Saturday, January 5, 2013

Subgroups and Subgroup Support

Subgroups as a mechanic have been around since the first trial decks, and were codified as early as BT03. However, they did not take their modern shape until BT05. In general, subgroups rely on the vanguard having a specific block of text in its name, and target particular units in the subgroup for skills. In this way, subgroups can transcend clan limitations to form viable mixed decks. Tsukuyomi is an early example of the mechanic, using "six or more" text for soul-based units, just as CoCo would succeed her with "do not have any cards in your soul" in 2012. It is generally accepted that the first modern subgroup is the Blaster series as it was completed in BT05, although this was contemporary to the development of other series. While TD01, BT01 and BT04 all had elements that contributed toward a Blaster deck, they lacked the now-definitive rearguards that gain power from having a subgroup-specified vanguard. Without these rearguards, a play style will be just that; a highly developed strategy, but not a true subgroup as became prominent in post-crossride formats.

The difference between a subgroup card and a subgroup support card is that support cards are not strictly necessary for the deck, but instead exist as outliers that make it stronger. These units specify a general characteristic like "Blaster" being in the name, or "six or more soul" while the actual subgroup cards will specify unit names like "Blaster Blade" or "Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi" instead of listing a generic element of the card. There is some room for interpretation here, since some cards that would normally be considered subgroup cards are grandfathered into subgroup support because they predate modern wordings, and vice versa. Below is a list of examples of subgroup and subgroup support units, using the Blaster subgroup as the base for showing what this mechanic looks like.
Examples of Subgroup Support Cards
Wingal Brave
Knight of Friendship, Kay
Apocalypse Bat
Knight of Loyalty, Bedivere
Knight of the Void, Masquerade
Starcall Trumpeter
Examples of Subgroup Cards
Blaster Javelin
Blaster Blade
Blaster Dark
Demon World Castle, DonnerSchlag
Blaster Keroro
Blaster Keroro Dark
Solitary Knight, Gancelot
Phantom Blaster Dragon
Majesty Lord Blaster
Phantom Blaster Overlord
Blaster Blade Burst
Sometimes, subgroups overlap. For example, Phantom Blaster Overlord is able to receive support from both Blaster cards like Wingal Brave and Knight of the Void Masquerade, and from Overlord cards like Flame of Promise Aermo and Burning Horn Dragon.

With all this support, this question surrounding subgroups is, "How do we run subgroup support cards?" Japan has had the better part of two years to develop, playtest with and codify subgroup decks, and using the example above, the model below has become the standardized framework.
Grade 0
x1 Wingal Brave
Grade 1
x4 Knight of Friendship, Kay
Grade 2
x1 Knight of Loyalty, Bedivere
Grade 3
x1 Solitary Knight, Gancelot
While it's important to continue innovating and finding new ways to integrate these cards, this is the model currently in vogue. The first thing to notice regarding the model is that it can be easily adapted to other subgroups, as seen when applied to a BT09-based Amaterasu deck;
Grade 0
x1 Supple Bamboo Princess, Kaguya
Grade 1
x4 Battle Maiden, Sayorihime
Grade 2
x1 Battle Deity, Susanoo
Of course, there are key differences. Kaguya is in no way a perfect equivalent to Wingal Brave, nor is there a Gancelot for Amaterasu. Not every subgroup will play like every other subgroup, nor does every subgroup have access to both a Kay and Bedivere, so the canon of support cards requires adjusting from clan to clan. However, this is a good starting point for those just trying out subgroups for the first time, and as a stable, time-proven framework it can be a springboard for stabilizing one's own take on a particular deck.

The crossing of clan boundaries means that occasionally, some units from one clan can fill the gaps in another. For example, the framework can be adjusted to a Shadow Paladin-based Blaster deck;
Grade 0
x1 Fullbau
Grade 1
x4 Knight of Friendship, Kay
Grade 2
x1 Knight of the Void, Masquerade
In this example, Kay fills in for the Shadow Paladin's lack of an equivalent unit. Because Kay only specifies a vanguard with "Blaster" in its name, not a Royal Paladin with "Blaster" in its name, Kay can be safely integrated by himself without making a strong impact on the deck's consistency, synergy or the rate at which it activates triggers. Likewise, Royal Paladin Blaster decks can make the somewhat riskier move of integrating Apocalypse Bat into their build, although this particular decision has not done well in the pro scene and isn't considered part of the mainstream framework. Integrating units of overlapping subgroup is then one way to improve the synergy of a deck that uses multiple clans.
List of Subgroups, Chronologically
Blaster (Royal Paladin - Shadow Paladin)
6-Soul/Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi (Oracle Think Tank)
Overlord (Shadow Paladin - Kagerou)
Machining (Megacolony)
Ezel (Gold Paladin)
Beast Deity (Nova Grappler)
Dudley (Spike Brothers)
Soulless/Scarlet Witch, CoCo (Oracle Think Tank)
Lox (Great Nature)
Amaterasu (Oracle Think Tank)
Maelstrom (Aqua Force)
Dimensional Robo/Daiyusha (Dimension Police)
Battle Sister (Oracle Think Tank)
Vermillion (Narukami - Dark Irregulars)
Liberator (Gold Paladin)
Eradicator (Narukami)