Last weekend I traveled down with two of my friends to Everett, Washington to compete in the Cubic Zirconia Cup. This tournament was being ran by Geeky Villain, an amazing store with fantastic support for FFTCG. The tournament was very intriguing as it was simulating the Top 32 Draft format that some Crystal Cups are using this year (specifically the final 3 in North America this year).
Although the Crystal Cup I am attending (Portland) will not have draft. I thought this would be an excellent chance to improve at a format I have very limited (pun intended) experience at. FFTCG is the first TCG I have ever played competitively, and previous to this I had competed in maybe 3 drafts and a few cubes. My intent for this article is to talk about the event, how I played, and highlight some things I learned about draft. Enjoy!
P.S. I am writing this on a bus filled with students as I head off to chaperone a school trip. I apologize for any inconsistencies.
The Event Format
This is event was modeled after the Crystal Cup format, where after Day 1 of Swiss, a top 32 cut is made for Day 2. On the next day, the 32 players are split into 8 player pods where they would draft 5 packs of Opus VIII (or whatever the current format is). After drafting, more swiss rounds are played until a Top 8 is selected, based on the constructed and draft swiss rankings. This final group plays an 8 person BO3 Constructed tournament until the winner is crowned!
At the Cubic Zirconia Cup, we did not have the full number of players, but each draft pod consisted of at least 7 players, as far as I could tell. We played 5 rounds of Swiss, and the Top 8 were selected and played B03 Constructed to determine the champion. Congratulations to John Smith for taking 1st place and Neil M for coming in second.
On Saturday morning at 9 AM, I drove myself and my friends Phil and Yuda down to Everett to get to Geeky Villain before the event started at 2 PM. We arrived around 12:30 and no one had arrived yet, so we set up at one of the tables and ate some lunch while we played practice matches. A table was set up across from us displaying the impressive hardware that the winner would be taking home.
The winner of the tournament would win $200 with second place receiving $100. Each Top 8 player received an original Cubic Zirconia Cup Top 8 play mat, and every other player received a regular Cubic Zirconia play mat for their entry. Because Square Enix had dropped their Crystal Cup draft from 6 to 5 packs after Cubic Zirconia tickets had gone live, we all received a pack of our choice after the tournament.
In general, Edward, the Geeky Villain owner, ran an incredible event that progressed smoothly. He even had cookies for everyone, and not cheap cookies, I am talking about big, high quality bakery cookies.
After settling in I decided to walk around the store a bit and pick up a board game I was having trouble finding in Vancouver. I noticed that a table was set up with booster packs sitting in stacks of five. However, these weren’t Opus VIII packs.
I was immediately happy that I hadn’t prepared in depth for the event, thinking it would be Opus VIII. Turns out Opus VIII was in such high demand in Washington that it had sold out at every store, or at least there wasn’t enough product to fuel the draft. Instead we drafted Opus VII.
Once we had checked in for registration, we were called forward to grab a stack of five packs. As we grabbed our stacks, we were assigned a table number to draft at. Everyone sat down in their pods and the draft rules were explained. It was fairly standard, passing right the first round and alternating directions each round after that. You were not allowed to look at your drafted cards until between rounds. There was no enforced time limit for looking at cards in-between rounds or for how long each round took, but there was a timer for the overall draft and deck creation. Each drafting pod was responsible for policing their own group and making sure it wasn’t moving too slowly.
My pod moved fairly quickly, although there was one new player that needed to read the cards carefully. When people were finishing picking their card they would stack the pack next to him, and at times there was a 3-4 pack queue waiting for him. I recommend more patience from the group if this were to happen to you in a draft, because if he takes the wrong pile, it can mess up the order quite a bit. There was a point where he almost reached for the wrong pack and was corrected. Another pod had an incident where someone did not open a pack at the beginning of the round, and they were passing around 6 packs instead of 7. I am unsure how they corrected this.
When we began drafting, I immediately started looking for Lightning and Earth cards. I knew Moogle (FFCC) was a powerhouse in limited due to his colour fixing and I also was hoping to get some Zapts, Ramuh’s, and Couerls. My very first pick was a Ramuh, but I had a lot of trouble finding much Earth or Lightning after that for the first few packs. I figured everyone was in on those elements, and I was repeatedly handed packs with almost all Wind cards. I decided to go hard into Wind drafting three Cactuar Conductors (CHOO CHOO). Other people had mumbled about how dire it was looking and decided to do the same, but I was ahead at that point. I ended up with 2 Dorgans to use as removal and two Vata’s for tempo. I also got back into Earth and by extension Lightning as I had two Moogle (FFCC)’s fall to me later in the draft allowing me to go to three colours more safely. This combined with a Couerl, Zapt, and 2 Exdeaths to make a nice little core. I also ran every standard unit Earth Forward with a multi-element effect. 3 CP Summoner in particular was very useful. I was able to cap off the draft with a Legend Noel (best Legend in the set in case you didn’t know).
One quick note on deck building. I had assumed that we were supposed to do this on our own and I kept to myself for the first little while. However I started noticing everyone sharing their lists and asking friends for advice. I don’t know if this is a regular thing to do or not, but I thought it was odd since it was a competitive tournament. I ended up talking to my friends from Vancouver, trying to figure out where to squish in 2x Hope, 2x Bartholemew, and 1x Aleria as a package, I ended up not running it to keep my deck count down and play more consistent.
My opponent opened 4 CP Snow and I knew I couldn’t wait around, so I played a Barbara quickly and got in damage first. I was lucky to draw my Moogle (FFCC) and get the added abilities of my Forwards firing. Noel came through in a big way and I narrowly won 6-5.
I was playing against Neil, who is a rad dude. He opened Snow but I opened Moogle (FFCC) so we are both lucky guys. The match was pretty even until he Cid Previa’d out a Mid Previa, breaking a Forward and ramping to 5 Backups. He ran away with the game there finishing me off with a 5 CP Emperor.
This round was quick. I played lots of 8K Forwards quickly and took advantage of Summoner to freeze his Forwards. Beat my way through for the win.
I played against a new player (but a very experienced Magic player) and he made short work of me. I played out two Backups and a Dorgann. I was all set up to start removing Forwards (I had another Backup in hand, that I was hoping to draw the correct CP for) and he played his own Noel, which I had to chump block with my Dorgann. I then proceeded to draw 6 Backups in a row and he just played more Forwards and kept swinging, it was over quick.
I messed up this round as I had pitched a Ramuh for Lightning CP to play a Backup. I really wanted to set up the Dorgann, but my deck had so little removal that it was too valuable, and would have dealt with the Noel.
This round I played against Phil, but not the Phil I traveled down with. This Phil is from America, and he is a very nice guy. We had a tight match with him able to play out a Yuri. I played lots of big Forwards and edged it out in the end.
With my 3-2 record I narrowly missed out on the Top 8 placing 10th, no doubt due to that big 0-6 loss where I bricked. Both Phil and Yuda made the Top 8 so I stuck around to cheer them on, play some games, and most importantly, drive them home. Congrats to Phil for going 5-0 in draft with a very nice Water/Lightning deck. Yuda made the Top 8 with a 3-2 record, however at 2-2 in Round 5 he was paired up against my round 4 opponent, who he beat, avenging my loss.
Phil and Yuda both had tough matches that went to the third match of their BO3 Quarter Final bouts, but unfortunately neither could not pull out wins. Congrats to Neil and Miles for knocking out the Canadians. Neil played all three of us that day and beat 2 out of 3 making him Canada’s greatest enemy (we don’t have a lot of enemies in Canada).
Closing Thoughts: What did I learn?
I want to start by saying I had so much fun at Geeky Villain. I really like the draft format but wish it was easier to practice, as it is hard to get 8 people together at my locals for draft, and certainly not more than once and awhile as the cost adds up. I am hoping to All-Star draft in the future, although I know that doesn’t quite translate fully to regular draft.
The next time I draft, there are few things I will do differently to prepare:
1) Research the set we are drafting more. This wouldn’t have helped me this time, since we didn’t end up playing the set we were expecting. However, by knowing which combos to look out for or just identifying which cards might fit my playstyle would help me focus on a plan during the draft. The extent of my direction in this draft was seeing that Ramuh in my initial pack and going “oh heck yeah, removal”.
2) Practice draft, learn about draft, and watch draft on steam at the Crystal Cups this year. Coming into this draft, my rationale for not preparing was that I couldn’t practice. I thought to myself “I am a good evaluator of cards, I will draft an alright deck, and my play will carry me to the Top 8”. Some of the decks I played against had lot more Hero’s or Legends than my deck, and there were some really great synergies. I realize that some people may have had some better cards or packs cross their path, but I would have loved to have a stronger deck going into my matches, regardless of my play.
And that’s it, hope you enjoyed the read. If you are not experienced with draft, but are attending a Crystal Cup this year featuring the format, I highly recommend you practice! Chances are there are other people in your position and any extra practice might just give you that extra swiss win that puts you over the top into the Top 8. If you are looking at improving at Draft check out The Crystarium for limited articles and watch the Ice Crystal Cup from Germany that featured draft (6-pack) make its competitive debut in 2019 .
Alex is a FFTCG player from Vancouver, Canada. His favourite Final Fantasy is IV and his favourite Elements are Earth and Ice, although he has a soft spot for fire.