Newcomer's Guide to FE Cipher
When it released alongside Fire Emblem Fates in June of 2015, Fire Emblem Cipher was a treat to FE fans new and old. A new trading card game based on a fun and popular series, it capitalized on the popularity of newly released games but also served as a throwback to older characters and the nostalgia of the original Fire Emblem TCG game. However, since the majority of the Cipher information available is only in Japanese, many Fire Emblem fans are just now still discovering this fun card game. After answering many questions from prospective collectors and players over the past several months, I thought it would be a good idea to put together this Newcomers Guide as a reference guide for new and potential fans.
Since it's release, Cipher has covered cards and characters from every main series Fire Emblem game (up through and including Three Houses) and many spin-offs, such as Fire Emblem Warriors, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. We've even gotten cards from manga-exclusive characters, and special art featuring characters in the distant past or a possible future.
Want to learn more about Fire Emblem Cipher? Read on below for some basic information about Cipher cards, where to get them, how to play the game, and more. This guide was written and maintained by Kirie of the SerenesForest forums.
Fire Emblem Cipher - Card Basics
Whether you're a player or a collector, obtaining cards is the main place to start your Cipher journey. The majority of the available cards are from the Booster Sets, but there are also Structure Deck cards and Promotional cards. The most common cards can be found rather easily, but some cards can be rare or difficult to obtain.
To the delight of many fans, Cipher cards feature characters from many Fire Emblem games throughout the series. Series 1 started off with the Dark Dragon and Sword of Light and Awakening , and since then, we've also seen cards from a number of other Fire Emblem games and worlds, even the spin-off Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Future releases have been confirmed to feature even more games and continents, so chances are that your favourite character will get their own card at some point, if they haven't already.
The different Fire Emblem games are represented with various colours. Characters from Marth's games are given the colour red and their cards have a red border and other highlights. Characters from Awakening get blue cards, while the Tellius characters are green, Elibe's are purple, and Jugdral's are orange-gold. Fates characters are actually split into 2 colours depending on where their loyalities lie; Nohr characters are black-bordered while Hoshido characters are white. Colours for Valencia and Magvel have not yet been revealed, but will likely be seen in upcoming sets as the game progresses.
This is where you'll find most of the available Cipher cards. Each Series is based off a number of Fire Emblem games and contains approximately 100 cards in total split between the various available colours. Each Booster Series contains at least 2 colours to allow for some variation.
Booster Series cards come in a total of 6 rarities. N (Normal) cards are the most common, with HN (High Normal) cards being slightly rarer. R (Rare) cards are, as their name implies, rarer than N or HN cards. They are also printed on holofoil paper to give them a shiny appearance. Even rarer than R cards are SR (Super Rare) cards. These cards are holo as well, but they also have a slight grooved texture to them that makes the cards both look and feel extra fancy. Some secret cards in a given booster series are marked with a special X on top of their regular rarity.
Some R and SR cards also have special variants. These cards are R+ and SR+ cards. Although R+/SR+ cards are mostly the same as their non-plus versions, they have a metallic gold or silver border around the edge, and some even half a special foil signature of the character's voice actor! These cards are some of the most expensive and sought after Cipher cards by players and collectors alike. Starting with Series 5, R+ and SR+ cards used alternate art from the regular version of the card, making these cards stand out even more.
Booster Series cards are most often purchased as a booster box. A booster box of Cipher cards contains 16 packs, and each individual pack has 10 cards. 6 of those cards will be Ns, 3 will be HNs, and 1 will be an R or SR. Each box contains 11 Rs, 4 SRs, and 1 R+/SR+ card, so the rate of pulling an SR card is approximately 1:4 packs. SR+ cards are found in approximately 1 in 4 boxes.
In addition to the cards, booster boxes also include some extra gifts. Each box contains 1 of 2 preview promotional cards of the main characters from the games featured in the next series. Ever since Series 2, they have also included a pack of 5 unique card sleeves that are only available in these booster boxes. Series 5 and 6 also contain special anniversary reprint promos with a special stamp, though it's unknown if this is temporary or will continue in future sets.
Each Booster Series is accompanied by at least 1 Structured (or ST) Deck. Each ST Deck contains a set number of cards that fit a given theme. Some of the cards in a ST Deck will also be available in the matching Booster Series, but there are also a few cards included that are exclusive to the deck. ST decks also contain some holo cards that are not available in the Booster Series, including some holo variants of N or HN cards.
ST Decks also come with some good tools for beginning players, such as a playmat, instruction booklet, and a marker card to designate your deck's main character. Like the booster boxes, they also sometimes contain little gifts, though the digital goodies can only be redeemed with a Japanese 3DS.
Like many other TCG games, Cipher also has a number of promotional cards that are available to fans for a limited time. Sometimes these promo cards are the same as Booster Series cards but with alternate artwork, sometimes the cards are completely new and only available as part of a particular promotion.
The most plentiful of Cipher promo cards are those available from tournaments in Japan. There have been 6 tournament promo cards released for each series so far, a combination of new artwork and new cards. Players in Japan receive these cards as a gift for participating in Cipher tournaments. However, there are a lot of Cipher cards that come from different and interesting sources. Sometimes promo cards are included as freebies in Japanese magazines (such as Nintendo Dream), or included in other merchandise. For example, a special promotional Tsubasa card was included in Japanese copies of TMS #FE.
For a full list of currently available promotional cards, check out the Promo Cards page, and make sure to keep an eye on the main Serenes Forest page for details of new promo cards as they're announced.
Playing the Cipher Game
While there are some people who only want to collect the cards and look at their pretty artwork, Cipher also has a very large following of fans, both in Japan and internationally, who enjoy playing the game, both competitively and just for fun. Thanks to the internet and a large number of people willing to scan and translate cards, it's possible to learn the rules and play the game, even if you don't know any Japanese.
The Cipher card game is similar to other Trading Card Games that you may be familiar with, such as Pokémon or Magic: the Gathering. Players obtain cards and build a deck that is used to battle against another player's deck. You can choose to build a deck around your favourite characters and work from there, or study the different card effects to create a more powerful strategy.
Since Cipher is a game based off of Fire Emblem, many elements of the game will be familiar to people who are a fan of the video games. For example, each deck has a "Main Character" that is similar to a Lord in the video games. Common mechanics from Fire Emblem games are also present within the game's mechanics, such as class changing and promotion.
A comprehensive explanation of the Cipher game's rules can be read on the Serenes Forest Wiki. If you have any questions about the rules or specific card interactions, we have a thread in the Cipher subforum where other players can offer advice or ruling information.
If you're interested in playing the game but don't have anyone nearby you to play, or money to import the cards you need for a deck, you may be interested in checking out our LackeyCCG group. LackeyCCG is a free program that allows people to play various card games online, and a group of members has put together a plugin for Cipher cards. the cards in the program already have their text translated into English, so there's no need to reference translations while playing. There's also a corresponding Skype group dedicated to finding other players and setting up matches online.
Cipher Merchandise and Events
Since its release, Cipher has also inspired some related merchandise, available online or via special events held in Japan. The most common are special Cipher card sleeves that feature artwork of popular characters from various sets. Four different sets of sleeves are released alongside each series, with each pack containing 65 sleeves. They are perfect for storing and protecting Cipher cards, and they can also be used for other TCGs that use the same size cards, such as Pokémon or Magic: the Gathering.
Starting with Comiket89 in December of 2015, Cipher also started to release some additional limited-time merchandise such as playmats, badges, and artbooks featuring Cipher artwork. There were also Players Boxes that featured an assortment of merchandise together in one nice storage box. After the huge success of Comiket, Cipher repeated the process again with the Cipher Sai events of early 2016. Much of the earlier Comiket merchandise was rereleased along with some new products and styles.
The newest Cipher events are the currently on-going Cipher Caravan events traveling around Japan in celebration of the game's 1st anniversary. The Caravan events have another assortment of merchandise, including some new items such as a card binder and tote bag, and also have other events available, such as tournaments and a concert featuring FE music.
Cipher merchandise has proved to be very popular and a quick seller, so it's likely that we will see more merchandise released at similar events in the future.
Where to Buy?
Although Cipher cards and merchandise are only produced and sold in Japan, it's a relatively simple matter to obtain cards online, both sealed products and singles.
AmiAmi is the most popular source for people around the world to import sealed Cipher products. They sell booster boxes and ST decks, as well as some merchandise, such as sleeves featuring Cipher artwork and the various Guidebooks. The prices are less than MSRP and shipping costs are reasonable.
If you're looking for singles or promo cards, one of the best ways to obtain these cards is directly from other Cipher collectors. We have a thread here on Serenes Forest dedicated to trading, buying, and selling cards, complete with a reputation system. Trading with or buying from collectors cuts out the middleman for better prices, and also helps keep the Cipher community active and flourishing.
There are also a few Japanese retail and auction sites that sell single Cipher cards and limited-time merchandise, such as Amenity Dream and Yahoo!Japan, though the majority of those only ship within Japan. However, there are many middleman services available for purchasing from these sites. If you'd like more information about some of these services, check out this thread on the forums.
Some international sites also sell Cipher cards. TCG Republic is a popular singles reseller and there are even some sellers on the Amazon that carry booster boxes and decks. However, the prices of these products are generally higher than buying from Japan, sometimes significantly, so it's good to do your research before purchasing. The same applies to international auction sites like eBay.
Other Card Resources
If you'd like to learn more about Fire Emblem Cipher, there are a number of resources online that provided detailed information about the cards and the game.
The official Fire Emblem Cipher website - Although it's only offered in Japanese, the official Cipher site is updated frequently with new information about products and events.
Serenes Forest Cipher Subforum - Located right here at Serenes Forest, the Cipher Subforum is frequently updated with the newest information and offers lots of discussion on a wide variety of subjects such as card speculation, deck strategies, card trading, and more. Come check us out and say hi!
Serenes Forest Cipher Wiki - Lovingly maintained by forum user TheVinceKnight and a team of dedicated wiki editors, the Serenes Forest Wiki has a whole large section dedicated to Cipher. You'll find translations of revealed cards, high quality scans, card lists, promotional information, and more.
Questions & Feedback
This Newcomers Guide is a work in progress and I plan to continue updating it with new information as the game grows. After all, Cipher is less than a year old, and there plenty of exciting new changes and additions on the horizon.
If you have any suggestions for material to be added, you are welcome to contact me on the SF forums. If you have any questions about Cipher that have not been answered here, feel free to come ask us in the Cipher Subforum.