Hey everybody, last week I did an in-depth analysis of the deck I used to win the ARG Circuit Series in Las Vegas and how we overcame the problems we were having with Magicians. This week I’m back with a round-by-round tournament report on my journey to an eighth win! Let’s get right into it!
I had done the vast majority of my testing for this event with Abe Thalos and Zane Lingerfelt. We had the week out for Thanksgiving and drove up to Abe’s house for a week of intense testing, where we spent a full twelve hours per day trying out various ideas before eventually deciding that we were having the best results with the Magician Pendulum deck. We spent the remainder of the week trying to work out the problems with the deck and occasionally getting distracted with perusing ideas such as Speedroids or Igknights that could make Naturia Beast using only four Igknight monsters in your hand. We had so many off the wall ideas and were open to trying anything, but one by one we crossed them off the list of viable ideas until it became clear that Magicians were the way to go.
The Circuit didn’t come at an ideal time in terms of school, but Las Vegas is my favorite city in the entire world and I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to go back. I stayed up all night Wednesday studying for my Campaign Politics final (with only occasional Yu-Gi-Oh breaks with Abe). Thursday morning we went to Athens for my final. It was a grueling final that took close to three hours and was composed of multiple essays. As I left my professor informed me that he read the book I had written earlier in the semester and that he had thoroughly enjoyed it. A quick pit stop at the post office and then Abe and I headed straight to the airport.
There we met up with Desmond Johnson, Chris LeBlanc, Deon Akridge, and Dominique Roberts, all of whom with the exception of Dom were on the same flight as Abe and I. Four and a half hours later and we landed in Las Vegas. Tired, but without time for sleep, we met up with Justin Delhon and his friend Brian, who we were staying with at the MGM Grand, and got ready for a night on the Las Vegas Strip!
The next day Justin, Brian, Desmond, and I went and had a late lunch. Justin and Brian stopped by to bet on the Golden State game. When they explained that the records were 23-0 vs. 13-9, Desmond and I couldn’t help but get in despite not knowing a thing about basketball. Justin and Brian insisted that it wasn’t like that and that it wasn’t as sure of a thing as it intuitively seemed, but it was Vegas and we weren’t having it with records like that! I put up $100 and Desmond got even more bold and put up the $300 he was down from the night before, despite the fact that neither of us knew even the first thing about basketball.
“Justin, are we pulling for the team in the white?”
Behind from the beginning, our confidence was unwavering not knowing a thing about basketball but knowing the sound of 23-0 vs. 13-9. As the clock ticked down and we were still not in the lead, we suddenly were sweating that we were about to lose more money than either of us could afford to lose. The result was a back and forth game with Stephen Curry leading the team to a fantastic victory and just covering the spread we all needed in double over time to make for a great first basketball experience!
After the game it was time to focus on why we had come for the weekend. We returned to our room at the MGM to build our decks for the weekend. Brian was only there to trade and soon went back out to gamble with friends. Desmond got bored midway through our deck discussion and was just looking for a deck that was ready to go that he could pick up and play. That left Justin and I alone to debate the final touches on the deck. He was originally not playing Magicians in his Pendulum deck, but was convinced by Skull Crobat. Check out my article from last week to see the reasoning we had in designing the deck.
Saturday morning we woke up to a message from Andrea, recommending X-Saber Palomaru to make Naturia Beast. We had thought of it, but dismissed it without testing it because it could not be Pendulum Summoned. Andrea said he thought it was good so I went through a significant portion of test hands and agreed that it was a solid choice. Justin also agreed and we filled Abe in after taking an Uber to the event. Soon pairings for the first round were up and we were ready to go!
Game 1: He won the dice roll and made me go first. I opened with Naturia Beast and Pleiades. I won the following turn without ever seeing what he was playing outside of a Lyla and a Hat Tricker.
Game 2: I recognized his name, because he had made top cut at YCS Anaheim the month before. I decided that having seen Lyla and Hat Tricker, combined with knowing he made top cut, that he was likely playing the Lightsworn deck with Minerva. I didn’t really have anything for this and chose not to side deck. It was quickly revealed that I was wrong and he got off to a solid start. He had two sets, an established field, and a loaded extra deck. I tried to bluff him into using Wavering Eyes at the one point where I could not be outright blown out by it. He didn’t go for it and from that point on I just had to hope that neither set was Wavering Eyes. They weren’t and I cleared his field and established myself in a dominant position, then won on the following turn.
Game 1: I lost the dice roll again and once again opened up Naturia Beast Pleiades, and just as my opponent before him, he scooped without an opportunity for me to see what he was playing.
Game 2: This time I correctly put him on playing Pendulums, despite having not actually seen any cards the first game, and sided in the Springs. He makes me go first and I open with Beast, but no Pleiades. He opens Hat Tricker and makes Castel. He then follows it up by making Diamond Dire and using the effect to pop his Castel and my card. I scoop the following turn when he has Wavering Eyes.
Game 3: He makes a play first turn and ends with one set. I have a perfect hand, but end up outright losing the game because I didn’t fully read Magical Spring. I use it to draw, follow it up with Pendulum Call, and then try to pop his backrow. He picks up Magical Spring and points out that it can’t be destroyed. I thought it only prevented his face up Spell and Traps from dying and didn’t realize it prevented them from being destroyed all together. I pull back my play, but run straight into XYZ Universe for the rank 8 D/D/D. Definitely a misplay on my part and I could have played around it, as my hand would have enabled me to pop his backrow, Ignister his Scales, and then have Magical Spring as a defensive card if he tried to play Wisdom-Eye and re-establish scales, had I played it correctly.
Round 3: Pendulum Star Seraph
Game 1: I win the dice roll and he makes a play, but makes no effort to play around Wavering Eyes. I have it and then FTK him on my turn.
Game 2: He has double Wavering Eyes set. I am able to play around the first one, but can’t do anything about the second one and get blown out by it.
Game 3: This game was back and forth. I with an early lead and drop him down to 1500. He makes a massive push back with the Star Seraphs into Orouboros and Diagusto Emeral as time is called. I’m ahead in life and at 7500, but am on a one turn clock. If I’m unable to do anything, he’ll win the following turn. I make a final push back with Ignister attacking over the Emeral to drop him down to 450, leaving him unable to bring back the Trick Clown that was under it. I spin away his Orouboros and take command of the field once again. He draws to two in hand, one of which was a searched Stick, with some irrelevant XYZ like maybe Castel, and Chair on board. He can’t draw Wavering Eyes because even if he does, destroying my two scales when he doesn’t have any or any other cards in hand won’t actually do anything. There’s no single scale he can draw. He’s too low to draw Instant Fusion. I going over every card I think he plays and crossing them off as an out, though unable to do anything if there were some out. Draw into Brilliant Fusion. Send Damage Juggler, search Hat Tricker, summon Chair and Tricker, make Bujin Amatarasu, draw and pop, draws a monster, specials back the Damage Juggler, extra normal summons the monster he drew, and then makes Trapeze Magician to attack for game.
I felt disappointed and that I was surely out of the tournament at this point. I was disappointed in myself for punting the second round when I had game and I felt like a game I thought I had surely won was just stolen from me. Ultimately I knew I had no one to blame but myself for having put myself in a position where that could happen after throwing away the round before. I wanted to drop knowing that a 1-2 making top cut was basically unheard of, but we were a couple of miles from the strip and all my friends were still in, so I knew I’d have nothing to do if I dropped.
In between rounds I was made to feel better when I ran into some friends; Matt, Derrick, Molly, and Abe. Soon enough they rolled out the pairings to the next round and I was ready to duel again!
Game 1: I didn’t think he had Damage Juggler and went for game, but he did. The following turn he won when he had Wavering Eyes to top it off.
Game 2: He sets three backrow. I use Pendulum Call and get Dragonpit and then pop a set. He doesn’t think I can because I used Pendulum Call and calls a judge. I ask him what makes him think that and ask him to read the card. “I know what it says.” – Apparently not. He appeals, refusing to ever read the card and blatantly see that there is nothing preventing me using Dragonpit after I use Pendulum Call. The judge obviously rules in my favor and he loses shortly after.
Game 3: He makes me go first and I open Naturia Beast Pleiades. He can’t play and just scoops.
Round 5: Kozmo
Game 1: I kill him when he has no chance of winning, but doesn’t decide to scoop until I see he is playing Kozmo.
Game 2: I pop his one floodgate and easily deal with his space ships.
Round 6: Pendulum Magician, Jose Suarez
Game 1: I use Pendulum Call, play another card, then activate my scales. He flips Wavering Eyes and I remind him they can’t be destroyed, then proceed to kill him that turn.
Game 2: He makes me go first and I summon Skull Crobat and set Magical Spring. He uses two Wisdom-Eye and I flip Magical Spring to lock him for two turns for the blowout.
Round 7: Pendulum Magician
Game 1: I went Naturia Beast, but he has Jigabyte to out it. Forutnately for me he doesn’t have much of a follow up play after this and I win.
Game 2: Unfortunately I don’t remember this game.
I run into my friends from earlier again and then see I’m paired up against Tommy Rowe. He was x-1-1 and had started 5-0, intentionally drew with Desmond, then lost the previous round. I was having a little fun messing with him like I didn’t fully intend on giving him the win, as if I was going to soul crush him knowing I couldn’t top after starting 1-2. I asked for the standings just to keep the fun going a little longer before telling him I’d obviously give him the win knowing I couldn’t top, but I was completely caught off guard when they actually brought them to me and I was in 18th place. I only had to jump two people to make the Top 16 and I had just been paired up, guaranteeing one of the two I needed if I won the match. I sat down for the chance at top cut I never saw coming.
Round 8: Pendulum, Tommy Rowe
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and I open with Naturia Beast and Pleiades, but I know if any Pendulum deck was going to out it, it was going to be Tommy’s. Desmond told me he was playing Jigabyte, Nefarious, and Offering to the Snake Deity. It seemed like a horrible matchup for Naturia Beast. He made more of an attempt than most pendulum decks could, but ended up not being able to out it due to Pleiades.
Game 2: I sided out Polamaru as quickly as I could. I got lucky by him not having an out once, but Beast did not seem like a good strategy against Tommy. He won the second game, but I don’t remember the details.
Game 3: I don’t think he opened very playable.
One by one they call out the top 16. I’d feel pretty bad if I screwed Tommy out of the win if I didn’t even top after he got paired down. 14… not me. 15… not me. 16… Patrick Hoban!
I was extremely happy because half an hour earlier I wasn’t even considering it a possibility that I would have had strong enough tie breakers to have made it. I’ve made 17th, 18th, and 19th, all when I thought I had a good start and thought I was going to make it at x-2. Now I had started 1-2 and didn’t think it was possible to make it, yet there I was in Top 16. We went back to the hotel and I soon went to sleep.
Brian and Justin had spent the entire night out partying and I woke up to an empty hotel room. I caught a taxi over to the event, had some breakfast, did the pictures and the player profile, then resleeved to be ready for Top 16!
Game 1: I had played Edward in Top 32 of YCS Dallas this year. He had won then and I was hungry for revenge! There were no more dice rolls and the higher seed would have the choice of going first or second for the rest of the day. That meant I would be going first for the rest of the tournament. I opened Naturia Beast Pleiades and he couldn’t deal.
Game 2: He made me go first again. I had a strange first turn combination of cards, but quickly realized I had messed up and only ended with Naturia Beast when I could have ended with both Beast and Pleiades. He activates a scale, I negate, and he chains Ghost Ogre, effectively losing me the game. Had I made the correct play he would not have had enough cards to deal with Pleiades and there would have been a good chance that I would have won.
Game 3: He starts slow with just a set monster. I use Pendulum Call and set scales. He plays Maxx “C” and just set Plushfire and pass. The following turn he uses Ghost Ogre on something, but by this point he’s trading 1 for 1s from a terrible position and I take the upper hand.
Top 8: Joseph Chou, Pendulum Magician
Game 1: He chooses for me to go first. I open the perfect hand that lets me end with Beast Pleiades with two materials. He doesn’t have an out and scoops to not show me what he’s playing, but I still put him on Pendulums.
Game 2: He noticeably taps my deck, presumably to see if I was doing anything shady and putting Garnet on top of my deck. He takes commanding control of the game and wins within the first couple of turns, but when the game is over I happily reveal a Garnet-free hand to him to ease his suspicions.
Game 3: I make him go first. He begins with double Wisdom-Eye, set scales, Pendulum them back, then make the Majespecter XYZ and searches for Skull Crobat in the end phase. I look at a very strong hand that can easily kill him if he doesn’t have Damage Juggler, but I can’t kill him through Damage Juggler. Was he trying to sell a huge bluff? It seemed so intuitive that he’d never make that play if he didn’t have the Damage Juggler, but was he bluffing? I could clearly tell that he was a highly above average player and thought he was capable of a strong bluff, but even if he did have it, it seems likely that he’d make this play. I don’t have a way to know if he’s trying to get me and I deliberate about what to do for quite some time. I decide that the chance that he has Damage Juggler is too great and not playing around it would automatically lose me the game as Trapeze would destroy my Ignister. Was I really about to attack and leave him at 150 even if he didn’t have Damage Juggler? I thought for a couple more moments before deciding to leave him at 150 and not kill him whether or not he has Juggler, rather than go for game and automatically lose if he does.
He immediately takes it all. He had sold an amazing bluff. He didn’t have Damage Juggler and knew I wouldn’t try to go for game, because I wouldn’t disregard it like that. I make Pleiades and pass with him at just 150. He uses Pendulum Call, forces Pleiades, then makes a board using Ignister. He leaves the Luster Pendulum I had specialed off of Ignister and is forced to leave my scales. I have no cards in hand and only a Wisdom-Eye in the extra deck. I’m not in a terrible position, but he doesn’t leave anything in attack for me to be able to attack to do the extra damage if I draw a monster. I begin to think about what happens if I don’t draw a monster. I decide I’ll crash Luster Pendulum, then Pendulum Mp2 and make the Ignister he spun back. I’m not in a great position as I can’t pop his scales because of Pendulum Call and I would be forced to spin his Ignister with my Ignister. If I draw a monster though, I’d be in a much better position. My thoughts are racing with what I can do with each potential draw.
Draw Wavering Eyes
Well… I reveal it to blow up my scales for the 500 for game. What an anti-climactic ending to such a great game, but it was at that moment that I knew it was my day.
He honestly played great and made a sick bluff.
Top 4: Desmond Johnson, Pendulum Magician
Who would have thought that after him getting board and leaving Friday night while we were making the deck, he’d have gone and picked up the first deck he found and then I’d find myself sitting across from my best friend in Top 4.
Desmond and I have a long history of playing in tournaments. We’ve played four times in swiss. Each time Desmond has won. We’ve played four times in top cut. Each of those times I’ve won, only one of which did I not go on to win the tournament.
Honestly I was really happy for Desmond and wanted him to win. He deserves his first ring so badly, but I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t make him earn it.
Game 1: I open Garnet and Brilliant Fusion. I set Garnet, Brilliant, and Instant and pass. My hope is that he spins my set Garnet with Ignister, making my Brilliant Fusion alive, and then somehow manages not to kill me. He makes Ignister and uses Unizombie, which makes it so he can’t attack, but then spins one of my backrow and leaves my Garnet. I lose the following turn.
I take a second to remind myself that I’m supposed to lose the 4% of the time I open Garnet Billiant Fusion. I’m further comforted when they inform both of us that the other side has already finished their match and that the winner would be playing Kozmo in the finals.
“Did you hear that? The winner plays against Fire Fist! Desmond, we’re basically playing in the finals right now!”
He dies laughing as we shuffle up for game 2 of the finals.
Games 2: He opens a subpar play that ends with Pleiades, but nothing really else to make it powerful. I quickly take advantage of his weak board and he doesn’t waste time moving to the next game.
“Desmond, I’m about to open Naturia Beast Pleiades when you let me go first!” Really I was just hoping he’d make a mistake and choose to go first.
He thinks for a second and then exclaims, “Better have it!”
Game 3: Well Desmond, I had it. I open the ideal hand of Brilliant Fusion into Naturia Beast and Pleiades. He peaks at his top card and then concedes without playing a card.
Finals: Jorge Bernal Rodriguez
The finals is played 3/5
Game 1: I am made to go first and open Garnet and don’t have a real play to make my first turn. He starts off with a monster and then flips Skill Drain when I try to make a push. I need to get to Dragonpit to out it. I stall for a couple of turns trying to draw into it, but when I’m unable to out the Skill Drain I lose the game.
Game 2: I remind myself that I’m supposed to lose games where I open Garnet and their Skill Drain goes unstopped. He goes first and starts with a monster, Kaiser Coliseum, and two sets. I activate Brilliant Fusion, dump Damage Juggler and search Plushfire. I play Plushfire, set a backrow, and use Storm to pop the Brilliant Fusion, Plushfire, and my set to destroy his Kaiser and two sets. I then OTK him.
Game 3: I open up strong with Wavering Eyes on Plushfires, then Pendulum them back. He tries to make a play, but when I have MST for his only set, he can’t stop my follow up push.
Game 4: I open strong with Luster Pendulum and Plushfire. He opens up with a strong hand and actually would have been able to do enough damage to FTK me, but as he’s going through his deck he gets a puzzled look on his face. “Side out the other level 4?” I ask, figuring that would be the only way he doesn’t kill me and realizing that that was probably the cause of his peculiar face. “I’ll admit, I did.” Thankfully for me he couldn’t push for enough damage since he had sided it out, but had he not he would have been able to push it to a game 5. The following turn I use removal on his backrow, Ignister his Dark Destroyer, then Castel his level 5 Kozmo, and finally make Trapeze to attack for game.
It sure does feel good to win again after an otherwise underwhelming year in comparison to the one I had last year. After having passed Adam in tops in Chicago last year, something I had been aspiring to do for as long as I could remember, I didn’t have the same drive to achieve success as I did while I was still trying to reach this goal. It took a year, but I finally found the fire again at the final event of 2015! Until next year, play hard or go home!