Monday, January 19, 2015

News: Thing Saver and “The X” May See Restriction, Calamity Tower and Laurel Hit

At 3:00 AM this morning the Japanese side of Twitter blew up with the sudden leak of Bushiroad's February-on restricted list. A paper copy of the list circulated to card shops was photographed, forcing Bushiroad to immediately update the Japanese Fighter's Rules. The list, which will take effect on February 14th, restates Cat Butler's restriction from August 2014, Conroe's from February of that year, and Barcgal's from September 2011. But in addition to these, the list adds two new cards to Cardfight!!'s rogues' gallery, and suggests that more are to come. These changes to the Japanese restricted list reflect recent developments in the Japanese national tournament scene and VGCS tournaments.

The first addition to the restricted list is Calamity Tower Wyvern, one of Kagerou's supporting grade 1s. Calamity Tower is a type of card that many clans have access to, what would otherwise be an innocuous Luck Bird clone. Calamity Tower has been a staple of Kagerou decks since the Nouvelle Vague days, primarily for his draw skill. But when used in combination with the new Kagerou favorite of the day, Dragonic Overlord  “The X,” Tower has proved dangerous. His soulblast 2 helps rapidly accelerate the drop zone while building card advantage, making legion possibly at earlier stages of the game. In exchange for his low base power compared to Gojo, Calamity Tower both gives real card advantage and can be used as a booster, which snowballs with “The X's” other characteristics. On February 14th, Calamity will be restricted to two copies per deck.

The second addition is Commander Laurel, whose restriction will be delayed until March 2nd, just eleven days before the Japanese release of G-EB01: Roar of the Universe. Laurel is a unique card for Dimension Police that has historically been one of their marquee cards, but which may become problematic in light of stride. By resting four rearguards when the vanguard's attack hits, Laurel can stand it, ordinarily giving a +2 in card advantage and additional drive checks in exchange for only getting two attacks per turn instead of three. With Dimension Police receiving three new strides in Roar of the Universe, Laurel is now a suspect card because when his skill is used with the stride units' triple drive it allows for exponentially more drive checks and a +3 overall. Six drive checks in a turn is equivalent to three vanguard attacks, comparable to a break ridden Dragonic Overlord “The Яe-birth” and Thing Saver Dragon's double restand. Laurel will be the first card to be restricted to one copy per deck. Past cards Dragonic Overlord the End and Majesty Lord Blaster have been restricted to two copies in combination with other units, but never to a single copy under no other conditions.

Finally, Bushiroad has announced that their research and development staff are investigating the possibility of placing restrictions on Dragonic Overlord “The X” and Thing Saver Dragon. “The X” and Thing Saver have earned a reputation as the optimal restanding vanguards of the Japanese format, having dominated tournament results since the release dates of G-BT02: Generation Stride and BT16: Legion of Dragons & Blades. Both cards have been instrumental in the 2014 winter and summer national championships, and have been leading decks in the fan-run Vanguard Championships. The reason for the company's hesitation is likely that the actual number of “The X” cardfighters participating has been lower than past top decks, despite its continual success. At the Sakura VGCS “The X” accounted for 27% of all decks played, while at the Machida CS the top decks were Royal Paladin and Oracle Think Tank with no Kagerou fighters in sight.

Perhaps the most damning evidence against “The X” is that at the second YVGCS team tournament Kagerou held a one-quarter majority over the top eight teams (24 cardfighters), with six of the top eight having one Kagerou fighter on their team. But with Royal Paladin and Nova Grappler being played at similar levels, and bearing in mind that only last November Phantom Blaster “Abyss” was consistently covering 31~33% of all tournament entries, these are hardly conclusive numbers. While last August's Thing Saver crisis saw the Royal Paladin deck only reaching about 20~26% distribution in each individual tournament, it was only because of repeated tops in more than ten separate tournaments and in the regional qualifiers that a definitive picture of it as the dominant deck could be painted. By comparison “The X” has only been playable since December 5th, barely more than a month, and this gives relatively little data to work. From lower overall participation numbers it can be argued that “The X” is topping as a result of skilled cardfighters adopting the deck rather than as a result of “The X” being a poorly balanced card. Restricting it would thus be tantamount to restricting whatever the most skilled fighters are playing, forcing them to buy different grade 3 options--scalping the top cardfighters in the game and alienating an important part of the player base.

Notably another infamous deck, Phantom Blaster “Abyss,” is not being considered for restriction. While not long ago “Abyss” was one of the most prolific Japanese decks surpassing Thing Saver, in the past two months he has seen a considerable drop in popularity compared to his contemporaries. Unlike in the example of Seeker and Kagerou decks though, restricting Phantom Blaster “Abyss” would also leave Revenger cardfighters with no legion option outside of Ambitious Spirit Revenger Cormack, forcing them to either play at least one limit break grade 3 until G-BT03 or quit Revengers entirely. The restriction of Thing Saver and “The X” would almost certainly bring “Abyss” back to the fore by eliminating his primary competition, which brings a question into play of whether there would be more or less diversity as a result of these restrictions. Whether or not one, both or neither cards needs to be hit in order to equalize the playing field for as many clans as possible is difficult to answer.