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.