There’s a lot I want to talk about aside from the tournament itself, like the deck, the element of Ice in general, and why I think that it’s getting to that point now where some things need tweaking. I’ll get to that later, and leave some of it for elsewhere and try and keep this cheerful. I want to start by saying my thanks, but it’s a long list so I’ll try to keep it concise. First, to Mr. Tim Schilder, who I continue to appreciate more and more every time I see him. The guy never stops working, and I know he’s doing a lot for the game in Europe. There’s a lot that he doesn’t get credit for, and a lot he doesn’t get to speak about however nice it would be to hear. He wants this game to be great, so when the time comes for us to show our support as a community it is imperative that we do so. Then there’s Fabian, who is perpetually friendly and has time for everyone, to the point now that I think he might be a genetically engineered super cyborg wizard from the future sent back in time by Square Enix when they take over the world to bring peace and prosperity to the great game of FFTCG. Then there’s Aki, the big boss, who’s always had time for me and cared how I do in events, and I really appreciate support like that when I see people out in the real world and online to keep me motivated. Last is the judges and demo team who all worked exceptionally hard and are passionate about the game and seeing it do well. The tournament was well run, professional, and it was a pleasure to be a part of another national championship on an even grander scale than the first.
Thanks to Team Playnation, for helping me test on Friday Nights and just being a very witty bunch, and the Brotherhood boys for doing the same on Sundays and making me glad we started FFTCG at the club. Thanks to my guy, Vasso Loizou, for helping me chisel the deck into a fine sculpture, talk through certain choices with me, and having faith that I’m vaguely aware what’s going on even when I don’t. Thanks to the Loizou and extended family for making me feel like I’m part of a solid unit and helping me to have pride in my performances. And thanks to everyone who tuned in to watch the stream and kept up with results, whether it was for me, someone else, or just because you think this game is pretty cool. I can only really speak for myself here, but having people rooting for me means the world, and I can only imagine it does to everyone else. While I’ll be the first to admit there are some weeds in the otherwise beautiful garden that is this community, I’ve seen far worse elsewhere, and none better. Every time I get to chat with someone I’ve not met before or don’t get to see much at an event, whether they come up to me because they know my name or because they think my slippers are cool, I really enjoy it. Part of the appeal of paper-based card games for me is getting to interact with so many different people, have a laugh and some deep conversations, and then giving them a swift 7-0. When you see it that way, there are no real losses in FFTCG :D
Now that all that sentimental sappy stuff is over, let’s talk about the deadly disease afflicting FFTCG as of late – M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-Mono Genesis! *cough* I mean Mono Ice, sorry!
I think it’s useful to explain Mono Ice in a little detail, as it’s not as cut and dry as some might think, and that should explain why I chose to use it. Ice as an element has 3 key features: Dull & Freeze, damage to dull forwards, and discard. Generally, all Ice decks have a similar amount of dull/freeze, and then focus on either discard or damage. I opted to play a midrange discard variant that hadn’t really seen use this format, as people were favouring aggro. I am not generally an aggro fan, and I hate the Thaumaturge card for a number of unimportant reasons . So why do we play Mono Ice instead of cramming in another element, such as Fire, which compliments the burn side well? I had wondered how to word it, but I think this should make sense:
A lot of what Ice does is great at supporting another colour, whether that be because of synergy (Fire with burn damage), or because it adds a lot of tools to another element and helps cover the weaknesses (Earth with its strong standalone forwards but lack of speed and tricks). The problem is that when Mono Ice is top tier, it has enough good cards that it simply doesn’t need the aid of another element, not just because of consistency loss, but because actually there are so many good Ice cards that they’re simply better overall than what another colour can offer. My forward line up is 18 out of 24 Legends, a ridiculously high ratio that not even water competes with, with no commons or rares. Why does this matter? It matters because Legends are designed to be the best a colour can offer, so especially at this point in Opus 5 with only 30 playable Legends in Ice, over half of them have made the cut. How many other elements can boast such raw card strength? None. Additionally, while discard and draw do the same thing for card economy, draw is always valued higher on cards, as can be seen when comparing Thaumaturge with Opus 1 Viking. They both do the same thing for card economy, but Thaumaturge has a bonus ability for no realistically good reason. I guess the theory is you can always draw, but if your opponent’s hand is empty they can’t always discard. Either way, seems like flawed logic to some of the card design.
So why discard over burn? Simply, if my opponent has no hand then they have no forwards to burn away in the first place, which is often how it goes. Also, with cards like Cid Aulstyne tailor-made for such a strategy, and game-breaking when they go off, there’s this unnecessary reward for emptying your opponent’s hand. It’s a degenerate strategy, which unfortunately got too much strong support before the other elements and themes, and there exists no hard counter because there is no way to interact with discard. Sure, you can empty your hand, but then you lose to the Grand Marshal, or simply don’t have the resources on hand to counter an Orphan. Against Fire you can just play Minwu and watch them squirm.
Anyway, in fear of dragging this out even more than usual, here’s an explanation of the choices and the number of copies (yes, all of them, skip ahead for the tournament reports). I’ll also be talking a bit about the Last Chance Qualifier I entered the day before.
Orphan – I genuinely think this card is balanced, and was running two up until the end of the LCQ. It’s exactly what Genesis should have been all along. High-costed, and with a requirement to make it useful only at a certain point in the game. When you land it on four backups you generally win, when it sticks, you always win. Most of the time it doesn’t stick. I upped it to three because it’s an auto discard in the first few turns, and it’s simply too good in a game that lets you trade in dead cards for better ones. When it’s good, it’s great, when it’s not, it’s horrible. A big card in the mirror, which is a reason for a fair few cards in the list being there or being at a certain number. In the mirror, put enough pressure so they play Orphan first, then play yours, or Vayne, and hope they don’t have Vayne if you play yours. Yeah, it’s a little tricky.
Setzer – The 3rd Orphan came in for the 3rd Setzer, only because Setzer is weakest in the mirror and I disliked running eight 5+ drops (AKA Vayne targets). Ice lacks good ways to kill Vayne, so in the mirror you play him ASAP, and if they don’t have Vayne, get a value trade in quick before they do. In every other matchup he’s sickeningly good, and I think he’s worthy at three even in the current list.
Cid Aulstyne – When I first read it, I thought it was a cool gimmick that back in Opus 3 you’d never resolve. When Flan came out in Opus 4, the World Champ built on a Mono Ice deck I’d used to gunsling in the Winter Cup and solved its main issue in one neat little package. 9k power and an ability that wins the game when it resolves and also does something Ice normally doesn’t get to do? Man, this guy is sick. I resolved him a lot, and it felt unfair every time I did. He’s a win condition that barely takes up any space and is sometimes groovy just as a 9K. I didn’t play 3 because of what I said above about Setzer, and because I’ll usually hold him in hand if I see him resolving during the game.
Vayne – The best card of the weekend, and upped to three after the LCQ. I wondered if Vayne was futureproof when I first read him, and I think he is. There are formats where he won’t be strong, and then there are formats (like this one) where he’s effectively breaking high value forwards across all elements without removing them from the field. Great in the mirror, great versus everything else, and honestly just solid because 8k is a lot. Force of Will is also a great S ability, just rarely goes off with only two.
Genesis – The best card in the game. After the final, I am convinced something needs to happen with this card, and was near enough convinced with what it was allowing me to do during my other games. It doesn’t matter what deck you’re playing, or what point you’re at in the game, at some point this dude is just going to upset you. Stupidly undercosted, and no card under 5CP should have either of these abilities. Opus 6 Kuja looks fair, this guy came out in Opus 3 and he’s never been close to fair.
Celes – Maybe the second best card in the game? It baffled me how this lovely lady went from average to overpowered in the space of one set. I can’t pinpoint exactly why it wasn’t great in Opus 4, but it just wasn’t. Now, with high value summons all over the place, control decks needing their backup curve, and the addition of Glasya Labolas making that 4k ping even more threatening, she’s irreplaceable. She’s also huge like Vayne, and incredibly versatile.
Serah – I didn’t like Serah much before but she’s a goddess compared to Thaumaturge. Main reason she’s in there is for the extra discard effect, solid early forward, and a reasonable target for Devout and Scholar. I upped her to 2 after the LCQ and don’t regret it.
Rinoa – Dropped to 1 for the 3rd Vayne, Rinoa wouldn’t get a slot without Scholar. With so much competition, and so weak early, Rinoa is easy discard fodder. This works fine, as you can bring her back with Scholar later on and win a game out of nowhere. While she’s not necessary, I think she earned her spot, and just makes Scholar better due to impacting the board immediately.
Locke – Why does he discard a card when he deals damage? WTF is Mirage Dive?
Kuja – A kind of sleeper hit, and one of the best cards in the mirror. As this deck aims to go longer than aggro discard because of the amount of inevitable win conditions, Kuja allows you to maintain the dull and freeze pressure only offered by Genesis and Orphan. He’s a cheap threat that must be dealt with, paves the way for cards like Locke. As he must be dealt with it means your opponent has less to handle your higher-costed forwards. Take him for a spin; I’m really pleased he’s in there.
Forwards that didn’t make the cut:
Thaumaturge – I had a dream where I would win Nats with Mono Ice without this card then tell everyone it sucks. I lost to it in the final. Twice. Basically, I wanted something more midrange that had better late game. Thaumaturge sucks if you draw it when you’re losing, and I didn’t like the idea of having weaker forward draws in those situations, and doesn’t usually help when you’re trying to maintain a lead. Honestly there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s a cheap activator for discard. I’ll never play it though.
The Emperor Opus 5 – Lol this card sucks. Water is the best matchup and the 1k stat buff over Serah isn’t important enough. He’s also a crappy Devout target.
Cid Raines – I had one in for a while, with no searcher for him, just with the idea that I could Scholar or Devout him back when necessary. He wasn’t making enough of an impact at one, and he is generally a weak topdeck in games where hand sizes are small.
Terra/Emperor/Zidane – Perhaps if I had more time to test one of each I would have decided if a Light/Dark forward was worth it. Zidane is a bit iffy, and without Kuja to reduce its cost isn’t worth considering for me really. Emperor is great in the mirror and vs Earth; I just didn’t much fancy him intruding my hand at an awkward time. Similar for Terra, who is definitely solid and worthy of consideration, but she’s tiny and can’t get S ability use.
Devout – Perhaps the only iffy backup. I’m very comfortable on 17 backups, but could drop to 16 by cutting a Devout, maybe even 15 and cut both. I just like that they’re forwards that give me CP, and are great versus Lightning decks, as they allow you to develop a forward without making it an Al-Cid target. This most commonly brought back Vayne, Locke, or Serah. Without Devout, Vayne would have been at 3 a long time ago. There’s also a neat trick you can do with Celes, whereby if your opponent casts a summon on your turn while you have one in the break zone and one in hand, you can Devout it back then cancel the summon with the spare. It has a lot of neat tricks and uses, but isn’t totally necessary whereas it is in the burn variants, as it’s a lot more threatening with Terra R in the break zone.
Gestahlian Empire Cid – He was at 1 with 3 Setzer. Setzer went to 2 so he did, too. 4 in combination of Cid and Setzer is for sure my perfect ratio, and it barely matters which one’s which, but the second Cid means you can drop the spare from your deck if you already have it down with Locke in hand, thus increasing the strength of your draws. Granted, if the second Cid is a 3rd Setzer you can search and discard that for the same end result.
Edward – I saw Eddie and first thought he was garbage. Five minutes later I remembered Harley was a card. In this particular deck, Edward for 3CP sucks because every other 3CP is better, but Edward for 1CP is borderline busted. Opening Harley/Edward is the Wind Water equivalent of Yuna/Rikku. If I opened both, I’d regularly overpay for the Edward, which may seem odd, but you rarely lose a game where that happens. Getting backups down early as possible to maximise Flan is key to success with these decks.
Duke Larg – The Ice forwards you control gain +1000 power.
Scholar – I considered three as this card is so solid. I severely underestimated the value of backups that transform into forwards in your hand, like this and Miner, which was silly because of previous experience with Devout. There’s a good range of options in this deck for its ability, and I’ve used it for Mirage Dive lethals an unfortunate number of time.
Jihl Nabaat – I’ve been an advocate for this Jihl far longer than she’s actually been relevant to play. Fusoya is always about, and now there are more threats that have entered the fray, like Tellah. This helped cover my bases on some otherwise awkward matchups, and I did play vs Fusoya in top 8. You can swap her for the Opus 1 version no problem if you’re not in a meta where this version is relevant.
Harley – Makes Eddie cost 1CP, which is huge. Any hand with Harley and another backup is only going to improve over the course of the game. We play 2 because multiple copies are useless, but we want decent odds of seeing her early with Eddie. Fun thing to note as said above is that Edward is the worst 3CP backup, so often you’ll play Duke or Empire Cid first with Edward in hand, then topdeck Harley and win the game. I’m really surprised she doesn’t see more play.
Cid (WOFF) – The final change I made before the tournament, and boy did he put in work. You can’t ask too much of 2CP backups and Cid does just fine. Sometimes you just need that extra discard, and that’s usually when you’ve used your Flans already. Having a 4th on demand Flan is cool. I used him in conjunction with a bunch of other discard abilities to discard 5 cards from my opponent’s hand and resolve Cid Aulstyne, at which point I knew he was a good call.
Backups that didn’t make the cut:
Kazusa – I really liked a 1-off copy, though it kinda ended up being an unnecessary luxury. Helps with setting up Aulstyne, but is best when played as your last card to prevent the downside. I couldn’t really afford a potentially dead card like Kazusa when the format is pretty tight to begin with. You just can’t afford to be dropping cards from your hand unnecessarily.
Arcanist – I actually think this card is pretty good, and a huge improvement over Opus 1 Time Mage that I used at last year’s nationals. Sometimes your opponent’s board state has multiple of the same CP cost forward. At that point you probably have some dead CP spare to save yourself some damage, which can really swing the game in tight damage races. He came out for the second Jihl, so I’d advise him as another option if Fusoya and co aren’t common in your meta.
Bard (Dull) – Solid backup that I literally never used. Dunno why exactly. I think for the same reason Opus 3 Shiva isn’t in here. It was just never necessary for winning the game.
Mog – Ice has a ridiculous number of good 3CP backups, which it has clearly stolen from Fire. I tried 1 with 1 Empire Cid while Setzer was at two, but it’s only good to add Orphan when it’s your fourth backup, whereas Setzer is good on any number of backups. In burn lists with Cid Raines it’s definitely good to have though.
Black Mage (4k ping) – I had one in along with the Cid Raines as extra ways to get value out of Celes’s damage, and it allows you to kill bigger things with Glasya. For some reason it just never felt good, as it’d be CP I’d rather use developing a forward than killing a forward. I think this says a lot about Ice, as your opponent’s cards are rarely as threatening as yours. When they are, Black Mage won’t actually solve that problem. Again, don’t ask for too much out of 2CP backups though, this card is still solid.
Summons and Monsters:
Mateus, the Corrupt – There was a fair bit of hype surrounding this chick on release, but I wasn’t a big fan. What I like about it is that it’s a necessary evil, as it’s the only way Ice really has of killing active stuff, and it is fairly easy to counter. The problem is that the rest of the deck is so good that it almost feels too early for it to have come out. When Genesis and Locke punish you for taking damage, you shouldn’t really also be punished for blocking. It sucks in the mirror, but is clutch vs Earth. 6CP Shantotto is terrifying, but Mateus handles her just fine.
Glasya Labolas – At the start of the format I stuck with the Shiva package, and when I eventually got around to testing Glasya, while I didn’t think it was busted by any means, its flexibility was appreciated. When I eventually figured out I would never require Shiva R to win the game, it became even more appealing. Although obviously telegraphed when used defensively (due to being odd-costed), it has so many applications that I would certainly make room for a 3rd. The fact that you can dull your own forward in the lightning matchup is probably reason alone to play it, and it kills Illua quite neatly if you can ping her negation with Celes or something. While I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of Lightning, you’ll notice the deck has a lot of cards that are good against it. I honestly just felt it was about as variance-based as the mirror, where it’s more about the cards you draw than how well you play.
Zalera, the Death Seraph – I actually never cast it over the course of the LCQ or the Main Event. I kinda didn’t expect to cast it much, either, because it usually just wins the game at any point it’s worth casting. When using 1 I wasn’t a fan without having L Terra to search it, as it’s a good follow-up if they kill your Vayne. I think its main application is as a simple break on Illua, which means it probably is worth at least a single slot in the deck, but I think a 3rd Glasya will do more good in the long run. I’ll say that it was usually good when I didn’t have it, and when I did it wasn’t, so it’s hard to judge if it was a mediocre call or just variance.
Flan – The key to midrange discard. The idea behind the deck is that you don’t need to overdo it on cheap discard if you can just build 3 Flans and wipe their hand in the mid-game then follow with an Aulstyne. This play alone should win the game, and it happens a lot. The reason I never played it during Opus 4 was because I hated the idea of drawing multiple copies. When I put it in for Opus 5, I hated drawing multiple copies, but the positives outweighed the negatives enough. What I didn’t appreciate enough before is how good it is as a value generator. When you’re not under pressure you just spend your turn making dessert, and it slots in on those turns where you float a backup. Usually when you open two 2CP backups and a 3CP, you only play one 2CP turn 1, whereas if you play both and draw a Flan you have advanced your game state so much that you kinda just win. There’s so many things you can do with Flan (much like there’s so many ways of making dessert) that I’ll probably do a separate piece on him later.
Summons and Monsters that didn’t make the cut:
The Shivas – I started with six Shiva and one Zalera with Light Terra. Neither helped versus Earth, and I figured I could improve the mirror in other ways. Shiva C is horrible vs Wol. Shiva R was just never necessary for winning or not losing a game. The flexibility of Glasya and the niche power of Mateus won out.
Aloeidai – Another great anti-lightning card that overall isn’t necessary and honestly quite expensive otherwise. The other matchups where it shines, you’re favoured anyway, and I wouldn’t want to give my opponent any uses for any monster removal they may happen to be using. Maybe it’s better vs Ice than I give it credit, but I use all of my available CP 90% of the time so I think it would never fit with my style.
As for the event, I’ll drag this out more and start from the beginning. On Thursday morning I head to Brotherhood HQ to go down to Birmingham with the van containing our wares for the convention. I fall over at some point and whack my right thumb pretty bad. This is relevant because it hurt and made shuffling difficult throughout the weekend.
Mid setup I fall over again and get this massive gash in my left hand from slicing it on a hook. This isn’t relevant, I just thought I’d tell you. Always remember to disinfect after falling over, to clean the wound and hopefully treat the serious case of dumbass afflicting you for falling over.
Anyway, I start feeling a little rough on Thursday evening which carries over into Friday. I figured I had a delayed bug from the MCM London convention the week before, which led me to consider competing in the Last Chance Qualifier, primarily to adjust to the likelihood of being ill throughout the entire event. When I head over to the FFTCG area, Tim tells me I am legally obliged to play, leading me to hand in my unfinished list in order to be certain of the changes I’ll make later that night. Turns out loads of people are playing Earth, which will be good testing.
R1 vs Mr Jamie Barber – Mono Earth
Didn’t want to play Jamie as he hadn’t qualified yet and I began to regret entering. He then opted to play Guy turn one and I didn’t feel bad about the evisceration I was about to give him. The Guy whacks me a little bit, but I patiently set up because before I can develop a forward that will actually get some value. Before I enter combat to Mateus his Yang in a crucial turn, I Setzer for Celes with Celes on board in case his hand is Hecaton + Earth card. Turns out it is, leading me to take control of the game. I think this is the game where he draws rough and draws most of his light/dark cards which affects his early pressure.
R2 vs Mr Richard Stoppard – Wind/Earth
This game is pretty slow, and he also develops a Guy, but manages to play some backups first and keeps the damage up so by the time I’ve caught up we’re pretty even. I manage to drop most of his hand, but he ends up getting a 6CP Shantotto off Star Sybil EX (I think), and then plays it to contest my fairly developed board, where he still has Guy and Kam (?). I know I need summon negation or Mateus to stop the Hecaton that will probably be drawn in the next couple of turns and draw the Mateus. I don’t think he should have blocked with Shantotto here as it seemed like his best chance of winning, but he does, I guess in case I’m bluffing, and then I manage to edge the game 7-6.
R3 vs Mr Michael Phillip-Daniels – Mono Water Monsters
Pretty different to my list, but it goes down the same way. Ironically I don’t even have the chance to play backups as my top 11 cards are all forwards, so I play Genesis turn 1 and then play a forward every turn after (on T3 I play Setzer for 6 as I just never draw a backup), and this deck just can’t compete with that pressure without stuff like Famfrit or Opus 1 Cloud of Darkness.
R4 vs Mr Wayne Pinkney – Mono Ice
Wayne’s earned himself a rep as a Fire/Ice player since T8ing the Snowball fight at Wales Winter Cup. He’s playing Mono Ice today to better understand the matchup, and I quickly figure he’s using Tobi’s list from Paris. He plays a backup and Thamaturge T1, I develop some backups as I know the best way to beat aggro is to get two backups quickly so I can effectively draw an extra card every turn. My forward (Celes, I think) is met with Genesis, though he keeps discarding backups and never really gets built back there. Eventually the early oppression ends and my backup lead and the overall strength of my forwards takes a close game. Although I do take a risky line by playing Orphan to dull freeze and leaving my hand empty, meaning the two damage he takes and two draws gives him 4 chances to hit Aulstyne. Thankfully, he does not.
So I qualify legitimately, and am about 95% on how the list will look. Back at the house I try 3 Mateus vs Wind/Earth and try with 1 Glasya to see the different. I miss the Glasya, don’t need the 3rd Mateus, and eventually settle on Cid WoFF as my final backup.
Main Event – Saturday
I am pleased to see we’re only missing a handful of the qualified players, and there are plenty of top representatives from around the country looking to get crushed. I am grateful to find out that Robert and Joshua have decided to play Wind/Water and reduce their percentage of topping the event and give themselves a terrible matchup against me. Jamie also chooses to play Wind/Earth instead of Mono Ice, which I find odd, until he tells the world on stream that he’s the best Wind/Earth player in the country, a fact I was not aware of until then. As Vass has a R1 bye from winning a 25+ Regional, he goes undercover in the field so we can get a feel for the room. Lots of Earth, and a fair bit of Wind/Lightning, and a huge underrepresentation of Ice. I was too busy trying not to vomit and blow the endless stream of snot out of my nose to appreciate how favoured we are in this field until later.
R1 vs Mr Gary Michael – Wind/Lightning
On stream R1, I figure because of winning last year. I open strong with Harley/Jihl, an ideal opener when blind to the matchup. He then plays some Opus 4 Archer and I see so many Wind cards I think he’s on Mono, until eventually he plays a Lightning card. He plays so conservatively that I figure there’s an Al-Cid, and thus set up to 5 backups (with a handy Devout), at which point I can drop his hand down to 1 card so the chances of Al-Cid are super unlikely. He also gets super unfortunate in that he plays an Onion Knight L to add back Onion Knight R, then on the turn I Glasya it, he draws the 2nd and 3rd Onion R, which isn’t massive as he would have just had a vanilla 6k on board, but it was kinda deep. This matchup is super favoured anyway, and I win 7-0.
R2 vs Matt Smith – Wind/Earth
I think this is R2 because I think the rest of the rounds take place on the top tables and at this point I’m still middle of the queue. Anyway, he mulls into T1 Dadaluma, I have a sick start with backups and Flans, and the board reaches a state where I have Harley, Cid WoFF, and Devout, with 2 Flan, vs Daddy and 2 backups vs 5 cards in hand. I think I discarded my 3rd Flan as I drew it while setting up the others, which irritates me as I can now only drop 4 cards from his hand. I draw Edward because I’m really good at the game, Flan 2 cards, Edward a 3rd, Cid WoFF the other, then discard Serah and the rest of my cards for Aulstyne and Devout Serah on the stack. This marks the best turn I have and probably ever will manage in FFTCG. I then play horrendously and send my Serah into a Cecil EX burst by ordering my attacks incorrectly and almost give him a chance to come back. Dumbass. 7-3
R3 vs Mr Simon Drake – Wind/Earth
One of last year’s semi-finalists and a buddy who I didn’t want to play this early or at all. He’s playing the Cactuar/Dadalume inevitability deck, that gets to 2-3 Cactuar on board with a Dadaluma and can theoretically never lose due to Daddy killing something every turn. I open really slow with T2 Setzer into T3 Empire Cid. Thankfully he doesn’t open Semih and must pay 5 for Star Sybil, then plays Kam into Chaos. He thankfully blocks my Setzer (he has a Hecaton for Mateus, but I have Glasya instead to finish Kam after the Dull/Freeze), removing my first hurdle. He then plays Daddy with a Cactuar and starts whacking me, at which point I feel like I’ve set up too slow to win. Thankfully, he gets spooked by a Celes backed by Duke Larg and Miners back Raubahn to break it, leaving him with just one card in hand with an 8K Locke on my board. I swing with Locke to drop the last card, then Aulstyne his Dadaluma. He breaks Locke with Daddy and Cactuar, but is now too far behind to make a comeback. 7-2
R4 vs Mr Pre Temp – Wind/Water
Pre is one of my favourite people in the world, and it’s a little jarring having to play each other before we’re both locked in for T16. He’s playing his signature Wind/Water, and though I know I’m favoured, Pre always has some tricks. I open double backup to his Yuna/Rikku, and then fluff on good follow up and spend 30 seconds staring at a hand of Serah, Duke, Genesis, and Locke. I cannot play Genesis because it’s worse than Locke on an empty board, I don’t want to play Duke because it’s better to play a forward then play Duke, and I think in conjunction with Genesis, Locke will result in being a bigger Serah. I ditch Serah for Locke, and he feels pressured enough to counter with an early Paine and finishes with Archer. In my eyes I give a very obvious telegraph here that I don’t think he picks up on. My hand is either awful, or contains a Genesis, as if I don’t think I can guarantee the discard off Locke I would have just played the Serah. Had I played Serah instead of Locke, he would have played Archer and then played Paine on curve the turn after and the value probably would have won the game. This goes to show how much people really don’t like not contesting Locke and Genesis. He plays Fallacious Wanderer next turn to activate Paine, and then drops an absolute monster of a Koboldroid Yin leading me to realise this game will end in the next 5 turns. I feel bad for discarding my Aulstyne because he spent a turn committing so much of his hand. Ironically, the attack I land hits a Cuchulainn, denying my Locke attack and leaving him with a card in hand anyway, which I figure will lose me the game.
The following turn he swings with Fallacious Wanderer, and as this is only block out of 3 that’s good I take it, expecting another summon. There isn’t one, and Pre says he slipped (misplayed), which confuses me. He swings with Paine, which I consider blocking (and should have), and then Yin, then MP2 Barbariccia’s my Locke (his mistake was the attack order, Paine should have attacked first). Now I’m staring down 3 attackers and my Duke Larg gets Archer’d vs my one Genesis. I rip Kuja in my consistent display of genius, which will allow me to maintain the damage race by dealing a damage and effectively negating one to me. He draws, attacks, then passes, I swing with Kuja and Genesis, play something (another Locke?), and pass. In MP1 he animates Yin and drops CoD, breaking my Kuja, and in an ironic twist, attacks into the only Cid Aulstyne EX burst I have ever resolved, breaking his Cloud of Darkness and giving me lethal on board. I draw a Glasya to make this irrelevant, but it was still a source of great amusement. 7-5
R5 vs Mr Pete Chan – Mono Lightning.
The win-and-in vs a long time Mono-Lightning player and EX burst aficionado. He opens incredibly strong with Alphinaud, into Cid Gully Red Mage, into Lulu. He discards Gramis so I know he’s holding Al-Cid (like always ;) ) and I make the incorrect read that his last card is Onion Knight or Rygdea and opt to play passively rather than play Celes because I’ll lose if I’m right. He never actually has one of the latter 2, and my Setzer is met with Al-Cid, Illua, and Alphinaud. I play Celes, he plays Emp, and then my Celes runs right into Odin EX and puts me on tilt for the next half an hour. I try to keep it going with Orphan and Glasya, but a string of Orlandeau and Amon locks up the game. 1-7
R6 vs Mr Azlan Salleh – Wind/Lightning
Still on tilt I want to dive off a cliff when I see Red Mage discarded for Red Mage, and assume my X-3 prediction will come true. Thankfully, he plays wind cards next turn and never gets enough backups, and then I rip his hand to shreds. I’m starting to get spooked by these Illuas now though.
R7 vs Mr Michael MacMillan – Ice/Earth
We’re both locked into T16 now so this game is a matter of pride and a Behemoth Pig Plushie. Obviously that sounds dope, so I fancy taking it. He opens kinda slow, plays a Dadaluma T3 with 2 backups down, I build a board and do some discards and he doesn’t draw Terra for any tricks with Daddy. He makes the error of undervaluing Wol here, and discards the first one and then takes the second one as damage, when I feel it’s the only card giving him an edge in this matchup. I draw Mateus which allows me to attack with my smaller stuff, and he doesn’t take the bait so I build a decent damage lead before hitting a Star Sybil, but with no Earth backups down and no Earth card drawn for turn he can’t play the Shantotto (even if he did I think I was still ahead with the initiative), and then I wipe his hand next turn just to be sure. This game defines how good Mono Ice is to me, as we get into a topdeck war and my percentage of good draws is just higher. I think Setzer gets buried under a Vayne here, and that kind of momentum swing is often just enough.
Finish 2nd after swiss, with Peter taking home the play arts Kai for going X-0. I stare down at my pig with a mixture of disappointment and pride. Glad to have performed, but disappointed that the pig doesn’t look as nice as Aranea Highwind. Vass finishes 7th(?) so I’m pretty excited, as we can’t play until top 4 and only have to win 2 more games for Euros. Also my home boy from Team Playnation Stephen made cut along with Mr Temp. Find out I’m playing Mr Brad Seagers in T16 to finish Day 1, which is sad cos I like Brad and he has to lose in order for me to win.
T16 vs Mr Bradley Seagers – Wind/Lightning
Though I make the effort to ask around, no one seems to know what Brad is playing. Imagine my delight when I see purple and green cards come down. Having said that, Brad’s list is the best I’ve played all weekend, and gives me a real run for my money in game 1. He draws triple Illua and uses all three to break my Larg’d Setzer, which would normally be very pleasing, but I just can’t draw a convenient way to kill Illua after that, and he’s able to keep whacking me with her each turn while I draw some absolute fluff. I ready to drop Orphan to give me another turn or two, but after drawing a useless pair of Glasya and then losing Orphan to Zidane H I realise I need some tricks real fast. I spend way too long thinking about the best way not to die, then mess it up by miscounting my CP for Flan and have to dump my hand for Aulstyne, then Cid WoFF back the Flan I added to make up for my error. All I break is an Onion Knight and just have to hope he fluffs on the draw. He does, and I finally draw a playable forward (Kuja or something, IDK?). Brad then draws for turn, gets a little excited and declares he’s a god, plays Al-Cid, and either it’s a sick bluff or there’s a goon to go with him. Unfortunately, Brad fails to realise that the second Glasya he knows I have can discard the goon before Al-Cid resolves, resulting in an amusing anti-climax, and then I lock up the game next turn by which point I think I finally draw one of my 3 Genesis.
Game 2 is how it usually goes. Brad opens very weak with a lightning 2CP then a wind 2CP on the following turn. I Celes to make an Al-Cid off curve (I have Glasya to dull Celes if necessary anyway) and by freezing his Archer he can only play an Oracle by discarding and pass again. At this point I’m well over a turn ahead, at which point Ice can’t really lose.
Day 1 ends there, Vass takes his T16 match leaving me thrilled (he’s only been playing competitively since Opus 5 release), and from here there’s nothing really to lose. Pretty tired, we return to the house, get some takeaway, watch the second half of Iron-Man 2 and Speed, and then sleep.
Day 2, wake up feeling even worse than yesterday. Try to muscle through some apricot granola, throw up in my mouth a few times, then head back for T8. We’re given the lists, and Graeme Pentelow, IQ Gaming’s final hope for the National Title, sits down across from me with his Wind/Water Fusoya deck. I haven’t played the matchup with Ice in particular, but understand it enough that early pressure is everything, as is Opus 2 Jihl Nabaat, and Flan probably just wins it for me after that.
T8 vs Graeme Pentelow – Wind/Water FuSoYa
I go first and open Jihl. To Graeme’s… good fortune (I guess?) he mulls and doesn’t see a Fusoya for ages. Without Fusoya this is technically just a slower version of Pre’s deck, and the only thing I have to watch out for as the game drags is Diabolos. I eventually Flan his hand away and follow with Aulstyne, and get sloppy here as I think the game is over. I drop Orphan, then completely blank that Diabolos can activate all his forwards, and stupidly swing with Setzer first instead of Cid. Funnily enough, he doesn’t have Diabolos, and has to use Rikku’s Mug to draw into a water card then Eiko back the one in the break zone. He activates and breaks Cid, and my 7k Setzer dies to his 8k forwards. I feel like a dumbass, and a follow-up Diabolos topdeck fairly punishes me and breaks my Orhpan. Remembering it can activate his forwards this time, I block with Orphan at some point to mitigate the damage. Thankfully, I don’t proceed to draw 10 straight backups and my early lead maintains. There is also a point where he attacks with a guaranteed 8k Zidane where I think it should have been left to block, as this results in me either dealing 2 damage or breaking through his wall of chump blockers like Ephemeral Summoner.
Game 2 he mulls and plays Fusoya T1 and Wakka T2. He simply can’t afford this kind of start if I draw Duke or Jihl. I draw Duke, and he runs out of steam way too early for the Fusoya to even matter.
T4 vs Vasso Loizou – Mono Ice
Vass has had a pretty rough run through cut having to beat two other Ice decks whereas I’ve had two favourable matchups. Because we’re both playing midrange, the match is likely to be the longest for both of us in the tournament. It’s also on stream.
Game 1 I open the worst I have all tournament with a T1 Duke Larg and follow it with Edward or something kinda assuming I’m just dead as he opens Scholar. He plays his own Edward, and with nothing better to do I drop Jihl. Little to realise Vass’s hand contains all forwards and he’s drawn all 3 Vayne. He plays Locke and Serah for some heavy pressure, which I meet with Genesis, which he meets with his Genesis. I correctly decide to break Serah with Glasya over Locke, because I know how important a single damage is going to matter especially when I’m still currently behind. My saving grace here is that he’s drawn so many forwards without a backup that his draws from here should be weaker than mine. I play a vanilla Aulstyne and turn it sideways pre-emptively for the 3rd Vayne. It comes down, but he still doesn’t have more backups and I draw a Devout to make the ideal 4. Duke Larg carries me some more here as my Genesis is 8k vs his being 7k, and I’m finally able to simplify the game to the point that my backup lead gives me too much advantage.
Game 2 Vass draw deeze nuts with Harley, Edward, Empire Cid, and Jihl on board on his second turn. He mistakenly thinks I have a Duke Larg down when I play Kuja and party attacks, missing a point of damage and allowing me a good trade for his Locke. With the pressure off I play Duke Larg to match his now 5 backups, including a Devout. I’m about 2 turns behind, but draw a Vayne to keep Setzer down, and Glasya the Orphan he plays so I’m actually kinda ahead, apart from the 3 Flan Vass has set up to eviscerate my hand at any moment. I lose this game when I’m finally overdrawn, and discard to play Celes to leave myself at 5. I know he has Cid Aulstyne and can discard 3 cards with the Flans, but I severely underestimate how many discard effects he has left. I play Jihl just to use my CP, then he rips a Locke, drops my otherwise amazing hand, and Aulstyne’s the Vayne. I keep it going for a couple more turns, but only the 3rd Vayne would have kept me going.
Game 3 Vass actually opens DEEEZE NUTS this time around, but just like what will happen to me in the final an hour from now, his opener of Devout Scholar (of a hand that also contains Edward, Double Empire Cid, and Duke Larg) telegraphs such immense strength through his choice of discards. To my good fortune, I have Edward, and when I see the Duke drop from his hand I know the last card is either another Duke or an Empire Cid and thus overpay for a Flan. He top decks a Serah and on the following turn a Flan, which keeps him in it pretty well. I get a Devout down which puts me in a respectable spot, and the game is kept interesting in that we both keep drawing on-curve, him with Genesis, then me with Kuja, and for once neither of us have Duke Larg down for a while. He can’t answer the Kuja, however, and in this matchup it reaches a certain point in the game where once a Kuja goes unanswered, it wins the game by itself. Setzer comes down, and Vayne seals the deal.
2nd gets travel and accommodation to Euros. Euros is in London. I live in London. I won a bus ticket. Score! :D
The Grand Final vs Mr Peter Sherratt – Mono Ice
I sit down and read his decklist and know I’m against the most variance dependent matchup of the weekend. He’s looking to end the game because I get to a point where I can’t lose, and I’m looking to live long enough to do exactly that. In Game 1, I keep a sketchy hand, which were I to do this again, I would mulligan. I was kind aware it was too slow, especially as I was going second, but it had a number of draws to make it very strong (another 2CP backup, basically. Harley would have been gamebreaking). He starts with Bard, I go for Jihl (?), he goes Serah into his own Jihl S, leaving me my choice of all three 3CP backups. I go for Empire in case he goes all in and I need to play Setzer Locke next turn. Unfortunately he plays Celes, stopping both Setzer Locke and me going on-curve to 4 backups next turn. At this point I figure I’m only winning with the Orphan I’m holding, so play Eddie and overpay for Duke Larg to go to 4 anyway. He thankfully plays an off curve Locke for no discard, which makes my Orphan look promising, but I’m 3 damage behind. Orphan drops and is met by Genesis, putting me to 4. I play Setzer Locke, knowing I have to dodge the 2nd Shiva or any kind of dull effect really, plus he has the bard. He whiffs, and Setzer blocks all his damage for the turn. If I draw a playable forward or a Glasya I win even if he discards my Genesis with Thaumaturge. He does discard the Genesis, but I whiff on the forward and die to Shiva the following turn.
Game 2 I open much better, with two 2CP backups into Celes going first. The only way he can possibly beat me here is double discard. He topdecks Argath and Thaumaturge, which is fine as long as I can draw a forward. I draw another Celes. Cool. Celes is met with Genesis. I have to draw another forward. I whiff. Lol. This Genesis results in 5 points of damage. In perhaps the most amusing moment of the tournament, I know I can draw Orphan to stay alive by searching my 3rd Flan next turn. I draw the Orphan, but also the 3rd Flan. I laugh, and concede. Working out that his opener contained Argath, Thaumaturge, Celes, Genesis, double 2CP backup, I know I gave myself the best odds to win. Unfortunately, as is the case with these matchups, you cannot afford to whiff a single turn and expect to still be in it.
Nevertheless! Mr Sherratt was a worthy opponent and a worthy winner. 1st and 2nd in consecutive years is still something to be proud of, and I’ll be sure to frame that bus ticket in memory of my achievement! Overall, I’m incredibly pleased that the deck took two Euros spots and half of the Top 4, and look forward to trying my hand at Worlds again at Euros later this year. Until then, I hope everyone continues to enjoy the Crystal Tower Podcast as well as my articles on Exdeath the Wizard. Most importantly, continue to enjoy the game. There are lots of good things coming our way and the game is only getting bigger! If you made it this far, thank you for reading this weighty tome of a write-up, and stay cool 8)
MrCool, 2nd best Mono Ice player in the country.