Monday, January 5, 2015

Today's Card Analysis: Blue Storm Marine General and Soldier, Despina and Rascal Sweeper

The Japanese cards of the day are a pair of support cards for the Maelstrom subclan, Marine General Despina and Soldier Rascal Sweeper. Rather than being blanket support for the Blue Storm subclan as a whole these cards specifically require a Maelstrom vanguard, providing new life for the Aqua Force clan's original boss card. The commons come as part of G-BT02: Flying Flowers, and some have interpreted their debut as indicating a revival legion for Maelstrom. While the set's space for a revival has already been taken up by Dragonic Kaiser Crimson, a new Maelstrom card altogether may be anticipated.

For the time being, Maelstrom cardfighters have the support unit previously released in VGE-BT16 and the Japanese run of BT17, Mako Shark Soldier of the Blue Storm Fleet (previously known as Shortfin Mako Soldier of Blue Storm Armada.) Mako Shark's skill allows any of your own limit break 4 abilities to activate irregardless of damage, in some cases allowing for faster setup than a legion deck because of being live on the third turn of the game. The primary Maelstrom vanguards are thus Blue Storm Supreme Dragon Maelstrom and his Link Joker-tainted crossride Blue Storm Karma Dragon Maelstrom “Яeverse.” Glory Maelstrom, while an effective finishing move at endgame, is a limit break 5 that cannot benefit from Mako Shark. Do not mistake this lack of synergy for a lack of viability; when used properly with the cards introduced today, Glory Maelstrom can make it impossible for the opponent to guard from their hand.

Blue Storm Marine General, Despina
AUTO (Rearguard circle) When this unit boosts a vanguard with "Maelstrom" in its card name, if it is the fourth battle of that turn or greater, during that battle, your opponent cannot call grade 0 cards from their hand to the guardian circle, and during the end phase of that battle, return this unit to your deck, and shuffle that deck.

Despina is how this strategy comes together. In exchange for returning her to the deck at the end of the battle, Despina can make it impossible for the opponent to call grade 0s from their hand when defending a Maelstrom vanguard. In order to achieve this you have to reach fourth battle conditions, which coincides with the original Maelstrom and “Яeverse's” requirements for their own skills to activate. Another trade-off to the skill is that both Maelstrom units get +5000 power with their limit breaks, but with Despina's boost this only makes a 20000-power lane, and most vanguards of the current format have defensive bodies of 11000 power. Since the opponent is forced the guard with grade 1 and 2 cards, without a perfect defense card or quintet wall in hand this still requires three 5000-shield units to create a two-to-pass defense, but still falls short of Maelstrom's maximum potential. Maelstrom “Яeverse” answers the problem with his passive defensive bonus from having Supreme Maelstrom in the soul, making a 22000-power lane on par with most legion vanguards. Thus for the first time, Despina has made crossride “Яeverse” a viable contender against its breakride competitor. As stated before, this also makes a strong endgame with the 2012 crossride Blue Storm Supreme Dragon Glory Maelstrom. When Glory Maelstrom attacks a vanguard, his ultimate break counterblast 1 gives him +5000 power and prevents the opponent from guarding with grade 1 and greater cards, most notably among those perfect defense cards. Although this was generally underwhelming in the time of BT09: Clash of Knights and Dragons, when you form a crossridden offense that cannot be guarded with trigger units or perfect defense cards, it is possible to reach the point where the opponent has as high as a seven card hand and still cannot drop even one card to protect against the attack. A cautious opponent can be anticipated to use that seven card hand much earlier to avoid ever reaching this point. Since this means surrendering either Maelstrom or “Яeverse” Maelstrom's skills for the rest of the game in order to dedicate to Glory Maelstrom, and going to a level of damage that is just a brush away from death, it requires careful monitoring of the opponent's hand and drop zone. If you don't play this monitoring game while on the original and “Яeverse” Maelstroms, you won't be able to bring the opponent to the crucial 5 damage line to make that dedication viable. Glory Maelstrom has no innate second critical, and if the opponent turtles on early defense to stay at the 3 to 4 damage mark, it can cause your final turn push to fall apart. As for the drop zone, you don't want to crossride Glory only for a sixth damage heal to leave you unprepared to close the match out. The actual gameplay of Glory is not what needs to be focused on when strategizing for the deck, but getting the opponent into a situation in which they will be vulnerable to that ultimate break turn.

The second card of the day is Blue Storm Soldier Rascal Sweeper, whose skill is a variation on that of Banding Jewel Knight Miranda from BT14: Brilliant Strike. Like Miranda, Sweeper is an 11000-power attacker exclusive to Maelstrom, but the difference between them is that Miranda came with a secondary on-hit skill attached that could power up a rearguard by +3000 power; in place of this Rascal's secondary skill activates at the end of the battle that he attacked. If that battle was the first of the turn and you have a Maelstrom vanguard, Sweeper's skill allows you to exchange his position with that of a rearguard behind him. (Note that the skill cannot activate if there are no other rearguards in his column, so you cannot use this just to prevent any frontrow units from being exposed.) Rascal is effectively an improved Storm Rider Basil, with his +2000 power bonus allowing him to hit base 11000 vanguards, and because the power boost will trigger regardless of the number of battles you can also use him just as an attacker if position changing is unnecessary.

Blue Storm Marine Soldier, Rascal Sweeper
AUTO (Rearguard circle) When this unit attacks, if you have a vanguard with "Maelstrom" in its card name, this unit gets Power +2000 until end of that battle.
AUTO (Rearguard circle) At the end of the battle that this unit attacked a vanguard, if you have a vanguard with "Maelstrom" in its card name, and if it is the first battle of that turn, choose another of your rear-guards in the same column as this unit, and exchange positions with this unit. (The state of the card does not change)

The primary way to make use of this is in conjunction with either another copy of Rascal Sweeper, or Marine General Gregorios, who can act as a 12000-power attacker for any Blue Storm vanguard. Since all of the current Maelstrom units are also Blue Storm units with subclan overlap, Gregorios synergizes strongly with them. By leading with Sweeper, then using his first battle skill to move Gregorios up front and attack with him, then attack with a third rearguard column (Marine General Ianis would be a good choice; if his attack hits the vanguard during the third or greater battle of the turn, you can then draw a card) you can set up Maelstrom and “Яeverse's” fourth battle skills. Maelstrom automatically gains +5000 power, and if its attack hits the vanguard can counterblast 1 to draw a card and retire one of the opponent's rearguards. Maelstrom “Яeverse” instead has to pay the counterblast 1 up front, as well as rest and lock a standing rearguard (what would have been Ianis' booster in our example). In exchange, “Яeverse” gets both the +5000 power boost and an additional critical to give the opponent an incentive to guard, then if its attack does not hit “Яeverse” is able to use the same draw and retire effect. Along with Spyros and Wheel Assault, Sweeper makes it easier to set up these extensive combo skills. With Mako Shark quickening the window of activation for the Maelstroms, the Blue Storm Dragon becomes a devastating early game option while the Karma Dragon both provides a stable crossride defense to sit on and wears the opponent down in the mid to late game. Glory Maelstrom is most suited for after “Яeverse” and his rearguards have pushed the opponent to five damage, as when his ultimate break is used with Despina it guarantees that the opponent can only survive by intercepting (for one-to-pass without especial intercepts) or by checking a heal trigger.