Card of the Week: Kolka!

It’s my Opus VII community spoiler!

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Checking out Kolka at a glance, he’s a straight up faster version of Mog (MOBIUS), and gives you a bit of name variance if you need it for your backup line, with the downside of not being able to self-break to clear up backup space.

To his advantage, Kolka can search a staggering amount of good cards, Earth is an element renowned for having sturdy, powerful forwards (Cecil, Dadaluma and Wol spring to mind immediately, but you can also search for things like PSICOM Enforcer or Raubahn if you need to toolbox removal. You could even search out the new Noctis to turn the game around when you’re on 6 points of damage!)

As he’s a searcher, there’s not a huge amount to write about him, as his real strength comes from what he can search rather than what he does himself. As I do with Merlwyb in Mono Water & Ysayle in Mono Ice, I’d tentatively try Kolka as a 1-of just to bring the consistency of your deck up a bit, especially as he’s a soft 2 CP card, which doesn’t even make him that bad to play early.

I’m rating him a “Blow an Airhorn and search Dadaluma” out of 10.

Card of the Week #10 – Exdeath

We’re back with another Card of the Week! This week it’s the voidiest of bois from Opus 3, Exdeath! (I’m taking a break from Opus VI stuff for now, as there’s not much to write about that hasn’t been said elsewhere.)

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As someone that’s primarily played lightning at most middling-to-large tournaments I’ve gone to, I’m aware that lightning has some super weird matchups sometimes. I’ve also had varying degrees of success with the different lighting ‘boss monsters’ – I find that Estinien gets killed pretty darn quick, and Vaan is too slow as an alternative, can cause handclog, and can also die pretty darn quick. Lightning is great, but requires quite a lot of support cards to get her effect off reliably. Ramza is also a little too disruptable (move to combat, get Bismarcked, die inside), and if you are playing him onto the field with his effect live you are likely already winning. In a quest to find something that covers our weird matchups, can tank a bit of damage and also punch people in the face, I’ve been looking through my binder to find a very dusty playset of Exdeath from Opus 3.

5CP for 9k, Exdeath’s on curve, and with Lulu out is nothing to balk at. His power puts him out of range of being instagibbed by Dadaluma shenanigans (unless they have 3 cactuars in play, but lets hope that never happens with Ramuh, Ramuh and Odin available). He’s also gonna win combat against a lot of stuff you’ll see today. He’ll have no problem knocking a Nidhogg on it’s arse, suplexing a Cagnazzo (even if they have Wakka out), and he’ll even give things like a moderately buffed Yda a run for her money.

Now, when Exdeath launched, he admittedly had one of the least hype auto abilities ever printed. In Opus 3, he was basically only going to ever disrupt Standard Units and Cadets. Today, his auto ability is a hell of a lot more relevant.

Opponent has a scary 12k Y’da? Attack with Exdeath, no they don’t. Opponent has some completely untargetable Gullwings you can’t deal with with Odin or Al-Cid? Declare an attack with Exdeath, before blockers, use stuff like Odin to clear the way, or Main Phase 2 drop the hammer with Al-Cid. I find that Warrior of Light in Mono Earth with Wol and Ingus gives me some serious grief (although admittedly I’m not tuned to deal with 4 cost stuff right now due to local meta), turning Al-Cid & Ramuh into wet noodles that can’t kill much, however after an attack with Exdeath they lose their protection that gives them favourable trades off of Hecatoncheir and helps them survive Al-Cid’s effect.

One of my losses at a tournament yesterday was due to not having an answer to light Warrior of Light throwing my numbers off and being really tuned to dealing with 3 and below costs – running Exdeath would have alleviated that nicely. Live and learn!

Considering we are getting a whole host of Warriors of Light next set (Opus VII) at time of writing, I can see that Exdeath is probably going to get more relevant as a good rogue pick if the WoL meta becomes real.

Now, Grand Cross, Exdeath’s special ability is probably the hypest ability. Pulling this off when your opponent has very few cards in their hand is always hugely devastating. Pulling it off when they have 4-5 cards in their hand will probably make you die horribly. You can use Grand Cross to cover a lot of stuff that can give lightning grief, as it’ll clear out Minwu, Rasler/Ashe, untargetable things like Zidane, Trey, as well as the previously mentioned Warriors of Light. With Exdeath not needing to dull as part of the cost either, you can do it immediately upon playing him without needing to haste him. Glorious. Also removing everything from both break zones as well is extremely relevant against things like Leyak Control decks and anything with the Leila Viking engine in it, which should stop your opponent from tempo-swinging back ahead of you providing they don’t get some godly topdecks.

If you’re running a Lightning deck and are finding that you are having some trouble with some matchups at the moment, try a few matches with your Estiniens slotted away and run a playset of this guy instead. You’ll be surprised. Hold the entire board to ransom. If you don’t get to have fun, no one gets to have fun.

I’m rating Exdeath an he’s actually a Tree out of 10.

Card of the Week #8 – Squall

This week’s Card of the Week, fittingly from Final Fantasy 8, is the two-cost terror, Squall!

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Squall is a cool dude. 2 cost is nice, and fits into Ice’s arsenal of two drops really nicely, and he’s on theme in that he benefits from you having played the discard game, but isn’t quite as devastating as Cid Aulstyne (who does a bit too much for his condition, but that’s another article entirely – tl;dr is Ice doesn’t need a roided-up Edea that punishes your opponent for already being behind). Getting a reward for getting your opponent to two cards in hand is really nice, with a bigger payoff when you get them to no cards – which can even be used as a combat trick is really really nice. He doesn’t tempo swing so hard your opponent will never be able to come back, and infact he’ll drop back to 5k when they start their next turn and draw some cards, but he does reward you for doing what your deck does well.

Also giving Ice conditional access to haste is really nice, I can’t remember what tournament I was watching recently (I’ve been watching a loooot of tournaments), it was possibly German Nats? A game was decided on this guy and the gamble of “if he has Squall, I lose. If he doesn’t have Squall, I win.”

Squall came out and won that game by dealing the last point of damage. Rewarding Ice based on the number of cards in the opponent’s hand is awesome, providing the reward isn’t something that puts you so far ahead the game is essentially over. I think this is a good example of a reasonable reward.

Being a SeeD Candidate this guy is also searchable off of Selphie, and he also has some nice synergy with the Laguna we got way back in Opus 1 – and both of these cards are EX bursts, which is always nice to have. It’s also really good to see more playable versions of protagonists from Final Fantasy games, as so far a lot of the playable characters have been essentially random NPCs from Final Fantasy games that have ended up just being straight up more playable than their main cast counterparts.

As a final note as well, he’s a totally sweet over-extend punish in Golbez decks, and I fully recommend trying him out in your next Golbez build. You can legitimately pop Golbez in exchange for Squall, Ninja, Onion Knight and Tifa and immediately swing for 4 points of damage, which is okay I guess.

I’m rating Squall a whatever out of ten.

Card of the Week #7 – Zell

This week’s Card of the Week is Zell from Opus VI, who definitely deserved art with a nose.

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Upon seeing Zell & Kiros get revealed, I was super hyped to make an FFVIII theme deck to play in Opus VI, but then they went and made the cards all basically not interact with each other, and even worse, give them a searcher in Selphie who was almost great but searches for SeeD Candidates, not all of which are great (I just wanted to be able to search for Opus 1 Legendary Squall, damnit!)

Zell found a home in basically every mono fire deck I’ve built since the start of Opus VI, he’s great. He’s essentially Opus I Firion but with much more potential for advantage swings. With how prominent small forwards are in the current meta (turbo Ice’s Argath & Thaumaturge and Viceking’s Leila & her groupies), it’s not unthinkable you’re gonna break something with him the majority of times he’s played. The way his effect works means you can also buff him in response to his own effect for a slightly larger burn, which should hit for a respectable 5k-6k depending on what your buffer situation looks like. Combine him with another ping and you can get some really good damage off of this card, and because he has haste it’s likely you can swing through for damage too.

His other ability that lets you pop monsters is also useful in that it can disrupt decks that rely on monsters – smack a Cactuar and that earth/wind player is likely not going to be happy. Just be warned they’ll likely obliterate your Zell in response, but it’s almost always worth it.

I’ve found in testing that Zell is a really nice early game play, as he can put damage on something and swing straight away. Best case scenario, he kills something, and you get damage through really early. Elsewhere, you might hit an 8k forward for 4k, then swing with Zell. If your opponent takes the block, you’ve removed something bigger, if they don’t, free damage, and you can follow up with a ping summon or something like Irvine in main phase 2. It’s pretty much a win/win. Comboing him with Xande ping can be really strong, as well. 9k total to a forward, or remove two smaller ones.

I try to include Zell as at least a two-of in my fire decks I brew at the moment, although the more I test him, the more I want to max them out. He’s less useful if you have to deal with Minwu frequently, but the same could be said for quite a lot of cards in fire.

I’m rating Zell a “managing to get the last hotdog in the canteen” out of ten.

Card of the Week #6 – White Mage

This week we’re having a look at a stellar anti-meta backup, White Mage!

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At first glance, White Mage doesn’t look like it does too much, and admittedly it doesn’t, but White Mage’s strengths come from the things it can interact with. The a lot of current meta decks run a lot of recursion in the form of Phoenix, Devout, Urianger, Miner, Scholar, Leila, and Lenna, as well as the new summon recursion cards from Opus VI.

With the on-play ability, you’ll want to remove something that you perceive to be a vital part of the deck – be that a Viking waiting to give the opponent an advantage, a Cactuar waiting to come out and start gently caressing Dadaluma via Urianger, or a summon ready to get used by Yuna‘s action ability to activate and buff a Gullwing. If you’re running White Mage, you can answer a lot of plays you otherwise would not be able to answer at all.

The second ability is a bit trickier to use. I mostly practice against a Leyak Control/Urianger Mill deck, and I found pretty much every time I tried to fire off the action ability on an empty stack, it would get responded to with something that would resurrect it or put it back to hand – don’t gamble the second effect. It’s not worth guessing whether they have an answer for it. Wait for your opponent to target it with something like Phoenix, or Miner, and then pop White Mage in response to remove it and make their effect fizzle. If you see your opponent setting up a Zemus or Edea play, you can REALLY ruin their day with White Mage.

Also worth noting is that this backup does not have to be active to use it’s action ability, so it’s good practice to leave it dulled and pay for it with something else to see if you can make your opponent forget about it – you’ll find quite a bit opponents don’t pay attention to backups that you have dulled, and only consider the active ones to be valid threats.

There’s not a huge amount to write about this week’s Card of the Week, but I genuinely believe in the current meta, if you are running Wind in any capacity, at least consider running some White Mages, because it will just straight up win you the game in some matchups.

I’m giving White Mage a “That’s a nice Break Zone you have there, it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it” out of 10.

Card of the Week #5 – Titan

This week we’re having a look at another one of the Opus VI summons from category VII – it’s Titan!

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Now, in his source game, I was certainly not Titan’s biggest fan. He was just a bit pants. That’s not the case here, he’s the literal opposite of pants (…a shirt?). Titan capitalizes on what earth does best, and plays more into the ‘forwards dealing damage outside of combat’ thing that we’ve had so far with Raubahn and Hecatoncheir.

Titan can be used both offensively and defensively, and will usually be letting you remove two forwards for 5 CP – the fact that he’s an EX burst is also nuts, as it’ll usually kill an enemy forward, and stop any further attacks as your forward just got a 2k boost! I found I’ve been using Titan as a 3-of in Mono Earth decks that rely around buffing forwards to stupid power levels, as things like Enna Kros, Ingus and Wol make Titan even better, and you get very efficient removal out of him. Attack with a forward, if it get blocked, buff it with Titan and blow up another thing, it’s fantastic.

It also combos really well with Vermilion Bird l’Cie Zhuyu, as the forward is classed as the source of the damage, not the summon. That means that Zhuyu’s effect will trigger if you use Titan with him – most of the time Zhuyu isn’t blocked. If you want to get a second attack off, after you’ve already swung, cast Titan to blow something up, reactivate Zhuyu and then go in again! Because the forward is also the source of the damage, it also gets around things like Cecil and the damage protection effect from Leviathan, which would normally stop damage dead in its tracks.

I think it’s great value for 5 cost because of its multiple applications, it costs 1 more than Odin or Bahamut, and is arguably better at removing things than them (in terms of potential damage in a typical earth deck, you should be scoring 10k hits with this reasonably reliably) AND it has an EX burst, and unlike Hecatoncheir it doesn’t do damage to your own forward! The only real downside I can see with this card is drawing it early game when you’re not set up, or flipping an EX burst when you don’t have a forward out.

Also, with it being category VII, it’s awesome in the (already strong) VII title format deck!

I’m giving Titan a Big Guy out of Ten.

Card of the Week #4 – Ramuh

This card of the week shouldn’t come as a shock, we’re having a look at the majestically-bearded Ramuh from Opus VI!

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Ramuh has a staggering 4 effects to choose from for a decently costed 3 CP. I’d say he’s probably one of the most useful lightning summons right now that doesn’t have a massive cost (I still love you Raiden <3). He’s also category VII if title format is your thing.

The first effect is probably the one you will use least, depending on your local meta. Most commonly it’ll be used to blow up Cactuars to try and slow down Cactuar/Dadaluma decks. It can also be used to clear out things like Buccaboo, Gesper and Black Knight. It has some applications but isn’t really where this card shines.

The second effect is way more useful – it can be used either offensively or defensively, and is especially strong when paired with the other two effects on the card. Dulling something to sneak a point of damage through will win you games.

Up third, we have 7k damage to an active forward. At first, this effect is essentially Adrammelech, the Wroth‘s effect but without the EX burst portion. Combine it with the second effect, and you can make Al-Cids in the mirror match extremely un-fun for your opponent. Opponent summons Al-Cid targeting your active forward, respond with Ramuh, dulling your own forward and hitting Al-Cid for 7k – your opponent will lose the Al-Cid, and his effect will not go off, massive value for 3 CP.

The fourth effect is one to close out a game – I don’t use this one too much myself as a lot of things in my deck have haste anyway, but it has won me a few games. You can either ping for 7k and haste something like Seifer to remove a large forward, or you can dull a forward, haste your own forward, and swing for a point of damage.

Ramuh really is a swiss army knife that lightning sorely needed to stay relevant – it won’t help you too much against Ashe + Rasler, but it’s a great addition in almost all other situations. If you’re running the new Arecia Al-Rashia in your deck, you can also pitch this card to search for a big summon when needed, or if you need to use this card to go for game but it’s not in your hand, throw away that 7 cost Odin for Ramuh, haste your forward and win!

Summons with options only make the game more interesting, and I hope that other elements get some love with these too (please give fire a summon with selection options, and don’t make it terrible.)

Except Bismarck, Bismarck can die in a fire.

I’m rating Ramuh a Giant Electric Santa Gandalf out of Ten.