Monday, June 5, 2017

Let's Translate Cardfight!! Vanguard: Lock on Victory!! Part 1: Joining the Cardfight Club

In December 2013, FuRyu producer Fujiwara Ayano took the stage at Bushiroad's Cardfight!! Vanguard Special Conference to announce the 3DS game Cardfight!! Vanguard: Lock on Victory. Patterned after the just-completed Link Joker chapter of the anime series, Lock on Victory proved to be a transformative title for the 3DS card-battling franchise. It was the first title in the series to have the player live through the events of the anime series rather than craft a post-script storyline for them, the first to feature multiple storyline routes, and Lock on Victory overhauled the reward system and card collection mechanics to completely subvert the first game's nigh-oppressive difficulty. Owing in part to the era it came out in, Lock on Victory also has the best AI of the Vanguard trilogy, not having to struggle with the decision-making associated with balancing both legion and stride. Where its immediate sequel is dragged down by the weight of Vanguard G's wandering, this game relishes in exploring all the facets of the Link Joker chapter. It features the single largest character roster of the Vanguard video games, playing with the anime's associated plot twists to provide a buffet of fully-voiced avatars in online play. In each of these regards Lock on Victory is the definitive Vanguard video game, and one of the best games on the 3DS in general.

It has also never been translated into English. Until now.

Unlike its sequels, the original Ride to Victory lacks Miiverse functionality. So I'm choosing to begin this translation from Lock on Victory, the most popular entry in the trilogy. In the course of this playthrough, I intend to explore not just the script, but also the booster format the game is set in. (Characters start using cards from BT10 and earlier, then gradually move up to BT15 and EB09; essentially from the beginning of break ride format to the end of limit break.) In 2017, we've crossed the point where many of the more recent entrants into the world of Vanguard are unfamiliar with what the game looked like in this format, and there are a number of mechanics that shine here in a way they hadn't before and haven't since.

In the real world, I've been a dedicated Shadow Paladin fighter since late 2011. But during the format this game is set in, I lapsed for many reasons. The clan moved in a direction I didn't appreciate, and provided few to no alternative play styles. For that reason, you won't see my Shadow Paladins played for most of this playthrough. Instead, I'm choosing to focus on what I actually played at the time, an oft-underlooked deck within an otherwise-popular clan that I felt showed how you could support diversity within a larger group. I'm building Planetal Dragon.

This first chapter will (by necessity) be heavier than the rest. Expect daily updates from hereon out.

Part 1: Joining the Cardfight Club (06/05/2017)
Part 2: Freetime Events (06/06/2017)
Part 3: THE Kai Toshiki (06/07/2017)
Part 4: Kamui (06/08/2017)
Part 5: Yuri (06/09/2017)

Lock on Victory has three different story modes; Fukuhara High (left) featuring Suzugamori Ren and his team of Foo Fighters, Miyaji Academy (center) featuring Sendou Aichi and his cardfight club, and Hitsue High (right) featuring Kai Toshiki's band of misfits. Not only does our school of choice determine what story elements we experience, it also affects the uniform of our online avatar! To complete the game we'll have to finish every mode eventually, but we'll be starting at Fukuhara.

There are ten playable avatars to choose from, five male and five female, each with a general personality (Hotblooded/Cool/Dark/Shy/Quirky) and accompanying voice quotes. Six of these are the returning playable characters from Ride to Victory, now high school-aged rather than late middle school. Outside of the original Hotblooded and Dark protagonists Ryouta and Luna, none of the Victory!! characters recur in any subsequent media, so we'll shine a light on one of the other kids.

This is Amagi Subaru, the Shy-archetyped male protagonist. (His character select quote is "I-I'm nervous, but I'll do my best!!") Since he'll be reflecting me online as well, I renamed him Kōyō Tōya, and that's the final name we'll be running with throughout this LP.

LtV is the first Vanguard 3DS game to feature multiple difficulty modes right out the gate, which can be changed at any time. "Easy" approximately corresponds to the (fixed) difficulty in the previous game, while "Normal" is more challengings. The sequel Stride to Victory added Hard Mode, a welcome improvement over not just for ramping up the AI, but for greatly improving payouts on higher difficulty levels.

Fukuhara High is an upscale school for elite students, founded about four years before the game begins. Although on the surface it's a simple school of repute, it's actually a front for one of the most elite cardfight institutions in the world--the Foo Fighters. (Named for the WWII UFOs, not the rock band.)

Suzugamori Ren: Oh, you there, did you need something of us?

Shinjou Tetsu: Perhaps you wanted to join our Vanguard club?
Ren: Is that so? Hmm...Well then. Welcome to the club.

Narumi Asaka: Wait, Master Ren. We can't admit someone completely untested. It would disgrace the name of Fukuhara High's Vanguard club!!
Ren: Asaka, wouldn't it be better if you didn't use such strong words? I think it'd be best if we got busy with club activities.
Asaka: I-if Master Ren says so...

Asaka still refers to Ren as "Ren-sama," while Tetsu calls him just "Ren."

Tatsunagi Suiko: How about if we just observe for now?
Suzugamori Ren: That's a good idea.
Tetsu: You're too easygoing. Ren...Regardless, you. What are you called?
Suzugamori Ren: Kouyou Touya...I'll remember that. I'm Suzugamori Ren. Nice to meet you.
Tetsu: Hah. Ren only remembers names when it suits him most. I am Shinjou Tetsu, the coach of this Vanguard club.
Asaka: I am Narumi Asaka.
Suiko: And I am Tatsunagi Suiko. But Suiko's just fine.
Ren: By the way, have you had a Vanguard fight before? ...I see. You're beginning today, and still don't grasp all the rules yet. Then I'll explain from the beginning.
Asaka: There's no need for Master Ren to go out of his way for you! I'll do it!
Tetsu: Wait, Asaka. It's been a while since Ren smiled like that. It seems he senses something in our new applicant. Let him do as he pleases.
Suiko: I'm interested in this one as well.
Ren: Then, let's begin.

Each Victory game gives you a list of terminology at this point. I'm going to assume you know how to play Vanguard and skip past it.

Ren: Do you understand how to play? Don't rush, and think carefully. If there's ever something you don't understand, ask without hesitation.
Ren: Oh? You don't have a deck of your own yet. In that case, I'll give you a trial deck.
Suiko: Hah, what surprising kindness.
Tetsu: Ren's taking good care of you I see. You must be a particularly interesting fighter.
Suiko: Hmm. ...You seem very pleased. But a deck that doesn't match you won't be easy to use.
Ren: That's certainly true. Would you like me to diagnose which trial deck suits you best?

This is a Victory tradition. Every game has a quiz at the beginning to determine what deck it should recommend to you; we'll humor Ren and see what we get. I have an idea of what I'm choosing, though.

Ren: Then I'll begin the questions. Have you ever had a Vanguard fight before?
>I never have
>I sometimes have
>>I fight every day
Ren: Are you bad at thinking about complicated things?
>I'm bad at it
>Both are fine
>>It's my strong point
Ren: Between powerful cards and cute cards, which do you prefer?
>>Powerful cards
>No preference
>Cute cards
Ren: Are you the type to buy something new the moment you see it?
>I wouldn't
>>I'd be thinking about it
>I'd buy it right away
Ren: Between attacking once with great power, and attack countless times, which do you prefer?
>>Attacking countlessly
>No preference
>Settling everything with one all-powerful shot
Ren: The deck which suits you best is this one.

I'm pretty sure this result hinged entirely on that last question. Regardless, it's not the deck we're going with. Lock on Victory lets you access every trial deck right from the start, and goes up to TD13: Successor of the Sacred Regalia. (And yes, the cover art for each deck is unchanged, meaning the trial decks technically contain spoilers for the game's plot right off the bat.)

Of the thirteen decks available, the optimal choices are a toss-up between the six subclan decks spread from TD08 to 13. You get a freebie pack from whatever booster pack corresponds to your trial deck of choice, so it's in my best interest to pick Sacred Regalia and get a BT14 pack.

Ren: And take this, too.

Our first booster pack of the game is as average as all get-out.

Tetsu: A booster pack, huh?
Suiko: Strengthening your deck is the foundation of cardfighting.
Asaka: Going so far, Master!! Aren't you overdoing it?
Tetsu: Don't pout. Won't you be happy for your cute understudy?
Asaka: W-what are you saying!? I-it's not like that at all!
Ren: It's written all over you, Asaka.
Suiko: Hahh, what a sweet scene.
Asaka: All of you, no making fun!

Ren: With this, all of the fight arrangements are complete.
Tetsu: That's right. But, to make it easier to assemble your own deck, I've provided a few more cards.
Suiko: If you go to the card shop, you can get booster packs of your own.
Asaka: On that subject, Ren-sama! Today, were you planning on going to Card Capital?
Ren: That's right. I completely forgot. Thanks, Asaka.
Asaka: This much should be expected for the Master's sake. Supporting Master Ren is my duty as assistant manager.
Ren: I have friends over there. Why don't we all go together?
Tetsu: Yes, let's. We can teach Touya about card shops.

At this point there's a small intermission. If we can answer all of Ren's randomized questions about Ride to Victory correctly, demonstrating that we've played it, we'll receive a present. You can actually ignore this and do it at a different location, which is why the post-quiz shots in this chapter don't match up with the pre-quiz ones.

What character was the first fight in Ride to Victory?
>Kai Toshiki
>>Morikawa Katsumi
>Suzugamori Ren
When I first played Ride to Victory, I got gradelocked at 0 for three turns straight. But since Morikawa was playing a mostly-grade 3 deck, he was *also* stuck at grade 0 for the same amount of time. So it ended with both of us having ridiculous hand sizes, but since he had so little shield and I had the classic Goku + Dragonic Overlord pair, he got wiped.

What character was fought in the national championship finals?
>Sendou Aichi
>>Kai Toshiki
>Suzugamori Ren

What booster pack did the game stop at?
>7
>8
>>9
I remember this last one not just because I reported on it years ago, but because Clash of Knights and Dragons is also the final set of support for Shadow Paladin prior to the first Revenger cards. It seems most people didn't think to run Blaster Dark Spirit in Shadows, but in the Ildona deck he effectively replaced Dordona/Rugos for me, since you could topdeck him off of Badhabh Caar and surprise the opponent with a frontrow retire.

SLEEB GET! For answering his questions correctly, Ren grants us 3000 VP and a pair of card sleeves based on Ride to Victory's cover art, the first set featuring Blaster Blade, and the second Blond Ezel.

This is the general flow of the game. We play against other characters in VS fights, aiming to challenge the VF High School Championships, and set our end goal to getting past the finals. We also get a notification at this point about the version of the Fighter's Rules Lock on Victory uses; neither Barcgal nor Lizard Soldier Conroe can be placed as a first vanguard, and Eradicator Dragonic Descendant is limited to 2 per deck.

This is the default configuration of our trial deck. Overall, it meets what you would expect from a trial deck of that period; only one copy of the core grade 3, numerous vanilla units and generic clones, and in general if you were serious about this then you would either drop the $100 on four copies of the trial deck, or you'd order singles instead.

Fortunately for us, we don't have to do either. One of the special characteristics of the Victory games is that they give you 4 copies of every card in a TD right off the bat, which makes the early game much less painful.

So here's the quick and dirty guide to tuning up Genesis. These cards are a little dated now, so I'll go over them in detail during the actual fights, but what I did overall was;
  • Max out Angelica (the breakride) seeing as she's our overall mechanism for gaining card advantage
  • Max out Mizuha, our secondary grade 3, as her SB3 gives her extra power and critical to try to push for the endgame
  • Bump Saohime up to 4, as her CB2 lets us soulcharge 3 to prep Angelica
  • Swap the 6k vanilla starter with the non-vanilla one we pulled out of our booster pack
We start the game with 3000 VP and gain 3000 more from Ren's quiz, but we can't visit the shop until we complete our first objective. The in-game map is more detailed than Ride to Victory's, and is actually pretty huge given the size of the 3DS screen, so it's hard to find a way to show it adequately. The map has just 12 recurring locations in all, only one more than the previous game, and there's some shenanigans being pulled with the geography--for example, in the first title Card Shop Handsome was to the far west of Card Capital, and Foo Fighter HQ was to the northwest, while in this game Handsome is east of Card Capital and Fukuhara High/FFHQ is still to the northwest.

Next stop, Card Capital!

Nitta Shin: Welcome to Card Capital. Oh, you're all from Fukuhara High's Vanguard club.
Ren: Is Aichi here?

Sendou Aichi: Ren! And everyone else. What brings you here today?
Ren: Something incredibly important brought me here. ...Something so incredibly important that I forgot.
Tetsu: Ren...
Ren: Hmmmmm. If I can't remember it, it'll just have to wait til another time. Actually, there is one more reason. We wanted to show the latest member of our Vanguard club around the card shop. Let me introduce them; Kouyou Touya.
Asaka: We haven't officially admitted them yet! Admitting a complete novice would only bring trouble.
Ren: My, my. Asaka's so stubborn...
Aichi: So it's Touya. I'm Sendou Aichi. Nice to meet you.
Tetsu: There may be no need to explain, but Sendou Aichi is the previous winner of the VF Circuit. His abilities are in the same rank as Ren's, said to be foremost among all of Japan.

Aichi: That's...I don't think I'm there just yet.

Morikawa Katsumi: That's right! Because Aichi is my disciple, after all!
Aichi: Huh!? Morikawa...Umm, this is Morikawa, a classmate from my middleschool days.
Morikawa: So you're Touya. Let me see where your strength places for myself.
Suiko: Oh, how interesting. I'm loving this development.

Morikawa: Learn my power, and feel the profundity of Vanguard! Let's rumble!!

At the beginning of each fight, after choosing your deck, you get a lineup of your opponent's name, deck name, title, and personal phrase. The format is used for the player regardless of whether you're facing the AI or an actual opponent, only the AI only shows its name. Our current title is "Beginner;" additional titles are earned through doing "mission fights," basically premade puzzles.

We win the rock-paper-scissors to go first. This may sound strange to the kids today, but for a good three to four years it was considered superior to be the first place to reach grade 3. You whippersnappers with your strides and GB8s don't know how bad you have it.

When it comes to redrawing, I'm a conservative. I've known players that swear by keeping four cards in their redraw when they don't even have a grade 1, purely because those cards are combo pieces. Personally, I live by the idea that you should always have a grade 1, 2, and 3 in hand (these days 2 grade 3s, or a grade 3 and a stride fodder) and if you have the 2 and 3 but no 1, you should put back everything. It's better in my view to be living off of topdecks to get to the next grade than to be stuck at grade 0 for even one turn.

Whether or not our opening hand got worse after that redraw is a matter of opinion. On the one hand, we traded grade 2s for trigger units and didn't get any closer to grade 3. But on the other we now have defensive options for preventing the opponent from rushing us. One of the things I like about Vanguard is that the game is more about playing the hand that you're given rather than trying to execute the same single-minded strategy from start to finish every game.

Morikawa: Learn well my incredible power.

Mid-battle opponent dialogue is a new addition to LtV, and probably a necessary one given how much more dramatic the game is.

Morikawa is playing a generic Kagerou deck with a rainbow trigger spread built around a lot of miscellaneous grade 3s from multiple clans with unique skills that don't require a same-clan vanguard or rearguard. It's a strong idea in theory because you get a diverse skill set that mixes and matches the best aspects of each, but in practice it falls apart because it's so grade 3 heavy and those same skills are balanced by not being as strong as the exclusives. I've seen him play Hell Spider, Vortex Dragon, Dual-Axe Archdragon, Seal Dragon Blockade, Magnet Crocodile, Silver Spear Demon Gusion and Stealth Dragon Voidmaster; of these only Hell Spider and Voidmaster have ever been particularly splashable, being that they were designed for a time period when their respective clans were incomplete, while the rest are functionally vanillas in his deck.

Aside from the grade 3s, this deck uses a lot of vanilla units and skills that aren't actually unique to Kagerou, but shared with other clans. For example, his first vanguard is Egg Prison Seal Dragon Knight, which (depending on whether you count reveal order or set release date) is either a clone of Starting Legend Ambrosius or it's the other way around. By sliding the card into the soul and discarding one, Morikawa draws one card--a net negative, since he's giving up two cards to gain one. And it leaves his vanguard unboosted, so we're free to drop one of those 10k shields from our starting hand down to keep him from hitting this turn.

We ride a vanilla 10k and crit our way through the second turn.

Morikawa: My hand is so overwhelmingly awesome that I can't even ride!

This allows us to one-pass Morikawa without even guarding.

It's hard to be mad when somebody crits their way through a scenario they're still losing no matter what.

The Victory series covers up the limited animation of its character cut-ins by overlapping them with whatever incredible grade 3/4 is being played, which helps conceal how the cut-ins don't always line up with multiple variations on voiced quotes.

Mizuha gains 3k power when attacking a vanguard, which vs a gradelocked Morikawa is enough to make a "magic number"--i.e. her boosted power equals exactly the opponent's power plus 10k, and so requires a minimum two cards to guard. While in the format we're playing 21k is still a huge deal, these days the minimum magic number worth making is probably around 31k, what with G Guardians and all.

Morikawa goes into my second grade 3 turn with only grade 3s in hand, having spent all of his shield on Mizuha the turn before. I knew a Morikawa fight was probably not going to satisfy, so I've prepared something else to end this first chapter on.

At the end of each fight, you're awarded VP based on your performance. Your base VP depends on the opponent (Morikawa awards less than any other character) and then there's bonuses for doing things like activating limit breaks, persona blasts, or double triggering. Here we got a base win worth 250 VP, and 100 more VP for the opponent 6th damage healing.

Once you start stacking skill activations and things like reaching power benchmarks, the VP bonuses can get really crazy. This is from one of my Gust Blaster games in Stride to Victory;
That's 900 for a win (vs Kanzaki, I think) 300 for dealing six damage in one turn, 50 for using a limit break, 100 for break riding, 50 for reaching 30k power, and 100 for reaching 40k.

You also get a random card copied from the opponent's deck after winning. This time we got Vortex Dragon.

Morikawa: Guhhh...I can't believe I lost...
Ren: And that's that. I saw it all.

Tetsu: It's a little rough, but I do sense the makings of something.
Suiko: I'm glad our newest member is so interesting.
Asaka: Wait! I won't accept this yet! There's no victory to be found in defeating a hack fighter like this.
Morikawa: H-hack!? Guhhh...
Asaka: Perhaps I could accept this newcomer, if they defeated me. Is that acceptable, Master?
Tetsu: A fight between Touya and Asaka? Hm...
Suiko: That could be interesting, too.
Ren: ...I understand. Do as you please, Asaka. Is that all right with you too, Touya?
Tetsu: In that case, buy some booster packs and build a deck yourself. On top of that will be your entrance exam.

We began the game with 3000 VP, received 3000 from the RtV quiz, and 350 from cleaning Morikawa's clock, so in all we have 6350 VP. I'm sinking every last point into BT10: Triumphant Return of the King of Knights, which will be the basis for our Royal Paladin deck. The main body of Sanctuary of Light is in BT14: Brilliant Strike, but the supporting cards and (most importantly) perfect defense cards are all in BT10. Barring a brief weird moment for one particular deck during legion format, you can't play a deck without perfect guards, as there are always going to be attacks capable of exceeding all other available shield in a deck. (This has been the case ever since Cosmo Lord was printed.)

Time to open two entire boxes. Normally, each box contains 3 triple rares and two double rares. If a box has an SP, then it replaces one of the RRRs or RRs of the same rarity.

Highlights of our first box;
x1 Pure Heart Jewel Knight, Ashlei (RRR)
x1 Leading Jewel Knight, Salome (SP)
x1 Liberator of the Round Table, Alfred (RRR)
x1 Battle Deity of the Moonlit Night, Artemis (RR)
x1 Beast Deity, Ethics Buster (RRR)
x1 Grateful Catapult (RR)
x1 Liberator of the Flute, Escrad (RR)
x1 Flashing Jewel Knight, Iseult (RR) !!
x1 Halo Liberator, Mark (RR)
x1 Goddess of Self-sacrifice, Kushinadahime (RR)
x2 Eradicator Wyvern Guard Guld (RR)

With that grade 3 lineup, we're well on our way to assembling Royal Paladin.

Box #2:
x1 Pure Heart Jewel Knight, Ashlei (RRR)
x1 Leading Jewel Knight, Salome (SP)
x1 Eternal Goddess, Iwanagahime (RRR)
x1 Eradicator, Gauntlet Buster Dragon (RRR)
x1 Dogmatize Jewel Knight, Sybill (RR)
x1 Broom Witch, Callaway (RR)
x3 Supreme Army Eradicator, Zuitan (RR)
x1 Flash Shield, Iseult (RR)
x1 Halo Liberator, Mark (RR)
x1 Cheer Girl, Marilyn (RR)

I was originally uncertain about this, until I saw that I pulled two SPs in two boxes and ended up halfway to having my perfects finished. With our heavy Jewel Knight base, we're ready to start building.

To top things off I enter two secret passwords, netting us a playset of promotional cards. The first is a set of Seeker of Bravery, Ars--the Royal Paladin clone of Super Electromagnetic Lifeform Storm, an on-hit countercharge grade 2. The second code is for Clowdia, a generic Royal Paladin first vanguard that gives +3k to a unit by sliding it into the soul. It's not great, but under these circumstances it'll do.

Not a fantastic start, is it? One of the nice things about the set design at this point though is how Vanguard sets in this era were designed around providing substitutes for additional copies of other cards. Beginning with BT10, you start getting generic 8k grade 2 attackers that get 3k if you have a vanguard or rearguard with limit break, and similarly-powered attackers that just pay CB1 to meet their condition. The former works so well that it'll be a mainstay in our Sanctuary of Light deck.

Embedded into Card Capital is the Free Fight space. This is where you can play against characters you've already beaten at will, using specific decks, or connect online with other players. The main purpose of it is for VP grinding; I'll spare you the grief of seeing ten Morikawa fights.

There are a total of 81 fightable characters in Lock on Victory, 65 in Ride to Victory, and 59 in Stride to Victory. LtV has the largest cast of any Vanguard game, for reasons that will become...very much apparent, probably in Kai's story.

With another 3k VP under our belt, we're ready for our third box of BT10.

x1 Pure Heart Jewel Knight, Ashlei (RRR)
x1 Liberator of the Round Table, Alfred (RRR)
x1 Eradicator, Gauntlet Buster Dragon (RRR)
x1 Eradicator, Dragonic Descendant (SP)
x2 Grateful Catapult (RR)
x2 Bad End Dragger (RR)
x1 Dogmatize Jewel Knight, Sybill (RR)
x1 Liberator of the Flute, Escrad (RR)
x1 Flashing Jewel Knight, Iseult (RR)
x1 Goddess of Self-sacrifice, Kushinada (RR)

In the first game, once a box was bought the game would back up its contents so that you couldn't reset to try for a new configuration. This extended to multiple sequential purchases. Beginning with Lock on Victory, boxes no longer do this, so you're free to savescum to your heart's desire.

This is also when we start getting serious CP from our boxes, as we now have maxed out most commons and some single-rares. Collection Points are effectively a secondary currency used to get promo cards, given to you whenever you pull a duplicate of a card you already have 4 of. Stride to Victory revises them to be usable to purchase singles of cards you already own, a system I find vastly preferable.

This is what our deck looks like going into the next main mission. I swapped out the generic first vanguard for Dreaming Jewel Knight, Tiffany. At one time Tiffany was a staple of Royal Paladin decks, mostly for the purposes of mixing Jewel Knights into non-Jewel Knight builds--she can slide into the soul at any time during your main phase and give two Jewel Knights 3k, making if you have the setup you can have 21k columns the moment you ride a grade 2. Since most Jewel Knight support intentionally doesn't require a specific vanguard, instead just targeting Jewel Knight rearguards, it's easy to splash into other Royal decks.

 Our next main mission is against Asaka.

Asaka: All of the fight preparations are complete.
Tetsu: Asaka's fight...This should be enough to gauge your ability.
Ren: Touya, do your best.
Asaka: Master...
Suiko: I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of fight this turns out to be.

Asaka: Since this is your entrance exam, I will fight with test deck suitable for you. Let's go!

VS Narumi Asaka
Magicians of the Moonlit Night

We're second this game.

Asaka: If you can win against me, I will accept your admission.

As Asaka said, right now she's not playing any of her Luquier, Farah, or Chelsea decks from the anime, and we can see this right from how she starts the game. The grade 1 she rode is Magical Partner, the special booster for Nightmare Summoner Raqiel--a Silver Wolf Garmore clone for Pale Moon that superior calls on-ride. I have some special memories of this deck; back in the days when the western world primarily played Vanguard through the BYOND client Cardfight Capital, a friend of mine in France mained Raqiel from the moment it was revealed.

Of course, on CFC cards were available practically from the moment they showed up in the Japanese COTD or in KeroKero Ace magazine, so we weren't even waiting for BT09 to come out at the time.

Our opening hand post-redraw doesn't give any promises of a grade 3 ride, but it does give us options to poke the opponent on our grade 2 turn. That draw trigger will make a 17k column with either of the Julias, so effectively the worst part of our hand is that stand.

The first turn is ultimately nothing special--we drive check a vanilla heal trigger, Asaka damage checks a Dark Metal Bicorn. But on her own turn Asaka starts doing some prep work; her first vanguard, Girl Who Crossed the Gap, moves into the soul to bring out the Magical Partner she rode before, setting up her 11k booster for next turn. Magical Partner is one of many such boosters that doesn't have to boost a vanguard to give its power boost, turning additional Raqiels from being hand-cloggers into highly threatening rearguards. Granted, this was back when 21k rearguards mattered.

Asaka could have approached this from a quantity-over-quality angle and called that backrow Bicron to the front to score three attacks, but by placing it behind the vanguard instead made a magic number; 10k greater than our vanguard's base power. These older format plays may look empty on the surface, but they matter in a time when the game as a whole was transitioning out of high-base power vanillas and into weaker bases with crazy skills. The 17k is functionally unguardable for us, and had Asaka scored a crit here, playing that Bicorn would have been game-defining.

Going into our turn 2 we topdeck Ashlei, which pretty well cements our gameplan. Ashlei is as close to a vanilla breakride as you can get, her only secondary effect to the normal 10k you gain from riding over her is +1 critical. This early in the game, when the AI runs few to no perfect guards, breakriding Ashlei while the opponent is at 4 damage can be enough to bring an end to the match.

Asaka makes an important misplay on this turn. Our vanguard, Claudine, is an 8k base that when boosted she could have dropped a single 10k shield against and stopped dead in its tracks. By not doing so, Asaka functionally agreed to go to 4 damage at a point in the game where her limit break only serves to buff an attack that would never be guarded in the first place.

Asaka: Now look, on this splendorous show!

Next turn, Raqiel comes out. Asaka uses his counterblast 2 to superior call the Jumping Jill she rode last turn, then Jumping Jill gains 3k from her own skill.

With Skull Juggler behind it, that Jill now requires 15k shield that we don't have. So our recourse is to block the first attack of the turn and take the next two, accepting whatever damage that puts us at.

"Limit Break!"
Like Garmore, Raqiel's limit break grants him +5000 power when he attacks. The idea is to use that in combination with Magical Partner for a 26k endgame. (Or as we call it now, "vanilla stride.") Asaka drive checks a Barking Cerberus and Hungry Clown--nothing we need to worry about.

I don't like dropping a perfect defense as a booster ever, but at this stage in the game doing so will allow us to use Tiffany while keeping Tracy's power boost live. Essentially, one Tracy becomes a 15k unboosted versus Raqiel's 10k defense, the other one makes a 20k, and Asaka has 20k shield between her two intercepts and the two cards we've seen in her hand. Pushing her to 5 and making her guard at least one 15k this turn will put us in a position to win on the next turn, while saving that perfect guard will only constrain how we defend using our (probable) 4-card hand.

So, Tiffany's power goes to both Traceys, and Iseult goes behind Ashlei.

Asaka reveals just how bad her hand is, dropping both the Cerberus and Hungry Clown along with a Magical Partner she was saving to two-pass Ashlei--then this critical trigger raises our boosted Tracy to 25k.

If Asaka has even a single grade 3 in hand, she loses on this turn.

Asaka double intercepts and drops another Cerberus along with a Bunny from hand to block Tracey. On this turn alone, she's given up seven cards, all because she didn't use two 5ks on Claudine. Had she done that, then at this point she would have been able to no-guard the vanguard, still losing 3 cards to block Tracy but keeping a field to attack with.

On her turn, she topdecks Barking Wyvern. This is a clone of Martial Arts Sirius, Daikengo; it's a 10k base that gains 6k when it attacks by discarding a card. If Asaka had anything in hand, she could force us to give up an intercept to avoid dealing with Raqiel's limit break, but it still wouldn't save her from next turn.

Asaka heals down to 4 on her drive check, and we damage check a draw trigger, but that's all. She's going into our turn with 15k shield in hand, and all of our attacks will swing for 10, forcing her to take two damage. The "Final Turn" button wasn't added until Stride to Victory, but if we had it I would press it going into this.

She still attempts to one-pass our vanguard, probably not accounting for both Tracys being 12k attackers.

Asaka: My circus...

Asaka is worth a base 750 VP per win, considerably more than Morikawa. We get a Midnight Bunny for beating her.

Tetsu: There. Touya wins.
Suiko: My, my. He pulled it off.
Ren: That was a good fight. My eyes didn't lie.
Tetsu: Well, Asaka? Is this enough for you to accept Touya?

Asaka: ...I get it. I will accept Touya's admission! Get ready to train mercilessly from now on!

Ren: Congratulations. Touya. From now on, you're one of us.
Tetsu: I'm glad for you. Just like the deck Asaka was using this time, there are many test decks and trial decks here at Card Capital. As the clans differ, so too do their specialties. Try out many different kinds. Understanding the specialties of other decks is the most important thing in a fight.

This marks the effective end of the game's tutorial. From here, we have the freedom to do as we please. But first...

A word about my return.

Part 2: Freetime Events 
Part 3: THE Kai Toshiki
Part 4: Kamui
Part 5: Yuri