Invited Author: Sebastian Avila (or Seinav)
Hi everyone! My name is Sebastian Avila (or Seinav) from Chile who recently got the 2nd place at the Treasure Cup organised by LATAM TCG Events last Sunday, May 14th. My only and brief competitive experience in any strategy game was in Team Fight Tactics, so this is the first TCG I play and I'm very happy for getting the serial Luffy and the other prizes.
I wanted to share in this post the deck I used and how was the process to get to it, from the leader's decision to the matchups I played.
Since the beginning of OP02 I was in doubt about which leader to use, the choice came down to Law or Zoro. Finally, I ended up opting for Zoro because of his incredible ability and the simplicity of the gameplay. I was playing law in all the OP01 format, and I always felt that I had a very poor decision making which made me to be punished a lot for a mistake at the time of playing, instead, using Zoro I could improve more the basic concepts of the game and start making less mistakes. This allowed me to look from another perspective the things I was doing incorrectly and to be able to recognise them to work on them, from how to plan a game based on what I want to achieve always considering what other deck I'm playing against.
In addition to my personal situation regarding the leader's decision. I consider Zoro as one of the best in the OP02 format, the value that the skill provides is very great for the cost that it has. It gives you the possibility to generate free "DON" in each one of your characters for the cost of only one, being the best case to pay 1 DON for the skill and get 5 free in the form of power for your characters.
But of course, it is an ability that depends on having a field that can use it, and OP02 took care of reinforcing this aspect by delivering cards that are very good for this purpose.
The following is the list I played and the justification for my card choice.
2k Counters: Otama, Makino and ST1 Brook
The counter 2k in Zoro's deck not only fulfil this function, but also have very powerful abilities that depending on how the game is played will be used by his counter or by his ability. Starting with Otama (the best card of OP01) the approach of this is very simple, if my opponent has characters with 6000 power that have importance in the game as Law blocker or Queen blocker, I will only assign Gordon to fulfil the task of lowering power and Otama will be used as a counter. On the other hand, if my opponent has cards with 5000 power, is where I will use Otama for his ability, leaving Gordon to generate pressure on the table and deflect attacks, without using the ability off the latter. In the case of Makino, contrary to what one might think, the main use it is given is as a counter. There are very few situations where I will choose to use Makino for his ability, since by doing this, I am leaving two characters in my field ready to be cleaned by my opponent, and in case I only have, for example, a sunny, I am giving both this and Makino to my opponent. The moves that must be chained with Zoro are always to have an available target to buff with Makino, only in these situations is where I see correct to use his ability before using it as a counter, in any other case, it will always be better to counter 2k. Finally, we have Brook, which we will only play if we need a character in the field to have one more attack to our opponent, on the contrary, it will only be used as a counter.
Searchers: Nami and Dandan
The engine of the deck and very good characters on the field, which are constantly generating pressure thanks to the ability of the leader and that with the ability of Makino or Magura, Nami will be hitting the lives of your opponent for free. The targets of each one varies according to the moment in which they are in the game. For Dadan the perfect search would be Nami, but it can vary depending on the turn in which the game is, at the beginning I usually prioritise cards that generate pressure as Sunny or Magura for the first two turns. After these turns the decision depends on what my opponent has on the field, for example, if I am playing in a matchup in which my opponent has cards with 6000 power, I would look for Gordon over others. For Nami the thing is a little simpler in my case, always in the first place I have cards like Jet Pistol, Red Hawk and Nico Robin for the field control that they deliver which allows me to play more quietly until turn 5, in second place is Brook and Radical Beam because in the same line of getting to turn 5, allow me to arrive with the most lives and in case of having nothing else to play, Brook is a very good card to use. In last priority I have Zoro and Sunny which I only choose if there is nothing of the above, there are situations where they are necessary to generate pressure and deflect attacks towards them, but generally I prefer the other cards.
Field Cleaners: Nico Robin and Vista
Two of the best cards in the deck that allow us to clear the field of big threats by using them together with Gordon, or also to clear the opponent's searchers that could easily clear our Nami, Makino, Sunny, etc. Despite fulfilling the same function, Vista and Robin have very different values in the game, which can be interchanged depending about the game. Vista is a bit superior to Robin because his ability is on play, thus, besides fulfilling his function, he also remains a character with 3000 power ready to generate pressure in the next turn. But we must not underestimate Robin, which in its favour is a card with 4000 power that costs more to remove from the field, so it forces other decks like Law and Zoro to spend their removers on it.
Attackers: "Rush" Zoro and Sunny-kun
For Zoro rush I have only good words, one of the best cards of OP01 and still very strong in this format, it can be played in three ways that differ from each other. First of all you can use it to take a life from your opponent in the first turns in an easy way and then he has to spend resources to clean the Zoro rush. Secondly, it can be used to make your opponent spend counter at any time of the game by making two 6000 attacks for 4 DON (your leader's and the Zoro rush's). And lastly, you can keep them in your hand to use them as finishers after Shirohige is on the field, in the best case, for 9 dons you would have four 6000 attacks. Regarding Sunny, this seems to me a very good card that if it is not played in turn one or two, it just becomes a counter 1000 that at the first instance where I can use it, I do it. Using Makino or Magura plus the ability of the leader is a 7000 attack that is very difficult to stop in the first turns, but when you do this, you lose the tempo of the game and despite having taken a life from your opponent, you start to lose ground in the game.
Jet Pistol is an incredible card that can clean up almost any threat when combined with Gordon or Otama. In addition to having trigger, it forces our opponent to spend more DON to protect his important cards of 6000 power, which makes him slow down his game a little bit. If I know that my opponent does not have targets in which it is an obligation to use Jet Pistol, if I get out of lives, I use it immediately even if I have a low power character as a target, this allows me to divert attacks to my characters that if I had not cleaned the low power character of my opponent, they would have been eliminated by them. In the same line of Jet Pistol, RedHawk is a card that allows me to gain ground in the first turns when I must start second, besides eliminating the low power characters of my opponent, I can protect my Robin, Zoro or Sunny that I have on the table in a simple way, forcing my opponent to spend more resources. Another strong point is that against the Law decks that gains ground in the local meta it is a priceless tech. Using RedHawk in the first turns just to eliminate a character of my opponent and delay him to fill the table makes the difference in this matchup. Finally, Radical Beam is a card that I like a lot, but I would change the Deck for another copy of Shirohige and another 2k counter or the third RedHawk. While it is a card that helps to get to turn 5 in a good way, the only instances where it really makes a difference is when using it with the DON left over when playing Shirohige, outside of this specific situation, it is a card that stays dead in your hand if it comes out at the beginning of the game and takes away the space of a card to really get value out of throughout the game.
The MVPs: Magura and Promo Gordon
Possibly the two cards that allowed me to play very well in all the matchups. On the one hand we have Magura (the real Makino of the deck), he is an incredibly strong card, that besides turning Nami and Sunny into threats, he also becomes a threat by not having to subtract him to activate his ability. The first three turns of the game I always try to chain a series of Sunny/Nami, Magura, Makino, which generates me many attacks per turn that leave for the next turn a threat on the table that must be covered somehow by the opponent, meanwhile he is cleaning my characters that already attacked. And on the other hand, we have Gordon. The fact that he drops 3000 power means that all characters of 6000 or less get into kill range for vista and robin which makes him a very essential card to eliminate opponent's threats in the midgame. In case the opponent does not have 6000 power targets worth eliminating, Gordon is still a 2000 power card that with Magura reaches 5000 and that if or if it will be eliminated by our opponent, making us not receive a possible attack less to our leader.
Shirohige (9-cost Whitebeard)
As the last card (and the best card of OP02 in my opinion) we have the heart of the deck. Our objective before this is to arrive in the most optimal way possible using the cards mentioned above to finish the game playing one or two Shirohige that thanks to its ability can clean small blockers or combining it with Gordon can eliminate almost any blocker that is in front of it. It is also important to mention that the +2000 power to our leader makes it easier to defend the opponent's attack post Shirohige and that in our next turn we can play another one or finish the game if we are in range to win.
Deck Guidelines and Mulligan
The objective of the deck is simple, to reach turn 5 and play Shirohige having as many lives as possible and having taken a minimum of 2 lives from the opponent up to this point of the game. The counter cards are worth more at the beginning of the game than at the end, so do not be afraid to use them to cover attacks that are not optimal for your opponent, if in your field there are no characters that receive the attacks of your opponent (I mean that he has to clear your table) do not hesitate to use counters to cover those attacks. Many times in the initial turns you don't need more cards to know how your game plan is until turn 5 and therefore, you can perfectly use the Otama/Brook/Makino to cover the inefficient 6k attack of your opponent to your leader, remember that holding a card in your lives has more value than that 2k counter that you just used (always depending on the situation).
There are times when you can defend your characters on the table, especially if your opponent is doing attacks that are not ensuring the death of your character, for example, if you are playing against Doffy and you play Nami turn 1, you must attack on turn 2 even if your opponent has played Perona, in such a way that when he wants to use his ability and attack your character, he may first attack you with his Perona and lose that attack, diverting the attack of his leader also to your Nami and you avoiding that damage that you could not have covered with the same counter that you gave to Nami. It is very important the order of things in this game, there are many cards and moves that have different values depending on the order in which they are played, especially attacks on your opponent's lives.
Regarding the mulligan, the curve of the deck means that starting first is always the best option, since we can lower Shirohige on turn 5 and also that when we start first, it is the opponent who has to be responding to our attacks and clearing the field (which is what we want with Zoro).
Some examples of starting hand when we go first are:
Both are good starting hands and have two things in common, they have drops to play on turn 1 and they have Shirohige. These are the most important aspects that I look for in the deck, above all to have a guaranteed drop on turn 5 which is Shirohige, in case I don't have Shirohige in hand but a very good curve start I will keep it if I see the possibility of chaining a series of attacks of 5000 and 6000 from turn 2 to 4 using my cost 1 characters and their abilities. An example of the latter could be the following hand:
On turn 1 I would play Nami to generate more options by looking for a new card. Then I would play Dadan and Magura to boost Nami, attack with Nami to generate a new target for my opponent's leader and next turn I would go with a 5k attack with Dadan, 6k with my leader and finally I would use Makino + 1 DON in Magura to have a last 7k attack. This would be the approach with this hand, where from turn 1 to 3 generate pressure that my opponent must be responsible for cleaning to continue playing, which benefits me in getting tempo to reach turn 5 and lower Shirohige or in case of not having it, start preparing a large table with which to attack several times of 7k.
When we have to start second is not as problematic as it may seem, we have very good answers to many openings of opponents in turn 1 and 2, for example against the Okiku in turn 2 of the green deck or the Robin of the red deck, we can eliminate them very effectively with Vista + Otama, leaving a character with 3000 power and another that can be buffed by Magura (it is a very bad idea to boost Otama with Makino, do not do it please). The problem of going second is mainly noticed in the mirror and against Strawbeard's deck. The factor of getting Shirohige down early has a big weight, but there is always a very good answer to this play… Play another Shirohige and win the fight of who fills the table with more mustaches.
Another card that is interesting to consider going second is RedHawk, which allows us to play nothing on turn 1, defend an attack and clean up the low-powered character our opponent has played on his turn.
Some examples of starting hand when we go second are:
We start playing Dadan and looking for another card that generates pressure such as Magura, Nami, Sunny or Gordon. In the next turn we can lower Sunny and the card obtained with Dadan leaving 2 DON open to be able to use RedHawk and once in turn 3 attack with all our characters combining 6k and 7k attacks.
Other hand that is not ideal in general but can make the difference in the match (especially against decks like Law) is the following:
we can generate pressure with the cards we find with nami and also eliminate the characters played by our opponent from turn 2 to 4 in an effective way.
What can we conclude from this section? Look for Shirohige in the mulligan! In case it doesn't come out, a Nami/Dadan and characters to chain attacks in the first 3 turns is a more than decent hand. Ultimately, everything will depend on what deck your opponent has and whether you go first or not, but these are the general lines to follow.
Finally, I would like to comment on some of the matchups I played in the tournament. My score was 7-1, facing the following decks in that order:
Shirohige Boat Win. The confrontation that cost me the most. Shirohige's deck with the boat unlike Strawbeard is that he doesn't care much about letting life pass him by. His goal is to get a table that can finish me off after he has drop his Shirohige down and he can cover my attacks with his Marco. I was able to win the game because I blocked the last attack (16k) on my leader with events and counter.
Law Win. I won the dice roll and chose to go first, and unlike the optimal hands to go first, I didn't look for shirohige in the mulligan, but several characters that I could chain attacks with (Magura, Nami, Sunny), and I also wanted as many Vista, Robin and RedHawk. Finally, I ended up having 1 Nami, 2 Magura, 1 Redhawk and 1 Vista. I followed the basic game plan, delaying as much as possible the filling of the field and preparing a Gordon + Vista as soon as I got Law. It was a simple game without complications.
Law Win. I had to go second in this one. So as in the previous one, I looked for cards to generate pressure and to be able to clear his table. I was lucky enough to get two Redhawk from hand and two Dadan, which allowed me to look for Sunny and Gordon. My opponent was bricked at the beginning so it was easier than it should have been, but even so, I had an answer for any move she made.
Zoro Win. A mirror where I lost the die roll and had to start second. The mulligan was to Shirohige and hold on as long as I could. What really made the difference were the RedHawks that allowed me to control the field and reverse the roles, changing the roles so that my opponent was the one who had to clean the table and not me, this allowed me to arrive with 4 life to his first Shirohige, lower mine the next turn and win the moustache fight when I played a second and my opponent did not.
Strawbeard Lose. Play the game as it should be played, constantly hitting the leader with 6k, making him spend his hand. But when he played his Shirohige I didn't have mine, and then when he played the second one, I had no way to take his last life and win. My opponent played really well. Congratulations to my compatriot Juan Aldunate who got the first place in this tournament!
Strawbeard Win. Not much to comment here, it was a textbook game against Strawbeard, I won the competition of who has more Shirohiges on the table and I won.
Strawbeard Win. The closest game I had in the tournament. My opponent played perfect and the big difference was that I managed to get to turn 5 with 4 life, spending in almost every turn events and counters, besides using Jet Pistol and Nico Robin + Gordon to lower their characters from 6000 power. When we both had our Shirohiges on the table, my opponent attacked with intentions of ending the game, but I managed to block with counters and events one of his attacks which made me take the game finally.
Law Win. The final game and the one I was most confident about. My opponent won the dice and chose to go second. I looked for Shirohige in my mulligan and tried to attack constantly from 7k so that he had to spend his small blockers. When we were both out of lives, he was left with only one card in hand (Brook 2k counter) and me with nothing on the table, I had only 3 cards that had come out of my lives, a Gordon, a Magura and a Vista, the card I drew that turn was also a Vista, so I was able to clean up the blocker I had on the field and attack him with 12k to his leader, finishing the game and getting the second place in the treasure cup.
Conclusion and Acknowledgments
I still can't believe that I could come second in a tournament of 355 players from all Latin America, I'm an intermediate player who wants to improve but still makes many mistakes, I like the game too much and every day I get more into it, learning new things and giving different perspectives to things that before I had not even thought about.
My goal for this tournament was to reach top64 to get the chopper card, but once I realised that I could reach top16 and then top8, I didn't stop, I convinced myself that I could win all the remaining matches, no matter who I played against. In the end it came true, and I finished second.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who has read this review and that it has helped you in something (yes, I'm talking to you, the person who is reading this). I also want to thank my family who supported me the day of the tournament, and of course my motivational coach Vicente Juan and my team friends (the SPB guys).
Thank you very much.