Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nova Grappler Extra Study Material: Raizer Series

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
As one of the first subgroups to be introduced, the Raizer series has been long established as one of the top Nova Grappler builds, and an enduring presence across multiple formats. The series has not only taken center stage at the forefront of Japanese Grappler play throughout 2011 and 2012, but has been the most stable Grappler deck when not playing a "best of" build up through BT09. Under his public persona as Doctor O, pro Cardfight commentator Nakamoto Nobuhisa recognized the Raizer series as one of his twelve "strongest decks" at their debut. So their introduction to English-language Cardfight in EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1 is set to leave a lasting impact on the pro scene, and with the set's final release on the 29th there's no better time to take a look at the emerging strategy.

The first vanguard for this subgroup is the Grapplers' original Battleraizer, bringing back both the advantages and disadvantages of a cycling trigger; you won't be able to maintain the +1 from him outriding, but you will be able to maintain a high trigger count all the way to the endgame. And since BT06: Breaker of Limits, Turboraizer has also been brought in to allow for up to eight cycling triggers in the deck, although because of how valuable criticals are to professional play as a whole, you may only want to run five at the most. EB01's Raizer cards give us a way to get more out of our FVG--the grade 1 Raizer Custom is a base 6000 unit normally, but when Battleraizer is on the same row as him, he gets +6000 power during your own turn for a base 12000 grade 1. In the early game you can use this unit by himself for an independent offense, and in the late you can use Battleraizer's boost for a crossride-busting 18000-power line, opening the field at the expense of card advantage. Something to note about this is that for a very long time now, Raizer Custom's skill has been mistranslated, and the official English print contains a clause that Battleraizer must be on the back row, so you cannot put out a temporary 15000-line formation by having Raizer Custom in back. Also keep in mind that Turboraizer cannot completely sub in for Battleraizer, since Raizer Custom doesn't get the same boost from having a Turboraizer in his column but it will become useful to have another Raizer unit further down the line.

BT09: Clash of the Knights and Dragons will bring us a third Raizer unit for grade 0 and a second for grade 1, Minimum Raizer and Burst Raizer. Minimum is a critical trigger with no skill that's run generally for consistency purposes. You'll rarely call him, but as the Raizer series as a whole builds its skills around having any Raizers at all on the field, and Nova Grappler is naturally a clan that lends itself toward base 11000 attackers, when you do need to call a trigger to make that 16000 power line or meet certain skill requirements, Minimum is important over other critical triggers for his synergy with Raizer-specific skills. Burst Raizer on the other hand is Oasis Girl right down to her skill and power, but again I need to stress the importance of the "Raizer" name. Having four more grade 1 Raizers is going to be very useful once we hit grade 3.

At grade 2 EB01 gives us Hi-Powered Raizer Custom, a base 8000 unit that gains 8000 power if Battleraizer is on the same column. Hi-Powered forms stable base 16000 lines so long as you do not boost him, and when you do he breaks 22000, generally requiring two or more cards to be defended against while only causing you to lose one in the process. Since the standard Battleraizer doesn't return to the deck until the end phase of the turn, if you drive check a stand trigger after Hi-Powered's attack, he'll be at a full 16000 power prior to the stand and will break 21000 after, taking full advantage of the Grapplers' native stands. BT09 expands on grade 2 by bringing Transraizer to the table. A base 7000 grade 2, when called or ridden Transraizer can open up the top card of the deck and if it's a grade 1 or 2 Nova Grappler, call it. In a standard Raizer deck you're looking at between 26 and 27 search targets, a little over half of the available deck for a possible +1, which helps to compensate for the inevitable losses that the Raizer deck takes from cycling its triggers.

Grade 3 is where the strategy comes together. Perfect Raizer is the centerpiece of the Raizer series, a base 11000 unit whose continuous skills give him +3000 power for each Raizer unit in the soul, and if there are four or more Raizers in the soul he gets +1 critical. This is further fueled by his autoskill, soulcharging all Raizer units on your side of the field when he is ridden, but it's offset by him losing -2000 power if there are no other Raizers on the field. To deal with this best, you should keep an additional Raizer unit in hand to call after riding him, ideally Transraizer to cope with the loss of rearguards or another Perfect. Like with the Dark Irregulars and other soul-based decks, a Raizer build needs to measure its soul intake carefully and set goals for soul size. It's not enough to wantonly ride Perfect Raizer after Perfect Raizer. Four is the most obvious goal, since it will set Perfect Raizer up for 23000 power / critical 2 with another Raizer on the field. This is an extremely powerful independent attack, hitting base 10000, 11000 and 13000 power units for the perfect numbers all at once, and while Perfect Raizer can go for 30-31000 power with the right boosters, that static critical and strong independent power means that with four to five soul no booster will be needed.

With that four-soul goal, you can partially circumvent the normal loss of advantage that your Battleraizer FVG would normally incur by dedicating it to setting up the soul. This gives you one of those four Raizers for free, reducing your total needed cost to -3. Since the opponent will likely be dropping a perfect defense the moment that your static critical comes out, that comes down to a single card difference between your opponent and yourself in an ideal game on that turn, and with Perfect Raizer demanding two to three cards for defense every turn after, you should be able to close that difference quickly. To help deal with the threat of retire-based decks, you can further build that soul through rides, which will also decrease the amount of cards that you'll need to intentionally lose to Perfect's autoskill. It can be a little hard to learn at first, but as with any subgroup, practice will bring out the best understanding of the strategy.

In addition to its gameplay strengths, this deck is definitely gearing up to be one of the cheaper ones of the EN format. EB01 has just 35 cards in the set, and with only Perfect Raizer and ZANBAKU competing for the 1 RRR per box spot, that makes assembling most of the cards for the deck very easy. Trial Deck 03: Golden Mechanical Soldier already comes with all of the basic Grappler cards like Shout and additional triggers, so one TD03 and a couple of EB01 boxes will go a long way to giving you a Raizer deck that's just short of complete. The key units that would be missing in that case are four copies of Twin Blader from BT02: Onslaught of Dragon Souls, additional copies of the boss card Perfect Raizer, and possibly some Hi-Powered Raizer Customs. "Cheap" and "competitive" aren't usually words that go together, but much like Giraffa, the Raizers are a background deck that when played properly, can hold their own in the world of pros.

Next, I'll be visiting the Beast Deity series and its evolution from BT06 through BT09.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

News: Asia Circuit Memorial Tournament Tokyo Results

Yesterday evening the Japanese Cardfight portal released the top two decklists for the Tokyo branch of the Asia Circuit Memorial Tournament, held in commemoration of the end of the controversial second season of the Cardfight Vanguard!! anime. Following up what the Osaka tournament began, the event operates under special rules which require all participating cardfighters to have more than four grade 3s in their deck, in response to pro cardfighters Tachibana Souten and Nakamura Mitsuaki emulating contenders from the previous year's national title in creating decks with less than that number. These pros made use of specific search skills to dominate their respective tournaments, on a smaller scale than the Tsukuyomi-based cardfighters of previous years had done before them. Speculation abounds that the Memorial Tournament rules, if successful, could become standardized rules for professional Cardfight as a whole, permanently bringing a close to this trend in deckbuilding.

With two more stages yet remaining--in Nagoya and Hakata--the Memorial Tournament has so far been dominated by the new Eradicator subgroup, in contrast to the underground success of the Shadow Paladins in the current format. The Eradicators are a subgroup of the retire-based Narukami clan, and focus on maintaining a static critical for the vanguard line each turn, as well as on standing their vanguard like Kagerou did before them. Tokyo has seen an upset in the pattern, as second place was taken by a Battle Sister-based variation on the soulless CoCo deck, retooling it for the modern format built around base 11000 vanguards. Note that while the Tokyo winners share a surname, they are currently believed to be unrelated. On the Narukami side of things, all of the Eradicator decks seen thus far are extremely similar in build, but Uemura Shouhei from the Osaka tournament seems to be coming up as the more influential cardfighter, having worked out the "blueprint" for the Eradicators.

The Nagoya and Hakata stages of the Memorial Tournament are to take place on March 30th and April 6th, respectively. The winners of the Memorial Tournament will have an invitation to the Fighter's Road 2013 national championship.

Prizewinner: Itou Hiroaki/伊藤寛明
Grade 0
x1 Spark Kid Dragoon (FVG)
x4 Eradicator Dragon Mage DT
x4 Eradicator Yellow Gem Carbuncle CT
x4 Demonic Dragon Eradicator, Seiobo HT
x4 Divine Spear Eradicator, Pollux CT
Grade 1
x2 Rising Phoenix
x2 Eradicator of True Flames, Kougaiji
x3 Eradicator of the Ceremonial Bonfire, Castor
x4 Eradicator Wyvern Guard, Guld
x4 Eradicator, Demolition Dragon
Grade 2
x3 Eradicator, Thunder Boom Dragon
x4 Eradicator, Sparkrain Dragon
x4 Dragonic Deathscythe
Grade 3
x4 Eradicator, Dragonic Descendant
x3 Eradicator, Gauntlet Buster Dragon

Runner-Up: Itou Yuki/伊藤翔
Grade 0

x1 Little Witch, LuLu (FVG)
x4 Oracle Guardian, Nike CT
x4 Psychic Bird CT
x4 Battle Sister, Ginger CT
x4 Lozenge Magus HT
Grade 1
x4 Oracle Guardian, Gemini
x4 Battle Sister, Chocolat
x3 Dark Cat
x2 Battle Sister, Omelette
x1 Red River Dragoon
Grade 2
x4 Battle Sister, Mocha
x3 Promise Daughter
x2 Silent Tom
x2 Battle Sister, Macaron
Grade 3
x4 Battle Sister, Cookie
x4 Scarlet Witch, CoCo

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

News: DAIGO Special Set, Fighter's Collection 2013 to Include Asura Kaiser Alternate Artwork

Recently a new release was unveiled, VG-DG01: DAIGO Special Set. The "set" is being produced in connection to Cardfight!! Vanguard Link Joker's fifteenth episode, to air on April 21st, which will feature the return of celebrity musician DAIGO and his character to the franchise. The Special Set will consist of a preconstructed 50-card deck containing seventeen types of card, seven of them exclusive to the Set, with three foil cards enclosed along with a rulebook and playmat, so that it will be playable right out of the box. Slated for June 1st release, the cover card is currently speculated to be a successor to DAIGO's White Dragon Knight, Pendragon, the first Royal Paladin limit break unit from EB03: Cavalry of Black Steel.

Meanwhile, preview images for VG-CF01: Fighter's Collection 2013, a special booster set containing only RRR-rarity cards, have revealed that the set will include the long-awaited Studio TMS alternate artwork for Asura Kaiser. Having first been used as a placeholder artwork for Kaiser in the Cardfight!! Vanguard TV anime, prior to the completion of Tenjin Hidetaka's card art, this is the original incarnation that viewers were first familiarized with at the franchise's 2011 debut. The set will contain a total of 35 cards, 29 reprints from previous booster and extra booster sets, and 7 cards unique to VG-FC01.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Interview: World Champion Brandon Smith

Thursday morning we at Cardfight Pro were able to sit down with the reigning Cardfight!! Vanguard world champion Brandon Smith for an interview. Since his crowning in December 2012, Smith has become a noted celebrity in the greater community of Cardfight!!, opening his doors to the press and riding the wave of publicity that followed his seizing of the first international title. However, his skill is more than what's seen on camera. Played against in person, Smith is the genuine article; after a string of victories in casual matches, Smith temporarily traded decks with our editor and played a flawless game, turning the editor's personal build against him after only brief observation of how it played. This ability to pick up and play any deck has been recognized as one of Smith's greatest strengths.

Smith's store, Collectible Investments in Berkley, MI, is one of the busiest we have ever seen. In addition to selling the Cardfight!! Vanguard Trading Card Game and other TCG properties, the store does double duty as a seller of collectables and curios, with Beatles memorabilia and rotary dial telephones stacked high along the shelves. The merchandise moves in and out--what you see in the store one night is likely not there the next. While most local shops see a regular turnout of six to eight people a week, on tournament night at Collectible Investments as many as twenty-five or thirty people will be crammed into the tables of the long, corridor-like card shop. Collectible Investments serves as the epicenter of eastern Michigan's professional scene, and a gathering ground of strong cardfighters, who are currently preparing for their regional tournament in April.

CFP: Up to now we've heard the story of you becoming the world champion, the road to the championship and how the match with Henry Suharto went. The story not yet told is the story coming home. How has that impacted you, coming back to your store and your hometown, and has your life changed any by becoming world champion?

Smith: It's been a lot of fun. [Being in] Japan, the tournament was a lot of fun, but being back home was good. I got a celebration when I got back, had this tournament and whatnot. I've gotten a lot of offers for sponsorship....at nationals I got sponsored by CoreTCG, I also got a lot of opportunities to create games, so it's a lot of different things that have been offered. I got a lot of congratulations from all around the world. I'd like to thank everybody for being supportive. It's been great.

CFP: Now that we're headed into the Stand Up Challenge Cup--you've already qualified for regionals--in this new crossride format, Dragonic Overlord The End and Majesty Lord Blaster are expect to do very well, but how are you going to face this [next] championship?

Smith: I haven't quite decided yet. I have an arsenal of decks. I still have my Spectral Duke Dragon deck and it's very formidable against this format. I also have The End and MLB as well to playtest against, so I don't wanna say what I think will happen at the Stand Up Cup finals or championship. The End is very formidable as an opponent, very hard to beat, hard to deal with and if you don't play against it correctly you can lose easily. But even though those two are getting the limelight, the glory, I think that the Shadow Paladin guy [Phantom Blaster Overlord] could step up and cause some unsuspected damage to the tournament scene.

CFP: There's been a lot of talk about a restricted list like Japan currently has, with certain decks being restricted, what do you think of this idea?

Smith: [It's] like you said earlier, about everyone having a deck in their backpack, but then the decks that hit the table were MLB and DOTE. (While setting up for the interview, I had commented offhandedly about the qualifier tournament Collectible Investments had held on Sunday night. Everyone in Smith's store had two decks--their regular deck, and their "tournament" deck that was either Majesty Lord Blaster or Dragonic Overlord The End.) So I'm in favor of the restriction list. Unfortunately it does hurt [Oracle Think Tank] and they're not seeing as much play in America, so it does seem like--and a lot of people said [this]--they didn't get justly hit. I'm in favor of Bushiroad and their restriction list, especially if the tournament scene ends up like Japan. When I was in Japan I played about twelve matches against Japanese-only decks and even though they were at like set 10--it had just come out that weekend--everyone played Majesty Lord Blaster and DOTE. So it just seems like Bushiroad did themselves a favor and what's best for the game by making the restricted list, especially targeting MLB and DOTE. Unfortunately MLB is really consistent and the fact that it can pull itself out with just the one [and] Wingal Brave, overall I'm in favor of the restrictions.

CFP: In Japan right now we have the break ride format going on that's predicted to make crossrides irrelevant. Of course, we don't have those yet in the English format so you haven't had the chance to playtest [yet], but what's your view?

Smith: Theoretically I think they're good, but I think that a lot of players are overhyping them. Yes they're devastating, but you also have to have them in the correct order. So if you're playing the Kagerou ride break [Dauntless Drive Dragon], if you ride DOTE--or however it plays out if we get a restriction list--then it may not be as good, because you'll just sit there with ride break grade 3s later. Or if you play the Gold Paladin version [Gancelot], if you choose to play like Duke or Ezel, [and] you ride those first then they're just rearguards. So it all depends on how it plays out, I think they have really great potential and that's why they were introduced to the game, but I don't think they're as strong as people give them credit to be.

The Challenge Cup regional tournaments will start up on April 12th and last through April 28th, with twenty-seven regionals spread out across the continent deciding who will go on to the finals in Orlando, Florida, to be held this June. As the previous year's titleholder, Smith is among the favorites for the North American title, but the competition even at the regional level will be fierce and Michigan is one of the most difficult states to qualify in. With many cardfighters eager to either champion or defeat the crossride decks of this format, 2013 is promising to be an unpredictable year.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Study Guide: Megacolony

Photo by Touya. Do not repost elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
On the surface level, the prospect of forcing the opponent's field to be at rest seems situational and easily countered. Opponents can call new units to replace the rested units, stand triggers and skills can counter the enforced rest, and the cost is not always equal to the immediate result. Megacolony however, is not a surface level clan. Their advantages are subtle, and chiefly come from the multitude of applications that their skills have beyond face value.

While for three sets Megacolony only had the unskilled Madame Mirage as a first vanguard, BT04: Eclipse of Illusionary Shadows both completed the clan and introduced their first real FVG. Larva Mutant, Giraffa lifts his skill from Fullbau, beginning an evolution line that will reach all the way up to grade 3. When the Larva Mutant is ridden over by his grade 1 form, the base 6000 Pupa Mutant Giraffa, you can then add the grade 2 Elite Mutant Giraffa to the hand, and the Pupa Mutant will continuously gain +2000 power in the vanguard circle so long as Larva Mutant is in the soul. This type of evolving ride is the strongest opening move in Cardfight, giving you another base 8000 grade 1 ride in addition to Phantom Black, while ensuring that a Pupa Mutant draw is also an Elite Mutant draw, providing grade security that frees up your redraw to dedicate to other cards. The weaknesses of the skill are shared with Fullbau, as Larva Mutant will never leave the soul, so if you miss your Pupa Mutant ride the strategy falls apart with no gain in extra cards to compensate.

Pupa Mutant himself is a base 6000 grade 1, which points to trouble both in forming 16000-power lines for fighting base 11000 vanguards and even moreso for forming the 18000 lines that crossrides demand. Because drawing a specific grade 1 is the crux on which this opening move rests, and that also means running four copies of a base 6000 grade 1 to maximize the chance to bring out its opening maneuver, it would be better to seek out a different first vanguard entirely even in a dedicated Giraffa deck. Shadow Paladin cardfighters would abandon Fullbau in a heartbeat if they actually had the opportunity to do so; and for Megacolony, a clan which isn't stapled to its evolution as the Shadow Paladins are, that need to find a more consistent and universal first vanguard is very strong.

The answer to this is Megacolony Battler C, a base 5000 grade 0 that moves to the rearguard when a unit of the same clan rides over it. 5000 has been the strongest standardized power available to first vanguards since the fifth booster set, and Battler C's introduction in EB03: Cavalry of Black Steel cements him as the most consistent source of opening advantage that we'll see from Megacolony. Other than his outrider skill, when an attack that Battler C boosts hits the vanguard, he can counterblast 1 and move to the soul to designate an opponent's rearguard and prevent it from standing in their next stand phase. While it comes at the cost of his extra card, these enforced rest skills are important. With them, you can deny the opponent the use of a boosting or attacking unit for the turn, and if they choose to call a unit to replace the rested unit instead of wait for their next turn, then you've just achieved Blaster Blade's vanguard skill for cheap.

Concerning Megacolony's trigger distribution, until the release of EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1 they have at least one enforced stand trigger at all times, mandating a rainbow spread of heal-draw-critical-stand. One way to answer this until that time is to take advantage of their second stand trigger from EB03, Awaking Dragonfly, and run between five and eight stands. In general, any trigger configuration will surpass running 4/4/4/4, so even 4/4/3/5 will play more cohesively. Despite the pro scene's exaggerated championing of them, critical triggers are ironically the most easily sacrificed of Megacolony's regular lineup, as draw triggers support better consistency as the perfect damage check, while stands can actually compensate for a lack of criticals and actively surprise the opponent.

Speaking of triggers, the main issue with Megacolony's rest abilities is that they can be interrupted by the opponent damage checking a stand trigger. In Battler C's case in particular, the resolution of the damage check will take place before his skill activates, so whichever unit the opponent stands will not be impacted by his skill if it is targeted because the unit is already standing, so it does not need to be stood in the stand phase. In another example, if Battler C's skill was triggered through a previous attack and the opponent damage checked a stand trigger after a following one, they could still stand the unit that C had targeted, effectively wasting both your loss of card and counterblast. Because of the disruptive nature of stand triggers and self-standing skills to Megacolony, Nova Grappler is the clan's natural enemy.

Moving into the grade 1s, Pupa Mutant's skill follows up Larva Mutant's. When he's called to the rearguard, Pupa Mutant can discard any grade 3 Megacolony to search for Evil Armor General Giraffa, Giraffa's grade 3 form. This is the reason that you may still want to run Pupa Mutant even in a Giraffa deck that doesn't use Larva Mutant, because his rearguard skill allows him to act as a fifth copy of Evil Armor General so long as you already have a grade 3 in hand. And even when you have Giraffa already, the skill can still be valuable for thinning the deck of a nontrigger unit that would otherwise make for a disappointing drive check, trading Giraffa for Giraffa.

Megacolony has a plethora of useful support cards at grade 1. Chronologically, Karma Queen is the earliest, a base 7000 grade 1 that when called or ridden can counterblast 2 to choose an opponent's rearguard and prevent it from standing. In addition to her reasonable power, Karma Queen shares the strengths and weaknesses of Battler C, although her cost is heavy for what it achieves and there are better skills to get this effect out with. Megacolony Battler B is of the same idea, counterblasting 1 when an attack that he boosts hits the vanguard to get the skill off. Because it's an on-hit skill, Battler B encourages early defense from the opponent while weakening their own offensive, but the trade-off to this is that like Pupa Mutant he has just 6000 power, making his endgame difficult to work with in a format where the opponent will eventually be sitting on a 13000 power base.

Gloom Flyman tries to strike a middle ground by trading in a more restrictive skill with a stranger cost. Flyman comes in at a healthy 7000 base like Queen, but when he's placed on the guardian circle he can choose an opponent's grade 0 rearguard and rest it. This is useful for countering cards like Lizard Soldier Saishin or other on-hit grade 0 skills, both denying an earlier attack that the opponent makes by defending early while also locking down one of the boosters that would have been part of another attack, and in turn making that one easier to stop.

Toxic Soldier is the offensive grade 1 of the clan, but rather than gaining power when he attacks, instead he prevents the opponent from intercepting. Since Soldier's 7000 base is limited to forming a 15000 power line with just Phantom Black, this means that it will take the majority of opponents only 5000 shield to stop Soldier, but his skill at least limits what they can defend with by demanding that they must spend that shield from the hand and that an intercept will not be sufficient. Functionally that makes Toxic Soldier an inverse Silent Tom, locking a part of their field defense rather than hand defense. It may be better to seek this kind of skill in his grade 2 equivalent, Toxic Trooper, as Trooper's 9000 base is much more flexible for the front row than Soldier's 7000.

The final grade 1 that we'll discuss today is Stealth Millipede. This is the clan's unique vanguard booster, giving the vanguard line +4000 additional power on top of his base 6000 boost when a specific condition is met. In this case, Millipede wants the opponent's entire field at rest. In most games that condition will be met automatically, as the opponent will want to use their full offense, and if they choose not to rest one of their units then that normally means that they either did not use an attacker or a booster that turn, making them easier to defend against through a psychological battle. Millipede has specific problems against decks with unboostable vanguards like Blaster Blade Burst, as the opponent can freely "store" a standing unit behind their vanguard to prevent the skill from triggering. The 10000 overall boost is very valuable for a strong offense, so at least one copy of Millipede can find a place in every Megacolony deck.

To open grade 2 we have the Giraffa line continuing in. Under most circumstances Elite Mutant Giraffa is an unskilled base 9000 unit, but in the vanguard circle he gains +1000 power as long as Pupa Mutant is in the soul, acting as a fifth Bloody Hercules. In the vanguard circle he also has another skill, that when his attack hits the vanguard he can choose an opponent's rearguard and prevent it from standing, at no extra cost. Since Elite Mutant plays into the greater Giraffa deck not just as a target for Larva Mutant's skill but also as a unit that gives the grade 3 form of Giraffa +1000 power as long as he remains in the soul, this is one card that Giraffa cardfighters will want to run at a four-of naturally, but other Megacolony decks can take advantage of Giraffa as a single copy for the games when he does turn up, opportunistically denying the opponent a booster in their next turn.

Lady Bomb is the grade 2 equivalent to Karma Queen, with the same cost and skill. As with the Toxic Soldier/Trooper example, Bomb's 9000 base makes her easier to recommend than Queen, especially as grade 2s with intercept are easier to get rid of and call other units to replace, but the cost is still hard to justify when Battlers C and B have so much of a better time doing the heavy lifting in keeping the opponent's field quiet. A better use of that counterblast 2 is Water Gang, the clan's Maiden of Libra copy that can pay the cost when his attack hits to draw a card. This is perfect for drawing the opponent's defenses out, encouraging them to declare "no guard" versus the Stealth Millipede-enhanced vanguard column, and it improves a Megacolony deck's consistency by giving them additional draw power.

Tail Joe is the grade 2 counterpart to Millipede. Over an 8000 base, he gains +3000 power during your turn if all of the opponent's rearguards are at rest. That 11000 total is already important for attacking Mandalalord and his contemporaries unassisted, but it's also vital in the crossride format where it forms more stable 18000 power lines and for being able to snipe base 8000 and 9000 grade 2s with Phantom Black, clearing out difficult cards like Viviane and Silent Tom.

There are a couple of ways to approach Megacolony's grade 3s. We've discussed that Evil Armor General Giraffa is already heavily supported, converting from a 10000 to 11000 base when Elite Mutant is in the soul, so with Stealth Millipede there's a simple 21000 line ready to meet most of the right power thresholds. Giraffa's actual skill is deceptively destructive. When his attack hits, he can counterblast 2 and retire two of your own Megacolony rearguards to retire up to two of the opponent's grade 1 or lesser rearguards. This is easily one of the best skills for a vanguard to have in Cardfight, as like previous entries in Megacolony it controls the opponent's boosters for a relatively low cost. Furthermore, as both you and the opponent are taking a -2, the net difference in advantage is unchanged, so as with the Shadow Paladins' "divine move" you can exaggerate the importance of a small lead of just one or two cards into the difference between your opponent's victory and their defeat.

Unlike with Phantom Blaster or the Amber Dragon line, Giraffa's retire skill does not force you to pay it before it actually connects, so it pressures the opponent to put down additional defense without actually committing you to doing anything at all. It also opens the field with the same flexibility as Phantom Blaster Dragon, allowing you to call units that would be unsuitable for long-term commitment. For example, you could call an extra Paralyze Madonna and Raider Mantis that would otherwise be clogging your hand, use them to harass an opponent's intercept, then when Giraffa's attack hits retire them, losing two currently useless units that have already done their part to reduce the opponent's card advantage while taking two very valuable boosting units like Gareth and Tron from the opponent's formation. Another way to support the skill is with Violent Vesper, a Megacolony print of Badhabh Caar that superior calls the top card of the deck when he's ridden or called. While usually this creates an awkward or weak rearguard formation, it does give you that one card lead that you're looking for with Giraffa, who then retires Vesper and his called unit for the same benefits described previously.

While the grade 3s that the clan was introduced with are not as overwhelming as modern releases, Hell Spider and Master Fraude have surprisingly long-lived skills that are still relevant in today's game. When Hell Spider is placed on the vanguard or rearguard circles, he can counterblast 2 to choose an opponent's rearguard and prevent it from standing; and if all of the opponent's vanguard and rearguard units are at rest during your turn, Spider gets +3000 power, forming a 23000 power line with Stealth Millipede that like CoCo, devastates crossride units. Even in a fight that isn't with The End or Blaster Overlord, that +3000 will establish a 21000 power line with Phantom Black, making for a flexible if high maintenance strategy that pushes the opponent into a corner regularly.

Master Fraude is easier to maintain, as he gets his +3000 power boost just from being boosted by a Megacolony. His soulblast 3 lets him draw a card when his attack hits--regardless of whether that attack was against a vanguard or rearguard unit. So to get an early lead with Fraude, you can target a base 8000 rearguard like Tom with a 23000 power vanguard line, putting the opponent behind one card and yourself forward one, then bouncing any triggers you check onto the rearguards. This won't come out every game, but it's useful to keep in mind, as well as that Fraude's soulblast skill is V/R, so even rearguard Master Fraudes and help out.

The final grade 3 that will get our attention here is the clan limit breaker, Martial Arts Mutant Master Beetle. Master Beetle is a base 11000 grade 3 in any of the circles, so he's a natural partner to Giraffa for providing a consistent 11000 power defense and rearguards that can hit 16-8000 power easily. At limit break 4, you can counterblast 3 when he attacks a vanguard to trigger Master Beetle's Gravity Aura, designating two units that the opponent cannot stand in their next stand phase. In a clan with multiple counterblasts and no concrete way of unflipping damage, that's a very heavy price to pay on top of it being susceptible to the usual problems surrounding stand triggers and skills, so Master Beetle should mainly be paid attention to as a consistent defense with his limit break as a last-ditch comeback in an uphill battle. The limit break is useful for slowing down the pace of the game, allowing you to wrest control back from the opponent, but it's unlikely to be the main goal of your deck.

Next time that we revisit Megacolony, I'll be exploring the Machining subgroup introduced in Extra Booster 1: Comic Style Vol. 1 and how converting Megacolony into a soul-based deck modifies their core strategy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

News: Asia Circuit Memorial Tournament Osaka Results

Today the Osaka regional tournament results for the Asia Circuit Memorial Tournament were made public, giving the first look at how the BT11-on format plays out in an official tournament setting. Both first and second places were taken by Narukami cardfighters, and as these Dragonic Descendant-Gauntlet Buster Dragon decks are very close in design, predictions are already coming out that the self-standing Descendant deck may replace The End as the dominant pro deck of the season. Critics of this view point to the recent Hobby Station unofficial tournament for contrast, where the new Eradicator subgroup flopped in face of a Shadow Paladin deck reworked around The Dark Dictator.

The Memorial Tournament is being held to commemorate the conclusion of the second season of Cardfight!! Vanguard, and will extend to three other locations, with the Tokyo tournament taking place on March 23rd, Nagoya's on the 30th, and Hakata's on April 6th. These tournaments operate on special rules which require fighters to have more than four grade 3s in their deck, most likely in response to the Osaka Trio Festival results in which C Block Champion Tachibana Souten's Majesty Lord Blaster deck emulated the tactics of national third place runner-up Tanaka Shouta's Tsukuyomi deck in running four grade 3s, effectively defeating the restricted list that had been placed on the Blaster deck. This had been followed up by the Tokyo Trio Festival, where Tachibana's idea had been similarly used in Nakamura Mitsuaki's Blaster deck, and in Murakumo cardfighter Kagawa Hitori's Magatsu Storm build. The winners of the Memorial Tournament will have an invitation to the Fighter's Road 2013 national championship.

Prizewinner: Uemura Shouhei/上村昌平
Grade 0
x1 Spark Kid Dragoon (FVG)
x4 Eradicator, Dragon Mage DT
x4 Eradicator, Yellow Gem Carbuncle CT
x4 Demonic Dragon Eradicator, Seioubo HT
x4 Divine Spear Eradicator, Pollux CT
Grade 1
x2 Rising Phoenix
x1 Dust Storm Eradicator Tokou
x4 Eradicator of the Ceremonial Bonfire, Castor
x4 Eradicator Wyvern Guard, Guld
x4 Eradicator, Demolition Dragon
Grade 2
x4 Eradicator, Thunderboom Dragon
x4 Eradicator, Spark Rain Dragon
x3 Dragonic Deathscythe
Grade 3
x3 Eradicator, Dragonic Descendant
x4 Eradicator, Gauntlet Buster Dragon

Runner-Up: Nishiyama Daiki/西山大希
Grade 0
x1 Ambush Dragon Eradicator, Linchu (FVG)
x3 Eradicator, Dragon Mage DT
x4 Eradicator, Yellow Gem Carbuncle CT
x4 Demonic Dragon Eradicator, Seioubo HT
x4 Divine Spear Eradicator, Pollux CT
x1 Malevolent Djinn CT
Grade 1
x2 Rising Phoenix
x4 Eradicator of the Ceremonial Bonfire, Castor
x4 Eradicator Wyvern Guard, Guld
x4 Eradicator, Demolition Dragon
Grade 2
x4 Eradicator, Thunderboom Dragon
x4 Eradicator, Spark Rain Dragon
x3 Dragonic Deathscythe
Grade 3
x4 Eradicator, Dragonic Descendant
x4 Eradicator, Gauntlet Buster Dragon

Saturday, March 16, 2013

News: Hobby Station Vanguard Championship Tournament Results, Shadow Paladin Victory, Eradicators Defeated

The Japanese pro scene is currently exploding from the Hobby Station Vanguard Championship tournament results, where in a surprise final match, a Dark Dictator-based Shadow Paladin cardfighter defeated his Eradicator opponent. Hot off the presses from BT10: Triumphant Return of the King of Knights, the Eradicators have been hailed as one of the definitive competitive decks of Japan's January-on format. Their defeat by Dictator, an underground deck that has never been mainstream in the nine months since its June 2012 release, has shaken the world of pros to its core.

Notably, photos of the event show the Shadow Paladin cardfighter with somewhere between five and eight base 8000 grade 1s, accomplished by running the TD09 reprint of Red River Dragon in addition to Black Sage Charon. Because crossride mechanics are currently irrelevant in Japan's break ride format, the current scene is dominated largely by base 11000 vanguards, which means that anticrossride base 10000 units like CoCo and Garmore have gone out of style. As a result, Dictator's full 20000 power is no longer a goal for Shadow Paladin cardfighters--with this in mind, tournament champion "Jaguar" likely realized that he could afford to miss out on that maximized power in exchange for a more consistent rearguard boost. While some blogs have speculated that this Dictator deck uses Phantom Blaster Overlord as a finisher, Overlord's continuous -2000 for having a non-Shadow Paladin rearguard in play versus the inclusion of Red River suggests otherwise. A proper deck recipe is forthcoming, expected to go up on the 20th.


Update 3/20/3012: The deck recipe has been posted.
Deck Name: ShadoPala
Handle: Jaguar
Grade 3
x4 The Dark Dictator
x3 Origin Mage, Ildona
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Darkness, Rugos
x2 Cursed Lancer
x3 Darkness Maiden, Macha
x4 Skull Witch, Nemain
Grade 1
x4 Black Sage, Charon
x4 Witch of Nostrum, Arianrhod
x4 Dark Shield, Mac Lir
x1 Red River Dragoon
Grade 0
x1 Creeping Dark Goat (FVG)
x4 Grim Reaper CT
x4 Death Feather Eagle CT
x4 Abyss Freezer DT
x4 Abyss Healer HT
VGCS tournaments are unofficial, large-scale amateur tournaments unaffiliated with Bushiroad Inc. that are often organized by Japan's network of fans and card shops. Despite their unofficial nature, these tournaments are being carefully observed in Japan because of their high turnout and utility as a way to observe the state of the game between official events. Hobby Station's VGCS is just the latest of these amateur events, boasting a massive bracket of 92 participating cardfighters. The large scale of the tournaments is self-supporting, as the entry fees go toward supporting prizes for the top eight cardfighters, which start at fifteen booster packs and can climb as high as five boxes from the latest booster set. Entry costs 1,000円 per person (a little under $11.)

VGCS is primarily organized by Kohaku ("Amber") of 立川VGCS, a blog that serves as the announcement page for the tournaments. Due to the high success of this VGCS, a followup tournament is in the works.

(via hstachikawa, 立川VGCS, Vanguard Announce and 2critical)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

News: Cray Wars Mobile App Goes Online

Today Bushiroad Mobile's Android and iOS game Cardfight!! Vanguard Cray Wars (カードファイト!!ヴァンガード 惑星大戦, Kaadofaito!! Vangaado Wakusei Taisen literally Cardfight!! Vanguard Planet Wars) went live. Based on the lore of the Cardfight!! Vanguard Trading Card Game, the app combines its home series' TCG elements with those of strategy and role-playing games to deliver a connective online play experience.

Cray Wars introduces the new character Navica, who acts as the player's guide in the world of Cray and explains the game mechanics to them. The game's storyline is based around the Virtual Vanguard System, which generates a virtual space in which people experience the world of Cray, an earthlike planet where magic and science have progressed hand in hand. Each continent of Cray is dominated by one of six prospering nations; through the VVS the player's avatar dives into this dreamlike world, and fights daily battles for one of these nations. However, a sudden abnormality upsets this scenario.

Players move their avatars about the world map of Cray using a six-sided die, accepting and completing quests to receive items, gold and advance the storyline. Two types of deck are composed for use within the game, one to be used in battle and one with which to besiege dungeons. Comprised of six cards each, skills are triggered in the battle deck based on the position of cards in relation to one another, while the dungeon deck makes use of skills related to manipulating die and avoiding traps. Thus, Cray Wars retains its source materials' core emphasis on field position and combining skills, while bringing the risk-versus-reward factors of traditional RPG dungeon exploration to the table.

In addition to the level of the player's avatar, individual cards also have levels. By increasing the cards' levels, skills can be enhanced. Leveling up and skill synthesis allows cards to be customized so that any two players may have the same card but with wildly different abilities.








As part of a promotional tie-in, special codes that can be used to obtain items in Cray Wars can be found in first print boxes of BT10: Triumphant Return of the King of Knights, the Cardfight!! Vanguard Link Joker soundtrack CD for OP04 Vanguard Fight, and in the soundtrack CD for Link Joker's first ending theme, ED09 ENDLESS☆FIGHTER. So far, these tie-ins are exclusive to Japan.

Alarmingly, users have found that Cray Wars has enforced region blocking which prevents devices from outside of Japan from installing the game. This has created problems for those that are Japanese literate but living outside of the country, denying them the opportunity to play the game at all.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

News: The Stand Up Challenge Cup 2013 Begins!

The first North American national championship for 2013 formally began this past Friday, with shops all across the nation opening their doors as local qualifiers for gaining entry into the regional tournaments. Lasting up through March 31st, almost 300 shops across North America will be distributing regional invitations to the top two tournament winners; with 25 regionals being held, this means that more cardfighters will be turning pro in 2013 than in any preceding year.

Already the reigning national and world champion Brandon Smith has qualified, and like many others, is awaiting his regional assignment from Bushiroad USA. In addition to their regional invitations, those who qualify receive a commemorative button showing that they were one of the top two finishers at the tournament.

As part of our coverage, readers can send in their stories to be featured on Cardfight Pro as part of a community effort. To get your Challenge Cup story featured, mail it in to vanguardunitedstates@gmail.com. Photos of your events are also encouraged.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Study Guide: Murakumo

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
If there is a lockdown deck in Cardfight, Murakumo is it. As the successors to the Nubatama ninjas, Murakumo plays similarly; the clan's specialties are denying the opponent advantages, canceling their skills and forcing them to make bad moves, and this is why they remain so relevant in a game that is largely based around jousting across the field with the vanguard. The vanguard line is the only line that cannot be predicted in a typical game, it is where all surprises originate from, and Murakumo is determined to stop it from making those surprises happen.

BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades brings the deck its basic setup, with Stealth Beast Evil Ferret as the clan's base 5000 first vanguard. In addition to outriding from the soul, Ferret's skill is to put itself on the bottom of the deck and then call a Murakumo unit from your hand to the field. In the end phase, that unit will then return to the hand. This doesn't sound like much at first since it returns your net advantage to 0, but the skill is most powerful when taking the second turn--Ferret can superior call a grade 2 or 3 unit while you are at grade 1, allowing for a better offensive. This plays into the clan's enforced stand trigger. BT05 only gives Murakumo one heal, one draw, one critical and one stand trigger, so it's best to always have something to attack with prior to the vanguard attack in case of a stand check. More than this though, Ferret gives early access to Stealth Dragon Cursed Breath's skill for a combo play.

Cursed Breath is a base 8000 grade 2, so while he's wholly reliant on a base 8000 booster to form even a 16000 power line, his skill is very complementary to his low power. When Cursed Breath's attack hits the vanguard, he can look at up to five cards from the top of the deck for the grade 3 Covert Demonic Dragon Mandala Lord, add it to the hand, and then place the remaining cards on the bottom of the deck. As with Tsukuyomi, you can use these kinds of skills to gradually build up a stack of triggers on the bottom of the deck and then draw-drive into them, while also bringing added grade security to the table and getting you back the +1 that you lost when Evil Ferret went to the bottom of the deck. Since the skill is on-hit, it can be repeated multiple times throughout the game to build up that stack much faster than Tsukuyomi can, having an 8-10 card stack after two attacks and 12-15 after three. Cursed Breath's power is also equal to the highest possible base power for a grade 1, which helps push for a strong offensive when taking the second turn.

Another way to exploit Ferret's skill is with the grades 1 and 2 units Stealth Beast Million Rat and Stealth Fiend Midnight Crow. Rat and Crow are base 6000 and base 8000 units that can counterblast 1 when they are called or ridden to superior call a copy of themselves from the deck, then place it at the bottom of the deck. Even if your hand has a lot trigger units in it and not a very good offense, these cards let you dip right into the deck and pull that offensive out of your hat, and when you do have that offense ready you get to conserve it for more important stages of the game, attacking without dedicating your hand. This keeps the field open for other units later on while controlling what targets retire-based clans like Kagerou or Narukami have access to. And when you superior call a Rat, you can counterblast again to superior call another with that Rat's skill, filling your entire back line with just one call and a counterblast 2. The tricky part of these skills is that they force the deck to be shuffled after they search for the copy unit, which interrupts the stack that you began building with Cursed Breath on the previous turn, but this is not necessarily a bad thing because now Evil Ferret's 10000 shield is no longer at the bottom of the deck and when you draw into him you will have 10000 more shield than most opponents prepare for. Like Blade Seed Squire, Murakumo decks have a very subtle defensive advantage that have small but still significant differences in play from their contemporaries.

Stealth Dragon, Turbulent Edge is the grade 1 equivalent to Cursed Breath, but as a base 6000 unit is hard to recommend because his attack will hit so rarely and because Murakumo does not yet have a Valkyrie Laurel copy to form 18000 power lines with. Instead you should consider Stealth Beast Leaf Raccoon to fill out your grade 1 slots along with the base 8000 Shijimamaru. Raccoon is a base 6000 unit like Turbulent Edge, but when he boosts a Murakumo vanguard and you have more cards in hand than the opponent, the vanguard gets +4000 extra power for a 10000-power boost overall. With Million Rat and Cursed Breath playing into keeping your hand size high, Raccoon is like an advanced Milk that make an 18-21000 power line very quickly and easily. His skill sees a lot of support from cards which add to or conserve the hand, and cards which decrease the opponent's; while Murakumo does not have a whole lot for the latter, it does have Stealth Beast White Mane, a base 9000 grade 2 that can unflip 1 damage when his attack hits the vanguard. In other words, a Murakumo print of Electromagnetic Lifeform, creating a rift in card advantage by drawing the opponent's defense out to keep you from unflipping. On increasing the hand, Caped Stealth Rogue Shanaou also plays for the hit-and-run side of things like Midnight Crow, by returning to the hand when his attack hits. Shanaou's base 8000 is difficult to recommend however, because the deck already has so many of those running around at grade 2 and there are more coming out of future sets.

The clan's boss card on-release is the very Mandala Lord that Turbulent Edge and Cursed Breath have been searching for. Mandala comes with an 11000 base and brings into play the first of many lock skills. When the opponent attacks Mandala Lord, you can counterblast 1 and persona blast a copy of him to decrease the power of the attacking unit by -10000 power. The key behind the persona blast is that it effectively lets you run one more 10000-shield unit for each non-vanguard copy of Mandala Lord in your deck than normal, without having to actually give up the grade security that is this strategy entails for other decks (in fact, Cursed Breath increases the security by giving you extra chances to add Mandala Lord to your hand.) This plays back into the extra shield that Evil Ferret puts into your deck; Evil Ferret and your three Mandala Lords together total 40000 extra shield that you can access, giving defensive play tremendous weight and letting you guard for two triggers or pull off no-pass plays very late in a match. These Mandala Lord copies that would otherwise become dead weight and be relegated to paying perfect defense costs can leave any attacking column with less than 21000 power one intercept away from needing two triggers to pass.

Supplementary to the Covert Demonic Dragon is the Stealth Field, Kurama Lord. Kurama Lord is a base 10000 grade 3, and the clan megablaster; each turn he soulcharges 1 and unflips one damage for the reuse of counterblast, and when his attack hits in either the vanguard or rearguard circles he can counterblast 5 and soulblast 8 to stand all of your units, including himself. This is a direct repurposing of Mr. Invincible for Murakumo, and Murakumo runs into a lot of the same difficulties. The clan is lacking in soul support, Evil Ferret has no way to return to the soul, and there are no soulcharging units other than Kurama Lord himself, which makes the megablast slow and cumbersome to both build off and activate. So while you'll likely never see the +2 from his megablast's extra twin drive, you can make full use of his unflipping abilities, getting more use out of Million Rat or Midnight Crow, and dedicating the minimum amount of hand to the field necessary until you can stall into Mandala Lord.

The Murakumo clan prides itself on guerrilla tactics and interrupting the opponent's strategy, two elements that Extra Booster 1 and Booster Set 9 will expand on greatly. However, at their international release they are missing elements definitive of the clan's original vision; March will see us revisiting this clan to discuss that vision and how they were designed to fit within the greater framework of Nubatama.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nova Grappler Extra Study Material: Gold Rutile

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
While the Nova Grapplers have had damage unflipping as a submechanic of their clan from the beginning, there have always been problems of finding skills worth unflipping for; you only need to counterblast once in a turn for Genocide Jack, and Kirara's counterblast activates infrequently enough that you rarely ever need the entire Claydoll-Dumpty unflipping engine. TD03: Golden Mechanical Soldier expands on both the basic engine and on finding useful costs to combo with it, creating a more cohesive strategy that fits in with Nova Grappler's classical image.

The most visible addition is Super Electromagnetic Lifeform Storm, a base 9000 grade 2 and the original Cursed Lancer. When Storm's attack hits the vanguard, his skill lets you unflip 1 damage, immediately giving him an edge versus Hungry Dumpty for being able to repeat the skill over multiple turns for better longevity and draw defense out of the opponent when they would otherwise let the attack go through. With the Nova Grappler's various stand techniques like that of Asura Kaiser, Storm can even unflip 2 damage in a single turn, improving the synergy of his on-hit skill when compared to how it behaves for other clans.

The trial deck also builds on units that Storm can unflip for. Battering Minotaur is a base 6000 grade 1 that can counterblast 1 to gain +3000 power when it attacks. While this skill isn't as amazing as having a direct Kay, this does let Minotaur hit every possible vanguard at grade 1 and form an alternative attacker that can play into alternative base 16000 lines in the style of Gururubau. The chief issues with him are that Minotaur's low base power makes him easy to pick off in the front row, 17-18000 power lines are difficult to form with him, and his power boost only lasts until the end of the battle instead of the turn, so Grappler stand techniques won't play into his skill at all.

The real stars here are Oasis Girl and Death Metal Droid, both of whom bring a much-needed boost to existing Nova Grappler decks. Oasis is a base 7000 grade 1 that can counterblast 1 in the main phase to gain +1000 power. More than forming good 18000 lines, this skill is also an activate and so Oasis can become a readily-accessible 10000-power booster for one turn, and with the Grapplers' unflipping engine that flipped damage is easy to get back. Death Metal on the other hand is a base 10000 grade 3 with Battering Minotaur's skill--he handles it a lot better since that lets him attack crossrides without a boosting unit, break 21000 with Tough Boy against other decks, and in general support a more flexible field for hitting the correct numbers.

Bringing all this together is Gold Rutile, TD03's cover card and a deck in his own right. Uncharacteristically for the Grapplers, Rutile is a base 10000 grade 3 intended for the vanguard circle exclusively. So while he lacks Asura Kaiser's strong defense and rearguard utility, Rutile's skills are well worth it; when the rearguard's attack hits a vanguard, Rutile can unflip one damage. With Rutile as your vanguard, suddenly every rearguard has Storm's skill and the opponent cannot let any of their attacks connect. That skill also stacks with Storm's, so Storm becomes an on-hit unflip 2 and you can see very nearly the entire damage zone unflipped in a single turn, letting the most be made of Kirara and Oasis Girl while Death Metal almost loses his cost in the process. Rutile's second skill is to counterblast 2 when his own attack hits and stand a Nova Grappler rearguard. This has some unorthodox applications; the skill is essentially Lion Heat with no rearguard use and a continuous ability that lets it pay for itself with the correct plays, but after the opponent hits grade 3 the skill is more geared toward harassing the opponent's rearguards than hitting their vanguard. Genocide Joker from the previous module is one effective unit since despite the expense involved in using both of them in the same turn, he retains his counterblast 2's +4000 power boost upon standing, and so can go toe to toe with crossrides on a regular basis.

The weakness of the Rutile deck is that its power is primarily derived from having a larger amount of damage than the opponent, and it plays very strongly to a base 11000 game. Oasis can counterblast 4 to make Rutile a 21000-power vanguard line and still leave room for Death Metal's counterblast after Rutile's skills kick in, but Rutile himself cannot reliably break 23000 power for the crossride format. So despite its strong matchup versus anything and every of 11000 and below, the build has not aged very well, and the remedy to this problem will not manifest until well into BT09.

Next time that I come back to the Nova Grapplers, it will be to cover the Raizer series' soul-based play style introduced by EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shadow Paladin Extra Study Material: Phantom Blaster Overlord

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
As the first crossride formally introduced to Cardfight as a whole, Phantom Blaster Overlord is the harbinger of a format defining mechanic. While it lacks the overwhelming support and rapidfire early game of The End, Overlord has repeatedly demonstrated itself as a championship-level deck that operates on equally defensive and aggressive tactics, gradually stretching out a difference between it and opposing decks until there is no outcoming remaining where the opponent can win. This despair-based play style uniquely requires commanding units, rather than playing them. Individual moves become unimportant compared to the overall state of a match, and sacrifices become dispassionate rather than agonizing.

Overlord expands on the existing base of Shadow Paladin cards, bringing with him their second critical trigger, Death Feather Eagle. Death Feather is an essential component of competitive Shadow Paladin decks, as their play style prefers critical and draw triggers before anything else. As we will see soon, Overlord maximizes Fullbau's synergy and opens up deck space for other units, and because of this synergy there is no new first vanguard for the deck. Instead we have Phantom Bringer Demon, a base 5000 grade 0 that draws special attention for not outriding. Phantom Bringer's skill is very similar to Doom Bringer Gryphon of Kagerou, although the skill is more at home here. Phantom Bringer's counterblast 1 allows him to retire two Shadow Paladin rearguards--ideally with himself being used as part of this cost--and then add Phantom Blaster Overlord from the deck to your hand, helping to guarantee your grade 3 ride, but overall it incurs a -1 with no outride to compensate and as there is only Macha to search him with, his use is even more difficult to justify for the Shadow Paladins. As Nemain is more effective for letting you look through two cards at a time without any loss in advantage, she is more practical for finding your Overlord ride.

Phantom Blaster Overlord himself is one of the Shadow Paladins' strongest vanguards. Like Blaster Dragon before him, Overlord is a base 11000 grade 3, but his 11000 is contingent only upon having no non-Shadow Paladin units on your side of the field. While this does unfortunately lock him out of using Blaster support cards from the Royal Paladin side of his subgroup, in a pure Shadow Paladin deck this effectively makes him a conditionless base 11000, which is a powerful improvement over his original form. As a crossride, his autoskill gives Overlord +2000 power in the vanguard circle if Phantom Blaster Dragon is in the soul; with Dragon being searchable by Javelin, this capitalizes on his evolving line's efficiency and provides a powerful base 13000 defense that can deny the upper half of all rearguard combinations with only 5000 shield, while also forming a 21000 power line with Charon. That 21000 won't be enough to touch his contemporaries, The End and Majesty Lord Blaster, but like Lord Blaster, Overlord has access to a base 10000 boosting unit exclusive to the Blaster subgroup.

Apocalypse Bat is a base 4000 grade 1 that when he boosts a unit with "Blaster" in its name, can soulblast 1 to give that unit +6000 additional power for a +10000 boost overall, forming a powerful 23000 line that hits base 13000, 11000 and 10000 units for all of the optimal numbers simultaneously. Since Apocalypse is a Shadow Paladin, unlike in Lord Blaster you can safely run him at two copies and only need four grade 1s with base 7000 or higher to make him practical and ensure that you won't ride him in the majority of games. Unlike Conroe and Wingal Brave, Fullbau stays in the soul no matter what, and we want to avoid soulblasting Blaster Dragon from the soul, so Overlord will generally see that soulblast come out three times in a given game for three turns of 23000 power overall. Even before the soulblast though, Overlord's crossride power puts him at 17000 with Apocalypse. This means that the soulblast should probably be restricted to use only after the opponent's crossride has come out, or otherwise that it should only begin being used the turn after Overlord is ridden.

Phantom Blaster Overlord's second autoskill has him counterblast 3 and persona blast a copy of himself from the hand when he attacks to gain +10000 power and +1 critical until the end of the turn. Most commonly this skill is mistaken as the main goal of the deck and something to be done simultaneous to Apocalypse's soulblast, but a truly effective Overlord deck will likely not persona blast in the majority of games that it plays. With Nemain being the best way to search for Overlord and her intercept as the ideal use of his 13000 base, Macha setting up rearguard lines in the midgame and Blaster Dark disrupting the opponent's strategy with his retire skill, counterblast is very heavily strained in the Overlord deck and grade 2 space is still at a premium, which means that Cursed Lancer will likely only be a single card tech in most decks. Furthermore, the Overlord that we would be persona blasting is probably better used as a rearguard, forming easy base 17-18000 lines for combating other crossrides and Lord Blaster, or a base 21000 rearguard with Apocalypse. The best way to use the persona blast is as a substitute for Apocalypse Bat's soulblast, if you have run out of blastable soul or otherwise want to hold off on it for another turn. This gets you four turns of breaking 23000 power, for a more long-term offense.

Because of his 13000 base being contingent on Blaster Dragon, all Overlord decks fundamentally play four copies of the deck's titular crossride and either three or four copies of Phantom Blaster Dragon. While grade 3 space is then locked down by Overlord, he does significantly improves a Shadow Paladin deck's open space at grade 2 because Blaster Dark can now be safely run at two copies. As the new final goal is to ride Overlord instead of Blaster Dragon, and Overlord's 11000 base is not contingent upon Dark being within the soul, Blaster Dark is now solely the means by which we gain an extra card from Fullbau, as well as free up our redraw by effectively drawing our grade 2 ride when we draw Javelin. The reason to run this at two instead of just one is to avoid having our only copy of Dark in hand after the redraw, which would negate Javelin's two strengths. Overlord maximizes Fullbau's synergy and opens up deck space for other units, and the four-Overlord/four-Dragon model puts emphasis on the grade 2 and 1 units as the main area of customization.

Of those grade 2s, BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades introduces the Knight of Nullity Masquerade, a base 9000 grade 2 that will effectively replace Rugos and Dordona in the Overlord deck. Masquerade gains +3000 power when he attacks and you have a Blaster vanguard, forming a 12000 offensive base that can go for 20000 with Charon to pressure base 10000 units, or otherwise make anticrossride 18000 power lines with even greater ease than rearguard Overlords. Since unlike in the Majesty Lord Blaster deck, the Overlord deck has every vanguard from grades 1 to 3 as a Blaster vanguard and does not make use of alternative grade 3s, Masquerade is much more viable to the Shadow Paladins and should be run at four. 

While grade 2 space is once more constrained because of Masquerade being the perfect rearguard for the deck, running Cursed Lancer in one or two copies is more viable than before when considering how many counterblasts won't be going off in every game; Blaster Dark, Blaster Dragon and Blaster Overlord are all very unlikely to happen together with the other units' skills, which leaves just Macha and Nemain as consistent uses of counterblast. So while he is not stapled to the build as Masquerade is, Lancer can free up counterblast for those three Blaster units' outlier skills.

Another aspect of Masquerade is that he makes base 6000 grade 1s viable for the crossride format, and other than Javelin for searching purposes the Shadow Paladins also have the new Nightmare Painter to take advantage of this. Painter's autoskill allows him to choose up to one Shadow Paladin from the hand when he is called and put it into the soul. This is important because it means that Overlord's continuous +2000 can be made to come out in every game, and even more than that Painter brings speed to the deck by allowing you to ride Overlord directly and soulcharge Blaster Dragon from the hand instead of waiting a turn and then riding. Since getting Blaster Dragon into the hand is much easier for the Shadow Paladins than getting Dragonic Overlord is for Kagerou, this makes Overlord both the fastest and most stable crossride in the format.

The other new grade 2 that comes with Overlord is Moonlight Witch Vaha. Vaha is a Shadow Paladin release of Maiden of Libra, a base 9000 unit that when her attack hits can counterblast 2 to draw one card. Like Blaster Dark and Overlord, this is an outlier counterblast that will not go off in every game and so can be supported by Cursed Lancer, but Vaha is largely redundant because of Nemain's role in capitalizing on both crossride defense and card drawing.

Overlord's defining advantage over other decks comes from both Nightmare Painter and Apocalypse Bat, units which together allow him to start his defense early and end the match late. Having a stable base 13000 defense and 23000 power every turn as well as Masquerade as a powerful rearguard setup lets the dragon keep playing for virtually forever, gradually narrowing the situation with each turn until there is no outcome where the dragon loses. The despair deck primarily relies on patience rather than straightforward battle, playing its key move early and sitting on it for the rest of the match.

Fourteen pros use this deck.