This past weekend I had the esteemed pleasure of winning my first major championship and man what an event was it to win! I’m honored to join the list of great players who have won nationals such as Adam Corn and Chris Bowling. This week I’m going to bring you a detailed tournament report that will highlight my experiences throughout the weekend, my matchups, my testing leading up to the event, and give explanations for my card choices.
There are certain limitations players face when choosing their decks. Some are more limiting than others, such as a limited card pool and the options that are available to you. Regardless of how unlimited you may think your options are, there is one limitation that every player shares; time. You are working with an unlimited amount of options to optimize your deck, but a limited amount of time. When you factor in the potential for multiple best decks, time is going to be a major concern.
This event was certainly no exception. One of the nice things leading up to the event was that there were a full two months since the last event. With roughly twice the amount of time to test for this event as the time to test for a normal event, I knew I’d have time to fully learn the deck. The problem is that I’d only have time to learn the deck, not all the decks.
After the release of Tachyon, it became obvious that the best deck would either be Spellbooks or Dragons. While it may not have been optimal, I knew that I’d have to pick one and attempt to master it over the next two months and at the end of the two months hope I picked correctly since there was no possible way to master both in that amount of time.
Each week I discovered new things. In the beginning it was things that seem so basic now such as using Redox and Blaster before Tidal and Tempest so that if they play Maxx “C” and you are forced to stop you can’t get [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]ed. It eventually grew to more complicated things like not playing my Maxx “C” on not only their Burners or Reactants, but sometimes not even on their Streams and Lightnings and under what situations I would allow it and under what situations I would not. A lot of the theory I discussed with Sam Pedigo and we would often send essays back and forth giving our thoughts on how to best play the deck. At the end of the two months, I had a slew of shortcuts and knew what to do in most scenarios and had a list that I felt was the most optimal. Here is what I arrived at:
3 Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos
3 Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls
3 Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders
3 Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms
2 Burner, Dragon Ruler of Sparks
2 Stream, Dragon Ruler of Droplets
2 Reactant, Dragon Ruler of Pebbles
2 Lightning, Dragon Ruler of Drafts
3 [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd]
3 Maxx “C”
1 [ccProd]Flamvell Guard[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Super Rejuvenation[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Sacred Sword of Seven Stars[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Book of Moon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]
2 Vanity’s Emptiness
Extra Deck: 15
3 [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd]
2 Number 11: Big Eye
1 [ccProd]Mermail Abyssgaios[/ccProd]
1 Gaia Dragon, the Thunder Charger
1 Gem-Knight Pearl
1 [ccProd]Scrap Dragon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Thought Ruler Archfiend[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Colossal Fighter[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Ancient Sacred Wyvern[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Armory Arm[/ccProd]
Side Deck: 15
1 [ccProd]Horus the Black Flame Dragon Lv8[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Horus the Black Flame Dragon Lv6[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Puppet Plant[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Swift Scarecrow[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd]
1 [ccProd]Enemy Controller[/ccProd]
2 [ccProd]Eradicator Epidemic Virus[/ccProd]
1 Vanity’s Emptiness
I’d like to take a few minutes to explain any of my card choices that weren’t standard.
Flamvell Guard – In the last few weeks, it seems that Corsesca had become the standard choice over Guard. The idea was that you needed Blaster to OTK so removing him to make a Synchro would be subpar. In my testing I never found that the situation where I needed to OTK to an open field while having every dragon available to me and they didn’t have Scarecrow happened enough to warrant Corsesca’s use. Additionally, I found that Guard served a much greater purpose in being a Fire to pitch for Blaster’s destroy effect.
3 Sacred Swords – It’s funny, in one of the first messages I sent to Sam before I ever even tested the deck I questioned why 1 Sword was so staple and wondered why everyone wouldn’t play 3. Over the course of the two months the number of Swords I played fluctuated, but I eventually came to the conclusion that Sword was a card I wanted in every scenario. I wanted it when I started weak, when I started strong, when they started weak, or when they started Jowgen Fate. Activating Sword on your first turn put you so far ahead in the game and I soon realized that that’s exactly the type of card you should be playing 3 of.
Card Destruction – I suppose [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd] is actually fairly staple, but for me it wasn’t. When I first started playing the deck, it made its way into my build, but was soon after dropped and didn’t return until the last of testing. While it’s subpar in the mirror, it’s almost an autowin any time you activate it in a matchup other than the mirror.
No Monster Reborn – [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] is certainly a powerful card in a vacuum, however I quickly realized that it had a lot of problems. I didn’t want it when they had Jowgen Fate, I didn’t want it when I was under Maxx “C” and I only sometimes wanted it when they had Ophion. If those things weren’t happened, wasn’t I winning anyway? Because of this, it seemed unnecessary.
No Dark Hole – This is another card that began as an obvious no brainer, but as Nationals drew closer, it became almost staple for just about everybody. I never thought the card was necessary. It was subpar in the mirror and essentially dead against Evilswarm, but it really did shine against Spellbooks. In my mind, I was going to lose game 1 to Spellbooks anyway, and win games 2 and 3 anyway. I didn’t see [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] as giving me that big advantage against Spellbooks and even with it still felt I was going to lose game 1. If it wasn’t changing my strategy of losing that first game and winning the next two, it didn’t seem worth it.
No Return From the Different Dimension – This is the one card I actually just don’t have a good explanation for. This card was in my deck from the first time I tested Dragon Rulers until the week before Nationals. It was essentially never bad and provided a win condition for a lot of unwinnable games. If I were to somehow go against all I believed in and play 41, this would be that 41st card.
Vanity’s Emptiness – As I mentioned above, my strategy against Spellbooks was going to be to lose game 1 and win games 2 and 3. This allowed me to justify maining cards that could be awful against that deck without much thought. Prior to maining Emptiness, I was playing [ccProd]Enemy Controller[/ccProd] mained to help give myself an advantage in the mirror, but I realized why would I play a card that’s very good in the mirror (Enemy Controller), when I could just play a card that wins the mirror (Emptiness)? It certainly proved to be helpful as I played 11 mirrors throughout the tournament and beat all 11 of them. I’m very confident that this was one of the biggest factors in being so successful in the mirror. It’s actually very similar to playing in Tele-DAD format. The mirror match was great, but when one player was playing [ccProd]Royal Oppression[/ccProd] and the other player wasn’t, it was very clear-cut in favor of the player playing Oppression. I wanted to give myself this advantage and thus chose to main 2 copies of Emptiness.
Horus and Puppet – The first time I heard of this side deck I loved it. It was just as the Priestess-less version of Spellbooks began to really become the more popular version, but as we got closer to nationals it seemed that most players had decided that 1-2 copies of Priestess was the way to go. Couple that with the fact that everyone was running more traps than ever in [ccProd]Phoenix Wing Wind Blast[/ccProd], Solemns, and even [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] and everyone seemed to think this side was subpar. Additionally, [ccProd]Mind Drain[/ccProd] became a staple in the Spellbook side deck to make potential [ccProd]Puppet Plant[/ccProd]s dead. Most people chose to play [ccProd]Last Day of Witch[/ccProd] or [ccProd]DNA Surgery[/ccProd] strategies over Horus. I thought that Horus provided something that none of the other strategies did; a win condition. Realistically, you could resolve [ccProd]Last Day of Witch[/ccProd] and still lose the game. Clearing Jowgen isn’t always enough when they got to search 3-5 cards at their end phase. You still need a way to actually win the game. Horus did this. The basic idea would be to [ccProd]Puppet Plant[/ccProd] the Jowgen and tribute it for Horus 6 and attack over the Magician and get Lv8 at the end phase making all of their searches negligible. In addition to Horus being a win condition in itself against the deck, it was a searchable win condition. You actually have to draw [ccProd]DNA Surgery[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Last Day of Witch[/ccProd] for it to be effective against Spellbooks, but for Horus to be effective all you need to do is remove Blaster by any number of ways. That way you could have it when it would be good, and not have it when it wouldn’t. In terms of the additional traps, logically it seems unlikely that they would open a perfect hand of Judgment Secrets with multiple traps with any regularity. Between 3 MST, [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd], [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], and 2 Sarcophagus to get [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], it seemed like I would have a reliable counter to the few traps they might have.
Gem Knight Pearl – I knew that I didn’t want to commit losing the Evilswarm game 1 whenever I went second and wanted some sort of advantage in that matchup. A rank 4 out to Ophion seemed like the best option as I would never have to draw it when I didn’t want it. The primary way to summon it would be use Redox’s Reborn effect to bring back either Stream or Reactant and normal either Stream or Reactant. While I did summon Pearl much more when I was playing Return, I still felt it worth it without it. I started by using Maestroke, but Sam pointed out that Pearl would be a better option as it was an out to double Ophion, an out to Ophion when they had Veiler, and an Earth for Redox. Pearl also had some applications in the Prophecy matchup as you could Puppet Plant Kycoo and summon either Stream or Reactant to get Kycoo off the field.
I made the trip up to Chicago with Ben and Zach Leverett. It was a 12 hour drive. We left on Wednesday and drove half way, and then we drove the remainder of the trip on Thursday. We made it to Chicago in time to go to Giordano’s for dinner. Friday we went to convention center, but I opted to not preregister since they made you turn in your deck list on Friday if you did and I’d rather keep my options open. Also on Friday we met up with Johnny Li and Jarel Winston who were also staying with us. I watched a lot of games and tested for a couple hours with Paul Clarke. After the event closed, we all went to Houlihan’s for dinner. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and I printed out translations for my deck.
The next morning we woke up and took a short cab ride to the Pier. After some games of Tele-DAD I was ready to start.
Game 1: I open a strong hand which allows me to Sword for a plus 1 and then Rejuvenation for 2 which draws me another Rejuvenation for 2. This puts me far enough ahead in the game.
Game 2: I open a very similar opening to game 1 with the Sword into double Rejuvenation for 2 each. He’s got a strong hand that consists of a Sword of his own and a Rejuvenation for 4. There’s a point in the game where I consider conceding as time is approaching and I don’t want to draw, but when he is unable to capitalize as much as he needs to on a key turn, I decide to keep playing and eventually win right as time is called. This was almost very bad for me, as I was making my time decisions based off the Dragon Duel clock, that I thought was ours and when time was called I believed we had 4 minutes left in the round. Thankfully it didn’t actually impact our game.
Game 1: I win the dice roll and open Rejuvenation for 4. He summons Magician and I Veiler and then OTK him the next turn with [ccProd]Ancient Sacred Wyvern[/ccProd].
Game 2: He starts off weak and I get Horus out early for game.
Vs Dragons, Sam Pedigo
I’ve played Sam at more YCSes than I have played anyone else. Previously I was 0-3 to him. It’s very unfortunate for both of us as we discuss theory so often we know exactly how the other will play.
Game 1: I have the stronger hand and he knows it and his best bet was to go for game through Maxx “C” (he also knew I didn’t play Scarecrow), but I have Book to stop it and he concedes.
Game 2: This game was back and forth, but he eventually pushes through Maxx “C” for game and I can’t stop it.
Game 3: My opening hand was very weak. I had Sword, 2 Rejuvenation, Maxx “C” and 2 Emptiness. I set Emptiness and hope not to die. Any average hand would have destroyed me, but thankfully his hand was weak too. He used Blaster to pop Emptiness and passed. I drew Reactant and thought for a moment before using Reactant to pitch Maxx “C” since I would likely win if I could establish a board since I had another Emptiness. I sword away the Redox which really gets the ball rolling and I’m able to take the game.
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and starts with Tempest to search into double baby dragon into Dracossack in defense and Rejuvenation for 6. I discard for a baby and he plays Maxx “C.” I realize that I lose the game the following turn if I don’t do anything, so I discard for a baby again and he draws a second card. I make Big Eye and he gets a third card. I take the Dracossack knowing if he has Veiler I lose anyway, but he doesn’t. I get the tokens and he draws a 4th card. I then tribute the Dracossack to pop the Big Eye so he can’t [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd] me. I double Rejuvenation for 4 each and pass with 2 tokens and 6 cards to him drawing to 10. He’s unable to kill me the next turn and sets 3 to avoid discarding. I play Heavy on my turn to Heavy away all 3, including his Heavy. I make a field and then set double Emptiness. This play is debatable. I saw Heavy was gone so I had no reason to fear that, so that was a reason to set 2, but what happened was the next turn he discards for a baby and I emptiness and he passes. I can’t kill him the following turn and the next turn he Blasters my set Emptiness. I’m unsure of whether or not I should have set double Emptiness to begin with, but I would have likely won had I only set 1. What do you think?
Game 2: I set up an Emptiness lock early and it’s enough to win.
Game 3: He starts by making Dracossack in defense and setting 1 with Rejuvenation. I remove Tempest and Tidal for Redox and he lets it happen. I discard for Lightning and he plays Emptiness. I realize I need to keep his Emptiness on the field so that he can’t kill me. I summon Psi Blocker and call Dracossack so he can’t tribute itself and go off. I attack over a token and set Book and Emptiness. Time is called on his turn. He passes. I attack the other token and call Dracossack. He passes again. I call Dracossack and turn Psi Blocker to defense, not ready to make a push since I have the last turn. He plays [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] to clear his Emptiness, my Emptiness, and my Book. I chain it to Blocker. He makes Gaia to attack for 2300 over my Psi Blocker and then sets a monster. He plays Rejuvenation for 2 in the end phase and activates Book that he drew on Dracossack. I draw Veiler for my turn. I remove 2 Dragons for a Redox. I search a baby and a big and use them. I make Big Eye and try to take his Dracossack, but he Veiler. I remove for my last Dragon and summon my Veiler to make Thought Ruler and attack over Gaia to win in time.
Game 1: I start out strong with Dracossack and Rejuvenation for 4. Then I Veiler his Magician and OTK him the following turn.
Game 2: He opens the combo for 2 and sets 3 with a Star Hall on the field. He flips [ccProd]Mind Drain[/ccProd] when I draw. Next turn he combos for a lot more and ends with Jowgen. My only chance at winning the game was to have my Heavy resolve, but he has Judgment.
Game 3: I Eradicator him early. He’s got Kycoo and Compulsory left, but I had [ccProd]Puppet Plant[/ccProd] so it wasn’t enough.
Game 1: I open one of the best hands possible with Rejuvenation for 6. I take the game fairly easily.
Game 2: I read he has an [ccProd]Electric Virus[/ccProd] so I make Big Eye with Emptiness set so he can’t break the lock. It works for a couple turns, but he draws [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] before I can kill him which breaks the lock and I get OTKed.
Game 3: I get another lock with Emptiness early on and take the game fairly easily.
Game 1: I start with double Dracossack with a Veiler in hand. He starts with Magican and I Veiler. He plays Power and kills a token and then combos out and I lose.
Game 2: He has too many backrow and winds up pulling it out.
Game 1: We have a very long and back and forth mirror. Other than how much time it took, I don’t remember much about it, but I get it.
Game 2: We’re about to go into time and I briefly consider scooping after he [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]s me so we don’t draw, but I draw Book for my turn and am able to live. I verbally express my thoughts in scooping and try to sell the fact that I don’t think I can live. He specials Blaster and I Maxx “C.” He thinks he can win that turn so he pushes through. I could live with the Book, but draw Scarecrow off the Maxx “C.” I think that I can play around Book stopping my Scarecrow by taking one of the first attacks, but forgot I already took 200 so the remaining attacks would have been game regardless, so I took his first attack for no reason which could have really hurt with time approaching. Fortunately the Maxx “C” gives me enough advantage to put him in a Thought Ruler Emptiness lock as we go into time.
I finish day 1 in 10th place. Johnny finished 8-0. We try to look for food, but everything on the pier had just closed so we end up having to take a taxi to McDonalds. Then we head back to the hotel.
The next morning we wake up at 6:30, shower, resleeve, and head back to the pier.
Game 1: I start with Stream because I have Sword. He plays Maxx “C” and I assume that I’m playing a mirror. I Sword and don’t play [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd] since I think it’s a mirror. Instead I set it hoping that he pops it with Dracossack instead of just killing me. Instead, he summons Rabbit and attacks me for 3900 and makes Ophion. Next turn I flip [ccProd]Card Destrctruction[/ccProd] and set Stream hoping to not die, then double Rejuvenation for 8 total. He just attacks. Next turn I use Blaster, discarding Guard to try to pop Ophion, but he has Dress. The following turn I try to Blaster it again, but he makes another Ophion. I use Redox and Stream to make Pearl, but he has Compulsory and I have no outs.
Game 2: I open with [ccProd]Card Destruciton[/ccProd], Burner and Blaster, and debate not playing [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd] since I have an out to Ophion, but decide that it’s worth it. It pays off and I get Heavy [ccProd]Tsukuyomi[/ccProd] and he can’t keep up even with Ophion.
Game 3: He starts with Ophion set 2. I play Heavy and summon Psi Blocker to call Ophion. I discard for Stream and he plays Maxx “C.” I don’t want him to run over Blocker with something and then me not have an out to Ophion, so I decide I have to make Dracossack and attack over Ophion. He makes Bahamaut and takes Dracossack. I can’t capitalize and he attacks for game the following turn.
Game 1: He starts with double baby and Rejuvenation for 4. When I do anything he plays Maxx “C” and I lose the following turn.
Game 2: I open decent and set up an Emptiness lock to take the game.
Game 3: I open very weak and he discards for Burner and after a moment I decide I have to Maxx “C” it. He goes for it and uses his whole hand to make Dracossack and set Emptiness. I Space the Emptiness and take the game easily.
Vs. Spellbooks, Ali Yassine
Game 1: I win the dice roll and look at the most beautiful hand I’d opened all day; [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd], 2 Rejuvenation, and 3 big Dragon. I play Card Destruction and off of it, he draws Droll & Lock Bird, which turns my absolute God hand into an awful hand and he takes it easily.
Game 2: I open with Big Eye and Eradicator and hit most of his hand. He scoops on my next turn as he is concerned about time.
Game 3: I look at my opening hand and realize that if he opens the combo, I’m going to lose. He starts with Priestess and then the combo… for only 2 and is unable to special Jowgen. He then sets a [ccProd]Mind Drain[/ccProd] that he flips as soon as I draw. I activate MST on Mind Drain, discard for Stream, special a Dragon, make Big Eye and take Priestess. Then I tribute Priestess for Horus and attack over Magician. I set Book and level up in the end phase. He summons Jowgen and I Book and win the following turn.
After swiss I finish in 15th place, one of the higher x-2s. Top 64 starts shortly after.
Game 1: I play this game very poorly. I did multiple things wrong and got punished for it big time.
Game 2: I discard to Special Redox and he Maxx “C”s. He plays [ccProd]Electric Virus[/ccProd] on my Dragon and specials a Redox of his own. I know he’s going for the OTK so I Maxx “C” hoping for Scarecrow. He summons Blaster and tributes his two tokens for another Blaster and tries to attack for game, but realizes he forgot to turn my Redox to attack mode. He had game on board, and accidently messed it up. At that point I know that I should be out of the tournament and decide that I’m not going to play like I played game 1.
Game 3: I decide to not play my Maxx “C” on his Stream and then make a read on him having Electric Virus. I make Big Eye with Emptiness so he couldn’t Virus a Dracossack and break it up. I slowly gain advantage as he’s forced for keep setting monsters which I can run over.
Vs. Dragons, Agustin Herrera
Game 1: He wins the dice roll and starts out with Stream. I figure that must mean he has Sword in hand, especially when his follow up play was Burner. He eventually plays all but 1 card in his hand and brings out Dracossack in attack mode. The 1 card winds up being Rejuvenation which nets him 6 cards. I’m not really sure how he was making such basic mistakes. Luckily my hand was strong too and I make Gaios to kill his Dracossack and double Rejuvenation for 4 each. The following turn I’m able to answer his field and then make one of my own with a set Emptiness to give me the game.
Game 2: This game gets to a point where I had the potential of winning, but am unsure and decide that I will strategically scoop with roughly 5 minutes left.
Game 3: Time is called on his first turn and he’s doing things, but I make Gaia and Thought Ruler to push for damage on the final turn and win in time.
Vs. Dragons, Carl Manigat
The only noteworthy thing I feel that is worth explaining is that by making Big Eyes when I had Emptiness I was trying to play around Electric Virus.
Vs. Dragons, Robbie Boyajian
Vs. Dragons, Stephen Silverman
Game 1: I start with Sword, but still have a weak hand so I decide to [ccProd]Card Destruction[/ccProd]. He Chains Maxx “C” and only pitches 1 big Dragon. I draw Rejuvenation for 5 into another. He tries to do something the next turn and I Emptiness. I turn it off on my turn and then kill him.
Game 2: He opens pretty weak again and I take the game quickly.
Vs. Spellbooks, David Keener
There’s not much to say here. I knew he was playing Spellbooks and didn’t want to leave tokens on the field for him to Power, so I tribute for Blaster in game 1. I believed that I was going to win game 2 until he played Kycoo to attack for game the turn before I added Heavy off Sarcophagus. Had he not been able to win that turn, I would have played Heavy and summoned a baby to attack over Jowgen and made Big Eye with Eradicator in my hand. In game 3, I had an opportunity to make Big Eye, but decided it would be safer to set Eradicator and wait a turn. He had Mst and didn’t play it in the end phase, which allowed me to blow him out with Eradicator when he tried to Compulsory my Big Eye. The energy of the crowd when I flipped the Eradicator was amazing. They knew I won as soon as I did and after the match was over several friends rushed on stage to congratulate me. It’s been a long road to get to this point and it took a lot of preparation. I’m very glad that my hard work finally paid off and that I was able to win my first major championship. I look forward to doing my best to represent North America at the World Championship in 3 weeks. Thank you to all of those that have continued to read my articles from the beginning and I look forward to being able to continue helping out the community. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and until next time, play hard or go home!