The Dark Dictator is the evil clone of The King of Kinghts, Alfred created by Phantom Blaster Dragon to slaughter his original. It does essentially what its benevolent twin does but is also armed with Soul Saver Dragon’s skill at a lower cost.
Dictator’s skill sticks out like a sore thumb among Shadow Paladin vanguards. The typical Shadow Paladin vanguard retires smaller rearguards to activate benefits deemed straightforward-powerful by game standards for themselves - the heavy +10000 power increment, vanguard re-stand or an extra Critical. In contrast, Dictator does not strengthen itself and instead gives power +5000 to 2 rearguards at the cost of 3 soul instead of Alfred’s search-and-call, a payment that is peanuts if you did not use a Forerunner skill for your starting vanguard. Shadow Paladins use more Counterblasts than Soulblast so said skill should not be a strain the resources of most decks.
The remaining evaluation of this card would turn out similar to Alfred’s, considering its +2000-power-per-rearguard and inability to be boosted is identical to Alfred. At the point in time of release, using vanguards with base 10000 is still commonplace even though there were 11000s around, for those ride-chain vanguards. Being able to hit the magic number 20000 was still quite a feat during that period of time.
Dictator might also have been printed as a cheaper alternative to the only other feasible vanguard option at that time - the all-famous Phantom Blaster Dragon and Overlord. They were an expensive deck to build back as 4 copies of each meant 8 RRRs. Cross Rides were king at the point due to their defensive capabilities and ability to reach high power levels than the other grade 3s before Limit Break and Legion were invented, and the high demand for this right chain pushed up their price further.
Of course, Dictator is less practical for use today due to 2 obvious reasons identical to Alfred’s. Firstly, most vanguards nowadays have 11000 base - that pesky extra 1000 that protects them long-term from attacks whose power is rounded to multiples of 5000.
Secondly, in the present day where Limit Break and Legion are the dominant mechanics, vanguards hitting for 21000-28000 is common fare. Dictator’s 20000 pales in comparison and to add injury to the insult, its power is easily reduced by Locking and retiring. More so when Link Joker is all the rage today and can achieve Locks rather easily with their Breakride, Dust Tail Unicorn and whatnot. Kagero and Narukami, the dragons well-known for retiring, have become increasingly strong with their recent Breakrides and Cross-breakrides, being able to retire multiple rearguards at once to similar effect on poor Dictator.
Dictator can make a budget deck idea but otherwise, it can be one card that is easily forgotten. It is obvious that newer cards like Raging Form Dragon, Mordred Phantom and (contestably) Gust Blaster Dragon make better vanguard choices for their generally better effects and higher power levels.
Volume 5: Exculpate the Blaster
The first thing that you are drawn to on this card is probably the very large chunk of effect text comprising 6 skills, the most a card has ever had. It is a transformation of Blaster Blade, the profound “exculpate” meaning “to purify”, that resembles what Dragonic Kasier Vermillion converted over to the Royals would look like. Consider it to be a pseudo-grade 4 unit as it can only be ridden over a Grade 3, though searchable by Pendragon’s effect.
Exculpate’s main plus is its field-clearing, which is very effective if you can pull off its effect, since only a madman will want to guard for 5 rearguards and decimate his hand in the process. It may not be a final turn card but provides you with field advantage for the late-game push. The fact that the rearguards usually go unguarded can be further exploited by boosting Exculpate with on-hit effects. Miru Biru is a good choice, allowing you to draw 5 cards when Exculpate hits 5 rearguards, essentially doing what Amaterasu does with her hard-to-achieve Megablast.
The catch: setting it up. Since Exculpate is a pseudo-grade 4, you will face consistency issues similar to Kagero players using the “real” grade 4 in the game, Transcendence Dragon, Dragonic Nouvelle Vague, but without its dedicated support. Those who use Exculpate run 2, or reluctantly 3, copies of it in their decks, but doing so would exhaust space for other main grade 3s that you would run such as your Break Ride and rearguard grade 3 attacker. Being forced to ride Blaster Blade after the attack also renders you vulnerable to losing more cards on hand unless you already have a grade 3 ready to ride over it during your next turn.
Volume 6: Pentagonal Magus
Of the all cards covered here, her and Waterfall are arguably the most feasible cards. Pentagonal Magus pushes Oracle and Bermuda Triangle’s card-stacking theme to different variant and forces its user to build a deck based on rearguards and the Hexagonal Magus breakride to look at the top few card(s) of the deck for its effect. Moreover, these cards activate on-call/on-ride so no cost is involved; pull it off successfully and you get an essentially-free critical and 5000 power to pressure your opponent with. Quite a novel, gimmicky and interesting vanguard to build a deck around.
Volume 7: Gust Blaster Dragon
Gust Blaster Dragon is yet another addition to the “retire 3 to gain powerful effect” series akin to the Phantom Blaster, Raging Form and Spectral Duke Dragons.
The main purpose of GBD is to restore some functionality to the Phantom Blaster Overlord and Majesty Lord Blaster ride chains, both whose power have been diminished by Limit Break and Legion. PBO’s notoriously high CB3 and persona blast for a mere +10000/1 Crit is a bad deal by today’s standards. MLB, whose 20000 columns and passive +1 crit was struck much pressuring fear, is not seen as such – greater pressure through higher power increases and ways of getting criticals can be attained through the Royals’ Breakrides and Legion. GBD, when used after you do your thing with PBO or MLB will give the massive power and critical boost as a final turn card. However, be prepared to suffer a -3 in field advantage should your attack be guarded successfully.
A counterblast of 1 is cheap for a strong effect like GBD’s, and whether you are playing MLB or PBO, you are guaranteed 3-4 Blasters in the soul (Blasters Javelin, Blade, Dragon and Overlord for PBO and Blasters Blade, Dark and Majesty Lord for MLB) beneath GBD. How else you can optimize the effect depends on your setup to soulcharge Blasters specifically into the soul with other units.
Overall: a good late-game change-of-plan to bring life into those who want to be retroactive about their oldschool MLB and PBO decks.
Manga cards make novel twists to your vanguard choices and their effects are marginally better than that of your normal promo cards. You would, however, have to be reminded of they do not function as straightforward as more common vanguard choices and therefore are not for those who want to play a simple mid- to late- game.
Where to buy the manga in Singapore without ordering online?
It should not be that difficult to purchase the cards separately from the manga from card shops or dealers as with other promo cards. The manga is in Japanese-only (save for Volume 1) and obviously, local bookstores will not carry them due to the low demand.
However, if you are keen on getting it as a set, the manga can be purchased at Kinokuniya which imports a lot of manga and magazines for the Yu-Gi-Oh! and Cardfight!! Vanguard franchises.
Some neighbourhood hobby shops like Chak Fung and TTZ at Hougang Central and Best Games Centre at Jurong East will carry them, along with Monthly Bushiroad, the other major Japanese print publication that is generous on Promo cards and other freebies. Quantities are limited and shopkeepers usually only import current issues shortly after their release date, so tough luck to those finding older issues of the manga.