A lot of these ideas and concepts might be already known to you, maybe you’ve learned them intuitively over time or from other TCG experience. It’s worth outlining for clarity, and delving into the topic to solidify our understanding of efficiency. Crystal Points (CP) are the primary resource in FFTCG and most interactions in the game can be boiled down to a CP cost or trade. Getting the most out of your CP will be the quickest road to improve for most people.
Every card in hand that isn’t Light or Dark is worth 2 CP if discarded, and if played from hand you no longer have that 2 CP available from your hand. Generally the community refers to the printed CP value when referring to a cards cost. For example, a 3 CP Backup that searches for another card is often referred to as a 1 CP Backup, with the -2 from hand either assumed or ignored. This however is the easiest part to overlook when evaluating things. For the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to cards at their printed CP cost as most do to avoid confusion and when highlighting the true cost, I will refer to it as net CP.
Each turn you draw two cards, or 4 CP (unless it’s the first turn). Additionally you can have up to a maximum of 5 Backups in play for an additional 5 CP each turn. There are certainly ways to generate more CP than your potential 9 CP each turn via card draw and reactivations, but this is the baseline and true of most turns once games are on their way. Furthermore it’s possible to start your turn with 5 cards (10 CP) in hand before drawing for turn, if you go beyond your potential 9 CP for turn it will take time to recuperate.
A quick disclaimer before we dive in, the examples and lines of play I highlight throughout aren’t always correct, but it’s most often the correct line to take. It’s impossible for me to list every outlier and match up specific edge case. It’s important to know the proverbial rules before you can break them.
Backups are an investment
I just want to quickly highlight something which I see far too often overlooked. Although you definitely want to be playing efficiently and using your Backups, they aren’t free. 2 CP Backups actually cost you 4 net CP. That means it takes them 4 turns just to break even and that’s assuming you are using them on curve each turn.
It isn’t as relevant now in the early stages of the game as it was in the Turbo Discard era. However I’ve noticed far too often that people play Backups toward the end of the game, or not utilizing their breakable Backups to the best of their ability as a game is coming to a close. If you pay 4 net CP for a Backup 3 turns before the game ends, it hasn’t even paid for itself and you’ve wasted CP that could be better spent elsewhere.
Should you pass turn with an active Backup without plans to use it before your next activation phase, that’s CP left on the table, there’s no getting it back and you lose value each time you do so. There are a number of niche or counter-specific cards that come to mind which are misleading and often over played. While they certainly have their purpose and can find the right fit in the competitive environment, it is more often than not a liability and generally frowned upon to not be using that CP effectively.
Of course, no game, curve or draw is perfect and it’s impossible to avoid but I would encourage you to avoid floating CP wherever possible. A lot of games can be won simply by maximizing what you can spend each turn. This allows you to hold on to options and answers over time. You will be discarding important cards less often and it sets you up to be able to have devastating power turns when required.
If you’re not going to end your turn with more than 5 cards in hand and are ever discarding a card before using your backups just because it’s a card you’re not going to use. For example a named Backup you already have in play, or a Backup you don’t intend to cycle in while you’re already at 5 in favor of keeping 2 Backups open. This is 2 CP you need to be saving for later, it is almost always strictly incorrect to be discarding instead of using your Backups. There is of course times where it can be ok, but it takes some very specific and niche circumstances to allow for it.
Evaluating Net CP Cost
One of the classic and mainstay value MVPs. YRP has been a staple as long as I’ve played and for good reason. It does take set-up and some dependencies. Fortunately, both 2 CP Yuna and Rikku are among the best backups in the game so we don’t mind. To break it down, Paine costs 3 CP, which if you have Rikku, you recuperate. As well as if you have Yuna in play, the card from hand replaces itself. For a total net CP cost of 0. This is the most straightforward, literally free forward in the game. It’s often overlooked that you don’t need both backups in play for Paine to be a reasonable play as well and I would encourage you to consider playing Paine early only with one of the dependencies available. While not amazing, a net CP of 2 or 3 for 7k is perfectly fine as long as it’s advancing your game plan.
The Boogeyman himself. I don’t think many people have analysed or had the CP cost broken down for them, but there’s definitely a lot of feels-bad moments surrounding this monster which we’ve grown all too familiar with. He doesn’t always line up for high value sure, and there is room for counter play where the onus is on your opponent to mitigate the exit effect (not necessarily a bad thing, by the way). What you need to know is that when he does land and leave for reasonable value, it’s a massive lead. We’re even going to be generous and meet somewhere in the middle, let’s say he removes an Y’shtola on play and a tutor Backup that can be replaced immediately when he leaves, without trading for anything on field. Sounds reasonable and a fairly common occurrence right?
Well the net CP cost for Y’shtola is 5, and the cost for a tutor is 3 net CP. With a 6 CP printed cost and 2 CP for the potential card in hand, that’s a net CP cost of 0 for Veritas. In the meantime Veritas is a free 8k forward for however long he is around (which is much more relevant than 7k). Maybe he trades with something, maybe he hits a Dadaluma instead of Y’shtola on entry, maybe it’s a turn 1 backup instead of a tutor that can’t be replaced right away. The opportunity cost of including a Dark card isn’t nearly as inconsistent or restrictive as YRP is and to top it all off, his only limitation is the Light/Dark rules with no setup required.
Leila & Viking
The Munchkins that plagued Opus 6 that have been keeping Mono Water relevant ever since. One of the most threatening and obnoxious turn 1 plays, while also being an incredibly efficient defensive option during the later stages of the game. There isn’t much setup required, if any at all to get going. Leila costs 4 CP and a card from hand, she also returns a Viking (a card to field, 2cp) a card to hand immediately and another one when Viking leaves the field for a net cost of 0 CP. Not the most threatening of bodies, but it is more than made up for by it’s synergies.
The top-tier legend for both Opus 4 and 8, was he reprinted or something? Anyway, Locke is both a high value and high priority, aggressively geared threat. Functioning similarly to Paine in that he has dependencies, his backups aren’t quite on the same level as Yuna and Rikku however there are at least more of them. His search lines are more convenient, making it somewhat more consistent especially in the early game.
Breaking down the cost, Locke is 3 CP for a 7k and a card from hand. If you meet his condition when he enters the field your opponent discards, resulting in 3 net CP. Furthermore, for every time you hit your opponent with Locke, that’s another 2 CP from their hand assuming they have one. Being threatening as he is, with the elements that support him well, Locke is a different kind of efficient Forward that can end games very quickly and force inefficient plays from your opponent. This results in a lot of incremental CP over time. As an example if you get 2 hits through and your opponent chump blocks twice, with cards like Zidane H and Porom while digging for answers, that Locke has put you approximately 8 CP , or an entire turn ahead before even considering how it has forced your opponents hand to disregard backups while allowing you the room to develop your own.
When you’re ahead, get further ahead
One of my favourite sayings from Day9, a prolific personality in the Starcraft and Starcraft 2 scene from back in the day which holds true for FFTCG.
Avoid Unnecessary Risk
So the game has been going on for a while, a lot of back and forth. You’re both in the bottom half of your deck, 4 damage a piece, 5 Backups each and both of you are maintaining a healthy hand size. You’ve just seized board control with a cheeky combat trick, your opponent presents a non-threatening Forward as a blocker and you want to start pushing for game. How do you go about it? Play out your hand with a hasted Forward, use a summon for removal and swing for the fences of course!
Well, no. That’s how you get blown out, your opponent still has cards in hand, damage 5 could be a removal EXBurst. Think about your opponents outs, check their Breakzone and try to figure out what’s missing and can give you a hard time. Are there still big bombs like Fina, Zaleera, Shantotto, or Estinien left in their deck that can turn the game on it’s head? You’re still playing the incremental value game. You want to push them closer to lethal range sure, but you don’t want to overextend trying to close too early. Those cards in their hand or on top of their deck might just be their win condition. It probably wont happen straight away, but it’s enough to get them back in the game and turn the pressure back on you.
See, I’ve developed this hidden superpower in the local community after a few big wins at events and a trip to Worlds last year. People just really like to go all in and get as much damage in on me as they can, not necessarily seeing their win condition. They overextend and I’m able to capitalize on it, shut them out with big value plays and turn the game around comfortably from a high damage count.
For the most part, damage 1-4 should be considered safe, but you shouldn’t be giving it away for free either, it puts you closer to dangerous territory. If you’re giving that damage away, it better be for a good reason, like advancing your Backup line, improving your hand for a bigger swing later, or at the very least trading damage. Defending and presenting your own threats for damage pressure is still important because getting your opponent beyond this safe range is your ultimate goal.
Damage 5 and 6 is the point where you can bully your opponent into taking unfavorable trades or strict CP losses while on defense. Depending on what they have available, sometimes their only live top deck is Y’shtola, and if you’re presenting an 8k that can attack, she has to chump block for no value. That’s a firm 5 CP swing in your favor. Enough of this kind of bullying will starve your opponent out and give way to you being able to finish off your opponent without any answers left available. They’re losing sizable CP just trying to stay alive while you hoard and set up resources to answer their problem threats when they arrive.
Damage as a resource
Just a small side-tangent for damage as a resource before jumping in. There’s a lot of misinformation around about damage as a tiebreaker, people fearing the bubble and things of that nature. While damage taken is a tiebreaker in FFTCG, it is the second tiebreaker and should rarely be cause for concern unless it’s a small scale or local tournament where Strength of Schedule is more likely to be even. SoS is the first tiebreaker and will almost always decide who bubbles and who doesn’t at the more competitive events.
The original best card in the game. While it comes at a hefty cost of 3CP to play and isn’t discardable, Fusoya has often been a staple in competitive play throughout the games history and it has often been a primary consideration or threat at major events and for good reason. It has waned in popularity somewhat in Opus 8, but I’m doubtful that it’s the last we’ve seen of Fusoya.
At it’s core, you have 6 opportunities to pay 1 CP to deal 7K damage to a Forward. The formal baseline for Forwards at 7K is a printed cost of 3 CP and a card from hand for a total of 5 CP. It obviously isn’t as cut and dry as that, because we don’t play vanilla 3 CP 7Ks, but it’s usefulness is much, much broader than that. Stacking EXBursts like Famfrit and Cuchulainn with Ephemereal Pizza Chef for double removal, trading up Leila/Viking into 9Ks, using Fusoya at the end of your opponents turn and again before your attacks to open them up and this is just the tip of the iceberg. On the flipside, every damage your opponent can get you to take from their Forwards, or force you to Fusoya an efficient Forward of theirs denies one of those 6 opportunities.
One of my personal favourites right now. Tobi Henriet did a great job of showcasing it’s potential at Crystal Cup Ice in Opus 7 for a high pressure Wind/Water game, and there was also Kurosawa’s Earth/Fire at Chiba Masters this set which I’ve had a lot of fun with. For the foreseeable future it will remain best paired with Galdes (for the cost efficiency) and sometimes Gabranth (to negate the damage entirely), because short of some serious wide boards which are dangerous to your life total, it’s difficult to find value with it costing 7 CP. It has very high potential and can function as a serious game decider when backed by the right kind of pressure.
Set-ups and Pay-offs
Right now we’re in the midst of a metagame that benefits a lot from big pay-offs once getting set-up. This is almost primarily because of an abundance of ways to sweep the board and there are a lot of common themes among the decks that utilize them. These decks will happily take damage in the early game, looking to stabilize and turn games around once they’re at a high damage count by sheer CP value.
Mono Wind has a focus on getting to 5 Backups as soon as possible, the particular pay-offs here being Yuri, Chelinka and Alhanalem. Some try to squeeze as many draw/search EXBursts they can to get there, others opt for the Backup searching route and some even lean into Fina and Valefor combos despite not playing Yuna. But if it can play Backups without dying, Wind is going to try to get to 5 as quickly as possible and once there, it has access to some really high value cards like Diabolos, Vata, Bartz and Fina along with Yuri, Chelinka and Alhanalem to handle a plethora of difficult situations and sweep the board.
Mono Water is the least likely to be taking damage early due to cards like Leila, Viking and Famfrit, but it certainly takes no issue in doing so as it can wall up quite well and it can fit a healthy number of EXBursts without compromising the deck. It’s primary goal is to be drawing as many cards it can for advantage and getting out as many water characters as possible to take advantage of cards like Cagnazzo, Nichol, Cloud of Darkness and Knight.
Wind/Water and in particular the high EXBurst Water splash variant we’ve seen popularised by Alex Hancox, Joshua Freeman Birch and Robert Philips. This deck looks to take the best of both worlds from both Mono Wind and Mono Water by including an unhealthy amount of draw/search EXBursts. In addition it has the early game value of Paine and late game power of Valefor reactivations in combination with cards like Fina and Chelinka to sweep the board.
Earth/Wind is quite a bit different than the previous 3 decks, while it still rocks Fina it’s not quite in the same way as the other decks. The deck derives it’s early game value on a clean and versatile Backup engine hinging on Semih Lafihna and Star Sibyl with the additions of Ajido-Marijudo, Apururu and Shantotto. It also has access to the soon-to-be-banned Dadaluma in combination with Cactuars for a late game value engine. Some variants also feature Urianger, Leyak and Phoenix for additional late game value. It does have a reasonable number of EXBursts, just not quite the same luxuries for space as the other decks to include an abundance. Due to the Backup focus it will have a tendency to take a lot of damage early and it’s pay-offs for that are both in the Backup efficiency and cards like Noctis or Cecil which discourage or benefit from taking damage.
Hopefully I’ve provided not just more reasons for you to hate Veritas, but some insight to help improve your game and if you have any questions, just want to shoot the shit or tell me I’m wrong about something you can catch me on the Reddit Discord for FFTCG under the username Tenletters