Ah, Helene. I'll always have a special place in my heart for the long haired, leggy blond with a fist full of steel to die from. She is, after all, my first Amazon card. Since I play random I've managed to log some significant time with all of them, really, but Helene's always brought a smile to my face whenever I pull her out of the deck.
The Sword Misstress is a close-only character. She can only deal damage when the range is set to close. And there are several other characters like that, too. There's her fellow Amazon Ashi Scary, the imposing Ninja Onimaru and, I'd argue, even with the new Bleeding, Ambrosia is along the same lines, too (We'll put the Marquis over to the side in a special box labled "Lame Toys" for now, okay?). And which close-only is the best is, like which wine is the best, a matter of personal preference and fierce debate. I'm not going to upset any Adherents of the Axe Battler or Partisans of the Samurai Way by coming down on any side of those fences because I don't like Helene because she's good - which she is, make no mistake. I like her because she's the most interesting design.
Take a look:
Helene, the Swordstress
Helene cannot be stunned.
- Shield Bash. 50en, 8spd, 20dmg (Phys). 95hit, 100proc. If it hits first, it cancels the enemy's attack this turn. Close.
- Frenzied Strikes . 40en, 8spd, 7x6(42)dmg (Dark). 90hit, 0proc. Slashes furiously, releasing her inner demons. Close.
- Sword Slash. 30en, 5spd, 30dmg (Phys). 90hit, 30proc. Has a chance to restore 30 of your energy from increased adrenaline. Close.
- Enchant Blade. 0en, 3spd. 100proc. All blade attacks are light magic and deal +3 damage for 2 turns. Both.
I should note that there's a patch winging its way into the game that will bump us from v1.5 to v1.6. Helene, so far, appears to be untouched, though, so don't worry about it.
But, if you can't see why that card is so appealing let me break it down for you. Helene can toggle.
By that I mean that she can flip a switch with her Enchant Blade skill and transform her skills. She gains damage, yes, but more importantly while that buff is active their damage type changes. Enchant sets them to Light (Although I should point out that they're still considered their original type, at least in some parts of the game. Leafy Trap will still be triggered by an Enchanted Sword Slash. Popo still has a chance to dodge. And so on. The only thing that seems to change is what resistance is applied when the damage is calculated. But, well, that's a big thing to change.) and since Helene already has both Physical and Dark that lets her deal all three of the types available. She can switch around her damage to get around her opponent's defenses.
I love that since it adds strategic depth to the game. When you play Helene you're always trying to figure out if it's to your advantage to press the attack or to spend a round buffing up to attack better. If your opponent has 4 dark resist and 3 light, is it worth it? Should you shift your damage over? What does that do to your output? What about if they have 2/3/3? Is it worth giving up 20-odd damage this turn to deal 30+ the next? If you don't think that's fun then, well, Kongai might not be the game for you.
What's even better is that not only does Helene have this nice little resistance defeating trick she backs it up with an impressive array of attacks. So, not only can she get around her foe's resist she can get in there and do a lot of damage once she does.
Her first attack, Shield Bash is probably the most overlooked. It's expensive at 50en and it's also not a "blade" attack. That means, unfortunately, it's not affected by Enchant. You only get to toggle with Slash and Strikes as if that wasn't already enough. What Bash is, though, is a lightning fast interrupt. At 8 speed you're beating most attacks. At 95hit, 100proc, you're blowing up anything that's slower than you. And at 20 damage you're putting a dent in your opponent, too. At least enough that you can finish them off when you follow with Frenzied or a sword thrust. Look at it this way, you have enough from a full tank to do two Bashes followed by a Frenzied. That kills most cards while leaving you unscathed. It also leaves you out of energy but, hey, those are the breaks. But even if you don't like the damage, what Bash does is take away a lot of the things that worry you. It's what turns Helene from being ToD-bait against Juju into stomping all over him, for example. Or keeps Constantine from Pilbunking her down. On and on down the list it creates good match-ups for her. Just don't try it against Ashi, although it's tempting - she's immune to interrupts.
Next, we have the big one. Frenzied Strikes. By itself it's a 7x6 dark damage bomb. That's a raw 42 damage for 40 energy which is already good because, being Dark, it lets Helene skip around the physical defenses that hinders her other skills. And, at 8 speed it's a high priority attack that's likely going to land before their blows do. But what really sets Frenzied off is Enchanting. Enchanting not only turns it over to light damage but adds +3 damage. That doesn't mean you get (7x6)+3 or 45 damage. No, it means you get (7+3)x6 damage. That's 60. And that's one of the hardest hitting skills in the game that, at the low, low cost of 40en you can swing a few times with. It's not quite as good as it sounds because of the range-changing we'll get into in a little bit but also because although being a multi-hit means it gains more benefit from those +dmg numbers, it also means it gets hit harder by resistance. Each point of resist that your opponent has takes away 6 points of damage and that can add up quickly, especially if they've got both decent light and dark resist that you can't get around (Really, only a few cards - like Higashi, Ubuntu and the aforementioned Juju do, though. And Frenzied does enough that you don't really care.).
Her last attack is Sword Slash. This is a hefty single hit attack that deals 30 physical damage. As a single hit it plows through resistance much better than Frenzied. It costs only 30en, too, but pays for it by being only 5 speed. That's slow enough that you can get it reflected back on you or beaten by other skills. But one of the big things to consider when playing Helene is that your opponent can change ranges. By spending 50 energy at the start of a turn they can step back to Far and out of reach of all those weapons you bring to bear. Helene, then, has to burn a lot of energy herself to get back (Or stay. Dueling range changes are weaksauce, kids. Get ahead of the game, don't let your opponent push you around) into the range where she can be effective. A 40en skill like Frenzied isn't as sustainable, then, as a 30en skill like Slash.
Say you have a bar full of energy and are sitting at distance. Stepping close cost you 50, then a Frenzied will cost you another 40 for a grand total of 90 spent in one round. You'll get back 20 from natural regeneration so you'll have 30 at the start of the next round. But your opponent, if they have any brains, will have made sure to have at least 50 to shove you away again. You'll rest, but that'll leave you with only 70 - in other words, enough that you'll have to rest again before you step back into range because you can't attack with only 20 energy. With Slash, on the other hand, you'll spend only 80 energy that first round, leaving you with 40 by its end. If you get pushed away you can rest for...that's right, another 80. Allowing you to step back in and swing again. The energy curve works much better if your opponent is trying to bleed away your energy.
It even works better if they're just going to stand there and let you pound on them. You can swing 10 times with Slash as opposed to only 5 for Frenzied (The important part about a skill's cost isn't how much it takes you to cast it, after all, but how much it takes away from your ability to cast further skills down the line. It's the net loss to your energy - the skills cost minus the 20 you'll get at the end of the round - to which that you really need to pay attention. Slash is only -10 while Frenzied is double that at -20.). You do less damage per swing but you'll deal more damage in the long run.
On top of that, Slash can also restore your energy for you. It has a 30% chance to proc 30 energy into your bar every time it connects. On average, then, you gain 9 energy per use and can sustain swinging away with it even longer. Realistically, it doesn't really matter since if you're going to be able to land 10~15 Sword Slashes your opponent is already in trouble. But that energy engine helps, too, since it gives you that energy not just to swing again with Slash but - with regeneration - the 50 energy you'll get is enough to use any of your other skills, too.
Helene's final skill is the Enchant Blade that I've been talking up before. I've mentioned how it increases your damage and lets your skip over resistances but another important point to consider is that it lets you do something when you're pushed to Far range. Enchant works at both ranges so while you're cooling your heels waiting to get your chance to step in and attack, it costs nothing to cast so you can buff yourself up and still gain energy (Not as much as you would if you rested, of course. But instead of seeing 0 energy when you click on Enchant, you should mentally substitute +20.). And that means, unlike Ashi, you actually have something to do rather than wait for your opponent to slam you.
And they will slam you. Although, personally, I think the best thing to do when you've got Helene away from you is to make sure she burns enough energy that she can't Frenzy when she gets back, plenty of people will take the opportunity to hit you with an attack as well. But, thankfully, Helene has 85 health to absorb those blows. That's the highest hit point total in the game so Helene's better able to shrug off damage. She shares that total with Onimaru and, like him, she has pretty strong resistance as well. 8/1/1 which gives her a little bit more protection against light and dark while still being stout against physical damage. She's a well-protected character, then, who can deal a lot of damage. But because she can only attack up close, she really needs it.
Her innate bears mentioning, too. Helene is immune to stuns. They just won't apply when they're used against her. So, if Rumiko tries to Eviscerate her she'll take off a bit of health and then stand there blinking because Helene's not going to notice it as she rages all over her face.
I'm not sure, though, whether her immunity extends to the Paralysis that Higashi and Yoshiro lay down with their slaps. If it does, well, it's good for Helene but a bit puzzling since there'd be no functional difference between Stuns and Paralysis. If it doesn't, well, it really should. Breif testing seems to indicate that it does, in fact, affect Paralysis as well as Stun. Althoug my faulty memory seems to indicate that it didn't used to, so maybe this was changed with the latest update. A minor point in an otherwise great card, though.