Friday, April 13, 2018

Looking back on Neo Nectar

So Megacolony was rejected outright and Great Nature confused and alienated fighters with their layers of card effects. How fared Neo Nectar?

Knight of Harvest, Gene
The final clan of Zoo to be introduced was also the only one to be immediately well-received from the moment it was first announced. Fighters loved Neo Nectar both in concept and in execution: it was a clan that deliberately stopped at Double Rare rarity, designed as a budget deck with a strong competitive edge for the format it first came out in. The initial cards revealed gave us a general concept of how Neo Nectar's blooming play style was meant to work; whenever their attacks hit the vanguard, the grade 0 Shield Seed Squire searched for the grade 1 Blade Seed Squire, who searched for the grade 2 Knight of Verdure Gene, who searched for the grade 3 Knight of Harvest Gene. Factor in the deck's mandatory Stand Triggers, and you could conceivably have a grade 2 rearguard on your grade 1 turn, a grade 3 rearguard on your grade 2 turn--or even a grade 3 rearguard on your first turn of the game.

It was like an early version of Time Leap, and was valued for its zero-cost and how this either forced the opponent to waste shield early or otherwise take your First Vanguard and make it into a front row.

Knight of Verdure, Gene
The sequence didn't stop with the grade 3. Knight of Harvest couldn't search for a grade 4--those didn't exist--so instead he searched for two copies of the grade 2 in the sequence, and from that point on you would keep bouncing your grade 2s into the deck to bring out the grade 3, then turn him into two grade 2s. At worst there would only be one left, which was still gaining 5000 shield.

Gene wasn't actually the first Neo Nectar card we saw. That came from a very early leak on December 16th (three days before Bushiroad officially confirmed Neo Nectar's existence) of a blurry low-quality photo of Frontline Valkyrie Laurel, one of the two grade 3s that would help the initial Neo Nectar deck shine.

All of the (many) Gold Paladin cardfighters that first picked up the deck in 2012 will recall playing Gigantech Destroyer as one of the staples of both Garmore and Spectral Duke Dragon. Gingatench is a clone of the KagerŠ¾̄ promotional card Dragonic Executioner, but you have Neo Nectar to thank for incorporating these clones into main booster sets; Laurel was the first Executioner clone to make into a BT, and that eventually spun off into Magnet Crocodile, Midnight Invader, and countless others.

Laurel was brought in with respect to BT05's introduction of base 12k and base 13k vanguards, and she was effectively the only way to guarantee the long-term use of 6k boosters in the new format. Against base 10k grade 3s like Alfred, Laurel could make 20k rearguard columns when paired up with Neo Nectar's local grade 1 vanilla, Corolla Dragon. She retained her effectiveness versus 11ks via Caramel Popcorn, an Iron Tail Dragon clone that gained 1k by paying counterblast 1 in the main phase. And by the standards of the day, she wasn't a bad ride either.

In fact, Laurel was perhaps too well loved by Neo Neo cardfighters. If you look up videos from 2011 and 2012, it's all too common to see decks that run 4 copies of Laurel and no Gene, using Shield Seed Squire either just to search a 1/2-of Blade Seed Squire or purely as a 5k booster for the vanguard. This was to the clan's detriment, and I would argue is at least partially responsible for its low tournament representation early in its life. Cardfighters were very eager to rush their opponents down with Neo Nectar rather than gradually build up a field with Gene, but pacing oneself by deliberately playing a slower game with from-deck calls helped keep rearguards available in hand to call later after KagerŠ¾̄--the major control deck of the format--had killed those calls. One of Gene's strengths was that you really only needed to run 1 copy of his grade 3 form to make him work, so it was perfectly viable to run three types of grade 3 and not have to worry about riding him in general.

Neither Laurel nor Gene were really Neo Nectar's boss card. Booster Set 5: Awakening of Twin Blades was the final main set of the game's first block, and like all of the original sets it had a mechanical theme to it. TD01-BT01 loosely focused on units whose skills resolved when drive checking a grade 3; BT02 focused on soulblast costs; BT03 on soulcharging; and BT04 on ride chains. BT05's focus was on persona blasts, discarding a copy of the vanguard to achieve a particular effect, and the first among these was the criminally underwhelming Phantom Blaster Overlord. I remember the day Overlord was revealed and the hype this card generated, but it was always for his crossride power and never for his unique skill--even back then, counterblast 3 persona blast for 10k and a crit was useless compared to calling Overlords to rearguard to use as 21k attackers with Apocalypse Bat.

The first image of MTR the world ever saw.
Maiden of Trailing Rose was the first time a persona blast was good. On-hit counterblast 1 discard MTR to check the top 5 cards of the deck and call 2 units from them; if those calls were to open rearguard circles then you came out at a net +1, helping deal with poor hands or retired rearguards by superior calling new ones, and if you were calling to occupied circles then this was a clear way to get multiple attacks going. On average MTR would be able go off in around 4/5ths of the games you played with her, though the results were never as destructive as DOTE.

So Trailing Rose could be used in several ways, not at all mutually exclusive. The presence of her on-hit skill pressured the opponent to guard her every attack, wasting shield in the midgame when it was optimal to take it instead. In the event the opponent could not guard, she would either fill the empty circles for a net increase in card advantage, or create a Nova Grappler-esque multiple attack sequence.

While it could be somewhat unsatisfying to go a whole game without ever persona blasting--something which was very common at the time--between Knight of Harvest, MTR, and Glassbeads Dragon (Libra clone) the entire front row in Neo Nectar had access to on-hit skills that would rack up card advantage if not stopped. That served to drain the opponent's hand quickly, or otherwise build up a strong offensive.

Aside from these, there were a handful of other cards of note in early Neo Nectar.

Spiritual Tree Sage, Irminsul was the clan's Devil Summoner clone, with about a 50% chance to call a card from the top of the deck when placed. The 7k base was rough, but still playable as many vanguards were 10ks in this format. The primary advantage to running Irminsul aside from the coin flip for free cards was to superior call him with MTR's persona blast, in the hopes of topdecking a grade 1 to boost him with. That was a better option much of the time than calling the clan's grade 2 vanilla Iris Knight, who couldn't hit 11~13k vanguards regardless, though it was always on top of (and never instead of) running Hey Yo Pineapple. The problem with this being, the objective of Trailing Rose wasn't necessarily to hit, so Irminsul's main strength wasn't always played to.

Glassbeads Dragon was their Maiden of Libra clone, primarily used for swinging at a rearguard to retire it and CB2 for a draw after pressuring the opponent with Maiden of Trailing Rose. In the late game, Glassbeads was the ideal unit to send the opponent from 4 to 5 with as a form of insurance in case your final turn push failed. It was also a pretty incredible card to get gradelocked on, which in a pre-G Assist world was a legitimate concern for any cardfighter. (The other good card to get gradelocked on from this time period? Genocide Jack.)

Iris Knight and Lily Knight of the Valley were their King of Sword and Queen of Heart clones. They didn't see a ton of play early on, but could directly threaten Alfred and pre-setup Majesty with their 20k lines, and make the appropriate columns for dealing with BT05's crossrides. Once Sephirot hit (see below) they became absolutely devastating.

Hey Yo Pineapple (or my preferred approximation, Hey-Yo Pinappo) was one of the more understated yet important members of Neo Nectar. As long as your total number of vanguards and rearguards added up to 4 or more (including himself) Pineapple would swing for 11k. In an era where 12k attackers were Double Rares shared among just three clans, Pineapple was an incredible blessing that would go on to be cloned for Bermuda Triangle and Angel Feather in 2012. The card could make a normal 16k column with just a draw trigger boosting it, or one of the more difficult to form 18k columns to deal with the newly-introduced crossride decks. In a pinch he could even replace Laurel for the endgame, though you'd be spending 3 CB on Caramel Popcorn rather than 2.

The card would age beautifully too, once Neo Nectar got access to a means of making 10k boosters. Some fighters found themselves running Pineapple well into G format, strictly because of how important an easy 11k attacker can be.

Lady of the Sunlit Forest was the clan's Gojo clone, a simple "rest this unit, discard 1, draw 1" card that helped make the most of going first. Some cardfighters absolutely swore by her as a way to negate the primary weakness of Draw Triggers (their low shield) and fix bad hands, while others ran none at all. Worth mentioning is a cool play where if you had no second rearguard to put up front and Sunlit Forest couldn't hit, you could always use her skill to filter a card, move her up front, and swing the vanguard; then if you checked a Stand Trigger, combat-wise it would be functionally the same as if you hadn't used her skill but with the benefit of having changed out something useless or that the opponent knew from your prior drive checks.

They did get one more grade 3, a lackluster unit by the name of Behemoth. Unfortunately, it was just a Lion Heat clone with a weak grade-restricted on-hit stand skill for CB2 that lacked synergy with the deck.  It would have seen more play had it been an Apollon clone, as a grade 3 counterpart to Glassbeads.

The general flow of Neo Nectar at this point was that you would repeatedly poke the opponent with Seed and Gene in the early game, set up your field and poke again with Glassbeads once you had counterblast to work with, and then pressure them with Trailing Rose once she hit the field. Any hits contributed to an overall gameplan that built up your field and hand, otherwise you steadily wore the opponent's hand away with pressure attacks and pushed them into the 4+ damage range. Then you used Caramel Popcorn/Corolla Dragon with Laurel at the endgame to push for a win while they were at 5--either your opponent guarded the on-hits and conserved your counterblast for you to use at that endgame, or they let the attacks hit and gave you an aggressive series of opening turns with MTR to multi-attack.

The deck was largely overshadowed by the crossrides of the period, particularly Dragonic Overlord The End. Fighters bemoaned the rainbow trigger lineup, especially as we moved into an era where they were unironically declaring 16 crit to be the optimal spread. However, each of these triggers actually served an important function in the deck. Watering Elf was the only effect trigger among them, a Margal/Sharron clone used to make 21k columns out of Hey Yo Pineapple/Laurel lines. But she also made Shield Seed, Blade Seed, Gene, and Glassbeads that much more devastating when trigger checked. Dancing Sunflower, despite being an "inferior" Draw Trigger, provided an opportunity to get one card deeper during the drive step and acquire your persona blast. (And despite the bad rep Draws get, every time I damage check or discard one for a cost, I'm still struck by how game-changing that is.)

If you look at the low number of unique cards they got, it only took the deck a few components to become a cohesive and competitive clan; the only truly unique cards were MTR's good-but-not-overwhelming persona blast and the Seed/Gene series. Other than that it was Laurel, Glassbeads, Pineapple, and Caramel that held Neo Nectar up.

Neo Nectar's lone appearance in the first season of Cardfight!! Vanguard.
Overall the Neo Nectar deck was quite open-ended, and one of the best budget decks around considering its rarities stopped dead at RR. You had a lot of options to experiment despite the grade 3s being fairly fixed, and it was up there with Megacolony (and later Bermuda) as one of the easiest decks to get into. It hit all the right numbers, drew a decent amount of cards, and had a solid gameplan. If the deck had anything holding it back, it was that it arrived in a set dominated by the last leg of support for the two biggest decks of the first set block, and that meant its card pool was still underdeveloped compared to its contemporaries. The clan was mentioned around sixty times in this website's first five years, 

For a sample decklist, this is what I use when I play the legacy deck in Ride to Victory!!:
Grade 0 (17)
x1 Shield Seed Squire (FV)
x4 Sweet Honey (HT)
x4 Dancing Sunflower (DT)
x4 Watering Elf (ST)
x4 Bullet Chestnut (CT)
Grade 1 (13)
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain (Perfect Guard)
x2 Blade Seed Squire
x4 Caramel Popcorn
x3 Corolla Dragon
Grade 2 (12)
x4 Knight of Verdure, Gene
x4 Hey Yo Pineapple
x4 Glassbeads Dragon
Grade 3 (8)
x4 Maiden of Trailing Rose
x2 Knight of Harvest, Gene
x2 Frontline Valkyrie, Laurel
Eight months later, we arrived at BT08: Blue Storm Armada.

We were now neck-deep in Limit Break format, which was a nice way of saying we were in our sixth consecutive month of Dragonic Overlord The End/Majesty Lord Blaster tops. Rampage of the Beast King had just hit and failed to court the competitive scene with its weird lineup of Zoo and Dark Zone support. All eyes were now on Aqua Force, the much-hyped third clan of Magallanica and cover clan for the set. Our first reveals included the bombshell of Great Daiyusha, Dimension Police's first crossride, and a bevvy of smaller leaks for Aqua Force and Great Nature, but for the longest time the only thing we had to go on for Neo Nectar was an unnamed piece of artwork that turned out to be Sephirot, found on a poster. This actually culminated in the first Neo Nectar hoax, in July 2012.

Spiritual Dragon, Spiritearth
Planned publication date 8/23
AUTO [Vanguard Circle]: [Limit Break 4]: [Counterblast 2] 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 one Grade 3, Grade 2, and Grade 1 «Neo Nectar», call them to separate Rearguard Circles, and shuffle that deck. 
CONT [Vanguard/Rearguard Circle]: If the number of your «Neo Nectar» rearguards is 4 or greater, this unit gets Power +1000.
CONT [Vanguard Circle]: During your turn, your «Neo Nectar» rearguards get Power +1000.
Although the fake was quickly identified by errors in the text box opacity and borders, some continued to believe the Spiritearth hoax until it was finally debunked over a week later by the confirmation that the card in question was officially named "Arboros Dragon, Sephirot." But beyond the name itself, Bushiroad kept Sephirot under wraps. We had inferred based on the Raptor Colonel reveals that Sephirot would be a new generation of ride chain. Meanwhile the company was content to tease us with higher-quality images of the card's illustration and the reveal that Neo Nectar would receive a second Maiden of Libra clone, Maiden of Rainbow Wood.

At the end of August, we finally got our first earnest Neo Nectar reveals. And it wasn't Sephirot.

Blue Storm Armada would go down in history as the last major ride chain set, but Bushiroad also chose BT08 to introduce the game's third proper subclan, the Musketeers. The core of this alternative Neo Nectar build was that you could retire a Musketeer rearguard to call any other Musketeer out of the top 5 cards of the deck, allowing you to trade away weak units like vanilla Critical Triggers for 12k and 10k grade 2 and 1 attackers. The crux of the deck was the White Lily Musketeer, Cecilia. Her basic skill was to, once-per-turn, retire a Musketeer to top 5 a Musketeer. This skill was shared with the grade 2 and 1 Muskteers Kaivant and Rebecca, except that Kaivant and Rebecca were on-place skills that cost counterblast 1, while Cecillia's was an Activated ability with no cost other than retiring.

The end goal of the Musketeer deck was Cecilia's Limit Break 4, also an Activated ability: counterblast 1, return 5 Normal Unit Musketeers to the deck, and call 2 copies of herself from the deck.

It was a straight +2 for counterblast 1, and the value of it was in how you could then use Kaivant, Rebecca, and/or Cecilica herself to retire those vanilla Cecilia copies and top 5 search for Augusto or Hermann, the deck's grade 2 and 3 12k attackers. "Ceci" as she was so often called enjoyed some considerable popularity with the more cerebral cardfighters, as she was essentially a version of Alfred that emphasized consistency over raw power lanes and had a large toolkit of support to make sure she could get her Limit Break going.

Rebecca
There were several issues with the deck. Cecilia was Neo Nectar's first Triple Rare, and Augusto, Kaivant, Rebecca, and Ruth were all Double Rares as well as essential cards for the deck. So you needed a huge number of high-rarity cards to play Musketeers, and while the payoff was incredible for a time where CB2 or CB3 would let you get a +1, its real value was in immediately retiring the units you called. And while this wasn't readily apparent, the deck's turns took forever. On Cardfight Capital, where we had access to an instantaneous shuffler, Musketeers were a fairly popular deck because of their long-form play mechanics and consistent numbers. In the real world, playing Musketeers took ages because of the repeated shuffling and topdeck calls.

Cherry Blossom Musketeer, Augusto
The reason to play Musketeers was really because they were one of five clans to have a Masquerade clone, a 9k unit that gained 3k when attacking if you met a particular condition. (In Augusto's, having a "Musketeer" vanguard.) But the other decks with these cards were crossride decks, or Tsukuyomi. Cecilia was the first time Bushiroad tried to push these types of subclan attackers onto a deck with only 10k bases to work off of, and it flopped hard. This early form Musketeer deck could make consistent 18k~20k columns, but struggled with 21k because of how its counterblast kept it from using Caramel Popcorn.

It could also gradually thin the deck of non-trigger units, and use its damage inducers to recycle triggers back into the deck, but Cecilia herself worked against that by returning Normal Units. As a result of all these factors, while the Musketeer strategy wasn't bad per se, it didn't interact well with the real world.


(The Popcorn problem was eventually solved when Mirkka was introduced as a promo in 2013, but by then Chaos Breaker Dragon had effectively killed the Musketeer deck.)

Sample Musketeer decklist
Grade 0
x1 Broccolini Musketeer, Kirah (FV)
x4 Hibiscus Musketeer, Hanah (HT)
x4 Four Leaf Fairy (DT)
x4 Night Queen Musketeer, Daniel (CT)
x4 Bullet Chestnut (CT)
Grade 1
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain
x4 Water Lily Musketeer, Ruth
x4 Lily of the Valley Musketeer, Rebecca
x2 Corolla Dragon
Grade 2
x4 Lily of the Valley Musketeer, Kaivant
x4 Cherry Blossom Musketeer, Augusto
x3 Tulip Musketeer, Almira
Grade 3
x4 White Lily Musketeer, Cecilia
x4 Black Lily Musketeer, Hermann

Early September brought with it a string of Card of the Day profiles all building up to the reveal we had long been waiting for; Arboros Dragon, Sephirot.

The core of the Arboros deck was a ride chain of the same type as Spectral Duke Dragon. The grade 0 in the chain, Ratoon, searched the top 7 cards of the deck for either the grade 2 Timber or the grade 3 Sephirot when you rode the grade 1 Branch over him. Every time you rode the next member in the chain after that, you could search the deck for a copy of any rearguard you had in play, and each member in the chain would gain an extra 1k if you had its predecessor in the soul. This culminated in Arboros Dragon's Limit Break, a skill that left the community in absolute awe:
CONT [Vanguard Circle]: [Limit Break 4]: All of your «Neo Nectar» rearguards get "CONT [Vanguard/Rearguard Circles]: During your turn, if you have another unit with the same name as this unit on your Vanguard or Rearguard Circles, this unit gets Power +3000."
Cardfighters instantly recognized how lethal this could be. The advantage to running Cecilia was getting to run Augusto, but Sephirot made all of your front row units Augusto. Any two identical rearguard columns would become 22k; Corolla Dragon became an 11k booster and Iris Knight a 13k attacker; Iris Knight and Lily Knight of the Valley became a 26k column. This was anticipated to be a major bunker breaker that would propel Neo Nectar to the top of tournament play by completely subverting the defensive advantage of crossrides, hype that the deck unfortunately didn't live up to. DOTE and MLB were more than just their 13k and 12k base defenses, as we really should have known from PBO--their effectiveness came from their incredible skills, a net-positive restand after hitting any unit or a permanent extra critical and the ability to become 31k for no counterblast cost.

Even though it never became as big as projected, Sephirot's impact should not be understated. This is the card that brought Neo Nectar into the spotlight with a powerful finishing move that could be easily splashed into MTR or Cecilia, or run as its own deck. Variations on this skill would later be distributed to many other clans throughout 2013 and 2014: Angel Feather would get Zerachiel, Dark Irregulars would get Master of Fifth Element, Royal Paladin would get Planetal Dragon, and eventually the skill would even be back-ported to Neo Nectar via Lycoris Musketeer Vera. But the most devastating among them would be Nebula Lord Dragon, who would grant 3k to the front row for every Locked card the opponent had, and make columns in the range of 36~46k when combined with Lanthanium and Niobium.

Arboros Dragon, Ratoon
The primary issues with Arboros were the need to set up clones of rearguards, and the effectiveness of its actual ride chain. On average, you will see 2 copies per game of any card you run 4 of, so technically you could get the field going most of the time without any skills that specifically cloned units, you just had no guarantee of how long that would take. The ride chain itself shared the same issues as past ones; it was entirely dependent on riding a specific grade 1 that you only had 4 copies of, with an overall 46% success rate. So more than half the time you weren't going to get your cloning strategy going, and even when you did make the initial ride you still ran into the issue of the top 7 check failing. Once you had your ride chain going, you needed to draw two units to clone early, or otherwise you would be cloning Four Leaf Fairy at best. (At worst, your hand would be clogged with grade 3s you couldn't even clone.)

The initial ride issue would go unsolved for four years, until Screen of Arboros Aila was printed in G-BT08: Absolute Judgement.  Factor i n all of the issues with the deck, and out of this you had the majority of Neo Nectar cardfighters running Arboros sans his ride chain. It was much more consistent to use the Seed/Gene cards at least up to grade 1 or 2, and have a more stable gameplan than if you were trying to play Ratoon in the deck.

Sephirot was the Triple Rare we wanted; if you built him for it he could be an 11k base, extra copies of him became functional Palamedes on the rearguard circles, and he made every Neo Nectar deck he was added to better. Hey Yo Pineapple became an instant 21k column so long as you had copies of the grade 1 behind him, double Glassbeads/Rainbow Wood were now 15k guard pressure attacks, and the domineering limitation to using the card was that you only had five rearguard circles and not six. It was easy enough to have one Arboros on rearguard, but then one of your front row units wouldn't be receiving the power bonus, so you needed Hey Yo to make up for that.

(wait a sec, Zoo doesn't have an Accel clan yet...)

Arboros wasn't all the set had in store for us. Neo Nectar received a small wave of support cards and clones for experimenting with alternate builds, ranging from Poison Poison Mushroom (their version of Providence Strategist) to Boon Bana-na. (Almighty Announcer) And as BT08's launch approached, early access leaks revealed one last game-changing card for the Trailing Rose deck: Fruits Basket Elf.
AUTO [Rearguard Circle]: [Counterblast 1] When this unit boosts a «Neo Nectar» that is attacking a vanguard, if you have a «Neo Nectar» vanguard, you may pay the cost. If you do, until end of that battle, your opponent cannot normal call units to Guardian Circle, and the boosted unit does not deal damage even if its attack hits.
Unlike the other support in BT08, Fruits Basket was specifically geared towards the clan's existing deck. While it could be used with Blossom Rain, the optimal way to make use this card was to upgrade Trailing Rose into a functional CB2 end-of-battle rather than an on-hit.

This meant surrendering your chance to force the opponent to spend guard or take damage, so it wasn't something you always wanted to do, but seeing as the new rearguard column could make up for MTR not dealing damage, employing Fruits Basket strategically would result in you losing nothing for the turn while setting up your field for Arboros. You could also use Fruits Basket with Blade Seed/Gene to guarantee field setup if you had good intel that the opponent was going to guard, though in general you wanted Blade Seed on your back row circles and not Fruits.

For decklists, I would first direct you to Igarashi Takemune and Nishi Hirotaka's lists from the 2013 New Year's Tokyo Trio Championships, as these are the only Neo Nectar lists to top from this time period. These were the respective winners of the I and K blocks of the tournament, though like with any team tournament where we don't know the specific player records, these results tend to get downplayed. It is telling that both of their decks were Arboros-MTR builds, as this was generally regarded as the most competitive option for Neo Nectar at the time, but not every Neo Nectar fighter agreed with using the Arboros ride chain due to the associated risks.

The list that I generally use is:
Grade 0
x1 Shield Seed Squire (FV)
x4 Sweet Honey HT
x4 Watering Elf ST
x4 Maiden of Morning Glory ST
x4 Bullet Chestnut CT
Grade 1
x4 Maiden of Blossom Rain (Perfect Guard)
x4 Blade Seed Squire
x4 Fruits Basket Elf
x2 Lady of the Sunlit Forest
Grade 2
x4 Knight of Verdure, Gene
x4 Maiden of Rainbow Wood
x3 Hey Yo Pineapple
Grade 3
x4 Maiden of Trailing Rose
x3 Arboros Dragon, Sephirot
x1 Knight of Harvest, Gene

...Albeit I do go back to a rainbow trigger set, or switch Fruits Basket for Corolla, from time to time.

Despite the incredible toolkit it developed and the overall positive reception, Neo Nectar never saw widespread play across these formats. In fact, for all the lip service and praise the community placed on Neo, it was the least represented of the Zoo clans once they were finished. You can find the occasional "1 Megacolony" struggling through the elimination rounds in the old VGCS breakdowns, but the evidence we have suggests that no one ever played Neo Nectar until BT14 in the fledgling Vanguard Championships. The sole representations we have of Neo Nectar at large-scale tournaments come from Bushiroad's team tournaments, and when considering the nature of these formats, it's not hard to see why.

The cloning strategy Neo Nectar developed under Sephirot was very fragile with or without the ride chain, because DOTE could shut down the field power bonus just by taking out a single grade 1 with Kimnara or Berserk Dragon. It required a lot of forward planning and deliberately holding back in the early game to focus on superior calls with Trailing Rose and Gene, so that you could save up rearguards in hand to call after those retires were made, and that was more work than simply going to town with Alfred or Majesty. While Ildona Shadow Paladin eventually found its unlikely top in Jaguar, MTR-Sephirot never found the right player to bring it into the spotlight for a day.

Hindsight being what it is, it's easy to look back now and see the mistakes we were making--devaluing on-hit skills, sneering at the very existence of Stand Triggers, ignoring more complex plays like teching Gene in favor of just using Shield Seed as a vanilla booster--but that was what the tone of the format was like. We underestimated a clan that was actually very well designed and supported. If it's of any consolation, at least on Cardfight Capital Neo Nectar enjoyed a good deal of popularity.