Hello! It is Chris "Two-Time Worlds Competitor, but I still play bad" Neal here. Last time I told you how I savaged my way through last year’s Dark Crystal Cup and Nationals. This time I won the US Water Crystal Cup and I may have a report for that soon. For now though, I'm here to tell you about my experience playing in the US OCTGN Open which lead up to the Crystal Cup, and was very unique.
When I first saw this event posted, I was not planning on playing in it. The thought of playing an event that would last over a month where it would be difficult to schedule times to play my opponents on a less than optimal platform didn't sound great. Ruling questions potentially being difficult to resolve also didn't sound appealing. But I signed up last minute anyways as I thought it may be good practice for the Crystal Cup. The prizes for a free event were also pretty sweet.
The event ran much smoother than I expected. Through 7 Swiss rounds over the course of about a month. I didn't have a single scheduling issue, all of my opponents were very nice, and there wasn't a single ruling issue that we couldn't resolve ourselves. To me, it did not feel like a tournament, but instead like a league where I would play a game every few days or so. I enjoyed it.
Because it would be impossible to monitor deck lists in the Swiss rounds, we were allowed to bring any deck list to each round. I had heard that a few people were going to play multiple decks throughout the tournament for fun. I decided early on that I was just going to play Fire/Ice FF6 throughout the event as it’s by far my favorite deck in the format. I also was pretty sure I was going to play some variation of the deck at the Water Crystal Cup and I wanted to test several cards in the deck. So what I did was change a few cards throughout the tournament and see how they played out. Here is a basic shell I went with:
Throughout the tournament I swapped out a few cards between each round. Other cards I tried in the tournament included:
I believe there may be a few other cards that I'm not thinking of, however this is the general idea of what I played.
Round 1 - Alonzo Chamlee
(Free Win) Record = 1-0
I was actually a little hype to play this round which is weird considering my feelings when I first signed up. I guess it is just the natural feeling of playing a game that means something. Unfortunately what ended up happening is my opponent messaged me saying he could no longer play the tournament and had to drop. I couldn't complain about a free win and assumed that this type of stuff was probably going to happen a few times in an event like this. I took the win and moved on.
Round 2 - Will Herrera
Mono Lightning Aggro
(I win 6 damage to 7) Record = 2-0
My opening hand is bad with 2 phoenix. I mulligan and only have 1 backup. Meanwhile he comes out quickly with Illua and does a couple damage. I try to stabilize by killing the Illua with Duncan and Vivi and he responds by dumping his hand and going very aggressive with Al-Cid, Onion Knight and another Illua. Fortunately I manage to build 4 backups and I have a lot of outs even though he puts me to 4 damage and has more forwards in play while I'm building backups. Next turn I play Celes and The Emperor and he draws Sakura off the top to kill The Emperor. I manage to stabilize a bit but he draws Alba off the top and puts me to 6 damage. I then draw Cloud and Glasya Labolas off the top which is a great draw that allows me to play Cloud, kill something, and hold up Glasya for his attack. I manage to whittle him down to 1 forward on his attack and put him in top deck mode. Fortunately though I draw a Genesis, Locke, and Dark Fina over the next 2 turns to really turn the game around. I was still in a spot where I had to play extremely defensively in case he drew some crazy haste thing, but I was able to come back and win 7-6 after being down 1-6.
Round 3 - Justin Smith
Scions + Warrior of Darkness
(I win 5 damage to 7) Record = 3-0
I'm on the play with a solid opening hand including Edgar and Duke Larg for the following turn as well as Vivi and Irvine in case he plays a forward. His first few turns consist of playing Scion backups but Warrior of Darkness forwards including Glaive and Diana. I found this weird as I had no idea what he was trying to do. I manage to clear his board by playing a Dark Fina with a Phoenix already in hand + Vivi out of the break zone and on 3 backups in play I was feeling strong at that point. Then all of the sudden he switches to Scions and drops Papalymo and Yda followed by Alba and starts beating down!! I was extremely fortunate that he did not have Alisaie to give his scions haste until late in the game as this would have been a big problem for me. I am able to play Genesis, Sabin, and Locke to stabilize however he has 4CP Minfilia and 4CP Ramuh to clear a bit. I was able to draw a SECOND Phoenix (which was the last one in my deck as the 3rd was in the damage zone) to clear his large Yda and start attacking for the win.
Round 4 - Danica Joy Ruiz
Mono Lightning Midrange
(I win 5 damage to 7) Record = 4-0
I'm on the play and have a decent hand which includes Meeth, Vivi, Belias, and Empire Cid. This hand allows me to haste a turn 2 Locke with Belias or just play it slow and also be solid. Her first turn she plays 2 lightning backups and has 3 cards left in hand. I feel like going for the haste Locke play is good here and could put me very far ahead so I go for it and she pitches her hand and kills it with 3cp Odin!! All of the sudden I have no board and she has 1 more backup than me. She manages to get an early Illua and then a hasted Fordola and I am struggling to survive as she puts me to 5 damage. I manage to draw Genesis to slow down the rush and also Lasswell. I am forced to block her Illua with Lasswell and she casts Ramuh to reduce his power by 7k and kill him. Fortunately I am able to continuously keep the Fordola frozen and start playing blockers like Celes and Locke which are huge because I have Duke Larg and Edgar in play. There a couple of turns where if she drew Alba, Illua S, or Estinien I probably would have lost, but I was able to dodge that! I build up to 4 backups and start slamming down Phoenixes in order to try and close the game out before she draws these cards, however she hits a miracle 7cp Odin EX which gave her another turn to draw something to kill me! Fortunately I dodged yet another draw and was able to win.
Round 5 - Mohammad Zaiem Ahmad
(I lose 7 damage to 2) Record = 4-1
This round took place right after the Fire Crystal Cup, and this was the first game I played in the post Crystal Cup Fire Meta. Unfortunately I didn't have much time to practice against the top decks (particularly the new Mono Water lists) and it showed in this matchup. He starts with a Scholar, however I have a solid hand which includes Edgar, Duke Larg, Empire Cid, and Locke on curve as well as Vivi and Genesis. He just plays backups and I curve out to Locke. He then plays Veritas of the Dark to kill it. I play Genesis to keep the pressure on and he plays Leila Viking. I play a backup and another Locke and just keep attacking and being aggressive. Unfortunately he able to keep defending with another Leila Viking so I am unable to attack his hand much. Then with 5 backups he plays Nichol to shrink my Genesis and Locke and then Cagnazzo to kill them. From here I am just playing catch up. There is one turn where I have Meeth and several options to fetch a forward including Dark Emperor (he has 2 scholar in play) and Kuja. I grab the Kuja as the Emperor would probably just die anyways. I manage to hit Setzer EX and play a 3rd Locke as well as Cloud to clear the board a bit however he has Cloud of Darkness to kill this Locke and also Opus 4 Leviathan to return his Cloud of Darkness and also my Cloud. I hit Lasswell to stall him a bit more however at this point he has too much tempo and removal going including Cuchulainn to kill the Lasswell. The last few turns I try to stall with multiple Phoenixes in hopes of hitting a Dark Fina as my only real chance to possibly get back in the game but I don't hit it and I wasn't really in this game. I quickly learned that against water if the early aggro plan doesn't work it’s going to be tough to win.
Round 6 -Philippe Chapdelaine
(I win 0 damage to 7) Record = 5-1
This is the only game I played on voice chat throughout the event and Philippe was very nice to play. I'm on the play and my opening hand is horrible with no backups. I mulligan and my 2nd hand is also horrible with no backups! I am certain I am going to lose this game. My only turn 1 play is a Genesis and pass and hope it can get a couple hits in. He plays 2 wind backups and passes. Amazingly I get a hit in with Genesis but have to pass with no further decent play and still no backups. He just plays a 3rd backup and a Barbaricia as a blocker. At this point I'm weirdly happy as I'm still the aggressor and he can't kill my Genesis. Next turn I finally draw 2 backups including Edgar and play both of them. Philippe plays a 4th backup and passes with 2 cards in hand. I'm extremely happy now as although he is ahead on backups I'm a huge aggressor. I draw and play a Duke Larg and attack with Genesis, he chump blocks with his Barbaricia, and I play Locke to have him discard. Now we are in a spot where I have 3 cards, 3 backups, Genesis and Locke and he has 4 backups and 1 card. This is amazing considering the start I had. He has a few decent top decks from here including Diabolos and Chelinka to kill my Locke however I am keeping the pressure on and keeping his hand size low. I end the game by playing Phoenix to kill his Chelinka and bring the Locke back to put his hand to 0 and he doesn't draw anymore answers. Sometimes you get lucky that your opponent can't answer your 1 threat. If he was able to remove the Genesis early I would have lost for sure.
Round 7 - Joseph Babadi
(I Win 1 damage to 7) Record = 6-1
I am 5-1 going into this round so I need to win and guarantee top 8. If I lose I have to hope breakers are enough to get me in. I'm on the play with a solid hand including 2CP Black Mage, Empire Cid, Locke, and removal. I play the backups and decide to use Cid to get Celes and start going really aggressive with Celes and Locke. It ends up being a great play as the Locke hit for 4 discards over the course of the game including a Mirage Dive later! He plays Semih into Star Sibyl into Kam'lanaut into Chaos which is solid, however my aggression is really attacking his hand hard. He manages to cast a Phoenix and get a Zidane back as well as Kam'lanaut immune to Ice to stabilize a bit. I keep attacking and he hits EX Star Sibyl to search for Ajido. Fortunately I have a Glasya to kill the Zidane and have him discard his last card which is Ajido. This play is huge as he would have gotten Diabolos and Phoenix back. From there he is way behind trying to stabilize with Noctis. I keep attacking with Locke, he blocks with Noctis and I use Devout to bring back Sabin and save him. My aggression was strong in this game as now I have a Sabin attacking every turn. I keep attacking and then I draw a Cloud. I attack my Locke into his Kam and use Cloud to finish it off. On the last few turns he plays Y'shtola and several Leyaks. At this point though I still have Sabin and Cloud beating down then I play a Cid Raines and give it haste with Belias to get the last point in.
Quarterfinals - John Schriener
Wind Water Standard Units
In the top cut we are now playing best of 3 and only the top 4 win a prize so it is important to win the quarterfinal. We also have access to our opponent's deck list. I see John is on wind/water standard units and I do not like this matchup. I feel if I'm aggressive I'll have a chance however he has Veritas and a lot of ways to play defense until he builds his board. He also has access to Y'shtola and Aerith which I'm not happy about as it could blank my Phoenixes and Lasswells.
I mulligan to a good hand including Empire Cid and Edgar and I play both. He spends the first several turns just building up his backups including Gladiator and Arc. I play Locke however he has Leila Viking to block. I just play Duke Larg and he plays White Mage. This backup is annoying the entire game as is blanks many of my cards. I play Cloud to kill his Leila and get a hit in with Locke. He plays Yuna H to return my cloud but I keep beating with Locke. Then he plays Maria and has 5 backups and then a 10k Knight! I decide the use the combo of Vivi and Black Waltz to kill and keep getting in with Locke. Basically anytime I can get a free hit with Locke I go for it. He plays Veritas to kill Locke but I draw and play Celes. He then plays Warrior of Light and uses Gladiator to get back a Viking and plays a Gladiator to have a nice board. Even though he has White Mage in play, I decide to cast Phoenix on his Warrior of Light and target Vivi which he removes from the game. But I then pitch my hand to play Duncan to finish the Warrior of Light off and keep going aggro. Celes is huge here as it continually dulls his Veritas. He is going to lose but he hits a miracle Chaos Walker EX and then uses Alexander to kill my Cloud which I can’t remove 10 cards from my deck and return to play due to his Yuna H. He continues to stay alive with removal and blockers including Cloud of Darkness however on the last turn I use Dark Fina to search for Belias and give it haste along with Glasya to dull his blocker for the win. I win 2 damage to 7 damage.
This game he starts with Arc and I have weird hand with Setzer, Locke, and Devout. I play them over 2 turns without Locke discard ability. He just plays another backup and Aerith as well as Zidane to take the Genesis out of my hand that would have been great. Fortunately I'm lucky and draw another Genesis and keep aggro. He just plays more backups meaning he is ahead 4 backups to 2 but he won't have a hand the rest of this game. He plays a Knight however I play Duke Larg and keep beating. Having Locke and Genesis able to continually attack is brutal. He manages to Chaos my Locke however I have The Emperor in hand and put it into play as he has no Yuna. He finally plays Yuna to slow the bleeding however I draw Empire Cid and get ANOTHER Locke into play. He plays a Veritas and has some blockers and is able to get a few points of damage in. Fortunately I draw Sabin and all of the sudden I am the aggressor again but he hits EX Burst Yuna to stop that. Next turn I draw Lasswell which is terrible against Aerith so I just replay the Sabin. He plays another Zidane and takes the Lasswell. He plays White Mage which is annoying but I play The Emperor to blank it. But then he hits ANOTHER EX Burst Yuna to remove the Emperor and removes my Locke from the Break Zone using White Mage before I can Devout it. Fortunately it doesn't matter as I have another Locke in hand that I play and then get back my Kuja from break zone and play it to put on huge pressure. He has Viking however dies 2 turns later. Both games I was fortunate to draw very aggressively and stop him from setting up as he didn't draw enough defenses. I win 4 damage to 7 damage.
Semifinals - Alejandro Ziegenhirt
Ice Water Vicekings
This match can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIEeo8NcTzs
I won a prize which is pretty great and I'm happy about. It is pretty funny considering I originally wasn't going to play in this event, but now that I am here I might as well go for the championship!
I know Alejandro as he beat me in the top 4 of the team tournament at Fan Fair. This my chance for vengeance! He is playing Vicekings with 3 Veritas. He has a ton of discard and Sephiroth so I believe this matchup will play out where I try to dump my hand and go aggressive on his hand before he can punish my hand. Veritas and Leila Viking will likely be key for him.
I have an opening hand with no backups so I snap mulligan. My 2nd hand is the worst hand I've ever had playing the deck...Vivi, Belias, 2 Lasswell, and Kuja. This is absolutely horrible as I need backups, but even if I draw them my hand is still trash. I basically need Empire Cid and another backup to even have anything reasonable. My first draw is a Cloud and a Glasya Labolas and this is absolutely the worst opening 7 I've ever seen. I just play a Lasswell and pass. He just plays a couple backups and my next draw is Black Waltz 2 and the Emperor. I just play Emperor and hope to get lucky and win with a bunch of forwards as I don't think I'm going to win overpaying for a no value Black Waltz. Unfortunately he plays Veritas and finally I draw a Duke Larg and play it but then he searches for Rinoa to blink his Veritas and its GG easy game. Looking back, I could have cast Belias on my first Lasswell just to start attacking and hope to draw something, but honestly I don't think I had a chance to win this game. I lose 7 damage to 2 damage.
My opening hand this time only has 1 backup and is extremely slow so I mulligan to a hand that at least has more backups but is also very slow including 2 fire backups, Duke Larg, Glasya, and Lasswell. On the play I play Edgar and his first turn he just plays Leila Viking with no backup. I play Duke Larg and he attacks with his Leila and Viking putting Cid Raines and Duncan in my damage zone. Normally I don't complain about my damage zone as its a random factor, but losing these 2 cards here is brutal. If I had drawn them I would have wiped his board and had him discard a card. Instead his aggression continues and he plays a Brahne and then a Rinoa to try to flicker his Leila. I pitch 2 cards to cast Glasya and kill the Leila and have him discard in response. On my turn my options are once again not great and I just play a Devout knowing I'm going to 4 damage. He puts me to 4 damage and does nothing else on his turn. I then play a Sabin and use Devout to get my Locke back (which I pitched for the Sabin) to have him discard and I am feeling like I'm in a decent spot. On his turn he just plays Gladiator and passes and now I'm happy as I'm the aggressor. I attack with Sabin and he hits his ONE OF EX Burst Kuja to dull and freeze my Locke. This is brutal as it immediately takes me out of being the aggressor again. I play The Emperor to blank his Gladiator and pass. He plays Veritas and I sacrifice my frozen Locke. I draw another Locke and I'm happy again so I attack with Sabin and he hits another EX! This time Brahne to get a Viking which makes my Locke play much worse so I just play Celes instead to start trying to freeze stuff. Instead his next draw is totally insane as he is able to play Cloud of Darkness to kill my Emperor then sac his Gladiator and play Time Mage and attack for the win. Once again I'm not sure what I could have done here. My only other option would have been to try and play more defensively, but I'm almost certain it would not have worked against his board. I lose 7 damage to 2 damage.
Bronze Medal Match:
Collin Rupert - Mono Water
This match was recorded however as of this writing has not yet been posted. If it does get posted it will probably be on the Tantalus Troupe YouTube page.
In this match the winner takes 3rd place and loser takes 4th place and we are playing for some Play Arts figures so I'm all in. I congratulate Collin on his Worlds qualification. I knocked him out of Nationals last year so I'm happy for him he got his redemption this year. Unfortunately now he gets his redemption shot against me!
By the time I played this game I had quite a few matches against the new Mono Water build. What I found in general is that if I am aggressive and they don't have Veritas I am heavily favored. If I am aggressive and they have Veritas the game is a coin toss with me probably being a slight favorite. If I let the game go long they are heavily favored.
I mulligan to hand with Empire Cid, Locke, Meeth, and Black Waltz in it. I decide on the play to go with my aggressive plan and use Cid to search for Celes and play the Meeth to search for Celes. This allows me to drop Celes and Locke and turn 2 and go to town. I do so however he has the Veritas and I know we are in for a game. I sacrifice my Locke and next turn he attacks with Veritas. On my turn I attack with Celes to freeze his Veritas which is where I want to be however don't have another play. On his turn he uses Famfrit and I have the decision of the game. I can pitch most of my hand to Phoenix just to get back Locke or I can let it happen and go to only having 1 backup in play. I decide to save the Phoenix and just hope to draw a couple backups or another Locke instead of super overpaying for a Locke. Phoenix and Locke would have emptied his hand however at that point he now has 3 backups to my 1 which is not a good place to be. Unfortunately my next few draws are pretty bad as I don't draw a backup and am sitting on 1 backup for almost the rest of the game. I have to play a Cloud killing nothing just to have a body in play and he plays a 2nd Veritas so I remove 10 from my deck just to keep a 9k in play. All I can do is play Genesis and try to keep attacking but he has Leila Viking to block. I then play The Emperor to stop his Scholar and Gladiator, but he plays Cagnazzo and Cloud of Darkness to kill the Emperor. At this point this is basically over as I'm scrambling to keep up and he just keeps playing forwards and bashing for the win. I lose 7 damage to 3 damage.
I take ANOTHER mulligan to a decent hand at least and play Empire Cid to get Celes while already having Locke in hand. He plays backups. Turn 2 I decide to play slightly slower and play Duke Larg. He plays more backups. Next turn I have the choice between playing a Devout or playing Celes and Locke. I decide to stick with the aggressive plan and play the forwards and he responds with Veritas again however this time I put Celes in the break zone as I have genesis in hand to keep attacking with Locke. He just plays Porom to try and find an answer and I know I'm in a good spot. I keep attacking and use Setzer to get Locke back and play an Edgar. He plays Leila Viking to keep digging for answers, I keep attacking and play Celes. This aggressive stance is where I want to be in the matchup. He plays Lenna however my forwards keep attacking, he plays Leila, and the cycle continues for a few turns. Finally I play Cloud to get Leila out of the way and dull his Viking with Celes then use Cid Raines to kill it clearing the way. He lasts several more turns due to having an Ashe and blockers in play however I play Lasswell and am able to sneak the last damage in. I win 2 damage to 7 damage.
In the final game I have an ok but slow hand with Devout and Setzer as backups and almost mulligan but I'm too scared I'll get a garbage hand so I just keep. He plays backups and I play Devout followed by a Empire Cid into Locke that I drew. His first play is Ashe which proves to be a problem as my only way around the card is to just make my forwards larger and I can't remove it from the board. He also plays a Porom and I play Irvine to kill it. He plays a Wakka and keeps attacking with Ashe. The Wakka proves to be a huge problem throughout the game as I never draw Duke Larg or Edgar which would make my Forwards large enough to battle his Ashe. I play Setzer and Locke for the discard however he has another Veritas and I'm behind as I'm not the aggressor. I just play a Sabin and he attacks with Ashe. Here I thought for a while and felt like I have to try and kill the Ashe. If he has Leviathan at least I get it out of his hand and he uses CP on his turn. He had the Leviathan. On my turn I play Lasswell on 5 backups to freeze his Veritas and he just plays Lenna. I attack with Lasswell and follow up with Celes and Genesis to try and take the aggression back. However he Famfrits to kill my Genesis and a backup and then has Cloud of Darkness to take the game back over. All I can do is Phoenix to clear his board a bit and get Locke back however he has Cagnazzo and all of his forwards are larger than mine so he quickly kills me. I lose 7 damage to 2 damage.
I won 18 packs, some Play Arts figures and Chapters cards for playing a free event. I can't complain at all! I would certainly play this event again and I'm told they are doing another one for Opus 9. I would recommend it to anybody who doesn't mind learning OCTGN. If only we knew of a company that makes great video games around somewhere to develop a digital FFTCG game for us we would be all set! But for now this is the best thing we have and I think it’s decent.
Thanks to the folks who made this happen including Laurence Olivia, Lucas Watson, Nick Militello, Sergio, James Lockwood and anybody else I'm forgetting. Also thanks to everybody in the community who are stepping up and organizing these events or creating content and helping build the game. This game is very good and deserves that type of treatment.
Until next time, I'll see you all at Locals, Crystal Cups, Nationals, or...Worlds?? Well at least I will certainly be cheering for you so I can see you at those last couple. 🙂
- Chris Neal
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