There he was, Sean McCabe, the third name at the top of the scoreboard and another obstacle for me to overcome. With round 1 starting soon, I knew I could be paired up against any of the three titans at JMC. I also knew that Fiends, which up until this point had always been my go-to-deck for serious situations, would no longer hold up in such an environment. Therefore, I had to make some emergency provisions...
Sometime the night before
"What deck are you making?" I didn't bother to look up from my dining room table as my best friend, Bubby, inquired about the assortment of cards I had arranged in front of him. "I'm going to beat them at their own game. The only reason Kevin won was because his deck was way better than mine. I know I'm a better player." "I believe it, but did he show it to you or something?" "No. But I lost so many times that I was able to see virtually every card in there. It won't be hard to replicate, and this will help to even the playing field. Of course I'll throw my own twist on it, but all the main pieces will be the same." I had everything spread out, all the binders, deck boxes, and commons I had amassed over time. I was reaching for the Dekoichi(s), Apprentice Magicians, Scapegoats, Hand of Nephyths, Bottomless Trap Holes, D.D. Warrior Lady, and the BLS. "Damn, you're taking this one seriously." "Yes. So do you feel like playing me when I'm done?" I was still too focused on building to ever make eye contact with him. "Sure, I'll be the test subject..."
The tournament was a nice size considering the day and age; it was around 20-25 people. My palms were sweating before the start of round 1, as they always have, even to this day. I was going over the plays in my head that I had seen Kevin utilize against me; setting Torrential on turn 1 without any monsters on the field; not setting Scapegoat when you have 2 or more monsters out; attacking with 1 monster until your opponent changes the game-state, and many other simple tricks that helped to improve my game. What I wasn't ready for was the way JMC did pairings. The guy running the store simply yelled out the names of the people playing each other. He was so terribly loud that it made you nervous to hear your name called out so vehemently.
In pairs of twos, I listened and watched as each player's name was yelled out. This created even more anxiety since you could see who hasn't been linked up with another person. In other words, if your name hasn't been called yet, and you haven't heard the names of Dontaye, Kevin, or Sean McCabe, you were in trouble.
As for me, I dodged the big three and played a guy named Elijah first. It was a bit of a coincidence that I had just traded him one of my extra BLS(s) when I got there. I started to wonder if he, too, had been using Chaos. I guess I wasn't the only one who got the "if you can't beat em, join em" memo. In any event, we played an exceedingly long game 1, and his deck was a little bit different than mine, or Kevin's rather. He ended up winning that game only because of BLS, which had been a Zaborg before our trade. I was sickened by the idea that I had just supplied someone with the tool of my own destruction. I didn't really know what to side deck either, mainly because Kevin and I never played real game 2s. However, I did manage to push it to game 3 in a timely fashion with some early beatdown and a Ring of Destruction on his Berserk Guerilla. By the time we made it to game 3, it was so late in the round that almost everyone in the store was watching our match. You could hear whispers, snickering, and judgmental statements being shared amongst the developing crowd. I worked to stay focused.
Elijah would be going first so he would have the chance to set up before me. Unfortunately for him, I opened exceptionally well. I had the trinity; Pot, Graceful, and Delinquent Duo. I even drew into Sinister Serpent off the Pot! I may not have been that great, but even I couldn't mess up that hand. I made short work of him in a few turns and saved myself from embarrassment, too. Or so I thought…
Round 2 began with the blaring sound of names being screamed together—the usual. This time I wouldn’t be so lucky; I ended up having to play Kevin, the very person whose deck I had copied just before coming. I was beyond nervous since I hadn’t won a single game against him yet. I was sure there were things he knew about the deck that I might not have gotten to learn in such a short time, so I would have to bank on a little luck to pull out a match win. Sadly, I got completely dominated in game 1. I won the roll and set Dekoichi, thinking all was well for my little locomotive. He summoned a Dekoichi of his own and attacked mine while it was face-down. This simple play confused me to no end. Why wouldn’t he just set it and net himself an extra draw? I tried to destroy it with my D.D. Warrior Lady but he used Bottomless Trap Hole on her summon. I set Scapegoat and passed my turn, trying to replicate his move with the Hand of Nephthys from when we first played. He set a monster and a new backrow before passing. I activated the goats on the end phase and dropped the Hand to bring out the Sacred Phoenix. Again, he responded with Bottomless Trap Hole. I was a little frustrated because I hadn’t really seen them as much when we played our fun games before. Now it seemed like he had them all at the most optimal times. At least I still had my goats to protect me for another turn…that is, until he summoned Asura Priest, flipped up his set Dekoichi, and swung at me for 2800. Things were looking grim now. It started off so well, but somehow he pushed the momentum in his favor by just going aggro on his first turn. I lost shortly after because I couldn’t gain a foothold in the duel.
Game 2 was going to be tougher since I didn’t know what to really side, so I just brought in my second Nobleman of Crossout and kept the deck mostly the same. I opened with Pot and Graceful and set Magician of Faith, attempting to get a huge boost in card advantage. He obviously had the Crossout and only removed one copy of Magician of Faith from his own deck. I had to either assume that he sided one out, or he had it in his hand. We didn’t look through each other’s decks back then. It always seemed so wrong, and it was highly unlikely that anyone would keep a flip effect monster in their deck just to draw it later and pretend like they already had it. In any case, he did end up setting a monster that turn, so it raised the suspicion that it was indeed MOFO. I drew a Nobleman of my own on the following turn and quickly played it to reveal…Apprentice Magician. It felt like it was used as bait…and I was right, because a little later in the game, he took control by playing Graceful Charity and flipping Magician of Faith to get it again! He saw the look on my face and said, “I had it.” When I thought about it, I would’ve played my Nobleman no matter what. I wasn’t advanced enough to consider someone bluffing like that.
And then it happened. Something I had only mildly considered after what took place towards the end of round 1. Dontaye was finished with his game, so naturally he came over to watch ours. It made the losing position feel even worse. I could sense his condescending thoughts radiating off his body as he stood there, arms folded, behind Kevin. He probably saw through every misplay I made. Turns later I was scooping up my cards in despair, having lost both games while using the same deck. What would be my excuse now? It’s clearly not the deck that’s making him win. Was I really that easy of an opponent? Am I just one of the small fry swimming in a shark tank?
I could barely look up as I packed my stuff into my bag. “Good game,” Kevin said in a calm voice as he extended a handshake. “Yeah, good game,” I said back as I locked onto his hand. That kind gesture made me feel infinitely better. Something about him was so much friendlier than his friend. It was like he wanted me to get better. I think he could see how much it meant to me to be good at the game. “I think you should’ve saved your Heavy Storm.” “I was afraid of your backrow, I thought it might be Torrential.” “Yeah but I had more to lose in that situation than you did so it would’ve been a +1 for you.” That was a term I wasn’t familiar with. “What’s a +1?” I asked trying not to sound too obvious but probably failing miserably. “It’s basically when we have an exchange of cards that ends up with one person gaining a little advantage. So like, an easy example would be when you catch your opponent with a Mirror Force for 2 monsters that aren’t floaters.” “Floaters?” Another obscure term. I had to wonder if he was talking like that to purposely make me look stupid, or if it was just the way JMC conversed. “Yeah floaters, like Sangan, or a Breaker that already used his counter on something, or a monster that beat another guy in battle.” “Oh ok, I think I get what you mean.” I really didn’t, though. I just wanted to sound halfway coherent of what was being said.
"So did everyone in here just copy your deck? I see so many Chaos players." "Oh, nah, they're online. There's a website that people go on to netdeck." And there I was being schooled again, but as desperate as I was, I was anxious for him to tell me." "What websi--" "Don't tell him anything, Kevin. He doesn't want to play for cards so don't share any secrets," Dontaye interrupted my reverie with a venomous tone. If I had any doubts before that he might not like me, there was my confirmation. I didn't say a single thing in response to that. I was more shocked that he said it to begin with; how could someone be so blunt and commanding at the same time. “Who cares, Dontaye? It’s called Metagame.com.” I was relieved. For a second I actually thought he might honor that command. “Cool, thanks. I’ll check is out tonight.” “Yeah they have everything on there, all the Top8 decklists from Jumps.” “I guess those are like big tournaments then?” “Yeah that’s where all the pros play.”
“The pros, huh?” I liked the sound of that.
Looks like I was paying Metagame.com a visit tonight. Time to step it up.
To be continued…