By Rabid Schnauzer 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 we look at Midori and Setsuki. Midori: Midori is a brutal, fast rushdown character, who can often switch to a surprisingly strong economy if his rush fails. Worst Matchups Midori's worst matchups are against characters who have both innate pile control and affinities for using the attack chips which give Midori trouble. Thus his two worst matchups are probably against Valerie and Onimaru. Best Matchups Midori's best matchups tend to be against characters who cannot survive a Dragon Form rushdown. His best two matchups are probably against Gloria and Rook. Not only does Dragon Form render Stone Wall and Healing Touch useless as reaction, but Rook's Big Rocks and Gloria's Saving Grace economies are likely to give Midori many chances to use Rigorous Training. Noobinators Against a naive Midori, pretty much anyone played competently will win, since newer players tend to shy away from using Dragon Form until it's too late. Personally I'm fond of Bal-Bas-Beta, since he has Rocket Punch for innate pile control and Upgrade for both dodging Rigorous Training and also for gaining multiple copies of chips which give Midori problems. Worst Bank for Midori and Counter-picking Against Midori Midori has issues with chips that deny him the opportunities to play his s . Additionally, chips which force him to discard can make it difficult for him to use his upgrading abilities while chips that dilute his deck with wounds make it harder for him to hit the density he needs. Thus most chips are bad news for Midori. He usually doesn't want to see Stolen Purples, Ouch! Color Panic, Chip Damage, Knockdown, Really Annoying or Just a Scratch in the bank. Against Midori most characters will want to pull out either a deck-thinning chip, or a chip which allows him to gain s without buying them or a pseudo-purple or a chip with a and pull in one of the chips just mentioned. Best Bank for Midori and Counter-picking for Midori Midori benefits massively from chips which allow him to gain additional s without buying them, such as Iron Defense, Training Day and Combos are Hard. He also benefits strongly from non-orb ways to manage his pile height, such as Mixmaster, Dashing Strike and Safe Keeping. Gems to Gemonade is another solid alternative since Dragon Form prevents Midori's opponent from using its reaction. He also does well with deck-thinning chips such as Now or Later and Self-Improvement, as those allow him to achieve a high density with a low number of s in his deck. Self-Improvement also gives Midori defense against many of the s that give him problems. Chips with s can let him space out his enders and crash consistently. One of Each is good here. Training Day and Safe Keeping are doubly good for him, offering pigs in addition to their benefits listed above. Secret Move is likewise very strong since it both offers a persistent pig and offers virtual deck-thinning via remaining in play rather than in his deck. Midori's lack of arrows on character chips means that he also benefits strongly from forks. Gem Essence and Button Mashing do wonders for him, since those are forks which also thin his deck, but he also makes good use of Recklessness as well as more the more expensive forks. His ability to Purge Bad Habits or upgrade via Rigorous Training means that he can gamble on Bang then Fizzle at lower risk than most, even while in Dragon Form. Then there are a couple chips that aren't quite good for Midori, but which have noteworthy interactions: While Chip Damage and Color Panic are usually bad news for Midori, he can at times defend adequately against them by playing them himself. Chip Damage can let Midori top-bag his Crash, and Color Panic can be used either to deny an opponent plays against Midori's rush or for forking. With those red synergies in mind, Midori can occasionally make use of Hundred Fist Frenzy, since it allows him to use red chips instead of s to control his pile. However,gems crashed via HFF are not crashed via s and so can be countercrashed even when Midori is in Dragon Form. Midori will usually want to counterpick out a and counterpick in Iron Defense, Gem Essence or a chip with a Setsuki: Setsuki is the empress of engine building, and there are only a handful of characters who can match her in the late game. Worst Matchups Setsuki's is a highly bank-dependent character, but her worst matchups are usually against characters with speedy rushdowns who can win before things get to the late game. Thus she usually needs some bank help to have a decent shot against Jaina or Midori. Best Matchups Setsuki's best matchups tend to be against economy or generalist characters. Again, things are bank-dependent, but her best two matchups are probably against Gloria and Lum. Noobinators Against a naive Setsuki, characters who can cycle her discard to deprive her of Double-take targets can be surprisingly strong, so consider Vendetta or Zane. At higher skill levels, these matches become even more bank-dependent, but Vendetta and Zane still pose considerable rushdown threats while being able to interfere with Double-take plans. Worst Bank for Setsuki and Counter-picking Against Setsuki Since Setsuki tends to have a strong economy and rule the endgame, most rushdown chips are bad news for her. Risk to Riskonade, Knockdown, Sneak Attack, Repeated Jabs and to a lesser extent Pick your Poison can all increase the tempo of the game to end it before Sets can get her engine and economy set up. Since much of Setsuki's game centers on Double-take, the once-per-turn chips Ouch! and Bang Then Fizzle are almost always better for her opponent than they are for her. Setsuki is also dismayed if the bank doesn't have any good early Double-take targets. If the chips of $4 cost and under don't offer her ways to gain extra , or to draw +s or to give her opponent wounds, then she has a much harder time gaining the advantage in the match. Finally, Setsuki has real issues if the bank does not have any to washers nor forks which can serve as washers. Then she will often be unable to both play engine chips and Crash in the same turn. Against Setsuki most characters will want to pull out a Double-takeable econ ramp or a to washer and pull in a rushdown or once-per-turn chip although the choice should depend heavily on the rest of the bank. Best Bank for Setsuki and Counter-picking for Setsuki There are a whole lot of different things Setsuki wants to see in a bank, and odds are pretty good that she'll get at least one or two of them. She is highly bank-dependent, but paradoxically adaptable. In order to turbocharge her economy, Setsuki wants a Double-takeable econ ramp chip. Risky Move, Sale Prices and Thinking Ahead all give her +. Training Day and Chips for Free give her the ability to upgrade to bigger gems. Money for Nothing gives her bigger s added into her hand, while Now or Later, Draw Three and Gems to Gemonade can let her draw all the [gem]s in her deck with an early Double-take. Alternatively, Setsuki can gain a strong economic advantage against most characters by Double-taking Really Annoying or Just a Scratch on her second or third turn. A pair of wounds in an opponent's first or second cycle slows them down substantially. In conjunction with economic ramps, Setsuki can do wonders by using Double-take to stock up on deck-thinners. This may seem counter-intuitive, but often Setsuki is better off Double-taking a Self Improvement or a Now or Later to trash a pair of s from her discard before setting up to Double-take an economic ramp chip. Doing so lets her cycle even faster and makes it far more likely that she'll be able to countercrash early to slow the tempo of the game. In any game where Setsuki can get an economic advantage via Double-taking economic ramp, she wants high-end chips to help exploit that advantage. In many banks Setsuki can win a race to Master Puzzler or The Hammer, but It's Combo Time, Degenerate Trasher, Custom Combo and X-Copy all tend to be good for Sets. Since all of Setsuki's arrows are brown, she benefits greatly from to washers. The cantrips One of Each, Punch Punch Kick and Roundhouse are the best of these, but she can also make use of Safe Keeping, Secret Move, It's a Trap, Button Mashing, One-Two-Punch. Gem Essence's + also lets Setsuki Crash after playing either Speed of the Fox or Bag of Tricks. Finally, since Setsuki is usually playing for the long game, there are many matchups where she's aided if the bank offers defensive pile-control chips. Iron Defense, Ebb or Flow, Safe Keeping, Dashing Strike, One True Style and Mixmaster all help Setsuki manage her pile against rushdown, and many are stronger defense when Double-taken. Setsuki will usually want to counterpick out a rushdown chip and counterpick in either an economic ramp chip or a washer, although sometimes she'll do better adding in a defensive chip or a high-end chip. Looking at the metagame for both and Free Character Head to Head A match between Midori and Setsuki will be bank-dependent, but Midori's Dragon Form rushdown should usually give him a notable edge. Overlap / Commonality This week is a little odd as there is notable overlap between the good matchups for the free characters, but almost no overlap between their bad matchups. Both Midori and Setsuki do well against primary economy characters, although for different reasons. Midori is able to rush them down before their economy bears fruit and Setsuki is able to outpace their economies. So if you're worried about matchups against the free characters, this might be a week to avoid playing Gloria or Grave. However, Midori's worst matchups of Valerie and Onimaru are actually pretty good for Setsuki, and Setsuki's worst matchup against Midori is perfectly even for Midori. Thus probably the best bets to gain advantageous matchups against the this week's free characters are Jaina and Vendetta, but I don't have a lot of confidence in that assessment, so feel free to experiment. As for [Puzzle] chips, both of this week's free characters benefit strongly from deck-thinning, from :brown: to :black: forks, from non- pile control as well as from Training Day -- so those should be considerations to pull out against someone switching between the free characters. For chips to pull in, Knockdown and Ouch! are good against both Setsuki and Midori. Counter Counters For a character who has favorable matchups against Jaina and Vendetta and at least even matchups against Midori and Setsuki, Menelker seems the best candidate. Deathstrike Dragon is strong against rushdown, giving Jaina, Vendetta, and Midori pause in pursuing their usually optimal all-in rush strategies. Into Oblivion can be used to deny Setsuki optimal play of Double-take. Question for the Readers This week marks the end of my first pass through the base game cast currently in rotation. Next week we will have two characters who I have already covered individually, although unlikely in conjunction with each other. Would you prefer it if I rehashed the individual bank and character discussion (sections I and II) from prior go rounds with copypasta and linkage in order to expand more on the discussion of what the characters as a pair do to the metagame (section III) or is it more useful if I go back over the individual sections with points where I've gained new insight or changed my opinion on something I wrote the prior time? Or is there some other aspect you'd like me to focus on? Until Next Week:May the chips fall your way.