Budget Build Fridays are geared around making affordable decks that are a good starting point for newer players, that you can build from bulk or are affordable. We aim to provide a deck every week with a wide range of playstyles that won’t break the bank.
This weeks article didn’t initially start out as a budget build, this is a deck that I built for fun but ended up costing way less than I projected (a happy coincidence) and was really, really fun to play. It uses some of my favourite forwards (Cadets!) as well as some really annoying summons to get the most out of them.
In terms of playstyle, it’s a pretty simple deck with you basically trying to win combat as much as possible, but also trying to get some good activations of Machina‘s auto ability using some neat tricks the deck has.
This deck at time of writing comes in at $38.66 (manually calculated, FFDecks has the price lower, at $23.96, so you should find the deck builds for somewhere between those two prices), and for the price I think it’s a really fun deck. I’ve had a tonne of fun playing it and am probably going to keep it on as one of my decks.
Let’s take a look at the list!
I’ve played some weird Cadets variants since I started playing the game, and I think this is definitely the most viable & enjoyable to play version of it. I’m really looking forward to a bit more Cadet support launching in the future, I thought we were going to get some in Opus VI but we instead got Kazusa, Emina and Kurasame.. Fingers crossed for the future! I think Cadets are almost there, they just need something like Alisaie to push them into real competitiveness (maybe that Seven from chapters I mentioned in my recent Chapters article?), and perhaps an EX searcher. In the meantime, give this deck a try and school your locals!
Cinque – Cinque is in here as an early game forward, and a mid-game combo piece. Her ability will allow you to bully down any small forwards that your opponent plays early (although you’ll need a second forward in play to do this), and she’s big enough that she can hold her own against a lot of other 2CP forwards that currently see play. Her ability will also help you with Machina activations, which can chain together for some ridiculously efficient field wipes. Homerun Swing activations can be occasionally used to clear obstacles or as combat trick when you’re attacking.
Seven – GOOD CARD. Would run more copies of Seven if I could. With Seven in the deck, you can cancel a lot of nasty abilities that would otherwise knock you out of the game (Shantotto, Cloud of Darkness, Cagnazzo, Cid Aulstyne), and she allows your forwards to get around 4 costs for free damage. A great card. I hope we get another card named Seven in the near future, if not just to up the amount of Snakebites we can pull off in a game. If I ever revise this list, Asura may make the cut just so I can use Seven more.
Ace – I really like Ace. He makes all the other Cadets 1k bigger, he’s on curve, and his S ability has the potential to hit hilariously hard – and the damage calculation is done on resolution which makes it difficult for your opponent to know if they should buff their forward in response to try and avoid the damage as they might just end up getting hit for 16k anyway. Good times. Also get the foils of the promo alt art of him, they look insane.
Eight – Eight is one of the least exciting forwards, but when he comes out he often comes out for free, or re-activates forwards you have already attacked with. He’s a great Main Phase 2 card. His S ability is kind of useless, but occasionally lets him tank a few big hits that would otherwise wreck more important forwards.
Machina – 4CP, 8k, and a really, really abuseable auto-ability. You want things to hit Machina, and you want Machina to be hitting things. If you can pull off his special, too, you’re probably going to field wipe a field of 8ks with little difficulty. Combo him with things like Scholar, both Diablos and Illusionist to score more kills and keep the damage auto-ability pinging and Machina will afford you a lot of field control. Once people work out what you’re doing with him though, he’s probably going to lightning rod removal effects really hard, as your opponent will NOT want him to stay on the board. Likewise, I get the foil alt arts of this one too. Definitely an important part to the strategy.
Trey – Just a hard to get rid of bruiser. Didn’t max out on him as he has no special and tends to hang around for quite a long time. He’ll also be your MVP vs Lightning as he can’t be hit by Al-Cid, and he can’t be hit by the EX burst of Odin if he’s attacked, essentially the only thing Lightning can do to deal with him is to hit him with a hard-casted summon or Edea, so he can really put a lot of work in without allowing them to get off their signature huge tempo swings.
King – King gets really, really huge. Really huge. Play him off Ace and he’s really good value. Play him on his own and he’s still okay. 5 cost for 9k is good, and his special ability can make him a really scary blocker. This deck has the potential to make him +8k. Block for 17k, point blank shot something for 17k. Golden.
Ace – Ace is just value. He looks like he’s not great at first glance, but he can let you get a really strong board presence really quickly, and he’s also good to bait getting free damage through (providing your opponent has read his effect), as they probably won’t want you picking up something dangerous from the break zone. Even if you don’t play him, he’s more fuel for 3CP Ace’s Cut Cards, so he’ll rarely be totally dead. I wouldn’t say go to 3 on this card just so you can avoid hand clog, but he gets value when he enters by playing another forward, and then gets you a card back when he dies, so it’s pretty frequent that he’s gonna end up completely CP neutral or even giving you a 1CP advantage off of playing him.
Diablos – Machina’s best friend. Puts something down to his ping range, which allows you to start chain-reactioning things. The fact that it lets you draw a card leads to some great value too. Never ever, ever ever, ever, ever, ever ever ever cast this on Yda.
Diablos – A huge burn for very likely 0CP? Don’t mind if I do! If you hit this off of an EX burst it can really swing a game, and playing removal for free is really, really nice. Try and pay for this card exclusively off of backups to get maximum value off of him!
Ifrit – Ifrit gets a slot due to his synergy with other cards in the deck. He should almost always be activating for 8k, which puts him on par with Bahamut (aside from the RFG effect), but the EX burst, and that you can grab him with both Rem and Caetuna makes him really nice removal if you need to use it to punt The Emperor off of the field. Also being ping damage, you can combo it with Machina’s auto-ability.
Phoenix – This was intended to be 5 Cost Legendary Diabolos, but you can run either that or Phoenix in this spot, both work great in this deck. You have a lot of viable recursion targets, and if you revive Eight you can get some really nice value out of this card. If you have Diabolos, try those in this slot instead and go with what you prefer. If you really want to keep costs down, Brynhildr is also a valid choice! If you fancy catching your opponent off guard, you can even Phoenix a Seven out of your break zone to make your forwards unblockable by 4 cost and more after you’ve declared an attack but before blockers!
Cater – Cater is fully pants, and is only in here on merit of her being a Class Zero Cadet. She’s also super annoying in game, my god that accent! This would be the first card I would replace if we got any more Class Zero backups to use.
Deuce – Deuce will sit around doing basically nothing for most of the game, but will occasionally cause huge, thermonuclear explosions as she obliterates your opponent’s boss monsters. You can also use her ping vs attacking forwards to set up chains with Machina, but I’ve never found a situation in testing where it was optimal.
Illusionist – Activate Illusionist on something your opponent clearly does not want to attack with when you have Machina ready to block, and let the good times roll. Forcing an opponents Cagnazzo to attack into Machina is especially cruel. This originally didn’t make the cut, but while I was looking for some spicy plays to put in, I spotted this on Level 1 Onion Knight’s blog (it’s great, check it out), so thanks for that!
Scholar – Helps kill confirm with Machina’s ping. Not very exciting, but should help you set up field clears a bit easier.
Moogle (Class Zero) – It’s Maria, for 1CP cheaper. Very yes.
Rem – Godly EX bursts, decent value on play, allows you to set up specials easily in this deck, which feeds into getting successful resolutions of Guardian Blades nicely. You have a ridicilous amount of targets in this deck and because she says you can pick up a Type-0 Card rather than a Type-0 Character, you can even pick up summons with it if you need to get some emergency removal out of the break zone. If your opponent isn’t checking your break zone basically constantly, then they’re clearly not familiar with how powerful hitting Rem off of an EX burst can be.
Vermilion Bird l’Cie Caetuna – She certainly is in this deck. And basically only for her EX burst. You could put whatever you want here, really, but she lets you search for some useful removal, and on an EX burst just nets you 2CP, which can help to accelerate your board a bit. Also, your opponent will be wary of you throwing out her special and going for game, but joke’s on them, you probably won’t. If you do want to, though, you can pitch one early game to grab it with a Rem later on and then blow the field up out of nowhere. Don’t go out of the way to set up the special, as if it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. If it goes right, you probably win that turn.
Being a Cadet deck, there really isn’t a whole lot I’d upgrade in here. As mentioned earlier, I’d recommend trying out Diabolos in the Phoenix slot and seeing what suits your playstyle better. Diabolos originally took that slot, but Phoenix is so cheap right now he’s a good include in most budget decks that can accomodate him.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have fun trying this deck out!