Tuesday, October 1, 2013

News: Platina Ezel Places First in Dallas Qualifier, Chaos Breaker Dragon Dominates Tsurumai Vanguard Championship

Over the weekend the World Championship 2013 Dallas qualifier concluded with first place cardfighter Hank Hwang bringing a Platina Ezel deck to the top 4. While most Platina decks right now opt to run 4-4 on both forms of Ezel to maximize their crossride potential, Hwang instead chose to run four copies of Great Silver Wolf Garmore and just one Incandescent Lion, making use of Kyrph's superior ride to access his Ezel tech when possible but otherwise allowing for a much more direct access to the deck while still carrying heavy endgame potential. 230 cardfighters participated in the Dallas qualifier, less than the 300+ numbers typical of other North American regionals but still ten more than in the preceding World Championship. Hwang is a veteran pro cardfighter who had previously placed twelfth in the Stand Up Challenge Cup national tournament earlier this year.

While Gold Paladin has had a strong presence in the top 4s of the ongoing WCS2013, Royal Paladin had a much stronger impact at Dallas than in previous regionals, taking half of the top 4 with Majesty Lord Blaster and a King of Knights build similar to what made such big waves in Japan's equivalent format in 2012. The Platina Ezel deck was forecasted to do well in the European championship because of Gold Paladin's established success in the previous year, particularly in the upcoming German qualifier, and in the developing French scene where the deck is humorously known as "Platilol." But in the European qualifiers that have taken place so far, alternative Gold Paladin builds have been more effective along with the usual suspects of The End and "THE BLOOD."
Hwang is on the far right. Original photo by Cardfight!! Vanguard USA.
The North American national championship has turned out with heavy favor to Gold Paladin, with Ezel decks appearing in the top 4 of every regional so far, while on a global scale Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion "THE BLOOD" has been comparatively successful in numbers. Where in Japan every national championship came out with Royal Paladin as the senior class national deck up until Pale Moon suddenly swept through the title match earlier this year, Gold Paladin and Narukami are instead the familiar tyrants to English-language play, and their success has the previous World Championship backing it. Dragonic Overlord the End remains the deck to beat when building for professional play, but it has many rivals and "THE BLOOD" is seeing heavy adoption as the new face of international competition. Part of this comes from "THE BLOOD"'s improved consistency by having effectively two copies of the same grade 3 with the benefits of crossride defense on one of them, being able to take out the opponent's field and hand simultaneously in one or two quick bursts, as well as the relative cheapness of the deck which makes it more accessible by comparison. Currently Narukami's Guld is priced at a fourth of Kagerou's Barri, $6 versus $18 because of Guld's BT09 reprint devaluing it significantly, with "THE BLOOD" at approximately half of DOTE's $30 pricetag. Narukami did not have many expectations riding on it prior to WCS2013, but its dual boss cards may together prove to be one of the most practical decks of the season.

In Japanese waters, Chaos Breaker Dragon has been drawing attention after attaining heavy proliferation at the Tsurumai VGCS. The tournament took place on September 15th and the results were published on the 16th, but flew under the radar in the English scene due to the close attention being paid to the ongoing World Championship qualifiers.

The tournament had 54 participants, an unusual low for a VGCS but nonetheless a much higher turnout than in local tournaments. The tournament format was four 20 minute rounds of Swiss draw followed by top 16 50 minute rounds, all in best of 3.

First place cardfighter Gungnir used a Raging Form Dragon deck, while second place fighter Houki used Chaos Breaker Dragon. Third place also went to a Raging Form cardfighter, and fourth to Chaos Breaker, while the remaining best 8 were all Chaos Breaker Dragon decks. This is a much higher level of adoption than was expected by the global community even accounting for the hype surrounding Chaos Beaker, with the card having gone for as high as 3000~4000 yen when entire booster boxes typically sell for 4700 yen. These prices were lampooned within Tsurumai's top 8, where Link Joker cardfighter white21 titled his deck "3500 yen." What should be kept in mind when considering these results is the much lower attendance, as Tsurumai saw only half of the regular turnout of most other Vanguard Championships. Following the Tsurumai VGCS results, Chaos Breaker's RRR single price has since stabilized at around 3000~3500 yen.

Another, less obvious factor in Chaos Breaker's success is the plurality of Japanese social circles. A standard practice within VGCS tournaments is to preregister those that will be participating, but prior to the tournament one of the preregistered participants, handle name "Haww" had to cancel because of his hospitalization. In a show of solidarity, his friends brought Link Joker decks to the tournament and named their decks in his honor. Second place fighter Houki dedicated his deck "For the Sake of Scattered haww", fifth place fighter Lot implored Haww to "lend me power!!" and sixth place fighter Akaishika ("Red Shika") wished that he would "Get well soon, Haww-san." Playing one deck because of another fighter is the norm in Japan, where clans unite cardfighters as part of a larger group. It's not uncommon to see one fighter explaining that he played a particular deck because of a Takeshi or Yamato that introduced them to it. Even so, not all of the Link Joker fighters were there on another's behalf. Fourth place finalist Shachihoko humorously named their deck "Forgive me, Amon" (「許してくれアモン」)  out of regret for dropping the Dark Irregulars clan in favor of Link Joker. Eighth place finalist Oosaki injected some comedy of his own into the tournament, calling his Chaos Breaker deck "Book of Moon."

Also of note is that one Dimension Police deck did make it into the top 16, using the newly released Dark Dimensional Robo, "Я" Daiyusha. This build played 3 copies of both Super Dimensional Robo and Dark Dimensional Robo, with 2 copies of the Daikaiser break ride rounding it out and Daimagnum as its first vanguard instead of Gouyusha; although it did make use of many new cards, Daiheart was not one of them, contrary to what one might expect of the varied grade 3 lineup.

While Raging Form Dragon has risen to being one of the dominant decks of the Japanese format alongside Dragonic Descendant and Luquier “Я,” Chaos Breaker Dragon is instead a highly anticipated card that many were expecting to do well but which still remained something of an enigma until now. Prior to his introduction, Link Joker struggled in professional play, placing highly but never quite high enough compared to its contemporaries, with Nebula Lord's recent victory at the Pitarui VGCS prior to Catastrophic Outbreak's release being their first instance of actually topping a large-scale tournament. Chaos Breaker has stirred a response by providing a hard counter to every Reverse deck in the format through his limit break, which retires rearguards when they Unlock, and his consistent ability to Lock one rearguard per turn with a single discard. The tournament finals were recorded and uploaded to YouTube, and can be viewed below.

By running him alongside Infinite Zero Dragon, Japanese Link Joker cardfighters have opened up the opportunity to start an ideal spread of 3 Locked rearguards and then maintain 2 Locks for two turns after their initial break ride, Locking units with Infinite Zero, Dusttail Unicorn and Chaos Breaker, keeping them Locked with Palladium, and retiring them when they Unlock with Chaos Breaker's soulblast while also drawing cards. Even if this golden setup is missed, Chaos Breaker alone opens up possibilities for consistent Lock options outside of break ride, where Nebula Lord Dragon was heavily reliant on Infinite Zero such that it could only maintain its massive field power bonus for a single turn. An interesting innovation of these new Chaos Breaker decks compared to Nebula Lord is that five of the six Link Joker deck from Tsurumai VGCS' top 8 ran three copies of Star-vader Mobius Breath Dragon, whose midgame on-hit Lock skill has been highly valued for both slowing down the opponent's plays and pressuring them to defend it. As a result the card has quickly become entrenched as one of Chaos Breaker's staples, despite having no real use in the rearguard. Tsurumai VGCS decklists are provided at the bottom of the article.

The VGCS tournaments are a series of unofficial tournaments organized by fans and cardshops. Unlike Bushiroad's larger official tournaments, most VGCS events are done using a best of 3, Swiss tournament model, with entry fees in the vicinity of 1000 yen per person that go toward grand prizes like booster boxes, Nintendo 3DS handhelds and other merchandise. Turnout is typically 70-80 persons, but some events see 100 or more participants, all of whom compete using pseudonyms and internet handles rather than their real names as in official events.

First Place
Deck Name: Revenger/「撃退者」
Handle Name: Gungnir/ぐんぐにーる
Grade 0
x1 Creeping Dark Goat (FV)
x1 Frontline Revenger, Claudas
x4 Grim Revenger CT
x4 Revenger, Air Raid Dragon CT
x1 Death Feather Eagle CT
x4 Healing Revenger HT
x3 Freezing Revenger DT
Grade 1
x4 Morale Revenger, Dorin
x4 Dark Revenger, Mac Lir
x3 Transience Revenger, Masquerade
x2 Revenger, Dark Bond Trumpeter
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Dark Revenger
x4 Dark Cloak Revenger, Tartu
x3 Nullity Revenger, Masquerade
Grade 3
x4 Revenger, Raging Form Dragon
x4 Illusion Revenger, Mordred Phantom

Second Place
Deck Name: For the Sake of Scattered haww/散っていったhawwのために
Handle Name: Houki/ほうき
Grade 0
x1 Star-vader, Dusttail Unicorn (FVG)
x4 Star-vader, Meteoliger CT
x3 Star-vader, Weiss Soldat CT
x4 Star-vader, Nebula Captor DT
x1 Star-vader, Scouting Felis DT
x4 Star-vader, Stellar Garage HT
Grade 1
x4 Prison Gate Star-vader, Palladium
x4 Barrier Star-vader, Promethium
x3 Demonic Bullet Star-vader, Neon
x3 Opener of the Black Door
Grade 2
x4 Unrivaled Star-vader, Radon
x4 Star-vader, Colony Maker
x3 Star-vader, Mobius Breath Dragon
Grade 3
x4 Star-vader, Infinite Zero Dragon
x4 Star-vader, Chaos Breaker Dragon