Thank you for reading my article on Meta Potion! My name is Azul Besares, your California Petit Cup Champion. I love to play video games and trading card games as much as the next guy. Final Fantasy is one of my favorite franchises and FFVI is my favorite game of all time. When it comes to TCG experience, I was an on and off competitive Yu-Gi-Oh player. My accomplishments playing Yu-Gi-Oh include an undefeated regional win in 2005 as well as being qualified/attending Nationals in 2010.
As I noted above, the Final Fantasy franchise holds a special place in my heart. So when I first heard that a card game was coming out based on one of my favorite franchises, the money from my wallet couldn't come out fast enough! I started out by purchasing a booster box of Opus I and each of the three initial starter decks right when the card game was first released. At first I said to myself that I was just going to collect them. However, the I more looked at the cards, the more I just wanted to learn how to play the game!
I live in San Luis Obispo County, which is considered the Central Coast of California. The local scene here is quite small and most would consider it dead. However, we still have the passionate few that meet every week and hope to introduce more people into the game in the future. The local community meet roughly every Saturday around 4pm at Leisure Time Games in Santa Maria. I used to live in Southern California and see that there is a strong community developing down there. I was able to reconnect with old gaming buddies of mine in San Diego so that gave me a great incentive to continue to play, develop my skills, and have fun with the card game as well!
Reading into the Opus IV spoilers, I saw that the game finally released my namesake card, Azul! (Take a step back Vincents of the world!) My first thought of running the deck was to auto-include three Azul, three Restrictor, three Behemoth, and three Dragon. (No love for Yeoman). Obviously after some playtesting, I removed my rose-colored glasses and admitted Azul was not 'that' cool.
However that did not stop me from trying to make a deck with my namesake card! I caught wind of the Top 8 Decks of the last Meta Potion tournaments before the Petit Cup and saw that MP's very own Matthew Okimoto ran a Mono Lightning deck with Azul! I wish I had more time to personally come up with conclusions and data on making the deck. Ultimately, I drew inspiration from his build and made it into my own.
Azul and the Revolution (Mono Lightning)
For those who did not know, Azul is from the Final Fantasy VII Universe, specifically appearing in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. In Opus IV, we get his Behemoth-like form that goes hand-in-hand with his ‘from the field to the Break Zone effect’ of returning a Lightning Monster of cost 3 or less from the Break Zone back onto the field. His effect is optimally played during the mid to late stages of the game when your Break Zone is more likely to have a monster in it.
As much as I would like to put the spotlight on Azul, the true MVP of the deck is Behemoth! Dragon did his share of the work as well. The Monster mechanic adds a new dynamic to the game thus requiring players of all types to consider new strategies with or against them.
The other picks for the deck seemed pretty standard for mono lightning. Opus IV introduced Ark Angel EV, Black Waltz 3, and Dycedarg which each have their own strengths and tricks to add to the deck. Furthermore, all three of these new forwards are also able to be brought to the field through Al-Cid. I also added The Emperor from Opus II as the card is such a strong pick to lock down a lot of decks. I also chose to run three Summoners to ramp up to 4-5 backups as quickly as possible for the resource advantage and for Edea's effect.
The Petit Cup had a final count of 89 players and 7 rounds of Swiss. After the 7 rounds of Swiss, the Top 8 would end up battling it out for the Petit Cup! I had the pleasure of playing against these gentlemen during the Swiss Rounds.
- Luigi (Ice/Earth)
- Daiki (Mono Lightning)
- Brian O. (Mono Lightning)
- Armond (Ice/Lightning)
- Nathan X. (Mono Fire)
- Chris (Fire/Ice)
- Brian B. (Fire/Ice)
I wish I was a better historian so i could give more detailed accounts of my matches. I do remember that many of my matches were quite close. Fortunately I was able to come out of the Swiss rounds as the #2 seed with a 6-1 record. My only lost was to Brian B. in the final round of Swiss.
When I saw Brian B. at the #1 table in the final round of Swiss, I recalled that this would not our first meeting. We had met before at Nationals during Day 1, Round 3 (I believe). I was able to best his Mono Lightning then with my Wind/Water deck during Nationals. Ironically this time, I was running the Mono Lightning and he was running through the competition with the new FFVI Fire/Ice Deck. During my fourth turn, there was a scenario that I played out in my head that involved taking control of the board back but I had pitched my 2nd copy of Exodus to play a Behemoth. It's your classic case of when your plan doesn't work out and you throw away the cards that could help you get back into the game. Brian undoubtedly maintained control of the board and was able to finish me off with me dealing him 3 damage while he dealt the full 7 to me. His final board of Sabin, Locke, and Celes did their job which reminded me of a party setup that fended off Kefka in the Battle of Narshe! This would not be our last match of the night as all of you already know. My fated rematch would come later that night!
Top 8 Quarterfinals Match: Nathan Xain (Cloudy with a Chance of Tifa - FF7 Mono Fire)
I first met Nathan in a small tournament at Brute Force just two days before. When I played him in round five, it was only until I played a few turns against him that I remembered him! My memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be! I had already played Nathan in Round 5 of Swiss and I was the one who ended his streak of 7-0's so I felt pretty good going into this match. The way my deck was built gave me a lot of value from my cards. Example value plays include playing Al-Cid into Black Waltz 3 onto his Gadot and Marauder, Zalbaag into a host of 2 cost forwards, Opus 2 Black Mage and Magus backups into low power forwards like Tifa/Gadot/Ranger. Each of these value plays resulted me on building my board while killing one or more of Nathan’s forwards. However, Nathan's deck remained fast and aggressive as he was able to do early damage before you can even blink! But I was able to stabilize both games early enough (4-5 damage still cuts it pretty close!) and was able to avoid a quick defeat turning it instead into an early 2-0 victory. Congratulations to Nathan for piloting such an aggressive deck to Top 8!
Top 8 Semi Final Match: Richard Alexander (Mono Lightning Tempo - Mono Lightning)
I didn't get to see nor face Richard during the Swiss rounds but I heard that he was able to take the chill pill from Alejandro and make it to the semifinals! Again, I'm not that great of a historian but many could imagine how the Mono Lightning mirror match usually plays out: build back-ups, holding onto maximum hand sizes, and refusing to play forwards until the other plays some themselves. The mono-lightning mirror is as exciting as waiting for the FFVII remake to be released. Our match almost went the full 70 minutes with only two games being played but I was able to clutch the seventh point of damage right before time. This was another 2-0 victory for me. Congratulations to Richard for making it to the Top 4! I guess there could only be one Mono Lightning in the finals.
Top 8 Grand Final Match: Brian Burckley (Ice is Nice but Fire is my Desire - FF6 Fire/Ice)
The destined rubber match! Brian was able to best Jason and his Lone Viking as well as survive Chris' Antipode Bomb. He's also the star of The Break Zone's streams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRWqh8Uq10s) as five of his matches were featured, including all of his Top 8 matches. His matches are available for everyone to watch! I won't go into detail of the match as it can be seen in its entirety on The Break Zone's live stream of the event. Sorry of being anti-climactic! It's best to see all the action there than it is to read and imagine from here! Spoiler Alert! (Read the second sentence of the article =p)
Watching my matches back, I have mixed feelings about the experience. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I'm disappointed in some of the plays/misplays I made during this match. Although I'm glad that I had won, I know I still have a ways to go in learning and my never ending growth as a player. I still get excited playing and facing against a new deck and figuring out how it works, even if it's on the fly in a tournament. This night was my night however and I'm honored to be a Petit Cup Champion!
Shout outs to Meta Potion (Matthew Okimoto & Kyle McGinty) for sanctioning the Meta Potion circuit and providing the community the opportunity to come together to support and engage in the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game; to The Break Zone (Johnny Trenh & Laurent Nguyen) for live-streaming the Petit Cup for those who wanted to watch the action at the top tables and for those like me who could rewatch their past matches; to The Brute Force crew in SoCal for last chance practice even though I wasn't using the deck I brought to the Petit Cup; to the BTH crew (Vince Angeles, Michael Velasco, and Josh Prijoles) for the in house play-testing and late night OCTGN sessions. Lastly, a special thanks to Vince for the last ditch play-testing until 1 AM before the Petite Cup!
It was a pleasure getting to write this article for the Meta Potion. I hope to see everyone in future events to come!
- Azul Besares