By: Timothy Batow
I’m back in Florida at last! I spent the last month of my life in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker (WSOP). As much as I love and enjoy poker, a month of it non-stop is mentally draining. I have never traditionally performed great at the WSOP, but this year was definitely a trend in a positive direction; I feel like I broke through and I’m finally starting to feel competitive at poker’s higher levels. Nonetheless, the Austin DBZ Regional event was a much needed vacation from the tension and stress of the poker world.
During the slow lulls at the poker table in Las Vegas, I couldn’t help but daydream about all the possibilities present in Set 6 Vengeance’s spoiler. I finally got to see the image of Instant Transmission, the card I was able to design and submit for winning the World Championship last year. The new Main Personalities looked awesome and were the sort of cards I really wanted to build around. I felt the Android Allies (13, 14 & 15) added a lot of playability to the Set 4 Evolution Android 17 and Android 18 personality sets.
Once I had my sights on attending the Austin Regional, I started to get to work typing away on my smart phone. I created mock deck lists daily, “playtesting” in my mind during poker tournament breaks, and setting the deck skeletons on the ground of my rented condo. Strategically, I knew I wanted to play something proactive, aggressive, and easy to play.
Reactive control strategies are great when you can accurately pinpoint a metagame. Last year, I earned my Worlds qualification by playing Orange Goku Drill at the Charlottesville Virginia Regional. I knew Orange Goku would be drawing nearly dead to fast red MPPV strategies, but my build would perform as a significant favorite vs the popular Black Krillin and Blue Dominance decks at the height of their popularity of the Set 3 metagame. I didn’t expect to face any Red MPPV builds, and I was correct in my assessment as I was able to handily defeat a field of Blue/Black/Namekian all day.
Control decks tend to under perform when you cannot precisely predict the metagame, and with Set 6 being officially released just a week before, trying to predict more than a rough estimate of the metagame is felt impossible. I also knew I would not have time to playtest, as putting a few more hours on the poker tables would be more lucrative than fine tuning a DBZ deck. So I determined I just had to guess how the meta would evolve with Set 6’s release, and just ‘wing’ a deck the best of my abilities.
I felt that the format would generally revolve around stage beatdown physical attacks and slime anger, as Vengeance added a lot of potential to those strategies in the Android 13 and Broly MP sets, as well as the Android 14 ally. I felt Red Roshi and Black Tien are also some popular strategies in the Set 5 metagame that would continue to be strong. Thus the Blue Style became most appealing to me theoretically. Blue has access to Blue Head Knock and Blue Neck Beam; the best cards available for thwarting slower MPPV strategies, as well as some solid defense for stage beatdown strategies (in ally searching to absorb stages). I felt Cooler was very good new MP (similar to Android 20) but would take some solid playtesting to come up with an optimal build, so I wasn’t too worried about playing vs him as I thought the builds I would encounter would be rough around the edges.
Some of the deck ideas I laid out on my condo floor in preparation for Austin were:
Blue Tag Team 17 – Blue Training Combo
Blue Protective 17 – Android 14 beatdown
Blue Protective Yamcha – Pesky Barrage/Defiant Challenge beats.
Blue Protective Trunks (New Lv.1) – Acquisition Drill/Blue Biting Drill slow mill.
Blue Tag Team Gohan – Blocking Hero Allies and disruptive Hero allies with Life Card beats.
Saiyan Empowered Goku Drill – 57 styled cards and 3 Surprise Attack, energy beats. 5 Drills to grab.
Orange Adaptive 13 Stage lock – Get to lv.3 asap with a Hidden Power Drill online.
Red Enraged Broly MPPV – Red Inferno for Crits upon Crits.
Of these strategies, the Blue Protective Yamcha, Blue Protective 17, and Blue Tag Team Gohan felt like they were doing the most powerful/consistent things I wanted to do to exploit the metagame. I also felt I could pilot all three of these deck archetypes reasonability well without playtesting. The tiebreaker for me was the extra “Super Elite” player of the year point for representing Gohan, so I decided to focus on building an optimal list with him as the MP.
At first, the Gohan lists laid out on my floor and on my phone’s notepad were 70 + cards. They contained the normal non-Styled staples that are good in most decks: Time is a Warriors Tool, Confrontation, Heroic Energy Sphere, Blinding Energy Move, Visiting the Past, etc.
This was an issue; there was no way I could reasonably include all of the Allies, Ally tutoring effects, powerful Blue Styled attacks, and non-Styled cards and keep the deck at the 60 card limit. So I decided to take a little inspiration from the Saiyan Empowered Goku Drill list I had set out, which had difficulty scrounging up 57 good Saiyan Styled cards to compliment Surprise Attack. I knew that not playing all the non-Styled staples really opened up a lot of deck space, but that came at a sacrifice of forgoing playing some really powerful effects. Could I reasonably justify not playing a card as powerful as Time is a Warriors Tool? Prior to Surprise Attack’s release I would resoundingly say no. However, Surprise Attack changes everything.
The Gohan Tag Team list I decided to play at Austin is interesting not because of the cards I decided to play, but because of the cards I decided NOT to play.
Gohan Lv.1, to the Rescue
Blue Tag Team Mastery
3 Blue Neck Beam
3 Blue Blanketing Blasts
3 Blue Draining Blast
3 Blue Arm Blast
3 Blue Clash
3 Blue Lunar Ray
1 Blue Terror
3 Blue Betrayal
3 Blue Head Knock
3 Blue Skid
3 Blue Head Kick
3 Blue Decapitation
3 Overpowering Attack
3 Sobering Hammer
3 Surprise Attack
3 Blue Narrow Escape
1 Blue Crouch
1 Master Roshi
No Confrontation, no Time is a Warriors Tool, no Visiting the Past, no Instant Transmission, no Heroic Energy Sphere, no Blinding Energy Move. No Dragon Balls, no Setups, no Drills, no Events.
The goal of the deck is to reap the advantage of Blue Tag Team Mastery and Gohan’s Lv.1 ability to garner a quick stabilization of Allies, then enter combat over and over and over and over. Unless the opponent is able to mount a recurring Time is a Warriors Tool, there is not much they can do to keep up with you.
Simply put, you are consistently taking more actions than your opponent. While your opponent draws a hand of Spheres, Wall Breakers, blocks, and Planning Step cards, you keep pounding them with attacks. Smart use of Chi-Chi, Piccolo and Korin, as well as stage redirection with your plethora of allies allow you simply absorb the majority of attacks your opponent is throwing at your without expending cards from your hand. Its very tough for your opponent to recoup from this pressure: they cant stabilize with Black Smoothness Drill or Orange Hiding Drill/Orange Steady Drill/Orange Burning Aura Drill because you can search up Krillin. They can’t rely on a Visiting the Past or Red Relaxation as Yajirobe takes them out of the equation. Card advantage created by Dragon Balls are much less robust when Oolong is in play. If they mount an offense of targeting your Allies, your vast amount of Ally tutoring and protection Icarus and the Tag Team mastery provides will overwhelm them.
Prior to Surprise Attack’s release, you often had to lead an aggressive combat with a Confrontation or Stare Down, otherwise you were at the whim of your opponent drawing and recurring a key Time is a Warriors Tool and using your attacks inefficiently without knowledge of your opponent’s hand. With Surprise Attack’s ability to scout your opponent’s strategy and extirpate their TIAWT, and Gohan’s Lv.2 damage amplification, the “enter combat, enter combat, enter combat” strategy can finally apply enough pressure to succeed. Surprise Attack is also great for stripping the opponent’s deck of cards like Tug of War, Android 14 (to halt Android 13’s Lv.2 power), Android 13’s Impenetrable Defense, Piccolo’s Weighted Clothing, Broly’s Eraser Cannon, Dragon Radar, and other cards that make planning out attack sequencing difficult. Overpowering Attack and Sobering Hammer are most important in the early game while you are setting up at level 1; as you advance to level 2 your only really wanting to draw powerful Styled attacks. Overpowering Attack and Sobering Hammer don’t have endurance either, so having them stripped out of your deck doesn’t really impact the long-run (expected value) damage you will be taking throughout the game.
The removal of TIAWT from your opponent’s deck and their inability to keep relevant cards on the field means that you are trading 1for1 with your opponent’s cards. Inevitably, because of the decks low amount of bricks and the extra actions Allies provide, you will come out ahead nearly every combat as your opponent runs out of relevant cards to use. You don’t care about your opponent’s stages or if they play a Namek Dragon Ball 6 or 4, and your Blue Neck Beam/Blue Head Knock provide enough anger hosing you don’t need to devote slots to supplemental cards like Wall Breaker. Unlike Blue Dominance strategies, being forced down to level 1 is not a big deal, as youll just pop right back up to level 2 the next combat. An attached Android Arm Breaker or floating Sobering Hammer effect can even be to your advantage, as camping on level 1 a few extra turns to setup your field is often stronger than getting some more damage in the early game.
Overall, I was pretty satisfied with my build. I intentionally didn’t play Mr. Popo as he conflicted with many of my own cards (Gohan’s Lv.2, Korin, Tag Team Mastery, Icarus), but as Cooler becomes more popular his inclusion is probably warranted. (Just make sure you don’t have Korin and Popo in play at the same time!)
Blue Head Kick was a fine card, but its slot could be used on something else. I primarly played it as an oust to Yamcha’s Lv.1 and Orange Burning Aura Drill, but I didn’t encounter those cards all day.
I think the deck would be better suited shaving off 2 of the Blue Narrow Escapes. The card often sat in my hand dead, and I certainly didn’t like top decking it after resolving Tien’s or Turtle’s power. Over all the deck just simply doesn’t need a ton of defense, as Piccolo can block a key Black Energy Web, and the high amount of Endurance after the deck is thinned of Allies and non-Styled cards will prevent an average attack from dealing critical damage. That being said, If I were to replace Blue Head Kick and Blue Narrow Escape, it would be with cards that have some Endurance of their own. Blue Discharge could be a alright singleton in the deck, but I wouldn’t run it as a playset as it is poor in the early game and the deck often doesn’t have a Ally in the discard pile for long. Blue Ki Ball could be a okay 1 or 2 of.
I felt Chiatozu is okay, but because his power costs 4 stages to perform his inclusion isn’t mandatory in the deck; he feels like a ‘win-more’ card to me. Kami really underperformed and honestly wasn’t necessary; the recursion he provided was never the difference in a game. There was even a time I elected not to play him from my hand in the late game to play around my opponent’s Sinister Choke. Turtle was very good and over performed: being able to search him out with Sobering Hammer gives the deck another solid action per turn. Yajirobe was the MVP of the day, as he locked numerous opponent’s out of using VtP and Red Relaxation against me. I don’t remember an instance all day where someone used a VtP versus me.
Blue Decapitation was a great supplement to Blue Betrayal and Blue Head Knock, and could always be turned into a Blue Skid when recurring one of the former wasn’t a necessity. Blue tends to always over rely on drawing Blue Betrayal and Blue Head Knock at a key times (or use VtP to recur them), and Blue Decapitation really takes a lot of that pressure off.
I went 10-1-1 in Austin. My sound loss came to Elmer Walter’s Red Ruthless Broly in round 7 of swiss, after starting out very weak and drawing a defending hand of Blue Narrow Escape/Blue Narrow Escape/Ally/Ally (extra card from a Tien proc) when Elmer entered with hand containing no energy defense. I defeated Elmer’s teammate Dillon Warren (who was running a card for card identical build to Elmer’s) in the top 4 fairly decisively as my draw was slightly above average and his was slightly below. I drew in the first round to Jeffery Firmin’s Red Enraged Cooler.
I also defeated Cell Namekian Restored (thanks to Master Roshi), Piccolo Namekian Restrored (thanks to Oolong), 13 Black Devious, 13 Black Perceptive, 13 Red Ruthless, Gohan Blue Tag Team mirror (thanks to my deck containing less dead cards like VtP in tandem with Surprise Attack), and Cooler Black Devious.
Over all the Austin Regional was a blast! Dragon’s Lair was the best comic book store venue I have ever played at by a large margin, and It was awesome connecting with people I normally only talk to online. The full sized suit of Saiyan armor I received for winning was pretty sweet as well, (although I got a bunch of weird looks in the Austin and Miami airports as I was lugging it home LOL.) The Vegeta SSJ Blue playmat included in the decklist picture was my prize for being the top Blue Styled finisher in the tournament.