Hello Mysidians, boy do I have a treat for you this week. I am proud to bring you an interview with one of the most involved community members in FFTCG, James Lockwood. James has been a part of the FFTCG community since the beginning, and has a very positive and significant online presence on Facebook. But lets have James tell you the rest himself. Enjoy the interview!
Alex (A): First off, in case the readers don’t know you (highly doubt it) why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us about Cards of Ivalice?
James (J): Hey there, so I’m James Lockwood, owner of Cards of Ivalice and supporter of FFTCG since Winter 2016. I moderate the FFTCG-NA facebook page and try to help out the community whenever I can. Spread the good word and all that =).
(A): How did you get into FFTCG? What made you want to start Cards of Ivalice?
(J): I saw some postings about FFTCG coming stateside some time ago, but could never find it anywhere. At a LGS about an hour away, they finally got a few boxes in and I was able to learn how to play. Been hooked ever since. Starting Cards of Ivalice was a way for me to work/invest many hours into the game while being able to support myself and be home with my 2 kids.
(A): Did you have any experience running a business like this in the past? What kind of challenges did you have to overcome?
(J): Not really. I managed a Play N Trade (think of it like a Retro Gamestop?) for a few years, but that’s about it. Business with TCG’s is very interesting, as you follow trends, look ahead and be creative with what cards will suddenly explode in popularity, etc. Final Fantasy also has the advantage of just having such a huge following with the video cards and fandom.
(A): You certainly play the game, although you are viewed more as a community leader than a competitive player. Do you see it this way? What are your goals in FFTCG?
(J): If I had the means, I would certainly crunch the hours and go competitive. Unfortunately, (in my opinion) the opportunity does not exist. I play 2 MMO’s (I lead the FFTCG FFXIV Free Company), and I play WoW classic. On top of that, I play FFTCG and run my shop, while taking care of errands, chores, everyday life stuff, and take care of the kiddos. I simply cannot put the hours I would find required to go at the competitive level. That being said, I do find that I play very well at locals. Having the advice from some good friends that are incredibly successful at competitive play does help though =).
(A): What is your favourite deck/element/archetype to play? Why?
(J): For a very long time, I enjoyed Fire or Lightning. I like the aggressive play. It’s nice to kind of slap the wind or water players, and go “No, you are not going to setup your Megazord of backups, and then crush me, here comes Ark Angel / Illua, etc and you need to deal with it now”. That being said, in the past few months I have been playing Mono Water, and enjoy it immensely. I am really looking forward to Folka in Opus X.
(A): One of the coolest events of 2019 happened right at the beginning of the year. I am of course talking about Reunion. The event blew up so much that Square Enix pivoted to turn it into a Petit Cup. How did you get the idea to create Reunion?
(J): Reunion was all about the community. I have made many friends in this community, and Reunion was my way to express gratitude towards it while injecting some Final Fantasy fandom. There is no money made at these events, it’s purely to provide a memorable occasion for the game we love. I wanted to pick the music, have the giveaways, the tablestands marked with the various Title logos, because Final Fantasy is all about that flavor we’ve come to enjoy with the franchise. I feel like many event creators completely miss the passion that is engrossed with the series, which lies at the heart at both the video games and the TCG.
(A): How much work went into planning Reunion?
(J): I think it was more stress then work to be perfectly honest, but there was still a lot. I had a lot of support from my lovely wife Kayla, and with the morning of the event, MANY players chipped in to get things ready for the event, which I was blown away by. We also had amazing support from Richie Brady and SE/HJ, which was a blessing. I was really worn out by the end of it all, but it was so worth it. Which is why we are hosting the next Reunion in just a few months =).
(A): The event was so incredible, that there will be a Reunion II in 2020. The prizing looks pretty incredible ($1000 to first place!). What inspires you to put so much into the tournament?
(J): I uh…….well, I don’t mind setting the standard =P Throughout 2019, a lot of people have been asking me if there would be another Reunion, and I am definitely hosting it again in January 2020. Since I don’t have the greatest of means of hosting events frequently, I like to go all out on the one I know I can pull off. While Final Fantasy merchandise and cards are wonderful prizes, I also know at the level of competitive play that goes on, people want cash, something that unfortunately isn’t able to be provided at official events at the moment (I believe this is in regards to gambling laws from Japan, etc) although I’m not claiming to know exactly how that works. I also feel like when people outside of FFTCG hear that a TCG tournament is awards $1000 in cash, it will draw in interest from the outside, whether it’s Pokemon, UFS, MtG, and those games. And let’s be honest, I feel like it’s hard for a competitive FFTCG player to see $1,000 for 1st and go “Eh, not really worth it”. Go hard or go home right? I love hosting these, which is why we go all in =).
(A): I loved watching the stream last time, Chris Adams and Mathew Rice is double fun commentary team. Was it hard to sign them up again? If I were them, I’d want to play in the tournament!
(J): It was very easy actually, they were very optimistic about it and performed exceptionally well, 11/10. Unfortunately, a stream may not be available at this time, due to recent events. Still have a few months, so we’ll see!
(A): Last year we saw a very fun tournament meta. Players weren’t drawn to playing established meta decks by any means. What do you think contributed to that happening? Do you think we will see that again this year?
(J): A lot of the players that joined Reunion were outside the typical crystal cup participants. We had a lot of players that were local, and were able to take advantage of their unique decks that don’t see common play (Multiple wins with Sin S? Amazing). I think with Rikku and Dadaluma banned, along with a new damage game mechanic in Opus X, we should see some very interesting decks.
(A): I want to point out to everyone how much you do for the community. You are a constant presence on the Facebook groups, answering questions, posting PSAs, and encouraging players and content creators alike. What drives you to do so much for the community?
(J): Love for the game, and the people I’ve met along the way. It also certainly helps that my wife is behind me 110% for the game, the store and our extended family out there =P Any way that can extend the awareness of the game, or get people started out on the right foot, or just getting a taste of what this game has to offer, I’m all for pushing it.
(A): You have expanded your Cards of Ivalice brand to sponsor multiple competitive FFTCG teams. What was your reason for branching into team ownership? (sounds really cool phrased that way)
(J): A while ago, I thought idea of having established teams would push the concept of competitive play and make it all official. This was around the team Esports really started getting suplexed into everyone’s face, especially with Overwatch. It’s nice now to see Cards of Ivalice, Meta Potion, Team Zodiark, etc all in their Jerseys, duking it out across the table <3.
(A): How did you pick the members of the Cards of Ivalice team?
(J): Mainly based on participation and communication with the game and it’s community. While obviously skill competitively is a factor, it’s not the most important one. It’s all about people I can count on to put in time and effort helping each other out, while enjoying the game and going for a good showing at tournaments.
(A): How has this year gone for the Cards of Ivalice teams?
(J): I ended up recruiting several new members, and am very thankful for how it fleshed out. We got a few going to nationals, and honestly the amount of hours Sam and Zaiem crunch in, between theory crafting and travel to events, is insane. And our team chat has to be one of the most positive elements regarding the team as a whole. Definitely a family as well as a team.
(A): What are your future goals for the Cards of Ivalice teams? Are there plans to recruit any more players?
(J): I am always open to the idea of someone else coming along, they just have to reach out! Sometimes I have an particular player in mind, and I’ll go ahead with that, but if players are really looking to crunch some hours and help out, can send me a PM on facebook =P I hear our Jersey’s are pretty fancy.
(A): You used to write articles yourself (at https://cardsofivalice.wordpress.com/), mainly about card references to the games, and how each card’s abilities held the flavour of the original character. Do you have any plans to start writing again? These articles were my favourite when I started playing FFTCG, I would really like to see that column return.
(J): I get asked this A LOT. I love writing, so naturally writing about FFTCG is pretty much a hobby. I really should starting writing again =/.
(A): What is your favourite memory from playing the game so far?
(J): Fan fair. Being on stream, and getting some amazing hits in with Lightning, which lead to the entire place applauding and cheering for our victory. Absolutely loved it. I also loved Fan Fair because I got to see so many friends, and say hey to RB, which I almost never get to do in person.
(A): Do you have any plans to open a physical Cards of Ivalice store in Canada that I can play at weekly?
(J): Wish I could, I actually really want to be in colder weather. It’s like 150 degrees here with 2,500% humidity lol.
(A): Any message for the community that you would like to share?
(J): Understand the concept that everyone needs to work together to push this game and enjoy it. Don’t stomp on each other, there’s zero benefit. Helping each other succeed and getting this game ahead benefits everyone involved. Stop stressing over the high school drama and toxicity some of the bad eggs produce, it’s not worth it.
(A): Anything else you would like to get off your chest?
(J): Few things I hope for this game to have? Less duplicates of existing characters. I want Weigraf. I want Dark Elf from IV. More Sword Saints. I want possible loot cards like minions in XIV so we can grab some of the 4 million players that are in FFXIV. Put in airships as forwards make them a different type of card. There are just SO many characters in the franchise, it’d be nice to see a lot of the ones not currently in the game. Put in Fat Man Palmer for crying out loud.
What is your favourite card in the game?
Opus II Cecil. Flavor matches, has to be dealt with immediately, great Dissidia art. Definitely a “leader” type card if I’ve ever seen one. Does great against Fire/Ice decks kiddos <3. It actually has shown a ton of success in my games lately. His wife helps a ton too!
Which card has the best art in the game?
Opus 2 L Edea, hands down. In foil it is gorgeous. The words in the center, her character, the color scheme, everything is A+.
Who is the toughest player you have ever competed against?
Sam Prime. I feel like if we lived closer, we’d churn out 50 games a day, but we’ve only played a couple. Sam has a way of making you feel like he’s in your head, but without being rude or abrasive.
Foil or non-foil?
Definitely Foil. But I’d be way better off if I went Non-Foil lol.
Will Fire ever be good?
Fire is good, and it’s getting better. It just requires a distinct playstyle and you have to switch off from how wind or water play. It’s certainly getting up there tho.
Describe the Discard mechanic in one word.
Best Final Fantasy?
Final Fantasy Tactics. IV/XI close behind. Honorable mention to VI.
Tifa: Monk or Martial Artist?
Martial Artist. She has suspenders, not the Karate Gi that Yang/Ursula make look awesome.
Alex: Thank you so much for your time, and all that you do for our community!
That's a wrap everyone. Thanks again to James for taking the time to answer my questions. If you happen to get the chance to meet James at any FFTCG events in the future, make sure you say hi, and say "Hey! I read about you in The Mysidia Post!".
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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.