YCS Atlanta: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Last Minute Shopping

Making the trip to Atlanta was an extremely last minute decision for me. I had been working out various things for my upcoming move from Michigan to California, and had mentally shelved YGO until the 100th YCS in Long Beach, CA. That is, until I started feeling “the twinge.” That tingling ache to play, to compete… after all, I had requested the weekend off months in advance on the off chance that I might go. What would be the harm? A Facebook post and an empty car spot later, and I was in the midst of a 12 hour drive to Georgia with Jeff Jones, Alex Vansant, and Travis Hilliard.

The downside to this sudden departure was that I had not done a lot of preparing. The format was/is drawing to a close, and I felt that it had been explored fairly well by other writers. I had attempted to record some videos on Duel Network of various anti-meta strategies (most of them involving Skill Drain in some capacity), but nothing was sticking. Wind-Up & Dino Rabbit were proving to be too dominant to handle, so I went into the tournament with the desire to play one of the two. By Friday morning, I had acquired the basic skeleton of a Wind-Up deck, so I settled on the Sharks & Boats for my latest YCS outing.

During pre-registration, I managed to pick up the remainder of the deck without dropping too much cash. In fact, my investments into new playsets of Maxx “C” and Wind-Up Rabbit proved to be very lucrative by the end of the trip, and the plusses did not end there! Spoiler: I did not end up faring very well in the actual YCS main event, as you will see below. However, I backdoored my way into some sweet prizes and what has become one of my favorite tournament experiences of all time!

Getting Off on the Wrong Foot

If there’s one thing I have learned over the last 10 or so years playing YGO, its the importance of a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, the 3ish hours I had gotten the previous night did not equate to an easy day ahead. Round 1 saw a back-and-forth matchup between my Wind-Ups & the opponent’s Inzektors, which went to a third game with time close to expiring. Anticipating time being called, I sided out my Solemns and managed to obtain an early life point lead. There came a turning point when I would’ve won the match on time had I simply set my Tour Guide from the Underworld. However, in my fatigue, I attempted to use it to XYZ Summon a Wind-Up Zenmaines. My opponent had a face-up Gozen Match in play, which I had forgotten would prevent the summon of a non-DARK attribute monster. The ruling still makes little sense to me, but I had heard it before this instance, so the blame falls squarely upon my shoulders. My opponent was able to punch over my attack position TGU during his last turn in time to win.

Round 2 was a Wind-Up mirror-match, in which I never drew hand traps and ended up getting looped both games, quickly ending my championship dreams once again. While it is possible to come back from an 0-2 deficit, it is exceedingly difficult to do so and can be heartbreaking to even attempt. While my normal advice to players would be to stick it out until you’re absolutely sure you have no chance, I’m glad that I chose to drop in retrospect, as I would not have made the T32 cut even if I had won out (my good friend Alex Vansant finished X-2 with what had to have been much better tie-breakers, but still missed the playoff).

A Draft in the Room

As you’ve seen from my previous writing, I am a big fan of Sealed & Draft deck play, and have advocated that YGO borrow more of these concepts from games such as Magic: the Gathering not only on the casual level, but on the premier event stage. YCS tournaments are currently one of the only ways to experience these formats in a sanctioned environment, and I couldn’t miss out once the side events started rolling!

As an aside, the upcoming Battle Pack: Epic Dawn is the direct result of such feedback regarding a desire for limited play options in YGO. Huge props to Konami for a taking a big step in the right direction!

The side event guidelines indicated that Sealed Deck, Retro, & Classic Draft events offered the most side event points, followed by Regional flights, and then Win-a-Mat. For those of you who are unaware, there are two playoffs for a YCS prize card at the end of the day on Sunday, one for the four players with the most side event points, and a second playoff for four randomly selected duelists. Various players have, in the past, played exclusively in these events throughout the weekend with the goal of winning the points playoff prize card (say that ten-times fast!). Why couldn’t I do the same? Even if I missed out, I’d still have a blast drafting YGO all weekend.

Classic Draft Strategy

Classic Draft is composed of 3 sets: Spell Ruler, Pharaoh's Servant, & Invasion of Chaos. Aside from some notable exceptions in IOC, these sets lack the high attack “beatsticks” that have become much more commonplace in newer releases. Most monsters cannot get over simple defenders such as the 1850 DEF Ceremonial Bell, or the 3000 DEF Labyrinth Wall. Consequently, cards such as these are arguably higher picks than mediocre attackers like Fire Kraken or Overdrive. Even better are limited “bombs” such as Gravity Bind which can, if unanswered, completely lock an opponent out of the game (and subsequently cause them to deck out due to the small minimum deck size of 20 cards).

I played 3 Classic Drafts during the course of the weekend, winning 2 of those, once with an offensive deck, the other with defense. When drafting beatdown, I concentrated on a blend of removal, high attack LV4 or lower monsters, and a small scattering of high attack LV5 or higher tribute monsters. Sea Serpent Warrior of the Darkness, Blazing Inpachi, & Harpie’s Brother are some of the best low level picks, while Terrorking Salmon, Ryu Kokki, & Chaos Sorcerer are some of the more common finishers. My offensive deck also featured Delinquent Duo & Call of the Haunted, which obviously gave me a significant edge.

When drafting stall, I took the aforementioned Bell & Wall highly, followed by a nice pick up in Gravity Bind, and an even nicer pick in D.D. Borderline. The Borderline prevents both players from attacking as long as you have no Spell cards in your graveyard… guess which type of card I didn’t play other than the Borderline itself? Given the lack of common Spell & Trap removal, I was able to easily deck out most opponents, occasionally beating down with Mad Dog of Darkness & another Terrorking Salmon (rapidly becoming one of my favorite cards because of this format!).

Retro Draft Strategy

Retro Draft uses 3 packs of Retro Draft 2, a set with a small common run and a much higher number of high attack monsters. I played in 2 of these events, and unfortunately won neither. There are two main strategies in this format: stall/deck-out & Card of Safe Return beatdown. Deck-out is made possible and often dominant by copies of Gravity Bind, A Legendary Ocean, and Tornado Wall all at common. This seems to be the most commonly played deck in Retro Draft, as one of the only outs to a lock at the common rarity is Dust Tornado, which is taken very highly. Royal Decree & Jinzo both exist, but are placed at Rare and Ultra Rare respectively. One must be careful to either play more cards in the main deck than what is anticipated of other players (so that they deck out before you do even when you are going first), or to play Recycle to avoid decking entirely.

The common beatdown deck features copies of Card of Safe Return alongside some amount of Premature Burial & Call of the Haunted, all of which are common. Beyond that, a duelist drafting the strategy needs only pick up solid attackers such as Gemini Elf, Goblin Attack Force, and Bazoo the Soul Eater. Careful management of when to play and attack with position-switching cards such as Goblin Attack Force & Spear Dragon is key, as you do not want them run over by lesser monsters. Yata-Garasu, Asura Priest, & Creature Swap also form a deadly trio at common, and Guardian Sphinx can find a welcome place in both the offensive & defensive strategies. I tried playing stall in both of my Retro Draft outings in Atlanta, but unlucky draws and my opponent’s powerful Rares stymied victory.

Sealed Deck Strategy

I also played both sealed deck formats at least once, those being Dawn of the XYZ & Dragons Collide. I picked up the sweet, new Dragons Collide playmat from winning one such event, which are as every bit of fun as draft and are highly recommended! Dawn of the XYZ is a bit linear in strategy, as the winner is often decided by who can XYZ Summon first. Dragons Collide is much better in my opinion, as the deck has many more outs available to counter the mirror match. Red Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon is the most powerful card in the deck by and large, but can still be attacked over using Blue-Eyes White Dragon or removed via Chaos Sorcerer. Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter also serves as an answer to most opposing cards, which is why Prime Material Dragon is the most common target for REDMD’s revival effect. Don’t waste removal in order to push through damage, unless you are confident you can OTK via Special Summoning. On the other end of the coin, be conscious of your life total so that you don’t fall into a situation where REDMD + Guy is game.


After countless hours of battling, it was finally time for the side event points playoff! I was the 3rd seed… my effort was not in vain! Interestingly, two brothers who had traveled to the event together found themselves split between the points & random brackets, with the chance to take home 2 Super Rare copies of the Blood Mefist YCS prize card between them (awesome guys by the way, one of them ended up winning the random bracket). I sat down to fill out my decklist trying to keep cool & calm, not wanting a repeat of Saturday. I knew my Wind-Up deck was good, I just needed a little luck and no screw-ups.

Round 1 was another Inzektor deck piloted by a judge (not sure if he had worked this particular event, I assume not?). Game 1 was relatively lengthy and fair, where I managed to grind out the win with Fiendish Chains and Tour Guides. Game 2 I believe I lost in short order, but I’m hazy on the details. Game 3 I went for the Wind-Up loop and hit, winning through a set backrow which turned out to be harmless.

Round 2 was a Wind-Up deck, meaning I had played the same two decks in the same order as in the YCS main event… could I redeem myself in the mirror match? The answer was yes, as the roles had switched from the previous instance. This time, I had the loop both games, while my opponent was stuck with no hand traps and had been shut down by my Maxx Cs during his attempts at a push. It was not a clean game, as minor misplays were made on both sides due to our nerves, but none of the mistakes mattered much in the end.

The result saw me hoisting a copy of Blood Mefist, all thanks to my favorite formats! If you’re ever down-and-out at a YCS, consider "the road less traveled" to victory via side events… you’ll have an awesome time on the way to the goal!

Ultimate Mac & Cheese

I topped off the weekend with a fun dinner outing at Carino’s Italian Grill with some other ARG writers, including Billy Brake & Alistar Albans, both of whom are great players and even better people. Alex Vansant managed to get us lost several times on the way to the restaurant and on the drive back, much to the dismay of Jeff and myself. Much of our discussion during travel revolved around the new March 1st Forbidden list, which is now official. Is it good for the game? Probably not, but I wouldn’t stress over it too much. There is a precedent for emergency bans if needed, and the list has always been designed with the motive to push new product (in this case, XYZ monsters). No one should really be surprised… That being said, Battle Pack: Epic Dawn may prove to be YGO’s saving grace during the next 6 months. In the face of intriguing new games such as Cardfight Vanguard and the resurgent Duel Masters, a new spin on YGO is needed, and Sealed Deck play may be the spark that is needed to ignite a new era! The set looks amazing for all groups of players, and if Konami decides to embrace alternative formats on the premier event level, the sky is the limit for skilled play and fun interactions!

While I’m here, I’ll steal everyone’s topic for the next format and beyond:

“Maxx “C” is still really good!”


Play Hard or Go Home!

~Paul McCann~