The June 2022 King Slayer Champion Interview – Hollis Zeng

Welcome everyone, today we have something a little different as we are interviewing the Standard Champion for the King Slayer Event this month, Hollis Zeng. Before we get into the interview, lets talk context.

The 1K KSC Overdress Tournament was a Standard Format tournament with 86 attendees in total. It was also a single deck Best of 3 format for all of its rounds. This is important to note as Best of 1s are more typical in Vanguard and that means every round requires two wins and up to 3 games in total which can be grueling.

Still, Hollis Zeng managed to come on top with a less conventional deck, Flagburg. While Flagburg is rather strong, compared to more conventional choices like Magnolia Elder and Gravidia, it is much less popular. This is definitely a top that stands out to someone like me who studies the standard metagames around the world. How did he do it? Was there some spice to the list? Well let’s get into it!


THE INTERVIEW

Hollis Zeng: HZ

Cipher: C

C: First of all congratulations of the win! I’ve heard from many that this event was a rather grueling one, being a best of 3 with 8 rounds you had to win in order to be the champion. Before we get right into it, a quick introduction about yourself!

HZ: Hello! My name is Hollis Zeng and I’m a current college student at Emory studying biology.

C:Do you normally play Standard? How long have you been playing? 

HZ: I technically started playing Vanguard with the very first set, but I stopped playing around the end of the original series. I first got back into the game and took it seriously with the introduction of Overdress. Standard is my main format as it is the format I know the best by far, but I also play V relatively often as well.

C: I see, welcome back to the Vanguard – it must be refreshing to get back into it! How did you prepare for the event and what were your goals going into it?

HZ: I played the deck four weeks in a row at locals, and managed to go undefeated with the deck for those weeks. I did lose a couple of rounds the week leading up the KSC, but I realized that the main reason I lost those rounds were due to my order lineup, and we fixed that going into KSC. My main goal was to make up for my Springfest performance in which my team barely missed the top cut.

C: It can definitely be disheartening barely missing a top cut. Glad to see that you picked up and continued to optimize your deck still. For this event, what was your personal score and matchups?

HZ: 8:0 (W-L)

Though, due to an error with the system, I was accidentally given a bye in the fifth round.

The other matchups were as follows:

  • R1 Gravdia
  • R2 Gravidia
  • R3 Baromagnes
  • R4 Prison
  • R5 Bye
  • R6 Flagburg
  • R7 Grave=Zorga
  • R8 Dragonic Overlord The End

C: I see, that’s a lot of games! Quite a lot of Gravidia too. In your opinion what was your toughest match?

HZ: By far, the Grave=Zorga match was the toughest matchup. My opponent pulled the Overtrigger (and performed the heal) on me all three rounds and had a massive tempo swing very early. Luckily, he missed Alchemagic on his first g3 turn ⅔ of the games and I was able to stabilize and recover. I also ran the Critical Counter Heal which was pivotal towards protecting against his Roaming Prison Dragons.

There was a point in the game during round three in which he drove checked two orders, and I knew that his hand was clogged and would be unable to guard against Flagburg’s fifth attack skill, and that’s when I was able to go for the win.

C: I would like to ask you a bit about the Gravidia Matchup, in the June Fighter’s Rule for the OCG, Magnolia Elder has been choice restricted with Inlet Pulse Dragon, and while it is still going to be a good deck, there is a lot of players who feel that Gravidia may be the deck to beat if we get a similar restriction in the English Format. How do you feel Flagburg plays into the match up?

HZ: Of course Gravidia can always just “sack” you, but overall its an easy match up for Flagburg. With Flagburg its possible to only have one rearguard that sticks to the field (due to Inlet Pulse), so you don’t lose too much advantage when Nordlinger attacks. The draw power of Flagburg is also especially good in playing out a longer game so you’re more likely to draw into your pieces and perfect guards to block the vanguard. In a longer game, Flagburg definitely has the advantage as Flagburg can also retire their units , which is a weakness of theirs.

In both my Gravidia Matchups they were left swinging with triggers by the end as they couldn’t build a board back

C: With all decks out there, why did you choose to play Flagburg? Is it because you liked it or something else? What are the strengths you see in it that you think many people overlook for this particular rideline?

HZ: The main reason that I chose to play flagburg was due to the people at my locals who showed me how powerful the deck could be with a little ingenuity. Three people at my locals (OuterOrange, Sam from TSTCG, and Cameron from TSTCG) consistently played the deck in very different ways, all with great success.

All three of their builds differed vastly from the traditional builds of Flagburg. I ended up trying out a build similar to my SpringFest teammate’s build, and I really liked the deck. The strength of this rideline is that you are able to dig through your deck very fast and also minimize the number of pieces you need to see.

The only piece you really have to see is either Inlet Pulse or another Ascendance Assault to start popping off. A lot of people minimize Flagburg because the way you’re “supposed” to play it is very weak to defensives and can struggle a lot of the time to close the game. The build that Cameron, Sam, OuterOrange, and I run minimize a lot of those problems. I also believe that the deck is very powerful going both first and second, which helps a lot in a best of three format.

C: So your build is very different from any Flagburg list I have seen about it. How did you come about the idea? 

HZ: So I personally can’t take credit for this build of Flagburg. This concept of Flagburg comes from a person at my locals Cameron (Swords). His main unit was Zorga, so he wanted to try out a heavy order build of Flagburg. He found the build to be pretty powerful, so he brought it to SpringFest on a team with me.

Unfortunately, we bubbled right out (literally one place away from topping due to the DQs at the event), but I saw the potential of the deck then and started piloting it myself. However, the order lineup is something I developed myself from weeks of testing.

C: Apart from your high order line up an outlier in your deck is definitely the 3 copies of Sea Breeze Abduction. How was the card used in the build in context of your rideline and playstyle?

HZ: Sea Breeze Abduction is one of the most impactful units in the entire deck. With Flagburg’s Tripledore skill, vanguard attacks are very difficult to guard. Sea Breeze also provides a ton of pressure early, making your vanguard a two card guard. If you discard an order for your Ride deck and one for Rancor Chain ( the grade 1 choice for the ride deck), you can commit him completely for free essentially on the first turn.

C: Why the double blitz orders?

HZ: With Sea Breeze, you can very often tutor for the specific order that you need at any given moment. Both blitz order have their uses and you can recycle them using Breeze. Since my order lineup is so diverse, “Fine Drink of Abolishment for Sins” is very often a 20000-25000 shield. You can run such a diverse order lineup because of Sea Breeze, which lets you recycle the order you need for a given situation. You tend to have a bunch of soul late game in a lot of matchups, so the soulblast cost is not very heavy. The draw can be very impactful as well.

C: Going forward, do you have any thoughts about the future of your build? Do you feel it’s going to remain the best build for your deck for a while? Or do you feel it’s up to player preference in general?

I believe that this is the best way to play the deck, at least until the promo comes out. The orders provide a ton of value no matter what your hand looks like, and you get a ton of on hit pressure from Sea Breeze. Your resource loop is also very consistent, and you almost always have the ability to do five attacks (though you may choose not to depending on the game state).

C: In the Japanese format, Flagburg has received a new grade 3 promo, Blue Vast Dragon, Shelling Cannon Dragon. Its a card that definitely improves Flagburg. How do you feel about this card and does it have a place in the current version , or do you think it’s going to fit in a more traditional list ?

HZ: With the new promo, the deck will change drastically. There’s been a couple of things I’ve been theory crafting but Sea Breeze Abduction will likely be cut since it doesn’t synergize with the promo. I personally still need to do a lot more testing to find how I can incorporate these lists together in a way that works.

 C: Is there anything you felt you learned from the event?

HZ: 18 back to back matches is a lot of matches..

C: Yeah, I can’t disagree with that! Any plans going forward with competing? 

HZ: I plan on continuing to compete as long as schoolwork does not hinder me. I’m looking forward to competing in KSC’s invitational and BCS, as well as potentially BRO.

C: Before we go, any shout-outs you would like to do? 

Shout out to Super Games, one of the best locals out there. Also, shout out to any one who has ever playtested against me and helped me make this list what it is today. Special thanks to Cameron (Swords) who showed me the spice for this build, and Sam and OuterOrange for showing me specific attack patterns that you can do to maximize value during certain board states. Also thanks to Crow (from King Slayer Cards) for helping me test this deck on CFA as well. Check out his stream (crowtrickster)!

C: Thank you for your time, and once again props for repping Flagburg!

DECK BUILD


Deck Build Highlights

Core Cards (16)

  • Flagship Dragon, Flagburg Dragon x 4
  • Blue Artillery Dragon, Inlet Pulse Dragon x 4
  • Ascendance Assault x 4
  • Prized Trident x 4

Consistency Tools (8)

  • Sea Breeze Abduction x 3
  • Spiritual Body Condensation x 3
  • Wild Intellgence x 1
  • Rancor Chain ( Ride Deck) x1

Extra Offensive Tools (3)

  • In search of an Ideal Faraway x 2
  • Nectar of Sensation x 1

Extra Defensive Options (3)

  • Alchemic Hedgehog x1 (Critical Counter Heal)
  • Fine Drink of Abolishment for Sins x1 (Blitz Order)
  • Advance of Great Cause x 1 (Blitz Order)

Starting with the ride deck line up, he swaps Inroad Shooter for Rancor Chain to fit in the order package, Rancor chain will help the build to cycle early into the deck and is even a plus one if you drop an order with its skill. For the G2 he still runs the Ascendance Assault to guarantee that no matter what he will see one by Turn 3, whether he calls it out via its own skill or revive it through Spiritual Body Condensation. As he said, this means he only needs to draw an Inlet or another Ascendance depending on the counterblast.

Looking deeper into the list, we can see he runs 4 copies of all the Key Cards in Flagburg to play into the consistency as well as 4 orders to potential revive units that he may need during the turn. It’s easy to see how the build is able to be so consistent in a Best of 3 format.

This allows the build alongside Rancor Chain to see its pieces consistently. In search of an Ideal Far Away and Nectar of Sensation also help to power up Flagburgs’ rearguards to hit key numbers as it allows a re standing unit usually to use its effects twice to end games faster. And the rest of the list is rounded off with the Sea Breeze Abduction and Blitz Orders as he has explained earlier.

Takeaways

A truly impressive run and I think we could learn a little from what he’s shared.

Don’t be afraid to ask and experiment

The deck was built based on a friend’s at the beginning but he experimented with different ideas before finalizing the order lineup that worked for him during the tournament. He had to experiment with a variety of ideas before finalizing his order choices. The list may not have changed if he had stuck to the initial plan and remained complacent with the results of early tests. It’s important to test those ideas, so don’t be afraid to ask your peers to sharpen your game sense with the deck, just like he did to learn Flagburg’s best possible attack patterns.

Flagburg is not typically a deck that people put on a high pedestal as it’s often rated with its traditional build in mind. If you are confident that your idea has merit don’t be afraid to break the mold every now and then and give it a try. Maybe you will figure out something new as was the case here!

Cipher

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