Sunday, January 12, 2014

News: Almeida Stewart Becomes 2013 World Champion, Nova Grappler and Shadow Paladin Fighters Take Japanese Championship

Stewart, fourth from the left, stands alongside his fellow competitors as well as Morishima Shuuta and Mimori Suzuko in Tokyo Dome City's Prism Hall, Japan. Original photo by Cardfight!! Vanguard USA.
Fourteen hours ago the 2013 Cardfight!! Vanguard World Championships closed with Almeida Stewart of Luxembourg taking the world title. As the first European world champion and successor to Brandon Smith, Stewart is the next inheritor of a growing international history surrounding the game. While for the European national championships Stewart played a Gold Paladin deck using Garmore and Liberator Gancelot, for the world finals he switched to a Dauntless DOTE deck running eight draw triggers, based on the The End deck he had qualified with at the regional level in the Belgium qualifiers. For rising up as the strongest cardfighter of 2013, Stewart was awarded the title of "Grand Champion" and 2013's crystal trophy.

Original photo by Cardfight!! Vanguard USA.
On-site reports state that out of nine competitors in the tournament, seven used Narukami Eradicator decks, while North American national champion Albert Lee played a Beast Deity Nova Grappler build. Stewart's decision to move to Dauntless for the finals left him in the minority and he reportedly hesitated to go ahead with the deck for Worlds, but the deck choice proved prudent as it allowed him to control the pace of his fights by forcing his opponents to play The End's mind games. The Dauntless deck is notorious for making opponents decide between either allowing its break ridden The End to hit and stand with a persona blast that recoups the loss in advantage brought on by break ride, or dealing with Dauntless restanding the vanguard even when DOTE's attack does not hit and go in for a second strike that can also lead into a persona blast to bring the previous scenario back into play. Faced with this situation, the general consensus among professional fighters is that the only right choice is to declare "no guard" against the first attack and direct all defenses toward blocking the second, but this requires playing specifically to be at 3 or less damage by that point and is not always a option in its own right when faced with early aggression.

Almeida Stewart, Albert Lee, Adwin Leong and Kevin Lang. Original photo by Cardfight!! Vanguard USA.

At the same time, since the release of BT11 Dauntless has received some praise for revising the DOTE build to both be more effective and require more thought to bring out that effectiveness, as the deck's plethora of support options from both old staples like Berserk Dragon and Heatnail Salamander as well as newer cards like Corduory and Kersey have demanded more work in the deckbuilding process and careful play in determining which of the opponent's cards are most important to control with the fighter's limited counterblast. With overlapping support from the Seal Dragons and consistent ways to remove the rearguards, Dauntless has proved to be one of the most effective and challenging decks in 2013. The Dauntless DOTE deck's major contender within the format, the Eradicator build, has been contrasted as being much more of an autopilot deck that takes much of the direct decision making out of its cardfighters' hands. After plaguing Japanese play for the past year, the Eradicators finally debuted in English-language competition for the first time in the world finals, bringing with them a powerful engine for field control and card destruction.

While BT10's break ride cards have been hyped across the board as some of the most decisive tools of the new format, most Eradicator cardfighters have eschewed their Vowing Sword break ride in favor of running an Eradicator deck that uses both Gauntlet Buster Dragon and Dragonic Descendant. Gauntlet Buster, whose limit break increases his power and critical every time an opponent's rearguard is retired, is commonly played as the deck's midgame to destroy the opponent's cards using his counterblast skill, then build up extra critical that demands perfect defense cards to be repeatedly played across two or more turns. With Zuitan to unflip damage to further support Buster, as well as lesser rearguards like Chou-ou that can retire an opponent's rearguard by putting one of the Eradicator fighter's into the soul and then recoup the loss with Rising Phoenix's soulblast-to-draw skill, the subclan's gameplan has proved overwhelming by continuously pushing the opponent's advantage down while the Narukami fighter's has stayed static. Meanwhile Dragonic Descendant has functioned as the clan's self-standing vanguard, able to limit break with a very cheap counterblast 1 and discard cost when his attack does not hit in order to swing again with an extra critical that makes his attack functionally impossible to declare no-guard against. For this reason Descendant has been limited to 2 in Japan since last May, but critics of the subclan have pointed out that with so many other powerful grade 3 options in Vowing Sword and the upcoming Vowing Saber Dragon crossbreak ride, the truly daunting issue surrounding the Eradicator deck is that each card individually could make or break a build on their own, where together they snowball into one overwhelming subclan. Even so, with Worlds 2014 likely eight to nine months away, and the upcoming releases of VGE-BT12: Binding Force of the Black Rings and VGE-BT13: Catastrophic Outbreak within that timeframe, international cardfight may never see the Eradicators rise to the same prominence they did in their home country. Current predictions are that Link Joker decks will get widespread adoption in North America, where the clan has proved exceedingly popular and Chaos Breaker Dragon has become the buzzcard of the day.

2013 has left a complicated legacy for professional cardfight, but with Europe emerging as a vanguard force in competitive play the future may see more standout names making the headlines, inspired by Stewart's success story. For the time being, decklists are expected to go up within the week. And while the world is discussing the results of WCS2013, Japan's Fighter's Climax 2013 national tournament has just concluded with the junior class national champion seizing the title with a Nova Grappler deck, according to Doctor O. While their names are not yet public, Nova Grappler was extremely prolific in the juniors' division this year and there are six probable cardfighters that could have taken first, with five of them being Beast Deity fighters using a combination of Ethics Buster Extreme and Reverse alongside their break ride, and the remaining sixth being veteran Nova Grappler fighter Nishida Sachi, who had previously been noted for his Beast Deity deck with Stern Blaukluger tech in FR2013 Kyoto, and who had recently taken a full Stern deck to second place at Osaka. Meanwhile in the open class division, a Shadow Paladin cardfighter rumored to be playing Raging Form Dragon took first place, with the runner-up playing Link Joker. In total, the representation for this year showed 4 Kagerou, 3 Genesis, 2 Shadow Paladin, 2 Link Joker, 2 Aqua Force, 1 Gold Paladin, 1 Narukami and 1 Great Nature decks in the open class finals.