If I were to sum up all my feelings towards Heroes & Villains as a set using a single gif, I think it would likely be:
Now this may come off as a bit harsh, especially because I feel some of the personalities presented in that set are finally starting to break out some in the FanZ meta thanks to Celestial Tournament. However, H&V really did nothing when it comes to expanding the game’s deck choices or shaking up the meta.
When you really sit back and think about what the game needed to do in order to push itself into the minds of the gaming community and re-establish DBZ as a legitimate card game worthy of their attention, what you will likely come up with versus what was actually presented to us as consumers will feel almost like night and day.
So let’s take a trip in the “Way-Back Machine” all the way to the year 2015 and dissect what exactly we got from the game we had such high hopes for, and evaluate what was truly needed to catapult the game back into the hearts of many more prospective players.
Pit-Stop: Premiere Set Didn’t Do Us Any Favors
At this point, I think nearly every FanZ player is aware that the game was not expected by the company to succeed passed the Premiere Set. This is likely why we were presented with a set that spanned from the beginning of the Saiyan Saga all the way to the end of the Frieza Saga, making sure to try and include as many of the fan favorite characters and flashback ScoreZ cards they could fit into a single set. The fact that the game was distributed with the assumption that it would not beat expectations is the first sign that the game was on a downhill path right out of the gate.
Redesigning and evaluating the Premiere Set is certainly a gigantic topic, and one that we may one day discuss as a series on this blog, as I have a personal fascination with what could have been the relaunching of this game, if given the proper respect and pacing it deserved.
Because of the negative starting point and lack of forward thought designed into the game, Heroes & Villains felt more like a forced reaction to the community’s desire for more content and less like a sequel set attempting to establish the CCG back into the market as a real contender. Instead of being able to build off a solid base and grow naturally with the pacing of the story, H&V had to simultaneously fill in the gaps of the story left out by the first set in order to create a sort of timeline for the game, as well as provide new and interesting avenues to explore mechanically for the players.
So what all did we get out of this set?
Notable Cards Printed In This Set
While this list may seem rather large, the reality is that out of the 142 cards in H&V, only 33 cards really stick out as playable, with 5 of them being MP specific. Many of these cards only saw play for a short time, while others have only recently begun to see play thanks to other cards that have made them more desirable deck choices.
Here is my personal list of notable cards from H&V:
-Blue Lifting Drill
-Orange Torching Drill
-Red Knee Lift
-Saiyan Strength Test
-Saiyan Drive By
-Black Upward Dodge
-Namekian Hurried Quest
-Saiyan Spin Kick
Rares & Ultra Rares
-Black Enraged Assault
-Orange Possession Drill
-Red Combined Blast
-Saiyan Body Blow
-Nail’s Dashing Attack
-Raditz’s Offensive Guard
One thing to note, is that Panini maintained their idea that the power-level of cards should be distributed among all the rarities in the game, but as with most games its really the rares that shine the brightest out of this set.
Many of the cards listed I have included as they pointed towards potential archetypes within certain styles before abandoning them for other ideas. And while some of those archetypes have been picked up and enhanced over time, I feel that some of them have never been given the appropriate amount of attention. Ideas like Namekian Physical Beatdown slowly started to show promise in this set, but ultimately has never really evolved into a deck of its own.
One positive to note from this set, is that going into H&V Orange, Namekian and Black were the strongest decks in the meta. As we can see from the list above, those styles saw the least growth out of this set, whereas Red and Saiyan (which were the weakest out of Premiere Set) saw the most development.
Yet even with some additional tools, not enough was done to derail the top decks of the tournament scene, forcing more players to convert to those strategies or flounder for playing a less optimal deck.
The MPs Were Lackluster
Nail, Raditz, Nappa and Tenshinhan all feel like characters I would be excited to see returned to the game. They all represented characters that were relevant to the story so far, and were either powerful allies or fearsome adversaries to the main Z Warriors. Yet none of these MPs really made an impact on the game. The design of these personalities didn’t really pop in the sense of crowd appeal or game mechanics.
After 8 sets, I think it’s safe to say that Raditz finally feels like he has a home in several different styles within the game. At his creation however, he was far too gimmicky to take seriously. Wanting to be a character that levels yet still wants to focus around Setups & Drills is an interesting design choice. However:
-His levels 1 & 3 don’t match his design space.
-Raditz’s Offensive Guard mechanically works, but feels out of place.
-Raditz’s Dirty Tactics feels poorly designed and forced into his kit.
-There were no real payoff cards for Raditz to capitalize on, Setup or Drill wise.
Nappa’s design feels a little more on point. In the series, he terrorized the Z Warriors and nearly defeated them all on his own before Goku finally arrived. While his ability to manhandle Allies was certainly something to try and take advantage of in a meta overrun by Captain Ginyu, and despite the fact that he has some of the better Named Cards in the game up to this point, Nappa still had some pitfalls of his own to overcome:
-While a physical powerhouse in the series, he fell short in comparison to set 1 MPs.
-Nappa’s level 2 felt incredibly awkward to play with.
-Even with all his Ally hate, he couldn’t keep up with the Ally recursion in the game.
-He really brought nothing new to the table for the Saiyan Style.
I think Nail is likely the most interesting of the four MPs present in the set. As being the only new MP capable of playing Namekian, he had the most potential to shake up the defensive leveling strategy that had begun to pop up in the style in favor of a more aggressive route. But what we got was:
-A physical MP that cares about life card damage and mill, in a style that can’t do either.
-His level 2 wants to be an aggro build, but very few lists outside Saiyan could support this.
-His level 3 makes no sense. First he’s mill and lcd, and now ball bounce and stagelock?
-His level 4 is probably one of the coolest in the game. Good luck trying to get to it though!
Now here is a character I think a lot of people were excited to see in the game. The fact that Tien fights and thinks so differently than the rest of the Z Warriors was sure to make him an interesting MP in the game. Right? Well:
-He’s designed to be a “freestyle” MP, in a game with virtually no support of it.
-The self-milling in his kit is really interesting, and totally fatal at this point in the game.
-Tenshinhan’s Draining Blast is probably one of the worst Named Cards in the game.
-His level 4 is cool, but you’ll either MPPV or die before using it more than once.
What Did the Game Need?
So what did the game need in order to do well coming out of the excitement of Premiere Set?
First, the game needed a way to bring up the weaker styles in order to make them as exciting to play. While Red, Blue and Saiyan all got interesting cards within this set, we were also introduced to Wall Breaker, a card that would completely dominate Leveling strategies for a large portion of the game. Since Red and Saiyan were so focused on leveling, all the help they got was virtually ruined thanks to a poorly thought out anger hate card.
Second, the Styles really needed to be focused down to a few core deck ideas. Black, Namekian and Orange all had very streamlined designs, where the other three styles sort of fumbled around with different concepts or just had strictly worse cards to play with when compared to the other dominant styles at the time.
For example, Saiyan had a lot of interesting answer cards within their style for most of the decks that were popular at the time, but the major problem was that the bulk of their card pool was virtually vanilla cards because each had the ability to raise your anger and potentially gain stages tacked onto it from the Mastery. Now while that sounds like a balanced trade-off, since the cards were largely focused around variable damage in the form of AT attacks, and since their MPs abilities were all largely weaker in comparison to MPs like Captain Ginyu and Krillin in terms of game mechanics, many players simply ignored the style for a large portion of the game. Even when they gained more interesting effects on their cards, they still had to deal with the fact that they were only playing catch-up, and never really received the love and attention they needed as a style until the very last two sets of the game, which finally gave us several explosive Saiyan Personalities that could take advantage of the tools present in the style.
Finally, as mentioned briefly earlier, one of the game’s core win conditions (MPPV) was virtually impossible to play during this time. Nearly every deck played Wall Breaker, and since the power level of most MPs lower levels would not increase until later set designs, any deck that needed to function off of a particular level were a complete gamble within this meta. Not to mention the fact that cards like Blue Head Knock and Namek Dragon Ball 2 had been seeing play since the beginning. Because of this, most leveling decks were crippled beyond recognition.
More care needed to be taken on creating decks designed to function under all of the game’s win conditions. With more emphasis placed on MPPV and Dragon Ball victory, the likelihood of “the big three” meta maintaining its death grip on the game would have been very low. Instead, we would have been given a meta that gives us not only more MP choices, but also different ways of winning through those choices, and thus creating more unique decks that had the same relative fighting chance out in the wilds.
Thankfully, The Dev Team seem to understand this concept rather well now, as lots of decks have begun to sprout up thanks to the newest set. While there still needs to be some pruning in the way of particularly overpowered cards pushing certain styles to the forefront, the meta has really never been so wide open as it is now.
Well, There’s Always Next Set
It seems fairly agreed upon that the game finally found itself by the release of The Movie Collection. Styles that were weak finally started to get the push they needed. MPPV got a ton of new cards to help bring it out of the crater it had been blasted into by the last two sets. And, for the most part, all of the MPs brought into the game were unique and brought specific deck designs to the forefront, even if the majority of the meta was still dominated by Ginyu, Krillin and Namekian Piccolo.
Yet I feel H&V could have really been the balancing point that the game needed, had it been given the proper amount of time and thought necessary to evaluate the issues Premiere Set created. If designed in such a way as to patch up these issues and to attempt to prevent similar issues from sprouting up in the future, through expanding the choices present thanks to new MPs that were actually desirable to play, I feel like a large wound hindering much of the game’s growth would have finally been set to heal. Instead, what we got was a pile of questionable cards, with very few sticking right away and an even smaller amount slowly starting to develop into coherent strategies several sets later.
A Man Can Dream, Though
Thanks, as always for checking out the article. I’m sure many of you have particular sets you both despise and hold in great praise. While I’m not certain we will take as intimate a look at others sets, there is still the chance I will discuss my feelings on an alternate Premiere Set that could have been less focused on being a nostalgia money-grabber and more focused on creating a fresh look at a game with near-limitless possibility.
Until next time, FanZ Warriors.