The Evolution of the Dragon Ball Z CCG to the Dragon Ball GT TCG to the End of the Game, and Beyond

The Evolution of the Dragon Ball Z CCG to the Dragon Ball GT TCG to the End of the Game, and Beyond

Matthew Low

Spring 2005


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Trading Card Games

III. Winning It All in the Dragon Ball Z CCG

V. Saiyan Saga, The Beginning

VI. Frieza Saga, Overpowered

VII. Trunks Saga, Changing Face

VIII. Androids Saga, One of the Best

IX. Cell Saga, Android 18, the Queen

X. Cell Games Saga/Capsule Corp Power Pack I , Reign of Ball and Backlash

XI. World Games Saga, Piccolo the Trained, Tapkar, the Broken

XII. Babidi Saga, Just Plain Horrible

XIII. Buu Saga, Capsule Corp Power Pack II, Carpet Attack

XIV. Fusion Saga, The Super Errata, Even or Odd

XV. Kid Buu Saga, The Best of the Best

XVI. Baby Saga, A New Beginning in Dragon Ball GT

XVII. Super 17 Saga, The Mark of Originality

XVIII. Shadow Dragon Saga, Beginning of the End?

XIX. Lost Episodes Saga, Saiyan Goodbye

XX. Arrival, Dragon Ball Z TCG, Time Will Tell


I. Introduction

The Dragon Ball Z Collectible Card Game and Dragon Ball GT Trading Card Game are finally coming to an end after a long 5 years of ups, downs, and just plain crazy times. This card game began with confusing rules and game text, to the heyday of the game where everything flourished, to cookie-cutter environments based on luck, to great and diverse decks, to new elaborate changes, to people dropping the game like flies, to the long hiatus of the game that led to its ultimate end. The Dragon Ball Z CCG (DBZ CCG[1]) became the Dragon Ball GT TCG (DBGT TCG[2]) in February of 2004, so they’re the same game while GT introduced changes to way things were played.

II. Trading Card Games

Trading card games are not your typical card games. Gamers buy tons of packs of cards and create decks of their own liking, choosing whatever cards they feel would perfect their decks. They put together a predetermined number of cards that formulate a strategy to accomplish a specific goal that wins the game. With hundreds of card games out there and millions of gamers, there are always new games to try and new people to meet. With releases of new cards, called expansions[3], every 3-4 months, the gamer has to keep up with the environment[4]. This keeps the gamer on his toes when creating decks, keeping the card company in business. And as each expansion is released, the game’s environment changes for the better, or sometimes for the worst.

Trading card games are the same as they’ve always been since the very first one, Magic. Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, approached Wizards of the Coast with the idea of “a collectible card game, with customizable decks and a distribution system of common and rare cards sold in slim packs like baseball cards. To build a better deck, you had to buy or trade more cards. And although Garfield intended the scheme to be an interesting exercise in metagame[5] design, its potential as a financial gravy train was also an intriguing factor.” (Death to theMinotaur) The DBZ CCG is no different. Packs were sold with five to seven commons, three to four uncommons, one rare, and once in a while, an ultra rare would show its shiny face, along with other chase foil[6] cards. These were sold in bigger booster boxes, with 36 in a DBZ box and 24 in a DBGT box. Gamers all over bought pack after pack, or for the more serious gamers, box after box. This drove sales up for the game, and helped continue the game for years.

III. Winning It All in the Dragon Ball Z CCG

Just like the anime[7] that the game is based off of, the DBZ CCG relied on three major ways to win. In the show, the characters would get angry and then unlock a new power level and abilities, and that was also integrated into the game. Once a character would reach the highest level possible between the two characters, he would win the game. This was called the Anger victory, where players would raise anger using cards, and then change the personality level their character is on once their anger level hits a plateau. Also, the show revolved around the seven magical Dragon Balls, where if one were to obtain all seven, he could call upon Shenron, the Eternal Dragon, and he would grant the user any one wish. Likewise, a player would win the game if he is to collect all seven at the beginning of his turn. And finally, Dragon Ball Z is an anime chock full of amazing fights, and thus, this game has characters throwing energy attacks and physical attacks at each other. Damage would be taken off the top of a player’s deck, and once an opponent’s deck is depleted, he would win the game. This is Survival, the most popular way to win the game. Regardless of which way you tried to win, the best gamers knew how to complete their goal while thwarting their opponents in the process.

IV. Kid’s Meals at Burger King

Score Entertainment, the company that creates the DBZ CCG, started off marketing their first card game through one of the biggest fast food chains in America, Burger King. With the promise of an interesting card game on their hands with nifty toy card holders and exclusive promo cards from Burger King, it looked like Score had everything going for them. Not only that, Dragon Ball Z was one of the highest rated cartoons on television, so the fan base was definitely there for the license. (Anime Ratings Soar) With a full fledged marketing campaign in magazines likeScrye and Inquest, Score was ready to take on the card gaming world. Fans of the show flocked to Burger King to collect all seven of the figures with exclusive cards, some of which were overpowered when the game began, and some of which are still decent cards today. Gamers were eager to see how the game would be played out, with cards saying that you “punch the defender for 5 life cards” or “your successful energy beam slashes your opponent for 6 life cards.” Time would tell, as the game would be released soon. April 2000 soon.

V. Saiyan Saga, The Beginning

Cute but horrible wording aside, Score’s first attempt at making a card game wasn’t all for naught. The rulebook itself was extremely confusing, and often people would make up their own rules to play because the real ones didn’t make any sense. Cards like Dream Machine Battle read, “This battle never happened. Start all over with new cards and reset all damage to beginning levels. Limit 1 per deck.” This gave many gamers confused looks and a loss as to what the card really did. Kyle McGrath, top player and 2004 Minnesota Regional Champion, among others, mentions:

“Back in 2000, Score was not known as a card game company. Looking back at Saiyan Saga is good for some serious laughs. Punch the defender, allow the defender to duck, this battle never happened, etc. I miss the flavorful text, but from the vantage point of clarity and consistency they had to stop. Purely I believe on the back of a good license, the game became more popular and managed to survive the first turbulent year.”

Jim Ward, the initial creator of the game, thought up the interesting ways to win along with the many key parts of the game, with power levels determining how much physical damage a character could do, and power stages determining how much energy a character had with which to perform energy attacks with. There were also five fighting styles: Orange, Black, Blue, Red, and Saiyan[8]. The problem with the game was that along the cards not making sense, the rules weren’t any better. A turn sequence was made up of 6 steps.

  1. Draw: Draw 3 cards and place them into your hand.
  2. Non-Combat: Play and use Non-Combats, including Drills, Dragon Balls, and non-combat/non-Drill cards. Play allies.
  3. Power Up: Power up your Main Personality (the character you’re playing as) and allies.
  4. Combat: Battle your opponent with energy and physical attacks. The defender draws 3 cards.
  5. Discard: Discard down to 1 card in your hand.
  6. Rejuvenation: If you choose to skip Combat, take the top card from your discard pile and place it at the bottom of your life deck.

The problem with this was step two. Players would choose to play 50 card decks over the normal 75 to slim the deck size, and play strictly non-combat cards that either gained anger or searched for a Dragon Ball. He would just play his whole deck, and win turn one, noting that many Dragon Balls would draw more cards when played. This led to a very frustrated player base, not to mention an extremely confused one as well.

VI. Frieza Saga, Overpowered

Score tried to patch things up with the first expansion to the card game, Frieza Saga. This set covered many favorite episodes of the anime, as well as a big jump in power rating. With the lack of a new physical attack table[9] and new personality levels, a Saiyan Saga power level Goku would have to go face to face with a Frieza Saga power level Guldo or Nail, and that wasn’t a pretty sight. Sure they weren’t all that strong in the anime, but take them back in time and they would easily crush characters that barely come to one-fifth of their strength. This lead to what people called the “Guldoand Nail beatdown era,” where if you didn’t win via Dragon Ball or Anger, you were torn part by physical attacks doing crazy amounts of damage and there was nothing you could say or do about it. A few months later, Score changed the rules, stating that Non-Combats were no longer used during the non-combat step,but rather just played during it, and used during Combat in place of an attack. Guldo and Nail beatdown commenced.

Not only that, cards like Battle Pausing and Goku’s Physical Attack led to infinite loops when playing multiples of them. With only a little knowledge and a keen abuse of the rules (or rather, lack thereof), any player could dominate the card game environment. Or at least, make it so that winning was based off of who went first. Something needed to be done to change the way the game was played–and fast.

VII. Trunks Saga, Changing Face

The Trunks Saga set was delayed multiple times to the public’s dismay, but in the long run, it was definitely worth it. Cards were clarified, rules changed, and new card types added real strategy to the game, rather than running the biggest and fastest cards in a deck. It was the set that the real gamers were hoping and praying for to change the game for the better. McGrath notes, “It wasn’t until Trunks Saga that the game actually became worthy of my time. Masteries made this game what it is.”

Dragon Balls were made their own card type and also were limited to one per deck, as well as many key cards to the first turn decks, like Vegeta’s Smirk and Gohan’s Anger. A new physical attack table, clarified rules in a Current Ruling Document[10], more Dragon Balls, a new Style called “Namekian,” Trunks Energy Sphere to stop Combat cards, but just like Kyle says, Masteries changed the game for the better. Masteries allowed the player to choose a style he wanted to play his character as, and then center his deck around that strategy in order to win. The Red Style Mastery would prove to be one of the strongest Masteries released with the ability to jump start the anger you raise per turn. Red Goku Anger would soon become one of the decks to beat in the environment.

VIII. Androids Saga, One of the Best

To follow Trunks Saga was what is considered to be one of the best sets ever released, if not the best. Androids Saga expanded on the archetypes created in Trunks Saga, while throwing in more ideas to work with. While the Blue Style Mastery was only anti-anger and thus anti-Red, it needed a jump start against other decks, and it got that with Blue Terror and its ability to get any card from your deck at will. Black added disruption to its arsenal in Black Scout Maneuver to add to the amazing damage modifiers that the Black Style Mastery gave. Each style received a bunch of cards to boost strategy, while a bunch of Goku’s Heart Disease type cards that halted anger raising were released to combat Red’s power. Cards that ended combat could no longer be used as a defense. Score also learned from their Frieza Saga mistake and printed all the new characters only as allies. This prevented any overpowered character from ruling the scene because you couldn’t play as any of the new characters. A new card type, Battleground and Location, was created to further change how both players played as they affected both players.

The first real Dragon Ball Z CCG Worlds was held at GenCon Indy in 2001, and it all came down to Brian Valdez running Black Goku Beatdown (Survival win condition) against Aik Tongtharadol’s Red GokuAnger. With Aik only a couple anger levels away from winning it all, Valdez forgets to activate Goku’s Heart Disease to stall Aik, giving Aik the one attack phase he needed to hit level 4, the highest personality level amongst both players. Rob Haluchapowered Saiyan Trunks Dragon Ball to a third at 2001 Nationals using the High Tech[11] Level 1, while Brian Blanchard’s Black Goku Beatdowntook out Brian Valdez’s Saiyan Trunks “Styles” Turbo Dragon Ball in the final match. Valdez recalls:

“I remember him [Blanchard] saying before our match, ‘This is the match I was hoping for.’ I smiled, knowing in order for him to win even 1 or 2 games against me would be pushing it as up to that point I was basically undefeated (1 loss coming from a DQ[12] for “scooping.”[13]) He would have to have incredible draws and I would have to have incredibly bad draws. Well you guys know the story, ended up losing 3 straight with Blanchard stating ‘I don’t know if I could do that again, but I did it.’”

IX. Cell Saga, Android 18, the Queen


            The game itself took off with this new starter expansion with a flurry of new characters to play as. Cell, Gohan, and Goku’s new levels took over, while Piccolo, the Trained from Androids Saga started to show face while Trunks HT Level 1 continued to dominate in the Dragon Ball area. Vinegar HT Level 1Orange decks continued to show that he could deal with strong characters. Trunks and Goku Saiyan added to a variety of decks to see. New Masteries gave each style a semi-different focus to follow. The introduction of Level 5 personalities made Level 4s actually do something and changed anger victory. The game was growing and getting even better.

But variety only mattered if you pushed Android 18 aside. Kevin Bowsfield, owner of multiple second place titles and Las Vegas 2003 Champion, states, “Android 18 was abused. She was the most common thing out there. And she was totally broken.” Android 18 destroyed the luck factor in the game, or at least minimized it. Her ability to choose four cards out of the top six when drawing when entering combat as the defender, and a choice of one out of six when attacking made her cards more often than not better than her opponent. Multiple variations of Android 18 hit the scene, including Orange Energy Dragon Ball Hybrid, Blue Cell Saga Dragon Ball Stasis, and the infamous Fanatics BlackBeatdown. The 2002 World Championship for Dragon Ball Z was made up of a lot of Android 18 decks, with the finals being between Walter Cowart’s Orange Android 18 Energy/Dragon Ball and Brian Valdez’s Fanatics Black Android 18. And yet again, Valdez would have to settle for second.

X. Cell Games Saga/Capsule Corp Power Pack I, Reign of Ball and Backlash

“I think many people overlook the greatness of Cell Games, in an era that was dominated by Android 18, Roshi and Backlash, we often forget about cards like Dragon’s VictoryCaught off Guard DrillGoku’sDragon Ball QuestAre You Tuff Enuff???Gohan’s Kick, and many others that can still be used even now. CGS also was the engine for the Cell Jr. ally deck that I got to see Phil [Kyle’s brother, 2004 World Champion] use very successfully for a very long time,” McGrath pondered. With Android 18 continually on the rise and Dragon Ball decks gaining power, it was easy to overlook the great cards of the game.Gohan’s Kick gave beatdown decks hope against stasis Dragon Ball decks. Dragon’s Victory gave a twist on winning via anger. Caught Off Guard Drill made it a taboo to use or play a specific card. Are You TuffEnuff??? forced both players to advance a level, ruining decks that relied on their level 1 power. With the introduction of Tuff Enuff[14] play, a variety of options were left open.

Score decided to release a box full of “brokenness.”[15] With the release of the semi-poorly made Dragon Ball Z CCG video game, the exclusive cards to the game made it into the Capsule Corp Power Pack I. Many of the cards, like Gathering of HeroesBlack Body Destruction, and Red Overbearing Attackare still played today in the right decks. But the key was the release of Master Roshi, who was just Android 18 on steroids. While he was the weakest character in the game, he made up for that and more with the ability to look at the top 10 cards of his deck and rearrange them before drawing his 3 cards. Dragon Ball decks started to surface with both Android 18 and Roshi as the Main Personality.

Random Backlash was the term coined by many people victimized by Cosmic Backlash. This card allowed people to win first turn, or any time during the game, hence the description of random. If your opponent didn’t have a block in his hand or the next five cards his deck, it was game over. Cosmic Backlashrequired the user to not play a Mastery, but that didn’t matter to Roshi Dragon Ball decks that employed this card to win at the last minute if their Dragon Ball hopes were going down the drain. With many Dragon Ball support cards being across various styles, Roshi Ball/Backlash decks became a powerful but random force in the environment.

XI. World Games Saga, Piccolo the Trained, Tapkar, the Broken

World Games Saga will forever be known as the worst set ever released, with the main reason being our little speedy friend Tapkar. While he lasted a whole five minutes in the anime, he alone created a rift in the game so loud that it took about three erratas to finally kill him off. Black Tapkar and Tapkar Backlash were the popular ones. He had the ability to draw extreme amounts of cards off the top of his deck each turn, and the ability to use multiple card powers in one combat, thereby making hands on the upwards of ten cards to their opponent’s four or five. Setup Backlash, where you would make it so an opponent couldn’t play cards to stop Backlash, would be easy for Tapkar to pull off. After the multiple first and second turn wins that Tapkar would do and a scream from the player base, Score finally changed Tapkar, and he would never be heard from again.

The rest of the set wasn’t much better. Nearly all the rares in the set were useless personality levels. The Freestyle Mastery was created, but was horrible so no one bothered with it. However, Sensei was a new card type that allowed players to add tech cards to their deck in certainmatchups. To tech is to run cards specifically used to defeat another deck. Senseis also had abilities themselves, which were extremely powerful as well.

Where Tapkar left off, Piccolo the Trained Namekian picked up. With power cards like Namekian’s Strike and Namekian Energy Focus,Namekian decks started to control the environment. Piccolo’s ability to shut down his opponent’s card power controlled a lot of matchups, with his level 2 from World Games being a big attack as well. To make it even worse, Namekian’s Strike alone went for over $100, and with needing three copies of it along with all the other staple Ultra Rares, the cost to play the game was sky high. Cell also made an appearance inNamekian with his searching ability on his level 2. The ability to chain energy attacks and disrupt opponents became a powerful force and led to Piccolo being errated. McGrath mentions, “Piccolo the Trained was hilarious because when it was first errataed they accidentally made it better.”

XII. Babidi Saga, Just Plain Horrible

            Non-Tokui-Waza decks, or decks that played all styles of cards without a Mastery, took a different twist with the introduction of Freestyle Goku Anger. It revolved around Black Personal Smack and Orange Rapid Attack to gain at least one anger with every attack played, which could stack, or in other words raise 2 or more anger if more were played. Goku’s ability to have a lot of attacks in hand turn one along with chaining personality powers led to a dominant deck that took 2003 Portland Regionals.

After that was promptly errataed, Piccolo resurfaced yet again. With the introduction of Android 14, Namekian decks were able to have defense against the one anti-Piccolo card, Stunned. Android 14 also allowed Piccolo users to ditch any extraneous cards to perform extra attacks, making nearly every hand not totally useless.

Nothing amazing came out of Babidi Saga, with most of the new rules like Majin being just plain pointless. A couple cards became playable, but for the most part, not much caught the public’s eye. The Super Android 13 subset did generate a comeback in the area of Android decks, but that’s about it.

XIII. Buu Saga, Capsule Corp Power Pack II, Carpet Attack

Buu Saga introduced a bunch of interesting cards to work with as well as Majin Buu himself, which many people started to see all over the place. Buu had two sets of characters, one of which was defensive in nature and one was offensive. Both saw some sort of play in a variety of decks, from Red Anger to Orange Dragon Ball to Black Beatdown.

Infinite Goku surfaced in the Tuff Enuff format that prompted Score to errata a bunch of cards all at once. The basis of the deck was to be able to play a card and draw a card until you either killed your opponent or drew into something like Krillin’s Heat Seeking Blast, with which you’d kill your opponent afterAnger Management and Are You Tuff Enuff??? Regeneration would prevent you from running out of cards.

Consistent top player Rich Bondi engineered what he called “Carpet Weaver’s Surprise” that took the environment by storm. Roshi decks were for the most part Dragon Ball decks, but Rich had a different twist on his. Instead of setting up to win via Dragon Ball, he would play a ton of support non-combats, and then eventually enter with a combination of Bulma’s Looking GoodBlack Thought Focus from the Capsule Corp Power Pack II, and Black Style Mastery from Cell Saga to clear his opponent’s hand. Then a quick scoop of the non-combats to Carpet Attack Technique would win the game, or even overkill[16]opponents, thereby booting them from the tournament.

The Broly Subset brought many people to invest in Saiyan again, with his abilities all working with the Saiyan style. While he wasn’t top tier, Broly would continue to become a force in the game with cards like Broly’s Might and the ability to jump to higher personality levels at will.

The 2003 Dragon Ball Z Worlds took place at GenCon Indy in Indianapolis, Indiana, becoming one the biggest tournaments ever. Five hundred and twelve eager gamers came out, and it would be two Piccolo the Trained Namekian decks that ran South Kai Sensei to get Android 14 out facing off in the finals. Dustin Morabito took out Austin Ray in a best of three match to become the owner of one of the most controversial cards ever made, Ultimate Champion.

XIV. Fusion Saga, The Super Errata, Even or Odd

Post worlds led to a bunch of changes to the game. Android 18 was killed off a while back, but now Roshi was changed to rearrange the top six cards instead of the top ten. Cosmic Backlash was banned. Piccolo the Trained’s power needed to be activated to use, making him nearly useless. What next?

Score replaced the broken personalities with Supreme West Kai. While a very unique character, she became the new Android 18. She was not allowed to run blocks or combat enders, but instead forced opponents to guess even or odd, and then discard the top card of her deck. If her opponent guessed right, the attack hit. If not, it missed. Her ability also allowed for regeneration, which made it so she was nearly invincible, seeing she could run anything she wanted in place of the defense she didn’t need. After a big uproar in the community, Score changed it so she couldn’t prevent damage and that the one card was removed, preventing her from winning via Dragon Ball effectively. Having a bad hand didn’t hurt her as much as other characters, making her an ideal character to play as in many decks. McGrath notes, “World Games through Fusion was a disaster, the game struggled to find balance. Everything was either garbage or Supreme West Kai. I did have some fun with Black WGS Majin Buu anger, but I don’t think that escapes the ‘garbage’ tag.“

While the Fusion Saga was meant to bring fusion to play, fusion remains to be the worst mechanic ever created. McGrath chimes, “Majinwas terrible, but not as terrible as Fusion.” Being way too situational and nearly impossible to pull off, all decently smart players steered clear from it.

The very first Grand Kai Invitational took off with a bang right before Kid Buu Saga was legal, and promptly led to controversy. While the experience was a very fond one by most gamers that were invited and attended, people cheated during the sealed deck Mystery format, and the Rainbow format had people completely confused. Tuff Enuff and Standard were still decent, but it all came down to day three, where people were allowed to change decks to tech against the player they would play the next day. Gabe Abner came out of nowhere to capture the title of Grand Kai Invitational 2003 Champion over John Conbere’s Orange World Games Saga Tien Physical Beatdown. His Blue Majin Buu Saga Buuprevention Dragon Ball deck sparked controversy in the community, with people wondering how a deck running cards that made no sense win it all. The Dragon Ball Z CCG community is not without its share of drama. McGrath rambles:

“The funny thing about the GKI[17] incident was that I heard some rumblings about a player bribing for wins during the dinner at the Ballpark at Arlington (which by the way was Score’s finest moment as far as I’m concerned, even without the tacos, we got a private dinner at a MLB Stadium!). I would have made a bigger deal about the alleged cheating, but I figured what are the odds somebody who needs to bribe for victories has any chance in top cut? Shows what I know.”

It was later revealed that Gabe was the person who bribed some people with cards to take wins and squeak in as the 31st seed in the top 32 cut. But with no real proof on Score’s hands, Gabe was allowed to keep his title of GKI Champion, and “Cheater” as well.

XV. Kid Buu Saga, The Best of the Best

Score finally realized that there was something wrong with how they were making the game with the last four sets being either at par or below. With this in mind, Score decided to hire the best of the best of the game to playtest for the next set of Dragon Ball Z and beyond. McGrath points out:

“Strangely enough, once the players became part of the playtesting and design team, Kid Buu came around. Like many have already said, it was a great set, in my opinion even better than Androids. Minus Vegeta Settled Down and Energy Lob pre-erratas, everything about Kid Buu was right. One of my favorite decks ever, Broly [Saiyan] Cell Saga triple victory [the ability to win via anger, Dragon Ball, and beatdown all in one deck] was just one of the many viable decks that set brought. Problem was, there never was a tournament for that environment. Great anger ensued.”

This was one of the smartest decisions Score made, noting that many previous sets were made with sometimes just one person playtesting the set against himself, and others were just a few people. With more heads working together, flaws in the game were much more easily caught. Amazing cards like Earth’s Spirit BombPiccolo Sensei, and Orange Vegeta’s Assault are still played today.

But with no tournaments for this set, Kid Buu never got its time to shine. With this set falling on the end of the Dragon Ball Z anime, there was no more new footage to base cards off of. This lead to the transition to the Dragon Ball GT Trading Card Game, come February 2004.

XVI. Baby Saga, A New Beginning in Dragon Ball GT

In a radical change, Score threw us a monkey wrench and changed how the game would be played for the better. In light of Android 18’s dominance, Score decided to make her ability to cut down relying on luck when drawing as a game mechanic. Characters now had 16 power stages, which boosted the strength of allies even though they were changed in how they were used. Sensei Decks could run anything. The anger mechanic was canned and replaced with a new way of leveling, or which gives you access to a different personality level of your Main Personality. Clear High Tech cards with Backers were made to allow players to customize their characters. Things were looking up. But Score decided to split the formats to allow newer players to play. Expanded used all cards from Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT together, while Focused worked with only Dragon Ball GT TCG cards. Shaun Hindman, consistent top player, including top 4 2004 Florida Regionals and 2004 North Carolina Regional Champion, stated:

“The Focused environment was introduced and changed the game. Players that loved the shows could get into the game and not worry about the 12 previous sets that had been released. Though the player base never quite reached that of Expanded, Focused was a great addition and a fun way to play the game.”

“In a great irony, as GT came, the game itself continued to get better and better while the popularity kept falling. Dragon Ball GT the show is about one zillionth as popular as Dragon Ball Z is. This alone hurt the overall popularity of the TCG as it switched from Z to GT. Making it worse, the format of choice that became Expanded was damaged heavily after losing half of its events to Focused. The Focused environment was far too easy and simplistic for most players tastes, we all hate the random, and that’s all Focused was for its first few sets,” notes McGrath.Jarrett McBride, top player and 2005 Minnesota Regional Champion added:

“Dragon Ball Z ended. Dragon Ball GT TCG was a good game. It had great mechanics that where improved upon from the original [game], but due to the lack of interest from GT, the game never truly picked up. The show [DBGT] wasn’t as popular as DBZ was. If you look at [television] ratings for GT compared to Z you would see that GT was lackluster. In order for a game to pick up it has to have some kind of appeal. GT was not as appealing as Z, thus many players immediately dropped at the point of crossover.”

Regardless of the fact that the game was getting better, many people figured that since DBZ was over, it was a good time to move on in life and pursue other things.

The Focused format was filled with Orange Ally decks, namely variations of Hero ally and Baby ally, along with Black Energetic decks of various characters including Baby, Majuub, and Goku. Blue Rilldodecks were also seen. But overall, the experience was too simple, and people tended to shy away from this format. This wasn’t how everyone thought, as some people enjoyed the ability to play a new format. Expanded, however, gained a lot of momentum. The Black Energetic Mastery alone made previously unplayable characters now usable since it relied on characters getting to their previously unreachable highest personality level. Saiyan Supreme Mastery started characters off on level 2, creating new strategies with older decks, like Saiyan Supreme Gohan Eternal Dragon’s Quest or Saiyan Supreme Gohan/Cell Ally. Red Rush Mastery created chain physical attack decks which were often employed by Supreme West Kai and Piccolo Multiform decks. Orange Aura Mastery gave ally a twist, and Orange Technique Mastery gave speed Dragon Ball decks another option to go with. Blue Destruction Masterygave Blue more control and power to their energy attacks. A flurry of decks were now able to be made, even though both Namekian and Freestyle were eliminated from Dragon Ball GT. But what actually went wrong?

As the game progressed from Dragon Ball Z CCG to Dragon Ball GT TCG, one of the key elements of the game, power stages, became less useful.  Power stages are used to pay for costs to play cards in the game, and with the upgrade from 10 stages to 16 on each character, along with extremely easy ways to gain power stages, strategy took a big downward spin. Instead of figuring out which cards to play at which times based on what stages you had, it became something similar to “playing everything in your hand as long as you know it would hit,” according to Aik Tongtharadol, 2001 Dragon Ball Z CCG World Champion and Lead Designer of the Dragon Ball GT TCG and new Dragon Ball Z TCG. Power stage management used to be very important, as you’d need to make sure you have the right number of stages to perform attacks. This was soon changed and led to a major flaw as this became a smaller factor in the game. Drawbacks were left behind, and soon they didn’t come to mind when building decks.

Endurance, introduced in Buu Saga, was added to nearly every card. Endurance allows a player to remove a life card of damage to prevent the noted amount on the card from the attack. When an attack would deal X amount of damage, that many cards would be discarded off the top of a player’s deck. Endurance allowed decks to survive longer. To balance this out, nearly all attacks did on the upwards of twice as much damage as before, and cost twice as much as well. The problem with this was that the Focused format was clogged with high Endurance cards, and games often exceeded the time limit allotted in tournaments.

Overall, the transition was pretty smooth, regardless of the many changes that the current DBZ gamers had to go through. The only sad part was that players were leaving the game when it needed them the most.

XVII. Super 17 Saga, The Mark of Originality

This time during the anime featured the return of old villains for our heroes to fight, and that’s exactly what we got. These familiar faces made the game interesting with more characters to play around with and bring back from the old shoebox. The Ultra Rares Mark of the Dragonand Trunks’ Reconstruction became instant staples for many decks, which created a flurry of panic for players to obtain. Score decided to make them a whole lot easier to obtain, but during the initial release, people wanted them as soon as possible, prompting them to skyrocket in price.

New cards to help boost the Masteries from Baby Saga showed up, allowing for some necessary tweaking to the current decks made. This lead to one of the best world tournaments ever, with Phil McGrath’s Saiyan Supreme Gohan Eternal Dragon’s Quest defeating Jason Stroud’s Red Rush Supreme West Kai to take home the title of 2004 Dragon Ball GT Expanded World Champion, and the one of a kind The Almighty Light Cage. “Overall, the top cut and competition as a whole reflected a diverse selection of decks.” (Scrye #75, Sept. 2004)

On the other hand, Focused Worlds was a disaster that people called “this battle never happened” as quoted from the cardDream Machine Battle. The environment was still gaining momentum, but with only two sets released, it was still quite challenging to try something interesting. Orange Aura Baby made up both of the final decks, with Tim Mezzapesa defeating Rich Brady in the finals. And yet again, drama can’t leave the community of DBGT gamers, as Tim announced that he was giving the exclusive champion card, Super Dragon Fist, to Brady as a thank you for helping him with his deck, since they were good friends. Little did Score know that the two of them colluded to give Tim the win and split the prizes amongst themselves. However, with the bold statement occurring right in front of Score’s eyes, Score took action and promptly stripped the top 4 from all their cash prizes. Tim and Rich were denied their invitations to Grand Kai Invitational 2004 as well as their free flights, and banned from all further Score events for life. Super Dragon Fist was also banned. From now on, at every Score premier event, each player now has to sign a contract saying that they won’t collude with anyone or be booted from the tournament without prizes. This changed how tournaments were run forever.

XVIII. Shadow Dragon Saga, Beginning of the End?

Shadow Dragon Saga introduced a whole lot of new mechanics for the player to learn, giving many players a lot of different avenues to go to when attempting to build a deck. However, many of them were complicated enough that the majority of the community decided not to follow the path and stuck to what they knew was good. A couple controversial cards like Red Mentor Mastery and Universe Spirit Bomb were abused in the method they were not meant to be, while rule changes included the ability to run level 3 allies in any deck. This allowed Orange Aura decks take over the scene with Giru, Robotic Friend Level 3 as a powerful searching tool.

Score might have tried to keep the game where people could start playing easy, but Ultra Rares were still important and hard enough to obtain in multiples that people got discouraged. Concludes McGrath:

“Another factor that pushed people away from the game was the constant increase in the amount of money cards in the game. Not even Farewell Drill, and Super Android 17’s pair [Super Android 17’s Ki Intensity, Super Android 17’s Ki Focus]. The Ultra Rares in GT were almost all overly powerful, particularly Super 17 and Shadow Dragon’s. Even though ultras were easier to get, I know that I hated having to get my hands on Mark of the DragonTrunks’ ReconstructionMajin DestructionManiacal Blinding Slash, and the occasional styled ultra from Baby. Worse, all the ultras from the life of the game had built up to the point where I was actually advising people not to start playing, it was just far too expensive for a new person to start playing. On top of all that though, the biggest reason people quit playing was that they could see the end coming, the decline of tournament attendance and the low sales for DBGT sets were giant dead-end signs. Those who didn’t wish to keep emptying their pockets playing simply went elsewhere.”

Grand Kai Invitational 2004 arrived with a split format between Focused and Expanded. Top cut consisted of Focused rounds, and while the community did not like it, Score decided to go with it. DustinMorabito rang up another win, defeating Tim Batow’s Saiyan Supreme Trunks Dragon Ball with Black Energetic Goku. This time around, no controversy occurred outside of many decks running strategies that needed to be changed. Little did the players know that the promise Score made for the game to have even more coverage had strings attached.

XIX. Lost Episodes Saga, Saiyan Goodbye

With the new year to look forward to, Lost Episodes Saga was released with a bunch of interesting cards to try out. However, even with cards like Gust of Wind, there wasn’t enough in the set to convince gamers to explore all the avenues created by the new mechanics in Shadow Dragon Saga. With poor sales continuing, Score finally had to close the door on the amazing game many people will continue to recognize as the Dragon Ball Z CCG and Dragon Ball GT TCG.

No card game is perfect as we make mistakes all the time. Score’s inexperience led to a flurry of errata on confusing cards. Score did a better job as sets passed on, but the CRD started to grow and grow. This meant more cards needed to be clarified or changed, as well as rules of the game. Tongtharadol pointed out, “The enormous amount of card clarifications and errata would stop any new player from picking up cards and trying to play with them. Even if they followed what the card said, there would be some errata that said they couldn’t.” With many older players moving on in life, newer players couldn’t jump in and enjoy the game when a 50 or so page CRD was around explaining what an unclear card does. McBride noted, “The rulings and errata have gotten to the point where in order to get into the game you would have had played the game for a few years.” It was a quick turn off for the game, and that proved evident come the last set of the game, Lost Episodes Saga.

Dustin Morabito, 2003 Dragon Ball Z World Champion notes, “Now the biggest problem with this game pre-Baby Saga [before GT started] was the level of player the game was most available. DBZ has always been a game for the power gamer. While it was still fun for Joe average player to pick up the game and have fun with it, tournament level play was impossible without making a major commitment. Nearly impossible to obtain Ultra Rares, super powered top cut promos, and the fact that the game is coming into its 12th expansion with an already extensive card pool are enough to make any potential new players steer clear,”. DBZ required a lot of money to stay competitive. Ultra Rares were extremely hard to pull in packs, and the creation of other extremely rare cards made it extremely hard for a casual gamer to take the jump to the professional level without an extensive amount of money to invest. The richer got richer and the poorer got poorer. Tongtharadol agrees with this, mentioning that cards were “impossible to get.” McBride notes, “The game has gone to a point where it’s hardly playable for many of its existing player base. I mean this at the top level. So many of the cards that are needed for the most competitive decks are out of reach for the common player.” With the best players leaving the game and few joining, the game continued on its steady decline.

XX. Arrival, Dragon Ball Z TCG, Time Will Tell

Although the game has come to an end, it really isn’t over. Kyle McGrath mentions, “Unfortunately, Score is more concerned with making a profit, than keeping their old cards valuable. I’m sure Score regrets having put so many people in this position, but from an economic perspective, it just couldn’t be helped.” Score is a company, and they have to do what they feel is best for them. Even so, they’ve learned from their mistakes, and will be releasing a new game called the Dragon Ball Z Trading Card Game that is supposed to fix all the flaws in the game and expand beyond it. Score has learned to make less confusing and “broken” cards from their first card game. They know now that impossible to find promos turn people off from playing. Shifting the focus back to the Dragon Ball Z anime should bring back support in the form of children. The company itself has set up better programs for judges and hosts, as well as the tournament structure. As for gameplay itself, only time will tell. Come July 15, 2005, we will see if the new game makes it or breaks it. The old game was great, but shared many flaws that first time card games have. It’s a time that people will always remember, because we will always walk down memory lane and remember the good times that we’ve all shared. And soon we will be able to create new memories while playing the new game.

“Unlike games such as Magic or VS, the DBZ community was for the most part a community of friends who would all go out to party, hang out, etc. the days before and after the events,” points out Joey DiCarlo, consist top player with a top 4 placing at 2004 GKI. The game wasn’t only about the game. The DBZ community was an online community that met together to hang out at events. Online included amazing websites like Deck-Zone, Fanatics Gaming Network, Dragon Ball Top Tier, and Defiance Online. The game was part of it, but the friendships generated were ones to remember, regardless of distance. “I think the most important part of this game wasn’t even the game itself. It was what happened with friends after the game. These events will be some of the most memorable moments of my youth as we’ve done some crazy things,” says McBride. People shared ideas, decks, traded, hanged out, and just worked together to make the game better. The community learned from one another and generated an amazing friendship. These are the memories that will never leave us no matter where the card game decides to take us. And new ones to create, when the new game comes out.


Works Cited

“Anime Ratings Soar, Adult Swim, DBZ up in October.” 19 Oct. 2002. <>


Tynes, John. “Death to the Minotaur.” 23 Mar. 2001 <>


McGrath, Kyle. “The Evolution of the DBZCCG to the DBGTTCG.” Online Posting. 25 May 2005. TopTier Gaming. <>


Bowsfield, Kevin. Internet Conversation. 1 Jun. 2005.


McBride, Jarrett. Internet Conversation. 11 May 2005.


Tongtharadol, Aik. Personal Interview. 10 May 2005.


Low, Matthew. “Gohan Reigns Supreme.” Scrye Sept. 2004.


Hindmann, Shaun. “The Evolution of the DBZCCG to the DBGTTCG.” Online Posting. 25 May 2005. Top Tier Gaming. <>


Morabito, Dustin. “Of Fond Farewells and New Beginnings.” Online Posting. 3 May 2005 <>


McGrath, Kyle. “Of Fond Farewells and New Beginnings.” Online Posting. 4 May 2005. TopTier Gaming. <>


McBride, Jarrett. “The Evolution of the DBZCCG to the DBGTTCG.” Online Posting. 25 May 2005. Top Tier Gaming. <>


Dicarlo, Joey. “The Evolution of the DBZCCG to the DBGTTCG.” Online Posting. 25 May 2005. Top Tier Gaming. <>


Valdez, Brian. “The Evolution of the DBZCCG to the DBGTTCG.” Online Posting. 2 Jun. 2005. Top Tier Gaming.>

[1] Dragon Ball Z Collectible Card Game

[2] Dragon Ball GT Trading Card Game

[3] Expansions = new releases of cards to add to the game

[4] Environment =  all the current decks would be considered the best, and how they interact

[5] metagame = collection of games you’ll play during a tournament

[6] foil = shiny holographic version of a card

[7] anime = cartoon from Japan

[8] Saiyan is the name of the alien race of many of the characters in the anime.

[9] Physical Attack Table = the chart that determined how much damage a character would deal with an attack

[10] Current Ruling Document = CRD

[11] High Tech = HT

[12] DQ = Disqualification

[13] scooping = forfeit, packing up cards before game is over

[14] Tuff Enuff = the game without anger or Dragon Ball victory

[15] Broken = cards that were so good that they were on the edge of unfair.

[16] Overkill = dealing over seven life cards of damage of the remaining cards in opponent’s life deck in the finishing blow

[17] GKI = Grand Kai Invitational, invitation only tournament to best players in the game

5 Comments to "The Evolution of the Dragon Ball Z CCG to the Dragon Ball GT TCG to the End of the Game, and Beyond"

  1. Steve Jones says:

    This article was such a fond trip down memory lane

  2. Gary Bray says:

    I would say I miss it, but me and my friends still get together and play the game on a regular basis.

  3. cabbageman says:

    Fantastic article!!

  4. Danny says:

    a couple of friends and I play once in awhile, but i really wish there were more players playing Great Game

    Boston MA

  5. Masenko says:

    I built Gabe Abner’s 2003 Grand Kai deck the night before the final day. I knew the play styles of everyone in the top cut, and it was very easy to tech against what was likely to see play. Total garbage like Blue Pivot Kick suddenly avoided almost every block. Cookie recursion was amazing. Aura Clashing into Blue Trapped Strikes with insane base damage… it wasn’t “out of nowhere”… it was just knowing your opponent. Gabe had the advantage of being an unknown. Everyone else plastered their decks all over the place. I knew what cards they held.
    And yes, he did cheat. A lot. He cheated me, he still owes me $100 balance on the plane ticket to get there. I’m sure he felt justified after nearly everyone else cheated in the sealed portion. I don’t agree with what he did at all, but considering a giant percentage of people did cheat, it’s very likely a cheater would have won anyway. He also colluded with people, saying “Hey, you know, if I win this match, I’ll have so much stuff, I’ll just give you a box.” He claims that wasn’t bribery… sure it was, but it SOMEHOW wasn’t against the rules at the time, which is primarily why he got away with it. Also, I was listening in with Score reps talking to him about the situation, and he played the race card very heavily. “So, you just don’t want a black man to be the face of your game” is a direct quote from him. As a side note, the 2003 GKI was so poorly run, it convinced me to never play anything on a “professional” level ever again. Also, Matt Low, my piccolo multiform deck says hi!

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