I had actually been playing a lot and dedicating myself to the game around the time the banlist was scheduled to be released. I was constantly on Skype and Dueling Network until 5 AM every night talking and testing with my friends Dalton Bousman, Samuel Pedigo, and Ted Uchigakiuchi. We were testing everything from Mermails to Dragunities. The first new format tournament was coming up and we all got on Skype the night before with Luke Feeney and that night of testing put everything into perspective. Our real options were Mermails, Fire Fist, and Dino Rabbit. I usually go by a rule that it's probably just best to play the best deck better than everyone else and that would bring the most success. The exception to that rule is if I can find a deck that will completely throw my opponents off and constantly surprise them during the match, but could still compete with the top decks, then that would be the better deck to play. Being able to use mind games and trick your opponent is one of the easiest ways to get easy wins but it doesn't come easy.
That is where our Fire Fist deck was born. Dalton and I already weren't fans of Dragon and we were only running 1 Tensen. By cutting that card completely our deck would be running an 8 card FF engine - 3 Bear, 1 Gorilla, 3 Tenki, 1 Tensu. It was the beginning of the format and since people had all the extra space where their Maxx "C"s, Effect Veilers, Rivalries, and Needle Ceilings used to be we were expecting a ton of hate for FF including Overworked, Macro Cosmos and the at the time incredibly popular Mind Crush. We decided to side into Stun and make those cards dead while beating them down with big beaters. This is also where Banisher first came into play and has caught on ever since. We both made Top 8 and I ended up winning the whole thing. The secret of no Fire Formation traps and the Stun side was out and because of that, it was time for me to put down the deck.
We started working on Wind-Ups next because with the ability to side Level Limit - Area B, the deck's side options were even better than Fire. We also didn't need to side into anything to gain an advantage in Games 2 and 3; no one had anything in their sides to combat the deck in the first place. I wasn't able to play but 3 out of the 4 people playing our deck made it to Top 8, with only 5 people running the deck total. Once again the secret was out and if I was going to play Wind-Ups and have to deal with Rivalry and Gozen Match again then why wouldn't I just play Mermail? Almost the same problems but Mermail had the better cards. I also didn't like the reliance on Wind-Up Factory and the fact that the deck had no real way to generate advantage outside of drawing the spell card and hoping your opponent didn't have an MST to rid you of your win condition. And with that I was stuck, the first YCS of the format hadn't even happened yet and I had wasted both decks on those tournaments.
This is where Sam introduced me to Geargia, a deck with 10 Wind-Up Factories (3 Geargiarmor, 3 Geargiarsenal, 3 Call of the Haunted, 1 Monster Reborn) and we started playing with that deck before he went on to Top 16 YCS Austin with his build, the same event Vincent Ralambomiadana went undefeated in with our exact Wind-Up main deck. Going even further than both of them, Alfredo Tiznado got 2nd place with a Fire deck he credited to me and it made me really happy to see that I could help someone else see such major success. I had talked to him before and was really proud to see him go so far with a deck I knew took a lot of techinical play to use. I messaged him congratulations and we continued to talk up until YCS San Diego but leading up to the tournament my mind hadn't changed - Geargia was the best choice for San Diego.
When I got the San Diego the weather was beautiful and I was lucky enough to be at the front of the line for pre-registration. Chris, John and I just hungout outside the convention center because we had no ride back to our hotel. Chris was settled on playing Electrum and John was leaning towards Mermails again. I spent the day not worrying too much about playing and that night we practiced Battle Pack drafting. The next day came fast and before I knew it I was sitting down at my table waiting for my pool. I didn't get Gorz or Ring and not a lot of my monsters weren't very solid but this is what I ended up drafting:
1 Raiza the Storm Monarch
1 Guardian Sphinx
1 Arcana Force XIV - Temperance
1 Skull Archfiend of Lightning
1 Dekoichi the Battlechanted Locomotive
1 Old Vindictive Magician
1 Mask of Darkness
1 Blast Sphere
1 Gene-Warped Warwolf
1 Grave Squirmer
1 Toon Gemini Elf
1 Tanngrisnir of the Nordic Beasts
1 Goblin Elite Attack Force
1 Exarion Universe
1 Change of Heart
1 Soul Exchange
1 Tribute to the Doomed
1 Ego Boost
1 Book of Moon
1 Enemy Controller
1 Different Dimension Gate
2 Magic Drain
1 Skill Drain
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Prideful Roar
1 Liberty At Last!
As you can see my pull wasn't the greatest and I basically had to play bad tribute monsters and hope my Monarch-style deck would get me there. The only thing I'd change was to take out the Skill Drain for 30 or swapping it out for Hedge Guard which is basically what I did every game 2 and 3 anyways. Skill Drain did win me a game in Round 8 though so who knows! Can't diss it too much. Notable plays I made with the deck were Scapegoat + Different Dimension Gate, Utopia + Guardian Sphinx and Dekoichi/Mask + Liberty At Last! There was actually a time I got screwed because I was bluffing a high DEF monster and the only rank 4 my opponent pulled was Zenmaister and he went into it before swinging into my set Blast Sphere. Wrecked me!
I ended up going 7-2 Day 1, losing early to Ring of Destruction then to what seemed to be a full Monarch deck sporting a full Witch, Treeborn, triple Monarch, Change of Heart, Enemy Controller suite. I had to win the last 4 rounds and probably wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of Sam.
I hadn't really had too much time to test with Geargia leading up to San Diego. I played a string of games on DN where I went 0-26, winning RPS twice and facing first turn Gateways and Moulinglacias, Dark World, Chain Burn, Rabbit-Tour Guide-Starlight-Judgments, and more and I just couldn't win a game. I decided to take a break from playing a couple days before my flight and just take some time to relax my mind. When I got there and was able to build the deck I realized how much familiarity you needed to have to pilot the deck correctly. Sam had been the perfect candidate to take the deck to Top 16 success, but me? I hadn't done my homework and for that reason I felt like I couldn't play the deck. It was about 3 AM Sunday morning when I made the switch to the deck I was the most comfortable with: Fire. I quickly threw together the build Dalton and I had agreed on before I left for the trip and passed out for a couple hours.
I got to the convention center and picked up the Tiger King and Avarice I was missing to complete my deck. I called Dalton to talk about the 1 controversial thing on my mind which was if I should max Forbidden Lance or max Dimensional Prison instead. The deck is built to have a great matchup against everything except Mermail, with it having an alright matchup against that deck too. You just can't build your maindeck to beat Mermails. I saw some players running Macro Rabbit with maindecked Banishers and they still lost to Mermails. The best way to go was to just beat everything else and side as hard as you could for the deck. The deck already did that so any small things could go towards beating Mermails. Dimensional Prison was slightly better against Mermails than Forbidden Lance and so it got the 3 of spot in my deck. My sidedeck was also complete.. at 11 cards. Like I said we built the deck to beat Rabbit and the mirror so the main was already pretty much locked and there wasn't much we could change in Games 2 and 3. 6 cards for Water was pretty much the limit as we couldn't find anything else that was good enough to side in. The side-in and out ratios already matched up and it left me with 4 extra slots in my side. Registration was about to close so I quickly added 2 Maxx "C' for rogue decks like Six Samurai, Karakuri, and Hieratics, 1 Thunder King Rai-Oh just in case I did want to side in an extra card against Water or Rabbit, and 1 Forbidden Lance just to swap out with the Dimensional Prison in the Rabbit and mirror matches. Such a minuscule change to take up a whole side spot but there was really nothing else to side and I was running out of time. This is the deck I registered for Day 2 of the main event:
3 Gene-Warped Warwolf
3 Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear
2 Reborn Tengu
2 Rescue Rabbit
2 Tour Guide From the Underworld
1 Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Gorilla
3 Fire Formation - Tenki
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Forbidden Lance
2 Pot of Duality
1 Dark Hole
1 Heavy Storm
1 Monster Reborn
1 Fire Formation - Tensu
3 Fiendish Chain
3 Dimensional Prison
2 Mirror Force
2 Torrential Tribute
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
1 Solemn Warning
1 Solemn Judgment
Extra Deck: 15
2 Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King
2 Abyss Dweller
1 Diamond Dire Wolf
1 Number 16: Shock Master
1 Gagaga Cowboy
1 Number 50: Blackship of Corn
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Temtempo the Percussion Djinn
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Leviair the Sea Dragon
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 20: Giga-Brilliant
Side Deck: 15
3 Banisher of the Radiance
3 Dimensional Fissure
2 Dust Tornado
2 Rivalry of Warlords
2 Maxx "C"
1 Thunder King Rai-Oh
1 Forbidden Lance
1 Pot of Avarice
The deck itself is pretty self-explanatory. The key to beating the top decks is to run big monsters that apply pressure backed up with a ton of traps. I didn't run Starlight Road because I always had it when my opponent didn't have any cards to trigger it and even if I had it in my deck I never drew it when they had Heavy Storm! It always seemed like a waste of space in my deck and I didn't want the potential dead card. Fiendish Chain is one of the single-best traps in the game right now and I even briefly considered running a copy of Breakthrough Skill alongside it. Even with just 3 normals I played Tour Guide because the utility she gave me was too insane. If my opponent played a Rabbit before I did it gave me access to my copies. It gave me access to any of my monsters that got Bottomless'd or Prison'd, or alternatively anything I used those traps on. Giga-Brilliant wasn't good before due to the popularity of Overworked but now being able to bump up a Banisher is amazing. It literally takes away 6 of their outs (3 Atlantean Dragoons, 3 Mermail Abysspike) and lets you focus your trap cards on Deepsea Divas and Abyss-Spheres.
Round 1 my opponent didn't show up so that was pretty lucky for me. Only a handful of x-1-1s would make it to the Top 32 cut so I planned to go 4-1 or go home.
Nothing notable really happens in this match. Game 1 was a grind and his Grand Mole made life hard for my Tiger King. He has to burn a Solemn when I Fiendish Chain his Grand Mole and eventually can't handle the pressure I was able to put on him with Tengu. He visibly sided out 8 cards so I felt safe to assume he was taking out his Macros and it was okay to put in Pot of Avarice. Game 2 he Solemns early to put him down to 4000, then has to Warning something else which puts him at 2000. We get into a grind game and he has Sabersaurus to my 2 face-up Tenkis and face-down Avarice and I rip Thunder King to ram. Main phase 2 I flip Avarice to put back Tour Guides and Tengus and get my third Tenki to search Tengu. He drew a trap next turn and I summoned my 2000 Tengu to attack for game.
Round 3 - Dino Fist
Game 1 I open triple Fiendish Chain, MST, and Reborn to him winning the die roll and summoning Gene-Warped Warwolf. I eventually draw Mirror Force and have to use it on his Warwolf. I have to try to Reborn it because I'm not drawing any monsters so I MST his oldest set (Bottomless) and activate Reborn before passing. He has Dark Hole and I get blown out from there.
In Game 2 pretty much the exact opposite happens. I'm the one controlling the game with floaters like Reborn Tengu and Wind-Up Zenmaines while he's just drawing backrow. A midgame Heavy + Rabbit seals the game for me.
Game 3 I don't remember too much but I won with Warwolf and Tengu swinging to put him at 700 then making Cowboy for game.
Round 4 - Mermails
Game 1 I win the die roll and set 2 Bottomless. He goes Heavy Megalo Diva for game. Game 2 I use Duality to grab me a Dimensional Prison then set it along with Mirror Force and MST before summoning Banisher and passing. He uses 2 MSTs to wipe out both of my traps and summons Dragoons to swing over. Great.. I'm able to come back with Tenki Bear before he makes a huge Mind Control play and I'm forced to play catch up again. This time fate looks down on me, letting me top D. Fissure then Rabbit! But alas, we're both at 1300 and he flips Decree, draws to 2 and plays Dark Hole and Linde to attack for game.
Round 5 - Hunders
Game 1 he opens slow with a Mirror Force that I MST, I summon Bear and swing, search a Tenki then search another Bear. That eventually snowballs into so much advantage he can't come back, during the course of the game he drew cards like Tragoedia that just wouldn't help him do anything against my strategy. Game 2 takes a bit longer as he makes double Maestroke but a Fiendish Chain and Tiger King take care of them and Rabbit drops to seal the game for me.
Top 32 - Johnny Site Li (Mermails)
Game 1 An early Abyss Dweller over his Linde puts me in control and Tenki-Bear followed up by another Abyss Dweller seals me the game.
Game 2 I don't remember the early turns of this game but I go Banisher set 2, I think he either Dust/MSTs or Heavies but he got rid of my D. Prison and Forbidden Lance and after thinking about it for a bit I mistakenly don't chain Lance on my Banisher and he Dark Holes it. He goes off and ends with Bahamut Shark, Gachi Gachi, Abysstrite, and Abyssteus and I have Tour Guide, Warwolf and Tensu so Temtempo helps me make a comeback. He has the chance to go for game next turn but doesn't switch Gachi and Strike to attack mode so he leaves me at low life but I can't pull it out anyways and lose.
Game 3 I open with Bear, Tenki, Fiendish Chain, MST, Solemn Judgment, and Forbidden Lance. I go Tenki Gorilla set everything, pass. He opens MST on my MST then Diva Infantry Marksman and time is called. He visibly starts going for Gachi and I'm thinking to myself that if he makes the play and I Fiendish Gachi when he swings with Marksman I just win. He decides to just go for the Black Rose and I Fiendish Chain. Next turn I summon Bear and pop before swinging with both and grabbing another Tenki before making Abyss Dweller. He concedes but we continue playing anyways to see who would win and I end up going into Giga-Brilliant with my Dweller up and he couldn't win outside of time either.
Top 16 - Norberto Leon (Mermails)
Feature Match: http://www.konami.com/yugioh/blog/?p=13250
Game 1 I get OTK'd by Megalo and Diva. Seemed to be a trend over the course of the weekend.
Game 2 I'm controlling with a Banisher and I opt not to use my 2nd Fiendish Chain to block, knowing he just used 2 Spheres and was banking on that Gaios to get him there. I knew if I popped the Gaios, searched for more Tenkis and made a Dweller with that Fiendish still down I would be better than Banisher + Dweller with no Fiendish. Topdecking the Judgment just made life easier.
Game 3 I opened 4 monsters and Tensu and thought I had lost but he started pretty slow too and that gave me time to comeback. I made a huge push through both of his Torrentials then tried to bait him by Reborning his Gunde to swing for 1400 with Tensu-Warwolf as my backup. I ended up drawing Banisher next turn and it let me 100% have game by allowing me to xyz into Leviair the Sea Dragon to special summon my Gorilla back with no fear of Torrential.
Top 8 - Steven Ma (Frog Monarch)
Feature Match: http://www.konami.com/yugioh/blog/?p=13268
Game 1 I draw all my spell and trap removal and just can't do anything. I drew a Bear and a Tour Guide (that got Veiler'd) as my only monsters and there were points in the game where I should've just lost if he hadn't messed up. I woul've just lost to Jinzo if he didn't summon Light and Darkness Dragon and give me a way to destroy it. Then when I was at 500 he made Gachi Gachi instead of Daigusto Phoenix over my Tour Guide to draw out my Mirror Force sooner. He also had Caius and didn't target itself to burn me out of the game. He won eventually but it took him a lot longer than it should've. I try making a Fiendish Chain play on his Swap Frog hoping he didn't know it was a cost so I could swing over with Bear and get to more monsters but he knew.
Game 2 was really bad for him, having to Veiler a turn 1 Rabbit then going Reborn-Caius to get rid of it only to have it brought back by Leviair a couple turns later.
Game 3 he finally drew badly and I was able to capitalize with a broken hand of Rabbit, D. Fissure and Solemn Judgment.
Top 4 - William Montes (Macro Rabbit)
Feature Match: http://www.konami.com/yugioh/blog/?p=13298
Game 1 was just basically him opening a ton of backrows and me grinding through them with the help of Tengu and Zenmaines.
Game 2 I was in control the entire time but mess up by wasting a Lance to swing with Bear, forgetting I had no targets left in deck. He had no cards save a backrow and topdecked Tour Guide to go into Leviair and steal my TKRO, swinging over both my Bears before passing. I got lucky enough to topdeck Rabbit but his set was Bottomless and the game was over.
Game 3 I make a Tiger King and set Bottomless. He goes into Tour Guide and I'm only really scared of Zenmaines in ATK mode, swing and pop since I had Bottomless down if he tried to Leviair my Rabbit. He makes Zenmaines in defense for some reason and the obvious reads are Fiendish Chain or Torrential. I draw and just swing and it goes through, I want to draw the Torrential out so main phase 2 I summon Tengu and he flips it. Later on he MSTs a Tenki I didn't need and starts to simplify the game for me and I win with Cowboy/Lance without ever needing to use my face-down Judgment or in-hand Bear/Warning.
Feature Match: http://www.konami.com/yugioh/blog/?p=13319
Game 1 starts with him setting a monster and passing. I start with Gorilla to swing at the face-down Linde and he searches Abysspike and tries to activate his effect. Of course you can't do this and I searched Tensu with my Gorilla, used it to summon Bear and pop Pike, then xyz summoned Abyss Dweller and set Bottomless. Next turn he set a s/t and I drew my second Tour Guide for turn. I summoned both and made Giga-Brilliant to pump my Dweller and tried to swing with both but he responded with Abyss-Sphere for Teus. I figured something was up and banished it with Bottomless instead of letting it die in the end phase and connected both my attacks, hoping my pumped Dweller would get me there. Next turn he discarded Linde and Glacia for Megalo (Turns out I was right and if I had let the Teus go he would've beat me with Glace instead) and swung over my Brilliant. I set Warwolf next turn to try and survive and he summons Deepsea Diva and plays Mind Control. Game over, right? Guess not. First he tries to synchro summon Dewloren with my Warwolf and when he realizes he can't he simply tunes Diva to Marksman to make Librarian instead of swinging with everything, getting Dragoons and xyz summoning Abyss Dweller with my Warwolf. I get my Warwolf back in the end phase and I can top a monster or Tenki to get me back into the game but end up topping Judgment then Lance the turn after and lose.
Game 2 I open with Banisher backed with Fiendish Chain and Dimensional Prison, keeping D. Fissure in my hand. He plays Heavy Storm and Dark Hole and swings for 1500 with Linde instead of setting it before the Dark Hole to get Megalo and swing for 2400. I play Tenki, he Dusts, I play D. Fissure then set Tensu and Prison. He swings again and I refuse to flip my Prison on Linde. I top the Monster Reborn Billy loaned me and bring Banisher back to swing over! I eventually top Gorilla and Bear after that and win.
Game 3 sees him opening with Abysspike discarding Dragoons. I open with Tenki Bear and he Torrentials. I had to make the best play ignoring Heavy Storm because there was no coming back if he did and risking MST wasn't going to workout well for me so I set everything I had. I lost either way I played it. He flopped Heavy to the table, discarded for Megalo and summoned Diva to OTK me.
Just like that the tournament was over. I really felt like I was going to win but there's always next time and the same goal is there - to win a YCS. I keep racking my brain to try and figure out if I could've done anything different but as of right now I can't find anything. Regardless I had an awesome time in San Diego and I was glad to have the opportunity to rep the deck Dalton and I made myself. If you have any questions feel free to leave them below in the comments and I'll try to answer them all! If nothing else maybe this was a testament that creativity and innovation still carry a lot of weight in this game. Until next time duelists!