Did low tier characters in Dragon Ball FighterZ receive the help they needed in the August patch? Recent tournament results suggest 'not so much'

The game is being carefully balanced in patches, but is that the right way to go for underrepresented fighters?

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • October 19, 2018 at 8 p.m. PDT

Back in August, with the launch of Base Goku and Base Vegeta, we were also granted a balance patch for Dragon Ball FighterZ to shift the tiers a bit, mostly by buffing lesser characters.

We were told quite some time in advance which characters would be receiving buffs and which would be getting nerfed, and it was heavily skewed towards buffing lower tiers.

In fact, the only characters set to be nerfed were Bardock, Cell and Kid Buu, while it was said that four characters were fine the way they were and would remain the same after the patch, these four being Goku, Vegeta, Adult Gohan and Goku Black.

Well, it's been around two and a half months now since the patch hit, and although the vast majority of the cast saw buffs, but how has it affected tournament play exactly?

We have characters like Cell, who have seen a drastic downturn in how played they are, while other characters like Teen Gohan have seen quite the increase from before.

But the fact of the matter is, many characters who were underused before remain underused now. Let's have a look at statistics, what changes these characters received, and what's common in tournament play at the highest level right now.

The Pre-Patch top tiers

The three characters that were set for nerfs, Bardock, Kid Buu and Cell, received fairly minor changes, like most other members of the cast, though they were more heavy nerfs on Cell than the other two.

This is pretty clearly shown in recent tournament results as well, where Bardock and Kid Buu are still extremely common, while Cell's usage has taken a massive hit. Cell was far and away the most used character at EVO 2018, and he still had decent showings about a month later during the Ultimate Fighting Arena, Summer Jam and First Attack weekend

Most recently though, at SEA Major 2018, we can see that his stock has fallen greatly. The character isn't unplayed by any means, but we're a far cry from where he filled up basically half the teams in character representation.

Some players seemed to stick with Cell shortly after the patch since they were still used to him, but since then most have opted for other characters, though a few loyalists such as CO|Fenrich remain with the supposedly perfect being.

This data also shows, as previously mentioned, that Bardock and Kid Buu are still doing quite well for themselves, though the frontrunners now seem to be Android 16 and Gotenks. Both of these characters were considered very strong before the patch as well, though they both received buffs in the patch. Apparently, these buffs were enough for many players to make the jump, resulting in the stats we see now.

Another character that was a high-tier, if not top-tier, contender before the batch, though didn't receive any changes, is Adult Gohan. His usage is roughly the same as it was before the patch, which isn't surprising given his identical status.

Finally, a very common character on basically any team was Vegeta, and although he's fallen off in the most recent stats, he still boasts one of the best assists in the game and really compliments any team quite well. He's less used now, but for sure not out of the running.

Low tiers that have risen

A character that was quite rare before the patch and has now become a much more regular sight is Teen Gohan. With buffs to his Crouching Special, Jumping Down Special and Z Assist, he's become much more of a contender, and while he's cooled off a bit from the heavy usage he saw immediately after the patch, he's still more commonplace than he was before it.

Another character people seemed to be sleeping on, though it's debatable how much of it was because of his tier placing rather than unfamiliarity with the character, is Captain Ginyu.

He hasn't exactly flown up the charts, but he's seeing slightly more play than he used to. We even saw CO|Go1 pick him up, though he ísn't exclusively using a team featuring him.

There are some other characters that have seen a small burst to their play, such as Goku, though it's hard to judge that kind of character as a low tier to begin with.

The same could be said of my own online namesake Tenshinhan, referred to in the English versions as Tien, who has steadily grown in usage since release, mostly as a solid anchor pick.

It's likely just the case of current top tiers being nerfed, and players wanting to shift over to other top or high tiers instead. Even before the patch, we saw people exchanging Vegeta for Goku, such as CO|Dogura.

Low tiers who remained low

Perhaps the biggest letdown of the patch for many is that a lot of characters that were considered trash tier before the patch firmly remain in that position now.

A prime example is Beerus, who was often considered the worst character in the game, who had 0 people representing him in the Top 64 at EVO 2018, and continued to have 0 players representing him at other tournaments we tracked until SEA Major 2018, where FOX|SonicFox had decided to pick Beerus up and made it to 7th place.

Obviously, his Beerus was backed up with two top tiers, so it's hard to use that as an argument for Beerus becoming much stronger than he previously was.

Another character that was extremely underused, despite people really wanting to make him work, was Frieza. The patch saw him get some very welcome buffs, mostly focused on his Golden Frieza form, and although it led some people to try him out again, his usage dropped once more shortly after.

The only notable player that still seems to be rocking him in tournament and doing well is DNG|Tachikawa, who is incidentally also using the fairly underused Hit.

There's also the matter of characters like Krillin, Majin Buu and Nappa. While not entirely non-existant, these characters haven't seen any notable increase in play from before the patch, and even though they all got buffed (Nappa substantially so, many would say), it just doesn't seem to be enough to convince people that they're worth the time.

The Season 1 DLC cast

One area to look at in particular for this year of Dragon Ball FighterZ is the Season 1 DLC cast. The characters that haven't been there since launch, which may very well be unexplored in comparison to their older compatriots.

In this group, Bardock already became a must-have for many right after his release, and people were very quick to call this guy as a top tier character, a status that remains after the patch as well.

No other DLC character seems to have fared quite as well — Broly players were practically unheard of, though he did see an increase in play after the patch improved his Z Assist and certain hitboxes — but he's certainly not being used nearly to the extent Bardock is, even now.

Vegito and Fused Zamasu, though people were quite excited for them at first, saw very little play after their release, and although they both show up from time to time, with W2W|KnowKami perhaps being the most notable Zamasu user and the best placing Vegito user we've seen being FT|Kaimart at SEA Major 2018.

Base Goku was used by PG|Nakkiel for a bit, though he's since switched off him, and he's been a real rarity since his release. Base Vegeta saw a bit more play, though he has faltered in usage slowly but surely ever since his launch, with perhaps the most notable competitor still using him being TSM|Leffen.

Cooler and Android 17 are much too early to judge, having been released less than a month ago, though early impressions seem to say that Cooler is quite strong while Android 17 doesn't seem to be too hot. This can obviously change the longer people have their hands on the characters, and it might indeed be the case for all of the DLC cast.

Nevertheless, if we're basing our observation purely on tournament usage, it seems likely to expect buffs for probably all of the DLC cast except Bardock (with the jury still being out on Cooler and Android 17), though this could be turned on its head by the time the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour Finals occur in January.

In conclusion, it looks like the balance patch from Bandai Namco and Arc System Works hasn't really shook up the meta all too hard for Dragon Ball FighterZ, though this is something I already predicted with my post-patch analysis right after it dropped.

The current approach to balancing is to delicately fine tune characters, which tends to be a very welcome approach for players, since their characters don't get massive overhaul and potentially become ruined simply overnight, though it can be less satisfying for viewers who are hoping to see a less monotonous spread of characters in tournament play.

As we continue to see characters added to the cast (it hasn't been confirmed we're getting any more combatants after Cooler and Android 17, but given the huge success of the title, it's exceedingly likely), the meta will likely shift even if we weren't to get any more balance changes at all.

Obviously, though, we're dealing with both a developer and a publisher who have much experience in releasing competitive fighting games, and it's a safe bet we'll see many more balance patches in the future, likely following this same careful approach we saw with the August patch.

Personally, I think this is the right way to go. Try to avoid having any overwhelmingly strong factors in the game, and if you do, try to fix them quickly to tone them down (things such as Android 16's early dominance and Vegeta's assist were dealt with in this way).

For more intricate balance changes, keep it small and simple so as to not overwhelm players or make then unsatisfied to the point where they don't want to play the game anymore.

But what do you think? Did this patch do much for you? Are you happy with this slow and steady approach to balancing, or do you want more explosive shakeups? Hit up the comments and let us know.

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