Kieran McEntegart is a developer at Legend Story Studios, and brings us the second chapter of a series of deep dives into the heroes in Outsiders, focusing on both limited and constructed play. Today we catch up with an old friend - the OG Ninja himself, Katsu!
The first thing Katsu noticed was the stench.
Unlike the fragrant cherry blossoms or fresh mountain air of his homelands, this place reeked of death and decay.
Resting against a stray mine cart, his ears pricked up at the faint conversation between two nearby miners.
Keeping out of sight, he ducked down and slinked forwards, quietly eavesdropping.
Something about a disease that befell several of the workers… Could it be?
Perhaps this rotten abyss held the key to finding a cure for the ancient curse that still tormented his clan to this day.
Katsu knew he had to delve deeper, but to survive he would need to keep his profile low, and his alertness high.
Have you been wander-ing through Outsiders trying to figure out where to start? Perhaps you’re a dagger enthusiast with a penchant for going wide, and just want to learn the basics of becoming a Ninja master.
Have no fear, Mr Classic is here with a guide to turning 3 booster packs into a lean, mean, damage machine!
As a ninja enthusiast from way back, drafting Katsu is one of my favourite things in the Outsiders format. Katsu has access to some of the best burst damage via his combo lines, as well as arguably the most efficient weapon damage with Harmonized Kodachis.
To give yourself the best chance of success, you’ll need to be conscious of three key elements that form the foundation of a great Katsu draft deck:
- A resource base of 0-cost blue cards
- Complete combo lines
- Quality support cards
Your resource base should consist primarily of 0-cost blue (and sometimes yellow) cards. These serve a dual purpose of turning on go again for your Kodachis while also being discard fodder for Katsu’s ability.
Ideally you want your resource cards to fall into one of two categories:
- 0-cost 3-defense cards
- 0-cost utility cards
Having access to a good mix allows flexibility to pivot between offense and defense over the course of a game.
While the above cards are the gold standard in terms of resources, it’s important to recognize that you’ll often be competing against other Ninja drafters for premium blues. Fortunately, with a bit of creative drafting you should be able to fill any gaps with less-coveted generic options.
There are three common rarity combo starters in Outsiders: Surging Strike, Twin Twisters and Head Jab.
For Katsu, Surging Strike tends to be the strongest. The red and yellow versions both hit a breakpoint, the follow-up Descendant Gustwave has unconditional go again as well as 3/4/5 power with the combo bonus, and Benji drafters often focus more on the other two combo lines.
Red combo starter cards are powerful in their own right, especially Twin Twisters with the ability to double as a 1-cost 4-power go again attack.
Do your best to keep track of what pieces you’ve drafted so you don’t end up using a late pick on a combo finisher without the corresponding starter (or on a weak starter without a finisher).
One rung up the rarity ladder we have powerful combo cards such as Spinning Wheel Kick and Bonds of Ancestry.
Spinning Wheel Kick is very strong when paired with Twin Twisters (or itself if you’re fortunate enough to draft multiple copies) as it can hit breakpoints and recycle itself.
Similar to Twin Twisters, the red version is a premium card on its own due to its 1-cost 4-power go again stats, making it a great way to threaten your Hero ability right off the bat.
Bonds of Ancestry is extremely potent in the right deck.
When drafting this, you may want to prioritize cards like Descendant Gustwave to always have the combo ability active. If possible, try your best to have blue and red copies of combo cards. This allows you to defend with the blue copy, then later banish it with Bonds to search up the red copy.
With the remaining spaces in your deck, focus on cards that support Katsu’s aggressive go-wide gameplan. Low-cost attack action cards that have go again, hit triggers, and/or threaten breakpoints are fantastic for keeping damage ticking on turns where you aren’t able to thread together a combo line.
Some premium common options in red include Be Like Water, Feisty Locals, and Ravenous Rabble.
At rare level, Looking for a Scrap is very strong, as you tend to have a decent number of 1-power blue cards that end up in your graveyard.
Don’t be afraid to include a few heavy-hitters in your deck as well. Pitching a blue to attack with Kodachi into Destructive Deliberation or Cut Down to Size buys you time to set up a big turn later in the game.
Finally, it often pays to include at least one copy of Short and Sharp to help push through damage or steal games out of nowhere (keep in mind these work on your Kodachis).
With the release of Outsiders, Katsu gains access to brand new support cards that I hope will lead to players dusting off their trusty daggers and blowing away the competition with the Lord of Wind himself!
A brief (re)introduction to Katsu, the Wanderer
If you’re a more experienced player that knows Katsu fairly well already, feel free to skip this section and head straight to the next one where we look at some of the new Outsiders cards in more detail.
Katsu is a hero that wants to pursue an aggressive go-wide gameplan.
Your deck will usually consist of at least 30-35 0-cost cards (around 15-20 in blue), a large number of efficient attacks with go again, and pumps such as Ancestral Empowerment and Art of War to push through your on-hit triggers.
Surgical use of your Kodachis is critical to get the most out of your deck. This can lead to incremental advantages such as drawing a card from Mask of Momentum, or forcing your opponent to block a ‘Mask trigger’ in order to connect with the attack you really want to hit on the next chain link.
A new twist on an old classic
The long-time staple of Surging Strike into Whelming Gustwave often puts your opponent in a tough spot when making defensive decisions, with the ever-present threat of a follow-up Mugenshi: RELEASE lurking in their mind.
While powerful, the linear nature of the combo and its reliance on hitting with a key piece has diminished its impact over time.
This, combined with many heroes gaining access to better equipment and defensive options, as well as powerful raw damage tools, has led to Katsu struggling at times to make his mark.
Well strap on your straw hats my friends, because I’d like to introduce you to my new all-time favourite combo chain!
Descendant Gustwave and Bonds of Ancestry are two very powerful cards that take the Surging Strike line and turbo charge it to the next level.
Before we look at these cards in more detail, one key point is that Bonds of Ancestry combos off “a card with Gustwave in its name”. This means it combos off both Descendant Gustwave and Whelming Gustwave. This increases the consistency of your combo lines, while also keeping your opponent on their toes by playing in a less linear way.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at Descendant Gustwave.
This is the first time a combo connector has unconditional go again. This gives you the option of going for a ‘mini-combo’ of Descendant → Bonds to keep the damage ticking, or play it in conjunction with Surging Strike.
Another advantage is that you can safely stash it into arsenal without it getting stuck. I know I’m not alone in dealing with the frustration of putting a red combo connector into arsenal, only for it to be dead for 3-4 turns while the tide slowly turns against you.
Bonds of Ancestry is without a doubt my favourite card in Outsiders, and in my opinion certainly in the runnings for the strongest combo card ever printed.
Katsu players have always had to deal with many of their key attacks needing to hit, whereas Bonds triggers when it attacks, so you always know where your turn is heading.
It allows you to utilize your graveyard as an additional source of cards, allowing you to defend with combo cards early, then benefit from them later on.
Getting a Dishonor into your graveyard early makes the full Surging Strike line a whole lot easier, as you only need three pieces (or two along with a Katsu trigger) to leave your opponent in disarray.
Bonds also lets you weave between combo lines. You can banish something like Rising Knee Thrust if you’re holding a Leg Tap, or even use Bonds to banish another Bonds or another Gustwave, granting you multiple combo bonuses across the course of a turn.
Let’s take a minute to appreciate just how incredibly cool Dishonor is.
Dishonor is unique in Flesh and Blood with an on-hit effect that lasts for the rest of the game.
This can be devastating to heroes that lean on their hero ability, such as Viserai, Oldhim, and Dromai. Just the threat of Dishonor can allow you to push through damage on earlier chain links, as opponents are often forced to respect it.
It’s important to remember that you will only get the on-hit ability if you’ve played the specific cards named.
In saying that, Dishonor gets its +2 power bonus from playing Bonds previously, opening up strong ‘mini-combos’ when you just need damage.
One simple option off a two card hand (with Fyendal’s Spring Tunic) is Descendant Gustwave → Bonds of Ancestry (banishing Dishonor) → Dishonor, representing 11 damage. Not too shabby!
Beyond the powerful new combo line, Outsiders also offers some fantastic support to smooth out your deck.
Be Like Water opens up a world of possibilities.
While the red version can be defended by a single card, the possibility of a pump will tend to put your opponent in a difficult spot.
It represents a significant threat if it hits, as you can pay 1 to name a combo starter card then subsequently search the follow-up via Katsu’s ability.
Spinning Wheel Kick, like Descendant Gustwave, is a combo connector with unconditional go again. It can be played in builds with Twin Twisters, Be Like Water, or simply by itself.
Visit the Floating Dojo is a very cool card that offers a ton of utility in Surging Strike focused decks. As a blue 0-cost card, it can be pitched to your daggers or discarded for Katsu’s ability. It is yet another card in the set that helps address consistency issues, allowing you to string together back-to-back combo turns without relying on the whims of the RNG gods.
I hope this inspires you community superstars to experiment with some new Katsu builds in the upcoming season. As a long-time Ninja fan I can’t wait to see all the new decks players come up with!