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Musical Criminology: A Comparative Analysis of Jihadist Nasheeds and Narco Corridos part 1
Moreover, law enforcement faces substantial hindrances to monitor and control online materials. How have governments responded to these social and religious musical media that glorify violent crimes? What are the implications of these for counterterrorism and counternarcotics strategies, bearing in mind that drug cartels often resort to narco-terrorism in much of the same ways as religious terrorist organizations operate, and, in fact, in many cases, the narco-terrorists are even more brutal and heinous in their tactics, shock value, and impacts. Yet, each type of terrorist—religious and narco-terrorists—still secures a loyal following. Their audiovisual tools for glorifying their respective causes, leaders, ideologies, and roles in society have made them extremely popular, especially among the youth. Each type of terrorist claims to fight against corrupt political elites and to stand for and support the masses, especially the poor, disenfranchised, and oppressed in society. In their propaganda, they use words like “oppression,” “persecution,” the “corrupt officials,” and the like, and they present themselves as the heroic warriors rising from among the masses to fight against oppression and injustice, but never mind the drug production, drug and human trafficking, and senseless violence that they perpetrate. And, in the case of ISIS and al-Qaeda, their violent repression and brutality against anyone who fails to accept their creed, leadership, and way of life are clearly paradoxical to their claims of serving as fighters against oppression and injustice. Thus, we see that both narco corridos and nasheeds have much in common, while at the same time they are contextually different.
The fact that narco-terrorists and religious terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda use songs at all is rather surprising. For the world of narcos, traditional Mexican and other Latino folk music and songs in Spanish provide an historical backdrop for their narco corridos. However, in more contemporary times, narco-corrido singers and composers have been increasingly inspired by American hip-hop and rap music and what has evolved into the “gangster-rap,” or “gangsta rap” genre. This is easily correlated to drug cartels and dealers, because many gangs engage in the buying, processing, and selling of illegal drugs, mostly in urban streets, but now the target market is also expanding into the more suburban and rural areas of the United States.
Groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda present nasheeds without music, hence a nasheed is a religious hymn sung a cappella, mainly in Arabic. According to their extremist interpretations of Islam, instrumental music and female voices are not allowed. Therefore, only male voices are heard in nasheeds, which are sung and chanted without any instrumental accompaniment, especially when it comes to jihadist nasheeds. This is conducive to the traditional oral traditions of poetry and storytelling in Arab culture and history.
In order to understand the modern usage of nasheeds and narco-corridos, one must first understand each genre’s history, concepts, and cultural contexts. Then, it is imperative to analyze each genre’s messaging, propensity for glorifying grotesque violence, and tools of dissemination. Finally, it is essential to assess the effectiveness of each genre’s lyrics, strategic use of propaganda, profiteering, and growth of the cult-like cultures and industries associated with them, which could not happen without their music increasing in popularity among the masses, despite their criminality.
Nasheeds: The Hymns of Jihad
In the Muslim world, the nasheed (plural, anasheed) is a song without musical instruments with lyrics that resemble hymns that praise God (Allah). The person who sings a nasheed is called a munshid. According to the Islamic Board website, in Islam “what is meant by Nasheed is a song that carries with it an Islamic belief, practice, etiquette, lesson, etc. They do take many forms. Some are just pure simple praises of Allah, some have very specific lessons related to Qur’anic passages, some are lessons of life stated in an Islamic manner; . . . a Nasheed should be voice only with no use of musical instruments.”1 Sometimes a simple percussion is used in the background to accompany the a cappella singing. Most nasheeds are sung in Arabic, but they are contextually known in comparable terminology in other languages, for example, as Islami nazam in Urdu.2
According to some music scholars, nasheeds evolved from seventh century Arabia, similar to Christian hymns or psalms, which were sung as “tributes to the spiritual life.”3 With the worldwide spread of Islam, “worshippers began using elements from their own musical traditions, including instruments, to sing their own songs of praise. This led to the growth of several new subgenres of Islamic music stretching across continents. Today’s youth have also incorporated the latest styles, such as hip-hop and pop music, to craft their own modern odes to Islam.”4 In his article, “Music of the Arab World,” Saeed Saeed explains the nasheed’s traditional contents, rules, evolution, and iterations:
Islamic music was originally defined by what it didn’t contain: no strings, brass, or wind instruments and no female vocals. The only instrument initially allowed was minimal percussion by an Arabic drum called the daf. This minimal form remains widely practiced in the Gulf and some other parts of the Arab world.
However, in places such as Turkey and Southeast Asia, several new styles of spiritual songs have developed. In Turkey, Sufi adherents incorporate music into worship. The most popular are services undertaken by Mevlevi Sufis, which include chanting and the famous whirling dervishes.
In Pakistan and Southeast Asia, the most recognized form of devotional music is qawwali. Performed by up to nine men, a qawwali group would often use instruments such as the harmonium (a type of keyboard) and percussion instruments including a tabla and dholak. The songs often run from 15 to 30 minutes and include instrumental preludes, repeated refrains and vocal improvisation. In recent times, nasheed artists from the Gulf have found innovative ways to overcome the no-instrument rule.
Albums by Sharjah’s Ahmed Bukhatir and Kuwait’s Mishary Rashid Al Afasy use studio trickery and manipulate backing vocals to sound like a synth piano or string section. In the West, groups such as America’s Native Deen and Australia’s The Brothahood use hip-hop music to get their spiritual message across to a new generation of young Muslims. The nasheeds in English by South Africa’s Zain Bhikha secured him a large following in Europe and the Middle East.5
Global jihadists have composed their own brand of hymns derived from this tradition of nasheeds, and they have been using the nasheed genre in their propaganda videos, audio recordings, and recruitment tactics. These chants “are now the soundtrack of jihad.”6 In his Euronews article, Thomas Seymat says that, “Nasheeds were not always so significant in the jihadi culture, their rise has been only recent. ‘There was an increase of songs after the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the diversification of the jihadi scene which was no longer represented by al-Qaeda alone’,” quoting Behnam T. Said, a doctoral candidate at the University of Jena; “’But an even stronger increase of new nasheeds could be observed during the last years within the context of the war in Syria and Iraq’.”7
Two scholars have focused on jihadi nasheeds: Behnam Said, whose 2012 journal article in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism explains how nasheeds constitute a significant “Contribution to the Study of Jihadist Culture.” Also, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi has been translating jihadi nasheeds from Arabic to English for many years and has posted his work on his website.8 Behnam Said makes a startling discovery in his article, stating that the songs represent an inspiration for many modern jihadists, for instance Anwar al-Awlaqi, whom the United States killed in an airstrike in Yemen in September 2011, made an “interesting statement [in] his pamphlet ‘44 Ways to Support Jihad’,” saying:
In the time of Rasulullah (i.e., The Prophet Muhammad) he had poets who would use their poetry to inspire the Muslims and demoralize the disbelievers. Today Nasheed can play that role. A good Nasheed can spread so widely it can reach to an audience that you could not reach through a lecture or a book. Nasheeds are especially inspiring to the youth, who are the foundation of Jihad in every age and time. Nasheeds are an important element in creating a ‘Jihad culture.’ Nasheeds are abundant in Arabic but scarce in English. Hence it is important for talented poets and talented singers to take up this responsibility. The nasheeds can cover topics such as: Martyrdom, Jihad is our only solution, support of the present-day leaders of Jihad (to connect the youth to them), the situation of the Ummah (global Muslim community) the responsibility of the youth, the victory of Islam and defending the religion. The nasheeds should focus on Justice rather than peace and strength rather than weakness. The nasheeds should be strong and uplifting and not apologetic and feminine.9
Hence, we see that jihadists have used nasheeds strategically in a concerted effort to spread their propaganda, legitimize their ideologies in the façade of religion, and popularize their genre to gain recruits and loyal followers. Nasheeds are “used by different Islamic groups who are engaged in battle, Sunni or Shia. But many new songs are produced by one of the most powerful actors on the battlefield: the Islamic State”10 (IS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS; and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL). During the peak of the IS’s power and ubiquitous presence on the Internet, especially Twitter, newly composed nasheeds would be announced with great fanfare. The IS has produced Hollywood-quality propaganda videos that play nasheeds in the background, sometimes providing the lyrics in subtexts on the screen. In addition, al-Qaeda has used nasheeds for its own propaganda purposes as well.
According to Behnam Said, “There are more nasheeds, which are not subsumed under one special category due to the reasons that they are less common in jihadi publications than other ones. These nasheeds are related to Palestine, prisoners, or current political situations.”11 He goes on, providing an example for a Palestine nasheed:
‘Sahm al-Ams’ (The arrow of yesterday) . . . by Abu Ali. This song has been used by Al Qaeda in its video ‘al-Quds lan tuhawwada’ (Jerusalem will not be judaized) from 19 July 2010 as well as in the ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib’ (AQIM) film ‘Adkhulu al-bab aleihim’ (Enter through the door against them), which was released in July 2011. The song’s text is about the loss of Jerusalem and Palestine and the loss of dignity, which can be restored only by means of fighting for the land. The text itself is not militant but is apparently attractive for the militant scene as we can conclude from the fact that core Al Qaeda and its branches used this song for their videos.12
In addition to finding Jihadi nasheeds in propaganda videos, you can also hear them on the Internet, and prior to the technology of today, there was “already a distribution [before the Internet] via song books, cassettes and videos but the Internet worked as a catalyst.”13 The Internet also provides forums containing audios (sautiyat) and sections for discussions “about the permissibility of nasheeds, [and] they are asking for specific songs they come across in videos, etc.”14 Seymat reports in Euronews:
In a few clicks, euronews found similar forums, web portals and even a subreddit, that host hundreds of MP3s of nasheeds, available to stream or download.
On YouTube, a search for “nasheed” returns 1.3 million results (and more than 80,400 for ‘jihad nasheed’), large parts of which use military imagery and claim geographical origins from Chechnya to Bosnia.
Militant Islamist groups have no qualms using Western inventions like the Internet to circulate their hymns: ‘Jihadists are very pragmatic,’ [Behnam Said] tells euronews. ‘You will find that skepticism more amongst purist Salafis, like Nasir al-Din al-Albani and many Wahhabi scholars from Saudi Arabia.’
Peter Neumann, a professor of Security Studies at the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London, sees irony in the situation. ‘There has never been an objection to using Western technology, for example, as long as its use is for a religiously permitted purpose,’ Neumann explained during an interview on NPR.
‘That’s always been the sort of irony and contradiction of this movement – that they are essentially trying to establish states that are following medieval rules, but they are taking advantage of the Internet’ and other cutting-edge technologies, according to Neumann, who is the director of The International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR).15
Nasheeds have been attached to jihadi videos, which often contain graphic, grotesque, and morbid imagery from battlefields, terrorist attacks, and executions that include beheadings. Sometimes nasheed music attributed to particular Jjihadi videos are banned “from video-hosting platforms, but in most cases not because of the nasheeds but because of the footage.”16 “But you can still access nasheed videos on internet platforms quite easily. The songs have spread so far and there are so many that it is not possible to control their spread via internet. Also, in many cases you need experts telling you whether the song is a radical one or not and why it should be banned or not. So this is a quite complex task.”17 Jihadi nasheeds convey a range of messaging, some specific, and some more ambiguous. Often, the “pictures or footage which illustrate the videos leave no doubt of its support for violent jihadist groups, at times the symbols used, such as lions, or scimitars, are ambiguous. Other propaganda videos do not contain violence but are posted by accounts claiming to be linked to ISIL.”18
The IS “has used nasheeds to spread its message since its founding, disseminating battle hymns online through its own media unit and other affiliated propaganda outlets.”19 Most IS nasheeds “are in Arabic, but the language of delivery can be as diverse as the foreign fighters who have joined its ranks.”20 In 2017, the IS released a new nasheed, entitled, “Dawlati Baqia,” or “My State Is Remaining,” which was “professionally recorded and has an Auto Tune quality to it.”21 The song begins:
My state is remaining, firing at the enemy.
Its soldiers shout that it is remaining.
Its path will not be eliminated; its light seeks to expand.
Like other ISIS nasheeds, this one was disseminated across the Internet, on encrypted messaging applications, and likely on the organization’s radio station—still broadcasting in areas under its control. The verses are a defiant reply to those who believe IS’s battlefield setbacks signal the group‘s demise.22
Law enforcement finds it difficult to monitor and police Internet content. However, YouTube, which is owned by Google, “has ‘clear policies prohibiting content intended to incite violence, and [we] remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We also terminate any account registered by a member of a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and used in an official capacity to further its interests,’ a YouTube spokesperson told Euronews. ‘We allow videos posted with a clear news or documentary purpose to remain on YouTube, applying warnings and age-restrictions as appropriate’.”23 Furthermore, YouTube has “given a number of government agencies ‘trusted’ flagger status to prioritize their reporting of dangerous or illegal material.”24 However, that might not suffice, since the Internet is global and the sheer capacity and capability to police it around the clock for each platform is impossible. Moreover, as Seymat indicates, “For video-hosting platform YouTube, it is a case of finding the right balance between freedom of expression and removing violent videos.”25
From the 1970s until the present, nasheeds have evolved in three contexts and purposes: (1) the “Islamic Resurgence” period as a means to counter cultural changes in Muslim societies and against various governments; (2) the anti-occupation context and causes, such as Hamas’s nasheeds against Israeli occupation, and militant groups fighting against Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan—the precursor to this has been the much glorified jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan; and (3) the “singing” or chanting of nasheeds as battle hymns, which include mourning for special martyrs and praising hymns that invoke jihadist and ideological leaders like Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Sayyid Qutb, and Samir Salih Abdallah al-Suwailam (aka “Saif al-Islam Khattab”), a highly-respected foreign commander in the Chechnya War (1994–1996).26
According to Behnam Said, the prominence of nasheeds grew in modern history based on the preaching of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian author, educator, Islamic theorist, poet, and a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the 1950s and 1960s, which means that the MB embraced nasheeds, within certain parameters, to invoke Qutb and praise him and his “martyrdom.”27 This phenomenon has mainly targeted internal changes within Muslim societies to repel secular Western cultures and ideas because they threaten Islamic principles and ways of life, as the MB interprets them. In general, most Salafists and Wahhabis do not find nasheeds incompatible with Islam, as long as musical instruments are not used. Salafism and Wahhabism are ultra-orthodox ideologies that usually inspire global jihadists and jihadist movements. Therefore, they use nasheeds to promote Islamism and Islamic principles and teachings and as morale boosters on the battlefield. The IS, which claims to follow Wahhabism, in particular, has popularized nasheeds in their videos and audios, and their videos frequently have extremely violent and graphic images.
The global jihadist movements use nasheeds strategically to connect “between the global jihadist scene to which [nasheeds] are helpful in creating a common narrative and building up a collective historical mind.”28 Jihadist nasheeds pose significant problems for counterterrorism—specifically countering terrorist ideologies—because they are “very widespread throughout the Internet, so that not only adherents of the jihadist movements but also their sympathizers can get in touch with this material easily, because you will find many hard-core nasheeds not exclusively on jihadist websites but also on sites that claim to provide ‘Islamic nasheeds’.”29 Scholar Behnam Said warns that, “by those websites people can come in touch with this material, which can, in combination with other factors, radicalize individuals on a rational and emotional level.”30 Hence, the lines are increasingly blurred between the legal dissemination of nasheeds that are used in peaceful worship and those promoting violent extremism and jihadism.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi translates IS documents and nasheeds for counterterrorism purposes. He provided the English translation from Arabic for an IS nasheed in November 2017 intended to boost morale following the loss of territories of the Caliphate, as mentioned above. According to Al-Tamimi,
The Islamic State’s Ajnad Media, which produces nasheeds in Arabic, has released a new production entitled Dawlati la tuqharu ("My state will not be vanquished"). As with the other nasheeds produced in recent months by Ajnad Media, this nasheed follows the same theme of the endurance of the Islamic State despite the loss of its core territories in Iraq and Syria. Below is my translation of it:
Cry the takbir [Allahu Akbar] and rejoice: my state will not be vanquished.
My state, for we have continued supporting it.
My state’s edifice is built from our blood.
My state’s banners proudly fly in Excellence.
On the day of the tumult, our soldiers’ horse does not slacken.
Their determination does not bend, their spear is not broken.
What noble men they are! For loftiness they have embarked.
In their efforts, our soldiers have bewildered mere men.
Oh our enemies, come forth, mobilize and issue the summoning call.
Gather your soldiers, in hellfire they will be burnt.
You will either be killed or taken prisoner.
Our swords have not ceased to drip with your blood.31
Thus, we see that nasheeds remain as paramount strategic tools for the global jihadist movement that includes al-Qaeda, the IS, and a host of other militant groups and cells. The nasheeds have penetrated the spirit and psyche of thousands, if not millions, of admirers and sympathizers who have taken the nasheed as bait. Counterterrorism efforts must consider tackling nasheeds without violating freedoms and rights and without offending religious sensitivities. These are not only challenging goals and aspirations, but given the nasheeds’ religious legacy, legitimacy, and history, they might be nearly impossible to achieve, especially since the Internet provides the ultimate platform for global reach and individual exposure to the “Islamic hymns.”
Similarly, drug cartels have been using narco ballads called narco corridos to promote narco culture, beliefs, messages, and paradigms. The next section examines narco corridos and their impact on what can be described as “adoring fans,” despite the narco stigma of criminality and reputation for excessive violence.
Narco Corridos: The Drug Ballads of Narco-Culture and Narco-Terrorism
In 2013, Netflix aired a shocking documentary entitled Narco Cultura, or “Narco Culture.” The film depicts the contrasting circumstances of drug cartels, or narcos, and a law enforcement forensics team (SEMEFO, a crime scene investigation service) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, which is located at a mere stone’s throw to the border town of El Paso, Texas. The film provides homicide statistics, stating that in 2007 Juárez suffered 320 murders; in 2008, 1,623 murders; in 2009, 2,754 murders, and in 2010, 3,622 murders; whereas, El Paso, Texas had less than eight murders per year.
The film opens with scenes and narrations about pistols, AK-47 and R15 machine guns, 9 mm handguns, beheaded and dismembered bodies, and, the narrator points out that, “sometimes the heads have messages” attached to them. These are the crimes of the narco cells in Juárez, and obviously, by looking at the statistics for homicides, these terrorists have increased their presence and bloody operations in the city. The local civilians suffer terribly from the narco gangs’ extortion, bullying, kidnappings, and grotesque violence. The locals yearn for peace, security, and stability, and some desire to cross the border to safer ground in El Paso. The film also profiles Edgar Quintero, a popular narco corrido singer who is married and has two small children.32 Quintero breaks into song on camera:
I was walking in peace around Guadalajara
The damn government started a battle
With an AK-47 but no bulletproof vest,
I cruised in my white truck
I hit one, my rifle never fails
With a good eye and a good pulse, my school fights back33
Edgar Quintero then talks on the phone with “El Ghost,” his narco benefactor. Quintero asks his employer what he wants in the next song. He gets paid a bundle of US dollars. He informs the viewers that he was approached in prison to be in a band called Buknas de Culiacan. In another scene, Quintero’s wife says on camera, “I like narco-corridos. People like hip-hop . . . There’s nothing better than narco-corridos, you know.”34
If you go to “Narco-Corridos” in Amazon.com, you will see the following:
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The corrido, or ballad, is one of Mexico’s oldest and most respected song styles, and also one of its most contemporary and controversial. The classic corridos are Mexico’s equivalent of the Spanish romances, the British broadside ballads, and the cowboy songs of the old West. Today, the form has been reborn as one of the most popular musics in Mexico and the U.S., but most of the corrido protagonists now are drug traffickers, and in Los Angeles or the border towns these narcocorridos are regarded by many people as a sort of Mexican equivalent of gangsta rap. While narco songs dominate the field, groups like Los Tigres del Norte also use corridos to tell eloquent stories of immigrant life, and to deal with the twists and turns of contemporary politics.
This album, designed to accompany the book ‘Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas’ (Rayo/HarperCollins) is the first to survey the modern corrido boom. It focuses on the work of the genre’s defining band, Los Tigres del Norte, with examples of other styles and artists showing the breadth and variety of the current scene. Like the book, it gives particular attention to the great corridistas, the writers who have made this medievaly-rooted form into one of the most exciting and relevant musics of our time. It has full notes on all the songs and artists by author Elijah Wald, in both English and Spanish.
This music is far more popular than most English-speakers can imagine. In the year 2000, Mexican regional music accounted for over half of all Latin and Spanish-language record sales in the United States—selling almost four times as many records as all the ‘tropical’ styles (salsa, merengue, cumbia) put together. It is hard to say what proportion of those records are corridos, but one of the five top stations in Los Angeles is playing corridos and narcocorridos virtually all day long, and corrido stars appear regularly on the Billboard Latin charts.35 [emphasis added]
In the aforementioned documentary, viewers see extremely disturbing scenes, including Quintero riding a bicycle with his child in tow, singing, “We’re bloodthirsty, crazy, and we like to kill,” and then he turns to his child and says, “Sing it!” The scene brings home the fact that narcos often use children to kill; some are as young as 14 and 15 years old.36 This is similar to the IS and various other militias and terrorist organizations, who increasingly see value in indoctrinating children and getting them to carry out their operations.
In his book Narco-Cults, Tony Kail describes the Mexican drug cartels as “a sophisticated breed of criminal enterprise,” adding that, “The growth of the cartel networks and their expansion throughout the world also produced extreme acts of violence in a campaign to spread drug distribution routes.”37 He cites the statistics that since 2006, “more than 60,000 people have been killed in cartel-related violence and more than 26,000 have gone missing”38 in Mexico. He adds,
Acts of violence, including public hangings, beheadings, and torture, have become trademarks of the cartel culture. Cartels publicly claim ownership of communities by flying ‘narco banners’ (narcomantas) or signs that display the cartel’s name and challenges to rivals in the area. Internet postings, including videos of beheadings and shootings, are used to intimidate communities and rivals. Bodies of victims are displayed as warnings to rivals and threats to local communities. There are increasing acts of violence toward innocent civilians as well as journalists covering the drug war. . . . Once small-time drug trafficking rings, many of these groups have evolved into international terrorist groups.39
Along with beheadings, hangings, and shootings, cartels are known for training recruits in disemboweling, filleting, boiling victims in vats (referred to as a “stew”), torturing, and flaying. Drug cartels have left rows of decapitated heads on public streets long before the IS began indulging in this grossly violent crime. Yet, despite these atrocities, narco corridos are extremely popular throughout Latin America and even in the United States.
Narco corridos–singing bands engage in concert tours in major US cities. Their concerts are packed with screaming audiences, who know all the lyrics by heart and sing along with the chorus. Often, the band members carry machine gun and bazooka props on stage while they sing and interact with the audience. The documentary shows a number of such scenes, one in which Buknas performs in El Paso, Texas, and gets the audience to sing along to these lyrics:
With an AK-47 and a bazooka on my shoulder
Cross my path and I’ll chop your head off
We’re bloodthirsty, crazy, and we like to kill
[The audience repeats]
We are the best at kidnapping; our gang always travels in a caravan, with bulletproof vests, ready to execute!
I’m number one, code name ‘M1’ . . . I’m backed up by El Chapo
My name is Manuel Torres Felix, sending greetings from Culiacan (Sinaloa)40
Performing in Los Angeles, lyrics by Los Twiins, Culiacan, who founded the Movimiento Alterado bands, include the following:
Sending reinforcements to decapitate
El Macho leads wearing a bulletproof vest
Bazooka in hand with experience
Wearing grenades, death is within
The girls take off their clothes
A private party like you can’t imagine! 41
On camera, one of the founders of Los Twiins says, “Hundreds of clubs play this kind of music in the United States;” people go to the clubs and “feel narco for that night. It’s an anti-system rebellion that makes a hero out of somebody that operates outside of the law.”42 Many people respect Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—who is currently in a federal prison in the United States—because of his “Robin Hood”–like reputation for helping the poor in Sinaloa.43 People get drunk and take drugs at these concerts, and they get into fights. Young kids really like the corridos, and the bands that perform them, and they are practically giddy for singers starring in Mexican narco films.44 In one scene of Narco Cultura, a young schoolgirl interviewed on camera says in Spanish, “I would like to be the girlfriend of a Narco, because it’s a way of life, not anything bad. . . . Well, okay, it’s something bad, but it’s a way of life. It’s something that’s a culture for us.”45 Walmart, Target, and all the major chain stores sell music CDs of narco corridos. The music “is becoming more professional,” says Adolfo Valenzuela of Twiins Enterprises.46
The top-selling narco corrido singer is El Komander, whose logo is an AK-47. He aspires to enter Hollywood. In addition, Mexico has an entire film industry that caters to narco soap operas and action films, but many narco singers and actors want to make it big in the United States, particularly in Hollywood films. Narco corridos are enormously popular throughout the Western hemisphere, particularly in the United States, and the drug cartels even use them to taunt law enforcement personnel. For example, in Juárez you always hear narco corridos playing on police radio frequencies, signifying that there has been an execution.47 The documentary Narco Cultura points out that the, now defunct, website www.narco.com provided songwriters with ideas; it was loaded with extremely violent images, including real dead bodies.48 The website contained videos and audios, including videos of cartels interrogating rival cartel members, as well as executions, all taking place to narco corridos playing in the background. They also make direct threats to the Juárez forensics personnel, SEMEFO, a number of whom have already been killed.49
Narco culture encompasses more than just drug production and smuggling and excessive violence; it also incorporates religious and cult-like beliefs, including the deification of some saints and drug lords, diverse iconography, spiritual roles of shaman figures, tattoo symbols, secret hand codes, and some even practice animal sacrifices and voodoo-like rituals. At least two Mexican cartels, La Familia Michoacana and Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templars), base their ideologies on Christian beliefs, symbols, and rituals. According to Tony Kail, “approximately 83 percent of Mexico identifies itself as Catholic (U.S. Department of State). Various forms and denominations of Christianity are widely accepted and embraced among the Mexican population. Drug traffickers who appropriate Christian elements into their practices may find that potential recruits feel as if they can identify with the religious aspects of the group if they are predisposed to this culture.”50 Consequently, the convictions of the recruits are deeply entrenched, which are reinforced by fear tactics through excessive violence that the narcos utilize to deter operatives from disobeying orders, snitching on the drug lords, betraying the narcos, and/or withdrawing from cartel membership.
Mexico is locked in a drug war that appears unwinnable. The security forces and police have to hide their faces in public, or else they risk getting threats, or worse, from the narcos. Also, corruption and co-optation of government officials, the police, and a host of other figures and business people throughout the social spectrum pose significant challenges and obstacles to effective law enforcement efforts to rein in the narcos. Moreover, the drug gangs, leaders, and operatives who are in prison are capable of continuing their narco-related operations even behind bars. Therefore, if physical containment of the narcos is so difficult in the real world, one can only imagine how incredibly challenging control of their messaging in the virtual world/cyberspace becomes for law enforcement.
Furthermore, the drug cartels are meeting the high demands for consuming narcotics north of the border in the United States. The top drugs of choice over the last several years in the United States have been marijuana, methamphetamine (Meth), heroin, cocaine, and most recently fentanyl, which has emerged with the opioid abuse epidemic. The drug cartels in Mexico and Central and South America are very savvy in adjusting the drug supplies to meet the contemporary demand trends. Thus, it is important to note that if the demand for illicit drugs is so high and the volume of consumption and addictive traits only reinforce the needs for the supplies, then there remains very few ways and means—if any—to tackle the popularity of narco corridos and narco culture. In other words, the drug consumption culture, statistics, and demographics have skyrocketed in the United States. These trends provide immensely lucrative profits to the narcos, who then use the revenue to push and market the narco culture in the form of narco corridos and narco films. The narco world and its culture, messages, violence, and criminal behavior are proliferating not only in the real world but also in cyberspace, and until now, there is practically nothing that law enforcement can do about it—especially for long-term impacts against these variables and forces. In turn, the public seems to love narco corridos, the bands that sing them, and the drugs that the cartels produce and traffic particularly to consumers in the United States.
In many ways, the narco culture, organizational structures, methods of operations, ideologies and beliefs, use of narco corridos to popularize the culture, use of excessive violence, and taking advantage of cybertools bear striking similarities to the IS. In the same vein, both the narco corridos and culture and the IS also have distinct differences. The next section comparatively analyzes the similarities and differences between the narco culture/narcoterrorism and the IS. In particular, the comparative analysis focuses on the similarities and differences between narco corridos and jihadist nasheeds.
Final Fantasy 7 Batch Review by Memel0rd
Tifa Tifa:Trust Master Reward : Soaring Heart (Materia) - Increase ATK (30%) when equipped with a fist Increase ATK (30%) when equipped with a hat STMR : Premium Heart (Knuckle) - 170 ATK, 3 Auto LB
Overview:Tifa, famous for having two larger... reasons.
Her base stats have the rounded split, which means that her base ATK isn't as high as others, though her passives make up for it. She has 100% unconditional ATK and innate Dualwield, which isn't exciting, but with her own TMR equipped she gains a total of 110% ATK and 50% TDW, which leaves her at 210% ATK total. On top of that Tifa comes with 50% HP/DEF/SPR, 20% physical evasion and sadly no status ailment resistances.
As many other damage dealers, Tifa has a lot of abilities that have little to no use at all. The following abilities are: Beat Rush, Somersault, Meteodrive, Meteor Strike, Zangan Combination. They are either bad regarding their modifiers, have unnecessary effects or outclassed by other abilities.
The first ability I'd like to look at is her Dolphin Blow. It's a basic 330% (480% at lvl 120) that imperils water by 60% and imbues herself with water for the next 5 turns. While you don't need the imbue part due to being a Dualwielder that can easily equip elemental weapons, you do want to use it early on for its water imperil if you don't have one.
Tifa's main chaining move is Final Heaven. It shares the same frames with Divine Ruination, starts off as a 600% modifier and stacks up to 1100% (100% each). At lvl 120 its base modifier gets a 250% mod upgrade, which makes it vary from 850% up to a total 1350%. After 3 turns of using Final Heaven you will reach the maximum modifier.
However, you do want to use one of her CD abilities in between. Available at Turn 3, Seventh Heaven is also a 7-Hitter that sadly does not chain with the DR family, but in return has a 1340% modifier (1490% at lvl 120). This can be used every three turns and I'd recommend to do so as it needs no setup opposed to Final Heaven and has a higher modifier either way.
Her Limit Burst got a great GL upgrade, which makes Tifa stronger by quite a lot. It's easy to get to with 20 crysts and 100% innate hightide, has a 1450% modifier but sadly can't chain. What makes it so good is a followed up 5 turn 200% ATK buff, 100% water imperil and 74% DEF break. If you don't have a breaker or your breaker has weaker / no DEF breaks, this will be an even larger damage increase. The 200% ATK buff and 100% water imperil are great and will come in handy for her rotation.
Tifa has a second CD ability, but it's rather handy if you need self sustain on her than anything. It's available at Turn 1 and has a 5 turn cooldown, grants herself a 5000 HP and 100 MP regen for the next 3 turns as well as an LB fillrate buff, a 3 turn 200% ATK buff and a 2300% finisher for 1 use. Though you will likely use her as a chainer, making it rather underwhelming.
How does she fare in the meta?Tifa does decently and hits the second highest damage output as a True Dualwield unit in GL currently after 2B.
Her damage potential isn't as high as other current TDH units like 2B, Sora or Cloud KH, but for a TDW unit it was surprising to see her at the #4 spot of current physical chainers. Tifa's damage output starts out slow. In her rotation she first needs to imperil, then use 2x a relatively weak Final Heaven and then her Limit Burst. Thus the first 4 turns are merely to set herself up for what comes afterwards. She isn't the best to go into a fight with and FTKO it.
Her current weapon selection looks a bit lacking as she's using a 82 water ATK claw, but with the upcoming Folka event there will be a 125 ATK water knuckle which slightly increases Tifa's total damage output.
Other than that Divine Ruination frames are always great to have. In that regard though Tifa is getting hindered a bit. If you want to swap an element, the other knuckle options are quite underwhelming with low ATK or locked to old events. Thus it's not too far fetched to use Equip L Swords on her if you want to chain her with your Hyoh (for example).
Overall a solid unit, she isn't game changing but definitely more than serviceable for now. After the next large powercreep wave Tifa will become pretty bad due to not having AT frames and having lackluster damage output in comparison to future meta units. Until her enhancements, which we just got in JP, she won't be a strong unit for a long long time and in JP she isn't in the top meta either. If you pull for her keep that in mind please.
Build + Maths:
Tifa Build Dragon Claws (82 ATK, Water) Thor's Hammer (145 ATK) Prishe's Hairpin (40 ATK, 10% HP/MP) Hyoh's Clothes (28 ATK, 42 DEF) 2x Colorful Lei (90 ATK, 20% TDW) Soaring Heart (60% ATK) + 50% ATK, 50% TDW Past Regrets (60% ATK, -10% SPR) Martial Arts Mastery (50% ATK) ADV V (40% ATK/DEF/SPR) Stats with Titan 3*: 8598 HP 447 MP 1912 ATK 557 DEF 489 SPR
Tifa Damage ATK with 100% buff: 2016 LH | 2079 RH ATK with 200% buff: 2265 LH | 2328 RH Assuming spark chains Turn 1: [ 2016^2 x 4.8 x 1.3 + 2079^2 x 4.8 x 1.6 ] x 1.15 = 67339133 (Dolphin Blow) Turn 2: [ 2016^2 x 8.5 x 3.223 + 2079^2 x 9.5 x 4 ] x 1.6 = 440939973 (Final Heaven) Turn 3: [ 2016^2 x 14.9 x 3.445 + 2079^2 x 14.9 x 4 ] x 1.6 = 745961369 (Seventh Heaven) Turn 4: 2016 ^2 x 14.5 x 1.3 x 1.8 = 137900206 (LB) Turn 5: [ 2265^2 x 10.5 x 3.223 + 2328^2 x 11.5 x 4 ] x 2 = 845830746 (Final Heaven) Turn 6: [ 2265^2 x 14.9 x 3.445 + 2328^2 x 14.9 x 4 ] x 2 = 1172688441 (Seventh Heaven) Turn 7: [ 2265^2 x 12.5 x 3.223 + 2328^2 x 13.5 x 4 ] x 2 = 998682951 (Final Heaven) Turn 8: [ 2265^2 x 13.5 x 3.223 + 2328^2 x 13.5 x 4 ] x 2 = 1031752381 (Final heaven) Turn 9: [ 2016^2 x 14.9 x 3.445 + 2079^2 x 14.9 x 4 ] x 2 = 932451711 (Seventh Heaven) Average T1-9: 708171879 Average Rotation (T4-9): 853217739 [slightly higher second rotation] -> 1% lower than Sephiroth ( 715348407 ) but outdamages shortly after -> 14% lower than Lenneth ( 824,698,869 ) -> 19% lower than Cloud KH ( 876839099 ) -> 38% lower than Sora ( 1,143,081,268 ) -> 43% lower than 2B TDH FD ( 1,238,969,188 )
Character Design: 6/10 Sprite: Hmmm/10 Chainer: 8.5/10 Trust Master Reward: 8.5/10 STMR: 9/10 Arena: 3/10 Limit Burst: 8.5/10 Future Proof: 6/10 Free 2 Play: 9.5/10 Pay 2 Play: 8.5/10 Personal Rating: 8.5/10 Optimal Rating: 9/10
Vincent Vincent:Trust Master Reward : Past Regrets (Materia) - Increase ATK (60%) Decrease SPR (10%) STMR : Death Penalty (Gun) - 175 ATK, 2h, ~1.5x avg variance
Overview:Vincent, the edgelord himself. Or rather emolord. Vincent in his original game was a unique character who could transform into monsters and even got his own game. In FFBE he is a lot more... bland.
His base stats are great and his passives are the most exciting quality of his entire kit. He has 140% ATK with guns and 100% TDH innately as well as 50% HP/DEF/SPR. With his own TMR it gets even crazier as he goes up to a total of 240% ATK and 150% TDH while boosting his SPR effectively by 10% as well. There's a 100% dark resistance, too, which will be useful for the upcoming ele tetris trials. Vincent is resistant against poison, blind, paralyze and disease and has his own 100% beast + machine killer innately.
He even gets his own 55% fullbreak, which can be great if you just started playing FFBE and were lacking any form of breakers. As a damage dealer it can be beneficial for your team as well.
This is pretty much where the exciting stuff stops.
Vincent has 4 different multi-hit moves that are serviceable at best. His Berserk Dance, Beast Flare and Livewire have 500%~550% modifiers at level 120, which by our current standards is bad. Whereas his 15-Hitter, Splattercombo, has an 870% modifier at level 120. This could be pretty good if... he could W-Cast them.
Vincent is lacking W-Cast, which hinders him from being a good chainer but also limits his finisher capabilities by a lot.
He has only two finishing move outside of his LB. One AOE and one ST finisher. Chaos Saber, his AoE Finisher, is a 550% finisher (goes up to 750% at lvl 120). His ST option Gigadunk is a 670% finisher that goes up to 870% at lvl 120. Without W-Cast these are not strong.
His LB is a lot stronger than his vanilla options but still lacks in damage a lot. At max lvl it takes him 25 crysts to get it, boosts his own beast/machine killer by 100% and has a 1500% total modifier. Which, for a LB, is not high either.
Vincent's only CD move is available at Turn 1 with a 6 turn cooldown and does work somewhat well with his concept. It grants him a 5 turn 250% ATK/DEF buff as well as a 200% LB fillrate buff to help him maintain his LB at all times because his other options are simply worse. There's also the 100% beast/machine killer buff, but the LB would provide it, too.
How does he fare in the meta?Vincent does not do well sadly. Even if he is edgy, I do like him, but I can't say that I'm sold on his FFBE counterpart.
Vincent is a linear unit with no imperils and no imbues, which already can be a bad sign due to requiring a decent chunk of babysit. You can provide both imbues and imperils through external sources, but currently external imbues are not as easy to get by. He can use Sparky or a 2h fire gun from the Deus Ex collab, though more accessable to any player is the use of Verun's TMR alongside Machine Gun+. That way he'd only need an external imperil.
If we assume that you have his 250% ATK buff, you imbued him and you have a 50% imperil, his LB damage is still below Olive who has been around since the very first 7* batch! Considering he has effectively an innate 200% beast/machine killer he can be good to use them against these monsters, but other units who simply equip these killers will pull ahead quite easily again.
Vincent doesn't have enhancements in JP yet and so far will fall off extremely quickly.
Vincent Build Machine Gun+ (120 ATK, 1.5x variance) Prishe's Hairpin (40 ATK, 10% HP/MP) Hyoh's Clothes (28 ATK, 42 DEF) Craftsman Secret Book (11 DEF, 6 SPR) Marshal Gloves (40 ATK, 50% TDH, 2 Auto LB) Buster Style (100% TDH) Past Regrets (60% ATK, -10% SPR) + 40% ATK, 20% SPR, 50% TDH ADV V (40% ATK/DEF/SPR) Gun Mastery (50% ATK) Stats with Titan 3*: 8658 HP 421 MP 2188 ATK 605 DEF 459 SPR
Character Design: 2/10 Sprite: 9/10 Chainer: 4/10 Finisher: 6.5/10 Trust Master Reward: 9/10 STMR: 9/10 Arena: 7/10 Limit Burst: 6.5/10 Future Proof: 2~3/10 Free 2 Play: 7.5/10 Pay 2 Play: 4/10 Personal Rating: 6/10 Optimal Rating: 6.5/10
Cloud Cloud:Trust Master Reward : Buster Style (Materia) - Increase equipment ATK (100%) and accuracy (25%) when single wielding any weapon STMR : Ultima Weapon (Large Sword) - 180 ATK, 2h, ~1.3x avg variance
Overview:I wrote a review for Cloud upon his release where I talk about his 6* kit: https://brave-exvius.com/threads/unit-review-cloud-final-fantasy-vii.27897/
This will take all of his enhancements into account.
Cloud at 7* got barely nothing new to talk about. He got a ton of stats, especially from his GL upgrade, he gets extra modifiers on previous abilities and higher LB damage.
The best thing he got is his W-Ability, which gives his vanilla abilities basically double their strength, makes him a lot stronger in the Arena and makes it pretty easy to use him. Sadly he can't selfcap his own Meteor Rain chains.
Climhazzard starts off as a 550% modifier but at lvl 120 + his coming enhancements it reaches a total 1000% modifier per cast, which sounds pretty strong if dualcasted.
With his new CD move that's available at Turn 1 and has a 5 turn cooldown Cloud should be pretty strong. He buffs his own ATK by 250% for 4 turns, removes all ATK buffs and grants him an ATK Break resistance.
How does he fare in the meta?Cloud doesn't do well either.
He is as bland as Vincent with lacks of imbues or imperils. Though Cloud can W-Cast his abilities, making him naturally stronger and while he is indeed better than Vincent, in the finisher meta he is not very high up.
His LB after his 30% LB damage boost goes up to a total 3250% modifier, which sounds really strong though its last hit only takes 30% of the total damage into account, which reduces it to a 975% modifier on the last hit and 2275% modifiers on all the other hits. Many of them you will not be able to cap, making his LB a lot weaker than it actually is, unless you want to use him as a solo damage dealer.
Cloud can use the ele bow set, but since he's a finisher he'd have the time to imbue himself with Verun's TMR, since you mainly want them to burst.
His future isn't bright, his enhancements are already known through announcements and he isn't nearly at the top right now, which leads me to the conclusion that Cloud is not a great unit. Even for whales with Bahamut Tear there are better options out there. Though Cloud is a monster in arena!
Cloud Build Lion Heart (150 ATK, 1.3x variance) Prishe's Hairpin (40 ATK, 10% HP/MP) Hyoh's Clothes (28 ATK, 42 DEF, 30% ATK) Craftsman Secret Book (11 DEF, 6 SPR) Marshal Gloves (40 ATK, 50% TDH, 2 Auto LB) Buster Style (100% TDH) + 70% ATK, 50% TDH Past Regrets (60% ATK, -10% SPR) ADV V (40% ATK/DEF/SPR) Large Sword Mastery (50% ATK) Stats with Titan 3*: 10861 HP 553 MP 2338 ATK 555 DEF 443 SPR
Character Design: 4/10 Sprite: 9/10 Finisher: 7/10 Trust Master Reward: 9.5/10 STMR: 9.55/10 Arena: 9.5/10 Limit Burst: 7/10 Future Proof: 4/10 Free 2 Play: 8/10 Pay 2 Play: 6.5/10 Personal Rating: 6.5/10 Optimal Rating: 7/10
Sephiroth Sephiroth:Trust Master Reward : Masamune (Katana) - 150 ATK, 50% Doublehand, Octaslash (Sephiroth only) STMR : Twisted Hero (Materia) - Increase ATK (80%) and DEF/MAG/SPR (20%) when equipped with a katana
Overview:Sephiroth, the last unit for this overview. Will he do better than the others? Yes.
You can read his review upon his initial release from me here: https://brave-exvius.com/threads/unit-review-sephiroth-final-fantasy-vii.35376/
Sephiroth was already known as the swiss knife of chainers previously, but his 7* upgrades focus tremendously on this philosophy, which is great! With his new additions he will become a TDW unit for the timebeing. His own TMR boosts his ATK as well as the modifier of Octaslash, whereas later on his old chaining moves also get decent modifier upgrades that put them on par to many earlier 7 star chainers. Around ~700% for most of them. He gains more TDH and TDW, some ele resistance, a bit of everything really.
So what exactly are the new additions?
Sephiroth now has access to the Quick Hit family as well as the AT family!
While his Quick Hit abilities, Consuming Light and Descent into Darkness, aren't that nice to use, they are still usable. They have both a 690% modifier but imbue him with light / dark, depending on which one you use. This means that you have to either use dual element with your other Quick Hit users or swap their elements to match Sephiroth's, which shouldn't be hard since he comes with his own 60% / 100% dual imperils.
His AT move got a slight upgrade in GL to stack up way faster and even got a small modifier boost! These are great news because the AT family is pretty much the future of FFBE chainers in most cases. Supremacy starts off as a 700% chain and stacks up to 1300% (100% each)!
How does he fare in the meta?Sephiroth is in a very similar position to Tifa damage wise, but has access to a ton of chaining families: Divine Ruination, Onion Slice, Octaslash, Quick Hit and Absolute Mirror of Equity (AT). This trait makes him so good and handy to use in many situations while he brings a good amount of innate bulkiness, some ele resistance and very high dual imperils, making him overall a better unit than Tifa.
His future for quite a while will be good. For now he is at a good spot, his enhancements should come soon that grant Sephiroth W-Ability as well as a T-Ability counter to boost his damage output quite a lot and always has his access to the chaining families. Later on his damage will become significantly worse in comparison and he will fall off, though his human killer sort of helps him a bit.
Build + Maths:
Sephiroth Build Lightbringer (FFBE) (135 ATK, Light) Masamune (150 ATK) + 50% ATK, 20% DEF/SPR Prishe's Hairpin (40 ATK, 10% HP/MP) Hyoh's Clothes (28 ATK, 42 DEF, 30% ATK) 2x Colorful Lei (90 ATK, 20% TDW) Awesome Swordsman (30% ATK, DW) Hero's Vow - Dark (60% ATK, 50% LB fillrate) Past Regrets (60% ATK, -10% SPR) Large Sword Mastery (50% ATK) Stats with Titan 3*: 8637 HP 547 MP 2111 ATK 455 DEF 379 SPR
Sephiroth Damage ATK with 100% buff: 2230 LH | 2245 RH Assuming spark chains Turn 1: 2230^2 x 6.8 x 3.223 x 1.3 + 2245^2 x 6.8 x 4 x 1.6 = 361026373 (The Heavens Wept) Turn 2: [ 2230^2 x 7 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 8 x 4 ] x 1.6 = 449923653 (Supremacy) Turn 3: [ 2230^2 x 9 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 10 x 4 ] x 1.6 = 569257223 (Supremacy) Turn 4: [ 2230^2 x 11 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 12 x 4 ] x 1.6 = 688590792 (Supremacy) Turn 5: 2230^2 x 23 x 1.15 x 1.8 = 236759769 (LB) Turn 6: [ 2230^2 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 4 ] x 13 x 2 = 969585253 (Supremacy) Turn 7: [ 2230^2 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 4 ] x 13 x 2 = 969585253 (Supremacy) Turn 8: [ 2230^2 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 4 ] x 13 x 2 = 969585253 (Supremacy) Turn 9: [ 2230^2 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 4 ] x 13 x 2 = 969585253 (Supremacy) Turn 10: [ 2230^2 x 3.445 + 2245^2 x 4 ] x 13 x 2 = 969585253 (Supremacy) Average T1-10: 715348407 Average Rotation (T5-10): 847447672
Character Design: 7.5/10 Sprite: 9/10 Chainer: 9~9.5/10 Trust Master Reward: 8.5/10 STMR: 9.5/10 Arena: 6/10 Limit Burst: 8.5/10 Future Proof: 8/10 Free 2 Play: 9.5/10 Pay 2 Play: 9/10 Personal Rating: 9/10 Optimal Rating: 9/10
The Final Fantasy 7 units don't get as much love in FFBE as many want them to.Vincent was expected to be bad by many and yes, he is. He lacks a lot of the qualities that current meta units have and looks like an outdated unit. He could have been the first 7* unit or one of the first to fit well in the meta, but he missed his timing. Maybe his enhancements will make him great, we will see. Though his TMR and STMR are pretty damn good. Tifa is in a good position right now as a DR chainer with high TDW damage output, but will fall off over the time to a point where she shouldn't be used in content, though that's pretty far away. Her enhancements make her viable again, but the DR family isn't as prominent in JP anymore as it used to be and her damage is below the other current TDW meta units, thus she's not gamebreaking by any means. Cloud falls in pretty much the same niche as Vincent where he is mostly used as TMR / STMR fodder, though does make for one strong arena unit. Sephiroth is the best unit out of this batch. He currently matters, he will matter for quite some time and even during Akstar's reign can be used as a perfectly fine chaining partner at any point.
Though frankly, I wouldn't recommend pulling on either FF7 banner unless you have some sort of personal interest in them.They can be skipped easily.
Time to sit back