2017-06-14 10:34:53

On Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th of May, the first ever FF-TCG U.K. Championships were held at the ExCel venue in London. I participated in this tournament as the head judge, and so would like to take this opportunity to dedicate today’s column to the event. It is a great honour to be able to write about this amazing contest that saw the crowning of the first ever U.K. grand champion. I pulled out all the stops in writing this post, so I hope you enjoy it!

The tournament itself was held as part of MCM London Comicon, one of the largest pop-culture events in the U.K. MCM is held twice a year, in spring and autumn, and I had been to both shows last year, so I was a little worried when I first heard that we would be doing our tournament there. MCM is a very large and successful event and a show that you really need to visit if you have even the slightest interest in pop culture.

However, that very same scale and level of success makes it less suitable for holding a card game tournament. All the booths piping out loud music, the endless karaoke performances of anime theme songs and just the sheer number of excited visitors on the show floor are a poor fit for a card game that requires high levels of concentration.

I wondered if everything was going to be ok, but in the end I was very impressed with the Square Enix Europe staff who are all veterans of these kinds of events.

We had the meeting room on the first floor of the venue reserved for us, and when I saw it, I honestly felt that this was a wonderful environment to hold a card game competition. Simply climbing some stairs to the next floor cut out most of the noise from the bustling auditorium below, and the room itself was more than large enough to accommodate all the players and judges comfortably.

Incidentally, this has nothing to do with the tournament, but being able to go out onto the balcony and look out over the river Thames was a personal highlight for me! The weather was great over both days and I could really relax out there.

Ok, that is enough about the venue, let’s move on to the tournament itself. There were a total of 16 competitors in the U.K. championship tournament, who had risen through the regional qualifiers and could easily be thought of as the top 16 players in the country.

The chosen format for this tournament was best of 3 and we ran 4 Swiss Rounds the first day, with the top 8 players making it to the second day where they competed in single elimination to decide the grand champion and compete for final positions. In addition, the top 4 ranked players also earned the right to compete in the European championships to be held this autumn.

The clashes between these veteran card players were tense and exciting right from the first round, but in total contrast to the heated battles, the clever use of ice element based decks really stood out. Of the 8 players who made it through to the second day, fully half of them used a deck involving the ice element, with it clearly being the most popular of all the elements. As an aside, many Japanese players who remember the original Chapter series days will recall how the period up to the second set of releases, was a difficult time for ice element players. I think that seeing this really brings home how different an environment we have with Opus, compared to Chapters.

After a total of 6 consecutive games, two players remained, with one of them, Alex Hancox, being an ice element user. His deck combined Ice and Lightning cards and he had won his way through the rounds with a flexible play style, sometimes boldly going on the offensive right from the start, while at other times holding back and ruthlessly observing his opponent’s moves. His opponent in the final was Robert Phillips, who used a mixed water and Lightning based deck and had fought his way through to the top 8 on the first day, then climbed up through the quarter and semi-finals with a dynamic, momentum based style.

Both finalists showed great skill in the deciding clash, but victory was ultimately decided by Alex’s use of 2-0H Exdeath. This was not a card that many paid attention to prior to the match, but Alex optimally exploited the advantage it gives to control the flow of the game using Exdeath, as well as 2-112C Fleeting Flash and 2-039C Capricious Reaper deployed alongside him. In the end he managed to sweep away Robert’s spirited resistance to take the top spot as the inaugural U.K. Grand Champion.

I have great expectations for Alex and the other 4 top ranked competitors at the European Championships later this year. But for now, all that remains is to say congratulations to Mr. Alex Hancox on your splendid victory!