Howdy folks, tirankin here! As a playtester who loves playing some of the weirdest jank around, I've had the honor of working with Level 99 to refine the coolest - and most bizarre and unwieldy - omnicidal maniac in the game: Gaspar Geddon, the Disciple of Naught!
Gaspar's ability allows him to play additional Bases as Clones of himself. Clones function like allies of Gaspar, executing their Bases without any paired Styles, but they can't attack if the opponent moves onto them or if Gaspar is stunned. This means Gaspar can "self-combo" with two or three attacks per beat, but at the cost of having extra Bases in his discard, which severely limits his future options.
So what was wrong with Gaspar? If you ever brought Gaspar to a tournament, you already know one answer to this. Each time, I spoke with the judge beforehand to ask for rulings on specific interactions that I expected to come up. Each time, something came up I hadn't anticipated, and we had to stop our match for the judge to puzzle out what was supposed to happen. Usually, even the judge didn't know!
Gaspar was a walking rules conundrum - a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a big ball of jank. While still maybe less prone to rules problems than Sagas, playing Gaspar "correctly" required memorizing a long list of rulings on specific interactions, very few of which were actually obtainable from rulebooks or other official sources.
Of course, most Gaspar players didn't bother with this. They just played him intuitively, making mistakes and having fun with it. Which is totally fine in casual play, but it can be disappointing to show up to a tournament and find out your favorite character doesn't actually work the way you think he does.
So Gaspar's main problem was functional: he just didn't work within the rules. (In fact, he's technically unplayable as printed! You have to figure a lot of stuff out on your own.) On the balance side of things, Gaspar's big problem came in the form of a rules update that inadvertently crippled his gameplan.
Slow, Sad Clones
Gaspar was a fast, light-hitting brawler who could poke out and stun mid-speed opponents, or set up slower combos to deal insane amounts of damage. The FG (Force Gauge) system hamstrung his most effective tools: his Clones.
Most folks I spoke with assumed that FG Soak (which was later removed) or FG Stun Guard would have been huge problems for Gaspar, since they make opponents more resilient to his hits, but Gaspar actually doesn't mind those too much. He has plenty of Ignore Soak, an autostun effect, and lots of positioning tools to deal with you as long as he can outspeed you. The problem was FG Priority.
In almost all cases, FG Priority has very little impact on character balance: if one player antes, the other can counter-ante the same thing. It's just a way to manipulate resources, which isn't a big deal. For characters who needed to hit certain Priority thresholds or who can negate opponent bonuses, FG Priority was a buff. Gaspar has no such effects, so he doesn't care... unless his opponent antes!
Gaspar was designed before Force Gauge, so there was no reason to worry about Gaspar or his Clones having stat modifiers outside of opponent-specific effects. To that end, they were designed not to copy Gaspar's bonuses or penalties, which kept them fairly stable in matchups where it'd otherwise be a problem (imagine Gaspar anteing two of Alexian's Chivalry tokens and gaining an effective +6 Power!). But because of that, FG Priority killed their ability to reliably outspeed opponents.
This was Gaspar's core balance issue, though it relates to one of his functional issues, as well. The fix was surprisingly easy:
This first change actually showcases almost every major UA change at once. The most important change not on his Clone Cards is the fact that anted Bases are now face-down, which is a tremendous quality-of-life improvement. Face-up antes give away far too much, especially when he's already limiting his own options with his UA!
As for the other changes:
Balance: Clones now have +1 Priority. This helps them tremendously from a balance standpoint. It's effectively the same as letting them win ties instead of losing them (but losing ties ensures they interact sanely with the vast majority of effects) - but this puts a lot more pressure on opponents to outspeed them. Barring Style modifiers, opponents can't use Shot to outspeed Clone Drives or Strike to outspeed Clone Grasps. These are important thresholds, since they preserve the intended Base dynamic and allow Gaspar's Clones to land the hits he needs.
Function: FAQ answers now actually exist. We joked about printing a mini-rulebook just for Gaspar players, but the reality comes close. He's going to have his own rulebook section for players who want to know how he actually functions or how to handle inevitable, bizarre edge cases. On a related note...
Function: Card text density has been reduced. The length of Gaspar's UA has long been a concern, but it's equally troublesome to divide relevant information across too many sources. We tried to keep to the middle of the road here. Gaspar's UA now specifically describes how Gaspar creates, activates, and loses his Clones, leaving it to his (new) Clone cards to explain how the Clones themselves work. The idea here is to divide the information into manageable chunks which can be processed and understood separately. With the rulebook FAQ around to handle edge cases, his UA and Clone Cards don't have to handle his entire rules load by themselves.
Balance & Function: The N/A clause is now the Clone's Start of Beat effect, and the Clone does not leave the board. By which I mean "the clause that prevents him from hitting his opponent with Clones on the same beat he plays Dodge." The previous timing was "If Gaspar reveals", which isn't a real timing window. It was actually intended to be Reveal, which enabled one very weird piece of clash tech (Instanced Dodge) but was otherwise pretty bad. Also, it previously only applied to Gaspar's attack and caused Clones to leave the board entirely, but now a Dodge Clone's Base is automatically returned to his hand and the Clone remains! Why would that matter? The answer is...
Gordian's swap effect used to be Before Activating, which meant Gaspar usually played Gordian Strike, Drive, or Burst and anted a Dash Clone. Gordian's unparalleled positioning power took a hit with the Dodge update, so it got a buff in the form of ... 1 lower printed Priority and a change to Start of Beat instead of Before Activating.
Why is lower Priority a buff? The Priority reduction makes it's easier for him to underspeed a Dodge Clone (since Clones have +1 Priority), which means his Clone will move first. Since a Dodge Clone doesn't leave the board when its Base returns to hand, he can use Gordian Strike + Dodge Clone for massive repositioning and a near-unavoidable hit. Just like the old days!
What about the timing change? Start of Beat makes it much harder to deny his swap by "popping" his Clone before he gets the chance to use it, and it lets him stack the triggers on Gordian Dodge to squeeze an extra space of movement out of his Dodge (by swapping with a Clone at range 1 before moving). He can use Gordian's effect even if his Clone's Base gets bounced back to his hand first due to its own effect, which can allow him to dodge past his opponent and then warp back to his previous position!
Both of these techniques assume he plays a Dodge (either in his attack pair or as a Clone), which means the End of Beat effect is an example of redundancy. Gaspar's Power output is terrible without Clones; Gordian's End of Beat effect and Range bonus let Gaspar ante a single Clone to trade positively without losing access to more Bases than normal. This makes Gordian a reliable brawling Style even when he isn't using to warp across the board at light speed!
Replicated remains the Clone-combo-autostun. We also tidied up the templating, which mattered in - as always - weird edge cases, and we made the Start of Beat effect optional and easier to use.
But what is this Start of Beat effect? It used to be a Reveal effect, and a pretty strange one! Those who have faced Gaspar probably automatically skipped reading it, because they're used to interpreting it as "that thing that lets him copy a Clone." But look closer. This lets him use a Base from his hand or discards to create a fresh Clone that copies his Base, not that of another Clone, whether or not he already has one! It requires him to place it in his own space, but this also overrides his UA's requirement that he can't create a Clone in a space that already has one. This can let him double up for fantastic damage if he's ready for a payout!
Overall, this makes Replicated more reliable and far less costly. Decisions during Reveal are mostly undesirable, since they interact awkwardly with clashes, so the Start of Beat change just made sense - and Replicated Dodge now allows him to "cheat" Bases into hand by creating a Clone that copies his own Dodge! This allows Gaspar to play Replicated Dodge to retrieve a Base from his Discards during Start of Beat, which can help him either load up with an extra Base (if he didn't have any extra Bases discarded, like on beat 1) or retrieve a key Base to reuse sooner than would normally be possible!
Since the new theme of Replicated is that his Clone exactly copies his attack, it needed +1 Priority to keep up with the Clone buff; this is also a welcome buff, of course, making the autostun combo even scarier than it already was! Replicated threatens Shots and Strikes with Drive or Grasp, especially thanks to the Clone Priority buff saving it from cheap denial. It's a fantastic offensive and defensive option, and I love it more than ever.
Recursive and Cascading didn't need any changes other than templating improvements; they're the same old Gaspar you know and fear.
Instanced got a really interesting tweak. At baseline, it gives him another "slow" Style option, but he can modify his Priority by creating Clones. Instanced was always a reasonable option for a fast payout with Shot or Drive, but somewhat awkward because of the difficulty in keeping those Bases up at the right times. Now it has an additional function as a tool for targeted clashing or clash avoidance, and it gives him access to my favorite new Gaspar tech: self-card-locking for profit!
"Card lock" refers to the condition of having useful cards down, and therefore being low on options. Obviously, Gaspar is very familiar with this condition - he card-locks himself by using his UA if he's not playing Replicated, Gordian, and Dodge as often as possible. After a couple strong payouts, it's not unusual for Gaspar to be down to 2 or 3 Bases in hand. This is where Instanced really shines.
If one of those Bases is Dodge, Gaspar can play Dodge and ante one or two others. In this instance(d), if you want to clash him, you probably have to play a fast Base - and clashing his Dodge will let him clash into his remaining option(s) at a significant Power and Priority boost. He can also play Dodge and ante all of his remaining Bases - which means you either let him Dodge (which returns all of his anted Bases to hand), or clash it to skip directly to Recycle!
As long as Gaspar has a life lead, he can use this to "skip beats" by exerting such a powerful threat with Instanced that his opponent can't afford to clash his Dodge. Every beat skipped with Dodge (or clashed out) is a beat he can cycle back his scariest Styles and favorite Bases: Shot, Strike, Drive, and Bladestorm.
Instanced was always good at closing games, of course, but the new Instanced gives him tools to manipulate his Priority, compensating for his card-lock conundrum - and even turning his lack of Bases into a bizarre advantage by making him scarier in clashes! On the flipside, the effect means that Instanced Bladestorm with two Clones (Gaspar's most devastating payout) becomes a Priority 3 attack - much easier to clash, and therefore punish, than before. On which note...
Bladestorm got one point of Power, but is otherwise unchanged. This is mostly to fix a "playerfeel" issue: with -1 Power on literally every Style (and on every Clone attack), it feels really bad to have baseline Power of 0 on any given Bladestorm (except Instanced Bladestorm, which got a nerf by way of Instanced's new Priority effect). If he's down to having Bladestorm and nothing else, for example, it'd be nice to at least hit for 1.
Blank Infinity is unchanged except from a templating standpoint. It functions differently in the very few cases in which Gaspar's opponent might grant him Soak; there was no reason for it to cause him to lose that Soak, so this effect is much cleaner.
Inception is my newest heartthrob. It's gotten a complete overhaul - the original Inception was a terrifying fallback which wasn't very good at hitting, but also sometimes caused opponents to abruptly and explosively lose games. Considering Gaspar already had a wealth of Bladestorm options to do exactly that, the original Inception felt redundant with his kit - it was kind of like letting him Bladestorm twice in a row, though it didn't counter Dodge.
This is much more interesting, far more exciting, and - in my opinion - considerably more thematic. I always felt like Inception needed to interact with Gaspar's Clones in some interesting way, and Inception went through five or six iterations before we settled on something relatively sane. Inception turns all Clones into a copy of itself, but with 1 higher Priority - unless Gaspar chooses to ante FG Priority. This gives him the choice of either going first or letting his Clones hit first, depending on what Range he thinks he'll need.
It's still a huge payout, but it's much less likely to cause faster opponents to abruptly explode - and it feels a lot more like his kit, without actually being redundant with it. (Notably, the fact that both of his Clones will have the same Priority lets him choose their order of activation, which is a big deal!) Also, more importantly to me, it feels like what it seems like it should've been: an attack which lets all of his Clones at the "same" time, in the same way, in a spectacular finishing move!
If he doesn't finish you, of course, he's down to whatever Bases he still had (to a minimum of the one he set to activate his attack). Most of his Bases will be in his first discard pile afterward, which leaves him at your mercy for two beats!
Well, that's Gaspar! He's a big pile of spectacular nonsense, and I find him utterly delightful. Further playtesting may change some of the cards and interactions shown here, but this should give you a pretty good sense of where he'll end up. He's felt great to play, and he's still just as weird without needing nearly as many clarifications on how he interacts with a bunch of things. I hope you enjoy seeing him in action and trying him for yourself! Let us know what you think!
~D (Once and Future Gaspar Main)
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Content - Daniel Zeiger
Editing - Marco De Santos