Secret HQ

art (c) Mike Trap

Here is my first pass at a full review of Netherworld 2.  I still have more to learn about the cards, so I am going to wait a while before integrating these reviews into the main list.  I am only rating the new cards, not reprints.

The days of Buro Assassin are over.  Well, almost (see Swarm of Teeth).  The cost of Ambush has been re-evaluated since Limited and is no longer over-costed on characters above 1 Fighting.  ArcanoRat is interesting because because of it's 3 Fighting for 2 Power -- the mold for mid-range characters is changing.  While this card has a significant drawback, you don't need to load your deck up on ArcanoRats to get around it.  It attacks just as well with CHAR as with another rat.
Biomass Reprocessing Center
I was kind of down on the Biomass at first, but it has grown on me.  99% of the time you can ignore the boost ability -- maybe you can use a DNA Mage to bump up CHAR or a Plasma Trooper.  The real use of this card is as a Secret Headquarters -- I had forgotten just how good a 3-cost 2 power generation site can be.  You almost always want Secret HQ over this because of the resource conditions, but I find a mix of two of each can be nice in a slower multiplayer deck that wants to build up power.
Colonel Richtmeyer
Well, he goes in only one deck -- the Ambush deck.  But, with the addition of ArcanoRats in N2, Ambush has gotten a little more strong.  The gravy ability of opponents not being able to play Operation and Gambit cards is nice -- too bad it's on such a specific card.
Conversion Drone
Well, the Drone does have one thing going for it by being non-Unique.  That way you could build a deck around it if you really tried.  A 5-cost for 7 Fighting Toughness:1 is not the best deal in the world, and this guy sort of feels like Big Bruiser.  Not being able to burn sites really kills this card, as you want to recoup your power invested the turn they come into play.  There isn't much you can do with the token, other than maybe keep your opponent from playing Golden Comeback for a turn or two, or possibly trigger a uniqueness auction.
Dr. Alley Mathews
I've built the Dr. Alley deck, and it's okay, but nothing spectacular.  There aren't that many characters with X in the rules that you want to interact with.  I tried Plasma and Pod Troopers, and they were okay.  Probably the best was Titanium Johnson with a huge Toughness, but you really want lower cost non-unique characters to take advantage of Alley.  Too bad she doesn't work with Entropy is Your Friend -- that would make for some serious offense.
Dr. Curtis Boatman
I have never gotten Boatman to do his trick.  Clearly you never want to copy DNA Mages, so that gives you Vivisector and ArcanoTechnician as two of the better options.  For this cost, I think I'd almost always want Bonengel.  I think we'll have to wait and see if any future scientists give this guy a boost.  Since this guy really in effect is a 4 Fighting itsy-bitsy thug, I recommend The Reconstructed if you can squeeze in a Reinvigoration Process, or the always cool Brain Sucker in the same cost range -- wait, I take that back -- the card you want in Monster Hunter so you can gank up those nasty Temples.
Helix Scrambler
This is kind of a lightweight Fusion Rifle combined with the Obsidian Eye.  You can do a couple of tricks with it, but it's nowhere near the power of the Rifle for shear mayhem and destruction.  Oddly enough, blanking character text can be quite useful, so throwing one of these in a random deck probably wont hurt that much, but it's hard to make them part of a focused theme.  This card is also going to hold The Eastern King at bay if you can back it up with some Gas -- it also works against the Gunman, but you know he's always ready for the Final Brawl.  Temple of the Monkey King in Shaolin Showdown is a much better choice.
Jeroen Becker
This is a nice card to throw one-of in a deck if you have room.  He has an okay ratio, but his three resource requirement is on the hefty side.  If Jeroen makes it to your next turn, the extra cards let you fill your hand up with Nerve Gas and Imprisoned.  He seems an obvious combo with Paradox Beast.
Paradox Beast
While it ain't quite Sarge, the Beast is still a decent hitter with the amazing power to fighting ratio of 4 to 9.  The gasmask is a big plus, but a minus 3 hand size is a huge drawback.  Jeroen Becker can offset this, but he is fragile.  Scorched Earth and Art of War are also worth considering.   Looks to be solid beats.  A neat side-effect is that you can draw up to a hand size of 6 cards with State of Emergency, so that actually is ok in combination with the Beast.
Simon Draskovic
Simon is a pretty typical thug.  Decent power to fighting ratio, and he has a gasmask.  His Toughness ability is more likely to come into play in a multiplayer game, where you wont be getting as many chump resource character interceptors.  Toughness:3 is enough to even punch through some mid-sized demons and horrors.
Swarm of Teeth
If you haven't figured it out yet, you really want to play 5 of these in a deck.  They can slow you down quite a bit by clogging your hand early game since every one you discard will hurt you in the long run.  With him you can literally make the all-Ambush deck and not have to resort to Buro Assassin, which this is clearly an improvement on.  Unfortunately, this card is an anti-combo with Dangerous Experiment, which is the card you really want to power up to pay for these guys.  Well, there is always Helix Rethread...

I still don't know about this card.  It tricks you into not attacking sites and attacking characters instead.  Now that there are a couple of decent Assassins (Sting of the Scorpion, Nine Cuts, White Ninja) this card may have some more general use.  I've built a couple of Bounty decks, and they've never worked that well for me.  The Asc/Mon version with Fire Assassins and Open Season was hard to get the combo going on, and the straight Asc version only worked because it was chock full of power cards that didn't really work with Bounty (Mentor, Bite, etc..)  Shaolin Showdown gives us a couple more Ascended choices for the Bounty deck (Kinoshita, Senior Ocho) that might just give it a boost -- unfortunately, you really want Bull Markets to get the big thugs out, and that is kind of counter-productive with Bounty.
Cutting Loose Ends
Hacker Check.  This is kind of a oddity utility card.  You don't want to play it when you have a Mentor out, as it is a prime target.  It can get rid of annoying Edges, and non-Feng Shui sites, but this card seems to always punish the person who plays it as bad or worse than their opponents.
Mr. Red
While he's not the greatest, he can be fun.  Join in, hope to get a flip.  You can use him to try and seize after you've burned for power, or you can try and use him to sneak in when you don't have enough fighting to take a site on your own.  He can be kind of fun, but beware -- the attacking player can intercept Mr. Red if they have an unturned character and remember the obscure rule that lets you participate as an attacker and interceptor in the same attack.
Ninja Interior Decorators
Well, they are Hoods, so I guess you could play them in a Hood deck, or maybe even in a regular deck just trying to mix up designators (though they still match the top-notch Shark Student).  I recommend Rat Finks if you want a 2-cost Stealth character, though one NID is nice just to reveal a few sites.
Playing Both Ends
Hacker check please.  What looks to be an interesting concept turns out to be pretty poor in actual play.  It does add a little unpredictability and excitement ala Art of War, but the losing drawback is kind of a drag early game.  Mole Network is a 2 power swing, and is usually a better card.
Pulling Strings
I have never gotten this card to do it's trick.  Searching your deck for a card leads to all sorts of problems in CCG design, but so far Shadowfist has done a great job at making the search cards restricted enough that they are only a novelty.  If there there cards I want to draw, I just put more in a deck.  The Ascended have enough power and low cost cards to cycle through a deck at a decent pace.
Raven Li
Raven is a big thug -- not the best, but far from the worst.  8 Fighting with Stealth is going to take sites, and the Covert Op is a nice bonus.  Since she's Lodge, one in a Pledged deck can get you by a Discerning Fire in a pinch.
The Eastern King
Check out the Shaolin Showdown review.
The Hub
Same deal as Biomass Reprocessing Center -- this is an alternative to Secret Headquarters.  I can see throwing the Hub in a deck -- especially if you are like me and are always low on HQs.  The ability is really questionable, but I could see you looking at someone's hand for 1 power if you were worried about denial and thinking about going for the win...

Going Out in Style
While this is a somewhat interesting card, it has the major drawback of Toasting your character.  This can hurt you resource-wise and for a setting up a Golden Comeback later.  Once you've gotten enough resources, you can try using it to keep your Smoked pile trim for a Netherworld Return or In Your Face Again, although Plains of Ash does that rather nicely (and helps Fighting Spirit too).  Did I forget to say Hacker check?
Hiro Asataka
Hiro is sort of a specialty character along the lines of Serena Ku or Johnny Tso.  He does have the added bonus of being Independent, which almost always comes in useful.  At 3-cost for 4 fighting, you want him to do something when you play him.  He is strongest against the Architects and Jammers, where you have a reasonable shot of being able to control a 4+ cost hitter.  Of course, don't expect Hiro to live long if he does...
Suong Xa
Suong is a very interesting character -- she has 3 abilities, all of varying difficulty to use.  Independent is the easiest -- attack!  The play at -2 cost is sort of a no-brainer, but it's a late game trigger, and playing or seizing a 5th power generating site is fairly rare, and you still have to have 2 power.  The ability that takes skill is giving Suong Guts -- you can wait through interceptors or sneak a Brawl through and maybe hit for 6.  It's also nice to be able to smoke your own Suong Xa (or put some extra damage on her) in response to a Mentor.
That Which Does Not Kill Me...
Usually, giving a character Guts is pretty decent, but this Event has a fairly high opportunity cost.  I find that more often than not, characters are intercepted with just enough fighting to smoke them, so the Guts isn't as likely to get you a site.  Occasionally you can get a good play out of this, but I think 9 times out of 10 you will wish it was a brawl.
The New Heroes
Here we have a real stinker.  The only thing good about this card is the art (it has the three new unique Dragon characters from N2).  Since this card only gives Toughness against combat damage, it doesn't combo with Final Brawl.  Shaolin Showdown gives you two more Unique characters with Toughness:1, too bad Dr. Shen is about as good as Big Bruiser, but Big Mack with the additional Toughness seems pretty good.  Dr. John gets an iffy bonus from The New Heroes -- he usually Steaths by anything that is going to cause him trouble.
The Prof's Gambit
This card is deceptive in that it's not as good as it looks.  If you're losing, you can sort of turn it into a Nerve Gas if you have a character to attack or intercept with.  This one needs more play time for me to get the most use out of it.  I have noticed that it's slow -- it's not a good way to get early game Tech -- stick with Hackers and Dirk Wisely's Gambits.
Wu Ming Yi
This guy is a beast -- all he is missing is a gas mask to be top notch.  He eats everything.  Since he has Regenerate, he goes amazingly well with Final Brawl -- heck, anything that is 6+ fighting and can attack and has Regenerate is good.  Often you want to eat a resource character first turn to get him up to 7 fighting where he has much more resiliency.  

Je Pai
Here we have an okay anti-turtle card, which you need to wait on playing this card to maximize effect.  You want them to have a decent sized unturned characters, and either a one column site structure, or a site that will be easy pickings when the character in front of it turns to change location in response to Je Pai coming in to play.  Don't expect her to live more than 1 turn unless you have some tricks like Kinoshita House or Fox Pass -- she will be the #1 target for your opponent. 
Ravenous Devourer
This demon is solid -- no longer do you need to spend 6 Power to get out the Thing to munch things after Tortured Memories -- this guy does it for two.  He is also Mentor defense of a last resort, and he can punch through damage by eating a few Sinister Priests and Palace Guards.  Unfortunately, you can almost always expect this guy to be intercepted for at least 2 damage to smoke him at the end of the turn, so Secret Heart Hospital or Turtle Beach can be of some use.
The Bound
The Bound is interesting -- it doesn't really fit in with the Lotus.  It's 3-cost character that hit's for 6 and has Mobility.  The goofy Hosed ability is almost never going to come up, but actually does benefit the character as it has the annoying tendency to get intercepted by 3 Fighting worth of characters.  Being a Netherworld Horror means that it might not fall victim to Discerning Fire, as Eunuchs and Demons are all too prone to.
The Burning King
How can you not love 14 Fighting?  This guy is HUGE!  I think you can have some fun with the card, but it gets hurt a lot by not being able to enter play when you are ahead -- this is a case of paranoia by the designers.  I sort of think of the Burger King in the same vein as the old Thunder King, only worse.
The Strangled Scream
Another thug, the Scream has a couple of interesting designators -- Netherworld Horror.  When you think of the Lotus, you think of Demons and Eunuchs, not this guy.  His ability is a turtle power -- normally you want to be attacking with an 8 Fighting character, but to use the Scream effectively, you want to hold him back and use his ability on an opponents turn.  Chances are that you are not going to be denying someone resources, but maybe you can foil a Comeback, or better yet, play some killer character like the Gunman and punish your opponent for being a cheeser.  Glimpse of the Abyss just might give you enough Power to get this guy rolling.
The Twisted Gardens
I don't think there is much reason to play this outside a Demon deck.  A Toughness:1 site isn't bad, but how often to you play Dragon Mountain?  In the Demon deck, it's a nice little utility, but not a foundation.  It also bites  I don't quite get the +3 Body ability -- I guess it's just a kicker to try and make you play with the Demon Site...

Blue Senshi Chamber
Another solid card, the Blue Chamber can go in any hand deck -- it's not reserved for the janky Senshi deck.  Will all the common designator decks brought about by N2 and SS, you should have no problem figuring out a good one to use to apply the beats.
Fist of Shadow
This guy is rude -- he attacks for 2, and when you've decided that an Edge is getting too obnoxious, you can sacrifice him to smoke the Edge and gain a power.  It's almost as if it were a Realpolitik that does 2 damage.
Hung Hei Kwon
This guy is a true master of the Confucian Principles.  While he's not quite the Golden Gunman, he does usually hit for a goodly amount, and if you have the power, he is protected against 1 targeted Event per turn.  This guy ranks as one of the Hands best hitters, along with Iron Monkey, Leung Mui and Sun Chen.  He even blows through most resource characters, making up for any damage he takes with his + damage ability.
Lu Man Wei
Well, you want him in the janky Senshi deck.  At least they did his abilities right -- he still gets big even when they steal your Chambers, but he only buffs the ones you control.  I guess you are hoping for a 3-cost 6+ Fighting thug -- not terribly exciting, but at least he's a 3-for-4 Fighting.
Red Senshi Chamber
Well, you knew it had to happen -- they finally made a bad Senshi chamber -- well, it's not really bad, it just clearly the worst of the lot.  Declaring an attack against back-row sites isn't that bad -- it allows you to pick off specialty sites like Whirlpools.  What kills this card is the canceling Superleap, since if they take it, some of your best characters are potentially negated.  Better in multiplayer since you have more targets to pick and choose from.  
Temple of Boundless Meditation
This is a mid-to-late game card that can give you a little punch in the right deck, but now with 18 Bronze Men and Temple of the Shaolin Dragon, the Hand has lots of options for increasing Fighting.  You really need to have a character in play to use the +3 Fighting the turn it comes out, and restricts how you play and build your deck.  Pretty much a candidate for the janky Senshi deck and aggressive monk decks, but does have the potential to get better in future sets.  Speaking of future sets, Tong Su Yi in Shaolin Showdown is a good candidate for inclusion with the Temple because of the hand size bonus.
Violet Senshi Chamber
While this card may have the worst art in N2 (although not as bad as Shaking the Mountain in SS), it is one of the best of the seven Chambers.  While Soul Diver is very fragile and has the same ability, Violet is much more reliable and is going to let you do all sorts of tricks.  Again good enough to play on it's own without the other Chambers, and is really more of a multiplayer card.

Adrenaline Junkie
Believe it or not, the Junkie is okay.  Napalm Addict is probably better all around, but in conjunction with +damage effects (like Entropy and guns), the Junkie can sometimes get through.  
Genocide Lounge
This is an odd card -- if you can get it to do it's tricks, it rocks -- otherwise, it's a pretty generic site.  Right now there are 5 Events you can play at -1 cost -- Nuked!, Trust Me, The Underground, Hosed! and Who's the Monkey Now?  Not the best assortment, but it does give you more options for taking sites, especially the two evasion Events.  These cards are fun to play, if you have can spare 3 Lounges for a deck, then stock up and go ape.  Where the lounge really rocks is in conjunction with City Square -- redirect a bunch of damage to it, and like magic, it pops into play again next turn.  Good stuff Maynard.  
Gorilla Encampment
This card is pure offense.  It gives the Jammers a much better alternative to Chimp Shack for a non-Feng Shui power generating site, and it gives you a great shot at going for the win, which is when you are most likely to blow them.  They even have a little bit of defense by allowing you to sacrifice a vulnerable or damaged if you can keep it alive until your next attack.
Junkyard Crawler
Sure, he does give second tier access to tech, but the deck filtering ability doesn't really gain you much if you build your decks correctly and cycle through your cards.  Still, he's okay if you are trying to get to a combo like wanting to draw 1 cost events to get the most mileage out Genocide Lounge.  As an added bonus, the Crawler can foil Oliver Chen's evil power -- but of course if Oliver is banking on your sites, you have a problem...
Low-Rent Cyborg
The Self-made Man is a lowering of the 3-cost for 5 damage bar.  Requiring no resources is good, making him a candidate to throw one or two of in some decks, but you don't want to overload because 3-cost foundation characters are way slow.  If you didn't guess, this guy loves Cave Networks, making a Jammer/Cave deck almost viable.  Plains of Ash in SS might also be okay with this guy -- you can Toast your consumers and hope the Low-Rent Cyborg with be getting In Your Face again a little more often.
Molotov Cocktail Party
This card suffers from confusing wording, but it's basically Explosives Mk 2, but with the downgraded damage of a Really Big Gun.  Note that the Cocktail is doing the damage to the back row site, so you are either hoping to weaken it up for a follow up attack or smoke it outright -- you don't want to leave weak sites for the next player.
Monkey Boy
I am a fool -- I have played Monkey Boy and lived to regret it.  This is a clear example where you always want a Rocket Scientist over this card.  Both are the same cost to fighting ratio with the same resources -- one just has useful abilities where the other doesn't.  Even in the Battleground Site deck you still want Rocket Scientist.  I can remember one excruciatingly long game where my opponents ganged up to make me implode by drawing my last card on another players turn using the mandatory draw on Monkey Boy.
Red Don
Don is kind of kooky -- he just does weird things and you never know quite what you are going to get.  Unfortunately, you need to leave him unturned, and that's a considerable investment of 3 power to just have him hang out and do stuff.  Hey, but he does cancel Whirlpools, and that's something, so maybe he's ok in a turbo Proving Ground deck..

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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Darkness Pagoda
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Pagoda
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.
General Fung
Arrrgh... why does the Fung 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 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 Pagoda
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 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 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.  
King of the Fire Pagoda vPAP
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 vPAP
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.
Lucius Centares
Only goes in one deck unfortunately, where you are hoping to get him up to 8 Fighting or more.  Pure thug, but puts out some decent damage late game.
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.
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.
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.
Queen of the Ice Pagoda vPAP
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 
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.
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.
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 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 Knights vPAP
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.
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 Pagoda
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.
Thunder Valkyries
Pretty much a turkey, you almost always want Butterfly Knights over this guy.  Make no mistake, they aren't no Walking Corpses.

Cloud Walking
As yet another 0-cost victory denial card, I like to squeeze one into most decks with magic.  It can be nice early game to get a character advantage, but it depends on your opponents attacking.  End game, it's the everyone intercepts and stops the win so the next player wins card.
Duodenum of Yang Luo
Could Quai Li secretly be a transformed Demon stomach?  Well, probably not, but the Duodenum has the same effect of revealing every site in response to it hitting the table.  Still, there are an awful lot of Netherworld sites, and this guy can attack more often than not.  The trick is to make sure your deck is 100% Netherworld sites, and let opponents take a few if they have to.  Also Netherworld Portal (and the coaster-ish Netherworld Passage) can be used to make sure your opponents have a Netherworld site in a pinch). 
Lusignan's Automaton
This guy is kind of a random thug, and if it weren't for the storyline, probably wouldn't justify being Unique.  Neither of the abilities really turns me on, especially given that he probably won't live that long.  Both the Tower and the Fool himself are more interesting cards, and punish your opponents more. 
Lusignan the Fool
This guy has a chance to bring about a few new deck types -- combined with Alchemist's Lair, Lusignan gives more access to Magic to the traditionally non-Magic factions.  3-cost resource characters are usually not the best deal, but this card does have 4 fighting and a couple of goofy abilities.  Too bad he doesn't combo with Darkness Priestess, otherwise you could get some mileage out of his (and his Tower).  Hrm...  he probably combo's with your opponent's Darkness Priestesses to give them 1 power when they play events -- D'oh!

Big Red Button
This is a fun card.  True, it often hurts you more than it hurts your opponents, but it's still a fun card.  A favorite trick of mine is playing Secret Laboratories -- if you opponent is foolish enough to seize one, it is a ticking time bomb, waiting for you to push the Big Red Button.  Hint:  You don't want to be playing the big hitters with Tech in this deck -- stick to Junkies and Addicts unless you are really crazy.  The extra-super-secret tech play with this card is to smoke your own Ba-BOOM! when you don't want him to take everyone with him.
Smart Gun
It's got +2 damage, so it's mostly a Tech version of the Really Big Gun.  Sometimes you can work over some designators with it, but it's harder than in seems -- often it's a bad Mark of Fire.  Still, not the worst card ever, and it is nice to work people over with it to show your smarts.  Shaolin Showdown really lumps a lot of cards into designator categories (Manchus, Swordsmen, Students), so it might be time to whip out the old Smart Guns again...
Blood Fields
I have never been able to get this card to work that well -- it suffers from the classic problem of relying on your opponent to have good and useful sites.  If you need a Whirlpool, it just seems to me that you are better off playing one over Blood Fields.  But, I need to play with the card more to see if it's a true coaster or not.
Lusignan's Tower
This card is more annoying than everything else.  As a non-Feng Shui site, it's a pretty good deal -- 8 Body for 2-cost.  I have found that people really hate those random discards, so the Tower often comes with a bright red bull's-eye that says take me.
Netherworld Portal
This card is actually somewhat playable, and unlike other Battleground Sites, it rarely gets seized and used against you.  Other than being an obvious combo with Duodenum, it lets you work over your opponent, potentially taking a site every other turn.  In dueling, this is never going to get used against you, and can be surprisingly effective.
The Dis-Timed
Sure they can generate you a little extra power, but outside of a Black Flag deck are you ever really playing these guys?  And even then, it's probably only 1 or 2 in the Rebel deck since these guys don't do much for you other than not attack in hopes of gaining power.
The Junkyard
This is likely to be one of the rarest distinct cards in Shadowfist (along with Can of Whupass) -- it only appears once on the N2 rare sheet, where all other cards except for the alternate art Silver Band appear at least twice.  The card itself seems to be a specialty item, that can actually fit into some combo decks and give you a few extra recourses.  This site can generate two power a turn, but it rarely does, since it has the chilling effect of not being attacked if there is a better target on the board (which is not a bad thing).
The Man With No Name
Some people are nuts over this card, but I don't see why.  Maybe it has to do with the turtle mentality.  If I play a character, I want to attack, not turn to draw a card.  The add a faction resource is an interesting, but unreliable ability, but might be of marginal use in a three faction deck.  "Where's Waldo?  He's a prisoner of the Monarchs." said Lusignan.
Hall of Portals
Since Hall is 8 Body, it meets the bar of not being overly vulnerable if you throw it in a deck.  It can be very useful if you have a deck that likes to intercept (say you have Toughness or Iron and Silk), but it does give you some extra defense against being sniped, especially in a mutiplayer game.  A couple of Halls in a Battleground deck also allows for additional defense.  It's also ok with Maze of Stairs or Ancient Temple if you are in a mood to defend.
Maze of Stairs
By itself, Maze is okay -- it's in combination with other cards that it becomes powerful.  What you need are ways to reduce the number of attackers on this site to one -- Kinoshita House and Fox Pass are two of the best, but any defensive card works.  For example, Nerve Gas and Imprisoned work not only will get rid of an opponents character, but it will let you defend your Maze of Stairs.  There are bunches of cards that this works well with, and stops the Gunman cold.
Obsidian Mountain
Well, it's big.  And you can hope your opponents attack it with a Palm of Darkness to cancel the damage ability.  This is a card you want 5 or none of -- and you are also playing it with at least 2 Dragon Mountains.  This means you need to find at least 5 more Feng Shui for a small deck, and it's hard to fit stuff in.  Stick with Ominous Swamp and Tangram Alley for big sites.
Ominous Swamp
I've become fond of this site recently.  I like Inner Sanctums, and this site is often a nice alternative.  It lets (well, er.. forces) you to spread out some, but 13 Body is just so huge -- it takes The Gunman and 5 more damage to take it -- The Gunman will be looking elsewhere...  Paying 1 power to play a site behind it is sort of a balance -- there are definitely times you want to smoke your Ominous Swamp (like when it has 12 damage on it).  This site seems a natural in a Battleground deck where you want to spread out and have sites that are defensive.
Phlogiston Mine
I have been throwing the Mine in random decks just to check it out, and it's been okay.  You can usually count on it to generate a couple power, but it's not outstanding, and belongs in the generic category of sites that conditionally give you a point of power.  Of course, you can get really lucky and make 6 power off of this site over the course of a multiplayer game -- I've done it!
Sunless Sea Ruins
This card is very difficult to play -- not being able to discard can be a huge disadvantage if your hand gets clogged.  You don't play this site for the 10 Body since there are better bigger sites -- you play it for the increased hand size.  0-cost events can help keep your hand flowing, with Far Seeing Rice Grains being a likely choice to with Sunless Sea Ruins.
Tangram Alley
It's big... wait... no... it's HUGE.  While you can figure on this guy having a 9 Body early game (effectively making it a Sacred Ground), late game this is almost always a massive 14 Body.  We are talking Burning King size.  It's amazing how much of an attack deterrent that 14 Body can be -- it is noticeable over the 11 Body of Inner Sanctum.   See also it's cousin, Ominous Swamp.
Waterfall Sanctuary
Goes in every deck that isn't playing heavy States (and even in some of those!).  It crushes Mentor, Tanks, Guns, Swords, etc.  This is one of those no-brainer cards (like Whirlpool of Blood) that you should squeeze into every deck.  Heck, play two in every deck until the Ascended have lost control of the current juncture.  Don't forget to smack your own States if the character is going to get Smoked to draw a card.



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