Meta is an abbreviation for Most Efficient Team Available and is essentially a term used to indicate if a card is currently strong in this day and age. However, the meta is not fixed and is ever evolving and changing. Thus, what may have been strong 6 months ago may have fallen out of favour due to new evolutions, awakenings, or new dungeon requirements.
This article will be examining the current state of affairs in Puzzle and Dragons and the direction I foresee the game heading.
—video coming soon
PAD is a Puzzling game at heart
No matter how long or how much Puzzle and Dragons develops, it will still be at core a puzzling/matching game. Thus, there are only so many boards one can solve/match before it can become tiresome. As a result, GungHo has introduced new matching requirements and larger board sizes.
New matching requirements constitutes anything that goes beyond matching a vanilla set of 3. At first we had mass attack and then awakenings were introduced along with a wide variety of leader skills.
However, there are only so many different twists you can impose on matching and there is a certain degree of recycling older styles over time. As a result, it is not uncommon to see similarities over the years in terms of the matching strategy.
What is strong now
Presently speaking, combo-oriented teams combined with 7×6 boards are the most powerful/efficient options for playing through end game content. This is because we have rapidly scaling leaders who can seamlessly pair with Diablos for 7×6 boards. Furthermore, 7 combo awakenings provide the most consistent damage output. In addition, having a 7×6 board enables you to easily incorporate other matching patterns with ease. Bigger is better.
In addition to combos on 7×6, there has also been a rise in 2-combo teams. Leaders such as Yog and Kami can deal outrageous amounts of damage due to their amazing multiplier and do not rely on awakenings to deal damage. While they tend to be best in shorter/more predictable dungeons where you can plan out active skills, they can still succeed in longer dungeons.
Thus, both of these playstyles are the two most currently strong options available.
Why is 7 Combo so strong?
7 Combo is the most universally strong awakening from a damage output point of view. This is because it has beautiful synergy with 7×6 boards along with being activatable on every given board. This is crucial when playing through challenging content as you can save active skills and simply match the board.
Unlike TPA , 7 Combo does not require alteration to your matching style and technically improves the output of all members. This is because each additional combo provides 25% more damage to all monsters.
If you were to pursue a TPA-focus, you may have to sometimes forgo a combo or additional primary orb matches while not providing any meaningful benefit to cards that do not own this awakening.
Killer awakenings provide 3x damage to specific encounters but is able to stack if the owning card has multiple awakenings. However, they only apply to certain spawns and are not as consistent for various dungeons.
Why is Yog and Kami viable?
Yog and Kami are both health conditional leaders who rely on matching 2 specific combos for damage. This can lead to gloriously killing floors with minimal matching, but they still require matching skills and strategy.
If you were to simply match 2 light combos and nothing else, you will almost never have enough present for your next turn so you should always be trying to combo as much as possible. Furthermore, you have to be conscious of your health at all times as you do not wish to drop below 80%.
However, their main claim to fame is their ability to blast through content as you can effectively stack actives and make use both FUA and Boxes.
Damage control is a thing of the past
One year ago, it took careful planning and skill to successfully dance around resolve, absorb, and damage void bosses. It would either require the usage of delays, gravities, and scaling damage multipliers to deal the correct amount of damage. This took a considerable amount of planning, skill, and trial and error to successfully execute and was an enjoyable challenge overall. However, bosses have now got to the point where they have a crazy array of mechanics and you now need to have access to newer toys to have enough consistency to succeed.
Counters to Resolve
While the above options can still be employed against resolve spawns, having access to Follow Up Attack (FUA) has trivialized this mechanic. Not only do you not need to budget an active skill, but you can potentially use a given board as it should statistically have 5 hearts present. As a result you can simply hit as hard as you wish as the FUA takes care of the resolve.
Counters to Absorbs
With Fujin and her variuos spin-offs, players now have the ability to ignore absorption mechanics. This now trivializes encounters such as Sopdet, Hera Dragon, and Vishnu along with being crucial in speed farming Machine Hera Descended. Furthermore, Fujin has respectable base awakenings so she can be used on combo-teams. Finally, with easier access to Skill Boosts from the farmable Whaledor , it is possible to have your absorb break ready in time.
Counters to Voids
Damage voids differ from absorbs in that the boss will reduce incoming damage down to 0 if you hit above a specific threshold instead of healing. This can make it easier to deal with as any damage dealt will not be undone. However, it cannot be countered by Fujin and instead you can utilize the Box awakening.
The Box awakening enables that one specific card to ignore the void mechanic along with providing a personal damage boost. However, this will often mean that only a single card is dealing damage which could prove problematic if not for Killers and high multiplier burst actives.
One can almost treat the Box awakening like a Killer and you can greatly amplify your output by either finding cards with natural Killer awakenings or customize via Killer Latents. This when combined with a Gemstone-style active can help ensure your one card is able to kill a boss all on their own.
Implications moving forward
Presently speaking, all current bosses/spawns can be reasonably well dealt with even without Fujin or Box awakenings. FUA is quite common already so it is not too difficult to accomadate one onto your team. However, my main concern is new spawns moving forward. Bosses are already hitting new highs for health while also stacking these dangerous mechanics. Thus, if you did not have a powerful Box awakening card it may become semi-impossible to clear. Thankfully, we should be receiving the Pixel patch soon which will grant all players the opportunity to gain a Pixel card as several farmable cards will gain a new evolution.
However, one already present series of cards is the Dragonbound REM that grants cards up to 3 Killer/7c awakenings. This further solidifies the notion that massive spike damage is desirable and I dearly hope NA/EU receives this series.
New foreseeable trends
Presently speaking, row teams have fallen out of favour due to their inability to deal with resolve spawns. This is because they cannot utilize FUA as it would break up their row and the majority of their damage. However, that will change with more introduction to the Super Follow Up Attack awakening. This awakening essentially combines the resolving killing aspect of FUA and the Box matching style to enable one card to deal bonus damage and counter resolves when matching a colour box.
Furthermore, the 3×3 match will often trigger your full multiplier and has better synergy overall with these teams. Thus, it would not be a stretch to say that row teams or at least those that rely on more mono-element to make a come back.
However, to make them truly viable, GungHo has to address their potential orb hungry nature by providing either a gentler activation or a sufficient defensive multiplier to allow them to set up boards/take hits.
Of course this is all speculation and for all I know Poison crosses will become a thing (please don’t).
Puzzle and Dragons is a diverse and complex game that tends to cycle back and forth between various playstyles. While this can leave some players frustrated as they may feel that they are always chasing the meta, but it healthy in the long run. This is because GungHo does a Fantastic job of revisiting old cards and granting them new power and potency through new evolutions.
What do you think about this cyclic meta and what do you predict will be the next “in” trend.
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