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art (c) Mike Trap

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Ascended

Transformed animal kung-fu?  What's up with that?  There is little doubt that the Ascended are the most powerful faction (hey, they control the majority of the Feng Shui sites of two junctures).  Until Throne War, Pledged was the way to go, using Family Estates to pump out characters at an accelerated pace.  Finally with Year of the Dragon we get three new and very playable Lodge characters to go with the handful from previous card sets.  With a lot of abilities, you have lots to choose from in the Ascended, and you can get away with playing several sub-par cards because the good cards you have access to make up for it.

Foundation Characters    Utility Characters    Hitters
Events    States    Edges    Sites

 
 

 

FOUNDATION CHARACTERS

  Broken Wheel Brigade
At first glance this card looks good, but you have to stop a moment and think about what cards you are going to be discarding to trigger it?  You might have an extra early game Event/State/Edge that you would be discarding anyways, but a lot of the time, the card will be of more use in play, especially by mid game.  I don't think this card is going to break the hold that Family Estate has.  I have exactly 1 Broken Wheel Brigade in my soldier deck, and boy am I unhappy when I draw it.  'nuff said.
 

Coyote Clan Scavengers
Here we have a new foundation in the Tranimal sub-theme.  Good and Bad News:  it's better than the previous 2-cost Tranimal foundation -- but, it's still not that great.  The Scavengers get a little better if you can increase their damage (say a Shotgun), but then you will find it hard to get through to any serious targets -- your opponents will use foundation characters as speedbumps.  That extra damage would have been better spent on a character with Stealth.

  Gangsters
Here we have a solid foundation, good enough to play in any deck where you're taking a break from the brokeness that is Family Estate.  Notice that we have yet another reason not to play 2-cost foundations in these guys.  I think Gangsters are the foundation of choice when making an Ascended Hood deck, letting you cut down on the sometimes expensive Students of the Shark (unless you are really working Family Estate hard)  Good good good -- that's what we've seen..
  "Hammer" Harrison
First thing first, you never want to be playing 3-cost foundation characters, so don't think of "Hammer" as one.  Think of him more as an unaligned character.  In fact, think of him as an unaligned Hood.  In reality, this is maybe a 1-of in a thematic Hood deck, but that's about it.  Really.  Compare him to Shung Dai -- for 1 more power, you get 2 more fighting, toughness:1 and +1 to the immunity.  Sure, Shung's at the top of the curve, but this guy needs to trade in his hammer for some new duds and join The Suits.  I've still yet to the "Hammer" used to any effectiveness.  As a foundation, you just don't see him early game, and by the time he does show up, there are enough >2 fighting characters to take a bite out of his effectiveness.
  Jade Wheel Society
About the only decks these guys go in are a Peacock deck or a Sunless Sea Ruins, where you are worried about locking your hand.  Paying 1 power to discard 3 cards (counting itself) is harsh.
  Liquidators
The muscle of Ascended resource characters comes in the form of the Liquidators.  They're big (for a resource character), dumb, and can hit hard.  This card should only be played in combination with Family Estate to get it down to a more affordable 2 power cost.  With influx of playable Lodge characters from YotD, these guys are potentially Walking Corpses, and we all know how good they are.  Plus they wear Italian suits.  As of late, I've been playing The Suits over these guys, and they just seem to be a smidge better (but still not that good).
  Manchu Soldiers
While you are hoping to get a 2 Fighting-for-1 Power resource character, these guys are way too slow to be of any use.  Fu Student and BuroMil Grunt can hit for 2 on the first turn, which makes them so much better.  There have been a few cards that try to interact with Soldiers, but Manchus are dead as of Shaolin Showdown (just like the Triumvirate bit the dust in Netherworld)..
Might of the Elephant
See Hitters.
  Order of the Wheel
Pay 2 power to draw 1 card?  I think whoever came up with this card spent too much time at the Opium Den...  Is this card better than Thorns of the Lotus?  Well, yes, but that's about all that it's better than.  Would this card have been too good if you could sacrifice it during combat?  No.
  Rat Clan Spies
I understand what they are trying to do with the Transformed Animals, but they just cut the mustard.  It's a real design problem -- the Ascended have some of the best cards already, so to avoid power creep, you have to make janky combo cards like the Rat Clan Spies.  Our play environment is too aggressive to rely on having character combos last very long.  Gruff Lieutenant works on so many different levels -- he can have Stealth the first turn, he comes out for free with Family Estate, he gets pumped by the Police Station, and he always has Stealth so you can combo him reliably with states like Explosives.  Yes, I know the Rat Clan is a foundation, but they just don't have enough juice to make me want to play them.  Okay, I've played them a few times, and they are okay, as long as you are eschewing Family Estates and have some Lodge goodness in your deck.   Wait!  Breaking News!  Gangsters!   Back to the cardbox, Rat Clan Spies!
Student of the Bear
One power for a 1 cost foundation with no extra abilities is usually bad (i.e. Swordsman).  Lucky for the bear student he has a useful designator -- Pledged.  This allows you to pump him out with your Family Estates at lighting speed.  Free resource characters?  What a deal!  He rates slightly less than his almost-twin, The Pledged, because of his other designator, Martial Artist, which can lead to an untimely Discerning Fire.
  Student of the Shark
One of the best foundation characters in the game, the Shark Student no only has an ability, it has two designators that you can worth with.  Being Pledged, he loves hanging out at your Family Estate waiting for orders.  He hits for 3 damage most of the time (especially in multiplayer where there is almost almost always 'blood' on the table).  Sharky is also a Hood. letting you have fun with Mr. Big and Luis Camacho.  This guy gives the 1 cost guys a run for there money -- sometimes it's a toss up whether you want to pay 0 power for 1 damage, or 1 power for 3 damage.
  SWAT Team 
What?  No Tactics?  Doesn't SWAT stand for...  Here we have another resource character without an ability whose power and fighting are the same.  So, without an ability, you have to look to designators to see if a card will make the cut.  Where the Student of the Bear has a very use one (Pledged), SWAT Team falls a little short of that with Cop.  Yes you can use this card in a Cop and pump him with your Police Station and he does make your Undercover Cop a little bigger, but since the two other Ascended Cops are Pledged, you will want to be playing with Family Estates anyway, and the 1 cost Pledged resource characters are usually a better choice. 
  SWAT Team vPAP
It's the same old SWAT Team, but with the addition of Tactics, which only makes them marginally better, and you're still never playing outside of a cop deck, and even then they aren't too good.  Your best hope is to go first turn site (Temple of course), second turn Police Station, SWAT Team), proceed to beatsville.  Garnish with Mole Networks.
The Pledged
See Student of the Bear.   Remember these guys have slightly less of a designator match than Bear Students -- it's up to you as to whether you want Martial Artist to be a match or not (yes if you don't have many in your deck, and no if Adrienne is your hitter).
  The Suits
What is there not to like about The Suits?  Well, a lot since they have some of the problems that Liquidators have, but I still think they are a turn in the right direction for 3 cost foundation characters.  First, you can get a price break on them with Family Estate.  Second, you can do some extra damage when up against Unique cards (which happens often enough), and finally, you can pitch them late game to take a quick peek.  Good stuff all around.
  Wolf Clan Hunters
True to the Transformed Animal theme, this foundation is also doesn't seem very playable.  I think they are weaker than Big Macaque Attack, which has proven to be somewhat fragile.  Remember that the Wolf Clan will shrink as attackers are removed, so they can shrink unexpectedly.  Yes, for 6 power, you can play three Hunters and attack for 12, but isn't that what the old Thunder King is for?  Yes, they're in my Tranimal deck, but I hate to draw then, and I hate to play them.  Shoot me now.
 
 

UTILITY CHARACTERS

  Athena
The Owl is one of the better ReAscended to date.  It's nice to see them sticking with theme over several sets (cough Seven Masters cough), although I'd really like to see some non-character
cards.  We've all played Veroon, so we know how good +3 hand size is, especially in a faction with the best 0-cost events.  Then we get to the growth factor -- her minimum fighting is 4, which ain't so hot, but it can grow pretty fast, and I see her as a 4-for-7 enough of the time to make her a threat.  I originally was going to put the Owl-lady under hitters, cause she almost always grows to respectable size, but I wimped out.  This card has added a huge threat to the ReAscended, and she was very noticeable at KublaCon.
  Bad Colonel
With the new designator rules, Bad Colonel can no longer effect Jason X, Genghis X or Nirmal Yadav.  That leaves the two cost Monarch foundation characters and a couple of Architect characters, most notably Sergeant Blightman.  Bad Colonel does have two useful designators, Hood and Pledged, so you can get some extra use out of him in a deck that takes advantage of those designators.  UPDATE:  They finally fixed the designator rules, so this guy isn't as bad.  Every now and then you can gank something in a four player game, so he's not so bad if you're packing Family Estates.
  Blade Freak
The Freak would be okay in any other faction but the Ascended.  While being a 3-for-4 with an ability is par for the course, for 3 power you expect to get a lot more in this faction.  Of course, if you are having trouble with Discerning Fire, a Freak or two could give you the diversity to get another character on the board.
Cabinet Minister
A solid Pledged card, the Minister rarely hurts a deck.  At only 1 cost, he can help you get up to that high resource count to power your hitters.  His ability to steal or cancel edges is a nice bonus, but don't expect him to live long if he is threatening an opponent.  Payback Time and Shield of Pure Soul are two of my personal favorites.
  Church Official
I guess religion and magic don't mix.  While the Church Official has a built-in Cry of the Forgotten Ancestor for cards being played, you are almost always better off with Cry.  He is Pledged, so the cost of 2 can be offset a bit by Family Estate.  Also, he can't stop the Queen if she's already hit the board (Cry can), and is likely to die a quick death if his ability is interfering with an opponent.
 

Cobra Clan Stalkers
This is another card that I just don't care for.  I consider it generally inferior to Serena Chase, Coil of the Snake and Philippe Benoit, so I am going to find a hard time playing this in anything other than the janky Transformed Animal deck.  Monkey Chang, anyone?  And you are really going to hate seeing this card in your hand when there is a five body site out and you only have 3 power.  I know I have a Transformed Animal deck built, and I think I've played it, but I can't remember these guys making any splash at all.

  Coil of the Snake
Drawing cards, especially as the Ascended is always good.  A good comparison to the Coil are Just a Rat and Phillipe Benoit, since all of them usually cost 3 power.  I think the Coil beats out the Rat just because the Rat never gets intercepted and 90% of the time it might as well just have vanilla stealth.  Phillipe is solid, and probably a better choice if you are going heavy Family Estate.
  Corrupt Bookie
Wow, here we have a real stinker.  I think this card is about on par with Mountain Warrior.  If you want to have fun with your opponents, play Triumvirate Dealmaker.  If you need to generate power, stick to Swiss Bankers.  I don't think you even want this card in a faceoff deck -- you want cards like Military Commandant that are going to help you win a faceoff, not punish you when you lose.  Okay, this isn't quite stinky in a highly specialized deck (specifically the Thunder/Ascended Faceoff deck).  I have been able to control the Faceoffs enough to gain some power.  Of course, this deck is too focused on the Faceoffs to win a game with any regularity, but it does do its trick every now and then.
 

Corrupt Land Agent
If you're familiar with my theories of Shadowfist, you know how much I like ramp characters, and this card is a fine addition.  It fills a different role than Gruff Lieutenant (attacking) and Cabinet Minister (control) in that it's an alt-power generation card.  I don't think it's as good as the previous two for  a couple of reasons -- since you are probably playing Family Estates, this type of deck can generally hum along and doesn't go thirsty on power (although it still loves it).  And, at least in my neck of the woods, opponents just hate to let anyone else get free power, and this guy will have a huge target on him.  Also, if you get into a late game stalemate (a problem that is getting all to common), Corrupt Land Agent wont be near as useful as the two other cards I've mentioned in a similar role.

  Death Shadow
While Death Shadow has a cool sounding ability, it effectively gets neutralized in situations where it matters, like when she's carrying Explosives.  Both Just a Rat and Rat Fink do a better job at getting through to sites.  She desperately needs an upgrade like her sister the White Ninja got.
  Dunwa Saleem vPAP
Dunwa is okay, especially if you have a Secret Lab or Hacker (not to mention one of the ReAscended) in play.  I don't know if you see him much outside of that one deck, though.  He just doesn't quite float my boat.  Now the old Dunwa is a hose monster, and I much rather have seen him reprinted and more available.
Femme Fatale
People are always looking for new reasons to hate the Ascended, and this is a pretty fun one.  There's not a lot of strategy to Femme Fatale -- drop her, and then watch all the attacks chill out as your opponents argue about who's going to be the chump to take her out.  This is a deterrent card -- it deters attacks against you, but it wont completely stop opponents from attacking each other, so you don't want to overly destabilize a game.  Another great trick for Is That All You Got?  Everyone has grown to hate this card (in a good way =), and view it as a threat.  Of course, there are some players that over-react to it -- "so what if I have the Ice Queen, her Evil Twin and Big Brother Tsien in play, he's got a Femme Fatal -- he's the real threat!"
  G-Man
Holy Walking Corpses Batman!  It's been a while since the Pledged got some juice, and here it is.  While G-Man isn't quite the turn 2  monster that corpses it, they start dropping out turn 3 with a Family Estate without crippling your ability to play FSS.  And while burning is somewhat passe' since the change to Pocket Demon, getting a 2-for-5 or 6 late game is almost like Dark Traveler.  Now that I think about it, G-Man ain't the bomb, but it's an okay filler for that 2-3 cost niche in a more robust deck, especially if you've run low on Oliver Chens.. The community seens to have adopted G-Man fairly regularly, with the expect results of a mid/late-game cheapo thug.
  Grey Mountain
The bull elephant is an okay guy.  He's 4-for-5 Fighting Toughness:2, and can get a little better.  What's nice about Grey Mountain is that he has a life outside the Transformed Animal deck -- he gets bigger from Lodge cards as well, which is where I expect to see him played occasionally.  This is a card that I think has been underplayed (in our group at least) -- I really need drop him in another deck or two, just to show everyone that the Ascended can be tough as well as sneaky!
Gruff Lieutenant
Stealth is a core ability of the Ascended, and the Gruff is the 1 cost stealth character.  This card has the Cop designator, allowing it to become a 3 Fighting with Police Station, but unlike most of the other Cops, he is still useful without the Station.  Explosives are an obvious choice, but all damage increasing states can benefit from Stealth.  More than once I've seen the Gruff take a site on turn 2, especially with a good old fashioned Mole Network hook-up.
  Gun Moll
The Dishy Hood can dish.  Here's what I like to see, a designator card (Hood) that's good enough to play outside of a designator based deck.  You're pretty much going to play her and target a character belonging to the player to your left, and then watch them squirm and try to dump their hand.  You can always attack for 2 in a pinch.  Get out Gun Moll and Femme Fatale, and you have a one-two punch that it going to irk your opponent's to tears.  This is another card I need to play more, but I've been so taken with Femme Fatale, that Gun Moll has been edged out of decks.
 

Gunslinger
This is a discount card -- it gives you two different build-in ways to make it a 2-cost 3 Fighting character -- Family Estate and nailing a 1-2 Fighting foundation after Gunslinger comes into play..  And, if you combine the two cost reducers, you have sort of got yourself a 1-for-3 (which is turned with 2 damage).  I have two problems with this card.   First, wasn't there something better to play with your Family Estate?  And, do you want to draw and spend a turn playing a card that takes out an opponent's foundation character, or a better target?  I see this pretty much relegated to a Faceoff deck (most likely Mon/Asc) where you are trying to do Bookie tricks.

 

Horse Thief
This card almost makes the benchmark (it is 3-for-4 Stealth), and probably isn't as good as his cousin, Coil of the Snake.  What I like about Coil is that it encourages attacks, and lets you control the ability.  With the Horse Thief, you may find players that hold this card in reserve, in the hopes of later power gain or just a chilling effect (this is much like how Fire Mystic plays -- you are reluctant to attack since you want to use the ability).  And let's face it, how good is the Night Market ability?  I've tried to make Night Market work for years, and my experience is that it's just not that strong.  I think I would always play 1-2 Serena Chases over Horse Thief in most decks.

  Jaded Cop
I'm not sure about this guy, but I'm leaning towards a big thumbs down -- at 3 cost for only 3 fighting, you are going to have to rely on other cards to help out the Jaded Cop if he is going to do anything at all.  Since he is unaffected by all players' 0 and 1 cost events, the obvious deck to build is the Dra/Asc Cop Final Brawl deck, but I don't think that will be exceptional.  I'm still thinking that Undercover Cop is just as good or better, since he can get through to sites, and benefits almost as much from Police Station.
  Jan Zvireci
While this card is marginally better than Corrupt Bookie, when are you ever playing it?  If your opponent has a good Event that they are worried about you playing, they are just going to play it in response to Jan Zvireci entering play (probably targeting him, too).  And don't expect Jan to stick around very long, as he is a threat card, and doesn't defend himself well.  Yeah yeah Fortune of the Turtle and Safehouse -- whatever.  You have to spend the power on the Event too, so it's very sketchy denial.  I've played Jan in a few decks with Family Estates (as a one-of), but his ability has yet to make any difference in a game I've been in.
  Just a Rat
As a 3-for-3 with no cost break available, you need to have a few tricks to get Just a Rat to work for you.  Usually this means playing with States like the various Guns or Explosives to do some extra damage.  While this card's Stealth ability means that it will rarely be intercepted, Just a Rat is a great combo with Rigorous Discipline so that your other characters can Stealth and do some damage by surprise.  My money is on Rat Fink to fill this spot.
  Leatherback
In multiplayer Leatherback can unturn a lot, but what does that get you?  Most of the time it means you get to sacrifice your Leatherback to intercept attacks.  You can play it more defensive, turning this card to heal on your turn and hoping it unturns later, but Leatherback's poor ratio of 4-for-5 doesn't make this worthwhile.  One trick with this card is playing with Rebel Camp, where you can hope to attack on your turn, and join in on an attack on an opponent's turn to gain some power.
 

Leopard Clan Warriors
Yet another mediocre Transformed Animal, this one is going to require you to play with a goodly amount of sites with the Mountain designator, and they are sort of specialized.  Eagle Mountain is the best, but of course it's ability doesn't compliment the Leopard Clan.  Dragon Mountain and Thousand Sword Mountain are sort of one-of in a deck, and the others just aren't that playable without some extra tricks.  Also, I believe your opponent can throw a monkey wrench in your plan with a Whirlpool of Blood or a Hot Springs.  Now these guys I know are in my Transformed Animal deck, and boy are they stinkers.  It's really harder than you think to make them work as much more than a more than a plain 4-for-5.

  Louie the Roach
I'm not a big roach fan -- the Ascended just have so many better cards to play than a weird 2-for-2 Toughness:2, that is going to do 2 damage to your Family Estates before to long.  Not to mention that requiring three Ascended resources pretty much limits him in multifaction decks.  I think I am probably thinking of Bad Colonel or Triumvirate Dealmaker in this range if I'm playing with Family Estates.  Perhaps the best use for Louie is in a janky showdown deck, where you are using him to Faceoff against resource characters with impunity.
  Manchu Bureaucrat
I find with this guy, you almost always want another copy of the Edge you are concerned about over him.  Cabinet Minister is a superior choice if you are playing Family Estate, and Manchu Soldiers give you enough cards to unturn the Manchu Officer (especially since the ability is only once per turn).
  Manchu Officer
Another character that really only goes in one deck -- a Manchu deck.  It's often hard to get him to do his trick because you will need to play the trigger card before the Officer turns to attack. Still, he can do a little damage, and don't forget to unturn him when an opponent plays a Soldier.  He's still no Dirk Wiseley, or even no Butterfly Knight for that matter.
  Max Brunner
So, if on the odd chance you have Max in play, you get to use all your janky Cop effects on your Pledged characters -- big deal.  If her were a 3c-for-4f Pledged Cop maybe... but he's just junk.  Forgeddabout him.
  Military Commandant
The Commandant is one of those cards that allows you a lot of leeway in making strategic decisions.  All of your attackers become all that more dangerous, and you opponent's will have to over commit interceptors to compensate for this card's ability to give +2 Fighting if they have to stop your attack.  Of course, the Commandant isn't much use on his own, so you'll want to use him sparingly, and I'd never put him in a deck without a few Family Estates to get a price break.
  Mountain Warrior
With a terrible ability, Mountain Warrior is essential a 2-for-2 that has the Pledged designator.  I'd always be playing Bad Colonel (or even Triumvirate Dealmaker)  over this card, and that says all that needs to be said.
  Mr. Big
Mr. Big is a staple of the Hood deck, but you need to use a lot of care in playing him.  The drawback of losing a Hood when a Site of yours is seized or burned means that you will loose control of Mr. Big if you don't defend your sites.  You can try and seize a site and take him back, but Mr. Big really likes to intercept in that case.  There's been a bunch of new Hoods lately, but this deck still is really iffy, but you now have a choice of several factions, with the best probably being Asc/Hand for Virtuous Hoods.
  Mr. Red
While he's not the greatest, he can be fun.  Join in, hope to get a flip.  You can use him to try and seize after you've burned for power, or you can try and use him to sneak in when you don't have enough fighting to take a site on your own.  He can be kind of fun, but beware -- the attacking player can intercept Mr. Red if they have an unturned character and remember the obscure rule that lets you participate as an attacker and interceptor in the same attack. It's also been ruled that it's NOT collusion if you join in on an attack for the win with Mr. Red in hopes to stop the win with a flip -- hey!  I've done it!
  Mr. X
You just got to love Mr. X -- not only does he have a built-in Shadowy Mentor for low cost characters, he's a big part of the storyline.  Not only did he kill Adrienne Hart in Operation Killdeer, he is involved in the Vivisector conspiracy along with Homo Omega.  Having only fighting score of 1 means that you will have to protect Mr. X if you want to get much use out of him.  If you can get For China! out with Mr. X, you can start doing some crazy character stealing.  Well, he's not that good, but he is fun.
  Muckraking Journalist
I can never seem to get the Journalist to do it's trick, and I almost always wish I had spent the 1 or 2 power on a Student of the Shark.  Family Estates are a must to use this card.  If you look at this cards ability, it requires that an opponent has a turned character (and preferably a high fighting, which usually means they have been attacking you, which isn't usually a good thing.  And the Journalist is going to have a big target planted on their forehead.
  Ninja Interior Decorators
Well, they are Hoods, so I guess you could play them in a Hood deck, or maybe even in a regular deck just trying to mix up designators (though they still match the top-notch Shark Student).  I recommend Rat Finks if you want a 2-cost Stealth character, though one NID is nice just to reveal a few sites.
Oliver Chen
Oliver Chen is a beating stick.  If your playing with Family Estate (and who isn't) this card is a Walking Corpses with a killer ability.  Not only do you get to see what's coming, but you can make sure that that Golden Comeback or Shadowy Mentor isn't coming up for quite a while by putting it on the bottom of an opponent's deck.  Oliver Chen is one of those Unique cards that it doesn't really hurt you to play multiples of because of his cost.  Oliver has become very popular on the tournament scene, and is a force to be reckoned with.
  Peacock Clan Warriors
So, how big are these guys going to be?  Best case is 6 fighting, but realistically it's going to be 4 or 5.  Just how good is a 2-cost for 4 Fighting that comes out mid-game or later?  Not really that good, and Tactics has always been a very iffy ability unless combined with some other ability that makes it worthwhile (like on the Palm of Darkness).  Walking Corpses is good because they come out second turn, and lay down the beats.  Late game, you want some sort of ability to break a character stalemate on the board.  Yet another Transformed Animal that is missing in action -- I think we can pretty much pass judgment on this theme as a failure.
Phillipe Benoit
The Frenchman rocks.  He comes as close to a hitter at 5 Fighting as you can get.  While he benefits from Family Estates, you don't need them to offset this cards very reasonable 4 cost.  Again, Stealth works well with States, but often the Frenchman is enough to take down an already revealed site.  This card has been reprinted in 10KB, so it should be fairly easy to find, and is a solid addition to both mono and multi-faction Ascended decks.
  Rat Fink
People were debating on which Rat is better -- Rat Fink or Just a Rat.  Well, the jury is out and Rat Fink wins hands down.  Like all of the Stealth characters, Rat Fink loves Guns and Explosives.  The Covert Operation like effect when you trigger this card's Stealth is a nice bonus, and you will find that it happens more often than Just A Rat's damage, which makes Rat Fink go along well with Paper Trail.  Rat Finks are a little hard to find since they were a fixed card in YotD, but there were 3 in the deck, so they aren't ultra-rare.
  Rebecca Dupress
This card is kind of hard to get a handle on.  Rebecca's ability is a combo ability, so you are going to need States to get the most of out it.  The Ascended don't have a lot of Character States that you are going to want to play on your own characters, so you are going to have to look to other factions, talents, and unaligned cards to make her work.  It's really too early to predict what will and won't work with this card.  I finally took apart my Rebecca Tank Warfare deck -- it did okay, but was kind of on the bland side.  Next time I play her, I think I'll try it in conjunction with Ice Commandos and some other Monarch goodness.
  Reverend RedGlare
Even without his Chapel, Reverend RedGlare can get the job done.  You are hoping to double your money by doing a minimum of 6 damage with this card -- 3 to the chosen designator, and 3 to the character your opponent sends to smoke the Reverend. Picking a designator usually isn't too hard -- look around the table for shared factions or for a deck that is heavily stocked with one designator -- some of my favorites are Pledged, Martial Artist, Netherworld and Monkey.
  Serena Chase
I like Serena just in the fact that she's an okay non-Pledged/non-Lodge Ascended character.  She's a variant on Walking Corpses -- you are hoping for a 2c-for-4f, but you have to spend 3 up front and get a rebate.  If you're lucky, you can get a few extra rebates.  Serena is more of a multiplayer card where you have a good chance of finding a target with 3 more sites.  And Stealth is going to give a decent chance of being successful.  Remember you don't have to attack a site (they just have to have 3), so characters often make good targets.  Since she is a good target for some chump interceptors, Operation Killdeers will help you gain that power.
  Shell of the Tortoise
The game always slows down when the Shell hits the table.  Generally, no one is going to be able to push through a will until this card has been dealt with.  The Shell is an excellent defender at 6 Fighting for 3 power, and is capable of stopping two attackers at its location by intercepting one and redirecting the other.  Add the Shell to some of the nasty sites, and you can turn the game into a mire.
  Soul of the Shark
This card is a weak precursor to the Losers. Yes, it can give you a little protection against Shadowy Mentor, its main effect if preventing your opponent from playing states until they kill the Shark (usually not a hard thing to do).  Since the ability requires turning, you are not attacking with this card, which makes it high cost of 3 not worth the power. I don't think I've seen this card played since Netherworld came out.
  Sting of the Scorpion
Bad bad bad.  Do I need to say it again?  Bad bad bad.  Do yourself a favor and pick up the Year of the Dragon Ascended starter and get some new Stings.
  Sting of the Scorpion vNEW
While the new Sting of the Scorpion from Year of the Dragon is miles ahead of the original Sting, it's still just an average card at best.  This card is best against other 4 Fighting characters, and I find that most of the time, people prefer to spend 1 more power and get a 6 Fighting hitter.  Still, the Sting can be useful, but until they make the Lodge more attractive to play over Pledged, you don't want more than one or two unless you are playing the new Draco.  The Sting is a staple of the Bounty deck.
  Swiss Banker
With a Family Estate and 2 power in your pool, the Banker is a free Ascended Resource.  While he does slow you down with his Smoked disadvantage, a handy Rigorous Discipline can turn that right around into a Nerve Gas if your opponent has no power.  The longer this card stays on the table, the greater your benefit, so conversely, you want to kill your opponents' Swiss Bankers asap.
  Tatsuya Yanai
An early attempt at Satellite Intelligence, Tatsuya just ain't paying the bills.  While he can open up a site for an attack, 3 power is way too much to spend for this effect, especially with limitation that you can't change the target of an attack, and his inherent vulnerability to dying in the sequence he enters play.
  The Man
Boy the Lodge sure has a lot of chairpersons, but does this one give the Unspoken Name a challenge?  Not really.  Playing cards out of turn can be a strong ability, but you need to get in a burn for power to maximize it.  Playing sites in the key ability, and sites such as Drug Lab (and probably Nuclear Power Plant) are great ways of keeping the power flowing.  If you've shut down the player to your right with an unsuccessful attack, it might just be the time to play that 3rd/4th Feng Shui site to set yourself up for the win.  I've found that the Man works okay in decks that are giant powerhouses like a New York New York style deck with lots of Trade Centers.
  Time Bandits
I've played around with the Bandits, but haven't had the best results.  Sure, you gain power every now and then, but the drawback of not providing a resource can hurt you if you draw them early game, which is often when you most need the power.  They also come up against the might that is the Family Estate, and so you find them a loser again.  I'm thinking The Ickies from Red Wedding might be a better choice over Time Bandits.
  Tooth of the Snake
What's up with the Snake?  Shouldn't his transformed animal powers make him superior to his Pledged Minions?  That's not the case with this card when compared to Phillipe Benoit.  Throne War's Blue Cardinal's Guards is a much more solid choice if you want to stock up on Stealth.  UPDATE:  The last few sets have been peppered with Stealth, and Tooth should be heading to your coaster box.
  Triumvirate Dealmaker
The Triumvirate Dealmaker is a very political card -- you are making deals and helping to determine what gets attacked, and hopefully you have been able to negotiate a deal that doesn't involve a target you control, but overlook adding 2 points of overkill against yourself if it will get you a free point of power.  I often find myself throwing a Dealmaker into a multiplayer deck that has a few Family Estates since she has the Pledged designator.
  Undercover Agent
A staple in any Ascended Cop deck, the Undercover Cop gives you lots of options since he's got a nifty ability that can let him attack almost any site in play.  Getting him up to 5 Fighting (not that hard to do)  can net you that pesky back row Whirlpool.  But, just as fast as the Undercover Cop can go up in Fighting, he can go down even quicker.  Just one Final Brawl can ruin your day if you are relying on the small Cops like SWAT Team and Gruff Lieutenant to power your Agents.  Family Estates and Police Stations are a must.
The Unspoken Name
He gives the skills to pay the bills.  This is a great card to drop and go for a win with.  Remember than you can turn The Unspoken Name after interceptions (by a single player) have been declared to give your characters Stealth, thereby making the interceptions invalid.  At 6 Fighting for 3 power, this card also makes an excellent defender if you are unable to force through a win.  His high resource conditions make him much more suitable for a mono-Ascended deck than a multifaction, but hey, everyone has at least one.
  Web of the Spider
You can have a little fun with the Web, but it takes a few other cards to get the synergy going.   Political Lock is an obvious card to go along with Web, since you can move their characters around, potentially leaving valuable sites undefended.  Another good combo with the card are Battleground Sites.  Your opponent will be tempted to seize them, forcing him into a larger structure, giving you more options when using the Web's ability.  Being a three-for-three is what barely keeps the Web out of the coaster pile, but it's super specialized and only goes in a few decks.. 
  Web of the Spider vNEW
Generally, I want my characters to do something -- the Web doesn't do much of anything.  Since players rarely want to give you free power, this guy is going to have a big bull's-eye painted on him if they have cards that play for reduced cost.  If you want a 2 cost Lodge character, Rat Fink at least gets some damage in.  If you want power, mole mole mole.
 
 

HITTERS

Adrienne Hart
This card is just about as good as it gets.  8 Fighting for potentially only 3 power is nuts, and to top it off, this card's "drawback" is more of an advantage.  You almost never want to play States on your hitters unless they are of a defensive nature like Ice Diadem or Fortune of the Turtle, so you being unable to play States is not much of a drawback.  What States do your opponents want to play on Adrienne?  Why Shadowy Mentor of course, which makes her ability an advantage most of the time.  Perhaps the only drawback to this card are the players who insist on saying "Yo!  Adrienne!" in a back Rocky Balboa voice whenever this card is in play.  This card has been reprinted by Z-Man in the limited Can of Whupass 2, so they are somewhat available.
  Arachne
Other than the onerous resource requirements, Arachne isn't too bad.  While she does have assassinate, her best use is being turtly, and using her to intercept to make sure you have the best chance to regenerate (a damaged Arachne is going to be a high-priority target for your opponents).  There might be some possibilities with Bounty, but I'm not sure if adding Tech is the way to go for that type of deck.
  Bleys Fontaine
Bleys stinks in the 10KB format -- you really don't want to be getting pounded and draw this guy and not be able to attack with him.  Outside of 10KB he's okay, and his Shaking the Mountain ability can be quite powerful -- remember he can proactively remove potential interceptors and/or annoying sites that turn.  Family Estates and lots of 1-cost foundations will help get around his can't attack alone restriction, and ye olde Killdeer will let him use his ability more than once.  If you want to get fancy, put him into an Asc/Hand deck with Superleapers.
  Captain Liu
This card is pretty cookie-cutter.  You put it in your cop deck, and go to town.  His cost-to-power ratio isn't the best, but with a Police Station he's okay-ish.  Giving all your cops Toughness:1 is also okay, but you need a lot of cops in play to get some mileage out of it.  I don't really see him as essential.
  Charge of the Rhino
Kind of like Atourina Baktiari, the Charge tends not to get intercepted when he attacks a site unless he is going to smoked by a larger character.  You can try some tricky stuff like using him in a Faceoff to trigger his ability, but that is sub-optimal.  The Charge is a pretty bland Thug, equal in caliber to the old Fist of the Bear.  Whenever I've considered the Rhino for a deck, it always gets dropped, usually in favor for the just-as-bland but slightly better Fist vNew.  And there's always the Might of the Elephant in the 4-cost slot.
  Draco
Draco is Big.  Really Big.  He takes a site a turn if he can stick around.  Of course, he has all the classic vulnerabilities (Gas, Imprisoned, Mentor), so be prepared to have some sort of backup like Festival Circles if you want your 6 power investment to bring dividends.
Draco vPAP
With Year of the Dragon, Draco is finally a card to be feared.  Canceling Nerve Gas, Imprisoned, Neutron Bomb, Operation Killdeer, etc. for zero power is an awesome ability.  Playing Draco is going to require some serious deck choices that will probably lead you away from playing a lot of Pledged since you will want to be able to hold a Lodge character or two for playing Draco.  The Year of the Dragon Ascended deck is a great starting point for how to make a Draco Lodge deck, with it's useful mid-cost Lodge Characters like Rat Fink and Sting. 
  Fist of the Bear
This is about as vanilla as a 4 power for 6 Fighting can get.  Since they're Lodge, don't expect a break with your Family Estate.  The Blue Cardinal's Guard from Throne War is a much better option to go with over the Fist.
  Fist of the Bear vPAP
Thug.  Better than the standard edition Fist, but still a thug.  I prefer the Might of the Elephant in this cost range for Lodge thugs.
 

Frenzy of the Shark
While this card looks kinda cool, you are going to find it just doesn't have the gas you want for 4 power.  Conditional Toughness:1 isn't as good as Tougness:1 that's always on, so there's a big strike against the Frenzy when compared to the new version of Fist of the Bear.  To compensate, Frenzy gets some conditional extra damage, but it can go away and generally can't be counted on.  The problem here is that you don't want to want to damage opponents' characters, you want to smoke them.  Yes, Frenzy counts your characters too, but then having a bunch of damaged characters leaves you vulnerable to attacks of opportunity not to mention Final Brawl.  Also note that the timing wont allow you to burn for power and turn to heal damaged characters if you want to keep the damage bonus.  Consider playing the Blue Cardinal's Guards, and you find yourself with more options, but if you are playing Frenzy, you want to be playing Gunboat Diplomacy as well.

Rating:  1.33

  General Senggelinqin
He's an okay 7 Fighting-for-4 power hitter, comparable to Vladimir Kovalov -- Tactics is a nice bonus if you don't need the Lodge designator.  As for the goofy sacrifice ability, that usually means you are playing with sub-par Ascended cards to get the designators, so it's iffy at best.  You will get your most mileage combining with another faction -- the Monarchs and the Architects have some matching designators.
  John Fenris
He definitely does fit his Dragon background (don't believe me?  look at his resource provisions).  He's what you expect from a 6-cost thug, he takes sites baring getting zapped by an event or a site.  The copy ability is just plain crazy, and you never know what you can wind up with.  The Ascended are okay at getting to 6 power, but you just know he's going to draw a lot of fire, so you want to look for ways to replay him at a discount like Golden Comeback.  Try to think of John Fenris as an inferior Eastern King (okay, way inferior).  I did see a pretty funky trick with the Iron Man at KublaCon -- someone used Dunwa to fetch him, play him, then copied Dunwa's ability onto him, and fetched another ReAsceded.  He's still just okay, and you can have some fun if you really have power to spare.
  Jormungandr
Hrm, a new Re-Ascended character that isn't much better than the existing ones.  And real expensive, too.  Sure, it's a character killing machine, but don't the Ascended just have better ways to deal with characters?  He doesn't really combo with much, so I'm going Ursus over the bad snake dude.  Yeah, there's one of him in my ReAscended deck, and he's better than Kauhuhu, but I'd rather be playing the 4-cost (or 6-cost) hitters.
  Juan "El Tigre" Velasquez
Yes, with Stealth and Superleap, he is always going to get to his site if he isn't taken out with an Event.  The problem is his poor ratio -- for 5 power there are a bazillion other better characters to play, especially in the Ascended.
  Kinoshita
The Strike Force has been reborn, but this time you don't need a Family Estate to play 5 power for it.  Assassinate is pretty worthless on a character this big -- for Kinoshita's cost you want to be taking sites.  The ability to turn characters for power during your turn has possibilities, but overall, the Unspoken Name kicks ass on this doofus as a Lodge Chairperson.  He goes in the Bounty deck, but I think I am more likely to go for Rachel or Raven as a 5-cost Lodge hitter.
  Kauhuhu
Yeesh, and I thought Jormungandr was boring.  The Shark is pretty close to Spencer's Beauties, but worse.. Yes, Kauhuhu has an out of faction ability, Independent, but just doesn't have much else going for it.  This is the type of card that you want to Golden Comeback, but that means you are playing Dragons, and you are going to have better stuff to be bringing back.  To paraphrase the classic comedy This is Spinal Tap, "Shark ReAscended?  More like Shit ReAscended."
Might of the Elephant
The Might is one of several characters in the game who's Fighting score is dependant on resource counts.  While the Might is technically a Foundation character, at 4 cost if you are playing him because you need the resources, you are in trouble.  Mid-game this guy can be respectable, but expect him to shine in late game, where he can weigh in at 10+ Fighting for 4 power, putting him in Sarge's league.  Beware the Larcenous Mist and Inauspicious Reburial.  At least this guy doesn't get Tortured Memories very often, but Shadowy Mentor loves him.  This is what I call a kid card -- it's uncommon, so the kids have lots of him and I've way too many decks with 5 Elephants beating down on me.
Rachel McShane
She makes the cut for a 8 Fighting-for-5 Power because she has a useful ability.  The most obvious effects that Rachel is immune to are the super-annoying Unique Sites that require turning -- you know the ones... Kinoshita House, Fox Pass, etc.  She is also immune to a few of those annoying turn effects that come up from time-to-time like White Disciple, Muckraking Journalist and Die!!!  She's also got the Killer designator, so you can put her into your Bounty/Open Season deck.
 

Rainmaker Floyd
Well, if getting smacked down, this guy is just a Fist of the Bear.  But, if you get get Toughness: 2 or better, then all of a sudden Floyd becomes threatening.  This guy is sort of like Grey Mountain, but you are trying to keep sites in play instead of other characters to maximize his trick -- both of which can often be difficult to do. Again, Rainmaker Floyd would lend himself to a lot more interesting decks if he only needed two resources instead of 3. While you might be thinking BattleGround deck with this card, I don't think it's a great way to go, other than Bandit Hideouts and maybe Sliding Paper Walls.  What I think will work better is a heavy mix of non-Feng Shui Sites, hopefully from another faction, and possibly even some Trade Centers.

Raven Li
Raven is a big thug -- probably one of the best, and far from the worst.  8 Fighting with Stealth is going to take sites, and the Covert Op is a nice bonus.  And since the Covert is triggered by damaging sites, it combos nice with her Stealth.  Since she's Lodge, one or two in a Pledged deck can get you by a Discerning Fire in a pinch.
Sam Mallory
Sam is a average  Lodge hitter that is worth playing unless you are going turbo Pledged in a tournament environment.  The question of how much damage you want on Sam usually arises when he hits play.  I like two damage (giving Toughness: 2), but often a situation arises where you will want more.  Getting a few damage on Sam when you play him is very important -- otherwise, you opponents will attack him with just 7 Fighting to Smoke him if possible.  Just Toughness: 2 can raise that damage requirement to 9+ if your opponents have to attack with multiple characters.  Of course CHAR whups Sam Mallory's ass...
  Senior Ocho
Here we have another fairly limited card that goes mainly into one deck -- the Bounty deck.  Spending 5 power to kill an opponent's Unique character is a big risk -- and notice that Senior Ocho only has Ambush when his target is a Unique character -- he has no effect on interceptors.  Operation Killdeer pretty much turns any character into Senior Ocho for a turn...
  Serket
Serket is kinda crazy, with all the weird wording.  Basically, if you have a little money to spend (and don't the Ascended always have that?) or your opponents are short on characters, she is going to hit a site for 7.  Of course, Operation Killdeer is pretty good at clearing out the way for Adrienne or Shinobu to take sites, so Serktet is kinda iffy.  By herself, I don't think Serket is worth building a reascended deck.  And the Reascended deck always has resource woes.
Shinobu Yashida
Shinobu Yashida was the Ascended's second best hitter in the olden days, only outclassed by Adrienne Hart.  But now there is a lot of good stuff to choose from, but Shinobu is still worth considering.  At first glance, he may look similar to Vladimir Kovalov, which is the same power to Fighting ratio, but with a different special ability.  What Shinobu has that Vladimir doesn't is the all important designator Pledged, which means he can come out for only 3 power using a Family Estate.  This card's ability to deal 3 extra damage to characters with an 8 or more Fighting rarely comes into play, and don't let trying to use it distract you from taking Sites.
  Strike Force
Strike Force pays the price for having two skills -- unfortunately, the skills are two that don't compliment each other.  Stealth lets you get through interceptors to damage your target, while Tactics lets you save your character from an attack gone wrong (usually after an Operation Killdeer).  At 6 cost, this card falls way below it's peers.  Even at 5 power when using a Family Estate, the Strike Force is iffy at best.
 

Texas Jack Cody
While not terrible, Jack has the problem of really being a 6-for-8.  Sure, it's similar to the Blue Cardinals Guards, but they are slightly less expensive, and their abilities are more versatile.  This is a guy that definitely could have used 1 resource less to make him more splashable.  As is, I find it hard to play him over Raven Li, who never ceases to amaze.

  The Blue Cardinals Guards
While not the best hitter in the game, they aren't the worst, either.  You really need to think of this card as 5-cost as you are almost always wanting to use one of the special abilities. They are all good abilities, but I suspect that you will usually be choosing either Stealth or +3 damage.  I find that this card goes best in decks that don't want Lodge characters or matching designators on your hitters -- you don't want to be zapped by an easy Discerning Fire and you don't want your Family Estates burning down.  
The Eastern King
Ever wonder what would happen if the Golden Gunman betrayed the Dragons and went to work for the Ascended?  Forget about Leonardo DiCaprio -- this card is the true King of the World.  This is one of the few cards in Shaolin Showdown that is going to have a game changing effect.  Expect to see a lot of him, as he was given out as a promo with Netherworld 2, and those promos play as the final released version.  Eastern King strategy?  Play EK, win (this is the same strategy I use with The Golden Gunman).  For those of you who don't have access to Shaolin Showdown and only have Promo Eastern Kings, here is the final text:

Unique. Uncopyable. Not a legal target for Events. When you play him, and at the start of each turn, he gains the rules text of target Lodge Character until the target leaves play or the end of the turn. 

 

The Honorable Earl Mason
While initially glancing at the Hanging Judge you might say 'wow -- he can smoke anything!' don't let your first impression fool you -- this guy is a turkey.  The standard expected cost to smoke a character is 1 power with some limitations.  This guy removes the limitations, but at a huge cost in increased power.  Remember, it's going to cost a whopping 6 power to whack T2.  And compare with the Voice of the Unnamable -- in his case the power you spend doesn't just smoke one target, it has the potential to clear out a lot of junk.  As much as I hate to say it, Shadowy Mentor is so much of a better option than this guy it's not even funny.

  Ursus
The bear is the reason to play the reascended.  He is going to rule the table, and your opponents will quake with fear if they have a damaged character in play.  Final Brawl makes for an unpleasant surprise to intercepting opponents, and I am personally fond of giving Ursus a Fusion Rifle since you have Tech available.  The Lotus has the best pingers (White Disciple, Purist Sorceror, Malachi), but I think it just may be too hard to pull of that deck since the Lotus have zero access to tech.  His worst enemy is Sacred Heart Hospital and it's Chinese Doctors.
  Vincent "The Jackal" Benilli
His ability is so good he can't give it to himself -- NOT!   This guy is pretty much a loser -- sure you can put him into your Hood decks, and you know, he's gonna win you the odd game, but there are just so many other cards that are going to be consistently better when you draw them it's not funny.  Well, he's in my Hood deck, and I hope never to draw him.  What does that tell you?
  Vladimir Kovalov
Except for the Dragons, all of the core faction in Standard got a 4 power for 7 Fighting Unique character in the early days.  While none of them jump out as outstanding, they are all very solid, playable hitters.  Vladimir is the Ascended's version, and while you can't build a deck around his ability to discard an extra card, it can come in handy late game if your hand is clogged up.  Unfortunately, I almost always pass over Vladimir for something that has a more offensive ability.
  Yen Song
Song is pretty bland, but he makes a decent hitter.  He usually costs one more power than the Frenchman, but also has one more Fighting, so they both fit into a Stealth deck.  His second ability means that he can intercept Superleapers even when turned -- it's not much, but it can rarely come in useful.  He also has a designator that has no other matches in the Ascended (unless you count Yen Fan).
 
 

EVENTS

Bite of the Jellyfish
How can you not play with this card?  Yes, your opponent may get a free Hacker out of it, but if it's not cancelled, Bite of the Jellyfish can mean game over for your opponents.  Conversely, you can't fear this card.  If you need to burn for power, do it.  The question is how many Bites to play in a deck?  Well, maybe none in a dueling deck, but you need a minimum of one in a multiplayer deck (to keep people honest), two if you want to draw it reliably, and three if you really want to punish your opponents, but beware of Hackers. 
Bull Market
With the new end of turn rules, you can no longer cheese your opponent by playing Bull Market after they have declared the end of their turn.  Now they are going to spend that power and mount some attacks.  Instead, it's usually better to play Bull Market on your turn, attack a site and burn for power to keep you at the same reserve power as everyone else (unless you are going for the win).  Don't overlook the cheesy power stealing effects like Mysterious Stranger and Bite of the Jellyfish -- if you time it right you can steal all of the power that they would have gained.  Shadowy Mentor is Bull Market's best friend -- your opponents spend that 5 power on a hitter, and you gank it on your next turn (after you've Killdeered it when it attacked you on your opponent's turn of course).  Bull Market's second best friend is Wind on the Mountain for generating crazy amounts of power.
  Competitive Intelligence
All in all, Competitive Intelligence is pretty junky, even for a 0-cost Event.  It doesn't help you early in the game when you need it most to watch out for Cave Networks and other sites that are really going to burn you.  And since it can only cancel Sites it reveals, the odds are that by late game, that City Square or other site that is going to stop you is already face up and unaffected by Competitive Intelligence.
  Contingency Plans
Play City Parks, they won't clog up your hand like this card will since it takes two spaces (itself, and the Feng Shui Site).  This card was ruled to get around the 'one site per turn' rule, so you could try and tech someone out by playing Contingency Plans and a City Park to get out two sites, but that's improbable unless you have a huge hand size..
Covert Operation
This is one of my favorite cards -- it's sneaky, it's devious, it's Ascended.  You would think that with Shadowfist's draw to full hand size mechanic that discarding a card wouldn't hurt much (like it does in limited draw games), but Covert Operation can often screw your opponent or let you through for a win.  Early game, you can slow your opponent down tremendously by removing their resources and Feng Shui, forcing them to discard aggressively to recover.  Later in the game, you get the benefit of not only getting rid of that Neutron Bomb, but you also get to see their hand so you can get a good idea of what is coming.  Paper Trail is a tried and true combo, netting you a power by forcing your opponent to discard.  Note that this card has been given errata and you can no longer target yourself.  Covert is currently the dominant card in dueling -- prepare to get your hand pillaged on the way to a loss if you run up against a deck packing Coverts.
  Cry of the Forgotten Ancestor
Shadowy Mentor has two enemies -- Ting Ting and the Queen of the Ice Pagoda.  Cry of the Forgotten Ancestor takes care of the Queen, as well as giving you some relief from another card the Ascended greatly fear, Discerning Fire, since all your characters will invariable have the Pledged or Lodge designator.  Even denying an opponent a Pocket Demon can keep them far enough behind you to give a win.  This is one of those cards that always seems to find it's way into a larger deck with Ascended.
  Cutting Loose Ends
Hacker Check.  This is kind of a oddity utility card.  You don't want to play it when you have a Mentor out, as it is a prime target.  It can get rid of annoying Edges, and non-Feng Shui sites, but this card seems to always punish the person who plays it as bad or worse than their opponents.  It's an anti-combo with one of the Ascended's best cards Family Estate, but if your opponent drops a second turn 2-cost non Feng Shui site, this card can wreck your game.  Cutting Loose Ends is usually better in dueling, where you don't have to worry about Hackers as much.
  Dirty Tricks
I like this card.  I'm mean, and I like hosing my opponents.  Use of this card depends a lot on your environment.  If it's cut-throat, you're golden.  This card is going to net you 2 power with Paper Trail, which is going to be the main use for this card, but it's still cool to aggravate people.  Watch out for Resistance Squads (duh).
  Faked Death
Faked Death is a surprisingly good card in character based combo decks.  It lets you cycle those characters you need, so you don't have to draw into them or over stack your deck with them.  A good example is the Hood deck -- since Mr. Big is Unique, you don't want to keep drawing him when he's in play.  With Faked Death you can fetch your best dead Hood card from your Smoked pile or Mr. Big, depending on your situation.  It also works well with Family Estate, letting you fetch back your pledged for maximum advantage.
  Fox on the Run
This event intrigues me.  It sure seems like it's got a lot of possibilities, but I just don't know.  But, as an Ascended card, it's got to complete with all the power cheese, which makes its life more difficult.  And to top it off, I can't tell whether this is a dueling card, a multiplayer card, or both!  This is hot on my play list and I recommend that everyone throw one or two in a deck just to play with it and get a feel for it.  Oh, the card itself -- attack, get hosed, attack again.  Sounds good.  This is great in that it will let you hold back on characters, especially if you are fearing a Bomb or Brawl. Not to mention it's a good answer to KHouse, Turtle Beach, City Square and Fox Pass tricks.
  Hostile Takeover
We always get a good laugh when someone pulls off a Hostile Takeover.  While the effect is powerful, this card has very little opportunity to play.  You can probably get away with throwing one in a deck if you don't have too much junk, but expect to discard it most of the time.  Of course, this card may get better as more and more people just can't resist playing with Temple of Angry Spirits, especially in the tournament scene.
  Lodge Machinations
This card has a lot of evil potential.  It's expensive, but changing up the denial on the board prior to an attack sounds like a game winner.  Some advice -- don't stack your deck with bad sites to give to your opponents with Lodge Machinations.   That's just a formula for disaster.  Play useful sites and play this event when it's smart, not just at the first opportunity.  I expect that City Park will be a good one to be giving away (reveal it first).  Also, be sure to include a Drug Lab and Nuclear Power Plant  -- there might some tasty Non-FSS to grab up like Secret HQ or Senshei Chamber, and you can turn the Nuke's disadvantage into an advantage locking up an opponent's turning site.  Too bad this card is rare =(  While I've only seen this played a couple of times (and I bet it's been discarded a lot more), it has always been to a decent advantage.  Quyen build a crazy Array of Stunts built around it and Mount Erebus that was rather humorous to watch.
  Lodge Politics
You are almost always getting your money's worth out of Lodge Politics because you will be taking away power played by an opponent.  You see this mainly as Shadowy Mentor Defense, Family Estate stealing and as a counter to Shadowy Mentor in dueling decks.  But, it also grabs up funky stuff like Paper Trail and you can use Lodge Politics to gain control of a lot of Ascended Characters, which makes it good in both dueling and multi.
Mole Network
Mole Network, how do I love ye?  Let me count the ways...  For those of you old-timers out there, you remember when Mole was king and you really wanted 5 in almost every deck with Ascended.  Then two things happened -- Flashpoint introduced the Hacker, and YotD gave errata to Mole Network so that you couldn't play it on a someone who hasn't had their first turn.  Those were some dark days for Mole Network, and it often found itself gathering dust in card boxes, left with only memories of the glory days of its youth.  But then two new cards came along, that once again changed the meta-game -- Student of the Dragon and Dragon Dojo.  These two cards offered a solid alternative to Hackers -- a 1-cost Independent foundation gives lots of possibilities for offense, and every one likes card drawing engines.  This has causes a slight decrease in the amount of Hackers being played -- instead of five in every Dragon deck, there is often only two (or sometimes less).  Currently, I like playing about 2 Moles in a deck that needs a slight power burst.  It's a delicate balance -- if people play more Mole Networks, Hackers will increase, so you have to walk the fine line.
 

Moonlight Raid
Watch out turtles, their's a new shark in the swimming pool.  This is the type of card I like -- it promotes attacking, and gives you incentives for doing it.  This is a card that is somewhat hard to totally gauge -- where does it fit in an faction that has innate Stealth, good alt-power gen (Mole, Bite, Bull) and 0-cost punch-through (Killdeer).  I put this a fun and playable card -- you get do some tricks, especially when combined with characters or abilities that boost damage instead of fighting.

  Murder by Night
This card is overly complex for a 3 Fighting BuroMil Grunt, but that's what it is, with Assassinate to boot.  It's probably best when used as takeout for one of those really annoying specialty characters that it's not worth committing more than 1 power to get rid of.  I don't think you can Rig Dis from Murder, as it's the event causing the Sacrifice.  I'm still waiting for someone to do something with this card.  I'm not holding my breath...
  Operation Green Strike
Fortunately for the rest of the factions, Operation Green Strike is a miserable failure when compared to Operation Killdeer.  While it is cool (and power efficient) to seize a site with this Event, usually you will find that there are no good targets available, and that Operation Green Strike is taking up valuable space in your hand.  And being limited means that you cant go crazy with it.
Operation Killdeer
Would anyone disagree that this is best Event in the game?  It's offensive.  It's defensive.  It's character take out.  It's character protection.  And did I mention that it requires only one resource and 0 power?  Everyone should know and fear this card.  How many should you play in a deck?  Five if you're a kid, four if you have a really tight dueling deck, and three if you still want to have a good chance of winning and have some variety to your deck.
  Playing Both Ends
Hacker check please.  What looks to be an interesting concept turns out to be pretty poor in actual play.  It does add a little unpredictability and excitement ala Art of War, but the losing drawback is kind of a drag early game.  Mole Network is a 2 power swing, and is usually a better card.
  Pulling Strings
I have never gotten this card to do it's trick.  Searching your deck for a card leads to all sorts of problems in CCG design, but so far Shadowfist has done a great job at making the search cards restricted enough that they are only a novelty.  If there there cards I want to draw, I just put more in a deck.  The Ascended have enough power and low cost cards to cycle through a deck at a decent pace.
Realpolitik
Trashing an Edge or a State is usually a good thing.  Most of the time, Realpolitik will cost less that the card it Smokes.  Don't overlook targeting a Shield of Pure Soul or Payback Time even though they costs 0 -- it generates power and lets your opponent find the card he needs.  This is one of those cards I like to throw one of in a deck for general utility.  In a tournament environment, the State you are going to be most wary of is Shadowy Mentor, in which case Lodge Politics may be a better choice, as it accomplishes the same result, and can be used on other cards.
  Roar of the Beast
This is one of those cards that is just too much fun when you play.  Yes, it's expensive.  Yes, it requires a ton of resources.  But, saying "No!" to anything in the game (except for that @#$! Gunman) is worth the price of admission alone.
  Shell Game
This card looks very interesting.  The target (almost always going to be yourself) is going to get the worst two cards from the top three of your deck.  And if someone other than the player to your left is going for the win, your opponent just may let you keep some denial like an Op Killdeer (to go with the one already in your hand that you're hiding).  Note that there may be some funky stuff you can do with Shell Game and cards that Reload, especially as more are added in future sets.  This card was totally amazing in the Spin Doctoring recursion deck, but since it's demise, I haven't seen one played, but it still might be okay.
  Spider vs. Mantis
This is the weakest effect of all the Faceoffs, and is really only useful in dueling.  See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
  Subterfuge
While you can play this card to slow down your opponent, I prefer to play it on my turn when going for a site.  I look at what factions a person is playing, and then check their power pool.  If another Ascended player has no power, target them.  If an Architect player is sitting on 1 power for a Gas or 3 power for a Bomb, target them.  Also good with Bull Market, which you can play after Subterfuge if you have to Bull during another player's turn.  Still a sub-optimal card, but it can be fun.
Suicide Mission
Another great card, Suicide Mission's best use is its most devious, of course.  While you can Smoke an opponent's card and pay the price, the preferred use of this is to Smoke one of your own sites.  If someone is going after a site of yours and has enough brute for to take it, you can smoke it with Suicide Mission, not only denying them your site, but it will also make the attack unsuccessful.  Since the second Smoke is optional, you can ignore the effect.  Of course, you could be playing Dark Travelers, and may want your smoked pile full of Feng Shui sites.
  The Lady or the Tiger
Neither if you ask me.  The only good reason to play this card is to fuel your Paper Trail, and there are better cards for that.  Don't get me wrong, knocking denial out of your opponents hand is good, but you are giving them a really good chance to get cards just as good.  I don't know about you, but I like playing good cards in my deck, so that when I have to draw cards, I draw good cards.  Yes, discard is a viable dueling strategy, but it's really no fun, and doesn't add to the game.  I still haven't seen anyone play this card -- I wonder why?
  "Throw Me the Idol..."
Strictly a fun card, and if you have good opponents, it's not going to do much for you, as they should (rightly) decline in ever giving an Ascended player power.  This sort of belongs in "I'm your pal" kind of deck with Triumvirate Dealmaker and Ulterior Motives where you're just toying with your opponents much like a cat with a mouse.  Don't expect to get 2 power from me very often,  you Ascended rat.  I still haven't made a "Why can't we be friends?" deck with the above mentioned cards -- I'll get around to it one day, but until then, I'll be shocked if I see this card played.
  Tiger vs. Crane
This is one of the more useful Faceoffs, and the best when used as a bushwack.  See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
  Ulterior Motives
Ulterior Motives is turning out to be a surprise card in the Throne War set.  While at first it looks this card is going to hurt you more than it helps, it doesn't seem to in actual play.  Of course, it depends on your play group, and Ulterior Motives may just stop up your hand if no one play's Sites or Edges that turn.  Note that while it requires an opponent to have a turned non-character card, there is no restriction on the card they unturn, so try not to let someone get in an extra lick with a hitter if you are their prime target.  Not recommended for dueling.
  We Know Where You Live
It's almost impossible to gain power off WKWYL, but often you can get a point or two of damage in against an opponent.  The best target for this card is an Ascended player, as they are likely to share a lot of designators.  Four Monarchs players also tend share designators.  When looking at Sites, don't forget about the Netherworld designator.  I think I'm going to be using Dirty Tricks over WKWYL most of the time, just because I like seeing two opponents squirm over one.
  Year of the Snake
This is a really nasty card for trying to sneak a win.  Remember that characters can only incept at the location they are at.  Say you are in a three player game, and attack player 2's first column for the win.  Then player 3 turns a couple of characters to intercept.  You can YotS to any other column and invalidate that first round of interception since they are no longer at your location and can't get to where they need to be.
 
 

STATES

  Hired Killer
"Play on a Hood character" -- that alone is enough to tell you that this card is going to be bad.  Hrm, this gives them non-attack ambush assassinate.  That sort of okay, but so situational, and it it means you have to keep your character unturned -- Hired Killer is just one of those cards that you don't want to be playing.   I'm pretty sure this didn't make the cut in my last Hood deck.  In fact, I'm positive.
 

Hydrophobia
Mildly janktastic, this card does have it's place in a heavy-designator deck.  The obvious ones are Pledged and Lodge -- you can make most of your characters non-interceptable and unable to be attacked.  Of course, you probably could have smoked that character anyway with a timely application of Operation Killdeer.  Where you might get a little extra juice out of Hydrophobia is in a Asc/Mon deck where all the sites (and the hitters) have the designator Netherworld.  Of course, you've just jumped through hoops to make Hydrophobia effectively a Nerve Gas that's vulnerable to State removal. 

Mr. Strange writes in:
   Although not a great card, I think that you have missed the excellent diplomacy options this card opens up. This can encourage people to team-up the way you want them to, by disallowing their biggest characters to attack together. Voiding an interception with this card is just a late-game punch-through technique. I'd rate this a 1.75.

My Response:
   I don't want my opponents teaming up at all!  If I want them interacting, I'll play Dirty Tricks and get them mad at each other.

  Marked for Death
Another one of those really bad cards, Marked for Death is only playable for comic value.  Since you have to wait until the beginning of your turn to flip, your opponent is guaranteed at least attack with the marked character, and may often get another turn after that in which to attack.  And once a character is Marked for Death, a good opponent will run that character into your characters trying to take as much as possible with them before being Smoked.
  Master of Disguise
I have mixed feelings on this card, and it's going to take some time to figure out, although I suspect I wont be playing it much.  If you haven't figured it out yet, this card really reads "spent 1 power to smoke a unique character whose controller has no power" -- it's a very powerful effect, but somewhat restrictive and slow since it's a State.  Again, time will tell, but this card can have a really good annoyance factor.  People haven't taken to this card as much as I thought they would, but it's still an okay way to get rid of some uniques if you have spare power.  I need to try this in combination with Spirit Pole to see if it can truly be nasty.
  Official Harassment
In case you were wondering what to do with all of those Pledged you've been pumping out with your Family Estate, here is your answer.  Okay, you probably were doing something with those Pledged already, but Official Harassment is a nice new option.  As long as you can play a foundation a turn, you are going to be able to lock down an opponent's character, hopefully their best hitter.  This State is going to turn all of your characters into a potential Muckraking Journalist.  While I think this is going to be good overall, it might be marginally better in dueling.  I've really tried to play this card, but it somehow always seems to get cut -- it's got a good effect, but characters die so fast around here that it's not a long term lockdown.  Also, Gun Moll from 2FT is my annoying card of choice for the nonce.
  Security
While larger Body sites are preferable to smaller Body sites as a rule, spending an additional power for that is of questionable worth.  Security can save you if you are forced to play a front row Whirlpool or Kinoshita House by a bad draw, but usually you can plop at least a 6 Body site down and have enough time to defend it.  You can play Security with Heart of the Rainforest for a 14+ Body site, but you will probably be hosed if an opponent ever manage to seize it.  About the only real use for this card is Temple of Angry Spirits, but that's just rude.
  Seal of the Wheel
Do you really expect to see a character with Seal of the Wheel to last two turns in play?  Playing this card is just like painting a big target on them.  You are better off saving the two power to play a site and then go for the win.
Shadowy Mentor
This State is as good as they get.  Even though you need 3 power in your pool to play Shadowy Mentor, it doesn't really cost you that much.  Even if you only take control of a 2 cost Foundation character, you are still netting 1 power (3 power to play, but minus the two power cost of the character you gain and minus 2 power for the character your opponent loses).  If you Mentor their big 5 cost hitter, the power swing is an amazing 7 power.  This has been the dominant card in Shadowfist ever since Limited, and has just grown better and better over time.
  Tools of the Trade
Yet another bad Hood card that you really shouldn't play.  How often do you really need Assassinate?  And why aren't you playing Sting of the Scorpion then?  Heck, even Nine Cuts?  Double heck, Red Lantern Tavern.  Stealth is faction power for the Ascended, but spending power on such a restrictive form is too much.  Look at the Dragons -- they got a stealth state in 2FT (Bullwhip) that's less restrictive and potentially free with Kar Fai's Crib.  This is a great example of a card that should cost 0 power, in which case it would still be bad, but at least you could play it in a janky hood deck for fits and giggles.  I have yet to see any sign of this card outside of the coaster pile...
  Walk on the Wild Side
I have a strong dislike for cards that have only limited choices for playing, and this sure is one of them.  Add the fact that the effect is pretty schlocky (Really Big Gun and Path of the Storm Turtle) and only works when attacking, and you have something to keep you table free of drink stains.  While I don't recommend playing Really Big Gun, Pump-Action Shotgun is a nice damage bonus if needed (and you can play it on your foundations) and Path of the Storm Turtle is ok for dumping on your Lodge posers.
 
 

EDGES

 

200 Guys with Hatchets and Ladders
This card reminds me a little of Bounty, but that's probably because it's a Limited Ascended Edge that you can build an entire deck around.  I think it's a little more versatile than the afore mentioned card in that you can put it into any deck and it will work (as long as your opponents play Unique characters, which IKTV Report has shown to be fairly common).  While you can bring back hordes of Pledged with 200 Guys, the fun stuff is going to be with 1-cost utility characters -- off the top of my head, a few that might be cool:  Mad Bomber, Hermes/Malachi, and Consumer on the Brink. I expect to see this card filter it's way into a lot of casual Ascended decks.  I think we've all seen plenty of 200 Guys decks, and this card has shown itself to be a real threat -- another reason to always pack edge removal.  As I mentioned before, bringing back interesting 1-cost characters from other factions is much cooler, and I don't think we've seen the full potential of this card.

  Bounty
I still don't know about this card.  It tricks you into not attacking sites and attacking characters instead.  Now that there are a couple of decent Assassins (Sting of the Scorpion, Nine Cuts, White Ninja) this card may have some more general use.  I've built a couple of Bounty decks, and they've never worked that well for me.  The Asc/Mon version with Fire Assassins and Open Season was hard to get the combo going on, and the straight Asc version only worked because it was chock full of power cards that didn't really work with Bounty (Mentor, Bite, etc..)  Shaolin Showdown gives us a couple more Ascended choices for the Bounty deck (Kinoshita, Senior Ocho) that might just give it a boost -- unfortunately, you really want Bull Markets to get the big thugs out, and that is kind of counter-productive with Bounty.
 

Fistful of Dollars
The value of this card is going to greatly depend on how your opponents play.  You are effectively playing a mini-Bull Market, but with huge disadvantage of giving up tempo.  You opponent is going to be able to use that power first -- they have G2 in their hand but only 4 power?  Ka-ching, you've just lost a site.  And remember, losing a site is effectively -1 power generation, so you've negated any gain.  Yes, this card is good if your opponents are using that power to play bad cards, but I suspect that they are only going to activate it when there is a card in their hand that you don't want to see.

Mr. Strange writes in:
   I think you have seriously under-estimated this card. In a four player game, this card could give each of your opponents 1 power, and net you 4. More opponents really makes this card shine. It also really helps level the playing field, as 1 extra power is decent for a leader, but REALLY GREAT for someone lagging behind. I know my games are always at their best when everyone is involved. For both those reasons, I think this card is a solid 3.0.

My Response:
   I think you just made my point -- this card helps your opponents more than it helps you!  The Ascended excel at both generating extra power.  It seems that most of the combos with this card are from your opponents, whether it's something simple stealing the power back with a Kiii-Yaaaah! or going the jank route with Mysterious Stranger et. al... 

 

Gunboat Diplomacy
Here we have another metagame card -- do your opponents regularly play Sites, Edges or States that turn?  Against some decks, like say a Scrappy Kid + Fusion Rifle deck, the Gunboats will wreck them.  Against other decks, the effect will be not as major.  You may also need some diplomacy of your own as well -- you may find one opponent who is reluctant to turn a card to stop another opponent as they are afraid of bombardment.

  Monkey King
Monkey King is one of my favorite of the hoser cards, because not only can it be used against your opponent, you can use it in an Ascended/Lotus deck for defense -- Nerve Gas heading towards the Emperor and no Eunuch to take the hit?  The Monkey King to the rescue.  This card is also an excellent response to the Lotus returning cards such as Destroyer and Underworld Tracker, and is one of the best over-all hoser cards.
  Night Moves
While I don't think this is an awful card, I don't think it's a good card either.  Remember you are pumping out 1c Pledged with your Family Estates, and this card doesn't do a lot for 1 fighting characters.  And, you have Operation Killdeer, which is redundant.  And, the drawback for Night Moves leaving play is really harsh in comparison to the benefit, and can cause you to lose a game (and will paint a big target on this edge).
  Open Season
The only saving grace of this wanna-be coaster is the chaos value it can add to a game.  Sometime it's just fun to have non-stop attacks until only one character is left standing.  Every so often, someone will try to make a King of the Fire Pagoda deck with the card, hoping to do lots of 'plinking' by attacking non-stop.  Invariably the deck gets retired quickly.  You can also play it with Bounty, letting all your Enforcers and Killers collect on assasinations.
Paper Trail
One of the great psychological cards of Shadowfist, Paper Trail benefits you in two ways.  The first is by gaining power when an opponent discards while the second is slowing down an opponent who clogs up their hand by refusing to discard and give you power.  This card is always a money maker, especially in four player.  Opponents not discarding enough?  Try Dirty Tricks, Covert Operation, and if you have the magic resources, Curtain of Fullness.
  Political Corruption
Well, I think I'm always going Paper Trail in 4 player, and maybe even 3 player.  That leaves dueling, where this is theoretically a good card, but Ascended are so fast (as dueling is in general) there usually just isn't space for a long-term pay off card.  Hrm, maybe I am playing this in multiplayer some -- it lets you have more power generation without having to worry about defending it.  I would be vary wary of putting out multiples -- that would scream Discerning Fire.  Political Corruption only requires 2 Asc resources, which does make it a little faster/more splashable than Paper Trail.
  Political Lock
This is one of those cards that rarely gets played because people either don't understand it, or don't get where the power in the card lies.  This is a go for the win card -- if played at the appropriate time, it can open up a site for easy taking by eliminating the possibility for interception.  The trick to the card is not playing it too early, and thereby slowing down the game as everyone hunkers down.  While at first, Mobility seems seems that it would go well with Political Lock, it doesn't.  You will be forced to sacrifice your characters in defending other players' sites more often than not.  Of course, Year of the Snake even at one more power, is generally better.
  Soul of the Dragon
Soul is one of the 4 Triumvirate Edges that can go into the Molten Heart deck, but it's innate ability is iffy at best.  Yes, burning for victory isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'd usually rather invest the one power in playing a character to give me the option of seizing or burning for power.
  Spin Doctoring
This card I just cant quite figure out.  It's going to get you back some good cards (you aren't playing bad cards, are you?), but who knows how often.  You can use it with your foundations, but you might get some mileage out of Family Estate and cheap Pledged, but it's going to be hard to really see if this card will do much of anything for you.  Watch out for opponents with Underworld Trackers -- it will surely ruin your day.  Well, we found out this card was totally broken, basically allowing you to deck all your opponents on about turn six.  I tried playing it once since the errata as just a supplemental card to a deck, and it' wasn't worth the power.
  The Enemy of My Enemy
To me, this looks a lot more reliable than Spin Doctoring.  As long as you have power, you can have cards.  Also, like with the Chinese Connection, giving power to an opponent can sometimes be a good thing if they can use the power to stop an attack or take down another player.  Yes, you do lose a bit on the power scale, but you should make up for it in tempo -- your opponent has reduced their denial, and you have drawn two cards.  I've tried to make this edge work with limited success.  What you really need is lots of excess power, as pretty soon, you find that you have filled your hand, and Enemy of My Enemy is the only way you are going to drop cards.  Still, the Ascended do well at generating power, and this card has some merit.
  Tomb of the Beast
The best use I've seen for Tomb of the Beast is smoking the Queen of the Ice Pagoda because her controller had no power when Tomb was played.  Since you want your opponent to have no power when you drop this card, support with Mole Network and Blessed Orchard can't hurt.  This card might see a little more play if Dr. Celeste Carter becomes a threat.
 
 

SITES

Family Estate
Any doubt that this card is the best non-Feng Shui site in the game?  It lets you pay most of your foundation characters for free, and in the case of Student of the Shark, you only have to pay 1 power for potentially 3 damage.  And to top it off, it lets you play some of the best hitters in the game (Shinobu Yashida and Adrienne Hart) as well as some really good utility characters (Philippe Benoit and Oliver Chen) at a reduced cost.  This is must for all but a few specialized dueling decks, and some of the really heave Lodge decks.
  Manchu Garrison
Pretty much useless outside the Manchu deck.  At least you can do the Lodge Politics trick to get it back after it being seized.  Notice that it's way worse than Police Station (other than it generates power), and the bonus wears off at the end of the turn.
  Nuclear Power Plant
Ahem... Drug Lab?  The drawback on Nuke Plant is a lot stiffer than it seems at first glance.  Your deck is going to be filled with useful sites that turn (like Family Estates) not to mention the gads of power Feng Shui.  And even if you don't play that many, you're gonna want to take them from your opponents and use them.  This card is going to force you into multiple columns.  Still, a Nuke Plant sitting behind your Temple or in front of your City Park isn't all that bad.
  Opium Den
Just say no to drugs, unless you are the one peddling them.  The Dope Den can ruin someone's game.  It allows you to blast through defenders like nobody's business and can find a home in any Ascended deck.  This card works really well in conjunction with the new Faceoff cards, but there is a big caveat -- if they seize your Opium Den, all your Faceoffs are completely hosed, so use with care and stock up on Lodge Politics (one-per-den minimum).  The Den is also a Hood Site for what it's worth.
  The Hub
Same deal as Biomass Reprocessing Center -- this is an alternative to Secret Headquarters.  I can see throwing the Hub in a deck -- especially if you are like me and are always low on HQs.  The ability is really questionable, but I could see you looking at someone's hand for 1 power if you were worried about denial and thinking about going for the win...
 

 

 

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