The Gathering

Situation
While this card is in play, neither player may play Special cards during his
Defense Phase.

The Gathering, compared to some of our last few cards, has seen fairly
widespread distribution.  The question is, is it as useful as it seems to be.

Game-mechanics questions first.  The Gathering is pretty straightforward.  The
question is less about how does it work, than what does it affect.

Focus and A Master's Focus will let you bypass The Gathering.

Although several of our reviewers mention avoidance cards like Disappear, Live
Forever, and It's a Kind of Magic below, it should be kept in mind that more
often than not, The Gathering will _not_ affect these cards.  Disappear, for
instance, prevents all damage no matter when it occurred during the turn. 
Thus, even if you are successfully damaged by an attack during your Defense
Phase, you can still play Disappear during your Attack Phase, preventing the
damage.

The Gathering _will_ keep Disappear or Live Forever from avoiding a Head Shot,
since that resolves at the end of the Defense Phase.  It also shuts down Holy
Ground entirely.  There are several other defense phase-only cards, such as
Run Through, that TG also shuts down entirely.

The Gathering also inhibits some cards that can be played at any time, if the
timing is right.  Thus, it doesn't make much difference to your opponent if
they want to play Ancestral Blade...unless they don't have it out in play, and
want to play and use it on the same turn.  Ditto for Continuity/Power Block.

So what is The Gathering good for?  Its lesser function is to shut down
Chessex.  The former prevents the play of a Special on the defense phase: the
latter prevents the play of any card on the attack phase.  If both of these
are down, the Chessex owner cannot play any Specials unless he uses Focus or A
Master's Focus, or Exerts to remove one or both cards (using Katana's
ability).

The Gathering's primary function, though, is to enhance attacks.  TG has no
effect on Events that enhance combat (Combination, Trip, Extra Shot, Head
Shot).  It only impacts defensive Specials.

_Any_ aggressive strategy can potentially benefit from using The Gathering. 
However, Head Shot-oriented strategies becomes even more powerful, since even
avoidance cards like those mentioned above (Mishap/reprint, Disappear, Live
Forever) are useless if they can't be played until the attack phase. And since
you lose your head at the end of your defense phase, that's too late.

The primary problem with The Gathering is that it affects both players,
meaning that you can be caught in the backlash.  Focus will let you avoid the
affects of a single Gathering...but your opponent can do the same.

Multiple The Gatherings mean that your opponent has to deal with all of them
before he can play a Special during his defense phase.  Of course, that means
you need multiple Foci as well.  Which brings us to the question of who should
use TG.

Since for best effect, you want multiple The Gatherings in play, an Immortal
that can bypass multiple Situations with a single card is best off.  That
points us to Duncan and Methos, who have A Master's Focus and enough Master
slots to use it effectively.  Other Personas can "borrow" that card using the
Methos/Master Quickening.  However, for someone like Khan or Corda and Reno,
or even the more common five-slotters, that can take up valuable resources. 
Connor and the Kurgan can be good choices, however, to pursue this strategy.

We talked about Head Shot strategies above, and how The Gathering benefits it. 
Currently, Duncan, the Kurgan, and Methos are at the top of the heap.  Why? 
Because Duncan and the Kurgan have the new, non-Special oriented Master Head
Shots, and Methos can "borrow" the Kurgan's.  Other Immortals can use the
Methos/Master Quickening to borrow the Kurgan's as well.

Amanda and Kalas also have their own Head Shot combos, due to
Destruction/Seduce and Stalk, respectively.  For Kalas, it can be a little
tricky since his opponent has to bypass The Gathering(s) in the first place to
play a Holy Ground so that the Stalk's special qualities are triggered.

In general, any Persona who has a heavy-hitting strategy, either from massive
multiple attacks (Bloodlust, Berserk, Annie, Kim), or large numbers of single-
card, heavy-damage attacks (Shooting Blade, Seduce/Thrust/Power Blow) can
potentially benefit from the use of The Gathering.

So overall, Steve gives The Gathering a _6_.  It's a potent head-taking card
and a nice augmentation to practically any heavy-hitting attack deck.  Carl is
probably a better alternative if you are favoring damage-type attacks. 
However, if you plan on going for Head Shots, TG provides the extra prevention
against Live Forever, Disappear, and similar such cards.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Not a bad card, but this card doesn't see much tournament play...for
good reason.  It perhaps slows your opponent's card-cycling down a bit (if
they don't have a defense and have to use Elizabeth Vaughn or a similar Event
to cycle) and stops Holy Ground/Disappear/Live Forever if your opponent
doesn't have a Focus, but that's about it.  Average, perhaps occasionally
useful card.

Hank - Definitely a powerful Situation.  If I'm not playing with Holy Grounds,
Disappears, Kind of Magics and the like myself, Gathering often makes it into
my deck.  I like The Gathering a lot, I think it's a strong swordfighting
card.

Alan - Superb against those Chessex-lovers.  Superior to Carl, in that it
prevents _any_ Special from being played in the Defense Phase, and is not
vulnerable to Ally-removal.

Jim - A useful card for Head Hunting decks.  Very good at limiting your
opponent's play of Holy Ground and other escape cards during the defense
phase.

Wayne - Good card for a Bloodlust deck or any deck that would be affected by
Holy Ground, Disappear, etc.  The negative is that it hurts you also.  This
card might be more popular to help shut down Methos and his great cards.

Prodipto - This is an amazingly useful card if you're using an attack-heavy
deck.  Get a couple Gatherings out, and then launch into your attack
sequences.  Without Foci, your opponent can't use Holy Grounds, Disappears
(editor's note:  yes, he can, by playing in the attack phase - it will avoid
all attack damage, but not Head Shots), Continuities, Ancestral Blades, or any
other card that helps him defend.  Combined with judicious use of Power Blows
and Head Shots, you can put your opponent in bad shape quickly.  Additionally,
all those nasty defensive cards will start to clutter up your opponent's hand
after a while, leaving less and less room to defend against your attacks.

Allen - I don't use it as much as I used to, but I still think it is a good
addition for many attack decks.  One great benefit to defensive cards like
Continuity and Ancestral Blade is that you don't need to waste your Special
slot playing them until your opponent makes a Power Blow.  With The Gathering
out, your opponent will need to play these cards early, and thus you can deal
with them before you attack.  Of course, its most useful effect is the
prevention of Holy Ground, and anything that keeps your opponent from going to
Holy Ground is good.

Bruce - Classically this card has been used to prevent Holy Ground.  It is
fairly effective at this, and none of the alternatives (except TCG rips) are
any better unless you want to play your own Special cards during your defense
phase.

Stealth Dave - An excellent card for dealing with all of those pesky Holy
Grounds, Disappears, Live Forevers, etc.  Just make sure it doesn't backfire
when you need to pull off your Holy Ground.  More versatile than Carl, it
deals with a larger variety of attack avoidance.  And it absolutely kills
Chessex decks.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Jeff                    5
Hank                    8
Alan                    7
Jim                     6
Wayne                   6
Prodipto                8
Allen                   6
Bruce                   6
Sdave                   7

Average:                6.50

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