Master 'FIFA 18' Ultimate Team with our beginner's guide

'FIFA 18' Ultimate Team
EA Sports

FIFA Ultimate Team is the most popular mode in the long-running soccer franchise, and with good reason. With total control over your squad formations, coaching, transfers, and game strategies, your Ultimate Team is yours and yours alone. In FIFA 18, you’re given even more ways to earn card packs and improve your roster before you compete against others online, but it can be a bit overwhelming for those new to the mode. Thankfully, our FIFA 18 Ultimate Team guide will tell you everything need to know to get started, from how to earn card packs to completing objectives.

The basics

FIFA 18’s Ultimate Team is a personalized, card-based mode unlike anything else in the game. Instead of choosing a pre-made team or drafting players, you build your team using cards, which you purchase using either in-game currency or real money.

As you improve your team, you can choose to enter single-player leagues, tournaments, or special “squad battles,” or you can take the game online to compete against other players. Everything you do earns you more points that can be used to improve your team, and when you find a player who doesn’t have a role in your squad anymore, you can sell him to other Ultimate Team players for even more currency.

Your team alone

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When you begin FIFA 18’s Ultimate Team mode, you’ll be run through a quick tutorial that shows you how to use the transfer market, organize your roster, and complete objectives, and you’ll be provided with a starter squad so you can enter a match and start earning coins. Your team will not be nearly as skilled as the pre-made squads you use in Kick Off or Career, however. Most will be in the “bronze” tier, making them relatively ineffective individual players, but you’ll still be able to score goals and defend in tough situations if you make good decisions and keep track of your players’ energy levels.

Still, you’re going to want to get some stars to lead the charge on breakaways, and that’s where the store comes in. Use the right bumper on your controller (RB on Xbox One or R1 on PlayStation 4) to scroll all the way to the right, and you’ll be able to purchase individual FIFA Ultimate Team packs using either in-game coins or “FIFA points,” which can be purchased with cash.

When you first start out, it can be tempting to start with the bronze packs, but we recommend saving up your points until you can afford a silver pack. Having even just one playmaker can be the difference in close matches, giving you more coins that you can then use to purchase more card packs or better players on the transfer market. Eventually, you’ll be able to purchase standard gold packs and even “jumbo” gold packs, providing your team with several star players as well as useful consumable items.

Choose wisely

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When you open packs, you’ll receive both permanent additions to your roster and “loan” players, who will only be available to you for about seven games. These are typically rated significantly higher than your regular starters, occasionally even pushing into the 90s with players such as cover star Cristiano Ronaldo. It can be tempting to throw them into games immediately in order to run up the score on the other team, but consider your opponent before doing so. Against a low-rated team, you’ll essentially waste a star’s talent, and after their seven games are up, they’re gone for good.

You should also take some time to examine your current team for holes. If your star player is your striker, spending all of your coins to acquire Antoine Griezmann on the transfer market won’t be as beneficial as improving your winger or keeper. However, if there is a star available for a price you just can’t resist, you can always change up your squad formation or attempt to sell them on the transfer market.

Play the story mode

FIFA 18’s story mode “The Journey: Hunter Returns,” is an entertaining and engaging few hours in its own right, but it also has helpful benefits for those looking to bolster their Ultimate Team early on. At the conclusion of each of the game’s chapters, you’re awarded new cards for use in Ultimate Team, including several star players who play supporting roles in the story. Eventually, you’ll also be awarded Alex Hunter, a striker who should be rated much more highly than your initial roster of players — in our game, he was rated as a 78, making him a fine player to build a franchise around.

If you plan on diving into Ultimate Team as soon as you’re done with The Journey, we recommend using the “play as team” option during your time with it instead of controlling Hunter alone. Hunter plays for a few different clubs over the course of the year, and controlling the entire team will get you used to dealing with a rotating cast of players.

Complete your objectives

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Both daily and weekly objectives are available to complete in Ultimate Team, offering you extra coins and occasionally cards for completing simple activities. Some of these take literal seconds, such as organizing your squad members to their preferred positions or matching players with good chemistry, and you’re free to immediately switch them back if you prefer to have them play somewhere else.

The bonuses you receive might seem minor at first, but they can be crucial to maintaining your team after several games. Some will earn you consumable items such as contract and fitness cards, which can keep your stars in the game for longer. Without them, you’ll be forced to remove players long before the end of a match.

Use your consumable items

When you’re opening packs that contain a dozen or so cards, it can be easy to breeze through your new consumable items, but don’t forget to send them to your team along with the players. After 25 games on the pitch, your permanent players will be unavailable without the use of a contract, which, depending on its strength, allows them to play for several more games. These cards are not usable on loan players, so you can’t convince superstars to stick around indefinitely.

The other extremely important consumable card is “fitness,” which gives your stars a boost to their stamina for upcoming matches. If you make heavy use of sprinting, your players will be absolutely gassed after each game. Using a fitness card completely refills their stamina meter, ensuring that they’re ready to play in your next game. Make sure you use them on players who aren’t easily replaceable — i.e., those without skilled substitutes — to maximize their effectiveness.

Keep track of the number of consumables you have available to make sure you aren’t overusing them, as well. After you select “action” on a player in your squad and choose “use consumable,” you’ll be given a list of each of your consumables, as well as their stock. The game will recommend which ones to use by default, but you should always make the final call.

Do Squad Battles

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New to FIFA 18 Ultimate Team are Squad Battles: Single-player challenges against curated teams, which award you coins based on your performance relative to other players. You’ll be ranked in different tiers, so even if you don’t manage to climb to the top of the leaderboard with a 23-0 win against Bayern, you can still earn a useful pack of guards for your latest single-player season.

There will be a few different teams to play against at any one time, with one of them usually sporting a skill rating somewhere between 50 and 70. This is the one you should choose to start with, as you’ll be able to rack up quite a few goals and work on the finer points of your defense. As you earn more cards and raise your team’s rating, you can start taking on the harder opponents. They switch out pretty regularly, so if you if you don’t like any of the current options for Squad Battles, just check back the next day and you’ll likely find a better choice.

Avoid penalties like the plague

In the heat of the moment, just after the other team steals the ball and starts pushing toward your goal, it can be extremely tempting to use a slide tackle and begin moving in the other direct. There are certainly times when it’s valuable, especially if the ball is near a corner, but it will often lead to a yellow card and a free kick. This isn’t a big deal automatically, as your player will just need to be slightly more careful for the remainder of the match. However, if you’re called for another penalty or if a player is caught making a clear run at another player rather than the ball, they’ll be given a red card.

A red card will force that player to sit out the game and no one will be allowed to replace him at his position, but it will also result in a suspension. They’ll be unavailable for a few games, meaning you better have a backup ready to take their place.

To avoid committing penalties, minimize your use of the slide tackle, and instead use the upright tackle or even just proper positioning to force a turnover. If you’ve loaded your team with skilled defenders and don’t move anyone too far out of position during breaks, you’ll usually find a chance to intercept a pass and clear the ball. Don’t pass up the opportunity to redirect a pass when an opposing player uses a cross, either, as it’s relatively easy to send them flying back toward the other end of the pitch.

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