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Four Monarchs

The Four Monarchs are perhaps the most limited of the factions, with only one viable deck type -- recycling.  With Thunder Squires and Spirit Pole, a Monarch player can get his Butterfly Knights back into play quickly and explode for a lot of damage by replaying States on them.  Other key cards in this faction are Brain Fire and Blanket of Darkness.

Foundation Characters    Utility Characters    Hitters
Events   States    Edges    Sites
 

 

FOUNDATION CHARACTERS

Darkness Priestess
A 1 cost foundation character with 2 decent abilities?  How can you not love Darkness Priestess?  This card alone makes the Monarchs a serious Magic faction, and punishing opponents for toasting cards by gaining power is the sweet taste of victory to come.  You need to pay attention, because there are a lot of cards and effects that can triggers this card's power gain, with the best of all being the alternate cost to Far Seeing Rice Grains.
  Darkness Warriors
These guys are actually pretty good when you are playing them, and really annoying when your opponent is playing them.  This is one of the few cards that goes really well with Fanaticism -- they let you pick off your opponents resource characters, and get your power back.  They are also an okay subject for States since they have the built in Mentor defense.  Also their designator of Netherworld Soldiers gives a few options to theme decks and card interaction.
  Fire Acolyte
No doubt here, Fire Acolyte is a resource character to rival Darkness Priestess.  What's really nice is that if multiple Fire characters are smoked at the same time, these guys still trigger -- say you run two of them into Ting Ting, she would take 4 total damage.  As an extra bonus, these guys go great with the old version of the Fire King -- with a 1-cost Fire character, his ping ability has 5 more chances to kick in.
 

Fire Ants
The bugs are pretty much a 1 1/2 trick pony.  The first trick is get a lot in play, and attack.  Of course, your attack options are limited -- you can attack characters for mondo damage, but then all your ants will die.  The other option is to attack sites since the Ants are unlikely to be intercepted, but then you do very little damage.  And remember, all that is needed to off an Ant.  And, their damage shrinks as each one goes poof.  The 1/2 trick is trying to pump up their fighting to make them a semi-deadly Insect -- Fanaticism and Armies of the Monarchs are the first two that spring to mind, but there are a few others.  And there will be the ubiquitous Inauspicious Return Ant deck, but I think the probably the best combo with Fire Ants will be Entropy is your friend, making them deadly to both characters and sites.  Oh, did I mention that Fire Ants don't provide ?  Stick to Fire Acolytes, and you'll be much happier unless you are trying a really specialized deck.

  Fire Warriors
A good try at a foundation character, Fire Warriors always seem to come in a little short.  This is probably because your opponents have to seize or burn for victory you sites to pump this guy up.  Still, in a multiplayer game, this guy can often become a Walking Corpses, which isn't too bad.  Playing with Turtle Island and Auspicious Termites might give you a little boost.
  Ice Healer
While this card falls short of the Darkness Priestess because it's healing ability rarely triggers, I give a blanket four star rating to all 1 cost foundation characters if they provide an additional resource.
  Ice Tiger (Netherworld)
With the Ice Tiger being a three-for-three with a very limited ability, this card is just a little too slow for most decks.  Unfortunately, there are too few Unique Ice characters (Queen of the Ice Pagoda and Ice Shards as of Throne Wars) to make this guy as useful as Righteous Protector.
  Ice Warriors
Yes, they hit for 3 with the Ice Queen (or her Evil Twin!) out, but if you want to pump up fighting, other Ice characters will give you more bang for your buck.
  Ice Warriors vPAP
Even though they don't provide magic, these guys are still decent.  You probably aren't playing 5 of them outside of an all ice theme deck, but you do want a few to protect your Ice Queen or your weapon-loaded Ice Commandos..
  King of the Thunder Pagoda
See hitters.
Queen of the Ice Pagoda (Standard)
See hitters.
 

Skin and Darkness Bats
Yawn... another sub-par foundation character with a really narrow use.  I think we all know and love Darkness Priestess, and if haven't found intersecting things to do with Darkness Warriors, you should really go back and give them a shot.  The only real reason to play the bats is if your deck is doing recursion tricks, the Priestess of ItchScratchy and Obsidian Dagger mainly -- of course, both of those are pretty bad, and heck, Darkness Warriors can be sac'd too -- this card gets the default rating because it is a 1-cost foundation without a drawback.

  Soul Doctor
The fifth Ice/Healing card in BCL is the Soul Doctor, the 4th Ice foundation.  I'm real iffy on this card -- I like 1-c foundations, but I also like lots of magic.  This card has an okay ability mid-game, but there are just so many other healing cards that it's hard to squeeze this one in.  And for 2 cost foundations, I like an Ice Warrior vPAP
or two just because shutting down events can mean the difference between winning and losing (as can healing, but not as much so usually).
Thunder Gladiator
This card lets you play more bad faceoffs in your deck.  Joy oh-joy.  Staple of the new Thunder Faceoff deck, and that's about it.  Next card please.  Remember your lessons from Purisit Initiate -- you only have 5 of these for your deck, so you need to consistently draw 1 to play those off-faction faceoffs.  On a side note, just on the basis of being a 1-cost foundation, these guys are okay (but just okay) in a few other decks (such as a Legacy-based deck or a rigid Thunder deck without faceoffs just for the acceleration).
  Thunder Knights (Standard)
There is always some debate whether the Thunder Warriors ability is a benefit or a drawback.  Still, it is fun to make the all Thunder deck and administer a beating.  In a pinch, you can get these guys back with your Thunder Squire.
Thunder Knights (Netherworld 2)
While they are a little bit better than the original Thunder Knight, they don't add much.  You really only play them in a Thunder deck.  And then you still wish there was a Thunder Foundation that provided magic.
 

UTILITY CHARACTERS

  Akani Hideo
This guy is funky.  He's rare, which is good because you will only want a few, but it's bad, because he could become another Fo Shen where you seem to open him every 3rd booster.  The obvious combo is with Proving Grounds -- with Akani Hideo in play you won't have to worry about your opponents shutting you down.  But, if your metagame is Whirlpool heavy, you might consider throwing him in a deck that has a lot of turning sites.  Also, he can aggravate your local Guiding Hand player by invalidating his Confucians.  Note that there is some weirdness in the Red Wedding FAQ about him and the cards that Cancel and Smoke.  I've tried to make him work, but the synergy just isn't there.  He can still be a one-of in an Ice or 4M deck, but don't expect a lot from him.
  Arena Warrior
If you haven't figured it out, this card might as well have Assassinate.  It's a moderate utility character that's saving grace is that it can be recycled by Thunder Squires.  Sure, you're playing a couple in a Thunder deck, and you're going to try him in the new Thunder Faceoff deck (where you're going to find that he's very redundant - like playing Flying Kick in the all superleap deck).  Compare Arena Warrior with the Skin and Darkness Zealots and this guy is lacking.  Well, assassinating out of turn is a little better than I thought, but the only time this guy really worked for me is in conjunction with effects that trigger off of a successful faceoff (like Corrupt Bookie) -- you get the combo jank without the faceoffs.
  Atourina Baktiari
While not outstanding, this card can get some damage in and not get intercepted without enacting a price.  This card fit is fairly well with the Ice Commandos, where you have states to pump up that damage.  Don't expect her to get intercepted that often, getting through to the target is her real ability.
 

Avenging Darkness
This is a real oddball card -- it can be quite powerful if you get it into play, but it's darn hard, and is likely to sit in your hand.  Also, you may have to play AD at an inopportune time -- you want to play it when your opponents won't have a chance to attack it before you can get any use out of it (this is the type of card any opponent will view as a threat, and they are like to work against you to take it out).  Also note that it's going to be really hard to get a successful attack in with Avenging Darkness as it toasts both characters AND sites (and a failed attack to toast an opponent's site, or even toast a character may not be your best option for a turn) .  The direct card to compare AD to is Avenging Thunder, and that is a proven winner -- it's going to get you some power (always useful) and remove an attacker from the game (especially good with all the recursion going around).  Hands down, I'd go with at least one AT before any AD, and possibly two ATs.  Also, I'm not sure if you can Comeback/ITAYG Avenging Darkness -- we'll have to wait for the FAQ.  Oh, and I mention that Avenging Fire waaaay nastier than this?

Schmee writes in:
     It seems to me the nice thing about AD is its surgical application compared to AF and even AT.  If you're holding AT when the underdog burns your site to get back in the game, so he can help you stop the leader, you won't be able to use it (or shouldn't, anyway). Doubly so for AF -- it stomps the offender so hard he sure better be out front or you've seriously tilted the game to the current leader (who probably isn't you as you just lost a site, unlike AT where you've traded your loss for power, and maybe retained the lead.)
     AD, though far weaker in terms of raw return/comeback, can be a much more versatile tool to bring to bear on a finely balanced table -- and even a pretty asymmetrical game state, for that matter. The fact that you can use it to smack the guy who most needs smacking, rather than the opponent that just burnt your site, is a HUGE plus, one that just might balance AD against its mightier cousins.

My Response:
That's actually an interesting point, and something that could be explored more.  The idea is comeback cards that let you nail the leader as opposed to the person who nailed you.  I will say that the down man does get an easy burn in now-and-then often to get a site off the board that is at risk for the leader taking.  I will say that while it's a brutal card, Avenging Fire has gone out of fashion because it is too punishing and doesn't necessarily give the person who played it a huge boost.  Still, I like to win, and Avenging Thunder is the card that going to get me the closest to winning more than any of the others.

  Aztec Mummy
Since the Aztec Mummy doesn't belong to one of the Monarch's sub-factions, it's kind of in a weird space.  It's really unclear if it's got a place outside of the Itzcoliuhqui deck.  But, in that deck, it's okay -- assuming you've got mostly Temples and Tombs and a spare 1 cost foundation, you can drop this medium size toughguy for 3 power.  Remember that the +fighting wears off at the end of turn, but the potential for toughness should keep down the speed bumps.  A lot like Hopping Vampire, the Mummy sort of goes in his own, cookie-cutter, deck.  I've tried him out, and sure, he can bypass foundations, but it's slow and relies on have a lot of (non-attacking) cards in play, and is susceptible to disruption.
Butterfly Knight
Butterfly Knight is the Monarch's best mid-range hitter.  If you can clear out any defending characters, you are hoping to get the very good ratio of 6 damage for your 3 power.  Of course, if you can drop a handy State on your Butterfly Knight (say a Pump-Acton Shotgun), you are looking at some serious damage.  Don't overlook turning this card to heal during their first attack, especially if you have two damage on it.  Finally, don't forget to recycle your Butterfly Knights with Thunder Squires.  Butterfly Knights love Ice Shields -- it really clears out the foundations that invariably intercept it.
  Chui Fa
Chui's only saving grace is that he's a Fire card, and you can play him at reduced cost with Feeding the Fires.  Turning a 4 Fighting character to play a Demon seems to be a waste of power, and only encourages turtling.  He sits there and guards your site, and in three turns he's paid for himself if you can pump out 3 Demons.  Honestly, Dragon Throne is a much better way of reducing the cost of your Demons.  Well, SS gives us a Fire Demon, but so far, Chui's still not paying the bills.
  Darkness Adept
The Darkness Adept has the ability to get in some explosive damage, but requires a fair amount of skill (and luck) to pull off.  The idea is to pull off a successful attack or two where some characters are Smoked before attacking with the Adept.  If you can find a pair of solo resource characters controlled by an opponent, not only can you Smoke them with your resource characters, you can pump the Darkness Adept up to 6 Fighting.  Choose the target of this card's attack carefully, because like the Bronze Sentinel, opponents will try to get two damage on it, causing it to be Smoked at the end of the turn unless you can somehow heal it.
 

Dog Soldiers
This is a card with moderate possibilities -- mainly what you are looking for are sites you can turn during you turn to get an advantage.  First off, this card doesn't work with Proving Ground, so the best combo is nerfed.  I think we will see some combos with Dog Soldiers on the somewhat janky side, but a 3 cost character that has to attack to unturn a site is going to be too expensive to really get some good use out of it.  You can also unturn a site if you join an attack, but that probably has more going against it than for it.

Mr. Strange writes in:
  The fact that this is yet another Soldier for the Monarchs is notable. The real question here is whether or not you can unturn sites that turn when you declare an attack, like Thunder Pagoda. Also, if anyone ever made good use of the Thunderdome, this might be a good character for that deck. I think we'll see this guy in decks with sites like:
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Cataract Gorge!

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Cave Network - could be pretty interesting. Maybe.

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City hospital

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Four Sorrows Island

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Gambling House!

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Motor Pool - (an interesting mix there)

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Opium Den (out of faction)

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Pinball Arcade

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Sacred Heart Hospital

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Stone Garden

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Blue Moon Club

My reply
   We tried to come up with a really good combo with Dog Soldiers the other day, but just kept falling short. Having to attack means that you are risking throwing away a 3 cost character just to unturn a site, which really cripples what you're hoping to do.

Expendable Unit writes in:

I've been playing a deck with some success at my local (Copenhagen) Proving Ground/casual play environment, which makes good use of unturning a Mountain Fortress coupled with Obsidian Mountain, Shields of Darkness and Mark of Fire. Some success in this case means fast wins against two or three opponents on the strength of the combos contained within.
 
The idea is to attack with a character, which is boosted by the Mountain Fortress, and, provided the attack succeeds, attack with Dog Soldiers thereafter, unturning the Mountain Fortress, then using the Fortress on the Dog Soldiers. This should be a good way of providing cheap punchthrough and take some sites.
 
Mark of Fire, in this context, seems a good bargain, as it is common to be able to pay 1 power to add 2 damage to a Mountain Fortress (one point of damage done to MF, another to Obsidian Mountain), 1 damage to the target of the attack (ideally), and 1 damage to an interceptor (typically). An effective +4 damage to the target of the attack, you could say. If you're able to reuse MF with Dog Soldiers, the total is +6 damage for 1 power.
 
As the core consists of 15 cards of a single faction and 10 out of a probable 11-13 FSS, there is still plenty of options available in order to expand the deck into more than a one trick wolf or make it a steady machine of murder (Ice Shield, Snowblind, Pocket Demon, Plots and Intrigues/Blood Lust, etc.).
 
The reliability of decks and combos varies depending on which remedies are popular in different playgroups, obviously, and there are plenty to deal with this one. The MF + Dog Soldiers combo may seem hopeless in your environment. Locally, opponents do not always have a Whirlpool of Blood in play by turn 3 or 4, nor do I.
 
By turn 3, one might well have amassed the power to play this combo - all it takes is 1 power gained from an alternate source and a good draw (foundation, 2 fss (1 being MF), Dog Soldiers, Mark of Fire, (alternate PG if not an FSS already in play)).
 
In any event, I like gaining more figting with my Dog Soldiers, in order to better the odds of their reuse, rather than being able to gain a power at the expense of three power and four damage. I'm sure they won't mind partaking in Moonlight Raids along with Butterfly Knight, though.
  Fire Assassin
A good mid to late game card, you are hoping to get at least 6 Fighting for your 3 power, with the explosive potential of a lot more.  As a compensation for this high potential, you have the drawback of not being able to attack Sites, so you don't want to overload your deck with Fire Assassins.
  Fire Constructs
I am not a big fan just for one reason -- Shadowy Mentor.  If they steal your Constructs, you are just hating life.  The best you can hope for is getting out another Construct, and having a Mexican standoff.  Again, there are better choices for 3-cost Monarch characters, most notably Butterfly Knight.  Sure this guy does have a gas mask, but that's what Brain Fire is for.
  Fire Infiltrator
He's coasteriffic!  You always want Fire Warriors over this guy.  Not only will Warriors help you out of a resource screw, they have the potential to get even bigger than 3 Fighting.  
  Fire Martyr
A theme among the Monarchs seems to be 6 damage for 3 power when it comes to characters.  The Fire Martyr fits right into this model.  Like Bronze Sentinel, you need to be prepared to heal this card if you want it to make more than one attack, as your opponents will try to get at least two damage on it.  The + to Fighting can be triggered multiple times, so cards like Back For Seconds go well with Fire Martyr (as does Rig Dis).
  Fire Mystic
I sort of like this guy, but I have a penchant for non-Unique characters that can fit into new deck archetype.  If you get a couple out, you can rule the board Event-wise, but you will become a big target.  They will give a boost to those of you trying to build Fire designator based decks, and Inner Fire stops your opponents from using your Fire Mystics against you.  Remember that this is a triggered ability, so zap those Pocket Demons.  Add in Desolation Ridge for maximum punishment for opponents playing events.
  Ice Commandos
This card is bad if you aren't playing weapons, but decently good if you are. Spirit Pole is a must.  There isn't much to think about -- play character, attack, sneak in a weapon, take sites.  Thunder Lance is a great state with these guys, making them a 6 Ambusher for 3-cost.  Elephant Gun from Shaolin Showdown is looking also to be brutal on these guys -- but I don't expect it will be super common since the Gun is a promo and only available in limited quantities.  If you are lucky to get a couple of promo Elephant Guns, the Commandos can do an amazing amount of damage.
Ice Courtier
The Ice Courtier is a good all-around utility card for the Monarchs.  It can give you a boost in Magic if you are concentrating on Thunder or Fire resource characters.  It slows down Shadowy Mentor and Tortured Memories.  And, it effectively counters an Inauspicious Reburial against the Monarchs since most Monarch cards require only one resource.  It's hard not to throw one or two in a deck.
  Ice Falcons
For a 1-for-1 character to work, it needs a real good ability.  While Independent is a good ability, it needs to be in combination with a higher fighting score or an ability like Scrappy Kid's to make it worth playing.  The best use for Ice Falcons is in a Spirit Pole deck, where you want the explosive potential of 4 damage (Falcon + Shotgun) coming out of nowhere.  Of course, you should have maxed out on Thunder Squires before considering this card.
  Ice Shaman
The usefulness of this character is going to depend a lot on your groups play style.  He starts off pretty simply as an almost 2c-for-3f, and gets better the longer you can keep the shaman in play.  A couple in an Ice-based deck is a must, and it might be nice one-of for almost any non-Fanaticism deck.
  Ice Sorceress
In my opinion, this is a pretty junky card. You can do a few tricks with it, but small characters like this are too fragile to pull much off with.  The best you can hope for is to smoke a few sites by temporarily pumping their body -- not my favorite winning strategy.
Ice Tigers (Red Wedding)
The new Ice Tigers are an off-beat card.  They can sort of play like a White Disciple, sniping down a character prior to combat.  They also have 4 fighting, which is often just enough to take a softened site.  I think this will wind up being a mix of shark and turtle in the occasional play it will see.  The art by Melissa Benson is very spiffy.  Make that 'never see play.'  Too funky, and not enough utility to make it worth playing.
  Lord Shi (Netherworld)
On his own, Lord Shi is a 4-for-6 when attacking, which is the standard deal in Shadowfist.  While his ability is decent, it isn't that great a multiplier, as you rarely will be attacking with more than one or two other characters.  Lord Shi and a 1 Fighting resource character will do 8 damage to an undefended Site, which should be your target number for damage getting through.  
 

Naikute
This guy is okay, but he has to take a slight rating ding for his resource requirement -- he just doesn't deserve .  Without a weapon in your smoked pile, Naikute just a unique Silver Band, and Silver Band is going the way of the dodo.  Pretty much the deck you are putting this is is an Ice Commandos Spirit Pole deck, where it acts as your combo -- sort of.  Yes, he's really good when you pull off the Ice Sword combo, but you are really looking to do this on a regular basis with the rest of your deck, not just a Naikute one-shot.

Palm of Darkness
Finally, a good character with Tactics.  With all the crazy sites out there (*cough* *Temple*), it's very useful to be able to cancel them.  And Tactics actually works in combination with this ability, giving you a reason to want to attack and pull out.  This is a card that I have been squeezing into decks, and have always been happy with.
  Priestess of Itzocoliuhqui
This is just a filler character that you're hoping to boost up your
resources with.  Reload has mostly been an iffy ability, and it's best used on events, especially 0-cost ones.  Pretty much a card to play only because of theme, and there are other cards that serve the same purpose if you can get away from pure Darkness.  She is surprisingly okay in the sacrifice deck.  But, that is because you are reloading a trash card over and over again like Tortured Memories or Nerve Gas.
  Skin and Darkness Ravagers
These guys are better than I thought they were at first glance.  3-cost 3 Fighting stealth can usually get some damage into a site.  What makes these guys better than Just a Rat is Spirit Pole -- you have better access to State recycling.  The +2 damage against characters is gravy -- if you have to chump intercept, you get a couple of extra damage in, but most likely it wont do any good.
Skin and Darkness Zealots
What's with the all the skin?  These guys feel just about right for a mid-range character.  They have two abilities, neither of which is overpowering, and which can be used offensively.  I expect these guys to whack a lot of Mights and Shih Ho Kauis...I've become taken with the Zealots, and try to sneak them in as many decks as possible.  We have way to many of the giant X characters lying around, and these guys do put the bite on them, and, surprisingly, their cancel does have some cool interactions with other cards when you least expect it.
  Soul Diver
Playing this Soul Diver  requires a fairly good knowledge of the game, as you will need to know the abilities of characters in your opponents' Smoked piles, and how they interact with cards in the game.  And believe me, trying to keep track of 20+ cards (don't forget you need to keep track of the cards in play, too) can be quite a chore.  Still, this card can be a game winner, and it's a great way to punish your opponents' for playing powerful cards.  This effect has been duplicated on the Violet Senshei chamber.
  Storm Riders
If you have a Thunder character in play, this card is good.  If you can't keep a Thunder character in play, it's a coaster.  Think of this card as Nerve Gas for characters with 4 Fighting or less.  And it's reusable when used on characters of 3 or less Fighting.  Also remember that Thunder has a hard time getting out that magic resource -- it's either a 2-cost non-foundation, or you're splashing another monarch sub-faction.
  Teutonic Knights
Sigh, yet another missed opportunity for Thunder to provide a little
.  These guys pretty much have a place in one deck -- a Thunder/Armies/Fanaticism deck. Note that these guys can get big, but they're fragile.  Completely janktastic (see a theme in Thunder?).  The Tomb of Itzi is a must so you can knock down the price on all those edges you are clogging your deck with.
Thunder Apprentice
I'm not terribly happy with this guy.  The Thunder Apprentice is just a mini Thunder Initiate, and not original enough.  Yes, he's going to let you get that much needed magic resource in your Thunder deck, but he's so gimpy.  If I had designed Red Wedding, I would have dropped this card and added a magic resource to the Thunder Gladiator so instead of two so-so cards, you had a good card (and not that the Monarchs are lacking for good 1-cost magic providing foundations).  The Huan Ken was always my favorite of the four monarchs, but the ultra-gimpy direction for Thunder has got me thinking twice.  Thunder hunh,, what is it good for?
  Thunder Bishop
More Thunder jank for the King to rue.  This card's ability is worse than some abilities that you find on 2-cost foundation characters.  If you are really trying to build the all-Thunder deck, it does give you some more Magic, but I would recommend playing five Thunder Initiates before resorting to the Bishop.
Thunder Captain
Yes, this guy is a Thunder Knight, so your Thunder Squires are going to be able to recycle him.  While he doesn't really have any special abilities that are going to be useful in-game, the Captain does give you some power rebates, eventually making him cost less than his printed cost of 4.  He's at least going to be a 3-cost for 5 Fighting if you play him right -- normally, I'm not a huge fan of these mid-cost thugs, but the chance of a power a turn, a Fanaticism boost, and the recycling make this guy very playable in the right deck.  His power generating ability doesn't trigger in a Faceoff, so you aren't running him in that type of deck.  Forget about Thunder Faceoff -- Captains and Squires is a beating in the house, what you really want in a Thunder Theme anyways.
  Thunder Champion
The Thunder Champion is an interesting case -- he has a seemingly good ability, but it's hard to pull off.  He takes any site that is defended by 2 or less Fighting, but then with his own Fighting of 5, he may have done it anyway.  The best use for this card is against unrevealed Sites -- that is where you are most likely to make a score.  Of course, be prepared to defend the Site, as the Thunder Champion's ability doesn't allow you turn burn.  This is one of those abilities that just goes great with Rigorous Discipline.
  Thunder Initiate
This is one of the 3 Thunder cards that provide magic, so you have to resort to 5 of them in a Thunder theme deck if you need to fuel magic events.  His ability is okay -- not as good as Military Commandant, but he does let you do extra damage without losing a defender, and does work with Thunder Lance.
  Thunder Inquisitor
I just don't quite get this card.  Just as everyone knows that Blanket of Darkness is good, they also know that Dr. April Mucosa is bad, and, in my opinion, this card is more the latter than the former.  If you are the Thunder fanatic, you will drop a Thunder Sword on him, which combined with Fanaticism, gives him the ability to lower damage by 7.  And then you get to use it in a Face Off -- I just don't see Thunder Inquisitor being used that much.  Faceoff jank.  No reason to play this over the Blanket outside of a rigid designator deck, and even then, it's not a great strategy.  Sure, I know you want to play Thunder Sword on him -- go for it!
Thunder Squire
There are currently two cards the Thunder Squire can return to play -- Thunder Knight and Butterfly Knight, and you want to include it in any deck that includes the latter.  The Thunder Squire/Butterfly Knight has been a staple of the Monarch's offense, but with the addition of Underworld Tracker in Throne War, you may need to play with caution.  Note the tech of sacrificing the Squire if he is the target of an attack -- not only do you get back a better character, the attack will be unsuccessful.
  Thunder Swordsman
Blah... a mediocre (if not bad) addition to the Thunder Knight deck at best.  Butterfly Knight is just way better, and Swords just suck in comparison to the good stuff you want to be playing like Shotguns.  And even if you are playing swords, you will probably want to put them on your B-Fly Knights over Thunder Swordsmen anyways.  And, you are going to mostly likely want to fetch B-Flies with your Thunder Squires too, since they don't need a state to hit for 6.
  Thunder Valkyries
Pretty much a turkey, you almost always want Butterfly Knights over this guy.  Make no mistake, they aren't no Walking Corpses.
 
 

HITTERS

 

Anastasia
Hey, I think it's the Ice Shards little sister!  (except this time the cost is right).  Not a lot to say about Anastasia, other than she's really good.  She's not going to be intercepted, and makes amazing defense.  Drop an Ice Sword on her, and have have a Brain Fire in hand, and go to town.  The art preview for this card is up on eBay and it's kind of disappointed -- where is the kick-ass fu that 7 Fighting deserves?  I wanted something like Ice Shards -- now them you don't want to mess with!

  Blade of Darkness
The addition of Blade of Darkness from Throne War gave the Monarchs a much needed option when picking mid-sized characters.  While you shouldn't expect to gain much power from Blade of Darkness, you can expect it to hit sites.  Beware the Darkness trap -- the Monarch's best foundation character, best Edge and now best 4-for-6 all share the Darkness designator, making them Discerning Fire bait.
  Bonebreaker Jun
The Bonebreaker is kind of like General Fung - a decent ratio and ability, but nothing outrageous.  Straight up he's a 4-cost 7 Fighting with Toughness:1, which is about what you'd expect in a unique requiring three resources.  His gravy abilities are playing faceoffs for free and unturning afterwards.  That's actually pretty good, but with the caveat that you are going to have to be playing faceoffs.  He basically goes in two decks -- Thunder Knights and Thunder Faceoff, which is better than going in only one deck.  Thunder jank -- nothing to get overly excited about.
Chamberlain
Hrm...  Here we have a darkness character with ice and thunder abilities, which is kinda strange, but not unprecedented.  If there is a unique character on the board with 5-6 or less fighting, he sort of becomes a Black Ops Trooper, but otherwise, he is falling a little short on getting a lot of stuff to work.  At a hefty 5 cost, I think he's a little too pricey/specialized to see a lot of play (but I could be wrong)  As I hinted at above -- Chamberlain is either really good or really bad.  He's amazing if you can play him, assassinate a 6 fighting unique character, then attack again.  When that doesn't happen (which is a lot of the time), he's sort of like Little Jim -- he can heal unpredictably, but he doesn't have the monstrous fighting.
 

Daughter of Flame
The Daughter is playable, even if boring.  The ability is decent, as knocking cards out of your opponents' hand has a potential to disrupt them.  So, we have a card that's kind of bland on its own, but you can combine it with the few other cards that take advantage of the discards (Paper Trail) or an opponent's hand size (Father of Chaos) for a little synergy.

Fakhir-al-Din
Where's the beef?  Well, I got some for ya right here.  Fakhir's not broken, but he's strong.  You are going to have to watch when you play him so you don't roast your own characters, but he can do a little bit of global damage and toughness:1 is a nice touch of gravy.  You can ensure that he has his toughness when he needs it by packing some Mark of Fires.  You might also be able to get a rebate from playing by dropping a Blood Lust.   Did I mention that Fakhir only requires 2 Monarch resources?  He's solidly good -- not a Lord Hawksmore, but one of the best thugs you can find in a Fire deck (you probably don't want him in your Legacy deck as he's going to clear all your designator foundations that you are trying to keep alive).
  General Fung
Arrrgh... why does the Fungster need three Monarch resources?  That really feels out of theme with the Monarchs, and really hurts if you are playing a multi-faction deck with 2-cost resource characters.  Tactics comes into play every now and then, but what you are really hoping for is a 4-cost 8 Fighting thug.  Late game Fung can get huge, but after 8 or 9, fighting usually doesn't matter.
  Ice Shards
Ice Shards didn't used to have much competition in the 6+ Fighting range, but now there are several alternatives, so this card isn't a default hitter for the Monarchs.  Still, it does have an interesting ability, and unlike Kan Li, you can Smoke any State, not just the one on the character that this card is in combat with.  While sometimes you can get a Shadowy Mentor, don't forget that Ice Shards also gets rid of those those pesky Stakes like The Foxed Outfoxed, which can be plaguing your Pagodas.  
  Ice Vixen
Boy, can Monarch cards in BCL do anything but heal?  The bummer of this card is that your opponent is going to heal it when they play Shadowy Mentor on it.  Otherwise, you are playing it with Spirit Pole and maybe some Ice Commandos for variety.  0 cost states are the best of course, and Ice Vixen would look pretty good with an Amulet of the Turtle.  Extra props for a Monarch/ Hand deck with Shaolin Surprise.
  Itzcoliuhqui
This guy pretty much lends himself to one deck --
Undead with Aztec Mumies, Walking Corpses and maybe a Cenotaph or two (I'd pass on Legion of the Damned).  The double damage from Fire is just a stupid penalty that's going to cause you to lose the odd-game because someone's playing a Fire deck.  The best card in the deck is of course Temple of Angry Spirits, and the sites pretty much fill themselves out -- don't go crazy on Tombs and Temples, as you'll still need some sites for the general control aspects of the game (i.e. Whirlpools and Waterfalls).  Again, a one-deck pony, but it's fun for a novelty while 2FT is fresh off the shelves.
 

Jaguar Warriors
Again we have another character that fails to impress me.  I'm okay with the Blade of Darkness, but these guys just seem to fall short.  While their ability affects all interceptors, I generally think Toughness:1 is better.  They do have the designator Soldiers, which will let you do a few tricks, but I'm still unimpressed.  I still they aren't as good as Blade, which is a scarcely played card to begin with.

  Jiang Xushen
While this guy pretty much only goes into a Fire deck, what makes this guy potentially strong is Feeding the Fires -- he is right in that range where you can really bust out with only two fire counters.  His ability triggers every now and then, and you can pack some extra Chi-cards in your deck to try and take advantage of it.  I don't know how good the Fire-Chi deck is, and maybe just a straight Fire deck will do better.
  Khalid Al-Haddad
The Fire Assassin is okay, and more playable than Madam Yen in my opinion.  Play him, whack someone, get a 1 power rebate or draw 2 cards in a pinch -- not nutsy cuckoo, but okay.  Don't over look the secret tech of smoking a site (especially non Feng Shui or Battleground) to gain a power and get rid of an annoyance.  Not much more to add -- he's not a crazy killer like Chamberlain, but he's got a much easier opportunity cost, and expect him to use it every turn he lives.  Khalid is better in a waxy character build-up metagame as he's more an anti-character card, although he does have anti non-FSS potential.
  King of the Fire Pagoda (Netherworld)
Currently, Fire is the weakest of the four splinters in the Monarchs, and their King personifies this.  At only 9 Fighting, he is the smallest of the siblings, and he requires the most strategy to use his abilities.  First, doing a damage when playing Fire cards is a no-brainer, but you don't want to overload your deck on them as generally, there are better cards to play.  Shattering Fire, Brain Fire and Discerning Fire are probably the best three, and all are Events.  The King of the Fire Pagoda's second ability requires good timing and strategic picking of targets if you want to do more than one point a turn with him.  You opponents will try to make your attack unsuccessful to save themselves from a barrage of fire.  Oddly enough, you don't have to worry about that if you dare to play the Ascended's Open Season along with the Fire King.
  King of the Fire Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
Boy, I can't think of a situation where I'd ever want to play the new Fire King over the old Fire King.  New does have +1 Fighting, but the leap between 8 and 9 in almost unnoticeable, especially considering the King pings for 1 when he attacks.  The recycle Events is iffy at best -- what hurts is losing the ping when you play a Fire card ability -- N2 introduces enough new Fire cards to make the ability really work (especially the Acolytes).  Even with all the Fire/Chi cards that have been introduced in Shaolin Showdown, I am still liking the old Fire King better.
  King of the Thunder Pagoda (Netherworld)
The King of the Thunder Pagoda is the ultimate beating stick.  13 Fighting (he gives himself his own bonus) takes sites left and right.  Of course, he does have a loyalty problem.  But then you can turn that into a great counter to Shadowy Mentor if you can accumulate mass amounts of power.  The King is always lots of fun when he hits the table.
  King of the Thunder Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
The King is still a thug, but does have a new ability and is missing his drawback.  He goes in the Thunder deck, and that's about it.  The old King is still very playable, but in non-Monarch decks -- this is the guy you want to pump up your Thunder Knights.
Lord Hawksmoore
There's not a lot to say about this card -- everything about it is so good it speaks for itself.  5 cost for 8 fighting is very average, but add in Guts and this starts to look decent.  Then add in the 2 power rebate when an opponent smokes him, and he's turbo.  I expect to see him making some Golden Comebacks, and Lord Hawksmoore is likely to be a chase card for 10KB if Siksada didn't completely blow the art like he has on other cards.
  Lord Shi vNew
Well, it's an improvement at least.  +1 Fighting might just make enough of a difference to consider him for more decks.  And surprisingly, Tactics is okay, since you can use his ability to pump up a bunch of foundations, and if you opponents make an effort to take out Lord Shi with interceptors, you can pull him out and retain the fighting bonus on other characters.  Don't overlook stupid Kinoshita House tricks or Back for Seconds to pump up Lord Shi a second time.
  Lord Wolfgang Thaler
Here we have another thug, who's slightly above average (it's the Toughness:1 that helps).  Not much strategy here -- play him and attack (preferably an opponent with no power).  You don't want to be targeting him yourself with events too often, but that's a duh.  Sort of blah, and you may want to play a one-of, but with Lord Hawksmoore, The Baron and Silver Jet, how much space to you have in your deck for thugs?
  Lucius Centares
Only goes in one deck unfortunately, where you are hoping to get him up to 8 Fighting or more.  Pure thug, but can put out some damage late game.  Still, there are still other, better cards to consider like the new Lord Shi.
  Mouth of the Fire Righteous
The Mouth be really nasty.  Sure he has some juice in a Fire deck, pumping up attacking characters and getting a cost break from Feeding the Fires, but his real power is in his damage ability.  That extra 3 points really can shake up a defense and let you burn that needed site, and then use the burn power to roast anyone who comes your way with the Mouths ability.  The Mouth's lack of a gas mask just might be enough to keep him in check (and maybe a little Listerine if he gets bad breath).  He works well with Burning for Power (you will have the power to use his ability).  I like Hall of Portals with the Mouth -- it really discourages attacks.  And unlike other specialty characters, the Mouth has an acceptable cost to fighting ratio, and you don't need to keep him unturned to use his ability.
Once and Future Champion
First off you need to be able to put the horrible N2 storyline out of your head when you play this card -- just think of him as a beating stick.  He's got four abilities -- one for each of the Monarchs, some better than others.  What's really important is that he's the biggest Monarch character with a gas mask, and doesn't have any common designators for Discerning Fire.  Almost a must in every Monarch deck.
Queen of the Darkness Pagoda
Toasty toasty?  The Queen of the Darkness Pagoda is a powerhouse when on the board, but again, suffers from a duality problem. On the one hand, her ability makes you want to attack characters, while on the other hand, he high Fighting and and power cost will steer you towards sites.  The Queen is obviously best against the recycling cards, like Underworld Tracker and Golden Comeback, but can help out your own Netherworld Return.  Beware the lone Kung Fu Student with Rigorous Discipline, as he is the Queen's bane.  Then again, you can use the Hand to your advantage by copying the Queen's ability on to your own resource characters and toast away.
Queen of the Ice Pagoda (Netherworld)
This card is the best hitter for every faction except the Dragons (who have Ting Ting and Golden Gunman).  Make no mistake, this isn't really a Monarch card, it's unaligned.  The Queen's very respectable Fighting of 11 (she gives her own bonus to herself) combined with protection from Shadowy Mentor (and a few other annoying States), she is a force to be reckoned with.  The only faction that doesn't fear her is the Architects with their Event take out.  Of course, you can pack Brain Fire's for added protection for your Queen, or more often than not, she is really the big hitter in your Hand deck, and you have all sorts of ways to protect her.
  Queen of the Ice Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
Sigh... well, the old Queen was too good, but it would have been nice to see some new ability on the N2 version like on the Thunder King.  This is still a decent card -- it pumps all your Ice guys by 1, and has the all important Mentor defense for your own cards.  But, no longer can you do tricky stuff like smoking your own states and replaying them with Spirit Pole.
Silver Jet (Red Wedding)
This fall, you are cordially invited to Red Wedding, the marriage of the Ice Queen to Silver Jet. Anyone who has cause why this marriage should not take place, open fire now or forever hold your peace.

Unique. Independent. Toughness: 1. When you declare him as an attacker, name a card, which cannot be played in response :: His target's controller must show you his or her hand and discard all cards with that title.

Her Majesty's Secret Warrior is back, and with a vengeance.  The Flashpoint version was quirky, and you could play it for free every now and then, but without an in play ability he was sort of chunky.  This one you've got to pay the full 5 power for, but he's got a couple of good abilities, and then some.  I'm sure you've all played enough to know how good Independent is, as well as Toughness:1.  On top of that you have a hand zapping ability which can be quite useful.  Expect a big target to be placed on Silver Jet when he gets played.  He fits in that strange niche just below the monarchs themselves, along with the Once and Future Champion.  I've grown fond of Silver Jet, and you damn-well better expect him in any Monarch deck I'm playing.  He mows through Mooks and attacks at will.  The built-ini denial is very quirky (it's no Primus, who's a game winner), but with a little bit of luck you can knock a card out of someone's hand -- and even if you don't you got a nice little scouting report.

  Sir Gawain
4-cost 6 Fighting with Guts -- there isn't much more to say about this guy.  You are probably going to want to save your weapons for Ice Commandos anyways.  I still prefer The Baron, Silver Jet and The Once and Future Champion for non-element aligned Monarch backup.  Brass Monkey has shown that a Reloadable hitter does have some benefit, especially in a meta-game where you are worked about getting decked.  No love for Sir Gawain -- he's just doesn't have the juice he needs to be played over The Baron.
The Baron
Ignore the anti-Thunder ability.  This card is either a 2-cost 6 Fighting, or a 0-cost 6 Fighting.  One of the best cards in N2, it's a Walking Corpses style beating stick.  Not much else to say -- its like the Champion, you want to play at least one in every Monarch deck except for Thunder (where Mentor/Tortured Memories would be too painful).
 

Thunder Bird
Bwaaak!  The Big Bird of Shadowfist!  This is your somewhat below average +X fighting character.  First off, it has no ability other than gaining Fighting, but, at least it doesn't go poof when hit by a Larcenous Mist.  Now, the question is, how big will it get?  At you are going to want at least 8 Fighting to be decent and are really hoping for 10+ --  depending on your meta-game, that's either going to happen towards the endgame, or not. Our metagame is very aggressive, and often players will have 1 or no FSS in play.  Other times, everyone will have 2 sites -- it's really hard to predict.  This is not really a comeback card, as you want FSS in play to maximize the effect.  Also remember that Thunder Bird can shrink fairly fast if a lot of sites go boom in a rapid succession -- and you may want to seize rather than burn sites you take, which can be somewhat limited.   T-Bird is just crying out for you to play some janky sites to get some chocolate in his peanut butter -- Auspicious Termites and Turtle Island can't be burned, so you can up the sites in play count that way, and ultra-jank Ancestral Sanctuary doesn't count for victory, so you can theoretically have 9 FSS in play all on your own to pump T-Bird.

  Xitllali
This is another card that underwhelms me.  Even if her ability was free I'm not sure how good it would be, but at 1 power it's very costly, and it depends on what your opponents are playing -- I like decks that have synergy with my own cards.  Think about it -- would you rather play the Xit, or just a regular old Blade of Darkness?  Canceling character is good.  States, iffy.  But, when I want to blank a character, I don't want to spend a power for it, and I don't want to have a 4-cost character at the same location.
 
 

EVENTS

Avenging Thunder
One of the stock Monarch Events, you should play (and expect it from) every Monarch deck.  This is also a great card to bluff having.  Combine it with Bite of the Jellyfish to utterly hose your opponents.  Since Avenging Thunder is a One-Shot, it's a toss up whether you want one or two in your deck.
  Battle Cry
This is an alternative to Shattering/Discerning Fire, and can pack in a little bit of damage.  Still, it's somewhat limited in scope, and has to compete with the two new 0-cost Monarch events in this set.  This one will take a little time to sort out.  If you are playing mono-Monarchs, Shattering Fire just might be a little better, but if you are going Mon/Jam, this might work okay (for Mon/Arc, you have the better 1-c Architect events).
  Blood and Thunder
It's the revenge of Superior Technology.  Well, it's a little better in the Thunder deck (which is the only deck you are playing this in).  If you're lucky, you can tech out your opponent by getting through a damage redirection effect.  Butterfly Knight is an obvious combo, letting you hit for a potential 10 damage, and if you're really lucky, you can parlay that into two sites if you have a little back up.
  Blood Lust
Mark of Fire seems to be the obvious combo with Blood Lust.  You might try it in a few other decks and see how far you get.  I don't think you want to add this and Mark of Fire to any old deck -- you need to think about how Mark is going to work on its own.  Holding an Event until you draw its complement is just going to clog your hand a lot of the time.  It's okay, but I've never seen this abused to a point where you are rolling in power.  There are lots of choices for extra power, and this is just one of many.  Of course, Fakir-al-Din just gave this card a nice boost.
Brain Fire
This is the Event that defines the Monarchs as a faction.  Brain Fire is one of the few cards that costs more than one Monarch resource, and your opponents will be checking to see whether you have them before playing targeted Events.  The only drawback to this card is that it can clog up your hand, as you hold on to it waiting for just the right use.  Some factions (most notably Jammers and Dragons) don't have as many targeted Events as other factions, so you may not want to hold on to Brain Fire against them (and definitely not multiples).  Keep an eye out for Petroglyphs, which see occasional play.
 

Chain Lightning
At first, this looks to be a strong card, but, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, what's under the hood may not match the paint.  There are 4 cards to compare Chain Lighting with:  Mark of Fire, Kunlun Clan Assault, Shattering Fire and Discerning Fire.  Mark of Fire is good -- we all know that.  And it's really good of you can pull off the Blood Lust combo.  Kunlun is also good, but expensive.  For two power, Shattering Fire is going to do a lot of damage, probably 10-20 (Chain always does 10) -- but, Shattering is most likely going to smoke (or seriously damage) the biggest threat.  Finally we have Discerning Fire, which again, has proven itself to be one of the most versatile cards in the game. Sure, sometimes you just can't find a match, but other times you are totally wrecking a deck -- and you can zap non-character cards to boot.  Chain is difficult because it needs so many character targets -- remember Mark is any 4 targets.  And ideally you want the targets to be of increasing fighting -- spending 2 power to Chain for foundations is bleh.  I don't know, maybe this card will prove situationally useful, and warrant throwing one in some decks.  Oh, did I mention Thunder in the West -- I think that's much more of card to be playing with than Chain Lightning.

 

Combat Courtship
I think this card is more a power-generating event than a Face Off.  You are hoping to take out your opponents' foundations with your slightly larger foundations and maybe pocket a power.  With Fanaticism deck, this should happen enough to almost consider playing Combat Courtship.  And it could be a nice boost for the Faceoff deck (and makes a decent event to return with Contest of Arms).  Two words:  Face Off.

Contest of Arms
Unlike a few of the other faceoffs, it looks like this one might see play in a wide variety of decks.  You are recycling your own events, so you have a lot of control over it.  While the Monarchs don't have the greatest selection of events, there are the old staples of Brain Fire and Pocket Demon.  For bonus points you can get back Avenging Thunder.  The strength of this card is in multifaction, where you are getting back a power event.  I think Ring of Gates can be played in response to Contest of Arms to cancel it, but with the current level of confusing and erratic rulings, I can't say for sure.  Goes in the faceoff deck, gets back your bad but already played faceoffs.  Not much else to say.
  Darkness Falls
A card strictly for fun, where you hope to get lucky and sneak in a win with it.  The biggest problem is that it requires you to have multiple attackers, and the more the better.  Attack with your King or Queen and a pair of resource characters, and hope to get lucky on the random interceptions.
  Dark Sacrifice
Yikes!  This card can be evil, especially if you have a little excess power to burn.  And if you haven't figured it out, this card is near obscene if you can get a couple of Darkness Priestesses in play.  Sounds like another deck to make with Inauspicious Return.  For added juice, play with cards that are going to make your opponent lose power -- Mole Network followed up by Dark Sacrifice is just plain nasty.
  Earth Wind and Fire
Expensive...  For the price of a Neutron Bomb, what do you get?  You are hopefully smoking one character and healing all your characters and sites.  Healing is good as a 0 cost effect (Healing Earth and Sacred Heart Hospital), but when is the last time you saw Beneficial Realignment get a lot of play?  And the targeted damage to/smoking of a character costs 1.  Combine the two and you get a card that's really hard to play, but it might be worth sneaking 1 in a deck to try it out (maybe Feeding the Fires will help the cost some).
Mark of Fire
Mark of Fire sets the bar for damage -- 1 power should get you at least 4 damage with other cards.  Not only can this reduce a weenie horde to ashes, it can also give you that valuable site reconnaissance.  If your opponents doesn't have 4 targets, don't be afraid to hit a site of your own if you need to.
Netherworld Return
Along with Positive Chi, this is a denial Event.  By playing Netherworld Return during an opponent's attack (before interceptions are chosen), you can fill up the board with characters and have mass combat ensue.  Of course, you can try to tip the odds in your favor by manipulating Smoked piles.  Inauspicious Reburial and The Displaced are good for removing big cards from your opponents, while cards like Ghost Assassin and Tomb Spirit can make it easier to get back the card you want.  Plains of Ash has given Netherworld Return a new lease on life.
  Plots and Intrigues
Well, it'll give ya a little boost of power, but over the course of the game, it wont amount to a huge amount.  Revealing your Feng Shui can be both good and bad -- it really depends on the mix you are playing, and you're going to want to restrict what you play somewhat if you're trying to maximize Plots (i.e. you may want to consider eschewing City Parks).  Overall, you're going to get maybe 1-2 power tops from a Plot, and even less if you're playing 5 in a deck.  I know you're salivating over having playing it turn 2 for two extra power, but that's iffy-city.  With so many choices for power generating events, this really sifts down to the bottom of the pile -- before playing this, think a moment -- will Blood Lust get you as much (if not more) power?
  Ritual of Death
This is some mildly amusing random jank you can throw into a deck and try to get some usage out of.  It's very situational and costly, but it can gum up the works for an opponent.  Sacrificing a character that is about to be smoked is usually the best way to go, but you can also use it as a costly way to create an unsuccessful attack against one of your characters.  Of course, it's just not as good as Snowblind (and what is?)  Maybe you have a few other sacrifice gimmicks, but then again, maybe you don't.  This is the Queen's Wrath, but for the sacrifice deck -- nothing exciting, but you might get a little combo action.
  Sibling Rivalry
The Monarchs are indeed their worst enemy, and this Event proves it.  The best use for this is smacking that Queen of the Ice Pagoda that your opponent just couldn't resist putting in their deck.  Note that while Sibling Rivalry will cancel a Brain Fire, the opposite is not true -- Sibling Rivalry is not targeted.
Snowblind
This card is just gross.  Not because it's overpowered, but because it has the potential to slow the game to a crawl.  I've played the deck with 5 of them, and it pretty much guarantees that the game will drag on.  It's a natural in the darkness Battleground deck, and you can hose someone's turn when they go for an easy Battleground pickoff to generate power if they don't have independent characters.  Look to see this a lot.

Thunder in the West
Danger Will Robinson!  Broken Card Alert!  I am seeing a lot of potential problems with this card goofing up games.  I don't know if you've played with Cutting Loose Ends much, but it's an amazing card, and TitW has a similar function (if you time it right).  This card can be denial (especially if an opponent only has 1 character and no other cards), and it can also be used as punch through.  And this card is neither One-Shot or Toast It, so look for multiples AND possible recursion.

Joey B. Ferreira writes:
I should mention that (as of the last time the question came up in playtest) Thunder in the West will not combo with your own Darkness Priestesses; your opponents choose the victims, but you are considered to be the one toasting them.  It's still a brutal card that I'm not glad to see printed, but at least it can't also be fantastic alt power gen.

My response:
I remember that being the case as well, but the current wording could be clearer (one of the sub-themes in this set!), and in their effort to up the power level after the final round of testing, I thought they had changed it back.  Still I think this card is going to be problematic.  Who knows, maybe this card will wind up like Positive Chi -- amazingly borked, but never played (although I think Thunder clearing the board may be close to a bomb-like effect to go for the win).

Snowfall
Spend 2 power.  Attack ends.  Boring.  This is a big stopper, and is going to be more a problem in the slow buildup metagame than in our speedy aggressive environment, where having 2 extra power can sometimes cost a premium.  I'm still liking Snowblind over Snowfall -- it's cheap, and stopping one attacker is often enough to bollocks up an attack.  I rarely if ever see this card -- compare it to two of the best 2-cost event attack denials:  Blade Palm and Blow Things Up!  Both of those have uses outside of stopping attacks, and, for your 2 power, you are setting an opponent back a card besides denying a win. 
Transmogrification
This State trashing Event more than makes up for the jankiness of the Thunder cards in Red Wedding.  0-cost State removal seems very playable, even if it only works on Character States.  Transmog is a fair Mentor defense, even though it's going to slap some damage on your character.  Like Waterfall Sanctuary, it's also going to be trashing all those useful Weapons and Vehicles that Z-Man has been trying to get you to play with.  I would always play with at least 1 in a Monarch deck just to keep your opponent's honest.  Wait wait, what do we hate?  States! States!  We hate states!  Still a solid card, and I'm still seeing it in a lot of decks.  Yeah, it's reactive and can clog your hand, but there are enough character states being played to make this card worthwhile.
Wedding Gifts
More jankiness, this card can at least go into any Dra/Mon deck.  Notice the super-tech of playing only Silver Jet to get the off faction resource (or the original Ice Queen in any deck with Dragons).  I'm not sure how much of a power boost this is going to give you -- it could be a lot or a little.  Either way, it's going to be hard call as to whether to go with Wedding Gifts, Pocket Demon or Dirk Wiseley's Gambit for some primo alternate power generation.  This card is a one-shot, so I don't think I'd play two unless it was in a huge deck.  You do get to prance around and say "look what the happy couple got!" whenever you do play it, so that's gotta be worth something...  Time has shown this to be okay -- like Secret Pact, it's a card you definitely want one of in any deck with the resources.   Expect to get an average of about 2 power per usage (with the occasional big score).
Wrath of the Monarchs
Along with Transmogrification, I expect this card to be seen in a lot of decks.  The number one card it's going to trash is Whirlpool of Blood, but there are lots of other sites it's going to smoke as well.  There are also a ton of Monarch characters that this is going to get rid of.  It's more versatile than Sibling Rivalry, which I do occasionally see, but I don't expect to see much after people get a hold of this common.  Wrath of the Monarchs also cancels, so gone is gone.  Don't overlook Netherworld Return, the one event this card stops as well.  Zap! Zorch!  Die die die!  This card has proven to be very playable.  Sure, 80% of the time, it's a 1-cost Blow Netherworld Site Up! that's used to slow down and opponent and deny them a power generation, but that other 20%, it's the previous and win-denial.  And rarely, it's a Sibling Rivalry -- speaking of Sibling Rivalry, this pretty much out classes it in all but the most Monarch heavy metagames.
 
 

STATES

Avenging Fire
Ba-roken!  This state is as brutal as they get -- it keeps on going and going and going...   What makes Avenging Fire especially painful is that it isn't One-Shot like its brother, Avenging Thunder -- it's just Limited, so playing 2-3 in a deck isn't going to hurt.  Since it's the start of every turn, this goes crazy in multiplayer.  If people are good about attacking left, they are looking at 3-4 points of savage lovin' before their next turn on one of their columns. I have seen this card all on it's own take someone from strongest to weakest player.
Butterfly Armor
Notice the designator -- that means all of you Fanaticism junkies out there aren't going to be playing this too much.  But otherwise, it seems a pretty good mid-to-late game card.  Attacking twice is strong, as you all know from the Butterfly Knight.  I am going to guess that you will see 1 or 2 of these dropped into the occasional Monarch "good stuff" deck with Spirit Poles.  I really haven't seen this much at all.  It's sort of Back for Seconds, but it's sort of not.  Maybe it's the chunky resource requirement that keeps you from abusing Butterfly Armor with Stealth and Superleap.
  Claws of Darkness
If you time it right, this is a free state.  The goal is to attack a character, drop the Claws of Darkness as a surprise, and gain a power at the end of the turn.  This is always a good play first turn with a Darkness Priestess.  Claws of Darkness also make a decent State to recycle with Spirit Pole.
  Curse of Itzcoliiuhqui
Chewy!  Well, if you don't know by now how to play Helix Chewer, there's no hope for you.  While this version doesn't return to your hand, you can mess with your opponents a little by making them discard -- of course, if their hand was clogged, this is helping them out!  This is just sort of a card to dump and and fun with -- there's not a whole lot of strategy involved.  I have a hard time playing this card over The Queens Wrath, which I don't play that often.
  Enchanted Sword
With Enchanted Sword you can expect a two to four point bonus to Fighting, but only if you are behind in power generating sites.  You can try and offset this with Proving Grounds, though.  Usually, you are better off with Thunder Sword, as it will always be a 4 at least for that first attack.  I also prefer Sword of the Master if you can get your hands on some.
Fire Sled
While sometimes it's hard to find room for Fire Sleds in a deck, you are usually happy when you draw them.  The come out for free, so all they cost you is a draw, and with only one Monarch resource required, the wont clog up your hand.  And there is no end to the annoying sites your opponents can be playing -- early game this stops a Cave Network, while late game you are immune to Kinoshita House, City Square, Turtle Beach and Fox Pass.  Palm of Darkness has a built in Fire Sled (as does White Ninja), so you should adjust your playing of this state accordingly.
Fire Sword
While not outstanding, Fire Sword is just about where you think it should be given the current State power curve.  You might be able to do a few new stupid sword tricks, but I'm thinking that your basic recycling is the way to go (especially at 1 power from a Slo Mo Vengeance).  It's a nice extra beats, and clearly better than some of the earlier cards like Enchanted Sword.  Again, not bad as a surprise in a Monarch 'good stuff' deck, and, if you are a gutton for punishment, you can make a rigid Fire/Hand/Chi/Sword deck.
  Flying Crescent
Flying Crescent is so bad, even if it cost no power, you still wouldn't be playing it.  Mark of Fire does the job almost as good and you just have to play it -- not worry about attacking and getting intercepted.
  Ice Diadem
Another stock card in the Spirit Pole deck, Ice Diadem goes great with your big hitters.  It's a lot like Blood of the Valiant -- by turning this State to heal your character after inceptions have passed, you can hit your target for full damage.
  Ice Shield
This is a great punch through card.  If you've ever played Festival of Giants, you know what I mean.  It's not really that slow at 2 resources, and it's good at almost any time.  Rarely are you ever playing the power to keep this in play, but it's always an option.  This card is especially rocking on Butterfly Knights, who are always getting intercepted.
 

Ice Sword
This falls right in the top- middle of all of the 2-cost for +3 Fighting states.  It's not the best, but it's far from the worst.  I still like Sword of the Master best in this group, and the BK-97 as a good follow up.  The obvious combo is with Ice Commandos, but I'm not sure that it's going to be a good as Elephant Gun for delivering beats.  What this card is going to discourage is interceptors -- no foundations characters are going to throw their lives away knowing that you are going to just heal up that damage after combat.  A pretty average state, almost worth playing for 2 power, really good for less.

  Obsidian Dagger
Here we have sort of a theme card, that theoretically lets you gain power for performing sacrifices.  Anyone remember Vivisection Agenda?  No?  I didn't think so.  Assasinate and +1 damage doesn't really cut the mustard (how often do you play Really Big Gun, which is +2 damage?).  Honestly, I've a fan of Claws of Darkness, which is all around better, sneaker, and just plain cooler.  Bad bad bad.  This actually went from 2 to 1 to 0 in the sacrifice deck.  It's really bad.  Bad bad.
  Path of the Fire Righteous
Yet another card for only one deck -- the Fire-Chi deck.  This Path is a souped up Training sequence, with a few goodies.  You can play it early game on a resource Fire character to get you some Chi (although there are very few Chi cards to play early game since you already have access to Magic for Pocket Demon), but I think the best use is late game where you can respond to Operation Killdeer or a Puzzle Garden with some sneaky CHAR-like tech.
Prisoner of the Monarchs
While in the storyline it's the Thunder King who takes the Man With No Name prisoner, I am sure all of the monarchs have detention cells.  This is a card that revolutionizes the monarchs by giving them effective character removal.  Sure it's only temporary, and doesn't net you much power if you opponent is being beat down to nothing, but it has a crucial component -- when played on a character that has been declared as an interceptor, it removes the character from intercepting even if the controller of the subject smokes it.  This lets you selectively get to sites as if you had Stealth.  For an added bonus, play Darkness Priestess and collect a power rebate when your opponent toasts Prisoner.
Ring of Ice
This State is much better than it's brethren, the Ring of Silver.  You can put this ring in almost any deck and get some usage out of it.  The only time you want to avoid it is when playing Fanaticism.  Only one resource, a free +1 fighting, and the ability to Smoke a nasty State played on you by an opponent?  Woot!  This is going to be one of the more sought-after rares in Red Wedding.  Even paying 1 power to recycle the Ring of Ice with a Spirit Pole isn't bad bad, and you are most likely doing it to make sure you are protected from states.  As I'm you all know, Ring of Ice rocks.  Free fighting, and zapping States?  We are all over this card, and it's mandatory in all but the most rigid Monarch designator decks.
  Shields of Darkness
Yes, I understand that if you get all five Shields of Darkness on one Site, it's +25 Body.  But, with the back-row only restriction on playing this card, it's doubtful that you will be able to get more than two on a particular site.  As a rule, you are better off filling your 0 cost State deck slots with Fire Sleds and Avenging Fires..
  Rope Bridge
Mostly bad.  It's just okay if you can play it for free on Hidden Tomb.  I guess it's another goofy state for the deadly sites deck.  Maybe.  As a general rule, there are better things to do with 1 power.  You can also try Sacrifice tricks with it, but you gotta watch out for zorching your own characters.
  The Crystal Skull
This card is pretty janky on its own, but it's built for the Darkness-Sacrifice deck.  There are cards in 2FT that revolve around sacrifices, so you can have a little fun with it.  The Skull is a last-ditch Mentor answer, but as a site-based state, you gotta really work to defend it, as it will generally be perceived as a target and a threat by your opponents.  Not worth playing out of the 2FT novelty deck.
  The Queen's Wrath
It was definitely a bad day when I had a Test Subject in a MegaTank taken down by this event.  It's okay, but there are a lot of good events to play, and it's always tough to find room for ones like this are are fairly specific.  Our metagame uses a lot of 1-cost foundations -- if yours doesn't, The Queen may not be as Wrathful.  I don't think this isn't as strong as Demonic Plague.  If you like obtuse combos, you can combine this with Vivisection Agenda to turn it into a "free" reload.  Still a good card, but a bit specialized.  It comes down to how tight do you want your deck.  Unfortunately, the Reload can't be used as a last-ditch Mentor protection, or I think you'd see this card a bit more.
  Thunder Lance
This card is surprisingly good.  It's always a 2 cost Really Big Gun, but the ambush when attacking alone is amazing.  Especially when you have good board control.  Combos well with Ice Commands and Spirit Poles for maximum surprise value.  Occasionally you will have someone join an attack in multiplayer to hose you, but in dueling you have complete control of the Ambush.
 

Thunder Stick
The last card for the Monarchs this set is pretty bland -- we have nothing new in a +3 damage Gun by itself, and the mini-Bag Full of Guns seems pretty iffy at best, since they have to remain at the same location AND the Thunder Stick has to stay around.  I'm not feeling the love, especially at 2 resources required.

  Thunder Sword
One of the few States with a decent power-to-Fighting rations, Thunder Sword is a Walking Corpses with a hilt.  As a drawback, your character can't turn to attack Sites, but that doesn't mean you can't play Thunder Sword on a character that is already attacking.  After that initial attack, you will have a solid defender and well as a good anti-character action.  If you are playing Spirit Pole or draw another Thunder Sword, go ahead and suicide your current character and play this card again.
 
 

EDGES

Armies of the Monarchs
This card is very much along the lines of Arcanowave Reinforces, but with a little twist (I bet you knew that already).  The -1 damage from Unique Characters applies to all players, not just your own, so your opponents might be slowed a little.  Multiples could get annoying.  Armies + a Fanaticism works better than to Reinforcers because of the +1 Fighting (it's huge).  Of course the Architects have Ambush, which is a different kettle of fish.  This card has made it mark on our metagame (much more so than 200 Guys with Hatchets and Ladders).  Counting up the damage is dizzying, and the -1 damage to Uniques can really goof up your opponents when they remember it too late. 
Blanket of Darkness
One of the Monarchs best cards, Blanket of Darkness goes in almost every deck.  This card can play back its cost very quickly by using it to Smoke your opponents' characters without serious damage to your own.  You want to hold back on declaring the Blanket effect -- often you can breeze through on attacks because no one will intercept because of this card, allowing you to use the Blanket on defense to save your characters and sites some damage.
  Counterfeit Heart
The only reason to play this card is in a Molten Heart deck.  While it is of some use protecting your valuable Molten Heart, the real advantage of Counterfeit Heart is that it will generate power.
Fanaticism
I hate to say it, but this card is just plain boring.  It almost forces you to ignore 66% percent of all Monarch cards when making a deck.  It also forces you into the "Discerning Fire wrecks you" designator trap.  I still try to sneak 1 in a Monarch/other faction deck when I can, but the all Monarch Fanaticism deck is about a boring as they get.
  Feeding the Fires
This is the card that accelerates the Fire deck and gives it some additional comeback.  I love throwing away Fire Acolytes with it -- just send them in to attack solo -- either you are going to slowly build up damage on their site, or you are going to pay 1 power to get 2 later.  Feeding the Fires is a card that has a psychological effect, especially in dueling -- opponent's often will make bad plays just to avoid letting you gain a counter.  A must with the Fire King, it actually allows you to play him without having to wait turns to accumulate power.  Of course the most obvious use is remove 1 counter to pay for a two-target Discerning Fire.  SS gives us two new Fire thugs that are going to love this Edge.
  Ice Totem
This is a generally useful card, especially if you have some good quality hitters that are going to avoid being Mentored or plain out zapped by an Event (i.e. T2, G2 or Ice Queen).  The comparable card is Blanket of Darkness -- which is more useful?  Generally, I am favoring the Blanket because it will interact better with some of the smaller trick hitters like Butterfly Knight.
  Molten Heart
While this card is very expensive, both in resources and power, it does have two useful abilities.  First, it generates power, lots of power.  With the three other Triumvirate Edges (Counterfeit Heart, Gorilla Warfare and Soul of the Dragon), you have a potential of 4 power a turn.  The trick is having all the resources and power to get them into play.  Molten Heart has an often overlooked ability that forces opponents to place new and seized sites in their front row, which can benefit both Anomaly Spirit and Spawn of the New Flesh.
Obsidian Eye
There are two ways to use the Obsidian Eye -- hosing your opponents or getting our limitations on your own cards.  For example, you could play with Mother of Corruption, and once you've got her with the Obsidian Eye, you've got a whopping 5-for-13 with no drawbacks.  Of course, using against your opponents is more fun, as you can reduce the most power of characters to mewling fools.
Spirit Pole
You can pretty much ignore the second ability on Sprit Pole -- even at minus one cost, the Pagodas are still not a bargain (well, the old ones at least), seeing that they will only slow you down until you get this Edge out.  But, the first ability of being able to replay States from your Smoked pile makes up for this.  Pump-Action Shotguns go great on your Butterfly Knights, while Amulet of the Turtle and Ice Diadem go great on your hitters.  If you are playing Hand, don't overlook Fortune of the Turtle -- this gives you a way to protect your hitters.  Watch out for Underworld Trackers, as they just love Spirit Poles!
  The Book of Wrath
Too bad this has the Thunder designator, or it would go in every Monarch deck.  You are still going to see it in a bunch, but it will be the decks forgoing the amazing Fanaticism (unless Thunder is your sub-faction).  Timing is key with this card -- wait until a character is going to be smoked within a scene, then turn the Book to add it's effect to the same scene.  In a four player game, expect this to get you about 2 power every 3 turns as long as you play aggressively, which is a reasonable return.  Of course, The Book of Wrath has a huge Discerning Fire target on it.  This has been a solid power generator for us, getting just under 1 per turn.  A must for your Thunder theme who have a hard time getting Magic for Pocket Demons.  Also real solid in the good stuff deck, and honestly, I get more power from this than from the Legacy.
  The Inner Fire
While this card is going to be a mainstay of the Fire-Chi deck, it's still okay in a Monarch deck with a couple of Fire hitters because of it's negligible cost.  Sure, Chi resources, whatever -- play your goofy Chi cards.  What makes the card good is the Mentor protection.  I can't count how many times the Fire King has betrayed me to work for the Ascended.  Now with the Inner Fire, it's time for some payback.
  The Legacy
The Monarchs are now the only faction without a foundation site, and this looks to be a variation on providing a somewhat similar card.  If you are uber-lucky, this card can generate 1 power a turn, but honestly, if you get 1 power every two turns, you are doing well.  This is the anti-Fanaticism card, and it's best friend might just be the Fire and Darkness Pavilion, since it triggers twice.
 
 

SITES

  Darkness Pagoda (Netherworld)
Gaining power is always cool, but it's going to take you a long time to gain back the power you've invested in the Darkness Pagoda.  You need to Smoke three interceptors to about break even.  Of course, you will find that your opponents won't be letting you gain power by avoiding interceptions when you have this Site in play.  You power is probably better spend on a Blade of Darkness.
  Darkness Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
How can you not love the new Darkness Pagoda?  It's pretty much got the old ability of gaining power when you smoke interceptors, and it's got a very powerful new ability.  The ability to sacrifice not only allows to get a little extra use out of characters that were going to die anyways, it lets you shift your darkness around -- say there in a 3 Body site defended by T2 -- you are taking it with only 2 Darkness Priestess.  Note that only the character receiving the +2 Fighting has to be Darkness, the character being sacrificed can be any, so this is yet another use for Tortured Memories.
  Fire and Darkness Pavilion
While the main use for this site is getting out Triumvirate cards in a Molten Heart deck, at 8 Body its a solid non-Feng Shui site.  You need to avoid turning it's Toughness: 2 vs. Netherworld cards into a disadvantage -- most Monarch cards have the Netherworld designator, and you may have trouble with this site if an opponent seizes it.  This card and The Legacy were made for each other.
  Fire Pagoda (Netherworld)
Two so-so abilities does not make a good site, and such is the case with Fire Pagoda.  It does give you access to Magic if you are trying to play a theme Fire deck, but you really are better off with Darkness Priestesses.  Of course, it is cool getting a preview of opponents' hands, as they should have four or less cards on quite a few turns (unless they are packing Resistance Squads).
  Fire Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
This site fits in really well with the funky Fire Chi theme.  If you haven't figured it out, the Fire Pagoda is a free Confucian Stability for your Fire Characters, which is pretty darn good.  Well, not a full Confucian, but almost as good -- turn this baby and the Fire King will be the only survivor of your opponent's Neutron Bomb.
  Ice Pagoda (Netherworld)
Perhaps the most reasonable of the Pagodas, the Ice Pagoda is still overpriced for it's ability.  Killing Rain and Burn, Baby, Burn! can be offset by this card, letting your sites heal.  While Ice Pagoda also heals characters, Floating Restaurant will probably get you more healing on the character you need (or site).
  Ice Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
Good good good.  Sacred Heart Hospital with a few timing restrictions.  Expect to see a lot of this card in the future.  The ignore tech resources is an unreliable ability to build a deck around, and Ice Commandos are a much better choice.  This is another reason why you don't want to play Fanaticism -- Ice Pagoda is just too good not to go in every Monarch deck.
Ice Pavilion
Wow!  Another Ice healing card!  What will they ever think of next?  Regeneration is nice, but you need to have some moderate sized characters with some damage on them to make it work  It's okay at 7 Body, so it's not overly vulnerable.  I'm thinking that the expected use of this is in the Dra/Mon Red Wedding deck, where you can drop a Brawl right before your turn starts and shrug it off.  I know it's a playable card, and I really should dust a few off, but you run into the Monarch rigid designator problem when playing this Ice card.  You also have to consider similar (and more immediate effects) like Sacred Heart Hospital and Ice Totem.
 

Sacred Wigwam
This is perhaps my least liked card in the set -- this shows how the design team can be off-base with the Shadowfist playing public. I am a huge fan of foundation sites -- I was a big advocate for Bomb Factory and Paradox Garden reprinted in Red Wedding.  Foundation sites are just generally good when played right, and I think they are a necessary component of the game.  So, why don't I like this card?  First, the name is, frankly, retarded.  On such an important card as this, why go over the top with theme?  Second, I think it's a big mistake to have the Thunder designator on this card -- why make a card that all the designator fans can't play?  Are we going to have to wait another 3 years to see each sub-faction get one?  Thirdly, where's the ?  Paradox Garden can get away with not having the extra talent because it's a pro-active card -- you use it every turn -- the Wigwam is reactive, and it may do nothing for you for many turns. The Four Monarchs are a magic using faction, and Thunder is especially weak in it.  Yes, providing a talent has been hit or miss on the foundation sites, but why not make this a really good card?  Finally, Sacred Wigwam has an important ability.  For the last two years at least, Shadowfist has been dominated by recursion (playing or retrieving cards from the smoked pile).  Sacred Wigwam gives a new (almost) faction-defining ability -- why is this disparately needed ability relegated to the weakest Monarch?  So many bad choices went in to this card, and I find it a great disappointment, even though is verges on being a top card.. 

Michael Stadermann writes in:
     I just read your rant on Sacred Wigwam. While I agree that the name is retarded, I'm not quite following some of your complaints. How does the Thunder designator keep it out of other designator decks? Do you automatically include Fanaticism in those decks, or is it just a matter of style for you?
     Also, you mention that the ability is strong, and needed in Fist. So, do you think it's strong enough that a factionless site with the ability would be playable (I think it may well be, but haven't tested it enough)? If yes, the Mon resource is almost a bonus, and the Mag resource certainly wouldn't belong on the card. And if it's a faction defining ability (and a good one at that), why not give it to the weakest Monarch to make the faction more playable?
     Which other faction would you have given the ability to, had it been your choice?

My Reply:
     I'm a big fan of Fanaticism, and I think it's really shaped the way a lot of people play the Monarchs.  It really has become a (sub) Faction defining card.  Again, my judgment could be clouded by the horrible name.
     You make an interesting point -- is this card good enough to put in any deck as a counter-measure?  Probably not.  You hear rumors of Paradox Garden being in non-Pursist decs, but that's mainly is tall decks where you are pro-actively using the ability to filter your draws -- it's harder to find place for a reactive 2-cost non-FSS.  As for what faction to put this in, the Monarchs is fine, but I just wish it hadn't been assigned to one of the themes.
     If this had been a Feng Shui site...  boy, I really need to think about it.  I suspect you'd actually see it reasonably often, but not as often as Whirlpool of Blood or Waterfall Sanctuary -- maybe on par with Stone Dolmens... maybe...  it's really hard to say.  You definitely don't want to be playing it if you have a heavy recursion deck, which has become quite a theme for the Dragons, Hand and Lotus.

To which Michael Stadermann replied:
     I suppose we have diverging opinions on Fanaticism; I rarely think giving up the diversity that all four Mon factions offer is worth the benefits. I also used to play in an environment that was very edge-hate heavy (due to a Mon player and an Asc player), so I rarely got my money's worth out of it. Thus, I'm not too upset about the designator.
     I agree that the ability is reactive, and may be useless in some games, but it is still much stronger than Paradox Garden, even though the Garden is proactive. When playing in a recursion-heavy environment (or tournaments), I would probably toss a Wiggy or two in the deck. I guess I'm just that tired of seeing the same Red Bat, Big Bruiser, or GG return for the umpteenth time.
     I think it's interesting that you'd be more tempted if it was an FSS. Would you play Whirlpool if it wasn't an FSS, but a regular site instead? I find non-FSS useful enough as alt-power gen and FSS protectors in the late game even without ability. I'd be very happy if more of them came with useful abilities; there are typically more FSS with good abilities that I want to have in play than just the four or less I'm allowed to have.

To which I reply:
    You have to remember that I usually keep 40 decks built, and so I have to stretch to make a lot of themes work -- Monarch goodstuff only goes so far.  And yes, we have a tremendous amount of Edge hate -- I don't think I am going out on a limb in saying that there is too much Edge removal in the game, at least as it was originally balanced.  This hate has in turn caused Edge-cost deflation (they have to be cheaper to play because they are more vulnerable), which makes a lot of the old Edges over-costed.
    It's hard to answer the "what ifs?" about Whirlpool -- there are other cards that cancel sites, and I find I don't play them that much.  Non-FSS sites are great, and I play them in almost every deck.  But, other than Drug Lab, I really like them to have an ability that is active (even if it's only a resource).  Paradox Garden has proven itself to be solid.
     You do have a good point about a tournament environment.  Robert Stettler won KublaCon this year with a varied Monarch deck.  Next time I chat with him I'll have to ask him how much of a problem recursion was and if he'd have played Wiggy.  One thing I find with huge threat cards like Wiggy is that opponents will really try to smoke them at first opportunity -- this is the same reason that BattleGround decks don't work.  Maybe this will change the meta-game.  Who knows, Field of Tentacles could be on the upsurge!

Simon Johnston writes in:

   I pretty much agree with your rant. All of the other foundation sites show a location that somehow epitimises that foundation, ie Archies get a Lab, Jammer a Bomb Factory, Hand a Sanctuary*. And the Monarchs get a Sacred Wigwam???? Also this is the only foundation site that works against an opponent, rather than providing some benefit to it's owner. And the Thunder designator is just weird.
 
[* I have always imagined the House on the Hill to be the house in the Feng Shui intro story where a bunch of Dragons come back from a mission to find the Butler hanging upside down taped to a load of explosives. I've no idea if this means anything to you though..]

Alistair Hutton writes in:
     To give some context I'm a Monarchs player.  If Sacred Wigwam was sub-faction less or provided magic then it would turn into a complete no-brainer.  It wouldn't be broken but it would be totally ubiquitous.  There would be absolutely no reason at all not to play it.  Ascended decks don't always play Family Estate but Monarchs decks would always play the modified wigwam.
    
Thunder decks have to play non-foundations to get magic, wigwam keeps it consistent.  With a magic resource it would completely change the tone of thunder.

My Reply:
     How ubiquitous are Bomb Factory and Paradox Garden?  The former has made some penetration, but the latter has become a 'no-brainer' -- is this bad or a problem for the game?  For example, Drug Lab is stupid good, and should go in most decks -- again, is it that bad?
     And yes, it's a pain to get if you are trying to play a Thunder deck, which makes them consistently -- consistently bad.  While Thunder does have some good cards, it has yet to develop a powerful and cohesive theme (like the other sub-factions) -- get those Faceoffs out of here!
     I think you are missing a little of my point -- I was ranting about why I dislike this card.  With a little tweaking this would be a fine card -- a Thunder foundation site that provides
, or a Monarch foundation without the talent that is unaligned with one of the sub-factions -- either would have been more palatable.  And a name that wasn't just plain stupid...

The Thunder Dome
"Two men enter - one man leave!"  The Dome is a Secret HQ with 2 less Body, so it's livable on its own.  You might play it outside a Thunder Faceoff deck, but probably not, since you can just play the aforementioned Secret HQ.  I might consider Thunder Dome if I were trying to make the Legacy work for me since so many of the Thunder cards don't get you anywhere in a splash.  In the Faceoff deck, The Thunder Dome is going to be one of your key cards.  It's going to let you fetch and replay your faceoffs when you need them, and not have them clogging your hand as much.  Another site to consider if you're trying to go for the extreme-Thunder-Faceoff deck deck is the original Thunder Pagoda -- you get an additional Fanaticism, and the limitation of only one attack per turn isn't so bad if you are doing most of your combat via faceoff.  Thunder-Faceoff jank.  Good jank, but jank none-the less.
  Thunder Pagoda (Netherworld)
Thunder Pagoda is very difficulty to play with, and is strictly for fun only.  The first that that will make you cry is that this card negates the special ability of the best Thunder character, Butterfly Knight.  The real dilemma comes in deciding what to target for your one and only attack.  You may be forced into taking a site with an overwhelming force, leaving your opponent free to build an army of characters to swoop right back.
  Thunder Pagoda (Netherworld 2)
This is the worst of the new Pagodas -- it doesn't have any defensive ability, and just does a couple of extra damage, and isn't going to save your characters from being smoked by damage at the end of the turn.  Also, there is no surprise factor since you have to use it when you declare the attack.
  Tomb of Itzcoliuhqui
In my eyes, this is one of the few stand out cards in the set.  Edges have always been part of the Four Monarchs, and now they get solid card to assist in that specialty.  There are just too many crazy pairings (basically, everyone by the Dragons, who are edge-hatin' playa's).  The Tomb is a Feng Shui site, so it comes with all the ups and downs of having a printed-cost FSS.  Who knows, maybe it's time to dust off those Counterfeit Hearts...2FT is still too new to see how good overall this is, but I'm trying to make it work.  You have to avoid overloading your deck with edges though, which is the first response when starting with this card.  Also, it's a mid-game card, especially if you got two factions going.
 

 

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