SoCal Crystal Cup Report: Alejandro Ramirez

Hey guys! Alex here! Some of you may know me as the 2nd place finisher at Crystal Cup in SoCal. Hope everyone had a good 4th of July if you celebrated it! I spent mine just chilling with family, eating burgers, and watching fireworks. Anyways, I wanted to let you know about my experience at my first Crystal Cup! Our very own Mustadio wrote about his experience on the weekend of the event, but I want to take some time to talk about why I played mono Ice, the reason behind my tech choices, and what you should be thinking of if you want to play my deck.

I’ve been a fan of Ice decks since I piloted a mono Ice Control deck at Petit Cup last year, where I took 5th place. Ice has been my main element since then. On the road to Crystal Cup, SoCal hosted the Meta Potion Circuit Season 2. I piloted an Ice/Earth Moogle deck in the latter half of the Circuit, where I did fairly well. I had a lot of fun playing that deck, but I realized what the deck’s weaknesses were at the end of the Circuit. I began having doubts that the deck would do well at Crystal Cup. I began fine tuning the deck in order to try to cover its weaknesses.

Two weeks before Crystal Cup, I dedicated one week to testing the Moogle deck, and one week to testing a mono Ice deck I created during a friend’s wedding reception. While the Moogle deck tested better, I ultimately decided to play mono Ice because of my prediction on what the meta would look like at Crystal Cup. I predicted that I would be playing against a lot of mono Ice discard, mono Water, and Fusoya. These three decks could pummel Moogles: Ice could destroy my hand and prevent me from setting up, Water would be allowed to set up as I’m setting up my Moogles and could then have a big Cagnazzo turn, and Fusoya could just kill my Serah for free. On the other hand, mono Ice discard can get its game going in the first few turns, which pressures the opponent into responding.

Nowadays, most mono Ice discard decks look similar. In order to stand out among the crowd, I decided to make tech choices based on the meta I predicted I was going to play against. Ok enough talk, here is the list:

Take a Chill Pill Episode III: Revenge of the Vayne

Forward (25)

Backup (17)

Summon (5)

Monster (3)

  • 3x [4-043C] Flan

What?! No Argath?! Only 2 Genesis?! No 1 CP backup?! Opus 2 Jihl?! Ok, hear me out. Like I mentioned before, this deck was teched against other decks.

I originally had one Argath in the deck, and I didn’t cut him until the day of the tournament. I was still a little worried about an opponent playing Vayne against my Setzers, Orphans, and Cid Aulstynes. I wanted some way to add on damage from my Glasya Labolas and Celes to remove big bodies. I decided Cid Raines could pull double duty: removal and discard. Plus, he’s cheaper to use to remove small bodies than using Glasya Labolas.

Having only 2 Genesis in the deck was the result of me shuffling forwards around. At one point, I had 2 Ice Emperors (which I eventually cut one for Serah). Another time, I had a Rinoa in there. Eventually, I had 3 Genesis, and I realized I only had 2 Celes. I decided to replace a Genesis with another Celes to add more power to my deck.

I decided against the 1 CP backups early on because my goal with this deck isn’t to get to 5 backups: 3 or 4 is ideal. I wanted backups that do something, and I was in no rush getting them out. Harley, Edward, and Duke Larg are enough to get started. Starter Jihl, Mog, Gestahlian Cid, and Cid WOFF are not usually played until mid-late game.

Opus 2 Jihl was teched in there to protect against Fusoya, Pellinore, and lightning backups like Alphinaud and 5 cost Lulu. This card single handedly won me every game I had against Fusoya decks.

The other tech cards in that deck are The Emperor and Kuja. The Emperor is there for water matchups and some wind matchups. Whenever the opponent draws outside of their draw phase, you get a free dull + freeze on an opposing forward. Kuja is a counter to Leyak. When Kuja attacks, Leyak resolves first, which activates the opponent’s forwards. Then Kuja resolves, dulling/freezing an opposing forward. If you are forced to play Vayne before your opponent plays a 5 drop or higher, Kuja can help out Vayne by dulling the forward.

When piloting this deck, you have to quickly determine what you’re playing against and which cards will help you and which will just be dead cards in your hand. Playing against Water? You probably don’t need Opus 2 Jihl. Playing against Lightning? Most key Lightning forwards other than Illua are 4 cost, so Zalera has reduced usefulness. Fire? Fire aggro is scary, so you better search for that Cid Raines. Earth? A good amount of their cards are expensive, so aggro discard away! These are just a few examples, and a good way to come up with answers against other decks is to practice against them. Better yet: play as those decks! Play as your weakest matchups, learn what their win condition is, and decide how to disrupt that win condition given the tools of your element(s).

The highest point of my weekend wasn’t actually getting 2nd place and qualifying for Nationals. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing feeling and I’m still giddy about it!! My highest point was actually witnessing just how much the community has grown. Seeing Sherry play on stream on Day 2 with a deck she loves was awesome! Having Joey join me on Day 3 was definitely bro-fist worthy! Having 3 people from SoCal qualify for Nationals on the same day made me proud to be a part of this amazing scene! SoCal has gotten so competitive that I feel confident that more will qualify.

Shoutouts to both Sherry and Joey, who have been along on this ride with me since the very beginning. Thanks Sherry for keeping me grounded when I start to doubt myself and my deck! Thanks Joey for pushing me to improve!

Shoutouts to Henry Do. You supplied me with the stuff I needed to get started in this game, and that last minute Cid Raines purchase before Crystal Cup helped me! I’m so happy that your new shop was chosen as the venue for Crystal Cup.

Shoutouts and congrats to Kyle and Shereena. You guys put in a lot of work to qualify and it has paid off. Now we have to qualify for Worlds!

Opus VI is around the corner, and I can’t wait to brew more Ice decks! Until then, stay frosty!

-Alejandro “Alex” Ramirez

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