Friday, October 31, 2014

Aqua Force - Ever-Shifting Winds (Blue Storm/Maelstrom)

Sorry for the long break between articles, but I've been busy with school back in session and all! Anyway, here's the second part of the results of training out at sea (You can read about the first part here.): this time featuring the ways of the admiral. As some of you who have been following us for some time might know, I am quite fond of the Aqua Force clan. It is a clan that I have wanted to play ever since spoilers for BT08: Blue Storm Armada started to leak out along its initial appearance in the anime as the main clan of Leon Souryu and his two cousins, Sharlene and Jillian Chen. Anyway, despite not having done well using this clan in a previous Regional level tournament (which you can read about over here), with BT15: Infinite Rebirth recently released and having been able to do some training out at sea, I have revised and revamped my Aqua Force build, focusing on the Vice Admiral of the mighty Aqua Force Armada and one of his two "evolutions." Onward to the deck profile!

Deadlier than any aircraft carrier and aircraft carrier girl wielding a bow and arrows you've ever encountered. I guarantee it.

Grade 0 - 17

* 1x Blue Storm Cadet, Marios
* 4x Blue Storm Soldier, Kitchen Sailor (Heal Trigger)
* 4x Battle Siren, Mallika (Draw Trigger)
* 1x Blue Storm Battle Princess, Doria (Draw Trigger)
* 4x Blue Storm Fleet, Angler Soldier (Stand Trigger)
* 1x Enemy Seeking Seagull Soldier (Stand Trigger)
* 2x Blue Storm Soldier, Missile Trooper (Critical Trigger)

Grade 1 - 13

* 4x Blue Storm Marine General, Hermes
* 4x Emerald Shield, Paschal
* 3x Wheel Assault
* 2x Mercenary Brave Shooter

Grade 2 - 11

* 4x Blue Storm Marine General, Gregorious
* 3x Storm Rider, Basil
* 2x Tidal Assault
* 2x Blue Storm Marine General, Spyros

Grade 3 - 9

* 3x Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom
* 4x Blue Storm Karma Dragon, Maelstrom "Яeverse"
* 2x Storm Rider, Diamantes
Food is very important indeed.
Instead of the generic Forerunner-type and Grade 3 searcher Starting Vanguard, Officer Cadet, Erikk, I am using Blue Storm Cadet, Marios. For one thing, he makes a more sizeable booster with a POWER of 5000 instead of Erikk's puny 4000. He also does not cost precious Counter-Blasts nor does he have to be shoved into the Soul for his amazing search skill. Marios is quite the simple card. Just boost a third attack or more that hits the Vanguard and potentially get a "Maelstrom" card to your hand. In worst case, you get nothing and just end up shuffling your deck, which is good if the next several cards didn't contain triggers for some reason and increase your chances. Of course, because of the third or more attack requirement, it does encourage early game rush, which is definitely useful against today's grind-centric competitive environment riddled with the likes of Revengers, Liberators, Link Joker, and Kagero variants. Speaking of rush, my trigger line-up tries to put a slight emphasis on offensive triggers of 5 Stands and 2 Criticals, the latter of which is mainly for surprise purposes in the early to mid game. 5 Draw Triggers are used to help gain access to much needed units for later on in the game, 4 of which are my favorite type of trigger effect: shove into Soul to give a unit POWER +3000 until end of turn. Another thing to note is that 11 of my 16 triggers contain "Blue Storm" in its card name, a quality that is pretty important that I will bring later up in this article.

Moving onto Grade 1s, you will notice that I run a lower amount than usual. This is due to how Aqua Force variants that try to get more than 3 attacks in a turn would like to have more standalone attacker type units, something that the Grade 1 lineup cannot provide for too well. Instead, I use 6 pivot-type units (a playset of Hermes, a subclan POWER gainer, and a pair of Mercenary Brave Shooters), meaning that they can make for decent attackers in a pinch. Because of their potential 10000 POWER when attacking given the right conditions, they can still make for sufficient standalone attackers even when your opponent has a Grade 2 Vanguard (Heaven forbid your opponent went first and rode a Grade 2 unit with 11000 base POWER like Genocide Jack). They're great to help you get a head-start in either the damage game or the advantage game. Only real way for your opponent to jump out from falling behind due to an early game rush is to trigger something upon taking damage. Another thing to note is the trio of Wheel Assault to act as an alternative way to make a 4th attack. 

Still good in the clear for the offensive even at Grade 2! 
The Grade 2 lineup is where things start to get a bit more interesting. Starting off is a standard subclan POWER gainer who can make for an easy standalone attacker, something that this sort of multi-attack Aqua Force variant can benefit from. In my opinion, there is no Aqua Force deck without Storm Rider, Basil from BT08, so I run a trio of him to help enable 4th attacks. His 10000 POWER as the first attack of the turn is definitely great when trying to rush early as well, and in worst case, a Mallika can be used to get this guy up to proper power to hit even Crossrides. Instead of focusing on one or the other, I decided to use a pair of both Tidal Assault and his Blue Storm specific partner-in-crime, Spyros. They both accomplish the same goal: enable 4th attacks. However, they work quite differently. Tidal Assault loses POWER to restand while Spyros requires an Especial Counter-Blast (hence the higher Blue Storm card count). Also, Spyros' ability is not active until you are on a Grade 3 Vanguard, making him ineffective for rushing at Grade 2. That said, Spyros can make for a deadlier option compared to Tidal Assault as he can attack the Vanguard as a 1st or 2nd attack and go after a Rear-Guard afterward. In earlier phases of testing and theorycrafting this deck, I found running 4 copies was way too Counter-Blast heavy, and I would have preferred not to use any of the damage unflippers Aqua Force has to offer. 

Gotta have options to make those brilliant and tide-turning (haha) extra attacks!

Hit 'em hard with the good old carrier we all know and love...
With the Grade 3s, I have decided to run a 7/2 split between Vanguard-centric units and Rear-Guard centric units. I use a trio of the original Maelstrom to place some pressure on my opponent before Cross-riding. His Limit Break is definitely one that places this guy on the list of units never to let hit if possible. The POWER boost he gets easily allows him to hit for 21000 POWER or more, and his on-hit ability will definitely put the opponent behind in terms of card advantage. I also run them for increased chances of having a Crossridden Vanguard in the later part of the game. The Crossride body of Maelstrom "Яeverse" also helps to cover up a major weakness of the Aqua Force clan: defensive capability. Because of how we Aqua Force players typically have to field quite a lot of cards in one go to enable our wave-like attack patterns, we are usually low on defensive capability after we are done with our first turn of rushing and are particularly vulnerable to opposing inherent Critical boosts and Limit Breaks. The additional 2000 POWER that Maelstrom "Яeverse" can get by having the original Maelstrom in the Soul becomes that much more important especially in a subclan-centric game where people have limited options in being able to make 18000 POWER columns to force out the 10000 Shield from a Crossridden Vanguard. I run the full quartet as for most of the game, Maelstrom "Яeverse" scales better in terms of advantage gaining. His Limit Break is kinda like the original Maelstrom but in reverse (Haha, get it?). While Maelstrom's card advantage gain ability happens when he hits, Maelstrom "Яeverse"'s happens when he doesn't. Also, he has to pre-emptively Counter-Blast a card along with Locking a Standing card upon attacking to gain both Maelstrom's POWER boost and an additional Critical. At
...then shift the winds and steer towards victory
with the  ̶K̶a̶i̶ ̶N̶i̶  enhanced form!
late game, no one wants to eat 2 damage to the face, so they'll most likely guard it. Sometimes, if I feel I really need the increase in card advantage, I will purposely have my other columns all rested by utilizing them to their full offensive potential and lock my Vanguard booster to tempt the opponent to drop 2 cards for a 2-trigger-pass or a no-pass. Of course, this sort of ability may be ineffective against clans that can easily re-establish field like Paladin clans. To top it off is a pair of Storm Rider, Diamantes to help get an EFFECTIVE 1st attack to begin the wave of 4. 

This deck is a prime example of what Aqua Force does best, attacking more than the normal 3 times to break down the opponent's defenses more easily while enabling a powerful and devastating attack to finish it off while Stand Triggers allow for the offense to continue much to the opponent's annoyance. By turning a column that would normally ask for 10000 Shield into one that asks for 2 cards of 5000 Shield each, you can strip the opponent's defenses more easily especially when they're on the brink of death. Of course, this comes with the drawback of having useless or less effective attacks when your opponent ends up damage checking a trigger. By being a combo-based deck, this sort of build is particularly vulnerable to decks that can control the field easily such as Kagero and Link Joker variants, putting a stop to the advantage gaining plays of the deck and forcing it into an uphill battle. Do not set up your field so early to go for a rush if you are unable to properly follow up in the case of a detrimental retire or Lock. Sometimes you just need to wait for an opportunity to show up and call out your comrades into formation all at once and hope your opponent is not able to answer against all your moves!

Now, take command of Maelstrom and his armada to launch strategically damaging attacks, and you should be in the clear for victory! 

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