Exploring Set 7: Is AoD Still Viable?
By: Timothy Klundt
WHO AM I, WHY ARE YOU HERE, AND WHAT IS MY AOD KNOWLEDGE?!
Well, I am lucky enough to have a strong core of local players including a few Shenron's Lair guys, and this has helped me both with building and testing during my time in this game. Now about this deck, as stated above, I have dragged this archetype through the trenches for the last 5ish months, from success locally and an average finish at my first big tournament (San Diego Celebrations), to the HARD scrub out locally testing new versions and leaders. Not everything that looks good on paper is actually good in practice! A short list of some variants I have tried are Blue Dende, Red Hercule, Hirudegarn, Lord Slug, Knockout Strike Gogeta, Set 6 Buu, Porunga, Shenron, and a few others. Chances are if you've seen a list somewhere, I've most likely tried something similar.
AoD ARCHETYPES AS A WHOLE & SET 7 IMPACT
The short period of time between the Anniversary Box and the Set 7 release was probably the second best time for AoD, falling only behind the glory days of [A Child's Wish] being the key card for AoD Dende decks. And although Set 7 brought us a new way to cheat out the combo in the form of [Assembling the Squad], it also brought many Counter:Play cards which hurt the combo quite a lot.
First, let's cover the "explosive/optimal" combo, and what to be wary of. Ideally, we go turn 2/3 [Innocence Cannon Majin Buu] via hard cast or [Assembling the Squad] for free, awaken/untap, evolve into [Awakening Evil Majin Buu], union absorb 1-2 times, go into SCR with a Babidi absorbed, and flood the board with Agents. Unfortunately, Denial of Hope, Champa the Trickster, You're Wide Open, Frost's Deadly Poison, Mutaito, Crusher Ball, and Preemptive Strike are all things to consider now. That's a lot of potential hate to have to play around. I left out certain counters because they do not hurt the combo very much. Because of the plethora of new counters in the game, always be wary of going for your combo if your opponent has 2+ energy open!
The second option for the combo is going the slow route and using the SCR's Activate:Main ability for 6 energy, absorbing a Babidi from drop or warp, and then flooding with Agents. This style of combo lends itself best to leaders like Hirudegarn and Lord Slug, where you can disrupt your opponent early game. Moving forward, this MIGHT be a safer call for the deck, especially if your locals are full of heavy counter:play decks. These variants also lend themselves well to just playing a Babidi and hard casting agents through the early and mid game.
The last variant I'll go over is a sort of hybrid of the two previous archetypes. This variant will allow you to combo early game, mid game and late game, as well as have a solid plan B and even plan C. This variant I have only been able to make work with the Set 6 Buu leader, and it is probably my favorite current build post Set 7.
PHILOSOPHIES WITH DECKBUILDING
Coming from a MtG background, having played every format besides vintage, I look at deck building a little differently than most of my locals, especially when it comes to combo decks such as AoD. When constructing a combo deck, I always look at it in terms of building a MtG deck for the Legacy format, in that anything directly part of the combo, as well as essential supporting cards start as an auto 4-of. I'll use my current favorite AoD build as an example: Set 6 Buu leader. When building this deck, I started first with the abilities of the leader, noticing that I am able to burst, as well as filter my energy by putting a Buu from my drop into energy rested, and putting one of my energy into my drop (essentially recycling energy). That last part means that if I draw or burst my SCR, I can put it into energy and then put it to the BOTTOM of the deck with [Hercule, Think's He's the Best], making him an auto 4-of. Now let's check out some of my top lists moving forward!
LISTS & INFO
Let’s start off with my personal top 4 Aod Lists (in no specific order): Dende, Set 6 Buu, Hirudegarn, and Lord Slug!
One of the biggest strengths to playing AoD Dende is knowing turn 1 where your SCR is. That information allows you to sculpt or transition your turns and sequencing accordingly. However, because [Assembling the Squad] must search out [Innocence Cannon Majin Buu] from DECK, we now MUST include some number of [Quickshift Majin Buu] to make sure that if we draw the SCR or Innocence Cannon, we can shuffle it back in. Another change from how old AoD Dende played to now, is that I almost always search a 1Star Ball turn 1 and discard a 0 cost ball to it. My reasoning is that since we need our 2 drop IN DECK, we want to minimize our draw power. Due to this, I no longer include [Super Dragon Ball] in the deck either. This list took a HARD hit with the banning of [Minus Kili Zone], and was a challenge when adjusting the list after that. That card was pivotal for this deck, and I feel without it, it suffers (especially against red decks, having access to [Denial of Hope].
Mulliganing is also extremely important, you 100% always ship back your SCR and any Innocence Cannons, and KEEP 5 drop Buu, any Babidis, and Assemble. I also lean towards keeping a Quickshift/Obuni/Bulma if I have them, to get out of bricking if it happens.
One of the biggest strengths to playing Buu AOD, comes from the leader’s ability to filter/manipulate your energy, and recycle energy back into your deck. Another strong point is that with this leader, we can utilize the Counter:Attack ability on Innocence Cannon, as well as having room for negates such as [Buu Make You Cookie]. Normal turn sequences tend to be turn 1 play red hercule to try and hit either Innocence Cannon or 5 drop, turn 2 hold up Innocence Cannon to negate, turn 3 go off into AoD combo OR our alternate wincon of Absorption Buu into Kid Buu. Usually this only happens if I have bursted multiple Babidi and not drawn one, as you can get 2-3 minimum triple strike attacks PLUS absorbing a battle card from your opponent. Sometimes that in itself just ends the game. The only downside I have noticed with this deck is not knowing where your SCR is until at least turn 3.
Mulliganing with this deck tends to be just look for 2 drop, 5 drop, and a Babidi. Although I will ALWAYS keep 2 drop Hercule in my opening hand, that card is essential to getting out of a brick!
This list, as well as the next both have the strength of being able to play longer games and disrupt your opponent early-mid game. Typically I will take the first 4 life, so that I can save my combo power for turns 4-6 before I go for the combo. One unique strength to Hiru, is both his auto as well as the Hoi super combo. We want agents in our drop and warp, so pitching them to draw 2 is HUGE, and allows us to dig for the SCR. This list also allows us to have a very strong turn 5 play in Gogeta5, because we aren’t really playing hard removal and sometimes a board wipe is just necessary. The deck did take a big hit with the banning of [Minus Kili Zone] because we are waiting so long into the game to combo, that our opponent has multiple turns to draw into one of the many Counter:Plays being played now. For this reason, I like to start the game with Babidi in hand so I can just cast my Agents and attack with them, and when it’s time to go for the SCR play, swing with leader and combo them all away.
Mulliganing with this deck, you ALWAYS KEEP the SCR, since your plan is get to 6 energy. That is probably the only single card I prioritize mulling for in this list.
This deck is one of the most fun, and usually the one people ask me about. The idea here came from Shenron’s Lair member Caleb Williamson when I was on a couple weeks kick of playing Lord Slug, and from the idea, this was created! Our plan here is to play a typical Lord Slug game through the first few turns, and if our opponent survives the hand disruption and crit attacks then we switch gears and combo kill them. Being in blue/green also allows us to untap a blue when we play [Lord Slug, Young Again] in order to [Senzu Bean] untapping 2 green energy so we can EX-Evolve into our big boss [Titanic Ambition Lord Slug] as early as turn 3! It is a deadly turn sequence, and this deck is able to avoid the hate of Mercenary Tao because in game 2 we can focus on just playing a Babidi and going on the Agent aggro plan!
Mulligans here will primarily look like normal mulligans for any Lord Slug deck, although sometimes I will keep the SCR or Babidi if I’m feeling like going Agent aggro or not wanting to have to draw into the SCR (or in the case of post-sideboard matches to avoid getting wrecked by Tao).
I think that combo decks as a whole archetype are very fragile right now with the prevalence of [Denial of Hope] (and other Counter:Plays). With that said, the turbo variants of AoD force your opponent to “have it” very early in the game, while the slower variants focus on other threats and engines first, and the combo second. I would take one of the above lists with me to a major tournament, however I am unsure if I would pull the trigger and lock in on it (right now). There is ALOT of hate for Babidi-KaioKen right now, and unfortunately this deck gets caught in the crossfire dead center. I encourage you all to brew, test, and share results in the meantime. Keep the deck fresh for when the meta calms down off of Denial. If you want a more detailed write-up on a specific list from above, leave some feedback in the comments on what leader/list you’d like to see get an in-depth write-up!
That’s all from me this time Agents, stay Destructive!