The Breakdown – EN Weiss Schwarz – Monogatari (series)

If you haven’t read the Introduction to the Breakdown, click here to check it out.  It provides the context for the full series and lets you know how to read these articles.  If you’ve read it already, then continue on!

This article is rated Experience Levels 3-6.  This article series is intended to cover a wide range of topics about particular sets, and will help players of all kinds when it comes to knowing their set or the set of an opponent.

Welcome to the Breakdown.  thenightsshadow here, and as we do each time on the Breakdown, we look at several questions about a series, then get on down to breaking down what makes the series tick and how one should approach playing it.

The set we’re going to cover in this article is Monogatari (series), and the theme for this article is going to be “Taking Stock of the Situation”, so even for those that don’t play Monogatari (series) they can still get something out of this article.

As a reminder, here are the general questions we ask ourselves for each set.

1) Competitively, why should I play this set over other sets?
2) What is the ideal set up from Level 0 to Level 3?
3) How does our play look like versus an opponent?
4) Where are our good and bad matchups?

Once we answer these questions,  there will be questions about those questions, but we’ll cover those afterwards.

With that out of the way, let’s answer question 1.

1) Competitively, why should I play this set over other sets?

In most cases, the reasons we should play a set is what sets it apart from other sets.  Monogatari (series) is a set filled to the brim with Experience, a mechanic that pushes a deck to run more Level 2s and 3s than they normally would in order to gain benefits that were basically achieved through a different style of deckbuilding.  The mechanic is so thematic that I ended up using it as the scale for my posts.

The main benefit of Experience is that as long as you properly watch what cards you use to Level Up (which is only as hard as you make it), your cards get “free” abilities tacked onto it, making it more powerful than it would be normally.  Some side effects of this include more soul triggers in the deck, allowing for more aggression, and the potential to even have a solid Level 2 game in the first place.  What this means is that we are a bit more adept to handle a weaker power game, gaining more soul damage outside of just playing Climaxes.

Of course, we have less control at Level 0 when it comes to dealing damage, as the increased soul triggers increases the chance we are unable to strand an opponent or hit a target damage point.  We also have less room for Level 0s and 1s in general, as well as requiring more stock to play our cards.  As such, Experience requires a lot of thought and practice to get used to, since it’s a subtly different change from the usual style of playing.

2) What is the ideal set up from Level 0 to Level 3?

With our enhanced soul triggers, our main goal is to set up our experience in our Level Zone, all while taking advantage of the effects and increased damage to steadily advance forward.  No matter what we do, our best moves cost a lot of stock, so this is a resource we’ll want to build up.  It is more important for us to be able to finish the game than to outlast an opponent in Monogatari, so we’ll be focusing slightly more on offense.

Unlike other series, Level 0 is very important.  Clearing an opponent’s field, using as little handsize as possible, and gaining as much stock as possible are all things we need.  With all of that said, it’s still important to make sure our first attack is clean, so use a brainstorm like Wandering Girl, Mayoi Hachikuji and a topdeck checker like Koyomi Araragi on Mother’s Day to see if there’s a Climax on top of the deck, and to move it away from the top of the deck.  We really don’t want to pay out unnecessary stock, so keeping our stock as clean as possible will help out.

Level 1 is continuing the Level 0 play, but running things over will be a bit harder.  Thankfully, Experience allows us to reach the power Levels we need, with both Blessing of the Moon, Shinobu Oshino and Family Circumstance, Tsubasa Hanekawa altering power just enough to get through.  Again, making sure enough stock is clean is important.  We have the option of paying out Climaxes with some advantage engine Combos like Benefactor’s Advice, Tsubasa Hanekawa and Lovers, Koyomi Araragi & Hitagi Senjyogahara , but we have to be prepared sometimes to not pay out for every instance of the combo we have.

Level 2 is a bit of an odd ball.  We can continue to play our Level 1 combo, shift up a bit by playing Level 2s and utilizing Climax Combos to add to our hand size, or we can spend a bit more stock to change into Level 3s that Heal and can stay on the board longer than normal.  The latter is usually better, but there is more counter play to this strategy, so it’s possible the earlier suggestions are the better ones depending on your meta.  Regardless, accumulate even more resources, as you’ll need at least 10 stock for the final push.

Once you reach Level 3, take stock at the situation.  You need your opponent to be in a dangerous zone before you go all in on your strategy, and not have very many counter play options.  If at all possible, “Fake” Deishu Kaiki should be utilized to stop opposing Rest Counters or Anti-damage whenever possible.  However, short of the Kaleidoscope “Illya” combo from Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, Monogatari has the best self-contained explosion of accurate damage in EN, so strike hard at the end to finish the game.

3) How does our play look like versus an opponent?

I’ve described what the ideal scenarios are in a close game at each level, but not every game will be like that.  There’s a lot of counter play to Monogatari’s general game plan, and it’s tough to find a countermeasure to all of them, especially when the option to search isn’t readily available at Level 0.  As such, our cards need to be stable and consistent, while our playstyle makes up for the difference.  We’ll need an Adaptable Playstyle and a Variable Deck.

Variable Decks pride themselves on their stability.  They rarely run singleton copies of anything, unless it’s a tech card that works on nearly every matchup.  Due to this, it’s a lot easier to draw a specific card when you need to.  Typically, decks with very little search options prefer this kind of build to more easily draw into the needed cards.

To make up for this, we employ an Adaptable Playstyle because turns change scenarios.  Sometimes a window of opportunity will be open for us to take control, hold back, or sometimes not even attack with three Characters.  Being Adaptable means being able to recognize these instances, taking advantage of them, but being able to execute a regular gameplan outside of this.

4) Where are our good and bad matchups?

Our first bad matchup revolves around decks that can wall out Monogatari in at least two lanes.  Monogatari is reliant on field presence for its stockless plusses, and if they don’t they rely on their opponent being unlucky to finish since they won’t have stock for a finisher.

Our second bad matchup are disruption decks that are able to repeatedly manipulate your deck or your clock.  Cards like Judge Nemo or Member of Nudist Beach, Kinagase can really change plans drastically and can force you to miss key cards or change targets.

Our first good matchup are decks that do well when they keep around even in damage.  Because of this, your finisher is a lot more potent, and can spell their end if they keep it up all the way to Level 3.

Our second good matchup involves decks that don’t have any power presence at Level 0 or Level 2.  By taking over those areas, and trading at Level 1, Monogatari is able to take full advantage of its strengths without suffering too badly on its weaknesses.

===

Let’s now get into the next wave of questions.  These are questions we ask that involve card and style choices.

1) How do I build a deck around Experience?  It seems straightforward when I play it, but I’m having trouble understanding how to build it.

Very good question.  Experience is quite a bit freeform, in all honesty.  How you build is up to you and your preferences.

The main thing to note is what Level of Experience is needed at each Level.  If the only experience requirements you have is Experience Level 2 at Level 1, and Experience Level 5 at Level 3, then you actually don’t need to change much.  Even a deck with beginner-friendly ratios (for instance, 8 Level 2s and 4 Level 3s) only really needs to add 1 or 2 more Level 3s and you’re already good to go.

However, a stricter deck, say for instance one that not only utilizes Resident of the Shadows, Shinobu Oshino but is reliant on changing into Master-servant Relationship, Shinobu Oshino requires an Experience Level of 6 at Level 2 with reliability to help protect your investment.  For this, playing less Level 2s and much more Level 3s is a must.  Personally, I would play 10 Level 3s minimum if the deck is two colors, or 12 Level 3s minimum if the deck is three colors.

The main thing to focus on is what Experience numbers you need at each Level, and then seeing what combinations of Levels can get you there.

2) Girl Who Met a Crab, Hitagi Senjyogahara is currently the most expensive card in Monogatari right now.  Where do you stand on using this card?

Let’s take a look at the card and its implications before we pass judgment on it, shall we?

We can just find out what Girl Who Met a Crab, Hitagi Senjyogahara does by clicking the link provided, but what we really need to find out is what it does in the context of a game and deck.

Hitagi’s strengths are pretty simple.  It’s a Healer with 10000 base power, and its Experience Level requirement is only 6 at Level 3, though it can be early played if you effectively negate the heal.  It gains 500 power if Experience is available, and it also provides an additional effect: if it reverses a Level 2 or higher card, you can pay 1 stock to kill a Level 1 or lower anywhere on the opponent’s stage.  Healing is always a good, solid ability to have.  With Experience, it’s a 10500 base, which is slightly higher than the standard Level 3 base, but the real crux of this card comes from the final ability: It’s a really good defensive ability, because it means that opponents will have to outright try to kill it with Level 2 or higher cards, or just give up that lane by attacking with a Level 0 or 1 card.  You can do so on offense, but towards the end of the game there are going to be less Level 0s and 1s fielded, so at most you’re going to hit a back row card.

Thing is, there’s not a lot of Level 2s that this will actively defeat on defense when your opponent is at Level 2.  If Hitagi is on a lane, it’s just simple to play their Level 2 to a different lane, because it’s difficult to get three Hitagis out then to bar this from happening.  Even if they have to attack into it with a Level 2 card, they can side, or just attack with it last so you can’t take away a Level 0 or 1 attacker from them.  And if you wait until Level 3 to be supported by Girl Charmed by a Cat, Tsubasa Hanekawa, then you not only run the risk of not having any Level 0s or 1s to kill, negating the ability, but you can then be forced to attack into an open lane for 3 damage at a time, which can be punishing if your opponent managed to compress their deck in the time it took you to get there.  This all assumes that you have the stock to be able to use these abilities in the first place.

But all of this is talking about the ideal scenario of Hitagi surviving multiple turns.  Thanks to cards like Adventure with Everyone, Sinon (increased power attackers when facing Level 3s), “Bond of Trust” Lala (characters that reverse a character that’s a higher level than the opponent’s level), 2nd Shoho-class Light Aircraft Carrier, Zuiho (Backups that can remove a character that’s a higher level than the opponent’s level), or even the simple Return trigger, Hitagi isn’t guaranteed to stay on the board.  And every time she’s removed, that’s an investment of at least 2 stock that you’ll have to repay to put her back into play, assuming you can play another copy.

In summary, Hitagi’s best use is as a defensive stalwart that is potentially able to limit an opponent’s attackers to 2.  The main problem is that this is very easily played around, and she doesn’t have a high enough base power to avoid all of the anti-Level 3 cards at Level 2, or just in general at Level 3.  Because of this, she’s an investment whose main job is to Heal, and there are others capable of doing so that have a more accessible secondary ability.

3) How would a deck focused around the Lovers, Koyomi Araragi & Hitagi Senjyogahara climax combo look like?

Lovers, Koyomi Araragi & Hitagi Senjyogahara has an interesting Climax Combo.  It’s a costed plus but digs through the deck in such a way that no other card can in the set.  Combined with the Damage from the Climax, it’s a great combo early in the game, especially when considering that it can be Character Discard Encored with Experience 2.

There are a few subtleties around this combo.  It’s your main defensive card besides Healing.  Just because Monogatari wants to generally be aggressive doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore defense.  Similar to Ranko Kanzaki from Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls, our main intention isn’t to add cards to hand but to get through a deck that is mostly uncompressed.

The main problem here is that its power is low, and as such while you plus your opponent can plus by having their characters stay on board.  Thus, we absolutely need to run Family Circumstance, Tsubasa Hanekawa in order to reach a high enough power level to defeat at least 1 or 2 characters.

The combo and their support revolves around early-game pressure, and punishing missteps in Climax management or getting lucky and landing big hits early and forcing an opponent on the defensive.  Many lists that run this also run a heavy suite of Level 3s for playing, and while that is ambitious you’re not going to have that much stock in a typical game to be able to do so.  Watch the stock usage and your hand size, and use cards like Sharp Intuition, Hitagi Senjyogahara to recuperate the stock you use for this combo, or you won’t be able to play a lot of Level 3s later in the game.

===

Bonus Feature!

Here’s the decklist I would play if I were take Monogatari (series) to a BCS Shop Challenge or a BCS Regionals.  Here’s a link to the decklist on WSDecks as well so you can do your own testing or build your own off of it.

Warning: All decks I post fit the way I play and where I play, and may not be the same for your playstyle and locale.

Level 0 (14):
3x Koyomi Araragi on Mother’s Day
2x Wandering Girl, Mayoi Hachikuji
2x Tsubasa Hanekawa in Pajamas
3x The Way Back, Shinobu Oshino
2x Farewell to the Past, Hitagi Senjyogahara
2x Promise Exchange, Mayoi Hachikuji

Level 1 (12):
2x Shy Girl, Nadeko Sengoku
4x Vampire-looking Human, Koyomi Araragi
4x Blessing of the Moon, Shinobu Oshino
2x Words of “Courage”, Mayoi Hachikuji

Level 2 (10):
4x Bashful, Nadeko Sengoku
4x Wandering Spirit, Mayoi Hachikuji
2x Resident of the Shadows, Shinobu Oshino

Level 3 (6)
2x Mayoi Hachikuji
4x Master-servant Relationship, Shinobu Oshino

Climax (8):
4x MAYOI Mai Mai
4x Cursed Girl

===

Let’s explain how this deck works, and what you can do to tailor it to your specific playstyle.

Level 0

The card you want to put into your Level Zone will differ depending on the matchup.  If it’s Log Horizon, then you’ll want to shelve three copies of Wandering Spirit, Mayoi Hachikuji.  If it’s a set with weak finishers, then shelve both Mayoi Hachikuji and a random Level 0.  If it’s neither, then shelve Resident of the Shadows, Shinobu Oshino and 1 other random Level 2, usually Bashful, Sengoku Nadeko.

Once we’ve got that out of the way, mulligan accordingly, making sure if possible to keep a card listed above for clocking early if you draw into it.  Koyomi Araragi on Mother’s Day is a key card and one we should be actively aiming to add to our hand, as is any Brainstorm within the first two turns.  Once that’s out of the way, clear the opponent’s field and gain as much stock as needed.  Make sure to Level up with the Level 2 (or 3) and proceed.

More defensive decks will prefer running cards like Big Backpack, Mayoi Hachikuji, while decks that want a bit more consistent power will use Lost Cattle, Mayoi Hachikuji since the topcheck ability is predictable by Koyomi Araragi on Mother’s DayHuman-looking Vampire, Shinobu Oshino is also a nice touch as an alternative Level 0 to help obtain a bit more handsize due to its Bond.  The general idea here is to pressure and use as little resources as possible while gaining your fair share.

Level 1

Time to crush fields.  Blessing of the Moon, Shinobu Oshino is a powerhouse, and with a full back row she’ll be a Level 2 7500 on attack, easily crushing reversers without penalty and forcing Backups on others.  Make sure to always check the top card and Brainstorm away any Climaxes if need be.  However, try to save Brainstorms in your hand for those moments as you want your back row to be for power.  In the mean time, clear as many cards as you can while controlling the flow of cards.  You’ll want to be ready for Level 2 with at least one Bashful, Sengoku Nadeko, though it’d be preferable to have 2 or more in hand.

Decks that don’t run Yellow will be much more likely to play a Climax Combo for advantage at this Level.  I covered the Lovers, Koyomi Araragi & Hitagi Senjyogahara climax combo above, but basically they have the same power as Benefactor’s Advice, Tsubasa Hanekawa with the ability to Character Discard Encore them for repeatable use if need be, more potential defense due to the mill, and a higher soul count.  Of course, Benefactor’s Advice, Tsubasa Hanekawa has her own perks.  She guarantees you the card you need, and her Climax helps replace the stock you would normally use on this kind of ability.  She’s also Green, the same color as Family Circumstance, Tsubasa Hanekawa, making for a less awkward color requirement for the Level.  Both have merits and are worth building around, so pick the one that works best for you.

It’s also worth talking about the Karen/Tsukihi deck here.  Their main advantage engine involves Cuckoo Girl, Tsukihi Araragi.  The main concern I have is that it’s a retrieval effect during Battle, which can be stymied by the likes of Kantai Collection and To Love-Ru.  Both of them are harder matchups already due to Anti-Damage counters, so there’s no need to force yourself into an advantage engine that stymies your ability to deal damage.  In that deck, Dislikes Morning, Koyomi Araragi is still viable, but watch the stock usage.  Stick with Benefactor’s Advice, Tsubasa Hanekawa, and focus more on getting “Wreathe-Fire Bee” Karen Araragi out early (as long as the meta isn’t too Return trigger-happy).

Level 2

It’s time for us to recuperate.  Since Bashful, Nadeko Sengoku has the ability to search for our Climax Combo at Experience 4, we don’t ever have to save it through a refresh.  Not only does this help us compress more, but gives us a slightly more uncompressed deck by which we can attack into and have a higher chance not to hit any Climaxes.  Remember to attack with another Character first if the top card is not a Climax, and if it is, attack with Bashful, Nadeko Sengoku first to shuffle the deck.

Now, if you’re facing Log Horizon, Wandering Spirit, Mayoi Hachikuji is very likely to not matter.  At this point you’re hoping to have Experience 6 instead so you can use Resident of the Shadows, Shinobu Oshino to Change into Master-servant Relationship, Shinobu Oshino to not only Heal but to make a strong enough Wall in at least one lane that is hard for your opponent’s Level 2s to do anything to.  Of course, if you hit Level 3 first, take advantage, despite the smaller stock count.

Decks that have a Hitagi backrow card, like Aggressive Hitagi Senjyogahara or Honest Feelings, Hitagi Senjyogahara will be very likely to use Demon’s Left Hand, Suruga Kanbaru at both Level 2 and Level 3 (due to being able to retrieve Suruga) for chip burn damage here and there.  The same rules above apply if facing Log Horizon, just slightly differently since the deck usually doesn’t run Yellow.

Speaking of Honest Feelings, Hitagi Senjyogahara, that is another option for hand size.  While it Bonds to Reply to a Confession, Koyomi Araragi, a vanilla 2/1, it does provide more power at Level 2 for a minimal cost than any other Level 2 and is only slightly below Master-servant Relationship, Shinobu Oshino in terms of power.  The bonus to this combo is that it’s not defeated by Anti-Change Reversers like Brains of the Station, Adachi or “Bond of Trust” Lala.

Finally, some decks will ignore the Level 2 game entirely and continue to play Level 1s.  This is the traditional Japanese style for this set, but I don’t think I can endorse it in English mainly because there is a very narrow set of circumstances where you don’t get punished for this.  You need to be able to continuously obtain card advantage while not losing too much stock and also not leaving yourself open to heavy damage on the back swing.  This is difficult to achieve in most decks outside of a Yellow focus, and while I’ve seen Yellow/Blue/<other color> decks work they clash quite a bit with how they try to do things.

Level 3

Inch closer to victory, and when you’re ready, unleash the damage.  You’ll need 10 stock and the following cards in hand: 3 copies of Wandering Spirit, Mayoi Hachikuji and 1 copy of MAYOI Mai Mai.  Despite the heavy cost this is a combination that provides more Shot effects than Yami from To Love-Ru, and forces sets with anti-damage counters to wait until later damage, which allows you to set up side attacks or to allow your first couple of attacks to finish the opponent off.

Of course, this combo is very weak to Rest Counters.  Be aware that Fairy Tail, Persona, and Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls have access to them.  You can combat it in two ways.  You can push them close enough to defeat that any Character getting its damage through is an automatic win, or you can side attack with the first two Characters so that the third can’t be Rested and has 3-5 soul depending on trigger, followed by 3 Shot effects if it gets cancelled.

Decks that run Green as well as Yellow can use “Fake” Deishu Kaiki to stop one instance of Rest Counter, allowing only 1 Side to be forced to take place.  They can also play a bit more defensive with Someone to Protect, Hitagi Senjyogahara, or keep Characters alive with “Wreathe-Fire Bee” Karen Araragi, or even just supplement more heals with Suruga Kanbaru.

Decks that run Blue will have been aiming to defeat as many Characters as possible to enable the endgame scenario with Girl Charmed by a Cat, Tsubasa Hanekawa: an opponent having no cards in hand and no cards on field.  You can further bolster this defense with Someone to Protect, Hitagi Senjyogahara with its Ward ability to potentially stop incoming damage.  The idea is to limit an opponent’s hand size to 0 through defeating Characters and bottom-decking them, and as such at the end of the game you’ll have this section of an opponent’s deck you can just dig through for damage that they can’t stop.

===

Thank you for watching the story unfold on Monogatari.

If you have any questions, hit up the comments and I’ll be glad to respond.

~thenightsshadow, missing his days of fiction writing

————————————————————————————-

Errata: (Last Updated: June 8)

Type of Errata: Error in Trait

Current Trait:
<<Japanese>> <<Tea>>

Correct Trait:
<<Japanese Clothes>> <<Tea>>

Type of Errata: Error in Ability Text

Current Printed Wording:
【AUTO】 When this card is placed on stage from your hand or by a “Change” effect, you may put the top card of your clock into your waiting room.
【AUTO】When this card attacks, if a card named “NADEKO Snake” is in your climax area, search your deck for up to two cards named “Girl Wound By a Snake, Nadeko Sengoku”, reveal them to your opponent, and put them into your hand. Shuffle your deck afterwards.

Correct Wording:
【AUTO】 When this card is placed on stage from your hand or by a “Change” effect, you may put the top card of your clock into your waiting room.
【AUTO】When this card attacks, if a card named “NADEKO Snake” is in your climax area, search your deck for up to two cards named “Girl Bound By a Snake, Nadeko Sengoku”, reveal them to your opponent, and put them into your hand. Shuffle your deck afterwards.

Type of Errata: Error in Ability Text

Current Printed Wording:
【AUTO】 If the number of other 《Sports》 or 《Japanese Clothes》 characters you have is two or more, this card gets +1500 power.

Correct Wording:
【CONT】 If the number of other 《Sports》 or 《Japanese Clothes》 characters you have is two or more, this card gets +1500 power.

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