Top 8 Australian Nationals Report! – Colin Harris
Hi again Final Fanatics!
I’m back home from Australian Nationals and I’ve had a few delays in getting this article done whilst winding down after a stellar run to the Top 8; where I hit a rough matchup and fell a few games short of an invite.
I’ve been playing almost the same deck-list as the one below since the day spoilers started for Opus 2 (I was on Ice/Lightning during Opus 1 meta). I’ve put in about 100 hours of testing and match-play, and I’ve tried just about everything related to Lightning decks in the process.
I honestly had the belief that I was there with a better shot than most to go all the way (just ask my brother about how I reacted to potential bad matchups and strong opponents), and that anything short of the Top 8 would be a disappointment. Making it to Bo3 (where my deck gets marginally better) and then not making the final wouldn’t be as bad, but still sucky.
So, with that said, here’s the deck that I piloted (for those who haven’t seen it online yet).
MLC (Mono-Lightning Control)
So a pretty stock list according to most.
And they aren’t wrong.
Al-Cid package and Lulu/Fusoya have long been a feature of Lightning decks.
But here’s some of the things that might stand out about this particular 50 that I want to go over are:
- The inclusion of both Minerva AND Sephiroth
- Summon package
Yeah. How greedy is this right?
So most of us know that Sephiroth has been doing the rounds as a one-of in MLC to help vs Minwu mainly, but more recently Aerith.
There’s even footage of me making a questionable line vs Yuna/Rikku in my quarterfinal.
But Minerva too?
A lot of people see Minerva as a “win-more” card, or just bad in general. As two of the three modes aren’t relevant on a regular basis, if at all (+3000), and the extra card a turn isn’t worth the investment. A lot of people also have a habit of mistiming when they play her.
In reality, it’s possible that MLC is the only deck that wants her.
And as good as an extra card a turn is, it’s the textbox blanking mode that is the real reason for her inclusion.
Here’s a quick list of problem cards and other threats that get nerfed by Minerva:
The Emperor (both)
Not a bad lineup.
Being able to freely deal with some of the most frustrating forwards in the game, and ignore the two biggest threats to the deck all in one convenient package is my justification.
Don’t get me wrong, only having the blank during my turn isn’t optimal, but it is what I have to work with.
The choice to play Exdeath is very much a contentious one, but has legitimate reasons.
He is a hard sweeper that Lightning usually doesn’t have access to, which conveniently deals with Golbez pre or post killing him. The fact he gets left behind on an empty board can actually just straight up win the game; dependent on the amount of cards in hand/deck and expected answers still in deck.
The 9000 power is the largest this deck has access to (besides Minerva).
While a deck that is designed to kill everything usually doesn’t want to trade in combat, it doesn’t hurt to have at least one forward who is on the same page as the other heavy hitters.
The 5CP cost is super relevant as it allows for more efficient usage of the backline and card for CP. Diversifying the cost of your front line is also relevant against things like Exodus (even though Zalera now gets you).
The amount of times you can end up wasting resources because you are on a 4 or 6 cost play, and you have backups not producing CP, was a contributing factor to forcing a 5CP forward (the other option was Enuo, which while also technically good vs Golbez and 9000 power, quickly becomes irrelevant on a majority of board states).
The first thing that needs to be said here: Odin 1-123 isn’t as good as it used to be. Especially not for this deck. Don’t get me wrong, there’s every chance I’ll go back to 3 copies in future, but when a majority of threats cost more than 4 or have silly clauses that prevent summons from targeting or breaking them, you need to find other sources of removal, hence the drop to 2 so we can pack an alternative.
Cyclops vs the 3rd Exodus.
This is entirely based on the inclusion of Al-Cid and friends. If I was using the hard control list that a few friends and I were on a month or so ago that was Al-Cid-less, then Exodus becomes the go to anti-aggro play.
Having Lulu in the backline with other incremental removal, like Black Mage 2-108 and Fusoya, also adds to the potency of Cyclops. Notwithstanding its use as a combat trick to trade up my army 6000’s.
Now, to the actual event: Australian Nationals.
There is a lot to be said on the positives and negatives of the event.
Things ranging from having a live stream on-site, to the way staff were managed, to technical errors that delayed the event, and little things like prizes and side events.
All of these still combined to make an overall positive experience. Especially considering it was a first outing in a high level event for most people involved (including some staff).
I’m going to cover all of that in a future piece when I go over my expectations for OP going forward.
This time around, I’m just going to run over the games that were played, and the mistakes that I made (I made 4 total, all on camera obviously).
ROUND 1 vs Liam on Ice/Wind aggro.
I’m not sure how close to Joe’s US Nats winning list Liam was, but it had all the hallmarks. Shelke, Zargabaath, Black Chocobo etc…
Liam chose to play and opened on an Onion Knight 1-181H and wasted no time swinging in for first blood. Luckily, damage revealed a Kain, who cleared the Onion Knight much to Liam’s disdain.
A few turns of backups, a couple of damage and some Rygdea/Ninja trades later, and Liam hit in for a 4th damage; which flipped Odin 1-124 on his active Dorgann, which was primed to remove my Exdeath.
Now with a one-sided board and hand size advantage, my game turns sideways and I run into a Jihl Nabaat buying Liam a turn. He backs up the EX Burst with a Jihl in the backline, and after waiting what seems an eternity to have another attack, I Burst another Jihl.
With removal holding the fort and a third attacker on board, I’m able to finish up without conceding surplus damage. (Colin's experience summed up below)
Damage 7-4 (7-4)
ROUND 2 vs Nathan on YRP
Nathan has a reasonable start with Paine finding Rikku. I replied with Rygdea and two backups. A run of Bartz, Paine, and another forward had me trying to mitigate damage asap, instead of setting up a Minerva against his empty hand. Al-Cid, Ninja, Black Mage and Fusoya cleaned house while only conceding 1 damage; which was better than I could hope for. That was until a double Valefor to sweep my squad had me on the back foot. An EX Edea stemmed the bleeding and a draw of the remaining Edeas managed to halt to attacks. After trading off guys and cards in hand for a while, I got into a strong position by chaining Al-Cids to close out.
Damage 7-4 (14-8)
ROUND 3 vs Jenny on 3 Colour Knights
A turn 1 Ovelia gave me all the info I needed to prepare for what was to come.
Unfortunately, an early Lenna with friend put the pressure on to the tune of two Lulu’s in the damage zone, along with an Exdeath and Al-Cid.
Down 4 points of damage to zero wasn’t helping, but finding the right removal at the right time evened up the field.
Sephiroth to the rescue! I go all in to break a Yuna that was preventing Fusoya from working.
Jenny replies with Yuna on Sephiroth. So in goes the War Hero on Yuna again.
Then it gets a little hectic.
Ninja to block and kill a Delita L,
an Al-Cid/OK on the 2nd Delita paid off backups,
a Fusoya on Delita no.3 for Al-Cid to clean up the field.
After the tug-of-war for forward position, a face-off by Red Mages trying to finish the game evened up the damage at 5-5.
Then MLC did what MLC does.
Back-to-back Edeas to kill and block before I slam Minerva with 6 cards remaining and Jenny is out of Leviathan/Famfrit/Yuna.
She draws for the turn and concedes in the face of the 10K.
Damage 7-5 (21-13)
ROUND 4 vs Nicholas on Mono-Water Summons
A 2nd turn Garnet was a good start for Nick. I took a hit while setting up a Lulu and friends.
He swings for a 2nd damage and passes in good shape.
I go for an Al-Cid/Rygdea, and he responds by using Garnet to Hecatonchier my Lulu.
As the first non-Water card I’ve seen; I start to pace myself in case this is a tempo version of Water/Earth, and I don’t want to get wrecked by Shantotto.
The fear is misplaced, as a discarded Belias gives away the secret and I’m off to the races.
I jam my 2nd Lulu, trade off where I can, and then ride Onion Knight and Amon for seven straight damage.
Damage 7-2 (28-15)
ROUND 5 vs Lawrence on Wind/Water 9-Pack
A really straightforward game trading Al-Cids for Steiners and Zidanes in the early game.
I slowly take over with Kain and Exdeath holding the ground before jamming Minerva.
Lawrence commits to the Minerva so his forwards can compete, but the resource race is being lost.
I concede two points while wiping Lawrence over three combat phases.
Damage 7-2 (35-17)
ROUND 6 vs Murad on Earth/Fire VII’s
Murad was one of the few New Zealand players who flew out for the event. I congratulated him on making it this far and it was on.
Murad lead off with a WRO Member 3-085 and a WRO Commander.
I almost have an accident in my pants as it looks like he is mono-Earth WRO Vomit. A deck I’ve historically had issues with.
I respond with Al-Cid/OK and a backup. I’m pretty stoked, I’m not half dead already.
Murad then plays a replacement WRO Commander and a Red Mage 1-003. The RM lets me know he’s not the aggro deck I believed him to be. I take the plunge and slam Minerva turn 2. I figure he hasn’t got any removal big enough to drop a 10K, besides a cheeky Bahamut, but that’s at least 2 turns away provided he doesn’t have a play next turn. Or he has to double up without the help of combat, because there is no way Minerva is getting risked as a blocker or attacking without tricks up.
We trade damage over a few turns, as Murad leads the charge with a Tifa 2-011. As we approach a damage total of 5 each, I trade a Minerva for a Zack 3-012 + Cloud 1-009 trigger. I regret not just using Exdeath’s Grand Cross and going for a run, and end up continuing to play conservative; dropping an Edea to take the Cloud. At this point, I’m holding up the ability to Grand Cross or use Death twice.
A last ditch, Raubahn is met with Death and Murad has no ability to hold back the tide.
Damage 7-5 (42-22)
At this point, I’m pretty stoked as I should be, locked for Top 8 if the event is 7 rounds as advertised before the day and at the player meeting.
I know from experience that 136 players = 8 rounds, and it isn’t long after my result slip goes in, that the announcement is made that the event has been pushed to 8 rounds. Disappointing that I need to chase another win; but I saw it coming a mile away, so it wasn’t a huge matter.
ROUND 7 vs Vince on 4 Colour Golbez
Holy crap, this has to be one of the best games I’ve been a part of ever, not just in FFTCG.
Luckily, it is on camera, against eventually National Champ Vince Scanlan.
While I don’t agree with the commentary a lot regarding how close to dead I am at regular intervals, because I know for a fact that the way to win this game is straightforward.
As long as I keep the board empty and manage any threats resourcefully, I can use a minimalistic board to snipe the win or just hold out. At no point during this game did I feel like I was losing. The moments that mattered most was the initial reaction to seeing Golbez, and altering my next two turns around it, and the lead up to the final 2 turns when the race was heating up. My proudest moment was managing to navigate this game on camera, live to heaps of people on-site, and not reveal either Minerva or Sephiroth.
Secret tech is secret.
Watch along please, and keep an eye out for when Rygdea doesn’t work.
The game starts at approx 04:26:00 at twitch.tv/videos/180264465
Damage 6-4 (48-26)
ROUND 8 vs Jye on Old Emperor’s New Groove (YRP with The Emperor 1-185)
Jye and I spent more time chatting about locking up Top 8 then we did playing. I mulligan into an average hand and Jye leads off with Paine into Rikku. I try to establish a backline while getting hammered with no EX Bursts to help. I finally get a chance to put some forwards down, and Jye runs out Bartz, activating backups for an Emperor.
I am well behind in every regard and even try to cut off his Water CP by landing Sephiroth on his Yuna only for a last card Leviathan to ruin me.
I concede on the spot.
A disaster of a game but I’m in Top 8, so the loss is a blip on the radar.
Damage 0-7 (48-33)
We hand in our decks to the judge team for a deck check and get a half hour break before we start the finals. I head outside to zone out and listen to some quality music and have a drink. I seriously cannot stress enough how good it is to stay hydrated and to have a music on hand to keep grounded or to get worked up before a game. (For anyone who cares, I had a mix of early Metallica, Iced Earth and Anthrax going)
QUARTER FINAL vs Jono on YRP Mill
Well here we are.
The end of the road.
Obviously I didn’t know it at the time, but yeah.
This match is also on camera and starts about 06:35:00 at twitch.tv/videos/180264465
There’s a 2nd Rygdea misplay in here too.
Whilst Mill isn’t the greatest matchup, due to the fact I can’t attack their gameplan in the same manner as other matchups, the ability to pick and choose with Fusoya and Sage more freely is definitely not something to be ignored.
It’s at this point I make the first misplay of the match.
I choose to go 2nd.
I’d been so used to going on the draw that I completely missed that I was supposed to opt to play in game one of Bo3.
Even though I’m very much a control deck, I have the ability to still be aggro or still play a strong control game; even if I’m down a card. It’s all about getting on the front foot.
Game One is an actual nightmare. At no point was I in it.
An early Aerith into Sephiroth hitting the damage zone; basically ruined me from the start.
And here comes the next major misplay.
I choose to go on the draw.
Even after knowing he is Mill.
You can see how bad it looks when I try to go aggro and fall short.
Game Two was a bit closer, but there was just too many line calls that fell the wrong way.
Not replaying Exdeath and going for Grand Cross was one.
Sephiroth on Yuna and not Rikku was the defining moment.
I 100% backed myself to race if I can keep forwards on the table, and nullifying Chaos, Walker of the Wheel was going to go a long way to doing that. Even had I taken out the last Rikku, I totally believe I was still dead due to the overwhelming card advantage Jono had at such a critical point in time.
Triple Valefor doesn’t help my cause either way.
At the end of the day, even though I got dropped pretty hard after such an awesome start, I am happy with the way I played, and I’m glad I made the Top 8. Doing so goes a way towards establishing myself firmly in the community, and I’m glad it will give me a platform to hopefully have a positive impact going forward for the game and its participants.
I’d like to do a shout out quickly to a few people for directly, or indirectly, helping me have a positive experience:
My sister-in-law Emma, for hosting a sleepover for my girls, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to attend the event.
- My partner Nicole, just for letting me go lol.
- Aaron Nicastri, an old mate and L1 Judge who was always checking in on me during the event and was open to positive discussion concerning the event.
- Vince Scanlan, for an awesome game on camera, and for winning the whole thing. I’ll have some lists for worlds for you soon.
- My bro, Adam Harris, for organizing, and punting on camera before I had the chance to (he did it round 3).
- The TO Tim, just for getting something like this happening at all.
- The other players and judges for showing up.
- Matt and Meta Potion for giving me a platform to do this write-up and more.
I’ll catch you all next week for my 2nd Spotlight Series article. Hint: it’s about Pauper.
Colin Harris is a 20-year veteran with high finishes across many games including MTG Pro Tour experience. He likes walks on the beach and well-costed removal spells.