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League 97 Talk #1: The Healers

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Hello reader, welcome to the first of what I hope will be many articles regarding League 97 topics. I have been meaning to write a few articles about the L97 metagame for some time now, and I feel the best way to start such a series would be with the most important part of any 2-player battle set: the healer.

For those who are not familiar with League 97, I highly suggest you take a look at this page. Since its creation this past spring, League 97 has offered competition-starved battlers an opportunity to take part in friendly competition that doesn't otherwise exist in the current state of the new Battledome. League 97 uses only the 97/20/35 stat build as well as a unique rule set designed to promote longer, more defensive-based battles.

These articles will be somewhat informal; after all, these 'talks' are very opinionated, as any metagame discussion will be. However, having participated in every major League 97 tournament to date, I feel that I can offer some insight to newer participants as well as prospective participants. Healers are a small subset of Battledome items, and the number of healers practical for L97 use is even smaller. However, despite their small number, the diversity that each L97 healer offers creates a very complex healing metagame in the league. Let's first examine each of these healers, as listed on the handy League 97 weapon listing.

Rejuvenating Jar of Brains - The Baseline

Rejuvenating Jar of Brains is a simple healer - it will heal 60HP, and it can't overheal. At a price of roughly 200k-300k, it is relatively affordable, and anyone unable to afford this weapon should consider saving up more Neopoints before venturing into League 97. Rejuvenating Jar of Brains is considered the base healer in the L97 format because anything lesser won't be competitive in this format. Due to the nature of the format, every hit-point is meaningful, and considering a Leaded Elemental Vial user could heal up to 96HP with their healer, anything less than a Rejuvenating Jar of Brains will be blown out by the stronger healers of the format. Leave the Greater Healing Scrolls and 50% healers at home for this format.

Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic - Middle Class Price, Upper Class Competitiveness

Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic is subject to inflation during tournament time thanks to its high rarity of 99, but despite the now frequent price fluctuations, its modest seven-digit price tag makes it affordable for a large portion of the 2-player crowd. Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic will heal 75HP, and like the Rejuvenating Jar of Brains it will not overheal. Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic would be an ordinary healer if not for its unique defense. This healer offers up two icons each of Darkness, Water, and Fire defense when used. Although the defense is nothing spectacular, it is a nice bonus for a league where offensive icon types are diversified and the two power-abilities are Sear and Icicle. It is important to note that Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic requires 500 Intelligence in order to heal; this fact means that Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic users will be required to be mindful of possible opposing Jittery Jipple Pear Potions and Steaming Skeem Potions among other opponent-intel based weaponry. Although Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic does not appear to be as attractive of an option as Leaded Elemental Vial, in League 97 the two healers are more equal than some are led to believe. This parity will be discussed later in the article.

Leaded Elemental Vial (Jade Scorchstone, Jewelled Scarab)

I should note that when I say Leaded Elemental Vial, I am in effect referring to all full healers such as Jade Scorchstone and Jewelled Scarab. All of these are the same; Leaded Elemental Vial can be used interchangeably with Jade Scorchstone and the term 'full healer' in the context of this article. Leaded Elemental Vial offers a vanilla, but wonderfully powerful effect: a full heal, regardless of current hit-points. Full healers are easily the most expensive healers available in the L97 format, but as mentioned before, Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic rivals them in power.

Cursed Elixir - The Great L97 Equalizer

Thanks to a mass giveaway, Cursed Elixir has fallen dramatically in price, so far that it is now buyable on the Shop Wizard! Although this giveaway was bad news for those who already owned a Cursed Elixir as well as those who restock in Haunted Weaponry, the new low price of Cursed Elixir is beneficial for League 97 healer diversity and parity. Now every L97 battler can and should own a Cursed Elixir as a secondary healing option. Cursed Elixir boasts a diabolical effect - it heals only 20 hit-points, but it also inflicts 20 points of direct damage at the opponent. Cursed Elixir also deals a miniscule 0.3 to 3.0 icons of Physical damage, which certainly can't do anything to hurt its usability. L97 battlers often attempt to prolong the need to heal as long as possible, since damage output on any given turn is low given the weak strength boost and icon cap. As a result, Cursed Elixir becomes a high-risk, high-reward choice of healer, since the 20 points of direct damage will deliver a powerful punch that cannot otherwise be achieved with icon-based weaponry. Time a Cursed Elixir right and the opponent will be at 0HP before they could even heal. Time a Cursed Elixir wrong and the opponent will be healed up to near-max hit-points while the Cursed Elixir user will have only a 20HP heal, essentially smothering any chance of victory for the Cursed Elixir user. Cursed Elixir is a do-or-die type of weapon. If one battler brings a Cursed Elixir into a fight and the other battler brings a more conventional healer, someone will win and someone will lose; a draw is highly unlikely when Cursed Elixir is involved. Much of the strategy regarding the healing metagame involves Cursed Elixir, so this particular healer will be covered in great detail later in the article.

Kacheek Life Potion - Don't Use It. Just Don't.

I'm not sure if this even needs saying, but I will include it for the sake of completion. I mentioned full healers are among the most powerful healers in L97, but don't be led to believe that Kacheek Life Potion is a cheap alternative. It's not. Kacheek Life Potion will only full heal at 33/97HP or greater, resulting in a best case scenario heal of 64HP, barely better than the Rejuvenating Jar of Brains. Worst case scenario, Kacheek Life Potion is only going to heal 32HP when the user is at 32/97HP or lower, which is far from being competitive.

SSYT vs. LEV - Which is Better? It Depends.

Many battlers will look at the steep price difference between Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic and Leaded Elemental Vial and assume that Leaded Elemental Vial is the far superior option. However, usefulness is based on in-battle outcomes, not price, and Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic users compete with full healer users. This fact is evident by examining the playoff fields of past events.

In some scenarios Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic will be better than Leaded Elemental Vial. In other scenarios, Leaded Elemental Vial will perform better than Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic. Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic heals 75HP, but does not overheal, meaning it will heal an amount equal to Leaded Elemental Vial for pets with 22/97HP or more. It would appear then that Leaded Elemental Vial becomes superior only when a pet's hit-points are 21 or fewer, but the answer is not that simple. Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic still has defense to offer, and this defense functions whether Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic heals the full 75HP or only heals the user back to max. Because of this defense, Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic is actually the superior option for pets at 22/97HP or greater thanks to the potential to stop some damage. Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic has the potential to block up to 9 points of damage in L97 play, meaning for pets between 13-22HP, the answer to the question of which healer is superior depends on the situation, although a full utilization of the Tunic's defense will be rare. Only in the case of a pet with 12 or fewer hit-points remaining can Leaded Elemental Vial be the indisputably better superior option regardless of extra context.

However, the answer is still not that simple. Remember that Cursed Elixir is a genuine concern in any L97 battle. Because of the fear of the 20HP direct damage that Cursed Elixir brings to the table, battlers will often be enticed to heal earlier than what would be otherwise necessary. Fear of the Cursed Elixir means that users may choose to heal when their hit-points are in the upper-twenties or low-thirties, rather than waiting any longer to heal, making Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic the better choice. Because Leaded Elemental Vial users will attempt to hold off healing as long as possible to maximize their heal, they are in effect more susceptible to the Cursed Elixir.

To end the debate here would be incomplete. More consideration must be placed on the psychology of Leaded Elemental Vial play. The heal turn as well as the turn or two leading up to the heal turn are vital to emerging victorious in L97 play. Since Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic caps out at a 75HP heal, the incentive for a late heal does not exist with Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic. However, a Leaded Elemental Vial heals without regard for the pre-heal hit-point total of the user; the more hit-points the Leaded Elemental Vial user has lost, the greater the heal they will receive.

The fact that Leaded Elemental Vial users can potentially receive a larger heal the longer they wait to heal is of important consideration in a L97 battle. When facing a Leaded Elemental Vial user, the battler must be aware of this fact and attempt to avoid letting the Leaded Elemental Vial user heal at a miniscule current hit-point total. On the other hand, when facing a Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic user, the battler can feel comfortable knowing that the Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic user won't be able to receive some massive ~95HP heal by prolonging the need to heal.

To demonstrate this idea, imagine a pet with ~20HP or so, and that pet will receive 15 points of damage, dropping it to ~5HP or so. If that pet is using a Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic, it will receive a 75HP heal whether it chose to heal at ~20HP or if it heals following the 15 points of damage. However, if that pet has Leaded Elemental Vial and heals following the 15 points of damage, it will get a heal that is 15 hit-points greater than it would have received had it chosen to heal at the ~20HP mark. The 15 points of damage it received are essentially erased by the delayed heal.

Better healer @ >22HP Better healer @ <13HP
Depends on situation @ 13HP-22HP
Less prone to Cursed Elixir Less predictability in low-HP situations
Susceptible to all intel-based weaponry No intel-requirement needed, freedom to keep intel down

This discussion is still incomplete; an entirely different discussion on the damage inflicted on the heal turn(s) and adjacent turns could be discussed, but let's shift to another healing-related topic.

Cursed Elixir - All or Nothing

Cursed Elixir is perhaps the most powerful weapon in the L97 format. Why would I make such a claim? Cursed Elixir will influence battles, even when it is not present. Cursed Elixir is a gutsy play, and it is a play that helps level the playing field and makes every participant susceptible to losing.

In my personal experience being on both the sending and receiving ends of a Cursed Elixir, I can say that Cursed Elixir backfires more often than it helps; I am sure other experienced L97 battlers would agree with this statement. Cursed Elixir is the ultimate risk in a competitive L97 battle, but the possibility of a quick win makes it hard to avoid temptation to equip it.

In general, the first rule of using Cursed Elixir is to use it sparingly. Cursed Elixir needs the element of surprise to be successful, and overusing Cursed Elixir will certainly eliminate the element of surprise. Cursed Elixir is the secondary option; without a solid game plan involving a primary healer, a Cursed Elixir stands no chance. If a battler can't put up a fight while using a conventional healer, what reason does the opposition have to do anything other than prepare against the Cursed Elixir?

For Cursed Elixir to be a success, the opponent must be knocked down to zero hit-points with it. Any other outcome would be a failure. The 20HP heal Cursed Elixir provides will in no way match up to the opposing healer; draws are essentially out of question, unless both players happen to have a Cursed Elixir equipped. It is for this reason that I consider Cursed Elixir to be the most powerful and influential weapon in the format; it decides who will win and who will lose.

Make no mistake, Cursed Elixir usage is not random, and Cursed Elixir outcomes are not purely luck. Let's examine some strategy for using Cursed Elixir as well as some strategy for preparing against an opposing Cursed Elixir.

In most L97 events, battlers face off in sets of three battles or best two of three showdowns. The first battle of a set is a gutsy time to use a Cursed Elixir, but it is also at this time that an opponent might be least expecting the Cursed Elixir. Particularly in the case of two battlers who are unfamiliar with each other, battlers will often put together their generic set to get a feel for the opposition. The play in the first battle of a set is often more conservative; neither player wants to start out with a first battle loss.

As mentioned earlier, Cursed Elixir ensures that there will be a winner and a loser, and Cursed Elixir fails more often than it succeeds. With that fixation on failure, the opposition may assume that Cursed Elixir is not a likely possibility - who wants to set him or herself in a 1-0 hole heading into the second battle? This type of thinking leaves an opponent vulnerable to Cursed Elixir. The first battle is often a time for collecting notes and for preparing for the coming battles, but why not take a shot at setting the stage early on? The first battle may just be the best shot of any battle to take a shot with the Cursed Elixir.

Conversely, the second battle often features higher alert for Cursed Elixir, particularly for the battle one victor. Once a player falls behind in a set, they will sometimes be tempted to take a shot with Cursed Elixir to tie up the set. The battler who is behind in the set may feel they need to make the big play to catch up in the set. Because of this mentality, the leading battler will be more alert of the possibility of being CE'd.

Speaking of a battler being the in the lead, the battler in the lead may want to consider using Cursed Elixir themselves. Worst case scenario, the leading battler fails and the series is tied up. Best case scenario, the leading battler catches the trailing battler completely off-guard and clinches the set.

It is hard to CE the same player twice, even when speaking of multiple tournaments. Successful Cursed Elixir plays are rare; the victim will often remember when they failed to dodge a Cursed Elixir. With that said, it is easier to CE someone the first time than it is to do it again. When dealing with familiar battlers where Cursed Elixir has never entered the picture, be mindful of that fact. If you develop a reputation of never using Cursed Elixir, you are in the perfect situation to use Cursed Elixir.

Mismatches are another area where Cursed Elixir may see elevated usage. By mismatch, I mean that one opponent is believed to be superior to the other based on perception. If a battler feels they stand little chance to defeat the perceived superior opponent, they will be more likely to think of making the big play with Cursed Elixir. Underdogs can take advantage of their heavily-favored opponent's fears; I will elaborate on this idea further later in the article.

A battler's primary healer is important when evaluating the chance of a Cursed Elixir success. Full healer users are by far the most susceptible to Cursed Elixir, Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic users are improbable to be CE'd successfully, and Rejuvenating Jar of Brains users are unlikely to ever be CE'd successfully.

Since battlers with full healers attempt to prolong the need to heal in order to get a larger heal, they are obviously most at-risk for Cursed Elixir. Since Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic won't heal any more than 75HP, Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic users will often heal much earlier than Leaded Elemental Vial users, since they will not benefit from healing late in the battle. Rejuvenating Jar of Brains will not heal any more than 60HP, meaning Jar of Brains users have no reason to even venture into the Cursed Elixir danger zone.

Finally, the most important measures for stopping a Cursed Elixir involve in-battle inhibition. The above pointers involve assessing risk prior to entering a battle, but in-battle inhibition trumps all speculation.

Be observant of how the opposition plays in the early turns. A Cursed Elixir user will often play aggressively in the early turns; after all, they are playing for a quick victory. They have no reason to conserve hit-points and prolong the battle. If a battler played defensively early on in previous battles, but suddenly started playing aggressively in the first few rounds of the current battle, there is a possibility they may going for a Cursed Elixir win.

It can never hurt to keep a 'book' on the opponents you come across. You can use past battles, including the battles in a current set, to figure out the opposition's tendencies. You can also quickly become aware of breaks from the norm, such as suddenly aggressive play. Of course, not every move is a hint at using Cursed Elixir; in fact, battlers can use the fear of Cursed Elixir to their advantage, without actually having a Cursed Elixir equipped.

Rejuvenating Jar of Brains - Keep Your Opponents Guessing!

As merely the baseline healer of L97, Rejuvenating Jar of Brains won't bring the user championships, but upset victories are not out of the question! When combined with solid offensive and defensive options, Rejuvenating Jar of Brains will allow a cash-strapped L97 battlers to sneak out a win or draw every once in a while against tougher competition. Remember that Cursed Elixir is the ultimate equalizing force of League 97; for Rejuvenating Jar of Brains users, Cursed Elixir is a vital part of the game plan when facing more expensive healers.

As a Rejuvenating Jar of Brains user, you have little reason to worry about an incoming Cursed Elixir. Of course, this fact is due to Rejuvenating Jar of Brains' inferior healing power compared to Short Sleeved Yellow Tunic and Leaded Elemental Vial. These expensive healers offer up to several dozen more hit-points in healing; this difference can spell doom for a Rejuvenating Jar of Brains user. For this reason, the wealthier competition must feel reason to fear Cursed Elixir at all times. Only if you can force your opponents to heal earlier can you close the gap in healing ability and give yourself a legitimate chance in taking the battle.

Force your opponent to consistently heal at ~25HP-30HP by placing thoughts of Cursed Elixir in their mind. Unfortunately, not all Cursed Elixir gambles pay off, putting Rejuvenating Jar of Brains users at a disadvantage. These battles are necessary losses; perpetuating the threat of Cursed Elixir is the only way Rejuvenating Jar of Brains can become competitive.

Sometimes, playing the role of spoiler can be a huge reward itself. Plenty of valuable experience can be gained from playing L97 even on a modest budget, and all participants can take pride in the fact that they themselves can alter the course of a tournament with brilliant tactical play.

Closing Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading what could potentially be the first of many L97 metagame discussions. I appreciate any and all feedback, feel free to neomail me your thoughts. Keep in mind that everything stated in this article is essentially my opinion; for this reason, this article is no alternative to actual battling. Jump into tournament scene and try things out for yourself!

I had originally intended to cover Thyoras Tear in this article, but due to the length of the article combined with the length of a full discussion on Thyoras Tear in League 97, I have chosen to cover it individually. I don't always write such lengthy articles, but when I do, they are about the Neopets Battledome. Stay battling, my friends!

This article was written by: Penguinqwert