Arthur Williams
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That last game was far too easy, so let’s spin the dial just about all the way in the other direction, with roughly the sixth-hardest single villain in the game. The Advanced Matriarch [70] in the Temple of Zhu Long, vs. the Scholar of the Infinite [31], Freedom Six Tachyon [28], Dark Watch Mister Fixer [29], and Dark Visionary [25]. Dark Visi and Team Leader Tachyon are both among the heroes I consider borderline OP, along with normal Legacy and normal Nightmist; I am however quite content to be wielding such power against a villain who is nemesis to one of the two, and whose powers all but obviate the other.

Setup: Mask of the Matriarch [9] enters play. Scholar draws Flesh to Iron, Proverbs and Axioms, Offensive Transmutation, and Solid to Liquid. TLT gets Lightspeed Barrage, Lightning Reflexes, HUD goggles and Fleet of Foot. DW Fixer starts with Grease Monkey Fist, Pipe Wrench, Tool Box and Overdrive. Visionary has Suggestion, Mass Levitation, Brain Burn and Wrest The Mind. Among these cards in hand, I quickly devise a highly amusing plan.

Villain 1: Matty wastes one of her Darken the Skies, then plays a Horrid Cacophony, dealing 2 damage to each hero, with an extra 1 to her sister [Scholar 29, Tachyon 25, Fixer 27, Visi 23]. Not the start I was figuring on, and it obviates part of my plan for the heroes, but that’s okay.

Scholar 1: On the advice of Mister Fixer, does not put a card into play; instead plays Proverbs and Axioms. Heroes draw Alchemical Redirection, Supersonic Response, Tire Iron, and Foresight. Scholar heals to full [31], while the badly damaged Tachyon burns her HP even more [22] in order to let everyone draw Flesh to Iron, Sucker Punch, Driving Mantis, and Precognition. Fixer also takes the damage [24] so that he can Bitter Strike with no drawback, damaging the Mask [6]. Visionary takes the healing [25]. With Fixer’s assurance that the Mask won’t last, Scholar uses his power to burn 1 HP off himself [30] and Matty [69]. Draws Bring What You Need, which is indeed what he needed.

Tachyon 1: Fleet of Foot draws Solid to Liquid, Nimble Strike, Bloody Knuckles, and Psychic Maelstrom. Nimble Strike does 2 to Matty [67], drawing Pushing the Limits. Team Leader hands out Keep Moving, Quick Insight, Hoist Chain and Telekinetic Cocoon. Draws Accelerated Assault.

Mister Fixer 1: Goes Overdrive and finishes off the Mask. Draws more Bloody Knuckles; “You wouldn’t hit a teenage girl, would you?” Matty whines, having technically not actually done much of anything yet (the sonic damage from her first turn could easily just BE her whining).

Visionary 1: Her lovely plan in ruins, opts to simply Suggestion the Horrid Cacophony back onto Matty’s deck, since this isn’t much of a danger to the team, and more importantly put the Mask of the Matriarch on the bottom of the deck so that it can’t be found by Darken the Sky. Since using her power on the villain would only push the Mask one card closer to the top of the deck, she uses it on the Environment instead, sending away an Apprentice Poisoner which was second from the top, and confirming that the next environment card will be….

Enviro 1: ...the Rites of Revival. (Visi drew Twist the Ether, by the way.)

Villain 2: Matty shrieks in teenage entitlement again [Scholar 28, Tachyon 19, Fixer 22, Visi 23].

Scholar 2: Keeps Moving to get Flesh to Iron into play, then uses Bring What You Need to get Transmutive Recovery and another Keep Moving into his hand, bottoming Grace Under Fire and then drawing Mortal Form To Energy.

Tachyon 2: Plays Hud Goggles into Pushing the Limits into Supersonic Response, doing a little shrieking of her own at her sister, for a total of 6 damage thanks to nemesis [61]. Gives Fixer permission to break her PTL, while Team Leader gives out another Grace Under Fire, a second Lightspeed Barrage, a duplicate Hoist Chain, and a Mind Spike. Draws herself more HUD Goggles, updating her instructions to Fixer, then remembers her bonus draw from Pushing the Limits, gets another Pushing the Limits, and saying “never mind, MF; back to plan A”.

Mister Fixer 2: Now able to keep a card in play, puts down Pipe Wrench and Bitter Strikes the brat for 4 [57]. “You’re right, I wouldn’t lay a finger on a teenage girl. CLANG!” Destroys PTL and draws Harmony.

Visionary 2: Twists the Scholar’s Ether, figuring this is relevant with Channel; Turmoils the Environment again, but since this is a “reveal” effect rather than a “look at” effect, she is ambushed by two Shinobi Assassins, and as the lowest-HP target, Tachy is cut to ribbons [13]. “Never...DO...THAT!...AGAIN!!!” TLT hisses at her presumably-attitudinous teammate (she’s the only one of these three who isn’t “dark” in some sense, although she’s from a postapocalyptic future so I guess she also kind of counts – still, as a Team Leader, she’s almost certainly the most cooperative of the bunch). Visi draws Cerebral Hemorrhage.

Enviro 2: Mysterious Ceremonies commence; much as Fixer would like to kit out a little further, Scholar insists on taking advantage of Visi’s schemes by playing Keep Moving, putting out a Mortal Form To Energy and then playing another one.

Villain 3: Finally free to play a card without interference, Matty manages to summon one Bird (Clattering of Jackdaws) and then wastes a Darken the Sky, not even getting the Mask thanks to Visi’s Suggestion. Matty sobs.

Scholar 3: Discards Alchemical Redirection and two Flesh to Irons, since the party seems unlikely to need even as much tanking as he currently provides; he plays a Transmutive Recovery [30], triggering both Energy Forms to deal 3 damage each to Matty [51], drawing Know When To Turn Loose and another Transmutive Recovery, and then activating Channel. He’d ditched three cards, so the damage would be 4 to a target and 4 to himself, but thanks to Twist the Ether and Flesh to Iron, it’s actually 5 to Matty [46] and 1 to himself [29], leaving him still able to nap on his next turn. Draws another Keep Moving.

Tachyon 3: Quick Insight draws Fleet of Foot, Research Grant, and Sonic Vortex; figuring she has enough extra plays, she discards Lightning Reflexes as well as Sucker Punch. With Hud Goggles, plays Fleet of Foot, giving out “Get Out Of The Way”, another Research Grant, Dual Crowbars, and Precognition; she plays Pushing the Limits and then resolves Fleet of Foot, putting it into her trash, and PTL gives her an extra play. She intends an Accelerated Assault, but Scholar asks her to refrain, and so she puts out Research Grant, ignoring it and giving the team Know When To Hold Fast, Fleet of Foot, Salvage Yard and Mental Divergence. Draws Sonic Vortex.

Mister Fixer 3: Was going to do Grease Monkey Fist, but Tachyon is his bestie and has a plan, so she gets him to do Driving Mantis instead. Bitterly Strikes Matty for 4 again [42], smashing the HUD Goggles. Draws another Salvage Yard; there is definitely a plan coming together.

Visionary 3: Has nothing in particular to do, so just plays a Cerebral Hemorrhage, hitting Matty directly [40], then bouncing a hit off Fixer to damage her again [38]. Turmoils Matty, sending Muninn to the bottom of the deck and leaving an Unkindness of Ravens to enter play momentarily. Draws Decoy Projection.

Enviro 3: Mysterious Ceremonies reveals a Shinobi [2], who kills the Jackdaws, causing Matty to yell at Scholar, who ignores the 2 psychic damage she’s inflicting. The True Form then enters play [13], blasting Scholar for 1 net damage each of Radiant and Toxic [27]. He literally sleeps through this attack, drawing Solid to Liquid, Expect The Worst, a totally useless Know When To Turn Loose, “Get Out Of The Way”, and Truth Seeker.

Villain 4: Was about to actually deal some Hitchcock Damage, but instead she just summons the Ravens, followed by more Ravens, followed by a Murder of Crows, a Clattering of Jackdaws, a Building of Rooks, and finally a Horrid Cacophony. This actually destroys some Ongoings this time; having not yet discarded her duplicate Research Grant, Tachy loses both her cards, and Scholar doesn’t need Bring What You Need, and can even live without Flesh to Iron. Sonic damage then happens [Scholar 25, Tachyon 10, Fixer 20, Visi 21], and Matty finally resembles a credible threat, two full turns after Fixer has bashed out all her teeth with a Pipe Wrench.

Scholar 4: Discards the spare Turn Loose, along with the Truth Seeker; plays a Keep Moving to get the third Mortal Form into play, then plays Grace Under Fire for 10 damage to Matty [28]. He then does Channel, which generates 3-you-3-me damage, and Visionary edits this to 4-you [24] and 2-me [23]. Draws another Hold Fast, but is past needing to sleep any more.

Tachyon 4: Seeing the way the wind is blowing, chains Fleet of Foot into HUD Goggles (heroes draw Get Out Of The Way, Synaptic Interruption, Charge and Prophetic Vision), then plays the Synpatic. She was strongly considering doing Lightspeed Barrage for just 7, but instead just hands out more cards (Don’t Dismiss Anything, a Lightning Reflexes she really wishes had been 1 card higher, Dual Crowbars and TK Cocoon) and ends her turn with an extra Synaptic.

Fixer 4: Now that his nemesis is on the field, he switches to Dual Crowbars rather than playing Harmony; the latter would get him up to a 5-point Bitter Strike, but as-is, he can strike the True Form, dealing 5 damage anyway thanks to nemesis [8], and then adding another point for the Crowbars when he goes on to hit Matty [18]. Destroys HUD Goggles and draws Grease Gun.

Visionary 4: Nothing is more worthwhile than a simple Mind Spike at this point [Matty 15]; the plan she’s been sitting on this whole time was to Wrest the Mind of a Bird, getting Scholar to do Offensive Transmutation on her, so that she could Wrest all the Bird’s damage to Matty, but this isn’t especially worthwhile given that I misremembered some of the Birds as hitting multiple players for more than 1 damage, and this is not the case. Given the risk of a Master of the Temple showing up, either as the normal card play or from Mysterious Ceremonies, and knocking out all the Birds at once, she sees no real point in trying to “enchant” one of them at this moment; maybe at the end of the environment turn she’ll try it, but it’s likely that Scholar has a better plan. Turmoils Matty to play Jackdaws rather than Vultures next, and draws more Decoy Projection.

Enviro 4: Master of the Temple is indeed played, but it doesn’t spoil all of Scholar’s plans because it waits to fire until the end of the turn; a second copy is then played, but neither one can fire until after Mysterious Ceremonies happens. With only 12 cards in hand besides Know When To Turn Loose, that isn’t enough to kill the Matriarch before she gets to curse at Zhu Long for killing all her birds; therefore, Scholar plays “Get Out Of The Way”. Zhu Long takes 2 from this thanks to Visionary’s aid [6], Matty also takes 2 [13], and then he gets to decide whether to strike the Assassins or the Birds, or to have Visionary spare them so that the party needn’t deal with Matty’s retaliation damage (most of which would go to him, eventually moving on to Visi and Fixer). Since he needs only to damage 4 targets in order to heal himself for 4, generating three 5-damage instances thanks to the Twisted Energy Ether Form, he spares all the birds and only hits two of the three Shinobi (who survive at 1 and thus don’t interfere with hero decks). Matty goes down in a holocaust of energy tentacles, the Birds are unharmed except for that one Jackdaw that pissed off a ninja (we’ll say that particular ninja is the one that wasn’t damaged by Get Out Of The Way, since the other two had actually seriously wounded the Team Leader and thus deserve a little retributive roasting), and Zhu Long has no need to remind anyone whose house they’re in.

Well, that’s one of the hardest smackdowns I’ve ever laid on a villain; Matty never even got the chance to apply her advanced text on side A (as frequently happens, thusly I tend to retroactively change my mind on whether the game counts as Advanced or not, depending on which version I’ve done more of lately; Gloomweaver, Iron Legacy, and W.M. are the other Villains who can generally do this). Neverminding the possibility that Scholar could have slaughtered enough birds to heal up to full (being only 6 points short, although triggering Matriarch retribution could easily have adjusted that), and the possibility of Turning Loose and then Channeling, the party’s OTHER still-primed attacks included Tachyon bouncing a Sonic Vortex off both herself (Synaptic) and Fixer (Dual Crowbars plus Pipe Wrench) for 12 total nemesis damage to Matty, doing that twice after playing another Synaptic, doing 8- or 9-burst Lightspeed Barrages with Nemesis again, Fixer getting Harmony out and using Overdrive twice thanks to Salvage Yard, and of course his two Bloody Knuckles (and if necessary also Tool Box, which similarly powers Bitter Strike without costing the team any permanent resources), for something like 50 more damage that was ready to go. This is definitely a high-powered team; I would probably switch to Visionary Unleashed instead of Dark Visionary, add in the original Legacy for more bonus damage, and take the result against such mighty foes as Progeny, Skinwalker, advanced Spite (not that he’s especially difficult, but just for the hope of being able to power through his insane amounts of healing and beat him pre-flip), the advanced Ennead, a high-powered Villains 5, and maybe even OblivAeon. Meanwhile, I also want to send Visionary against Matty again, but this time with The Sentinels and Unity, and actually pull off that Wrest the Jackdaws’ Mind combo, just for the joy of seeing Matriarch’s own minions peck her to death.
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