Cubicorn Games

If It's Good Enough For Garlic, It's Good Enough For You

by Lorraine on January 7th, 2017

I’ve been referred to by a variety of names during my exposure to the Dragon Ball Z card game: the girl, Dustin’s fiancée/wife, the commentator who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, the only one reading the chat, and (my personal favorite) Mrs. Ultimate Champion. Whatever name bestowed upon me, of the group at Eternal Games, I was the won with the least amount of experience, haven’t never played old Z, or really any card games before this one. Regardless, my time spent around and playing Panini’s game has been filled with some of the most memorable times I’ve experienced.

I can remember the day the first announcement about the game’s revival reached our small group as we crowded around the table at misters Kyle and Phillip McGrath’s home. By this point, I had heard many a tale of the “olden days” of the Score DBZ game, and the excitement in the room was palpable. Flash forward to the game’s release, where our group gathered around that table again, opening cases of starter decks and boxes, which I still knew next to nothing about. From that point on, I spent my time either watching them play games or doing something else entirely while they played game after game, building decks only to take them apart, talked strategy, and so forth.

It’s wasn’t until early 2015, when the group’s old tradition of trying to predict the March Madness bracket using a DBZ video game that I found my favorite character in the franchise, Garlic Jr. He had the dumbest name, and was a strange little gremlin looking creature in a series that boasts nothing but huge muscle bound men, and the fact that he looked like some of the enemies in Chrono Trigger was more than enough to have me rooting for him. Up to then, there had been attempts to get me to play the card game, since I was going to be at the events anyway, but I hadn’t really felt compelled to learn. It was then, that I made the promise that I would learn the game when I could play as Garlic Jr. Lo and behold, a few short months later, the Movie Collection comes out, and so did my time to fulfill my end of the bargain. The rest is history.

It might not be overly apparent to those outside of our playgroup, but Michigan has some extremely competitive players. Every Sunday tournament was a gauntlet of strong decks and even stronger players, either testing something new brainchild deck they had concocted, or running their filing tuned machine of a deck that they were trying to find holes in. I was never playing for fame or fortune, and the game for me was a way to bond with my husband and the wide array of friends I had inherited. If there was anything I want to maintain after the ending of this game, it is the friends I have met along the way. Most of the guys who frequented Eternal Games were long time friends, from the “glory days” of Score Z and beyond, but they welcomed me with open arms.

Even beyond our play group, the people I have met at the various events I attended over these two crazy years have been some of the nicest people I have met. It seemed like no matter who my opponent was, no matter what table we were sitting at, we could always strike up some kind of conversation, and joke and talk the whole way through the game, regardless of what the outcome ended up being. I didn’t play in any organized play events until 2016, but every tournament brought something fun and memorable to the table. It is truly sad to see the game go, especially since I had started to get deeper into it over the course of the last year. My biggest fear is that I won’t get to see all of the great friends I have made as much, but from the sounds of things, it seems like that fear might be groundless. Having not experienced the old game, I feel truly grateful for getting the chance to be a part of the Panini game, as it gave me a chance to see my friends (and husband) in and around the environment that caused them to become friends in the first place, and to gain my own experiences similar to the legends and lore touted by the group from years gone by.

How can I ever forget our 4-5 hour long brainstorming/testing session in the hotel conference room before the tournament at GenCon 2015? Or my first trip out of the country to the Toronto Regional when we ended up spending around 2 hours talking in an empty Shawarma restaurant? Or the 2015 Kentucky regional that was held in a mall and our eventful trip to the Chinese buffet afterward? All of the memories and friends I have from playing this game will always be with me, and I can’t do much else than thank Ritchie, Aik, and everyone else who made this game possible. I doubt I will get to experience something of this magnitude again in my life time, but who knows, it’s come back once before.

On the Art of Deck Construction

by Phil on November 17th, 2016

Building a deck from scratch can be a daunting task, the process of which falls awkwardly between science and art. Creation of a new deck takes equal parts math, meta knowledge, foresight, and imagination. While netdecking remains controversial in our community, it should not be held against any player that they choose to go with a tried and true build of beauty as opposed to embarking on the arduous journey of deck construction. That being said, I hope that breaking the process of deck construction down into digestible parts will help players feel more comfortable experimenting. First, I will introduce the core steps of deck construction, and then I'll walk through an example using Goku Dynamic Dragon Ball.

There are really only three major steps to deck construction. The first is The Concept. This step does not involve hard math or difficult decisions. Before we get to anything deeper, we must ask a handful of questions. What MP/Mastery combo are you using? What is your deck's general strategy? What are your win conditions? More abstract questions demand answers as well. Where does this deck fall in the meta? What are its strengths and weaknesses, particularly against popular decks? Could another MP and/or style accomplish this decks goals more successfully? During the Concept stage of deck-building, we are laying the foundation for a successful deck. Asking these questions now can save a lot of heartache and wasted time on a deck that did not have a solid foundation. Some of these questions won't have obvious answers immediately, and only after building a deck will it become obvious whether or not the concept works.

The next step is The Build. Here is where the core of the deck comes together. It is important to keep an open mind during this step, and question the reasoning behind certain deck standards. Great decks do not come from a place of assumption and autopilot; the decisions made are deliberate and often agonizing. Creating space by making an unorthodox decision can set a deck far apart from a seemingly similar build. That being said, the best place to start is with cards that are pivotal to the strategy of the deck. In a Goku Resolute deck for instance, this would mean something like x3 Unleashed, x1 Blue Terror, x3 Assisted Kamehameha, x3 Blue Head Knock, a comfortable number and variety of attach cards, and similar very simple decisions. Basic ratios will come together in this step, as well. What will the blockline of the deck look like? This requires a bit of meta knowledge to put together properly. Take into consideration the number of ways your deck can mitigate damage outside of blocks. It may be possible to shave physical blocks due to frequent leveling through cards like Kaioken and Unleashed, for instance. How many dead draws can this deck get away with? Some more aggressive decks will need to set hard limits and make significant sacrifices to their setup/drill/ally/Dragon Ball stack in order to maintain the pace that the deck needs in order to succeed. Does this deck really need x2 Visiting and x1 Heroic Plan? Do the dead draws in your deck conflict directly with any other strategies? Nappa is a great ally in Blue decks, and Blue Dominance is a great card in Blue decks, but if you're running them together there is an opportunity to save space while also sharpening the focus of the deck. The same is true if you are leveling frequently and running drills.

Dragon Balls are more complicated than the other dead draws. If a deck is splashing Dragon Balls, consider the consequence of your opponent stealing them. Can this deck afford to have a DB2 stolen? If the deck is light on discard pile hate, how devastating will a stolen NDB7 be? Special mention to EDB7 which essentially has no risk associated with it. If you choose to run more than two Dragon Balls, determine whether it is possible to run all 7 as an additional win condition. I tend to lean towards the mindset that most decks should not be pushing for DBV, as actually balling out is pretty difficult to do without more than 1 DB tutor. They take up a lot of space, are dead for most decks, can pose a huge risk while in play, and are difficult to actually win by. All of that being said, they do offer utility and certain MPs or styles can mitigate their risks while maximizing their rewards (more on this later!).

Attack Density is a critical part of the basic core to any survival centric deck. Even a difference as subtle as -2 attacks +2 (other) can have drastic consequences on how a deck flows and its ability to declare often and push damage through. Determining the proper Attack Density, like many other parts of The Build will require some expertise and trial and error. Likewise, determining the most impactful attacks for your strategy and particular meta will also take time. Can the deck get mileage out of stage pressure? If so, how much stage pressure does the deck require in order to get the most out of it? Is mixed beats practical? It is also critical to find room for cards that tech against the meta. Heroic Dashing Punch is a perfect example of a card that earns its slots in this meta. It's an attack that swings tempo, progresses anger victory and survival victory, and can act as MPPV tech. Ideally, most of the cards in a deck will feel this impactful. In a similar vein, cards like Devastating Blow and even Shoulder Slam are excellent choices that thrive in a variety of decks right now. If you find yourself complaining about the draws in a deck frequently, there may be a problem with the basic build. Wall Breaker is more two dimensional, but exceptionally powerful as tech against MPPV. Most decks can afford a few slots to cards like this, but cannot focus heavily on them without significantly hindering their ability to progress their own strategy.

Round out the deck with cards that have high value and help progress your win condition or limit your opponent. Confrontation and Stare Down will almost always pay dividends, offensively or defensively. Sphere is an excellent choice in this Unleashed heavy meta. Earth Dragon Ball 7 is an out against huge Goku combats that has no real downside and is accessible to all decks. Orange Nursing Drill provides a huge defensive option for Ret decks while offering additional utility. When the core takes form and approaches 60 cards, it is wise to take note of endurance totals. How many cards in the deck have endurance? Are their endurance values high, low, or volatile? This is especially important for decks that are either protecting themselves from crits (ally decks and DBV decks, particularly) or are aggressive decks that prefer to shrug off attacks rather than stop them. Endurance is one of the most valuable attributes a card can have. In an average game, many, if not most, of the cards in a deck are not actually drawn. Those cards continue to provide value and advantage outside of a players hand if they have endurance. Cards that provide value outside of being drawn are tremendously powerful! When filling a slot for a deck I often find myself asking "is there a card that can fill this role but with endurance?" These micro decisions can and do win games.

So now you've read a billion words and have a steaming pile of cards in front of you that resembles a deck. It's time for step three, Test and Tweak. This step, unlike the previous ones, is not something you do in a few hours. It can happen over the course of a week or a month or while you're in the shower singing showtunes and have a revelation. The first part of this step is simply to test against the most common decks in the meta (and maybe a few not-so-common ones.) It should become apparent pretty quickly whether or not the deck has the chops to compete in the meta, and what potential problems the build may have. If the deck is failing miserably against the meta, it's time to cut your losses and start over. Sometimes a concept seems sound but doesn't pan out in practice. This is the reality of deck-building. Behind every great idea and ground-breaking deck that makes a splash at a tournament, that player has likely built and torn apart a dozen other decks. But don't get discouraged! Learn from it and keep building. Just like making a major play error during a tournament, every failure is an opportunity to grow.

So let's say the deck is doing reasonably well against the meta in testing. Now you can start critically evaluating slots. Every. Single. Card. Does every card in the deck serve its purpose? Is there any dead weight? Maybe you had something at a 3 of that you're now making whiskey faces at when you draw it first turn. Congratulations! That's a free slot that was opened up, it should be highly valued. A blockline could be buffered, tech for a specific matchup could be supplemented, or attack density could be increased. Maybe bump a 2 of that has over-performed up to a 3 of. Tweaking doesn't have to happen as the direct result of testing, though. In the volatile world of weekly regionals and interaction updates, changes should be happening frequently. A deck is never really perfect. Sundeep has already stated there are improvements he could have made to his Ret Roshi build. Tim and I each believed our Android 20 Adaptive builds a year ago could have been improved. Never be satisfied with your build, especially after a tournament.

Now, for an example deck construction. Saiyan Dynamic Goku Dragon Ball. The day the Dynamic Mastery was revealed, this deck's journey began. But it wasn't Goku or DBV. My first thought was "Dynamic Mastery will allow me to improve the Cell Empowered deck I ran at Chicago regional." The first build looked strong enough, it had plenty of tech, consistent leveling, protection from deleveling, and a lot of control over the game state. It used the new Cell level 1 (but keep in mind the deck starts at level 2) and the old Cell levels 2, 3, and 4. The general strategy was to get to 4, set up Saiyan Rescue to recur key cards in a matchup, attach Saiyan Tracking Blast to stop my opponent from deleveling me, and continuously push advantageous combats at Cell 4 while controlling the game state.

This deck performed well below expectations, for a reason I hadn't anticipated at all. The Dynamic Mastery, while granting free anger to your Styled attacks, also pushes the anger threshold up to 6. Part of reason the deck was so appealing was having 5 cards that "auto-leveled" Cell. The problem was Cell's Draining Attack was far less consistent at actually resulting in a level up than I thought it would be. The deck was full of tech and did not thrive when going blow for blow with opponents at level 2. If I entered on a hand of (attack, block, Cell's Draining Attack, utility card) it would often not result in a level, as well as force me to sequence a certain way. My level 2 offered next to nothing in this situation, and a single anger drop pushed my Draining Attack out of level up territory. In short, the concept of the deck fell flat on its face when push came to shove. It wasn't a total disappointment, but did not seem like a salvageable concept.

Enter Goku. Goku's level 4 offered a similar tutor ability to Cell 4, while also granting huge positive and negative damage modifiers. His level 2 was an enormous step up from Cell level 2, offering damage modifiers, semi-controllable hand advantage, and a pinch critical effect. Additionally, he replaced Cell's inconsistent Draining Attack with a more reliable leveling option in Kaioken. Goku also traded the tempo of grabbing a card when entering combat for the utility to grab cards from any zone. This forced me to drop the counts on cards like Saiyan Dominance and Saiyan Ki Burst which thrive as a first action, but also allowed me to cut down to 1 Saiyan Rescue, as the recursion element of Saiyan Cell was not as necessary for Goku. How to fill out that extra space, though? Goku brings one more very important element to the table for this deck. Goku's Search. As I mentioned before, actually achieving Dragon Ball victory is very difficult while limited to 1 or even 2 DB tutors. Goku allows the deck to run a hardy four DB tutors (including Kami) which opens up the DBV that Cell couldn't realistically attempt. Goku's Search offers additional utility to boot. It can grab Chi-chi in a pinch, in lieu of a DB, it grants 5 stages that can be critical against stage pressure, and it rejuvs two cards of choice. A rare effect indeed. As if Goku's Search wasn't a powerful enough card for the deck, it adds additional synergy with Saiyan Back Crash, allowing Goku's Search to put a ball into play and capture one in the same phase, or sculpt your discard pile to control a draw at Goku 2 or 3.

It seemed like a match made in heaven and it was time to rebuild the deck. Here is the list I ran for the Dragon Prix.

Goku 1-4 Awakening
Saiyan Dynamic Mastery

Dead Draws - 14
Namek Dragon Ball x7
VtP x2
Saiyan Peace x2
Dragon Radar x1

Attacks - 16
Assisted Kamehameha x3
Optic Blast x2
Overpowering Attack x2
Saiyan Demolishing Beam x2
Saiyan Back Crash x2
Saiyan Tracking Blast x1
Saiyan Tantrum x1
Saiyan Destructive Blast x1
Saiyan Ki Burst x1
Saiyan Pinpoint Blast x1

Blocks - 15
Saiyan Outrage x3
Saiyan Parry x3
Saiyan Evastion x3
Saiyan Hand Swipe x3
Saiyan Crouch x2

Other - 15
Confrontation x3
Unleashed x3
Kaioken x2
Sphere x2
Goku's Search x2
Saiyan Rescue x1
Saiyan Scouting x1
Overwhelming Power x1

Before the tournament, there were tweaks I had made and tweaks I should have made. Sometimes, tweaks don't come as a result of testing or meta changes, but as a result of rules clarifications. A week before the tournament, Baba was clarified not to reveal cards as they enter your hand. For this reason, I cut Baba from the deck, as she no longer triggered Saiyan Tantrum's crit effect if I tutored it. HOWEVER, Saiyan Tantrum was also clarified to crit if it is tutored from your deck with Goku level 4, so it retained its spot. I used the free slot for x1 Saiyan Ki Burst as a utility card that could shut down Goku and Vegeta decks in certain situations. If I could have made one more change before the tournament it would have been -1 Saiyan Evasion for +1 Sphere. This was a change I considered making before the tournament but opted not to due to never testing it.

Finally, allow me to explain a few of the choices made for this deck. Overpowering Attack x2, Chichi x1, and Kami x1 are all essentially a package. Cutting Kami or either/both Overpowering Attacks results in the entire package being underwhelming. Those 4 cards are basically tied together.

Saiyan Peace x2 as my primary leveling tech because it does not discriminate between leveling (like Unleashed) and anger. It was a card strong against the entire meta, that was tutorable on level 4, and that generally stuck around long enough to do its job. Players are low on setup tech in this meta.

Saiyan Tracking Blast x1, this card practically allows the deck to function. Being Dynamic and starting at 2, in tandem with Tracking Blast's ability to absorb an Unleashed delevel effect, allows the deck to pull ahead in the Unleashed game easily. Goku 4 can also grab Tracking Blast back from the banished zone and keep you ahead on levels indefinitely. Less obviously, it is actively detrimental to steal DB2 against this deck most of the time, as it will often not result in Goku Saiyan losing a level, but Saiyan will certainly steal it back at some point.

Saiyan Demolishing Beam x2 was the identity of the deck even back when it was a set 5 Cell deck. The utility offered by that attack is insane, and many matches were won on the back of Demolishing to copy DB2, 3, or 7, sometimes multiple times. Demolishing Beam, together with Peace and a steady stream of crit effects, allows the build to combat MPPV without dedicating any slots specifically for that matchup.

Assisted Kamehameha being the sole 3 of attack in the deck definitely says how I feel about it. The auto crit is invaluable to a DBV deck but the damage this deck deals can add up quickly. While cards like Demolishing Beam are tutorable and sometimes not useful, there is almost never a bad time to draw an AK in this deck.

Optic Blast x2 is a slot I needed to be a dangerous attack with endurance. Optic just checked more boxes than anything else. Although it rarely hit, it did often bait out a block, opening up Goku 4 -> Demolishing Beam tricks.

Saiyan Destructive Blast was chosen over Saiyan Spin Kick to increase my meaningful attack density by 1 (at the expense of endurance and a tiny amount of anger tech.) I tested with and without it and found that losing that single energy for 6 or so had a meaningful impact on my ability to win by survival. The occasional ally tech function can absolutely win matches, too.

Saiyan Back Crash x2, I even considered x3 for this slot but simply couldn't find the room. Remember when I said cards that have value outside of your hand are hugely important? This card is a great example of that. With Rescue online or a Goku's Search in hand it is a crit sitting in the discard pile.

Saiyan Tantrum x1 allows the deck to use Goku 4 to activate a crit effect while grabbing something other than Overwhelming Power. Tantrum's damage is meaningful, and when combined with the rejuv it can really swing a game. The endurance was obviously huge, as well.

Goku's Kaioken x2 was initially at x3 but I found I was often drawing it when I didn't want it late game, and in testing it was reaching level 4 consistently even at x2 Kaioken.

The rest of the deck has very little endurance, which had a big influence on the blockline and was a contributing factor to the x3 Evasion, despite it not really doing much and the meta not being particularly physical heavy. Saiyan Parry earned slots over Saiyan Arm Catch due to swinging certain matchups hugely in this deck's favor, particularly Broly and Clench decks. This was pivotal to my Swiss match with Joey Walter, where I was staring down a Turles level 3 with Clench attached for the entire game but was able to out-value him with repeated Saiyan Parrys and take almost no damage.

There you have it. A basic overview of how to build a deck from the ground up, and an example straight from the heart. I hope that many players will utilize this guide and feel more comfortable creating decks. Personally, I have always enjoyed deck building more than playing, and truly believe it to be an avenue for artistic expression.

Our New DBZ TCG Page! (Also A Vengence Preview)

by Dustin on June 7th, 2016

Hey everyone! For those of you who may not know, while I'm heavily invested in the playing/making of video games, perhaps my most influential game related passion has been playing the Dragon Ball Z card game.

Since the relaunch of the Panini DBZ TCG in 2014, We've been involved in the tournament community by both attending and helping to put on events, so we found it fitting to dedicate a section of the Cubicorn Games website solely to DBZ-TCG content. Look here for updates on event's we'll be attending, streaming, or otherwise helping to put on, as well as best in class podcasts related to the game and its design, and a few unique surprises now and then.

Speaking of which, here is a partial preview for a card in the new Vengence expansion (Set to Release July 1st). To reveal the rest of the text on this card, reply to our latest podcast post in the DBZ Retro Group with answers. For each correctly answered question, I will reveal one new line of hidden card text on the card.

Maker Faire Detroit

Question 1: The 2003 World Champions had the largest turnout in DBZ-TCG history. How many players entered that event?

Question 2: In preparation for the release of Trunks Saga, Score sent out an early print run of a Trunks Saga card that allowed you to run any number of it in your deck (this text was changed for the final release of that card). What is the name of this card?

Question 3: During the Saiyan Saga release of the original game, level 4 personality cards for starter MPs were occasionally hard to come by. Score would eventually release Silver-Foil, Gold-Foil and Non-Foil versions of these cards. What were the 3 ways you could acquire these different level 4 promo cards?

That's it for now, check out the latest podcast for more info on what we're up to in the future, and start prepping for the new OP tournament season!