Thursday, February 23, 2017

PureMTGO - On Sideboarding

Our decks consist of two parts - main deck and the sideboard. I talked primarily about main deck in my deckbuilding article while talking briefly about the sideboard. Now I'd like to talk about the sideboard in more detail.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

PureMTGO - Why is deckbuilding good for you

Deckbuilding is part of any trading card game. It is a long process and some players are not really good at it. If you are not a good deck builder you should build some decks. Deckbuilding will help you learn a lot about the game itself, the metagame and cards. It will allow you to see things from different angles and will make you a better player.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Final Fantasy Trading Card Game - Introduction

Final Fantasy is a name of a game series that you've probably heard of even if you have no idea what it is. FF is a famous JRPG series from SquareEnix. The very first Final Fantasy game was released in 1987. For those who have no idea about the worlds and 'magic' of Final Fantasy I would recommend you to watch a CGI movie FFXV Kingsglaive. It is a prequel to the Final Fantasy XV game that came out last year in summer.

Many of FF players wished for a card game with FF theme. Seven years ago, in Japan, they actually got it. The game - Final Fantasy Trading Card Game - was first released in 2010 and over 2000 cards were printed during the six year period the game was in print (15 distinct sets named Chapter [number]). Last year the western world got an English version of this game. The game also is being reprinted in Japan so the cards would be the same for all regions. Few years ago I read the rules of the game but it did not really caught my interest. Since I couldn't get my hands on the game itself I couldn't try it out. This time though I was sent a copy of this game to review it.

The designer of the game is Taro 'John' Kageyama which is a name that some of you might know. He is a former Magic pro. He won Japanese Nationals, top8ed a GP and played in several PTs. If I tell you that FFTCG is similar to Magic, it won't be a surprise to anyone. FFTCG is produced by SquareEnix itself which is a good thing. There won't be any kind of license problems (and premature end of the game).

The new FFTCG came out when people were still playing Final Fantasy XV and probably because of this fact the game was sold with more success. It spread after its release at PAX in Australia. The question is who buys the game? Collectors that buy the FFTCG packs because they want to collect their favorite character, similarly to why people buy Weiss & Schwartz booster packs? Or players of other TCGs like Magic: The Gathering? The answer is: Both. For the time being there are three Starter Set decks available - Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII. These games were chosen for the western market because those were the games with the most success in Europe and United States. Then the very first set named OPUS I is available. It contains 216 cards which of 186 are new cards. The set contains cards from Dissidia Final Fantasy, FFVII Remake and World of Fantasy. The next set will contain cards from FFXII, FFVIII, FFIV. The set will feature 148 new cards.

The game is very easy to explain but has a great tactical and deckbuilding depth. The games do not take long in general (20 minutes even if you struggle?). Those that know how to play Magic won't have problems learning this game and will have much deeper understanding of the game than new players to TCGs. The simplicity of rules is something that surprised me because I can't really remember a game that would have such simple rules but would have such a depth as well. When I was playing the game for the first time it reminded me of Cardfight Vanguard and Duel Masters (with ofcourse Magic rules).

Each player tries to win the game by dealing 7 damage, milling their opponent or dealing damage when there are no cards left in opponent's deck. Each player uses cards that represent characters from the games and Eidolons . Some characters are meant for attacking - Forwards, and some are support characters - Backups - that produce CPs primarily but they have abilities of their own. Eidolons have immediate effects on the game. Each of the characters/Eidolons have a certain element. All this tries to represent what we know from the Final Fantasy games. Snow will be Ice, Shiva as well. Leviathan is going to be a Water card etc. Lightning is Lightning^_^.

There are eight elements in FFTCG and won't be any surprise to a JRPG player. Ice, Fire, Wind, Earth, Lightning, Water, Light and Dark. Light and Dark are rather special elements and use different rules. Fire is very straightforward, it deals direct damage, has strong characters. Ice is the opposite. It stalls the game, can tap characters or discard cards. Earth is capable to pump Forwards and protect them, but it can also deal some damage globally. Wind can untap characters and mill. Lightning can destroy Forwards unconditionally, has fast Forwards. Water is the control element, it can bounce or counter for example.

Final Fantasy TCG uniqueness is in its resource system. Cards are played by using CP (Crystal Points). 1 CP paid has to correspond to the card's element and the rest can be paid by generic CPs meaning any element CP. CPs can be generated in two ways, either by discarding a card and gaining 2 CP of the element of the discarded card or by tapping a Backup character that produces one CP of its own element (note that the Backup character has to be already played and thus paid by those CP). This system may not sound complicated or special but when you actually try to play the game you will find out that there is way more to it than it seems.

FFTCG is a fast paced game that has a very competitive feel even if you play with the Starter Set decks. The game punishes its players for badly reading the board state and resources' total. I don't think that this is a bad thing but it means that for some casual players this game might be too 'complicated' or 'harsh'. Those players that want to just chill out and play the cards they like without their game being disrupted by their opponents might not like it. But players with a bit more competitive attitude might love the game. The game has a random effect that may be a target of hate or love. It is called EX Burst. Some cards have EX Burst effects. Whenever a player is dealt damage, the top card of their deck is put into their Damage Zone. If the card has a EX Burst ability, the effect may be immediately used during Damage Resolution. EX Burst effects are often very strong and can turn a winning game into a losing one.

When OPUS I was being released there was a series of (pre)release tournaments. After this there were tournaments throughtout the world with 50-70 participants which seems pretty good.

The only thing I do not currently like much is the card design (I mean graphically speaking), it was redesigned a bit but that did not help much. I always loved Final Fantasy games for its awesome CG rendition and art be it by Amano or Nomura. But the cards seem to be rather 'bleak' even when it features screenshots from the game or the art by the mentioned artists. There is something that is missing. It does not have the awesome feeling as the Final Fantasy digital games and I find this to be a little bit sad. Otherwise the game is 5/5 for me but because of some things I don't understand how it came to them I would give it just 4/5 (for example no worldwide release on the same date, graphics, no comprehensive rules etc) but even this can get better (I'd like to actually see the FFXIII Eidolons in their 'normal mode' rather than the Gestalt one)

Apart from these little things, if you are wondering what kind of a game to pick up next, I can recommend this game. I don't know if it is sold by your LGS or anywhere in your country, but if it is available, give it a try, because it is totally worth it.

If the tournament scene will flourish we will be able to play both constructed and limited. Packs in this game contain 12 cards and 4 packs are drafted. Sealed deck is also possible and is played with 9 booster packs. This should also help people get the cards they need.

Here are few useful links.
Official English site ->
Card database can be found here ->
Official Japanese webpage ->

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Grand Prix Prague 2017

On Friday GP Prague was about to start at 10am. Many people came early so they could play with the relatively new set - Aether Revolt. The set was released in paper the previous week and some players did not get many chances to play with the set. If you read the previous post you'll know that I participated in some of the prerelease events and I also decided to try my luck during the sets release. All my paper experiences were really bad even though I had a nice deck once (with nice I don't mean good, but it was fun to play). Then I played Aether Revolt campaign in Magic Duels that practically summed up my experience from paper.

After Wednesday's Magic Online downtime Aether Revolt was ready to be played which was something I welcomed. I was waiting for the extended downtime to end and after 45 minutes (something went wrong so the going back online got delayed) I joined my first Sealed Deck Competitive League. I looked at my pool, sorted it by rarity and wondered what I would play. After staring at Black for quite a while I in the end decided to play just RG without even black splash. In round 5 tough my opponent played a deck producing many tokens and I knew that without cards like Yahenni's Expertise I wouldn't be able to win. For game 3 I decided to play Black instead and splash Red. It was very clunky and it did not work out because I awesomely flooded. But it was clear that my totally unreliable 3-color deck would have been better and that wasn't something I wanted to find out.

On Thursday my sealed pool was insane. It did not contain too many creatures but I had all the removal in the world. I wanted to play UB since I opened Torrential Gearhulk, Baral's Experise and a lot of black removal. But in the end I played BR with splashed (*laugh*) Torrential Gearhulk. The Gearhulk was totally unnecessary. During those five rounds I learned that one needs to be still rather cautious since my deck played 10 creatures and I really needed to kill my opponent with something. I also managed to see pools that were even better than mine which was rather shocking. At least I did not need to face something like turn 4 Wurmcoil Engine that I saw at the GP two days later.

After some events on Magic Online that I actually enjoyed, I sold what I earned. Who wouldn't want to open the most expensive cards of the sets? Fatal Push sold for 11tix, Torrential Gearhulk sold for 14tix. I sold the blue Expertise for 2 and black one for 4 which might not have been good deals. I sold all my packs for 4.25 right before the GP because I did not expect to play with the set anymore after the GP. I was glad that my Online experience was better and actually started to look forward to playing in the main event which wasn't the case before the Online's release.

My plan for Friday was to play a LCT Sealed deck and Rich Hagon's Game Show but neither was about to happen because some time past 11 everyone was evacuated due to a food stand catching fire. About 20 minutes later we were told that the venue wouldn't be reopened that day and no one knew how it would look the day after. Few hours from then though there was an announcement that the GP would still happen and the schedule wouldn't be changed. They even rescheduled some of the Friday's events and we could get a refund, 120PP or free entry for another event.

I went to Najada to meet some of my friends that arrived for the GP, but they left already so I just packed my orders, went to a post office and went back to my flat where I had to stay because someone would come check some stuff. When I arrived in my flat I felt sick and did not really feel up to doing anything. I wrote something about a Final Fantasy TCG, did some unboxing videos and wondered if I want to go just sleep or what. After some time trying to convince myself not to open Magic Online I eventually went to sleep (the GP was going to happen as planned, it would be at the same place but in different halls).

Before I continue in my nonsense blog post, I'd like to thank all the people that helped the GP still take place. I suspect that there was a lot of work involved. So thank you everyone!

I got up in the morning and walked to the closest subway station about 1.2km away. At Vysocanska I got off and went to the surface to see which bus I should get on. I saw a rather 'suspicious person' that smiled at me. I went to check the stops, when I was passing by this person he told me that this is the right stop to go to the PVA Expo where the GP was held. We had a nice talk about Magic and stuff but we parted our ways at the entrance to the Expo.

I went to see where I should report if someone has Sleep-in Special and after walking back and forth around the halls I heard head judge's announcement about it. It was supposed to be somewhere on the right just after the entrance to the main hall. So I retraced my steps there and actually found it. I received my packs and followed a judge. Since we could sit anywhere, also anyone could sit across. It was Ondra who I was supposed to meet there since I had altered his Liliana. After registering his pool it seemed his pool was better than mine but did not seem good either. My deck ended up to be a RG aggro once again. Consistency over anything else, because I simply did not have any bombs except Ridgescale Tusker that though requires creatures in play in order to be good. I did not even have too many of those either. I opened Aethersphere Harvester which was pretty cool but it was pretty much the only threat in my deck. I did not expect to do good with this deck so I at least wanted to play some fun games or meet cool people. Well, my best game was at table 41 where I faced a Naya deck with some good cards in it. I mulled to 4 which wasn't good but I almost managed to win the first game. My opponent was obviously colored screwed but I didn't know that at that time. I lost to red Expertise and +4/+0 trample pump spell which I couldn't even play around. But my plays weren't the best ones either. Counting to 20 wasn't easy. In game 2 I managed to curve out and win. Game 3 was yet another staring contest of mismatched and wrong colored lands. In the end it was my opponent who landed few creatures I couldn't deal with and won the match. He apologized for how he won and wished me good luck. I glanced at the coverage team and left the place, knowing I would have to move to other hall to play remainder of my matches which was sad. The tables 1-145 or so where in a place where there was an actual daylight!

After being killed by few more Expertise spells I decided to drop. With Ondra we joined a 2HG draft which was actually quite fun, but out keeps in the second match weren't really stellar and we were up against decks running Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, Torrential Gearhulk, Solemn Recruit, Sram's Expertise etc. It did not look good for us and we died relatively soon. We then went to collect our Play Points (who came up with this name, this name due to being used on Magic Online does not really have a good connotation). I got a cool Tezzeret GP t-shirt and hoped for another one, but it was not to be since they were no longer available when I went to redeem my points. So I got some packs instead.

Anyway some random observations. I looked around to see how many transgender players I'd see. They were quite a few actually which was nice. I wasn't target of any kind of hate this time, but I did not really manage to chat or talk to players I didn't really know and they wouldn't know me. So in the end it seemed that I could have just stayed in my flat and played on Magic Online. I ran into Titus Chalk, Mike Kidney and few other Vintage players though and that was awesome. Even though this lasted just few minutes, it made my day and gave me a reason to stop regretting that I paid 65EUR to enter the main event.

The main event wasn't fun. The set seemed pretty annoying again but I wasn't upset about it though. I did not play against cool deck but sometimes I saw deck featuring cards that I just couldn't imagine one person would open. But since other players were registering the pools, they had to open it. I saw a player with Mana Crypt and Wurmcoil Engine. During one round, the player sitting to my left had Torrential Gearhulk in play with Sword of Fire and Ice equipped. There was also Tezzeret and bunch of Lotus Petals in play but I guess that was secondary. His opponent looked really down and totally helpless. I've seen few more double Invention/Masterpieces at the GP and my brain simply does not understand how these cards could end up in one pool. But it is similar to one of my opponents playing 4 Aether Chasers during one game. I was like WHAT? 4 Chasers out of 4 packs? What are the odds!

One last thing I'd like to talk about are bathrooms. Normally guys also use the women's bathrooms but this time for some reason it wasn't flooded with men (maybe also because that the bathroom wasn't particularly close to the place majority players played). On the other hand there was always someone smoking in front of the women's bathroom door which resulted in a rather awkward situation when I wanted to enter. I actually hit some poor guy standing in front of the door when I was leaving. Anyway it was a very strange feeling to be alone there^_^. And even more strange to actually be let inside without anyone protesting (meaning the staff). But if anyone would protest there were gender neutral bathrooms in front of the hall we originally were supposed to play.

Anyway I felt that I was part of the Magic community for two days and that was actually a good thing, because I don't feel like I belong anywhere. Being a person of color and trans is not a good thing in many people's eyes.

When I got back from the GP my flatmate was up and we decided to try Final Fantasy TCG out. If you come across that I can recommend it. The game is very good and shows so much promise. It is a competitive game that may become widespread finally when SquareEnix decided to release it for the West in English.

During the night, I was putting together some Vintage decks so we could play some Vintage during the day at the GP. Unfortunately it did not seem to be likely to happen so I entered a Legacy event. I brought Death and Taxes with me which was the only Legacy deck I had ready. I did not eat anything, did not drink and I wasn't really awake yet.

In round 1 I played against a local playing being on Eldrazi. I did not really fear the matchup but since my brain was still asleep I was sure the game wouldn't go that well. It didn't. My opponent played Thought-Knot Seer after Thought-Knot Seer and I scooped a bit later. In game 2 my opponent obviously kept a very bad hand so I was able to play my creatures and control the game and later win the game with Flickerwisp with Umezawa Jitte equipped. During game 3 I started to be VERY hungry and hoped the game would end fast. It obviously didn't. After I managed to stabilize the game I let my two creatures die which was a very bad thing to happen since I was in top deck mode and both of us had Umezawa's Jitte in play. My second creature had only one thing to do, kill opposing creature so the number of counters on our Jittes would be the same and if possible as low as possible. We both top decked well, but it was in the end me who managed to get a creature in play, keep it alive (which meant losing another creature to Jitte, Swords to Plowshares and Flickerwisp) and win with it. My Batterskull and Jitte equipped creature won the game. We were the last playing so I just went and checked the pairings.

I was up against Dredge. Game 1 did not look good but I let my opponent play to see how Legacy Dredge looks like. I'm used to playing against Vintage Dredge but this is something I don't really know. In game 2 I tried to mulligan into one of the 5 graveyard hate cards I boarded in, but I didn't get to it. My opponent killed me swiftly and told me that against Death and Taxes he can play safely and win relatively slowly. I wasn't really sure about that but I understand that he did not really need to fear much. Thanks to certain player known for being a slow player I managed to get something to eat - a chicken wrap.

My next match was against Aggro Loam but I didn't know it and I expected Elves. So when Liliana of the Veil backed up by 3 Rishadan Ports showed up I knew I'm done for. I still wonder if there wasn't a way how I could possibly play Sanctum Prelate on 2 and Phyrexian Revoker on Liliana of the Veil. I scooped and sided some graveyard hate. I won the game easily. In the deciding game though my opener contained only lands, another mulligan was a no lander and third mulligan did not feature lands either. I kept a hand with Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Aether Vial, Sanctum Prelate. My opponent played Chalice of the Void for 1 on turn 1. GG.

In the last round I played against Lands and I was actually glad I got matched against that. My plan was clear, land Sanctum Prelate and name 2. Or remove Punishing Fire/Loam from the game, Needle Thespian Stage or Molten Vortex and somehow win. In game 1 I managed to sneak in Sanctum Prelate through all Wastelands and Ports. In game 2 I tried as much as I could to deal with Loam, Fire, Vortex and DD/Stage but I just couldn't draw the right cards I needed, I was drawing lands. I had more of them than my dredging Lands opponent^_^. Game 3 though was swift. It took me about 8 turns to play Prelate but I got there!

Honestly, this tournament was a show how not to play Death and Taxes but I was glad that I managed to at least go 2-2. I collected my PP and then went to check on the Old School group playing well Old School. I played few games of Vintage and then it was time to play some Return to Ravnica block sealed deck. When playing sealed I usually just open the packs and sort the cards by color. To my surprise the last card I was about to put on the table was Voice of Resurgence! Another good cards followed in Junk colors. I opened 5 rares I could jam into one deck! Aurelia wasn't really splashable^_^.

Voice of Resurgence wasn't awesome in sealed but it was still a 2/2 bear that no one wanted to block and a card that could possibly catch someone offguard with its other ability (it didn't). The best rare was Ready/Willing and black Primordial did a great job at killing my opponents with their own cards too (killing my opponent with his own Desecration Demon was priceless). My deck was pretty neat, I'd fancy additional creature and Golgari/Orzhov guildgate but well I didn't open any so I had to do with basics. In one game I just died to it, because I couldn't find a black source so I would be able to get rid of Species Gorger that wrecked my game pretty badly. Even Ready//Willing did not help me because the black source decided to come too late. I played funny games, kept hands I shouldn't, made plays I wouldn't normally do, but I had lots of fun. I also played against great people and one player that also made it to Pro Tour Sydney. Wish more people like him would be in my vicinity. Good players, that enjoy the game and play it for fun, while also being nice people.

After the tournament we went to collect our prizes. I decided to get a split of AER and KLD packs. Since I was rather tired and a long journey home awaited me (long for someone living in the same city) I decided to go get a coffee and open the packs in the meantime. I didn't care what I would open but I hoped for Fatal Push or Walking Ballista which would just be a nice bonus to a really good day.

Well, the first card I opened was Oath of Ajani. I considered that good. But then I opened Heart of Kiran. The second rare was Walking Ballista. Next I opened Fatal Push. I could have stopped there but I continued. I opened some mythic Demon creature, Torrential Gearhulk, red Gearhulk, Verdurous Gearhulk and some crappy Mythic and rares, including some playable ones (actually I opened 2 foil rares, unplayable ones...but well). So it was actually my lucky day!

Now I'm very glad I participated in the GP. I'm still not sure if playing the main event was a good idea, but the second day was simply awesome. Thanks for everyone talking to me and playing against me. See you at another event!