Friday, December 5, 2014

News: ARG Chicago Top 8 & Decklists, Atlanta Championship Upcoming

Alter Reality Games has uploaded recordings of the ARG Chicaco Circuit's top 8 fights to its YouTube channel, showing off the last two of each three games played between Circuit champion Robbie Kohl and top 8 finalists Brian Mei, Antoine Michael Jackson and Christian Maldonado. Kohl has also provided us with some of the decklists gathered from the top 8, but was only able to provide Brian Mei's Great Nature deck and his own “Abyss” build. The videos of the top 8 are given below, with commentary.

In upcoming tournament news, the ARG Atlanta Circuit is imminent, coming up on this weekend on December 7th at the Georgia International Convention Center. $550 in prizes will be awarded to the top 8 as store credit, with the credit becoming cash payout if more than 40 cardfighters attend. Each participant will receive five free booster packs with their $20 entry fee, and the tournament will consist of 45 minute best-of-three rounds. Registration is at 10:00 AM and the tournament will begin at 11:00 AM, so please arrive promptly. You can find more information through the event's Facebook page.

ARG Atlanta will be followed by an Orlando tournament on January 4th. Each of the ARG Circuit events will be accompanied by its own playmat, generally handed out to the top 8 in addition to their prize credit. The ARG Circuit series is publicly endorsed by Cardfight Pro as a professional tournament system. Those who place in the tournament will be recognized by Cardfight Pro as professional cardfighters of the same caliber as those that qualify in the world championships and VGCS tournaments.

Researcher Fox, the crux of Mei's deck.
One of the most noted fighters present at Chicago was Brian Mei, whose Great Nature deck was uncharacteristic of typical top 8 tournament results. Mei's deck was assembled just two days before the Chicago Circuit, and primarily focused on Great Nature's breakride Chatnoir with its legion pair Tester Fox and Researcher Fox. His primary strategy was to use Tester Fox's skills to power up rearguard copies of Researcher Fox, then retire it in the end phase while in legion; Researcher's on-retire skill counterblasts 1 to search the deck for either half of the legion pair so that he breaks even on the retire exchange, then Tester Fox's end phase skill unflips the damage Researcher counterblasted, draws a card and then puts two cards from the drop zone onto the bottom of the deck. In this case, putting the Researcher that was retired onto the bottom of the deck ensures that the one in his hand can search for it next turn, and repeat the whole cycle from square one.

Furthermore, for every copy of Coiling Duckbill called to the field that turn Mei could layer an instance of "[AUTO]: During your end phase, when this unit is put into the drop zone from a rearguard cricle, draw a card." on Researcher Fox, essentially gaining a +1 in card advantage for every card drawn after using Researcher's counterblast. Mei ran four stand triggers in place of draws in his Great Nature deck, taking advantage of the clan's triple rare grade 2 Binoculus Tiger. Every time Binoculus attacks the vanguard he can give +4000 power to another rearguard in exchange for retiring it at the beginning of the end phase, which means that there is no penalty for repeatedly using Binoculus on Researcher Fox. With one stand trigger, it's possible for Researcher to acquire a net +12000 power boost from Binoculus and Tester Fox, making a ~28000 power column.

Mei also ran a single copy of Leo-pald “Яeverse” to round out the grade 3s; “Яeverse” can be a devastating tech card in the endgame in combination with the deck's stand triggers, as “Яeverse” can repeat his limit break any number of times per turn limited only by how many cards it can lock. Since “Яeverse” gives two rearguards +4000 power in exchange for locking one, this establishes two rearguards with the +12000 power boost described above. When break ridden this allows his fighter to attack with two rearguards columns in the range of ~29000 and ~32000 while the vanguard attacks for 21000 power, and then draw two cards at the end of the turn to not just refund the cost of riding but also gain a +1 off of it. With so many options this leaves the deck able to have simultaneously offensive and defensive turns, as seen below.

Mei had wanted to run an additional copy of Coiling Duckbill in his deck but was not able to find room for it, believing that Silver Wolf was more important for building 21000 power rearguard lanes. A 16000 power column can only reach 20000 with a single Binoculus or Tester Fox power boost on it, but a 17000 power column is able to graze its way into 21000. Hence, Silver Wolf is important for getting the deck's various 9000 power grade 2s into that territory.

Versus Kohl's Revenger deck Mei won the unseen first game, but struggled to keep pace in the second and third. One of the weaknesses of Great Nature is needing to keep its rearguards in hand until a combo is set up, and hence having poor early aggression. Kohl had the first move and this would normally put Mei in a position to be very aggressive, but because of this incentivesto keep cards in hand earlier he was unable to build on this. Initial triggers also set Mei behind significantly, forcing him to play catch-up in a damage lead, and Kohl was able to consistently retire Mei's first vanguard Gardening Mole, which prevented Mei from using his skill later on to return a card retired in the end phase to the hand.

Because Mole sends itself into the soul to do so, it typically trades field presence in order to keep the hand high for a defensive game. Its skill can be particularly dangerous in combination with the critical trigger Ruler Chameleon, whose on-retire counterblast can search the deck for a copy of itself and put it into the hand. Mole into Chameleon results in both critical triggers being put into the hand for defensive purposes, which also sets up a legion for the next turn in addition to being defensively beneficial immediately. In the first game Mei drew three cards off of Chatnoir's break ride skill and Tester's legion, and was able to search out a Chameleon with Chameleon, but not having access to Mole prevented him from converting a fifth card to his hand. Had this been the case, Mei would have been able to keep a Researcher Fox in hand rather than guard with it, to use with Tester Fox's legion skill in the next turn, which would have led to drawing another card and searching for another Fox instead of losing card advantage off of Compass Lion.

In game 3 the problems of the first game were exacerbated when Mei became gradelocked at 2, preventing him from making a comeback against Kohl's early leads. Gradelock has been a constant hazard for cardfighters since the game's beginning, but with the introduction of stride units and Harmonics Messiah in VGE-BT16: Legion of Dragons and Blades ver.E on the 19th fighters will be able to circumvent gradelock through the G Assist step.

In top 4, Kohl played against Antoine Michael Jackson's Duo deck. Kohl ended up gradelocked at 1 in the second game, followed by Jackson facing the same. However, Jackson was ultimately unable to retaliate against Kohl's Transient Masquerade field, and Judgebau ensured that Kohl had a six card lead going into Jackson's first grade 3 turn on top of the immense 2-to-4 damage difference. While Jackson attempted to delay Kohl's endgame by playing counterblast control, focusing on his rearguards and only affording him a single damage, having Dorint's unflipping skill active allowed Kohl to ignore this and his break ride entirely to go for game.

As in most of these games, Kohl effectively won with his grade 1 plays; as long as his opponents were unable to retaliate against multiple rearguard attacks early in the fight, the rest of the deck's card skills would ensure that the situation would be preserved for the remainder of the game. Blaster Dark Revenger “Abyss” continued to push Jackson down in card advantage while preemptively negating the draw power from his first vanguard by retiring it, and Judgebau threatened him with the alternative of a constant high pressure lane that demanded at least 15000 shield while the rearguards would continue to push him towards 4 damage, or with Kohl building advantage off of a Sword Breakers.

Versus Antoine, Kohl deliberately avoided giving critical triggers to his vanguard in order to prevent Jackson from break riding. Kohl was already at 4 damage by this point, and allowing Jackson's Duo break ride to go off would spell an end to the match. This allowed him to slow down the pace of the game by a turn and recover, putting his opponent at the 3 damage mark so that Phantom Blaster “Abyss” would have better chances of getting his opponent to 4 damage and ending the game before most of Jackson's skills could go off. Kohl won the round 2-1.

Game 3 of Robbie Kohl versus Christian Maldonado was already covered, but as discussed there in game 2 Kohl repeated much of his strategies he would use in 3, retiring Maldonado's first vanguard to prevent soulcharging later on, playing both aggressive attack and early defense strategies. Kohl ended his grade 2 turn at +0 to -3, taking four cards from Maldonado in a single turn. By the end of his grade 3 turn Kohl to Maldonado was at -1 to -6, an advantage difference of five cards. This went down to -7 when Maldonado was gradelocked at 2. This was a deliberate decision, but one which cost Maldonado the game, attempting to prevent Phantom Blaster “Abyss” from legioning by not going to grade 3 until it could become part of a winning play. By the end of the first game Kohl was maintaining a ten card difference in advantage, -2 to -12. In game 2 Maldonado was able to get his Yggdrasil legion set up, putting Kohl from 3 to 6 damage with a single critical trigger by gaining an added critical from his soulblast 6 legion skill, and blocking Kohl's grade 0-heavy hand from being used. In game 3 Maldonado's play was weakened by opening with Minerva and once more having his first vanguard Pray Angel retired, while Kohl chose to prioritize a brute force approach before dedicating to his restand strategy, winning 2-1.

Kohl's opponents did not play around the fact that his rearguards were generally only worth 5000 shield. Because of Kohl's pattern of attacking with one rearguard and then attacking with the other if the first one was guarded, then following with the boosted vanguard, it was in his opponents' best interests to let the first rearguard attack hit in the case of a damage trigger check. A single damage trigger would prevent the remaining unboosted rearguard from hitting, and make Kohl's vanguard a 10000 shield for two or none to pass, but each opponent consistently guarded the first rearguard and took the second instead, missing out on the opportunity to counter Kohl's offense. In turn, his opponents did not emulate this strategy of attacking with unboosted rearguards prior to the vanguard, sometimes costing them when Kohl would damage check triggers, as in the case of Maldonado's first turn Ordain Owl in their second game.

Alter Reality Games Circuit Series Chicago, December 2014
Chicago Circuit champion: Robbie Kohl
Grade 0
x1 Judgebau Revenger (FV)
x4 Healing Revenger HT
x4 Freezing Revenger DT
x4 Grim Revenger CT
x4 Revenger, Air Raid Dragon CT
Grade 1
x4 Dark Revenger, Mac Lir
x4 Barrier Troop Revenger, Dorint
x2 Black-winged Sword Breaker
x4 Transient Revenger, Masquerade
Grade 2
x4 Blaster Dark Revenger “Abyss”
x4 Blaster Dark Revenger
x3 Revenger of Nullity, Masquerade
Grade 3
x4 Revenger, Phantom Blaster “Abyss”
x4 Illusionary Revenger, Mordred Phantom

Top 8: Brian Mei
Grade 0
x1 Gardening Mole (FV)
x4 Dictionary Goat HT
x4 Eraser Alpaca ST
x4 Triangle Cobra CT
x4 Holder Hedgehog CT
Grade 1
x4 Cable Sheep
x4 Silver Wolf
x3 Coiling Duckbill
x3 Tank Mouse
Grade 2
x4 Illusion Scientist, Researcher Fox
x4 Binoculus Tiger
x2 Compass Lion
x1 Lamp Camel
Grade 3
x4 Magic Scientist, Tester Fox
x3 Honorary Professor, Chatnoir
x1 School Punisher, Leo-pald “Яeverse”