Greetings cardfighters. The month of June is full of new releases as well as one of the strongest G units to date. Dark Dragon, Phantom Blaster "Diablo" is the figurehead of the new Legend Deck: "The Dark" releasing on June 19th, just one day before ARG's first ever Vanguard State Championships on the 20th! If you are going to one of these events, it is rest assured that Phantom Blaster "Diablo" will definitely be a fierce contender so it is best to know what exactly you are up against.
Why is this card a threat?
Simply put, this unit sets a new bar for the power of stride units in the game and is a control deck's nightmare. If your deck isn't able to match the pressure this card is able to put out, you're going to have a hard time winning the match-up. Diablo is an excellent stride because it forces your opponent to keep a nearly full rear-guard even when it may not be optimal in order to avoid getting dunked. Control decks like Kagero absolutely hate this because they are not known for calling out large fields while still being able to conserve a large hand to guard. You are not allowed to have less than two rear-guards when playing against this deck or otherwise you cannot guard this unit and it gains a critical! In actuality, this should really be three units thanks to the various forms of Blaster Dark that are played in the deck. What is even better is the deck it is placed in. Diablo was given to a clan that probably has the best toolbox in the entire game: Shadow Paladin. The Revenger sub-clan has been one of the most successful decks in the game since their introduction in BT12: Binding Force of the Black Rings. Revengers are infamously known for being able to do everything and do it well. While Phantom Blaster "Diablo" can be played in its own build with the rest of the Legend Deck's cards, it has been shown to work best with the tried and true Revengers in Japan and it probably won't be any different here.
Why Revengers instead of the new cards?
Revengers even without Diablo have plenty of utility and are one of the best decks at the moment. Revenger, Phantom Blaster "Abyss" is one of the strongest legion units in the game, being very comparable to its Royal Paladin counterpart Seeker, Thing Saver Dragon. They have easy tools for cheap retiring with Blaster Dark Revenger, "Abyss" and the regular Blaster Dark Revenger + Barrier Troop Revenger, Dorint play. The Dorint combo is especially dangerous, as this allows them to unflip their counterblasts should they choose not to retire, which is a scary trait for a high counterblast deck to possess. Their starting vanguard Judgebau Revenger is one of the strongest starters in the game. I cannot think of many starting vanguards that give so much in card advantage as this one, especially being able to work with units like Black-winged Swordbreaker. These are traits that the Legend Deck simply does not have. Blaster Dark "Diablo" does have extra synergy with Phantom Blaster "Diablo" but does little else, whereas Revengers already have access to retiring and much more. Overall, Revengers have more established infrastructure than their Legend Deck counterparts as well as a stronger early game, so they are likely to be the dominant build for the deck.
Diablo added the utility of an alternate power play for Revengers, as well as the potential to outright steal the game from your opponent. Should you find yourself with plenty of un-flipped counterblasts and multiple copies of Blaster Dark Revenger or its "Abyss" version, there is little else for your opponent to do than to sit and watch Diablo swing with it's inherent +1 critical. It is also great for thinning out your opponent's resources to follow up with Phantom Blaster "Abyss" on the next turn. However if the game dictates that Diablo isn't the ideal play, then simply play the legion game with Phantom Blaster "Abyss".
Diablo, like most persona strides requires an already face up card in the G Zone to use its skill, but Shadow Paladins also have TWO other stride units to go into: Dark Knight, Grim Recruiter and True Revenger, Dragruler Revenant. Grim Recruiter is a promo included in the Legend Deck product and Revenant is obtainable in Fighter's Collection 2015, which also comes out on the same day as the Legend Deck. Grim Recruiter joins the ranks of the free on-hit strides that many clans have by calling a Grade 1 unit upon hitting, usually a Black-winged Swordbreaker for the +1 or a Barrier Troop Revenger, Dorint to set-up. Dragruler Revenant has a niche for being able to replace any card with Dorint during the main phase, while filtering a card you'd want to legion back to the deck (like a heal trigger) at no cost in card advantage. These cards serve as great filler plays for the 3rd or 4th turn for the Revenger player, all the while keeping synergy with the rest of the Revenger suite.
What will Revenger builds look like?
I don't see main deck builds being changed very much, at least not until G-BT03: Sovereign Star Dragon releases in July. The only change that players may consider is replacing Fighting Spirit Revenger, Macart with either Dark Night Maiden, Macha or Wily Revenger, Mana. Macha is one of the only units from the Legend Deck that has been seen in topping Japanese lists. It is Shadow Paladin's clone of Steam Fighter, Amber, this particular card calls a Grade 1 from the deck for one counterblast. It is quite notable for being able to call Dorint to either set up for next turn or the 10k attacker Transient Revenger, Masquerade as a simple +1. The issues with the card is that has a Generation Break and that it does not share the Revenger name. Mana on the other hand serves as a free superior call that can be used to mitigate the costs of Diablo or Phantom Blaster "Abyss", its main issue is being an 8000 power unit that does not hit two-stage columns. However, it does boast being a more powerful card in the early game in comparison to the vanilla Macha. A sample decklist is provided below.
Grade 0: 17
Starting Vanguard: Judgebau Revenger
12x Critical Trigger (or 8x Critical, 4x Draw)
4x Heal Trigger
Grade 1: 14
How do I beat Diablo?
Beating Diablo is no easy task, as the card effectively serves as a check to many popular strategies in the meta-game. There are however clans that have an easier time than others. Decks that focus on maintaining a large amount of cards will have an easier time, such as Gold Paladin, Oracle Think Tank, and Neo Nectar. These decks have the capabilities to easily survive Diablo nukes and are able to refill their board. Gold Paladin especially have an easier time with this, as occasionally they call less than stellar cards off the top of the deck anyway and are more than happy to trade resources with Diablo by retiring them. Oracle Think Tank simply draw into a full rear-guard with their various draw skills and Maiden Neo Nectars flood the rear-guard consistently with ease. Remember it is very important to remember that Phantom Blaster "Abyss" is still a major factor in this match-up, and your Revenger match-up prior to the addition of Diablo must be considered, especially concerning lower tier decks such as the Maidens. Royal Paladin still remains a top tier contender, simply because they can superior call "just enough" to trade with Diablo and fire back with their own aggressive plays.
Diablo is meant to counter control decks like Kagero, but an exception to this is Conquering Supreme Dragon, Conquest Dragon. Narukami does not particularly like the Revenger match-up, but this card can act as a saving grace of sorts. It is able to take advantage of Diablo and Phantom Blaster "Abyss" because they usually retire a front-row rear guard to use their skills. This already allows Conquest Dragon to gain 5000 power without even doing anything and it will then retire the other remaining front-row rear. This will grant your front row an extra 10000 power, which can be a significant boon in the match-up. If your opponent chooses to retire all back-row rears to play around Conquest Dragon, they are making sub-optimal plays on their turn by limiting the effectiveness of their rear-guards, so take advantage of this.
Link Joker (Omega Loop Glendios or Messiah) is definitely worth a mention, but the match-up is entirely dependent on who gets to go off first. If Link Joker can successfully start locking the Shadow player, he or she may not be able to adequately retire their own cards due to being locked. Conversely, if the Shadow player can get their plays off first, there will be little for the Link Joker player to effectively lock.
Ironically enough, the best way to limit a Shadow Paladin player's options is to play the mirror match. This creates an awkward scenario for both players because neither player is allowed to use Phantom Blaster "Abyss" or Diablo safely, assuming that both players have reached the point of the game where they can access Diablo. This is because Diablo and Phantom Blaster "Abyss" have a cost of retiring three rears. After resolving either one of these skills, you will be left with at most two-rear guards unless you used Dark Night Maiden, Macha. This puts you past the safety line because if your opponent has one Blaster Dark Revenger/"Abyss", you will be unable to guard their Diablo on the following turn. At that point of the game, you would probably lose if you take a Diablo attack. A way you can partially play around this is by retiring both front row rears instead to keep you out of Blaster Dark Revenger range, but you are still susceptible to its "Abyss" version.
Hopefully you learned a thing or two from this article regarding Phantom Blaster "Diablo", its place in the metagame, and some tips on countering it. It is virtually assured that Shadow Paladin will have a presence at the ARG State Championships this month. I wish you all the best of luck if you are going, so Play Hard or Go Home!