My name is Brandon Bastianelli. I’m 23 years old and I’m from Michigan. I started playing TCG’s back in 2002, and I’ve played games like Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic the Gathering, Universal Fighting System, and most recently Cardfight!! Vanguard. I took an extreme interest in Vanguard early on, and devoted alot of my time to studying the game and playtesting.
Since then I’ve played in three Qualifiers and even earned my invite to the North American National Championship. I participated in three qualifying events including a 5-1 finish in Toronto, a perfect 7-0 with first place finish in Chicago, and finally a 7-2 finish in Anaheim. During the National Championship I finished 2-2 with some unfortunate losses.
I’d like to thank CoreTCG for giving me the opportunity to write articles for their blog: I hope that with these articles we can create a more successful Cardfight!! Vanguard community. My aim for these articles is to share the knowledge I’ve gained from my past year of accomplishments and to provide readers with the secrets of my play testing and deck building that took me to Nationals.
The Deck Lists
I originally constructed a Spectral Duke Dragon Gold Paladins build to take to Toronto, but due to financial constraints I was forced to sell it. I instead decided to test my old Royal Paladin list that I was still fairly confident in before the tournament. By the time Toronto had come around, through playtesting and local tournaments, our group gained a fair amount of experience against most every playable deck.
This is my list from Toronto:
Grade 1: 16
4 Knight of Quests, Galahad
4 Little Sage, Marron
4 Flash Shield, Iseult
Grade 2: 10
4 Knight of Silence, Gallatin
4 Knight of Determination, Lamorak
3 Blaster Blade
Grade 3: 7
4 King of Knights, Alfred
3 Swordsman of the Explosive Flames, Palamedes
1 Soul Saver Dragon
The basic idea of the deck was to be extremely consistent and have powerful columns. Having twelve criticals made it easier to make plays, understanding that the only types of triggers I could drive check would affect damage.
One of the biggest problems with the deck is that without Barcgal, Royal Paladins don’t have a Starting Vanguard that can produce guaranteed card advantage like nearly every other clan. The only way to even out the card economy against most decks was to get the superior ride off of Drangal’s ability.
In the Toronto Qualifier I played two Lawkeeper Kagero; Oracle Think Tank; Galahad Royal Paladin; Spike Brothers; and Narukami. My only loss was to John Pedro playing Spike Brothers, who later took second place in that event. Being the first Qualifier, the skill level varied significantly from player to player, but there were a good number of skilled competitors. There was the occasional incomplete deck missing some of the more staple cards for their clan of choice, but the majority of people seemed to have fairly standard builds with three to four perfect guards. After finishing Round 6 I was relieved when I was confirmed to make Top 8.
The judge staff collected our decks and began the deck check process.
When they were finished, our decks were placed at the table we would play at, and our seats were called. My Top 8 opponent was using a Tsukuyomi Oracle Think Tank build. The match was going in my favor for the most part, but in a moment of desperation he was able to hit two critical triggers when I guarded for two triggers to pass. He gambled on placing the first one on the Vanguard, even though he knew that after that one he only had one left in deck, but his gambit paid off. I extended the handshake after placing all three cards in my damage, and continued to watch the remaining matches. Thankfully my teammate Brandon Smith was able to take first place, so the trip was well worth it.
Knowing Brandon Smith was now qualified for Nationals, I was determined to make sure he wasn’t going alone. One of our local players was considering switching his incomplete Spectral Duke Dragon Gold Paladin build for a Royal Paladin build, so I offered him mine. With a bit more trading I was able to make a copy of the already well-tested Spectral Duke Dragon list that Smith had used in Toronto. I began testing it against the most popular competitive decks to familiarize myself with the different plays.
This was my list for Chicago:
Grade 1: 15
4 Scout of Darkness, Vortimer
4 Knight of Elegant Skills, Gareth
4 Halo Shield, Mark
2 Sleygal Dagger
1 Little Battler, Tron
Grade 2: 11
4 Black Dragon Knight, Vortimer
4 Knight of Superior Skills, Beaumains
3 Player of the Holy Bow, Viviane
Grade 3: 7
4 Spectral Duke Dragon
3 Gigantech Destroyer
I chose to run a Spectral Duke Dragon build because the deck has very strong early and late game pressure, even though it’s not necessarily as consistent as the Royal Paladin strategy. The possibility to have an 11k vanguard also makes guarding easier.
After a few weeks of testing it was already time for the Chicago Qualifier. In Chicago I played against two Spectral Duke Dragon Gold Paladin decks; a Spike Brothers build; CEO Amatarasu Oracle Think Tank splashing Still Vampir; a Lawkeeper Kagero; an odd Royal Paladin build; and Tsukuyomi Oracle Think Tank.
The deck that caught me off-guard was the CEO Amatarasu / Still Vampir Deck, using Still Vampir’s Mega Blast + Silent Toms to make it really difficult for you to guard for a turn once your damage is high. He called the Still Vampir to a rear-guard circle, used its megablast, then retired it to place down one Silent Tom, followed by a second Silent Tom. Thankfully I had enough guard in hand to last through the turn, and was able to win on the turn that followed. I also faced Brandon Smith during the Double Elimination rounds, but we already said beforehand that neither of us would concede to each other. I was able to get the win over him and continue my undefeated streak.
At the end of Round 7 I was undefeated, so the judge collected my deck while I waited to see who else made Top 8. Smith made Top 8 for a second time, along with our teammate Gary Zhang. After seeing how we were paired I was relieved to see I was not in the same Bracket as them, so we wouldn’t have to play each other until the Finals.
My first match of the Top 8 was against someone I knew from Facebook, Brandon Chmiel. He was playing Tsukuyomi Oracle Think Tank, the same deck I faced in Toronto. Throughout the game, I didn’t see a single Spectral Duke Dragon, but since he also failed to get a Grade 1 Tsukuyomi in the Soul, I was able to keep the pressure up using Gigantic Destroyer until he couldn’t guard anymore.
Second round I again faced Tsukuyomi. He missed his ride to Grade 2 on turn 2, and on turn 4 he again missed his ride from Grade 2 to Grade 3. Still, he was able to keep a steady defense through guarding and hitting a decent number of triggers. Once he rode to Grade 3 and used Tsukuyomi’s effect I noticed he was running out of cards in deck. I was able to keep the pressure up and force him to eventually choose not to attack with his vanguard, or deck out. He decided to just end it there and deck out.
During the Finals I faced Connor Murphy, who’d defeated both Brandon and Gary previously. He was playing the Garmore/Ezel Gold Paladin list, splashing Spectral Duke Dragon as a finisher. Even though nothing other than bragging rights were on the line, I still played to the best of my ability. I was able to hit the entire ride chain and hit two triggers, finally using Spectral Duke Dragon’s Limit Break to re-stand, eating a lot of extra guard from his hand. The constant attacks and card advantage was too much in the end, and I was able to outlast him.
Brandon Smith and I playtested three days a week after Chicago, preparing Nationals. With BT-07 coming out before the Championship, we proxied out the cards and began testing new decks against each other. We tested both a new build of Spectral Duke Dragon using BT-07 stuff, and the old version. I was fairly confident the old list would prove to be more consistent, and the end result was that we ended up taking the same list to California.
I decided to play in the Qualifier the day before Nationals for the sake of playtesting. During the Anaheim Qualifier I played against Pale Moon; Royal Paladin; Narukami; two Kagero decks; two Spectral Duke Dragons; an Ezel/Garmore Gold Paladin build; and Nova Grappler. I went undefeated all the way to Round 7, but in the end I wasn’t meant to get a third Top 8. Going undefeated for seven Rounds again, I felt fairly confident headed into Nationals.
The National Championship
After breakfast I went to the opening ceremony with Brandon Smith and John Pedro. After Registration and Deck Check, I was seated next to my opponent, Thanh Ly.
Round 1 – Thanh Ly with Ezel / Garmore:
I was unaware of what he was playing, but since he played Gold Paladins in his Qualifier, I assumed he’d be playing them again. He was in fact playing an updated version of his Ezel / Garmore deck. Game 1 he hit significantly more triggers than I did, and I couldn’t keep up. Game 2 we both struggled to ride past Grade 0 for several turns. But eventually I was able to ride before he was, and in the end I won, evening up the match score. Game 3, he superior rode to Ezel while going first, and I had 3 Grade 3 units in hand, making it fairly tough to guard. He was able to get far too much damage in before I could guard, and in the end he defeated me.
Round 2 – Huy Vi with Spectral Duke:
Going into the second round, I was slightly discouraged knowing I would have to win every match from here on out to even have a chance at Top 4, but I knew it was at least possible to still make it. My opponent this time was Huy Vi. Once we stood our vanguards, it was plain to see he was also playing a Spectral Duke Build. Both of our decks had differences, one of which was that he chose to run Garmore instead of Gigantic Destroyer, so that he could have an alternate Vanguard. He also ran cards like Dindrane to make Garmore more effective. In the end, I just ended up having an easier time making efficient lines in each game, and he occasionally had to ride Garmore instead of Spectral Duke Dragon, which didn’t prove to be as effective.
Round 3 – Thomas Cassidy:
Next I faced off against Thomas Cassidy. His play style was vastly different than mine, and he made a few decisions I didn’t agree with. For instance, after checking a critical during the drive check, he placed it on the rearguard and didn’t attack with it, just so I’d be unable to limit break. In the end he was unable to keep up and was eliminated.
Round 4 – Gabriel Esinosa with Narukami:
In Round 4 I faced off against Gabriel Espinosa, one of the few players not running Gold Paladins. He was one of the two playing Narukami instead. Shortly into Game 1 I noticed him drive check a “Wyvern Strike, Tejas” much to my surprise. He was definitely was a player to use a card from outside his clan as efficiently as he did, considering it made his deck significantly more effective than a standard Narukami build.
Game 1, I nearly defeated him but he was able to hit two triggers and apply both to the vanguard in a move of desperation, similar to my opponent from Toronto. Game 2 I was able to defeat him fairly quickly, but Game 3 nearly went to time. In the end, I went two turns straight without hitting the critical trigger I needed to seal the game, making three drive checks using Spectral Duke Dragon’s limit break. I knew time was almost up for the Round and I didn’t want to win nor lose to the Sudden Death rules, as it just wouldn’t have felt like the right way for a Nationals match to end.
I greatly enjoyed my experience at Nationals, and I hope to do even better next year. I have faith that this game will continue to grow, considering Anaheim’s Qualifier had over 700 players, and this was only the game’s first year in the United States. I’ll continue to practice and get better so that next year I’ll hopefully be one of the lucky few to represent the country in Japan.