Master's Stance

SITUATION:  Any block you play during your Defense Phase may remain in play as
a Guard.  The block is now considered a Standing Defense.  Master's Stance is
a Standing Defense.

Well, as we progress alphabetically through the Movie Edition's generic cards,
we finally come to the "M"s.  Which means it's time for a Master card.

Of the five Movie Edition generic Master cards, Master's Stance lies somewhere
in the middle.  It is neither as overall useful as Master's Stance or Advance,
but is definitely better than Master's Endurance or Domain.

Master's Stance seems simple enough.  It turns any block you play into a
Guard.  The block is a Standing Defense, and Master's Stance itself is a
Standing Defense.  The block has all the limitations and advantage of a Guard.

But first of all, what are the advantages of a Guard?  This brings us to one
of the most commonly misunderstood parts of the Highlander CCG.  You can
attack through a Guard.

The rules do _not_ say that attacking through a Guard is impossible.  They are
a little vague on this subject, particularly when they talk about dropping a
Guard to get into position for an attack.  This seems to be included as a
reference to the most _common_ type of Guard:  the Right, Left, Upper, and
Lower Guards found in booster packs everywhere.

Why can't you attack through these?  Because the _cards_ say so:  the rules do
not.  When you look at the other Guard found in the game, Kastagir's Master
Guard, we see that the text about attacking normally is merely idiot-proofing:
the same reason some Special Attacks say they can not be Power Blows or made
Hidden.

Remember, however, that a block is still a block.  If you use it that turn,
you're restricted by it, since that's what blocks normally do.

Example:  Nefertiri has Master's Stance in play.  Her opponent plays a Upper
Left attack (ULA).  She plays a Upper Left block (ULB).  She leaves the ULB
up, but her first attack this turn can not be to any area that block covers.

An important note:  the last block played only impedes your _first_ attack.
This means the following is possible:

Example (cont'd):  Nefertiri plays Combination.  She plays a LRA.  Now, she is
no longer restricted by the ULB she played.  She may now make her second
attack anywhere, _including the areas covered by the ULB_!

A player can do this because the ULB, as a Guard, does not restrict attacking.
This is less effective than Kastagir's Master Guard, which does not restrict
_any_ attacks.  A block that is "Master Stanced" will restrict the first
attack you make, but not subsequent ones.

So Master Stance isn't bad when combined when two-attack Specials like
Combination and Hook.  What else does it do?

Well, you now have a Guard up.  This means, in essence, that on his turn, an
opponent can not effectively attack to areas you blocked on your last turn.

If you are using two-attack Specials then this isn't as big a deal.  However,
if you are making single attacks it becomes a bit more impressive.

Example:  Slan blocks his opponent's URA with a URB, and keeps it out as a
Guard with Master's Stance.  He then makes a LLA Power Blow.  His opponent
then plays a LLB and prepares to counter attack.

At this point, let's study the situation.  Unless the opponent is Connor or
Duncan, they now can attack to only five areas due to their LLB:  UR, UC, UL,
LR, MR.

However, Slan's URB is still up.  This makes it useless for the opponent to
play three of those attacks:  UR, UC, MR.  The opponent now has only two
attacks they can make to an unblocked area:  UL and LR.

The opponent can still play those "unusable" attacks, forcing Slan to keep up
his URB as a Guard.  Since he uses it, the URB still restricts his attack next
turn.  He still can attack to five areas, however.  And when he does so his
opponent can still only effectively respond with two attacks.

So those are the general tactical advantages of Master Stance.  Which Personas
specifically benefit from this?

The most popular tactic is to use Master's Stance with Master's Block.
Although this takes up at least two Master slots, it means that the five
current Personas with Master's Block (Richie, Connor, Katana, Duncan, and
Fitzcairn) can put the block up and keep it up.  They can all attack through
their individual Master Blocks the same turn they use it - definitely a
superior advantage to using regular blocks.  The Master Block can then be left
up.  It doesn't impede counter-attacking and never goes away unless the
opponent either removes Master's Stance or forces the Master Stancer to dodge.

For Duncan, Richie, and Connor, this tactic becomes an actual strategy.  Why?
Because each of their Master's Blocks have inherent abilities that are
triggered when an opponent attack.  If the opponent dares to attack Connor
with a Master Stanced Master's Block, Connor's next attack is unblockable.

Other Personas can pull this trick off by using Darius. However, they can only
do it with Richie's Master Block.  Why?  Because Connor's and Duncan's Master
Blocks do _not_ say you can attack normally after using them.  The MacLeods
_can_ attack normally through their Master's Blocks, because that is their
Persona ability.  However, another Persona Dariusing in their Master's Blocks
can not.

As long as someone with a Dariused Connor/Duncan Master's Block is _not_
attacked, they can attack through the block.  Why?  Because again, as a Guard,
they can attack through it.  It is only when they use the Master's Block that
the rule that _any_ block restricts attacks kicks in.

Other uses for Master's Block?  As outlined above, this card can be attacked
through when using Combination, Extra Shot, Hook, or Follow-Up.  And if you
are a heavy Power Blow user, you can severely restrict an opponent's ability
to take a Hidden counter-attack.

Mixing Master's Stance with cards that restrict your opponent's attack
ability, Situations such as Higher Ground and Tight Squeeze, is not a bad idea
either.  Granted, you should always play a Lower Guard when you have a Higher
Ground out.  However, having Master's Stance to add a few spare Lower Center
blocks wouldn't hurt.

Master's Stances has several weaknesses.  It is both a Situation and a
Standing Defense, and vulnerable to cards that remove either.  However, an
interesting note is that there are some options that, while good for removing
a Guard, will have no effect on Master's Stance.  If an opponent plays Shove,
you would lose a Guard whether you dodge or not.  However, if you have
Master's Stance, you can still dodge.  It will cost you your current
block/guard, which is painful if it was a Master's Block.  However, that's why
you have two (three with a pg Darius) Master's Block.

Master's Stance is also a Master card.  It counts against your total number of
Masters, and is vulnerable to cards that target Masters.  This can make it an
expensive proposition if used with Master's Block:  only Connor, the Kurgan,
and Duncan probably have the necessary number of Master slots to utilize it
with Master's Block.  If you intend to use it merely to supplement normal
blocks, you probably have enough room to use two or three and still leave
yourself room for Master's Stratagem and Advance.

So overall, Steve gives Master's Stance a _6_.  It is generally useful enough
that it warrants inclusion in any general attack deck.  It's extremely
powerful in certain combinations, but vulnerable as a Situation and Standing
Defense.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Ben - Master's Stance has three problems.  First, it is a combo card and
requires a second card (a block) to pull off.  Second, it almost requires that
you play it with Master's Block, since almost any other block is inferior to a
regular guard anyway.  And finally, it eats up one of your Master slots.  So
to be an effective card, you basically have to play it with someone who a) has
Master's Block, and b) can afford to use a lot of Masters.  Thus, in ordinary
use, I give it a 3, but in the right hands, as high as an 8 or 9.

Jeff - A fun card, but useful only in theme decks . . . or if you're desperate
to get up a Master's Block as a guard.  I'd rather have Master Swordsman or
Master's Stratagem, myself, though.

Rick - The ability to keep any block played up as a Guard is very nice.  If
you are stuck in a Lock deck game, Master's Stance lets you keep playing those
blocks instead of having to exert to death.  Just another good card to help
you cycle cards.

Hank - Anyone who puts Master's Block in their deck should have this card, if
they can spare a slot.  The nine-point Guard is a nice combo.  Otherwise, it's
fairly useful but not immensely so . . .

Alan - Oh, how I *love* this card.  It is a staple in almost all of my Connor
decks, particularly my "Toolbox" one.  Naturally, I combine it with Connor's
Master's Block to create a "super Master's Guard", which allows me to not only
go lighter on my defenses, but also gives me an unblockable attack whenever my
opponent attacks.  Combined with an Honor Bound and/or Wargames West, this
becomes a powerful combination: my opponent has to play 1 or 2 Focii, as well
as either a 3rd Focus, or a Police to remove my "super Guard".  Not easily
done.  Of course that unblockable attack becomes quite useful, particularly in
an end-game situation when used with an upper attack + Head Shot.

Jim - Master's Stance (MS) is a staple among attack decks, especially for
personas that have Master's Blocks.  It particularly effective when combined
with Honor Bound since it is usually quite easy to remove Master's Stance
using Police or any anti-standing defense or Guard removing special.  MS is
very useful in Connor and Duncan decks, but any deck that has access to
Master's Block should consider using MS.

Chip - This card allows you to make all your blocks guards.  This can be VERY
useful if you are playing against an attack heavy deck especially if you come
across a Bloodlust or Berserk.  The downfall is that the card itself is
considered a standing defense allowing your opponent the opportunity to get
rid of the guard but also the masters stance with a single rush or any other
card that removes  standing defenses for that matter.   Obvious combo:
Masters Stance and Masters Block.


Ratings Overall:

Steve                   6
Ben                     3
Jeff                    4
Rick                    7
Hank                    7
Alan                    9
Jim                     8
Chip                    6

Average:                6.25

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