My Thoughts on the Most Recent Ranking Dungeon: The Yamatsumi Ranking Dungeon
The ranking dungeon has come and gone like the many we’ve seen before it. It’s been just over a week since I played like crazy up until 1 AM trying to get my third crown before ultimately succeeding. The amount of effort and stones that went into this particular dungeon was exceedingly higher than any of the ranking dungeons before it, but as I was grinding I started to wonder why I was doing it to begin with. What was there to gain?
For me, the ranking dungeon this time around seemed to have the most diverse teams that entered the top 1% at any given time. The very first day there were videos posted about Zeus Dios teams and scores of 129,000 being (seemingly) easy to achieve. After over 200 runs and at least 20 stones, I was able to finish in the top 1% with a 0.7% score, but never hit the 129,000 that this team suggested. Ultimately, a lot of my scores could have been higher if I had simply been able to inherit a card that did not have a haste effect (I used both Spica and Awoken Mei Mei to generate wood orbs and some of my top scores needed the 2 seconds back from these animations)
A few days after the ranking dungeon came out, people were boasting scores of 137,000. It seemed like this was way beyond my reach for the cards that I had, despite having almost every REM card. Some of the top teams boasted the use of Genryusai (Bleach Collab) Aten (the latest God Fest Exclusive card) Tifa (Final Fantasy Collab) and Ra Dragon (MP Store Purchase).
The playstyles of each seemed to have a different factor and no team was 100% the same, at least with who I talked to.
Genryusai and Zeus Dios both relied on their red and wood rows, respectively, and buttoning through the dungeon, with low combos, but a high time remaining being the main factor to a high score.
Aten and Tifa both played on the latest mechanic to hit NA in which the entire board turns into a 7×6 board regardless of the dungeon mechanics (try this on a 5×4 board for an easy Extreme Endless Corridor clear). Most Aten runs relied on 3-4 skill only defeats (-5,000 points) in the dungeon while getting 8+ combos (See here). This means that some of the top scores for this team relied on getting all 5 color matches to trigger Aten, and his Reincarnated Ra’s leader skills, which could one shot any floor in the dungeon with a x75 attack (x5 for aten, and x15 for Reincarnated Ra)
Tifa relied more on having as many Ilms as possible to inherit (The video I saw had 4). The playstyle involved using Ilm and swiping to reduce the time you spent figuring out your moves to get a row to boost Tifa’s damage. This relied on a bit of RNG in an otherwise easy to combo board and hoping you had enough lights connected to even trigger tifa’s leader skill. The one time I tried, my Ilm board was not so great to optimize time, so I can only imagine how many times it took to master getting it right 4 times in a 7 floor dungeon.
Another team that received the top 1% score was Mantastic’s Dark Metatron team, which he has used a few times for top scores. The play style is similar to a button team, but relies on the mechanics of the dungeon to bring your HP to the proper threshold. This team, like Dios, won’t work on every ranking dungeon to get the best score since it depends on the mechanics of the monsters involved. Some ranking dungeons have had multiple preemptives that either hit too hard, or heal the user too much to be effective. With skill inheritance’s appearance since ranking dungeons came around however, you can more easily put a skill like Durga onto any card to bring your HP to the proper threshold more easily without sacrificing a spot to actually have Durga on your team.
Then of course there is Anubis who is almost always somewhere on the top 10 teams (the best of the best). The reason I love Anubis almost always being there is that it shows that no matter how many different cheese teams are created to get the best scores, there is always that factor of skill that cannot be overcome. It takes a lot of skill to be able to play Anubis and consistently get 10+ combos on a board that only allows 10 combos. Factors such as sky fall buffs and luck factor significantly into the equation, but it is hard to deny that it takes a true pro at Puzzle & Dragons to use Anubis and get the top 10 in the server.
The team I ended up using (which can be seen in my ranking tournament video) revolved around Zeus Dios and inherits. I created my team to mirror the following YouTube video to which I give all the credit. Seeing that it could reach 129,000 rather easily, I set out towards my 3rd crown.
Fixed Teams Vs Allowing Button (Cheese) Teams to Exist in Ranking Dungeons
I guess the reason I spent so many stones and stayed up until 1 AM (with only 2 hours remaining for the ranking tournament challenge) was because I had not yet gotten a crown outside of a fixed team. To me, it always seemed like the ranking dungeons were outside of my reach (I had gotten to just outside 1% a few times) but ultimately getting the crown required Shiva Dragon or specific REM only cards that I had not had at the time. Even this dungeon I was lacking a second leeza and a max skill Green Sonia to match the team in the above Zeus Dios videos so I couldn’t replicate the teams 100%.
The previous crowns I had received were for the 10mm downloads and the Final Fantasy ranking dungeons. Both of these were fixed teams so it completely took out the team building mechanic, which is an extremely important factor in a game that relies on players spending money to pull in the Rare Egg Machine to improve their teams.
The factors involved can really be seen as:
- Time remaining
- Total number of Turns
- Skill only defeats
- Team building
- Player Skill
If you bring button teams into the equation, the biggest factor is RNG. If you remove button teams, the biggest factor is player skill, however you cannot escape RNG. In the 200+ times I ran my Zeus Dios team, I lost the chance at a 1% score in the first 30 seconds on many occasions. If at any time before floor 4 I had a heart skyfall, I was done (because I healed too much for Zeus Dios to achieve his full leader activation). I also lost to floor 3 whether I was skill bound (80% chance because of my team) or if 2/6 of my cards were bound. If I were to by pass all of these mechanics, I could have lost my 1% chances if I had a random 10 turn skyfall (because my team relied on time remaining, and not combos).
I can only speak from personal experience on the Zeus Dios team, but I am positive that RNG played a factor in every ranking dungeon to date. I didn’t think so in the past and would in fact be annoyed when players blamed RNG for their losses, but in reality it faces us every time. In fact, the only possible way to remove RNG completely from the ranking tournaments is through the following:
- Make all teams fixed so every player must use the same team
- Make every dungeon that a player starts the exact same board
- Reduce the number of attempts any one account can attempt the ranking dungeon
- Make every floor start off with the same board regardless of the previous board clear
I think that these parameters will clearly have a huge backlash in the community and I am not proposing this change happen, but it would be the only sure way to remove RNG completely. Skyfalls and lucky boards would be removed from the game for sure, but it would remove everything that the biggest supporters of the game have worked towards.
Those that are called whales, who spend thousands a month on this game, are what keep the game free to play for everyone else. I believe the single biggest contributors to Puzzle & Dragons’ income would be the ranking dungeons and God Fests. Players purchase pack after pack ($65.00 in the U.S) to pull the most elite cards to complete their teams and collections. Since the addition of Skill Inheritance in Japan, Europe, and the U.S., whales continue to purchase and pull in Godfests for duplicate monsters that they can inherit onto their already powerful cards.
Additionally, special collaboration Rare Egg Machine events as well as special REM events bring even more money into the equation. When the Wedding REM event came around, player’s spent hundreds and thousands each hoping to pull the ever elusive Bride Eschamali who didn’t bring much in a game changing mechanic, but was however top waifu material (in fact she was even dressed for the occasion).
Why RNG (Random Number Generator) is Such a Huge Factor
Having participated in the first, and so far only, Puzzle & Dragons official tournament, I am a victim myself of badly received RNG, however it was in a much bigger scene. In all honesty, I didn’t get past the first round of the tournament because I was nervous. It was the only time I had been around other high caliber players, and I was still a recovering Red Sonia addict. My play style was only more recently becoming rainbow based and quite honestly I wasn’t as good as many of these players. The players who were accepted into the tournament went through the typical ranking tournament experience by playing over and over, quitting when a run went badly, and only submitting the good runs ( no more than 3 could be submitted from one user if I remember correctly).
While I was invited to the tournament and not required to have been even remotely able to achieve a high score, I ultimately did have my highest score among the top results anyway. To me, when I was playing on my own, I felt I could consistently get in the 125,000 range, which would have proven effective at moving on in the tournament looking back. I received one of my lowest scores even while practicing that day at about 5,000 as I couldn’t quite get my game going. In this time period, I did not put up a good showing. Once my nerves calmed down, I was able to boast a score of 120,000 in the second round, but was unable to move on.
The same could have happened to anyone who sat in that chair. Puzzle & Dragons fans all around watched as some players struggled (even TylerPAD had a bad run) and some players succeeded and moved on. I believe that any player of any sport or e-sport has a degree of luck mixed in with their skill set. The ranking tournaments however do not receive the same degree of magnitude however.
Imagine training for 4 years to enter the Olympics for track, beating your best time over and over, only to fall when on the big scene. Imagine being the best team in Football and winning every game, only to lose the one game that matters in the playoffs in the first round
This is why any tournament scene in sports and e-sports does not determine who is truly the best at the game involved. We must always put our best foot forwards and train and train for a tournament to be able to prove we are the best, but there will always be factors that weigh against some players, but also propel others to victory.
Why Gung-Ho Probably Won’t Change It
Gung-Ho is a business and the primary goal of a business is to keep money coming in. It is a hard business decision to justify whether you should create a perfect scenario in which players don’t have to pay (such as making the ranking tournament 0 stamina) because they are already making a ton of money without moving towards that decision.
We have already seen 2 fixed team descends and for a large part, the top top players in PAD have been annoyed at these because it completely disregards their enormous boxes of monsters to choose from. It says that their box or the amount of money they have spent is not important this time around. Because it is in Gung-Ho’s best interest to keep players like this spending money, it wouldn’t make sense to see a tournament that is 100% equal for all players. Quite honestly, these top paying players will most likely be at the top of those who participate anyway because they are that good at the game.
Fan Reactions to the Ranking Dungeons
The biggest complaints I’ve seen from the community is that there is so much RNG and the best way (not the only way) to bypass it is to spend more on the game. This poses a problem for fans of the game who have logged in over 1200 days and are non IAP (In App Purchase). These fans support the game, but do not contribute to the direct revenue of GungHo International. I have seen a lot of suggestions beyond what I suggested above for improving the ranking tournaments, and I feel that players outside of the 1% will always want to change it while those in the 1% will not.
In a world where top ranks can be bought out, the shiny crowns that grow shinier and shinier are generally a result of spending top dollar to receive the proper teams. For this reason, dungeons that are fixed allow players who don’t spend money to feel like they have a shot (and they do!) but can be seen as a punch in the face for players who spend thousands a month to get those teams and pride themselves on their team building.
I spoke with Tevvie, a huge name in the PAD community, and he had this to say, “i actually think the team building is the best part of ranking. actually running it is just rng.”
So while I think the ranking tournaments are fun and stressful at the same time, I think that they are one of the biggest money makers for Gung-Ho and probably won’t be changed too much in the future. Especially since there are quests that require a set number of crowns for completion, I believe big name players will continue investing until these are all marked as completed on their list.
Gung-Ho have had a few fixed tournaments, but for the most part, I believe they will continue including the player team building aspect since it’s a huge part of the way the game itself is played and why it continues to be such a huge game in Japan and see huge growth in the U.S.
What do you think is the best way for ranking dungeons to continue in Puzzle & Dragons?