Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shadow Paladin Extra Study Material: Phantom Blaster Overlord

Photo by rawritzrichii, not to be reposted elsewhere without the original photographer's express permission.
As the first crossride formally introduced to Cardfight as a whole, Phantom Blaster Overlord is the harbinger of a format defining mechanic. While it lacks the overwhelming support and rapidfire early game of The End, Overlord has repeatedly demonstrated itself as a championship-level deck that operates on equally defensive and aggressive tactics, gradually stretching out a difference between it and opposing decks until there is no outcoming remaining where the opponent can win. This despair-based play style uniquely requires commanding units, rather than playing them. Individual moves become unimportant compared to the overall state of a match, and sacrifices become dispassionate rather than agonizing.

Overlord expands on the existing base of Shadow Paladin cards, bringing with him their second critical trigger, Death Feather Eagle. Death Feather is an essential component of competitive Shadow Paladin decks, as their play style prefers critical and draw triggers before anything else. As we will see soon, Overlord maximizes Fullbau's synergy and opens up deck space for other units, and because of this synergy there is no new first vanguard for the deck. Instead we have Phantom Bringer Demon, a base 5000 grade 0 that draws special attention for not outriding. Phantom Bringer's skill is very similar to Doom Bringer Gryphon of Kagerou, although the skill is more at home here. Phantom Bringer's counterblast 1 allows him to retire two Shadow Paladin rearguards--ideally with himself being used as part of this cost--and then add Phantom Blaster Overlord from the deck to your hand, helping to guarantee your grade 3 ride, but overall it incurs a -1 with no outride to compensate and as there is only Macha to search him with, his use is even more difficult to justify for the Shadow Paladins. As Nemain is more effective for letting you look through two cards at a time without any loss in advantage, she is more practical for finding your Overlord ride.

Phantom Blaster Overlord himself is one of the Shadow Paladins' strongest vanguards. Like Blaster Dragon before him, Overlord is a base 11000 grade 3, but his 11000 is contingent only upon having no non-Shadow Paladin units on your side of the field. While this does unfortunately lock him out of using Blaster support cards from the Royal Paladin side of his subgroup, in a pure Shadow Paladin deck this effectively makes him a conditionless base 11000, which is a powerful improvement over his original form. As a crossride, his autoskill gives Overlord +2000 power in the vanguard circle if Phantom Blaster Dragon is in the soul; with Dragon being searchable by Javelin, this capitalizes on his evolving line's efficiency and provides a powerful base 13000 defense that can deny the upper half of all rearguard combinations with only 5000 shield, while also forming a 21000 power line with Charon. That 21000 won't be enough to touch his contemporaries, The End and Majesty Lord Blaster, but like Lord Blaster, Overlord has access to a base 10000 boosting unit exclusive to the Blaster subgroup.

Apocalypse Bat is a base 4000 grade 1 that when he boosts a unit with "Blaster" in its name, can soulblast 1 to give that unit +6000 additional power for a +10000 boost overall, forming a powerful 23000 line that hits base 13000, 11000 and 10000 units for all of the optimal numbers simultaneously. Since Apocalypse is a Shadow Paladin, unlike in Lord Blaster you can safely run him at two copies and only need four grade 1s with base 7000 or higher to make him practical and ensure that you won't ride him in the majority of games. Unlike Conroe and Wingal Brave, Fullbau stays in the soul no matter what, and we want to avoid soulblasting Blaster Dragon from the soul, so Overlord will generally see that soulblast come out three times in a given game for three turns of 23000 power overall. Even before the soulblast though, Overlord's crossride power puts him at 17000 with Apocalypse. This means that the soulblast should probably be restricted to use only after the opponent's crossride has come out, or otherwise that it should only begin being used the turn after Overlord is ridden.

Phantom Blaster Overlord's second autoskill has him counterblast 3 and persona blast a copy of himself from the hand when he attacks to gain +10000 power and +1 critical until the end of the turn. Most commonly this skill is mistaken as the main goal of the deck and something to be done simultaneous to Apocalypse's soulblast, but a truly effective Overlord deck will likely not persona blast in the majority of games that it plays. With Nemain being the best way to search for Overlord and her intercept as the ideal use of his 13000 base, Macha setting up rearguard lines in the midgame and Blaster Dark disrupting the opponent's strategy with his retire skill, counterblast is very heavily strained in the Overlord deck and grade 2 space is still at a premium, which means that Cursed Lancer will likely only be a single card tech in most decks. Furthermore, the Overlord that we would be persona blasting is probably better used as a rearguard, forming easy base 17-18000 lines for combating other crossrides and Lord Blaster, or a base 21000 rearguard with Apocalypse. The best way to use the persona blast is as a substitute for Apocalypse Bat's soulblast, if you have run out of blastable soul or otherwise want to hold off on it for another turn. This gets you four turns of breaking 23000 power, for a more long-term offense.

Because of his 13000 base being contingent on Blaster Dragon, all Overlord decks fundamentally play four copies of the deck's titular crossride and either three or four copies of Phantom Blaster Dragon. While grade 3 space is then locked down by Overlord, he does significantly improves a Shadow Paladin deck's open space at grade 2 because Blaster Dark can now be safely run at two copies. As the new final goal is to ride Overlord instead of Blaster Dragon, and Overlord's 11000 base is not contingent upon Dark being within the soul, Blaster Dark is now solely the means by which we gain an extra card from Fullbau, as well as free up our redraw by effectively drawing our grade 2 ride when we draw Javelin. The reason to run this at two instead of just one is to avoid having our only copy of Dark in hand after the redraw, which would negate Javelin's two strengths. Overlord maximizes Fullbau's synergy and opens up deck space for other units, and the four-Overlord/four-Dragon model puts emphasis on the grade 2 and 1 units as the main area of customization.

Of those grade 2s, BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades introduces the Knight of Nullity Masquerade, a base 9000 grade 2 that will effectively replace Rugos and Dordona in the Overlord deck. Masquerade gains +3000 power when he attacks and you have a Blaster vanguard, forming a 12000 offensive base that can go for 20000 with Charon to pressure base 10000 units, or otherwise make anticrossride 18000 power lines with even greater ease than rearguard Overlords. Since unlike in the Majesty Lord Blaster deck, the Overlord deck has every vanguard from grades 1 to 3 as a Blaster vanguard and does not make use of alternative grade 3s, Masquerade is much more viable to the Shadow Paladins and should be run at four. 

While grade 2 space is once more constrained because of Masquerade being the perfect rearguard for the deck, running Cursed Lancer in one or two copies is more viable than before when considering how many counterblasts won't be going off in every game; Blaster Dark, Blaster Dragon and Blaster Overlord are all very unlikely to happen together with the other units' skills, which leaves just Macha and Nemain as consistent uses of counterblast. So while he is not stapled to the build as Masquerade is, Lancer can free up counterblast for those three Blaster units' outlier skills.

Another aspect of Masquerade is that he makes base 6000 grade 1s viable for the crossride format, and other than Javelin for searching purposes the Shadow Paladins also have the new Nightmare Painter to take advantage of this. Painter's autoskill allows him to choose up to one Shadow Paladin from the hand when he is called and put it into the soul. This is important because it means that Overlord's continuous +2000 can be made to come out in every game, and even more than that Painter brings speed to the deck by allowing you to ride Overlord directly and soulcharge Blaster Dragon from the hand instead of waiting a turn and then riding. Since getting Blaster Dragon into the hand is much easier for the Shadow Paladins than getting Dragonic Overlord is for Kagerou, this makes Overlord both the fastest and most stable crossride in the format.

The other new grade 2 that comes with Overlord is Moonlight Witch Vaha. Vaha is a Shadow Paladin release of Maiden of Libra, a base 9000 unit that when her attack hits can counterblast 2 to draw one card. Like Blaster Dark and Overlord, this is an outlier counterblast that will not go off in every game and so can be supported by Cursed Lancer, but Vaha is largely redundant because of Nemain's role in capitalizing on both crossride defense and card drawing.

Overlord's defining advantage over other decks comes from both Nightmare Painter and Apocalypse Bat, units which together allow him to start his defense early and end the match late. Having a stable base 13000 defense and 23000 power every turn as well as Masquerade as a powerful rearguard setup lets the dragon keep playing for virtually forever, gradually narrowing the situation with each turn until there is no outcome where the dragon loses. The despair deck primarily relies on patience rather than straightforward battle, playing its key move early and sitting on it for the rest of the match.

Fourteen pros use this deck.