Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nova Grappler Extra Study Material: Stern Blaukluger

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
One of the main curiosities behind Nova Grappler from BT01 to BT03 is that despite being Cardfight's stand-based clan, they had no way to reliably stand their vanguard. Mr. Invincible's megablast receives honorable mention for working hard toward it, but without reliable soulcharging his megablast was very difficult in its time even with multiple Invincibles on the field. Enter the Blau series, an evolving line of units that answers this strategic gap with a reliable, repeatable skill that never quite loses its impact regardless of what point in the game or what format you're in.

The core cards for the Blau series are by and large lifted from the Shadow Paladin evolutions, but with Nova Grappler-specific modifications made to them. The subgroup's first vanguard, Blaujunger, automatically adds the deck's grade 2 Blaukluger to the hand when ridden over with the grade 1 Blaupanzer; and Blaupanzer gains +2000 power in the vanguard circle from having Blaujunger in the soul. As with Blaster Javelin and Charon, between Blaupanzer and Tough Boy that makes for a strong opening defense and offense, as you now have eight types of units in the deck that will form an 8000 power vanguard as opposed to the typical four.

Blaupanzer can also search for the grade 3 Stern Blaukluger when called to the rearguard, by discarding another Nova Grappler grade 3. This means that you can run as few as two Stern Blaukluger and still consistently ride him, although maxing out at four is optimal for this subgroup because it does not rely on any particular alternative grade 3 as the Shadow Paladins do. The main flaw with Blaujunger is that there is no compensation for missing his evolution. While up until BT06: Breaker of Limits Blaujunger was the default FVG for any build of the clan not relying on the Raizer series, these days it's more common to see other, more consistent first vanguards run in Blaujunger's place. Beast Deity, White Tiger is one such option, as he makes for a consistent boosting unit that can make a 16000 line with the clan's intended vanguard as well as a number of base 11000 Grappler rearguards, but the Beast Deity strategy isn't particularly coherent with the Blau series and this should be treated as a temporary holdover at best until Extra Booster 4.

Like the rest of the cards in this subgroup, Blaukluger borrows from the Shadow Paladins, being a base 9000 grade 2 that gains +1000 power in the vanguard circle when the grade 1 Blaupanzer is in the soul. His unique skill is to unflip a damage when his attack hits, albeit only in the vanguard circle, and while this lacks the pressure of an on-ride retire or of Megacolony's take on the evolution, it combos well with Genocide Jack and other counterblast-intensive rearguards. His main use is giving +1000 power to a vanguard Stern Blaukluger, making a defensively strong base 11000 unit that also forms 16-18000 lines easily.

Stern himself is where the cards become interesting. When his attack hits, Stern can counterblast 2 and drop two Nova Grapplers from the hand to stand both himself and his boosting unit, then lose twin drive. This gives (-2 +1) a -1 overall, but the important point is that because Stern will retain any trigger effects placed on him between battles, he can snowball quickly and deal as much as four damage in one turn with just one critical trigger. The potential is there for him to deal up to six damage in one turn, and Stern can do this from any point in the midgame onward--as long as there's two counterblast open and two cards in hand, the grade 3 Blaukluger is a serious threat. With the plethora of unflipping units that the Nova Grapplers have access to, getting two counterblast is by no means a difficult task.

In terms of support units, Dancing Wolf from the previous module is a standout booster for Stern. Wolf standing will form a 21000 line, and as the power of boosting units is added continuously, one stand trigger can throw their line up to 26000 power. This effectively turns one trigger into two, meaning that versus a Blau series deck that runs stand triggers and has Wolf for support, the opponent will have to guard for two triggers every turn that they want to stop Stern. Even without those however, should Stern drive check a critical trigger and bring out his self-standing skill, his line will again be at 26000 and critical 2, ready to deal a grand total of four damage in that turn.

Just as the Shadow Paladins have DonnerSchlag, the Nova Grapplers have Eisenkugel; a grade 2, base 10000 unit that gains +2000 power when attacking and loses 5000 power if the vanguard isn't Blaukluger or Stern Blaukluger. This is a little more playable for the Nova Grapplers because the Blau series isn't as reliant on alternative grade 3s as the Shadow Paladins are, but not by a very far margin. Having a base 5000 grade 2 vanguard is arguably worse than being gradelocked, as the opponent can lay down their hand much more freely and roll right over your defenses. To make a better case for Kugel, he can form very easy 18000 lines versus crossrides and a 20000 line with Tough Boy for defensively weaker units like Alfred, and grade 2 space is more flexible in the Blau deck, which leaves room for one or two copies of him to be run in relative safety.

The naming scheme of the Blau series comes from German; Blaujunger was probably intended as "Blue Youth," Blaupanzer "Blue Armor," Blaukluger "Blue Clever," Stern Blaukluger "Blue Clever Star" and Eisenkugel "Iron Ball." Japanese media is somewhat preoccupied with the German language just as American media is French, and the Blau series as a whole could be taking influence from Super Robot Wars in that respect, where units like Alteisen ("Scrap Iron") and Weissritter ("White Knight") crop up.

Overall the Blau cards are nothing if not consistent. Being able to ride Stern Blaukluger in very nearly every game, and have access to a third drive check from a unit that can hit the power of two triggers with just one provides a healthy basic strategy that later releases will expand on. With units like Clay-doll Mechanic and Storm from both past and upcoming modules to support the deck, Stern Blaukluger is something of a timeless card that never quite falls away from the pro scene.

Six pros use this deck.