Friday, April 11, 2008

Kongai: Higashi (v1.4)

This week's card is Higashi - I thought we were about due for a character card but, still, that made my eyes light up and my palms twitch. Higashi is, as you will no doubt hear me mention repeatedly, probably the best designed card in the game. Popo might argue with that but since I'd actually stick Higashi in a deck, I'll stand by my statement.

The reason why Higashi is so good is that he's a very versatile card. He's strong at close range with two disabling moves and he's dangerous at far range with two deadly moves. No matter what kind of card your opponent has out he has options and can pound them into the ground. Throw in an excellent innate which punishes anyone you catch switching out and Higashi becomes a meat grinder.

Here - since I've now gotten an official go-ahead - take a look for yourself:

Higashi, The Master

  • Ninja (Purple)
  • 80/100 (Health/Energy - everyone has 100 energy theses days but you never know, it might be important.)
  • 2/3/3 (Physical/Light/Dark resists)
  • When Higashi successfully intercepts, he deals 70 damage to the foe.

  • Open Palm. 40en, 9spd, 25dmg(Phys). 95hit, 30proc. Can cause the opponent to be paralyzed for 1 turn. Close.
  • Dashing Strike. 20en, 5spd, 20dmg(Phys). 95hit. High chance for a critical strike. Far.
  • Sweep. 0en, 5spd, 10dmg(Phys). 90hit, 100proc. If strikes first, interrupts the enemy's attack. Close.
  • Chi Blast. 80en, 5spd, 65dmg(Light). 100hit, 50proc. May burn the foe for 3 damage each for 3 turns (9dmg). Far.

A word about skill descriptions first - since I'll likely be posting a lot of them from now on - before we get into just why that list should be making people smile right about now.

The first thing is the name of the skill, simple enough. Ex: Open Palm

The next sentence - ex: 40en, 9spd, 25dmg(Phys) - lists the energy cost, speed, and damage, if any, of the skill. Skills range in cost from 0 to 80 although certain items and abilities can change that. When you use a skill that much energy is subtracted from your bar and you gain 20 at the end of each round plus an additional 20 if you did nothing but rest.

Speed is how high the priority of the skill is when used in a given round - both players choose and make their attacks at the same time but skills with better priority will resolve first - the higher that number is, the faster the skill is and the better (Mostly. There are some skills, mainly life drains, that you want to happen after the enemy attacks so a mid to low priority is good there but, in general, the faster you swing the better.). These range from 1 to 10, normally, although it can be changed through various abilities.

While damage equals the amount of health that you'll take from your opponent. There are three types of damage - physical, light magic, and dark magic (Plus a fourth, untyped, that's not affected by resistances.) which are helpfully color coded in game - and each character has three resistance values for each type.

Resistance - which ranges from 0 to 10 normally - is subtracted from the damage value to determine the actual damage dealt. For example, Higashi has 2 Physical resist so if another Higashi were to attack with Open Palm which deals 25 damage, he'd actually take only 23. Not that big a loss but Open Palm is what's known as a single-hit skill. All its damage is delivered in one packet, so to speak. There are other skills like Onimaru's Sword Flurry which are multi-hit skills that have their damage value multiplied by a modifier (Actually, single-hits do too, that modifier is just an unlisted 1.) and Resistance is subtracted form the damage value not the total damage done. So, rather than hitting Higashi for the normal 5x7 or 35 physical damage a Sword Flurry only hits for 21 or (5-2)x7. The average card has around 2 resist across the board so keep that in mind when you're making your mental calculations.

Simple? Right, well, there are also critical hits which have an unlisted chance which is normally a base 3% and will increase the damage by 150%. So, a critical Open Palm will strike for 38 damage (I think, not sure of the rounding just yet.) every once in a blue moon. But, resistance is calculated afterwards so a Higashi with 2Phys gets struck for 36 not 33 damage. Again, not really important here but sometimes it makes a difference.

The next sentence lists the chance to hit and to proc, which are in percentages - 100hit = 100% chance to hit.

Hit chance is easy enough, anyone who's played table top games should understand; every time you swing there's a percentile roll to see if you hit or not. Those values range from 60% to 100% but are mostly in the 90~95% range or a 1 in 20 or 1 in 10 chance to whiff. Some skills have a 100% chance to hit which means the skill cannot miss, normally, although there are abilities which can artificially lower hit chances in which case they can.

Proc chance (Proc, by the way, stands for Programmed Random OCcurence or something very close to it.) are the odds for your skills special attributes to activate on a successful attack. We'll get to what those special abilities are in a little bit but the chance ranges from a low 20~25% all the way to a certain 100%. There are no ways to affect those odds - at least, none in game, at the moment.

Next sentence is the skills text, ripped straight from the game. Anything in parentheticals is my own addition and I'll use that to, say, clarrify a bit of obscure wording or to give a value that the card neglects to provide - like the proc chance for Zina's Misstress's Command or the total damage dealt by a DOT. This is where a skill will tell you about its special attributes or any wrinkles more complicated than "Press this button and your enemy will have an ouchie, hopefully." These can range from inceased chances for criticals - like on Higashi's Dashing Strike (This reportedly means a 25% base chance although I can't confirm it.) - to a chance to proc a DOT - like the Burning on Higashi's Chi Blast - which are debuffs that damage that card over time, even if withdrawn from the field.

The final sentence denotes which range a skill can be used at. There are three options here - Close, Far, and Both. Close and Far should be pretty self-explanatory considering that there are only two range settings in the game - when you and your foe are toe to toe and when there's some distance between you. While skills that have both ranges can be used regardless of to which range the game is set.

Okay, there, now you should be able to read those skills and see that Higashi is packing some very, very strong stuff.

He has two skills for each range and all of them are pretty good. Up close he can go for the low damage of Open Palm but that has a fairly good chance to proc a paralysis condition (There's Paralysis and there's Stun, I'm not sure there's any mechanical difference but the former is what the Master does.) which not only keeps the opponent from doing anything but resting - no swaps, no intercepts, no nothing - the next round, it also prevents them from attacking that round if it lands before their attack does. And Open Palm has a very high priority at 9. It's not going to blow anyone out of the water but 25 damage will steadily chip away, especially when it procs and they lose a combat round.

Sweep is pretty good, too. A speed of 5 makes it mid priority but it costs nothing, delivers a tiny sliver of chip damage, and is certain to keep your opponent from attacking - if they've picked a skill with a lower priority which a lot of characters do have. It's a bit more of a gamble since a lot of character also have attacks that are at (Can't trade blows and still interrupt them, unfortunately) or above 5, too, but it's devastating against certain characters and can certainly make their players think about what they're doing.

So, Higashi is a wood chopper up close, the opponent might like to back away, right? Wrong because if they're starring down the barrel of his Chi Blast which is the single most damaging skill in the game. 65 damage alone is enough to kill a lot of cards (The average, by the way, is around 70 health.) but it also has a chance to add on a slow bleed for another 9 damage that will finish off most everyone else. It's a bit hard to pull off by stepping back and charging up for it and clever opponents will step close rather than stay at range when you swap Higashi in but, again, even if you never use it you'll be making them very nervous about what the range is.

Even if you don't kill someone off with the Gattling Beam Cannon, you can finish them with a quick Dashing Strike. Its low 20 energy cost means you can keep doing it as long as you want - since you regenerate 20 at the end of each round. While the "high chance to land a critical" modifier means that you'll hit for an even better chunk of their life bar often enough to make you smile.

And when your opponent throws up their hands and decides to run away, that's when Higashi's innate comes into play. Normal characters deal 35 damage on an intercept, Higashi deals 70. That's it. And intercepts are hard to land. But when Higashi does since the average character has 70 health, that's a kill shot (There's an item you can use to make it a certain kill shot but we'll get into that later.). And, here's the thing, it doesn't even matter if you're good at intercepts or not because the fact that they will lose a card if they guess wrong against you will make a lot of opposing players nervous about switching out. You'll get in their head and influence their decisions and, really, that's what this game is all about.

So, Higashi is a strong character with solid attacks from both ranges with a game-changing innate. It's hard to imagine a better card.

Unless, of course, you want to think about what items you'd like to slot into him, of course. Since Higashi is such a versatile card, he has a lot of options when it comes to item selection.

The most popular choice seems to be the General's Insignia. That's a general item that adds 6 damage to single-hit attacks and super-charges Higashi's skills - since they're all single hits. Can't go wrong with that one.

Another strong choice is the Scroll of Inner Focus. That's a Ninja-only item (Higashi's purple border, by the way, marks him as a Ninja.) that lowers the energy cost of all your skills by 5. That might not sound like a lot but over the long haul it can really make a difference. There's also a weird little glitch where Sweep will actually give you energy for using it with a Scroll which is odd but nice anyways.

Other items to consider include the Mindreader's Chalice. That adds 15 damage to your intercepts and refills your energy bar when you hit. That means Higashi will be doing 85 damage on an intercept which is enough to kill anyone flat out. Probably overkill but it definitely sends a message to your opponent - "Do not try to switch out because I will pound you for it."

There's also the Origami Crane which prevents stat-lowering effects (Ie, debuffs that take away your resistance and more) which can be extremely useful in the right circumstances.

And Flash Powder a third Ninja-only that gives you Rumiko's innate - a 35% chance to dodge intercept - giving Higashi even more flexibility since you don't have to be as worried about swapping out yourself.

All in all, I'd probably go with the Scroll. It's really between the General and the Scroll while the rest are inferior options to consider if you don't have all the unlocks. And while General's is nice, Higashi already deals enough damage to be a threat and that extra 6 damage doesn't tip the break point on any of his skills - turning them from, say, three round knock-outs to two-hitters. While the lowered energy costs are always useful since it means he can stay in the fight longer.

I'd be remiss, though, after hyping up Higashi to mention that he's not without his flaws. He's a slow card that can take a while to kill, especially up front (I don't really mind that, myself, but it does have its disadvantages) and Chi Blast is harder to get off than it looks like. While his resistances are overall strong none is high enough to really keep him from taking a lot of damage - you really need Open Palm to proc a lot for that to happen and that's a crapshoot. And a lot of players - especially the less experienced ones and the very experienced ones - won't even care about that innate and just try to flatten you. So Higashi is not an invincible card that will win every match for you. He's just a very versatile card that's strong in every phase of the game.

Perhaps, I'd say a little too strong. I'd actually like to see him get a slight nerf, to make him a little bit weaker by creating a few more disadvantageous match-ups.

My big problem with Higashi is that he doesn't care if you have light resist or not. His Chi Blast deals so much raw damage that it just slices through and that makes it suicidal for even Vanessa Voss (Who has 10 light resist, the highest in the game. He'll deal, at worst, 55 damage to her leaving her with 15 health and finish her off the next turn with a Dashing or an Intercept. At the very worst, you guess wrong and she escapes only to be weak and easy to spike out the next time she enters play.) to bakc him off the line. Remember, Resistance is subtracted from the overall damage and since Chi Blast deals 65 damage it takes a lot of subtracting before that stops being an eye-popper - or instant death if it crits. And I think by changing Chi Blast so it's a multiplicative skills - doing, say, 5x13 or 13x5 damage or even 8x8 - then he has a bit more trouble with certain characters.

Also, I'd like to see Sweep have a slightly higher priority. In general, I think interrupts need to be a bit stronger than they are now to reward skillful players who are willing to gamble and if it were, say, 6spd, it would stop a few more attacks - like Ashi's Bleeding - and would prevent a nasty little loop with Cornelius's Hypnotic/Pilebunker combo.

So, my proposed Higashi would look like this:

Higashi, The Master
  • Ninja (Purple)
  • 80/100 (Health/Energy - everyone has 100 energy theses days but you never know, it might be important.)
  • 2/3/3 (Physical/Light/Dark resists)
  • When Higashi successfully intercepts, he deals 70 damage to the foe.

  • Open Palm. 40en, 9spd, 25dmg(Phys). 95hit, 30proc. Can cause the opponent to be paralyzed for 1 turn. Close.
  • Dashing Strike. 20en, 5spd, 20dmg(Phys). 95hit. High chance for a critical strike. Far.
  • Sweep. 0en, 6spd, 10dmg(Phys). 90hit, 100proc. If strikes first, interrupts the enemy's attack. Close.
  • Chi Blast. 80en, 5spd, 5x13(65)dmg(Light). 100hit, 50proc. May burn the foe for 3 damage each for 3 turns (9dmg). Far.

Minor changes, but I think that's all he really needs.

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