Author: Nathan Doverspike
A couple months ago, I made the decision to sell off all 15,000+ Magic The Gathering cards I had amassed over 18 years of playing/collecting. While a difficult decision, I told myself it was for the best and that I was over the collectible card phase in my life. Then a coworker introduced me to the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game, and I now have a new favorite hobby and a few new friends. Here’s why you shouldn’t overlook this game, whether you play Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, or another popular card game.
First of all, the mechanics in the game will feel very familiar to anyone who has played Magic or Pokemon, with cards called backups taking the place of lands/energy in those respective games. However, with most things in this game, there’s a twist that sets it apart and adds new layers on old strategies. You may discard cards into the break zone (discard pile) from your hand in order to gain two energy of that card’s element. For example, if I want to play a very powerful card named Vincent (featured below) on turn 1, I could put two cards from my hand into the break zone to play him. Where in Magic I would have to wait a few turns, most likely 3 if I have some tricks up my sleeve, I can play him turn 1 if I am willing to sacrifice my hand size and options down the road to gain an immediate and noticeable advantage early on in the game. While board control isn’t the only way to win, for the Fire/Earth deck I currently play it’s what keeps me from getting wiped out quickly by Ice/Lightning decks that focus on removal.
You defeat your opponent when you deal seven points of damage to them. That a relatively low number, and you would think that games would be over in five minutes because of that. But I’ve found that these are some of the most interesting and longest matches, which is probably why each round was only one match in the recent tournament I attended. Also, whenever you deal damage to an opponent, there’s always a chance that the card they put from their deck into the damage zone is an EX card, which activates the effect on the card before resolving and moving on to the next action. You read that right, you could possible have your strongest Forward, or your whole board destroyed because you dealt damage to your opponent, which is the only way to win by the way. It is such a curve ball in a card game and I LOVE IT!
Pokemon has the strategy of evolving your cards into more powerful forms, and while Final Fantasy doesn’t have that, it does have even more intriguing. See that “S” in the cost to play Death Penalty? That mean sacrifice a card with the same name as this one as a cost. In other words, it becomes a strategy to put cards with the same name into your hand (through drawing, abilities or searching) in order to use their special abilities that can usually change the whole landscape of a game. Vincent here can straight up destroy other characters that are used to attack or block with his ability, something that definitely comes in handy if your opponent has cards that rely on synergy to win.
Light and Dark cards are another neat idea Final Fantasy uses that other card games don’t feature. These cards tend to be very powerful, sometimes excessively so. Which means there’s always a catch, and the catch here is that you may only have one in play at a time. So even though they are very strong, having too many in a deck will likely result in a loss. That isn’t to say they aren’t useful, but it takes some serious thinking to figure out which cards work well with others, and likewise which ones might not.
Another thing I love about this game is the fact that no cards are banned and all sets are valid for tournament play. Whereas in Magic, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! they have different formats depending on if you want to play with brand new sets or ones from the very beginning, Final Fantasy lets you use any set. The game is still somewhat new, so there is always the chance that this might occur. Still the cards in each set are so unique and interesting that it might not matter as much as those games if they do choose to ban cards or older sets in the future.
The most important thing about playing cards games competitively is the community; and this is really where Final Fantasy shines the brightest. Like I mentioned above, I recently attended my first competitive event, and even though I brought up the rear in the standings, I didn’t feel that other players looked down on my or felt insulted that I came with a barely modified starter deck. Instead, they offered advice and encouragement to keep playing and how they feel my deck could be improved. I took that advice to heart, and can’t wait to bring my newly revamped Vincent/Cloud deck for a rematch at the next event. Every player was polite, something I NEVER experienced at a Magic event (and from the stories I heard from fellow former players I wasn’t the only one who dealt with poor sports and overall rude players).
There are so many other aspects I could go into, like how monsters in this game are like artifacts in Magic, summons can be used almost anytime unless their card states otherwise, and how mono decks are some of the strongest out there, which is a stark contrast to other games. What about you? Have you played Final Fantasy The Trading Card Game? If so, what do you think? Let me know in the comments!