So it happened, somehow: I qualified for Worlds at my second major event!

Baby Steps

I started playing in Opus 3/4, but things didn’t really kick off for me until I went to my first regional in Opus 5 and scored myself a Nats invite and 1st round byes for the Grand Opens. It was at that point I started to get hungry for competition, as I just had an absolute blast. I spent a lot of time grinding on OCTGN throughout Opus 5 and during Opus 6, mostly playing Scions. It took me a while to learn the rules, figure out how to play well and longer still to find the holes and distaste the variance I found in Scions.

A lot of people know me well for Scions, but it’s a deck I dropped as a serious contender pretty early in the set, after my first Major Event: the Pulse Cup in Melbourne. The Meta was shifting to a very value-oriented Water and/or Ice game which Scions, if on the worse side of variance, can’t adequately deal with. With a slew of Leila around and a larger focus on Turbo Discard in attempts to counteract it, Scions were just finding themselves gradually pushed down the ladder. RIP Vicekings, we hardly knew ye (We’ll see you in o7 I’m sure). So I started to explore my options.

Scions Vs TD is one of the most unfavorable matchups I know to exist in all honesty, and I’ve tested it pretty extensively. Hell, I think my winrate versus randoms is positive, but when you boil it down and remove the player skill variable, a good player that understands scions on turbo leaves you playing essentially a 9-12 card deck, just by virtue of never being given the space to setup when your entire goal is to setup. You can of course mitigate some of the matchup with an EX focus, but that comes at a cost to your other matchups and most certainly isn’t reliable.

But enough about Scions, that’s not what I played for the invite to Worlds, even if it was a big part of what got me there. Scrubbing out of Pulse Cup and how I learned from it is a topic for another day! I will say this though, I hit the regional circuit despite already qualifying after scrubbing out, because my OCTGN game was much better than how I was performing at tables and it made a huge difference moving forward.

Arriving at the Gaia Cup

So I was out of my element at Pulse Cup, which was at one of my locals. On the other hand driving 10 hours to Sydney with 5 people in a crammed car to attend the Gaia Cup was something else entirely.

It was a great road trip with fairly recent FFTCG friends on the whole and we all got to know each other a fair bit better over the trip. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have good company!

Our Airbnb was a nice modern little place, although I did miss a double bed, everything was great once the drive was over. Had some interstate friends over for playtesting the night before the event, just a really great time in general.

After a good nights rest, we all made our way to the venue. Had a fun little meet and greet with Kageyama. Got the chance to hang out with some more interstate friends and met some really awesome people over the weekend. Everyone was really nice and welcoming and the venue was great too.

Kageyama and friends were there for Gunslinger and while I didn’t get much of a chance to participate and was only packing competitive decks, it looked like a lot of fun.

I’ve heard horror stories about other TCGs but on the whole FFTCG seems to foster a really great and welcoming community, which I’m really grateful for.

Choosing a deck and the reasons for it

Wind/Water has always been a comfort pick, my plan B. I’d tested 30 odd different archetypes leading up to the event, but in the final week my options were a variant on Hikonyan’s list (Only a few cards different to what Nathan took to the event), Mono Water Fusoya, Earth/Wind, Earth/Lightning (based on a list Sam Prime had shown me) and a box with like 120 water/lightning cards I’d dubbed Leila Knights which was a deck I’d been working on for a while and had been having fun with during the set. If I was going to throw something together last minute and I was really tempted to, this would’ve been the deck. Board flood, Ramza and CoD.

Wind/Water has been one of my pet favorites since the day I started playing, probably a year or so ago now. the FFX starter deck was my favorite and I’ve always found a lot of comfort in it due to the sheer value it can put out.

The list I ran was originally a Fusoya deck, but after finding a couple of holes and shaking the deck up I added Nidhogg and more Rangers to the list fairly close to the event. It seemed like a good call against the expected field. Earth/Wind, Lightning and Wind/Water I knew to be fairly popular in Sydney. I wasn’t expecting much TD and so I didn’t respect it much, but I did my due diligence on the matchup and landed on a 50/50ish matchup and decided that was fine, I could eat a decent chunk of that variance with a bye and the rest of it was up to me.

JFBs article didn’t recommend taking WiWa for a win, Nathan and Jared were two of my best testing partners and they both warned me against it and I tended to agree with all of them.

Why did I pick it? Because it was comfortable, it was reliable and it was the deck I had the most practice on, the one I had put the most work into. All of the other decks I mentioned had holes in them that I didn’t like. They didn’t have the kind of consistent flow that I like and I just didn’t have time to get the reps in with all of them to come to a final decision.

I didn’t break the mold and that’s fine; WiWa has seen popularity and success in many forms. My deck was a culmination of testing most of those many forms over the last few sets and meta targeting led me to my final list, it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it was very much my own and I’m happy with how it performed.

Some notes on choices in the deck

I’ll skip over most of the obvious stuff in the archetype, because I expect the core is well known by most and I’m already a bit long-winded before getting into the bulk of it. Just some points on meta targeting and general notes.

I favored backup consistency and CoD extensions above all else. I was running 15x2cp backups and 2xBrahne, this also targeted everyone favoring Hec3 on Earth/X lists and is a big reason why I avoided cards like Maria in this list for the day.

In testing Fusoya on this list and mono water, I found Hec3 to be rather problematic unless you’re hoarding spares and I wanted to minimize that kind of position.

As for the star of the show, Ranger put in great work. Although I didn’t meet a lot of Lightning, having access to a ceiling of 6 of 8k rangers did a lot of heavy lifting in the matchups it could, especially against Earth/Wind.

One of the matchups I know I hindered in dropping Fusoya was monsters, fortunately for me and unfortunately for Vince Scanlan, we didn’t meet in the Semis due to him catching a grinder Earth/Wind matchup vs Bryan.

Shout out to JFB and his article covering his run with Wind/Water. I was already dipping in and out on 3 Valefor, but his article outlined best-use cases for the card and really helped me maximize it’s potential, it stuck from there.

As for what I’d change in the list? It depends how far you want to change it. I would absolutely try to find room for a third Y’shtola, the protection and comfort she provided throughout the tournament, in a high pressure situation is something I always missed when I didn’t draw her.

If you’re looking for more room, the Lenna+Knight package can go and ranger can cut to 2 no problem, but both are still really solid. I particularly like what Mattiske did with his Wind/Water list for nationals.

Gaia Cup – Day 1

Bo1 timed swiss, 6 rounds with top 8 cut. I’m writing this a month after the event and didn’t take a great deal of notes, so please forgive my feeble memory.

Round 1 – Bye

Round 2 – Earth/Wind

Being the early rounds, we were both a little bit rusty, a few mistakes back and forth. Ultimately, my opponent had his blinders on trying to remove Ranger with Chaos Walker, so much so that he missed that he needed to remove Y’shtola to play Totto

Round 3 – Mono Water

If memory serves I curved out to 4 or 5 backups fairly fast and managed to get some good Famfrits in while my opponent was struggling to find backups.

Round 4 – Mono Lighning splash Earth (Joshua Twindley, Top 4)

Joshua played a great game of H Lulu control! 2 of my rangers were RFG by two different Tottos within the first 10 or so turns, so there went my recursion. He was really good about creating windows to sneak damage in with Illua and he had a great turn where I’d lost track of the Illua count. Josh snuck 2 damage in off of Al-Cid into Illua and Illua S break for 2 damage, killing my Leila and Viking. This put me to the ever so uncomfortable 6th point of damage. I’m not sure about how I recovered, but I’m pretty sure it involved a lot of Paine and Lenna. Managed to break through on my last turn with 1 card in deck. It was my 3rd Ranger!

Round 5 – Mono Water

We both built walls and I was waiting for the inevitable Cag combo that I didn’t have the answer for, but it never came. A lot of back and forth throughout and it was the first game I was close to time. I managed to turn the corner and start putting pressure on via CoD around the last 3rd of our decks.

Round 6 – Earth/Water (Nathan Cross, 2nd Place)

There’s not a lot to say about this match in all honesty. Nathan played a great game while I was being backup greedy. I was holding Valefor for a while, drew one off chump blocking Viking, Nathan presented 3 of 8k forwards to pressure. I drew for turn and got the 3rd Valefor. 5 backups, play Ranger+Valefor, play Y’shtola+Valefor, Valefor. Sorry Dadaluma, you have no power here. Sometimes you just get that 1/100 setup and it’s a shocking way to beat a mate for sure, but we were both 5-0 in swiss and someone had to win I guess.

Gaia Cup – Day 2

Top 8 cut, Bo3 untimed. Top seed chooses play/draw for G1.

Round 1 Vs Jaesn Black (Earth/Water Standard Units) 2-0

After asking around to get an idea of pairings etc. I found out Jaesn, my first round opponent, was on earth/water standard units and I had nightmares about getting bodied by 15k Pugilists. I know the biggest thing in my deck is Nidhogg or Knight at 9k on 5 backups. This was a list I was not expecting at all, and it was pretty damn awesome.

Game 1, I opened a disgusting Yuna Rikku Arc curve and quickly found myself at 5 backups. In a lot of cases this is enough to win most matchups, but Jaesn’s list packs quite a lot of unsuspecting value through recursion. It was a real grinder and he was doing it off 3/4 backups for most of the game compared to my 5. One thing I had overlooked in my panic was how potent Diabolos is against O6 Warrior of Light and it was a big part of what got me over the line.

Game 2, knowing that he could play the long game with me, I thought I’d take my chances putting on early pressure, knowing that if I didn’t win this match we would go to a 3rd game grinder with me on the play advantage. Started out pressuring off 2, then eventually 3 backups, drawing lots of Diabolos and Famfrit, trading up with Valefor and such, and the plan was working. Then, once I’d gotten 5/6 damage in, I found out the sick tech he’d been bodying people with in swiss: 2cp Dark Knight wall! Had to transition to a backup game at that point and go wide so I could party attack, but it was damn resilient and it took a lot of work to get there.

Semi Finals Vs Bryan Tsui (Earth/Wind) 2-1

I was well prepared for one aspect of this matchup: Dadaluma. I knew how to drive that game home. Brian correctly had other plans in Zidane, Wol, and Famfrit blockers to pressure me off of going for full value. There was some awkward Diabolos chicken, where in one case I come out ahead, and in another completely outplayed myself because I wasn’t thinking straight under the pressure.

Finals Vs Nathan “I live in top cut” Cross (Earth/Water) 2-1

We practiced together, we traveled together and he topped every AU/NZ major event. He’s a great guy and even though on stream it wasn’t very high pressure, the stakes were really high. That’s what makes the win for me so bittersweet, I wanted Nathan to win just as much as I wanted to. I think we both knew, despite not having tested the matchup, that it would be really high rolly and have really big swings, because that’s what both decks are intending on. I had some of the best draw luck I’d seen all tournament, and well game 3… Let’s not talk about game 3.

When you play people you know and you learn some of their play nuances, the games get very interesting. There’s lots of bluffing, over commitment to prevent expected counter plays and lots of stack chicken. I never thought a 1 of copy of White Mage would warp our play patterns as much as it did. These are all things Nathan is looking to write about here on the Crystarium in the future so I wont go into too much depth, but definitely keep an eye out because he has some great ideas on the horizon. Fortunately the games were recorded, so you can watch at your leisure!

There’s so many people to thank!

GG Melbourne Crew, it all started here for me. While I might not see many of you as much these days, I’m looking forward to getting locals firing back up strong in the next set!

NLG Dandenong Crew, always a blast, love playing silly things with you guys, keep smashing me with mono fire aggro until it hurts!

Road trippin fam, I couldn’t have done it without you guys, being able to take my mind off day 2 and have some fun with you guys was the one thing I really needed that weekend and I had an absolute blast!

Discord Fam, in particular Yoh Ceeza – Head Judge of Scotland. I wouldn’t know the first thing about a seemingly simple ruling like Al-Cid;┬áNow I feel like I could judge events. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and putting up with my dumbass questions. Also Jared Wallace, for being a great sounding board and a wall for me to run into when testing. I couldn’t have done it without either of your contributions.

Everyone else that I’ve spoken to over the last few months about the game through Facebook. In particular Christopher Mattiske and Samsonite Prime have been great support!

In the meantime, the Crystarium will keep us busy. So many exciting things on the horizon and a lot of great players have some articles coming down the pipeline. The reception has far exceeded my expectations already and I couldn’t be happier!

As for what happens next, I only hope I can do everyone proud. With Opus 7 on the horizon there’s going to be so much to test with a very short amount of time. Time to get creative and put on a good show!