Master Swordsman

SPECIAL ATTACK/BLOCK:  When you play this card, choose one area on the grid
where the attack or defense applies. If used as an attack, this attack may be
a Power Blow without an Exertion. If used as a defense, this defense may block
a Power Blow without an Exertion.

The first thing to do is describe what this card looks like:  the text above
doesn't do it justice.  The grid on this card is divided into the standard
nine areas, but none of them are filled in.

What this means is, as the text indicates, the card is both a (Special) Attack
_and_ a Defense at any given moment.  It is _not_ a block, however, even
though it may be played as such.

This has several meanings.  First of all, if you are prevented from playing an
attack (or due to Verona, a Special Attack), you can _not_ play Master
Swordsman.  So if your Slan opponent plays a basic attack, a Lunge,
Intimidate, and makes the attack a Power Blow, you'd better be able to play
that Ancestral Blade or Continuity, because you can't play Master Swordsman -
Intimidate stops you.  Why?  Because Master Swordsman, even if you play it as
a defense, is still an attack and subject to any limitations on playing
attacks.

If an opponent plays Charm/Fitzcairn and you've got a Master Swordsman in your
hand, you lose it.  However, if he plays Charm/Kastagir, you do _not_.  Why?
Because Master Swordsman is not a block - it's a defense.  Charm/Kastagir does
not target defenses.  Cat and Mouse/Discard Defense will, however.

Once you play Master Swordsman as a block, it is _still_ not a block - it is
just treated like one.  However, it still has the properites of a block, and
thus will not stop unblockable attacks (unless modified by Alertness/Block).

Master Swordsman can be played from an Exertion _if_ you Exert for a defense.
You cannot play it from an attack Exertion, since it is still a Special
Attack, and the normal rules apply.

You may make a Master Swordsman/block a Power Block whether you play it from
your hand or from an Exertion.  Used in this manner, it is similar to a
Focussed Block.

Since a Master Swordsman/attack can be made a Power Blow in contradiction of
the typical Special Attack rules, you may use it in conjunction with a Head
Shot, Power Blow, or Hammer Blow.  You can not, however, play Head Shot, then
Exert for an attack and play Master Swordsman from that Exertion.

As you may have gathered, Master Swordsman is a _very_ useful card, and well
worth being limited as a Master.

Let's look at its attack potential first.  Essentially, it functions like
Slan's Persona ability and Quickening.  You may make a Power Blow without
playing a Special or Exerting, thus allowing you to play a Special to
modify/supplement the attack while saving cards.

Thus, Katana can use Master Swordsman with Taunt and toss out "free" Power
Blows.

Other useful cards that can be played with a Master Swordsman/attack include
Break Weapon, Honed Weapon, Cat and Mouse/Defense, Master's Block/Connor, and
Trip/Kalas or Annie.  If you make it the second attack of an Extra Shot (the
"standard" variety) in conjunction with Flashing Blade, your opponent has
serious trouble.

Master Swordsman/attack has its weaknesses.  As a Special Attack, it can not
be made Hidden by Combination or the "standard" Trip, or modified by Lunge.
Nor can it be played from an Exertion.  However, if you are forced to Exert
for attacks, you could do worse then play Courage/Attack to play another
attack while keeping Master Swordsman for future use as an attack or defense.

Even for Slan, Master Swordsman/attack is not a bad card even though it
duplicates his Persona ability.  The ability to attack to any area means you
can pretty much ignore that restrictive block you just played, while targeting
your Power Blow for maximum placement.

So much for Master Swordsman as an attack.  How is it as a defense?

Pretty good.  With a probable restriction on Ancestral Blade, the "standard"
Continuity and Stamina will once again become the standard Power Blocking
tactics for those who don't want to Exert or who can't Power Block for free
(Slan and Luther).

That's nice.  But when Ruins are out, or you don't have the "standard"
Continuity users (Xavier, Katana, everyone in Watcher's Chronicles), what the
heck do you do?  Worse, what if your opponent just made a Lunge/Power Blow, or
there's other anti-dodge stuff about?  Master Swordsman/block, of course!

Now we come to a major point:  Master Swordsman is the only gridded non-
Persona Master card.  Which means that _anyone_ can use it in Renaissance-
style games.  This means that Personas who do not have any Persona-specific
Master cards (Luther, Nefertiri, Slan, Xavier, Khan, Kern) should use the
maximum allowed them.  The Kurgan probably should as well, unless he is
contemplating Master's Disarm.  And Master Swordsman isn't a bad choice for
the other Personas, particularly those who lack the "standard" Continuity like
Annie, Kalas, and Katana.

Master Swordsman/block's one "weakness" is that it only covers a single area.
Thus, it isn't very effective against multi-area attacks (Slash, Master's
Attack/Annie) or Hidden attacks.

So who should use Master Swordsman?  Well, everyone, essentially.  Even in
non-Renaissance, it is an excellent card, and finally provides all Personas
with some hard choices about which Masters to have in their deck.

Even Luther and Slan should think about using it.  Since Master
Swordsman/attack duplicates Slan's Power Blow ability, Luther can use his
Intimidate the same way Slan does, without Exerting for a Power Blow.

Connor, Richie, Duncan, Kastagir, and Amanda have enough other Masters to
choose from that they may not want to use Master Swordsman.  However, Connor
and Duncan can benefit from making Power Blows because of their immunity to
Hidden attacks, while Amanda can use Master Swordsmsan to bolster her
Continuity.

The above analysis is based on which Persona-specific Masters the various
Personas have.  Some Personas can benefit from generic Masters, particularly
Master's Advance and Master's Stratagem.  However, if possible Master
Swordsman should still be added to such decks if the space can be made.

So overall, Steve gives Master Swordsman a _8_.  Only its Master status and
the fact that a few other Masters are nearly as good limit it.  It's an ideal
card for Renaissance-style play (where it deserves a 10), and as the "Power
Block" Continuity's presence is minimized, Master Swordsman will become more
and more useful to more and more Personas.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Abstain

Rick - Abstain

Hank - Master Swordsman is a great card for swordfighting decks, but it eats
up those precious Master slots.  I use it in almost every deck I build that
doesn't use Master slots for anything else, so that says something.

Alan - Not really a card I tend to use, though its "wild card" nature is
interesting and unique.  There are really other Master cards I would rather
include in my deck, though I can definitely see its usefulness in a
swordfighting deck.

Jim - Master Swordsman is an excellent card.  It helps on both offense and
defense.  It is very useful for head hunting decks and may save your head when
you run up against a Head Shot and have no other appropriate defense.  This
card is also a good supplement decks that emphasize Power Blows.  The downside
is this uses a Master's slot and as a Special Attack you may not play it as an
attack from an Exertion.  This may be one reason to reconsider using Courage
(attacks) in decks.

Wayne - Abstain

Prodipto - This card is very useful.  In the hands of Duncan or Connor, it
allows you to make a Power Blow with no penalty.  In any Persona's hand, it
makes a valuable defense against Power Blows or Head Shots.  Obviously it has
limited use for Slan or the Kurgan who have minor or no penalty to blocking
and making Power Blows, and a little less limited for Luther.  A key drawback
to note is that it is a Special Attack, and therefore can't be Hidden or
played from an Exertion.  I would definitely play a few Courage in a deck if I
was expecting to be able to use this card.  Another thing to note is that it
does take up a Master slot.  However, since it is most potent in the hands of
Connor and Duncan, who have the most Master slots available, it would be well
worth considering in a deck.

Allen - Master Swordsman can almost take the place of a Master's Attack and a
Master's block in your deck; all at the cost of one Master Slot.  While it
can't defend an entire Bloodlust and isn't intrinsically undodgeable, its
versatility makes it a great swordfighting card.  I prefer to use it in the
attack.  Master Swordsman is a great addition to Spinning Attack decks which
employ Exertion-free Power Blows without playing a special card.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   8
Jeff                  N/A
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    8
Alan                    6
Jim                     7
Wayne                 N/A
Prodipto                7
Allen                   7

Average:                7.17

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