Hello cardfighters and fellow ARG readers, to another Vanguard article. First, I would like to thank all the fellow article writers in the Vanguard/Kaijudo contest to helping other players and possible newcomers to step their game up for these particular games. Second, I would like to give congrats to the other winners of the contest and hope to see them continue writing articles soon on this site. Finally, I would like to thank ARG for letting me and the other writers get a chance to write for their website, the fellow ARG community, and all other viewers that took the time to read and comment on our articles for the contest.
Now, after a nice break and completing college finals, I've returned with a deck discussion about another of my favorite decks: the Phantom Blaster Overlord (PBO for short) build for Shadow Paladin.
While Phantom Blaster Overlord is considered the weakest member of the Big Three ([ccProd]Dragonic Overlord The End[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Majesty Lord Blaster[/ccProd] of Royal Paladin being the other two members of the Cross-ride units), it makes up for it with something that the other two don't have. While The End has the best control and Majesty has the best aggro, PBO has the best consistency of always getting the cross-ride off faster than the other two. Despite PBO's expensive skill for a cross-ride unit, being able to almost keep getting the cross-ride off by turn 3 or 4 is possibly one of the biggest advantages the PBO build for Shadow Paladin has next to the other Big Three members.
Here's the build I've been working with after looking at other various builds of a PBO deck:
Grade 0: 17
1x Fullbau (Starting Vanguard)
4x [ccProd]Grim Reaper[/ccProd] (Critical Trigger)
4x [ccProd]Death Feather Eagle[/ccProd] (Critical Trigger)
4x [ccProd]Abyss Freezer[/ccProd] (Draw Trigger)
4x [ccProd]Abyss Healer[/ccProd] (Heal Trigger)
Grade 1: 14
4x Black Sage, Charon
4x Blaster Javelin
4x Dark Shield, Mac Lir
2x Nightmare Painter
Grade 2: 12
2x Blaster Dark
2x Knight of Darkness, Rugos/Knight of Fighting Spirit, Dordona
4x Knight of Nullity, Masquerade
2x Darkness Maiden, Macha
2x Skull Witch, Nemain
Grade 3: 7
4x Phantom Blaster Overlord
3x Phantom Blaster Dragon
This contains the basic core of a basic Shadow Paladin deck but with the primary focus on getting PBO at its full power as quickly as possible when your ride your Grade 3. At the same time, it has the basic Shadow Paladin ability to create quick field presence with Macha and their mini-Pot of Greed, Nemain.
One thing I would like to mention before I go through the deck: I want to let you know that many PBO decks share very similar builds since Shadow Paladins have a limited cardpool to work with, especially with PBO decks. The differences come in what cards are teched in that set each PBO apart, which I will go over later in the article.
Now let's investigate how the deck works by looking at each card by grade.
Nothing much really to describe here. The standard 8 crit/4 draw/4 heal trigger line up is standard for the deck and gives it the additional threat that it needed instead of running the stand trigger, [ccProd]Darkside Trumpeter[/ccProd].[ccProd]Fullbau[/ccProd] is the starter since it's first part of the Phantom Blaster Dragon (or PBD) ride chain. If you ride Blaster Javelin over it, you get to search for Blaster Dark; basically letting you recover from the -1 you get from riding your Grade 1 and have a guaranteed Grade 2 for your next ride. If you miss the ride, it's not as bad because the focus of the deck is not on PBD as it was when Shadow Paladins first came out, but on getting PBO's cross-ride off quickly and effectively.
Blaster Javelin: The Grade 1 of the PBD ride chain; a must for this deck that needs to be run at 4. It's vanguard skill let's it gain a permanent 2k power boost while Fallbau is in soul, making it an 8k vanguard instead of it's regular power of 6k. But, it's on-call skill that makes this card quite effective and a piece of the PBO deck. Much like the other Grade 1 ride chain units of Set 4, Javelin lets you discard a Grade 3 (hopefully a PBD) from your hand to search for a PBD from your deck when called to rear-guard. This lets you thin your deck out of PBDs, insure to have PBD in hand if you need to slow ride into PBO, and also clears your deck of unnecessary Grade 3s so you have better chances of hitting triggers during your drive check.
[ccProd]Black Sage, Charon[/ccProd]: Standard vanilla 8k Grade 1. Efficient booster for PBO, Masquerade, Rugos/Dordona, and Macha to hit those magic numbers and also a good alternative if you don't ride Javelin as your Grade 1. A definite 4-of for the deck.
[ccProd]Dark Shield, Mac Lir[/ccProd]: The Shadow Paladin perfect guard. Now that MLB and The End are starting to rise in play and the new decks from Set 8 starting to see play, I see running 4 perfect guards as being a necessity to stave off attacks that could cost you the game. It's optional to run 3 instead of 4 but that's based on the player's preference.
[ccProd]Nightmare Painter[/ccProd]: One of the new cards for Shadow Paladin that came out in Set 5. Its 6k power is debatable, but its skill is one of the important pieces to the deck. When placed as vanguard or rearguard, you can take a Shadow Paladin unit in your hand and place it in your soul. This is where the PBO deck is able to achieve its cross-ride faster than the other Big Three members; you can ride PBO as your Grade 3, call Nightmare Painter to rear-guard, then put a PBD from your hand into soul and make PBO a 13k vanguard. Even though Nightmare Painter's skill is likely to only be used once, I prefer running 2 since if one of them hits damage, I still have another in deck or hand to use.
[ccProd]Blaster Dark[/ccProd]: The Grade 2 of the ride chain. Unlike its Royal Paladin counterpart, [ccProd]Blaster Blade[/ccProd], its uses are only for being in soul for PBD to have 11k power as a vanguard but also become a 10k vanguard while Blaster Javelin is in the soul. Its skill to retire any opposing rear-guard when called to vanguard for counter blast 2 is a little underwhelming since it only works when Blaster Dark is called to vanguard, compared to Blaster Blade who has skills for both vanguard and rear-guard. The main purpose is being a target for Fallbau's skill and have a Grade 2 to ride on your next turn.
I run 2 Blaster Darks, despite its limited uses, because of the same reasoning why I run 2 Painters: if one hits damage, I at least have another in my deck or in my hand to be used. Also, it's no longer the main unit to ride into since you want PBD in soul more so than you do Blaster Dark, so running more than 2 is unnecessary.
[ccProd]Knight of Darkness, Rugos[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Knight of Fighting Spirit, Dordona[/ccProd]: Shadow Paladin's vanilla 10k beaters that are both identical only in power and can be run with either 2 copies of the same card or one copy of each. The reason there are 2 of the 10k beaters in the deck is because with The End prowling the meta, 8k Grade 2s are easy targets for The End to strike and cause you to risk letting your opponent use The End's persona blast or you end up overguarding just to prevent the persona blast. Another reason I run them is because this deck runs eight 6k boosters. These 10k beaters can make use of them to hit for 16k and potentially force a 10k guard.
[ccProd]Skull Witch, Nemain[/ccProd]: Although only having an abysmal 3k power for a Grade 2, its skill makes up for it. For counter blast 1 and discarding a Shadow Paladin card, you get to draw 2 cards from your deck; a Pot of Greed or a mini-Graceful Charity for Shadow Paladins in a sense. After that, it can be used to chump block for a easy guard without wasting cards in hand or gets picked off early by wasting an opponent's attack just to be replaced by a better unit. Be warned though: if you end up riding Nemain as your Grade 2 vanguard, you're gonna have a bad time. I see 2 Nemains as being the best amount to run because of how 1 is too little and 3 is too much. Plus, she's easy target fodder for The End.
Darkness Maiden, Macha: At a glance, Macha is a weaker version of [ccProd]Hi-Dog Breeder Akane[/ccProd]. Let's look at her skill:[AUTO]:[Counter Blast (2)] When this unit is placed on (VC) or (RC), if you have a «Shadow Paladin» vanguard, you may pay the cost. If you do, search your deck for up to one grade 1 or less «Shadow Paladin», call it to (RC) in the same column as this unit, and shuffle your deck.
While Macha can only search Grade 1 Shadow Paladins compared to Akane who can search for any Royal Paladin High Beast unit of any grade, Macha actually is a combo engine more so than Akane. Its skill can create a 16k column with Charon, but can also either filter out PBDs from your deck by calling Javelin or get PBD from your hand into soul by calling Painter. Just by using Macha's skill alone, you are open to a lot of potential moves based on the situation at hand and create a full column by just playing one card.
Normally, I would run Macha at 3 but because of how Macha's power is only 8k, it's a prime target for The End. Running 2 Machas would be the safe move while also conserving your counter blasts for other skills.
[ccProd]Knight of Nullity, Masquerade[/ccProd]: Much like how Majesty had [ccProd]Knight of Loyality, Bedivere[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Knight of Friendship, Kay[/ccProd], PBO got a Bedivere clone in the form of Masquerade. Masquerade works much like Bedivere and Kay, where it gains +3k when you have a vanguard with 'Blaster" in its name while attacking. This works a lot better with the PBD ride chain and PBO itself since it always be active instead of [ccProd]Demon World Castle, DonnerSchlag[/ccProd], who requires only Blaster Dark and PBD to be of any use. What also makes Masquerade a staple in this deck is that it makes full use of the 6k boosters to be able to swing for 18k; letting it attack cross-ride units and force at least a 15k guard. That alone is enough reason to run 4 of it.
[ccProd]Phantom Blaster Dragon[/ccProd]: What was the former main vanguard for Shadow Paladin, the last of the ride chain, has lost some of its luster when its cross-ride form was released. With Blaster Dark in soul, it becomes an 11k unit which will let it be able to swing for 19k with a Charon behind it. It's skill of counter blast 2 and retiring 3 Shadow Paladins to gain 10k and +1 critical, once seen as easy way to remove weak units and columns for power, has become a risky move. The skill is actually a -3 on your end which forces more cards out of your hand to replenish the field after PBD's power-up. As a rear-guard, it can act as a vanilla 10k unit in desperate times. I run 3 PBDs since 4 seems unnecessary since PBO is the main focus of the deck but running 4 is not bad either when you want to keep consistency of always being able to have PBD in soul.
Phantom Blaster Overlord: The main vanguard unit and the basis for the entire deck. Let's take a look at its skills:[CONT](VC/RC):If you have a non-«Shadow Paladin» vanguard or rear-guard, this unit gets [Power]-2000.
[CONT](VC):If you have a unit named "Phantom Blaster Dragon" in your soul, this unit gets [Power]+2000.
[AUTO](VC):[Counter Blast (3) & Choose a card named "Phantom Blaster Overlord" from your hand, and discard it.] When this unit attacks, you may pay the cost. If you do, this unit gets [Power]+10000/[Critical]+1 until end of that turn.
The first two skills are natural of a cross-ride unit so not much to discuss there. The main thing I want to discuss is the debatable persona blast that some people dislike about PBO. Unlike PBD's skill, PBO needs counter blast 3 for its persona blast to activate which can be seen as costly compared to PBD's skill of only counter blast 2 and retiring 3 units. But, like what I discussed about PBD's skill creating a -3 for its 'cheaper' cost, PBO's just needs you discard a copy of itself from hand. This saves you both field and hand to gain the same effect for just one counter blast more and a copy of PBO in hand.
The standard argument is that you could potentially use the skill only once per game, basically making PBO as a vanilla cross-ride compared to The End. But, the skill is effective in being a pusher for drawing out perfect guards that you know your opponent may have in hand. If not, they have to take the risk of you getting double crit which may cost them the game. Even though it may be just a one-time use, that one use can be enough to force your opponent into a corner to either waste a perfect guard or take unnecessary damage.
Running 4 of the cross-ride is necessary because of wanting to have it as your main Grade 3 vanguard and its persona blast, but also acts as a suitable 11k unit as a rear-guard as well.
Alternative Tech Choices
[ccProd]Gururubau[/ccProd]: A 7k Grade 1 that gets +2k when attacking the vanguard while in rear-guard is a pretty good tech choice for some. It's 7k power is also good for boosting Macha, Masquerade, and PBO as well. The only difficulty is finding the space for it, which many of these tech choices suffer from.
[ccProd]Witch of Nostrum, Arianrhod[/ccProd]: The 7k unit to discard 1 and draw 1 by resting it. Pretty good if you missride Javelin and try to draw through your deck, but Nemain does it faster and can also be an easy chump blocker.
[ccProd]Apocalypse Bat[/ccProd]: A 'Blaster' 10k booster exclusive to Shadow Paladin, just like the Flame of Promise, Aermo for the 'Overlord' of Kagero. While this does help PBO hit 23k, you can only use this at a maximum of 3 times to keep PBO at 13k without soul blasting PBD and is a weak 4k booster without using its skill. It's best to use only 1 because 1 is all you need and prevents you from ending up riding it as your Grade 1 vanguard.
[ccProd]Cursed Lancer[/ccProd]: The 9k damage flipper for Shadow Paladin. It's a good tech choice as it opens up your counterblasting for more uses (hopefully for more PBO persona blasting), but the tight deck space makes it hard to find a slot for this unit. If you don't want to use the 10k beaters, or run only 1 Blaster Dark, Cursed Lancer is a good option to fill in that space.
[ccProd]Wingal Brave[/ccProd]: For some, this may seem as an odd choice since it's a Royal Paladin unit and is better as a starting vanguard in a MLB deck than a PBO deck. But, it's skill to search for any unit with 'Blaster' in its name after boosting a 'Blaster' unit makes it usable in the deck. Your vanguard is going to most likely be a 'Blaster' unit about 80-90% of the time, even starting at Grade 1 with Blaster Javelin. It can grab PBO right from the deck which is the hardest piece to get into your hand with this deck. Plus, it can act as a 10k shield if you have no use for it. Again, it's best to run just 1 since any more causes problems with getting the right cards you need and if it stays out on the field, PBO will lose 2k from its power.
The Phantom Blaster Overlord build for Shadow Paladin is one of those decks that falls out of play as more sets come out or just doesn't keep up with the other decks. Many of the clans have alternative builds and a larger variety of card options to choose from, leaving Shadow Paladin with only limited amount of cards to build a deck. While this hampers the different builds the clan to make, PBO aims to be as consistent as possible while also establishing a strong presence both in hand and field. While it's unlikely that one will be able to always get the persona blast off, the 13k power is enough to keep a strong offense and defense for the vanguard.
Expense-wise, the deck is mildly expensive: Mac Lirs go for about $20-$22, Phantom Blaster Dragon is around $25, and Phantom Blaster Overlord goes for around $20. These two cards alone are the bulk of the deck's expenses while Macha and Nemain both go around $10 and Masquerade is only $5. Unless you are attempting to SP all your Nemains, Machas, Masquerades, PBDs, and PBOs, it will cost around $335 for everything at the lowest rarity. But, with a good eye for trades and deals, any player can easily acquire the cards for a cheaper price.
With its consistency of being able to achieve the cross-ride status by turn 3 or 4, PBO is still quite a threat to many decks that require time to establish a defense against the cross-ride. Along with Macha and Nemain creating quick advantage, Javelin's skill to thin the deck out of dead Grade 3 draws, and Macha's potential combos, the deck can generate good advantage to get the cross-ride off while also filtering through the deck. Despite its limited cardpool, the deck aims to use each card in the deck to its full potential and brings out the cross-ride faster than the other cross-rides to gain an early power advantage and slowly push through the late game to acquire victory.
I hope this helps any interested in the deck or wanted to know the ins-and-outs of this particular build. Until next time, always continue the cardfight.