• AlphonZeus

The Art of Defense — Chapter 3 — Accel I and II

Hello and good day, welcome back to the Art of Defense! Today, I will be going over the final chapter of defense against arguably the most difficult types of clans to guard against in Cardfight!! Vanguard: Accel I and II. However, this article will try to break this clan archetype down into the same three questions that were presented before: (1) damage control and checking for triggers, (2) hand/board breakdown before and after combat, and (3) card advantage between you and your opponent.

Accel clans are well known for taking high risks with higher rewards. One of their unique features is that most of their grade 3s create an additional front row rear guard circle, granting an additional swing at your units. This additional rear guard circle not only creates a 4th (or more) swing, but also a power boost (+10k power for Accel 1, and +5k power for Accel II). In exchange for -5k power, Accel II grants the player to draw one card from deck when the gift is generated. Either gift presents a horrifying threat to anyone standing on the opposite side as the Accel player can attack wide. They present powerful numbers similar to Force clans. They present “gotcha” Quirks (units with particular skills that change the way the defender chooses cards to use as shield) to defend against similar to Protect clans. On top of all of that variety, Accel clans have access to a unique trigger never before seen in CFV: Front Triggers. Instead of having two different trigger effects, this trigger only has one trigger effect: give your entire front row +10k power. If you fill your front row, one front trigger grants +30k. No other trigger can grant that much power on its own. Additionally, front triggers help address one of the main weaknesses Accel clans have: defensive triggers. By checking a front trigger, you cancel out the power your opponent’s Vanguard gains on a defensive trigger. Thus, the assault continues to deal that sixth damage. However, this does also provide the option for Accel clans to have their rear guards on extra circles to swing at your rear guards. This gives them more incentive to attack because on the normal field, two cards would have to be used to boost and attack to take out that one card on the rear guard circle.

First, let’s break down the amount of Accel clans in the game so far. The subcategories for these clans will focus on one of two different strategies. You have the “aggressors,” which would sacrifice advantage for bigger, more aggressive plays to force your opponent to defend or take more damage. Here, aggressors do not care what your board state looks like -- they will be more than happy to hit the Vanguard. Next, you have the “strategists”, which focus more on building their board to bring out constant waves of attacks while also destroying/crippling your board. These clans do not worry about the all-out attack until they see that opening where you are not ready to defend against it. There are 8 Accel Clans in CFV so far. They are:

1. Aqua Force (Aggressor)

2. Gold Paladin (Aggressor)

3. Great Nature (Strategist)

4. Murakumo (Strategist)

5. Narukami (Strategist)

6. Nova Grappler (Aggressor)

7. Pale Moon (Aggressor)

8. Tachikaze (Strategist)

What will be different this time around is that either clan can efficiently use either Accel I or Accel II. All eight Accel clans can likely choose either gift. This is partially dependent on the matchup and partially dependent on the playstyle the opponent wishes to go with. This time, I will cut this analysis in half: defending against Aggressors that use Accel I and II and defending against the Strategists that use Accel I and II.

Defending Against Aggressors

First, let’s address damage control and trigger checks. The Aggressors: Aqua Force, Gold Paladin, Nova Grapplers, and Pale Moon are likely the more straightforward matchup. These players pilot the clan to beat your face in, regardless of the cost they have to pay. When taking on an Aggressor, damage control will matter throughout the game, while trigger count is a secondary concern. Attacks are the name of the game with Aggressors, and if they go second, they potentially have the best Grade 1 and 2 game to deal damage to your Vanguard. The only time Aggressors may hold back is if you utilize advantage engines to bring you back into the game. Despite this potential retaliation, Aggressors will be more than happy to call your bluff and swing into the Vanguard because they will have to apply aggression sooner rather than later. When you are eventually facing down at least 4 natural swings (swings that do not have any restand skills) after they ride their first Accel Grade 3, carefully analyze your hand to determine if you have answers to their rear guards on your turn or if you can stay at 3 damage before the 2nd Accel circle is out.

Aggressors can choose Accel I or II depending on the situation. If they are facing against a Force deck, then they may opt in for Accel I for hitting power thresholds against a 13k Vanguard. Aggressors can also advance the aggression on Accel I against Protect or other Accel clans. The 10k power boost to force your opponent to drop 15k shield can sometime result in your opponent dropping two cards or a card and an intercept to reach guard. However, this would not stop an Aggressor from running Accel II because of exchanging 5k power for a draw. It may matter more because Accel II swinging rear guards can force your opponent to overguard if necessary and also refund your Grade 3’s Accel gift. You should also consider Accel units that would help supplement their choice of Accel I or II. Cards like Blue Storm Dragon, Malestrom and Fantasy Petal Storm, Shirayuki change the power level of their board or your board to advance their aggression. This could lead them to leaning in favor of Accel II to draw more cards to fill those Accel circles while still getting a decent 5k boost.

A. Damage Control and Checking for Triggers

When comparing numbers, shield value is still the most important quality when calculating your defenses. You must anticipate your opponents’ natural swings, but also anticipate potential restands and superior calls as extra attacks. I would first ask for power numbers of each column swinging in before the first attack and then organize my hand in a way that I can properly block each swing. This may not always be the case because of the aggressive multi-attacking Aggressors are known for. Thus, take one damage and hope for a defensive trigger. Nothing ruins an Aggressor’s battle phase like a defensive trigger to give your Vanguard (or threat taunt) +10k power. Even if there are deadly on-hits, you would want to ensure you can try to mitigate damage to reduce or even prevent the amount of cards you have to use to defend the following attacks. This tempo will change over the course of the mid/late game because once your damage zone hits 4, you must change your mind as to which attack will be the fifth damage. It can be the first attack again, but there are some interesting questions to ask before you do take it. If it is a rear guard, ask yourself if that rear guard will restand or be replaced with a brand new unit. Furthermore, you have to prepare for the Vanguard swing because if the Aggressor runs fronts, then they are looking to match your potential defensive trigger. However, if they run critical triggers, then you should prepare for guarding two-to-pass or no pass if possible. If the first swing is their Vanguard, then you have to get to the trigger count. This requires you to think how powerful the next swings are. So set a threshold of power, that if your opponent manages to match or surpass it, that will be the attack you will have to take or sentinel. Hopefully your opponent does not put the critical on the swing you plan to get hit by.

Trigger counts against Aggressors can be extremely hard to predict, since you have to guess on whether they run criticals, fronts, or both. With four different Aggressors (or even the total eight if strategists happen to draw an aggressive hand) and a naturally faster tempo, triggers are more of the icing on the cake to seal a win. The possibility of running front triggers also can ruin your defensive strategy as well. Any set of opponents that you face against at a local, regional, or world level will be running a variety of trigger counts. They could run a rainbow lineup (4 fronts, 4 draws, 4 criticals, 4 heals) to 8 criticals/8 fronts, 4 draw, 4 heal, or even take out draw triggers altogether and run a combination of 12 triggers between fronts and criticals with their 4 heals. The best inquiry you have going into each match is to keep track of what triggers are out in public knowledge. There is an insane amount of mental work to worry about how the trigger lineups, but acknowledging the patterns helps to predict how to efficiently defend. If you see two different artworks on critical or front triggers, those are clues to predict if they are running more fronts or criticals. There is a small chance the Aggressor will just run one of each front trigger art to throw you off, but as you see more public information through their trigger checks, damage checks, mills or soulcharges, the closer your predictions will be to understand their trigger lineup. This changes from round to round, but you get used to it once you apply this habit to your playtesting and tournament run. You also should consider how many triggers you have left in your deck. If you have 3-4 heal triggers left in deck after each player rides their first Grade 3, then you are likely at three damage or higher. Do not forget to match or have more damage than your opponent, but then again, Accel will try to exploit your growing damage count.

B. Hand/Field Breakdown Before and After Combat

Second, let’s approach a hand and field breakdown when defending against Aggressors. Their field will almost be always scarier than yours because of them going wide. In evaluating your hand, you want to tailor your hand to have a little bit of everything: some triggers, some normal units, rear guards available to intercept, and sentinels. This is a normal baseline going into every Accel matchup, but it is easy to adjust once you hit the mid-game and late game. As you learn and adjust to each clan’s quirks, power boosts, etc., you would start ditching cards that you know you would not need later for your next defensive turn. Aggressors can strike their tempo harder than any other clan in the game. For example, Gold Paladins can ride a turn earlier than other clans as long as they have Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains; Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth; and Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel. There are other builds within Gold Paladins that are not as aggressive such as Great Silver Wolf, Garmore, but the popular build you will most likely face against is Ezel at the tournament level and higher. Against an Aggressor like this, be wary about the field looks when they superior ride into Ezel. Guarding the first attack against this deck is likely better if they do not swing with the Vanguard first. However, if the Aggressor superior rides Raven-haired Ezel, you are probably going to have a bad time. Turning off sentinels on the first rides to Grade 3 ruins many defenses. The best you can do is to take the hit because you have at least two chances to hit defensive triggers to help reduce the amount of cards you need to guard the remaining attacks.

Another example is Pale Moon’s engine through Golden Beast Tamer. By sacrificing a card from their hand on attack, she can call out two cards from soul to rear guard circles. Those two cards called extend combos and provide more attacks to force out more cards from your hand to guard or push damage. However, there is the looming threat of Silver Thorn Dragon Tamer, Luquier. Although she only calls out Silver Thorn cards and during main phase, she can call out as many as she wants. She also takes after Golden Beast Tamer by giving +3k to all front row rear guards.

Regardless of which Aggressor you face against, there will be turns where you will have to take more hits than you are comfortable with. The rationale is that you do not want to use key cards to guard and have a weak retaliation the turn after. If this happens, the Aggressor will swing back harder to land the sixth damage and end the game. In best of one situations, you will have to think on your feet. You will be more sensitive how your hand looks each time the Aggressor starts swinging. Each incremental move that is an advantage or a disadvantage will matter because even overguarding by 5k will bite you in the late game where you needed that extra 5k shield to block an attack. You have to ask yourself what your hand and board will look like if you lose your grade 2 and 3 cards to guard or discard for sentinels because this will be the same hand you have to use when planning your attack on your turn. If you feel that your opponent is out of fronts or criticals, watch for a change in attack order and evaluate your hand and field to determine if you can reasonably guard every attack.

If you are playing a best-of-3 situation, take Game 1 as opportunities to pick up on tells and other tips that render some of your cards vital and some of your cards useless. Information is your ally. If Aggressors run quirks like Twin Swordsman, MUSASHI or Battledore Fighter, prepare to defend against them or designate them as the one attack that deals damage. You should also concern yourself with your board as well. Although you may play threat taunts to take focus off of defending your Vanguard, you also do not want to bring out your win condition too early that the Aggressor will be more than happy to swing in at. Here, focus more on your opponent’s playstyle. If this Aggressor does not care about the rear guards and keeps going face in Game 1, attempt to mulligan your hand to get a trigger to defend against their Grade 1 or Grade 2 swings (of course, ensure you have you have your Grade 1, 2, and 3). If the Aggressor prefers to attack your front row, one strategy I utilize is to confirm if the opponent is committed to taking out that particular rear guard.

For example, I have Blaster Dark on my rear guard and Illusionary Revenger, Mordred Phantom on my Vanguard. My opponent rode their second Grade 3, generating another Accel II marker. My opponent swings in at Blaster Dark with a Grade 2 rear guard for 14k on the first Accel II circle. They want to take him out before I can utilize the combo between Dark and Mordred on my turn once more. Here, try to gauge the situation. See if there are any rear guards that would benefit more from attacking the Vanguard than your Blaster Dark rear guard. If so, guard that attack and force them to make a choice if they want to generate another attack towards him. If they continually attack him again, guard reasonably until you are at a point where your cards would be better suited for guarding your Vanguard. Here, if they dedicate three of out of their six natural swings, then let Dark die on that third swing unless you have no other way to get a Blaster Dark available to replace that spot. If you get the opponent to have their Vanguard swing in at your Blaster Dark, I would highly recommend to let him die because you essentially used a sentinel on your Vanguard by prying that much attention off your Mordred.

There is a different school of thought on this because they can possibly swing in at your rear guards to prevent you from getting any sort of counterblasts for your turn. If you deduce this is the case, then first check how many natural swings they have left. It becomes more likely that if you let that rear-guard die, the Aggressor will go after the other rear guard. Nothing sets a defending player off tempo more than realizing they were denied counterblasts. This lack of a turn perfectly sets up the Aggressor’s kill turn. One strategy is to essentially give the opponent a tough choice. If they swing at your Blaster Dark for 15k or higher, intercept with your other rear guard but also let Blaster Dark die. Here, you get rid of your front row and you also interrupt your opponent’s strategy of denying counterblasts, and force them to either attack your Vanguard and give you a counterblast to work with, or end their battle phase there, essentially skipping out on at least one attack.

C. Card Advantage

Third, let’s talk about card advantage. Aggressors mostly forgo this advantage for pure aggression and you will virtually lose card advantage every single time (absent some recovery mechanics to rebuild your board or hand like White Lily Musketeer, Cecilia or Colorful Pastorale, Sonata). They will not care as much about defending because they need resources to fuel their plays. One note to keep in mind is their hand size vs their board state. If hand size is bigger than the board state before battle phase, they will be ready and willing to start investing into multi-attacking. You will find yourself in a tough spot to defend against when they have 2-3 counterblasts available to use. This is probably the biggest or second biggest push they will have against you depending on your response. You should aim for taking 1-2 damage each turn and do not break this threshold. If you take 3 or more damage, then it is because either (1) you have hit a heal trigger that went off or (2) have only 1-2 triggers to defend against magic number swings that require 15k shield to guard. Bad hands will be bad hands, but Aggressors can sense this like blood in the water that they should ramp up the aggression once they see you take that third damage. This will also mean that they are more incentivized to take more cards out of your hands by playing cards that will add more pressure to their swings like Advance of the Black Chains, Kahedin and discard/use cards from their hand to progress further. After battle phase, Aggressors see very few retaliations that would blow them out of the water unless (1) you managed to damage check or drive check heal triggers or (2) you blow up their board via skills a lá Phantom Blaster Dragon or Eradictor, Gauntlet Buster Dragon.

When facing against an Aggressor’s push turn, take a couple of seconds to analyze whether more attacks are on the way and their power, especially if you do not see them on the board. Incandescent Lion, Blond Ezel’s skill when it swings adds another rear guard to the field from hand, and that skill’s optimal target is Battlefield Storm, Sagramore. This skill allows the opponent to draw a card and then call a card from hand to a rear guard circle. This can replace a rear guard that already swung or fill up a battlefield, which adds onto the natural swings you originally anticipated. Then you have Vanguards like Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom that can restand itself if the third or fourth rear-guard attack hits your Vanguard. Guarding now to prevent more attacks later is the optimal defense. It will matter the most in late game because every card counts and every restand will push you further away from your turn and into the lethal sixth damage. However, if you find the board state bigger than their hand size when battle phase begins, you can expect diminishing returns or clogged hand with triggers or grade 3s Vanguards to ride rather than call. At this point, if you are at four damage, I advise taking rear guard hits that swing before their Vanguard to hopefully hit a defensive trigger on the fifth. Or if you are at three damage, block the rear-guard hits and then take the Vanguard swing. This is your basic baseline for defending, but in Accel, you would have to take much caution if you allow their rear guard hits to go through and activate their on-hit skills. This caution is multiplied when you did not hit damage triggers on your fourth and fifth damage, leaving that window open for Aggressors to multi-attack.

Your cards’ skills will help support your strategy to retaliate and manipulate their board. If you have cards that can retire/bind/manipulate your opponent’s rear guards, then do not use them as guard power unless you are on the fifth damage. However, if you do not have cards that can manipulate their board, then you must assess what your cards would serve better as: guard power or “threat taunts.” The latter refers to a card that when called to rear guard, presents to your Aggressor that it is worth to focus swings against. Whether it is Masked Police Leader, Silbard or Exploding Tomato, your threats act as potential distractions and can question your opponent’s resolve if they can push you hard enough for the kill. Some Aggressors would not care about those threat taunts until they pass the turn. Then, you can use that threat taunt on the offense, and Accel clans will have a tougher time to defend against you.

Now the real grind comes in through when you reach the endgame. If you lasted this long with both players at five damage, then your mind is probably spent or trigger sacking occurred. You must acknowledge your opponent’s ace as well as any quirks they have out on the field. If you cannot take care of their quirks, you have to allocate for it or just hope to get the miracle heal. For guarding Vanguards, unless you have sustained a decent hand to guard most of their natural swings, go for the 1-to-pass. You want to lose the least amount of cards against Accel so you can push back. If they start attacking your rear guards, let them go unless you have nothing in hand that can replenish that rear-guard circle. If you feel that you want to draw more attention away, have one rear guard that you designate as the “sole survivor,” and throw guard power on protecting that card. This can be your own quirk or advantage engine key. If they swing at it, do a double check to see how many more attacks are left after this one. If there are more, before you drop that guard, check if you can guard the others. Aggressors can bring defenders a false feeling they will focus much of their attacks on hitting that rear-guard. Then when they see how many cards you dropped, they will switch course and then attack your Vanguard. Thus, remember the on-hits to guard or not guard, and then take damage to hope for a defensive trigger.

One final tip for facing against Aggressors: hitting defensive triggers early prevent rush down, but hitting triggers in the mid-game after they ride their first Accel Grade 3 will delay their push. Aggressors can hold their cards because if you do hit a defensive trigger, they would have to go to swinging at rear-guards or stop their attacks altogether. There are two different thoughts on this: (1) you stop the assault for now, allowing yourself to use cards that you were going to guard with on the offense and (2) you allow the Aggressor an extra turn to take more damage to bring a bigger assault the next turn. A solid way to address both thoughts is to make a push play to remove their front row rear guards. One such way is to use your cards to manipulate their field and retire/bind/remove them. If you have access to no field manipulation, make “poke attacks,” where you swing at units requiring 5k or 10k shield values. Either the Aggressor will let the attack through, guard with normal units, or overguard with triggers. Any option is a loss in advantage for them and a minor win for you. Aggressors can still build a field back up, but that would require sacrificing more cards from hand to swarm or using their Vanguard to generate more units. A defensive trigger still delays their push, but if they build and swing for a second time, chances are they have the weakest hand size. You should feel comfortable guarding your “sole survivor” and Vanguard to build, counter push, and swing for game. Any push turn after that would be a battle of depleting resources, and you eventually will have to take that sixth damage soon.

Defending Against Strategists

Defending against strategists can be frustrating because even if they normally do not rush on the grade 1 or 2 rides, their mechanics allow for advantage engines that make Force and Protect clans jealous. These Accel clans can amass a healthy hand like Protect and create large power numbers (or gaps) like Force. These clans require you to rethink drastically different from defending against Aggressors. Strategists’ skills allow for a different type of swarm and you should be ready for it.

A. Damage Control and Checking for Triggers

First, in terms of damage control and trigger checks, pushing strategists to a certain point will allow them to build faster to what I will call “the Gauntlet.” The Gauntlet refers to a push turn that is sustained for at least two turns. It is not like Protect clans’ “Big Push,” but they are annoying nonetheless because of certain restrictions or limitations placed on your board during their turn or even your own turn. The Strategists: Great Nature, Narukami, Murakumo, and Tachikaze all have ways to mess with your board one way or the other. Each strategist has a particular Gauntlet that you have to survive if you wish to win. Damage control against Strategists require you to think about the threshold to not exceed before their Gauntlet begins.

For some strategists like Great Nature and Tachikaze, you want to stay at three. This is because of either the potential critical mill for School Hunter, Leo-pald or the gauge hungry strategies of Ravenous King, Gigarex and Tyrant, Deathrex. Either of these clans thrive off power, so once they begin the Gauntlet, this is where you can be more liberal with adding damage because they are utilizing their resources, incurring a heavier cost than other Accel clans. During the Gauntlet, keep in mind what triggers are milled and used as equip gauge because they support your decision as you think to drop a 2-to-pass or no-pass on the Vanguard. You at least get to see them once they hit the drop zone, so continue to keep tracking triggers milled and equipped. Each trigger used for a skill is a lesser chance of hitting a trigger on their Vanguard’s swing. If you must, taking the Vanguard hit off of Leo-Pald or Gigarex is not that bad, even at four damage. But to keep that mindset, counting triggers in public zones is the way to go.

For Narukami and Murakumo, try to stay at two. These two clans live to manipulate your board and gain insane amounts of powers. The reason for staying at a lower damage is because Narukami has greater access to more criticals on their Vanguard swing a lá Eradictor, Gauntlet Buster Dragon or restands on Detonix Drill Dragon. Additionally, Narukami binds your rear-guards, something that even Promise Daughter and Stamp Sea Otter cannot resist. Permanent loss of rear-guards shuts off skills of units like Ice Prison Necromancer, Cocytus and Wonder Boy from recycling key units on the board or in their deck. There will be an unfortunate time where Gauntlet Buster will have an extra +2 critical and +10k power, and you cannot guard it efficiently. Taking a Gauntlet Buster at 2 damage is better than taking it at 3. It’s unfortunate if you are also an Accel player, so taking most of the rear guard hits is better than overguarding the Vanguard. The downside to this is that you leave the Strategist to dump triggers on their rear-guards. Murakumo also is a clan you want to stay at 2 damage before their Gauntlet begins. There is a horror to stay on a Grade 3 Vanguard that is basically vanilla after the turn it was placed such as Imperial Daugther or Juggernaut Maximum and ZANBAKU prevents you from riding another Grade 3 for the rest of the game. Once this Gauntlet begins, just take damage hoping that you hit defensive triggers. Your defense likely will not be efficient if you guard early in the Gauntlet because you will need that guard power later in the Gauntlet. This early guarding is reasonable only if the Strategist hits triggers early. The less triggers you see in the late game, the better your chances are at finishing the Gauntlet and moving on to the offensive.

Once you enter the Gauntlet you will most likely be taking the Vanguard swing or using your sentinel. What is the better choice will depend on their trigger count. the -10k power differential from Fantasy Petal Storm, Shirayuki. Guarding with cards now will allow you more room to take damage during the Gauntlet when each of their respective skills are used. Great Nature in particular will mill multiple cards, so keep track of how many triggers are out of the deck to comfortably 2-to-pass their Vanguard. Murakumo will be checking heavy power differentials of 20k with Shirayuki’s skill, and Dueling Dragon, ZANBAKU will call out Left Arrester or Right Arrester to prevent normal rides on Grade 3 onwards.

Just like above, predicting how each Strategist runs their trigger count will be hard. From what I have noticed, strategists have advantage engines that will allow them to run less draws and more critical and front triggers. With the inclusion of Accel II, Strategists are more likely to run this gift over Accel I because paying costs can deplete their hand quickly. Having a natural refund each time you ride an Accel Grade 3 to draw a card helps to sustain the Gauntlet into a third turn of pushing. However, this also means greater chances or drawing triggers. As a social cue, keep in mind how your opponent reacts each time they draw a card or mill a trigger. Body language says a lot about the quality of their draw, skill, etc. If they did not call any new cards, it is more likely they have drawn a trigger or a grade 3 that they would rather ride next turn. Nevertheless, be vigilant in keeping track of triggers and if it is a best-of-3 set, then adjust your defensive strategy as to their trigger count and attack strategy.

B. Hand/Field Breakdown Before and After Combat

Second, in terms of assessing your own guard power and board state, you will assess both at a more negative level than facing against almost any other subarchtype from before. Each Strategist requires your own analysis unique from each other. You can view the same hand composition differently against different Strategists. For example, assessing guard power against Great Nature will matter mill by mill. Monoculus Tiger, Binoculus Tiger, and School Hunter, Leo-pald all change as the game progresses. Your opponent cannot even predict with certainty what card is milled. In this specific case, you want a diversified hand to prepare for either mill. Preparing your hand for a variety of situations is tough, but before you enter the Leo-pald Gauntlet, get rid of cards that you have too many of: whether they are a surplus of triggers or sentinels, try to get back to 2 of each type: sentinel, trigger, normal units. Adjust accordingly as the game progresses and trigger counts change per mill and drive/damage checks. Board state will be questioned because Binoculus can potentially retire your rear-guards and multi-attacking can affect your quirks’ survivability in battle. It’s a matter of defending the cards that you cannot afford to lose with cards that you can afford to lose.

For Tachikaze, the equip gauge will be ramping up its usefulness by the time Thundering Sword Dragon, Angerblader is out, but until then, you will have to deal with affording what cards you can use and lose. Unless you have cards that are resistant to retire skills, be prepared to lose cards you called just last turn. Tachikaze have insane power gains with a recovery feature in Assault Dragon, Blightops and Vicious Claw Dragon Laceraterex. On the bright side, you only have to deal with straight power gains. The only quirks that Tachikaze have current access to that alters your defense strategy are Ravenous Dragon, Gigarex’s burn and Attempt Mammoth’s requirement to call 2 or more cards to guard from your hand to guard it. So keep in mind that your triggers will help you in the long run, but you do have some time to build as equip gauge costs for skills will require either a tax every turn or using resources to generate equip gauges every turn for the Gauntlet.

For Narukami, try to amass your sentinels only for the Vanguard. Your card defenses will be mostly coming from your hand as Narukami will bind your board consistently. There is no way to avoid that wall, so decide which units you want called out first and save the ones you want for your push turns later. Binding cards are binding cards, no matter the quality, so this Strategist will just create a deadly stack in the bind zones. If a unit just so happens to be able to intercept, use it as soon as you can before it gets bound. There is no safe strategy against Narukami outside of saving your better units for later because of their deadly engine that prolongs the Gauntlet way past 2 turns.

Finally for Murakumo, it is a matter of saving and organizing your hand for the Gauntlet turns. If they do not rush you early, that is more incentive to save resources to guard. Try to drop no more than 2 cards per turn unless the opponent tries to push for three damage before the Gauntlet begins. This is important because the majority of damage you will take is in the Gauntlet itself. You will have to guard and take damage carefully once it begins. Organize cards in your hand to start guarding and get rid of excessive grade 3s for sentinels (unless you have a skill that gives them shield value like Colorful Pastorale, Fina or Super Dimensional Robo, Dailiner). If you can, anticipate the first four attacks. If any of them require 5k shield, intercept or drop that grade 2 5k shield. Try to be always 5k power above.

Finally, you have the on-hits and advantage game for the Strategists. Here, you want to be careful of what Strategists have in terms of their on-hit skills and card advantage/punishment. This is where you have to break down what limits are you willing to set when defending and taking damage. You must first understand how each Strategist has a baseline card advantage over you, they have Accel circles to swarm the field. Next, you must understand win conditions and the different ways they fight to win.

C. Card Advantage

Great Nature’s advantage is in the gacha mechanic of milling for skills. Milling for skills becomes a 50/50 shot. There are times where Leo-pald will mill two normal units to call out two grade 2 cards off the top 4 twice. Then there are times where Leo-pald mills two triggers to gain +30k and +2 critical. There are always situations where you want either, and others where you do not want to see those gachas at all. However, you also have engines that ramp Accel circles such as Pencil Hero, Hammsuke. With Accel II, it becomes less of a liability to discard two cards for an extra Accel circle. The Mysterious Fortune is months away, so Great Nature will not see much updates for some time. One way to defend against Great Nature is that this Strategist puts itself on a clock of milling out. If you can grind out Great Nature, they will mill out of deck, reaching their losing condition. If they have an empty field and mill two triggers with Leo-pald, they have to fill up the empty slots with cards from their own hand. Their Vanguard may be a big and lethal number, but their hand will be lacking going into the battle phase. There are no restand shenanigans unless you run Armed Instructor Bison on the Vanguard. Thus, expect the natural swings to equal the number of front row units.

Tachikaze has an insane amount of advantage if it can generate the equip gauge needed to do so. There are some cards that can generate one equip gauge on placement like Vicious Claw Dragon, Laceraterex and Savage Raider. Then there are cards that can generate one equip gauge per turn like Sonic Noa and Ravenous Dragon, Megarex. You should keep in mind combos that give rear guards like Assault Dragon, Blightops equip gauge and then retire the Blightops to get two cards in the equip gauge back to hand. In reality, the Tachikaze player is refunding the cost of their plays. They need to play the Blightops, then need to use 2 other cards to give it the equip gauge that it needs. Then it needs to get retired by one of your cards (unless your opponent retires it on their turn) to bring back the two cards equipped. So you can see, there are some steps involved to really get these dinosaurs moving. Here, you can possible match their tempo by retiring their cards when they have no counterblast or soulblast to return those equipped cards to hand. Breaking their advantage engine is to first guard their on-hits that retire other cards to combo off, and then when it comes to your turn, attack rear guards that have equip gauges on them. You may be adding cards to their hand, but you are preventing them from hitting the 5 equipped gauge needed to activate Ravenous Dragon, Gigarex.

For Narukami, you got to make your cards count on the turn you play them. No card is safe from Eradiactor, Gauntlet Buster Dragon’s mass bind. Detonix Drill Dragon and Thunder Break Dragon can even bind or battle all the front row units. If you have cards that activate on placement and do nothing else, generate that advantage to be aggressive. This Strategist is one of the arguably hardest clans to face off against because there are clans out there that need to recycle their units from other zones like the drop zone or need to have rear-guards stay out for a turn. A lot of the battle is to check the timing and their engines’ costs. Eradicator, Gauntlet Buster Dragon’s skill to discard one card, the front row rear-guards are bound and the back row rear guards are brought up. And this skill is not limited to once per turn. So for two counterblasts and discarding two cards, you bind four cards if both rear guard columns are full. That is an insane swing in their favor. T reduce the amount of cards bound, be wary to leave your board with few cards. The Strategist may be less likely to activate the skill a second time if they are not getting rid of 2+ cards, but gaining an additional +5k and a critical may be the convincing argument to go to.

Finally, Murakumo’s card advantage engine was one of the most oppressive engines to face against earlier in Standard. When ZANBAKU prevents additional Grade 3 rides or even using the full three counterblasts to stun the opponent’s Vanguard on top of that have rendered Murakumo to be a top tier deck for a long time. Now with Shirayuki in the mix, Murakumo players do not have to worry much about riding the “wrong” grade 3. Either you cannot normal ride a grade 3 or that you have to sit with a 2k or 3k Vanguard after getting -10k before battle begins. One way to prepare for this aggression is to ensure that you are on a Vanguard that can complete a skill long after being placed. One such example is CEO Amaterasu. You may not get many Protect gifts, but you still get to draw and scry 1 to send to the top or bottom of the deck. Trying to counter Murakumo’s strategy is hard because ZANBAKU can fetch the missing arrestor to activate their skill or if you guard the Vanguard swing, the Strategist can fetch back Shirayuki from the drop zone. So here, do not give ZANBAKU three counterblasts to use for the stun. It does not really matter who is on the other side of the table, getting stunned and having no ability to normal ride during your turn essentially gives your opponent an extra turn to finish the job. Try to keep their counterblast usage down to two, and push accordingly to weather the Gauntlet.

And on that note, that is it for the first three chapters of the Art of Defense! I hope that you have enjoyed all three chapters. However, this is not the end yet. I still can create other Art of Defense articles based on updates to the ever-changing meta, tournament defense tactics, among others. This is The AlphonZeus of Team Gradelock writing for Team Vision, I wish you well. Have a good one!

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