Liberty with a Side of Beatdown – A Guide to DeGrey
Combo Points: 4
Normal Attacks: x.6 speed
Normal Throws: x.8 speed, 8 damage
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DeGrey isn’t about oppressing the opponent with repeated combat wins or building up to a strong endgame; he’s typically better suited to ending rounds with a few freight-train combos. With high-damage combo pieces like Pilebunker (Q) and Final Arbiter (AA), he can readily covert combat wins into incredible damage… if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, DeGrey’s fastest combo starters are the unimpressive Spectral Pull/Push (2/3). Furthermore, he has no 4-attack to chain from these, nor does he have Linkers to extend his combos, and his most damaging combos start off the slowest special attack in the game, Pilebunker! Oh, and his normal throws are among the slowest in the game. What’s a diplomat to do?
The trick is that DeGrey doesn’t play fair. Most characters’ attacks outspeed his, but he makes up for it with full combos off of his super dodge, Ghost Riposte (A). Characters who try to bully him with faster throws get trumped by the Point/Counterpoint ability on DeGrey’s 7, which lets his 7 throw “beat” any other throws by flipping to the attack side. Normally, a slow character like DeGrey is vulnerable to mixup normals when knocked down with a small hand. But with the threat of Spirit Justice (K) bolstered by Moral High Ground, DeGrey can scare opponents from taking advantage of his vulnerability. DeGrey creates openings by making the opponent play around one of his powerful options and countering with a different one. Some examples:
Opponent suspects A-dodge, and so attacks less than usual --> DeGrey counters with 7-throw, normal attacks, or Q
Opponent suspects 7-throw, and so attacks more than usual --> DeGrey counters with A dodge, normal attacks, or K
Opponent suspects Q, and so throws less than usual --> DeGrey counters with A-dodge or K
Learning to identify a fearful opponent and how best to exploit them is one of the first steps to improving with DeGrey, as is getting a feel for when the opponent is likely to disrespect a telegraphed threat. Strong opponents will mix up their game, so be on the lookout!
[B][U]Claiming the Moral High Ground[/U][/B]
DeGrey’s innate ability lets him score additional damage on his faces and aces for having fewer cards than the opponent. DeGrey punishes opponents who hoard cards and incentivizes them to play with more limited resources than normal. It is important to realize that DeGrey’s damage bonuses are calculated after finishing a combo, so combos that use more cards net additional damage for any faces/aces in them.
A common error is to misread DeGrey’s innate as “Don’t block ever.” While keeping hand size low does lead to more damage on hits, DeGrey can’t sustain good combos nor can he properly defend against threats when at very low hand sizes. DeGrey should be blocking less often than most characters on average, but because his deck is contains specific powerful cards, blocking is the best way to draw them if DeGrey’s opening hand is subpar.
In many matchups, normal attacks make for an excellent middle ground option to balance card draw and innate potency. If an early normal attack hits, DeGrey draws a card and can follow with a small combo if desired. If that normal is blocked, DeGrey still gains a card (usually), but the opponent gains two. For most characters, such an outcome is moderately negative, but DeGrey enjoys an exclusive silver lining: some bonus damage on a future combo. This outcome still favors the opponent, though, and the card draw and future damage are consolation prizes more than anything.
All this mention of DeGrey’s damage output begs explanation. Setting aside the fine details for later sections, the centerpieces of DeGrey’s righteous ravaging are Pilebunker and Final Arbiter. Pilebunker offers excellent damage and a knockdown even when not followed up, and DeGrey has no shortage of solid followups available to make a confirmed Pilebunker hurt. The main one is Final Arbiter, DeGrey’s 2-Combo Point AA 20-damage Ender. Costing only 2 Combo Points means that DeGrey can use Final Arbiter in any combo he starts, provided he has both the Aces in hand. With three Aces in hand, DeGrey has access to massively damaging combos off of a Starter attack, a throw, or Ghost Riposte. In short, having A is good; having AA is better; having AAA is Diplomatic.
So how to get these much-valued Aces? Like most other characters, DeGrey’s options are to…
a)…draw them naturally. It’s reasonable to expect to see one or two Aces per game come off the top of the deck, assuming a moderate amount of blocking and normal attacks.
b)…land a Gold Burst. In general, Rewind Time is a better use of Jokers, but Gold Burst is an invaluable tool when attempting a comeback or when pressured by an opponent with dominating attacks or throws.
c)…chain three normals into a straight. DeGrey’s only straight is 5 > 6 > 7, which requires giving up his potent 7-throw. The strength of 7 as a throw and the high-risk nature of a 5-attack means DeGrey should attempt straights only rarely.
d)…power up. The rule of thumb for powering up is that quads are better than trips, which are much better than pairs. DeGrey’s little twist is that he favors whatever will get him AAA. Barring that, his affinity for lower-than-average hand sizes means he doesn’t mind the inefficiency of powering up a pair for one Ace, so long as his hand has another Ace or two to keep it company.
Without Aces, DeGrey is still perfectly capable of laying down some hurt using Daggerfall Thrust (J) as a combo ender (especially after throws!) or good ol’ naked Pilebunker, but it’s harder to do. If DeGrey can’t credibly leverage Ghost Riposte as a threat to make the opponent block or throw, his slow throws and Pilebunkers are less likely to hit. DeGrey needs at least one ace to play his big-damage game and should be considered at a disadvantage whenever he doesn’t have one, all other things being equal.
Thus far, DeGrey’s Troublesome Rhetoric ability (4) has gone conspicuously unmentioned. The ability allows DeGrey to “give a troubling speech on the evils of _____”, where the player fills in the blank with any of the four combat options. If the opponent reveals that option in combat, DeGrey is awarded 12 life. Beginners tend to love this ability, fall out of love as both they and their opponents learn to “solve” it, then rediscover it once they have a handle on how to deviate from “standard practice”. To avoid getting too far ahead, it’s useful to start off by describing the basic way to use the ability.
The only way to beat DeGrey’s 7-throw is to play an attack faster than 7.6 or Gold Burst. The 4-7 combination play means that the opponent’s only way to “win” combat is to attack for more than 12 damage or to play a Joker that they would likely prefer to use as combo escape.
Both of the opponent’s counterplays against Point-Counterpoint lose to dodges and lose badly to Ghost Riposte. Winning with a dodge in this setup is adding insult to injury, as DeGrey gets both the life gain and a chance to hit back.
There are also more situational, but mostly sound setups. These are listed for completeness and can be skipped over if the reader’s head is on the verge of explosion.
This setup is most common against opponents who are knocked down or are Rook. If they do not have an attack that beats Spirit Justice, the only way for them to win combat is to block it, taking 2 damage and giving DeGrey 12 life.
If DeGrey suspects the opponent has resigned themselves to blocking, he can attempt a mixup normal instead of Spirit Justice. Be careful using this ploy multiple times against the same opponent, as they can usually outspeed any of DeGrey’s normals.
A savvy opponent may attempt to outspeed an attempted Spirit Justice or crossup. In these situations, DeGrey can block if his hand is poor or dodge if he has a good followup.
Play: Ace Dodge
This play makes Ghost Riposte very safe, as the only way to beat it is by throwing. Since it is easy for the opponent to play around, this is a low-risk, low-reward setup that rarely nets DeGrey an advantage but can buy him a turn to stall if he needs it for some reason.
If the opponent can still K.O. DeGrey off of a throw after the life gain, they will be very inclined to disrespect the “obvious” Ghost Riposte setup. DeGrey can use this opening to attempt a Pilebunker or a normal attack for surprising turn of events.
Dodge is generally the weakest call for Troublesome Rhetoric, but if the opponent can’t outspeed Spirit Justice and will die to its block damage, they’re helpless to do anything but give DeGrey 12 life for free.
In the above scenario, DeGrey can throw if he is mean and doesn’t care if his friends stop talking to him.
As hinted at in previous sections, DeGrey’s third trademark ability is Point/Counterpoint on his 7. Whenever DeGrey reveals either side of his 7, he can discard a card to rotate it. The usual way to use the ability is to reveal the throw side and flip it to the attack side if the opponent played a faster throw. There are rare occasions when DeGrey may want to flip to the 7-attack even if he wins combat with the throw, and there are times when he may prefer to lead the attack side, but these are few and far between. By and large, it’s useful to envision a P/CP-backed 7-throw as Yomi’s fastest throw, so long as DeGrey has an unwanted card he can spend in case the throw side loses. Because such a move is so powerful, using 7s as anything but combat-reveals is usually a waste of valuable resources.
A typical match for DeGrey can be divided into three sections: early, middle, and late game.
The early game is dictated by DeGrey’s hand. He is happiest when dealt a varied hand with normal attacks, blocks, a face card or two, and/or an ace. Hands like these are well-suited for getting moderate damage off of combat wins but still having options to draw cards and keep his hand size up around six to eight cards. If his hand is poor, DeGrey should try to get a pair or trips in hand to power up for aces. Early Ghost Riposte plays can make opponents fearful and open up DeGrey’s normal attacks and throws to continue digging through his deck for better cards. If DeGrey lands an early throw, he can follow up with a conservative combo or just knock the opponent down to help set up a mixup normal. DeGrey should seek to hit with any Pilebunkers drawn in the first few turns, since holding them for a juicy Ghost Riposte combo later in the round increases the chance of your opponent being able to Combo Escape the damage.
Once DeGrey has lasted a few turns and drawn some of his deck, he should figure out how best to use whatever good cards he drew and form a more specific plan around those. The important thing to keep in mind is that whatever plan he chooses, it needs to result in good damage if DeGrey hits. Setting up a 4-7 combination and then not following up is lame. Making the opponent play the Pilebunker/Ghost Riposte guessing game loses its potency without at least a J to follow up. This is the stage of the game where having Final Arbiter is most useful and where DeGrey should be able to leverage his scary options against the opponent. It is also the stage of the game where he is most vulnerable to Combo Escape Jokers, since he cannot often afford to spend good cards just to have their damage prevented.
In the late game, DeGrey just needs to do whatever he can to K.O. the opponent. His job is to determine what combat options lead to lethal damage (not forgetting to account for his innate) and play to maximize their chances of hitting. Hopefully the opponent has already played any Jokers they drew, so Ghost Riposte should be a staple of the endgame. There are also several Point/Counterpoint setups well-suited to the endgame, so DeGrey should use any 4s he draws to at least threaten the opponent with something, even if it is entirely fake. If DeGrey burned too many of his good cards getting to this stage of the game, things can be difficult, and he will have to rely on strong reads to eek out the last few points of damage.