Part I - What is Netdecking?
by Mike Pagnotta
In my time as a CCG player, there have been many debates and controversies about various practices in deck-building and playing. One that has always and will always be controversial is "netdecking". For many, it's a dirty word, representing laziness as a player and an unwillingness to learn the game on a deeper level; a refusal to innovate or come up with your own ideas. This practice has found its way to the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game, as it has with all collectible card games, and the controversy follows. The purpose of this article is to show that no, netdecking isn't a player being lazy or uncreative -- provided it is used to help you understand the game better and as a teaching tool.
What is netdecking? It's the practice of exactly replicating a deck that was played elsewhere, typically by searching the internet for decks and finding one that suits your fancy. You find the decklist, gather the cards used in it, throw it together, and then shuffle up and draw. For many CCG players, netdecking is a mortal sin: a sign that you have no creativity as a player or that you're too lazy to think of your own ideas. For some, it's akin to theft of intellectual property: You didn't come up with that! Why should you piggyback off of someone else's hard work and thought? We've all heard it at some time: some player whose mommy and daddy buy them all the cards they want so they can put together that sick deck that wrecked the field and won a major tournament, and then unleash it at the locals and destroy the competition. The other players who put their own thoughts, ideas, and strategies into their decks, feel cheated by some little brat who bought his way to victory.
Sounds bad, right? And after reading that, you might be inclined to never do such a thing. But there's another side to this. One where netdecking can be a positive and helpful tool. One that can help you understand the mechanics of the deck in question, and by extension the mechanics of the game itself.
For example, at last year's North American Nationals, Joe Leszczynski won the tournament with a deck called "Mambo De Chocobo". This deck was a surprise to many, and at our local store, we were baffled. How did this win? We had no clue until someone put the deck together and piloted it. Suddenly, it became clear how it won: rush and overwhelm the opponent with cheap, fast Forwards, clear a path by dulling and freezing the opponent's Forwards, and stay aggressive. Now we understood. Consequently, we also found weaknesses in the deck and ways to counter it. Our understanding of the game was deepened.
For a personal anecdote, at the Regional Jupiter Center Madrid tournament this past April, a deck by Francisco Perez called "Viva Ex-Paña" won the tournament. I saw this deck and was baffled. How was it supposed to work? It doesn't seem like it should be coherent, much less a tournament-winning deck! But I was curious. I knew looking at the decklist wouldn't do any good, so I decided to put it together and see how it did work. And I'm glad I did, because after a couple matches, the pieces all came together: Start with Kam'lanaut [5-148H] and fetch Chaos [1-184H], (or start with Star Sibyl [5-091H] so you can grab Kam), play Chaos, and go from there. In putting this deck together, I found out not only how it plays but also learned new avenues of play. The deck doesn't need a lot of Backups in play: Chaos and Yuna [1-176H] is enough. You don't need a ton of Forwards: Kam'lanaut and Cecil [5-086L] are enough to carry you to victory. You want to take damage early on: that way you break your opponent's Forwards and/or get the cards you need. Using Cecil's Dark S-ability once can swing the entire game in your favor with this deck. These were avenues of thought that had not occurred to me, and it was eye-opening.
After playing it, I began thinking how it could be improved: Do I really need the Ice cards? Might I be able to fit Wol [5-075L] in there since Earth is one of the pillars of the deck? What if I used Paine [2-063R] so I could get Yuna out ASAP? I've since put together my own version of the deck and continued to pilot it. And it seems to have inspired others: Richard Pak played his own variant, called "What Are You EX-Pecting?", and won RVA Battlegrounds #16 with his variant, which uses Garnet and cheap Summons, as well as eliminates the Ice component and greatly reduces the Wind and Lightning components. It's the same concept, but executed differently and from a new avenue.
Netdecking can be a very good thing. It can open your eyes to new concepts, help you understand the game on a deeper level, and give you ideas on how to play. That being said, you have to do it right to really benefit, and in a future article, I will go over the dos and don'ts of netdecking.
For now though, go ahead and netdeck. You might just learn something!
Mike Pagnotta is based at Gamer's Heaven in Phoenixville, PA, and has been playing FFTCG since February '17. Prior to FFTCG, Mike played Raw Deal and Magic: The Gathering. His favorite Final Fantasy is VI, and accordingly Sabin [4-021L] is his favorite card! When not playing FFTCG, he enjoys watching Tottenham Hotspur of the EPL, and is a licensed investment professional!