I’ll be honest, when the Dragon Ball Super Card Game first released, I wasn’t too thrilled by it. Maybe it was just my state of mind at the time – I’ll give some leeway here because I know a lot of players were massive fans of the Set 1 and 2 format – but a lot of the game felt like a “surface level” design to me – like the designers had come up with a card game idea and were intentionally keeping their designs simple and somewhat repetitive to create some kind of game balance, afraid of tipping any particular mechanism or idea too far in any direction.
Regardless of how right or wrong I was, it’s clear that with each passing set the design team has pushed boundaries, creating a game that is, for me, much more compelling and exciting to play, where each turn holds the promise of bombastic plays and trickier decisions. The advent of many more Counter timing cards in Series 7 and Draft Box 4 have only added to the game’s richness, and as we head into Series 8, we can see the designer’s shackles loosening even further. It’s actually inspired me to dig into it – so with that, I present a list of what I deem the 7 most exciting developments in Dragon Ball Super’s design space as of Series 8 – Malicious Machinations! Keep in mind that these aren’t necessarily going to be the most powerful or rule breaking cards, but the 7 cards or ideas that, to me, are bending the game’s boundaries in the most interesting or exciting ways that will hopefully impact the game positively and open the door for more fun and unique design in the future.
In a flurry of historic firsts, Series 8 releases with a new record of THREE Secret Rare cards, one of which is the game’s first Secret Rare Extra Card – Dragon Balls – Negative Energy Overflow. Opening the door for SCRs that aren’t simply characters is an important move, even if for the cards that are in the hands of, by far, the fewest players – now that the ceiling has been shattered, it opens the door for more interesting mixes of high rarity cards in the future. For example, it may not be long before we see a set in which all SCRs are Extra Cards!
The card itself is also a notably strong design for a SCR extra card – it’s a splashy, end-of-turn complete board wipe, but it maintains the Ultimate ability that we expect on SCRs to help reign in their price and level of requirement, as well as a cost reduction skill that helps make it actually playable. Cleverly, the cost reduction either requires that your deck is able to maintain a big enough discard pile to keep the cost down, or that you let the game go late and play into it, much like other SCR battle cards do. All in all, this is not likely going to shatter the game, but will be a solid option for an SCR for players that can’t afford their decks preferred SCR, or ones that simply lack a finisher Ultimate that’s up to snuff and wouldn’t mind a little extra board control.
Series 8 continues the trend of “campaign rares” – cards with a special rarity unique to the set that appear a few to a box – in this case, they introduce the Noble Hero and Ignoble Villain Rares, each of which features a new keyword, Heroic and Villainous, respectively. These keywords offer you a new facet to build into a deck: Like a very specific Bond, if you play a Heroic or Villainous card while you have a Heroic or Villainous card in play already, you’ll get a once-per-turn bonus card draw or force the opponent to discard a card, again, respectively.
The interesting element of their design here is that there is only one battle card for each color, and an extra card in black. That means a mono-color deck looking to take advantage of it may have to stretch beyond simply the one colored battle card that fits their deck – including some copies of the extra card will help you get the full value from your cards, or stretching into another color to pick up a different battle card may also help.
I’m not sure yet if these cards will pay off well enough to do so, but “packages” like these that can flexibly fit into a deck for added value always add a unique and interesting new deck building element to consider!
It’s exciting to many that Series 8 includes cards based on the very popular Dragon Ball FighterZ fighting game, and these cards even have their own mechanic to work with – Clone Tokens. Unlike normal Token production, Clone Tokens are made for your opponent and not for you – and the entire subset of FighterZ cards is based around using those Tokens as a resource to fuel strong effects, such as Supreme Technique Son Goku.
It’s a risky and exciting mechanism – despite them having no combo cost, they are 10,000 power tokens so if you let the production get out of hand with no way to use them up, your opponent can potentially rush you with them to score some extra damage. Whether it works or not, it’s a very unique design space that I’m happy to see explored and look forward to more unique tokens with unique effects or uses in the future!
Prior to Series 8, the majority of Black leaders – aside from Kid Goku – have been primarily focused on Overrealm. Nearly all of them mess with the warp, moving cards to or from the warp, or helping you Overrealm more consistently or often. Hatchhyack (Front/Back) is a big shift from that, and while he still focuses on using your discard pile (ensuring that he has some synergy with prior Black effects), the list of ways in which he breaks the rules of normal leaders is astounding! While some of these aren’t firsts, usually they are the singular unique feature of a leader, and rarely do you see them all in one package!
- Hatchhyack limits you to only Black Battle Cards.
- Hatchhyack cannot attack on his front side.
- Hatchhyack has an Auto that acts like a Flying Nimbus, limiting how many times each player can attack each turn.
- Hatchhyack’s front doesn’t draw when he attacks, and instead uses an Activate: Main to draw a card, giving you card advantage even if you take the first turn of the game.
- Hatchhyack can awaken at full life using his unique awakening condition.
He’s equal parts restricting and powerful, and gives your deck an automatic good matchup against anything that tries to “go wide” and swing with a lot of battle cards in one turn. It will be really fascinating to see what his impact on the metagame will be, and I love seeing that the designers are willing to put out these leader concepts that are less “safely” designed. Break the cookie cutter!
More and more Permanent extra cards are coming these days, and since Series 7 we’re getting more leaders that get to start the game with a particular one in play to build a gameplan around. We saw Dormant Legend in Series 7 as Broly’s unique method of awakening, but how about a unique method of winning the game?
Enter Dr. Uiro’s Lab, a 6 cost Extra card that, thankfully, Dr. Uiro’s leader front allows you to play for free at the start of the game. Also, it’s skill makes it impossible for your opponent to make it leave the field (until a method releases to negate the skills of Extra cards!). For 2 energy, once per turn you can tuck an opponent’s Battle Card under it, which is a really solid ability, to be sure. Built in removal every turn is always nice to have!
But the real kicker is when you awaken your Dr. Uiro – on his back side, if you have 17 or more cards underneath your Lab, during your main phase you can activate him to simply win the game outright! 17 is a lot, but of course, there are a plethora of cards to help you fill this up, like Dr. Uiro, Destruction Beam.
Dr. Uiro’s whole kit introduces a new win condition to the game built into a control-style package. Whether it will make competitive waves remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a fun idea and plays well into the theme of The World’s Strongest’s villain. There’s no doubt that using Extra Cards to set these conditions up is new ground to tread, and we’ll see what future sets bring as they continue to explore this concept!
Here’s a cycle of cards that is nearly guaranteed to impact the metagame! While on the surface this may not seem like the flashiest new design – it’s really just a blending of elements we’ve see on cards in the past – Malicious Machinations brings us our first set of Counter: Play cards with the “Take a life to play for free” clause previously only seen on Counter: Attack cards like Dimension Magic. However, while all of those previous effects had unique conditions like Sparking, this cycle of Counter: Plays requires that you have a multicolored card in your energy to use them, giving a new bonus to decks that are working with new toys from the Infinite Unity block. If you haven’t seen them yet, make sure to take a look – the cards are Beerus Ball, Absolute Release Ball, Focused Breakthrough, Super Galick Gun, and Super Kamehameha.
I heartily approve of the addition of these to the game’s fabric – with more big and flash effects on characters comes the need for more ways to deal with them before they swing, and deck building is only deepened by including these options, forcing players to figure out the most efficient and effective way to use their limited deck space to contend with the decks that trouble them the most. Encouraging the use of multicolored cards in energy also has an impact in slowing down the game, as any turn where you have to play one is more restricted due to the Energy-Exhaust keyword. Personally, I’m a big fan of when the game plays a bit more slowly and methodically, so these are wins across the board for me, and I hope they make waves!
There’s no doubt that Dragon Ball Super is a game really focused on the cards you are holding in your hand. Competitively speaking, number of cards in hand is often the metric by which you gauge how successful your attacks can be, or whether or not you are capable of finishing the game. This is inherent in the game’s DNA – with Battle Cards being able to be used to punch through attacks, the dual-purpose nature of these cards (triple if we count charging them as well!) means that players who fall behind in card quantity are very often quite stuck with an inability to close a game or prevent a loss.
Going back to the beginning of the article, one of the things that turned me off the most of the “safe” Set 1 design was the homogeneity of the leader cards – nearly all of them operated close to identically in their ways of generating that advantage, and with how crucial it is to your ability to win games, I wasn’t particularly enthralled with my deck building options. But set by set, more unique ideas have come into play, and Set 8 shows us a new way to go even further beyond.
The strongest example of this in set 8 is Beerus. Beerus’ awakened side allows you to combo with a Yellow/Red Battle Card from your discard pile for free each turn. This is not a straight +1 per turn, but a nebulous amount of card advantage from 0 to 4, depending on how you are able to set up your need to combo on your turn and your opponent’s turn. If you are playing a deck that would have valued comboing with 0+5ks on both your and your opponent’s turn, that’s where it’s potentially like a draw 4 effect. But in other cases, you might not be in a position to want to get that combo, and to further complicate it, the ability to set up Arrival for free adds another piece to our value-puzzle. It’s tough to tell exactly how much value is generated, and that’s what I like the most about Beerus – it’s not a cut-and-dry analysis to determine his worth, and that’s exactly the design I think we need to see more of in the game.
So, that’s it for my look at the new design space explored in set 8 – this looks to be one of the most unique and exciting sets for the game yet, and it’s a great time to be a player and an even greater time to jump in! If you missed it, last week we posted up a video about the new Magnificent Collection decks – the absolute perfect way to get started in the game. Make sure you check that out if you haven’t yet, and let us know in the comments below or on Facebook which cards or mechanisms you’re most excited to see!