Greetings cardfighters and welcome to my fifth article! Last week, I covered Royal Paladin's position in the metagame. If you missed it, you can view the article HERE! This week, I'll be covering another tier 1 powerhouse deck which is none other than Kagero. I'll be covering the characteristics that make Kagero a threat and tips for defeating them.
Kagero has been blessed by always having a strong presence in the top tiers since the beginning days of the game. The various Dragonic Overlord incarnations have very potent abilities and the clan has a large multitude of options to play control with synergistic efficiency. It is safe to say that the clan has solidified itself as a "bar" in vanguard. In other words, because the clan has always been strongly prevalent in the metagame, your clan has to be able to relatively compete with Kagero or in most cases it will not be in the same tier.
Every clan in vanguard has its own specialty. In very simple terms, Kagero is known for having re-standing vanguards and a strong retire engine. Re-standing as a mechanic is the strongest one a clan can have and retire is also very consistent. To compare, the clans that specialize in superior calling are not always live because sometimes your field is already full, which means there isn't always a window to plus. Clans that focus on re-standing rears or that do something else like using the soul require previous conditions that vary on the situation. Retiring however is always good because it deals with simple card advantage and it is never bad to minus your opponent. The only exception to this is when your opponent's field is already empty but if that is the case, your deck is doing what it is supposed to be doing and is probably already winning. Now what makes Kagero really strong is the combination of a strong retire engine with a powerful re-standing vanguard. This equates to a large output of pressure as well as diminishing your opponent's options.
It seems like the boss units in Kagero have been changing every few months and they've all been really strong. For a long time, Dragonic Overlord the End was the card to beat, and then Transcendence Dragon, Dragonic Nouvelle Vague came out and raised the bar. Dragonic Overlord the "Re-birth" emerged later on last year, and then the legion era hit with Perdition Emperor Dragon, Dragonic Overlord the Great. The G era did not ignore Kagero at all, instead it provided the latest and greatest addition to the fiery dragons and he is known as........
Dragonic Overlord "the X", a legion revival unit to the infamous the End! "The X" is one of the strongest legion units to date, having several qualities that make it very powerful. One of it's best traits is how it adds either the End or another "the X" to your hand for no cost upon performing legion. This automatically makes the card a threat since it can either re-stand when it hits with the End's ability or it can retire two rear-guards if it does not hit by using the ability of "the X". This presents a no-win scenario for the opponent as something negative will happen regardless of what happens. Alternatively, many players prefer to re-ride "the X" later on, and then legion again to search another the End to the hand as well as filling the deck with more trigger units and less Grade 3's to drive check. Cards like Calamity Tower Wyvern allow the Kagero player to gain more card advantage as well as providing a way to re-use the copy of the End that is pushed into the soul upon re-riding. This is all happening at the same time that the End threatens to use it's re-standing ability should it ever hit every turn.
The End's re-stand is especially devastating because it comes at a plus in card advantage as opposed to usual re-standing vanguards. Most vanguards with a re-standing ability come at a cost of two or more cards, the End only costs one. Even then, this cost is eliminated because the End is added to the hand for free. Therefore, if "the X" lands a hit and is allowed to re-stand for no cost other than CB2 (which arguably is not a cost because the deck is very counter-blast light), this equates to a massive swing in momentum and card advantage which is very difficult to recover from. Essentially the opponent is not allowed to let "the X" hit and it's difficult when the new G era perfect guards only work on guarding the vanguard. A unique niche "the X" has is being able to attack a rear-guard against decks that run G-perfect guards and force opponents to throw down several 10k shields each turn, or else suffer from the End re-standing.
"The X" is a very powerful standalone card, but there are several Overlord support cards that allow the deck to play control very well, which is why the deck is among the best in the game. One of the biggest MVPs is Dragonic Burnout, which provides a virtually costless retire by just requiring one soul-blast and a condition to return a Overlord card from the drop zone to the deck. Another strong player is Perdition Dragon, Dragonic Neoflame, which has the ability to create no-win situations for the opponent by comboing well with "the X" and Burnout. While it was mentioned earlier, Perdition Emperor Dragon, Dragonic Overlord the Great serves as a nice alternative vanguard if "the X" isn't drawn, as it has a niche in some mid/late game scenarios. It has a consistent skill that plays well with the grind game winning image. It is worth mentioning that Kagero as of right now is not known for focusing on stride, but they do have the tools to play the stride game if need be. Flame Emperor Dragon King, Root Flare Dragon is no slouch. While the deck would preferably like to stay on "the X" to keep pressure, striding into Root Flare is not bad at all since it minuses the opponent two cards for no cost along with having triple drive.
So what does a sample decklist look like?
Grade 0: 17
Starting Vanguard: Red Pulse Dracokid
8x Critical Trigger
4x Gatling Claw Dragon (Draw Trigger)
4x Heal Trigger
Grade 1: 14
4x Protect Orb Dragon/[insert older sentinel unit]
Grade 2: 10
Grade 3: 9
So how do I play against Kagero?
It is first important to establish that there will be games where there is simply nothing you can do. Sometimes you just aren't able to defend against "the X" and it builds an overwhelming amount of momentum that can't be broken through. That said, the rule of thumb is to not allow them to play control and to keep them on the defensive. You want to keep tempo in your favor, as they are then forced to try to answer you instead of restricting your choices and grinding out the game. You absolutely cannot allow the Kagero player to accumulate a large quantity of resources if at all possible, as they are best known for establishing momentum and then keeping it for the rest of the game. It is also worth noting that unless they draw into the Gojo/Burnout combo, their early game is usually vanilla so you can capitalize on that. It is important to save guards to deal with "the X" while generally allowing rear-guard columns to hit instead.
What decks in particular are strong against Kagero?
The deck would not always be top tier if it had a large string of bad match-ups. There are very few decks that the clan is simply bad against, just about any deck does not want to deal with the constant pressure "the X" can put out. There are however a few decks that don't mind it as much as others, as well as some that can either match its pressure or can easily replace rear-guards.
One of the first decks that come to mind is Shadow Paladin and the deck is probably the strongest choice against Kagero. The Revenger deck has been a solid contender in the top tiers since their introduction in BT12: Binding Force of the Black Rings. Their strongest trait is being able to retire their own rear-guards to re-stand Revenger, Phantom Blaster "Abyss" to force pressure along with leaving little for the Kagero player to retire for advantage. The deck also is able to build a large hand that is capable of guarding "the X", and they use the older perfect guard units that work on the rear-guard. The deck also has its own access to cheap retires by using Blaster Dark Revenger "Abyss" and has many different, inexpensive options to superior call to make up for what the Kagero player can do to them.
As mentioned in the last article, the Royal Paladin match-up is very 50/50. The Kagero player is either able to successfully control them down, or the Royal player can guard and replace their blows, while dishing out powerful plays from Seeker, Thing Saver Dragon or stride plays with Blue Sky Knight, Altmile. Jewel Knight, Swordmy is very important for this match-up as it is either a comeback card for the RP player to re-build a field with, or it is the card that allows the deck to be the aggressor early in the game. "The X" however has several advantages, one being the exploitation of most Royal Paladin builds running Holy Knight Guardian, as well as being able to retire the forerunner to make Thing Saver Dragon's soul count more difficult. It is very much a match-up that requires the Kagero player to successfully be the control player to win.
Some noteworthy decks to mention are those that focus on heavy superior calling and can outlast what the Kagero player can do to them. If your deck is able to consistently call a field even after dealing with Kagero nukes, you have a fair chance of winning the match-up. A good example of this is the Bluish Flame Liberator deck. The Liberator sub-clan is capable of calling out large fields via Oath Liberator, Aglovale and Liberator, Lawful Trumpeter. Bluish Flame Liberator, Prominence Glare can swing for very high numbers combined with May Rain Liberator, Bruno or Koronagal Liberator along with guard-restriction, a mechanic that Kagero is somewhat weak to. However if played correctly, the Kagero player could play control with the Gold Paladin player and eliminate Brunos/Koronagal immediately if they were played too early. Oracle Think Tank specializes in drawing many cards, so they will have a hand that is large enough to guard "the X" for quite a while. Another recently released deck that is known for consistently flooding the rear-guard are the Maidens from Neo Nectar, who have various tools to deal with board nukes and can conserve their hand to use as guard fodder.
What is the future looking like for Kagero?
Unlike the Royal Paladins, Kagero's immediate future may not be quite as promising. As stated above, the Shadow Paladin match-up is already a tad uphill for Kagero currently, but the clan is getting a gargantuan amount of support in the upcoming Legend Deck 01: The Dark and G-BT03: Sovereign Star Dragon. Japanese tournament results have already shown Kagero's numbers dwindling against Shadow Paladin's new powerhouse stride, Dark Dragon, Phantom Blaster "Diablo". It is possible that English trends may be different, but the Revenger deck is really popular as it is so it is likely that there will be many people picking up Shadow Paladins. That said, "the X" is still an inherently powerful card regardless and it still sets a limit that has to be passed if any deck wishes to enter into the top tiers. Hopefully this article taught you a thing or two, now remember to Play Hard or Go Home!