Welcome to my first card review! It is a Sword Art Online (SAO) card for newer players out there and a cornerstone of any competitive SAO builds. Asuna Takes Shelter is the infamous marker card that gains power and levels each time she reverses her opponent.
Weiss Schwarz Terminology
I thought it could be handy for readers have some Weiss Schwarz terms I'll be using in one place before going over the card. You'll find them in italics.
1) Beater: A character used solely to beat/reverse things down with his high numbers.
2) Level X reverser/suicider/bomb: A character that automatically reverses his opponent when reversed if level condition is met. Official Weiss term is reverser even though you might see others.
3) Compression: An advanced tech in Weiss where you calculate your Climax cards left in your deck divided by all cards remaining in your deck to get your odds to hit a Climax next.
4) Salvage: When a player grabs a card from Waiting Room and add it to his/her hand.
5) Level assist: A character Assist that give Characters in Front X power multiplied by the level of the character in Front.
6) Runner: A character card that can move slot at the beginning of opponent Attack Phase.
7) Cost reverser : Same as a level X reverser but here reverse opponent if cost condition is met.
【CONT】 For each Marker under this card, this card gets +1 Level, +1500 Power.
【AUTO】 When this card's battle opponent becomes REVERSE, you may place the top card of your Deck face-down under this card as a Marker.
Note: I added face-down in italic since English translation doesn't translate it clearly enough.
SAO is a power-centric series with this card being a perfect example. This marker Asuna is your level 1 opening beater since you want to get start reversing your opponent characters as soon as possible to begin her powering/leveling up.
Power. Starting at 4.5k power, she's lower than level 1 0 cost 5.5k vanilla power but after her first reverse, she already reach standard over sized level 1 0 cost beater at 6k, at 7.5k, you're already at a level 1 1 cost beater, 9k is your over sized level 2 and 10.5k is over sized for level 3 cards! So power-wise this card is almost a level ahead!
Level. Every level up for this Asuna means that your opponent has lower chance to deal damage through Side Attack and he also can't use level 1 reverser/suiciders to get rid of her!
Marker. Firstly, the marker is from top deck so you actually mill once by putting a marker under her (A free mill is nice in Weiss, especially early game, take them!). However, you don't see it since it is face-down (*cough* Climax). Secondly, note that the marker on Asuna is a MAY so you aren't forced to resolve it (Very important in Weiss when you have options).
So why Asuna Takes Shelter? Her big power, her higher level, her marker to mill deck and compress your current and later decks after refresh.
Strategies and game play:
An Asuna Takes Shelter automatically alters the current game play since your opponent has to deal with her as soon as he can. If he can't reverse her, he will most likely keep on losing resources crashing into her or he will side her for no damage since she will already be out of control by then.
Combos with other cards:
In combination with SAO cards, this Asuna goes from an okay card to a staple SAO card.
Choose 1 of your 'Avatar' or 'Net' traits Character, during this turn, it gets +3500 Power.
First off, a 1 cost backup at level 1 for 3.5k is huge in comparison to vanilla 1 cost level 1 2k backup. Not every series have access to that, even though more series have access to it recently. The two traits restriction is not a demerit too for SAO because most cards share those. Second, it is an Event Backup requiring color in Level or Clock Zone to use it which is not an issue since you played marker Asuna earlier! Do note, that you can even play Event backup during your turn since you play the card and not the effect like a Character Backup (see next card 1.2). In the end, competitive SAO put 2 Self-sacrifice in their decks mainly as a threat to use to protect their Asuna in order to force their opponent to spend more resources to actually reverse her. A threat seeing the 1 stock that you might want to save that for later if you can.
In a word, marker Asuna with 1.1 Self-sacrifice and 1 reverse makes a 9.5k on your opponent turn. A very tough call for level 1 power.
1.2 Vice-Commander, Asuna
【AUTO】 When you used this card's 『BACKUP』, if you have 2 or more 'Avatar' or 'Net' traits Characters, choose 1 of your Character, during this turn, it gets +1000 Power.
【STOCK】ASSIST 1000 Level 1［Place this card from Hand to Waiting Room］(Choose 1 of your Characters being Front Attacked, during this turn, it gets +1000 Power.)
Essentially a no cost 2k backup since it has virtually no demerits because at level 1 you want to field at least 3 characters in Front Row to begin catching up in the damage race! Therefore, this is your favorite backup to protect Asuna Takes Shelter since 1 stock cheaper than 1.1 Self-sacrifice, keeping you more resources for later. Basically a 1 card for 1 card + her valuable markers! Your best outcome still remains to avoid using either 1.1 Self-sacrifice or 1.2 Vice-Commander to simply get a +1 card to your hand size.
1.3 Kirito's Unshakable Belief and 'The Seed'
【CONT】 If your Hand is 5 or more, this card gets +2000 Power.
【AUTO】 ACCELERATE ［Place the top card of your Deck into Clock］ At the beginning of your Climax Phase, you may pay the cost. If you did, choose 1 'The Seed' from your Waiting Room, return it to Hand.
Choose 1 of your 'Avatar' or 'Net' Character, during that turn, it gets +2000 Power.
These new cards from SAO Vol 2 give you just another option to keep your marker Asuna by using this Kirito to salvage the counter Event instead of keeping it in your hand as with 1.1 Self-sacrifice. Obviously, demerits come at an hefty price because you will now need Blue for level 1 and you take more self-damage even during level 1 which add up to those you already took from level 0 (see next cards). Use with care if you want to go this route.
Being able to protect your precious Asuna with backups is not enough because you first need to get her rolling as safely as possible. Safest way to do that is to reach level 1 before your opponent to fight level 0 characters in power range of 500-4000. Here's why these next cards will be useful for that.
2) Level 0 Self-damage
2.1 Lizbeth's Professional Pride
【AUTO】 When this card becomes REVERSE, if this card's battle opponent is Level 0 or lower, you may REVERSE that Character.
【AUTO】 ACCELERATE ［Place the top card of your Deck into Clock］ At the beginning of your Climax Phase, you may pay the cost. If you did, choose 1 of your other 'Weapon' traits Character, during this turn, it gets +2500 Power.
First, she's a level 0 reverser meaning that after her reverse, she will leave an empty row on your Stage for your opponent to swing higher in Direct Attack which has higher chances to rush you faster to level 1 than your opponent. Second, her Accelerate ability follows the same purpose by giving yourself 1 damage in order to reach level 1 first. The 2.5k power from accelerating is a bonus that you can apply to almost every SAO characters at level 0 to help another reverse.
2.2 Kirito in the 'Flower Garden'
【AUTO】 When this card becomes REVERSE during battle, if you have 1 or less other 'Avatar' or 'Net' Character, place this card into Clock.
This Kirito from SAO Vol. 2 furthermore help reach level 1 first by receiving 1 damage after being reversed. Later, he becomes a decent 3.5k beater without demerit too.
2.3 Asuna Lays on the Sofa or Ceasefire Agreement, Keiko
【AUTO】 When this card is placed on Stage from Hand, reveal the top card of your Deck. If that card is not an 'Avatar' Character, place it into Clock. (If it is, return it to its original position)
【AUTO】 When this card is placed on Stage from Hand, if your Waiting Room has 3 or more Climax, place the top card of your Deck into Clock.
Contrary to 2.1 Lizbeth and 2.2 Kirito, Asuna/Keiko can make you level up during your Main Phase unlocking your marker Asuna earlier if you were at level 0 6 damage! Nevertheless, Asuna/Keiko demerits are harder to achieve than 2.1 Lizbeth and 2.2 Kirito. Late game, Asuna/Keiko are also worst than last two with potentially 1 damage when you don't want to.
You should at least put 1 of those in your SAO deck to help your marker Asuna.
We now have backups and self-damage at level 0, so now let's take a look at power assists to increase your marker Asuna power.
3) Power Assists
3.1 Asuna's Married Life
【CONT】SUPPORT All your Characters in front of this card gets +500 Power.
【AUTO】 When a Climax is placed into your Climax slot, choose 1 of your Characters, during this turn, it gets +1000 Power.
SAO players favorite support since bigger power during your turn to help other characters make their own reverse when you most likely play a Climax Combo at level 1. Marker Asuna benefits less from this one than next cards.
3.2 Mysterious Girl, Yui
【STOCK】［①］ Draw 1 card, choose 1 card from your Hand, place it into Waiting Room.
【STOCK】［REST 1 of your other Character and this card］ Choose 1 of your Characters, until the end of your opponent's next turn, it gets 1000 Power.
Pros: 1k support at level 0 during both turn is big. Useful first effect to discard Climaxes before a refresh if you kept her around. Being a level 0 help you too with your color at level 1.
Demerits: You need to rest two most likely forcing you to wait for level 1 before getting a Stage going. If you wait at level 1, she already becomes weaker than a 1k Assist at level 1. She can't also give her effect in Front Row just like 3.1 Asuna since she has to Rest herself unlike this next 3.3 Kirito.
3.3 Kirito's Strong Bond
【CONT】 All your other Characters with 'Asuna' in its name get +500 Power.
【CONT】 During your opponent's turn, all your other Characters get +500 Power.
Pros: Strongest SAO level 1 support with 1k during opponent turn. You can easily put him in Front Row if you need another beater later and keep his support for one more turn.
Demerits: Level 1 Blue means that he might not come on the same turn as marker Asuna, and that you need to Level or Clock Blue. Obviously, best used with Asuna in Front Row. You clearly get weaker power during your turn than 3.1 Asuna.
3.4 Level Assists: Lisbeth's Determined Confession or Yui's Adventure to Search for Mommy
【CONT】SUPPORT All your Characters in front of this card gets +X Power. X is equals to that Character's Level ×500.
【AUTO】［②］ When this card is placed on Stage from Hand, you may pay the cost. If you did, choose 1 Character from your Waiting Room, return it to Hand.
【CONT】 SUPPORT All your Characters in front of this card get +X Power. X is equals to that Character's Level x500.
【STOCK】 ［REST 2 of your Characters］ Look at the top card of your Deck, place it on top or at the bottom of the Deck.
Lisbeth from Vol 1 is still preferred one because SAO players most likely want to level up Red at some point, most likely for level 3s. Her second effect can come in handy sometimes if you want to pay out a Climax or just want to setup for late game. 2 stock is still more expensive than best cards 1 cost salvage effects.
On the other hand, Yui is Blue, a color less use for level 1 and up. Her second effect still give you a trigger check effect. Useful to plan your attacks or to increase your chances of actually triggering a Climax.
Ways to counteract it:
1) Higher numbers
Your opponent will have a very hard time dealing with marker Asuna on his turn with your backups ready. He will most likely will have to spend stock to deal with a no stock card which is already an advantage for you. Else he might use a Level 1 1 cost, a Climax Combo, or even a level 1 Change to level 2. On your turn, be careful for backups, he might have some of his own to get rid of your Asuna.
Runners will obviously prevent your marker Asuna from getting her first reverse. English meta will get his first one with this Chibi Ryuko from Kill la Kill.
【AUTO】 At the beginning of your opponent's Attack Phase, you may move this card into the empty Center slot in the Front Row.
You don't 'run' into them often though. Even this Kill la Kill one can only move to middle Front Row.
You send marker Asuna anywhere from Stage to anything like Stock, Memory, Waiting Room, Clock, Deck, or Hand. Even if you can Encore her when sent to Waiting Room, Asuna will still lose her markers.
4) Cost Reverser
Cost reverser is a rare tech that can do the job. A good example in English meta is Golden Monarch, Archer.
【CONT】 When you have Red Climax in your Climax slot, this card gets the following effect.『【AUTO】When this card becomes REVERSE, if the character battling this card Cost is 1 or below, you may put that card to REVERSE.』
【AUTO】ENCORE [Discard 1 Character to Waiting Room from hand] (When this card is put to Waiting Room from Stage, you may pay this cost. If you do, return this card in REST to it's previous slot)
Do note these cards are very rare and few series have one.
Overall, very few counter for marker Asuna except usually involving a cost or using a rare card against your no cost.
Pros & Cons
1.1 0 cost. Keep as much stock as you can early game.
1.2 Big power numbers. Requires your opponent to usually spend resources to safely reverse her.
1.3 Gains level. Harder Side Attack and protection against Level X reversers.
1.4 Free compression. Your current and late game compression is better with an Asuna sitting on a few clean (Non-Climax) cards.
1.5 +1 to hand size every turn if opponent can't deal with it.
1.6 1 soul base card. If she stayed until 'Final Turn', 1 damage for precision damage is what you need at this point, more than 2 soul base.
1.1 Weak base power for level 1 no cost. If you unfortunately reach level 1 after your opponent, you might find yourself in a tough position to make the first reverse.
1.2 Random face-down marker. You can't tell what went under marker Asuna unless you search your deck often, and you keep a close count of your Climax cards.
1.3 1 soul base card. You get more precision with 1 soul late game but less than a 2 soul base if you are already late in damage.
In Japanese Weiss Schwarz, iM@S had already the same card for green with exact same effect as marker Asuna.
Ryou & Yumeko, Uneven Pair
Mostly, iM@S has better options.
A famous variations of marker cards are chosen markers like this Zwei from Japanese Phantom.
"Successor of Phantom" Zwei
【CONT】 For each Marker under this card, this card gets +1000 Power.
【AUTO】 When this card's battle opponent becomes REVERSE, you may choose a 'Weapon' traits Character in your Waiting Room and put it face-down under this as Marker.
Zwei provides clean compression but 1 cost and fragile to level 1 reversers.
Artwork and aesthetics:
Artwork would have been better with an Asuna fighting and leveling up through those SAO MMORPG dungeons. You obviously don't get much level ups by sitting idle in a MMORPG...
7.5/10. A cheap staple SAO card involving some luck for markers and using/salvaging more backups. -0.5 for bad artwork.