The 2015 Dragon Ball Z World Championship: An Oral History

“When Tim played that second Stare Down, I knew my goose was cooked.”

-Phil McGrath (DBZ CCG World Champion, DBZ TCG Gen-Con Champion, DBZ TCG World Championship Finalist)

When Dragon Ball Z returned to card games in 2014, there was an immediate and frothing demand for Organized Play. The first season arrived in earnest, and months of Regionals and Qualifiers culminated in the 2015 DBZ TCG World Championship. Before the game was even available, Tim Batow was thinking big.

Tim Batow (2015 World Champion, 2x DBZ CCG Regional Winner, VS System PC T8, WoW TCG Champion, Professional Poker Player): When Panini announced the release of the new Dragon Ball Z TCG in 2014 I got hyped! The original Score game is my all time favorite card game, and I couldn’t wait to try out its fully compatible successor almost 10 years later. I reserved 5 booster boxes and a box of starter decks at the soonest opportunity. I felt I finally had the opportunity to redeem my past competitive Score DBZ shortcomings with the new Panini DBZ game. The teenage dream of becoming the Dragon Ball Z World Champion is what brought me to the new Panini game.

Eric Kunkel (3x DBZ CCG Regional Winner, DBZ TCG Developer): Tim always had a hand in the top meta-game decks of the DBZ CCG, and that has carried over to the new game where he has won with decks that the field has usually overlooked or not felt confident playing.

Tim Batow: I concluded Orange Goku would be a pretty solid choice for Worlds prior to set 4 release. The decks that were used to qualify for Worlds were generally conservative strategies (or fell into the Black/Blue archetypes), of which Orange has generally excelled against. Additionally, people have little playtesting practice versus the drill heavy Orange strategies, as they take a competent player to pilot correctly and it is a less important matchup to practice than Blue Protective Ginyu, Black Krillin, and Piccolo Namekian. I was rather familiar piloting Orange Goku as it has been my pet deck since Set 1’s release.

Batow qualified for Worlds by placing 2nd in Virigina with Orange Goku. After experimenting with Black Android 20 at the Texas Regional, he transitioned from Orange Goku to Orange Android 20.

Phil McGrath: Heading into the final week before Worlds I knew I was in an especially good place because so many other attendees hadn’t settled on a deck yet.

Tim Batow: Android 20’s Level 2 rejuvenation gave the Orange Drill deck a much needed robust safety net that Goku is lacking, while the Level 3 Power provides an ‘un-interact-able’ win condition. Although Goku is stronger on Level 4 with all cylinders firing, Android 20 is better in the middle stages of the game with his better defense and named cards. There is also the powerful Orange Devouring Drill synergy with Android 20’s level 2/3 that “plays” the drill that flew over my head until playtesting the deck a bit. I felt more secure in my choice of Android 20 Orange for Worlds than any other deck I have played in the Panini game.

The tournament ended up featuring a broad array of decks, ranging from innovative (Saiyan Empowered with Goku-Dashing) to refined versions of format stalwarts (including three distinctly different Black Krillin builds in T8). Earning one of the thirty-two invites to Worlds was in itself no small feat, and the tension increased each round as the game’s best players competed to make Top 8.

Thomas Engel (Next Level Z Stream Commentary): It was exciting, intense, and nostalgic to see an event for DBZ that brought so many friendships and people together once again.

Despite falling to two losses early in the tournament, Batow made his way into a T8 featuring the types of decks he expected to play. In the quarterfinals, he faced Stephen Wallace using Black Android 20.

Eric Kunkel (table judge for the match): Against Black 20, [Tim] abused the fact that his opponent couldn’t leave Level 1 and established dominance with the Rejuvenation on Level 2.

Batow played against David Pena’s unorthodox Black Krillin Dragon Ball Victory deck in the semifinals. However, Pena acknowledged that his deck was meant to surprise opponents in Swiss at the expense of the 2/3 Top Cut matches. On top of that, David and Tim had been paired earlier in the tournament – giving Tim extra insight into the matchup.

The finals featured two Orange Android 20 decks, with Batow encountering former World Champion Phil McGrath. Each player had read the field perfectly, and Orange 20 was the breakout deck of the tournament (in total, only four Orange decks and four Android 20 decks were present).

Sean Poestkoke (DBZ TCG Developer, Next Level Z Stream Commentary): Interviewing Phil after T8, I asked who he didn’t want to play against. His answer: Tim Batow. After I saw they were on opposite sides of the bracket, I knew they would meet each other in the finals.

Mirror matches often feature highly technical play, and the “best of 3” finals became a test of endurance. In game 1, McGrath astutely noted that Android 20 Level 3 checks for each player’s Freestyle Drills – which caught Batow by surprise.

Phil McGrath: In the finals, I felt like game 1 would be a race to Level 3 to exploit how powerful he is in the mirror.

Sean Poestkoke: With all the preparation Tim did for the event, his reaction to getting milled by Android 20 Level 3 was priceless.

Tim Batow: I hadn’t ever put serious testing in on the mirror match. I lost the first game primarily because I didn’t enter it with the correct mental game plan. Phil had the strategy of being the first to get to Level 3 and capitalize on the fact that 20’s power counts ALL non-Styled Drills in play. Although I had noted it in prior playtesting, the implications of it didn’t really occur to me until Phil activated his Level 3 Power for the first time. I felt like a dummy for not prioritizing my Devouring Drills and the Removal of his.

Batow had fought his way into T8 from an X-2 record, and he showed similar resolve after falling behind 0-1 in the finals.

Tim Batow: As I took a bathroom break in preparation for game 2, I didn’t feel too flustered. I’m used to constantly making expensive mistakes at the poker table and going on to the next hand like it didn’t happen. But I did mentally remind myself these remaining games were very important; I didn’t want all my time and effort since Set 1’s release to be in vain. Not only did I invest hundreds of hours of preparation and travel, I had a desire to sedate my daydreams of redeeming my losses in the top cut of the 2002 and 2003 DBZ CCG Worlds. I vowed to maintain a higher focus through games 2 and 3, and I’m happy with my performance during those two games besides a few small mishaps.

Phil McGrath: In games 2 and 3 he played with a different strategy, and the pace of each game slowed. I wasn’t able to level up as quickly or as often, partially due to Orange Devouring Drill becoming the primary target of his Android 20’s Domination. His Level 2 put in a huge amount of work across both games. Tim turned the match into a war of attrition and was able to successfully bleed me out.

Sean Poestkoke: Aside from being the best match I’ve ever done commentary on, it really showcased the different card choices they made despite using the same MP/Mastery combination. Very fitting for the finals of the World Championship, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Aik Tongtharadol (DBZ TCG Brand Manager, DBZ CCG World Champion, Kami): Tim has a long history of success in games – DBZ, poker, and more. He’s very calculating and meticulous with his plays and puts an enormous amount of time and effort into being the best. He’s one of the most deserving people to become our first World Champion and, since he’s automatically qualified for 2016, it’ll be fun to watch his title defense.

Tim Batow: Winning the 2015 DBZ TCG World Championship is the highest accomplishment of my TCG career. I look forward to retaining my title next year, and will be competing in both the Panini and ARG sanctioned events throughout 2016 to stay sharp and practice. I’d like to give a shoutout to my friends John Hall, Mike Molstre, and Shane Wiggans. Without them I would have never been properly prepared for Worlds. To everyone else, it’s never too late to start working on accomplishing your goals. The revival of the DBZ TCG is a fairly unique experience, but it’s never too late to start a daily exercise routine, work on an art form, or pursue your passions. Never do something merely because society expects you to; in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter what you do with your life. Focus on your own personal desires and do what you can to make those you care about happy, and you will be happy in return.

For further coverage of Worlds, Batow was also featured in an article by the Naples Herald. For a complete recap of all events from this season, refer to the following posts:

Thanks again to everyone for making our first season a success, and stay tuned for Season 2!

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