Now that it’s calmed down from all the Christmas madness, I figured it was time to write up my list I played at Winter Cup which I went 5-3 with. I won’t be going into the specifics of the matches themselves, this article will more be focusing on the deck & my choices I made going into the tournament. I’m happy with how the deck did, with some of the people I faced (and beat) I was punching way above my weight, especially coming from such a small meta.
This deck went through quite a few iterations (I have 16 revisions saved on ffdecks) before I was happy with it. I still wasn’t happy with the 1CP Mateus going in, but didn’t have anything else to put in that slot on such short notice.
Let’s get into it!
This was the first non-lightning ‘main’ deck I’d built for myself since starting the game in late Opus 2. I’m not going to lie, my plan of what I was going to play for Opus 7 was totally skewed by the reveal of the legendary Sephiroth card, which I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a sweet 3-of pretty soon after the set launched. With the inclusion of Sephiroth and Orphan (who is an auto 3-of in any mono Ice deck in the current game, in my opinion), I knew the deck was going to be quite top-heavy if I wanted to include things like Cid Aulstyne or Kuja. I ended up going quite forward-heavy in the deck so that I could hopefully win the longer game after my opponent thought they had answered everything or if they were going to aim to mill me out, and also with how prevalent Wind, Wind/Water and Earth/Wind are right now, it put me in a really good spot to slap free forwards down vs Chaos, Walker of the Wheel. Ideally getting an early Harley into Edward and then just going off is the way to go with the deck, I’d place it part way between aggro and mid-range, and I tend to refer to it as a ‘Boss Rush’ deck – overcome your opponent with really dangerous stuff while they are trying to get set up.
Why Cid Aulstyne didn’t make the cut/A Love Letter to my Scaly Waifu, Nidhogg
I’ve seen Cid Aulstyne in pretty much every list that can run him ever, yet I’m not a fan of him in recent metas, Opus 7 especially. My reasoning behind this is with Thaumaturge and his skillful, long-armed brother Gesper gone, it’s harder than ever to keep your opponent’s hands empty. Add into this that a large majority of popular decks in the meta are based around getting set up quickly and then getting advantage plays off of this, you’re not looking at seeing your opponent with a low/empty hand size you can capitalise on often, without the help of outside cards. Also because of this, if your opponent sees you are playing Mono Ice, they’re likely not going to be attacking without a card in hand just to avoid that swingy EX burst – so the EX burst may as well not even be there. Add in the fact that a lot of decks can Yuri draw in response to make his effect whiff, and yikes, no thanks.
In the end, the Aulstyne spots went to a mainstay of my decks, Nidhogg. If I figured I was using Cid Aulstyne for spot removal, and that he’d need support from other discard cards (Glasya/Flan/Serah), I figured that Nidhogg would be a much more reliable version of Aulstyne, with his effect being much harder to make whiff, and him almost always ripping a card from hand and a card from the field making him super effective. And also the value if you manage to resolve Rinoa on him is absolutely nuts. If Nidhogg hits the field at the right time, you’ve probably won the game. I had a couple of games where I’ve gone for a really early game Nidhogg + Rinoa punish vs things like early 5 cost Bartz + Yuri, and the opponent just hasn’t been able to recover. I ran 2 in this list as the people that generally don’t know me never expect the second one, and it’s always hilarious off of Chaos, Walker of the Wheel. With how nicely the deck curves backups we can get Nidhogg off pretty darn reliably.
I wasn’t terribly scared of matchups going in, more worried about seeing random shit I wasn’t expecting to see. I’ve luckily had a bit of practice vs quite a lot of common decks before I went to Winter Cup, and my deck was set up to take down Wind/Water & the Mono Ice Mirror as its main targets. Stuff I didn’t want to come up against was things I couldn’t dull/freeze or general ability targeting hate as the deck is super light on summons. Losses on the day were almost certainly due to me rather than the deck, I lost my two Earth/Wind matchups, the first due to forward Shantotto and a brave Gigas smashing my face in, which has always been a bit of an odd one for me, and a couple of brutal Hecatoncheirs efficiently clearing my board twice, and in the second one I spent too long trying to deal with a very early Kam’lanaut which allowed my opponent to set up. Both games my summon cancels were just hanging out in my deck which allowed my opponents to get some really devastating Diabolos plays off against me. My other loss was to Lightning in round 7, which was admittedly something I’ve only gone against once before with this deck, I was extremely fatigued & did a lot of misplays – full credit to my opponent though, he took advantage of this, Exdeath‘d my Genesis, hasted it and sent me to the void. Nasty to be on the receiving end of it! I usually don’t eat at tournaments, and this time it definitely took its toll. Matchups I won against were 1x Scions, 1x Mono Ice, 2x Wind/Water and 1x Mono Water, and all the guys I went against were really good, so I’m happy with how the deck did. I think with a lot more practice against Earth/Wind, and a bit more self-care on the fatigue side of things I could have done better, but considering I went 3-5 last year with Mono Lightning Dragoons, I’ve come a long way in a year.
Let’s have a look at the choices I’ve made in the deck. The spots in this deck are super tight, so if you wanted to try it, I’d recommend trying it as is before you make any choices, as it’s super fine-tuned for the early Opus 7 meta.
Cid Raines – Honestly, I was in two minds on the balance with this and the next card, Lasswell. Cid Raines was here mainly for Rinoa shenanigans, to confirm kills off of Celes and Terra, or to help Lasswell take down big guys. I think 1-of was the right choice in the end, if I somehow ended up with space in the forward lineup, I’d probably go to two of these.
Lasswell – Lasswell was a beast! Almost always got full value off of him, and he kills pretty much everything short of a Cloud of Darkness or Bartz in the Wi/Wa and Water matchups! I wasn’t worried about people reactivating stuff in response to his effect, as people often didn’t want to burn a Diabolos to save a forward from Lasswell splatting it.
Locke – Honestly, probably the worst forward in the deck, but when you are ahead, Locke helps you get really really far ahead. He warps your opponent’s block choices massively, and lightning rods to a degree too, also forces over extends if the opponent adopts the “I’m going to lose this card anyway so I may as well play it”. Searchable off of Setzer, Gestahlian Empire Cid, and revivable with Devout, he was mostly just a 3 cost dude for a lot of the game, but in the few games where I resolved his entry effect & his on attack auto-ability, he absolutely smashed it. The fact that I can call this the worst forward in the deck was a sign that my forward lineup felt pretty strong.
Celes – Celes was sickening! Being able to be a 4CP 9k under Duke Larg that just explodes Vikings or Leilas by getting damage through was hugely useful, and the summon cancel saved me from a few nasty Cuculainns throughout the day. Holding her summon cancel to cancel something actually meaningful was very much the way to go, I had to let a couple of Valefors resolve throughout the day so I could cancel the followup that would give them more advantage by allowing them to draw + remove something.
Genesis – It’s Genesis! Do I need to write about why this card is straight up busted? He could realistically be a 5 cost and people would likely still play him. Devoutable, Rinoa-able, 4CP, 8k under Duke Larg, ticks all the boxes. If he starts getting damage through you’ve probably won.
Rinoa – I almost went with 2 Rinoa instead of 3. I’m glad I didn’t. There are so many potent field entry effects in this deck, and Rinoa lets you use them again while giving you a body you’re not too bothered just throwing at your opponent or just blocking with. I often found she was a good early CP discard to set up a Devout play later onto something like Sephiroth, Orphan or Nidhogg. Probably one of my favourite cards in the Mono Ice midrange list, as it’s really versatile and really fun to use. If you’ve not tried this card, I’d fully recommend giving it a look.
Terra – Terra was my straight up MVP card at Winter Cup. We have a saying at our locals that if someone says “wait, what does that do” you have probably won the game as it’s something they weren’t prepared for. Whenever I played Terra, more often than not, my opponent needed to grab it and read it. Terra absolutely destroys the Mono Water & Wind/Water matchups. The majority of the damage I took throughout the tournament in games that I won was letting myself get things dull so Terra could come in and instantly explode them. A really strong play that went off a few times was to play Setzer, discarding a Terra in hand as part of the CP cost, searching for Terra, then devouting the Terra you discarded onto the field, then stacking Magic Charge in response to field entry ability, hitting 2 things for 8k and leaving you with 2 forwards. Magic Charge also working on attacking/blocking also meant she could answer a lot of stuff she shouldn’t have been able to answer. All in all, a good card. Strong recommend if you’re looking at playing an FF6-heavy ice list. She was initially included as another target for Setzer and another target to make Locke live, and finding out how useful she is right now was more of a happy accident.
Setzer – 1 Setzer was 100% the right amount. I wasn’t running him at one point, I’m glad I put one back in. He can be used to set up some stupid plays in combination with Devout, and lets you effectively fetch a Magic Charge, a Mirage Dive or a Runic from deck when needed. Also with the ability to search a backup in Gestahlian Empire Cid, he’s not a bad turn 2 play either if you need to get set up.
Orphan – WELP. Orphan was incredible. If Orphan hit the field, GG. If you manage to flicker Orphan, the game is almost over. Normally I would have been running Mog XIII-2 or Ysayle to search for this guy, but the backup line was way too tight and I had to really count on drawing him naturally. Luckily he had a habit of turning up mid-late game, where he has the most impact. Orphan into Lasswell was always a pretty fun play to make, too. Orphan is the primary reason I play Mono Ice and not a variant like Ice/Wind.
Sephiroth – the whole reason I made the deck, but the card I need to practice with the most. When he comes down at the right time, he’s devastating. When he’s played and you’re slightly behind, you’re probably in trouble. I had a game where I opened Harley, next turn played Edward, and a 2CP backup, then next turn Sephiroth into Shadow Flare helped me get extremely far ahead very early on into the game. His on attack auto-ability also helps to strip things like Illua’s ability really effectively, but can sometimes leave you in a situation where you give your opponent a free Dadaluma ping, or put Ashe on some free steroids.
Nidhogg – Oh man, definitely my favourite card in the whole game right now. Nidhogg answers so much stuff, and even gets rid of things that can’t be broken. If you manage to score this guy off of a Chaos WotW, it’s game over. If you play him normally and get full value off of him, you’re really putting a dent in your opponents plan as by the time you’re playing him, you are probably going to hit something your opponent is planning on playing as opposed to just a random thing they would discard anyway. The fact his auto abilities are 2 separate abilities that stack makes it really hard for your opponent to stop effectively, too, and means that even if the forward target becomes invalid, the other effect still resolves. Absolutely gross card, if you manage to Rinoa him he becomes even more ridiculous. Attacking with Nidhogg, baiting a combat trick and then devouting Rinoa to flicker Nidhogg and getting his effect again was a really effective hard reject to combat tricks throughout the weekend, especially as it still leaves your summon cancels open, too. Always play 2. In every single deck.
Mateus, the Corrupt – I think I resolved this… twice? In 8 rounds of swiss + friendlies in between rounds? Came out of the deck as soon as I got home. He only went to Winter Cup with me as I wasn’t practised at all with any of my other choices. Main issues were the obvious problem of the stuff I wanted to Mateus either never blocking, or the forward I was attacking with getting Dadaluma’d to hell and back in response to the Mateus, killing my attacker and saving their forward while whiffing my Mateus. Not a fan. Have since replaced with Hades, which is basically Glasya Labolas on steroids + covers a couple of spot removal issues the deck has.
Glasya Labolas – why can’t I just run 6 of these? Card is awesome. Gives you a lot of options. Didn’t have the effect whiff once due to a reactivation/removal of the forward. Really nice card. Don’t really have a lot to say about it, but it helped to get kills off of Lasswell, Celes, Terra and Cid Raines a lot, while securing a discard for tonnes of value. Noice.
Jihl Nabaat – Another card I loved to see early, I expected a load of Fusoyas and Alhanalems there, and Jihl certainly put work in. The fact she’s a 2 cost means that the opponent is at least losing a backup too if they try to Archer her, and running 3 of means that she’s easily replaceable.
Time Mage – I didn’t activate this guy a whole lot, but he’s just there in case Rinoa decides to not show up at all. Expensive, but when he went off it was usually to replicate the effect of something big like Nidhogg or Orphan. I considered going to 1, but I didn’t want to run too many 1 ofs in the deck to help consistency.
Duke Larg – as a buffer, Duke Larg gets a tonne of mileage in Ice. Being able to move Celes into a position where she doesn’t instantly die to Dadaluma/Cactuar is hugely relevant, and being able to make it so that the majority of your deck doesn’t trade with Paine and Lenna is really nice too.
Edward – Summon cancels, and a 1 cost discard is obscene. Paying full cost for him felt pretty bad, and happened a fair amount. Having him on the board is more important than not though, as if you can disrupt the combo play or a Diabolos you can really put your opponent on the back foot just by discarding an Edward.
Gestahlian Empire Cid – Never much to say about searchers, but this one gets a special mention due to being able to be searched by Setzer, and being able to toolbox a large majority of the deck. I think at one point one of these was an Ysayle, but I went to 2 for Setzer consistency.
Devout – Mainly used to grab Rinoa for the sole purpose of ruining people’s days. Grabbing the occasional Genesis/Celes was also really nice, it has a lot of targets in the deck and isn’t even a horrible turn 1 backup to play.
As mentioned in the article, the only change I’ve made since I got back from the Winter Cup is:
-3 Mateus, the Corrupt
Hades is a really nice card to wreck an opponent’s gameplan in best of 1, as your opponent likely won’t be prepared to play around it. It sits in a weird midpoint between Diabolos and Nidhogg in terms of what it does, and helps out with a few cards that the deck has trouble with, while being able to be used more defensively than 1 CP Mateus, while still being able to be used more proactively than 5 CP Mateus. I can see it getting replaced as soon as something else comes along, but I wanted something higher impact than any of the dull or freeze Shivas (the deck does fine on that front already) without being as space-consuming as the burn Shiva. Didn’t fancy Doomtrain either.
So that’s a quick write-up of my Winter Cup deck. Hopefully if you wanted to try an ice deck that was a little different to the ones seen in the meta lately this gives you a couple of ideas, feel free to contact me either on the Facebook page or via the contact page if you have any questions at all!
Have an awesome new year, hope to catch some of you at an event in 2019!