Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oracle Think Tank Extra Study Material: Scarlet Witch, CoCo

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted without the original photographer's express permission.
One of the more controversial aspects surrounding BT07: Rampage of the Beast King was its new direction for Oracle Think Tank, a direction comprised of many different techniques summarily geared toward a "soulless" witch deck. This has its origins all the way back in BT02: Onslaught of Dragon Souls, but itself seems contradictory to the very idea of OraThin decks--which had debuted with CEO Amaterasu as their key card, a megablasting unit that soulcharged one card every turn. In face of that, the very concept of an empty soul is contradictory to the OraThin play style and requires outright rejecting the Tsukuyomi series and its various support cards. This is one of the primary reasons that CoCo herself was so unsuccessful on debut, since even before Tsukuyomi, OraThin was all about soulcharging and their only ways of reliably removing soul were Luck Bird and Blue Scale Deer, both of which required either missing out on CoCo's skills for or not using the clan's then-current FVG, Lozenge Magus.

The first step in making the strategy viable then, is a change of first vanguard. Ichibyoshi won't fly here, and while Lozenge and Eclair both keep a card out of your soul, there's a far more viable first vanguard designed specifically for the witch deck. Like Ichibyoshi, Little Witch, LuLu lacks the outrider skill now common to FVGs, but instead lingers in the soul until you reach grade 3; at that point, LuLu can move to the rearguard, increasing the total number of cards under your control by one and giving you 5000 power to toy around with. Her second skill is what really defines her as the first vanguard for the build, however. When LuLu is played, she functions as a grade 0 Luck Bird, soulblasting 2 to draw one card, so your actual advantage in the soulless deck goes up to two the moment she comes out.

That takes three cards out of the soul, which in a typical game are all you have--LuLu the FVG, as well as your grades 1 and 2 that you rode. That means that if you ride Scarlet Witch, CoCo then you can immediately activate her counterblast 2 after LuLu's skills have been resolved to draw two more, for a net increase of four extra cards. This is the same advantage you get with flawless Tsukuyomi rides plus her counterblast, but without the difficult six-soul restriction to work with and as a trade off, base 10000 for CoCo instead of 11000. As an added bonus though, when you have zero cards in the soul, CoCo gains +3000 power--factor in Milk's boost and you have a 23000-power vanguard line, a definitive crossride killer as well as a line that's safely inside the standards of modern games for pressing every other type of unit available.

Emerald Witch, LaLa is the grade 1 of the expansion and while she received a lot of attention in promotional material, her skill is lacking compared to her high rarity. LuLu when called, allows you to discard one card if you have zero soul to draw one more. This is useful for getting access to a wider range of cards while potentially ditching extra grade 3s or draw triggers in favor of fixing up your ability to attack or defend, and there are arguably times when calling her over Dark Cat would be best, but the skill overall isn't necessary for the deck and it's mostly a lackluster ability with a restriction tagged to it so that no other ThinkTank deck can use her.

Battle Sister, Omelet is the witch deck's equivalent to Royal Paladin's Kay. She starts at base 7000, and climbs up to 10000 when attacking from the rearguard, if you have zero cards in your soul. That restriction causes her to miss out on Kay's early game value, but she can still work in place of drawing Wiseman. I would not heavily recommend her for the deck except for her 7000 boost, because this variant of OraThin already has so many good grade 1s competing  for the space, but if you feel that your deck needs more options for its lines, then Omelet won't be a bad alternative.

Battle Sister, Glace is the first real point of interest outside of LuLu; like Mocha, she's an 8000-power unit that goes up to 11000 under specific conditions, but her condition isn't as restrictive. Glace simply kicks in when you have zero cards in the soul during her attack, and that makes her ideal for forming easy 15/16000-power lines, and for forming a slightly less-easier 18000 line with Dark Cat for dealing with crossrides. The best way to go about this is to take advantage of CoCo and LuLu together enhancing your hand while also reaching the zero soul count and include Mocha with Glace, for two 11000-power units that maximize the witch deck's effectiveness both versus 11000 vanguards like Tsukuyomi and for a greater bonus versus the aforementioned crossrides.

Blue Scale Deer was introduced much earlier as a promo card, and has the same 8000 power as Glace but with no power gain, will generally need Gemini for support. When his attack hits, you can soulblast 2 to draw one card. This conserves you counterblast instead of needing Libra to gain advantage, saving it for CoCo, but was generally only used to support CoCo before LuLu was introduced. The difficulty now is that you'll only have the necessary soul either through deliberate soulcharging of Psychic Bird, or multiple grade 3 rides, and Blue Scale can't hit for the numbers that the crossride environment developed after its release now demands. One or two may be occasionally useful in prolonged games where multiple post-CoCo rides take place, but it's definitely not a four-of and may not have a place at all in your deck.

(Incidentally, for those wondering as to why Blue Scale is in OraThin, the sika deer that it's modeled on are considered messengers of the Shinto gods. The witch series cards in general seem to be based on shrine maidens, using Shinto-Buddhist imagery like the magatama on NaNa, shide on CoCo and vajra held by LaLa, while CEO and Full Moon are modeled on the actual Shinto deities Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi.)

Sky Witch, NaNa is CoCo's secondary rearguard after Glace. Like Glace, Nana is intended to go for 11000 before boosting, by gaining +1000 power during your own turn when your vanguard has zero cards in the soul. In the vanguard circle that gets bumped up to a +3000 boost, letting her go for the same 23000 as CoCo if you ride her as your grade 3, but this should only be a temporary maneuver at best. While having another option for an easy 16-18000 line is good, we've come to expect more from grade 3s over time and there is a case to be made to use Apollon over NaNa. This is a difficult position to take, since Silent Tom would normally be superior to NaNa, but again the crossride environment harms him very much since he himself can't go for 18000, and one of the primary goals in running the witch deck is to scale OraThin's power up to match the post-BT05 format. NaNa is something to consider, but is the most common target for LaLa's skill, and you should consider whether you're really running her as a valuable rearguard or as easy-answer fuel to that.

Battle Sister, Souffle is a less extreme rearguard than NaNa. While not part of the witch deck herself, she was released contemporary to it and has some of the same uses. She gains +2000 power when boosted by an OraThin unit, meaning that she can go for 18000 in the rearguard with Milk and similar 6000-power grade 1s, so she's an even easier anti-crossride unit than the other cards. Furthermore, with Gemini she can hit 20000, enough to press the 10000-power vanguards that have sprung to prominence in the English scene like Garmore. Souffle and NaNa share a trait of not going for particular extreme numbers, but instead play to a slower game that's won over many turns rather than the blitz tactics of the old days.

I discussed CoCo at the beginning, but the alternate grade 3 of this build may come as a surprise. Goddess of Flower Divination, Sakuya is about as old as the Scarlet Witch in terms of development, and is fairly vital as an alternative ride. She shares Amaterasu's continuous skill, gaining +4000 power when you have four or more cards in hand, which means that all four main OraThin vanguards now go for over 21000 power with Milk, and all of them except Tsukuyomi can plow right through crossrides. Sakuya's second skill is to return all OraThin rearguards to the hand when ridden, allowing the field to be freely rearranged as an open field, and for the reuse of skills. Now, this is the vital point; LuLu's skill can be resolved before Sakuya's. That means that you'll not only have gained a two-card advantage from LuLu's superior call from the soul and her draw, but you'll also have moved 10000 shield into your hand for defensive purposes. While any future CoCo rides will miss out on +3000 power due to Sakuya being in the soul after this, you can still get off CoCo's counterblast for two additional cards, giving this build equal but still much more controlled drawing when compared to Tsukuyomi.

Overall the Witch build is an excellent new direction for OraThin. While it doesn't have the same defensive power as Tsukuyomi, it does give the same overall access to the cards in the deck, along with much-needed offensive options to keep the clan current for the pro scene. It's easy to see how this deck has performed so well in Japan, and while key cards like Dark Cat and Sakuya won't be available to the EN game until January, it should leave the scene well prepared for February. CoCo is much more aggressive than Tsukuyomi, so it will not be so easy to simply jump from one build to another. Rather, find which one suits your style best, and pursue that one alone rather than try to hybridize the builds.

Six pros use this deck.