Monday, April 30, 2018

Today's Card Analysis: Asura Kaiser

The Japanese card of the day for May 1st, 2018, is the first Nova Grappler grade 3 of the Standard format, a Triple Rare in V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4, and one of Katsuragi Kamui's key cards from the anime series, Asura Kaiser.
AUTO [Vanguard Circle]: When your drive check reveals a grade 2 or greater card, Stand 1 of your rearguards, and if the revealed card is grade 3 or greater, by paying [Counterblast 1], that rearguards gets Power +10000 until end of turn.
Asura Kaiser is the first grade 3 revealed to not possess the Force ability, instead possessing the Imaginary Gift "Accel." This skill is a little difference; when you ride a unit with Accel, you immediately add a Gift Marker next to your leftmost rearguard circle. That Marker becomes a new rearguard circle, and any unit in it gets 10k during your turn, but cannot be boosted because it has no corresponding backrow circle. When you next ride a unit with Accel, you get another Marker next to your rightmost rearguard circle. After that it alternates with each ride from left to right, stacking as many times as you have grade 3s with Accel.

Accel is an incredible mechanic because it's one of the only ways to get more than three attacks per turn in a format where Stand Triggers no longer exist. It's also important to the future-proofing of rearguard-dependent clans; when Link Joker eventually arrives in the Standard format, its lock ability will no longer be able to fully shut down Nova Grappler's multiple-attack strategies, because even though they can take away the rearguard circles, Novas can now create more in response to that. Accel better balances these kinds of matchups to give these decks a fighting chance.

As for his skill, it's an effective update to the classic Asura formula. Most decks can expect to run the standard 13 grade 1s, 12 grade 2s, and 8 grade 3s, which carries one of the optimal probabilities to successfully ride to grade 3 in 3 turns. (The exactly optimal build for that purpose is 13-11-9, but here it only impacts the chance of getting Asura's 10k.) This means you'll have 20 cards total in your deck capable of resolving at least one part of Asura's skill; realistically that's one grade 3 on vanguard, a grade 2 in soul, and 2~3 grade 2 or greater units removed from deck either as rearguards or in damage. That leaves around 15-16 additional cards in your deck that can resolve a part of the skill during your first turn as a grade 3, functionally doubling your chance for your drive checks to do something.

Already Kaiser is running into the same perception issue both his past self and Goku ran into back in the day--cardfighters underestimating him based on his chance to do nothing at all. What this critique misses is how the grade 3s in your deck effectively increase your trigger count to 23~24, and all of these units provide the only means of standing cards mid-battle phase. It messes with how the opponent guards Kaiser and the rearguards, because they now have to take into account not just the possibility of you checking triggers, but being able to suddenly make additional attacks with +10 or +13 on them.

Considering the following field:

You open this turn with Extra Muscular in play already, so he gains 3k when you stand your units at the beginning of your turn. Then you ride Asura Kaiser, add a Gift Marker to the left of Extra Muscular and call another Muscular, followed by your other rearguards. First you swing with your Muscular boosted by Turboraizer (14k) then with your Accelerated Muscular (22k) and then with Asura. (17k) Drive check 1: Perfect Raizer!--Asura's skill stands the Accelerated Muscular, it gains 10k, and Muscular's skill grants it +3k more. Drive check 2: Front Trigger! Your entire front row gets 10k. Now your Accelerated Muscular can attack again for 35k, and your Perfect Raizer for 10 + whatever his base power is. (Hopefully 13000.)

Some points of note.
  • The two Nova Grappler normal units we have confirmed information about both have below-average base power. 9k grade 2s are equivalent to 8ks in the old format, except that 8s could actually make basic columns with vanilla boosters. Extra Muscular and Asura Kaiser by default only make numbers versus other Nova Grappler decks, with Muscular needing his skill to proc twice for him to break the base 13 threshold necessary to hit such lofty targets as Knight of Aggregation Firno and Wyvern Strike Agaruda.
  • The lack of an additional 10k from Force is a vast difference in Accel and Protect decks, because it means you can almost never swing unboosted with your vanguard. Moreover, it requires greater field investment because if you don't max out your attacks each turn after riding to grade 3, you're just playing a weaker Force deck with fewer options.
  • Despite their lower bases, the incredible power Front Triggers bring and Asura's skill actually going off both become overwhelming quickly. The Accel circle Extra Muscular attacked for a functional 10k guard on its first swing, then demanded 25k shield on its second.
  • We really need some Nova grade 1s to be revealed so I don't have to use Turboraizers as boosters in future examples.
Asura Kaiser being the first base 12000 grade 3 of the format is a huge trade-off for what it brings to the deck. All previous grade 3s, even the vanillas, have been base 13ks. At the moment there are several ways to make 23 and 28k lanes in the game and comparatively few scenarios that make specific 22s and 27ks, but the fact that two Anils or a Start Deck Nehalem and any 8k booster make a basic column versus Asura is something that should not go overlooked when playing with or against Nova Grappler. Even the most basic cards in the game don't need to worry about forming columns versus Kaiser.

This is a pretty radical departure from how classic Nova Grappler once played. When the clan first debuted in Descent of the King of Knights, they were one of just three out of ten clans to possess an 11k grade 3, with Alfred, Amaterasu, Monster Frank, Demon Eater, and Voidmaster all being base 9~10. In Standard the clan has shifted away from its mostly consistent defensive base to an offense-oriented framework. It raises the question of why Asura specifically is a base 12--is this a trait of Accel grade 3s in general? Is it that he gives a 10k boost to anything rather than a 5k boost to a specific unit? Is it that half of his skill has no cost, only a condition?

Let's hope we can puzzle this one out by the time BT01 hits.

The previous Japanese cards of the day were Grime, Chrono Dran Z, and Blaster Blade.

V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade. V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Today's Card Analysis: Grime, Chrono Dran Z, and Blaster Blade

The Japanese cards of the day for April 30th, 2018, are three promotional cards being handed out at the 2018 Great Vanguard Festival in Japan: Grime, Chrono Dran Z, and Blaster Blade. Each card is done in the style of a full-art SP, with gold foiling on Grime and Chrono Dran.

Of the three, only Grime fits into our traditional analysis section. Rather than being new card reveals, these are respectively the final promotional cards of the G format and the first promo cards of Standard; what began seven years ago with PR/0001 Blaster Blade now ends with PR/0727 Chrono Dran Z, and begins anew from V-PR/0001 Blaster Blade.

(Technically, the promotional prints of Rananculus of Phantasmic Blue, Daybreak Scharhrot, and Battle Sister Florentine, that will be packaged in the Jaime Flowers character song CD are going to be the final final promo cards of G. But Dran is absolutely being presented at the festival as a symbolic gesture.)
AUTO: When you ride, draw a card.
Grime's skill brings with it certain questions. Thus far, we've seen no Forerunner grade 0s in Standard format--units that move out from the soul when you ride over them. In the old format, units staying in the soul but still carrying effects were generally limited to ride chain cards, with the main exceptions being Hades Ringmaster clones and World Line Dragon. Grime and Lizard Runner Undeux could just be what you get at the Common level for grade 0s, in the same way that Shizuku clones worked in the previous format, and if so then we're likely to see Forerunner First Vanguards return at the Single Rare level. But this could also be a situation akin to the G Trial Decks, where what you see is the best you'll get for some time to come. It's partially a question of how realistic it is to expect Royal Paladin and Kagerou to have exactly identical FVs as their only option to start the game off.

(Worth noting is that in the manga's continuity, which the rebooted series is based on, Aichi sticks with Grime and Kai with Undeux throughout the entire first arc.)

Having FVs stay in the soul means no longer having an easy early game booster, resulting in less aggressive first turns. If you're dropping a grade 1 on the board this early, it's probably to boost rather than attack. Otherwise, it's too easy for the opponent to simply drop a trigger and guarantee you can't hit them that turn. What unique effects the new generation of First Vanguard will have is another can of worms--perhaps Royal Paladin could call a grade 1 when you ride over it (or just copying the vanguard outright to avoid exploits) and Oracle Think Tank letting you check the top card and put it on the top or bottom of the deck before drawing. How would one translate Kagerou's mechanics to an FV of this type, though? An on-ride retire can't work at a stage of the game where the opponent has no rearguards.

These are exciting times we live in. In just 25 days V-Booster Set 01 will hit the Japanese format, and at that time, we'll know everything. Are we prepared for the new era? Can we be prepared for the new era?

The previous Japanese cards of the day were Stardrive Dragon and Crested Dragon.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Raopia, Allobrox & Lion Mane leaks

Lizard Soldier, Raopia (V-BT01/0?? R)
AUTO [Vanguard/Rearguard Circle]: When your opponent's rearguard is retired during your turn, this unit gets Power +5000 until end of turn.

From the Belgium national tournament.

Herculean Knight, Allobrox (V-BT01/044 C)
CONT [Rearguard Circle]: If you have five rearguards, this unit cannot be attacked.

Lion Mane Stallion (V-BT01/0?? C)
CONT [Rearguard]: If you have four or more rearguards, this unit gets Power +3000.

From the Mexico Springfest.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Next issue of Monthly Bushiroad to come with Star Drive deck

The June issue of Monthly Bushiroad magazine will contain a 50-card Stardrive Dragon Start Deck featuring an alternate artwork Knight of Silence Gallatin, to match the Nehalem alternate artwork Crested deck distributed last month. The June issue will go on store shelves in Japan May 5th, 2018.

The Stardrive and Crested Dragon decks consist primarily of alternate versions of cards from the upcoming V-Trial Decks. Although some of these cards are deliberately inferior versions of the TD units, with lower base powers or more costly skills, some like the titular boss cards are arguably better than their Trial Deck counterparts. Both the Start Deck and Trial Deck cards are legal for play in Standard format thanks to a special rule, even though SD cards do not have the V-series marker that normally indicates valid Standard cards.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Today's Card Analysis: Crested & Stardrive Dragons

The Japanese cards of the day for April 27th are the supporting grade 3s from V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and 02: Kai Toshiki, Stardrive Dragon and Crested Dragon. Longtime cardfighters will remember these from the Stardrive and Crested Flash Decks distributed prior to the game's actual launch in early 2011, and these cards have served much the same purpose in the rebooted Cardfight!! Vanguard as the headliners for the Start Decks distributed during the worldwide Demo Caravans. (To be held in June for the English format.) The Trial Deck versions of these cards differ significantly from their Start Deck counterparts, and both versions will be legal under the Standard rules, so which should you run?

Crested Dragon
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When it attacks a vanguard, if the number of your opponent's rearguards is 3 or less, this unit gets Power +5000 until end of battle.
Stardrive Dragon
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When it attacks a vanguard, if the number of your rearguards is 3 or greater, this unit gets Power +5000 until end of battle.
Appropriately for Royal Paladin and Kagerо̄, the new Stardrive and Crested Dragons are essentially inversions of each another's conditions, with Stardrive gaining power based on increasing your own rearguards and Crested gaining it based on reducing the opponent's. Their SD incarnations instead gained just 3k power, but those versions were active in both vanguard and rearguard circles, and both required their fighter to have three or more rearguards in play.

The 5k power bonus means that the new cards can swing for 18 alone, which meets the base requirement to force the opponent to guard with 10k shield. (13 being the normal base power for a grade 3 vanguard in Standard.) With as low as a 5k boost these cards can go for 23k and force a guard with a Critical Trigger or better, but the problem is reaching the stage after 23. 28k is the threshold at which rearguard columns become truly threatening in the Standard format, and the only way for these cards to reach that threshold is with Allen, Marron, Gojo, or Auspice Falcon. These cards each have skills capable of powering up either themselves or these attackers, bringing them in the range of 28~29k. Without these specific units, there isn't a tangible difference between the SD and TD versions of these cards, as virtually any booster will make a 23 column with the Start Deck versions.

No matter which version is your preference, they each have the Force icon, granting you another instance of a continuous +10k during your turn to a circle of your choice--for the rest of the game. That brings us to an important issue with these cards; they contradict the goals of your deck.

In the new format, the ideal play strategy is to continuously ride another grade 3 every turn from the first moment possible, gaining another instance of your clan's Imaginary Gift to further strengthen your board and force additional guard from the opponent. (Or in the case of Protect, progressing another step on the long road towards an unbreakable defense.) Playing grade 3s with a Gift to the rearguard directly contradicts the ideal flow of Standard decks. Vortex Dragon and Gigantech Charger can get away with it because these cards don't have Force, and as a trade-off are capable of a much higher maximum threshold of power than Crested or Star Drive, with Vortex getting 5k every time you use Bahr, Burj, Berserk Dragon, or Spillover, and Gigantech getting 10k on-place or when you ride.

What this means in the long run is that the Start Deck versions are preferable because these at least can make a power difference on the vanguard circle with base 7k grade 1s or with vanguard-specific boosters like Miru Biru. The Trial Deck equivalents are vanilla 13ks on vanguard, and if you were going to run them for their rearguard boost then you would find better versions of that strategy waiting in BT01. (For $0.50 and $0.25 per card, at that!)

At the end of the day, the Start Deck vs Trial Deck version debate won't have long to live. The Trial Decks hit June 8th for the English format, and we move on to BT01 format just 22 days later. By then multiple new grade 3s will have likely swept all this under the rug. But for those 22 days, it's probably best to switch these units out for their Start Deck prints.

With these two cards out of the way, we have one final set of uncertainties regarding the Trial Decks; whether or not the grade 1 perfect guards will differ from their Start Deck counterparts, and if any of the triggers will be effect triggers.

The previous Japanese card of the day was Bellicosity Dragon.

V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design. The first Booster Set of the Standard format, V-BT 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Today's Card Analysis: Bellicosity Dragon

The Japanese card of the day for April 25th, 2018, is Bellicosity Dragon. A Single Rare from V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 and one of Kai Toshiki's recurring grade 2s from the manga, veteran cardfighters will recall Bellicosity being rather infamous for his on-hit countercharge skill. Historically that version of Bellicosity contributed to the dominance of many past Kagerо̄ decks like Dragonic Overlord the End and Dragonic Nouvelle Vague.
AUTO [Vanguard/Rearguard Circles]: When your opponent's rearguard is retired during your turn, this unit gets Power +5000 until end of turn.
In the comics Bellicosity's skill was never shown directly, and this incarnation of Bellicosity is quite different form the original. Rather than a countercharge ability, he's a modern take on Chain-attack Sutherland from Booster Set 2: Onslaught of Dragon Souls. These kinds of power units have often been looked down upon over the years, as they require other cards to consistently enable them and have to be powered up again each turn. The decks that have most been able to make use of them were subclans with access to cheap forms of retire like the Eradicators or Perdition Dragons. So how can Bellicosity fit in with the new Kagerо̄'s overall image?
To get our priorities straight, Kagerо̄ has had six grade 2s revealed thus far: Dragon Knight Nehalem, Berserk Dragon, Dragon Armored Knight, Prowling Dragon Striken, Spillover Dragon, Bellicosity Dragon, and the 10k vanilla Embodiment of Shield Rahm. Of these, Nehalem and Berserk Dragon have absolute priority over all other grade 2s--these are the cheapest retires you get at grade 2 in the deck, with Berserk even having a situational draw. These are either the first 4-ofs to be considered in deckbuilding right now, or they're the first 3-ofs if you're going to run four kinds of grade 2. Bellicosity is competing against...
  • Striken - For the Dragonic Overlord critical combo
  • Dragon Armored Knight - For attacking
  • Spillover Dragon - As another cheap retire option
In terms of units that enable his skill, Bellicosity already has the aforementioned grade 2s as well as Burj and Bahr to set him off. And like Vortex Dragon, Bellicosity's power gain can also come from units being retired as a result of battle phase attacks, so you can trigger his skill by restanding with Overlord off a rearguard hit. It's conceivable that nearly everything except Bellicosity in the deck can activate his ability--we shouldn't have any trouble managing a 2-card combo consistently.

The issue is that for just a 5k increase, Dragon Armored Knight is functionally free. Bellicosity can become more powerful for a single turn off of multiple retires, but requires more investment from multiple counterblast/soulblast costs compared to simply making sure the opponent has one less rearguard than you. Meanwhile Striken rewards holding back for a turn by multiplying the damage Overlord is capable of dealing with its restand, and Spillover brings some desirable redundancy in another retire option.

Bellicosity Dragon doesn't bring any immediate reward to the Kagerо̄ deck; his function is to exacerbate a situation in which you already have the lead by draining more shield from the opponent as a reward for setting up your combos.

Vortex is arguable in the deck because there isn't a go-to second grade 3 for Kagerо̄ just yet, though that's subject to change when Dragonic Waterfall finally rears its head. But both Vortex and Bellicosity face an issue that a 5k power boost isn't what it used to be, in part because of Trigger Units now carrying 15~20k shield inherently and the basic unit of power both for Triggers and Gift Markers being 10k.

What all this means is that there isn't room for Bellicosity in a conventional grade 2 lineup with three types of grade 2 maxed out to 4. The way you make room for this beater is by taking away space from everything else:
Grade 2
x3 Dragon Knight, Nehalem
x3 Berserk Dragon 
x3 Spillover Dragon
x3 Bellicosity Dragon 
This involves a hit to the consistency of the other three units, as on average you'll only see one copy of a unit you run three of in any given game. We can afford that hit because 9 of the grade 2s serve functionally the same purpose, with that lone Bellicosity Dragon we draw taking their field control skills and turning them aggressive. It's going to take some proving to establish whether or not this really brings something better to the table over running 4 Armored Knight, Striken, or Spillover, but it's worth experimenting with and seeing what results you can bring out.

Bellicosity Dragon is designed by manga author Itou Akira and illustrated by Maekawa Yuuichi, who also illustrated the original Bellicosity Dragon in EB01: Comic Style Vol. 1.

The previous Japanese card of the day was Giro.

V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade. V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll. 

Team Q4 playmat to be included in V-BT01 cases

Duel Portal reports that each 20-box case of BT01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will come with one large rubber playmat featuring the set's cover illustration of King of Knights Alfred with the Team Q4 members. Each booster box will come packaged with three standard Gift Markers, one for each type.

Furthermore, the promotional cards that will be distributed as part of the set's campaign will be Snogal (Royal Paladin) Grapeshot Wyvern (Kagerou) Onmyoji of the Moonlit Night (Oracle Think Tank) and Extra Muscular. (Nova Grappler) For every 4 normal booster packs purchased cardfighters will receive a Special Pack containing one of these promotional cards paired with a corresponding Gift Marker of one of the Q4 members. (Sendou Aichi, Kai Toshiki, Tokura Misaki, or Katsuragi Kamui.) The Markers correspond to that character's deck, so for example the Aichi Marker will be Force while the Misaki Marker will be Protect, and the Kamui marker will be Accel.

All of this information was confirmed earlier today on the final episode of Weekly Bites Z. The first episode of the new Weekly Bites series will commence Tuesday May 1st at 9:00 PM JST.

AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When the attack it boosts hits a vanguard, by paying [Soulblast 1] return this unit to your hand.

Grapeshot Wyvern
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When placed, if the opponent's rearguard has been retired during this turn, 1 of your units gets Power +3000 until end of turn.

Onmyoji of the Moonlit Night
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When placed, by paying [Soulblast 1, discard 1], put one card from the bottom of your deck into your hand.

Extra Muscular
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When it Stands, this unit gets Power +3000 until end of turn.

Of note is that Extra Muscular will gain the 3k power boost when he stands at the beginning of the turn as well as via skills, so the card can effectively become a 15k attacker for every turn after it's first placed.

V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade. V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Today's Card Analysis: Giro

The Japanese card of the day for April 24th, 2018, is Giro. A Royal Paladin Common from V-BT01: UNITE! TEAM Q4, Giro is easy to write off for being a Normal Unit grade 0 without Forerunner--no matter what he brings to a deck, he does it by reducing your overall probability to ride to grade 3 consistently. But the card is a template of things to come, and foreshadows some interesting mechanics we have yet to see from the Standard format.
CONT [Rearguard/Guardian Circles] This unit cannot be chosen by your opponent's card effects, and cannot be attacked.
At first blush this might sound like the Resist keyword from the old format, but it's slightly different.  It's true that Resist prevented cards from being chosen for effects, and in that regard Giro can't be targeted by the likes of Berserk Dragon or Nehalem, while Vortex Dragon's effect of "retire all of your opponent's rearguards" can still blow him away because it doesn't choose anything. But Giro takes this to the next level by being a unit that can't be attacked, which has some interesting applications; supposing we were going to run this for a second, putting Giro up front would limit the opponent's attack targets. Doubling up on Giro would force a Dragonic Overlord to only attack the vanguard with its higher base power, making it easier to defend and stop the restand skill.

It's likewise interesting that Giro is unaffected on the Guardian Circle because nothing actually interacts with the Guardian Circle just yet. With Dimension Police receiving support in Extra Booster 02: Champions of the Asia Circuit, it's possible we'll see a more restrained implementation of the guard break mechanics they developed in the past. What Giro's really hinting at is that there will be skills that affect guardians in Standard--potentially more than just retiring guardians, there could be cards that decrease their shield, or switch them with other units.

Rather than Giro himself though, you should be looking for when this skill starts hitting grade 1 and 2 units.

Giro is designed by manga author Itou Akira and illustrated by Tanimeso. The two are also collaborating on Machining Stag Beetle.

The previous Japanese cards of the day were Damanance Dragon and Savage Hellfire Gabiya.

V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade. V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll.

V-EB02: Champions of the Asia Circuit card listing

To be updated as new cards are revealed.

Release dates: 07/20 (JPN) 08/31 (ENG)
MSRP: 300 yen per pack, 3600 yen per box (JPN)

Contains cards for Aqua Force, Granblue, and Dimension Police.

Contains 58 types of cards; 3 Vanguard Rare, 6 Triple Rare, 8 Double Rare, 13 Single Rare, and 28 Commons. Further features 3 Special Vanguard Rare, 3 Origin Rare, and 4 Secret Rare.

Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom (V-EB02/00?)
  • Imaginary Gift: Accel
  • Illustrated by KAZTO FURUYA; original Maelstrom was illustrated by Murayama Ryūta.
 King of Demonic Seas, Basskirk (V-EB02/00?)
  • Imaginary Gift: Protect
  • Illustrated by Maeda Hiroyuki, his illustrator from BT02: Onslaught of Dragon Souls.
Ultimate Dimensional Robo, Great Daiyūsha (V-EB02/00?)
  • Imaginary Gift: Force
  • Illustrated by Akitaka Mika, his illustrator from BT08: Blue Storm Armada.

V-TD03: Sōryū Leon card listing

To be updated as new cards are revealed.

MSRP: 1500 yen + tax (JPN)
Release Date: 07/20 (JPN) 08/31 (ENG)
Comes with paper playmat and First Guide for beginners.

Contains 14 types of cards, 53 in total; 34 Normal Units, 16 Trigger Units, and 3 Gift Markers
The Trial Deck will contain 4 Front Triggers and 4 copies of Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos.

Each deck contains 4 perfect defense cards and 4 Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos. Each display case contains six Trial Decks.

Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos (V-TD03/00?)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Trial Deck 03: Souryuu Leon and 04: Suzugamori Ren to launch July 20th, August 10th, V-BT02 for August 31st

More details on Bushiroad's Cardfight!! Vanguard product lineup for 2018 emerged from a flyer this weekend, giving us hard dates on the upcoming Aqua Force and Shadow Paladin Trial Decks, as well as the game's second booster set. TD03: Souryuu Leon will launch July 20th in Japan, and TD04: Suzugamori Ren will follow on August 10th. The still-unnamed Extra Booster 02 will launch on the same day as TD03, expanding Aqua Force, while V-Booster Set 02 will launch three weeks after its corresponding Trial Deck on August 31st. V-BT02 features support for the Shadow Paladin, Dark Irregulars, Pale Moon, and Murakumo clans.

Bushiroad has also confirmed that its first official tournaments of the Standard format will be starting up in June. For the Bushiroad Card Fight 2018 tournament series, the Osaka regional qualifier will be held June 2nd, the Sapporo qualifier on June 9th, and the Fukuoka qualifier June 30th. The Nagoya regional qualifier will follow on July 7th, and Hakata on July 28th. This means that the three clans in EB02--Aqua Force, Granblue, and Dimension Police--will be added to the format just eight days before the Hakata regional.

Today's Card Analysis: Damanance Dragon & Savage Hellfire Gabiya

The Japanese cards of the day for April 24th, 2018 are Damanance Dragon and Savage Hellfire Gabiya, a pair of Kagerо̄ commons from V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4.
Damanance Dragon
AUTO [Vanguard/Rearguard Circles]: When it attacks a vanguard, if the number of your rearguards is greater than your opponent's, this unit gets Power +5000 until end of battle.
Savage Hellfire, Gabiya
AUTO [Vanguard/Rearguard Circles]: When it attacks a vanguard, if an opponent's rearguard was retired this turn, this unit gets Power +10000 during that battle.
Both of these units are grade 1 attackers that gain power based on the Kagerо̄ deck doing Kagerо̄ things: retiring the opponent's rearguards to disrupt the opponent's field and make aggressive plays. Gabiya's condition is arguably easier to fulfill later in the game with the introduction of cheap retires from Nehalem, Berserk Dragon, and Bahr; with the latter active she makes a 28k column for one turn, then reverts to just 25 after that. Gabiya also doesn't specify "main phase" like Joka or Chain-attack Sutherland from years past, so if you retire an opponent's rearguard by attacking it with Dragonic Overlord that will also meet her condition. Both units being active on vanguard and rearguard sets them apart from the more generic attackers like Anil.

Damanance will be easier to get off in the early game rather the late, but so long as you maintain a full board and can successfully retire one unit he'll remain active. While he only swings for 13k, his higher base power makes him a more effective back row booster than Gabiya and he still makes a 23k column when boosted by Gojo. That's functionally the same cap with every booster but Bahr, as Gabiya only makes a 27 with Gojo which is functionally identical to 23k.

With Kagerо̄'s grade 1 space freed up by the introduction of Draw Trigger Sentinels, there's now an incentive to find new cards to fill up the space. What do we fill it with, though? The ideal lineup now looks like...
Grade 1
x4 Embodiment of Armor, Bahr
x4 Dragon Monk, Gojo
x3 Dragon Knight, Burj
...That leaves 2~3 more slots to fill. Pending further reveals, Damanance is the easiest to fit in that space, as he requires comparatively little commitment each turn compared to Gabiya. It is worth keeping mind that Lizard Soldier Raopia is going to feature in the set as a card of comparative importance to Pongal, and its skill is likely to push one of these two out of the deck.

On one final note, Damanance Dragon is number 065 in the set listing, while Gabiya is 067. That means Kagerо̄ will get at least one more grade 1 Common. It's not

The previous Japanese cards of the day were Sage of Literary and Military Arts Jarron, and Auspice Falcon.

V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design. The first Booster Set of the Standard format, V-BT 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today's Card Analysis: Sage of Literary and Military Arts Jarron, and Auspice Falcon

The Japanese cards of the day for April 23rd, 2019 are two of the last cards from V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi, Sage of Literary and Military Arts Jarron, and Auspice Falcon.
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: When it attacks a vanguard, if the number of your rearguards is 3 or greater, this unit gets Power +5000 until end of battle.
ACT [Rearguard Circle]: [Counterblast 1, Rest this unit] Until end of turn, 2 of your rearguards get Power +5000.
Auspice Falcon's name was leaked three weeks back in Monthly Bushiroad magazine's complete card list for the Trial Decks, but until now its effect was a mystery. Along with Burj, Auspice is one of the few base 6k units of Standard, an exceptionally low base power for a grade 1 that struggles to make basic 18k rearguard lanes. The only unit Auspice can easily do that with right now is High Dog Breeder Akane, as Auspice is a High Beast and so valid for her +3k effect.

Is the skill worth the low base power? It requires a particular field setup to make the most of, as while Auspice gives more power than it can through boosting, you'll want it behind a unit with Force to compensate for the loss. If your rearguards are already 18k and vanguard is swinging 23 with Force, then Auspice can be safely placed behind the vanguard circle to pump up those rearguards and make the board swing 23 across, or otherwise exacerbate the power of Blaster Blade-Wingal and Jarron columns. And if the new King of Knights print from Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 keeps the unboostable characteristic of the original Alfred, Auspice makes perfect sense as a unit to throw behind him.

It means spending valuable counterblast just for power though, which can be better spent on Marron, Allen, Blaster Blade and Alfred Early. Certainly we won't have any space issues if we want to include Falcon, not with Draw Trigger perfect guards around.

If you do want to run Auspice, one way to do it is by treating Allen as backup copies of Marron and Pongal purely as a search target for Akane, resulting in a grade 1 lineup looking something like this:
Grade 1
x4 Little Sage, Marron
x2 Knight Squire Allen
x2 Pongal
x3 Wingal
x2 Auspice Falcon
Marron gets maxed out by default because of how essential he is to the deck's advantage engine, and Wingal is a 3-of to try to go for a single copy for the lane you're dedicating to Blaster Blade that game.

Sage Jarron was one of Royal Paladin's key attackers in early tests of the Standard format, with the Stardrive Dragon Start Deck version of the card having a counterblast 1 on-boost cost attached for +10k. The new Jarron is a clone of Dragon Armored Knight--or perhaps we should say that Dragon Armored Knight is a clone of Jarron. Both versions are legal under the April 28th regulations, so which one should you play?

The Trial Deck print of Jarron provides only 75% the power of the Start Deck version, but doesn't demand anything of your very-limited counterblast. He also includes himself when counting the number of rearguards you have, and if used during your grade 2 turn with Blaster Blade's extra critical can make for a powerful midgame push.

On the other hand, 28k is essentially the pre-trigger power cap for non-Forced rearguards in this format, and is the magic number for forcing the opponent to guard with a Heal Trigger or 2 guardians. A 23k rearguard simply means guarding with a Critical Trigger, which is already what the opponent is most likely to drop to stop a normal 18k swing. (You also already have a 23 option in Blade-Wingal and Funnergal.) The Start Deck print is the more recommendable of the two, as most opponents will save grade 1s to call rather than guard with them, meaning you'll already be taking away a grade 0 guardian with a normal attack and can choose to take away even more by paying the CB cost. We've run across a bit of irony here, where one of the best beaters in Kagerо̄ is underwhelming in Royals simply because Royals have a higher quality alternate option available.

On a slightly frustrating note, both the Start Deck and Trial Deck only come with 3 copies of Jarron, so if you want a full playset of either you'll need to do multiple demo caravans in June-July and/or buy multiple copies of the TD. Another option would be to wait for singles to turn up on the secondary market; time will tell if Jarron becomes the offensive staple he first looked like, or if he'll be succeeded by something else.

What's left from the Trial Deck? The final prints of Stardrive Dragon, Margal, Flogal, Epona, and Runoria.

The previous Japanese cards of the day were Flash Shield Iseult and Wyvern Guard Barri.

V-Trial Deck 01: Sendou Aichi and V-TD02: Kai Toshiki will launch in Japanese May 11th, 2018, and in English June 8th, 2018. They will be accompanied by a new sleeve based on the "Imaginary Gift" design. The first Booster Set of the Standard format, V-BT 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4 will launch in Japan May 25th, 2018, and in English June 22nd, 2018. It will be accompanied by sleeves based on Dragonic Overlord and Blaster Blade.

The first Extra Booster set of Standard, V-EB01: The Destructive Roar will launch in Japan June 29th, 2018, and August 3rd for the English-speaking world. The accompanying new anime series, codenamed "Origin," will begin airing May 5th, 2018, on TV Tokyo and affiliated stations. It will be simulcast with English subtitles on YouTube and Crunchyroll.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

First Vanguard Championship of Standard format to be held June 3rd

Tournament hall Bato Loco.
The Sukacat CS, an unofficial Cardfight!! Vanguard tournament series dating back to January 2015, announced Friday it will be rebooting alongside the game itself this June. The "first" Sukacat Championship will be held June 3rd, 2018, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Tournament Center "Bato Loco" in Takadanobaba, the neighborhood that first birthed the Vanguard Championship series six years ago.

In March 2012 the first VGCS tournament ever was held just four blocks away at the neighboring Horindo bookstore, but the championship series has long since outgrown these smaller venues. The Sukacat CS will host 126 cardfighters divided into 42 3-man teams. Unlike many of the civic centers VGCS events have previously been held at, Bato Loco is an arena created specifically to host trading card tournaments, from Pokémon to Magic and Duel Masters. Cardfight!! Vanguard first made it into Bato Loco one year ago with the advent of the 3rd Kantо̄ VGCS in January 2017. It seats a maximum of 130 players at one time, making it one of the largest TCG-dedicated venues in Tokyo.

The 3rd Kantо̄ VGCS finals, streamed from Bato Loco January 2017.
Although some tournaments up to now have permitted the use of V-series cards or hosted sub-tournaments using the Stardrive and Crested Dragon Start Decks, the Sukacat CS will be the first championship to exclusively use Standard format cards. Sukacat's manager has stated they want to use the Standard format to welcome new fighters into the tournament environment that had never participated before. A Premium format sub-event will be hosted alongside the main tournament.

An important regulation that is still being evaluated through a community surveys is whether or not to implement clan limitations. Only four clans (Royal Paladin, Kagerо̄, Oracle Think Tank, and Nova Grappler) will be playable in Standard format at the time of the tournament, and both limiting teams to not duplicating their clan use and not limiting them poses problems. If diversity is enforced as in most team tournaments, then teams are more likely to need one of their members to play a deck they don't want to, and it may become more difficult to find teammates in general. If duplicates are permitted then Sukacat runs the risk of creating a tournament environment in which all members on a team are using the same clan. Currently just over 40% of respondents have submitted in favor of limiting clan use.

"Sukacat Playmat Ver. 001," to be distributed to the top 2 teams.
Each team will need to pay a 4500 yen ($42 approx.) entry fee to participate, and the tournament will consist of 4 rounds of Swiss pairings followed by a cut to a 3-round tournament bracket. Registration will begin at 11:00 AM Japanese time, with round 1 starting at noon, and the tournament finals will end at 9:00 PM. Each fighter will play a single match against their opponent on the opposing team, which will last 30 minutes. During the tournament finals fighters will instead play best-of-three matches with a time limit of 2 hours; grand finals will have unlimited time.

First place will win 12 boxes of V-Booster Set 01: UNITE! TEAM Q4, and three "Version 001" Sukacat VGCS playmats featuring Tokura Misaki and CEO Amaterasu. Second place will win 6 boxes of V-BT01 and three Sukacat playmats, third place will win 3 boxes, and fourth place will walk away with a single box to split among their three members.

The Sukacat CS organizers are also preparing custom Gift Markers featuring their playmat design. It should be noted that while custom markers are allowed in VGCS, Cardfight!! Vanguard producer Shimamura Masatoshi stated last month that custom markers should not be used in official tournaments.

The VGCS tournaments are a series of unofficial tournaments organized by fans and cardshops in Japan. Unlike Bushiroad's official tournaments, most VGCS events are done using a best-of-three, Swiss tournament model. Turnout is typically 70-80 persons, but some events see 100 or more participants, all of whom compete using pseudonyms and internet handles rather than their real names as in official events. The VGCS model of fan-organized play has caught on internationally as an alternative to Bushiroad's model, embodied in the United States through the ARG Circuit series.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Flower Power: Neo Nectar's Break Ride years

Where we last left Neo Nectar, they were in a similar spot to Great Nature; invested with high-complexity high-reward decks like Musketeers and Arboros, yet neglected by the player base. One of their major deck types was too unstable in its grade 1-2 makeup but made for a solid finisher in any other deck, and as with much of the second block of support fighters on the whole were unimpressed with what they could get from BT08 compared to what they already had from BT05. The clan had a poor reputation, and in one particularly memorable incident recounted on Yahoo Answers Japan dated August 2013, a new fighter interested in the clan recounted a senior player at his shop telling him to specifically avoid Neo Nectar after he expressed interest in Maiden of Trailing Rose:
"Neo Nectar is weak. Maybe one of the top 10 wimps out of all the clans. Beginners should shut up and play Shadow Paladin. There's no stability, MTR is a dead meme, Musketeers are s**t, it's just easy to build because it's cheap. No matter how you look at it, it's an obsolete deck and it's been obsolete for a while. The format chewed it up and spit it out. It's hopeless to try and bring it back, so just go with it and play Shadows. Anybody that plays it or seriously wants to play it is s**t."
(The top responses told him not to listen.)

After a seven month interim, Bushiroad would seek to bring Neo Nectar into the fold of the third block with support aimed at addressing its stability issues and making its win condition easier to achieve. Expectations were riding high; Sephirot had wowed the world with one of the few Limit Breaks of the Asia Circuit block to be entirely worth the high damage requirement, and we were eager to see Neo Nectar follow up on one of the game's most creative decks.

Unlike some of the other less-supported clans of the day like Dark Irregulars or Shadow Paladin, Neo Nectar didn't have a steady trickle of promo cards to assist it. An alternate artwork print of Laurel was packaged with one of the Asia Circuit novels, but this was long after she was out of relevance. What the clan did get was support in the Japan-only Fighter's Collection 2013, in the form of a Dandelion Musketeer Mirkka. Mirkka was effectively Toypugal for Neo Nectar--if you had shuffled your deck that turn, she became a 9k booster.

Mirkka was not Musketeer-specific and could go in any Neo Nectar deck, but the intended use of her was with Augusto, the subclan's 12k attacker. Cecilia effectively didn't need to run Arboros if she didn't want to, as Mirkka-Augusto could replace Arboros, though this came at the expense of the center column being able to hit any numbers over a functional 16~18k.

(In fairness, Arboros could only do better in Musketeers if you were running the non-searchable Corolla Dragon.)

Playing Neo Nectar in the early break ride format wasn't exactly rough, as sans break rides they were still largely on par with the newer cards. During Booster Set 10: Triumphant Return of the King of Knights and BT11: Seal Dragons Unleashed, Sephirot was approximately equivalent to Zerachiel, and MTR was aging gracefully considering she was sharing the format with Dauntless DOTE. The Tyrannolegends and Revonns of the world were downright unimpressive compared to slamming the opponent with three lanes all demanding 15k guard.

The problems arose at the format's exact shifting point, Trial Deck 10: Star-vader Invasion and BT12: Binding Force of the Black Rings. This was the booster set that introduced Link Joker, and with it the "lock" mechanic that gave rearguard-dependent decks so much trouble. With a break ride, Nebula Lord could completely shut down Sephirot's entire Limit Break. Consider the following setup;

This is a fairly standard Sephirot field post-BT08. Both the vanguard and rearguard Sephirot have +3k since there's at least two of them in play, as do the two Blade Seed Squires, and Hey Yo will give himself 3k on-attack because there are 4+ Neo Nectar units. The columns thus read 21-21-23k. Now let's say Nebula Lord Dragon Break Rides over Infinite Zero Dragon, and locks the Blade Seed behind Pineapple, the rearguard Sephirot, and uses his counterblast 2 to lock Corolla Dragon.

Your center column is now an 10k instead of 21, your right column can't attack, and Hey Yo Pineapple is stuck at 8 since you only have 3 Neo Nectars in play now and can't get more until those cards unlock. In essence, your entire deck has just been turned off, going from triple 21k columns to a 10k center and nothing else. None of your remaining units can hit without getting a trigger first, and Sephirot's Limit Break is functionally useless. He's just become Stardrive Dragon.

This illustrates the general issues with running Neo Nectar in this format. Nebula Lord was a fragile build dependent on its break ride to get going, but even something as rudimentary as his main phase CB2 could wreak havoc on Sephirot, and Link Joker was immediately popular on-release. Chaos Breaker Dragon's debut in BT13: Chaotic Outbreak made things even worse, as Chaos Breaker's once-per-turn lock wasn't limited to the back row and with Palladium he could easily shut down both front rearguard circles. Even once the Palladiums ran out, Chaos would just retire the units as they unlocked, ruining your Sephirot formation. Without a self-standing vanguard, guard restrict, or unlocker, Neo Nectar had no way to fight back other than try to rush the deck to death early. Potentially Musketeers could do some pity swings with Augusto and Hermann.

Think about it from the perspective of a Chaos cardfighter: if you saw your opponent stand up Ratoon or Shield Seed Squire, you were very comfortable with the free win you were about to get.

So for BT14: Brilliant Strike, Bushiroad sought to reinvision several key elements of the clan to bring them into the new era. Unlike past sets, the reveals for BT14 Neo Nectar came in the form of a slow burn from the anime series. The end-of-episode preview for 149 left us with a few brief frames of Nagashiro Maki using generic Neo Nectar cards for us to dissect and speculate on, filling up a whole week wondering what Master Wisteria would do and whether Trailing Rose or Sephirot would be the clan's first crossride. The end of 2013 was anxious time for Neo Nectar, whose domineering concern was not standing up to Nouvelle or Raging Form, but how to deal with the one matchup that loomed over every cardfighter's mind.

Two grade 3s became the focal point for the new Nectars. The first was the Deep Green Lord, Master Wisteria. Wisteria's role was as the clan's break ride, a form of generic support intended to provide a second vanguard option to every Neo Nectar deck past and present.
AUTO [Limit Break 4]:[Counterblast 1] When a «Neo Nectar» rides this unit, you may pay the cost. If you do, choose up to two of your «Neo Nectar» rear-guards, search your deck for up to one card with the same name as each of those cards, call them to separate Rearguard Circles, shuffle your deck, and choose your vanguard, and that unit gets Power +10000 until end of turn.
Compared to most break rides, Wisteria's skill was a little wordy and confusing. It was designed so that you could clone up to two of your rearguards, but it was only one-for-one. So you could not, for example, target one Corolla Dragon on the field and call two Corolla Dragons from the deck. To call two Corolla you would need to have two Corolla out already.

The card was instantly recognized as Arboros support the world over, as it was effectively an improved version of the Arboros ride chain that let you copy two rearguards instead of one. Provided that you ran Iris Knight and Lily Knight of the Valley, Master Wisteria could set Sephirot up with 26k columns straight across the board. You could use the card with Trailing Rose, but it didn't work out all that well due to Trailing Rose's early game focus clashing with a limit break card. Unfortunately while Wisteria went far to build on the existing Arboros deck, he didn't exactly do anything that Neo Nectar didn't do already, and in particular he didn't do anything to fix the grueling Link Joker matchup. Perhaps his most important use was the second skill anyone rarely paid much mind to--gaining +2k when boosted, so that he was an 11k base that could become a 21k center, or match crossrides innately. This skill was common to almost all Break Rides, and it was one of the ways Bushiroad sought to push greater aggression within the Break Ride format.

The clan's new boss card was Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse,” one of the latter entries in a long line of grade 3s built around the “Яeverse” theme. These were units implanted with the power of Void, who had both their desires and their strengths amplified by it, turning them on their comrades. Their core mechanic was locking their own rearguards as a cost, and the most celebrated among these were actual inversions of their traditional play mechanics; “Яeverse” Daiyusha reduced the opponent's power rather than increased his, Ramiel “Яeverse” sent the opponent's rearguards into their damage zone rather than swapped her rearguards into her own, and Ethics Buster “Яeverse” stood himself rather than his allies.

BT14 was the first set to introduce “Яeverse” units that were not crossrides of existing cards, so rather than gain 2k for having a prior form in the soul, Maiden of Venus Trap had an Activated skill that gave her 2k for counterblast 1.

Using that counterblast correctly could actually define the flow of a match--just like Wisteria, with Corolla Dragon Venus was a consistent 21 center, and unlike the crossrides could become 23 at will to threaten their own base powers. That wasn't why we were running her though.
ACT [Vanguard Circle] [Limit Break 4]: [Counterblast 1, choose one of your «Neo Nectar» rearguards, and lock it] Look at up to 5 cards from the top of your deck, search for up to 1 «Neo Nectar» among them, call it to a Rearguard Circle, shuffle that deck, and that unit gets Power +5000 until end of turn.
Venus Trap was seen as an instant upgrade over Trailing Rose, for being able to fill the field at her leisure while thinning the deck of nontrigger units and create rearguard columns that exceeded 21k. And while many fighters were eager to jump on 4 Draw 8 Crit, 6 Draw 6 Crit, or 12 Crit builds, Venus Trap synergized incredibly well with Stand Triggers by making Hey Yo Pineapple and any grade 3s she called 16k bases. She was in fact a Neo Nectar clone of a Pale Moon grade 3, Silver Thorn Dragon Queen Luquier “Яeverse,” calling from the top 5 rather than from the soul.

This was promising, seeing as Luquier had won the Japanese national championships not all that long ago, but the Pale Moon deck of the day had the absolutely incredible Miracle Pop Eva to create a cohesive endgame strategy with while Neo Nectar had...well, consider the following.

The optimal way to use her lock was with a break ride, locking the vanguard booster and one rearguard booster, to make one rearguard lane 21~23k to save as that turn's finisher, and the other one 16~18k as a Stand Trigger target. The problem with this was that Master Wisteria's break ride skill was redundant in the deck, since he could only clone existing units and thereby required you to already have 2 rearguard circles occupied. But after using his skill you would have 4 circles occupied, and Venus wanted to call 2 units to have the power set up. If you only had 1 rearguard in play it would work out, but you weren't getting your full money's worth for Wisteria's CB1.

Once again, being limited to 5 rearguard circles hurt Neo Nectar, and so while Luquier “Яeverse” had Eva's sequential attacks to bring the game in, Neo Nectar didn't have a clear endgame plan beyond "vanilla break ride and make a 21k rearguard." In a format where the clan was contending with self-standing vanguards like Dragonic Descendant, Dauntless Drive, Raging Form, and Minerva, as well as with multiple attack decks like Eva, Ethics Buster Extreme, and Gancelot Zenith, Venus Trap was at an odd intersection of having the superior calls of Luquier “Яeverse” at lesser power level than “Яeverse” Daiyusha. Sadly, it was difficult to argue with the idea that this was anything more than a bad Sanctuary of Light clone. People would ask why you were playing Neo Nectar, and it was hard to answer.

Nowhere was that more clear than in the turn after your break ride, where the optimal play became to either Lock Pineapple's booster to make your vanguard/other rearguard column 21k, or to Lock a booster with an empty circle in front of it to make a 16k attacker. No matter what you did, you were just shuffling 5k around the board to demand functionally the same guard as a vanilla "swing with everything" turn, just with a +1 off the superior call.

Venus Trap on her own did not have an endgame to speak of, and the only alternative was to fall back on Sephirot, which left Neo Nectar more or less back where it started.

“That's great, but what if you run into Chaos Breaker/Glendios/Freezeray?

In concept Venus Trap was great. A bioroid made to defend the World Tree Yggdrasil, Link Joker implanted her with the power of the Void and turned her on her own homeland. The card was made as a bridge with Royal Paladin's lore, connected with the Lock Break Campaign promotional card Knight of Extravagance Toulouse; Toulouse's lore was that after learning to harness the power of unlock, he journeyed to Zoo to break Link Joker's hold over the inhabitants, rescuing his friend Venus. Appropriately, Toulouse's art was designed with Neo Nectar's aesthetics in mind. It was one of those neat moments where just looking at the cards you could infer a relationship.

(Venus Trap being illustrated by Bayonetta character designer Shimazaki Mari was just icing on the cake.)

Maiden of Cherry Bloom
Two unique rearguards came out of Brilliant Strike, the grade 1 Maiden of Cherry Stone and the grade 2 Maiden of Cherry Bloom. When her attack hit a vanguard, for counterblast 1 soulblast 1, Cherry Bloom brought the chance to superior call a Cherry Stone at rest; meanwhile if the attack Cherry Stone boosted hit, she could return to the deck to search for a copy of Cherry Bloom and call her at rest. This meant that with Stone behind Bloom, Bloom was effectively CB1 SB1 to superior call a grade 2 or 1 depending on what you wanted to do that turn. You could return Stone to the deck to call out a Bloom, then use Bloom's skill to bring that same Stone back out behind her, or you could skip using Stone to just call out another copy of her to a different column. It all depended on what you needed at the moment.

The two of these cards together could effectively replace Seed and Gene from BT05, but they could also be used in tandem with the legacy cards. You effectively had two different means of securing identical rearguard columns for Sephirot, though the Maiden cards had a slight edge due to the grade 2 being capable of searching the grade 1.

With the new support came a new First Vanguard, Maiden of Physalis. While Shield Seed Squire was restricted to calling a specific grade 1 from the deck, Physalis instead could call any grade 1 but only from the top 5 cards. And rather than needing her attack to hit, Physalis' condition was needing an attack she boosted to hit, with her then going into the soul as a cost. The downside to this was that while you could fetch that essential 8k booster for your vanguard, there was also a real chance for Physalis to fail and leave you down a card for no payoff.

Venus Trap decks thus had three options to consider. They could run the Shield Seed-Blade Seed line, up to grade 1, or up to a tech Knight of Harvest to try to build up the field for a Sephirot turn. They could run Physalis for the chance to grab a Corolla Dragon or a Cherry Bloom to kick off their superior calls. And finally, they could run Broccolini Musketeer Kyrah from Blue Storm Armada, a grade 3 searcher that nobody really wanted to have to use due to their ~30% success rate.

(Musketeers ran her just to retire her.)

Maiden of Cherry Stone
The Shield Seed option had the advantage that a Shield Seed Squire boosted by Maiden of Cherry Stone would be able to create a 16k column on the other side of the field if its attack hit. Physalis' failure rate should have been around 15-20% (approximately equivalent to the failure rate for G Assisting from grade 0 to grade 1 in later formats) but because you didn't want to call perfect guards when they were the only grade 1s in the top 5, she actually had a higher chance to whiff than you'd expect.

Even if she failed to find a grade 1, going into the soul meant more soul for Cherry Bloom, which was never an option for Shield Seed. Thus your choice of FV would be impacted primarily by whether or not you felt it was worthwhile to integrate the Blade Seed line into your deck and how much you valued being able to use Cherry Bloom a second time on grade 2 or third time on grade 3. The Cherry sisters were now instant staples in every Neo Nectar deck, which was more than acceptable seeing as they were Single Rares.

In fact, BT14 marked Neo Nectar's return to budget status--once again they had no Triple Rares, with Wisteria and Venus Trap both stopping at Double

Unfortunately, beyond these five cards Neo Nectar didn't receive much from the set. They got an on-hit countercharge in White Rose Musketeer Alberto, a new Musketeer perfect guard for the Cecilia deck, and a Starlight Unicorn clone in the form of Lotus Druid. Lotus Druid was likely intended as a Lock target, since you could call it to power something up and then do away with it, but Lady of the Sunlit Forest or their local damage inducer Tulip Musketeer Mina were both more compelling. Eventually Cardfight Pack Vol. 11 brought one more promo card for the Musketeer deck, Pansy Musketeer Sylvia. She was a Devil Summoner clone but instead of calling the top card if it was grade 1 or 2, she could call it as long as it was a Musketeer, more or less guaranteeing a +1 that could then be retired and turned into another unit.

While the future had looked bright for Neo Nectar at first, by the end of set reveals the general sentiment was that Neo Nectar had been shafted hard. Trailing Rose was no longer a practical deck in a world where 11k bodies were no longer exceptional, which left the contemporary builds of the day as Sephirot, Cecilia, and Venus. It's a little strange to say that Sephirot was his own deck seeing as the card could be a finishing move for almost every Neo Nectar deck made at this time, but this was a matter of focus; dedicated decks ran the entire Arboros Dragon ride chain for its synergy with Master Wisteria and the chance to make Sephirot an 11k, while Venus and Cecilia decks didn't bond as well with the break ride.

None of these decks had a compelling gameplan if they were put up against Chaos Breaker. Sephirot would get a turn of his Limit Break before Chaos-Palladium shut him down, Cecilia would be able to set up some 21k Augusto-Mirkka columns before Chaos-Palladium stopped her cold, and Venus Trap could hope to check some of those Stands with her 16k columns before falling prey to the same combo as the entire rest of the game not named Dragonic Nouvelle Vague or Raging Form Dragon. Arguably Venus had the best deal since she at least could swing 21k while the others were stuck in the 16 range, but that's grasping at straws. Venus' matchup was much worse because the cards she locked for her cost could trigger Chaos's Limit Break in the end phase, and when Glendios eventually debuted its omega lock posed similar problems for her. Eventually the Chaos Breaker fighter would run out of Palladiums and one column would have to open up, but by that time they would have saved up sufficient hand size from not having to guard for three or four turns to survive multiple Limit Breaks.

Aside from these specific matchups, several weaknesses became apparent in this era that weren't exactly issues in the previous two blocks. With the rise of Sweep Command, Ignition, Tempest Bolt Dragon, and Dragonic Nouvelle Vague, late Limit Break format was the first time rearguard-dependent clans had to deal with the very real prospect of having all of their units retired in one turn. For Neo Nectar this was especially devastating, as both the Arboros ride chain and Master Wisteria depended entirely on already having rearguards out at the moment you rode. Otherwise, Wisteria was just a counterblast 1 for 10k. Even late into the game, staring down a Nouvelle persona blast could immediately put Nectars back to square one because of how Arboros depended on mirrored rearguard setups. Couple that with the extreme shutdown lock represented, and you had several decks that could turn off Neo Nectar's win condition at any given moment, putting a stop to any hope of a comeback unless you could field 5 replacements instantly. It wasn't a good time.

The updated and new decks were both mechanically interesting and powerful if they could get going. You just needed to pray you didn't run into the 7% of fighters still playing Link Joker post-Nouvelle, and you had to build and play with the idea in mind that your whole field could simply be wiped off the map at key junctures in the game. And in large part because of that, Neo Nectar once again failed to court competitive play. At least now you would see one or two fighters in a deck breakdown running it, and right on the precipice of the transition to legion format Neo Nectar secured its first top ever, but the reception was lukewarm for a reason.

Neo Nectar did get one more option before the end of this format, the promotional card Maiden of Venus Trap, Muse. Representing Venus Trap after having been unlocked by Toulouse, Muse was distributed in Japan's Cardfight Pack Vol. 12 alongside the other big grade 3 of the pack, Shadow Blaze Dragon. Unfortunately, while Shadow Blaze would make for an awesome generic Shadow deck of his own, Muse proved less than persuasive as a core for Neo Nectar. She shared “Яeverse's” Activated skill to gain 2k in the main phase, but her Limit Break was a different beast altogether.
AUTO [Vanguard Circle] [Limit Break 4]: [Counterblast 1] When this unit attacks a vanguard, you may pay the cost. If you do, look at up to 5 cards from the top of your deck, search for up to 1 «Neo Nectar» with the same name as a unit on your Vanguard or Rearguard Circles, call it to a Rearguard Circle, and shuffle your deck.
Muse had potential.

She had the potential to be a Neo Nectar Zenith, just as “Яeverse” was a Neo Nectar Luquier. The key issues were twofold; first, she didn't give power to the unit she called, so to use this skill to initiate multiple attacks your only valid targets were copies of herself, your other grade 3, Irminsul on a coin flip, and Hey Yo Pineapple. The second issue was that Venus contradicted Neo Nectar's overall theme. Where Sephirot and Wiseman wanted you to have three identical boosters and two to three identical attackers, Muse wanted all six of your units to have different names so that you would have as many valid targets in deck as possible. Except that Neo Nectar had no viable grade 1 attackers at the time, so Muse truthfully was only relevant to your front row, and like Physalis had a high chance of finding nothing callable in the top 5. Reliable multi-attacking is something the "Maiden of" cards have always tried to push ever since Trailing Rose was first printed, and Muse could have gotten it right, but for LB4 should have been able to target anything in the top 5 and give it +5k.

(And if we have to adhere to Zenith's costs to get Zenith's effect, why not make Muse put a card from her field to the bottom of the deck, just to finally give Nectars something to do versus Link Joker?)

So what decks did Muse work in? Ostensibly you were to run her with “Яeverse,” as she had next to no synergy with Wisteria nor with Sephirot. Unfortunately the card just wasn't all that well designed, and “Яeverse” had better synergy with any kind of Break Ride or field power bonus regardless.

In terms of tournament results, you would now see a few straggling Neo Nectar fighters turn up in deck breakdowns. The Second Pitarui CS in January 2014 was the first time more than 1 participant played Neo Nectar, with a whole 3 fighters turning out for the clan, but none of them made the top cut. No one topped with Neo Nectar during Bushiroad's Fighter's Climax 2013 or VF High School tournaments. Outside Japan, Neo Nectar went untouched during the European BeNeLux tournaments and during the global Team League 2014 tournament series.

All that said, when someone sat down to play Neo Nectar, what made it to the table? Let's ask them.

On Vanguard Vault, a Japanese site for sharing decklists, the most upvoted Neo Nectar deck of 2013 was a 6 grade 3 Musketeer build that ran 2 copies of Venus Trap “Яeverse” as its backup grade 3. Uploaded by tera01, it received 107 "good job" votes from readers; the objective of the deck was to attack three times every turn from the very beginning of the game, capitalizing on Ruth and Augusto's +3k while using Sylvia to build up the raw materials to retire and replace. Second place (to the tune of only 23 "good jobs") was a very standard “Яeverse”-Wisteria build running Physalis, Cherry Bloom/Stone, and Mirkka. Mirkka may seem like an unusual choice in this deck, but she was run primarily to make 9k units form 18k columns versus crossrides, and because she could fill Corolla Dragon's roll as a 21k+ with Wisteria or “Яeverse.”

Musketeer Neo Nectar
Grade 0
x1 Broccolini Musketeer, Mirkka (FV)
x4 Hibiscus Musketeer, Hanah HT
x4 Blue Rose Musketeer, Ernst ST
x4 Night Queen Musketeer, Daniel CT
x4 Bullet Chestnut CT
Grade 1
x4 Red Rose Musketeer, Antonio (Perfect Guard)
x4 Water Lily Musketeer, Ruth
x3 Tulip Musketeer, Mina
x4 Dandelion Musketeer, Mirkka
Grade 2
x4 Cherry Blossom Musketeer, Augusto
x4 Lily of the Valley Musketeer, Kaivant
x4 Pansy Musketeer, Sylvia
Grade 3
x4 White Lily Musketeer, Cecilia
x2 Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse”

Maiden-type Neo Nectar
Grade 0
x1 Maiden of Physalis (FV)
x4 Sweet Honey HT
x4 Four Leaf Fairy DT
x4 Watering Elf ST
x4 Bullet Chestnut CT
Grade 1
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain (Perfect Guard)
x4 Maiden of Cherry Stone
x3 Dandelion Musketeer, Mirkka
x3 Lady of the Sunlit Forest
Grade 2
x4 Maiden of Cherry Bloom
x3 Hey Yo Pineapple
x4 Maiden of Rainbow Wood
Grade 3
x4 Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse”
x4 Deep Green Lord, Master Wisteria

As for tournament lists, Vanguard Card Lookup is another Japanese site that indexes card lists, but it also has distinct categories for official and unofficial tournament-winning decklists. This Venus Trap list was the winner in one of the Planet Cray Total War tournaments, a side event held at regional qualifiers where fighters could play in a format with no restricted list and where the grade 4 Epitome of Knowledge Silvest would be legal. This deck ran Trailing Rose with “Яeverse” for pressure, a choice that was somewhat popular at the time; in this shop tournament finals from January 2014, we can see another Venus Trap cardfighter running the both of them, alongside Muse.

Planet Cray Total War (February 9th 2014) Winner
Grade 0
x1 Maiden of Physalis (FV)
x4 Sweet Honey HT
x4 Maiden of Egg Plant DT
x4 Watering Elf ST
x4 Bullet Chestnut CT
Grade 1
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain (Perfect Guard)
x4 Maiden of Cherry Stone
x3 Dandelion Musketeer, Mirkka
x3 Lady of the Sunlit Forest
Grade 2
x3 Tulip Musketeer, Almira
x4 Maiden of Cherry Bloom
x4 Maiden of Rainbow Wood
Grade 3
x4 Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse”
x4 Maiden of Trailing Rose

In the final word, what was the best Neo Nectar deck of this format? I think it's a toss-up between “Яeverse” Wisteria, and Sephirot Wisteria. The logic behind “Яeverse” is this; if you ran her as a setup card to call things for Sephirot, what you were really running was a Sephirot deck without Wisteria or the ride chain. You weren't playing to Venus' strengths, but trying to make up for her endgame weaknesses by turning her into a bad Sephirot deck. Running her with Wisteria was an overall better gameplan because of how Wisteria's 2k pushed the game state forward and his 10k synergized with her lock cost.

However, Wisteria was also absolutely redundant in Venus and phenomenal in Sephirot. In most Venus games you would be overpaying by dropping counterblast on the break ride due to either already having a full field or not having an empty enough field for it to work. Or you had just suffered a field wipe the previous turn, and had nothing to clone. No matter how you played her, the deck kept pointing you back to Sephirot as the better option.

The Sephirot deck's synergy with Wisteria came from the design of the ride chain. In this deck, if you failed to get the break ride you were still able to clone a card from Sephirot-Timber's on-ride. On the other hand, if you drew the break ride first you would be rewarded for waiting by being able to clone 2 instead of 1 the moment you hit Limit Break, and the card would free you up to use Cherry Bloom's soulblast on your grade 2 turn because you wouldn't need the grade 0 in the soul for the Timber-Arboros on-ride anymore. Even if you whiffed the initial Branch ride, the new support encouraged you to keep Ratoon in the soul to pay for the cost of multiple Blooms. It was easier than ever to get Sephirot's setup going, and Ratoon's worst-case-scenario was what Physalis was doing in about half her games.

The price you paid for that was having to run 8 additional vanilla units and a lackluster starter. Venus Trap gave you access to Shield Seed and the entire Gene line, as well as your choice of Rainbow Wood/Glassbeads, Alberto, or Mina. Sephirot needed both Cherry Bloom to set up his clones and Pineapple to make up for missing a clone, so he didn't have that kind of freedom in deckbuilding. Thus the “Яeverse” deck pointed you to Sephirot, and the Sephirot deck pointed you to “Яeverse.” Venus Trap arguably had the better Kagerо̄ and Narukami matchups, as she could literally take one rearguard and make it into five, but Sephirot could also make it through by not dedicating too early, playing carefully, and saving up rearguards in hand to call later by letting his clones of existing cards stand in for them.

Another leg up “Яeverse” had over Sephirot was having adequate room for its grade 1s--Sephirot decks would at times run just three perfect guards in order to go 4-4-3 on Branch-Cherry Stone-Corolla because the alternative was either cutting a Pineapple to run 10 grade 2s or only running 2 Corolla. (2 of any grade 1 was terrible in Sephirot, but it was especially bad for Corolla since that meant not making adequate 23k columns versus crossrides.) “Яeverse” didn't have to put up with the constraints Sephirot's Limit Break added to deckbuilding.

Having experience with both of these builds, I'm inclined to favor Sephirot as the overall best-deck-in-format for Neo Nectar. The deck has a much more impressive endgame than “Яeverse,” and while it's not quite as versatile as "put literally any card in your bottom left circle and start locking," it has plenty of ways to reach that endgame thanks to the BT14 support that leave it far more stable than it was in 2012.

Arboros Dragon, Sephirot
Grade 0
x1 Arboros Dragon, Ratoon (FV)
x4 Sweet Honey (HT)
x4 Maiden of Eggplant (DT)
x4 Bullet Chestnut (CT)
x4 Night Queen Musketeer, Daniel (CT)
Grade 1
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain (Perfect Guard)
x4 Arboros Dragon, Branch
x4 Maiden of Cherry Stone
x2 Corolla Dragon
Grade 2
x4 Arboros Dragon, Timber
x4 Maiden of Cherry Bloom
x3 Hey Yo Pineapple
Grade 3
x4 Arboros Dragon, Sephirot
x4 Deep Green Lord, Master Wisteria

Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse”
Grade 0
x1 Shield Seed Squire (FV)
x4 Sweet Honey (HT)
x2 Four Leaf Fairy (DT)
x2 Maiden of Eggplant (DT)
x4 Watering Elf (ST)
x2 Bullet Chestnut (CT)
x2 Night Queen Musketeer, Daniel (CT)
Grade 1
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain
x2 Blade Seed Squire
x4 Maiden of Cherry Stone
x3 Corolla Dragon
Grade 2
x4 Maiden of Cherry Bloom
x4 Hey Yo Pineapple
x4 White Rose Musketeer, Alberto
Grade 3
x4 Maiden of Venus Trap “Яeverse”
x4 Deep Green Lord, Master Wisteria

Despite attracting some level of attention from tournament players, Neo Nectar still went largely overlooked in this time period. No go-to deck emerged out of the competitive scene. The clan's first big break tournament-wise came with the dawning of the new year in January 2014, when Musketeers made second at the first Kansai Vanguard Championship. The Kansai VGCS was one of the bigger unofficial tournaments of the era at 96 participants, and the metagame of the time revolved heavily around Dragonic Nouvelle Vague. Link Joker had an especially poor matchup against Nouvelle, which created a kind of rock-paper-scissors scenario.

Other decks with superior call or draw options like Musketeers, Jewel Knights, and Tsukuyomi could beat Nouvelle but would have almost guaranteed losses against Glendios or Chaos Breaker, which Nouvelle crushed with its guard-restricted restand and field-wipe persona blast. The exceptions to this rule were a handful of Lock Break decks like Ezel and Seal Dragons, which had all-around neutral matchups that were neither incredibly bad nor incredibly good, but depended mostly on the fighter piloting them.

Cardfighters gravitated primarily towards Nouvelle because even its worst matchups weren't that bad, with the other big names of the day being Raging Form, Minerva, and Reit--if you had a restanding vanguard, you were in. Seeing Musketeers top in that environment felt incredible, and what Tomato did at that championship essentially codified Musketeers for the period. Augusto, Mirkka, and Sylvia were the cornerstone of the deck for 21k lanes and card advantage, with “Яeverse” as the alternative grade 3 and an emphasis on rushing the opponent down.

Things looked bleak for the clan for a fair few months, until March arrived and brought Bushiroad's annual Cardfight!! Vanguard grand strategy conference with it, bestowing a solitary ray of hope: Neo Nectar was to be one of the feature clans of BT16.

It was an exciting time for the game. Limit Break, long criticized as a redundant mechanic on top of counterblast that needlessly constrained a huge pool of skills that didn't need it, was finally being dispelled in favor of a return to the faster pace of block one. The new Legion mechanics dazzled us--turning two cards into one continuous unit, returning Trigger Units to the deck, making use of the previously-panned Quintet Walls, and leaving us with question after question ranging from if we could attack the Mate rather than the Legion Leader to if we lost a rearguard circle by Legioning. The world didn't make sense for a few days, but it was a good kind of nonsense we were lost in.

And the underdog plant clan that spent nearly two years overshadowed by control decks was finally going to headline front-and-center at the very outset of the game's fourth block. In just two short months Booster Set 16: Legion of Dragons & Blades would breath new life into Neo Nectar.

All would be well.