Opus XI is finally upon us, after what seemed to be a never-ending 3-deck format from Opus X. If you’re like me, and you’re spending your Covid-19 lockdown watching literally everybody you know receive their copies of FFVII Remake early; you’re probably beginning to get a little bit bored of anticipating seeing your shipment status for your physical copy change. What better time to take a look at the new FFVII cards we got in Opus XI, and find out if the category is ascending into its 7th Heaven, or whether it will be relegated to the Midgar Slums? (I‘m aware that 7th Heaven is in the Midgar Slums, don’t @ me)
In this article I won’t be looking at the starter cards from the Opus XI dual starter deck – we’ve had those for a while and there’s plenty of opinions on those available elsewhere already.
So right out the gates with the first VII card of the set (numerically), we’re greeted with the obviously ridiculous cost-power combination of 1CP for 8k power. Firstly, he’s objectively the best card you can pick up for 1CP off of Opus X’s Xande entry ability (at time of writing), as he doesn’t have the crippling drawback last set’s Naji has, and he doesn’t railroad you into playing category IX like 1CP Vivi does. His end phase auto-ability is an interesting one, as 5k burn is not irrelevant, and your opponent can’t activate abilities or summons to respond to it. Of course, this leaves him inherently unreliable for combo burn strategies, as it’s not unthinkable that you can set up a burn with some main phase plays and find your Zack removed when you pass priority to your opponent and attempt to go to the end phase, meaning that your setup could end up being for nothing.
Zack’s trigger is mandatory, which will feel like a curse more often than it feels like a blessing. If your opponent has a forward you can choose with Zack, and you have cards in your hand, you will have to choose that forward and you will lose a card in the end phase, even if the forward doesn’t die. The other side of this though, if your opponent doesn’t have any forwards because you’ve been removing them, he’s a 1CP 8k with no drawback (you can also avoid his drawbacks by choosing your opponent’s Illua or having his effect cancelled by Feolthanos!). Cool card, I’ve picked up a foil playset just in case FFVII lends itself to an ultra low-curve playstyle at some point.
It’s really nice to see Ice get a forward that can grab other forwards reliably (and have EX!), without being linked to the dreaded “reveal the top 5 cards of your deck” mechanic like Quistis. If you’re running this Kadaj over his Dark counterpart, you’re probably running him with 5-6 targets, so ideally he’ll always hit, even if you’re getting him on EX. If we treat Kadaj as a 2CP 6k, he doesn’t have an awful statline, especially as he gets us the same effects as Opus IV’s Celes when we play him onto the field.
The biggest fault with this card is unfortunately the name clash, especially as there is not an S on either of the Kadaj cards that allows us to bleed off extra copies – if either card had an S, they’d probably be far too playable, so it’s probably for the best. I’ve seen Kadaj crop up in a few aggro lists, but I think I prefer the Dark version for lists that just want to do 7 damage ASAP. I’ve been finding this guy okay in Mono Ice, especially if you’re getting bored of playing FFVI cards, and alongside Yazoo and Loz he can make your opponent’s early game really awkward, freezing their backups and stopping them from playing on curve efficiently.
Yazoo having an entry and an exit effect feels pretty good on a 2CP with a standard 5k power. Yazoo can be used to dull any character in play when he enters, as well as freeze it if the previously-mentioned Kadaj is in play. This can help Ice get past stuff it’s historically had trouble with like Gigas, or simply dull backups to stop your opponent paying for summons in your turn effectively. At 2CP for 5k, you’re not going to be too broken up if he’s blocked and killed, especially as if he takes out a blocker by dulling and freezing them, he can allow your more dangerous forwards like Locke or Genesis to get through. The fact that this card got some support in the Remnant micro-archetype this set is really nice too, as he’s searchable and can be buffed by our next card, Loz. We’ve also got some synergies with Cloud of Darkness here, putting Yazoo into the Break Zone will allow you to dull and freeze a forward that can then be selected for Cloud of Darkness’ entry effect.
Loz is probably the least exciting of the group, being a buffer to his other two Remnant counterparts. Yazoo becomes a legitimate attacker at 7k power, and it puts Kadaj up to a respectable 8k. You can also go totally overkill, and put Dark Kadaj up to 11k, but at that point power becomes mostly meaningless, especially as Kadaj can buff himself by another 2k if needed. We’ve got the Cloud of Darkness synergy here, but it allows us to make the opponent discard instead of dulling and freezing, so it’s perhaps not as desirable in certain situations. Most of the time Loz will be able to swing unopposed, or be able to stop your opponent from blocking unless they’ve played out their full hand and aren’t afraid of a Cid Aulstyne punish. I’d be interested to see if the Remnants as a set make a bit of a splash in the meta, as with there only ever being 3 of them they can’t really sprawl out to a full deck (unless FFVII Remake changes anything and introduces more of them to the storyline?).
I’ve been excited for this one since it was revealed. She’s costed in a way that feels spiteful on behalf of the designers, with her costing 4CP the majority of the times you’re putting her down onto the field, but because her actual cost is 5CP she doesn’t receive haste from Zangan, which is just… mean. 2k power and Brave to your entire board is nothing to turn your nose up at in FFVII-focused decks, though! Opus VIII Barret will be swinging unopposed, as will Red XIII, with the latter able to stay up as an effective First Strike blocker. I really like the Damage 3 ability too, as it means we can go to 3 damage while setting up (which is in no way past the point of no return), and it makes plays like Opus VIII Barret much safer, with your opponent no longer able to remove him for free with Diabolos or opportunistic break-based EX bursts you still see from time to time. She’ll also render your FFVII forwards immune to the new Sephiroth’s enter-the-field break, and with how popular he’s looking to be in the wider community, that’s almost definitely relevant.
The first effect is surprisingly relevant as well – I’ve had it come in clutch to allow me to push for game when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. We’ve needed really good extra targets for Zangan for a while now, and I certainly think this is it. She can also crop up in a few decks where you wouldn’t otherwise see her, providing you can keep Cloud in play, but personally I wouldn’t recommend it and see the colour fix effect as a nice bonus for Earth/X VII builds. Combine this card with Opus VIII’s Aerith for frankly obnoxious fields that will have your opponent dusting off their Famfrits and Veritas of the Darks.
I don’t like this card, at all. Opus VIII Barret has been consistently excellent since launch, and the starter Barret from this set can set up some incredibly efficient removal for VII-themed decks. This card has some cheesy combos with Opus X Aerith, but it’s a combo that’s set around 2 cards with action abilities and no inherent protection, or enter the field effects. Sure, he’ll cost 3 with Jessie down, but I wouldn’t expect this card to stick to the field for long as your opponent likely won’t want to risk getting hit by the devastating Ungarmax (if you can pull it off). By all means, feel free to build something weird with this and Opus X Aerith, but be prepared to run into that one random guy that’s still running Opus II’s Emperor as if it’s some bleeding-edge meta tech. On my hierarchy of cards called Barret, this card is probably second from bottom. Maybe if Mono Earth VII becomes a viable choice we could see this guy crop up from time to time?
My verdict on this card is still out – a 9k Haste 2CP sounds like it should be awesome on paper, but of course she has some pretty heavy caveats in place. Considering that in a normal competitive game if you have 4 forwards down you’re either winning, or about to get Shantotto’d, the more reasonable case for use of this card is in a deck focused around Rufus and his Turks. If the card didn’t have the limit of Member of the Turks forwards, I’d be a lot warmer towards it, but if you want to run Elena, you’re basically locked into playing the new Reno and Rude forwards – and Rufus’ strength prior to Opus X has been being a good backup searcher. Elena perhaps becomes stronger when there are more Turks – we still probably have a Cissnei and Tseng coming at the very least, and a whole host more if Hobby Japan acknowledges the existence of Before Crisis. I can certainly see this cropping up in a Golbez or a swarm-based deck though, so there’s definitely fringe cases for its use right now. Elena being an Aranea target is a definite plus, and can really help you build toward that 4 forward requirement. Much like their presence in VII itself, the Turks feel mostly like filler content rather than a legitimate threat – this card might be one to watch depending on how the Turks archetype evolves.
Rude, when backed up by his colleagues, can go to a respectable 10k First Strike, which beats virtually everything in the game in straight combat. I’d say he’s probably better than backup Rude, who was only ever really used to avoid name clash with the Reno backup and still get nice hits off of Rufus’ enter-the-field effect or his EX burst. As with Elena, I’d watch to see how the Turks develop in the future, especially as there’s assumedly a new Rufus coming in the near future (which I’m genuinely surprised we didn’t get this set with the amount of times his card name is mentioned).
Reno is virtually identical to Rude, with the added benefit of being more of an attacker, with surprise Haste to close out games when needed. In some kind of Glauca/Turks Mono Lightning deck, it’s not unthinkable you could play Glauca for 2CP, Reno for 2CP, and then Elena for 1CP and swing for 2 damage, solely off of a 5 backup setup. With three Turks now available as forwards, and Rufus to search them all, perhaps the archetype will play better than it reads? Lightning already has some solid backup development plans through cards like Louisoix (and Duke Goltanna if you really need it), so it is possible that the deck can function well enough without Rufus needing to go into the older versions of Reno and Rude. There’s a LOT of conditional Haste available in Lightning these days, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Turks turn up in some kind of aggressive Lightning build.
Full disclosure here: Cloud’s my favourite card in Opus XI by quite a long way. He’s an absolute Swiss-Army Knife of a card, and is playable in almost every situation. He can go into whatever forward or backup you need at the time – most commonly I find myself going for Jessie, Zangan, or Opus X Zack, depending on how my opening hand is looking. As a neutral play mid-game, you can play him onto the field and search out Light Aerith to threaten to replace him if your opponent goes to the effort of removing him. At a base 4CP cost, most people playing any kind of FFVII variant are going to be playing him for 3CP under Jessie’s effect, which puts him to an effective 1CP 7k statline while allowing two of our Card Name Tifas to get their reduction too. On top of this, we tack on a 3CP unconditional break, and we have an absolute monster of a card. Sure, you’ll mill 7 cards to RFG if you use the effect, but you’re probably ending the game a lot sooner if you’re using it intelligently, and you’re almost definitely warping your opponent’s choices on what they put onto the field, even if you don’t realise it.
Prior to this card feeling released, FFVII Fire/Earth has always felt a little bit clunky with a high percentage of 4CP cards, especially on the backline. Now, a turn 1 Cloud can really help the deck get set up and search key cards like Jessie early, which is obviously when they will actually do the most. It also allows the deck to bust through troublesome cards like Y’shtola and Aerith, and allows you to target key threats like Yuri and Locke without having to worry about drawing into the correct removal to deal with them. If you’re using this card sensibly, you will find in some matchups you just play Cloud into Opus VIII Tifa, drop a Red XIII and win while your opponent tries to stabilize.
On top of all this, he has a Damage 5 ability, which I absolutely don’t forget in 100% of my games!!! While it’s not a game changer of a Damage 5 ability, the extra 2k power can absolutely help you win the grind game when needed – the only thing to be wary of at that point is Sephiroth (or worse, Octaslash).
Cloud will also let you prop up FFVII decks that otherwise you weren’t able to effectively. Do you want to run Turks? Go for it, this Cloud will give you a tonne of extra stability as well as excellent spot removal. Fancy running Ice Remnants with 7CP Sephiroth + Genesis? Cloud has your back. Want to run Earth/Wind FFVII but have felt like the deck lacks a playable Cloud? This card will fit right in. I saw this card get quite a bit of heat because it was revealed after Sephiroth, but trust me, it plays infinitely better than it reads and I can see it being a firm 3-of in my VII deck for quite some time.
I also want lockdown to be over so I can get a third Full Art, thanks.
This brings us on to the final FFVII card of the set, the absolute beast that is Sephiroth. This card got a lot of hype around it when it was released. A lot of people were really, really excited for it (myself included).
However… in reality I’ve found the starter deck Kadaj to be preferable in almost every situation. In a lot of games this card feels a lot more restrictive than Nidhogg unless you’ve really come out the gates swinging and bashed your opponent to 4 as quickly as humanly possible. Running multiples of this is even brickier than running normal Light or Dark cards which can already feel terrible, and personally I’m not a fan of self-damaging yourself to 4 to play this guy unless you’re setting up to Octaslash their board away. When playing I always consider 4 damage to be the ‘tipping point’ where you can randomly just die to a cheeky Sheol or other assorted Haste stuff. It’s worth noting as well that you cannot bypass his damage restrictions, even with cards like Star Sibyl or Emperor Gestahl.
In his defense, the rest of his text is incredibly powerful, and effects this good do need a leash on them to stop the card from just being the obvious choice in a lot of situations. I’d really like to do a good build-around on this card, using cards like Rinoa to maximise the value you can get from it, but I’m in no rush to do so. 10k for 4 is a fantastic body, and the enter-the-field effect is extremely powerful, versatile and abusable, but the limitations are a bit too much for me. Octaslash requiring both players to be on 5 sounds like it will be coincidentally effective rather than something to aim for, as I’m sure a lot of players if they see even the slightest hint of this card will be very conscious of what damage both players are on at all times. That being said, if you do meet its conditions, Octaslash is probably the most over-the-top ‘I Win’ button we’ve seen in the game just yet (outside of the obvious Paradise and Giga-Graviton).
Definitely expect to see this card in the meta, and make sure you are aware what damage you’re on (and what damage you’re dealing) if you think your opponent is running this. I’m a big fan of this card being Dark though, as it means that decks that previously haven’t had access to straight breaks or backup destruction now have it if they really feel like they need it. Also, this Sephiroth has a unique job compared to all his other versions, so I wonder if there’s something planned for that in the future, or if it’s trying to limit him from interacting with other cards? Time will tell.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts on all the new FFVII cards! I guess I’ll go back to patiently waiting for the Remake now, and dodging spoilers like Don Corneo dodges salads. My main surprise this set was I expected it to be way more focused on FFVII, and I at least expected some backups or monsters for the category. I can’t complain too much though – I don’t think there’s any expressly unplayable cards that we got this set, and I really hope some of the other games get this kind of treatment in future sets.
This was my first full article since moving over from Midgar.blog to the Crystarium. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and of course, thanks to the rest of the team for having me here.
I hope you’re having fun with the new set, and looking forward to Final Fantasy VII Remake, provided you’re not one of the lucky ones enjoying it already!
Take it easy,
We’re really grateful to have James joining us on the Crystarium, and with him he has brought a few of his previous articles from Midgar.blog that line up with what we’re doing here. Some of the card references might be a little dated in terms of the metagame they were written in, but otherwise they hold up with time, I just wanted to take a moment to introduce them for your continued reading!