Placing Top 4 at YCS Long Beach

Well that was insane.

So if I remember correctly last week in Beyond the Top Deck I mentioned how this week I would either be writing about my experiences in Long Beach or continuing on with the next installment of that series. It all depended on how well I did out at the 100th YCS and if I felt like a tournament report was worthwhile. While I did not quite achieve my goal of walking away with the championship, it is tough to ignore how special this weekend truly was.

I’ve had this event on my mind a lot since YCS Atlanta. Atlanta was the third event in a row I placed in the Top 32 but was ousted right away. Back at YCS Dallas where I topped my first event I was so humbled to be there anything beyond placing in the Top 32 was gravy. Well naturally the closer you get to winning one of these, the more hungry for victory you become. My goal for the last month was to mentally focus on doing what I needed to in order to win Long Beach.

The weeks leading up to the event my decision as to what deck I wanted to play was blurry. In the back of my mind I felt like I was just going to run Dino-Rabbit again like I did at Atlanta. I had learned about the power of Gellenduo and the tech choices like Forbidden Chalice, so I believed my build would have an upper-hand over the competition – similar to Arcana Force 0 – The Fool at Atlanta.

But honestly – I really didn’t want to play that deck again. I won over 50% of my dice rolls in Atlanta, and opened with Rescue Rabbit at what seemed like a 70% clip. That simply was just not going to happen again, and while I was confident in my ability to win with sub-par hands – I just didn’t feel like Rabbit was the best choice for this event. Atlanta was completely different… now people knew about what would happen if they under-estimated the Rabbit.

So enough with the background of my mindset and expectations… on to the trip itself!


My flight left Friday morning at 6:30 am EST and landed in Los Angeles at roughly 10:00 am their time. At the airport I actually had a Inzektor deck built sporting multiple copies of Inzektor Hopper and Sword. My best friend in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh – Paul Clarke, who I travel with to every event joked at my insistence of wanting to try anything that didn’t involve 6 normal monsters. But I was really trying to fish around and see if I could get myself to play something that wasn’t what I honestly felt the most dominant deck was.

Once we arrived in Los Angeles we eventually found our way to the Best Western in Long Beach where we met up with Chris “Drama” Hentz and Michael “Goofy” Boyd. After catching our breaths from the coast-to-coast flight we found our way to the Long Beach Convention Center.

Inside the convention center I am able to meet up with the never-ending list of people I have met over the course of the last few years. I could honestly try and list everyone, but I would feel awful if I forgot someone – but I know, you know, who you are!

After pre-registering I was able to sit down and play a few matches with the Inzektor deck I had been anxious to try out. Eventually I was able to play Daniel LaMartina for what seemed like 20 games and have my first experience against Elemental Heroes that weekend. Dan is a player I have always respected, who has not only represented the United States at Worlds, but has multiple premier event tops to back himself up. Dan was using a Skill Drain build of Heroes which included a single copy of Bubbleman, counter-traps and a variety of other choices. While the matchup was not horrific, I would say Dan got the upper-hand against my Inzektors at the end of the day and it was back in the tank for me.

That night I was able to enjoy a fantastic Hibachi style meal with a group of my favorite duelists. Be sure to ask Paul Clarke about our waitress.

Afterwards we all headed to the Hyatt hotel located next to the convention center. Here another one of my best friends Jessy Samek met up with me and handed me over a Alter Reality Games hoodie that was sent to Billy Brake! It was incredibly exciting to be able to start sporting some ARG gear and I immediately threw it on!

Jessy and I played a bunch of Inzektor mirror matches and found the matchup to be relatively even. Sigh… still not impressed enough by Inzektors.

After returning to our hotel that night I was left literally clueless about what to run. In my hotel room Paul was adamant about the Rabbit, as was Chris. The fourth person, John Hubbard, was flirting with the idea of Agents maining Gellenduo but also had Inzektors on his mind.

For some reason in the back of my mind and in my gut I just felt like Heroes would be the best choice. I had written the past week in my article entitled, Long Beach Rescue Guide, about how I was originally thinking the opposite. But the games against Dan and my inability to feel comfortable with Inzektors changed my mind.

So while everyone else was putting the finishing touches on their side-decks and deciding if it was worth it to main Snowman Eater I jumped in the shower to zone in and think about how I thought the tournament would play out.

One word came to my mind: Consistency

I wanted to enter this event with what I felt like was the most consistent deck possible. My goal was not to place in the Top 64 – been there, done that. I wanted to win the tournament and one of the most significant things I felt I needed over the course of 12 rounds and a 64 person bracket was a deck I could trust. I’ve won games opening multiple normal monsters before, but could I trust the Rabbit to hop into my opening hands for the second event in a row? I didn’t think so.

So I began to tell everyone in my room about my desire to play Heroes and they were not as enthusiastic. But I sat down on the bed and based completely on Theory-Oh put together this bad boy.

3 Elemental Hero Neos Alius

1 Elemental Hero Stratos

2 Beast King Barbaros

2 Thunder King Rai-Oh

1 Crusader of Endymion

3 Miracle Fusion

3 Gemini Spark

3 Pot of Duality

2 E – Emergency Call

1 Monster Reborn

1 Dark Hole

1 Book of Moon

1 Reinforcement of the Army

1 Heavy Storm

2 Skill Drain

2 Dark Bribe

2 Dimensional Prison

2 Hero Blast

2 Solemn Warning

2 Torrential Tribute

1 Solemn Judgment

1 Mirror Force

1 Starlight Road

Side Deck

2 Maxx “C”

3 Snowman Eater

2 Smashing Ground

2 Forbidden Chalice

2 Super Polymerization

2 Mystical Space Typhoon

2 Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror

Extra Deck

3 Elemental Hero The Shining

2 Elemental Hero Absolute Zero

2 Elemental Hero Nova Master

1 Elemental Hero Gaia

1 Elemental Hero Great Tornado

1 Number 39: Utopia

1 Number C39: Utopia Ray

1 Blade Armor Ninja

1 Wind-Up Zenmaines

1 Number 30: Acid Golem of Destruction

1 Stardust Dragon

As you can see this deck does not main deck any of the following: Maxx “C”, Effect Veiler, Honest, Fiendish Chain or Super Polymerization. This deck was built with a simple goal in mind. Summon large monsters, protect them with removal and use Skill Drain/counter traps. Anything that went against that idea I did not want to use. Adding copies of Maxx “C” or third copies of Skill Drain/Hero Blast I felt would weaken the ability of this deck.

The most important thing I realized was winning game one from the perspective of the anti-meta player. You must capitalize on the first game of the match because your opponent is going to have a TON of dead cards against you, ex. their hand traps.

If you design a main deck that forfeits too many prevalent matchups (like maining Super Polymerization and facing Inzektors) you begin to diminish your chances of that.

The idea of not using Maxx “C”. The only deck I wanted to have Maxx “C” for was Wind-Ups. That was it. And with that being said I acknowledged that regardless of if I have Maxx “C” in my deck any time I was given a turn my chances of winning skyrocketed. Once I was able to summon a big-beater and set a bunch of spell/trap cards the Wind-Up player would be placed in such an awkward situation. So my idea was that I would have access to Maxx “C” in the second and third games to try and combat the loop. But quite frankly the only way I thought I would loss to this deck was if they won the roll and opened the loop. If I won the roll, or they failed to open the loop my deck was more positioned to win the match. I think I’ll take my chances and make all the other matchups better with that one.

So once I had the deck sleeved up I was left to test draw it. And no exaggerations I literally drew 100 opening hands and felt like I would be able to win 95 of those games. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone in the room sat there and test drew it again and again.

So I wrote my decklist for Elemental Heroes before I got a call from Joe Franzo. Joe was with Frazier Smith, Barret Keyes, Alistar Albans and a few other people (I literally was not sure who I was talking to at some points) and I let them know what I was thinking about playing. To say the least they were quite skeptical.

So I wrote so out the Dino-Rabbit deck I would have played and decided the best thing I could do was sleep on it.


When I got to the convention center on Saturday I had about an hour to make my decision. I was heavily leaning toward Heroes and I began showing people the list I wanted to use. Billy insisted on having a couple games before the event and against my own pre-YCS ritual I agreed. I mean… if I was about to enter with this deck I might as well play a game or two right? Billy and I split 2/2 in games but I figured that wasn’t so bad seeing as how well… it was Billy.

I started to talk over the deck with Frazier and he began to see what I was talking about with how it drew. Every single hand was so basic, streamlined and playable. At one point he said if I decided against running the deck to let him – he even said we might be looking at the next Gravekeepers.

I spoke with a few other people about my choice, including Patrick Smith who I lost to at YCS Columbus against his Hero deck. He said I would enjoy this event the most by playing a deck like that and his thoughts on my build. With two former YCS champions giving me the okay to register with Heroes I felt like it was time to just go for it.

I walked up to the deck registration line with both the Dino-Rabbit and Hero deck list. I heavied a deep breath and turned in a deck with 0 copies of Tour Guide from the Underworld, Maxx “C”, Effect Veiler or Fiendish Chain.

Round 1: T.G. Stun

Game 1: Naturally I am going to be playing against a deck that uses Skill Drain itself. Luckily for me I was able to resolve a surprising Heavy Storm backed up with a Solemn Warning for his Starlight Road. After a back and forth battle of resources and trades I was able to land a huge Beast King Barbaros with a Skill Drain.

Game 2: All three copies of my Elemental Hero Neos Alius were removed due to Miracle Fusion and Bottomless Trap Hole. My inexperience with Heroes was exposed round one but I quickly realized to never let that happen again. I kept drawing dead Gemini Spark and Hero Blasts since my deck was out of targets. To say the least, I never let that happen again all weekend.

Game 3: My opponent decides to TGEM1 a copy of Thunder King as opposed to using Horn of the Phantom Beast on his T.G. Warwolf and his decision costs him the game.

Round 2: Wind-Ups

Game 1: I am able to pull off a victory after lacking monsters for the majority of the game. His onslaught of Tour Guides with Pot of Avarice almost won him the game, but my generic removal stalled out enough until I hit the cards I needed to win.
Game 2: He found himself in a gruesome situation of flipping Greenkappa and deciding if he should either target my two backrows or one of his and one of mine. With the fear of Starlight Road in the back of his mind he rolls a dice to decide what he would do. Luckily for me he goes against the results of the roll and runs right into my Starlight Road winning me the match.


Round 3: Six Samurai

Game 1: He opens poorly and I am able to establish a dominant board presence.

Game 2: He opens with Shard of Greed and a set backrow. I Pot of Duality and selected Solemn Warning to go with the second copy already in my hand. Here I acknowledge the likelihood that his backrow is a Magatama and hope he plays right into my hands of two Warning. I summon and Alius and attack before passing. He goes summon Elder of the Six Samurai and normal summoned Kageki. I use the first Warning here so he can chain his Magatama. My plan works perfectly as he does in fact use the Magatama. He summons a Kagemusha from his hand and tries to go into Shi-En but is trumped by my second Warning. He continues on to set two additional backrows and ends his turn. I had held off on using a turn one Heavy Storm in hopes of the previous turn working out the way it did. Needless to say the game ended shortly after.

Round 4: Dino-Rabbit

Game 1: My good friend Anthony Kelly is able to stall out with copies of Spirit Reaper but simply cannot handle the amount of backrows I had.
Game 2: I cannot recall anything specifically which happened in this game. The entire match was so paced and back and forth so it all blended together.


Round 5: T.G. Stun

Game 1: I resolve a huge Starlight Road on his Torrential Tribute and take the game.

Game 2: I am going to talk about this game at length somewhere down the line. Essentially I made him loss a game he had no business in losing. He had four backrows, four cards in hand, a set Warwolf and had just resolved an Avarice returning his T.Gs to deck. I had no cards in hand, a set Smashing Ground and Dark Bribe with a face-up Crusader. My life stood at 1200 to his 200. I won with jedi-mind tricks.


Round 6: BubbleBeat

Game 1: This guy was one of those players who just used the cards in his hand immediately. Slamming them on the table -  he would draw and activate Space Typhoon and Torrential my Stratos. Unfortunately for me Blade Armor Ninja can just be too good some times and I lost game one.

Game 2: He tries to Bubbleman/Stratos me but I have Super Polymerization and wreck his play.

Game 3: He OTKs me on turn two with Armor Ninja combos!


Round 7: Nordics

Game 1: I attack into Super-Nimble Mega-Hamster! And see Tengu, Ryko and all these crazy cards! He cannot handle Skill Drain but I was shocked at what I was playing.

Game 2: Skill Drain locks him out of everything relevant.

He ends up telling me he is going to drop but I try and convince him to show up the next day and keep playing. Starting 5-0 with Nordics is quite a feat!



Round 8: Wind-Ups

Game 1: He loses because he drew multiple hand traps

Game 2: I remember resolving a clutch Super Polymerization here and winning the match because of it.


Round 9: Inzektor w/Swords

Game 1: He elects to not pop off Hornet on his Sword attached to Centipede in favor of more conservative play. It ends up costing him in the long run because the early advantage would have been significant.

Game 2: I feel like I let this game slip away because I tried to bluff a Gemini Spark and he bought into me not having one by Mirror Forcing an Alius. Royal Decree ends up putting in work for him

Game 3: Shadow-Mirror does what it is suppose to do and I win because of it.


Round 10: Wind-Ups

Game 1: Lost roll and he opened the loop. I scoop so he doesn’t know what I am playing.

Game 2: I win because he has dead cards like Fiendish Chain still in his deck

Game 3: He takes control with Decree and while I am able to fight back to put myself in a favorable position he Avarices into Magician and Shark!


Round 11: Six Samurai

Game 1: She opens Six Samurai United, Six Samurai United, Six Samurai United, Shein’s Dojo, Kizan Grandmaster. Summons Kagemusha from the deck, draws 6, plays Ascetism for Elder. Summons Shi-En sets 3 and passes. I summon Stratos, she Veilers so I set five and pass. She attacks the following turn but I Mirror Force/Skill Drain. She returns Grandmaster to her hand and flips here backrow Heavy Storm destroying her set two and my three. She now has five cards in hand to my zero. I win.

Game 2: She opens Shi-En, Kizan, pass. I set Snowman Eater, Dimensional Prison, Solemn Judgment, Solemn Warning and Miracle Fusion. She plays Gateway of Six, specials 2 Kizans, searches Kagemusha and summons it. She tries to go into Brionac but I Solemn Warning. She then Reborns Kagemusha and tries to go into Barkion and I have to Solemn Judgment. Now she has Kizan and Shi-En looking at my Snowman Eater and Dimensional Prison. In theory I should be able to Prison the Kizan and have her not negate so Snowman can kill Shi-En. She negates Prison and I target Shi-En. She does NOT save Shi-En and I end up winning another game down about 5 cards in advantage.

Round 12: Inzektors

Game 1: Really nice kid. Was clearly nervous and I even asked him that point blank. I win game one since he was never really able to get things going early on.
Game 2: Inzektors do what they suppose to do and I am unable to come back.

Game 3: Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror backed up by counter-traps turn one. Seems to do the trick I would have to say.


I end up 31st after swiss.

Top 64: Dark World

Game 1: I locked him out early on with Thunder King Rai-Oh and win a relatively easy game one.
Game 2: He uses Card Destruction turn one with no Dark Worlds in hand and fuels my turn two Miracle Fusion.


Top 32: Dino-Rabbit/Paul Cooper

Game 1: We go into a huge passing war. We both have six in hand, five set a few monsters. I decide to push back first because I was able to amass all three copies of Miracle Fusion. To his three backrows I drop the first which was met with Solemn Warning. The second with Torrential Tribute and finally the third with a Book of Moon. Luckily I had been waiting with Solemn Judgment.

Game 2: He opened Rescue Rabbit, Tour Guide, Macro Cosmos, Vanity’s Emptiness! Ouch.

Game 3: I am able to flip Snowman Eater and destroy his Laggia! How ironic! I am able to ride the wave of my beaters to seal the deal and advance beyond the Top 32… finally! I had only previously done that once….


Top 16: Wind-Ups

Game 1: I win the roll and lock him out of combos with my backrows. He shows me he opened Magician/Shark too!

Game 2: He looooooops me!

Game 3: I win in time because of how long the previous games had gone. While I was looped game two it took forever for him to get into a position to pull it off and even had Avarice to eventually go through what seemed like endless Zen-Maitys. So we only had 4 minutes left on the clock. Time ends up being called on his turn as he is looping. Luckily for him he misses my in hand Neos Alius until the last discard while I have Hero Blast set. At this point I had a 3000 attack Barbaros and Utopia on the board. He is able to go into Adreus and destroy my Barbaros before forcing an attack negation. In the Top 64 there are only 3 turns of time so now I have two remaining while he only has one. He had a slight edge in life points so I was drawing to virtually outs. Well.. other than the Dark Hole I drew…

I was able to Dark Hole and push with Alius to regain the advantage in life and he was unable to deal the 800 lifepoint difference.


Top 8:


He drew awful…
Top 4:

Dark World is an almost impossible matchup at times. Zenmaines game three was so important because when I side out Skill Drain that card is virtually impossible to trade without giving up so much advantage as I had to do game three… Oh well. Congrats to Michael though!


So there it ended. 17 rounds of nothing more than focusing on one goal and it ended so quickly. I almost forgot to realize my flight home was in less than 90 minutes so I had to have Konami give me my prizes and run out the door. I made my flight by no more than 5 minutes. I ran through LAX and even saw Jarel Winston yelling which way to go! How crazy was running into him like that!

So I have come to the end of this report totaling over 4000 words and honestly I feel like there is still so much more to say. I cannot even begin to tell you how thankful I am of all of the people who contributed to one of the best weekends of my life. From the advice of people like Patrick Smith and Frazier convincing me the deck I built was a good choice. To Jessy, Billy, Dan, Paul and everyone I tested with over the weekend. And specifically for Jessy jokingly mentioning how Brian Kibler listens to the same song on repeat at every Magic event he attends because well.. I did that. To everyone from the Lowell scene who got me to the airport after I was eliminated – I really cannot thank you enough or I might still be in California at this point. A huge thanks to Alter Reality Games and their players. I wanted nothing more than to wear that hoodie with honor this weekend and I hope I succeeded. To everyone who came up to me and introduced yourself I absolutely love meeting new players and hearing good things about my articles! I am sorry to anyone who wanted to talk after I was eliminated I had a flight to catch! People kept asking me to sign Stratos/Hero cards. Ask at YCS Dallas or any of the other ones this year and I will!

A huge thanks to everyone else who I was with this weekend. Everyone from DGz knows who you are. The problem is there are literally over a hundred of you and I could not possibly think about mentioning everyone. Everyone from my local scene knows who you are! I felt like I knew 500 people there! I wish I could thank you all individually here.

I have received endless messages on Facebook/YouTube and the like and I am trying to keep up with it all. Thank you for all the support if I have not gotten back to you!

And of course a special congratulations to Michael for winning the largest trading card game tournament of all time! This was not only a card tournament – it was a test of endurance and he certainly proved his this weekend!

Time to focus on YCS Dallas.

Joe Giorlando

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