FIFA 13's Ultimate Team mode is arguably a Free-to-Play game within FIFA. Its virtual currency system allows the much-needed coins to be earned by simply playing the game, but it's clear EA is doing its best to entice players into spending real world money to get a leg-up on the competition.
With the price of card packs always feeling just a little bit out of reach, it can seem as though the only way to survive online is to dig deep and add some real-world funds to your virtual wallet. Thriftier types can rest easy, though: there's a way to build a gold-standard squad without spending a single penny of your hard-earned cash. Follow this handy guide and I'll craft you a squad equal in both depth and quality.
Don't buy card packs
This may sound crazy, but the card packs in FIFA 13 are prohibitively expensive and don't represent any real value for money. A couple of bronze packs once you start FUT will be more than enough to beef up your squad. Players who bought the Ultimate Edition of FIFA 13 will receive a new pack every month, too - you can get some good players and contract cards from these.
What you should do instead is ply your trade in the Ultimate Team Auction House.
At any one time there are hundreds of thousands of cards on auction, and you can grab yourself gold-standard cards for a bargain. All search results will show auctions closest to ending, giving you a good chance to sneak in with a winning bid. Many sales go by without a bid, and players often leave the starting bid at 150 coins. This means you can grab top players dirt cheap. I've managed to grab the likes of Darren Fletcher, Joe Cole, Sulley Muntari, and Steven Fletcher all for less than 400 coins each. Bargain.
Also, don't waste your money on kits, badges, stadia and balls, as they have little if any effect on the team. Unless you have a particular affection for a team's kit, stick with what you're given until you build up a decent purse.
Once you've completed a couple of tournaments, and start going back to auction for more players, keep in mind the restrictions of some of the tournaments. Some require a maximum number of nationalities in your squad, or minimum chemistry, so be mindful about who you bid for once you have made decent progress.
Don't flog your bronze players
The temptation is to sell your bronze players as soon as you snag a better star, but don't. The first couple of tournaments and leagues are set at Amateur and Semi-Pro difficulty, so it's best to take advantage of these players and use them as much as possible. By rotating your squad, you'll keep your key players' fitness up, and won't have to waste contracts on players when you can save them for tougher matches. Don't fret about using a contract on a bronze player - they are very useful squad players in the beginning, but only apply bronze contracts.
Even once you have built a full squad of silver or gold players, it can be hard to shift your cards. They rarely sell at auction, and you get less than 20 coins through quick-sell, so maybe hold onto the 60+ rated ones.
Don't apply development cards to your first set of players
Any development cards you collect through your early packs or at auction, save for your final FIFA Ultimate Team. There's no point applying stat boosts to players who will soon be replaced once you begin rebuilding. Again, you won't be using your bronze players for more than a few tournaments, so don't worry about improvements.
This also means that you don't have to acquire the best gold players. Acquiring players between 75-80 and applying stat boosts will allow you to stand up against the big spenders online.
Stay offline for as long as possible
The first time you take your Ultimate Team online, you'll most likely come up against an all-gold squad. Even in the bottom league and first tournament, barring restrictions. Even if you are a very good FIFA player, a team of 50-60's against Messi and his All-Stars will always be a challenge.
Remember, we're not spending money on our team, but that doesn't mean other players are adopting the same strategy, so try and develop your own all-gold team before taking them online.
Buy two strikers and a goalkeeper first
The two areas of the pitch you'll immediately want to spend coins on will be up front and in goal. Average players need a whole host of chances before they put one away, and this can become incredibly frustrating in the harder tournaments, and you run a greater risk of being punished at the other end for missed opportunities.
Equally, your goalkeeper is the last line of defence, and can make up for poor defending by pulling off outstanding saves. 'Keepers are often pretty cheap in the Auction House, especially if they aren't well known. Remember to just buy a good quality player, not the likes of Casillas and Hart - a player with an overall 75 is more than sufficient.
For reference, I started with Ben Amos (overall 66) in goal, and he is yet to concede through the first two tournaments and Division 5 offline.
Earn as much as you can in easy matches
Earning victories, and thus, coins, becomes increasingly difficult the further you progress in FIFA Ultimate team, so make sure that you score as many goals as you can in the easy matches. Cricket scores mean big bucks and will allow you to prepare for the games ahead.
Chemistry isn't a huge on-field factor
During the easier tournaments, don't worry about the chemistry of your team. Chemistry seems to be an invisible factor which affects off-the-ball movement of your teammates and how they maintain their shape defensively. Considering you play every match in FIFA Ultimate Team, don't be afraid to field a player out of position when needs must.
The only time you must take chemistry into consideration is when a tournament restriction sets a minimum level for entry. You may have to go back into the auction house and pick up a player or two.
Contracts are as important as players
Don't forget to buy many contracts to supplement your team, they are as important as buying a shiny new player, if not more so. There will be times when three or four player's contracts will run out at the same time, so make sure you keep a good dozen or so stocked up.
Once you've built your gold squad, don't keep buying more and more players, but focus on keeping the ones you have. The only time you should focus on buying more players is when you need to meet tournament requirements or when you have a lot of coins in the bank. It can be tempting to keep grabbing great players on the cheap, but the costs quickly pile up, and you run the risk of having loads of quality players you can't use.