Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Uncommon Solution of Panini's DBZ TCG

Last time... on Dragon Ball Z TCG blog posts:

I wrote something called The Common Problem of Panini's DBZ TCG, a piece on how terrible it is to have a difference in rarity among personality level cards within the same set/stack (Trunks Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4), especially if those rarities are common and uncommon and found within booster packs.

This was a problem because:
  1. Players who buy multiple booster packs will end up with more Level 1 and Level 2 cards than Level 3 and Level 4 cards
  2. Common personality cards means way too many wasted pieces of cardboard

These factors above end up with the truism that many players of the Panini Dragon Ball Z Trading Card Game who buy booster packs will have very, if not completely, useless cardboard.

I wasn't alone in recognizing this as a problem. Retro DBZ also had an article on this.

Set for Success

Heroes & Villains, the second set, was like Set 3, The Movie Collection. Set 1 was a larger set that was released with starters. Set 2 was simply an expansion set with four booster pack personalities. Set 3 was also an expansion set with four booster pack personalities. A difference between the two? Set 2 had Level 1 and Level 2 common personality cards while Set 3 did not.

There doesn't seem to be any reason for this change other than Panini recognized that this is an issue and then did something about it. That's fantastic. I like that Panini is willing and readily able to adapt and change according to the needs of the game and that support is not limited to just balancing gameplay environments. Rapid iteration of making a successful trading card game is awesome.

For The Movie Collection, the Level 1 and Level 2 personality cards are now uncommon. What's more is that the Level 3 and Level 4 personality cards are still uncommon! Woohoo! This means, on average, a player is going to have the same amount of copies of personality cards for each of a personality's levels.

This solution fixes #1 mentioned above. This also helps problem #2 mentioned above but doesn't completely solve it. But, it's tricky to solve this because there's another factor that Panini seems to be concerned with: Rainbow Sealed format.

Pot of Goals

Whenever there's a new set, players are going to want the new cards and play with them. Launch tournaments exist as a fun event to promote a set's release and give the opportunity to play with the new cards due to the sealed pack format Rainbow Sealed.

For Rainbow Sealed, you bring your own main personality to play in conjunction with the new cards, but you're allowed to play with the new main personalities, provided you get all four levels of that personality. With the number of packs that each player gets, having common personality cards means folks are definitely going to get new personalities they can play with. Having rare personality cards means that folks are pretty much never going to be able to play with the new personalities in a Rainbow Sealed. The sweet spot is the uncommon slot, where you'll stand a decent chance at getting the cards needed to be able to play, say, Garlic Jr. in your Rainbow Sealed.

So that solves that problem, but, the thing is, if you're going to buy a booster box or two of a new set, with personalities in the uncommon slot, you're still going to have a surplus of personality cards. So, as you can see, utilizing the current pack distribution to solve BOTH the problems of having too many personality cards and being able play with new personality cards in Rainbow Sealed is currently impossible.

So, we have two contradictory goals:
1) Lessen the number of cards that become useless as players purchase more booster packs
2) Increase the chances of having a full set of Level 1 through 4 for one of the new personalities at a Rainbow Sealed Launch event

Increasing the rarity of personality cards in booster packs helps Goal #1 while lowering the rarity helps Goal #2. So, now what?

Multiple Personality Disorder

Personality cards are always going to be among the cards you'll want the least number of copies of within your DBZ card collection. You can play three copies of Saiyan Upward Kick within a deck, but you can't play three copies of Garlic Jr., Crazed. Even though you can only play a single copy of Master Roshi ally in your deck, one or two of your decks might also make use of a Master Roshi ally, so it's not as bad as having multiple of the same main personality.

Let's go over how frequently you'd want to see certain cards appear in booster packs:

  • Main Personalities: Rarely
  • Named Cards: Sometimes
  • Allies: Sometimes
  • Dragon Balls: Sometimes
  • Masteries: Nevar!

Main Personalities: In comparison with the rest of the cards in that list, you're going to need copies of these cards the least.

Named Cards: You might want up to three copies of named cards, so you want to see these more often in booster packs than main personalities

Allies: You might be playing Nappa in each of your two villain decks, for example, so you'll want to see these more often than main personality cards.

Dragon Balls: For the same reason as above for allies, several of  your decks might be playing Dragon Balls. As for the rarity discrepancy between them, (7-star Dragon Ball being more rare than the 1-star Dragon Ball) this is not as offensive as the Main Personalities in Set 1 since you CAN play Namek Dragon Ball 1 without Namek Dragon Ball 7. So, while Dragon Ball Victory decks will want a full set, this is all right.

Masteries: Once you get a mastery, you're done with needing that mastery. Just like with main personalities you only really want one, maybe two copies of that mastery. A good solution that has been adopted by Panini is to have masteries only be included in the starters, so folks who buy starters don't have to worry about duds in their booster packs.

Based on the above, it seems to be that you'd want to see main personalities show up as often as rares do and others a bit more often than that. Again, having main personalities as rare cards means that you'll probably not play any new main personalities in Rainbow Sealed. 

Part of the Pack

But what if I told you that you can have rare personalities and still have a decent chance of playing a new main personality in a Rainbow Sealed tournament? What if, when you opened a booster pack containing a main personality, your booster pack looked like this:

 Much like how a foil takes up one of your common slots, a main personality that is rare would take up three of your common slots. This is fine. Here's what this solution does:

  • Perfectly solves any imbalance in the number of level cards you have for each main personality (No disproportionate number of Level 3's or Level 1's compared to the other Level cards for that personality)
  • Helps reduce the number of copies you're likely to own of a main personality (2 Garlic Jr. sets out of two booster boxes? Not bad!)
  • Maintains a likely probability that you can play a main personality in a Rainbow Sealed tournament
Keep in mind that the above booster pack contents ONLY occurs if you receive one of the booster pack main personalities. If it were a regular rare card, then you would still get 7 common cards, 4 uncommon cards, and 1 rare card.

Now, I know this may be something that's tricky to do in whatever manufacturing locations are determining the randomization of packs. 

But, if it's logistically possible distribution-wise, this solution might help improve the quality of Dragon Ball Z Trading Card Game booster packs.


  1. My understanding is that it is indeed rather tricky to have randomised booster packs with constraints like "whenever card A appears, also put card B with it". This was the reason given by Mark Rosewater that Innistrad couldn't have regular-back sorceries accompanying each double-faced card - he said that would have been preferable, but their printer could only manage it "in about 90% of boosters", which obviously wasn't enough.

    I agree in the case of DBZ the solution you propose would be much better (if they could find a way to overcome the logistics problems). The whole idea of even uncommon, let alone rare, cards that literally can't be used unless you have 2-3 other specific cards is pretty horrible to a Magic player.

    1. I didn't expect a comment to arise months after writing a DBZ TCG-related post! Thanks for the extra insight into the logistical blockers to the personality issue. =)

    2. Haha. I may have just encountered your blog for the first time and read some way through the archives. :P