Well, we finally made it. After an intense season of Kaijudo Master Challenges in which duelists across the continent tried to secure invites, the first ever Kaijudo Championship took place this past weekend in Seattle! As you can see from the title, I was able to place third, and I'll be going over my whole tournament experience leading to that result in this article. I'd also like to give a shout out to fellow ARG writer Bobby Brake who was able to take down the whole tournament! I'm very proud to be able to contribute to ARG putting two of its members into the top eight.
For those of you who have been reading coverage from the event already, you know that I chose to run mono-Light Rush. Going into the weekend, I was actually pretty certain that I'd be running a LWN Megabug deck along with EarthP0w3R, similar to the one he won KMC Oakmont, Pennsylvania with. Our teammate Spencer Swan had been testing dragons using a bunch of Fire Birds and had been having success in the Megabug matchup, but we didn't know how many people would be taking the same route as him since we expected a large control presence at the championship. Another of our local players, Nathan Bond, built the first version of mono-Light Rush on a whim after locals the week before the event and absolutely decimated me when I ran Megabugs. I think the game count was 4-1 in his favor at the end of it, and it also held its own against a control list.
Throughout the following week leading up to the event, I was still telling myself that Megabugs were the way to go. Upon actually arriving in Seattle and scoping the last chance qualifiers, I had some pretty serious doubts. A good amount of people were running Megabugs, but there were even more dragon decks, and not enough control decks in the field to give Megabugs that many good matchups. It appeared as if a lot of people had found out the same things that Spencer had and were running with it. However, I didn't make the switch to mono-Light quite yet. I spent Saturday enjoying time with the R&D team as well as playing doing some booster draft and sealed matches, all the while pondering my options. It seemed at that point that most people I talked to were in the same boat, not entirely sure of what they were going to run. My first move was to ditch the bugs in favor of my backup plan, dragons. It didn't occur to me until Saturday night at 11 PM to really consider mono-Light. I decided I was already undecided at such a late stage that I might as well not rule anything out, so I put the deck together equipped with a couple changes Nate had told me about and proceeded to get in some last-minute testing.
Now, I know what I said about proper testing in the past, but I was under some serious time constraints. The deck I had wanted to play, Megabugs, just didn't look like it could compete in a tournament filled with dragons, and I didn't necessarily want to be playing dragon mirror matches all day. I tested mono-Light against Carl and Spencer, as well as Ricky Gross and Sam Gilbert who were tweaking their dragon decks with Spencer. I knew I had a good Megabug matchup and felt that I had a good matchup to other rush decks as well. Control was about as 50-50 as it always is, and dragons were my main concern. The decks packed with more than six Fire Birds seemed especially problematic if I couldn't get rid of them, and an early [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] could easily end the game. That being said, I managed to go about 60-40 against Spencer, Ricky, and Carl in what I still thought was my worst matchup, so I figured I might as well just go with it and hope for the best. At some point during the night, I also convinced Carl to run the deck and after borrowing some things from Reddish that we didn't bring, here's the list we used:
3 [ccProd]Magris, the Magnetizer[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Cloudwalker Drone[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Stalker Sphere[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Cloudwalker Drone[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Prism-Blade Enforcer[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Shimmerwing[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Blinder Beetle[/ccProd]3 Shaw K'Naw
3 [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Rodi Gale, Night Guardian[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Sparkblade Protector[/ccProd]2 [ccProd]Halon, Paragon of Light[/ccProd]3 [ccProd]Containment Field[/ccProd]2 [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd]
As you can see, the deck is pretty much what you'd expect for a mono-Light rush deck. One of the appeals of the deck, though, was that it was completely unexpected. People often disregard rush as a viable option and don't expect to see it at the top tables, and a lot of these cards are pretty unfamiliar to a lot of players; not everyone even knew what Shaw K'Naw did. I was hoping to ride those advantages to a good showing. That being said, the deck runs some hidden treasures that I go over more in-depth in a video on my YouTube channel. [ccProd]Containment Field[/ccProd] and Shaw K'Naw were two very standout cards for me all day. Beyond that, cards like [ccProd]Sparkblade Protector[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] were obviously amazing. The turn four Double Breaker locked up a ton of games for me, and Laws proved why it's been one of the best cards in the game for the last couple months, allowing me to get more cards at my disposal than almost any other rush decks, sometimes allowing me to survive long enough to take games on the sixth or seventh turn.
Round 1: vs. Stephen Liberto (LWDF Dragons)
I wasn't exactly sure what Stephen was running, but his deck came out to over 50 cards when I pile shuffled it, making me optimistic. I knew that as a rush player, I needed my opponents to not draw answers to my early-game progressions and I was hoping that his higher card count would help with that. As it turned out, he was running dragons, but a much larger build than Spencer, Ricky, and Sam came up with, meaning a potential for more threats. I took game one rather decisively after he wasn't able to mount much board presence, but game two was a little trickier. He was running [ccProd]Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow[/ccProd], a card that the people I tested with weren't due to their self-imposed size constraints. It slowed my assault, but I had [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] in the battle zone and then summoned two or three more creatures. Laws might have given me a couple more cards, but the end result is that he wasn't able to get rid of my creatures before I hit six mana, at which point I played [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd], broke his remaining shields, and attacked for game with Keeper of Laws since it couldn't be targeted by any of his Shield Blasts.
Match Record: 1-0
Game Record: 2-1
Round 2: vs. Spencer Swan (LWDF 8 Bird Dragons)
It was bound to happen sooner or later if we both kept winning, but I was incredibly disappointed to see this on the pairing sheet as eary as round two. The two of us were able to draw into the top eight of two KMCs after being undefeated, but it looked as if we wouldn't be able to do that again. Also, Spencer was running the deck I was most afraid of, as his deck was slimmed down to 41 cards to improve consistency. Combine that with the fact that he was one of the few people there who knew everything my deck could do, and it's not a pretty situation.
I won the die roll and joked about it being half the battle, but it actually was pretty relevant this match. I took game one very swiftly after drawing a solid progression on turns one through four. It didn't help Spencer any that he didn't really see Fire Birds. Game two was also pretty one-sided, but in his favor this time. I wasn't able to put myself in a winning position in the first few turns, and he was able to get three Lux on board. I'm pretty sure this is the game where he was able to summon two consecutive [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd]s. When I saw the first one, I knew I had my work cut out for me to assemble enough creatures to get past its "Awe Strike" ability, but the second one sealed the deal. The third game was much more back and forth, and probably the scariest game I played all day. It ended with me having him down to no shields, but he had a hand of about six cards. I had a [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] in the battle zone and any removal would have allowed him to probably win the game on his next turn. After a breathtaking pause in which he contemplated his options, the best he could do was summon a [ccProd]Shadeblaze the Corruptor[/ccProd] and pass, giving me a very close 2-1 victory. Carl also unfortunately lost this round to Ricky, meaning he and Spencer would have to battle back from the x-1 tables.
Match Record: 2-0
Game Record: 4-1
Round 3: vs. Robby Stewart (LWDF Dragons) (Feature Match)
Robby had been running dragons for a while leading up to the event and had been using them on Saturday, so I wasn't too surprised to see that he'd stuck with them, especially since they seemed like such a strong option for the day. He did change his build by adding Light, adopting a similar deck to the ones I had faced so far in the tournament, though a bit bigger than Spencer's at 46 cards. This was a feature match, so be sure to check for it either on kaijudo.com or on Wizards of the Coast's official Kaijudo YouTube channel, wizardskaijudo, on Wednesday. I won't write much about it here, in part to not ruin the suspense, and in part because I simply don't remember a lot of it. It was, in all honesty, a very short match that I was able to take 2-0 thanks to some good progressions on my side and some sub-par progressions on his side. I'll let the feature match cover all the other details!
Match Record: 3-0
Game Record: 6-0
Round 4: vs. Joe Bass (LWDF Dragons)
I was starting to feel good about my choice of deck for the event, and about the dragon matchup in general. That was good, because it seemed like that was all I was going to face that day. Joe was running yet another LWDF dragon deck, similar to the previous three. I remember game one being very back and forth, and for a while it didn't look like I was going to win. He was able to amass some board presence, and I just had to get to the point where I could go in for game before he could win or wipe out my creatures with removal. Eventually I was able to accomplish that, and game two was a bit easier if I remember, also in my favor. My notes tell me that [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] was apparently crucial in this round. Of course, the card did an amazing amount of work pretty much every time I summoned it all day. This round, Carl lost to Bobby Brake, putting himself at 2-2, but Spencer was still going strong at 3-1 after losing to me in the second round.
Match Record: 4-0
Game Record: 8-1
Round 5: vs. Zachary Mirman (Mono-Fire Rush)
At this point, we were the only two undefeated players left, so we decided to draw. This ensured that even if we were forced to play out our last round and lost, we'd still be in the top eight. I was extremely happy to have locked in my place in top eight, mostly because I didn't really know how things would turn out with the deck I chose. I definitely should have done a lot more testing, but it's nice to have a gut decision like that pay off every now and then. In other round five news, Carl won but Spencer lost a close three game mirror match to Robby Stewart at the x-1 tables, putting him at 3-2 along with Carl. When the standings went up, Zachary and I were the top two at 4-0-1 and there were six players at 4-1. If everyone intentionally drew the last round, the top eight in the standings would stay the same, so someone had to play it out if there was any hope of Spencer or Carl making the cut.
Match Record: 4-0-1
Game Record: 8-1
Round 6: vs. Ryan Bishop (5-Civ Dragons)
This was another of those larger dragon decks floating around, using all five civilizations this time. My one hope again was that his larger card count would decrease consistency and allow me to push through before I got wrecked by all the threats, and I was able to achieve that game one. It was fairly quick, but I did manage to lose game two, pushing the match to a third game. I think it was the third game when I had one attacker to his one remaining shield and summoned a Magris and [ccProd]Blinder Beetle[/ccProd] with no effect. My rationale was that if I hit [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd], he would only be able to get rid of one of my creatures on the following turn and I'd be able to take the game, but I ran into Dragon's Breath which set me pretty far back. If this was the third game, I wound up being able to draw more creatures and take the game on the following turns anyway, but it was a pretty brutal Shield Blast that I didn't expect at all.
Match Record: 5-0-1
Game Record: 10-2
Just like that, I had secured first place after swiss at the very first Kaijudo Championship! Unfortunately, Carl and Spencer got 9th and 10th place, narrowly missing out on the top cut this time. However, Ricky was able to make the top eight, giving Virginia two players left!
Top 8: vs. Ryan Bishop (5-Civ Dragons) (Feature Match)
This was another feature match, so again, be sure to check it out when WotC posts them. It was also much easier than the previous match against Ryan. I was able to win the die roll and draw my progressions. I think I hit a couple blasts and had some very scary close calls with [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd], but I took it in the end.
Match Record: 6-0-1
Game Record: 12-2
Top 4: vs. Bobby Brake (LWD Leviathan Control)
Sadly, the brackets didn't work themselves out to allow ARG to take both spots in the top two, and Bobby and I had to play. Control is always a scary deck to play against with rush, because when it can answer rush's early game, things become un-winnable very quickly. It didn't help that I had some pretty bad progressions compared to the things I was drawing all day. Shield Blasts such as [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Grip of Despair[/ccProd], which Bobby ran a lot of, definitely hurt a lot both games. Mesmerize was also crucial and got rid of [ccProd]Sparkblade Protector[/ccProd] before it could be summoned, and [ccProd]King Coral[/ccProd] put in work late game preventing me from keeping anything in the battle zone. In one of the games, I had a Rodi Gale evolved on another Enforcer but [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] tapped it. In a desperate gambit to save some amount of board presence, I evolved a [ccProd]Halon, Paragon of Light[/ccProd] onto Rodi Gale tapped just to have something I could potentially attack with on the following turn. It just wasn't enough in the end, and after a series of answers coming down against me, game two was eventually locked up for Bobby with two consecutive Andromedas. I was a little disappointed that I had come so far but lost right before the finals, but I'm glad I lost to a fellow ARG member and good player, and that control was able to be represented in the finals after such a small presence throughout the weekend.
Match Record: 6-1-1
Game Record: 12-4
For Third: vs. Damon Carron (WDF Dragons)
Of course, there was still an extra box to play for, as well as the third place trophy! Game one against Damon was very unfortunate. I must have been a little on tilt from losing in the top four, but for whatever reason I didn't take into account the [ccProd]Twin-Cannon Maelstrom[/ccProd] he had in the battle zone after he had used a Shield Blast [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] to get it out. I broke two shields with a [ccProd]Sparkblade Protector[/ccProd] in hopes of setting myself up for game, but Herald of Infernus ran it over thanks to the Maelstrom's power boost and [ccProd]Infernus the Awakened[/ccProd] came down. I drew for my turn and immediately scooped, knowing that I wasn't going to be able to play another creature for the remainder of the game. It was definitely the worst misplay I made all day and I definitely wasn't happy with myself about it, even though Damon let me know that he did have [ccProd]Chain-Lash Tatsurion[/ccProd] in his hand as well, so [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] was going to bring out Awakened that turn whether I made the mistake of attacking or not. Luckily, games two and three were more in my favor. [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] was never able to get anything crazy into the battle zone, and my deck did what it was designed to do. In one of the games, Shaw K'Naw proved its value by continuously tapping a [ccProd]Grudge Weaver[/ccProd] every turn, allowing me to bypass its discard effect.
Match Record: 7-1-1
Game Record: 14-5
At the end of the day, I'm very happy with how I performed and I feel honored to even participate in such an important event for Kaijudo. I got to hang out with people I met from the five KMCs I attended in this first season, and met a bunch of new people as well. Everyone there was friendly and really cared about the game, especially the great team at Wizards of the Coast. They answered many of our questions about the game and listened to our concerns with the intent to make Kaijudo enjoyable for years to come. I'd like to thank every player in attendance for being a great group of people to share the weekend with, and a special congratulations to Bobby Brake for winning the whole thing. It was a pleasure getting to know each one of you and I'm looking forward to hopefully doing this again in November! Until next week, Play Hard or Go Home!