The Cell Chain - Do's and Don't
So last night after my kids went to bed I sat on the couch and stumbled upon a live stream from the ARG event at the ARG headquarters in Ohio. It was a small 5 round event, best of 1, but what intrigued me about this was that it was a ton of Cell chain decks and SS3 decks. What excites me about this is that I feel like this will be the marquee matchup after May 1st; Cell Chain variants vs. SS3 Goku variants. At any rate, after watching the games I wanted to immediately start writing but decided to sleep on it first. What inspired me to write was wanting to help people properly play the Cell chain because in every single round a major mistake was made. Now, I get it, it's easy to point out mistakes in games that you're watching instead of playing. Hell, I even played a Trunks, Protector of Children, at 5 life, on camera, in the top 4 of the ARG regionals in Charlotte. That being said, I want to point out what I saw and try to provide some input.
*Disclaimer: I am not picking on anyone. I'm just using these examples because they're fresh in my mind.*
Scenario 1: Cell vs. SS3 Goku Red w/GT Stuff
So where I want to pick this game up in turn 4. The Cell player has a Tien in play, has just awakened after clearing the SS3 players board, and has a grip full of cards now post-awakening. The SS3 player. having just played 2 copies of 1 -drop GT Goku, has 6 or whatever cards in hand, not super important, 6 life, and no board. This is what I like to see as a Cell player. I can set up whatever series of plays that I want to while having the ability to kill literally whatever my opponent plays out of SS3 Red. Nothing he can play scares me and after I awaken him after untapping next turn I can Cell chain him down to 3 or fewer cards and take over the game from there. This is a great scenario I thought to myself.
*10 seconds pass*
The Cell player has attacked with his Tien. Okay, this is fine I guess. SS3 will take it and cell could suddenly be in trouble if the SS3 player can self awaken with Cabba and apply a ton of pressure before we can get our hand in order. Next play, Cell attacks with the Leader. Oh shit - this isn't a good idea at all. SS3 naturally takes this too now being able to awaken on his turn. This isn't the *worst* because now we can Cell chain him next turn but we're pretty vulnerable for a turn with little to no energy and sitting at 4 life. This is important. Naturally I'm just yelling "Nooooooooo" at the top of my lungs in my head during all of this. I want to see this guy win. He's playing my boy, Cell, and I always like to see Cell win.
His next play is what you can guess - 3-drop Cell, into 5-drop Cell to kill nothing (and even forgetting to draw), into 7-drop Cell forcing the opponent to discard down to 3 from 7 or whatever. Not a bad haul but the timing was just awwwwwwwwful. I forget whether he attacked with the 5 or the 7 during his turn but the damage was already done and irreparable. The SS3 player started his turn, awakened, attacked and drew another card and suddenly was back up to 6 or 7 cards, even with the Cell player in spite of facing down the biggest threat imaginable. He went on to win that game (the GT player) because post-awakening with that many cards in hand it's very difficult to beat SS3 Goku regardless of version or how average or pro the player is.
A few things that I want to point out about this other than the timing issue that I mentioned -
1. Don't Cell chain when you don't have to even if it seems sweet to make an opponent discard 4-5 cards.
2. For the love of God draw a card from your 5-cost Cell. It's mandatory and it's cheating if you don't.
Something that shouldn't just be a bullet point or number in a list now that I'm thinking about it: it's oftentimes correct, and even more so in set 3, to attack with the 5-cost Cell rather than the 7-cost. Why, you ask? The 7-drop is guaranteed to deal 2 damage right? Yes, you're correct. What you're not correct about is that this gives them 2 more cards and basically negates the advantage that you just gained. If you attack with the 5-cost first they either have to take it (ideal) or combo a bunch to play around 7-cost Cell (also perfectly fine). If they combo out of it then you can just Mira them and super combo them down to 0-2 cards and save yourself an Android 18 for something else. This is why it's hard to play around the combo in set 3. In set 2, sure, it was easier. You kept your hand at 4-5 cards and Cell chaining became less desirable. In set 3, with Stouthearted Android 16, this is a *much* worse idea but sometimes still correct and you can't do anything about it. What's worse is that Android 16 is searchable with Gero 1 drop and Android 20 2-drop. Disgusting, I know.
Anyway, next scenario.
Scenario 2: Android 17/18 vs. SS3 Goku (Blue/Green Veggies)
This one isn't as egregious but still a gross misplay in my opinion. The Androids player was doing everything right until turn 3 came around. The SS3 player, like most times on turn 2-3. just had a few draw a card battle cards in play, an average hand, and 6 life. I think it was a 1-cost Buu and a 2-cost Bundle Goku. He plays Tien from hand for 3 energy, uses him twice to kill the SS3 players Buu and Goku, Awakens, attacks, etc, etc. Here's what I hate about this play. It doesn't force the SS3 player to awaken, you're taking 4 damage to kill basically nothing, you "wasted" your turn playing Tien, and you aren't really ahead by much, if at all. Androids is a deck that just gains incremental advantages every turn until it all comes to a head with the Cell chain.
At any rate, he Cell chains the following turn without awakening the SS3 player first and the same thing happens that happened in the first scenario except this time the Android player helped out the SS3 player by using Tien's activate skill twice. Veggies is even harder to kill than SS3 Red because they have Kale (which got in a lot of work in this game). When your 5-drop Cell isn't really doing anything, it's oftentimes not worth it to chain them. This isn't always the case but it's a good rule of thumb. If it's not killing anything, and if it's not attacking, then just don't chain them.
The Androids player should have won this game without too much effort. He had the hand for it, even had the Mira for extra discard, and just mistimed it and lost the game. When I see players talk about the Cell chain and how they aren't scared of it, or how easy it is to play around, I think about these scenarios and understand why they feel that way. Then they go a regional event and lose to Androids and try to figure out why. My own teammate, Trey Faircloth, fell victim to this in Charlotte. His Soul Striker deck had good results vs Androids because the players he was playing against kept making the same errors. When I played him in the top 32 I beat him 2-0 (he did misplay game 1 but game 2 wasn't close) and he started to understand why. This is not a brag on my part of a dig at my teammate, Trey knows that he's an incredible player, but rather prove the point that the quality of the Cell chain player, and the correct timing of the chain itself, plays a *major* part in the success of the deck.
I'm going to leave you with my versions of Mira and Android 17/18. I shared my Cell deck yesterday so you now have all 3 of my current Cell chain decks. I'll get some practice in with Android 13 at some point and share that as well sometime in the future.
Both of these decks are well-tested and extremely potent. The Mira deck is great at producing tons of critical threats and having the Cell chain to close games out along with Dimension Breaker Mira. The Androids deck is the perfect fit for the Veggies engine as it's the best way to awaken and you no longer have to rely on the extremely mediocre Tien to level you anymore.
I get a lot of questions regarding Speedy Surprise Attack and why I only like to play 1. The answer is because it's really good the turn you Cell chain them as it makes cell almost invincible to attackers as well as protects you from anything that they can follow-up with. I usually want 1 in a game and more than 1 isn't necessary or good. That's why I only play 1.
I hope that you enjoyed this one! Don't expect updates to the blog this regularly but for now I was inspired to write. Until next time!