The Breakdown – Cardfight Vanguard – Aqua Force

This article is rated Experience Levels 3-6.  This article series is intended to cover a wide range of topics about particular sets, and will help players of all kinds when it comes to knowing their set or the set of an opponent.

Welcome to the Breakdown.  thenightsshadow here, and as we do each time on the Breakdown, we look at several questions about a series, deck, archetype, or card, then get on down to breaking down what makes it tick and how one should approach playing it.

This time, we’re going to cover the clan of Aqua Force, and the theme for this article is going to be “Playing Around an Opponent”, so even for those that don’t play Aqua Force they can still get something out of this article.

As a reminder, here are the general questions we ask ourselves for each set.

1) Competitively, why should I play this clan over other clans?
2) What is the ideal set up from opening hand to final turn?
3) How does our play look like versus an opponent?
4) Where are our good and bad matchups?

Once we answer these questions,  there will be questions about those questions, but we’ll cover those afterwards.

With that out of the way, let’s answer question 1.

1) Competitively, why should I play this clan over other clans?

Aqua Force made headway throughout the tournament scene throughout a good portion of the G-series by being an all-out rush deck that rarely (or never) went to a Grade 3 Vanguard.  Taking advantage of multiple attacks, the ruleset, and the innate power of an archetype, they attacked the format in a way that hadn’t been done ever before, and became a surefire hit along the way.

What’s back?  The multiple attacks and the ease of pulling them off.  What’s not back?  The tournament rules.  In fact, the rules of Standard were subtly adjusted in a few ways to make it difficult for decks to utilize a Grade 2 rush as a viable tournament endgame, especially for longer tournaments.  Thankfully, Aqua Force in Standard has really solid Grade 3 options as well, so while they can’t fully replicate the power from before we can certainly overwhelm an opponent when they attack while playing the game with every Grade.

2) What is the ideal set up from opening hand to final turn?

At the start, focus on playing as minimally as possible.  A booster for your Vanguard is fine against almost all clans, but otherwise you should only play at most one Front Row rearguard at a time in the early game.  Once you ride to Grade 2, start your rush of attacks if the situation permits.  Riding into Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos is your best bet, as just playing one Tidal Assault lets you get an easy four attacks.  At Grade 3, ride into your Dragon of choice and prepare for an offensive burst.  Since you don’t need much on the field to attack a lot, you can use your hand for defense and for soulcharging, as you force opponents to weather your storm.

3) How does our play look like versus an opponent?

I’ve listed what would happen in an ideal game, but not every game will go like that.  Defensive Triggers are nightmares, as one or two Triggers can stifle the offense out of nowhere without a Front Trigger or two of your own.  In addition, there are no plussing draw effects outside of our initial Vanguard, leaving you with effectively a fixed arsenal outside of Draw Triggers.  What do you do?

For starters, don’t put everything on a combo turn to outright win.  Use minimal card investment with a lot of output.  It only takes two Rearguards to make five viable attacks at Grade 3.  Take every opportunity to make sure every card you play puts pressure on the opponent, and aim to trade one of your cards for two of your opponent’s every time.  Only go for a big swing turn if you’re set to win based on your opponent’s hand or you don’t think you’re going to survive another turn.  There is no need to go all in prematurely.

4) Where are our good and bad matchups?

Aqua Force has a bad matchup against any decks capable of a sustained early rush.  Unlike other aggro decks, they’re not always capable of an Grade 1 tri-lane and thus can be beaten to the early damage with an early trigger.  Aqua Force really wants to be able to control the tempo of the game, and they can’t if they’re fighting from behind from the beginning.

Aqua Force has a good matchup against decks that are unable or unwilling to guard an early rush.  An opponent riding to Grade 3 while being at four damage, regardless of what Gift they have, is in the ideal position to be defeated on the next turn.

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Let’s now get into the next wave of questions.  These are questions we ask that involve card and style choices.

1) From what I’ve been told, players should make a choice between Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom and Navalgazer Dragon in their Aqua Force decks.  Can you tell me why, and which you prefer?

I think this is an understandable division to make.  Both of them are Grade 3s with Vanguard-only abilities and the Accel Imaginary Gift, and both provide offensive pressure when used to their fullest.  But that’s where the similarities end.  Navalgazer is a guaranteed restand even in less-than-ideal circumstances, and adds additional power.  This means it works well with self-sufficient Rearguards that gain additional power, especially for the turn, giving the deck a lot of combo potential.  Maelstrom, on the other hand, is focused heavily around Rearguard pressure.  Being able to give the Front Row 3k power effectively boosts Grade 3s to the proper power level to hit opposing Force Vanguards with an 8k booster, and the restand ability functions as both a filter and added pressure with two Rearguard attacks.  And Maelstrom is an amazing first ride Vanguard when going first, as the opponent is usually not ready to defend against him.

The main thing that I think makes Maelstrom not as popular as Navalgazer Dragon is that what it does is stoppable by an opponent.  To stop the Vanguard attacking twice, instead of stopping a powerful attack like Dragonic Overlord’s, instead you just have to stop two Rearguards.  Let’s think about being on our second turn at Grade 3, since we’re assuming it takes a turn to get the full field we want.  Even if we assume Maelstrom was the second attack, was boosted by Tear Knight, Theo and the attack hit, and both triggers hit were Front Triggers and there was no defensive Trigger (and this is a really big assumption), the general best we can do on the third attack is Shotgun Assault boosted by Influent Dagger, which is 55,000 power.  And even if that doesn’t hit, the best fourth attack would be a Riptide Dragon on an Accel Circle for 62,000 power.  This is a lot of assumptions all for an opposing Protect Clan (or any other clan saving their Perfect Guards) to go “Sentinel”, “Sentinel”, and stop the entire thing.  Worst of all, in order to make Maelstrom truly work Front Triggers would need to be run in high numbers, meaning that either there isn’t enough Draw in the deck to help with getting the right cards at the right time, or there isn’t enough Critical to end the fight early before the game goes long.  Having to hit 6 times to end the game, even for a deck with Front Triggers, is hard when you can only Restand 1 or 2 times, and abandoning Draw Triggers makes the deck more inconsistent.

But there’s more bad news for Maelstrom.  You want to hit Triggers with Maelstrom’s attack, but with the hand size Aqua Force gets it is a lot more likely to have to discard a Trigger to restand again, and hitting a Trigger or two makes your next attack less likely to have them, making your filter a guard decrease in your hand most of the time, even assuming that you get to do it.  And all you get from it is one more Vanguard attack, one that is much worse if you don’t have any Critical triggers to put pressure on the opponent.

Navalgazer is easier to use and hard for your opponent to counter regardless of going first or second.  Being able to pump power to itself and restand a Rearguard you want to restand forces the opponent to care about defending more cards more often.  Even a simple combo of Storm Rider, Diamentes on an Accel Circle and only one other attacker on field grants you a 25,000 power attack, a second attack, a Vanguard attack of 22,000 power and two Triggers, a fourth attack of 22,000, and a fifth attack of 22,000, and keep in mind this is without any boosters whatsoever.  The ease of setting this entire thing up allows you more of a chance to play restricted cards like Riptide Dragon without too much effort, and the combo possibilities extend when adding more restanding attackers, like Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos, or Tidal Assault.  This ability allows Navalgazer to sort of function as a finisher, easily able to help notch that one or two last damage to finish the game.

In summary, between the two, Navalgazer Dragon is easy to use and doesn’t lock you into restricted formations like Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom does.  Maelstrom has much higher highs, sure, but also lower lows, and you cannot count on avoiding the lows in a tournament.  Navalgazer works in more situations, since Maelstrom is only good when going first and on the first turn of Grade 3.

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Bonus Feature!

Here’s the decklist I would play if I were take Aqua Force to a BCS Shop Challenge or a BCS Regionals.

Warning: All decks I post fit the way I play and where I play, and may not be the same for your playstyle and locale.

Clan: Aqua Force

Grade 0 (17):
4x Battleship Intelligence (Critical)
4x Dolphin Soldier of High Speed Raids (Front)
4x Emerald Shield, Paschal (Draw) [Sentinel]
1x Officer Cadet, Erikk (SV)
4x Outride Dracokid (Front)

Grade 1 (13):
3x Battle Siren, Viviana
3x Influent Dagger
4x Light Signals Penguin Soldier
3x Tear Knight, Theo

Grade 2 (8):
4x Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos
4x Tidal Assault

Grade 3 (12):
2x Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom [Accel Gift]
4x Navalgazer Dragon [Accel Gift]
3x Riptide Dragon
3x Storm Rider, Diamentes [Accel Gift]

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Let’s explain how this deck works, and what you can do to tailor it to your specific playstyle.

Grade 0

Starting Vanguard
You really only have one choice: Officer Cadet, Erikk.  It gives you a free card.

Critical Triggers
I try to balance Critical triggers with Front Triggers in this deck because it’s important to try and win quickly with a burst offensive without sacrificing power or damage.  Front Triggers being good against Defensive Triggers tips the scale in favor of them, but when you have to run Maelstrom you don’t just want to give them a reason to not guard its attack.

Draw Triggers
Sentinels are still important and it’s key to recognize that Aqua Force is not the only aggressive deck, so defending against those key moments is necessary.  Also, an extra card never hurt.

Front Triggers
When you’re doing your rush of attacks, these Triggers help salvage your turn against a defensive Trigger, and if they don’t happen they’re a source of extra power that your opponent must account for.  They’re very important for being a resource-less way of adding the power necessary for attacks.

Other Alternatives
Heal Triggers can be used for more powerful guards and a way to come back from a devastating early game.

Grade 1

Battle Siren, Viviana
This solid Rearguard functions as a power pump and a filter, mainly the latter.  She is useful in the early Grades as filtering for the cards you need to draw into is very important, and forcing the opponent to guard early to prevent this is a lesser but important form of pressure as well.

Influent Dagger
This is much more of a strong solid booster, able to boost for 10k or more depending on when it’s used.  It’s a backup booster for when you need to avoid the opponent’s power gain due to a defensive Trigger and you miss the Front Trigger.  Solid card and a definite must in the Grade 3 turns.

Light Signals Penguin Soldier
While the 8k booster is fine, its main use is its Counter Charge.  It’s also versatile enough to give power to a restander in its column so you can effectively give a 5k boost over multiple attacks.

Tear Knight, Theo
A solid booster in his own right, Theo forces pressure by being able to give additional power on hit to a Unit that is going to attack when boosting Maelstrom, or by giving the power to the Unit it boosted so when the attacking Unit restands later on it effectively is still being boosted.  A versatile card that also works as Vanguard against aggressive decks to try and tri-field rush when going second.

Other Alternatives
Battle Siren, Neferli isn’t all that common or popular in many lists, but in a budget deck this fits right alongside Storm Rider, Diamentes and Trident Shooter as a solid Accel Circle Rearguard.

Grade 2

Marine General of the Restless Tides, Algos
Algos is a reliable restander on any circle, and he’s great for continuing attack chains.  The main thing is that you’ll want to watch is your resources, and don’t just attack just because you can.  Matchups are important.  Decks that you can’t afford to go long against are decks where you want to attack multiple times at Grade 2, though there are some situations where you’ll want to anyways regardless of matchup.

Tidal Assault
On the other hand, if you need to attack multiple times at Grade 2 but your opponent has been rushing you or has been denying you Counterblast, Tidal Assault is the answer.  Attack with him first when he’s not on an Accel Circle to guarantee he won’t suffer the power drop, and get your attacks in that way.  He’s not as useful against Force Clans at Grade 2 so save him for Grade 3 when facing them.

Other Alternatives
I only run restanding Grade 2s because the idea is to only have solid attackers and to use Grade 1s as power boosters or guards to keep my field or self alive.  Nonetheless, a more traditional deck will aim to run Tear Knight, Lazarus as he’s a mostly free additional power attacker and reaching 12k is great for fighting Accel and Protect clans.  If you run less Front Triggers than I do, then consider Storm Knight, Basil and/or Shotgun Assault for power boosting at Grade 2.  Trident Shooter is a mixed bag, as while he combos well with Accel Circles he’s better off in a deck designed to survive the 5th turn of combat as that allows you to field Grade 2s to the back row and still have enough time to bring him back to the Front Row again to attack next turn.

Grade 3

Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom
I know I spent a whole section talking about why Navalgazer Dragon is better than Blue Storm Dragon, Maelstrom in the grand scheme of things.  However, I still play it in my deck, and it’s for one main reason: to absolutely crush people when going first.  First and foremost, there are some clans that have catch-up mechanics that let them overcome the weaknesses of going second, and it’s important to squash that advantage before it overtakes you.  Second, Maelstrom is a card that people typically will not guard when taking into account problematic rearguards like Riptide Dragon, especially when those rearguards hitting let the Vanguard attack again.  This combines well with the fact that I run Critical Triggers in addition to Front Triggers, as the existence of Critical Triggers forces the Maelstrom attack to be a threat.  Finally, Maelstrom’s worth is in the explosiveness and high potential ceiling.  Navalgazer is a solid card, definitely, but having to rely only on it and power boosts means that the deck has a shaky path to winning.  By throwing a bit of inconsistency in to greatly raise the ceiling of the deck, it allows this deck a much greater potential to win even when luck isn’t with you in every single game.  And if we’re aiming to win, we need to increase the potential of that happening.

Navalgazer Dragon
The solid Grade 3 that not only is reliable but is a pressure tool to aim for that last damage point.  Gaining 10k power on attack and restanding a Unit, especially one that has the potential to attack a third time (Diamentes), gives a single Counterblast a lot of potential.  You do not want to take your position lightly, as damage triggers can absolutely ruin Navalgazer’s day, but that’s why we run Front and Critical Triggers to counter each potential bad position we may come across with him.  Plus, even if you rode Maelstrom initially, and weren’t able to finish the opponent off, Navalgazer and Diamentes with one other Rearguard lets you do five attacks even with just three cards in hand.  All you need to deal is 1 damage and with minimal card investment it’s entirely possible.

Riptide Dragon
An important tool in the Aqua Force arsenal, Riptide is one of the few cards that doesn’t care about the opponent’s damage triggers at all.  It is still able to force guards or damage without any resources other than playing the card, and as long as you’re able to restand once this card can attack, even if you only have one other Rearguards on the board.  This is about outputting as much power as possible for as little card investment as possible.

Storm Rider, Diamentes
Probably the most important combo card in Aqua Force, this is one of the only cards that can attack three times without losing power, while having a solid base power to work with.  Navalgazer Dragon and Storm Rider, Diamentes work well off of each other, and are able to combine to make a flurry of attacks with minimal card investment.  Unlike Tidal Assault, this card doesn’t have a drastic power loss and isn’t required to be on the Accel Circle, so you can have it together with a booster for when it restands or play it to the Accel Circle anyways.  If you end up with multiples on the field, assuming you have enough Counterblast, attack first with a Diamentes that isn’t on the Accel circle without boosting, and plan your attacks from there.

Other Alternatives
While I do have to list Marine General of Raging Waves, Gondikas as a potential Accel Circle attacker, and while he does fit with the theme of minimal card investment for additional benefits, the benefit he provides isn’t as useful to me so I don’t use him.  If your general place to play has people that don’t like to or refuse to play Force Clans then Gondikas becomes a lot better, especially when you can “boost” him with Light Signals Penguin Soldier’s Act ability without actually boosting him.

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Thank you for reading.

If you have any questions, hit up the comments and I’ll be glad to respond.

~thenightsshadow, who really tried his best to avoid wave puns

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