The Top 10 Cards That Changed The Game!

DBZ like any other defunct CCG ended as a completely different game compared to what it had premiered as. There are a lot of factors to consider in how a game changes, why the game changes and what type of demands are often placed on the game which cause it to change or well…die. This isn’t a critique of the changes wrought on the game, and while it is a “Top 10” list by nature, the cards I want to talk about aren’t ranked in any particular order one over the other, but rather these are the 10 biggest cards that in one shape or form changed the way the game was played, viewed or expanded. Like most lists compiled and written by one person, this is all opinion, but an opinion based off of years playing the game through to the end and by viewing the decks I fought against, play styles which became dominant in my area or the players themselves and how they reacted to the game.

I’d like to have part of the focus of this article be a little bit more reminiscent and less jaded on the “if only they had done this” concept. The fact is Score did what they did, the game ended when it ended (for me that was Kid Buu, mostly due to financial issues), and what we are left with is what remains. One of the great things we are left with are memories, however, so I would rather provide a “Oh, I remember that” feeling more than anything else.

1. Quite possibly my most favorite banned card in the game. Maybe of all time. But before it was ever banned it was completely playable, and might I add, playable during the original Non-Combat card rules. TTSP (almost feels like a crime to abbreviate it) was the first true cancel card in the game. Coming from a CCG background, I know it is inevitable that any game will eventually have it’s counter spell (to borrow a M:TG layman’s term), but the way in which TTSP could be played, as well as the fact that it was not limited to one per deck, and the way the game’s hand draw/circulation functioned at the time, it was highly abusive, usually resulting in whoever had more TTSP in his hand would be the resulting winner of the game. It stopped the effects of just about anything.

It didn’t surprise me that this card ended up banned on the first CRD, or that the Non-Combat rules changed after Frieza Saga. While the Enraged/Blazing Anger contributed to the blatant exploitation of an abusable game rule, TTSP I always thought was the icing on the cake, making the game more bent on non-combat play more than anything else. Just the idea of having this playable after the 2.0 Non-Combat rules change makes me realize how truly abusive (and properly abused) this card was. Imagine having the ability to cancel any card just sitting in play to be used at your leisure? This Too Shall Pass makes my list because I feel that this card was one of the biggest factors in Score issuing both a CRD and rules change for Trunks Saga on.

2. Masteries: Technically this is 6 cards and also the first new card type in the game. For my play area it was also one of the key components in recruiting new players to the game. Along with the Trunks Saga set, which gave new personalities for everyone’s favorite heroes (and for me Garlic Jr. and Frieza), the masteries were a great way to introduce someone to a game, and the play style of the various Tokui-Waza’s.

Having a constant effect to your deck just for having a toki-wazu also forced some players to change their focus on how they built decks, which was usually to their advantage. While some rose in play quicker than others (Red and Black became quite popular to anyone who enjoyed winning), the fact was you could now build a deck around a style, not just a character. Finding the right marriage of character to mastery only heightened the deck building process, and for the first time I saw some players actually plan out what cards to include in their deck in place of the 20 +3 physical attacks they had used previously. DBZ wouldn’t have and couldn’t have risen to become the fun and popular game it was without the component that Masteries brought into the game.

3. While Vinegar HT level 1 could probably share this space, the Trunks HT had a longer shelf value, so I put it here. The truth is this card’s change to the game was almost a sneak attack. Being that it was in the first redemption, and that at the time energy attacks weren’t entirely popular, and that High Tech cards by design aren’t playable as allies, not a whole lot of people paid much attention to the card except for maybe the impressive power levels (which dwarfed the Frieza HT considerably).

However, thanks to the wonderful Trunks Saga, this card became hugely sought after and perfectly useable in the newly developing stasis/ball type decks. The fact that it is still a choice amongst Trunk deck builders should speak for itself, but if that isn’t enough for you, this card was so powerful that Score’s answer to it (and a couple of other emerging power personalities) was Stunned. When the game maker makes a card specifically targeting one personality (out of the 29 personalities at the time), it’s the sign of a power card.

For me though, what made this card so important is that suddenly people who weren’t already saving wrappers out of habit (personal obsession), began to do so and were suddenly logging into Score’s website to stay tuned to new developments and promo teasers. The Saiyan saga promos while useful at the time did very little to the game except act as colorful prize support, and the Frieza promos hadn’t all been released yet, so the Trunks HT was the first such promo to add a new level of involvement in the game for players, and was a great reward for anyone who contributed time and money into playing the game. I was lucky to have enough wrappers for three player sets, and during one rather large tournament I put up one of my sets as prize support for the top 6 players. There was a lot of fighting over who was going to walk home with the Trunks personality, and when it was finally handed out to the lucky winner, it didn’t surprise me to see a lot of offers being made after the tournament. A collection frenzy had begun.

4. Another banned card in the making, once initial confusion about CPH was resolved for players, it quickly became the lock-down card, virtually allowing a free turn of combat / non-combat abuse or the halting of a potentially dangerous offensive rush. I think what I saw most in the history of this card was more player complaints on Score’s forum than anything else. Where There’s Life There’s Hope was another complained about card, but thanks to that card’s extreme Ultra Rarity, complaints on it were significantly less.

What I saw with CPH was the power of the player voice. More than TTSP, with enough complaints coming in Score had to deal with the issue, multiple times in fact as the card wasn’t banned initially. I never thought the card was as powerful or broken as most of the cards that ended up on the banned list, I just saw it as a staple similar in power to Time is a Warrior’s Tool. Enough players thought otherwise that Score initiated a change in the game. That is the power of the players, and for a long time that concept wasn’t toyed with again…until Majin Buu’s Fury (which isn’t nearly as halting as that pesky Chiatzou.)

5. Whenever a card’s ability becomes copied, cloned, mimicked or in the case of GT an actual rule/step of play that’s powerful. 18 changed the future. Not only was her ability powerful and useable with almost any deck type (though stasis balls tended to be more so than others), it changed the entire mindset of anyone entering combat either as player or opponent. There was a certain bit of confidence that you would have the best hand possible going into any battle, so what was there to fear? A little reckless, but almost always accurate. 18 was for me the first card power that I read and responded by saying, “Broken.” Despite that, there were ways around it (one of which was card #6), but this card changed the game for the simple fact that it spawned a lot of imitators.

6. There are many reasons to like this card, and many uses for it until it’s unfortunate errata. The reason I list this as a “Change the Game” card is because thanks to this power, the game could easily be returned to a battle of power levels and card play, rather than personality powers claiming unfair advantages throughout the game. Trunks HT, 18, Vinegar HT, all had to rely on what was in the deck, versus what was printed on a personality. Piccolo became one of those personalities that a player had to metagame for, and from a personal standpoint, this was one of the best personalities to capture the essence of its character. In the show Piccolo was all about the thought, approach and counter. With Android saga and Piccolo the Trained, Namekian style got a huge boost and playability as a counter with life card damage deck. While this was short lived thanks to the regenerative cards provided in Cell and Cell Games, Piccolo the Trained still gave people a reason to play one of the lesser main characters, and a game against a Piccolo deck was often more fun and challenging than playing against most other personalities.

7. This is another marketing promo success story. While the Super Saiyan Goku from Irwin Promos was ok to collect, it wasn’t much fun to play with after Trunks Saga. But SS Gohan was completely playable, especially with Saiyan style. Every player I knew made a trip to the toy store after this card showed up during a tournament, and the Irwin Promos were forever something to be looked for. Extra card drawing hadn’t yet been explored really until this card showed how powerful an ability it could be. I like to think that the Goku/Gohan personalities from Cell saga were directly evolved from this promos introduction.

But on a more personal level, this card changed the way I played the game, or specifically how I chose not to play the game. It was the first ever Tuff Enough tournament we were holding where I decided to reveal the SS Gohan / Saiyan style beats. My first game pitted me against a younger kid who had traveled across town to play in the tournament with his brother. He was playing Tien because he really liked that character. My second or so turn I drew EDB 3 & 5, TWO Raditz Flying Kicks and enough other physical attacks to be unfair. We battled, and thanks to my mastery and personality power (that’s 9 cards for anyone counting) I ended up dealing roughly 70 damage for the overkill.

It was a lucky draw on my end, a bad draw on his end, and a crazy victory worth bragging about. But what stopped me cold were the tears coming from the kids eyes. I realized that while I had one a couple of extra packs of cards for the overkill, this kid had just driven across town to have his happy weekend dreams shattered by this dick move from an older, more experienced player (I was 21 and the kid was close to 10) who eliminates him from the tournament first round. It was a poor example of play behavior, and although it was within the lines of the game, I decided at that point I wouldn’t be repeating that type of evil again. I retired the SS Gohan deck after that tournament out of disgust, and while I still played Vinegar (35-0 record before retiring that deck), I made sure to never disrespect another player’s time and enjoyment of the game by out right obliterating them with powerful decks.
I guess you could say I changed my style from Vegeta to Goku, and I felt better about myself after that. This also led to a much better relationship with the players as not just an experienced player, but also someone who could be approached to discuss the game and offer advice. So maybe this is on the list for a more personal reason, but I also stress the marketing / Irwin Toy promo craze which developed because of this card.

8. Without going in depth on the power this card gave any player lucky enough to pull one of these, and the ceaseless debates this card caused right before and after any major tournament where rulings and interpretation of this card’s effects caused a player’s head to explode in frustration, I’ll get right to why this card changed how the game was plain. Pure and simple: this card made Ultra Rares desirable for game play.

Up until this point a 6-star card was a big price item only in terms of rarity. While Goku’s Truce wasn’t terrible, there were plenty of uncommons comparable and easier to come by, and the Personalities offered in the Frieza saga felt like only a teaser and weren’t at all playable because one was a level 4, so the game was over by that point, and the other lacked a level 2+3. But with WTLH Score upped the ante on the ultra rare front. Now not only was there bragging rights to scoring a 6-star, but there was also a huge game play benefit for anyone who could work it into the evolving Dragonball, Stasis and occasionally Anger decks.

While this card led to the eventual “money wins” mentality that Score gradually slid into this game and others, it was crucial because it made ultra rares something more than just a card looking pretty in a binder. Other cards such as Trunks’ Guardian Drill, Z Warriors Gather and Roshi Sensei followed, but Where There’s Life There’s Hope started the trend. For better or worse this card changed the game and the way people spent money on the DBZ CCG product.

9. Up until this point in the game your opponent’s MP level was strictly determined by your opponent. If they were designing a drill heavy deck centered on a level 1 MP power then they wouldn’t have any anger raising cards in their deck two thwart their own strategy. But with this card, your opponent’s level could now be decided by you. There were risks involved occasionally, such as blowing your opponent into higher power levels, but the damage on the card, and the fact that it was an “if successful” effect kept the card balanced.

But I’m not just talking the card here, I’m talking the mechanic that developed with this card. Suddenly there was a new tech to deal with. Vinegar decks began packing Captain Ginyu Frog for their own protection. Not even Piccolo the Trained was safe. Choosing your higher personality levels began to have more importance, especially since new levels for the existing cast were rapidly debuting. Straining Jump Kick Move gave a little more control to the players on an effect that was initially a one-player controlled aspect. While not heavily expanded on, enough cards grew out of this concept which allowed players a huge metagame component that was still prevalent at the end of the game.

10. I started this list with a cancel card, and by Kami I’m going to end it with a cancel card. THE cancel card. A staple amongst staples. TES followed in the foot steps of This Too Shall Pass, only in the fact that it could cancel the effects of a card. But TES was designed for much, much more, and showed incredible insight on future game design by Score.

Up until this point the few Combat cards that existed were similar in scope as double blockers or kitchy power level altering effects. You could block physical and energy attacks, you could discard non-combat cards, but what to do about the emerging dilemmas caused by the Combat card type? Ally Wins, Frieza Smiles and Time is a Warrior’s Tool were unchallengeable. Thanks to the rule change right before the Trunks saga release and the ban on TTSP, players were left without ways to deal with these threats and annoyances. But thanks to the arrival of TES, canceling cards within the scope of the new combat rules was possible again. What TES also did however, was enable Score to explore the only slightly examined Combat card type. Cards which may have been too powerful as a non-combat or secondary effect on an attack could become a Combat card. They would still hold merit, but would have to be played during Combat, and thanks to TES were not unstoppable game ending cards.

In a way TES strengthened its own value as a staple, because with every set more and more Combat cards arrived, and the only way to deal with those cards was TES. The card worked in every deck, allowed an existing card type to develop its own niche in the game, as the support actions that seemed to happen on the battle sidelines, and returned the cancel mechanic back into the game. And any CCG worth its salt has to (and by has to, I mean WILL), have at least one cancel card in its inventory. Without trying to grossly exaggerate the importance of this card, without TES the game would have ended up consisting of Attacks, Blocks and Non-Combat cards, and entering combat (while varied in the number of attacks and blocks), would have been much more boring. Hard to imagine the irony of that statement, but TES changed the game by cementing an additional dimension of play to the game, and I just couldn’t leave it off of my list.

So there you have it. I didn’t intend to leave out cards from sets post-Cell saga, but looking at everything that came after, I really just didn’t see a single card that had the same impact on the game the way these cards did. I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thinks about the list, not so much in terms of the power of the cards within the game, but the effect they had on the game itself. Or perhaps even other cards which put the local tournament circuit on its head. I am certainly not overlooking the fact that some changes which took place in the game may have been caused by entirely unrelated factors, but I think sometimes we need to look back on what took place when changes happened in order for us to see how far the game truly came. I for one am thankful for each of these cards, because I can remember how the game started, and I am much happier playing it the way it ended.

3 Comments to "The Top 10 Cards That Changed The Game!"

  1. Maupin says:

    I have to agree with how much power each of the cards posted had within the game. I remember at my local’s Cell Games pre-release tournament I didn’t even feel right playing in it after the lucky pull that I had. I was joking around saying all anyone needed to win the tournament was Android 18. Not only did I pull Android 18, but my rare in the deck was Blue Style Mastery, which automatically made me the uber dick of the tournament.

    There was nothing that could beat that kind of combination of the probability change of her When Entering Combat power, the extra card draw of her When Entering Combat power and Blue style’s mastery being able to stop 1 attack per combat. It really showed how powerful she was.

  2. DBM says:

    outstanding article. while i don’t necessarily agree with Super Saiyan Gohan & SJKM, your thoughts were really well written and elaborate.

    I like TIAWT on the list, and Gohan’s Kick. TIAWT because it was ‘everyone’s’ best card in the deck, and Gohan’s Kick because it obviously came along at an incredibly important time in the game where stasis was beating everything.

    Maybe it’s because Cell Games came along right before two major events, but I still feel like Gohan’s Kick & Focused Attacks changed the game more than anything other than masteries & android 18.

    • Andrew Dill says:

      Agree with Dave, Time is A Warrior’s Tool and Gohan’s Kick seem pretty important. I dare say until Majin Buu’s Fury and Broly’s Might that dragon ball decks and stasis decks would have had no real threat to ever lose, besides terrible drawing, if Gohan’s Kick was not released.

      I probably would have mentioned Cosmic Backlash at some point as well. As it was more powerful than a lot of cards listed, was around for multiple World Tournaments, and really made people on edge and think about trying to be able to stop it. Not many alternate win conditions made its way into the game, and that was the first. I always thought the card was fair personally, even with the “random backlash” idea people began to use once in a while, I still felt if you could not stop a normal physical attack after drawing 5 cards that you deserved to lose.

Leave a Reply

An online community for gamers and Dragon Ball fans. We exist because of the dedicated community that has banded together over the years and welcome everyone to join in the community and events we hold around the USA.