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Subject: Buka vs. Pillar: bugs on drugs hold their own rss

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Seth Ben-Ezra
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(I borrowed "bugs on drugs" from a friend.)

Continuing the Buka Invasion, Crystal and I moved onto Buka vs. Pillar. I've been wanting to try out this combination for a while. First, I thought that the Pillar could have a couple of tricks available to combat the Buka. Second, I'm wanting to work on discovering what "good" Pillar play looks like.

Disclose is a powerful tool against the Buka. Part of the trick to fighting against bluff is tracking how many of the Fire and Earth bluff cards have gone by. Disclose lets you locate them early. Also, it then lets you better target the use of your Caterpillar cards. Several times I was able to flush out Bluff cards from Crystal by setting up power requirements that she couldn't meet without using or discarding a Bluff character.

The converse is that there were several times when Crystal simply used the Bluff card as a support, matched to the right element, and there was nothing that I could do. So, knowledge is power, but it's not all-powerful. Indeed, Crystal pulled the wool over my eyes at one point, slipping an empty bluff through. Her metagame skills paid off, earning her a win that I could have dismantled. Grr.

I also discovered that it's important to try to flush out those high-power Buka characters. There really aren't that many, as most Buka cards hover around 3 or 4 points of power. If you can force them to be played at a bad time, it can definitely help in the endgame. In the first game, where I was able to do this, I was able to earn some dragons fairly cheaply, simply by leading with high-powered characters that Crystal couldn't match.

I'm also poking at the idea of "buying down power" by calling bluffs, even if you know what they are. Remember, a called bluff is discarded, even if it is the correct element. If staying in the fight is a good thing (e.g. you could earn two dragons), then it might be worth calling the bluff, simply to remove those two points of power. That can make the difference between staying in a fight and losing altogether. I haven't figured out which are the right times to do this, but it's something to keep in mind.

Crystal also figured out a couple of good ways to churn her hand while gaining ground. The best one involved the use of the Quartermaster (play as many supports as desired) with the Letter of Marque (can't call bluff). She just played those two cards, then dumped the rest of the cards as bluffs. Bingo! Instant 12 points of power, a brand new hand, and nothing for me to do but retreat. She's done similarly with the 3-capacity ship that lets you load it immediately. This ability to churn is a major strength of the Buka.

Now, to the Pillar side of things.

The Pillar actually have a number of hefty characters. This is important to keep in mind. However, I think that the temptation is to view their potion boosters as ways of increasing their power. That's not really the case. Rather, the potion boosters provide flexibility. I think of them as adding mutability. Using the potions, you can mold your characters into what you need them to be. Indeed, I found that using a "mutated" character early in a battle was a pretty good idea, saving unmodified characters for later in a battle, when I needed the booster/support action to put away the battle.

Also, because the Pillar can be booster-dependent, it can be a good idea to consider yielding the right to start a battle so that you will be able to play boosters. Also, don't forget that Free boosters can be played on the first round, so dropping a Caterpillar or Giant Butterfly Morningwind on your first turn can be good, if you're needing to churn your hand a bit.

I also think that the Pillar need to move pretty quickly through battles. In this way, they are similar to the Aqua, in that they are actually fairly balanced in their Fire/Earth distribution, but individual cards tend to be fairly unbalanced. So they tend to have little staying power, except that which is provided by the potions. Pillar can't really afford a slugging match. I know this, because I got into a costly slugging match in this game which gained me nothing.

I used the Caterpillars mostly to force her to burn through her characters, especially trying to force out the Bluff cards. Because the Buka values tend to be on the low side, this was pretty effective, particularly Caterpillar Lightseeker, which eats 5 points of power. Finding 5 Fire or 5 Earth in a Buka hand can be quite painful. Combined with Disclose, I could judge how hard to push with the Caterpillars, trying to make her pay to stay, rather than retreat.

Of course, being so booster-oriented, I took a beating from the Buka lookout (discard all boosters or all supports) and the Coxswain (discard the entire combat area when coming off a ship). Force those out early, if you can.

So, what was the final outcome? We're still in the middle of this match, as it got late, but we currently stand 3-3 after two games. Definitely better than my Vulca outing against the Buka. Also, I felt less encircled by the ships, for some reason. This could just be familiarity, but I'm not sure. I felt like I was able to reach across the table and disrupt Crystal's plans more effectively with the Pillar, and it shows in the current scores. I guess that we will have to see how it all turns out.

I'm not totally sure who will be the next people to oppose the Buka onslaught. Maybe the Aqua, as they are one of my favorite decks. Maybe the Khind, as they apparently have the Buka fits in playtest. Stay tuned....
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Joe Stude
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I think the early impression was that Pillar is overmatched vs. Buka, primarily because they don't have the "stoppers" to deal with stacks of free characters off ships. It's good to see you're having some luck with them.

You make a good point about calling bluffs knowing you're going to lose a dragon. My own tendency as Buka thus far has been to only play "false" bluffs when I really need them. If most people did the same, that'd probably mean you could call their bluff, get rid of the support card, and stand a good chance of winning the fight, basically breaking even. Doing that and leading the next fight is not a horrific thing to do, particularly if the Buka player is having trouble that led to having to play the false bluff to begin with.

Moral of the story: don't be predictable.

I think you've mostly nailed how I feel about Pillar. I particularly agree about Pillar flexibility. The tendency of most, I think, is to think about character/booster combinations that lead to max power, when there may be effective options out there. Favorites of mine include using the potions of Sparkling Fire/Trembling Earth to make utility characters like Gloria Gracia and Bottelus Emptius a lot more combat effective.

I'm still undecided whether it's generally best to use caterpillars to force character discards or to force retreats. I've played with players who use them both ways, including one who likes to stack two or three together in one fell swoop to assure a fight win. I suppose it depends on the deck to some extent (using them to force Khind character discards might actually help that deck out, for example).

Looking forward to seeing who wins the match!

P.S. You gotta wonder where all these session reports were when I had those fire/water spirits up for grabs?
 
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