Hello, dueling world, I hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed you. It’s been quite some time, but after coming off of two back-to-back tops at the biggest tournaments of the year, I felt it was only right to write again. First and foremost, let us quickly recap everything that’s been happening with me so far. For most of this year, I had been stuck playing lackluster decks like Dragon Rulers and Prophecy, when I could have been playing what I knew to be the best decks in each format. It was like I couldn’t let the greatness of 2013 rest in peace. This, of course, led to a series of disappointing finishes. For example, you know that feeling you get when you pour a nice, big bowl of cereal, and then you look in the fridge to get the milk, but there isn’t any left? Yeah, that’s the type of disappointment I’ve been going through. And really, it was all self-inflicted. Hoban had always given me his winning list at least a week before the tournament, and I had always chose not to play it for whatever reason. This hindered my ability to do well at events because everything I played lacked the essential key—consistency.
If you know anything about 2014, it’s that consistency will take you further than explosiveness. If we look back at the dominance of Fire Fist in the beginning of the year, and then to the dominance of Geargia right after it, you can see that both decks had that one thing in common. They were simply consistent at what they did. There was a brief period where Mermails became the best deck, too, but that was short lived thanks to the arrival of Soul Charge. Once that card hit the scene, everything changed…or so we all thought, when in reality, Geargias actually became much better. The deck had been refined so many times throughout the year, showcasing its ability to adapt to anything. I absolutely refused to play it, though, because it wasn’t my style. My mind was still wrapped around combo decks. Finally, right before this year’s Nationals, I decided to quit my stubbornness and play a deck with a decent amount of backrows, and a less explosive playstyle. That deck would be F.A.T (Fire Fist, Artifacts, Traptrix).
F.A.T had given me my first top of the year, and it reminded me of a feeling that I had totally forgotten for so long; I remembered what it felt like to have control over my games again. It felt good to actually outplay my opponents for a change, instead of trying to quickly dig for Soul Charge and slam it on the table. For some reason, whenever I tried to do well with a combo deck, I would lose out to floodgate cards. If you read my round one feature match from this year’s YCS Philly, you will see exactly what I’m talking about. I would have so much more advantage than my opponent, but they would always have the one floodgate that I never seem to have an out to. I was tired of losing like that. It wasn’t very skillful. People would just flip up a continuous trap and collect their free win against me.
Before ARG’s $20K, McCabe and I had quickly decided that the Fire Fist engine was no longer necessary. This was mostly due to everyone playing Hands in their deck, and the best matchup—Geargia—kind of died out a bit. I told him that I did not want to enter a tournament without Sanctum in my deck, regardless of what we played. I literally tried to put it in everything. The only decks that interested me outside of the Artifact package were Madolche and Bujins. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to test them and develop enough trust to play them in a tournament of this scale.
I remember McCabe talking about his loss at Nationals to Steinman and his K.A.T deck (Kuribandit, Artifacts, Traptrix), and the idea seemed like something I’d be interested in. It also seemed like an easy transition from one Artifact deck to another. To make the whole thing even more appealing, my local buddy, Luke Feeney, got second place with it at the Player’s Championship on the Friday before the main event. I decided to hold back on playing it for that tournament, and instead picked up my friend’s Water deck. I think we all know how that went. It was the story of my life, actually. I tried to play a combo deck, and I lost to floodgate cards in rounds one and two. Hoban beat me with Rivalry and Emptiness, and then Desmond did the same thing. At the very least, I knew what I wasn’t playing for the $20K.
Right before I turned in my decklist on Saturday morning, I was standing around with a bunch of buddies when Ned Salkovitch said that I should throw a Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning in my deck. I decided to just add it to the list since I couldn’t find a card to take out, and I didn’t have time to analyze everything before we had to hand them in. I wasn’t too concerned. Kuribandit is one of the best accelerants in the game, and there are tons of cards that I rather not draw into, anyways. If Sanctum wasn’t so good, I could easily see Artifacts becoming like those crazy 50+ card Mermail decks of the past. Anyways, here’s my list:
3 Traptrix Myrmeleo
3 Artifact Moralltach
2 Artifact Beagalltach
2 Maxx “C”
2 Traptrix Dionaea
1 Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning
3 Artifact Igntion
3 Soul Charge
2 Pot of Duality
1 Dark Hole
3 Artifact Sanctum
2 Breakthrough Skills
2 Fiendish Chain
2 Dimensional Prison
1 Solemn Warning
1 Bottomless Trap Hole
1 Traptrix Trap Hole
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Call of the Haunted
1 D.D. Crow
1 Banisher of Radiance
1 Maxx “C”
1 Dimensional Fissure
1 Acid Trap Hole
1 Deep Dark Trap Hole
1 Needle Ceiling
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Memory of an Adversary
2 Malevolent Catastrophe
The judges posted pairings for round 1, and since I didn’t have any byes, it was time to play.
Round 1 vs Mermail
He won the roll and opted to go first. It feels so good to lose the die roll and have someone make the correct choice for you. It also feels good that there is a real decision to make now. The only thing significant that happened in this game was him being extremely low thanks to my early game M&M beatdown (Moralltach + Myrmeleo), and then me having to use another Moralltach to clear a Leo. On the next turn, he used Soul Charge to bring back Leo, and it actually stuck for a while. I remember patiently waiting for my deck to give me the Dionaea or Soul Charge that I needed to win, and eventually it happened. At that very moment, while I was waiting on her, I started wishing I played three copies.
Game two was even faster than the first. I barely remember it, but I know I quickly established complete control within a matter of turns.
He won the roll and opted to go first. Once again, I was secretly happy about this. As long as I get to interact with my opponents, I don’t really care if they go first now. Decks like Infernity and Sylvan are the ones that scare me. Anyways, he opened with Anjelly into Hootcake and Chateau. He also played a ticket and set a backrow. I always liked how much advantage the Madolche deck gained from just one monster. Fortunately for me, I opened with two copies of Artifact Ignition and Dark Hole. I almost felt bad about it. I popped both of his Madolche Spells, played Dark Hole, then followed it up with Traptrix Myrmeleo. It didn’t take long for this game to be over, too.
I sided in my third Maxx “C” and my one D.D. Crow since I knew he was going to go first again. He opened with Magileine to grab Anjelly, set a backrow, then played Chateau. I opened up absolutely unreal again, with Sanctum, Ignition, Duality, and Kuribandit. On his next turn, he summoned Anjelly, and I immediately used Sanctum to bring out Beagalltach, then I chained Ignition to his effect, targeting the Chateau. The Ignition then set a Moralltach, and I chose to destroy it with Beagalltach’s effect. Moralltach popped Anjelly, and the game was pretty much over. I dropped a Dionaea and brought out a Pleiades on my next turn to seal the deal.
Round 3 vs. Beasts
Before this round started, Luke Feeney came up to McCabe and I talking about how he just lost to a Beast deck. What a coincidence. My opponent sat down and told me that he just finished beating Luke, which told me what I was up against. I figured it couldn’t be that bad, but little did I know.
He won the roll, of course, and opened with one of the Racoons that sets a monster when it’s summoned, and then he activated a Reinforcement of the Army to grab Junk Synchron. I was not too pleased with where things were going. My hand was actually kind of awful, too, because I didn’t have a real monster, but fortunately for me, he popped my Red Ranger (Beagalltach) to help me stall. I had to Fiendish Chain both of his Beast Rank 2 guys before things got out of hand, and then I slowly grinded the game out. At some point, he played a Soul Charge for a lot, but it only amounted to a Leo, and when I dealt with that, he scooped. He said there was nothing left in his deck to fight with. The game did take a while, so I feared going into time.
I had a hunch that siding in Needle Ceiling would randomly work against him, and it literally won me game two. He did an End Phase Scapegoat play and tried to summon Junk Synchron, but the Ceiling came down on his field to stop any possible absurdities from taking place. I followed it up with a Traptrix Myrmeleo to grab Acid Trap Hole, and the game gradually progressed in the same direction. I believe a Pleiades came down to finish the job.
He won the roll, chose to go first, and opened with Card Trooper and a few draw cards. My heart was pounding, praying that he wouldn’t do a nutty Soul Charge play on the first turn, and thankfully he didn’t. I did, however, have to deal with Card Trooper again, and again. It milled all Spells the first time, then he brought it back with Debris Dragon on the following turn. It milled all Spells again, then he Synchro Summoned Black Rose Dragon. I used Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, and he followed up with Soul Charge. Card Trooper came back, and milled yet another three Spells. Needless to say, I was thrilled. His life was pretty low, too, and I had just used Ignition on the Red Ranger to bring up the Blue one. When he passed back to me, I made a Volcasaurus. He tried to Skill Drain it when I targeted his Blue Eyes for destruction, but a Wiretap would seal the deal. Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t have had game if he didn’t flip Skill Drain. I wasn’t using Gaia Charger, which would have been able to attack over the defense mode Trooper after Number 61 dealt with Blue Eyes.
He went first again in game two. I loved it. Everyone kept winning the die roll, so I never had to say, “I’ll go second.” I also hadn’t dropped a game at this point, so I literally went second each time.
He bricked. I could tell as soon as he set two backrows and passed. We all know that isn’t the optimal Dragon Ruler first turn play. He drew into a draw card on his second turn, and it got the ball rolling for him. He played a Soul Charge for everything he just discarded in his frenzy, and I had a nice Bottomless to get rid of everything except Flamvell Guard. On the End Phase, I used Sanctum to clear it, and then I established a Pleiades.
He won the roll and chose to go first. We had a very grindy game, but I did a Torrential play that made his Ice Hand miss timing, and took the game from there.
In game two, he went first and summoned Myrmeleo while setting three backrows before passing. I thought for about three minutes on how I wanted to set my play up. I needed both bait and a backup plan, but if I pulled it off, the game would be over. I set three to match his, and ended my turn. He drew and attacked. First I activated the bait: Artifact Sanctum. I wanted to see if he had a Wiretap. He didn’t. Next, I chained Malevolent Catastrophe. He thought for a long time about that one. Either he had a response, or he was just salty—I couldn’t tell. When he let that go, I chained my last backrow, Artifact Ignition, to set a Moralltach from my deck to the backrow. The chain resolved backwards and I summoned two Moralltachs while destroying his entire field. I dropped BLS on the following turn—just because—and he conceded.
Round 6 vs. HAT
He won the roll and chose to go first. I thought we were having a real game at first. Things were going pretty stale, but I didn’t mind. Eventually, it got to a point where resources were low on both sides, and the Soul Charge I had been holding since turn one finally came down. I brought out two Traptrix Myrmeleo to pop two of his three backrows, and they turned out to both be Artifact Sanctums! I couldn’t believe it. In his last two turns, he had drawn and set two Sanctums. I accounted for at least one disaster, because I had a set Breakthrough Skill and a set Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, but as it turns out, he ended up targeting the Breakthrough Skill with Sanctum, so it got destroyed before it could stop Moralltach, and then he misplayed by making Moralltach chain link 3, meaning that I could use Nightmare on it, but his last backrow—which I missed with both Myrmeleo—was Wiretap. So basically, I just flat out lost by activating Soul Charge with legitimate backup. It was quite frustrating, to say the least. That was also the first game I lost all day. I had been 10-0 in games up until that point.
I chose to go second in game two, and I opened up pretty solid. Nothing particularly amazing happened, but I did grind him down until it was time to play Soul Charge again. This time, he only had one card left in his hand, and nothing else. I ended with a Number 101: Silent Honor ARK, a Constellar Pleiades, and a set Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare from Dionaea’s effect. That’s game, right? Nope. He draws for turn, confirms that I’m at 1000lp, and then plays Mind Control on Pleiades. I chained its effect to bounce itself back, even though he forgot he had a Breakthrough Skill in the grave, and then he flops a Dionaea on the field to bring up Myrmeleo, pop my backrow, and then kill me. Again, I couldn’t believe it. He had one card when I ended my turn, and still got me. That’s Yugs basically.
Round 7 vs. HAT
My opponent showed up looking suave, dressed comfortably in a blazer. I didn’t recognize him, but after picking up the match slip, I was surprised to see the name Calvin Tahan. We reminisced about 2011 when he got his first top, and how much different he used to look back then. He mentioned that he had been out the game for a bit, and recently came back to it.
For once, I actually won the roll, and I chose to go second. He asked how that had been going for me, and I said, “It’s been okay so far.” We had an extremely close game one, but I ended up pulling it out. The same thing happened in game two, except he won. In game three, we ended up going into time at some point, but I finished it in a dominating position thanks to Pleiades.
Before the round, I had been talking to Steve Klaus about all the people we don’t want to play in the X-1 bracket. He mentioned that he didn’t want to play me, and of course, we ended up getting paired against each other immediately. It was a written feature match and it was recorded. I won against him 2-1.
Round 9 vs. Madolche
I really wanted to finish Day 1 with an X-1 record, so I needed to win this match. He won the roll chose to go first. I already knew he was playing Madolche, so my only hope was that he didn’t open Anjelly in his first five cards. Naturally, he opened Anjelly in his five cards, and the game went quickly downhill for me. He gave me a few chances to win by making a pointless Zenmaines, but my deck was non-compliant, so I couldn’t capitalize on it.
I chose to go second in game two, and he opened with a set monster and four backrows. I wasn’t used to seeing that from Madolche, and I almost played Dark Hole on it, thinking it was a hand, but then I rememebered that they play TG monsters. I wasn’t about to take away my advantage from going second, so I decided to just summon Myrmeleo, search Bottomless, and swing. It was revealed to be a Messengelato. Not bad. I had a +2 by this point, and it was only my first turn. Needless to say, I won extremely fast, and we were off to game three.
Game three started off pretty rough for me. I had two Moralltachs in my hand, and nothing to make use of them. I was down to 4600 after an Ice Hand attack, and a Solemn Warning. There really wasn’t any way for me to win, unless he helped me, so I summoned Dionaea and hoped. He rammed his Ice Hand into her and popped my Torrential Tribute. He was supposed to stop right there and go to Main Phase 2 to make his Hootcake play, but he decided to keep going. He started popping Artifacts, and I destroyed the Hootcake sitting on the field with Moralltach’s effect. After everything was said and done, somehow, he had lost the game for himself. I started beating him down with a single Moralltach until it was over. With that, I had finished Day 1 with an X-1 record—just as I had hoped. I could sleep easy that night. The top was guaranteed.
For Day 2, I arrived nearly an hour early to the convention center, and watched Jeff play against the luckiest C.A.T (Cardcar, Artifact, Traptrix) ever. Everyone sat around telling jokes to pass the time, until finally round 10 was posted. I was up against Ali Yassine, an Infernity player from Canada. Needless to say, I wasn’t too thrilled, but the outcome didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
He won the roll and went off quite viciously. He took me down to 2600 lifepoints on his first chance to attack, and then I drew Torrential and set it. I already had a Wiretap and Breakthrough Skill set, but I didn’t have any monsters to defend myself. I considered scooping because he had game on board, but I figured “eh, why not.” He drew for turn and normal summoned Infernity Necromancer. I couldn’t believe it. I knew his only backrow was Infernity Barrier, so I quickly flipped Torrential, and then Wiretapped his Barrier. Just like that, I was back in the game. I ended up drawing a Traptrix Myrmeleo along with other good cards to seal the deal as he hopelessly topdecked. I had stolen game one, but he still had two more chances.
In game two, he went off yet again, but he ended up drawing Photon Thrasher while he had plenty of monsters on the field, and it nearly cost him the game. Unfortunately, I was not able to capitalize, and we were off to game three.
This game was grueling, and we ended up going into time. I had a huge lead in lifepoints because of his Upstart Goblins and a Soul Charge for 4000, but we all know Infernity can close the gap in one battle phase. I caught him with a Needle Ceiling on his draw phase, and then I ripped a Dark Hole when he recreated his field. It was a fitting end to the match. I had Infernity’d him back, ripping a win condition off the topdeck.
This was the first player who won the die roll and chose to go second. I wasn’t quite sure why, but it kind of threw me off a little bit. I opened pretty decent enough, with Myrmeleo and such, so it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it was a little concerning. He summoned a Fire King Barong and I immediately realized what was up. I had heard about someone playing Fire Kings at the top tables, and he had been 8-0 Day 1. I happened to be holding BLS during the entire game, and when he finally resolved his Garunix, I made him use his last backrow before summoning it in defense position and removing the resilient chicken. The game was way over from that point.
In game two, I opened absolutely terrible with cards like Soul Charge and Dark Hole, and I couldn’t really side them out because nothing else in my side was appropriate. Thankfully, I didn’t get rushed too much. I used a Memory of an Adversary on his Barong early on, and then I consistently found ways to play around Onslaught of the Fire Kings. An example of this was when he summoned Wolfbark while he knew I had Bottomless set from Myrmeleo. I let the summon go through, and then used the Bottomless on the Bear he brought back. This further delayed his win condition, and eventually I was able to Soul Charge for my favorite field of Pleiades and Number 101.
I finished swiss with a 10-1 record, which made me extremely confident in my deck choice, and I felt like I could honestly win the whole tournament. The only decks I did not want to face were Sylvans and Infernity because of how little interaction there is in those games.
Top32 vs. Gladiator Beasts?
I won the roll and opted to go first. I figured that his deck really couldn’t deal with me getting a Bottomless on the first turn, and then the possibility of me having Sanctum. However, things did not play out like that at all. In fact, it was the worst hand I had drawn in the entire tournament, and going second would not have changed that. I opened with one Moralltach and one Beagalltach, then I played Pot of Duality to reveal the other two Moralltachs and the second Beagalltach. I couldn’t believe it. The hand was already bad enough without that. I was forced to take an Artifact, leaving me with a hand of three dead cards and two traps. He opened with Cardcar D and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. This meant he already had a +2 on me, but realistically, it was more like a +5 with all my dead cards. I lost this game slowly still, because he didn’t want to overextend into my heavy backrow, but the victory was beyond smooth sailing for him.
For game two, I decided to let him go first out of fear that something similar would happen, and I wanted the extra card that badly. I was beyond nervous. Who wanted to lose to a deck from 2008 in the top cut of a $20K? This game went in my favor rather quickly, though, thank Ra. I resolved plenty of good cards like Sanctum and Soul Charge, and by the time it was over, my advantage was absolute. We were about to start game three, and I silently asked my deck to comply with me.
He chose to go first. He set one monster and two backrows. Fair enough, I thought. I summoned Myrmeleo, searched Bottomless, and then debated for a second before swinging into his facedown monster. I rationalized that there was no way he was playing Hoplomus, but even if he was, and if that was it, I still had Dionaea in my hand. He responded to my attack with Mirror Force. Perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better response. I was now at +2 thanks to going second and Myrmeleo’s effect. If we continued to trade resources like this, I would win easily. I set three backrows and ended my turn. Here’s where it got a little tricky. None of my backrows could actually “deal” with a Gyzarus play if he decided to go that route, and it seemed like he was debating it. I was hoping that seeing my three backrows would scare him enough, but there was no way to tell. Eventually, he ended his turn with a new backrow, and I used Mystical Space Typhoon on it. I knew he didn’t have a Breakthrough Skill or Fiendish Chain set because he would have used it on my Myrmeleo, which meant Dionaea was free to do her thing. I retrieved Myrmeleo from the grave and popped his Waboku. I was a little shocked to see that card, but I was even happier to continuously plus. I ended my turn without overlaying for anything, and he flipped up his facedown monster finally, revealing a Gladiator Beast Murmillo. He tried to swing at the defense position Myrmeleo, but I used Dimensional Prison to stop the attack. At some point in the game, I remember having five backrows—all very good ones—and I tried to use Artifact Ignition to pop one of his, but was reminded that I had to pop one of my own. He allowed me to take it back, and I thanked him for it. At the state of the game we were in, I was so far ahead that it wouldn’t have had an effect on the outcome, but it was a misplay nonetheless. I was a bit too excited thinking about Top16, and I wanted it to be over so badly. He ended up scooping shortly after, as I had amassed far too much card advantage. We shook hands and he wished me good luck in the rest of the tournament.
This match was recorded on the livestream, which you can now rewatch on ARG’s YouTube channel: AlterRealityGames.
In game one, there was nothing I could really do to stop the onslaught. He combo’d off eventually, and we dove into our side decks. In game two, I opened with Necrovalley and two Kuribandits to get the party started. I grabbed a Warning off the first, and a Dark Hole off the second. I ended up setting all of my backrows, including the Dark Hole, and it got to a point where I had Moralltach, Beagalltach, and Dionaea to his one backrow. I swung with all three and he activated Dimensional Prison to banish Moralltach. He drew an MST for his next turn and won with the combo.
What I did not realize about this game was that I could have won if I had first made Pleiades, bounced my Necrovalley, summoned Dionaea, brought back Myrmeleo to pop his set Dimensional Prison, and then Xyz summoned Rhapsody in Berserk to banish his grave. He did give me a chance to win by forgetting that my last backrow was Dark Hole, so when he ended his turn with just an Infernity Barrier set, all I had to do was draw a Soul Charge or Dionaea to win the game. Unfortunately, that was the end of the road for me, but I was still pleased with my showing. I felt that if I won that match, I had a strong chance of winning the rest.
Now, I’m off to ARGCS Providence, and then ARGCS Atlantic City. We’ll see the impact of the Duelist Alliance at the latter. Hope to see you all there! Later, duelists!
Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!
-The Dark Magician