Ifrit Summoner Series Champion Report: Sam Riley

I just won the first ever Mognet Summoner Series and no doubt some of you came here in hopes of reading about the deck-list. The ways to beat it, and the ways to improve it. Well rest assured I will get there and we will talk about all of those small but important edges you can get.  And if that is all you came for, I’ll make it easy for you.

Here is the Deck List:

Forward (19)

Backup (17)

Monster (14)

You want to beat the deck? Minerva, Vayne, Emperor Xande with Lebreau.
You want to improve the deck? Add Opus 4 Dark Knight, some Gladiators, and cut the Summoners and a Green Dragon.
Not sure what a keep is and what a mulligan looks like? Mulligan anything with less than 2 backups.

I also did an interview with Chris Mattiske on the deck and that will help a ton. Check that out first so you have a basis on the deck. (See link at end of article)

Winning with the deck and beating the deck is much more intricate than it seems and involves every minute decision you make. I'm hoping to give you some insight into my style of thinking. It's not flawless but maybe through discussions we can both improve.

The event. I played four of my friends from the Tampa area on the way to my Top 8. One of which made top 8 and one which I knocked out of contention. The one that made top 8… I had to play first after Swiss. That's always hardest. But the fact that I kept battling them meant they were also doing well and that was cool to see.

With the most unlucky of die-rolls, I got to be on the play exactly once throughout the tournament. I can blame variance as some do or I can mulligan accordingly. So when I'm on the draw I'm looking for a hand that is good at retaking initiative back from any early aggression. In this deck I’m looking for Raubahn and Adamantoise or Shantotto in particular. This means developing two to three backups first and taking a few points of damage almost every game you lose the die roll.

On the play I would much rather see cards like Clione and Emperor or Beatrix and Steiner, where I’m looking to establish board control. In that situation, I'll be behind a resource and be less willing and likely to take damage. That isn’t to say I’m trying to be the aggressor, because I’m not. I want to setup the game so there is a turn where I play Cagnazzo and end the game on the spot or at least present a position that is unrecoverable for my opponent.  Sometimes it feels weird to play a slow game, but that is the strength of both Water and Earth and I play the deck to those strengths.

Water decks in general can and do go to time. Although cards like Minwu, Shantotto, and Kefka are powerful, piloting the deck optimally will require you to slow down and plan out several turns ahead. This means speeding up every other decision and game action from shuffling to mulligan decisions; every few seconds you can save can add up. Don't slow roll your damage for example like I see most people do quite often. If you aren't blocking just flip the card quickly and move on.  When you are playing a deck with inevitability like this one, it's important to keep a quick pace of play and sometimes remind your opponent to do the same.  It's awkward and nobody likes that part, but it's important for the health of the game.

Another important decision with any deck is the efficiency of your CP use. For example if you are planning on playing Emperor/Clione on turn two, you really want a pair of two drop backups so you can effectively use your CP on turn two. Backups like Minwu become less efficient to play on curve in this case.  This is something to also know during deck building. I generally build specifically looking at my four drop forwards in comparison to my two drop backups.

But do be willing to adjust that plan. Let's say I'm on the draw and I have a few 2 CP backups and a Shantotto. My opponent mulliganed, and was forced to awkwardly Yang-Ursula on turn one. I might play just a single turn one backup knowing that I might need resources to Shantotto the following turn if they commit more to the board. But again, the contents my hand may change that.

A few examples.

Round two, against mono Lightning. I hold my Raubahn the entire time so that I can recover from a Grand Cross. It pays off.

In the last round of swiss my Fire/Lightning opponent Ex-burst Odin me twice in a row. Against the SAME opponent in the quarter-finals he Ex-burst Odin a total of six times between the best of three series. So what do I do? Just stop attacking my opponent out of fear of Odin? Of course not, but there are small edges I can gain by making sure I attack in the right order with my forwards so that his Ex-bursts are less efficient.  This often means attacking with Cecil-L or Emperor-L first and almost always Gau last. Another key in the Fire/Lightning match-up was never playing my Emperor without a way to defend it. I knew Shadow was where he would gain tempo on me and I made sure I invalidated that line for him.

Against my Semi-finals opponents, I opened with double Minwu and another two drop then drew the third soon after. I think a popular play in this scenario is to pitch the second or third copy to play the first on turn two. But I was up against Wind/Lightning, a deck full of chip damage, and surely my opponent had battled through a few Minwus to make it this far.  So I kept all three and it was the third that won me the match after he was able to Archer the first two, but not find a third archer for the last. With Wind/Lightning variants making multiple top 8’s this weekend, from the Winter Cup, Summoner Series, two at the top of the 1k, and the winner of the SoCal Meta Potion Finals, you can expect to play against it in the future.  

Another trick to beating it, and Lightning decks in general, is to not be the first to commit to the board. They are a reactive deck and prey on beating you that way. Don’t let them. I like to deploy my monsters and backups first which will eventually force them to be the first to commit to the board or discard to hand size.

So how do you crush this deck? Beating the Earth/Water deck isn’t quite simple in my opinion. It’s weakness to cards like Emperor Xande (particularly  with Lebreau) and Vayne/Devout decks can be mitigated if they begin adding cards like Yuna-H. Minerva seems like a strong place to start. Being a 10k, it’s very hard to deal with, but the Water/Earth deck doesn’t let you gather a big board and when it does, it plans on Cagnazzoing and Scholar/Magic Pot so Minerva isn't enough to take back the game.

I think a better way to beat it is by playing only a single or couple large monsters out at a time, making Earth/Water deal with each of them. Maybe Mono-Earth would do this best. Something with Delita-L, large Vincent's and Yuffies, or Yang-Ursula combo. Whatever you do, don’t overextend into their Shantotto.

If you don't want to go over the top, you can get under it by playing a very aggressive Wind/X deck with Seven for Snakebite on the Shantotto. Cards like Serafie, Asura, and Rem make that plan easier. And remember Izana is both a Type-0 card and can fetch Fat Chocobo.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed getting some insight into my style of play and deck decision process. Please give feedback if you have any. I'm always looking to learn and get better.

I'll see some of you at the Petit Cup in January here in Tampa and I'll also be at the one in Kansas come February.

Here's that interview from Chris! Thumbs up and subscribe because supporting content creators is good for both the game growth and you mutually.

Finally please check out my podcast where Zach and I discuss many aspects of the FFTCG. I’ve made it easy to both like the Facebook page and subscribe and thumbs up the video! Every view and subscriber means the world to us and each week we are looking to improve.

With love to all my chocobrothers and chocosisters,

-Sam Riley