A new Opus is upon us, and with every discussion about a new card comes a waterfall of comments from every type of player excited to size up its place in our new meta. Some people think a card is the next big thing while others don’t just disagree, but even insult those who don’t share their opinion. In any given discussion about a card, with few exceptions, you will see conflicting opinions being slung from both camps. While having a discussion about individual cards as a community can be extremely beneficial and provide a lot of insight and information, more often than not we throw this opportunity away in favor of being “right” or “wrong” about a card, and arguing with those who aren’t like-minded. In this article we’re going to talk about some common misconceptions players and the community as a whole make when analyzing these new cards together, and the steps we can take to provide each other with quality analysis to make informed decisions.
Dies to Doom Blade
Anyone who has ever played any amount of Magic: The Gathering knows one of the popular adages among the Magic community, “It dies to Doom Blade.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the card or phrase, it is an argument players will make to immediately dismiss a card as bad or “unplayable” because the card has a weakness to being removed by Doom Blade before it can accomplish anything, which is simply an efficient removal spell. While “Dies to Doom Blade” is a fallacious argument, it does highlight an important way of looking at a card that can help us improve our analysis. For our purposes discussing FFTCG, we need to identify what some of our “Doom Blade” cards are.
Minwu [1-171H] and The Emperor [2-147L] are two cards that people will use to argue that certain cards, or sometimes even entire deck ideas, are invalid. After losing my Top 16 match in Boston to Maxwell Williams’ strong Water Monsters build, I was sitting at a nearby table playing a game with my friends when I heard one of the judges come over to talk to another about how "ridiculous” it was that monsters had “made it so far.” “Does nobody play The Emperor? How can monsters be winning when one card shuts down their entire deck?” Of course people are playing The Emperor; I even had it in my deck! Max, being a strong and experienced player, knew that The Emperor was a card that would give his deck a hard time and he had planned around reducing its power to 0 without using action abilities. I played The Emperor against Max and sure enough, it was removed soon thereafter with Cloud of Darkness [5-126L]. Playing The Emperor in your deck isn’t an automatic win, the same way that a card having an obvious answer or counter doesn’t immediately make it “unplayable.” No matter what advantage a deck or a card may have over another, you still have to beat the player piloting the deck. At a high level of tournament play, your opponents will not be beaten with such simple tactics.
Minwu is a similar card that people who are new to the game often ask for advice on how to beat. While there is no doubt that Minwu has an incredibly powerful effect, there are many cards that offer creative ways to get around him, or negate him entirely. With the popularity of Earth/Wind and the Cactuar/Dadaluma combo, players run two or three copies of Archer [1-088C] to break Minwu (as well as other threats.) Fire players can use cards like the new Vermillion Bird L'Cie Caetuna [6-010H] to make sure that they do damage equal or greater to their opponent’s power. Lightning players are able to reduce the power of a forward with cards like Black Mage [2-108C] and then finish them off with Al-Cid. I feel that FFTCG does an excellent job of giving every element answers to popular strategies, which is why we have such a healthy and diverse meta compared to other games. While many players may not want to have to change their strategies for cards like Minwu or The Emperor and would rather complain about them being played at all, finding creative solutions to these problems will make you a better player and will help you see more lines in your own play.
One of the greatest tools we have to gather information and improve our analysis can also be one of the biggest roadblocks if used improperly: the community. One player cannot possibly play all of the matchups between all of the decks a statistically relevant number of times alone. We often depend on others to do some of the research for us, while we focus on cards or interactions that we are the most interested in or familiar with. Websites like FFDecks.com and FFTCGMognet help us gather relevant data from each other in an easy-to-use way and can be powerful tools when used properly. What do I mean by used properly? If you go to FFDecks and look at the top tournament results from recent major tournaments, and compare them to the top tournament results from local events, you will see a very different spread of what decks are doing well. Some areas are more competitive than others, some areas have players who are more innovative than others, but in general none of the local areas have enough players to give you the same “big picture” that you’d get by only looking at major tournaments. That being said, if we only look at the top results from major tournaments we may miss some cool innovations players are discovering.
As a community, we must challenge our assumptions to grow. We’ve talked about eliminating our assumptions and thinking more openly in a previous article, but as a community we need to do this as well. Mono ice is an archetype that has absolutely earned its place as a top-tier deck, but has an odd stigma amongst both competitive and non-competitive players. This is where we as a community have one of our biggest opportunities to grow. If we encourage ideas that challenge the status quo, explore new possibilities, and keep an open mind when discussing decks and ideas, we will continue to promote the type of thinking that leads us to new and exciting deck ideas and combinations. Decks like tri-color monsters, Layak/Urianger mill, and Fusoya lists were growing in popularity throughout Opus V, and would never have seen success if we kept the “Dies to Doom Blade” mentality alive with The Emperor and Minwu. Instead of complaining about mono ice, start a conversation about what you’ve seen do well against it. Instead of calling for bans on cards like The Emperor or Minwu, explore what options you have to play around them. Reach out to other players, discuss at your local game store, and use all of the many resources available to you to gather as much information as you can to help you make informed decisions. By stepping up your analysis, you’re sure to level up your game!
by John Schreiner
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