Log Horizon was a much hyped Extra Booster when it originally appeared in Japan, partly thanks to unique cards like the Level 3 Shiroe and the relatively high density of good cards. However, this hype died down fairly quickly, with the deck disappearing from the competitive scene within a few weeks. The set is about to make an appearance in the English game, so I think it’s about time to revisit the set.
Where possible I’ll try to use the English names of cards, but in cases where they’ve yet to be revealed, translations of the Japanese will have to suffice. I will be focusing on the general competitive build, so won’t be giving much attention to side builds involving heavy use of Rundelhaus or the twins. I’ll be looking through each Level in turn, considering what I believe to be the most important cards at each point, along with alternative choices. If I don’t mention a card it’s either vanilla, or I think not worth a mention.
Level 0: Counteraction Rising
There are two main supports you’ll be playing in the deck, [Nagisa’s Angel, Marielle] and [Full Control Encounter, Shiroe]. Marielle is your deck’s global 500 support, whilst Shiroe can buff the centre slot by 1000 in the opponent’s turn. Aside from their power boosts, both cards have other useful abilities.
Upon play, Marielle has 2 effects to help thin your deck down. Firstly she has a mandatory mill 1 effect, which sends herself to Stock if you hit a Climax. In most games you won’t need to worry about the downside, because you’re far more likely not to hit a Climax. When her effect does fail, the extra stock might sometimes be of use, but you’re more likely to be bemoaning the lack of power or an attacker.
Secondly she has an optional mill 3, with no downside if you see a Climax. Marielle can quickly clear through 4 cards, helping bring you closer to cancelling, or avoiding triggering Climaxes on attack. As with all of these kinds of effects, they will sometimes backfire on you, instead making you trigger Climaxes you would have cancelled with.
It’s important to note that both of Marielle’s effects have the same timing, so you can chose which order to use them. Even if you do the mill 1 first, and she ends up in Stock, you will still be able to resolve your mill 3.
Shiroe is the deck’s only Brainstorm, and another way to help thin your deck down. His effect allows you to draw a card for every Climax you hit, making him one of the easiest ways the deck has to gain advantage. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee that the cards you draw will be useful at that point in time.
Both of these cards serve an additional purpose, supplying the names required for some of the deck’s Level 1 game. For this reason, you’ll usually want to aim for 1 of each Back Stage as quickly as possible, so the rest of your deck can operate at full power.
These are by no means the only supports available to the set, but are by far the most important. [Clasping Hands, Shiroe] is a box-topper PR which offers less Power to the centre slot than the Brainstorm, but can scale up as the game goes on. However, resting himself clashes with other effects in the set, and you’ll want to replace your supports late game anyway.
[Lenessia] is an interesting card which can act as both a pseudo-Encore and a top-checker. Unfortunately, most of your other cards are either expendable, or have Clock Encore already built in, making her uses limited. Top-checking can be useful, especially when it’s repeatable. However, she puts your entire Back Stage out of commission, stopping you from Brainstorming, or powering your other cards up.
Attackers & Utility
Next it’s time to think about what cards you’ll be playing Front Stage during Level 0. Log Horizon has plenty of options at this point, but quite a few of them boil down to different variations of slightly oversized cards.
The most important of these is [Soujirou], who forces your opponent to commit to the Stage, unless they want to face down a potential 6,500. (Although 5,000-6,000 is more likely). Your opponent needs to put down 4 or more cards on the Stage or he’ll gain 2,000 in their turn.Various reversers can deal with him easily, but if your opponent doesn’t have them they could be in a spot of bother. Soujirou does however have issues actually beating characters in your turn, since he’ll rarely be above 3,000.
Befitting her role as an assassin, Akatsuki will provide your main way to deal with other characters during Level 0. [Assassin, Akatsuki] is your Level 0 reverser, but she can also buff herself by resting your Back Stage cards. This isn’t an issue if you’ve got Marielle back there, but you’ll need to think about if you want to use Shiroe’s Brainstorm or not. In the best case scenario she can defeat a card in battle, then take another down with her next turn when she gets reversed.
[Akatsuki] is an interesting Level 0, who it might be worth playing a copy or two of. By resting herself she gains a Marker, which she can use next turn to get rid of a Level 0 for free. This effect is especially useful for getting rid of on reverse effects, such as Hibiki, searchers, or just plain old reversers. The downsides are that she’s pretty slow and obvious, meaning your opponent can play around her, and get their on reverse effects off before she has a chance to strike.
The deck has no shortage of oversized attackers, with potentially 5 to consider (although 1 is a bit of a stretch).
The most straightforward are [Henrietta] and [Everyone’s Chief, Nyan-ta], who are base 3,500 with a drawback. Henrietta goes to the Waiting Room on play if there are no Magic characters around, whilst Nyanta goes to Clock once defeated, unless you have at least 2 other Magic / Weapon characters. Both downsides are relatively easy to workaround if you fill up your Back Stage, as long as you remember that not everyone has Magic. If you can’t they’re both pretty poor opening plays, since you either can’t afford to or aren’t able to play them on their own. I think Nyan-ta is slightly better, since you can actually play him alone on turn 1 if forced to, but neither are great options.
If you’re looking for a card to use on its own from the start, then [Two’s Waltz, Akatsuki] will fit that bill as a 4,000 Power card with Encore. Clock and Stock Reversers aside, there’s little that can permanently deal with her. Unfortunately, she restricts what else you can do during Level 0, because you can’t play your supports. If your opponent plays more than 1 card Front Stage you either need to leave it alone, or reduce her strength.
[Puchi Naotsugu] is yet another card with 3,500 Power, but he can only reach it by resting 2 cards. This is okay if you only have a single copy of him, but makes any extra copies you draw relatively useless.
Lastly, and at a stretch, is [Crescent Moon Alliance, Serara]. On play she gives a card 1,500 Power, meaning when desperate she could make herself a 3,500. Usually, she’ll instead be used to buff all your other cards, since Log Horizon can be a bit lacking on the offence. Of all of these, I feel Serara is the best choice, because she serves a purpose beyond Level 0.
Everything else within Level 0 is either a gimmick or tries to fill in remaining utility spots for the deck. The most important of which is [Rudy’s Owner? Isuzu], a pay 1, discard 1 searcher. She is the main form of handfixing and searching in the deck. In all but gimmick decks you can safely ignore the buff she gives Rudy.
Cards like [Perfect Combination, Isuzu] or [Using Telepathy, Marielle] can help you salvage cards, but come at too high a Stock cost. [Samurai Touya] has the very fitting effect of being able to run in front of opponent’s cards, but this is rarely useful compared to running away from them. [Nyanta the Cook] is a decent top-checker, but doesn’t do anything else. [Rundelhaus] is for gimmick decks only. Finally, [Guildmaster Shiroe] has a bond, which is a useful way to maintain advantage. Unfortunately it requires you to use a Naotsugu that I’m not too fond of.
Level 1: We are ready for the punchline
More than most other decks in the game, Log Horizon needs to save Stock for its end game. This means filling as much of its early game as possible with costless cards, which often translates into oversized cards.
[Blushing Akatsuki] is the most straightforward, as a 6,000 Power card, provided you have at least 3 other Magic or Weapon, which will be always. She could easily be a 7,500 in the centre whilst defending. It’s just a shame that lots of other sets can hit 7,500 everywhere for very little effort.
If you want to hit hard, you’ve got [Shouryuu], who gains 2,000 on play if Marielle is around, hence the importance of her support mentioned earlier. Thanks to Marielle he’ll be 7,500 on play, which should be enough to beat or at least suicide with most other free cards. He’ll easily be defeated on the next turn though, so try to think of him as being like a Reverser who doesn’t leave your stage open.
Whilst [Two’s Waltz Shiroe] isn’t oversized for a 1/0, he is for a Clock Encore, coming in at 5,500 if you have 4 or more cards in your hand. It’s relatively easy to hold enough cards to increase Shiroe’s Power, and the Clock Encore means he’s hard to get rid of permanently. The problem is that he struggles to actually beat much on the offensive. It’s not much use Clock Encoring him every turn if he’s just going to end up siding and then being defeated again. Having the name Shiroe is useful though.
If you really want Power, you can go for [Swashbuckler Nyanta], who can easily break 10,000 during his Climax combo, putting everything but Level 3s within his reach. I know some people swear by this combo, but I’ve never had much chance to use it properly. I’d rather my Climax spots went elsewhere.
Beyond pure power, there are several other costless cards with useful effects.
Firstly [Isuzu], a vanilla Level 1 Reverser. She can deal with anything too big for your other cards to defeat directly.
[Log Horizon, Nyan-ta] is an interesting Level 1 who works well with cards that have on-play effects and helps dodge on-reverse effects like clock kick. He’s especially useful if you don’t want your opponent ramming their weaker cards in to prevent your Level 3 game from working. If you can afford to rest 2 magic cards, he can also side attack without penalty making him useful for dealing precise damage at the end of the game. Nyan-ta looks good on paper as a powerful tech card, but I’ve never had any personal success with him.
Closing out the costless cards we have [Apprentice Magician, Minori] a 2,000 counter, provided you have a Shiroe on Stage. You should always have a Shiroe Back Stage, so the requirement on this card is trivial. You can also play the Clock Encore Shiroe to increase the name count if you’re concerned about that.
The costed Level 1 choices are a bit sparse for Log Horizon, since they either require lots of space (The Twins, Shiroe & Naotsugu) or just aren’t great (Rundelhaus). The twins can make a strong wall, but take too much Stock away from your end game, whilst Naotsugu helps the opponent hand fix.
In my mind, there’s only one must play Cost 1 card, and then 2 maybes.
[Not Good at Dressing Herself? Akatsuki] is another Clock Encore, but this time with the potential to hit 8,000 Power before supports, meaning she can beat many Level 1s in battle. Potential problems lie in the fact that she clashes with the Shiroe Brainstorm, and you can only effectively use one of her at a time.
[Mind Shock] is an alternative counter to Minori, which gives a character far more Power. Unfortunately it costs a stock, which you want to save, and isn’t a character, so can’t attack in a bind. Before the Minori PR existed this was popular, but most people would rather save the Stock now.
[Determination to Change the World, Shiroe] is a card you might consider playing 1 of, if you’re also playing his Climax, but it’s by no means necessary. The draw from his combo can help replenish your hand, and the 1,500 from his support effect can make it a pain for your opponent to decide their Stage positions. The issue is that he’s quite a drain on your stock if you’re not careful.
Level 2: There’s no use with all your gimmicks!
Level 2 is where Log Horizon is at its weakest. There are a couple of good cards, but a lot of bad gimmicks (Rudy again). Instead of trying to advance the game much, you’ll be spending your time getting ready for Level 3.
[Quiet Worker Akatsuki] should be an automatic inclusion in the deck, because it’s a reshuffle counter. If you’ve got the stock to spare it can save you from Refresh damage, or fix a deck lacking Climaxes. Try not to waste it as just a normal counter.
[Dressed Up Akatsuki-chan] is a regular 2/2 salvage event which will help you replenish your hand for the end game, and help you set up all your combo pieces.
There are several choices on how to fill out the rest of your Level 2 slots, depending on which Climaxes you’re using.
If you’re playing the Book Climax, you might consider using [Field Monitor Minori], since she can pump the rest of your Stage and bottom deck opponent’s cards. The problem with Minori is that if your opponent has a big Level 2 card, or has early played some Level 3s, the Power boost she gives often won’t be enough to actually beat anything. If straggling Level 1 cards are still around, you probably could have beaten them anyway without the combo.
[Cleric, Marielle] on the face of it seems like a good card, because she gets a double salvage and a power boost from her Climax combo. The problem is that you’re damaging yourself in order to pull it off, which will rack up with multiple copies. You also have to be careful around deck refresh, so that you can actually get the most out of her. The Event above will usually get you the same end result, but without needing a Climax to pull it off.
If you’re not trying to justify use of a certain Climax, there is [Nyan-ta] who makes an interesting 1-off. If he attacks last 9,000 Power is decent for a 2/1, but where he really shines is his second effect. For 1 stock and 1 hand you can slightly rearrange your opponent’s Stage, usually to bring a support character out to the front. At the right time, or against the right decks, this can really mess up your opponent’s end game. He could be combined with the above Minori to permanently get rid of a support, or with the Akatsuki we’ll see soon to help end the game.
Finally, [Maiden’s Heart Akatsuki] is decent for getting your Level 3 into play early, but it can feel like you’re wasting the burn if you bring her out too early.
Level 3: So check this out!
Level 3 is where Log Horizon’s strongest cards are, with probably the most powerful support in the game, the best bodyguard, and a decent finisher.
The end goal for the deck is to drop as many copies as possible of [Lord’s Ninja, Akatsuki], heal yourself, then burn the opponent whilst wiping out their whole Front Stage. Just from her Climax combo alone she’ll be at 15,000, and can easily go much higher. Since her effect needs to reverse a card, you might find your opponent ramming smaller cards in during Level 2 /3 to prevent this. This can be partly worked around with the Nyan-ta from above, who can pull supports in front of Akatsuki. Also be wary of counter cards which sacrifice your opponent’s cards.
[Log Horizon’s Representative, Shiroe] can put a real dent in most decks end game. Not only does he prevent burn effects, but he buffs most of your cards to the point where they can’t be beaten in battle either. 13,000 and above is easy for this deck to pull off. Finally, in the likely event one of your characters wins a battle, he can apply a -2 Soul debuff opposite that card, making it even harder for the opponent to make a comeback. Do be wary of decks with +2 Soul climaxes, and Level 3 Climax combos though, because they’ll still have a chance to hit for exactly 1 damage.
If you can pull off triple Akatsuki and double Shiroe you’ll be pretty much set. The problem is that this takes 6 cards (5 characters, 1 Climax) and 10 Stock, which is very hard to come by. Whilst it’s great when it works, the deck will often fall somewhere between having lots of stock and no cards, or lots of cards, but no stock. It also lacks the precision of decks with clock kick. Wind Triggers are also a pain, because it can make you lose up to a 3 Stock investment from Shiroe.
[Guardian, Naotsugu] is your final choice at Level 3, whose Great Performance works especially well with Shiroe. As potentially a 17,500 which all of your opponent’s cards must Front Attack into, chances are he won’t be going down. His main use will be to dodge on-reverse effects like Clock Kick and Restand, because nothing short of Devil Homura can beat him. It’s remembering that the Soul debuff from Shiroe is applied to the card opposite your own, regardless of who they battle, so it will still apply when your opponent is forced to attack Naotsugu.
Naotsugu might seem at odds with both Akatsuki and Shiroe’s gameplan, since he’ll leave the opponent with nothing to reverse. This can partly be alleviated with the Level 2 Nyan-ta, but will generally require sensible judgement on your part about which cards to play when.
There are a couple of choices for the Climaxes in the deck, since your 2nd Climax will usually be filler. Every deck should be playing 4 copies of [Two’s Waltz]. After this, I like using [Log Horizon] to make your end game set up even easier. [Simplified Full Control Encounter] is another possibility for an advantage giving Climax, even if you don’t use the combo. You might also consider [Delicate Combination] or [Crescent Moon Alliance], but only if you’re using their Climax combos.
For a single Extra Booster set, Log Horizon is pretty good, with a strong Level 3 line up, relatively easy deck thinning and some interesting gimmicks. However, it lacks a lot of the tools that make modern full booster sets good. Most of its early game advantage is derived from getting lucky with your Brainstorm, or beating other cards in battle. It doesn’t have easy access to advantage building Climax combos in Level 1, meaning it runs out of steam if it can’t repeatedly beat over the opponent’s cards. Some of its staying power is also derived from hurting yourself, so you might get rushed to end game faster than you’d like.
As mentioned above, the deck often hits one of 2 extremes, lots of stock and no cards, or lots of cards and no stock. When it hits things just right, with lots of stock and lots of cards, then it has a very solid end game that can stump some decks. Just don’t expect this to be happening every game.