Hello everyone. It has been about a week now since my win at YCS - Long Beach and it is still an amazing feeling whenever I think about the journey it took to drive there, pre-register, create a deck, and go through 12 rounds of swiss followed by 6 rounds of single-elimination.
On the day of the event prior to the start of the tournament, I thought to myself, "Someone in this convention center is going to win this." With over 4300 duelists in attendance, not even the most confident and experienced players could guarantee themselves a victory here.
I broke down my long term goal of winning the event into shorter, more achievable goals. I wanted to go undefeated for at least the first 5 rounds. I wanted to think over my plays before I made them and to try to not make any misplays. I wanted to side-deck vs. each deck properly. I wanted to make the Top 64. From there, my goal was to play well and win.
I also wanted to do better than my last top. Prior to this event, 75th at SJC - Edison was the largest TCG event in history with over 2000+ players. I managed to get Top 32 in that event as well but losing in time to my opponent during the first round of single-elimination.
By reading this report, I hope to give you some insight into the preparation, decision-making, and hard-work it takes to do well and hopefully win your next big event.
What does it take to win the largest TCG event in tournament history?
While the answer to that Question can generate hundreds of correct answers, attributes most definitely needed by a player desiring to take home the victory include great preparation, skill, stamina (both physically and mentally), an understanding of their decks, side decks, and other decks they'll likely face, and even some luck. You will have to practice and play test against your expected match-ups and be ready to think quick on your feet as you sift through your side deck to find the perfect counters to that "rogue" deck you thought nobody would play anymore.
"He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared" - Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
For many participants, this YCS was their first major event. As ready as they thought they were, not even the most seasoned duelist could ever imagine a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament this grand in size. Of course, because of the insane amount of players still at the registration line past noon, the tournament began late.
Although your cards can stay in mint condition forever, your mind and body cannot. As the day continues, you get hungry and exhausted and you'll notice that your focus on the game isn't as clear as you make that one misplay you'll regret for the rest of the tournament. Make sure to get plenty of rest the night before the event and bring snacks that you can eat throughout the day. Thankfully, my girlfriend packed us some granola bars, cookies, and the like, to sustain us. My brother and I also took naps in between rounds instead of running around trying to trade with everyone. For once, I did not look at a single trade-binder at an event.
Mentally, I was prepared to win. I took a deck that I was comfortable playing with (Dark World) and created a side deck that I felt would help me counter the strategies my opponent's would use on games 2 and 3. I test played against my brother Marc Balan with his Dino-Rabbit deck on the Friday night before the YCS. As I was wrecking him hard, he adjusted his side deck to fit in 3 copies of Macro Cosmos alongside a copy or two of Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror. I noticed my 3 Mystical Space Typhoons in my side deck were not enough and added two Royal Decrees. With that change, along with the addition of 2 Gellenduo to my side deck, I felt extremely confident with the match-up I would play the most in the event, Dino Rabbit.
I also felt that this deck brought an element of surprise and had a pretty good match up vs. every deck. In fact, game 1 was almost a guaranteed win. Everyone should have been expecting the Big 3 (Dino-Rabbit, Wind-Ups, Inzektors) and although there were some generic side-deck hate, there was nothing specifically sided that couldn't be taken care of by Mystical Space Typhoons and Royal Decree.
My build of Dark World has extreme speed with 3 Reckless Greed, 3 Dragged Down into the Grave, 3 Dark World Dealings and 3 gates of dark world field spell. It has the ability to view your opponent's hand via Dragged Down into the Grave and take away their best cards. Knowing your opponent's cards, strategy and outs and being able to Mind Crush even more cards or hurt them with Deck Devastation Virus is the key to winning many of your duels. In addition, there is Grapha. Grapha is a recurring 2700 or 3000 attack beat stick and has a destruction effect when discarded. If your opponent manages to get rid of Grapha on the field, it can easily come back next turn. One tip of advice to players just starting to use Dark World: always have a DW monster in hand to bring Grapha back with. This deck plays a low monster count (13) and so if you're only DW monster in hand is a Broww, don't play your discard outlets unless you have another way of adding a DW monster back to your hand or you can win that turn.
My tech choices included a mained Skill Drain, Starlight Road, and Malefic Stardust Dragon. As will be illustrated later, these cards caught many of my opponents off guard and won me plenty of games. I also decided to not use any Trance Archfiends. Although, it is a good card, I found it unnecessary in this build. My normal summons were going to be used either for a DW monster to get Grapha back or for a tour guide play.
After a night of play testing, my brother and I finalized our decklists. My brother and I joked about who was better than who and who would get further in the tournament. What many of you readers don't know is that at the end of Day 1 we were both undefeated with perfect 7-0 records. On Day 2 we returned and on round 8 we checked the pairings to find out that we were playing each other! (What are the odds?)
We had a feature match shared with 3 other matches (found here). Needless to say, I handed my brother his only loss in swiss. In the end, we both Top 64'ed with me ending in 3rd place and Marc ending in 4th place after the swiss rounds. It's hard to argue that this was not an accomplishment in itself.
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Before getting into the rounds, I'm going to briefly explain my side deck and how it worked. Side-decking with Dark World can be very complicated and someone new picking up the deck might find it difficult at first. In fact, In almost every game 2 or 3, I sided in and out close to 10+ cards. I'm going to make it a bit easier for those of you who want to try this deck out. The concept of my side deck was developed way back when Dark World was still being hyped up. This was a side deck I wanted to use when people were playing traps such as Macro Cosmos + Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror plus hand traps like Gemini Imps. Here's the general rule on how to side with this deck using my side deck:
In game 1, the sheer speed and power of the deck should outright win you the duel. In game 2 or 3, if you're going 2nd, you side out 3 copies of Dragged Down into the Grave, 2 Upstart Goblin, 2 Mind Crush, followed by any other cards not needed in the matchup, or extra traps if you plan to use Royal Decree. The deck goes from full-out turbo to a still very fast deck that has a control element and can answer any side-deck cards your opponent can play against you. Your monster discard outlets get sided in to replace your dragged downs. I also sided in Gorz if my opponent was starting off first. Gorz is your second line of defense. If your opponents can't destroy your traps or Royal Decree, they are in a bad position. If they do, they now have to deal with Gorz. If Gorz is not needed, it can easily be used as a discard for the field spell.
If a game 3 is necessary and you're going first, you have to consider your opponent's deck they are playing and their side cards you saw in game 2 to decide on one of two things A.) Go back into turbo B.) Stick to control. Both strategies work, and the fact that your opponent can't know for sure what version of DW he is playing puts the matchup in your favor.
Recap of the Swiss Rounds
Round 1 vs. X Sabers (Won dice roll)
This was my opponent's first event and he did seem quite nervous. It turned out to be a fairly easy win for me game 1. I used both Upstart Goblins, draw spells, and the field spell to draw into an early Grapha + Deck Devastation Virus. My opponent normal summoned Boggart Knight + Pashuul and I activated DDV to hit 3 cards from his hand and Pashuul on the field.
I controlled the field with Grapha and when my opponent tried to make a comeback, I flipped Skill Drain up to negate his monster effects. I took game 2 away when my opponent tried to use Hyunlei's effect to blow up my set traps and I activated Starlight Road. In a format where people are playing Heavy Storm, Dark Hole, and many times 2 copies of Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force, Starlight Road allows me to be aggressive with this deck while also protecting my back row and field spell.
Round 2 vs. Gladiator Beasts ( Won dice roll)
My opponent in this round told me before the duel that he was ready to go home. The second round of the tournament started late afternoon and he clearly wasn't prepared to go the distance. He made quite a few misplays and then he made plays that looked like he just didn't care anymore. I would have Grapha on the field and my opponent would summon Thunder King Rai-Oh, set no backrow, and end. Needless to say, I won this match 2-0. Later on, he told me he was just tired from waiting in the long line the day of the tournament. Pre-registering for these big events is very important. You can relax the day of the tournament and focus more on playing well later.
Round 3 vs. T.G. Stun (Lost dice roll)
Fortunately, Dark World has the ability to do very well even when going second. Do you lose most of your dice rolls? Play dark worlds! Win anyways! I won this match 2-0. In game 1, we both used Starlight Road on each other. My Grapha can swing over his Stardust though and I eventually resolve a DDV for the victory. In game 2, I shut off a lot of his plays with Royal Decree and take the win very easily.
In game 2, I sided in plenty of cards including 3 Mystical Space Typhoon, 2 Royal Decree and 2 copies of Gellenduo. Royal Decree and MST stop Macro Cosmos and shadow-imprisoning mirror, while Gellenduo is a harder to kill version of Spirit Reaper which Dino-Rabbit decks already have a hard time to get rid of. Spirit Reaper can get destroyed if opponents have Forbidden Lance to target the reaper. This does not work against Gellenduo. In game 2, at one point I had 2 Gellenduo in defense position. My opponent had a zenmaines with 2 material that he attacked with the turn earlier. I bring back a grapha, switch both Gellenduo to attack position and attack into the zenmaines 3 times to kill it. I then xyz into Utopia and eventually win.
Game 2, he sets up a field w/ Shi'en + multiple set traps and I don't open with any outs.
Game 3, I draw Gellenduo + decree, mst, and Reckless Greed which I set all. I also have a broww and field spell in hand. My opponent summons Spirit of the Six Samurai, followed by special summoning Grandmaster of the six sam. He equips his spirit to his grandmaster and attacks unsuccessfully into my Gellenduo. He sets 2 back row cards and passes. I draw Foolish Burial. I play Reckless Greed with the intention to activate Royal Decree afterwards but I drew into two more Reckless Greed! I decide to set them both and end instead. Next turn, my opponent summons kagemusha (a tuner) and I allow it to go through. My opponent then unequips Spirit of the Six Samurai and makes Naturia Beast. He still can't kill my Gellenduo and before he ends his turn, I activate 2 more copies of Reckless Greed to have 7 cards in hand. On my turn, I have one broww, one grapha, and 5 spells. I end my turn and because I had more than 6 cards in hand, I was able to discard Grapha. On the following turn, I was able to summon grapha successfully, destroy my opponent's Naturia Beast, and then win with so much card advantage.
Round 6 vs. Dino Rabbit (Won Dice roll)
In game 1 I draw really broken and have game pretty much. I believe I let the players next to us borrow my dice and I forgot to add it on the top of my deck to count for Reckless Greed. I received a game loss for accidentally drawing a card on my draw phase. Needless to say, I never forgot to put my dice on my deck for the rest of the tournament. This would be my only game 1 loss in the entire event.
In game 2 all I remember is he sided in Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror but I had the MST when I activated a DW monster effect in grave. Soon after I got the ball rolling and won.
For game 3 we both sided into Gellenduo and it eventually went into time. On my opponent's Last Turn, luckily for me, he did not draw into a monster as he showed Dark Hole in his hand.
Round 7 vs. Wind-ups (Won Dice Roll)
In game 1, he doesn't get the loop and I OTK him really fast. In game 2, my side was prepared to take him down. He didn't do the loop again and my grapha just put a stop to his deck. He could not get over a 3000 atk monster.
Round 8 vs. my brother Marc Balan w/ Dino-Rabbit (Won dice roll)
In game 1, I was fortunate to use Dragged Down into the Grave to discard Gorz from my opponent's hand. When I called Jurrac Guaiba with Mind Crush two turns later, I expected to hit the one copy I saw earlier. He had drawn into two more copies though and three guaibas hit the grave! I had so much hand advantage and field presence for my brother to overcome. In game 2, I scooped fairly fast when I opened all monsters + Foolish Burial. I played Foolish Burial and Marc chained Macro Cosmos. Laggia on the field with Macro Cosmos just proved to be too much. In game 3, I set my entire hand before using Card Destruction to discard my broww to draw 2 more cards. Fortunately for me, I made my brother discard a broken hand (MST, rabbit, Solemn Warning, Macro Cosmos, Smashing Ground) and his new 5 cards were no where near as good. I eventually brought out Grapha onto the field which beat my opponent down.
Round 9 vs. Wind-Ups (Lose dice roll)
This was my only match loss of the entire tournament. My opponent in this round would eventually go on to be undefeated in swiss. I won game 1 easily when I resolved a Deck Devastation Virus successfully. In game 2, my opponent almost did an illegal move by using Wind-Up Magician's effect to special summon a Wind-Up Rat in attack position. I had totally forgotten that magician only special summons monsters in defense but a spectator around the featured table brought this to both our attention. He eventually loops my hand for game. In game 3, I drew very poor with 3 Dragged Down into the Grave, 2 field spell, and no monsters. Had I drawn into even one Snoww, the game could have changed dramatically.
Round 10 vs. Inzektors (Win dice roll)
I've only played a few matches against Inzektors online so this wasn't my most favorable match up. I knew what some cards did but I made sure to read the Insektor cards' effect in their entirety. I remember my brother telling me to not commit to the field until I'm ready to make a big push. Inzektors want to use their hornet's effect to blow up my cards but they cannot do that if I leave much on my field. I win game 1 when I Dark Hole my opponent's monsters and then beat down with grapha. I did not have much experience with the side deck vs. this match up and I lose game 2. Game 3, I figure out how I want to side and I win fairly easily.
My opponent makes Laggia + 3 set backrow in game 1. On my turn, my opponent uses his laggia's effect to negate my Dark Hole. I proceed to Heavy Storm his set cards and win with my malefic stardust + field spell, solemn and tour guide in hand.
I don't recall much with game 2 except that my Gellenduo stopped my opponent in his tracks until I get enough cards to make a big push.
I finish in 3rd after swiss followed by my brother in 4th.
I am fortunate enough to get a bye in the Top 64. My opponent who was playing Inzektors tells me he has to leave right away to catch his flight and that he had school the next day. Let this be a lesson kids. School is more important than card games!
My Top 32 opponent was another good European player and brother of the opponent I lost to in swiss. I thought I had a poor match-up thinking I would be playing Wind-Ups again. However, my opponent was playing Dino Rabbit and I won the match in 2-0 fashion. What I remember from game 2, my opponent had only one set spell or trap card on the field and I had Royal Decree face-up with Grapha on the field, along with Foolish Burial, Monster Reborn, Beiige, and 2 other spell cards in hand. I contemplated pitching a Grapha with Burial, but I passed by Fabled Raven in my deck and decide to pitch that to the graveyard instead. I revived the Raven with Monster Reborn, used its effect to discard beiige and another card in hand to special summon beiige, and had enough ATK to take the game.
My Top 16 opponent made the huge mistake of writing his deck list wrong. On his deck list he wrote down "3 Wind-Up Hunter, 1 Wind-Up Shark" instead of the other way around. He received a game-loss and then was forced to play the deck the way it was written. He started off the "first" game and I resolved a Card Destruction to win the match. Another lesson to be remembered: write your decklist carefully.
My Top 8 opponent played Inzektors. I won the dice roll and won the first game without much problem. In game 2, my opponent managed to make a big push to kill me in one turn. In game 3, I opened sub-par at first and had to pass with an open field. My opponent poked with a monster and then on my next turn I drew a DW monster to get the drawing going. I make 3 graphas and swing for game.
You can read my Top 4 and top 2 feature matches here: Top 4 and Top 2
I am very pleased with my deck list and with the knowledge gained from the event there would still not be much I would change from it at all.
All in all, this was a very fun, long, and memorable event. I have my friends to thank for supporting me through each round and I have to give a very special thank you to my love, Irma and our baby, Emma, for being the good luck charms that they were to me during this weekend. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you all at Nationals.
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