This past weekend the Yu-Gi-Oh Championship Series made its only North American stop of the format in Toronto, Canada. The usual suspects and I made the trip up north to compete in the tournament and when all was said and done, I was now a YCS Champion. This was sharp contrast as to how I had been doing at other events this format in that I hadn’t managed to top a premier event since the World Championship Qualifier in July. It is an honor to be able to share my experience from this weekend with such a wide and captive audience. Today I’m happy to bring you a tournament report that includes my preparation, deck selection, thoughts on the newest draft format, and of course, a round-by-round review of my rounds.
Before we start off, I’d like to send my sincerest congratulations to Joshua Schmidt for winning the YCS that was taking place simultaneously in Madrid, Spain. Josh has been extremely consistent in topping YCSs on the European circuit, but until this weekend the win had eluded him. He is an excellent player and is absolutely deserving of his success.
Last week I wrote an article talking about the problems I found in Shaddolls, but I still chose to play the deck at the YCS this past weekend. The article wasn’t an attempt to throw people off the deck or anything, just the first step in the deckbuilding process. All the problems I talked about in the article are problems in the conventional Shaddoll build. I came to the conclusion that almost all of the deck’s problems could be solved with the inclusion of one thing; Lightsworn.
One problem I talked about was a lack of auto wins and the deck having a bad Soul Charge. It seemed to me that Soul Charge is the best card in the game, therefore the best deck should be able to fully take advantage of the maximum amount of Soul Charges. In the standard build, if you were to Soul Charge, you’d wind up with an awkward field of mismatched levels that had trouble dealing with established fields and couldn’t create any defense. Lightsworn gave you the ability to make level 4 the primary focus of the deck which resulted in less awkward Soul Charges. Lightsworn also inherently fuel Soul Charge.
I only wanted to use Lightsworn that could actually do things without relying heavily on other cards and could be beneficial during my main phase. If I had to wait until my end phase for a Lightsworn to hopefully mill a Shaddoll monster, I’d waste my entire turn. I started out by playing Raiden, Lyla, Lumina, Charge, and Solar Recharge.
I was very back and forth on Solar Recharge. On one hand, it gave me the ability to blow my opponent out. I could set up my graveyard, get deeper into my deck, and potentially mill Shaddolls to put me even further ahead, but on the other hand, it was dead a great deal of the time.
Lumina quickly proved to be the weakest card in the engine. I often would have to use my normal summon on something else and it would sit in my hand for turns before I could effectively use it. It also relied on having a Lightsworn already in grave, which significantly weakened the early game of the deck. Lumina was also vulnerable to Vanity’s Emptiness, a format defining card that dictated several choices in the deck to make my deck as strong as possible against that card since almost every deck was playing a full three copies of it.
Lyla gave me a reliable answer to Vanity’s Emptiness. It also allowed for autowins to take place when I went second with the deck. One common scenario where Lyla shined in particular was first turn when I was going second. They’d start out with 5 cards and I’d summon Lyla and pop a backrow. They’d go down to just 4 cards, while I still had 6. Then if I milled a Shaddoll in the end phase, I’d go up to 7 and it’d be extremely difficult for the opponent to come back while drawing to only 5 cards.
The absolute best part of Lyla was that it gave me an out to Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror in games 2 and 3. Sure, I can use MST on a Mirror, but often times that’s not enough as you won’t always see it early enough if you only have three. Lyla gave me additional outs to Shadow-Imprisoning, but it also did something MST couldn’t; it added to the engine. The traditional build of Shaddolls is a controlling grind deck, but my build takes more of a combo approach. If I have a card like MST in my hand, I’ve only got 4-5 cards, depending on whether I went first or second, that could further my combos. Lyla served the same purpose as MST, but also fueled the engine by potentially milling Shaddolls.
Raiden opened up a new realm of possibilities for the deck. The deck already had a tuner with Falco, but the level was incredibly awkward if you were trying to make any powerful synchros. Raiden, being a level 4, worked great with Squamata and Dragon by giving me access to level 8 Synchros or rank 4s with Soul Charge. It also gave me a great first turn play as he could easily turn into a plus 1.
Another one of the problems I found with Shaddolls was that it had lots of trouble dealing enough damage to the opponent to actually kill them. In the standard build, White and Black Dragon just seem out of place, but helped put pressure on the opponent. Making a Goyo was pretty underwhelming and using them to make a rank 4 was just subpar. They also made a lot of your hands worse since the Black Dragon could be dead a lot. In my build, Lightsworns quickly made the Dragons live. Being able to consistently drop them was appealing as they did help pressure the opponent.
Raiden took their utility to the next level and made them truly amazing. I could make level 8 synchros completely for free. This is part of the reason I maxed out on Vanity’s Emptiness. On the surface, this card didn’t seem to me like a card that should be played at 3. You don’t really want to draw multiple copies, it doesn’t do anything by itself in that you need a field for it to be good, and if your opponent already had a field then drawing it isn’t going to get you out of the situation. Despite these downsides, I thought it’d be a two of because of the sheer power of the card. I changed my mind on this when I realized exactly how easy it was to make Stardust Spark Dragon when playing both Raiden and the Dragons and wound up playing a full 3 copies.
Another problem I found was the deck’s inherently bad late game as you’d run out of Shaddolls and then your plays would be severely limited. Lightsworns giving the deck a stronger Soul Charge definitely increased this deck’s late game ability, but I wanted to go a little further. The Lightsworns gave me the ability to support Black Luster Soldier and Chaos Sorcerer, two cards that greatly increase the deck’s late game performance.
Since just about everyone was maxing out on Vanity’s Emptiness, I wanted to make my deck as strong as possible against that card. Black Luster and Chaos Sorcerer are strong against Emptiness since most people will wait to use Vanity’s Emptiness on something like Soul Charge or Shaddoll Fusion. Since they are both inherent, they can’t be stopped by Emptiness unless it is already face up. Once I summon a Chaos monster, I could freely play Fusion or Soul Charge as Luster and Sorcerer could easily get it off the field.
The absolute best card in the deck is Super Polymerization. The top three decks of the format are Shaddolls, Burning Abyss, and Satellaknights, all of which Super Polymerization is very strong against. It does everything you could possibly want. It can act as a defensive card when used with any Shaddoll monster and when used with a Light monster, it will further my game plan by summoning Construct to keep going. It also lets me play around a set Vanity’s since I can summon a Shaddoll and either Super Polymerization to summon Construct and pop a potential Emptiness with Dragon, or I can use Fusion to Force Emptiness and chain Super Polymerization to it.
Most builds have placed lots of importance on Shaddoll Fusion. This leads them to play 3 Shaddoll Hedgehog so that they can make sure they have the best chance of getting to Fusion. The problem is that you don’t want Hedgehog’s flip effect after you already have Fusion (at least for the most part) and Hedgehog has the worst sent to grave effect as all the Shaddolls are pretty underwhelming monsters and adding them to your hand doesn’t actually do much if you’re not going to fuse with them. Since my build had the ability to consistently drop Synchros with Black and White Dragon and control the game with Chaos monsters, I didn’t feel like I relied on Shaddoll Fusion nearly as much. This led me to run just a single Hedgehog.
In all honesty, I probably would have run 0 Hedgehog if not for its importance in the mirror. You’ll often want to fuse in the mirror, but can’t leave a Fusion face up or they will get a huge advantage if they have their own fusion card. Because of this, it’s important to be able to fuse with either Hedgehog or Squamata to send Hedgehog so that you can search Beast to your hand and tribute the Fusion to set Beast, add the Fusion card back, and not leave a face up extra deck monster. Fortunately this interaction doesn’t usually require you to draw Hedgehog, so multiples still seemed unnecessary, but having the one was important.
I wanted a minimum number of normal summons in my deck because if I have three normal summons in a five card hand, I only have the one normal summon to use that turn and two other cards I can use. Each card in my hand that doesn’t have the “once per turn” restriction that normal summoning a monster has is an extra option and will make your deck more flexible.
Adding the Lightsworn were a concern for the normal summon count, so I was going to have to minimize every other normal summon. I think Kuribandit would have been an excellent choice if it didn’t add to this count. This is also the reason I ran only 1 Falco and no Armageddon/Mathematician. The normal summon count is down to 15 (including Charge), whereas most builds usually have 18+ so you’d expect to draw fewer normal summoners per hand in this build.
I’d also like to mention something with regard to cards like Kuribandit and Lightsworn. There seem to be an overwhelming majority of people that dislike cards like this because the notion that you have to get lucky with them. In addition to the inherent benefits of Lyla destroying backrow or Kuribandit digging for power cards like Fusion, you’ve got to get something straight; you need to get lucky too. Plain and simple, you’re not going to top, let alone win, an event without some things going your way. I’d always want to give myself the chance of getting lucky and putting myself ahead so I’d always favor something like Kuribandit over Armageddon Knight or Mathematician (and really Math sending Beast to draw a random card is hoping for the best anyway).
Sinister Shadow Games was an interesting card. I was everywhere from 0 to 3 copies of this card at one point or another during testing. It seems like an obvious inclusion as a 3 of, but I didn’t necessarily find that to be true. One of the things that can happen is that you’ll run out of Shaddoll monsters in your deck fairly quickly. This can lead to you drawing dead copies of Sinister in the late game.
It certainly has a lot of options for one card. It can be Jar of Greed, Dust Tornado, Stratos in trap form, or get Falco to the field, all while triggering any Shaddoll cards you might have already on the field. The biggest problem I had with the card is that it was a trap combo card. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Sinister in any of my opening hands and usually multiples in your opening hand is particularly good, but drawing it later in the game becomes a problem, even if you still have Shaddolls left in deck. There’s a reason Upstart Goblin in played and Jar of Greed isn’t played, even though they both say “draw 1 card.” There’s a giant disadvantage to having to set a card before you can activate it. Whatever turn you draw it, it does absolutely nothing. If you’re staring down a field that requires you to immediately address it, you don’t necessarily have the luxury of being able to set the card so that it can give you value on your next turn. All these factors resulted in me playing 2 Sinister with the third in the side deck for the mirror match.
All of that led me to this list:
3 Shaddoll Beast
2 Shaddoll Dragon
2 Shaddoll Squamata
1 Shaddoll Hedgehog
1 Shaddoll Falco
3 Raiden, the Hand of the Lightsworn
2 Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress
2 Black Dragon Collaserpent
2 White Dragon Wyverburster
2 Chaos Sorcerer
1 Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning
3 Soul Charge
3 Upstart Goblin
3 Shaddoll Fusion
3 Super Polymerization
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Charge of the Light Brigade
3 Vanity’s Emptiness
2 Sinister Shadow Games
Extra Deck: 15
3 El Shaddoll Construct
2 El Shaddoll Winda
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Stardust Spark Dragon
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Arcanite Magician
1 Goyo Guardian
1 Number 61: Volcasaurus
2 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Abyss Dweller
1 Evilswarm Nightmare
Side Deck: 15
3 Flying “C”
2 Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Mind Control
1 Sinister Shadow Games
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
1 Chain Disappearance
3 Rivalry of the Warlords
Now that you’ve seen the list, I’ll explain some things about the side and a couple of things in the extra. Firstly, I thought it was important that Soul Charge could create defense through the extra deck. I intended on running Giant Hand to accomplish this, but showed up Saturday morning with only about 15 minutes to write my decklist and register, so I didn’t have the time to find one to borrow in time. I replaced it with Evilswarm Nightmare as a means of creating defense off of Soul Charge. While they largely serve the same purpose, in all likelihood, Giant Hand is probably a little bit better than Nightmare. It has 2000 atk which can serve as an actual threat and can shorten the clock the opponent is on significantly, something Nightmare is too weak to really do. Giant Hand is also generic so you can make it with White Dragon, whereas you can’t make Nightmare with it.
3 Construct and 2 Winda may seem a little unconventional, but the third Construct came up a significant amount of the time with a full 3 Super Polymerization in the deck. Between the two, Construct is also the better one, especially in this deck that is more combo oriented instead of controlling like the standard. I missed the third Winda once throughout the tournament in a mirror because of Super Polymerization, but the number of times it comes up are pretty few and far between.
I originally had 1 Castel and 1 101, but came to the conclusion that Castel is almost strictly better. When testing against Burning Abyss, the ability to return a defense position Dante was imperative and two being needed was actually quite common.
Moving on to the side deck, I found Flying “C” to be the best option against Burning Abyss. Floodgates are incredibly powerful and they can’t play if they don’t draw the out with the out often being only a couple of Monarchs. Being able to readily Raigeki my opponent’s field on their turn was strong as well. Chain Disappearance was underwhelming in our testing against them. It doesn’t banish any Burning Abyss that are already in grave so hitting Scarm rarely did much after the first turn as they’d likely already have a Scarm in grave that they can just reuse with Cir. It really just served as a fourth Flying “C”-like card.
Ryko was primarily for Satellarknights. Most importantly, it was an out to Shadow-Imprisoning that furthered the Shaddoll engine, much like Lyla. Additionally, people would always attack my set monsters if they have a Shadow-Imprisoning on the field because they think I am setting monsters just to stay alive which leaves them to be caught by Ryko.
Rivalry is one of the strongest cards ever printed. It doesn’t allow your opponent to play until they draw Typhoon and you can draw it after they already have a field because it will clear their field. Since the Shaddolls, Lyla, and Chaos Sorcerer are all Spellcasters, the deck can operate pretty well under Rivalry, even if it limits how effective are Raiden, BLS, and the Dragons. I’d happily give up those cards to make any deck I’m siding it against not be able to even play the game and it’s going to cripple those decks much more than it limits my deck.
The Thursday before the YCS I have three classes to go to before heading to Toronto for the weekend. After I finish, I leave to go meet Desmond and the Leveretts. We live about two hours apart, but meet just outside of Atlanta so I don’t have to double back if I go to their house. In theory, it’s normally about an hour drive there, but that’s really only between the hours of 1 am and 5 am and really ends up taking at least two.
Alison is truly amazing and surprises us with enough Battle Pack 3 packs to practice drafting several times. The Leverett’s van is sick for traveling! The seats in the back turn around and you can put a table in which allows us to draft in the car. We spend the rest of Thursday and all of Friday making our way up to Toronto.
Friday night we get to our hotel and make the final decisions about or decks while I try to talk Desmond out of running Blue-Eyes White Dragon in Shaddolls. He wanted a bigger Soul Charge and the ability to make Felgrand. Blue-Eyes itself isn’t actually bad since you can pitch it for Trade-In, Shaddoll Fusion, or Super Polymerization. The only problem I had with the deck was that it was incredibly weak to Vanity’s Emptiness. At this point it has to be at least 3 am and instead of going to bed like responsible players, we decide to play a single game for pride using my build against his. Up until then, I’m trying to hit home how his build can’t handle Emptiness and that he should consider Lyla and Chaos Sorcerers. We are grinding back and forth and he thinks he’s got me with his Emptiness, but I use Lyla to out it. The game continues for another couple turns until I see an Emptiness of my own, which he of course cannot out. What are the chances that in the one game we played, the exact thing I told him his deck is going to struggle with the most would come up? Well it came up and I went to bed with a smile on my face. Of course I knew there was no changing his mind going into the game and he went on to play Shaddolls with Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Congrats again on topping buddy!
We go through the usual Saturday morning routine of showers, getting dressed, and rushing over to the convention center with only enough time to register without getting a game loss. I make a failed attempt to find a Giant Hand to borrow in the couple minutes I had and end up settling on Evilswarm Nightmare. I turn in my list, see lots of my friends, and within no time round 1 is posted.
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and starts out strong with Deneb and three sets. I have double Sinister Shadow Games which I set and pass. He uses Duality to take Compulsory, attacks and passes. On his end phase I flip Shadow Games to send Squamata and Falco. He uses Vanity’s Emptiness on Falco. I draw, flip the other Shadow Games to send the other Squamata and Dragon. Dragon destroys the set Compulsory, which he chains to return Deneb to his hand. I use a big Soul Charge and summon Raiden to make a huge field. I set Super Polymerization and he can’t come back, especially with no Satellarsknights in grave.
Game 2: He starts out with Deneb and some sets. I summon Lyla, hoping to attack over and destroy and backrow, but he has Bottomless Trap Hole. This left my in hand Chaos Sorcerer dead. I hold off on activating any card that would trigger Alpha for several turns, hoping to get something to attack over them first, but when it doesn’t come and he’s threatening game I have to push. My first card gets stopped by Alpha, which was to be expected, but when he had a second Alpha for my next card, the game ended.
Game 3: He has a monster on board and summons Neo-Spacian Grand Mole to bounce my set monster and push for damage. Eventually I use Soul Charge to make a field. I have Shaddoll Fusion to make Winda and stop the Altair play, but he has a Breakthrough in grave so I also make Evilswarm Nightmare so that I can stop his play even through Breakthrough. He draws and scoops it up, but as it turns out he had drawn Book of Moon and had forgotten about Breakthrough in grave. If he had remembered it, he could have gotten past both monsters and blown up my field with Exciton. I would have gotten Fusion back and been able to resolve it for free since he would have Exciton up, but the game would have continued for at least a couple more turns and who knows what might have happened.
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and lets me go first and then he starts off with Mathematician sending Squamata and setting Falco. As Shaddoll mirrors often do, the game doesn’t end nearly as fast as it started and we have quite a few turns of back and forth interactions. As the game went on, I was running out of Shaddolls and the ones I did have left were stuck in my hand. I don’t get to a Shaddoll Fusion to make use of the monsters for the entire game. There was a point where I force his set Super Polymerization earlier than he would have ideally liked to activate it and he leaves a Construct on the field, but I still hadn’t gotten to Shaddoll Fusion. The game continues and he summons Diagusto Emerald which lets him put back his Shaddolls giving him a big advantage. The following turn I knew I’d be too far gone if I didn’t make a push, so I try and set up a soft lock with Super Polymerization as my only defense and having to leave up a Winda when I know he has Fusion in hand. This was into his two backrow. We both had somewhere in the neighborhood of ten cards left in deck at this point and there was one Super Polymerization in this grave. If he had a second set, I knew the game would be over and at this point it was seemingly likely for it to be set, but if I didn’t hope for the best I’d lose anyway. He uses Fusion and I Super Polymeriztion away the threat and it turns out neither of his sets were a Super Polymerization so I pull a 28-minute game 1 out.
Game 2: This game was much quicker. He allowed me to go first again. On his turn he’s sending Eclipse Wyvern with Mathematician to banish Dark Armed. I try to make it so that he can’t ever summon it, but it becomes clear that DAD is going to hit the board. Time is running low and I ask him if he has game or any trap so that we can go to game 3. He shows me a sufficiently threatening hand and I scoop it up.
Game 3: I choose to go first and start out strong using Fusion to discard BLS and Falco and use Construct to send Hedgehog. Hedgehog searches a Beast and I tribute Construct to set Beast. I then set 2 Sinister, 1 of which gets flipped in his end phase to send Dragon and destroy his set Emptiness, flip my Falco and Beast, and have Falco get me Squamata. I push for damage and it connects. On his final turn I use the Sinister to flip up Squamata and destroy his monster to prevent him from doing the necessary damage and I win while ahead in life. If time were not a factor, he probably would have won as he had Cursed Seal of the Forbidden Spell set, which would negate my Shaddoll Fusion and leave him free to play his in the turns that followed.
Game 1: He starts this game off with Card Trooper to mill, which reveals that he is playing Lightsworn. I use Shaddoll Fusion to summon Construct, draw for Beast, and search Squamata. I kill the Card Trooper and he draws. Then I set Squamata and Shadow Games. He summons Lumina and having milled Lightsworn the previous turn, I use Shadow Games to flip Squamata and kill Lumina. He uses Soul Charge for three and makes 101 to take Construct. Then Lumina revives a Raiden and he makes Michael to banish Squamata. In the end phase he hits a Wyvern to banish Judgment and a second Necro Gardna. I try to push over his field, but he has Maxx “C.” I figure out as much damage as I can do and him milling the second Gardna keeps him alive. I realize that my best shot at winning this game is to hope he messes up and gives me another turn to live. If he uses Michael to banish my set Falco, summons back Redox banishing Wyvern, makes Dracossack and detaches for tokens, then summons Judgment and blows up, he has game by attacking with Judgment and Dracossack. Instead he doesn’t banish for Michael and overlays it and Redox into Big Eye, which he uses to take my Raiden. I look at the life points and realize that he can’t do enough damage this way to kill me. “Raiden effect to mill?” Hits Blaster for the difference.
Game 2: This game I start off by setting Falco, Super Polymerization, and Sinister. He summons Lyla which I use Super Poly on. He can’t get out of the early game quick enough and not my next turn, but the turn after that, I kill him.
Game 3: He starts off with Trooper just like he did in the first game. When I use Fusion, I’m met with Maxx “C.” I summon Squamata and attack over Card Trooper with Construct and then Squamata directly. Then I set Super Polymerization. He plays Solar Recharge which puts him at three Lightsworn in grave. He uses Soul Charge to try and revive three monsters, but I chain Super Polymerization to send my own Monsters and summon Winda before Soul Charge resolves. Now, Winda was on the field before Soul Charge resolved, so when the chain resolves he has already used his one special summon for the turn and can’t do anything with the monsters he brings back off of Soul Charge. This leaves him under 1000 life points. I send Hedgehog with the Squamata I used to fuse and add Beast to my hand. He’s forced to pass and mills a Necro in the end phase. Next turn, I tribute for the Beast I searched, get back Fusion and use it again making another Winda. Then I overlay Winda and Beast for Volcasaurus to destroy one of his monsters and end the game.
Game 1: He starts out by summoning Mathematician, sending Squamata and Falco, and then setting a couple. I summon Lyla and try to attack his Falco, so that if his set is Sinister, he will do it now and can’t do it in my end phase to send Dragon and destroy what I set. He uses Games to send Beast and draws. Lyla runs over Falco and he gets back Beast. I use Lyla to try and kill his other backrow. He chains Super Polymerization to send Beast and Lyla and make Construct. I thought this was a pretty big waste of resources on his end since he can’t get Beast’s effect a second time and he was forced to use Shadow Games early. To top it off, he sends Core to his grave with Construct, thinking he has Fusion in grave, but doesn’t. I’m pretty sure that he has Fusion in hand and him actually seeing the card was his reason for sending Core there. I think this, even though he discarded something other than Fusion for Polymerization, which he could have then added it back with Core, but it was pretty obvious that it was a mistake, so I didn’t automatically eliminate him having Fusion in hand. Turned out that I was right and he starts his turn with Fusion, but he used way too many resources the previous turn and I win the game pretty quickly.
Game 2: He puts a lot of pressure on me this game with Wyverbuster, a Beast, and BLS. I have an all monster hand and have drawn into monsters the previous two turns. I’m low on life and finally draw a Fusion so I can make Construct and out the BLS. Then I tribute Construct for Beast and pass with no backrow. I know that I’m in a weak position, but I should be able to live one more turn even if he summons another monster. He draws Mind Control, however, to end the game immediately.
Game 3: I start off using Fusion to draw off of Beast and set Falco. I set Beast over the Fusion and recover Shaddoll Fusion. Then I set Sinister. He’s got a monster heavy hand and I take a quick game 3.
Vs Alex Reynolds, Shaddolls
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and starts out with just 1 backrow. I summon Lyla, attack, and try and pop it, but am stopped by Breakthrough. He doesn’t do much and next turn I make a push and then tribute for Beast. I’m sure he’s got a weak hand, whereas mine is good, but then Mind Control comes down to take my Beast. His two draws and free Shaddoll effect quickly turned the game around, blowing me out.
Game 2: A couple turns into the game, he doesn’t have any sets and I can make an Arcanite Magician to clear two of his monsters, use Fusion with the Arcanite to make Construct. Then summon BLS and Wyverbuster to attack for game.
Game 3: This was by far my favorite game of the entire tournament. He starts off by summoning Kuribandit and grabbing Vanity’s Emptiness, while hitting a Squamata to set a Falco. On his next turn, he sets one backrow, but doesn’t have an overwhelming field yet. I make a play that would leave him in a poor position to flip Emptiness, but I get to send Dragon so if he doesn’t flip it I will destroy it. He doesn’t flip it, I send the Dragon and destroy the set, but he kept the Emptiness in hand and his set was Sinister Shadow Games. Next turn he uses Fusion to make Winda. This gives him the 10 monsters he needs in his grave to summon Sephylon. He sets the Vanity’s and passes. He thinks when I draw, debating if he’s going to flip Emptiness. If he flips Emptiness, I outright lose. If he doesn’t, I have a White Dragon in my hand, Shaddoll Beast, and Chaos Sorcerer, but only Darks in grave. I realize that I need him to wait on Emptiness, so I act is if I’m thinking aloud about scooping so he doesn’t think I have anything. He’s not feeling threatened, so he doesn’t flip the Emptiness. I summon Wyverbuster and tribute for Beast. I crash Beast into Winda. When I attack, I look at the life, acting as if I didn’t realize how low I was and that Sephylon could just attack me for game. He thinks me crashing Beast was a mistake and the game is about to end, but in actuality I wanted him to think that and not flip Emptiness. The Wyverbuster gave me a light for Chaos Sorcerer, but I couldn’t summon it until I got rid of Winda since Wyverbuster was special summoned. I banish the Sephylon, and he verbally acknowledges how I had tricked him into letting me clear his field.
He summons Grand Mole and bounces Chaos Sorcerer. I can’t summon Sorcerer again with no lights in my grave. I have two Soul Charges and set one of them. I can’t play either since he still has the Emptiness set. I set Hedgehog and pass. He summons Mathematician and sends Hedgehog to add Falco. He uses Fusion and sends Falco and Veiler to summon Construct and specials back the Falco. Construct attacks my set Hedgehog and I grab Fusion. He passes, but asks how many cards I have in hand. I realize that I need him to flip the Emptiness at the start of my turn, or I will lose so I say, “4, and you know 3 of them; Fusion, Sorcerer, and the baby dragon I searched.” Now, I only have darks in grave and I have the Black Dragon in hand, but say “baby dragon” instead of Black Dragon, to set him up for my next question. When I draw I say something like “do you want to do anything when I draw this time?” I said baby Dragon the turn before so that he might forget which dragon I added to my hand as I couldn’t actually summon the one I had with no lights in grave, but I needed him to flip Emptiness so I wanted to give him the chance to think that I could. He thinks for a second and sure enough, flips the Emptiness.
I immediately summon Shaddoll Dragon and attack over his set Falco, destroying Emptiness and preventing Falco from getting its effect. I use Fusion MP2 to summon a Construct of my own, putting a Light in the grave. Chaos Sorcerer comes down next to clear his Construct. His Mole returns the Chaos Sorcerer. I draw White Dragon, special it and make Castel to return Mathematician. I set Falco. He uses Mind Control on Falco and returns Beast to the field. Grand Mole bounces Castel. He debates whether or not he’ll use Falco to make Armedes since it’d leave him with an extra deck monster on the field if I have Fusion. The earlier “baby dragon” talk was still confusing him as he thought the White Dragon I used to make Castel was the one I searched, but I had searched Black Dragon and still had it in my hand. He opts not to make the Synchro and gives back the Falco. I summon the Black Dragon I had and make Goyo. The turn after that I finally am able to use the second Soul Charge when I draw Vanity’s. He tries to use Fusion, but I stop it and that was the game. This was one of the more satisfying games I’ve played in recent memory.
Vs Rob Cedar, Shaddolls
Game 1: This game everything goes in my favor. I win the dice roll, summon Raiden, hit a Shaddoll, and then hit a second Shaddoll in the end phase. The advantage quickly spirals out of control and I take the game.
Game 2: Rob and I have the battle of the terrible hands here. For the first few turns we pass back and forth without anything other than setting a backrow. We both flip Shadow Games to try and get something started. He doesn’t get anything. The reason I couldn’t do anything was because my hand had a bunch of monsters like BLS, Chaos Sorcerer, and Dragons in it. When I could finally unbrick it after I flipped my Sinsiter, I think I have enough to push for game. I push through his set backrow with Dragon, but my BLS gets hit with Veiler when I try to banish his monster. Because of this, I can’t win that turn anymore. His hand wasn’t necessarily bad, it was just reactive and he couldn’t do anything until I did things. Since I had done things the last turn, his hand was now live. I finished my turn by setting Beast, which he uses Mind Control on. He pushes back and OTKs me with a BLS of his own.
Game 3: I get some early advantage when I hit a Squamata of Raiden first turn. I set Falco. I set my Shadow Games. The advantage quickly spirals, similar to how it did the first game. I have Vanity’s for his Fusion. He can out it, but the important thing is that I could get him to waste Fusion. He can’t really come back without another Fusion and I win.
Game 1: I use Raiden and hit Falco. He summons Deneb. I use Super Polymerization on it to make Construct. He sets some backrow. Next turn I have a Dragon to let me make Syncrhos for free with Raiden and Falco. I Scrap Dragon a backrow, Lyla a second, and Dragon a third. Then I OTK him on my second turn.
Game 2: He summons Deneb and sets backrow. I summon Dragon and attack. He uses Prison and I chain Super Polymerization. I summon Construct, pop a backrow, get rid of Deneb, draw off of Beast, and attack for 2800, while he doesn’t get any value from Prison.
Vs Sean McCabe, Satellarknights
They pass out a survey before this round starts and they don’t start it for about 10 minutes after it’s paired. McCabe had an issue where someone had accidently entered their result wrong from the round before so he wasn’t there for most of that time. While we’re waiting, Desmond, sitting a couple tables down, asks me if I know whom I’m playing. I tell him McCabe and he asks if I know what he’s playing. We had talked about the night before how good of a matchup Satellarknights are any time they don’t have a floodgate. “Satellarknights” I say, to which he quickly responds “Top 32!!!!”
Game 1: I thought I had game through everything when I had Shaddoll Dragon attack his Deneb. If he chained anything, I was going to chain Super Polymerization and send Dragon. Then he activated Honest in the damage step to give me some problems. None of my other monsters were Shaddolls, so I couldn’t use Super Polymerization that turn and couldn’t win that turn anymore, but I still had it in hand to win the following turn.
Game 2: Super Polymerization is just too much for that deck to deal with and it puts you so far ahead every time. He didn’t have Shadow-Imprisoning and Super Polymerization did more of the same.
Standings go up, but they messed something up and have me with 7 wins and a draw. I go up and they correct it. Several other people also had problems with their record and they fix those as well. They tell me I finish 1st, but they will just post the corrected standings in the morning since most people had left. I decide that I’ll just skip the first two rounds in the morning to practice drafting since I’m guaranteed to make it in to top 32.
The Leveretts, Desmond, Chris LeBlanc, and Chris’ Kevin go to a Tex-Mex restaurant after we leave the venue. Then we go back to our hotel and I practice draft with Desmond, Zach, and Chris.
We get to the convention center just in time for round 9. I go over and just sign the slip and look for people to draft with. Chris LeBlanc, James Frazier, Joe Bogli and I go through a draft and play just one match before they finish the last round.
Eventually standings get posted and I see that I have to play against Galo Orbea in Top 32.
Vs. Galo Orbea, Shaddolls
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and just starts with a set backrow. I summon Lyla and attack. Then when I try to use her effect in main phase 2, he uses Breakthrough Skill. Next turn he just passes. I put up a lot of pressure on the following turn and he just scoops after seeing his next card, presumably so that I wouldn’t know what he was playing. I already knew he was running Shaddolls though, so I still sided appropriately.
Game 2: This game he gets a little more going, but I still have a pretty strong hand and the ability to just do more.
We get seated in two separate draft pods. I was pretty happy that most of the more experienced players were in the opposite pod since the less experienced ones were more likely to give me good passes. Once the drafting process was complete, I was very happy with my deck. Here’s what I drafted:
3 Freya, Spirit of Victory
2 Electromagnetic Bagworm
1 Wind-Up Juggler
1 Master Craftsman Gamil
1 Black Brachios
1 Jurrac Protops
1 Gorgonic Golem
1 Blue Thunder T-45
1 Aztekipede, the Worm Warrior
1 Meklord Army of Granel
1 Cyber Phoenix
1 Evilswarm Ketos
1 Madolche Baaple
1 Lion Alligator
1 Ayers Rock Sunrise
1 Noble Arms – Arfeudutyr
1 Dragon’s Gunfire
1 Pyramid of Wonders
1 Premature Burial
1 Reptilianne Rage
1 Closed Forest
2 Burst Breath
2 Call of the Haunted
1 Swamp Mirrorer
1 Shadow Spell
1 Pinpoint Guard
1 Magical Arm Shield
1 Tutan Mask
1 Windstorm of Etaqua
1 No Entry!!
1 Zero Gravity
1 Dark Bribe
Extra Deck: 1
1 Diagusto Emarld
Side Deck: 4
1 Vanguard of the Dragon
1 Dark Crusader
1 Koa’ki Meiru War Arms
Game 1: I win the dice roll and choose to go second since we’re playing two grind decks. He uses an equip spell on his monster. I Black Brachios it to defense and kill it. I have a chance to use my set Tutan Mask or Dark Bribe, but decide to hold them both as they’re power cards. Eventually I put myself in a winning position without having used them and then have them to protect my setup. Dragon’s Gunfire ends up burning him for 800 for game.
Game 2: He lets me go first. I sit on Madolche Baaple for a turn and then summon Freya. Baaple now goes to 2200 defense, pretty beefy for draft. It’s a soft lock since he can’t attack over Baaple because its high defense and can’t declare an attack on Freya because of her effect. The next turn I summon a second Freya to strengthen the soft lock, which quickly wins me the game. Once again, I kill him with Gunfire this game.
Game 1: I use Bagworm to take one of his monsters early on and overlay into Emerald with it. He tries to gain an advantage with a bunch of attack modifiers, but my battle changers make quick work of that strategy.
Game 2: I equip Arfeudutyr on his monster and then use it to destroy his set. Then his monster is -500 so I run it over in battle for a +1 and reverse of tempo. I resolve Shutendoji twice and protect it with Gamil to put myself even further ahead.
Vs Marc Carisse
Game 1: I feel like I’m losing this game the entire time. I start off down in card advantage and realize that I have to reduce his life points to 0 as quickly as possible and that if the game drags on into a grind game, I’ll surely lose. Most of his monsters are pretty big and Wind-Up Juggler helped out by clearing two monsters, one after it was first summoned and a second after I use Call of the Haunted. Aztekipede was strong in this game as it gave me a second monster on board when he could only summon once. I end up using Dragon’s Gunfire for exact game.
Game 2: He makes me go first and I start off with a Jurrac Protops, Gamil, and Freya in hand. The idea is that he’d summon a 1900, attack, I’d use Gamil to kill his monster, and then summon Freya to make my monsters bigger than his for the rest of the game. Then he summons Jain, which leaves me in an awful position when I’m forced to use Gamil just to make it crash. This is a -1 when I’m already at a -1 for going first. Madolche Baaple and a revival card let me switch his monster to defense and run over it with my other monster. Then I summon Freya next turn for the same soft lock. Pyramid of Wonders works to make my monsters bigger than his and I end up taking the game.
After the game, Sean McCabe comes up, congratulates me, and tells me that we’re playing in the finals. McCabe is definitely one of the best duelists in the game and when I looked at the Top 16, I knew he was going to be the biggest obstacle between me and first place. He always plays decks such as Constellar, HAT, and Satellarknight, which have many of the same interactions as the decks you find in draft so he was sure to be familiar with how to play. Most people also didn’t practice the draft, but I knew McCabe did so I knew his deck would be one of the better ones.
Game 1: Up until this game, I was actually under the impression that the redraw rule was no longer in effect. I thought that each Battle Pack had a special rule and that Battle Pack 2 had the redraw rule and Battle Pack 3 had the type rule, but didn’t think it carried over when I couldn’t find any mention of it in how to play. McCabe told Jason that he’d keep his hand in game 1, which caught me be surprise. After confirming with the judge, I decided to take advantage of it because my opening hand was incredibly subpar. My second hand was significantly better and had many of the better cards in my deck like Magical Arm Shield. I thought I had the upper hand this game, but Swords of Concealing Light put him right back in it. I was holding a Burst Breath until Swords expired and when it did I flipped it to kill all the monsters he had been summoning since he activated it and I attacked for game the following turn.
Game 2: Sean controlled this game with two copies of Pyramid of Wonders. The entire game, his monsters were larger than mine. I managed to get him down to just 750 life points, but I was dead in the water from a card advantage and tempo point of view. I didn’t scoop though, because I had Dragon’s Gunfire in my deck. For two turns I tried to draw the card that would steal me the YCS, but it didn’t come before McCabe could wipe out my life points.
It all came down to this; game 3 in the finals of a YCS against one of the best players in the game.
Game 3: I opted to go second and he started the game out with Mist Valley Falcon and a set monster. I had four revival cards in my hand. I started by setting Blue Thunder. I didn’t mind him killing it because I knew if I could get an out to Falcon, I could quickly recover the lost tempo with the revival cards. I revived it back and used Black Brachios to turn Falcon to defense and swing over it. Silent Psychic Wizard banished Chiron a couple turns later and I knew I could make a huge push that he hopefully would not be able to recover from. Often times in Yu-Gi-Oh, this qualifies as overextending, but in draft format there are very few cards that punish it since things like Mirror Force or Dark Hole aren’t in the format. I clear his field, have a couple monsters on board, and have Closed Forest to make my monsters stronger than whatever the one monster he can summon next turn is. I got him low enough so that I should be able to attack for game the following turn. Then he draws into a Pyramid of Wonders to make it so that whatever he summons is bigger than my monster. The following turn I haven’t been able to capitalize and he draws into Mudora which was huge for him as it would allow his monsters to be permanently bigger than mine. Mudora wrecks my field over the next few turns and things are beginning to look grim. I’m down to topdecking and have completely lost my field. After getting him all the way down to 100 life points in game three of the finals I’m quickly coming to the realization that I’m not going to win. “This is it. I’m going to lose in the finals for the first time. Could it have been avoided? Could I have done something differently that would have let me win?” I get to see one last draw before he wipes out the remainder of my life points. Electromagnetic Bagworm! I couldn’t believe it, I had drawn one of three cards that could turn the game around. I nervously set it, trying not to give away my excitement. A million things are rushing through my head. I don’t even try and figure out any potential outs he has, as there is no coming back if he stops its Brain Control-like effect. “Attack with Mudora.” With no cards to stop Mudora from attacking him for the remainder of his life points I win the game and the YCS!
Having a battle of amazing topdecks may not have been how I would have wanted the finals to play out, but I must say it felt good nonetheless. It’s truly humbling to have had this experience and I thank you all for letting me share it with you. The ARGCS in Indianapolis is this weekend and I look forward to seeing you all there. Until next time, play hard or go home!