Today I wanted to give you a quick profile of one of my favourite decks, a Spectral Duke Dragon build. I fell in love with this card the instant I realised it was a cross between the happy-go-lucky friendly Gold Paladins and the evil, team-mate sacrificing Shadow Paladins.
Focusing on slowly generating advantage in the early game and then sacrificing it all to fuel a big finish is a perfect play-style for me, and is also very reflective of the way I normally pilot a Vanguard deck, even a non-Duke one. So without further ado, let me show you why the black and gold dragon could be your ticket to victory...
Spectral Duke Dragon himself is an excellent card. He is 11k strong as long as the grade 2 Vortimer is in the soul, which becomes extremely relevant when you look at his second ability. By sacrificing 3 of your Gold Paladin rearguards and Counterblasting 2 cards after you attack, you can stand Duke to attack once again, albeit without Twin Drive. This skill works wonders at pressuring your opponent to strip them of guard, or finishing them off when they simply don't have enough guard to stop 4 attacks.
In a vacuum, Duke's cost seems to be pretty heavy. 3 Cards and 2 Counterblast for one extra attack? Yikes! Fortunately, there are plenty of other cards in your deck that help make Duke worthwhile, and build enough advantage to let you comfortably use his ability. The most important of which is probably the Vortimer Ride Chain.
Starting with the grade 0 Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer, who allows you to check the top 7 cards of your deck for either the grade 2 or grade 3 in the ride chain when you ride the grade 1, or move to a Rearguard circle if you miss the grade 1 Vortimer. This searching allows you to fill any gaps in your ride chain, or the very least grab your Duke.
If you do successfully ride the grade 1, Scout of Darkness, Vortimer, you get a special skill when you ride Black Dragon Knight Vortimer as your grade 2. By sacrificing any rearguard, you can superior call the top two cards of your deck. This skill then activates a second time if you manage to ride Spectral Duke Dragon over the Black Dragon Knight.
By successfully pulling off the ride chain, you actually generate enough raw card advantage to negate the ride process or use Duke's skill for free the first time. The +1 from searching out a Duke or Black Dragon Knight as well as the 3 Rearguards total from the initial sacrifice of 1 is a pretty huge gain just for completing your normal ride. Especially when you take into account that you get to choose which rearguard you call and sacrifice, it is entirely possible to turn an opening hand Draw trigger (the worst) into a decent front line attacker and a few boosters.
So now you have your set up, how do you maximise the way in which you use Duke's skill? Well, once you hit Limit Break, you can effectively use his skill twice before you are out of cards and counterblast. At this point, you have to assess whether you can last 3 turns, or if you should go all out and Duke every turn. Generally, you want the last time you activate his skill to be when your opponent is on 5 damage, and therefore forced to fully guard all 4 attacks. Rarely will they have enough guard, especially if you hit a trigger or two.
Speaking of triggers, the other way in which Duke makes up for his huge cost is by increasing the effective advantage gained from triggers. Because trigger effects last for an entire turn, it is very possible to give trigger effects to Duke on the first attack, and keep the power/extra critical from those triggers when you activate his ability to stand. Not only does this increase the amount of guard your opponent has to drop, it also means that guarding the Vanguard for two triggers to pass isn't safe any more, because you can safely assign all trigger effects to Duke and not risk losing them if you only hit one trigger during your Drive Check.
Because the only triggers that directly effects the Vanguard other than through the +5k power are Critical triggers, I choose to run 8 in my deck instead of Stand triggers. I also run a set of Heal triggers, and Draw triggers to make up for the advantage lost through the use of Duke's skill.
Once you have your Duke set up, some free rearguards forming an attacking line and plenty of counterblast for Duke's skill, you are set! Just play cleverly and remember that Duke is one of the highest pressure Vanguards in the game, don't waste that pressure on your opponent's rearguards unless you really have to!
As for the rest of the deck, vanillas like Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth and Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains make strong attacking lines, and Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane can help generate early advantage early, as well as using up that pesky 5th counterblast. Your other grade 3 choices could include Garmore as an alternate Vanguard if you don't get your Duke, or Gigantech Destroyer for a strong attacking line. I personally use a mix of both, and have won plenty of games where I was forced to ride Gigantech. This is my current build:
Grade 0: 17
Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer x1
Elixir Sommelier x4
Silent Punisher x4
Flame of Victory x4
Weapons Deal, Gwydion x4
Grade 1: 15
Scout of Darkness, Vortimer x4
Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth x4
Sleygal Dagger x3
Halo Shield, Mark x3
Little Battler, Tron x1
Grade 2: 11
Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer x4
Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains x4
Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane x3
Grade 3: 7
Spectral Duke Dragon x4
Gigantech Destroyer x2
Great Silver Wolf, Garmore x1
Don't feel like you have to stick to my exact build though, the joy of Vanguard is that you can run many different cards based on personal preference. Some cool tech cards for a Duke Deck are Lop Ear Shooter and Dindrane, which allow you to generate further advantage when superior called by Duke's Ability. Dindrane, in particular, makes a 21k line and allows you to draw a card when placed behind a ridden Garmore.
What next? In the future, Duke will be receiving quite a bit of support. The Blaster Spirits in BT09 give an awesome alternative to Beaumains, and also generate great advantage when they are superior called with Duke. Because you normally sacrifice an entire column every time you use Duke's skill, they normally won't survive long enough to fall victim to their drawback.
The Break Ride introduced in TD08, Solitary Liberator, Gancelot, is also a great inclusion to a Spectral Duke Dragon build. As well as being a strong attacking Vanguard with a solid 11k power on Vanguard or Rearguard, his Break Ride skill is probably best abused by Duke. Because Duke keeps the +10k power for the entire turn, you can stand with it, effectively turning it into 20k more guard for your opponent. Riding Gancelot instead of Duke when you have the ride chain is a bad idea, but if you are forced to ride Gancelot, his Break Ride skill allows you to make up for lost advantage later on.
That's all for now Cardfighters, but remember, Stay Calm and Stand the Vanguard!