Tuesday, September 24, 2013

News: Ezel and Gancelot to Return in VG-BT14: Brilliant Strike

Early posters and web previews from Doctor O's twitter shocked the global Cardfight community today with the first look at the contents of the fourteenth main booster set, VG-BT14: Brilliant Strike (光輝迅雷 lit. Blazing Thunderclap.) The set's slogan is 「黒き呪縛を截ち切れ!金色の騎士たち!!」 "Cut through the black Lock! Golden knights!!" and its cover card is a currently-unknown new form of Ezel, Aichi's key grade 3 from the Asia Circuit arc. According to Doctor O, the set will provide strong support for the Gold Paladin, Royal Paladin, Genesis, Kagerou, Murakumo, Neo Nectar and Narukami clans. BT14 will be released in Japan on December 12th, 2013. The special conference for BT13 to be held live on September 26th through NicoNico Douga will reveal additional information regarding this latest booster set in addition to showing off cards from the recently released Catastrophic Outbreak.

The new incarnation of Ezel mixes his Red Lion and Platina armors, and is shown prominently cutting through the black rings used by the Link Joker clan to create their Lock spell. Popular speculation is that this Ezel will either be a new Gold Paladin grade 3 for Aichi, or that Ezel will return to his in-universe home army as a Royal Paladin for the Jewel Knights. This is fueled by Ezel's unique relationship to Kourin, who uses the card as the basis of her Gold Paladin deck in the manga, and who originally owned the card in the anime.

Alongside Ezel has been featured a crossbreak ride for Solitary Liberator Gancelot, and a crossbreak ride for "Sacred Regalia of Wisdom, Angelica," the cover card of VG-TD13: Successor of the Sacred Regalia, Misaki's Genesis trial deck. The crossbreak will be "Fair Goddess, Minerva" and will be illustrated by celebrated artist Tanaka Takayuki alias "Tony Taka," who has previously done work for Sega's fantasy RPG Shining franchise.

Reactions to the set's unveiling are mixed. Internationally many cardfighters were left with the impression that Ezel's storyline within the card lore was finished, and that Alfred, Garmore and now Gancelot would have taken the reigns for Aichi's key grade 3s. There have also been expectations within the community that Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark would be the key units to repel the invading force of Link Joker due to their ongoing storyline in the card lore, and Ezel's sudden appearance seems jarring to some in light of that. In Japan however, Ezel's appearance has not been as surprising, in part because of some wordplay that has been lost in the translation of BT14. Both Brilliant Strike and Ezel's previous form Blazing Lion Platina Ezel are written with the kanji 光輝 , so that in Japanese their names are Kouki Jinrai and Kouki no Shishi Platina Ezel. Ezel's appearance was thus foreshadowed by this allusion, and he is the title card of the set as Alfred was in BT10, and as Blockade Inferno was for BT11. The decision to translate 光輝 as "Brilliant" instead of "Blazing" caused this to be lost in translation.

It has been noted that despite some indications to the contrary, this does not appear to be the final set of the third season Link Joker, as the season's titular clan is not listed for BT14. It would be very uncharacteristic for a final set to not include the current antagonists, which implies that BT15 or later will be the last set of the current storyline, in keeping with Bushiroad CEO Kidani Takaaki's previous statement that Link Joker is planned to air for over a year. Finally, Doctor O stated on Twitter this evening that Megacolony would be supported in BT15, bringing with them the winning entry of the original unit card design contest "Unbeatable Mutant Abectrozeus" from last May.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

News: Glory Maelstrom Fighter Places First in World Championship 2013 Chicago Regional Qualifier, Greece and Belgium Dominated by Dragons and Paladins

Last weekend the Chicago regional qualifier came to a surprising conclusion, with Eric Hernandez taking the regional title using his aggressive Glory Maelstrom deck, and Daniel Janas' Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion "THE BLOOD" coming in second. "THE BLOOD" has been no stranger to professional play throughout this tournament season, appearing in three of the four other world qualifiers to have taken place so far, but Maelstrom is a deck with relatively low representation in English play. This was out of an attendance of 332 persons, approximately 50 more than in the previous year. In other parts of the globe the qualifier results have been similarly varied. Belgium's qualifier for the European championship saw 81 persons in attendance, and ended with Almeida Stewart's Dragonic Overlord the End in first and Soudant Dominique's "THE BLOOD" in second, both familiar stories to western players. In Greece the qualifier had a turnout of 65 cardfighters, with Avis Samaras' Garmore-Ezel Gold Paladin deck in first and Illias Joannis' Spectral Duke Dragon in second.

Following his shot at the Toronto title, reigning world champion Brandon Smith attended the Chicago regional, bringing previous regional champion Brandon Bastianelli with him, and we were able to meet the two of them in the preregistration line. In contrast to the stable format of the Challenge Cup, which saw the majority of professional cardfighters adopting DOTE and other popular decks, the 2013 World Championship has proved unpredictable with diverse top 8s from each regional and a very diminished presence of Kagerou and Royal Paladin across the world. Smith and Bastianelli were no exception to this trend, with the world champion having drawn much attention in recent weeks for running a Great Nature deck.

"I'm running the deck I promised to last year." Bastianelli was proud to bring Great Daiyusha to Chicago. He had been preparing for this day since BT04's release last December, and while he explained that Great Daiyusha did not really suit his preferred control-based play style, it was a card that he was dedicated to out of a strong bond. "It's one of those units that I don't really like what it does with its skill, but love as a card."

When Smith was asked about his thoughts on The End in this tournament, in light of the deckbuild having dominated competitive play for the last seven months, he explained that he was no longer as concerned with it. "I'm not really worried about DOTE. I think my Majesty beatstick's better." He laughed. Smith had a thorough history with the Majesty Lord deck during the Challenge Cup, but found its sacrificial play style awkward and eventually moved on to exploring other options prior to Worlds. "Our goal today is 0 DOTEs in the top 8!"

He almost got his wish. The top 8 of the tournament had only a single The End deck present, with the top 4 coming down to Glory Maelstrom, "THE BLOOD" and two Gold Paladin decks. There was an overwhelming sense of evolution running through the tournament that day. Like Soul Saver Dragon before it, The End has become a cliché in pro play, its strategies have been memorized and the build is now known inside and out by anyone trying to contend for the world title. And so the game is changing.

Smith made it through all eight elimination rounds 7-1 that day, which put him in the top 12, but he was cut from the top 8 without a chance to participate in the tournament finals because of his tiebreakers. By contrast Bastianelli was eliminated 0-2, regretting the results but admitting that he had not done his best in maintaing focus. Where their paths will go in the rest of this season is unknown, but Bastianelli has his mind set on the future, toward BT12: Binding Force of the Black Rings and the coming of Link Joker for 2014.

Currently the favorite for the North American national championship title is Toronto regional champion Sebastien LeBon, a Nova Grappler cardfighter known for his Illuminal Dragon deck. On-site viewers at other regionals have contested the relative skill of the finalists, with LeBon's strongest contenders at this time being Johnathan Luu and Daniel Sirois from Atlanta, and Robert Ewell from LeBon's own top 4 back in Toronto. With six regionals still remaining in North America, and the Hawaii and Washington qualifiers to finish this weekend, the question of who will be representing the continent in the World Championship is still open.

Monday, September 9, 2013

News: Dragonic Overlord the End and "THE BLOOD" Storm Atlanta World Championship Qualifier

The second regional qualifier in the World Championship 2013 tournament series has concluded, with first place going to Johnathan Luu and his Dragonic Overlord the End deck. Second place was taken by Daniel Sirois using Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion "THE BLOOD," with third also going to a "THE BLOOD" cardfighter Christopher Hairston, and fourth to Christian Okezie with Blazing Lion Platina Ezel. In stark contrast to the Toronto results from the previous weekend, Atlanta's top 4 is more in line with what was expected from the 2013 tournament season. Outside of the top 4, Oracle Think Tank was reportedly a popular choice, with different cardfighters bringing Tsukuyomi, CoCo and Goddess Amaterasu through the elimination rounds.

Johnathan Luu's decklist has been leaked onto the internet through an interview conducted by YouTube channel Team Limit Break. The full decklist has been reproduced in text below.

Johnathan Luu
Grade 0

x1 Lizard Soldier, Conroe (FV)
x4 Dragon Monk, Genjo HT
x3 Gatling Claw Dragon DT
x3 Dragon Dancer, Monica DT
x2 Embodiment of Armor, Tahr CT
x4 Blu-ray Dracokid CT
Grade 1
x4 Wyvern Guard, Barri
x4 Embodiment of Armor, Bahr
x2 Demonic Dragon Mage, Kimnara
x3 Dragon Monk, Gojo
x1 Flame of Hope, Aermo
Grade 2
x4 Burning Horn Dragon
x1 Bellicosity Dragon
x2 Berserk Dragon
x1 Cross Shot, Garp
x4 Dragon Knight, Nehalem
Grade 3
x4 Dragonic Overlord The End
x3 Dragonic Overlord

Although running stand triggers in DOTE decks has proven popular since the rise of Kaden Kawakami as the presiding North American national champion, Luu preferred critical triggers for a stronger early game to throw the opponent to higher damage faster, and to avoid having dead drive checks when fighting with just his center lane. Luu was mindful of the current state of competitive play, building his deck with Majesty Lord Blaster matchups in mind and preferring base 10000 grade 2 rides to deny the majority of Wingal Brave combos.

It should be noted when considering these results is that runner up Daniel Sirois was pressed for time. Conflicting reports from eyewitnesses at Atlanta state that Sirois was either disqualified during the finals for incurring too many penalties or deliberately incurred enough penalties to get disqualified so that he could leave the tournament in a timely manner.

The next tournament in the World Championship will be the first European qualifier in Brussels on September 14, followed by the third North American qualifier in Chicago on the 15th.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

News: World Championship 2013 Canadian Regional Decklists

The official English Cardfight!! Vanguard portal has been updated with deck recipe spaces for every branch of this year's world championship, and with this update has come the decklists from the weekend's WCS2013 Toronto qualifier. The qualifier's results came as a surprise following a format that had been dominated largely by Dragonic Overlord the End, as regional champion Sebastian LeBon won the tournament using a Nova Grappler deck based around Illuminal Dragon, while runner-up Kevin Perron took his position with a Narukami deck built on Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion and his crossride "THE BLOOD."

Sebastian LeBon: Beast Deities 
Grade 0
x1 Beast Deity, White Tiger (FV)
x2 Shining Lady CT
x4 Ring Girl, Clara HT
x2 Three Minutes DT
x4 Red Lightning CT
x4 The Gong DT
Grade 1
x4 Tough Boy
x4 Twin Blader
x3 Beast Deity, Scarlet Bird
x4 Beast Deity, Blank Marsh
Grade 2
x2 King of Sword
x1 Hungry Dumpty
x4 Beast Deity, Black Tortoise
x4 Beast Deity, Golden Anglet
Grade 3
x4 Beast Deity, Azure Dragon
x3 Ultra Beast Deity, Illuminal Dragon

Note that while only the top 2 decklists from Toronto are being provided, the top 4 finishers from the regional have been invited to the North American finals. The decks not represented in the deck recipes are Robert Ewell's Tri-stinger Dragon and Kevin Luu's Majesty Lord Blaster deck.

One of the differentiating features of LeBon's Illuminal deck is the use of Scarlet Bird. Many Beast Deity builds avoid the card now due to its low 6000 base that doesn't play well with a format dominated by 13000 power defense, but LeBon's deck plays toward making offensive moves throughout the entire length of a match rather than just after limit break, and Scarlet Bird's skill gives him one more way to search out one of the pieces of his main strategy without any need for counterblast. Although units like Blank Marsh and White Tiger aren't well suited to the endgame of the crossride format due to no single unit being able to break 13000 unboosted, many cardfighters have difficulty dealing with the earlier offensive plays and this helps feed to an endgame where Illuminal stands one full column after the opponent has hit 5 damage, letting it use every line to attack the opponent previously and still leave one standing to pass triggers onto. Attacking early and hard is a very simple strategy, but trying to oppose it oftentimes means surrendering the lead in card advantage for the duration of an entire game, and making that compromise can be a very risky play.

Kevon Perron: M.I.A. 
Grade 0
x1 Spark Kid Dragoon (FV)
x4 Demonic Dragon Nymph, Seiobo HT
x2 Yellow Gem Carbuncle CT
x4 Malevolent Djinn CT
x3 Mischievous Girl, Kyon-she DT
x3 Spark Edge Dragokid CT
Grade 1
x4 Red River Dragoon
x4 Wyvern Guard, Guld
x3 Photon Bomber Wyvern
x3 Rising Phoenix
Grade 2
x2 Dragonic Deathscythe
x4 Thunderstorm Dragoon
x1 Demonic Dragon Berserker, Garuda
x4 Dusty Plasma Dragon
Grade 3
x4 Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion
x4 Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion "THE BLOOD"

Meanwhile Perron's Kaiser Vermillion stands out for its grade 2 lineup, focusing toward Thunderstorm and Dusty Plasma, both cards that assist in making those 18000 lines to negate crossride defense and in other cases make unboosted swings. Unlike contemporary DKV decks which frequently feature Deathscythe as a 4-card staple of the build, Perron chose to put Deathscythe on the backburner, entrusting field control to Vermillion. His treatment of Garuda is also an interesting choice. Many DKV decks run Garuda at 3 or 4 copies, but by focusing less on Deathscythe, Perron opened up his damage zone considerably so that he would not need a heavy focus on unflipping to use his Vermillions' skills multiple times. Of his grade 1 lineup, Rising Phoenix is arguably the most important supporting framework from the deck, since it can make up for Spark Kid Dragoon's skill failing or otherwise make use of the soul for a normal +1 that helps stretch out a difference in cards between Perron and his opponent when factoring in the -2~4 incurred to them by his limit breaks while providing improved consistency through raw draw power. Our hats are off to Mr. LeBon and Mr. Perron for a lively opening to this year's world tournament.

Bushiroad has also released a full breakdown of clan representation within the tournament. Kagerou and Gold Paladin were the most popular clans, followed by Bermuda Triangle, Narukami and Oracle Think Tank, with Royal Paladin as the sixth most played. These numbers are fairly normal, and can be taken to generally correspond to the six key units of the format DOTE, Platina Ezel, Labrador, "THE BLOOD," Tsukuyomi and Majesty Lord Blaster. Below is the full table of 19 clans reproduced in text, and numbered according to the order of Bushiroad's info graphic, which is based on how highly used each clan was. The only clan complete in the English format but not represented at Toronto are the Dark Irregulars, with every other available clan finding some representation.
  1. Kagerou 11.6%
  2. Gold Paladin 11.0%
  3. Bermuda Triangle 9.7%
  4. Narukami 7.7%
  5. Oracle Think Tank 7.7%
  6. Royal Paladin 6.5%
  7. Aqua Force 5.8%
  8. Nova Grappler 5.8%
  9. Angel Feather 5.2%
  10. Dimension Police 5.2%
  11. Shadow Paladin 5.2%
  12. Great Nature 3.9%
  13. Neo Nectar 3.9%
  14. Pale Moon 2.6%
  15. Megacolony 1.9%
  16. Murakumo 1.9%
  17. Tachikaze 1.9%
  18. Spike Brothers 1.3%
  19. Granblue 0.6%
  20. Hybrid 0.6% (represents a combination of clans)

Monday, September 2, 2013

News: Nova Grappler Places First in Toronto World Championship Qualifiers, Tri-stinger Dragon Turns Heads

Note: To help better organize the community and answer questions about WCS2013, there are now help threads on the Neo Ark Cradle forums and Cardgame!!Coalition.

The World Championship 2013 regional qualifiers have begun, with the first North American qualifier in Toronto having finished yesterday evening. Regional champion Sebastien LeBon fought his way to the top using a Nova Grappler deck, currently believed to be a Beast Deity build. The victory comes as a surprise to the world of pros, as Nova Grappler has never been a strong component of high level play, and even more surprising is that no Dragonic Overlord the End decks placed in the regional. LeBon may have brought some exciting innovations to how the Grapplers are played. Runner up Kevin Perron played a Narukami deck, rumored to be a Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion "THE BLOOD" build, third place fighter Robert Ewell used an Aqua Force deck based around Tri-Stinger Dragon, and fourth went to Kevin Luu with Majesty Lord Blaster. All four cardfighters have received invitations to the North American national finals in Pasadena, California.

The presence of Tri-stinger in the regional finals instead of Glory Maelstrom has also been a surprise. The deck has been relatively underground up to this point, but those well versed in Aqua Force can attest to its strength. The main strategy of Tri-stinger builds is to use the Dragon's counterblast 2 to power up a rearguard Basil or Benedict by +3000, so that they can swing for 13000 with their initial attack, and then either (in Basil's case) swap places with Coral Assault or have Benedict stand and swing for 13000+ power again with as little as a 5000 power boost. With Tri-stinger's limit break, he unflips the 2 counterblast that he paid when he attacks in the third or more battle of the turn, allowing him to make the maneuver all over again in the next turn. This quality of making four 13000+ power attacks per turn helps Tri-stinger to contend effectively with the crossride decks that have caused so many problems for Aqua Force since their debut, quickly eating up their 5000 power shields and forcing them to drop 10000 shield per each attack by way of not having anything else to guard with. Furthermore, Tri-stinger plays a very vicious game against other limit break decks, deliberately using Astraea to make a 14000 power vanguard line that constantly baits the opponent to guard in a way that they never reach their limit break until they have no resources left to guard with.

According to on-site informants, approximately 300 people attended the Toronto regional. Reigning world champion Brandon Smith was in attendance, and lasted until the final elimination round to make it into the top 16, but took two losses spread across the tournament's third and seventh rounds from gradelock, causing him to be eliminated. As Smith will still be competing for this year's championship title in subsequent tournaments, we will not be disclosing his deck type.

Alarmingly, in the aftermath of the Toronto regional some sellers have taken to selling the WCS2013 regional promo PR/0069EN Creeping Dark Goat at four times the price of any other contemporary promo card, going as high as $18.99 for a single copy, and almost twice the price of Circle Magus, a previous world championship promo released last year. Goat is a promo card whose English-language release was met with celebration earlier this year, as the card has been called Shadow Paladin's most competitive first vanguard, both in the English and Japanese formats. Critics of the high price have pointed out that there is no real market for the pricetag, as without the Revengers in the English format Shadow Paladin is generally ranked lower than Megacolony in competitive application, and only played by hardcore fans of the clan. Consumers are discouraged from buying overpriced Goats, as that price is unlikely to go down unless CDG becomes unsellable at these artificially inflated prices.