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Critical Shift

While not as bad as the previous two sets (Sixguns & Shuriken and Two-Fisted Tales), Critical Shift falls short of the goal of reinventing Shadowfist.  For those of you who don't know the history, CS was originally intended to be a new base set comprised of a majority of reprints and as a new block.  Well, as the popularity of Shadowfist has been steadily declining this type of set has become financially unfeasible, and the game has moved to more a fan-supported model with sporadic expansions, and this is what CS has become.

While CS has a few interesting cards, it's nowhere near the high-water marks of Dark Future, Red Wedding and Seven Masters vs. the Underworld, which had well-received new factions (The Purists and Seven Masters).  This set attempts to make the new faction introduced in Sixguns (The Syndicate) playable, but at least in our neck of the woods, the Syndicate has fallen flat -- they feel more like a gimmick to sell packs (look kids, a new faction!) rather than integrated part of the game that has been well thought-out and have something new to offer to the game.  If you were expecting another Seven Masters, don't hold your breath.

We also have a new boldface ability this set, Influence, which was best described as 'meh' by a friend of mine.  While it's probably better than Tactics, it's fragile and poorly thought out for the Syndicate -- a lot of their characters have combat abilities and Influence is basically Stealth, so you are nullifying your own powers.

If a lot of the cards in Critical Shift feel familiar, it's because this set is almost entirely composed of recycled cards and abilities (and even the new Influence is really turn to give stealth).  And when you add the large set size along with the increased box price, this set becomes more of a luxury than a must have (our group is down to 1/2 box per player, from the usual 3-6 boxes in TW-7M era).

I'd like to end on at least a little bit of a positive note -- here are my picks for top 5 Critical Shift cards:

#1. LaGrange Four
#2. Reprints (Sacred Heart Hospital, Bull Market, Shadowy Mentor)
#3. New Foundations (Rebel Without a Cause, Wailing Apparition, Bush Pilot, ArcanoMoth, Kamakazi Cosmonauts)
#4. New Sites (Palace of Virtual Light, Hot Zone, Hydroponic Garden, Iron Palace, Rainforest Ruins)
#5. Triumphant Heroes

Simon Johnston writes in:
    Generally I agree, Critical Shift isn't a particularly good set. Though all my comments should be taken with a pinch of salt - I've hardly played since the release of 7M.
    There seems to be a trend in CS of making events that cost too much when compared to the classic staples of Killdeer, Brain Fire, Confucian, Imprison, WTMN etc.
    I don't see any reason while all of the following couldn't cost zero (though I didn't playtest):Delay the Inevitable, Echo Distortion, Howling for Blood, Temporal Anomaly and Catching Bulllets.

Wei Chen writes in:
Longtime reader here.  I have always enjoyed reading your card reviews, even if I don't always agree with your evaluations (and isn't that the nature of opinions?).  Since you're again inviting commentary with your batch of Critical Shift reviews, I thought I'd bite

Matt Wooley writes in:
While I agree with a hell of a lot of your assessments � in particular the accusation of retreads - I think that generally speaking you are unjustly harsh. Compared to a lot of past expansions CS seems to deliver a fairly consistent level of playable (albeit not outstanding) cards.

 

  Arcanomoth
Holy Moths Batman!  Here we have the 3rd generation 2-cost Abomination foundation character, and it's not half-bad.  It gives you tech, which you are likely to want for those Neutron Bombs, and, late game, you get an average hitter capable of taking a site when needed (or some tenacious D with their toughness).  I can see dropping a couple in most any deck, although you still need to slot a couple of Loyalty Officers just to be safe.  And if you missed it, Arcanomoth is an Abomination, so you have all those tricks going for you too.
  Frenzy Engine
Here we have a rather poor variation on the old standby, Arcanowave Reinforcer.  Sure, it costs 1 power less and requires one less resource, but it's really gimped.  Notice that there's no surprise factor -- the Engine has to be in play when you declare the attack. 

Wei Chen:
This thing does combo with Hidden Tomb.  It's not quite so bad for an aggressive deck (one with recycling Benjis, perhaps?) to drop a free Engine and attack with waves of more characters than could be blocked.
--Security also combos with Hidden Tomb, but that doesn't make it good.  Not working on defense just kills this card for me other than as a one-shot -- it's going to make too easy of a target for your opponents.

  General Gog
I feel kinda iffy about the General here.  I like the ability, but I don't think this was the right character for it.  In a lot of end game situations, Gog is effectively going to have no ability.  The Tactics/Unturn/Re-attack is going to be more useful mid-game when there are more columns and targets available.  Ideally, this is an ability you want to somehow copy (as a surprise) to have fun with.  Your best hope to attack one site with overwhelming force (which usually prevents interception), then unturn Gog and hold him back on defense.  Would this card have been too over powered if they just gave him Independent?

Wei Chen:
He's basically an Independent thug with CB Radio.  Like everything that's big and has Tactics, he does well when given Ambush (Neural Stimulator, Blood Eagles, Arcanoseed -- Architects don't lack for ways of making it happen).  With Ambush, the guy can wipe out a very large stick and take a site in the same turn, and in addition set off anything you've got that triggers off successful attacks (Bandit Hideouts, The Pinnacles).  Conditionally, that's better than just having Independent.
--Remember they closed the Ambush+Tactics window in the rules, so I don't think there any real combo there anymore.  I think of General Gog more as a Fox on the Run than CB Radio enthusiast.

Matt Wooley:
His ability clearly operates in a very different way to Independent. Late game when an opponent has a big character, or multiple small characters capable of stopping him, Gog can bypass them by dummying an attack, and then re-attacking at a different location. Is there a better 5 cost architects character?
--Maybe Assault Drone, but yeah, there's not a lot of goodness in the Architects 5-cost slot (but you have to admit that all factions have lot of sub-par 5-cost characters).  Gog's best ability is not a dummy attack, but that he is going to be mostly immune to the first turning denial-site used during his attack -- City Square, KHouse, Fox Pass can all be negated.

  Geoffrey Smythe
This looks to be somewhat of a utility character that might find some room in certain decks.  At 3 resources, don't expect to see him early, and even with Smyte's good ratio, he's more of a defensive character.  While he's not going to replace Whirlpools, he can give you the edge in a cancel battle.  While this is a hybrid-Purist card, the high resources make it unreliable in a heavy two-faction deck.

Wei Chen:
He's also a guy who can do something useful in a mono-Arch deck that needs multiple Magic resources.  Also combines with Commander Griffith to create a 5-for-9 Tactics thug, for whatever that's worth.
--Isn't every character that is over-resourced a combo with Commander Griffith?  And Paradox Beast is a 4-9 one-card-combo...

  Howling for Blood
This is another fine example of the Nerve Gas/Imprisoned problem -- does this 1-cost event stack up to them?  Well, uhm, not really.  I'm not sure that Howling is that interesting in even a limited format, as you have to target an Abomination to get you money's worth out of this card.
  Jigsaw Beast
While I'm not sure that this card is overly powerful, Jigsaw Beast is mildly interesting.  As you all know, in the early sets Ambush was almost always over-costed (except for a few characters like Midnight Whisperer).  This abomination is always going to have more Fighting than cost, albeit with a diminishing ratio -- he's most efficient at 1-cost.  You are probably still going to want +damage effects if you really want to take objectives.  The reload is also of some potential use -- not just to get him back, but it also gives you another answer to someone stealing CHAR if you don't have a Loyalty Officer in hand.
  Melting Flesh Squad
Well, at least they improved over ArcanoRats in that the Squad doesn't cease attacking if other attackers are removed, but still, this can be a huge drawback.  Yes, Guts is good, but you don't want to be saddled with 100 Names when you really need a hitter.  Probably the best way to make MFS work is to play with Bouncing Benjiis, that way you are assured of drawing a character you can play every turn, but it's going to hurt when you have only 3 power and need to play this card when you have no other characters in play.

Wei Chen:
I don't think these guys' drawback is all that bad.  In an Abomination deck, you'd be playing Revingoration Process, so even if you're low on power, you could just recycle a Test Subjects and send it in with the Squad.  I agree that they're definitely much improved over the Arcanorat.  Also very amusing if you could copy their ability to someone else's big, scary hitter.
--By mid-game, I really don't want to be spending power to replay Test Subjects with Reinvig -- you are just showing that MFS is a 4-for-6 Guts with a drawback!!!  I like my 4-for-6's to have an advantage.  As for the copy-can't-attack, there are much cooler characters to copy (invariably a smoke effect).

  Nanovirus
Here we have a twist on Inexorable Corruption (and we all know how good that card is).  This time, it's only good for characters (and while Inexorable could target characters, it seemed to hit sites the few times I've seen it played).  As straight character kill, it's got a little use, especially early game if you can zap a 2-cost foundation, but playing the wait-game for Nanovirus past the start is going to cost you tempo.  Once in a blue moon you are going to be able to virus a regenerator or cancel a healing trick, but you can't count on that being an everyday occurrence.  I put Nanovirus in the chaff category -- you have room for a few cards like this in your deck, but you don't want to overload.

Wei Chen:
This is something you can use to decent effect with Arctic Fortress to really give a hitter a slow, agonizing death.  Other than that, it's really just a free 2 points of damage (if it sticks around longer than that, something isn't right) that'll work better if your metagame has a ton of healing.
--Last time I checked, the Architects excelled at quick and timely deaths, not slow ones.  There is just so many good Architect anti-character cards, it's hard to justify playing the bad ones.

  New Recruits
Here we have another card for the Soldier deck -- sure, they can always affect just themselves, but then you will be losing 90% of their effectiveness.  Toughness stacks, you can get multiples of the same designator if needed.  This looks to be best for getting your small Soldiers through your opponents foundation characters.  A couple of caveats -- the toughness is only against characters, so you can't do something cool like choose the designator Brawl, and your General characters don't gain the toughness, so you don't gain the punch-through on those hitters.
  Panzer X
Here we have a little more juice for all those Tanks decks out there -- right?  The card to up and up compare it with is ArcanoTank, which is a favorite of mine.  Power-wise, I think it's just a tad-under -- I'm a huge fan of the ArcanoTanks turn ability to "shell" characters at the subjects location.  Don't get me wrong, Panzer X's "shell" ability of doing 2 damage to the target of the subjects attack is also quite good, but it's purely offensive where ArcanoTank has defensive use as well.  Of course, Panzer X costs only 2 power to play, which is significant, but it also costs Tech, which limits its splashability.
  Security Officers
New and improved for the Cop deck.  I've played the old one time and time again as they are a 1-cost foundation for my Cop decks, and now they are only better.  Throw in a Police Station or two, and they can be quite formidable.

Wei Chen:
The card you're calling this a "new and improved" version of is the PubOrd Officer, correct?  I think these guys are basically Shamanistic Punk to PubOrd Officer's Sinister Priest -- if you only need a few Architect Cop foundations, you'll use the new guys 9 times out of 10.  Of course, now you can build a mono-Architect Cop deck (and only have to use a few of those dreadful PubOrd Squads to round out your foundations), though the Cop hitters for the Archies are a bit of a subpar mess.
--Yeah, they aren't anything broken or anything, but consider this opening -- Turn 1: FSS -- Turn 2: 2xSecurity Officer + Police Station -- I am a huge fan of Police Station and usually run 5 in a Cop deck. 

  Squadron Leader Holtz
This is probably the best Architect card in Critical Shift, but it's been a pretty weak batch.  While you can do Soldier tricks with him. Holts should be a nail against certain factions and decks.  The ability is pretty obvious -- scan the board for things that he immune to, and go to town.  This should include most big characters -- the ability actually states "cards" but I don't think there are many non-character cards that do damage and provide more than 1 resource.  Add in a gun or a tank, and Holtz could become unstoppable if the stars are right.  This card is good enough and priced such that it can be thrown into any Architect deck.

Wei Chen:
He's going to be pretty good against the hitters from any of the factions that heavily utilize talents, certainly.  There are a bunch of Ascended, Dragons, and non-Monarch Four Monarchs hitters who only provide one resource, though, and he's going to be less good against those.  The one significant non-character card he's going to excel against is Kunlun Clan Assault.
Ghao Zhang: I have a new mission for you - I wan't Holz dead
White Ninja:  Consider it done...

   
 

  Anubis
This is one of the worst of the ReAscended.  He's pricy, and you need to do some tricks to get up his fighting.  Yes he can get really big, but he starts out at 7, which is 1 shy of the magic number.  And he's also going to eat 1-fighting characters for lunch, but that's not going to get you ahead if you don't have healing.  The onerous resource requirements just make Anubis unattractive in comparison to Raven Li, who is a game winner all on her own, without requiring a lot of setup or having to keep her around to benefit.

Wei Chen:
I agree with you about this card.  This guy needs some Toughness in the worst way. And since his Fighting is already close to the magic number, his "growing" ability will cease to matter much once his Fighting passes 9 or so.  Not having any defenses against denial means that this guy is just about on par with Serket, who doesn't have the "growing" ability but is 1 precious power cheaper.
--I busted out a ReAscended deck the other weekend, and this was definitely not one of the ones I ever wanted to see

Matt Wooley:
He may start out as a 5 for 7 stealther, but you�d be surprised how quickly he grows, especially in conjunction with his two accompanying factions Architects and Dragons. In playtest he regularly became an unstoppable 15 +fighting monster, unless someone had an Imprisoned lying around carelessly. He�s not quite Ursus, but then again � who is.

  Black Helicopter Squad
A 3rd 1-cost Pledged character?  What were they thinking?  Oh wait, it's bad.  As you can see, they tried really hard to balance BHS considering it comes out for free with Family Estate.  So, we wind up with a somewhat nasty character on defense, and maybe some extra damage on offense.  I think the deciding factor for including these over The Pledged and Student of the Bear is going to be your hitter make-up, but I think it's still iffy.

Simon Johnston writes in:
      I remember Punks being quite annoying on defense, don't see any reason for BHS to be different. It's worth paying 0 power for 3 damage I think.
-- No doubt that Punks can sting at times.  I had the Squad out just the other day and they weren't bad, but they weren't stellar either.  I am more offense oriented, so unless I had some real tricks, I wouldn't go overboard on them.

Wei Chen:
I think these guys are pretty good.  They're potentially 0-cost, 3 damage guys who will be good protection for your sites and utility characters (Corrupt Land Agent, Swiss Banker, etc.) early on and become a not inconsiderable threat on offense once you've dropped a Unique character.  I think that's a lot more function than you can get out of your average Student of the Bear.
--Yes, they seem good, but only over the top with Family Estates.  They could be coming back into fashion, yet Hot Zone might be the answer (that Field of Tentacles wasn't).

Matt Wooley:
I think you�ve seriously underestimated these guys. Early game they are more defensive then you would like, but can still stop you being overpowered by larger resources, mid game they are fantastic, no one will attack you with those pesky 3 for 4s, and late game they can pose a serious attacking threat. Yep, they are targeted, but so are Chinese Docs. It�s a sign of a good card.
--Everybody seems to love BHS.  Yeah, they're good, but we'll have to wait to see if they are stupid good.

  Bull Market ERRATA
Now that this is uncommon, expect lots of people to be trying it out as there will be plenty in circulation.  The errata is the nice big LIMITED restriction, which does neuter some of the crazy recursion decks, but the card is strong in the right deck. 
  Everything Falls Apart
To steal from RoboCop -- I LIKE IT!  If you've been reading my thoughts over the years, you know I favor sharks over turtles, and this is as sharky as you get.  And the Ascended is the perfect faction for it with lots of 1 (and 0-cost) characters, along with card drawing effects.  Yes, this is going to help your opponents generate power, but you were going to steal the power/characters anyways, right?  And since you know that people are going to be attacking, you take extra advantage of it by playing cards that trigger off of attacking (such as Blessed Orchard, which has a few timing issues, but is still decent).  Remember, this card will accelerate the game, and make sure your deck takes the most advantage of it.

Wei Chen:
Since this thing favors people who can make multiple attacks (since you get max power that way) regardless of denial, you've got to be careful using this card with a Dragons player in the game.  You do get first crack at the extra power, so there is that.  Also, like Matt Woolley noted on the listserv, there's an amusing (if janky) combo with playing The Fox Outfoxed on your Everything Falls Apart.
--I love Fox Outfoxed -- it's not always useful, but amazing when it works.  I wouldn't be too afraid of Dragon Independent characters.  Think of Everything Falls Apart as a meta-game changing card -- how are you going to take advantage of more power in circulation and it's various ramifications (such as fewer burn-for-powers)?  (Hint, this is similar to one way of playing Bull Market)

  Feral Regression
While not as bad as some of the cards that have been printed, this is definitely on the junky card.  Feral Regression is dual purpose -- it gives you a 1-cost permanent Larcenous Mist (that doesn't cancel States), and it could give some of your characters a Fighting boost. But, and there's a big but here -- it's going to blank your own character too, which can be a problem.  You can build a deck with bad characters like Fist of the Bear and Charge of the Rhino just so they don't lose much when you Regress them, but then you are a loser anyways.  Okay, you got me, I will give out props whenever I see 13 Fighting Unpoken Name (old school of course).

Wei Chen:
It's not great, but it could serve as punch-through (at the cost of further use of your guy's abilities) if you're attacking with a big Lodge hitter and get into a massive melee.  The fact that you can use this to blank other people's guys IMO lifts it to "playable" status.
--Or you could just play Pump-Action-Shotgun and take a vulnerable Site with either a hitter or a foundation...

Matt Wooley:
Don�t forget Feral Regression and Shell of the Tortoise, or the fact that you can play multiples one character. I�ve already seen a fighting 21 Unspoken Name (old school).
--Shell is old school indeed -- too bad it's not really a combo (yes, you get a 4-cost-10-Fighting, but you loose the damage redirection effect that always made the turtle cool.

  Freelance Platoon
More low-ish cost goons for your Pledged deck and Family Estates.  Not much to say, other than it's very playable.  I am still a huge fan of Gruff Lieutenants, which are cheaper, but Freelance Platoon does draw you cards, which the type of deck that this goes in will burn through.
  Habbakuk
This card is too much of a trick horse for me to get excited about.  Its high cost and medium body make it a pricey toy that's going to be hard to keep a hold of.  And it requires 3 resources, so don't expect it early.  A must is ID Chopshop to make sure your extra foundations get the bonus.  The most efficient bonus will be on lower cost characters, such as Sting of the Scorpion. not hitters like Senior Ocho who are over-costed to begin with.

Wei Chen:
I
'm not a fan of 3-cost non-Feng Shui sites either (well, except for Secret Headquarters), but this thing *is* Feng Shui, which means you can drop it with a Contingency Plans or Hydroponic Garden.
--There you go -- combo-RIFFIC!

  Hit Squad
Gangsters that are not Hoods --what's up with that?  Here we have a semi-improved version of the never-played Muckraking Journalist.  It is a ramp character, and it's lack of designator matching can be useful if you are fearing a Discerning Fire.  For this card you need to be on top of the timing rules -- remember the active player has the first opportunity to make a declaration on their turn, so you can't turn a character to prevent it from attacking if it's already in play (assuming the active player did not declare another effect).  What you can do is turn a character in response to it entering play, negating it for that turn.  Of course, Operation Killdeer pretty much negates a character for a turn at 0-cost...

Wei Chen:
This guy is essentially Official Harassment in weenie (instead of state) form.  It's semi-useful in a 200 Guys With Hatchets and Ladders deck -- I have one of those, and now I can cut the Official Harassments from it and save some deck space.
--Official Harassment is a card that generally looks better when building a deck, but not as good as playing ii, but I think it's better than Hit Squad.  On the plus side, Hit Squad can be used against multiple targets on different turns, while once the target of Official Harassment is gone, it's gone.  But, the lifespan of a 1-F utility character is extremely short in our play group, whereas that hitter with Harassment might stay around a few.

  Reascention Agenda PROMO
This is a novelty card that really doesn't help much of anything.  It's Faked Death (with is decent when combined with Family Estates) and protection against Discerning Fire, which I guess is sort of okay since the Ascended have a lot of common Designators (cough Pledged, cough Lodge).  But, since this card requires Tech, it's really hard to play, and I don't think it has enough bank for it's buck to be worth playing.

Wei Chen:
I think the #1 thing this card is trying to accomplish is to make sure you can recur Dunwa in a Reascended deck and keep tutoring for your nasty big sticks.  It also stops people from casting a game-ruining Discerning Fire on your Reascended, though good players won't ever let you get out more than one Reascended at a time anyway.
--Faked Death is just as good at getting Dunwa back...

  Reascention Spy
I guess they are giving this out to try and make up for the nerf to Shadowy Mentor.  Trust me, you still want Mentor.  At a pitiful 1-Fighting, this guy is going to be too vulnerable to be used as more than a 1-shot.  And it's not an unconditional take conrol effect like Tranquil Persuader, who doubles as a Kinoshita House.  I don't know how much you've played Mr. X, but this is more along his power, which is quite questionable.

Wei Chen:
He does combo fairly well with Moon Base (and, to a lesser extent, Nightclub/Pinball Arcade/Desolate Ridge/stuff of that ilk).  To really use it well, though, you need to be able to do a small, voluntary ping on the largest hitter, play the Spy, and attack with the stolen character right away (you just can't count on the Spy living very long).  The first part (the voluntary ping) is highly problematic for this faction.
--Did I mention that Shadowy Mentor is still better?

  Secret Plans for World Domination
Here we have another interesting card that is trying to affect game play.  A long standing problem has been that burning sites is almost always preferable to seizing them (which is being offset a miniscule amount by the new return from attack rule, but our group has always played that way, so I honestly don't think it will have much impact on the game).  As for the Secret Plans, they look to be reasonably playable.  You are going to want to drop them right before and attack that you are going to seize, so you get their cost back and the search.  Afterwards, it's gravy.  Of course, if you're a savvy Ascended player, people will be seizing your sites fearing the bite.  But I still there can be a little juice in this card -- who knows, you might just search for Contingency Plans!
  Shadowy Mentor ERRATA
If you missed the errata, all that changed in the cost, which is now 4.  I playtested this version to death, and it's still broken.  All it does is force you to play a tighter deck, saving your power for Mentor instead of playing other cards.  This is not the fix that was needed.

Wei Chen:
I agree with you.  The too easy splashability of Mentor is a problem that still hasn't been addressed.
--This card was in playtest for the original CS (which was shelved for Sixguns) and I've played it to death -- it's still Shadowy Mentor good.

  Soul of the Wolf
Here we have a ho-hum state that's going to let you take sites every now and then.  Surprise Stealth is good, and this card makes a nice 1-of as a surprise, but if your opponents are wary, it's much harder to pull off to effect (especially compared with the overly-amazing Op Killdeer). 
  The Unspoken Name NEW
While not Adrienne Hart, the new Unspoken Name does pack a little punch at the potentially ridiculous ratio of 3-cost to 8 fighting.  It's really hard to control auctions, but doubling up on unique sites in your deck might give you a chance to pull of some unturning, but under the new rules (you can't play duplicate uniques you control), this is somewhat hard, and can cause your deck to stall.  If you really want to trigger his ability, you are going to want to play a lot of unique sites, with doubles of a few of the best sites, and wait on your opponent (which is hard to control).  There is also Master of Disguise from 2FT which triggers auctions, and seems to be a reasonable combo, which should be more opportunistic (as long as you have a spare foundation character AND 1 power to start the auction).

Wei Chen:
There are a couple of ways to make this guy's ability work.  Method #1 is to just play a lot of those really good Unique sites which everyone loves (Kinoshita House, Fox Pass, Devil's Mountain, Temple of Angry Spirits, LaGrange Four, etc.).  Method #2, which is a bit janky, is to play it in conjunction with Master of Disguise (add Hostile Takeover for extra laughs).
--I'll just play Adrienne thank you very much.

 
 

  Bush Pilot
While not overly excited about this card, it's one that I can see sneaking a 1-of into a variety of decks.  Mobility generally slows down the game, and if you can get this guy buffed up a little by a State, that might do you a little good, but the real power in Bush Pilot is being able to launch an attack against a back-row site.  This is a great way to get past some defensive monster like a Temple of Angry spirits to the softer meat inside.

Wei Chen:
This guy's ability makes him a nice candidate for Triumphant Heroes, especially if you've got a little Fighting/damage-pumping engine going.
--Combo points awarded!

  Homicide Detective
You should have been able to tell at a glance that this card falls into the "iffy" category.  Yes, he's kind of hard to intercept, but that just means he's going to draw Event fire and Site based denial.  This card is sort of like the Water Demon that no one plays.   And as for the extra card drawing ability, I'm not sure it's an advantage as much as a disadvantage -- sure Homicide Detective is going to be harder to intercept, but you've just spent 1 power (non-trivial) and you've probably given your opponent's 9 cards to stop you with.

Wei Chen:
Yes, his ability does allow your opponents to draw denial, but you'll also potentially be drawing anti-denial -- most of what your opponents can draw can be neutered with Festival Circle, Got My Mojo Working, or Fortune of the Turtle (Dragon hitters do generate enough Chi to make running a couple of Fortunes feasible).  He's also very good at forcing people to feed your Pony Express.  As Mr. Michael Stadermann noted in his article, you can drop a Scramble Suit on the guy for extra interception/discard fun.
--Yeah, the card does look a little better if you completely ignore the "draw 3 cards" ability -- you wind up with an even worse version of Father of Chaos (his ability reduces damage to 0 and works all the time).  Trust me, I've played F of C to death and he's just not that good. 

  Julienne Wong
Well, there are a ton of 4-cost 6-Fighting Toughness:1 Dragons that have good gravy abilities.  Julie's gravy ability is to gain additional toughness for additional factions.  So, you are going to want a solid 2-faction deck with some extra traitors in it like Jason X, Bei Tairong and Wu Ming Yi.  That way you will pretty much get to Toughness:2 mid-game, and Toughness: 3+ late game, where this card will start to look above the curve.  Copying this ability is worth bonus points -- Rig Dis could easily get Julie up to Toughness:6.  Not a really outstanding card, but very playable with some deck building around her.
  Lenny Wu
Here we have another "bleh" card, with an ability that is worse than toughness:1 90% of the time.  The only time that it really matters is when combating a character with exactly 5 Fighting -- in this case you will trade.  But honestly, this guy is so much worse than Tom Donovan (who was a promo and was widely available) that I can't ever see putting him into deck, save maybe as a 1-of in a Dragon Cop deck.

Wei Chen:
The other thing about this guy is that since he has two popular designators, he's double the Discerning Fire bait.
--Anyone remember way back when the Dragons used to be effectively "immune" to Discerning Fire because they never had matching designators?

  Li Han
Well, here you have someone to lead all your Triumphant Heroes.  A nice little addition to Undead Kids, even if he is sort of boring.  I guess Li Han can also lead a horde of Students in the Iala Mane' (new) deck.  The tag leads one to wonder who the first and second greatest martial artists are.
  malloc()
I'm not really sure how useful malloc()'s second ability is going to be.  He is going to be able to nail maybe a couple of characters or a site, but not reliably.  malloc() gets better against mono-faction decks, and when you happen to have multiple opponents sharing factions.  Two items of note -- you can pick any resource, including a Talent to cancel, and, you can Dragon as your resource which does work as it's not a continuous effect and resolves before it can cancel itself.
  Muscle Car
Here we have another entry in the cycle of 2-cost 3-Fighting States with a gravy ability, and this one looks to be a gooder.  Not only is it okay on it's own in a pinch, but it has some useful designators and can be combined with Tank Warfare and Chopshop for some cost reduction.  I just looked over the list of cards that interact with Vehicles and Tanks, and Muscle Car makes a great compliment to them.
  Sidekick
This card is a little goofy, and sort of a reverse Street Fighter (who's pretty much a coaster in our area).  I guess it all comes down to what you are copying with Sidekick -- if you copy something bad, he's kinda bad, but if you are copying say, Big Bruiser, then you may just have something.  This is strictly a fun card that you trying to build a goofy deck around, and while Sidekicks can't copy each other, they can both copy the same character.  And while you're at it, try and include Wing of the Crane in the deck so you can trigger Sidekicks as a surprise.

Wei Chen:
There are a lot of characters that can make Sidekick pretty frightening, I think.  It plays especially well with the Hand -- early to mid-game it can copy a Buddhist Monk or Blue Monk, and later on it can be the second coming of the Iron Monkey.
--Well, I don't think the copy works with Blue Monk, and you might as well play a 2nd Buddhist Monk over Sidekick to copy the ability, but sure, copying the ba-roken Monkey is stupid good.

  Smugglers
Yet another ramp character for the Dragons, and I don't think I like this one as much as the previous three.  Chinese Doctor is amazing, and Scrappy Kid and Consumer on the Brink have good offensive potential.  Smugglers just kind of sit around, waiting to be turned for a 1-power rebate -- yawn.

Wei Chen:
Since the Dragons recur their characters much better than the other factions, I don't think the Smugglers will suffer very much from the "sitting around waiting to turn" problem.  In fact, they'll generate a few power for you as long as they stay alive -- and that's their real problem: staying alive themselves.
--There are already two sites with similar abilities -- why not play them and save a character spot for something that will advance you in the game?

  Stunt Driving
This is sort of close to that Hand event who's name escapes me and no one ever plays.  Since this doesn't have as many restrictions, it's more playable.  And isn't there some over-costed Dragon Event or State that gives Ambush that no one ever plays?  Well, this is better than that too.  Mostly you are going to use this to take a site, but don't overlook the techie play of using Stunt Driving on an opponents character that is in combat with another opponent's character to create a situation where both will be smoked.

Simon Johnston chirps in:
       Fast as Lightning gives Ambush. Flying Kick gives Superleap. Back for Seconds lets you turn to heal (as well as do 100 other things). All of these seem better than Guts, even with +2 fighting. Or if you really want Guts, That Which Does Not Kill Me seems better, due to costing 0 power.
-- I was being sarcastic above in purposely omitting the names of several coasters.  Liquored Up is probably better than TWDNKM, but I think I almost like Stunt Driving better -- it let's you boost up an unsuspecting character -- it's not great, but I don't think 1 or 2 in a deck will be 100% dead weight.

Wei Chen:
The Hand event you're referring to is Breath of the Dragon, right?  The "over-costed Dragon event" should be Fast as Lightning (which I do play occasionally), and the over-costed Dragon state should be Fastest Gun in the West (which I do not play).  Stunt Driving isn't great, but it is a decent punch-through card against waxy character buildup.
--And don't forget the even worse Eight Pillars of Heaven Array -- this card probably gets my vote for best are on a never-played card.

  Three Days to Retirement
Yeah, we get the joke and have seen this shtick in movies.  This card is just plain bad, especially given the timing rules.  It can't be played in response to an effect because all targets are chosen at generation... AND...  effects can still zap your characters in response to Three Days entering play, as it hasn't resolved yet.  And while this State tries to consume all effects, remember they have to be legal, so during an attack you may be out of luck if the subject isn't attacking (and if it is attacking, it will probably just get removed by interception).  This is probably worse than even Final Sacrifice, except for maybe the resource requirements.

Wei Chen:
This card is just bad.  It'd be less bad if you could somehow make it work on a character that's not affected by events, but of course it doesn't work that way -- those guys can't even be targeted in the first place.
--Discerning Fire on Cops...

  Triumphant Heroes
Ugh, can you say even more broken Dragon recursion event?  While there are a few silver bullets, this card is stupid good.  Yes, this card does encourage you to play more expensive foundations, but recurring them for free over and over again (and don't forget you are recurring Triumphant Heroes with Fighting Spirit) is going to be a nightmare.
  Zheng Yi Quan
Good thing they made this card as playable as Kar Fai, or we'd be having all sorts of headaches trying to figure out what exactly happens with all those Feng Shui sites.  And for those of you who fail to see sarcasm, Kar Fai isn't playable.  While they tried to word it as best as they can, we found that during playtesting there were just odd situations that came up in trying to figure out who can do what with which site.  Yes, shutting down all opponents FSS sites is good, and yes, being able to use opponents sites is also good, but it really isn't worth 7 Power in most situations.

Wei Chen:
A rules nightmare, period.
--We playtested this card, and I suspect most groups can muddle through the effect by playing in "the spirit" of the card, even though I suspect they will rule either incorrectly or correct for the wrong reasons far too often whenever a conflict comes up.

 
 

  Box of Bones
This is sort of funky in how it plays -- it can effectively negate healing, or if you're lucky, turn into a character smoking machine.  In a way this card is Underworld Presence, as opponents are unlikely to heal when they are going to be hurt by it.  To make up for this, you can make sure you have a few ways to heal cards in your deck so as to pull out the damage as a surprise.  Box of Bones can make for some pain in a Regeneration deck, but you may find that opponents are more unwilling than normal to throw damage on your regenerators.

Wei Chen:
This is a lot better than Underworld Presence.  You have to build around the card, but it can do a lot of good for you -- provided you give it the opportunity to "go off."  One way to that, as you noted, is to feed off Regeneration, but you can also use cards that move damage around, such as Balanced Harmonies.
--Well, there are a lot of cards bad cards better than Underworld Presence...

  Cannibal Army
The flesh-eating horde doesn't thrill me as a foundation.  As strange as it seems, I kind of like my opponents playing sites -- it helps the game progress along, and I like targets on the board.  Not providing magic is a big killer for the Cannibal Army.  And if you want to get cute, can you try to add the Demon designator to pump up your Bloody Hordes.

Wei Chen:
I don't think the existence of this card is going to discourage your opponents from dropping sites -- more likely it'll simply goad them into killing off your Cannibal Army.  A couple of these can help a little bit in a deck that runs Red Dragon Troupes.
--But it probably will make them mad, and I usually prefer my opponents attacking my Sites early came over my characters.

  Cannibal's Banquet
They keep making more of these piddley Lotus power generating events, but face it, it's going to be hard to ever find a card worthy to replace Pocket Demon and Glimpse of the Abyss.  What hurts this card is the round down -- it's a deterrent to playing 1, 3 and 5 cost characters, and I don't like boxing myself into that type of deck construction limitation.  You can try out the Banquet, but you might fight it's more like McDonalds than Sardi's.
  Cloaca
While playable, Cloaca suffers from the problem that he doesn't do anything very new or interesting.  He does gain protection form all Events, so you can combo him with your own Neutron Bomb if you have has the power and surplus character.  But, the protection doesn't extend to States, so you are going to have to sacrifice Cloaca himself to avoid Mentor.

Simon Johnston writes in:
      Demons [like Cloaca and Sewer Demon] that can sacrifice characters are always nice with Tortured Memories and Bribery.
-- Yeah, that's pretty old tech, but I think there are better cards for that combo, mainly based on power cost.

Wei Chen:
The only comment I have on this card is that they chose an awful name (and, apparently, didn't realize it until they finished designing the card).
--Yeah, the name is reminiscent of more Aztec badness.

  Demonic Alliance
This is the promo card for the next set, but this time with some rules text (which is going to reduce the confusion of the past).  Power wise, it's pretty vanilla, but time has shown Regeneration to be useful.  This is sort of a multifaction card -- Regenerate is a signature ability of the Lotus, and they have plenty of cards with the ability -- you don't need Demonic Alliance unless you are running a second faction (mmm...  adding Regenerate to one of the Seven Masters would be tasty!).

Wei Chen:
"mmm, adding Regenerate to one of the Seven Masters would be tasty" -- Ghost Wind, I presume?

  Haunted
Again this is a variation on cards we've seen before, but it seems marginally playable.  At least Haunted can target any type or card in play (even Edges), which makes if more flexible.  I guess that if you're playing Haunted, you are going to want to Reload it every chance you get, but be careful when dropping in on a site, as opponents can make use of the extra damage.  For cool points, try making a Haunted Haunted Forest.
  Petal's Attendant
They really loaded up this 3-cost foundation to try and make it playable.  It sort of feels like Sting of the Scorpion, but toned down.  Since you're playing the Lotus, you are most likely going to be loaded up on Magic and should be getting the +1 Fighting bonus (but watch out for the Purists and Monarchs).  Assassinate is, well, assassinate.  It's a good ability, but not great, but is nice to include in a deck just in case you have to take out a pesky utility character.  Now it comes down to the plink -- does it put the card over the edge of playability?  Not quite.  The card has 3 useful designators, and I think Petal's Attendant will be best used when you sprinkle a few in a deck that is going to take advantage of the designators.  You can also try the Attendants in the Cave Network deck, but our group knows how to play around the card so well that it stagnates (although Cave is still a great 1-of as a surprise factor).

Wei Chen:
This card is also very good for a foundation if you can recur it (Triumphant Heroes, for example).
--So is Stuntman, but I suspect recurring Bloody Hordes will be more popular than the Attendants.

  Sewer Demon
Here we have a sort of baby Seven Evils, a card which sees occasional play in our area, and garners a modicum of respect.  As always, the sacrifice ability is a deterrent to Mentor, and unturning is high on the scale of useful abilities.  Be sure to watch any opponents playing Sewer Demon to make sure they don't try to sacrifice any characters brought back to play with Inauspicious Return.

Wei Chen:
I think this guy is going to be pretty fierce in a dueling environment, especially if you back it up with a little protection and maybe a LaGrange Four.

  The Hand of the Underworld
The Hand is heavily combo dependent, not something I am sure you want in this early game spot.  Since sacrificing your own guys is retarded (and often unavailable in the Lotus with cards like Inauspicious Return), you are resorting to the usual trick of Torturing an opponents character (which is not bad, but not really a reason to play more than 1 or 2 Hands of the the Underworld).  You can also have some fun with Sites, with Ring of Gates being the no-brainer, but Proving Ground also of some use.

Wei Chen:
As you noted, the best way to play him is with things like Proving Ground and The Dragon Throne, but if you got the resources for it, it's also worth a few giggles to Shaolin Hoedown your Hand of the Underworld to the next guy.  You can also RigDis his ability to other people's hitters when they enter play and force them to make tough decisions (or essentially getting an Imprison effect if they have no other characters).
--Combo points awarded

  The Library of Souls
This is a fairly interesting card once you break it down -- it gives you lots of choice in recycling characters at sort of an extra cost (think about it this way -- the Library generates 1 power, which offsets the +1 cost on replaying).  The first thing to remember that they made sure you can only bring back Lotus characters -- no recycling of Displaced or other bad things.  And since Library brings them back with no new restrictions, you can use this card to fuel your sacrifice deck.  And it can be used every player turn, so if you can get a burn for power in, your opponents may think twice about attacking you if they know you can bust something out.  The Library also gives you a way to keep your character-based combos going.  And on a final note, your opponents won't be getting much use out of it, as they are unlikely to have Lotus characters to replay.

Wei Chen:
"Think about it this way -- the Library generates 1 power, which offsets the +1 cost on replaying" -- I don't know if that interpretation flies: would you play a 5-Body non-FSS that costs two faction resources, generates no power, and allows you to play characters from your smoked pile at no cost?  I think the Library's ability is just too expensive to be worth playing in most decks, with notable exceptions being decks that pump characters with certain designators and decks that make heavy uses of characters that are already big bargains at their current cost (Evil Twin being the first thing that comes to mind).
--My point about spending power was that this could have effectively been a 2-cost Edge.  Also note that it's "once per turn" letting you go nuts when you have surplus power.  And of course the Library is going to be bad when you recur bad cards -- you are using it in a combo deck where you are getting back The Emperor and such.  Sadly, there were zero-zilch-nada in the two boxes our group opened, so I probably wont be seeing it a lot (unless someone wants to trade, hint hint!).

  Twelve Thousand Skulls
At 2 power, this Edge is pricey -- our game has a lot of Edge-hate, so you have to weigh the pros and cons of any expensive Edge.  For 12K Skulls to break even, you need to get about +4 Fighting out of it.  And you need to have a character that makes a good recipient for the bonus.  There are some games where this is going to fizzle, and others where you will be rolling in Skulls -- it's somewhat dependent on what everyone has brought to the table.  Since you don't have much control over your opponents' decks, you should put a little extra emphasis on character zapping in your when you're running a few 12Ks -- magic for Fires or pairing with Architects /. Dragons should give you some extra chances to proc this Edge.

Simon Johnston adds:
       The premier Lotus Zap is Die!!!!
-- True, but out of boredom I've gone more to two-faction deck designs, where Die!!! doesn't work as well.

Wei Chen:
It is indeed expensive, but it can be very useful if you have some Demonic Plagues, characters who Assassinate, and some healing to throw around.  Exiled Monk and Tong Hatchetman are a couple of thugs that work well with the Skulls.  This is also an edge that you can Paradox Cube for giggles
.

  Wailing Apparition
This is a fairly useful foundation, that can even get a little boost from Twisted Gardens (an oft overlooked site).  It's up to you as to whether you want to hold them back unturned as they can be turned in response to a healing effect to cancel it before it resolves.

Wei Chen:
The main thing this card does is push Sinister Priests to nigh-irrelevance.  Except for heavy-Lotus designator decks, most decks are going to want Shamanistic Punks and Wailing Apparitions to fill their need for 1-cost Magic-providing Lotus foundations.  I weep for the good old Skinnies.
--I think you'll still see plenty of Sinisters -- I think I have maybe 4 Apparitions, and about 8 Lotus decks...

  Xin Ji Yang
This princess is clearly quite bitchy.  Xin has a potentially useful, but that in itself probably wont win you the game -- you will need some follow up to make sure you grab up the weakened sites, not an opponent.  This card looks like it was made for the Celeste Carter deck (which also tries to keep lot of Magic cards in play).  Poofing out 3 Sinister Priests with an Auspicious Return will give you extra firepower, as well as a little extra defense as Xin Ji Yang is weak when not attacking, and has a high target priority due to her offensive ability.
 
 

  Accupressure Master
Here is another mid-range hitter that I am just not too excited about.  It's playable, and pretty fierce in a limited environment (sealed or draft) if you can get it out, but Accupressure Master is just crying out for copy trix with Rigorous Discipline.  Of course, the Hand have access to some top-notch healing cards, so this second-rate-at-best healing ability will probably fizzle out when you need it the most.

Wei Chen:
Definitely a card that needs outside help to really get going.  With The Inner Garden, though, there are some options that can help the Master achieve maximum defensive prowess -- stuff like Elephant Style, Invincible Stance (if you got Magic from somewhere), and even Armored in Life isn't bad in that scenario.
--I think I'll stick to better hitters than a 4-for-6 Toughness:1 and pack a few Healing Earths.

  Black Belt Rebels
These guys are deceptively bad.  Unless you are playing cards that improve on the designator Rebel these are a 3-for-4 that has no ability when they are in play.  Yes, at some point they are likely to trigger, but it still costs you 1 power each time, which can add up.  Black Belt Rebels are in no way to be confused with Underworld Tracker who's amazing and near-broken.  This card will clearly do best in a Rebel deck where they can protect your Black Flag Rebels  On the plus side, remember that you don't have to intercept with the Black Belts when you do pop them back, potentially setting you up for an attack.

Wei Chen:
These guys aren't so hot when you first play them, true, but they're a real bargain once they get themselves killed -- 1 power for 4 Fighting that doesn't have to intercept or go back to the smoked pile is excellent even if you don't have any Fighting-pump mechanisms in play.  Since these guys reduce their own cost, you can also combine with Proving Ground and the like to return them from the smoked pile for free.  What you'll see is that people will just refuse to attack you if they're closer to victory than you and you have a couple of Black Belt Rebels in the smoked pile (especially if you can bluff having an Iron and Silk and/or Heat of Battle), which means you can go crazy with a low-body, high-reward site structure.  If you go can get the resources, Potlatch does especially well in letting you pop out a horde of surprise Black Belt Rebels.
--Cards like this are bad for the game -- they just slow it down.  They do have the Proving Ground combo over Rev. Payne, but he's just flat out amazing.  Also, at some point you are going to run into Wigwans, Reburials and Rebels without a Cause and they will shut you down.

  Cheng Hu Bai
Even though he can be hosed up by your opponents, I kind of like Cheng.  He's got a great cost-to-Fighting ratio and a top-notch ability in Superleap.  Now you gotta figure in the back-row site wackiness.  Attacking them is good, and 7 damage is often enough, but, you are unlikely to get in any more attackers because he does not share his ability, so States or a Rig Dis will get you some extra gas.  Speaking of Rig Dis, you can always try to pull of the 100-Names trick if you only have front-row sites.  Now your opponents could try to neutralize Cheng Hu Bai, but then they are spreading out weakening your defense -- while I don't suggested trying to make a deck around this card, it's a fine inclusion as a utility/surprise in any deck that can expect to field 3 Hand resources by mid-game.
  Crane Stance
In case it wasn't obvious at first glance, this is about a 60% Operation Killdeer for the Guiding Hand.  On your turn it does almost everything Operation Killdeer does (but in reverse since you play it on the target of the damage, not the source).  Out of turn, it's acts as a moderate deterrent if if you previously dropped it on a character.  And yes, there is always Superior Mastery for some ultimate jank.

Simon Johnston points out:
     It's definitely not Killdeer (for one thing it doesn't stop stuff like Fakhir or Napalm Belcher that damage multiple targets at once), but at least it's immune to Brain Fire.

Wei Chen:
As a free but limited version of Blood of the Valiant that also has uses on defense, this isn't bad IMO.
--As I said, 60% Killdeer = 60% top-notch.

  Iron Hands Ma
Not much to say about Iron Hands other than he's a mini-beat stick.  He's good against foundations, and is at least an annoyance for mid-sized characters, taking a pretty good bite out of them.  What keeps this card from going into most decks as a no-brainer is his lack of a Chi resource provision -- probably a good thing seeing the general power level of this card.
  Elephant Stance
Well, we all know how good Armored in Life is (it's not, in case you didn't get the sarcasm), so this card needs to be a serious bump to be worth consideration.   This card has a built-in drawback of working best on cards that provide a lot of resources, and the majority of the time, they require a lot of resources.  Yes, you can probably get Toughness:3 out of this, but at what cost?

Wei Chen:
This is extra good on guys who already have Toughness (the aforementioned Accupressure Master), and is a bargain if you can get The Inner Garden out and play it for free.  Note that this grants Toughness: 3 to guys like Flambards when you've got The Inner Fire in play.
--Combo points awarded.

  Master Yuen
Is anyone else getting tried of all the Toughness:1 that seems to be thrown in this set?  Master Yuen has Superleap most of the time, but at the cost of denying you the turn-abilities of your site.  He's not bad, but he's not that interesting.  Note that a Whirlpool of Blood can shut him down, which is going to limit him somewhat.

Simon Johnston writes in:
      I agree there is a surfeit of Toughness, which I worry will lead to more stand-offs.
-- I suspect the offensive nature of this card will avoid any major clogging.

  Orange Divination
This card is novel in that you finally don't have to worry about the Hacker check.  And it's not going to be thinning your deck by removing cards (which has mixed blessings).  Still, this gives you a chance to get the best 2 cards out of half a dozen or so by mid game, assuming you are running heavy Chi.  For maximum effect, be sure to pack your deck with trash cards, and remember, you have to wait a turn to get them, so this card is effectively -1 hand size until your next turn when you draw it.
  Shaolin Saboteur
Woo!  A new ramp character (ramp is what our group calls a 1-cost 1-resource-requiring character, as it can ramp you up in resources early game).  This one looks kinda nasty early game, as a way to pick off opponents resource characters at no real cost to yourself.  You drop this guy, and hopefully turn him right away to to target another turned character (preferably controlled by the player to your left), and let the fun begin.  Even if you can't get the next player, there is some chance that your Saboteurs will stay alive as they have an interest in keeping other players down.  Note that there is also a small bit (but not an incredible) amount of goofiness you can do with unturn effects (usually control changing ones like Shadowy Mentor, Tortured Memories and even Shaolin Hoedown).
  Taiko Drummer
So, if this card were a 2-cost event, would you play it?  Being a character means it's a little bit harder to cancel, and it does have the advantage of being able to play when you need a small character, not to mention you can Rig Dis it for extra tricks. 
Yeah, you can try and do crazy Student tricks with it, but I find it hard to find this more than a funky addition to deck that you can't count on, but might just get you a win in a pinch.

Wei Chen:
This card obviously favors decks that can put on a weenie rush.  Should be fairly decent as an extra boost to decks that make use of Inauspicious Return or Armies of the Monarchs.  It's also another trick for Peasant Leaders.
--You got me convinced -- I'm replacing every Eight Pillars of Heaven Arrays that I currently have in decks with Taiko Drummer!

  The Inner Garden
Not much to say about this site other than it's quite playable.  It's Uncommon and non-Unique, so getting multiples shouldn't be hard or hurtful.  It only goes in a couple of variants of the Chi-State deck, but it should help out in them out a little.  And it's got all the mojo of being a 2-cost 1-power generating Non-FSS that isn't of much use to opponents.  But don't make the mistake of thinking that this is going to make terrible Chi States like the Paths playable -- you are playing cheap Fortunes of the Turtle along with the other top-notch Chi States.  Don't overlook returning a State to your hand -- it's a great way for some card economy.

Wei Chen:
Besides boosting the playability of good Chi states like Butterfly Swords, Contract of the Fox, Fortune of the Turtle, and The Fox Outfoxed, I think a good Inner Garden deck will also make a few less good Chi states viable.  The Paths are probably still hopeless, but Armored in Life, in particular, isn't bad at all if you can play it for free, especially if the subject character already had Toughness (and the Hand now have quite a few of those, as well as Shung Dai).
--Note that there is already a 0-cost Toughness:1 State -- Path of the Storm Turtle, so I can't ever see playing Armored in Life.  The trick is not to play "bad" Chi-States at -1, it's to play over-costed ones.

  Zhu Maichen
Here we have another funky attempt at getting damage through --somewhat like the Water Demon.  Zhu makes interception potentially painful, but it's not guaranteed, as opponents control triggering, and get get out of the way in a pinch.  The card is best end game when you have some waxy character build up, but at 6 Fighting is likely to do more damage to characters than to sites.
 
 

  Ape Shall Kill Ape
I hope you all know how to play bushwhacks by now, and this one seems okay-ish.  Blanking sites is good, just hope it's not your site that gets Aped.  Also note that this card can target non-Feng Shui Sites.  And any 0-cost Faceoff gives you a chance for some out of turn Character kill in a pinch.
  Botzilla
Yet another variation on the giant Jammer monster -- pay a lot of power, and attack attack attack.  Designators are pretty off on this guy, so don't expect matches, but at 4 Jammer + 1 Tech resource required, it's going to be hard to get Botzilla into play.

Wei Chen:
Does having Guts make this better than King Kung, which is the closest thing we have to it?  I don't know that it does -- Botzilla's ability simply discourages interception (in addition to the Guts, it'll also inflict 2 damage on any non-Mobile interceptors who aren't already at the target location).  I think I'd play King Kung or over this in most decks that call for a "giant Jammer monster", as you called it.
--I find that giant monsters generally bad, and frankly, am always going to drop in an Ice Queen or White Ninja over any of them.

  Bouncing the Rubble
This is a nice little card to throw in almost any Jammer deck.  It's free, and if it lasts, you can get a pretty good trick out of it -- from softening a site for you to take to denying a win by blasting a site to the Netherworld.  It's not a card you can really count on, but it makes a good potential threat.  Also, it could draw some Edge hate away from a Payback Time or Entropy is your friend.
  Cyborg Mermaid
This card is all about bad combos.  For just straight up damage, you can do a lot better for yourself then just 5 or maybe 7 Fighting Guts for 4 power.  You are playing this card to plink (and possibly destroy) your own sites.  This type of deck can sometimes be fun to play (for yourself) but will invariably lead to a long drawn-out game that bogs down.  Note that you don't want to be playing with Dragon Mountains and Diamond Beaches -- sure they negate the plink, but you are wanting you sites to burn when you play Cyborg Mermaid, right?  Well, I guess you try Fortress Omega too if you are going the crazy toughness route.

Wei Chen:
I don't know that I'd call them "bad combos."  4 power for 7 Fighting with Guts is a good deal if the sites you're hitting are along the lines of Thousand Sword Mountain or Mountain Fortress.  You can also use it to fuel a deck that runs heavy Dark Travelers -- won't hurt to have the Mermaid ping a Roller Rink a little to help you recur those Travelers.
--Combo points awarded.

  Kamikazi Cosmonauts
Not much to say about this new Jammer foundation -- it's one cost, and has a potentially useful ability.  Immediately means that it cant be turned in response.  And with their uncommon designators, the Cosmonauts are unlikely to get you Discerning Fired.  While I'm not a huge fan of Frag the G! this is a foundation you are going to want 5 of when playing it (and it probably any deck you are trying to get mileage out of Monkeywrenching in).
  Project Apocalypse
The Project adds yet another to the slowly growing list of alternate victory conditions.  This is not a casual card, you are playing multiples of it in a deck designed to protect it.  I say that because if left unprotected, and opponent can seize it, creating a real problem.  Well, I take some of that back -- you could play this card as a diversion, and while your opponents are bickering over it, try to mount some serious FSS attacks, but then you've potentially flushed 3 power down the tubes for Project Apocalypse.  Note that this site is copyable for what it's worth, and there might be some really goofy combo out there.

Wei Chen:
I think it's mostly a diversion card, though Safety Third! could help a lot if you try to defend it.  As for goofy combos, Julian has already ruled that each card's counters somehow distinguish themselves, even if the ability that generates/counts the counters get copied around, so you can't copy Project Apocalypse to a Mahjongg Parlor and win out of nowhere (that was the example that led to the ruling).

  Rebel Without A Cause
This is the most interesting meta-game trends that we've seen in years -- when added to cards like Sacred Wigwam recursion is in danger of going from broken to just amazingly good.  After much fiddling, they've got Rebel Without a Cause pretty balanced so that it's not a complete no-brainer and splash-tastic.  This card isn't going to shut down decks the way Hacker can (since there is so much recursion), but it can put the breaks on -- I view this card much like I do Loyalty Officer.

Wei Chen:
This is no Hacker more because it requires you to have a Jammer resource before using its anti-recursion ability.  Sacred Wigwam is probably better than this card at shutting down recursion, simply because you can play that in every deck (which is the basis of all Hacker analogies, as I understand it).
--As I said, the card is balanced, where Hacker and Wigwam are definitely not. 

  Reentry Squad
This card is somewhat amusing but is more bad than anything else.  On the plus side, it has a moderate chance of grabbing a site for you, but on the minus side, Reentry Squad is unlikely to stay around for more than 1 turn.  This is really a take someone down card, not a get yourself ahead card because if you do reduce a site's body to 0, you are most likely burning for power just to recoup what you spend (and lost) on this card.

Wei Chen:
It's a Monkey, so it'll fuel anything that keys off that designator.  Its functionality as a 4-for-7 Guts thug with (sort of) Unstable Cellular Reinvigoration is increased if you can pull off recursion tricks ("Is That All You Got?", Reinvigoration Seed, etc.) or if you can copy his ability around.  These monkeys also make a fierce last-ditch interceptor.
--Hey, it's a 4-cost Blow Things Up!

  Safety Third!
First off, I'm assuming you're not playing Aztec Pyramid, because if you are, you have a goofy coin flip deck anyways, and it's packed with all sorts of sub-optimal cards.  Safety Third! can be really good if you win/stop a win with it, but it's too random to be as dependable as other stoppage.

Simon Johnston raves:
   
  I quite like this, but I play with Eagle Mountain a lot.
--And before I get flooded by emails, yes, it's a combo with The Iron Palace.

Wei Chen:
I'm in the camp that believes this card is *too* good for the Jammers: they get a card that potentially does for free what even the Architects have to pay 1 power to accomplish.  That's opening up a big can of worms in terms of someone's faction-defining abilities not only being transferred to, but being improved on by a different new faction.  The drawback can be played around fairly easily, and I can't see why any Jammer deck wouldn't run this.  Yeah, it's random, but the payoff is significant and the drawbacks negligible with good planning.  I expect to see (and be annoyed by) lots of these.
--I can see how this can be problematic -- both by being 0-cost takeout and by reducing the game to a coin flip.  I think a good analogy is War of Attrition -- you really want to play cards in this category when you have no characters in play to avoid the drawback.

  Silverback
If you can keep this card in play, and if you can manage to still have some power, Silverback can be somewhat of a beast.  Your numero uno task after plopping down 5 power for the Monkey Leader will be to burn a site for power -- this is what is going to set up your defense (a little like the Mouth of the Fire Righteous who likes to burn a site for power and sit behind his 3 pt damage ability).  Now of course there is somewhat of a problem with this card -- what faction has no trouble generating power and loves to take control of opponents character?  The Ascended you say?  I know it's over-paranoid not to play cards because you are afraid they will get Mentored, I just wanted to point out that it's going to suck really really bad when Silverback falls victim...
  The Gimp
Time has shown Cancelling to be a sold ability that often gets overlooked when building a deck since it's so reactive to your opponents.  Unfortunately, the Gimp is a little gimped when it comes to his cost-to-fighting ratio.  As this card is a promo, I'm pretty sure it wont see much play.  His ability is purely offense, so he's also gimped when you're on defense or don't have a good target to attack. 
  Turbo Boost
Again we have a pretty vanilla card -- free mobility and a little bit of Damage boost -- not excited, and nowhere as cool as Death-O-Rama.  It's also a tech card, which is going to limit it's inclusion in decks somewhat.
  Turing Machine
Nowhere near the monster than Apes of Wrath are, Turing Machine fills that niche where you'd kinda expect a card.  Sure, you can build a deck around it, or throw it in some existing decks, but it's not a lot to get excited about.  Yes, this a natural for a site destruction deck, but over the years I've grown a dislike for them, as they slow the game more often than win the game.
 
 

  Burning Man
This sort of falls into the category that I consider "bad card design."  Why, you ask?  The card is way over the curve if you just look at it without the restriction -- 1 resource 4-cost 6+2 damage?  That's a site killing machine.  For the restriction, there's one no-brainer that you are going to want in your deck -- Secret Headquarters.  And while there are quite a few other Secret cards (including a couple of other sites and some foundations), the designers are really trying to make you play the Fire/Chi deck because of Golden Candle Society.

Wei Chen:
You don't need to go Mon/Hand Fire-Chi to make this guy (and Harbinger) work.  Flambards are an in-faction answer, and you can also employ Ninja Six.  You'd want to play Secret Headquarters, The Iron Palace (which is a "Secret Feng Shui Site"), and Identity Chop Shop (personally my preferred way of getting the "Secret" mojo going).  For what it's worth, the following is the list of non-event cards that have the magic designator:

Celestials
Fermat's Soldiers
Flambards
Golden Candle Society
Jade Wheel Society
Lair of the Nemesis
Mask of the Nemesis
Order of the Wheel
Secret Headquarters
Secret Laboratory
Secret Plans for World Domination
Secret Wisdom of the Ancients
Silver Jet (both versions)
Swords of Heaven
Teutonic Knights
The Iron Palace
--Chimpshack "Secret" for the win!

  Flambards
While not exciting, the Flambards are playable in almost any Monarch deck.  To be extra annoying, try out a Monarch/Jammer deck with cards that trigger off of site damage or destruction.  Perhaps the nicest thing about Flambards is that they will hurt your opponents when they leave play, which creates a disincentive to smoke them upon occasion.

Wei Chen:
These guys go beyond annoying if you utilize recursion for them (especially Wing of the Crane, Mysterious Return, and Dr. Timbul).  Something else to note is that since they provide Chi, it's now feasible to get a mono-Monarchs Fire-Chi deck rolling: between a bunch of Flambards, Summer Fire Palace, and The Inner Fire, you shouldn't need any more Chi generators outside of maybe 1 or 2 Ancient Groves.
--Remember you need to capitalize on all of these "weakened" sites before your opponents do -- if you combo too much on the pinging, everyone else is going to drink up the gravy.

Matt Wooley:
Flambards having been pretty devastating in our group especially when combined with Ice Blessings.
--Combo Point double in-set bonus awarded

  Floating Teeth
Combo-jank time.  There isn't much to say about Floating Teeth.  I can't really get excited, but to me, this is a card that really needed a gravy ability (even something sub-par like Assassinate or Tactics) to be really be playable.
  Gathering the Fire
Not a fan.  Mark of Fire is such a standard and it's well known for all of the utility things it can do.  Then you have Shattering Fire, which only gets better and better as the game goes on.  So what do you do with Gathering the Fire?  Well, I guess you hope to keep a lot of Fire cards in play (not easy to do) and hope for the best (which is probably weakening a site mid-attack).
  Harbinger
Man, they are really trying to ramp up the Secret deck.  If you can get him in to play, it's a house and a half.  It's mows through interceptors, and will even take down the mighy Inner Sanctum.  Not that the 2 point zap isn't combat damage, so he's going to smoke any site he enters combat with it it has 2 Body or less, but you shouldn't have to worry about this too much.  Notice the Tech resource, a first for the Monarchs -- I guess it fits in well with Secret Laboratories?

Simon Johnston notes:
     He�s largely immune to damage redirection (damage redirection will always redirect his 2 points of ping, leaving his combat damage unaffected).
-- Yes and No.  They are getting better at differentiating combat damage from other damage, but it does seem like Harbinger can really make your head hurt when it comes to damage redirection and combat timing rules.

  Ice Blessing
Wowzers -- this card looks like it has some potential.  Not to mention some power gain.  And double not to mention some stoppage.  This card would be playable just for the healing ability -- sure, healing opponents is not your ultimate goal, but it can translate into 0-cost stoppage, and if you time it right, Ice Blessing can leave a damaged site for you to clean up.
  Ice Carvers
Ramp-tastic.  Not the best healing, but it can come in handy from time to time. 

Wei Chen:
I would have appreciated a solid, magic-providing ramp character for any of the Monarch sub-factions BUT this one, actually.  Ice already had the useful Ice Courtier -- something along Ice Carvers' power level would have been useful for any of the three other pagodas: Fire has nothing, Thunder has nothing good, and Darkness has a character that, albeit solid, needs to have a deck built around it (Priestess of Itzcoliuhqui).
--Don't get me started on the design team's brain-dead approach to Thunder and Magic...

  Lightning Strike
While this event can pack quite a whallop, it's cost makes it somewhat undesirable.  It looks to be best when your metagame has a lot of waxy character buildup -- Lighning Strike can potentially soften a bunch of characters, but has the potential to draw a lot of denial.
  Ming I's Chosen
While this card can be powerful, I'm not sure it worth building a deck around, and is more of a 1-of type surprise card.  The Toast-It restriction isn't that big a deal, as you are probably playing on an attacking character, so it won't toast the subject right away.  While this looks like it will be good in a character stand-off, I'm not so sure about it.  Chosen has the ever-shrinking-State problem -- people may just wind up throwing resources characters in the way of the Subject (as each interceptor does effetely +1 damage, making 1F characters do double damage).  This is a card that needed another little oddball ability to be interesting.

Wei Chen:
While people can indeed throw their weenies in front of the subject as you noted, you can also take steps to make sure they're less keen to making that happens -- for example, you could stay with the Darkness theme and just drop this baby on your Blade of Darkness.
--Combo Points Awarded

  Mistress of Blotted Moonlight
This card has an interesting cost mechanic, but with a hitch.  Mistress is a card that needs a lot of momentum -- if you are already winning, it will almost seal the win, but if you are loosing, she is a turkey.   With less than 3 sites in play, I don't think it's worth playing Mistress unless you have a glut of power (say someone has played Bull Market).  At 2 sites, Mistress of the Blotted Moonlight is going to cost you a hefty 6 power, which is almost right for 9 Fighting with the ability to cancel an event .  But, without a punch through ability (like Billy Chow's Superleap), you are really gunning for a cost reduction on Mistress and getting her out for 5 power, which is something that is on the difficult side in our metagame (keeping 2 columns in play until the start of you next turn).
  Rogue Shaper
Here we have another mini-beatstick.  Mobility is just a throw-on ability (but a little extra defense for the Monarchs).  Otherwise, this is a much more playable Duodenum (and all the deck-tech of playing Duodenum apples to Rogue Shaper).  And since this bad boy doesn't have an elemental designator, he can safely (and probably should) go any Monarch deck.

Wei Chen:
I don't think this guy is very good.  His ability depends too much on your opponents controlling Netherworld Sites -- note that he loses his "cannot be intercepted" ability as soon as you declare an attack on a non-Netherworld site (because he moves to the location of his target as soon as the declaration is made), and any character is free to intercept him then.  Yeah, you can play Netherworld Portal into your opponents' site structures and then attack with him, but that's clearly in the realm of jank.
--no no no!  I am not suggesting you play the Duodenum jank, just that you can throw this into every Monarch deck and not have to worry about Discerning Fire (a big threat in my part of town).  And yes, his ability requires attacking a location with a Netherworld Site, but we're old fashioned here, and still play lots of Whirlpools (not to mention other Netherworld Sites).  I probably didn't make it clear, but I think this is a very reasonable 1-of.

  Summer Fire Palace
This one is not too hard to figure out -- attack and burn.  The obvious combo ability is Independent, letting you burn some extra heavy duty damage, making this a pretty decent card in the right Dragon/Monarch deck.

Matt Wooley:
In any kind of weenie deck, or if you get the upper hand, this card makes you nigh unstoppable.
--Our group didn't get any of these, but I'd love to make a deck with this card and Scrappy Kids + Students of the Dragon -- smackity-smack!

  Shard of the Molten Heart
While this has some limited use on it's own in protecting your Armies of the Monarchs et. al (not to mention the general usability of Edge cancellation), this is also a gimmick card for the Netherworld era Triumvirate deck.  This card is probably too useful (because of the cancellation) to deserve the Promo rarity.
   

  Christine Winter
While this card looks okay, it's not really that spectacular.  You need to be on the offense, and you need 1-cost characters to back her up.  And is Mrs. Winter isn't smoked, she's just a little annoyance damage-wise (for a bunch of resources).  If you want to recur some damage, Rev Payne is a league above.  (While 3 Fighting seems good for 2 power, it's not really -- you need some extra ability that is more reliable to make it worth playing).

Wei Chen:
Something you may have overlooked is that she's not Unique (the first non-Unique named character that I can recall for 'Fist).  As long as you can play (or steal) characters to sacrifice to the slivers of Miss Winter, you can keep her in play.  Also does okay wielding a Lunar Sword.
--Per the Omni-FAQ, this card is supposed to be non-Unique.  It may just be the next Drop Trooper!

  Delay the Inevitable
This card falls into the "not-good" category.  Yes, it can sort of get you (or deny) a win as a substitute Confucian, but Delay the Inevitable is inevitably going to come back to cause you problems.

Wei Chen:
I see this as a card you play when you're pushing for the win or stopping a guy from getting into an unassailable position when the board is weak.  It's pretty decent in that capacity, and it also screws over Wind on the Mountain: when you play X-cost cards at no cost, X is the minimum value possible; the other X-cost events have a minimum value, Wind on the Mountain does not, so its X defaults to zero when Delayed and recurs nothing.
--In the case of this card, the Inevitable you are Delaying is losing the game.  And yes, this card could be "Cancel target Event/Edge/State with X in the cost"   (Discerning Fire, Eight Pillars of Heaven Array, Slo Mo Vengeance, Uprising, and Wind on the Mountain).

  Echo Distortion
This is quite useful, but expensive.  While you can try to copy your opponent's sites, it's more often going to be useful to put good sites into your own deck to copy.  A must is going to be Temple of Angry Spirits -- not only can you copy its ability to make a killer site, since Temple doesn't turn, it makes a great target for Echo Distortion when copyng a turn-ability.  Note that the timing rules won't let you turn the site to use an ability before this event resolves, so copying a Whirlpool isn't useful in response to it being used.

Wei Chen:
I don't think this is too expensive for its ability.  Sites do so many useful things that there's always something worth copying, and this allows you to copy to and from any site in play.  It might be kind of amusing to see how many times you can attack with a Probability Soldiers with a LaGrange Four and an Echo Distortion.  This card also provides a Purist resource, so it can help you ramp up to Primus and the like.
--Compare with Rigorous Discipline -- This card should have cost 0 (and then it would finally give the Purists something to really talk about).

  Keeper of Echoes
While the theoretical maximum starting Fighting for the Keeper is 17, you are realistically looking at around 6-8, which is actually quite decent for a 3-cost character with no abilities.  While discarding hitters can turn into a problem late game, packing an extra 2-3 in your deck should offset this. Keeper of Echoes benefits from an increased hand size, so combining with the Guiding Hand (who have a surplus of expensive hitters) or even an Art of War and a Temple of Celestial Mercy will give you some additional options.  Unfortunately, this is not a combo with Memory Palace or University Library. 
  Impossible Men
This is sort of a big brother to the Cognitive Spirit -- they play similarly, but each has its ups and downs.  Impossible men shines in shutting down sites -- notice that the ability says 'immediately' -- that means that it generates and resolves as one action -- there is not response window.  Coggy does well attacking a defended site, since it can nullify a defender -- with Impossible Men, you are looking for someone with a larger number of columns so you can turn characters as well to prevent interception.  Not a top-notch card, but it proves once again that Purist decks without Magic don't work.

Wei Chen:
Provided you attack an undefended or lightly-defended location, this card is actually better at avoiding interception than the Cognitive Spirit.  You simply turn the one character each opponent controls that you'd least like to see come over to intercept you -- because Impossible Men's card-turning ability is immediate, your opponents won't be able to turn those characters in response to move over to the location you're attacking.
--Unfortunately, my opponents like to defend their sites...

  Mystical Cosine
Mmm mmm mmm... badness in so many ways.  Remember that all players benefit from seeing players hands, not just you.  And this bad boy is going make its way back to you too.  This card makes it easier for everyone to go for the win, which I feel is bad -- it can also slow the game to a crawl when it reveals some surprise cards (like Bite of the Jellyfish), which is also not high on my list of card effects.

Simon Johnston adds:
     Goes with Hexagram Spirits. But nobody plays Hexagram Spirit.
--you know, I play Hexagram Spirits -- they are definitely not coasters.  Their problem is the resources requirements.  Yes, this card could help, but I think the drawbacks still make it undesirable.  Also, there are better cards that combo with Hexxy.

Wei Chen:
I think this card is a lot better than you credit it for.  Being free, you can use it to scoop out an opponent's plans as early as your first turn (you only need one Mathemagician to play it, after all).  If you play it on the opponent to your left, it'll be at least two turns (and usually longer) before it makes its way to you in a 3-player game.  Before it does, you can simply get rid of it via Symphonic Disciples, and you can always recur it later via Temporal Anomaly.  Besides allowing you to know exactly what your opponents are up to (an underrated benefit), Mystical Cosine aids Hexagram Spirits (as you noted) and, particularly, Twisted Horrors.  If you have some Chi, having a Cosine on the board is also an extra power for Violet Med.  You can do a lot of very Purist things with your Mystical Cosines, and I really think people are going to hate seeing them.
--Mileage may vary, but this has been a gas guzzle for me with no fuel economy

Matt Wooley:
OK its Janky as hell, but this combos very well with Twisted Horrors.
--Half-point -- You are still relying on Material Transcendence, but sure, throw a Cosine in this deck just to see how bad it is!

  Probability Soldiers
This card can be great if you get lucky, or pretty junky if you're not lucky.  Yes, you can play Aztec Pyramid to improve your luck, but I personally hate when games get reduced to a coin flip.  Note that Probability Soldiers are not effect by the unturn rule -- they are unturning themselves, so if you get lucky, you can theoretically have unbounded attacks.
  Symphonic Disciples
This foundation is almost good -- it suffers from the Purist problem -- it doesn't provide magic, so it's mostly useless.  Yes, it has a great ability, and it's probably worth playing 1 or 2 in a deck, but you never want to draw it early game.  Add in all the Purist Edge-hate already in the game, and you will find Symphonic Disciples lacking.

Wei Chen:
You've really underestimated the impact of this card -- *this* is the Critical Shift equivalent of Hacker.  The Purists might not need this card very much, but many of the other factions did.  I expect this to pop up in all sorts of decks that don't run any other Purist cards whatsoever.  Prior to this hitting the environment, edge-based decks used to have relative security compared to character- and state-based decks; not anymore.
--This is really only over the top in dueling (which is unfixably broken).  So every faction gets half of a Realpolitik -- so what?  In multiplayer, you want your opponents spending power against each other -- you don't want to be the chump.  The same goes for Corporate Warfare.  Now, there are soime top-notch anti-Edge cards that are worth playing, with Fist of Shadow and Eater of Fortune leading the pack, but those cards are good outside of having to smoke and Edge.

  Temporal Anomaly
This Event is pretty low on the power scale because it's too reactive to be very useful.  For the first ability, you are almost better off playing an extra copy of any Edge you would be recurring.  And for the second ability, you are better off stealing the Edge with Paradigm Recording than spending power to destroy the Edge first, then playing Temporal Anomaly to replay it.

Wei Chen:
This does make you pay +1 power to recur an edge, but it combos very well with Symphonic Disciples.  Just suicide the Disciples, smoke whatever edge you're gunning for, and get it via Temporal Anomaly.  It requires less faction resources than Paradigm Recoding and is superior to Recording because it's immune to Stone Dolmens.
--No Combo Points Awarded

  The Blind
This assassin is pretty reasonable -- you are almost always going to get 5 Fighting, and sometimes more.  The Blind more goes into a trick deck where you are playing cards like Art of War or Temple of Celestial Mercy so that you can pump up The Blind if someone happens to steal them from you.

Wei Chen:
Another card that combos with this (assuming you can manage the onerous resource conditions) is Dragon Boat Festival.  If you've got power, you can also do some cute things with Homicide Detective.

  The Gray
Once you (and your opponents) figure out the trick, this card is essentially a 4-cost 7-Fighting thug with no ability (and some hefty resource requirements).  In this spot, I would honestly have to recommend Primus over The Gray.

Wei Chen:
Actually, you might get more power than that, considering each opponent will have to pay you for each turn that they want their characters unblanked (and being paid 1 power is actually a 2-power swing).  I've noticed that most players hate having their characters blanked, and most players hate giving you power, meaning that The Gray's biggest problem is attracting hate as soon as she hits the table.
--And you nailed the problem right there -- The Gray doesn't win the game, it just draws hate, and when someone is giving you power, it's more than likely to be a situation that is more painful for you than them.

Matt Wooley:
While I don�t think its top tier. Its certainly more than a 4 for 7. For starters if you are assuming that opponents will pay to blank him, they also lose a power, and they�ll also need to do this every turn (unless of course they kill him immediately).
--If an opponent is giving you power, it's because they are gaining more power through some action (yes, you might net more in the sum total of all players, but the odds are that whoever gave you a power is going to get the best of it.  Also, in the land of 5-cost characters with no abilities, the highest fighting wins, and for 5 power, I really really really want 8 Fighting.

  True Believer
A playable foundation -- it provides Magic, and has a fairly inconsequential ability that stops a point of damage when you are throwing away True Believers to intercept.  Not as good at Mathemagicians, but better than the rest unless you need the Acolyte for the resource conversion.

Wei Chen:
I think the main purpose of this card is to give you a viable alternative to Mathemagician when building a mono-Purist deck and stop the run on Purist Initiates that's been going on for a few years (though those have recently become much more available due to the reprint of Dark Future).
--Yup, they are just a replacement for a Purist core ability (1-cost-Magic-foundation) that has been unreasonably in short supply.

   
 

  Catching Bullets
While this card may look appealing at first glance, it's actually pretty bad.  It plays like a watered down Who's the Monkey Now? that's only good against a few cards (most notably Operation Killdeer, Imprisoned and Nerve Gas).  Yes, it's really good against those if you have power to spare, but most of the time it will way too reactive, and just sit in your hand instead of getting you somewhere.  WTMN? is a better card for two reasons -- it triggers on *any* card you own being targeted (not just a character), and you get an immediate zap at no additional cost.

Wei Chen:
While I agree that Who's the Monkey Now? is a better card, this one only requires one resource and will often provide a "chilling" effect that lasts until your next turn: if you've Caught something like an Imprisoned or a Nerve Gas, opponents will be reluctant to play hitters until your next turn, which will keep people from trying to get ahead for an entire turn 'round the table.  It's also in-faction defense for a lot of the characters the Syndicate have (even if you only cancel the hate and don't play it later), such as Hirake Kazuko and Xu Mei, the Dragon.
--Well, costing only 1 resource isn't that much of a deal, since the Syndicate isn't splashable in any useful manor.  Yes, it's good when you catch an amazing event, but it's not something you can count on.

  Corporate Warfare
Here we have a faction defining card -- and it's a pretty bad definition.  I suspect that everyone will slowly come to realize that Influence is way down at the bottom of the useful boldface ability lists, along with Tactics.  Yes, it helps a little, but it's not worth the power.  The second half of Corporate Warfare is okay -- nuking an Edge for 1 power is acceptable, but in multiplayer, you'd rather have other players spending their power to get rid of Edges.
  Cybermod Parlor
Very playable as a non-FSS, but with a questionable ability.  First off, you think wow, this card can protect my FSS, so it's great!  The problem with that is that Non-FSS are almost more valuable in the long term because of their fixed cost.  Often it's going to cost you less than 2 power to replace a FSS (and sometimes you are gaining power), so losing one doesn't hurt as bad.  Where this does step up to the plate is when protecting a hoser site that has been exposed, but even then, how long is Cybermod's 6 Body going to last?  You may very well wind up spending 2 power to get 2 sites ripped off of you, whereas if you had played this back row, it wouldn't be a target.

Simon Johnston adds:
     It has six body, which is nice (I bet some people won't notice, assuming it has 5)
--Yes, the +1 Body over the usual foundation sites does make a difference.  We were playing the other day, and the Infernal Temples and Abominable Labs were bouncing much more than the Parlors.

Wei Chen:
This is the card you want to play instead of Secret Labs in decks that don't need more than one or two Tech.  It's sturdier and provides the benefit of shuffling one of your FSS (usually your first one) to a more protected location.  I'd personally use these instead of Secret Labs if I'm running a Reascended deck (between this and Dunwa, I've got enough Tech for any Reascended), and it has the benefit of giving me access to some extra protection for my Reascended hitters (in the form of Catch Bullets).
--The only reason to run Secret Labs is because you don't have a faction that provides Tech on it's foundations already -- and I still think Secret Lab is better.  Now maybe you can try a Syndicate/ReAscended deck, but I don't think it gets you a lot of juice.

  Devendra Chalal
Playable, but pretty bland.  Devendra's going to ignore foundation characters, but will trade with any 7+ Fighting character.  Yes, it's going to take sites for 5 power, but Devendra is vulnerable to stoppage, which is all too common these days.
  Dimitry Lyapunov
The Syndicate badness continues with this card.  If case you haven't figured it out, 1-for-1s with no ability are bad.  Spending 2 power and turning 2 Fighting to do it is even worse.  Yes, it does give you something to sacrifice, but if you are playing a sacrifice deck, you are already playing jank, so why play even more?

Wei Chen:
I disagree with you about this card -- it can do a bunch of things for different deck types.  Note that you can play as many cards out of your smoked pile as the amount of power you have plus one (the "plus one" is for turning Dimitri): this is a bad ratio compared to things like Inauspicious Return, but Dimitri's ability has a few things going for it.  First, it allows you to prune your smoked pile, making it more likely for you to use things like Netherworld Return or In Your Face Again to maximum effect.  Second, it allows you to turn "dead weight" cards in your smoked pile ( i.e. states, events, sites in decks where you can't recur them) into fighting (this is especially good if you already recur your characters from the smoked pile), and you don't put yourself at risk of toasting your resources if you recur non-character cards this way.  Third, cards you return this way are extra good if you've got Armies of the Monarchs, Arcanowave Reinforcer, Stand Together ("Drone") or something of that ilk in play.  You can also use this effect to discourage a player springing a Che Gorilla or trying to unleash a Red Bat on you.  Dimitri's ability is legit -- his problem is that he's definitely on the fragile side, though he can protect himself from attacks as long as you have 1 power and an Iron and Silk/Expendable Unit ready to play.
--We'll have to agree to disagree

  Hirake Kazuko
Four Syndicate resources?  What where they thinking?  Hirake is a card that you don't want to play until you are ready to use to steal a character (ignore his Influence, it's generally worthless).  Once he's out, your opponent's wont play non-uniques until he is smoked.  # fighting helps a little, but if you have any experience with Mr. X, you know that in the long run, your results aren't worth the cost.  As an added bonus, you can combo with LaGrange 4, to steal a character, run it into something, then steal another (that if if your opponents are generous that is).

Wei Chen:
This has been bandied about as the "new" Shadowy Mentor, but I think that the onerous resource conditions and susceptibility to character hate pretty much nixes that notion.  Also, I think Kazuko is a "she", not a "he."
--Definitely not the next Mentor -- he/she/it is more of a annoyance to the player foolish enough to try and be creative and combo with non-uniques.

  Inside Man
This guy is badness on steroids (and I mean bad bad).  He has a terrible ratio to start off with.  Except for Corporate Warfare, you are turning Fighting (on fragile characters) to give Inside Man fighting,  And, his Fighting wears off at the end of the turn, so he has the risk of being smoked even if he survives combat. 

Wei Chen:
Well, he does turn your Junior Executives into Military Commandants...
 --I tried to make Military Commandants work again recently, and you know what?  They still aren't very good...

  Junior Executive
Yawn, Influence, boring.  And while I usually like ramp characters, the Syndicate is so resource hosed you are better off playing another of the 1-cost Talent foundations (Triad Punks or Mars Colonist) than the Junior Turkey here (who only provides faction resources).
  Mars Colonist
Half of your required talents, which is just going to be bad since Syndicate wants both Tech and Chi.

Wei Chen:
I'm not sure what your comment indicates -- did you want the Syndicate to get a 1-cost foundation that provides both Tech and Chi?  That would be bad news, because a lot of light- to no-Syndicate decks will splash the foundations for access to both talents, especially if they're trying to run Xiaoyang Yun or Solar Flares.
--Yes, I think the Syndicate should have gotten their own version of the DNA Mage.  As for XYY, you already have Chi so it's just a 1-cost tech foundation, and for Solar Flares, Magic is the most useful resource.  And when was the last time you saw a deck that just ran 5 DNA Mages (and no other Arc cards) just for Tech and Magic?

  Rei Okamoto
Since she's uncommon, Rei is going to be one of your bread and butter characters -- unfortunately, it's stale bread and spoiled butter.  If you can keep her in play, it's a 2-cost re-usable Brain Fire or Stealth -- but that 2 cost keep in play is killer on a character.  Rei has Final Brawl written all over her.  Compare her with two of my favorite Uncommon Uniques, Jenny Zheng and Monsoon, and you will find that Rei's on the losing team.

Wei Chen:
I'm not sure why you think Rei fails so badly in comparison to Jenny Zheng -- both would get killed by the theoretical brawl, and Rei is a lot less onerous in terms of resources required.  Jenny Superleaps while Rei can offer similar interceptor removal (only for other characters, not herself), and Rei can at least survive targeted removal where Jenny ends up roadkill.  In terms of pure offense, Rei is certainly no Monsoon (she does cost one less power than the Flying Swordsman), but she fills a different niche -- with a little defense, she's really going to discourage people from unleashing their targeted removal on you, and that's worth something.
--Jenny is a favorite in our group -- it could just be a metagame thing.  Sure, Rei's not as bad as I vented, but she's just not that good either.  You are playing this card not because you want to, but because you have no other options (which reminds me of the Purist decks in the Dark Future era).

Matt Wooley:
Brain fire on tap, gives �stealth� to any character than wants it, provides a talent. Rei is a character I would willingly play in any deck.
--Remember the Brain Fire and Stealth are an exclusive or.  Yes, this card isn't all that bad -- what makes it look deceptively good is how bad the other Syndicate cards are.

  Reprogramming
This is a somewhat fun dilemma card, if not very reliable.  0-cost makes it playable, and cancelling characters is good -- but since your opponent controls the effect, they are going to pick the one that does the least harm.  Think of this much as you would Larcenous Mist -- it's a card that can be really good situationally, but invariability gets cut from the deck to make room for something more useful.
  Street Sensei
This is twice as bad as Mars Colonist, which makes it pretty bad.  ! Influence is garbage, making this more useless than Noodle Lady since the Syndicate needs two Talents.
  Xu Mei, The Dragon
Yes, good if you can ever get her into play, but Xu Mei's whopping cost and onerous resources would make Chuck Norris cry.  If this is the best the Syndicate have to offer, they got not hope...

Wei Chen:
She's not as good as The Seven, certainly, and she isn't a hitter you ever want to count on, but I fail to see how she's worse than, say, Sky Dragon (yeah, she requires more resources, but she's got better abilities exceed those of the Master of the Invulnerable Stance).
--Hey, don't be cappin' on Sky Dragon.  Yeah, he's bad, but he's fun.  And while you may pooh-pooh the resource requirement, that's what makes huge guys like this work -- you absolutely have to be able to copy or recur them, which means playing two factions, which means that Xu Mei is holding my drink.

  Zero-G Sumo
The Sumo is pretty iffy -- he's too dependent on your opponents having Limited and Unique sites.  Also, he requires Tech, which has the potential of slowing him down early game.

Wei Chen:
This guy can be a bit of a "punishment" card if you play Limited/Unique sites yourself and get them seized away from you.  The Tech requirement is indeed an impediment, but hey, it's also a gas mask.
--Go to Jail.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200
.

   
 

  Northern Long Fist
This card plays very similar to Four Mountains Fist, including the infamous combination with CHAR.  I'm not a fan of Northern Long Fist -- if you're trying to play it straight, it comes off as either Assassinate or a site smoker (as the cost of your character) which more than likely is going to benefit the opponents not involved in the combat ahead more than you.  Otherwise, you are playing the CHAR combo deck, in which case it's not as good on 4MF.
  Willow Step
I got to give this one a 'meh' -- It's someone useful (and can stack), but is it as good as Crane Stance?  Probably not.  In general, I don't like 'about to enter combat' effects as they cause timing confusion.  Also, one of the most undervalued cards is Festival of Giants, which is amazing, and you should be playing it.

Wei Chen:
Just as an extra thought, you can play Willow Step and Festival of Giants together on your Accupressure Master to make one really Tough (and mass healing) dude
--Bad .Combo Points Awarded (minus the deduction for playing Accupressure Master in the first place)

   
 

  Buzzsaw Arm
Here we yet another improved Really Big Gun.  This one has a flunky toughness:1 attached to it (but mostly not as good).  Buzzsaw Arm wont stop Events, plinks or killer Sites, which makes the -1 Fighting ability effectively equal to Tougness:1 against combat damage from characters -- it's better in two situations -- when going up against CHAR, going up against character that the subject is smaller than -- in this case Buzzsaw Arm is a Shotgun doing 3 damage (one of which can't be healed).  Overall, I still like the Shotgun better, but this is playable for giggles in a heavy tech deck.

Wei Chen:
For some fun kicks, you can play and/or recur this with Single-Action Devolver.
--Uh, that's just too bad to even think of...

  Noriko Watson
The Razor Girl is not much to write home about.  She's got double ambush, but really needs a non-Site damage boost to be of much good.  The old-school 4-for-4 Ambush is not good, as time has proven, and I don't see a lot of reason to play this over the generally better faction-based cards in whatever factions you are getting tech from in

Wei Chen:
I don't think her ratio is all that bad compared to other Ambushers like Desdemona Deathangel v2 and the White Ninja.  Her bonus damage to sites means you'll be able to hit (and potentially take) sites with impunity as long as your opponents only have foundations and 3-for-4s (not an unlikely scenario if you get ahead on power generation somehow).  Thanks to double Ambush, she'll almost always be able to survive encounters with hitters up to 7 fighting (the exception is when she's the target of the attack).
--First off, the White Ninja is a game winner, and better than most hitters in every faction.  And playing a card that's only good when my opponents have played bad cards doesn't to float my boat.  Remember you are also sacrificing playing a resource to get her our, which will set you back a turn or two once the big guys come out.

  Scramble Suit
This card falls into the same category as Blood of the Valiant or Flying Kick -- for 1 power, Scramble Suit is going to get you through to a site once, and possibly more than once.  If if wasn't obvious to you, you play this card after declaring an attack, so your opponents can't discard to intercept.  Any second use is gravy -- yes, you might get intercepted, but you are going to hose your opponents' hands, which is usually good.  You can get a minor combo with Paper Trail, which would fit with Scramble Suit in a ReAscended deck.

Wei Chen:
This card also combos okay with the Dragons, who can generate the requisite Tech with some Hackers and Dirk Wisely's Gambits.  Beyond the initial usage, you can combine it with Pony Express to force some tough decisions.
--1 Combo Point Awarded

  The Hegemeister
While expensive for a State, this one is a game winner.  While it can get through waxy-character build-up, it's also good to take out just one beefy interceptor.  The Hegemeister is going to draw a lot of State-hate, and it doesn't shut down the hoser sites or events, so you will still need answers to these in most situations.
   
 

UNALIGNED

  Hot Zone
While 4 Body is extremely low, Hot Zone is Whirlpool of Blood with 2 bonus features -- it can cancel non-FSS (like those pesky Family Estates) and it cannot be cancelled by the aforementioned Whirlpool (giving you a leg up in the Whirlpool duel).  But, as a 2-cost non-FSS, Hot Zone has all the benefits and drawbacks of being such.  I wouldn't throw this into a casual deck -- it has too much risk of being taken from you and costing you the game (your opponents will be gaining the power and shutting you down) -- save Hot Zone for fairly serious decks where you have some site defense and are able to protect it.
  Improvised Weapons
Here we have an improved Really Big Gun, and it's really not improved by all that much, and realistically, how often do you play the RBG?  I am still a big fan of Pump-action Shotgun which I think is generally still a better card.

Wei Chen:
I think the intent of this card was to give you something that exceeds the utility of the Shotgun if you drop it as a surprise when your character is intercepted in a chain (especially if you combine it with some Toughness).  Like you, I don't think the intent ended up making a very good card, and I see myself going with the Shotgun most of the time as well.
--Did you just say this card was good when intercepting in a chain with characters with toughness?  'nuff said...

  Solar Flare
This has to be one of the more intriguing cards in the set - I like Talents and this lets you do some mostly underpowered effects based on your resources.  None of the three abilities is worth 1 power on its own, but when you get 2 or 3 of them going, it's worth the cost.  The best has to be the 4 point character zap, so you are probably going to want to have magic as one of your talents (which makes this more of a Seven Masters card than the intended Syndicate). 

Wei Chen:
I think the one ability that's worth it if it's a separate card by itself is the [Mag][Mag]1 to inflict 4 damage on a character.  I think we'll be seeing Solar Flares a bit, especially in decks that run Kunlun Clan Assaults -- 1power for 8 damage worth in total zap and heal is pretty strong.
--Like I said, this is a better Seven Masters card than Syndicate

   
 

  Arctic Fortress
This plays pretty close to the old and rarely played Marsh, but with an added kick.  While you can build a deck around it (playing 0-cost states like Motorcycle on your opponents' characters), Arctic Fortress does have one intrinsic feature that makes it suitable for any deck -- Mentor protection.  Albeit, it's not very good at stopping Shadowy Mentor, but it can put a speed bump in the way (not to mention being a major obstacle to the occasional State-based deck like Guns/Tanks/Fu).

Wei Chen:
There's been a lot of talk on the potential power of this card, especially in dueling.  People have already made decks that play stuff like Helix Chewer and Chi Detachment on opponent's hitters and then sit behind Fortresses all day.  This certainly has the potential to be a major headache in the right deck (and with the right matchup -- anyone running Stone Dolmens will wreck it easily).

--Dueling is pretty borked to begin with...

  Forgotten Temple
Here we have another take on the potential 2-Power generating site, somewhat similar to the Bird Sanctuary (which is okay, and I play it occasionally).  Forgotten Temple has more triggers, but is limited to only 1 power per set of player turns (unless you can unturn it) -- This site is playable as a 1-of in a power generating site slot, but I don't think it's your best option -- as I hinted, I like sites that can trigger more than once per cycle (Phlogiston Mine/Mobeus Gardens) or sites that have an extra ability as well (Monkey House/Blessed Orchard).

Matt Wooley:
I wouldn�t overlook that you get this power at the end of the turn, which frustratingly stops you from hurling an interceptor in the way and playing an imprisoned or something along those lines.
--Good point -- this came up in a game the other day.  You are probably going to want to consider another alt-power-site if you have a lot of reactive Events in your deck.  It also requires that you are either the target of an attack (bad) or are fiddling in other players' attacks and losing a card (also usually bad).

  Hydroponic Garden
This comes across as another general utility site, much like City Park.  It's part Nine Dragon Temple, giving you a power when burned or seized (and you don't have to be behind) as well as a replacement site (which can be worth 1-4 power in itself once you add the power it generates and the cost to replay a site.  Savvy opponents will wind up smoking this if it's going to set you too far ahead (much like smoking a Fortress), but even more savvy opponents will avoid attacking Hydroponic Garden in this situation.

Wei Chen:
This thing is definitely a top-tier comeback site (now that we've cleared up the confusion over who it works for with the errata, anyway).  In certain respects, it's better than both Nine Dragon Temple (don't have to be behind) and City Park (don't have to have your site burned), though there's no reason you can't play all of them.  People do tend to not want to attack your Hydroponic Garden, and you can take advantage of that by hiding a low-body, high-reward site behind it.

  LaGrange Four
Here ya go -- this seems pretty crazy, with combos up the wazoo.  The most obvious is attacking with a character twice -- you just waint until after combat to unturn.  This is good both early and late game, but is going to work real well with those usually junky 3-for-4s -- you can pop one out 3rd turn and smack for up to 8 damage.    I'll have to meditate on all the nasty permutations.  With 4 Body, I am hoping this will be more in the league of Kinoshita House instead of Lily Pond.

Wei Chen:
This mighty site is particularly good with characters that already can attack multiple times a turn (Butterfly Knight, Probability Soldiers) and characters that gain extra fighting when they turn to attack (Shaolin Agent, Fire Martyr).  It's also one of my favorite sites (along with Mah-Jongg Parlor) for Dog Soldiers tricks -- with a Butterfly Knight in addition to your Dog Soldiers, that's up to five attacks you can make in a single turn.  Even if you don't use LaGrange Four for extra attacks, you can get extra mileage out of it by unturning utility characters such as Swiss Banker, Gunslinger, and (for extra attack foiling) Tranquil Persuader.
--You had me at "This mighty site is particularly good with characters..."

  Moon Base
This looks kinda mean and annoying.  It's a hybrid of Hartwell Iron Works and Nightclub
.  Play it, zap things, make yourself a target.  Overall, I don't think this has the power (or annoyance threat) of the aforementioned sites.

Wei Chen:
It has an in-set combo with Reascension Spy, but that's kinda fragile.  You can combine it with Nightclub to really help your Red Dragon Troupes get going, though.

  Palace of Virtual Light
This card is moderately interesting in that for a bonus power-gen site, it let's you burn through your deck.  It's terribly is a small, tight deck, but could be advantageous in a tower-of-power.  I don't think it's super-comobo-riffic, since you can't keep combo cards in your hand -- of course you can keep cards with Memory Palace and the Library, so they are minor combos.  Notice that the discard is a cost, so your hand is going to be flushed (not always a bad thing).

Wei Chen:
The other thing people are talking about is that this card redefines the power:body curve for FSS (it has 9 body and a minor drawback::benefit ability; compare with Sacred Ground).  I don't think that's necessarily true (the Palace is Unique, after all), but it's something to think about.
--Sacred Ground is obsolete outside of Daedalus-era sealed deck.

  Rainforest Ruins
I kinda like this card for the Hall of Mirrors effect -- it encourages the playing of sites, which is ultimately good for the game.  While generally not as good as City Park, Rainforest Ruins falls into the same slot of utility mid-game site.  The + Body is just gravy, but shouldn't be overlooked -- if you are low-man in a 4-player game, you will have a whopping 14 Body, which will give you some breathing space.  But Rainforest Ruin's meat is in its cost reduction.  It wont help you at all if you have no sites in play, as the cost to play it is already 0 (you still only gain 1 power), but it gives you free second site in most situations, including on your second turn if you're not the first in turn order (and possibly a free 3rd site if you're at the tail end of the turn order). 
  Sacred Heart Hospital
Well, this is definitely one of the top cards in CS -- too bad it's a reprint.  The art isn't great, but neither is the original.  At least this makes a much better promo than Military Commandant.
  The Iron Palace
The first thing to note about this site is it's designator -- Secret.  This makes it a must if you trying to make a Secret-Fire deck.  Otherwise, it's a nice toughness set, but not as powerful as Eagle Mountain in the long run -- of course you can put it back row and get double the toughness.

Wei Chen:
You can use this on opponent's characters, as well, and it makes for a good play if you can use it during an attack that doesn't involve you to set up a scenario where you can easily swoop in and take a heavily damaged site on your next turn.
--Secret Tech!

 

 

 

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