Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kagerou Extra Study Material: Blazing Flare Dragon

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
Introduced in BT02: Onslaught of Dragon Souls, the Blazing Flare line of units are like Aleph before them, a superior ride series for Kagerou. While their mechanics are not always consistent and later sets improved upon them greatly, there are still unique benefits to the ride line and their expansion on Kagerou's use of the soul can be a valuable asset.

The core units of the series are its three sealed dragons, the grade 0 Gattling Claw Dragon, grade 1 Iron Tail Dragon and grade 2 Blazing Core Dragon. Gattling Claw we discussed previously as Kagerou's counter to most FVGs; Iron Tail is Kagerou's equivalent to Knight Squire Alen, a base 7000 grade 1 that can counterblast 1 to gain +1000 power. This can be repeated additional times, and the unit is universally valuable to Kagerou in the crossride format where it forms very easy 18000 lines as an alternative to Bahr, so there's very little reason not to run these units in the first place. Blazing Core is where our attention belongs, as unlike the other units he has no use in the rearguard, but in the vanguard circle Core can counterblast 1 to move Gattling Claw and Iron Tail to the soul, uniting the sealed dragons to revive the build's focus card, Blazing Flare Dragon. This lets you ride Blazing Flare from the deck, giving some additional grade security so that you can ride even if you don't have a grade 3 in hand, and it gives you 3 extra soul which you can spend on skills. Like Aleph, the math for the superior ride breaks down to (-2 +2) a net difference of 0 but having a one-turn early twin drive means that you will have more opportunities to check for triggers during the overall game than you would otherwise.

The main flaw with this superior ride is its consistency. This type of ride was revived for later sets like BT06: Breaker of Limits and BT09: Clash of the Knights and Dragons, but in those sets it was modified so that the necessary grade 0 was a first vanguard for that clan, an advantage that Gattling Claw certainly does not have. Gattling Claw and Iron Tail at the least can be searched by Conroe, but Blazing Core demands card changing with Aermo and Gojo to be sought out reliably.

As for Blazing Flare's actual skills, his V/R autoskill gives him +3000 power whenever an opponent's rearguard is retired in the main phase. This is a very nice skill, particularly because in the rearguard it lets him go for 21000 with Bahr by letting Kagerou do what it does best, while in the vanguard the skill is actually more relevant than ever because it forms a 23000 line with Raopia, providing an alternative to jumping onto crossrides in the BT05-on format. Blazing Flare Dragon's vanguard-exclusive activate skill is to soulblast 5 to retire any of the opponent's rearguards, which is perfect for clearing out back row units that you wouldn't normally be allowed to touch, or troublesome units that the opponent would otherwise staunchly defend in direct battle like Palamedes and Silent Tom. The main issue is feeding the soul, as when that superior ride does go off Flare will have just four soul if Conroe is used as the FVG, and five with Undeux. Kimnara and additional Gattling Claw units remedy this somewhat by providing that fifth soul, but that superior ride will not always go off to begin with.

To answer this, Blazing Flare has natural partners in the Flame Edge and Vortex Dragons from our previous module. Flame Edge makes that fifth soul much easier to get as it no longer costs counterblast, while Vortex provides a good alternative ride if you miss your Blazing Flare ride, as Vortex with his main phase soulcharge will provide 2 soul for Flare to use later. Further down the line Vortex will be able to provide an alternative strategy to switch to when Flare Dragon is not viable in a particular match, but we'll have to wait until we get to damage unflipping in Kagerou to really dig into that.

While Blazing Flare Dragon's autoskill is already supported by Berserk Dragon, Kimnara and Gattling Claw, he also has support in Follower, Reas and Chain-Attack Sutherland. These are paired units like Jarran and Tejas from before, Reas being a grade 1 with 6000 power and Sutherland a grade 2 with 8000. Reas receives a special bonus from boosting Sutherland, bringing him up to 18000 power, but unlike Tejas before him Sutherland's skill is to gain +3000 power in the main phase when an opponent's rearguard is retired, bumping their line up to 21000. This is important because like Tejas, their 18000 line is still relevant post-BT05, but they also have the potential to hit base 10000 and 11000 units hard and if you pull off two retires in one turn through one of the above units or Flare himself, Sutherland with Reas will be at 24000 while Blazing Flare stands at 16000 independently, guaranteeing a 23000-power line with any unit of base 7000 or higher power.

Another way to play the deck is to integrate with Aleph. More than half of the components of both superior ride lines are in some way integral to the clan, and running the two units together gives variable options by allowing the damage zone to be reused, the opponent's units to be retired freely and for powerful rearguards to be set up by those same retire skills. This all but eliminates the issue of grade security by guaranteeing successful rides; that kind of consistency is not to be underestimated, considering what has made it to the restricted list before.

The Blazing Flare deck is valuable because it plays a strong early and midgame that hits all of the right numbers, going for 16-18000 consistently each turn, while at the endgame it can suddenly and explosively bring out 21, 23 and 26000-power lines to hit the opponent hard when they're at four and five damage over multiple turns. Pacing is a serious issue that needs to be carefully controlled, and Blazing Flare cardfighters should watch and play for their soul. The initial setup as a general rule should be to put together five soul to prepare for the endgame; if it becomes manageable, ten can become a goal but is a very lofty one and will probably only come out in specific matches. Blazing Flare Dragon's activate skill should be used with care and reserved for especially important units like Milk or Tron, not just to wantonly trigger his autoskill.

Next time that we revisit Kagerou, I will discuss the Amber Dragon cards and how to apply Shadow Paladin tactics to the Kagerou clan.