Tournament Preparation: Matt Okimoto

Preparing for an Event!

Hey everyone, Okimoto here! I have been receiving a lot of messages lately with people asking for advice on how to prepare for a tournament after the release of a new set; especially with the first Crystal Cup approaching for NA in Tampa & Grand Open in Ghent for EU both on April 13th-14th. That being said I think it’s time to dive into how I would suggest to prepare for them:

Revisit Opus 7 Decks

The first thing is to revisit the old decks that did well before the recent release of Opus 8. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Ice Earth Flan deck
  • Wind Earth Dadaluma
  • Wind Earth Urianger
  • Mono Water Fusoya
  • Wind Water Tobi Deck (Chocobo, Zodiark standard unit focused)
  • Wind Water Rob Deck (EX heavy YRP focus)
  • Mono Lightning

Using the above examples, you would first go about seeing how you can first upgrade the existing ‘meta’ decks. Let’s take Ice Earth Flan deck for example. Looking at the set I don’t think it received too many additions other than Palom, Garland (IX) and Scale Toad. That being said, it might be a safe move for players to do a few adjustments to the deck to include those at the start and see how the deck performs with those minor changes.

Let’s use another deck as an example, Wind Earth Urianger. There were a lot of cards printed in this set that could help boost Wind Earth such as Aerith, FFXV cards, Alexander, Death Gaze, FFCC Backup package, Veritas, and much more. This deck will be a bit more complicated to build at the beginning of the meta and more than likely will need a better defined meta to figure out what niche cards would be able to make slots in the deck. If you follow you can see that he has been testing Wind Earth Urianger changes extensively and molding the deck with new additions every single day based off what he may assume is the expected meta. He is utilizing this time to test every possible new combination of cards that could fit in the Urianger play style. See one of his many decks here:

After you have revisited older decks and got yourself a small gauntlet of ‘newer’ decks with Opus 8 changes, you are then ready to start looking at working on your own personal special brew!

Creating your Deck!

Before you go about creating you’re a new deck you should analyze the new powerful Opus 8 cards. Information is key when a new set is release. You can do this in many ways with a few suggested below:

  • Watch set reviews & card reviews of content creators
  • Start discussions with the community either publicly on a forum (Facebook/Twitter) or privately message them if you care to keep your ideas hidden.
  • Read through each card yourself and discuss it with your locals to take an initial pass on how powerful you think each card is.

Now that you have done some of the initial groundwork by having a small ‘new meta’ gauntlet created and the information of people’s opinion on cards, you can then begin figuring out what strategy you want to focus on.

If you are by yourself you can use tools such as OCTGN or UNTAP to play these decks online before you actively put them all together physically. Keep in mind during this process of creating your deck you need to be very open to constructive criticism from the community and/or anyone you ask. Don’t get immediately defensive if you disagree with someone’s suggestion because they may be right. At the same time don’t just listen to what everyone says if you firmly believe you are right about an idea. The best thing to do is test it! You don’t need to play 100 games to figure out if the card or idea is good, you normally should have a feeling on how they are after a few games. Don’t feel embarrassed if in the first games you play you get put in the bin a few times, that does not mean the deck or idea is bad, it could just not be utilizing the right cards and combos efficiently, or you are piloting the deck incorrectly by not maximize the strategy of the deck. Be sure to take notes while testing of what cards worked, what cards made a difference, what lines of play felt strong, what game plans worked better than others, and is your strategy unfair enough that you do more unfair things than your opponent does. At the end of the day you want to be the one playing the unfair game because if you play a fair game, decks that do more unfair things than you will put you in the bin.

Analyze Data & Information

Now that you have your deck created and a little bit of testing done, you should now have some data to analyze. Be sure to check out FFDecks and other content creating websites as local tournaments are probably being reported as you are preparing for your upcoming event. Take these results with a grain of salt, as the meta in each region is slightly different.

What is important to note about analyzing this data is seeing which cards are being used the most, what strategies seem to work the best, and the consistency of cards that place in the Top 8. That is some valid data that you can use to help adjust your deck for an upcoming event. Also take into consideration the note taking you did while testing and make adjustments to your deck based off that. Here is a few testing tricks I use that also help me gather data on my deck’s card choices:

  • Anytime I take a line I am not sure of I note down what I did and how the result was good or bad.
  • Keep a mediocre hand to see how the deck can function drawing sub optimally, you need to know how your deck can function off a sub-optimal hand as this can happen to you in a tournament.
  • If you are testing a specific matchup make sure you have your opponent start with key cards for their strategy when you test against it and see how your deck can function/adjust. You don’t do this the entire time testing, but doing this for a few games is worth the data collection.
  • Keep an open mind when testing. What I mean by this is, just because you lose 2 games in a row that does not mean the deck or strategy sucks.
  • Note down what hands and cards performed well for you and if any of your ‘1 of ‘ cards actually made a difference or can it be cut.
  • If you are not sure what to run between some cards, I stick a small note in the card sleeve when testing so I can see what the card would feel like during times within the game. For Example, If I am running 3 Odin but I think 2 might be ok in trade for an Exodus, I’ll sleeve 3 Odin but in 1 of them I’ll stick a note inside the sleeve that has “Exodus” written on it so during testing I can see if 2 Odin and 1 Exodus might be good compared to 3 Odin.
  • Don’t discourage your locals off their ‘pet decks’, while yes you should test against more Meta decks, it is important to test against off the wall decks as you will likely see a few of those decks at tournaments, especially in the early rounds.

This is just some of the things I try to do when testing. The most important thing to know is that you need to test smarter not harder. If you don’t have all the time in the world to test you want to make sure you are maximizing the limited time you have playing and outside of just getting as many reps in as possible, collecting and analyzing your data can help you expedite your conclusion on an idea. I make sure that every week I focus on 2-3 specific decks and try not to stray off that so I can put the full needed effort into those decks.

Have fun!

The next important part of preparing for an event I would say is that you need to have fun. You need to make sure you are enjoying yourself while you test, while you talk to people, while you play in the event, and after the event. If you are having fun then I promise you will do better than if you are miserable playing a deck you ‘think’ is the best deck. Having fun allows you to make more clear minded lines of play rather than being frustrated and taking lines of play that are reckless.

That being said, I will provide everyone with a brief timeline of what I am doing to prepare for the upcoming events, and how I try to budget my time while having a full time job, being married to an amazing and lovable wife, and still setting aside some ‘me’ time.

  • Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday: Card interactions analysis, deck construction, and strategy discussions with my testing partners.
  • Wednesday: Play my 2-3 decks I am working on at locals and jot down notes.
  • Friday: Take a day off to spend time with the wife! Must stay relaxed and enjoy life! Plus she puts up with me playing cards all the time, much respect for her and other partners people have that support their card game addiction!
  • Saturday: Go to locals to test the decks that were updated from Wednesday’s results. Always aim to try and set aside a time that day to have a break with friends and family rather that is food or just hanging out not playing cards.
  • Sunday: Regroup on the data I collected throughout the week to prepare decks for the following Wednesday. This day can also be used for testing if I feel I need some more data before I move on to try new decks.
  • As stated previously, I am trying to focus on 2-3 decks and ideas a week leading up to the event so that I am not all over the place when trying to come up with good results.

Hope this article helps you prepare for your upcoming events and thank you for taking the time to read! Feel free to reach out if you want to dive deeper on time management, testing processes, or anything in general. Looking forward to seeing you all at future events.

Here is what everyone probably wanted the most, here are the 2 decks I worked on this week to test some ideas out. I don't think these both are tournament ready just yet, but enjoy!

Deck 1:

Deck 2:

- Matt Okimoto

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