Thursday, February 28, 2013

Study Guide: Neo Nectar

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.

Neo Nectar has gained a reputation as the go-to budget clan of Cardfight's pro scene, being extremely competitive but with their rarities stopping at RR. Based out of the nation of Zoo, the clan's bioroids are responsible for most of Cray's food production, and is overseen by Zoo's nature deities. Their play style reflects this agrarian focus. Neo Nectar's primary characteristic is "seeding" units across the field by "planting" another in the deck or drop zone; you give up one card to turn it into two.

Effectively the secret clan of BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades, they were an unexpected addition that was kept quiet until very near to release. One of the unfortunate consequences of this is that Neo Nectar cannot modify its triggers out of the box, as the clan's basic four heal, four draw, four critical, four stand triggers are all just barely squeezed into the set. This can be somewhat restraining, but as with the BT04-era Shadow Paladins, when deckbuilding for Neo Nectar one should build to capitalize on this variety as a strength rather than a weakness.

The clan's first vanguard from BT05 is also one of their most successful, Shield Seed Squire. Like Wingal Brave this is a base 5000 FVG that outrides from the soul when ridden over with a unit of the same clan, but Shield Seed is based on his potential as an attacker rather than a booster. When Shield Seed's attack hits the vanguard, you can plant him on top of your deck to search your deck for the grade 1 Blade Seed Squire, and then call that unit at rest. While being at rest means that you won't be able to utilize your new Blade Seed right away, this is an important skill because it preserves the +1 that you got from Shield Seed's outride, and it gives it to you in the more preservable form of Blade Seed and his higher 7000 base, which is immune to Gattling Claw or Saishin tactics. Shield Seed's skill encourages early game attacks to get a damage lead, and it is also one way to capitalize on Watering Elf, the deck's stand trigger; if your superior call of Blade Seed is to the front row, then you can apply the stand that you checked to him to get three attacks out of the first turn, putting pressure on the opponent. While this does leave Blade Seed exposed for the opponent's attack, this also lets you use him a distraction since their focus will be momentarily shifted to eliminating a rearguard when you already have a damage lead, mitigating their chance to even that damage out. Furthermore, since Shield Seed is shuffled back into the deck in this way, you've effectively replaced the 5000 shield in the deck that a copy of Blade Seed provides with the 10000 of Shield Seed, so if you draw Shield Seed you'll then have 5000 more shield than the opponent can usually expect in a given game. The early game aggression, stable field and surprise defense that Shield Seed affords makes him one of the best first vanguards of all time.

Blade Seed Squire has his own skill. When his attack hits the vanguard, you can plant Blade Seed into the deck just as you did for Shield Seed, to superior call the grade 2 Knight of Verdure, Gene at rest. This isn't as amazing as Shield Seed's skill, especially since you're likely to have a grade 2 vanguard when you try to attack with Blade Seed, but if you did get that stand trigger from before you'll have a base 9000 grade 2 with intercept out on the field while still at grade 1. As with the Shield to Blade transition, Verdure comes with 2000 power more than the unit you changed him out for, and he provides a defensive boost. More importantly, Verdure has a take of his own on this type of gardening skill, planting himself when his attack hits the vanguard to superior call the grade 3 Knight of Harvest Gene at rest.

Offensive and defensively, Harvest is not the improvement that the previously calls were, with no shield and just 10000 power, but his on-hit is how you finally sow what you began at the start of the game with Shield Seed. When Harvest's attack hits, he can return to the deck to superior call two copies of Verdure at rest. This means that you've gained 5000 shield over just having the first Verdure on the field, a new attacker, and a +1 for a total +2, all starting with humble little Shield Seed. The problem with these skills is that it's cumbersome to make Blade Seed's go off once you hit grade 2 or later, and each unit takes up a fair amount of deckspace even running them at the minimum 1-2-1 (reading from grades 1 up to 3.) They also restrict what you can call since, while the skills do not explicitly demand open rearguard circles to call to, doing so is the only real way to maintain your increases in advantage. The minimum described previously also runs the risk of the damage check, as damage checking any of these units endangers the strategy, but running more than that means potentially missing out on copies of Neo Nectar's other important units. One effective way to handle this is to only run Shield Seed and Blade Seed Squires without either of the two Genes, guaranteeing a consistent +1 per game and 7000 power booster to better set up your field.

In terms of grade 1s other than Blade Seed, Caramel Popcorn and Lily Knight of the Valley both stand out. Popcorn is a base 7000 unit that can counterblast 1 in the main phase to gain +1000 power, a Neo Nectar Oasis Girl. Popcorn's skill is essential because it can form 18000 power rearguard lines easily for wailing on crossrides, and repeating her skill can make a 20-21000 power vanguard line, which can become a key point of aggression toward the end of a game. Even though Neo Nectar lacks the ability to unflip damage easily, the deck is very low on counterblast, with only four or so units in the basic deck having access to the mechanic. That leaves a lot of room for Popcorn.

Lily Knight meanwhile is a base 6000 unit that gives an additional +4000 power when he boosts an Iris Knight. Unlike other Wingals, Lily Knight's boost target is actually the clan's base 10000 grade 2, which makes for a very versatile setup. As with Blaster Dark and Doranbau, even a single copy of Lily Knight can see occasional use as a temporary remedy against grade 2 gradelock, and in the rearguard additional copies will make for an easy base 20000 setup to wreck havoc on Alfred and company, while also being valuable for facing down crossrides like The End and Blaster Overlord. While base 6000 grade 1s are normally difficult to recommend in crossride dominant formats, for Neo Nectar they are a little more practical because of the supporting grade 3, Frontline Valkyrie Laurel; Laurel is the original Gigantech Charger, a base 10000 grade 3 that gains +2000 power when she attacks a vanguard. This means that with even a base 6000 power booster, you'll have an 18000 power line, as well as a unit that can form 20000 power lines with Corolla Dragon. Base 20000 is very easy for Neo Nectar to come by, and is arguably one of the defining characteristics of their basic deck.

Of their grade 2s, Hey Yo Pineapple and Glass Beads Dragon stand out the most. Hey Yo is a base 8000 unit that gains +3000 power when he attacks if you have four or more Neo Nectar vanguards and rearguards, counting himself. This goes hand in hand with the clan's theme of spreading rearguards out frequently and early, the skill only actually requires two other rearguards to be called, and without actually being a base 11000 unit Hey Yo still forms anticrossride lines easily. Blade Seed is his natural, nearly-free partner, tying back to the Shield Seed strategy. Glass Beads is the basic Maiden of Libra that we've been seeing since BT01, able to counterblast 2 when his attack hits to draw one card for a +1 overall. Glass' impact is dampened somewhat by coming out in the very set in which crossrides are introduced, but there are ways to cope with this; making the most of the enforced stand triggers, Watering Elf can move to the soul to give +3000 power to one Neo Nectar rearguard, in our case Glass to make a base 12000 unit that will easily break 18000 and pay you back the card that you just gave up to empower him. More pointedly, Glass is excellent for pressuring the opponent's rearguards, as there are none that currently breach 11000 base power, so you can build a -1 to the opponent and +1 to yourself with Glass while using the other lines to hit crossride units.

All the units that we've discussed thus far bring us to the clan's primary grade 3, Maiden of Trailing Rose. Rose is a base 11000 unit in any circle, which is key to the BT05-on format. And when her attack hits a vanguard, Rose can counterblast 1 and persona blast a copy of herself to look at up to five cards from the top of the deck and call up to two Neo Nectar among them. That's (-1 +2) for a +1 overall, but this assumes that your rearguard circles are empty. While her full potential will not be realized until BT08, the skill as it is now is good mainly for its sheer utility at any point in the game. If you haven't been able to set up a strong field and the opponent has a damage lead as a result, you can persona blast to fill those empty circles and counterattack without committing anything to the field from your hand, possibly taking the lead in the process. Because the skill doesn't require empty rearguard circles however, it still holds a use beyond the early game if you're willing to take the -1. The most straightforward way to use that is to call an entire new column, but you can also do with just replacing the front row. Stand triggers are favored here, since you could attack with all of your rearguard lines first to make the opponent use up their hand defending their rearguards, then persona blast with Trailing Rose on the third attack to call two new units to the front row. Any stand triggers that you check go to the boosting units then, because the power that was applied to them can then be boosted onto the units superior called through the persona blast. This makes it even more unfortunate that triggers cannot be customized for Neo Nectar on-release, as six to eight stand triggers would actually favor their play style. Of course, you can try to attack with the rearguards unboosted and then bring out the persona blast to make use of the still-standing boosting units, but these initial attacks will be greatly weakened.

One of Trailing Rose's more interesting characteristics is that depending on the opponent, she can draw a heavy defense from the onset of the game rather than behaving as described above. Only needing a single counterblast to work with helps her case immensely, as the opponent is constantly threatened by the possibility of Valkyrie Laurel, Hey Yo Pineapple or Iris Knight coming out from the deck. Defending every turn like this wears the opponent out more quickly, which makes Trailing Rose's persona blast all the more threatening. The result is that the opponent's plays are paralyzed; they can choose not to defend and give you additional attacks to work with, or they can defend and quickly lose their stamina to Neo Nectar's heavy field presence.

Next time that we revisit this clan, I will discuss the additions from BT08: Blue Storm Armada, the upgrades to Trailing Rose and the new Arboros strategy that the set will introduce.

Seven pros use this clan.