This is the weekly installment in a regular column looking at how to play with or against the week's free Puzzle Strike characters. Because the free characters tend to be played more than the other characters, understanding how they affect play is an important part of mastering online Puzzle Strike Play. This week, Rabid Schnauzer looks at Lum and Argagarg. Lum Worst Matchups Lum's worst matchups tend to be against characters who have extreme rushdown or extreme economies. While Lum's odds tend to depend more on the bank than on the opponent, two of the matches he needs the most luck for are Jaina and Grave . Without a favorable bank he has trouble surviving Jaina's rush, and the need to buy s to counter it means he is unlikely to benefit much from Panda's Bargain. Against Grave, he faces the opposite problem—since Grave usually has a better late game than Lum and usually has enough to build an deck-cycling engine about a turn quicker in banks that allow for that—so Lum has to try to end the game quickly or gain an advantage via s Best Matchups Lum's best matchups tend to be against characters who aren't on the extremes, and Jackpot works best against characters likely to have few puzzle chips. Thus Lum's overall best two matchups are probably against DeGrey and Zane . DeGrey's Pilebunker is less effective than normal against Lum's extra-draw economy, and his thindecking makes Jackpot likelier to hit. Zane's Maximum Anarchy gives Lum a load of extra arrows which which to play his extra puzzle chips, and since Crash Potato is itself an there is even a slim chance of Jackpot gaining Lum a Double Crash Gem on the very first turn. Noobinators Against a naive Lum, Vendetta has both a reasonable rushdown and also the potential to delay Panda's Bargain getting into play. This matchup is still in Vendetta's favor at higher skill levels. Worst Bank for Lum and Counter-picking Against Lum Lum is unhappy if the bank is entirely enders—this doesn't let him build a deck which can play multiple chips each turn. Lum also generally does not do well against wounding chips, so Really Annoying, Just a Scratch and "Ouch!" pose problems. Lum's -buy restriction means that chips which help his opponent play rushdown, such as Knockdown, Risk to Riskonade, Repeated Jabs, or even Risky Move can be worrisome. Against characters with strong economies, the 12-cost ! chips are a worry for Lum, since he usually can't get to them quite as fast as Grave, Setsuki or Gloria can. Against Lum most characters will want to pull out whichever bank chip has the most useful arrows on it and pull in an ender which helps speed the game up although wounding chips or 12-cost ! chips are considerations. Best Bank for Lum and Counter-picking for Lum Lum's usual goal is to build an engine deck that draws and plays many chips each turn. To that end he needs a bank which gives him forks (Gem Essence, Button Mashing, One-Two Punch, Punch Punch Kick, Custom Combo) and draws (Now or Later, Draw Three, Roundhouse, It's Combo Time, etc). Panda's Bargain extra draws mean that Lum needs arrows more than he needs + effects. Lum often has strong options with chips, and Lum can string together chip combo chains involving Color Panic, Chip Damage and Pick your Poison into a red ender or washer chip. Since Panda's Bargain has an -buy restriction, Lum is usually happy to see training chips or other chips which can let him gain s without buying, such as: Training Day, Chips for Free, Iron Defense, Stolen Purples, or Combos are Hard. Alternatively, he can compensate for having few s with pseudo-purples like Mixmaster, Gems to Gemonade, One True Style, or Combinatorics. It's also worth mentioning that Option Select and X-Copy are great ways for Lum to play more s without actually having those s. Panda's Bargain's encouragement to buy puzzle chips also means that Lum benefits from puzzle chips which can thin his deck. Gem Essence, Now or Later and It's Combo Time trash gems, letting Lum draw his few s more frequently and string together any chains of puzzle chips he has with more regularity. Self-Improvement and Degenerate Trasher can do that as well as letting Lum safely buy early game puzzle chips which later go obsolete. Finally, since two of his character chips can function as to washers, and since he's usually drawing extra chips, Lum benefits massively from chips with brown arrows such as Axe Kick, Combinatorics and especially Dashing Strike—which is likely better for Lum than for any other character. Lum will usually want to counterpick out a wounding or 12-cost chip and counterpick in Dashing Strike. If Dashing Strike is already in the bank, Lum probably does best to counterpick in a fork or a training chip Argagarg Worst Matchups Argagarg Garg's worst matchups are against characters who can rush him down and cope with wounds. Thus his two very worst matchups are against Jaina and Midori , both of whom have both fast rushdown options and ways to trash wounds. Jaina's Burning Vigor punishes Arg for giving her wounds. Midori's Dragon form means he frequently doesn't care that protective ward stops him from combining to a 4-gem. Best Matchups Argagarg's best matchups are against characters who can't end the game fast, nor improve chips in their deck. Wounds are problematic for most characters, but especially so for characters whose usual plan is to cycle their decks fast. Thus Argagarg's best two overall matchups are probably against Valerie and Gwen , both of whom have real trouble lining up their forks with their draws once they get a few wounds. Noobinators Against a naive Argagarg, Gloria's innate , s, to play the main actions of puzzle chips with useful reactions and her ability to trash wounds are all incredibly handy. However at high skill levels, this matchup is actually in Argagarg's favor, provided Argargarg knows to play avoid letting Gloria react and takes advantage of Radiant Healing to thin his own deck. Worst Bank for Argagarg and Counter-picking Against Argagarg Argagarg has a relatively low bank dependence himself, but there are a number of chips he doesn't want his opponent to have. Chips which speed the game up, such as Risky Move, Sneak Attack, Knockdown and Risk to Riskonade are Arg's biggest worry. Self Improvement, and Money for Nothing have powerful reactions that can make it very risky for Arg to play Hex of Murkwood. The other blue chips, not quite so much, since Arg's two arrows let him play them well himself. Finally, chips which allow an opponent to trash or upgrade wounds can reduce their effectiveness and weaken Arg's usual late-game advantage, so Now or Later and Training Day are usually better for Arg's opponent. Against Argagarg, most characters will want to pull out a defensive chip and pull in a rushdown chip or Self Improvement. Best Bank for Argagarg and Counter-picking for Argagarg. Argagarg is fond of defensive chips which can drag the game on long enough for wounds to totally debilitate his opponent. Ebb or Flow and Safe Keeping are likely his favorite bank chips since they can drag the game longer. Iron Defense, Mixmaster and Gems to Gemonade are likewise great defensive options, but their higher cost and Arg's lack of + chips means they aren't always as accessible to arg as soon as he would like. Argagarg will usually want to counter-pick out a rushdown chip or deck-improvement chip and counterpick in a defensive chip Free Character Head to Head In a head-to-head matchup, Argagarg will usually have the edge. Hex of Murkwood's wounds will negate much of the advantage that Panda's Bargain's extra draws give Lum in the early game, and Lum needs bank help to rush Arg down against Bubble Shield and Protective Ward before the wounds really stack up. Overlap / Commonality This week, there is pretty heavy overlap between the common nemeses. Both Lum and Argagarg have real issues against hard rushdown characters and strategies. Thus and are strong against both of the free characters. Conversely, both free characters have heavy advantages against wildly different characters. The characters Lum is best against tend to be even or worse for Argagarg and the characters Argagarg is best against tend to be even and/or bank-dependent for Lum. Thus there really is no single character to avoid playing if you fear the free characters. As for bank chips, both of this week's free characters have issues with rushdown and synergies with chips, so opponents should consider counter-picking out defensive chips or chips with s on them and counter-picking in chips which speed up the tempo of the game or otherwise aid rushdown. Counter Counters Since both of the free characters are disadvantaged against strong rushdown characters, it's very tempting to suggest counter-picking the likely counter-picks with Valerie or Onimaru , who are highly resistant to rushdown. However, those two can both have real issues against wounding, making them questionable picks for a week in which Argagarg is free. So as surprise alternate option, I would maybe suggest Bal-Bas-Beta who won't be nearly as good against Jaina or Midori, but who does have Rocket Punch for additional pile control against rushdown characters, making those matches closer. BBB is favored against Argagarg's wounding and the robot has an interesting parallel to Lum with a different sort of high bank dependency and another -buy restriction. Until Next Week:May the chips fall your way.