Diary of a World Champion: Flying With My Own Wings

sehabi 1I remember as if it were yesterday, the first time I entered a card shop and saw something familiar, something that brought me back to my youth.  The last time I had seen those duel monster cards, now neatly displayed in a glass showcase at this particular card shop, was in elementary school where everyone thought they were Yugi and Kaiba.  Nostalgia got the better of me, and I decided to buy a pack.  The card I pulled was white - it was an Ultimate Rare copy of Blackwing Armor Master! Who knows what my interest for the game would have been had I not pulled that card from my pack.

The store clerk explained to me the evolution of the card game during my absence, and how tournaments were held on a regular basis (in my head, I thought it was something similar to those battle city tournaments in the show). I’ve always enjoyed strategic games, such as Chess, that involve intense thinking. As a result, joining the YGO competitive scene was very enjoyable for my friends and I.

My first tournament experience was kind of special. I walked in and quickly lost to Cold Wave and Rescue Cat after reading all the cards my opponent played. I certainly knew how to play my deck, but I had no clue about the format or the cards my opponent played.  I lost my first match very quickly, and walked out the card shop to return home with a clear conviction to get better (yeah, I thought players got eliminated after losing 1 duel).

One year passed, and I became a regular local player who was well known in my area. I was still playing Blackwings, and as such, my friends called me the ‘Eternal Blackwing Player’. At that point, I wanted to prove to anyone that you don’t need to play expensive cards, such Solemn Warning or Pot of Duality, to do well. Then came my first Regional Qualifier, the first competitive YGO tournament I took part in, where I piloted my deck to an undefeated record! It was a tremendous feeling, and I immediately knew that playing competitively was just my kind of gig!

sehabi 4A few months later, I decided to go to my first YCS (in Toronto) along with some of the best players in Montreal. I started the tournament 7-0, but then quickly lost 2 matches in a row. I was now on the bubble, and a dreadful feeling overtook me. For the first time in my YGO career, I felt a little bit nervous. It’s an interesting feeling being on the bubble. You look around the others sitting around you, and you can feel the anxiety and tension in the room. You need to balance fear with keeping a cool mind, something that isn’t easy, particularly when it’s your first time on the bubble. In the final round, it finally came to where I had game on board (or I thought I had game), but my opponent told me I was 100 LP shorter while I was pretty sure it was game. He had a graphing calculator and mine wasn’t so I couldn’t do anything but agree with him. He only had 1 card in hand at that point to my 4 monsters on the field, and he top decked Pot of Avarice into Monster Reborn and I lost from there.

I walked away from the last round with a migraine and a feeling of disappointment. What could be more painful than to miss a top 32 on my first try because of a Life Point dispute, especially after starting 7-0. Wasn’t I Sehabi, the prodigious Blackwing player, or was I just a regular among the thousands of others? Many questions polluted my mind and haunted me for the next months. My rationale at the time was something like this: “Why did I use a calculator?”, “Why did he topdeck Pot of Avarice and then Monster Reborn?”, “Wasn’t I 7-0?”, “How did I get there?”, “Didn’t I play perfect?”, “I must have made a mistake somewhere”, ”He was so damn lucky!”, “Yea that’s probably it, this game is based on luck!”

I came back a year later in the summer of 2012 and took the time to become a more complete player who knew more than just how to play Blackwing .Playing a tier 3 deck in a format where bunnies and toys are the main decks (Wind-Up and Dino Rabbit, in case you were wondering) showed how little I cared about the game, and only went to the NAWCQ because it was an event where all my friends were going. Playing with 1 Kalut and 1 Black Whirlwind in that format was suicidal, but guess who the crazy guy was who did it anyway? I entered the tournament, only to get destroyed round 1 by future fusion. I still managed to make the day 2 with a 7-2 record beating all the Dino Rabbits I faced because none of them opened rabbit, while Sirocco was beating over vanillas all day long. I laughed so much and told all my friends that it was ridiculous how this game was based around luck. I Proceeded to lose against Hieratic on day 2, and I was reading all of my opponent’s cards.

After another failure, I decided to take a break again until the next WCQ! When I returned the next year, the format was even more degenerate: Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks were running wild! I honestly thought about quitting forever when, at the last minute, a friend of mine wasn’t going and gave me his Dragon Ruler deck for the event. I learned the deck really quickly, I entered the LCQ and got my invite to enter to the main event. Because of my lack of testing and experience with Dragon Rulers, I lost the last round of day 1. That was actually one of the few times I played a meta deck and enjoyed it. However, my favorite deck wasn’t even close to comparable to the top decks.

Until suddenly, a wild and nasty Forbidden and Limited list appeared like a tsunami and turned the game around! I couldn’t believe YCS Toronto was coming and that was my chance to shine. That tournament was the turning point of my YGO career. While I was playing in the tournament, I learned many things such as observing a situation and applying logic and forethought into my decisions. The tournament progressed, and I was growing up through it. In one weekend, I learned how to become a calm player who paid careful attention to detail.

One thing was on my mind: “win the whole event with an undefeated record!”. I didn’t realize I had achieved my goal until my name was called out on the intercom. I had finally done it, 2 years later after my competitive debut, I obtained my first YCS top and I was the only Blackwing player in the top cut – and I did it with an undefeated record in swiss. From that moment onward, everything became clear in my mind.  I told myself that I was ready to start traveling consistently and start playing the best decks of the format. I started looking at YGO from a completely different perspective. Since that YCS experience, a wild dragon that was sleeping deep inside me awoke and was extremely thirsty, and I have yet to quench that thirst.

In essence, it took a lot of work for me to get where I am. It took a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. Don’t give up if you fail at first, let that failure keep you hungry and focused on your goals.

That concludes my first article for Alter Reality Games! Come say hi at YCS Charleston this weekend, I will be there. Until next time, play hard or go home!

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Sehabi Kheireddine, your 2014 Wolrd Champion

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