Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Deckbuilding 101 With Stills

So, you just decided to pick up Vanguard and bought yourself a trial deck. Or perhaps you netdecked a list off the internet and built that. You didn't put much thought into it, mainly because the source you got it from assured you that it was a good build. Over time, though, you will undoubtedly want to build a deck on your own, maybe for a Clan you've never played with before. At first you might think that deckbuilding is easy. After all, this is Vanguard. It's not like there's any amount of complex thought that goes into making a deck. You just load up with all the shiny cards and go to town, just like in Yu-gi-oh!

Of course, as any experienced Vanguard Fighter can tell you, this just isn't the case. Vanguard is surprisingly deep, despite the gigantic luck factor involved with it. There are some things you really need to think about when building a deck, and some of these are things you might overlook the first time you do so. This article is designed to give a set of guidelines for both newcomers and experienced players alike to help build better decks.

Before we begin, I do want to say that this is by no means the definitive way to make decks and, indeed, your method might be different. If it is, let me know! I'd love to hear about the things you do when you try to make a deck, maybe you'll give me some kind of awesome advice to make my process a lot more streamlined and smooth.

Part 1: Picking a Focus

This might seem like a "well, duh" kind of step, since many experienced players will always have a pretty good idea about what they want to make before they even set foot into the proverbial deck garage, but it's always good to make sure that you have a focus or a "winning image" in mind before you even make the deck. In most cases, it'll be either a playstyle (A Pale Moon deck that focuses on swapping units from the field to soul) or a specific card (a Nova Grappler deck that focuses on Beast Deity, Azure Dragon). Before you go any further, it's good to figure out exactly what you want to do so that you don't deviate from that focus later on down the line. For the purposes of this article, let's make ourselves a Nova Grappler deck.

After looking at the clan page on the Vanguard Wiki, I decided that I want to make a Nova Grappler deck that applies good pressure via Asura Kaiser's skill in order to get more attacks in one turn.

Now that we have picked our focus, it's time to move onto...

Step 2: Your Grade 3 Lineup

FINISH HOLD!
Rather than starting at the bottom, I prefer to start building my deck from the top, with my Grade 3s. Usually, you're gonna want about 7 or 8 Grade 3's in a deck. More than that really starts to mess with your ratios, and I don't recommend that for a beginner. Generally, you're going to want one (or two) units in your deck to be your "main" Vanguard, the card that will be on your Vanguard circle for most of the game. The other Grade 3's should be used as "backup" Vanguards that work just as well (or better) on the Rearguard circle. This is important for 2 reasons. First, having more than half your Grade 3 units with vanguard-only effects mitigates their usefulness. Obviously, you can only have one Vanguard at a time, so having units that work only on the Vanguard circle will reduce the overall effectiveness of your deck, as they basically become Vanilla units when you call them to the Rearguard. There are some exceptions to this rule, but we'll cover those in a later portion.

Back to our Nova Grapplers. Since we want to have a high chance of drawing Asura Kaiser, we're going to max him out and run 4 copies. Also, since his skill relies on checking a Grade 3, we're gonna run 4 more Grade 3 units. After consulting the page, I also decide to run 4 copies of Moai the Great, as he works well as a rear guard and is also my favorite unit in the game. At this stage in the game, our decklist looks like this:

Grade 3 (8)
4x Asura Kaiser
4x Moai the Great

Grade 2
Grade 1

Triggers (16)

Grade 0

Step 3: Check the Drive Trigger

After figuring out your Grade 3s, we'll skip down to the bottom of the list and take care of our triggers and our starting Vanguard. First of all, check out the triggers your clan has available to them. Some clans will have a vast array of options they can run, like Kagero, while some others, like Tachikaze, will only have a few to choose from. Generally, you will be running 4 Heals and at least 4 Criticals, with the other 8 slots taken up by whatever other triggers you decide to use. This is by no means a rule, however, as you can run any trigger spread you want to, so long as your clan has it available. So, you could run a standard 8 Crit/4 Draw/4 Heal or the basic 4 Crit/4 Draw/4 Stand/ 4 Heal. Maybe you'd prefer to play offensively? See if your clan lets you run 10 Crit/2 Draw/4 Heal or even 8 Crit/6 Draw/2 Heal. Trigger spreads can help make your deck unique and can really screw up opponents if they're outside the usual norms.

Talk to the hand!
While you pick your triggers, it's also a good idea to pick your starting Vanguard. This will be the first unit you play on the field, so you should make sure to pick one whose skill you're most comfortable with. Bear in mind that some triggers also have skills that allow them to be used as SVGs, so don't just look at Normal Units when trying to figure this out.

Looking at my Nova Grappler deck, I think back to my original idea for a winning image. In order to constantly build pressure when I attack, I decide to run 6 Critical Triggers (4 Red Lightning and 2 Shining Lady) and 6 Stand triggers (3 Battleraizer and 3 Turboraizer). I also run 4 Heal Triggers because I want to max out my chances of healing when I need it most.

Because I run Battleraizer as one of my triggers, I don't need to pick a starting Vangaurd. Battleraizer's skill is a perfect fit for the SVG position, so I don't need to run another Grade 0. This frees up my deck space a bit for more units when I put in my Grade 1 and 2 Units, meaning I have more options later on down the line. For those of you keeping track at home, the decklist now looks like:

Grade 3 (8)
4x Asura Kaiser
4x Moai the Great

Grade 2

Grade 1

Triggers (16)
3x Battleraizer (STAND)
3x Turboraizer (STAND)
4x Red Lightning (CRIT)
2x Shining Lady (CRIT)
4x Ring Girl, Clara (HEAL)

Part 4: Your Utility Units, Grade 2

Grade 2 units are the bread and butter of the deck. Their skills will often be the ones you use the most over the course of the game, and you will find yourself calling them often to your front rearguard circles thanks to their handy intercept ability. Your grade 2 choices will often dictate the way you play the deck as much as if not moreso than your choice of a main vanguard. Morikawa might think that Grade 3s are the strongest units, but Grade 2s are the most versatile.

When choosing Grade 2 units, you're gonna want about 10-12 in your deck. If possible, your Grade 2s should fill the gaps that your triggers fill. For example, if you don't run very many draw triggers, consider running Grade 2 units that allow you to draw cards. In addition, choose units that synergize well with your winning image. If you're playing Spike Brothers, for example, you should probably be running at least a few Highspeed Brakkis so that you can squeeze more attacks into a turn via his soulblast, which returns him to the deck, allowing your Vanguard skills to call more units to the now vacant rearguard circle. Also worth considering are the Especial Intercept units. They have 8000 power, but count for 10000 shield when they intercept. Often, putting one of these on the field is enough to force your opponent to focus his attacks on it, lest he allow you to have a floating 10k shield that you could use at any time.

Back to our Nova Grapplers. With 26 slots left in the deck, I decide to devote 12 spots to my Grade 2 units, leaving 14 for my Grade 1s. Among the Grade 2s I choose are Death Army Lady, who synergizes well with my winning image, Magician Girl Kirara, who covers my weaknesses by letting me draw more cards, and King of Sword, who is my generic 10000 Vanilla Beater. Now, my list looks a bit like:

Grade 3 (8)
4x Asura Kaiser
4x Moai the Great

Grade 2 (12)
4x Death Army Lady
4x King of Sword
4x Magician Girl, Kirara

Grade 1 (14)

Triggers (16)
3x Battleraizer (STAND)
3x Turboraizer (STAND)
4x Red Lightning (CRIT)
2x Shining Lady (CRIT)
4x Ring Girl, Clara (HEAL)

Part 5: Boosting Your Way to Victory

Perfect Guard!
As you may have guessed by this point, the final part of the deckbuilding process is to finish out your list with the Grade 1 units. Grade 1s don't hit very hard on their own, but they're invaluable due to their boost ability, which allows your Grade 2 and Grade 3 units on the front lines to hit harder. Of special note among the Grade 1s are the Perfect Guard units. All of these possess the ability to completely negate an attack against an ally of the same clan for the simple cost of a discard from your hand. Most fighters will run 3-4 of these, and those slots are hardly ever considered wasted. Grade 1s should be chosen as much for their power as for their skills, as they will be the deciding factor in letting your other units hit those juicy magic numbers that all fighters love so much.

As a basic rule, whenever I first build a deck, I will usually throw in 4 Perfect Guards and 4 8k boosters as a baseline, and fill in the cracks later. I'll do the same for my Grappler deck here. That leaves me with 6 slots I can use for my other Grade 1s, and I eventually decide on a 3/3 Split between my Claydoll Mechanics and Death Army Guys.

Finally, the deck is done. Let's take a look at what we have now.

Grade 3 (8)
4x Asura Kaiser
4x Moai the Great

Grade 2 (12)
4x Death Army Lady
4x King of Sword
4x Magician Girl, Kirara

Grade 1 (14)
3x Claydoll Mechanic
3x Death Army Guy
4x Tough Boy
4x Twin Blader

Triggers (16)
3x Battleraizer (STAND)
3x Turboraizer (STAND)
4x Red Lightning (CRIT)
2x Shining Lady (CRIT)
4x Ring Girl, Clara (HEAL)

Now that we have our deck made, the only thing left to do is...

Part 6: Playtest Like Hell

The only way to know if your deck runs smoothly and to see what runs well and what doesn't is to play games using your deck. Don't just play a few games and feel complacent with the build, really grind the shit out of your deck. Play until you're sick of looking at the cards, take cards out, put new ones in. Remember, there is no such thing as a universally "best" build for a deck, and what works for some people may not work for others. Take the time to really see how well the deck fits your playstyle and don't be afraid to change things up if you need to. When playtesting, it's important to take a look at 3 important factors, all of which should help in determining your final build.

Columns:

As I outlined in my previous article, the numbers your columns can hit is an important consideration to consider when playtesting and even in the early stages of building. You need to be sure that your deck is well-equipped to handle the common threats you will come across. In addition, analyzing your magic numbers will help in determining if you really need to run 4 copies of that 8k booster over other Grade 1 units that might provide more utility. Generally, if you're hitting 1000 or 2000 over those Magics, you should drop some of the 8ks in favor of other Grade 1 units that could help add some much-needed versatility to your deck.

Damage Levels:

As you play, you should begin to notice a comfort zone you prefer when it comes to the amount of damage you let through before you begin to really guard. This comfort zone is something most people think about on a basic level during gameplay as "how much damage I can comfortably take to make my deck run properly." Unlike other games, Vangaurd uses the damage you take as a major resource to make your deck run, so you should find out what level of damage you want to sit on during early, mid, and late game. with the advent of limit breaks, many decks enjoy sitting at 4 damage, while decks without a Limit break tend to prefer 3 to more easily prevent losses due to lucky critical triggers. Generally, you can determine your comfort level based on the number of counterblasts (or Limit Breaks) you have versus your ability to unflip damage. For example, Nova Grapplers tend to not use very many counterblasts and have ways to unflip their damage via Claydoll Mechanic, Red Lightning, and others. Novas can comfortably sit at 2 or even 3 damage while still making judicious use of their Counterblast effects due to this. Other clans, like Kagero, are more counterblast-heavy, and so those players will usually like taking a bit more damage to run well. Identifying your damage range is a good way to understand when to guard and when to let an attack through, and it'll help your game in the long run to learn the general comfort ranges of other clans, as well as the Counterblast costs of some of their most common skills.

Consistency:

Put simply, can your deck do what you want it to 9 times out of 10? If not, you could have a consistency issue. One of the major bonuses playtesting gives you is the ability to identify what works well all the time and what almost never works well. This knowledge allows you to change up your build in order to make it more refined. Need to draw more cards? Change your trigger lineup to include some Draw Triggers. Having trouble hitting vanguards with X power? Alter your boosters to hit those lines easier. Like anything worth doing, finding the right deck build takes time and effort, but it feels great to know that you've won using a deck forged from your own blood, sweat, and tears.

After playtesting the Nova Grapplers, I found that the Stand triggers were really Superflous in a deck that ran Death Army units and Asura Kaiser both, so I took them out in favor of a 8 Crit/4 Draw/4 Heal Lineup. In addition, now that Battleraizer was out as my starting Vanguard, I was forced to use Beast Deity, White Tiger as its replacement. This, in turn, caused me to drop Moai the Great to put in Azure Dragons to allow Tiger's skill to go live. I also futzed around with my G1 and G2 lineup a bit before I found a build that I was happy with, which can be found below.

Stills' Awesome Novas.dek

Grade 3 (8)
4x Asura Kaiser
4x Beast Deity, Azure Dragon

Grade 2 (11)
4x Death Army Lady
3x Magician Girl, Kirara
2x King of Sword
2x Brutal Jack

Grade 1 (14)
4x Death Army Guy
4x Twin Blader
4x Claydoll Mechanic
2x Tough Boy

Triggers (16)
4x Red Lightning (CRIT)
4x Shining Lady (CRIT)
4x Three Minutes (DRAW)
4x Ring Girl, Clara (HEAL)

Starting Vanguard (1)
Beast Deity, White Tiger

That's all I have on my thought process here. For those of you who stuck with me to the end, thanks a lot! I hope you enjoyed this read. As always, feel free to message me on either Facebook or Reddit if you want to discuss Vanguard, swap tips, talk about deck builds, or even tell me that I'm a worthless excuse for a human being!

As always, this is Stephen Stills of Team Sex Bob-Omb wishing you happy deckbuilding! And may all your dreams come true!

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