Friday, May 22, 2015

Today's Card Analysis: Phantom Blaster Dragon

"O fate, bestow unto me even further despair!"
The Japanese card of the day is an unconventional revival of Shadow Paladin's original boss card, Phantom Blaster Dragon. While the original Phantom languished in disuse for years, this new breakride incarnation of the unit supports multiple different deck types and strategies with divergent bodies of support, giving life to cards both old and new. The Dragon of Hell's second coming is upon us.

AUTO (Limit Break 4): [Soulblast 3] When a <<Shadow Paladin>> rides this unit, you may pay the cost. If paid, choose one of your vanguards, during this turn it gets Power +10000 and "AUTO (Vanguard circle): [Choose three of your rearguards, retire them] When this unit attacks a vanguard, you may pay the cost. If paid, draw two cards, choose three cards from your damage zone and turn them face-up, during that battle, your opponent cannot call grade 1 or greater cards from hand to the guardian circle."
AUTO: [Choose one of your rearguards, retire it] When this unit is placed on the vanguard circle you may pay the cost. If paid, search your deck for up to one card with "Blaster" in its card name, reveal it to your opponent, put it into your hand and shuffle that deck.

Phantom Blaster Dragon can be used with virtually any Shadow Paladin grade 3, but because he searches for Blasters units exclusively he primarily supports the Blaster subclan. It should be noted that the soulblast 3 attached to his breakride is attached to specifically prevent synergy with the clan's mass of soul-based card advantage support, from Black-winged Swordbreaker to Darkheart Trumpeter and Aurageyser Dragon. Running Blaster Dragon means surrendering most if not all of these support cards.

The general properties of Sovereign Star Dragon's Phantom Blaster Dragon are that by blocking grade 1 and greater guardians he answers the primary problem with his past incarnations, being easily blocked by perfect defense cards and special guardians like Rubidium or Guinevere. As a trade-off he has no innate critical skill of his own and instead depends on the grade 3 that you ride to achieve that. The soulblast cost makes it exceedingly difficult to use multiple Phantom Blasters in a game, so unlike with a unit like Daikaiser or Cormack there is no real option to continually threaten an opponent at 3 damage across multiple turns. Instead Phantom Blaster is made as a genuine killing move that will end the game on the turn that he is break ridden.

Considering the Blaster units chronologically, the breakride of Phantom Blaster Dragon conflicts with trying to use his original print from BT04: Eclipse of Illusionary Shadows. Even though their set numbers and skills are different, because the cards have the same name only up to four copies of either unit in combination may be included in a deck, just like with the Dragonic Overlord breakride from Infinite Rebirth. The primary reason one would want to mix the two is to for Eclipse Phantom Blaster Dragon's additional power and critical skill, which can work well in combination with the break ride's perfect defense blocking. However, compared to using Claret Sword Dragon's generation break, the only advantages this holds are that Eclipse Blaster can be searched by Sovereign Blaster, and that the skill can be used twice for a 40000 power critical 3 lane instead of a 31000 power critical 2 lane. With a booster factored in the difference should be that Phantom requires 15000 additional shield to block over Claret Sword Dragon.

The issue of space can be somewhat alleviated with Blaster Javelin, the grade 1 from Shadow Paladin's original series of evolving cards. Javelin's on-call skill allows you to discard a grade 3 Shadow Paladin to search for a unit named Phantom Blaster Dragon, and the breakride is just as eligible for this as the BT04 print. This is the reason Blaster Javelin has jumped up from being worth 20 yen and below to almost 400 yen overnight in Japan. You can run two copies of each Phantom Blaster Dragon, using Javelin to guarantee that you get the breakride in hand, then riding it and retiring Javelin to search for the Eclipse print. The trouble with this is trying to fit Blaster Javelin into the deck, as the breakride benefits from having both Hard Fighting Knight Claudas and Pitch Black Sage Charon in his grade 1 slots.

The card that Phantom Blaster Dragon has really been designed from the ground up to support is his crossride introduced in VG-BT05: Twin Swords Awakening. Searching for any Blaster on-ride assists with getting a copy of Phantom Blaster Overlord in hand, and his on-attack skill turning three damage face-up is meant to be specifically used in combination with Overlord's counterblast 3 persona blast for +10000 power and +1 critical. The timing of both skills is flexible so that they may be resolved in either order like with Dorint and Blaster Dark Revenger, but not inside the resolution of one another. So you can either persona blast with Overlord and then retire three to countercharge the damage to have resources open next turn, or you can use the retire skill first to countercharge the damage necessary for Overlord. The latter is the more likely use of the card; while most crossbreakride decks are characterized by having a central devastating breakride turn followed by several turns with just the crossride's abilities, for Overlord the breakride turn is the final one. Overlord simply doesn't stand on his own.

If you can muster the additional soul for it, Apocalypse Bat can act as a 10000-power booster for Overlord, creating a 41000 power 2 critical center. However, provided that that one soul is Sovereign Phantom Blaster Dragon, functionally the same thing could be accomplished using Claudas as a 9000-power booster while crossridden; a 42000 power center with the same critical. The primary issue with the Overlord build is the sheer number of grade 3s it requires, as the deck has to be up to the task of pulling off a breakride, persona blasting Overlord and striding for several turns to force the opponent to the 4~5 damage range where Overlord can kill.

Pitch Black Sage Charon is an essential card for mitigating the retire costs in Phantom Blaster Dragon decks, as his skill makes him count as two units as long as a grade 3 or greater Blaster vanguard is present. Given that the deck has access to Dark Night Maiden Macha for superior calling, Pitch Black Charon would be at a maximum of three copies, and more likely two. It's easy enough to pull out Charon that he doesn't need to take up too much space on his own.

First vanguard choice is a contentious issue. Bushiroad's Research & Development staff recommended using Fullbau alongside the requisite Blaster Javelin and Blaster Dark units. However, Blaster Javelin is not useful enough on his own to justify dedicating all of the component pieces of the sequence to the deck, and Fullbau ultimately goes off just 46% of the time. Judgebau Revenger is an option since both grade 3 options are Phantom units and he provides another means for searching out Charon, and one that doesn't depend on getting to generation break to pull off Macha.

Creeping Dark Goat would be another good choice for first vanguard, as he helps avoid riding Overlord before the Dragon and goes into the soul before retire skills can usually touch him. Fullbau Brave from the Legend Deck is also an option, since his generation break both returns him to the soul and adds a Blaster unit to hand. By riding Phantom Blaster Dragon and retiring a different rearguard to search for Overlord, then immediately striding with a different grade 3, you can use Brave's counterblast to add the second copy of Overlord needed for the persona blast to hand. This does leave Brave exposed to opposing control decks' skills though, whether that's Gattling Claw, Duskblade or Dragonic Burnout. While that won't interfere with the breakride's soulblast 3 necessarily, it would obstruct multiple breakrides from taking place and interfere with numbers when trying to exploit the crossride offensively with Claudas.

The soulblast cost is the biggest obstacle to using Phantom Blaster Dragon. It directly inhibits synergy with Gust Blaster, who gains power and critical dependent on the number of Blasters in the soul; this prevents Gust from becoming a true win condition capable of sending the opponent from 0 to 6 damage easily. For those that truly want to use Gust there are ways around this, but it's an uphill battle. It requires amassing a filler soul of non-Blaster units, preferably with the draw trigger Howl Owl from the Legend Deck. The Fullbau series is generally considered a prerequisite for Gust because of the lack of grade 1 Blasters; running Blaster Javelin, Dark and Nightmare Painter at their maximum amounts in the deck along with the breakride would all but guarantee the necessary three Blasters in soul to make him a destructive threat, and the only problem remaining is getting two additional filler soul over Fullbau in. This type of strategy also necessitates Charon to reduce the cost of either Phantom or Gust, so that retire 5 can get you the full effects of each.

For Gust that's a 38000 power critical 4 center that must be blocked by 0s and can send the opponent from 2 to 6 in one attack. This last property is the only real reason to want to go through the hoops necessary for Gust, as if the opponent is already at the 4~5 damage range both Overlord and Eclipse Dragon can reach higher center lanes with less complex setup, chiefly thanks to being able to be boosted.

The natural first temptation for Revenger cardfighters--who at this point make up the majority of Shadow Paladin fighters--is to use the breakride with Revenger, Phantom Blaster “Abyss.” Like in the Gust example, both units require a retire 3 cost and that mandates using Charon to reduce the net retire to 5, but there are several factors that dissuade using the breakride with “Abyss.” The soulblast cost preemptively negates “Abyss'” strong early card advantage game, as you lose access to Swordbreaker and Trumpeter, who have been at the forefront of “Abyss'” Judgebau combos. “Abyss” also has to specifically retire Revenger units, so there need to be at least three Revengers in play and Charon must be used as the breakride's sacrifice. Moreover, the effect of "your opponent cannot call grade 1 or greater cards from hand to the guardian circle" only lasts until the end of that battle. To get the skill on the second attack you would have to hit with Judgebau on the first to superior call another Pitch Black Charon and one more unit so that you would be able to pay the breakride cost again after restanding.

However, since the opponent's grade 1 and greater guardians are blocked during that battle and “Abyss” is already attacking for 37000 power with Judgebau's boost, hitting is much easier. The opponent would have to drop ~40000 shield on the first attack for a no-pass and still have a perfect defense and discard target in hand for the second attack. At that point the act of trying to prevent “Abyss” from blocking perfect defense cards on both attacks may require dedicating so many resources that the opponent will be unable to come back from that turn. This still requires losing out on a tremendous portion of “Abyss'” support, and the combo is easily exposed to control tactics because Judgebau cannot be used until the breakride turn. Rather than ever needing to drop that amount of shield, opposing Revenger fighters can easily prevent it by retiring Judgebau with Blaster Dark Revenger “Abyss.” Ultimately using “Abyss” with Phantom Blaster Dragon is so much trouble that it's likely not worth the effort.

The final Blaster unit to consider is the breakride itself. Riding the generation rare over himself can be done as an alternative to Aurageyser to force the opponent to go to a high damage threshold where Overlord can seal the game, as while Aurageyser can attack for 36000 power unboosted and get a net +1 from retiring Charon, he can still be blocked by perfect defense card to avoid going to that threshold in the first place. The soul math for planning out a breakride over the breakride and then with Overlord is the same as for Thing Saver Dragon or The Dark Dictator; you need a minimum of 5 soul to do it because when you do your second breakride the second Phantom Blaster Dragon you rode will become soul as well. Having to ride a grade 3, retire three rearguards and then drawing two cards off of Blaster Dragon works out to a net -2 overall, which can be refunded using Macha and other counterblast units that will capitalize on his unflipping properties. Charon can reduce it to a -1. If you can't get to at least 6 soul with Howl Owl then you ultimately come 1000 power short of making a 41000+ power line with Overlord and Claudas later, which can be just enough for the opponent to guard the final turn. But using Dragon to force them to higher damage also gives you two opportunities to retire a rearguard and search for a copy of Overlord, getting both the breakride and persona blast in hand for later.

Blaster Dark “Diablo” can be break ridden over Blaster Dragon while still benefiting from Charon, but this is not especially advisable. “Diablo” has no real card effects of his own, and if you stride over him you then lose the skills given by the breakride. The main reason to use “Diablo” is to pay the cost of stride, as you can use Charon's skill to reveal a grade 3 and search for “Diablo,” then discard a non-grade 3 unit to resolve Charon and later discard the copy of Blaster Dark for stride. You can also use a Blaster Javelin exploit with this; if you start with Blaster Overlord in hand you can use Charon to search out “Diablo,” then use Javelin to discard “Diablo” and search for Blaster Dragon. When you ride Blaster Dragon you can then retire Javelin to search for a second copy of Overlord, completing the setup for the breakride and persona blast.

As for non-Blaster units, Dragruler Phantom makes a particularly strong case for himself. Dragruler differentiates himself from the other grade 3s in that he genuinely has the highest possible power threshold of any unit that can breakride over Phantom Blaster Dragon. By repeating his limit break until the opponent is at five damage--or until you are simply out of counterblast--it's possible to make Dragruler attack for up to 71000 power unboosted, 81000 power with Eloquence Revenger Glonn or Branbau Revenger. Since Dragruler ensures that the opponent is always one point away from death, attacking with him breakridden for 81000 is functionally the same as attacking with Overlord for 42000 while they are at four to five. The biggest difference is that it's possible to get a sixth damage heal out of Dragruler's attack, while if Overlord connects the opponent will usually be going to seven damage and have to get two consecutive heal triggers to survive. The problem with this setup is that it requires even more resources and setup than “Abyss;” ten Revenger rearguards to retire and three units for Blaster Dragon, and Glonn. Dragruler is much more a theoretical scenario than he is a real strategy at this time.

The final way to consider using Phantom Blaster Dragon is with the Witch subclan. Like with Dragruler this carries the downside that none of these ride targets can be searched by the breakride, but the reason to do it is for either Cultus Witch Rias or for Witch of Quests Securna. Securna's retire skill decreases the opposing vanguard's power by -5000, and Rias' on-legion skill can reduce it by up to -25000 power, which greatly exacerbates the problems with not being able to use grade 1+ guardians. However, this is extremely dependent on getting the opponent to five damage, as the Witch subclan has no additional critical vanguards. Only time will tell if G-BT03 will introduced other grade 3s that work well with Blaster Dragon, but there's a very diverse body of options available at this time.

As has been demonstrated, the major obstacles to Phantom Blaster Dragon's success are the stringent soul conditions and the necessity of keeping and using multiple grade 3s. The introduction of a Steam Breath Dragon clone to the clan in Sovereign Star Dragon may alleviate this, provided that it happens at all. Claret Sword is considered likely to receive this type of stride enabler, and it would help the Blaster deck immensely if it could co-opts the grade +2 skill to stride prior to limit break becoming active. The soulblast makes for less of a disconnect between Phantom Blaster and his original counterpart Soul Saver Dragon, as well as to Phantom Blaster and his form as the guardian dragon Thing Saver. The emptying of the soul into the drop zone also makes an elegant parallel against Majesty Lord Blaster and Religious Soul Saver's soul-squatting gameplay. But it is also the greatest obstacle to Blaster Dragon's success, and needs to be planned around carefully based on what type of deck you want to run with it. Be sure to read the card's lore at Arkadiaworks.

Today's article was made possible by the donations of our patrons at Patreon. Cardfight Pro is funded by public contributions from readers like you.