In discussion of a CCG, there’s always, naturally, a lot of focus on which Personalities and other cards are the most powerful. But that’s not the same as which card is the best, I think. The very best cards, to me, are strong enough to be playable, weak enough to not be annoying, and also have good art and flavor text (not just standing alone, but as representative of the setting). For Personalities, it probably helps if the person (or creature) depicted has shown up at least a bit in the story, because that increases the chance of some emotional resonance or cool flavor thing. Which matters because, ultimately, this sort of ranking is thoroughly subjective.
Below, I submit to you my entries for the “best” Personalities of Emperor Arc (which we’ll define as a card with an Emperor bug, but without an Ivory one), one per Clan (plus one unaligned). (warning: I reserve the right to change my mind for any reason, or no reason)
Well, let’s just cheat right off the bat! My pick for best card is … two cards!
Let’s see … great art? Check (twice, both from Hector Herrera)! Great flavor text? Check (at least on the basic version) Playable, without being annoyingly good? Check (ok, in some other arc, the XP would be ridiculously good, but in Emperor he doesn’t raise any hackles)! Card has flavor resonance with what happened in the story? Check (on the XP)! A good Personality card, and he maintained it across a second version? Sign me up.
Honorable Mentions: Hida Mumori, Hiruma Nitani (basic), Kuni Renyu (basic)
Yusugi brings good art (from Jake Murray), snappy flavor text that ties in with his Duelist keyword, efficient stats and a very handy trait. One could argue that he shouldn’t have an honor-gain trait when he has a history as a troublemaker, but I choose to think that he only has a two because of his past, and he gains you honor by staying beyind to guard his charge when the big mess goes down in the Second City.
Honorable Mentions: Asahina Akahiko, Asahina Nanae (basic), Daidoji Kitahime, Doji Makoto (promo version), Doji Tatsuki, Kakita Saki
A tough call, but Rikyou has a good ability and the correct keyword for it. Plus, not only is his art (by Heather Kreiter) good, but it’s got the correct tattoo for a movement ability – good old Centipede (OK, OK, technically a Centipede Tattoo is really good at getting you somewhere but a really bad way to get into a fight because it exhausts you, but we can’t have that crazy level of lockstep between the RPG and CCG). And all on a Monk who isn’t saddled with the really inefficient costing that has plagued them for much of Emperor arc. Or Fire Tokens on a monk not named Togashi Mitsu.
Honorable Mentions: Kitsuki Daisuke, Mirumoto Hikaro (the only Sensei I’m going to allow on these lists), Mirumoto Michi, Tamori Shosei, Togashi Osawa
This started off seeming like a tough category, because some characters who best exemplify what makes the Lion distinctive are going to be characters who cheese me off. Another chunk run into problems because the whole Kitsu theme isn’t very flavorful to me. Still, I seem to have ended up with a reasonably long list of honorable mentions, and one excellent winner:
It’s a Lion with a Force bonus for attacking – classic (yes, I know that a Soul of the original is in Emperor, but I don’t actually like the Butcher as a character, so I’m going with Arata). Her virtue is a strength in battle. Her flavor text exemplifies an honorable and dutiful samurai. Her art (by Anthony Grabski) is great. I shall forgive her the keyword that Lon Schlittenhart got put on her original version.
Honorable Mentions: Akodo Hotaka, Akodo Kamina, Ikoma Shika (basic), Ikoma Shuji, Ikoma Tsukasa, Matsu Hana, Matsu Koyama (basic)
Be advised: no way is someone who synergizes with Kalani’s Landing winning this one …
So instead Nobukatsu will get the nod because he’s what, in my useless little opinion, Mantis Magistrates should be – Tsuruchi Bounty Hunters. He’s got his ranged attack. He get paid when he takes down his target. His art (by Mike Capprotti) depicts him on the job. And his flavor text makes sure you know to tie all that together.
Honorable Mentions: Kitsune Tokoru, Tsuruchi Kosoko, Tsuruchi Kosoko, Yoritomo Naoto
Yeah, she’s still the most awesome Phoenix card (helped in great part by the Conceptopolis art), despite a normally-disqualifying lack of flavor text.
Also, how is it that there isn’t a single Isawa on my honorable mentions list?
Honorable Mentions: Asako Izuna (basic and xp), Asako Kijo, Asako Megu, Asako Yorisada, Shiba Iaimiko
Yup, don’t piss off the Scorpion (I mean, really, I’m not sure how the notion of the Scorpion going after you and your descendants endlessly is ultimately any different from, say, the Lion doing the exact same thing and calling it a blood feud, but whatever, it’s their thing). Great flavor text to mesh with Edwin David’s rows of identical Scorpion yojimbo, ready to die (and kill) for the Clan. Also Suwabe was a cornerstone of the Scorpion Loyalty deck, back when just having ridiculously good mid-range military Personalities was playable in EE. His ability doesn’t really mesh with the rest of his flavor, but we can’t require perfection, now can we?
Honorable Mentions: Bayushi Higaonna, Bayushi Hurunayi, Shosuro Hawado (all three versions), Shosuro Rin
The Spider list is my shortest yet, helped along by the fact that so many of their Personalities were really, really bad, which makes it hard for them to be in contention (also, I’m not picking an Undead member of a Great Clan as the best anything). Or maybe it’s just late in the article and I’m getting more picky as I’ve looked through more and more Personalities (let’s see how many Unicorn I end up with). Ishibashi packs good art by Drew Baker, defiant flavor text in keeping with his Clan’s attitude, and he was for a long, long time in possession of one of the better Battle abilities on a Spider Paragon (which is extra sad when you think about how not-great his ability is).
Honorable Mention: Daigotsu Takayasu, Ninube Hajime
OK, yeah, his xp version is awful. And I feel odd picking a Unicorn who isn’t on a horse. But Junpei basic is a pretty complete package. Junpei was the archetype for what the DT was originally trying to do in Emperor with Unicorn Tacticians – they played the mental game at home, while some other guys charged into the fray. His art (by Luis Nunez de Castro) is decent but not amazing standing alone, but it exactly conveys why Junpei isn’t Cavalry and why Junpei’s ability can be used from home. And the flavor text just hammers this home.
Honorable Mentions: Utaku Eun-ju, Utaku Ji-Yun (xp)
A great example of top-down card design, The Great Death is (as the card notes) a Bake-kujira is a lesser-known type of creature/spirit from Japanese mythology/folklore. It is, as the card depicts, a skeletal whale that is accompanied by swarms of fish and birds (that’s “raptor” as in bird of prey, not “raptor” as in velociraptor; although velociraptors did have feathers). Good and well-executed art by Mike Capprotti (again), menacing flavor text – it’s a complete package.
Honorable Mention: Otomo Suikihime
Well, there you have it – a thoroughly subjective list. What did you think? Were the criteria used good ones? How different is your list?