Deck Tech: Ultima is Bae (Water / Light)

Ultima is my Bae

Hey everyone, my name is Nghia Tran and this is my first article for Meta Potion. I wanted to write about a deck that I’ve been piloting as of late. As background, I love to play trading card games. I currently play Magic the Gathering (but mostly Commander). Surprisingly (and people in my area give me beef for it), I have little to no experience with the actual Final Fantasy franchise prior to picking up the card game. Hopefully I'll have time to fix that!

Introductions aside, ever see those zany list from Ban’s Final Fantasy Corner that makes you question if everything you have been doing at your LGS is so yesterday’s fidget spinner?

Today, I will go into detail about the list that initially made me scratch my head and go "huh?".

I remember it like it was a month ago because it was in fact a month ago! I stumbled on a picture that looked like a massive pile of light cards and what looked like the worst riff raff of extra commons that one could cobble together and try to pass off as a deck. I should note that this deck placed first during a Masters event in Japan. Like most things on the internet I had to build it and try it out at my locals. During my initial play-testing, it seemed as if the deck consisted of playing horrible forwards, looking at my hand, and proceeding to deck myself. I scratched my head pondering how the heck this deck did anything and how it was able to do so well in Japan. Later that night I saw that the deck creator (Mr. Kurosawa) was commenting on the post saying he welcomed any discussion or pointers when it came to the deck. Mr. Kurosawa was a very polite gentleman explaining to me in more detail what the deck was trying to do and what I was missing by just taking the list at face value.

Fast forward a month later, I ended up falling in love with the deck and ultimately chose to run a variation of that deck for the first U.S. National Tournament earlier this month. I’ve provided the list that I ultimately settled on below:

Deck: Water / Light

Forwards (23)

Backups (16)

Summons (11)

Drawing made Easy

Do you think drawing 2 cards a turn just isn’t enough? Well you are in luck because this deck allows you to draw so much more! With this deck, the more cards you draw, the more powerful the plays the deck can offer.

At first glance, playing so many light cards would appear to be a terrible idea and what the naysayers will tell you without touching the deck. However, with the filtering and card draw, the concerns with the light cards should not be an actual issue. The all-stars of the deck in terms of drawing and filtering cards would have to be the trio of Garnet (3-152), Yuna (1-214), and Moogle (1-172). Casting the starter Garnet onto the field with an active starter Yuna will net you the Yuna trigger (to draw a card upon dulling Yuna while active) after you cast Moogle. The ability to draw 1 card from Yuna and then 2 cards discarding 1 card with Moogle is very important to the filtering power of this deck. Our backups also do double duty as filtering devices. Artemicion (3-122) helps to tuck the additional light cards to the bottom of your deck and is honestly the best early to mid-game draw this deck has. For example, the ability to replace 4 cards from hand to the bottom of the deck in order to dig further for the cards you need is very important. Merlwyb (2-137) might be the best EX-burst this deck could hope to hit as it also helps with the draw/filtering plan for the deck. In my experience, playing it may feel bad (since it costs 4 CP) and many times I usually use it as CP fodder. However, praise be to Ultima whenever you’re able to hit this card off damage and EX-burst the draw/filter effect for free.

So at this point you are drawing all the cards and grinning like a maniac as your opponent ponders if you have read the rules of the game. You may ask “Nghia how do I win with this deck”? Patience, all will be revealed soon.

Bartz and his Army of the Light

This deck, when I was first playing it without proper guidance, was played as some kind of combo deck trying to resolve Ultima for value. While this deck still has that game plan in mind the true goal is to beat face. To that end I would like to point you to the overnight sensation that is Bartz (3-065). When it was first revealed, people wondered how feasible can someone have five job for legend Bartz (3-065) and whether doing so would be even worth it. Well I must say part time (3 job) Bartz and managerial (5+job) Bartz both play very important roles on the workforce. Having all the jobs is no joke and being a 9k first strike, brave, double attacking monster isn’t one either. In this deck you are usually looking at being able to turn on Bartz very quickly from using many of the cheaper forwards such as Famed Mimic Gogo (3-142). The Yuna/Garnett combo provides you with extra cards so that you’re able to play a cheap 2 CP-costed Zidane (3-154) alongside Onion Knight (1-181) and Ghis (2-126) helping you add an additional forward. The idea is to have these small very mundane dorks get in those early points of damage and really ice them later with the Employee of the Month Bartz (3-065). There are some very spicy combos that I will illustrate in a later part of the article that just gives this deck that element of unpredictability that will take your locals by storm.

The Game Plan

The game plan is simple get a Cosmos (1-183) in your hand fast and early prioritize that over any other backups. Cosmos is literally the lynch pin of your deck. If you can’t find it mulligan and dig hard my friends until you do that’s why we have the card draw and filters. Playing early forwards and attacking is key so that you can get an early damage lead. Set up your early Yuna/Garnett combo if you can is even better. The combo allows you to play a Zidane for 2cp while Garnett is on the field.

At this point in the game you should generally be attacking and not worrying too much about damage the damage you’re taking. After the first backup being Cosmos, the second backup I would try and play would be Eiko (3-126). Eiko lets you recur your Leviathan for bounce and Ultima (3-145) for wipe. Eiko also lets you recur these summons if you had to discard them earlier.

There will be turns where your opponent will over extend and not keep a blocker back. These are the perfect times where you should get Bartz on the field. Haste Bartz is great but playing a Bartz and an Onion Knight (and having 3 other forwards in play) thereby making Bartz a 9k double attacker is even better.

Now getting to the mid game with some points of damage having been dealt to your opponent we use our tempo changer card Ultima. Now this card is finicky. Too many non-light forwards and we mill ourselves for a whole bunch. The optimal thing I do when I know that I have a lot of non-light forwards and don’t want to mill myself is that I will try and suicide all my non light forwards in and who knows maybe I will get in a random point of damage here or there. The ability to swarm early and be able to keep forwards after a board wipe helps this deck greatly in most match ups. Holding your Leviathans to get rid of their pesky blockers after the wipe is also strongly suggested. Understand that Ultima cost 5 to cast only with a light forward on the field and will leave them with their own light or dark forwards too. There will be games where you get to the point that casting an Ultima will deck you. Well fear not, as long as you kill your opponent before you have to draw again you do not lose due to state based effects. There have been times I’ve won with the deck on the turn I milled myself out.

This deck is high risk high reward at the fullest but if you dare to build it and run it you will be pleased by how fluid and fun it is especially when you get to the juicier combos in the deck.

The Matchups:

This section is vague because honestly this deck will have a different game plan for each board state. Instead I will just tell you which cards to look out for. Wind is the bane of this deck having access to both Archer which breaks our Cosmos and the ability to rebuild after Ultima. Against Water/Wind (our hardest matchup) I found the key to success is to stick as many forwards to the board as you can. Go wide and don’t be afraid to swing in with hasted Bartz. Force them to blow Leviathans and Famfirit to kill your little guys. Use your Onion Knight strategically. Do not be afraid to cast the Onion Knight first turn.

The second card I want to inform you on that is bad for the deck is Minevera. With this deck, you can always bounce the card to delay the effect, but if the opponent can stick this card and turn off the text on your characters (especially Cosmos), you are losing all your light forwards (presuming you have more than 1).

In any matchup where you fear your opponent playing either of these cards my advice is to not lean so heavily on your light forwards. Instead let weenie rush be your goal. Take the deck out folks and try it out. Play fast and aggressive. Scare your opponents with your random pile and above all do not deck yourself.

Combo Wombo

Now for the fun part, in preparation for the first North American National tournament, I added a spicy combo to the list. Not sure if you noticed it above when I first listed it. Hashmal, Bringer of Order (2-087) + Cosmos (1-183) + Ultima, the High Seraph (3-145). This will make your opponents tilt so hard but honestly if you can pull it off then you will be crowned your LGS Johnny of the Week. By using Hashmal, Bringer of Order (2-087) and choosing light, this allows you to turn all your forwards into light forwards. Cosmos (1-183) will allow you to keep all your light forwards. Finally, Ultima, the High Seraph (3-145) will kill all non-light forwards. Can you say value town. Let’s just say (thanks to Jared for the suggestion) that this tech can surprise kill my opponent with more than the 2-3 light forwards they expect me to have after using Ultima. I even got multiple people (including the creator of the game and creator of the deck) to comment how clever the combo was.

Although not as spicy, these other combos are still helpful with the game plan of the deck of playing lots of guys to the board to turn on Bartz and filtering for what we need.

  • Ghis (2-126) + Bartz (3-065) or Vivi (3-017). Want to cheat in a forward? Well Ghis is your judge. With the ability to dodge non special ability damage, he says suck it to the Al-Cid combo as well as allowing you to cast Bartz or Vivi along with filtering for 2 cards.
  • Bartz (3-065) + Warrior of Light (2-145). With 5 forwards including these two, Bartz is all of a sudden a 9k First Strike, Haste, Brave, can attack twice, and reduces all damage taken by 2k. Did I mention that Bartz is bonkers.
  • Bartz (3-065) + Hashmal, Bringer of Order (2-087) + 3 random forwards = Cast Hashmal naming a job you hate (Dragoons!!!) and fully turn on Bartz and give your whole team a 1k boost.
  • Yuna (1-214) + Garnet (3-152) + Zidane (3-154) = not so much a combo but just great value. Dull Yuna when you cast Moogle off your Garnet and draw 3 cards (discarding 1 after). Furthermore, you can cast Zidane for 1 discard in order to draw an additional card.

Conclusion

As alluded to above, I played the list at Nationals and went 6-2 the first day. Unfortunately, I had a disappointing showing on the second day ending with a disappointing 1-3 drop record. I personally think I had some bad matchups and bad play choices.

Despite my poor day 2 performance, I hope you guys enjoy the list and my thoughts on the deck. In all honesty you need to play the deck to feel it out. No amount of information can beat actually running the deck and seeing how it plays out. Also YES my deck is entirely FOIL.

- Nghia Tran

Nghia is an active player in the Bay Area. When he's not looking at new brews from Japan or connecting with other players about their new brews, he is trading for foils for all his decks. His thoughts on the game thus far? Ultima is Bae and Golbez is Boss.