Friday, February 22, 2013

Royal Paladin Extra Study Material: Majesty Lord Blaster

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
Clans are not static. They are born, then grow and undergo constant change and revision. The units of those clans are likewise always evolving in their scope and concept. These units are characters, and their role, their loyalties and personal stories are deeply intertwined into the mechanics of Cardfight. Sometimes units will grow up and become different cards, or join another clan and suddenly bring their past support with them. Each card added to the game causes previous cards to start interacting differently. This is the premise of the Royal Paladin Blaster deck introduced by BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades, which unifies not just past units from TD01-BT04, but also two different clans into one composite strategy. The subgroup has also revised the Royal Paladin clan as a whole to the point where a static critical is considered part of their core gameplay, beyond just calling rearguards and drawing power from them.

The first thing that we should tackle is the existing support that the Blaster subgroup is reliant upon. Deck space for the Blasters is enormously constrained by a backlog of old cards that are endemic to the Royal Paladins, so from the previous modules you should pick up on Explosive Flames Palamedes, Toypugal, Margal, Gancelot and the King of Knights being retained in the Royal Paladin Blaster deck. Alfred in particular is a useful single copy because he forms a good alternative vanguard in the crossride format, and because his V/R counterblast 3 allows for many pieces of the Blaster strategy to be searched for. Blaster Blade is also retained and maxed out at four copies, as he forms the cornerstone of almost every play that the Blaster deck will make and is part of multiple activation conditions. Barcgal would be retained in the build were he not restricted, for reasons discussed below.

The first vanguard for the deck is Wingal Brave, the Royal Paladins' first true base 5000 FVG and the reason that Blaster Blade is such a critical card for the subgroup. When he boosts a Blaster unit and the attack hits, Brave can move to the soul to add one unit with Blaster in its card name to your hand from the deck. This makes grade 2 a very important point in a match for the Blaster deck, as a vanguard Blaster Blade with Wingal Brave boosting him will be difficult for opponents to rationalize guarding if their vanguard is not a base 10000 grade 2. And Margal makes even that difficult for the opponent to justify, since she throws their line up to 17000, so in most scenarios the opponent will be left to choose between dropping 15000 shield at grade 2, letting one early trigger ruin their defense and bring your strategy together, or simply not guarding and letting you get that Blaster unit in hand. This is why Gancelot is retained by the new subgroup, as he can search out Blaster Blade on the preceding turn, which makes this grade 2 scenario easy to set up as you can effectively run five copies of Blade.

With regard for what we want to search, Wingal Brave's main feature is not specifying any particular grade requirement in his search criteria, which makes one of the subgroup's Blaster grade 3s the natural target. These units are Blaster Blade Burst, Exculpate the Blaster and the titular Majesty Lord Blaster, which we'll examine in reverse order. Majesty is the deck's winning image, around which the strategy is based. Like most Royal Paladin grade 3s Majesty is a base 10000 unit, but his autoskill allows him to soulcharge a Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark on-attack for +10000 power until the end of the battle; more importantly, he also receives +2000 power and +1 critical continuously for having both of these units in the soul. This makes him easily the greatest shield that the Royal Paladins have, just under the defense of a crossride but above base 11000 units, demanding 12-17000 power lines from the opponent. Since these skills will activate simultaneously at first, Majesty will go for 22000 power and critical 2 unboosted, but with Marron or Toypugal can clear 30-31000, thereafter breaking 20-21 critical 2 each turn. The inclusion of Blaster Dark is surprising to many, but Majesty Lord Blaster is a character based around uniting a warring people and bringing conflicting ideas together for synergy. As his deck is already intended to be a mixed deck, it's natural for it to look at other Shadow Paladin additions that can be made to improve the strategy.

Apocalypse Bat is probably the first other unit that fighters take note of. Like Lionmane Stallion, Apocalypse is a base 4000 power unit that when it boosts a unit with a specific word in its name, can soulblast 1 to give +6000 additional power for a +10000 boost overall. While Lionmane focused on "Alfred" units for a stronger rearguard, Apocalypse is more vanguard oriented, soulblasting when it boosts "Blaster" units. Because it is a Shadow Paladin and has low base power, it's recommended to be run at 1-2 copies maximum, with at least 10 other boosting units in the deck of power 7000 or higher. The recommended way to run Apocalypse with Majesty is to actually not soulblast initially, as with Majesty's continuous and autoskills the first attack will go for 26000 power critical 2, and from that point on will form a 16000 power critical 2 line every turn. It's best to save the soulblast for turns when Majesty's autoskill will not be used, because we want to avoid removing Blade and Dark from the soul, so Lord Blaster with Apocalypse only gets three soulblasts per game, and thus three turns of 22000 power critical 2. The main reason to use Apocalypse instead of Toypugal is that this will pressure other Majesty decks, while Toypugal's 21000 critical 2 line could actually be stopped by a single trigger defense.

In general, the Blaster deck intends to have a unit with "Blaster" in its name as the vanguard from grade 2 onward, be that Blade or Majesty. This is something to be taken advantage of. The Blaster series has a plethora of rearguard support, primarily the grades 1 and 2 Knight of Friendship Kay and Knight of Loyalty Bedivere. Kay is a base 7000 unit that gets +3000 power when he attacks and there is a Blaster vanguard, allowing him to effectively do the job of Gallatin for greater flexibility and to score early damage. Meanwhile, Bedivere is a base 9000 grade 2 that gets +3000 power when he attacks under the same conditions for 12000 total, allowing him to go for 20-21000 with Marron or Toypugal, and to form the easy base 18000 lines that are so critical to the crossride format. Bedivere also has a Shadow Paladin equivalent, Knight of Nullity Masquerade, but there is not a whole lot of room for Bedivere by himself in the first place, so this is an unlikely inclusion.

The reason that the room is so constrained is that Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark are both necessary for Majesty's skills, which means running both at four. And even at four, Dark doesn't have a Gancelot to search him like Blade does; with Wingal Brave's skill dedicated to Majesty, that makes bringing Dark out problematic. The answer to this is Star Call Trumpeter, a base 8000 grade 2 that can counterblast 2 on-call to superior call one grade 2 or lower Blaster unit. While Brave's key feature is ignoring grade, Star Call's is ignoring clan. This allows her to be freely called to the back line to bring out Dark and his slightly higher power to the front, or even to call Dark over Trumpeter and simply retire her with no loss in advantage. Together with the two Blasters, grade 2 space is already tight, although by running less grade 3s it's possible to make room for Bedivere.

Blaster Javelin is another Shadow Paladin unit that can be considered for the deck, but only as a single copy. This is more of a rearguard modification, as it lets Wingal Brave be moved to boost the left or right lanes, and for a turn 1 activation of Brave's skill to get Majesty Lord Blaster into hand immediately. Javelin can then be safely retreated afterward to boost Palamedes, Masquerade or Bedivere, each of which he will form an 18000+ line with for fighting The End and contemporaries.

The basic Majesty build has almost no need for any draw triggers whatsoever, beyond using Margal for tactical moves, and can be run without them because it is exploding with search skills. Critical triggers are overwhelmingly favored by the deck, so much so that you can even run a single Grim Reaper from the Shadow Paladins if three types are not enough to satisfy you.

One variant on Majesty that continually pops up is using Fullbau with Javelin to search for Blaster Dark. The problem with this is that it's attempting to make use of units that the Shadow Paladins wouldn't run if they had a real choice in the matter. Much as the Royal dilemma of being forced to run Drangal with Galahad or resort to Stardust Trumpeter following Bacgal's restriction between BT03 and BT05, Fullbau-Javelin is an enforced restraint on deck space that prevents more useful grade 1s from being utilized. Even in Japan's restricted format where only one copy of Majesty can be in the same deck as Brave, Fullbau-Javelin is not necessary because of Brave's search power and because of the remaining grade 3s that we are about to describe.

As a followup to Majesty, we have Exculpate the Blaster, a promo card that will see English release with boxes of EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1. While Majesty represents Blaster Blade's power after taking up Blaster Dark's sword and bringing together light and darkness to fight the Phantom Blaster Overlord, Exculpate is a temporary transformation that shows his inner light above all else. Exculpate is unique as a base 12000 grade 3, but self-retires when called and at the end of a turn in which you ride him, moves to the soul by riding Blaster Blade from the soul or drop zone. He also requires your vanguard to be a Royal Paladin grade 3 to ride him, and he cannot attack if Blade is not in the soul. Ironically for a transformation that lore-wise took place before Blade became Majesty, what this translates to in gameplay is a one-turn finishing move after riding Lord Blaster. Analyzing the costs that we've paid up to this point, moving Dark and Blade to the soul is a -2 overall, while riding Exculpate over another grade 3 is a -1, and since we'll be left with a weak base 9000 Blaster Blade vanguard after this turn, it's critical that those losses be compensated for. Exculpate's counterblast 3 is his answer to this; an activate skill that causes him to battle all of the opponent's units at once, as an advanced take on Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion's limit break. Assuming the full field that the opponent will generally have at that point, they will be at a minimum suffering a -5 in addition to taking damage. Defending the rearguards would also be pointless--as long as you have two counterblast open, when superior riding Blade from the soul or drop zone in the end phase you can retire any rearguard on the field with Blade's autoskill.

Beyond his activate skill, Exculpate's autoskill is his other key benefit. When he attacks, Exculpate sends all cards in his soul not named "Blaster Blade" to the drop zone to gain +2000 power for each unit. This autoskill does not discriminate between clan. Considering what we did on the turn before with Majesty, Exculpate will be getting +8000/+10000 power to going for at least 20-22000 depending on whether or not your grade 2 ride was Blaster Blade, more if you used Margal. Then you can also use Apocalypse Bat's soulblast on the Blaster Blade that's left in your soul--boost takes place after attack declaration, so Exculpate's current attack must resolve before his inability to attack without a Blade in the soul will kick in--for 30-32000 overall, to the entire field. As with Kaiser Vermillion, each unit must be guarded individually, so you will have at least a one or two card lead at the end of the turn, and the opponent will likely be unable to sustain any kind of counterattack even assuming that they do survive.

Exculpate is believed to be the chief reason that the Barcgal restriction remains universal across formats. The five soul that Barcgal once lent to Soul Saver Dragon would go to Exculpate the Blaster, but with the added bonus of guaranteeing a Blaster Blade in the soul as made necessary by Exculpate's activate conditions. Instead of turning that soul into +5000 power to three rearguards, Exculpate would use it to default to 22000 power prior to boost to the entire field, in every game. This kind of power is already possible as discussed above, but it isn't the same concrete guarantee that Barcgal would give, albeit Exculpate himself would be difficult to search without access to Wingal Brave. Exactly how this works out will likely be seen in the unrestricted Total War tournament set for March 2013, a Japanese tournament that will probably decide Barcgal's ultimate fate in relation to Exculpate.

The main problem with Exculpate is that he can only go off once and exactly once in a fight. This is the only other search target that a standard Blaster deck will dedicate Wingal Brave to, so Majesty Lord Blaster can safely be run at four while Exculpate must be as just one copy.

The last of these "Blaster" vanguards is Blaster Blade Burst, a promo card that has yet to be released in the English format but is nonetheless worth examining for the future. Burst is a base 10000 grade 3 that cannot be boosted, and when he attacks a vanguard he gains +3000 power, both skills which we are familiar with from Alfred and Soul Saver Dragon. This creates a certain expectation for what the remainder of his skills will be, but unfortunately that final skill does not wholly succeed their legacy. When Burst attacks, he can perform an especial counterblast 2--a counterblast where all of the damage being flipped are Royal Paladins--to increase Blade's power by the original power of all of his front row Royal Paladin's for that battle. This is counterblast intensive to a deck that will be using Star Call, Blaster Blade and Exculpate within it, and it also contradicts the synergy that Majesty Lord Blaster promotes between Royal and Shadow Paladin cards, as there must be two Royal Paladins in the damage zone for the skill to work and two in the front row for it to be effective. However, it does have some merits. In general, this will be a total boost of 16-20000 power, for 29-33000 total with his on-attack skill, an increase which is well worth the price but unfortunately lacking in extra critical, and difficult to repeat for a clan devoid of damage unflipping at release.

Like Drangal and Brugal before him, to understand Burst you have to understand the context within which he was printed. Blaster Blade Burst was created as a response to the January 1st 2013 restricted list, which restricted Wingal Brave, Majesty Lord Blaster and the King of Knights Alfred to being run in no combinations exceeding two within the Japanese format. Burst was created to address the loss of each of these units, providing a unit that could be run in two to three copies along with one Wingal Brave and one Majesty to provide an alternative if weaker vanguard line, and to give Alfred decks an alternative vanguard as well that shared the synergy with Wingal Brave. The unit is a crutch to support the weakened Royal Paladins of a different format, not the dominating theme of an entire deck as Majesty Lord Blaster is. In spite of his weaknesses, because his skills are vanguard exclusive, Burst can at least have some synergy with Apocalypse Bat in the rearguard by forming a base 20000 line.

The Blaster subgroup is characterized by its synergy between multiple clans, strong plays at every stage of a match and consistency. It is extremely rare to not bring both Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark into the soul in a game; this means that the deck can guarantee a continuous critical and 12000 base in every match. That critical means that even though the vanguard has somewhat lower base power than contemporary units, it will draw much more attention and shield from the opponent than normal, and that it suddenly only takes three hits to win the round instead of six. This kind of consistent accelerated play is Majesty Lord Blaster's greatest asset, as while The End has the greater potential damage, Lord Blaster's will come out more consistently and is not as reliant on trigger checks.

Fifty-two pros use this deck.