Competing without SS3: The (Very) Good, The Bad, and the (Very) Ugly
Much to the request of players throughout the Dragon Ball Super community, Bandai has decided to ban Heightened Evolution Son Goku for about 6 weeks in an attempt to diversify the format. While talking about my opinion on how Bandai went by this is beyond the scope of this article, I would love to talk about the implications to the competitive landscape. I will, however, say that regardless if the format is healthier or worse because of this decision at a competitive level, I do believe that this change is INCREDIBLY healthy for the game at a local level, will encourage more original deck building at shop events, and rejuvenate any local scenes that are stagnating.
Below are some of my initial thoughts on what I think the first week or two of regionals with the ban implemented will look like. Understand these are nothing more than gut impressions based on a format with no testing.
As has happened every time a new format has released, gut responses to a new format will be “Cell Chain is nuts!” as players tend to gravitate towards the deck, play it for two weeks, and eventually find out that Cell chain isn’t “auto-win”. Unfortunately, I think the deck may move more in this direction.
Over the last few sets, both Android 17 and Dark Warrior Mira decks have both gotten significant buffs. Android 17 now has access to Energy Guard Android 17, Limitless Energy Android 17, and Speedy Surprise Attack to allow the deck to play a more control-esque game after or instead of the standard Cell chain. Mira has received the destructive package of Dark Absorption Mira+Mira, Creator Absorbed to allow a devastating follow-up/alternative to demolish hands.
In Set 2 format, Cell chain was a dominating force but was plagued with hands that contained 1/10 combo cards that made comebacks more difficult. More importantly, Cell also was vulnerable to Cold Bloodlust. However, the advent of more 0/5k Androids, ruling changes to how Counter:Play cards interact with cards like Evolving Evil Lifeform Cell and Minus Kili Zone have decreased the number of threats the format can provide.
Eye of the Storm
Preliminary testing suggested that the limit on The Legendary Flute hurt but did not invalidate fast Yellow Blue strategies. However, it seemed that any SS3 variant was able to
utilize their energy to consistently out-advantage their opponent regardless of the matchup. However, I think the power of Bardock the Progenitor+ Scrambling Assault Son Goten is powerful enough that “Active 2 Energy on awaken” leaders will be limited in their success by this engine. The onslaught of 10k attackers can force the opponent to awaken on their turn and mitigate much of the advantage of those leaders. However, I do think that Unyielding Spirit Trunks will serve a healthy, important role in the game of allowing fast decks to go under Cell chain and mitigate the impact of a heavy Cell chain discard.
While Blue Yellow and Blue Red variants seem like the most oppressive, probably led by Hirudegarn leader, I’m not convinced they will dominate the game. Yet.
High 5 For Control
While I am still apprehensive on if the format will “slow down” with SS3 being the face of a slow format, I do think that control-esque decks will have some sort of place in the format. I believe those decks will highly gravitate towards one of three combos, ideally trying to win the game around 5 Energy
Supreme Showdown: WMAT Tournament has shown that decks like Announcer should have a place in the metagame, and being able to rely on two 35k+ attackers (often 45K+ due to other abilities) can close out games on their own. This combo has proved consistent in testing, but time well tell how it’s matchup spread looks.
Chain Attack Trunks+ Zen-Oh: Still a strong control card, I expect decks like RB Hiru will transition to trying to resolve Chain Attack Zen-Oh, and then abuse cards like Foreseeing Hit, Phantom Flame Cannon, and the leader’s awakened ability to out resource the opponent on the late game. While I expect CAZ to be resolved around turn 4, the deck will probably try to charge to 5 in order to offer defense after playing Foreseeing Hit on the following turn.
Hope of Universe 7 Goku/Son Goku, The Awakened Power, Frieza, Emperor of Universe 7
If the format does in fact slow down, there is some evidence that Universe 7 decks may be very impactful against the current metagame. Frieza is one of the most control-oriented cards in the game, and the plethora of new Green Leaders, particularly Awakened Power Son Goku, may allow us to utilize Hope of Universe 7 at it’s full potential, opposed to merely a bridge towards winning via Victory Strike. The deck will continue to be fragile against Foreseeing Hit though; the deck has potential to leave a lasting impact if it can find a way to mitiage the hand disruption I predict this format will gravitate towards.
At All Costs Vegeta+ Bad Ring Laser: A win condition I’ve been heavily gravitating towards since the Flute limit, being able to increase your hand size by 4, your power to 35K, destroying a blocker, and swinging in with the powerhouse behind a BRL has been a formula for success. But will the format allow us to maintain 3 life until 5 Energy?
Overall First Impressions My gut impression is that we will be entering an aggressive format in which games will be determined (perhaps not won, but determined) on turn 3.
Where to Start?
I think a lot of the “brewers” out there are struggling with some analysis paralysis as to where they should start their testing. As such I would propose making a gauntlet with the following decks – I suspect the hyper-aggressive decks will have an impactful people will start by testing these decks and then move on.
Android 17 – Standard largely green deck that runs 6-8 of each Android and runs few high-end bombs past Cell Chain. I suspect to compete with rush it will need to run Full Power Energy, Speedy Surprise Attack, and Trunks, Protector of Children. I would start here.
Mira- Green/Black variant that plays 4-5 copies of each Android, and is designed to resolve Mira, Creator Absorbed after a successful Cell Chain to demolish any leftover resources. Otherwise, list looks pretty similar to the aforementioned Android List
Fast Red Blue Hiru- Similar list to previous formats. Utilizes the Minotia+ Hirudegarn the
Wanderer to mitigate Cell chain. Replaces The Legendary Flute with two copies of Dark Rejuvenator Towa to trigger Saiyan Cabba multiple times a game.
Fast Blue Yellow Hiru – Similar Storm list as always. Fill in the slots where Flute use to be with Bad Ring Laser, Furthering Destruction Champa, and Caring Mother Videl as appropriate.
Red Blue Hirudegarn Control- Slightly slower version of the above list. Deck main decks cards to support Chain Attack Zen-Oh, and then abusing your leader effect alongside cards like Phantom Flame Cannon to further diminish resources in the late game. Tops out at Foreseeing Hit.
Red Green Hirudegarn/ Explosive Power Vegeta- Utilizing the old Saiyan Teamwork Cabba engine to drop multiple threats on the board at the same time, this rush version is going to try to drop multiple bodies with 15K-20K power per turn. While not as fast as quick Hiru, this deck will be able to better manage other matchups with Hidden Awakening Kale as removal and play a better late game. The deck generally includes a couple copies of Unyielding Spirit Trunks to extend said plays. I mention Explosive Power Vegeta because of the increased access to energy untapping, and to alleviate the issue of often wanting double green in your energy turn 2, but three red by turn 4.
Mecha Frieza- While I don’t think Mecha cleanly falls under the list of any of these archetypes, I think Mecha Frieza will proceed to be the premier Cold Bloodlust leader. Being able to slow down rush decks with Crusher Ball, Flying Nimbus will allow you to get to mid-game, CBL should help you overcome difficult Cell chain matchups. People will probably be greedy and try to use Yellow leaders with Shugesh out of the gate, I wouldn’t leave home without Chronoa in your side deck for a while.
If your deck can compete with the majority of the decks listed above, you should consider testing the deck more thoroughly. While I’ll be frank and say that I’m apprehensive about how many other leaders are competitive, here is the list of decks I want to at least discuss, if not test, before feeling confident in understanding the format:
Red: Mono Red Pan
Red/Yellow Pan/Pan Apes Dr. Myuu with Baby stuff Baby with Baby stuff Hercule (GT) Champa (1 Drop.dek)
Blue: Soul Stiker(BY) Iron Vow Trunks (Shout outs to Marcell) Slow Uub Control Vegeta (BR) U7 Gohan (Results of Training spam)
Yellow: Golden Frieza (YB, maybe YG) Long Odds SS4 (generic good stuff, not lineage) U7 Frieza Jackie Chun (YB) Mecha Apes
Green: Cell (U7/Lineage) Lord Slug (8 FDC'S!) U7 Explosive Power Goku (Hope of U7 Goku.dek)
Black: Zenoh Maidens Announcer Masked Saiyan (Black Red) What decks are you excited to test? What do you think are going to be the boogeymen of the format? I’m excited to see what we all come up with!