Hello and welcome to a new segment on this website, my name is Thomas Crane and I will be bringing you a series of interviews with various players, judges, and tournament organizers in our community. So, I welcome you all to, ‘Interviews with the pros!’
Our first person to join us is fellow LPG member and pro player Nathan Hills! Fantastic player with a great record of achievements in not only Dragon Ball but also Magic the Gathering. I asked several questions so we can get to learn more about Nathan as a player and a person.
I asked Nathan when he got into the Dragon Ball super trading card game:
“Unofficially, I started playing around set 2. A friend had picked up a few starter decks to play in between rounds of large Magic the Gathering tournaments. It was used to keep us both mentally focussed, as these events go for up to 9 rounds and sometimes run over two days. I did not know too much about the game, but I picked up a couple of cards to build a deck and play.
Around the time miraculous arrival was released popularity for the game began to increase at my Local Game Store, so I decided to try out the game from a more competitive standpoint. I built a reasonably competitive deck and began winning local events. Soon after I was travelling to larger events and competing against some of Europe’s best players.”
We cannot have a series of questions without asking who their favourite character is:
“My favourite Character is Beerus. A god of destruction that is also a cat? Sign me up!”
From a professional player standpoint new product releases are especially important for the balance of the game; this is what Nathan had to say about it:
“New releases always tend to shake up the meta game. I enjoy trying to identify the best deck of the format, then trying to master that deck for the next big event.”
Everyone has that one deck that will always stand above all the others, this is Nathan’s favourite deck and what he had to say about it:
“My favourite deck I’ve ever played was during set 6. I built a mono blue Son Goku // Bonds of Friendship Son Goku deck, and nothing has compared to it since. The deck in that format had the capability to take on a variety of roles depending on the matchup. It could switch up from controlling/midrange, to aggressive plays quite effectively thanks to Senzu Beans and Training Buddy Krillin, allowing you to amass a dangerous board very quickly. The mirror in this format was somewhat of an art as well, and I got great enjoyment from playing any Kidku mirror matches I could. The deck treated me well during this time and I managed to lock up some impressive finishes while piloting it, it’s by far my best deck experience in DBS.”
Nathan had an amazing finish at the not-so-recent Salford 2020 event with a 2nd place finish losing to Jet Yau in the final. Going into a huge event such as this it takes a lot of mental and physical preparation. Nathans experience comes into play here, I was curious, so I asked him how he prepared going to an event such as this:
“It came as no surprise to most that the Surge decks were going to be a very dominant force during this event. I cottoned on quite early in the release of the Surge expansion that the Son Goku // Super Saiyan Son Goku, Surge of Divinity was going to be one of the top – if not the best – deck of the format. I begin brewing up different lists as to where I thought the deck might end up, and quickly locked up with a pure R/Y build. This was to ensue consistency in my deck, allowing me to charge cards early on which could play a pivotal role in securing a win knowing I’d have a very high chance of being able to find those cards later into the game. Vegeta’s Final Flash was a card that rewarded me for charging only yellow energy. I wanted to utilize this card for a few reasons. It was a powerful card to have access to in the Surgeku mirror match and it also got around barrier, which meant I would have an easier time removing the invoker cards, such as SSB Vegeta Inspired Technique. Due to U/R surge having a strong showing in the states shortly before the event, I expected a lot of this match-up in Salford.”
Not only is there the preparation going into the event but there is also the challenge of winning your matches, I asked how Nathan approached the rounds knowing no two will ever be the same:
“When I am preparing a large event, I try to set myself a realistic goal that I’d be happy to achieve. In an ideal world, we would all win the events we register to play in, but that is overly ambitious. I remember attending my first Magic the Gathering Grand Prix, I was still relatively new to the game and a casual player. I played the main event and lost my win-and-in to day 2 (a record of 6-3 gets you into day 2, I lost the round ending 5-4). While I was happy going positive in my first major event, I knew I could do better. So, I decided to set myself a goal to day 2 the next Grand Prix I played in.
The next GP shortly followed, and with enough testing & preparation I successfully got into day 2 (my day 1 result was 7-2). I was thrilled with this result and began to on ponder my next goal and one by one I achieved them. To Qualify for a Regional Pro Tour, then to cash a Grand Prix, then finally to qualify for the Pro Tour (which is now known as the Mythic Championship), and I was fortunate enough to do so.
I try to apply the same logic for Dragon Ball Super. For instance, the 2019 Finals event, my goal was to lock up a top 16 spot. While it would have been nice to win the event, my aim was to secure a slot for the Brussels invitational. I was thrilled to hit that goal, so to me, I had completed my objective for this event, and I was happy with this outcome.
For Salford, I wanted to lock up a bye for Finals this year. This was the equivalent of a Top 4 placement. Fortunately for me the deck choice paid off as I managed to secure 2nd place at this event, losing the finals to Jet Yau playing a Tri Colour variant of Surgeku. Jet deserved the win more than me; it was clear he put a lot of time into testing the format and I was glad he won the finals. Anything outside of the Top 4 goal was a bonus to me, so I am happy to have come 2nd.
I believe that if you can set yourself manageable goals for each event then you will be able to measure your own improvement at competitive play over the course of time, and you’ll be more pleased with performance on reflection. “
Playing competitive card games can be exceptionally stressful but its not without its rewarding moments, this is Nathans proudest moment in his card game history:
“My proudest moment across all card games, by a mile, is qualifying for the first Mythic Championship in Magic the Gathering. This is the top level of competition in MTG, participation is invitation only, after qualifying through a series of tournaments (e.g. Top 8 a Grand Prix, top 4 a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier). You compete against some of the best players to win a share of $250,000. It was a tiring journey earning my qualification, I had to win a store level tournament which on average was 32 players. After this I had to face off against roughly 100 players who all achieved the same, where only the top 4 players received the invitation. A combination of skill, luck, and perseverance, and I managed to secure a slot into top 4. A few months later and I was flown out to Cleveland to play against some of the best players in the game, and I even managed to get into day 2 (of 3) of the event.
This must be one my proudest moments of card game history. The journey is not an easy one, but I can successfully say I managed to get there, a feat not many people can say they’ve achieved.”
Finally, I asked Nathan if he had any advice to players starting to learn the game and players wishing to take their game to the next level, here is what he had to say:
“For any players wanting to take the step into the competitive scene, I would suggest trying to find some like-minded players who are also looking to better themselves at the game. You can bounce deck ideas off each other, have testing days where you try out your decks or test meta decks, and give reassurance to one another at these events. If you surround yourself with other players who want to do well and improve, you can learn from each other and push towards the same goal.
Do not feel disheartened if you do not win your first competitive event or get the result you wanted to achieve. Try to learn from every round; what went well, what you could have done better in the game, what plays you were proud of, etc. I don’t believe anyone can say they’ve ever played a perfect game of Dragon Ball, and you can learn a lot from just evaluating your own game to see if there is anything you could have done differently. You can always ask your opponent for any tips after your game.
All of this information and reflection will benefit your own gameplay and will enable you to perform better at the next event you play in.”
Thank you very much Nathan for taking the time to answer my questions and hopefully you all enjoyed reading the game from the mind of one of the UK’s best players.