FIFA 14's Ultimate Team mode is likely to occupy players of all formats across the season.
EA Canada's popular formula continues to expand, and with it, there are plenty of things to learn. Often an intimidating place for users, this year's version sees a number of important changes ushered onto the field.
Whether you're new to Ultimate Team or just want to refresh your memory, here's a collection of hints and tips to guide you through the next year's worth of play.
Be sure to swot up and above all, enjoy the game.
Here's a brief rundown of items you can expect to encounter in Ultimate Team.
Gold: The highest ranked players; ratings come in between 75-99.
Silver: Medium rated players who have an overall score between 65-74.
Bronze: Any player whose rating comes in below 64.
Team of the Week: Each week, EA selects a team of stars who have performed well in real life. A variation of their player item will appear in packs for one week and features a points boost. Click here for a detailed look at in-form players.
Man of the Match: This works similar to TOTW, but it is released after cup matches. EA will outline a single player from one of the day's recent cup matches and give him a selection of higher-rated stats. Available for 24 hours only. Click here for an in-depth rundown of MOTM players.
Managers: Needed to oversee your team and maximise chemistry. Each manager provides a specific boost.
Manager Leagues: Do you own a Jose Mourinho card but wish him to exert full chemistry with a Liga Sagres squad? You can switch his allegiance with one of these.
Other Staff: Similar to managers, coaches offer small bonuses when kept in your club. This might be better fitness, greater passing ability across your squad, or even quicker reflexes for your goalkeeper.
Contracts: The most important consumable on the game. Any player who takes part in a match must have a least one game remaining on their contract.
Chemistry Styles: Used to specialise your players. Head to slide four to receive an in-depth breakdown.
Stadiums: The theatre in which your team resides. Top stadiums are cheap and boost morale, so pick one up straight away.
Fitness: Buy this when you want a quick boost to a player or squad's fitness.
Healing: If anyone suffers an injury, you can buy the appropriate item to speed up healing.
Player Training: Should any of your players need a stats boost that lasts one match, perhaps in a cup final, use one of these.
Position Change: Players sometimes need a slight tweak in position to fit your squad. Although you won't be able to place Leighton Baines in goal, you can switch him from a left-back to a left wing-back.
So often overlooked by new players, chemistry is one of Ultimate Team’s simplest yet most important aspects. There is little chance of your team enjoying prolonged success if you head to the pitch with anything lower than 90.
What is Chemistry?
Chemistry is a number that represents how effective the overall relationship of your team is. A total out of 100 is produced via the individual player links across the XI team members you have on the pitch.
Imagine your team is a brain. Each player represents a nerve that must work together in order for effective actions to be carried out. Should one of these nerves fail to link with the rest, something strange or frustrating will happen.
The more links that fail, the less effective your team becomes.
Teams with high chemistry will ping the ball around easier, make a larger amount of effective runs and exert a faster natural tempo.
How to Improve Chemistry
FIFA 14’s biggest change in this area is the decision to get rid of formation items. This makes chemistry easier to build and gives you the opportunity to try different tactics without the need to purchase an endless amount of items in order to change each player’s formation preference.
Players: If there’s one thing to remember, it's that teams made up of players from same league or nation produce chemistry in the simplest fashion. A full lineup of either is guaranteed to result in 100 percent chemistry.
Links: When setting up your squad, you'll notice links between players who are within close proximity on the pitch.
Green links indicate they work perfectly together (perhaps they are from the same country and club), while orange suggests they still work well. Red links confirm there is no relationship between the players and their correspondence on the pitch may be difficult.
It is perfectly acceptable to have dead links if your team chemistry still makes it to 100 or thereabouts. Many hybrid sides (teams that effectively combine various leagues and nations) will have one or two dead links.
Managers: Chemistry will sit at the highest point of 99 if you don’t have a manager. Although selecting a head coach now comes down to personal preference—and isn't dictated by formation—you still need to ensure you have a shouty man on the sidelines.
Top Tip: Cheap teams with 100 percent chemistry will outplay those made up of unlinked stars. Don't be afraid to build selections made up of uncostly players, as with a variation of tournaments available, you'll never know when you might need them.
Just because the opposition boasts Lionel Messi linked with Radamel Falcao and Franck Ribery doesn't mean they are going to win.
In place of the banished formation items is a new inclusion which allows you to get creative. Do you wish to specialise one of your players into a specific role?
Chemistry styles allow you to do it. The idea here is to increase flexibility when using popular squads. Come up against a Manchester United squad to rival your Red Devils? The opposition could have Marouane Fellaini playing a defensive role, while yours bombs on.
Each chemistry style provides an increase in certain stats, as detailed below.
Example: Item Type (Short Name): Stats Improved.
Basic (BAS): None.
Sniper (SNI): Shooting, Dribbling.
Finisher (FIN): Shooting, Heading.
Deadeye (EYE): Shooting, Passing.
Marksman (MRK): Shooting, Dribbling, Heading.
Hawk (HWK): Pace, Shooting, Heading.
Artist (ART): Passing Dribbling.
Architect (ARC): Passing, Heading.
Powerhouse (PWR): Passing, Defending.
Maestro (MAE): Shooting, Passing, Dribbling.
Engine (ENG): Pace, Passing, Dribbling.
Sentinel (SEN): Defending, Heading.
Guardian (GRD): Dribbling, Defending.
Gladiator (GLA): Shooting, Defending.
Backbone (BAC): Passing, Defending, Heading.
Anchor (ANC): Pace, Defending, Heading.
Hunter (HUN): Pace, Shooting.
Catalyst (CTA): Pace, Passing.
Shadow (SHA): Pace, Defending.
GK Basic (BAS): None
Wall (WAL): Diving, Handling, Kicking.
Shield (SLD): Kicking, Reflexes, Speed.
Cat (CAT): Reflexes, Speed, Positioning.
Glove (GLO): Diving, Handling, Positioning.
For an excellent look at how each chemistry type is affected by chemistry, rush on over to FUThead.
The hard work starts once you own a team of players you enjoy using. Dealing with injuries, fitness problems and squad rotation will make your Ultimate Team smoother and if done correctly, cheaper.
While Ultimate Team injuries have become a lot less common over the years, it's likely one of your players will feel a twinge at some point across the year. You have two options in this situation: pay for a healing item or wait it out for free.
Should you receive an injury at a vital time during a season or tournament, just play a few exhibition games and keep your player on the matchday reserves list to see his health improve.
Every time you play a match, any player who makes an appearance will suffer a hit to their fitness. The amount of energy lost depends on how long the individual plays, how hard they work and what their stamina rating is.
While players such as Wayne Rooney will be able to last several matches before needing a rest, players such as Ronald Vargas will struggle to hit top form for any longer than 45 minutes. While the Anderlecht playmaker’s 33-rated stamina is an extreme case, he is the type of player who should be used in short bursts only.
There’s two ways to improve your fitness.
Specific items can be bought on the market and can be purchased in order to replenish an individual or entire squad. Other than this, simply place the player who needs to be rested on the bench or reserves section of your squad list and play a game without them.
Making the Most of Squad Rotation
An excellent way of keeping all your stars fit is by building a number of different teams, all of which you are happy to play with often.
Build gold, silver and bronze teams to compete in each tournament. Once you've played a few gold games, place five players into your silver squad's reserve list. Now play a silver game, replace the gold reserves with another five and player another silver game.
Rinse and repeat, swapping teams when the main squad becomes tired. Simple.
Playing 10 games with individuals you buy on the auction market will see their loyalty rating improve. Those you pull from packs will already possess the boost that sees their overall work rate and effectiveness galvanise.
For the first time ever, Ultimate Team rewards those who stick with the same squad.
Ultimate Team matches aren't only won on the pitch. How can you expect an extended run of victories if you fail to earn the funds to improve your team?
Playing the market is becoming an increasingly important part of the game.
It's likely only a handful of dedicated users will have the patience to drum up Roman Abramovich-styled funds, but if you're not willing to spend real money, there's a number of easy steps you can take to increase your cash.
Just like playing a real market, the object of the game is to buy cheap and sell high.
How can you do this?
The best way is to buy cheap, get popular players in bulk, especially if they are performing well in real life. If you suspect a player is likely to receive an in-form version in the coming week, be sure to snap them up, as many gamers will be attracted to the new variation, realise they can't afford him and settle for the normal version.
All you need to do here is purchase the same player multiple times on bid and via cheap "Buy It Now" auctions. List at least 30 of them in a row, each at slightly variating prices that are higher than what you paid.
Prospective buyers will skip through a couple of pages, realise they are all the same price and should be likely to snap up one of your auctions. While you immediately lose money after buying wholesale, once they are all shifted, enjoy the extra coins.
Start small and slowly increase your output with this one. There's no point in buying 10 Arjen Robben items, as the risk of profit becomes more dangerous due to the lower quantity of similar auctions.
Stick with low-risk and inexpensive players.
Returning Ultimate Team players will have received a number of free packs upon starting FIFA 14. While this is a good way of building an early team, EA Canada also provides a number of other advantages for the loyal player.
Free Gifts on the Web App
The easiest way of getting free items is by logging into the FIFA 14 Ultimate Team Web App. You may receive coins or mini item packs, all of which add up to a pretty decent total if you continue signing in throughout the season.
EA has a habit of running free gifts for a limited time, so be sure to catch the goods you're entitled to while you can.
EA Sports Football Club Catalogue
Ultimate Team rewards are once again available in EA Sports' Football Club Catalogue. Every action you take in the game will add XP, which can be used to purchase extra squad slots, coin boosts and other useful trinkets.
Upon starting Ultimate Team, you'll notice 13 manager tasks for you to complete. EA use this as a tutorial section and task you with applying a fitness item, playing a seasons match and other simple jobs.
Complete all 13 and get yourself a free pack.
Every Team of the Week released is an opportunity to make easy coins. Simply challenge the team at a level you are comfortable with and beat them. Top players will receive over 1000 coins for their efforts.
Ultimate Team will often frustrate, but no matter how much you want to smash your copy of FIFA 14 into a million pieces, never quit from an online game.
The total amount of coins you can earn by playing games will be dictated by how often you quit. String a year of matches together without exiting and watch your coin multiplier rise. Exit early, and witness it fall.
Remember how irritating it is to see the opposition quit when you're up 5-0. Be fair to your opponent, stick out tough matches and learn to deal with all types of situations, including how to shore up your defence. You'll be amazed how often a comeback will ensue.
As many players will know, there's a lot of money floating around in Ultimate Team. Much of this has been produced via funds from the real world, making the game a dangerous place if you're not careful.
Here's how to stay safe.
Report Anyone Who Offers Item Duplication
Some online players will send you a message after competing against them. This is likely to offer you a item duplication service that simply isn't possible or in any way legitimate.
"Hey, nice Cristiano Ronaldo. If you send it to me I can duplicate it."
Needless to say, once the item is in their possession, the thief will never return. Report anyone who attempts this.
Never Hand Out Personal Details
It's important to know EA will never ask you to provide personal details out of the blue. Sneaky cretins have knowledge of how to create phishing scams that will see you unknowingly type out your details in front of their prying eyes.
Received a suspicious email? Asked to put your details in even though cookies are saved? Check the real URL by hovering over a link. Do not click if you're unsure.
Here's a list of useful links to help you gain more from your Ultimate Team experience:
The FIFA 14 Ultimate Team Web App: Lets you continue market dealings on your laptop (mobile version available).
EA's Official FIFA 14 Forums: An excellent place to discuss tactics and everything Ultimate Team.
@EASPORTSFIFA Twitter account: Follow for all of the latest Ultimate Team news.
If you have any questions, need to know anything about Ultimate Team or just want to chat about the game, leave a comment below. Alternatively, check out my profile for more FIFA 14 articles and hit me up on Twitter.