I’m starting with Kantai Collection because not only is it the set I’m most familiar with, but also the set that I believe should have (whether it has or not) been having the most influence over the English game since its release in May 2015. Kantai Collection has a history of being game warping in the Japanese format, having had multiple cards put on the banlist and almost singlehandedly destroying the “8g8” and heal-based meta that Japan had been playing in for years prior to Kantai Collection’s release.
Now, it hasn’t had that much impact on the English game due to English not relying as heavily on salvage and healing mechanics as Japan did at the time, and I’ve argued against an English restriction list for Kantai on this very basis. However, that should not discount the importance of anti-heal and anti-salvage in the meta, as most decks still play these effects.
Why is this deck S Tier? Why should I be playing it?
Now, I know a lot of people have found it quite silly that my tier list includes both an S and S+ Tier, but I have a good reason for this, and as one comment on Facebook put it, “As long as there are notable differences in strength it makes sense…” I firmly believe that Kantai has a noticeable edge over every deck in the A+ Tier for one reason: Kantai Collection is the only set in the English game to contain all of anti-heal, anti-salvage, and anti-damage; and most other sets that have even one of these don’t have a well-functioning deck around them to support those cards. There are certain matchups that Kantai wins almost solely due to the existence of these cards, and that’s something that should never be overlooked.
Even apart from these cards, Kantai has a very wide pool of high-quality options, including multiple plussing climax combos, and both on-reverse and not-on-reverse finishing options that give it the tools to function in almost any situation.
The deck is very consistent, with multiple search options, a costless level 1 game in the form of Taigei and Verniy to allow some compression through stock as you refresh into your second deck, and crisis management in Winter Akatsuki.
7th Kagero-class Destroyer, Hatsukaze : This is Kantai’s main form of anti-salvage, and stops anything from door triggers to salvaging climax combos by putting -3 soul on all of your opponent’s characters. With this on the stage, any deck that relies on salvaging to keep up in cards, such as Nisekoi <Key> builds with 1/0 Marika combo, Attack on Titan builds with 1/0 Mikasa combo, etc. will begin to fall behind in card advantage. The card also doubles as a global support to your own stage, so even in matchups where your opponent doesn’t need to salvage, the card serves a purpose.
2nd Akatsuki-class Destroyer, Hibiki : This is Kantai’s anti-heal character, forcing your opponent to pay an extra two stock for each Hibiki in memory if they wish to heal. Usually just one Hibiki in memory will be enough to discourage an opponent from healing, since that stock could be used to play another level 3 or resolve an effect. Any more than one will almost always completely lock your opponent out of healing. I know that some people don’t think blocking one heal is a big deal, but some decks that have an endgame focused on outlasting the opponent such as Haruhi <Alien>, Monogatari, and Madoka Magica, being unable to heal is a very big deal. Even other decks that just have healing effects stuck onto cards they would play otherwise, such as Attack on Titan with Mikasa’s 3/2 and Sword Art Online with Sinon’s 3/2, will suffer more than one would expect. For those of you unaware of the impact of one single heal, I’d recommend you check out this article: Phillip McKay’s Primer on Finishers. In short, the difference between needing to deal 4 damage and 5 damage to finish out the game can as much as double the opponent’s chances of living that turn, and that’s a huge deal when one extra turn could very well end the game.
Also worth noting apart from the anti-heal effect is that Hibiki replaces herself for a mere stock when she’s reversed, allowing you to keep a board against most decks for little investment.
Compass : Compass is one of only two cards in the English format currently that straight up prevents damage (though there are two others that rest characters). Compass is also unique in that it only costs one stock, something that Kantai can easily pay in the late game even after losing their stock to Akagi Kai, who also happens to draw two on play to allow the Kantai player to dig for Compass. While the effect doesn’t always guarantee that the anti-damage part will trigger, it still puts you closer to a climax in your deck even when it doesn’t mill one for the effect, meaning that it will almost never harm you (unless you end up milling multiple climaxes and not getting your cancels from them).
A Winter Moment, Akatsuki : This is a fairly simple card, but not one to underestimate. Akatsuki allows the Kantai player to trade any card in their hand for any character in the top four cards of their deck, accelerating them toward first refresh at the same time. This is especially useful in this deck, it allows you to put Verniy in the waiting room quicker for Hibiki to pull out, and it allows you to discard extra climaxes obtained from both Goldbar and Gate triggers.
4th Myoko-class Heavy Cruiser, Haguro-Kai-Ni : The ages old argument – Shimakaze vs Haguro. While I won’t comment on that here, since I’m going to later, I will mention Haguro because she’s quite an impressive card. She’s a plussing climax combo with a Gate trigger, not only making her own combo more consistent, but also your deck’s other combo, and allowing you to play climaxes more often in general to push damage. Her combo searches the deck at level 2, which is likely right after you’ll have refreshed, giving you a very wide range of search targets. However, even apart from her combo, she has a couple of uses. Her second ability allows you to send her from the stage to the waiting room to act as a 3000 power counter. This not only can save your other characters, but it can be used to prevent on-reverse effects that your opponent may have, whether by boosting your character to a higher power or by forcing your opponent into a direct attack against the slot Haguro was in.
Yellow/Green/Blue Haguro-Kai-Ni Focus
This is what I would consider the ideal meta build for Kantai Collection. As I’ve explained above, the deck has numerous consistency tools at level 0, such as Murasame Kai to search and pay out stock during the battle phase, Inadzuma to search the deck for low cost as a plus, and Winter Akatsuki. The lineup also contains both anti-salvage and anti-heal. At level 1, the deck has Verniy and Taigei as the main attackers, which are essentially just 7000 and 7500 attackers and defenders with your global boosts in the back stage. The deck’s second global assist is Akashi, who provides yet another method to pay out climaxes and search the deck for characters, allowing you to set up for any part of the game. She also functions as a way to pay out extra stock before Akagi Kai sends it to the waiting room. The deck’s only backup is Ashigara, as she provides a huge boost to your level 1 characters, allowing them to reach 9500 and 10000 power respectively, which is enough to beat almost any other deck even after a climax play. At level 2, the only character is Haguro-Kai-Ni in order to save room for the level 3 lineup. Level 3 consists of Akagi Kai and Musashi. Akagi Kai functions as the deck’s on-reverse finisher, while Musashi can be played to empty lanes or those too big for Akagi to reverse. Akagi’s on play draw 2 discard 1 effect also allows you to dig for her own climax, more Akagi, Musashi, or Compass to stay in the game even longer. The deck doesn’t play any healers of its own due to Hibiki affecting both players.
Yellow/Green Shimakaze Focus
The other combo always mentioned with Kantai Collection is the 1/0 Shimakaze. Since most of the deck stays the same, I’m mainly going to focus on explaining the changes around Shimakaze here. Shimakaze’s climax is a 2k1, meaning that the deck won’t output as much damage as decks that run global soul climaxes at level 1 (hint: it’s pretty much every other deck in the game). To make up for this, the deck plays I-58 and I-58-Kai as characters that gain soul. I-58-Kai also has character encore, allowing you to keep her around in exchange for other characters. Over time, this will hopefully make up somewhat for the lack of damage output by your climax. The other thing to note as that Shimakaze has to reverse her battle opponent in order to search. The Shimakaze with the 2k1 effect will usually be about 7500 power, so Shimakaze-Kai is included to boost any other Shimakaze that need extra power in order to reverse their opponent, or to boost one even further in order to avoid counters. The one upside to Shimakaze compared to other combos is that her climax replaces itself with a draw, meaning you’ll go net positive with just one copy of Shimakaze on stage instead of needing two copies.
In reference to the Zuihou backup: I don’t think this card is very necessary at the moment due to the lack of good early play level 3’s that it would be able to deal with. The two most powerful early plays at the moment are Mikasa, which comes out during encore phase after you’d be able to play a backup, and Kirito. It typically isn’t worth dedicating space to the card, especially when you end up clocking yourself to get rid of the early play in the first place. If more strong cards start popping up that this can stop, it might be worth considering in the Haguro deck.
I’d also like to add that, unlike most decks I’ll be posting, both of these lists are deck I’ve personally used and done quite well with, placing 4th in Atlanta’s BWC16 and 1st in Atlanta’s BSF16 respectively.
Kantai Collection has favorable matchups against most decks simply due to the presence of salvage and heal effects in most decks. However, a few still give it trouble in other places. Two of these are notably the decks that people often place higher than Kantai on tier lists.
Attack on Titan: AOT that plays the Mikasa salvage combo at level 1 will be unable to build advantage its normal way and will likely rely on the Eren 1/0 global +1000 to win on offense in most lanes, but Sasha 1/1 can prove problematic for Kantai to deal with due to winning on both offense and defense with a single Levi global in the back row and clock encore to simply come back if it does get reversed. Mikasa 3/2 can also give Kantai’s end game trouble due to needing to reverse certain slots, though Mikasa will still need enough power to defend against Akagi-Kai. The other card of note is the Armin 3/2 assist. His assist effect makes AOT’s characters unable to be targeted by Compass, allowing AOT to safely restand their Levi 3/2 without fear of being anti-damage’d.
Sword Art Online: Honestly, I think this is Kantai’s hardest matchup. Sword Art Online usually expects all of its characters to get reversed on defense at level 1 anyway, so Kantai’s powerful characters don’t actually hurt the deck’s game plan very much. SAO can also easily break Kantai’s power level in multiple lanes on offense, forcing Kantai to lose both a backup and a character or two in some situations. Sinon also has the advantage of resolving its climax combo before the counter step, meaning that even if the Kantai player plays Compass, Sinon will get four damage off. Machine of Ice Sinon also allows SAO to block any one lane from using Compass.
Other situations worth noting are To Love Ru’s Yami being immune to Compass while having an anti-damage of their own and Madoka Magica’s Sayaka’s Wish being able to get around anti-heal.
Thanks for sticking around and reading the whole thing! If there’s anything you’d like to see added to this post and/or added in future posts, let me know!