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Superior Tactics #7: Hoseki/Ninja Mystic

This week, Bayushi Tasogare returns with a look at a lady who lost her name (and nipples) to The Shadow.

Greetings. Bayushi Tasogare again, to look at a personality whose basic form breaks one of the most time-honored rules of the game, whose experienced form holds one of the most lethal innate dulling abilities in the game, and whose exp2 form meshes quite well with her Stronghold's ability. I speak, of course, of:

Hoseki - Uncommon Personality (AoD) - 0f - 3C - -HR - 5G - 1PH Unaligned Ninja Mystic. Lose 2 honor. Hoseki can attach and use 1 spell as if she were a Shugenja. This spell is considered a ninja action when used and not a spell effect.
Ninja Mystic - Rare Personality (HE2) - 0F - 5C - -HR - 7G - 1PH Unaligned Ninja. Experienced Hoseki. Unique. Lose 5 honor. The Mystic may bow to perform kiho as if she were a Shugenja. Limited: Bow the Mystic and challenge any Shugenja in play to a duel that cannot be refused. All Focus cards in this duel have their Focus values reduced to zero unless the card is a spell or Kiho.
Ninja Mystic - Rare Personality (HB) - 0F - 5C - -HR - 7G - 1PH Ninja. Experienced 2. Unique. Lose 5 Honor. The Mystic may perform Kihos as if she were a Shugenja. Battle: Once per battle, reduce an opposing Personality's Chi by 3 (minimum 1) until the end of the battle.

All right, so we have a 0/3 Ninja for 5 gold. That's about average, and she can attach a "spell that isn't a spell". Hoseki was a staple of Ninja decks (wanting to use spells) until the release of Goju Utsuei, who is 1g cheaper (meaning he is Black Marketable and comes off the Dark Path when Nio Sensei is in play), and has 1 higher Force. Utsuei has pretty much replaced Hoseki in most Ninja decks now, but I am hesitant to overlook any Personality who can break the rules. [Of course, there's nothing that says you can't use both. -- ed.] One must make an evaluation when choosing Hoseki over Utsuei or perhaps another Shugenja you are considering; put simply, is Hoseki's specialty worth it? To correctly judge this, you need to reason out exactly how useful her trait is. Both of them.

Usefulness of the Shugenja trait.
Hoseki is not a Shugenja. The biggest detriment about this is that she can't perform Kiho. She also cannot bow to put a Mystic Ground into play, to boost the Shiba Technique, be paid for by the Sacred Temples of the Phoenix or a School of Wizardry, or perform other basic actions that require a Shugenja. On the other hand, there are many effects which reference Shugenja to their detriment, among them being Corruption of the Harmonies, The First Scroll is Opened (which, admittedly, Utsuei does not die to), Hitomi Technique, Hitomi's Defeat, and ironically Hoseki's own experienced form. Overall, I'd say that having the Shugenja trait is better than Hoseki's ability to attach a spell, if nothing else but for the Kiho support you also gain. [Also note that, without a Night Medallion, Hoseki can only attach one spell. While a Shugenja with any more than one spell is a rare sight, it's nice to know you can dump something off when you've got lots of gold, a full hand, and few people. -- ed.]
Usefulness of Hoseki's spell not being a spell action.
Now, this one is more interesting. Hoseki's spell isn't considered a spell when you cast it, but a Ninja action. This can be a bad thing, especially if Kitsuki Kaagi's Journal is around. Or if your opponent fears Ninja so much he plays with Investigation, Double Agent, or the Scorpion Children, but that is a metagame issue in your local play area. That's the down-side. But what are the pluses? Hoseki's spell isn't affected by anything that responds to a spell effect, this would be cards like Imperial Edicts, Resist Magic, Fires of Retribution, and the Ring (and Yari) of Air, to name a few. Note that most of these deal with targeting, and your opponent's cards. That would mean that Hoseki grants the most protection when she attaches a spell that habitually targets your opponent's cards. The big dissenter here is Edicts, which will stop any spell effect in its tracks for the low cost of the Imperial Favor. So, if your deck likes playing with Rise from the Ashes (Abandoning/Dishonor/Personality Kill), for example, Hoseki can protect it from the honorable Toturi, Crane, Lion, and Phoenix players who most normally play with Imperial Edicts. Other important considerations would include the Wasting Disease, Secrets on the Wind, and any spell that destroys itself to good effect (Touch of Death, for example).

So, what happened to Hoseki when she lost her name? She went from a slightly pricey 5g quasi-Shugenja to a 7g Shugenja killer. The Ninja Mystic's dueling ability coupled with her very impressive 5 Chi is the death knell of Shugenja everywhere. However, she's much more than that. Used properly, she's the ultimate form of spell effect destruction. To save their personalities, players must focus (lose) spell effects. So, say for example that your Phoenix Enlightenment opponent just played Finding the Harmony, and via Ninja Spy you know that's his only spell effect in his hand. Challenge any non-Kuro/Kaede Shugenja he has. He either focuses the Finding, or loses the Shugenja. And there's always the chance that you can focus a spell effect of your own, to win anyway. [Note that the Mystic's ability is Limited, so you can't whack someone in the middle of their turn (like right after popping Finding the Harmony back into the hand). -- ed.]

As a plus, you have a 5C Kiho-thrower for your deck, too. The Ninja Mystic is a perfect candidate to throw Chi-based Kiho. Purity of Spirit and Bloodstrike are probably the best of these, since they have a 4Fo and are therefore highly desirable for the Mystic's dueling ability. Another good one is The Wind's Truth, for its 4Fo. Note, also, that she can attach Kiho through Blessings of Isawa, since it states 'Personality', and not 'Shugenja' or 'Monk'. [The Mystic can also deliver the smackdown to non-Shugenja with Facing Your Devils. -- ed.]

The experienced Ninja Mystic does have a couple of downsides, though. First, if you overlay her, she is no longer able to use an attached spell, since traits fall off. [Any attached spell stays put, though. -- ed.] Normally, however, I have seen Hoseki primarily used for spells that destroy themselves when cast, so this is an admittedly minor point. Second, she still is not a Shugenja proper. She cannot perform 'Shugenja actions', like bowing for Mystic Ground.

Now, the Ninja Mystic in her latest incarnation. She keeps her trait of throwing Kiho, but switches her ability... not that bad, considering overlaying will give both abilities. And what about her ability? Well, certainly it combines nicely with the Dark Path Stronghold, but why not just use Flameseeker, who is non-Unique and cheaper? The answer is relatively simple: the Mystic doesn't bow. That means that she can still bow to throw a Kiho (Bloodstrike, anyone?), play Ninja Tricks for that annoying Crushing Attack, or even to use the SH ability under Storms of War. As most players of the Dark Path know, to block (allowing Crush) or not to block (allowing Storms) is a crucial decision at times. With the exp2 Mystic, it's not as much of a problem, barring Sneak. [Well, you still need a Ninja Tricks to avoid Crushing Attack. Also note that, once the Mystic has reduced the Personality's chi, she can duel the punk. The Flameseeker, on the other hand, becomes more effective with chi boosters, while the Mystic continues to reduce Chi by 3. -- ed.]

One final note about Hoseki in her various forms. As a Ninja, she is eligible to receive the Night Medallion. However, it is more useful on someone else. Her non-exp form and exp form receive only stat increases, and her exp2 form, while being able to lower the Chi of opposing people more, has her limit raised to 3 [and she thus only gains effectiveness against Personalities with more than 6 chi. -- ed.]. (Thanks go out to Scott Hadsall, Ninja Warlord, for advising me on this.)

Hoseki, protector of the Dark Path. She is perhaps one of the most useful personalities for the Ninja, in her various forms, and can be useful to almost any player in need of her rather specialized services.

Bayushi Tasogare

[Additional: chi reduction in battle is something of an underutilized strategy by clans outside the Ninja. After the Ninja Mystic has done her thing, the Personality is wide open for duels, Wounded in Battle, Purity of the Spirit, Awakening Shakoki Dogu, Evil Portents, etc. Just don't try to kill them with Imperial Summons.

Ironically enough, the Ninja Mystic is one of the best anti-Ninja Personalities as well as one of their strong allies. She's one of a handful of 5C folks that come out from most strongholds plus a single holding. And let's not discount her ability to use Ninja-only chi-based effects like Deadly Message, Goju Stalkers, and Silent War. Unfortunately, the latter two aren't as effective militarily as real force, relegating reliable possibilities for Ninja military to the more creative. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Scott Hebert, 2000.

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