Sunday, February 3, 2013

Choosing the Right Starting Vanguard

So you've picked a clan and maybe a build too.  Now, let's make a deck! 

One of the first units you'll pick out will probably be your starting vanguard.  There isn't more than a few to pick from right?  Should be easy enough......apparently not.  I guess I'll make a guide for it.

This article will also clarify and explain some pros and cons of certain starters.

Note: Ctrl+F is a handy thing.  I warn you, reader, down there be a wall of text...
Note 2: Because of its official status due to Bushiroad wanting to simplify common skills, the term "Forerunner" will be used to refer to units that can be called to rearguard from the Soul after being ridden by a unit of the same clan as it.
  • Standard text: Dragon∞Blade
  • Italicized text: Rin Dunois

Royal Paladin: Not much to pick from here.

1. Stardust Trumpeter: It's a vanilla starter.  Do you really want this?  If you like the art, just keep it in your deck box or something.  I really wouldn't use this thing.  It's a dead card in soul.  It doesn't do anything!!! Being a vanilla starter with no skill whatsoever, it does not net you any form of advantage. However, it may not be a bad idea to run this in Soul-based builds revolving around Demon Slaying Knight, Lohengrin if you would prefer not to use the next starter below, which also stays in the Soul.

2. Drangal: It WAS the only viable Starting Vanguard for Royal Paladin...until Brugal and Wingal Brave.  If you use the Galahad ride chain, it's still the best option as it can possibly negate ride minus each turn by riding to the next grade from the top cards of the deck. However, this unit and its core pieces run the risk of sending key units and triggers to the bottom of the deck until you are able to shuffle it. The advantage gained from this Starting Vanguard is also not guaranteed due to its nature. Of course, Galahad-centric builds should keep this regardless.

3. Brugal: With the release of BT04: Eclipse of Illusionary Shadows, Royal Paladin has access to another starter. Based on its skill, it is intended for the Garmore-centric build utilizing Snogals as 1-for-1 units via the skill of Beast Knight, Garmore or Fang of Light, Garmore or even a +1 via High Dog Breeder, Akane. However, if you are like me and feel that Drangal and the Galahad ride chain is sending too many useful cards to the bottom of the deck, is not a good form of advantage, or both, you may want to consider this starter in other variants (except Soul-based and Galahad-centric builds) as it is guaranteed advantage via free field presence. The 4000 Power this unit has may be a bit lacking, though, so it is better off sitting behind a King of Knights, Alfred or being replaced at a later time.  If you feel the need to piss people off, you can also pull Bluegal to the side.  Any booster behind it, and it'll hit for a single stage on just about anything.  Your opponent loses 1 card in hand or 1 card on field or takes 1 damage each turn for the first few turns of the game.  And no shits are given when it dies.  It probably just ate a damage for you.

4. Wingal Brave: Royal Paladin finally gets a Starting Vanguard that moves to a rear guard circle AND has 5000 Power with a pretty decent skill to boot if it succeeds. Its skill is especially important for decks based around Majesty Lord Blaster, which is released in the same set as this starter: BT05: Awakening of Twin Blades, as it allows for some nice 1-for-1 searching. This unit will either put constant pressure on your opponent out of fear of letting you search or grant you the pieces you need for a very potent unit. Even outside of Majesty Lord Blaster builds, this unit makes for a decent 5000 Power booster, which is not bad in the case of Crossrides as it can make a sufficient column of 18000 Power with Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes.  Oh screw that.  It makes 20k with HOLY DISASTER DRAGON!  How awesome is that?  It's also 2 stages in most cases with a vanilla 10k in front of it.  He's also a lot cuter than Bluegal!  But the most important part: Royal Paladin, retreating vanguard, 5k, not banned.

Gold Paladin: Quite a few nice things here.  Unique things, if I may add.

1.  Grassland Breeze, Sagramore: Adorable, but really kinda useless.  But he's adorable.  I keep one in my deckbox.  But yea, certainly not the competitive choice in any case.  I guess if you really need all the soul and counterblast you can get?

2. Angelic Liberator: It's Sagramore, but less cute imo.

3. Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer: Ooh look, another Arthurian reference.  But back on track.  Here's another ride chain starting vanguard.  This one allows you to search the top 7 of the deck for the grade 2 or 3 when the grade 1 is ridden; a 3rd rank ride chain.  Not the most consistent thing in the world, so I guess it's good that spectral duke doesn't depend on it 100%.  Vortimer's chain does net plusses though, and like the rest of the 3rd rank chains, if you miss the grade 1, you can call it out from under another grade 1 as long as it's a gold paladin.  Oh, whoops, this article is about starters, not ride chains.  But yeah, this is the starter for Spectral Duke Dragon dedicated decks. However, riding something else besides Scout of Darkness, Vortimer over this may prove to hinder your strategy. Its low base power is also not something to write home about. Worst case scenario, he's a 10k Spectral Duke's lunch/fodder.

4. Crimson Lion Cub, Kyrph: A really nice starter with a unique effect. Its ability to ensure a Grade 3 ride as well as amassing Soul without having to Counter-Blast is really useful. If not that, it makes for a suitable 5000 booster that can be replaced if necessary. Highly recommended in builds that contain Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel (not necessarily revolve around). Just 1 or 2 Ezel is all you need to take advantage of Kyrph.  Its superior ride is notable in that it does not force you to run "dumb/useless shit", because the conditions for superior ride require the 10k grade 2, Beaumains, and the 8k grade 1, Gareth, 2 units that you had better be running anyways.  Note: Successful superior rides, while strategically advantageous, do not actually net card advantage in most cases.  This one does not.  Ezel's limit break does though.  Actually, Ezel works well with his own superior ride mechanic in this way.

5. Spring Breeze Messenger: With the release of BT07: Rampage of the Beast King, Gold Paladin has access to a more versatile starter, being able to be put into just about any variant without hindering the specific winning images. Its ability is essentially a 1-for-1, but its synergy with some of the cards from the set it was released in can make for some nice, much needed advantage. Being on-hit, it also helps to apply pressure until it either gets retired or finally gets to trigger its Superior Call skill.  Oh dang, he beat me to it.  Spring Breeze Messenger is my personal favorite Gold Paladin starter.  He has the ability to replace himself with something more useful.  Boost, hit, search top 3 of the deck.  At best, he nets you a Pellinore to superior ride, a Lop Ear with usable skill, a Dindrane for +1, or Flash Edge (if you use that) for another plus.  More good calls include good boosters like Gareth and Sleygal, or rear guard attackers like Beaumains and Tripp.  Worst shit that can happen is that he gets replaced with a 5k trigger with the same power as himself (unless it's a 4k trigger), but with 3 possible cards to pick from, the chances of being forced to do that are low.  He's also really cute.  I mean, look!  He has bunny ears, but they're also daggers!  That's so awesome!

Oracle Think Tank: A lot of nice things here and a lot more to come in the future!

1. Lozenge Magus: It's a heal trigger, yes.  But it's also a grade 0, and a viable starter. Being able to boost for 6000 is not bad, neither. Since it's a recyclable unit, it also helps to ensure triggers stay in the deck, but with the release of subsequent sets, it would be much preferred to use a unit that has longer term field presence as a Starting Vanguard.  Actually, you can use this to run a rather unique grade ratio.  By having only 16 grade 0s, you open up a spot for an extra 1, 2, or 3 that can be rode or called to the field.  But yeah, when you boost with it to return it to the deck, you neg yourself.

2. Godhawk, Ichibyoshi: Being crucial to Tsukyomi-centric builds, it is a given that this is the Starting Vanguard of choice that choose to utilize Goddess of the Full Moon, Tsukuyomi. Its ability along with the abilities of the other cards that form the Tsukuyomi ride chain help to create a very devastating late game should it drag out so long. Its ability to act as a safety net for misrides is also quite useful. Of course, this should not really be used outside of Tsukuyomi-based builds as partial ride chains do not quite mix with most other variants of this clan.  Not that you can't just use the grade 0-2 to create a 13-15 card stack for an Amaterasu deck or something.  Hell, I've seen BASSKIRK deck with a Tsuku stack (it was scary too, if I didn't finish him that turn, he'd have his stack AND his megablast active).  A very nice ride chain, definitely.  It'll require good memory if you want to go for the the stack.

3. Little Witch, LuLu: And hello, no brainer effect. Actually, Coco's whole deck is pretty auto-pilot... Welp, Rin's the expert on Soulless OTT here, so I'll say no more.  Prior to the release of BT07: Rampage of the Beast King, builds that wanted to utilize Scarlet Witch, CoCo from BT02: Onslaught of Dragon Souls really sucked were played in a more awkward manner and lacked much needed consistency to get the skill off. With this new option, riding Scarlet Witch, CoCo would be so much more rewarding and ensured advantage. Yes, it is a little awkward that she does not move out to rear guard until your Grade 3 ride, but being able to move out sooner or later also helps to make decently sized columns with Vanilla intercepts and units like Battle Sister, Mocha. (NOTE: Some people may get confused with how the skills of both this and Scarlet Witch, CoCo resolve especially if you have experience with a children's card game that is known to have effect timing issues. Luckily, Bushiroad does not wish to enforce the concept of missing the timing of a skill, so as turn player, you may choose to resolve skills that activate at the same time in any order you wish, allowing you to get off both this and the skill of Scarlet Witch, CoCo.)  And she's SO MOE!  Eh, not more moe than Chocolat.  It doesn't have to be confined to a witch deck though.  She can be a default starter outside of Tsukuyomi builds, Battle Sister decks, and Lozenge Magus users.

4. Sphere Magus: See above for Lozenge Magus.  They're interchangable.  It depends if you like younger girls or older girls (not sure if Sphere Magus is of legal age though...)

5. Battle Sister, Eclair: Really nice artwork here.  Actually, she kind of reminds me of Eclair from Dog Days (green hair and expression and all).  The standard grade 3 searcher of OTT.  While she isn't used so often, it's nice that she exists (unlike a MUCH NEEDED Royal Paladin grade 3 unwanted by all the other clans...but Royal Paladin would KILL to have one).  I want to say it's viable in a Battle Sister deck, b-b-but, WAFFLE!

Shadow Paladin: Uhhh, Fullbau or GTFO?

1. Fullbau: You currently lack other options. An ensured Grade 2 ride is always helpful to have, allowing more space for more Grade 1s, which really benefits this clan in particular. This ride chain is usable in any build as any variant of this clan relies more on gaining field and hand advantage with its rear guards anyway.  You know, they could've translated this as "Foolbau", but they didn't.  Good job.  (Still LOLing at "Loonbau".)  Not much to say about it right now.  Not like you get any more options for a while.

Angel Feather: A ride chain starter, a grade 3 searcher, and a unique effect starter.

1. Thermometer Angel: Grade 3 searcher. Use it if you really do not like the other options.  IMO, she's not very cute.  Oh, yeah, it's not too useful, but at least it's there.  (I wish Bluegal was a grade 3 searcher...)

2. Miracle Feather Nurse: The Ergodiel ride chain starter.  Doesn't have much of a use outside of that chain.  However, decks running part of the ride chain should also use this starter.

3. Hope Child, Turiel: The release of BT07: Rampage of the Beast King brings this more versatile option to Angel Feather, making use of the Damage Zone relatively early on in the game without needing to fulfill any specific requirements like on-hit or Limit Break. It also helps to power up the Pegasus series and similar units early on if Chief Nurse, Shamsiel is unable to use her Limit Break as well as netting you a certain unit of your desire in your Damage Zone.  For all the wrong reasons, I'm not a big fan of Shamsiel.  But this starter works for more than just Shamsiel.  It's good for retrieving units from the damage zone.

4. Sunny Smile Angel: See the notes for Lozenge Magus above.  But for Angel Feather I guess you'd only use it if your build really needed to have a 16 grade 0 lineup.

Kagero: I believe it's called, "having 2 viable choices".

1. Lizard Soldier, Conroe: This is arguably one of the best Starting Vanguards in the game and is a popular choice for players of the Kagero clan for a reason. Its ability to search out ANY Grade 1 or lower unit is way too versatile. Yeah, it's a 1-for-1, but Conroe opens up all kinds of plays. Need a strong booster? Check. Need a Demonic Dragon Mage, Kimnara for another 1-for-1 play? Check. Feel a little pressured and need a Sentinel? Check. Conroe is way too useful. Highly recommended for all variants except for Amber Dragon builds.  Not that using it isn't unheard of in Amber Dragon builds.  I wouldn't, but it's not bad for that I guess.  But yeah, using this card allows you to run and benefit from a variety of different grade 1s.  Conroe can fetch any of these "one-of" techs.  This is useful for situationally good cards like Lizard Soldier, Raopia (that's right, crossrides, I'm ready for ya; BRING IT).  It's really one of the first cards you should get when building a Kagero deck.  It can make up a bit for things that are still missing; that last perfect guard you're missing, or that 3rd Heatnail salamander...

2. Lizard Runner Undeux: The hell is this?  Oh, you're on a tight budget...sorry bro.  Here, have my extra Amber Dragon, Dawn.  Even if you don't use the chain, Dawn's still cuter.  (Hell, this might as well be a Grassland Breeze, Sagramore.). It may be a somewhat viable option for builds revolving around Vortex Dragon, but there are better choices.

3. Amber Dragon, Dawn: Oooh, ride chains!  I love ride chains!  They're really fun!  Uh, yeah, anyways, set 4 gave us this little bundle of joy here and after a bit of testing, I find that the ride chain is pretty nice.  For Amber Dragon ride chains, this is almost a MUST.  There's also a good psuedo amber build I drafted out for the "restriction list assumption", which runs 2x Eclipse, 4x Overlord, and 2x JI ENDO, and Dawn as starter (to handle the "Conroe or persona blast" dilemma). Its ability to ensure a Grade 2 ride is very helpful. It stays in the Soul, making it a fair option for builds revolving around Vortex Dragon or Blazing Flare Dragon.

Tachikaze: Not a lot of choice, but the one that's there is pretty nice.

1. Ironclad Dragon, Shieldon: Vanila starter. Much preferred as an extra Grade 0 rather than a Starting Vanguard since it can be searched out by Assault Dragon, Blightops.  I was NOT aware that this counted as a starter.  But now that I take another look at it, indeed, it follows the typical vanilla starter patterns.

2. Dragon Egg: Currently the only option with a skill for Tachikaze. This unit's skill is a life saver for the Tachikaze clan and is part of what allows the clan to do surprisingly well despite not having too many options available until BT08: Blue Storm Armada. Not only does it retreat to a rear guard circle but to be able to be returned to the hand after being sent from the field to the drop zone? An extra 10000 shield can make or break the game. Its relatively cheap Counter-Blast cost also makes this quite useful early on in the game to trigger the skills of units that need a sacrifice of sorts. Also, feel free to laugh at people who dare to retire this unit.  Dragon Egg says "Dear Saishin, Blaster Blade, Gatling Claw, and all you Berserk Dragon clones: Just stop trying.  Your efforts are futile and pathetic."  It's fodder, and low cost maintenance!

3. Baby Ptero: Standard Grade 3 searcher. It's ok, but the aforementioned Dragon Egg is usually preferred in most variants because of its floater ability.

4. Military Dragon, Raptor Soldier: Ride chain starter (like Vortimer/Spectral Duke Dragon and Riviere). This particular ride chain helps to establish a field of decently powered units to apply some early game pressure and are to be used as sacrifices for a hard-hitting Limit Break later on in the game. 

Narukami: Once again, 2 viable choices (this time, only 1 is the least bit impressive).

1. Lizard Soldier, Sishin: Useless vanilla starter is useless.  Not even for megablast.  Narukami has Garuda and Saishin (one unflips and one goes into soul).

2. Lizard Soldier, Saishin: A very useful starter with an effect unique to Narukami (so far).  It really shits on other starters.  Mess up your opponent's day by retiring a starter they kinda relied on.  It IS a one for one, but under an assumption that the opponent's loss was greater than yours in quality.  It could've been a Captain Nightkid used to set up plays, a superior ride starter like Kyrph, or a combo piece like Spring Breeze, maybe even a toolbox searcher like Conroe.  And if it doesn't all work out, it's still a 5k booster (fair enough, and certainly better than Spark Kid's 4k). Certain players will be scared of this card. Trust me. Unless they have something like a Guiding Zombie that can go in the Soul at no cost, most players would want to make sure this does not trigger its skill, so they may want to guard early against an attack boosted by this unit. Really helps for the lack of a formidable early game Narukami tends to have.  (Which is odd, because Narukami was designed to have a good early game...and then Vermillion.)

3. Spark Kid Dragoon: Another standard grade 3 searcher.  Boy you must really hate Saishin...  Just kidding, he's got his uses.  Especially if you're going for Indra build (lol who does that?  Oh wait, I think I considered it).

4. Exorcist Mage, Koh Koh: This unit has quite the interesting ability. A good amount of Narukami units have CONT skills that make them quite a bit unappealing, particularly the Djinn and some of the Exorcist cards. By Soulblasting 1, you can disable these CONT skills that are essentially drawbacks. However, its low POWER of 3000 does not quite make it too viable. Try at your own risk.

5. Divine Sealing Kid, Soh Koh: A forerunner with a POWER 6000? What's the catch? Well, it can't boost rearguards, but it makes for a decent boosting unit for your Vanguard. Not a bad choice if you do not care too much for hitting high numbers with your Vanguard column. 

Murakumo: One unique and two clones. Have fun.

1. Stealth Beast, Evil Ferret - This unit is quite the interesting one. It retreats from the Soul. It has a decent POWER of 5000. By shoving it this to the bottom of your deck, you can Superior Call a unit from your hand regardless of Grade, go in for a quick and early assault, and return that unit to your hand. If you end up shuffling your deck, you may draw into this for an extra 10000 Shield. Using its skill a second time via this method would not prove to be too effective of course, since it is an ACT skill. 

2. Body Changing Ninja, Kokuenmaru - Standard Grade 3 searcher. I would say that this unit works particularly better for decks that revolve around the Persona Blast guarding units of Covert Demonic Dragon, Mandala Lord and Fantasy Petal Storm, Shirayuki than other variants. Of course, as with all Grade 3 searchers, use at your risk.

3. Stealth Dragon, Magatsu Wind - Ride chain starter (like Vortimer/Spectral Duke Dragon, Riviere, etc.). This particular ride chain allows for the hit-and-run assaults that are unique to this clan without having to use Counter-Blasts. It's nice if you get it off but may be detrimental if you don't as with all ride chains of this type.

Dark Irregulars: Some cohesive and subtle things here.

1. Vermillion Gatekeeper: While it does not net direct card advantage like most Starting Vanguards, it does help to initiate the tactic of what Dark Irregulars is known for: big Soul. Without requiring costs of a Counter-Blast, this unit is particularly useful for builds focusing on Megablasts. It is also not a bad option in builds that choose to play the Kagero-esque route with Gwynn the Ripper and Bloody Calf for early +1s if they're called to the rear guard.  Because Dark Irregulars actually have a GOOD megablast.  Still Vampir = surprise buttrape.  Ah, and No Life King, Death Anchor might as well be a megablast of sorts too; yeah, he'd use this starter too.

2. Devil in Shadow: Grade 3 searcher. I personally do not see this unit particularly too useful for this clan. With the high amount of Soulcharging that is done, the deck is thinned out relatively quickly, theoretically allowing for a higher chance of successful rides if the opening hand and post-mulligan hand do not suffice.  DI decks often contain a large amount of 'vanguard material" grade 3s.  A grade 3 you have is probably suitable for riding rather than calling.  A really vanguard-centric clan...with little use for this starter.

3. Greedy Hand: A unit that allows for specific cards to enter the Soul rather than haphazardly Soulcharge, this unit is quite slow for certain variants. Nevertheless, this tends to see play more often just because he starts off being a decently sized unit for early game pressure, which really makes up for the lack of power and tempo this clan has during that phase of the game. Its skill also works quite well with the Witching Hour series should one choose to use them in their build.  So, I had this idea for an Edel Rose deck...which I've temporarily discarded.  Yeah, you can use this to shove Werewolf Sieger into the soul.

Pale Moon: One unique and two clones for this circus of deadly assassins.

1. Hades Ringmaster: The Pale Moon counterpart to Vermillion Gatekeeper.  Doesn't net any direct card advantage.  It DOES give a free soul charge (which is admittedly less useful in Pale Moon than it is in Dark Irregulars).  If you plan on using a megablast, you kinda need this.  It also has a place in Luquier builds as her own skill is a bit costly and often benefits from not having a full field.  It is highly not recommended in most builds as Pale Moon care more about the QUALITY of their Soul than the QUANTITY.  (CBT or GTFO?)

2. Innocent Magician: Standard Grade 3 searcher. Not too useful for this clan except maybe Sarah variants to get into your combo pieces. It's actually quite nice in Sarah builds.  In Pale Moon, things that go back into the soul can be called back out, and their skills, re-used.  Scratch that, this would definitely be my FIRST CHOICE for a Sarah build. After piloting a Sarah deck myself, I have concluded that this unit is not at all necessary for such a variant. I personally prefer what is below...

3. Girl Who Crossed the Gap: Another "clan skill" starter.  At the cost of 1 counterblast, she can reorganize the field or start off a trapezist combo when necessary.  This will trigger Luquier's +3k skill, Glenn's +3k, Trapezist's own skill, and Dancing Princess's on call specific soul charge.  It can also be used to retrieve a card you rode over. This unit is also what gives this clan some nice deadly field establishment after a good Soul has been established. The amount of combos that this unit can be utilized in is astounding. This can lead to some very devastating fields if used properly. The toolbox utility that this unit enables is very much useful even in Sarah variants to create some deadly field formations. 

4. Smiling Presenter: Another forerunner unit with a decent POWER of 5000, this unit works similarly to Captain Nightkid of Granblue, where it checks the top 10 cards of your deck to fuel your Soul toolbox. It may be a bit awkward to use in Counter-Blast heavy builds, though, but this can help to put some useful Grade 0 or 3 units that Dancing Princess of the Night Sky cannot place into the Soul with her skill.

Spike Brothers: Lending a helping hand in beating your opponent's ass to the ground starting turn 1.

1. Mecha Trainer: Like Lizard Soldier, Conroe of Kagero, only with less choices to choose from. Being a rush-oriented clan, Mecha Trainer can help search out some fairly useful pieces in the form of a Wonder Boy or Medical Manager to allow your units to hit with massive power, a Reckless Express for some spammy Battle Phases, or even Dudley Dan for builds revolving around General Seifried. In any case, Mecha Trainer is up there with Lizard Soldier, Conroe in terms of overall utility.  Good searcher is good.  Running certain grade 1s in 1-2 copies becomes viable.

2. Smart Leader, Dark Bringer: Essentially an early-game Sky Diver, this unit pales in comparison to the above in terms of utility. Yes, it can help to apply early game pressure, but its ability is not as useful as Mecha Trainer's when it comes to the overall strategy of the clan. Spike Brothers is more combo-based than some would like to give it credit for, and this unit hinders the tempo of the clan. Of course, I'm not going to stop you from trying it out. 

Granblue: 2 great starters with clan unique effects and 1 not-so-unique starter with a common effect.

1. Guiding Zombie: Costless setup is GREAT for Granblue.  I guess being non-discriminate is a cost of sorts though.  In some decks, this matters less and in others it matters a bit more.  Decks heavy on revival effects can easily mill a "revivable unit".  By the way, if you use Basskirk's megablast at all, you kind of need this starter.  (Pietro's unflipping, if used at all, is better reserved for other counterblast skills.)  Being able to be shoved into the Soul without Counter-Blasts, this unit easily escapes the likes of being retired along with potentially setting up the Drop Zone for your necromancy plays. Of course, haphazard milling might not be for some, but it is the best option for Basskirk- centric builds and Cocytus-based builds. (You really want that 2+ damage open by your Grade 3 ride in such a build.)

2. Skeleton Assault Troops Captain: Grade 3 searcher. Not too useful for this clan as it would prefer to have its Grade 3s arise from the Drop Zone rather from the hand.  In decks using a superior ride, this card actually does NOT increase the chances of riding to grade 3 successfully.  In fact, either of the other starters would be more beneficial to your cause.

3. Captain Nightkid: My personal favorite.  From the top 10 cards (a good portion of your remaining deck) you can selectively "foolish burial" a unit and send it to the drop zone.  In contrast to Guiding Zombie, this unit allows for a more specific set-up of the Drop Zone, preventing valuable cards like triggers from entering the area early game. Makes it easier to get a single specific card rather than a larger number of assorted cards.  Works better for builds that want to Superior Ride from the Drop Zone or wants more specific utility via the Deadly series.  Such good card art too!

Aqua Force: Oh boy, I guess we'll have it here early then.

1. Officer Cadet of the First Battle: Obligatory vanilla starter. There has yet to be a Megablast unit for Aqua Force (as of BT09: Clash of the Knights and Dragons), so no need for something to remain in the Soul.  Another vanilla starter with nice art though.  (Hmm, an Aqua Force megablast unit huh?  Sounds cool...oh dude, it should make all ur rear guards attack twice or something!)

2. Officer Cadet, Erikk: Grade 3 searcher. It is not a bad choice for this clan as it really shines when Grade 3 units like Storm Rider, Diamantes or Water General of Wave-like Spirals, Benedict are on the field, increasing the number of attacks you have to trigger the skills of units like Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom. Of course, the risk of not getting a Grade 3 may not be too appealing for some.

3. Aqua Breath Dracokid: Being able to go in the Soul without any additional cost, this unit is able to escape the likes of Lizard Soldier, Saishin. Its ability to give a unit an on-hit ability also helps to apply pressure. However, a 4+ attack Battle Phase needed to trigger the skill is not typically bound to happen until the Grade 3 ride at the earliest, so expect this unit to sit on the field for quite a while.

4. Tri-Stringer Dracokid: As its skill suggests, it is clearly intended to be in the front row. It can help apply early pressure with its skill, able to hit for 1 Stage on its own against Grade 1 Vanguards or 2 Stages with a booster of 7000 or more power. It may even piss the opponent off to the point where they would be glad to get rid of the thing for being able to apply pressure early on in the game.

5. Officer Cadet, Astrea: Mmm, short-shorts. Its skill sounds good on paper, but with a boosting Power of 4000, it is pretty unlikely to hit. Of course, it can apply some decent pressure behind a Vanguard-intended unit especially if there is a Limit Break active on top of that. However, with a lack of hard-hitting, standalone units aside from Vanilla intercepts, Coral Assault, and some Grade 3s, this skill is not as useful as one would think except maybe to take out some rear guards or apply early game pressure.

Bermuda Triangle: And they're all so cute and adorable.

1. Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Weddell: Ah, Magallanica, why do you have so many retreating Starting Vanguards that just shove themselves back into the Soul at no cost? That's Magallanica for you.  Anyway, this unit helps to open up your advantage engine early on in the game, giving you some nice defensive capabilities and more options at such an early stage if you bounce the right card back to your hand with its skill.  If you want "card advantage or gtfo" then yea, it's meant for bouncing a Rio or Carine to draw a card.  It's got great synergy with the clan, most importantly.

2. Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Shizuku: Grade 3 searcher. Not too great for this clan especially for builds revolving around Velvet Voice, Raindear, which prefers to have Grade 3 units in the Deck until after the Grade 3 ride.

3. Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Riviere: Obviously the starting component of the Riviere ride chain, this unit is what allows for a potential 11000 Vanguard with a decent Persona Blast to boot. It's also a 3rd rank chain.  Not perfect when it comes to consistency, but it nets great plusses when it works.  Of course, as with all ride chains of this type, riding anything but the Grade 1 component of the ride chain can leave you with a subpar 4000 rear guard, which may prove detrimental to your strategy.  I honestly don't think the "partial ride chain" build works too well for Riviere but I guess that'd be viable and this would indeed be the starter for it.

4. Bermuda Triangle Cadet, Caravel: I hope you realize this isn't supposed to be a starting vanguard...  And god help you if you ever find yourself gradestuck at 0 while using this as a starter (3k...worst defensive power EVER). THIS IS CONSIDERED A CHOICE?!

Great Nature: A good amount of choices here.

1. Acorn Master - Standard Grade 3 searcher. Not too useful for this clan in particular as it tends to pump its intercepts and other non-Grade 3 units for a heavy offensive yet technical strategy. Your Counter-Blasts are also better spent elsewhere.

2. Schoolyard Prodigy, Lox - Ride chain starter (like Vortimer/Spectral Duke Dragon and Riviere). This ride chain tries to gain advantage via typical Great Nature tactics of pump and explode and draw cards off the results. 

3. Flask Mermoset - Retreats and has a POWER of 5000. Not bad, not bad. However, its ACT skill to pump a unit and have it explode at the end phase of that turn is much too costly. 

4. Blackboard Parrot - This unit (along with other units from BT08: Blue Storm Armada) has finally brought people to take a second look at this clan. By shoving it into the Soul at absolutely no cost, you can make up for pumping up a unit by drawing a card (and getting other washes via units like the Hammsuke series).

5. Gardening Mole - This works similarly to the aforementioned Blackboard Parrot but requires a Counter-Blast of 1. Instead of drawing a card, you get the unit you blew up instead. Either this or Blackboard Parrot make for nice viable choices for Great Nature in my opinion.

Neo Nectar: Like Murakumo, one unique and two clones.
1. Shield Seed Squire - This is quite the unique Starting Vanguard. Usually you would place Forerunner type units in the back to be used as boosting units, but because of this unit's skill, you would usually want this in the front to potentially get its skill off of calling a specific Grade 1 unit with a decent POWER of 7000 to rearguard in Rest. This can help to make for some interesting battle formations with this series of "tree knights."
2. Arboros Dragon, Ratoon - Ride chain starter (like Vortimer/Spectral Duke Dragon and Riviere). This particular ride chain gains advantage by multiplying already existing units on the field, which would help to assist in Sephirot's Limit Break to make for pulverizing columns throughout the board.
3. Broccolini Musketeer, Kirah - Standard Grade 3 searcher. From my experience with people playing the Musketeer archetype in particular, it doesn't seem to be a recommended tactic to actually use its skill. Because of the Counter-Blasts that are used quite frequently in Musketeer variants to set up the field, this unit is better off used as tribute simply because of its name.

Megacolony: Prevent pesky units from Standing early, one way or another.
1. Madame Mirage: Vanilla. Look elsewhere if you wish to make something viable.

2. Megacolony Battler C: Being a Forerunner and his POWER of 5000, this unit can help to apply some early pressure with the threat of preventing a rearguard from standing after shoving this back into the Soul, putting certain decks in a delayed situation. Of course, do be aware of its Counter-Blast cost especially when using a deck based on Martial Arts Mutant, Master Beetle, which has a heavy Counter-Blast cost for its Limit Break.

3. Larva Mutant, Giraffa: A ride chain starter (like other BT04-style ones). This ride chain is arguably the most splashable for people that want to be guaranteed Grade 2 rides. The guaranteed Grade 2 unit that can be obtained via this unit is quite useful as it does not require any costs to be paid and just simply needs to meet the condition of hitting the opposing Vanguard to activate the same skill of the aforementioned Megacolony Battler C.

Nova Grappler: Nothing too awesomely interesting yet.

1. Battleraizer: Another pull-back, boost, return to deck trigger.  This or Turboraizer would be the preferred starter for Perfect Raizer decks.  See Lozenge Magus for our thoughts on Starting Vanguard units like this that return to the deck after boosting.

2. Turboraizer: Same as Battleraizer.  A budget alternative... is what we would say if it were not for the release of Trial Deck 03: Golden Mechanical Soldier, which has a playset of Battleraizers. 

3. Beast Deity, White Tiger: Pretty much only has use for decks heavy in usage of Beast Deity units. Even without the newer Beast Deity units that will be released, this unit can still do some work as a decent booster with POWER 5000. Its skill can also be quite the pressure unit right behind your Vanguard, forcing your opponent to drop more cards than they should just to prevent you from Standing a rearguard Beast Deity, Azure Dragon.

4. Blaujunger: OMG IT'S A GUNDAM!  *ahem* right, umm, yeah, so this is the Blaukruger ride chain starter.  2nd rank chain, and fairly consistent. With Blaukluger having the capability to unflip damage, this starter may see play outside of Blaukluger variants that rely on using Counter-Blasts often. Otherwise, as a BT04-style ride chain Starting Vanguard, it can help to ensure smooth riding to Grade 2. 

5. Kaleido Ace: Oh, it's a Kero Kero Ace deck vanilla (I think Joker deck is from Kero...).

Dimension Police: 2 ride chains, a unique, and a clone. Pick your way to lead this group of aliens, robots, and other extraterrestrial beings!
1. Workerpod, Saturday: Obligatory Vanilla.

2. Enigman Flow: BT04 type ride chain. The skills of the relevant Enigman Wave and Enigman Storm both depend on being powered up prior to being boosted, netting a draw or a Critical +1, respectively. Not too impressive with later cards.

3. Dimensional Robo, Goyusha: Unique forerunner with quite the interesting skill. By shoving 4 Dimensional Robo units including itself, you can ride a Grade 3 with "Dimensional Robo" in its name when you have a Grade 2 or greater Vanguard of this clan. As awesome as it looked in the anime to perform a Superior Crossride into Ultimate Dimensional Robo, Great Daiyusha, this unit in particular incurs severe minuses for a clan that has trouble maintaining advantage to begin with. If anything, it helps get Dimensional Robo units into the Soul to enable Great Daiyusha's Limit Break.

4. Warrior of Destiny, Dai: Standard Grade 3 searcher. Some people would prefer this over the aforementioned Goyusha when it comes to Dimensional Robo variants just to avoid minusing as much as possible. Of course, use at your own risk.

5. Larva Beast, Zeal: The start of a ride chain (like Vortimer/Spectral Duke Dragon and Riviere) that can lead to some devastating results for the opposing Vanguard by leaving them very defenseless. 

...and so I say, STAND UP, THE VANGUARD!

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