• AlphonZeus

The Art of Defense – Chapter II – Protect I and II

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

Hello and good day everyone, welcome back to The Art of Defense! I am Alphonsus, a/k/a The AlphonZeus of Team Gradelock returning again on Cardfight Vision. This time, let’s take a dive into the next chapter of the Art of Defense: defending against the Protect clans! The same primer of questions applies from defending against Force I and II clans. So the sub topics discussed will concern defending against Protect I and II and will ask for (1) damage control and checking for triggers; (2) breaking down your hand and board before and after combat; and (3) card advantage between you and your opponent.

Protect clans are not as offensive as Force or Accel clans. They do not have many defensive options for defending multi-attacking or re-standing vanguards, but they do focus on a key concept: card advantage. Protect seeks to swing in with precise strikes that will give them advantage or take advantage of your lack of advantage. There are very few options that allow for Protect clans to swing in for more than 3 attacks, but each swing seeks to hit magic numbers for advantageous on-hit skills or seeks to have a timed burst of aggression in terms of a big number or guard restriction. You will not see this type of aggression every turn, but they are setting up for it and will take cards out of your hand and field to build to those moments. So a key theme of defending against Protect clans is to prevent your opponent from executing their deadly precise final turn by flipping the board on them and gaining more advantage than them.

First, let’s break down the amount of Protect clans in the game so far. The subcategories for these clans will focus on where in particular they place their advantage. You have the “hand extension” clans that seek to utilize another zone as their resource as if they were part of their own hand. Next, there are “advantage exploiter” clans that seek to manipulate a particular game mechanic that gains advantage over the opponent. Finally, there are hybrids that can efficiently utilize both. There are six Protect clans in the game so far. They are the following:

  1. Angel Feather (hybrid)

  2. Dark Irregulars (hand extension)

  3. Granblue (hand extension)

  4. Megacolony (advantage exploiter)

  5. Nubatama (advantage exploiter)

  6. Oracle Think Tank (hybrid)

Defending Against Clans that Use Protect I

Force Marker I

Protect I grants the user a pseudo-card that has no grade with a sentinel skill to negate

an opponent’s attack against a unit. Out of all the gifts, this is the only gift that cannot be used offensively by itself. If they are not used to prevent your attacks from hitting, Protect I is mostly used to discard for the skill of units, such as Victorious Deer or Stealth Beast, Kokushigarasu. The interesting concept with this tactic is that you are technically refunding riding a Grade 3 and receiving a perfect guard in return. This is a great setup to defending on their turn. In contrast during “The Big Push” turns, the opponent will be more willing to discard their gifts to utilize their units to their maximum potential. A key point for you to learn is to see if they are building their defenses/card advantage or pushing aggression on you. This is the main theme for any of the Protect clans. Your role is to assess how much damage you think you can take in each part of the game. You also should assess what cards you should keep in your hand in the scenario you are unable to break their resources or deal the 6th damage before “The Big Push” turn. Finally, you should determine what advantage your opponent already has before he/she starts swinging. You could get three Force-like big swings, you could also get Accel-like multi-attacks, or you get the guard restriction swings that alter your defense altercation. So, let’s get started with damage!

A. Damage Control and Checking for Triggers

Managing damage control against Protect I decks will vary under the six clans. Dark Irregulars and Megacolonies are more conservative with their early game attacks and you won’t see these two clans bring down more than one attack on their way to Grade 3 very often. In this case, be prepared to build your hand against their “Big Push” turns. However,the other four Protect clans, Nubatama, Granblue, Oracle Think Tank, and Angel Feather, take the 50/50 strategy because they can capitalize off of resources to be aggressive early on with the right cards in hand. Your first thoughts going into the first rides of the game against these two will be: “How aggressive will this person be?” and “Is there a way they can generate bigger numbers or manipulate triggers?”

Imperial Daughter V-Series BT-01

If they put up the L formation (the front row is full but has one booster on either end of the back row), then be prepared to guard the first rear guard swing or no- pass the Vanguard. You can guard the first rear guard swing with one card and hope they do not hit a trigger on their Vanguard. If they do, they get their secondary trigger skill (critical, draw, heal, or stand) and pass off the power to the boosted column. Over guarding at such an early part of the game can be a sad defeat for you later when you are off by 5k shield. The most optimal early guarding without dropping many cards in hand would be to no-pass the Vanguard. I recommend this because having to drop one 15k shield to no-pass a Grade 1 or 2 Vanguard’s single drive check is better than having to drop 2+ cards on the boosted column when they check a trigger. Keep in mind, against OTT, if they are on Imperial Daughter, and they have activated Deer's skill, it's better to sentinel the vanguard in order to avoid the extra critical from Imperial Daughter's skill.

Another important concept in defending against Protect I is that counting triggers out of the deck will not matter as much for some Protect clans. For example, Oracle Think Tank can manipulate the top of the deck and legally stack triggers to their liking. This may not always be the case, but when your opponent says that they have switched the order and drew with Rectangle Magus or added a card to hand and left a card on top of the deck with Imperial Daughter, there is a higher chance that the opponent will hit a trigger. In this case, you would want to ask: how many triggers are out first, and which of those are critical triggers? As of the time of this writing, Oracle Think Tank can run a maximum of eight critical triggers. However, once Aerial Steed Liberation releases (V Set 5), the deck can run a maximum of 12 critical triggers. Although, one can think that a normal deck would maximize critical quantity, there are considerations that the player could run a vanilla draw to help against their Accel match-ups. This nonetheless is a minor issue because you want to confirm the critical count, so the less criticals in the deck, the better. Against Protect decks that can manipulate hitting critical triggers to activate consistently, try to stay at 3 damage to adequately prepare for their “Big Push.” Once you know what triggers are in play, then you would want to decide which column has to get guarded outright, which will also depend on your hand and field.

B. Hand/Field Breakdown – Quirks, Power-Ups, and Multi-Attacks

This requires you to check your opponents’ units on the board to see if they have any guard restriction skills that can be used this battle phase. Some attacks just prevent you from using sentinels or a certain grade/s when guarding, while others seek to exploit anti-sentinels with a built in critical, such as Mobile Hospital, Feather Palace. These types of units will be called the “Quirks.”(mostly because these units are Protect clans’ heroes) In most situations, you would want to guard the Quirk as a top priority, but if you cannot, then hopefully you can drop a sentinel or guard the Vanguard swing and prepare to get hit by the Quirk. Half of the battle of defending against Protect decks should be building and using your hand to effectively guard their attacks to set yourself up to defend their Big Push. Always try to conserve your triggers for guarding Quirks because they are the endgame you should prepare for as the Big Push turns have diminishing returns for the next turn of attacks. There are exceptions where you have threats like Violence Flanger, where the opponent can activate and discard grade 0s to prevent calling down triggers to the guardian circle. In that case, guard early. If they hit triggers early, it will only help later in the game when you ask for trigger counts and see more critical triggers out of the deck. If you can maintain 3-4 damage against this particular quirk, you will be better prepared to take more hits if they hit with higher numbers. Additionally, do not forget your intercepts! They may only provide 5k shield in most circumstances, but intercepting a small attack or double intercepting to block for an attack requiring 10k shield saves an additional 5k shield if you would drop a trigger instead. The only exceptions to this defensive tactic is if you have no other card to replace that interceptor in your hand or have a unit or unit’s skill that can replace that empty rear guard circle. In some circumstances, Protect clans have units that power up, multi-attack, or both.

When tackling a hand/field breakdown in these situations, you would have to ask if you can afford to guard that Big Push turn. First, against the power-up decks where units would gain an insane amount of power on board, normally they would not have any other Quirks or multi-attacking. Examples are Oracle Think Tank’s Victorious Deer and Megacolony’s Machining Spark Hercules. Here, an instant thought is to save your sentinels for the Vanguard swing in particular because of the twin drive shenanigans. However, before going to that instant thought, ask for power checks before the first attack. In this scenario, you can gauge which cards you can afford to drop for the other two swings if you have at least one sentinel. If the rear-guard columns have quirks in addition to their power boost, then you would want to account for that as well. So here’s an easy to follow formula: if you are guarding a Vanguard swing, ask yourself if you can drop two cards to guard for a 2-to-pass (whether heal/critical, critical/G1 10k shield, or critical/intercept or 5k shield). If you cannot, then consider dropping the sentinel instead. But if you can, then check the rear guard columns for Quirks. If the opponent does have Quirks, drop the sentinel on the Vanguard and discard another sentinel or 5k shield if possible to prepare to guard the Quirks. If they have a Quirk on the Vanguard, then feel free to be more comfortable dropping no more than 4 cards in an attempt to guard to 2 to pass (or if you have limited sentinels and feel you need those 4 cards for more Quirks or powered-up rear guards, guard enough for a 1 to pass).

In this part of the scenario, you give your opponent a choice, gamble everything on the Vanguard or power up their rear guards in the hopes you do not have a sentinel. This is honestly a 50/50 shot most of the time, but at this point, you should have kept track of their trigger count to determine if they can break through. However, giving your opponent a dramatic choice is better than giving them implied advice on where to designate their triggers by over guarding the Vanguard and almost ensuring them the win when they swing with their rear guard for game. If the opponent memorized any drive checks you made that included sentinels, they may gamble all in on the Vanguard, but if they drive check a non-trigger, then that 10k power is lost and saves you 10k shield to guard the next attack. Ultimately, your theme is to keep your opponent guessing, but prepare for any swing that they have after their Vanguard attack. After the Big Push turn for power-ups, it will take some specific resource grinding to build up for another one, giving you another chance to finish the job.

For multi-attacking units during the Big Push, you would have to make a determination on your hand to guard early or guard late. Big Push turns almost always deal at least one damage to you, so answer some questions to boil down your guarding strategy for multi-attacking. For example, Dark Irregulars and Nubatama have multi-attacking strategies available in Death Anchor, No Life King and Covert Demonic Dragon, Magatsu Storm. In these cases, it’s down to the match up available to you. No Life King’s initial swing does not have much to worry about with only 1 damage, but the Vanguard will technically re-stand with a brand new unit, adding an extra Vanguard swing with a built-in critical. For Magatsu Storm, opponent would respond to bouncing their own unit to call three units and buff up each one by +5k. Here, consider if you could take the rear guard hit before the Vanguard swing. If you are at three damage, I would guard it because I would rather take a Vanguard swing and then set up sentinels to guard the subsequent attacks because the opponent would then take triggers and boost up their standing units. However, if you are at 4 damage, I would take it because unless the column is swinging for an attack requiring at least 15k shield, I would try to get a defensive trigger early to help cushion the amount of guard I would need for each attack after that. Plus, I would not want to waste a 15k shield early when I could have used it later on.

There’s context to be provided in each multi-attack setup, but this strategy would be heavily focused on attacking the Vanguard. Normally, Protect clans would have to do some building to achieve another Big Push turn, if they could do so at all. However, there are doomsday scenarios where your opponent can unleash another Big Push turn right after the first because they have generated enough resources. In this case, check the conditions needed before the first Big Push to see whether the opponent can do it again. Then, check your hand and board to see if they can help with either pushing back or if they can help you prepare cards for the next Big Push, dependent on your deck build. Ideally, you would not want to let you opponent pull off two Big Push turns in a game. However, decks like Angel Feather and Granblue can be scarily consistent in their endgame scenario. Whether they re-ride Grade 3s from the damage in Solidify Celestial, Zerachiel or consistently call out Dragon Undead, Skull Dragon from the drop zone, these pushes will consistently take several cards from your hand or land the sixth damage sooner than other Protect decks.

C. Card Advantage

Card advantage against Protect I decks bear the heaviest burden against your defenses out of three gifts. Each Protect clan seeks to grind your defenses and your mind out every single turn, leading to a potentially lethal Big Push turn when you do not have much left. Protect I guarantees these clans to defend more effectively against your swings, and as discard fodder to pay for their Big Push costs. One way to ensure you can survive the grind to push back against them is to first understand how each Protect clan builds their advantage. Therefore, you would look towards the costs that each unit would lean towards. Counterblasts, soulblasts, and discards can be played on tempo in the early stages of the game, but they can slow down by the mid game to save for their Big Push turn. In this case, the best defense is actually a good offense. Limiting the amount of counterblasts used by swinging at rear guards or keeping your field close to empty limits the opponent from executing their Big Push, if not diminishing its effectiveness. However, there are other Protect clans where you want to become aggressive against because they will seek to exploit your lack of aggression to build faster to The Big Push. Rushing Protect is sound advice as each of the six Protect clans will have to take at least 1 turn to build on their first grade 3.

Every single Protect clan requires a substantial amount of resource management to continually gain advantage and build to execute the Big Push. Your job theme in card advantage is to think more on the offense to break their engines and halt them from carrying out their objective. For example, Oracle Think Tank thrives off of its counterblasts and soulblasts to continually draw cards and manipulate what is on the top of their deck. Defending against this strategy would require you to break that engine by attacking rear guards and denying counterblasts. There are outs the opponent can use such as Oracle Guardian, Gemini to countercharge, but that requires the player to be at three damage. Many different cards in Oracle Think Tank do not require on-hits, so defending effectively against its card advantage is to swing in at rear guards until they do not guard anymore. When it hits that stage, punch in, but limit the damage to prevent them from achieving a windfall of resolving skills to get them all caught up. For Nubatama, their card advantage is attacking your hand. Continual discarding, bouncing cards back to their hands for guarding and bouncing your cards to prevent using them as shield as per Shura Stealth Dragon, Kujikiricongo are scary tactics. The best way to deal with it is to act more aggressively early on to make them drop some of their combo pieces or trigger shields. Nubatama needs to have a healthy hand to ensure they can continually bounce their field and mulliganing for a grade 1 or 2 rush strategy will put them on notice early. Defending against such attacks from this clan after aggression will be more relaxed as they have to be more careful with calling out cards to attack your Vanguard because that is just another resource that has to be used a turn earlier than they would like to use it.

For Megacolony, be more careful with attacking as putting them on 2 counterblasts will give them more incentive for a Machining Spark Hercules turn to put them at a 10k power differential. Traditionally, there are no counterchargers in a Megacolony deck outside of the conditional cards like Small Captain, Butterfly Officer. So to leave them on 1 counterblast and attacking their rear guards help to diminish their ideal field for a Big Push. Slow, but sure pushes with resource denial will help in the long run to grind out Megacolony. However, there can be openings where they do not have enough resources to efficiently guard attacks. This is where breaking their advantage will translate into heavier aggression and exploiting them instead of the other way around. Granblue has an extension of their hand in the drop zone, a place that cannot be manipulated by many clans in Standard. This clan relies on having the right pieces in the drop zone to be considered scarier. Unfortunately, once this clan hits those pieces, they can provide a Big Push every single turn with higher numbers in Dragon Undead, Skull Dragon, or seal the deal with Violence Franger. This will require you to mulligan and act more aggressively towards this clan. By attacking their Vanguard early, you are getting more cards out of their hand or landing more damage. There is an inherent risk in giving them more damage to heal out of, but you would not want to be in a situation where your aggression is halted because they managed to reach their endgame, and you are on the defensive. Attacking rear guards does almost nothing because that empty rear guard slot can be filled by Ice Prison Necromancer, Cocytus and King of Demonic Seas, Basskirk.

Dark Irregulars take a longer time to build their strategy than other Protect decks, but there are turbo builds to super soulcharge as early as the first Grade 3 ride. This will require you to predict what cards they are going for first before acting aggressive. If you see the opponent struggling to soulcharge more than one card per turn, you have ample time to build your board aggression and resources in hand to defend against their Big Push turns. Also, whenever you see them soulcharging triggers, let that be another reminder that it is one trigger less to deal with. This mentality can change from turn to turn, but be sure to pay more attention to what is going into their soul before turning on the aggression. There are cards such as Blood Sacrifice, Ruthven to grab cards from the drop zone or damage zone to put into the soul, so be sure to pay more attention when that card is placed on rear guard. Keeping track of the soul will help further into determining whether to be the aggressor or denier of resources by swinging at rear guards. If they are at 8-10 cards in the soul, be prepared for a major Push Turn after they defended your attacks. If they are less than 8 cards in the soul, you can have the luxury of taking another turn to swing at rear guards and whittle down their hand to limit their options.

Finally, Angel Feather is arguably one of the scariest Protect decks in the format as they can recycle triggers; obtain multiple Protect I gifts in a turn; have one of the best Quirks in the game in Mobile Hospital, Feather Palace; brought over their rescue mechanic from premium standard to achieve additional "rescue" trigger checks or thinning out the deck for more trigger checks during twin drive; and have an inherent heal mechanic on Crimson Impact, Metatron. If you rush them, you give them gas for their skills. If you swing at their rear guards, they can superior call them from drop zone with Wild Shot Celestial, Raguel and recycle them again. So how do you break an advantage engine that can bounce back from aggression, generate multiple sentinels, or can set up a deadly board that will be extremely hard to guard against? Well, you would have to prepare for the extremes. Extreme aggression, or extreme grind. This will require commitment, because once you choose an option, it will be difficult to switch gears. If you play an Accel deck, you an inherent advantage to provide multiple front row attackers to whittle down their hand. If you play Force, consider playing with Force II to encourage them to be more aggressive with guarding if they do not want to take columns with a base critical of 2. If you play Protect, prepare your Quirks and attempt to push them to 4 damage to truly threaten lethal. Additionally, if you manipulate an Angel Feather’s field, it will serve you well in the extreme grind. An Angel Feather player can only replenish and recycle so many times in a turn, so eventually, they will be grinded out of their own game. Just keep an eye out for the Big Push with the Mobile Hospital, as that will be the most threatening card to defend against.

Protect I is arguably one of the most painful gifts to play against because you can only be so aggressive to be perfect guarded by a recurring gift. However, utilizing your strengths to break their card advantage engine will be a good way to set up a relaxing defensive turn when they attempt to push. Next, let’s take a look at Protect II.

Defending Against Clans that Use Protect II

Force II Marker

Protect II recently launched with the other Force II and Accel II gifts in V Extra Booster 07: The Heroic Evolution. This gift is placed only on a rear guard circle, similar to Force I and Force II. However, this grants the rear guard that is on it an extra 5k power during both player’s turn and an extra 10k shield when that rear guard intercepts. This helps boost rear guards of all grades upwards of any power from 8k to 17k base power (5k power per gift) to prevent your opponent from targeting rear guards to swing at. However, unlike Force II, this gift can stack. So that grade 2 rear guard with two Protect II gifts will have an intercept value of 25k shield value (or 30k if that grade 2 is a vanilla with 10k shield value). In contrast to Protect I, this has been heavily criticized as not superior or even an alternative to Protect I. In the case that your opponent does choose Protect II, there are some tips to keep in mind, and it should not be underestimated. The same three concepts apply here: damage control/triggers, your hand/field breakdown, and card advantage.

A. Damage Control/Triggers

Protect II provides an extra boost to attacking units that can stack, so as the gameproceeds, rear guard columns will only get bigger numbers. It resembles the slow builder subtype in Force clans, but there are a small minority that can accelerate the amount of Protect gifts you can get. One such example is Soldify Celestial, Zerachiel, where you can stack a front row rear guard slot with an additional Protect II after riding a Grade 3 for turn. A lesser known example is Scarlet Witch, CoCo. It is a rogue Grade 3 ace, but could see more play if someone can exploit Protect II. For any other Protect clan, your guarding power will diminish over time with each 5k boost. One theme to keep in mind is that you are on a clock with Protect II. How fast that clock ticks will determine on your ability in response to beat it before it beats you. You can delay it with attacking those rear guards or manipulating their field, but they can catch up in due time. Sooner rather than later, being off by 5k shield will be a reality as Protect clans’ columns can hit magic numbers more reliably. Rule of thumb is guard slightly earlier than normal unless you have defensive strategies to help alleviate the extra power gain. This way, you can feel more comfortable with letting damage through late game except for higher critical damage. This strategy can be flipped later if they happen to hit triggers early, but the bright side is that you are given an extra counterblast to use earlier, and that you have a higher chance of healing out of that damage to allow for fresh damage to counterblast on. Guarding the Vanguard has similar tips as per Protect I, but the rear guards could likely draw out sentinels to perfect guard if they are not Quirks. If you end up dropping more than three cards for a rear guard swing on Protect II, it is usually better to use your sentinel or just take it.

B. Hand/Field Breakdown

Since rear guards can swing in at a Vanguard unbooosted with Protect II (or in the off-chance you can buff a base critical of 2 to 8k power with a. booster), your intercepting units have more value than usual. You ideally would like to drop one card per attack and take one damage per turn. Normal magic numbers for Protect columns are 17k (9k Grade 2 and Grade 1 8k booster), 16k (9k Grade 2 and 7k G1 booster), and 15k (9k Grade 2 and 6k booster). Adding 5k to each of these numbers can hit magic numbers for Protect and Accel Clans. Even Force clans must realize that with Protect II, they cannot just intercept to prevent the attack from hitting. So you as the defender, must update your magic numbers to ensure you do not misguard or over guard. Be careful with trying to manage your defending options because you do not want to be the player who lost because they underestimated the extra 5k boost from Protect II.

C. Card Advantage

Instead of gaining a Protect gift, you will have to deal with bigger rear guard columns. Card advantage is more permanent as intercepting rear guards will have essentially the same shield value as a trigger unit. Your opponent may not be having additional sentinels from Protect, but they are seeking to generate card advantage to take out cards in your hand. There are Protect clans that can help replenish the loss of that extra protect marker with draw power. However, Protect II will likely encourage you to push harder as they know your attacks will either draw out more cards out of their hands to guard, or using one of their precious draw sentinels to perfect guard. The pressure your opponent will feel is arguably the same pressure that a Force or Accel player would feel having only four sentinels to work with. The exchange is that they get use their 15k shield value interceptor. What the opponent will realize is in most games, they can place two Protect II markers, with one on each side. With only two circles that can benefit, it will encourage you to break the engine by attacking the Vanguard even more, putting your opponent in a predicament. They will not have as many cards to replenish their interceptors, and if they have a Grade 1 or 3 on that circle, they cannot intercept because they do not have the intercept ability on the top left of the card. In conclusion, there is a limited applicability in Protect II, but players can make it work if they build it to reduce the chances they will need to use a sentinel on one of your attacks.

That is it for the second chapter for the Art of Defense. I am The AlphonZeus of Team Gradelock and Team Vision, thank you for your time and attention, and take care!

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