The spoiler season is rolling and a week ago the last card of the week has been revealed. It introduced a long awaited character: Neo Exdeath, the final boss of Final Fantasy V. And boy, what a card. The opinions on this card seems to be the most polarizing one out of the whole set: Some say this card is insane and should have never been printed or even potentially banned before the set release, others think its mediocre, even going as far as saying it is only a slower Veritas. So, what's the deal about this card? What are his weaknesses and where can this card get problematic? And how can we tackle that exact problematic part? This is what I will cover in this article.
[12-110L] Neo Exdeath
6 CP, Dark
Forward, 10000 Power
Category: Mobius, V
Neo Exdeath is also Card Name Exdeath in all situations.
At the end of each of your opponent's turns, your opponent selects 1 Character they control. Put it into the Break Zone.
When Neo Exdeath is chosen by your opponent's Summons or abilities, your opponent selects 1 Character they control. Put it into the Break Zone.
The first part with Card Name Exdeath in all situations is largely irrelevant for now, as there is no Exdeath currently played in the meta and it can be somewhat safely assumed that this is also the case for the new backup Exdeath. Much more important are the other two effects.
At it's core, Exdeath is basically a mix of [8-136L] Veritas of the Dark and [11-015L] Braskas Final Aeon (shortened to BFA in the following article). It puts Characters in the Break Zone selected by the opponent and is another 6 CP dark Foward. He has 10000 power, just like BFA and has his own protection plus an effect that triggers once a turn. Making him even more consistent than BFA, cause you don't need to attack with him to trigger this ability. That also means that when dealing with him, having access to cards that are effective to his predecessor also should work against Neo Exdeath, for example non targeting effects like [1-107L] Shantotto or having cards that wants to be placed in the break zone on purpose, like [10-104R] Ranperre or [1-135L] Golbez. On the other side, he also shares most of the strengths. Having [10-045C] Unsaganashi alongside Neo Exdeath is as devastating as it is with BFA.
This combination of effects leads to some sort of two different "modes", depending on when he is played:
Mid to late game play
The first "mode" is after a few turns. The backup line is built up, access to several characters is given, cards do not have to be paid largely with handcards anymore. At this stage Neo Exdeath is... manageable. He can still be an extremely annoying card and win games on his own, but if dealt with immediately in the next turn, he indeed "feels" like a worse Veritas. Veritas kills one forward and one character, Neo Exdeath only killed one character when broken with one targeting effect. It should be noted however that Neo Exdeath is far more cumbersome to kill than Veritas in the first place, as you really want to use only one targeting effect to keep your own losses in check, which is quite a limited selection with him having 10k Power. On top of that, much like BFA and unlike Veritas, Neo Exdeath is a threat that has to be dealt with immediately.
Turn 1 / Turn 2 play
The second "mode" is where the problem lies and that is the early game. The earlier Neo Exdeath is played, the more oppressive he becomes as the opposing player doesn't have the setup yet to
sacrifice characters without heavy setback. Turn 1 as the first player Neo Exdeath is extremely powerful as the other player is not able to setup his board in a reasonable speed due to the
constant sacrificing. If the opponent does not have the answer in hand already or draws into it in the next turn, the setback is so massive that it's an almost guaranteed loss for
Turn 2 Exdeath is also extremly devastating (thanks to Christopher Mattiske for making us aware of this board state). Here, the opponent already has played at least one character (most likely a backup). While it does make character based counters a little bit better due to having at least a small choice of what to sacrifice and odd-costed cards can now be played without overpay, any targeting summon or characters that only deal with Neo Exdeath by sacrificing himselves (like [11-097H] Nyx) are far worse now as you have to sacrifce an additional character on top.
How likely is a Turn 1 / Turn 2 Neo Exdeath?
In Wind/Earth, early Exdeath is quite consistent. With a one off [6-129H] Spiritos and a playset of Neo Exdeath, [9-063L] Gabranth, [10-047R] Echo and [10-081R] Prishe each, we have 13 effective copies of Turn 1 Exdeath as the first player. Even if we take out the more debatable cards of 2 CP Prishe and Spiritus, we are still left with a consistent amount of 9 Copies, especially considering the possibility to mulligan. On top of that, Wind Earth is likely the element combination with the most protection, with cards like Unsaganashi, [9-068H] Mist Dragon, [8-088C] Layle, [5-068L] Y'shtola and [8-049L] Aerith, making it even harder to deal with Neo Exdeath if not done immediately.
But not all hope is lost here. As already mentioned by Kageyama itself, Turn 1 Neo Exdeath is also a risk for the Neo Exdeath Player himself. If the opponent actually manages to deal with Neo Exdeath in his own turn, chances the player has done so while investing fewer cards than what was paid for Exdeath, therefore gaining tempo right off the bat. Kageyama used [8-046R] Alexander as a one handcard advantage. Now if Alexander would be the only Turn 1 Counter against Neo Exdeath, that wouldn't be nearly enough as it would be far more inconsistent to have in the starting hand than Neo Exdeath. On average, the Neo Exdeath player would still win more. But fortunately, there are more cards. The interesting part is how many there are exactly so we can evaluate better if there is enough counterplay against Neo Exdeath. Even more interesting are cards that are also good enough outside of the Neo Exdeath scenario. Spamming our deck with cards that are exclusively good against Neo Exdeath would mean we are seriously hampered against decks not focusing on him. Pure tech cards should be kept in low amount in a deck, like how earth started with a one of [8-081R] Fenrir against [11-140S] Kadaj. So ideally we want cards that are generically good.
Why are some players so worried about the card?
From the losing players view, a lost match versus early game Neo Exdeath can only lead to a negative experience as he/she has lost not to his own mistakes, but only by being unlucky and for him/her, the game was basically decided right at the beginning, therefore being a waste of time. This can be quite frustrating. It might be especially problematic for new players, if one of their very first game experiences is getting crushed by early game Neo Exdeath, maybe leading to losing any motivation to keep playing this game.
Similar to other banned cards, like [4-085H] Dadaluma, there is a chance that Neo Exdeath will limit the variety in deck building. Not only by destroying some deck ideas from the very beginning, but also by limiting your card space, if you need to accomodate for one or the other Neo Exdeath counter.
On top of that, playing such a deck is just as nasty and dirty of a deck that turbo discard was, leaving part of the community worried about the mindstate of the game. Turbo Discard left the opponents in a similar state: "You lost the dice roll, you lose the game." Neo Exdeath doesn't even care for that and is just as devastating early game, even when going second.
How to survive a Turn 1 / Turn 2 Neo Exdeath
An immediate ban of the card seems really unlikely and it would be a shame if the really promising looking Opus XII: Crystal Awakening would be sent into the void by Neo Exdeath. So I tried to have an in-depth look about how to counter this kind of deck.
Please keep the following things in mind when reading through the following paragraphs:
- The set is not fully spoiled yet, so there is a chance another strong counter may exist. This article will be continously updated so you get the full picture!
- Even with all research, there is a high chance that some counters have been overlooked - please feel free to let us know and we will update them in the article.
- For the following evaluation, keep in mind that this is our personal opinion and highly subjective.
- The scenarios used as examples are specific.
The counters were chosen with the following scenario in mind:
- First player slamdunked Neo Exdeath Turn 1 without any added protection like Unsaganashi. Neither did the player affect our hand with discard, making certain plays impossible. The player is allowed to have played other cards in general though.
- We are the second player and want to deal with Neo Exdeath in Turn 1 right away.
This might be the one of the most critical scenarios to review und luckily for us, the easiest one as well. Just having one additional turn would give us way more possibilities due to having played cards already, making it not feasible to analyze in a reasonable time. In the mentioned scenario, our board is always the same, because we have none.
There is an important implication in that scenario for evaluating the cards: Due to having no board, any character that targets Neo Exdeath is killed right away due to his protection. Therefore, most characters should be seen as a summon and therefore as an additional discard.
On top of that, card combos are largely ditched in the list. Again, the amount of possibilities card combos can create are seemingly endless, making it hard to include all of them. Luckily, the majority of them can be summed up in this way:
- Due to needing at least two specific cards in the starting hand, they are inherently inconsistent.
- As we always have to pay from hand, we have to invest at least 4 handcards for the combo, including the played cards. That means at best we "only" go even with the Neo Exdeath player.
Due to these implications, while card combos will also be used against Exdeath, they won't be the preferred way. So to keep the list tidy and more relevant, we only include card combos if their costs and/or impact is better than 4 handcards.
The Turn 1 Exdeath Counters
We start off with an element that is in a bad spot. It only has one lone efficient counter card with [10-006R] Cloud, and that is a card that is not really seen in play. Fire might consider picking up Cloud in Opus 12 against Neo Exdeath, as outside of that, it is at the very least a 2 CP Backup with an interesting S-Effect. [6-010H] Vermilion Bird l'Cie Caetuna in theory would be efficient, but due to two unplayed Bahamuts being the only cards Caetuna can fetch for killing Neo Exdeath, that is not really an option as well. [2-019R] Belias, the Gigas is an interesting combo card, as through the selfdraw it is effectively only an investment of 1 handcard. One of the most interesting targets is [11-139S] Aerith in an FF7 based deck for an efficient 3 handcard kill.
Remember my exclusion of most other card combos though? Fire is probably the element that is affected by far the most here. The amount of viable cards that deal a mid sized amount of damage might actually be high enough that getting two cards of these in the starting hand is somewhat consistent. I assume Fire will often times deal with Neo Exdeath with these card combos. Still, the situation could be better for this element.
Very limited, but Cloud is a good counter that can be easily implemented in many fire based decks.
Ice is probably the worst element to deal with Neo Exdeath.. [3-036H] Cid Aulstyne is situational while [11-024L] Umaro would lose you tempo, albeit being a card seen in a lot of ice decks. [5-033R] Gumbah effectively buys you up to two turns/two targetings combined while thinning out your deck, but is unlikely to see play in Opus 12.
The real interesting one however is the new [12-116L] Locke. While costing 8 CP unreduced, it still is actually an even trade often times because as second option discard can be
selected. The fun starts though if we play characters beforehand as that reduces the cost of Locke as well. The absolute highroll here is 2 CP Ice Backup, another 2 CP Backup, followed by
[12-043C] Whitemage, now being able to play Locke via Backups for 2 CP as the backups are activated. After the sacrifice, you are left with probably no hand, but with 3
characters, including at least 2 Backups.
On top of that, another often discussed combo with the new [12-114R] Baralai and [3-131H] Ghido is actually doable for turn 1 as second player. The interesting part here is that if the Neo Exdeath player can't deal with Baralai, all Neo Exdeaths that are played afterwards are immediatly killed as well without an Aerith or [1-171H] Minwu. It requires a quite specific hand though for the Baralai player.
Very few options, that mostly need special requirements.
Now it's getting much better. Wind features several good cards that can also deal with Neo Exdeath. [8-046R] Alexander and [5-062L] Diabolos are still solid cards in general und unlikely to get shafted in O12. The new [12-042C] Cactuar is one of the most interesting monsters in Opus 12 and, while inconsistent, one of the rare cards that with only a 2 Handcard investment can kill Neo Exdeath.
[8-060L] Fina, due to her non targeting, would at the very least survive herself when played in conjuction with another card. One of the more interesting combos is with [6-041L] Rinoa, leaving you with an aggressive board without losing a single character. That in combination with Locke and other cards might make Ice Wind surprisingly stable against early game Neo Exdeath. [8-066C] Chaos, Walker of the Wheel is some sort of a gamble. The combo with [1-176H] Yuna is impossible against Turn 1 Neo Exdeath as Yuna is put into the Break Zone before Chaos resolves. Therefore, you have to hope that no other Forward is in his hand.
AOE kills and a lot of variety, may need another element for a few combos.
It is kinda ironic that the elements that are seemingly the best for a Neo Exdeath deck are at the same time pretty good against it. Earth features the only simple trade card that can reliably kill Neo Exdeath with only 2 Handcards, Fenrir. It's a shame that due to being that specific, playing it on three copies is a liability.
Luckily, Earth still has some other efficient and unique options. Shantotto is the only non-light/dark-character that without any combo play can kill Neo Exdeath without sacrifice, even on turn 2. [11-065H] Ardyn only lets you sacrifice every second turn (as far as i understood the ruling here), [10-069R] Black Tortoise l'Cie Gilgamesh effectively turns Neo Exdeath into a blank as long as he is on the field. [9-077L] Rydia is just Queen Casino.
Reliable options with fair costs and a lot of varieties. [8-081R] Fenrir being the big winner.
If you really hate Neo Exdeath, play Lightning. It's the best element against it, getting four answers in O12 alone. Several of the better cards are not bound to a certain archetype and can probably be played in any lightning based deck, like the new [12-078L] Gilgamesh or [3-112H] Exodus. Exodus is also a good counter against a turn 2 Neo Exdeath as it is non targeting. The only thing lightning is missing is a 2 handcard counter like Fenrir.
But even the different Archetypes include their own counters. Glaives might be pushed in Opus 12 due to the new [12-122L] Regis and Nyx is one of the more efficient answers for Turn 1 Neo Exdeath. Ranperre already is an established deck and can be easily combined with Glaives due to sharing the same elements. Golbez is also a quite interesting card against Neo Exdeath as it floods the board with 4 Forwards afterwards. That archetype might see more play in Opus 12 as it has gotten quite a lot of support in this Set.
Big variety, a lot of strong stand alone options seen in the meta - only missing out on a removal option that is costing 2 handcards or less.
Water sits on the worse half of the elements, although not as bad as fire or ice. [3-123R] Famfrit is still a card playable in water decks and can be safely played after a
[1-177R] Yuna to reduce the costs of Famfrit to one handcard, as Yuna won't die. It's also a good play against Turn 2 Neo Exdeath for the same reason. [1-176H] Yuna celebrates a comeback in some versions of Wind Water.
Another excellent card is [9-114C] Cuchulainn, which at the same time sees play in general. As he is blanking Neo Exdeath, it means any character played out afterwards is safe for the rest of the turn. It therefore enables dealing with Neo Exdeath while building up a board at the same time. In combination with the draw, Cuchulainn can be seen as a 0 handcard investment (paying 2 handcards that are compensated by draw and keeping the character on board).
Some variety and the options to remove abilities or putting Neo Exdeath into the Break Zone without consequences, thanks to your opponent choosing the target.
Due to the special position Light/Dark cards have in a deck, we will defer from giving a rating here. Light/Dark Counters have the luxury of being able to be placed in any deck and are therefore always interesting. While there are numerous options in these elements, most of them currently are only rarely played. Veritas is an amazing answer for Neo Exdeath, but fell out of favour due to the rise of Ranperre. [11-139S] Aerith and [11-127L] Cloud see play in FF7 Decks.
All the strong and used Meta decks like Marche / Ritz or maybe even the new Opus XII builds players dream about (Samurai? Knights?) are not completely threatened and destroyed by Neo Exdeath. Marche / Ritz, being able to be played in almost all elements, have the largest variety of counter cards and every element can provide you with something useful. The only archetype so far that seems to heavily struggle with Neo Exdeath due to the lack of answers is Mono Ice, which however can at least implement more discard, making Cid Aulstyne more consistent.
Still, don't forget to get rid of him asap - you have a lot of options that can be easily implemented in almost every deck, even including several Meta-Viable cards.
On top of that, while Neo Exdeath surely should be compared more like BFA in terms of how this card works and how threatening it is, if you have the possibility, you can also abuse his weakness that it shares with Veritas: Having characters that want to be broken on purpose. Here we want to reiterate some of the decks that do that.
Since the release of this card, a famous and strong meta deck. The whole point is breaking Ranperre, so why not with a little help from our friend, Neo Exdeath?
In combination with the following deck type, even better:
The Glaive package was already strong in Opus XI and while Glaives itself actually only has Crowe that truly benefits from a early Neo Exdeath break, it has been included in Ranperre based decks. Opus XII gives them even more support. RVA Returners already showcased a possible Ranperre/Glaives deck for Opus XII that at the same time has an amazing amount of answers against Neo Exdeath. Click at this VOD if you want to see the deck in action.
Another one that loves being broken. Even without Neo Exdeath, players speculated about Golbez decks in Opus XII thanks to the many 2 CP multi-element cards, making Luso a really great call again.
Overall, Neo Exdeath is a force to be reckoned with. However, most elements can provide several answers against him if needed. The question is how much do you need to invest into a counter in your deck in the end. Due to Opus XII having a huge jump in powerlevel, it is hard to tell how the meta will be shaped. Especially without knowing the full set, it is hard to say which impact Neo Exdeath will have. Maybe he turns out overrated and all that craze was for nothing. Therefore: Please let Opus XII be released first and play with all the new cards. Then we can truly tell if Neo Exdeath needs a ban or not.