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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Deep Clan: Royal Paladin

Royal Paladin
Why does no one love me ;_;

Royal Paladins are all about consistency, field commitment, and synergy. These core principles are what makes this clan a favorite among long-time card game players that move over from Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic the Gathering, and Pokemon Trading Card Game. These have been the top choice in the Japanese metagame for the infancy of Vanguard, and their prominence was so oversatuared the competitive scene that the publisher, BushiRoad, had to restrict this Barcgal here from being the starting vanguard just to try and encourage people to use other decks for a change. They even did it in English despite Royals only being the fourth most popular deck.

The ability of Paladins to double-dip on effects is astounding. In addition to being able to search out specific cards you might need (Llew, Pongal, Soul Saver Dragon etc) you often get to power something up or feed into another effect by doing so. Playing Paladins without committing to the field is practically heresy—their main function is to get units out early and often and play everything up to the maximum. A fighter must always be very careful to have a properly scalable field in Paladins as they typically commit very quickly.


I will stab you with bullets
The clan actually has multiple viable builds even in English. There's a Lohengrin power build, an Alfred premium build, a Galahad, and a Dragon-focus build, and all kinds of proper mix-mashes inbetween. The Trial Deck is, unfortunately, one of the worst the game has; offering you little in the way of what you actually need for this clan.

In casual play (non-tournament), you want to run Barcgal as your starting vanguard because he's just so consistent. +1 card only in the form of a lame Flogal booster, the turn that you rest him. It's really not that great since Flogal has to boost a 10000 attacker and you have to be up against a 10000 defender just to hit stage 2. Not to mention how abysmally Barcgal itself boosts. What's the use of card "advantage" if it's not an advantage? But unlike Mecha Trainer, Conroe and other vanguards, he only needs to rest; no counterblast, no retiring. He does have another drawback in that, his effect calls either your critical or stand trigger out, reducing their count in the deck. In official tournament play, your starting vanguard will vary based on your build.

Blaster Blade is a staple in most builds that you often need to run the maximum number. His effect is similar to Berserk Dragon as he gets the option to kill a rear-guard. The difference is, if you only call Blaster Blade, he gets a Grade 2 or Grade 3 (but not a Grade 1) and if you ride him; any Rear Guard just for counterblast 2. Take note Blazing Flare Dragon lovers: A Grade 2 staple can do your effect for less cost and with an alternative option even. Mostly, we would only use his effect in a dire situation as counterblast is highly in demand in Paladins. He interferes with our other boss:

Perfect sauce for your pasta
Alfred, King of Knights (*coughArthurKingofCamelot*). Geoffrey of Monmouth inspiration aside, Alfred sports a bad defensive power but a skill that allows him to bring out any Grade 2 or less Paladin for counterblast 3. You see where using Blaster Blade more than once can interfere with Alfred. He gives you a +1 that also empowers him, so not using this effect can ruin you. I see this guy constantly played wrong. People will put their Marron or Pongal behind their Grade 1 or 2 and then Ride Alfred. If you have Alfred in your hand, call Barcgal or Lake Maiden Lien freaking behind the vangaurd position, not off to the side, and get him behind Alfred. Since Alfred can't be boosted, you can just rest Barcgal every turn for a card that empowers Alfred. That's about the only way you can make Barcgal generate good plusses though not in competitive play.

Alfred has amazing synergy with Gigantech Charger. A nifty little combo is calling Gigantech Charger, checking the top card and if it's an attacker, put it in the front row on the opposite side of Charger; if it's a booster of 7000 power or higher, put it behind Charger to get him to a stage 2 attack; and if it's a weak booster choose any backrow arbitrarily. Then rest Barcgal, call Flogal to an open booster position. Finally, use Alfred's counterblast to call whatever you happen to be missing (boster/interceptor). Try to keep all of you Rear-Guard attackers around the 16000 power mark if possible. This sets you up so fast and strongly, it's ridiculous. You'll take note that Alfred is now at 20000, his maximum power.

A dragon. WITH BOOBIES
Another card that's almost always played wrong is Soul Saver Dragon. Let's first go over how easy she is to get out. As most of you know, Future Knight Llew has a counterblast: 1 that lets you send him, Flogal and Barcgal to the soul to superior ride Blaster Blade from the deck. If you do the math, that's 5 cards in the soul the moment you ride any Grade 3 on top of him. If that Grade 3 is Soul Saver Dragon, you can immediately soulblast for her effect. Just a few problems: You need to have rear-guard units out to get the best from her effect. We just minused our rear-guard boosters by putting them into the soul. This means you have to call from your hand a turn early, and that assumes you even have units you can call. And it's casual only, obviously.

When you're setting up for Soul Saver on the previous turn, you're making it super obvious. She can only use her effect the moment you ride her, so you have to get two good interceptors out the previous turn. Meaning, firstly, you did not superior ride Blaster Blade so you could make riding a Grade 2 easier, you did it so you could call your Grade 2s to the rear-guard. Remember that. Secondly, you put up a gigantic sign saying "I am about to ride Soul Saver Dragon; please kill my rear-guard units this turn so that I can't use her effect". Even worse is when you use Pongal's effect to search Soul Saver which holds up a big sign with "SSD" and an arrow pointing down at your hand. Then it flashes rapidly like the <blink> tag in old Netscape browsers. You have to play this card carefully. For instance, if you have Marron boosting your Soul Saver, do not freaking choose Marron for the effect of SSD. It's a total waste to pump yourself up past 21000 since you get Twin Drive check anyway. Obviously, if the situation calls for it and it's absolutely necessary, you can do it. But don't make this your first gambit. Just remember that she gets a boost when attacking a vanguard, so if Marron is there, she's already attacking at 3 stages. That's almost always either "no-guard" or "perfect guard" on a vanguard attack since you have Twin Drive. This is supposed to be a game-ender skill that you use when you have the opportunity in Late game. In most modern competitive Royal decks, this is the only way it can even be used: after Galahad ride chain or Lohengrin's soul charging.

Please kill me, it hurts to live...
Okay, I have to do this. I have to talk about freaking Gancelot. This is a card that gets too much love. First why you should not love him: Gancelot is a terrible terrible defender. With 9000, he makes you guard out all of your shielding too early. You might want to take some damage to activate his effect but that's actually another problem with him. His Critical +1 requires counterblast 2. So let's say it hits and you deal 2 damage successfully. Good job, you just equalized the 2 damage you had to take in order to use his effect. Worse: you activate his effect twice for counter-4 and get off 3 damage. You just saw diminishing returns on your damage relative to what you opponent did to you. You also have to run either your 7000 or 8000 booster behind him because otherwise, he doesn't even hit for 2 stages naturally. Using Gancelot as anything other than an equalizer or a searcher for Blaster Blade is retarded.

Why you should not hate him: When not in the hands of fanboy nerds, Gancelot is actually very effective. His Blaster Blade search ensures that if you get doubles of a Grade 3 but no Grade 2, you absolutely won't miss your ride. Additionally, he also has the power to trade out his own counterblast for the counterblast of a Blaster Blade. Keep in mind that search function basically makes him a wild card 9000 power unit. He can either be an interceptor with counter-2 kill something; or he can be a Vanguard with counter-2 to try and hit for more damage.

Smuggest. Dog. Ever.
Oh my god, they gave Paladins a Jet Black Poet, Amon. They gave them the Aspiring Amon too. Borgal is just one of those cards that are too good not to put in your deck when you know you can get cards into your soul. If you're playing a Galahad, Pendragon, or Lohengrin deck, you pretty much want Borgal, even over Marron if you have to. Being a 9000 booster, usually by Mid game, is pretty amazing and especially in a clan that already has great support. Considering Barcgal is now restricted from tournament play, you would be leaving your starting vanguard in the soul (whichever one you choose). That means that you are only 3 soul away from Borgal's condition once Mid game hits, assuming you didn't soulcharge something in the mean-time. If you're in Galahad, you're only 1 soul away (and his skill is redundant with Galahad's, making him an excellent pick for that deck).


In addition, Borgal is searchable with High Dog Breeder, Akane. This actually leads to a huge chain of logic which shapes the very nature of some decks. Look at this regal-ass dog and remember that he is changing the fundamental nature of your deck all up in here.


FLYING SHOE WITH A KATANA
I've been talking about Galahad, and here he is. This is Royal Paladin's twin to Tsukuyomi, making him a Rank 2 ride chain.

There's a lot you need to know about this guy. Firstly, his pros: Galahad is the only 11000 defending vanguard in Royal Paladin. And rightly so as Royals are pretty ridiculous with an 11000 vanguard. He also has the Gancelot effect, which isn't a bad effect by nature, it was just bad on a 9000. They both become 14000 power 2 critical after the effect is used. Make sure if you do this, that you don't activate twice unless absolutely necessary. You get more crits for your counterblast if you wait until next turn (4 damage vs 3). His requirement is also only 6 soul which makes him redundant with Borgal; that's badass.

Unfortunately he has some bad. Being a Rank 2 ride chain is a good way to pull of your ride chain at a decent number of the time. But he is not Tsukuyomi. The cards his ride chain put on the bottom of the deck can completely screw you by putting in copies of valuable cards (the other ride chains, Palamedes, triggers, perfect guards etc). You absolutely need to have a deck shuffler when you play Galahad. It is for the reason that he's redundant with Borgal and he needs a shuffler that Galahad should be run with Akane due to her searching ability and shuffling ability. Optionally, a budget deck for Galahad runs Pendragon over Palamedes (purely for money saving) which allows you to shuffle as well. Galahad is definitely a welcome member to the team. However, there seems to be another option for his chain. Without Barcgal, people have taken to running Drangal (Galahad starter) as their Grade 0. The reason for this is that they can use the Grade 1, or Grade 1+2 of Galahad and possibly make up for some ride minuses to reduce the hit they take by having no real good options for a starting vanguard anymore. This can actually be folly if your deck doesn't have the room in its lineup or if you don't have a deck shuffler. You need both of those to use that strategy, but otherwise, it can work sometimes. You may be thinking it's better than nothing, but that's not necessarily true. Your Grade 1 and 2 lineups might be crowded, and putting a chance lineup like Galahad in there may not be your best option. Just give it a think-over before you do it.

Lohengrin is the "Swan Knight"
I've raved about the new soul mechanics in Royal Paladins a lot so far. What all ties it together is Lohengrin—a card undeserving of his bad reputation. Megablasters can be pretty bad due to their heavy reliance on a "one gambit per game" mentality which shuts down other good options. In addition, his effect is on-hit which makes a lot of people weary of running him. Fortunately, megablast is not his only effect, contrary to what most peoples' eyes are apparently telling them. His soulcharge and power gain ability is the primary one you'll be using in soul paladins.

Lohengrin makes an easy 9000 booster deck. You can have all of your columns hitting for 3 stages easily, and he makes use of the new Twin Shine Swordsman, Marhaus (Which now works as a complete budget replacement to Palamedes any time you have a 9000 booster set in your deck). Since Lohengrin's build has 8 total such cards, Marhaus is indeed a formidable ally. At the end, if you haven't spent your resources, you can use them for Lohengrin's megablast. No one can guard a vanguard every single turn. And it becomes even harder to do so in Late game. Retiring your opponent's entire field basically seals the game for a win. In Galahad, Lohengin is used to build soul in case you missed one of the rides (notably, the Grade 2 ride). Lohengrin is so useful that the number of builds with him is pretty high, including his vanilla power build (probably the best one), a Soul Saver focused build, and a Pendragon Build. He also makes every single booster in the entire deck, yes even Margal, hit at least 2 stages if it's behind him.


PEGASASU FANTAJI, yes only in dreams
I've joked before about how bad Pendragon is, but now I have to write about what he can do seriously. Let's actually start with lore first. Pendragon represents Uther Pendragon (the father of Arthur) much the same way that Alfred represents Arthur Pendragon. His skill replaces himself with another vanguard, in the way that Uther replaced himself as king with Arthur after his death. Unfortunately, I couldn't draw on my knowledge of "A Matter of Britain" lore to figure out a good use for this card as using his skill to superior ride Alfred didn't really do anything special.

But then there's the "Penned Dragon" part. And guess what? He works pretty damn good at getting Soul Saver Dragon's skill off. Check this for a moment: Royal Paladins have no retreating vanguard. This means when Pendragon is on the vanguard circle, you should have Grades 0, 1, and 2 in the soul. If you soulcharge once (Margal or Pongal) you can use Pendragon to get Soul Saver Dragon and instantly use the skill. It's a bit of a reach, but this actually works pretty well. It's, by no means, a good card. But unfortunately, it's one of the best we can do with for now. Pendragon would be a lot better if it wasn't Limit Break requirement. For now, his main three uses are: Activating "on ride" effects without minusing; Gaining extra soul; Effectively counting as a wild card for your other Grade 3(s). That latter effect can be both good and bad since it means you sometimes get Palamedes as your only target, and you'd have to be stupid beyond belief to waste your Palamedes this way.

Oh god it hurts for everything else
to live!
The ultimate god of the rear-guard zone, Palamedes. Usually incorrectly pronounced; it's "Pah-lah-mee-deez". Four syllables, not three. This guy may not seem special to newer players but actually he is. His effect is conditionless, period. It does not say "If the number of other Grade 3" it says "If the number of Grade 3". This means that his skill is instantly in use when you call him out. No, really. You're going to call him after you Ride your Grade 3. Once you do that, you fulfill his requirements completely and he's a 13000 versus any target.

Palamedes is usually expensive money-wise and is a huge target for rear-guard attacks due to his retardedly high power. He makes getting stage 3 an absolute breeze with Marron. With Young Pegasus Knight (and Lohengrin as vanguard) or Borgal, he also hits stage 3. Including with Toypoogal which has the same condition as Palamedes. Basically, you're hitting Stage 3 if he's out in that column. Getting Palamedes out in both columns is usually going to be your goal for extreme pressure. Marhaus doesn't completely replace him even with 9000 boosters due to the condition that he must hit a Vanguard. Palamedes doesn't have that condition. Palamedes just is powerful. Powermedes.

With Set 4, Royal Paladins get a nice consistency boost and a much-needed diversity increase to their card pool. Fang of Light Garmore kicks off a brand new deck that ties a lot of older cards into four new cards "Fang of Light, Garmore", "Beast Knight, Garmore", "Snowgal", and "Bluegal". Snowgal and Bluegal start at 6000 and 4000 respectively and each gain +1000 for each other Snowgal or Bluegal respectively. Bluegal is a Starting Vanguard who doesn't gain much of an increase even with a field full of himself, which also ends up making for a very poor field (and a very poor chance to properly ride Grade 1).

Fang of Light, Garmore will gain +1000 power for each Snowgal or Bluegal you have called but only as the Vanguard. Since Snowgal is a booster, it's most likely that you'll just have 3 of him out, and not all 4. Having four copies of him out (aside from being difficult due to damage checks) is not very optimal since you only have three booster positions. You'd have to use one Snowgal as an attacker. It's possible to do this in a pinch, since both would be +3000 (9000) making 18000 for a Stage-2 column, but it would also mean you can't intercept it away to get something like Palamedes down there and make use of all the extra power. Therefore, Fang of Light will most likely always be granted +3000 from the number of Snowgals, and they will all each be +2000 (making them 8000 boosters).


Both Garmores share a skill as well. Beast Knight and Fang of Light both have a condition where if either enter the field, you can discard a Royal Paladin in your hand and search for Snowgal or Bluegal. Since Bluegal won't be in the deck, most likely you'll search for Snowgal. This adds massive consistency to the deck by allowing you to get rid of extra copies of Fang of Light or other Grade 3s you no longer need. It also means that you can convert any attacker or Draw Trigger into a very good booster. On the order of 8000 power vanilla good.

Snowgal is also a High Beast unit, meaning that Akane can search them out. If you ran maximum Snowgals, Fangs, Knights, and Akane, you have 16 cards in your 49 card deck that can end up resulting in a Snowgal on your field. Akane and Knight just so happen to reach 2 stages when the 3-snowgal setup is complete. And Fang just so happens to reach 3 stages if he's the Vanguard during the same setup. With Garmore's ability to hit 21000, this means he can rival even Alfred for the seat of Vanguard. His Stage 3 is more consistent and he has a counterblast-less search (albeit more limited, and it's not a true +1). Let's take it a bit further now that Akane is in there. If you could get in Borgal, you'd have a 9000 booster so long as you can reach six soul. An easy way to do that is Barcgal if you are not playing in a tournament since he's only restricted as the starting vanguard for Bushiroad events. Barcgal's superior ride will give you 5 of the necessary soul by the time you ride Grade 3, and this deck doesn't really even do anything with the remaining soul. So if you are allowed to use Barcgal, might as well try for that and soulcharge a Margal! Be sure to use your Snowgals, Marrons, and Borgals (if you are allowed) to make the most consistent backrow for Palamedes ever.

Vastly superior to Stardust Trumpeter
Set 5 hits us with Starcall Trumpeter, which is very similar to Akane. When you call it, for counterblast 2 you can search out a "Blaster" of grade 2 or less and call it. This is an interesting way to gain +1 since essentially its only target is Blaster Blade unless you run some weird Shadow-Royal hybrid. So it's a pretty neat unit for what it does, and definitely gets you that second Grade 2 in a pinch if your main deck doesn't rely on counterblast use a whole lot. On the opposite end of that, Akane can get you a pretty nice booster. While Akane is used to set up massive consistency in most Royal Paladin Decks, I only see Starcall being used as a tech with maybe one or two copies.

Hell, she even encroaches on her target's skill to destroy things with her cost. I would say that Starcall isn't really worth trying to fill up the field anyway. If you consider that you actually need two front-row rear-guard positions empty to fully use this skill, (one to call herself, one to superior call Blaster Blade), then you're looking at a highly chance reliant gambit of getting her early enough that you don't have to minus yourself or break even when she's called. But that's not the only blaster support. Wingal Brave is a 5000 power retreating starter (finally) that can move to the soul if he boosts a Blaster that hits (most likely Blaster Blade) to then search for another Blaster and add it to the hand. So there are a ton of ways to get Blaster Blade now, making him one of the most consistent units to find in the game. Especially the most consistent rear-guard killer. Wingal Brave, for his power and retreating alone, will go in every deck that doesn't focus on Galahad.

The best Wizard name ever
Sage of Guidance Zenon. I won't pretend I have much to say about this guy except "there isn't much to say". His skill is to give a second chance at a better vanguard, or at least that's the best I can make of it. Royal Paladin doesn't have a way to stack cards on top of your deck, which is unfortunate because that kind of destroys the point of this card, where it could otherwise be used to increase the chances of getting the proper Grade 3 for your deck's main gambit. As it stands, you have two different probability numbers to consider when you can use this card. Since re-riding grade 1 is essentially useless in Royals, the best bet is either at Grade 2 or Grade 3. Assuming a 14-11-8 Grade ratio:

Chance Zenon grabs a g2 on Turn 2: ~23.26%
Chance Zenon grabs a g3 on Turn 3: ~17.5%
Chance Zenon grabs a g3 by Turn 5: ~15.15%

It actually just keeps going down the longer you drag the game on. The first two calculations are "best case" where I assume 10 remaining grade 2s and 7 remaining grade 3s. On Turn 5, I assume a total of 47.5% of total grade 3s are removed from the deck (5 remaining) due to probability to draw 3 total grade 3s from the start of the game being high. Thus as the game wears on, Zenons get less and less likely to work. If you think about it, this makes logical sense. Your draw and twin drive each turn is 3 cards that Zenon can't hit being removed from the deck, while he himself can only hit 1 card. Assuming you Zenon once per turn (just for argument sake), you're at a 1:3 ratio of Zenon-ables, so you'd expect his chances to actually diminish as the game wears on (more grade 3s come out during the 3 rather than the 1). The best scenario with this card is if Royal Paladins make use of Robert or CEO Amaterasu. But Zenon requires a Royal Paladin vanguard so that doesn't work. Zenon, being better in early game for grade 2 replacements, then only replaces grade 2s and that gets ridden over the direct next turn. Thus it would be better served in some sort of rush deck where the chance of getting a different grade 2 (hopefully better) is higher. In any case, you have to also find the probability of getting Zenon in time (~59.75%) and multiply that by the chance that he works properly when used. Then you get numbers closer to ~13.95% at best. Basically avoid this card. I have no idea how this wound up an optional SP rarity. But his name is so badass, I just had to write about it! If someone can come up with a legitimate use for Zenon, please let me know in the comments below. That was rather long for "not having much to say"...

What is this unholy abomination!?
Here's a fun game: let's count the number of negative effects Exculpate has: Cannot be ridden without a grade 3 royal paladin vanguard. Cannot be called. Cannot attack without Blaster Blade in the soul. Empties your soul and puts a weak 9k unit onto your (V). So right there, four bad things. Two of which (cannot ride without a grade 3 and cannot be called) make it a pseudo-grade 4, where it has essentially all the properties of a far more restricted grade 4. Also you won't ever use the 12000 defense of this unit. Unless you just love taking a minus by not getting a vanguard attack with Twin Drive!! then you'll instantly have a 9000 power defender at the end of that turn. Thus the 12000 is only for attacking purposes.

Let's look at his positive skills: Counterblast 3 for essentially what amounts to +4~5 in most scenarios. Average Power increase of +10000 (usually have 6 soul including Blaster, so that's 5 that you use for the skill, or +10k). So about +2 stages or the same as a break ride or Phantom Blaster Dragon. So that's pretty insane, but let's take a step back and analyze the total advantage here:

Assuming the opponent has a full field, that's +5. But you also minus when you ride Exculpate since it forces you over a grade 3, and that's relatively one less card at your disposal than your opponent (and any other copies of Exculpate are auto-minuses when you draw them for anything other than discard fodder for Iseult). Then it rides Blaster Blade over for you. Since retiring skills only take effect on your defending phase, we have to assume Exculpate is not a Final Turn gimmick, otherwise you wouldn't risk it just for a bit of Power. Thus we'll assume you take another turn. In that case, you have to ride another grade 3 (-1) or not ride and not get Twin Drive (-1 anyway). Either case, that's a total of -2. So Exculpate has a floor advantage of +2 and a ceiling advantage of +3. About +2.5 on average. If you ignored that 0.5 extra, this would be essentially identical to the advantage that Vermillion and many other Counterblast 3 cost units generate, including the power increases they usually get (if they're also limit break). The +0.5 average comes at the cost of a super conditional unit.

Let's face it, Exculpate is a mess of a card. Super scrunched text, ten goddamn lines of effects (some of which could be smaller or combined), and mega-conditional skills for obscene output. This isn't a card that belongs in Vanguard at the least. But despite all of that, what you actually end up looking at is a really conditional Counterblast 3 for +3. Is it good? Let's not be hasty. Even if you wipe out your opponent (which is great for quality control, something Kagero and Narukami do well), then you have a weak vanguard that can easily be taken advantage of. Since it's likely late game, as any other time to use Exculpate is suicide, then they now only have to call their whole hand for 14000 columns and bleed you dry all in one turn.

You're looking at a very conditional, very hard to use, and very chance-based Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion. Vermillion is a good card. So I wouldn't outright say "Exculpate is bad", but I would say that it's probably not worth the space in your deck, especially given that it takes up a grade 3 slot that you otherwise need for riding or...Palamedes. In addition, it's not all roses once you get one. You have to hope that you had a Blaster Blade in the soul. Since Barcgal is officially restricted, that means the only viable way to do this other than wishing on a star that Lohengrin pulls through for you, is to ride Blaster Blade on Turn 2 (wasting a valuable retire unit) and you only get ~60% chance of doing this. Then you have to draw Exculpate, which is probably one or two copies in your deck, by late game. You can probably do that, but if you're running Lohengrin, you also have the chance to soulcharge him by accident as well as damage it. Not to mention needing emergency discard for Iseult. So looking at this from a strictly mathematical point of view:

Chance of Blaster Blade by Turn 2 ride: ~59.79%
Chance of 1 Exculpate (of 2) by Turn 6: ~59.76%

Bizarrely close numbers, but this is actually bad. We have to multiply the chances of both to know the chances of a successful Exculpate by at least late game.

Chance to execute Exculpate by Turn 6: ~35.73%

Ten Kaaaaaaaay~
Consider the following: If Exculpate generates +5 at most, and -2 at least, then that's +3 total. Using the Game Theory formula for expected payoffs (multiply probability of the outcome by the value of the outcome), then you get 0.3573 * 3.0 = ~1. So you actually get an expected value of +1 per game when you factor in whether or not Exculpate even can go live. (Also you do the same thing for his cost of counterblast 3, but we know it's identical so it's counterblast 1). Counterblast 1 for +1 on average.

Therefore, about 1/3 games, you'll legitimately get off this skill to its absolute fullest. This does not account for the conditional factors such as not being able to call it and the 9000 defense that can leave you vulnerable. Let's not forget that you can't increase Blaster Blade's chance of going into the soul with Lohengrin because that can also hit Exculpates which ruins your strategy. Finally, we have to consider what happens to the grade ratio. Assuming you have 2 Exculpates (any less does not work properly), and you have a common grade ratio of 14-11-8, then you end up with a virtual 6 grade 3s because you cannot ride Exculpate on Turn 3. So let's redo our riding math to reflect this, always assuming mulligan 3:

Chance to ride grade 3, Turn 3 (6 ride-able grade 3s): ~81.95%
Chance to ride grade 2, Turn 2 (11 ride-able): ~91.42%
Chance to ride grade 1, Turn 1 (14 ride-able): ~96%
Now we have to multiply the chances of all of these to find the new chance of not miss-riding;
Chance to not miss-ride (0.8195 * 0.9142 * 0.96) = 71.92%
Considering this makes your chances of riding go down about 11% under standard riding, I'd say you get nothing out of this deal. Sorry about that. I had to revise this area because I forgot to add the chances of riding each other grade and the multiply them together. I knew the answer couldn't be 2-3% below.

He's better-vere than you
That joke was terrible...
A lower ride chance and one-third chance at something like Vermillion with so many vulnerabilities and conditions hardly speaks to a worthwhile run in a normal competitive deck. However, and this is a big however: in casual play, you can take a Barcgal-Brigitte deck and modify it to include some Exculpates. You'll be guaranteed the chance for a Blaster Blade, and even more so if you use Gancelots to return themselves to the deck (for Brigitte) to get the remaining Blasters. Eventually, you'll get an Exculpate you can use. The beauty of this system is:
  • No reliance on Blaster Blade by chance
  • Small reliance on Exculpate for chance
  • Synergy with the existing deck setup
  • No ride-screwing because you'll have at least 9 other ridable grade 3s
Then you have something along the lines of a semi-true Vermillion for Royal Paladin. Unfortunately, it's a casual-only deck as Barcgal is restricted. But I thought I'd mention it for people looking to make use of this. As for the competitive analysis: I have to be very thorough in the way this card is handled, because it's just too high-profile to have some half-assed blurb written about it. There's way too much going on in this card to just say "it's good" or "it sucks" and leave it there without proving it. I can't say I wouldn't just rather cut the hassle and pay one less counterblast for one less retire on average by calling a single Blaster Blade. Or pay one more counterblast for the same number of retires on average by calling two Blaster Blades. It's onto the decks!

A deck tagged with "red text" in its notes are card selections that are possible in casual play, not tournament play. All other non-red card selections are for competitive tournament play.

Alfredo Sauce Grailbearer (Galahad)
Grade 0: 17
  • 1Wingal Brave. Starting Vanguard. Our only options now are him and Drangal.
  • 4 Alabaster Owl. First critical trigger.
  • 4 Future Knight Llew/Margal. Second Critical Trigger. You can run Margal instead if you need to save money but Llew is not worthless just because Barcgal is restricted. He's our only way to run a set of 3 criticals. And 3 criticals works wonders for making up Royals' lack of previous consistency with pure power.
  • 4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona. Third Critical Trigger. We really like critical triggers in Paladins.
  • 4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine. Heal trigger
Grade 1: 14
  • 4 Flash Shield, Iseult. Staple perfect guard
  • 4 Little Sage, Marron. Staple vanilla booster
  • 3 Toypugal. Use with Palamedes for scary columns.
  • 3 Lake Maiden Lien/Pongal. We needed some more boosters as well as a neat card-floater. Note: do not play this retardedly. Do not pop this behind a vanguard and then sit there attacking for 1 stage every freaking turn. Put it behind Alfred if you want to use the effect all the time. Use Pongal as a replacement for this if you chose to run Margal draw triggers (to build soul for SSD).
Grade 2: 11
  • 4 Blaster Blade. Like Berserk Dragon but on crack. Do not use the kill flippantly though, as Paladins usually counterblast to gain something, not to kill something.
  • 4 Knight of Truth, Gordon. Non-soul based Paladin decks have a ton of extra Grade 2 wiggle room. This will help greatly with shield and you have plenty of good boosters for it.
  • 3 Knight of Silence, Gallatin. Just about anything can go here.
Grade 3: 8
  • 3 King of Knights, Alfred. Required for the deck to function. Call your units in conjunction with Palamedes for a devastating field.
  • 3 Swordsman of Exploding Flames, Palamedes. Staple in every non-soul Paladin deck. Get them out and keep them out. You can replace up to 2 of these with Gigantech Chargers if you need a more budget build. Do not put in more than 2 as riding Gigantech is disasterous.
  • 2 Holy Disaster Dragon/Knight of Conviction Bors/Soul Saver Dragon. First off, if you chose Margals, go with Soul Saver Dragon. If not, try to get your hands on Holy Disaster Dragon. Use its skill wisely. If you fail at all of that, Bors is always a reliable choice due to the deck having counterblast left over after either 1 Alfred or 2 Blaster Blades.
Grade 0: 17
  • 1 Drangal. Starting Vanguard. Required for the deck to work. Memorize what cards go to the bottom so you can plan until you shuffle the deck.
  • 4 Alabaster Owl. Critical Trigger.
  • 4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona. We really like critical triggers in Paladins.
  • 4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine. Heal trigger
  • 4 Margal. Draw Trigger. This is absolutely required for the deck and you will most likely have to soulcharge one or two Margals each game if you don't ride Lohengrin.
Grade 1: 14
  • 4 Flash Shield, Iseult. Staple perfect guard.
  • 2 Little Sage, Marron. Staple vanilla booster
  • 4 Borgal. Search these with Akane and try to put them everywhere. They're freaking invaluable for having 3/3/3 stage columns.
  • 4 Knight of Quests, Galahad. Required for the deck to function.
Grade 2: 10
  • 3 Gigantech Dozer. Obviously redundant with Galahad and Borgal. You can run Blaster Blade if you prefer instead.
  • 4 Knight of Tribulations, Galahad. Ride chain and required for the deck to work. If you miss this card, you need to ride Lohengrin and soulcharge until you get it. Memorize the crap he puts on the bottom of your deck until you can call Akane.
  • 3 High Dog Breeder, Akane. Really freaking important in this deck.
Grade 3: 9
  • 3 Knight of Godly Speed, Galahad. Required for the deck to function. If you miss any of the ride chain, do not ride this until Lohengrin can soulcharge them. This card is a semi-copy of his daddy Gancelot but with actually good power. You will need a margal in most games to get your 6th soul. You do not need 4 since you have the ability to superior ride him and you don't always even want to superior ride. Keep in mind, Galahad's ride chain is a mandatory effect, you must choose to look at those 5 cards and put the rest at the bottom, even if you're not forced to ride one. Once this guy is out, you can play Akane and shuffle you deck.
  • 3 Swordsman of Exploding Flames, Palamedes. Hardcore staple in this deck. The only way this isn't a staple is if you're running 4 Lohengrins and therefore running Young Pegasus Knight in your Grade 1 lineup. That's a more budget version that you can choose.
  • 3 Demon Slaying Knight, Lohengrin. What needs to be said? Stage 3 vanguard with the 9k boosters and builds soul for Galahad.

Swan Soul Dragon Quest (Galahad)
Grade 0: 17
  • 1 Wingal Brave. Yeah...not much to say here. No room to run Galahad's ride chain since our Grade 1 lineup is full. But at least we don't minus our opening ride.
  • 4 Alabaster Owl. First critical trigger.
  • 4 Future Knight Llew/Margal. Second Critical Trigger. You can run Margal instead if you need to save money but Llew is not worthless just because Barcgal is restricted. He's our only way to run a set of 3 criticals. And 3 criticals works wonders for making up Royals' lack of previous consistency with pure power.
  • 4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona. Third Critical Trigger. We really like critical triggers in Paladins.
  • 4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine. Heal trigger
Grade 1: 14
  • 4 Flash Shield, Iseult. Staple perfect guard
  • 4 Young Pegasus Knight. Place behind Lohengrin to get 9k boost every turn. Try to fill your field with these or Borgals.
  • 4 Borgal. Amazing booster like Pegasus Knight. This takes almost no time in this deck, so Marron is actually not better since this card is essentially conditionless.
  • 2 Pongal. Obviously get Soul Saver Dragon. Replace with Marron if you choose not to run SSD.
Grade 2: 11
  • 4 Great Sage, Barron. May seem like an odd choice, but remember that this is Lohengrin. His 11k swings alone or for 20k in front of the boosters. Very much exploits weak vanguards. You can choose to run Blaster Blades or Gallatins if you prefer.
  • 4 Gigantech Dozer. At least run this if you don't run Barron. Basically conditionless 11k in this deck.
  • 3 High-Dog Breeder, Akane. Use to get out Borgals. Delicious Borgals. In this deck, she sets up her own column perfectly. Next turn just intercept with her and lay down your Stage 3 attacker.
Grade 3: 8
  • 4 Demon Slaying Knight, Lohengrin. Required for the deck to function. Ride ASAP. Ride anytime you get him. This card must be on the vanguard position as quickly as possible.
  • 3 Swordsman of Exploding Flames, Palamedes/Swordsman of the Twin Shine, Marhaus. Either of these will do. If you prefer to be able to hit rear-guards for insane damage, go Palamedes. If you chose not to run Soul Saver, and therefore to run Marron instead of Pongal, also go with Palamedes but Marhaus is even more acceptable then.
  • 1 Soul Saver Dragon/Holy Disaster Dragon. If you go with the default build, you want SSD. Use it as a game ender if you can't megablast because you used Akane. Megablasting in this deck is actually common if you get your columns set up before Akane, but in case you can't, there's Soul Saver. This is not really a main gambit. That means you can run Disaster Dragon instead if SSD is too expensive. Use Disaster as a convenient way to ditch excess Lohengrins since you'd prefer to have Palamedes out instead. This converts a useless card into another stage of power.
Grade 0: 17
  • 1 Drangal. Starting Vanguard. Required for the deck to work. Memorize what cards go to the bottom so you can plan until you shuffle the deck.
  • 4 Alabaster Owl. Critical Trigger.
  • 4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona. We really like critical triggers in Paladins.
  • 4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine. Heal trigger
  • 4 Margal. Draw Trigger. This is absolutely required for the deck and you will most likely have to soulcharge one or two Margals each game if you don't ride Lohengrin.
Grade 1: 14
  • 4 Flash Shield, Iseult. Staple perfect guard.
  • 2 Pongal. Required for our getting Soul Saver Dragon.
  • 4 Toypugal. Used with Palamedes in RG or Lohengrin/Galahad(with ability) in VG for Stage 3 columns. Running this over Borgal due to final Soul Saver gambit.
  • 4 Knight of Quests, Galahad. Required for the deck to function.
Grade 2: 10
  • 3 Knight of Silence, Gallatin. Needed over Dozer due to using Soul Saver as final Gambit and he scales with +5000 powers.
  • 4 Knight of Tribulations, Galahad. Ride chain and required for the deck to work. If you miss this card, you need to ride Lohengrin and soulcharge until you get it. Memorize the crap he puts on the bottom of your deck until you can call Akane.
  • 3 High Dog Breeder, Akane. Really freaking important in this deck.
Grade 3: 9
  • 3 Knight of Godly Speed, Galahad. Required for the deck to function. If you miss any of the ride chain, do not ride this until Lohengrin can soulcharge them. This card is a semi-copy of his daddy Gancelot but with actually good power. You will need a margal in most games to get your 6th soul. You do not need 4 since you have the ability to superior ride him and you don't always even want to superior ride. Keep in mind, Galahad's ride chain is a mandatory effect, you must choose to look at those 5 cards and put the rest at the bottom, even if you're not forced to ride one. Once this guy is out, you can play Akane and shuffle you deck.
  • 1 Soul Saver Dragon. Use as a final gambit once you get 5 soul (easy) and want to go for final turn. If you're feeling cramped by the lineup, you can run 2 Soul Saver for safety reasons and knock down one Lohengrin.
  • 3 Demon Slaying Knight, Lohengrin. If you don't get Galahad's full chain off, ride this card instead and chain them into each other. .
  • 2 White Dragon Knight, Pendragon. If you don't get Galahad's full chain off, ride this card instead and chain them into each other or into Soul Saver Dragon.

Bark Bark Doggies :V
Grade 0: 17
  • 1 Wingal Brave. You are not using this for blaster blade. You are only using it because its a retreating vanguard that gives you an early game booster. For casual play: run Barcgal and try to get a 6th soul.
  • 4 Alabaster Owl. First critical trigger.
  • 4 Future Knight Llew/Margal. Second Critical Trigger. You can run Margal instead if you need to save money but Llew is not worthless just because Barcgal is restricted. He's our only way to run a set of 3 criticals. And 3 criticals works wonders for making up Royals' lack of previous consistency with pure power. For casual play: Run 2 Llew, 2 Flogal.
  • 4 Bringer of Good Luck, Epona. Third Critical Trigger. We really like critical triggers in Paladins. For casual play: Run 4 Margal and try to soulcharge 1.
  • 4 Yggdrasil Maiden, Elaine. Heal trigger
Grade 1: 13
  • 4 Flash Shield, Iseult. Staple perfect guard. Sorry, you just can't get around this thing even if it's budget.
  • 4 Snowgal. You probably don't even need to mulligan for one of these as an opening booster. Most likely, you'll have to ride one or damage check one at some point, so it's not a problem if you lost just 1. You do not want to lose 2 though. This is the backbone of your deck. You will not always get the proper setup with this. It's your priority since your Garmore vanguard hits 3 stages, but sometimes you either minus too heavily by calling over other boosters, or you just don't get it.
  • 2 Little Sage, Marron. Staple Vanilla Booster. If you need boosters before your Snowgal formation goes off, this is a good replacement.
  • 3 Borgal / Toypugal. Just mostly for use as another consistent booster. This is again if you can't get Snowgal or Marron. Most likely you can, so Toypugal often ends up as fodder or shield. The relationship between Marron and Toypugal/Borgal counts can be adjusted due to Akane.
Grade 2: 11
  • 4 Beast Knight, Garmore. Use to get a Snowgal out.
  • 4 Hi-Dog Breeder, Akane. Use to get a Snowgal out.
  • 3 Blaster Blade. This is basically your only use of counterblast once Snowgals are accounter for. That's perfectly okay, too since Blaster Blade nets us a +1. You can also run anything else here that you desire, but for casual play this must remain a Blaster Blade.
Grade 3: 9
  • 3 Fang of Light, Garmore. Required for the deck to function. Ride this and use it to get any missing Snowgal. Not necessary at four since you might want soul for the other backup boosters first.
  • 3 Swordsman of Exploding Flames, Palamedes/Swordsman of the Twin Shine, Marhaus/Holy Disaster Dragon. Any of these will work. Palamedes being preferred due to the prominence of 8000 power. Marhaus only as a last resort since most times he can only reach 20k. Marhaus is more usable in the Casual Play version of the deck due to Borgal (and you can change the Marrons into Toypugals to help) but Palamedes is still greatly preferred.
  • 3 Demon Slaying Knight, Lohengrin. Works great for the tournament version since it gets the extra soul you need to fuel your boosters. For casual play, this can be Alfred Early / Soul Saver Dragon (at 2), with Garmore at 4, or any other random tech at 2.

Estimated Deck Cost: $205/215 | $180/150 | $140/160/190 | $125 | $233 USD
Closing notes: Paladins have actually come down in cost. They're still extremely expensive, but now, Oracles are the most expensive clan. Even the budget deck isn't the cheapest one. Basically, there's no advice here. Buy singles and go cheap. If you can get Llew for $5 or under, put him in. He should be coming down in value now that Barcgal is restricted in official tournaments. It's my experience that the Swan Soul build is the best currently available for consistency and raw domination. Other builds included for variety and building them based on your older Paladins before the format change.
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