Friday, February 11, 2011
Set 20 Element Report Card: Fire
So now that Gallant Sage has been out for a week or so now, I think it's time to start considering what options have become available to each element with the advent of this new set. Over the next week or so I'm going to try to do a short write up on the tools available to each element and give them a grade, without exposing all the little intricacies.

First up, we'll focus on Fire, an element that is very underplayed in today's metagame. This report will focus on general card choice for Fire, so you can see their basic tool set for competitive play. It does touch on but is not dedicated to specialty variants (True Allies, Dogs, Genjutsu, etc.)

Ninja Quality

Fire has some pretty stellar early game options in Dogs, however outside of that, it's early game presence is defined almost entirely by splashes. This seems to be the general theme with Monofire, however while some consider it a drawback, I don't really see how. Fire can pretty much play straight Fire symbol cards from turn 3+, and all the missions that are on color are incredibly solid and generate a decent amount of chakra.

Turn 0
Best On Color: Sasuke [Vanilla], Urushi, Kiba [Keen Nose], Gama, Nawaki (as a 1 of, depending on your 6 drop setup)
Best Splash Choices: Gaara (Childhood), Temari [Excellent Tactician], Messenger Ninja (if you play Fire/Lightning or just splash Naruto Clone x 3 to get to Konohamaru/Naruto)

Sasuke and Gama are incredibly solid in the early game, although depending on what you want to do, Vanilla Sasuke may not be the best choice. In my Fire builds I usually use 2 Vanilla and 1 of the 4 drops (specifically Initial Attack). Don't sleep on Kiba either. He may not be incredibly good this time around but I'm willing to be with Set 21, his playability will come back again... think of his placement here as a marker for things to come.

Turn 1
Best On Color: . . . Ummm Big Bark Bull? Akamaru? Haimaru Brothers?
Best Off Color: Yakumo, Shikamaru [Flexibility], Shion (Awakened), Temari [Analytical Mind]

Holy crap does Fire suck in the 1 drop spot. Akamaru is probably the best on color option the element has but in all honesty, the combination of Yakumo/Shika/Shion in the 1 spot is already incredibly potent. This is what I was talking about with early game splash...the lack of on element is made up by the fact that those 3 Ninja are just so good in the early and even mid game that they're too hard to pass up.

Turn 2
Best On Color: Kiba [Reliable Parnter], Kotetsu (Set 19), Biscuit
Best Off Color: Sakura [Book Smarts], Konohamaru Ninja Squad, Kigiri (Sideboard Option)

Again, the on color options aren't so hot (outside of Biscuit who is amazing!), just like the 1 drop slot. Kiba RP is straight up broken if you play Dog Rush and should be your go to drop. Kotetsu only gets in here cause of his Turn 3 Sakura-esque stats. The real 2 drops to play for Fire are Sakura BS and Konohamaru Ninja Squad. Depending on how you build the deck, every drop from turn 2 and up will draw you a card if you get Sakura into play, negating Fire's lack of good draw. With Drift at 3 and Makeout Tactics, the odds of getting her on turn 2 are incredibly high. Konohamaru Ninja Squad is an amazingly well stated turn 2 with an even better protection effect. Did I mention it draws a card when put in play? 2 if you have Sakura? You should be using those 2 Ninjas in your 2 drop slot.

Turn 3
Best On Color: Tobi [Man of Mystery], Tobi [Akatsuki's Humor], Obito Uchiha [Hidden Strength], Sakura Haruno [Reliance], Enma, Pakkun (Set 19)
Best Off Color: Zetsu [Mysterious Nature], Naruto Uzumaki [Reliance]

You'll almost always be playing 3 Tobi MoM because of his draw but sometimes getting away with 1 Akatsuki's Humor isn't terrible (although somewhat ill advised). Obito is amazing in Monofire and very underplayed however he comes with the huge drawback of needing Gaara & Temari in play to be of any real use. It's a potent combo that can lock opponent's out of Jutsu wars, especially when combined with your other Jutsus and Ninja like the Third Hokage. Sakura is still an amazing power house, however if you're playing Booksmarts, there's no real reason to use this card (unless you want the Growth). A solid alternative if you didn't pick up the Target packs. Enma is strictly animal deck based, while Pakkun is just a generically well stated turn 3 with Mental Power (Sakura Draw!) and a great effect.

Zetsu is an obvious off color pick. He is the most powerful sideboard card in the game for a reason. Naruto Reliance works even in non-Lightning/Wind based decks for his stat boost and the ability to make the Naruto/Sasuke squad. If you're feeling REALLY gutsy, you can splash 1 Reaper Death Seal to search with that guy and go balls to the wall with draw. I just hope you have the steam to finish off the opponent before you die.

Turn 4
Best On Color: Kakashi (Boyhood) [A New Technique], Kakashi (Anbu Days) [Expert Tracker), Kakashi (Anbu Days) [Mysterious Corps]. Chiriku, Sasuke Uchiha [Freezing Eyes], Sasuke Uchiha [Initial Attack]
Best Off Color: Asuma [For the Next Generation], Baki, Hiruko. . . too many to list really.

Turn 4 is where Fire REALLY shines. It has access to some potentially lethal combos that can turn the tide of the game in a pinch. Everyone already knows the basic Boyhood combo (which draws off Sakura) and Chidori loop. Expert Tracker can spell lights out for an opponent in a Dog deck (also draws off Sakura). Some people may doubt the reprint Anbu Days usefulness on this list but he may be the key to propelling Fire into a competitive status. Being able to growth into Sasuke Initial Attack on 4, search him & an Anbu (See: Itachi or Yamato) and Ambush him to net the other Ninja (all while drawing off Sakura) is HUGE advantage. You thinned the deck by 2 cards, got 3 big Ninja, and drew a card. Odds are you probably triggered Chiriku's amazing protection or Yamato's ability to pick up Jutsu/Missions off that one play when you get them out. Freezing Eyes is a wonderful sideboard option still for more aggressive decks or if you're playing Gaara/Temari for board wipes.

Asuma works well because most Fire decks splash a lot of Wind and/or play Flex, meaning you can easily tutor up the platoon/Flex for the Squad next turn. Baki & Hiruko are always good if you have no other options.

Turn 5
Best On Color: Kakashi [Reality Twist], Kakashi [Oblivion], Itachi [Goal], Itachi [Test of Power]
Best Off Color: Yamato [Planning], Sasori [Creating the Masterpiece]

Outside of True Allies (which this general overview doesn't cover), the two best Kakashi if you're not going to play a 4 drop are Reality Twist and Oblivion. Reality Twist is a double edged sword in a lot of ways. For starters, it gives you the chance to draw your way out of a poor situation, which may or may not pay off. Alternatively, you can use it to destroy your opponent's hand which may or may not pay off (they may draw into better options). He's definitely one of those "try and see" cards. Oblivion is essentially Tayuya & a Matchless Hero all in one card. The only real reason I think he hasn't caught on is Fire's poor chakra generation (which raises the question of why he isn't used in Lightning...oh wait True Allies -.-;;). Goal is a relic from the past but will get the job done in 5 drop Fire if you need an Itachi. I much rather use Test of Power, a card that has the amazing ability of seeing all of your opponent's out and allows for some general mind games. The only drawbacks to him are that your opponent can selectively charge to get rid of his Trample effect and if you see they're sitting on amazing stuff and you aren't going to be aggressive after seeing their outs, they know you're sitting on nothing.

Off color... you're not going to be playing much off color in Fire but if you do splash a lot of Wind, Sasori is your man if you want a solid 4 drop. Yamato is listed purely for his amazingly sexy combo with Kakashi Anbu Days, allowing you to setup a Pseudo-Boyhood/Kamui/Fireball engine as early as turn 4 (Sakura on 2, KNS on 3, Kakashi & Yamato on 4 = 12 Mental Power).

Turn 6
Best On Color: The Third Hokage [For the Greater Good], The Third Hokage [Hokage's Order], Furido, Itachi [Destructive Hallucination]

Best Off Color: Pain (Deva Path)

I personally feel that For the Greater Good is the best way to go. People are really underrating how powerful an instant kill that you really can't respond to is. It will slowly kill you, yes, but if it clinches the game, who cares? Hokage's Order is great for picking up Itachi & Yamato in the respective decks but not much else. His stats are lackluster but perhaps Mastery makes up for it? Doubtful. Furido is wonderful if you use a lot of Shion, Flexes, Squad Components, and Nawaki in your 0 and 1 line up. He has amazing stats to boot. Itachi is only really amazing if you're using a lot of Genjutsu based Ninja in the deck, in which case a free injure for playing the deck how its meant to already is very good. He's lower priority than for the Test of Power for me though as that Itachi has tons of easy ways to be put in play, which you want so you can squad to Itachi/Sasuke, which is the real power behind Monofire.

That Squad allows you to break down so many barriers such as the overwhelmingly played Chiriku. Also a 9/5 with Mastery and the ability to play all of Fire's best Jutsu are NOTHING to scoff at (It's for that reason that I recommend Sasuke IA, Kakashi AD, Itachi TOP, and Furido to make it happen easier).

Deva Path's sole purpose is if you for some reason cannot get Itachi but have this guy, he's not terrible cause of the Pain/Itachi squad. Big body with a Sacrifice drawback. Can play most Jutsu in the deck

Missions
Fire's missions are actually surprisingly rock solid. Problem? There's hardly any of them. Your choices are limited to the following:

Solid Choices
Make Out Tactics
Just Like Drifting Clouds
Tsunade's Guess
Interruption
Surprise Help/Animal Contract/Scouting Party (Only if you play lots of Dogs)

Sideboard Choices
Will of the Youth
Reconfirmation of the Mission

Less Solid/Techy Choices
Clash (Depending on the current rulings)
Shadow in the Moonlight (Worse version of Tsunade's Guess but if you want more)
Capture (It's not terrible for dumping Anbu)
Narrow Escape (Against squad heavy decks)
High Speed Body (It's not a bad card but it's not amazing in this format either)

Jutsu
This is where Fire really falters. It has no real powerhouse cards like the other elements so it's hard to win the fight. Your go to cards are going to be:

Solid Choices
Chidori (Set 16)
Firestyle: Fireball Jutsu (Set 15)
Sharingan Kunai
Fear by Genjutsu
Labyrinth
Kamui
Mangekyo Sharingan (Set 19)
Anticipation

Probably in that order too.

Less Solid/Techy Choices
Sharingan of Tears
Burst of Lightning Blade
Revenge
Lightning Blade
Lightning Blade Single Slash (TP1)
Visual Jutsu
Burning Ash
Flying Swallow (If you're playing Wind Splash)

Final Grade: B
Fire is a very underrated element with a lot of potential. It has what it takes to top tournaments, but I don't feel it has the final push to win the day. It's late game Ninja presence is far stronger than people are giving it credit, with Sasuke/Itachi Squad pretty much mowing down the competition. It can easily curve out to draw a ton off of Sakura and it lends itself very well to being combined with both Earth and Wind, allowing you to get some serious control or speed variants out of the deck. If it has one fatal flaw, it's that the Jutsu quality is terrible outside of the Kakashi/Itachi ones, and even then those under perform or are just too costly. With Set 21, should a few good Fire early game Ninja surface along with 1 or 2 power house Jutsu (See: Kirin), this element could easily be back in the top spot. Fire still has some serious punch, don't sleep on it.


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5 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I really enjoy these overviews. When are you doing the others?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
No mention of Obito in the 1-drop slot for being able to play Sharingan Kunai and TP1 Fireball for only 2 chakra?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Excellent read.

Looking forward to any future articles on the other Elements if you have them planned.

Blogger WizKid said...
Definitely should have mentioned the mission reading

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I really enjoyed reading this article. Although saying this makes me sound a bit lazy, it really helped me think about Fire much differently and gave me some really cool ideas about it, and I don't even like the element.

I look foward to reading about the others too! I hope you guys still plan on writing them. So long as you say you do plan on writing them, I will remain patient.

Thanks again for the time and effort you put into this article!

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