A martini glass in black and white

Haiku Katana: a Retro Review

2023-09-05 // IOTM Retro Review

Katana so old / Reputation precedes it / Foes in a jumble.

Okay, okay, I'm bad at haikus. Sue me. This one is an old mamma jamma, and here we are, going to talk about it!

What does it do?

Crush your enemies / perform seasonal attacks / tranquilize your mind.

The Haiku Katana is a 1-handed sword. That's something that was mildly relevant due to iron palms, way back when.

Enchantments are: +15% Muscle, Weapon Damage +50%, +5% chance of Critical Hit, and allows the use of seasonal attacks. These attacks are, in sum:

  • The 17 Cuts: Deals 17 Damage and gives Haiku State of Mind
  • Falling Leaf Whirlwind: delevels monster
  • Spring Raindrop Attack: recovers HP and MP relative to weapon damage
  • Summer Siesta: creates an instant critical hit
  • Winter's Bite Technique: deals cold damage

How powerful was the Haiku Katana at the time?

You pause and relax \ contemplating your next move. \ And then you make it!

To modern eyes, the Haiku Katana does not appear to do very much that helps you ascend. To the eyes of past adventurers, it was received a bit warmer than expected; we implore you to go back and read old IoTM threads and look at the judgement people passed on day 1. With the benefit of hindsight, we can analyze whether or not the Haiku Katana was worth it in the 2008 meta. The Haiku Katana came out at a time where there were already 2 strong IoTM weapons: the Ice Sickle and the Bottle Rocket Crossbow. Ice Sickle was great for ascension as it added ML (and therefore stats), something in desperate need during early NS13, while the bottle rocket crossbow gave both +item as well as +meat making it the best farming accessory.

So, why did many of the top runners still pull a Haiku Katana? Often to the exclusion of the Ice Sickle? The answer is something that's somewhat startling in the modern game: generating MP used to be really really hard.

We're going to be linking this pretty often, but Kujjie's fastest ever SCNP log is one of the best historical documents about the history of KoL Speedrunning. In it, there is a deep dive into the math and criteria they used to compare the Haiku Katana vs Jewel-Eyed-Wizard hat and a dictionary or an Ice Sickle. There were precious few MP restoring sources in those days. This is an odd concept in today's ascension environment, where over half of the IoTM in 2019-2021 standard provided some amount of HP or MP regen, often in absurd volume -- just look at blue rockets, giving you 1000 MP per turn for 10 turns. But it used to be very, very rare.

Beyond the fact that MP regen was rarer, combat was also considerably more expensive in terms of MP:

Kujjie 2/581 (fastest at the time)2009-05-2417.9
Pantsless 2/763 (fastest < 20 skill ascension)2009-04-2218.5
Lyft gold star LKS2020-08-137.6
Lyft gold star QF2021-08-1410.2

The reason for the greater MP/combat is the differences in combat suite. Back in the late aughts, the only realistic combat strategy was shieldbutt + noddlebutt to kill high ML monsters. Looking at the above runs, it took approx 1.3 shieldbutts/combat to kill the monsters. Compare this with today, where its quite rare that a competitive ascension needs to do anything but cast a saucestorm or swing a cleaver to kill a monster.

The dual impact of combat being significantly more expensive and MP being more scarce meant that a fraction of a speedrunner's pulls had to be allocated purely for meat to be able to afford buffs and combat. Until the Haiku Katana, that is. A single Haiku Katana pull not only made your run much easier to play, it potentially saved you other pulls that would have been required for meat to fund your buffs and combat.

What have you done for me lately?

As we often note, most of the old "simple" IOTMs have been considerably outclassed by more recent IOTMs, as the basic enchantments of IOTMs have increased in power over time to help account for the changing game. Where a fairy/leprechaun combo was once an item that cost two Mr. Accessories, the 2018 Cat Burglar (as one example) did both -and- provided extra functionality for additional optimality for the price of just one Mr. Accessory. This maxim applies in spades to the Haiku Katana, which is outclassed relatively hilariously in each of its enchantments, largely by items that are incidental to ascension:

  • +15% Muscle -- Outclassed by the Dented Scepter (+50%) & the Lead Pipe (+100%), both incidental summons from broadly more powerful IOTMs
  • Weapon Damage +50% -- Outclassed by the ebony epee (+100%) & the Loathing Legion Chainsaw (+100%), as well as Carol of the Bulls (+100%)
  • +5% chance of Critical Hit -- Outclassed by the V for Vivala Mask (+10%) and the Kremlin's Greatest Briefcase (+10%)

The key with old IOTMs is rarely in the enchantments -- it always boils down to uniqueness. Does this IOTM provide something unique among its peers, that cannot be replicated easily in an ascension or farming context?

Pleasantly, for the Haiku Katana, the answer is actually yes! Most of the Haiku Katana's attacks are useless, but Summer Siesta's instant critical hit is actually quite a useful tool in a farming context. In 2017, TPTB introduced the mafia pointer finger ring, which allowed clever farmers to effectively launder critical hits in combat into increased meatgain. The pointer finger's equation still has not been fully spaded, but in its most common use case (farming barf mountain) one pointer finger ring activation is effectively 500 meat, which makes the pointer finger ring (if you can guarantee a critical hit) an accessory worth roughly 200% meat drop. The challenge then becomes actually guaranteeing a critical in every combat -- this is extremely straightforward for Seal Clubbers through the use of Furious Wallop, but every other class has issues with this. TPTB have reprinted the "guaranteed critical" effect just four times:

  • The Haiku Katana's "Summer Siesta" combat skill (requirements: Haiku Katana equipped in one weapon slot)
  • The Operation Patriot Shield's "Throw Shield" combat skill (req: OPS equipped in offhand)
  • The Seal Clubber's aforementioned Furious Wallop (req: being a seal clubber)
  • The Retrocape's "Kill Me" combat skill (req: gun in the mainhand, cape in the back slot)

From a farming context, every equipment slot is valuable; ideally, if you can auto-crit without giving up equipment slots, that will make you more meat in the long run by the +meat enchantment you get to throw into that slot, which means Clubber often ends up being a relatively good option for long-term aftercore farming. But of the other three options, Haiku Katana is actually still the best-in-slot for guaranteed crits; Retrocape requires locking down two more equipment slots to access the pointer finger's meat, while the OPS requires cutting out one of the most valuable slots in the farming game (due to the Latte Lover's Member Mug and the Kramco).

Now, is it ascension useful? Absolutely not. There is no good reason to pull it in-run in the modern meta. But being the best-in-slot equipment for a rare mechanic goes a long way, and unlike the Ice Sickle, the Haiku Katana continues to be wielded by large swarms of farmers in the modern game.

What's the take, Jake?

The Haiku Katana was not a revolutionary item, but it was a novel one. It also has been a hilariously controversial one. Note that the KOL Wiki page for the Haiku Katana (even after all these years) is -still- written in full Haiku. This may seem like a very small, tiny joke. It is not. It is the result of a knock-down drag-out argument in the KOL Wiki discussion page for the Katana, full of increasingly angry people yelling at each other. The argument covers the definition of a Haiku, a proposal to write the entire page in 1337-speak, angry people claiming others are illiterate monsters, and (finally) a contentious vote that results in several people actively leaving KoL and the wiki. It's absolutely incredible. No content we bring you can replace the completely baffling fury of this argument. Please read this bizarre argument. It's worth your time.

In sum, though:

  1. How powerful was the Haiku Katana at the time? 3/5; relatively good, though in a somewhat niche way
  2. How powerful is the Haiku Katana now? 2/5; useless for ascension, but pointedly best-in-slot equipment for a useful farming trick
  3. How flavorful is the item? 3/5; the IOTM itself is reasonably solid, but the wiki argument is a guaranteed 5/5
Article contributed by Captain Scotch & 3BH