Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shoplight: Rockin Rooster Comics & Games

Fighter's Shoplight is a subproject that aims to distribute information regarding local shop and play spaces.

Rockin Rooster Comics & Games
Location: 5000 Glenway Avenue, Cincinnati, OH
Opened: 2 January 2007
Website: http://rockinroostercomics.com/
Rockin Rooster Comics & Games was founded in 2007 by Rick Brooks, former manager of Comic Book World Cincinnati, who broke off from the chain to establish his own shop. It was established with the help of his friend Rocky Carwood, who would later leave the partnership; his shoes would be filled by Dave Jackson. Originally a comic book shop, tabletop gaming entered the store just following its opening as the owners sought to branch out, with HeroClix and Yu-Gi-Oh! being among the first merchandise adopted. In accordance with its customer-centric philosophy--described by Jackson as "giv[ing] them a reason to come back"--the store has adopted different products primarily based on customer interest. Rockin Rooster was one of the earlier stores to import Cardfight!! Vanguard, having stocked it since its original Japanese release, and later on making the jump to English releases in December 2011.

The store has multiple play spaces, with both upper and ground floors available for play. Rockin Rooster's local cardfighters show exceptional strength, with several of them having placed inside the top 32 and top 16 in the 2012 Chicago regional tournament. A variety of decks see play here, with Shadow Paladin, Granblue and Nova Grappler making regular appearances, alongside more popular clans like Gold Paladin, Narukami, Oracle Think Tank and Kagerou.

Rockin Rooster has been supported by Bushiroad since September 2012. While previously it held weekly tournaments every Saturday beginning at 3:00 PM, in September 2013 this was moved to a new time. Tournaments are currently held on Fridays at 6:00 PM. Each tournament has a $5 entry fee; promo cards and materials are regularly distributed to participants. For more information, check Bushiroad's official shop listings for North America.

Additional Images



Rockin Rooster's ground floor play space, taken 29 September 2012.
Have a shop that you'd like to see featured? Try submitting an article!

Fighter's Shoplight Submission Guidelines

Fighter's Shoplight is a subproject of Fighter's Spotlight that aims to distribute information regarding local shop and play spaces. In addition to the stores tracked down here, the section is open to reader submissions; however, to meet certain standards of quality, there are regulations and guidelines that submissions must meet.
  1. General requirements: To qualify as an acceptable submission, the store must carry the official Cardfight!! Vanguard Trading Card Game, and must have play spaces available to players. Submissions should include the name of the store, the year it was opened, the store's location, who founded it and some of its history. Stores which carry bootleg or counterfeit Cardfight!! products will not be accepted for submission.
  2. Additional information: It is also recommended but not required that if the store has a website, its URL be included in the submission. If the store receives support from Bushiroad, please include that information in the submission. Photographs of the store and/or its interior are also recommended, so that readers will get an idea of what the store will look like from the inside.
  3. Use of information: When submitting information, please understand that you will not be compensated for your submission. You will be credited for your information in the citations, but your submission will not be included as-is; it will be edited to fit the website's format before publication. It is to the editor's discretion if attached photographs or other images, will be used in the final page.
That said, please send your completed submissions to vanguardunitedstates@gmail.com

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Analysis: Leon & Aqua Force

Ride 90 raised a number of interesting points about the Circuit's current mystery man, Souryuu Leon. Like Ren before him, Leon arrives at the center of a general arc shift that leads towards the answers to this season's questions. His introduction bring with it a number of important points from which we can glean clues toward this season, most tellingly the history of the Souryuu line.

Spoiler warning: Season 1 and Asia Circuit spoilers follow.


Leon phrases his family history as "a fairy tale." This is an important point to take note of, because it points out that the history of the Souryuu family is just as legendary as Aqua Force itself. The tale's basic narrative describes an event that actually happened, but the specifics of how it happened may differ significantly from reality. The entire text of the tale is given below.

"It's a story that took place long, long ago. There were rivalries between several clans here on Cray, and history told the tales of their conflicts. But then their longstanding state of chaos came to an end.

A clan with the mighty power of righteousness appeared, overwhelming the other clans, taking over Cray, and enforcing strict discipline. This absolutely invincible armada was Aqua Force. Because of Aqua Force, the now-orderly Cray entered an age of peace.

And then, my predecessors, the Souryu people who wielded the Aqua Force power, gained power in our world, until they controlled the Seven Seas.

However, these days of glory, which they thought would last forever, suddenly came to an end. All of the Aqua Force soldiers disappeared. No one knows the details of what happened.

The repercussions of the disappearance of that clan extended to this world. Aqua Force's power was lost. As a result, the Souryu people were driven away from the Seven Seas. Somewhere along the line, the very existence of Aqua Force became a legend. Only my family, the last of the Souryu, knows the truth about Aqua Force as we pass it down through the generations."

Several key points are made within Leon's "fairy tale." First, the Souryuu family itself is just one group of remnants of an entire ethnic group, the Souryuu people. And second, this is "ancient history"--old enough that Doctor O points out that he never even saw Aqua Force within his own lifetime up to now, old enough that Leon spent his entire life with Aqua Force sealed. And the style of ship shown in the flashbacks is even older than that, being a Chinese junk rig that dates back from the Han dynasty, opening the possibility for the Souryuu-Force dominance to have taken place as early as 2000-1800 years ago. While this is a far cry from how Aichi explained Vanguard in the first season as being just the game that gets the most of their attention right now, it does provide some sense of scale for how far back the Souryuu line is intended to go. Thematically their history is a classic exodus of an ethnic group, similar to how the Ainu inhabitants of Japan were driven north by the South Korean immigrants that would become today's Japanese, or to the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

Third, statements regarding the state of Cray. Leon notes that before Aqua Force's first control of the planet, rivalries between different clans had arisen. Although the anime does love to go on about clan-based clashes, most of the conflicts seen in the card lore are between nations, and the flashbacks accompanying Leon's narration seem to reflect that. The units fighting all belong to the Dragon Empire, United Sanctuary, Star Gate, Zoo or Magallanica; their individual conflicts in these scenes also line up, with Megacolony units fighting the Nova Grapplers (some of whom have ties to the Dimension Police, Megacolony's extradimensional enemy), the Megacolony fighting Granblue (border nations, although Magallanica's status as a physical "country" is dubious) and the Dragon Empire fighting whomever is available (how they are breathing underwater is an open question.) This is interesting because after the Force was sealed but before the Royal-Shadow civil war came about in BT04, these nations were in similar political positions. Dragon Empire was seeking to expand its borders (primarily into the US that they were rammed up against), the Dimension Police and undercover-Police-in-Nova-Grappler that turned up in BT03 and 02 were fighting Megacolony, and Zoo's only opponent was once again, the (at the time) two Magallanica clans. It seems that these conflicts are Cray's natural state, and without any governing force to stop them, the different nations go right back to fighting one another.

Now, what did the Aqua Force accomplish? Nation-clan unity. All of the different clans, and nations as well, obeyed Aqua Force's concept of justice and strict discipline, organizing the entire planet of Cray under one banner. And what did the Royal-Shadow-Kagerou coalition force accomplish? The very same nation-clan unity. As Takuto observed in ride 66, "You'd think this army would be able to fight and vanquish any enemy." Both unifications ended with an outside party sealing the clans responsible for leading Cray. Yet this force made no immediate moves after breaking the armies apart, seemingly satisfied that the planet was once more divided. The outside party that created these seals seems to wish only to preserve Cray's perpetual war between the divided nations, possibly out of fear for what a united army could accomplish against them. The mass invasion seen toward the end of the first season, and the subsequent sealing of the Royal Paladins, Shadow Paladins and Kagerou seems to be a drastic measure taken in response to the clan leaders becoming too powerful--both the Royals and Shadows were seeking to unite the world, only with the Shadow Paladins operating an autocratic society over a federation, so had the outside party merely sealed the Royal Paladins, Blaster Dark's faction would have stepped in right away to fill the power vacuum. And had they both been sealed, it would create a power imbalance between Dragonic Overlord The End and the rest of the world, letting the Dragon Empire (easily the largest of any individual nation) unite Cray in the same way as Aqua Force.

Aichi's conclusion is that Aqua Force disappeared in the same way that the Royal Paladins did. Along with the previous idea, this point clears Aqua Force's name. In the months leading up to BT08's release, Aqua Force was--based on its card lore as a once-sealed set of heroes suddenly returning without explanation to impose their "justice" on Cray--speculated to be the invaders from rides 63-66 that the Royal Paladins led Cray's coalition force against, and were subsequently sealed by. The idea was that AquaFo had somehow unsealed itself by trading the other clans' heroes in. In addition to their lore and the timing of their release coinciding with three other clans being sealed, it would naturally make sense for a new antagonist's clan to be the culprit.

However, since AquaFo was sealed in the same way as Kagerou, the Royal and Shadow Paladins, then there is no room for them to be the culprit as the means of sealing is clearly not in their hands. Furthermore, for AquaFo to also have been sealed by this means and be sealed by it beforehand requires more "masterminds" than if the same group sealed all four clans. Ride 63 clearly posits this mystery antagonist as a solidified, united front rather than two warring factions. Trying to integrate two masterminds makes the theory too complicated.

The trouble with ruling out Aqua Force is that they were the strongest candidate until now, especially given the importance given to the dragon silhouette in OP03 and Aqua Force's introductions of Navalgazer and Blue Storm Dragons. In terms of other Ito productions, on first viewing the silhouette in my mind immediately recalled the Wicked Eraser from Yu-Gi-Oh! R, much in the same way that Phantom Blaster Dragon evoked The Wicked Dreadroot or The Wicked Avatar's Obelisk/Dreadroot forms. Closer examination reveals prominent horns and legs on the silhouette more in line with a traditional Chinese dragon, putting the validity of this comparison into question. Put simply, the best mysteries have their answers in plain site. Cardfight's previous season relied on that model for conveying information about Suiko, but its overarching storyline required less digging, as answers to questions like Takuto's initial appearance were instead squirreled away in subsequent episodes. In all likelihood, we're back to the sealing party being a clan that we've never met, and will still not meet until later episodes.

Point four is the added stress on Earth and Cray being connected. Suiko wanted to manipulate Qualia bearers into synchronizing Cray and Earth in the first season, to cause the cardfights on Earth to permanently shift the power balance on Cray, although she did this without a particular favorite as to who the balance would shift towards. Leon's narrative however, describes the Souryuu people from falling into decline after Aqua Force was sealed, going from unrivaled dominance over the seven seas to a fringe island people shrouded in legend. This is the first time that we hear of Cray affecting Earth on a large scale, as opposed to Earth affecting Cray, and establishes that the connection runs both ways. Leon seems to be manipulating this principle in the reverse of how Suiko did--to bring his family back into power over the world, he cardfights with the Aqua Force clan that they are connected (possibly synchronized to), so that the Aqua Force on Cray will become unsealed and rule over Cray once more. If Aqua Force dominates Cray, then it follows that the Souryuu family dominate Earth.

As a closing point on Souryuu history, Leon does not actually make reference to "cards" in the history. The way in which he talks about Aqua Force as wielded by the Souryuu people refers to it as "the Aqua Force power" suggesting that rather than their dominance coming from a card game, the Souryuu people had some other means of connecting themselves to Aqua Force. Given that the series openly mocked the idea of an ancient card game back in ride 84, it's unlikely that Cray's previous interactions with Earth were in the fashion of a two-thousand-year-old TCG.

Note that Leon is lying in paragraph 4. First he states that "no one" knows what happened, but when explaining his motivations he references a "seal," suggesting that there is an unstated portion of this "fairy tale" that refers to the Aqua Force being sealed, which as mentioned is a fact already corroborated by the card lore. In paragraph 5 he says "My family [...] knows the truth about Aqua Force" expanding the scope of knowledge to the entire Souryuu family. All we can really conclude from this is that Leon is not an exclusively reliable narrator. In addition to this, the Souryuu people have a prophecy regarding Leon himself, recorded here for reference;

"When a star in the eastern sky glitters, a Souryu child shall come. From infancy, that child will be embraced by the wind and proclaim justice throughout the world. All nations will witness the second coming of the Souryu. That's a prophecy passed down to my people, the Souryu. And I am that Souryu child!

I will be victorious at this VF Circuit and make it known to humans all over the world...that Aqua Force has come back! That's when the seal will be lifted, and the day will come when my family once more holds sway over the world."
The star in the eastern sky may be a reference to the end of season 1, which does indeed have a "star" (actually "His" inner circle) rise up in the eastern sky (the sky of Japan.) Confusingly, the part stating that a Souryu child "shall come" does not seem to refer to the birth of the child, but instead to them coming to the land of that eastern sky, Japan.

The verb used in the prophesy itself is 来る kiru, which in Japanese usually refers to the direction of coming or approaching to a place, not to coming into existence as is common in English. Interestingly, the prophecy itself is chronologically the first Earth-recorded mention of contact with Cray and of PSY Qualia, which the Souryuu family knows as "the wind." Compare Cray's legends from ride 64, in which Qualia is only implied through mention of "vanguards" that would determine the outcome of conflicts on Cray.

"When those two activated their Psyqualia for the first time, they became the Vanguards told of in our legends. The ones who will deal with the chaos on our world and lead us down the correct path. The true power of Psyqualia involves synchronizing those who possess that ability with our world. [...] Similar situations have happened in the past. But each time, the former Vanguards were leaders..."
In these last two lines, "He" made the first known mention of the Souryuu family in the series, suggesting the connection between a human vanguard becoming a leader on Earth coinciding with a clan's wartime dominance on Cray.

Unlike Aichi but more similar to Ren, Leon is able to use his Qualia outside of a fight, visually represented by a clouded blue sky--even in indoor locations. Leon is repeatedly framed with these representations throughout the episode, even when his Qualia isn't otherwise indicated as active, and he uses the wind not just to guide his cardfights but also to determine who his partner in battle will be, and to thrust Aichi into a vision of Cray similar to the one that Takuto brought him into back in 66. This use of a backdrop visual is the first time that the Circuit has used other indicators to signify a use of Qualia; back in season 1 a gathering of flames had this position. This implies that Leon's Qualia is in some way on the same level as Ren and Aichi's once were, building up his power and reinforcing the Messianic imagery that the Souryuu legends characterize him with.



This is also comparable to how OP03 frames Aichi in a similar sky toward the end, making these two out as rival counterparts.

Leon says that he's going to test Aichi to see if "it"--presumably the Qualia he sensed from Sendou--was real. Why does he want to know? Why is it important to Leon that Aichi have PSY Qualia? What we need to keep in mind is that in a fight between cardfighters with PSY Qualia, Earth and Cray become synchronized. This was Takuto's reasoning behind distributing Qualia to Chris, Aichi and Ren, but we aren't entirely clear on what Takuto's long-term goal is. Leon's known goal is the total revival of the Souryuu family's rule, and by necessity the revival of Aqua Force. Synchronizing their fight will therefore allow the Force to defeat the Gold Paladins, giving them considerable weight as a faction and solidifying their strength by showing them to the inhabitants of Cray as stronger than the inheritors to the Royal-Shadow coalition. It's important to Leon that Aichi's Qualia be active because without it, this is just another cardfight.

Also note that because both Kamui in 83 and Leon in 90 identify Aqua Force as being used exclusively by the Souryuu family, Gillian and Charlene are most likely either Leon's sisters or cousins, as they would have to be of the Souryuu family line themselves to have access to the clan. Their presence in flashbacks to Leon's childhood backs this. The Souryuu history implies that the once-massive population of Souryuu people has now dwindled down to a small family, but based on the actual size of that family, the sisters may either be very distant cousins created through selective marriages to guarantee "Souryuu purity" across generations, or direct siblings intended to assist him in revival of Souryuu power. The direct siblings case is less likely due to their differing surname (Chen) but the girls being cousins or half-sisters to Leon is possible. The emphasis on "strict discipline" and the general Naval theme of Aqua Force, taken into account with their connection to the Souryuu family, suggests that Souryuu children were brought up in a strict environment that emphasized obedience to senior "officers" or family members, with Leon and his sisters/cousins being raised for the sole purpose of fulfilling the Souryuu legend. And Leon's determination to fulfill this legacy can be glimpsed from a young age in these flashbacks, making him out as someone who believes wholeheartedly in the revival of the Souryuu.

On closing notes, Leon uses the phrase "my" Vanguard, putting him more in line with the manga cast, and also separating him from characters like Aichi, Kai and Ren, who were presumebly influenced by Daigo.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spotlight: Brandon Bastianelli

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe. 
Bastianelli is at the left, in his crowning match with Connor Murphy.
Brandon Bastianelli
Birthdate: April 18, 1989
Titles Won: Chicago Regional Champion
Current Status: Chicago Regional Champion (2012)
Deck Type: Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon), Dimension Police (Great Daiyusha)
Brandon Bastianelli is the former 2012 Chicago regional champion, having attended the event alongside his teammate Brandon Smith in a bid for the national title. Smith and Bastianelli are close friends, Bastianelli having been introduced to the game by Smith at their shop. Bastianelli was originally a Royal Paladin cardfighter, before discovering Duke's self-standing ability and later introducing it to Smith.

Following his original success, Bastianelli became a Dimension Police cardfighter on the English debut of BT04 to train for the eventual release of Ultimate Dimensional Robo Great Daiyusha, promising to run the deck in Worlds 2013. After some deliberation, he did run the Great Daiyusha deck on his return to Chicago, but was eliminated early. Since that time Bastianelli has expressed interest in running the new Link Joker clan for the 2014 tournament season, citing personal appreciation of control-based decks.

Decks and Play Style
Bastianelli's Gold Paladin deck was co-developed between him and Smith, with Bastianelli having developed the early build, later dropping it for the Royals while Smith fine-tuned it. As a result of their diligence, the finished deck would eventually top both the Canadian and Chicago regionals, with no modifications made between appearances.

The deck uses an eight critical, four draw build to try to maximize output critical, forcing the opponent to race Bastianelli for damage and activate his limit break more easily. The extra critical triggers also help with Duke Dragon's self-standing skill, as it retains the effects of the triggers upon standing, mitigating the relative lack of threat that it poses upon losing twin drive. Falcon Knight was passed over for Gwydion as his draw, most likely because Gwydion's 5000 power can still push Duke Dragon up to 16000 or Gigantech up to 17000.

Sleygal Dagger and Little Battler, Tron both work as alternative boosters to one another, Tron turning Duke Dragon into a 21000-power column while Dagger can achieve similar numbers by repeating her counterblast. Due to the popularly questioned integrity of the 2012 championship's double elimination single game format, the most widely agreed upon point about this deck is that its main feature is the ride security. Unlike other cardfighters, Bastianelli's use of the Vortimer ride chain gives him seven extra cards to parse through for his grade 2 and 3 ride, helping to ensure that he does not miss a ride or on his initial twin drive.

This Spectral Duke build also emphasizes Viviane more commonly than contemporary builds, compensating for the steep loss in advantage that Duke Dragon's powerful limit break confers. Aside from this, Viviane's main use is to force the opponent to defend at times when they would normally allow the attack through, as the threat of a superior call is oftentimes more intimidating to the opponent than the actual call itself. His deck is somewhat weakened by the absence of Tripp, as without the ability to unflip damage, any counterblast that is used is permanently lost. This weakens his capacity to survive the latter parts of a match, since without any counterblast the deck's skills are cut off from use, but as it's inherently difficult to survive a well executed Dragon rush, it's rare for the deck to reach that point in the game.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Chicago: The Dark Knight
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-EB03, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer (FVG)
x4 Silent Punisher CT
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Flame of Victory CT
Grade 1
x2 Sleygal Dagger
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x1 Little Battler, Tron
x4 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
x3 Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane
x4 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer
Grade 3
x4 Spectral Duke Dragon
x3 Gigantech Destroyer

Monday, September 24, 2012

News: VGE-TD03 & 04, VGE-BT05 Announced

Over the weekend Bushiroad unveiled the upcoming English releases of trial decks 3 and 4, for the Nova Grappler and Oracle Think Tank clans. Theirs is the most celebrated release yet to come out of 2013, as these decks were once a point of contention for many cardfighters who felt that the clans' focal TDs were being passed over in favor of limit break. Set for global distribution on January 23, 2013, each deck features exclusive cards that have already embedded themselves in specific Japanese builds across the sea.

 
Gold Rutile of VGE-TD03: Golden Mechanical Soldier is noted primarily for his ability to unflip damage in the vanguard circle, unflipping one damage with every successful rearguard attack landed. This combos well with Super Electromagnetic Being, Storm, who innately unflips one damage when his own attack hits, allowing up to two cards to be turned face-up per attack; that ties back to Rutile's other skill, which stands a rearguard for a counterblast 2. So in some setups, Rutile can create a four-attack combo while losing no counterblast in a turn.

The TD is additionally noted for its Oasis Girl exclusive, who can repeat her counterblast 1 up to five times to gain +1000 power again and again, comboing with the aforementioned damage unflip skills, as well as other Nova Grappler unflippers like Claydoll Mechanic or Hungry Dumpty to create consistent lines of 20-25000 power.
VGE-TD04: Maiden Princess of the Cherry Blossoms has two similarly noted cards, Goddess of Flower Divination Sakuya and Dark Cat. Sakuya returns all OraThin cards on the field to her fighter's hand when ridden, allowing the reuse of on-call skills and the free rearrangement of the field. The Goddess also continuously gains +4000 power on her fighter's turn if there are four or more cards in hand, making for an easy 21000+ vanguard line while also turning any draw trigger into an artificial +9000. Dark Cat is a more rearguard-oriented card, which lets all fighters draw one card when it's called. This advantage can quickly snowball for the turn player even in spite of how it contributes to the opponent's hand. Both traditional OraThin and Tsukuyomi fighters have something to invest in, as TD04 is a viable starting point for any new player, and its exclusives are valued for their ability to shave cards from the deck to reach a Godhawk-Tsukuyomi built stack of triggers.

The deck also includes four alternate artwork Lozenge Magus heal triggers, both as a First VaNguard for those cardfighters who prefer a traditional OraThin build over Tsukuyomi or CoCo, and as a starting point for other Think Tank decks.


Alongside these Bushiroad also confirmed VGE-BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades for a February 23, 2013 release. The set is praised for its introduction of a new Blaster-oriented play style for the Royal Paladins and a concentrated vanguard Dragonic Overlord deck to Kageoru, while giving the Shadow Paladins further definition. However, these same qualities have been faced with criticism for bringing about the crossride mechanics that now pervade the Japanese scene, using 13000-power vanguard defense as bunker tactics against assault, while also rendering most 6000-power boosting units heavily mollified. How crossride will interact with the currently-omnipresent limit break mechanics and Gold Paladin dominance in the EN scene is a highly anticipated topic. The set remains a controversial part of Cardfight's history, having come in to interrupt a competitive scene that at the time was regarded as the most balanced format since BT01.

Aside from these, BT05 will also bring the English scene the original Neo Nectar cards, a new clan focused on growing one's field like a garden while also being the cheapest competitive deck available. The new ninja clan Murakumo will see its proper introduction here, despite originally debuting in EB01 of the Japanese scene.

WCS2012 Chicago Photos

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WE'RE HEEEERRRRREEEEEE

We will be updating live from the Chicago qualifiers all day with mostly photos but also short text updates. Everything will stay on this post, to keep it contained.

(Pre registration line at about 8:40am)


(9:00am our first view of the room. )
They opened the doors and brought the pre reg line inside to check in. There maybe 100 pre regs!


(9:30am a better view of the room, as pre regs fill out their deck forms)
They just let in the onsite registrants. It seems to be an equal number to the pre regs.

9:40am: Forgot to mention earlier that word is that Canadian Vanguard Champion Brandon Smith is here today. Obviously, he can participate, however if he were to win today, the qualification for would go to the next place champion, since he is already qualified for the North American championship. We will keep an eye out for him and try to get a picture.

(Got my ID badge)
Score card and deck list are turned in. Matches are supposed to start in about 15 min but that probably won't start on time.


9:55am: found Brandon, got an autograph and photo. Getting ready to actually card fight!

10:26am: match seeds are happening. Matches will start momentarily.

10:35am (Dietrich, the marketing manager for Bushiroad, and JD, the head judge for today, officially getting things started. )

10:40am: really wishing I could mobile upload video, but photo will have to do...

(1,2,3...STAND UP THE VANGUARD!)

10:54am WON MY FIRST MATCH!
11:25am second match starts.
11:40am I won my second match, against a player I know from my hometown.
12noon: Third round is starting. This is the first round after people could be out if they lost the first two rounds.

(Here are photos of the two vendor tables just outside the match room.)

(Photo of round three play at a block A table)
I lost my third round match.

12:35pm: round four is announced. Blocks are being merged from four (A-D) to two (A/C and B/D).

1pm: open play registration is starting for those who didn't compete today, or have been eliminated.

2pm 32 people remain and the sixth round is about to begin.

4pm the final eight have been announced and their decks are being checked by judges now.



4:05: reports are coming in from fellow players that there are some fishy things going on with the top 8 choices. One player reports that a fellow player with the same record, but whom he beat, made it but he did not. Another player went undefeated until the seventh round and did not make the cut to the top 8. Judges are defending the decisions based upon the win-loss percentages, but those are largely made up from who your opponents are, and those were decided by the judges as well... The story is developing but we have reached out to contacts for more details.

Interview: Brandon Smith & Brandon Bastianelli


Shortly before the award ceremony of the World Championship 2012 Chicago Qualifier, our team was able to interview regional champion Brandon Bastianelli and his teammate, Canadian regional champion Brandon Smith. Below is a transcript of the interview, which is also hosted above with photos from the event. This interview was taken at around 1824, as the tournament went more than two hours over schedule and the closing ceremonies were over around 1830.

Interview Transcript
CFP: Brandon and Brandon, you two are not only from the same team...
Smith: Same team.
CFP: ...but you are also both now qualified for the North American national championship, and if you take this far enough, you could take that to a world title. How do you two feel?
Bastianelli: I feel fantastic. I don't know why, but it's probably the best thing that's ever happened, ever. Like, not only am I getting to go on a trip that I really wanna go on, but I get to go there with a bud. Like, you can't get better than that. It's a dream.
CFP: And what about you, Brandon?
Smith: I've been excited because I won, but I came even though I had my championship title already, to just let my teammate get a chance and Brandon was the one that worked diligently, playtesting night and day and day and night. So it's a really really sweet end to see that you know, my feeling is that we worked so hard together and it actually pays off in the end. And you know I'm honored to be the Canadian national, even though I'm from the United States but I'm just really really excited right now, especially to have a teammate in top two and then also a teammate in third and fourth place. I really like it but Brandon for sure will be there.
CFP: How did you two get into Cardfight?
Bastianelli: That's—
Smith: I got it. All right, a lot of people don't know this, but Cardfight!! Vanguard came out in roughly November of last year, they came out with the English version, the very second they came out with the English version I had my store owner spearhead the whole bringing Cardfight to America, so a lot of vendors like GTS and Ed Storey at Global Enterprises in New York, a lot of distributors besides Hammergirl, Hammergirl was like the beginning. But besides Hammergirl, we were like one of the first people. Our state probably had like a little bit of an advantage, cause we had it the day it came out. So, that's like how I started in Vanguard, and then I got him started in Vanguard. I taught him basically, not him everything he knows, but a lot.
Bastianelli: Even though I was slightly before you in playing Golds to begin with.
Smith: Yeah, true.
CFP: That's a very heartwarming story. What's the philosophy behind your deck?
Smith: My deck?
Bastianelli: He fine-tuned it, so...
Smith: All right, so I'm an Oracle Think Tank player originally, and I love the control and the draw aspects of the game, and I played against him in one of our tournaments. He was playing Spectral Duke, never heard of it, you know I'm just like new to it, he's like "It stands again." I'm like "Wait. This is broken." So, I decided to play the same deck, he ends up dropping it for a little bit--he plays Royal Paladins--he also made top 8 in Canada. But besides that point, so he basically introduced me to Spectral Duke and the Gold Paladins, I fine-tuned the deck and I went undefeated, and he's playing my build today and he went undefeated.
CFP: There have been various controversies regarding the double elimination format of tournaments, the single match nature of individual rounds, the alleged nonrandomity of the matchups, and how the top eight were determined. Do you two feel that any of these factors have hurt the legitimacy of the tournament?
Bastianelli: No, I don't believe that a game would ever come here--I don't believe that they would come here and not have a system. They have a system, but America's not used to [it.] We're used to best two out of three, or best of the Swiss format, we don't understand the inner workings of double elimination. The tiebreaker system is very weird in double elimination, and we've never even experienced it before until this game started because this is more of a Japanese style of tournament structure. So, I know they have a system. I know they wouldn't lie about it, that's stupid like no one would ever lie about--they have too much to lose by doing that.
Smith: Exactly.
Bastianelli: It's so weird to us, and when people don't make it, they get upset no matter what. So first thing they're gonna do is attack the judges.
Smith: Yeah. Like I feel very sorry for people who didn't make it, who were like X-1 and didn't make it, but it's a fact that not every X-1 is gonna get in all the time. Like it was a fact that I lost to him also and so did Kyle Warfield, and it was a fact that I might not have made it. I came in sixth place, I was expecting third or second and I was second with Kyle instead of third or second--I came in sixth. And just because it was double elimination, and the way tiebreakers work are different from most things that North Americans are used to, like I'm used to Konami Software, I'm used to Magic Software, but this is a little bit different, you know maybe later on down the road they might switch over to a two out of three format, so right now it is what it is, I mean it's brand new. At this point in Konami's tournament organized play, there was none. So we gotta take what we have, you know?
Bastianelli: Konami doesn't even hardly have organized play here back then. We're only what, not even--
Smith: Yeah, we're less than a year in playing Cardfight!! Vanguard--
Bastianelli: --and we already have a tournament that sends you across the country and then possibly across the world, for free.
Smith: Where Konami did not. So like with the advancement of play, I give Bushiroad and Cardfight!! Vanguard a very very very high plus, because of their being ahead of the curve, you know what I mean? I know it sucks for some people who didn't make it, and I feel sorry and I definitely can understand how they feel, but you know we can't be mad at the fact that that's what happened. I'm very sorry you know, like I apologize and I'm not even that far.
Bastianelli: And even to suggest that they possibly are lying about this system, that's just asinine--there's no reason for that--I understand that people are mad, but they would never do that.
Smith: Exactly.
CFP: Okay, it's great to hear that player input, we better wrap this up seeing as the ceremony is starting. Thank you for the interview, guys. This has been Brandon and Brandon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

News: Cardfight!! Vanguard 3DS

To much applause yesterday, subscribers to the video game magazine Famitsu were revealed an up-and-coming Spring 2013 3DS title, Cardfight!! Vanguard Ride to Victory. The game is being developed by FuRyu, previously known for the Tsukumonogatari PSP visual novel-RPG hybrid and the 3DS/PSP dungeon crawler Unchained Blades, and will be retailing for 5229 yen, about 66.82 USD. While information is scarce at this time and the game is allegedly only at 40% completion, it is currently known that it will recreate the experience of playing the tabletop game, but on a handheld console. If and how this will take advantage of the 3DS' glasses-free 3D is unknown at this time, but the announcement is drumming much excitement from fans. As Cardfight's publisher, Bushiroad Inc., has had its hands in the video game market since before they turned their eyes to producing the CFV franchise, many have been waiting for this announcement since the anime debuted in January of last year.

While there are many questions in the air as to how the title will be executed, already we do have some answers. The game is to feature its own original storyline, but still based on the anime series, with the protagonist seeking to challenge Japan's fictitious pro scene and fight for the national title. Aichi, Ren, Kai, Shin, Misaki and Kamui have all been confirmed through screenshots or scans to be making appearances, but their exact role at this time is uncertain. Players will be able to use points earned in the game's story mode and free play to buy cards from the in-game Card Capital to modify their decks.

The current phase "battle phase" and inside of it "attack step" is listed in katakana at the top left; current number of cards remaining in deck, number of cards in the hand, cards in soul, and available counterblast are at the top right alongside a fighter's portrait. This setup is mirrored for the bottom left. Note that despite the season 1-inspired plot, Aichi is wearing his Circuit-era outfit. This pattern is likewise true for the remaining cast. Assuming that this screenshot comes from the 3DS' top screen, the hand seems to be shown on the bottom.

Other confirmed details are that the in-game shop will sell booster packs directly patterned off of their real-world equivalents. Noticeably, none of the screenshots or magazine reveals so far have shown any cards from after TD07; due to the game being less than halfway complete, it may be speculated that cards from BT07-08 will be included in the final product, depending on its date of release. Additionally, magazine scans appear to reveal a new, original character not present in the existing continuities.

This character may be a protagonist to embody the player in the game, if Aichi himself is not the protagonist.

While these initial shots look promising, there are many predecessors in the genre already pinning the fledgling game's shadow. As early as 1997 MicroProse's Magic: the Gathering had recreated the earliest TCG in computer form, boasting free character customization, accurate recreation of gameplay and an expansive overworld to explore. Hudson Soft's 1998 Pokémon: Trading Card Game featured similar depth of innovation by converting the experience into a portable game accessible to a broader age range, taking advantage of the programmed environment to include cards that did not exist in the real world. In 1999 Konami completed this early triumvirate of VTCGs with the last entry of the "Big 3," Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories, a PlayStation release frequently criticized for its inaccurate gameplay but lauded for its detailed graphical presentation--more akin to a visual novel than a VTCG as was established then--and for taking its own direction with an at-the-time incomplete storyline. Ride to Victory appears to follow a middle ground between the Memories and Pokémon patterns that were previously used in the Tag Force games, not sewing its plot from wholecloth but instead providing a different adaptation of a past storyline.

Aside from these early forerunners, Japan's domestic VTCG market is already flooded by purely virtual innovations based out of arcades that deal real trading cards for use with scan machines (Monster Battle Road, Mushiking et al.), and nearly as many handheld Yu-Gi-Oh! releases as Street Fighter II remakes. Despite the small amount of information presently available, there are already many expectations riding on Ride to Victory, and challenges that it must overcome in the highly competitive environments both domestically and abroad. Given how Bushiroad has handled similar challenges facing both its real TCG and the anime, the future is nonetheless looking bright for Victory.

In other news, a second Big Vanguard Fest event was announced for 2013. This event will take place on from 27 April to 28 April, in the same two-day style as the 2012 Fest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

News: VG-BT09 Clash of the Knights & Dragons

Set for a December 8th Japanese release, Cardfight's eighth booster set, Clash of the Knights & Dragons (竜騎激突 Ryuukigekitou lit. "Dragon Cavalry Clash" with the "Cavalry" being the same kanji from EB03) was announced yesterday evening. So far the set is to feature new cards for Murakumo, Aqua Force, Oracle Think Tank, Nova Grappler, Angel Feather, Great Nature, Narukami, Pale Moon and the Gold Paladins that its set image makes clear. Additionally, the possibility of unmentioned clans receiving support has been brought up in the ad itself. There will be 102 cards with 2 reprints from previous sets, 8 RRR, 12 RR, 22 R, 60 C and 12 SP-rarity cards.

The limit breaks of three key units are confirmed to play a role from the pack advertisement (アイチ、櫂、レオンが使う最強ユニットがついに登場! 限界を超越した三戦士の力がキミの手に!/ "The introduction of Aichi, Kai and Leon's strongest units! Hold the power of three warriors in your hands and rise above the limit!") Set 9 is being touted as an "all-star" pack that will reinforce multiple major characters' decks. As Japanese fans have been quick to note, set 9 seems to be a Circuit-era counterpart to set 5. Given that the set size is still BT06-on, and that this pack's season 1 counterpart was able to include support for ten clans with major support being devoted to five of those, BT09 leaves room for at least one or two more clans with major support for six in all or an equal division of support between all nine of the clans revealed. Gold Paladin, Narukami and Aqua Force are confirmed for major by the poster, while of the clans currently known Murakumo and Great Nature are arguably the ones most in need of updating. Since Nova Grappler and Oracle Think Tank are receiving their next updates in Infinite Phantom Legion and Celestial Valkyries, that leaves two slots open if the former approach is taken. Dark Irregulars is a possible unannounced candidate, as Tetsu will likely need to get screentime late in the season for his final confrontation with Kamui just as Asaka is bound to get the same for Misaki.

Other speculation is that BT09 will feature a crossride for Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel; given how similar speculation regarding BT08 and EB04 turned out, this may well be the case. The artwork definitely looks like Ezel, and Ito is credited for the illustration at the bottom right. His body armor also has aesthetic similarities to both Majesty Lord Blaster and the manga-exclusive Excalipetoza Blaster/Exculpate the Blaster (uncertain translations with no official name) possibly being a clue to this unit being its storyline equivalent. If the speculation proves correct, then this will be Sendou's first crossride, as Lord Blaster of the previous season did not meet the full criteria. While Great Daiyusha has certainly set a precedent through which 10000-power units can receive a crossride, the 13000 power of a prospective Ezel crossride would most likely be restricted by limit break, putting into question if it would really interact with the game in the same fashion as its season 1 predecessors.

Alternate speculations include that this Ezel be a darker counterpart for Takuto, or a simple alternate artwork reprint of Ezel. However, while alternate artwork cards have been issued in the past, they have only ever been cover cards in the set that their regular artwork debuted in. More interestingly this set's December release (set four days before BT05 was released last year) seems to suggest that the Asia Circuit will conclude in the same time frame as the first season, in March. As of this writing, that leaves around 28 episodes left in the season, for a 50 episode total rather than the 65 of the first season. While this is not concrete confirmation of the episode count, there is definitely a precedent for the inferred information.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fighter's Spotlight: Thomas Cassidy

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Cassidy is on the left, next to Doctor K.
Thomas Cassidy
Age: Unknown
Titles Won: Dallas Regional Champion
Current Status: Dallas Regional Champion (Reigning)
Deck Type: Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon-Ezel)
Thomas Cassidy is one of two out of 240 participants to have placed high enough at the 2012 Dallas regional to qualify for the 2012 world championships. A Texas native, Cassidy is noted for the upset he cemented by coming out as no less than the fifth Gold Paladin deck to qualify, completely beating out the audience-favorite Kagerou and Oracle Think Tank clans at his regional. This completed a shift in professional favor away from the traditional view of Royal Paladin and Kagerou dominating, to the Gold Paladins for the national title, while also creating a six-way Gold Paladin mirror match in the public eye.

Additionally, a minor controversy surrounds Cassidy due to cheating allegations surrounding the Dallas regional. Cassidy was spotted by eyewitnesses performing a second drive check while at grade 2, illegally adding a card to his hand. As this took place in a crowd of over 200 onlookers with six judges observing the match, the allegations can be difficult to believe but have been almost universally corroborated by those present. Furthermore, the video of the match has been deliberately kept from the public eye, allegedly due to presenting direct evidence of the second check. The cheat itself was reported as accidental and was not noticed by Cassidy himself. Regardless of the truth behind the alleged cheating, Cassidy has been officially recognized in writing by Bushiroad as the regional champion, effectively shutting the door on further investigation.

Decks and Play Style
Cassidy brought a Spectral Duke Dragon deck to Dallas, championing the deck's full ride chain for grade security while avoiding counterblast-heavy cards. This eliminates the need for Tripp and helps Cassidy press the opponent earlier by way of Providence Strategist; while the card has been mostly panned since its release, Strategist proves vital to Cassidy's play style because even though it cannot exceed 15000 power with the strongest rearguard boost available, every attack that it makes must be guarded to prevent him from gaining hand advantage. Furthermore, Strategist's conditions are easy to meet and Cassidy's personal customization of the build to include Tron plays into the ease with which Strategist's skill comes off, due to them having similar activation conditions. 16000 power lines were also unnecessary in the format that Cassidy fought in, due to the ever-increasing popularity of Garmore-based Gold Paladin, which had only 10000 power units in play.

The final nail sealing Strategist as a key card for his deck is his use with the Duke Dragon centerpiece. Each Strategist that goes off works towards offsetting the disadvantage that the Dragon's limit break creates, similar to Nemain's use in Shadow Paladin decks, and with two Strategists in play alongside Spectral Duke, the opponent feels required to block all four attacks of that turn even at three or four damage. With Duke benefiting from Tron's 10000-power boost, this turns prolongued games into mortal affairs for the opposition. Compare how Chiku Fumiya in Japan similarly applied Brave General, Zachary to score free damage with a unit that would no longer exist at the end of his turn, or Field Driller to offset Dudley Emperor's cost; the two decks employ similar hit-and-run tactics that counter their own disadvantages by cutting cards away from the field and drawing replacements.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Dallas: Vortimer the Strong
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-EB03, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer (FVG)
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Falcon Knight of the Azure DT
x4 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Silent Punisher CT
Grade 1
x4 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
x2 Little Battler, Tron
Grade 2
x4 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
x4 Providence Strategist
Grade 3
x4 Spectral Duke Dragon
x3 Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spotlight: Masuda Yuusaku/益田優作

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Masuda is to the right of Doctor O, holding the championship trophy.
Masuda Yuusaku/益田優作
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Tokyo Regional Champion, Vanguard Grand Prix National Champion (Senior Class)
Current Status: National Champion (Winter 2011)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Alfred-SSD, Galahad influence)
Masuda Yuusaku is the 2011 Grand Prix national champion, having made his debut in the pro scene during a troubled time when his clan's place as a competitive deck was in dispute. In stark contrast to Rikino's by-the-book approach to the junior cup, Masuda is today known for having innovated a deck that reestablished RoPala in the new format, cementing them as the clan of choice for many professionals to come. At the moment he is the subject of much interest in the west due to the ongoing world championship, and the English side of the game existing at roughly the same stage as Japan had in Masuda's time. Unlike Masuda, western cardfighters are approaching their first national events in a limit break-dominated format, once more putting into question how his deck can perform for the emerging EN scene.

Decks and Play Style
Having come into the Prix immediately following the restriction of Barcgal, as a Royal Paladin cardfighter Masuda faced the challenge of reestablishing a clan that had just been put into doubt. Opting to take the unproven but promising Galahad build, Masuda's set 3 deck eschews the Godspeed section of the line in favor of the Soul Saver and Alfred play set established by Shitakawachi, but with Palamedes replacing Bors as his rearguard attacker. Due to the inclusion of Galahad, Lien proved both unnecessary for consistency and forced out by the need to maximize his odds of getting off a superior ride. The deck's synergy is somewhat interrupted by RoPala's lack of Tsukuyomi-style stacking support, Tribulation's soulcharge 2 not being available due to Godspeed being excluded, and the numerous count of shuffle-based skills, but this is a deck where the Paladins are operating outside of their traditional comfort zone and Masuda has made the most of that by adapting it back toward their leading image.

Unlike his predecessors, Masuda's deck required zero maintenance in the transition from the regional to national level. Since there's no room for Toypugal and Marron could not be run in her full number, Palamedes is at less than his peak performance, and while Soul Saver helps compensate for this, had the Explosive Flames been capable of breaking 21000 power more regularly then Saver Dragon's soulblast would push that strength to another stage. His purely 10000-power grade 3s and Palamedes' lesser expressive force leaves the Masuda deck dangerously open to loss from defensive play styles and 20-25000 power rushes, cheaper and easier to maintain than 16-21000. While important for understanding the development and evolution of professional Cardfight, and undoubtedly the best deck that RoPala had available at the time, it's unlikely to see comebacks in modern Japanese play due to the development of the Blaster series.

Winter 2011 Regional Tournament, Tokyo Seniors Division
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, PR 0001-0036
Grade 0
x1 Future Knight, Llew CT
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
x3 Margal DT
x1 Drangal (FVG)
x4 Alabaster Owl CT
x4 Bringer of Good luck, Epona CT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x3 Little Saged, Marron
x3 Pongal
x4 Knight of Quests, Galahad
Graded 2
x2 Blaster Blade
x2 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
x2 High Dog Breeder, Akane
x2 Knight of Truth, Gordon
x4 Knight of Tribulations, Galahad
Grade 3
x3 King of Knights, Alfred
x2 Soul Saver Dragon
x2 Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes

Monday, September 3, 2012

Spotlight: Brandon Smith

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe. 
Smith is at the bottom right. Opposite him is John Pedro, the Canadian runner-up for 2012. Original photo by Cardfight USA.
Brandon Smith
Birthdate: July 29, 1986
Titles Won: Canadian Regional Champion, North American National Champion (2012), World Champion (2012)
Current Status: World Champion (Former, 2012)
Deck Type: Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon)
Brandon Smith is the former international champion and one of two out of 120 fighters to have qualified in Toronto to participate in the 2012 North American national championship. Originally an Oracle Think Tank cardfighter from outside Canada that later converted to Royal Paladin, he made the leap to Gold Paladin following Barcgal's restriction and used his experience from local play to rocket into the throne of the North American continent. Following this, he became the leading fighter in the world and the first World Champion in history. Smith was also instrumental in the early spearheading of Cardfight in the United States, bringing the game into Collectible Investments in the very first month of its release.

In addition to his victories at Toronto, Los Angeles and Tokyo, Smith participated in the Chicago regional while Brandon Bastianelli used their deck, but was eliminated in the top eight and came in sixth. During the North American Stand Up Challenge Cup, Smith used a Majesty Lord Blaster deck, but abstained from participating past the regional level due to a scheduling conflict with the on-site gunslinger event that he was running at the championship finals.

Smith competed using a Great Nature build in the 2013 World Championships, making top 16 at the Toronto regional qualifier and going 12-1 at Chicago; his one loss became the tiebreaker that set him outside the cut to top 8 without the chance to participate further. Despite being denied the opportunity to defend his title, Smith remained positive and continued to encourage others to play Cardfight!! Vanguard. His tenure as world champion ended with the close of the WCS2013 on January 12, 2014, with the title formally passing over to European cardfighter Almeida Stewart.

Decks and Play Style
Smith's deck was co-developed between him and Bastianelli, with Bastianelli having developed the early build, later dropping it for the Royals while Smith fine-tuned it. As a result of their diligence, the finished deck would eventually top both the Canadian and Chicago regionals, with no modifications made between appearances.

Smith adheres to the Spectral Duke Dragon style of play, using an eight critical, four draw build to try to maximize his output critical, forcing the opponent to race him for damage and activate his limit break more easily. The extra critical triggers also help with Duke Dragon's self-standing skill, as it retains the effects of the triggers upon standing, mitigating the relative lack of threat that it poses upon losing twin drive. Smith chose to use Gwydion over Falcon Knight for his lone draw, most likely because Gwydion's 5000 power can still push Duke Dragon up to 16000 or Gigantech up to 17000.

Sleygal Dagger and Little Battler, Tron both work as alternative boosters to one another, Tron turning Duke Dragon into a 21000-power column while Dagger can achieve similar numbers by repeating her counterblast. Due to the popularly questioned integrity of the 2012 championship's double and single elimination format, the most widely agreed upon point about Smith's deck is that its main feature is the ride security. Unlike other cardfighters, Smith's use of the Vortimer ride chain gives him seven extra cards to parse through for his grade 2 and 3 ride, helping to ensure that he does not miss a ride or on his initial twin drive.

Smith's Spectral Duke also emphasizes Viviane more commonly than contemporary builds, compensating for the steep loss in advantage that Duke Dragon's powerful limit break confers. His deck is somewhat weakened by the absence of Tripp, as without the ability to unflip damage, any counterblast that Smith uses is permanently lost. This weakens his capacity to survive the latter parts of a match, since without any counterblast the deck's skills are cut off from use, but as it's inherently difficult to survive a well executed Dragon rush, it's rare for the deck to reach that point in the game.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Canada
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-EB03, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer (FVG)
x4 Silent Punisher CT
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Flame of Victory CT
Grade 1
x2 Sleygal Dagger
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x1 Little Battler, Tron
x4 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
x3 Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane
x4 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer
Grade 3
x4 Spectral Duke Dragon
x3 Gigantech Destroyer

This decklist ultimately went unchanged for the national tournament, taking the North American title without modification.

Winter 2012 National Tournament, North America
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-BT07, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer (FVG)
x4 Silent Punisher CT
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Flame of Victory CT
Grade 1
x2 Sleygal Dagger
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x1 Little Battler, Tron
x4 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
x3 Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane
x4 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer
Grade 3
x4 Spectral Duke Dragon
x3 Gigantech Destroyer

Smith's decklist proved extraordinarily long-lived, once again going unmodified for the world title.

Winter 2012 International Tournament, Japan
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-BT07, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer (FVG)
x4 Silent Punisher CT
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Flame of Victory CT
Grade 1
x2 Sleygal Dagger
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x1 Little Battler, Tron
x4 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
x3 Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane
x4 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer
Grade 3
x4 Spectral Duke Dragon
x3 Gigantech Destroyer


Interviews
Smith and Bastianalli were both interviewed six minutes before the Chicago regional award ceremony, by an editor from Cardfight Pro (then operating under the "Game Set" brand.) The full text and an audio recording of the interview can be found here.

Additional Images
Smith is second from the left, holding the championship trophy. Original photo by Cardfight!! Vanguard. On the right is runner-up Henry Suharto, to the right of him fourth-place finalist Christopher Sok, and on the far left is third-place finalist Christopher Fernau.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Spotlight: Christopher Fernau

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.


Fernau is on the right. To the left is Dima Kvatkun, the German runner-up. Original photo by Cardfight!! Vanguard.
Christopher Fernau
Age: 24 (at regional crowning)
Titles Won: German Regional Champion, European National Champion
Current Status: European National Champion (Reigning)
Deck Type: Gold Paladin (Garmore)
Christopher Fernau is the reigning national champion for Europe, and one of two out of 105 cardfighters to qualify in Germany for the 2012 European national. Accordingly, he is also in line for the 2012 world championship title.

Originally, Fernau had a background with online cardfight, having played for one and a half years through the Cardfight Capital BYOND client. Ironically for one of the world's first competitive GoPala cardfighters, Fernau dislikes the clan and chose to use it for its strength in the German scene so that he could qualify to compete in the United Kingdom. His view at the time of the German regional was that of the clans available in the developing scene, the Royal and Gold Paladins, Kagerou, Tsukuyomi-based Oracle Think Tank, Granblue and Spike Brothers were the primary contenders for the world title. Of those, he selected Garmore-based Gold Paladin to adapt to Bushiroad's current double elimination tournament policy, as a way of solving the competitive equation, due to Spectral Duke Dragon forming a poor hybrid deck with Garmore and Fang Witch, the latter of which worked against Duke Dragon's soul-retaining evolving ride1.

Decks and Play Style
Fernau's Gold Paladin deck is a six-draw and six-critical play on their established Garmore and Blond Ezel styles. Taking advantage of GoPala's strong field presence, Fernau opted to utilize draw cards like Silver Fang Witch in conjunction with their Blond Ezel four-soul superior ride to maximize the potential gains from Garmore and Ezel's superior calls. This turns every one-card gain into a two-card gain on top of the powerful rush that Ezel's early twin drive allows for, while gaining massive amounts of power for a strong offensive push with limit break later on.

Garmore offers a more consistent main strategy with his counterblast 2, superior calling his own custom booster in the vanguard circle for a 26000-power assault to help cripple the opponent's hand. Because of that specified superior call, Fernau is able to run Charjgal as only a single copy. Like Fang Witch, the Silver Wolf benefits from Ezel's extra soul via Charjgal's soulblast, and also works in tandem with the Incandescent Lion by being a 21000-power rearguard. Overall this makes his deck aggressive and capable of pulling out massive advantage at any time in the game, with incredible power gain and better chances of dealing extra damage from critical triggers, but it's weakened by the lack of surprises that contemporary Duke Dragon decks would push with. The inclusion of Gigantech Charger over Manawydan was considered strange in traditional theory, due to his skill primarily being effective with stand triggers and being vanguard-oriented, where Manawydan has greater synergy with critical and draw, being useful versus any unit regardless of circle. Fernau selected this unit based on having similar effectiveness to Beaumains, being able to mount an attack unboosted even versus base 11000 vanguards.

Ease of play factored in heavily here, with Fernau using Garmore to tie it together and superior call any card needed to suit the situation. Silver Fang Witch, Nemean Lion and Charjgal were given emphasis for that superior call, as each satisfies a different demand; Fang Witch gives out draw power and along with the Lion defense, while Charjgal brings out offensive strength that easily breaks past the most stable base power of the 2012 format. Ezel was selected as a backup strategy because of his superior ride, as his counterblast was regarded as wasteful by Fernau. Due to the deck's heavy emphasis on forming controlled 16-20000-power lines, her heavy counterblast consumption even with Tripp accounted for, and the lack of key targets like Lop Ear Shooter at the time of the regional, Viviane was omitted from the deck. Fang Witch was instead preferred for the gain in advantage due to forming a 20000 line with Garmore's limit break or Ezel's autoskill. Overall Fernau emphasized control of the field over creating spectacles, and because of this the deck contains only three unique skills--those of Kyrph, Ezel and Garmore.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Germany: Chibi Gaara's RAWR Deck
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-EB03, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Crimson Lion Cub, Kyrph (FVG)
x2 Silent Punisher CT
x2 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Flame of Victory CT
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Falcon Knight of the Azure DT
Grade 1
x1 Charjgal
x2 Silver Fang Witch
x3 Sleygal Dagger
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
Grade 2
x3 Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemean Lion
x4 Mage of Calamity, Tripp
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
Grade 3
x2 Gigantech Destroyer
x2 Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel
x4 Great Silver Wolf, Garmore

Fernau's decklist saw him through the national event mostly unchanged. Only Falcon Knight was swapped out, in favor of Speeder Hound, due to Hound having a base power of 5000 over Falcon Knight's 4000; because of this, Hound can form a 15000 line with Beaumains, Garmore, Gigantech or Ezel before accounting for skills. This improves its overall consistency and eliminates the problem of Falcon Knight becoming a complete dead card when drawn normally.

The deck's new title is a partial quote from Souryuu Leon, in reference to the limit break-centric nature of the Gold Paladin clan.

Winter 2012 National Tournament, Europe: We who carry out justice have no LIMITS
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-BT07, PR 0001-0029
Grade 0
x1 Crimson Lion Cub, Kyrph (FVG)
x2 Silent Punisher CT
x2 Weapons Dealer, Gwydion DT
x4 Flame of Victory CT
x4 Elixir Sommelier HT
x4 Speeder Hound DT
Grade 1
x1 Charjgal
x2 Silver Fang Witch
x3 Sleygal Dagger
x4 Halo Shield, Mark
x4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
Grade 2
x3 Sacred Guardian Beast, Nemean Lion
x4 Mage of Calamity, Tripp
x4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
Grade 3
x2 Gigantech Destroyer
x2 Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel
x4 Great Silver Wolf, Garmore

Citations and External Links
1. Fernau, Christopher. "German Qualifier 2012 - Düsseldorf: Chibi Gaara (RAWR) - Player Report." Pojo. Pojo, 9 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://www.pojo.biz/board/showthread.php?t=1077329>.