Hello gamers! I haven’t posted here in a while or really anywhere with my time being stretched very thin as of late, but after the UK Materia Cup in Cardiff this past weekend I was compelled to write about the deck I used. I did not make top cut, and didn’t come particularly close to doing so, but I still believe in the deck a lot and I very much think it’s worth talking about it. Given the idea was born from the minds of decorated TFE members (see Nado’s Nuances for stellar content) it makes sense to remind people that these lads are dope and it’s good to be a part of their small yet very successful community.
Naturally I was testing Wind decks in the free time that I did have, including the Wind/Ice Relm I had success with in the early format. Nothing felt 100%. Even with Yuffie, Mono Wind was going to be hit or miss vs aggro and the new tools for Soiree turned an autowin into a very tricky, grindy matchup. I always want to play Wind because it just suits me, but there is a time and a place for everything.
By the time I turned up for a somewhat impromptu visit to California I had expectations of playing Mono Water, a high monster count version that was going to look mostly like this. The deck was solid, not often losing, but man does it get dull pretty quickly. The only thing that keeps it exciting (at least to me, a fairly boring player) is the consistency and the card draw. You’re never frustrated playing it, you just wish it had more pizazz.
Enter Chaos Ark. I was playing Wind/Ice a couple of weeks prior, and Chaos Ark had dumpstered me on OCTGN something like 5-0 in the hands of Viridian. I assumed it was a meme deck. A bit of fun in the hands of a player who had already qualified and was looking for a different kind of enjoyment in the following events. Maybe it started that way, but a fair amount of good ideas do. After that beating, I started taking it seriously and had it in the back of my mind. When it was confirmed a couple of people intended to take it to the Kansas City Materia Cup, I decided to give the deck a go. It was outstanding, to be perfectly honest. I was so impressed that I said to myself by the end of that evening I was 90% on it for the Cardiff Cup.
The theory is simple. There’s a lot of 3+ element decks since Warrior of Light came into being, including the metagame staple that is Soiree. This already makes Chaos a good card, but Ark is what makes this a deck. We’re also at a strange time where decks that have an easier time killing Chaos are either already weak to it (Soiree), or just not popular (Mono Wind). Don’t have to worry about 0CP Alexanders flying about if no one is actually playing with them. Against most of the field, Chaos is 5CP or less (even vs FF13, due to their board often consisting of Fire/Lightning/Light). Paired with Ark, you’ve got a devastating combo where one of the two halves should already be good on its own. If you have Unei on board, an active Eiko, or just the CP to play a Garnet, you can recycle that same Ark and cast it again during your opponent’s turn. Given that most forwards have Enter the Field abilities, it is likely you can set up something of a soft loop where they can neither keep forwards on the board or cards in their hand while you slowly chip away at their life total.
In an ideal world, you cast Chaos against a board of two forwards, hold priority to Ark the one you don’t want, eviscerate their hand, then force them to give you the one you do want. While it sounds like a fair amount of setup, the makeup of the deck makes it quite straightforward. Even against aggro, your combo is back-breaking. If FF13 opens Vanille/Hope, the most common turn 1 the deck looks for, it leaves them with 2 cards in hand, usually including a Light card. Chaos costs 7, so you can immediately cast him for 4 discards, then stack the Ark, leaving your opponent with nothing, you with 2 forwards and an active Chaos action, and a card in hand. Is this super likely? No, but that’s why we have Hecatoncheir, Shantotto, and my singular own addition of Famfrit. I ended up with a 70%+ win rate vs FF13, so it’s pretty tragic I didn’t play vs any of the many in the room during the actual tournament.
What are the deck’s primary weaknesses? Mono decks, naturally. Chaos Ark is still reasonable at 9CP but also very expensive. I didn’t expect anyone to play Mono Fire/Samurais so that worry was gone, Mono Wind seemed unpopular, so that left me with Mono Water. It’s a bad matchup to put it lightly. Their attackers are cheap, Monsters difficult to interact with, and if they figure out what your ultimate goal is then they’ll just leave one of more Blue Wyrms hanging out to hand you when you play Chaos, which drop dead at the end of the turn.
Against Mono Water we rely on the Control Players’ Ol’ Faithful: Deck out. We briefly tried Mind Flayer to expedite the process, but it’s irrelevant as they should have a lower deck count regardless. The problem was dealing with the Echidna, Blue Wyrms, and Tonberries. The answer came in Famfrit (and the addition of Yuna, which hadn’t needed the spot before). Eiko can dump it having been searched from Rydia, and it switches your gameplan to cast/warp Garnet as much as possible and simply ignore dealing them damage. What little time we did test with it, the Mono Water player had to be very meticulous to avoid Famfrit taking the wind from their sails. Don’t get me wrong, the deck still isn’t favoured, but it went from a 0% matchup to something like 30%, while also giving us another decent answer to aggro (and Scale Toad).
As for Mono Wind, and to a lesser extent Ice/Wind, the matchup is improved hugely by the addition of 3CP Hecatoncheir, which would otherwise make Althea your bane as it effectively ‘negates’ Ark. Both of these decks tend to play only 2-3 unique backups that cost less than 3CP, and will struggle to function without them until you can just afford to cast Chaos anyway, even if it costs you 9CP. Just keep an eye on Zidane as deck count will quickly become their focus.
I finished 5-2 at the Materia Cup, but my losses came too early in Round 3 and Round 5 for my tiebreakers to carry me into Top 16. It was disappointing mostly because it would have made a great stream experience in the top cut to see Chaos Ark actually happen, and the deck was both very original and genuinely good that I was motivated to see it perform. My first loss was to Mono Water, where I opened the ideal hand to set up the Famfrit line, but got caught off by an unexpected Kadaj and had to break my Eiko early. Getting stuck with two Chaos in hand made me switch gameplan to a damage race that relied on me not swinging into Leviathans. I hit two Lev 6 on the turn I swung for 3 damage, having had the opportunity to Famfrit away Tros and Kadaj on the previous turn even at the cost of two of my own forwards. In hindsight it was an avoidable error and an unnecessary risk. What ultimately killed me was Round 5 against Soiree, the dream matchup, where his turn 1 Thordan was quickly met by me drawing my 2nd and 3rd Ark for turn, and then drawing Chaos off a Merlwyb. Six Dark Cards is brave regardless of it being necessary for the deck to function, but I had hoped I would experience that at a less crucial time.
And that’s the question I’m trying to answer. Even if the deck is good, is it worth the risk of a clogged hand in Best of One swiss? Ultimately, I do believe there were more consistent choices for the event, but that wouldn’t stop me from running it back. The deck is cool and creative. I don’t think I ended up with the perfect 50, but it was close enough. Try it out at locals and regardless of record I doubt you’ll regret it. If you have the gonads to take it to a Store Championship or Materia Cup, good luck to you! Until next time, remember to Stay Cool!