Secret HQ

art (c) Mike Trap

Here is my initial review of the new Shadowfist cards that have made their way into Shaolin Showdown.  I had the benefit of being a playtester, so I have a few insights on to some of the cards.  They are still hot off the presses, so I may be completely whacked on a few -- of course, you may just have to travel to San Francisco to prove it!

Commander Corliss
The Commander is an unusual card in that you pay his power over time.  If you have 4 sites when you play him, he winds up being a 6-for-6, not such a good deal.  But -- if you have no sites in play, he is a rocking 6 Fighting for 2 power, and gives you a chance at comeback.  He combos well with sites that generate power in other ways with Proving Ground being the most obvious, but others like Monkey House and Gambling House working okay.  While Corliss is a little slow at three resources, expect to see him in turbo-CHAR type decks as a backup hitter and it decks with Dangerous Experiment that like to explode.
Geoscan Report
It seems the Architects have finally applied their superior technology.  This card is a lot like N2's Blood and Thunder, but with less deck construction restrictions.  Late game, paying 1 power just to reveal a site can actually give you the information you need to win a game.  All your characters doing +2 damage against a site can also lead to taking a site anytime during the game.  All-in-all, this is a versatile card that throwing one in a deck is always a nice trick.  A speed weenie deck built around Geoscan I think will have problems because of Final Brawl.  The dream combo is Inauspicious Return for 3 BuroMil Grunts with a Geoscan Report -- that's 12 damage for 2 power!
Well, I was a little wrong about Hermes, he's okay in the Architect/Lotus deck with Malachi -- he's nothing much on his own, but can get you into a soft lock with Malachi out.  He goes okay with Dr. Celeste (Architects don't have many pure-Magic cards) as well, and lets you draw a card if you are in a Paradox Beast bind).  And he's just going to get better in Dark Future (see Malachi).
TacOps Troopers
Since you are never playing the Troopers in a non-Battleground deck, they are effectively always a 6 Fighting-for-4 power thug with Mobility.  Not the greatest, but not the worst.  This is a pretty bland card, but can give you a little extra defense.  Of course the Architects usually don't have to worry about defending sites with all their Events, and CHAR is usually a better choice since he is such a beating stick.

Charge of the Rhino
Kind of like Atourina Baktiari, the Charge tends not to get intercepted when he attacks a site unless he is going to smoked by a larger character.  You can try some tricky stuff like using him in a Faceoff to trigger his ability, but that is sub-optimal.  The Charge is a pretty bland Thug, equal in caliber to the old Fist of the Bear.
Coil of the Snake
Drawing cards, especially as the Ascended is always good.  A good comparison to the Coil are Just a Rat and Phillipe Benoit, since all of them usually cost 3 power.  I think the Coil beats out the Rat just because the Rat never gets intercepted and 90% of the time it might as well just have vanilla stealth.  Phillipe is solid, and probably a better choice if you are going heavy Family Estate.
Contingency Plans
Play City Parks, they won't clog up your hand like this card will since it takes two spaces (itself, and the Feng Shui Site).  This card was ruled to get around the 'one site per turn' rule, so you could try and tech someone out by playing Contingency Plans and a City Park to get out two sites.
Fist of the Bear vPAP
Thug.  Better than the standard edition Fist, but still a thug.  I prefer the Might of the Elephant in this cost range for Lodge thugs.
General Senggelinqin
He's an okay 7 Fighting-for-4 power hitter, comparable to Vladimir Kovalov -- Tactics is a nice bonus if you don't need the Lodge designator.  As for the goofy sacrifice ability, that usually means you are playing with sub-par Ascended cards to get the designators, so it's iffy at best.  You will get your most mileage combining with another faction -- the Monarchs and the Architects have some matching designators.
Jade Wheel Society
About the only decks these guys go in are a Peacock deck or a Sunless Sea Ruins, where you are worried about locking your hand.  Paying 1 power to discard 3 cards (counting itself) is harsh.
Juan "El Tigre" Velasquez
Yes, with Stealth and Superleap, he is always going to get to his site if he isn't taken out with an Event.  The problem is his poor ratio -- for 5 power there are a bazillion other better characters to play.
The Strike Force has been reborn, but this time you don't need a Family Estate to play 5 power for it.  Assassinate is pretty worthless on a character this big -- for Kinoshita's cost you want to be taking sites.  The ability to turn characters for power during your turn has possibilities, but overall, the Unspoken Name kicks ass on this doofus as a Lodge Chairperson.  He goes in the Bounty deck, but I think I am more likely to go for Rachel or Raven as a 5-cost Lodge hitter.
Manchu Bureaucrat
I find with this guy, you almost always want another copy of the Edge you are concerned about over him.  Cabinet Minister is a superior choice if you are playing Family Estate, and Manchu Soldiers give you enough cards to unturn the Manchu Officer (especially since the ability is only once per turn).
Manchu Garrison
Pretty much useless outside the Manchu deck.  At least you can do the Lodge Politics trick to get it back after it being seized.  Notice that it's way worse than Police Station (other than it generates power), and the bonus wears off at the end of the turn.
Manchu Officer
Another character that really only goes in one deck -- a Manchu deck.  It's often hard to get him to do his trick because you will need to play the trigger card before the Officer turns to attack. Still, he can do a little damage, and don't forget to unturn him when an opponent plays a Soldier.
Manchu Soldiers
While you are hoping to get a 2 Fghting-for-1 Power resource character, these guys are way too slow to be of any use.  Fu Student and BuroMil Grunt can hit for 2 on the first turn, which makes them so much better.
"Monkey" Chang
I can't see how this card's ability is that much superior to stealth.  This is one of those oddball storyline characters that doesn't serve much use.  Note the weird Chi resource provided.  Since you are playing Ascended and are probably loaded up on Operation Killdeers, Stealth is a better way to go.
Nattraj Thalnasser
Well, for 6 power you can expect to take a site unless an opponent has Fox Pass, Operation Killdeer, Nerve Gas...  The fact that this guy can't be Sacred Hearted just puts him into the quirky pile.  He makes a great interceptor in that he will never be overcome, but I'd rather spend 1 more power on the Eastern King, or 3 less power for Adrienne.
Opium Den
Just say no to drugs, unless you are the one peddling them.  The Dope Den can ruin someone's game.  It allows you to blast through defenders like nobody's business and can find a home in any Ascended deck.  This card works really well in conjunction with the new Faceoff cards, but there is a big caveat -- if they seize your Opium Den, all your Faceoffs are completely hosed, so use with care and stock up on Lodge Politics (one-per-den minimum).
Order of the Wheel
Pay 2 power to draw 1 card?  I think whoever came up with this card spent too much time at the Opium Den...  Is this card better than Thorns of the Lotus?  Well, yes, but that's about all that it's better than.
Rachel McShane
She makes the cut for a 8 Fighting-for-5 Power because she has a useful ability.  The most obvious effects that Rachel is immune to are the super-annoying Unique Sites that require turning -- you know the ones... Kinoshita House, Fox Pass, etc.  She is also immune to a few of those annoying turn effects that come up from time-to-time like White Disciple, Muckraking Journalist and Die!!! 
Senior Ocho
Here we have another fairly limited card that goes mainly into one deck -- the Bounty deck.  Spending 5 power to kill an opponent's Unique character is a big risk -- and notice that Senior Ocho only has Ambush when his target is a Unique character -- he has no effect on interceptors.  Operation Killdeer pretty much turns any character into Senior Ocho for a turn...
Spider vs. Mantis
This is the weakest effect of all the Faceoffs, and is really only useful in dueling.  See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
The Eastern King
Ever wonder what would happen if the Golden Gunman betrayed the Dragons and went to work for the Ascended?  Forget about Leonardo DiCaprio -- this card is the true King of the World.  This is one of the few cards in Shaolin Showdown that is going to have a game changing effect.  Expect to see a lot of him, as he was given out as a promo with Netherworld 2, and those promos play as the final released version.  For those of you who don't have access to Shaolin Showdown and only have Promo Eastern Kings, here is the final text:

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

Tiger vs. Crane
This is one of the more useful Faceoffs, and the best when used as a bushwack.  See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
Web of the Spider vPAP
Generally, I want my characters to do something -- the Web doesn't do much of anything.  Since players rarely want to give you free power, this guy is going to have a big bull's-eye painted on him if they have cards that play for reduced cost.  If you want a 2 cost Lodge character, Rat Fink at least gets some damage in.
Year of the Snake
This is a really nasty card for trying to sneak a win.  Remember that characters can only incept at the location they are at.  Say you are in a three player game, and attack player 2's first column for the win.  Then player 3 turns a couple of characters to intercept.  You can YotS to any other column and invalidate that first round of interception since they are no longer at your location and can't get to where they need to be.
Yen Song
Song is pretty bland, but he makes a decent hitter.  He usually costs one more power than the Frenchman, but also has one more Fighting, so they both fit into a Stealth deck.  His second ability means that he can intercept Superleapers even when turned -- it's not much, but it can rarely come in useful.  He also has a designator that has no other matches in the Ascended (unless you count Yen Fan).

Big Mack
Keep on Truckin'  Big Mack is a Site taking machine if he can survive the swarm of events that will be coming his way.  This guy is as thug-like as you can get, and just loves to fight.  He probably rates at the number three 4-cost Dragon hitter behind T2 and Dr. John.
Doctor Shen
I hate to say it, but any 5 cost Dragon who doesn't do something damn nifty (like the old Iala) is a near coaster.  You can blame the Golden Gunman for that.  If your feelin' the need for a doctor in your deck, Dr. John Haynes and Chinese Doctor are both better choices.  Dragons love to visit Sacred Heart Hospital, and surprisingly often you want your Dragons to die so the can make a Golden Comeback in the next act.
Dragon Dojo
While this card is a main-stay of a Student deck, there are enough Foundation characters to trigger it fairly often in a other decks without having to rely on the more specific Master and Teacher cards.  How good is drawing one card?  Well, iffy at best in my opinion unless you are playing some trick deck like Dra/Asc Student + Bull Market.  Five Body hurts, and House on the Hill is often more useful.
Iala Mane' vPAP
The Blind Master still kicks ass.  While he loses a lot of the Golden Comeback kick ass on someone else's turn potential, he still can be a solid threat.  While he is designed to pump up the Dragon weenie deck, he can be surprisingly useful if you have a hitter in play.  Don't overlook that he gives all your Dragons Independent -- that can be incredibly useful.
"I Will Avenge You!"
Pay a power to get character after a character you control has been Smoked by an opponent's attacker or Event?  Yikes!  This makes Array of Stunts look good...
Jenny Zheng
At three resources, Jenny is way slow, and 2 Fighting isn't a great combination with Superleap.  She might have potential as a random hitter in a Gun deck, and should actually be fairly effective in the Can of Whupass deck since she becomes a whopping 7 Fighting.  You also want her in the Student deck, where with a Sifu or two she becomes a Superleaping Walking Corpses.
Katie Kincaid
Another card that really only fits in one deck -- a Dragon Gun deck.  Without a gun on her, she's a vanilla thug.  But with a Gun, she has a 50% chance to mob up when attacking.  I put her in the Tricia Kwok range -- nice to have one of in the deck, but Ex-Commando is where your bread and butter lie.  I hate games that come down to winning a coin flip as well.
Novice Students
This is a card that you are hoping that will pay itself back over time, giving you a power advantage.  In multiplayer it's hard to pull off since everyone will want these guys to die, but works better in a duel where you can snipe at their foundation characters.  Even though you are hoping for a 4 Fighting for 2 Power, don't mistake these guys for Walking Corpses, who are a beating stick and a half.
Old Uncle
The Uncle is an okay mid-range character -- his ability doesn't net you anything directly on the board, but if your deck is stacked with lots of low-cost cards that you can dump, you can get some benefit out of him.  You really want to avoid filling up your hand with cards you can't play, and not drawing cards next turn.  His ability doesn't combo with Dirk Wiseley's Gambit though -- by the time you've drawn the cards, it's too late to play a Gambit if you just drew it.
Peking Opera Troupe
If this card can do it's trick, then you have a pretty decent 4 Fighting Superleaper for 3 cost.  Getting out two Troupes is fragile, but your opponents will be taking (or at least trying) and controlling your sites.  You can also do some tricky stuff like playing cards into your opponents' structure (like Illusory Bridge and Netherworld Portal) to trigger the Troupe, or even trickier are the 0-cost vehicles (Motorcycle and Stolen Police Car).  Of course, if you want to keep it simple, Turtle Island works just fine.
Another disappointing card that only goes into one deck, and it's probably the worst card in the deck.  99% of the time, you will want to wait for 1 more power to play Iala. 
Six Bottles Hwang
Hwang is a fun card -- and he will aggravate your opponents to no end.  People just hate discarding random cards, and if they have less than 3 cards in hand, they can't intercept.  For added fun splash Magic resources to zap your opponents with the Curtain of Fullness.  An added bonus is that Hwang only requires two Dragon resources -- he should be model of what cost/resource requirements should be (yes, T2 is ba-roken).
Student of the Dragon
These guys are actually pretty cool, and may find their way into lots of Dragon decks as foundation characters.  Independent is just that cool.  They also make a nice combo with Inauspicious Return, giving you that chance of 3 Independent damage out of nowhere (but they aren't as good as Scrappy Kids for this).  Watch for their drawback, especially when someone with Toughness is on the board.
"Time to Kick Ass!"
This card can be marginally useful if you have a larger site structure, characters that defend well (say with Toughness) or characters that you want to unturn for a particular reason (Iala Mane, Purist Sorceror).  Unfortunately, most of the time this card is going to clog up your hand.
Zheng Yi Quan vPAP
A cost of 6 is what really kills Zheng -- that is just so much to spend on a character that doesn't have any built in protection from Shadowy Mentor or Events.  Zheng is a can of whupass at 10 Fighting with Guts, but he's just too close to Kar Fai to be terribly interesting.  Playing one in a Golden Comeback heavy deck might just work out.  Update:  Zheng is proving to be really good with Student of the Bear and Student of the Shark -- that makes him all that much better when you Mentor
him away from the poor sap that actually paid the power to play him).

Feng Kan
In a way the Wind Demon is a comeback card.  You are really hoping to get that 1 cost 5 Fighting character in a 4 player game, but more realistically he's 2 cost, but that's still respectable.  I wouldn't load up, but 1 or 2 of these along with a couple of Underworld Trackers makes a nice mid-rage demon threat.  Since he reduces his own cost, you can use Dragon Throne and other cost reduces to get extra mileage.  Argh.. I only got one Feng Kan to play with out of too many boxes, still, he seems decent the few times I manage to draw him.
Infernal Plot
This card may be a little bit better in dueling than I rate it just because it isn't vulnerable to Hacker like Reburial and Conspiracy.  It really can hose one player really bad -- which is why I don't like it in multiplayer.  Taking one player out of game destabilizes it too much, and doesn't benefit you nearly as much as the cost.  In a duel where you can Glimpse for quick power, you can hope to completely slow someone down by hosing all their resources, buying a time advantage.
Lai Kuang
If you build your deck correctly, most of the time Lai Kuang is a 2 cost 8 Fighting madman.  You do need to stock up on demons, but there are several 3 cost demons that are worth playing, not to mention several good 4 cost.  If you want to have some evil fun, try a Dra/Lot deck with Lai Kuang, 3 cost demons, Wu Ming Yi and Golden Comeback -- non-stop demon thrills!
Larcenous Fog
Spend two power to nullify an opponent's site?  Ick.  This goes along with all those other incredibly bad 2-cost Lotus states like Veiling of the Light and and Sphere of Defilement.  Definitely not the answer to the Temple of Angry Spirits.
Li Yu
The Fire Demon is somewhat interesting, and needs more play time to see how good he really is.  He's immune to a couple of cards you really hate to see (Brawl, Killdeer, Avenging Thunder, Nerve Gas), which makes him pretty tough.  With Dragon Throne, Li Yu could become a second tier CHAR, but that is still yet to be seen.
Malachi is another card I blew it on with my original assessment.  A 1- cost pinger is useful card -- too bad he's rare and so hard to come by.  Providing a magic resource is also a nice bonus..  He becomes truly dangerous if you are mixing Architects and get his counterpart Hermes into play.  Sigh...  you can't use Inauspicious Return on Malachi or Hermes, so you won't be able to go crazy with the combo.  What is going to become truly frightening is the Dark Future -- The Purists are going to be introduced as a new faction, and rumor has it that you will be able to play the Architect and Lotus Purists by substituting Purist resources -- all of a sudden, Malachi and Hermes are looking bad-ass.
Poison Clan Killers
Well, they're giant Butterfly Knights that only get the free attack against characters, which really takes them down a notch.  What you want are two site a turn machines, but in reality what you get is a thug that takes out a character, and then turns to heals.  There are much more fun characters for the Lotus like Seven Evils or The Burning King.  If you are lucky, you can get a dueling soft-lock on your opponent by smoking everything they put out and turning to heal, but that is very fragile to Gas/Mentor.
Rend Chi
While this card looks okay at first glance, it's hard to pull off.  It gets even harder once your opponents expect it.  There is a reasonable opportunity cost of having a character with damage counters on it and an opponent having a character at the same location.  Since the Lotus also have the benefit of Regenerating characters and characters that return to play when Smoked, Rend Chi is sort of an anti-combo.  You are often better off playing Shattering Fire to get some damage in.  Note that removing damage is Healing, so you can't use this with cards that can't be healed.
Shui Yu
He we have as Demon thug -- 6 Fighting-for-4 Power with a so-so ability.  The Water Demon does punish people for playing mono-faction decks, but since they get to choose how they will intercept, his ability prevents him from ever being intercepted by two characters of the same faction, and will always be intercepted by the most advantageous for your opponent.  The best use of Shui Yu is to Rig Dis his ability on the unwary -- in that way it's almost a drawback if you are going up against the Hand.
Ti Kan
This card doesn't seem to fit in Shaolin Showdown -- a set with very few Tech cards and set in 1865 China.  The Metal Demon seems more like he'd be unleashed in the dark future...  Ti Kan is a specialty card -- the other 3 cost Demons are more versatile, but if your play group has lots of Tech players (Architects, Jammers), he can slow them down a little bit.  It's a nice mix up, he kills CHAR, and that +1 damage even hits sites from time to time.
Underworld Contract
This is a trick card -- it looks a lot better than it really is.  At 3 Lotus resources, it's very slow, and doesn't give you that early game boost when you need it.  That said, it's still okay to throw into a Demon deck and hope to generate a couple power over a longer game, and maybe a little more if you overload on stuff to make attacks unsuccessful.  Of course in multiplayer this becomes more a deterrent to attack than a power generating trick, but not being attack isn't that bad if your deck has room for a little offense with all the defense.

18 Bronze Men
If this were Magic the Gathering, this card would be Crusade.  While not all Hand characters gain the bonus, enough do to make this card worth while.  You have to protect your front-row site where you've played this, but that's what the Hand excels at.  Be sure to always factor in 18 Bronze Men -- with all the new modifying cards in Shaolin Showdown, you can often sneak in some wins by your opponent's miscalculating your actual Fighting scores.
Bear vs. Fox
This is the best of the Faceoffs, potentially gaining you the most advantage.  You really want this when playing against the Architects, as that Nerve Gas or Neutron Bomb is gonna be a package of smackage.    See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
Chen Sho Kun
Make no mistake, this guy is Not-so-Gooda(tm).  On his own, he's 7 Fighting-for-5 power.  That's only marginally better than a Hopping Vampire considering he requires 4 resources.  If he stays alive, he has two abilities that are hard to set up.  Having lots of Swordsmen for him to pump up is always difficult, and that means you have to be playing with Swordsman who are incredibly bad.  Playing with Sword states to trigger his second ability isn't bad in itself, but giving up 2-3 damage and paying 1 power to essential Op Killdeer is harsh.  Flying Sword Stance is your best bet to trigger him, but of course you never have the 2 Chi because you are playing crappy Swordsmen...
Dragon Boat Festival
Increased hand size for you is good.  Increased hand size for everyone else is bad.  In a 4 player game, that's six more chances for everyone to have a Nerve Gas or Op Killdeer or Final Brawl or Neutron Bomb...  You might be able to get away with the Dragon Boat Festival in a few highly specialized decks revolving around Xaoyan Yun, but it's risky.  Because of the establishing shot order (generate, unturn, discard, draw), you can try to manipulate the Dragon Boat so that only you get the benefit of the extra cards by using Cabinet Minister (or a card that would turn an edge), but this is often too fragile.
Eagle vs. Snake
This is one the most general of the Faceoffs -- it works decently for Bushwhacks and for trying to generate a little offense on your turn.  See the strategy section on Faceoffs.
Fong Sai Yuk vPAP
We pretty much have the same old Sai Yuk, with the addition of a gravy ability.  He's still real good, and a nice extra addition to a Hand deck, but still ranks behind Sun Chen and the Iron Monkey.
Gong Wei
Outside the Bandit deck, Gong Wei is a useless thug.  Inside the deck, he's letting you get a soft-lock.  You are hoping to sacrifice your 1-cost Rebel trash to get back all your Confucians, Robusts, Iron and Silks, etc. Probably the best is to get back your Rig Dis so you can go turbo.  This card will need to see some play to time see if he just winds up being worth playing, or if you find that you'd rather draw Wind of the Mountain over him.
Impoverished Monk
A very interesting character indeed -- if you take the vow of poverty, the Impoverished Monk can reap you rewards, but without it, he's nothing more than another noodle peddler with a shaved head.  Requiring two resources, he's a little slow to give the early game beat down that you'd really like to achieve with him.  To work around that, cards that work in conjunction with the Impoverished Monk to pump up his damage and Fighting are the way to go.  18 Bronze Men and Temple of the Shaolin Dragon give him some size, and Try My Kung Fu makes a poor monk near invulnerable with Toughness:2.  Point Blockage is an obvious combo since he can use it in conjunction with Superleap.
Li Sen-Hao
Well, for 5 power you really want Sun Chen or Hung Hei Kwon, but this guy ain't the worst kid on the block.  He lets you stock up on situational cards or cards that you don't want multiples of and lets you burn through them -- drew your second Shield of Pure Soul?  Not a problem for Li Sen-Hao.  His respectable 8 Fighting puts him on the cusp of being playable, but only in a deck where you expect to draw at least some Chi cards.
Master Blacksmith
Every time I've tried playing this guy, I've always wished he were something else -- anything else!  Yes, he does let you play your Butterfly Swords more reliably (and the Swordsman deck can stall on Chi sometimes) or a surprise Thunder Sword, but he's way too fragile, and loading up on cards that you can only play while the Blacksmith is in play is going to lead you to death by clogged hand.  Into the Light (and Spirit Pole) are going to get your swords back into your hand faster and easier.
Master Killer
2 Power for +1 Fighting and an evasion ability?  That's weak.  And my opponent gets to use it against me?  That's crazy.  Flying Sword Stance is about 90% as good as Master Killer, and wont bite you in the ass.
Master Swordsman
Another highly combo-dependant card, Master Swordsman can be worth playing if you do so with care have your deck tuned well.  Without a weapon, he's a vanilla 4 Fighting-for-3 cost -- that's not what you want, but can take a site worse case scenario.  If you can drop a Tiger Hook on him, he becomes a respectable 5 Fighting, 7 Damage ginsu killer with CHARs no-damage reduction ability -- not bad for 4 power.
Miu Tsui Fa
Fong's mom isn't a character to build a deck around, but is a support character instead.  She goes okay with larger characters that tend to soak up damage -- but if she is your only character in play you have a glorified Shaolin Monk  Shih Ho Kuai is about the best to go with her, as he has the same relatively low cost, and can get big enough to soak up some damage.  Mom can also go as your offense in a Faceoff deck -- not for the actual Faceoffs, but as a clean up hitter afterwards.
Old Man Wu
The jury is still out on Wu, who is really master of the Yellow principal.  Yellow Senshei chamber rocks, but Yellow Monk is hard to use.  I think Wu will be somewhere in the middle.  Notice that his ability triggers every time (the other are only single use) and he can redirect any type of damage.  This is not the card for those who can't work out complex damage in their head before attacks, or who are not wizards at the complex redirection rules.  Still, at 5-cost you are almost always going to want Sun Chen or Hung Hei Kwon.
Order out of Chaos
Can anyone say free Hacker?  Especially against the Hand, where you are not expecting the nasty Toast or Power stealing events.  This falls into the realm of Cyclone of Knives and maybe Far-seeing Rice Grains -- a fun card, but risky.  This card also has odd resource requirements -- you can meet them anywhere from early game with two Golden Candles, or get stuck with it until mid-game if you are playing only secondary Chi.
Peasant Agitator
.Bleah -- a conditional 2-Fighting-for-1 Power with no other abilities isn't worth the cardboard it's printed on if it's not a resource character.  Notice that these guys aren't cumulative -- +1 Fighting is all they get regardless of how many peasants in play.
Peasant Leader
This guy is highly annoying -- don't expect him to live long in multiplayer.  Throwing one or two in a deck can clear up a little garbage and offer a little bit of fun.  Always tasty if you are playing with a card that lets you sacrifice -- say a Ravenous Devourer.  I expect to see him every now and then -- too bad he doesn't provide Chi, or he'd be top-notch.
Peasant Mob
This is a card I recommend for lucky people -- if you're lucky, you've just got yourself a hack 6 damage for only 3 power.  If you're unlucky (like me), you got a cruddy 2 damage.  
Shaking the Mountain
The verdict is still out on this card, and it's going to cause a lot of timing disputes.  The obvious use is in combination with Superleapers, but there are several other powerful uses for this card.  It also turns sites, that lets you get in a pre-emptive strike against those sites that can foil an attack when used during your turn.  Of course one of the most powerful uses is on your opponent's turn to shut down part of their offense -- if they don't attack as first action, you are turning a bunch of their characters, denying them attacks.  Watch out for decks that try to recycle Shaking the Mountain and get you into a semi-lock.
Shaolin Student
In theory, this guy can net you 2 power under the right conditions -- but if those conditions never come up, you pretty much have a bland 1 cost resource character.  I expect to see him the most in a Dragon Dojo deck where you are drawing cards -- but honestly, the Fu Student is much better, and if you want to play Chi with any reliability, you are probably going to have to ditch most of your Shaolin Students for Golden Candle Societies.
Superior Kung Fu
This is an interesting Event is that it's both offensive and defensive.  The most common use with be with a resource character as an interceptor to stick an extra 2 damage on an attacker (and hopefully Smoke it in the process).  The most tech use of Superior Kung Fu is when attacking -- say you are attacking with an Impoverished Monk who winds up being intercepted by a 3 Fighting character -- with Superior Kung Fu your monk will overcome the defender and damage the target of the attack, causing it to be successful, even if he is going to be Smoked at the end of the turn.
Sword Dance
Ick.  Gack.  Superior Technology for swordsmen with swords.  And you can move them around.  Not so good.  What you are hoping to do is attack with a thug with a sword, then pay 1 power to move the sword to someone else and attack with them again.  Remind you of anyone?  Gunrunner maybe?  So, do Gunrunner + limited Superior Technology add up?  Get out the drinks, it's coaster time.
Temple of the Shaolin Dragon
Another mid-late game pumping card, the Temple is nice in that it's an 8 Body Feng Shui site with the added defense ability.  With all the + Fighting cards the Hand has now, it's almost impossible to keep track of everything without slowing the game down with ponderous recounts.  I like this card over Temple of Boundless Meditation, but both can go in the same deck and are good for turtling as well as offense.
The Dragon Unyielding
In the right deck, you can gain a little bit of spending change with this Event -- notice that it's the first rare non-unique we've had in a while.  While you can use it in a Faceoff deck, generally Unique characters are doing battle all the time -- now you just have to make sure it's the other guys character getting smoked, not yours.  Remember the unusually high four resource cost on this card.
Tong Su Yi
The Guiding Hand got a number of relatively  high Fighting thugs this set -- Tong Su fits right in with the rest of them.  You have to have at least 4 cards in your hands to get him the equivalent of a Shaolin Master -- and generally an 8 Fighting-for-5 Power isn't good enough of a deal to make it a game winner.  To really make this guy worth playing, you want around a reliable 10 Fighting -- which means you will have to keep 6 cards in hand most of the time, which means playing with cards that increase hand size.  The Guiding Hand have Temple of Boundless Meditation, Dragon Boat Festival and Orange Senshei.  I am a big fan of the Orange Chamber -- I often play it even in mono-hand decks for the +1 hand size and as a power generating site.  The Temple can get you a few cards, but you are playing it for itself -- Tong is more a combo with it than it is a combo with Tong. Dragon Boat is a bit more iffy since it gives the same bonus to your opponents (unless you are doing something goofy like turning it or canceling it during your main shot).   The same goes for Art of War.  Sunless Sea Ruins is very hard to play with, but their may be something interesting that someone figures out that fits right into the Hand's ultimate goals.  

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

"Try My Kung Fu!"
In the right deck, this card is a nice speed bump.  By the right deck, I mean one where you are likely to have the correct designator in play, and hopefully with a resource character.  Unfortunately, that's often hard to do, but Impoverished Monk is a favorite target for this Event.
Tsung Jin
Another thug the Hand doesn't need.  He's a below average 7 Fighting-for-5 power if you don't have a State on him, and when you do have a State, he pretty much is the equivalent of a character with Stealth.  Sun Chen blows this guy out of the water.  And you know this guy is going to be the victim of a Shadowy Mentor, so you opponent will have Jin doing his trick while you cry over your lost cards. 
Wei Fong-Yi
The Master of the Fox Style is another mediocre addition to the Hand's arsenal.  He's got a respectable Fighting for his cost, but his ability only works against specialty decks.  He's basically Kan Li's older and better brother.  The Hand has been spoiled by Leung Mui, Iron Monkey and Virtuous Hood in the 4-cost range/
Yen Fan
The Hand has been missing a 6 Fighting-for-4 cost Superleaper for a long time.  Too bad this guy had to come out after the Iron Monkey, who has raised the bar insanely high.  Mixing in Ascended or just ganking a Family Estate makes Yen Fan even sweeter -- you can reduce his cost to an insanely low 3.  The ability to block Stealth attacker wont come into play much, but it's still nothing to knock.

Flying Monkey Squad
Strictly a fun card, especially if you like jumping up and down shouting ook ook ook at the table.  On their own, the Squad does not stick out as exceptional, but they shine if you can combine them with a State or two for some extra damage.  Flying Monkey Homemade Tank Squad is a 5 cost 7 Fighting Superleaping Independent ape of doom with Toughness:1.  Is that crazy or what?
Homemade Grenade
Now that I've played with the Grenade few times, it's not at bad as I thought.
Koko Chanel
While the butt-monkey doesn't live up to the Iron Monkey, Koko does have some potential.  Gorilla Fighters have a bit more juice in the Independent realm, but Koko has a few tricks.  If you are playing with non-Feng Shui sites to generate power or cards that put you farther from victory, you can actually get some action out of the butt-monkey -- non-Feng Shui sites make great targets, and she is a must for a Jammer Battleground deck.
Mo' Monkeys, Mo' Problems
Maybe you are squeezing one of these into a deck -- but what do you take out?  I think I always want Payback Time (or a second one to replace the first one that is going to get zapped).  Since the trigger cards are mostly semi-expensive cards, you can't go crazy with this card.  Note that you also don't get to draw from Monkey House or Temple of the Monkey King since they have to be played face down.  Too bad this card doesn't trigger off of opponents cards -- that way you could scoff when your opponent plays Iron Monkey... well, maybe not...
Portal Rats
The Rats are probably a one-of in a lot of Jammer decks.  Sometimes you really want to get rid of those Edges, and almost every faction has a way now.  In the worse case scenario, you have a vanilla mid-range character, and we all know they can take sites in a pinch.
What hurts this card is that you can't play it in response -- you are going to get nailed by the pesky site the first time, and that is often when they hurt the most.  You can try blind Sabotage, but that may not get you very far.  Probably the best use for this card is with Proving Ground to stop your opponents Whirlpools.  Honestly, if you are really worried about turning sites, start packing some Monkey Wrenchings, and really turn up the annoyance factor.

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.  
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.
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).
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.
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.

Butterfly Swords
Hrm... this card kind of looks like Buro Godhammer, only worse.  Why do I say worse?  Godhammer kicks butt because the Architects have so many Ambushers.  While I was tuning a Swordsman deck, I eventually migrated out the Butterfly Swords for Tiger Hook Swords -- the speed was worth giving up 1 extra damage.
King on the Water
This is one of those cards I always want to play with, but wind up cutting at the last minute to trim down a deck.  It's a fine card, and lets you blast through for some damage, often letting you sneak in a burn.  This could be tasty in the Fire-Chi deck with Spirit Pole to make sure you have it when you need it.
Legacy of the Master
This one is right up there with Orange Meditation.  Sure, it lets you save your Swords from impending death, but only if you have another character.  And you had to draw your swords -- I always wound up drawing this card over States that actually did something useful.
Path of the Clever Fox
Stealing Power is good.  Paying a high cost for it is questionable. Clever Fox is half the price of Virtuous Hood and Iron Monkey, two cards that I am a huge fan of.  I think 9 times out of 10 you are going to be happier drawing them over this State.  Save this slot in your deck for The Fox Outfoxed, a card that has the potential to show you a long-lived benefit.
Path of the Healthy Tiger
Another card that is awkward to use, Health Tiger is another State that I am not a fan of.  Sure, it will let your big hitter take a site if they've been beaten up, but why let them get beaten up in the first place?  Let me tell you a Shadowfist proverb, Grasshopper.   The road to victory is slick with the Blood of the Valiant...
Path of the Lurking Rat
Well, we all know what a coaster Undercover is -- so what makes this card any better?  Well, actually, it is quite a bit better just because you can put a stop to crazy site madness with Lurking Rat -- and he can hit almost any site on the board.  Having played with Palm of Darkness, this is a really useful ability, and don't forget you can also play this State in response to someone using the site that is the target of the attack for extra style points.
Path of the Praying Mantis
Eep -- here we have a Really Big Gun, but only useable against characters, and sort of a Toughness against 1 cost character.  Neither one of these adds up to 1 power though.  Now we know why Dunwa became a traitor -- being a mantis bites...
Path of the Raging Bear
Hrm... for 2 power I can turn any character into Sam Mallory...  Not a great deal, as Sam is only marginal at best.  We know that character + state is an inherently weaker combination that the character with the innate ability.  It does give you more flexibility, but the added cost usually offsets it to the point of being sub-standard, like in this case.  Sam would have to be a 3-cost 7 Fighting vanilla character to equal out with Path of the Raging Bear.  Still, this State is pretty if you can get it onto Sam, giving him uber toughness.
Path of the Storm Turtle
This is the best of the Chi paths -- it comes out fairly fast and free, and works against a decent amount characters.  A few factions make this card pretty useless, but it only slows you down a turn since you can drop it at no cost if you have a character in play.  The trick is that it goes in the decks with Golden Candles and a few other low-cost Chi-providers like Noodle Lady and Gardener -- watch out for a lot of the new Shaolin Showdown cards that don't provide Chi.
Point Blockage
This is another difficult card to play, but it can have a huge annoyance factor.  It doesn't quite make the cut as a 1 point Fusion Rifle, especially since it cant damage sites.  So we have to look at the doesn't unturn ability.  About the only use for this is on a conditional superleaper -- you are looking to drop this on Impoverished Monk or Rig Dis Superleap on to its subject.  
Walk of a Thousand Steps
Half a Shadowfist for 2 power?  Get this out of here.  This card often works out to be a measly Toughness:1, and you are wonder why you wasted your power on it when you could have played Path of the Storm Turtle.

None this set.

None this set.

Elephant Gun
Ker-BLAM!  Damn that's a lot of extra damage.  This is a nice card to sneak in for effect, and is even better if you are playing Johnny Tso or Ice Commandos and can get it out for free.  If your especially gutsy, you can try for a second turn burn with the Elephant Gun, but this only works if your opponent stalls -- First turn:  FSS, 1 cost char -- Second turn:  Attack, Gun -- this is the same deal as Explosives, but only more costly.
Sliding Paper Walls
This site is a departure from the Battlegrounds of the past -- it's effect isn't character based, and there is no power involved in seizing it (in fact it can't even be seized unless it's text is cancelled by say Palm of Darkness).  I think this card will become a staple of Battleground site decks just because of its throw away nature -- it only costs you playing a site for the turn, and doesn't give your opponents any advantage.  The site could also see some play in highly tuned defensive decks, but the fact that it isn't going to trigger Shield of Pure Soul makes it less desirable.
Sword of the Master
This sword is big, and definitely a useful card.  It's in that range where it gives a vehicle-like Fighting bonus, but if fails because it doesn't interact with weapon designator cards (like Johnny Tso and Ice Commandos).  The damage-negating ability comes up surprisingly often -- not only does Sword of the Master negate other States (guns and vehicles), there are numerous characters that get whittled down when confronted with this sword (like Ting Ting and Fu Students).  A decent card, but not being a Weapon keeps it from greatness.
Three Sectional Staff
Yeesh -- here we have yet another Really Big Gun, but this time only if you play it on a Martial Artist.  I think Flying Windmill Kick as taught us that coin-flipping for extra damage just can't be counted on to win games.  Every time I'd go for a pump-action of this just for the reliability.
Tiger Hook Swords
Just when you thought you had seen all the Really Big Guns, here comes another.  Actually, I like Tiger Hook Swords for one reason -- their designator.  In a weapon deck, I would recommend these over RBGs if you don't lose much interaction just to save you from Discerning Fire.  About the only swordsman worth playing is the Master Swordsman, so don't load up your deck with coasters just to trigger the draw a card part of Tiger Hook Swords.
Two Dragons Inn
This card I just don't know about.  I like offense and dislike Turtles, so I think I will find some uses for this card.  Scrappy Kids and characters with Stealth would seem to combo with it since you can declare low risk attacks.  Shaking the Mountain seems like another card to force your opponents hand.  This also seems like it could have cool interaction with a few of the more annoying sites like Temple of Angry Spirits, Cave Network, Blessed Orchard and Market Square.  I don't think the Inn is strong enough in itself (they can just spend all their power every turn and ignore it) to build a deck around, but it can augment the right type of offense.

Ancient Monument
About the only thing this site is good for is replacing those aging Sacred Grounds in your deck.  Yes, it's big, but it gets small surprisingly fast, especially if it gets revealed early or you can't defend it.  The basic trick you are hoping for is to get it down to 1 body, so any attack against it will smoke the Ancient Monument and cause an unsuccessful attack.
Forgotten Shrine
This Shrine's relatively weak ability doesn't quite warrant the low body of 6, even if it does trigger Hidden Shrine.  Remember that this can't be done in response to a site turning, so some of the time you will have to reveal this early and target an unrevealed site and hope to get lucky.  Most of the time you are going to with this was a Whirlpool of Blood.
Four Sorrows Island
This site is harsh -- it gets damage through unless it's Whirlpooled.  Remember to hold off using this until the current round of interceptions has been declared, since it will invalidate intercepting characters -- only a fool would use this as a pre-emptive strike unless you wanted to Smoke itself.  Don't overlook those highly damage but well-defended sites -- often a foundation character can attack with the aid of Four Sorrows Island and get in a burn.
Hartwell Iron Works
Hey look everyone!  It's the baby Temple of Angry Spirits!  This sucker is rare, so it least you wont see one (or two) in every deck like you do with Temple.  This one is a no brainer -- play it, kill your opponent's characters, win.  This is just going to add to the pain and slow the game down even more, which it just didn't need.
Heaven's Peak
With a respectable 8 Body, Heaven's Peak can fit into any deck.  While it may be hard to find room in some of the more tightly tuned decks, the average fun deck can benefit.  This doesn't trigger off of turning to attack, but it does trigger off of turning to intercept.  It also triggers off of cards that are turned as part of a cost -- so White Disciple turning to do damage will trigger the Peak, as will turning a bunch of characters to play the cost for Die!!!
Market Square
This site I really love, and I think it's the strongest non-unique site in the set.  It almost always gets you a power back, and often many more.  There are several strong combos with Market Square:  It triggers a first turn 2 Fighting Fu Student.  It goes well with sites/cards that slow up attacks like Kinoshita House and Fox Pass.   And it goes great with the Architects 1-cost Events -- you can fake out your opponent by having no power, only to zap their attack with the power you gained.
Plains of Ash
This is a tough card to get a real feel for.  I guess it could become a respectable size in a deck that burns through a lot of cards and uses them to grow to epic proportions.  But, I think you are usually better off with some of the inherently big sites like Tangram Alley if you want to go that way.  So that leaves us with using Plains of Ash in a deck where you are randomly returning cards from your Smoked Pile to play with Netherworld Return, In Your Face Again or Fighting Spirit -- I think you might be able to get some synergy here with the Plains, but remember they are unique, so it's going to be somewhat unreliable if you play just a couple in your deck, or is going to clog your hand if you overload.
Primeval Forest
Generating 2 Power a turn is the shiznat.  Generating 0 ain't.  To use this card reliably, you need some healing effects in your deck -- that means playing Hand (not necessarily that bad) and/or playing lots of Stone Gardens (usually not the best as you want more versatility).  What kills this site is the Limited restriction -- that makes it almost impossible to build a deck around, so you are loading up on combo cards that you will never get to use.  I have seen many a game where the controller of Primeval Forrest has begged for someone to come over and take a damaged one just so they can start generating power again.
Temple of the Monkey King
While this card can have some nice synergy in a lot of surprising situations, it has it's true home in 2061 under the Architects control.  This is the site that is going to allow you to zap the Golden Gunman and the Eastern King with your Nerve Gasses and Imprisoned.  Unfortunately you can't blank your own characters (the target has to be attacking) and set up some crazy Demon Queen madness, but since this Temple is non-unique, you don't have to worry about drawing multiples or auctions, not to mention a respectable 8 Body.

This fool is currently unplayable without some crazy stunts like Comrades in Arms -- we'll just have to wait and see...



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