“Activate Battle: If this card is in a battle and you choose 1 Saiyan card in your hand and discard it: Draw 1 card, then add up to 1 card from your life to your hand and negate this skill for the battle.”
“Awaken: When your life is at 2 or less or you place 5 Saiyan cards under this card from your Drop Area: You may draw 3 cards, switch up to 1 of your energy to Active Mode, and flip this card over.”
Crimson has officially won 3 National Events and, per usual, the question of Bans/Errata have already started to bubble up in the community. Before we even begin to dive into our thoughts on that topic, we must first try and understand how the format completely flipped from SS4/Syn dominance, to…
Yo, listen up here’s a story
About a little guy
That lives in a blue world
And all day and all night
And everything he sees is just blue
Like him inside and outside
Blue his house
With a blue little window
And a blue corvette
And everything is blue for him
And himself and everybody around
Cause he ain’t got nobody to listen to
Da ba dee da ba
First, I do want to acknowledge that Crimson is a generic and powerful leader that when combined with the new tools from recent sets has been catapulted into the limelight due to the leader being able to facilitate a “goodstuff” midrange strategy featuring all the new/powerful cards. However, its recent performance is due to a lot more than its ability to include the good blue cards, it is actually due to the pace of the “best” decks.
Prior to the release of Fighter’s Ambition, and with the introduction of the new Ban/Errata List, Syn Shenron and SS4 were receiving the most scrutiny from the DBSCG community. To the extent where the majority of players believed that US Nationals was set to be a format split between the two with mayyybeee some SS3 and Gamma sprinkled in. This in my opinion was due to a severe lack of testing across the community and also a lack of understanding of the pacing of the format with the new tools that the Anniversary Box and Fighter’s Ambition provided.
Lets dissect the turn structure of Syn Shenron:
Turn 1 – Ball tutor (maybe), and leader skill to fetch
Turn 2 – Unison (if mono red), and biggest threat is the 4 drop + Haze
Turn 3 – Omega 8 is the largest threat, but they could also pivot to a Z-Card, either way they are using 2 energy if they want to commit to a true threat
Turn 4 – more of the same or SSB Vegeta SCR
Approaching Syn Shenron all you need to do is understand the threat potential, timing of threats, and the Z-Awaken power turn.
Now, lets look at SS4:
Turn 1 – cantrip
Turn 2 – Unison + hoping to awaken and deploy a 4 drop during the turn cycle
Turn 3 – More 4 drops, a Z-Card, or Goten
Turn 4 – More of the same, or 8 drop Gogeta
Approaching SS4 you need to understand that if they go first or second, they need you to attack for them to get an early awaken without overextending. The deck also feels reliant on the Unison, so disrupting that feels very plus. Lastly, they have a finite number of threats, and it is very easy to telegraph when they are coming down.
Now that we have identified these things, think about how Blue/Crimson Leader can punish each of these:
Crimson vs Syn – going 2nd
Turn 1 – leave up an energy for Gohan 8
Syn’s turn 2 – if they double strike + crit you, that usually ends up fueling your Awaken. Ultimately, you just want to combo your Gohan 8 and remove the 4 drop off board.
Turn 2 – ensure you have an energy available for a negate on the 8 drop swing
Turn 3 – play Beerus Z-Card, Awaken, and activate Beerus to clear board.
Turn 4 + Beyond – you are winning.
Crimson vs SS4 – going 2nd
Turn 1 – do not attack
Turn 2 – Smoke Dragon on Unison
Turn 3 – Usually you are awakening here. End the turn with energy open to have access to Dirty Burst, Goku Black 4, and Gohan 8.
Turn 4 + Beyond – you are winning.
You see, once it becomes apparent that both red decks need to push the pace, Crimson becomes the best counter punch archetype in the game. The more attacks that happen in the earlier parts of the game, the more advantage Crimson accrues with its frontside leader skill. Each time they get to pitch a Saiyan it drives them further towards not only their Awakening condition, but also helps them draw more answers to the problems that the red decks are trying to present. Then once Crimson hits turn 3, they draw 4 cards, have access to two extra energy, and get to address the board profitably. The pace then flips completely and now Crimson is in a dominant position.
The card filtering and raw draw power are the two things that the larger parts of the community never understood about the Crimson leader. However, prior to Anniversary Box and Fighter’s Ambition Crimson was decent at best, but once you start filling the deck with Kings and Aces – card filtering and raw draw power become king.
This perfect balance of pace and card draw then led to what you saw play out across multiple National Level Events. All of this sounds like a bit much for one deck to have, and ultimately starts to raise the question around if the leader or blue card pool needs to be addressed. My response – not yet.
Counter the King of Pace
Crimson is naturally rewarded when the opposing player swings with multiple threats early, turboing them towards their Awakening condition. This means that if you limit the number of offense/defense steps Crimson has, you also limit the number of cards they are seeing in the early parts of the game. This process also helps you limit the number of options the Crimson player has to charge each turn, since they’re more incentivized to charge their non-saiyan cards in hopes that they can meet their Awakening condition in timely fashion.
The next piece of this puzzle is limiting the number of opportunities the Crimson player has to deal with a threat on your turn, and also forcing Crimson to spend resources on their turn getting rid of a threat. Smoke Dragon is a very powerful card, but it costs two energy, doesn’t attack, and also doesn’t replace itself. This means that the keyword Barrier gets even more important for you, or a battle card that costs 6 or more which forces Crimson to commit to dealing with that threat on their turn as opposed to just waiting on activating a Gohan in Z or a Goku Black. This is where it is important for you to think about how you are going to navigate these exchanges; you obviously want to present threats and swing with them, but you also do not want to allow for Crimson to extract maximum value out of one turn cycle.
In conjunction with the above, you should plan to have a way to ensure that the Beerus Z-Card cannot impact the board at all. Cards like Android 18 counter play, Desperate Measures, Crusher Ball, Supreme Kai of Time Counter Play, Striving to be the Best, etc. ensure that Crimson cannot deal with larger threats right away – which is the sweet spot. You want to make their cards line up as poorly as possible against yours.
Now that you’ve controlled the pace in the first few turns and limited Crimson’s access to profitable removal, you are now in a position to where you want to turn up the pressure and force them to Awaken on your turn. It is important to go tall and make comboing out feel negative for them, this means you need to be completely aware of Unbreakable, Beerus Destroys, and Ultra-Instinct Kamehameha. If you can force the Awaken on your turn, this is how you steal the tempo from them since now on the following turn, they will only get 1 untap offensively – restricting their actions per turn and their ability to deal with your board.
Once this position is secured there seems to be only one card that could possibly unravel the entire plan – Son Gohan, Beyond the Ultimate. When playing with this card it honestly feels like the single best card, I have ever played in my life haha. It addresses the opponent’s entire board on play, bottom decks a life, and then allows for an incredibly powerful turn via the Activate Main/Battle skill. The card does the absolute most and can come down as early as Crimson’s turn 3. This is another reason why pacing is important – if you go all gas, flood the board, and allow Crimson to trigger their front side repeatedly, you are setting yourself up for Beyond the Ultimate to completely warp the outcome of the game. You need to be aware of this card at all times, and the best advice I have – do not get tilted when they have it, because in my experience they always have it.
Crimson is the current “best” deck in the format – and that is fine. As referenced above, the rise of this deck truly was a “perfect storm”. With all the new threats and answers, along with both red decks overwhelming the rest of the format, Crimson was in the right place at the right time to completely dominate the National’s format. With this domination though, also comes an opportunity for us all to grow as players, and for us all to better understand how to control the pace of any given game – something that usually requires you go against your intuition and everything you have practiced. This is where we all can pick up matchup percentage moving forward, and how we all should be approaching this new meta as we bring in the New Year.
When the moment comes though; turn 1, on the draw against Crimson – are you rushing? Or are you dragging?