So, like every Friday, Bushiroad usually gives us a high rarity card to end the week on a high note before the next episode of the anime. With two missing triple rare cards remaining in Booster Set 02 (One for Pale Moon and the other, most likely for Murakumo although it isn’t confirmed), my expectation was quite mediocre. After seeing the majesty of Death Anchor on Bushiroad’s Tuesday live stream, I was expecting some middle of the road holographic card but to my surprise, we got the big guy himself; Phantom Blaster Dragon.
[ACT](VC): COST [Counter Blast (1) & retire three of your rear-guards], your opponent chooses three of his or her rear-guards, and retires them. This unit gets [Power]+15000/[Critical]+1 until end of turn.
[ACT](VC)[1/Turn]: If your opponent has no rear-guards and 4 or fewer cards in his or her damage zone, COST [Soul Blast (1) Grade 3], and deal one damage to your opponent’s vanguard.
My excitement rose as I read the card’s effect, then I read it again and finally after reading it for the third time, I said to myself “Is that all?”
Do not get me wrong, this card is Phantom Blaster Dragon, his first skill is a cheaper version (1 Counter Blast instead of 2) of its original incarnation’s main skill with a slightly higher power gain (15,000 instead of 10,000). The retire three rear-guards cost is taken directly from his original version as well. However, this variant also retires three of your opponent’s rear-guards (or all of them if they have less than three), making the cost a breakeven in field advantage and setting up the second skill.
The second skill, however, is what makes this card extremely unrewarding to play. By soul-blasting a Grade 3 unit when your opponent has no rear-guards and four or less damage, they take one damage. This skill is so over restricted it’s not funny, in a format where Dragonic Waterfall can restrict sentinels for the same cost while also getting a similar first skill for free on top that without any other restriction, why play Shadow Paladins again? There is merit to the automatic damage that it deals, despite the problems with this mechanic, an extra damage (especially putting your opponent from 4 to 5 damage) can change the game and force a change in the guarding dynamic. So, I’m okay with the damage dealing, the cost is okay too, but the zero rear-guard restriction is what really hurts this card and why I’m so disappointed. I would have preferred a sentinel restrict over the automatic damage, that way the two skills are dependent on your play, not your opponents which seems a lot more Machiavellian and is how I imagine Ren will play the deck in the anime.
Shadow Paladins have always had an aggressive control playstyle and this card is the epitome of that. However, unlike 2011-2012 when the original Phantom Blaster Dragon was released (he was also extremely uncompetitive and didn’t see much play until his “Overlord” Incarnation in BT05) modern V series has a couple of problem cards that make it difficult to use this card’s skill. OTT comes to mind and everyone’s favourite blonde stick in the mud: Promise Daughter. Her semi-resist skill completely stops all of the retire effects from cards like Blaster Dark, Blaster Rapier, Blaster Dagger and Dark Dictator, since your opponent can just pick her every time you use a skill to retire something and since she doesn’t retire at all, your cards are effectively vanilla. Due to the OTT dominance in the Japanese competitive scene since the beginning of the V series, the clan is going to be quite common and it’s just a very bad match up for Shadow Paladin and the big dragon himself.
The one saving grace this card has is versatility, riding this card as your first Grade 3 may remove the ability to use the second skill, the first skill is completely usable. If you go first and ride Phantom Blaster Dragon while your opponent is on Grade 2, giving it the Force gift marker and using its first skill, results in a 38,000-power attack that is dealing 2 damage plus triggers if it hits. That is with a minimum of 30,000-shield for only one trigger to pass against a 9,000 or 10,000 power base unit. This requires you to retire three rear guards and your opponent (if they are smart) won’t have any, making this strategy extremely risky. Nothing like going negative three to get stopped by a sentinel. Due to the fact that Shadow Paladins have no advantage engine, this cost will hurt you in the long run. Playing this card after stalling out your opponent seems like the better strategy; however, this is a difficult as the other Force clans and especially the Protect clans have resource engines, greater card advantage and can deal with situations when running low on resources far better than Shadow Paladins do, I am highly sceptical on how exactly this card and his clan will close out card fights. However, unlike Dragonic Waterfall, Soul Saver Dragon, Great Daiyusha or Juggernaut Maximum, Phantom Blaster Dragon can stand on its own when you ride him first, which will be most of the time because you will be retiring your own units with his skill anyway.
Will this card be an expensive VR? Of course, it is the Shadow Paladin VR after all. Will it see play? Of course, I’m sure Phantom Blaster Dragon and his clan will see plenty of representation in the Japanese meta. Is this card “good’? it’s versatile which I think is enough. I’m really excited to see how the card fighters build Shadow Paladins and how well it does after the release of Booster Set 02 in Japan on the 31st of August.
Victory Ride is where I analyse, critique and see past the hype of the CFV community by checking out V series reveals of high rarity cards. These cards will probably break the bank but are they always worth the money?