It’s been about six months since my first All-Star draft over at fftcg-cube-draft.com. For anyone who doesn’t know, All-Star draft is an FFTCG limited format taking select singleton copies of cards from all Opuses to make a 500 card ‘cube’. Each player is given 5 packs of 12 cards randomised from the pool, you pick one and pass the rest around the table of players and end up with a 60 card pool of which at least 40 are required to make a deck. The key difference between Opus draft is that while you might have had an Opus 10 draft deck with a playset or more of Black Tortoise L’Cie Gilgamesh and Enkidu Uruk, in this format you will only ever have one copy of each card. Also, you could end up with one of your packs being entirely legends, in theory.
In the six months since, I’ve been cubing a lot, sometimes every day, and sometimes 3 times a day!! (I’m not addicted, I’m just in lockdown until April). I’ve been doing it for a number of reasons that I want to outline in this article. Hopefully this piece can motivate you to join in or form your own cube draft groups. I also feel that limited experience still holds a lot of value in constructed. It’s also just, you know, fun. You don’t believe me? Keep reading, nerd.
First and foremost, as I’ve barely left my house in the past twelve months, cube has provided me a good social outlet to keep up with some of the friends I’ve made prior to covid times, and also build new relationships with those who have joined these groups since. I know we’re (hopefully) nearing the end of the pandemic (whatever that means), but regardless of that, the tools that have made cubing so easy aren’t going anywhere, and keep receiving updates to improve the experience. Also, I feel like cube can create a more level playing field for those less-experienced or less confident in constructed. One of my stream viewers joined in on one of the drafts and didn’t seem confident, but ended up going 2-1 in his first All-Star and had a good time. If you’re able to build your own physical cube with your local store or playgroup for when it’s safe to do so I would recommend it. It makes for a refreshing distraction from constructed, and provides a great teaching tool for the less experienced. It’s a good way to learn about the card pool, discover which elements synergise in which ways, and it’s free so there’s no fear of investing in something you might not like or doesn’t last very long. Also, while communication is supposed to be prohibited in competitive draft, like at Crystal Cups, there is some proper good banter to be had on the discord calls that I’ve no doubt would be the same if I were chilling with the same people around a table at a local games store. The amount of times you hear ‘wow I can’t believe I got passed that’, and ‘holy cow this pack is busted’ makes for an amusing experience.
Secondly, as mentioned above there is a competitive draft that takes place primarily at Crystal Cups. All-Star Draft was made an official part of the qualification process for Day 2 of Crystal Cups in order to test players in multiple fields, to further narrow down the potential World Championship competitors into the brightest, best, and luckiest. Naturally, anyone who has had months or even just a couple of weeks of All-Star experience prior to the event is going to have a much better chance of placing higher at the event. While that doesn’t matter right now it will matter in the future. I am predicting quite the surge of players joining the Discord Cube groups to practice once the first Crystal Cups of next season are announced.
Next, I want to reference constructed, and the difficulty players of all levels have trying to make that perfect 50-card deck. Draft is a minimum 40 card deck, and can go as high as all 60 cards you’ve drafted (although that will never make sense to do). Sometimes you’ll hear someone at the table thrilled at having reached 40 playables, and other times you’ll need to give someone else an extra 10 minutes to cut down from their 55 playables. Now some people might tell you to always play 40 cards and just make the hard cuts. I am a bit more lenient, usually allowing myself to go to 42 depending on the makeup of the deck, but generally as close as you can get to 40 is ideal. I’ve noticed a lot of people splashing a third colour to fit in some busted card they hate drafted, or throwing that card in because they have Chaos/Cosmos in their deck. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it looks and feels very bad. The same applies in constructed. Sometimes you want to make something work too much that the entire deck ends up falling flat. This tends to be a lot more relevant in draft, because there are usually only three rounds, and the smallest deckbuilding errors can cost you a match and that highly prestigious 3-0. Think of the amount of times you’ve played an extra light or dark card in your constructed deck because it seems too good not to play, or you go for some mad tech that if you pull it off it’s insane, but if you don’t it’s just deadweight at the worst times. We’ve all been there, I sure have.
Perhaps you don’t even notice it in constructed, but when you’re playing with a 47 card deck in draft you can’t *not* notice it. Sometimes it’s fine to do once or twice if only to test the power level of certain cards, but the faster you’re able to get into that mindset of pretending you never drafted that card in the first place, the better. Same goes for the backup/forward/summon ratios. The ‘mathematically correct’ number of backups in 50 cards is 16-17, so with a few sums we can figure out that 13-14 is a decent place to be in draft. Naturally if you’ve got a more aggressive deck you might want fewer backups, and if you have a lot of reactive backups like Shantotto, then maybe more. This might seem obvious, but don’t forget that you can never guarantee having a specific ratio by the end of the draft. Sometimes the elements you go for get contested by other people on the table and you end up with 10 backups of one element and 5 of another. Sometimes you get tunnel vision by seeing so many forwards you think are too good to miss that you don’t notice you only have 7 backups until the last pack. Likewise, you’re so worried about not having backups that you skip out on decent forwards and end up with a low number, or just an average frontline filled with black belts and other leftovers. It’s a very meticulous process, but it makes you appreciate how fine of an art deckbuilding can be. While I don’t want to make it sound like a bad thing, if you exclusively netdeck in constructed then it’ll be very hard to proceed through the draft portion of events without prior experience. Likewise, you might not appreciate a forward that is a lot better (to the point of being top tier) in draft but is almost unplayable in constructed. A good example that comes to mind for me is Gentiana. I’ve picked up on stuff like that pretty often in the post-draft review, to which the most often response is ‘well it sucks in constructed’.
The website we use also now allows users to submit custom drafts, which greatly expands and improves the experience. While the All-Star is still a solid place to start, you might find irritation at being passed Unei every draft, or losing games to a topdecked Nael out of nowhere. The community members who are big advocates for Cube have already made a number of custom lists, some of which remove a lot of the power cards like Nael and the infamous Kadaj, while others go full throttle, only increasing the power level with cards like Braska’s Final Aeon and Veritas of the Dark. So yeah, something for everyone, and a world of possibility that can only grow as more cards become available.
As for if you want to set up online cubing for yourself, it’s pretty easy, and can be done with at least six players (fewer is possible but not recommended). FFTCG-cube-draft.com provides a browser based client that is easy to use. You draft the packs with your group, create your deck, and then export it into OCTGN without ever leaving the client (if you’re an Untap user you have to manually put it into FFdecks for now). From there you play three rounds which always ends with one undefeated player in an eight man tournament. Play for prizes, play for fun, do whatever makes you happy. Many members of my regular group are still chasing that illustrious 3-0 to this day! Also for what it’s worth, Drafting makes for an excellent way to keep your FFTCG mind muscles active during down periods towards the end of an Opus, or whenever you just want to play but don’t fancy jamming games versus Neo Exdeath and Tenzen. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. Stay cool, nerds!
If you’re interested in diving deeper into All-Star draft, one of the Crystarium’s limited enthusiasts Jeff Curran has also done a review of every card in the cube which can be found here, Luminous Puma bias included.
Also, my outback buddy Nado just posted his second entry into Nado’s Nuances, which covers bluffing. I highly recommend giving it a look for both constructed and draft, as bluffing in draft, or being too afraid to bluff, can cost you important points of damage that are so much more important when you only get 6 life points and one of every card. Check it out here, and then badger him to push out part 3 ASAP.
Editor’s Note: We’re very honored to have Alex join us for an article, as his content was an inspiration for what we’ve built here at the Crystarium. If you would like to read more from Alex, I would encourage you to find his page Exdeath the Wizard on Facebook, or alternatively follow mrcoolstwitch on Twitch. You can view a VOD of one of his past drafts here.