LQ Win, I finally qualified! – David Cox

Hey, it's David Cox here with a deck tech follow up to my LQ win at Card Game Coliseum! This is a deck I've been trying to solve for a while and I'm overjoyed that it got its chance to shine before Opus IX rolls out.

The deck has a lot of familiar card combos we've all seen before, but the blend is fairly unique to what's going on in the meta. I'll be explaining these choices and how they compare to their inspirations. As well as general piloting tips. For those looking to secure a Nationals qualifier, or just simply looking for a different deck at locals, I offer you to give this list a try!

Going into this season, I had some rather unfortunate luck getting Dadaluma on par with my usual standings and found myself in search of a new deck. I noticed the UK scene had a lot of success with Mono Wind with Water splashed for YRP (Yuna+Rikku+Paine) and Yuri FFCC variants. I experimented with those and even tried to test Yuna EX with Chaos, Walker of the Wheel as a counter to Veritas and other break zone strategies. I found all of these to be very strong when things went right, but with so many parts that needed certain things to happen, it felt too inconsistent.

I decided to cull some of these conditional interactions and pull inspiration from Mono Water; one of the most consistent decks in the meta. Mono Water differs by favoring going more wide with cards like Leila+Viking to fund effects like Cloud of Darkness and provide fodder for Famfrit, the Darkening Cloud. It also embraces heavy use of the meta's problem child, Veritas of the Dark; a card I am more than fond of running as a 3x whenever possible. After some testing, I found there was some very unique interactions this direction provided over the others that fit my play style and arrived at the following list:

FFDecks Link:  https://ffdecks.com/deck/4851415006576640

***In the tournament I ran 2 Scholar and 1 Lunafreya, however here is the updated list after the event as  I decided to drop Lunafreya for a 3rd Scholar***

At a glance, this deck is basically an amalgamation of Mono Water strategies and the standard fare of Wind cards shared between most Wind/Water decks. We've seen how most of these cards function in the meta, but how they play off each other in this mix is more unique. As per usual, you'll want to establish Yuna and Rikku as early as possible to get Paine and Valefor live. From there, your next priority is to keep the field in control while you build your backup line. Use Zidane to disrupt hands and your plethora of mass and focused removal to keep opponents in check. You have the option of pressuring early since your bodies double as disruption to clear a path and Leila+Viking is a strong early threat, but you're really aiming for late game blow outs. At 5 backups the deck can do devastating board clears by combining effects like Scholar + Fina to double 5k the board or using Diabolos to break and reduce a 4CP to 1k, while a Valefor or attacking Cloud of Darkness clean up the reduced target. With these resources Paine and Leila+Viking let you establish several bodies on the field and keep your hand full to clear the way. Sometimes stalemates can occur, where each player is simply clearing the board of forward; here you can swap to refraining from card draw and aim for a mill out with Rikku. Hiding behind cards like Veritas and Diabolos can have opponents struggling to set up their own pressure, letting you mill them as they hesitate to play into your efficient options.

I feel many of these synergies and card choices are well documented and known, so I'm just going to talk about the interactions and key points that are more unique or disputed.

Leila+Viking A staple of most Water/X decks, but usually not seen in current Wind/Water decks. The cards take up a lot of room and normally don't interact directly with Wind synergy. Since this deck is borrowing more Mono Water tools that go unused in these builds, their usefulness becomes more relevant and running them becomes critical. The main reason we want these is a counter deterrent to opponent Famfrit and Veritas and stalling to get to our set ups, a luxury other Wind decks don't always have. We're almost running these more defensively or to force the opponent to focus on them while we can get our Wind packages online.

Cloud of Darkness – This card is often not seen in most Wind/Water builds as it requires a lot of space for forwards capable of shooting wide fast. The inclusion of Leila+Viking combined with cheap, efficient cards like Zidane and Paine make it very easy to guarantee this as lethal on play. Where it shines is how it plays with Diabolos, Valefor, and Fina; as the ability to attack and clean up on these cards pushes its level of usefulness beyond what it is normally capable of in traditional Mono Water builds.

Veritas of the Dark – I've had a lot of people tell me you shouldn't run 3x, much less even bother running it in Wind/Water over cards like Yuri. I strongly disagree, but with the understanding that you should support the card in your build. Wind/Water gives Veritas some of the best support in the entire game at the moment. One of the biggest counters to Veritas are decks that play fodder like Leila+Viking to soak up its effectiveness. Wind gives access to Fina, Diabolos, and Valefor that allow you to keep boards clear of fodder forwards and give you a clean shot at prime targets. Water gives you Famfrit and Summoner that lets you have devastating control on when you can trigger the abilities of this card. Famfrit, in particular, is absurdly strong when you kill a lone forward and force your opponent to lose a backup. This card is an absolute all-star and I can't stress enough how good it is to run 3 of them in this build. The fear of drawing multiple in hand should not deter you in a meta where things die quickly and you have both Famfrit and Diabolos to self-sacrifice it (yes, you can Diabolos your own for obscure play lines your opponents might not see coming!).

Deathgaze (IX) – This is just fantastic removal that's rarely broken to get back what you took. Beyond just being a great card, it has a rather convenient combo with Miounne. In the rare instance your opponent replays another unique forward as the one you've removed, you can Miounne the Deathgaze back to hand and the forward will remain trapped outside the game. Now you can replay the Deathgaze. I had strong consideration of putting a Bismarck in the deck for this interaction, but sadly couldn't find the room.

Scholar – This card has vastly outperformed expectations. Normally breaking backups for these kinds of tricks is still expensive, but the potential for your deck to draw and activate leads to situations where you can actually accelerate your board state. You have a huge surplus of worthwhile forwards to bounce, but the real sell is board wiping for 10k with Fina. At 5 backups, you need only Fina and 3 more pitch-able cards to double cast Fina. This is an extremely reliable set up as the combo only needs 2 unique cards and one gets to sit safely on board as an easily overlooked 2CP backup while it waits.

I like this build because all the more popular builds have the same ideas on what to do with Wind, but are begrudgingly using Water simply for access to Yuna. This build makes better use of Water as a core strategy, rather than support, and I feel the end result is better consistency and more flexibility in play style. That said, this is not an easy deck to pilot and you'll need to know what you're doing to reap the benefits of the deck. So here's a brief overview of what you want to be doing in some common matchups:

Mono Ice

The big take away here is your opponents will often have bigger bodies and will be going for early disruption with discard to keep you off tempo. Early game, you need to focus on backups and playing defensively, but prioritize handling Locke, Genesis, and Garland before they can amass too much value. If you can stall out to 3-5 backups you shouldn't have much problem establishing forwards while keeping them on 1-2 forwards max. Respect that this matchup is won in the late game as there's little they can do to you if you get a wide board state outside of Zalera. Make sure to covet Diabolos as a counter play to dulling effects and kill several 5CP+ targets. Holding a playable Famfrit and Diabolos with 2 cards in hand to bait a Sephiroth can mitigate a lot of their momentum. Scholar is also a very strong option as it can counter Cid Aulstyne if they can't provide instant speed discard as well as stifle a Glasya Labolas with only 1 target.

Mono Wind 

These decks want to set up combos funded by a full row of backups, so Veritas becomes a major player. You want to set up situations where Veritas is breaking backups when it's broken to make your opponent constantly keep reinvesting in them. Mono Wind has a lot of counter play to going wide with small bodies, so Leila+Viking and Cloud of Darkness are going to have less impact normally. You're almost playing this like a mirror with the big difference being Famfrit and Veritas.

Mono Lightning

The only real fear in this deck is playing around haste and Hildibrand's resistance to Famfrit and Veritas. Try to keep the field clogged with chump blockers to force opponents to commit more resources to remove them. If you get your backups online without taking much damage there's little the deck can do to counter your ability to remain wide with tricks in hand. The value swing of Veritas is absurd in this matchup if you can keep them off Hildibrand, so make sure to save your Cloud of Darkness and damage based removal for him.

Mono Water

Your Wind package has a ton of counter play here; as Diabolos has numerous 5CP targets and Fina & Valefor will clear many of the smaller bodies. Minwu can be a pest when looking to board wipe bigger targets, but Ninja and Cloud of Darkness can help keep Valefor relevant. Be mindful of how big their Cagnazzo wipes can get and don't get baited by focusing on getting too many small bodies out. This matchup also draws a lot of cards and it's fairly easy to Rikku mill. If you're aware of the matchup before the game begins, try to mull for something with an answer to turn 1 Zidane; Valefor, Famfrit, Fina, Vertias, and your own Zidane (to deny them the 6th card) are great counter openers.

Ice/Fire FFVI

Your first goal is to disrupt Locke and Genesis from getting underneath you. A turn 2 or 3 Zidane to rip apart the FFVI package or hit an early threat can be a really big play in this matchup. If you can stabilize and not get forced into top deck mode your next concern shifts to playing around Phoenix. Make sure you try to hang on to Y'shtola for mid to late game for this reason. They can't really get her off the field and she can just be a major nuisance to their goals. They don't have enough discard pressure to keep you off late game board wipe combos as long as you can throw Leila+Vikings in front of Lock and Genesis.

Ice/Earth Flantotto

Very similar to the mono Ice matchup with the exception of them having access to Shantotto to punish going wide. You should try your best to bait it as early as possible if you can manage to have backups too. The earlier the better as they'll avoid playing their oppressive forwards underneath it and have to pitch more to play it. If they hesitate and build backups make sure you get a Zidane out to deny them their follow up. Ripping out a lone Earth card or Flan can leave them trapped on mono Ice with how few Earth cards they run. This matchup can be a grind, so Rikku becomes a very real threat after they begin thinning out their Flans for you.

Ice/Water Vicekings

There's gonna be a lot of small body pressure so expect to be playing a lot of Fina and Valefor. Thankfully, you can go toe-to-toe with the same strategy to force board stalemates and set up for a big wipe later. If you can steal their momentum and go into a game of top decking, you have stronger options due to your activation combos maximizing your value. You do need to keep an eye on Rinoa though. Try to have a punish ready to kill whatever target they choose and neuter their value.

Wind/Water Yuri

The deck wants backups and is looking for combos just like Mono Wind. The only real difference is the need to focus on killing Yuri specifically. Make this your prime target; as many value plays fall apart whenever this card isn't present. They'll be protecting with Y'shtola and Aerith, so you'll want to keep those clear when you go to try and get at Yuri.

Earth/Fire FFVII

This matchup shouldn't be a huge concern. They have little counter play to your board wipes and can easily be stalled with chump blockers. You just need to respect Tifa with haste and make sure to kill Barret ASAP. Feel free to kill Cloud as you please as his reanimation auto-ability is mitigated by the threat of Rikku mill out.

Earth/Wind Dadaluma

This matchup is a situation where both of you have answers to the other. You're both running a lot of removal so it's not uncommon for every turn to just be each player board wiping the other. Leila+Viking takes a back seat in this matchup, outside of baiting the opponent’s options, as the draw power is risky of self-deck out. Thankfully, if you can abstain from drawing too much, they do a ton of searching and tend to not apply too much forward pressure to make your mill out very viable. Your main focus is making sure that your Veritas is keeping them frustrated on keeping things out. To do this, you must keep them off Calbrena and Galdes+Luminous Puma loops. Y'shtola can cancel the return triggers and White Mage can solve the situation permanently. This matchup is all about resource management. Make them forced to respond and not to free build, as their options can be very expensive. You will have a hard time if you let them have 5 backups and a full hand.

Earth/Lightning Scions

Lot of the same rules as Mono Lightning except this deck is much better at clearing out bodies if it gets to attack but likely doesn't have Hildibrand to counter Famfrit and Veritas. You'll want to make sure Veritas is killing backups to keep disrupting their job synergies. If you get any opportunity to force an Alisae to break or be discarded, this becomes your prime objective. Without haste, Scions is a very weak deck.

During the tournament I fought a lot of Ice and can comfortably say this is a very solid matchup. In the coming weeks we will have a week without Dadaluma, and in that vacuum I predict a lot of control players may move to Ice/Earth. With Dadaluma probably being the hardest matchup and this prediction of where people might shift, I find this deck is very well situated to exploit this meta gap. With that I wish you all good luck to all those still fighting for those qualifiers!

- David Cox

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