Shadow Paladins: An Introduction and Guide for the V-Premium Format!
- Pure Raging
- Mordred – Ver Revenger
- Revenger Hybrid
- Claret Sword
- Honorable Mentions: Witches
Hey, you there! Yeah you! Are you looking to get into the game vanguard and don’t know what clan to pick? Maybe you already have a clan but want to try a new one? Or perhaps you simply like edgy knights and/or shadow dragons and want to see what the game has to offer? Well then you’re in luck because in today’s article I’ll give you the rundown on one of Vanguard’s most popular and (arguably) powerful clans: Shadow Paladins!
But wait, where are my manners? Let me first introduce myself. My name is Josh, your resident Shadow Paladin main, otherwise known by my youtube channel handle: Godsman00. I recently made Top 8 in BSF Ontario and 9th place in BRO NA region, so I’m no stranger to competitive vanguard. Although I generally identify as a Paladin main, Shadow Paladins have been my biggest passion in this game and where I am the most knowledgeable.
With introductions out of the way, let’s get on to the meat and potatoes. But before that, let me set a couple ground rules. First off, this article will only cover decks in the context of the V-Premium format, so anything regarding Premium or Standard will not be considered. Secondly, this is meant to serve as both an introduction and an analysis of each subclan in Shadow Paladins, so I will attempt to be as beginner-friendly in the content of this article while also providing in-depth and relevant knowledge of the decks. This will include a glossary at the end which clarifies many of the terms used in the article. Sound good? Well then, without any further ado, let me introduce you to the Shadow Paladin clan!
Shadow Paladins At A Glance
The Shadow Paladin clan is one of the three Paladin clans in Cardfight!! Vanguard alongside the Royal Paladins and Gold Paladins. As their name would imply, Shadow Paladins often operate in the darkness, renouncing fame and glory in favor of protecting the United Sanctuary from the shadows. Despite their name and appearance, the Shadow Paladin clan is not an evil clan; in fact, many facets of this clan are generally considered among the “good guys” albeit in the form of anti-heroes. A clan that values duty above honor, Shadow Paladins will fight down to the last man to protect both their country and their pride!
The Shadow Paladin clan is fairly diverse in its tactics, possessing only a few traits synonymous between the different subclans. The most iconic and noteworthy aspect of the clan lies in its ability to retire their reaguards for powerful skills. Whether that be gaining power, criticals/drives, allowing extra vanguard/rearguard attacks, or even dealing the opponent a damage, Shadow Paladins possess an array of absurdly devastating skills attainable through the sacrifice of their own rearguards! The Shadow Paladin clan also lives up to its namesake as one of the three paladin clans, and is endowed with the ability to superior call allies from the deck and drop zone.
Now at first glance, the ability to call rearguards and retire rearguards may seem contradictory, but in actuality these two aspects of the clan compliment each other splendidly as it allows the clan to constantly replenish its field for offensive pressure and skills. In a way, playing a Shadow Paladin deck is like performing a dance of death and rebirth where striking a perfect balance is the key to victory.
In addition, the Shadow Paladin clan is also known for another gimmick: Ritual. First introduced in the G era, ritual is an ability which activates so long as there are a certain amount of Grade 1 units (amount required varies depending on the effect) in the drop zone. Although it was introduced prior to V, the V-premium format revitalized the ritual mechanic by retraining the G Era units with an emphasis on both calling and sacrificing Grade 1s. By building up Grade 1 units in the drop zone, some Shadow Paladin decks are able to gain significant power!
As a clan blessed with the imaginary gift of Force, Shadow Paladins are among the most aggressive clans in the game, dealing devastating blows to the opponent that are both powerful and lethal. It is a clan well known for its strength and ruthlessness, both to the opponent and to its own units. I’d say that about covers the big picture, time to discuss the specific decks that this clan has to offer!
Starting off with the deck that has received the most recent support in the V-premium format, we have my favorite deck in all of vanguard: Revengers. Revengers are an order of elite knights- the best of the best- among the shadow paladins of the United Sanctuary, first assembling to combat the invading force that was Link Joker.
Recognizable by the red capes they all don, Revengers are a classic subclan first introduced in the 3rd season of the Vanguard anime and are wildly popular for both their aesthetic and their use by one of the most iconic characters in the series, Ren Suzugamori.
The Revenger strategy is best described as an aggressive tempo deck that seeks to overtake the opponent with relentless waves of attacks of increasing severity. Revengers apply the traditional Shadow Paladin method of retiring their rears in order to enable strong multi attacks that take full advantage of the force markers granted from riding. It is also well known for the limit break skill possessed by one of its main vanguards, allowing the deck to launch a vicious counter-strike when it reaches four or more damage.
Generally name-restricted to their own archetype, Revengers don’t play nice with Shadow Paladin units outside of the Revenger order, making the deck more exclusive. Despite this, the deck actually possesses a few variants in terms of deckbuild and strategy. Sound interesting? Well then, why not take a look!
Beginning with my boy, Raging Form Dragon is the premiere vanguard of the Revenger subclan and arguably the most powerful. This is due to its two effects which allows the deck to unleash potent multi attack combos with both the vanguard and rearguards. This is taken to the next level once the player has reached four or more damage. See, normally the deck can only have a max of 5 rearguards at any time, meaning that Raging Form could only achieve its re-ride once per turn. However, by using its first effect to call a Revenger from the deck, you will then be back to three rearguards, allowing Raging Form to re-ride for a SECOND TIME. This results in a maximum of seven attacks- 3 being vanguard swings- with no loss in drives and an extra force marker with each ride. Now that’s powerful.
Raging Form isn’t just limited to re-riding itself either; it can ride into any Grade 3 Revenger from the hand, leading us to the other vanguards…
This is where things get interesting. Depending on how you want to build the decks, you’ll end up with a combination of these 4 grade 3 units. One of the strengths and points of potential confusion in this deck is the ability of all these units to act as both your first ride and your last ride. In other words, they can set you up or finish the game. Delving more into this, let’s look at 3 main ways to build the deck:
This deck is what is currently considered to be the most standard (and arguably best) version of the deck. The grade 3s of choice in this deck are Raging Form Dragon and his reverse version, Raging Fall Dragon “Reverse”. The deck is a vanguard-centric aggro deck that combines both Ragings to swing multiple times with the vanguard while accumulating power to slam the opponent with unrelenting pressure. The strongest aspects of the deck lie in its ability to have a potential 3-4 vanguard attacks as well as being able to see an absurd number of drive checks due to the RFD units maintaining their twin drives for each battle.
It is a somewhat linear game plan that most heavily punishes the opponent for allowing you to go to 4 or even 5 damage. It is also a deck that is incredibly consistent as the combination of searchers, superior calls, and many drive checks in the deck make filtering out any given card easy.
Unfortunately, there are a couple flaws. For one, this deck is dependent on limit break* for it to reach its full ferocity so a smart player may be able to keep you at 3 damage and starve you of resources and pressure to 6 damage in a single turn. Another issue with this particular version of the deck is that it is rather linear. This not only makes your strategy and plan of attack easy to read by the opponent, but it also means that you have a limited variety of effects at your disposal which may lead to the deck being unable to adapt to certain game states.
Mordred – Ver Revenger
As opposed to the previous version, this form of Revengers runs neither of the RFD units and instead goes for the lineup of Mordred Phantom and his own cross-ride counterpart, Dragruler Phantom. Now let me make a note to say that Pure Mordred was mostly dead by the time RFD was retrained and only recently saw a chance to resurge thanks to Dragruler Phantom, a card that bolsters the Mordred playstyle. For this reason, the meta* viability of the Pure Mordred variant is currently unknown.
The Mordred playstyle revolves around, ironically, the use of a non-Revenger (albeit iconic) unit known as Blaster Dark. With the effect of Mordred Phantom (see image above), you are able to essentially spam out force markers by calling several Blaster Darks and then restand using those units and the power accumulated by said markers to beat down the opponent.
Similarly, Dragruler acts as a finisher for the deck, being able to also enable a front row restand but with any Revenger and/or Blaster Dark instead of just the latter. In addition, Dragruler Phantom’s iconic ability to deal a damage to the opponent (granted you soul-blast Mordred) is a great way to corner the opponent for the kill.
This deck is in some aspects, is the opposite of the Pure RFD style as it plays with a heavy emphasis on the rearguard for your offense rather than your vanguard. With its ability to generate multiple force markers Mordred Phantom is potentially more devastating when things go your way, however it is also a piece reliant deck.
The need for Blaster Darks and cards that fetch it aren’t a difficult thing to mend but it is still present. If you do not see Blaster Dark or if it is removed from the field by the opponent, Mordred Phantom is generally dead in the water and your only real alternative is Dragruler. The deck also does not see a multitude of drive checks like RFD and relies on a Non-Revenger so overall it is less consistent. While it is linear like a Pure RFD, Dragruler does help the deck be a lot more flexible.
Now at first glance, this may seem like a bizarre approach. After all, Mordred Phantom and RFD seem to possess opposite gameplans and do not seem to mesh well together. However, with enough care and skill, this can be overcomed. The basic rundown of the deck is to run RFD, Mordred, as well as Dragruler Phantom and/or RFD “R”. It is debatable which of the latter two units will prove to be the superior 3rd G3 of the deck (I currently prefer Dragruler) but both are solid options.
Contrary to the previous two decks, let me begin by addressing the issues of this build before discussing its strengths. Yes, this deck can be rather awkward to play. Balancing the different strategies between your G3s requires a great deal of skill and can make deciding how to play out your turns very tricky. It can also lead to some situations where you are left with a mish-mash of units which do not line up for optimal combat.
Okay, so with the cons out of the way, let me explain what makes this version incredible. Right off the bat, one solid advantage that this deck holds over the other two versions is that, unlike them, it is not linear. This makes running the deck more complicated but it also means you have a lot of versatility in addressing different game states. For instance, if you have Mordred but not his buddy Blaster Dark, then you can just ride into RFD or Dragruler. Alternatively, if your opponent has kept you at three damage to prevent RFD’s limit break, you can just fall back on Mordred to build you a stronger field with Force Markers while maintaining offensive pressure. As long as you keep your options open you can respond to virtually any situation.
This also has the added benefit of making your plays more unpredictable. Many games can be won just by the mere oversights on the opponent’s part when they fail to anticipate what your different bosses will do. A hybrid deck of Revengers is very scary because, as stated previously, all of its G3s can be used as good first rides or finisher’s in their own right. Thus your methods of attack are more unpredictable and you aren’t reliant on a particular unit to finish the job.
To add some credibility here, when I made top 8 in Springfest, I did so with a hybrid version of Revengers with 4 RFD, 2 Mordred, and 2 RFD “R” (Dragruler was not announced until after the fact) so there’s definitely something here. It’s honestly an incredible deck once you get used to playing and building it. Though ultimately, all 3 versions of Revengers are powerful in their own right and appeal to different personal styles.
One final point with regards to Revengers- and Shadow Paladins as a whole- is deck ratios. Ratios are a pretty interesting element of Shadow Paladins as the massive amount of searchability allotted to the clan allows it to run a greater variety of cards at less copies. For this reason, you may find some versions of the clan run a lot of cards at 1 to 2 copies, so the composition of a decklist is rather involved. Understanding ratios is important for maximizing the ability of your deck while maintaining its consistency, so I will be addressing said ratios often throughout this article, though I’ll address the matter for Revengers here since I neglected to do so until now.
Speaking of, things may not be simple where Revengers are concerned. With deck builds like Pure RFD, the build tends to be straightforward. You run 4 copies of both your bosses and 4 copies of the best/most relevant Revengers, many of which even come in pairs. So cards like Rakia + Rukea, Claudus + Dorint, and Tartu + Rinnal are all run at 3-4 copies, making for an extremely stratified decklist with only a few flex spots.
Pure Mordred takes a similar approach and runs 4 of both its main bosses, 4 Blaster Dark, 3-4 copies of the Masquerade Revengers, and 3-4 copies of some of the Revengers mentioned above. This version is a bit less xenophobic though so if you do run outside cards such as grade 3 searchers, you’ll likely keep it to only 1 or 2 copies apiece.
The really wonky version ratio-wise is unironically the hybrid build. Although Raging Form remains at 4 copies due to it being your principal vanguard, Mordred and the other G3 boss unit are best at 2, maybe 3 copies. If that wasn’t enough of a difference, there are less 4 ofs in the deck overall. Cards like Blaster Dark, Rakia, and Rinnal are still 4 ofs usually since their value is so important or multi-faceted that running less than 4 actively hampers the deck. Then we get to the good part, which is everything else. What I’m going to list below is meant to be an example of precise ratios (excluding the 4-ofs) that exemplify the complexity of Shadow Paladin builds like these. Here goes:
See what I mean? This is much different than the usual deck building for most decks/clans and can be a bit tough to get the hang of. Think of it as like cooking a complex meal; some ingredients are of course major parts and are added in high quantities (your 3-4 ofs) whereas your spices and other accessory ingredients are only added in small amounts to enhance and complete the dish (your toolbox and tech options). After all, putting in too much of something like say pepper will end up ruining the taste of the dish, so you want to include it in moderation. It requires a bit more thought than simply putting in max copies of what’s good, but keeping with the cooking analogy, if you take the time to put in the correct amount of each ingredient, you walk away with a superb meal to enjoy.
Alright, now that I’ve touched base with how important deck ratios are for Shadow Paladin decks, let’s finally assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of Revengers.
Pros and Cons:
|Incredibly fast and aggressive||Lines of play aren’t always clear|
|Absurd Marker generation||Little access to Soul/Counter charge|
|Multiple win cons and vanguards||Limit Break strategy can be denied|
|Deck is super consistent||Xenophobic to non-revenger cards|
|Good against field control strategies||Somewhat piece reliant|
Moving on to the second meta subclan of Shadow Paladins, we have Luard. Luard is a sorcerer that began life in the rough, being brought into the Shadow paladin order as an orphan. However, through the strict and empowering tutelage of Ildona and other knights, Luard was able to master the art of Dragshift, which would allow him to take on the persona of a fearsome dragon!
First introduced in the latter half of the G era, Luard was an immediate hit with the community and cemented the G1 centric strategy that the clan would come to be known for.
As mentioned previously, Luard relies heavily on the use of Grade1 units to fuel its Ritual and beat down the opponent. This in turn makes the deck not just aggressive, but also a toolbox deck. The deck paces itself well and will begin setting up its Ritual as soon as turn 1. Despite its need to ramp, the deck has no qualms rushing down the opponent and will in fact use its Grade 1 units as front line attackers. This culminates into a deck that is fairly aggressive, however where its true value lies is in its ability to scale extremely well into the late game; that is to say, the longer the game goes on, the more overwhelmingly powerful this deck will become.
As you can see above, Luard comes in a pair: His base or “heart” form, and his partially dragonic or shift form. Unlike Revengers, which had several avenues for play thanks to its many boss units, Luard in V-Premium is purely set on these two units. It’s a simple yet effective pairing which begins with Dragheart as your vanguard as he transforms into Dragdriver, calls a powerful field of units and beats down the opponent, and then reverts back to his original form when the turn ends. This cycle then repeats every turn afterwards.
What makes this so powerful is twofold. First off, as the game progresses, you are able to constantly recycle units and spam them out to the field, meaning you’ll almost always be swinging with a full board of your choice. Secondly- and most importantly- the process of riding between Luards results in absurd force marker generation, leading to massive columns that become nigh impossible to guard over time!
Having said that, this isn’t necessarily a perfect system. If you aren’t able to ride Dragheart as your vanguard, the deck is unable to generate additional markers nor recycle cards, so riding him is absolutely essential. This also relates to another common issue with the deck: grade ratios. See, Luard decks run a lot of Grade 1 units, so much so that they tend to have lesser G2s and G3s to fit in their array of G1s. This doesn’t mean the deck is terribly inconsistent though; it does possess some searchers and draw power after all, but it will always be a concern. If nothing else, you may find that you’ll have to G-assist a bit more to find your ride targets, but this isn’t that terrible given the massive field advantage the deck can generate afterwards which can easily mitigate the G assist.
When it comes to building Luard, the main element of customization comes from your selection of Grade 1 units. Your Grade 3 units are of course both Luards and your Grade 2s, while not necessarily set in stone, are a limited pool thanks to only a few being relevant. The main Grade 2s in that regard would be Liafail, Morfessa, and Morion Spear.
But back to the Grade 1s. Depending on how you create your lineup, you could opt for a slower midroll deck or an aggressive turbo deck. Since Shadow Paladins have a great deal of viable grade 1 units in its repertoire, listing them all would prove to be over-encumbering. In lieu of that, let me go over some of the basics.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to organize your toolbox into 3 basic categories:
- and Utility.
From each category, you’ll generally want to run 1-2 copies (perhaps 3 for combo pieces) of each card. This is common for Shadow Paladin decks like Luard as it takes advantage of the deck’s power to selectively call grade 1s to its maximum advantage by making room for a wide array of cards. These small ratios are also permissible since Dragheart can put them back to deck from the drop zone.
These are your main Grade 1s for pushing the opponent. Lluails is essentially a staple in the deck though not recommended at 4 copies due to the extensive searchability of the deck.
The other two units fulfill a similar role of multiattack extension. With both of these units, you can gain a maximum of 5 attacks in a turn. Abyss Router has admittedly fallen off in recent times due to Grade 0s not gaining Luard’s crit bonus, however it is a much simpler multiattack than Apocalypse Bat. By comparison, Bat is currently the preferred choice for Luard but requires you to set up a copy of bat in both the drop and soul (generally due to the effect of Nightmare Painter) so it’s not as easy to achieve. Nevertheless, Apocalypse Bat stands out as the preferred method since its multiattack is more devastating, though both options are respectable.
Above are some resource units for you. Abyssal Owl is an arguable staple that converts soul into draw power which is important for searchability and card advantage. Nightmare Painter is a massively important means of fueling your soul which is used in various ways, including setting up a couples combo, such as with Apocalypse Bat and one of the cards down below.
Now we move into your utility options. Knies serves not just as the optimal G1 ride of the deck, but also as a means of removal should the opponent have problematic units on field. She isn’t necessarily a 4 of staple despite being the best ride but most players do run her. Decremps is the backbone of the Luard offense and converts your field advantage into defensive strength. Intercepting with G1s also has the added benefit of fueling your Ritual so he’s a definite include. On the right we have a new card that’s set to release in Clan Collection Vol. 6, called Origin Mage Ildona. In lore, Ildona was a strict mentor for Luard and now he’s back to assist his pupil once more. Ildona is a promising new G3 that sports 3 new skills which I will go over since he’s new.
First off, he’s treated as a G1 in the deck and drop zone. This is already supremely important since he’s more searchable, helps with Ritual, AND can be put into soul with Nightmare Painter to get 2 Grade 3s in soul by turn 3 (meaning Dragdriver can give crits to your G1 units). This is particularly important because in addition to the deck’s fantastic late game, Ildona grants Luard a more powerful Turn 3 offense for quicker aggression. His second effect allows you to discard him during your Grade 1 turn in order to search for a Grade 2 or Greater unit off the top ten cards of your deck, providing much needed searchability since the deck had little means of ensuring its G2/G3 rides. Finally, when he attacks, he can Counter-Blast 1 and retire 2 rear guards to draw two cards, converting your usually free field advantage into hand advantage. Ildona is absolutely amazing and provides a wide range of services to the deck. He is still rather new but I’m sure his inclusion will likely bolster Luard as a deck so keep an eye out for him!
Pros and Cons:
|Insane Marker generation||Hand size can struggle|
|Can call your field from the deck||Needs to build G1s in drop early|
|Critical pressure from rear guards||Counterblast is painfully limited|
|Access to a solid toolbox||Needs to ride Dragheart to function|
|Fantastic late game||High G1 count may result in having to G-assist more often.|
It’s time to talk about Blasters and its ace card, Phantom Blaster Dragon. Originally the sacred guardian dragon of United Sanctuary, Phantom Blaster Dragon eventually fell into darkness after being corrupted by accumulated negative emotions. Now a perversion of his former self, PBD went on to found the Shadow Paladin clan. Brutal and merciless, the Shadow Paladin clan under PBD’s rule was a vicious force where the weak were devoured to satiate the strong, eventually threatening to throw the nation into chaos until Phantom Blaster Overlord at last met his demise against Majesty Lord Blaster.
Given that PBD founded the clan, it’s no surprise that Blasters were the very first version of Shadow Paladins, first debuting in the 4th booster set ever released, BT04 “Eclipse of Illusionary Shadows’ ‘. Instantly iconic and popular, Blasters are the face of the clan and represents its roots in both lore and playstyle.
Blasters maintain the traditional Shadow Paladin style of play, which is to say it focuses on sacrificing its own units for power. However, the deck possesses a far greater degree of retiring than the other subclans, to the point that it also excels in removing the opponent’s units from the field along with its own. In this way, Blasters are a more control oriented deck which aims to ravage the opponent’s field, leaving them with nothing before dealing the finishing blow. Due to this, Blasters have to run cards that emphasize gaining resources or act as fodder in order to maintain a steady stream of fuel for your effects.
Above are the main Grade 3 units of the deck, Phantom Blaster Dragon (PBD) and his Crossride Phantom Blaster Overlord (PBO). Generally speaking, PBO is your vanguard of choice and what you ideally want to sit on for most of the game as it is superior to PBD in most ways. We should note though that PBD does have access to the potential to deal the opponent a damage much like Dragruler Phantom, and it also has a neat interaction with a card I’ll go over later.
PBO is somewhat of the complete package; it has power, an extra critical, enables multi-attack, and even forces the opponent to share in the pain of retiring rearguards. This all culminates into a solid unit that excels in pressure while demolishing the opponent’s field. While he isn’t quite as powerful or explosive as Raging Form or Luard, he can still be effective as it forces your opponent to constantly play around his skill which after a couple turns of multi attack and constant field retires, will leave the opponent unable to ward off the inevitable. This may seem slow (especially since PBD should be in the soul for PBO) and resource intensive, so let’s go over some key units of the deck which helps to make up for this.
Superior Ride Engine
Presenting the trademark feature of the deck, we have the PBD superior ride combo. As the name suggests, the combo leads to being able to ride PBD on TURN 2, leading to a plethora of benefits. First off, you get the chance to potentially bully a Grade 1 vanguard with your Grade 3 Vanguard. You also get to acquire a force marker and twin drive early which is impactful. The biggest benefit of all though is being able to ride PBD/PBO over your PBD on turn 3, enabling access to their full abilities a turn early. This is of course great for quick aggression and speeds up the decks significantly, but it does come with some drawbacks that you should be wary of.
First off, PBD does not get its effects when you Superior ride him this way, but this is less of a downside and more of a balancing aspect. What is actually pretty unfortunate is that riding into grade 3 early has consequences in of itself. Heal Guardians- which are only viable prior to riding grade 3- don’t work well due to the superior ride so that is a powerful defensive option lost (and the opponent’s heal guardians can outright shut down your offense that turn). Furthermore, many skills in V require that the opponent’s vanguard is Grade 3 or greater, meaning that you’ll run the risk of enabling your opponent’s most powerful skills early, especially when you go second as the opponent will get to go to Grade 3 right afterwards, diminishing your advantage. A final potential issue is that you have to dedicate slots to the engine, which are not particularly useful outside of being fodder in most cases, leading to dead draws later into the game. While yes you could opt to only run 1 PBD and/Bendi, it will mean that if you damage check them ( or draw into when it comes to PBD) ,the engine is dead. For that reason, I recommend running at least 2 copies of each piece for a Blaster centric deck so that this does not happen.
This is all to say that the deck has great potential for early aggression and needs the PBD ride engine to keep up a fast pace, but can just as easily receive a harsh clapback from the opponent, polarizing the deck overall. However, this single combo is not the deck’s whole story.
Tools of the Trade
So here we see the other big aspect of the deck, which is the cast of units that provide utility while acting as fodder for your greedy vanguard. One notable feature of these units is that they sport 5000 base power which is quite low but not without purpose. In addition to basically screaming fodder due to poor stats, units with 5k power are noteworthy in Shadow Paladins as they are therefore searchable by arguably the most powerful Grade 1 in the clan: Skull Witch Nemain.
This single card grants you access to not only all of the units above, but also facilitates the PBD ride combo. If that wasn’t enough, her superior calls are active every turn, are essentially free, and are fully controlled by the choice of the player. No matter what you aim to do, Nemain should be an Automatic 4-of staple as she gives you access to everything and provides an absurd amount of card advantage.
Conversely, the ratios of her call targets generally range from 1-3 depending on importance. As a rule of thumb (which we applied with Luard), only consider running 3 copies if they are an important part of a combo or finisher, namely Greete or Golmark. Cards that offer utility and/or resources, like Abyssal Owl and Dumpdood, are best off at 1-2 copies.
Anyway, another unit I want to highlight here is Greete. Greete is one of your most powerful Grade 1s as it perfectly supports PBD/PBO by way of granting it a sort of win condition. Looking at the effect, it of course works well with PBO as it can be a beefy booster which in combination with the vanguard will lead to the opponent being in a tight spot should they be at 5 damage. However, as I foreshadowed previously, there is a wicked combo with Greete and PBD specifically. See, PBD’s first skill is not once per turn, meaning you can rack up 6 retires (30k power for Greete) and 30k power and 2 criticals for PBD. This is already devastating for the opponent, but what pushes it even further is PBD’s second skill. Being able to deal a damage via PBD’s effect and then threaten for a damage via Greete means that you can bring the opponent from 4 to 6 damage from skills alone (not to mention you having a vanguard with multiple criticals in of himself). While the play only requires 2 specific cards, it is a very resource-intensive combo but one you have to be always aware of as it can catch an opponent in a ferocious catch-22 situation.
Alternative Grade 3 Finishers
Remember our friend Mordred Phantom? Well he’s back and he’s brought his evil half with him. For those of you who want to add in an extra helping of finishing power to Blasters, then look no forward than these two options. Starting with probably the lesser of these two options, we have Gust Blaster Dragon. Simply put, it’s a gimmicky one-shot kill option that seeks to stack on criticals to end the game suddenly. Unfortunately, Gust Blaster has fallen off for a good while due to it being countered by heal guardians and for not being as necessary with the presence of PBO in the deck.
What is potentially worth being included is Mordred. Now this may seem kind of strange right? While he is a Revenger boss, he’s actually super synergistic with the Blaster strategy. Since his skill is all about Blaster Dark, a staple of the Blaster deck already, he does not require you to change the rest of the core of the deck significantly as he does not check for the Revenger name at all. This makes Mordred a solid finisher as he can rack up markers and push for game via raw power which PBO is a little lacking in by comparison.
In fact Mordred is so generic in that regard, where it’s possible to have builds entirely centered around him as the decks main Vanguard and using the strong toolboxing options Shadow Paladin has. Furthermore, Mordred works well with other friends such as Nullity Revenger (which also searches Blaster Dark) and Golmark who creates extra attacks as long as the Vanguard is a Phantom. The latter actually enables a potential 7 attacks in a turn which, paired with Force Marker generation, is easily one of the strongest turns in the clan. Yikes.
If you do choose to build with multiple different Grades 3s, this does create a layer of inconsistency that you have to account for. Riding the correct vanguard isn’t as guaranteed since you’re running more Grade 3s, not to mention running Mordred and his supporting Revengers reduces the amount of Blaster targets you have in deck for PBO. Furthermore, running cards like Mordred, Transient Revenger, and Golmark will take a heavy toll on your Counter-Blasts as they each ask for a CB. It can get expensive real quick and in some ways puts the deck on a timer. You have to know when and what skills to go for to seize the moment and get the most of the deck.
Personally, I recommend Mordred in blasters as the amount of synergy and power he adds to the strategy is hard to pass up and elevates the deck in my opinion. Generally if you do so, highly consider running 2-3 copies of the Masquerades to get the most out of him.
Now as for G3 ratios, this is more debatable, I generally aim for 2-3 copies of each alternative grade 3 while keeping PBO at 4 copies since he is the main vanguard of the deck. You’ll also want to run 2, maybe 3, of the Masquerades to maximize the Mordred sub-strategy.
Pros and Cons:
|Solid Field Control||Dependent on ride engine|
|Variety of potential Vanguards||Needs fodder to sustain itself|
|Great critical pressure||Low hand size is an issue|
|Access to several win cons (Greete + PBD, Mordred + Golmark, etc)||Piece Reliant (Nemain, Blaster Dark, PBD engine, Greete, etc.)|
Last but not least, we have Claret Sword. Hailing from the darkness within the United Sanctuary, Claret Sword Dragon was once a grandmaster of unyielding cruelty and discipline within his faction of the Shadow Paladin clan. Demanding sacrifice and absolute from those under him, the ambitions of Claret Sword Dragon eventually led to the most devastating rebellion in the history of the united sanctuary, where Claret Sword finally received a warrior’s death, his aspirations for supremacy left unfulfilled.
First released during the early G era in “Sovereign Star Dragon”, Claret Sword Dragon is a fan favorite unit of the G era, due in no small part to it being the vanguard of one of the series’ most popular characters, Yuuichiro Kanzaki. However, Claret Sword Dragon is still a formidable unit that upholds the pride of the Shadow Paladin clan.
Although the deck would appear to be similar to Luard since it also emphasizes the use of Grade 1 units, Claret Sword takes a much more brutal approach in how it utilizes said grade 1s. Rather than using them to build up a ritual and the field, Claret Sword simply massacres them en masse for the sake of his own power. To that end, the deck is an extremely aggressive mill strategy that aims to achieve a quick kill. Furthermore, the deck is mostly vanguard-centric and operates to support Claret Sword with the appropriate fodder and power to vanquish his foes.
Yup, it’s just Claret Sword. And really, that’s all it needs to be. Why? Because he’s the sole point of the deck. Taking a closer look at his skills, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: Why the heck does this dude bind SEVEN grade 1s? In addition to that seeming like a ludicrous cost, it only leads to a simple vanguard restand which has the audacity to lose a drive. Seems bad right? Well not quite.
When he was first released, Claret Sword was somewhat decent for the time as, when you pair his first skill with the critical provided by Force 2, Claret Sword swinging twice is actually fairly menacing. Even one Grade 1 milled results in +10k power which already puts Claret Sword in range for magic numbers. However, the steep cost and lack of dedicated support led to the deck falling off for a good while until one fateful promo finally arrived…
Apologies for the blurry image, this guy only recently got an english release so pics were basically non-existent, but why wait for one when you can just use shadow magic (cropping) to make one yourself? Jokes aside, Amergin is a veritable godsend for Claret Sword Dragon and almost single-handedly makes the deck viable again. Being able to serve as the entire cost for your Claret Sword’s effect is simply incredible and makes the deck far more economic than it was previously, not to mention the first effect providing that touch of added milling. Thanks to the chad Amergin, Claret Sword is now consistent and has the ability to sustain itself, making the deck more well-rounded and legitimate rather than a simple Casino deck. Needless to say, run 4 of this absolute unit.
Claret’s Order of Knights
Ah yeah, the boys are back. These 4 units were a part of the original Claret Sword Dragon deck back in G and now they’ve returned better than ever in V to support the grandmaster once more. And just so, as all 4 of these cards are basically automatic includes in the deck due to being the backbone of the mill strategy. When reading the effects, the theme is obvious: murder your grade 1s and profit. And these units all do it pretty well and, thankfully, for little to no cost.
One element to keep in mind with Claret’s Band is the power-ups they gain. Since you’ll be going Force 2, you will end up putting crits on your rear guards when you reride. The issue however is that if said rears have pathetic power levels, then those crits are essentially worthless due to their attacks being easy to guard. So make sure to use the added buffs well to make strong columns and make the opponent sweat.
As for ratios (always a key talking point), these cards are best run at 3-4 copies. After all, these aren’t tool box options to be run at small quantities; they are the core of the deck along with Claret and Amergin, so you will want to see them. Furthermore, they aren’t as readily searchable so running more than a couple copies is important to insure that you draw into them and keep the deck progressing.
Old Friends Make A Return
Remember these guys? They may have been introduced in other decks, but they can certainly help out a fellow knight in need. Nemain is a solid unit for acquiring additional field presence (or fodder should Claret need more Grade 1s) and offers a good range of utility since the 5k lineup is a toolbox. Furthermore, she facilitates the PBD ride engine which works well in this deck because early aggression is the name of the game as it will give you that extra Force Marker.
I’ve already discussed the engine so I won’t repeat myself but one thing new to note is that in this deck PBD can unironically be a good vanguard to sit on if Claret Sword is not set up. Having him as your vanguard grants you the option of retiring the opponent’s rearguards (and swinging with a lethal vanguard) while dispatching your Grade 1 rears to build up to 7.
Ildona is here for being just great support for the Grade 1 gimmick of shadows and serves as both a searcher and as an additional Grade 1, leading to a more consistent deck overall. Plus, you’re more inclined to attack with him so his added draw power is a solid bonus. Ratios for him in this particular deck are just as up in the air as it was in Luard, though my initial testing suggests that 2-3 copies may be the way to go.
Before we wrap up Claret, I wanted to mention a few more knights that are worthy of consideration. Starting with Baddaden, this card is very legitimate in claret Sword due to making your columns stronger with his 10k bonuses which definitely comes in handy so consider him if you’ve got extra space. The main cards I want to talk about though are Charon and Liafail. Liafail is generically good stuff and basically every version of shadow paladins in V could run him. The counter-blast can be a bit costly though depending on the version of the deck, so a common search target is Charon.
Charon is choice restricted with Dragheart Luard and Nemain. This was meant to reign in Luard which was rampant in the meta but it impacts the whole clan. My personal recommendation is to go with Nemain as she offers a wide range of services whereas Charon only really serves to refund the cost of your effects a bit. Some would argue a countercharge is key, but in my experience said countercharge isn’t very necessary though this varies between players. Alas, the choice is yours dear reader.
Ratios are also contentious. Baddaden may not see play due to Ildona, but should you play him, he may legitimately just be a 1-of tech option. On the other hand, if you run Liafail, you’re probably going to run him at around 3-4 (some may consider 2 if space is really tight) copies since he’ll be a good searcher for you. Part and Parcel with that, you’ll want to run on average 2 Charon as the dedicated counter charger.
Pros and Cons:
|Fantastic early rush||Rearguards are fairly weak|
|Claret Sword can OTK||Linear and predictable gameplan|
|Critical pressure can deny CB||Can deck out due to mill and calls|
|Able to use generic support||Amergin carries the deck|
Honorable Mentions: Witches
And just for the sake of completion, let’s briefly discuss witches. In lore, many of the witches in the Shadow Paladin clan actually originated from the Genesis clan but were exiled, usually due to committing some heinous act or taboo. Egotistical and mysterious, these shadow witches often act purely out of their own desires, whether that be to the benefit or detriment of those around them.
Although the Witch sub-clan has been around since the clan was first released, it did not truly become a strategy of its own merit until the Legion era. Possessing a unique aesthetic and gimmick, Witches have a niche following in the game and are often recognized more for their supportive role in other decks rather than their own.
Here’s where things get weird. As opposed to some of the previous decks discussed, Witches don’t have an emphasis on Grade 1 units. No, instead they focus on Grade 0 units. That’s right, GRADE 0 units. And if that wasn’t bizarre enough already, their gimmick centers around calling Grade 0 cards to the opponent’s field, not yours. The idea is that the calling of Grade 0 units is akin to casting “curses” on the opponent which debilitates their field while enabling access to your main effects. Aside from that, Witches do maintain trace elements of self-retire as per tradition. Now, there’s a lot of issues with Witches right now- some of which being the gimmick itself- but let’s first discuss the main cards and effect the deck has to offer before we examine its flaws.
Wow, now that’s some beautiful Legion artwork! Too bad the units themselves aren’t currently the greatest. But more on that in a minute. Something you may be wondering about is why there is a Grade 2 as one of your main vanguards? Well see that’s another wonky feature of Witches: they can have two vanguards. Indeed, the pseudo-legion effect of Fianna allows Femme to be treated as a vanguard, allowing you to use her Vanguard skill and perform drive checks. This is pretty impressive at first glance, especially since Fianna and Femme’s effects could net you extra power and a drive to make the double vanguard swing more potent.
However, there’s some issues here. For one, although achieving this Legion is pretty simple, it’s also not terribly impactful. After all, the cost of retiring 2 rear guards for this effect essentially adds up to a break even in card economy and only plusses if you get the extra drive for Femme. And on that note, Femme’s effect is neat but not likely to net you a drive if the opponent has even one G1 or greater unit on field, so it comes off as more of an inconvenience to the opponent’s board than anything. And even if you do, this and Femme’s minor power buff are the ONLY real benefit of the Grade 0 gimmick. Just 2 vanguard attacks with decent power and a tad bit of field control.
Here’s some of the witches that you’ll probably end up running in the deck, two of witch (pun intended) aren’t even in english yet. Luba is basic draw power with the added benefit of recycling a unit, clearly intended to Femme so that Fianna can search her from deck. That said, it’s all she does so her presence is debatable. What isn’t debatable is the best witch of all time, Nemain. You should definitely run 4 of her along with whichever of the 5k units you see fit. I must also note that most Witch decks do run the PBD engine for the extra force marker and also simply because it has room to do so. This means that Nemain is ever so important as it assists the engine while also providing resources and another Witch name to the deck.
The card on the bottom right is a promo for the deck which is a fairly solid addition to the strategy called Witch of Precious Stones, Dana. She essentially allows you to call more Grade 0 cards from the opponent’s drop zone which is nice since you don’t have to rely on Femme exclusively to do so. Unfortunately, as previously stated, the payoff for the Grade 0 gimmick is pretty low so Dana’s true potential isn’t yet realized. Still, she’s a fine addition to the deck and can be a 3-4 of though less copies aren’t an issue.
The card on the bottom left is actually another unit set to release in Clan Collection Vol. 6: Witch of Cursed Talisman, Etain. As with Dragruler, I’ll go into her effect in more detail since she’s brand new. So Etain has 2 effects, the first one being that when she’s attacked as your vanguard, or when you guard with her, you can retire two of your Witch rear guards to retire one of your opponent’s standing rear guards. Her second effect is active while she is on the rear guard and your vanguard is a Witch, the effect being that she gains 5k power, the ability to intercept, and cannot be chosen by the opponent’s effect.
So yeah this is a pretty abnormal effect (a sentiment that basically describes this deck as a whole) which is pretty neat overall. The defensive skill is solid though you’re best off using it when placing her as a guardian since as a vanguard she has no offensive skills. Still, it’s a cool ability that can be devastating in some matchups, particularly against fellow Force Clans and decks that restand their rear guards.
The rear guard effect gives it a 5k power-up, the ability to intercept, and an ability which protects itself against removal effects. While this is nice, it does not enhance the deck’s pushing power enough; in other words, it simply keeps them in the game rather than helps them end it. Also, the card has only recently been revealed as of the time of writing this article, so ratios aren’t conclusive and need testing to determine the proper amount.
The State of Witches
So this is a section that isn’t present in any of the other decks, the reason being that those decks are relatively complete and viable whereas Witches are plagued with a myriad of problems. Straight away I will admit that I felt tempted to not bring up Witches due to the deck being so bare bones and lacking support. Although there are a good number of witches in V-Premium, only a few of them actually directly support Fianna and not all of them are even currently available in english. On top of that, generic Shadow Paladin support isn’t designed to support the calling of Grade 0s to the opponent’s field as this is esoteric to what the clan traditionally does.
This sets the foundation for the deck’s other big issue which is that its gimmick is honestly pretty underwhelming. I’ve already brought up the issue of insufficient payoff, but when looking at the gimmick itself, there are some inherent weaknesses. For one, having to call Grade 0s from the opponent’s drop zone over their own units leaves room for the opponent to counter-play against you since they could abstain from leaving cards on field or even grade 0s in drop in some cases. Furthermore, calling over units with other units- even if they’re just Grade 0s- is inferior to simply retiring them as the opponent technically doesn’t lose out on card economy. Not to say that this isn’t annoying as heck and messes with the opponent, but it’s still not quite as good as a retire.
So what needs to be done to fix Witches?
Well mainly they need more support, but not just any support will do. For example, Etain is a neat card but despite her being Witch support, she doesn’t actually do much to further the strategy of the deck. Simply put, Witches did not need a defense card. So then, what do they need exactly?
Above all else, the deck actually needs a win condition. As of right now, it subsists on basic shenanigans revolving around card advantage and the superior ride engine but nothing about its current strategy actually presents sufficient pressure to the opponent. Lacking a good way to conduct more than 3 attacks also makes Witches a very grindy deck that lacks a good push.
I propose that a card is released which provides significant power bonuses and other benefits, such as criticals or a guard restrict, to your units depending on how many grade 0s are in the opponent’s drop zone. Other avenues could be taken of course such as debuffing the opponent’s vanguard instead, very much like what they used to do back in the day.
Ultimately, the deck is more or less “in development” in V-Premium. It has a cool concept and the artwork is honestly amazing, so I and many other players do hope that Witches will one day receive the support it desperately needs to finally be able to stand on its own as a deck. As of now though, it’s only an honorable mention.
So summing it up, Shadow Paladins as a clan has a good deal of variety while maintaining its identity in both its mechanics and aesthetic. This was designed to be more of an introduction than an in-depth guide, but I tried to put in as much real detail as I could while keeping things efficient and flavorful. I hope this article helps put many players on the path to becoming a Shadow Paladin player. And to those who still feel that this clan isn’t your cup of tea, I hope you at least enjoyed this article and perhaps learned something new in the process.
Take care and God bless!
Edited and Graphics by Cipher
- Tempo deck: A deck strategy that combines elements of aggression and control to dictate the flow of the game, often leading to a sudden victory/win condition.
- G Era: The second era of vanguard (2015-2018) which introduced the G-zone and keywords for clans.
- Retrain: When a card that already exists is reprinted as a new card with a new effect/art.
- Limit Break: Based on an old ability from OG vanguard. It refers to effects that activate as long as you have 4 or more damage.
- Ritual: Introduced in the G era as the keyword for Shadow Paladins. It refers to effects that are active once you have a certain amount of Grade 1 units in your drop zone.
- Toolbox Deck: Decks that contain a variety of different abilities, or “tools”, often easily accessible at will to combat different situations.
- Ramp: A feature of decks where they aim to build up their resources to meet large costs or conditions, generally over the course of a few turns.
- Midroll: Describes decks/strategies which aim for win conditions that are more reliable, opting for consistency and options over sheer power.
- Highroll: As opposed to Midroll, these decks opt for hard to achieve or unlikely win conditions which are less reliable but far more explosive.
- Turbo Deck: Decks which are built around the sole purpose of meeting a particular goal or win condition, usually at the expense of versatility and fallback plans.
- Heal Guardians: Grade 3 heal triggers released recently in V-Premium. They feature a couple of powerful defensive skills for the early game and are considered by most players to be staples in most decks.
- Mill: An act/strategy that involves sending cards from the hand and/or deck (mainly deck) to the drop zone.
- Force 2: One of the 6 imaginary gifts in the game of vanguard. There are 2 Force, Protect, and Accel markers each which all have unique abilities.
- Casino Deck: Remember the Highroll note? Crank that baby up to 11 and you’ve got Casino decks which aim for the stars but will have to wrestle with lady luck for it.
- Magic Numbers: Ok this is a pretty important one. In vanguard, there are certain power thresholds that units achieve when units attack which require the opponent to guard. This much is obvious, but when you get into the nitty gritty of it, you can swing for numbers that just barely hit new thresholds but still require the full guard. For instance, 28k power is a great magic number because when the opponent is on a 13k vanguard, the difference is only 15k but the opponent will have to guard for 20k, leading to a 5k difference in your favor. In other words, you are minimizing your effort in attacking while maximizing their effort in guarding, an essential tactic to coming out on top in most matches.
- Choice Restriction: a type of ban on the restriction list (aka the banlist) where a player can only play one of the cards choice restricted in a deck (the chosen card can be run at 4 copies though). Choice restrictions serve to deny busted combos between cards while also not banning them, thereby allowing players to still play them potentially.
- Meta: refers to the competitive element of a card game, such as tournaments and tournament-viable decks.
- OTK: Stands for One Turn Kill. Nuff said.
- G-assist: A mechanic of the game that occurs when the opponent is unable to ride up from Grades 0-2. It allows the player to look at the top 5 cards of the deck and add a unit of the appropriate grade to the hand- thus securing the ride- but at the cost of removing two cards in hand from the game.
- Searcher: Cards which allow you to obtain other units from the deck to your field or hand.
- Legion: Another mechanic of OG vanguard. It allowed the Grade 3 vanguard to place its Legion “mate” alongside it on the vanguard circle, combining their attacks and effects.
- Card Economy: Refers to how many cards you have on the field and in the hand. The more cards you can generate, the better.