Hey, it's David Cox here. You may know me from the SoCal competitive scene, past deck tech articles, or possibly from your favorite Facebook arguments. Well now you may know me as part of the lucky 8 for NA World’s Team for getting top 4 at NA Nationals! *Shock* *Awe* *Cringe* Yes, somehow the planets aligned and this is our reality. So, I’m here to tell how this happened, as I’m still taking this all in myself.
So as I mentioned above, I’m part of the SoCal group that umbrellas under the infamous Meta Potion Circuit; home to monsters even Kefka would have problems breaking. I moved here from the Vegas scene earlier this year. This life changing event gave me an immense opportunity to meet new players and personally grow as a player resulting to what we have now. The passion of the SoCal competitive scene leads me to commit a lot of effort to keep pace with the dense competition of top players and thriving deck ideas in the community. This drive led me to top many Metapotion Circuit events and winning one of them. With this competitive experience, I was able to fight my way to a top 16 spot at the recent SoCal Crystal Cup. From there it was a fight to win my Local Qualifier against some of the toughest competition in San Diego with Vicekings where I was able to earn my qualification to compete at the North American Championship 2018 this past weekend.
After winning my Local Qualifier, my focus became very narrowed on the upcoming North American National Event. I kept asking myself “what do I run?”, “What will people bring?”, and “What type of tech is going to fly under the radar?” My opinions changed daily through talks with friends, internet debates, scanning top placing deck lists, and through testing. One minute I thought I had the best deck and soon thereafter I thought the same deck had a worse match up. I spent the month before Nats building three different Meta decks and testing several other wild ideas. The biggest hurdle, in my mind, was how to deal with Turbo Discard -- a deck I shared similar emotions about with the rest of the FFTCG community. Even though I had several decks I knew could destroy Turbo Discard, I realized that they were potentially inconsistent with the rest of the known Meta. However, I knew having decks that just beat Turbo Discard was not enough for me. I knew I wanted a deck that didn’t have “I just need to dodge this” as part of my game plan. Rather, I wanted a deck that could go the distance and have reasonable match ups against all known meta decks – even Turbo. Even though I loved my Vicekings deck (which I had used to qualify through the Local Qualifier event earlier), I felt uneasy about the existing Turbo Discard and Scions match ups. This led me to think about a deck which I thought could deal with those match ups - Wind-Earth Dadaluma. I found it odd that such a well-known and established deck didn’t have the same presence in topping in recent Opus 6 meta-based tournaments when in theory Wind-Earth is probably one of the most well rounded decks. Thankfully, twelve hours before Nats, my San Diego crew twisted my arm and convinced me of the factors of why Wind-Earth may not have been as popular or successful as it was in the past, why the deck may be a good choice, and if piloted correctly, Wind-Earth should get the results I wanted. It is with this that I expressed the benefit of being surrounded by other great players from my local community. The feedback and testing I got through my community is without doubt a key factor to my success. Another key factor for my success at Nats would probably be attributed to sharing beers with Jordan Denk the night before Day 2.
Despite the fatigue of travel and 2 grueling days of play, I somehow remember some details about my match ups and can comment on how things went down:
Day 1 Swiss:
Round 1 | LOSS - Ice/Water - Vicekings | Although this is a matchup I feel slightly favors Dadaluma, there are still crucial instances where things can go wrong for the deck. I remembered starting off with an early and aggressive Zidane. After removing 2 Nidhoggs from my opponent’s hand, I felt very confidant knowing my late game Dadaluma should win this match. Unfortunately, my opponent hit me for 2 points of damage and ended up removing 2 of my Dadalumas from the game. From there my top decks provided me removal when at the time I needed forwards. This led me to lose the game that I initially thought I was going to win.
Round 2 | LOSS - Wind/lightning ft Lulu and Paul | This deck was mostly heavy removal and haste forwards. In this match my opponent opened with a turn 1 Paul, which I unfortunately had no answer for beyond a Shantotto. I considered the option of using Shantotto but took my chances with an Opus 1 Cecil to kill it. Unfortunately Cecil was met with a follow up Seymour and I took 3 hits from Paul that game.
Round 3 | WIN - Ice/Water - Vicekings | This round went much smoother than my first round. This time around I was able to draw and play the backup curve I needed and was able to bounce back from any removal effects efficiently. Zidane played a critical role in tearing options out of hands and Dadaluma shined in keeping his board clear. Near the end of the match, my opponent over committed to playing out Vikings to draw an answer for Dadaluma. Fortunately for me he didn’t find it and ended up decking out – the win condition I was pushing for.
Round 4 | WIN - Earth - Standard Units | I remember playing against my fourth round opponent and thinking “I like the guy’s deck.” I saw promise in combating parts of the meta with cheap large bodies. Unfortunately, this strategy is a mismatch against Dadaluma. In this match, my opponent opted to drop his hand to flood the field with forwards on one backup. However, I chose to ramp early and Shantotto’d for my 4th backup with cards to spare. A follow up Shadow Lord cleared the field again and secured the win soon after.
Round 5 | WIN - Mono Lightning - The round started rather shaky, as my backup ramp was good but my best non-backup options were playing Zidane and Cactuars. This is very susceptible to a Ramuh play from lightning opponents, but thankfully, not only did I avoid them, I was fortunate to hit 2 of them into the damage zone. With my Cactuars remaining unchallenged, this allowed me to drop Illua shields and easily kill off my opponent’s threats. I remember doing a massive misplay by lazily casting Chaos, Walker of the Wheel before attacking with Zidane, assuming I knew the last card in my opponent’s hand was a backup from an earlier Zidane trigger. I thought my opponent’s forward would leave the board with nothing else coming back into play. However, a very alarming Shadow Lord appeared instead. Luckily I was able to deal with the Shadow Lord and still win the game. However the opponent’s Shadow Lord reminded me why vigilance of proper sequencing is important, even if you feel it doesn’t matter.
Round 6 | WIN - Earth/Lightning - Scions | This is one of the matchups that makes me nervous because the Scions deck has the potential to snowball its advantage. Fortunately, the deck I’m piloting for Nats has many forwards that are immune to the abilities of the scions as well as including a few counters for the deck. For example, I included Maria to keep my guys above some of the damage based removal and was able to rely on Zidane’s strengths, such as his inability to be targeted by opponent’s abilities to maintain board presence. Ripping forwards out of hands with Zidane helped slow down the ability to haste me. I eventually won the resource war to keep him out of the game, despite many EX bursts resisting my efforts. I remember a key turning point in the match was a Hecatoncheir on my turn between my opponent’s WoL and my Zidane. Fortunately I was able to respond by Star Sibyl’ing a Barbariccia into play which targeted his WoL.
Round 7 | WIN - Mono Ice - Turbo Discard ft. Umaro | This was my first Turbo Discard match up for the day – even though I feel slightly advantaged, I still hate this match up because I feel like they always have the ability to open well and win regardless of what the opponent plays.
His opening was a perfect draw - an Umaro for Gesper followed by an ensuing Thaumaturge and the fetched Gesper. I thankfully was able to top deck a Chaos, Walker of the Wheel to kill off the Umaro, but I feel like I’m still in a really tough spot under the in-play Gesper. At one point I felt like this was the end of my Nat’s run as I desperately played forwards in hopes of avoiding a Cid Aulstyne and trying to mount a comeback. In the final turns, damage between both me and my opponent were close, and it became a game of who has the top deck to win it. After 2 back and forth turns of perfect answers between the both of us, a very tragic misplay occurred on my opponent’s end. My opponent resolved a Shiva before Gespering me. This misplay allowed me to play the Diabolos in my hand to activate my guys and subsequently steal the game from my opponent. I felt like I was very lucky to win this match. I think my opponent’s misplay seemed to be the type of thing that happens from fatigue that sets in from a long day of play and from playing a match that feels like it should have been won many turns ago. In my heart I feel he knew the right play and the excitement and stress of sealing the deal caused an oversight in stack clarification. It is an unfortunate but cruel part of competition when something like this happens, but we must take things as they fall and I have no doubt in my mind this player deserves as much credit as anyone who made Day 2 in terms of skill.
Round 8 | WIN - Ice/Water - Vicekings | Another rematch against this deck and unfortunately for my opponent I get a perfect back up ramp start with early Cactuars. I’m able to outplay many of my opponent’s answers and keep him off forwards to prevent any pressure or from letting a Cloud of Darkness get going. I furthered my advantage when Zidane stripped all the Nidhoggs from my opponent’s hand. The final plays in this match saw a moment where things could go wrong with an all in on Cid Raines + Glasya. However I was able to respond with a Diabolos to activate the target, fizzling the effect, and killing a key forward. From there a 3rd Cactuar and Dadaluma shut the game off with no concern of a Nidhogg to stop it.
Day 2 Top 32 - Single Elim | 15th :
Round 1 | WIN - Mono Ice - Turbo Discard: I stayed up all night studying this deck list in fear of the uncertainty of any Turbo Discard pairing. I thought the deck list was rather unique in that it had more midrange options like Orphan and Celes, as well as a few other off meta tweaks. I wasn’t against all the ideas for the meta, but unfortunately those decisions boosted my advantage of the match up. For example, without Glasya Labolas to kill my Zidanes and Cecils, they were uncontested to poke freely. Also with many of my forwards being untargetable by my opponent’s abilities, this made both games a tough match based on the list my opponent was running.
I remembered starting both games with a turn 1 Semih Lafihna and a turn 2 Kam’lanuat that safely survived to turn 3. From there my opponent simply couldn’t get in as I grew my back up line patiently.
Round 2 | WIN - Earth/Lightning - Scions: I felt somewhat confidant in the match up against the opponent that took me out of SoCal Crystal Cup earlier this year, but I got tilted quickly with a poor start and a swift defeat of a perfect Scions opening game 1. Fortunately with game 2, I was able to grow my backups faster and won most of the value wars on removal. In a critical moment where he could’ve stolen it with a Ramuh on my Zidane and Cactuar, I Tama’d in a Y’shtola to save them and was able to consequently keep ripping his hand apart with the Zidane for a quick win. Game 3, my opponent started with a Minfilia and overpaid Alisaie. Fortunately my early hand had a backup breaking Hecatoncheir. After he failed to find any more backups, it seems as though victory is assured with an Earth Kam’lanaut pressuring each turn on my full backup line. An oversight from both of us with Cactuar illegally resolving an EX burst on self damage did end the match prematurely, but ultimately did not matter as there were no outs that could be drawn by my opponent. Mistakes happen, even at the highest level of play.
Day 2 Top 8 - Single Elim:
Round 1 | WIN - Ice/Earth ft Kuja+Shantotto combo - Game 1 goes pretty smoothly as I get the perfect start to build backups and start getting my engine online. His cards are unfortunately just not the right answers for my board and he falls off rather quickly. Game 2 I get an atrociously bad hand to start and risk a turn 1 Zidane with no backups. Turn 2 is a WoL and no backs ups again, which is further worsened by dumping my hand on removal. Short story my opponent Shantottos my board and I know I have lost on his turn 2, merely by being behind so many resources. Game 3 I have a rough but playable start but his is simply much better. The game’s not looking good, but a misplay of him attacking a Locke into my Zidane with the overlooked Maria buff gives me a way back in. From there I managed to top deck what I needed and began to snowball with resources, despite him playing multiple Shantottos with Kuja’s ability to remove the previously played copy from the backup line.
Round 2 | LOSS - Ice/Wind ft Maria+Duke Larg - We both felt I was advantaged, and that was quickly proven wrong. The decider in this match involved his backups providing +2k power boost to all his forwards, which invalidated a lot of my forwards and removal. I was forced to Chaos, Walker of the Wheel when he had a full grip to get a forward from it, and I simply couldn’t find a way to set up between discards and struggled to out power his offense. Congrats Nathan Perez for ending my run convincingly and avenging me after taking your San Diego Local Qualifer event!
After a long and unexpected run from a 0-2 start to top 4, I was exhausted. Somewhere inside me is a bouncing ball of joy of excitement, but I also have never felt the feeling of that much pressure for so long with such live or die plays. I’m sure when I get a good rest this is going to hit me like a truck, as I wanted this Worlds qualification really bad. I practiced hard, traveled frequently to Los Angeles for the competition, and lived on ffdecks.com for the past few months. Now that I’m qualified, sometimes it feels like its still not real yet. However, I know the second I see a full list of Opus 7 I will have all the energy in the world for brewing and sharing of ideas for Worlds.
My mind still races with the moments of embarrassing misplays and the contrasting game-winning plays I did which earned me my spot for Worlds. Even in top 4, I still feel like I have a lot to grow and improve – which is honestly a great feeling. This is a sign of how wonderfully complex this game is and it excites me that it won’t be boring because I managed to get here today; that I’ll have to work just as hard to try again next year. I am looking forward to the growth that I hope to attain in myself as I continue to play this game, as I know I can’t rest as many people in that room could easily surpass me. This thought, as a competitor, is what I love and thrive on.
I look forward to Worlds and working with my fellow NA qualified players. I think we’re all on the same page with working together this time in order to ensure that the 8 of us are ready. Just doing well at Nats was never my goal – it has always been to play at Worlds. I hope to use every resource available that’s part of this group of amazing 8 individuals (as well as those in the community that I talk to) in order to pull off my Worlds run. I know NA has an insanely strong line up of players and deck-brewers, and I can’t wait to see the insane things this group of individuals can think of in the early stages of Opus 7 to lead the next Meta.
As a last mention I want to do a shout out to all the staff, judges, and players. This Nats was a very special experience, regardless of my placement. Even if there were some minor hiccups with the breaks (though honestly I loved playing Janken for prizes), overall the event ran smoothly and felt competitive. I was very impressed with the judges and commitment to ensuring proper fixes and strictness (really important with how poorly I read cards). The players this year were a great selection of talent, even if we’re sad for certain Warriors of Light who didn’t make it, and it’s always a thrill to see those people and experience friendly rivalries. Good luck to all next year and wish us the best at Worlds!
- David Cox
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