Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cardfight!! Vanguard World Championship Qualifier - Los Angeles - A Long Journey with the Knights of the Sanctuary

Seeing that the Stand-Up Challenge Regional Qualifiers are starting this weekend, I thought I would take the time to write about my own experience at the Cardfight!! Vanguard World Championship Qualifier at Los Angeles on November 3, 2012. I may not have managed to qualify for this round of Regional Qualifiers, but I think people should be able to walk away with some useful information from this article on what to expect.

A difference people should take in mind is that this first batch of large-scale competitive events for the English version of the game were open to all players as long as you were able to register and show up on time. These events were also typically held in large venues such as convention centers. The Los Angeles Regional Qualifier in particular was held in at the Anaheim Convention Center (alongside a convention dedicated to "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" called Equestria LA that same day).

Prior to the event, I had helped form Team D.S.P. with a bunch of regulars at Toy Mandala in Westside Pavilion. We went to tournaments held at the store as often as we could to get some much needed practice in to prepare ourselves for such a large event. The playerbase at our locals was quite diverse: we had some players who definitely knew what they were doing like a majority of my teammates and then some along with players who seemed to be lacking in experience and resources. Nonetheless, the store tournaments still provided some much needed experience and playtesting. I would end up getting Top 2 at a pretty fair share of the tournaments I went to, so that sure brought much some needed confidence.

On the night right before the event, I had decided that Draw Triggers just did not work too well for my deck, so I asked one of my teammates to borrow a playset of Critical Triggers. With those, my build came to be as the following (Note: Do keep in mind that the card pool was much more limited at this time with BT01, BT02, BT03, BT06, BT07,  EB03, TD01, TD02, TD05, and TD06. Maybe a couple of promo packs.)::

Grade 0
1x Drangal
4x Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine (Heal Trigger)
With such a versatile skill and sick-looking art,
King of Knights, Alfred has become one of
my personal favorite units of all time.
4x Bringer of Good Luck, Epona (Critical Trigger)
4x Future Knight, Llew (Critical Trigger)
4x Alabaster Owl (Critical Trigger)
(Total: 17)

Grade 1
4x Little Sage, Marron
4x Knight of Quests, Galahad
4x Flash Shield, Iseult
3x Lake Maiden, Lien
(Total: 15)

Grade 2
4x Blaster Blade
4x Knight of Tribulations, Galahad
3x Knight of Silence, Gallatin
(Total: 11)

Grade 3
4x King of Knights, Alfred
3x Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes
(Total: 7)

Yes, it was a Royal Paladin variant based around the Drangal-Galahad Ride Chain as Barcgal was already restricted as a Starting Vanguard, so the only other options that remained for such an important card was either the skill-less Stardust Trumpeter or Drangal. The Drangal-Galahad Ride Chain works quite similarly to the Ichibyoshi-Tsukuyomi Ride Chain of Oracle Think Tank in that you check the top 5 cards of your deck for a potential free ride. While free rides are not guaranteed with such a set of cards, having the possibility of getting at least one is much better than minusing from the start.

As for the rest of the deck, I decided to go for 12 Critical Triggers since during playtesting, I have found that Royal Paladin really lack grind ability especially during the late game, so I figured that I might as well attempt to go for early aggressive pushes to open up damage gaps especially in a format where Limit Break was quite a desirable skill to have, particularly in the case of Kagero, Gold Paladin, and Narukami.

Need a change of allies? No problem.
Also, she and Alfred make such a
nice-looking pair.
The Grade 1 line-up is quite standard. Most of it is quite self-explanatory, so I would not go into any particular details. A card that I do want to bring up is Lake Maiden, Lien. By resting her, you can filter out some odd cards for something else. She makes for a nice Turn 1 ride/call since you would not be able to attack anyway if you went first. Of course, using her skill at later points of the game can prove to be detrimental as that is one less booster/attacker you have at your disposal...unless you have her right behind King of Knights, Alfred in the Vanguard Circle. Since Alfred cannot be boosted if he is a Vanguard unit, might as well place something behind him that can rest and do its own thing rather than place something that could have been better used as a Rear Guard booster or attacker.

Those who dare to oppose his majesty
shall be put to down to death!
The Grade 2 lineup is also quite standard with some obligatory Ride Chain pieces and Vanilla interceptors along with what some people would think as an insane amount of Blaster Blades for that time. Maybe it is just me, but I personally like to be able to take out any pesky obstacles or threats without having to attack them. Could be because of my past experience with a Kagero deck based around Dragon Monk, Goku, but I really liked (and still like to this day) having 4 Blaster Blades in the deck.

Fear me!

The Grade 3 lineup is quite simply with a playset of Alfreds and 3 Palamedes. I was unable to acquire a 4th, but playtesting has proved that I do not really need 8 Grade 3s, so I felt fine with a mere 7 at the time. If anyone was MVP of the deck, it was definitely Palamedes. In a format where the largest Vanguard is defending at a Power of 11000, Palamedes boosted by a Marron really applies some much needed pressure, being able to either get some free hits in or deplete a minimum of 2 cards from your opponent with each attack.

Before this becomes a deck profile and analysis, I shall move onto the events that unfolded during the tournament itself. We all got up early that Saturday morning to be able to take a bus to get to a subway train, which in turn gets us to a bus that will take us all the way to Anaheim. Wanting to cosplay as Sendou Aichi from the anime to complement my Royal Paladin deck, I had to get up around 4 AM that morning to shower and apply makeup and all that jazz. It took us a while, and we ran the risk of running late, but because of some miraculous delay, we were able to get in not too long before they closed off the registration lines.

After going through the registration process and submitting a decklist along with receiving our goodies (deck box, storage box, a copy of Knight of the Steel Blade, Caradoc, and some more) we bided our time. Soon, with a flurry of welcoming speeches from Bushiroad representatives and 2 voice actors from the English dub of the anime and the thunderous shout of "Stand up, Vanguard!", the main event was underway!

Format: Double elimination, best of 1 Cardfight; no entry fee (Scores shown at the end of each description of the round indicate record at the end of the round)

This format was something we were not too used to as our locals had a single elimination, best of 3 format. Of course, it did not matter too much since we would typically win the first of our matches back there.
Round 1 - vs. Gold Paladin (Pellinore/Garmore): When I saw that Spring Breeze Messenger, I felt like I was already going to go home 0-2. I know Gold Paladin can be quite a scary deck if they are able to get some nice Superior Calls and gaining massive advantage from there, being able to grind into Limit Break and apply constant pressure with Limit Breaks and such. Not surprisingly, he widened the damage gap between the two of us a bit but didn't get anything too good from Spring Breeze Messenger's skill and could not apply as much pressure as he would have liked. I eventually managed to create powerful columns and deplete his hand and front row rapidly before dealing the final blow. 1-0
Round 2 - vs. Royal Paladin (Galahad): That's right. Not a single Alfred or other form of Vanguard-centric units in sight. He actually made the game seem more enjoyable than it already is. He just relied on the ride chain to get his 11000 Vanguard with the secondary ability to hit for more damage. However, I did get stuck at Grade 2 for a turn (which rarely happened in playtesting, mind you), but I managed to bring the momentum back up. He almost made an illegal move by attempting to activate Knight of Godly Speed, Galahad's ACT skill of Counter-Blast 2 to increase its Power by 3000 and Critical by 1 during the Battle Phase, but he took it back after I explained to him that it had to be activated during the Main Phase. I did not mean rule-shark him or anything, but I cannot simply sit aside and let skills activate at the wrong time. When he did use the effect correctly, I had the Iseult in hand, and I simply overwhelmed him with good old high power columns. It was a fun mirror-esque match, though. 2-0
Round 3 - vs. Pale Moon (Sarah): My opponent would speak very few words, and he seemed very intent on winning, reminding me of typical players of another trading card game I know and love/hate. Knowing the ins and outs of Pale Moon myself thanks to the anime and a certain teammate, I was able to keep his Rear Guards at bay and prevented him from having 4+ attack Battle Phases that would be typical of this clan. He did get off Sword Magician, Sarah's skill once, but that still did not provide him enough momentum, and I managed to corner him. He turned out to be somewhat of a nice guy after the game, though. 3-0
Round 4 - vs. Oracle Think Tank (CoCo): Ah, the large hand sizes that Oracle Think Tank is infamous for in the form of almost mindless drawing and nullifying the concept of inherent minuses from riding thanks to the combination of the AUTO skills of Scarlet Witch, CoCo, and Little Witch, LuLu. Having played the deck for while and knowing how much advantage it can gain just so few cards, I just knew I was going to see at least one of these at the event. Huh, what's this? Oh, he wasn't able to ride Scarlet Witch, CoCo! My opponent was stuck at Grade 2 for far too long, and he was unable to recover. 4-0
Round 5 - vs. Angel Feather (Shamsiel): This was actually the guy I was supposed to face at my locals right before this event had there been more time that evening. Funny thing is that he claimed he had a wedding or something of the sort to attend to during the weekend yet he shows up. Anyway, now is the time I get to talk about what I call "hot seat matches." These are caused due to being randomly selected by the judges for a deck inspection. The deck inspections last around 10 minutes or so, and as such, the players are given a time extension to finish their match, meaning the two players are in the "hot seat" as people who are already done with their matches surround them and watch how the Cardfight progresses. Of course, we just happened to be selected for the process, and I was so worried that I may have accidentally screwed up a sleeve or two earlier on, causing me to get disqualified. Luckily, both of our decks were given the thumbs-up, and we went on to play. I forced him to take damage early on, but we would end up going back-and-forth. On my turn, he declares "No guard." against my Vanguard at 4 damage, and I managed to Drive Check into a Critical Trigger. He's looking a little panicked that he may lose. First damage check: Draw Trigger, Power +7000 to Chief Nurse, Shamsiel. His face looked very disdained upon seeing his draw (I implied it was a Heal Trigger based on his expression). Second damage check: HEAL TRIGGER. A freaking Heal Trigger on his 6th damage check! This allowed his Vanguard, Chief Nurse, Shamsiel, to defend at 24000 Power. Of course he manages to guard the Rear Guard attacks, and he finishes me off the turn after. 4-1
Round 6 - vs. Gold Paladin (Spectral Duke Dragon): Oh no, I'm already one game from being eliminated from the tournament, and I have to go up against this popular yet powerful variant of Gold Paladin. Luckily, he was unable to make a ride to Grade 1 when he was supposed to, which really proved fatal to him in the long run. He was eventually forced to ride something other than Scout of Darkness, Vortimer, which makes his Black Dragon Whelp, Vortimer a not-so-optimal Rear Guard of 4000 Power. I simply backed him into a corner, and I took the game before he could ride to Grade 3. 5-1 (All but 2 of my teammates have been eliminated by the end of the round.)
Round 7 - vs. Oracle Think Tank (CoCo): What?! This deck again? Well, I managed to deal with it once. I can deal with it again. I just have to hope he doesn't ride Scarlet Witch, CoCo, right? Well much to my dismay, after being stuck at Grade 2 for a turn, he manages to ride Scarlet Witch, CoCo anyway, allowing him to get his large hand. I soon found myself backed to a corner, and I was unable to guard against his two Rear Guard attacks. I took the 6th damage check, and lo and behold, a Heal Trigger has come to save me! I guard the last attack and easily take the game next turn. 6-1(All of my teammates have been eliminated by the end of the round.)
Round 8 - vs. Narukami (Vermillion/Thunder Break): Whew, it's about time I stopped playing against so many United Sanctuary clans. Anyway, this game saw some back and forth until he rode the deadly Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion (after having Thunder Break Dragon as a Vanguard for a turn or two). He was soon able to activate the dreaded Vermillion Thunderbolt, which attacks the entire front row at once. I take a gutsy move and guard each target with a 10000 shield each. Looking back on it, I sometimes question mysel for actually pulling such an act. To be fair, I would be out on competent Rear Guards. If he Drive Checks even one trigger, I lose the shields and the units along with taking damage. Luckily for me, his Twin Drive saw nothing. I then hit him with powerful columns and he was forced to make a last stand but failing in the end. 7-1

All right, just one more round before the Top 8 cut. Being the only member of D.S.P.
 still in the standing, I am still barely surviving at X-1. Anyway, I show up to my table for the final Double Elimination round, and I receive my 2nd copy of Knight of the Steel Blade, Caradoc along with a copy of Dragonic Vanisher (which I would later give to Dragon∞Blade) and Sphere Magus (The two of which were intended as participation prizes for free play. Players who got this far into the tournament did not have enough time to participate in free play, so I guess it makes sense I got these.). 

Round 9 - vs. Oracle Think Tank (Tsukuyomi/Amaterasu): Ok, a different, slower variant of this clan. Shouldn't be too difficult, right? Unfortunately, it was a struggle. My opponent was able to get some good early Drive Checks including Heal Triggers with good timing. Sooner or later, I am forced to not guard, and he takes the game with a Critical Trigger with no Heal Trigger showing up on my end along with the opportunity of me to claim the title of the Los Angeles Champion at that point. 7-2

Despite not being able to make the Top 8 cut, I still had a pretty enjoyable time to be able to participate at such a large trading card game event with friends and teammates, and the unique experience of being able to play against such a diverse yet skilled group of Cardfighters along with all of the free stuff given to us by Bushiroad sure made the long journey well worth it. 

Free goodies galore!
With that said, for those of you heading out the Stand-Up Challenge Regional Qualifiers during the next few weeks (That goes especially for my fellow D.S.P. members, King Koala and Envy, who qualified at Power Anime!), expect to win and lose games by the sheer factor of luck. If you were able to get your invite, I shouldn't have to tell you too much about holding your own in this new format with the introduction of units being able to defend at Powers of 12000 or 13000, but I thought reading the experience of someone who went to a previous event of this caliber would be of some help to you folks despite it taking place prior to the release of the game-changing BT05!
Good luck, Cardfighters!

Rin Dunois


  1. Qualifiers started in March though and set 5 was available as of February while this post is date April of 2013. When was the actual date of this event mentioned?

    1. This was the first batch of "qualifiers" from last year.

      November 3, 2012 is the exact date according to Rin (and my memory seems to correspond with that as well).

    2. Yes, sorry about that! The article has been edited to mention the date! Thanks for bringing it up!