One of the most popular questions I see floating around the PAD community is “what makes a good leader?” or “is this a strong leader?” Now both of these questions are heavily loaded as the answer generally depends on your subs. A leader, no matter how powerful, is heavily reliant on your team composition, inherits, and individual monster investment. Furthermore, what qualifies as a strong leader will change over time as new content is released.
There are many tier lists available that rank leaders based on various criteria, but they always assume the perfect team (regardless of how rare or hard to pull those monsters are). They also look at how consistent a leader performs in a variety of end game content instead of a single dungeon.
As such, tier lists should be taken with a grain of salt and be used as a starting base to determine if a leader has potential. You should then look up team building guides to see if you have ideal subs in order to successfully run that team.
The purpose of this article will be to further explore what merits a strong leader, what to look for in your monster box, and why consistency is invaluable when playing through harder content.
Being told something good is one thing, but understanding why is more important. You can read this article while thinking of your favourite leader to better understand why they are effective or ineffective.
I wrote a similar article to this in January 2017 but feel the meta has changed/shifted sufficiently to revisit this topic. The main reason is because of how much easier it is to FUA /SFUA and VDP at the same time as this is invaluable for end game content.
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Factors that make a leader strong
The tier lists tend to not take player skill into consideration; however, you need to assess your own skill level as you need to be able to actually activate your leader skill on a consistent basis. A prime example of this was when Anubis was floating around on some lists. In theory, this works as his multiplier was at the time the highest available. Unfortunately, very few people could actually activate him on a consistent basis and was misleading to say the least.
In addition to ignoring player skill, tier lists assume the perfect team as that is the most fair way to compare various leaders. However, many of these teams require exotic subs (and inherits) that most players do not own and this will inevitably lead to a less than stellar performance.
At this point in time, most tier lists evaluate a leader’s ability to clear Arena 5 and Alt. Arena 2 as they are considered the most challenging and lucrative dungeons in the game. These dungeons include a wide variety of mechanics that include, but not limited to Resolve + Void mechanics, 162,444 preemptive, Damage Absorption, along with spawns with hundreds of millions of HP.
As such, strong leaders are able to overcome these hurdles without too much difficulty as they are able to either naturally counter them or have easy access to certain abilities.
For example, Dark Karin is one of the stronger Arena 5 farming leaders due to her innate kit and team building options. If you wish to read more about how I personally approach her, check out my article HERE.
High Effective Health
High Effective Health is a term to describe the amount of true HP a team has when factoring in HP and Damage Reduction. With this in mind, leaders with high or easy to achieve levels of Effective HP tend to perform better in challenging content.
This is because they are able to naturally survive the largest preemptives/reasonable hit within the dungeon without an active skill intervention along with stalling out dangerous mechanics. This not only grants an extra buffer for error but also frees up active skills for other mechanics. If a leader is able to save even just a single active by being naturally tanky, they will have a higher degree of success. For example, Dark Metatron has 4x HP and 43.75% Damage Reduction when matching 7 or more combos. Together, she is able to withstand any hit in the game with plenty of health to spare.
Expanding upon this, leaders need to have an easy to activate Damage Reduction mechanic (if applicable) in order to be effective. If the requirement is 6 of a specific orb, they will often be left without Damage Reduction compared to a leader who only requires any 5-match.
Finally, Damage Reduction is stronger compared to an equivalent amount of health as it is able to survive the Gravity + Hit combo seen in Arena 5/AA2.
Consistency refers to how easily you can actually activate your leader skill. This differs from player skill as it should be presumed you can match what ever pattern is required for activation. In this situation, we are looking at how feasible you can activate on a given board. This is important for both Damage Reduction and ATK multipliers as being able to access them more often than not is vital to success.
On a 6×5 board, there are 30 orbs and you should statistically have 5 of each element available. However, this is not always the case as there will always be variance. Regardless, lets say you are able to clear 7 combos worth of orbs (21 in total) which would result in 3-4 new orbs of each element appearing. This works in theory for Rainbow teams, but boards will often be lacking a specific element which can break activation. This is further exasperated for mono-colour teams that require 2 or more combos of a specific element.
For the most part, the most consistent leaders are those who are either purely combo based or those who require combos of two specific colours. An average 6×5 board has 7-8 combos which is sufficient for proc-ing more combo leaders and should in theory refresh the two specific colours for those leaders.
On the flip side, leaders who require multiple combos of the same element (or a 6 match of a specific colour) tend to have a harder time as they will be left without an activatable board on numerous occasions. In order for those teams to succeed, they must have easy access to Damage Reduction/high Effective HP in order to stall numerous times. One example of a leader doing this successfully is Yoh as he is able to almost always activate 75% Damage Reduction while also having a strong kit.
How well does their kit function?
The term kit refers to how the leader’s base stats, awakenings, and active skill interacts with their leadership potential. In an ideal world, your leader has wonderful synergy between all these components as it will make it easier activate your multiplier and deal damage. In essence, the more abilities the leader brings to the table on their own, the easier time they will have team building.
Another important factor to consider is their own personal damage. If your leaders have high output (eg. 7c , <50% , relevant Killers, etc.), players will have an easier time clearing content. This is because leaders make up 2/6 of your team so they are ideally pulling their weight. Conversely, if they are lacking personal output, they must have a strong ATK multiplier to compensate (eg. Shirou ).
How well can they handle dungeon mechanics
Newer content is always pushing out more ridiculous mechanics and older leaders will struggle to keep pace. There will always be a certain degree of sub/active accommodation for a particular dungeon; however, if you find yourself sacrificing too many abilities to counter mechanics, your team may not be able to function as well.
Broadly speaking, there are numerous mechanics you may encounter in a dungeon that include, but are not limited to:
- Combo shields
- Damage Absorbs
- Damage Voids
- Colour absorbs
- Large Preemptives
- Gravity-style attacks
- Massive health pools
- Hazard orb generation/orb changing
- Forced stalling
Each team will vary in their efficacy when faced with these mechanics and your goal is minimizing the risk of each.
What makes a strong leader is the ability to counter most/all of these mechanics with relative ease. This may be attributed to their innate kit, sub options, or Defensive multipliers. The goal is to achieve a high level of consistency and if less actives are required for certain mechanics, the better off the team will be.
With that being said, there are several key aspects I wish to highlight in greater detail as the game has transitioned to these aspects.
Access to VDP
Void Damage Penetration is still the most efficient method for dealing with Void spawns. This is because it only requires 9 of a specific orb to function which is often achieved through board changers. For the most part, teams should always have several options but leaders who come with their own tend to have a small advantage.
This is because VDP cards must be able to deal sufficient damage to kill the Void spawn and having two cards can lighten the load (each card only has to deal 1/2 the boss’s HP). Furthermore, if they also have high personal damage, players may not require a supplemental burst active to kill. For example, Dark Zeta is a phenomenal card as he has three <50% along with VDP Super Awakening. This translates into 20x personal damage against any spawn when below 50% HP when forming a 3×3 Box.
VDP + FUA/SFUA
In this day and age, numerous end game spawns will feature Damage Void and Resolve along with large health pools. This means it becomes somewhat impossible to deal sufficient damage to one-shot those spawns without a 3×3 Box for VDP . To further complicate things, these spawns often come with Resolve which means some form of FUA /SFUA is required. This can be problematic as combo count will often be lower along with many cards/Leader Skills not fully activating.
As such, one major determinant of a Leader’s potential is their ability to VDP and kill a Resolve spawn with relative ease.
If using a bicolour board with Hearts, it has to have a 12 or 13 Hearts orbs to create the column and 3×3 Box. This is wildly inconsistent but if using SFUA , there can be 12-18 Hearts. While this is a solution, not many leaders can tap into this potential as this will often result in a 5-6 combo board which may not trigger Leaders Skills no 7 Combos . As such, leaders with built-in combo bonuses (eg. Zela Kitty ) or those who can efficiently utilize subs with bonus combo count built into a board changer.
With this in mind, any wood team that can utilize Zela will have an advantage as her active produces +2 combos along with Wood and Heart orbs. If you wish to read more about VDP + SFUA, please check out my other article HERE.
So what leader do I use?
The team you should be using for end game content (along with plus egg, latent, and inheritance investment) will depend on which leader has the best natural sub support. Just because Zela Kitty is a tremendously powerful leader, you still need the correct support to succeed. If you have a wonderfully optimized Edward team and essentially no Zela Kitty subs, you should be using Edward as your primary team.
Whenever I look at someone’s monster box, I always try to find the team that has the most end game potential and advise them to invest their resources there. Your priority should be developing one team that can tackle end game content and then diversifying after. Being able to clear more content will unlock more rewards and will greatly increase the rate in which you can raise additional teams.
With all that being said, you actually need to enjoy the playstyle of a team.
There are many factors that are taken into consideration when ranking the various leaders in Puzzle and Dragons. However, these tier lists presume the perfect set up and is misleading for the average player who may be lacking many of the subs/inherits.
What you should choose to use when tackling end game content will be based on your monster box and the cards you have at your disposal. Being able to evaluate how strong of a team you can potentially field is an invaluable skill to own and will serve you well moving forward.
How do you approach team building for challenging content and which leader do you prefer to use?
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