It’s been a while since my last article but now I'm writing as a YCS Champion! It's still sinking in, though, and I'm not really sure to begin, as there's a lot to say, so let's start with the first question I've typically been asked since winning the event in Turin, Italy:
I've been asked why I chose to play Geargia quite a few times. After the North American WCQ, I took some time away from the game. Dragon Rulers versus Spellbooks had grown stale and I was looking forward to a new banlist. When I saw all the changes to the list, my wife and I booked ourselves a vacation to Barcelona and Italy that would finish in Turin at the YCS because I thought we were in for a fresh and exciting format. (If I hadn’t booked then, I wouldn’t even have gone.)
Right away, I began testing Geargia because it was a deck that I was familiar with and had success with in the past—and it got a brand-new, powerful form of support in Tachyon Galaxy. Geargiagear was a card everybody else had overlooked because of the Dragon Rulers and Spellbook of Judgment but I recognized the potential in the card. Despite being convinced that my poor results at both YCS Toronto and Circuit Series Ft. Worth were due to bad luck (I can’t even count the number of times I lost to Return from the Different Dimension), I accepted defeat and decided to play Dragons in San Mateo and then again in Worcester.
I just couldn't bring myself to spend the time necessary to master the deck because I was already so farbvpremier events, but those are earned through the preparation you do beforehand and playtesting with Dragons felt like work. Normally an avid user, I quit playing on Dueling Network and after San Mateo, I pretty much stopped playing all together. It wasn’t exactly a surprise when I didn’t perform well in Worcester. I scrubbed out and decided I'd had enough. Before I had hoped Worcester would spark the beginning of a rigorous run of testing with the deck so that I would be prepared to represent my country at the event in Europe.
That’s when I finally just gave up and said I wasn’t going to make myself suffer through testing with Dragons, instead I would just have fun at the event and play Geargia. I spent the rest of the weekend in Boston testing Geargia with Camden Keener and Michael Klasel, both good players and good friends of mine from Texas.
It couldn’t have come as any more of a surprise, winning YCS Turin. I'm a strong believer in that if you work hard, and work smart, then you will get what you desire. I did both for the longest time but couldn't manage a championship but win when I take my foot off the gas pedal, and I mean completely off the gas pedal.
But there’s a saying, “luck is the residue of hard work”. I like to think that’s what happened. All of that hard work that we have done carried over just long enough for me to win an event—right before Konami changed how they would play out the Top 16, no less. I say "we" because I couldn’t have done it alone. My growth as a player has been a collective effort. Friends Scott Page, Camden Keener and Billy Brake have played countless games with me. Michael Steinman, Patrick Hoban and PRRJ (a great player from Brazil) and I have talked an endless amount of theory. The collective minds of forum-goers at DuelistGrounds, tcgplayer and Pojo (yes, Pojo) have been invaluable. I have to mention my wife, too. The list is far too long for me to be able to name everybody but you all know who you are and If you don’t already—I hope you understand how much I have appreciated having you as a peer and friend.
Now for what everybody’s been waiting for: my theory and strategy on the deck:
When I made the switch to Dragons, my mindset was that I would maindeck the best 40 cards for the mirror match. It would be the most common and most important matchup and wasn’t that many cards different, so why not? There’s such a signficant power gap between Dragon Rulers and everything else that you could get away with a couple inoptimal cards versus rogue decks. Once I decided to play Geargia, I decided to take the same approach.
They aren’t as powerful as Dragons, but it’s still a strong deck and it had a couple of things going for it against rogue decks: (1) all of those other decks weren’t built to beat Gears. It fact, Geargia was the furthest thing from their mind. But not only that, (2) Geargia could side deck ‘degenerate’ cards for just about any deck—not just Imperial Iron Wall, Gozen Match and Soul Drain for Dragons. Game 1 might be an uphill battle, but once I side in Rivalry, Light Imprisoning Mirror, Fiendish Chain and Mystical Space Typhoon against Constellars? They’re going to have a difficult time winning.
The idea was to make sure I couldn’t lose to Dragons and take my chances attempting to outplay the rogue decks. I felt decent about my chances of doing this since most of the “pros” were so set on running the ‘best deck’.
If I could just manage to get past the early rounds with a decent record, then I would most likely play Dragons for the rest of the tournament, top, and from there win—and of course that’s exactly what happened. I was most likely going to either (a) play (and lose against) rogue decks early and scrub out or (b) make a deep run into the tournament. When I finished 7-1 on Day 1, I felt great about my chances of taking the entire tournament. It was an all-or-nothing strategy that paid off.
“It’s more anti-meta than Geargia”
When one of my European friends asked what I was playing, and I was hesitant to tell him because I wanted to keep my deck a secret for as long as I could, I told him anti-meta. I don’t blame people for looking at it and saying the trap lineup won be the event and not the Geargia engine—but I disagree with the assessment. The Gears were a vital part to my success; I didn’t always draw the traps against Dragons. When I didn’t, the Geargia-Karakuri engine gave me the ability to OTK or at least seize control with a Burei-Crimson Blader play. They also allowed me to maindeck the anti-meta cards that I did and still steal Game 1s against rogue decks, just because the cards (Armor and Geargiagear) and combos (Karakuri synchro plays) are that powerful. And if I didn’t win Game 1, I was able to run cards like Rivalry of Warlords, which is just as devastating to Evilswarm and Constellars as Imperial Iron Wall is to Dragons. There aren’t many decks that are able to (a) maindeck all the Dragon hate that I did in Geargia, (b) have such a strong core monster lineup to win games without the aid of spells and traps and (c) side deck the variety of hate that I did for the other rogue decks. Be careful attempting to use this strategy in other decks—you might have an even more difficult time than I did against other non-Dragon decks.
Monsters [ccDeck="Main Deck"] 3 Geargiarmor
3 Geargiano MK-II
2 Karakuri Watchdog
1 Karakuri Strategist
1 Genex Ally Birdman
1 Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders
3 Maxx “C”[/ccDeck]
Accelerator is a really good card but I found it to be a lot like XX-Saber Faultroll. Both enable powerful combos but are often dead if you don’t have the right assortment of cards in hand, therefore it’s better to run them at only two and just search them out. The deck suffers when it draws too many monsters and Accel was a prime candidate to take out due to the cloggy hands it creates with the four Geargiano monsters and four tuners.
Birdman’s always been a popular pick for most Geargia players but I’ve never really been a fan… until now. I think the biggest reason for that is because the Geargiagear build runs 3 MK-II. As I’ve said in my past articles, maintaining field presence is an issue and without the Machina engine in the deck, I needed a searchable way to be able to make powerful plays off of just one normal summon. (I ran Redox for the same reason.) Another reason he makes more sense in this deck is because I’m running 6 Armors and 3 Geargiagears. The odds of having something to pair with it in your opening hand went from about 65% to north of 80%, and that’s without considering Upstart Goblin.
Redox is another card that allows you to make powerful plays with just one normal summon. Discarding an Earth is actually an advantage over Iron Call because often times you’ll have both Armor and a tuner in hand and Redox allows you to dump the tuner in order to be able to revive it. I only ran one because it can still be a steep cost and the one was enough to abuse the self-summon effect. Still, I found myself using it less and less in this anti-Dragon build… not really because it conflicted with Iron Wall, but because it wasn’t really necessary. I usually sided out Redox and a Call of the Haunted for a couple of MSTs. I would definitely consider taking him out.
Spells [ccDeck="Main Deck"] 3 Upstart Goblin [/ccDeck]
Want to know a secret? “Upstart Hoban” all began with this paragraph from a message I sent to Patrick on DGz in late 2012:
“I'm also considering Wind-Ups with Upstart Goblin. All this talk about an inconsistent Wind-Up deck, why not just cut down on all of the inconsistent cards and add Upstarts? I'm thinking something like this: [Decklist]”
I’ve always been a fan of Upstart Goblin. If you go back and look at the Top 32 decklists from YCS Dallas in 2011, my first top, you’ll find a pair of them. I took out the third one to make room for Maxx “C”. Thanks to Patrick, I don’t need to argue on the merits of Upstart anymore. Really, I don’t even know why I ever stopped running it between that first top and my September 2012 format Wind-Up deck.
Traps [ccDeck="Main Deck"] 3 Geargiagear
2 Call of the Haunted
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
1 Solemn Warning
3 Gozen Match
1 Soul Drain
3 Imperial Iron Wall
3 Seven Tools of the Bandit[/ccDeck]
The reasoning on Call of the Haunted to two is the same as double Accelerator. It tends to create cloggy hands with the mix of Level 3 monsters in the deck. On the other hand, Geargiagear is only dead when you draw a handful of Geargiano monsters (which doesn’t happen often and if you did, it means you’re already in trouble, anyway) and can be made live again through Emeral.
I’ve already discussed the reasoning for maindecking the anti-Dragon cards.
Seven Tools is the precision answer for problematic backrow. If they had multiple sets, then I could simply charge through them and save Seven Tools for the one that was going to really cripple me—cards like Wing Blast, Raigeki Break and Trap Stun, that would either stop my monsters or turn off my backrow. Most importantly, it gave me three more ways to stop Return from the Different Dimension and sometimes Sixth Sense (I usually felt like I had to take the risk and roll the die). I didn’t need MST for Ravine because they usually couldn’t make any plays with all of my traps.
Because I had packed all of these cards into my deck, I didn’t have much space for real defensive cards. Warning is obviously the most powerful (as it stops Return!) and Compulsory was the best one against monsters that already hit the board and didn’t conflict with Iron Wall (Bottomless) so I went with those and called it a deck.
Extra Deck [ccDeck="Extra Deck"] 1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Maestroke the Symphonic Djinn
1 Daigusto Emeral
2 Gear Gigant X
1 Gem-Knight Pearl
3 Karakuri Burei
1 Karakuri Bureido
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Crimson Blader
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Number 11: Big Eye[/ccDeck]
GGX is the go-to xyz, especially in this build, because he becomes a floater. Even if your opponent catches him in a Bottomless Trap Hole, he gets his effect (it’s not a graveyard effect, folks!), so you can revive a Geargiano, who can tribute itself off for a Level 4, and then you can make another GGX.
Zenmaines is the best Rank 3 there is and you need at least one of them for your MK-II plays. Emeral is a must for recycling your Gearigano monsters to make Geargiagear live. Pearl has one job: Stardust Dragon and Skill Drain. Maestroke is a great all-around card and an out Ophion but I didn’t bring him out all weekend and with Pearl in the Extra Deck perhaps he’s not necessary. If I were to replace him, the first card in would most likely be Number 106: Giant Hand! …being serious, though, it would be Lavaval Chain IF Redox remains in the deck. It gives you instant access to the Dragon Ruler of Boulders (which equates to 3,400 damage) and gives you some other neat combos. Next up in the queue would be Evilswarm Ouroboros.
I didn’t have space for Black Rose Dragon because you make Burei a lot in this build (I brought out all three in my Top 16 match). It’s possible to make double Burei with Birdman (and then Strategist), for example, and then need another for your MK2 combo (summon, revive Geargiano, tribute for Watchdog and synchro). Note that if you have another Watchdog in deck when you do the MK2 combo, you can make Star Eater! I just couldn’t find the room for him.
Scrap and Stardust Dragon require no explanation. I wouldn’t have used Stardust Spark Dragon, even if it had been legal at the event. I feel like the classic version is better anyway because of field wipes like Black Rose Dragon and Dark Hole. Crimson Blader is great against Dragons and when combined with Burei—not even Blaster and Redox are safe! Colossal Fighter does the same thing here as he does in every other deck and is a really good option when you don’t have an out to Skill Drain.
The last card in my Extra Deck is Big Eye. He can be summoned using double Buredio, although the most efficient way is probably MK2 into Bureido along with Redox. But without Lavaval Chain to dump Redox, that seldom happened. If I were to take Redox out, this is another card I would consider removing. I already took out Draco since two Rank 7s were taking up too much space and were usually win more. I found that I was typically already winning when I was able to bring them out but the exceptions to that called for Big Eye.
|3x Rivalry of Warlords||Evilswarm and Constellar|
|3x Light Imprisoning Mirror||Constellar and Bujin|
|3x DNA Surgery||Prophecy, Noble Knights, Fire Fist|
|3x Fiendish Chain||Anything rogue|
|3x Mystical Space Typhoon||Basically everything|
Rivalry and LIM are pretty straight-forward. You might be surprised that I sided DNA Surgery against Fire Fist but I generally boarded a couple of copies because (a) I needed something for all of the anti-Dragon cards I was taking out and (b) their options are much more limited (and significantly less powerful) when their monsters aren’t Beast-Warriors. The same logic used for DNA could be applied to Fiendish Chain: I’m running a lot of cards in the maindeck that are great against Dragons but pretty useless against everything else. Fiendish was a catch-all card that I could use to replace them with and it was particularly effective against the main rogue decks I was concerned about. I don’t think MST requires much of an explanation, although I should note that I sided in a couple of copies (generally for Redox and the 2nd Call of the Haunted) against Dragons. It isn’t necessary Game 1 but it is needed once they side into Royal Decree and/or Skill Drain.
If you'd like to read more about my Geargia theory, be sure to check out my old articles from YCS Indianapolis and YCS Austin!
My wife and I flew out of Dallas on Thursday night, a week before Thanksgiving and got into Barcelona Friday afternoon. While in Spain, we went to the Picasso museum, visited a market, the famous fountain (and light show) overlooking the city (probably my favorite spot), a magnificent church that’s been under construction for hundreds of years (my wife’s favorite part about the city) and an interesting park. We also had some seafood on the bayfront. They brought bread to our table and we assumed, like at Olive Garden, for example, it was free but when we looked at the bill, the charged us! If only I had heard Admiral Ackbar yelling from the kitchen “it’s a trap!” Apparently the same thing happened to Patrick at a place in Italy—but with silverware!
While I’m handing out European travel tips, when we visited Germany in February, I ordered a pepperoni pizza. They brought me a pizza with peppers only lol. Make sure to order salami if you want pepperoni overseas!
After Spain, we flew to Italy and visited the Trevi Fountain (the wife’s favorite sight in the city), the Coliseum (my favorite), the Vatican and a number of other places in Rome. Then we spent a day exploring Florence before making our way to Turin. It was a lot of fun but little did I know that the best part of the trip for me was still ahead (best vacation ever haha)!
Finding the hotel ended up being a huge pain and we ended up at a vegetarian restaurant in order to get free wifi. It was super cold (all I had left were shorts, yikes!) and between Friday and Saturday night, I only got about 10 hours of sleep, which is just a bit more than I attempt to get in one night’s sleep. We’ll be sticking to hotels (and not bed and breakfasts) from now on!
Anyway, I arrive at the venue, sign up, find Patrick and scramble to pick up the remaining cards I needed for my deck (including the three Seven Tools). Then the tournament begins:
Round 1: Lavals
I don't remember much from this round or many of the early ones this time around. It did go to three games, like I expected all of my matches against non-Dragons to go, but I got the win.
Round 2: Dragon Rulers
Between rounds I was talking to Patrick and showed him my deck, with his friend Eric Schmitt from Germany looking on. My opponent next round? None other than Eric! I take the match in three games though, as there isn't much he could do about all of my degenerate cards (double Iron Wall Game 1 and double Gozen in the third).
I open with Maxx "C", Soul Drain and Gozen Match and no Armor or Geargiagear Game 1 and although I'm able to draw out the game with an Imperial Iron Wall, he's able to draw into an MST before I can seize control. The next game I open strong but his sixth card is Secrets, which enables him to go Temperance unto World and nuke my field. I fall to 2-1.
Round 4: Dragon Rulers
Round 5: Dragon Rulers
Round 6: Dragon Rulers
Round 8: Dragon Rulers
Round 9: Dragon Rulers
Round 10: Dragon Rulers
I lost two or three Game 1's against Rulers even though I had built my machines to slay Dragons, but in the end, I was still able to win them all. I did have one really close call, though: my opponent was at 2,800, had Draco and a token on board and all I had was Birdman and Accel in hand. I needed any Geargia monster to make a Burei-Blader play. Better yet, I drew Arsenal, went into Armor and was able to Blader and attempt to finish off his LPs that turn. He didn't have the Scarecrow so I took the match. Seven Tools put in quite a bit of work in these rounds, as I used it on Return, Trap Stun, Decree and even a Mal Cat.
Round 7: Fire Fist
Round 11: Fire Fist
Both were playing the 4-axis version with Dragon. I beat the first one and when I played the second, we were both X-1 going into the final round and both knew we would top regardless of the outcome. This posed an interesting question for me: do I try to win the match? I had a conversation with Patrick about it before the round and we couldn't arrive at a firm conclusion. If I get a higher seed, I'd be more likely to play lesser a duelist, but it might also mean I would be more likely to play something other than Dragons.
I began the match still undecided on the cost/benefit of winning the match versus revealing information about my deck. I feel as though I had more optimal plays that I didn't capitalize on because of this. Losing the die roll, Dragon, Tenki and Warning to three of my anti-Dragon Ruler traps didn't help, either.
Between games, I looked around at the decks at the other top tables. I noticed a surprising number of rogues and a good portion of the Dragon decks were using Mythics, and their access to Felgrand made me nervous. I decided I needed to go for the win and sided appropriately. I took the second game but he opens up Dragon and Tenki to my handful of monsters in Game 3. Congrats to him for finishing X-1 with Fire Fists. (I'd also like to take a moment to extend a congratulations to the other Geargia player who managed to top this event.)
The Feature Match Is available on Konami's website. I did jump the gun when playing Compulsory in Game 3.
Top 16: Dragon Rulers
Too many degenerate cards for my opponent to handle. Note: There were many games, including these, where my opponent simply couldn't play Yu-Gi-Oh. Cards like IIW and Gozen might have won me a YCS but I still think they're degenerate and are not really good for the game. Be on the lookout for an upcoming article from Patrick on this topic.
Top 8: Michelle Grunner's Dragon Rulers
Please refer to the “Michelle Grunner’s Top 8 Disqualification” section later in the article. Billy often says “sometimes it’s just that person’s time” and I couldn’t help but hear those words ringing through my head once I had that brush with elimination and was fortunate enough to move on to the Top 4.
Top 4: Dragunity Rulers
He begins the first game with Ravine, discard Reckless and then goes into Stardust Dragon. I had Maxx "C" but I was expecting and hoping for the Stardust as it wasn't much of a concern to me. I wanted to hold off the second synchro, which is exactly what happens and it wins me the game. Game 2 is nothing more than my opponent trying to best me down with Dux. It was that bad for him. Needless to say, I'm able to take the win.
Finals: Dragon Rulers
The Feature Match is available on Konami's website. Once again my opponent opens less than optimal but I am certainly not complaining about the timing!
MICHELLE GRUNNER’S TOP 8 DISQUALIFICATION
If you haven’t already heard, Michelle Grunner was disqualified during our Top 8 match. It was Game 2, he’d already won the first, has advantage in this one and a strong board position. I end my turn and Michael asks to see my graveyard—before he draws for his turn. In the Top 32, when time is called, the current turn is considered “Turn 0” and three more turns are played after that. By not drawing, he will end up with the final turn. The judges stopped the match, suspecting him intentionally not drawing in order to manipulate how the turns will play out.
The first indicator that he gave that he might be attempting to leverage time to win our match actually occurred between games, when we were siding. He said how Geargia is an uncommon matchup and he needed to think through how he was going to side. Then he asked the judge watching our match how much time was remaining before he was required to present his deck. The judge said about a minute.
When the judges stopped the match once time was called, I was confused and didn't understand why, but Michelle instantly recognized the reason and explained why he was checking the graveyard. I don't really doubt that he did this purposefully. That said, time management is a part of the game and it's kind of silly for judges to expect players not to acknowledge that it exists and to make plays with it in mind. Being that there was no true play to be made here, though, there are other debates to be had but I feel like I'm too close to this situation as is and will leave that to everybody else.
In either case, within the context of our match, I don't think what Michelle deserved a penalty as harsh as a DQ. But he does have a target on his back and Konami was ready to pull the trigger as soon as the opportunity presented itself. It's no secret that Konami has no sympathy for somebody with a reputation for shady play.
With that in mind, our match was actually pretty lop-sided. I had mediocre hands both games whereas he took Game 1 with Return from the Different Dimension and was in full control of the second with Sixth Sense for five. He really had almost no reason to stall for that extra turn. If he had just drawn and not given them such an excuse then he would've almost certainly won.
People have been asking if I was trying to manage the clock by handing it over to him with seven seconds left. I honestly didn't know exactly how much time was left when I ended my turn. I had to physically turn away from the game board in order to see the clock. I remember looking when there was appx. fifteen, seven and three minutes left so I knew we were running out but it wasn't a calculated decision to end my turn at that time. We had too many judges around us for me to consider attempting to watch the clock from my position and end my turn at just the right time, and I am a clean player with a clean reputation. I'm not sure why he would've even risked what was almost a sure win for a single turn.
While what he did was understandable (although not something I would do), at least to a point (debates to be had etc etc), it was intentional, against the rules and he, more than anybody, knew this and did it anyway, despite (a) already being in a very, very strong position (b) with judges all around that (c) he knew (or should have known) would be looking for a reason to penalize him. Before I felt as though he had been unfairly disqualified, but it's difficult to say that he was completely victimized with everything mentioned here in mind. That's my take, at least, based on my role in all of this... which is clearly a biased one (no matter how objectively I attempt to look at it) since it may or may not have an impact on the perception of my win, depending how each individual looks at this.
NORTH AMERICA VERSUS EUROPE
It was one of the most commonly asked questions of the weekend: “Do you think American or European players are better?” and I feel like it’s one I should attempt to answer here. It’s a complex subject that probably deserves its own article but for now, I’m just going to give the simple answer:
I think both playerbases are extremely biased and are giving opinions on what are relatively small sample sizes.
What’s ironic about my assessment is that I won Turin and scrubbed out in Germany… so I could easily just be biased, be bitter about Bochum, arrogant about Italy and hate on the skill level of the European playerbase. But the truth is that when I went to YCS Bochum in Germany this year, I felt like the skill level of most of my opponents and the players that I watched was lower than the average American player but in Italy, I thought each round was more challenging that the average the typical North American YCS. I’ve only been to a couple events and had drastically different experiences. Most of the people chiming in on this subject have only attended a single event (IF ANY) oversees and their opinions are driven by what they want to think.
But I don’t just mean the sample size in regards to the overseas dueling experience of the person providing the opinion, either. I am also referring to the sample size of events/opportunities to win on each other's continent. Remember that there is a longer history of North American events, which means that Europeans have had more opportunities to win over here. Simply saying Europe has won three and North America has won one on the other’s soil is ignorant.
Personally? What I would like to see is an annual competition similar to the Ryder Cup in golf where the top players from the two continents have, say, five representatives and whoever takes the best three of five receives a trophy to be passed back-and-forth to the current champion.
YCS Turin was the last event I actually expected to win, but I’m so thankful and probably much more appreciative that it happened now. Thanks again to my wife, all of my Yu-Gi-Oh friends/family and fans, ARG, Konami and everybody else for your support before and after the event!!