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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Dragon Ball Z collectible card game. After launching in 2000, the DBZ CCG ran until 2008, when it was replaced by the Dragon Ball CCG with revamped rules, which was discontinued shortly thereafter. In 2014, Panini remade the original game, leading to the Dragon Ball Super CCG in 2017, the version that’s still running today. That’s four iterations across two official relaunches in the span of 20 years, if you’ve lost count.
That all being said, both the classic and current versions of the game are still worth looking into. Borrowing mechanics from Pokémon TCG and Magic: The Gathering, the Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super collectible card games are a compelling, fun way to play out battles as if they’d occur in the anime. The thrust is that you play one of the many warriors from throughout the series, such as Goku, Vegeta, Frieza, and so on, and you use the cards in your deck to power them up and attack your opponent. The first player with no life, or no cards left in their deck, loses. It’s not unlike the many fighting video games based on the property, just more strategic and, keenly, analog and collectible.
The Dragon Ball Best Decks
As with any card game, the best place to start is with one of the boxed, pre-made decks. Not only does this begin your collection, but you also get a rule-book, playmat, and some novelty tokens to use in-game. Dragon Ball Z offers a variety of starter decks in the original wave, and the Dragon Ball Super version.
If you’re nostalgic and want to start with something you know you’ll recognize, the Warriors Return Frieza deck is a strong deal right now. Costing around $20 including postage, this Frieza deck is a build based around the well-known, much maligned villain. You get the Super Rare Frieza, who leads the deck, and a selection of 30 cards that range from combat and events, which influence the tide of battle, and more passive cards like allies and setups, whose effects are more subtle.
Towards the higher end, you have the Saiyan Saga Hero Start Deck, giving you over 50 cards based on Dragon Ball Z‘s first saga. This is a little harder to come by, and can run you up to $60 or more, but you get a wider selection of cards, including more rares and uncommons, and several characters from which you can choose to build your deck around. The selection of heroes is random, so you might not get anyone you specifically love, but they’re all useful in one way or another.
For Dragon Ball Super, you’ve got more options at steadier prices. The Guardian of Namekians is one such set, based around stalwart hero of the Dragon Ball universe Piccolo, and a bonding ability that chains several cards together. This Namekian-themed deck is sitting pretty at less than $20 with postage at time of writing, so it’s very cheap and cheerful. The Crimson Saiyan deck delves into the saiyan heroes, featuring many of your favorites, like Gohan and Goku, in super saiyan form. It uses a swap mechanic that lets you trade an ability from your hand with one in play, allowing you to quickly get out stronger abilities faster. Both of these sets come with five cards exclusive to the decks, too, so you’re adding good ammunition for trading and the singles market if you invest in either.
The Best Dragon Ball Cards
Once you’ve come to grips with the basics of both the DBZ CCG and the DBS CCG, you can start looking into getting your chosen heroes and building around them. Many full, four-level sets of heroes and villains can be bought for relatively cheap, letting you get all the cards needed to make a deck of your favorite Dragon Ball protagonist.
Naturally, Goku is top of the list here, and you can find sets of the saiyan warrior for as little as $20, delivering four levels of the hero. Several versions of Gohan are on the market to choose from, whether you’re looking for Kid Gohan or Teen Gohan. The most expensive is a set that covers Gohan just before he goes super saiyan for the first time, with the saiyan armor. You get all four levels, and a bonus rare level two that comes with an attack bonus. A Great Saiyaman set, at around $40, is cheaper, and provides the same early-level rare, in addition to the full progression of Great Saiyaman, if you want to relive that particular chapter of the anime.
Some other worthwhile sets include Vegeta, costing around $30 for four cards, a three-card set for Yamcha at around $25, and the mighty Hercule, who would certainly be worth the $25 or so, just for the expression on your opponent’s face that this is the direction you’re going. If you’d like some of the rarer foil cards, you can find the likes of a pair of Gotenks for $25, or Goku, the King’s Principle, on its own for $15. To jump to the top of the market, a Broly set is floating around, containing five cards of the all-powerful super saiyan, for $150. Pricey, but you’d be hard to beat, and you have some very attractive looking cards while you’re at it.
The singles market in Dragon Ball Super can be as competitive. A Son Goku, Hope of Universe 7, for instance, can run you around $15, and SS4 Vegeta Peak Of Primitive Power has a price-tag of over $150 right now, so it’s a real sliding scale. The best bet, for now, is a box of boosters, and you can pre-order a box for the latest expansion, Vermilion Bloodline, for around $90, bringing you right up to date, and likely netting you some of the rares that’ll attract big bucks in the near future.