia, the Creator of Hope

TAT’s poster girl is ironically seeing less play than the other Rulers of the set, and I think it’s because at first glance, her J-Activate is takes a bit of effort to properly work and it’s something which the deck has to be built around. I say that it’s neither. You can see her ability as an extension of your hand – it’s essentially +3 cards. I personally see her as a Ruler for a control deck because of this. The best part about Lumia is that she doesn’t force you to play Light to maximize her abilities – just one copy of Almerius, the Levitating Stone in your Magic Stone deck is enough to J-Activate her the next turn.

Should you want to build around her J-Activate though, the best card to start with is Necronomicon since it moves your cards to the removed from the game (RFG) zone. So you’re essentially getting three or more copies of a card – when they’re cast normally, then when they’re cast from the graveyard using Necronomicon, then when they’re cast from the RFG zone by Lumia’s J-Activate. It’s potentially one of the more powerful strategies in the long game, and I think it’s worth exploring further.

In summary:

+ J-Activate is essentially increases your hand size by 3.
+ Works very well with Necronomicon, thus suited for longer, more grinding games.
+ Ruler form has HEALING!
+ Can run on two Light Will sources, or one Almerius.
+ That J-Ruler art!
– Abilities of both sides doesn’t affect the field directly (unlike say, Snow White’s).
– Not for the impatient. There are better rulers for more aggressive playstyles.
+/- Unexplored potential.

Pandora, Girl of the Box / Pandora of Light/Dark

First of all, don’t let the 5-cost board wipe fool you, six turns is a very long time. Aggressive decks will go all out and try to kill you before turn 5, and slower decks will control their offense as to not be behind when her J-Activate happens. My initial assessment of Pandora is a Light/Dark control/discard deck which can splash Fire for more removal, Wind for interrupts, or Water for more card draw, where you run them out of options and slow them down via discard and removal, J-Activate to wipe any remaining threats, then put down a game-ending Resonator like Mephistopheles, Elder Ones, or Ftthagua, the Flame Spirit for the kill.

On the other hand, Pandora of Dark is the nightmare of control decks since their reactive gameplay forces them to keep large hand sizes, plus they can’t stop the activation. As long as you put in a huge threat after J-Activating, it’s almost lights out for them.

The most fun part of using Pandora however, is post-sideboard, where you can keep the opponent guessing whether you’re playing the Light or Dark version. For additional mind games, use a different ruler for game one and keep both Pandoras on the sideboard.

In summary:

+ Is it Light, is it Dark? HA! You’re wrong!
+ Unstoppable Board/Hand wipe at the ready.
+ Spiral of Despair works way better on her.
+ Pandora of Dark eats most control decks for lunch.
– Well duh, it’s always Pandora of Light on game 1, then Light if you’re playing aggro, Darkness if you’re playing mid-range or control.
– Somewhat useless after J-Activate.
– Weak J-Ruler stats.

Water

Nameless Girl / Jeanne d’Arc, the Flame of Hatred

Jeanne is a specialized anti-Human Ruler, which is awkward because to activate her freely you need to have a human Resonator put into your graveyard, then her J-Activate kills all remaining humans on the field (including yours if there are any remaining in your field). So you need to find the right balance of how many humans to put in the deck, and which ones to use. Also, her J-Ruler ability locks you into splashing red, which isn’t too bad considering it also has Purifying Fire. That said, there aren’t too many human Resonators which are big threats. The ones that come to mind are Rapunzel, and Bloody Snow White. The rest are easier to deal with even without her ability.

The door opens however, when Moojdart comes into play, which allows you to deal huge damage to anyone buy turning any J/Resonator human and burning them down/killing them outright with her abilities.

On the plus side, her umm… stats are huge. They’re the second highest among the rulers of Grimm Block, making her ideal for cards like Duel of Truth. That aside, I think she’s still more of a sideboard Ruler than a maindeck one, where she shines against Rulers like Snow White, Lumia, and Pandora.

In summary:

+ HUGE stats (2nd best out of all J-Rulers in the block, behind Snow White).
+ Great combo with Human + Voice of False God + J-Activate (T1 Hunter/removal, T2 One-Inch Boy, T3 Voice, J-Activate).
+ Really good at killing Humans J/Resonators.
+ Awesome with Moojdart, and large amounts of Flame Will.
– … and just okay without it.
– Needs a human to die to freely J-Activate (otherwise, wait for turn 5).
– Lack of high priority Human targets makes her a better sideboard card rather than a maindeck Ruler.

Seer of the Blue Moon / Kaguya, Priestess of the Moon

Opinions about Kaguya’s viability as a control deck greatly vary. Some say she’s a gimmicky Ruler to toy around with the Treasury Item / Standby mechanics. Others claim that she’s the control deck of the block, and is a worthy candidate of being the best deck. I personally think she’s competent enough to be tier 1 for two things: first is that there’s no dedicated hate for Treasury Items in most decks (probably just a pair of Dream of Juliet at most), second is the existence of the non-interactive infinite turn combo (Alice’s World, Elvish Archer, Jewel on Dragon’s neck), with Law of Silence to keep the opponent from interrupting it.

Still, the fact remains that she has to get to a point where she can do her win conditions and it’s usually no easy feat against aggressive decks, considering that she has to play at least four or five colors. This means she has the potential to get color-screwed more than any other deck in the game. But when she takes off, it’s very hard to win against her. She also has a bad matchup against Pandora of Dark, and Necronomicon (which, unless she plays one of her own, can grind her out of cards in a very long game).

In summary:

+ Very flexible control deck shell with a lot of options and can be built in any way possible.
+ Infinite turn combo.
+ Treasury items can lock the board out if the game goes long enough.
+ Card draw!
– Gets color screwed more than any other deck.
– Can die to very early aggression
– Sideboard has to be built very carefully.
– Can be unforgiving to pilot.
– No healing outside of Vampire’s Staff and Death Sentence from the Queen

Alice in Wonderland / Alice, the Drifter in the World

“How do you build an Alice deck?” is the question that’s yet to have a really solid answer. What we can do however, is get idea ideas from her ability. One of the most obvious hints is that in order to maximize her J-Activate, we need to have all five colors – with a small bonus if the Water Will came from Moojdart. For that to happen, we need to play the long game – which means the deck’s most likely a control one. An alternative is to pick three colors whose effects we like, and then we build around those (e.g. Light for Healing, Flame for Removal, Water for draw).

Given this idea, the most complex part of an Alice deck might probably be balancing the stone count. Stones for 3-color Alice are easy, with a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 ratio, plus 1 more for Moojdart if you really need the bonus. Getting all of her 5 abilities requires a more complex stone setup – usually 4 of your two main colors and then 1 of the rest, depending on the Will Attribute costs of your spells. If your main is Darkness/Flame for example, you need 4 Darkness/Flame, 1 Darkness/Light, 1 Darkness/Wind, 1 Darkness/Water, 1 Flame/Water, 1 Flame/Light, 1 Flame/Wind, and 1 Moojdart. And this can change depending on whether or not you need more of a color than the others (for example, you can get by with only 1 Wind Will source in a metagame that’s light on Additions).

And then there’s the deck composition itself.

However, there’s a really great incentive for maximizing her J-Activate because it’s roughly comparable to playing five cards in a turn – 1 big heal spell, 1 removal spell, 1 draw spell, 1 discard spell, and 1 addition removal. It’s like a 4 or 5-to-0 card advantage!

In summary:

+ Nice art. I’ve met people who expressed interest in the game after seeing this card.
+ Good control deck shell which can be built in a lot of ways.
+ J-Activate is massive card advantage when maximized, yet can still be used for one or two abilities in a pinch.
+ If you win lots of style points for making an Alice deck that works properly! 😀
– Can be color screwed, depending on how you build both the main deck and the magic stone deck.
– J-Ruler side has no Continuous benefits and mediocre stats, even when activated early.
– Ruler side has no other abilities.
– Given her play style and how the deck is built, it might not be possible to sideboard other Rulers.
+/- Not explored too much by players.

Darkness

Alucard, the Dark Noble / Dracula, the Demonic One

In terms of raw power, Alucard can be considered one of the highest. It’s not hard to see why – his J-Activate seems pretty easy to trigger, and he can deal with early forms of aggression in a pinch. But his true strength comes in Dracula form, where he gains the very annoying Imperishable ability that makes him a recurring threat. It’s not uncommon to see him activated once or twice during the course of a game. This becomes very important because of his Continuous ability to recruit everyone he damages to his side, as long as they die within the same turn. This gets him additional value from cards like Bloodsucking Impulse, and Duel of Truth. Finally, he has flying, which is always good to have in the Grimm Cluster format.

If there is such as weakness for this deck, it’s that playing Dracula forces you to play Vampires to make the most out of his J-Activate. The problem with that is a) most vampires have inferior stats for their cost, b) there are a number of cards which can be played to hate specifically on Vampires such as Silver Stake, Crucifix, Christie, the Windtracker, and Elvish Exorcist, and c) there are very few Vampires to choose from. Alucard also needs to J-Activate to fully tap into the deck’s power, which is nearly impossible when facing control decks who are playing around it.

To counter this however, all of the Vampires have strong, or useful abilities: Vampire’s Servant is a lightning rod for removal, Lora can search for Carmillia, Vampire’s Staff provides damage and healing, Vampire Bat is a huge threat late game, and finally Carmillia can easily fulfill Alucard’s J-Activate conditions by herself on turn 5. They also have two strong support cards in Alvarez, the Demon castle, and Resurrection of Vampire. Finally, as Darkness, they have access the best removal in Stoning to Death.

In summary:

+ Only ruler with Imperishable, making him a recurring threat.
+ Very strong Continuous ability in J-Ruler form that benefits from Bloodsucking Impulse and Duel of Truth.
+ Can fly.
+ Vampires have strong abilities and good support cards.
– … But weak stats for their cost.
– Lots of dedicated Vampire hate cards.
– Needs to J-Activate to fully utilize the deck’s power.
– Christie, the Windtracker.
– Unless you have Dragonslayer on the deck for some random reason, Bahamut on turn 2 will give you problems.
– J-Activate can be played around with by control decks. No resonator to kill = no J-Activate.

Ebony Prophet / Abdul Alhazred, the Harbringer of Despair

Unlike Lumia, Abdul greatly benefits from getting to J-Activate early on because of the one-sided advantage its Continuous ability provides, while his Activate ability can be used both offensively and defensively by shutting down key Resonator abilities and removing those of yours that are disadvantageous (such as Mephistopheles and Squirmer of the Dark).

That aside, there’s no single way to build a deck that utilizes him – he’s good both offensively and defensively. He shines versus Grimm though, by keeping Hamelin’s Pied Piper, Glinda, the Witch, and Tinker Bell, the Fairy in check, among others Fairy Tales. He’s also a great sideboard option for Darkness decks, especially when your opponent is bringing in a lot of Alucard hate.

In summary:

+ Powerful J-Ruler abilities that has a lot of applications.
+ Works well with Demon Resonators.
+ Great sideboard option for decks that use Darkness.
– A huge target when he J-Activates. Make sure you can protect him.
– Needs Grusbalesta in order to J-Activate easily. Otherwise, you’re probably gonna lose tempo.
– Expect players to be prepared for him because he’s popular.

So that’s it for part 1! Stay tuned tomorrow as I tackle the rest of the colors.

Until then!

A very big thanks to http://www.force-of-will.com/ for the card images.

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