Lowblood Pressure

Posted in Serious Fun on January 11, 2005

By Anthony Alongi

Assessing an aggressor that also plays great defense

One of the toughest lessons to learn in multiplayer Magic is balance. There's balance of creatures with removal, balance of land with non-land, balance of expensive spells with affordable ones, and so on.

This week, however, we're focusing on a very specific balancing act: the balance of good sense to hold back blockers, with the desire (and eventually the urgent need) to get rid of one or more opponents.

We start, as we so often do, with some rules notes:

  • Fumiko counts herself when attacking. So on offense, she's always at least bushido 1.
  • Remember your basic bushido from Champions. The +X/+X is bushido, not an automatic pump to Fumiko's stats in every situation. Most of us are used to bushido by now, but I've gotten enough reader emails to know this sort of card trips up newer folks all the time. Fumiko must block or be blocked for the number of attackers to matter at all. See more about bushido in the comprehensive rules.
  • Fumiko's bushido is responsive to each player's attackers. It's not just your army that gets this lowblood boiling. Every time a player anywhere attacks, something quiet happens to Fumiko. Normally it won't make a difference unless Fumiko's defending, but there are always cards with weird synergy, aren't there? In casual circles, this can be either another reason for or another reason against “simultaneous turns”, depending on how crazy you like your world.
  • You can fatally Shock Fumiko in response to bushido going on the stack, just like you can with every other samurai. Of course, you can do it before then, too. Don't let the whole “number of attacking creatures” thing make this more complicated than it really is! Of course, if you want complicated…
  • You can eliminate attackers to reduce X before engaging Fumiko, or even in response to bushido going on the stack – but once bushido resolves, X is set. Think of it this way: if Fumiko's ability was that it did X damage to something whenever it blocked or became blocked (where X was the number of attackers), and the ability triggered and resolved to kill a creature, and then someone killed an attacker…would you go back and lower X? No, you wouldn't. And you don't do it here either.
  • When there are multiple attacks in a turn, the bushido does recalculate with each new attack. More on this below.
  • Remember walls and other creatures with defender can't attack. I know, this is printed out on the cards every time, too. I'm just yanking your chain.

Please send any rules concerns on this card to Rules Manager John Carter over at Saturday School. After all, I'm just learning about this set, too!

Low Blood, High Stakes

The most impressive thing about Fumiko from a design standpoint is the way its two abilities provoke natural tension.

After all, if this were just a 3/2 for with bushido equal to the number of attackers, you'd probably send her swinging with a couple of pals every attack phase. Sure, she's a big blocker if you're getting run down by a pack of squirrels – but if you're getting run down by a pack of squirrels, a Grizzly Bear would do just as good a job. Fumiko's red, fairly efficient, scary to block…so she's on the attack.

But when you add that “taunting” ability back in, you have to rethink how and when you use Fumiko. If everybody's attacking every turn, and there are two or more opponents on the board, you have to consider holding back blockers. And creatures that hang back to block generally don't attack.

Do they?

Low Blood, High Blood, Hot Blood, Cold Blood

Tahngarth, Talruum Hero

The natural companion to Fumiko is a vigilant creature – preferably one that can attack safely. Serra Angel is the original, but there are many other vigilant creatures available. Most of them are angels of one sort or another; there are also scattered cards like Diving Griffin if you're not too particular about creature type.

But my companion of choice for Fumiko doesn't fly at all. Tahngarth, Talruum Hero is in Fumiko's color and has the bonus of limiting defenders' blocking choices by taking out a small or mid-sized blocker without much trouble.

If you want more flexibility with your creature choices, an even better vehicle for keeping your attackers vigilant is Angel's Trumpet. This way, you can attack alongside Fumiko with whatever you like – Gemini Engine perhaps, or a hundred snake tokens out of Orochi Hatchery.

The Glory Of Lowblood

Vigilance aside, Fumiko may work better as a defender in some multiplayer environments, for at least two reasons:

  • It's very hard in group games to keep more than three or four creatures out for multiple attacks. Any one of a number of players can get nervous and start with the spot or mass removal. Most players figure it's easier to stock up creatures for defensive purposes.
  • On a related note, an aggressive Fumiko works better with more attackers, and more attackers demands more creatures on the board, and more creatures on the board threatens overextension…and overextension in multiplayer is even riskier than overextension in duels.

So let's say you forgo the vigilance route (which I'm still rather partial to) and choose to defend with Fumiko instead. What would work?

Well, how about starting with white again? Entangler is a fine enhancement which lets Fumiko keep up with swarms of 1/1s just fine. I also like white's potential to slip in Masako the Humorless, a natural companion to a creature that wants both to attack and to block.

But really, I like white with Fumiko because it contains the most important friend she may have in Magic.


Glory works with Fumiko in at least three ways. First, Fumiko is freer to attack if Glory holds back as a defender. Second, Fumiko is the sort of creature that attracts a lot of attention – even undeserved attention, from players who might benefit from it but feel “the board is getting too complicated”. Glory in the graveyard means Fumiko can stand a bit taller on defense, without you worrying about a simple Terror, Earthquake, or Swords to Plowshares ruining your fun.

Finally, Glory does something wonderfully subtle: it threatens to make your defending army invulnerable, while Fumiko orders everyone to attack somewhere.

While Glory probably does it best (and with the least effort, since it just has to sit in your graveyard to scare people), there are other cards that approximate this last effect – stuff like Solitary Confinement, Spike Weaver, or even Alexi, Zephyr Mage. Anything that complements the message “attack!” with “but not me” is good.

How Low Will They Go?

So that's Fumiko on defense. But let's put her back on the attack. How willing should your opponents be to block her?

You could force the issue with Lure, of course. But then Fumiko may get more than she can handle. In any case, I don't like using cards to overkill a single purpose, if there's a broader strategy you can put in your deck for the result you want.

Fumiko is red. Red is terrific at suddenly pumping its creatures' offense. Get where I'm going here? Think Ghitu War Cry, or even something simple like Bonesplitter. If three damage isn't enough to make defenders think twice about letting it through, certainly five or seven or ten ought to be.

The beauty of this is, you probably already were going to put some cards like that in your deck anyway, weren't you? (“Sure!”) And hey! You don't need some fancy-schmancy column writer to tell you how to build your decks, do you! (“No way!”) And if you want my opinion, buster, you'll just tell me what it is, thank you very much! (“Yeah! Give yourself hell, Alongi!”) So I can just take my deck list and…well, I just didn't think a deck list was necessary this time around.

An aggressive deck should already have everything it needs to make defenders want to block. Don't push your deck harder than it has to – make your opponents do the work!

Low Blood, High Damage

Godo, Bandit Warlord

Of course, some players are going to try to find creative ways to abuse Fumiko's bushido ability. I'm not going to hand out combo deck lists. But I don't mind giving you a head start.

As I mentioned briefly in the rules section above, Fumiko may get the chance to attack more than once in a turn (say, with Godo, Bandit Warlord out). If this happens, note any or all of the following:

  1. A Fumiko blocked the first time (let's say when five creatures attacked) would start the next combat as an 8/7, with bushido X.
  2. A Fumiko blocked the second time (let's say when only four creatures attacked) would get that X = 4 bonus and become an 12/11.
  3. A Fumiko that then untaps because of an entwined Savage Beating becomes a 12/11 double-striking attacker with bushido X where X = oh, let's say five again?
  4. A Fumiko with a Takeno, Samurai General out would now actually be a 17/16 double-striker with bushido 5.
  5. Fling reads, “As an additional cost to play Fling, sacrifice a creature. Fling deals damage equal to the sacrificed creature's power to target creature or player.”

Anyway, I'm sure you'll think of something.

Anthony cannot provide deck help, since he does not have bushido X where X = the number of requests he would get if he opened the flood gates.

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