Tournament Report: 2011 Irish National Championship | The Irish Duelist

Tournament Report: 2011 Irish National Championship

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[INTR] Introduction
[PREP] Preparation
[FRDY] Friday
[SATR] Saturday morning...
[RND1] Round 1
[RND2] Round 2
[RND3] Round 3
[RND4] Round 4
[RND5] Round 5
[RND6] Round 6
[TOP8] Quarter-Finals
[TOP4] Semi-Finals
[TOP2] Final
[PSTE] Post-Event

[INTR] Introduction

For the past year or so I've only really been playing in Local Tournaments and the odd premiere event, which is okay since I've still had the opportunity to go to all the big European tournaments to do coverage with the awesome people at Konami. Anyways, whenever a big event comes along that I get a chance to actually compete in, I still get that buzz I had when I was doing it all the time in 2008/2009/2010.

This past weekend I got to compete in Ireland's unofficial (more on that another time) National Championship, and I wanted to prove to the rest of the Irish Dueling community (and myself) that I've "still got it". Also, despite playing competitively in Ireland since late 2006 I still haven't made Top 8 of an Irish National Championship, despite being known around the world as one of Ireland's top players. I had come closer every year (23rd in 2007, 13th in 2008, 11th in 2009) but that Top 8 spot had always escaped me, and with repeated failures at Irish Open tournaments people fully expected me to "scrub out" again this time round. I wasn't going to let that happen.

[PREP] Preparation

Ever since covering one of my favourite feature matches ever at YCS Milan, I've been playing Plant Synchro variants as my Main Deck. It's always done well on a local level and I did relatively okay at our official National Championship earlier this year as well. That being said though I knew that if I wanted to make Top 8 of Irish Nationals I had to mix things up and go with something different.

The reason for this is simple; Tengu Plants is/was one of the strongest Decks of the format, and as a result everybody will have build their Main and Side Decks in such a way so as to combat it. Even if I had my build teched out to make it more versatile I knew it would be an uphill struggle, especially against Anti-Meta builds. At any tournament these days you can expect to take 1 Match loss to the luck of the draw (you open badly, or your opponent opens amazing), and with 2 losses equalling zero chance of making Top 8, I needed to play something safe. Finally, I had struggled all format against Six Samurai, especially the Dimensional Fissure variant, so I knew from the outset that I was not going to run Plants at Nationals.

So what to play? I tried out a few different Decks before I headed to the World Championship in Amsterdam but I eventually settled on Tech Genus (TG). It's a consistent Deck with a slight hint of Anti-Meta about it, something that served me well when I took Dragons to the 2010 UkayPro Championship. Also, I remember a solid bit of theory from DuelistGroundz where the ideal thing to take to a major tournament is not something "that wins", but rather something that "doesn't lose". I've always been considered by my opponents as a player that flat out refuses to die even when there's no chance of victory, and the longer a Duel goes on the more confident I become. TG would give me that opportunity and mental edge which Tengu Plants would not, so the Deck was decided; now I had to finalise a build.

I had put together a basic build before heading to Amsterdam and in the few Duels I had with it at the hotel it seemed okay, but nothing special. So I headed to DuelistGroundz for some competitive advice and James from the UK hit me up with a Skill Drain version which I gave a go online for a few days. To be honest I've never really liked using Skill Drain, as it's essentially a giant Mystical Space Typhoon target that costs 1000LP to activate, and with Solemn Judgment, 2 Solemn Warning and a whole bunch of little guys in the Deck already I don't feel like paying over 10% of my life for something that won't guarantee me victory. Besides, I much prefer more reactive protection like Dimensional Prisons and Compulsory Evacuation devices anyways. The day before travelling to Dublin I did some research and found a build I new I'd like; Hector Heras' version from YCS Indianapolis. The Main Deck suited me perfectly and while packing and watching motivational videos on The 99 Percent I came up with a Side and Extra Deck that would best suit my needs. Problem was, I was missing a few cards, and would have to pick them up before the event.

[FRDY] Friday

Got up early on Friday morning, caught an hour of Formula 1 practice on TV (enough to see Bruno Senna smash his "Renault" into a wall)and took 2 buses to cross the country and arrive in Dublin. As always I chose to stay at Isaac's Hostel, €35 for 2 nights in the city centre is a very good deal and I've recommended this place to several players in the past. I arrived in Dublin at about 3pm dropped off the excess baggage and headed down to Gamers World for some practice games and a chance to get those final few cards.

Within 15 minutes of arriving I had secured a loan of an Orient Dragon, T.G. Wonder Magician and Number 17: Leviathan Dragon + some other cards for the weekend (many thanks to those who lent them out) so I was sorted, and once I traded for my own copies of each I handed the loaned ones back before the start of the tournament on Saturday. I don't like using cards that I don't own incase the Deck is stolen or goes missing, I'm responsible for enough of my own cards as it is; that and they could ask for their cards back at any time. Anyways after playing and watching a few games I realised that the TG build I had was solid enough and I didn't need to change anything.

After the store closed I wandered around the nearby shopping centre for an hour (set as the currently displayed webpage on every iPad and laptop I saw too, taking the opportunity to set up some free advertising!) before heading back to the hostel. While there I had a few games against David Darigan and a few Waterford lads who were also staying at the hostel, just to iron out any last misplays before the event. (picked up most of the cards I no longer needed to loan at this point) With this being a hostel there was also the opportunity to mingle with a few other guests and have a good (non-YGO) time, and I spent a good hour playing table tennis against some Americans (Phillip I know you're reading this, so hi, and it was nice meeting you), Austrians and Germans, where the loser of each game had to take a swig of Jack Daniels as "punishment". Since I spent several lunchtimes in University playing table tennis I ended up being the most sober of the lot, but even this little session had some benefits, as it ensured I was in a competitive mindset for the entire weekend! At about midnight I called it a day and set about getting 9+ hours of sleep (very important the night before a big event).

[SATR] Saturday morning...

I'm a firm believe of the notion that just playing your cards well will not win you a major tournament; there's a whole other aspect of competition that most YGO players don't take full advantage of, the mental game. With my Deck sorted the day before, I could concentrate on how I would tackle the event from the non-card angle, and use every (legal) advantage I could to give me that edge over my opponents.

First off I wrote my Decklist in the hostel, away from everybody else. First reason is that nobody outside of those who already knew what I was running (the vast majority of people I met on the day assumed I was running Tengu Plant) would get any info on me before we faced off on the day. Second, unlike the event hall where everybody's either scrambling to write their lists on time or trading for whatever, the hostel was quiet, which meant I could concentrate on potential strategies and combos as I was writing the cards down (also, no decklist errors that would give away silly Game Losses!).

Next was my appearance. Go to any tournament and you'll see that players are just wearing their normal casual gear which is perfectly normal. However, I decided to wear the clothes I usually put aside for when I'm working on tournament coverage: Black shirt/vest/pants/shoes. I was also using a black United Gosus playmat that one of my teammates gave me at Worlds (I did design it afterall) so this whole getup alone would stand out from the crowd and anybody that played against me would (rightly) assume that "I meant business". This professional appearance plus my calm demeanour would (in my opinion) make me a very difficult person to "read" and people would misplay more against me as the games went on. Turns out this worked extremely well as there were situations where I was in dire need of 1-2 cards out of 30 or so to mount comebacks yet it looked like I was in complete control, several opponents commented on how hard it was to find out what I was really thinking at any given turn. Finally, whe presenting my Deck/Side/Extra at the start of each Match I always laid out a set of Fluff/Doppel Tokens face-up as well to give off the impression I was running Plants (or at the very least was maining Gorz the Emissary of Darkness). This worked well against the more experienced players who would spot these things and potentially make key misplays in the vital first turns of the Match before they realised I was playing TG.

Anyways, enough excerpts out of the Yu-Gi-Oh! version of The Art of War for now, back to the main event. After filling out my Decklist I caught up with the fellow hostel-goers, picked up some basic supplies (Pringles and Kinder chocolate incase you were wondering) at the supermarket and took the bus down to the venue. Along the way I kept thinking about possible scenarios I'd have to play out of while the others talked about whatever. We eventually found the event hall on the UCD campus and I got used to the surroundings. I picked up the final few cards I needed, handed back the loaned copies and registered, handing in my Decklist.

Then I noticed something about the venue that nobody else had spotted; there was easy access to an overhead balcony. Never one to miss an opportunity to gain a competitive edge I went up there and took some photos for the event gallery, and when that was done I stayed up there and watched the various Duelists below having practice games and filling out Decklists. As you can see from the photo above there was a decent view and I was able to make a few mental notes that "this guy was running Gladiator Beasts, that guy has Royal Decree in his Side Deck etc." While this wasn't a major advantage by any stretch of the imagination (and I'd forget 90% of what I saw anyways) those little notes would help out as the event went on and it's a lesson to all of you to not give away free information to similarly opportunistic Duelists before an event starts! At the very least write your Decklist before you leave your hotel ;)

Soon enough the player briefing started, and we were ready to go. If I were to become Irish National Champion I'd have to do better than the other 70 hopefuls here today, let's do this.

[RND1] Round 1 vs Joseph Weir (Gadgets, Table 10)

I've played against Joe before at one of the Irish Open events; he was running Gadgets back then and was doing so again today which is great as I prefer a slow, methodical game anyways. Duel 1 went entirely my way as the advantage gained from my TG engine outweighed what he was getting with his Gadgets. I slowly chipped away at his Life Points and held my Solemn Warning for a potential Gorz (which he had) when I made my gameshot. Duel 2 was tighter as he was able to get some momentum going but the awesomeness of Reborn Tengu got me through it as I used its effect 5 times overall (Pot of Avarice) and a key Dark Bribe on his Royal Oppression (to stop one of the Tengus) meant that he didn't have enough outs to stop me from going 2-0.

Game record: 2-0
Match record: 1-0

[RND2] Round 2 vs Conor H. (Doppel Junk, Table 15)

Next up was Doppel Junk, one of my tougher matchups because of the variance in speed between both Decks in Duel 1. I was struggling throughout the first Duel and I noticed something curious whenever I had to search for a TG monster; my 3 Tengus were at the bottom of my Deck (or close to it). While it was most likely a coincidence I asked my opponent to look away from my Deck when shuffling and my luck began to change. Despite the struggle in Duel 1 I lost and time was called halfway through Duel 2. I had built up a decent number of cards in-hand and on my final turn needed to dish out a lot of damage to take the match to Duel 3 (there was a bit of confusion regarding End of Match procedure and I was told I had to bring Conor to zero), but a combination of TG Striker, 2 Warwolfs, Brionac, some discards and a Monster Reborn got it done. In Duel 3 I opened with Reborn Tengu, Dark Bribe and Horn of the Phantom Beast, and essentially sealed the Match when he tried to ram his Tengu into mine. With that Match done I added the scoresheet to Facebook (mainly because we had free wifi at the venue but also for motivational support in terms of Likes and Comments) and immediately went to my Round 3 table.

Game record: 4-1
Match record: 2-0

[RND3] Round 3 vs Shane O. (Disaster Dragon, Table 7)

This Match wasn't anything spectacular to be honest. I'd played Disaster Dragon myself in previous formats and knew the ins and outs of the Deck, and I knew that this was a very favourable matchup for TG. The one key thing in this Match was that my opponent had forgotten to add key cards to his hand with Gold Sarcophagus (there was also a TG Wonder Magician getting rid of Royal Decree though). In both games he got Future Fusion okay (though I stopped each with Warning and Oppression respectively) but in subsequent turns he forgot to add Giant Trunade and Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon to his hand, and without those he wasn't able to mount any sort of comeback. I gave him some tips after the game (including to not forget key effects like Sarco) as, worst-case scenario, I'd need his tiebreakers to squeeze into Top 8.

Game record: 6-1
Match record: 3-0

[RND4] Round 4 vs Michael Donnelly (Chaos Stun, Table 3)

This was one of my tougher matches, as several Anti-Meta cards can hurt my TG if played in quick succession. Duel 1 was not going my way at all but I was able to hang on long enough to see what tech he was running (Effect Veiler on my Trishula was what sealed my demise) and sided accordingly for Duel 2. In the second Duel I got off to a good start; had enough Trap Cards to handle his monsters and get in several quick hits before he could throw anything back at me. As is the case when 2 slower-paced Decks come up against each other, we went to Time in Duel 3. Fortunately, one card from my Side Deck was my saviour: Cyber Dragon. Twice my opponent had King Tiger Wanghu to wreck half my hand and twice I drew into Cyber Dragon to run over it. When time was called I put as much Life Point difference between us as possible and it was enough to keep me in a strong position for the tournament.

Game record: 8-2
Match record: 4-0

[RND5] Round 5 vs Anthony Connolly (Machina, Table 1)

With 2 Rounds left there were 4 undefeated Duelists left, and fortunately I was one of them. With all 4 of us almost guaranteed to top the pressure was off a little, but I knew that from previous events when I was in this position I've failed to top (most notable being the 2008 European Championship where I threw away a 7-0 lead) so I needed to keep the momentum going. I was up against Machina Gadgets which I tend to do well against the majority of the time. Round 1 showed me that TG's engine is more reliable and that's how Duel 1 turned out as I out-advantaged him as his LP dropped to zero first. Duel 2 I had a relatively weak opening, just 3 monsters a dead Pot of Avarice and 2 backrow cards. One of my monsters though was Cyber Dragon, so if I could bait my opponent into playing 3 or 4 Machines I had this one won. With only 2 cards Set Anthony went for it on his second turn, developing a field of 2 Machina Fortress and 2 Machina Gearframe. He swung my TG Warwolf away with Compulsory and went for the gameshot, but my Prison kept me alive and he didn't have Limiter Removal. Next turn I dropped MST to clear his backrow (was a bluff, didn't bother me) and Cyber Dragon gave me a 4000 ATK Chimeratech Fortress Dragon. I had the choice of Summoning Warwolf or Tengu and went with the Tengu as my LP was still quite low. 2 turns later I was guaranteed to Top 8, a major relief as no matter what happened after this point I had done what I set out to do.

Game record: 10-2
Match record: 5-0

[RND6] Round 6 vs Adam Hussein (Tengu Tour Guide, Table 1)

There's a well known superstition in Ireland regarding high-profile events here and that's "the X-0 curse". Basically, at almost every big event held here, whoever ended up undefeated in Swiss would lose right away in Top 8 and while it's more of a mental thing than anything else, both Adam (one the right in his Round 3 Match above) and myself didn't want to be that person. Also, being 2nd in Swiss meant having a (relatively) easier route to the Final so neither of us were to keen on actually winning this match. Also, it was a long and tough 5 Rounds we'd both been through so we decided to just mess about and try some stupid stuff before getting to the seriousness of the playoffs. What we decided to do for Duels 2 and 3 (Duel 1 we just blew our hands on the most meaningless combos) was to combine our Main and Side Decks, and then shuffle up and take away the top 15 cards, face-up, and see how we'd do. It was by far the funniest game of the weekend, as in Duel 2 Adam had no Debris Dragons, Dandylion or Warnings while I lost the majority of my Spell cards. Also, every time I played Duality I revealed another, a random card and Kinetic Soldier! Duel 3 was even more random as I was running only 1 Reborn Tengu and lost all my generic Trap Cards. In the end Adam won out, and as is the way with Irish tradition, he lost in Top 8.

Game record: 11-4
Match record: 5-1

[TOP8] Quarter-Finals vs Karl Ryan (Agents)

For the Quarter-Finals I was up against Karl who I'd played against before a few times. Today he was running Agents which is a tricky matchup for me to be honest. Duel 1 seemed to go on forever, as both of our Decks were running at full steam and we were trading blows turn after turn. I won out in the end with only 250LP remaining. Duel 2 was similarily tactical but the key card here was Horn of the Phantom Beast. I opened with 2 and a Rush Rhino and used them to full effect, getting my free cards. That forced Karl to play Giant Trunade just to get rid of my monster, but 2 turns later I had the Horns activated again, this time on a Tengu. Also, sensing weaknedd in my opponent's hand I played Monster Reborn on his King Tiger Wanghu so that he couldn't do anything with Earth or Shine Balls. Fortunately all he had that could get him out of the situation was Venus, but with all the free cards I'd gained off the Horns I had enough outs for anything he could have thrown my way. Karl was kicking himself after Summoning Venus while I had King Tiger on the field, and out of respect I didn't offer a handshake after winning, as it would be quite disrespectful to him after what had just happened.

Game record: 13-5
Match record: 6-1

[TOP4] Semi-Final vs Paul Sweeney (Gadgets)

Next up was "Peps" (on the right, that's Karl on the left), Ireland's "Gadget man" who has been playing the Deck since 2007. We've known each other's Dueling styles inside out for the past 4 years so this was going to be a tough match, and so it was as it went to Duel 3 and was simply a case of 2 slow Decks trading blows till one gave up. The key factor in this match was that I was up-to-date on all the various cards in the game (benefit of being a coverage/strategy writer!) whereas Peps had been in and out of the game for the past year or so. I made some key plays involving Naturia Barkion in one of the Duels, but other than that it was a standard match. I'd been playing against gadgets all day though so I never felt under any pressure.

Game record: 15-6
Match record: 7-1

[TOP2] Final vs Liam Harper (TG)

This was it, finals of Nationals and a TG mirror to boot. Liam's build was vastly different to mine though, focusing more on Skill Drain and Barbaros to my Prisons and Thunder Kings. Duel 1 went over and back until Liam dropped Trishula and wiped the majority of my field/hand (to be honest I misplayed the previous turn, going for Must Wurm when I had the chance to drop my own Trishula, was too hooked up on the TG search he'd get when I attacked). I got rid of it with Orient Dragon next turn but Liam's Reborn on my Mist Wurm took care of that fairly quickly. Duel 2 I opened with my worst hand of the weekend: 3 Thunder King Rai-Oh, 2 Reborn Tengu, and 1 TG1-EM1. Despite that though I refused to give in, and it took Liam 15 minutes and a perfect setup of Skill Drain, Barbaros and Horn of the Phantom Beast before I finally conceded defeat. In the end I could have won Duel 1, but there was no way I'd win Duel 2 and congrats to Liam on his win.

Game record: 15-8
Match record: 7-2

[PSTE] Post-Event

For my efforts I ended up with a box of Generation Force which I sold right away to cover my expenses for the weekend. Would have been nice to win a 3DS (Liam had a choice between that and a Wii) so that I could compete in next year's DS Nationals and try to get a Worlds invite but the fact that I finally made Top 8 after 4 years of failure was enough for me. After hanging out with some fellow players in Dublin I headed back to the hostel for the night and was "all Yugi'd out". On Sunday I killed some time in Dublin before watching the Belgian Grand Prix, met up with a few players, and took the long trip home. It was a great weekend and was fun meeting up with everybody again. Finally, many thanks to everybody both online and off who helped me out in the run-up to this tournament, couldn't have done it without you guys, you're all awesome.