by Mr. Saint
Before we begin, a bit of rules overhead: a continuous boost (or Decree) is considered resolved once any “Now” text on it is completed. If the boost doesn’t have any “Now” text, it is considered resolved as soon as it is played.
As his preview article would suggest, King Knight is a character defined by card economy. His character ability (UA), which allows him to draw a card any time he resolves a continuous boost (or Decree, more on these later), gives him a resource engine that few characters can match. To put it in a different perspective, would you like a free Prepare action every time you play a continuous boost? If cards are the currency of the Realm, King Knight is flush!
And you will need these extra cards. Each of the boosts on King Knight’s specials cost one force (even the instant boosts, which do not trigger his UA). Further, King Knight has four Decrees, extremely powerful one-use boost-like cards that are not shuffled into his deck at the start of the game. Rather, they are placed to the side of the play area and do not have to be drawn into to be used. King Knight’s Royal Decrees cost three force, and his Glorious Decrees (locked behind his Exceed mode) cost four force to play.
The effects of these Decrees are worth the investment. Anyone who has some experience with Exceed understands the value of the Light boost (on Sweep). +2 Speed makes confirming an attack significantly easier, letting you do things like play an on-curve normal attack without fear of an EX’d response, or allowing Assault to beat Cross. Both Lordly Might and Magnificent Cape feature +2 Speed, on top of other stats increases. Magnificent Cape is Fierce (Grasp’s boost), Light (Sweep’s boost), and a variant on Run (Cross’s boost) stapled together into one card. There’s a reason it is locked behind a three gauge Exceed and still costs four force.
Let’s talk specifically about the Pay to Win Glorious Decree. Pay to Win features something that usually has to be cobbled together via multiple effects: +3 Power. +3 Power is a bit of a magic number, making traditionally reliable and safe normals a much riskier play for the opponent. +3 Power lets you do things like play an Assault to stun the opponent’s Sweep. Or in King Knight’s case, initiate a Strike with Shoulder Bash to beat both Sweep and Focus. Shoulder Bash works particularly well with this Decree, as hitting at Range 1 triggers Pay to Win’s double random discard clause. Stunning out an opponent’s Focus and forcing them to discard two cards is back breaking!
The above two paragraphs help frame the mindset that a King Knight player should adopt. It is not enough to play a boost or Decree, pass to the opponent, and hope things work out on the next Strike. Decrees and boosts should be played with intent (true for all characters, but especially so for boost-reliant characters like King Knight). For example, if you are playing Charge Up (on Scepter Smite) for +2 Power/+2 Guard, it should be because of something like wanting to protect your Sweep from an opposing power boost and/or crush the opposing Sweep/Focus that you think the opponent has. Define your game plan based on your and the opponent’s available options, then find the stat increases that turn losing and even Strikes into ones you can win.
King Knight’s resource engine and Decrees are very powerful, but they do come at a cost. You’ll be cycling through your deck very quickly compared to some other characters. Because you’ll most likely be discarding cards from hand to pay for his boosts and Decrees, you will be giving the opponent increasing amounts of information about your options at a rate that far surpasses most other characters. There is a point in most games I’ve played as King Knight where the opponent could probably construct my hand, card for card, with a reasonably high degree of accuracy by looking at my discard pile. You could use the Reshuffle action early to minimize this, but that comes with it’s own risks (namely running out of cards in the late game).
You could also pay force costs using gauge to keep more of your hand and deck hidden, but then you are giving up the ability to play King of Cards, one of King Knight’s ultra attacks. King of Cards is on curve at Range 2 (one of King Knight’s best ranges), and can hit just about as hard as you want it to, as long as you can pump resources into it. It’s one of King Knight’s most reliable ways to close out a game, so being able to threaten it has a lot of value.
Because of King Knight’s central gameplan of setting up Strikes with boosted stats that are difficult to deal with, you’ll always be ceding some amount of the initiative to the opponent. King Knight’s kit does not feature any boosts with “Now: Strike”, so the opponent will always have an opportunity to respond in between your setup and the execution of your attack. As such, it’s important to set up for an attack that will be successful regardless of who initiated the Strike. Thankfully, you have some very reliable attacks to leverage which can help with this. As an example, Scepter Slam is above curve at its maximum Range (4), letting you beat out opposing Dives and many fireballs.
Healing Hammer, King Knight’s only force special, is on curve at Range 2, and its After effect could be just the shot in the arm you need to turn a game around. While you’ll only be able to benefit from it a maximum of twice a game, gaining four life and adding two cards to gauge is a very strong effect. Make sure to only play Healing Hammer when you can get full value out of it (i.e., you have taken at least four damage and have two cards in the discard pile). Because of Healing Hammer, King Knight players should get into the habit of discarding their ultras (from hand or gauge) as their last card when paying force costs with ultras. This way, if you connect with a Healing Hammer, it has the potential to generate three force instead of the usual two (if you are going to use gauge as force). A useful trick for any character with a similar recursion ability.
King Knight can have problems with characters who have even better resource engines than he does. I’m thinking specifically of “Big Hand” Guile, who can use his boosts that go to gauge if no Strike was initiated by the end of of his next turn to quickly and easily build the resources to Exceed and bring his game plan online, taking advantage of any time King Knight might take to set up (D, a.k.a. tirankin, has a great video series showcasing the power of “Big Hand” Guile). Because of the way he burns through his deck, King Knight is also very susceptible to the “Millato” strategy, whereby Minato recurs and repeatedly uses the Hellraiser boost in order to run the opposing player out of cards.
King Knight might seem like he has a relatively simple gameplan: boost, then Strike, repeat until victory. But that synopsis does him a disservice. At its core, playing a game with King Knight is all about leveraging information (both what your opponent reveals and what you have shown them) in order to connect with powered up attacks. He rewards a deep understanding of the relative risks of each Strike with consistency. Players who can identify when to commit to one of his powerful Decrees or cash in on King of Cards will find him a strong contender!
As a reminder, I’m an Exceed enthusiast, not an Exceed expert, so I welcome discussion and constructive criticism on this post. Let me know if you enjoyed it, or if there is something specific you would like to see covered in the future!