Gaia Cup Report – Bryan Tsui Semi-Finalist
Hello, I’m Bryan, I’m here today to deliver my report about my Gaia Cup experience.I began playing FFTCG earlier this year, 2018, around the start of June.
I initially began with (what else) a Scions deck, and focused initially on finding Thancred and grabbing myself Al-Cids. In my first locals over at Good Games Burwood, with an unchanged starter deck, I went 0-4. I received a pack for my troubles, and bought an additional pack of O5. The first pack had an Eald’narche (woo!) which I traded away for a Dadaluma and some Heroes. Julian (later to come in 2nd at the Australian nats), mentioned a Wind monster by the name of Cactuar that worked well with Dadaluma. The second pack had a Star Sibyl.
At the time, I was playing Lightning/Earth, and played Scions with an Al-Cid package for a while. I enjoy doing research and reading, and had done my homework, reading a Scion Write-up which turned out to be written by a certain Rob Meadows (gee, I wonder who that guy is, maybe he’ll be important later). Over time, I swapped out of Scions for mono Earth. Mono earth lasted me about two weeks when I decided to take that Star Sibyl I had had since day 1, and put it together with a bunch of other cards to build Dadaluma.
Throughout my deckbuilding, I had generally been hamstrung by lack of cards, while the community here is great and more than willing to make trades, some cards are just that hard to find – Being the first days of O6, Zidane L had eluded me, while I never got my playset of Diabolos and Cecil O5. I aimed to make up for this by focusing and practicing on a single strong deck that I could count on against almost any opposition.
Scion’s tendency to depend on Alisaie made them seem unreliable. As for Legends, I only just got my Genesis’ and Amons a few days ago as part of the O7 starter pack; I presently still lack Clouds of Darkness (I still have just 1), no Edeas, or Steiner, and many more.
Despite this, it wasn’t all bad news, one Legend I did have a playset of was Wol, and I was already firmly into Earth with my Dadaluma being shoehorned into my old Scion deck. I was able to trade for the two Y’shtolas I needed, already had two Zidanes from my O6 box and two Diabolos.
The sorting hat of card availability had cried “Dada ping”. And so it was.
Not having the luxury of choice spares you from the curse of choice.
Little Challenger – The Road to Gaia
The first regionals where I went with an aim to get to the Nationals was at Liverpool. I finished second against Elijah (who wound up 3rd at the Nationals) playing the much-feared Turbo Discard. He’s an amazingly innovative TD player and a serious contender in basically any tournament he’s in; in a heartbreaking ending with a Shiva pushing home that last point of damage against an earth board of 2 forwards after I refused to set down my Cecil L for no value. Despite this somewhat sour ending, an invaluable lesson was learned – Turbo Discard wasn’t the bogeyman, and Earth-Wind was a way to do it. This first result stung a little, but it showed that things were possible, and I looked forward with great hope to the next.
At my second regionals, I once again made top cut, only to be eliminated in the semi-finals by Richie (p.s. #RichieForWorlds) in the semis after a disastrous opening in game 3 (THREE STAR SIBYLS!). That sucked, but at least it was funny and advanced the Richie for Worlds meme.
My third regionals was the last one before the Gaia cup, and therefore my last chance to secure a round 1 bye there. A friend I made from Perth let me borrow his Diabolos for this third regionals which I used to devastating effect. Nonetheless, after making top cut for the third time in a row … I was once again eliminated in the semifinals, this time by mono lightning. Three close shaves, and three heartbreaking finishes.
Those results were painful, but they were also a vindication of faith, this was a strong deck and I just had to focus on playing it to its fullest. All that was needed were the final few legendary cards.
I spent the week mulling over how to complete this deck, by then I had completed my Cecil set. Four days before the tournament, a Diabolos pull finally gave me my playset, and the day before the tournament, I made a special journey down to Liverpool to find myself my third Zidane.
Without winning a regionals or getting my nationals invite, I was going into the Gaia Cup and would have to do it the hard way. I was a relatively inexperienced player, but I was fortunately on fairly good form. The overall strategy going into the Gaia Cup was simple, just keep doing what I had already been doing. Harder, better, faster, and stronger.
Round 1 – Steven T. Earth/Wind Mirror: 4-5 Loss on deck out
TL; DR Control mirrors are hell.
This is a most unwelcome opening matchup – a player I did not want to run into, handling a deck I did not want to run into. The first because Steven is a friend and an excellent player, the second because he’s also an earth/wind player; it’s one game into the tournament and it’s time for the much-dreaded Dadaluma mirror.
My primary approach with a mirror match is to avoid dropping instant removal bait and instead to utilize resilient and tough forwards, Zidane L and Y’shtola chief amongst them.
Steven utilizes Adelles, which came in for free hits on me and forced removal. PSICOM Enforcers landed for value on both sides, and were replayed by Miner/Minfilia, once again on both sides. He did land a white mage hit after the second one, but by that point the game had been long and drawn out enough that the Dadalumas had mostly been exhausted.
Highlights revolved around the differences between decks, with his use of Adelle and Zidane H against my Moogle and Cecil H. His Zidane H in particular landed in a particularly nasty situation, catching my hand of tricks and destroying any possibility of a surprise.
After a long, drawn out game I finally decked out with 1 card to 0 just as the round ended. A rough start to the day, but I’m glad a player of his grade was able to get onto the scoreboard.
“I would rather be trapped in peak hour Sydney traffic on a hot summer day in a car with broken air conditioning than play a Dadaluma mirror” – Vince Scanlan
Round 2 – WiWa Gullwings 7-4
TL; DR A Harbinger of things to come
My opponent had managed to set up Team Gullwings in my face while I worked to set up my backup line. Wol showed his worth in staving off the opposition while I set up for a Shantotto + Kam off Sibyl play to push through the win. Overall, while this matchup was uncomfortable, it was somewhat made easier by the fact that the standard forward of Dadaping is usually larger than the forward of YRP O6 and the susceptibility of the opposing board to simply being wiped by Totto (which happened for massive value).
Wind-Water is a matchup I’d had been fearing even prior to this tournament; I had anticipated possible issues against (buffed) Rangers a la “Kill Dadaluma” (no, I am not making that up, that is the actual name of the deck). One can only imagine how my Swiss rounds would have gone against an even better player running Rangers…
That’s called foreshadowing!
Round 3 – Christopher Mattiske: Ice/Earth 7-1
TL; DR A man of culture
Christopher Mattiske, a big name with the skills to match and my first true test against a top player.
Mattiske opened with a Devout, while I opened Miner with Semih. We trade Hecatoncheir hits on our respective turn 2s, but the loss of my miner is a bump far less crippling than the loss of his devout.
Things go downhill from there for him. Wol, Y’shtola, Zidane, and the 1996 Chicago Bulls simply form a huge Shantotto-proof wall of forwards that nothing ice has can get through.
He does try to bait my Y’shtola with a second Hecaton onto my Sibyl (a great play – When behind, give your opponent the opportunity to make mistakes) and it took all my discipline to simply accept the loss of value. Totto eventually did land, Y’sh cancelled, and that was it.
I’d like to take this time for a short aside; by the time I had completed writing this full report (far too long), Chris had qualified for worlds by winning the Australian Nationals. One would be hard-pressed to find a more deserving player. I recall some words of wisdom he gave me after the game when I was surprised at the result – just play as you would against anybody else. Everybody knows it, but it’s the sort of advice that really only works when it comes from someone else.
“I wish the name ‘Chris Mattiske’ stopped opponents from opening Semih turn 1, but it doesn’t. Just play the game to your best ability no matter who you’re up against, because anything can happen” – Chris Mattiske
Round 4 – Dawn Warriors 7-3
TL; DR No Dada No Problem
My opponent here played a very unorthodox deck featuring multiple colors and the Dawn Warriors (!) Wol-Zidane-Y’shtola once again showed why Earth/Wind was such a good deck: It performs well even in the absence of Dadaluma since almost all its forwards are excellent. My opponent was playing some kind of multicolor Dawn Warrior deck and seemed to have bricked hard.
My opponent recurred his Emperor with miner in an attempt to Shantotto my board (Y’shtola was preventing any Totto), but a Chaos Walker cleared the way for Y’shtola to successfully cancel for the win.
Round 5 – Scions 7-5
TL; DR When choosing is mandatory, Dadaluma is king
My opponent was in a bit of an awkward position, and ended up tossing a lot of forwards for some reason. By the time Alisaie was down, it was far too late for a set-up Dadaluma. I aimed to get Dadaluma out as soon as practicable (Scion Y’shtola and Yda must choose) against the Scions and together with Wol, was able to push home the win.
Throughout the game, I held a Hecaton 3CP in case Alisaie landed at an inopportune time, but fortunately it was never needed, the game would have been significantly more uncomfortable otherwise.
That win put me at 4-1, placing me firmly in control of my future. A win in round 6 would mathematically guarantee my place in the top 8 and book my place in the nationals.
Round 6 – Jaesn B. (Q-Finalist) Water/Earth Standard 7-6
TL; DR Shadow Lord isn’t just for Turbo
Jaesn’s a Sydney player and an excellent one at that, here I faced off against his signature O6 Warrior of Light with his posse of HUGEilists (Pugilists), Knights, and O1 Earth Dark Knights. Warrior of Light cost 6, and all those standard units cost 2; my deck had 3 Diabolos, and a Shadow Lord.
He bounced my Shadow Lord early in the game with a Leviathan, and must have forgotten about it since many turns later that same Shadow Lord landed for devastating effect against what would have been a very large board (2 Pugilists + some Vikings).
It turns out that what was initially meant as a nice option against TD, Leila Viking and to a lesser extent Scions (for Yda), demonstrated his capability this round. Diabolos was often cast as a free kill by killing the WoL, or as a 2-0 5CP summon with a kill and a reduction.
Hecatoncheir came in for more value again this round, eliminating a Minwu (I elected to stack it on top of Dadaluma pings before they resolved).
With that settled, that put me at 5-1, and fourth place overall following the Swiss rounds.
Night of the 29th/Quarter Finals 30 Sep 2018
QF – Vincent Scanlan
TL; DR You too can beat the national champion if he’s playing open-hand!
The Night Before
The quarter finals were to be played the day after Swiss, this gave me the night to contemplate my next opponent: Vincent Scanlan, the defending national champion. Mattiske’s words from Round 3 came into play here, just play your best and do what must be done fulfil your destiny.
I had learned the night before that Vincent was playing a monster-based deck with Fusoya, Gigas, and Momodi. Leila, Viking, and the usual “kill forwards, leave monsters” set – Valefor, Shantotto, Miounne to bounce Totto, and possibly Cloud of Darkness (which wasn’t in the deck after all). Julian advised, to my concurrence, being more aggressive here, slapping down forwards to prevent him from ever setting up fully.
Off The Board
FFTCG is my first card game, but I had read one article called “Who’s the Beatdown?” from MTG (Despite never having played nor knowing how to play it, I like to read random articles when I have spare time am procrastinating). I had also chanced upon an article regarding tricolor monsters a few months earlier. The good news is that I understood the general principles; the bad news is that I only understood the general principles.
The former article in particular has been a significant influence in the way I play FFTCG. While Earth/Wind is traditionally a control, slow deck, against Vince’s monsters I would have to do something I hadn’t done in this tournament – Team Dadaluma would have to learn to run.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with such a monster deck, here’s a brief summary of my perception of Vince’s battle plan at the time (because I was still trying to wrap my head around this crazy deck)
Get monsters out (Gigas esp.); Fusoya as needed; Totto or Valefor; Swing baby swing.
I eventually decided that my best chance Vince hinged on the appropriate use of one forward in particular: Y’sh. She can’t be Fusoya’d, and would be vital in defending Wol and Zidane from the boardwipes. I had already known that Dadaluma would be much less useful in this matchup. Meanwhile, my one dedicated monster-buster was my Enforcer, he wouldn’t be killing a Gigas or Sahagin, but he would be critical in ensuring that monsters like Tonberries and Adamantoise broke on my terms rather than for full value.
Get Y’shtola on to the board with Wol and/or Zidane and #YOLO to make Fusoya less and less attractive
With that, I went off to get a night’s rest.
The Match – Vincent Scanlan – Water-Earth-Wind Monsters w/Fusoya 3-7, 7-2, 7-6
TL; DR When every forward is sacred, every forward is great, if a forward’s wasted, god gets quite irate
I can’t quite remember the match clearly and it wasn’t recorded, so I’ve tried to recall as much as I could, and I hope I got all the details right.
Game One –Everywhere Hurts Land
This went precisely how you’d expect a national champion against a player with three months of experience to go. I only had a general blurry outline of his deck, while he was well aware of my deck. The long and short of it is that my board simply collapsed under the ridiculous amount of boardwipes he had, with Y’shtola not being able to really stop much. It became very apparent that hoarding my removal would be the key to winning, and that Zidane was churning out quite a bit more value than I had thought he would….
Given the low forward count of Vince’s deck, one would expect Zidane to be fairly weak against it. In reality, I learned that the forwards he did have were critical removal pieces or recovery, Raubahn, Kefka, Gau… I also learned that he seemed to have a much lower amount of spot removal than I expected (he had just one Famfrit, with Valefor (both 5 and 2CP) as his other summons).
3-7, I’m now behind despite having begun the match.
Game Two – The Information Game
HE GOES THROUGH TWELVE CARDS ON TURN ONE. Wow. Merlwyb into Miounne into Merlwyb into… I counted his break zone immediately after out of morbid curiosity. Soon he had a Gigas up, swung… and ate a Chaos Walker on the EX for full value. We later discussed this moment and agreed that it had been a misplay, he very rightly stated given his board, I basically had no chance barring a lucky swing like that. What had been a safe, unopposed Gigas swing has led to the game being blown wide-open.
The real winners this game were the usual Zidane/Wol/Y’shtola group, Zidane L basically had him playing open handed whenever a Gigas wasn’t around, and Y’shtola locked out any possibility of a summon ruining my day. On top of that he was forced to pitch forwards (read: his removal and recovery). Seeing that he was blowing through his deck rapidly (Leila Viking did not help matters), I knew that all I had to do was weather the onslaught and tighten the blockade.
With my Wol and Y’shtola on the board, Vince with about 15 cards left, and myself being uncertain of whether it was safe to push in, I decided to set Minfilia down to recover Zidane H so I could drop him for another hand check. The moment I picked up that Zidane, he scooped immediately.
Even with the win, I did make some mistakes, failing once to account for a miner break for Chaos Walker to get another forward. That mistake was compounded by the fact that miner breaks are something I do all the time with this exact deck against Chaos Walkers. A misplay not born of unfamiliarity, but rather carelessness.
It wasn’t nice, clean, or clinical, but it was a great confidence-boosting win. I felt much better knowing that his deck could be beaten
3-7, 7-2. Series tied at 1-1. All it’d take was a good opening in my next game and I should feel comfortable…..
Game Three – Party Crashers
Two Chaos Walkers as my first two points of damage is a pretty good opening! It was all luck on my side eliminating a Gigas and a Sahagin after he had to pitch his forwards in the face of a Zidane L, but I happily took the opening.
Eventually I managed to get Wol and Y’shtola down to assist with Zidane, and we saw the same pattern of things. His Raubahn stuck with an Adamantoise on deck to kill my Wol, necessitating a cancel from Y’shtola. Not the target he wanted, but still a tempo swing back in his favor until the next one landed.
2CP Valefors nonetheless remained extremely dangerous to my board, allowing a kills on Zidane after a block and stopping my pushes cold multiple times. 5CP Valefors were often his only way at preventing me from winning outright, forcing to redeploy my field multiple times.
After another long, hard, grinding match, it was over as Team Zidane pushed home the win at 6-7. Into the semi finals.
This was a bruising, difficult, match against an extremely skilled opponent who knew exactly what he was doing and was perhaps even more aware of the possibilities of the board state than I was at many times. I knew that, and had to “cheat” as much with Zidane to win where I could: Information.
Vince is possibly one of the strongest players in the world, and it was a true privilege to play against him and even more to beat him. This match was probably the most important I’ve ever played in the game ever, and I look forward to facing a challenge this great again.
After the Game
Vince, like Chris Mattiske, is another awesome guy, absolutely great chap. In our post-game chat, we were both surprised at how dangerous Zidane proved to be in the face of a deck with few forwards. It turns out that when the few forwards are removal (Raubahn and Kefka) and monster recovery (Gau) and perform such important jobs, every forward Zidane does hit or force to dump hurts even worse.
He did comment that he wanted to put more Wol in his deck, something he did at the Nationals to great success.
We played a round of chess after the tournament, which resulted in a long and drawn-out game (again), he was in a somewhat advantageous position of an endgame, with a rook and two pawns for two minor pieces. The only difference is that there is no decking-out in chess, and that every game is a mirror match, and that games can go on and on and on…
“Unlike FFTCG, in chess, no one can hear you scream”
Semi Finals – Wind Water
SF – Rob Meadows Wind/Water Standard Units – 6-7, 7-4, 1-7
TL; DR His Viking beat up my Viking
This match was live on stream, so you can see all the action here, it will give a much better account than I could ever write here.
This matchup was the culmination of my fears following game 2 – forwards which were either expendable (Leila Viking), impossible to ping down (Ranger), or simply massive value (CoD, Nidhogg). This was “Kill Dadaluma”. My strategy here was to simply be bigger with Wol and Zidane as pressure, utilize my cheaper forwards to mitigate the inevitable Famfrits, and utilize Dadaluma where it was possible.
The game involved the use of forwards like Y’shtola on both sides, but with the general theme of his forwards simply getting him much, much more value that I could ever get (how much value can you get by killing a free Paine?).
It was very much a game of summons, and I often found myself in tough situations with my hard-kill summon, Chaos Walker. Diabolos did a significant amount of work for both sides, it’s just a plain fantastic summon.
It was in this match that one of my forwards that has otherwise not received much attention this report deserves its shout out– Moogle. Essentially wind’s version of Viking, a 4CP body that draws on both entry and when put from field into break (not when removed). Rob still got the better end of Famfrits, but the draw really helps take the edge off an otherwise painful summon.
Dadaluma Cactuar is a tiring, exhausting deck to play, and the third match really showed, with me making multiple misplays. Right from the opening (tossing a Moogle to get back with Miner which gave my opponent completely unnecessary information when I was going to play my Semih), to the midgame (too scared to Chaos Walker the Ranger for fear of a “bomb” card landing). The end of the game saw my grabbing Moogle with Sibyl (wild card too spicy) come back to haunt me with a Kam’lanaut + Shadow lord draw in a game where I was already hemorrhaging damage. With that, it was time to bow out, show the camera the draw, have a last laugh, and give the viewers at home one last meme for the gallery
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
(Incidentally I want this song played at my funeral)
Cecil and PSICOM Enforcer (1-108H) and (5-083C)
Two singletons in the deck. PSICOM Enforcer does amazing work in a mirror or against Gesper, Koboldroid Yin, Green dragon, or other assorted monsters. Enforcer’s a card that’s been in my deck from day 1, and when he’s been called upon to do his job, he has always delivered satisfaction.
Cecil receives his spot for being a simple on-curve forward that turns every card in the deck into a pseudo-ex burst that punishes opposing aggression. Cecil L’s also in the deck, so if the opportunity does present itself, he can be used for Cecil L’s Dark (S) ability.
TL; DR Extra Large Thaumaturge
As Moogle is my big Viking, Zidane is my big Thaumaturge.
As Zidane L’s little brother, what Zidane H loses in consistent hand-destroying power he makes up for in speed and versatility. I especially enjoy using Miner to get Zidane back if I’m about to make a big push. I’ve rarely been dissatisfied when playing this thief, if my opponent has a scary hand I learn about it and possibly neuter it; if he has a crap hand, then he has a crap hand and now I know it, bi-winning.
Yshtola’s almost self-explanatory, she dunks on any damage effects, she defends the board, and against basically almost any deck she’s an extremely safe initial play onto an empty board. She gets her two slots, especially useful with Mono Lightning running around in Sydney.
TL; DR Extra Large Viking
My version of Viking. I wasn’t too sure if I wanted a Barbariccia in this slot, but I decided on Moogle for its utility against Turbo Discard, Famfrits, and just being another relatively safe play to establish a board. A good, safe, forward for all seasons.
Dadaluma – (4-085H)
Dadaluma landing in front of a big enemy board with his Cactuar support simply accrues value every turn he is out, trading for at least two opposing forwards, but very often three or more. A single Cactuar turns almost any summon not named Famfrit or Exodus into an 8k ping from Dadaluma.
Another quick tangent for all the new players learning how to play Dadaluma: It is important to be methodical about your pings, you want to ping dada, let it resolve, and have Dadaluma load his 4k onto the stack at your desired target, then let that resolve, then repeat the process. Never ping your Dadaluma twice on a stack, the last thing you want is your opponent to stack some non-damage-dealing summon on top of your pings (e.g. Odin 4, Diabolos), leaving you with one ping for his choosing your Dadaluma. There are exceptions to the rule (e.g. Delita L), of course.
In general, you want to leave your Cactuar open and ping your Dadaluma reactively. The ideal situation is to ping as your opponent as your opponent has played his cards out and you have priority in his Main 2 as his turn comes to an end, just be careful of sneaky responses.
Wol – (5-075L)
TL;DR Wol has words, Wol has good words, some say Wol has the best words.
When Wol is on the field, you will always have a good game. On his own he’s a brave attacker with the option of going over a 9k or stopping an ex burst, with Y’shtola, Dadaluma, Cecil, whatever; in particular, he makes Zidane stupid, he makes an unopposed push really safe by stopping targetable EX bursts, he even eliminates 3k weenies (e.g. Argath, Thauma, Viking, Leila) for free, also supporting damage from Dadaluma, all without breaking his stride.
That sentence about why Wol is great was 78 words long. Wol gets three spaces in the deck, Wol is amazing because he makes everybody around him great.
The only ‘drawback’ is that he does little if played alone onto an empty field and is one of the ‘easiest’ forwards in this deck to remove with a summon, but all too often those key removals have to be held for the next forward on this list….
Zidane – (6-044L)
This card is the nuts, nothing but absolute nuts. Not just “rip a forward out of hand”, swinging with Zidane (thanks, Wol!) wins you the information war every single turn. Zidane coming out early places a ridiculous amount of pressure on your opponent who MUST respond, a turn 2 Zidane is a nightmare to deal with. Ramuh does kill him hard (watch the Cactuar!), but that’s less a flaw of Zidane and more an asset of Ramuh.
Knowing that there’s no combat trick waiting for you, or simply forcing your opponent to perform shenanigans immediately (therefore granting you the ability to stack your summon on his for a blowout), is an asset as strong as his forward-discarding ability. Zidane is a game-winning forward, and gets the full 3 slots, he would be worthy of nothing else.
Shadow Lord (4-148L)
Added to the deck with Turbo Discard in mind, Shadow Lord pulled off some surprising sweeps against Pugilists this tournament, and also Leila-Viking. He even gets brave just because. An all-round good card that helps a team of big guys defeat the small guys.
Cecil – (5-086L)
Cecil is Masked Woman on a 9k body for 2CP more, Dadaluma is a deck that is comfortable taking some damage to activate Cecil. An on-curve forward, a break-on-entry, and a forward you are very comfortable tossing in the early game where you don’t really need him, he’s an EX Burst too! Strong card is strong.
Personally, I prefer a single O3 Delita L (more on this later), but Cecil is simply too good.
If Kam’lanaut sticks against mono decks he will create a huge problems for them, he also finds Chaos or Shadow lord to thin your deck. His primary concerns are Famfrit and Exodus, Vayne, and Zalera (by and large mostly the first two). He’s searchable by Star Sibyl and is also playable by Sibyl, finding him should always be high on your priority list (but grabbing that Moogle 11 for the wild card is often tempting).
Mono lightning in particular (which is especially popular in Sydney) poses problems for the deck, and Kam’lanaut is Earth-Wind’s way to establish a presence and hang on tight, as already stated, watch out for Exodus.
Semih Lafinah – (5-095R); Star Sibyl – (5-091H); Moogle (XI) – (6-058R)
Semih makes Sibyl becomes 3 CP search with a break for up to 5CP of value, and also offers a secondary ping for Dadaluma to utilize if I need it.
Sibyl finds a choice of Semih, Moogle 11, Kam, S. Lord, Totto (10 cards!) and breaks for a big play later in the game.
Moogle 11 is never a dead draw as a backup, is recoverable with Miners, searchable by Sibyl, and 2CP. Amazing backup.
I’m still not sure on whether Sibyl should find Kam or find Moogle 11 first. On one hand Kam is great, on the other, getting the wildcard search or an another early backup is often so tempting (it did come back to bite me this tournament though).
White Mage – (6-047C)
Just a nice little tech card against any Devout, Leila, and the occasional Tama, or whatever tricks.
Masked Woman – (3-076R)
A Cecil on a backup with no need to take damage; great against early aggression and definitely the unsung hero of many games. For every game where Zidane and Wol pushed in for a kill, Masked Woman helped set up a backup line while accruing devastating value, simply a great card overall.
Ajido-Marujido – (6-064H)
Winner of the wackiest name in this deck, Ajido makes tossing early summons a bit more comfortable and helpful. In the nationals, Ajido was dropped for an Aerith L where she served me well.
Minfilia – (6-079L)
Miner on steroids. Minfilia gets back whatever I need to get back faster than Miner does, and she even recovers Cactuars.
Shantotto – (1-107L)
Some people smoke, others drink, others do pot, my choice of vice is having two Shantottos in a deck that only really needs one. Effectively summon #10 and #11, decks only really need one of her due to her being searched by Sibyl. Unfortunately, I’m (somewhat irrationally) scared of losing my security blanket to damage to drop to one.
I did go to 1 for Tama in the nationals.
Asura – (2-049H)
This small, light summon is like the cockatrice of wind. Reactivation for a surprise block, eliminating dull targeting, pulling back a Cactuar, blowing out a Cuchulainn with reactivation of backups, or simply casting it for negative CP. It’s small and versatile, and well worth a spot in every player’s list of candidate summons
Hecatoncheir – (1-117R)
Two backup eliminators which hit for value so often, Minwu, Sibyl, Devout, Alisaie, any power boosters. Hecatoncheir’s been a good, reliable, workhorse summon, it’s a shame that it didn’t work for me in the semi-finals thanks to some really smart deckbuilding by my opponent.
Chaos, Walker of the Wheel – (3-071H)
TL; DR Zidane encourages and forces discard, Chaos walker kills. It’s Cid Aulstyne in wind.
Chaos Walker is my hard-kill summon of choice. It’s a nice EX burst, but the real killer is when it comes following a Zidane (H or L) landing or resolution. Zidane H provides me with the immediate information to make my move, while Zidane L allows a devastating hit upon resolution with the added impact of encouraging my opponent to dump his forwards.
I run three Chaos Walkers because I’m usually able to glean enough information to utilize them safely (also, if a 5 CP lands, it’s often a setup for a Diabolos double kill).
Diabolos – (5-062L)
Most of the time, this is either a free 5CP kill, a free 4CP kill, or a 5CP “kill two”. Great summon is great. Activating all forwards is also a nice option to keep in mind, never write it off.
Cactuar – (4-058C)
One-half of the combo for which the deck is named. I personally find it extremely important to get one Cactuar down as soon as reasonably possible, this is to facilitate comboing off opposing effects which target Dadaluma without damage.
An Odin on Dadaluma is just 4k damage, a single cactuar means that Dadaluma is very often taking something with him. You do run the risk of being Ramuh’d for value, but I feel the tradeoff is worth it if it helps close down any opportunity to safely eliminate the Dada.
Also, one Cactuar is a great enabler to secure Diabolos double kills, or for those who choose to run Barbariccia variants.
Now, I’ll be covering a few of the popular choices which I considered but decided not to utilize. All cards covered here are in order of card number.
Forward Flexible Slots
Vanille – (1-093H)
I had thought of Vanille as a possibility against Turbo (gets value out of 3CP hec vs turbo), and Famfrits, but I eventually decided against her due to my preference for Chaos Walkers (for use with my Zidanes) over a Hecaton package.
I have used both Hecaton 2CP both in the past and at nationals, and it served pretty well. If I ever begin moving back towards Hec 2 and adding a third Hec 3, Vanille is right here on my radar.
By the time I finished writing this (damn I take a long time to write), Alex Hancox won the European Championship utilizing Vanille, so go check his report out too.
Barbariccia – (3-066R)
If she wasn’t below curve and required a modicum of setup, I’d use her so much more. The Archfiend of Wind is a strong tempo play, I used to run one of her and she has always made a strong case for being in my deck.
Delita – (3-088L)
When it comes to big boss forwards that you feel safe playing onto an empty board, Delita L does magnificently, a big 9k body which is uncomfortable to shoot at. He’s a great Sibyl target that establishes a strong presence immediately following a Shantotto play. Only Famfrit eliminates him for value.
I carried a Delita L with me to Nats, where an opponent attempted tried to Bahamut him only to have a Hecaton eliminate Caetuna. Plays like those always feel marvelous. Nonetheless, Cecil exists, and sadly there is little room for him. The art is beautiful and one of my favorite in the game too, maybe next time when I run a Tama with him.
Chocobo – (4-063C) (the one that grants haste) and Chocobo – (1-075C) (the one with haste)
Zidane L with Haste, or a 10k Zidane in a party attack. Those selling points speak for themselves. It sounds really fun, and I want to try it some time.
Adelle – (5-050H)
I pondered over Adelle for a while before this tournament. I ran her, then I didn’t, then I did, then I didn’t. She’s a fun card to use, and a great closer, but seeing her early often felt terrible.
Heretical Knight Garland – (5-073R)
A more limited hecatoncheir plus an 8k brave in a single card. When shopping for cards, HK Garland is a bit like buying from Costco –Buying in bulk for cheap is great value, but only if you are able to consume all the value.
I decided that the 4CP+ limit was a bit too much for me in the end.
Backup Flexible Slots
Archer – (1-088C)
Yup, we’re back to this guy, the cycle is complete. Archer eliminates small annoying 2CP boosters like Ovelia and Arc, but still gets rid of things like Minwu, Fusoya, and the other boosters. It’s funny how we’re coming back to Archer after dropping him in the early days of this deck. Archer’s always on my mind when I think “I need a 2CP breakable wind backup”.
Rikku – (1-089H)
Once again considered with Fusoya in mind, it’d be pretty funny to mill the opposing EX burst away by stacking Rikku onto to a Fusoya activation (put the FU in Fusoya?). Practical? Probably not. Hilarious? Hell yes.
I rate this 7/5. It’s a pretty weird idea, but it might be worth testing, if only for the meme.
Aerith L – (3-050L)
With Fusoya coming back into fashion, carrying an Aerith seems to be more and more worth a consideration. I carried a singleton with me to the nationals where she served well against fire and lightning.
Tama – (4-096H)
7CP to play a 5CP off the break zone essentially makes him a pseudo-free backup. If I ran Delita, I would almost always run Tama since I’m always happy getting a Delita down while developing, while I don’t always need to drop the Cecil. In fact, pulling back Wol or Dadaluma is often just as strong for even more efficient recursion.
I took a Tama with me for nationals where he saw some success.
Cait Sith (XIV) – (6-072C)
I did think about one Cait Sith to help out with any summons, I eventually went with White Mage, but the cat’s a reasonable candidate.
Summon Flexible Slots
Hecatoncheir – (4-093R)
Exactly like Adelle, I liked this, then I didn’t, then I did, then I didn’t. Hecaton is a pretty good summon at just 2CP, and also triggers off another Dadaluma ping, definitely on my list. I carried one to nats and it looks like I might just run them again.
Cockatrice – (5-081C)
The earth Swiss Army Knife summon, you’re rarely sad with this guy. He does almost everything you need to do.
Titan – (6-075R)
An amazing EX burst if you have a forward on field. I did not like Titan for its tendency to get blown out when used proactively, but I’ve been increasingly impressed with how a defensively-utilized Titan can lead to humongous blowouts in the opposite direction, often leading for two or even three-for-one trades.
Moving Forward – The Dadaluma in Opus 7
With this long report having been written in the twilight of O6 and being released at the crack of O7’s dawn, there are a few O7 cards I have in mind for Dadaluma as we move into the new set.
I’m eagerly anticipating the new 2CP costing, 3CP monster busting Ranger (7-048C) for wind, he eliminates monsters and has a nice ping effect on attack. Thief (7-052C) seems like a very cheeky anti-Fusoya pick, but is probably more funny than good for actual use. Alhanalem, Yuri, and Chelinka are all very tempting choices, although Yuri does mean the end of the Kam’lanaut group and Shadow Lord.
Asmodai is another good choice, an unconditional Cecil without the EX burst if paid using only earth CP. Carbuncle (7-066C) with its back attack may lend to a funny turn 1 Carbuncle + Semih + Sibyl board state, but this one meme that will probably be a dream due to lack of deck space more than anything.
Noctis is interesting, a 3CP Cecil that uses himself to hit for 7k, I’m not sold yet, but he’s well on the list of candidates. Kolka is also very, very attractive for reasons that need no elaboration. Krile adds even more things into the earth toolbox. Zaghnal seems very interesting too, as a 2CP 9k, while vulnerable to cost-based tempo (Enforcer, Zell, Ranger, whatever) is also cheap enough that losing it isn’t a huge swing.
On the Summon side, Yojimbo is spicy, 1CP cheaper than titan and 2CP more than Hecaton for a pump + fight effect on an EX burst, this summon sounds like it’ll partner well with Dadaluma, but I want to conduct tests first. Overall, I feel that the Yuri-Chelinka-Alhanalem group could be what changes team Dadaluma, if it does, it’d be a significant shift away from the Sibyl-Kam chain and take Dadaluma out of dark and into light.
Sin is, of course, the space-elephant-whale-hybrid in the room here, a boardwipe that eliminates monsters, this could both be a very strong play against the little green cacti, but could also be utilized by team Dadaluma itself.
Lastly, I have had two (utterly insane) ideas: Tidus 9k and Halicarnassus. Tidus bounces something and can clear my backup line for a replay (masked woman for more value), and Halicarnassus can strip off the protection of enemy forwards for a turn. They’re both playable off Chaos or Sibyl for added craziness.
These are probably both terrible ideas: The deck probably doesn’t have enough ETB to warrant Tidus, and Halicarnassus is probably trying a bit too hard. Nonetheless, this is something I encourage everybody to do to develop new deck ideas – run a backbone to have a stable baseline, then throw in something completely crazy just to discover the interactions.
For now, these are just some loose thoughts that have remained mostly untested and unproven; I’m looking forward to Opus 7 as it officially releases tomorrow (at time of completion of this report), and I hope to see you all around.
Although Nathan and Rob didn’t come for Nationals, Julian would go on to finish runner-up, and Chris would go on to win Nationals with Vince at top 8.
As for my nationals, I had a rather rough time, my first two matches being against mono-lightning and Wind-Water untouchables in the style that Rob played, I also lost to Ice-Water Moogles after a game-swinging blowout, and Monofire(!) after failing to draw Dadaluma or Zidane after over 30 cards(!), I wound up 2-4 at the end of the day, finally marking an end to my competitive season.
This has been a season where I’ve met people, great people, I’ve had a huge amount of fun, and overall have done so much more than I had set out to initially do.
For that, there shall always be reason to smile.
So here we are, over 7000 words later, this took over a month to write. I probably could have written this a bit more concisely and better, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it all the same, thank you very much for reading all this way. I decided to go a bit more in-depth into the deck writeup for the benefit of newer players and because I was lazy by not having to do a separate FFdecks writeup.
If you are one such newer player, I hope you found my write-up informative and have managed to learn something from this now-increasingly-overlength article, and hope you enjoy and keep playing this great game.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors everybody who’s made this possible.
Good Games Burwood – There’s way too many people to name, Good Games Burwood has a very friendly community, so I’d like to give a shoutout to all of them as a collective. This wouldn’t have been possible without everybody there.
Team Discord – Featuring Rob, Nathan, and Vincent, who all made top cut at Gaia too (Vincent with FF7!!!), but which also features a host of other great players, Julian in particular would go on to do amazingly at the Nationals. Jared, and Yoh, the Head Judge of Scotland.
Mithril, Ryan, and Good Games Bella Vista – The two judges for running a silky-smooth event and the organizing team for hosting location for having us for this wonderful event.
Team Square Enix – Kageyama and Co. were absolutely amazing, it was a real treat to have them there. Gunslingers were a true showcase of the variety of decks that can be played. I look forward to seeing everyone again!
Many other people like Chris Mattiske gave me great advice throughout the day itself, thank you too!
Until next time, have a great day, keep playing, and thanks for reading!