Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kagerou Extra Study Material: Dragonic Overlord The End

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
There is in the two-year history of Cardfight's professional scene, no skill more desirable than that of the self-standing vanguard. The pros love these units; Soul Saver Dragon's holy charging roar may be high game, but it lacks of the sheer versatility of extra drive checks. It speaks volumes that the 2012 world championships were a battle of who could stand their vanguard the most consistently and at the right moments. Another draw trigger, another heal, or a lingering critical triggering persisting between attacks means that there's ultimately more to be done with a self-standing vanguard than any other kind of unit. For Kagerou, this self-standing role is filled by Dragonic Overlord The End, a deck which has been embedded in Japan's professional game since January 2012 as a restraining bolt and counter deck to Majesty Lord Blaster.

The End is the most direct expansion on Kagerou's core mechanics, relying on a large base of older cards to form a cohesive strategy. There is no new first vanguard for the deck as there is for the Royal Paladin Blaster deck, but Doom Bringer Gryphon does draw some attention for being a nontrigger grade 0 that is also not a viable FVG. His skill is to counterblast 1 to retire two Kagerou rearguards, then search the deck for a copy of Dragonic Overlord The End and add it to your hand. The problem with this is that Gryphon does not outride from the soul when ridden over, and Doom Bringer also takes up an extra slot in the deck that could be better devoted to a grade 1 or 2 unit. While the best way to use the skill is to retire Gryphon and one other rearguard to get The End into the hand, and Gryphon can be used as a search target for Conroe to guarantee consistency, the skill comes at a -1 overall and trying to use it with Conroe means a CB2 -1 to get a card in hand that is likely going to incur a -1 of its own through riding an extra grade 3. This is clunky and hurts grade 2 security, but is the price paid for a direct search-to-hand skill.

The End himself is arguably one of the best grade 3s ever printed. A first generation crossride, when Dragonic Overlord is in the soul The End gains +2000 power continuously, forming a 13000 base vanguard that makes for an easy 21000 line with Bahr, and more important can shrug off any attack below 18000 with a single 5000 shield. This means that the threat of cards like Silent Tom and Palamedes are effectively negated, with each unit capped at 16000 and 22000 respectively, so that Tom can be stopped with one intercept and Palamedes with a single 10000 shield instead of 15000.

His vanguard-exclusive autoskill is that when The End's attack hits, he can counterblast 2 and discard a copy of himself--persona blast--to stand. Not only is this skill cheaper than the original Overlord's counterblast 3, it doesn't come with the threat of missing out on the initial twin drive, and gives a +1 overall every time that the attack lands, allowing for up to four triggers to be checked. Unlike Stern Blaukluger and Spectral Duke Dragon, the attack does not have to be directed at the vanguard, so if The End's initial attack is directed at a rearguard it gives a -1 to the opponent as well, for a two card lead. The skill is not a finishing move as it is often mistaken for, but instead a cheap early game skill like that of Eclipse, which can be repeated to wreak havoc in the early to midgame by making use of critical triggers, the effects of which persist between persona blasts. This can lead to a vast disparity in damage--as high as 2 to 5 on the turn of the persona blast--which turns the tide strongly in The End's favor. Just as the Flame of Hope Aermo once performed search functions for Goku by discarding checked grade 3s, in this deck he can do the opposite by discard non-grade 3 drive checks to search for extra copies of The End. The timing of The End's persona blast allows for Aermo's skill to be activated first, so if a second copy of The End is drawn at the last moment then it can still be persona blasted.

The card is not perfect, and there are serious weaknesses to the crossride. Unlike Phantom Blaster Overlord, The End does not have a Nightmare Painter to selectively soulcharge Dragonic Overlord with, so it can be slow to set up and it's possible to actually miss the initial crossride, but here at least The End does have an 11000 base to fall back on. The persona blast itself relies on drawing ot checking a specific card--of which there are effectively only three in the deck due to the first being dedicated to the vanguard circle--which will not always take place, and unlike with Stern Blaukluger this skill does not stand the vanguard's booster. This means that if no triggers are checked and The End is stood, even a base 10000 unit can simply drop one trigger on The End to block the next attack for two triggers. Since it is an on-hit skill, a perfect defense card can still stop The End dead in his tracks where Duke Dragon would not be deterred by it. And up until the release of EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1 counterblast is a very strained resource of Kagerou, so The End will have to carefully divide that resource with Berserk Dragon, Conroe and the original Overlord. Unlike Majesty Lord Blaster, The End's skill comes with no guarantees; control of whether or not the attack hits is placed in the opponent's hands, the 13000 base can be permanently missed, no triggers are guaranteed by the tetradrive, and with no boosting unit to assist in the second attack it becomes easy to defend without those triggers. Attempting to save the booster for the second attack will see the opponent drop 10000 shield on the first one and shrug off The End entirely, denying initial damage in the first place. So while the card definitely has more potential, perfect games are much more difficult to play than in Lord Blaster.

Just as the Blaster series comes with Apocalypse Bat, The End comes with his own custom booster, the Flame of Promise Aermo. Aermo's reborn form is more situational than before; he's a base 4000 grade 1 that when he boosts a unit with "Overlord" in its name, can soulblast 1 for +6000 additional power, bringing a total 10000 power boost for a 23000-power vanguard line. This does have cross support into the original Overlord, forming a 21-26000 power line on the turn before and making easy 21000-power rearguards, but because Conroe never returns to the soul the boost is more limited than comparable ones for the Blaster deck. This incarnation of Aermo is limited to two soulblasts barring any additional soulcharging from Flame Edge Dragon, which means that it needs to be rationed carefully. As another Conroe search target, Aermo is definitely a card that can be run as a single copy, and against base 11000 and under vanguards he can go just above the 16000 baseline with The End's autoskill without actually relying on the soulblast initially.

To compensate for the lack of speed and to keep its rearguard lines relevant in the crossride format, The End brings Burning Horn Dragon with him. This is a Kagerou take on Bedivere, gaining +3000 power when he attacks and there is an "Overlord" vanguard, allowing for a base 20000 line with Bahr to pressure units like CoCo or Alfred, or otherwise allowing for base 6000 units to be run in the deck while still forming consistent base 18000 lines. Note that Burning Horn can be a serious liability as well as an asset; he's more difficult to defend than Nehalem and opposing The End decks may well see fit to direct their 19-21000 vanguard line at Burning Horn, forcing you to drop 20000 shield to account for even one trigger, or otherwise risk losing Horn and coping with extra drive checks going at your vanguard after that.

Unlike in the Japanese scene, the English environment has been receiving The End antidecks in its sets since May of 2012, with Garmore, Kaiser Vermillion, Dragonic Lawkeeper, CoCo, Luquier and Dark Lord of Abyss all emerging with skills that strongly orient them against crossride decks. Additionally, knowledge of how to defeat a crossride has become widespread in the English scene, giving both amateurs and established cardfighters an advantage in foresight that Japan never had. Because of these factors, The End may never be as viable for the English professional scene as he was for Japan. The deck is still worth examining for those who are truly dedicated to it, but its value as a go-to competitive deck is not concretely established on our side of the water.

Sixty-one pros use this deck.