An Introduction to Cardfight Vanguard
Over the last few years, you may have heard of yet another new card game emerging in Japan. Cardfight Vanguard. Chances are, if you aren’t playing it already, that you likely ignored it along with many other countless TCGs, giving it time to see if this new fad would become anything more. Now, coming up on the two year anniversary of the first commercial release in Japan, Cardfight Vanguard has proven that it is here to stay, with an ever expanding player-base, world-wide reputation and a developed metagame that, due to Vanguard’s nature, rarely allows deck builds to become outdated.
That’s enough with the sales pitch, let us move on to the focus of this article, choosing the best way to jump in and start building a deck. When starting to play Cardfight Vanguard, one will want to choose a “Clan”, the formal name for a group of cards which are centralized on a particular play style or gimmick. Though some Clan’s focus may be similar, none are exactly alike, and the current twenty-three Clan’s gimmicks cover the entire spectrum, from beat-downs to toolboxes, field control to prediction, etcetera. Now, you might be wondering; “why should I restrict myself to one clan in a deck?”. While “splash” decks do exist, the structure of Vanguard often reduces the effectiveness of a deck which may have more than one focus, rendering these decks a rarity in competitive play. Now that the formalities are out of the way, let us move on to the Clans themselves!
Note: It is recommended that you have a basic understanding of the rules and terms of Cardfight Vanguard before reading the following, as some common terms will be used.
United Sanctuary: Knights, Oracles and Angels
The Royal Paladins are one of the first Clans ever introduced, and the patron Clan of Aichi Sendou, the main character within the Cardfight Vanguard anime. As one might imagine, the Royal Paladins since became one of the most popular Clans in use, and continued be as such, until they lost their support temporarily due to a major plot point within the second season of the Vanguard anime. However, they have returned with a vengeance now that the said plot point has run its course. Appropriate to their namesake, the Royal Paladins represent classical European knights, and focus heavily on power boosts from allies and searching key cards from the deck at moderate costs. Despite being highly recommended for beginners, their popularity has caused high prices for many key cards, resulting in inefficient costs.
*Trial Deck Available
The counterparts to the Royal Paladins, the Shadow Paladins are another Clan consisting of knights, though with the addition of black magic and living castles. Their central focus involves high cost, high reward effects, often by eliminating your own allies for the costs. While the Shadow Paladins may not be a particularly hard Clan to pick up and play, they are hard to master. Unfortunately, the Shadow Paladins received far fewer cards for their repertoire before they were given the same break from action as the Royal Paladins, but have kept their prices down as a result.
*Trial Deck Announced
Chances are, if you’ve heard of one Clan within Cardfight Vanguard, it’s the Gold Paladins. Used by Aichi from the second season onward, the Gold Paladins are an amalgamation of the aforementioned Paladin Clans, and retain both the play styles, ease of use, and the looks of the previous two, albeit with less specialization and a new color scheme. Their major focus involves searching out units with dirt cheap costs. The downside to the said ability is that the “calls” are far less accurate, and sometimes can be as simple as using the top card of your deck, for better or for worse. Due to all of the said traits, and a large, diverse card base, the Gold Paladin’s have gained unprecedented popularity, causing a dominated English metagame and some of the highest card prices for singles.
*Trial Decks Available and Announced
Oracle Think Tank
Breaking free from the multiple Paladin Clans, we have the ever popular Oracle Think Tank, a corporation of various female nuns, gods, and prophets. To play an “OTT” deck is one of the most unique experiences you can have playing Vanguard, as their play style can range from basic draw power to predicting and foreseeing what cards will come next. A well supported clan, the OTT’s difficulty will correspond with the deck gimmick you prefer, as will the price range. Highly focused on defence, the OTTs will make both you and your opponent think, with huge payoffs for those who do so effectively.
*Trial Deck Available
The first of the toolbox clans to be mentioned, the Angel Feathers consist of, what else, heavenly angels wielding the most imposing medical tools you have ever seen. Focused on utilizing your Damage Zone, the Angel Feathers tend to swap and gain power from certain units within the Damage Zone, as well as occasionally healing. Along with moderate popularity come a medium leveled cost, and a deck of both moderate difficulty and support.
Dragon Empire: Fire, Lightning, Shadow and Earth
As the first dragon-based Clan released within Cardfight Vanguard, the Kagero embody all the standard tropes for their species among TCGs. High power, flames that eliminate opposing units and impressive, intricate card art (if you don’t mind a lot of red). The Kagero was the third and final clan to take a break during the second season, but not before the release of one of the most controversial cards in Vanguard history. Being an opposing force to the Royal Paladins, they possess many of the same traits: high popularity, high cost, recommended for beginners, and steady support.
*Trial Deck Available
Following the disappearance of the Kagero, the Narukami are the lightning based successors to the former dominant dragons, who embody many of the same features as their counterparts. Despite Bushiroad’s best efforts, the Narukami never truly seem to divert themselves from the Kagero game plan, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While retaining their counterpart’s popularity and support, the Narukami often succeed in offering lower prices, and remaining unique with their art style and play style nuances.
*Trial Decks Available and Announced
Gracing the English stage this February, the Murakumo is a Clan comprised of ninjas mixed with anthropomorphic animals and, of course, dragons. The main play style involves a heavy focus on hit and run tactics, and hand conservancy. Despite a relatively small support base, the Murakumo have a surprising amount of popularity, likely due to the art and general mischievous play style. Estimated to be reasonably cheap, the Murakumo are not suggested for beginners, due to them being relatively unorthodox.
Robot. Dinosaurs. What else do you want to know? The Tachikaze live in a dog eat dog world, and perform well both offensively and defensively by “eating” their units and redirecting them from death to the hand. The Tachikaze can be summarized as a clan of lows: low price, low support, low popularity, and low difficulty.
Dark Zone: Aristocrats, Football and the Circus
The Clan that comes to mind when the term “soul charge” is brought forth, the Dark Irregulars are a Clan of greedy vampires, werewolves, demons and succubae. The greedy part comes from the clan’s tendency to amass as much soul as possible in order to occasionally spend, but more often hoard. As such, many effects will trigger due to the amount of cards within the soul, rather than the cards spent. While not an advanced Clan to play, a user of the Dark Irregulars must always resist and carefully consider whether to spend that mountain of cards within his soul. A moderately popular deck, the Dark Irregulars are often found at moderate prices, and supported regularly.
The Spike Brothers represent another section of the demonic Dark Zone, and form a team who participates in the sport of Bloodball (closely resembling American Football), a no rules, anything goes bloodbath where offence is key. If there is one Clan that embodies offensive play, it’s the Spike Brothers. The aim of your deck will always to constantly unleash severe pressure, rarely giving your opponent time to breath. In order to operate smoothly, one will need solid deck building skills, and a firm grasp on advanced management concepts. This often leads to an extreme level of difficulty when playing the Spike Brothers, and generally leads to only masochists learning the game off the backs of the Spike Brothers. Luckily, this leaves the Clan at low costs with low (albeit solid) support.
The final Dark Zone Clan is the Pale Moon, a circus composed of chimeras, elves, and goblins, which play defensively by swapping to and from the soul. While easily the most under-supported toolbox clan, they still remain viable with many truly unique cards, all of which come at low prices. While not the best clan to begin playing Vanguard with, they certainly aren’t an advanced clan, but can be a joy to play.
Magallanica: Marines, Mermaids and Pirates
The naval force of Planet Cray, the Aqua Force is a military power with aquatic robots, dragons and soldiers. Though the Aqua Force have yet to be released, their debut is just around the corner in mid-April, with backup only half a month later. Gameplay with the Aqua Force is dictated and militaristic, as your units will gain certain effects if they attack 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. An Aqua Force user will also be able to attack multiple times, enabling further strings of effects. While the Aqua Force will likely be a popular choice, and as such an expensive one, they are a very friendly Clan to jump into, and should be a good starting point for beginners.
*Trial Deck soon to be Avalable
You have to hand it to Bushiroad, they obviously knew their target audience when they created the Bermuda Triangles. As a clan of pop idol mermaids, the Bermudas have earned a devout player base, not only for their central theming, but also for solid bouncing card effects and impressive draw power. Unlike other Clans, where popularity often directly correlates with the cost, the Bermudas have the advantage of being almost entirely released in extra booster sets which they don’t share with any other clans, causing moderately low prices. With a comparatively simplistic play style and support that arrives in massive quantities, the Bermuda Triangle are a great Clan for beginners, which take only a few games to sort out their various nuances.
Sailing through a sea of pop idols and marines, one may unexpectedly come across the undead pirate horrors of the Granblue, a Clan whose resilience is known throughout the community. Like the aforementioned Angel Feather and Pale Moons, the Granblue are a toolbox Clan, specializing in milling, resurrecting and swapping cards from the field and the Drop Zone at relatively low costs. But utilizing the scourge of Magallanica is no easy feat, as careful resource management and a wary eye for your deck’s entropy is required for maximum effectiveness. This advanced Clan’s limited support can be bought without making huge dents in the bank account, and is a great way to challenge your skills as a Cardfighter.
Zoo Nation: Undergrads, Green Freaks and the Mafia
The last time you thought about a typical image of a university, what do you imagine? If your answer was entirely consisting of various intellectual animals using performance enhancing drugs and attending classes, then you either; A: Have had some traumatic experiences in your life, or B: already know about the Great Nature. Consisting of both cute and ferocious critters, the Great Nature are university students who win their battles by either retiring each other for their effects, or by giving each other significant power boosts at the cost of their inevitable death. A moderately difficult clan to master, the Great Nature’s approaches are as diverse as their support, but like most post-secondary institutions, may cost you a pretty penny in return.
Somewhere along the way, a plant based Clan such as the Neo Nectars were bound to show up, surprisingly alongside the Murakumo this February. Consisting of bioroids, various flora, and a walking pineapple, the Neo Nectars will almost always have a full field, with cards searching out duplicates, variations, and occasionally preforming evolution. With moderate pricing, support and overall cost, the Neo Nectars are a solid and unique deck to build that may take a little practice.
Next up we have the Megacolony, a clan of criminal insects who get far more hate than they deserve. Based on stunning your opponents units and getting power boosts if all of their units have rested, the Megacolony preform like a pseudo-lockdown Clan, who thrive in the long run though efficient resource conservancy and passive-aggressive play. As such, patience is required when using the Megacolony, causing inexperienced players to fail quite often. Additionally, the Megacolony have been cursed with receiving bad support recently, while rarely seeing support in the first place. The upside is that this particular clan is dirt cheap, and remains at the lowest cost in the game, while remaining viable in capable hands.
Star Gate: Mecha, Aliens and more Mecha!
Joining the trend of Clans where two unlike things are crammed together, such as demons, football, animals and universities, comes the powerhouse beat-down Clan known as the Nova Grapplers. On par with the Oracle Think Tanks with popularity, support and diversity (the two are often considered counterparts), the Nova Grapplers were the original, fully functional standing based deck, where turns often consist of five, rather than the standard three, attacks. Additionally, the Nova Grapplers come with some of the only support that easily allows you to entirely disregard resource management. This makes them a fantastic Clan for beginners, which never lose their competitive viability. The Nova Grapplers feature many archetypes to choose from, all spanning different prices and core concepts, which make deck building a focused affair.
*Trial Deck Available
Our final Clan to be covered is the Dimension Police, a classic homage to the beloved heroes of our childhood. The underdogs, who believed in serving justice above all else, who may be beaten and bruised, but with a surge of power always ended the fight in victory. While they might not always win, the Dimension Police end games by preserving cards that push their Vanguard to a threshold, at which point they unlock further triggered abilities. While the support is thin and prices are low, the Dimension Police have a niche player-base, due to their triumphant play style and ease of use.
Technically belonging to Star Gate, the Etrangers are a clan consisting of promo cards, which lack cohesiveness apart from the use of pop-culture characters (Keroro, Mameshiba, and Spiderman???) The clan currently is void of any triggers, and has very few viable cards for use in splash decks.
Debuting with four cards in the first booster set, the Nubatama are a clan closely resembling the Murakumo, who were discontinued almost immediately. This was due to their effects, which were based around discarding, a mechanic that could have broken the hand dependant game of Vanguard if continued. These four cards are easily splashed, and can often be found in Nova Grappler decks.
A recently announced Clan in the likeness of the Oracle Think Tank, the Genesis will debut in booster set 10, and aren’t expected to arrive in English until mid-summer of 2013 or later. A collection of cyber themed goddesses, animals and humans, the Genesis focus on mass soul charging for mass expenditure, and will likely become a high popularity, support and priced Clan.
My First Deck
Assuming you aren’t quite committed to Vanguard, and want to test the waters with a low cost deck, you might be wondering what the best way to do so would be. Fortunately, almost all of the above Clans are cost efficient to test, as most of the high cost clans conveniently have a trial deck for sale. Your deck will need 16 triggers, with 4 of those being heal triggers, and a Gr. 0 starting Vanguard. After that, it is preferable if you have 15 Gr. 1s, 10 Gr. 2s, and 8 Gr. 3s. So start researching some clans online, make some decklists, and I wish you a successful venture into the world of Cardfight Vanguard!