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Moneyball in FIFA 14 Ultimate Team: Finding Value 
Posted on September 28, 2013 at 01:35 PM.

What's new in FIFA 14


Read my other posts here.



EA Sports has another hit on it's hands with the release of FIFA 14 this week. There are some great new gameplay additions, the usual myriad of licenses for leagues and teams, and a huge online community. I'm going to start by focusing on the extremely popular Ultimate Team, and more specifically, why I think there are real opportunities to get ahead in FUT.

Moneyball?



Moneyball by Michael Lewis



Moneyball, one of the first and most popular sabermetrics books by Michael Lewis, is a great read and well worth picking up. It's full of interesting anecdotes, and has been adopted as a guide for succcess across many sports. Why? It's core principle is that baseball teams (or any other set of organizations) assign different values to various attributes of players. Some teams value speed or strength over technical skills like bunting or taking a walk at the plate. If you can find an attribute that is currently undervalued by others, you can buy players with that attribute for less money, and reap the benefits by winning more games. The most famous example is the Oakland A's 20-game win streak in 2002.

Just like the A's found that on-base percetage was an underated indicator of a baseball player's hitting ability, there is a similarly underated stat in FIFA Ultimate Team.

The New Pace is Control



FIFA 14



For those familiar with FIFA Ultimate Team and playing online, there has been a relatively simple formula for success against experienced players in the past few seasons: build your team around pace (sprint speed and acceleration, predominantly). The community has dubbed this "sweat", and though I don't know who came up with it, it makes perfect sense. Your players (and maybe you) get sweaty playing an up-and-down, sprint-every-second match. This can be a turn-off for playing online, as the style gets boring and feels like a cheapening of the beautiful game.

That's why the tuning changes in this year's title are so important. I've played about two dozen matches so far in FIFA 14 (too much traveling to get more in!) and my basic premise is this: pace has been tuned down in importance, and ball control with tight passing has been made more powerful. Maybe this is a nod to the recent success of Spain and Germany internationally, or maybe in testing the game, they found a more pleasing formula. Either way, now is the time to get back in to FIFA Ultimate Team if you've left, because building a team just became better.

Taking Advantage of the Market



FIFA 14



If you buy in to the themes above, there are two things you'll notice about the FUT Transfer Market:


  1. Players with high pace have inflated values (sometimes extraordinarily so)

  2. Ball control and passing can be found for cheap



Use this to your advantage. Look for players with slightly depressed pace numbers but otherwise solid skills. Since many others haven't realized the change in gameplay mechanics, they're still paying high prices for speed. Grab the cheaper players to quickly build a high performing squad, and you'll find you can rise up the Online Seasons and Single Player Seasons modes (the heart of FUT I think).

A few example bargains I found:

  • Bryan Ruiz (Bought for: 550) - Mid-eighties dribbling, short passing, and ball control. For this price, he's a throwaway for most teams, but you can build a solid midfield triangle with him up top.

  • Yohan Cabaye (Bought for: 3,600) - Can handle all the free kick duties, has great ball control skills, and the vision boost helps with through-balls to strikers.

  • Edin Dzeko (Bought for: 2,300) - Finishing, positioning, control, power, heading, and dribbling all 80+. This price is outrageous I think.



Here's my current lineup (Young and Gibbs from packs, ~20 games played):

My FUT Team



Next Steps



This is a great way to begin a FUT squad, but what's ahead for a team built this way? Next time, I'll take a lookat how to continue to increase your team overall for less, and finding ways to win in the Seasons modes.

You can find me at Operation Sports here.
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