The FF10 starter deck releases soon, which due to the delay of Opus 16 creates a sizable window for the starter exclusive cards to influence a ‘.5’ format. This happens whenever a Starter gets released approximately halfway through a set, though if there were even one major event to come between it and the next Opus then I suppose that would count, too. The most noticeable of these in my eyes are 2.5 (FF9 starter deck), 9.5 (Wraiths vs. Knights) and – or at least it should have been – 14.5 (Avalanche vs Shinra). FF9 was early into the game’s lifecycle, and the synergy between the starter cards and the already well established Wind/Water was a noticeable power jump for such a ‘small’ release. Wraith vs Knights, while not focusing on a category, was crammed with super good generic cards for the period. Avalanche vs Shinra finally gave FF7 some time in the sun, which it has maintained until this point as really the only established deck that can contend with Sky Pirates.
History lesson aside, I feel all that information is relevant, as this deck seems to be aiming for a mixture of strong generic cards as well as some category/tribal synergy. The question is whether it will have any place in the current meta as a category, or if any of those individual cards will bolster a mid-tier element pairing into contention. We’ll take a look at each card individually to see where I think they want to be, and how good of an addition they are. Starting from the top:
I’m not a big fan of how much Mono Fire gets pushed more than any other Mono, so seeing cards that compliment Fire/X is nice. Jecht can work in Mono, but Light and Dark characters seem less important there, and it’s hard for him to reach big heights on his ETB as Lulu is the only generic card you might play to boost him. 5k by himself is still solid with common threats like Krile and Penelo running around, as well as if the new Braska and Wakka see play, but an additional 1k to knock out Cyan would be welcome. The trouble with him being Fire is that a lot of the main synergies in this deck come from Water/Wind. For example the only target for the new Yuna is Lulu if you go Wind/Fire, but at least you have access to Brother/Shinra/Rikku as decent sticky X characters. The other downside is that he’s a fairly hefty 5CP investment, but that 5CP comes with a very valuable action ability.
Many players of Opus 15 will have pulled their hair out at Sky Pirates common early board of Vaan/Kytes, knowing that Kytes can effectively render removal obsolete and Vaan can keep fetching more. While Jecht doesn’t have the same kind of loop, the presence of a 9k who should have already done his job of removing a threat on entry will be an incredible pain to kill when he can just sack himself off anyway to draw another powerful card. 5CP 9k is currently very tricky to remove efficiently, being immune to the nowadays common Shinryu, and not being vulnerable to the usual one-for-one removal pieces like Alexander for the aforementioned reasons. The catch comes at the cost of forcing Light and Dark characters into your deck. Usually one or two is fine, but the fewer you play, the higher the likelihood Jecht’s action ability is purely a feint as you risk drawing into them naturally. Play too many and you end up clogging your hand.
So where does Jecht fit? I’m not currently convinced you want to play him purely for that entry ability as he’s kinda just 1CP too expensive (or 1k too few on the base entry), so ideally you want him in a deck where the Light/Dark is often imperative to win, or just too generically good. The offering of Sin in this starter deck pairs nicely, as the cost of Sin’s removal ability when added to hand is incredibly cheap, it just has the same risk of drawing Sin at the wrong time if you only play one. Sin does threaten a board wipe, though, which might make Jecht’s presence threatening enough that your opponent just won’t commit to board on that fear alone. Shinryu is similarly threatening against common meta decks like Sams and Pirates, and the decks that opt to play it often want access to it the moment it’s good. For these reasons I can see Jecht as part of a small package in a deck that focuses on chip damage and strong singleton removal or board clears, perhaps a Water/Fire high EX burst kind of thing. When paired with Water you also have cards like Artemicion that can put the Light/Darks back into the deck for further searches. While most of those are currently one time use or simply inefficient, more do come out every now and then.
As for his other synergies, Guardian synergy is still pretty naff, but before now the Tidus and Jecht ‘Guardian’ options were… poor. At least know you have two that are individually strong/mild synergy that you might consider dusting off your old Kimahri.
I like the card. I think he packs a lot of things I’d want on one card into one card, and I also don’t think he’s a boring Mono Fire shoe-in.
This seems to be where a lot of the talking is at, and I can understand why to a point. Just like the cheap threats mentioned for Jecht’s use, Braska presents the possibility that every card in your opponent’s hand can pop one of your dudes for 7k. He has no in-built protection or any entry value that recoups his cost though, so I always play it safe. Is a 4CP 5k that does 7k on entry a good card? We had Vivi in Opus 3 that saw play for a long time that would often hit that number for 3CP. Sure it was somewhat random and counterable, but Braska demands a summon to be part of his 4CP investment. Vivi, however, does not demand an answer. Some decks, like Avalanche, can’t actually just let Braska sit there because he’ll ruin their battle phase by shooting the operatives before they get value. This fact alone makes me think Braska is format dependent. Against Pirates and Avalanche he seems solid, but against Samurais he seems easy to play around and remove. That’s actually the case for a lot of really good fire cards, they’re insane until you play versus Fire.
I think what I like most about Braska is the small synergies you get from both his job, cost, and category. Summoners (the archetype) always wants more names that aren’t Rydia, Yuna, and Garnet, which is a big plus for the big bad BFA. You lose a pretty dated backup that shares his name, but the pros outweigh the cons a lot there. Water decks in general, especially ones that can use Crystals, will like him because of Summons that are weaker in hand rather than top of the deck (Remora), and also Lenna. Lenna is a card to keep your eye on as more Crystal related cards come out, and thus I keep an eye on any strong 2CPs that play well in Water. As far as category synergies go, I can already see the makings of a Fire/Wind deck with Yuna and Lulu, which makes him a target for Brother (who ironically stole a Wind starter slot with his reprint). Fire/Wind has always been a subpar pairing so I like seeing it get support.
Grand Summon, while not without merit, is undoubtedly a pain to use. I actually gave Yuna a go this set with some amusing results, and she could definitely give you the CP to use Grand Summon however inefficient, but is there a way to do it that doesn’t just make your deck a hot mess? Shantotto can provide the Wind or Water but only one, and isn’t already part of the colours you need. Class Fourth Moogle can produce Fire, but in theory you should already have Fire as your main because it’s Braska’s main element. Basically this is a long way of saying there isn’t currently a way to do it nicely, which probably means you should count your blessings if you do resolve it, though I’m sure there will be those of you who go out of your way to make the dream happen. Bless your sacrifice, if so.
Like Jecht, I don’t think you get to shoehorn Braska into anything with Fire, but he has a number of niche uses packaged into a single cheap card that he has grand potential in the right deck.
The card I’ve the least to say about and for good reason. If you can meet the requirements by the midgame I don’t see why you wouldn’t always try to fit one with so many good recursion options like Terra, Citra, and Lulu. I currently don’t see a reason to play more other than one of those dedicated Bahamut decks.
My personal favourite, but I’m a sucker for recursion that has additional value. She basically trade’s Terra’s EX burst for a 1CP cost reduction, which is fair enough, and particularly good for the first home that I thought of for her: Wind/Earth. From Krile/Locke’s release until now, Wind/Earth has had the best recursion because of Cu Sith being easy to get back, with Asura mitigating the cost of Cu Sith while all adding to your ‘Storm counter’ for Locke, Ashe, Alexander, Rosa, etc. While Citra has always been useful to that same end, the current iteration of the deck has a big emphasis on the value of Shinryu to counter the meta. In short, I don’t want to use my Light/Dark slot on something I can get elsewhere. Lulu isn’t far off Krile, and in some cases worse through being more expensive, but the value of being able to hold the Summon you choose cannot be overlooked.
However, Lulu boasts something additional that really breaks her open: Yuna recursion. The new Yuna is basically a Vata that works in any deck, with the upside of also being able to recur cheap Guardians, or do both on 5+ damage. For Wind/Earth, as much as I love it, we do already have Krile for Lulu and Iris for Yuna as very comparable cards, but for Wind/X everything else you’ve got the basis for another very potent package.
As for her second ability, it’s particularly strong with Fire and rightly limited to your turn. Brynhildr looks to be sticking around for a very long time now, and these two are like bread and butter. This combination somewhat puts Jecht to shame because it does the same thing but cheaper, although requiring two cards instead of one. Then again, why can’t you play both? Someone help me live this dream for Fire/Wind. Terra and Lulu are basically infinite summon recursion, you’ve got good targets for Norschtalen, and from a meta perspective very easy access to Shinryu with Jecht and Meeth. Anyone? Anyone at all?
Fire was the obvious one for the second ability, but really there isn’t an element I can think of that doesn’t benefit from it. Even Earth, which doesn’t deal in a lot of direct damage, could get value when paired with Rydia casting Summons like Titan or Hecatoncheir for free?
The best part about all of this? Card name Lulu kinda sucks, so much like Braska and Jecht there isn’t much in the way of competition. Could even see a Lulu sneak into the odd Pirates list. It’s not like their Summons are bad.
She shares something important with Yang, in that your opponent has to keep bearing wary of your life total because her text improves in multiple instances. The damage buff is very cool for Lulu alone because 7 is more than 5, but if you do go full Guardian then she’ll be akin to Tifa in those midgame swing turns, and buffing the stats of Auron and Wakka is even more notable (not least because Auron skyrockets to 9k). My main issue there is that Sky Pirates looks way better as the go to Wind/Water archetype, mostly because these starter cards lack a good answer to Kytes, but a generic Yuna forward in Wind does reopen old closed doors, like Valefor and Paine. The former seems particularly interesting because Lulu can recur both it and Yuna (a very deliberate decision, I’m sure). While we are lightyears past Valefor/Fina being the best thing you can do with 5 backups, the potential is there. Sure, there isn’t an answer to Kytes, Baltheir, etc in the starter deck, but Porom is very present, and ability wiping has always been the key to that combo’s success (Ashe vs Y’shtola, for example). Like, it might amount to nothing, but regardless of how good Wind/Water, this idea of a Yuna/Lulu package opens up a lot for just two cards.
I kinda really do hope the Wind/Water side becomes viable either in this meta or Opus 16, because I like how this Yuna can be good off 0 backups as long as you have a 2CP Guardian, but also be good off 4+ backups without one. It’s that same balance that turned Ursula into a top tier Legend when Sophie arrived, and while Wakka and Auron may have nothing on Sophie, they are at least trying their best.
Somewhat of a Charlotte doppelganger so interest here is limited, but purely off not being an Ice card he’s probably way better. There’s very deliberate Guardian/Summoner synergy here to the point I don’t think I’d play him without it. Lightning rods are good options, but very rarely actually make the 50 card cut because they’re so generic. Cards like Edge seem great when you think about how valuable Bismarck is, but drawing the pieces together is the dealbreaker. Auron partly circumvents that by being a lot easier to recur. Mainly through Yuna, but of course Lenna(s) as well. Is Yuna a card you care about protecting? Not so much, but much like Edge and Bismarck I could see you using Yuna and Auron to ‘Protect the Whale’, with Bismarck bouncing Yuna over and over while Auron takes heat. You’d lose out on the draw if Auron dies, but does anything else actually matter if you control a Bismarck?
The next good part is he’s not named Wakka and costs 2CP, so you can do this cool trick where you play Wakka, then play Yuna into Auron. You have 3 forwards + a free ability wipe and kill. I kinda think this is how you’d want to approach the Pirates matchup if we consider them competing for Wind/Water dominance. I think Pirates will always win the long game because that’s kinda the point, but their aggro handling, especially versus cheap forwards, is limited to Typhon usually. Auron gets to take the Typhon hit leaving Wakka still raring to go with a free Special, so if you disrupt the early Vaan/Kytes loops then you might just deal 7 before they find their feet. I’d argue that even Samurais would struggle here because they can’t play Tenzen while Wakka is alive and Auron trades evenly with Brynhildr, they do just have more bursts at their disposal (and Amaterasu). Like maybe you wouldn’t push all-in so early, but at least you have a potential answer for Tenzen that other decks don’t have.
Continuing on from above, Wakka also feels very forced into Water/Wind as far as his auto ability goes. That’s fine, you can’t expect everything from a category focused deck to be generically good, but I mean it more in the sense that you can’t really splash Wakka into Wind/X because of Yuna. You’re going to be hard pressed to get value off Wakka unless he’s the first forward you play, and he also relies on being followed up by two more FFX forwards rather quickly on account of being small. Like, you could splash him in Fire/Wind, but then you have to follow up Yuna with Braska and… Tidus? Jecht? I mean it works, but does it really work?
The other side of it is that Wakka might just be solid as the lone FFX character in a Water/X deck. His ability isn’t exactly expensive, it’s just the case of Specials being unreliable because you have to see multiples of the card name. With Wind you already have Asura, so a lot of the farting about with reel counters might not be necessary half of the time, and of course in Earth you have Cu Sith. Even with Sophie getting hit, Water/Earth is still very varied, with most lists having a Rydia/Porom angle. Wakka kinda doubles down on everything you’ve already got going but also extends it. Porom can’t hit Leviathan or Tenzen, and although Lenna(s) have good targets, why not add one more. And let’s not forget, Wakka flat out obliterates the forward, too, which means you never need to pair him with other removal cards. You pair all that with Robel-Akbel and Lakshmi drawing lots of extra cards then you should have a consistent supply of Wakkas even if you opt to only run 3. You could even play Tidus in something like this because he can buff Rydia and friends to more combat worthy powers, not like there aren’t plenty of Yunas to search either.
Not overly fond of Black Belts, and this lady screams it to me. It’s a really sick EX burst if the stars align, but it should be super easy to play around and so slow that you can counter it. Like maybe there’s a Fire/Water deck with Braska and some other Yuna which can utilise Belias, the Gigas, or Goblin through Verena and you skip the most annoying step of needing your 4CP 8k to live a turn? I think I’d rather just play Garland and call it a day, but hey if the shoe fits.
I get super Zidane vibes looking at this card. Reads super well, every line is good, but I’m hard pressed to play too many copies because the dead draw will feel bad. However, he does threaten a power swing while on the field and does have EX, so maybe my grievances are misplaced. Like this is so good with Wakka even if Wakka is the only FFX guy on board, because it basically makes his S ability free given that Tidus gets reduced by 1CP and fetches another Wakka. If you do go down the route of Water/Earth as well, or basically anything where you’re not playing the new Yuna, he doubles up as a backup searcher. Water already has Sara, so being able to minimise backup count while keeping the ramp as consistent is great.
The question is this, is the added consistency of Tidus worth sacrificing the space of a meta counter Light/Dark like Shinryu? Yes, Water does have outlets for multiple Light/Darks as we’ve already been over, but sometimes the cards don’t line up and it’s because you pushed it a little too much. I think it all comes down to testing, but as mentioned above with Rydia, the 2k buff Tidus provides in addition to everything else on swing is going to be noticeable given how low the average power level of these forwards is.
With the Jecht synergy already mentioned, how many other ways are there to get value out of this guy? Brother is the obvious one as the FFX searcher, and then you’ve got the classic Spiritus. Even Thordan could be up your alley as you can basically trigger Sin off an EX burst. To be honest I don’t think that ability is a big reason why you play it, but I could see it coming in handy. Thing you need to figure out is if this really goes in any deck, right now or ever. It’s certainly a step up from the original Sin with practically the same effect but better stats and no self harm, but does that matter when the original was barely playable in Opus 7? I don’t think so. 9 is a lot, a number practically reserved for Leviathan, Lord of the Whorl these days. Board clears are often cheaper, easier, and don’t require the Light/Dark slot. So what does Sin have to offer?
Well, unlike the original it won’t break Monsters. Now Monster decks had very brief periods of success, mainly during their debut in Opus 4 and up until maybe Opus 6? A new Relm comes along every now and then to freshen them up, but not much else. While there are other cards that probably still do the job better like Hecatoncheir, Sin has the benefit of not being colour locked. So just like ‘Mind Flayer mill’, maybe there’s a workable monster decks that just plays a load of board clears. Probably not, and if there was I don’t think Sin would be a huge deal for it actually, but I’m kinda grasping at straws at this one. I appreciate improving on the original, but really it just needed to be left alone.
So that’s that. Certainly a lot more than I’d talk about individual cards in my set reviews, but honestly I’m really starved for things worth writing about at the moment so you get a novel’s worth of words. Overall I like what the deck is bringing to the table and the general design of it as a product. FFTCG releases are so few and far between that having starter decks get spruced up every now and then is appreciated for sure. Maybe your locals have plans to do a theme deck tournament given that players can customise the decks to their liking? Let me know what your plans are for this deck in general in the comments as well as any additions if you’ve noticed any broken combos or neat synergies I might have missed. Until next time, remember to Stay Cool!