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:
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.
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.
[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.]
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