My crazy weekend started on Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning) as I'm testing with my friend Bobby Barone. I show him my standard GK build and he proposes a deck idea to me. A deck similar to Nicky Lacaille's GK deck from YCS Providence 2011 that just turbo'd to Royal Tribute. Against Dragons it was an auto-win, and even against Inzektor it was incredible. He showed me his build and eventually we tweaked it, dropping the 3 copies of Upstart Goblin for more traps, while even considering bumping Wonder Wand up to 3. This build also elected to run Dark Bribe over Starlight Road, for a lot of reasons other than being able to stop MST. Forcing a Spy through a Warning let you get your Spy effect and swing tempo while getting that +1 to even out with their draw off Dark Bribe. It also let you deal 5700 damage as early as the 2nd turn and that's if you didn't have another monster in hand. It was an interesting concept and one I was willing to try.
I got no sleep and drove an hour and a half to the airport where I'd be flying out of to Minneapolis. Everything goes smoothly and hey, I even met this interesting old man who had already visited Japan twice in his lifetime. I arrived in Minneapolis and quickly find out that my gate is on the opposite side of the huge airport. I start my trek and after about 20 minutes of walking and catching trans I hear a familiar voice yell "Mike!" and I look over to see none other than Sean! We exchanged pleasantries and talked about life, work and of course Yugioh, waiting for Tyler to find us. Finally we see him riding in one of those airport carts that handicap people use, in a T-shirt and pajamas. Yeah. Can you guess what we did next? Pulled out our decks of course! Tyler and I played some mirrors and realize how incredibly dumb our deck's mirror is. I decide to get some Subway before our 12 hour flight and apparently while I was gone Sean smashed Tyler with a more conventional build, giving me a few more things to think about on the plane. We formally meet Tyler's dad while we're waiting in line and realize that he's super chill. I only get to finish half my sandwich and stuff the rest in a section of my bag where it ended up staying the whole trip. Disgusting, right? After 12 hours of The Hangover I and II, Daniel Tosh, Big Bang Theory, getting slapped by an elderly Asian woman and a couple hours of sleep our plane finally makes it to Japan.
After a while of going through customs and getting lost we find someone holding up a sign that reads "Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship Competitors" and we get our bus tickets. Walking outside felt absolutely incredible after being cramped up for so long. But alas it didn't last long as we soon found out our bus ride to the Shinagawa Prince Hotel would take close to 2 hours. I again get no sleep but the ride goes by relatively fast and before I know it I'm staring at this huge hotel. We go inside and it's beautiful. Frank Debrito, Jarel and Rob are waiting for us and we get all the information we need to know for the next day. We even get free tickets for $30 breakfast buffets every morning! To my surprise it was already Thursday night. I had completely forgotten about how big the time difference was and all I wanted to do was eat. It takes Tyler about half an hour to figure out how to exchange and get some yen but after that Jarel shows us the food court. Jarel orders curry and rice, so does Tyler and so do I.. you can't blame it though, it looked safe and I just wanted to be able to eat 100% of the food on my plate no problem. We hangout and have a good time, Sean tries to get this girl's number but gets blocked by her boyfriend so that was an epic fail.. Just kidding Sean! Haha, it made my night.
We go back and test a bit in the lobby, I actually 2-1 Jarel's Dark World deck with GKs and we talk a bit about deck choices and techs. Sean tells us he has a secret tech for Chaos Dragons and finally reveals it to us: Gravekeeper's Spy. The ability to bluff Rykos and have your opponent attack into it, only to let you get Descendant and put them in a bad position was just the beginning. It replaced Tour Guide almost perfectly in the fact that it got TWO dark monsters in the grave. If you've ever tested Chaos Dragons without Tour Guide, you'd have seen how replacing them with the same number of dark monsters still made your deck a lot more inconsistent. Spy also gives access to Roach in the mirror match, Utopia access if you were desperately needing a light and Maestroke to get over problem monsters. More than anything though, it just gave the deck something to wall with against decks like Hero. If Inzektors were going to draw the cards to beat you, you were going to lose regardless if that Spy was something else so Inzektors being a deck didn't really factor into the choice. We all head back to my room to test and Jarel says we should build our decks and talk as a team, so at the end of the night everyone knew everyone else's exact main and side decks. I go to bed very confident - I couldn't have dropped more than 2 games and they were to a well-timed Heavy Storm one game and not drawing Necrovalley in the other. This is the list Tyler and I had built that night;
3 Malefic Stardust Dragon
3 Gravekeeper's Commandant
3 Gravekeeper's Spy
3 Gravekeeper's Recruiter
2 Gravekeeper's Descendant
1 Malefic Cyber End Dragon
3 Pot of Duality
2 Royal Tribute
2 Gravekeeper's Stele
1 Dark Hole
1 Book of Moon
3 Skill Drain
2 Solemn Warning
2 Torrential Tribute
2 Starlight Road
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
1 Mirror Force
1 Solemn Judgment
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Heavy Storm
2 Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo
2 Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter
2 Macro Cosmos
2 Dimensional Prison
1 Gravekeeper's Stele
3 Stardust Dragon
1 Cyber End Dragon
2 Gem-Knight Pearl
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Number C39: Utopia Ray
1 Steelswarm Roach
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Wind-Up Zenmaister
1 Photon Papilloperative
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Temtempo the Percussion Djinn
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
Let me explain the deck. First, I like playing a deck with a lot of threats and so does Tyler. Decks that can just threaten absolute game like Sams with Gateway, Wind-Ups with the loop, Rabbit with Rabbit + Tour Guide or just a bunch of traps, etc. A lot of the cards we ran in this deck reminded me of cards that are sitting on the Forbidden List right now. Cyber End Dragon was essentially a Cyber-Stein, Royal Tributes were Crush Card Viruses and Necrovalleys locked some decks down so hard it felt like I had Royal Oppression up. We were playing an anti-meta deck with 3 Royal Oppressions and 3 Skill Drains. That isn't even including just solid Spy set a ton of backrow openers, or the triple Skill Drains. Malefic Stardust + Necrovalley was also a nifty lock vs a lot of the top decks we expected, especially when you could back it up with Skill Drain. The decks at this event had their own little threats like Card Destruction (DW), Dragonfly Hornet Reborn/Gigamantis (Inzektors), Gateway Shien (Six Samurai) but we really didn't feel like those compared to Cyber-Stein, 2 Crush Card Viruses and 3 Royal Oppressions.
Now onto card choices and explanations. I'll start with the Malefic engine we played. We had considered straight Malefics but we both agreed that Gadjiltron and Geartown sucked and we still wanted to have solid plays without having a perfect setup which is what Malefic decks require at all times. Malefic Stardust was just insane against pretty much all the decks we expected. It protected Necrovalley against Inzektors, stopped Ryko and Lyla from killing it against Chaos Dragons and drew Gemini Sparks away from Necrovalley against Heroes. The Malefic Cyber End Dragon comes in as an extra out. When you have Drain up on the field cards like Barbaros, The Shining, Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon etc all become bigger threats and harder to get rid of. Not to mention the card could just steal you wins you shouldn't have gotten. Skill Drain was a meta call and we figured the only decks that could compete would be Inzektors and Drain decks and I think for the most part we were right. It was another card that again shut down Ryko and Lyla from destroying Necrovalley. The real reason we played Drain over Fiendish Chain though, is because it stayed on the field. Chain would stop one push and all the use would be gone from the card. Stopping effects until your opponent could draw an out seemed way better than the advantage Chain had with stopping attacks. That's another reason we sided Macro Cosmos but not Effect Veiler; your opponent only has enough s/t removal and they'd need to hit a lot of it to get past this deck. The only other card that really needs to be explained is the 3rd copy of Stele in the side. We wanted a blowout card in the mirror and it was either going to be Breaker or Stele. Breaker could be used as another Decree out but we never saw ourselves siding it in alongside everything else and Stele also worked against Heroes so it got the spot.
Friday was a fun-filled day full of exploring the Tokyo Tower, eating tempura, wandering through markets and running around card shops. During the day we got to hangout with talk to Matt Bell from Europe R&D and really get to see their point of view when designing cards and the banlist which was honestly such an amazing experience. Everyone was enjoying themselves but Tyler and I decided to go to the highest floor of the building we were in and discuss our deck. We really wanted to play Dark Bribe and were trying to decide if we should play 41 or 42 with Bribe. We test drew a bunch of hands there and on the bus ride back to see how many hands really needed it and we got back to the hotel before we could decide. We only get half an hour to shower and write our decklists before we have to be at the Welcome Dinner. Sean, Tyler and I all sit down and really talk about our last minute decisions. Sean is set but Tyler and I decide to walk on a few cards and head up to the dinner where we each get a bag filled with a letter from Kazuki Takahashi, player profiles, a LP sheet, a pen, a token, a card box and more. I sit down at a table with Frank Debrito, Matt from R&D and Kevin Tewart which was so awesome. Who gets to say they had dinner with people like that? We enjoy an exceptional dinner and then we get our jerseys, sleeves and participation prizes. 2 World Championship mats, 4 boxes of Japanese product, 2 tins and much more were given to us and after we take some pictures we head back to our hotel rooms. There's already talk of a Samurai deck and a Dark World deck in contention, as well as Final Countdown. Most people decide to sleep but I'm not used to getting sleep before events so I go downstairs and get on my laptop. A couple other competitors are hanging out in the lobby and chilling and Jarel comes up to me and shows me Exodia and said he switched. The guy that pushed teamwork so hard now knew our decks and we had no idea what he was running or siding.. awesome teamwork. I decide to call it a night at around 4 and get a couple hours of sleep.
Saturday morning comes and we all meet in the lobby. When we finally get to the venue we all have to sit in the player's lounge and just hangout for hours.. the most boring thing ever, but it did let me get familiar with some of my competitors. They collect our decks to check them and we hear the rules of the tournament in 2 different languages. We have to rehearse the opening ceremony and soon after the real deal happens, pairings are posted on the big screen out on stage and I'm playing against Dark World. Great...
Round 1 - Dark World
Game 1: He opens with a set card and I push early with Necrovalley and Malefic Stardust Dragon. Then I set Descendant and 3 cards to my backrow, one of them being a Starlight Road. He sets 2 more and passes and I flip Descendant into Torrential triggering my Road. He's never able to draw out of his bad hand and my board and I beat him down with Malefic Stardust Dragon.
Game 2: He Foolishes Grapha and bounces Beiige for it. Then he sets EEV and hits my 4 traps in hand when I draw.
Game 3: The game is slow at the beginning with him resolving a couple of Dark World Dealings but not really getting anywhere with them. We both make little card exchanges with our Rykos and Warnings and eventually I resolve a huge Heavy Storm, leaving him with nothing but Grapha to my in hand Commandant and Malefic Cyber End Dragon. I swing over and next turn he tops a s/t. I try to swing for game but hit Dimensional Prison, next turn he tops Broww but I use my topdecked Solemn Warning. I top Descendant and swing for half his life. He tops a dead Solemn Warning next turn and scoops.
Feeling good after beating Dark World, but I don't have much time til the next round starts.
Round 2 - Inzektors (Wesley, ended up 4th)
Game 1: I don't draw Necrovalley and instead draw a horrid opening of 2 Stele, 2 BTH and other irrelevant cards. At one point he MSTs a BTH then summons Centipede into the other but he has Hornets and Ladybugs and a bunch of cards I can't stop because I never draw Valley or a second GK to make my Steles live.
Game 2: We're grinding, I play a big Heavy Storm that simplifies the game a bit then stop his Centipede/Gigamantis. The game turns into a stalemate as we both can't really draw anything but eventually he Dualities into MST, goes off and I can't stop him.
Round 3 - Inzektors (Stefano Memoli, ended up 2nd)
Game 1: He opens poorly and I keep on the pressure with Malefic Stardust. He's forced to Compulse it so I drop it again into a Torrential, drop a second Stardust into a second Torrential then drop Malefic Cyber End Dragon for game.
Game 2: He opens with 2 backrow cards. I open a marvelous hand of Heavy Storm, Skill Drain, Solemn Warning, Malefic Stardust Dragon, Gravekeeper's Commandant and Gravekeeper's Spy. I think about my hand for a while and just set Spy. If he did have Inzektor + Hornet in his hand, I would let him pop my Spy but waste those 2 cards and give him less outs to my impending field next turn and if he doesn't have the combo I get a free Spy effect. It seemed better than just going yolo in my mind but he draws and reveals Dragonfly Hornet Reborn. I still to this day think I made the right play but it really sucks that I would've won if I had done the more obvious play that most people probably would've just automatically done!
Game 3: Mid-game I have Necrovalley, Descendant, Prohibition on Hornet and Macro Cosmos. He has a Trooper he had summoned the turn before, 1 set card and a card in hand. I swing over Trooper and he chains Dust Tornado on Macro Cosmos to draw a card. He draws for his turn and summons Centipede, puts Gigamantis on it and beats me down over the next few turns while I draw a dead Valley and Prohibition.
I was really disappointed at this point, but I had faith in both my tiebreakers so I kept my head held high. That is, until I found out I got a bye in the next round. So I spent the next 2 hours eating and watching the feature match and let me tell you those were some of the longest hours of my life. Everyone finishes up and 4 people from the US are 2-2 so we all have a very good chance of playing each other. Pairings are posted and it turns out Tyler and I are playing the mirror for our final round of Worlds.
Round 5 - Malefic Drain Keepers (Tyler Tabman)
Game 1: I open significantly better than him with Spys, Stele and a full backrow suite.
Game 2: We both do some tricky sidedecking, with him keeping in Malefic Stardusts and Valley and me keeping in Malefic Cyber End with 0 Necrovalley and 0 Skill Drain in my deck. I also sided in Prohibition as I felt it'd be more useful than Drains in the mirror. This game is a bit longer with both of us drawing decently well but I just draw better and I end up winning. The match was largely based on who drew better and it just so happened that I was the lucky one this time. We both had terrible tiebreakers so it really didn't matter who ended up winning. Some of his were x-3 and even though both my ties ended up topping that bye just killed me.
Stefano, Josh, Wesley and Jarel make it so at least there were people to cheer for and hopefully one of them would take it. We get back to the hotel and freshen up a bit before Michel Gruner, Josh, Tyler and I go out with Satoshi and some of his friends for a nice dinner! We try some Japanese food but eventually us four just ate pizza, corn and french fries anyways. We go back to the hotel and I chill with Michel, Satoshi and others for the rest of the night! I wake up the next morning, take a shower and get on the bus to go back to the convention center. We all play Goat format the entire time until we go watch the finals where we're all rooting for Stefano to take it! But oh well, sometimes there's just nothing you can do. We head back after the Awards Ceremony and get some food and play more Goats. Josh ends up selling his prize card for a whopping $4,000. We all go hangout in Caelum's room with Satoshi, Michel, Josh, and Jono for the last time and enjoy each other's company. I finally get to see why Hero Lives is so good in Japan, they have some crazy Rank 4 exceeds there! One that detatches to Book of Moon, another that's similar to Trishula.. insane. A few goat games with Josh wrap up my night and we all head back to our rooms and say our goodbyes.
Worlds was one hell of an experience. Even though I didn't do as well as I wanted it was an amazing trip I'll never forget. All the people I met and all the places and things we all experienced together were truly amazing. And it just makes me want to do it all over again. With worlds being in the US next year, we really need to defend our own country and win it for sure! Stefano got 10th at worlds last year and he did it again, shoot - if he would've won he would've went back to worlds for the third time in a row. The event really got me interested in playing the game more competitively again and I'll most likely be seeing you guys at a lot of the upcoming YCS's and definitely Nationals where I'm hoping to make my back-to-back-to-back-to-back top. I got to live the dream every Yugioh player has and let me tell you first hand, it's even better than you'd expect. Until next time guys!
- Mike Steinman