Friday, August 24, 2012

Study Guide: Dark Irregulars

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
The final word in Cardfight's soul-based clans, unlike the Pale Moon's use of the soul as a secondary hand, or OraThin's use of the soul as a threshold for skill activation, the Dark Irregulars build up the soul as ammunition for violent and highly destructive maneuvers. It's through these devastating techniques that the Irregulars can force cards from the opponent's hand, layering skills together to force them to lay out more guards while restricting which cards they can guard with.

The Irregulars' initial first vanguard is Vermillion Gatekeeper, and unlike with Pale Moon's Hades Ringmaster it has no competition for that place. Vermillion's immediate soulcharge 1 may not be a direct addition to the hand, but it is a welcome way to prepare the clan's explosive soul-based skills. Like Moon, the Irregulars have a soulcharging grade 1 that complements this FVG, Alluring Succubus. Being the Dark counterpart to Skull Juggler, her skill is highly valuable for having no way to be feasibly stopped, and her boost is useful for the clan's plethora of 9000-power grade 2s.

In terms of trigger bases, the Irregulars need as many draw triggers as possible to survive due to their tendency to soulcharge important cards while having few ways of gaining card advantage. Until the release of set 7, you cannot rely on an FVG for advantage, and the counterblast in Irregulars is always a scarce resource with no real way of unflipping it. A DI cardfighter also needs to be wary of triggers like Hysteric Shirley and Dark Queen of Nightmareland. Both of these triggers boast a useful skill, but what they share in common is that they leave the field after use and actively reduce card advantage in that way. So while it may be tempting to utilize these units, they harm your ability to survive in the long run and should be kept close, up until you're prepared to go in for the kill.

Doreen the Thruster is the clan's main booster. Being an Irregular release of Young Pegasus Knight, she gains +3000 power per each main phase soul charge--that means that every soulcharge after the first is going to result in an attack of at least 16000 power with her boost, and more typically 20000 and above. This combos well with two of their initial grade 3s, Stil Vampir and Demon Eater, who as the clan megablasters are required to soulcharge every turn that they are in the vanguard circle. Combined with Eater or Vampir's own skill, that creates an immediate 21000-power line. Even when Doreen's skill isn't active, 6000 power is enough for a rearguard Vampir, Eater or Werwolf Sieger to oppose 11000-power units with. Megablasters as a whole should be paid attention to, as in a soul-based deck that emphasizes nonspecific charges they are useful for activating rearguard skills for a more focused field.

Bloody Calf is a card that many cardfighters were excited to see included in the EN release of Demonic  Lord Invasion. Calf is a sort of grade 1 version of Berserk Dragon, counterblasting 2 to retire a grade 1 or lower rearguard. This is an intimidating skill that can put a stop to many early strategies that involve the first vanguard, retiring Conroe, Kyrph or a unit intending to set up Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer's superior call skill, but keep in mind that for the Irregulars counterblast is completely unflippable and any lost is lost permanently. This makes her utility doubtful, because that counterblast is arguably better reserved for units like the grade 3s Demon World Marquis Amon, King of Diptera Beelzebub or Stil Vampir.

Amon's counterblast is a CB1 to soulcharge one rearguard and retire one of the opponent's. While the opponent gets to choose which rearguard is lost, the effect this has on the field is like Calf's but better, as for each card in the soul Amon gets +1000 additional power during his fighter's turn, and the skill fuels Doreen besides. With Doreen out, a single counterblast creates a 20000-power line while also removing one of the opponent's rearguard, while a second one will then make that line 24000-power, and by that time the opponent has to take into account that they'll need to call two more units on their next turn while also guarding for this one. This is also not taking into account that at a minimum, Amon will have four units in the soul already. For the same cost, his skill is overwhelmingly better than Calf's and comes at a more useful point in the game. Calf's 7000 power does make her a good booster, just like Succubus, but her skill is less likely to come out because of how it pales in comparison to higher-grade alternatives.

Devil Child is a 10000-power vanguard-exclusive boost introduced in set 5, with her criteria being to have six soul. For the Irregulars this is an easy number to reach, but a deck that uses either of the clan's megablasters will have trouble maintaining it if they intend to get off their skills, and so she is recommended primarily for Amon or Beelzebub. Due to her skill being limited to the vanguard, and only being a 6000-power booster outside of that, it's recommended to use her in copies of two or three if at all. Nightmare Baby similarly gives a 10000-power boost, but only for Blue Dust; this means that their attack cannot reach over 19000 power without triggers or other skills in effect, but this does effectively give the deck one more way of forming a 16000-power line while being strong enough to oppose crossrides and get Blue Dust's on-hit soulcharge 1 through.

As with Pale Moon's Big League Bear, Dark Soul Conductor is their primary grade 2 soulcharger. And like with Bear, the strategy for the Irregulars is to use the secret technique of the bear by guarding from the hand, unavoidably getting that soulcharge 2 through while also stopping an enemy attack. Decadent Succubus falls right in line with Elephant Juggler, due to having little utility in the rearguard and her skill being limited to a single turn. What's obvious by now is that the Dark Irregulars share many of the strengths, weaknesses and early-to-mid game setup of Pale Moon. Their games are fundamentally different though, because for an Irregulars deck from sets 3 to 5, it doesn't matter what's in your soul; it only matters that you have a large amount of it. Because they are not picky about which cards are present, the clan is arguably easier to form decisive matches with, as they get more out of unspecific soulcharges than Moon, which benefits enormously when it gets chance to pick the targets of its charges.

Imprisoned Fallen Angel, Saraquael is something of an orphaned unit in the series. She's an 11000-power grade 2, which naturally means giving her the restraint skill, and she unlocks herself with a soulblast 3. That's generally detrimental to the Irregulars' style of play, as releasing built up cards for such small maneuvers is not in line with their bigger vanguards, but Saraquael also receives a +5000 power boost in the vanguard circle and so can make for a strong ride while also being difficult to get rid of in the rearguard. She's one of the more troublesome units, and will necessitate an autoskill soulcharge vanguard if you intend to use her frequently.

Between the two megablasters, Stil Vampir has the lead over Demon Eater. In the first place, his skill is an activate skill, not an autoskill; for a megablast this means that the skill is used in the main phase and not the battle phase, and so does not have to hit to be used. Already Stil's skill is going to be used more consistently than Eater's, and the results of it are far more devastating than the standard "retire all of the opponent's rearguards." When Vampir's counterblast 5 soulblast 8 is activated, you choose one of the opponent's rearguards and force them to ride it for your turn. While they get to choose a unit from their soul to ride on the following turn, the truly important aspect of this is that it limits what they can guard with. If the opponent is made to ride a grade 1 unit, that locks them out of calling grade 2 units to the guardian circle, although it does not lock them out of using intercept, so be wary of especial intercept units like Gordon and Nemean Lion. Even worse than this though, if the opponent is locked at grade 0 then they cannot call perfect defense cards to the guardian circle, and as all grade 0 units are locked at 6000 or less power, this forces them to call a minimum of three cards per attack, up to four with Doreen boosting for 9000 and a vanguard Stil Vampir.

So by limiting what the opponent can guard with, forcing them to guard for more, and preparing this with heavy soulcharge units, Stil Vampir earns his place over Eater. Another option for deckbuilding is Edel Rose; her skill is identical to Solitary Knight, Gancelot but is centered around the 10000-power Werewolf Sieger rather than Blaster Blade. While her ability to fetch Sieger from the deck can be extremely useful, her low 9000 power makes it incredibly difficult to defend the opponent's attacks, as even a rearguard with 20000 power requires two cards to guard against, and three to fully stop a vanguard of the same. Amon and his overwhelming Inferno Ritual skill is much more recommendable over Edel, and given that Stil can fuel his skill on preceding turns by soulcharging additional cards, the Demon World Marquis complements Vampir very well.

The Dark Irregulars have two 11000 power vanguards. Both King of Diptera, Beelzebub and No Life King, Death Anchor share their conditions, requiring eight or more cards to be in the soul for their continuous +1000 power to activate. Death Anchor fuels this better than Beelzebub because he soulcharges at the start of each main phase, and he gains +2000 power besides, letting him fight crossrides even if unboosted. Like Vampir and Demon Eater, this makes Doreen a 9000-power booster right off the bat for a 22000-power column immediately, but the similarities between them end there as Death Anchor's skill is completely different. When Anchor attacks, he soulcharges five face-up cards from the damage zone and then gains +10000 power and +1 critical, then sends five more cards to the damage zone face-up in the end phase of the turn. Because this massive soulcharge happens in the battle phase rather than the main phase, Doreen will not gain a power boost, so 37000 power and critical 2 is unfortunately out of our reach. As stated though, Death Anchor does power her up with his main phase soulcharge, so he's still striking for 32000 power which isn't too far off the mark in the first place. This attack takes four cards to completely guard, short of any perfect defense cards coming into play, so it's monstrous enough. Death Anchor can effectively achieve a soulcharge 6 in one turn, setting up very well for Amon who will be at at least 26000 power on the next turn, barring any soulblasts. Also note that when he sends the five new cards to damage zone, it's not considered a damage check, so no triggers can activate. This skill is very risky because it takes cards out of the deck at a rapid pace and requires you to not use any counterblast in the fight, but it can create interesting scenarios if you deal the final damage that turn and so the end phase never comes--records will show the fight with you at 0 damage and the opponent at 6.

While the No-Life King was vanguard-focused, Beelzebub is oriented more towards the rearguard. When he attacks, if there are six or more cards in the soul then Beelzebub can counterblast 2 to give two rearguard Irregulars +3000 power for the turn. According to the manual and Bushiblog, you attack before you boost, so you can in fact give this power to Beelzebub's booster and then transfer it to him by way of boost. The skill is fairly lackluster when compared to No-Life King, who has no soul conditions for his autoskill's activation and can actually become 11000 with his own skills, but Beelzebub is overall more versatile because he enhances the rearguard for multiple attacks on that turn. Anchor is a manga promo card, and so much more difficult to acquire--when it will see release in the English game is not even certain at this point--but his synergy with other cards in the clan, being able to build up for both Amon and Vampir with one maneuver, make a stronger case for his use. Think carefully while you construct your deck, as the Irregulars are difficult to master and are less straightforward than traditional clans like Kagerou and RoPala.

Next time I'll be covering the Irregulars' set 7 cards, Blade Wing Reijy and their limit breaker, Dark Lord of Abyss.