Hello cardfighters, to another Vanguard article. The topic of this article has been touched on but I feel that it was never really discussed at length. That topic is the current meta state of Vanguard, now that Set 5: Awakening of Twin Blades has been released for the TCG. This set now sets the stage for the new Cross-rides that have taken over the OCG for nearly over a year, but the biggest question that still needs to be answered is this: Will it actually have an effect on the TCG as much as it did in the OCG?
Here's a little background on how much Set 5 affected the OCG. A majority of the local shop tournaments and large-scale tournaments became flooded by 4 clans for the entirety of 2012: Royal Paladin, Kagero, Shadow Paladins, and Oracle Think Tank. The deck types were Majesty Lord Blaster for the Royal Paladins, Dragonic Overlord the End for Kagero, Phantom Blaster Overlord for Shadow Paladins, and Tsukuyomi for Oracle Think Tank. By mid-2012, Shadow Paladins fell of the radar with the new sets and clans that came out but the original 3 clans from Set 1 still held control over the tournament scene. It was until the announcement on December 10, 2012 that the restriction list was updated to prevent the meta from becoming stagnant with only people playing these decks at tournaments.
Now, fast forward to now and Set 5 is now released for the TCG. We now have access to two of the most dangerous decks that held a firm grip on the OCG meta for nearly over 2 years, and now have enough support for the other two decks to be just as dangerous. But will they have any effect on us as much as they did in the OCG? Let's look at each clan's key cards to see how each one had an effect on the OCG meta.
Kagero: Dragonic Overlord the End
Probably one of the most talked about, loved and despised unit in Vanguard. It's skills alone are what makes it one of the strongest units released. Let's look at its skills:
[CONT](VC/RC):If you have a non-<Kagero> vanguard or rear-guard, this unit gets [Power]-2000.
[CONT](VC):If you have a unit named "Dragonic Overlord" in your soul, this unit gets [Power]+2000.
[AUTO](VC):[Counter Blast (2) & Choose a "Dragonic Overlord the End" from your hand, and discard it.] When this unit's attack hits, you may pay the cost. If you do, [Stand] this unit.
The first skill is the basic -2k for having a non-Kagero unit that can be ignored since many decks now are mainly mono-clans now. The second skill is where the Cross-ride abilities are applied; just from having the original form of the unit in soul, it'll give this unit +2k and becomes a 13k unit instead of its standard 11k. Now the third...that's a different story.
It's third skill is similar to the previous self-standing vanguards of Spectral Duke Dragon and Stern Blaukruger: both of them cost counter blast 2, both require you to pitch cards as part of the cost with Duke retiring 3 Gold Paladin rear-guards and Stern discarding 2 Nova Grapplers, and they lose Twin Drive upon standing. They also come with unique attributes to their standing skill. Duke can stand itself whenever its the close step of the attack it made against a vanguard, allowing you get over perfect guards during those late game pushes. Stern needs to hit the vanguard as well but he can stand his entire column to get an additional boost when attacking again.
But unlike them, the End doesn't need to hit the vanguard. It just needs to hit a unit. This makes the End a near pressure-maker just by threatening your opponent with an attack to their rear-guard. And when it stands, it keeps its Twin Drive. This makes it a lot more dangerous than Duke or Stern since you just Persona Blast a copy of the End,stand it again with any trigger bonuses on it, and get another 2 cards again when it attacks as your vanguard. You basically only lose 1 card and get 3 more when you get its skill off. While having 13k makes this skill quite scary, even just having 11k with this skill is enough to keep your opponent afraid of letting it hit.
Even if your opponent tries to stop the End from standing itself, Kagero offers a lot of unit-retiring with Heatnail Salamander, Demonic Dragon Mage, Kimnara, and Berserk Dragon to keep your opponent from having enough Grade 1s to boost their front row and make it harder for them to effectively attack the End for good power. The clan also has Lizard Solider, Conroe that lets you search for any Grade 1 Kagero that you need like your 8k booster Embodiment of Armor, Bahr to your perfect guard Wyvern Guard, Barri. The deck has a lot of ways of taking away the boosters of your opponent to effectively make it harder for the opponent to hit the End efficiently and also make them guard more since they don't know if you have another copy to Persona Blast with.
Royal Paladin: Majesty Lord Blaster
Right behind Dragonic Overlord the End for being one of the most threatening units is the pseudo Cross-ride for Royal Paladins: Majesty Lord Blaster. His skills are as follows:
[CONT](VC):If you have a card named "Blaster Blade", and a card named "Blaster Dark" in your soul, this unit gets [Power]+2000/[Critical]+1.
[AUTO](VC):[Choose a unit named "Blaster Blade", and a unit named "Blaster Dark" from your (RC), and put them into your soul] When this unit attacks, you may pay the cost. If you do, this unit gets [Power]+10000 until end of that battle.
While only a 10k unit, the skills he has are what make him just as threatening as the End. The first skill basically turns Majesty into a 12k 2crit vanguard, able to hit up to 20k-21k with either a Little Sage, Marron, or Toypugal boosting it respectively. The additional critical adds more pressure because your opponent wouldn't want to take it and watch you get double critical off of a Twin Drive and hit for 4 damage. The additional 2k power just makes it easier to defend against attacks. The only problem to this skill though is getting both a Blaster Blade and a Blaster Dark in soul...
...but the second skill solves that problem slightly. By having Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark in your rear-guard, you can easily put both in soul with this skill and get a +10k boost while attacking. Plus, Majesty's first skill will become active, meaning that you can easily swing for at least 30k 2crit with one attack! The only bad thing about this is that you do lose 2 rearguards to get this bonus for only one attack but it's easily recovered from the pressure you made from doing this. Now the harder part is getting Blaster Dark, a Shadow Paladin, on the field with a Royal Paladin deck.
Thanks to the support in Set 5, Majesty has a few ways to get Blaster Dark in hand or on the field, while also having some new supporters exclusive to the 'Blaster' subtype. The new starter Wingal Brave lets you search for any Blaster unit after putting it into soul after a Blaster unit's attack hit when Wingal Brave boosted it. Then there's Knight of Friendship, Kay and Knight of Loyalty, Bedivere who gain +3k when attacking from having a 'Blaster' unit as your vanguard. With Kay being a Grade 1 7k unit and Bedivere as a Grade 2 9k, they can easily create power lines so long as you have a Blaster Blade/Blaster Dark or Majesty Lord Blaster as your vanguard.
Lastly, there's Star Call Trumpeter. Trumpeter is an 8k Grade 2 who can call a Grade 2 or lower Blaster unit from your deck when she's placed as vanguard or rear-guard for counter blast 2. This can easily grab Blaster Dark out of your deck to help get Majesty's skill of getting both Blasters into soul, but unfortunately Bedivere and both Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark take a lot of slots in the deck, making it for Trumpeter find space in the deck.
The Royal Paladins also give the deck a lot of good support as well with King of Knights, Alfred who can search any Royal Paladin you need while being a great backup vanguard, and Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes easily creating 21k lines by himself in the rear-guard columns just from having 2 or more Grade 3s in your vanguard and rear-guard zones, including himself. This deck provides constant pressure because of Majesty's permanent 2 critical and with the Royal Paladin support of calling units from the deck, it can easily create power lines easily. The only trouble it has is getting both Blaster Dark and Blaster Blade on the field at the same time to allow Majesty to get both in soul.
Shadow Paladin: Phantom Blaster Overlord
While the deck fell off the radar for the OCG, there may be a chance that Shadow Paladins may take a place in our meta. Let's take a look at the skills of the evolved form of the Shadow Paladin's boss unit:
[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.
Much like Dragonic Overlord the End, Overlord's first and second skills are the same so let's move on to the third skill that's been a cause for a lot of debate. Instead of counter blast 2 and retiring 3 rear-guards for Phantom Blaster Dragon's skill, Overlord instead adds an additional counter blast and a Persona Blast for the same effect. Many people see this as 'expensive' because of the counter blast cost and only see Overlord as a vanilla 13k unit or a 11k rear-guard, while Phantom Blaster Dragon has an easier cost for getting the same benefits.
But that's what a lot of people overlook about Overlord while playing Shadow Paladins: when to use counter blast in Shadow Paladin. Because of all the counter blasting from Shadow Paladin offer to activate their skills, the player using them needs to plan ahead on whether or not to activate any counter blasts. Overlord's cost is actually a lot cheaper since you only lose a card in hand for the cost instead of retiring 3 rear-guards and weakening your field presence. If you handle your counter blasts well, you can actually use Overlord's Persona Blast more often. Even if the attack is perfect guarded, you are forcing them to do it or take the damage while also still having units to attack with. Sometimes, it's better to draw out the perfect guard instead of hoping they don't have any when you try to use this attack.
The one thing that makes Phantom Blaster Overlord an easier Cross-ride vanguard than Dragonic Overlord the End's Cross-ride or getting both Blaster Blade and Blaster deck into soul for Majesty Lord Blaster, is how Shadow Paladins can consistently get the Cross-ride off without actually riding Overlord over Phantom Blaster Dragon. With Blaster Javelin's skill to discard a Grade 3 to search for Phantom Blaster Dragon when called to rear-guard, you thin out your deck of Grade 3s but also make sure to have a Phantom Blaster Dragon in soul when you are going to cross-ride into Overlord. Along with Nightmare Painter who came out in Set 5, you can ride Overlord first than call him to put Phantom Blaster Dragon from hand into soul; easily creating a 13k vanguard in one turn instead of needing two.
Both of these units can be called with Darkness Maiden, Macha to create both a column to complete the Cross-ride, filter out the extra Grade 3s in your deck, or make an easy 16k line. Skull Witch, Nemain also allows you to draw 2 card just by counter blasting 1 and discarding a Shadow Paladin, while also acting as an easy intercepter after using her effect from digging into your deck. Then there's Knight of Nullity, Masquerade who acts as the Shadow Paladins' Bedivere, since he works any of the Blaster units in the deck unlike Demon World Castle, DonnerSchlag who needs you to have only Blaster Dark or Phantom Blaster Dragon to be of any use.
This deck has many ways of insuring that the Cross-ride will be successful while also making sure that the Cross-ride will occur. While Overlord's Persona Blast is costly, it doesn't require you to retire rear-guards for the cost and can be used if you use your counter blasts effectively. The deck demands resource management and will pay off if you use them correctly.
Oracle Think Tank: Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi
This deck has probably fallen out of use in the TCG, most likely because how Soulless runs faster than this deck type and also isn't restricted a ride chain. But, there's still something it does better than any other deck in Vanguard: stacking. Let's take a look at the goddess herself:
[CONT](VC/RC):If you do not have a card named "Goddess of the Half Moon, Tsukuyomi", a card named "Goddess of the Crescent Moon, Tsukuyomi", and a card named "Godhawk, Ichibyoshi" in your soul, this unit gets [Power]-2000.
[ACT](VC):[Counter Blast (2)] If the number of «Oracle Think Tank» in your soul is six or more, draw two cards, choose a card from your hand, and put it into your soul.
The first skill is probably one of the biggest complaints of the deck: the ride chain. Understandably, a lot of ride chains are frowned upon (unless your ride chain is the Vortimer/Spectral Duke Dragon chain for some) because of needing to stay in the chain to make it be of any use. The first skill places a hefty drawback for not having all the pieces of the chain, turning OTT's only 11k unit into a weak 9k attacker. But the importance of Tsukuyomi is not getting all three pieces into soul, it's what the ride chain does to get the three pieces.
Now, the Grade 0, 1, and 2 forms of Tsukuyomi all share the same skill: At the beginning of your ride phase, look at five cards from the top of your deck, search for up to one card named X from among them, ride it, and put the rest on the bottom of your deck in any order. If you rode, you cannot normal ride during that ride phase. What this does is basically give you a chance to save cards in hand while attempting to ride the next grade from your deck. If successful or not, you then place the cards at the bottom of your deck. This is where it starts to get tricky.
By staying in the ride chain, you'll be looking at the top 15 cards of your deck during each of your ride phases from Grade 0 to Grade 3. This means you will at least know the bottom 15 cards because of looking for the next grade in the chain. By also staying in the chain, Goddess of the Half-Moon, Tsukuyomi will let you soul charge 2 by having the Grade 1 and Grade 0 parts of the chain in the soul, helping you with the Grade 3 Tsukuyomi's second skill. Now the main question is this: Why are the bottom 12-15 cards of the deck so important? Because you stacked them, that's why! Each time you tried to find the next grade of the chain, you can sort the cards in any way you want; potentially placing triggers together to always get a double trigger!
Now, you would say that it takes too long to reach that stack you made. Well, there are ways to go about that: your normal draw phase, drive checking, draw triggers, damage checking, and soul charging, and draw skills. Next, you may say that Tsukuyomi's second skill is too hard to fulfill if you miss the Grade 2 Tsukuyomi. There are ways to easily reach 6 cards in case that happens: using Psychic Bird's skill to put itself into soul, Oracle Guardian, Red Eye's skill of soul charging 1 if its attack hits, or just ride CEO Amateratsu and slowly gather soul while you wait for the Grade 3 Tsukuyomi and maybe get the Grade 2 Tsukuyomi into soul. When you get the Grade 3 Tsukuyomi as your vanguard with those 6 or more cards in soul, you can counter blast 2 to draw two cards and then add one to soul. This helps you get closer to your stack and adds any missing piece of the Tsukuyomi chain into soul. Once you get to your stack, you can basically bet that you have game (Unless you unfortunately forget how you organized the stack).
Outside of the new critical trigger, Battle Sister, Ginger, Set 5 also introduced Battle Maiden, Tagitsuhime, the Bedivere clone for OTT but requires 6 or more OTT cards in soul. Then there's Evil-eye Princess, Euryale who can bind (remove from play in Vanguard terms) a card in your opponent's hand if you have 6 or more OTT cards in soul. These cards offer ways of combatting the other decks by either generating more power columns with Tagitsuhime, or taking away possible cards your opponent to guard with by Euryale's skill.
While this deck hasn't made much of an impact on the TCG because of how CoCo stole her spotlight while dealing with a faster paced meta than the OCG, the fact that OTT offers a lot of draw power along with Tsukuyomi stacking triggers together makes a formidable deck to deal with when it successfully goes off. When one knows how to memorize their stack like Misaki did in the anime, Tsukuyomi can become a frightening deck to play against.
What Awaits Us...
Currently, the TCG meta for us was mainly attempting to best Gold Paladin decks in the forms of Spectral Duke Dragon and Pellinore-Gamore. Now with Set 5 bringing us Dragonic Overlord the End, Majesty Lord Blaster, and Phantom Blaster Overlord, these decks may take the hold Gold Paladins had on the meta for us. Just before the new year, Bushiroad announced restrictions on Royal Paladin, Kagero, and Oracle Think Tank to not only stop them from their continued reign over the tournament scene, but to also prevent the game from being stagnant. The restrictions they placed for each clan was that you were only allowed to run either 2 copies of one card from the list or a combination of 2 cards for each clan. Kagero was restricted to either Dragonic Overlord the End or Lizard Solider, Conroe. Royal Paladin had restrictions on Majesty Lord Blaster, Wingal Brave, and King of Knights, Alfred. As for OTT, restrictions were placed on Godhawk, Ichibyoshi, Silent Tom, and Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi.
While the OTT restriction seems unlikely to happen, the restrictions on Kagero and Royal Paladin could occur. But unlike the Barcgal restriction we received without any tournaments to see if Royal Paladins would rampage the meta like it did for the OCG, we TCG players are not being affected by the restrictions. But there is something I do want to bring up: just as Set 5 was about to be released, Bushiroad announced the Stand Up! Challenge and the Team League 2013 tournaments. This is probably not only a good publicity move to help Vanguard become a recognized TCG next to Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh!, but also a way to scope out if our meta will turn into the OCG's because of repetitive use of nothing but the End and Majesty topping the tournaments.
I'm trying to be pessimistic or basically say 'Don't use these cards!', but I'm just stating that we will cause the restriction to be applied in TCG as well if we let it happen. Our meta progressed differently than the OCG's so we already have cards to combat these particular decks. While they may be powerful decks, they can still be overcome with good skills and little dash of luck. Now stand up and continue the cardfight.