Measuring Card Advantage: Pluses and Minuses

Red Card Dealer

Red Card Dealer

NOTE: Although the original intent of this article was meant to help Cardfight!! Vanguard players when it was written, the concepts described in this article can be applied to any card game.

As a term, card advantage describes the state in which a player generally has more cards than his or her opponent. With this in mind, the theory around this concept describes how the player can achieve card advantage and how to measure it.* Although the theory is not perfect, the basis of the theory is that the player with card advantage has access to more cards than the opponent, meaning that the player is closer to drawing his/her deck’s win conditions than the opponent. This is especially important for slower control decks, which focus on gaining card advantage slowly before finishing off their opponents.**

In the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard, the total card advantage that a player has not only refers to cards in hand, but also the cards that are on the rearguard circles. Conserving card advantage in this game could make the difference between having enough cards at the player’s disposal to guarantee a winning game state, or the exact opposite. Although this is concept is being applied to Vanguard in this article, this concept can be applied to almost any trading card game in general terms.

NOTE: This article is mainly used as a guide to measure tangible card advantage in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard. This method is not easily applied to virtual card advantage, which is described at this link.

Measuring Card Advantage

In Magic, players tend to measure gains or losses in card advantage in a way describes trades in resources. For example, if one card’s effect allows the player to force the opponent to discard two cards and the player to discard the card after the use of an effect, the player traded that card for two of the opponent’s cards. This, in Magic: The Gathering, is known as a “two-for-one”, describing the transaction that took place.

The approach this article will show the player is also taken generically without specific vocabulary, which allows the player to easily gauge the amount of card advantage being gained or lost in the course of the game. Specifically, this approach tracks the net card advantage between the two players in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard.***

When describing net gains and losses of card advantage on the board or out of hand, there are three ways to describe such trades:

  • Negative cards. Also described as a “-(number of cards lost)”, a net loss happens when a player loses one or more cards of advantage compared to the opponent’s cards. An example of this is when a player loses a rearguard due to an attack. This rearguard is discarded without the opponent losing any cards from field or hand, meaning that the player has lost one card in advantage.
  • Positive cards. Also described as a “+(number of cards lost)”, a net gain happens when a player gains one or more cards of advantage compared to the opponent’s cards. An example of this is when a player draws a card due to a unit’s on-hit ability to draw a card when it hits an opposing vanguard. In this instance, a player that is able to draw a card without having to discard cards from hand or lose rearguards, which equates to +1 net gain (assuming the opponent does not gain cards due to the skill).
  • Zero cards. Also described as a “0”, netting zero happens when a player gains no more cards of advantage compared to the opponent’s cards, even in spite of a trade or transaction. An example of this is when the player activates the ability to drop one card and draw one card. The player loses one card (-1) due to the drop part of the ability, but gains one card (+1) when he or she draws one card. The net of this transaction is 0 (or 1-1 = 0).

Applications of Measuring Card Advantage in Vanguard

This style of measuring card advantage can be tedious during game play, especially for those who do not wish to keep track of facts and figures while keeping trade of card skills. With this in mind, here are a few ways to apply the theory discussed here.

  • Analyzing card abilities. This method of analyzing card advantage can be used in the process of deck building to decrease the amount of inefficient cards due to the cost of abilities. In addition, this method can also be used to compare similar cards by comparing their effects on general card advantage.
  • Making better trades in battle. In the midst of game play, choices like attacking the vanguard versus attacking the rearguards can be crucial in taking advantage away from the opponent or obtaining advantage for the player. For example, if attacking the vanguard will force the opponent to guard with two cards compared to guarding the same attack directed at his/her rearguard with one card, then attacking the vanguard is a better choice in terms of card advantage (aka forcing the opponent to -2 instead of -1).

I hope this article helps. If anyone has questions or comments in relation to this article, please put them in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.



***This approach takes its inspiration from Upstart Goblin University’s way to track card advantage, which can be found here:

Guest Post: Playing a Format Behind


Hello Cardfighters,

As many people may not know, I was always playing a deck that was a whole format behind the current meta up until the release of the stride mechanic. I first started playing Vanguard around the English release of BT11/BT10 (sets during the limit break format). The deck I decided to play? Dragon Monk, Goku. In the realm of competitive play, this deck had not been relevant for an extremely long time. Later, when the legion mechanic was released, I picked up a Great Nature deck consisting of the break ride combo Chatnoir/Polaris, again a format behind. These days, I tend to play whatever I feel like on the main channel, known as Vanguard Central. As a side effect of this, I have accumulated a lot of decks, but I felt that playing a deck that was so far behind or simply not on the same level as the competition around you can teach you a lot of things. So here it goes.

  1. The importance of player skill. Being behind the power curve in terms of cards meant that a lot of my success was dependent on how well I was playing. I realized this quickly, and I owe a lot of my success as a player to when I was forced to play starting from a disadvantageous position. I thought and read about the game a ton so that I could improve that way rather than completely switching to a top tier deck. I’m still lacking in a couple areas as should be expected, but a few of the things I taught myself/read about were card efficiency, optimizing attack/guard patterns, and memorizing the opponent’s drive checks (the last of which I still need practice with and have to constantly focus on to get right). Even with all the skill building I have done so far, I still have a long ways to go. I learned where I was lacking as a player, and I think that is an important thing to know.
  2. The willingness to try new strategies. So, if I had all this time to improve myself, why do I still suck at memorizing drive checks? Well it’s mostly because of this second point. I spent a lot of time researching similar decks, thinking of new ways to build my deck, and trying out combinations I had not heard of before. I tried out cards that people had long forgotten and trigger line ups that no one would expect. After spending all of this time and effort spent on trying to improve my chances of victory, I found out what strategies worked and and, well, didn’t work. During these times experimenting with the game, I think the best lesson I gained was learning not to count out any strategy and to explore all of your options. My favorite example was when I mixed Seal Dragons into my Goku deck, a deck where I started trying a really aggressive strategy of moving my starter to the side column to make multiple attacks quickly. There are lots of interesting ways to build decks that are outside the norm, so don’t be afraid to try out something new. You might be pleasantly surprised.

My experiences started out with decks that were far from being considered top tier. From these experiences, I was able to improve myself a lot as a player and as a deck builder. If I could go back and redo my experiences in the game of Vanguard, I’d probably focus more on my player skills since I think that I’m lacking a lot in that department. Then again, who knows? Maybe if I had, I’d still be here writing about how I wish I had tried more strategies, still striving to become the best that I can. There are lots of ways to improve at the game, whether it’s through tweaking your deck as a master deck builder or by becoming an expert player.

Keep on learning, keep on having fun, and thanks for reading,
Vanguard Central Academy

Thanks to Vanguard Central Academy for the great advice! To get more great content from Vanguard Central Academy, you can visit the official YouTube page by clicking here.

Deliberate Practice and Cardfight!! Vanguard

Capable Assistant, Guru Wolf

Capable Assistant, Guru Wolf

NOTE: Although the original intent of this article was meant to help Cardfight!! Vanguard players when it was written, the concepts described in this article can be applied to any card game.

Whether the readers of this article is a new player in Cardfight!! Vanguard or a player looking to become the best, many readers typically are looking for ways to improve performance in the game that they love to play. Although some players play nonstop, they tend to see no improvement. Why is this? Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson had a theory in the field of cognitive theory that describes the action of, for example, playing a card game does not necessarily lead to immediate improvement. In order to improve, it is important to go through a process that Ericsson calls deliberate practice. With this in mind, this article will attempt to describe the theory behind deliberate practice and how it may apply to Cardfight!! Vanguard.

NOTE: The following pieces of advice are based on skill mastery theory in psychology, which has not been 100% proven (even though it is backed up by extensive scientific research and study). Although this is the case, it is some of the most effective ways at describing skill mastery during the writing of this article despite competing theories at the time of the writing of this article.

Ericsson’s Theory

Deliberate practice is the collection of “activities that have been found most effective in improving performance”, according to Ericsson (367). In other words, deliberate practice is actions that are intentionally meant to teach and provide the best way for the player to gain mastery of a skill. If the theory holds, this can apply to any subject or activity in particular, including Cardfight!! Vanguard. According to Ericsson, there are three main characteristics of such practice:

  • Motivation. In order to for a person to acquire or improve performance in a skill set, the person must be motivated to do so. Deliberate practice offers no immediate rewards, so the person must be motivated enough to take the time and effort to practice and hone his or her skills. (Ericsson 367) This can also can translate to the satisfaction or passion that one has for skills enough to motivate someone to master them.
  • Knowledge. Knowledge of the skill that the player wants to master is important in learning the skill. Prior knowledge helps the player contextualize the progress the person has obtained in proficiency of the skill, and new knowledge from experts or instructors in the skill that is to be mastered. (Ericsson 367) In the instance of a game such as Vanguard, veteran players and guides are some examples of where this knowledge can be obtained.
  • Feedback. A person mastering a skill should receive information about whether the activity in said skill is correct or incorrect as the skill is repeatedly executed. (Ericsson 367) Although this feedback can come from players, games in general generate favorable or unfavorable feedback (e.g. loss of a rearguard, loss of a game, etc.), which can indicate to the player whether he or she is executing practical uses of the sought after skill correctly or not.

Implications of Theory

As an activity, deliberate practice is meant to improve specific skills during each practice session, meaning that not all aspects of an activity can be improved in one session of practice. It is different than play, according to Ericsson, which has no specific goal and are inherently enjoyable. It is also important to note that tournaments and competitions are not necessarily the best place to practice (Ericsson 368), although learning may happen through such events and casual games (Ericsson 367).

Criticisms of Deliberate Practice

Although the research community refers to Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice in its research, there are some criticisms of the theory that need to be kept in mind. One such criticism is the amount of time of deliberate practice that it takes to master or acquire a skill. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell cites that 10,000 hours is enough to become an expert in anything (“Geek Pop Star”). Ericsson claimed that experts would tend to take 10 years to reach the top (Ericsson 366). Others argue that a skill can be acquired but not mastered in less time. An example of such a person is Josh Kaufman, who found in his writing that a person would likely gain a skill (not master a skill) with 20 hours of practice and time (Vermeer).

Another criticism of deliberate practice is that there are other factors that influence skill mastery beyond the use of mere practice methods. One such research article from the Association of Psychological Science concluded that Ericsson’s conclusions that the differences in skill performance were mostly caused by deliberate performance was not backed up by the study’s findings (Macnamara 6). Specifically, the study found that only 12% of general performance variance measured in the study was explained by deliberate practice (Macnamara 5). Although this is the case, the study also found that the effectiveness of deliberate practice varied based on the domain it was used in. For games, the study found that 26% of performance variance was correlated by the use of deliberate practice (Macnamara 8). With this in mind, such research shows that deliberate practice is not as important as once thought but not invalid in relation to skill performance.

On Practical Application

Although deliberate practice may not explain 100% of a player’s performance in the game, evidence from the study criticizing deliberate practice still shows that the increase in performance has some correlation to the deliberate practice that a player undergoes. With this in mind, here are a few ways to implement the concepts of deliberate practice in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard.

  • Foster a desire for improvement. This ties into the motivation of deliberate practice. In order for a player to improve at Vanguard, that player must want to improve, plain and simple.
  • Use past experiences to identify weaknesses in play. According to Ericsson, knowledge can be used to contextualize progress in skill mastery or proficiency. On the flip side of this, a player who can identify where he or she has failed can identify what skills need improved in the future. These past experiences in Vanguard can include any games that the player has participated in or watched, allowing the player to learn from personal experience and the experiences of others. Weaknesses in a player are potentially skills that can be improved, varying from deck building to in-game decisions.
  • Research and practice sub-skills if necessary. In reviewing Kaufman’s book, Alex Vermeer learned that Kaufman suggests that the player break down skills that a person desires to learn into sub-skills (or smaller components of the skill in question). Some skills, such as keeping track of public game zones, can be broken down into smaller components that can be practice on individually (e.g. memorizing drive checks, memorizing cards in the drop zone, etc.).
  • Play practice games. If possible, a player is advised to work on skills during casual matches outside of a tournament setting that he or she can work on skills that the player has identified for the sake of improvement. If a player has trouble accessing people outside of tournaments, local tournaments can serve as a good alternative due to their tendency to be casual in nature.
  • Focus on one skill at a time. When playing practice games for the sake of improving skills, work on one skill at a time. Rome was not built in a day, and the same fact can be argued when talking about skilled players in Cardfight!! Vanguard. Acquire one skill, then move to the next one.
  • Learn from skilled players. Whether it is the strong local player or the Vanguard Youtuber that the general player respects, find a player more skilled than you and learn from him or her. Learning from such players can include watching games, taking advice, or playing games with that player as some examples. Ideally, stronger players in the community can serve as guides and teachers to beginners and aspiring competitive players that are seeking to improve their skills.

I hope this article helped. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.


Ericsson, K Anders, and Ralf Th. Krampe and Clemens Tesch-Romer. “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”. Psychological Review 1993, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406. Accessed 27 January 2017.

“Geek Pop Star”. New York. Accessed 27 January 2017.

Macnamara, Brooke N. and David Z. Hambrick and Frederick L. Oswald. “Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis”. Psychological Online ScienceFirst 1 July 2014. Accessed 27 January 2017.

Vermeer, Alex. “The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman – Review & Summary”. June 2013. Accessed 27 January 2017.

Arusha/Chatnoir Deck

Special Appointment Professor, Arusha

Special Appointment Professor, Arusha

When it comes to boss units in the Zoo Nation, Arusha is extremely underestimated due to other Great Nature bosses that overshadow it (e.g. Famous Professor, Bigbelly and Magic Scientist, Tester Fox). Although this is the case, Arusha paired with the Chatnoir break ride provides the player with a combination that allows the player to draw a substantial amount of cards for defensive plays and restanding vanguards and rearguards for offensive plays. If you favor an aggressive style of play and a way to conserve resources for offensive pushes, this deck definitely fulfills this and more. Here is the deck list:

Grade 4 Units
1x Air Element, Sebreeze
4x Omniscience Dragon, Hrimthurs
1x Omniscience Dragon, Cath Palug
2x Immortality Professor, Phoeniciax
2x Omniscience Dragon, Managarmr
2x Saint-sage Professor, Bigbelly
3x Head of the Bastion, Ardillo (G Guardian)
1x Immortality Professor, Kundalini (G Guardian)

Grade 3 Units
4x Special Appointment Professor, Arusha
3x Honorary Professor, Chatnoir (Break Ride)

Grade 2 Units
4x Binoculus Tiger
4x Sleep Tapir
4x Anchor Rabbit

Grade 1 Units
4x Honorary Assistant, Mikesaburo
4x Diligent Assistant, Minibelly (Stride Helper)
4x Contradictory Instructor, Shell Master (Perfect Guard)
2x Coiling Duckbill

Grade 0 Units
4x Protractor Orangutan (Stand)
4x Watering Elephant (Stand)
4x Holder Hedgehog (Critical)
4x Draw of the School Cafeteria, Abysia (Heal)
1x Telescope Rabbit (Starter)

Anchor Rabbit

Anchor Rabbit

The deck’s main strategic focus of this deck is to allow Arusha and the rearguards supporting it to stand multiple times through the use of Great Nature’s Success, the use of stand triggers to restand, and the use of attackers that add 4k additional power to rearguards. To reiterate the point made above, the main unit of this deck is Arusha, sporting the ability to restand when it becomes successful at 25k power at generation break 1 and the player discards a card. In addition to this ability, Arusha is able to give give 4k power to a rearguard (which will retire the rearguard at the end of turn) and give Arusha the continuous ability to not receive trigger effects until end of turn. This second skill is the main reason for running a large amount of stands in the deck. This card also has great synergy with Anchor Rabbit, which is able to restand for the cost of one counterblast at generation break 1 and retiring at the end of turn when it becomes successful at 20k power.

Omniscience Dragon, Cath Palug

Omniscience Dragon, Cath Palug

In order to help Anchor Rabbit and Arusha become successful, there are many ways to give rearguards 4k power provided in this deck. Tapir and Tiger are able to give a rearguard 4k power and retire the powered-up unit at the end of turn when they attack from the rearguard*. Phoeniciax and Hrimthurs can give additional power as a result of attacking a vanguard (whether during battle or afterward respectively). Among all of the methods to power up rearguards, the best way for Arusha to achieve Success 25000 is to break ride on Chatnoir at generation break 1. The break ride skill allows the player to give 4k power to a rearguard unit when a rearguard unit attacks. In addition to this, the rearguard unit that is given a power boost from the break ride will retire at the end of turn and allow the player to draw one card**. With this in mind, it is important to note that the more attacks achieved during the turn the player break rides, the more power that can be given to the rearguards.

There are a few things to consider when running or purchasing this deck that one should consider. First of all, if the player does not fear control in the meta (such as Link Joker or Kagero), then the player can run 12 stands instead of 8. Secondly, the player can add two more copies of the Bigbelly stride when he or she decides to invest more into the Great Nature clan. Although this is the case, the deck runs only marginally better with four copies of the Bigbelly stride compared to two. Finally, it might be wise to run Dark Element, Dizmel in place of one of the G Guardians in this list if the player has access to it.

I hope you enjoyed this deck list. Please leave any questions or comments in about this deck list in the comments section.

*Binoculus Tiger can also give a rearguard 4k power when it attacks as a vanguard, enhancing the early game of this deck.

**The card draws from the effects of the break ride will be able to stack due to Chatnoir’s phrasing. Specifically, it allows the player to draw one card before retiring the unit given power from the break ride skill.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

Arboros G Deck

Arboros Dragon, Sephirot

Arboros Dragon, Sephirot

With the release of the most recent booster set (specifically, Transcension of Blade and Blossom), Neo Nectar received interesting support outside the support of the bloom keyword or Ahsha’s archetype. If you are a fan of ride chains, you will enjoy seeing the Arboros Dragons make a comeback! With its new support and new combinations due to stride mechanics, there’s a new flair when one dusts off this ride chain and takes it for a joy ride. Here is the deck list:

Grade 4 Units
4x Arboros Dragon, Ain Soph Aur
4x Flower Princess of Perpetual Summer, Verano
2x Sacred Tree Dragon, Multivitamin Dragon
1x Flower Princess of Spring’s Beginning, Primavera
1x Dark Element Dyzmal (G Guard)
3x Sacred Tree Dragon, Rain Breath Dragon (G Guard)
1x Metal Element, Scryew (G Guard)

Grade 3 Units
4x Arboros Compost Dragon
4x Arboros Dragon, Sephirot (Ride Chain)

Grade 2 Units
4x Warden of Arboros, Airi
3x Maiden of Gladiolus
4x Arboros Dragon, Timber (Ride Chain)

Grade 1 Units
4x Screen of Arboros, Aila
4x Arboros Dragon, Branch (Ride Chain)
4x Maiden of Passionflower (Perfect Guard)
2x Valkyrie of Reclamation, Padmini (Stride Helper)

Grade 0 Units
4x Maiden of Zephyranthes (Critical)
4x Maiden of Dimorphotecs (Critical)
4x Maiden of Daybreak (Stand)
4x Fairy Light Dragon (Heal)
1 x Arboros Dragon, Ratoon (Starter) (Ride Chain)


The object with this budget deck is to push as hard as possible with the amount of attacking power that the ride chain generates through the copying of rearguards and giving additional power to copies generated. In order to enhance this, this deck uses newer support from the G era in order to make the Arboros ride chain more consistent and relevant with the use of strides, G guards, and additional rearguard support.

The original Arboros Dragon ride chain consists of Ratoon, Branch, Timber, and Sephirot. When Ratoon is rode by Branch, the player can search the top seven cards of the deck for one copy of either Timber or Sephirot, add that one card to hand, and shuffle the rest back to the deck. If Branch is rode by Timber, and Ratoon is in the soul, Branch’s skill allows the player can choose on of his or her Neo Nectar rearguards, search a copy of that chosen card in the deck, call that copy to the rearguard, and shuffle the deck. Like Branch, Timber has the same skill to copy a rearguard when Sephirot rides on top of it and Branch is in the soul. Sephirot does not copy units on it’s own, but its limit break gives every unit on the field the skill that gives a unit 3K additional power when an additional copy of the card with the given ability is on the field.

Arboros Dragon, Ain Soph Aur

Arboros Dragon, Ain Soph Aur

The grade 4 units in this deck either focus on strengthening the field by copying or powering up units or protecting rearguards for the sake of setting up copying units later in the game. The main stride in this deck is Ain Soph Aur, which focuses on having a heart with “Arboros” in its name. Once a turn, Ain Soph Aur can soul blast one if it has a heart with “Arboros” in its card name in order to gain two skills. The first skill allows Ain Soph Aur to copy a unit from the deck and call it to field when it attacks. The second skill is a continuous generation break two ability that gives all cards with “Arboros” in their card names in the front row to gain 5K additional power. After paying her cost (which is one soul blast, flipping over one G unit face up in the G zone, and returning one card from the drop zone to the deck), Verano allows the player to call up to two units from hand to the rearguard and the call a copy of one rearguard for each copy of Verano in the G zone when she appears on the vanguard circle. The player needs to make sure to at least have Compost Dragon in hand to call out and clone with Verano’s skill, since it can potentially a 22K column with either Airi or Compost Dragon or allow the player to have two Compost Dragons to swing from the front row. Both methods can apply pressure because of its on-hit skills. The same thing can be suggested with Airi as well, but it might not be as powerful. Primavera is able to call two copies of two rearguards from the deck when she attacks with the cost of putting units that are not grade 0 back to the deck, three counterblast, and discarding one card from hand. This stride allows the player to potentially finish the game with multiple attacking columns during the turn, in addition to setting up a field full of duplicated rearguards for future turns with Sephirot or Ain Soph Aur. Multivitamin Dragon gives 5K to a rearguard when calling a copy of that rearguard to the field from the deck. In terms of G Guards, they are either selected due to their ability to call units for later copying skills (e.g. Rain Breath Dragon) or protecting units with skills (e.g. Dark Element, Dizmel).

Warden of Arboros, Airi

Warden of Arboros, Airi

New rearguard support allows this deck to fix the ride chain when needed and provide the player that uses this deck to threaten the opponent with powerful on-hit abilities. Compost Dragon can counterblast two when it hits an opponent’s vanguard in order to draw a card for each card with the same name as this unit on the field. For example, if the player had two Compost Dragons on the field, the player would be able to draw two cards with the on-hit skill. Due to such a powerful skill, opponents will typically guard this unit, making it a great candidate to power up with skills found in this deck to force the opponent to guards more. If the opponent lets this unit hit, it could give you enough card draw to out advantage your opponent. Although this is a powerful effect, it would be wise to use the skill sparingly due to the heavy cost. Like Compost Dragon, Airi sports a powerful on-hit ability. If she hits while on the rearguard, she allows the player search the top five cards of the deck, find a card with “Arboros” in the card name, put that card to hand, and shuffle the rest back to the deck for the cost of putting a unit from the drop zone to the bottom of the deck. In addition to this ability, Airi can use a skill once a turn that allows her to gain 2K additional power and the name of another rearguard unit for the cost of one counterblast per turn if there is a grade 3 or greater vanguard with “Arboros” in its card name.Her sister, Aila, has a vanguard skill as a grade 1 unit that can help repair the ride chain. Specifically, she can put Ratoon to the soul from the rearguard in order to search the deck for Timber or Branch, put one copy of either to your hand, and shuffle. In addition to this, if the card put to hand from this ability is Branch, the player may ride it as a standing vanguard, putting the player back on the ride chain. Although not specifically for Arboros support, Gladiolus’ generation break one allows her to call a copy of a unit from the field from the deck to the rearguard for the cost of one counterblast. This card’s ability pairs nicely with Multivitamin Dragon and Ain Soph Aur, since the unit called most likely will gain 5K power with the additional call of a copy of a card.

With all of this said, there are a few side notes that the player using this deck should be aware of. Hand advantage isn’t too much of an issue. Although this is the case, if I could make any changes, I would attempt to be able to work with things that control my board state more consistently, but that is my personal preference.

Above all else, have fun with the deck! It was a gem to find and a lot of fun to play! Please comment in the comments section if you have any questions or suggestions related to this deck.


Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

Characteristics of a Competitive Deck

Dumbbell Kangaroo

Dumbbell Kangaroo

Whether you are piloting* the best deck of the new set or piloting the old rogue** deck that has been around since the beginning of the game, it is important to know what makes a deck “good” or competitive in tournaments. Whether favorable or not, it is important to know what makes a deck competitive either for piloting a deck, building a deck, or counteracting a deck you face in tournaments. Good decks or tier*** one decks will always have some or all of the following qualities:

  1. Consistency. A good deck in any card game has to have consistency. Consistency comes up in the ability to get to your win condition on a more regular basis. This might come from just blind drawing a large amount of cards (e.g. Great Nature) or searching your deck for specific cards (e.g. Royals, Gears). All this being said, a consistent deck usually tries to achieve a winning board state+ and/or ensure it has enough cards to adequately defend itself.
  2. Pressure. Every good deck has a form of pressure, which is the instance a player is being threatened with the loss of advantage or the chance of victory. Pressuring the opponent can come in different forms. Be it in the form of controlling the opponents moves (e.g. Link Joker, Kagero) or just ripping into them usually in the form of either a large combo attack(e.g. Great Nature, Royals) or consistently jabbing (or poking) at the opponent (e.g. Gear Chronicle, Aqua Force). If your deck is consistent but lacks pressure, you need to do a revision.
  3. Recovery. Sometimes things fall flat. It happens. Recovery is the ability for a deck to come back from being put in a bind or drawing poorly (yes, even good decks have dead draws). An example would be getting Mikesaburo to grab your grade 3 unit after going 2 turns without seeing one. Another example is the grade 1 seven seas deck, which can constantly create a full attacking board from an empty field despite the opponent attacking or retiring rearguards.
  4. Match ups. A good deck will generally only have one or two horrible match ups if that. It’s very common for high tier 1 decks to only have a bad match up against a random tier 2 or tier 3 deck that nobody typically plays. Some decks do not specialize or excel in any particular strategy or play style, but they can fight every deck in the game adequately with a bit of practice.

I hope this article helped. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

* “Piloting a deck” is another way of saying playing a deck on a consistent basis.

** A rogue deck is a deck that is not seen often in tournaments but is deemed as a dark horse (or a deck that can win events without anyone expecting it).

*** Tiers are expected levels of performance that players sort decks into based on their hypothetical performance at tournaments.

+ A winning board state is a game or board state that the player tries to achieve that will have the best chance of achieving victory in a game.

Championing a Deck


Victory Maker

NOTE: Although the original intent of this article was meant to help Cardfight!! Vanguard players when it was written, the concepts described in this article can be applied to any card game.

In the trading card games, the championing a deck is when a player chooses to stick to a certain deck and master it. In the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard, it is sometimes a wise decision to champion a deck to decrease the cost of buying too many decks while increasing the mastery of a certain game mechanic. When considering a deck to pilot, it is wise to consider the following:

  • Read the meta game. Among the general rules of Vanguard, there is something called the meta game at work. A meta game in a game consists of a group of strategies that people largely prefer when playing the main game. These strategies will be what the player has to play against, which matters when choosing a deck to act or counteract the meta game. For more about determining the meta game in Vanguard, read our article on how to read the meta game.
  • Pick a clan.*  Once the meta game is considered, it is time to pick a clan. Even if you don’t really know what clan is your favorite, it is important to Since meta games in Vanguard tend to be made up of several main clans, picking a clan that counteracts other clans in the meta game is wise when picking a clan to play. In addition to this, pick a clan that fits your visual preferences, personally preferred play style, or budget. For an overview of the clans, refer to our clan guide.
  • Obtain a deck. Having a physical copy of the deck is important when you want to become a pro at using it. When you reach this step, use the choices you made when picking a clan and reading the meta game guide you. If you need help with beginning deck building, read our guide to beginning deck building.
  • Play the deck.  This may seem obvious, but sometimes people forget that they cannot master a deck until they play it first. In order to become an expert, practice and play testing are beneficial in learning the mechanics and capabilities of the deck that you are trying to pilot.
  • Keep using the deck for as long as you want. Sometimes, people will advise you to get rid of the deck due to their opinions. If the deck is fulfilling its purpose for you (whether it is playing the deck for fun or for competitive reasons), then keep the deck. On the other hand, it is okay to sell or trade off the deck if it is not performing up to your standards. Either way, to keep a deck is your decision as a player, not anyone else’s.
  • Seek advice if needed. On the flip side of the point above, it is important to seek help on how you play the deck from other people who play the same deck if you need the help. Do not be afraid to ask for help, since most people are happy to help.

Hope this advice helps! If you have any questions or comments, please put them in the comments section.

* This step is specifically for Cardfight!! Vanguard.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

Giraffa/Goliath Deck


A-rank Mutant, Sangiraffa

There are many different types of units and characters in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard, but there is only a handful of them that that compose decks that makes the player feel like a conqueror. Out of the handful of deck builds that give off an atmosphere of dominance, the support around Giraffa has to be the most impressive for someone looking to build a deck on a limited budget. With the help of the new support from The Genius Strategy, the Giraffa ride chain has regained its ability to strike fear into opponents that face it. Here is the deck list:

Grade 4 Units
4x Evil Armor Mutant Deity, Goliath
4x Poison Spear Mutant Deity, Paraspear
3x Rain Element, Madew
1x Wild-fire Mutant Deity, Staggle Dipper
4x Dream Mutant Deity, Scarabgas (G Guard)

Grade 3 Units
4x Evil Armor General, Giraffa (Ride Chain)
4x A-rank Mutant, Sangiraffa

Grade 2 Units
4x A-rank Mutant, Guragiraffa
4x Elite Mutant, Giraffa (Ride Chain)
3x Rotating Scythe Mutant, Aristoscythe

Grade 1 Units
4x Elite Mutant, Tryghul
4x Pupa Mutant, Giraffa (Ride Chain)
4x Hexagon Mutant, Honeycomb Queen (Perfect Guard)
2x New Face Mutant, Little Dorcas (Stride Helper)

Grade 0 Units
4x Shelter Beetle (Critical)
4x Sharp Nail Scorpio (Critical)
4x Machining Honeybee (Heal)
4x Makeup Widow (Stand)
1x Larva Mutant, Giraffa (Starter) (Ride Chain)

NOTE: In order to reduce repetitive phrasing, I am using the first part of the original Giraffa units names in the ride chain to refer to them.

The strategy of the deck revolves around the Giraffa ride chain, a ride chain coming from the very beginnings of Cardfight!! Vanguard. Larva Mutant, the starter for the deck, allows the player to search for a copy of Elite Mutant when Pupa Mutant rides on it. Pupa Mutant also benefits from this, since becomes a 8K base grade 1 vanguard. Elite Mutant is able to prevent an opponent’s unit from standing on his or her next turn (this prevention of standing units is also known as stunning a unit) when Elite Mutant hits the vanguard while it is a vanguard unit. Although the player will not use its skill often, Evil Armor General (as the vanguard) is able to counterblast two and retire two rearguard units when it hits the opponent’s vanguard in order to retire two of the opponent’s grade 1 or less rearguards.

The emphasis of the units in the ride chain is on advantage, whether that is found in using on-hit pressure to take resources away from the opponent or using the ride chain to save resources in riding from one grade to the other. When the ride chain was released in the game, the ride chain may have not needed help in order to remain relevant in the game. Although that is the case, it has been many years since the ride chain first appeared on the scene, and Bushiroad has graciously given the ride chain new lease on life through the support found in The Genius Strategy and Fighter’s Collection 2015 Winter. In order to enhance these characteristics, such support around the Giraffa ride chain and Megacolony as a whole provide this deck the ability to maintain or gain resources and the ability to give the field power based on the rested units on the opponent’s side of field.


Elite Mutant, Tryghul

There are several notable cards in this build that help maintain advantage for defense and setting up for the final offensive pushes, since the deck relies on high-pressure rearguards in order to overcome the opponent (this is mainly referring to Goliath, which is considered the unit that finishes off the opponent). Tryghul allows the player to check the top 5 cards for a card with “Giraffa” in its name when a unit is rested on the opponent’s field at the beginning of the opponent’s ride phase. In other words, if the opponent has a unit stunned at the beginning of turn (whether that be the vanguard or rearguard), then the skill of Tryghul activates as a result. Although not specific to Giraffa, Makeup Widow’s generation break dark device skill allows her to stun one of the opponent’s grade 1 or less units and countercharge one damage for the cost of putting her to soul from the rearguard. Her skill is mainly for replenishing counterblast and stunning a booster, which potentially enables Tryghul on the opponent’s turn. Madew is run in this build when one has to stride on Evil Armor General, which allows the player to return a grade 3 unit from the drop zone to hand and, in effect, another Giraffa unit. Paraspear rests the opponent’s rearguards and gains 5K power and allows the player to draw a card if there are three or more total units rested on the opponent’s side of field. In order to help the ride chain gain consistency, Guragiraffa enhances the ride chain through correcting it. Specifically, Guragiraffa can be discarded from hand if the player’s vanguard is Larva Mutant (starter) in order to search the deck for Pupa Mutant, allowing the player to ride the ride chain correctly and subsequently search Elite Mutant once Pupa Mutant rides the vanguard.


Evil Armor Mutant Deity, Goliath

With its consistent engine focusing on gaining advantage and resources, it is ideal for setting up a endgame consisting of Evil Armor Mutant Deity, Goliath. Goliath is able to counterblast one when he is on a heart with “Giraffa” in the name in order to give units with “Giraffa” in their name two skills. The first skill continuously gives the unit with “Giraffa” in its name 5K power if all of the opponent’s units are at rest. The second skill gives units with “Giraffa” in their name the ability to stun a rearguard when the unit with the ability hits a vanguard.With these given skills, the units with these abilities can stun a rearguard on hit, but the power is not gained unless all of the opponent’s units are at rest. If the opponent chooses to not rest certain units, cards like Guragiraffa and Sangiraffa can help with resting them. Guragiraffa can rest a rearguard unit and gain 2K power for one counterblast, making Guragiraffa an 11K beater. With he hits the vanguard as a vanguard or a rearguard, A-rank Mutant, Sangiraffa rests a rearguard, stuns it, and gives that rearguard the ability to retire one of the opponent’s rearguards if it is placed to the drop zone from the rearguard or the guardian circle until the end of the opponent’s next turn for one counterblast. Along with Goliath, Staggle Dipper and Aristoscythe gain power based on rested units on the opponent’s side of field. Aristoscythe has a dark device skill that allows her to become an 11K beater. Staggle Dipper can give 1K to three units on the field for each rested unit on the opponent’s side of field for one counterblast and flipping a unit face up in the G zone.

I hope you enjoyed this deck list. Please leave any questions or comments in about this deck list in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.

Starting the Game: Beginning Deck Building


Rainbow Magician

Cardfight!! Vanguard is a trading card game which requires players to build decks and face each other in cardfights. Naturally, a player who wants to play the game of Vanguard will need to learn the basics of deck-building. To help beginners to that purpose, this guide is meant to serve as a starting point for beginning players who want to start building their own decks in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard.

What is a Deck?

So… what is a deck? When literally defined, a deck is a stack of cards. In the game of Vanguard, the player has a main deck consisting of 50 cards and a stride deck of up to 16 cards. These two decks consists of the cards that the player will use to play the game. In a larger frame of mind, the player’s main deck and stride deck are the tools that are at the player’s disposal when trying to solve the problem presented in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard. The problem in this game is the dilemma that is trying to be solved, which, in this instance, is how to deal six damage before the player’s opponent can deal six damage to the player. Since the main deck and the stride deck are the main tools for the player in solving this dilemma, it is up to the player to construct these decks to properly tackle the obstacles that are in game.

Basic Rules of Deck-building in Cardfight!! Vanguard

Before the reader can get in depth in the concepts and strategies of beginning deck building, he or she must know the basic deck-building rules that are present in the game of Cardfight!! Vanguard. Here are the basic rules for building a deck in Vanguard:

  • Each deck must include exactly 16 triggers in the main deck.
  • Each main deck must include exactly 50 cards in the main deck.
  • Each stride deck can include up to 16 cards.
  • Only four or less copies of cards with the same name can be included in the main deck or stride deck.

Beginning Strategy for Deck-building

Now that the player knows the basic rules of deck-building, there is a process that I follow that might help the beginner build his or her first deck (in this section, I am referring to the main deck and stride deck collectively when I say “deck”). The steps of this process are:

  1. Choose a clan(s) to build the deck from. Due to the prevalence of the Clan Fight in most tournament areas, each player must choose a clan to build a deck with for the sake of playing in tournaments. The choice of a clan typically comes down to cards available to the player or the player’s preference. For more information about choosing a clan, one can simply refer to our article about how to choose a clan. For more information about the Clan Fight rules, one can go to Bushiroad’s official Cardfight!! Vanguard landing site.
  2. Choose a boss card(s) to build the deck from. In each player’s deck, there is a main unit(s) that the deck focuses on using in order to win. These units, also known as bosses, are normally the unit that the player wants as the vanguard he or she rides or strides into in order to win the game. The player has the option to choose more than one boss, but it is recommended that the player choose one boss unit when he or she builds the first few decks.
  3. Find out how the clan and boss card(s) can win games. In game mechanics, the specific game state that allows the player to achieve victory is known as a win condition*. In the anime, this is known as a “winning image”. In Vanguard, the main win condition for all players is to damage the opponent six times. Although this is the main win condition, decks and clans have different ways of enabling the player to damage the opponent six times or hinder the opponent from damaging the player six times. These different ways act as separate win conditions, and the clan and the boss card that the player uses will fall into these two secondary win conditions.
  4. Determine main deck’s grade ratio. A grade ratio is the amounts of each grade that is run in a main deck. In Vanguard, a good grade ratio will allow the player to ride from one grade to the next by giving the player a good probability of seeing the right grades in hand at the right point in the game. For beginning players, we recommend either a 8-12-13 ratio (meaning 8 grade 3 units, 12 grade 2 units, and 13 grade 1 units) or a 8-11-14 ratio (meaning 8 grade 3 units, 12 grade 2 units, and 13 grade 1 units) for the main deck. This recommendation is mainly derived from research and play testing over time for the use of the average Cardfight!! Vanguard deck.
  5. Add non-trigger cards to help the deck reach its win conditions. In order to effectively do this, the player needs to add cards that have synergy with how to deck and/or the boss card(s) win games. Synergy in card games is the characteristic of cards to interact with the other cards in the deck**. The player wants to place cards in the deck that have a high amount of synergy with the abilities of the boss card(s) and how the clan is designed to win games. When adding cards at this point, players should try to have cards that abide by the grade ratio that he or she determined beforehand. In addition to this, cards that a standard deck are required or are recommended to contain should be added the the deck first. Such cards include perfect guards, G guards, strides, stride helpers, strides, and starter(s).
  6. Add triggers to the deck. When the main deck has 34 normal units (or non-trigger units) including the grade 0 starting vanguard and the stride deck has up to 16 stride and/or G guard cards, the player can add 16 triggers to the main deck. For a standard main deck, it is recommended to run heal triggers in the deck if the player is running G guards. In addition to this, it helps the standard deck recover from damage during the game. Beyond this, a player should run triggers that have strong synergy with the goals that the deck needs to accomplish in order to win. For more information on triggers and attacking orders, go to our article on triggers.
  7. Play, change, and improve deck overtime. The best way to improve the deck after building it is to see how it competes against other decks that other players have built. Start playing the deck with friends and other people to see what the deck needs in order to improve. When an improvement needs made, the player can change the deck according to what he or she has seen in play and try the deck again. If the player likes the boss card(s) but still needs improvement, repeat 3-6 and try to play the deck again. If the player does not like the deck at all, he or she is free to repeat steps 1-6 and taking a different approach. This process of testing and rebuilding the deck is a form of incremental development***, and it can improve decks the more they are tested, played, and improved.

I hope you enjoyed this strategy guide to beginning deck-building. Please leave any questions or comments in about this deck list in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.




Strategic Guide to Grade Rush Decks


Reckless Express

Its brakes are completely broken.

Reckless Express

In the wake of the introduction of the legion mechanic and the generation break mechanic, players worked to find ways to fight decks with such abilities without having to spend large amounts of money and ways to fight other decks in the meta in a unique way. One such way of doing this that players found was through grade rush decks, which were designed to kill the opponent before he or she could even play the game. So… what is a grade rush deck?

Anatomy and Physiology of Grade Rush Decks

A grade rush deck is a deck that is purposefully designed to rush the opponent at a certain grade. These decks typically run less or no grade 3 units compared to standard decks that are in the meta. These decks had the tendency to have low grade units that could attack grade 3 vanguards in a way that would force the opponent to use a large amount of shield in order to guard such attacks. In addition to this, some versions of these decks had the capability to superior call to the field, allowing the player rushing to guarantee an optimal field for rushing the opponent while maintaining a reasonable hand size in the early game.

Strategies of Grade Rush Decks

So what is the premise behind these types of decks? Well, there are several strategic reasons that they still remain relevant as a concept:

  • Grade rush decks deny their opponents generation break. In order to achieve generation break, a player either needs to stride or G guard in order to activate generation break 1 skills. As a rule of the game, a player cannot stride or G guard unless both players in the game have grade 3 vanguards. With both of these facts in mind, grade 1 rush decks do not ride to a grade 3 vanguard (unless the pilot of the deck is ready to finish the game) in order to prevent the other player from ever striding or g guarding. Although this seems very effective, a player can use either Air Elemental, Twitterun or Air Element, Sebreeze in order to activate g break if the opponent’s vanguard is not a grade 3 unit. Twitterun is not run as often, but it allows itself to be put in the g zone if the opponent does not ride a vanguard and the player has a grade 3 vanguard. Sebreeze can be strode from the g zone if the opponent did not ride a vanguard, the opponent has a grade 2 vanguard, and the player has a grade 3 vanguard for the cost of discarding one card from hand and two counterblast. With the fact that Twitterun is seldom run in decks, and Sebreeze requires a grade 2 vanguard on the opponent’s side to activate it’s skill, grade 1 rush decks specifically have the capability of denying the player generation break for the entire game, even with these special elemental units in mind.
  • Grade rush decks deny their opponents legion. Both players must have a grade 3 vanguard in order to perform legion. In addition to this, there is no current cards that allow the player to legion if both players are not grade 3 except for Metalborg, Blackboi, a starter specific to the Dimension Police clan. With the exception of Metalborgs from Dimension Police, the player can be denied legion if the opponent refuses to ride a grade 3 vanguard. This applies to either grade 2 rush decks or grade 1 rush decks, since both can refuse to ride a grade 3 unit or wait to ride a grade 3 unit until it is the moment in the game that the player wielding such a deck can end the game.
  • These types of decks attempt to give as much damage as possible before the opponent can guard from hand. In a standard deck, a player will try to have the grades needed in order to ride each turn, which ends at their grade 3 ride. Grade rush decks will have the ability to call a viable attacking field with 2-3 attacks on the first turn. In addition to this, the grade rush deck builds typically area designed to force 10k shield from the defender’s hand near the end of the game. Against a rush deck, this puts the player at a disadvantage, since the player cannot guard with higher grade than the vanguard. Even if the player can guard many of the attacks in the early game, guarding too much early can rob the player of precious cards needed later in the game.

Historic Examples of Grade Rush Decks

Throughout the history of the game, players have tried to use the concept of grade rush decks to for the purpose of using the listed strategies above to undermine the decks in the meta game at the time of their use.Whether or not these rush decks are relevant now, these decks have set a certain precedent for rush decks now and in the future. Although these are not all of the rush decks that have appeared in Cardfight!! Vanguard, here are some of the notable decks from the game’s history:

  • 8k Grade 1 Rush. Before the start of clan fight format, this deck was considered one of the best rush decks in the game. 8k base grade 1 units from multiple clans with spike bros support cards (mainly Reckless Express and Gyro Slinger) made up the deck with the goal to create early 16k columns. Such columns forced even grade 3 vangaurds to guard with 10k shield or more. A version of the deck list can be found here on an article by TimPowerGamer.
  • Grade 1 Liberator Rush. This grade 1 rush deck contained units that could use the “Liberator” name on the vanguard or on superior calls to guarantee 14k-17k by the end of the game. This deck also had the option to run cards that could enhance the utility of the deck, from running two strong guard options (Starry Skies Liberator, Guinevere and Sword Formation Liberator, Igraine preferably, since they have the Liberator name) or generic cards from the Gold Paladin clan that can help create consistent columns that force 10k out of the defender’s hand each time a column attacks (e.g Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth). Although other blogs have created this list in the past, our list can be found here.
  • Grade 1 Seeker Rush. Like the Liberator deck, this deck has units use the “Seeker” name to guarantee 14k-17k by the end of the game. This deck is able to do this by having four units that can gain power through the use of their sub-clan Seeker name (specifically, these units are Honest Seeker, Cynric, Righteousness Seeker, GangarenHeaven Arrow Seeker, Lunate, and Seeker, Sebrumy). Due to the large amount of beaters in the deck, it makes it easy on the player using this deck to make consistent attacking columns that force large amounts of shield out of the opponent’s hand. An early list for this deck build can be found on TimPowerGamer’s blog in this article.
  • Seven Seas Rush. Originating in Japan, this build is focused on using the early-game mill mechanics and superior call mechanics of the Seven Seas sub-clan to rush the field, mainly using units like Seven Seas Apprentice, Nightrunner and Witch Doctor of the Seven Seas, Raistutor to do so. In addition to this, the build incorporates other units to fix the field (e.g. Seven Seas Helmsman, Nightcrow) and guarantee multiple attacks (e.g. Seven Seas Master Swordsman, Slash Shade). Although this deck build does not use grade 1 normal units, the grade 2 units are able to be called from the drop zone due to varying methods, which will be set up with Nightrunner. A list of this deck can be found on TimPowerGamer’s blog on this article and a Japanese example of the deck in tournament can be found on syeeki’s channel on this video.

How to Combat Grade Rush Decks

In an format that is full of legion and generation break mechanics, the grade rush decks can be very effective. Although the concept of a deck type that is meant to deny skills and kill quickly is daunting to some players, there are ways to combat such decks. Here are a few tips for those facing these rush decks:

  • Play limit break units in your deck if possible. For those who can fit it into his or her deck, playing powerful limit breaks can act as powerful deterrents to rush decks. Rush decks focus on rushing in damage on a player, which naturally fulfills the conditions of the limit break mechanic. This takes away the denial strategy of rush decks, and you will force the opponent to either ride to a grade 3 vanguard or fall behind.
  • Rush back if plausible. If the player has the chance to rush back against a rush deck in order to win the game, it may be the right play. This is due to the fact that grade rush decks cannot typically keep a hand to defend itself (since the pilot of the rush deck normally uses the hand only to place a field of attackers).

I hope you enjoyed this strategy guide to grade rush decks. Please leave any questions or comments in about this deck list in the comments section.

Images of cards came from!!_Vanguard_Wiki. These images may have been re-sized.