Interview w/ Maxime Solemn

Today we have a Cardfighter Spotlight! I’ll be having the opportunity to interview the Granblue player that recently accomplished Top 4 in the Bushiroad Spring Fest Online (BSFO) 2021 EU! His name is Maxime Solemn (aka Solemn Vanguard) and is from Belgium! Let’s get right into the interview!

Interview

Jaime: First off, congratulations to Maxime Solemn (aka Solemn Vanguard) for getting Top 4 in the Bushiroad Spring Fest Online (BSFO) 2021 EU! When I saw the results and you were playing our beloved clan Granblue, I was happy to see Granblue being represented. Today I wanted to do an interview with you about your overall experience and even get to know you a little bit for the readers. Sounds good amigo?

Solemn: Thank you! And thanks for having me!

Jaime: Of course! It’s a pleasure to have you on the blog since you’re a good amigo! Definitely go check out his channel for more content! Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Are you from any specific Vanguard teams/communities? Any other events that you and/or team have done well? Etc.

Solemn: Hi there! I’m a Vanguard player & content creator from Belgium. I’m part of Team WCC and the local community in Hermelijn in Aalst.

My previous achievements include:

  • Top 8 BCS London (Granblue)
  • 1st Place BCS France (Dark Irregulars) qualifying me for the world championship
  • 1st Place BSF Cardiff (Shadow Paladin)
  • Top 8 BCS Rome (Gold Paladin)
  • Top 8 BCS London (Gold Paladin)
  • And now I get to add Top 4 Springfest Europe with my favorite clan; Granblue.

Jaime: That’s an impressive track record! With any great player, there’s a start to it! How did you start playing Cardfight Vanguard?

Solemn: I got into Vanguard when friends of mine introduced me to the game at an anime convention in Brussels. I bought the Revenger trial deck and was instantly hooked.

Jaime: Revengers is a fun deck, I can see you being hooked by it ha! During your preparation, what are some things that you mainly focused on? Certain matchups, deck builds, strategies, etc.

Solemn: At first, I was going to pilot Fenrir Loop like the rest of team WCC but one evening, I told another team mate (Noman Irfan) to play Nue Daio against me. He had barely been practicing (because he did not have a deck ready for Springfest), so I felt it’d be a more realistic gauge of what to expect (compared to other Team WCC members who had hundreds of games in the format under their belt… not many people in the tournament room are as die-hard, so it can skew your perception of what you’d encounter at an event).

He 5-0’d me without even trying and I quickly realized I did not enjoy the fragility of the Fenrir Loop deck when things go wrong. Granblue has been my favorite deck for years and I will always attempt to build the perfect list for a given format for it, regardless of if I’m going to pilot it at the event or not. So when I came to the realization that Fenrir Loop wasn’t a deck I was comfortable picking, it was very easy for me to swap to Granblue.

I already had the hundreds of games with it under my belt, it was already built to counter the current format as I always try to do and I felt confident that if I brick a little, it could still stabilize and win.

Jaime: The Fenrir Loop build is fragile when things don’t go as planned. With that experience that you had with Noman, I feel you made the right decision. Especially, with your confidence level for both decks. Outside of that experience, what else made you decide on Granblue to play with? Why Beatrice Control?

Solemn: Beyond being my most comfortable deck, it has a lot of outs to the best decks in the current meta. Colombard gives instant access to Honoly even when going second. The Negrolily-Cannoneer play gives you outs to loops when going first (or if their loop bricked when we go second).

Beyond that, against more “fair” decks it can play incredibly long games. This means that there is ample opportunity for opponents to make mistakes.

In my opinion, shorter games favour less prepared players, because there are only a few key decisions to be made before the game is over. If one plays an aggro deck (or a fast combo deck), one is more affected by RNG.

It only takes a few wrong triggers or bad draws to totally shift the tempo to the luckier player. When playing a slower control deck like pure Beatrice (or Beatrice Control as I like to call it), you can usually stretch games out to “smooth out” that RNG and get the upper-hand despite some bad luck.

Obviously, in the current format, many decks are so fast that this is not applicable, but you can usually assume that at least a decent number of players will still play “off meta” and thus you better be prepared for it. Fenrir Loop can randomly die from an odd critical trigger. Beatrice Control generally won’t.

Jaime: I totally agree with you that Granblue is a deck that can play the long stabilizing game. It really separates the level of Granblue players on how much they’ve prepared for piloting the deck. Let’s dive into your deck list. I see that you’re playing 4 copies of 4 Skull Dragon. Many players over the past year have reduced Skull Dragon to 2-3 copies, mainly due to the Bad Bounty turn. What made you stick with 4? How did it work out for you?

Solemn: In the current format, I expect to survive my opponent’s turn and be left with an incredibly small hand. This means I generally won’t have the resources to do a full power Bad Bounty turn. Plus, you’d need to save Beatrices and perhaps a discard for Negrobone to get Skull Dragon revives off pre-Bounty skill.

You also don’t tend to have a lot of counterblast left since you need at least 2 for a Negrolily-Cannoneer play (or 4 if you go against a well-prepared Fenrir Loop player). This means that the full-powered Nightrose-Bounty turn isn’t particularly realistic when playing against some of these loop decks (or even Nue Daio for that matter). I liked the possibility of throwing my entire hand away and still having access to the highly impactful full-power Megiddo turn (4 skull dragons and 1 Nightstorm).

Had I survived Ieva‘s last turn in the semi-finals (which was very close), I would’ve only gotten the win off that Megiddo turn, so I definitely feel it was the right call.

Regardless, it is extremely format-dependent. With so many aggro and fast combo decks in the current format, there’s a strong argument for cutting Skull Dragons down because you can blow on these fragile decks and they’ll fall over and die. It’s not even necessary to go into Bad Bounty against some of these decks. Pure Obadiah turns can even seal the deal with how small these decks’ hands get.

Jaime: That makes a lot sense! Ever since we got Goauche in Granblue, we’ve been able to still do power turns even with a small to no hand against a barrage of attacks. I also see that you’ve included a Zarzan engine. What were some key highlights/plays that the Zarzan engine helped? In the tournament, can you give an example?

Solemn: Beyond the obvious GB-activation that is required to do Negrolily-Cannoneer plays during your opponent’s turn, it’s incredible how many decks these days instantly ride up. This means your Obadiah turn is quite pathetic without Zarzan, as it would only revive 2 units instead of 4. I’d say in 1/3rd of my games that day, turn 2 Zarzan led to a strong Obadiah first stride that completely changed the tempo of the game.

Jaime: Yes, good point on having a strong Obadiah turn on 1st stride. There’s definitely a difference of calling 4 units over 2! I see you’re playing 1 Negrobone, 1 Tear, 1 Grenache, 1 Honoly, and the 4 Dolph PGs. It’s interesting to see 1 of’s and you playing G1 Sentinels over G0 Sentinels, can you elaborate why you came to those choices/ratios? Any other card choices you’d like to point out?

Solemn: The 1 Negrobone was definitely the most flexible slot. It could’ve honestly been anything and it wouldn’t have changed any outcome of any game that day. This is probably because I don’t rely on Bad Bounty as much as other lists do, so I don’t need the on-demand Skull Dragon revives as often. Regardless, I liked the potential to always be able to revive a Tear and thus be able to play the game. If I played this tournament a few times in a row, it would definitely change the outcome in at least one, haha!

The 1 Tear and 1 Grenache basically give me versatility. I run 2 CC options but they can both be useful in different situations.

The 1 Honoly is required for the Nue Daio and the Valkyrion matchups.

The 4 Dolph PGs let me thin my deck for vanillas/Colombard/other Negrolily-Cannoneer pieces. I dislike Draw trigger sentinels because I enjoy having 12 critical triggers (thank God the Stoicheia Over trigger works like a Critical haha). Granblue really needs them to get opponents to 6 reliably.

Beyond that, deck out is still a fear I have. It might not be as big of a deal in the current format (given how fast it is), but you gotta remember a solid amount of players will not play the best decks.

I think Cody The Ghostie is still a pretty big one to highlight given its role in the Blademaster matchup.

Jaime: Awesome thanks for explaining those card choices. With this build, what was your winning image for most of your games? Like did you have a setup, game state, or strategy that you focused on?

Solemn: Granblue is extremely versatile so there was no clear-cut way you’d win the game all the time. Sometimes it’s Megiddo, sometimes it’s Big Obadiah with Nightstorm multi-attacks and sometimes it’s Bad Bounty.

Which one you go for mostly depends on your opponent, because this deck is reactive rather than proactive. It’s typical for a control deck. I guess it’s time for a tangent to illustrate my point:

Players misunderstand what control actually means. I don’t know who decided to bastardize what “control” means early on in Vanguard’s life, but the idea that one needs to play Kagero or Narukami or Gredora to be “control” is a big disservice to the utility of the word.

Floodgate decks like Gredora or Chaos can be part of control, but a deck can be control without being reliant on floodgate-like strategies. If one looks at Hearthstone, MTG or Yu-Gi-Oh!, control decks tend to have 3 things in common:

  • The ability to “control” the flow and tempo of the game
  • Often being inherently reactive to your opponent’s plays
  • The longer the game goes on, the more likely it is you win. You’re often (but not always) “stalling” to an inevitable win condition (Final Countdown, Lab Maniac, C’thun, Jace The Mind Sculptor, Gyze… or simply a point where the opponent completely runs out of resources while you haven’t… like fatigue in Hearthstone).

Granblue is very similar. You’re constantly building hands and boards specifically engineered to counter what your opponent is going to do. You’re playing against Overlord? You start acquiring PGs or heals for Negronora if you spot a Dekat. You’re playing against Ezel? You set up a Honoly or turn PGs into single-big-shields. You’re playing against Luard? Perhaps you set up 2 units that survive your turn so 1 can get popped by Dragfall while the other lives and can then get popped by your own Negrolily (whose required heal cost you put in your hand with Snapcaster Greed Sha-ge).

Whether you’ll have the hand or board state to do full Bounty or Megiddo or Obadiah plays mostly isn’t up to you. It depends on your opponent’s deck choice and plays and how optimally you can preserve hand whilst living through anything they throw at you.

Sorry for the tangent, but I wanted to clear up why our “winning image” can shift and why I deem this deck control haha.

Jaime: Haha no worries. You did a great job on explaining on what “control” means. I actually agree with you. I avoid using the term “control” with decks that have cards that have removal skills. During your games, which decks/clans did you face?

Solemn: I faced Link Joker, Valkyrion, Kagero, Riviere, Kagero, Fenrir, Murakumo, Fenrir, Murakumo, Gastille. (I might have gotten the order wrong)

Jaime: Wow, you definitely got a wide variety of strong decks! Was there a game you would like to highlight? Like your toughest matchup, best game, break or deal moments, etc.

Solemn: I’d say the funniest game was where I revived 2 Heal triggers, 1 Honoly, and 1 Over trigger against Ieva (piloting Nue Daio).

Hyuga can send entire boards back to deck, so if she wanted to get rid of my Honoly, she had to send my Heals and Over trigger back as well. If she didn’t send the Honoly back, I would automatically live, so she decided to send everything back. I then proceeded to Over trigger on 6 damage and survive because of it. It was a pretty funny moment on stream.

The most pathetic-but-funny game was when I met my team mate, Mark, in top 8. He was playing Fenrir Loop. He missed G assist a few times but was damage denying me. What he didn’t know was that I was damage denying him too because I did not have a Heal in my hand to potentially stop the loop should he find his Fenrir. So we passed turn without doing anything for a few turns whilst he desperately looked for Fenrir and I desperately looked for a Heal.

By the time he got to his Fenrir, I had gone through like 30 cards of my deck WITHOUT HAVING FOUND A HEAL AND HAVING USED THREE GREED SHADES.

He proceeds to loop me, thinking I have the Heal in hand, but I actually didn’t. I manually guarded the full infinite loop with 6 perfect guards I had farmed up to that point. (4 PGs and 2 protect markers because of my own reriding). It was a truly ridiculous game and we joked while playing that we hoped it wasn’t being streamed haha!

Jaime: Wow, very smart play against Ieva! That’s intense with the game with Mark, I’m surprised too that you didn’t see any Heal triggers by then. During your games, what is something that you appreciated about your deck from the preparation you’ve done? The strategy of it, consistency, power, plays, etc.

Solemn: I really enjoyed how tank-y it was. I had a few games where my opponents attempted to bash my skull in and every single time I thought “wow, if I was playing Fenrir now, I would’ve been so damn dead”.

Jaime: Yes, Granblue is pretty tank-y. That’s funny on being glad you chose a deck that would be better in those scenarios ha. How many rounds were in the tournament? How was your record throughout? Was there a Top 8?

Solemn: There were 7 rounds of Swiss. I was the highest-rated X-2 because my 2 losses were against other high-rated top 8 players. There was a top 8, yes.

Jaime: Wow that’s awesome that your X-2 record was better due to better opponents. How were your last games?

Solemn: I won the quarter finals against Fenrir Loop (The ridiculous game against Mark). I lost the semi finals against Ieva. Overall, the Nue Daio matchup is tough. If they open what they need to open, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it, no matter what deck you play.

You still want to play optimally, obviously, but your options are quite limited. In the game deciding whether I’d get 3rd or 4th, I sadly had to face DI, which is the one matchup where this list doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Your sole goal is to slam your hand down from turn 1, start rushing the living hell out of them and simply pray that they flop over and die. This works quite well because DI is still quite fragile and if they need to go into stride without enough pieces, they don’t reach the 20 soul requirement to finish you off. But you’re still mostly relying on them not hitting any heals during your 2-3 turn onslaught.

He sadly did heal once and I did not see Critical triggers, so that’s that. I built this deck knowing fully well I’d usually lose to DI that way. Even if you optimize for it by running Critical sentinels, etc.. it’s still extremely tough and they can still just flip a Critical to end your life (assuming they reach 20) so I opted to not even try optimizing for it altogether.

Jaime: Definitely tough matchups, but great that you still did your best. After the tournament, did you take some time to reflect? Anything that you learned from your experience?

Solemn: I was mostly incredibly tired so I just hung out in the WCC voice chat and cheered on friends playing in North America. (congrats to you btw!)

I don’t think this particular event taught me a lot. It mostly strengthened certain things I learned from past events.

I learned some pretty important lessons in my last tournament season and I feel I applied them here, so seeing them pay off feels good (though I would’ve liked to go further haha).

Jaime: Awesome, glad you went to support your fellow amigos. Thank you, I appreciate the kind words! Sometimes certain events help with affirming your choices and level of preparation for the event. Which is great in this case and I’m sure next time you’ll go even farther! Would you like to do any shout outs to people that you know and/or have helped you along your journey?

Solemn: I’d like to shoutout all of Team WCC, Toby for most of our Fenrir testing, Noman for most of my Granblue testing, RadiantForces for testing and Derick for our #TeamTraitor shenanigans.

Jaime: That’s great stuff! I’m sure your amigos are happy and excited for your accomplishment! Just one more question and we’ll be done amigo. While preparing with Granblue, did you use/see any social media to help you solidify your build? Such as blogs, YouTube videos/channels, Facebook, Reddit, etc.

Solemn: Fishing for compliments, are we?! 😉 Haha, kidding aside: I always read your blog posts. I also have this habit of going to YouTube, typing “Granblue premium deck” and then sorting by “last month”. There’s always going to be some new video, whether it’s a game or a deck profile from a new or more established YouTuber.

I’m always looking for insights and ideas. Usually I don’t learn much new from it because I spend a lot of time on the clan myself, but if I find even 1 interesting insight or start of an idea every 10 months, that’s all worth it. One such example: I was watching your deck profile and in the comment section was reminded that if a hollow unit (like Nightstorm or Cannoneer) dies at the end of the turn, Beatrice still sees that and will allow you to turn a CB into a new interceptor off that. It didn’t come up in this particular tournament but I had totally blanked on that before that comment, so it totally paid off the spent time for me regardless.

Jaime: LOL! Well I appreciate the fact that you do read my blog and also watch my YouTube content! I’m happy to hear it was helpful for your accomplishment amigo! Thanks again for joining me in this interview!

Solemn: Thank you for the interview invitation. It was a pleasure to do this!

Jaime: I wish you the best and hope to see more from you in the metagame! Till next time amigos!

Takeaways

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview! I just wanted to highlight some takeaways that can help Granblue players out!

Comfortability With A Deck

Solemn mentioned, “So when I came to the realization that Fenrir Loop wasn’t a deck I was comfortable picking, it was very easy for me to swap to Granblue. I already had the hundreds of games with it under my belt, it was already built to counter the current format as I always try to do and I felt confident that if I brick a little, it could still stabilize and win.

In any tournament, it’s highly recommended to use a deck that you’re very comfortable with. That comfort level comes from play testing enough with a deck. Even if you pilot the best deck of the format, but aren’t as comfortable or confident with it, then you’re going to have a bad time.

In the past, I’ve recommended in this scenario, to take the next “best” deck that you have that you’re confident in playing with it. That ties with your actual performance during the event and can serve you much better.

It worked out really well for Solemn in this case too. Great example.

Knowing What To Expect In The Current Format

Solemn also mentioned, “Regardless, it is extremely format-dependent. With so many aggro and fast combo decks in the current format, there’s a strong argument for cutting Skull Dragons down because you can blow on these fragile decks and they’ll fall over and die. It’s not even necessary to go into Bad Bounty against some of these decks. Pure Obadiah turns can even seal the deal with how small these decks’ hands get.

It’s very important to know what to expect in a current format. Knowing what you will face will impact your deck building. In this case, Solemn recognized that an Obadiah turn could be lethal due to hand size with the opposing decks.

Bad Bounty is still a great stride, but remember it’s not the only card that help with winning.

Reflection Sometimes Affirms Your Deck Building And Choices

Solemn mentioned, “I don’t think this particular event taught me a lot. It mostly strengthened certain things I learned from past events. I learned some pretty important lessons in my last tournament season and I feel I applied them here, so seeing them pay off feels good (though I would’ve liked to go further haha).

Every event, I recommend taking some time to reflect on what you can learn from and improve on. Once you get to a certain point in tournament skill level, sometimes it’ll be more of just affirming your thought process and choices.

That helps too in strengthening your confidence in playing. Sometimes we just need to see if our choices were valid.

Final Thoughts

Thanks again for reading this Cardfighter Spotlight article! It’s great to see Granblue take Top 4 in an event! Thanks again to Solemn for joining us today as well! Till next time amigos!

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