It’s been a good 5 years since we’ve seen a new Madoka release in English Weiss Schwarz. After the original set in May 2013 and Rebellion in September 2015, we’ve been left clutching our apples and wishing for the best as the deck rapidly spiraled into obscurity. Very few modern tools, antiquated level 1 combos, underwhelming finishers at best, sprinkled here and there with a few solid tech pieces – truly a Weiss player’s worst despair. But after half a decade and many licensing conundrums, the suffering of the English Madoka player might be ending soon … or, at the very least, it’s getting a complete overhaul.
So to all you people of culture, those coming out of Madoka hibernation and those looking to pick up the deck for the first time, whether you’re desperately trying to remember where you put that random box of old Madoka cards or you’re just here for the new MagiReco girls, whether you’re after a competitive deck or just wanna play Madoka again without wishing to die in the process, this one’s for you! Lets look at where we left off 5 years ago, what the February Magia Record Mobage set brings to the table, and what is yet to come in the Anime set which is slotted for release in April.
Short Intro & Contents
Alright, so, I’m aware that this post is a lot to take in. I spent a good month or so shuffling around drafts, and the past two weeks alone have been mostly dedicated to tweaking this into the final version it’s in now. And that’s partially because I really love this set, but mostly because there’s just so much new content to cover, and I really wanted this to be comprehensive. With that in mind:
- There’s no full card text for the abilities, because there’s just no way I’d be able to fit all of that in. But I’ve purposefully made the English images high-res enough so that you can zoom in and read the effects that way.
The cards from the Anime set will have their images updated in April; for now, they’re all linked with translations from Heart of the Cards.Updated as promised!
- This post assumes a medium-ish level of understanding of the game and what different card profiles are commonly called, but it does not assume that you know a single relevant Madoka card. I’ve linked them all, either to their translations or their entries on the official English card list. So even if you’re totally new to Madoka, I got you covered.
- I am sure that even with so many cards talked about, there are still some interesting ones that I’ve missed. I had to draw the line somewhere before this just turned into a full set review of 400 cards. So by all means, consider this a highlight reel with lots of insights and deck suggestions – but know that it doesn’t cover everything.
- If you wanna support this post and whatever I’ll be writing next, the ko-fi page is here ☕.
Moving on, here’s a table of contents for your convenience:
- Original & Rebellion
- Magia Record Mobile Game
- Magia Record Anime
- Shoutouts + More Madoka Content
Original & Rebellion: It’s Not Much, But It’s Not Totally Useless Either
I think every single Madoka player is familiar with Time Regressor, Homura (free-fresh), Magical Girl Appears (salvage event) and Exterminating Nightmares, Kyoko (anti-change backup aka sac counter). When thinking about old cards that still have their rightful place in modern Madoka decks, these 3 probably come to mind first. Free-fresh and anti-change are both valuable tools, and the salvage event profile hasn’t aged too poorly either. That said, none of these are an absolute necessity. The event gets outperformed by better and more accessible discard outlets in many cases, not to mention that the new sets give us a lot more access to Waiting Room than we’ve been used to. But at least until the MagiReco Anime set comes out (and possibly even afterwards), this card definitely still has some use in red-centric decks.
As for the anti-change and the free-fresh, they both get reprints in the upcoming Anime set. If we’re being pedantic, we could also consider the new anti-change backup from the Mobage set, but … yeah, let’s not. Aside from the cost of ditch 2 being something Madoka usually can’t afford to pay, that Alina backup doesn’t even perform the same role as Kyoko. On-reverse finishers might be way less common now than they were in 2015, but being able to pay out extra stock and sacrifice one of your characters in the process are still valuable lines of ability text, and it makes no sense to give that up. But we do get the exact same anti-change ability in blue in the Anime set, at which point the choice of which one you run is entirely based on which color your deck needs more of …
and whether you like Yachiyo more than Kyoko, or vice versa.
The same is not necessarily true for the free-fresh and its new version though: they each have different additions to their main effect, so they kinda end up playing different roles in the deck. And since they’re characters which you’ll actually play on stage, colors matter a lot more here, so choosing between the existing green free-fresh and the upcoming blue one is not necessarily trivial in all cases – but more about that later. And before I forget and get called out in the comments: there is technically a green free-fresh in the Mobage set too, but it doesn’t really qualify as a replacement for Homura quite yet.
TL;DR – If you have some copies of these 3 lying around, hold on to them until the Mobage set at least. They’re playable, but not necessary because they either get functionally replaced with other cards, or they’ll be getting “reprints” in April.
More oldies but goldies, honestly. If anything, you might say that Supporting Role, Kyubey and Sayaka’s Wish are each more integral to the essence of old English Madoka decks than all 3 prior cards combined – and I’d agree with you. But I put them down here because with the new sets in the picture, they’re less universally relevant than they used to be. Kyubey mainly acted as our replacement for a Riki effect, if we squinted hard enough. He prevented us from getting stuck at level 0, and having access to clock encore was also a big deal because slowly damaging ourselves was less painful than having an empty board and barely any hand sometimes. And don’t get me wrong, he’s still a solid card today, especially in decks where you wanna splash red just a little bit – but we actually have a Riki now, and we’re getting another one in the Anime set, so Kyubey truly is past his prime.
The same goes for the Wish event: It gets some support in the Mobage set, the kind of support that’s worth playing even without Wish in the deck, which is saying something. Until we have the Anime set, many decks will end up playing a few copies of Wish just because they’ll be playing the new support anyway – but after April, there will be even more late-game options available, many of which are more favorable than the Wish package. In short, Wish is far from being obsolete, it’s just not the be-all and end-all golden standard of Madoka anymore. And that’s good, that’s improvement, that’s what we waited 5 years for! But if any of you also happen to have an irrationally strong affinity for this particular card, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not good anymore.
Sayaka Looks Up to Mami and Doubt Towards the World, Kyoko were also pretty fundamental in the old B/R deck, but while they’re still useful profiles, they both get replacements and/or improvements – none of which are particularly noteworthy anymore. As far as early hand filters are concerned, both Yachiyo Nanami from the Mobage TD+ and Felicia, Raring to Go from the Anime booster are more effective since they filter on-play instead of on-attack. The secondary scry effect now also comes in a much better version which I’ll talk more about later, but it just goes to show that while the card itself is okay, it has been significantly improved upon with the new sets. Though if you wanna run the OG duo purely for art supremacy reasons, I won’t fault you in the slightest – in fact, I still played Sayaka & Mami in my budget-ish Yachiyo-Iroha Mobage deck. Anyone want a deck tech on that one? Let me know 😀
Lastly, there’s actually not much to say about the Kyoko suicider. We get a similar profile that gives power on-play in the Mobage TD+, and the Anime booster will bring us another more versatile suicider option too – and if the choice is between that and the Kyoko profile, I’d pick the new one almost every time. But until April, when we get better level 1 combos too, the +1500 power from Kyoko can actually help your Mobage combos get their reverses – so she’s not fully out of commission yet either.
TL;DR – All of these are still good and playable, they’ve just lost a lot of their importance – and they will lose even more of it once the Anime set is out. Feel free to not search far and wide for the Kyoko and SayaMami cards, but I do suggest getting some Kyubeys, especially if you’re gonna be playing red. And I’d hold on to a playset of Sayaka’s Wish either way, even though you won’t be playing 4 of them anymore.
Stuff To Splash, Maybe
And these? Neither here nor there. If you’re already running their colors and have some level 3 space, Sayaka Miki, Intuitive Type, Kyoko and Kyoko Sakura are all decent options to splash, in a roughly descending order of usefulness – but don’t quote me on that, since the impact of these is kinda hard to accurately judge. Also, if you’re already playing red, you should consider A World Tampered With as a tech option too!
Yes, that’s the 1/0 forced refresh event with a bunch of Kyubeys on it.
In a weird turn of events, Rookie Magical Girl Sayaka will also make a comeback once the Anime set is out … or is it more of a late debut? I honestly don’t know if she was ever widely played before, I wasn’t around that long ago. Not that she’s gonna be widely played now either: she’s not something every deck will need, but just like the other three cards here, she has a place in some lists.
TL;DR – Maybe, in smaller quantities in certain builds. And speaking of certain builds …
… here is the ultimate nostalgia hit of all time. Ultimate Madoka in 2021? Yes, my friends. Not only will this ancient relic be playable again, she will also be part of what’s probably the most reliable and consistent Madoka deck in existence, post Anime set at least. But hey, don’t take it from a memer like me, take it from someone who actually puts thought and fervent effort and rigorous testing into his decks: here’s Jabi‘s Madoka Heal Spam deck, including both Mobage and Anime cards. Depending on your playstyle and preference (or lack there of) for actual finishers vs. healing endgames, this might take some getting used to; but I encourage you to give it a try once the Anime set is out, because it truly plays like a charm. I’ve tried lots of other builds before and after this one (because someone has to play all the weird stuff, obviously), but once I get bored of absurdities like this and our locals are happening again, I think I’ll go back to Jabi’s list for a while.
On to the cards themselves: Madoka’s Swaying Feelings is more of an honorary mention than anything else. I don’t think that you need to run it, or that it makes sense to run it just because its change target is in the deck – but I think that somewhere, there’s a build which can utilize this 2/1 too, I just haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. But since this post is meant to highlight as many of the possibly useful old cards as I can cram in here, I’ve kept the whole Ultimate package together for convenience. Neither Ultimate Madoka nor her target Homura “Fights On” are needed in full 4 copies, and the same probably goes for the Madoka’s Wish climax as well. And you’re absolutely free to sleep on this package until April … or try to get it now, before some of these cards get hard to find.
TL;DR – The Anime set will make Godoka great again. Just you wait …
Speaking of packages, wouldn’t it be nice to have a Standby CX so that you could bring The Only Hope, Homura out at level 1 and then Change into “For Madoka’s Sake” Homura next turn to use her climax combo with Truth Behind the Barrier, or even just to sit on a 10k level 3 body that draws you cards when she comes out?
Sure would be nice. But I’m sorry for getting your hopes up: there is no Standby CX. Not in the Mobage set, not in the Anime set either. There is, however, a pseudo Standby combo with a Stock Soul CX in the Mobage set, which can make this line of play a reality if you’re willing to suffer a little … but you’re playing Madoka, so of course the answer to that is yes. Personally, I proxied this build back in 2018, but I kept missing the combo over and over again, at which point I threw the proxies out and went back to other builds which were treating me better. But still, this package is definitely at least worth considering, especially if you already have the pieces for it – no reason not to try it then!
TL;DR – No Standby, very sad. But Mobage does let you close your eyes and pretend that you’re a Standby deck, and it’s not too bad.
Honorary Yellow Mentions
Yellow cards?? On a “best of” list for the first two Madoka sets?? If you’re recoiling in horror at this blasphemy, I feel you. I used to regularly forget that Madoka even had yellow cards back in the day … but I’m trying to be comprehensive here, so please indulge me as I scrape the bottom of the barrel for a moment.
Are these cards good? No. Should you run them? Also no. But can you run them with at least some justifiable reason? Yeah, kind of. Mami Tomoe and her Tiro Finale climax combo might be utterly useless, but for some reason, we’re being incentivized to play her anyway, because the Mobage set gives us this Holy Mami which uses the old level 3 for its Resonate ability, which also only grabs cards with Mami in the name, so … waifu deck. Bushiroad is telling us to make a Mami waifu deck. I’m not gonna lose my head and take the bait, but you’re free to give it a try. At least with the level 1 Mami’s Confrontation with Homura, there’s an easier case to make for playing the Unavoidable Clash climax combo – if you wanna run a mono yellow or mostly yellow deck (which is what Mobage tries to convince you to do, but the Anime set makes it a lot more viable), you can definitely play that Mami as your level 1 combo, at least until the Anime set comes out. We’re getting a reasonable plussing combo in yellow in April, but while Mobage also gives us a new yellow level 1 CXC, that one just isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. I played it with it for months before ditching the yellow shell entirely, and while I did think about using the old Mami combo instead, I was too lazy to print proxies to try it out. But luckily, other people did the testing for me, and it seems to be a functional build – thanks to Myc for that one!
TL;DR – If you must do yellow, you can do yellow. Just maybe wait until the Anime set when you won’t need to use any of these cards anymore. With all that out of the way, let’s see what new cards are at our disposal now!
Magia Record Mobile Game: A Promising Start
Level 1 CX Combos
Let’s start with the level 1 combos, in descending order of viability once again. There is a green one as well, but it’s honestly not worth mentioning because all it does is attempt to charge stock while taking up way too much deck space. There’s also the 2nd green combo, which works together with the aforementioned irrelevant new free-fresh, but I also don’t wanna waste time with delving into that one. Ignoring those, here’s what we’re left with:
- Yachiyo + Book. It’s a bog-standard on-reverse search combo that only gets to 6.5k power with the climax. It was sad when it came out in 2018, it’s still sad now, but it’s the best we’ve got. And there are ways to pump her power, some of which I already mentioned before and others which I’ll touch on later. All in all, it’s not the worst thing in the world, it’s just meh. If you were expecting something better after half a decade of waiting … yeah, me too. I’m sorry.
- Trio + Stock Soul. Another on-reverse combo, which has 500 less power than Yachiyo, and can also miss even if you do get a reverse. The fact that it needs to mill a character is especially unfortunate given how many good events Madoka has access to. And from the top of my head, I can’t even think of any cards from the Mobage set that would stand out as good targets for this combo, so the play here really is mainly the Homura change package from Rebellion which I mentioned before. Alternatively, you can go even further back and use this combo with Ultimate Madoka by bringing out her 2/1 changer early. After the Anime set though, we’re getting this 2/2 Momoko as a suitable target, which also happens to be part of another climax combo package – but more on that later.
- Sana + Wind. And another on-reverse one. We’re back at 6.5k attack power, but with all sorts of wonky stuff tacked on. This isn’t here because it’s a good combo in general, it’s on here because if you’re playing mono yellow and don’t have access to the Mami combo from Rebellion (or don’t wanna play it), this is your only other option for the time being. And it’s not total garbage, but it often forces you to not get the most out of your combo because with the relatively low power she’s at, you have to get at least one reverse off to be able to give the +1000 power and +1 soul to the next one – which can easily be interrupted by a backup. So if you’re 3-fielding this and plan to just barely reach over your opponent by chaining the power boosts, you’re quickly at risk of all your characters being reversed either way – which means you lose the plus from bouncing them back to hand the next turn.
TL;DR – They’re all on reverse. Pick your despair of choice (preferably the blue one).
Level 3 CX Combos
When it comes to level 3 combos, I am once again ignoring one of the colors because the red finisher occasionally just doesn’t do anything, and we don’t like that.
- Tsuruno + Shot. Easiest choice of finisher in this set, in my opinion. It’s cheap, it heals, and it goes for precise damage. Sadly, the on-cancel-burn-1 doesn’t help you push a very large amount of damage, so if you’re already behind, you’re not gonna have a good time – especially since your healing is also tied to the climax combo. But in situations when you’re neck-and-neck with your opponent, Tsuruno is very good at closing out those games in your favor.
- Madoka + Bar. Also a very good finisher, at least within this set. It heals on play, it’s expensive, but it makes up for that in its damage output … at least in theory. In practice, the fact that she has to reverse is really unfortunate, because avoiding reverses at level 3 is far from the hardest thing to do in this game. But even if you do get characters to farm with the combo, the damage output still isn’t as great as on Yukina (which this Madoka is essentially a clone of). Depending on how compressed your opponent is, the burn 3 might be pushing it too far, so that’s something to consider at least.
- Iroha + Pants. This one can push damage and doesn’t need to reverse! All that for the low, low price of it being one of the funniest restanders I’ve ever seen. Seriously, take this to locals and watch people lose brain cells – because I assure you, this ain’t no one’s default assumption after hearing “restand” and “reversed” in the same sentence. Jokes aside, I’m plugging the Yachiyo/Iroha build here again, because despite this finisher being rather average, it’s fun! And more importantly, even though it doesn’t have a high ceiling and isn’t flashy, it’s surprisingly consistent: if you’re not doing 5 attacks on your last turn, something has gone seriously wrong.
TL;DR – We have actually decent finishers now.
And we also have good brainstorms! Given that Sana is a rest-self brainstorm, you might be wondering what the rest-2 Yachiyo brainstorm is even doing here. Well, while Sana’s other ability isn’t particularly useful in most games, Yachiyo’s +500 to all level 1s is definitely a consideration worth making. With 2 of her in the back, the level 1 Yachiyo combo actually gets pumped up to a decent 7.5k on attack, so you might be willing to trade the better brainstorm ability for the better support effect sometimes. Oh and also, Yachiyo searches while Sana salvages – and getting those extra cards out of the deck is something Madoka often appreciates, because we still don’t have access to efficient costless milling.
Kaede is a bit different though. She’s usually a 1-of tech piece, meant to help you draw into your events, and potentially climaxes too. I actually really like this draw-2-ditch-1 brainstorm profile, since it also makes you go through your deck a bit quicker, and gives you a discard outlet at the same time.
TL;DR – Sana is great, Yachiyo is serviceable, Kaede is a tech card to support your event plays.
Speaking of events, there are some really cool ones in this set! The blue 3/1 heal event is probably the best card in the entire set – and I have to say, I’m 100% okay with the flavor of Madoka still being defined by a blue heal event 😀 Long story short, if you’re playing blue, you should find space for this in your deck. Following that, the yellow 3/1 event is also cool, but a bit more situational. Definitely a must in decks that run Tsuruno as the finisher though – stacking burns for the win!
The green events are less mainstream, but still worth noting – just maybe not at 4 copies, or in most decks. The 1/1 Madoka’s Notebook essentially enables you to run a Madoka deck with 12 heal events, if you wanted to do that for some reason (not that I recommend it). The counter is more or less noteworthy only because it’s an anti-damage counter … which sometimes saves you and other times gets you killed. All in a day’s work for a mahou shoujo, really. I tried including this one in lots of Mobage decks, but it hasn’t really worked for me until the Anime set came out and I was able to build a full shell specifically intended to make this 3/4 monstrosity do my bidding.
TL;DR – Blue all the time, yellow half the time, green 1/1 if you’ve got the time and the counter if you’re ready to not have a good time.
Stars of the Set
While we’re on the topic of set-defining cards, it’s high time these 3 made an appearance – 2 of which I already mentioned on the way here! The Kaoru is our new and improved access to scyring, but also: free stock. The target you’re supposed to replace her with after she’s sent to stock is a rather useless 2/1 which you don’t need to play. That part of Kaoru’s effect could not have existed and she would still be the best damn common you could ever wish for. Uses include, but not limited to:
- searching her with the 3/1 heal event, turning it into a 3/0 heal + a scry before you send her to stock
- converting brainstorm plusses back into stock while also making brainstorms hit more often, meaning you can productively clean out your stock if needed without actually losing stock
- synergy with this Iroha rest-2 brainstorm from the Anime set
- the on-reverse scry can help you dig for cancels during your opponent’s turn, or setup your draw for next turn if she’s the last character they reverse.
And she’s even synergistic with the new 3/2 Sayaka! Since Sayaka’s early play condition needs 4 or more characters on board, playing multiples would usually mean having to sac one of your characters. But if you have Kaoru on stage, you can early play your first Sayaka, send Kaoru to stock, then play the second Sayaka onto the newly open slot. You still technically lost a character, but at least the second early play cost you one stock less, which is pretty damn nice.
I really love how versatile this Sayaka is though: you can play multiples of it and go for a wall/heal strategy with the Wish event, or you can just have her as a 1-of tech piece. Even if you don’t want to invest slots into the Wish event, an early play with an easy requirement which sits at 13.5k and prevents Backups until the end of your opponent’s turn is still a great card. Before the Anime set came out, I usually ran 2-3 copies of her if I was playing blue, alongside 2-3 copies of Wish; I didn’t commit to the wall strategy all the time, but when I did, the usual outcome was that both Sayakas survived their 1st turn, allowing me to attack with them again before offing both with Wish when they would get reversed on the 2nd turn. Nowadays, I’m running 1-2 copies of her in the post-Anime decks, and I generally don’t use extra deck slots for Wish most of the time.
Never thought I’d say this about my Madoka decks tbh.
As for the Homura? Easily goes into anything that plays green. She works well alongside stock charging combos (Madoka+StockSoul from Rebellion, Yachiyo+Bag from the Anime set), and also has enough power to be worth defending with backups, which you can search with the Yachiyo combo from this set. Plus, remember the 1/0 Sayaka Encore Assist I mentioned earlier? Combining her with this Homura is one of its possible niche uses, for example: bounce a defending character to your hand, then discard it to bring back the Homura via hand encore. But keep in mind that she then loses 1k power and the bounce ability when she’s brought back from the Waiting Room, since she got those at the start of the attack phase, and she’s considered a new card after changing zones.
On her own, the Homura is a decent attacker more often than not, lets you deny reverses and also lets you loop combos by bouncing them back if you happen to have another CX in hand. She does need all your front row characters to be the same level for the bounce ability to be active, but the best part about it is that she herself doesn’t need to be in the front row for that! So you can have her in the back during the late game, and avoid on-reverse finishers by bouncing back your level 3s, for example.
There are some issues with the card though: namely the fact that Madoka often has to use its stock on brainstorms to mill its deck reliably, which makes paying 1 to plus via Homura’s ability less ideal – preferably, you’d want that stock spend on something which also mills your deck. Additionally, there aren’t many good green cards to play in the early game anymore, and after the Anime set, some decks have no problem cutting green entirely – all of which makes it harder to find slots or color plans to fit this Homura in. And for all the good she can do at level 1, she is sadly often a dead card for most of your mid-game (where your front row characters usually have different levels) before being useful again at level 3.
TL;DR – Kaoru is a blessing, Homura is a very good card (especially until we get more level 1s to build with in the Anime set) and Sayaka is also A+ material.
And now I think it’s time to dial back on the hype for a bit, so let me also throw you some more or less mundane tech pieces, starting with the new anti-change tech: a stock bomb, a bottom-deck bomb, and an anti-change backup that isn’t worth running over its better alternatives, as I’ve already said at the start.
In terms of plussing level 0s, we have a Futaba clone (marker oversize), a Riki clone and a Chitoge runner clone (middle runner + level 0 suicider). The Homura Riki is an obvious inclusion in every list, and the oversize also has a place in many builds. But the runner … not so much. With it only being able to run to middle of front row, it’s often not even a plus at all, and if you need a red plussing level 0, the Kyubey from the OG set might be a better choice for those slots.
Searchers, Discard Outs, Blinkers
Next, some discard outlets. The first is just a vanilla drop-searcher which gets a much better version in the Anime set. But since this one is just an uncommon, it’s not like you’ll have a hard time picking up a copy or two of her for the time being, since she’s definitely useful in some decks – and probably easier to find now than the Mami & Nagisa drop-searcher from Rebellion.
The Madoka ditch-CX salvage is a definite 1-of in most builds though, especially if you’re running the Madoka finisher that combos with the Bar climax. She’s also getting an exact reprint in the Anime set, in blue. And lastly, if you’re gonna play Bars, the Kaede assist might also be worth sparing a deck slot for – because in clutch moments, the ability to pay 1 and discard a climax to salvage a character is good to have on demand.
Nanaka isn’t a discard outlet, I just didn’t have anywhere else to fit her in, so I figured I might as well keep her with the other level 0s. Her blink effect might not be super relevant in the meta at the moment, but she’s still a good tech option to keep in mind if you think you might run into things with annoying markers or cross-turn abilities like minus soul or bouncing back to hand.
A Better Yellow Shell
These aren’t related at all, they’re just all yellow and I have a rather ambitious idea of keeping this post somewhat organized – ergo they’re all here. The Felicia early-play healer is great, still played at 2-3 copies even after the Anime set. The level 1 Felicia is more on the mediocre side because both her effects have a chance of missing, in which case she’s practically a 4k level 1 dead weight – but for the time being, she’s still a good secondary level 1 option in some decks, thought most will prefer running the Homura I mentioned before instead.
As for the level 0 Mami, she’s probably the single greatest tragedy of this set. An on-reverse Rize, aka the free mill we so desperately needed, but only for yellow characters. And while the are good yellow cards in Madoka now, and there will be even more after April, there’s still not enough of them to be able to make the best use of this Mami. In fact, the mono yellow deck often feels like a compromise for the sake of this one card: and if you have to play mediocre cards in order to fully utilize a good card, that card just isn’t as good anymore. The Anime set fixes that a bit at least, since it changes the main level 1 combo from blue to yellow, but even those builds often still don’t run enough yellow to be able to justify using this Mami. There’s just too much good stuff in other colors, and not enough in yellow.
TL;DR – 3/2 Felica yes, 1/0 Felicia maybe, 0/0 Mami why???
Assists & Backups
Alright, so, we have 2 good early plays now – what do we protect them with? Lucky for us, we now finally have a free 2k backup! Then there’s also the +2000 assist for level 3s, and a new level assist which hands out extra power when one of your characters becomes reversed. Sounds good in theory, but I don’t recall this Madoka actually seeing much play anywhere. The Darc is a much more effective early play support, plus she can also pay 1 and send herself to memory to heal in an emergency – there’s a non zero amount of times where that alone saved me from dying at 3-6. And much like the 0/0 Kaoru (though far less often), this also gives you another way of meaningfully emptying your stage slots if you’re planning to overplay things.
Level 3 Tech Pieces
And lastly for this part, some level 3 tech pieces. Well, to be precise, two level 3 tech pieces plus some extreme lunacy. The Homura is a good way to dig for climaxes – her ability that prevents characters from moving to different stage slots during the attack phase is mostly flavor, but does have some niche moments where it shuts down things like Mobility Gear or Reinhard or field swappers. She can also be early played, but unless you’re making a budget build, her early play condition really isn’t worth using deck space for.
Rena is just one of those pretty typical level 3 Trial Deck profiles that can help you sneak one extra damage in to hopefully close the game with. Decent 1-of if you’re already playing red. But if that’s too simple for you, if you instead want something way more out there – Kyoko will gladly eat your entire stock. Technically, you could put her in a deck together with Tsuruno and add even more burn 1s to the table, but I don’t think I’ve seen that played successfully so far. Though now that I’m writing about it, against my better judgement, I am once again intrigued to give that setup a try.
If you couldn’t tell before, shit like this is why I never get anything done. Update on the burn-1 extravaganza: I made it happen!
Anyway, if you do want to actually use the 6 stock ability, put her in a deck with Tsuruno and the pseudo-standby Trio combo: then you can mess around with putting cancel-burns on Kyoko with the yellow 3/1 event to your heart’s content. But aside from that, she does heal to stock; and is sadly the only card with that profile Madoka has, even after the Anime set.
Sample Decks (Mobage + Old Sets)
- Pseudo Standby + Homura Change [Jabi]
- Pseudo Standby + Tsuruno Shot ft. pay 6 Kyoko [Jabi]
- Book + Madoka Gold Bar [Jabi]
- Book + Iroha Pants
- Book + Tsuruno Shot [Wibbs]
- Mono Yellow w/ Rebellion Mami [Myc]
- Bag + Madoka Gold Bar [PGH Weiss Schwarz]
Magia Record Anime: Almost There
Reprints & Updates
I guess we can have a look at the not-so-new stuff first: the 0/0 Mitama ditch-CX salvage has the exact same effect as Madoka from the Mobage set, and the Yachiyo anti-change backup is an exact replica of the Kyoko from Rebellion. Nothing new about them, they’re just both available in blue now – which can still be relevant for deckbuilding purposes. Meanwhile in the “slight changes” department, the already underwhelming Kyoko middle runner from the Mobage set also got rehashed as this 0/0 Yachiyo; essentially the same deal, it’s just a clock suicider now for some reason. Still not something you would be too excited to run, unless you’re going heavily into green.
Moving on to more notable updates of old profiles, we have the Iroka Riki, a new version of the Homura from the Mobage set. Their search abilities are identical, but instead of the level manipulation ability, Iroha’s second ability gives +500 power to a character when she attacks. The extra power is arguably at least a bit more relvant than the +/- level shenanigans, but at the same time, it’s not a definitive advantage of one Riki over the other: so by all means, colorfixing for either blue or green with Rikis is an option now.
The same might not necessarily be true for the new Iroha free-fresh though. The old Homura free-fresh from the original set gives your whole board +2000 power when you use her refresh ability, while Iroha’s ability actually has 2 parts to it: before you refresh your deck, if you have 2 or less cards in Memory, you can also send a character from Waiting Room to Memory and Iroha gains +4000 power. This makes her a lot more useful than Homura because she’s not just a free-fresh: on top of helping you setup characters in Memory for some of the interactions I’ll be covering later, she can also act as an early-play slayer and be used to break standby boards by killing their 2/2s, or at least forcing your opponent to play a backup to protect them. So unless you’re already playing green and little or no blue, or specifically need the +2k to the entire board, Iroha will probably be your free-fresh of choice from now on.
But the one new version which has absolutely no debate around it is the Tsuruno drop-search which also doubles as a 3500 oversize as long as you have 2 or less stock. This is a significant upgrade from the plain vanilla 2k drop-searches we’ve had access to before: it’s really nice to be able to play a drop-search turn 1 and not feel bad about it. If you’re playing yellow (which let’s be honest, after the Anime set, you probably are), this is one of the cards you’ll want 3-4 of without question.
TL;DR: A new Riki with a less-niche secondary ability, a new free-fresh which is more versatile than the old one, and a damn fine drop-search – finally!
Brainstorms, and Also a Cleancut
Crossing the bridge from reprints to other plussing level 0s, there’s the Momoko salvage brainstorm – essentially Sana brainstorm with a better secondary ability, once again. If you want a rest-self brainstorm and can affotd to play red in a few slots, she’s an easy pick out of the two – but it’s worth noting that not all decks would feel comfortable adding red into the mix, so it’s not like Sana is totally out of commission just yet.
But at the same time, she might be – because if you’re playing yellow, you probably want to look into the Iroha rest-2 salvage brainstorm. Yeah, those usually aren’t worth the trouble – but this one just so happens to let you top check and mill 1 each turn. Not only can she dig for her own climaxes to hit, she also helps you go through your deck just a little it faster at no added stock cost; and free milling is still a hot commodity in Madoka decks, unfortunately. So do yourself a favor and don’t sleep on this one, especially not in combination with the 0/0 Kaoru, where I’ve already mentioned this synergy before. Essentially, you’re able to kinda loop the brainstorm by scrying non-climaxes to the bottom of your deck with Kaoru, resting her as part of the brainstorm cost, salvaging another copy of her with the brainstorm hits, then sending her to stock and playing the one you salvaged – rinse and repeat a couple of times.
And I guess we also have a vanilla Yachiyo cleancut now? It’s from the Anime TD+, and it’s something you can play, but usually end up not having space for. She does make for a good Riki target though!
TL;DR: It’s 2021 and I’m wholeheartedly advocating for a rest-2 brainstorm. It’s mind boggling what a Madoka player will do for even the tiniest bit of free mill.
Level 1 CX Combos
As for the actual meat of the Anime set (the climax combos), there’s some interesting stuff at level 1:
- Felicia + Choice. Still an on-reverse combo, but with 8k attacking power and on a very good trigger too! Do note that her ability is worded a bit strangely though: the salvage is free, you only have to pay 1 if you also want to look at the top card of your deck and add it to your hand if it’s a character. But given that you’ll likely be playing events too, this just isn’t something you’d want to regularly use – it’s more like, a backup plan in case you trigger a CX and need to pay it out right away. Basically, don’t overuse this part of the combo, lest you wanna be the fool milling their own climaxes away after their last attack.
I tried it so you don’t have to.
- Yachiyo + Bag. Do you dislike direct hand plusses and instead prefer to sit on a mountain of stock like a hamster waiting to be slain by the first stock-swap that comes your way? Well there’s good news for you too! We have an actual uninteractive and simple stock charge combo now: no more of that taking up half your deck nonsense! Jokes aside, this is actually a totally good combo. Sure, the Bag trigger isn’t ideal, but she’s still a cross-turn 6k body in a color that also lets you play the 1/0 Homura from Mobage alongside her. And Madoka has good things to use its extra stock on, like milling and good early plays.
- Twins+Bar. Speaking of nonsense that takes up half your deck, this is where things start to get wacky. Because yes, this Tsukasa is a free mill combo which also shares a climax with the 2/1 Tsukuyo combo; but they both require you to discard this 0/0 Black Feather army card as part of their cost. And having a substantial part of your deck be nothing but discard fodder past level 0 obviously isn’t the greatest thing ever. It’s a shame though, because we could have really used that mill – and we even got this 0/0 Touka as a Bar support brainstorm too!
- Tsuruno+Wind. Full disclosure, this is more of an honorable mention rather than a combo people actually play in serious decks. But hey, we wanted an on-attack plussing combo in Madoka, and Bushiroad heard us! Should have been more careful about what we asked for though 😀 I mean, look at this thing! She even has 6k power cross-turn just like Yachiyo, and is in an otherwise really strong color, so if only we didn’t need to lose soul in order to get what we so desperately wanted … oh. Actually, never mind. This card makes perfect sense. We may not like it, but this is what the ideal Madoka combo looks like.
TL;DR: Viable on-reverse plussing, viable on-attack stock-charging, questionable milling and flavorful wish fulfillment are all a thing now.
Level 3 CX Combos
We also have some cool level 3 stuff:
- Iroha+Choice. I’d call this a spiritual successor of the 3/2 Madoka from the Mobage set. She heals, she costs a lot but also has the ability to push lots of damage. Unlike the Madoka though, she doesn’t need to reverse and she also lets you choose whether you want to deal 2, 3 or 4 damage – yay for choices! And yes, an 8 Choice deck is totally something worth running. It’s also worth noting that this Iroha isn’t a standalone card: she’s part of a package with this 1/1 Iroha support that gathers markers when you take damage and then changes into this 3/2 Iroha’s Doppel, which then changes into the Iroha finisher. Not really something to run in full numbers, but if you wanna try 8 Choice, a few copies of the 1/1 and a Doppel or two are definitely something you can experiment with for the flavor.
- Rena+Gate. A simple restander, but the rest of her text does make for some interesting synergies with things that trigger when a character leaves the stage, or enters it via Change. For example, you could use this together with Ultimate Madoka and get some free heals at the end of your turn if the restands weren’t enough to kill. And much like Iroha, Rena is also part of a package – one that shares the same Gate climax. There’s the 2/2 Momoko which I’ve mentioned before as a target for the pseduo-Standby combo from the Mobage set, and she’s also obviously the intended target to be brought out with Rena’s Change ability. Both because her free stock ability activates when she’s placed on stage from Waiting Room, and also because her climax combo to sac the CX and pay 2 to burn 2 is timed at the end of your turn – which is after the start of your Encore step when you can bring her out with Rena. There’s also the 0/0 Kaede, which is less an actual climax combo and more just an absurdly expensive way of getting the CX out if you don’t manage to find it in time. But it exists, so might as well mention it.
- Yachiyo+Book. A not at all simple restander. Her upside is being able to dig for her own CX, but the downside is that you have to pay 1 and ditch 1 in advance when she attacks, and then she only restands if her damage is cancelled, so … you get what you pay for, I suppose.
- Alina+Bar. Not a finisher per-se. As a spicy tech, she has some niche uses of trying to slowly ping your opponent to death on top of what you’re already doing to kill them. Since she has 3 soul, she can reasonably side level 3s for 1-2 damage if you have any +soul climax in play, and you can either purposefully crash your other characters to trigger her pay 1 ditch 1 burn 1 when your other character goes from stage to Waiting Room once per turn – or you can use Rena’s Change to trigger that for you, no need to leave empty slots on your stage if you don’t want to. And by using a sac backup like Kyoko or Yachiyo, you can also trigger the ability during your opponent’s turn, which is just beautiful if they’re at 3-6 and thought they were safe. But that’s discussing Alina as a tech card: as an actual climax combo, she goes into a very specific kind of deck, which I’ve already covered in detail here if you’re actually interested in building a serious end game centered on her. But I warn you in advance, it’s not a kind or consistent kind of deck. It’s chaos and suffering
as Madoka apparently should be.
weddings finishers and a funeral.
But wait, we’re all the way down here and yet still no sight of the promised Memory interactions? Well, here they are. Each color got a level 0 that can send itself to memory upon being reversed if you have 2 or less cards in there already, and then each card interacts with a different piece later in the game. For brevity’s sake, I’m not featuring the green Sana level 0 because neither her nor the level 1 Sana she interacts with are worth much thought, if any at all. But aside from that:
- Felicia is probably the best one from the cycle. She has a place in yellow decks on account of the Memory compression and her good hand-filter ability – the level 1 Felicia she interacts with is just not worth running, period. But you can maybe consider this 2/1 Felicia early-play slayer that lets you pay 1 and send the level 0 Felicia from Memory to Waiting Room to give herself +1000 power and let you salvage a character.
- Tsuruno‘s +1500 power boost to any character is an okay effect, but that alone probably wouldn’t be worth playing if she didn’t also interact with a decent level 3 Tsuruno which can pay 1 and send copies of the level 0 from Memory to Waiting Room to give your opponent’s characters minus soul. Aside from her, there’s also this 1/0 Tsuruno – a level 1 suicider with a similar salvage ability like the 2/1 Felicia mentioned above.
- And at the end of the usability spectrum, Yachiyo is almost exclusively run in a few copies for the sole purpose of improving the level 3 Yachiyo she interacts with. I mean, we already have better discard outlets and access to waiting room, we don’t exactly need to play a drop-salvage on top of that. But that 3/2 Yachiyo is a good way for green to dig for events and climaxes, so some decks play her even without the Memory interaction – though playing her for only 1 stock is still nice to be able to do, hence the splashing of level 0.
And while we’re here, I figured a visual of both level 3s that have good Memory interactions with their respective level 0s is in order. But of course we can’t talk Memory without also talking about anti-memory, which is what the 2/1 Ui is for. Definitely not needed in every deck, but if you expect to run into memory compression decks and are already running yellow, she’s not a bad piece of tech to include – especially because she also doubles as a stock anti-change bomb.
TL;DR – It’s not exactly the peak of memory compression or anything, but there are some legit good synergies here.
As far as hard early-play removal goes, we now also have access to a Sana clock bomb. But then there’s also this 2/1 Mami which gets +6k if she’s attacking into a level 3, and an additional +1k and +1 soul if all your front row characters are the same level when she attacks – which honestly isn’t that hard to achieve given that she herself can give any one of your characters +/- 1 level anyway.
Level 3 Goodstuffs
Thought we were done with level 3s? Hahaha, nope. There’s more goodstuffs to get through, starting with the 3/2 Sana with an early-play condition of 4 or more characters on stage (just like the 3/2 Sayaka from Mobage, meaning she also has good synergy with the 0/0 Kaoru), which works well with the Felicia early play from Mobage which needs 2 or less climaxes in the Waiting Room, and also heals on play. By playing Felicia to fulfill the board condition for the Sana, I guess Madoka is now a double EP heal deck?
Or triple, I guess: because the 3/2 Iroha level assist can also be early played if you have 2 or less CXs in Waiting Room, and sure enough she’s a healer as well, on top of letting you rest her to send characters from Waiting Room to memory.
The latter ability isn’t a super integral part of any deck’s strategy, but it does synergize with some cards that gain power when things are sent to Memory: like the green 3/2 Yachiyo mentioned earlier (+4000 power when your cards goes to Memory), or this 3/2 Felicia (+2000 power when your card goes to Memory). And yes, both of these things specify a card, not a character. So events like Sayaka’s Wish or the 3/1 heal event both work with this too! That aside, the Felicia obviously isn’t good just because she gets extra power from things going to your Memory. She’s mainly played at one or two copies as an off-climax finisher for her 2nd ability, which essentially makes her a Moca clone, and the +1500 power she gives to all characters (including herself) if she’s in the front row makes her a nice pairing together with your other on-reverse finisher of choice.
TL;DR: Heals. More heals. Just never be level 3, that’s the game plan.
Assists and Power Pumps
And where we have early-plays, we should also be looking at supports! In all honesty, if you’re just looking for beefy walls, the 2/1 Darc 2k assist from Mobage is still your best bet, especially considering she can also send herself to Memory, which we know some of our level 3s like. But if you’re looking for options in other colors, or you’ve only just picked up the Anime set, no worries – you have alternatives. Namely the 2/1 Kaede level assist from the Trial Deck, which also lets you give a character +2000 power when you play a climax. Similarly, the 2/1 Yachiyo from the booster gives the same power-up on climax play, but instead of being a level assist, she gives a global +1000 power to all your other characters. So if you’re looking for better ways to pump power on one specific character (like an on-reverse finisher) rather than having consistently high power across the board, either one of these might even be a better choice than the 2k assist.
The 1/0 Iroha doesn’t really play the role of supporting early-plays, but she’s still a back row card that can pump something +1500 for a turn by resting herself as an ACT ability. You’ll mostly use that for your level 1 on-reverse combos though, and as you move into your midgame, you can use her 2nd ability (pay 1, sac herself, look at up to 4 cards from your deck and add a character to your hand) to convert her into a more useful card. And yes, if you’re thinking she’s here for the mill, you’re absolutely right. The on-demand mill is especially useful if you’re just a few cards away from meeting the free-fresh condition, and as long as you have the stock for it, this is a viable way to get out of bad deck states faster: especially given that you can loop this Iroha if you put her in front of the 1/0 Sayaka Encore Assist.
TL;DR: Level assists, 1k globals, 2k CX pumps and a funky mill loop.
Backups, and a Twindrive
And at last, as I crawl to the bottom of my long planning spreadsheet and cross off the last of my notes, here are some of the level 1s in the Anime set that I think also deserve a mention. Probably the most important one here is the 1/1 Iroha 2k backup – why would you run this instead of the free 2k backup from Mobage? Because this one has a soul trigger, and you kinda need targets for your Choice climaxes when you trigger them. Plus, the pay 1 is balanced out with the addition of a hand-filter ability when you use the backup, which also lets you dig towards your next cancel.
Unlike the Iroha backup which does a lot, the Alina backup is a bit more situational. She doesn’t give any power, she just gives both characters in battle an ability that essentially amounts to free Encore; so not your usual type of backup, but in the context of some of the cards I’ve covered which benefit from your characters leaving the stage (like the 3/2 Alina) or coming back from the Waiting Room (like the 2/2 Momoko) – this backup has it’s niche uses, I think.
Lastly, at the very bottom of the barrel of somewhat relevant cards, I suppose the new Yachiyo twin-drive also has her place. Being able to pay out climaxes without losing stock is always good, but especially so during the attack phase; and her being a bottom deck suicider for cost 0 or lower characters is just a nice added bonus. And that’s it, I think? That’s 2021 Madoka, in a (slightly oversized) nutshell.
Sample Decks (all 4 sets)
- Felicia Choice + Ultimate Madoka Heal Spam [Jabi]
- Felicia Choice + Tsuruno Shot [Wibbs]
- Felicia Choice + Empty Gate [Wibbs]
- Felicia Choice + Alina Gold Bar
- 8 Choice [Connor] Hint: the 2/1 backup is the March shop promo.
- Examples of what Japan built on release (decks by Rintaro Nakayama):
Shoutouts + More Madoka Content
Suffice to say, even with a month of prep and scrolling through the card list, I would never be able to put together something with this much insight on my own. So here’s a big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen:
- Jabi and Niko from Burn One for reviewing the post and adding their own comments and suggestions,
- Myc, Wibbs and Connor for sending me their decklist samples,
- everyone else I nagged about Madoka in the past month.
It’s been a blast working together with everyone, and I hope we succeeded in making some great Madoka content! But if you want more, maybe even in video form, PGH Weiss Schwarz did a set review of both Mobage and Anime sets 🙂