Hey all, Jared Wallace (better known by my handle name eureka) here with the English version of an article I originally wrote for the Japanese community introducing the Earth/Wind splash Ice “Storm” deck that I played for a couple of the Shop Masters events here. Anyone interested can find the original article here.
What is “Storm”?
Opus 12 introduced a lot of very powerful cards for various archetypes, but as an avid control player, Krile and Locke were the two that immediately caught my eye. At the risk of getting a little off-topic, the decks that I consider to be part of the ‘control’ playstyle relative to FFTCG are simply ones that try to generate CP advantage a little at a time for as long as the game goes on, and eventually win via that advantage. Following that sort of deckbuilding and these two new cards I decided to pursue FF’s version of MTG’s Storm mechanic which is the number of cards that have been cast previously in the turn (hence the deck name) as a deck theme, and have ended up with the following lists.
Here in the first round I kept a hand of Cu Chaspel Sibyl and colors to play them. I played Cu Chaspel on 1, then Sibyl into Semih on 2, and then didn’t draw another backup for 6 turns until the turn before I died. The rest of the games went more or less according to plan and I finished as the weakest 3-1 (4th or 5th place technically I think). Kakka won this event on Sams.
Kamata Shop Masters（Dec 5th）3-1
Round 1 – Earth/Wind Ned Aggro – First – Win
Round 2 – Samurai – Second – Win
Round 3 – Earth/Wind Ned Aggro – Second – Loss
Round 4 – Samurai – First – Win
This loss was against Raccho, who is basically my kryptonite. I mulliganed a Shantotto only hand into no Backups, he went first, played a turn 1 O12 Y’shtola and hit me in the face, to which my best reply was discard 2 for Citra, which then died to a Raubahn the next turn. I actually think the Ned Aggro matchup is fairly good for me, but I didn’t draw any Backups until I was on 5 damage and there’s just no chance of winning that with this deck. I easily beat Samurais in R4 and ended as 3rd while Raccho lost in finals to aaaa and ended as 2nd.
The 3 card difference between these lists is simply because there was much less Bartz/Boko and aggressive Lightning Water at the Yako Shop Masters than I was expecting. This meant I could get a little more greedy and not play the full set of Baralai and Pandemonium (AOE) that would be necessary if aggressive go-wide strategies were more prevalent in the meta. I ended up dropping 1 Baralai, 1 Pandemonium, and (corresponding with element changes) 1 Cu Chaspel for 1 Y’shtola, 1 Chocobo, and 1 extra Tyro.
Krile is a true Summon recycling beast that has separated herself from other Summon recycles like Porom, Citra, and Terra by being able to generate value consistently when left on the board. She’s particularly great with cheap summons, the most prominent of which is Asura, comboing from either side with Asura retrieving Krile and Krile retrieving Asura. This builds up your number of casts immediately while generating a 0 CP value threat, building counters on Chocolatte, and recycling other 2 CP Forwards such as Ashe or Shadow Lord. Truly a fantastic control card and one of the big reasons to go for Earth/Wind with Ice rather than 2-Color.
Locke fits in nicely with the storm mechanic, and will generally always take back more CP from the opponent than what it cost to play him (usually 2 or 4 CP), which means if you have the Backups to support the casts before him and can generate Ice he is always going to be a great option. The number of times you can play Locke generates directly to how much advantage you’re gaining, and heading into the end game playing Locke every turn with Althea and Chocobo is going to create CP value and boardstates that no other deck in the game can reliably match.
Opus 12 has brought a lot of early aggro and all-in potential with combos like Bartz and Boko, Magissa with Blaze, and Neo Exdeath with anything, which has led to a serious increase in the value of an early Shantotto. It mostly goes without saying that we don’t need to play a full 3 copies given that we can search her out with Star Sibyl, but I think that 2 copies is a much better fit than the 1 copy that has been common for the last few Opuses. Of course she also helps us get access to Ice for Locke and Baralai.
These three cards are really the only “key cards” the deck has, in my opinion. I’ll be going over the other card choices, and spending a little more time on the ones that we haven’t seen a lot of in Earth/Wind before.
The other Opus 12 L that keeps with the storm mechanic trend. She helps a lot in the midgame plan of accumulating advantage very slowly; this serves in contrast to some of the other Earth/Wind Locke strategies (ala Alex Hancox’s list, which is a different flavor than my own and also fantastic; you can check it out here) that max out on Ashe and try to get her rolling as early as possible. Obviously very well supported by Asura and Krile.
I tried various stuff in the Light/Dark slot including Neo Exdeath, Veritas of the Dark, and Kadaj, but ultimately decided that Citra’s Summon retrieval harmonized with the deck too well to pass up. Citra is just a great combo extender and acts as the 4th and 5th copies of Krile, working particularly well with Cu Sith and Asura while having EX to boot. To be perfectly honest, I still think that there is a good argument for Veritas of the Dark in this list, either as a 1/1 split with Citra or by himself just given how difficult it is for us to deal with Opus 5 Y’Shtola.
Definitely the most controversial card in this list. For the Japanese meta, looking only at the most popular decks in Samurai, various Earth/Wind (including Ned aggro), and half-baked Baralai Ghido brews, Baralai is really not worth the slots and accommodations made for him. He’s not particularly great in the Earth/Wind ‘mirrors’ (regardless of if they are control or not), is just okay against Samurais, and is really only very useful against Bartz/Boko, Water/Lightning, and similar decks that are putting out a lot of weenies with relatively little board interaction. Of course, against those decks, he’s absolutely fantastic and single handedly wins games by repeatedly sweeping and locking out party synergies etc, and it’s for that reason I find it hard to cut him to fewer than 2 copies. Going full devil’s advocate, it’s really the case that a lot of your cards are just kind of “buffed” when Baralai is on the field, incidentally letting you trade up, clean up weenies, or get an extra Dull/Freeze out of Locke combos and Zidane exchanges.
There is definitely a world in which you don’t play Baralai in this kind of deck, and I have tried the deck with and without him in various configurations. Ultimately I ended up not playing against literally any great matchups for Baralai, and it could be said that I made a mistake in slotting Baralai by doing so. However, there were Bartz/Boko decks at the events, and I could have just as easily ended up facing them, particularly in early rounds before Samurais wipe them out. In the end I think it mostly comes down to how good you think your matchups are outside of those decks, and if you can win despite paying “the Baralai tax” by including him in your deck. I felt particularly good about my ability to beat Samurais and Ned regardless of including Baralai, and opted to keep two going into Kamata.
Alexander feels like one of Earth/Winds keys to the current meta, alongside the second copy of Shantotto. Obviously it’s great at dealing with Neo Exdeath, and also works against the turn 1 Tenzen at an even trade when they have a Samurai in the bin and at a CP advantage when they don’t. It also can single handedly blowout Magissa Blaze, which is pretty huge for an otherwise playable Summon. It’s useful in the seldom-played mirror for killing Tyro/Totto and against Earth/Wind in general for mostly the same targets, alongside Star Sibyl threatening to cheat in Fina or 6 cost Shantotto (which has become more popular here as an answer for Samurais, despite being awful against Famfrit). In previous sets this card kind of left something to be desired and tended to be cut for being a little mediocre, but has gotten much sweeter with time and how fast the meta has been recently.
It wouldn’t be wholly truthful to call Althea a key card, but the games in which you have access to Althea/Totto and Althea/Locke are just different from those that you don’t. She helps build up the cast count, lets you recycle your most powerful CIP effects, and is insanely strong as protection in the control mirrors. Truly a fantastic addition to Earth/Wind and Norschtalen’s repertoire. Once you hit endgame with Althea and Locke the game is basically locked out for the opponent, since this combo alone will basically negate the opponent’s draws (at the cost of 2 of your cards assuming they’re total blanks and can’t be played), meaning you get to more or less take extra turns.
Chocolatte offers something relatively unique in a single Backup that lets you accumulate and ‘hold’ card advantage over time. This deck tends to leave up Backups to hold reactive Summons or play on the backfoot with Krile (given how advantageous it can be to do so) and Chocolatte gives us something to do with our floating CP. Obviously great with Krile Asura combos that would otherwise waste 1 CP and the like.
Standard Earth recursion Summon that is comboing with Krile and Citra. Forwards are pretty slim in this list and the ones that we do run are pretty potent when toolboxes out correctly with Cu Sith. Helps buffer the EX count as well.
Earth/Wind staple. I always want to play 3 and never have the room. Call it greed, call it a mistake, probably both.
Great synergy in keeping up the cast count and assisting Baralai, 0 CP 8000 from midgame on.
Obviously useful for erasing auto abilities and Summons, but I actually slotted this just because I wanted to have a good sticky Forward to block with, especially against Cyan. There’s a clear argument for the new Y’shtola, it’s all personal preference in my opinion.
In my opinion a weaker, summon version of Althea. Basically only ever used for blowing out opposing targeted effects (especially Fusoya and Diabolos) and for re-using Locke. Sometimes you get a bonus value out of Zidane, same as Althea. There’s not a lot of reason for 2 of these in the current build.
Great card for mirrors, Marche/Ritz, and general degenerate decks. The Summon cancel has become more potent recently, particularly against Amaterasu. Everyone has their own opinion on whether to play this card (at one copy) or not, I usually opt to when I don’t have other forms of Break Zone removal.
Backups searching Backups is great, and you can bring Ice when you need to. If your Baralai count is at 2 you can cut to 1 Ice Backup; if your Baralai count goes down to 0 you can cut to 0 Ice Backups, but be sure to bump up Tyro as you do. For Kamata I opted to 2 Baralai and cut the Cu Chaspel leaving Yuke, but I actually think it would have been better in reverse given how much early aggression was around and I would have actually benefited from the Dull/Freeze.
I didn’t think there was a lot to talk about with this engine, but Alex’s list leaving them behind makes me want to talk about why I think it’s still good. I simply value Backup searching Backup synergies and I think Semih -> Sibyl is one of the easiest ways to get a free advantage in the Earth/Wind archetype. Add in the importance of early Totto and the free buff to our EX count and there’s no way I would trade this out for other Backups. As a side note, Ajido-Marujido is noticeably absent despite the very high Summons count, given how unreliable it is (especially with Kadaj existing) and how much we dislike getting stuck on lots of Earth Backups. It kind of feels like a relic of the past since it’s so easy to retrieve those Summons with Krile and Citra later anyways.
A color-fixing Backup that brings the Forward we want to combo out to our hand, and buffs the EX count even further. I won’t spend much time talking about how good Tyro is; if you’ve played in Opus 11 at all you should already know.
To put it as concisely as possible, this deck is aiming to ① defend itself from opposing pushes (which the meta is mostly composed of right now) while slowly developing its economy and ② make small CP advantages until it can ③ reliably execute its end game combos, which no other deck can keep up in value against.
The early game mostly consists of your attempting to do ①, and maybe affording to do ② if and when you can (or must). As such, in the mulligan you are mostly looking for Backups, particularly those which search other Backups. I usually keep any playable hand with Norschtalen, and am especially happy if I have another Backup in addition. For Star Sibyl, I will keep a hand with her if I have a 2 CP (or equivalent) Backup to curve into her on turn 2. I will also usually keep hands with two 2 CP equivalent Backups, though I am a little less happy about it. Other nice cards to see in your early hands are Zidane, Alexander, and situationally, Shantotto and Citra. The latter two are very nice at defending against hard, early aggression. Even against very early advantage pushes, such as turn 1 and 2 Tenzen, it is often times better for you to continue your Backup progression to at least 3 (hopefully threatening Shantotto) instead of dumping your hand to answer, since the value that you are keeping them from having is being taken away from you in the form of hand size and options anyways.
It is a little hard to pinpoint when you enter the midgame, but generally it is when you have 4 or 5 Backups out and are able to (for the most part) cleanly answer a lot of what had been threatening you in the early game (ie Tenzen, Neo Exdeath, Bartz etc) via Diabolos, Shantotto, or other reactive plays. The style of play that I adopt in the midgame is perhaps one of the reasons that looking at the deck and even playing with it a few times doesn’t really lead you to understand why I chose the cards I did or how I had any level of success with it, and it’s very unintuitive for FF players who play mostly normal decks and don’t have experience in other TCGs such as MTG; it is very much warped to my playstyle in that I do a whole lot of nothing.
Now of course, I’m not actually doing nothing, I’m doing ②. I tend to do a whole lot of draw passing while I hold up a Krile active or Summon in hand, or sometimes I just wait for them to play more stuff to get a more valuable Totto/Locke/Diabolos. Even when I could make an aggressive push most of the time I am comfortable just playing a single disposable Forward that gets me a tiny bit of value like Krile into Cu Sith or Citra into retrieving any Summon and passing afterwards, accumulating value slowly via Chocolatte, utility, Krile, and Locke/Totto options. The reason this works (for me at least) is because when you hit an endgame with all the options in this deck next to nothing can challenge your value, so you just keep answering anything they put out and making small advances until you hit a critical mass.
When you hit a critical mass of cards and lines of play, you’ve arrived at the endgame and are ready to start ③, comboing out and creating a board presence to close out the game. Up until this point you probably played some disposable Forwards and made some small combos to draw extra cards, clear boards, or fulfill cast requirements for a Ashe or preliminary Lockes, but now your advantage should be large enough that you can switch mindsets from gaining little advantage to using some of that advantage to create a boardstate that can close out the game. Usually the first turn of this stage of the game starts with Krile/Citra Asura combos, vomiting some Forwards out onto the board (especially cheap ones like Iris, Ashe, Shadow Lord etc) and using Locke to keep down opposing characters (backups when possible) and cards in hand. Over the next few turns you should be able to comfortably put in 3-4 damage a turn and recycle Locke CIP with Althea, Chocobo, and the like. The game usually ends within 3 or maybe 4 turns of switching gears, and opposing bursts aren’t nearly enough for an opponent to overcome the CP deficit.
Backup Bricking is Game Ending
Because our Ice splash is made up completely of multicolor cards (and the 1-2 complimentary Backups), we don’t really ever have color problems outside of minor annoyances; but just not drawing enough Backups quickly enough can lead to your gameplan falling apart. The Krile combo doesn’t function on fewer than 4 Backups, Locke doesn’t get cheaper when you can’t twiddle, and you’re just stuck with a bunch of inefficient plays.
Can’t Kill Opus 5 Y’shtola
I talked about this a bit in the Citra explanation, but this deck really struggles at killing Opus 5 Y’shtola. This would be fine if it was just an annoying Forward, but we answer annoying Forwards with cards like Diabolos and Shantotto, and Y’shtola blows those out pretty hard. This card is really why I want Veritas. I think there is also merit to trying Hill Gigas to prevent Y’shtola from using her active against the previously stated Totto and Diabolos in the short-mid term.
Break Zone Dependent
This deck isn’t as Break Zone dependent as some of my other pet decks (like Citra/Valefor and Summoners), but Mist Dragon and unchecked Kadaj can cause some long term problems in the deck’s longevity. It helps that both of those cards are considerably more difficult to slot and seen less frequently in the current meta than they were in the previous one.
While not as important to the online and western metagame, given how good the matchup is against Samurai I am fairly happy with this deck and think the archetype will continue to see success and adaptation as long as cards like Kadaj, Mist Dragon, and Y’shtola aren’t everywhere in the meta. As an Earth/Wind Summon-based deck, there is a lot that still has yet to be explored and I’m sure that no matter what the meta looks like this archetype could exist in some form, but not necessarily as successful or flexible as it is right now. I look forward to seeing how the greater meta forms (assuming it can) in the coming months and where Storm is taken in the future. As always, you have any questions or comments about the deck feel free to tag me in the global Discord or tweet me @eurekaminus. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!