So I’ve missed a couple of key milestones for the site and wanted to get something written to say thanks to you guys for reading the site – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I never figured it would come this far so I thought it only appropriate to do a write-up on a deck I’ve been seeing a lot of personal success with & took me to win Liverpool Regionals 2019.
More after the jump.
One important thing to note is this deck is actually a slightly edited version of the deck I played at Liverpool Regionals – the edits are extremely minor and have only been done to capitalise on what the deck was doing well. And Cid FFL wasn’t great. The deck requires quite a bit of self control to play well, if you just spaff your hand onto the field and try to aggro down your opponent, you will probably lose if you get blown out once. You need to spot weak turns from your opponent and know when to pressure – it’s not uncommon for this deck to come back from 0-6 and win a match, and that has happened many times on top tables at tournaments I’ve been attending recently. I’m going to go a bit more in depth with this one than I usually do, as I’m really proud of this deck and it’s nice to have Mono Fire to a playable state, even if I go still get meme’d on a bit for playing Fire.
Let’s do a card-by-card breakdown. Pop the kettle on, this’ll likely be a really long one.
Firion – 7-132S
Firion was a card that I previously turned my nose up at, now he’s one that I firmly believe every Mono Fire player should run. Early game combined with Irvine, or Vivi, he can stop early aggro plays while providing a weedy blocker, and using Iroha you can break his 6k damage cap to hit the magical 7k that deals with a lot of commonly played cards these days. Plays I would often do with Firion is Zell for 4k, followed by Firion for 4k, or Firion onto the field with 2 forwards on it already, and use Montblanc, Iroha, or Luneth to kill-confirm. Firion is almost good enough to put 4 cost Phoenix in the deck, but I preferred to go for a higher than normal amount of forwards in the deck so I could play through multiple field wipes or Veritas with no issues. Play 3 Firion, you won’t regret it. Minwu isn’t played nearly as much as it should be these days, and at the very least, we can just drop a field of big boring forwards to go through a Minwu-d field.
Tifa – 1-016C
Tifa’s very much the odd one out in the deck. She’s good for early pressure in quite a lot of matchups, but man does she suck when you’re against Ice or Ice/Fire, enabling Cid Raines to kill her, and discard a card with no extra commit. She works well combined with Firion to get an extra body on board, but I think for the extra 1 CP I could instead be playing something like Guy for another Brave beater with a relevant on-death effect (to make Veritas less painful to get hit by.) – I’ll need to test it, but Tifa will unfortunately be one of the first ones to get cut as it currently stands. Bergan probably sits in this slot if we’re talking about revealed Opus IX cards. You can occasionally drop Tifa onto the field and bluff a Zell or Irvine to force damage or trades that are poor value for your opponent. She’s okay, but one of the least favourite cards to see lategame unless you’re trying to steal games through Ninja/Yotsuyu/Red Mage.
Ark Angel HM – 8-001R
Ark Angel HM is here to capitalise on your opponent having terrible early turns, or to lightning rod spot removal or force your opponent into making panic plays. It’s rare that I’ll go for this guy as a win con, but he’s a decent beater than warps your opponents blocking choices much like Genesis and Locke do. He can be extremely nice late game if you’d seeded your block bypass earlier in the game, but I think a lot of people put too much weight on this card as “what fire needs”. Also if you hit into a couple of EX bursts off of one attack, you’re going to have a pretty bad time indeed. I felt going to 2 was the right decision for this card, as it’s not one of the most important cards in the decks, and is definitely more of a “nice to have”. Without a couple of buffers in play he’s really fragile too, so do be mindful of when you play him. If you see your opponent drop a 4 cost forward or backup with a sad look on their face though, by all means drop him early and haste him and get some free damage. I rarely condone playing him turn 1 and hasting him, and will always play him off of a backup. He’s good, but I don’t think he’s 4CP good. I was probably more hype on this in my initial review?
Iroha – 8-004R
Iroha is great. I’ve had a lot of people emphatically tell me they’re not sold on her, but at the same time I feel my fire build is notably different to the majority of fire builds out of there. Iroha helps our boy Firion break his damage cap and become amazingly resilient, and for the simple price of tapping Iroha we can push that up to a 9k combo burn right there. If you get an early Garland drop against you, Iroha can make Vivi deal with it on his own – Irvine hitting for 7k and Vivi hitting for 6k is great, and making your Montblanc activations 3k is truly excellent in matchups vs endless chump blockers in Leila and Viking. She also plays very well with First Strike, and allows things to trade with something bigger than themselves under Belias (higher if combined with her tap to burn effect). Being Job Samurai is really nice too – I’ve had people swing into my Hien confident he was no longer being buffed after they destroyed Gosetsu with a Hecatoncheir, and offensively she also procs Hien’s +1k to field effect when she attacks as well! She also helps get Zell up to ludicrous numbers – tl;dr if you don’t like Iroha right now, I strongly recommend you give her a go.
Luneth – 5-024H
Luneth is here because I’m not allowed to run 5 copies of Lyse, because apparently that’s ‘cheating’. Real talk though, Luneth’s effect gives us inherent protecting to a lot of lightning tempo plays, allowing us to dodge burn from Alphinaud, Ramuh, and most importantly Al-Cid. Also his effect combines very well with Firion, allowing you to have 3 forwards down including Firion, then tapping all 3 forwards to get that 6k burn up to 8k. Luneth combined with any of our other damage output buffers really can make your opponent face down some literally unmanageable fields. I’m not sure if I’d take him out – perhaps if there was something really strong in Opus IX, but occasionally resolving Zell for 8k-9k on entry due to the amount of buffs this deck can provide is really something, and Luneth helps get us to the good numbers.
Lyse – 8-139S
Man, Lyse was really hard to get hold of in foil. She’s a solid 3 of in the deck, and can give your deck insane staying power if your opponent decides to leave you on 5-6 damage rather than finishing you off in one go. Her S ability is sometimes useful, but is definitely second to her field ability. I’ve had a lot of games where I have been rushed to 6 damage incredibly quickly while having no damage on my opponent, and Lyse is what has enabled me to come back and take the game. This has happened quite a few times in quite a few top cuts, and I think if you’re running fire without Lyse you are really missing a trick here. Also lategame, with just Lyse and no other buffers, Zell is hitting for a pretty impressive 6k when he enters the field on his own. Good card. Unfortunately due to the nature of how rare the starter deck she is in is, I wish you the best of luck getting copies of this card without ordering in a non-English language.
Hien – 8-138S
Hien is the big daddy of the deck. A big brave beater that more often than not is going to be 10k-11k brave makes him strong enough to take down a lot of stuff in the meta without having to worry about anything blocking him, while still leaving you a massive blocker. Hien also allows us to do cool things like making Veritas 9k, which people are often not prepared for. If you keep Hien out, it’s likely you’ve got a few turns of massive pressure coming up, and if your opponent can’t answer him quickly they’re likely in real trouble. The fact that his searcher enables his effect is a massive bonus – I really recommend running Hien + Iroha + Gosetsu as a small Samurai package to be the core of a fire deck. I wouldn’t recommend Ayame as she’s pretty Vanilla and doesn’t synergise with the rest of the deck.
Marche – 8-018R
Marche is absolutely gross. He’s a 2CP 5K body essentially, which isn’t horrible, he combines with Montblanc for extra shenanigans, he searches the top 5 cards of your deck, and is also searchable himself. Most of the important choices around the deck come around what you pick out with Marche. He fixes a lot of early CP curves, he allows you to put other copies of himself at the bottom of the deck for more value off of Montblanc’s on play effect, and he allows you to move Hien to the bottom of the deck so that your Gosetsu will never miss. One word of warning is that sometimes he will make you miss a Veritas, but unfortunately you have to just either suck it up, or wait until you see a Veritas before you drop Marche onto the field. Marche is a really important card in Mono Fire, and I think that any less than 3 is objectively suboptimal.
Zell – 6-012R
Zell’s good. His effect is most likely to fire for 5k, which isn’t horrible. You can pop the damage on something that won’t die, and swing with Zell to see if they’ll block, or best case you’ll get some free damage. Judge your targets with Zell wisely, as you only get two shots with him. If you have a good buffer setup you can drop Zell and end the game with Zell resolving for 7k-9k. I strongly recommend Zell in any buffer-based fire build. He can also destroy Leyak on entry and allow you to instantly end the game in some matchups. It would be nice if he could hit 3 cost monsters, but we have to work with what we have.
Cloud – 8-006L
The man himself. Cloud is a game-ender, and can come in when you’re at your strongest to take out your opponent’s biggest forward. A word of warning, make sure you are sure you want to bring him back before you do it, or you might mill yourself out in a regional game… shoutout to Chris from the YYT… Run Cloud. He’s fire’s best card right now, hands down. In the worst cases he’s an early game pitch, in the best case he’s a massive boss monster that comes in, removes a forward, blocks a forward, revives himself and removes another forward. I can’t recommend this card enough. Don’t be afraid to pitch him, and don’t be afraid to just let him die without a revive, as sometimes he’s already done his job, or he’s not even needed if you manage to keep enough pressure with your other characters.
Veritas of the Dark – 8-136L
Do I have to write about why this is in here? Veritas seals the deal on a lot of fields, and lets you remove some blockers you might otherwise have problems with. I personally prefer Nidhogg as my dark monster of choice, but I’ve admittedly not tested it in this deck just yet. Veritas may possibly fall off in the future as people tech for it more and more, but for now he’s a very powerful flavour of the month spot removal card that can see play early and lategame. Sometimes he’ll feel massively ineffectual, other times you will feel like you won’t see him quick enough.
Belias, the Gigas – 2-019R
Our swiss army knife. Belias has a lot of jobs in the deck, if we’ve curved out an Ark Angel HM it allows us to push a bad open for an opponent. It allows us to bluff damage through by pretending we have it (when we don’t). It works offensively, defensively, it works even better when Iroha is on the field, and it even draws us a card when it flips into EX. A great card, and I don’t think I will be switching to 1CP Belias next set, as I prefer being able to use this Belias in a lot of different scenarios to keep control of the game.
Bahamut – 4-016R
Bahamut is in here as a pure tech choice for the current meta. He’s the neatest answer for a Veritas (without answering with your own), and he does the right amount of damage to kill a Yuri too. Not a massively exciting card to write about, but he can allow you to deal with a few really annoying pieces that you’ll come across. He beat out 7CP Phoenix for this slot due to the inherent Veritas counter. That said, I’ve not encountered a huge amount of Veritas at a regional level, even travelling around the country.
Ninja – 5-017C
We have a total of 4 block bypasses in this deck and the names are varied amongst them so we don’t have any name clash. Ninja is a play early, and save until lategame – you need to make sure the turn you activate Ninja you win, and often if you leave it there without using it, you can steal wins just by your opponent not paying attention to your backup.
Red Mage – 8-002C
Red Mage is here to push early pressure if needed, and is a good early game pick off of Marche if you have no backups down. You can use this of course to sneak games if your opponent isn’t ready for a blocker, and with it only having an entry effect, it’s not so bad to lose to Veritas when his Break Zone effect goes off.
Red Mage – 1-003C
Red Mage is here to get us past the really big guys that Yotsuyu can’t get us past. It also allows you sneak damage through without losing a backup, and so can be used to pressure the opponent as needed. I wouldn’t go more than 1 on this card, as it’s here just to be a Yotsuyu without the name clash.
Samurai – 7-009C
Samurai can help us push damage through, or put smaller forwards up to impressive attack levels if you need to force a trade or force damage through without losing a blocker. It always feels very situational to use, and I think it would be one of the first cards that I drop from the deck if we get anything mindblowing for the deck that suits it more than this. Interestingly, and annoyingly, this Samurai isn’t a Samurai. Thanks.
Vivi – 3-018C
This card is the reason legend Vivi didn’t make the Forwards section of the deck. Vivi can kill a lot of early game forwards while providing you a backup, and combined with a raw Firion, can even kill 7ks. Combined with Iroha he clears Garland while giving you value on tempo. I really like this card, his most common use is to kill Papalymo or Porom without committing any meaningful resources. He also plays well with Luneth, Montblanc, Zell, I really say give this a go. My main issue with Vivi L in the past is when I’ve tried to use him, my opponent ditches their hand in response and ends up not losing a forward and probably removing some of my stuff. Don’t write this card off just because it’s a common. It’s also not even a poor play to drop Vivi onto a forward and then see if they will block your Tifa/Zell. This is absolutely the one backup you do not want to throw down turn 1.
Yotsuyu – 8-020R
Enables a pressure game throughout the course of a match, and makes your deck really good at damage racing. Ran effectively for the same reason as Red Mage/Ninja, but I’d say in the current metagame it’s probably the best one of the 3, with the only things it doesn’t really sneak you past being Fina and Veritas – but we have plenty of other ways to deal with them.
Gosetsu – 8-137S
Favourite backup to play turn 2. You want Gosetsu down early, and if you’re dropping him as your second backup, you can play the Hien you just dropped off of the two backups and one from hand and you have a 9k brave that swings for 10k really early into the game. Just make sure you don’t get instantly Famfrit’d. I only run two of this card so that I should theoretically never miss if I’m being sensible with my Marche choises. It’s not exciting, but it searches probably the second most powerful card in the deck, and does so off of EX. Fire may not have a good generic in-element searcher (Meeth doesn’t count) but its specific ones ROCK.
Irvine – 2-001H
Play the Irvine, splat the thing. It’s a slightly stronger Vivi with no EX (boo), but can hit that magic 7k alongside Iroha, or can combo to 8k and beyond really really easily. Again, you never want to play this without getting something from it. In a previous build this was Cid FFL, but I found it too high-roll for the majority of games.
Lebreau – 1-030R
Lebreau sure is here. She never feels good to play as unlike a lot of cards in the deck nets you exactly zero advantage when you play her, but you can leave yourself quite vulnerable to Wind’s field wipes without her, so don’t skip her. Solid 3 of, but really a shame buffers aren’t a bit more exciting. Can’t really ask for more though.
Montblanc – 4-022R
Montblanc is stupid good – never feel bad about throwing him down turn 1, taking your Marche and passing. With the Marche and the 2 cards you draw next turn, there’s a pretty high chance you can get a 3 cost backup to play and get set up really early. Don’t be afraid to take a Montblanc off of a Marche if you don’t have one down, as having a backup Marche is always good to have ready, and Montblanc’s ping ability is incredibly good. You can force pretty much everything on your board to trade up 2k-3k higher, or just flat out abuse it with Belias. If you take nothing else away from this article, please, please, please please please run Montblanc. He’s ludicrously good.
So that’s a breakdown of the deck, let’s go through a few of the key plays:
Setting up – The Early Turns:
It’s rare you will need to mulligan in this deck. Ideally you want to see a 2CP and a 3CP backup, as you would in the majority of decks, but you generally do not want to see Vivi or Irvine early, unless you’re worried about your opponent dropping something like a Garland (IX) early. It’s also fine to just throw out a Montblanc or a raw Marche though, as they are both a soft 2CP via their effects. These cards can also fix pretty bad opening hands, and make the deck pretty consistent at opening well.
It’s almost never appropriate to go for a turn 1 Ark Angel HM and haste him, as if that gets punished (and it’s not hard to punish), you will have a really bad time. If you want to HM early, drop a 2CP backup first and play him on curve. Ideally I would want an opening turn to be a Ninja/Red Mage/Yotsuyu, followed by a Gosetsu into a Hien, and then if we’re talking really good opening, follow that up with a Montblanc.
One of the really overlooked aspects of playing Mono Fire right now is not making terrible decisions with Marche – I have made suboptimal choices in the past in this regards, and I feel it’s one of the things that sets apart playing the deck well to playing it effectively. With Marche, you generally want to pick up a backup you can play off of backups the next turn, with the exceptions being if you played a raw Marche on turn 1, in which case you need to get a 2CP backup ASAP, or if you only have one backup down, in which case you need to take a 3CP backup to curve out your backup line a bit better. Things you should never be picking are a Hien (unless both Gosetsu have been used), or a Marche if you’re planning on playing a Montblanc in the near future. There’s definitely more to the decisions you make off of Marche, and if you’re really good at card counting, you can predict what you will draw later in the game with what you put back (put Clouds back, then let them through as late damage for HUGE burn, and hope that you didn’t count your cards wrong!) – be aware that if you try this, you will need to be acutely aware of what damage you have taken, and how many times you have been Rikku milled.
Limit Breaking with Zell!
You should always be building mid/lategame to getting a huge tempo play using Zell and your block-bypassers. Zell can hit for 9k under perfect conditions, and with him being 4CP to play, it’s easy to follow up with more burn, and get game through. Because of this it’s important that you don’t just pitch all your Irohas, Luneths and Lyses early game because you haven’t established a board yet.
Keeping Calm Under Pressure
I’ve had some of my best games in this deck by never over-committing to attacks until I know I have lethal. Some games you will be sat there, with a field of 4-5 forwards, but don’t go all out unless you’re sure you can take your opponent out, especially if you’re relying on Lyse, which would assume you’re on 5-6 damage. Even though fire is seen as an unga-bunga aggressive deck, it’s rarely optimal to go all out unless you’re against something you need to damage race like Scions. I try not to over-commit if I think there’s a possibility it could come back to bite me, although I have made mistakes on this in the past. Slow and steady wins the race when you can keep poking away for 1 damage a turn with Hien while maintaining a fierce defensive lineup.
So there’s a rundown of the deck with a few tips and tricks on the deck – I hope this helps you give some love to the underdog of the game at your locals/regionals – I truly believe that Fire’s a solid deck, and I’ve had a regional win and several tops out of it, so it can’t be all that bad!
Thank you for reading, here’s to a bright future of many more of my ramblings, and roll on Opus IX!