This last weekend the Circuit Series came to St. Louis and the Leveretts and I made the trip. I made it to the Top 16 with my Nekroz deck, finishing 1st after swiss, before losing to a mirror match. Today I’m going bring you a tournament report, where I’ll explain my card choices for my rather atypical build of Nekroz and a quick summary of my matches and tournament experience. Let’s start off with the deck I played:
3 Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands
2 Senju of the Thousand hands
1 Tackle Crusader
1 Bull Blader
2 Shurit, Strategist of the Nekroz
3 Nekroz of Valkyrus
2 Nekroz of Brionac
2 Nekroz of Clausolas
1 Nekroz of Trishula
1 Nekroz of Gungnir
3 Nekroz of Unicore
1 Djinn, Releaser of Rituals
1 Shaddoll Dragon
1 Glow-Up Bulb
1 Armageddon Knight
3 Reinforcement of the Army
2 Nekroz Mirror
2 Nekroz Kaleidoscope
2 Nekroz Cycle
3 Upstart Goblin
1 Preparation of Rites
Side Deck: 15
2 Shaddoll Beast
1 Shaddoll Dragon
3 Shaddoll Fusion
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Secret Village of the Spellcasters
1 Vanity's Emptiness
Extra Deck: 15
1 Diamond Dire Wolf
1 Evislwarm Exciton Knight
1 Satellar Constellar Diamond
1 Tellarknight Ptolemaeus
1 Daigusto Emeral
1 Lavalval Chain
1 Cairgorgon, Antilluminscent Knight
1 Abyss Dweller
1 Gagaga Cowboy
1 Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk
1 Dragon Master Knight
2 Herald of Arc Light
1 El Shaddoll Construct
1 El Shaddoll Winda
The big jump out difference between my build and the standard build is the inclusion of Mathematicians that are accompanied by a host of targets that trigger their effects in grave. I was a fan of the variety of situations that the card could handle. It was a combo card and acted similar to Manju and Senju when used to make Herald since it allowed me to search a ritual card. This was especially nice as it allowed me to attack for game through an opposing Valkyrus. It gave me my own Djinn and provided an out to opposing Djinns via Tackle Crusader.
I was largely opposed to main deck Mystical Space Typhoon as it is so underwhelming in the mirror match. Mathematician also substituted as Typhoon when dealing with opposing floodgates such as Lose 1 Turn and Mistake by sending either Shaddoll Dragon or Tackle Crusader, that would otherwise make it difficult to survive the early rounds of the tournament where these floodgates are heavily played.
I also wasn’t a fan of conventional Djinn outs like Raigeki or Book of Eclipse, as they are never ideal when the opponent does not Djinn lock. When you consider them making the Djinn lock is often the wrong play, it’s difficult to choose to play cards that are going to be subpar when your opponent plays correctly. I wasn’t willing to accept the loss to Djinn and ignore it entirely, but I definitely wanted to minimize the bad draws as answers, so I went with just Bull Blader, Tackle Crusader, the three Reinforcement of the Army, and two Mathematician as outs. That way I could still have seven outs, without actually having more than just Blader and Crusader as subpar draws.
At this point it’s perfectly legitimate to question what is replacing those bad draws. Book of Eclipse, Mystical Space Typhoon, and Raigeki may typically be subpar, but drawing Shaddoll Dragon in a Nekroz deck or Tackle Crusader can’t be much better. That’s certainly true, but it’s important to acknowledge that combo cards are already maxed out. Seven starter monsters in Senju, Manju, and Mathematician, triple Reinforcement, three Upstart, and a large Nekroz engine doesn’t leave much available to add to the deck in the way of cards that advance my game state. That means that the Dragon, the Crusader, Bulb, and so on are going to be subpar when drawn in a lot of scenarios, no matter what I decide to play. These cards have a distinct advantage over Typhoon, Eclipse, and Raigeki, however, as they have utility when not drawn. I can Reinforcement for Armageddon to send Dragon and out Lose 1 Turn, where if that Dragon were a Typhoon, it wouldn’t have any value in my deck. I saw it as accepting the potential bad draws that would be there regardless, but getting the additional value of cards that had utility when in deck.
The Shaddoll side was something that I got from my friend in Italy, and was actually something I had done at a previous Circuit over six months ago, but hadn’t thought about since. Dragon already has synergy with Armageddon Knight, and by extension, Reinforcement of the Army, and Beast allowed me to draw three off of Valkyrus. What really shined was the unexpected Shaddoll Fusions against extra deck monsters. It is incredibly difficult for Satellarknight, Shaddoll, or Burning Abyss to win without using their extra deck against Nekroz, because Nekroz is an inherently stronger engine. Fusion gave me an amazing out to Mistake, was a +2, and put a monster on board. One of my favorite things to do with Fusion was to send Djinn and Dragon to pop Mistake and summon Winda, use Clausolas to get Cycle, then use Djinn to revive Clausolas. I could then make their extra deck monster 0 attack and lock them out of special summoning.
Speaking of locks, that was my game 2 and 3 strategy against the mirror. I sided in Secret Village and Mistake with hopes of putting up a board and making it so that my opponent wasn’t able to play. The rest of the deck is pretty standard, so let’s jump into the actual tournament report.
We drove up on Friday afternoon. It was about an eight-hour drive and we got there early evening. We went to eat, hung out with some people, made our deck, and passed out pretty early after having not slept the night before. The next morning we woke up, showered, headed across the street to the convention center, and got ready to duel.
Vs. Shaddoll Nekroz
Game 1: I find Djinn to be incredibly subpar, particularly first turn in the mirror, and don’t like making him before trading resources so that they have fewer outs. It doesn’t often make sense to go into Djinn when you have a “bad hand” as you can usually only do it when you have Senju or Manju, and thus you don’t have a bad hand, but I drew Mathematician and Bulb, without a way to add Valkyrus to my hand. The chances of them opening a Senju or Manju, which likely means OTK, are higher than the chances they can out the lock, so I tried to coin flip the game with Djinn. It worked for a few turns and by the time he could out it he had used too many turns of resources having to add Valkyrus to his hand to avoid dying, so I ended up winning.
Game 2: We both find it incredibly funny when I tribute a Beast for Valkyrus. After all, how many Nekroz Shaddoll combinations could there have been in the tournament, and two of them were playing first round? We end up going to time, but on my first turn of time I put up a big field and OTK him.
He was one of the two Shaddoll Nekroz that made it to top cut.
Game 1: This game was very straightforward and I open up with a wonderful hand, going Valkyrus and Emeral first turn, tributing my field away not knowing what he was playing. He didn’t open Scout and his one Lose 1 Turn wasn’t enough to stop my endless brigade of Nekroz thanks to Shaddoll Dragon.
Game 2: He started with Scout, summoned, equipped Saqlifice, and set a backrow. I summon a Senju, he Veilers. I have double Unicore and want to make sure not to get blown out by Mind Crush, so I was going to use Brionac to grab Clausolas and discard one of the Unicores to recover Brionac, so that he could only hit one if he did have Mind Crush when I activated Kaleidoscope, but he misplayed and flipped Mind Crush on Clausolas as soon as I added it to my hand. I just Unicore it back, grab the Kaleidoscope, summon the other Unicore, and proceed to Trishula him to swiftly end the game.
Game 1: I don’t know what he’s playing, so I just make the standard six in hand with Valkyrus play after I clear my field, in case of a mirror match. It becomes obvious he isn’t playing a mirror when he sets five and passes. Monsters trump traps that aren’t floodgates, and I push through the sets one-by-one, until I have a significant amount of advantage and he can’t recover.
Game 2: This was a really good back-and-forth game. He makes Trivver, bounces Fiendish and Call to put him ahead, but I Shaddoll Fusion to put me back in the game. I couldn’t deal with the monsters he would get back off Triver, so I can’t attack it and we pass back and forth for a couple of turns, until I run into a set Fossil Dyna, clearing my field, destroying his Triver, and summoning enough back to kill me.
Game 3: This game goes to time within the first couple of turns. He had taken an early 800 damage so I was ahead. I had Unicore on the field and had searched Gungnir. When he tries to flip Call of the Haunted in the end phase, I flip Vanity’s Emptiness. He tries to read it, but it’s foreign, so he asks if sending from hand will shut it off. I tell him it won’t and make the read that he has Raigeki in hand, since I had searched Gungnir and figured he was wondering if he used it on Unicore and I discarded Gungnir to save it, whether or not it would go to the graveyard. The next turn I make a big push to put me up by over 4000 life points and then based on my read of Raigeki, make Rhapsody to banish his only monsters in grave. I was right about him having Raigeki and he is unable to do the necessary damage without a graveyard to summon from.
Vs. Marjanco, Nekroz
Marjanco is one of absolute favorite people and is hilarious.
Game 1: We have an incredible 35-minute game 1. Despite having plenty of opportunities to do so, neither of us ever go Djinn lock, assuming that the other person has the out. At one point he flips Shared Ride and starts his next turn with nine cards in hand to the four I pass with. I realize that my only win condition here is to take the punches as they come until he has no resources left in his deck. Turn after turn he continues to amass advantage, but the Nekroz mirror is unique in that you must clear your field every turn so as to not get Trishula’d. This allows me to stay in the game and roll with the punches as he can’t continue to get ahead and is limited to activating just one of each of the ritual spells per turn. I manage to survive until all his ritual spells are gone and him only having a single Unicore after using Emeral to get one back. This was costly and he is able to banish a ritual spell of mine and Trishula off of Rhapsody to limit what I am able to do. It comes to the point where I also activate my last ritual spell as well to put Gungnir on board, just hoping that Raigeki is one of the roughly fifteen cards left in his deck. He doesn’t have it and has to summon his Gungnir to crash with mine, leaving us both with no way to summon a Ritual the rest of the game. I draw into Shaddoll Dragon, which is stronger than every other monster in that situation. It’s shortly followed by a Manju that’s search is useless, but allows me to make a rank 4, at which point he scoops.
Game 2: We go to time pretty quickly after such a long game 1. He chose to start and made Lavalval Chain and sent Djinn, but didn’t use it. I thought he was trying to bait me into Lancea, but he later said he just messed up his opening play. Because of him passing with Lavalval Chain on the field, I wasn’t touching Trishula or attempting to banish with Mirror in fear of Lancea. I put up a large field to put myself ahead in life, including Gungnir with only one Nekroz card in hand, so that I can leave my field and not get Trishula’d. The next turn, Gungnir lets me push through Valkyrus for game.
Game 1: I open with Mathematician into Herald and stop, despite being able to do more, since I didn’t know what he was playing. He summons a Qliphort and attacks it, but doesn’t open Scout. He sets a couple of backrow. Armageddon into Dragon takes care of Lose 1 Turn. He tops Scout a turn or two later to make a field, but I kill him the following turn with an awkward play involving using Brionac to bounce his Pendullum-summoned Qliphort.
Game 2: He starts with Scout and some sets. I make an attempt to Trishula him by first clearing his set with Diamond Dire Wolf, but he has Lose 1 Turn. I follow it up by summoning Gungnir. They both survive his turn and I can pop his backrow freely and take advantage of the game with Trishula.
There were only seven rounds in the tournament. Matt Kolenda and I were the only undefeateds left. Intentional draws are allowed at Circuits, so we both just draw into top cut. I’m in first place headed into top cut. Matt and I spend the next two hours playing a single match of Goat Control and I have to say how incredible of a player he is. He is the ARG Circuit Series Chicago Champion and you can tell how much he considers every option when he plays. For instance, at one point in our match of Goats I thought I had every possible play he could make covered. I had Nobleman for sets, Book to stop his Thousand-Eyes, Metamorphosis to make my own Thousand-Eyes, as well as several other cards. He wasn’t short on cards himself, but I was sure I had every possible play covered. After several minutes of deliberation, he summons Magician of Faith. It makes my entire hand dead as his set, presumably Book of Moon, could take card of Thousand-Eyes, my Noblemen couldn’t do anything to his attack position Faith, and my Book wasn’t doing anything in the way of dealing with Faith. It was an incredible play. The most next level part? His set wasn’t even Book of Moon. It was Sakuretsu, but he knew I wouldn’t play Metamorphosis in that scenario. He turned the game completely around and was able to successfully resolve Tsukuyomi on Faith the following turn in a position I’m sure next to no one would have been able to play out of. He’s an absolutely amazing player and I’d easily consider him among the best in the game.
We go back to the hotel, drop our bags off, and go to dinner. When we get back it was still pretty early, so we decide to cube draft with a cube Zach built for this idea that I had. I had the idea of adding a special rule to the draft, much like Battle Pack draft in the top cut of a YCS, but in addition to all monsters are all types, I wanted to make all monsters all attributes, and all cards are all archetypes. About a week earlier we had built the cube out of cards we found on the floor or in shoeboxes and it turned out to be an amazing rule. You just read the card text as if the archetype weren’t printed, such as Hieratic Seal of Convocation can search any monster, not just any Hieratic Monster and Destiny Draw can discard any card, not just any Destiny card. Cir can summon back any monster, Shaddoll Hedgehog can search any spell card when flipped, not just a Shaddoll spell, Judgment Dragon can be summoned with any four in grave, and so on.
I wasn’t really familiar with the card pool, but put together an incredible strategy both times I did it. When I first did it a week earlier, I built my deck to summon Lonefire Blossom every first turn and go into Super Ancient Deapsea King Coelacanth, that could summon any four monsters from my deck. The options at that point were limitless. If I went first, I would consistently put up a giant field backed with Jowgen the Spiritualist to lock them out and a searched Gladiator Beast Taming as a quickplay Brain Control form of defense. I FTKed all eight games I went second. The deck was so much better than the other decks that were drafted.
I really love deckbuilding and this cube was only limited by your imagination. When we did it Saturday night in St. Louis I came up with this other strategy that revolved around Mind Master to cycle through my entire deck, getting whatever I wanted, eventually searching and recycling Ritual Beast Bonding. This would allow me to end with Naturia Exterio and the Last Warrior From Another Planet (The first time we did it, we drafted extra deck. This time it was unlimited, minus Ritual Beast Ulti-Cannahawk due to infinite loops). There were almost certainly other infinite loops that could be consistently done, but we were coming up with all this stuff off of the top of our head and with respect to the cards we actually drafted. I think Exterio and Last Warrior consistently on the first turn was a pretty solid creation (I also had to make Stardust Spark to make Exterio survive when Last Warrior was summoned) for off the top of my head.
After a couple hours of draft, we all went upstairs and turned in for the night. Desmond had also made top 16 and Ben had just missed, coming in at 17th. The next morning we got up, showered, dropped off our decks for deck checks, and went to eat.
Game 1: We all got decklists of the top 16 the night before, so we knew what to expect from one another. The first turn I had an incredibly unusual hand where I had Senju and Manju, but couldn’t actually do anything. I just summon Senju, grab Brionac and pass, hoping for the best. He summons a Senju/Manju of his own, Unicores, and Cycles back Brionac. He then attacks, makes Lavalval Chain, sending Djinn, and uses Brionac to bounce back Chain. I was a bit confused by this line of play, but it did allow me to figure out that he must have had both Maxx “C” and Raigeki. Knowing he plays Gungnir, I figured he just wanted to put damage on board, Raigeki, and use Gungnir to push through Valkyrus the next turn. Despite having Manju to follow up, my hand was still incredibly awkward. I sit there for a second just hoping that I was wrong about my read, but surely enough, when I activate Kaleidoscope, he plays the Maxx “C.” I have Manju, Unicore, and can mirror out Trishula. Because I thought he had Raigeki, I decide to just Trishula him and not go Djinn via Lavalval Chain to hope for the best. I hit a Unicore out of his hand with Trishula and realize the only hope I have of winning is to make Rhapsody, banish his spells, and hope he can’t search others. Sure enough, the Raigeki comes down and he summons Valkyrus and Maxx “C” to attack for game. I’m pretty sure I messed up though and quite possibly could have won the game. I had three banishes between Rhapsody and Trishula and I chose to banish the two ritual spells and Djinn in his grave, but I think I should have banished Shurit instead of Djinn. Djinn was irrelevant. If he could search another ritual spell and ritual summon, he wins anyway. Doesn’t matter if I can’t special summon when he wins. I then lose when he can banish the Shurit to summon his Valkyrus in hand, that he may not have been able to otherwise do.
Game 2: I just straight brick and can’t really play a card. He ends up Djinn locking me with Clausolas, but I get out of it by setting Tackle Crusader and him using Raigeki on it, thinking its Dragon, allowing me to Book Clausolas. Unfortunately I never get anything going and he Djinn locks me again since he straight drew Djinn and it was thus still in grave.
The match was pretty quick. So quick, in fact, that I can still join the 1K. Wish I hadn’t messed up the first game, but thankfully I managed to still go undefeated in the 1K playing the same deck I used in the main event. After the 1K finished we pack up and head out. We actually get into a car accident on the way home, where Zach fell asleep at the wheel and hit the semi driving next to us. Thankfully everyone was alright and we made it home safely.
That wraps up my tournament experience in St. Louis. This will likely be posted after the Circuit Series this weekend in Edison, New Jersey, but I’ll be there with the Leveretts and I hope to see you all there too! Lots of practice in the coming weeks as we continue the journey to Japan with hopes of earning a seat at the table of the 2015 World Championship! Until next time, play hard or go home!