A deck must consist of exactly 50 cards. (This number includes your first vanguard.)
A deck may not contain more than 4 of any individual card. The card with alternate images but with the same name will account as the same individual card.
A deck must contain exactly 16 Trigger Units.
A deck may only contain 4 cards with the Heal trigger.
A deck may only contain 4 cards with the Sentinel skill.
A "Flash Deck" can only have 25 cards total and it can be played in a "Flash Fight" with "Flash Fight Rules". The Flash Fight rules are identical to the rules below with two changes: a) You win by dealing 4 damage to the opponent's Vanguard, not 6; and b) Stand and Heal triggers must be ignored. Treat cards with these triggers as if they had no trigger icon on them - so ignore both the Stand/Heal effect and the +5000.
Your Deck should be placed on one side of the game area. When you Draw a card, you take the top card from your deck into your hand. If you have no cards left in your deck at any point in the game, you lose immediately.
The Drop Zone (discard pile) should be a separate pile of cards. When you Retire a card, you move it to the Drop Zone. When you Heal Damage, you move cards from the Damage Zone to the Drop Zone.
The Damage Zone is a small stack of discarded cards that must be kept separate from the Drop Zone. Cards in the Damage Zone represent damage to your Vanguard. If there are ever six or more cards in your Damage Zone, you lose the game.
The main play area consists of two rows of three spaces. The row nearer the opponent is the Front Row and the other row is the Back Row. The Vanguard Circle is the middle space of the Front Row. It may hold multiple cards in a stack. The top card in the Vanguard Circle is your Vanguard. Any cards stacked below it are your Soul. Your Vanguard is not part of your soul. If there is only one card in the Vanguard Circle, that card is your Vanguard and there are no cards in your Soul.
The other five spaces in the main area are Rear-guard Circles. These can usually only hold a single card each.
The Trigger Zone is a temporary area where cards are placed while their effects are being resolved. Its location is unimportant. If you are making a Drive Check, you move cards from your Deck to the Trigger Zone and from there to your hand. If you are making a Damage Check, you move cards from your Deck to the Trigger Zone and from there to the Damage Zone.
The Guardian Circle is a temporary area where cards are placed during combat. It is normally located in front of the Front Row. Cards are played here during battle and then retired to the Drop Zone.
Starting a Game
1. Each player chooses a Grade 0 unit from their deck and places it face-down on the Vanguard Circle. That card will be their first vanguard.
2. Decide randomly who goes first. The player who goes first cannot attack on their first turn.
3. Both players shuffle their deck and draw 5 cards.
4. Mulligan: If a player doesn't like their hand, they can shuffle any number of cards from their hand back into their deck and then draw new cards until they have 5 cards in their hand again. The new hand must be kept.
5. Both players, at the same time, turn their vanguards from face down to face up.
To win a Cardfight! Vanguard match you must inflict 6 damage to your opponent's Vanguard. Damage to their Vanguard is represented by cards in their Damage Zone.
If a player ever has 6 or more cards in their Damage Zone, they lose.
If a player has no cards in deck at any point of the game, they lose.
So now that you have some form of deck and know the basic rules, how do you play smart and make the most of your deck? What should you be thinking about? At the start of the game, both players select and set a Grade 0 Vanguard from their deck and draw 5 cards, with the option to return any number of those cards into the deck and draw the same amount again after shuffling. You want to try and get at least one card of each Grade, 1-3, in your opening hand. If you are forced to skip a ride before you get to Grade 3 and your opponent does not, the loss in card advantage from not having Twin Drive!! and the (likely) lower offensive and defensive power can be absolutely crippling. As a general rule, you should return all Grade 0s in your hand to the deck and, if you are missing a Grade, cards with the same Grade as another card you are holding. If you have your ride up to Grade 3 guaranteed, it’s usually best to only return trigger units or no units at all, unless you are crowded with a specific unit you do not want so much of (often Grade 3s or Perfect Guards). If, despite your best efforts, you still miss rides, do not fear and play the best you can. It’s not uncommon for people to win even with missed rides, although it is an uphill battle.
When riding up, if you happen to have options on what to ride, it can be a difficult choice to decide which to ride. Riding the units with greater base power can rescue you from an attack or two the following turn, but you’re also sacrificing those units when you ride over them. A classic dilemma is the choice between riding a skill-less 8,000 Power Grade 1 and a 6,000 Power Perfect Guard. Riding the 8,000 ensures that you are a lot less likely to take more than a single point of damage the following turn, but what if you are sorely lacking in offensive power? Though riding the Perfect Guard may leave you more vulnerable, Perfect Guards are not that useful earlier in the game anyways and ensures that you have another good unit you can field, which can end up going a long way.
Calling units can be a tricky thing as well, though it is far easier for Grade 2 units. Typically, any non-Grade 2 unit you call is forever unavailable as a shield or discard cost and cannot be replaced unless the opponent voluntarily attacks it, unless there is a skill to move it out of the way, or unless you replace it later and suffer a direct minus to card advantage. You usually don’t want to call any non-Grade 2 units you are not willing to keep throughout the game unless you have cards that can retire those units as costs, bring them back to the hand, or otherwise replace those units. And even then, it’s best not to go overboard. As a general rule, units that you clearly know you will not be able to make a decent column (one that forces at least 10K shield from the opponent’s Vanguard before triggers or other conditional boosts) with should not be called. Grade 0 units with 10,000 shield should also generally avoid being called, since you’re sacrificing twice the shield value of that of a normal Grade 1 or a Draw Trigger. A Grade 2 that has as much offensive value as another Grade 3 you have also should near-always take precedence in being called, simply because of the intercept ability. Lastly, be aware that any units you call and attack with in the frontrow are vulnerable to being targeted by opponent attacks. If you’re short on call-worthy units or if you wish to achieve a certain amount of damage more quickly, it may be worth playing more conservatively.
The final game mechanic I’m going to go over will be guarding. This is arguably the most difficult to master of the basic mechanics that all decks in the game use, as well as the hardest to look at objectively and judge whether the action was optimal or not. Here are some basic unstated rules about guarding you’ve probably picked up on already. All Grade 0s have 10,000 Shield, except Draw Triggers which have 5,000. All Grade 1s (except Perfect Guards) and Grade 2s have 5,000 Shield, though certain Grade 2s with 8,000 Power gain an extra 5,000 Shield when used as an intercept and certain Grade 1s with 6,000 Power have a written cost or condition to turn them into 10,000 Shields. Grade 3s do not have a Shield value and cannot be used to guard.
I often see players refusing to guard most, if not all, attacks earlier on in the game, perhaps because they play a Grade 3 with a Limit Break skill or because they want to enable more Counterblasts. I will say right now that this is a mistake and should not be a tactic to try unless you truly have no good cards to guard with, especially since most Limit Breaks are intended to pressure a weakened opponent anyways. In an average game with average decks, it is borderline impossible for either player to mount attacks with a full field, each forcing 10K Shield on their own, on their opponent. For that matter, the stream of trigger units or other cards you would be willing to guard with come more slowly as well. But in comparison, attacks earlier in the game (which are often weak and/or innumerous) are far easier to guard than later on in the game, even considering the larger supply of cards you have to guard with. One 5K shield or one 10K shield can eliminate your chances of taking a full point of damage. Fast-forward to a post-Grade 3 environment and suddenly full fields and seeing a trigger on most Drive Checks become far more common. Your opponent can be coming at you with the standard, say, 16K-all-around columns. If at this point you’re at 4 damage, you’re probably heavily inclined to guard the Vanguard because a Critical Trigger could end you right there, and that’ll take at least 2 cards to do so each turn. Let’s say that the Vanguard did get a Critical Trigger and gave the power to a rearguard, bumping it up to 21K Power. Another 2 cards minimum are needed to guard against that. To put this in perspective…you’re using 4 cards to guard 2 attacks now whereas you could have used 2 cards to guard 2 attacks earlier on. This can get even worse if the opponent can enable a 21K Rearguard and/or Vanguard column before triggers. Overall, you’re just spending a lot more on guarding later in the game and have less opportunities to get helpful damage checked triggers, whereas they might have been useless for their power when the opponent only did one or two attacks a turn. Sounds good, right?
There is definitely a balancing aspect that puts a silver lining on the concept of early guarding and makes decisions not so clear-cut though. Because you have less cards earlier on in the game, you may simply not have cards that you can guard with that you would not want to call. Or you may only have Perfect Guards, which, draining two cards, is plain inefficient in that stage. Or you may exhaust your guarding options and be forced to take a full 2-4 damage in a single turn later on in the game when you don’t want to, which can be worse than simply having took the damage at a more steady rate earlier in the game. As mentioned earlier, taking early damage also allows the use of earlier Counterblasts and Limit Break. There are also Heal Triggers to consider; if you have more damage, opponents cannot heal while you can, but if you decided to be guard-happy, that situation may be reversed. All I can say is to pace yourself. Good luck with the cardfighting!