Hi, My name is Zach Hess. I'm from middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania (otherwise known as a dinky little town called Lock Haven). I've been playing Cardfight since about 2011 -- roughly around when Set 2 came out. I've been playing this game semi-competitively in that time, alongside of Magic: The Gathering which I've been playing since about 2009. I've been competing in local box and cash tournaments, and have been watching this game grow alongside of the show that it was based off of. Hopefully we can keep seeing this game grow, and evolve into even more exciting things to come!
Set 11: Sealed Dragons Unleashed is a powerful addition to the current collection of cards available for us to play with. While this impact would be admittedly less dramatic if Set 10 were to be coming out first, the fact that it isn’t makes this set’s entrance all that more interesting. The set comes with the formal introduction of Break Rides (the only previous ones were Bermuda Triangles’ and Gold Paladins’ in a trial deck). It also includes the entrance/enhancement of Legions, groups of cards that share a name plus gain bonuses from working with cards from within that same name - both on the field and via special counterblasts (Liberators, Seal Dragons, etc.) - and the introduction of formal reprints for a number of perfect guards and other cards (likely to satisfy everyone’s wallets). Now what are some of these set impacting cards, and what impact will they have on the current metagame? Well, let’s go down by clan, and see what becomes available:
AF ends up actually getting the short end of the stick (Well, okay, the actual short end of the stick is Genesis, since they’re lacking… everything, but we’ll get to them later on), not actually because the cards here are bad per se, but rather that the clan’s current competitive build (Shamsiel) is such a well-oiled machine that the deck doesn’t gain much more support that it already didn’t have. The deck gains nothing in terms of new powerhouses, as the Break Ride (Prophecy Celestial, Ramiel) aids nothing to the deck, and ends up taking some the fangs away from the deck via removing space for The Phoenix, Calamity Flame and the like. All in all, Set 11 provides nothing for this particular build, and this deck just kind of keeps doing the same things as it always had prior.
What the clan does gain is its own Legion: the Celestials. Their concept focuses around their current boss card: Solidify Celestial, Zerachiel. Similar to the rest of AF, their main concept is to switch cards in and out of the damage zone. However, the goal of this deck is to aim to use Zerachiel’s ability that makes all of your Celestial units gain 3000 when you have a copy of it in the damage zone. This increases the stages of their attacks to be successfully guarded by 1 - or, with a booster, it now takes an extra card (or two, in some cases) to successfully guard each of these hits. In contrast, there is the drawback that they currently lack power within the Celestials themselves, as most of the cards lack raw power/good effects. However, for the deck to make up for it, it needs to put in more non-Celestials to make the power of the deck (and its intended end effect) that much weaker. While they are a powerful inclusion to AF, they currently lack the consistency to do what they want to do if they want to be competitive for now.
Kagero probably is the clan that ended up getting some of the strongest support in Set 11. This has been long anticipated by players of the clan, who have been itching for new support ever since its last upgrade (on this side of the pond) in Set 5. The biggest addition to this on a competitive level is the clan’s Break Ride, Dauntless Drive Dragon. This unit when Break Rode (Rode? Ridden? Break Ridden?) gives the unit the normal +10000 but adds a unique punch; when it attacks, if this is the first time this unit has been rested, you may pitch three cards from your hand to move it to Stand, while maintaining its twin drive. That is disgusting. Before you even calculate in factors such as trigger chances, extra cards needed to guard and the like, you are now essentially paying one card (and dropping the quality of the cards in your hand a bit) to gain an extra attack with a twin drive behind it, forcing your opponent to have to guard extra to defend against it. That’s kinda good.
There are multiple places that you can stick this card and have it be a powerful addition to a Kagero deck, but the main combination for it that has been mentioned around is a familiar face: Dragonic Overlord, the End. If this happens, you have the potential to Break Ride into a DOTE and attack a second time. With a second attack (post-one twin drive, so any trigger effects from the previous attack with the Vanguard stay), you have the potential to persona blast into a third Vanguard attack in a single turn. This gives you a massive bonus in terms of board presence, hand size, and likely damage (if they’re still alive at that point), making it a challenge for any opponent to make a comeback. This gives DOTE players a massively offensive strategy if the meta starts to move away from Crossrides, meaning that everyone’s favorite pistol-wielding dragon will be around for a bit longer.
The other major thing that Kagero gains (Yes, kids, they get even more support) is their own Legion, the Seal Dragons. Interestingly enough, this new Legion is based around a single, obscure RRR grade 3 from Set 2: Seal Dragon, Blockade. The center piece of this new Legion (Hellfire Seal Dragon, Blockade Inferno) is a Crossride for it. This deck is very Kagero-like in flavor, riding off of field destruction and scalability (with cards such as Corduroy, Hell Inferno, etc.) to gain an edge over the opponent, and using that to win. The main problem that they have right now is similar to that of the Celestials: they lack support to do what they want to freely. That being said, they have two advantages over the Celestials. First, they do not need the massive board presence of their Legion to do their thing, giving them a lot more of a consistent chance of using Blockade Inferno’s ability to its fullest. Secondly, they do have vanilla support that aids to their consistency (+3000 grade 2s if they have a Seal Dragon Vanguard, a booster for Seal Dragons, etc.). While they lack the support to be Tier 1, their potential to reach that stage is currently much higher than that of the other Legions in this set, with the exception of one clan –
This clan is where things get a wee bit awkward. You see, with the release of Set 10 (and Trial Deck 9, though we actually have that), Narukami gained its own Legion, the Eradicators. All of the core (and really good) pieces came in that set. Set 11 was intended to tie the knots on what that deck used for support and give more options available in the form of Eradicator, Sweep Command Dragon. It’s also a very solid card and works well with the other Eradicator cards available (though it saw little competitive play in Asia). Except, there’s just one, teensy tiny little problem:
Set 10 got pushed back to December due to the power level of Eradicators being too high (taking both of the Top 2 spots in almost every tournament in Asia for about 6 months straight) and having a potential negative effect on regionals (as in, the majority of the Top 8s being all filled with Eradicators), so now we’re stuck with extra support for a Legion that barely exists yet.
What this means is that unfortunately most of the relevant and good cards need Eradicator support to end up being able to do anything powerful at all. Even SDC, an incredible engine even on his own, works better with Eradicators around to start himself off rather than anything else doing it. The problem that they currently have is not a lack of support as a whole; it is a lack of support now. Eradicators will get their time (and when they get their time, it’ll be a long while ‘til we get to hear the end of it), so just sit tight for now, Narukami players; your chance to play silly, explosive and destructive plays will come soon enough, and make even the cards released in this set look weak and silly.
This clan is pretty much running in (at a very far and away) second place in terms of increased support for its clan. The main centerpiece (and the probably best new card for Tachikaze in the history of the clan) is their Break Ride: Ancient Dragon, Spinodriver. When this is Break Ridden, you may retire two Tachikaze rear-guards to give it an additional 10000 power and a critical, along with drawing two cards. While this may at first seem like a very sub-optimal way of getting the exact same effect that most other Break Rides get, take into consideration how Tachikaze operates. Its whole shtick is to retire its units, counterblast them back onto the field or into your hand to replay, and gain a plus for “sacrificing” its units, in a similar manner to the Shadow Paladins. When you combine it with units such as Raging Dragon, Sparksaurus, you essentially gain an entire field that’s still active, with additional cards in hand along with an extra 10000 power and an additional critical. This makes for a devastatingly strong field and an incredible power up for the clan as a whole.
Then there’s the clan’s new Legion, the Ancient Dragons. Their main centerpiece is Ancient Dragon, Tyrannolegend; an 11000 that can gain additional 10000 and a critical by sacrificing three Ancient Dragon rearguards when it attacks. When combined with the Break Ride, that can lead to an unboosted 31000, 3 critical assault coming down the center line. What this makes is a powerful (albeit vanilla and inconsistent) deck, that has a center line comparable to that of Dimension Police and defensive capacities similar to that Shadow Paladins. However, the deck does have one critical flaw that these other clans have fixed: consistency and control over timing. All of this is done at the very end of the game, when your opponent is already forced to guard your Vanguard hit out of fear of an additional critical anyways. Meanwhile, these other clans have either the ability spread out over time, or their ability is more powerful because they are using it earlier in the game and gaining an early advantage to ride off of. Unfortunately, Tachikaze lacks this, making the capacity of their big hit still relevant but dependent on their opponent’s hand size at the late game, as poor timing with this will end in a loss for the Tachikaze player.
…Okay fine, I’ll actually talk about them.
Genesis has essentially the same problem as Narukami for this set. Unfortunately for them, where Narukami is only waiting for an updated build and players still have access to all of the important stuff to play good Tier 1 decks if they want to in the clan, Genesis… lacks that. All of that. For those who aren’t in the know, Genesis is a clan that was (or rather in our case, will be) formally introduced in Set 10 with triggers, a central strategy, a ride chain, and all of the bells and whistles. The clan’s strategy as a whole is basically a cross between Oracle Think Tank and Pale Moon; they use card effects to Soul Charge, and then proceed to use regular Soul Blasts to gain advantages such as field consistency, drawing cards, power boosts, etc. The clan as a whole is solid (though seen very little tournament play in Japan), but the problem lies in the fact that all of its important stuff (most importantly the triggers) all come out in Set 10. In December. So, all of these cards essentially are valueless (especially the new RRR Goddess of Good Luck, Fortuna as it has the Lord ability slapped on it) until December, when we finally get access to the toys to make this deck work.
Last but not least, Aqua Force is the last clan to gain support in this set. What makes Aqua Force interesting that they are the only clan (not counting Genesis) that didn’t actually get a Legion as one of the key portions of its support. Instead, it opted to get a (very nice) Ride Chain, along with a series of new rear-guards that aren’t locked into anything, leaving them open to be used in any build of Aqua Force (I’d use the acronym AF but we’re already using that for Angel Feather so crudface). Secondly, whereas the support of the other clans reinforces their previous strategies in the same ways they did before (Kagero gets field destruction, Tachikaze aim to get pluses off of sacrificing rear-guards, etc.), Aqua Force’s new support is trying new variations on their shtick of pluses based on planned attacks: bonuses on number of tapped rear-guards when specific attacks are made, forcing the opponent to make bad decisions, etc. An example of this is Last Card, Revonn, when he attacks the Vanguard (for a counterblast of 1) if you have 3 rested cards in the front row (including him for attacking), it gains 3000 power and an additional critical. This puts a whole new spin on the clan, and actually (at least for me) makes them a far more interesting concept now that what they were before.
Starting this off is their new awkwardly translated Break Ride: Blue Flight Dragon, Trans-Core Dragon. When Break Ridden, this card gives the unit 10000 power and then an additional ability: when this unit attacks the Vanguard, your opponent has to discard an additional card before declaring guards to be allowed to guard. If they opt to not pay this cost (not that they don’t guard, but that they don’t discard), then your unit will gain an additional critical when attacking. This card is fairly good, and a solid Break Ride, but not for the reasons people are expecting.The core thing that makes this card have the potential to be bad is the fact that it’s a card that puts the decision on which option happens into the hands of your opponent. This is normally considered to be a bad thing, as your opponent will just pick whichever option works the best for them. The best example that I know of (and my apologies for diverging into a different game) is actually in Magic: The Gathering, with a card called Browbeat. Browbeat is a card that gives your opponent two options: they will either take five damage (the equivalent of taking about one damage in CFV), or you will draw three cards (the equivalent of drawing one in CFV).
While there are arguments about the card that are unrelated to this case here, this card is considered bad because what option you want as the Browbeat caster is generally quite obvious from the board state of the game, and you give your opponent the option to take the choice that is not what you want and it does virtually nothing to that board state. TCD doesn’t actually suffer from this. It’ll only be used in the mid-to-late game (when its ability is relevant), and instead of giving your opponent a choice between bad for them and one that doesn’t matter, you’re forcing them to choose between one that’s bad for them (losing a card and guarding 20000 unboosted) or one that’s bad for them (two critical in the late game when they’re at 4-5 damage before triggers). In this case, neither works in the favor of your opponent, so they lose either way.
The other major piece of relevance for Aqua Force was that of its new Ride Chain, the Ripple Series. The initial part of the Chain (Starting Ripple, Ales) is a fairly standard starting Vanguard. If you ride the Grade 1 (Silent Ripple, Sotirio), you get to look for more pieces of the ride chain. If not, you call it out to a rear-guard circle. The interesting part is that if you skip riding the grade 2 (Rising Ripple, Pavroth), you get to look through the top seven cards for a copy of it, and then get to re-ride. Skipping ahead to the Grade 3 (Thundering Ripple, Genovious), this deck is boosted by having its Ride Chain in the soul, but it is not necessary for his final ability; with a counterblast of 2 and a Persona Blast, you may stand all of your rear-guards if you attack the Vanguard. This is an incredible ability for a very minimal cost, along with a Ride Chain that very easily supports it, making for a very exciting potential build. It’s possible to have a deck that has all critical triggers and be able to stand for a second series of hits that aren’t dependent on needing a particular hit, and it still has the potential to do serious damage without being hit by the clan’s usual weakness of lackluster side columns.
All in all, this set is going to have a major impact on competitive play. Virtually every clan mentioned in this article (yes, even Genesis with their minimum support) gain massive additions, be it an awesome new Break Ride, a shiny new Ride chain, a Legion, or even just the fact that a bunch of these clans now have new Perfect Guards (which makes everyone’s wallets do a quick jump for joy). For the competitive scene, Kagero (with Seal Dragons and DOTE-Dauntless), Aqua Force (With Trans-Core Dragon) and Tachikaze (With Ancient Dragons) all gain potential new cards, some of which warp the original way the clan was played prior. Al of this will have an impact on current play. The ultimate question is this: How will these cards affect the World Championships? We’ll see soon enough.