Just to preface, I wasn’t sure if I should write or post this and I’m still not. The last thing I want to do is add more negativity to the noise or sway anyone’s opinion. I don’t know if what I have to say about the current state of things adds anything that hasn’t already been said or hasn’t been stressed enough already, but I have a lot of thoughts about the topic that I wanted to talk about.
We’re lacking in communication from the game designers and organisers
In my opinion, this is the biggest issue right now. Most of what people take issue with can be addressed in any number of ways, most people are clamoring for bans and I don’t blame them. In the interest of creating a more interesting, diverse and healthy game state, this seems like the obvious solution. People can argue until they’re blue in the face on the semantics of how things can change for the better, but that doesn’t change the fact that we simply have no idea if anything will change.
No one is telling us “We’re testing things and adding new cards to help combat this”, “We’re keeping an eye on things and are working on solutions” or “There will be changes when the competitive season starts worldwide”. We don’t know if anything is going to change because no one is telling us it could or will and this leaves us feeling very frustrated and concerned.
We care a lot about this game
For me personally, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. FFTCG has enriched my life in amazing ways. I’ve built great, lasting friendships that go well beyond the game that brought us together. From local play groups, our competitive circuit, online communities and at the risk of bragging, I’ve also been one of the lucky few that has had the opportunity to see the world thanks to FFTCG and I’ve maintained friendships from the world stage that helped me a lot during lockdown. I’ve had a whole lot of fun at every point all thanks to this humble little card game. Thank you!
We’re afraid to see it go
I don’t know if it will any time soon and I think we can weather this storm for the most part, but if the game stays stagnant as it has been thanks to Sterne, Sophie and Macherie. I’m afraid to say I can’t be sure that it won’t. I’ve already heard talk of people quitting and playgroups stopping during Opus XIV, if the status quo stays the same, I’m afraid it will continue on a downward trend.
We are tired and frustrated
Everyone has just weathered a global pandemic, a lot of us have run short of patience. FFTCG is a healthy, social outlet a lot of us enjoy. Most of us haven’t had that as we once did and for a lot of us still, things haven’t returned to normal. For the competitively minded players, there hasn’t been a lot of drive to play, because understandably it’s almost impossible to manage large scale competitive events in the wake of a global pandemic.
Everyone has been playing decks with Sophie in it since it was released, it was inevitable that it would become a core part of the meta and what is likely the best deck, because the card itself is an inevitable threat which has no equal that absolutely will end the game before anything else short of damage 7 which is a difficult task when presented with threats every single turn, much like Rikku and Dadaluma did before them, Sophie asks a question that is difficult to continuously answer. We’re simply tired of it dominating the metagame.
Furthermore when every single other card, including the new mechanic Crystals, costs Crystal Points via backups or by discarding from hand, it feels incredibly unfair that Sterne and Macherie break the rules by not only reducing the CP cost of other cards (which is a valuable enough effect), but by countering cards and plays that are paid for with CP, by spending 0 of their own CP. Sterne and Macherie are not only difficult to answer themselves, with their own in-built protection, but they also protect anything else you play, making any kind of comeback potential slim.
I’m a big fan of proactive game design and balancing by additions rather than taking things away, and I had hoped that Opus XV would introduce healthy counterplay for these cards, but it hasn’t introduced suitable counterplay for these cards that both seemingly break the rules and are difficult to answer. This is a large part of why everyone is upset by the current state of things and Opus XV.
Concerns with banning cards
It’s entirely possible that if these cards do go away, a new greedy deck will rise and take their place, or the next best aggro deck will dominate the metagame. The next biggest offender seems like Bismarck. The thing is though, we don’t get to know what that looks like and explore the ways we can combat the next best thing because the majority of our deck building cost right now is shoehorned into ways to combat Sterne and Sophie.
On the whole I think the sentiment is that people just want more than 5 turns to be able to combat the strong decks. Most of all I think people are just asking for a new situation. They want the opportunity to not be fighting an uphill battle from the first turn. They want to feel like they’re allowed to play a backup on turn one without being punished, and in fairness that’s what we’ve been taught FFTCG is until recently.
I really do think aggressive strategies are a healthy check and balance in this game and I don’t think that targeting it with bans everytime it’s competitive is a healthy approach. For the majority of FFTCGs lifespan, aggro hasn’t been able to exist because backups were too powerful and one EXburst would ruin your game in an instant. However it feels like it has quickly become far too efficient and resilient, that unless we’re on the perfect cards at the perfect times, we’re at a deficit. There’s an inbetween for aggro that we missed along the way to where we are now. I think that something like an Al-Cid deck, or a viking deck without Sterne is in that healthy middle ground but I could be wrong on this. Unfortunately I don’t actually get to find out since the big offenders are that much better.
On underdeveloped metagames
One thing that has come up a lot during discussions in these topics is that due to Covid, lockdowns and a lack of competitive events. It’s entirely possible that the metagame hasn’t developed and thrived like it normally would, that the answers are there and that people just haven’t figured it out yet. During the Haunted Hotel community run tournament in NA, Chocobos come out of nowhere to take the event much to everyone’s surprise. Another example is that the Doga deck as we know it now, didn’t surface until the end of Opus XIII and barely made waves despite being possible the entire set.
I do think that not only now, but in general when there’s a lull in competitive events, there is a lot of metagaming left undeveloped and unexplored. It has also been difficult for a lot of people these last few sets because of the global pandemic. I know at least myself without competitive events I default to just playing what I like to play rather than pushing the metagame. That isn’t to say that people aren’t out there putting in the work and trying to figure out the metagame and ways to combat it, that absolutely is still happening from multiple groups of people in every region. But I do want to highlight that it’s possible the players have missed some things.
I’m always excited for a new set, so much of it looks exciting to play, but so much of it feels like wasted potential that I won’t be able to enjoy if I’m ever facing off against Sterne, Sophie and Macherie right now because they simply can’t compete and if I’m being honest; that hurts.
Like Thaumaturge, Gesper, Dadaluma and Rikku before them. Sterne, Sophie and Macherie have not only limited design space, they’ve limited creativity and the possibility of fun and interesting games. While I am a competitive player at heart, I’m not saying this as a competitive player, if it were a competitive season I would roll the dice, accept fate however it plays out and call it a day. I’m ok with that, but not everyone is and I don’t think they should be expected to be either.
I’m speaking here as a fan of the game that finds it fun, challenging and engaging. I also think that every player should be able to explore, try new things and get excited. But it has become difficult to do that, when the game is over on turn 3 because my opponent just has triple my available resources and a card that will end the game inevitably simply because I’m not playing, haven’t drawn or don’t have access to the same cards.