Monday, 21 November 2011

Royal Paladin (RP) Deck 1: 12 Crit Galahad SSD

Hi, this is the first deck construction and analysis I am making. So here we go.

Basic Decklist:

17 Grade 0
1 Dorangal (Starter Vanguard)
4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine Heal Trigger
4 Transporter of Good Luck, Epona Critical Trigger
4 Alabaster Owl Critical Trigger
4 Future Knight, Llew Critical Trigger

13 Grade 1
4 Knight of Exploration, Galahad
4 Pongal
3 Marron (or 3 Toypugal or 3 Lake Maiden Lien)
2 Flash Shield Isolde (Up to 3 if you put in 1 lesser SSD)

11 Grade2
4 Knight of Trials, Galahad
4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin (or 4 Flame Swordsman, Baromdes)
3 Blaster Blades (or 3 Hi-Dog Breeder Akane, if so play 3 Toypugal instead of marron because Akane is able to pull Toypugal)

9 Grade 3
4 Knight of Godspeed, Galahad
3 Soul Saver Dragon (SSD) (why 3? because you wanna prevent losing this win condition if they drop into the damage zone, I have seen 2 went in before, thank goodness I have 3 in the deck then. If you are not playing 3 of it, you'd better fetch it using pongal asap)
2 Swordsman of Exploding Flames, Palomides
Basic Deck Play style:
Very straightforward. Full aggro, very aggressive. Using the Galahad cards to ascend the grades, swarm the field (especially the back row to set the support boosters), drop SSD and use Holy dragon's roar, HDR (SSD's soulblast 5 ability) asap (and I really mean asap) on all the back row units, and fill the front row with heavy beaters (ie. Palomides and Gallantin / Baromedes) and declare “Final Turn”.

In depth Deck Analysis:
The Galahad cards:

The Galahad cards at the time of writing have faced immense shifts in player’s sentiments. IMO it is also one of the most misunderstood set in Vanguard so far. When Bargal was banned, Galahad was believed to be the only main way of play for RP, it went to the extend of being very much overbought by players or some RP players quitted RP and changed to play other clans. However, players played Galahad mainly not because they wanted to, it was because they had no other choice, other then relying on a smooth grade distribution to rise in grades, Galahad was the only set that provided the check top 5 card ability on draw step, and the chance to ride without paying a card from the hand, this increase in probability of riding up gave it a better appeal than playing stardust trumpeters with a smooth grade distribution alone. But soon, players began to see the seemingly great downside of playing Galahad:
 1. Galahad’s counterblast ability looks appealing, it resembles Gancelot, but 6 souls is not an easy task that is conveniently and effortlessly accomplished.
2. The bigger problem was “what if you don’t get to ride a Galahad at any point in time in the game, missed riding anyone of the grades, and Galahad grade 3 is no difference from an average grade 2, 9k beater. Ouch.
Upon realizing all these, then Galahad started going into a decline, RP players started playing only up to Grade 2 Galahads and replacing the Grade 3’s with 3-4 Palomides (he is a reliable consistent 13k beater afterall), or when BT04 was out, the Galmall series started to get a hyped popularity and a significant proportion of RP players jumped onto the Galmall bangwagon, it became the new RP style of play, Kourin’s Blizzard Formation.
However, here is how my opinion on Galahad differs from many people, and why I think they misunderstood Galahad’s true purpose. Yes, Galahad is heavily penalized if not rode in accordingly, yes his crit ability cannot be carried out without 6 souls and even if it could, a negator simply stops it cold. But I see these abilities of Galahad as “bonuses” that you should not rely on as the reason to play him, IMO his main purpose is easily building 5 souls. 5 souls for what? For SSD! Therefore, Galahad is a means and not an end, SSD is the real goal. And with Galahad you can conveniently play a 12 crit trigger suite, without needing Margal to soulcharge, while Pongal is enough for soulcharging 1 and pulling SSD. The following are the various scenarios:
Best Scenario: Dorangal – Galahad 1 – Galahad 2 and Pongal counterblast Soulcharge – Galahad 3 and soulcharge 2, Use Galahad’s counterblast ability to waste opponent’s hand – Now with 7 souls, SSD Holy Dragon’s Roar(HDR) for the finishing.
Scenario 2: Missing Galahad 1
Dorangal-Missed Galahad 1, ride something else-Galahad 2-Galahad 3 soulcharge 2 – SSD (now has 6 souls), still able to use SSD’s HDR.
Scenario 3: Missing a Galahad 2
Dorangal- Galahad 1 – Missed Galahad 2, ride another grade 2 unit-Galahad 3
Now you only have 3 souls, but hey just soul charge 1 pongal, and next turn ride an SSD on Galahad and you have 5 souls, HDR time.
Scenario 3: Miss a Galahad 3
Dorangal – Galahad 1 – Galahad 2-Missed Galahad 3, ride another grade 3
Now you only have 3 souls, but hey just soul charge 1 pongal, and next turn ride an SSD on the grade 3 and you have 5 souls, HDR time.
So you see from the above scenarios, it is very convenient to use the Galahad set to build 5 souls for SSD, even without Margal. So you ask, hey why not any other starter like stardust trumpeter, the answer Galahad gives you the additional advantage of checking top 5 to ride without paying a card from your hand.
Therefore, I still say that up till the time of writing, Galahad is still one of the best (very few) viable set to play both “12 crit” and “SSD” together. For other styles, you can play 12 crit but you may not find playing SSD as convenient due to 5 soul requirement, you still probably would play Margal (a draw trigger) or Lohengrin.
So it doesn't really matter if Galahad 3 is a 9k beater (boosted by marron for a column total of 16k, an 11k opponent unit stills needs a 10k guard to stop it), neither does it matter if you can't use Galahad 3's counterblast ability, spare Galahad 3's in the hand can also be pitched to Isolde, what really matters is that you can ride up to grade 3 and build 5 souls asap for SSD. But if Galahad's downside still really bothers you, then you can play Lake Maiden Lien, but she is only a 7k boost instead of a 8k marron or possibly 9k toypugal, so you have to accept a lower deck attack power, and you have to accept the possibility that you may use her effect to draw into a trigger which you would rather have that being drive checked. Therefore, do not use Lien's ability loosely, use it only when you really need to (ie. you know you can't finish off your opponent this turn, and your hand is filled with grade 3's, and you really need shields to survive the opponent's next turn, then it is perhaps a good time to use Lien's ability to try to dig for a shield or two)

Soul Saver Dragon
The main wincon (win condition of this deck), this is a very fast aggressive deck, you would want to rush out HDR asap. In the past, with bargal, you could constantly superior ride blaster blade on turn 2 to build 5 souls, and on turn 3 drop SSD down for HDR, but now with the banning of bargal, a turn 3 HDR is unlikely, this build uses Galahad to help you build 5 or more souls, so that you can drop SSD on turn 4 for HDR. Therefore the aim of this deck is to rush out HDR on turn 4 and attempt to finish off the opponent. Since this is the main wincon, I put in 3 of this in my deck, reason is as stated above, just in case 1 or 2 SSD goes into the damage zone. If you put only 2 SSD's in your deck and if it doesn't appear in your starting hand, the longer you let it stay in the library the higher the chances of letting it drop into the damage zone, so if you have pongal, you should use his ability asap to fetch SSD into your hand.

Why only 2 Flashshields?
Because of the trigger base of this deck, this is a 12 crit deck, without draw triggers and card drawing units, you hardly find enough cards to pitch to Isolde. This is an all out aggressive deck, you want to finish off your opponent fast, so the focus is not really on defense. That being said, be very careful with the use of isolde as a guardian, use her only, I repeat, only in a perceived emergency as a guardian.

Why I prefer Marrons instead of Toypugal:
Toypugal is based 6k power (weak), but with the condition of having 2 grade 3’s met it is a 9k boosts (sweet), Marron is a steady 8k boost, so you can see compared to Marron, Toypugal has a downside of 2k, but only an upside of 1k (same reason why I played Gallatin over Baromdes) . And what’s more important Marron is a common card, much cheaper than Toypugal ;), but still you can play Toypugal if you want. But I now prefer Lake Maiden instead, it's always good to have options.

Palomides, the big badass beater:

Ok, it’s obvious, Palomides is a real badass frontal rearguard, its condition of having 2 grade 3’s or more on the field is so easily met (a grade 3 vanguard will do), and gives it 13k, boost with at least 7k, takes palomides’ column to 20k power, this means an opponent 10k unit will need at least one 10k guard + one 5k guard to stop this attack. Awesome to waste the opponent’s hand. You may take away 1 SSD from the deck and replace it with 1 more Palomides to raise your deck's attack power. And to be honest, I like this dude's card design, really badass artwork.

Akane vs Blaster Blades:
Why do I play blaster blades, well this is just personal preference, I like answering my opponent’s heavy beater rearguards (ie. Palomides, Dragonic Executioners, DMD), by blasting them, they cannot guard against that. But if you play Akane, I suggest you use Toypugals instead of Marrons, since Akane’s cblast ability can pull out Toypugal for you, and it is better to play a more hi beast oriented deck with Akane.

Why play 12 crits:
Critical triggers, one of the most influencing elements in this game. But what is the reason for that? what makes people prefer it to other triggers other than heal triggers. IMO, 3 reasons:
1. It can seal the game, critical strikes when checked and passes through cause solid damage cast in the stone, your opponent cannot upon seeing you getting a crit trigger decides to call a guardian against it. For what he/she has gambled to guard against your vanguard's attack, he/she has to accept the result of the bet.
2. And because of the 1st reason, because it is so painful to the opponent, it creates a fear and therefore it raises the cost of uncertainty to your opponent, if your opponent does not guard your vanguard, he/she is exposing him/herself to the possibility of a lot of damage, if he/she guards and decides to let 1 trigger pass, there is risky as well for the likelihood of getting one trigger is reasonably good, if he/she decides to guard and you need 2 triggers for the attack to pass or he/she decides to absolute guard by throwing more guardians or using negators,  that is very card disadvantageous to the opponent.
3. Handsize trimming. Yes, from the above reasons, crit triggers are very much capable of depleting the opponent handsize, if he/she decides to strongly guard your vanguard's attack, you can give the crit to another attacker, and when that unit's column attack, if he/she decides to guard, his/her handsize is further reduced, if he/she does not guard, then he/she has to take the crit. And handsize is important in any tcg, without handsize your opponent really can't do much on the next turn.

And when playing against a 12 crit deck, if one does his/her math correctly, he/she should know that if he/she has taken 3 damage or more, then he can no longer not guard against a vanguard attack. Why because crits can seal the deal as stated above, 1 crit trigger and that is likely game set of one who has taken 4 damage, 2 crit trigger likely takes out a player who took 3 damage. What does this mean? Handsize trimming again, this means that the opponent who plays again you(you play a 12 crit deck) has to profusely guard against your vanguard's attack after he/she has taken 3 or more damage.

At the time of writing, only RP and Kagero has a 12 crit trigger package, this already hints of how the game developers are inclined on building these clans. What's more we all know how critical triggers are game winners, it gives such a exuberating upside surprise, and since RP has a 12 crit suite, why not exploit on it and be exposed to all that upside surprise as much as possible.

Thus far, as far as I know, this is one of best viable 12 crit decks that works with SSD, so capitalize on this privilege.

Attack Sequence:
For a crit focus deck, you like to attack with your vanguard column first, if the opponent does not guard, and you get crit triggers you give the crit to the vanguard while the 5k power bonus to the frontal rearguards. If the opponent guards, and you get crit triggers, you may give the bonuses to the frontal rearguards if opponent's handsize is small and you have not taken too much damage, or if the opponent has taken 4 or more damage and has a huge handsize and you too have taken 5 damage you have to take the gamble "all in" the trigger(s) bonus to the vanguard.

Pros of Deck
1. The deck’s overall attack power is relatively low, but once it hits, the damage inflicted is possibly very high, so you have a lot of upside surprise because this is a 12 crit deck.
2. You have easy access to SSD’s HDR. He is afterall the consensus agreed boss card of RP, and his power to finish games is undeniable (although not absolute) you would want to play him.

Cons of Deck

1. Without draw triggers and card drawing units, your handsize is comparatively small, and have a lesser number of guardians as a result.
2. Your backrow support is the most crucial element in the strategy, as they can’t be hit by normal attacks, and they set the stage for SSD’s HDR. So watch out for Kagero’s blasting (the next deck I will be posting)

Overall Play Experience:
This is a fun deck to play, rushing out units and dropping and SSD HDR and declaring "Final Turn" is kinda funny. The fun part is also drive checking for crit triggers as you slowly show the trigger and both you and your opponent get a laugh, even if your opponent guards it. In terms of competitiveness, this is viable, but not exactly the most competitive RP build, but then again at the time of writing IMO RP is still heavily wounded from bargal's banning and has moved into a stale state (with many players still thinking hard how to fix their RP decks accordingly or some leaving RP for other clans) until new cards are released, so look to future expansions for RP's wounds to be healed from the banning of bargal.

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