Growing with Gardner: Volume 1

“Card games are supposed to be an escape from stress, not something to be stressed out about. We play them to have fun and to grow as people, together.” -- Future great friend of mine?!?

As a competitive player, I notice that once the good decks are figured out, people can get bored playing the same meta-type decks every week. Even if people build new decks, they will tend to play cards that are proven to be good day in and day out. I notice that there isn’t much experimentation and find it fairly disappointing that there are many untapped cards with potential. This is evidenced with the whole DGS package that Jordan Denk ran at Gen Con adding a new spin to mono-ice discard.

I’ve had an urge to share my thoughts and experimentation with underutilized cards. With my recent addition to Metapotion, I will be aiming to write a regular article series on this topic. I do not guarantee you will be wrecking face with the cards and decks that are discussed in these articles, but I have played them against the current top tier decks and I believe that there is potential for wins.

Today I would like to start with a bit of an inside joke of mine, Bergan (2-017R). I'll give you guys a second to look at the card since many of you probably don’t know what the card does.

Bergan is from Opus 2 and has a pretty big downside - the red judge gets placed into the break zone when it is targeted by a summon. Outside of it’s downside, Bergan is a 4CP forward with 8k power – something that is perfectly fine. Bergen even has a pretty great ability (the ability to deal damage to all opposing forwards) that has combo potential with a lot of cards in recent sets since Bergan’s printing in Opus 2. However, Bergan’s downside will typically make most people shy away from the card and prevent them from even experimenting whether the card is even good even as new sets come.

Seems bad right? Well maybe, not so fast. Typical summons people play in their decks from each element include Odin (lightning), Diabolos (wind), Shiva (ice), Leviathan (water), Bahamut (fire), Hecatoncheir (earth). Most of the time, if your forward is targeted by a summon, it’s dying anyway right either because it’s going to lose in combat (e.g. Diabolos or Bismark shrinking your forward) or being broken outright (e.g. Odin). So if we overlook this supposed downside, we have a forward that has 8k power for 4CP – something that is on curve. With Bergan’s added ability to deal damage to all opposing forwards, I would say that Bergan is a forward that has more value above its cost on the curve.

Let’s get to the fun parts now. I’ve compiled two different lists using Bergan. One list showcases his abilities as more of a key piece. The second list uses Bergan in conjunction with more universally accepted good cards but still with a creative spin.

First up :

Here we have a mono fire build using a mix of “top tier” cards and “garbage” cards. However, let’s look into the deck a bit in more detail. Bergan combined with Manasvin Warmech is the obvious combo as it allows Bergan to do 3k to the opposing board. However Bergan’s ability is also useful combined with sage backup from opus 4 to amp up the damage even more.

With sage and/or Manasvin Warmech, Bergan would be able to kill off smaller forwards (like Vikings) or forwards that didn’t die in combat. The ever present threat that you can potentially deal damage to their entire board at once sways blocking and attacking decisions. The 1000 damage to every forward opponent controls may not seem like a big number on paper, but why are we so happy to include backups that raise our forwards power by 1000 then?

Think for a moment about all of the tiny bodies being used right now (e.g. Leila, Viking, Argath, Snow). People are playing 1k,2k,3k power forwards and most decks have to waste premium removal on these cheap forwards which could potentially leave more dangerous forwards (like Genesis and Cloud of Darkness) uncontested at times. Small chip damage is relevant right now to kill these smaller forwards. Bergan and the other forwards in this first deck are here to fix that. In the deck, we have repeatable instances of damage to deal with smaller forwards that don’t require us to waste cards from our hand to do it.

I know your going to mention that Sabin has to use his S ability to kill things and Vivi isn’t great after his come into play effect. But remember they also have different uses. Sabin is a magnet for a removal summon or ability. If the opponent doesn’t deal with him quickly, sometimes even the turn he comes into play, it’s all downhill from there. Also if they are using a summon to remove Sabin, that’s one less summon that can be used to target Bergan. Vivi is a nice little firestorm waiting to happen. Vivi’s special doing 7k damage wouldn’t normally be enough to wipe a board (remember he deals damage to all forwards – including our own), but with an activation of Bergan (who is 8k by the way so he survives Firaga) we can kill opposing 8k (or 10k forwards if we use manasvin). Also Vivi could just be used along with manasvin to deal with opposing 9k forwards. Those are decent numbers!

Dark lord is actually great against a wide range of current decks. Dark lord doesn’t need to attack for his effect to burn for 3k a turn. You can easily increase this to 5k or 7k easily (using the monsters/backups discussed above). In combination with other cards, we could even kill larger forwards. For example, if we combine dark lord with something like Xande and you can deal 8k damage to a forward by the time Xande attacks, no matter if the opposing forward is dull or active. General Leo can do a similar thing as Xande but to a smaller scale. Zell also combos nicely with these forwards that have chip damage and with the global buffs he should be having a come into play damage chunk of 5 to 6k. Comboing Zell with any of the above cards (like Dark lord, Xande, Bergan, Leo, Manasvin or Sage), we can kill opposing forwards and Zell can then move into the attack after that since he has haste. Let’s not forget about Luneth – he has two abilities, I know right? Turns out he turns your extra forwards and backups into more chip damage if need be. Most of the time he is just a buff to your forwards, but sometimes you activate the second ability when opponents least expect it.

As for the 2CP forwards, Llednar is great on his own, but with buffs he can be problematic for opponents to realistically deal with and come out ahead of the trade. Every time he is targeted by the opponent, the opponent has to pay 2CP or he cant die that turn. And if he is blocked or blocks, the opponent needs to pay 2 more CP to kill him. This tax to your opponent is a fairly decent hit to available resources (either a card from hand or 2 backups to pay). It would be a shame if your opponent paid the 2 when blocking or being blocked and then something happened to their forward and that 2CP was wasted for nothing right? (hint: we just burn their forward after the tax is paid). Warrior started off as a “this could be okay, I guess.” Card and quickly turned the whole deck into threats. Every turn it isn’t dealt with all your forwards get +2k power? Seems okay to me and time and again made my forwards out of range to deal with in combat. That brings me to ninja. Oh man, where to start here. Ninja is almost unblockable if your opponent values their forwards. Having a Manasvin, Sage, or even Bergan on the table should make your opponent think twice about blocking with anything smaller than 10k power! I managed to catch quite a few opponents off guard with this guy once per game and then it got through every other time after that. It feels good to kill a Nidhogg with a 2CP bad card and have your card survive!

The summons in the deck are nothing fancy. Bahamut is for getting rid of that annoying card you don’t want to see again naturally (e.g. Vanille) or via recursion (e.g. miner or devout). The Ifrit and Brynhilder both having ex burst and almost always hitting for 8k with the Vermillion bird backup are very nice inclusions to the already plentiful damage output you have available. Remember both Ashe and Illua die to exburst through their reactions abilities and in the same line of play nothing can be Titan'd or otherwise buffed to live either. 8k is about the magic number most often to take care of a forward so these summons feel good.

The backups are meant to help push as much damage through as possible and help the main idea of the deck get carried out. Not too much to say here except for magus. In testing, Magus is another card I have never seen played before but I was able to use it to sweep a board of Argath, Thaumaturge x2, for me one game and my opponent immediate quit.

Again this isn’t meant to be me saying “this is the next big deck you have to play this omg omg omg.” Its just me saying there are unexplored archetypes out there that can do well but people are content to just play what someone else has made that they know is good. I was able to win games against turbo ice consistently, Vikings was better than 50-50, scions I played twice and won one lost one, and even won two games through minwu!

“Come on Wolverine I want to play better cards than these!” Okay, I took that for a spin as well. Its less focused on Bergan, but the same style is there and Bergan is still a key point.

Deck #2:

First off this deck was inspired by an opponent of mine at the local Qualifier I won and I just wanted to thank him. So thank you Brent!

Alright so a few things are the same, Bergan, Manasvin, Sabin, Vivi, some backups. Lets get into the new element added and why.

Enter the Earth cards. Krile is one of my favorite cards to try and abuse. Bringing her in off a Phoenix and then activating her S is a blowout if it happens. The S ability is increased by Sage and Manasvin and should make for easy board clears.

Next up is the Yang/Ursula combo. This on turn one is sometimes all you need to win a game in earth. However were using it in a different angle. Yang has an s that is begging to be abused with sage and manasvin. Look into it, It’s fun I promise lol. Dadaluma, aside from being a ridiculous to deal with forward, isn’t as powerful without his cactus friend. Still there are some interactions here that make use of his ping abilities that aren’t too commonly seen.

Last forward we have is Shantotto. For those of you who played final fantasy XI, you know all too well that things aren’t going to be good when you see her. Playing Hecatonchier or activation of Sabin is a pretty good way to clear a board. Her S ability is also great if you can pull it off. Little known fact, that the forwards she destroys with her ability are removed from game. Use that as you will.

On to the summons, 2CP Hecatonchier is great with Shantotto, or even a beefed up Sabin. Dadaluma can use this to get extra mileage as well. 3CP Hecatonchier has a ton of value in the current meta and you could probably fit in three of them and not be sad about it one bit. Phoenix is here to make combat tricky and to pop off a surprise Krile S ability.

The new monsters add interesting applications with our new earth forwards. Bomb, is well, a bomb! This monster has the ability to threated an attacker or a board wipe when combined with the appropriate cards. Bomb and Dadaluma deal 8k to something together, bomb and Shantotto deal 8k to everything! Add in some Manasvins or Sage activation and you have an explosive turn! Goblin turns into a forward for 0CP cost, which is valuable, but when he attacks you deal 1k to a forward in play. Maybe they have a small forward 1k to 3k size and you can pick it off easy. Or maybe you target your Dadaluma and hit something for 4k and then use bomb and sacrifice that for even more damage!

The earth backups are all here for value. Botanist gets you forwards back for another s ability use. Rydia finds that Phoenix or Hecatonchier that you need this turn. Miner gets you a backup back or a forward you could use to swing the game around, maybe you just need to use Shantotto S next turn to win or a Vivi to kill a single target. Star Sybil has been in almost every wind earth deck this season and with good reason. Search out that Shantotto and then next turn sacrifice the sybil to play her for free! Exburst doesn’t hurt either I suppose.

Finally we have Minifilia. She makes it possible to get a forward and S fodder for that forward at the same time. Maybe nidhogg is bothering you, in response to the blink sacrifice minfilia to kill that nasty dragon. There are quite a bit of combos that you can pull off late game with Minfilia.

All right! That’s it for this article. I plan on trying to make these semi regular and even hope to get some polls going about cards you want me to use! Final Fantasy TCG as a whole has a ton of unexplored combos. Take a risk, build some jank, use those bad cards, you might surprise yourself not to mention your opponent.

Thank you,

Josh “Wolverine” Gardner

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