How to stop building a self-centered Aqua Force deck

  1. Goal of the Article
  2. Definitions
  3. Aqua Force is all about flow
  4. It’s better to focus on one thing
  5. The Low Roll Rules
  6. Don’t Fall Into The “Win More” Cards Trap
  7. Example of my building philosophy: Building Thavas Premium
    1. G-Zone Choices
    2. Cray Elemental Staples
    3. Match ups and playing to the strengths of the Clan
  8. Creating Synergy between your cards
  9. Coral, Nerissa and balancing multi attacks and big columns

Goal of the Article

This article is mainly about deck building and how card choices can transition into good or bad situations in practice. The goal of this article is to introduce you, the reader, to some competitive deck building concepts like consistency focus, matchup prediction and the low roll rules.

Since it is an article about competitive Vanguard, Thavas will be the variant we will be focusing on but a lot of the points in this article can translate to other decks or even clans more broadly.

Definitions

The following terms will be used during this article for the sake of brevity

WCQWorld Championship Qualifier
OrderColonyA Variant of Megacolony deck using Fabricated Dragon of Ruination to play Order for free.

Hello everyone! My name is Maxime, also known as Madnissimo, I recently topped in BSF Germany and France. Before we start the article, let me tell you a little story. 

Back in 2016, I was playing Yugioh and spoiler alert, I never topped a single big tournament. There were two reasons for this:

  • I only played the decks I liked and I didn’t play meta decks.
  • I always focused on cool cards that created insane boards to leave the opponent with no chance of winning.

Toping with a non-Meta deck at a tournament like WCQ is possible but you’d need complete mastery over your deck and play. The reason I never made it far was because I wanted to make the flashiest plays possible but completely ignored the most important thing: my opponent.

In Yu-Gi-Oh, forgetting about your opponent is much more deadly than it is in Vanguard because of the amount of disruption they can potentially cause during your turn. If we consider Vanguard, there’s almost no disruption in V-Premium or Standard but if you’re going to play Premium, just looking at your field and your plays will not be enough to win in competitive play. But don’t worry, we all got destroyed when we first started to play premium so it’s just a matter of learning to look at your opponent and knowing what they can do.

Vanguard is a game of information

If you want to get better at Vanguard, the most important thing to learn is what the most important cards in your opponents’ decks are.

You might be wondering why I didn’t mention attack patterns or how to guard over this and it’s because if you want to attack or guard optimally, you first need to understand in what ways your opponent can interact with those plays.

During BSF Antwerp, I faced Mohammed (from Team Cardiff) and I didn’t fully appreciate what he could do in the last few turns which ended up in me losing the game because I wasn’t able to play around Veratrum. Never forget what your opponent can do or you will lose game you might have been able to win otherwise.

Let’s take another example. If you have played against Revenger in V-Premium, you probably know that putting him to 4 or 5 damage is a mistake. He will generate so much card advantage that the game will become unwinnable for you. So, should you be locking him at 3 then?

An important question we should be asking ourselves is “Do I know what cards are in my opponent’s hand and what can be done with them?” but it is often forgotten in the heat of the moment during an intense game. This is absolutely pivotal in Aqua Force since we’re generally giving one damage at a time to our opponent so knowing their ability to call or guard is essential. A good rule of thumb would be if you know they have only one PG in hand, do as much attacks as you can, if they have a lot of G2 and G1 try to create a bigger number instead to make him lose more cards – that’s the basic idea.

Aqua Force is all about flow

In most Aqua Force decks, there are times when you are strong and times when you are weak. For example, Maelstrom’s ability to pressure your opponent on grade 2 is bad but its turn 4 is extremely strong. Thavas on the other hand, can put a very decent pressure at G2 and G3 and will keep getting stronger as long as the game goes.

Since this article is about decks that are not self-centered, you must think about your match up as well. If your opponent is stronger than you in the early game, focus on card advantage and play aggressive later. If he is better than you in the late game, you must rush him so he will lose before that. This is a concept I call the curves of the deck. What is important to remember is when the curve of your deck is over your opponents’ you must push and when it is under you must generate as much card advantage as possible or go for your all-or-nothing turn.

Just be aware that while the curve is defined by the deckbuilding it will not always be visible during your game. If you or your opponent brick with a rush deck the curve will still be high but the result won’t.

In the early stage of the game, plan how and when to win and adapt it with every piece of new information you acquire. That way you will be in control of the whole game and prepared for every “unlucky” situation that might arise.

Deckbuilding

I might have lost some of you because we still haven’t started discussing deckbuilding – don’t worry, we’ll get there soon! The reason I delayed talking about deckbuilding in a deckbuilding article lies in the fact that deckbuilding is a part of the equation not all of it.

We can define a meta game by this cool and very simple equation:

Winning = Matchup + Deck Building + Skill + Luck

Don’t get mad because I’m including luck here – luck is part of every TCG but there are a lot of way to reduce the impact it has depending on how you approach the other factors.

Back to my equation, a lot of the points I have made until now have to do with the skill of the player. If you want to see it that way: The skill is the strength of the warrior, and the deckbuilding is how sharp the sword of this warrior is. To use a great sword, one must learn its way before.

But less philosophical shenanigans and more theory. As I was saying in the introduction, wanting to do the “best” play possible is a mistake. A good play is the play that will lead to you winning the game. That’s why we should probably forget about an insane combo turn in Aqua Force when it comes to deckbuilding (except if that combo could win us every game but to my knowledge there is no such thing in Aqua Force).

But then what should be our focus when building a deck? The first question I ask myself personally is: “What will annoy my opponent the most?”.

Sadly, there is no universal way to be annoying. Some deck in Premium can put Honoly during the battle phase (Bermuda, Granblue) or retire and/or stun our cards (Kagero, Megacolony).  For that reason, Premium Aqua Force can’t really focus on those crazy multi attacks combos while a V version would get away with it if you hit over a defensive trigger.

To know what is annoying to your opponent you first need to assess what you have in your clan and then choose what is the best in a certain format. In Premium you have 3 ways of thinking:

  • Maelstrom that can rush you hard thanks to an engine like Ripple (it enables glory on turn 3)
  • Blue Wave with a lot of multi attack, draw power and a restanding Vanguard 
  • Thavas with a lot of Accel Maker, Card Advantage and first stride denial by riding down to G2.

Now let’s go over the top deck in the meta and what question they ask to our deck:

Nightmare DollCan you kill me in one turn?
OrderColonyAre you able to Reride/ Play with rested rear?
GranblueCan you attack enough to break its defense?
NarukamiCan you play around disruption and empty your board?
RegaliaCan you generate enough hand to tank its turn? /Can you kill it before it gets dangerous?
HighlanderCan you play around Honoly if it’s place during the battle phase ?

If you want to play competitively, I think the strongest philosophy in Aqua Force would be the Thavas one. Denying stride has a lot of strategic impact on your opponent’s gameplan and can extend the time where your opponent is weak and putting you in control of the flow of the game.

Lambros is a deck that can:

  • Restand its whole field against OrderColony thanks to Lambros
  • Retire your opponent’s key cards
  • Draws a lot
  • Creates big columns when you just want to push damage a little or a lot of small ones when you want to finish the game.

Due to its weakness to Megacolony, I would not recommend Maelstrom as a competitive choice for Premium Format, but it can be a valid choice for V-Premium since the best decks cannot guard against its attacks. Blue Wave in V is not good enough but in Premium it might have a shot since it has a lot of tools (Multiple Vanguard Attacks, a lot of draw powers to tank, heal recycling, and lots of attacks) but it is still not as strong as stride denial you can do by riding down to G2.

It’s better to focus on one thing

First rule of deckbuilding: Decide one thing you want to do well and push it to its limits.

Why is it a rule? Because the more thing you want to do in a deck without toolbox potential, the more puzzle it becomes. And if I want to parody Star Wars:

Puzzle leads to brick. Brick leads to defeat. Defeat leads to not topping.

For this reason, if you build to top an event, it is better to make your winning play or the play giving you the most advantage as consistent as possible.

In Thavas Premium for example, the play giving us the most advantage is the stride denial ride down play therefore we want to make it as consistent as possible.

The Low Roll Rules

To know if a card is useful for your deck, Imagine the worst-case scenario. Worst opening hand, getting double critted, your board was wiped, etc and see if a card is still useful here. If it is, then the card is a good card for your deck.

Why is this concept important? In a tournament, you must lose as few games as possible – you must be able to win even when everything is going wrong. For this reason, I always build the deck while thinking about the worst combination of cards I could open and how I can play in that scenario.

If it’s unplayable, I need to consider changes to the deck to make that worst-case scenario better. Once you’ve done that the next step is doing the same for each step of the game – the worst hand for G2, the worst hand for G3, and so on. It will help you think about what cards you want to see at different points in the game and what to do at different points in different scenarios. It will also give you more knowledge of what gameplan should you go into depending on the cards left in your deck.

Don’t Fall Into The “Win More” Cards Trap

When you have decided on your deck core and there is some space left, this is the moment when you must be the most careful in order not to fall into the “win more” cards trap.

What my friend Anthony (a player who went to worlds) defined as “win more” cards are cards that will make winning the game easier when they are played if you’re ahead but have no other value and are useless when you are behind.

But what is a “win more” card in Aqua Force? Riptide Dragon is the first example that comes to mind – it doesn’t work if you are behind and have few cards in hand and doesn’t make you win any specific match up.

One of the main cards Thavas relies on to create consistency in its strategy

The opposite of a “win more” card is an “always good” card. For example, Pursuit Assault is never a bad card in any situation with Thavas. It works when you’re behind, when you want to push and when you want to create some card advantage.

Unfortunately, all the cards in your deck can’t always be like Pursuit so you must choose depending on what card is the most useful most of the time. 

Example of my building philosophy: Building Thavas Premium

In this section, I’m going to focus on building Thavas in Premium. All the concepts mentioned before can be applied to all the Aqua Force decks in any format and the broader principles apply everywhere.

What I want to achieve with the deck is to make my opponent lose as many resources as possible so that when I decide to push it will be lethal. It’s what I’d call a midrange or tempo deck. There is no big win condition in Thavas, you just have to navigate your way through the game and ride the wave when it’s coming.

First, you need at least 4 Thavas and some Lambros to make the deck function else there is no combo to be found. Probability wise, 3 Lambros seems to be the sweet spot especially against OrderColony where we want to use it instead of striding to restand our board. 

Since a front trigger will always be relevant and we’re playing a deck that needs as much healing as possible, I would advise playing the Stoicheia Overtrigger over the cray Elemental one.

Now back to the motto: “make one thing work very well”. We want our stride denying ride down play to work well, for this we need:

  • 1 counterblast
  • A way to access easily one of our 4 Thavas, 2 would be very good since striding with 2 Accel is very strong
  • A way to rest 3 rear guards

The cards that satisfy two or all those conditions are:

  • Pursuit Assault (Draw, Rest and no CB cost)
  • Nikki V (Rest itself, put Lambros back, on Ride let you add Thavas)
  • Beragios (Search for Thavas, doesn’t cost a counterblast)
  • Nikki G (Let you add a Thavas to your hand if you have a heal in hand)
  • Penguin Soldier (Rest itself and let you counter charge)
  • Thanassis (Rest one to get 5k power)

We still have no way to know if those cards will be useful in the future so let just add them to the pool of usable cards for the deck.

One of the weaknesses of the Thavas play is that we need to commit a lot of cards onto the board thus making our hand weak against rush. Since we want to control the flow, we must be able to guard after committing to the board. To help us do this we have:

The second things we have to keep in mind is that we have a really bad match up with decks that can retire our units during battle. That’s why we need to have a way to protect our cards. In Aqua Force we have access to:

G-Zone Choices

The choice of your G-Zone will define the options available to you during a game. None are random and none are just flip fodder. Each card in your G-Zone have a very specific purpose to disrupt your opponent’s flow. 

The reliable anchor

The obvious first choice is Genbold dragon. If you are able to meet his condition of having six rest rear guard, he will create you an immense hand as well as letting you continue with your attacks. But this card is good only if the full condition is met.

If you can’t meet the condition the alternative would be Valeos Revive, Lambros or Alexandros.

Valeos Revive let you draw as much but is limited to 2 if you went second so keep it in mind.

A Reliable Finisher

Lambros and Alexandros let you do as much multi attack as Genbold, but you don’t draw as much so be sure that you will be ready for next turn if you go into it.

A point to be aware is that you will never stride more than twice to draw in a game because otherwise you’ll deck out. Therefore, there is no need to put more than 2 Genbold/2 Valeos revive in your G-Zone.

The same idea goes for Alexandros. It is one of your finishers so you will never go more than 2 time into it.

Now what happens if you are in a situation where you can’t attack with your vanguard because there is not enough card left in your deck? Or Perhaps youre against Link Joker which aims to Lock your units. In those situations there are 3 choices depending on what you have in hand:

  • Ballanerena if you have Thavas in hand, some grade 0 or 1 and no CB
  • Commander Thavas if you don’t have Thavas/any grade 1 or 0
  • Megiddo if you have 2 open counterblasts.

I just want to mention there are a lot more situations than those I mentioned – those are just example on how to use those cards. At every time in the game, you have to weigh up what is the best option depending on your opponent’s hand (ex: He doesn’t have any PG and you have a lot of G1 and G2 in hand just go Ballanerena and win here, he only has 10 in deck, and you haven’t seen the Overtrigger ? then maybe Valeos is the way.)

But back to deckbuilding, we need to think about G-Guards now. Our 4 options are:

Another thing we might want to include is Flood Hazard Dragon. Some of you might find it strange but this would let us have a quadra drive stride at GB3, it’s especially good in a Link Joker match up to keep the flow in our favor or if our opponent is at 3 or 4 and we don’t want to give counterblast for free while committing as little as possible.

Cray Elemental Staples

In every deck, depending on the meta there are useful staples we can put inside a deck. The most known ones are:

  • Howam if we need a lot of counterblasts to play
  • Honoly against multi attack deck without control
  • Rollock if we are rushable in the early stage of the game.
  • Connell if we need a card to take the effect of Brilliant Blister or cards like that
  • Bufoo if there are a lot of high critical decks
  • Bikkun against a restanding Vanguard

The problem with these staples is that they often don’t help your gameplan and are just situational cards which makes them insanely good for toolbox clans such as Granblue but not that good for other deck.

Can we put some of them in Aqua Force? Probably. In a format like the OrderColony Nightmare Dolls Format Connell, Honoly or Rollock are interesting.

Match ups and playing to the strengths of the Clan

In the Premium format, Aqua Force is in a weird spot. It doesn’t rush as much as decks like Jewel Knight, Tachikaze, Gold Paladin, Nova etc. but also doesn’t create big attacks like Regalia. We have no control in battle like Megacolony or Narukami and we can’t wait until a big win condition like Granblue.

We are just in the middle of everything and so we are free to do what we want. Still we should always think of ways to tackle common issues that come up in Premium

Rush deck can be slowed down by: A lot of cards in hand/ Honoly.

  • We have access to both

Big Attacks deck need us to get our PG so we must play card advantage focused to get them:

  • We have access to this

We can’t control in battle but:

  • We can control our opponent’s board to make their turn weaker

We have no big win condition but:

  • There will be a point in the game where our opponents will not be able to guard us anymore.

What Aqua Force must focus on with the cards it was given is versatility and adaptability. Our deck must be able to switch to another gameplan depending on the match up we are facing but to do that we have to add this possibility to our deckbuilding.

Creating Synergy between your cards

Once you have decided on your gameplan, you have to create synergy between your cards. The reason I personally like Wheel so much is because of the synergy with almost every Aqua Force card. In Premium, it is especially important that your cards let you do some good play with all your strides.

If you don’t understand where I’m coming from let’s take an example of the logic behind my Thavas deckbuilding:

Recommended Main Deck Core ( Wheel/Beragios are player dependent)

I need 4 Thavas and 3 Lambros. Therefore, I need something to rest 3 rear guards to make sure I can use Thavas to its fullest. Pursuit Assault and Denis let me do this and gain advantage out of it. Let’s put 4 Pursuit and 3 Denis to maximize my power curves for turn 3 onwards while having a pretty good turn 2.

We rest a lot of rear this way which can make Coral’s 24k power live most of the time as well as Nerissa’s draw. Let’s put 4 of them in.

Nikki helps to get Thavas and can rest itself to recycle our Lambros or Coral. We need 4 of him.

If you prefer to ensure that Coral will let you draw then add 3-4 Wheel Assault, if you prefer to ensure you get your Thavas/Heal Guardian then play Beragios.

In my opinion, Wheel creates more synergy than Beragios but both choices are good.

For now, we have 29-30 normal Units and 3 G4 4 G3 11 G2 11-12 G1. The 3-4 cards left will define your playstyle:

  • Aggressive: Thavas G + 2-3 restanders like Terrific Coil or Tidal Assault
  • G2 Oriented: 2 Terrific Coil + 2 Algos
  • Calm and Steady: 2 Orthia + 1 Thavas G
  • Consistency and Adaptability: +3 Beragios/Wheel depending on your first choice
  • More Toolbox Focus: 1 Riptide + 2 Spirit Body Condensation (Keep it mind it is really risky)
  • More defensive: +3 Rollock/ 2 Rollock 1 Honoly
  • Combo oriented: +1 Urjula/Connell +1 Thavas G + 1 Tidal Assault

There are a lot of cards I haven’t mentioned that could be good choices (like Propulsion Dragon) but like everything else, if you want to become good at deckbuilding Aqua Force you have to go through trial and error.

Coral, Nerissa and balancing multi attacks and big columns

One of the most important concepts in V (and also kind of true in Premium) is the cost of guarding. What will it cost me to guard? One of the key examples to this is how to fully utilize a Coral Nerissa column.

If Nerissa’s skill was used, this column should be 42k (30-35k shield to guard = 2-3 cards) if we split the column into a 24k and 18k column we might do 2 attacks and asking also for 2 cards, but the amount of shield needed drop to 25k. It is way easier to guard this way except if your opponent can only guard with G-Guard and perfect guard. In that second scenario, he will have to over guard and you will be gaining a lot of value out of it.

This is a very basic concept, but you should always adapt your pattern depending on your opponent’s hand.

I hope that throughout this article I have given you enough key points for you to have as much fun as I do when deckbuilding this clan.

Some topping list :

https://decklog-en.bushiroad.com/view/CZ2X

https://decklog-en.bushiroad.com/view/KQRX

https://decklog-en.bushiroad.com/view/BVCM

See you for other articles.

Written by Madnissimo

Editor : Dravoth , Cipher

2 thoughts on “How to stop building a self-centered Aqua Force deck

  1. This was really well done. A lot of things to think about for deck building in general, since I don’t really play aqua force. Was very, very helpful nonetheless. I get too caught up in high ceiling win more combos and suffer from that when deckbuilding, so that’s definitely something I need to keep more in mind.

    Like

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