Where do I even begin? This weekend I won the ARG Circuit Series in Richmond, Virginia. This is my fourth premier event championship title, which ties me Lazaro Bellido, Michel Grüner, Fili Luna, and Vittorio Wiktor for the most wins in the history of the game. It’s very surreal as it was only a little more than a year ago that I was struggling to get my fourth top after bubbling out at virtually every event for the two years prior to that. It’s been a long journey, but words cannot express how happy I am that it’s come full circle. Today I’m going to write about my experience in Richmond this past weekend.
Before I begin I’d like to give a big congratulations to Peter Groß for becoming a three time YCS champion this weekend in Paris!
The YCS in Las Vegas was only two weeks ago. Before even leaving Sin City, I get a text from my teammate Tyree Tinsley talking about some ridiculous card that I presumed to have no release date in sight. As I’m sure you might guess, that card was Soul Charge and in fact there were less than two weeks until it was legal for tournament play.
As strange as it might sound, I initially thought the card would be good for the game. I’m sure that sounds ridiculous, as the card is one of, if not the, best cards ever printed. The reason I thought it might be good is that it gave the player who used it lots and lots of options. If both players have lots and lots of options available to them, it will be easy to mess up and it seems like an interaction that would favor the better player.
Historically this thought makes sense. All the perceived best formats in terms of skill had insanely powerful cards in them. Goat Control had [ccProd]Pot of Greed[/ccProd], [ccProd]Delinquent Duo[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Graceful Charity[/ccProd]. Tele-Dad used powerful Synchros and consistent [ccProd]Dark Armed Dragon[/ccProd] drops after drawing through their entire deck with loads of draw power. Plants had a wide array of options available to them with decision trees that were unmatched in terms of length. Dragon Rulers were the most powerful four cards ever printed. These formats were all perceived as some of the most skillful formats ever, despite having very broken cards defining them. There seems to be this common misconception out there that powerful cards make the format unskilled. History has shown that to not be the case.
Before I had a similar thought with [ccProd]Spellbook of Judgment[/ccProd]. The card gave you plenty to work with. So why did it not play out like this? Simply put, [ccProd]Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Jowgen the Spiritualist[/ccProd]. They allowed you to play with ten cards and virtually unlimited options, but then brought out a card that said your opponent was not allowed to do so back. This made me reconsider my position on [ccProd]Soul Charge[/ccProd]. I then thought that cards like [ccProd]Vanity’s Emptiness[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo[/ccProd] would come to define the Soul Charge format by having the same effect as Kycoo and Jowgen.
After evaluating what I thought the card would do to the game, the next move was to find out what deck could use it best. Whatever deck could most effectively use it would almost certainly be the correct choice to play in Virginia. Sure you could throw it in any deck and it would be powerful, but I wanted to find the most efficient use of the card.
My first thought was that whatever deck could best use Soul Charge would be a deck that could use it well if you drew it on the first turn. Sure, you could play it in a deck like Evilswarm or Geargia, but any time you draw it in the early stages of the game you’re not going to get any value out of it immediately.
The two decks that stuck out to me in this area were Mermails and Dragon Rulers. Mermails could discard monsters to fuel Pike, Megalo, or Teus in the early game and then bring the discarded monsters back to make powerful XYZ plays. Dragons could fuel Soul Charge early game by activating draw cards such as [ccProd]Cards of Consonance[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Trade-In[/ccProd] or even just using [ccProd]Dragon’s Shrine[/ccProd].
My next thought was that whatever deck could best utilize Soul Charge would have to be able to function well without a battle phase as that was the card’s primary restriction. This problem was two-fold.
The first problem concerning a lost battle phase is that even if you are able to establish yourself in a dominant position by playing the card, you cannot actually attack for game. This means that you’re going to have to have to be able to defend your field after you’ve setup. In an ideal world, you’d play your draw spells and draw into traps that would defend the field you make from your turn one Soul Charge. Joe Giorlando (who I was very happy to see make a return to competitive Yu-Gi-Oh this weekend!) once wrote an article where he made the statement “Not everything is perfect.” You can read the article by clicking here.
His claim is certainly true. You’re not going to always have draw cards, targets, Soul Charge, and traps. Often times it’s not going to work out like that and it’s very realistic to not have a trap card even when you can effectively Soul Charge to establish a field. Because of this, it seems that the deck that could best use Soul Charge would be a deck that could defend itself after establishing a board without having to actually draw traps in combination with Soul Charge. It seemed that Mermails would outclass Dragons in this respect as they have access to [ccProd]Mermail Abyssgaios[/ccProd], [ccProd]Abyss Dweller[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Number 106: Giant Hand[/ccProd] as defensive options that you don’t have to draw while Dragons can only make Felgrand to serve the same purpose. We’ll revisit Joe’s statement a bit later when it comes to actually building the deck.
The other issue that comes with losing the battle phase is picking a deck that can remove on the board threats without actually having to attack them. Here, Dragons are leagues ahead of Mermails. Mermails have access to [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd], [ccProd]Number 11: Big Eye[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Number 101: Silent Honor ARK[/ccProd] to deal with opposing monsters, but Dragons have Dracossack, Big Eye, [ccProd]Scrap Dragon[/ccProd], and most importantly Heliopolis.
Both Mermails and Dragons did all three things that I thought a deck that could best use Soul Charge should do. With less than two weeks to decide which was the better deck, I had to start testing immediately. I began by testing Mermails since I was already quite comfortable with them.
The results of the games were less than desirable. I played seven games against Dragon Rulers and only won a single one of them. Mermails proved to be extremely susceptible to both [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd] and Vanity’s Emptiness. Dragons were much stronger against those cards as they could often times stop if the opponent had Maxx “C.” If the opponent destroyed the monster the following turn, it usually wasn’t too big of a deal as you could just revive the Dragons. If the opponent used Maxx “C” against Mermails and the Mermail player was forced to stop, it was a much bigger deal. If the opponent could get over the Mermail player’s field, you couldn’t bring them back like you could with Dragons.
Dragon Rulers also supported [ccProd]Phoenix Wing Wind Blast[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Raigeki Break[/ccProd] in multiples. I consider these to be the best type of trap since you can draw them to an established field and they will be good or you can have them when you’re already winning and they will also be good. These cards are also excellent outs to Vanity’s Emptiness. The Mermail cannot use these cards effectively since they will often have to discard real cards whereas the Dragon player can discard Dragons and still make use of them.
After coming to this realization, I began heavily testing Dragon Rulers. I quickly realized a paradox that I thought hurt the deck. That is the paradox that is associated with the draw cards. In order to fuel the draw cards you have to play a higher number of tuners and bad draws such as [ccProd]Blue-Eyes White Dragon[/ccProd] than you would if you were not playing the draw cards. This leads back to Joe’s earlier statement as you’ll often draw tuners without draw cards or draw cards without tuners. This will create a fair amount of brick hands.
Just accepting this problem as one that cannot be solved is a quick way to find yourself in side events. Here is the deck list that I decided on for the event:
3 Maxx “C”
1 Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos
1 Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls
1 Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders
1 Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms
2 Mythic Water Dragon
1 Mythic Tree Dragon
1 Blue-Eyes White Dragon
1 White Stone of Legend
2 Flamvell Guard
1 Debris Dragon
3 Upstart Goblin
3 Soul Charge
3 Dragon’s Shrine
2 Cards of Consonance
1 Gold Sarcophagus
1 Foolish Burial
1 Sacred Sword of Seven Stars
1 Burial From the Different Dimension
3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
1 Torrential Tribute[/ccDeck]
2 Mecha-Phantom Beast Dracossack
1 Number 11: Big Eye
1 Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger
1 Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis
1 Divine Dragon Felgrand
1 Number 15: Gimmick Puppet Giant Grinder
1 Number 46: Dragluon
1 Star Eater
1 Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Stardust Spark Dragon
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Crimson Blader[/ccDeck]
[ccDeck="Side Deck"]2 Metaion the Time Lord
1 Swift Scarecrow
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 XYZ Encore
2 Black Horn of Heaven
2 Skill Drain
2 Vanity’s Emptiness
1 Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccDeck]
Card Choices Explained
The conclusion that I came to about the draw card paradox can be better explained by expanding on the paradox more. Drawing brick hands in the early game is more common when you draw tuners or Blue-Eyes without the draw cards than it is with drawing draw cards without targets. This is because you can search your deck for targets with cards like Dragon’s Shrine or Dragon Rulers and make the draw cards live. If you have multiple tuners in the early game, you’re not going to have fuel to summon Dragon Rulers with, you’re going to be limited by only being able to summon one of the tuners per turn, and you’re going to quickly fall behind.
Draw cards weren’t actually dead very often, they were just often sub par. It’s rarely ideal to banish a Dragon Ruler to make a draw card live and have a shot at two random cards. You’re going to see this happening more often in the mid to late game stages where you’ll draw them without targets.
I tried all sorts of different ratios over the past couple weeks and I realized that the deck was simply not powerful enough if you cut the draw cards altogether. It wouldn’t have a reliable way out of the early game. I decided that I would use the number of targets for the draw cards, without actually cutting the draw cards themselves.
My reasoning for this was that Dragon’s have a strong mid to late game already. Cutting draw cards would only improve this area. It seemed unnecessary since Dragons were already good enough here. I’d take drawing a dead Cards of Consonance every now and then in the late game because I could just revive Dragons to compensate as long as I was able to make it to the late game. I thought that getting out of the early game was going to be the most important aspect.
Playing[ccProd]Sacred Sword of Seven Stars[/ccProd] was an extension of this. I quickly realized that Dragon Rulers were generally brick cards in the opening hand too and playing Sacred Sword can help correct for this. You also don’t usually need all four Dragon Rulers to win. It’s very rare that you’ll have enough Dragons in your graveyard to summon all of them in the same turn. This was magnified by Soul Charge as you did not have to banish dragons to summon Dragon Rulers.
The last thing I did to make sure I could get out of the early game was include three [ccProd]Kuribandit[/ccProd] in my deck. He does well to fix sub par hands. If you have Soul Charge in your opening hand, there’s the possibility of milling monsters or Shrine to make it live. If you have too many monsters in your hand, it can get you to draw cards to make sure you don’t get stuck. There’s also the possibility of milling Dragon Rulers themselves off of his effect.
The next group of cards that I want to talk about are the Mythics. I chose the ratio of two [ccProd]Mythic Water Dragon[/ccProd] and one [ccProd]Mythic Tree Dragon[/ccProd] because of the synergy they have with the rest of the deck. Mythic Tree Dragon has very little synergy and making a rank 7 with[ccProd] Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls[/ccProd] doesn’t make up for that. He contributes to the tuner problem since he is a normal summon, he requires a specific card to be used in conjunction when the deck is not a combo deck, and he does not fuel any of the draw cards. Mythic Water Dragon, on the other hand, works in conjunction with [ccProd]Trade-In[/ccProd], can be used with [ccProd]Scrap Dragon[/ccProd], and doesn’t contribute to the problem of too many normal summons.
Speaking of Dragons not being a combo deck, I’d like to speak about [ccProd]Reckless Greed[/ccProd]. Reckless is only good in combo decks. I’ve said plenty of times in the past that it is not good outside of combo decks as you’ll just draw into trap cards, which don’t contribute, to your game plan.
Finally I’ll talk about the defensive cards that I played. Non-combo decks have an ideal number of traps that are higher than combo decks. I played eight cards that would defend me. It seemed to me that both Maxx “C” and Vanity’s Emptiness would be staple in Dragon decks. If the format continued to progress with no other cards being released, I’d imagine this would wind up being the case as these cards have a lot of merit in the mirror, however I don’t that’s the right way to approach the event as a whole. While I firmly believe that Dragon Rulers are the best deck in this format, I acknowledged that most would not come to this conclusion quite as quickly as I had and that I would play plenty of other decks along the way. Because of this, I chose to only include one of them and not both. I chose Maxx “C” instead of Emptiness because it fuels [ccProd]Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders[/ccProd]. I’d like to point out that both decks in the finals only mained one or the other and not both.
My next debate was over Phoenix Wing Wind Blast or Raigeki Break. I knew I wanted to max out on whichever I used. Phoenix Wing was better in the mirror match as it could out Spark Emptiness and cut them off from colors, but Raigeki Break was better against pretty much every other deck. I decided that since Dragons were better than every other deck, it was worth giving up the small advantage in other matchups to have that extra advantage in the mirror by playing Wing Blast.
The extra deck was very open. I only considered twelve of the cards necessary. I decided that it would be best to devote the remaining three spots to cards that could give me an advantage in the mirror match and steal games. I chose Grinder, Dragluon, and Gaia, all to do major damage after they had played a Soul Charge.
My primary concern in the side deck was insuring that I could use my deck and not be cut off by floodgate cards. Metaion had a double purpose of outing Ophion and beating massive Soul Charge plays.
The week before Virginia was my last week of class before finals began. The Tuesday before the event I went to locals and played Mythics just to get the best understanding of the deck I could. My friend Desmond Johnson came back to UGA with me so that we could spend some extra time play testing and discussing the deck. A lot of what I spoke about in the previous section was heavily influenced by Desmond.
We made a great deal of progress in the couple of days that we had and learned a lot. Wednesday night I stayed up all night studying for my last test in Ecology. Thursday after I had taken the test we called my local to see if we could buy cards from Dragons of Legend. They said that they’d sell them to us if we waited until after midnight and that they weren’t allowed to before that. Having to wait until midnight was not exactly what I wanted to hear after not sleeping the night before, but we managed. We left Athens a little after 10 and got to my local around 11:30. We played a couple of games and waited until midnight to get the cards. After that we drove another hour to the Leverett’s house. We were going to leave from there to go to Virginia in the morning.
Morning is nothing more than an optimistic interpretation of the truth and we didn’t actually end up leaving until about 2 pm. It was about a nine hour drive up to Virginia from Atlanta, but we didn’t end up arriving until about midnight after all the stops we made along the way.
This car ride was a bit of a deviation from our norm of watching House of Cards as the end of the semester was quickly approaching and I had a paper due the Monday after Virginia. I spent the vast majority of the car ride articulating the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College and analyzing the main plan for its reform. When we got there, we spent a little bit of time discussing card choices before calling it a night.
The next morning came too soon, but it didn’t take long to get pumped and in the mood to duel. We all showered and headed over to the convention center. I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a really long time such as Seth McPherson and Joe Giorlando. We didn’t actually have that much time to get registered, make final deck choices, and re-sleeve.
Shortly before round one I was paged to the scorekeeper’s stage where Jim told me that I was going to have a feature match that used Google Glass to capture the game from my perspective. Almost immediately after this, the announcement that pairings for the first round were up.
You can check out the Google Glass feature match by clicking here!
Game 1: I won the dice roll, but started pretty weak. He started with [ccProd]Bujin Yamato[/ccProd] and four sets. I set Guard the following turn as my hand didn’t have any synergy even after seeing the 7th card. The next turn I used Tidal discarding Mythic Water to get things going. I attempted to play Soul Charge, but was stopped by Solemn Warning. Next turn I used Kuribandit which hit a [ccProd]Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos[/ccProd], White Stone, and taking Cards of Consonance which was very strong. I used Debris to get back a tuner and made [ccProd]Colossal Fighter[/ccProd]. Colossal ran into a [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd]. In main phase 2 I used the Debris to make [ccProd]Star Eater[/ccProd]. He’s just drawing and searching off Yamato every turn. The next turn I try to use Mythics to make Heliopolis, but he uses [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] on Tree when Water Dragon is summoned. I try to use Phoenix Wing, but it is stopped by [ccProd]Wiretap[/ccProd]. Since he messed up and did it on the Dragon’s summon instead of the effect, I try to use a second Wing Blast, but he uses a second Fiendish. I decide its time to start forcing [ccProd]Bujingi Crane[/ccProd]s so I attack Yamato with Star Eater. I attack with Blaster and he uses Mirror Force. He summons a second monster and I Maxx “C.” He just passes. Next turn I don’t draw into a follow up and the game quickly spirals out of my control.
Game 2: The first game had taken quite a while and I was able to take a early lead and overwhelm him. I suggest that he should concede if he knows he can’t win this game so that we don’t draw and he agrees.
Game 1: He got a first turn [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] and I couldn’t play. I had one play where I went Wing Blast to spin Necrovalley and use Soul Charge to try to get ahead, but he used Black Horn to stop my Heliopolis and I couldn’t put up enough that turn to take the game.
Game 2: I side in the MSTs to deal with Necrovalley and Bottomless as generic defense to help replace Maxx “C.” Between the Wing Blasts and MSTs, Necrovalley was no longer a problem and my deck was able to function normally.
Game 3: It was very similar to game 2. Realistically, that’s how matchups such as these go. They’ll often have an advantage the first game because they are playing cards that say that you can’t play, but once you side cards that allow you to play, you’re still playing the stronger deck and you’ll easily take the sided games. Here, I resolve a big Soul Charge for 5 early on which sets me up with a great field. I have both Dracossack and Scrap Dragon to continuously pop his cards and take control of the game. When he finally has no sets thanks to them, I use Wing Blast on his monster to attack for game.
Game 1: I’ve had a fair amount of experience with this version of Lightsworn. He was playing the build with Diablos, Wyvern, and Dragon Rulers. It’s very scary because its nearly impossible to stop when it can get out of the early game. Unfortunately it struggles a great deal with that task and this was one of those games. He ends up having to banish Dragons from hand to make a Big Eye play, only to be stopped by a single trap.
Game 2: I debate siding in [ccProd]Skill Drain[/ccProd] to stop the milling, but decide he has plenty of high attack beaters and that it could easily backfire. I said that if I were going first I’d reconsider. At some point when I’m siding for this game, Frazier Smith, who was sitting next to me, takes a break from making [ccProd]Shooting Quasar Dragon[/ccProd] to take a selfie with me.
In the actual game, he starts out relatively strong with [ccProd]Charge of the Light Brigade[/ccProd]. In that deck, you’d rather open Charge than any other card as it almost certainly gets you out of the early game. He takes [ccProd]Lumina, Lightsworn Summoner[/ccProd] but then sets a monster. I find it unlikely that this was correct as the deck can’t lose once it mills enough. He had milled a [ccProd]Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress[/ccProd] off of Charge, so if he had instead summoned Lumina he could have been 6 cards deeper in his deck. I’d take the guaranteed mills while I could if I were him. I use a draw spell or two and make Stardust to attack his set [ccProd]Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter[/ccProd]. He messes up and uses the effect to target Stardust. Since I negated it, he was unable to mill. He could have instead opted to not destroy anything and only mill. He had also milled a [ccProd]Breakthrough Skill[/ccProd] off of Charge which he used to negate Stardust. He summoned Lumina and discard Wyvern in an attempt to get back Lyla. I Wing Blasted the Lumina in response since the newest text says it has to remain face up to resolve its effect. He searched off Wyvern and passed. The next turn I used Soul Charge and made Azure Eyes and Stardust Spark. You could tell he was in a bad position and just summoned a Lightsworn to mill. I used Azure Eyes to bring back Guard. I banished Tidal for a Dragon and searched Water Dragon. The Dragon and Guard became Scrap Dragon. Scrap killed his Lightsworn and I specialed Mythic Water and made Felgrand. Scrap, Felgrand, Stardust, and Stardust Spark attacked to take out all 10,000 of his life points. He tried to use [ccProd]Swift Scarecrow[/ccProd] to stop it, but Felgrand made my monster unaffected and the attacks continued.
Game 1: He won the dice roll and started with [ccProd]Evilswarm Thunderbird[/ccProd] and four or five set cards. The probability of opening [ccProd]Evilswarm Ophion[/ccProd] is roughly 2/3 games. Thankfully this was one of them and he didn’t get to a monster over the next several turns. We were playing Dragons vs. backrow here and Dragons almost always win out. Soul Charge sealed the game for me.
Game 2: It’s very difficult to lose any match to an anti-meta deck when you win game 1. This game I had Encore to stop Ophion and MST on the Evilswarm trap to stop his follow up plays.
Game 1: My opponent and I got deck checked this round. They were gone a full 13 minutes and an average deck check is supposed to take 7. This almost certainly meant that something was wrong with one of our decks. Unfortunately for my opponent, he had left Dark Hole in his main deck from the round before and had 14 cards in his side deck so he was issued a game loss.
Game 2: We weren’t allowed to side and he began. He started with Yamato and 3 sets. I started with several draw cards and then Soul Charge. I made Heliopolis which tribute 3 monsters to destroy all of his sets since he chained Hare to Yamato. I destroyed 2 MST and a [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd]. He couldn’t recover at this point and I won quickly from there.
Vs Corey Roca, Evilswarm
Game 1: I have played Corey at two events before this. He beat me at the WCQ last year and I beat him in Nashville this year so you could say we have a friendly rivalry developing. Evilswarm did its thing and locked me out of the first game, just as it is expected to.
Game 2: I have the outs to Ophion and make Felgrand. None of his XYZs were outs to Felgrand and he tries to Book Felgrand and then Cowboy it, but that didn’t work, as Felgrand is unaffected so he wouldn’t lose attack from [ccProd]Gagaga Cowboy[/ccProd]. After realizing he couldn’t do this he used the effect on my Tempest, but realized it was pointless to keep going.
Game 3: This game was very intricate. Mid game I used Kuribandit to take MST. The following turn he made Key Beetle and protected one of his sets. I naturally assumed it to be Vanity’s Emptiness. I drew a second MST. I had Metaion, but thought of a better out. I summoned a Dragon and he flipped Emptiness. Then I used Encore to return Key Beetle to the extra deck. Since the return and special effect of Encore are separate, it’s legal to play Encore with Emptiness up. After I forced the Emptiness and dealt with Key Beetle I used MST on one of his two sets. I had a read about which was Pandemic, even though he hadn’t searched one. I hit the other one and it was Warning. Just to be safe I used MST on the other and it was Pandemic. I then summoned Tree and Water and made Felgrand that he couldn’t out the rest of the game.
Corey went on to make top 4 at this event so a big congratulations to him!
Game 1: This was a feature match on the live stream. He won the dice roll and started with a set monster and four backrow. I knew he was playing Geargia already since I had seen him play. I summoned a Dragon to attack Armor which got him [ccProd]Geargiaccelerator[/ccProd]. I used Kuribandit and in the end phase he used [ccProd]Geargiagear[/ccProd]. I couldn’t keep up with the constant Geargia monsters and infinite backrow and lost control of the game quickly.
Game 2: He didn’t have much going for him this game. He started with a set monster that ended up being [ccProd]Geargiano MK-II[/ccProd] instead of Armor. My hand was pretty weak as well and I had to just pass without any real pushes for a couple of turns while he poked away with MK-II. When I finally managed to get something going he had [ccProd]Soul Drain[/ccProd] to keep me out of the game. I summoned Mythic Tree and he flipped Vanity’s. I stalled out for as long as I possibly could and ended up going through 30 cards in my deck with all 3 MSTs being in the last 10 cards so I ended up losing.
Game 1: I thought that my opening hand was pretty strong, but he had the counter hand. He had Yamato and [ccProd]Kaiser Colosseum[/ccProd]. When I Wing Blasted the Kaiser, he had Vanity’s for my Soul Charge and the game was over.
Game 2: My opening hand wasn’t particularly good. I started with Cards of Consonance, but drew into Blue-Eyes. Fortunately the game progressed naturally, and with it came the outs to his floodgate cards which let me use Soul Charge to put myself in a dominant position.
Game 3: He started this game off with Yamato, Kaiser, and a set. I passed for a couple of turns as I struggled to get out of the early game and knew I wasn’t on any real clock. After a couple of turns I drew into Kuribandit. I used it and hit 5 monsters, none of which were Dragon Rulers. I had played 2 [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd] so he was at 10,000. There came a point where I had MST and 2 Phoenix Wings set to his same setup of Kaiser, Yamato, backrow. If I drew any dragon, not even Dragon Ruler, I could kill him through that, Cranes, Hare, and Turtle. I’d go MST the set, PWWB the Yamato, after the [ccProd]Bujingi Turtle[/ccProd], use another PWWB and then summon all my monsters for game. Unfortunately I was one dragon to banish short and did not draw the dragon. The next turn I had another opportunity to draw a dragon to still kill him, but missed again. The turn after he sent a second Turtle to the grave and the game quickly spiraled out of my control and the damage from Yamato was becoming too real.
Vs Sean McCabe
McCabe is a friend of mine and a great player who is also a Circuit Series champion. When we saw the pairings he came up to me saying that he wasn’t sure that he could make it and that he’d just give me the win if the standings confirmed his suspicions. After looking at the standings I was the highest x-2 and he was 32nd and didn’t have a real chance at making Top 16. Rather than knock me out and still not make it himself, he just conceded.
I’m very grateful to McCabe for doing that for me. It should be noted that it’s perfectly legal to give someone the win.
While I knew I was the highest x-2 going into the round, I was still concerned that I might not make it. Fortunately I did and placed 15th after swiss. They called the Top 16 over to fill out paperwork. Desmond also made the top cut so I was happy for him as well. When we were done, Desmond, the Leveretts, and I all went out to eat at Longhorns before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday morning we woke up, got showered, grabbed some breakfast and headed over to the event hall. When we arrived we had to turn in our decks for a deck check. The last round yesterday, the Geargia player that beat me and a Ghostrick player were playing and eventually tied. The Ghostrick player had a loss, but the Geargia player did not coming into that round. 15th place plays 2nd place, so I had assumed the Ghostrick player finished 2nd, but never actually looked at the standings. I didn’t know anything about Ghostricks, so I spent the vast majority of my morning learning as much as I could about them.
As it turns out, the Ghostrick player did not finish 2nd. I’m not really sure what made me assume he would have as there were plenty of x-1-1s in top cut, but I only learned that I was actually playing against Mermails in Top 16 about five minutes before our match. I used those five minutes to read over his deck list.
Game 1: We had a feature match on the live stream this round. This game, he won the dice roll, but started off pretty weak and just had a couple of sets. My opening six cards had no synergy and I just passed without playing a card. He summoned [ccProd]Mermail Abysslinde[/ccProd] and attacked and set another backrow. When I tried to make a play, he flipped Vanity’s Emptiness. He spent the next couple of turns attacking me with Linde. I think at some point he should have applied extra pressure as attacking me was only giving me extra turns to draw into Phoenix Wing. Regardless, I never drew it and he ended up taking the first game.
Game 2: I started out strong with a couple of draw cards and summoned a Dragon. I also used Kuribandit to take an MST. I had Skill Drain when the Dragon tried to return to my hand, which let me take control of the game. At some point, he flipped Reckless and set 2 more cards. I used the MST on one of the new ones because he didn’t have very many cards in hand and Mermails are a combo deck so they struggle in simplified game states. I hit an [ccProd]Abyss-sphere[/ccProd]. I tried to summon back a Dragon and he used [ccProd]Debunk[/ccProd]. After that resolved he flipped [ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall[/ccProd], but he still couldn’t draw so my on field Dragon and Drain were enough to take the game.
Game 3: He started out with a very strong hand of [ccProd]Mermail Abyssteus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mermail Abyssgunde[/ccProd], [ccProd]Genex Undine[/ccProd], Emptiness, [ccProd]Mermail Abysspike[/ccProd], and another Water monster. He did the [ccProd]Mermail Abyssteus[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Mermail Abysshilde[/ccProd] combo, but used Pike to discard Gunde and add [ccProd]Atlantean Marksman[/ccProd]. Gunde brought him back Teus. He ended with Teus, [ccProd]Bahamaut Shark[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mermail Abysstrite[/ccProd], Angineer, with Emptiness set and Marksman and Undine in hand. Some would argue that he should have made Gaios by going into Lavalval Chain instead of Bahamaut. I don’t think so since he had access to Tidal anyway with Undine as a follow up play, but I would not have used the Gunde and instead tried to keep it for Trite. My opening five cards were terrible. They consisted of Typhoon, Mythic Tree Dragon, [ccProd]Flamvell Guard[/ccProd], and two other cards without any synergy. My sixth card was thankfully Cards of Consonance. This let me really get going. I ended up getting to Shrine and Soul Charge. After MSTing Emptiness, I then used the Soul Charge and put up Scrap, Blue Eyes, and a couple other monsters. I used Scrap to pop his Trite and he brought back a level 4. He didn’t use Angineer here, so I made Felgrand. I then made Heliopolis and tribute everything but Felgrand to kill his Bahamaut, level 4 Mermail, and Teus, negating his Angineer with Felgrand. I passed and he summoned Undine to send Tidal. I seriously considered using Felgrand to stop him from getting Controller as Leo could pose a threat, but opted not to as I had access to[ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd] the next turn. He set a new card which I had to hope was not defensive. It became obvious it was a Sphere and Crimson Blader connected. When it did, I knew I was far enough ahead that he could not make a comeback.
Vs. Desmond Johnson, Dragon Rulers
Game 1: I thought it was pretty cool that Desmond and I had worked on our decks together and we had made it all the way to Top 8. We got the Google Glass feature match for this round. He won the dice roll and started with several draw cards, but didn’t actually end up getting anywhere. My opening six cards didn’t do much for me, but my seventh got me a draw card into another draw card. I had double Maxx “C” and used the first one almost immediately. I had something like 9 cards left in deck and when I played the second Maxx “C” he knew his only win condition was to try and deck me out. He started his play by making [ccProd]Stardust Dragon[/ccProd]. He then used Soul Charge. I had 3 sets, [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], Phoenix Wing, and a spell. I had two options here, I could either chain Wing Blast to Stardust in response to Soul Drain and then Torrential his field or I could not and Wing Blast later in the play, hoping to hit a crucial enough monster that he couldn’t special summon enough times. They both seemed risky. The first play was risky because he had two sets of his own. If in response to my Pwwb, he used a Pwwb of his own to take a 50 50 shot at hitting my Torrential, I’d lose if he picked correctly. The second play was risky as he still had one Dragon Ruler left in deck. If it ended up being in his hand or was drawn off a draw card that turn, he’d have enough Dragons to deck me out no matter what I used Wing Blast on later in the play. Something he said made me think he didn’t have Wing Blast of his own set, so I opted for the first choice. I was right and he couldn’t deck me out after running into Torrential and he scooped.
Game 2: He started with Dragon’s Shrine into Soul Charge to make Stardust Spark. I summoned a Dragon and he used Maxx “C.” I knew he’d win if I stopped, so I made Scrap Dragon, specialed Water Dragon, and made Dragluon to take his Stardust Spark. They both attacked and left him at 500 and I set my Emptiness, which he couldn’t out . I knew this would be particularly strong against Desmond as we discussed not siding Metaion in the mirror when we were going first and since he was so low, he’d have to have two defensive traps to stop my attacks the following turn.
Game 1: My hand was pretty strong and I started with access to all my colors. I knew he mained 3 Black Horn of Heaven, so I wanted to go ahead and put a monster on the board the first turn. I thought Scrap was best as doing it could leave me a Felgrand play as a follow up next turn. He just set a monster and set a backrow, which turned out to be Compulsory for my Scrap Dragon when I drew. His hand was still filled with normal summons and he couldn’t get anything going so I took control of the game.
Game 2: He started out with some backrow so his hand wasn’t particularly strong. His seventh card, however, was [ccProd]Geargiagear[/ccProd] which got him in the game. He ended up making [ccProd]Gear Gigant X[/ccProd], Honor ARK to take my [ccProd]Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ghostrick Alucard[/ccProd] to try and pop my backrow, which was MST that I chained to his MST. I was very low after that turn, but he had all his cards on the field. I made Gimmick Puppet next turn to destroy Gear Gigant. This made it miss timing since the burn damage was the last thing to happen. I then used it on Honor ARK to get my Tempest back. I revived Tempest and killed ARK. This put me in control and even though the game continued for several more turns, I never lost it.
Game 1: Alyx is a good friend of mine who has been really making quite a showing for himself lately. This is his fourth premier event top and he was now in the finals. I had no intention of letting him make it any further than that though! This match would be best 3/5. This game became extremely complicated very quickly. He started things off with [ccProd]Card Trooper[/ccProd] milling a Blaster. I summoned Kuribandit and tried to attack it to which he used PWWB. I couldn’t give up another turn to Kuribandit before getting things going while he was just milling with Trooper, so I activated [ccProd]Foolish Burial[/ccProd] to not have to redraw him. Had he not used Wing Blast, I wouldn’t have used Foolish that turn so I could keep the greatest number of Dragons in my deck to mill off of Kuribandit. He didn’t mill any monsters off Trooper the next turn, and the game proceeded to go back and forth. He milled a [ccProd]White Stone of Legend[/ccProd] off of Trooper which made his Trade-In live. There came a point in the game where I had one set, a Dragon’s Shrine that I set to hope that he would not try to kill me through Maxx “C” since he knew I didn’t play Scarecrow in the main. He could have summoned back Dragons and pushed for game with enough damage that even if my set was Wing Blast, he would have won that turn. Fortunately for me, he decided to use Soul Charge instead. I used Maxx “C” and now he had to keep going quite a bit. He made Azure and Scrap Dragon to kill my Mythic Tree Dragon that was sitting on the board after he had flipped Emptiness the previous turn on his summon. I now had a fresh hand thanks to Maxx “C.” I used Debris to get back a tuner and made Star Eater and Colossal. Star Eater killed Azure and Colossal crashed with Scrap and then hit directly. I messed up by setting three backrow, only one of which was real. I should have just set two so I had a better discard for PWWB. Next turn he summoned Blaster, banishing Tempest and searching Debris. He summoned Debris and got back Trooper. I used Wing Blast to return Debris. He used Redox to get back Scrap Dragon and pop the Trooper and redraw Debris. He set a backrow and passed. I made Big Eye to take Scrap Dragon. Scrap Dragon popped Big Eye and his set which was Wing Blast that he used to return my Colossal. I used Soul Charge and brought back Dragons to make double Dracossack and set Torrential. He summoned Debris and attacked both tokens and made [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd]. Then he brought back Dragons and made Dracossack. The next turn I had 2100 life points and another Soul Charge, but was out of rank 7s. I had Dragon’s Shrine to send White Stone as I didn’t have any Tuners in my graveyard if I didn’t. The only other monster in my deck was Mythic Water Dragon. I had dozens of options available to me so it took quite a while to think through them, but eventually I came to the conclusion that I did not have a play that wasn’t simply beaten by a Big Eye and the most damage I could do was 2800 when he had 3200 left and eventually scooped. I still debate whether or not I should have set Torrential when I made the double Dracossack field. I ended up losing it to Black Rose, but if I don’t set it, he has the possibility of making Big Eye which would leave my Torrential useless. I’m not entirely sure whether setting it was correct, or if setting one of the other spells in my hand to hopefully force him into the play he made and allow me to keep my Torrential was correct. The answer is routed in what he would have done, the question is which of his plays was he more likely to do?
Game 2: I started out with not much going. He started with Shrine into Blaster. The next turn he had another Shrine to send Redox. He summoned Redox and banished Blaster to search Guard and I had Bottomless for Redox. Next turn he had Gold Sarcophagus to get Tidal and Water Dragon. At some point he got Burial to get his banished Dragons back online. I set up a Stardust Spark and Vanity’s Emptiness play. He sets a monster and a couple of backrow. Him setting a monster told me he didn’t have an out to it. When I tried to attack he asked me if I had anything before damage step. This made me think he was trying to get me to use Spark on itself to play around a potential Fossil Dyna. I knew he didn’t have Fossil Dyna in his side deck though, so I didn’t do it. What him asking me this question told me, was that one of his sets was MST and that if he could get me to protect Spark, he’d have the out to Vanity’s. Over the next couple of turns, there were a couple of cards I could have played such as Upstart and Foolish Burial that had he not asked me this question I might have played and tried to protect Emptiness, but since I could tell he had MST, I just didn’t use them. He ended up taking some damage off of the Spark before drawing Wing Blast to out it. He then used the MST on one of my other sets, an Upstart that I had set because I had 6 cards in hand, and killed the Emptiness. He made Spark with an Emptiness of his own, but my other set was Wing Blast for the Emptiness. This let me make Dragluon and take his Spark Dragon and attack for game with it.
Game 3: I had Blaster to attack for some early damage. At some point, he used Soul Charge to make double Dracossack and got two tokens. I used my own Soul Charge and the last card in his hand was Maxx “C.” I made Heliopolis and used its effect to kill the two tokens. I then made Grinder Golem to pop the two Dracossacks for enough burn damage to win the game.
Game 4: I started out much stronger than he did with a couple of draw cards. He summoned a Dragon and I used Maxx “C.” I think it is almost always correct to use Maxx “C” on the first thing in this format as you don’t want them making a board and having an Emptiness with it while you’re stuck with Maxx “C.” As it turns out, he had the Emptiness so he gave me the extra draw to make Spark. The next turn I tried to summon a Dragon to force Emptiness and he used it. I summoned Metaion to out the Spark and passed. We drew and passed with Emptiness on the field for a while. At some point I used PWWB on the Emptiness to push with Blaster, which had had Maxx “C” for. He made a play with Soul Charge that left him at 400 life points with a Spark, Water Dragon, and four backrow including the redrawn Emptiness. I tried to summon back Blaster and he flipped Emptiness. I flipped Wing Blast on the Emptiness and specialed my Dragon. I went into Heliopolis. I had a Dragon, Heliopolis, Burial, and Maxx “C” in hand. I knew if he had Torrential or Wing Blast he’d have to do it on Heliopolis’ summon. Since he didn’t, I used Burial and summoned back another dragon without fear. I used Heliopolis and he chained Spark on Water Dragon hoping I would just kill Spark with Heliopolis, but because he was at 400 that wasn’t going to happen. I tribute the two Dragons and the Maxx “C” to clear all of his sets and attack over Spark Dragon with Heliopolis.
The final match had taken well over two hours, but at the end of it I was now a four time champion. It’s absolutely crazy to think about my last year in this game. Tying for the most wins in the history of the game is extremely satisfying, but I’m still looking for that number 1 spot in terms of overall tops. I currently have 16, which is the 8th most. The most is Adam Corn with 23. The desire to pass him is what keeps me driven and still playing on such a high level.
I really want to thank everybody who helped me get to this point. I’d like to thank the Leveretts for allowing me to travel with them, Desmond for helping me with the deck, ARG for putting on another excellent and quality event, everybody who has taken the time to read this, and countless other people who have helped me grow and develop as a player on my journey to become the best. Until next time, play hard or go home!