“Teach Me, Professor Tsu Kiyo Me!” - Where Do Leaders Stand Post Mecha-Errata?
Hello everyone! Pat O’Neill here doing my first article for Shenron’s Lair! It’s been quite a long time since the days of The Perfect Curve but I’m sure some of you old school Bandai kids remember the weekly “Teach Me, Professor Tsu Kiyo Me!” series.
It’s been about a week since Mecha Frieza’s errata was first announced and I know many people are split on the decision. Some people believe that the errata did not go far enough such as Kitchen Table Meta’s Dusty O’Brien and others felt it completely destroyed the card such as Anthony Hernandez. While I cannot see the future and tell you whether or not Mecha will see play, I can say for sure he does now come with some weaknesses unlike before where the only weakness was simply that he may or may not have a hand of cards he can’t combo with.
For starters, Mecha now can be considered a leader that cannot self flip reliably like Vegeta or Captain Ginyu. Before, it was almost a for sure thing that Mecha would awaken with things such as Encouraging Presence Monaka and Planet Vegeta. Now, Mecha Frieza requires you to play cards such as No Openings Son Goku and Unstoppable Ambition Super Saiyan Caulifla if you want to keep up with the speed that a leader like Captain Ginyu or Bardock has in the same colors. If you aren’t playing cards to self flip reliably, opponents can simply play cards and not attack you until they set up a kill board and go in for the kill with a powerful finisher such as Piercing Super Saiyan 2 Gohan or Fu, Shrouded in Mystery. Yes, Cold Bloodlust is still a thing but if you are playing Cold Bloodlust simply to awaken you will find yourself in a world of trouble later on in the game when they play something that you may need it for. Couple this with the fact that Mecha draws less cards now then he did over the course of the game, and having cards like Cold Bloodlust or a negate just to awaken isn’t so guaranteed.
Personally, I feel Mecha has a shot of being Tier 1 still but I do not believe he is clearly the best leader anymore. Who is the best leader? That’s a really tough question to answer so for today’s lesson we will go over some of the leaders I feel have a shot of doing well in the current meta, along with their strengths and weaknesses.
This is the obvious one, the one that everyone is talking about. SS3 Goku was already fast enough that he could keep up with Mecha Frieza in terms of how fast he could produce threats. When you couple this with the fact that he has no real deck construction restricts & on the back side he almost always will have 3 energy to defend himself, it’s hard to not consider him Top Tier. If you are a Spike who is simply looking to have the best chance of winning with something that is just straight forward & powerful, SS3 Goku is the choice. He doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses besides decks that can go into the super late game such as Zamasu, but those decks may be in trouble to begin with if Cell Chain becomes the most popular strategy in the competitive scene so he may not have to worry.
His most powerful variants in my opinion are a purely defensive Red/Blue deck that has cards such as Pride & Justice Toppo, Raging Spirit Son Gohan and negates like Mafuba as well as Mono Green. Mono Green has a bit more flexibility in what you can do with it allowing you to play an aggressive strategy, a hand destruction strategy, or even a reanimator strategy. It almost feels like you cannot go wrong playing this leader.
There of course also the “how 2 meme” variant I posted on my channel a while ago, which is similar to the style of deck that Danny Hype used at ARG San Jose. This variant of the deck relies on constantly resetting the game state via Chain Attack Trunks into Zen-Oh, the Plain God. Consistently wiping away your opponent’s board and resetting their hand to 5 every turn makes it very difficult for any leader to gain advantage. And since SS3 Goku will always ready 3 energy at the end of each turn, defensively he is in a much better spot which allows you to slowly grind out the game.
The “Cell Chain” decks are the other obvious “Top Tier” choice after Mecha’s Errata and going into Tournament of Power. For those of you who aren’t aware, the “Cell Chain” uses Growing Evil Lifeform Cell to eventually bring out Perfect Force Cell to cut your opponents hand down to 3 cards. This is devastating in a game where hand advantage is almost everything. Setting your opponent to 3 cards then using cards like Android 16 or any card with Critical allows you to cut your opponent’s hand and resources down even further. Captain Ginyu and other based Cold Bloodlust decks were the hardest counter to Cell back at the early stages of Set 2 but with Bandai’s (horrible) rule change to the way game mechanics work, Cold Bloodlust is a roadblock for Cell based decks to overcome rather than a counter since they must have an immediately follow up to kill the Cell, lest they lose their hand immediately next turn. When the deck plays and performs properly, there really isn’t much an opponent can do besides rely on amazing top decks. Sadly most non-Yellow decks fall into that “Must Top Deck or Lose” category.
Despite how powerful I am making this deck seem, it isn’t without some flaws.
Player error is a very real thing. Cell Chain is not exactly the easiest deck to pilot and less experienced players who sequence plays incorrectly, attack at wrong times, or activate the Cell Chain at the wrong time can very easily let their opponent back in. One Cell Chain is likely to get off in a match, but a second or even a third is far less likely and the deck may run out of steam if you accidentally mess up. Androids 17 & 18 leaders are fantastic choices as Cell Chain leaders because the pieces to the combo actually can convert into a win condition for them later on should things not go your way. It’s for this reason that I feel 17 & 18 are the way to go if consistency is key for your play style.
Variance also plays a role in how the deck performs. A player who post mulligan draws all the pieces of Cell is in for a rough time since they can only activate the combo if the cards are still in their deck, not in their hand or discard pile. Mira more so than any of the other Cell Chain leaders suffers from this. Since Mira gains advantage by milling 2 cards every time he attacks, it’s very likely that some games will be lost simply because you milled the pieces to the Cell Chain. It’s for this reason that I prefer playing Mira as a Green/Black midrange deck but it cannot be understated how powerful he is as a Cell Chain leader. I truly feel that Mira with Cell Chain is probably the strongest deck in the format but it is far from consistent. The variance that the milling provides can lead to some incredibly swingy games where the deck annihilates people early or bricks immediately and has lost the ability to win off the get go. It is important for players to realize that if a Cell Chain Mira does win an event, that there is a higher than normal amount of luck that must be recognized, lest we see a format where every single person tries to net deck a Mira deck they saw win something only to find a deck that sometimes loses by turn 2 regardless of the opponent or their draws.
Finally, it cannot be overstated just how slow Cell Chain is in comparison to other leaders. Tapping out on turn 3 to Cell Chain not only because of the previously mentioned play errors that can arise, but 3 cards in hand and tapping out are all some leaders need to kill you on the spot. In order to keep safe, it may not be possible for Cell Chain to cut your opponents hand until the 4th or 5th turn in the game which puts it in a position where it becomes vulnerable to strong late game combos such as Chain Attack Trunks or Fu, Shrouded in Mystery. Cell is the best leader of the 3 for you if your play style favors the slow, steady, and safe approach to the game. His built in removal will help you navigate through most matchups (save Masked Saiyan) until you can secure a win. A note with Cell though, is he is incredibly vulnerable to Blue and Yellow based decks that curve out with nothing but Barrier characters. Staring down a turn 3 Piccolo, the Strategist or a turn 4 Absolute Defense Great Ape King Vegeta are your worst nightmares. Cell is the safest of the 3 but he by far has the worst Plan B option and Barrier based decks almost mandate a Plan B.
Pan was already in a great spot before the Mecha errata, being one of the decks that had a decent shot of beating him when played at mid to high levels of play but simply couldn’t get there at the absolute highest levels. Pan’s strength comes in the form of playing persistent threats every turn while maintaining a large hand size. She even gets rewarded for playing cards like Double Shot Super Saiyan 2 Vegeta and Pride & Justice Toppo, cards that are already very strong defensively in a red deck. When you couple this with the fact that she can play Chain Attack Trunks into Zen-Oh The Plain God, Pan is a leader that has an answer for almost any deck.
Pan’s only real bad matchups I feel are a hand control decks that can cut her hand down drastically and get rid of her Zen-Oh combo so she can’t reset the game state, as well as decks that play extremely powerful late game cards such as Fu, Shrouded in Mystery. I expect Pan to make a strong showing in the near future, especially with support from the next set. She is my pick for the best Red leader at the moment and arguably the safest pick in general as she feels like she has a 50-50 matchup with almost everything.
This one may be a bit more controversial, but Vados is actually quite a strong leader in the current format. Before, Vados was considered weak because she couldn’t generate hand advantage or self-flip reliably which meant she got exploited by leaders such as Vegeta or Captain Ginyu. With the current card pool, Vados can awaken not only blazingly fast with the help of cards such as No Openings Son Goku and Caulifla but also pressure active battle cards and keep a huge hand size due to cards like Unbreakable Super Saiyan Son Goku. It wasn’t uncommon before the Mecha Errata for a Vados deck to maintain or surpass the number of cards in Mecha’s hand. In a meta where decks are playing a Veggie package (Caulifla, Cabba & Kale), she really thrives as she has repeatable removal that is difficult to stop every single turn.
That said, Vados cannot pressure heavily defensive or control based decks that easily. Hyper Evolution Super Saiyan 3 Son Goku has more than enough energy every turn to possibly endure Vados’ attacks and a control based list like Zamasu is perfectly content to give Vados nothing to swing at while it advances towards the late game Instant-Kill Combo it presents. Couple this with the fact that Vados isn’t exactly the best vs. the Cell matchup and you can see why she isn’t leading the pack when compared to Pan. That said, she also has the Zen-Oh combo available to her so she isn’t completely hopeless. I really hope more players pick up Vados as I truly believe she is strong in the current meta game.
The OG Powerhouse, Vegeta is still as strong as ever. The biggest problem with Vegeta during the reign of Frieza was that it could present a board that could kill Vegeta in the first turn or two of the game or have a ton of blockers that he could not reliably attack through every turn. With Apes being pushed back to turn 3 or 4 (unless you are SS3), Vegeta can go back to playing his old turn 2~3 kill strategy popularized by the guys over at Pro Play Games.
The best card that Vegeta gained access to recently is Terror Scythe Goku Black which grants Vegeta 3 extra attacks per turn as well as possibly turning a card into his hand into more combo fodder should he so choose. I also wouldn’t count out a card like Trunks, Power Overseeing Time in that deck however a card like Mira, From the Darkness probably already occupies that spot. With the upcoming BCC Son Goku promo, I expect Vegeta decks to have even more absurd lines of play to help accelerate their game plan. Still feels Tier 1 to me.
Trunks hasn’t changed too much since his set 2 deck aside from the obvious new combo additions in No Openings Son Goku and Unbreakable Super Saiyan Son Goku. Like Vegeta, Trunks was largely boxed out of the format because he couldn’t defend himself or punch through the board states that Mecha Freiza presented. Trunks, Power Overseeing Time also gives the deck some much needed reach by grabbing back Super Combos or even another Power Overseeing Time to loop some much needed pressure. If Vegeta is viable, Trunks is never that far behind.
And his Xeno version isn’t too bad either.
Of all the leaders on this list, Beerus is by far the most fringe. Having a built in Son Goten, Family of Justice stapled to your leader in a format where people will be trying to play Veggies and combo into play cards like Raging Spirit Son Gohan feels quite good. The problem with Beerus is speed. Most of the decks that people are trying to play with Beerus are centered around God cards that are simply too slow and don’t present a board state that threatens an opponent who is constantly dropping bombs that can kill you ever turn. If Beerus has any shot of surviving in this meta, it’s through a purely defensively control Blue/Green control deck. There are a slew of great Barrier Blockers and Revenge Blockers in this color combination to slow the game down. With cards like Whis, Sacred Guard and Unyielding Justice SS2 Trunks you can very easily set up a wall and use cards like King Vegeta’s Surprise Attack to choose your moments to kill cards. Once the game progresses late enough you can start killing Battle Cards and going on the offense with things such as Hidden Awakening Kale and Piccolo, the Strategist. Finally, the deck can afford to pack some kind of finisher at the end to clean everything up.
Is it going to be Tier 1? Probably not. But based on what does see play, Beerus has a shot. That said, if Cell Chain is the go to for every event. . . you’re probably better off letting the God of Destruction slumber.
All 3 of these leaders can basically play the exact same decks with various different strengths and weaknesses. We’ll get Bardock out of the way first since his is the most obvious. Bardock draws more cards over the course of the game than either of the other two leaders and his untap 2 ability allows him to make a huge tempo swing at some point in the game. The drawback to this though is a pretty steep one in that he doesn’t have access to the best counter in the game: Cold Bloodlust. However, if the format devolves largely into Yellow based decks or Barrier decks, Bloodlust can actually be a dead card. Constantly in the Mecha formats, Cold Bloodlust was one of the worst cards in the mirror because outside of Hidden Awakening Kale, the card did practically nothing. If the impact of Bloodlust isn’t that high, Bardock should excel in the mirror because he can generate m ore threats and block more attacks in the long run.
Galactic Emperor Frieza is the leader that is most similar to Mecha Frieza in terms of power level. The leader will almost require you to play Caulifla & No Openings Son Goku to awaken at a pace similar to Captain Ginyu or Bardock. The strong suit of Galactic Emperor however is that in the mirror, it becomes very difficult for opponents to not be able to deal with your Battle Cards since they switch to Active mode every turn. If you are sitting on a Cold Bloodlust in hand, you can almost be assured your Kale or whatever threats you have on board are going to still be there at the start of your next turn. This is something that should not be overlooked when considering Galactic Emperor for a tournament. He may not be as fast as the other 2 Yellow Leaders, but it is much more difficult for your opponent to break an already established board state. Take special note that No Openings Son Goku has incredible synergy with this leader and can really but pressure on early right from turn 1 onwards.
Ginyu the Reliable Captain. What more can I say about him that many of you don’t already know? He was my signature leader back in Set 1 and with Mecha gone, I feel many players with simply switch to this leader with their already tuned Veggies lists and continue to try to pilot them to success. Ginyu can flood the board with threats faster than any other Yellow leader at the moment. That said, I feel he runs out of steam much quicker than either Bardock or Galactic Emperor so in a mirror, I feel they may have the edge if Ginyu can’t quickly end the game. That said I still feel Ginyu may be the safest pick since the other leaders are dependent on what they draw to progress their game plan which is why I think he’s probably the best of the 3. While Ginyu feels like an obvious Tier 1 pick, I can foresee all 3 of these leaders as Tier 1 easily (Unfortunately, I feel that the community will all piggyback behind Ginyu though).
What can I say? Aggro based decks are just really fast this set and hit hard right out of the gate. In a format where I anticipate people playing leaders that put themselves to 4 or less life very quickly, an aggressive leader who can end it all on turn 2 or turn 3 feels like he’s in an amazing spot. When you couple this with the sheer amount of powerful combo cards that have come out of the last set as well, it’s hard not to see someone taking up Teen Gohan and stealing wins with him. If Ginyu & SS3 Goku become the meta game, Teen Gohan is in a very, very good spot. Go Green & Yellow, sleeves up a Bad Ring Laser or 3 and watch how many games you steal.
Dr. Myuu is an incredibly straightforward in terms of both building the deck and what it does, much like decks based around the Cell Chain combo. This is both a huge boon and a huge bane. Like Cell, hitting your Union Absorb combo can result in huge power swings in the game and in all honesty, Rildo is a much scarier finisher than Cell ever was. Being able to wipe an opponent’s boards and present constant pressure, all the while maintaining a large hand size is great. Planet M-2 is also a phenomenal card to punch through for early damage and pick off 1 drops to make it harder for your opponent to block your attacks. The biggest problem with Dr. Myuu is that his deck requires so many pieces that he only has 5~6 slots that are flexible which makes the deck somewhat predictable. Aside from crazy Baby’s Subdual or Chain Attack Trunks plays, once an opponent plays and learns the Myuu matchup, they’ve most likely seen everything the deck can do. There is still something to be said for a simple, straightforward powerful strategy though.
Zamasu continues to evolve and surprise me the more I use him every week. I once dismissed him as one of the worst leaders in the entire game but with the release of Set 3’s Fu, Shrouded in Mystery and the previous promo Joyful Strike Goku Black Rose, his power has gone up drastically. Zamasu is pretty much the top end of the format’s power. If he can make it to 6 energy he has a good shot of killing you outright unless you are a Cold Bloodlust leader. At 7 or 8 energy? You die no matter who you are.
As scary as that sounds, Zamasu isn’t without some serious faults. Aggressive decks such as Pan or Veggie builds will force him to mill his precious combo pieces early in the game if he tries to play an honest game that revolves entirely around ramping and not playing threats. Also Cold Bloodlust leaders almost universally will force the leader to be a Blue/Yellow deck, which hampers the deck’s ability to generate a solid hand on demand with the leader effect. Speaking of hand, Zamasu has absolutely horrible matchups vs. Cell Chain and Hand Destruction based decks. Despite how much raw power the deck has, these kinds of weaknesses are what keep it from being the best deck in the format.
Zamasu as a leader really depends on the prevalence of Android leaders in the format. If they become the dominant strategy in the format, his viability is questionable at best. Against a field comprised of anything else though, Zamasu’s matchups across the board range from even to incredibly one sided in his favor.
Masked Saiyan is a hard deck to evaluate in a post-Mecha format. For one, when the format isn’t comprised of decks that are lowering their life total quickly it’s much harder to close the game out with this style of deck since it doesn’t have access to cards like Unyielding Trunks. On the other hand, when it is comprised of decks that are trying to awaken quickly like SS3 Goku & Captain Ginyu, he’s an All-Star. I feel Masked Saiyan’s viability, like Zamasu, is directly tied to how much of the field is the Cell Chain. Vegeta as a leader can really struggle vs. Cell Chain since it cuts down his hand which takes a lot of his power away from him. Masked Saiyan doesn’t seem to have this problem as cards in the discard just fuel his ability to play powerful Overrealm Cards early. Masked Saiyan can also function outside of the Red variants that have been popularized and be played as a more Green Heavy mid-range variant. The card quality in Green and Black is so high that simply jamming in a slew of “Good Stuff” cards to make a fast midrange list is not entirely out of the question.
As far as viability goes when it comes to aggro leaders though, Masked Saiyan feels like he is worse vs. more matchups than Vegeta but he is much stronger in the matchups that matter such as Cell Chain and SS3 Goku.
So there you have it. All the leaders I expect to comprise the meta-game post Mecha going into Tournament of Power. While I do think that Caulfila and Bardock (and maybe even Hercule & Goku) have a good place in the meta game, they are just far too new and I have not explored them enough to make sense of where they stand. If I had to wager, Bardock is the strongest of the new 4 though, with Red/Yellow Caulfila variants not far behind. Hercule feels best as Green/Yellow/Black and Goku feels best when paired with cards like Whis, Judge of the Gods.
Thank you for taking the time to read this entire thing! My lectures tend to run long but I always feel if you are going to profess knowledge, you should fully explain it. Feel free to message me on my Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/TsuKiyoMe if you want to leave a comment or suggest a topic for the next session.
Alright everyone! Class dismissed! - Pat
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