Counters make up an important part of Weiβ Schwarz, because most of the time they’re the only chance you get to interact with your opponent during their turn. Before considering why you would want to play Counters, and when to play them, I’ll first cover some basics about the cards.
What are they?
Counters, or Backups, are cards which have a Fist symbol on them. When your opponent Front Attacks one of your Characters, you can play a Counter from your Hand, provided you meet the activation requirements for the card, such as Level and Cost. You cannot use them if you are getting Side Attacked or Direct Attacked. You also cannot use more than 1 per battle, but you can use 1 for every battle during that turn.
Counters can come in both Character and Event varieties, with the former showing the keyword Backup on them. This is an important distinction to make, because there are cards such as [Mami Endures her Fate] which can block Backup, but not Event Counters. Event Counters will often have more powerful effects, but this is weighed off against the fact that they are not Characters.
An interesting difference between these two types of cards is that for Character Counters you do not need to follow Colour restrictions in order to use their Backup effect. So you could play a Red one in a completely Blue deck and never have to worry about whether you can play it or not.
For Event cards you have to follow the Colour restrictions, so you can’t just throw something like [Self-sacrifice] in all of your Sword Art Online decks.
Both of these types of cards can usually be played during your own turn, but this will often be as a last resort. Most Backup cards have no other effect, and will end up being severely underpowered vanillas. Although, some rarer cards, like [Monopolising? Asuka] do have bonus effects. Some types of Event cards, like [100M Shock], cannot be used during your own turn, because they specify battling character.
Why play Counters?
The most straightforward reason for playing Counters is to keep your characters from being defeated in Battle. Most Counters give your cards a Power boost, to help them win the battle they’re involved in. Your weaker characters can deal with characters they wouldn’t be able to if they were doing the attacking, and you can often take out characters which are a Level above them.
If you have cards which you want to keep on Stage for a long time, and they do not have Encore or a way to gain Encore, then Counters are the best way to achieve this.
What Counters to use?
The choice of Counters for your deck will rely entirely on what the series has access to, and what will work within your build. There’s no use playing a card that requires you to play Alien cards if your deck doesn’t have any Aliens in it.
The basic types of Counters in the game are the 1/0, which gives 1500 Power, the 1/1 which gives 2000 and the 2/1 which gives 3000. Sometimes you just want Power, so it’s absolutely fine to use these cards. It’s also worth considering these types of cards because they might have more useful attributes than some of the fancier Counters in the series.
If you can get more Power out of a Counter for the same Cost as the vanilla varieties, then it could be well worth considering those cards in your deck.
If you’re playing for Power, you need to consider at which point in the game your deck is lacking most, and thus where it will benefit most from them. If you need to protect your weaker Level 1 cards there’s no point loading up on Level 2 Counters.
Be careful about playing too many Counters in your deck, especially off-Colour characters, or Event cards, because sometimes you will be short on attackers.
When to play Counters?
The most important thing about playing Counters is using them at the right time. We’ve all had games where we’ve wasted a Counter during a battle we didn’t really need to, and then regretted it later. It’s very tempting to use a Counter at the first opportunity that presents itself, but you will often need to resist the temptation.
There are many different factors you need to consider, and I suspect this probably won’t be a completely exhaustive list.
Firstly, you need to think about how important it is to save that character. If it’s a lower Level character that’s overstayed its welcome, is it really worth keeping it alive for another turn? Chances are its going to run into the same problem on the following turn.
Secondly, can you replace the character next turn or not? This is especially important late game, where attacking twice or 3 times can be the difference between winning and losing. If not, then it’s in your best interests to keep the character around on the Stage.
Next, can you beat the other character on your next turn anyway? Some cards have a big burst of Power on the turn they’re played, or via a Climax combo and will become weaker on the following turn. If that’s the case, then it might not be worth using a Counter if you could just play another character and beat it on the next turn. You’ll get to save the Counter for a more important battle, and will usually also save on Stock.
If you cannot beat the card during your turn, for example because it gets bigger in your turn, then it can be worth using a Counter so you don’t have to deal with it later.
Some cards will have effects that only work when they defeat something in battle, so if you can stop that, it will get rid of one headache for you.
You also need to consider how much damage you want to do on the next turn. If you counter, that will usually leave an empty slot on the opponent’s Stage, allowing you to Direct Attack next turn. If you’re behind on damage this can be just the boost you need to win the game, but if you want to hit for precise damage then it might be better to leave your opponent’s card alone.
On rare occasions, Counters can also be useful for fixing Climax problems. If your last attack on the previous turn was a Climax, and you’re close to Refresh, then it could be to your benefit to play a 1 Cost Counter. This can get your Climax back into your deck before its too late.
To round things out, I’m going to be listing some of the notable Counters in the game. Since lots of clones exist in Weiβ Schwarz, many series will have essentially the same card, so I won’t bother covering every single example which repeats. Counters can be notable because of the Power they provide relative to their Cost, or because of the effects they grant outside of pure Power.
Split Counters, such as [Magician Nagato & Shamisen] let you split Power across two characters, potentially saving two characters instead of one. Or you can give all that Power to a single character, for an above Cost boost. Split counters usually have 500 more Power than their vanilla equivalents.
Oversized Event Counters, such as [Self-sacrifice] give you huge Power boosts relative to their Cost and Level, often beating out higher Level character Counters on brute strength. This is a trade off against a variety of downsides because of the fact they are not characters. In most decks you cannot search for them, or salvage them, making them harder to get into your Hand. You can also never use them to attack with.
Aside from Power boosts, Counters will sometimes add on bonus effects, or even forgo Power boosts entirely. One well known example of the former is [Skill of 100 People Shiina], a card which allows you to refresh your deck. At an extra 2 Stock, this might seem like a high cost, just to remake your deck, but you have to consider all the benefits that you’ll get out of this.
Firstly, you’ll avoid Refresh damage, helping you stay in the game longer. Given that healing for 1 tends to cost 2 Stock, this is worth it cost wise. Secondly you can use it to fix Climax problems you’re having. By making your deck again you give yourself more chances to cancel, but you can’t guarantee this will actually happen.
Some counters can even heal damage, the most famous examples being [Sayaka’s Wish] from Madoka and [Battling Jupiter!] from IdolM@ster. Healing counters often come at a cheaper price than it would if attached to a character, but you are usually losing a card in the process to balance this out.
[Dark Hero] from Disgaea not only heals one damage, but also saves one of your defeated characters.
Persona has access to a couple of unusual and costly counters which can prevent your opponent from getting in a full set of attacks. [Jack Brothers] has a massive 4 Cost, but can outright stop one of your opponent’s characters from attacking. [Maggie’s Tarot Reading] does the same thing for a Stock less, but does mean you’ll have to bounce one of your characters in the process.
In a game where it can be so difficult to stop or prevent damage, cards like these give you one of the few ways to guarantee your survival.
Another way to keep yourself alive is to mess with your opponent’s plans, and deny them their most powerful combos. [Unlinking Information] from Haruhi is one of the few cards in the entire game that can get rid of Climax cards, making Haruhi one of the few decks in the game that won’t fall to random Soul rushes.
As counter-productive as it might seem, another way to try and prevent damage is to make your opponent cause even more damage than they were aiming for. [100M Shock] from Lucky Star can give a card +6 Soul, whilst [Miracle of the Unwilting Cherry Blossom] from Da Capo gives all of your opponent’s cards +5 Soul and prevents them from Side Attacking.
These sorts of cards can save you by making it incredibly difficult for your opponent to actually cause any damage. Getting hit for 6+ is much more likely to get cancelled than 1 or 2 damage. That said, this type of card should really only be used when you’re sure you’ll lose otherwise. You don’t want to turn victory into defeat because of your own card.
Another way to save yourself from damage is [Compass] from Kantai Collection. At worst when it fails it will put you two cards closer to a Climax. When it succeeds you’ll block your opponent’s damage. Often you would have cancelled the damage anyway, but it can block a 2 Soul hit if the Climax was on the 3rd card, which would otherwise have stuck.
Whilst it won’t necessarily stop all of your opponent’s damage, [Inner Feelings, Tsubasa Hanekawa] can be used to reduce an opponent’s card by 1 Soul, saving you from 1 damage. This is practically equivalent to a heal, especially given the 2 Stock cost.
A few counters out there can also modify the number of cards in your or your opponent’s deck, usually with the aim of making your deck smaller, and your opponent’s bigger. Cards like [Clubroom Nagato & Koizumi] let you put 2 cards from your opponent’s Waiting Room back into their deck. On top of making it less likely that they’ll cancel future attacks, it can also deny them cards they might want to salvage or change into. Often I don’t think the extra discard for this effect is worth it.
On the other hand, cards like [“Happy Spiral” Komari] will send cards off the top of your Deck to the Waiting Room, which will hopefully put you closer to cancelling your next attack. Unfortunately it will sometimes rob you of a cancel.
Some counters, such as [Misae, as “Magical Girl Misarin”] can even outright get rid of your opponent’s cards, but only under specific circumstances. In this case Misae is a type of card that would often be called ‘anti-change’, because it’s most likely to be used against cards which have been brought out early via Change. The cost is massive, but will usually be about equivalent to what had to be paid for the early change.
Whilst on the subject of Change, it’s worth mentioning one of the most unusual Counters in the game, [Ichii-Bal] from Symphogear. It performs a pseudo-change during your opponent’s turn, which could be quite a surprise when a Level 3 suddenly appears.
Hopefully this has given you some food for thought on the matter of what counters to use in your decks, and when to actually use them. The quick overview of some of the more unusual or interesting counters in the game should also give you an appreciation of the variety that can be found in the game. I’ve no doubt missed off some very important cards from this list, so feel free to drop me any comments on the matter.
Any requests for future articles is also welcome.