Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! This week, Fred Wan talks about the latest elemental trick from the old master,
Most ranged attacks suffer from two drawbacks; they force you to shoot followers first, and they usually require the card making the attack to bow, thereby depriving you of its force.
Cards such as Elite Spearmen and Tsuruchi (exp.) can issue ranged attacks without bowing, but they typically give a low gold-for-force ratio and, because each individual ranged attack is small, they are action intensive, leaving you vulnerable to Deadly Ground and other battle-ending actions.
Likewise, there are cards that allow you to "shoot past" followers, such as The Arrow Knows the Way and the follower Ikiryo, but these are only good for one ranged attack each.
Kuro's Fire is possibly the most powerful ranged attack card in existence because of its flexibility. You get a total ranged attack strength of Force+Chi, so even large personalities can be brought down by the spell. Likewise, since you get to make multiple attacks consecutively, you can hit personalities protected by followers simply by shooting the followers first. This makes it much better than its closest rival, The Fire From Within, which only fires a maximum of two ranged attacks (of fixed strength).
Example: Naka Kuro exp. 2 has attached Kuro's Fire. He can issue up to 6 consecutive ranged attacks, and the total ranged attack strength he can issue is 11! Enough to make a serious dent in any army.
Anything that raises Force and/or Chi makes Kuro's Fire bigger. In particular, an Apprentice is free, and adds 3 to the amount of Force you can destroy on the other side-much better than Arrows From the Woods, since it is reusable. Likewise, you no longer have to feel bad about bowing a high-force unit-such as a shugenja with an Ancestral Sword attached-because Force is included in the calculation.
Kuro's Fire also combines nicely. It can make Stand Against the Waves brutally effective even if every opposing unit has multiple followers. Likewise, even though the spell can shoot followers first, The Arrow Knows the Way allows you to ignore them entirely (on one unit).
But the most powerful use of Kuro's Fire is to combo it with Naga Spy. With this follower attached, you get to shoot as a pre-battle action-even going "ahead of" Sneak Attack! This destroys "one man defense" decks when you're attacking, and on defense, typically means you no longer need to worry about "Sneak Attack-Deadly Ground" decks -- after Kuro's Fire, the opponent isn't likely to out-force you.
Kuro's Fire. One action, many dead targets.
[Additional: When most people see this card, they immediately think about the big shugenja. Without modification, experienced 2 Togashi Yokuni makes the biggest boom with 12 total strength. The creature Dragons and a few other unique personalities can whack 11F worth of stuff. But the biggest shugenja who cost less than 10 and/or are not unique weigh in at 4/4. These folks can still do an impressive amount of damage with Kuro's Fire, but by the third turn (when you've had a chance to load one up with Kuro's Fire), your opponent may well have two 3F Personalities, and a few 2F Followers. At this stage, you also need a second Personality or some other way to deal with a Personality, or you've essentially just reset the battlefield.
Sacred Temples Phoenix, Fox, and a few others can use Kuro's Fire as an early deterrent, but most clans don't get large shugenja that fast. Kuro's Fire for these clans becomes a mid- to late-game card, when a player has time to make an exceptionally large shugenja. But by the final battle, a 4F swing from Doji Adoka with a Kuro's Fire may not make much difference. Enter increasing mechanisms. The straightforward player will attach an Ancestral Sword, Porcelain Mask, or other large Item on the Personality. An Agasha Tamori on the receiving end of a Biting Steel or Burden of the Word creams twelve opposing force, or Shiba Odoshi can help out. Alternatively, raise the strengths of the ranged attacks. Barbican and Blazing Arrows both apply their bonus after the maxima are calculated.
Comparison shoppers should examine The Elements' Fury, Heart of the Inferno, and Asako Hosigeru. The first hurls truly mighty shots at the enemy, especially with cards like Incense of Concentration and Fortress of the Dragonfly. However, it soaks up a lot of shugenja power, leaving your forces to be crushed by a single Iuchi Daiyu. Heart of the Inferno can kill a much wider army, but Kuro's Fire can hit 3F cards while the others just plink. So when you need custom-tailored shots of death, look to the old Master of the Elements.
Note that canceling a ranged attack will only save one card from Kuro's Fire, but canceling an action or spell effect will save the whole army. -- ed.]
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