75th SJC : The Main Event | The Irish Duelist

75th SJC : The Main Event


The 75th SHONEN JUMP Championship was first announced at the start of February, due to be held in Edison, New Jersey. At the time I was still working on a deck for the UkayPro Championship, which was only a few short weeks away. In the back of my mind though, I was always planning on attending an SJC, I just needed the right circumstances to actually go ahead with it. First off, this was initially announced as the 75th, which meant it was going to be bigger and better than any regular Jump (the 50th one in Costa Mesa had already set a precedent). Secondly, Aer Lingus were offering discounted rates on all flights to the US in April (my flights cost a total of €500), so I wouldn't be breaking the bank if I decided to go. Finally, Sean McDonough, a duelist from New Jersey that I already knew through Pojo and so-on, had offered to let me stay at his apartment for a week, which saved me a small fortune in hotel and travel expenses. With all that in place, I took the plunge and was heading to America.

Everything was going okay regarding preparation for the Jump; I was testing out decks, setting up meetings and even managed to score a loan of a Dark End Dragon for the event. Then, a week before I was due to fly off, everything changed. The Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland blew its lid and (apparently) spread volcanic ash all over Europe. As a safety precaution, over 80% of flights across Europe were grounded and the skies were cleared of aircraft. I spent the next week in college checking various aviation, news and airline websites for updates, as Irish airspace was closed for a second, then a third, then a fourth day, and so-on. The day before my flight was due to leave (Tuesday) I checked the Aer Lingus website one last time to find that my flight was still flying out as scheduled. Irish airspace had also re-opened but most airlines had still grounded their fleet for the week. When I packed up and headed to the airport on Wednesday morning, I was informed by the check-in staff that my flight was the first one out of the airport since the flight ban was lifted. If the volcano had erupted a day later, I wouldn't be going anywhere.

The flight itself was quite comfortable, and the in-flight entertainment (every seat was equipped with a touchscreen and a wide choice of movies, TV shows, games and music) ensured that I wasn't bored for a second of my 7 hour flight. Once I landed I went through immigration for a security check (fingerprints, photos, signing of forms etc.), picked up my baggage and met Sean at the arrivals hall. We headed to Kings Games in Brooklyn where I tried out a Duel Terminal before heading to his apartment in New Jersey. The jetlag started to kick in then (for the first 2 days I was really tired and had headaches) as I got settled in to my new surroundings. The next day (Thursday) we headed to Timezone Gaming (the local store in Perth Amboy, NJ) and had a few games before meeting more YGO players at the nearby Mall. There, it was more deck testing (Jake Quincee, one of my mates from the UK, gave me a promising Chaos decklist to try out) and trading before heading back to the apartment at about midnight.

Friday was pre-registration day, and we took the short drive to the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center at about midday. Once there I bumped into Billy Brake and traded for a set of Battle Faders before having a quick chat with Jeff Jones. I said hi to a few other people I knew from Pojo and DuelistGroundz before getting in line for pre-registration. When I got to the front of the line my registration was handled by Jason Bunch, one of my fellow Pojo moderators. We joked about trying to get a Pojo staff discount before I handed over the $20 and signed myself up for the main event. Once inside the tournament hall itself I had a quick game against Jeff's Quickdraw deck (nobody plays Quickdraw in Ireland yet) and get royally trounced by Light and Darkness Dragon, and a million Fluff Tokens. After the game I look around and spot more DuelistGroundz members, Mike Powers, 'Ocelot', 'Living Legend' etc. and play a few more games. I finally find Marshaun Young and we get some games recorded. I was trying out 2 decks all day Friday, Jake's Chaos deck and Sean's teched out Blackwings (Dark Illusion being the main tech). I was running Flamvell Cat in the month leading up to the Jump, but I never felt 'safe' with it. In the end I choose to go with Blackwings since I was very familiar with the Deck (it's pretty much the only thing people play at The Gathering, my local back in Ireland) and felt that I would do better with it than the Chaos deck I had only picked up for a day (good deck mind, but I didn't want to risk using it at such short notice). After more duels and meetings with people I had only known online (shoutouts to Audrey Tan, Matt Peddle, Jae Kim and Greg Cohen here) the hall closed at about 7pm and myself and Sean (along with Ken, Sean's mate who was staying at the apartment for the weekend and John, another of Sean's buddies) headed to the mall where about 30 people were playing and trading all night. The net result of the day was a lot of profitable trades, and some vital last-minute testing before the Jump.

Saturday was Day 1 of the main event. We got up at about 7am and picked up John before heading to the Convention Centre. Since we were already pre-registered we didn't have to wait in the (very) long line that was growing with each passing moment. I scoured the hall for Geoffrey, who had 'my' Dark End waiting for me. Once I got it I filled in my decklist, I took Sean's build from Friday and tweaked it to my own personal tastes:

Monsters: 19Spells: 10Traps: 11Extra Deck: 15Side Deck: 15

3 Blackwing - Shura the Blue Flame
3 Blackwing - Sirocco the Dawn
3 Blackwing - Bora the Spear
3 Blackwing - Kalut the Moon Shadow
2 Blackwing - Blizzard the Far North
2 Blackwing - Vayu the Emblem of Honor
1 Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind
1 Dark Armed Dragon
1 Morphing Jar

2 Black Whirlwind
2 Book of Moon
1 Brain Control
1 My Body as a Shield
1 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Allure of Darkness
1 Heavy Storm
1 Dark Eruption

2 Bottomless Trap Hole
2 Royal Oppression
2 Icarus Attack
1 Dimensional Prison
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Mirror Force
1 Solemn Judgment
1 Dark Illusion

2 Blackwing Armor Master
2 Blackwing Armed Wing
1 Blackwing - Silverwind the Ascendant
1 Mist Wurm
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Thought Ruler Archfiend
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Goyo Guardian
1 Brionac, Dragon of the Ice Barrier
1 Ally of Justice Catastor
1 Magical Android
1 Dark End Dragon

2 Ryko, Lightsworn Hunter
2 Legendary Jujitsu Master
2 Nobleman of Crossout
2 Skill Drain
2 Pulling the Rug
2 Dark Illusion
1 Starlight Road
1 My Body as a Shield
1 Dimensional Prison

After filling out the decklist (and being ultra paranoid about people snatching the Dark End) I sat down for a few games with Jae Kim (who was sitting with Evan Vargas and Dale Bellido) so that I could get more practice in against Quickdraw. Despite losing out I felt confident enough to take on the deck in the main event since I knew more about how it worked now. Dale got to spy on my hand for a while and pointed out a few misplays before he had a few games with Jae himself. I watched and picked up a few tips from the games (and Matt, who stopped by to see what was going on) before the seating arrangements for the player briefing were posted. After some last minute Blackwing advice from Rodrigo Togores (who also dodged the volcano to come here) and a chance encounter with Greg Abbey (the voice of Yusei in the TV series) the first round pairings went up.


Round 1 vs Danny Rambo (Machina Gadget, Table 174)
My first match was against Danny Rambo, a young duelist wielding Machina Gadgets. I had a few test games against Machina (the deck isn't that popular in Ireland yet) at the mall on Friday so I felt confident about my chances in Game 1, which I won easily. It was when the Side Deck came into play that things would get more complicated however, Consecrated Light being the card I have to handle the most. I also had no System Downs (I couldn't find any all weekend) and no space in my Extra deck for Chimeratech Fortress Dragon so I was stuck with Pulling the Rugs and cards to create a 'closed game environment'. I duly lost Game 2 as my opponent had enough Bottomlesses and D-prisons to take care of my attacks, and a constant stream of Machina Fortresses. In Game 3 I open with a set Legendary Jujitsu Master to shove his Machina Fortress away. He also summoned Consecrated Light once he got rid of the Master to try and lock me down. Fortunately, I also had my Ryko which killed it off when he attacked with Fortress. A turn or 2 later I set up a Goyo Guardian to take down his Fortress. I attack, deal 300 damage and kill the Fortress, taking it while he kills my Goyo. Danny calls a Judge to verify that this is how it resolves and he rules (correctly) in my favour. Danny then appeals and we wait for the Head Judge (Jerome McHale). With Jerome being the Head Judge, having to handle a 2,200 man event meant getting a lot of appeals to sort out. We waited for 20 minutes before getting the final verdict from Jerome, which was the same ruling that the original Judge gave. After this it became a war of attrition, with both of us handling threats and quickly forcing a top-deck war. After taking a few hits I topdeck a Gale and attack whittle him down to 1650. He tops a Cyber Dragon and kills the Gale. I top a D-Prison to get rid of it, and take 1800 from that Stratos-like Machina. I kill it with Mirror Force next turn and bring him down to 250 with a Kalut. I then take another 1500 from one of his monsters (can't remember which) before finally topping a Blizzard to go into a Synchro and steal the game.


Round 2 vs Jonathan Garretson (Flamvell Synchro, Table 27)
After the long wait for the appeal in Round 1, Round 2 was up quickly, although there was quite a bit of a scramble to get to the pairings. Once I got mine and sat down though, I just set myself up and took a photo of the guy on the table next to me (who, as you can see from the pic above, has the most awesome hat/glasses combo ever) before getting 'down to business'. I was already familiar with the Flamvell matchup since I was running the deck myself for a month before the event and knew how to take it down. Unfortunately though, I drew quite a bad opener (I think it was only tuners, weaklings and stuff to buy me time) and got knocked down to 450 in a matter of minutes. Then I fought back with a top-decked Dark Armed and tried to claw my way back into the game. I brought him down to a gameshot before he topped his own Dark Armed/Brain Control (forget which) to finish me off. Game 2 was one of those 'over and back' ones but I was able to handle all of his major threats and abuse Black Whirlwind and Blizzard enough to keep him at bay. I had a promising start to the third game as well, paring him down to 2000 before my stream of monsters was cut short, allowing him to come back. In the end, it came down to who would top the next monster and have a way to protect it. I went for a gameshot with a Gale combo but it got shut down by Torrential Tribute and, having used my Bottomless the turn previous on a Goyo, had no out to his topped Flamvell Firedog.


Round 3 vs Raul Pena (Quickdraw, Table 689)
After testing against Jeff on Friday and Jae a few hours ago, I was feeling confident about this matchup once I realised that he was playing Quickdraw. I knew that with Bora and Armed Wing, I could pierce through his weak tokens to dish out the damage before he gets his drill Warrior loop going and that's exactly what I went for in the first game, scoring a comfortable win despite his attempts at a comeback. In the second game I was forced into an early Solemn Judgment (I think it was on a Caius when I really needed my Shura) and it all went downhill from there, as I drew no outs to his Synchro Summons. In the final game I opened up with Sirocco, Vayu, Blizzard, Oppression, Allure and something irrelevant. I played the Allure and debated removing Vayu or Blizzard (I think I drew a Kalut) before removing the Vayu. I was expecting my opponent to swiftly get rid of my Oppression with Ryko or something but I should have just removed the Blizzard and used the Vayu/Sirocco to my advantage. It was a misplay that would backfire as the Oppression hung around for quite a while. To further compound things, I got hit with a Caius and then a Light and Darkness Dragon soon after. As the LaDD ate away at my resources I was running low on outs and eventually lost out when he brought back Caius with the Dragon.

Round 4 vs Jordan Claus (Stardust/Assault, Table 726)
The loss from the last round put me on a knifedge for the rest of the day. I knew that only x-2's would make it to Day 2, so I had to win out to stand any chance. I came up against something totally unexpected in the 4th Round, an Assault Mode deck piloted by a very enthusiastic duelist. The player on the table next to ours (Jonathan I think his name was? Thanks for recording the game by the way.) had no opponent so he just watched our game as it was quite refreshing and enjoyable. Everything was so over-dramatic and similar to the TV show that I almost lost control of the first game because of it. When I realised that I was on 1600 however, I steeled myself up and got my head back in the game, swiftly bringing him down to zero. The second game was a lot more stable as I took a comfortable victory. Still though, this was one of my favourite matches of the entire weekend, I had so much fun playing it.


Round 5 vs Keith Jones (Machina Gadget, Table 504)
It says a lot about the variety of a format when you've gone 5 rounds without a mirror-match and played 4 different decks in that period. I knew that one loss would mean me dropping out, since there would be no point in me playing the final 3 if I lost here. My opponent was Keith Jones from Delaware, a genuinely nice guy to talk to and play against. I end up losing the first game thanks to a combination of Machina Fortress and Royal Oppression but claw back the second, despite missing 3 possible gameshots due to the fear of the unknown (I didn't want to attack his facedowns with Bora for game incase he had Ryko, Consecrated Light, D-Prison etc.). The final game was one of those over and back ones (again) as I deal with his Fortresses and he takes care of my Synchros I end up losing out as he get enough monsters in-hand to drop double Fortress on me when I only have an out for one.

With that I drop out, knowing that I can't top, and I just take it easy for the rest of the day, trading with players and having some fun duels. The main event had took the competitive edge off of me and I didn't really want to play in side events. I end up having a few more games with Marshaun and catch up with various people to see how they're doing after every round before the hall closed at midnight. The next day I tried my hand at some side events but ended up chilling out with duelists for most of the day and just soaked in the atmosphere. Despite scrubbing out it was quite an enjoyable event and I learned a good bit over the weekend. On the Monday and Tuesday I just took it easy, too tired to go anywhere but Timezone, and flew home on Wednesday. Overall, the week was a fantastic experience, I got to meet several people I knew online in person for the first time, and experienced a small slice of life on a different continent. If it weren't for this card game, I'd have never gotten the opportunity to go to America, or across Europe, so I'm eternally grateful for that.

This article is part of a series on my SHONEN JUMP Championship experience in America. For further reading, please click the links below:
75th SJC : Yu-Gi-Oh! in America
75th SJC : Photos and Videos
75th SJC : The Main Event
75th SJC : Cool stuff going on.