Thursday, November 29, 2012

Study Guide: Royal Paladin

By rawritzrichii, seek consent before reposting.
The Royal Paladins, being the first clan ever introduced and the dual mascots of the franchise alongside Kagerou, have a certain appeal to them. While very expensive and not for everybody, the clan is easy to wield and has enough fame behind it that it tends to attract many different fighters regardless of background. As part of a series on the clan, I'll begin by discussing their general strategy and several key cards from the first, third and seventh booster sets, as well as from extra boosters 2 and 3.

The initial first vanguard introduced in Descent of the King of Knights is Barcgal, a card that's left a very strong impact on the history of the game despite having fallen out of use some time ago. Before covering any other cards, it's important that we discuss Barcgal thoroughly, though it's unlikely that he will return to the pro scene within the next few years. Even though we've since moved on, Barcgal provides an important understanding of how cards are designed and what we will and will not see in the future.

Barcgal is one of the original four cards to outride, moving from the soul to the field when ridden over with a grade 1 of the same clan as herself. This is an immediate advantage because it gives you one extra card over the opponent, although unlike many later first vanguards of this type, Barcgal has just 4000 power. This is significant because the minimum to draw more than 5000 shield from a base 10000 unit is 15000 total, and 16000 for base 11000 vanguards.

Thankfully, the Royals have a way to deal with this. The classic way to use Barcgal from the first booster set was to move her to the rearguard circle behind the vanguard, and from there ride the King of Knights, Alfred, the original Paladin boss card. In exchange for being unboostable, the King of Knights' continuous skill gives him +2000 power for each Royal Paladin rearguard; so while Barcgal is in this way contributing less power than if she could boost the King, that +2000 comes at no extra cost and with two other rearguards that should be out in the first place to form at least one full line, the King is all the way up at 16000, our minimum. Barcgal's other skill is to rest herself to call either Flogal or Knight of the Future, Llew, and while that means that she will not be able to boost for the turn, that 4000 power boost usually doesn't carry an impact on the game in the first place.

Flogal and Llew are both trigger units, with Flogal being a stand trigger and Llew being a critical trigger. Automatically the skill comes with several restrictions. First, it requires that stand triggers be used in a deckbuild that generally prefers critical and draw triggers wherever possible, and Flogal will generally have to be run in copies of two to avoid damage checking her or starting a turn with her in the hand. Second, only one of these units can be called per turn thanks to Barcgal's skill requiring her to be rested, and third it remove trigger units from the deck and decreases the chance of drive checking them. Finally, Flogal has only 5000 power while Llew has 4000. Because of that, neither of them can boost a rearguard line for a full 16000 power, and Flogal can only reach 15000. So while Barcgal's call-to-field is a direct increase in advantage, it is a very poor one that forms detrimental lines and decreases the chance of a successful trigger check.

There is one way to use the superior call effectively, however. When on the field, Llew has a skill where he can counterblast 1 to send Barcgal, Flogal and himself to the soul to superior ride the grade 2 Blaster Blade from the deck. Since this ride comes from the deck and not the hand, it is an increase in an advantage over the opponent, who will generally be riding from their hand, but because we just lost three cards after gaining three cards, the net advantage of a fighter who uses this two-turn combo is +1. The opponent can lose advantage through this ride, since when Blaster Blade is ridden he can counterblast 2 to activate his vanguard skill and retire an opponent's rearguard, but it is very rare to be at three damage by the turn that you can activate this superior ride.

The main card that earned Barcgal her restriction is not going to be discussed until next time, but for now consider the factor that this high beast's superior ride combo can be made unavoidable by not calling any front-row rearguards in your opening turn. The opponent must declare an attack with their vanguard to perform  a drive check, or they fall behind in card advantage by not drive checking, but with only the vanguard to attack, gaining the counterblast for Llew is inevitable. With Flogal called on the opening turn and Llew on the second, the issue of being locked at grade 1 is completely eliminated. (As Llew is restricted to superior riding at grade 1, grade lock from 0 and 3 has not.) This affects the redraw at the start of the match, because if you can be certain that you will have a grade 2 to ride through Llew, then you only need to search for a grade 1 and grade 3 when redrawing your hand. While superior rides have not disappeared from the game, no first vanguard printed since eliminates chance in the same way. Kyrph only goes off if the grade 2 Beaumains is ridden and with Gareth in the rearguard, Spring Breeze can only initiate a superior ride to Pellinore if he is one of three cards on the top of the deck, and Nahas is in the same situation as Kyrph.

Blaster Blade himself is a focal unit for the Royal Paladins, and while they are generally thought of as being a rearguard-centric clan, it would not be a mistake to also call them a Blaster Blade-centric clan. (This is as opposed to other Paladins, which have their own Blasters and other key units to focus on.) He is at his most powerful in the vanguard circle, while in the rearguard his counterblast 2 becomes a skill that retires an opponent's grade 2 or higher rearguard, setting him apart from Berserk Dragon, who only retires grade 2 and lesser units. This is useful for dealing with rearguard grade 3s, in particular the rearguard attackers that have become so prominent from set 6 onward, and the Royal Paladins' own Palamedes. Blaster Blade provides a counter card for virtually every situation, since he can initiate a chain of losses to the opponent by activating his skill in the vanguard circle to retire a boosting unit and then call rearguards to attack their front line units, so that no matter what else goes on inside that turn, the opponent is guaranteed to have lost two cards.

Right from the first trial deck released, the Royal Paladins have had a way to search for Blade, and with the loss of Barcgal's superior ride this card becomes more important than ever. Solitary Knight, Gancelot is a base 9000 grade 3 that can be sent from the hand to the deck to search for Blaster Blade, and then add that card in the hand. Since this skill is used in the main phase, it has to be used on the turn before riding Blaster Blade when you're still at grade 1, so it makes the Blade ride very heavily telegraphed, but since drawing Gancelot inside that turn is the same as drawing Blade, then it at the least gives you a way to effectively run five, six and eight Blaster Blade instead of four. Gancelot's other skill is to counterblast 2 from the vanguard circle when Blaster Blade is in the soul to gain +5000 power and +1 critical. There are a number of reasons as to why this was a good skill. It makes him a very easy 20-21000+ line, it can make the opponent start guarding for two triggers when at two damage instead of three, it can accelerate the game considerably and harm their hand, but the skill has simply not aged well in the modern day. While in the world of trial decks Gancelot was a very powerful card that drained the opponent quickly, the first booster set, Descent of the King of Knights, introduced the concept of perfect defense to Cardfight, and with it Gancelot's battle ability was significantly reduced. Simply losing two cards instead of three to six in one turn made the attack impractical at best and a very large consumption of resources, while the Solitary Knight's base 9000 power made him defensively outdated as more and more base 10000, base 11000 and later on 12-13000 units entered the game. Perhaps his skill's lone redeeming factor at this point is that with as low as a 7000 boost, Gancelot can hit the 23000+ marker against crossride units with one use of his skill, but on the opponent's turn 9000 power is simply too low to defend well. Because of that, Gancelot's primary purpose now is as a search card for Blaster Blade.

With Barcgal restricted, a new first vanguard needs to be determined. Stardust Trumpeter, Giro and Graeme have always been around as filler units for that place, and their lack of skills isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most FVGs designed during the first three sets are intended to either leave the field or not appear in it in the first place, and the one card of extra soul can be important to particular skills, as not all FVGs return to the soul after use. However, BT03: Demonic Lord Invasion gives us another option that can be used in virtually any Royal deck. Drangal is a Royal Paladin equivalent to Ichibyoshi, searching the top 5 cards of the deck at the start of the ride phase for the grade 1 Knight of Quests, Galahad. And like the Ichibyoshi-Tsukuyomi line, each subsequent entry in the Galahad series can superior ride the next in line and build a stack of cards at the bottom of the deck to eventually draw into, though the Royal Paladins lack the same level of draw and deck-checking support that OraThin has. Since this is an opportunity at a one and two card increase in advantage, it's perfectly viable to just run the grade 1 and 2 forms of Galahad with Drangal, or even just the grade 1 with him.

That settled, the Royal Paladins have several grade 1s that should be discussed. In addition to standardized units like the base 8000 Little Sage, Marron and card changing Lake Maiden, Lien, who each provide a strong opening ride depending on which turn is taken first, Lion Mane Stallion and Wingal are both custom boosters suited to particular units. Lion Mane is base 4000, but can soulblast 1 when he boosts a unit with "Alfred" in its card name to give +6000 for a total boost of 10000. This can't normally be used with the King of Knights due to his first continuous skill interfering, but it can be used on a rearguard Alfred for a 20000 line, or with Alfred's prince form, Alfred Early. While base 4000 is very weak as we saw with Barcgal, that final 20000 can be a key number versus base 10000 vanguards because it forces out two cards for minimum defense and three accounting for one trigger. Compare this to Wingal, who is base 6000 and has no cost, but despite giving a +10000 boost can normally only push Blaster Blade up to 19000. Wingal is somewhat more stable than Alfred, as he can still bring base 10000 rearguards like Gallatin up to 16000, and with Blaster Blade he can forcibly retire weaker units like Magician Girl, Kirara and Silent Tom. On the other hand, Lion Mane is capable of the same forced retire on both the aforementioned and more powerful units, and plenty of soul is provided for his skill by both Barcgal and Drangal.

Knight of Rose, Morganna is a base 6000 that is considerably less stable. Her skill is to discard one when she attacks to turn her into a base 10000 unit for the rest of the turn. While this provides an alternative 10000-power unit if grade 2s become scarce, and unlike with the similar Holy Disaster Dragon unit, with a stand trigger Morganna can attack again for a full 15000 instead of 11000, the skill comes at the cost of card advantage and is situational at best. Long-term it will hurt your ability to survive the game, and as this very clan proved in the Summer 2012 Japanese nationals, longevity takes precedence over blitz tactics.

One point regarding the clan card changer Lien, is that since the King of Knights only requires her on the field to gain power, not to have her standing, her skill can be used freely from behind the vanguard while having no real impact on the game. Since no booster is necessary for Alfred, this is one of the better ways to utilize a card changing unit.

Other than Blaster Blade, there are only a few grade 2s that need heavy attention inside the clan. Covenant Knight, Randolf, Swordsman of the Blaze, Palamedes and Eagle Knight of the Skies are all different takes on the same skill, being base 8000 units which rise up to 11000 under specific conditions when they attack. Early in the game this was done to emulate having more than four copies of Gallatin in the deck, easily reaching 16000+ with as low as base 5000 boosting units, but it also allows the two of them to attack base 11000 vanguards completely unassisted. All of their skills are conditional. Randolf's activates when you have more cards in your hand during his attack, while Eagle Knight activates when you have more rearguards. Neither factor is generally in your control, but there are ways to work with them. Since the Royal Paladins can avoid having to ride from the hand with Barcgal or Galahad, this can allow them to maintain a slightly larger hand and by focusing intensely on the opponent's vanguard, they can keep Randolf's power active. Since the clan is also very superior call centric, its skills can further protect the hand from being overspent. However, Eagle Knight is more controllable since retiring an opponent's rearguard can be done with Blaster Blade or even a basic attack, and filling the field is not too problematic for RoyPala. Blaze Palamedes takes this level of control further by gaining his +3000 when there are two or more grade 3 Royal Paladins on your own field; so with a grade 3 vanguard and one grade 3 rearguard, his skill will trigger. This is one factor which is entirely under your control, making either Palamedes or Eagle Knight the best units for this option depending on the situation.

While their ability to attack base 11000 units unassisted is only matched by particular grade 2 units, since it's rare to not have three boosting cards late in the game and most fighers prefer to play for the end rather than the beginning, these base 8000 attackers have been largely outmoded by the release of Knight of Determination, Lamorak. Lamorak has no skill--he is Gallatin under a different name. Because of that, four Lamorak and four Gallatin can be run in a single deck, leaving room for Blaster Blade as your third grade three. Between these three cards and the grade 2 form of Galahad, there should be no trouble assembling a basic lineup for the Royal Paladin deck.

I've already covered the King of Knights' main skill, but his secondary skill is to counterblast 3 to superior call one grade 2 or less Royal Paladin from the deck. This is an activate and can be used in either circle, so it can be used at any point after you ride but before you attack, and it gives Alfred some rearguard utility in addition to calling him alongside Lion Mane. He can even call his own boosting unit from the rearguard, forming a somewhat-consistent 20000 rearguard line, or Blaster Blade if you're at five damage and want to hurt the opponent's rearguard before the battle phase. This is one feature of earlier sets that post-BT05 sets have been lacking, as more modern vanguard grade 3s often lack useful rearguard skills. Alfred's skill is particularly useful since you can choose to include only a single copy of a card and still be able to reliably bring it out, although it does place heavy strain on your counterblast. Alfred has endured several years and more than nine booster sets, and still remains one of the best cards ever printed and a primary choice for Royal Paladin cardfighters today, both abroad and in the States.

There is one more Alfred who came up before, Alfred Early. The manga equivalent to the King of Knights works somewhat differently from what most of the pro scene sees. When you ride him, you can call a Blaster Blade from your soul to the rearguard. This seems like a nice one-card advantage at first, like Barcgal's outrider skill applied to a grade 2, but reading into this more closely we can also use Blaster Blade's counterblast to retire an opponent's rearguard, turning Early's skill into a cleverly-worded counterblast 2 to call one and retire one, for a two card advantage overall. Since Blaster Blade is already searchable through Gancelot and several later cards, forming a combination deck with these units is very easy.

For rearguard support, Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes ranks among the best rearguards in the pro scene. His skill is deceptively simple, gaining +3000 power when you have two or more grade 3 Royal Paladins on the field. This includes himself, meaning that even being able to call Palamedes is all the setup that you need for his skill to activate. This makes him a very easy 21000+ power rearguard with Marron or Palamedes' grade 1 equivalent Toypugal, 20000 with many of the skilled grade 1s, and he can even attack crossride units unboosted. With as low as a 3000 power boost, Palamedes can meet the minimum base 16000 requirements for taking more than 5000 shield from a base 11000, and it's similarly easy to do the same to crossrides. Ironically for how simple his skill is, Palamedes has become one of the most well known Royal Paladins, befitting of a clan based around the rearguard. Swordsman of the Twin Shine, Marhaus is his lesser cousin, gaining only +2000 power when you have a Royal vanguard, and while this makes a good substitute setup with Marron or Toypugal, it will never be quite as powerful as Palamedes himself.

The final card that I'm going to discuss today is White Dragon Knight, Pendragon. Pendragon is a somewhat difficult card to talk about because he's not easily categorized into one strategy or another. This can also be a good thing however, because it means that Pendragon can be safely integrated into almost any Royal Paladin deck, even as a one-card copy, with very little problems. Initially he simply gives +5000 power on-ride, forming an easy 21000+ line that can go all the way up to 23000 for anti-crossride attacks. His second skill is a limit break 4, the first limit break that the Royal Paladins have ever received. At four or more damage, you can start your main phase by looking at up to five cards from the top of the deck (you can choose less--zero, one et cetera) and then choosing up to one (again, you can choose zero) grade 3 Royal Paladin from among them, and riding it. The remaining cards are then shuffled back into the deck. The most apparent way to use this is by riding a second Pendragon on the turn after you rode the first, getting a somewhat consistent +5000 across multiple turns. However, you can also do this to increase the ease with which you ride the King of Knights or Alfred Early, and since the ride comes at no expense to you, it's a good way to make your main strategy more fluid since it's like being able to run five of any RoyPala grade 3 instead of four. As Pendragon is easily applied to any strategy and not just the ones discussed here, these ideas can be applied to Royal Paladin units from other modules.

Next time we revisit the Royal Paladin clan, I'll be going in-depth on the Soul Saver Dragon strategy and how Barcgal was used in early 2011.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

News: Season 3 Details, Aichi to Attend High School

Japanese anime, manga and game news resource Otalab has recently published an article releasing new details surrounding the much-speculated upon third season of Cardfight!! Vanguard. The third season will be starting in January of 2013, and will, as previously promised, once more follow main character Sendou Aichi, this time as he enters into high school. This plotline appears to be based on recent chapters of the manga, in which Aichi transferred back into Miyaji academy for high school, joining Misaki and his sister Emi at the academy with Tatsunagi Kourin as his new classmate. Unlike in the anime, Miyaji was not stated to be an all-girls' school; whether Aichi will enroll in Miyaji or Hitsue High for the third season is unclear, as is whether or not Misaki will be cutting her hair as she did in the manga.
The third season has just recently been established as having Japanese rock band Psychic Lover perform its opening, making this the first opening sequence not performed by JAM Project. The January air date has confirmed the idea that the Circuit will end at under 65 episodes, unlike the first season. Currently about to air its 35th episode with only five air dates remaining and three more episodes currently announced, the Circuit is projected to end at ride 104, for 40 episodes in the season.

(via otalab, matibari)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

News: Third Season Opening Confirmed, JAM Project to Leave Cardfight?

A recent tweet from Bushiroad CEO Kidani Takaaki has revealed that the third season of Cardfight!! Vanguard will be having Japanese rock band Psychic Lover perform the opening theme. This will be the first opening not performed by JAM Project, and the change in musical artists is speculated to be a result of the poor reception of OP03 "Limit Break" compared to the series' first two openings, and/or because of JAM Project currently being preoccupied by the upcoming release of their 51st single, "The Wings of Legend."

Although primarily known for their work done for live action Super Sentai shows, like JAM Project before them Psychic Lover is also associated with the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, through the fourth ending theme to Yu-Gi-Oh! GX "Precious Time, Glory Days" and to the Super Robot Wars line of video games through the music they did for 2005 mecha anime Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

News: First Look at Ride to Victory's Cast, Original Characters

New information about the upcoming Cardfight 3DS game, Cardfight!! Vanguard: Ride to Victory is finally surfacing with the newest release of KeroKero Ace magazine. Set to feature six original characters for players to choose from, the game has also already been confirmed to contain at least thirty other characters from the anime in addition to those present here. Debuting alongside a slogan of "Stand up! Your avatar!" (立ち上がれ!キミの分身!!) the original characters have already gotten much attention in fan circles, currently nicknamed based on the official description of what "type" of protagonist they are.

From top to bottom; Hotblooded (熱血系 Nekketsu) type, Cool (クール Kuuru) type and Dark (ダークDaaku) type. Each protagonist is available as either male or female to suit the player's preferences, with their own cut-ins and voiced quotations. Ride to Victory has also been confirmed to feature in-game tutorials on how to play Cardfight, so that foreknowledge of the TCG is unnecessary to play, and will also include wireless capabilities for online cardfighting. The game will feature all cards released up through VG-BT09: Clash of the Knights and Dragons, and players will be able to start the game using one of seven trial decks, VG-TD01: Shining Swordsman of the Sanctuary up through VG-TD07: Descendents of the Marine Emperor.

The original cast has received a positive reception thus far, with design comparisons being drawn between the Hotblooded characters and the cast of Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter, as well as Pokemon. Interestingly, there are design similarities to Pokemon's Shirona and Ride to Victory's Dark-kun. Speculation is currently exploding as to which seiyuus will provide the lines for the cast, as no actors have been identified as of yet. The protagonist system itself is similar to that of Super Robot Wars, which classically allows the selection of a male or female Hotblooded type, Cool type, Logical type and Weird type.
(via matibari and ameblo)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Spotlight: Ishige Yuudai/石毛優大

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Ishige Yuudai/石毛優大
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Tokyo Regional Champion (Senior Class)
Current Status: Tokyo Regional Champion (Reigning)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Majesty Lord Blaster)
Ishige Yuudai is the reigning Tokyo regional champion for 2012, and accordingly is the city's representative in the Fighter's Climax 2012 national championship. Notably, Ishige defeated Sekiguchi Tetsuya in the regional finals, a fighter who had been sporting a very close replica of the previous national champion Gotou Kiyomi's Alfred deck. This upset the at-the-time prevalent view that Majesty could not take the title in face of the post-BT05 King of Knights deck, which was based on the results of the Summer championship putting Majesty in fourth.

Decks and Play Style
Ishige's regional deck ran three types of critical trigger, and like his contemporary fighter Nakamura, Ishige maintained draw triggers as a necessary way to reinforce his advantage. His single copy of Lien was seemingly adapted as a means of trading those triggers in the hand for more valuable cards, as her skill is usable without affecting the field in a noticeable manner on turns when his lone Alfred takes point, or otherwise provides a strong opening when taking the first turn. Ishige chose to run more copies of Toypugal than either Nakamura or Tanaka, but less Kay--possibly due to his deck being based directly from Nakamura and Tanaka's rather than Minami Takeshi's, or otherwise out of personal preference.

Despite the numerous count of single copies in his deck, the overall strategy remains unchanged from his contemporaries; using Wingal Brave with a vanguard Blaster Blade--potentially one retrieved with Gancelot in his previous turn--to search out Majesty Lord Blaster and then set up Lord Blaster's skill by calling his missing Blasters with Starcall Trumpeter. This creates a temporary 22-30000 line with Marron, and a permanent 12000 defense with one extra critical. On subsequent turns Ishige follows up with Palamedes and Toypugal to consistently break the 21000+ line, effectively shutting down the defense of most base 10000 and base 11000 decks. However, as both the vanguard and rearguard lines top out at 22000 in this build, they cannot have the same effect versus crossrides, leaving him open to The End, Blaster Overlord, Great Daiyuusha and the many crossrides to be released the day before the championship finals.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Tokyo Seniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-BT08, PR 0001-0079
Grade 0
x1 Wingal Brave (FVG)
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x1 Knight of the Future, Llew CT
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
x3 Margal DT
x4 Alabaster Owl CT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x1 Lake Maiden, Lien
x3 Toypugal
x2 Knight of Friendship, Kay
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x3 Blaster Dark
x1 Knight of Loyalty, Bedivere
x3 Starcall Trumpeter
x1 Knight of Determination, Lamorak
Grade 3
x1 King of Knights, Alfred
x1 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
x2 Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes
x3 Majesty Lord Blaster

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

News: European, Asia-Oceania Championship Results, Japan Eliminated from WCS2012

Note: 11/21/12 - Due to an HTML error, part of this post was not displaying properly yesterday. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Today the official results of the European and Asian-Oceania events were made public, revealing the final opponents of Brandon Smith and his fellow Americans at the 2012 World Championship. Due to the differing tournament structure, Europe will field only its champion, while the top three of the Asian-Oceania championship will be competing along with in Tokyo.

Representing Asia is national champion Irwin Jansen Arogo from the Philippines, using a Spectral Duke Dragon-Garmore combination deck. The runners-up were Henry of Indonesia, Sham Chun Lok of Hong Kong and Frenky of Singapore. Chun Lok fought with a Tsukuyomi deck, and Frenky a Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion-based Narukami deck.

On the European side, champion Christopher Fernau of Germany will be representing with his Garmore deck. Second place finalist Anthony Francis of France also used Garmore, while Daniel Cottom of Great Britain came out as the first nationally competitive Pale Moon deck in Cardfight history, basing his build around Silver Thorn Dragon Tamer, Luquier.

Due to all of the Japanese participants being eliminated or having otherwise not attended in the Asian-Oceania championship, the world championship's host country is no longer able to take the title in this year's event. This is the first such tournament in Vanguard's history in which Japan was both an eligible participant and was ultimately unable to take the title. Due to the similar elimination of France, Great Britain, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore, the final participating countries in the tournament are the United States, Mexico, Canada, Germany, the Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Barring sickness, injury or some other intervention by which a participant would be substituted, the finalists for the December 9 championship in Tokyo are:
  1. Brandon Smith (Canada) - Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon)
  2. Christopher Sok (United States, New York) - Gold Paladin (Garmore-Pellinore)
  3. Gabriel Espinosa (Mexico) - Narukami (Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion)
  4. Raymond Wong (United States, New York) - Gold Paladin (Garmore-Pellinore)
  5. Christopher Fernau (Germany) - Gold Paladin (Garmore)
  6. Irwin Jansen Arogo (Philippines) - Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon)
  7. Henry (Indonesia) - Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon-Garmore)
  8. Sham Chun Lok (Hong Kong) - Oracle Think Tank (Tsukuyomi)
As six of the eight participants are Gold Paladin cardfighters, the odds heavily favor this clan, and some fighters are already predicting that the clan's runaway success will steal all of the top spots in the tournament. However, the finalist Narukami and Oracle Think Tank decks remain wild cards for the tournament, as all of these decks have an equal chance at the championship title.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spotlight: Nakamura Seishirou/中村誠志朗

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Not to be confused with Nakamura Seishirou of the Fighter's Road 2012 tournament.

Nakamura Seishirou/中村誠志朗
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Hakata Regional Champion (Senior Class), National Champion (Senior Class, Winter 2012)
Current Status: National Champion (Winter 2012)
Deck Type: Royal Paladin (Majesty Lord Blaster)
Nakamura Seishirou is the 2012 winter national champion for Japan. Like Nakagawa in the juniors, Nakamura entered his deck into a format where the dominant deck of the time was still Dragonic Overlord the End, despite the setbacks it had faced in the previous tournament. And while the Gold Paladins had an overall greater presence in the tournament season at the time of his entry, Nakamura chose to favor the superior consistency and reliable skills of the Royal Paladins, rather than make the jump over to the Golds' more randomized calling. His matches became influential during the Fighter's Climax 2012 tournament, where the Royal Paladins maintained ground over newer decks along with their contemporaries, despite facing serious competition from Oracle Think Tank and Kagerou.

Shortly after his crowning, the 2013 restricted format took effect, outlawing Nakamura's championship deck along with those of his predecessors.

Decks and Play Style
In contrast to Nakagawa, Nakamura's deck did include a full run of draw and heal triggers, to avoid possible imbalances caused by having an odd run of those cards. However, he seemed to agree with Nakagawa on running a full playset of the Knight of Friendship, Kay, despite the cards' problem in the early stages of a game. This was in contest to contemporary ideas of Kay having difficulties in the early stages of the game, when there is no Blaster vanguard to trigger his skill. In fact, the deck's build is very similar to Nakagawa's, with only the critical emphasis and a difference in how grades 1 and 2 should be balanced as 14/12 or 15/11 to differentiate them. Even the single copies of Bedivere and Gancelot are the same.

This is due to their roots, with inspiration being drawn from fourth-place national finalist from the previous champoinship, Minami Takeshi. Like in his first deck, both cardfighters included the maximum count of Kay possible, using Marron and Toypugal as the basis for the rest of their grade 1s. Rather than drop down to his final decklist's low 13-count grade 1s however, in order to be able to include four copies of Iseult in addition to their support units, Nakagawa and Nakamura both chose to decrease the amount of grade 3s and 2s in their decks. Their grade 2 lineup is thus identical to Minami's, with Nakamura adapting it to the letter while Nakagawa chose to make additional room in his grade 1 list. Rather than rely on Alfred as an alternative to Starcall Trumpeter however, both fighters emphasized Palamedes' use in the rearguard as a way to force the opponent to defend, improving the devastation that Lord Blaster's extra critical can bring about on the turns after his soulcharge.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Hakata Seniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-BT08, PR 0001-0079
Grade 0
x1 Wingal Brave (FVG)
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
x4 Margal DT
x4 Alabaster Owl CT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x2 Toypugal
x4 Knight of Friendship, Kay
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x4 Blaster Dark
x3 Starcall Trumpeter
x1 Knight of Loyalty, Bedivere
Grade 3
x1 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
x2 Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes
x4 Majesty Lord Blaster

Nakamura's championship deck shifts toward a policy of flexibility, replacing one of his Palamedes for Alfred, to use his counterblast for a more consistent field and giving Nakamura a favorable grade 3 in five out of seven possible rides. The removal of Toypugal in favor of Lien likewise promotes consistency by sifting through the deck with her card change skill, albeit it promotes a weaker matchup versus The End by giving Nakamura problems in forming base 18000+ rearguard lines.

Winter 2012 National Tournament, Seniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-BT08, PR 0001-0079
Grade 0
x1 Wingal Brave (FVG)
x1 Knight of the Future, Llew CT
x4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona CT
x4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine HT
x3 Margal DT
x4 Alabaster Owl CT
Grade 1
x4 Flash Shield, Iseult
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x2 Lake Maiden, Lien
x4 Knight of Friendship, Kay
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Blade
x4 Blaster Dark
x3 Starcall Trumpeter
x1 Knight of Loyalty, Bedivere
Grade 3
x1 King of Knights, Alfred
x1 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
x1 Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes
x4 Majesty Lord Blaster

Friday, November 16, 2012

News: VG-BT10: Triumphant Return of the King of Knights Announced, Royal Paladins to be Absorbed into Golds?

Today the tenth Japanese booster set of Cardfight!! Vanguard was unveiled, BT10: Triumphant Return of the King of Knights. Prominently featuring a reimagined Wingal Brave from BT05: Twin Swords Awakening, the set is already confirmed to contain a new King of Knights, Alfred card. Although not officially confirmed, speculation is turning wild as it appears that Cardfight's first ever clan, the Royal Paladins, are going to be absorbed into the Gold Paladins entirely, replacing the franchise's centerpiece. This is seemingly supported by previously speculation concerning TD08 and TD09, which implied that the year-long seal on the Royal Paladins, Shadow Paladins and Kagerou would be finally lifted.

Details are currently scarce about the set, but from what has already been announced this will, like the new trial decks, contain cards from the third season. The Shadow Paladins are known to be receiving a new first vanguard and play style, so the return of the Royals as Gold Paladins may be timed to coincide with the reemergence of their old foe. The set will contain 102 cards, like BT09 before it, and the release date is February 26, 2013. Incidentally, this will be the two-year anniversary of Alfred's anime debut, as ride 08: "The King of Knights Enters The Fray!" aired on February 26, 2011.

While the return of the old cast is well received, their possible absorption by the Gold Paladins is less so. For many viewers, the Gold Paladins represent the lowest point of the franchise, directly correlated with a perceived drop in quality during the first seventeen Asia Circuit episodes, and with the rise of Gold dominance in the western pro scene. The return of the Royals is something that has been highly anticipated since the Gold Paladins first took over, as has the possibility of a new play style do displace their established Blaster proliferation; similar concerns exist for Kagerou fans, to whom the original Dragonic Overlord remains a beloved figure, and who stands to undergo similar absorption into Narukami, as implied by TD07 being for that clan.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spotlight: Donald William Buckley

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.
Original photo provided by frugs, do not repost without the original photographer's express permission.
Donald William Buckley
Age: 18
Titles Won: Los Angeles Regional Champion
Current Status: Los Angeles Regional Champion (Reigning)
Deck Type: Granblue
Donald William "Will" Buckley is the reigning Los Angeles regional champion, and the final entrant in the 2012 North American national championship. A stand-out fighter among the participants, he is mainly remembered for being one of three North American regional champions in that year to not run some variation of Gold Paladin or Narukami, the dominant clans of his day. This claim to fame was considered unbelievable at the time, and as a result of it and his inexperience in the tournament scene, some accusations of cheating emerged from online critics. Unlike with the previous cases of Kanamaru Makoto and Thomas Cassidy however, none of these accusations were ever substantiated with evidence or testimony, and Buckley remains a powerful reminder of the influence of individual skill and often-underestimated outlier decks in the pro scene.

Buckley did not participate in the National Championship finals, and was instead substituted for by third-place fighter Austin Pham1.

Decks and Play Style
Buckley's Granblue deck draws from the limit break play style introduced for them in Breaker of Limits. The main concept of the deck is to use their most recent first vanguard Captain Nightkid, along with the older cards Chappie the Ghostie and Ruin Shade, to bring key cards into the drop zone for later use in conjunction with card skills. The deck's trigger base is almost entirely devoted to critical triggers; because of the deck's ability to instantly and unpreventably send any card to the drop zone with Chappie, draw support becomes less necessary as the main strategy revolves around that same zone, also where healed cards go during the drive or damage check of a heal trigger. Dancing Cutlass and Rough Seas Banshee also act as support against this lack of draw power, actually fueling one another by sending Banshee to the soul and then using her as fuel for Cutlass.

The deck's key drop zone cards are Ice Prison Necromancer, Cocytus and the Deadly series of cards--Nightmare, Spirit and Swordmaster. The two skills complement one another, as when one is not available due to its restrictions, the other is. Cocytus' skill is activated by riding Skeleton Demon World Knight and discarding a Granblue, then riding Cocytus from the drop zone, but this can only be done when the opponent has a grade 3 or greater vanguard and only at the beginning of the ride phase, meaning it can be only used on the turn after it is ridden. So while it does not steal out the first turn advantage from them, it can ensure security and provide a powerful unit to make comebacks with. At more opportune times, Buckley can turn to the Deadly cards instead.

Nightmare and Spirit appear from the drop zone to the rearguard by soulblasting 2 and retiring a grade 1 or greater Granblue rearguard. This again plays into the soul provided by Rough Seas Banshee, as with even one copy of her in the soul after Nightkid's skill, both units can be superior called. While they do not allow for direct card advantage, there is no way to remove them from the game since they can simply appear from the drop zone if retired, and the two cards together form a base 16000 line for combating both the popular Garmore and Spectral Duke Dragon decks of that tournament season. Furthermore, when Nightmare and Spirit are both on the field, they can be retired at no other cost to superior ride Deadly Swordmaster from the drop zone if Buckley has a grade 2 or greater vanguard, providing another way of fighting and directly taking the lead when Cocytus would otherwise be unavailable or inappropriate.

Since Swordmaster himself is a base 11000 unit, it takes greater resources to assail him, and his defense puts strain on other cardfighters. Meanwhile Cocytus provides +5000 power at limit break 4, breaking the 21000+ line easily with twelve of Buckley's fourteen grade 1s, and on-ride he can counterblast 2 to superior call a unit from the drop zone--also opening up a combo with Demon World Knight by calling the unit that Knight dropped to the field.

The deck's name is a carryover from Buckley's experience with the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, being named after the Infernities deck archetype; said archetype was a very dominant deck in 2010, thus the joke is that "Infernities topped" in Los Angeles. It was named alongside his friends, who similarly patterned their deck names after Yu-Gi-Oh! as "Wind-Ups" and "Madolches."

Summer 2012 Regional Tournament, Los Angeles: Infernity
Card Pool: TD01-BT03, BT06-BT07
Grade 0
x2 Chappie the Ghostie
x4 Knight Spirit CT
x4 Rough Seas Banshee CT
x1 Captain Nightkid (FVG)
x4 Ghoul Cannonball CT
x4 Doctor Rouge HT
Grade 1
x4 Gust Jinn
x2 Dancing Cutlass
x4 Samurai Spirit
x4 Deadly Nightmare
Grade 2
x4 Ruin Shade
x2 Skeleton Demon World Knight
x4 Deadly Spirit
Grade 3
x4 Ice Prison Necromancer, Cocytus
x3 Deadly Swordmaster

Citations and External Links
1. "[Press Release] Top Four Cardfight!! Vanguard North American Finalists Heading to Japan to Compete in World Championship 2012." Official Cardfight!! Vanguard USA. Bushiroad, 6 Nov. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <>.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gold Paladin Extra Study Material: Spectral Duke Dragon

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted without the original photographer's express permission.
Introduced in EB03: Cavalry of Black Steel, the Spectral Duke Dragon line is a formidable deck that's taken the English pro scene by storm, with many offshoots and variants emerging in a Gold Paladin race toward the perfect Duke deck. While many pros have had their eyes on these cards as a result of their strong turnout, it's important to carefully examine the strengths and weaknesses behind the deck, rather than assuming its strength based purely on tournament performance.

The typical choice of first vanguard for this deckbuild is Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer; while he shares Kyrph and Spring Breeze's outrider skill, unlike those grade 0s, Vortimer is a 4000-power unit and so can't normally form a 15-16000 line. He's dependent on an 11000-power vanguard for the 15000 baseline, and while the Duke Dragon build does have one for him to line up with, if your game is going well then you'll never see those two cards paired together.

The reason for that is that Vortimer comes from the Riviere form of evolving ride, here intended as a direct homage to Fullbau and the Shadow Paladins. His other skill is that when ridden over with the grade 1 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer, he can look at the top 7 cards of the deck for either the grade 2 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer or the grade 3 Spectral Duke Dragon. There are two improvements here over Fullbau, most immediately that if you miss your opening ride with the Scout, he can still move to the rearguard and provide the one-card advantage that's been standardized across the game. The second is that Vortimer can target either the grade 2 or 3, which gives him a wider variety of targets that can help to ensure that having one or the other in hand already will let you concentrate on the missing card.

Vortimer's new evolution model does have several weaknesses. First, because the increase in advantage is not guaranteed when you ride the Scout of Darkness, it can create the awkward situation of riding the Scout but still missing out on the Knight or Duke Dragon. Like Fullbau, the Black Dragon Whelp increases its vanguard grade 1's form's power up to 8000 when when the grade 0 is in the soul, but that isn't really the kind of consolation prize that makes up for his on-ride skill misfiring. The third is that the lack of a guarantee means that four copies of Black Dragon Knight and Duke Dragon are required in every deck that utilizes the grade 0, taking up slots that could be better devoted to other cards. Part of this is also due to the general weakness of the grade 1 and 2 forms--the trade-off for having 7000 power and unique skills on the grade 1 of an evolving line is that this member in the series no longer has the ability to add the grade 3 of the line to the hand by discarding another grade 3 of the same clan. For the Shadow Paladins, drawing any grade 3 was drawing Phantom Blaster Dragon, because of Blaster Javelin's skill; but for their Gold Paladin equivalents, the grade 0 must be relied on for deck searching.

Also unlike with Riviere, the evolving line is not intended as the main line of Gold Paladin play, and their support cards are not geared for dealing with the grade 0 outriding from the soul. You can't bounce Vortimer in the hand for an extra 10000 shield like you can with Riviere. The FVG itself doesn't do very well on the field and leaves you very vulnerable to Stil Vampir, but as we'll eventually see, there is one way to make use of the extra card later in the game.

Because of these weaknesses, the grade 0 Vortimer is sometimes passed over in favor of Kyrph, who has 5000 power, is guaranteed to move to the rearguard and ties into Gareth and Beaumains, both of whom are already important to Gold Paladin decks as a whole. Since the grade 1 Vortimer's unique skill relies on his grade 0 form, but the grade 2's does not, using an alternate FVG provides more overall consistency since it gives 5000 extra power for support, a more reliable increase in card advantage and alternate means of maintaining that advantage through skills. If running Kyrph, a single or double copy of Ezel is generally recommended so that his superior ride can go off on occasion. Other fighters prefer Spring Breeze Messenger, but the reasons for this are somewhat more complicated and will be detailed further down.

The Scout of Darkness himself has his own skill to be concerned with. When you ride him with Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer, the Scout can retire one Gold Paladin rearguard to look at the top two cards of the deck and superior call up to two cards from among them. This is a little cumbersome to use, since it requires you to have called a rearguard on the previous turn and so kept a grade 0 or 1 in hand for the occasion, but if you're getting out the Scout's opening ride in the first place then it will generally go off. Because of how early in the game this takes place, the most likely cards you'll get out of this are trigger units. Since member in the Vortimer line gains power from having the previous one in the soul and there are several cards in Gold Paladin that can gain power when attacking, they're fairly okay for boosting purposes, but the key point here is that this builds on the existing advantage from the first two Vortimers, jumping up from +1 to +2. Keep that in mind as we move along.

The first grade 1 outside of the evolution line that really catches the eye is Blackmane Witch. While she's a promo card, Blackmane is one of the most subtly important grade 1s that the Duke Dragon build has. Her skill is to retire a Gold Paladin when she's called or ridden, to superior call the top card of the deck if it's also a Gold Paladin. That doesn't convey a direct increase in advantage, but consider that because of how skill resolution operates, as in the example of LuLu and CoCo, you can move the Black Dragon Whelp when you ride Blackmane Witch and then activate the Witch's skill immediately afterward, retiring that 4000-power unit for another. As with Ezel, the key here is to play with minimums; no non-FVG card in the entire clan has less than 5000 power save for Falcon Knight of the Azure, who gives +2000 power when called. So no matter what unit you call with this skill, you are gaining a minimum +1000 power in the process, and by playing with that minimum you can prepare a 16000-power vanguard line or in rare cases call very powerful units on the first turn. A Spectral Duke Dragon deck that uses Blackmane Witch, Gareth, Vortimer and Mark as its grade 1 setup has the advantage of having no bad opening ride. Mark is an unavoidable risk that every clan has, but Vortimer and Gareth both give 8000 power for dual offensive and defensive purposes, Vortimer has skills to be used when ridden and Blackmane can at the least increase the amount of power behind your backrow while having the potential for a frontline offense.

Moving into the grade 2s, the Black Dragon Knight that I've mentioned has two skills, like Blaster Dark before him. First, he gains +1000 power in the vanguard circle when Scout of Darkness is in the soul, for a 10000 total that demands boosting units out of the opponent. Second, when he's ridden over with the grade 3 Spectral Duke Dragon, the Knight can retire one Gold Paladin to superior call the top two Gold Paladins of the deck. Like the Scout, that skill is intended to build on an existing advantage, in this case turning Vortimer's +2 into a +3, and while the calls are randomized and could be anything from Garmore with Charjgal to Elixir Sommelier and Silent Punisher, the existence of an advantage is the main factor in play. The fact that you're retiring one unit each turn with these skills opens up the field considerably, giving you greater freedom of calls, but in the same breath it restricts you from filling too many spaces lest the increase in advantage that you were about to gain be nullified by having to call those units to inappropriate spaces or by having to retire other units to make room for them.

The card introduced with the chief purpose of supporting these two Vortimers is Flash Edge Valkyrie, a grade 2 who when superior called from the deck, can counterblast 1 to superior call the top card of the deck to an open rearguard circle. That skill is already very similar to the Vortimer line with its randomized +1, but even further restricted since any Flash Edge in hand becomes practically a dead card. To circumvent this is her grade 1 counterpart, Blade Feather Valkyrie, who when boosting the attack of a Flash Edge that hit, can counterblast 1 to superior call another card. These two skills would not be so bad for what they build toward, but the weakness in these cards is that Flash Edge has only 8000 power, not 9000 like Viviane, so the line that the two Valkyries can form is 15000, just 1000 short of opposing 11000-power units. The cumulative counterblast costs are also relatively expensive for what the cards do given their limited offensive potential and narrow constraints, making Viviane the preferred support card by far.

The reason that we've been building up all of these randomized extra cards with no regard to what cards are actually being called, is the card that brings all of these skills together. Readers familiar with the Shadow Paladins will already have some idea of where this lesson has been headed from the beginning, with each card in the evolution stockpiling an advantage for the grade 3. If Blond Ezel is our Alfred, then Spectral Duke Dragon is our Phantom Blaster Dragon, and the skills match. Spectral Duke's first skill is to gain +1000 power continuously for having Black Dragon Knight in the soul, creating the only base 11000 unit that Gold Paladin will have until BT09. To support that we have War-horse, Raging Storm, who is a Hare of Inaba-type card, meaning that he allows you to soulcharge a unit from your hand when called. This is important because it solidifies Duke Dragon as a consistent base 11000 at the cost of card advantage, but the loss of that one card can be turned into saving as many as two or three by only needing 5000 shield to guard certain attacks. Raging Storm may not be essential for the Duke Dragon build, but it will probably see wider play in the future as crossride units are introduced for the Gold Paladin clan, and should be kept in mind for those occasions.

Spectral Duke Dragon's second skill is perhaps one of the most devastating in the game. At limit break 4, counterblast 2, he can retire 3 Gold Paladin rearguards at the beginning of the close step of a battle in which he attacked a vanguard, to stand. This skill does not check for whether his attack has hit or not. Because of that, it disregards any and all shields the opposing cardfighter has put down and stops perfect defense cards dead in their tracks. Duke Dragon does lose twin drive in the process, and so only drive checks one extra card for a -2 overall, but can still check for one more trigger while retaining the effects of any previously put on him, and while the opponent could drop a second perfect defense to stop him, that's going to cost them a total -4 for the turn just to stop Duke Dragon while you're only at half of that for using the skill. That hit to advantage is a big deal however, as it can leave you totally unable to defend yourself or form any time of secondary attack on followup turns, hence why it does not matter what cards were superior called by Vortimer and the Valkyrie sisters or Viviane. This even provides a use for if you miss your Scout rid eand sitll have the grade 0 Vortimer lingering on the field. No matter what was called, it's nothing short of fuel to support the limit break once the opponent hits 4-5 damage.

There are several unconventional things about the build's star card. Little Battler, Tron is still a recommendable booster despite the loss in field advantage because making the first attack powerful enough to demand perfect defense cards is important. There can be no direct Nemain or Badhabh Catha equivalent for Spectral Duke because his retire takes place during the attack step, not the main phase. And Trigger bases for Duke are tricky because of that same phase issue. While many successful cardfighters like Brandon Smith have staunchly advocated for critical triggers in the deck, and draw triggers are a necessary element due to the losses incurred by the Dragon's skill, stand triggers are nonetheless very valuable in a deck that can reliably stand its vanguard. A stand trigger to Duke becomes a minimum +10000 extra power when applied to his rearguard booster, since the standing booster will now be able to give him both its own power and that of the trigger, easily forming a 21000-power line, or even 23000+ with a boosting unit that has 7000+ power. On the other hand, this same strategy hurts using Tron as a booster over Gareth, since with Gareth, Duke can go for 23-24000 instead of being stuck at just 19-20000 due to now having less rearguards than the opponent. Due to the opponent being continually worn down by the vanguard attacks, having a strong rearguard becomes important here for finishing them off, and it also makes Gigantech Destroyer more usable over Manawydan since he can go with those same stand triggers for 17000 unassisted.

But on the other hand, with a critical trigger Duke can deal as much as four to six damage in one turn. Duke retains the entire trigger effect between attacks, meaning both power and critical. The prospect of facing multiple critical-2 attacks and not being able to take a single hit even at four damage is very daunting for the opposing player. And the biggest hit that Spectral Duke Dragon will take in the future is versus crossride units. He lacks the serious power gain of Garmore and Ezel, which makes fighting on even footing with The End and Phantom Blaster Overlord difficult. Tron will most likely be no longer recommendable in that format, since 21000 to Duke versus a crossride is exactly the same as 18000 with less restrictive units like Scout or Sleygal Sword, and Gigantech Destroyer will probably vanish as well since he can only go for 12, not 18000 with a stand trigger. Stands as a whole are more useful to the build now than they ever will be in the days to come.

One way that was devised to circumvent the cost of his skill was through Providence Strategist. Credit for the innovation goes to the Dallas regional champion, Thomas Cassidy. While Strategist can't exceed 15000 power even with Gareth, the opponent feels pressured to block the card when they could have otherwise taken damage because of his draw skill, and the moment that they don't block it is the moment in which Duke starts accruing new cards to offset the retire cost. By the end of the turn Strategist is no longer on the field, forming a hit-and-run line that immediately creates replacements for the cards lost--in other words, Strategist becomes a free sacrifice.

I mentioned Spring Breeze toward the beginning, and now that we've covered Duke's skill it's time to get into what can be done with him as the FVG. Spring Breeze's own skill as you'll recall from our previous article, soulcharges himself to perform a slightly more complicated superior call than noraml, when the attack of the unit that he boosts hits a vanguard. The immediate use for this is to have Spring Breeze boosting Duke Dragon, so that if Duke's attack hits he can soulcharge himself to call a new boosting unit for the dragon, effectively gaining half the use of a stand trigger without having to actually run stand trigger. Even if the unit doesn't suit those purposes, it can still become a sacrifice, as the act of hitting the vanguard takes place before the beginning of the close step of the battle.

Another way to use Spectral Duke's skill is with Viviane or the Valkyrie sisters. Their use has been called the most advanced technique of the Duke Dragon build, and it's certainly earned the reputation, requiring five open counterblast to go off. These cards share a characteristic of superior calling a unit from the top of the deck on-hit, and how we exploit this is to have the opposite rearguard column attack first, followed by Duke Dragon, and then activate his limit break to retire that column plus his boosting unit. Following this, Viviane or the Valkyries attack. If their attack does not connect then the combo ends there, but if it hits you can then counterblast 1 to superior call a third unit--ideally a boosting unit, but also potentially an independent attacker like Gigantech--and then attack a second time with Spectral Duke Dragon. Following that attack, Duke activates his limit break for the second and final time, retiring Viviane or the Valkyries plus the unit they just called. The main advantage to this is being able to break past two perfect defense cards and get four chances to check triggers, maximizing the potential power and critical of Duke while straining the opponent's resources immensely. The cost is most towering for yourself however, costing a total counterblast 5, -4 cards, a price that is arguably more than that of the less-tangible costs paid through megablast. If the opponent is not absolutely ruined by the serial blitzkrieg, then it has failed and you will most likely have to resign the game soon. Viviane is preferred for this technique due to being able to reach 16000+, unlike a Valkyrie line.

The Duke Dragon cards are a very interesting and strategic use of the card types originally developed by the Shadow Paladins, but their play is fundamentally different and requires advanced understanding of the game to master. Careful trigger counting is definitely required to play them well, and with the upcoming announcements of BT09's Japanese release, we'll likely see many advancements to the clan's play style in the days to come. The greatest weakness of the build is also its greatest strength, as the success or failure of an initial Vortimer ride can spell doom for either yourself or the opposition. The strongest comparison these days is ShadowPala operating as a single coin flip versus Spectral Duke's multiple die rolls; the odds act in favor of the original style, not the new one, and the high-risk, high-reward nature of the Vortimer line and Valkyrie cards make it a very difficult to play a "luckless" Duke Dragon deck. Weigh the difficulty of playing the deck carefully with the guarantees brought to the table by other clans like Great Nature or the Dark Irregulars, before attempting to command this deck.

Nineteen pros use this deck.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spotlight: Tanaka Shouta/田中将太

Fighter's Spotlight is an ongoing project concerned with tracking real-world professional cardfighters across the globe.

Tanaka Shouta/田中将太
Age: Unknown; Seniors Division
Titles Won: Sendai Regional Champion (Senior Class)
Current Status: Sendai Regional Champion (Reigning)
Deck Type: Oracle Think Tank (Tsukuyomi)
Tanaka Shouta is the representative for Sendai in the Fighter's Climax 2012 winter national championship. Breaking a two-year tradition of Sendai representatives being Royal Paladin cardfighters, Tanaka is the first Tsukuyomi-based fighter to qualify for the senior championships since the Grand Prix. He is also the second such representative to be the champion of their region, after Komoto Takuya. His entry comes as a surprise to many, as the tournament environment of the time was dominated by crossride-endowed Kagerou, then thought to have outmoded Tsukuyomi as the defensive deck of the year.

Decks and Play Style
Tanaka's Tsukuyomi deck features many contemporary innovations over Komoto's, most noticeable among them the inclusion of only four grade 3s. A trend that first emerged in the FR2012 Trio Fights, the line of thinking behind this is that by using the Godhawk-Tsukuyomi line's search skills, grade security on par with running eight grade 3s can be achieved using only four. Thus, rather than try to maximize his available security using the line, Tanaka instead uses the skills to devote other slots in the deck to grade 2 units.

His trigger makeup is also interesting in that it consists entirely of critical and heal triggers, without the draws now standardized in professional play. This is compensated for both with Tsukuyomi's own counterblast skill, and with the draw skill of Luck Bird; unusual for a Tsukuyomi deck in that it takes away from the soul and therefore potentially becomes a hindrance to his overall strategy, Luck Bird is fueled both by Tsukuyomi's draw and by the soulcharging made available by Tanaka's maximized count of Oracle Guardian, Red-Eye. The trade off of these changes is that they give him further defensive power on par with and exceeding The End, but they also put Tanaka in greater risk of decking out.

Also unusual is that Tanaka's deck does not include Dark Cat among its grade 1s. The logic behind this is that Dark Cat gives cards to the opponent as well as himself, while Luck Bird functions as an adequate substitute that confers no such defensive strength, giving Tanaka an advantage over other decks of this type.

Winter 2012 Regional Tournament, Sendai Seniors Division (Japan)
Card Pool: TD01-BT08, PR 0001-0079
Grade 0
x1 Godhawk, Ichibyoshi (FVG)
x4 Lozenge Magus HT
x4 Oracle Guardian, Nike CT
x4 Psychic Bird CT
x4 Battle Sister, Ginger CT
Grade 1
x4 Battle Sister, Chocolat
x2 Oracle Guardian, Gemini
x4 Luck Bird
x4 Goddess of the Crescent Moon, Tsukuyomi
Grade 2
x3 Battle Sister, Mocha
x4 Silent Tom
x4 Goddess of the Half Moon, Tsukuyomi
x4 Oracle Guardian, Red-Eye
Grade 3
x4 Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi

Friday, November 9, 2012

Study Guide: Bermuda Triangle

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
With Extra Booster 2: Banquet of Divas releasing internationally today, many fighters are eager to get their hands on the new cards. Bermuda Triangle however, does not run in a straight line like the core clans. It requires thinking outside the normal boundaries that Cardfight has instilled in us--rather than a game of charging back and forth at the opponent like with the Paladins or Dark Irregulars, the Triangle idols create loops and connect skills together in the fashion of Pale Moon or the more recent Great Nature. Let's take a look at how we can work with the mergirls.

There are three first vanguards available to the clan. Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Shizuku is a basic 4000-power FVG that counterblasts 1 and moves to the soul to search out the top 5 cards of the deck for a grade 3 of the same clan. This is actually the original debut of this type of FVG, but unfortunately her art is a lot better than her actual skill. The skill has a lot of room to misfire by, decreasing your advantage if no grade 3 is found while using up your counterblast, and 4000 power is just low enough that it can't touch the 16000 line with an 11000-power vanguard to combat similar 11000-power opponents.

So the remaining two are Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Weddell and Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Riviere. Weddell is an immediate improvement over Shizuku, with 5000 base power for meeting minimum requirements vs both 10000 and 11000-power opponents, and her main phase skill costs no counterblast. Instead she simply moves to the soul to send a Bermuda Triangle unit back to the hand; while that may seem like a decrease in advantage, by combining this skill with the rearguard grade 3 Rainbow Light, Carine, you can counterblast 1 to soulcharge 1 and draw 1 card. Granted that's only trading Weddell for the card that you draw, but it helps change up your formation to call new units to the field while giving you access to more of your deck.

Riviere meanwhile, is the first in a series of evolving cards. Intended to combo with the grade 1 Mermaid Idol, Rriviere, how their skills play in together is that when you ride Mermaid Idol over the Cadet, the Cadet's skill will let you look at the top 7 cards of your deck and add either Super Idol, Riviere or Top Idol, Riviere to your hand from among them, while Mermaid Idol Riviere's skill gives her +1000 power in the vanguard circle as long as Triangle Cadet Riviere is in the soul. So you can establish the same defensive power as the base 8000 Sedna, while getting a one-card increase in advantage. The search skill is not as good as a Fullbau-type evolution, which would automatically put Super Idol into the hand, but it does have six to eight targets in a typical Riviere deck and it's somewhat more flexible by allowing for the grade 3 to go to the hand. Even if you miss your Mermaid Idol ride, Cadet Rivere will still move to the rearguard and work as a 4000-power boost or an early attacker with the aid of an 8000 base behind her. This particular type of evolving ride is more manageable in Triangle than it is for other clans, because it was designed specifically with Bermuda Triangle in mind; unlike other FVGs of her type, Riviere can be bounced into the hand with card skills to act as an extra 10000 shield versus your opponent's attacks. I would say that because of her nature as a 4000-power FVG, this is actually necessary to get the most from Riviere when her main skill doesn't go off, so keep in mind that if you intend to build the Riviere deck then you should always have a way to get the Bermuda Triangle Cadet into your hand.

Weddell is named after the Weddell Sea in the Southern Ocean. Shizuku is literally "drip" in Japanese, and Rivière is French for "River."

The recommended trigger setup for the Triangle clan is to use the Drive Quartet sisters. The reason for this is that each member of the Quartet gains +3000 power from having another member on the field, so in an emergency you can have at least one or two 7000-power boosters, with a 4000-power one lined up with either an 11000-power vanguard if you're facing down 10000-power opponents, or with a unit that gains power when attacking. My recommendation to those just getting into the clan is to start with four of each Drive Quartet card except for Ressac the stand trigger, whom you run just three of and in her place Comical Rainie, a fifth critical. Having four of each trigger is difficult to work with, especially for beginners, and four stands are not really necessary when you generally want to get one stand out of an entire game to pull a surprise on the opponent. Since so many Bermuda skills enhance the strength of the hand, the extra draw power from five or more draw triggers is not strictly necessary unless your specific play style leans that way. Many fighters later choose to convert to running four Rainie and no Ressac for maximum potential critical, but Cardfight is something that you should approach like painting; there isn't a wrong way to do it, but there are techniques to help the kind of play you want to conduct.

Rainie comes from the term "Rainy," Bubblin from "Bubbling," Flows from a water flow, Caspian from the Caspian Sea and Ressac is French for "backwash." (Not that kind of backwash!)

Getting into the grade 1s, Prism of the Water's Surface, Myrtoa is the clan's equivalent to Dark Cat, allowing all players to draw a card when she's called. That's not going to create a game-winning advantage by itself, but Myrtoa helps ensure consistency by giving you easy access to more cards from your deck, bringing out combos more reliably while providing a free 7000-power booster to form 16000+ lines with, and because the Bermuda clan is already so talented at sending cards back to the hand, you can replace her freely at many points in the game.

Speaking of, Turquoise Blue, Tyrrhenia is one of those bounce cards. She only sports 5000 power, which can be problematic for a grade 1, since she can only form a 16000+ line with three cards in the whole clan, but consider her skill. When the attack that she boosts hits a vanguard, Tyrrhenia allows you to soulblast 2 and return a Bermuda Triangle unit to the hand; already we know that this works with Carine and Riviere from earlier, but that soulblast 2 is restrictive enough that it will only go off from turn 3 onward, unless you've already used Weddell's skill or was able to ride Mermaid Idol, Riviere over her grade 0 counterpart. Since getting a Riviere that misfired into the hand is one of the early priorities of a Riviere deck, Tyrrhenia is an obvious choice for a two-of there, but is there a way to get this off from turn 1 or 2 instead of waiting to ride a grade 3?

We only have one soul at the time, so the answer is Mermaid Idol, Felucca. Felucca is a card that's been imported from the Dark Irregulars' Alluring Succubus, and like Succubus, she soulcharges 1 when called or ridden. That sets Tyrrhenia up right away, letting you get Riviere in hand for use as 5000 more shield than would be typical, effectively trading Tyrhennia's 5000 in for Riviere's 10000. Since Tyrhennia can also be used to bounce Carine into the hand, Felucca likewise can be tied into Carine, making up for the cost of using Tyrrhenia by combining Felucca and Carine's soulcharges.

Like Tyrryhenia, Pearl Sisters, Perle is a rearguard-only skill. This one ties into the grade 2 Pearl Sisters, Perla; when Perle is called, a Perla that is on the field can receive an autoskill that lets her soulcharge 1 and draw 1 card when her attack hits a vanguard. This skill only lasts until the end of turn, but since the Pearl Sisters together form a 16000-power line, they can be quite dangerous already. And this skill also comes in addition to Perla's basic skill, soulblasting 1 when her attack hits to return a Bermuda Triangle rearguard to the hand. The sisters together form a relatively isolated combo, with Perle giving Perla the skill, then Perla's attack hits and she soulcharges 1 to draw, then soulblasts the card she just soulcharged to return Perle to the hand and set up for next turn. Since you can pick and choose which card gets blasted, you can also use this to keep Riviere pieces added from the deck to the soul in the soul, which helps maintain the continuous +1000 that each piece gets from the previous one, as well as getting off their respective skills. Perla can also be used to do fancier things like get Tyrrhenia off the field, if she isn't going to survive long-term; the Bermuda field is highly modular and can be swapped about freely because of these types of cards.

Finally, Mermaid Idol, Riviere came up previously, but she has one more skill to examine. When she's ridden over with Super Idol, Riviere and Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Riviere is in the soul, you can draw one card. This is very basic compared to the evolving rides that were designed after her, but it's to be expected as Riviere is the most stripped-down model of that evolution. The increase in advantage is well appreciated, and it helps make up for the Cadet misfiring, but it only works if she's in the soul in the first place, so ideally you're moving up from +1 extra card to +2. As with the Cadet and Mermaid, the Super Idol has her own extension of the combo, gaining +1000 continuous power in the vanguard circle so long as the Mermaid Idol is in the soul. These cards restrict how much you can use Tyrrhenia and other soulblast-based cards considerably if the evolution is working properly, ironically giving you more freedom when it doesn't go off. Nonetheless, Perle and Perla are still both very usable even when you're riding each Riviere in succession, since Perle lets Perla soulcharge to fuel her blast.

Myrtoa is a reference to the Myrtoan Sea. Tyrrhenia is the Greek and Latin name for Erturia, a region of Central Italy which gives its name to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Perle is French for "pearl," Perla is the same for "beaded." I didn't discuss Mermaid Idol, Elly in the article, but her name is almost certainly a mistranslation of "Erie" as in Lake Erie or the Erie Canal.

Going into grade 2s, Girls' Rock, Rio is another combo card for Weddell, Tyrrhenia and the Pearl Sisters. When she's returned to your hand from the rearguard, Rio can counterblast 1 to soulcharge 1 and draw a card. This is the first counterblast card we've seen since Shizuku, and it's pretty great all around. Rio increases your card advantage by +1, adds soul to fuel Tyrrhenia and Perla's skills, and like Perla she can help get in missing pieces of Riviere, so Rio is one card that can go into any Bermuda build, whether it's using Weddell or Riviere. Probably Rio's biggest flaw overall is her 8000 power, since that can be sniped by a basic 10000-8000 line, but since you're sending her to the hand anyway, in many fights you won't even need to worry about Rio getting taken out.

Inteli Idol, Mervill is the clan's take on RoPala's Tristan. Like him, her skill only works in the vanguard circle; when she drive checks a grade 3 Bermuda Triangle unit, Mervill can return a Bermuda Triangle unit to your hand, then call another one. This skill is a little tricky; at the time that you pay the cost, the grade 3 you checked is in the trigger zone, not your hand. So you can't call that unit, though you could call another grade 3. Mainly this is useful because it lets you send Rio or Perle to the hand, but it's weakened severely by the fact that it has to be Mervill's drive check that reveals the card. This means that Mervill will effectively get only one chance to go off in a game, and only if you ride her--it will never go off twice because you will have drive checked a grade 3 that you will be riding next turn. This harms her playability severely, though it is a better skill than Tristan's.

Mermaid Idol, Flute is probably the best rearguard attacker of the cards that you have available. While she's 8000 like Rio, and therefore very vulnerable to rearguard attacks, Flute gains +3000 power when you have four or more Bermuda Triangle rearguards. This turns her into a temporary 11000-power unit, capable of taking on similar units independently, or even better with basic boosts from Weddell or Tyrrhenia, she can jump up to the 16000 line for maximum offensive versus those units. Even in the crossride era, Flute is the easiest rearguard to get up to speed, since Perle, Felucca and Myrtoa all meet the minimum for forcing 10000 shield out of a 13000-power crossride. Flute is also one reason why Ressac is usable in a Bermuda deck, since she can again go for 16000 independently on a second attack, as long as you haven't bounced more than one card out of your field.

Coming back to Super Idol, Riviere one last time, like the Mermaid Idol before her, she has a skill that activates when you ride her with the next-graded Riviere. In this case, when you ride Top Idol, Riviere over the Super Idol, if you have Mermaid Idol, Riviere in the soul then you get to draw a card. That's another direct increase to advantage, ideally putting you at +3 on the scale if the previous' cards skills have gone off. Top Idol also gets a continuous +1000 power in the vanguard circle so long as Super Idol is in the soul, spotlighting her as the clan's only 11000-power unit. This would be a little better if the clan also had a Hare of Inaba copy to call and slot pieces of the Riviere line into the soul with, but at the least the Pearl Sisters and Rio can try to get the Top Idol set up even if the initial skills haven't gone off.

Girls' Rock is a general classification of rock music geared toward young women. Rio is Latin for a brook or stream, and can also refer to the urban canals of Venice. Mervil seems to be a mistranslation no matter how you take her; Herman Melville was an American novelist who authored Moby-Dick, a now-famous novel concerning the whaling industry and a fictional captain's pursuit of a specific whale against which he holds a grudge. On the other hand, Merville Beach is a fishing and diving spot in the Republic of Mauritius. Meanwhile, the nearest I can come up with for Flute is a 16th century Dutch ship; the actual pronunciation of it is closer to "flight" though and that doesn't match up with Flute's phonetic name from the Japanese TCG. It doesn't seem like a reference to flute instruments, since on closer examination, our Flute is carrying a baton.

We've already discussed Carine as the grade 3 version of Rio, so looking at the other grade 3s, Top Idol, Flores is the first one ever printed for Bermuda Triangle, all the way back in BT02. Her skill is to soulblast 2 to return a Bermuda Triangle card to the hand when her attack hits; like many grade 3 units of older sets, her skill works in both the vanguard and rearguard circles, forcing the opponent to defend the attack. It's not an overly spectacular skill compared to some of the others, but it's an offensive version of Tyrrhenia and if you line her up with Tyrrhenia vs 10000 and below units, so long as you have the soul for it you can send two units back to the hand--for example, activating Tyrrhenia's skill first to send Rio to the hand, then activating Rio's counterblast to soulcharge and draw, then activating Flores' skill to send Tyrrhenia back to the hand so you can rearrange the field next turn. Flores is definitely overlooked compared to the other grade 3s, as she's an excellent rearguard and her types of cards surprisingly make Bermuda's best matchup to be versus the highly competitive Kagerou clan. After all, Kagerou can only retire cards that are on the field, not cards that have been sent to the hand, and rearguard Flores can even send herself back.

The first new grade 3 introduced by EB02 is Top Idol, Pacifica. Some fighters have mistakenly glossed her over just as a Bermuda Triangle version of Amaterasu, with modified conditions and her power gain slightly toned down to +3000 when you have four or more Bermuda Triangle rearguards, instead of +4000 for having four cards in hand. This makes her more difficult to boost than Amaterasu, since 6000-power boosters can't bring up to 20000 for facing down popular 10000-power vanguards like Ezel or Alfred, and Sedna becomes the minimum to hit 21000. Her next skill however is all her own, soulcharging 1 at the start of the main phase to draw one card and send another to the bottom of your deck. This enhances the consistency of a deck, by building up a soul to fuel the Pearl Sisters, Tyrrhenia and Flores, while also letting you get rid of unneeded cards in exchange for more useful ones. Even if the card you checked isn't that great, you can still just cycle it into the bottom and no longer have to deal with said card.

Assisting the rearguards isn't the only reason for her soulcharge, though. Pacifica is a megablast unit; and that means that when her attack hits, regardless of whether she's in the vanguard or rearguard circles, she can counterblast 5 and soulblast 8 to search for up to three Bermuda Triangle units and call them. You don't need empty circles to use that skill--you can freely retire any of your rearguards to call those. This skill is devastating, since it creates two more attacks for the opponent to have to deal with, for five in all that turn and with at least one of them being at full power. Since Bermuda Triangle only has three units that counterblast in the first place, it's much more useable than in other clans, though it does mean excluding Rio and Carine and having to work around those two not being in the deck. Building up the soul isn't difficult, since the Pearl Sisters, Felucca and Pacifica herself all set it into motion, but getting the attack to hit is much more troublesome; since the opponent absolutely cannot let the attack hit, once you're at five damage and meet the necessary soul requirements, they will be blocking any vanguard or rearguard Pacifica's attack and accounting for double triggers along the way. This can work to your advantage though, since vanguard Pacifica can be set up with Senda for a 21000-power line and your opponent will inevitably wear down as time goes on.

If Pacifica is Bermuda's Amaterasu analogue, then the Bermuda Princess, Lena is their Sakuya; similar to Pacifica, she gets +3000 power when you have four or more Bermuda Triangle rearguards, during your own turn. When you ride her though, Lena can send all of your Bermuda Triangle rearguards back to your hand. This is important since, in her own deck Lena can simultaneously activate the skills of Carine and Rio, as well as recycle the Pearl Sisters and get Tyrrhenia off the board once she's no longer needed. Lena can be included in most any Bermuda deck as a two-of card, providing an alternative strategy and helping you regain headway that you may have lost if your normal strategies (say, Riviere) haven't been going well. She's not something that you normally try to finish the game with, but she is a good build up to your final turn, and can help restock your defenses to get past your opponent's next move. Lena also allows you to call cards that you would normally consider "lost forever" if they were used early in the game, like the perfect defense card Erie or trigger units used to support an early game rush.

I've discussed the Riviere support cards in length up to now, and now it's time to get to the main event. As mentioned before, Top Idol, Riviere is the clan's only 11000-power unit, and a fairly consistent one with the plethora of soulcharging that the clan has in addition to their main line of evolution. She's already very appealing due to that defensive power, but in addition to it, the Top Idol comes with a persona blast skill; with a counterblast 2 and by discarding a second copy of herself from the hand when her attack hits a vanguard, Riviere can give +5000 power to up to three Bermuda Triangle units. As with all on-hit skills, this persona blast can be hard to trigger, even moreso because the Bermuda clan lacks a custom 10000-power booster to support their vanguard, but like with Pacifica it's a threatening skill that makes the opponent want to account for triggers when they guard. As a trade-off to her defensive power, Riviere can't get the same offense out as Pacifica and Lena, but she's longer-lived for it and can prolong games significantly. This sometimes works to her disadvantage, since with all the drawing and soulcharging from the Pearl Sisters, Felucca, Rio and Carine, this can eventually run the deck dry, but perseverance is among the most desirable traits in a vanguard and many fighters won't touch a grade 3 that doesn't come with 11000 power. Since her previous iterations all lend themselves to gaining card advantage geared toward defending, and Riviere already comes with so much soul support, running her isn't a bad move at all.

Last of the clan's winning images is Velvet Voice, Raindear. Operating like a grade 3 of Mervill, she shares that card's skill. When Raindear drive checks a grade 3 Bermuda Triangle, she can then send a Bermuda back to the hand--again, this is Carine and Rio's time to shine--and call a Bermuda Triangle unit to an empty rearguard circle. Naturally, the loophole to this is that you can call the unit that you just sent back, but beyond that you can also call these units to make fourth and fifth attacks. So for example, say that you have a Flores in hand, Carine and Rio on the field and drive check a grade 3, you can then send a Carine back to the hand, use Carine's skill for the draw and soulcharge, then call Flores in her place and use Flores' soulblast 2 after her attack hits to send Rio back for another counterblast 1, soulcharge 1, draw 1, together fully paying for Flores' skill. Also note that unlike with Mervill, there is a way to use cards drive checked for her skill--if you twin drive check a grade 3 after another card, then the first card you checked has already left your trigger zone and is in your hand at the time that Raindear drive checks a grade 3, so that card can be called by her skill while the second card cannot. (This is because of how the drive check is described in the Comprehensive Rules, sections Each drive check in a twin drive is a separate check; the cards are not checked together.)

Flores takes her name from the Flores Sea in Indonesia. Pacifica may come from the 1938 Pacifica statue dedicated to explorers of Pacific Ocean territories, or more generally may come from the term "Pacific" as it's used in reference to Earth's largest ocean. Raindear looks like a play on "rain" and "dear" as in "dearly" or "dearest," but it can also be a reference to Reindeer Lake.

From these it's clear that the three central builds are Pacifica-Lena, Riviere and Raindear, with some overlap between them based on how you want to gear your deck. Bermuda Triangle is definitely a clan where personal preference wins over what has or has not done well in tournaments, and that's part of the appeal. Pacifica, Lena, Riviere and Raindear are all competitive cards, but each of them has key weaknesses that prevent there from being an obvious choice among them. This is the difficult part of the running the clan, since you really need to know what you want to do before anything else, and how you think you should run your early game plays will define what you bring to the table for the late.

One good characteristic of the Bermuda Triangle clan is that, because it's self-contained in Extra Booster 2: Banquet of Divas, and has a plethora of useful low-rarity cards available, the Bermuda clan is very cheap to assemble a basic deck for, making it ideal for beginning and experienced cardfighters alike. The best budget grade 3s for the clan are Lena (RR), Carine (C), Flores (R) and Raindear (C) and since each of these cards can combo well with one another, it makes for a good introductory set to vanguard while providing plenty of material to people who want to go deeper into the game's rabbit hole. Raindear is definitely the cheapest deck to build, but is still competitive at the pro level, much like Pale Moon's Sarah or Kagerou's Goku.

The minimum that I would put down for building this deck buying extra booster boxes instead of packs is $70 (not factoring in taxes or local price variations); two boxes should be enough to get all of the commons, rares and double-rares that you'll need for a cheap beginner's deck, but as with every clan, you'll have to get lucky to get multiple copies of the clans' perfect defense card. Mermaid Idol, Ellie is both a blessing in an actual fight and a curse outside of it, since in today's format you need three or four copies to do well in a competitive environment, which many cardfighters have resorted to buying as singles or otherwise searching out trades for, rather than trying to pull from randomized booster packs. Bermuda Triangle is one of those rare clans that you can build just buying packs instead of boxes, and that's why I advise Banquet of Divas with its small set size as a beginning set to entering Cardfight. Play around with the cards and see which build you like best; there is no wrong way to make a Bermuda Triangle deck.

Three pros use this clan.