“…the funny thing is, I think his fake confidence gets overpowered and reversed by real confidence,” he said as we laughed over cocktails. “Yeah, I totally agree, like there’s no way I would ever be intimidated by him. I’m not intimidated by anyone at this point, Pat. I’m pretty sure all of his talking and nonsense only works on people who think he’s good because they don’t know him.” “Yeah for sure. Like imagine if we did that to people—just said things out loud with the intention of getting into their heads. It doesn’t even matter if they respond to it. You can just gain information by looking at their reactions.”
“I can see that. Adam Corn used to do that,” I mentioned.
“Yeah. But he would actually catch his opponents with a nasty play first. Like setting two Reckless Greeds with his Heavy Storm, then flipping all three on the following turn after they thought it was safe to set three backrows to match his. On top of that, it was Adam. They had a reason to be intimidated.” We broke into laughter again.
“Damn, just imagine…”
The trip to YCS Toronto is a pilgrimage that I’ve been making since 2011, way back when Plants were the most dominant deck, and Yu-Gi-Oh was relatively simpler. My travel companions for this particular year would include none other than my partner in crime, Sean McCabe, my New Jersey theory-oh buddy, Tej Trivedi, and the only female with two YCS tops, Carolyn Colajezzi. I was set on playing Nekroz, despite telling them not to let me play it for the event in the weeks leading up to the actual trip. Tej was up in the air between Shaddolls and Nekroz, seeing as how Sean had just finished second with the Dark Spellcasters at the UDS. And Carolyn would be taking a trip through Kozmotown, a yellow brick road that I had taken a detour from after a not-so-stellar performance during the Player’s Championship.
The introduction of the Clown engine made Nekroz far too intriguing for me to pass up. I felt that if I played any mirror matches where the opponent wasn’t using them, they would be outclassed. The only thing I was considering beyond that was maining the Shaddoll engine instead, but then I realized that the Clown engine actually countered it. Here's the list I decided on:
3 Nekroz of Unicore
3 Nekroz of Valkyrus
3 Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands
3 Senju of the Thousand Hands
2 Maxx "C"
2 Nekroz of Brionac
2 Nekroz of Clausolas
2 Performage Trick Clown
2 Performage Damage Juggler
2 Performage Hat Tricker
1 Nekroz of Gungnir
1 Nekroz of Trishula
1 Nekroz of Decisive Armor
1 Shurit Strategist of Nekroz
1 Great Sorcerer of Nekroz
1 Exa Enforcer of Nekroz
2 Reinforcement of the Army
2 Nekroz Kaleidoscope
2 Nekroz Mirror
2 Nekroz Cycle
1 Preparation of Rites
1 Foolish Burial
Side Deck: 15
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Royal Decree
2 Fire Hand
2 Ice Hand
2 Artifact Lancea
2 Shared Ride
1 Dark Hole
Extra deck: 15
2 Herald of Arc Light
2 Daigusto Emeral
2 Abyss Dweller
1 Star Eater
1 Shooting Quasar Dragon
1 Number 80: Rhapsody in Berserk
1 Diamond Direwolf
1 Castel the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Number 104: Masquerade
1 Gagaga Cowboy
1 Number 101: Silent Honor ARK
1 Evilswarm Exciton Knight
When we arrived at our hotel, we took a few hours to sleep and get ourselves together before heading out to preregistration. Our walk through Toronto was nice as always. The people were beautiful. Most were fashionable, something that impressed only me I’d assume. I took the time to enjoy a sausage from one of the lunch trucks, which had become a tradition of mine ever since my first visit.
Preregistration was standard. None of us packed anything and we didn’t stay long. We ran into Jeff and Max on the way out, and then we headed back the way we came, only this time we were in search of food. We found a burger spot and ate quickly, knowing it was the first of many meals to come. I decided I wanted to test against Tej a bit, so we played a couple games of Nekroz vs Shaddolls, and then BA vs Shaddolls. He drew Mistake so much that it almost made me want to main MST. However, the years had made me privy to snake charming. I refused to make changes like that the night before, especially when I’d been so adamant about not doing so all week.
On the morning of the event, I met up with everyone that I hadn’t seen in a while. Dale quipped that he only came to make sure that I didn’t surpass him in tops this weekend, since we both had eighteen. I spent the vast majority of my time lending cards to Tommy Rowe and Gabe, while also trying to figure out my last side deck cards. After finalizing my decklist, I found my travel group and watched them play some game called Love Letter. When pairings went up, I didn’t bother to check the name across from mine, but a familiar face pulled up a chair in front of me.
Round 1 vs. Mike Albanese (Performage Nekroz?)
Before the tournament started, I overheard him speaking to people about Performage Nekroz and how good it was. He was purposely giving the impression that he was playing the deck for the YCS, but luckily for me, I won the die roll, so I got to see that he was still running BA (otherwise I might have cleared my field if I went first). In any event, the decision to play two copies of Abyss Dweller is what ultimately won me this matchup; the first one always dies pretty easily, but the second one usually just seals the deal. We went back and forth doing standard Nekroz and BA things but I was fortunately able to take both games.
I won the die roll and chose for him to go first. He opened with Scout, paid 800 to search Saqlifice, summoned a Qliphort, equipped it, then set two cards to his backrow. When I drew for turn he flipped Lose 1 Turn and Imperial Iron Wall. I didn’t main MST so there wasn’t much to do or think about. I summoned Gungnir with the hope of clearing the Iron Wall on his turn, which I did, but the card he drew for turn was another copy of Imperial Iron Wall. I found out when he flipped the fresh one on my draw phase yet again. Onto game two.
I sided in two Ice Hands, two Fire Hands, three Mystical Space Typhoons, Raigeki and Dark Hole. I took out the entire Clown engine and both copies of Maxx “C.” I chose for him to go first and he started very similar to the way he did in game one. The only difference was that this time I had an Ice Hand to run through some of his field, and then a Trishula to finish him off. The only noteworthy thing I remember from this game was seeing him summon Qliphort Towers while Skill Drain was face up on the field, and choosing to pop it with Qliphort Helix. I used Decisive Armor to pump a guy and take the rest of his lifepoints on the following turn.
In game three he chose to go first—surprisingly to me at the time—and he dropped Qliphort Towers on turn one. He used the effect and I discarded my Ice Hand. Unfortunately for him, my hand was absolutely absurd with only five cards. I had Manju, Reinforcement of the Army, Mystical Space Typhoon, Decisive Armor, and Nekroz of Unicore. He had four cards in hand with Scout and Monolith flanking his Towers. I made a quick Diamond Dire Wolf play with Manju and Unicore to pop one of the scales, then I proceeded to summon Brionac and Trishula. Trish took the other scale and a card from his hand. I used Decisive Armor to pump Trishula just as I had in the last game, and I swung directly with Brio. I set MST and passed. On the following turn, he summon a Stealth, set three backrows and passed. At some point in game two, I recalled seeing a Mirror Force so I turned Trishula to defense and swung with Brionac. He used Mirror Force immediately and my heart sunk a little. It felt good to dodge that bullet, but I still had to wrap things up. I drew a Senju and he used Fiendish Chain on it. I was fine with that, until he tried to play Vanity’s Emptiness of my only Ritual Spell at the time. I finally used my MST and killed him.
This match was extremely unpleasant for several reasons. My opponent, who may never have had a feature match before, decided that his strategy for the weekend would be to slow play his opponents while gaining infinite lifepoints with Kozmo Forerunner. The judge and the feature match writer started by telling us how everything works—something that I’m well accustomed to at this point—and things kicked off. He read every single card I played, and kept asking me questions about my card effects despite the fact that he was telling me my card effects as he asked. “So that’s the one that can stop the battle phase but I can dodge it with Farmgirl’s effect, right?” At first I thought he was being genuine, so I quickly reassured him that he was correct. But this continued through every single exchange. “So Trishula is the one that banishes one from each zone, but it doesn’t work if I don’t have a hand, right?”
He asked to read my Cycle, my Kaleidoscope, my Mirror, my Unicore, my Trishula, my Shurit, my everything. It’s a good thing he couldn’t read my mind—I had a few choice words hidden there. Even still, I ended up taking game one with Trishula, despite some less than ideal plays on my behalf. I was already over it. Something also worth noting was that I told the feature match judge that my opponent is blatantly slow playing at this point, and he quickly agreed and gave him a slow play warning. Somehow, it didn’t really alter his speed.
I opened unplayable in game two and lost pretty quickly. Game three went back and forth, but I made a misplay (in hindsight) when I summoned Brio from grave with Cycle instead of summoning one of my two in hand Valks. When I went to summon Trishula in the same turn, he played Effect Veiler so I couldn’t banish his Forerunner, and things started to fall apart. All the while, he continued to slow play while gaining 1000 during every standby phase.
We spent the time before the round reminiscing about the olden days and then I chose for him to go first. On my turn, I did the standard Diamond Dire Wolf play to open him up to Trishula, and then I Trished him. He scooped after seeing his next card.
During game two, my hand was absurdly bad and I had to go first so I literally just passed my turn. I ended up drawing a Unicore on the following turn and hoped that he didn’t do ANYTHING to stop my Kaleidoscope play. He didn’t, but I still got scraped up when he resolved his first Triverr.
Game three played out much like game one in that I did the standard Diamond Dire Wolf into Trishula play, and he offered the handshake. He told me not to lose to anyone, and I promised that I wouldn’t. It was on to the next round.
I lost the die roll, was forced to go first, and got OTK’d by his second turn. He played Preparation of Rites somewhere in the mix and dropped a huge field of monsters, including Nekroz of Gungnir.
In game two, he decided to take the Maxx “C” challenge, but he didn’t account for Artifact Lancea—or rather he was hoping I didn’t have it—and I did, and it won me the game. We were very close to time for game three, but neither game took more than five or six turns anyway, so three turns each would be plenty.
It’s strange how that works, really. Nekroz mirror matches can take eons to play out, but if you count the turns it’ll be a “short game” by that standard.
Game three was just as disgusting as the others, only this time he was on the receiving end of my Preparation of Rites. He used Mathematician to summon Herald of Arc Light, but I had used Lancea earlier in the turn so I was able to discard Damage Juggler to prevent some lifepoint loss. Also, if the game weren’t in time, he would probably have scooped it up because I was really far ahead in card advantage even before revealing my Prep.
Round 6 vs. Ritual Beasts
My friends and I have an ongoing joke that Ritual Beasts are a deck that does everything, or absolutely nothing. The best part about the joke is that it usually just does absolutely nothing.
Can you guess what he did in both games?
He opened with a set monster and passed. I knew what he was playing since he and Tommy Rowe borrowed a whole BA deck and a half from me that same morning. I made a Dweller, searched Valk, and killed his set monster. It seemed like I was going to blow him out when suddenly he started coming back. And this wasn’t your everyday BA comeback; this was more of a “I’m actually about to kill you if you let me attack you with these Travelers one more time” type of comeback. It got to a point where I realized that losing was a real possibility, and all he needed me to do was misplay one time. There was a point where he had two Downerd Magicians with Dantes and other goodies underneath, along with a Virgil in the middle. It was quite the Rockstar Ménage, if you will. In any event, I ended up summoning Decisive Armor to slowly pick away his backrows, and then made a second Abyss Dweller to clean up the front row.
He won game two after I caught him with a nasty Fire Hand. The situation went like this. He used Graff that turn to fetch a Cir from his deck and tuned it with Rubic to summon Virgil. I purposely set a bluffed Ritual Spell with the Fire Hand on my first turn because I wanted to make it seem as though I had Decree, and it would give him a reason to not Virgil away my set monster instead. When he synch’d for Virgil, he brought back Graff. He swung into my facedown Fire Hand with Virgil and I popped Graff, knowing that it was already used, then brought out Ice Hand. This left him in an awkward position because he couldn’t really set any backrows. He passed with just Virgil on the field and I summoned a Ju to try to get something going for myself. The game ended up coming down to me Trishing him and setting Decree—my last stand—and him having just one BA monster in his hand with nothing else. He topped a Scarm and made Acid Golem, and on the next turn I was dead. It was quite unfortunate, considering that they play close to twenty traps, but Yugs will be Yugs.
We started out game three in time, and both of us opened pretty terribly. I ended up winning because he played Warning on a Ju on turn one, and then I used two MSTs to hit the two real backrows he had, leaving him with just a dead Traveler set. Nothing eventful happened, really.
So at this point it finally started to hit me that I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I think Patrick James gave me a cracker at some point, but obviously that isn’t enough to last through eight rounds of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh. I was completely dominating him in game one, and we got to a situation where I had Daigusto Emeral on the field with a Manju and a Cycle in my hand. Under the Daigusto Emeral was a Trick Clown. My lifepoints were at 3900. He had a backrow that had been sitting there the entire game, so I assumed it was Void Seer, and he had no cards in hand. His graveyard was weak so the only way he could win would be with a top decked Reasoning. And of course he top decked Reasoning. He milled a bunch of cards, including a guy that was 2900, which was perfect since Trick Clown would deal me 1000 if I brought it back. So he ended up taking game one and I was pretty annoyed by losing like that, but I trusted in the power of the brick, since that deck always bricks one or two games of each match (at least in my experiences).
He did very little in game two, and I swarmed the field with a bunch of Unicores to drop him low. On the following turn I killed him.
Game three would have been a complete blowout, too, but he hit an Artifact Lancea off of Reasoning, and I forgot that its effect was lingering during my long turn. I made a misplay by trying to Rhapsody two of his Infernoids, but he reminded me of the lingering effect. On the following turn, I had him at 2800, but we had a lifepoint dispute where he and the judges said I didn’t attack. I looked at my calculator and the math was clearly there insinuating that I did attack last turn, but I didn’t bother arguing because it’s very possible that I pushed my monsters forward without voicing it, or I just actually didn’t attack. I was too tired and hungry to push the issue, and his deck seemed to be crapping out on him. He ended up losing because he couldn’t do enough damage to me in time, and I was happy to have survived such a miserable game of misplays. You know it’s bad when you stop doing basic functions that require nothing from you.
So there I was finishing the day with only one loss, and more than ready to eat a ton of food before thinking about day two. I went out with my travel buddies, Sean McCabe, Tej Trivedi, and Carolyn Colajezzi. We ended up at some festival where there were food trucks and stands all up and down the main street. While waiting for our food, I decided to pull up the list of people who made day two with the same record. Of the names listed, I took particular notice of Calvin Tahan’s. I hadn’t seen him during the entire YCS but it appeared that he had also taken only one loss. That didn’t seem right.
Then it hit me. He had two byes. Of course he had two byes. He always has two byes. And for Konami events two byes means you get special seating. McCabe and I joked about it a bit before I said that I hope I get him during the first round tomorrow. There were a couple of people I wanted, but getting Calvin would guarantee an easy shoe-in to my nineteenth top.
Oh, well would you lookie here, Christmas came early this year. We spoke briefly before the round started, and he seemed genuinely nervous. I couldn’t hide the grin on my face as I shuffled my deck and watched him place down a stack of Pokemon cards on his mat. To his benefit, he did win the die roll, but that was about all the winning he would be doing that day. I didn’t open with a Ju, and yet I was still able to do a simple Valk play involving Great Sorcerer, ending my turn with six in hand. He also didn’t open with a Ju, so that was good, but then something strange happened. Calvin decided that it was in his best interest to have his very first play of the match be the summon of Gungnir? I can’t lie; it put me on tilt a little bit. I even asked him, “Calvin, what the hell are you doing?” to which he responded, “I actually just don’t know.” He was laughing feebly as he searched his deck for Shurit, and then he passed to me with no backrows or anything to make me play with caution. I started to question if he mained Effect Veiler or something of that nature, but that still wouldn’t justify his first turn play. I ended up winning on the next turn.
Game two played out exactly like game one, strangely enough. He summoned Gungnir as his first play again, something that Nekroz should never be doing in a mirror match, and then he set two backrows. His last card in hand was Decisive Armor, which he searched. I assumed he had Emptiness set. It made so much sense at the time. I would never think that both of his backrows were just Ritual Spells. I won shortly after.
So that was that. I would have never guessed that my easiest match of the weekend would be the one that guaranteed my spot in the Top32. I didn’t bother to play out my last round. I sat in front of my opponent, pretended to play a game, and then scooped it up. I went scouting the decks of the other players at the top tables instead. Barrett, Tyree, Joe Bogli, and Patrick James all made it in, too. Calvin ended up losing his last round, which meant he went from 7-0 to 7-3. To be honest, a part of me actually felt bad for him. But the Yugi-gods did not take kindly to those who exalted themselves as openly as he had.
Top32 was uneventful. I got deck checked and everything was fine; I’ve never had an infraction before, so I’m still happy about that. I had to play a Nekroz mirror match, and I lost the die roll. I opened unplayable at first, but I drew a Ju on my very next turn and it made my whole hand come alive. He had a Valk on the field with a Valk in his hand that I knew he searched, and four other cards. His graveyard had a Unicore, a Clausolas, two ritual spells, and a Great Sorcerer. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why he’d left a Valk faceup on his field like that, but it was throwing me off. My hand was complicated. So complicated that Patrick Hoban and Jeff Jones spent over an hour trying to figure it out collectively after the match. It was quite the duel puzzle, and it possibly has no answer, but I will share it with you all.
My hand was Manju, Unicore, Trick Clown, Damage Juggler, Nekroz Mirror, and Nekroz Kaleidoscope. I had a Nekroz of Clausolas in the graveyard from my last turn. My lifepoints were at 1400 from his previous attacks. Is there any way to 100% kill him that turn? If not, what do you think the best play would be? Please let me know in the comment section below.
-The US Dollar being worth more than the Canadian monopoly money this year.
-2-0ing Calvin to guarantee my spot in Top32.
-Theorizing over drinks with the best player/deck builder in the game.
-Canadian festivals and funnel cake.
-Seeing Gabe win on his first top.
-Tommy Rowe XD.
-Mike Albanese for being Mike Albanese. Always a good laugh with that one.
-Saint Laurent Biker Jeans.
-Learning more about playing Nekroz.
-Losing in Top32.
-No Stephens in attendance (Silverman & Dabreo). Both of them provide an assortment of ignorance.
-Being the only person in the car to top.
Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!
-The Dark Magician