Outsiders – The Wanderer’s New Groove
Welcome to another edition of Outsiders, a FABREC series where we look at lesser used cards and heroes and aim to find lists where they can shine. Today, we spotlight the hero that first sparked my love for underdogs – Katsu, the Wanderer!
I started out in Flesh and Blood around Uprising, when Fai, Rising Rebellion was all the rage and the Wanderer was in the agreed-upon bottom tier alongside Boltyn, Azalea, and Levia. But FAB’s latest set, Outsiders, has thoroughly turned the tables for the Ninja class. At Pro Tour: Baltimore, Katsu came in as the 6th most played hero with 24 decks, beating out his draconic rival, who narrowly made the top 10 with only 13 decks.
Katsu’s New Staples
The reason for his glow-up is obvious: A large part of the Ninja cards in Outsiders are aimed to augment his signature Surging Strike red combo line, with Descendent Gustwave red and Bonds of Ancestry red providing insane value if comboed. The new Gustwave can be a crisp zero cost, 5 power attack with go again, while Bonds can at the very least usually fetch a Fluster Fist red to provide 8 points of value for a single card.
Add to that the win-more potential to instead end with the devastating on-hit effect of Dishonor that punishes the opponent for blocking out our onslaught, and you got yourself a pretty good value package that can slot into just about any Katsu deck at almost no opportunity cost. And players have done so in droves: Bonds and Descendent Gustwave now make up the most played Katsu cards, with 85 and 84% inclusion rate, respectively, ahead even of the combo starter Surging Strike and the old favorite Whelming Gustwave red, which sit at a comparatively wimpy 63 and 64%.
So why are people choosing to play Descendant Gustwave and Bonds of Ancestry even ahead of the combo starter? Simple: Descendant Gustwave effectively IS its own combo starter: It has go again without needing to follow a Surging Strike and is the sole prerequisite for us to unlock the insane value of Bonds. And while that means that we can slot the value package of Gustwave into Bonds into just about any deck, there is a specific shell that I have been trying to make work since starting out in FAB, that is now better positioned than ever: The Torrent of Tempo red line!
Reevaluating an Old Favorite
The what now? You would be forgiven for forgetting it even exists: Only about 2% of Katsu decks include the combo starter Torrent of Tempo red. And its follow-up combo cards, Rushing River red, Flood of Force yellow and Break Tide yellow all find inclusion in less than 1% of decks. And it’s obvious WHY that is. On its own, Torrent of Tempo is just a bad card. A combo starter that is dependent on your opponent not blocking it (or a well-timed Razor Reflex red) to even get going is horrendous.
And on top of that, for the star of the line, Flood of Force, to have any value at all, you need to stuff your deck full of combo cards, otherwise you are working very hard for your Flood of Force to come in for 1 damage with no go again. Not very exciting. But this is where Descendent Gustwave red and Bonds of Ancestry red come in, alongside another Outsiders card: Spinning Wheel Kick red – a Leg Tap with combo and base go again that combos with itself. These are a god-send for the Torrent line.
Torrent Katsu Reborn
The new Outsiders cards finally allow the deck to have a plan outside of going off with Flood of Force yellow: We threaten good value hands with Surging Strike yellow into either of the Gustwaves or a stand-alone Descendent Gustwave red into Bonds of Ancestry red followed up by a Fluster Fist red. In the meantime, we find arsenal targets to set-up our combo turn (by giving Torrent of Tempo red go again through Even Bigger Than That! red or Art of War yellow), while playing out our non-combo cards and chipping down our opponents’ health and armor to make our pop-off turn that much more threatening.
A Torrent of Value
And when we do pop off, the sheer value that the Torrent line can generate is beyond insane. And we don’t even have to rely on Torrent of Tempo red to hit or giving it go again. If any of our cards connect, we can opt to crack our Breeze Rider Boots alongside our Mask of the Pouncing Lynx and use Katsu’s ability to tutor up two copies of Flood of Force. Breeze Rider Boots can give Rushing River go again and we can come in for two consecutive Flood of Force yellow attacks that cost zero resources and usually threaten 4 damage with go again and draw us a card, providing more gas to continue our turn. In a pinch, we can even opt to use our Katsu trigger to find Rushing River blue and go for a mini combo!
Since the standalone combo cards Hundred Winds blue and Spinning Wheel Kick red provide good value on their own while comboing off of themselves, the follow-up to an unleashed Flood of Force yellow ends up being more than worth the trouble that the line asks of us in deckbuilding. After a successful combo turn, we usually have our opponent on the back foot and can close out a game by forcing blocks and chipping in with our Harmonized Kodachis for the win.
In the sideboard, we include the necessary pieces to have legs into matchups where basing your entire gameplan on comboing out is a bad call, like Ice heroes and Guardians. Mask of Momentum forces awkward blocks from defensive decks while our large combo density allows us to run Flic Flak red to great effect against the rising star Lexi, Livewire. Solid value cards like Salt the Wound yellow and Double Strike red replace the more clunky combo pieces, while Visit the Floating Dojo blue ensures we have some extra gas well into the late game.
Thanks to Outsiders, the Torrent line is better than ever, with only 12 non-combo cards in the main deck and a great fallback plan that provides great value without compromising our main gameplan. As long as we include any non-combo cards, there is still the lingering possibility of bricking our Flood of Force yellow, but this list is as close as I have gotten to securing the pop-off without compromising the rest of the deck too much.
While it’s not the most competitive way to play Katsu right now, it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had playing Ninja since I originally started out playing FAB. And I thoroughly believe that the Torrent line is something we should pay close attention to as more Ninja cards enter the card pool. Another one or two good standalone combo cards with go again and the line could easily become the way to play Katsu for the foreseeable future.
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