For Cardfight!! Vanguard Dear Days plpayers, this is a comprehensive guide which will help you with the basics and introduce some more complex concepts to help you improve.
Vanguard is a game that’s been around for some time, but it has consistently had power creep issues. D-Series is actually its second reboot and is the new Standard format, only allowing cards from D-Series (which are, conveniently, the only cards available in Dear Days, so no bamboozle). Last time this happened someone pretty senior fell on their sword and the entire design team was sacked which is pretty unthinkable for a Japanese company, so this time things are looking very balanced – even the ‘very good’ decks aren’t tier 0, and the gaps between tiers are much smaller than they have been in previous editions.
This guide will cover some basic and some advanced information to help you out, with particular attention paid to the Comprehensive Rules, which are available through the official Vanguard website and provide some useful insight. I don’t plan to cover the most basic of basics (e.g. how to read a card), since the game itself covers that, but anything above that should be in this guide.
There’s also a video version of this that I did a little while ago, if you’d rather watch a video than read something.
Like any card game, there’s plenty of slang going around in Vanguard; this list is roughly alphabetical and a lot of this jargon is used by western card games generally, not just Vanguard.
- Crit: contextual; can mean either the actual critical statistic of a card, or refer to a Critical Trigger.
- FVG: your First Vanguard, the grade 0 card that begins facedown on the field. The specific card generally doesn’t matter in D-Series aside from ride chains.
- Ride Chain: a series of cards that you ride every turn. Originally these were something of a gimmick because missing your ride chain was often more of a drawback than the benefit of hitting it justified, but the Ride Deck in D-Series guaranteeing you get the ride each turn you want means that most decks will have an obvious ride chain option. For example, in Drajeweled, your Ride Deck, from g0 to g3, consists of the ride chain of Jewelias Dracokid; Jewel Core Dragon; Demonic Stone Dragon, Jewelneel; and finally Demonic Jewel Dragon, Drajeweled. Not all decks have a ride chain, but most do.
- VG: your Vanguard. The card on your Vanguard Circle, generally.
- RG: your Rearguard(s). Cards on your Rearguard Circles.
- g#: # is always a number. The Grade of the specified card.
- PG: a card with the Perfect Guard (kanzen gaado) effect – [AUTO]:When this unit is put on (GC), choose one of your units, and it cannot be hit until end of that battle. If your hand has two or more cards, choose a card from your hand, and discard it. (There are older versions that require a discard regardless; don’t use those.) Note that Sentinels aren’t always PGs – D-Series currently has no Sentinels that aren’t PGs, but the Sentinel keyword and having the PG effect aren’t the same thing.
- OT: the OverTrigger. Repost to scare a western Vanguard player.
- VC/RC/GC: the Vanguard Circle, Rearguard Circle(s), and Guardian Circle. This is how you write the VC/RC/GC symbols that appear in card text (works in Dear Days’ card filter!), and is commonly used to show where a card needs to be for its effect to work, or which circles it can influence.
- Retire: the correct term for a card being sent from the field or guardian circle to the drop zone. You may also hear ‘drop’ or any variations on ‘destroy’ (e.g. ‘nuke’, ‘kill’, ‘get rid of’).
- Un/Tap: MtG terms for what Vanguard refers to as “stand” (untapped) and “rest” (tapped). Pretty commonly-used. Note that “stand” is a verb, whereas a unit that is already untapped is “standing” or “is stand”.
- Restand: standing a unit outside of the Stand Phase. Usually this refers to a Vanguard that can untap itself and attack again (usually with a reduced Drive), e.g. “you get a restand”.
- Tutor: either a card that lets you take another card out of the deck (usually by choosing it), or the act of doing so – for example, https://cardfight.fandom.com/wiki/Embodiment_of_Armor,_Bahr_(D_Series).
- Filter: either a card that lets you take cards out of the deck, or the act of doing so, often by drawing-and-discarding. ‘Filtering’ implies that you’re taking the card out of the deck less for the merits of the card itself, and more to remove cards from the deck (to improve trigger efficiency or tutoring for cards with narrow tutor conditions).
- SC/SB: Soul Charge and Soul Blast. Soul Charge is a specific action (Soul Charge X) that puts X cards from the top of your Deck into your Soul; Soul Blast X is a cost where you send X cards from your Soul to the Drop Zone.
- CB/CC: Counter Blast and Counter Charge. Counter Blast X is a cost paid by turning X face-up cards in your Damage Zone face-down; Counter Charge X is an effect that turns X face-down cards in your Damage Zone face-up.
- Skill: the correct term for a card’s effect, but you’ll hear people say ‘effect’ all the same.
It’s very common to abbreviate card names since they can be very long. For cards with long titles, like the aforementioned Embodiment of Armor, Bahr, it’s common to simply rationalize them down to their actual name (“Bahr”, in this case). For cards with shorter names, turning them into acronyms is more common. Here’s some quick ones:
- BB/BD: Blaster Blade and Blaster Dark
- DO/TE: Dragonic Overlord or Dragonic Overlord THE END. (you pronounce it the same as ‘dote’)
- MLB: Majesty Lord Blaster
- PBD/PBO: Phantom Blaster Dragon or Phantom Blaster Overlord
These are terms that might be written on a card or used in relation to a card without any real explanation.
- Glitter: keyword used as a condition for some cards. On its own it doesn’t do anything. (The “seeks the Fire Regalis” text is just flavor.)
- DCL: Damned Charging Lance, Phantom Blaster Dragon’s skill that retires your own units and gives it +10/+1. Generally speaking, these effects are more about threat than delivery, forcing your opponent to overcommit their hand to guarding, so other effects that are very flashy and scary might be referred to as a DCL skill.
- Delete: an obsolete effect from previous versions that deleted most of the card text from the opponent’s Vanguard and set their power to 0. Relevant here only because Drajeweled has a similar effect and may be referred to as ‘Delete’ by older players.
In previous editions of Vanguard, the rule was called “Clan Fight” and only allowed cards from one Clan rather than one Nation (which is how D-Series operates). While this is not overly relevant to the game today, cards may be referred to based on what clan they would be in, or what kind of effects they have might be discussed as being X Clan effect.
A deck in D-Series, and therefore Dear Days, requires the following:
- The deck must consist of exactly 50 cards.
- You must have a Ride Deck of 4 cards (counts against the main deck’s 50 card total, so there are actually 46 cards in your main deck when you start a game).
- Exactly 16 of the cards in your Deck must be Triggers.
- Of your Triggers, no more than 8 can be Critical Triggers and no more than 4 can be Heal Triggers, and only one can be an OverTrigger.
- A deck can only have 4 copies of a card with the same name. Cards that have CONT skills that always treat them as X are exempt, unlike in Yu-Gi-Oh!, so for example you can run 4 copies of Apex Ruler, Bastion alongside 4 copies of Sword of All People, Bastion Accord and no bamboozle.
- No more than 4 cards in the deck can have the Sentinel keyword (even if they’re different cards).
There are some further considerations to make here:
- If your Vanguard has the Persona Ride icon, you want to run 3 extra copies of it in the main deck. (This may be true even if it doesn’t, e.g. Chronojet)
- You are going to run 4 Sentinels. (Or die for nothing)
- You probably want to run Gratias Gradale, which gives you an extra Persona Ride card.
By the time you’ve done this (8 cards), your triggers (16 cards), and your ride deck (4 cards), you now have 22 ‘free space’ cards to put in whatever you want – less than half the deck size. At this point, you essentially have three considerations for what cards go in your deck: direct support, column breakpoints, and general usefulness. (Roughly in this order for most decks.)
Start by picking a Grade 3 that interests you. If you want to have a functional deck, this unit needs a VC skill (you can type ‘VC’ into Dear Days’ filter and it will show you all cards that specify this) and preferably it will also have a Persona Ride icon (this isn’t necessary but it helps a lot). Once you’ve done that, punch its name (just the name, not its title, e.g. for Diabolos, “Violence” Bruce, just filter ‘Bruce’) into the filter and you’ll almost certainly find the intended g2 and g1 that are meant to go into the Ride Deck with it, along with a bunch of direct support.
This is cards that either specifically namedrop your Vanguard, or have effects that are only useful in a set of conditions that only your Vanguard creates. For example, if you’re playing Gramgrace, then Ffernbael is direct support. For a first tilt at a deck, maximizing the amount of direct support cards you run is usually a fine decision, but for decks with a lot of support (e.g. Bastion, Bruce) you will have to pick and choose.
A ‘column’ is the combination of your card in the front row and the card behind it, although this term is usually only used if the card in the back row can Boost. Because of the way attack power works in Vanguard, there are some considerations to make here. First, attackers win ties – so you don’t need to go over the breakpoint you’re trying to hit, unless it takes you to the next breakpoint. Second, because shield power is fixed in intervals of 5000, you can calculate how many cards your opponent has to spend from hand to defend you. Let’s go over those quickly:
- 0: Grade 3 cards, Orders
- 5000: Grade 1 and Grade 2 cards, Draw Triggers (without skill)
- 10000: Draw Triggers (with skill), skill Heal Triggers (without skill)
- 15000: Critical Triggers, vanilla Heal Triggers, Front Triggers (without skill)
- 20000: Front Triggers (with skill)
- 25000: skill Heal Triggers (with skill)
- 50000: OverTrigger
This tells us what kind of power value we need our columns to hit (combining the power of the two cards with any bonus power from skills and potential triggers):
- 10000: minimum required to hit standard G2 cards. Misses standard G3 cards.
- 13000: minimum required to hit standard G3 cards.
- 18000: G1+G2 column with no skills. Opp must drop 10k shield to defend.
- 23000: Opp must drop 15k shield to defend.
- 28000: Opp must drop 20k shield to defend.
- 33000: Opp must drop 25k shield to defend.
- 38000+: Good luck defending this
Note that if you make it above one breakpoint but not to the next one (e.g. 21000 power), all the excess power is ‘wasted’ because it won’t force your opponent to spend more or more valuable cards from their hand to defend.
When you’re building your deck, it’s important that you think about what kind of columns you can make, and aim to make columns that can always reach 18k; if your deck can reliably make 23k columns (e.g. any Royal Paladin deck using Bedivere and Kay), you can pressure your opponent much more strongly, especially under Persona Ride.
It’s also important to remember that the trigger power boost is 10000 (except for the OverTrigger, which is +1mil and therefore cannot be blocked except by PGs or a defensive overtrigger); this means that if you’re guarding against the opponent’s Vanguard, you may want to drop 10k more than you actually need to defend with, to force opp to check 2 triggers instead of just 1.
Some nations have access to cards that are just generally good includes in a deck. For example, almost any Keter Sanctuary deck can afford to run a single copy each of G1 and G2 Maple, who create a recurring 23k column.
Alternatively, you may want to add an effect that you otherwise don’t have: for example, many Dark States deck can take advantage of Steam Battler, Gungnram to get an extra SC and draw, even if that isn’t the focus of the deck.
These are usually the cards you add in last, if you still have space after the cards you budgeted for in the previous decision points.
If your deck tops out at having a Grade 4 or higher Vanguard during your opponent’s turn (so not Chronojet), don’t run Elementaria Sanctitude, as its effect only applies to a g3 or lower Vanguard. It also can’t be used on your Rearguards.
When you first make a deck, unless there’s a very obvious reason why you should not do this (for example, your deck’s attack order sets your Vanguard last), run 4 Heals, 4 Crits, 4 Fronts, 3 Draws, and the OverTrigger. This is almost never the optimal trigger lineup for the deck, but you’ll quickly learn in testing which triggers you actually want in the deck and which you don’t need or aren’t useful to you. By preference, the card you want to run the least of is Draw Triggers because decks tutor and draw much more in D-Series than they used to and you can potentially deck yourself out, but the less tutoring your deck allows for, the more important Draws are. When deciding what to cut for the OT, if your deck runs Draw Triggers, always cut a Draw (because when you reveal the OT as a trigger you draw a card); if you only run Fronts and Crits, it’s generally preferable to cut a Crit, as many OTs give you +1 crit, but this depends on your deck and which OT you’re running. However, if you run Fronts at all, you generally want to maximize the number of them, as their 20k shield is very valuable.
When including Heal Triggers, I generally recommend running one of each skill trigger and two of the vanilla heal trigger – otherwise you can end up low on shield power.
Boost is the core mechanic possessed by G0 and G1 cards:
7.48.1. When there is an instruction to boost unit B with unit A, perform the following.
22.214.171.124. If unit A is in the rest state, or if unit B is not performing an attack, the performing of this instruction ends.
126.96.36.199. If unit A is in the stand state and unit B is performing an attack, rest unit A. From here
onwards until the end of the close step, as long as unit A and unit B are on their current circles, unit A is boosting unit B.
188.8.131.52.1. Each combination of unit A and unit B is considered as 1 instance of boosting.
14.5.1. “Boost“ is a continuous ability that indicates that the unit with this ability can perform boost.
14.5.2. If your unit attacks in a battle phase, you can choose your unit with “Boost“ in stand in the same column and boost the attacking unit. The boosting unit is rested, and the power of the boosted unit increases by the power of the boosting unit.
10.4.1.11. The turn player may choose a unit with boost (14.5) in the back circle of the same
column as the attacking unit, and have that unit boost (7.48.1) the attacking unit (or either of
the units for a vanguard in the legion state). If it boosts, rest that unit with boost.
10.4.1.11.1. Until the end of the close step, as long as the chosen unit is boosting, the power of the boosting unit is continuously added to the power of the boosted unit. At the same time, as long as a vanguard in the legion state is attacking, the legion mate is continuously added to the power of the legion leader.
The important takeway here is point 10.4.1.11.1: the power of the boosting unit is continuously added to the power of the boosted unit. This means that if the boosting unit’s power is increased for any reason, even after you declare the boost, the boosted unit’s power will reflect that increase. You used to be able to do some really funny crap with this in the original game in Nova Grappler but the degree to which you can abuse this is pretty limited now; however, it is one of the less-intuitive aspects of a mechanic you will likely interact with every turn of every game you play, so it’s worth going over here.
For example, if you are boosting your Vanguard and check a trigger, if you give the trigger power to the boosting unit, then the extra 10k will be forwarded to the Vanguard because the boosting unit’s power is “continuously” applied until the battle is over – not just when the attack and boost is declared.
G-Units go in the G-Deck, which consists of 0-16 cards (which must all be G-Units). At present, the only deck that can use these is Chronojet, but Messiah is coming. To use a G-Unit, you have to be able to Stride (at present this is only available through the Chronojet and Messiah Crest cards, and only Chronojet is present in Dear Days); in your Ride Phase, after your Ride Step, if your opponent’s Vanguard is Grade 3 or greater, you can discard cards that meet the condition of a face-down G-Unit in your G-Deck (by default, you have to discard cards with a total grade of 3 of greater, but some cards like Chronodragon Nextage want you to discard a specific card) and play that G-Unit on top of your Vanguard. This is where things get mildly complicated.
First, the card that you played the G-Unit on top of becomes the “Heart”. (Distinct from Soul; the “Heart” is basically part of the current Vanguard, and the Soul is the stack under them.) Note that this does not qualify as riding! A Heart card only retains its power and card name; its power is continuously applied to the G-Unit that strode on it, so the base power for G-Units is going to be 28000 (15000 from the G-Unit and 13000 from the Heart); the G-Unit also gains the card name of its Heart Card, so no bamboozle if your G-Unit has a weird name and you need a specific-name Vanguard for your support effects.
While the Heart card is always in the same state as the G-Unit, it becomes face-up and stand when you Stride on it as part of the rules resolution. (This isn’t useful in D-Series yet.)
Effects that were applied to the Heart card before it became a Heart don’t persist unless they have a specific clause indicating that they apply to Heart cards. (For example, the Chronojet Crest card specifies ‘including Heart cards’.)
At the end of the turn, the G-Unit goes back to the G-Deck face-up.
Generation Break X is a condition possessed by some cards which is active when the number of face-up G-Units in your G-Deck and on your field is X or higher. This means that Generation Break 2 becomes active if your stride G-Unit flips another G-Unit face up! Generally speaking this serves as a bit of a brake pedal so that you might have to stride twice before you get at your really strong effects.
For example, Chronodragon Nextage’s effect is GB2, which means you generally don’t want it to be the first G-Unit you Stride. Similarly, Chronojet Dragon’s first effect is also GB2, which means you usually can’t use it the turn you ride it.
Some decks rely heavily on having specific pieces on their field and some don’t. Which cards you want to remove with either attacks or removal skills tends to vary a lot depending on opp’s deck and your own, but there are some general considerations you can make:
- If you have removal skills, use them on your opponent’s back-row rearguards, as those can’t (normally) be attacked.
- Cards that have a skill that activated when they were placed and now don’t do anything are low priority for removal, as they are essentially vanillas.
- Cards that have skills that activate when their attack hits are good targets to remove, as they essentially force you to guard them even if you might otherwise prefer to soak up the damage and fish for a defensive trigger.
- Cards that have skills that activate in timings before the main phase are good targets to remove, as if your opponent plays them again in their main phase, they will miss their benefits. (These are unusual, and usually are unremovable Vanguards, but still.)
- Cards that let your opponent manipulate their trigger check are very good targets to remove.
- Try and avoid removing cards that have low power and cannot make good use of their skills anymore, especially if your opponent has had to stack up a bad column that is not threatening now – force them to call over their own cards if they want a real column.
As a rule, send back any triggers you picked up in your draw. After that, think about the frequency of the cards in your hand: if you opened anything that you run small amounts of, you might want to hang onto it.
In terms of what you should discard:
- At the start of the game, Draw Triggers are a good choice, as you can’t use them as anything but 5k shields for several turns.
- Grade 3 cards that are not your Persona Ride cards are also a good choice, since you can’t play them for a while.
- Try and hang onto your PGs, since they’ll save your life at the end of the game.
- Similar to your mulligan choices, cards you only run at a low frequency are better to hang onto.
Whichever one appeals to you, no joke. Learning by playing something you like the look of and are interested in will do you much better in the long run than just drifting to what’s popular, especially since the gap between tier 0 and rogue decks is much smaller than it previously has been.
In terms of a deck that is simple to play and learn, picking something straightforward like DOTE will do you okay, or you can just try iterating on one of the many trial decks.
Vanguard in general isn’t very popular in the west due to having no official tournaments for a long time – Vanguard is intended to be played as a team game, with 2/3 being done as up to three best-of-1 games between two teams of three players. While this is no problem in Japan, the west flatly refused to play ball and form teams, so for a very long time there were no official tournaments at all and tournaments were exclusively played as bo1, which is obviously pretty awful. Eventually there was some official support in the form of allowing western tournaments to have bo3 games between single players, but by this point the playerbase had become very entrenched and they now almost exclusively play Premium – this is the equivalent of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s Traditional format, so it’s an absurdly unbalanced mess. As a rule, if you hear people crying about any D-Series card in English, it’s because they’re playing Premium for some godforsaken reason.
At any rate, trying to find local players for VG can be pretty rough, so Dear Days or unofficial products are a good measure otherwise, especially since Covid isn’t over here at the time of this writing, so I’m sure not going to a game shop anytime soon.
Vanguard’s anime is actually pretty well-vetted at this point, and falls into roughly three categories:
- The original series, which ran for several years adjacent to the original card game release. Stars Sendou Aichi and later Crono. (Realistically, the “G” era is more like a sequel series than an additional season of the original, but they’re generally considered the same anime.) This one suffered pretty heavily from seasonal rot as it went on and it had a wallbangingly dumb revelation at the end of season 1 that severely damaged its themes, but it’s still an enjoyable watch.
- V-Series is a reboot of the original series that coincided with the release of the V-Series card game; the anime is tighter at a single cour and follows the manga more closely. Has a spinoff prequel starring Shinemon, the Manager of Card Capital.
- D-Series anime, called “OverDress” (its followup is “WillDress”), is currently airing. The original show was mostly a slice of life that largely skipped card games; while it’s certainly a very good show, I watch card game anime for card games, so I dropped it fairly early in. That being said, the characters and OST are fantastic and the animation is top notch; apparently, recently, it has started showing actual card games again.
I’ve been playing Vanguard since the card game originally launched, and when I was still in a position to attend one, my LGS was actually host to the recurring national champion for our region, so the quality of play was quite high. I fell off during Link Joker-hen and largely skipped Legion and G due to not enjoying the power creep, but I’ve been here on and off for V-Series and D-Series.
Dimensional Police and DaiYusha/DaiKaiser, which I’m consistently sad has yet to get a proper D-Series variation (although Favrneel kind of comes close).