Invited Author: Sakura Kingdom
What’s up, everybody?!
My name’s Cody (a.k.a. KCodes or Sakura Kingdom), and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to write about my tourney win with Purple Kaido! I’m a big fan of this site (I visit it at least twice a day to see what new lists are up and get some data going with them), so getting to do this is amazing. I’ve been a fan of One Piece since 2004, and I got into competitive TCGs in 2017, hopping from Pokemon to Yu-Gi-Oh and back for a bit before OPCG got announced, at which point I was all in.
All I’ve wanted since Spring was to play One Piece in tournaments, so once the game came out in Japan, I spent a lot of time looking at Japanese tournament results (sadly I didn’t know about this site yet) and started a YouTube channel called Sakura Kingdom, where I discussed my findings just as OP01 came out internationally! If you enjoy what I have to say in this article and want more info as we finish this format and head into set 2, check it out – if what I’ve found so far helps you out, that would make me incredibly happy!
On Thursday, January 5, I had just returned to LA from a trip home, and was looking for a locals to play with my buddy. We found out that Table 1 Gaming had a tournament scheduled that night with a decently sized player cap at 32, so we decided to head over there. When we arrived, the store was packed – It turned out that they had gone past the cap and ended up with 43 players!!
Before the tournament, I had been looking at how the documented wins had been distributed between different Leaders over the past week, and that told me that Kid was BY FAR the most successful deck at the moment. We all know how much power Kid has in the OP01 format, but he had twice the number of wins as the next most successful deck by that metric, and 1.5 times as many as the next if I narrowed the sample down even further and looked at the last 30 reported wins.
I also have a ridiculous spreadsheet that tracks matchup winrates using data I collected from online tourneys, so plugging the numbers in there put two choices at the very top: Kid and Kaido. If I felt the last week was a better representation going in, that gave Kaido more weight. If I went with the last 30 days, Kid was more likely to succeed.
If you couldn’t tell already, I love data and math. Data does a lot to help me find a starting point when I make a big decision with a card game, but to truly make a choice, I need to give that data context and weigh it against the factors that affect myself as a player specifically. It makes sense that these two were the choices I arrived at: Kid has an amazing matchup spread thanks to its versatility, and Kaido has a great matchup against Kid itself, but it can struggle against certain decks, especially Zoro. I knew that Kid would be a popular choice either way, but I was still unsure about how much Zoro I would see, especially without the context that playing at a store I had actually been to before would have given me.
And that leads into the final factor that influenced my deck choice: experience. I’m in a place where I want to get a good range of testing in against every matchup with a deck before I play it in a tourney. Kaido was the first set 1 deck I started playing, and at this point I have at least twice as many games in with it as I do with any other deck. While I do have enough games with Kid (and Doffy) in to the point that I can say I have a good idea of how the deck itself works, I still think there’s a good deal more I can do to learn certain matchups. As Kaido, playing the Zoro matchup feels stressful because it’s unfavored, but playing the Kid mirror feels worse for me because it’s territory that I’ve barely navigated in comparison. Since I figured I’d be more likely to play against Kid as Kid than against Zoro as Kaido, and especially due to where my own testing experience has been allocated, Kaido felt like the right choice for that night.
The list I took to the tournament is pretty similar to one I made a video about just before set 1 dropped internationally, but playing in tournaments made me realize there were some updates to be made. Here's the list I arrived at:
I'll go into specifics about my card choices very soon, but I wanted to talk quickly about how I like playing Kaido (thanks again to a player names vampoch who gave me a lot of insight and inspiration to this end): even though Kaido has some of the strongest offensive effects in the game, its DEFENSIVE capabilities are what truly allow it to thrive. A hefty counter and blocker package is what lets it survive to the point where it can take an opponent from 2 Life to losing the game in one turn after accruing enough resources and pressure. In the early game, I'll usually counter any 5000 or 6000 attacks on my Leader if I can do so with one card, and potentially block something 7000 or higher IF I think there's a chance of my blocker getting removed the next turn, or if my opponent is far ahead on setup. But for the most part, I'm okay with losing my first 3 life as long as they have to put a significant amount of resources into making that happen – keeping a strong board up without using too many resources to defend my stronger characters is my priority in this phase. This is, of course, a general guideline: while I do find myself sticking to it in most games, there are definitely weird situations that pop up where I need to diverge a bit.
Once I get to 2 life (or 3 in the mirror), I go all in on defense, only choosing to let a hit in if defending it would be an inefficient use of my resources (eg. Blast Breath on a 6000 hit). My goal is to control the board to the degree that I'm getting more swings in and put as much pressure on my opponent with big bodies to run them out of Counter. Once my opponent is at 2 life and I have at least one big attacker in addition to my Leader (plus one more for each blocker my opponent has on the field) I evaluate how much counter they likely have in hand, and if I'm very confident it will work, put 7 DON on my Leader (or additional characters), swing to get rid of the second to last life, use my leader effect, and then swing with my big character for game. Again, I only do this if I’m very confident that it will give me the win, and there are a surprising amount of games where I just attack into their last Life because it ends up being the more efficient option in the long term. But this Leader effect is VERY strong, especially when used wisely.
4 Higurashi, 4 Black Maria (ST04)
Cheap blockers are obligatory in Kaido. Near the end of the game, there's a good chance you'll have one, maybe two decent sized characters on the board to try and get your kill turn in, so they can put in a lot of work to preserve your board or stop THEM from killing you while saving your DON to put pressure on. Oftentimes if I reach the point where I'm at 7 DON and have the option to go for the 2-life finisher play but don't feel extremely confident in whether my opponent could counter it, I'll attach 5 to my Leader and use the other 2 on a chump blocker to whittle down their resources while keeping them at bay to the degree I can.
3 Jack (ST04), 1 Who's-Who (ST04)
These cards have helped the deck so much not just because of their effects, but also because they can function as small attackers in a deck that has a tendency to only swing with its Leader the first couple of turns. I was initially running a 2-2 split of these, but decided to switch a Who's-Who for a Jack because I felt the need for one more ramp card AND an extra 1K counter. It’s not a huge boost for the deck’s TOTAL counter power, but so many of the Counters that get played in Kaido are +2000 that overusing them (ESPECIALLY using 2 when you only need to add 3000) can be pretty painful in the long game. Who’s-Who’s biggest issue is that it has no counter, so even though I love the utility he gives, I had already gone from 4 to 2 and then to 0 copies, but since I tried upping him to 1, he’s helped out in some pretty tight spots, especially when I’m trying to close out the game.
4 Sasaki (OP01), 4 Ulti (ST04), 4 X Drake (OP01)
Purple has lots of 2K counter options, and they’re a big part of the defensive package that lets him stay alive until he can close out the game. I don’t run Page One in mono-Purple Kaido, so Ulti is only used as a counter, but Sasaki and X Drake sometimes hit the board if I don’t get a ramp card at the start of the game for the former, or if I need another attacker, want to rip a potential counter from my opponent’s hand, AND have enough defensive options already for the latter. If I wanted, I could run Orochi as well, but right now I feel like 12 2K’s is the magic number.
4 Queen (ST04), 2 Black Maria (OP01)
More blockers! Queen is one of the most essential cards in the deck since it gives you a +1 (or in those occasional games where you end up with multiple Onigashima, what ends up being a +2) in hand advantage, blocks small attacks easily, and can function as an attacker if you find yourself needing to go fully offensive. I’ll even play him down before King if both are an option sometimes since he’s such a proactive card. My previous build struggled a LOT against Zoro, and while he’s still my most difficult matchup, adding more Blockers in the form of the set 1 Black Maria helped (and the +1000 counter she has is a huge boon as I discussed when I talked about Jack). When I first looked at Japanese tournament results, Kaido looked to be the most promising deck to me, but not having the Uta from the Film Starter Deck brings him down a bit – Black Maria is a decent substitute, but she’ll be slotted out (along with a couple other cards) once we have ST05 at our disposal.
3 King (ST04), 2 Brachio Bomber (ST04), 1 King (OP01)
Now we’re getting into removal, which is what Kaido does best. The combination of these three cards let the deck handle a variety of boardstates. ST04 King is obviously a great card, and a turn 2 Onigashima or Jack lets you play him on turn 3 going first. I’ve played around with a full 4-count, but 3 feels like enough at the moment. My build between the video and this tournament ran 2 of the set 1 King and only 1 Bomber, but I changed these around when I decided I needed more options to get rid of higher-cost Characters. Brachio Bomber specifically is a card that I’ve grown to love more and more with each game I play, especially in the mirror – even though it doesn’t give me a body on board, the ability to KO 6-cost characters like Rush Luffy, Blocker Law, Vergo or even a Queen or King in the mirror match is a huge boon, and the ramp it gives isn’t too shabby either. Since Law jumped up in popularity after the tournament in question, I’ve gone back to the previous counts for OP01 King and Brachio Bomber, but could easily go back to the ratio in the heading.
3 Kaido (ST04), 3 Kaido (OP01)
The stars of the deck – these are the big bodies you want to make your final swing with. At the start of the format, some people expressed surprise at how many of these cards I run, but I think 3 of each is essential – and from the way the data looks, most winning decklists share this ratio. This feels like just the right amount to make sure that you have a big body to clear threats and build toward by the time you need it without seeing too many a significant amount of the time – and if you do have an extra that you won’t need, that makes the decision of what to bin off of Queen that much easier! The 10-cost is the reason that the Kid matchup is so highly favored, and the 9 cost has been the deciding factor that closed out multiple hard games against Doffy (after they cleared my 10 cost and built their board up again).
4 Blast Breath, 4 Onigashima
The only Counter Events I run are 4 copies of Blast Breath. With it only costing 1 (and Onigashima getting that DON back on the next turn), there's no reason not to play a full set. I used to run 2 Thunder Bagua, but I found that by the end of the game I wanted to put more DON toward my attacks and squeeze resources out of my opponent's hand, or in certain games, play a cheap Blocker that could absorb more than 4000 Power. I was a bit apprehensive about giving up its ramp effect, but the additional copies of Jack and Brachio Bomber have me feeling good about the decision. And Onigashima is Onigashima – obligatory 4 copies, not much to exposit upon here!
Overall, I'm still feeling very good about this list. There are a few other cards that have seen play like Babanuki and Fukurokuju that I haven't played around much with, but at this point I wouldn't want to play more top end and already like the options I have. Ulti-Mortar could be worth a try, but I'll only go that route if there's a shift in the way other decks are constructed that necessitates it. For a quick second I considered playing a Kyoshiro or two to help with draw and consistency, but I abandoned that idea pretty soon after considering it.
R1 vs Doflamingo – I was a little apprehensive going into this one because the tournament data I have for this matchup says it’s unfavored, but the game went all right. This player was running set 1 Jinbe, which I didn’t want to, but it didn’t set me back TOO far. Against Doffy I like to control the board until the mid-late game, and then focus on swinging at Life, even if they have their Mihawk or 7-cost Doffy out (as long as I have enough defense in hand to not lose), and that’s exactly how this game went. At the end they had at least two of their bigger Characters on board – one was the set 1 Crocodile, so the 1 cost Love Love Beams got a bit annoying, but my Kaido and King were able to stick, so they eventually ran out of steam.
R2 vs Kaido – This one was wacky – NEITHER of us saw our 10 costs the entire game. We did, however, both draw our 9-costs, so this game was a war of attrition as we defended against a LOT of big hits. Brachio Bomber and Who’s-Who came in extremely handy for this one – I was able to get rid of the Queen my opponent played on turn 3, and popping a Higurashi at the very end was what allowed me to close the game out. My opponent had a lot of DON open at the very end, but I looked at the number of 2k counters and events he had in the discard and after a long think, I figured that I had a DECENT chance to win that turn, but didn’t use my Leader effect – and it paid off!
R3 vs Kaido – This was the first game I’ve had that went to time (though it did end on turn zero). Both of us used a lot of defenses – my opponent’s Queen stuck to the board for multiple turns and refused to leave, and we both kept countering each other’s 9-cost Kaido swinging at each other. He also ran Babanuki and Fukurokuju, so his bodies had a little more power on average, but I knew that if I could draw my 10 cost before he closed the game out I’d be able to take it, and it was all I thought about for about 5 turns. At the very end, my opponent had SIX DON open, so I played two Blockers in case he wasn’t bluffing, put enough on my Leader to be able to use his effect after attacking and won! This one was a nail-biter.
R4 vs Kid – This is the matchup I’m always okay with seeing – the 7 cost Blocker can be frustrating, especially if the Kid player pairs it with a Paradise Waterfall, but as long as Kaido keeps the pressure and defense up, the 10 cost will come in to clear the board eventually. In this game however, the 9-cost was my bread and butter. My opponent was able to keep his 8-cost Kid on the board for a couple turns, but I was able to get multiple 9-costs on the field that he couldn’t clear, so I King’d his Blocker and swung into the Kid until he didn’t have enough counter to justify defending him, and cleaned up the game from there.
R5 vs Zoro – Strap in for this one. I knew that my final opponent would be playing Zoro as soon as round 4 ended, and I was anxious the whole time before the game started. Zoro is able to swing so wide so fast that Kaido can have a hard time keeping up in the early turns and runs the risk of falling too behind to come back, so this game in particular was STRESSFUL, especially since my opponent was playing the 2-cost vanillas that just swing for 5000 and make countering optimally harder – Jack and Black Maria came in VERY handy here. What helps me most against Zoro is paying very close attention to how much DON my opponent is using for each attack to gauge when the best time to counter will be, and timing my Blockers effectively. This is the one matchup where I don’t feel terrible about using a Black Maria or Higurashi to defend against a relatively small attack – it still doesn’t feel GOOD, but I’ll take it over waiting a turn and having Robin pop them, or having a Luffy render them useless. I prioritize board control over swinging at Life even more in this matchup than others since Zoro runs less counter than other decks, and as long as I can survive for enough time, a turn will come where their defenses are low and we can close it out. Once I get down to 2 Life, I become VERY wary of a Rush Luffy coming down and hitting me hard, so I try to save enough counter for that and make sure he has to keep using DON to re-establish his board. As I got my opponent down to zero Life (without the Leader effect), he had two cards in hand, and my Queen was still active. Part of me wanted to attack with Queen, but I had to be careful. He had two cards in hand, and if he had 2000 Counter, I wouldn’t be able close it out or use Queen to Block his Leader attack, which would be key to not losing the next turn. I looked through his discard to see how much counter he’d used and estimate how much he had in hand from that and the number of unknown cards he had left between his deck, hand, and Life, and 2000 Counter seemed likely, so I passed with Queen active. He tried attacking with the board he had, but in the biggest relief of my time playing OPCG, he extended his hand at the end of his turn. He showed me his hand, and it turned out to have less than 2000 Counter, but in hindsight I’m still glad that I kept Queen active instead of attacking since I didn’t know at the time.
All this resulted in my first win at a One Piece tournament! All of my opponents were so much fun to play against, and the shop along with its patrons gave a wonderful atmosphere to play in. If you made it to the end of this article, I’d like to thank you again for reading it!!! If you have any questions about what I’ve talked about here, feel free to reach out! I’ll put the links to my One Piece YouTube channel and Instagram below, along with the Twitch channel where I hope to find time to stream future gameplay – if you want to hear more of my thoughts as I continue testing for the Treasure Cup and beyond, be sure to check them out!
I hope that this article has been informative, whether you play Kaido or find yourself playing against him. I’m itching to get to a point where I feel comfortable playing other decks, but I have a feeling he’ll stay as my favorite deck of the OP01 format. Thanks again and have a great one!