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.

The Basics

Granblue is characterized first and foremost by its ability to call cards from the drop zone. While it's becoming more common to be able to refresh one's deck by shuffling cards from the drop zone back in or to revive a unit the instant it bites the dust, the pirates of Magallanica remain unrivaled in their ability to go beyond the grave and resurrect their allies again and again.

Granblue enjoys enabling its gambits by way of effects that send cards from the deck to the drop zone, but Vanguard's core game mechanics play into its strength as well. Any rear-guard that gets retired by battle or card effect, any unit used as a guardian, any card that happens to be soul blasted or discarded... they all end up resting in that comfy abyss that acts as a second hand. There aren't a whole lot of cards that are able to interfere with an opponent's drop zone, so it's also the safest toolbox a player could ask for.

Given that their core formula is so potent, you may be wondering why Granblue didn't see a whole lot of action until just recently. It's actually a fairly simple matter - their cost efficiency wasn't very good, their revival frequency was low, and they didn't have a whole lot of stellar rear-guards to bother recurring in the first place. The past is the past, though. G Era support has rectified all these problems and has even gone a step further in handing Granblue a bunch of toys that make even the more established powerhouses jealous.

The Goods

Well, when you have all those resources...
At the forefront of Granblue's success story is one of the most powerful cost mitigation options the game has ever seen. In exchange for spending the time to revive Grenache and waiting until the end of the turn for him to off himself with his own Hollow ability, you net a juicy double counter charge. Seven Seas can easily accommodate this since they get multiple calls in one go, while Nightrose can fall back on the likes of Negrobone and Negrolazy to get the cheesy forerunner back on board if you aren't already going full on ham with your Nightrose G Unit. As an added bonus, Nightrose can use her Generation Break to pull up Grenache as Hollow again and claim an additional two counter charges for the low cost of three cards off the top of the deck. I prefer him in the main deck, personally, while Peter the Ghostie takes the lead at the start of the game, but calling over Grenache is easy enough. You can even activate Hollow turn one if necessary.

Hey! The world can be nice sometimes.
Free as free can be, Negrorook is an 11K beater from the very first stride. But more than that, if he was called in the Hollow state, he rockets up to a whopping 16K solo. That's a pretty good deal, especially for the Seven Seas deck, where he's on a one way trip back to the drop zone in the first place. But he's fine in other variants as well - you're going to call over him with something a bit more permanent by the time Mist Phantasm Pirate King, Nightrose makes her move. If you play any stand triggers, he's your ideal target. He's more or less the ideal column mate for Grenache or a Dancing Cutlass, too. For added spooks, a Nightmist break ride play can generate a 21K solo swing. Or two. Or four. Just line up those counterblasts and the sky is the limit.

Keep it in your pants, bub.
This one is kind of dumbfounding. The precedence for retires in Granblue was set during the Legion block, where Negrobolt's mate Ghoul Dragon gained the ability to do so when it hit the Vanguard on the turn it was called from the drop zone. This naturally fell flat due to low power and no incentive to guard any other attack launched in the given turn. Skeleton Cannoneer takes it to the next level, knocking out any rear guard you want for the low cost of counter blast 1 simply when he's called from the drop zone. He doesn't even need to be in a Hollow state to do so. But if he is? You draw a card too. This means that if you revive both Cannoneer and Grenache with Nightmist's G Unit, you're going to end up paying nothing to create a two card gap in card advantage in addition to getting warm bodies to attack and boost with, or even sacrifice to other effects to generate more permanent cards. It's probably the single strongest common from GBT06.

He's not joking.
What surprises me the most about Pirate Swordsman, Colombard is his utter lack of restrictions. He doesn't call within a specific grade range, he's not picky about unit type, and he doesn't even have a blanket ban on touching other copies of himself. With enough open counter blasts, you can make very long attack chains to close out a game, and you don't even need to be sitting on a particular G Unit at the time. He plays a mean setup game, too, generating inherently permanent cards when and where you need them.

It just keeps going and going and going...
Even if you don't like stand triggers, you sort of have to appreciate the moves this one offers. Mick the Ghostie and Family lends a ludicrous amount of free power to your field, and once it hits the drop zone again after being resurrected in the Hollow state, it returns to the deck for continued use. Since it strictly increases the size of your deck, you can use Mick and Family to turn an otherwise losing situation into an almost guaranteed win. My favorite finisher right now involves grinding my own deck down to a single card, then spinning back three Mick in order to guarantee two stands or more on triple drive. And since there are some particularly big rear-guards sitting around on that turn... you get the picture.

...for a white guy.
Pretty fly...

The duo tied to Nightrose is quite respectable. One gives you more revivals with an optional cost refund if you decide to let him go (and Nightrose can use her Generation Break to bring him back again anyway), while the other facilitates making more attacks and even lets you juggle Grenache around with the greatest of ease.

I don't think grammar works like that.
And doesn't Cray only have one ocean?

All those temporary calls? Not so temporary with these two on the scene. Taking a Hollowed unit revived by Nightmist and transforming it into a booster or additional attack is just about the pinnacle of efficiency in Vanguard right now.

Mai waifu.

A cost of counter blast 2 may seem steep, but being able to break ride out of the drop zone without consuming any cards in hand is well worth the investment, and the option means you will /never/ be without a move to make even in the grim scenario where you had to give up everything you were holding. Plegeton is the ultimate in hope - perhaps even more so than heal triggers themselves. I can't complain about the on-ride skill either because it usually translates into a hard plus somehow. Rough Seas Banshee? Draw. Grenache? Hollow and stride. Anything else? Swap for Nightcrow or Slash Shade. Late game? Pull up that Mick. The possibilities are endless.

Why not both?
What a bro.

Previously, Granblue had a heavy reliance on cards like Ruin Shade in order to achieve their initial drop zone setup. This has been significantly lessened by the addition of Obadiah and Deep Corpse Dragon to their G Zone. Obadiah gets bonus points for cherry picking any three cards you may desire on top of generating a plus in the form of the very card you ditched to Stride him. Thanks, Tommy Bros.

The man knows what he wants.
Go deep or go home.

The two don't look like much at first glance, but when you examine how Nightmist and Nightrose interact with the rest of their clan, there's no denying their potency. A proper drop zone easily allows either one to grind an opponent into the ground through a series of linked abilities and attacks, though I'd advise saving Nightrose for the tail end of the game when you need a slightly more aggressive option to avoid dying yourself. She works best with an already loaded field.

The List

Since Seven Seas is the generally more successful and popular Granblue variant, I've made it a priority to get to know it above all others. I may come up with a formula for Nightrose at a later date since G-BT08 is looking to be a major overhaul for her specifically. Anything else can be regarded as irrelevant until further notice.

Grade 0 (19)
1 Peter the Ghostie [First Vanguard]
1 Undying Departed, Grenache
1 Seven Seas Apprentice, Nightrunner
4 Rick the Ghostie [Heal Trigger]
4 Jimmie the Ghostie [Critical Trigger]
4 Rough Seas Banshee [Critical Trigger]
4 Mick the Ghostie and Family [Stand Trigger]

Grade 1 (13)
4 Tommy the Ghostie Brothers
3 Seven Seas Helmsman, Nightcrow
1 Head-start Zombie
4 Waterspout Jinn
1 Dancing Cutlass

Grade 2 (11)
4 Pirate Swordsman, Colombard
2 Seven Seas Master Swordsman, Slash Shade
2 Witch Doctor of the Rotten Sea, Negrorook
2 Skeleton Cannoneer
1 Deadly Spirit

Grade 3 (7)
4 Lord of the Seven Seas, Nightmist
2 Seven Seas Sage, Plegeton
1 Vampire Princess of Night Fog, Nightrose

G Deck (16)
4 Loved by the Seven Seas, Nightmist
4 Mist Phantasm Pirate King, Nightrose
2 Ghostie Great King, Obadiah
1 Pirate King of Secret Schemes, Bandit Rum
1 Air Element, Sebreeze
1 Light Element, Agleam
1 Metal Element, Scryew
2 Eclipse Dragonhulk, Deep Corpse Dragon

Outside of the aforementioned goods, you'll notice quite a few techs on my end, which I'd like to touch on now.

Nightrunner - A self contained milling engine that provides warm bodies for Nightcrow, I've always felt people were too tough on the guy. I can attribute much of my success with the deck to the fact that he's here. The consistency of end game Mick combos shoots through the roof, among other things.

Head-start - Sometimes you just want that hollow 7K booster. More targeted mill is always appreciated as well.

Cutlass - A classic that's pretty well received even to this day. I'm a bit at odds with it due to it being 5K, not to mention generally not having time to pay it any mind as a revival target, but emptying the soul is a boon that can't be ignored for now.

Deadly Spirit - A grade 2 outlet to burn the soul. Has particularly good synergy as a follow up to the Nightrunner-Nightcrow combo in the event I really need another unit on the front row.

Princess Nightrose - The Tommy Brothers are a staple anyway, and her presence adds even more to their utility by letting you ditch any card in hand to the drop zone without taking a minus to your card presence.

Agleam - It's less of a tech and more of a staple if you ask me. It's by far the most useful Cray Elemental in the deck, allowing you to filter any card of your choosing from your hand into the drop zone while potentially getting something even bigger to work with. Fastest way to turn on Pokkur if you feel the need to play him in a Link Joker heavy environment.

The Plays

When it comes to piloting Granblue, there are about as many routes to take as there are bodies of water on Earth. As such, I won't list every little nuance here. But here are some patterns to get you started.

Let's get Spoopy

1. Stride Obadiah, sending Nightrunner and 2 Nightcrow to the drop zone.
2. Use Nightrunner's skill to call itself, sending 4 cards off the top of the deck to the drop zone.
3. Sacifice Nightrunner to call Nightcrow.
4. Since you have another Nightcrow at the ready, you can use Nightrunner again on the following turn.

This is one of your safest long term investments, as losing Nightcrows to the damage zone over the course of the game can really screw you up. Given the importance of Grenache in longer games, however, it's also a strong choice to send him to the drop zone instead of the second Nightcrow.

Let's get Spoopy 2

Sometimes you will already have a Nightcrow or Nightrunner in the drop zone. In these cases, your Obadiahs are worth even more.

1. Stride Obadiah, sending whichever of the Nightrunner/Nightcrow pair you don't have to the drop zone, alongside 2 cards with Hollow (Grenache is a priority, then take your pick of Head-start, Negrorook, or Cannoneer).
2. Call the Tommy Brothers (or Peter) behind Obadiah.
3. Use the Nightrunner-Nightcrow combo.

Two warm bodies and a drop zone with answers to anything? Pretty good. And the whole dynamic makes Colombard super easy to use, so there's that.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

1. Stride Loved by the Seven Seas, Nightmist and use his skill to call Grenache and a Skeleton Cannoneer, both Hollowed.
2. Use Skeleton Cannoneer's skill to retire and opponent's rear-guard and draw a card.
3. Have Skeleton Cannoneer attack an opposing rear-guard in the front row.
3a. (Optional) Trade Skeleton Cannoneer for Slash Shade when the Vanguard attacks.
4. Grenache retires due to Hollow at the end phase, refunding 2 counter blasts.

The Face is the Place

1. Stride Loved by the Seven Seas, Nightmist and use his skill to call Grenache and Negrorook, both Hollowed to the same lane.
2. Attack with Negrorook. Boost the attack if you have any stand triggers remaining in the deck.
3. Attack with the Vanguard, trading Negrorook for Slash Shade.
4. Grenache retires due to Hollow at the end phase, refunding 2 counter blasts.

Stupid Sexy Colombard

This works so long as your back row circles on the left and right contain 7K boosters.

1. Stride Mist Phantasm Pirate King, Nightrose.
1a. Call Colombard from the hand if he's not on board already.
2. Attack with Colombard, reviving Mick as Hollow to the front row of the other rear guard column. Grant 10K to Colombard, making his attack that much harder to stop.
3. Attack with the Mick column.
4. Attack with Nightrose, calling Grenache as Hollow and any 11K or higher attacker over the Mick column, returning Mick to the deck.
5. As usual, after you finish your attacks, Grenache retires due to Hollow and refunds 2 counter blasts.

The Ghosties Cometh

Opponent ignoring your front row in favor of just going face? Fine and dandy.

1. Stride Loved by the Seven Seas, Nightmist and use his skill to call two copies of Mick and Family to the back row, hollowing both, and power up each side lane.
2. Use your two copies of Nightcrow to replace the Micks and shuffle them back into the deck.

Of course, the more resource sensitive option of reviving one Mick and Grenache is also on the table.

And you thought I only had one Negrorook

1. Stride Mist Phantasm Pirate King, Nightrose
2. Conduct your attacks, making sure to swing with Nightrose last.
3. At this time, use Slash Shade to sacrifice Negrorook.
4. Use Nightrose's skill to retrieve said Negrorook in the Hollow state, as well as Grenache in the Hollow state behind either one of the two, whichever doesn't have a potential booster to stand.

And for the shits and giggles, here's the most ridiculously over the top play for you to dream about performing. Plenty lesser versions will occur on a regular basis, but this is the fullest extent of Granblue's finishing power.

-5 face-up damage
-No less than 3 and no more than 4 cards remaining in the deck, at least 2 of which should be Stand triggers (ie. Mick the Ghostie and Family)
-Nightmist on the Vanguard Circle
-1 pre-existing 7K booster
-Plegeton in hand, along with enough stride fodder
-A drop zone containing 1 Negrorook, 1 Mick, 1 Nightcrow, and 2 Colombard; 1 Head-start required if the deck is 4 cards instead of 3. This part is mostly negligible since it's a natural result of just playing the game in the first place.

Yo dat ain't Falco:
1. Ride Plegeton over Nightmist to activate the break ride skill, calling Negrorook as Hollow in front of the 7K booster and Colombard to the other front circle.
2. Use Plegeton's on ride skill to resurrect Mick as Hollow to any empty circle. Mick's skill gives 10K to the 7K booster.
3. Stride into Mist Phantasm Pirate King, Nightrose.
4. Use Nightcrow's skill to sacrifice Mick, calling himself to the circle behind Colombard. Mick returns to the deck.
4a. If you wish to call a booster for Nightrose, you may do so now.
(all attacks will be pointed at the Vanguard in this scenario)
5. Enter the battle phase. Start by attacking with Negrorook unboosted for 21K.
6. Attack with Colombard boosted by Nightcrow for 21K; use Colombard's skill to call your second Colombard over Negrorook, which then retires.
7. Attack with the new Colombard boosted for 26K (remember, we doped that booster!) and use his skill to call Negrorook as Hollow over the first Colombard.
8. Attack with Negrorook for 16K.
9. Attack with Nightrose, using her skill to call Colombard over Colombard and a booster behind Negrorook (Head-start Zombie if your deck is currently greater than 4 cards).
10. Your triple drive should reveal at least 2 Stand triggers. Use one to stand Colombard's booster, giving it or Colombard the 5K. Use the other to stand Negrorook and add 5K to it. If a third trigger comes up, assign the 5K to Negrorook's booster.
11. Attack with Negrorook for 21K.
12. Attack with Colombard boosted for 31K; use his skill to call any attacker over Negrorook.
13. Attack with your final lane for at least 21K. If by chance you chose to play Gast Dragon, this can also be 31K.

In the end, even if we assume the opponent had all of their perfect guards and all of their heal triggers in hand, the opponent will be losing 11 cards to the combo if they are at 5 damage.

Note: Angel Feather can royally screw this up. But sure to snipe any copies of Nurse of Broken Heart before trying anything fancy.

Note2: Dimension Police can also soften the blow with X-Carivou if you make the mistake of ever attacking for 31K. Assign triggers a bit more carefully in this match-up.

Note3: Any rogue Crossrides will also change the dynamic.

The Counters

Since you can't realistically expect Granblue's resources or attacking formation to ever fizzle out, your best option as its opponent is to attempt outpacing it in battle. The hand is something that can run dry with enough effort.

Added defense on your Vanguard will significantly nerf the output of their multi-attacking prowess, instead forcing them to swing fewer times for larger numbers.

Deletors have the potential to give Granblue a run for their money if they can get rolling soon enough. Cutting into the drop zone toolbox before it gets built up and shutting off Nightmist's break ride skill as well as Nightrose's stride skill hurts.

The End

Well, it's coming up on 2 AM, and I think I've covered the majority of what one can expect to see from the clan on a regular basis, so I'm gonna call it quits. I can only hope you've been enlightened in some way - thanks for reading!

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