Breaking the Meta Part 1: Rush Decks

The world of Cardfight!! Vanguard has had a very solid set of rules and ratios ingrained in deck building that have stayed ironclad throughout the game's 13-set history.  Before I speak about breaking the meta, I want to clearly state the things that define the meta.  Almost every single deck that tops at a regional or greater level tournament is a monoclan deck.  The only real exceptions are decks featuring Majesty Lord Blaster, who requires the non-Royal Paladin, Blaster Dark,  in soul to get his full effect.  Most of these decks have similar grade ratios, hovering around 17 grade 0's, 13-15 grade 1's, 9-12 grade 2's, and 7-9 grade 3's.  These decks typically try to optimize the odds of riding up to grade 3 by your third turn while maintaining trigger and perfect guard consistency from only having units from a single clan.  These are the unwritten rules that have been deemed most optimal for building a Cardfight!! Vanguard deck.  There are also clans that are used more often than others and boss units that are considered stronger than others, but those stray away from the focus of this article.

Let's pretend that those rules aren't automatically the do-all end-all for the deck building process.  What if we made a deck with a different focus?  There are many different tactics available to the individuals who play this game, and many of them go unused.  Here is a different take on this.  What if instead of focusing on riding to grade 3 by turn 3, we instead focus on getting every single rear guard slot full on our first turn attacking so that we can force out 10000 shield or more from every attack, or inflict damage with those attacks?  If they don't guard the first turn, you could deal 3 or even 4 damage with a trigger.   The opponent is already over halfway dead by that point and they will reach the point where they can no longer no-guard attacks halfway through your second turn attacking.  Well, that doesn't sound too bad in theory, but how does it function in practice?  Let's take a look at one of the original rush decks commonly known as "Cardfight Manguard".

Reckless Express

Cardfight Manguard is a deck that uses 17 grade 0 units and 33 grade 1 units.  This deck is literally always able to put any card on the field and attack or boost with it at any stage of the game, barring going first.  From the first opportunity, the user of the deck will place as many units on the field as he can and attack with all of them.  While the deck can never ride to grade 3 and has no inherent card advantage engine, it is capable of putting enormous pressure on your opponent by forcing them to guard sooner than they'd like.  Since you aren't riding to grade 2 or 3 with the deck, it also has two cards in hand that it saves from not doing those rides, so the opponent doesn't even make up for the amount of card disadvantage your deck gives to you until turn 4.  They don't get the advantage in cards until turn 5.  In addition to that, the deck also runs several 8000 power grade 1 units from many different clans for the purpose of placing them in the same row.  This row will be 16000 power, which is arguably the single most important number in Vanguard as it forces 10000 shield from 11000 power Vanguards.  Against 10000 power Vanguards, an 8000 power boost will even make Reckless Express swing for 20000 total power, forcing 15000 shield.  While the deck is weak to early guarding, damage triggers, and prolonged games, it still managed to perform very well when ran in the 2012 Los Angeles regional tournament, making it to round 6 and earning a mention on the Official Cardfight!! Vanguard USA Facebook page.

Here's the decklist that went 4-2 at Los Angeles:

You will notice that the deck uses no heal triggers.  This is because the deck will do too much damage too early, which will prevent the user from healing.  This is very common in rush decks.  While you might be thinking, "What about late game if you really need a heal to save you?", if they are in a situation where they need a heal trigger to save them, they have already started the downward spiral of card disadvantage and will no longer win regardless.  The deck also doesn't utilize many counterblasts, with Mecha Trainer and Gyro Slinger being the only two units that use any, so heals aren't even useful for unflipping damage that has been counterblasted.  They simply don't have a place in standard rush decks.

Grade 0's (17)

1 x Mecha Trainer (Starter)
4 x Cheerful Lynx (Spike Brothers Draw Trigger)
4 x Sonic Breaker (Spike Brothers Critical Trigger)
4 x Silence Joker (Spike Brothers Critical Trigger)
4 x Kungfu Kicker (Spike Brothers Stand Trigger)

Grade 1's (33)

4 x Reckless Express
4 x Wonder Boy
4 x Medical Manager
4 x Gyro Slinger
2 x Dandy Guy, Romario
3 x Embodiment of Armor, Bahr
3 x Sonic Noa
3 x Oracle Guardian, Gemini
3 x Tough Boy
3 x Phantom Block

Well, that's not too bad at all, eh?  But filling your field with all grade 1's isn't the only focus a rush deck can take.  There are many powerful grade 2's with Vanguard-only abilities that are rarely ever played due to people wanting to ride to grade 3.  As these effects are typically only live for one turn, these units get thrown by the wayside in favor of units with more base power or rear guard effects.  While that's an extremely rational reason to not run these cards, what if you were planning on staying at grade 2 for a while?  What if you don't always have that grade 3 you want?  What if your grade 2 is significantly stronger than any grade 3's in your clan and it has the ability to restand if it fails to hit?  Wait, what?  Let's move on to the next rush deck, my Ten Dollar Hyper Budget Rush Deck.

Cat Butler

Some cards are actually incredibly powerful, but slip under the radar.  Cat Butler is one such unit.  Most restanding Vanguards will have you discard multiple cards, retire multiple units, or reride a new unit which overrides all previous power and trigger effects the previous unit had.  There isn't a restanding Vanguard in the game that lets you trade 1 for 1 for just existing.  Yet this common, unused card can do just that.  He only has one restriction that bars him from competitive play, he will only restand a grade 2 or less Vanguard.  We have the idea behind this deck, but do Nova Grapplers have any grade 2 units worth standing?  Let's check some of the stronger ones.  Nova Grapplers have Brutal Jack.  He's an 11000 power grade 2 that requires a single counterblast to attack every turn.  As Vanguard, he gets an additional 5000 power when boosted.  So that makes him 16000 power in addition to a 5000-8000 point boost, bringing him up to 21000-24000 power.  That's nuts.  Nova Grapplers also have an unused common that was a promo in Japan.  It's called Cup Bowler.  It is a grade 2 version of another unused card called Top Gun.  It gains 1000 power every time a Nova Grappler unit on your field rests.  This includes units like Screamin' and Dancin' Announcer Shout, who you can rest to discard and draw, and any units that attack or boost during the battle phase.  If you assume that Cup Bowler attacks last, he will be 14000 power if you had a full field.  This means that he would be 21000 power with a 7k boost, and that makes his attack much more taxing to guard than a typical grade 2 Vanguard.

So, we have a unit that lets us restand our grade 2's and grade 2's that swing for absolutely silly amounts of power.  All we need now is the rest of the deck.

Grade 0's (21)

1x Lionet Heat (Starter)
4x Cat Butler
4x Red Lightning (Critical Trigger)
4x Minimum Raizer (Critical Trigger)
4x Fighting Battleship, Prometheus (Critical Trigger)
4x Shining Lady (Critical Trigger)

Grade 1's (16)

4x Tough Boy
4x Burstraizer/Oasis Girl
4x Screamin' and Dancin' Announcer Shout
4x Claydoll Mechanic

Grade 2's (13)

4x Brutal Jack
4x Cup Bowler
3x Hungry Dumpty
2x King of Sword

With the focus of this deck being restanding with a grade 2 or lower Vanguard, we aren't running grade 3's to have the pressure from Cat Butler always active.  Additionally, the deck can make 16000 power in many ways with its side rows.  It can also unflip any counterblasts utilized by Jacks and Oasis Girls with access to 12 units that can unflip.  Also, rear guard Brutal Jacks can still make 16000 power with Cat Butlers.  With 16 critical triggers, the deck has a 1/3 chance to get that extra damage on its 21000+ power Vanguard attack if it isn't guarded, or apply that trigger's effects to the Vanguard anyway and stand it back up by sacrificing a Cat Butler.  This deck has playtested very well for me and the many people who have played it.  And yes, it's really only ten dollars.  Now, these Vanguards only have effects that give power to themselves.  What about grade 2 units with a little more utility or on-hit pressure?  How about a grade 2 that can easily transition into grade 3 due to being in a ride chain while still having ratios that support rushing?  The next deck's star card is Rising Ripple, Pavroth.  Its name is Ripple Rush.

Rising Ripple, Pavroth

Pavroth is one of many ride chain grade 2 units that has an on-hit effect.  What separates this on-hit effect from other ride chains' is how powerful the effect is.  If you have a copy of the grade 1 in your soul, this unit gains the ability to stand one of your rear guards and give that unit 3000 additional power.  Let's compare a similar card like Gold Rutile.  It has a similar effect, when it hits a Vanguard, you counterblast two and stand a rear guard unit.  You should see a difference in cost between these two units.  Namely, one requires no counterblasts and gives bonus power while the other one requires 2 counterblasts and does not give bonus power.  Pavroth's effect is completely free when it would definitely be worth using for a single counterblast.  Now, we've established how strong Pavroth is, let's take a look at the decklist.  This decklist contains some set 13 units in it which aren't released in the English version of the game yet, but there are plenty of ways to build it with current support using Basil and Damon.  I'm just listing the set 13 version as it gets much more powerful with the addition of Tidal Assault, a 9000 power grade 2 with a rear guard only effect to stand itself at the cost of 5000 power after it attacks a Vanguard, as it curbs many of the weaknesses the deck previously had while retaining or amplifying its strengths in other areas.

Grade 0's (17)

1x Starting Ripple, Alex (Starter)
4x Jet Ski Rider (Critical Trigger)
4x Mothership Intelligence (Critical Trigger)
4x Battleship Intelligence (Critical Trigger)
4x Supersonic Sailor (Critical Trigger)

Grade 1's (16)

4x Tear Knight, Theo
4x Silent Ripple, Stiletto
4x Accelerated Command
2x Emerald Shield, Paschal
2x Storm Rider, Nicholas

Grade 2's (13)

4x Tidal Assault
4x Rising Ripple, Pavroth
3x Twin Strike Brave Shooter
2x Ocean Current Rescuing Turtle Soldier

Grade 3's (4)

4x Roaring Ripple, Genovious

This deck gives you the ability to hit for very strong numbers against your opponent from the second turn.  While rushing with grade 1's on turn 1 with this deck isn't anywhere near as consistent as Manguard, you get the ability to search the top seven cards of your deck for your grade 3 unit if you ride the grade 1 Ripple in addition to potentially drawing into one of your four grade 3's.  This lets you keep most of the consistency for rushing by greatly lowering your grade 3 count while still having enough consistency to get your grade 3 when you need it.  Even if you miss your grade 3, if you have a Pavroth Vanguard with the grade 1 in soul, you still have a Vanguard that has 17000 power with a boost and stands a rear guard every time it hits.  Even if you miss the grade 2, if you landed the grade 1 and ride a different grade 2, you can check the top 7 cards of your deck for Pavroth and ride it.  If you miss both, well, that sucks.  It's about the same odds as missing a 3 in a standard deck.  The deck can still rush well and potentially recover if you do get your grade 3 ride later in the game.  Still, no deck is without its ability to get hindered by getting an unfavorable ratio of grades.  Not even Manguard, even though it's significantly less likely.

An optimal turn will begin with you having a Pavroth or Genovious on the field as your Vanguard.  One of your rows should be Twin-Strike Brave Shooter.  This unit, when boosted by anything else in your deck (including your starter) will make at least 16000 power as long as two or less rear guards are at rest.  This makes him both extremely strong for pressuring with a first attack and an optimal restand target for Pavroth's ability.  Your other rear guard should be a Tidal Assault.  If you have an Accelerated Command, calling that to boost Tidal Assault and using its skill to give Tidal Assault 2000 power until the end of the turn is a key play in this deck.  Where previously, against an 11k Vanguard, this row would be a 15000 power swing with a boost and restand at 4000 power, you can now swing 11000 power at a Vanguard unboosted, stand Tidal with his effect, and then swing for 12000.  That forced out double the shield for that small of a boost!  And it gets better, any triggers you hit and apply to Tidal Assault carry over for both of its attacks.  That would mean that with a single trigger, its attacks would be 16000 and 17000.  This is 20000 shield, up from 10000, up from 5000.  With two triggers, this becomes 21000 and 22000.  Forcing 30000 shield from a single row, made worse by the fact that this deck only runs critical triggers.  That means that if either of these 15000 shield to guard attacks hit, they would take three damage.  While double triggering is only a 1/9 chance of happening, that is still some crazy pressure for something to happen 11% of the time!  This deck is able to dish out massive pressure early game, especially if you get this field set-up.  It encourages your opponent to guard Pavroth for fear of the restand.  If they do guard him though, it is extremely unlikely that they can also guard Tidal Assault.  If you hit a critical trigger and pass it to Tidal Assault, both of his attacks still have that bonus critical.  This catch-22 makes that field set-up extremely deadly.  Late game, if you draw into an extra copy of Genovious and you have been pushed to four damage, you can activate his persona blast, which stands all of your rear guard units.  If your opponent is at 5 damage, especially after the initial rush, they really have no hopes to survive that final push.  A final cool move that the deck can do is with its grade 2 tech card, Ocean Current Rescuing Turtle Soldier.  This is a grade 2 unit with 7000 power that checks the top card of your deck, if it's a grade 1 or 2 unit, you can superior call it to the rear guard.  Since this deck's ratios are skewed towards these two grades, the consistency for this card shoots through the roof.  Additionally, since it's a costless chance at a free unit, it also fits the theme of rushing.  Finally, if you ride it over the grade 1 Ripple, you get to resolve both effects in whichever order you choose.  This means that you can call the top card of your deck if it's a grade 1 or 2 and then check the top 7 cards of your deck for a Pavroth and ride it which let's you trade your 7000 power turtle for the Pavroth you need while potentially getting another free card on top of that.

So, we have decks with no grade 2's, decks with no grade 3's, decks with only a few grade 3's.  All of them are pretty unique to each other, even with all of them being rush decks.  But just how fast can a rush deck be?  Can you potentially kill someone on your first turn attacking with one of these decks?  Well, let's see.  If I attack with Twin-Strike (1), attack with Pavroth and crit (3), stand Twin-Strike and attack (4), Hit with Tidal (5), hit with Tidal again (6), it would be possible, but really, really unlikely.  Any damage triggers would shut it down.  Especially heals.  Well, this next deck has, to my knowledge, the highest possible consistency of a first turn kill in all of Vanguard.  It's called Platinum Rush, named after its key card, Platinum Ace.

Platinum Ace

This unit gains a bonus critical if its power reaches 13000 or more.  This is a devastating ability to have early in the game, as you will have a much stronger base powered Vanguard to reach this effect and your opponent will have a grade 1 or 2 Vanguard that they'll have to defend.  With a 6000 power boost, simply meeting the requirements for this ability will force out 15000 shield for a one-to-pass from any 9000 power or less Vanguards.  With the key card out of the way, here's the rest of the decklist.

Grade 0's (17)

Starter - Goyusha
4x Dimensional Robo, Daibattles (Critical Trigger)
4x Justice Cobalt (Critical Trigger)
4x Guide Dolphin (Stand Trigger)
4x Cosmo Fang (Stand Trigger)

Grade 1's (17)

4x Karenroid Daisy
4x Commander Laurel
4x Speedster
3x Diamond Ace
2x Dimensional Robo, Daimariner

Grade 2's (12)

4x Platinum Ace
4x Cosmic Rider
2x Cosmo Beak
2x Masked Police, Grander

Grade 3's (4)

4x Super Dimensional Robo, Daiyusha

The focus of this deck is to ride either Platinum Ace or Daiyusha and use their abilities to get bonus critical while simultaneously flooding the field earlier and more consistently with the lower average grade amounts to trigger the effects of Commander Laurel when they hit.  For those of you who might not know what Laurel does, it allows you to rest 4 of your rear guards to stand your Vanguard if your Vanguard hits with an attack.  This is significantly easier to do on your first two turns attacking, as your opponent is much more likely to no guard even attacks with bonus critical as they typically can't both have enough shield to stop the attack and field units, and many players tend to favor holding on to their shield for later in the game, especially when you'd need to drop 20000 shield or a perfect guard to guarantee that the attack doesn't hit.  This means that a two critical attack has a very good chance to hit if you get the setup, and if you happen to have out Commander Laurel, it will stand when it hits.  Now, imagine if you check a critical trigger on your first attack.  This will make the first attack do three damage.  Then your Vanguard stands again, retaining all three critical.  If you swing again, you will outright win the game on the first turn, barring heals.  I've done six damage on my first turn twice with this deck so far and had an opponent not heal one of those times, securing a legitimate first turn kill in Cardfight!! Vanguard.

So the first thing we need is to reach that 4000 power boost.  We have 10 units that give 2000 power in this deck, 6 units that give 3000 power, and 2 that give the full 4000 power.  Of those, the only ones that can't be used on command are your Daimariners.  You can only use one of them and that's if it was your turn 1 ride.  Cosmo Beak is expensive in that it requires two counterblasts.  The remaining units can be used on call or by moving to the soul save Grander, who gives the power boost when he attacks, which allows him to power up your Vanguard every turn he is out.  With this many units that give these effects, it ends up being extremely consistent for at least two turns, which is roughly as long as bonus critical remains relevant to the game state before late game sets in.  When that happens, you'll notice that your rear guards are severely lacking in strength.  You really need to get a backrow with as many Karenroid Daisy as possible to compensate for how many 8k units you have.  Otherwise, it's wise to use the +2000 on call power on your rear guard rows to make 16k.  If you didn't win early, you either had a bad setup or they dumped most of their guard, so making 16k rows and swinging in should suffice to finish off any games where you've already secured an advantage.

In closing, I'd like to say that rush decks have very distinct advantages and disadvantages.  Naturally, rush decks counter slower decks.  Especially decks focusing on break riding.  Most of these decks will have your opponent on their last legs if they haven't finished them off by turn 4, which is when most break rides go live.  Rush decks have consistency in early field presence and can abuse going first by attacking a grade 1 Vanguard with a slew of 16000 or stronger rows that would force out 15k shield a piece from a 6000 power opponent.  Rush decks, when built correctly, also tend to have little counterblast reliance that they can't easily manage, so guarding against attacks by using single cards to stop single attacks tends to work towards creating card advantage over the course of the game.  The disadvantages with rush decks are that they have typically poor riding consistency to grade 3, they typically don't have a strong card advantage engine, and they usually struggle against high card advantage decks that can go off turn 3.  A good example of this would be Scarlet Witch, CoCo in conjunction with Little Witch, LuLu.  While fending off attacks from a rush deck typically exhausts your hand, drawing three cards in an instant can mitigate that disadvantage and turn the fight into an even fight where the rush deck will lose a lot of its steam.  I hope you've enjoyed this segment on rush decks and I encourage you to give a different side of Vanguard a try.

Timothy Emerson
I'm Timothy Emerson, commonly know by my alias of TimPowerGamer. I am an administrator on the North American Cardfight Vanguard!! Facebook group, which is the largest North American Facebook group dedicated to the game. I'm pretty well known for creating mixed decks, rush decks, budget decks, sixteen critical trigger decks, Workerpod Saturday, drive checking more grade 3's than mathematically acceptable, and MANMODE. I have a few Cardfight!! Vanguard achievements, including winning a legitimate game on my first turn attacking, making a 172000 power row, and winning many, many games without taking any damage. I have placed well in both Chicago regional tournaments, making it to round 6 both times. This past time I was using a deck that is exactly 50% Oracle Think Tank and 50% Great Nature with no heal triggers and only two perfect guards. I greatly enjoy this game, and am its chief pioneer of expanding on its limitations and trying to adapt what we have into new, fresh ideas and builds.
Timothy Emerson

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