How’s it going, duelists? This week marks the start of my new article segment, Origins, which is going to be about the story of my upbringing in Yu-Gi-Oh. It’s been something that I’ve always wanted to write down, but I felt that it would be too long for just one article, especially since I plan to go into major detail dating all the way back to the beginning. Therefore, I’ve decided to break it down into several parts—this being the first. Hope you all enjoy the read.
I started playing this game in eighth grade during the year 2003, but of course I didn’t understand the rulings or anything at that time. My friends and I just kind of summoned our strongest monsters, equipped them with Axe of Despairs, and hoped it got there. I came in on Pharaoh’s Servant, which is the set that the game changing Jinzo was released in. Oddly enough, I packed one shortly after it came out, and then traded it the very next day for Thousand-Eyes Restrict because Maximilian Pegasus was my favorite character and he used that card. This was obviously not a good trade but when you’re young in the game of Yugs, someone is bound to get you eventually, unless you have friends who know the market—which wasn’t a thing back then. There were no smart phones or price checks outside of Beckett books, and if you ever referenced a price from one of those, you had to be out of your mind. In any event, I managed to assume the position of leader in my small posse of duelists by beating everyone and taking their best cards. Cruel, I know, but true (I was the youngest in the group, in case you were wondering). This small success in my local community eventually led to me becoming big-headed and wanting to venture out to other locals to conquer them as well.
I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassing it was being thirteen years old, going to a different local, and summoning Blue-Eyes White Dragon from my hand without any tributes, and having a room of people erupt in laughter. This didn’t help any when my own friends were unable to back me up. I had no idea how to actually play the game. Of course I ended up learning the hard way on several subsequent adventures to the same place where I got destroyed week after week. I knew nothing about a Metagame.com, net-decking, tribute summoning, costs, Shonen Jump Championships, deck ratios, or anything of that sort. I was completely ignorant. But if there’s anything that you should know about me, it’s that I always persevere. I’m a very cunning person who absolutely hates to lose; sometimes it shows, and sometimes it doesn’t. So as fate would have it, I learned how to play the game of Yu-Gi-Oh the correct way—or so I thought—and then the real challenge began.
Following my series of crushing defeats at the new local and under the real rules, I became obsessed with getting better. I tweaked my decks over and over until they were perfect in my eyes. I analyzed the ways the better players in that area were winning games. They were basically using 1800 attack monsters like La Djinn combined with equip spells like Axe of Despair—much like how my own crew used to do—and then pressing with lots of removal cards like Fissure, Raigeki, and Dark Hole. Then, if you were able to deal with those, they would drop a Jinzo or Summoned Skull to beat over whatever you had. It was a simple game of 1-for-1s and +1s through battle. Child’s play. After conquering that area, too, I became extremely bored with the game and wanted more of a challenge. I knew it was out there somewhere; I just had to find it. Two years later, in 2005, I would find just that.
My best friend told me about a card store called JMC Collectibles that was located in his area. He told me that they had tournaments every weekend with legitimate prizes, something I had yet to see up until that point. Most of my duels prior to that were just for fun, bragging rights, or to gain cards. This place was much different than that; it was the definition of competition. Right off the bat, I noticed that they had a point tracking system that displayed each player’s name and theiraccumulated points throughout the season. The winner of the whole season would be rewarded with a millennium puzzle trophy and a box of cards. Right then and there I knew…I wanted that trophy. The only sad thing was, I came in at the middle of the season so there was no possible way for me to catch up to the best players. But that would soon become the least of my concerns as I got acquainted with just how real the competition was.
On my first day at JMC, I met with two extremely good players, Dontaye and Kevin, who immediately saw my huge collection and asked to play for cards. This struck me as odd since my binder had just about everything. Logically, if someone new came into my store with a huge binder that had pages upon pages of good cards, I probably would think twice about challenging them to a match for cards. Take into consideration my age and the time period. My better judgment told me to decline the match for that very reason; they seemed entirely too confident about playing. Dontaye even tried every tool in his hidden arsenal to get me to play, but to no avail. In fact, the more he pressed and pressed about playing me, the more I felt certain about my decision to not play for cards. You can say what you want about my decision, but I knew how to pick my battles. Kevin realized that I wouldn’t budge in my decision so he asked to play for fun. His friend wasn’t too happy about that. I could already tell how competitive Dontaye was; he hated the idea of playing for nothing. At the time, I was using a fiend deck that maxed out on copies of Dark Necrofear, Giant Germ, and Slate Warrior. The win condition was to summon Dark Ruler Ha Des and swarm the field with fiends, negating everything they destroyed in battle. It also utilized Dimension Fusion as a game ending combo to bring back everything removed from play by Necrofear. But it was nothing in comparison to Kevin’s deck—Chaos. This was my very first introduction to such a thing. I had no prior run-ins with the deck before coming to JMC, and it was mind boggling. The newest set was Flaming Eternity at this time so many players were hype on the Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys. I had 3 ultimate rare copies of the card but I didn’t think anything of it. Everyone wanted to trade for them so that only made me more suspicious of it. I was about to find out exactly why it was so sought after.
The first game of the first match I played with Kevin was unlike anything I’d ever experienced prior to JMC. I opened with Slate Warrior and a set backrow (Sakuretsu Armor). He drew, set one card to his spell/trap card zone and passed. I attacked with Slate Warrior and ran into Scapegoats. I beat one of the tokens and passed. He summoned and tribute the Hand of Nepthys and one sheep token to bring out the Sacred Phoenix. It was the first time I ever saw the card in action. He swung over my Slate Warrior and lost 500 attack in the process. I figured that I could deal with the bird at 1900 rather than 2400, and it would just come back if I used the Armor on it anyways. Kevin set a backrow and ended. I drew Mirror Force for the turn and summoned Giant Orc. I swung at the Phoenix but he chained Ring of Destruction! I immediately put my Orc in the grave, assuming that’s what he was doing, but he retrieved it, placed it back on my field, and said he was targeting his own Phoenix. I was a little confused at first and then reality set in. That stupid thing was coming back next turn, and it was going to be at 2400 again. Not only that, but it was going to destroy my set Sakuretsu Armor when it rebirthed. I couldn’t set my freshly drawn Mirror Force, either.To make matters worse, he still had two goat tokens on the field, so swinging with Giant Orc would be pretty pointless considering it would just go to defense position. I passed and lost my field to the card I’d neglected to ever think twice about; a card I had 3 ultimate rare copies of on the first page of my book.
At this point, I decided I needed a contingency plan to deal with that thing. I set a Giant Germ and set Mirror Force before passing back. He swung into it and I summoned two more copies from my deck in attack position. He set one monster zone and one backrow before ending. Now that I finally had three fiends in the graveyard, I was able to drop my first copy of Dark Necrofear! I had every intention of stealing that Sacred Chicken of Neverneverland, but when I summoned it, he responded with Torrential Tribute. Now I was about to lose my facedown Mirror Force, one of the most powerful trap cards in the game, and I would have nothing to take from him with Dark Necrofear on the end phase. I also saw his facedown Sinister Serpent go the grave when he activated Torrential; it was another card that comes back every standby phase. I started picking up on what looked like his deck’s theme and I grew extremely annoyed by it. I had no concept of card advantage at this time, but looking back on it, he probably had +2 or +3 on me by now, which was huge back then. I passed my turn and took a beating from the Phoenix. He set one monster and ended. I set Dark Mimic LV1 and passed back to him. He drew and flipped Magician of Faith to retrieve his Scapegoats, and then attacked with both monsters to deal me 300 damage. I now had Dimension Fusion in my hand and a nice removed from play zone set up. I played it, brought back Slate Warrior, Giant Orc, and Giant Germ all in attack position. I summoned Archfiend Soldier from my hand and rammed my Slate Warrior into the Phoenix to have it lose 500 attack. Giant Orc destroyed it in battle while Giant Germ took care of Magician of Faith before Archfiend Soldier made a direct attack. It looked like I was going to win this game. That was until he activated Premature Burial on the Hand of Nephthys and tributed it for Dark Dust Spirit! It wiped my field and hit me for 2200. I was down to my last 200 lifepoints. He set one backrow, which was more than likely Scapegoat again, and I didn’t have any way of dealing with all 4 sheep tokens so I set another Sakuretsu Armor hoping to extend the game, but down came Breaker the Magical Warrior to finish me off. The whole thing was an absolute blowout from the start.
I spent the rest of that day playing Kevin over and over again, hoping to beat him in just one game if I couldn’t win a whole match. Sadly, I never managed to win a single game that night. I felt terrible at home thinking about the events that transpired at JMC. How could someone be so much better than me? What was I doing wrong? These were questions that I needed answers to, and so the obsession began. I ventured back to that place on the following Saturday to see what their tournaments were like. I arrived only about twenty minutes before registration closed. Kevin and Dontaye were both there, as well as many other faces I’d never seen before. I went over to chill with them and Kevin greeted me. Dontaye, on the other hand, was being just as standoffish with me as the first time we met. He simply asked me if I was playing in the tournament, and gave an arrogant snicker when I said yes. I could tell I wouldn’t be making any progress trying to be his friend with the way things were going. And then, while we were all standing around waiting, someone came into the store. It was actually two people; a boy around our age, and a much older man with short white hair who I assumed to be his grandfather. The boy’s face was completely expressionless. He was holding a white 100-count box whilescanning the room and making his way to the counter to register. He pulled out what looked like a business card and handed it to the cashier. “Store credit,” he said.
“There he is,” exclaimed Dontaye. “I thought he wasn’t going to make it.” “Yeah, you know he’s always late, though,” replied Kevin. It seemed like attention was being directed towards this new guy for a reason I didn’t understand. I was guessing he was just their friend, which was partly true. “Who’s that,” I asked hoping that Kevin would be the one to answer my question. And as if on cue, I got the response I was looking for. “He won the last season here.” “Oh wow, so he has one of the Millennium Puzzle Trophies?” “Yeah, he’s really good, too.” I turned my head in the direction of the scoreboard to look at the names of the top three players. I saw Kevin and Dontaye’s names up there of course, along with one other, and so I asked the only relevant question. “What’s his name?” “Who him?” Kevin nodded in his direction.
“He’s the other person at the top of the board. His name is…