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Seven Masters

While they aren't as cool and revolutionary as I hoped for (I have a rant about it, but it's not for the feint of heart), they are still a pretty cool and fun to play faction, and feel much more at home, cohesive and less forced than the Purists.  I do like how the faction can't stand on their own, and is really designed to be synergistic through some copy abilities and low-resource requirements. It's really too bad that they are a one-set only faction, and are not going to continued with -- they started something really great for the game, but are abandoning for story reasons.

I also have some strategy tips for those of you working on your decks.

Foundation Characters    Utility Characters    Hitters
Events    States    Edges    Sites
 

 

FOUNDATION CHARACTERS

Kunlun Clan Assault
See Events.
  Wah-Shan Clan Warriors
Seven Masters' foundation.  Chi foundation.  Students.  Not much more to be said.  You will probably want 5 of these most of the time, but you might need to go heavier on the Kunlun Clan Assault depending on how you are combining factions. 
Pretty basic foundation here -- I wish I had more of these (and Kunlun Clans) as I have more Seven Masters cards I want to play than I have foundations.
 

UTILITY CHARACTERS

Monsoon
This Master is very playable, but you are going to want to play him with some way to boost his damage.  Some type of weapon seems to be obvious, and with that boost, he is going be able to pick off those back-row utility sites (Whirlpools).  Pao Yeh Pao Lo Mi is another possibility for that quick damage boost.  Being uncommon, combined with his low cost and resource requirement, are going to make him the most accessible of the Seven Masters.  I bet you figured out that little bit of extra damage Monsoon needs is Kunlun Clan Assault. 
Monsoon is our Whirlpool killer -- KCA to ping and reveal back row sites, then the littler master in for the kill.
  Wudang Monk
Boy I wish this card could copy Unique characters -- then you would actually play this card to do stuff.  Right now, I'm finding it a hard sell to include this card in a deck over another copy of the character I wanted to copy.  Sure, your opponents may have something worth copying, but just as often they wont.  I like Occult Kung Fu much better because it lets you combine abilities for cool synergy. 
I have come to like this guy a little better, but more because he's fun than because he's powerful.  The copy ability can create some really cool interactions, especially in 4-player where there is going to be more characters in play.  If you want a deep combo, play Occult Kung Fu on a unique character you control choosing a Wudang Monk in your smoked pile to copy!
   
 

HITTERS

  Ghost Wind
The Master of the Liquid Sword has some pretty good beats, and you will find that he gains you a rebate of a couple of points of power.  And, his play-for-free is probably the easiest of the Seven Masters to trigger in a four player game, so you can expect to play him at no cost a lot of the time.  I expect to see Ghost Wind as a staple hitter in any Seven Masters deck.  He also combos well with Final Brawl. 
GW has been administering beats for us -- he almost always gets a small power rebate, and is of good enough size have a chance to take a site (especially if use that rebated power to play a Kunlun Clan Assaut).
  Gold Lion
Again we have a big thug with a few modestly useful abilities.  Discarding a card to heal him every turn is the better of the two I think, as your opponents aren't going to be able to muck with it.  Hopefully you will have Superleap against enough opponents that you can use that first ability to remove any damage created by the speed bumps that do get a chance to intercept.  And be wary of opponents who can spend power to get down to 0 if needed to stop a win. 
GL is livin' the thugs life.  I don't play him as often as I do a few of the other Masters (even with his ridiculously low resource-requirements) because he's a total package, and I try to look for a little synergy (or cards that get power or are resilient) when building multi-faction decks
  Ho Chen

Unique. Superleap against opponents who have 3 or more cards in their hand. Once per turn, you may discard a card to do X damage to target Character about to enter combat with Ho Chen. X= the cost of the discarded card.

This Master reminds me of those janky Hand cards from Shaolin Showdown that you never seem to get around to playing.  He's okay, but a couple of the other Masters are just better, and I only expect to see Ho Chen played as filler because players don't have enough of the better Masters.  His superleap is going to work most of the time, but sometimes you might fight yourself going for your second choice of targets.  Also, he can lose it between being declared as an attacker and the declaration of interceptors.  Of course, you have a chance of smacking any interceptors with the Flawless Strike.  There is probably some bittersweet irony in that the promo (and second most common after Monsoon) Master is the worst of the lot.

  Li Mao
The mature version of this master out-shines his Dragon aspect.  He has a couple of obvious combos -- if you draw him with Unexpected Rescue or Surprise Surprise, you can choose to make Li Mao immune to the faction of the event, which means he is going to stay in play at the end of the attack/turn.  Even if you don't pull off that trick, you can make him immune to the most dangerous faction sitting at the table.  He's also got conditional superleap, but it's much more under your control than Red Master's.  Kunlun Clan Assault makes a great discard for this ability as you don't need the resources, as to a lot of the utility cards you are going to be playing. 
We've all played the Guman, and we know that being able to get through a quagmire of events can be a game winner.
Red Bat
This
Master is interesting -- 5 power is a lot to pay for a character, but Independent has been proven time and time again to be a game winning ability.  Just how big can Red Bat get?  That's really up to you, and how long you hold off on playing him.  You are probably going to want to be playing the new Seven Masters event foundations, Kunlun Clan Assault, and a healthy spattering of other low-cost events to make sure you have plenty in your smoked pile (Unexpected Rescue, anyone?).  Remember that, unlike Che Gorilla, his Fighting isn't fixed, so he gets bigger for every event that you play, and doesn't get totally hosed by blanking abilities (Larcenous Mist et. al.).  The real saving grace, is that in a four-player game, Red Bat  has a good chance of coming out for free, just at the time when he is going to be big enough to make a difference. A tournament level deck utilizing Red Bat has cropped up with solid success.  It uses the Dragons for Is That All You Got?!? to recycle Red Bat (and Big Bruisers) along with all sorts of Dragon goodness, while relying on the Seven Masters for targeted damage and character protection.  And Red Bat doesn't just go in this deck, he's really good enough on his own to be in any deck packing the Masters.
  Sky Dragon
He's big, he's expensive, and he kicks the teeth in on other characters (excepting CHAR, of course). You absolutely have to have event and Mentor protection in hand if you ever want to get Sky Dragon in play (I've had him Mentored away, and boy are you up the creek).  Strictly a fun card, he will draw a lot of attention from your opponents, and is good in combination with Golden Comeback (as are most ultra-high cost characters).  
Still mostly a fun card -- at 7 cost, it's just too high a price to really rely on.  If he ony cost 6...
  Wu Man Kai
The Master of Wudang Mountain is a game finisher, but a costly one.  He reminds me of the Dark Future version of Rhys Engel. Where he is going to kick-ass is on all the X fighting characters -- discarding any card to smoke them is to prove randomly useful. Boy is he good when you want to go for the win -- yeah, it's going to cost you a few cards, but you are shutting down a problem site, and possibly negating a troublesome character.  This is really on the curve (which is where you want to be) for a 5-cost hitter.
   
 

EVENTS

 

Beneficent Tao
I'm not sure about this event -- I think it's most playable in decks without a decent amount of Chi.  If you have Chi, you are going to want to be playing Healing Earth since it will help your characters as well.  One benefit of this event over the aforementioned is that Beneficent Tao can heal an opponent's site, possibly sandbagging a win.  Note that it only works on Feng Shui Sites.  Beneficent Tao also provides
, which makes a nice second resource, but you are still going to need a foundation for the first.  Of course, none of the Seven Masters' cards need more than two resources, so that reduces the need.  A lot like Verminous Rain, there is no reason not to play this in every deck with the Seven Masters.  I've found that it's not a terrific resource accelerator, but healing up a FSS at no real cost comes in useful more often than not.

Kunlun Clan Assault
This
foundation is revolutionary -- it's the first that is not a character or site.  The ability itself is very close to to Mark of Fire, which is very balanced in my opinion.  How good is giving up 1 damage for losing the mtuliple target requirement?  So far, pretty darn good.  And you have the  added power of this card in providing three separate resources, of which DNA Mage and The Junkyard are the only the only foundations to due so.  This is a card that will take some time to figure out how playable it really is, but it does create some possible new splashes for Magic and Chi (not to mention the Seven Masters).  Kunlun Clan Assault is also going to be of help if you are trying to make this set's Stances work for you.  This has become a card to fear!  People keep threatening just to play KCAs just by themselves, but a few other of the Seven Masters cards (espeically the play for frees) are too good to pass up playing when you had the resources.  I don't think this foundation really unbalances the game that much -- paying 2 power for the effect is really a balanced cost.  Why I think this raises some eyebrows is the high frequency it's played (you pratically gotta play it if you're playing the Seven Masters) vs. the tragic under-playing of cards like Mark of Fire and Disco Inferno.
  Monkey Fools the Tiger
Expect this card when playing against someone with two Seven Masters' resources in their pool.  I expect to be checking for that one power to give, and it will give me second thought before attacking.  That said, it's still not as good as the old standards, but it is take out.  It's not a targeted effect, so you can stop the Gunman and his ilk, but since it's damage redirection, CHAR is going to be a problem (isn't he always?).  A way to think about this card is in comparison to is a hypothetical "Small Nerve Gas" that gave the controller of the target 1 power. 
A faction defining card -- this is some great (but balanced) take out, and works amazingly well when combining the Masters with a faction that you don't think of as having a lot of point take out (such as the Hand or Dragons).
  Pao Yeh Pao Lo Mi
I'm torn as to whether this card is playable or not.  It's very comparable to a Pump-Action Shotgun when attacking, but has a few extra tricks, especially when combined with healing effects.  I think it's going to come down to a meta-game decision -- are there a lot of Lotus decks that you expect to go up against?  Canceling that Tortured Memories can be key.  Requiring Chi seems a little odd since it's really hard to get a Seven Masters' resource without Chi.  Maybe ArcanoWave Pulse will make a comeback... 
I am no longer torn as to whether this is playable -- it's not.  +3 Fighting until the end of turn rarely (if ever( better than 3 points of targeted damage --  sure, Kunlun Clan Assault does cost 1 more power, but it's a foundation, and can be used with the half of your deck that isn't Seven Masters.
  Unexpected Rescue
I expect this to be a defining card for the Seven Masters at the set's release.  Whether Unexpected Rescue holds up in the long run has yet to be seen.  This event plays a lot like Surprise Surprise, where you are hoping for a little bit of luck to make it work.  Combining with come into play effects is always a bonus, so this card will mix well with other factions as well.  Note the obvious combo with Li Mao -- when he comes into play, choose Seven Masters as the resource for his event immunity, and then at the end of the attack he gets to stick around since Unexpected Rescue can no longer see him.  Since none of the Seven Masters characters require more than 2 resources (and some only 1), they will work well with this event.  Unfortunately, multi-faction decks hurt a little because of the resource restriction. 
Well, it's not a defining card (Kunlun Clan and Monkey Fools the Tiger stole that title), but it's still good.  Fun good, and has some great in faction synergy.
 

STATES

  Occult Kung Fu
This is the Seven Masters' Training Sequence, but with an interesting gravy ability.  I don't think Violet Senshei Chamber and Soul Diver are played often enough for most people to realize that the ability is strong -- and Occult Kung Fu is differentiated in that you copy from your own Smoked Pile, not your opponents', so you have much more control over it.  I expect to see this card crop up from time to time in some funky dual faction decks -- what exactly it will do it's hard to predict, but it will do something.  Note that the Seven Masters faction does not have a lot of good stuff to copy, so it's multi-faction synergy that this card promotes. 
I think everyone who's played this card knows how much fun it is.  Yeah, you gotta work it a bunch in deck construction, but it creates some great combos.  I've build versions with both the Lotus (they have a million great non-uniques to copy) and Monarchs (Spirit Pole anyone?).
  One Thousand Swords
Unfortunately, this weapon is really useful outside of a Sword deck, and I don't think it's really that useful in one.  Don't confuse this as a re-usable Mark of Fire -- it only zaps characters, and they have to share the location with the subject, so you are rarely going to be getting in all 4 points.  Also, since both abilities require turning, you can't Mobility over and slice and dice.  As I've said before, Mobility is not my favorite of the abilities, as it often turns you into the table-chump. 
Kunlun Clan Assault duplicates too much of this cards effect to make you really need (or want) to play it.  And in the Sword deck, you really do have better swords.
  Wondrous Illusion
While this card can be powerful, the restriction of not being able to use it during an attack puts it in the iffy pile.  You are going to want 3-4 sites in play to maximize rearrangement tricks, and probably some serious damage for the healing to be of use.  But, I'm going to have a hard time playing this over some of the other healing events -- Beneficent Tao for example.  This might work okay with a faction that has lots of stupid site tricks like the Purists. 
I haven't seen this in action -- smoking all States is as much of a drawback as an advantage -- you don't have that extra synergy of pumping up your sites and keeping them healed (this especially is a bummer with the Purists have a couple of good site states).
 
 

EDGES

 

Balanced Harmonies
This edge is just too expensive and tricky to be of much use.  All the best stuff (reduction, redirection and smoking your own cards) is prohibited.  Since the Seven Masters have such good access to Chi, you are better off with a 0-cost Healing Earth, not to mention Beneficent Tao. 
In a less competitive environment, you can find the occasional cool use for the edge while moving your damage around, and it does make it hard to smoke one of your cards if you cant deal lethal damage all in one shot.

 

Bridge of Birds
This is a nice solid card, with the appropriate cost and resources.  This is pretty much a defensive turtle card, which you are threatening/bluffing an interceptor if you have some power in your pool.  And what's the best way to have power in your pool after your turn ends?  Why burning for power of course!  Speaking of extra power out of turn, the obvious combo with Bridge of Birds in the Master of the Liquid Sword, but there are lots of characters that you can get some tricks out of by playing them out of turn.  Notice there is no restriction beyond other players' Main Shot, so you can drop a bad boy (or two) during an attack.  And going back to to combos, how about some serious jankage by dropping Mr. Red and joining in!

Joey Ferreira writes in:
    First, the real beauty of Bridge of Birds (aside from it being a new 7M card, of course) is the janky combo with the old Iala Mane. Before, you could build the Iala Mane deck: once you'd played a copy of Iala, between Back for Seconds, Chinese Doctors, Golden Comebacks and the like, you could threaten to attack at any minute. Great fun But now, you can play Bridge of Birds and you don't even need to have played Iala Mane for you to threaten surprise wins and sudden attacks! Sure, the 4 Dragon resources combined with the 2 7M resources are trouble, and sure, there are better combos out there, but it's the thought that counts!

My Reply:
     I have a couple of old Ialas -- time to dust them off and deal some blind-master-pain!

 
 

SITES

  Wudang Mountain
At first glance, this Feng Shui Site seems strong.  And I think it is.  The only Seven Masters' character that it doesn't work with out of the box is the Wah Shan Clan, and a little Occult Kung Fu or some other fighting booster makes them eligible.  Wudang Mountain plays like a mini-Rend Chi, but without the location and about to enter combat restrictions.  With a solid 8 Body, I expect to see this played fairly often as the 3rd FSS for anyone running the Seven Masters.  Note that being a Feng Shui site is also a drawback (as well as an advantage) -- it's going to cost you in terms of power over a regular FSS if you can't maintain a larger site structure. 
Yup, it's a great card, much like Yellow Senshei chamber.
 

 

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