Hello readers! First of all, I am going to do a little bit of introduction for myself. My name Is Felix Suroso, I have been playing TCG since year 2008, and I played our neighboring card game Yu-Gi-Oh! Short after, Cardfight Vanguard was announced in year 2010. I was probably the very first 100 people who actually play the TCG itself. Short after, June 2011 was when the very first Cardfight Vanguard Official tournament was held in Singapore. It was a big event and I topped, certified with 1 of the only few very first certificate given in Singapore as a recognition of getting first place. I started my competitive career from here. Together with 2 of my buddies in Singapore, we wrote one of the most popular blog (it’s already closed down now) at that time, CFV-Café. As I realize that the scene of CFVG is getting bigger and bigger, I shortly volunteered myself to become the judge of my local and also volunteered in many official CFVG events. I topped 8 in the Singapore Nationals year 2011 and have been topping local tournaments, up until now in the USA. I am also an unofficial middleman for Bushiroad events in Seattle, as I am the one who find the judges and staffs, train them personally and ensure everything goes smooth during the events. If you have any ruling questions and need a detailed answer, feel free to message me. I also am the admin of the biggest FB Cardfight Vanguard group in NA, North America Cardfight Vanguard.
TL;DR (for biography only)
- Very first few people who actually pick up the game (ever since December 2010)
- 1st Place L2P Tournament (very first CFVG official tournament held in Singapore)
- Topped local almost always (top 2 – top 4), sometimes first place
- Judged for a lot of Vanguard official events and locals
- Judge and middleman for Seattle Vanguard events (connecting judges and Bushiroad)
- Admin of biggest NA CFVG group, North America Cardfight Vanguard
Introduction to topic
Now, let’s move on to the topic. As you can see, the title is “Why Vanguard is not just about triggers and luck-based?” is a pretty common argument. I am not trying to tell people that Vanguard is the most complicated game ever, or to convince people that the game is not 0% luck-based or anything like that. In the first place, ALL card game have their own luck(chance) factor no matter what. Card games require you to draw cards, and having different cards to be drawn depends on chance. Chance is the exact word to be used, but most people will refer it to luck. I am not going to discuss about chance or luck here. Now let’s move on to the discussion.
Basis of Vanguard (In my opinion)
The very basis of Vanguard that I would like to emphasize to people, is that Vanguard is a fight where the user have to maintain their advantage and resources. It is all about a game of maintaining resource. If you can’t maintain your resource properly, you will not be able to guard, or you will not be able to call units, and thus, leading you not being able to win by dealing 6 damage to opponent, or decking your opponent out (which is most likely not possible, as your opponent will kill you first if you don’t have that resources at all). Now, there are 2 types of resources which I would like to discuss. First resource is what I call by definite resource,your own –stock-, your money, your personal belonging, what you already own. Second resource is what I call by possible and indefinite resource.
Definite resources are basically your cards in your hand. It is given to you and you have a full control of what to do with them. Drop zone, damage zone cards that has already been there, your soul and your field, are all your definite resources. They can be used and it is up to you to fully abuse them. Whether you can abuse and maximize your full potential by making optimal plays, are all in your hand. For example, you are playing Bermuda triangle, whether you want to return this grade 0, for example to your hand, or whether you do not want to, it is all your decision. You can choose to do it, or not to do it, and depending on the situation you are in, there are times when doing it is better, and vice versa.
Indefinite resources are the unseen cards, the unseen advantage, which is primarily your deck. You have totally no control on what is coming in your deck, unless if you are playing Tsukuyomi or Galahad and you are at your +/- 15 card stack. Even then, you can NOT control what you are going to draw before you reach that stack, and you can NOT change the position or placement of cards in your deck by any means. Statistics and predictions will come in handy in this situation. From easiest thing to the hardest thing you can predict, starting from :
1. What kind of card you are going to draw. Trigger or non-trigger
2. What grade that you are going to draw. Grade 0, 1, 2, 3 or even 4 (new cards from Japanese metagame involves grade 4)
3. What is the exact card that you are going to draw.
Why is this useful? Knowing what card that is most probably going to be drawn, would be necessary when you use cards like perfect guard, or which card to guard. For perfect guard case, you usually throw something that is unnecessary, mostly grade 3 as it does not have any shield value. But in very tight matches where you are left with a grade 1 in hand or a grade 2 on the field that can intercept, while you ONLY have front rows and let’s say your backrow are destroyed and opponent has 11k Vanguard. They both have 5000 guard. If I intercept with the grade 2 and I draw a grade 0 or 1, I might not be able to secure a good attack amount next turn. But if I throw the grade 1 and I draw a grade 2, I might not be able to boost my g2 to even hit my opponent’s 11k Vanguard (let’s just say our grade 2 is 10k Vanilla). This is where your experience and ability to predict what’s coming will come in handy. If the chance of you getting a booster is more, you would want to throw the grade 1 in your hand as you are going to draw another booster. Why would you just leave everything to fate or luck? Some people just do not think and guard using the wrong card and just leave everything to luck and hope you draw good next turn. Why would you do this, when there is ACTUALLY a better play, where you can spend around 10-20 seconds and figuring out what you are going to draw? This is a very small portion on why Vanguard is not pure luck-based.
Small plays DO affect your game!
Without you even realizing, there are actually a lot of room for good plays and bad plays in Vanguard that you do not even realize. There are a lot of examples out there but I ain’t going to discuss it one by one. The way you guard, the way you call cards, the way you make good numbers, and the way you plan which card’s skill to use will decide the whole game. Let’s take an example. You have 2 counterblasts, and you have a blaster blade and Hi-Dog Breeder Akane. Which one do you want to use? There are some situations where Blaster Blade play is better especially when you are dealing with cards like Silent Tom or Palamedes, and there are some situations where you need a grade 1 booster to ensure you have good field. In these situations, some of these decisions are obvious, but what if you are not in an obvious situation? That is the question. There are so many cloudy and foggy situations where you can’t really tell which play is the better play. Just because of this small play, it will actually affect the game. For guarding, there are ways out there to guard. Optimal guarding is where you use your resources as less as possible, and taking damage as less as possible, while making sure you still have room of plays next turn. Same goes to building your field. Making good numbers, which cards to call first, seems to be really simple. But it turns out not to be that simple. What if in some bizarre situation (opponent’s VG is 11k), you are forced to use your grade 2 to intercept that has 16k column with 7k grade 1 booster, and then you draw into your 8k grade 2 and making you unable to reach the perfect number, while your grade 1 8k booster, are paired with your 10k grade 3 which is already over the 16k magic number. This is one of the very common situations where most players do not think through on what might happen, even though the chance is small, it IS still there. There is this phrase from Singapore called “Low crime does not mean no-crime.” It applies here too. Low chance doesn’t mean that it is impossible to happen. This kind of very trivial and small plays, might even cost you the game. Which again, I would like to emphasize that this game is not just luck-based. If you think slightly more, you can secure your win instead of losing to some silly mistakes like that.
Trigger system (thoughts behind it)
Now I am going to nail the point on luck-based factor, which revolves around trigger system. Statistically, there are 16 triggers out of 49 cards (leaving your starter out), which means out of 3 cards, 1 card will most probably be a trigger. One of the general statements is that, if you damage check a non-trigger, drew a non-trigger for your turn, most likely your drive check or twin drive will have 1 trigger. There are times when this does not happen, but if you play around 1000 games, this will most probably be true in at least 500 games-600 games, or even more. Take note that I am not trying to promote statistics here, nor I am trying to say that statistics is everything in Vanguard. That is absolutely untrue. I personally believe that experience matters the most, your knowledge on the game matters a lot. If you know the meaning of match-up, you will know the counter play against your opponent. If you are playing against Neo Nectar Sephirot build, you might want to try to destroy their backrow as it will be a disaster for you if they have 3 of the same name card in their backrow. Knowing almost all of the cards that exist in Vanguard is definitely helpful. New players who do not read other clans and only focus on your clan, I suggest you to find some time, and read all the cards from the other clans. It will be useful in the long run as you will know what to expect when you are playing against them.
Continuing to where I left off about triggers, triggers are the most confusing mechanics of the game, believe it or not. The reason why I came up with the 2 types of resources is because of triggers. Triggers are indefinite resources, as you don’t know when they are coming. They are possible resources, which when you get them, you will get an extra advantage through their abilities. Both players, you and your opponent have triggers in the deck, and it is not possible for both of you to control the –flow- of the game and when the triggers would come, because a deck is randomized. Now, this is where your skill comes. When you can actually sense and know that a trigger is coming, your action will be different. There are really bizarre times when your rearguard that is worth 10k guard when you attack the Vanguard, just have to attack their grade 3 rearguard which means that your opponent save that extra damage or 10k guard. But this might be game changing, as if your opponent draws a draw trigger, they might have worse hands and it might actually affect their –flow- of the game, and leaning it towards your pace. It is not the most optimal play, but it can be game changing too. But please, do not do this if you are unsure and inexperienced about this, because it might backfire even more. Only do this when you are sure that you are going to get an advantage from this play and surprise your opponent with shocking plays that might confuse your opponent.
Do NOT misplay!
In Vanguard, optimal play is really important and really suggested. If you know how to play optimally, manage and maintaining your resource while outplaying your opponent, you will do well in Vanguard. Yes, outplaying your opponent. Many people think that Vanguard is such a simple game, that outplaying your opponent is almost impossible. No, it is not correct at all. Again, as I said, room of plays are actually more than what you think. You can do more things and as long as you think out of the box and think further than your opponent, it is considered as outplaying your opponent.
More on triggers
Continuing on triggers, a lot of people are really pissed off due to trigger system. I am too. It can be such a disaster especially when your opponent keeps hitting trigger after trigger. Now, this is not something that you can really avoid. Think it the bright way, how many times do you actually face this kind of situation? Not that much, at least for me. People often exaggerated on how often they get ‘sacked’ by heal on 6, or double critical-ed. But in actual, if you gather up all of your 1000 games, you might just face those kind of situations maybe around 20-30 times while you might even have a lot of very close games, and the games where you actually won by a huge advantage. I personally hope that people do not just ragequit the game because of triggers. If you keep losing with a good deck, against a low tier deck, and have an excuse of getting sacked, the problem might lie within you. Losing a few games, fine. But if you lose like 50 times against a lower tier deck simultaneously, there must be something wrong with either you, or your deck. You might not make the most optimal play on those situations, or your grade ratio might be just bad, that you experience grade stuck more than what you are supposed to.
Now, let’s break down the points if you are playing optimally. Playing to your fullest potential, will give you these advantages :
- Starting from mulligan, what cards you want to mulligan, and which card is best to be in the soul, which card is best to not be ridden so it can be useful later game. They impact the game.
- What card to be ridden. Be it a good defense high attack Vanilla, so your opponent cannot rush you, or be it utility cards that can gain you advantage. It all depends on your match up. Slight example, if you are playing against Majesty Lord Blaster Deck, you know that their Wingal brave is 5k and their Blasters are 9k mostly. You would want to ride 10k Vanilla g2 so that they can’t hit you for good numbers, and you can guard 10k so their attack does not hit. Believe it or not, trivial things like this actually can be your key to winning the game.
- How many damage you would want to take early. Guarding early, or taking the damage? So many arguments regarding guarding early, but in my opinion, it all depends on the match-up. If you are in situation where you need your limit break at 4 damage ASAP, taking damage might be a better choice. But if you are playing against deck that has really high numbers at the mid-late game, I would rather guard early, so I don’t have to waste my hand guarding those huge number attacks and take the damage instead.
- What cards do you want to call, and which card’s ability to use first. I have stated above on this so I will leave this.
- Can you take the risk to actually take damage when you are at 4? This is very game breaking, and there are so many situations where you can, and where you can’t take risk. Optimally, if you can guard at 4 damage, but leaving you with no cards in hand, it might not be worth it because you will die regardless as you will not be able to kill your opponent the turn after. While if you can guard while still keeping and maintaining your resource, it is best to play it safe. Taking risk is not bad at all when you are in bad situation. Some players overextend and overguard a lot of times and that might cost them the game, with the margin of as small as a 5k guard.
Deck building skill
There’s also another skill factor that is unseen, which is your ability to build your deck. Of course, net-decking a deck that won is also an option. But, if you yourself can create a deck which is consistent, figure out which cards work best with each other, you definitely have stepped into another level. A lot of players do not know how to build a deck. When you net-deck, I believe you will have a slower learning curve compared to people who build their own deck. As you build your deck, you put your thought into it, so you definitely know when to use each card’s effect and fully abuse them. While if you net-deck, either you have to see how it is played through videos or through people who are more familiar than you, or you might have a slight problem playing the deck the first few games. This is another skill which is involved in most of the card games, and being able to make your own STRONG deck will definitely help you becoming a better player.
These are some of the points where Vanguard is actually not a luck-based game. There are so many small things and plays, that if you do something differently, it will actually change the whole game. I would like to end this article by thanking all of my friends who have been supporting me and playing Vanguard with me these past 3 years, people who play the game and appreciate the game, and even people who actually say Vanguard is a bad game. These people who say that give few legitimate arguments but I will stand on my own opinion, that Vanguard is a great game that involves more skill than what people think. It made me realize how tiny details in Vanguard can actually impact a lot of things. I apologize for the very long article, it has around 3000 words, minus the long biography would be around 2500 words. I would like to shorten this article but there are just so many things I want to tell players about Vanguard. Thank you very much for reading! I really appreciate it!
Best regards, STAND UP THE VANGUARD!