Some experienced players have played against me and noticed I play Jaina a lot and I know some players on these boards are much more qualified than me to write this guide, but I have not seen any of them write it, so now it falls to me.
So there are some main topics to cover and I think those will be here.
The next reserved post will cover some very difficult character match-ups for her.
The last reserved post might have a Q and A section or something (I am not fully sure yet), and right now this is a work-in-progress and so it will probably take some weeks to finish this.
Ok so if this interests you then I strongly recommend playing Jaina against Yomibot first. Yomibot is much better at grasping the valuation side of the game without having to worry too much about reading opponents (this goes with any character), and it is very rare that AI is as good as it is in this game. I always play against hard Yomibot and EX characters can be good opponents. If you want a good challenge for Jaina play against EX Argagarg or EX Persephone.
This guide assumes you understand the basics of Jaina.
I will probably not be touching up on any beginner basics for Jaina in this guide.
Ok, now to cover character-specific advantages:
This is a very simple innate to use, but optimizing its use takes more experience of the situation it seems.
Generally early on I recommend buying back attacks whenever possible. Jaina has a nice cushion of HP to not worry about losing since she can’t buy back Aces and Queens until at 35 HP or below. Overall when she can buy back Aces then she can probably Ace attack a bit more often. I say this because if she is consistently losing enough Ace attacks then she is probably going to lose the game anyway, so I like to try to lose in a way where at least she goes down fighting.
Please bear with me as I still have not fully optimized this yet, but here goes with what I know so far:
Your main options with this are to use it on a 2-5, a 6, sometimes a Q, sometimes throw with 7, 8, 9, 10. The situation depends on it. Generally if they have more cards then probably 2-5, if they have less than 7 cards then probably 6. One time I did use Unstable Power and blocked (I probably wanted to make sure I got a card), but generally that is a bad option. Also, you have to actually hit your opponent to get the aces and not take the 7 damage. Vendetta can Acrobatics out of it, and this will cost you 7 HP of life.
If I have a red 4 or 5 this is probably my favorite to use Unstable Power on. Even if they block I usually get a card except against grapplers, 3-4 chip damage, and the 5 goes through Rook and Troq’s K (Windmill Crusher or Longhorn Skewer). In end-game with enough Smoldering Embers this can often contribute to a checkmate situation.
Sometimes opponents react to Unstable Power by playing a 3-5ish speed attack, so that is when 2 is good for Unstable Power, as that will hit through a mid-speed attack, and if you do hit with a 2 you can combo into something if you have enough ammunition.
Rotating to dodge means that their attack out-speeds yours and you need to rotate. Almost always on rotation I will play a slow 9 or 10 throw for knockdown, especially since a hit with Unstable Power will give you 2 Aces, and Aces are much easier to take advantage of if your opponent is knocked down.
If your opponent is likely to block (they have < 8 cards or you play them a lot and they like to block in this situation) then 6 is what you can play Unstable Power on too. It doesn’t have as much of a kick as the 2-5 though as you can only get 15 damage with it pumped. Often times your cards are more valuable in hand than as pumpers, and of course pumping with 10s is a nice way to get them in discard pile faster, but sometimes you might need a 10 in hand for a throw, especially against Block or Dodge heavy characters.
If you are throwing with this as your Unstable Power card then that means you are expecting a Block or Dodge to come up and you want the opportunity to get some extra damage in while throwing. I recommend very rarely doing this (maybe 10% of the time, use your own judgement), because often you will just be happy with hitting with the 6 and getting the aces. However, there are times when you have plenty of damage in your hand you want to inflict and/or you do not have a 6 and you want to throw here.
You will do this very rarely. This is really probably Match-Up specific. Midori first followed by Troq or if maybe you don’t have a 2-5 in hand which is rare as a Jaina player really.
This is a special match-up play against Midori because he can Glimpse of the Dragon through your 2-5 if you rotate it into a dodge, and Q will beat Dragon moves.
This is rather straight-forward: If this is in your discard pile and your opponent dodges, then they take 2 damage per Smoldering Embers in your discard pile. It can be countered but that is only an issue in checkmate-type situations (this is something to be aware of when against Setsuki, Grave, or Argagarg).
The real issue here is how early do you want to get 10s in the discard pile, as Jaina’s blocks are all on 7-10, and these are also her better throws.
So early game if she has one or two 10s and maybe another throw then you can block with a 10 without fear, as you really don’t care as much if they throw it. If you suspect a throw is coming you can Q with 10 pumper if the situation calls for it. Your 6 Throw can get 10s into the discard pile, so use discretion when doing that, as Jaina has less blocks than other characters, and she needs her throws.
Smoldering Embers makes it possible for Jaina to win a game without throwing, although this will probably not work against opponents who know what they are doing. It is still worth mentioning this, as I did employ this kind of strategy against @hartley in IYL recently…
Valerie was especially susceptible to this because she often wants to go on offensive, and her throws already out-speed Jaina’s throws, and she will almost always be able to out-speed Jaina’s throws either with Burst of Speed or the throw already out-speeds Jaina’s throw. Jaina can simply attack a throw-heavy Valerie and do great because Jaina can get 20-30 damage combos consistently.
Here is the real frustration when playing with Jaina: What opponents do when Jaina powers up for Aces:
Jaina has some of the easiest access to Dragon Punches (Attacks < 1.0 speed). Good opponents know this and like to dodge when Jaina powers up for Aces, but they also know you might throw, or they might have a move that out-speeds or counters your Ace attack.
So here are the probable counters for your powered up Aces (note that some of these counters beating throwing too):
Grave: Dodge or Q (Dragonheart) or blocking
Midori: Dodge or dQ (dragon Queen) to get you to use 2 Aces
Rook: Blocking or special Blocking (Entangling Vines or Stone Wall) and his AA (Wall of Vines) will make you consider using 2 Aces.
Valerie: Dodging or Q (much more likely to dodge probably)
Lum: Ace Dodge (Blackjack) or Block and his Q will out-speed a single Ace
Jaina: Dodge, Unstable Power, Q
Setsuki: Q, Dodge, rarely block, Q and Dodge can result in her continuing her combo game
Degray: Ace Dodge, K
Argagarg: Ace Bubble Shield, Dodge, he might use 2 Aces forcing you to consider using 2 Aces
Quince: Lots of Dodges, Spins, Patriot Mirror
Troq: Dodge, his Q ties with a single Ace
Menelker: Q, Dodge, both options are dangerous because him winning combat here will probably cost you a card.
Gloria: Dodge, her 3 Aces will beat 1 Ace.
Vendetta: Dodge, Acrobatics
Onimaru: Dodge, Final Authority
BBB: Dodge, his AA attack ties with your AA. Very probable to block if you are thinking to play Aces here.
Persephone: Dodge, AA beats single Ace, Q ties with AA. Her dodges are dangerous too because of Mistress Command or knockdown follow-ups.
Gwen: Dodge, Q, 10-block takes no chip and will heal her. I need more experience in this match-up.
Zane: Dodge, Maximum Anarchy (4 Aces), K (Crash Bomb) can slow you down if you hit with a single Ace and wanted to follow-up with more Aces.
Pretty much everyone here is going to Dodge or Block consistently in your games, and some of the direct counters to your ace will also beat throwing, so Jaina might have to think about dodging, but then opponents might throw you if they know this, creating that opportunity opening for your Aces. So overall, you won’t know for sure if you should attack there or not.
Ok, I think that might be enough information for the first post.