Thursday, July 28, 2016

Know Your Meta: Granblue

What's up, gang? Historically I've focused more on writing about the decks I've been playing with, what I think of certain cards, delving into the more large-scale implications of new mechanics, and so forth. Today's piece is going to be different, and I suspect you'll find it more informative than my average post, as my goal is to shed light on an increasingly popular and increasingly competitive clan - Granblue. It's pretty spooky! Though that should go without saying, what with all the undead floating around. If you like what you see, be sure to let me know. I may turn this into a series if I can keep up with the hectic release schedule of the game. Note that I won't be including any G-BT08 cards in this rundown.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Growth and Expansion of Vanguard

Vanguard as a TCG is starting to get on in years - 5 and counting - and it's survived a lot of rough patches along the way in order to reach its current state. Viability across the clans is at an all time high. The average Cardfight is more interactive and entertaining than ever before. Deck building is less clear-cut in many cases, which places a greater emphasis on really understanding what you as a player are trying to accomplish within the given card pool, and very rarely will you decide on an addition simply because "there isn't anything else I could be using". It's a great time to be playing Vanguard, and both the sales reports and event attendance rates are a testament to that fact. It's not an accident, either. The current state of the game is a culmination of Bushiroad's past experiences combined with the very real desire to provide players with product that is bigger, faster, and stronger than the cards of yesteryear. This policy of card power inflation is the primary subject I want to explore today.

I want to preface this by saying power creep isn't all bad. Without it, we'd have never gotten past the overbearing presence of Crossrides, nor the extremely oppressive Lock ability. The timely appearance of triggers during a game would still trump anything a given player or deck did in the vast majority of cases. And chances are that Royal Paladin would still be the uncontested king of consistency and flexibility that nothing else could ever hope to mirror. In other words, Bushiroad's willingness to push beyond the established standard has led to a lot of interesting things and avoided what could have been a lot more stagnation than we actually dealt with.

A dying breed... in just about every sense.

Some forms of power creep are obvious to see. Grade 3 cards with 10,000 base power haven't been pushed as serious contenders for the better part of two years. Numerous cards have strong abilities that require you to focus on the only boss you would want to consider in the first place. Effects that exist exclusively to hold cards back, such as Restraint or Lord, are almost completely gone with no signs of ever returning. Even a previously format defining keyword - Limit Break - came to be so dated that a series of cards were rolled out that turned it off, allowing players to use the abilities whenever they like. And to the surprise of no one who's stuck around to see the game grow, most of these cards are still no longer viable.

The world keeps spinning. Must be dizzy.

Other forms of power creep are more subtle. Prior to the beginning of Vanguard G, the number of effects that fired on the opponent's turn were slim and universally the same. Now we have a bunch of them, and they do a lot of different things. Alter Ego Messiah can draw cards, Gurguit can call upon pinch defenders, Denial Griffon cancels attacks outright by retiring rear-guards in a manner more proactive than we've ever seen before, and many decks are able to use some sort of combo to achieve rather unshakeable power during the opponent's battle phase (looking at you, Nociel and Garnet).

11/10, you damn overachiever.

The overall flexibility of cards has seen a dramatic increase. Triggers are no longer just triggers - their individual effects play an incredible role in the success of their respective decks. Heals in particular are just outright worth more than they were a few months ago because they became the catalysts for G Guardians, which in and of themselves have rather limitless design potential. Some forerunners are so good that it's become viable to play them in multiples. Grade 1 cards have done double duty as both boosters and attackers for a long time, and now some are even going a step further by providing search power and the ability to become fodder for a bigger play. Grade 2s regularly get two abilities. Grade 3s... well... you know...

One-shot skills are taking a back seat to those you can use repeatedly over time. Even the very cost to use an ability can prove beneficial these days.

Do you even into perpetual motion?

Then you've got powerful generic G-Units that share the name of their respective clan's strider Grade 3. I've always thought this was a bit of a mistake, since it allows support tied to their names to be used in any deck that has the space and isn't already sitting on a goldmine of more desirable options. This is particularly apparent when you look at the current state of Kagero - there's simply no reason to use a deck centered around Blademaster when Taiten allows Overlord to have access to Jannat, Nadel, Radiant Dragon, etc. and never miss a beat. Thankfully other clans like Neonectar and Granblue have largely avoided the issue by way of more nuanced design decisions.

There's certainly a lot more that could be done in the future, too. I won't pretend to know what Bushiroad has in store, but like it or not, you can count on most of the trends we see today continuing for a good, long time.

Monday, April 4, 2016

GG no re: The G-Guardian and thensome

April 3rd, 2016. The day Bushiroad destroyed the internet. Again. And just when we were getting comfortable with the direction things were presumably going, too! It seems the introduction of G-Guardians isn't the only thing that's going to be turning Vanguard on its head in the coming months.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Stagnant Air? Not on MY Planet!

You know Bushiroad is scraping the bottom of the barrel when they feel the need to unveil a new wave of Bermuda Triangle artwork to maintain viewer interest for their weekly Vanguard stream. :x

It's more or less true - with the remainder of Fighter's Collection 2016 presumed to be mostly-identical G-Guardians (which they're still a week off from properly showcasing), there isn't much left they could have shown us. But the Cray Elemental that Bushiroad held in reserve certainly has people talking!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

BSF 2016 Chicago Team League Report

Tired. Exciting day. Words.

Got the old RUTV team together for the first team event in Illinois in YEARS, and we had a really good time. We took team placements as they fell in the morning, with me in slot C playing Tsukuyomi, one team mate playing Sanctuary Guard in slot B, and the other playing Claret Sword in slot A. Much to our surprise a lot of teams were actually playing with their ace members in the third slot, so I got a lot of great games.

Round 1 - Tsuk vs. Chaos

Right off the bat I'm accosted by a match-up I know altogether too well (tanks, Soolzen), and I was fairly pumped to see how it would turn out. I open with the first turn, call two Concierge alongside my Half Moon vanguard on turn two to force the ability through and ravage his hand in the process. He targets them as one should, but I'm able to maintain one and call another card to my front row on my third turn, thus turning off the possibility of Chaos Universe stunning me to any horrifying degree. He rides Chaos Bringer, locks my only back row, strides Universe and... you know, I'm not sure if he was missing another counterblast to use it or what, but he didn't use its ability. I learn a turn later than he had a Photon at the time too and chose not to call it. Come my turn, he declares the ability of Chaos Bringer, but I inform him that I did not have two locked cards. After he does a double take and we fix the game state ourselves, I carry on as normal. Next turn he rides CBD, tosses out the locks in full force with Bringer and Photon, and I intentionally take a couple more damage. Using the combined abilities of Susanoo and Takemikazuchi I hit my stack, breaking through his two-pass with triple triggers for the game.

Sanctuary Guard partner loses to Nubatama by a very narrow margin, Memesord outpaces an unfortunate Angel Feather player. 1-0 for the team.

Round 2 - Tsuk vs. Sanctuary Guard

I'm fairly used to this as well. Went first. Weaker turn two on my end than I would have liked, being forced to throw down a column of Akagi and Kusanagi alongside my Half Moon vanguard. Ate an early crit for lack of any real way to shrug it off in the face of mighty 14K lanes, he healed somewhere, and got run over badly by his second Sanctuary Guard Regalie. Not for lack of trying, of course - things just didn't favor me this time. 9 cards away from the average sized stack.

Teammates both lost as well. Sanctuary Guard got hit by DOTE while on G2, Memesord lost to Revengers. 1-1 for the team.

Round 3 - Tsuk vs. Revengers

Went first. The perfect guards flew, both of us denying each other on-hits the entire game. I reach my stack and double crit him from 3 to 6 while his pants are down, so to speak.

Sanctuary Guard lost the mirror match when two g assists fell through, while Claret overcame Brawlers with the most overkill Phantom Blaster Diablo I've ever seen. 2-1 for the team.

Round 4 - Tsuk vs. Break Ride Reit

Went first. Well this certainly proved to be a blast from the past. Guy was making mistakes left and right, though, opting out of or just forgetting on hit skills (I reminded him of the mandatory one in Somni). I got slightly faked out by the white duo artworks that I never actually look at (mostly playing online and all...), but nothing that kept me from playing my normal game. He manages to hold out through two separate bands of stacked triggers with all his perfect guards, and it comes down to me swinging with a Full Moon vanguard for the crit to win. He might have actually been able to hold out by playing the Olyvia turn better, but I'll take it.

Sanctuary Guard beats Extreme Battlers. Claret cheeses Revengers with a double crit at 3. Salt ensues. The long and short of it is that this guy really does not like Claret and tried to justify his case by making terrible cross-clan card comparisons (what does Chromejailer have to do with... anything???). The guy's friend was very happy he lost to Claret. I feel like those two shouldn't be on the same team, but whatever. lol. 3-1 for the team.

Round 5 - Tsuk vs. Revengers

This was a local team we haven't fought in a long time, so it was good to see them. Went first. Got hammered by at least one flavor of Blaster Dark every turn until the end of the game, where I got cheesed out by Phantom Blaster Diablo. Course, if I tossed out another card so as to be super careful and avoid that, then Spectral Blaster would have gone to town and ended things all the same. This was the only game all day where I had to toss two cards to stride, one of which was an Akagi I could have otherwise used to be in a solid position. Sadness.

Sanctuary Guard ends up on the receiving end of a last minute Commander Laurel appearance backing Daikaiser Leon to reverse the card advantage situation and loses. Claret decks out by a one card margin against DOTX in a game that would have otherwise been sealed... 3-2 for the team, GG guys, we out. They earned it.

Overall we're not upset. We had a good time, all our opponents were pretty cool guys who were more than willing to explain things like we were, and we never caught wind of any nasty rule sharking cases or what have you. The event was run very well. No re-pairing, no major delays between rounds, a very outgoing staff that was more than willing to lend a hand where there was confusion...

For reference, we took off at 1:45 or so to go eat, lol. So I can't say personally what/who topped or anything. There were 7 rounds before the top cut, though.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.