Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Today's Card Analysis: Snowdrop Musketeer Pirkko & Paint Otter

Today's Japanese cards of the day are a pair of limit break enablers from G-BT02: Flying Flowers. Just having these cards on the field allows any limit break 4 skill to activate regardless of your damage. Snowdrop Musketeer Pirkko and Paint Otter give support to Neo Nectar and Great Nature, and like the limit break enablers for Granblue and Gold Paladin, both of these grade 1s synergize with their clan's ability to search from the deck or filter from it to get them into play more reliably.

While on the surface Pirkko may appear to be just the last bastion for Cecilia and Elvira, it should be kept in mind that limit break enablers are not subclan specific, so she can just as easily go to supporting the Venus Trap grade 3 pair. With Link Joker at its weakest point since the Nebula Lord days, Pirkko makes Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse” more viable than ever as an early game unit. Even if you lock Pirkko for her cost, since at the moment you performed the skill you met the conditions for limit break, you can fully resolve “Яeverse's” effects.

And since “Яeverse” is not a once per turn effect, this means that if you have two counterblast available, you can quickly swarm the field by locking a different booster to call from the top 5, then locking Pirkko after to call a second one, netting a +2 in card advantage while still attacking with three ~16000 power columns. Pirkko into “Яeverse” becomes a kind of early Judgebau play for the deck; since this all takes place beyond the point where the stride step would happen, how viable this strategy is will be determined somewhat by the quality of Neo Nectar's upcoming stride units. Even if stride is preferable however, when you first ride to grade 3 the opponent may not be at your grade yet, so Pirkko with “Яeverse” can still be good for that turn.

However, trying to use Pirkko in this way is limited by the Maiden subclan's lack of ways to superior call Pirkko. The only means to achieve it prior to 4 damage when the skill matters is with the first vanguard, Maiden of Physalis, who can call a grade 1 from the top 5 early in the fight. The Musketeers have more reliable ways to search for Pirkko, since they can repeatedly search the top 4~5 cards with the skills of Rebecca, Kaivant, Cecilia and Elvira. The latter two ensure that as long as you reach grade 3, you have a means to retire a Musketeer and check the top for Pirkko, so these grade 3s have the potential to activate their own limit breaks inherently.

Of course, the hangup to this is that the Musketeers are both the subclan that can access Pirkko the most easily and the ones that need her the least. With powerful legions like Lycoris Musketeer Vera and Peony Musketeer Martina around, what niche can Cecilia and Elvira fill? Martina's legion skill can superior call two Musketeers once per turn for a +2, which is effectively an improved version of Cecilia's limit break, while Vera gives every Musketeer on the field +3000 power in the turn that she legions for a strong finishing maneuver, creating columns that read like 22000-36000-22000. The situational advantage that Cecilia holds over Martina is that Martina has to rely on the top 4 while Cecilia just searches for two copies of herself, which can be exchanged through the Musketeers' retire-and-call skills for subclan attackers or on-hit unflippers. Cecilia gives more up front, but then requires additional skills to be used on top of hers to get the same maximum possible results as Martina, and doesn't have the same big center lane. Elvira has the stronger argument going for herself. Not only does she have a more modern 11000 power base, but Elvira's counterblast 1 limit break gives her an additional critical whenever a Musketeer is called from the deck. Early Shotgun Blow-like critical gain is not a tool that legion Musketeers have in their repertoire, and can either give you an early lead in damage or force the opponent to drop a perfect defense card much earlier than they want to, especially if her skill is repeated to give her a critical of 3 or higher. The catch to this is that Elvira has no power gain skills, and only the Musketeers' 9000-power booster to pump her up to 20000 while the opponent is at grade 2. Like with the Maidens described above, these ideas may go out the window depending on the quality of Neo Nectar's stride units.

Paint Otter offers more exciting possibilities. Great Nature's only legion thus far is a promo card distributed in this year's legion campaign. With some small exceptions, Great Nature is a clan that was born and built in limit break format, so most of its options have been locked behind the gate of limit break ever since the onset of legion format. Otter is here to set them free, and his first rescuee will invariably Honorary Professor Chatnoir. This break ride has been the backbone of Great Nature ever since her debut in BT13, to the point that most all Great Nature legion decks run her today just in case the opportunity to use her skill presents itself. Chatnoir's break ride skill gives all of the rearguards the ability to power up a rearguard by +4000 power when they attack and then retire that unit at the end of the turn, which can cause multiple columns to push for high numbers in the range of 21000+ power, as if Great Nature had its own Vera.

Since Chatnoir refunds the retired unit by drawing at the end of the turn, this also clears off the field while preserving card advantage in hand, only incurring a -1 overall from putting another grade 3 down for break ride. This was already a great limit break in BT13, Paint Otter just updates it to compete on even footing with legion, and by using cards like Coiling Duckbill to put on-retire draw effects on your rearguards, or Hammsuke as a retire target, you can actively build card advantage from using Chatnoir. The disadvantage to this is that Chatnoir is not live the moment he and Otter hit the field, so you have to position both of them beforehand and wait until next turn, leaving yourself exposed to retire and lock skills.

The second grade 3 Otter fans should be looking into is Leo-pald “Яeverse,” Great Nature's boss card from Catastrophic Outbreak. A refresher; “Яeverse's” skill locks one of the rearguards to give two rearguards +4000 power, retire them at the end of the turn, and then call them back to open rearguard circles. This is not a once-per-turn skill, so you can lock three rearguards to give both frontrow units +12000 power, and since the same principles described for Venus Trap above apply, as long as Paint Otter is the last booster that you lock you will be able to complete the limit break. Further, if you have the opportunity to use Telescope Rabbit or Tank Mouse as your lock targets, then before using “Яeverse's” limit break you can use their own skills to rest them and stack an additional +4000 power on each unit. If this strategy is used with Binoculus Tiger, who can power up the other rearguard by +4000 power when he attacks, then one column will attack for 25000 and the other for 29~31000 power depending on where it is between base 9000 and base 11000 power. This will be old hat to veteran Great Nature fans, but the perspective to put into place here is that “Яeverse” can now be done while at zero damage because he has no counterblast cost, and the enormous power of the rearguard lanes forces so much defense out of the opponent that in the early turns of the fight when resources are low, they are effectively Vortex Dragonewts dealing direct damage. Again, this comes with a weakness; Leo-pald “Яeverse” by himself can only attack for 11000 power, which lends to the idea of having Paint Otter as his booster and not locking it so that he'll attack for 18000, leaving the rearguards at a "mere" +8~12000 each, generally coming out to 21000 power if Tank Mice are available.

The last options for Otter are School Hunter Leo-pald from BT07 and Trainee Sage Minette from Fighter's Collection 2014. Time has not been kind to other Great Nature boss cards, so Polaris and Apt are not likely to see much play. Today the original Leo-pald is the option for limit break Great Nature cardfighters that want to avoid Chatnoir's slow setup, as he makes a good pair to his crossride Leo-pald “Яeverse.” Crossride Great Nature has never enjoyed much popularity, owing to Chatnoir's once-undisputed status as the king of the clan, but Leo-pald himself once held that position and for those looking for a speedier approach he can take up the mantle once more. Leo-pald's on-attack powers up a rearguard by +4000 power and then retires it at the end of the turn, while his counterblast 1 limit break calls it back to the field when it's retired. With Otter around the tricks being pulled off are the same as in the past, using Hammsukes as retire targets and using their own counterblasts to search out copies of them while calling them back to build a +1 off of each retire. Duckbill's draw effect snowballs with Leo-pald's limit break in a similar manner, since the retire target is preserved but you still get an additional card from retiring it. Most importantly, Otter gives the opportunity for Leo-pald to interact with a support card he never had the opportunity to take advantage of before; Wash-up Racoon. Racoon behaves like a higher base power super-Hammsuke that can return grade 1 and greater units other than itself to the deck when it's retired to search for a copy of itself, building a +1 in the same way while also preventing deck out without having to resort to a legion. The downside to this is that Racoon cannot return trigger units as a legion can, by returning nontriggers he reduces the chance of drive checking triggers, and that his skill is unwieldy in conjunction with Otter Leo-pald because early on you are unlikely to have so many normal units in the drop zone.

Paint Otter provides a unique opportunity to take advantage of crossride Leo-pald, as early game you can build card advantage off of the initial limit breaks, then in the midgame force the opponent to take damage after crossriding “Яeverse” and plowing in with 21000 power columns, and at the endgame when the opponent is at 5 damage those columns suddenly become much more dangerous. This unique combination of early active defense and late game offense is only possible in Great Nature because of Paint Otter, as the original Leo-pald's late game nature was so restrictive during the game's third block that it brought nothing to the deck compared to Chatnoir.

Finally, Egg Sage Minette. Since Minette is already a unique combination of Leo-pald and an earlier card, Armed Instructor Bison, much of what he can do with Otter has already been established. With Otter out, his limit break counterblast 2 gives the standard power boost to a rearguard, retires it at the end phase, then draws a card off of it, so like with Leo-pald you can stack card advantage by stacking Duckbill's draw effect to that targeted rearguard and/or targeting Wash-up Racoon. Minette also unflips damage every time a rearguard is retired in the end phase, which lets you keep taking advantage of Otter allowing the limit break to activate at lower damage, since you can be at 3 after using Minette's limit break on the previous turn and still only have one flipped damage rather than two. Minette can effectively replace the base Leo-pald in a “Яeverse” deck if you're uncomfortable with Leo-pald's 10000 power base, but this means missing out on Great Nature's only crossride for a draw rather than a return-to-field skill. Since Minette's target does end up in the drop zone, he does have better synergy with Racoon than the base Leo-pald does.

As with Pirkko, stride hangs over any considerations of Paint Otter like a guillotine waiting to fall. None of the Great Nature cards have on-ride skills that would be able to bring out a benefit before the stride step, so the effectiveness of their stride units will greatly determine how much you will or won't want to take advantage of the old grade 3s. The last word, as typical, belongs to legion: Chatnoir with Otter into Researcher Fox.