Have you ever thought the starter file you got when you began playing Alteil wasn’t quite what it should have been? Maybe you had some ideas on how a better starter could be made? Now’s your chance to give it a shot. This Quest is all about creating your own (unmodified) starter. This time the restrictions are going to be pretty heavy on what you can and can’t use. Very exacting, even.
You might think that restricting yourself to only using cards with an AGI of 3 (and grimoires) would limit a file. It turns out, though, that AGI 3, perhaps because it’s the middle of the road for agility, includes no small number of the best cards in the game. Read on to see how our players picked up on this and capitalized as they crafted their contest entries.
(For the period of 7/30/09 – 8/12/09)
Just a quick note for those who may have realized that a week has gone by without the new Challenge of the Fortnight. Since we’re a bit backlogged on judgment, we’ve decided to take a week or two to get caught up. But don’t despair. The next fortnight will likely come sooner than one would expect, especially me. But enough about me trying to judge. Here’s the actual judgment of a challenge that took place too many fortnights ago.
Just a quick reminder that the current Challenge of the Fortnight for The Red Mantle / DeFau is ending today at a minute before midnight Eastern Standard Time, October 14th. Please get your entries in before the cutoff time if you wish to be considered for judging.
The Quests are moving right along. On this, our second outing, we’re going to clamp down pretty hard once again on which cards you can use. All unit and character cards used in this Quest must have a base AGI value of 3. This includes soul cards. Also, in the interest of sphere balance, no Gowen AGI 3 cards with a rank-up that boosts AGI will be allowed as play cards in your entry. You may feel free, however, to use them as soul cards. To save you a bit of time, here are those cards:
Across the Spectrum 8 started out as a slow trickle of entries, and then the flood gates burst open over the final few days. This was a no-holds-barred edition of AtS, and as such our entrants went all over the map with their ideas.
We saw quite the range of ideas among our finalists. Refess-Lawtia combos were especially popular. One puts the “disadvantage” of Moonlight Assassin’s action skill to good use. He can insta-kill any enemy unit, but then forces it to become morning. Well, with his 5 AGI, wouldn’t it be convenient to have Weissvogel on the field? At 4 AGI, she quickly gives you back the 1SP you spent on Moonsin’s action skill because hey, it’s morning now. Another finalist is a veritable festival of close skills, between Lelein, Rutina, and Folrart Slash Knight. Another big proxy combo, Gowen-Falkow, shows up as a finalist as well. This one’s very tricky, throwing such combos as Tree Giant and Rapidly Flying Apprentice on the field. Even if the opponent is keeping his back row clear so as to avoid Giant’s auto skill, RFA can move everything in the front row to the back to help ensure it gets hit anyway. This effectively leaves only one third of the opponent’s field completely safe for units. This entry also contains EX Primrose and Allind, but neither card is meant to be used the way we usually see them used in Folrart. Finally, two finalists, including our winner, said forget about specific spheres. They’d rather just use all four. In fact, one of them even uses Fierte as a soul card, which might seem suicidal for a four-color deck to do, but as it turns out, it works quite well.
It was hard to choose a winner between the two all-encompassing sphere files, as they both play quite effectively. in the end, it came down to overall synergy and teamwork. Our final winner of Across the Spectrum 8 is:
File Name: Super Swirl
1) Evangelical Hymn / Gospel
2) Mage Paladin / Distrier
3) Azure Beastmaster
4) Inquisition Nun / Cynthia
5) Water Emperor / Legrye
3 Flame of Hatred / Dullin
3 Blitz Soldier
3 Magic Doll -Heavy Shield-
3 Inquisition Raid Leader
3 Light Magic Archer
3 Magic Doll -Support-
1 Archer Scout
1 Exploding Spores
1 Warning Knife
1 Flesh Recycle
1 Miracle Fruit
1 Soul Bind
The file opens in fairly standard Gowen fashion, leading with Exploding Spores. Next turn, Dullin hits the field. Once Spores has died and gone to the cemetery, the Gospel soul skill will set (reset in Gowen’s case) all sphere levels to 2. This makes Dullin do his countdown more slowly. Once Blitz Soldier is played, that will bring Gowen down to 1, making Dullin a very slowly ticking time bomb. This also helps the player keep from wasting the AT bonus, as in the early game, there’s not much difference between 60AT and, say, 70AT.
Now that all spheres are accessible at a low level, the next combo sets up. It’s Heavy Shield with Raid Leader behind her, and Support next to him so that he’s shield breaking at 55AT, and Support can also use her bash skill at 15AT to keep the opposing field under control.
The remaining soul skills are primarily buffers to help you keep your field combo going. The biggest weakness of this file is that once it starts to lose players on its team, especially Dullin, the game starts to fall apart. Therefore it needs to play aggressively, and use Miracle Fruit in order to counter returns if necessary. Light Magic Archer can help extend the life of some of the units, but in testing, I found that there was rarely a good time to summon her. In summary, this file can be taken apart, but when it’s working as a well-oiled machine, it really puts some stress on the opposing side.
Congrats to our winner and finalists. This will mark a point where Across the Spectrum goes on hiatus for a while. Taking its place will be a new contest, Arakis’ Quest. Quest will be a file-bulding contest, much like Challenge of the Fortnight and Across the Spectrum. There will be certain limitations on what cards you can use (and sometimes, how) in your entries. I also want to make an important announcement, that from now on, multiple submissions will not be allowed for either Across the Spectrum or Arakis’ Quest. This includes multiple submissions using alternate accounts: just one entry per player. Things are busy in GM-land right now, so I’m going to take a break from running contests for a while. Keep watching the Alteil site to see when I’m back up to speed and ready to start Quest.
Though we received a relatively low number of submissions for this past Across the Spectrum, the ingenuity displayed in several of them was quite impressive to behold.
It’s usually easier to mix two adjacent Alteil sphere colors, thanks to our friends the proxies. This doesn’t mean non-adjacent colors can’t be mixed. It just makes the exercise more challenging. Our entrants were up to that challenge, though, and lots of impressive synergistic combos were to be had within our latest crop of contest entries. Set 4, now a full-fledged part of the meta, was also much more represented than it was during Across the Spectrum 6. Even the newly-released EX 4 showed up here and there. As this is Lawtia and Falkow with which we’re dealing, sacrifice and manipulation were often part and parcel for these files. From massive SP generation and big units, to lockdown strategies, to mixing and matching theme decks, the name of the game this time was lethal control.
Without further ado, let’s talk about our winner. This card file uses a true tag team approach, where multiple units set ’em up, and then knock ’em down:
File Name: Swift Return
1) Mage Paladin / Distrier
2) Magic Doll -Support-
3) Inquisition Raid Leader
4) The Solar Eclipse / Alphonce
5) EX: Judge of Heretics / Bardia
3 Song Sorceress
3 Rapier Fencer of Regus
3 Guard Leader / Renally
3 Enormous Frog
3 Lady of the Megiddo / Belfyna
3 Aqua Sorcerer / Mystere
2 Lost Tome
This deck has a defined early, mid, and late game. It opens with a very recognizable Falkow standard, a Witch. Backed up by Undine, she can help establish an immediate field advantage if the opponent begins by playing a level one or two. This rolls directly into another much-seen (and often much-dreaded) Falkow combo, Song Sorceress and Rapier Fencer of Regus. In most cases, this combo can hold the field for a few turns while SP is generated. In the meantime, Lost Tome can be played at no true SP loss in order to get rid of a few of the opponent’s grimoires.
Here is where it becomes interesting. In ideal circumstances, Renally takes the front line soon, as she can help keep Fencer alive longer. Then Enormous Frog plops down on the front, further assisted by Renally’s DF buff. The frog lets you automatically engage any enemy (with his RNG 3) for a turn, while slowly taking damage in the process. If the opponent plays anything like a lycanthrope or proxy, which has 0AT at first, the frog will suffer no penalty whatsoever. Next comes Belfyna, who is the true key to the synergy of the file. Chances are once she hits the field, if the opponent has any Sylphs, he’ll probably try to summon them to use Belfyna’s start skill against her. This can lead to a series of Sylph backlashes. Otherwise, any unit the frog engages won’t be able to act that turn, so Belfyna is free to kiss them and send their AGI into the kill range for the following turn. The great part about this is, even though you’re giving AT and AGI to the enemy unit, it’s already engaged so it can’t use them against you. The frog eliminates the issue of giving a unit slower than Belfyna the opportunity for a quick buffed attack. Using Sylphs in addition can let you potentially self-destruct two enemy units per turn. Finally, Mystere hits the field and can return any unit within range that Belfyna kisses. This is a quick way to get rid of any big threat for just 2SP, though once you finally lose the frog, it won’t be quite as easy to rinse, lather, and repeat. Though this winning file doesn’t contain a lot of Lawtia, it still has significant synergy because Belfyna’s skill ties in directly with three different Falkow cards (Frog, Sylph, and Mystere).
The first three soul skills are straightforward and standard. Alphonce is intended for Renally, as typically this buffs her DF to the point that she can one shot nearly anything in the game for 1SP. This can help in the late game, especially if the opponent has already used up whatever they were packing to get through DF. EX Bardia is there for one final big hit in case you’re facing something with high HP/DF that’s giving you trouble.
In testing, I found that this file packs a lot of versatility and surprises. Even a semi-mirror match, in which there was a lot of backlashing, turned out to be in this file’s favor by the end. A hard-hitting, aggressive file might give it trouble, as some of the crucial cards are on the fragile side, but it has enough control tricks that this can probably be avoided in most cases. Even if it loses one part of its formula, it’s versatile enough to keep swinging with whatever’s left.
Congrats to our winner and runners up. Now I’d like to give everyone a heads up about what’s going to happen with the future of Across the Spectrum. We’ve now gone through a complete cycle of each of the six two-sphere combos. Instead of just cycling through them again, we’re going to try a different approach. In fact, Across the Spectrum itself might very well go on hiatus for a while. But never fear, for if that happens, another contest will rise up to take its place. In the meantime, the next Spectrum is going to be a free-for-all. This will be much like Spectrum 1 was, where you won’t be restricted to two specific colors. Anything goes, even 3- or 4-color decks. The contest still won’t start for a week from today, as usual, but this way you can get a head start on construction and testing, should you feel the need.
Things proceeded a bit differently than usual for this Across the Spectrum, resulting in a mix of the tried-and-true, and experimentation with new cards.
It was most likely the combination of two factors that made things different this time. Refess/Gowen is the first non-proxy sphere combo upon which Spectrum has focused, and a new major set release came out during the submission period. It was pointed out in the forums that because proxies aren’t much help here, and indeed, they were virtually absent in the entries, this is a tough combo around which to build a card file. Set 4 is still relatively new, and not all our players own many of the cards therein or have a working knowledge yet of their ins and outs. Some contestants took the safe route and largely built around set 3 strategies, and some decided to heartily embrace set 4 and see what new havoc they could wreak. Some of our regulars declined to enter this time, perhaps saving up their time and effort for future combos. In any case, the total number of entries was a bit down compared to previous Spectrums, and it was a more level playing field in terms of entry strength.
It took a lot of deliberation, but ultimately we decided to give the win this time to an old Across the Spectrum regular who injected just enough set 4 cards to pack some neat surprises into an already effective deck:
File Name: (none)
1) EX Dance Macabre / Lelein
2) Wise Swordsman / Steel
3) Rapidly Flying Apprentice
4) Legendary Unicorn
5) Beast Hunter / Rivera
3 Boy Inquisitor / Cudgel
3 Priestess of the Holy Weapon
3 Folrart Guardian
2 Sword of Mysteries
2 Miracle Fruit
3 Inquisition Raid Leader
3 High Priest / Abel
1 Kesaran Pasaran
1 Recovery Powder
2 Fairy Dance
2 Mirror of Light
It should be obvious at a glance that this is a priest file, with Folrart Guardian as a protective tank. It opens with a standard Guardian opening, going from Kesaran Pasaran, to Healing Powder, to FG. Sword of Mysteries, a staple for any good priest file, is present. It’s also obvious at a glance that while this is a Refess/Gowen deck, it doesn’t actually contain any Gowen units. Normally I’d frown upon this, but in this case the Gowen grimoires that are used mesh so well with the Refess units and the overall strategy that I made an exception.
Although all the priests here benefit from Sword of Mysteries, it’s Cudgel who is key. He can very often one-shot anything level 7 and above for 1SP. Through the use of Miracle Fruit, a number of problematic units of level 4-6 can be brought up into Cudgel’s kill range. In this way, this deck is good not only against low level rush, but also mid-level heavy hitters. For the really big stuff, there’s Mirror of Light. For example, mirroring Allind’s stats onto Folrart Guardian, Cudgel, or even Abel tends to produce some very interesting gameplay results. Fairy Dance helps keep your hard-hitting priests alive longer, and helps make the healing skills of Priestess and Abel more useful.
The final trick of this deck is another anti-big defense, in the soul skills of Rapidly Flying Apprentice and Legendary Unicorn. It might require some good timing with Miracle Fruit, but these two soul skills can result in a quick field wipe and return-induced SP disadvantage for an opponent running a deck of practically any size units. The first two soul skills are quite helpful for maintaining field control and SP flow, and sometimes this file wins a match before it even gets to the more interesting souls, but testing proved that even this many anti-big maneuvers can’t always outgun a highly aggressive opponent. It’s also sometimes difficult to come up with the SP needed to build up the Gowen sphere in the early and mid game.
Normally, I wouldn’t favor a deck with only level 1 and 2 cards in one of the two spheres, but this time, a lot of the entries with level 3 or higher in both didn’t have a lot of cross-sphere synergy. In many cases they simply took some of the strongest available combos from each sphere, and put them together. While that can certainly be effective in play, the combos don’t have much synergy between themselves and that hurts the chance of said entry winning Across the Spectrum. All that being said, there were still a lot of interesting ideas to be found in our runners up. Two of them go for card file destruction or mass extinction combined with direct LP attacks. The others, for the most part, fall back on set 3 tactics that we know and love (or hate). The release timing of set 4 might have as much to do as anything with the creative difficulty our Iczers seemed to have this time around, but I think it’s been demonstrated now that Refess and Gowen are a hard combo to make work, outside of theory. It’s surely no secret now that the only combo we have left to visit for the first time is Lawtia/Falkow, so time will tell if that proves easier to tackle than this one did.
Another Across the Spectrum has come and gone, and this time field presence and teamwork were the orders of the month.
What this AtS was actually about was food. Kebabs, to be exact. The favorite field set up was to put Renally in the front row, Oseon two spaces behind her, and then a Pegasus right in the middle. There was a lot of variety beyond this, but quite a few entries utilized this backbone for their fields, and to impressive effect. As many know, Renally is one of the best tanks in the game. Not only can she sit there and turtle though all but the hardest hits, but she has a wicked 1SP skill that can snipe anything on the front lines for (usually) at least 40 direct damage. With Pegasus behind her, her DF reaches 30 and so her skill can hit for 60. Meanwhile, Oseon is in the back doing anywhere from 40 to over 100 damage per hit. It really is a tough line to crack, even with column damage. The fact that Pegasus gives +20AT to all fielded Falkow cards as an open skill is icing on the cake. Many of our runners up involved using the kebab idea, but lots of other good concepts are found within as well. One of them in particular is very similar to the winner, and more effective in some circumstances, but we felt it wasn’t quite as promising in terms of synergy. Other ideas included an Endless Morning variant and expanded return tactics.
Our winner utilized the kebab technique well, along with some other added goodies:
File Name: Renally’s Flying Circus IV
- Roaming Predator / Asuet
- Peregrine Paladin / Larut
- Bounty Hunter / Elena
- Solar Eclipse / Alphonce
- Skeleton Warrior
- 3 Guard Leader / Renally
- 3 Pegasus
- 3 Right-Hand Shield / Garfath
- 3 Proxy of Sea / Oseon
- 2 Mage Paladin / Distrier
- 1 Undine
- 1 Witch Queen / Catherina
- 2 Meaning of Failure
- 2 Cyclone
- 2 Return
- 1 Instant Revival
- 1 Recovery Powder
- 1 Wrath of the Constellations
This is, in essence, a control file. It starts with Catherina (mainly as a sacrifice and SP bank), then moves on to Oseon, Renally, and Pegasus. As it’s building it has the options of Returns and Cyclones in case any overly threatening level 3s or a swarm or 1s and 2s hits the opposing field. Once the above-mentioned kebab is established, it’s a tough chain to break. This should provide enough time to field Distrier for extra attack and defense on the front lines.
One of the nice synergistic touches of this file is the inclusion of Garfath. He’s costly, at level 5 Refess, but if he’s timed right he can negate any damage done from a grim played the same turn (as character/unit open skills will always go off after grims). This way, no matter how much damage is done, all your cards are fully healed. Once Garfath is on the field, the longer he survives, the more permanent DF he gives to all your cards. This is a further boon to Renally, as it lets her hit even harder with her skill. It should be noted that even if Shield Break is used on Renally, with Pegasus behind her she will still have 20DF by the time her auto skill activates next turn. That’s the beauty of turn-based DF buffs. There’s an Undine in the mix in case something really fast and powerful like Dalos needs slowing down long enough to remove. And though it’s not always easy to use, Wrath of the Constellations can help make sure your opponent doesn’t get to use all that SP he’s storing up. Another nice thing about Pegasus is that, as a unit, multiple copies can be fielded. If your opponent has a card with DF that’s too high to punch through in a timely manner, one answer to that is to spam Pegasus to give multiple +20AT buffs to your Falkow cards. Between that and raising your Falkow sphere level for Oseon, there isn’t much that can stand up to the barrage. One other nice thing about Pegasus is, Renally and Oseon run interference for him. Quite often when Pegasus is part of a kebab, he becomes an instant target, but with Renally and Oseon overshadowing him, he tends to last a lot longer in this build than usual. After a while with Garfath on the field, he might even be quite difficult to kill without getting around his DF.
The soul cards are a nice aggressive spread for the first three, along with a bit of SP bonus for you. Alphonce can buff Renally’s DF much higher than it already is, but this is largely a decoy tactic since such soul skills are fairly easy to circumvent these days. The real gem is the last one, Skeleton Warrior. If your opponent manages to finally get you down to near death with a closed field, he might be in for a big surprise when Renally or Oseon or Distrier suddenly comes back to life faster and meaner than before.
As effective as it is, this file does still have weaknesses. The two biggest are most likely mass extinction in the vein of Allind, and any well-stocked field that can get its AT and AGI high enough to overwhelm its competition. Grim baners can also pose a problem, but that’s why all the return options are (hopefully still) there. I would argue that 1 more copy of Distrier at the cost of a grimoire would be a good idea too, but as he’s not the primary focus, it’s not that big a deal.
As expected, these files proved to be much the opposite of their Lawtia/Gowen counterparts. While one or two cards may turn out to be heavy hitters, generally the name of the game is establishing field presence and then holding onto it tenaciously. This brings us now to the end of our first round of proxy sphere combos. There are only two unexplored sphere combinations left, and we’ll get to those soon enough. Until next time, may your creativity abound.
The results are in for Across the Spectrum 4. Our winner decided that reptilian darkness and scorched earth, and plenty of them, were the way to go.
As was predicted, Across the Spectrum was all about power this time. Lawtia and Gowen are the two more offense-oriented spheres in the game, and the two mix well to create some combos that are hell-bent on laying waste to the opposing field (and sometimes, their own). In some cases, the power level is downright overwhelming. Endless Night was a very popular element for Spectrum 4, as was our new EX friend, Dullin. Punishment Hole, which seem tailor-made for a Lawtia/Gowen mix, also make multiple appearances. And of course, Animus was a common means by which to get the Gowen sphere level up to speed once Lawtia was already running. There were some very well though-out and balanced decks here, many with both strong start- and end-games. While a handful of entries stood out from the rest, it wasn’t very easy to choose the overall winner or a couple of the runners up. One winning approach was to apply one of the craziest series of buffs I’ve ever seen to an EN setup, another was a brutal series of Punishment Hole lockdowns, and speaking of lockdowns, one of our winners focused so heavily on SP drain, it just might shut down its opponent permanently.
Our winner this time pulled out the big guns:
File Name: Dragons of the Darkness Flames
- Magic Doll -Support-
- Magic Doll -Support-
- Solar Prince / Verlaat
- Solar Prince / Verlaat
- Witch Queen / Catherina
- 3 Dark Emperor / Zu-jyuva
- 3 Virtuoso / Rutina
- 3 Flame Emperor / Allind
- 3 Steel Bladesman / Bazgar
- 1 Flame of Hatred / Dullin
- 1 Proxy of Soul / Animus
- 1 Shade
- 3 Rapid Growth
- 3 Soul Pact
- 2 Fire Arrow
- 1 Soul Bind
- 1 Punishment Hole
The big idea here is field wiping. Animus holds the field for a few turns while you build up SP. Finally, out comes Zu-jyuva, and at that point you needn’t worry about being Iczer Attacked because Zu’s open skill saps all SP from both players. This is an important point to remember, though. Since you lose all your spare SP too, you might as well feed it into the Gowen sphere since you’ll be needing it soon enough. Once the combo of Zu and Rutina have (hopefully) wiped the field a few times, the SP you get from Zu’s death should allow Allind to take the field. Bazgar is an effective tank for Allind, and Baz can do some major damage himself in the meantime. The Soul Bind is mainly there to save your high level cards from Assassin or equivalent soul skills, and the Fire Arrows and Punishment Hole also help to provide some insurance so you don’t lose your huge cannons. There’s even a Dullin thrown in for one more field wipe, as, if all goes well, your Gowen level will be at 9 by the time he hits the field.
The two Magic Doll -Support-s help you get Lawtia up to level 9 quickly, once the opening Shade and Animus have bitten the dust. Verlaat’s soul skill can help you reclaim a few cards you’ve lost, perhaps even extra dragon emperor copies or some handy grimoires that were baned away. Catherina is, of course, just an anchor, because you’ll probably need all the LP you can get to use this file effectively.
This approach has its share of weaknesses. A Fierte soul skill at the wrong time can shut it down completely, perhaps beyond the point of recovery. Endless Night is also strong against this file, especially if a Succubus takes away all your stockpiled SP. You can avoid this to an extent by investing it in spheres or using Soul Bind on the Succubus, if she’s the only one out. Dagon can also make the game much more difficult, but by himself, he doesn’t tend to do more than delay the strategy. With the notable exception of Dullin, the field-wiping aspect of this file is mostly return-proof. That is, unless you’re up against Mystere. She can make things very difficult, as you’ll probably have to expend some Fire Arrows dealing with her. In testing, though, I found an instance where it was actually better to Fire Arrow my own Zu in order to wipe not only Mystere, but the entire opposing field. Mystere can’t return a card if it’s closed, after all. For all its weaknesses, this deck has a surprising amount of flexibility. If played in skilled hands, it can maneuver its way around plenty of lethal and debilitating obstacles. It just goes to show, that despite how many rare cards there are, it still takes a lot of well-considered strategy to play it against an equally skilled Iczer.
It should be noted that this winning file is based on an idea that (as far as I know) our Iczer Nehless originally conceived. I’ve personally been playing said deck in Folrart, and it was an encounter with it that inspired Setsuna to create his contest entry. While the basic strategy (Zu into Allind) remains the same, there are some key differences that set this variant apart. This lies primarily in the soul cards and grimoires. Nehless’ original version contains only SP generating and defensive grims, while this file has things such as Fire Arrow and Punishment Hole. Another key difference is that the original file focuses on three spheres while this one only focuses on two. This is a more streamlined method of SP investment, and testing revealed that either version has its advantages and disadvantages.
Testing these entries felt like chugging energy drinks or espresso, as the destructive power often went right through the roof when the combos were working at full capacity. This was good stuff, and I’ve no doubt this sphere mix will continue to yield sheer unapologetic firepower in the future. Next time, as is probably obvious at this point, we’ll be taking a much more conservative, calculated, controlling approach. But I should leave at least something to the imagination, so that’s all that will be said for now. Good work once again, Iczers. Keep the synergistic punishment coming.