The Champions Format, Part 1

One night during the National Championships, myself and a handful of friends decided to try out a multiplayer format in FFTCG. Many of the players in the hotel room were familiar with Magic The Gathering‘s Commander format, so we used this as a jumping off point for a new format in Final Fantasy.  It was an absolute blast. We had many hiccups, as the cards were not designed for multiplayer, so we had to make up new house rules as we went along. We enjoyed it so much that we began working on a definite set of rules and had an official game recorded!

I’d like to give a big shout out to the Myssidia Post for posting the rules on their website! I’d like to extend another big thank you to MogPod gaming featuring an article with feedback.

So, I’d like to talk about some of the decisions we made when we came up with the rules. In this first part, I will go over the deck-building and gameplay rules, and in the second part I will talk about the multiplayer rules.

Champion's Format
Here is my Champion of choice

Deck-Building Rules

Deck size

The first rule we changed was deck size. The final rule went up to 60 cards; we didn’t want to add too many cards, but we didn’t want to keep it 50 either. We originally thought 100, as MTG does with their format, but found that the game doesn’t support 100 card decks at the moment. At Opus XI there are roughly 1700 cards available and this just isn’t enough. During the deck-building process, we found that there was a solid 50 cards we wanted to put in to our decks, and then another 50 cards that we had to put in to make the deck complete. With 60 cards, we decreased the amount of bad choices we had to make.

No Duplicates!

When it came to the singleton format, we took this straight from MTG. Singleton has a very interesting effect on the game. It decreases the consistency of decks, while changing the strength of certain cards. Cards like Illua and Locke become drastically weaker. While a strong card, Locke can be a looming threat with its S ability yet in a singleton format, to keep Locke strong you have to use other cards with the same name. Other cards with the same name aren’t as strong and they have less of an impact on the gameplay. So to increase the strength of a card the overall deck has to decrease.

Champion's Format

We found this to be true with many other cards. This really gives a chance to cards that normally don’t see play to really shine. For example, in this format, Summoner (6-031C) has really over performed! When reaching 7 backups, you find that you want to start clearing some backups. Summoner gives you an extra two cards in the process, which can be really valuable! Oftentimes, you can use the ability to return Summons and then use them immediately. In a pinch, you can use the two Summons to get 4 CP (Crystal Points). In Standard, the card is a bit too slow and expensive. The CP gain is offset by the CP loss needed to play her, and getting back two Summons is still an expensive play when you only have 3 active backups remaining afterwards.

Champion Choices

When it came to choosing Champions, we didn’t want just any card to be eligible to be a Champion. We thought, of course, of using MTG’s version based on the ‘legend rule’ (‘Uniqueness rule’ in FF) but it wasn’t a very restrictive pool. It basically excluded standard units and manikins. The idea of using Legend rarity cards crossed our minds, but at the end of the day we liked the idea of having S abilities available.

From a deck-building point of view, highlander deck-building disincentivizes playing multiple cards with similar names. It would be incredibly frustrating if you top-decked a porom whilst already holding one, if those are the only poroms you have in the entire deck. However, when your Champion has an S effect two interesting things happen.

The first effect is that cards of the same name as your Champion are almost never dead draws. If you draw it when your Champion is on the field, you can trigger the S ability. If your Champion isn’t on the field, you can play the card in your hand.

The second effect is that it incentivized having card names that are shared by your Champion. It incentivizes playing cards that are very bad, to otherwise get a good effect. This can be seen when people play Opus VII Shantotto to trigger the S ability of Opus IV Shantotto, or when people play all the Dark Sephiroths to trigger a Shadow Flare. People in our group began playing cards that were terrible. I personally underestimated the play ability of many cards.

Non-Forward Champion Choices

After we decided that Champions should have an S ability, we decided to allow any card type provided it had an S ability. This allowed for non-Forwards to be Champions, which gave us two issues. The first was that it didn’t promote playing your Champion multiple times. It prompted a very consistent start, but with the lack of interactions with backups it didn’t bode well for the concept of Champions. Not having a Champion later in the game feels bad, and isn’t conducive to interactive gameplay. We want there to be more interactions with your opponents.

Champion's Format

The second was the hero Rikku. If she was played consistently on turn 1, mill would actually be very strong. In Standard, having three is not enough. At the height of WiWa mill, decks had the Opus II Paine and other backups (Shinra/Brother) to search for the card that would search for Rikku. While that card also searched for Yuna, it was of the utmost importance that Rikku was also played as soon as possible. If you could play Rikku on turn 1 every game it would be game altering, even in a singleton format that could only use the S effect a handful of times. Like Standard, consistently being able to mill all your opponents out feels bad and isn’t conducive to interactive gameplay. This led us to make the Champion a Forward.

However… I’ve been fond of the idea of making a Monster a Champion (at the moment the only options are Ozma and Deathgaze). I would even consider Opus V Ifrit to have an S ability, and I would have no qualms with a Summon as a Champion.

Initial idea – Title II

One of the many iterations we thought about was a kind of “Super Title” format. We had the idea that in deck-building you have to have all your cards be from the same title as your Champion, toying with the idea of allowing standard units. We found that the idea was a bit lackluster. It greatly favored categories that have lots of cards, (7 and 13 have over a hundred), as opposed to titles that didn’t have as many cards.

While the Title format may still have this issue, we didn’t want to inherit problems from a format that people were already unhappy with. Strangely enough, we have found that many people pick their favorite character as their Champion, and try to build around that! Many times this format captures the spirit of Title: play with the characters of your favorite title. Where we set out to be separate from Title and separate from Standard, this format found a home in between.

Gameplay Rules

Backup Limit Increase

The amount of backups and the amount of ‘damage to lose’ were some of the first major changes we made. When it comes to backups, we felt we needed to keep it as an odd number. Fundamentally, backups help play cards that are oddly costed. Backups that cost 3 CP are often played off of one backup and a discard. Cards that cost 7 CP are often played by discarding two cards and dulling three backups. so we wanted to keep the number odd. We thought about having nine backups, but that seemed a bit too high in testing so we rested on seven.

Damage Increase

Damage was a similar debate. We considered ten, and while ten isn’t game breaking, nine felt like the best choice. An extra 2 points of damage gives the game an extra couple turns, while allowing for interesting interactions with cards like Noctis, Ultimecia, and Cecil.

Champion Tax

We adapted the tax almost exactly from MTG. When the tax was simply 1 CP, Champions were able to be played without consequence. We increased the tax to 2 CP. When you don’t play a card from hand, it is as though it costs 2 CP less. So, if you play your Champion three times, it costs the same as if you played it from hand three times. This makes the Champion strong but not overpowered. Pushing the game to the limits, if you have seven backups and your Champion costs 11 CP, you can still play the Champion if you draw two backups that you don’t want to play and have no other cards.

Champion Recursion

 We designed the Champion to return to the Champion zone at the end phase because there are a lot of cards that reference this. Chaos, Walker of the Wheel, Zhuyu, Cid Raines, and Machina all do something when put in the break zone. Additionally, there are some pro-active synergies that you could use with your Champion.

If you have some kind of recursion you could bring back your Champion to your hand or to the field. When played from the hand, your Champion would cost the same as their printed cost and this gives more avenues to play them. Obviously, playing your Champion over and over again was in fact our goal. We settled on sending the Champion to the Champion Zone during the cleanup of the end phase. I am in the belief that it should not be mandatory. My co-creators believed that it should be and we ended on that.

Champion Recursion Fun

The weirdest interaction we have found was if the Champion somehow ends up in the damage zone. As the rules are written: when your Champion would be placed in the damage zone, the Champion would leave the damage zone and return to the Champion zone, effectively “healing” from a point of damage. We’ve had to add another rule that says that when a Champion enters the damage zone, it goes to the Champion zone and then you take a point of damage. Does this mean you can trigger two bursts off one point of damage? Yep, but this scenario is so rare that you have to force it with Ghido or Leviathan. We didn’t find it to be worthwhile so we didn’t feel the need to nerf it.

Concluding Thoughts

Thanks for reading. Next time, I’ll be talking about all of the headaches felt when creating the multiplayer rules!

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