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Thread: Viability of the Death symbol

  1. #1
    Senior Member Doji_Mike's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    Sheffield, England

    Viability of the Death symbol

    So there has been quite a lot of talk over the past couple of months both on here and other forms of media about how the death symbol is not very good. Which really irked me as I have been really fond of the symbol since GenCon 2015 where I played Death Garett* for teams and did pretty well with it.

    As such I am here to spend some time to talk about the strengths of the symbol. This will likely be quite long as I feel there are quite a few different topics to go over for the symbol and potential strategies that might work for it.

    WARNING: this is a giant wall of text filled with opinions that you may or may not agree with.

    Recent Results
    So I know that results don’t necessarily mean everything but I do feel it should be pointed out that Death has done quite well recently:

    Worlds Teams 2015 Death Skull Man came second.
    UK Nationals 2015 Death Duo made the top 8.
    Worlds Teams 2016 Death Saiki won and Death Bomb Man came top 4.
    Worlds Singles 2016 Death Bomb Man came top 4.

    I am going to be pretty short on this area as I know both Saiki and Bomb Man were kind of gimmicky but it is still an option on how to play the symbol and if you can take advantage of the surprise factor with these style of decks it can lead to a very respectable finish.

    The symbol has a plethora of amazing characters – that do see play off of different symbols – most of which are gain something unique/different to the usual symbol.

    Basilio San Juan – a character that has gained popularity over recent times but primarily off of the Life symbol, however Death provides quite a bit of filtering that allows you to take further advantage of those Balanced Fighter and see far more cards than a 5 handsize character should see.

    Jedah – Jedah is a character that is severely underplayed off of all of his symbols. The Water Tornado Kick build is an absolute blast, however Jedah does have an exceptional combo with Finale Rosso, Robot Masters, Cunning and Prideful allowing for crazy attack turns, let’s not forget that you can throw a Nivose and see if it deals damage and get it back for that threat of playing it as a reversal when your opponent attacks. Try it! Love it!

    Bomb Man – a deck that people are likely tinkering with again now thanks to Rodney. Kind of a straight forward deck but the proof is in the pudding, the deck works and can top with it.

    Robert – Robert may be one of the better death characters, thanks to his on the spot momentum generation for Hien Shippuu Ryuujen Kyaku. Again Robot Masters is another excellent addition to this character thanks to all the 4 damage kicks off of death allowing them to be more damaging and he can turn any attack into a kill condition. Give it a try it may just be a little more competitive than you expected.

    Duo - now Duo may be an odd addition to this list however he has been my pet character for a long time, I built a fun death build just before UK Nationals 2015 which Alan actually ended up playing a variant of this at the event and doing really well with it – the build should be somewhere on the forums check it out this deck has only gotten better with the release of newer promos. Additionally Duo allows you to improve the symbols biggest weakness – lack of low blocks.

    Shen – Shen is a character that can really force your opponent into a corner, playing cards like Hyper Bomb** allows you to really put your opponent between a rock and a hard place. Let’s not forget that recurring Nivose is always a valid strategy if you have access to them.

    Saiki – I’m just going to leave this here and allow Devon to explain it further if he wishes.

    Ash* - Burning Blitx Vortex, play it, I dare you!

    “Sacrifice” – a win button that our resident Saiki enthusiast is a big fan of.

    Self Destruct! – this card is so underrated that it hurts, say goodbye to your wall, this card can also severely slow down asset Athena in my experience too, definitely worthy of a look.

    Showdown – possibly the best action on it’s symbols and should be seen either main decked or side decked at least, it is able to slow down a plethora of aggressive decks and has the ability to cancel clutch actions which is an ability we don’t see often enough.

    Death probably has some of the most niche assets available however they are certainly good for the symbol.

    Majigen – Another death card that is able to slow your opponent down which helps grind the game to the pace that death likes.

    Southern Cross Hall – this card is fantastic (and fun) block with Peaceful Messenger and then add it back, this really helps cover one of deaths biggest flaws which is lack of low blocks.

    Le Malta – free speed is free, and that response can allow you to go a little deeper of you need to.

    The meat and potatoes of the symbol, death may have some of the best attacks in the game that don’t usually get to be played together due to symbol restrictions.

    Dio=Sega – this may be my favourite reversal right now, this little guy allows you to put your opponent in a pretty rubbish situation where they are going to lose cards no matter what, combine this with Jedah and you can really take them out of an attack turn.

    Finale Rosso – the first of Death’s win buttons what can be said about this card that hasn’t been said before.

    Spreggio & Skull Barrier – these two are lumped together as they are both similar kind of similar abilities to reverse off just one card, but you can pick your poison depending in what you want to do with your deck.

    Hell Dunk – this card is fun to play – discard balanced fighter = profit??? and not to forget the second enhance that can make all your foundations deal a damage. Someone has to make this card do something right?

    Holographic Buster – foundation destruction, powerful, works with Robot Masters, this card deserves to see more play than it has received so far.

    MM:\ Copy: Utility, utility and more utility.

    Shield Ram: lots of ranged attacks, can be used with Robot Masters and clears itself, I don’t think there are many attacks that just synergise with this stuff.

    Moon Tracer – throw and has a low block, that is pretty damn good.

    Heel Slash & Shell Kick – cheap kicks with good damage, again synergises with Robot Masters – can you see what I am getting at???

    Blizzard Sword – Ranged, multiple and gives your next weapon stun, pretty good overall even just on stats.

    Hyper Bomb** - we all know how good this card is, it allows you to really apply the pressure to your opponent and the low zone makes it deal damage more often than you would expect.

    Hien Shippuu Kyaku - 4 damage kick reversal, should be a staple in any kick deck.

    Hien Shippuu Ryuujen Kyaku – you play these if you have them.

    Nivose – well timed Nivose wins games. If you have any number of them between 1-4 you should be playing it.

    Second Shell – with all the ranged attacks available on death I feel this card needs to be mentioned, discard and damage bonus, this card feels like it should be really good, oh look 4 damage for Robot Masters…

    Etoile – Filante – excellent poke and can force your opponent into blocking it so that later cards can deal, one of the best reversals available to the symbol right now.

    Spider Suplex – one of the newest additions to the death symbol, allows for you to slow the game down to a crawl and don’t even get me started about playing this with Jedah.

    Burning Blitz Vortex – my favourite of the new promos so far, this card allows you to kill when you should not usually be able to and was sorely needed to bring death to the forefront in my opinion.

    I am going to try and not go into too many foundations here since there are 111 in standard right now off of Death so I will just point out some of the ones that should help you play the symbol.

    Concerned for the Future – If you play reversals this should be in as at least one copy, allowing you to use your attacks more than once is always a positive.

    Pity for a Traitor & Descent - asset hate for a symbol that can sometimes struggle to deal with those types of abilities. Some number of these should be in either the main or sideboard.

    To Cleanse All Souls – kind of a niche card but really is a staple for death Jedah so felt it had to be mentioned since he is certainly one of the best death characters.

    Thirst for Power – this is a nice little speed pump for Robert but outside of him I doubt you would really use it.

    Balanced Fighter/Designed for Combat/Power Struggle – remember what I was talking about earlier with Basilio, this is the death filter engine that I use in every death deck I build it allows you to cycle through your deck at a much faster rate than you would usually be able to.

    Reactive Style & Plum Eater – momentum hate these cards should be in every deck right now.

    Dragon Goddess – Kim answer, and free speed is always nice due to the high number of mid attacks death has access to; this is also my little Duo tech as it means I can make attacks mid and then make it almost unblockable speed quite reliably.

    Celestial Being – anti-committal and death has a lot of reversals so the damage bonus is not completely dead.

    Seeking Allies – compliments the filter engine nicely and lets you kill a little sooner.

    The Hunt for Spiders and Dragons – target removal, pretty useful and has a low block.

    Dream Thief – draw control, I am personally a big fan of this card and the somewhat control it gives me over what my opponent gets to draw.

    Pulled to Majigen – one of the best defensive pieces in the game dropping your opponent’s attack and making them play it again can really save you in a tight spot.

    Robot Masters – I have mentioned this card with most of the attacks on the symbol, you could probably say it is a staple for death, and if you did say that you wouldn’t be wrong.

    The Dragon of Kyokugen – build advantage and also with Seeking Allies and The Hunt for Spiders and Dragons you can make a hilarious on hit burn deck.

    Brother Figure – deal with a problem before it gets to the staging area.

    The Traitor’s Son – if you are playing reversals you should play one or two copies of this card a good mill and it can end an opponent’s kill turn right then and there.

    Hakkeshu of Death & Cunning and Prideful – attack recursion, on a symbol that does not do card advantage very well allows you to keep recurring your attacks in order to get to that W quicker.

    Powerful Assassin – simply one of the best foundations in the game, if you aren’t playing this card then you are more than likely not doing it right.

    Childhood Sweethearts & Know Your Objective & Intoxicating Seduction – speed hate, it is needed and so you have it, add in balanced fighter and you should never have to worry about speed.

    Remember Your Masters – on spot reversal kill, all in but can sometimes get you there, probably should be a one of if you opt to run it.

    Into the Sunset - oh wow I missed this card when it was gone, selective committal is just so good, and the other enhance is super relevant if you opt to go the Jedah route.

    The Good
    So now we have gone through the best cards for the symbol, death is certainly good at stopping your opponent from killing them, previously you would have to rely on Duo to grind them to a mill victory but with the introduction of Burning Blitz Vortex, any death deck can now just kill.

    The Bad
    As I alluded to death does have some problems and here are probably the biggest 3, however I do believe all of them can be built around:
    1) Price – most of deaths best attacks are either from Neo Max or just generally high priced – Finale Rosso, Hyper Bomb**. This can certainly be an issue however there are always alternatives and these can be worked around when building a death symbol deck. Don’t have Neo Max ultras? Ok play Robert now all your kicks can kill and are really fast and with Robot Masters for more damage and stun.
    2) Low difficulty foundations – death really lacks 0 difficulty foundations that have a purpose, the best one is likely Hizoku Prince which only really serves a purpose in Team Elisabeth.
    3) As I mentioned low blocks can be an issue, however they do exist you just need to work a little harder for it, and maybe main Peaceful Messenger to make up the blocks you are missing.

    So there are my thoughts on death at the moment I know it is pretty long but I wanted to show a few different things within the one post and hopefully inspire at least one person to maybe give the symbol another chance. There are many different decks available within the symbol that can be explored you just need to give it a chance. Could it win cardboard or a PTC? Potentially. But even if not you will certainly be able to have a good time with the symbol while making some of the more popular decks at the moment struggle to keep up.

    As always if you have any questions/comments feel free and I will get back to you when I can.
    2011 UK Team National Champion
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    2012 UK Team National Champion
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    2017 UK Team National Champion

    Just a washed up scrub who has to be dragged to victory these days...

  2. #2
    Brilliant read, Love it when people put more content on here.

    Also, i know you said about Jedah, but Spider Suplex is unreal with Elisabeth and Basilio too.
    "I've never been good with words... it's why my metacarpals have been broken on and off most my life"

    2015 UK Teams Champ - Earth Goro
    1st - Doncaster PTC - All Megaman
    1st - Sheffield PTC - Fire Goro
    2nd - Colchester PTC - Fire Goro
    2nd - UK Legacy Nats - Earth (Tekken) King
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    Youngest player to win cardboard - I was 17 at the time.

  3. #3
    Senior Member dutpotd's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    Calgary, Alberta
    Good read; however it glosses over what Death's real issues are, what keeps it from being a consistently competitive symbol the likes of Life/Void/Water/Air/etc.

    1) Strictly speaking Death lacks card advantage outside of some very niche plays. What little defensive draw it has is lynch pinned by Powerful Assassin which a) is costly to your build and gains you bad blocks all things considered, and b) is an easy Ever Hopeful Target given it doesn't have a block itself.

    2) Perhaps more important is the fact Death has no readily available negation, it doesn't have Caught Red Handed nor does it have Revoke, and although it has a new weapon in Spiders and Dragons it doesn't have a very strong presence over individual staging area pieces - not compared to Ever Hopeful, Perfect Accuracy or Hatred of Autumn. Really, Death's only options against Trinity Geyser and Shiranui No Mai are to chain block, and see 1), it doesn't go so well.

    3) Despite all of those nice attacks you mention, not a lot of them are actually deadly on the Death symbol anytime after turn 3 against an opponent that knows how to block. Seriously, unless you are relying on a lucky Shield Ram turn (which is something Skull Man could do) you aren't going to find the reach to get through Templar blocks with Death and very few decks can incorporate Waves of Blood in to help as needed.

    Sure, Death probably does decently well against more than a few things, and it can always be played aggressively (albeit I would argue any success in that area is limited to gimmicky things, things that are very easy to beat if you know what they are doing), but to say its a top 5 symbol would be pushing it. I'd give it the fun/semi-competitive nod any day of the week, but its quite easy to break apart - giving it little to no sway in a match - when playing as some of the more well rounded symbols.
    "No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin Chin."

  4. #4
    Regular Member 'Caz Simon's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Calgary, Canada
    I play plenty of Death, and here it is in a nutshell:

    Awesome early game - strong aggressive options, strong control over game tempo early on, good damage, good momentum control, and probably the best 1-diff foundations in the game.

    Terrible late game - lacks consistent answers to several significant portions of the metagame (Geyser, zone overload, throws, no-Mai, Deforester, Kim), is not strong at blocking while maintaining a strong staging area presence, and probably relies a little too much on gimmicks to actually kill anyone.

    Specific notes:

    Losing Mourning the Lost hurt it, but was a necessary evil.

    Losing Atlanta's champ cards smashed it good and hard in the mouth.

    Not getting new toys that compare with some of the other symbols have left it in the dust pretty badly.

    It's incredibly difficult to build an attack lineup on Death to be offensively capable without sacrificing strong and versatile block coverage.

    Never, under any circumstances, should Death ever be able to beat a proper All deck from an equally skilled player (as onlookers chant "you've still got it").

    Until Death gets actual control cards that answer the strongest attacks going around right now, it will never be better than a cheese symbol that finds wins against people who haven't played against it enough to understand how it works.

    I would seriously compare Death right now to Fire, its aggressive plays far outweigh its defensive ones, to the point that your defensive plays should basically amount to "try not to die now and maybe take one more shot at killing him".

    Most importantly, most of Death's best cards are played as well or better on other symbols on those same cards. A lot of the cards you listed are okay, but in competitive play will see fringe use at most if they're even played.

    Cards I think you should have listed, but didn't:
    "Black Justice" (!)
    Couronne des Fleurs
    Double Crosser (!)
    Grasping Widow
    Joyfully Wealthy
    Nero=Fatica (!)
    Powers Split
    Sting Kick
    Team Yagami
    Team Psycho Soldier
    Thunder Beam
    Waves of Blood (!)
    Last edited by 'Caz Simon; 02-25-2016 at 09:11 PM.
    2014 UK Teams Champ
    2016 World Teams Champ
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  5. #5
    Regular Member 'Caz Simon's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Calgary, Canada
    I believe Saiki is far and gone the best Death character right now, because he can play cards that don't have Death on them to cover his weaknesses, specifically some Air assets that drastically improve his otherwise stagnant late game. He also can find his momentum without having to attack his opponent for it, and I think that to even consider playing Death you need to be 7HS or I suppose be BombManRecursion.dek.

    From a purely competitive standpoint, the idea of playing Death Jedah or Death Basilio over their Water or Life iterations is laughable. You lose far too much power to gain far too little of it back.

    I haven't won a single set with my Worlds Saiki deck since we got home (I lost one set with it at Worlds, the last round of swiss in Teams, so either 8-1 or 9-1, I don't remember how many rounds there were). Death has some very exploitable weaknesses right now, and certainly needs help. You can hide a number of weaknesses on the symbol in a Teams format, but that's far from saying that the symbol is in healthy spot right now. That's not to say it's not fun, or rewarding when you get it to work, just don't expect it to topple Dimitri or Athena any time soon.

    Given the chaos of the format at the time, I feel that playing Death in teams was the right call and I probably should have played it in singles too. But based on my experience at Vegas, if there was a major coming up without any changes to the current meta, I would not play Death for it.
    Last edited by 'Caz Simon; 02-25-2016 at 09:03 PM.
    2014 UK Teams Champ
    2016 World Teams Champ
    Garett's personal butler and mid-boss
    Self-proclaimed God of the Happy Feet

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  6. #6
    Junior Member
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    Jan 2013
    Death is bad. Don't play Jedah either. Bomb Man is good if you want to take the risks to play him. People are throwing that mad disrespect about it being gimmicky, and sure, but it's a really strong gimmick. To be fair, my version had multiple gimmicks that allowed me to roll over most of my opponents. You just need to be a good player and protect your win condition.

  7. #7
    Im actually playing Burning Blitz Ash1 myself. It is fun. It won't win any big events but it is still a blast to go with that big of an attack.

  8. #8
    Regular Member
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    Feb 2015
    So far the biggest issue I've seen from death decks is its too most obvious attributes currently, imo is Foundation destruction and powerful attacks. Neither of those things are in a great spot right now. Death doesn't have an amazing amount of instant bake momentum, and I believe even less momentum protection(making Ash1 a sweet choice for easy Burning Blitz's). And the foundation destruction gets hurt by A)not being targeted most of the time, and B) boards get big really fast. And if they don't, they probably don't need a board.

    I think death is a great symbol at playing while ahead though. It has some great cards that sort of operate on an "even trade" level that excels at changing the tempo of your opponents deck. But with few tools to acquire said lead outside, you're typically left playing around your turn two and three. Both the games I played against Devon's Saiki deck at world's I never had more than 5 foundations I think while getting rolled turns 2 and 3 both games. Even though I believe one of our games went quite a few turns, it was a lot of turns of myself playing a 3 damage throw and trying to build more than twice, and it was just a matter of time til I got zone checked. Unfortunately, the only death deck that can do that right now is Saiki, and I'll be generous and mention a finely tuned Wily deck might pull it off consistently.
    2016 UFS Team Worlds: 3rd place, Demitri Life

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