Greetings cardfighters! We've had some earthshattering announcements in the community throughout the past week! Mark your calendars for May 20th, as that is the date Fighter's Collection 2016 launches and these changes go into effect. If you haven't seen the announcement of G Guardians yet on the Bushiroad website, you can do so HERE. For starters, Air Element, Sebreeze is sure to impact the intentional gradelocking strategy that has been present in the metagame for quite some time until this point. G Guardians add a new element of much needed additional defense in Vanguard. In addition, everyone's G Zone is being increased to a whopping 16 cards. As a whole, it looks like Fighter's Collection 2016 is going to be one of the most game-changing sets we have seen in Vanguard! What does that mean for the game? What decks will be given new life, or may become far more powerful? Let's break it down below.
Air Element, Sebreeze
Think you can just play Royal Paladins, flood your board, and not even ride a Grade 3 until you're ready to go for game? That's not going to be the case anymore....or could it still? Sebreeze is a very interesting unit that I did not expect them to release. By paying 2 counterblast, you can discard ANY card to stride if your opponent is on Grade 2 and did not ride on the previous turn. However, this can only be used once per game. People everywhere have been calling this the death of the Grade 2 game....but that's not always going to be the case. It still is going to depend heavily on the match-up and the current situation.
For instance, say Player A rushed Player B and the damage is sitting 1 to 3, and Player B has not been able to counter Player A's rush. Let's also assume Player B is playing a deck with presumably no GB1 rearguards. In this instance, perhaps letting Player B use his/her only copy of Sebreeze may not be such a bad idea. It does burn 2 counterblasts, and the main purpose of this card is to make full use of triple drive for a turn and to turn on GB1 rearguards. If that cannot be milked enough to turn around the current situation for Player B, staying on Grade 2 can still be very effective. Of course this is highly dependent on the match-up, as letting a heavy combo GB deck such as Gear Chronicle or Nightrose gain access to their GB skills plus a stridebreak while Player A is on Grade 2 may not be the best move. What I do like about this card is that it makes situations much more subjective and players to have to make individual assessments of every game state to determine if riding to Grade 3 is worth it or not.
G Guardians - The fix to the issue of going first
Ever since strides launched, going first became a distinct disadvantage for a large majority of decks. Intentionally misriding to Grade 3 is an inherent minus one or even if Player A does ride normally, Player B still has the tempo defining first stride turn. If Sebreeze was released without G Guardians, going first would result in being even worse than it already is. Many games would have Player A being forced to ride to Grade 3 to avoid a Sebreeze scenario. G Guardians not only attempts to fix the inherent problems of going first, it also simultaneously aims to add more already sorely needed defensive cards to the game.
To guard with a G Guardian, one simply has to discard a heal trigger from his/her hand. This calls the G Guardian from the G Zone to the Guardian Circle, which has an upgraded 15k shield. Until this point, many of them have an additional small requirement to gain an additional 5k, making them a 20k shield in total! The Gold Paladin G Guardian, Prayer of Holy Heaven, Leya for example gains 5k more guard if there are two or more rears on your field. G Guardians are great for not only helping to guard strides themselves, but also mitigating triple drive. As it is right now, the only reliable defense we have against strides and triple triggers have been perfect guards, as in most cases guarding a stride normally takes up far too many resources. Therefore, the design goal of G Guardians was to curve up defensive resources to elevate the offensive power creep we've seen in the game, while at the same time not altering the main deck in an un-optimal way.
There's a lot more to G Guardians than simply raising everyone's defensive capabilities however. What's awesome about G Guardians is that they only require both player's vanguards to be at least Grade 3, and that they go face-up in the G Zone instead of the drop zone. This is hugely significant for Player A. Say both players rode normally, and Player B has the first stride turn. Say Player A used a G Guardian and it is now his/her turn. Player A can now instantly access GB2 strides, and as we know some of them are very powerful! This serves as a double benefit, as the G Guardian helped Player A better handle Player B's first stride turn, and can also access generally more powerful strides first. This is a change to the current dynamic of the first-second advantage ratio.
It is important to note that G Guardians won't automatically make going first better. There's no guarantee after all that there will always be a heal trigger ready in hand. Would the right move be to keep a heal trigger in an opening hand instead of a mulligan? That is one less heal trigger in the deck, and it is a card that cannot be called or be used to guard for the first few turns. Did you see your opponent drive check an early heal? Maybe it would be better to misride and let them use Sebreeze rather than let them use a GB2 stride. Just like how it is with Sebreeze, it becomes more subjective and it depends on the deck you are playing, the match-up, and the current gamestate.
Another game changing shift is that on-hit strides become even worse. As of now, every clan has a generic stride that has an on-hit, do a clan's basic mechanic for free skill. The dynamic currently is to use a perfect guard and have your opponent's stride be vanilla, or to simply take it. G Guardians now make on-hits vulnerable to more than just perfect guards. With two potential answers to on-hits, we might see them phase out of the game even more than we already have seen currently. Quite a few clans have been receiving powerful first strides, such as Interdimensional Beast, Metallica Phoenix and Supremacy Black Dragon, Aurageyser Dragon for example, but not everyone has them. As of right now, some clans would be in much better positions than others. On the same token however, Fighter's Collection 2016 also releases a batch of strides that can be used on the first stride turn, which seems to address that issue for some decks.
Guard restricting units have also taken a hit with G Guardians providing new avenues to better handle them. Units that only allow Grade 0s such as Bluish Flame Liberator, Prominence Glare, Metalborg, Sin Buster and the newly upcoming Nouvelle Vague L'express now require less resources to guard, whereas units that only allow 1 or higher such as Silent Tom can now effectively be guarded by heal triggers. This makes their position in the metagame which was already declining to be significantly worse, potentially enough to knock them off the map as semi-viable decks.
So the question now is deciding what decks benefit the most from using a GB2 stride early on. Some obvious clans are Aqua Force and Shadow Paladin, as a GB2 Marine General of Heavenly Silk, Lambros and both the Diablo strides are a force to be reckoned with especially coming out a turn earlier than they are supposed to. Nebula Dragon Big Crunch Dragon, Flame Emperor Dragon King Root Flare Dragon, Aerial Divine Knight Altmile, Chronodragon Nextage, and Conquering Supreme Dragon Conquest Dragon are just a few examples of strides that greatly benefit from this change.
A 16 card G Zone!
Probably the most controversial announcement was doubling the size of the G Zone. While a lot of the community is up in arms about it, let's see what that essentially curtails. Assuming that everyone is going to toss in 4 G Guardians in their deck (since the rules limit them to 4 per deck, like sentinels), that means everyone has four more open slots to work with. My assumption is this move had many of the Fighter's Collection 2016 strides in mind, since many of them seem to be almost good but until now couldn't squeeze their way into tight G Zones. Clans with a large toolbox of strides, such as Royal Paladin, Kagero, Gear Chronicle, Shadow Paladin will greatly benefit from the extra utility. Clans that have been on the losing end of viable strides like Gold Paladin, Megacolony, and Genesis gain little, but are hurt further by their competitions' boost. The trend I'm seeing here is the top tier clans with a lot of utility are the ones benefiting the most while lesser clans are further stung, which is certainly an issue. However, future set design may interact with this expanded G Zone size in a different way so we will have to see. It's difficult to critique the effect this will have on the game with current lens, because this change could have months of future support in mind.
That's it for this week's article. What are your thoughts on these major game changes? Let me know in the comments. As always, Play Hard or Go Home!