How I went about building for worlds

The goal in my personal testing was to identify interactions that are fundamentally unfair in the game and how many of them I could play in 3 deck consistently. My notes for deck testing began with a list looking like this

Unfair packages:

Leila ~20 cards

Potentially unfair:

Emperor Backup + Enablers (probably Snow Backup)
Sephiroth + Aulstyne
Phoenix + Krile
Light Yuna
Noctis 1st effect stacking

Need answers to:

Yuri, Dadaluma, Zemus, Lann

In hindsight, I lost that goal along the way for whatever reason, but if I was to guess it was due to time pressure and indecision. I only ended up taking two of the engines I would consider unfair, also in a lesser form than I probably could.

For instance I took the Leila package without Yuna+Famfrit which wins an absurd amount of games alone. I’m also not convinced Mono Wind is the best FFCC variant we’ve seen yet, but it was the best variant that close to worlds that we could arrive on for the format due to deck conflict.

There was a lot of varied testing and there was a lot of “it feels too fair” being thrown around in the process. We weren’t crowd sourcing as much in Australia as I assume the other regions were and it led to a lot of not-so-competitive testing. Admittedly I was just having fun with the new set in a lot of cases.

One of the blatantly obviously unfair, strong and consistent decks is Earth/Wind and there’s a number of reasons I incorrectly didn’t take it. The mirror match I expected to be common for worlds which is absolute hell and I didn’t like my chances in the mirror vs seasoned Earth/Wind players. It’s a deck I don’t have a lot of practice with and the slot competition with my other options were troubling to top it off. I should have just put in the work with Earth/Wind.

I almost took Mono Wind, Earth/Wind and Water Fusoya. Wind and Earth/Wind is a functional 2/1 split on Y’sh, Diabolos etc but I still wasn’t crazy about the idea of taking sub-optimal lists. I should have practiced this line-up more instead of my weird last minute decision to take mono fire. If I was thinking straight or had more time to prepare, I probably would have. But I was like a deer caught in the headlights leading up to Worlds.

What I took

Nathan Cross’ “Krilkonyan” Earth/Water list

Check out the list on FFdecks!

Prior to opus 7 this was a list Jared Wallace introduced both Nathan and myself to, fresh out of Japan from the one and only Hikonyan, who has historically been a real inventor with really nice toolbox deck lists. With the introduction of extra copies of Krile in opus 7, Nathan and I started trying to find a home for Phoenix + Krile. This seemed like the best home to take advantage of a 1-sided boardwipe that doesn’t have the luxury of Zodiark or Ultima. Nathan is a lot more practiced on this list than I am, but I still feel it was the strongest deck I took.

Best cards

Mono wind FFCC

Check out the list on FFdecks!

This was a list that Jason Zhe, Daniel Jay Belia and I worked on together leading up to the event. It wasn’t really surprising that this was a strong list after the reveal of Yuri and Chelinka, all of us in Melbourne knew that Mono Wind was notorious for floating CP and what better way to utilise that CP other than Yuri, right?

What was surprising after testing is the incredible utility Yuri provides and what the supporting backups offered to the list.

Yuri quickly proved to be the must answer card for the set which impacted the initial meta a great deal, making other must answers, like Zemus or the new Lann a fair bit less appealing since they’re hit by the same stuff.

There was a lot of experimentation done with the build. Senna package. O1 Vaan toolbox. Zu/Leyak/Oracle. Hand stacking for Alhanalem boardwipe etc and if I’m honest the list we took has too many same-named backups for the deck to reliably ramp to 4/5 backups where it wants to be.

Ultimately we landed on value forwards like Zidane H and Moogle alongside Nono to take full advantage of Alhanalem and apply pressure. While also packing a reasonable number of value EX burst. In our testing, Daniel was a force to be reckoned with on this list and I was still adjusting to a backup line up without the convenience of the Senna package.

Best cards

Mono Fire and Confirmation Bias

Check out the list on FFdecks!

This was a late decision and an unrefined idea but one we were trying to figure out for a while. There were rumblings of a Japanese mono fire list on the horizon and evidence to suggest it such as Lann having a demanding price in Japan.

There’s a lot about this list that’s promising. As far as aggressive builds go this has been one of the more resilient I’ve played, I was able to grind through several matches that hit important EX bursts without losing much steam which is frankly unheard of for low backup count aggressive lists and it’s mostly thanks to Light Wol, that lad is a value machine.

The issue is that I preemptively commit myself to the list for a lot of frankly silly reasons. I wanted to rep fire for the boys back home. I wasn’t confident enough going in and I wanted a low-effort, non-turbo deck. I was romanticizing about being the new kid on the block with a crazy break out deck.

These were all terrible ideas to have if I was playing for the win and if I’m honest with myself I really wasn’t, because I didn’t feel worthy. I was going to represent Australia at Worlds against international players I’ve been admiring and net-decking from while I feel like I’m still learning the game. I was also just as equally unnerved by my following Euro trip, my first time abroad and travelling solo.

They might sound like excuses, but they all compound into the main reason I had my blinders on. The ultimate decider for me was how well it was performing under limited testing which was my biggest mistake.

I was seeing the better side of variance in my testing and not only had I not refined the list for consistency, I wasn’t practiced enough on the list to know how to play into the bad side of variance with it.

I locked the list in about 30m prior to submitting lists and was going to grind out hands before the tournament the next day. Unfortunately they were also collecting decks for checking at the same time. Whoops!

Best cards

About the format

I was really confident about 3 deck, and just as excited to play it after learning about it the year prior. I try my best to take a different deck to every locals (often twice a week) and still bring home good results. But there’s a big difference when it comes to the 3 of rule, deck pairing and playing new decks at a world class level where people are bringing well developed staples.

On the other hand, I hadn’t really come to grips with deck ordering until round 4. My initial plan to lead with Fire to try and catch greedy lists out just really wasn’t working and I had to adapt pretty quickly under the pressure.

Testing time constraints

In all honesty I already knew this was an issue, or at least I should have. I misattributed my performance at Pulse Cup down to tilting out, which is also true (and a topic for another day). But I also wasn’t as familiar with the new set or my own decks to perform well for Pulse and neither was I for worlds.

Comfort is Paramount

When I look back at the times I’ve found success and beaten out the competition in Regionals and Majors it’s always been on a list that I’ve spent a lot of time with.

When I take a deck to competition, unlike the lists I took to worlds, these are what I need to check and know:

How comfortable am I?

I want to know how the deck curves out, how many backups it wants to start firing off to put on pressure when it needs to etc.

I should be on autopilot until the match gets complicated.

This will mitigate a lot of the errors that will lead to losses in my games fast when otherwise I shouldn’t be in that position. I want to know most of the fundamental lines of play, where my priorities are etc.

Which are my bad match ups and how do I mitigate them?

This can be a matter of playing the deck entirely differently, or teching it differently and in the case of Worlds, avoiding it where you can.

What are my bad draws and how do I mitigate them?

It’s either an issue in building, or knowing how best to play off low/no backups. Scions are a classic example of a deck that can high-roll/low-roll too often with their named backup stacking causing low-backup openers, but with enough practice you can play around those low-backup opens to a reasonable level.

What I did wrong

I packed too light

I did most of my decision making before our flight and the bulk of our testing / chats the days before the event. This meant I only took 3 decks and 20-30 flex cards for each one. If I had different cards available my line-up would have looked very different than what I took. I wanted to pack light for an extended euro trip (which was amazing I might add) but it did hinder my options and I felt like I hit most of my good ideas after I already hamstrung myself.

I didn’t practice enough

This really comes back to what I outlined in the “Comfort is Paramount” section, they weren’t things I had identified as things I need to know for a list and I wasn’t performing well with the lists I took as a result.

I was unsure of myself

I went in with low expectations for a lot of the reasons I’ve already covered. I was intimidated by the TCG veterans. Thankfully I didn’t let nerves take hold, but I probably wasn’t giving it my best with that kind of mindset.

I got a little too romantic

I really wanted to rep mono fire for the boys back home, but it was still a bit too undercooked. The holes I found in my mono fire list after I’d already decided on it couldn’t be mitigated with another deck choice after the decision was already made.

As much as I wasn’t liking midrange ice in my testing, it had received a lot of my attention leading up to the event. It was still really formidable and consistent, but I just didn’t bring it with me. It for sure would have been a better third deck for me to take given how limited preparation was. I don’t think there was anyone at Worlds that was content with their third deck for what it’s worth.

What I did right

I’ve learned from my mistakes

This isn’t even just Worlds specific. The entire journey from my first locals until after Worlds and onwards. Improving in a game like FFTCG, or anything strategic really takes a great deal of concentrated effort in reflection to grow.

It’s not just binary CP value, or statistical learning, hedging and variance either. There’s complicated rules, an ever-changing metagame. There’s different kinds of players, subtle reads, whether it’s concious or subconscious. There’s things like tilt and nerves which are really important to mitigate. Avoiding things like trying to match another players pace, or not letting yourself be rattled by it and not being afraid to involve judges are just good things to do in general.

Overall, your mental approach to the game is what will make or break you as a competitive player. When you lose a game, or miss top cut in a tournament do you question why, or do you look for excuses? It’s very far from being that black and white, but there’s loads of grey in between.

I had fun!

Regardless of my performance, the event was a blast and as much as my attention was darting around the different tables and wanting to comment on things that were happening in games, I had to stifle my excitement a little bit so as not to cause issues.

I met so many amazing people and had so much fun playing random games after day 1 had finished as well. Some brief Gunslinger matches, a bunch of drafting. Going to the Pub with players from all around the world on two different occasions. I’ve made connections with amazing people I probably otherwise wouldn’t have.

I made the most of the opportunity

I’ve never so much as left Australia before in my life, hell I’ve barely left the bubble of Melbourne which I call home. I might have sent myself broke in the process, but travelling to the other side of the Globe is something I never would have branched out to do on my own without this opportunity. I traveled a little bit around Europe and saw different countries, learned about different cultures and did all of the typical touristy stuff. I got lost a bunch, I met and talked to people from all around Europe and further abroad. I also got to see what a Winter Christmas looks like for the first time.

I didn’t get angry at other people, or down on myself for doing poorly

I could have done better, for a lot of the reasons I’ve already mentioned in this article and while a lot of that is in hindsight, it’s an easy trap to fall into beating yourself up. Make mistakes, learn from them, grow.

As an example: I could be salty about my round 1 games against Okimoto for sure if I was that way inclined. I opened fire into a mostly blind Aulstyne game 1 which was a silly mistake on my part. In game 2. I played Wind and attacked into 4 EX against him on Earth/Wind while I was struggling to find backups which definitely blows.

I was just happy to be a part of the experience. It was a fast round 1 and some other guys finished early. Instead of being a grump following the game, I actually sat with Okimoto and Jordan D for a while picking their brains about the games, asking what they would do in that situation etc.

That’s all just part of the game, people make mistakes and variance can stack up in some really unfavourable ways sometimes. Good players should be taking advantage of both their opponents mistakes and skewed variance, they also shouldn’t be getting overly upset by it when on the receiving end.

On that note, there was a lot that seemed excessive in Alex’s game against Jamie in the finals for the last couple of turns while Alex was playing Ice. His position was really strong and he had options to close the game. Some people might see it as slow rolling, others might view it as bad manners and others might just plainly state that how Alex played there was wrong and how they would have done it better. You should always look to get as far ahead as possible, until you’re absolutely certain you can close a game especially when the stakes are that high. But it’s a good rule of thumb to always stick to. When you’re ahead, get further ahead.

Also, I totally scrubbed out on purpose to maintain the competitive integrity for Worlds, since I got the Bye in round 2.

In closing

I already did make a post to gush about the event on the old Facebook and this isn’t so much an event report as much as it is reflection and sharing what I’ve learned, so I’ll leave the formalities aside for now. Just know that I really appreciate all of your support and I’m always looking forward to what FFTCG has to bring in the future!

I hope that despite my result, my reflection and ramblings can offer some insight for your own improvement moving forward. It’s been a wild learning curve for me!