Why the Final Fantasy trading card game is becoming a hit.

The Final Fantasy trading card game is the best TCG experience you’ll find out there today!

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“The hell is this guy and who even asked for his edgy opinions?”

Take it from a dude who fell in love with deck-building games in primary school, passed through competitive Yugioh and MTG, and then beat a few Hearthstone world champions. When I came back to my hobby store after a year or two break to see what my old TCG was doing, most of my friends greeted me with “Oh, no. haha. We all play Final Fantasy now” and so ensued the most euphoric cardboard related experiences of my life.

That might be a bit over the top, but for real, it’s pretty heckin good. When I met with our resident Harrison he mused “Final Fantasy writer; we don’t have one of those” and so here I am today, an FF-TCG evangelist here to tell you why you should be playing this beautiful game.

As a TLDR;
– It’s really well balanced so the meta is diverse
– It’s designed by Professional Magic the Gathering player, Taro Kageyama. (Seriously, Square Enix got the right guy for this)
– The lore is woven seamlessly into the game
– The decision making can feel intuitive enough but has an impressive amount of depth
– The gameplay solves most of our biggest problems from other card games
– It’s way cheaper than other card games

But what does it do!?

Your 50 card deck will be comprised of ‘Forwards’, ‘Backups’ and ‘Summons’.

The forwards are the kill-y dudes that do the fighting. The backups are resource gatherers (similar to lands in magic) and summons are what we might call ‘spells’; one-use action cards that can be used at any time, during anyone’s turn.

You’re going to want to hit your opponent in the face seven times with your forwards to win the game.  They’re going to be using their own to block you and try to hit your face. Your forwards are going to have to ‘dull’ (tap/turn sideways) to attack and that will stop them from blocking that round, so every move you make has consequences. Sweet, we’ve done this before in other games but where’s the neat stuff.

First thing you want to know is you’ll draw two cards every turn. Oh cool!

Second thing you’ll want to know is that you can discard any card for two mana (/action points/energy) at any time. In this game we call that mana “Crystal Points” and it is, of course, spent to play cards. The ability to turn cards into fuel is one of the biggest, most defining aspects of the game that sets it apart from the rest.

Your backups cost CP to enter play (unlike MTG’s lands) but because of that, they all have significant effects along with their ability to produce Crystal Points over time.

So every turn you have a huge catalogue of choices available to you. Do I try to get ahead on the damage race, or do I invest in backups and grow a bigger army than my opponent? Do I drop my whole hand now and go HAM, or just make use of my backups to save up cards? As you’re drawing two cards a turn but are inevitably forced to throw some away, you essentially get a free ‘scry’ every turn. Your deck is always asking you what you think you’ll need.  But the pace you decide to play at will drastically shape the outcome of the entire game too. There’re often games that I will have lost where I realise there was a turn that I should have just pulled the trigger and dropped everything.

That’s fun! Chances are if you’ve lost at this game, it’s because you were out smarted. And that means there was always the chance for you to out smart your opponent instead.

As another point to it’s competitive depth, yes, the game uses the stack/chain system similar to Yugioh or MTG. For those unfamiliar, this basically gives you time to respond to any of your opponents effects with one of your own as if it was a trap already set for them. (Example: Player 1 aims a gun at player 2. Player 2 reveals their teleport ability to flash themselves out of danger just in time.) This makes for a lot of fun interactions and means that perfectly timing an ability can be crucial.

The Characters are Super Cool!

Let me preface this bit with,
You don’t need to like Final Fantasy to enjoy this game
But if you do… Boi!

Is Cloud a total badass still? You bet!
Am I going to gracefully stab a bunch of things to death with Lightning? Sure thing, Boss!

Character cards in this game have “Special abilities”.

It’s basically a protagonist’s “more of me” moment. If you have Vincent on board, you can discard another Vincent from your hand to activate “Death Penalty” and have Vincent kill approximately everything while everyone watching takes a moment to appreciate how slick he is.

I kid you not, last season’s meta featured a deck dedicated to making Cloud pop-off and omni-slash all day. This Clouds effect (left) means he doesn’t need to tap to attack, so whenever he turns sideways you know something is going down. Remember to turn him sideways for no reason at random moments during your opponents turn to keep them on edge.

In other card games, a cards story goes about as far as it’s effect on the game. Yugioh players probably wish there was a narrative behind Spellbooks (Priestess throws books at people lol). A sincerely honourable mention to MTG for trying. I think a lot of us have come to appreciate Chandra’s reckless ambition as example. But that really doesn’t compare to the nostalgia of having already played as the character, plus hours of cinematic content before they’re even printed as a card.

One of my favorite small things is the cheeky references to the lore. In FFIV there is a moment when Tellah sacrifices himself to ‘Meteor’ Golbez to death and save the day. Well this Tellah can sacrifice himself to deal 9000 damage to something. What has 9000 Health? Oh, Nice. Half the Sephiroth cards kill backups. Aerith is a backup and every time this interaction happens, someone nearby will cover their mouth and say “Ooh, too soon”.

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Casual and Competitive Scene
The game was released just last November. Its success has exceeded Squares expectations hugely and booster packs were completely out of stock everywhere. I spent my first few months playing this game without ever seeing a booster pack. Our local community continued strong and once the next expansion and a restock of the first set was released, the community started flourishing.

With the game clearly taking off, Regionals, Nationals and World championships were announced for this year. The first few weeks of regionals have just taken place around the world and it’s the first time we’ve had a real tangible consensus of what makes a really good deck. (Watch this space because I’ll be doing tournament reports soon).

There’s a lot of online support for the game. The developer, Taro Kageyama, is dedicated, does his own blog on the future and development of the game and reliably has been answering players advanced ruling questions directed at his personal twitter.

Did I mention it’s cheap? Being diverse, everyone wants different cards, so you won’t be needing to pay hundreds just for three copies of that one stupidly rare card that everyone wants three copies of.  And all the rarities are sensible. I bought my “Tier 1” deck for about $120 but my friend got his for $60, spare change compared to other games. And if you just want to buy a $20 starter deck I’m sure you’d find people keen to play on that level.

As I mentioned earlier, the game has more than enough competitive depth to be taken seriously, and with 80 something person regionals springing up all over the place, a lot of people seem to think it’s got something going for it. The card pool is designed in a way that lets a lot of players live the dream, creating a deck totally unique and surprising everyone with it.

I’ll be weighing in again soon with strategy guides and meta analysis. If you’re around the Brisbane area and want to get involved, feel free to reach me personally. I’d be happy to help you get started at one of our locals.

‘Til then, Big bless, Yes!

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