Vanguards' Divine / Light theme is represented in a deck with a lot of defensive tools used to create economic advantage.
Sera likes to fight the board without hurry.
Sera needs to consistently generate combat interaction for herself, and some opponents may try to avoid that. While she shouldn’t be rushing in, she should also not let the opponent keep their distance. If she does that she can be toyed with as she doesn't have a particularly strong range game, lacking stand-out ranged tools.
Sera's deck is composed of durable units that work better in slow combat and that help each other. In addition to that it has events to make your units harder to kill and keep the slow, methodical tempo going.
Vanguards' basic strategy is to keep combat trades going in the middle of the battlefield at a slower pace. If Sera keeps the slow game going, she can most easily gain economic advantage through healing, her champions and her own ability, as well as generate highly favorable turns for herself with Guarding Spirits.
She doesn’t like being pushed back into a corner since she lacks the tricks, reach and movement tools to fight effectively at a ranged game or even really to punish a strong offense from her opponent. Also, once she is pushed she can’t rotate her units for the eventual Mass Heal or Temple Priest heal ability.
However she doesn't like to dive deep either. First because she has no hurry, she is an economic deck, if the game keeps going and drags she will eventually win. Second she lacks the reach of other factions to do impactful deep dives.
So to repeat, her battlefield is the middle of the board and she should try to keep the game in that area, slowly making favorable trades for herself.
Vanguards' ranged plan rests on the back of Sera, Citadel Archers and Jacob, protected by Citadel Knights and Temple Priests.
Sera can control the midfield with a combination of Citadel Knights and Paladins, being lead by Valna or Coleen and supported with her ranged game. She needs to force the opponent into placing units in her ranged game's reach.
If she loses control of the midfield versus many factions it will be very hard to come back as she can then be toyed around with thanks to her weak ranged game and lack of reach and tricks.
Regardless of what you do, don’t expect explosive turns from Vanguards, just slowly and steadily gain value by destroying enemy cards and protecting yours.
It’s important to note though that in some matchups Vanguards need to play significantly more aggressively than in others. In those matches, supporting the aggression with sturdy units and with Sera is your hope to keep the gas going on the offensive.
Renewed Hope is a key component of Sera's strategy. It is her only element of surprise and she needs to threaten very strong Renewed Hope turns to keep the opponent on their toes. If it were not for Renewed Hope she would be too easy to play around for most opponents as she would be just too predictable.
Sera's stats are weak, but her ability more than makes up for it. Between Citadel Knights and carefully poking on low life units, you should trigger her ability a lot, as much as possible. Her endgame is even more scary as she can produce an infinite supply of Citadel Knights, while she pokes with her ability, out-valuing every opponent summoner in the game. Sera's life is precious, and with careful positioning you can effectively convert her life into magic and units. She is also the core of Vanguards' economic game, trying to force the opponent to place units in her range for her to gain value.
Sera's Epic Event is very powerful and versatile, ensuring you get extra strength one turn, but possibly even two turns, and aiming for that is entirely reasonable. Vanguards damage isn’t great but playing Holy Judgment changes that.
Between all of Sera's protective tools, keeping your units alive is realistic. Remember too that this card boosts your Temple Priest healing so keeping a 2 flank fight while healing really maximizes this card's value.
It still can be used to try to one-shot an enemy champion or summoner, even if it means it will only last one turn, but such is not its most common use.
Citadel Knight is the core unit of Vanguards and an outstanding common just in general. They protect Sera very efficiently and overall protect everything you have. No matter what your plan is, you should always have 1 or 2 Citadel Knights reinforcing that plan.
Citadel Knights also make your healing powerful, it can make it very hard for your opponent to focus fire, which means you have time to heal your units with Temple Priests. Thanks to them you also can accumulate wounded units, which eventually all can be healed by Mass Heal.
Vanguards' only ranged common. Early and mid-game you should try to always have one archer around if possible. They are very strong early game, easily having 3 to 5 attack strength with minimal cost, and they are very hard to trade with because of their high life. Unlike the rest of Sera’s plan, Citadel Archers do not require protection, as they have a great life to magic ratio. If you want to poke things, attack things or threaten carelessly, Citadel Archers are your tool.
As the late game starts to kick in however they lose a lot of their value and effectiveness. Part of the reason late game Vanguards needs to become more aggressive to delve into melee exchanges is because of this unit's dwindling efficiency.
Citadel Paladins are Vanguards' common unit damage. There isn’t anything really special about them; they are just efficient units stats-wise that provide a decent amount of damage in an otherwise low damage deck. Their ability doesn’t have big gameplay implications but it’s helpful to boost the damage of your Citadel Archers early game and accelerate your tempo in order to stop early game aggression and/or to fuel your own early game aggression. Vanguards need damage, and Citadel Paladin is their answer.
Vanguards have many ways to win the economic war and Temple Priest is one of them. Their ability generates 2.33 life per 1 magic and that’s very efficient. If you think about it, Citadel Paladins have 1 life per magic, so it's cheaper to heal them than to replace them. Of course the big drawback is costing one attack to use Heal and in a fast and furious game there is no time for that, but in a slow game, you may find no use for your third attack and Temple Priests are then a very safe and efficient way to use it.
That doesn’t mean Temple Priests do not have a role in fast games. 0 cost 2/2 is a good stat-line and if they are required as combat units they are indeed efficient and they are actually a key to trading well with high strength champions and units that may one-shot your high life units.
They can be particularly frustrating to deal with in a Guarding Spirits turn, as they then require 2 attacks to kill.
Don’t be afraid to have one Temple Priest around just in case you want to heal. Maybe you won’t find the opportunity to heal, but if that is the case, they are stat efficient enough that it’s not going to be a loss.
Do keep in mind that they don’t synergize well with your champions' abilities and can’t be returned with Sera, which affects their usability.
Guarding Spirits plays are critical to Sera's overall gameplay as they are game-changing, so much so that Sera has some trouble with summoners that can circumvent this event. It creates big turns, whether you are on offense or defense. If you have your units well positioned to take advantage of this, Guarding Spirits can make your opponent's turn very poor and creating such a scenario is one of the ways for Sera to get an economic lead. It only works on commons though, so it’s not entirely easy to set up but it is always worth the effort.
An economic event, Mass Heal mainly can give you a lot of value. Sera has the tools to keep her units alive with smart use of Citadel Knights and Guardian Spirits. You can keep an army of wounded units just waiting for Mass Heal to refresh them all. If you can heal 2 units for 2 life, then this event is worth it. Sometimes you can set it up so you heal 4 or even 5 units, and in those cases, it can prove to be a massive economic advantage. However, players will do their best to focus fire to kill your units to avoid Sera getting too much advantage with Mass Heal, so it’s not easy to build up to and for that reason you may not want to hold his event in hand unless you see the game is developing down a path where you can do a big Mass Heal.
Renewed Hope is the way for Vanguards to have an element of surprise. Vanguards in general are very straightforward and predictable in their gameplay. Renewed Hope is the Vanguards’ way to spice things up, and is one of the most versatile events in the game printed so far.
Renewed Hope should be a highly used event. Its versatility is so high that it could have a page dedicated to itself and its many uses and surrounding strategies.
But to summarize:
It can allow you to attack with Sera and then protect her. It allows you to place a gate in the build phase and then summon adjacent to it, allowing you to summon in a lot of places that the opponent cannot expect or prepare for. It allows summoning adjacent to Sera on defense if cornered and on offense to keep your offensive push going. It allows you to double attack from a single flank, combining with a Citadel Archer. It allows you to summon multiple units from the same spot. It even allows you to get ahead on tempo as you can summon units after you draw them on your draw phase!
It has so many uses that it is very rare that you can’t find applicability in a game.
Vanguards are not a champion heavy playstyle faction at all and in general you should only summon 1 champion per game, mostly because in a way all 3 champions benefit from spamming commons and events. Also, every one of the 3 Vanguards champions require a lot of support to maximize their value, and it is thus preferable to focus on one champion rather than spreading yourself too thin. So generally pick a champion based on when you draw them, the current board state and the matchup and then stick to fully supporting that champion with protection and healing.
Valna is the "cleanest" and most versatile of Vanguards champions, since she's essentially a big block of stats. Valna provides an amount of damage that is not normal for Vanguards. Spam Citadel Knights around her and heal her if necessary and soon you can have a massive amount of damage rolling. With proper support she can reach a point of seeming to be impossible to deal with for your opponent.
Coleen is on the other side of the coin with Valna. If Valna provides a lot of damage, Coleen provides a lot of life. Coleen can be extremely good if she gets on the board quickly, providing her ability through as much of the game as possible if well protected which is not hard given her wide ability range.
She is especially good versus certain units and events that involve double attack or require certain attack thresholds.
She can fight in the frontlines until she gets wounded and then can retreat to be replaced by Citadel Paladins. Her ability is not really that powerful, but when it’s applied during a lot of the game and to every common (not that hard to do), then she can provide an unfair amount of value to the Vanguards.
Jacob is expensive for what he provides and he is hard to protect. But if properly supported he can be a big, valuable cannon. If you can get your magic up to 10, you get a massive 7 ranged attack. You can do this because you should be fine burning every common in-hand, if you reach late game with lots of magic, Sera can just bring back units to use that magic. Even if you are getting to 6-8 magic, you are getting good value with Jacob. If however you don’t think you can keep 6+ magic in the game, then hard pass on Jacob. You can see Jacob actually as a champion that costs 11 magic (!!!), and that his ability is giving you back 6 magic when he dies. But you can see how he is hard to play as having the time and freedom to save up to 11 magic is not easy and also is predictable for your opponent.
6 life is not much, but with Citadel Knights and healing it can feel endless. This is many players' least favorite Vanguards champion as it really requires Sera to play the entire game around him and becomes kind of predictable. However, sometimes it becomes apparent that a ranged cannon is what will be most useful to the Vanguards and in that case Jacob provides.
Vanguards is a slow deck, looking for positive trades and slowly gaining economic edges, playing and winning the long game.
Focus on protecting your economic assets, be it a champion or Sera herself, keep mindful of formations to maximize Guarding Spirits and of possible rotations to maximize Mass Heal.
Her games need patience and the will to drag on long. She slowly builds an economic lead through the game and as long as she is not too far behind, she can outlast every other summoner thanks to her ability.
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