Chris Neal – NA – Water Crystal Cup Oregon Winner Report

Hello! It’s Chris Neal again. I guess I no longer need an introduction, but I play Final Fantasy TCG if you didn’t know. Anyways, I was not planning on writing about my experience at the Water Crystal Cup, but I ended up winning so sometimes plans change!

Part of the reason I am able to write about my experience is due to a practice that I have been using for the last year or so in card game tournaments. That practice is taking notes during each round of the event. I will note the deck I played against, highlights of the round that stick out in my mind, and most importantly, misplays that I feel I made or reasons that I feel I lost. This helps me stay a bit grounded and more focused on my next game. One problem I see from people in card game tournament is being too focused on their previous rounds, overall record, or what they need to do to make top cut. This is not ideal. Due to my notes I am able to “forget” about previous rounds or losses as I don’t need to remember them…they are already on paper! This helps me more easily focus on the current round which is the only place your head should be. It also is conveniently helpful for writing a tournament report.

The Deck

Since Opus 8 has been released, I have probably played 100+ games with variations of Fire Ice FF6. I just really like the deck. It is among the most fun decks I have played in FFTCG. It has good aggression with some midrange elements which is where I like to be. I’m not sure if it is the BEST deck in the format…that would probably go to some deck with Wind or Water in it. But it can win tournaments and attack from a different angle than other meta decks. I settled on the below list:

Forward(26):

1 Cid Raines (1-192S)

2 Firion (7-132S)

2 Celes (8-037R)

2 Lyse (8-139S)

1 The Emperor (5-036L)

3 Locke (4-048L)

1 Vayne (2-026L)

3 Lasswell (8-043H)

3 Sabin (4-021L)

3 Genesis (3-033L)

1 Duncan (8-014L)

2 Cloud (8-006L)

1 Dark Fina (8-042L)

1 Kuja (6-027L)

Summon(7):

3 Phoenix (5-019L)

2 Belias, the Gigas (2-019R)

2 Glasya Labolas (5-032H)

Backup(17):

3 Gestahlian Empire Cid (4-026H)

3 Duke Larg (1-057R)

1 Devout (1-048C)

2 Setzer (8-036C)

3 Edgar (8-005C)

3 Sage (2-005C)

1 Meeth (7-017H)

1 Black Mage (8-007C)

The basic plan when playing the deck should be to get some combination of Celes, Locke, and Genesis in play and keep attacking. If they manage to get up a defense use Lasswell and Sabin to break through. If they manage to take control of the game, you have to use big cards like Phoenix, Cloud, Dark Fina, and Lyse to try and take control back. There are obviously a ton of possibilities and plays, but this is the general strategy.

Notable Card Choices

Firion – The deck needs some cheap removal, and I feel this card is significantly better than Vivi in the deck. 2CP for 6k damage with an Ex Burst is better than a 3CP with unreliable damage that doesn’t synergize with the decks discard plan.

Celes – I really like 4CP Celes, however I personally find 3CP one to be much better than 4CP in this version of the deck. The reason for this is Locke and Genesis. Hitting with those 2 forwards feels incredible, and Celes helps you push them through. I tried a 3rd copy and it didn’t feel necessary as she is often a search target anyways.

Lyse – One of the MVPs of the tournament. Makes Locke and Genesis bigger than your opponent’s blockers. Her ability to sometimes get you out of a losing situation at 5 damage is amazing. I would consider a 3rd copy, especially with her S ability.

The Emperor – One of the last-minute additions due to my belief that water would be a huge part of the meta. I played against a water-based deck in 4 of my 7 Swiss rounds. I do not think the card is particularly great, however in testing it was amazing against water. I would cut it if I didn’t expect a water heavy meta.

Vayne – Another last-minute addition. He is extremely good in the current Veritas meta. Almost every deck is playing 5+ cost forwards as a key part of their plan. I would consider a 2nd copy.

Duncan – Great card that I really wanted a 2nd copy of however could not think of what to cut. As the meta shifts I would definitely find room for it.

Dark Fina – This is one of those cards that I feel like I love and everybody else hates. I found that many other lists were cutting her. However, she won me so many games that I had to play 1 copy. If you have Phoenix in your hand when you play her it feels busted. You can also use her to search out a Belias and give her haste.

Duke Larg – Some of the successful Japanese lists were not running this card and I’m still not sure why. It just feels mandatory to me if you have enough ice forwards to support it. Not to mention Locke and Genesis being large is good.

Devout – Since I was playing a lot of 1 of forwards and forwards with enter the field abilities, I thought this was a good addition that let me get back forwards I pitched early. It was decent.

Meeth – Good card that lets me search for my single copy forwards or any forward I need, giving the deck a toolbox element.

Sage – Over time I went from playing 0 of these to playing 3 and never looking back. Giving Locke or Genesis haste is really dumb. If they can’t deal with the forward you are basically playing Turbo Discard again.

Phoenix – Some lists were not playing this and I’m not sure why. I feel like this card in a lot of cases gives the deck reach to win games that are not won by your normal plan. There are also a lot of forwards to get back that can really swing the game.

Notable Cards I Didn’t Play

Sephiroth – I had a ton of people ask me why I wasn’t playing this card after the tournament. I tested 3 Sephiroth with anywhere from 0 to 3 Phoenix and even tested 1-2 Sephiroth (because I’m bad and why not)? I just never particularly liked him in this list. He just makes the deck feel slower and even a bit awkward in spots. I am not saying he is bad or it is wrong to play him. I just don’t particularly like him in this deck for my style of play. I prefer him in other Ice lists.

Veritas – Tested up to 3 of these in the deck. Good card but once again he makes the deck feel too slow for my liking. I was also getting tired of my opponent sacrificing a Viking and a lot of people were playing tech against the card.

The Tournament

I am only going to note the brief highlights of each round so I don’t keep you too long. Apologies I did not write people’s name down like I usually do so sorry if I forgot your name.

Round 1 – Ice/Water (Win 1-0)

My opponent and I both sat down to shuffle and I took out my Worlds play-mat and put it on the table. After about a minute of shuffling and chatting, my opponent asks: “Have you played any big events like this before?” I calmly responded: “Yeah, a few”. In the game he was screwed on backups and had to make plays like pitch several cards to play forwards. He even played a 5CP Legendary Laguna which would have actually been amazing if he was able to play further support for it, however he wasn’t able to play many cards.

Round 2 – Mono Water (Win 2-0)

My opponent played a Veritas and I was able to remove it and keep aggression. Then he played a 2nd Veritas and I was able to remove it and keep aggression. He then played a THIRD Veritas and the game came to a stall and went to time. My opponent decided to concede to me in turns as he was at 6 damage and it would have been tough to win without a lot more time.

Round 3 – Mono Ice (Win 3-0)

Played against Chris Lopez. He drew extremely poorly including 2 Sephiroth and 2 Orphan that he couldn’t play. I won fairly quickly with a good hand.

Round 4 – Mono Water (Win 4-0)

Played against a local player (sorry didn’t write down your name)! I was very aggressive and Sabin put in a lot of work. The game ends when he tries to play Leviathan for 2CP however forgets that he doesn’t have Yuna in play. I feel for him as I always assume I have 2 FF6 backups out as well!

Round 5 – Water/Lightning (Win 5-0)

Played against Johnathan Gordon. I just play some backups and forwards and start attacking. He plays 1 backup and doesn’t do much of anything. Then in one turn he pitches a bunch of cards and plays like 4 forwards onto the field and starts attacking! Fortunately, I was able to switch to a controlling roll and remove his forwards and sneak in the 7th damage before he killed me.

Round 6 – Earth/Wind (Loss 5-1)

Played against Matt Okimoto on stream. This game was really dumb as my only decent opening play was Locke + Sage and attack. However, it ended up being a great play against his hand so he pitched 4 cards for Shantotto to remove it! From there we were mostly top decking. I made a misplay against a Dadaluma where I could have used Phoenix to kill it, but instead I played a forward and he proceeded to wipe my board. I then kill the Dadaluma however he has recursion and a 2nd Dadaluma and I lose.

Round 7 – Earth/Wind (Win 6-1)

Played against Kyle McGinty. My hand was insanely aggressive and his hand was too slow to keep up with it. That was basically all that happened.

Top 32 – vs DaShawntae Webster on Fire/Ice

DaShawntae was a nice local player to play against. Sadly, we talk about how the only 2 Fire/Ice lists left have to knock each other out. His list is even more aggressive than mine and contains 3 light Rain! My general strategy on the matchup was to actually try and be more controlling and not let him attack with Rain. I won the first game and he proceeds to destroy me with Rain in game 2. When Rain attacks it is impossible to block, even when I am on 5 damage and have a Lyse in play! I make a misplay where I play a card but dull the wrong backup and am unable to play a second card in my hand. Fortunately, I still win in game 3.

Top 16 – vs Chris Lopez on Mono Ice

Best match of the weekend. Unfortunately, I wish I could remember more of it as the games were so intense than I couldn’t possibly take notes on all of it. I know for sure I made at least 3 misplays during the course of the match which means I probably made more misplays that I don’t know about. The highlights included him casting Zalera to wipe my board in one game and me using Sabin’s S ability to wipe his board in another game. A situation came up where I didn’t use the Sabin S until after Chris had already taken a damage. However, since the Sabin is still in combat after damage but before Main Phase 2 it still works. Even after that he still almost came back to win. The deciding game came down to me having to make perfect blocks vs his forwards including a 5CP Setzer to barely stay alive on 6 damage. I won in 3 games. I seemingly always have insane matches against Chris so hopefully we meet again.

Top 8 – vs Bryan Lue on Ice/Earth

This game was on stream so I won’t say too much. I was impressed with Bryan’s list and tech choices that he made. His list included spicy cards such as 3 Scale Toad, 3 Sephiroth, 3 Veritas, 3 Rinoa, and 3 Gumbah! Game 1, he destroys me. Game 2, I manage to sneak the win in. A play came up with Phoenix and Veritas. I planned to play Phoenix to kill Veritas, however his Veritas trigger resolves first so I had to sacrifice a Duke Larg in order to keep ff6 backups for Locke’s discard to trigger on entry from the Phoenix. Game 3 was intense as he used a lot of recursion and Veritas to put me on 2 backups to his 4 backups and in a bad spot. However, over the course of several turns I draw a lot of gas cards to start going aggressive again with Celes being critical to keep his board frozen and allowing me to sneak in the 7th damage to win in 3 games.

Top 4 – vs Milo Mosquera on Golbez/Gilgamesh

This game was also streamed. I never played against this list in all of my test games! I had not played against Golbez since before the Death Machine nerf. His first turns he plays Golbez and Strongest Sword Gilgamesh. On my turn I am in the tank for what feels like 5 minutes. Realistically that one turn decided the entire game. I decide to use Lasswell to dull freeze his Gilgamesh and he responds by using it to kill his Golbez and starts going aggressive. I am barely able to stabilize with Glasya, EX Firion, and Dull/Freeze effects. After the game we discuss that he probably should have killed my Lasswell as it dominated the board. In game 2 he didn’t get much going and I was able to mostly lock down his forwards allowing me to win in 2 games.

Finals – vs Nathan Perez on Ice/Wind

This game was obviously streamed as well. Nate is insanely experienced with his Ice/Wind deck and I wasn’t exactly sure how the match would play out. My plan was just to go aggressive and not let him abuse Sephiroth and Fina. I also thought Duke Larg would be important so my forwards would be larger. Instead what happened is I had 2 insane opening hands and also drew very well. I was able to curve out both games and the plan worked out. I even drew a Phoenix when I needed it and it just felt meant to be. I felt a little bad for Nate as he always seems to get 2nd place at these events, but the guy is a savage and I expect him to make Worlds for the 3rd time.

Conclusion

Locking my Nationals and Worlds spots this early in the year is pretty great. Now I can just chill for the rest of year and play “no pressure” FFTCG unlike last year where I qualified for everything at the last possible opportunity. Good luck to everybody competing in the rest of the Crystal Cups this year. I look forward to seeing you all at future events, particularly Gen Con, and hopefully Nationals and Worlds.

  • Thanks to my wife Nicki for being supportive of me playing tons of cards and traveling to events with me.
  • Thanks to the Metapotion team for the play-testing: Okimoto, Kyle, Brian.
  • Thanks to Dae / MP Champ for playing a ton of games on OCTGN and in person.
  • Thanks to the SoCal FFTCG community for all the games and fun. It has been great.
  • Thanks to everybody who creates any kind of content for FFTCG. I listen/read/watch nearly all of you.
  • Thanks to Epic Gaming for hosting the event. You are a sick store. Scientists need to invent teleportation so I can teleport up there for locals.
  • Thanks to Square Enix and Hobby Japan for making + supporting this game. It is among the best card games I have ever played.

- Chris Neal


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