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art (c) Mike Trap

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Hand

"Why do I call you Grasshopper?  Because you are ugly like the bug!"  The Hand is to Shadowfist what Blue is to Magic: the Gathering -- it's the control faction.  You have the most control over what happens in the game, and you can turtle down into your shell and force a slower, defensive game.  The hand also is the only faction with lots of Superleap characters, which gives them an excellent late game offensive potential.  The Hand also has the most access to Chi, and you might as well consider Chi cards to be Hand cards when you are building decks.

Foundation Characters    Utility Characters    Hitters
Events    States    Edges    Sites

 
 

 

FOUNDATION CHARACTERS

Buddhist Monk
If it weren't for Little Grasshopper, this card would see constant play.  It's still not bad, turning into a Walking Corpses (or more) late game in the right kind a deck - by that I mean a site heavy deck like a Senshei Chamber deck or Big China which features lots of Trade Centers.  This card has several useful designators (Monk, Martial Artist) so it gets affected by a bunch of Hand cards that trigger off of them.  This card pretty much outclasses the Noodle Lady, and I'm going to miss her cool Quentin Hoover art.  It seems Buddhism is spreading, and their monks can be found in abundance.  This is really what you want in a 2-cost foundation -- it provides a talent resource and it has an ability useable late game (if you are doing well, which is a nice design feature).
 

Celestials
This is a great example of modern design -- a card that is good early, middle and late game.  Early game it's a foundation (albeit 2 cost), and it provides the crucial Chi resource.  Mid-game you are hoping to get 3 Fighting for 2 cost, and late game a free play to shutdown a win.  But, this card has three problems:  Golden Candle Society, Little Grasshopper and Buddhist Monk -- all three of these are probably just a tad better, but Celestials is still very playable.

Golden Candle Society
The GCS is a pretty standard resource character, who you're almost always playing to get access to early Chi for a Violet Mediation.  As an added bonus, these guys don't share too many designators, so you are less likely to get zapped that way.  Expect 5 in most Hand decks, and I am always short of these guys.
  Instrument of the Hand
While the Noodle Lady is a staple of many decks, there are other options other than the Instrument after filling up with 5 Golden Candles.  Still a solid choice if you need lots of Chi resources (for say something like Shih Ho Kuai or Healing Earth).  This is one of those cards that you need in your deck, but you usually hate to spend 2 power on.  The exception is when you are taking advantage of the Instrument's designator Martial Artist for some tricks like Try My Kung Fu.
Little Grasshopper
Say "hello chi."  This card is going to change a lot of stuff.  With up to 10 1-cost chi providers, the Hand and all those heavy chi cards are going to be everywhere.  'nuff said.  Between pumping up Shih Ho Kuai (I've seen him over 15 fighting recently) and getting discarded by Billy Chow, Little Grasshopper has cemented the Guiding Hand as the Chi faction.
  Kung Fu Student
A fast resource character, often the Fu Student gets to hit for 2 mid to late game.  While he doesn't replace the GCS, you can swap out an Instrument or two to speed up your deck.  Note that this guy shares a lot of designators with other cards, which can be an advantage, or a disadvantage -- you have 10 1-cost Students for the Dra/Hand Dojo deck.

Railroad Workers
This is a very interesting card in what it is trying to accomplish -- free resources.  Since 1 power is generally better than 1 fighting on the board, you are almost always going to want to use the ability.  The trick is finding a deck that wants Hand but doesn't want Chi -- and that can be hard.  Often this is a Swords deck, where are stuck playing SwordsGimps as a foundation.  This seems bets in a multi-faction deck, where you are already at a disadvantage at having a high power requirement to get resources.  And before you make the deck, remember that Inauspicious Return creates zombies that can't be sacrificed, so you wont be doing tricks with Railroad Workers.  And it doesn't work with Rig Dis, either. 

  Rebel Consumer
3-cost foundations have to meet the very high bar of being useful both early and late game, and these guys clear it.  Not only do they provide Chi, but they smack for a serious 6 damage if you are behind (and even more with Rigorous Discipline.  Unlike the Fist of Freedom, this rebel is good enough to see play both in and outside of the Black Flag deck.  It also works well with all of the Hands non-FS power generating sites to keep the ability active.  DF has only been available in limited quantities, and I've already ran into my first Rebel Consumer deck, and it was a good start for a deck archetype.
  Righteous Fist
While this guy doesn't provide Chi, he gives you that important way to get rid of a Shadowy Mentor if you couldn't Confucian it to begin with.  A classic play is to put this guy on top of your deck with Shield of Pure Soul.  I like one or two in every hand deck.
  Righteous Protector
An interesting addition to the Hand's arsenal, the Righteous Protector is designed to play damage redirection tricks and foil attacks.  At a whopping 3 power, he's slow, and you don't want to use too many unless you are relying on Cave Networks or Proving Grounds.  Similar to Fox Pass, you can declare him as an Interceptor, then turn to use his ability to hose up the attack. Righteous Protector is more of a specialty character than a Foundation, as his ability is more useful mid-to-late game.  If you are playing him as a resource, he isn't much better than a Shaolin Monk.
  Shaolin Monk
This guy is a run-of-the-mill three-for-three with a so-so ability.  Ok with Caves, but that's about it.  Currently two cards trigger his +1 Damage ability, the Shaolin Master and Shan Tsu.
  Shaolin Student
In theory, this guy can net you 2 power under the right conditions -- but if those conditions never come up, you pretty much have a bland 1 cost resource character.  I expect to see him the most in a Dragon Dojo deck where you are drawing cards -- but honestly, the Fu Student is much better, and if you want to play Chi with any reliability, you are probably going to have to ditch most of your Shaolin Students for Golden Candle Societies.
  Shaolin Swordsman
This is the card that just might make the Swords deck work -- not lift to greatness, but finally work.  The trick is to wait for your second turn, and then play Shaolin Swordsman with a Butterfly Sword for an early burn.  You are going to need a sharky environment, but I think it might be doable.  And even late game, this combo is still strong enough to pulling of.  I've had a reasonable amount of fun with this guy -- he really is the 2-cost foundation of choice when doing a Hand/State-based deck.  My Solar Sword deck can explode with these guys, getting a quick damage threat for low power throughout the gamecycle.
  Swordsman
Ack!  Until they make some more cards that interacts with Soldiers in a positive way, this card will be a coaster.  +1 Damage from the Bad Colonel doesn't cut it, and you are better off with Fu Students.  UPDATE:  Two changes have come down the pike.  First, the designator rules have been changed, allowing Sword to be split like Gun (so this guy is a Swords and a Man), and secondly, there have been a bunch of new Swords and Sword characters.  But one thing that hasn't changed is that this guy still sucks -- he doesn't give you the chi you need, so you never want to draw him.
  Wandering Monk
Joining Big Brother Tsien in the Unique resource character category, the Wandering Monk is a house of pain.  If you are willing to stay even on the Feng Shui count early game, this monk can do some serious damage.  You can also Rigorous Discipline his ability to smoke an opponent's character if they are closer to victory -- mmm... .tasty. 
 
 

UTILITY CHARACTERS

  Black Flag Rebels
While the Black Flag Rebels can get huge real fast, they can go down just as quick.  This card is a five=of in a deck or nothing, as by itself it's a 2-for-2 with a medium resource requirement.  Since you really want to get multiples of this card into play, you want a smaller deck, Into the Light/Faked Death/Golden Comeback to get them back, as well as Rigorous Discipline to double up on the ability.  While you don't need to overload on other Rebels or Rabble, you do want to try and get a Cave of a Thousand Banners into play with your Black Flag Rebels.  There have been a couple of new Rebels in recent sets (Rebel Consumer, Gong Wei, and Fist of Freedem in the hand, and a bunch of Jammers), this deck is still second tier.
Blue Monk
I have really come to like the Blue Monk, and consider him to be the best of his brothers.  He's the standard deal as a 3-for-4, but has a kick-butt ability.  At least one character isn't going to intercept him the turn he enters play, with the possibility of a lot more if you are running up against a Pledged or Monarch (Netherworld) deck.
  Blue Mandarin
I think this will be a sneaky go for the win card, and if your opponents are smart, they wont leave it in play for very long.  Blue Mandarin and a superleaper is pretty much going to get through any defense.  Of course, Blood of the Valiant will do almost the same thing, and as a surprise, so maybe this card wont see much play after all.
  Bulletproof Monk
This is another card that is better in 10KB than in constructed.  Blue Monk is way better at getting to damage sites, so this card's Toughness will be best as an anti-character ability.  And not having Toughness on defense makes the Bulletproof Monk pretty wussy.  And with two resources required, this guy will see about as much play as the Green Monk.  Go see the movie instead of playing this turkey.
  Carmen Zhao
This is the type of card design I sort of like to see.  I'm not sure if the card is good enough to rate being unique for other than story reasons, but I like the break from the old model of mostly high cost uniques.  Two things you may have overlooked at first -- Carmen is a Swords characters, and she provides
.  Let me know if you get to pull off some amazing Quai Li tech with Carmen Zhao (and unlike Quai, revealing sites in response to Carmen still gives her a fighting bonus as she's already in play and her rules text is active).  While she started off in my Swords designator deck, she's migrated into most Hand decks with any emphasis on Chi.  She never gets very big, but revealing a site (or two) of your own to pump her up makes a huge difference over having to rely just on your opponents. 
  Confucian Sage
If I wanted to look at your hand, I'd play Covert Operation and get rid of your best card.  Even the Arcanowave Researcher is better than this card -- it costs less, gives you more resources, and has an ability on par with the Sage.  I did make a pretty fun deck with Confucian Sage recently, combining it with Hexagram Spirits for maximum effect.  Watch out for Resistance Squads of course.
  Elderly Monk
Since it was ruled that the extra cards you draw with the Elderly Monk don't apply to triggering card effects (i.e. the extra card doesn't get played for free with Surprise Surprise or get you Johnny Badhair back), this card has taken its place in the coaster pile.
 

Exiled Monk
This card almost makes the cusp -- his problem is that he's an anti-character card (and small characters at that).  You want to be smacking down foundations and healing, but that doesn't put damage on sites -- note that he heals after combat.  Blue Monk is still the king in the slot, being able to get through when needed. 

  Fatty Cho
This is one cop that knows every donut shop on the beat.  If I get enough of the chubby cop, I'm going to try out the turbo-Cho deck using Violet Meds, Proving Grounds and hand size increasers to see how fast and how fat he can come out.  How about first turn GCS x 2 + Art of War + Proving Ground.  Second turn Violet Med + Fatty for 7 Fighting (or 6 if I keep a power to back up a Confucian or drop a Whirlpool).  I think the key to this card is speed over size.  Dropping a 30 fighting Fatty from a Supercomputer isn't the same as second turn beats.
  Fist of Freedom
A 3 cost 6 damage hitter is a real deal, but this version is a lot harder to pull off than it looks.  The Hand lacks in persistent character removal, but I can see the occasional Wing of the Crane to support the Fist.  I think this card is going to become more of a backup in the Black Flag Rebel deck, where it's fighting gets pumped, although I'd give serious consideration to playing Rebel Consumers first.
Fist of Shadow
This guy is rude -- he attacks for 2, and when you've decided that an Edge is getting too obnoxious, you can sacrifice him to smoke the Edge and gain a power.  It's almost as if it were a Realpolitik that does 2 damage.  And remember under the timing rules, his ability is active as soon as he's played, so you can sacrifice him immediately to nuke an Edge -- he can't get brawled away in response like some many other specialty characters.
Gardener
Even though they can't heal non-Feng Shui sites, Gardeners are still useful.  They come out quick and can save already damage sites from a burn, plus they give you a nice Chi resource boost.  Like Military Commandant, this card often forces an opponent to over commit to an attack to insure taking a site.  One of the most devious uses I've seen is the Undead Gardeners deck, using Inauspicious Return to bring these guys back three at a time.
  Green Monk
Another character that pays a hefty price for having an off-faction ability (Toughness is in the Dragons' realm), Green Monk rarely sees play outside of limited environments.  Too bad the Green Sensei Chamber doesn't share it's Orange Cousin's ability to reduce character costs.
  Green Sage
I put this into the coaster pile, where it can use it's Toughness to protect your wood table from embarrassing stains.  What were they thinking with this card?  For 3 power you should be getting something a lot better.  Since the effect is localized, it's not going to let you attack.  Still haven't seen anyone do anything with him, and I still think he's too expensive to do RigDis tricks with.
  Impoverished Monk
A very interesting character indeed -- if you take the vow of poverty, the Impoverished Monk can reap you rewards, but without it, he's nothing more than another noodle peddler with a shaved head.  Requiring two resources, he's a little slow to give the early game beat down that you'd really like to achieve with him.  To work around that, cards that work in conjunction with the Impoverished Monk to pump up his damage and Fighting are the way to go.  18 Bronze Men and Temple of the Shaolin Dragon give him some size, and Try My Kung Fu makes a poor monk near invulnerable with Toughness:2.  Point Blockage is an obvious combo since he can use it in conjunction with Superleap.
  Jade Dragon Monk
Again, I just find it too expensive to play a 3-for-3 with superleap.  Especially when for 4 or 5 power you have access to such better cards.  Honestly, how often would you play this guy even if he were a resource character?  Come to think if it, I need to submit that -- a 3-for-3 superleap hand/chi foundation -- that just feels about right on the power curve (which is mostly unplayable for 3-cost foundations).  I did get a couple of these in a draft at KublaCon, and they were a nice threat in my deck (because of the superleap, not the cancel), but I still haven't seen them outside of a limited environment.
 

Jia Baoyu
More whole-fruit goodness here.  Superleap, draw cards, reasonable resources -- what more do you need?  Much like Carmen Zhao, you can drop Jia in almost every Hand deck and not be disappointed.  Like all cheap evasion characters, they make great subjects for an extra damage state (like Pump-Action Shotgun).  If you want to go extreme combo, Fusion Rifle is great for drive-bys, and can get rid of a pesky foundation character that happens to be unturned.

  Leaping Tiger Troupe
The Troupe has the problem of having to live up to the bar set by the Ba-roken Monkey.  Drawing a couple of cards just doesn't quite make it.  I've played Old Uncle a bunch, and it's a useful ability, but there are so many other Hand/Chi effects for getting cards, I don't see the Tigers getting that much play.  This picture matches up with Red Dragon Troupe, and would make a cool print.  I've tried a couple of Acrobat decks, and this card has been just marginal.  Maybe in a true Peacock deck, but I've always had problems with power because playing all the foundations eats it up.
  Lu Man Wei
Well, you really want him in the janky Senshi deck.  At least they did his abilities right -- he still gets big even when they steal your Chambers, but he only buffs the ones you control.  I guess you are hoping for a 3-cost 6+ Fighting thug -- not terribly exciting, but at least he's a 3-for-4 Fighting.
  Master Blacksmith
Every time I've tried playing this guy, I've always wished he were something else -- anything else!  Yes, he does let you play your Butterfly Swords more reliably (and the Swordsman deck can stall on Chi sometimes) or a surprise Thunder Sword, but he's way too fragile, and loading up on cards that you can only play while the Blacksmith is in play is going to lead you to death by clogged hand.  Into the Light (and Spirit Pole) are going to get your swords back into your hand faster and easier.
  Master Gardener
Like Blue Mandarin, this card provides some utility, but it's very fragile.  One nice thing is that it prevents Whirlpool wars, but it's still an iffy choice to rely on unless you can protect him.  I much prefer Void Sorcerer, who has more tricks up his sleeve.  I've tried him in a few decks, but so far, I've always wanted a Whirlpool instead, and usually chuck the Master Gardener.
  Master Swordsman
This is one of the few Swords characters I like.  Like Shaolin Swordsman, the Master gets a decent ability when you actually are able to play a sword him.  And he provides Chi, another thing the sword deck can find itself lacking.  So, when you pull off the obvious combo of Master Swordsman + Butterfly Swords, you have a 4-for-5 CHAR that does 8 damage -- that feels about right -- even though it's more damage, it's still not as good as CHAR because of the resources you need and time to set up the combo (not to mention drawing the cards) -- and, States do tend to get washed away a fair amount of the time...
  Miu Tsui Fa
Fong's mom isn't a character to build a deck around, but is a support character instead.  She goes okay with larger characters that tend to soak up damage -- but if she is your only character in play you have a glorified Shaolin Monk  Shih Ho Kuai is about the best to go with her, as he has the same relatively low cost, and can get big enough to soak up some damage.  Mom can also go as your offense in a Faceoff deck -- not for the actual Faceoffs, but as a clean up hitter afterwards.  I've found this card just too difficult to use, and tend towards Blue Monks.
  Old Master
The Old Master shares a role with the True Son of Heaven -- he can boost offense while offering some defense, and he can take a site sometimes when needed.  While not a great card, it is playable in fun decks that have lots of Chi characters that he can pump up.
 

One Eye Chan
Yow, how about this card for effectively increasing your hand size?  Be prepared to defend One Eye, as your opponents will be gunning for him big-time.  The obvious card-type to choose is Event, but there may be a rare-occasion when you need to grab a different card type.  If it wasn't obvious, Chan is better late game than early.

  One Hundred Names
While the Names make solid defenders, you should consider playing with more offensive cards -- for 3 power, I want the option of taking a site as well as defending.  The Wandering Teacher from Throne War looks to be a possible replacement for this card.  Of course, you can turn the Name's drawback around by using Rigorous Discipline to keep your opponent's hitters from attacking.
  Orange Master
This character pretty much goes in one deck -- the Peacock deck.  The name refers to a deck that tries to splash most (if not all) factions, and the name comes from the site Peacock Summit.  The deck can be unwieldy because of its larger size, but once it gets rolling, it can have some steam.  So, you are basically hoping that Orange Master is going to be a big thug, with a maximum fighting of 9, but more reliably 6-7.  What is going really help this character is that you can play it for only 2 power if there is an Orange Senshei chamber in play.  He's another guy that gets wasted by Larcenous Mist, which along with Temple of the Monkey King are almost too good not to play.  Peacock decks in our circle are more XYY decks, not decks designed to get out every faction -- those rarely work, as you really do need more focus, and can't spend all your power on foundations.  The Orange Master really needed Superleap to motivate me to build the deck.
  Orange Monk
While Superleap is an awesome ability, for the same 5 power you could be playing Sun Chen.  Even with States, the Orange monk is too fragile -- one zap and you have several turns worth of card playing gone.  Even at -1 cost from the Orange Senshei chamber, this Monk is going to lose in the first round of the big kung fu tournament.
  Orange Sage
While this card is a little better than his green brethren, he's still a little touchy.  Getting back cards is good (it normally costs you a power per card), and if you get back a couple, this guy has paid himself off.  Of course, not getting back Hand or Chi cards is going to be very limited.  I've become a big fan of Orange Senshei chamber (it's almost always like a Temple of Celestial Mercy), and it does reduce the Orange Sage's cost to a more reasonable 2.  I'm guessing that in the right deck (and that deck is a Orange Senshei + Architect deck) that the Orange Sage can be tweaked ArcanoTechnician -- you don't have to toast a character, but you're gonna have to settle for getting back Nerve Gasses over Confucians.
  Peasant Agitator
Bleah -- a conditional 2-Fighting-for-1 Power with no other abilities isn't worth the cardboard it's printed on if it's not a resource character.  Notice that these guys aren't cumulative -- +1 Fighting is all they get regardless of how many peasants in play.  I'd much rather play a Kung Fu Student.
  Peasant Leader
This guy is highly annoying -- don't expect him to live long in multiplayer.  Throwing one or two in a deck can clear up a little garbage and offer a little bit of fun.  Always tasty if you are playing with a card that lets you sacrifice -- say a Ravenous Devourer.  I expect to see him every now and then -- too bad he doesn't provide Chi, or he'd be top-notch.  You have to make a choice when you have the Leader in play -- do you use his ability offensively on your turn, or save him for defense (and thus increasing his chance to stay alive)?  Well, if you know me, I'm using him offensively to grab a resource and suicide him into some other character.
  Peasant Mob
This is a card I recommend for lucky people -- if you're lucky, you've just got yourself a hack 6 damage for only 3 power.  If you're unlucky (like me), you got a cruddy 2 damage.  I almost never see this card played,
  Quai Li
There are many cards better at revealing (and damaging sites) than Quai Li.  With only 1 Fighting, this card doesn't give enough offense for use when you can't use the ability.  Note that sites tend to get revealed ASAP to avoid getting hit for 2 by this card, making her really a 2-cost Satellite Surveillance (which costs 0 for a reason).
 

Redeemed Pirate
Well, this guy does share something with CHAR -- both are low-resource 4-for-6s.  His ability will really depend on the flexibility you build into your deck -- with a 40 card tight deck, forget about the Redeemed Pirate (other than possibly some crazy dueling deck).  An 80 card two-faction deck?  Yeah, that's where he belongs.  You can get him out early with the low resources, and late game, you can pitch those extra resources to heal him.

  Red Monk
Since he's a 3-for-4, the Red Monk isn't bad -- but is he good?  While Superleap is an amazing ability, you will find that the Red Monk rarely gains it, as more often than no, the Red Monk is the card getting zapped by the targeted Event.  You will wan to pack a lot of ways to counter Events if you are really trying to get this card to do its trick.  Most of the time, you will find that Blue Monk is a more aggressive card.
  Righteous Bro
Let's get the power stealing ability out of the way -- it's gravy, and frankly, it's never going to come up.  I think you are more likely to trigger Ice Healer than this guy.  So what does that leave us?  A 3c-for-3f superleaper.  That usually isn't paying the bills unless you are planning on some Rigorous Discipline tricks.  And even then, the Hand has so many Superleapers now that you don't have to resort to tricks like this.  Repeat after me -- Blue Monk...
Shaolin Agent
Now I can definitely say this guy is a blast.  It's about the closest thing to Walking Corpses that I've seen in a while.  They really can get very big very fast (my record is +7 for a total of 9 Fighting the turn I played one).  And they work unreasonably well with Rigorous Discipline.  Maybe this guy will be the core of the amazing Swamp/Motorcycle/Agent deck -- who knows?
  Shaolin Defender
This guy is an ugh.  He's not the worst ever, but it's just so bland that I can't see myself wanting to build the Gardener deck just to play a possible 2-cost for 3 Fighting Superleaper.  Yes, he goes with the Swords theme, but there are other characters that I just want to play over him (and you get the bonus of not having to worry about your site mix).  For reference, there are currently 7 Garden sites - Stone Garden, Puzzle Garden, Garden of Bronze, Moebius Garden, Rust Garden, Paradox Garden and The Twisted Gardens. I made the deck, but it didn't last very long, and this was never a card that proved to be any threat.
  Shaolin Warrior
Even if these guys had Superleap as an innate ability, they'd be a questionable use.  1 Fighting is usually not enough to take a site, so to get the most bang out of Shaolin Warriors, you need to pump them up with States or other effects like the True Son of Heaven's ability.  Yes, you can transfer their ability with Rigorous Discipline, but nine times out of ten you are better off with either playing a straight Superleaper to Rig Dis or playing with Flying Kick to get the same result.  
 

Shao the Killer
As you can see, they really tried to make this card not broken (i.e. can't copy it or play Shadowfist on it).  This has the effect of making him less interesting that Nine Cuts (which is a fine card) in that there is less you can do with him during deck construction -- put him in, play him, try to smoke characters and not get attacked.  While you could opt for Safehouse, Iron & Silk is probably going to do a better job of keeping him alive.  One of my personal problems with Shao is that that he has a huge turtle-factor (no, I don't mean he's like that guy on Entourage) -- with Shao on the table, people are going to be reluctant to attack until he's been dealt with.

Shih Ho Kuai
With Shih you are really hoping to get a decent hitter (6+ Fighting) for the bargain-basement cost of 3 Power.  The White Sensei Chamber can give this card a tremendous boost when played with the other chambers, and it's not unheard of Shih Ho Kuai getting into the 9+ Fighting range fairly early.  Healing Earth goes great in a deck with this card, giving you lots of healing options.  And watch out for blanking abilities like Larcenous Mist, Obsidian Eye and Temple of the Monkey King -- they send Shih to the smoked pile asap.
  Swords of Heaven
Woohoo, more Swords-jank, and with more resource requirements than needed!  Realistically, what's better -- Swords of Heaven, or Shaolin Swordsman?  Remember him?  He was the guy from the last set that made a few of the swords a tad more playable.  I'll stick with what I said before -- this guy is not as good as a certain foundation character, and you really don't want to be playing it.
  The General
For Tactics to work, the ability has to be on a character that has a reasonable chance to take a site (like Melissa Aguelera or Shi Zi Hui).  While The General can give Tactics to a character that can actually benefit from it, the power cost of 4 is way to high.  Go for the Hanging Coffins if Tactics is an absolute need for your deck.
The Iron Monkey
Ook Ook!  The Iron Monkey is one amazing card, and there are people who've bought the Guiding Hand deck just to get more of this guy for their constructed decks.  A 4-for-5 Superleaper is almost good enough on his own, but add in the power stealing ability and you have one of the best characters in the game.  Expect to protect your Monkey, as he will have a bit target painted on him.  While the Iron Monkey seems similar to the Virtuous Hood, there is a subtle difference.  the Hood is an early game card, designed to pound on Sites and engage in combat while the Monkey is more of a mid to late game card, designed more to bypass defenses and take Sites.  The Iron Monkey really shines in multiplayer, where you have your choice of players to rob.
Tranquil Persuader
This card is one of the feew high cost (3 Power) low Fighting cards that is actually playable.  Not only can he "convince" other characters to work for you, even when you don't have the power you can mess with attacks by declaring his ability.  The take control effect resolves, then it immediately ends, returning the character to it's previous controller.  But, since it has changed controllers, it is immediately removed from attacking or intercepting.
  True Son of Heaven
Another strange Hand card, the True Son can give quite a boost to offense, or act as an alternative source of power (but not both).  He is somewhat of a threat card, so the True Son will be singled out as a target by your opponents if not defended well.  This card has the potential to deal out some explosive damage, especially if you have a few extra resource characters in play.  Remember the True Son's damage pump wont help you on defense, as it only effects attacking characters.
  Violet Monk
This Monk is too much of a specialty character to be of use in most decks, and his Fighting score is a little low for his cost.  The best use is in a deck where you are playing a lot of non-Feng Shui Sites, so you can take them back quickly with a Violet Monk.
  Wandering Teacher
It's hard to decide whether the Wandering Teacher's ability is a drawback or advantage.  This card is right in the league of Silver Band and the Reconstructed, with a solid 3-to-5 ratio and a hefty resource requirement.  Unfortunately, the only time your opponents will be paying power to unturn or heal your characters is to stop the win, and this may make you the fall guy, as they can force you to intercept while still holding that Nerve Gas in their hand.
  Yellow Monk
While this Monk has a strong ability, it is often confusing to use it to your best advantage.  His Fighting score of 2 means that he can die very quickly, denying you more than once chance to use his ability.  Bonus points to this card for having a quote from Dirk Wiseley in it's flavor text.
Xiaoyang Yun
While you tend to see Xiaoyang Yun in highly specialized decks that involve multiple factions and Peacock Summits, she can be a surprisingly strong card in just a two faction deck.  The key factions you want to neutralize are the Architects, the Lotus and the Ascended, with the added possibility of Dragons for Golden Comeback and Final Brawl.  You should only play Xiaoyang on a turn where you are expecting to take a Site.  Remember that because of the timing rules, your opponents wont be able to respond with Events as this card effect resolves immediately.  Two variations of a Xiaoyang Yun deck are a defensive, mostly Hand deck with lots of control cards and an aggressive Hand/Architect deck that relies on Rhys Engel and Dunwa Saleem to provide some extra faction resources.
  Yellow Geomancer
I really like 1-cost non-Foundation with strong abilities and/or talent provisions.  This guy does both.  I try to throw a Gardener or two in most Guiding Hand decks, but this guy is going to give him a lot of competition.  Your opponents are going to have to waste their tempo taking him out if they have any foundations around.  Don't overlook the recon ability of this card to ping unrevealed sites.
 
 

HITTERS

Billy Chow
You're probably thinking the Hand doesn't need another big superleaper, and you're probably right, but this one is actually decent, given you construct the deck around him.  You want lots of chi cards -- Golden Candle Society is great for stopping Imprisoned, and your Violet Meditations are going to stop Killdeers and Brawls.  Note that his ability can be used to stop any event, so you can even hose a lot of alternate power generation.  Increased hand size is also nice to go along with this ability.  Another card that needs some play time -- 6 is a lot of power to spend on a character.  If you're following the BCL storyline, this guy is based on Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, facing off against the Nefarious Master Chin, who is based on Master Han.
  Chen Sho Kun
Make no mistake, this guy is Not-so-Gooda(tm).  On his own, he's 7 Fighting-for-5 power.  That's only marginally better than a Hopping Vampire considering he requires 4 resources.  If he stays alive, he has two abilities that are hard to set up.  Having lots of Swordsmen for him to pump up is always difficult, and that means you have to be playing with Swordsman who are incredibly bad.  Playing with Sword states to trigger his second ability isn't bad in itself, but giving up 2-3 damage and paying 1 power to essential Op Killdeer is harsh.  Flying Sword Stance is your best bet to trigger him, but of course you never have the 2 Chi because you are playing crappy Swordsmen...
  Chin Ken
While a little steep on the resources, Chin Ken is a standard Hand hitter in our parts, finding a home in almost every hand deck.  90% of the time his ability does nothing, but just as often as not it can be a drawback as your opponents get to chose how they intercept.. Chin Ken seems to be fated always to fight with Prototype X.  Also be prepared for annoying calls of "I feel like Chin Ken (chicken) Tonight" after the TV add.
  Cop on Vacation
The Hand is about the worst faction for the Cop on Vacation's ability.  The Hand likes to build Site structures and play with defensive Edges.  Another problem with the Cop is that he can quickly lose his Guts if your opponent decides to intercept.  So, this guy is mainly a 4-for-6 thug, and since there aren't any other Hand Cops, you probably wont be taking advantage of the designator by playing Police Stations (which are also more cards in play).
  Derek Han
Derek just doesn't quite do it for me.  Yeah, he's big, and he can get through or live through some serious Event stoppage, but he's just too costly.  9 Power is just a little bit too much to pay in one turn in my play environment, but might work in more turtley places like Finchley.  I'm gonna be dropping Billy Chow from BCL in decks before Derek Han.
  Fong Sai Yuk (Standard)
A big tasty Superleaper, this card can take almost any site in the game.  I rate him a bit below Sun Chen because the +1 Fighting is almost never worth the additional power cost, and Fong's designator of Martial Artist is a little too common.
Fong Sai Yuk (Shaolin Showdown)
We pretty much have the same old Sai Yuk, with the addition of a gravy ability.  He's still real good, and a nice extra addition to a Hand deck, but still ranks behind Sun Chen and the Iron Monkey.
  Gong Wei
Outside the Rebel deck, Gong Wei is a useless thug.  Inside the deck, he's letting you get a soft-lock, if you're really really lucky.  You are hoping to sacrifice your 1-cost Rebel trash to get back all your Confucians, Robusts, Iron and Silks, etc. Probably the best is to get back your Rig Dis so you can go turbo.  This card will need to see some play to time see if he just winds up being worth playing, or if you find that you'd rather draw Wind of the Mountain over him.
  Hung Hei Kwon
This guy is a true master of the Confucian Principles.  While he's not quite the Golden Gunman, he does usually hit for a goodly amount, and if you have the power, he is protected against 1 targeted Event per turn.  This guy ranks as one of the Hands best hitters, along with Iron Monkey, Leung Mui and Sun Chen.  He even blows through most resource characters, making up for any damage he takes with his + damage ability.
Kwan Lung-Wei
Well, the Hand got CHAR last set, now they get a non-independent Golden Ting.  He's pricey, one less fighting that you'd like, but has a few oddities.  Notice that he's not effected by Events, period.  No brawl damage, no Neutron Bomb.  In fact, they make okay combos with him.  While he's also not effected by your own Events while in play, there is the killer Mysterious Return combo where you get to Comeback him for only 1 power -- when it's time to put Kwan back in the smoked pile, the Event doesn't see him, so it fizzles (as do Surprise Surprise and Unexpected Rescue). 
And he's not a legal subject for States?  Yeesh.  I've had my fun with Kwan -- he's not the punch-through that some of the big superleapers are, but he's still respectable, especially if you're in a characters stealing/high event denial metagame.
Leung Mui
Another entry in the 4-for-7 Unique character category, Leung Mui kicks butt.  Being independent alone makes her worth playing, and the fact that you might be able to get a few licks in with some resource characters is just gravy.  While Leung Mui goes with the Black Flag Rebels in the storyline, you need to be careful in playing them in the same deck as it is some serious Discerning Fire bait.
  Li Sen-Hao
Well, for 5 power you really want Sun Chen or Hung Hei Kwon, but this guy ain't the worst kid on the block.  He lets you stock up on situational cards or cards that you don't want multiples of and lets you burn through them -- drew your second Shield of Pure Soul?  Not a problem for Li Sen-Hao.  His respectable 8 Fighting puts him on the cusp of being playable, but only in a deck where you expect to draw at least some Chi cards.
Lui Yu Min
I guess this card is okay, but it just doesn't leap out at me.  A 5-cost for 8 Fighting CHAR is not bad, but usually the Guiding Hand relies on other tricks.   Speaking of tricks, you are going to need to play with your site mix in order to trigger Lui Yu Min's Superleap.  You really can't count on people burning for victory (at least in our group), so you might want to consider a Turtle Island or two (sort of think of how you would use them in conjunction with Gorilla Fighter).  Also, since Lui triggers off of any seized site, Bandit Hideout is a nice low-risk site that wont come back to bite you if seized by an opponent.  I've gotten him out a few times, and he's a solid hitter, living the thug's life.
  Master Hao
Master Hao can be a beating stick, especially if you can drop a tasty little damage state on him.  Be prepared to put up some defense, as he has a big target painted on his head.  Note that he has the hefty 4 resource requirement, making him much more balanced than the Broken Monkey.  His ability is a little like Ambush if you think about it.
  Old Man Wu
The jury is still out on Wu, who is really master of the Yellow principal.  Yellow Senshei chamber rocks, but Yellow Monk is hard to use.  I think Wu will be somewhere in the middle.  Notice that his ability triggers every time (the other are only single use) and he can redirect any type of damage.  This is not the card for those who can't work out complex damage in their head before attacks, or who are not wizards at the complex redirection rules.  Still, at 5-cost you are almost always going to want Sun Chen or Hung Hei Kwon.
  Quan Lo
The Perfect Master is below average at best Superleaper with a one-to-one fighting to power cost ratio, but it's always hard to find a place for him in a deck.  To get the most out of his ability, you have to have a fair amount of characters on the board, which leaves you vulnerable to a Neutron Bomb.  Also, since many Hand characters already have some sort of evasion ability, giving them Superleap can be of limited use.
  Red Master
Cough... cough... Iron Monkey... cough cough.  Your opponent's are always going to make sure this guy has a little damage on him.  At least the timing rules are in your favor -- even though the Red Master will lose Superleap if he has to speedbump a foundation character, at least it will usually be too late to declare any turned characters as interceptors.  And healing a Red Master after interceptions have been declared will make him magically jump over any turned characters.  Good think the Guiding Hand excels at healing.  The conditional Superleap works every now and then, but a Chinese Connection or Healing Earth will give you a lot more confidence in the Red Master's kung fu.
  Shaolin Master
One of the best of the uncommon hitters in Standard, the Shaolin Master is to be feared in limited environments.  Outside of that, he's a pretty vanilla thug, and there is no real reason to play him, even if he does let your Shaolin Monks do extra damage.
  Shan Tsu
One of the Hand's avagere hitters, Shan Tsu sees occaisional play.  Since he requires only two Hand resources, he can come out fairly quickly and you don't have to worry about it much in a multi-faction deck.  Shan Tsu has a very aggressive ability, but don't expect him to be intercepted much by characters with less than two resource conditions -- his real ability is to get through to the target of his attack.
Sun Chen
Probably the Hands best big Hitter, Sun Chen just loves to take sites, and is a very reasonable 5 power.  Extra love goes to Sun Chen for unusual designator of Legendary Archer -- a very hard match for Discerning Fire.  He has only been eclipsed by the Iron Monkey as the Hand's most feared character.
  Sword Saint
Expect your opponents to love intercepting this guy -- all their foundations, and maybe even a few other characters will always try to pile on.  He's a little bet better of wall than 100 Names, but that isn't saying much.  Not being a target for Shadowy Mentor makes this guy worth at least playing around with to see how he does.  You may want a few unburnable sites or Battleground Sites so as to stretch out your opponents' structure to lessen the chance of interceptors.  Also, you may be able to get the power rebate yourself with a little Rigorous Discipline.  I've had some fun with the Sword Saint -- he's nowhere near being over the (or anywhere close) to the top, he's fun, especially if you can pull off the RigDis trick.  And he's great at playing ping-pong with Bandit Hideouts.  He stands clearly above his evil brother the tree-demon Shun Kan.
 

The Silent Cowboy
While I love Blood of the Valiant, this card's built in version doesn't turn me on.  If you don't have a power to spare, The Silent Cowboy is a 4-for-6 with no ability.  If you do have a power, yes, it's like having a Blood in your hand, and the odds are that you're going to get through most characters (though I suspect that most opponents would be willing to intercept with something as beefy as Big Bruiser).  When it comes to this slot, I am much more a fan of Virtuous Hood, Master Han, and the 800 lb gorilla in the room, Iron Monkey.

  Tong Su Yi
The Guiding Hand got a number of relatively  high Fighting thugs this set -- Tong Su fits right in with the rest of them.  You have to have at least 4 cards in your hands to get him the equivalent of a Shaolin Master -- and generally an 8 Fighting-for-5 Power isn't good enough of a deal to make it a game winner.  To really make this guy worth playing, you want around a reliable 10 Fighting -- which means you will have to keep 6 cards in hand most of the time, which means playing with cards that increase hand size.  The Guiding Hand have Temple of Boundless Meditation, Dragon Boat Festival and Orange Senshei.  I am a big fan of the Orange Chamber -- I often play it even in mono-hand decks for the +1 hand size and as a power generating site.  The Temple can get you a few cards, but you are playing it for itself -- Tong is more a combo with it than it is a combo with Tong. Dragon Boat is a bit more iffy since it gives the same bonus to your opponents (unless you are doing something goofy like turning it or canceling it during your main shot).   The same goes for Art of War.  Sunless Sea Ruins is very hard to play with, but their may be something interesting that someone figures out that fits right into the Hand's ultimate goals.  

Remember at some point fighting doesn't matter.  I would guess it's about 11-14 depending on the board situation.  A 12 Fighting Tong is mostly likely as good as a 24 Fighting Tong, so don't go overboard.  The bottom line -- if you have a control-based deck that wants a large hand size (or are playing a Peacock Deck), Tong Su Yi makes a nice backup hitter, but he's not going to replace Sun Chen or Hung Hei Kwon.

  Tsung Jin
Another thug the Hand doesn't need.  He's a below average 7 Fighting-for-5 power if you don't have a State on him, and when you do have a State, he pretty much is the equivalent of a character with Stealth.  Sun Chen blows this guy out of the water.  And you know this guy is going to be the victim of a Shadowy Mentor, so you opponent will have Jin doing his trick while you cry over your lost cards. 
Virtuous Hood
Rob from the rich, give to the poor.  That's the Virtuous Hoods motto.  And since you can almost always make yourself poor, you can expect to reap the rewards.  Virtuous Hood is essentially a 2-for-6 if you get one attack through -- you paid 4 power, but you get to subtract both the power you gained and the power your opponent lost.  If you get a second attack through, this is a free card.  The Hood has been getting some stiff competition from the Iron Monkey as of late, but he still has his place, and is generally a little better in dueling than the Monkey, and you can get multiples out since he's non-Unique.
  Wei Fong-Yi
The Master of the Fox Style is another mediocre addition to the Hand's arsenal.  He's got a respectable Fighting for his cost, but his ability only works against specialty decks.  He's basically Kan Li's older and better brother.  The Hand has been spoiled by Leung Mui, Iron Monkey and Virtuous Hood in the 4-cost range.
  Wong Fei Hong (Standard)
Big, dumb, only marginally better than his Dragon counterpart Zheng Yi Quan because you have access to Confucian Stability to protect Wong from Gas/Imprisoned/Mentor.
  Wong Fei Hong (Year of the Dragon)
While he's better, Wong is a bit iffy as a hitter.  You still have to cough up 6 power to get him into play, and you really need to have a Fortune of the Turtle in your hand to make Wong Fei Hong worth playing.  Shadowfist and Contract of the Fox are also good Chi States to play with this card -- you really don't need ones that increase Fighting and should concentrate on control
  Yen Fan
The Hand has been missing a 6 Fighting-for-4 cost Superleaper for a long time.  Too bad this guy had to come out after the Iron Monkey, who has raised the bar insanely high.  Mixing in Ascended or just ganking a Family Estate makes Yen Fan even sweeter -- you can reduce his cost to an insanely low 3.  The ability to block Stealth attacker wont come into play much, but it's still nothing to knock (and I think it's better than his brother's ability to block Superleapers).
Yung Chang
Compared to all the sub-par Hand hitters we saw in Shaolin Showdown, this guy looks to be broken!  Seriously, this card has some potential if you can keep the site he targets in play (and under your control).  Since he can heal sites, you just might be able to do that.  And keeping him alive isn't all that hard for the Hand, who excel in defense.  It might be fun to save him from some nasty event (say a Neutron Bomb) by hitting him with Wing of the Crane -- not only does he come back, but he gets to pump another site's power generation.  Also, there is almost no one better to make a Mysterious Return than Yung Chang.
 
 

EVENTS

  Bear vs. Fox
This is the best of the Faceoffs, potentially gaining you the most advantage.  You really want this when playing against the Architects, as that Nerve Gas or Neutron Bomb is gonna be a package of smackage.    See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
  Beneficial Realignment
Heal target character or site -- it don't get much simpler than that.  To get the most out of Beneficial Realignment, you want big characters and high Body sites.  Of course, Temple of Angry Spirits and Puzzle Garden are very annoying when healed.
Blood of the Valiant
In combination with a hitter, Blood of the Valiant is going to take Sites (and Smoke some of those annoying interceptors on the way).  How many you play really depends on what character mix you are playing.  If you've loaded up on hard to intercept characters like Shan Tsu and Sun Chen, Blood of the Valiant wont gain you a great benefit, but in a deck where you are going to administer beats with Chin Ken and Wong Fei Hong, this is an amazing card.
  Breath of the Dragon
This is a card that I wish only cost
so at least this set felt like it got a Seven Masters card.  This is a potentially strong punch through card like Blood of the Valiant, but pretty much late game (although it lets you get site-taking damage with a 3-cost character).  I'm torn between Breath and Deadly Hands -- both are very similar, but have different pros and cons. You also have to contend with solid cards like Butterfly Swords.  Ultimately, this falls into another one of the hands many weapons, that will probably get passed over because of the high resource requirement in other than very specialized decks.  Still in the passed-over category for now, but someday it might see some (if just very little) light.
Confucian Stability
A must in every Hand deck, it's hard not to want to play more than five of this card.  Good timing of Events is one of the master strategies to Shadowfist, and you usually want to get your opponent to overextend before playing your Event.  Of course, you usually wind up overextending to get into that position, and one Confucian Stability can make your entire plan collapse, which is why you want to be playing this card on your opponent!
  Difficulty at the Beginning
This card can either clog up your hand all day, or it can totally hose your opponent by having them waste power on Sites and Characters, only to have them Toasted.  A deck based around Difficulty at the Beginning usually doesn't work well because once your opponent catches on, they will play more conservatively, saving power just in case for this Event, but it still can stall an opponent enough to eak out a win.  Consider this a dueling only card.
  Eagle vs. Snake
This is one the most general of the Faceoffs -- it works decently for Bushwhacks and for trying to generate a little offense on your turn.  See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
 

Eight Pillars of Heaven Array
Urgh...  Yes, this is going to win a game for you every now and then, but it's just so narrow that it's going to be discarded 99% of the time (or lethally clog your hand).  I guess it's trying to promote a Hand-weenie deck, but we all know that the Hand usually wins by getting a big Superleaper through.  As much as I've tried to make GeoScan Report work, it just never does, and I think this card will have the same result.  Yes, it's better than GeoScan, but it's more expensive, and the pre-conditions (have 2+ attackers/defenders with the same designator) is too restrictive.  Compare this with Evil Chanting.  This card has the best good art to uselessness ratio in the game I think -- too bad we never get to see that cool art.

Festival of Giants
At first glance, Festival of Giants looks like a 0-cost Confucian for Final Brawl -- it's that and a whole lot more.  As a defensive card, it lets you play with specialty characters and not worry as much about defending them -- a Claw of Fury trying to assassinate your Tranquil Persuader or Gardener?  Festival of Giants shuts that right down.  On offense, Festival of Giants can act as a Blood of the Valiant if you are attacking with the bigger characters -- your Chin Ken will get through those two resource characters intercepting him and get through for some serious damage.  While I know Iron and Silk is a staple, I find it hard to choose it over Festival of Giants, which just has so many uses.
Heat of Battle
Not only is this Event a come-from-behind card, you can include Proving Grounds in a deck designed to exploit it.  Don't hold back on this card, hoping to gain more power from a subsequent attack unless dueling and they have a high cost character on the board -- cycling your cards in more important.
 

High Noon
In general, most Faceoffs aren't that good, and going with the concept of a Faceoff deck is a one-way ticket to loserville, population you.  This is in the top tier of Faceoffs (that's not saying much) simply by the fact that is can bring you closer to victory.  The timing is someone tricky -- you don't want to do it too early as it counts against Violet Meditation, and it also limits the number of FSS you can play.  This Faceoff really wants to be used as a bushwhack -- play it at the end of the turn of the player to your right when you are at play and take (two sites from victory).  If you win High Noon, you should be at Take (one site from victory) at the cost of only 1 power and a point or two of damage -- this can be explosive in that it nets you two extra power over having to play a 4th site (which costs 3 power)

Into the Light
Spend a power, get the best card in your Smoked pile back.  Mmm Mmm.... good Malt-O-Meal!  You can even recycle you Into the Light's with Wind of the Mountain for the ultimate in recursion craziness.
Iron and Silk
As long as you can keep two characters in play, this card can shut down an attacker.  I saw two because a wily opponent, expecting Iron and Silk, will first target your lone character with an attack, not allowing you an interceptor to play this Event on.  While this is a popular card, I think more people should be looking at Festival of Giants.
  Laughter of the Wind
This is a limited use multi-character Back For Seconds.  While not nearly as useful, it can unturn a lot of characters at once.  I will often play one Laughter in a large, more defensive Hand deck as a surprise.  Most of the time it will be discarded, but occasionally it will let me double my offense and grab up two Sites for a win.
  Mysterious Return
Mysterious Return is an overlooked Nerve Gas.  Both are Events that cost 1 power that can Smoke a character.  Mysterious Return just suffers from a higher opportunity cost -- the character has to be attacking you and you have to have a big enough character in your Smoked pile to take them out.  Extra kudos for playing Mysterious Return on Yang Chung, The Prof or Johnny Badhair.
  Natural Order
For one power you get to smack (cancel and Smoke that is) a Tech card.  How good this is will depend on your play environment.  Confucian Stability usually does better at stopping Events and States, but is is nice to Smoke those CHARs and oddball Tech characters and edges.
  Onslaught of the Turtle
While this card is generally not as good as Banish (which has a similar type of effect), it can come in handy.  This is a call based on your play environment.  Returning a CHAR is a good deal, and getting a few resource characters and maybe an Arcanowave Reinforcer puts this into the definitely worth playing category.
  Orange Meditation
Orange Mediation is an attempt to address two weak cards card areas in the game, and doesn't do well with either.  The first is the general weakness of States.  Rarely do they give enough benefit to be worth the cost in power and in drawing them, and the addition have having to draw and hold this Event doesn't address the problem.  Orange Meditation is also an attempt to boost the lowly Orange Monk.  Playing one or two in an Orange deck isn't going to overly hurt you, especially with the two decent Chi States that are in Throne Wars.
  Order out of Chaos
Can anyone say free Hacker?  Especially against the Hand, where you are not expecting the nasty Toast or Power stealing events.  This falls into the realm of Cyclone of Knives and maybe Far-seeing Rice Grains -- a fun card, but risky.  This card also has odd resource requirements -- you can meet them anywhere from early game with two Golden Candles, or get stuck with it until mid-game if you are playing only secondary Chi.
Peasant Uprising
Peasant Uprising usually does one of two things -- it either gets you an early Site, or it will sit in your hand.  Playing Peasant Uprising also depends on your playgroups preferences -- do they play Sinister Priests, or do they play Hopping Vampires? 
Positive Chi
This is an often overlooked win denial card.  Play this Event, and usually there will be enough character based stoppage on the board to have an attack fall flat on its face.  Of course, if you're extra sneaky, you can be fetching a Shadowy Mentor with Positive Chi, to get ahead on the power swing.
  Progress of the Mouse
The timing on this card makes it very difficult to play correctly.  Usually, you will have to wait for your opponent to do something, which generally means they will get out at least one character or one site.  If you have a few power to burn, you can try to slow down your opponent with the psychological effect of this card -- they will just hate giving you any power and are likely to end their turn without playing more cards.
  Shaolin vs. Wudang
This is the mother of all Face Offs.  And seeing how difficult it is to often pull off a single one-on-one Face Off, I just can't see the epic battle that Shaolin vs. Wudang pretends to be.  I guess it's a way to make playing 2-cost foundations playable, but it's seriously tough to pull off to great effect.  It's really rare to see any faceoffs in our part of the woods, yet alone one that's pretty hard to set up.  Gotta rate this one a no show.
  Secrets of Shaolin
Here we have some borderline jank.  Note the Main Shot restriction on Secrets of Shaolin -- this means you wont be stopping the most commonly encountered 0-cost events, the alternate power generation trio (Pocket Demon, Violet Meditation and Scrounging).  Confucian Stability is still going to be your main Event control card.  Playing Secrets of Shaolin is a metagame decision -- if a couple of your opponents are prone to playing a lot of 0-cost events, then supplementing your deck with one or two of these is worth trying out.  Red Wedding also has some new 0-costers, and that might make Secrets of Shaolin marginally playable.  I play this card fairly often, and most of the time I wish it was a Confucian Stability, but every now and then it's a game winner.  Plus you get to say "no can do, ancient Chinese secret" -- well, no, don't say that.

Shaolin Hoedown
There are endless things to do with this card, and here's a few:  Wait for an opponent to attack a character you control and play Hoedown, choosing the character being attacked.  There are special rules for cards that change controllers during an attack -- all attacking characters are removed from the attack, but if the target changes controllers, *I think* the attack follows it (but I could be wrong here, and if I am, figure out some stupid tricks to use this to foil attacks).  And if that overly-complex example makes no sense, substitute being targeted by Nerve Gas -- you get power, the opponent gets nothing.  I guess I just can't leave you with two uses for Shaolin Hoedown -- it can also be a quasi Bull Market, and you'll have the tempo if you play it during your turn.  While nowhere a amazing at stoppage as Netherworld Return, there are a few situations where you can pass of a character to defend a site (or let someone gain power to play a zap).  If you want a simpler combo, try Hoedown with Wing of the Crane -- you can power (which you can spend on Wing), your opponent gets nada! 

  Shaolin Surprise
Shaolin Surprise is a general utility card, that especially in multiplayer can cause some of the strangest situations in the game.  You have a decent possibility of grabbing up a Gun or Tank and using it against your opponent.  Of course, the preferred use is to take over a Shadowy Mentor.  By spending one power, you can move the Mentor off your character (returning control to you) and place it on an opponent's character (gaining control of it).  Now all you have to do is Smoke the character that is now the Subject of the Shadowy Mentor and you don't have to worry about losing your character at the end of the turn.
  Smoke on the Water
I would say that the stuff on the water is left over from whatever they were smoking when they printed this card.  First, note that it's the anti-combo with Superleap, which is often the punch through method for the Guiding Hand.  People are still gonna have pretty good options for intercepting.  Festival of Giants will get your hitters through the horde of weenie defenders and be useful when you are intercepting.  And if you got 1 power, Blood of the Valiant kicks butt. 
  Storm of the Just
Storm of the Just has two play requirements that are often very hard to fulfill, but when you do, this card can be a powerhouse.  Since you don't want your opponent burning your sites for power if you are relying on Storm of the Just, sites like Turtle Island can insure that they will have to seize at least a portion.  This card also has a third, less obvious play restriction -- you need to have characters in play to take advantage of the increased Fighting, and the more the better.
  Superior Kung Fu
This is an interesting Event is that it's both offensive and defensive.  The most common use with be with a resource character as an interceptor to stick an extra 2 damage on an attacker (and hopefully Smoke it in the process).  The most tech use of Superior Kung Fu is when attacking -- say you are attacking with an Impoverished Monk who winds up being intercepted by a 3 Fighting character -- with Superior Kung Fu your monk will overcome the defender and damage the target of the attack, causing it to be successful, even if he is going to be Smoked at the end of the turn.
  Swinging with the Hand
Temple bullet anyone?  The problem is, Temple usually hurts you the most when it's face down, and this event don't do squat then.  The other non-combat source you are likely to see is Final Brawl, but there are already two infinitely better alternatives than this coaster.  I'm always big on Festival of Giants, and the versatility of Confucian Stability just blows Swinging with the Hand out of the water.
  Sword Dance
Ick.  Gack.  Superior Technology for swordsmen with swords.  And you can move them around.  Not so good.  What you are hoping to do is attack with a thug with a sword, then pay 1 power to move the sword to someone else and attack with them again.  Remind you of anyone?  Gunrunner maybe?  So, do Gunrunner + limited Superior Technology add up?  Get out the drinks, it's coaster time.
Rigorous Discipline
This is one of the cards that makes Shadowfist a great game.  So many characters have interesting and useful abilities -- how could you not want to share them?  The can range from great offensive abilities (Chin Ken goes to Ninja school and learns the White Ninja's ability) to defensive (your CHAR has to spend the day in the DNA Mage lab) to just plain utility (I bet you didn't know Gardener is a Swiss Banker during business hours).
Robust Feng Shui
Robust Feng Shui is the Guiding Hand's all purpose take out.  It can trash characters and sites.  This is one of those cards that you expect to see played either when someone is going after the Hand player, or someone is going for the win.  Always worth packing at least one in a deck to keep your opponents on their toes, and often you will want more.
  Shattering Jade
Unfortunately, there just aren't enough abominations to make this card useful every day.  Only the Architects have numerous Abominations, and then you are likely to see a fair amount of other hitters (CHAR, Sergeant Blightman) that don't have the designator.  Still, you can toast those Vivisectors and Test Subjects, and if you are really lucky, you can clear an Architect player's board if they are using Arcanowave Reinforcer.
  The Dragon Unyielding
In the right deck, you can gain a little bit of spending change with this Event -- notice that it's the first rare non-unique we've had in a while.  While you can use it in a Faceoff deck, generally Unique characters are doing battle all the time -- now you just have to make sure it's the other guys character getting smoked, not yours.  Remember the unusually high four resource cost on this card.
  The Orange Principle
The best thing this Event has going for it is that it doesn't trigger Hacker.  The Hand have a couple of other filter/draw cards, but this one seems to be okay.  You will need to have surplus power to burn, but The Orange Principle can get you out of a stall or let you draw a needed card.  It looks to be better in Tower of Power decks (100+ cards) where you have a big mix -- you don't want to be playing (or drawing) this very-late game, when you are going to have a lower chance of drawing the same cards you put back.  I originally put this in a deck because I mistakenly thought I could play it for free with Orange Senshei Chamaber -- closer reading revealed that the discount was only for characters, and the Orange Principle got filtered out of the deck.
  The Red Harvest
One always has to take a close look at power generating events -- they can be the factor that puts you over the top.  Red Harvest is more playable that Dark's Soft Whisper, but doesn't have the comeback potential of Heat of Battle (an underplayed card) and Violet Meditation.  Yes, you have the dream play of running two Golden Candles into a 2-cost opponent's foundation first turn for two power, but that's nothing to base a deck around.  Don't overlook discarding cards, which can improve your next draw, especially if your hand size is increased.  This card may have more of a home in a deck where you are building sites for power, and not as dependent on comeback events (although this is often a losing formula).  Still pretty much Dark's Soft Whisper v2.
 

The Willow Bends
When it comes to healing, The Willow Bends is not in the top tier.  Why, you ask?  Well, it's got to compete with Healing Earth (you are playing Chi, aren't you?) and Chinese Connection (which our group considers to be a game breaker). 

Peter Bowman points out that Sites indeed are cards, and The Willow Bends can turn any site effectively into half of a City Park.  Urgh...  I am just about to fear this card.  The sick and twisted members of my play group will use this card with Temple of the Angry Spirits to inflict much pain. 

Simon Johnston also adds in "The Willow Bends provides a resource as well. So not only do you get to heal the the first turn ToAS your opponent ran into (which you played after the Railroad Worker which you sac'd obviously), you get a free resource out of it was well. I think this cards is crazy good."  My reply:  You must remember young grasshopper that if you are cut off from your Chi, you will wither, no matter how strong your connection to the Perfect Master!

littlemute writes in:  I would up the rating a bit on the Willow Bends. It's the very fact that you mention--not needing Chi--that puts this at least a 3 for me; you can take the chance and play the solid Hand foundations that provide Chi, Railroad Workers being one. I took the Shadowfist shaft because of this card during Gencon last weekend.

My Response:  Indeed it does sound like Julian had a deck that made use of Willow Bends.  This is at least the second time that he has used his status as a developer to build a deck in advance of the cards getting to the general public for a major event...

  "Try My Kung Fu!"
In the right deck, this card is a nice speed bump.  By the right deck, I mean one where you are likely to have the correct designator in play, and hopefully with a resource character.  Unfortunately, that's often hard to do, but Impoverished Monk is a favorite target for this Event.
Wind on the Mountain
Wind on the Mountain is over the top -- it lets you Into the Light as many Events as you are willing to spend power for.  Combine this with zero cost and power gaining/stealing Events, and you can get a machine going.  Don't forget to get back a Confucian Stability or two to force through all of the Events you just returned.  This  recursion is so powerful if often will put a Ring of Gates in a deck to try and deny it -- of course that is why I always play Whirlpool of Blood in the deck with Wind on the Mountain!  This has been one of the cards on Z-Man's broken cards watch list, and for a very good reason.
  "You Have Offended Shaolin!"
This card has offended my sensibilities!  While Superleap is a powerful ability, the Hand usually doesn't have a lack of superleaping characters on the table.  And if it does need to give a character the ability, Rigorous Discipline often does the job.  Is it my imagination, or are you almost always going to want Blood of the Valiant over this guy?  Sure, the return to your hand gravy ability is nice, but it only matters if you want this card in your hand in the first place.  And the Hand has never had a problem returning events to their hand in the past...
 
 

STATES

  18 Bronze Men
If this were Magic the Gathering, this card would be Crusade.  While not all Hand characters gain the bonus, enough do to make this card worth while.  You have to protect your front-row site where you've played this, but that's what the Hand excels at.  Be sure to always factor in 18 Bronze Men -- with all the new modifying cards in Shaolin Showdown, you can often sneak in some wins by your opponent's miscalculating your actual Fighting scores.
  "Bring It"
See Dragons.
  Charge of the Righteous
This Edge is very much in the flavor of CAT Tactics.  It's maybe a tad more useful, and a little bit easier to play as it requires faction resources instead of talent resources.  It's Limited, so don't go nuts with it, but it makes a fine one-of in a casual deck.  My problem with this card (and a lot of other cards too) is that I just keep forgetting about it when I'm making a fun deck.  My fingers do the walking, but they keep stopping on Shield of Pure Soul and Chinese Connection instead of Charge of the Righteous.
  Deadly Hands
This is a potentially powerful state, and I'm sure if it's good enough to shake up the game or not.  If you think about it, it's 1 power for +5 or more Fighting (I'm thinking this card can be real strong in a deck with a few hand size increasers).  I think this card needs some play time -- it's unclear in my crystal ball if it's going to be best on foundations, mid-sized characters or on the major hitters (I shudder to think of the Deadly Hands of Iron Monkey).  Timing-wise it's slow, as you can't discard until the next scene, so you can't play it in response to a Brawl and discard to pump up.  I've tried to make this go off, and it really doesn't have a lot of gas.  Spending the initial power hurts.  Without the toughness of Breath of the Dragon, the subject of Deadly Hands tends to get smoked at the end of the turn after taking a speedbump.
 

Essence Absorbing Stance
This is a State version of Rend Chi -- there isn't much more to say about it.  You lose a little bit of surprise, but you get some reusability.  Honestly, since you are playing the Guiding Hand, I think you are better off with a straight-up healing event, especially if one that can heal sites as well.  By the time this was printing, I think everyone had had their fun/fill of Rend Chi, so there was no interesting in playing this clone.

 

Know Your Enemy
Yes, this cheaper Ultimate Mastery can be pretty cool when you pull it off, and it does avoid the classic problem of Chin Ken (he always winds up fighting Prototype X), but I have one major problem with Know You Enemy, and it's called Rigorous Discipline.  Rig Dis is just so amazing, and I know I always want to play more that I actually do, and having to wait for combat to copy abilities (let alone use them) is too restrictive.  See above comments about RigDis.

  Kung Fu Prodigy
I have a general dislike of states that rely on other states just because you wind up.  Luckily, there are enough good Chi states.  Fortune of the Turtle is a no-brainer, but a couple of the 0 cost Chi states are decent too (Flying Sword Stance and Path of the Storm Turtle).  Unlike Jack Hades, this card makes your good states better and more versatile -- not trying to de-coasterize cards that no one ever plays...
  Mad Monkey Kung Fu
Just can't get enough Swords of the Master...  This one is okay, but not spectacular.  I would probably rate it the worst of the lot (this, BK97, Sword and Real Bad Cat) from BCL.  Part of the problem is that it just doesn't have enough synergy with other cards.  With the evasion characters (superleapers and Blue Monk and Master Hao) you fill find that Butterfly Sword is almost as good, and that the 1 power difference is huge.  In an environment where you are going to be facing at least 5 Final Brawls every game the card might do a little better.
  Master Killer
2 Power for +1 Fighting and an evasion ability?  That's weak.  And my opponent gets to use it against me?  That's crazy.  Flying Sword Stance is about 90% as good as Master Killer, and wont bite you in the ass.
  Ornamental Garden
This is a tricky card.  At first glance, you might think this card is a power generating card that you can use to ramp up your own sites - BZZZT!  wrong-o!  What Ornamental Garden really does is help you take sites by letting you do double damage.  Blue Monk is going to be doing a respectable 8 damage if you drop one of these States on a Site mid-attack.  It's sort of like Geo-Scan report, but works better with less attackers.  Plan on burning/smoking the site you play this on, as it will be darn hard to defend if you place it in your front row.  I still haven't gotten around to it, but I think there is some jankiness to be found with Puzzle Garderns and The Chinese Connection.  Hrm... you can give that extra power you generate with Ornamental Garden to your opponents... hrm....  
  Power of the Great
Bad bad bad.  Not only is this hard to pull off, if you ever do get enough counters on Power of the Great to get you closer to victory, and opponent will just seize that site and reap the benefit.
  Righteous Heaven Stance
I think this state is playable as a one-of surprise in a fun deck, but like Mad Monkey Kung Fu, it may wind up being cut after a game or to as a deck is tuned.  The ideal target is some really useful 2-3 cost character -- putting Righteous Heaven Stance on a higher-cost character is going to be putting too many eggs in one basket unless you are going for the win and think you can withstand all the denial you are going to draw out.  I sort of like Celestial Stance better, but it's rare, and has some slightly different resource requirements.  About all that I can add (besides mentioning the scarcity of play of this card) is that you can get an extra trick out of if, even in the world of state-hate.  Play it in response to interception, and even if it gets washed away by Waterfall Sanctuary, it still momentarily resolves, so you jump over all the currently declared interceptors.
  Scales of the Dragon
Very average, but somewhat playable.  Generally, I've never gotta great usage out of the more defensive character states -- I play an offensive game, and I like offensive cards.  This is going to give an attacker (or defender) more or less a one-time 0-cost toughness:2 which does give you some options (and is useful from saving a character from a Final Brawl (whether its yours or someone else).   I know Festival of Giants is an amazing card, and I don't play it enough.  And I like the surprise and versatility of Festival way over Scales.
 

Simple Paper Fan
The first think you need to know about this card is that it's not bad.  The second thing you need to know is that it's difficult to play.  Simple Yellow Fan (it should have been titled The Yellow Principal) turns the subject into a limited Yellow Monk.  If you don't have a lot of experience with Yellow Monk, Yellow Senshei Chamber or Old Man Wu, you may have some difficulty with using this to full effect.  But, once you've master the Redirection Principle, it's really easy to outplay your opponents, who may see some of the tricks you can do.

  The Jade Dragon
If I'm paying 3 power for a State, it had better be good.  Shadowy Mentor good.  I dont think the Jade Dragon makes the cut.  The problem is that you also need to be able to defend the subject site, which is going to be hard to do since you just spend 3 power.  I suspect that the Jade Dragon is going to be hiding in the Temple of Angry Spirits a bunch.  This is sort of the type of card that solidifies you winning -- you only play it when your ahead, and when you don't have a better play, like a site taking character.  Sure, the site can't be burned, but that just means your opponent seized a 3 power generating site and is going to kick your but with it.  Remember that sites can always be smoked, so there's no killer ArcanoTower combo.  This is just so expensive...  Increasing power generation is good, as Yang Chung has shown us, but this card lacks the versatility of Ornamental Garden.
  Thunder on the Mountain
This card can greatly slow down and Architect player.  Playing a turned CHAR just bites.  The problem is that the you will become their primary target.  Since Thunder on the Mountain has to be played on a site, it will be Smoked if that site is Burned.  This can be dropped in preparation for a go for the win attack -- save up power, drop this card, go for the win on your next turn.
 
 

EDGES

Chinese Connection
Should have been called the Turtle Connection.  As long as you can keep the power flowing (and the Hand usually does pretty well with all the Senshei chambers), you can keep stuff from being reduced to 0 body.  This card is extra annoying when combined with defensive sites like Inner Sanctum, Tangram Alley, Ominous Swamp, Puzzle Garden, and of course, Temple of the Angry Spirits.  Don't overlook the sneaky-tech of given an Architect player 1 power when another opponent is going for the win to fuel their denial.
  Defiant Bloom
This card has proven to be surprisingly useful every time I've gotten it into play.  Like Shield of Pure Soul, I think this edge is going to become a staple in every Hand deck, letting character heal a point mid-attack as well as keeping those Puzzle Gardens neat and tidy.  And it's got a nice little bonus of providing a Chi resource.
  Dragon Boat Festival
Increased hand size for you is good.  Increased hand size for everyone else is bad.  In a 4 player game, that's six more chances for everyone to have a Nerve Gas or Op Killdeer or Final Brawl or Neutron Bomb...  You might be able to get away with the Dragon Boat Festival in a few highly specialized decks revolving around Xaoyan Yun, but it's risky.  Because of the establishing shot order (generate, unturn, discard, draw), you can try to manipulate the Dragon Boat so that only you get the benefit of the extra cards by using Cabinet Minister (or a card that would turn an edge), but this is often too fragile.  Still, there are some decks where you want opponents to have larger hands (Father of Chaos, Hexagram Spirit), and there and a bunch of Hand cards that you can do wonders with if you're hand size is increased.
  Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting
The problem with this card is that while you are drawing and playing it, your opponent is drawing and playing characters to take advantage of it.  If you are going to play it, make sure you have an easy way to get rid of it or it will bite you in the ass.  Stone Garden and other innocuous sites that turn are sorta okay, but I like Defiant Bloom.  Think of it as more or less a one-use sort of Death-O-Rama.
  Fire in the Lake
It takes 3 turns to get back your power from playing this card, so you need to figure that into both adding it to a deck, and when you decide to play it.  Of course, Fire in the Lake has a psychological advantage similar to Paper Trail -- your opponents will often look elsewhere before declaring an attack against you.  Combine this with Shifting Tao and Shield of Pure Soul, and you may find yourself free from any attack shy of one going for the win.
  For China!
Since you have to be behind on the victory count, For China! is somewhat limited in uses.  You can try and get around it by playing an above average amount of non-Feng Shui Sites for your power generation.  You will also want cards that you can get a benefit out of by unturning, such as Swiss Banker and Tranquil Persuader.  Even unturning your hitter can give you some extra defense if you have a larger Site structure.
  Hill of the Turtle
Like all the pay 1 power Edges, timing is everything with Hill of the Turtle.  Hold off on dropping this until it is guaranteed to Smoke a card because it's controller has no power.
Shield of Pure Soul
Gain power?  Search for a card and put it on top of your deck?  What is there not to like about this card?  The only real question is how many to include in your deck.  I generally like one to two, but that depends on how many Chi resources I have.  Also, if I'm playing a large deck or a deck that has a particular combination of cards it needs to get out, I will go up to three.  This is one of the Hands strongest cards.
  Shifting Tao
The trick to making Shifting Tao work for you is to play the right selection of sites.  Puzzle Garden is probably the best, as you heal it almost as fast as your opponents can damage it.  Large sites will benefit the most -- they are most likely to be damaged but not taken in an initial attack.  Just one Shifting Tao can eliminate the threat of being attacked by 1 Fighting characters, and two of this card makes you practically invulnerable to resource characters.
  Superior Mastery
Gak -- compare this to Defiant Bloom, and scratch your head.  One power for an edge that does almost nothing.  I can think of two reasons to play this card -- you've run out of Confucian Stabilities, so you are having to play Fortune of the Turtle, or you are using it as a trick target to save your Shield of Pure Soul from their edge removal.  Just plain bad.
 
 

SITES

  Blue Senshi Chamber
Another solid card, the Blue Chamber can go in any hand deck -- it's not reserved for the janky Senshi deck.  Will all the common designator decks brought about by N2 and SS, you should have no problem figuring out a good one to use to apply the beats.
  Cave of a Thousand Banners
See the Feng Shui Sites.
Green Sensei Chamber
Just the threat of giving Toughness:2 to one of your characters is often enough on its own to prevent interceptions.  The Green Sensei Chamber goes best with the White, taking full advantage of the Regeneration negating the drawback of having to put damage on it.
Orange Sensei Chamber
Even in a mono-Guiding Hand deck, an increased hand size of 7 can be a significant advantage.  When you get to two or three factions, you hand size can dominate the game and become a threat to the other players, bringing their attention to your Orange Sensei Chamber.  The second ability that reduces the cost of Orange characters currently only effects the Orange Monk, making him over-priced instead of ridiculously over-priced.
  Red Senshi Chamber
Well, you knew it had to happen -- they finally made a bad Senshi chamber -- well, it's not really bad, it just clearly the worst of the lot.  Declaring an attack against back-row sites isn't that bad -- it allows you to pick off specialty sites like Whirlpools.  What kills this card is the canceling Superleap, since if they take it, some of your best characters are potentially negated.  Better in multiplayer since you have more targets to pick and choose from.  
  Shaolin Sanctuary
Occasionally you find yourself in need of a a few extra Chi resources, but Shaolin Sanctuary is really a resource accelerator.  The card that this will matter most with is Shih Ho Kuai, who can get huge with just a few Monks in play.   The low Body of 5 means be prepared to defend this site with your best kung fu.
  Temple of Boundless Meditation
This is a mid-to-late game card that can give you a little punch in the right deck, but now with 18 Bronze Men and Temple of the Shaolin Dragon, the Hand has lots of options for increasing Fighting.  You really need to have a character in play to use the +3 Fighting the turn it comes out, and restricts how you play and build your deck.  Pretty much a candidate for the janky Senshi deck and aggressive monk decks, but does have the potential to get better in future sets.  Speaking of future sets, Tong Su Yi in Shaolin Showdown is a good candidate for inclusion with the Temple because of the hand size bonus.
  Temple of the Jade Dragon
This card is pretty straight forward -- you are using it make sure you've got that needed card in hand, which I suspect is going to be a Confucian Stability a lot of the time.  I see it fitting in decks that rely on increased hand size, which is something the hand does reasonably well.  It's also a 2-cost Feng Shui Site, and there's a lot to consider when playing them in a deck as well.  I haven't played it in conjunction with hand-size increasers, but, as it it, it might as well be a Creche of the New Flesh -- the only excess cards I seem to be willing to discard are foundations, and getting back a character isn't always that optimal -- this card almost turns into a Perpetual Motion Machine that way.
  Temple of the Shaolin Dragon
Another mid-late game pumping card, the Temple is nice in that it's an 8 Body Feng Shui site with the added defense ability.  With all the + Fighting cards the Hand has now, it's almost impossible to keep track of everything without slowing the game down with ponderous recounts.  I like this card over Temple of Boundless Meditation, but both can go in the same deck and are good for turtling as well as offense.
Violet Senshi Chamber
While this card may have the worst art in N2 (although not as bad as Shaking the Mountain in SS), it is one of the best of the seven Chambers.  While Soul Diver is very fragile and has the same ability, Violet is much more reliable and is going to let you do all sorts of tricks.  Again good enough to play on it's own without the other Chambers, and is really more of a multiplayer card.
  White Sensei Chamber
The White is the weakest of the Sensei Chambers, being of most use in conjunction with the others.  A 6 Body site that Regenerates just quite isn't big enough to make use of the ability.  This card can provide a quick Chi acceleration, which does go well with Shih Ho Kaui.
Yellow Sensei Chamber
The most devious of the Sensei Chambers, the Yellow should give you a lot of options when declaring your attacks or interceptions.  You need to be up on the damage redirection timing rules to get the most use out of the Yellow Sensei Chamber, and quite often, if an opponent seizes this Site, they will not be able to use it optimally.
 

 

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