Why You Should be Playing Standard Plus Neos for Premium
Written and Edited by: Deo Halili, Quinlan Cantrell, Chad Leiske and China Ross
So you want to get into Premium, but have literally never played the format? Have a shop challenge tomorrow? Well if you have ~$100 and the time to read this, you're in luck! Thanks to the new set Premium Collection, Neo Nectar received access to: Untainted Holy Damsel, Green Katrina.
The only card I've ever strode into, she does it all! She summons plant tokens, buffs plant tokens, and tutors your deck which enables a minimum of 5 attacks per turn. Outside of the 4 Katrina, what else will you need to win? This article is titled Standard Plus, so quick spoiler here, you won't need much more than a Standard Neo Nectar deck!
I'll be providing you a sample deck list based on my testing and recent shop challenge successes:
Grade 0 Lineup:
Starter: Broccolini Muskteer, Kirah, the ideal first stride turn involves 5 plant tokens. The forerunner starter provides little in value for our ideal stride turn. As such, we'll run the card that can net us an advantage early.
Heals: Watering Elf V-series heals for Grade 2 Game shield value, while G-series heals do have utility the shield difference makes them not worth consideration. G-Guardians will give you additional tokens when using Katrina's skill.
Criticals: Both V-Series criticals and the new PremCollection critical make for a total of 12. That's right no PGs.
Wait, why no draw Perfect Guards?! Yeah, I was confused too. You're the most aggressive deck in the format outside of Gold Paladins and are always playing the beat down. The four additional critical triggers give you an edge against other aggressive decks, and can help close the door on decks that look to stabilize after first stride (looking at you Ange).
Grade 1 Lineup:
Dandelion Musketeer, Mirkka is the best grade one in your deck, and your ideal first ride. This card nets you a plant token for a soulblast, and serves as a late game 26k column with Katrina if need be. This column will hit numbers against decks that have 11k base power.
Lily of the Valley Musketeer, Rebecca is the most controversial card in this list. But let me explain, your goal is to set your opponent to three or four damage by the time you enter your first stride. Not only does she have value as an 8k base power unit with 10k shield, she also enables a strong Grade 1 turn with Mirkka as you'll have one unit at 8k power and another at 18k. This means that even if your opponent hits a defensive trigger, you'll still force them to guard! This is crucial, mechanically the deck is easy, so spend all that extra time and brain power making sure you hit magic numbers.
Valkyrie of Reclamation, Padmini is one of the few reasons outside the G-Zone that this deck is Standard plus. Because you only run eight Grade 3 units, Padmini serves as an additional buffer preventing you from missing your stride. The only downside? She's a 7k base power unit which can leave you open to a counter-rush from other aggressive decks.
Fruits Basket Elf is ridiculously powerful. Early game, it can create a 10k column or provide 2 boosters and enable Spiritual Tree Sage, Irminsul. Late game it can help create two 35k columns or one 40k column. That means that this card maintains value whether it is in your starting hand, or if you draw into it mid-late game.
Grade 2 Lineup:
Pansy Musketeer, Sylvia is your ideal second ride since it nets you a token, and with the free 5,000 power booster it makes columns in your Grade 2 game. Calling off Katrina in its own column is a 25k power attack, or you can call over herself to boost another large attacker.
Maiden of Gladiolus is one more pre V-series unit that enables your consistent 6th attack, enough said. We run 3, since drawing/damage checking them and losing your 6th attack is huge. The only bad side is that if you ride it, it’s only 9k base attack. Keep in mind to intercept with it, since you will be calling over it anyway if you don't kill on your first stride turn.
Spiritual Tree Sage, Irminsul makes a 25k column early and a 35k column with Katrina, while netting you a card for just one counterblast. This card doesn't require a Grade 0 in the same column, so you can utilize him with other units for some mean magic numbers. For instance in combination with Rebecca you can make a 28,000 column!
Grade 3 Lineup:
Maiden of Trailing Rose is your ideal 3rd ride, and it nets you two tokens and a Force II marker (will explain why later). If for some reason you can’t stride or are going first and can live through the first stride, do not forget to soulblast for free power. The extra 15k power you build is another 20k shield if your opponent guards. The goal is to continue shredding your opponent's hand at all times.
Exploding Tomato this card can net you two plant token boosters while on rear guard which will enable more tutors for Katrina. Otherwise, it’s another grade 3 to ride or stride with. We almost never use this to draw cards in premium unless you’re going to resolve a Fruits Basket Elf right after.
Wait, Why No Kaivant?!
Regardless of if you’re playing Force I or Force II, playing Kaivant isn’t optimal for one reason: Magic Numbers. Outside of the marginal bonus you may gain playing him during the Grade 2 Game, let's discuss the scenario where he should most likely come up in: calling off Katrina. Calling 2 plant token producers is required, calling Gladiolus is required, here we opt for calling a Kaivant as opposed to an Irminsul. What do we gain?
Regardless of order, you get one boosted attack of a 35k column and one unboosted attack at 20k. Where as if you call Irminsul, you get a 35k column, then target the Rose behind the Vanguard for a 28k column. Why can’t you swing with the boosted Kaivant for 35k and target the Rose for a 28k column? Of course you can, but what do you gain? A counterblast (in a deck that literally only uses it for Irminsul in the first place?) What do you lose: A card in hand, potential shield, potential stride fodder, and if it isn’t a trigger: DECK THINNING IS DECK WINNING! But what if it is a trigger? That is results oriented thinking and making decisions based off that logic makes you worse at Vanguard.
Why is attacking more than 6 times suboptimal?
In order to get off the 6 attacks in one turn, your columns will more than likely need to be: 3 plant tokens in the backrow Rear Guard positions and Rose (or some other token generator), Katrina, and Gladiolus to fill the rest of the board. Rose swings for 28k, which is a 20k guard, Gladiolus swings for 24k which is 15k guard call another Rose for a 28k column and swing for 20k guard.
Vanguard swings and after, you can only call 3 units, so you call Rose, Gladiolus and Sylvia. Both Rear Guard circles get a plant token and your Vanguard swing will most likely get Perfect Guarded. Rose swings for 28k, that's 20k guard. Gladiolus swings for 24k that’s 15k guard. Last Rose in deck swings for 28k guard that’s another 20k guard.
For 7 attacks you net: 110k guard and a Perfect Guard to be totally guarded for 2 Counterblasts and all roses out of deck.
Whereas, with the ideal stride turn, I'll describe below: you attack 6 times, require 110k guard and a Perfect Guard (sound similar?), you draw a card, were able to ride a Rose, if you needed to for the tokens, you were less likely to lose your plan to a triple drive check and present less easy to guard columns or columns more prone to disruption from a defensive trigger. Most people take the first rear guard swing without a Force II marker. If they hit a defensive trigger with this line of play they save 40k shield as opposed to 30k.
Sample Game in an Ideal World
As Neo Nectar players, we would like to go second in every matchup that isn't Golds or Ange. There is honestly not a lot of notes for matchups, but I will put a general guide at the end. Their turn 1, assume your opponent: drew, rode some random grade 1 with an 8k base (I understand there are other base power units, this is to facilitate the magic numbers in these examples), and either drew or forerunnered back a unit.
Your turn 1: You draw, ride Dandelion Musketeer, Mirkka (literally the most important skill in the deck), draw, and soul blast for a plant token. Call Lily of the Valley Musketeer, Rebecca, and boost plant token. This makes a magic number of 18k. If you attack with Rebecca first and they damage check a defensive trigger, Mirkka can still hit without revealing a trigger, so you can take another card out of their hand. This is not considering calling additional units for a 3rd column/attack.
Their second turn, they: draw, ride some random 10k, and make 1-2 columns. If they are smart they might attack Rebecca. Otherwise, they can push for 3+ damage depending on a trigger. I prefer to guard early. If I can efficiently guard 1-2 cards and no pass with a critical/15k shield and take 1 damage at most, that's ideal. Keep in mind, you want to take 1 damage at least, so you may take the easy to guard attack and no pass the vanguard and overguard the last rearguard.
Your second turn: you ride Pansy Musketeer, Sylvia ideally, call a plant token to a rearguard circle, call Spiritual Tree Sage, Irminsul either in front of the plant or Rebecca, if she's still there. Netting you 1 card making either a 25k or 28k column, keep in mind that at 10k base, your opponent still needs 20k shield to guard, so where you place here only matters depending on your hand. You may want to use Rebecca to snipe a rearguard unit, depending on power, or call another unit to make a 3rd column. For grade 2, I'm a big fan of small column swing, vanguard, then big rearguard swing.
Their 3rd turn. Hopefully they're bad (of course, I'm kidding), so they: draw, ride to a random 13k grade 3, get a marker, make 3 columns and attack. As long as you don't die and they're at 4 damage, you should win after this, so guard correctly/efficiently. Keep in mind that you want 5 plant tokens before your Katrina attack, she nets you one, if you have Maiden of Trailing Rose, you now have 3, if you don’t have 2 others, you want to hold onto Fruits Basket Elf, Pansy Musketeer, Sylvia or Dandelion Musketeer, Mirkka (in that order).
Your 3rd turn, aka your 1st stride, aka your kill turn. Draw, ride Maiden of Trailing Rose, put a force II marker down (if you're going to have all plant tokens I recommend on the left column), call two plants, stride into Katrina, flip a g zone unit to get another token. Your field should look like Katrina in the middle with 5 plant tokens at this point.
Now attack order changes assuming they're at 4 damage:
Swing with 30k force II column, they usually guard this. Keep in mind they need to guard with at least 20k at this point.
Swing with second rearguard 30k column, they normally take this, pray they don’t get a defensive trigger, if they do, your line of play changes.
Swing with Katrina, activate skill, assuming you have at least 2 counter blast and they don't have access to a card that makes you counterblast for 5+ attacks.
Call a Maiden of Glawdiolus to your right non-force II column, and Irminsul to your left force II column.
Slap a Rose behind your vanguard and a Sylvia underneath the Gladiolus.
Maiden will call a plant behind Irminsul, Sylvia will call a token over itself and Irminsul will check, drawing you a card and becoming a 35k column.
Normally, your opponent will perfect guard the vanguard attack. You get 3 checks, you need at least 1 critical trigger, but any more helps. Put the first trigger on your right gladiolus column making it 34k with a critical. Any additional triggers means use your best judgement.
Now you must attack with Irminsul first, they probably guard this if they can. Now you attack with your 34k gladiolus column activating its skill choosing the rose in the back. Call a Rose over Irminsul and a plant token over the token behind it making a 28k column. If they can, they guard this. Keep in mind, they needed 25k guard the last 2 attacks. So up until this point they needed 20k, 20k, PG, 25k, 25k (Of course, these numbers get smaller if your opponent checks a defense trigger,) that's around 8 cards from hand depending on how many times they G guarded. Now, you swing for a 6th time with a critical on your now smallest column, which is 28k but, hey, that's a magic number still, so they'd need another 20k guard. To live through this onslaught, they'd have 110k shield and a PG and a discard fodder assuming: no defensive triggers and you only checking one critical. Keep in mind if they take either your force 2 circle attacks, or your attack with critical trigger, they'd need to miracle heal twice.
Now, this is super ideal when going second, but what about going first? All that changes is deciding if you give your opponent the first stride. If you are at one damage during your grade 3 turn, I always do it, if I'm at 2 damage, I usually do depending on my hand and the board state. If I’m at 3 it's super risky unless you have a lot of guard. Otherwise, you Grade 2 Game until your opponent gives you the first stride and you win.
Information to note
You need a counterblast for a 6th attack, so if you only have one available, decide if 10k and a card for Irminsul is better than two 28k column attacks. You do this by having Rose on force II and Gladiolus targeting that Rose after Rose attacks. Using Fruits Basket Elf to make two 35k columns can take additional cards out of your opponent’s hand. The magic number is 28k usually, unless you’re against a vanguard less than 13k, for 12k it'd be 27k but we can't make that number.
On the off chance you can't choose Rose for your Gladioulus target, putting a Sylvia behind vanguard will net you a 25k column, putting Mirkka will net you a 26k column. The 26k column only comes up as a magic number for vanguards 11k and lower. Don’t forget that if you need an additional 5k, you can call a Rose to the force II circle and a plant behind it, a Rebecca underneath the vanguard and make your last column however you see fit. You're aiming for 28k and +increments of 5k.
Don’t be scared to call a trigger unit to resolve Irminsul’s effect on RG, especially on your grade 2 turn. Even more so if you have the new critical that nets you a card later. It makes numbers and you draw a card so you don’t minus.
In Defense of Force II
While force I can net more cards out of your opponent’s hand per attack, they are more than likely willing to take an additional damage at 4 to fish for a defensive trigger, which heavily influences the outcome of your game. But with force II, they need to respect every attack on that column unless they miracle heal. And if they got to 5, they'd need to miracle heal twice. This pressure of forcing your opponent to "guard or die" actually provides more pressure than the extra 10k would, while also providing less opportunities for your opponent to check a defensive trigger, which would significantly diminish the strength of your turn.
The Rest of the "Plus" in Standard Plus
So honestly, you're only ever going to stride into Katrina. If you went into 4 and they're still alive, not only do you deserve to lose, but your deck should be nonexistent. You need at least 4 flip fodder for Katrina, and while you can pick anything I opt for the misprinted PremCollection Metal Element Scryew. If your opponent is Grade 2 Gaming you and they don't re-ride, you need Air Element, Sebreeze.
Keep in mind that if you can’t kill here make sure you can live through the next turn so you can follow up with a Katrina stride. Gaining access to Triple Drive, with a 28,000 base power attack and the ability to combo a bit with a Gladiolus is pretty good when your opponent is still Grade 2.
You're only going to Stride into Katrina but in case you want other options you have: Flower Princess of Spring's Beginning, Primavera, the new nation dragon Progenitor Dragon of Regal Birth, Megaloma and finally Zeroth Dragon of Death Garden, Zoa.
My favorite would have to be: Bond Protector Musketeer, Antero. Antero is a 35k shield G-Guardian for the low cost of soul blast one. His other requirement? Just have four plus rearguards on the field, or one or fewer. 48k vs 27k is a three to pass with one card, it's really good versus non-Force vanguards. Keep in mind, that other players will know this and may attempt to reduce your rear-guard count before going for the big swing.
A lot of people run: Flower Princess of Cherry, Kosterina. She seems good on paper, but in my experience she has been extremely situational. She is played specifically for the Nubatama match up to call over the other dominated unit when being attacked by a dominated unit. So in a Nubatama heavy meta, this is a must take.
Let's say you really need that Gladioulus to live a turn or that Rose target since you only have one in deck, Dark Element, Dizmel is a life saver. Having a 6th 28k column attack is huge and this can protect that.
If you don't need 20k shield and need to hand fix, I've found a lot of use from Air Element Ractome. A big problem with this deck is that after your first ride we really only have 10 stride fodder assuming you haven’t damaged checked and or were forced to ride the grade 1.
Sacred Tree Dragon, Rainbow Cycle Dragon can put important combo pieces back into the deck to enable your turns to continue. You call cards out of deck at an insanely quick pace, you don't want your stride turns to become unoptimal.
Match up Guide
Now for the part you've all scrolled down for, A Linear Guide to Premium Matchups:
So Neos are definitely the easiest deck to play in Premium where the only real decision making comes from calling from deck on your Katrina swing, as long as you: organize your effects properly, make magic number columns, and keep count of the units in your deck, most of your games play out the same. Asides from ultimate striding to Zoa in the mirror, please keep in mind the notes below.
Oracle Think Tank
You shouldn’t give them first stride unless you’re at 1-2 damage in my opinion. To win don't take a lot of damage early. You can't perfect guard or use auto G-Guardians so normally you just no guard the Vanguard, get some defensive triggers and deal with the rear-guards. G2 game if possible, they ride the 12k G2 you'll need boosters, plant tokens work but try to make magic numbers, columns 17k and over will require 10k shield. Unfortunately if they have Tom and old Ichi it's back to no-fight no-guard.
Kind of similar to OTT (you’ll start to notice a pattern), but they have a much worse G2 game, so normally they’ll give you the first stride and gear up defensively. They can OTK on first stride, so same rules as above applies. If you stride first, you should win.
Normally you'd hold your Perfect Guards for Bustered, but since we don't have them we'll want to remain at low damage and force them to ride up by using our superior Grade 2 Game. They need to resolve shouts to build up soul to get multiple restands, so if you can live through 1-2 vanguard swings, giving them 1st stride isn’t as detrimental as it is in other matchups. And if you can reride before striding, having two force II RG columns makes the matchup super in your favor.
Is one of the few matchups you want to go first in, if they aren't running the standard starter you can't give them counterblast until your grade 2 turn. In my opinion the non-superior stride version is a much harder match up and requires a lot more effort since they can live through our first Katrina depending. Their first stride isn’t amazing so don’t feel bad giving it to them especially if you can live, re-ride then stride. Be aware of them calling Honoly during your turn so you’ll need CB for your 5th attack plus.
Utilizing your superior Grade 2 game you'll be able to pressure them to ride up. Due to the 5k boosters they have to call from hand their numbers are tiny, so try to stay low on damage. If you are at 3 when they Morfessa, you can take one of their rear-guard attacks with critical and hope for triggers. Otherwise be aware of their ritual count and push as much damage as you can.
Don't give them 2 CB early, they can stride to grade 3 while you're on 1. If you believe they're using the lion that damages themselves, then don't