The truth is always in front of us. That is why we continue our pursuit.
School Special Investigator, Leo-pald Chaser
In order to win this game, the player must measure resources on the field in order to determine what the best decisions may be in relation to certain actions one must take to win. At times, this may be knowing the amount of guard in hand and the timeliness of pushing the opponent for his or her last remaining damage. At times, this may be knowing the amount of critical triggers in deck when the player is being attacked. In these situations and many more, knowing more about what is available to you and your opponent will present to you with your advantages and your opponent’s disadvantages.
In the game of Vanguard, there are zones in the game that are either classified as public zones or hidden zones, according to the Vanguard Comprehensive Rules as provided by Bushiroad. As defined at rule 4.1.3, hidden zones are zones that contain hidden information and public zones are zones that contain public information. As an application of this rule, the player is able to ask and check the public zones of the opponent at any point in game as long it is does not stall game play (referring specifically to rule 3.9.8 in the Bushiroad Advanced Floor Rules, which relates to unintentional slow play), and the information about specific cards in hand or in the deck are not available to the opponent. This article will cover what to look out for in each game zone, along with the strategic implications of checking public zones and estimating hidden zones. However, this article will not be covering the intricacies of guarding (which relates to the guardian circle).
Open Hand and the Trigger Zone
The discussion around information in game and the measuring the resources of the opposing player should start around the hand. The hand is the group of cards that the player holds in his or her hands and is only known to the owner of the hand. Since it is only known to the owner of the hand, the hand is classified as a hidden zone.
So, if the hand is a hidden zone, why would anyone start a conversation about finding out more about your opponent by talking more about the hand zone? Simple. The hand is the zone where cards for offense and defense are used. When the player wants to place vanguards or rearguards, it is normally from the hand (with some special exceptions excluded, such as superior calling). When the player wants the defend, it is normally done by using cards from the hand to defend. With all of this in mind, estimating what is in hand is a good way to measure what the opponent is capable of doing.
One such way of measuring hand has been discussed in this article, which talks about how to remember what drive checks your opponent had and put to hand. If you have not read this article, please read it now. If you have read the article, you would have remembered the concepts of open hand and closed hand. Open hand is the group of cards in your opponent’s hand that have been revealed at one point during the game (e.g. drive check) and put to hand. Closed hand is the group of cards that has not been revealed during the game as is only known to the owner of the hand.
The main way of estimating open hand is through the mechanic of drive checking. A drive check is the card that is revealed off of the top of the deck when the vanguard attacks. This revealed card is put in the trigger zone face up when the drive check happens, then the card is put to hand. Since the drive check is revealed in the trigger zone and the trigger zone is a public zone, the drive check is public knowledge. In other words, the player is gaining glimpses of cards that are going to hand by seeing cards that are passing through the trigger zone during a drive check, giving you information about the player’s open hand.
Open Hand and the Field Zone
As mentioned in the article on open and closed hands, the closed hand can also be decreased by placing them face up on field. Interestingly enough, the cards revealed from the closed hand through this way do not become part of the open hand (since field units are not part of the hand), but become public knowledge since the cards are placed in the field zone. This is due to the fact that the field zone is a public zone, which means that the cards on it are allowed to be viewed by both players.
Since the cards in the public field zone are allowed to be viewed by both players, one must be careful about what field units to place. In the optimal situation, the player would be advised to place cards from the open hand to the field. In this way, the player is not decreasing the amount of closed hand while using cards that were at one point public knowledge due to being part of drive checks (aka cards from the open hand).
The Vanguard Circle, the Rearguard Circles and the Field Zone
Though the cards that are used from hand are important things to consider, the player should also pay attention to vanguard of the opponent’s field. The vanguard is the main unit of the game, even if its abilities are based on having rearguards on the field. With this being the case, the skills of the vanguard typically provide good insight of how the opponent plans to win. For example, if the vanguard focuses on restanding rearguards (e.g. Exxtreme Battler, Viktor), then the opponent may plan on winning by attacking multiple times with rearguards. In evaluating vanguards, this also includes units from the G Zone that become the vanguard. In this regard, grade 4 units from the G Zone can also be analysed to take a glimpse at how the opponent plans to win.
Rearguards are normally in the deck to support the vanguard. Although this is the case, rearguards can have abilities that can act as win conditions for the player using them. One example of this is Magnum Assault. Although the main purpose for his restanding ability is to allow Aqua Force to reach it’s third or fourth battle, putting a critical effect from a trigger on Magnum Assault could allow him to attack two times for two damage. This, in some situations, would be enough to end the game. With this being the case, the player needs to understand the rearguard abilities on the opponent’s side of field in order to distinguish rearguard threats. If the player does not know or understand the rearguard abilities on the opponent’s side of field, the player is should ask the opponent to either read the rearguard’s ability in question or ask the opponent to explain the ability. This player’s ability to ask for this information is allowed by the game due to the fact that the rearguards are part of the field, which is an public zone and cards in this zone are considered to be in the public knowledge of both players.
Trigger Units and Game Zones
In the later parts of the game, knowing what trigger units are in your public zones and your opponent’s public zones is important to devising a defensive strategy. Both players have 16 trigger units in deck since it is required in every Vanguard deck. Since this is the case, it is possible to estimate the amount of trigger units left in the opponent’s deck and hand. In order to figure out how many triggers are left in the opponent’s deck, the player should first check triggers in the opponent’s public game zones. These zones specifically are the opponent’s damage zone, drop zone, soul, bind zone, and rearguard circles. Secondly, the player should estimate amount of triggers that he or she tracked in the opponent’s open hand. In order to check to check the trigger units available to the player, the player should check the damage zone, drop zone, soul, bind zone, rearguard circles, and hand to measure the amount of triggers left in deck.
Checking triggers will help the player devise a defensive strategy. Once the amount of triggers is estimated, the player must determine what the probability is for the opponent checking a trigger. This can be done by comparing the amount of estimated triggers in deck with the number of trigger units in the deck at the beginning of the game (which is the number 16). The reasoning for this is simple: the more triggers the player sees from the opponent during the game, the less likely it is for the opponent to drive check a trigger2. This is made evident through a simple experiment done by Scientific American and featured in one of their articles, aptly named Suited Science: What Are the Odds of Drawing That Card?. Though the cards used in the article are playing cards, the concept is still the same: the more of the one type of card that is drawn or seen outside of the deck, the less likely the player will draw that type of card.
Special Cases: The Damage Zone, the Soul, the Drop Zone, the Deck Zone, and the Bind Zone
In special cases, the player will want to track possible attacking options or guarding options in the opponent’s damage zone, soul, drop zone, the deck zone, and/or bind zone. Typically, these special cases stem from clans that focus on using cards that rely on or benefit from these zones. Here are the clans that require additional attention to certain zones when the player opposes them:
- Angel Feather. This clan is able to use the damage zone to access cards that can help the user. One such use is the ability of this clan to allow the player to switch cards from the damage zone to other zones in play, such as the hand. The clan can also gain certain abilities or power bonuses by having or placing certain cards in the damage zone.
- Genesis. This clan normally pays for skills with a high amount of soulblasting. With this being the case, some cards in Genesis can either come back to the field when they are put to the drop zone from the soul or give the vanguard ability and/or power bonuses to the vanguard when they are put to the drop zone from the soul.
- Dark Irregulars. This clan allows the vanguard to gain power and skills based on the amount of cards in the soul. Though the specific cards in the soul do not represent offensive threats on their on, the number of cards in the soul allows the clan to use certain skills. When this clan reaches 15 cards in the soul, the clan will be able to use its best skills (e.g. Abominable One, Gilles de Rais).
- Pale Moon. This clan is able to switch cards in and out of the soul in order to gain more attacks. Specifically, units in this clan typically are switched in and out of the soul due to on-hit effects or on-placement effects. Furthermore, these individual skills can be combined at times to increase the amount of attacks that are completed in one turn.
- Gear Chronicle. This clan is able to place cards from its field to the bind zone in order to call units from the deck due to time leap effects, then the bound cards are typically placed on the field and the units called due to time leap are put back to the deck. The units that are put into the bind zone typically are units that have on-placement abilities spanning from putting units on the opposing player’s field, time leaping units on Gear Chronicle’s field, and other effects.
- Granblue. This clan is able to call rearguards or ride vanguards from the drop zone. When units are called to field from the drop zone in this clan, the units placed from drop zone activate abilities that span from drawing cards to gaining power.
These clans should be taken on a case-by-case basis based on the mechanics and zones mentioned for each of them above.
Special Case: The Deck Zone
Another special case that should be considered is the use of the deck and superior calling units. This is a feature for many clans, and should be considered when playing against them. Specifically, superior calling non-trigger units is a way to filter the decks for triggers, and should be considered in the player’s defensive strategy due to the fact that the filtering of triggers could mean the appearance of more triggers in drive checks later on in the game. Clans that utilizes superior calling in such a way that filters the deck for triggers include Royal Paladins, Gold Paladins, Shadow Paladins, and Neo Nectar.
Two clans that superior call but do not necessarily filter the deck for triggers are Spike Brothers and Murakumo. Spike Brothers superior call units from the deck to fill the field, but normally shuffle the units called back to the deck at the end of turn. Murakumo is able to slightly filter for triggers through its mechanic of calling copies of a rearguard unit to the field and putting those units to the bottom of the deck. Though this is the case, Murakumo cards in the stride format have encouraged the clan to shuffle more often than the older cards in the clan, which could disrupt such filtering.
How to Use This Information
Now that all this information is about you and your opponent has been collected through the game, the player is much more informed about each situation in each game. In addition to this, the player can use this knowledge to win. How is this possible? The player can devise how to win against his or her opponent more effectively with more information.
Speaking from experience, the writer of this article finds that Vanguard becomes more like chess and less like poker when the player is more informed. When the player can see the offensive strategies and resources available to the opponent, the player can plan on how to defend against potential future attacks. When the player can see the defensive strategies and resources available to the opponent, the player can plan on how to wear down such defenses.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to put them in the comments section.
- Bushiroad Inc. “Cardfight!! Vanguard Comprehensive Rules ver. 1.19”. February 14, 2014. PDF file.
- “Suited Science: What Are the Odds of Drawing That Card?” Scientific American. Scientific American, September 27, 2012. Web. January 15, 2016.
*Images of cards came from http://cardfight.wikia.com/wiki/Cardfight!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.
**This image has been altered from the game zone images found in the Vanguard Comprehensive Rules. Bushiroad retains the original rights to these images and the numbering of game zones in the diagram.